Here’s Chapter 18… go grab it at Channillo while it’s hot!

First scene to whet your appetite…


Jack sat at the bar, staring into a glass of the best single-malt Jimmy’s offered, and wondering how long it would take before someone called the cops.  Jimmy himself had taken station across the bar from Jack, drying glasses and watching him with a wary eye.  The owner allowed no one else—bartender, waitress, or patron—within two stools distance of Jack.

“You waitin’ on someone?” Jimmy asked, placing a tumbler on the shelf.

“Possibly,” Jack said without looking up.  “I’ll know for sure when they get here.”  He picked up his glass, upended it, and drank the contents in one gulp.  When he set it on the bar, he pushed it toward Jimmy and pointed, asking for a refill.  Jimmy pulled a bottle from beneath the bar, poured Jack another two fingers, then went back to drying his glasses.

Jack wasn’t going to stop tonight.  He would keep calling for refills, and Jimmy would oblige.  He would do this for the same reason no one approached Jack—the air around him was thick with pain, futility, and no small amount of danger.  To get near the man, anyone who dared had to push through that like clearing a path through a rainforest, never sure if the next thicket of heavy green foliage hid an animal more teeth and claws than intellect.

Jack had been that way ever since the call from Rutger.

“No one’s seen her in almost two days, Jack,” Rutger had said.  “We’ve turned the place over, but about the only thing we found was her cell phone.”  Rutger’s voice hesitated at the word about, and Jack had almost missed it.

“What else did you find?”

“It is probably nothing—”

“What else?”

Rutger had sighed, and said, “She had just over eight thousand American dollars in cash stuffed in an unpacked suitcase.  Her job does not allow her to take tips, and the fact it was eight and change means it was likely nine.”

“And you think that means something?” Jack had asked, already knowing the answer.

“I don’t know, but it is suspicious.  The money was in the suitcase she carried from Germany, and the amount is just under what would have to be declared when entering the US.”

“It’s also possible she carried the money with her to Germany,” Jack had said, grasping at the thinnest of straws.

“To what end?”

“I don’t know, Rutger.  You’re the detective.  You figure it out.”  The anger had burned in him, forcing out rational thought, but one still fought through.  “Tell me, though—it’s obvious your partner thinks she is on the run, and you might think the same—but why didn’t she take the money?”

Rutger had no answer to that, and with no more information to give, ended the conversation soon after.

Jack knew, though.  Either Amber had left without going back to her apartment as Jack had instructed, or someone met her there and took her with them.  Why else had she not called?

The Shadowman was in Atlanta, of that much Jack was sure.  Sally’s murder proved it.  Like an idiot, Jack had driven by Sally’s house thinking he might speak with Derrick, but cops and the FBI were still there interrogating him.  He had to navigate the cars parked on the street, driving by several officers too invested in their investigation to see the fugitive in their midst.

Jack downed his drink and motioned for another.  Jimmy poured, then tapped the bar and nodded past Jack.  Jack’s shoulders slumped, relaxing for the first time, and he looked into the mirror behind the bar to see who was there to take him in.

It wasn’t who he was expecting.

“Hey, Li’l Bro,” Bill said, settling onto the stool next to him.  “Wanna have your friend there pour me one?”

“I don’t buy drinks for pigs,” Jack said before taking a sip.  It was an old inside joke between the brothers, but given the circumstances there was little humor behind it.  Jimmy set a glass on the bar in front of Bill and filled it.

“Look,” Bill said, lifting the glass, “there’s only one way this can go down.  I flash my badge at Silent Bob, here, cuff you, and frogmarch you out of the bar.”

You’re arresting me?”  Jack breathed hard, his heart pounding, and looked at his brother like he had never seen the man before.

“Calm down,” Bill said in a tight whisper before Jack could get too wound up.  “It’s just for show so the customers don’t get the bright idea to call the locals.”

“Can’t,” Jimmy said, still drying glasses like he had nothing else to do.

“Can’t… what?” Bill said, restrained malice in his voice.

“No one uses their cell in my bar unless I flip this little switch back here,” he said, pointing under the bar.

“Uh, mister… the FCC takes a dim view of cell phone jammers.”

Jimmy grinned, “You see anybody here working for the FCC?”

Bill snorted, but Jack said, “Is that why I never have any service here?”

“Yeah,” Jimmy said.  “If you want to gab on your phone, go to Starbucks.  I hate those fuckin’ things.”

Bill stared at Jimmy with what looked to Jack like respect, then turned to Jack and said, “You ready?”

“Nope,” Jack said, finishing his drink.  He pointed to it, and Jimmy filled it again.  “I came here for a reason, and I’m not even half-way through.”  His words were slurring now.  He knew if he kept it up, it wouldn’t be long before he became belligerent, and Bill would have to resort to force.  And that’s fine by me, he thought as he took another drink.  Nobody deserves it more.

“Jack—”

“Either drink with me, or get out,” Jack said around the glass.  There wasn’t enough alcohol in the world to make him as numb as he wanted, but more than enough to make him forget.  At least for a while.  He swallowed, and the liquid staunchly refused to burn on the way down this time.  His lips were growing numb, and that was always the first indicator that whatever he was drinking was taking effect.  C’mon Bill, he thought, just fuckin’ hit me, already!

Instead, Bill set his elbows on the bar and sighed.  “Okay, Li’l Bro.  We’ll do it your way.”  He looked over at Jack, and added, “For a while.”

Jack smiled, toasted Bill’s good sense, and finished the drink in his hand.

He tapped the bar for another.

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