Oh, my head. How much did I drink last night? Wait. I recognize that smell. Definitely a hospital. What happened? How did I get here?
I remember leaving Whiskey River, and walking through the parking lot. That’s all, though. Now I’m lying on a paper sheeted gurney with a couple of rolls of gauze wrapped around my melon.
I remember meeting Victoria Lane earlier… wait! Where in the hell are the ten Gs!? In my coat.
Where’s my coat?
Considering that it was 4 a.m., in an E.R., the nurse looked pretty decent. Not as hot as the chick that wears the nurse’s outfit at Southern Belles, but pretty nice anyway.
“What is it, sir,” she asked?
“My coat, where is it?”
“It’s right here on this chair, sir.”
I tried to get up but I fell back on the gurney as it felt like a truck load of rocks had just been dumped on my head.
“Could you get it for me, please?”
She brought the coat to me. Looked at my bandages, and swiveled on out. I looked in the inside pockets, and suddenly my head didn’t hurt at all. Now the truck load of rocks was on my chest.
The envelope full of Benjis was gone!
I heard the heels clicking down the hallway, and even in my condition, I recognized that quick stride.
“Well, if it isn’t Mike Hanner. I was wondering if you were still alive. I mean, I’m used to you not calling me for weeks at a time, but it’s been a few months now, Mike,” she started right in.
“Hello, Chloe, “ I moaned.
“You can’t be bothered long enough to even leave me a message to let me know that you’re okay. No, I get a call, from a cop, in the middle of the night, saying that you’re in the emergency room,” she continued. “What in the hell is wrong with you, Mike? Hell, what is wrong with me for putting up with your drinking, your cheating, your generally just being an asshole?”
“It’s nice to see you too. Think you might be able to give me a ride home? Come on, Chloe, I miss you. Don’t you miss me?”
“Oh, I’ll give you a ride home, Hanner, but that’s all I’ll give you,” she hissed.
I grabbed my coat, and tried to keep up with Chloe as she clicked down the hallway. It was a long, dark, silent ride until I noticed that she wasn’t taking me to my place.
“We’re going to your house,” I asked?
“Of course, who else is going to take care of your sorry ass? One of your strippers? Those hoes don’t want anything to do with you if you’re not waving a fistful of money.”
“Just because they’re dancers doesn’t mean they’re hoes,” I corrected her.
That earned me a look that could have melted more ice glaciers than any of Al Gore’s wild theories.
I woke up the next day, in Chloe’s guest bedroom. How nice, I thought as I got up and headed for the kitchen. Thirsty.
She heard Jenna barking at me and came in to see if I needed anything.
“I’m okay. I could use a ride back to Whiskey River to get my truck,” I told her.
We piled in her Jag, with the dog, and started out. I knew she was thinking about how to give me the same talk I’ve heard from her five or six times before. The one where she’s not getting any younger, I need to settle down, and get a real job. Yeah, that one.
So, I beat her to the draw, “I’m sorry, Babe. I’m involved with a case right now that’s taking all my time. I promise when I get back from the race in Michigan, we’ll sit down and discuss the future.”
“Now you’re running off to Michigan?”
“I have to. That’s gonna be my best chance to crack this case. If it doesn’t happen there, it may not happen for a long while,” I told her.
She pulled up behind the El Camino, grabbed my hand and said, “Be careful, Mike.”
I laughed and pointed at the turban of bandages on my head and said, “I always am.”
Chloe was not amused.
I checked my messages on the drive home.
Message one… 10:20 a.m., Victoria Lane, “Mike, this is Victoria. I couldn’t wait any longer, did you see Dale Jr last night? Is he okay? Please call me as soon as possible. Bye.”
Message two… 11:48 a.m., unknown female, “Hey…you. Are you okay? I saw them carting you off last night, and I have some info for you. Call me, 867-5309.”
Message three…12:33 p.m., Cam Shaft, “Yo, Hanner, where the hell are you? I just rode by your place, there’s a dude in a Buick sitting out front like he’s watching the place. Knowing you, it’s probably just a jealous husband. I need those five biggies, dude. Those two cats I contracted that job out to ain’t as patient as I am, and they wanted to get theirs about a minute ago. Ya hurr?”
Damn, my head is killing me.