There may be more constructive ways to spend a Tuesday afternoon, but drinking cool ones at the Double L Lounge was working out pretty good so far. I’d been there for almost three hours, drinking the usual, and mixing in the occasional shots and shooters. Seeing as how I was pondering the Dale Jr/Victoria Lane case, I consider this billable hours.
I turned in my chair, “Wha…”
“Mike Hanner, what are you doing in here?”
My eyes were focusing now. “Traci? Traci, with an i?”
She laughed a little. “Traci with an i. You remembered.”
I told her, “Of course I remember. Who could forget?”
And that was no lie. Those Caribbean blue eyes were rather unforgettable. She was standing too close, wearing a bikini top and some kind of something wrapped around her hips. I wasn’t sure if it was the shots of Jose, but I was feeling uncomfortably warm all of the sudden.
I thought quickly and asked her, “You’re a NASCAR fan aren’t you?”
“Yes, I love it.”
I continued on, “How about Victoria Lane, what’s her story?”
She laughed, “Let’s just say that she gets around. Girl loves to party.”
“She’s not a one man kind of woman?”
More laughter, “Hell no. she likes ‘em all. Old ones, young ones, chunky ones. And that’s just in the last month or so.”
I arose from my chair and told her, “It was great seeing you again, but I have to run. Have to get back to my office before end of day.”
“Don’t tell me you’re afraid of little ol’ me, Mike.”
“No,” I stammered. “Well, maybe.”
“Why didn’t we ever hook up, Mike?”
“Probably because we both had someone waiting at home?”
She pressed closer, “You have a girlfriend now?”
“Not really. But, there is someone who would be mad if she heard me say that.”
I walked quickly out of the conditioned air of the bar into the blasting heat of Carolina in mid-July. Between the heat from the girl and the 100 plus degrees simmering on the asphalt parking lot, I was sober by the time I climbed into the old Chevy.
I got back to my office and turned the thermostat down to sixty. Even with the A/C on full blast in the El Camino, I could feel my shirt clamming to my back.
I needed to make some phone calls, and try to glean some more information about Miss Lane. Something just wasn’t right with her damsel in distress act. I know that the only time women act helpless is when they need a patsy. I know that, yet I keep falling for it time after time.
I looked up Frothy’s phone number, and called up there hoping to talk with that barkeeper, CK. He seemed to know a lot about the inner workings at the race track. He wasn’t there so I left my number and a message for him to call me.
Shaft called back first. He seemed excited, and Shaft never gets excited.
“Yeah, what you got for me, Shaft?”
“Man, my baby girl has hacked all up in NASCAR’s computer system. And, whew, do those cats have some dirty deals being done round there.”
“So where does Victoria Lane get involved in it?”
“Bruh, she’s in it. NASCAR’s in it, they kingpinnin’ it. The TV networks are in it. It’s big, dude.”
I hoped that Shaft wasn’t exaggerating, “Cam, Is this legit?”
“You know I ain’t never lied to you. This is the real deal, straight up as six o’clock.”
“Alright Shaft, I need to see this stuff for myself. You have anything on paper?”
“Paper! Damn, son, my girl’s got it on disc. How you live like that?”
“Sorry. I need that disc, bro.”
“Well, you know I like doing business with you Mike, but that disc is worth a lot of money to the right people. How high can you stack the cheddar?”
“Damn, Shaft! How come you want to do your boy like that.”
“It’s just business, Mike. I got to make a couple more calls, then I’ll call you back at seven o’clock.”
Son of a bitch! I couldn’t believe that Shaft was getting so greedy, over something that I turned him on to. Damn!
My cell phone rang at eight, it still wasn’t Shaft. The caller ID lit up, Frothy’s Bar, Brooklyn, Michigan. The bartender was calling me back.
I hit the send key, “Hello.”
“Is this Hanner?”
“Yeah, how’s it going CK?”
“This isn’t CK. He can’t make it to the phone. Ever.”
I felt the adrenaline, “Who is this!”
“There you go asking questions again, Hanner. That’s a real bad habit you got there, that and sticking your big nose in other people’s business. You know that bad habits kill people, don’t you?”
“Who in the hell is this?”
“This is someone with some advice that may keep you alive, Hanner. Everything was fine until Victoria wanted to see Jr. We sent her to you because, well lets face it, even Ace Ventura has solved more cases than you. You need to go back to what you do best, drinking. Keep filing those BS reports with Vickie, and this will all blow over. Capiche?”
“Now hold on a goddamn minute…”
“Hanner, you do want Shaft and his daughter to stay alive don’t you? If you do, stick to what you do best, alky.”