"Huh?" Baxter never knew what the hell I was talking about, which evened the score a little bit regarding my inability to translate his habitual mixed metaphors into English. Trumpower got a laugh out of it, though. He had a good sense of humor, even if teasing him about his last name apparently was a bad idea now.
"Never mind, Bax." I finally glanced at my phone, and it buzzed again. It was the sheriff calling. I did not answer immediately. "You guys have any idea why Daltry might be calling me? He knew I had a date with a few beers."
"No idea," Trumpower said. "He doesn't have to check in with me before he calls detectives."
Skinny was standing, but wobbly. His nose was swollen, but the blood stream had slowed to a trickle. For a peacenik, Ollie hits pretty goddamned hard. Trumpower had the man's head tilted back. "You need an ambulance, sir?" Trumpower, as always, was a professional.
"No," Skinny said softly, through a lot of drool. "I need a lawyer. I am going to sue detective man here. For false arrest! I was defending myself!"
"Be sure to tell your lawyer you pulled a knife on me," I said. "That will impress him. The judge will love that shit, too."
"Or her," Tuck said, grinning.
"You assumed the lawyer would be a him, Ed," Tuck said. "Not cool." He dates a lawyer.
"Or her," I said, nodding. "Duly noted."
Skinny got agitated. "Hey, what about my ride? My Harley, man..."
"We'll take care of it, sir." Baxter grinned. "Saw that when we were coming in. Real nice."
"Better not scratch it up!"
"We will be very careful."
I looked at Bax. "You thought I was in here fighting for my life and took a minute to admire a motorcycle?"
"Just noticed it, is all," Bax said. "Couldn't help it. It's sweeter than a pancake in heaven."
The road deputies hauled out the combatants after we discussed combining our eventual reports. I sat at the bar, not at all looking forward to writing my eventual report, and Tuck turned off Fox News and gave me my beer.
"Damn, Ed, for a man who professes to dislike violence, you are awfully damned good at it."
"I kind of have to be."
"You are snake-quick, my man, snake-quick. Had those bastards under control in no time." Tuck ran a handkerchief across the pearls of sweat on his forehead. "Thanks for handling that, man. I thought I was going to have to shoot someone. That would fuck up my perfect record. So, drinks are on me today."
"Thanks, bud." I took a sip, nodding in appreciation. "And I'll keep my mouth shut about the shotgun."
Then I called Sheriff Daltry.
"Ed, I like it when my people answer on the first ring or two." "Sorry, John," I said. "I was hugging a big gay guy."
"Just joking, sort of." I tried to sound like I didn't want to flush the phone down the toilet, but I don't think I succeeded. An actor, I ain't. "Little bit of a fracas here at Tucker's Bar and Grill, and I had my hands full of skinny dumbass and angry gay guy. They got in a fight. Road patrol came and mopped up, no one hurt bad. Skinny stranger took a hard punch in the nose, not from me, by the way. I thought it was broken, but maybe it's not. It stopped bleeding bad, anyway, and he didn't want an ambulance. Stranger pulled a knife and was professionally subdued at gunpoint."
"Any of that shit on body cams?"
For a sheriff who always worries about what might show up on a deputy's body cam, Daltry was forever saying such things out loud and forgetting he might be on speakerphone, or that calls can be recorded. "No," I said. "Road guys got here after all was quiet."
"Good. You hurt?"
"Not a scratch. I'll type it all up tonight."
"Sure, Ed. OK." John Daltry is a bit of an asshole, but he knows the job we do, so he didn't ride me any further. "Listen, we have a detective from Columbus coming here on a missing person case. Teen girl, pretty blonde, I hear, and the cops think she might have come our way. I want you to help out on this end."
I do not like the words "missing teen girl." They were not words I ever wanted to hear again.
"Why does this Columbus cop think the kid was coming here?"
"I don't know, Ed. Maybe they suspect foul play, maybe the girl knows someone around here. We'll know when we know. In the meantime, I'd like you to assist."
This excerpt ends on page 14 of the hardcover edition.
Monday we begin the book The Bombay Prince by Sujata Massey.