I jumped at the scream and spun around to see the bony man staring at the floor in front of him. I followed his eyes to the bodies waiting to be wrapped and disposed of.
“Oh them?” I said relieved. “Don’t worry, they’re already dead. Can I get you a drink?”
He just sat there shaking and staring at the floor, mumbling incoherent sounds and bleeding on the clean part of my floor. I set down two glasses on the wooden milk crate next to his chair and popped the cap on one of the bottles of whiskey. I filled both glasses halfway then produced a bottle of rubbing alcohol from under the kitchen sink. I dug around next to my bed and found the cleanest undershirt I could and tore it into three inch wide strips.
“Drink up,” I said with a tone of encouragement.
He looked at me with unrestrained panic and downed the firewater in one gulp then slammed the glass down on the milk crate table for another. I refilled his glass, three quarters of the way this time, then lifted his right foot and set it in my lap. Gently I slipped the loafer off his foot and inspected the dime sized hole that passed through the top of the shoe and the leather sole.
“Ya see,” I said with a smile, “that’s why you carry your gun in your jacket, not your trousers.”
He tried to smile, but could only manage a grimace.
“Don’t worry, I know plenty a gent walkin’ with a limp for just the same reason. You’re not in it alone.”
“You’ll excuse me if I don’t find that all together comforting.”
I smiled as warmly as I could muster.
“I will indeed.”
I filled his glass back up with bourbon and filled the hole in his foot with isopropyl, then I wrapped his mangled limb in the shredded undershirt parts, making sure not to use the yellowing pit fabric on the first layer. I went to the kitchen and washed the blood off my hands, dried them on my slacks and lit a cigarette while I leaned against the counter.
“So, Twiggy McBadshot, how ya feelin’?”
“Stupid,” he said. “Sorry.”
I laughed and then coughed.
“Hey killer, it’s your foot.”
“I’m not that good at confrontations,” he said.
“You don’t say?” I grinned.
“What’s your name shooter?”
He seemed to think about this, deciding whether or not he wanted to share that information with someone like me.
“Devon,” he said.
“Devon….?” I probed.
“Just; Devon.” he insisted, and I left it alone.
“Alright Devon,” I said. “You wanna tell me what I did that deserved you puttin’ a bullet in me?”
He looked at me like a parent looks at a child who’s done something wrong and really should know what that something is. I looked back at him like that child. I shrugged and dragged on my cigarette. Finally he let out a sigh and capitulated.
“Penny,” he said with irritation.
“Oh,” I said. “Penny.”
He finished off his glass of whiskey and refilled it himself.
“I found your name and number in her pocketbook,” he said.
“And you assumed…”
“And I followed her,” he said. “This morning, I followed her here.”
“I see,” I said.
He swallowed his drink and tried to stand up, dramatically, accusingly, but he winced at the pain in his foot and dropped back into his chair looking angry and frustrated.
“I think you might have the wrong idea,” I said.
“You have two corpses on the floor of your apartment, am I supposed to just take your word for it?”`
“Hey now,” I said defensively. “To be fair, they were with your girlfriend. They showed up just before she did and she knew one of them. Honestly I they have nothing to do with them whatsoever.”
I took a hit off my smoke.
“You mean other than them being dead on your living room floor?”
I blew out the smoke.
“Well, sure, there’s that.”
Devon shifted in his seat and looked like he was trying to come up with the words.
“Look Devon,” I said. “Let’s not get sidetracked with the dead guys. Let’s try and stay focused on you, me, and that gun that you’ve displayed such mastery of.”
He reached into his trousers and pulled out a shiny chrome six shooter and set it on the wood crate next to him.
“I thought you were having an affair,” he said downtroddenly
“Like I said,” I told him, “I think you have the wrong idea.”
He took a deep breath and for the first time looked around my place. It was small, my place was. One room. Kitchen in one corner with a sink, stove, oven and fridge. Not much in the way of counter space. I had a little rolling cart with a cutting board that sat next to the sink. My dining room was a pace and a half from the fridge. Two metal folding chairs and an old wood milk crate like the kids make racecars outa. I had a twenty seven inch color tv in the middle of the room sitting on a sofa tray and a twin mattress and box spring on a metal frame where the sofa should be. There was a phone I leased from AT&T on the floor next to the bed with the cord stretched across the room to the jack in the kitchen. Under the cord, and the bodies, and between the TV and bed was a cheap persian rug that, while dusty and ratty and fraying at the corners, was still and all, the only thing in this entire place that I actually gave a shit about. I was glad that in the end I was going to be able to keep it.
“So what’s the right idea?” he asked starting to sound a little calmer.
“Well,” I said, “I’m kind of a helper of sorts. A fixer. A finder or loser if that’s what’s called for.”
Devon leaned back in his chair and refilled his glass. This little encounter was costing me an awful lot of whiskey. These two bottles might not get me through the weekend after all.
“Well, I certainly believe the last one,” he said.
I frowned, not understanding, then I got it and shrugged.
“And Penny?” he asked.
“She said one of these goons was following her. Had been for a couple weeks. Came to me to see if I could find out why?”
“So you’re a private eye?” Devon asked.
“No no no, no sir,” I said. “Private investigators are licensed by the city and require registration and bonding. No sir, I simply provide freelance services to folks when they need them. I’ll mow your lawn for three dollars and fifty cents if you like.”
He looked at me sideways.
“Sorry, you looked like the kind of gentleman that might have a lawn,” I said.