The guy with the glowing grill, he didn’t seem to like getting shot too much, but it didn’t bother him enough for me to be comfortable. He was thrown back against the wall as round after round crashed into him, and he cursed loud and long. But he didn’t die, which is generally the effect I’m lookin’ for when I unload on a guy.
He slid to the ground as I reloaded, and I saw that that bright red glow was coming out of all the new holes I had made in him. He sneezed a couple of times and then stood up. He looked at the bullet holes and then looked up at me.
“Stings,” he said.
“I’ll bet,” I told him, snapping the clip back into my .45.
“Don’t do that again.”
I cocked the hammer. “Stay back, and it won’t be an issue.”
“Look, Mr. Saint, I know you got a reputation as a hard case, but it ain’t gonna help you out here. It’s better if we just take care of business and get it over with.”
“And what kind of business are we supposed to be takin’ care of?”
“My employer would like to ask you a few questions about the girl who came to your office today. Just a few questions, and then you’re free to go.”
“And who is your employer?”
“Oh, I think you know the answer to that one.” He smiled, that red glow lighting up the alley. “After all—you’re a detective.”
“Your boss wants a meeting, tell him to set up an appointment. I’m a busy man.”
“I’ll bet. Listen, Saint—forget about those pictures in your pocket—you can handle that business later. Come with me and we’ll give you a grand, okay? Just to answer a couple of questions.”
“Tell you what—why don’t you answer a couple of my questions first.”
He looked around. “We’ll see.”
“You answer my questions, or no deal.”
“I’m not authorized to make deals. But I’ll tell ya what: I’m about to go over to that diner across the street and get some pie. You come with me, we’ll have a slice a pie, we’ll shoot the breeze a little, see what kind of relationship develops, and we’ll work from there. Okay?”
It’s not generally my policy to have a slice of pie with a guy that I’ve just emptied a clip into—I’m not a big fan of pie—but I figured I could make an exception this one time. I re-holstered my piece and strolled out of the alley with the giant beside me.
“So what’s your name?” I asked him.
“You can call me Mortimer.”
“Is that your name?”
“Not at all.”
“Then why would I call you that?”
He smiled down at me. “Because if you call me anything else, I’ll tear your arms off and stuff ‘em up your ass.”
“Okay. What kind of pie you like, Mortimer?”
“Whatever they got—I kinda have to indulge when I have the chance, you know?”
“Not really, no. Care to explain?”
“Pie first.” He opened the door for me and followed me in. I ordered a cup of coffee and a piece of key lime. He ordered three pieces of coconut cream, two pieces of lemon meringue, four pieces of apple, three pieces of cherry, a piece of blueberry, and an entire pecan.
He plowed through his pie with savage delight, ignoring the other customers and offering me only an occasional fruit-covered smile. When he finished, he mopped his face clean and sat back in the booth, rubbing his belly.
“Good stuff,” he said.
“I guess so.” I sipped my coffee. “So what’s the deal?”
“We need the girl, Saint.”
“She’s just a hard ass that pissed off the wrong people.”
“What about her boyfriend?”
“The guy’s a douche. Total crybaby.”
“What I mean is, did you eat him?”
“Not your business, my man.”
“Correction—it wasn’t my business. By trapping me in an alley, you’ve made it my business.”
“I wasn’t trying to trap you—I was going to knock you out and then drag you down to Hell.”
He looked around quickly, guilty. “Look, let’s talk about something else. I ain’t supposed to be talkin’ to you like this.”
I’m a detective. A lot of my job revolves around being able to ask the right questions the right way. I wasn’t sure what the right questions were with this guy, but I knew the right way to ask them. I pulled my piece out under the table and jammed it into his crotch. Demon or not, getting shot in the balls with a .45 is gonna mess you up.
He suddenly looked very nervous.
“Why are you after the girl?”
“Saint, listen to me: I can’t tell you nothin’.” I cocked the hammer back.
“That’s too bad for the boys,” I told him.
“No, no, wait! They don’t tell me much, so when I say I don’t know somethin’ don’t shoot, okay?”
“Fine—tell me what you do know, then.”
“I know I was sent to get her. I know that I couldn’t.”
“She fades in and out.”
“What are you talkin’ about?’
“I don’t know. Like a radio station with bad reception, that’s how she is to us. We’ll be trackin’ her and then she’s just gone. Maybe later we’ll get her signal from the other side of town.”
“How do you track her?’
“We’re trackin’ demons, Saint—it’s what we do.”
“I don’t know. You go around askin’ birds how they fly, or dogs how they can sniff out a trail?”
I jammed my piece into his crotch hard enough to make him grunt. “If I thought it would explain somethin’ I wanted to know, I would.”
“Well it would do you about as much good. My point bein’, I don’t know how to explain it to you. I just do it. It’s my job. Only with this little chick, I can’t do it. So they have me track anyone she talks to. The list ain’t a long one.”
“A couple girls she works with, her boyfriend, and you. The broad has no family, and no real friends.”
“Why is she so important?”
“Beats the shit outta me. I’m just supposed to bag her.”
“You’re one to judge.”
“You got the boyfriend?”
He smirked. “Yeah. Yeah, I got the boyfriend.”
“You are, Saint. You act like you’re some knight in shining honor, running to rescue the damsel in distress. You don’t know half of it, buddy. You don’t know shit.”
“Why don’t you fill me in, then?”
The smirk vanished, and a glare took its place. “I don’t think so. The boyfriend, he ain’t dead yet, but if you see the chick again, you let her know that he will be if she doesn’t hold up her end of the bargain.”
“What’s that mean?’
“Like I said before: not your business, my man.”
I nudged his goods with the pistol again. This time, it didn’t have the desired effect. Quick as lightening, his hand was covering mine, squeezing, crushing. I didn’t scream, but I bit my tongue hard enough to make it fill my mouth with blood.
The giant, he was just smiling. “You aren’t the only one that knows how to interrogate, Saint. I wasn’t supposed to take you to Hell—you’d never survive the trip—I was just supposed to find out how much she told you—which doesn’t seem to be jack shit. So thanks for the info, and thanks for the pie.”
And then he was gone. None of the other people in the diner acted like anything out of the ordinary was going on. The waitress brought over the check as I massaged my hand—the damn guy had eaten over a hundred bucks worth of pie.
Even if nothing else came of this thing, I was gonna get him back for that.
I paid the bill and left the diner.