45. Break And Buy 004

Charlie has no time for loss. He shoves his fist through the glass of the door. His fingers nimbly find the locking mechanism, pull it. He pushes the store’s door open.

“Grab only enough for tonight, Goldie”, Charlie says as he steps aside for an attractive young lady wearing a crushed denim skirt. Her light brown hair flows like a ruddy hued flooded river by him. She winks in passing, nodding.

“Birdie like anything special, or do I just shoestring it”, the lady asks. She looks up over the store’s aisles reading their respective labels. “Can fix up some good rice, noodles and such if we do go cheap.”

Charlie watches Nadine move toward the aisle having rice. He feels himself becoming aroused by her long legs and tight ass. “Um, she doesn’t care much for Brussels sprouts, mushrooms or salmon”, he says as he turns away to locate the check out lanes and service desk. “You can feed me nearly anything though, honey.”

Nadine chuckles as she goes to fetch ingredients for their improvised dinner. “I do declare, you’re a scoundrel Blinkie”, she says. He has already made his way to the service desk and is doing a quick estimate. “Add on a dozen eggs”, she calls out.

“You can figure in bean sprouts, mixed veggies too”, he says. As he does, he is taking out a twenty from his wallet. He puts this over onto the service counter with a hastily typed note.The note is signed whimsically, “Birdie’s Crew”.

“You reckon they’ll know anything”, Nadine asks Charlie as she finishes bagging up her groceries. She carries her two bags over to the service desk by him. Her eyes glance over the desk and see the twenty dollar bill, then up at the broken glass door.

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44. The Jack 12

Clancy shakes his head. “Sure you want me going this row with you”, he asks. Jack stands and walks toward a door marked as private. He looks at the bartender who merely nods with a grin.

“C’mon Clance”, Jack says. “We got ghost business to do.” He goes through the door into a back room stocked with whiskeys, bourbons, beers. Behind one stack of crates a wall seems a bit out of place.

Clancy looks at it a second time. “Jack, that wall there. Is it only a knee wall”, he asks. Jack reaches down and begins pushing the crates aside. Clancy helps by taking the crates and setting them over unto another bunch of crates.

“Yep, short wall covering a spider’s nest. I got us some new identities in there, some cash, ammo”, Jack says. He finishes moving the crates aside. Then he brushes his palm along the wall, obviously seeking out a place on it. “Biometrics were used starting thirty years ago or more”, he says.

Clancy nods. “And I thought your boys were sneaky”, he says. “You got hide holes all over the place. Remind me if I have to arrest you to check the cemetery”, he says and chuckles.

“Nothing there”, Jack says. A quiet whir announces the wall sliding back. “There we go”, he says. The wall slides back about four feet. In the floor under the wall lies a top locking safe. “Hey Clancy, you see that rabbit over yonder”, Jack asks and quickly punches in a pass code on the number panel of the safe.

Clancy chuckles as he turns back to face Jack. “You’re paranoid as Hell, Jack. Probably why I love you”, he says. He takes an envelope Jack is handing him, a fresh belt pack full of magazines, a cell phone.

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43. The Jack 011

Jack walks into the bar. Clancy follows him. They sit at the bar. “Cougar, hit us hard”, Jack says. The bartender pours each of them a double shot of Maker’s Mark.

Clancy raises his shot glass. “Thanks for saving my ass”, he says to Jack. The bartender leaves the bottle and moves on tending other duties. Jack nods.

“Likewise, Clancy”, he says. He shifts on the stool a bit letting the cold gun barrel rest easy in the small of his back. “Weeds too high, oh do they get you guys” Jack says. His face draws taut in a wide smile. Clancy starts laughing.

“Go get yourself fucking killed over tall weeds”, Clancy says. Jack starts laughing. The bartender looks at them and shakes his head and grins, returns to his work. Jack takes a twenty dollar bill from his wallet, puts it on the bar. He pours Clancy a fresh drink, one for himself as well.

Clancy takes the twenty off the bar and replaces it with a fifty from his own wallet. “Worth every bit. Hell, not every day you get shot up with one of the best”, he says. Jack chuckles, reaches over and pats him on the shoulder.

“No, you have to call them out to check on the weeds”, Jack says. “Even then, they might look at you kind of dumb.” Both of them shake with laughter then, knock back half of their respective drinks.

“I had no idea they followed me, Jack.” Clancy reaches into his pants pocket, fishes out a nearly crushed pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He lights up, drags, exhales. “Bastards are sneaky.”

“Not as sneaky as they needed to be”, Jack says. Both men nod somberly and look at their drinks. “Well Clancy, I figure you’re dead along with me”, Jack says.

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42. The Jack 010

Clancy stands in the cabin, looking out the window to a now deadening silent forest. “What you think, three minutes”, he asks Jack. Jack stands looking out of the other window, a grave expression on his face.

“‘Bout that, I guess”, Jack says. He drops the clip from his gun and checks what rounds remain, slips the clip back into the breech. “Might have gave it up”, He says.

Clancy checks his rounds. “Unlikely, huh”, he asks. Jack nods and Clancy sees that by his peripheral. “Damn it, Jack. Always figured you were trouble”, he says. “Never figured which kind.”

A metal canister flies into the cabin through a window. Gas hisses out of one end into the now empty room. Jack and Clancy stand in fortified closet known as a bolt hole, wearing gas masks.

Jack depresses a lever in the wall behind them, he then slips into an opening. He gestures that Clancy should follow. Inside Jack takes off his mask, Clancy does as well. “Shit, you got a whole Marine base out here”, Clancy says.

“More like Army, but not really”, Jack says, as he points to a tunnel opening ahead. “Cuts back into town by Cougar’s bar”, he says. Clancy heads on into the tunnel. Jack comes in and turns round to push a few buttons on the wall.

“Now armed”, a pleasant female robotic voice says. Clancy stops in his tracks. “Jack”, he asks.

“Keep moving Clancy”, Jack calls out. He turns and comes up behind Clancy “Go, go”, he chides. The two of them nearly break into a run for about three miles. At the end of the tunnel, Jack hits a button. They hear a whirring as a hatch slides open.

They stand beside Cougar’s bar, in the back, looking out of an otherwise rock wall. “Thank you Clancy”, Jack says. He steps on out of the tunnel, reaches back and takes Clancy by the arm to help him through. Clancy’s eyes are still adjusting to the light.

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41. The Seed 001

Charlie looks at Jack. “You know, instead of Christmas gifts this year, you can give me some cash”, he says. Jack’s eyes narrow and he scratches his head.

“Not following you, Charlie”, Jack says. He lifts a garbage can and dumps it into the back of the truck. He and Charlie have been working as garbage men for about a month now.

“You think I got bricks of cash laying around”, Jack continues as he grabs the handle. Charlie looks ahead and sees Jack has the next two stops.

“Two”, Charlie says. Jack hops on “No, I don’t”, Charlie continues and pauses again. Jack grabs his second can and dispatches it. “I do know you got some cash, Jack. Rather have that than gifts”, he concludes.

Jack sighs. “Well, okay”, he says. “Bit odd you ask like that. Okay though”, he finishes. Charlie smiles as he hops off to grab up his can.

“I’ll get the next three, you just hang around”, Charlie says upon returning to his stoop. Jack chuckles.

“What are you up to, little brother”, Jack asks. Charlie shakes his head.

“Working secret agent stuff”, he tells Jack. The two of them laugh over the rest of their run. Back at the shed they meet in the locker room after each showering.

Jack reaches over and grabs Charlie’s locker door before Charlie can get it closed. “Secret agent stuff my ass, man”, he says. “Spill it.”

Charlie nods, “Okay, fair enough. I am going to buy gifts for the kids down at Sister Mary’s orphanage. It feels good to help others. That’s the extent of it.” Jack whistles, turns away and lets go off the locker door.

Jack turns around and gives Charlie a handful of five hundred dollar bills. “Merry Christmas, Santa.”

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