The Last Stakeout
“After tonight, no more stakeouts,” Gerald told me again.
I hugged my ribs for warmth. We sat in my car as unlikely partners: a PI and a bounty hunter.
Gerald tipped his chin. “Put on the damn heater.”
I shook my head. “Can’t risk it. He’ll see the exhaust.”
“Hercules ain’t returning here.”
“This is our best shot to grab him up.” I paused. “That’s some name, eh?”
“Yeah, Hercules . . . isn’t that some punk-ass rapper?”
“I don’t want any cut. This is a favor to you.”
“Frank, you earned it, the same as me.” Gerald fixed his eyes on the two-story apartment building. “Do we go toss his crib?”
“We better chill out for a while longer.”
Scraping my cold palms together, I thought back. Hercules skipping his court appearance was now a fled felon. Bad move. Gerald’s boss held the bond. What’s more, Latasha, Hercules’ latest human punching bag, was Gerald’s ex-girlfriend. He shifted in his seat and I heard a crinkly noise -- cellophane. My glance darted over at him.
“Man, you can’t fire up a smoke. He’ll see it.”
Repocketing the cigarette pack, Gerald gave me a snort. “I hate doing stakeouts.”
“You’ve had it worse. Anyway how’s Latasha?”
“That home girl is tough stuff, Frank.”
“Uh-huh. You’re still sweet on the said home girl?”
“All you PIs have big nose problems. Put on some bluegrass.”
My nod agreed with his point about PIs. “But no bluegrass tunes. You know you’re a walking contradiction, don’t you?”
“How so? Can’t a ten-ton brother dig listening to bluegrass music?”
“Yep, a walking contradiction.” My palms created more sandpapery sound to get them warm. I could see the puffs of my breath. “You can’t tune up Hercules either.”
“I already know it. My boss says I have to work harder and ‘establish a rapport with the bail jumper’. Her new touchy-feely approach is total bullshit. Sometimes it takes the application of due force.”
“Your boss is right. Look at it as a challenge.”
“Shut up, Frank.” Cracking his knuckles, Gerald stretched his legs. “Time?”
Squinting, I counted the luminous dial tips to my wristwatch. “Quarter past two.”
“After tonight, no more stakeouts.”
“Stakeouts go with your job.”
“This job is unpredictable. Dangerous. Fast.”
I gave a chuckle. “Sounds right up your alley.”
Gerald sat bolt upright. “Yo, who’s that?”
My pulse kicking into overdrive, I followed his head jerk and spotted the taillights to the car flashing red. I heard the distinctive two-note snick to a chambered niner. But my eyes stayed pinned on the car braking under a mercury vapor lamp. A man-form hauled out of the car and froze behind the open door, sniffing the air as if for any trouble.
“Tall, thin build. Yep, that’s our boy Hercules.”
Stirring, I reached for the door handle but Gerald’s huge pawmashed into my chest.
“No Frank, this one I do solo. Just keep the engine running.”
“You’ve never made a collar before without back-up. What’s going on here?”
His voice roughening into a growl, Gerald tightened his fingers and balled up my coat front to lift me from the car seat. “I said this is my party. You’re only the wheelman. Catch?”
I did my best to shrug at the big man. “Sure, whatever you say, Gerald.”
“All right, that sounds better.” Gerald turned lose his grip and I dropped back into the car seat. “Sorry to get rough with you. But you need to understand this thing.” Our eyes fixed on the man-form stalking back to stand by the car’s taillights. “Hercules won’t hurt Latasha again. I promised her. Okay, on my signal, I want you to crank up the engine.”
I looked confused. “What signal?”
“You’ll know it when you hear it.”
I didn’t like how that sounded. Gerald was too vague. “This better go down easy. Hear me?”
“Uh-huh. Just remember you’re the wheelman. That’s it.”
“Right. I’m Jeff Gordon.”
Satisfied, Gerald bounded out of my car, crouched in the knees, and padded across the pavement. My own niner remained on the dashboard. Too many damn guns, I brooded. By now Gerald had crossed the parking lot. The man-form giving us his back stood there, sizing up Latasha’s apartment building as if plotting away up to her apartment, bust her up, and sneak back out. Hercules was a real stand-up guy, all right.
My hand fumbled at the steering column. “Shit!” I’d dropped the keys to the dark floor mat. My eyes left Gerald as I groped my hands between my shoes, looking for the keys.
The gunshot belched out and my head snapped up. I saw Gerald’s silhouette in a classic Weaver’s stance not six paces away from the red-lit taillights. The shot Hercules had crumbled to sprawl across the trunk like a hunter’s trophy buck.
After flipping on the map light, I picked up the found keys. I slotted the right one into the ignition switch and rotated my wrist. The V-8 engine kindled to life. Just then a wad of bile flushed up into my mouth, but I didn’t look over at the cut down Hercules. I hadn’t seen a damn thing.
“Last stakeout, my ass,” I said, rattling down my window. “He just didn’t say whose last stakeout this one is.”
Gerald slammed open the door and vaulted into the shotgun seat. “Okay Frank, floor it.”
Hawking, I tried to spit out my disgust. My shoe goosed the gas pedal and the back tires smoked before we spurted down the street.
“You doing okay, Frank?” Gerald yelled over to me.
“I’m just the wheelman,” I said, my eyes riveted on the windshield. “I didn’t see a damn thing.”
Gerald nodded. “Right. And a promise is a promise.”
BIO: Ed Lynskey's third title, PELHAM FELL HERE, will be published inJune 2008 from Mundania Press.