(Yes, it’s been a while. Sorry about that . . . I took a class in small business management in June, and it turns out that writing business plans is more work than I thought. But I have July off, pretty much, so here we go. And in re-reading the past posts, I’ve come across a few glaring errors.
Anonymous Blog Person: About damn time. I need to vent my spleen.
Me: Vent away.
ABP: Okay, first off, don’t cops carry back-up guns? I’ve seen enough episodes of Generic Cop Drama to know that this is true.
Me: Yeah, okay, I forgot about the back-up gun . . . BUG, in the cop lingo . . . ummm . . . disregard. Disregard! Suspension of disbelief! They’re not allowed to carry secondary weapons. Yes. That’s it. Next.
ABP: Wow. Okay, the last post. The 10th installment. Anderson is worried about attracting the attention of the . . . man-shark, good lord . . . yet she has no problem with cannonballing into the water?
Me: . . . .
Me: . . . . Shit.)
I ducked. The bat whiffed over my head. I shot up, rammed the palm of my hand into my assailant’s face. He staggered back. I grabbed the bat. He lost his balance and fell back into the water. I wrapped both hands around the bat and prepared to swing for the fences like Joe DiMaggio.
“Holy shit, what’s going on? What are you doing?”
The voice came from the back of the pharmacy. I turned. The speaker was behind the counter, next to the guy with the backpack. The speaker was, if I wasn’t mistaken, the one who’d opened the metal shutter. On my left, the fellow I’d pancaked sloshed to his feet. I backed up a little. “What are you doing?” I asked.
The speaker shook his head. “No, I meant them, what are y’all doing? She’s a cop. I didn’t want any rough stuff.” He spoke to the backpack holder, who shrugged.
“Silas kinda goes his own way,” this guy said.
Silas. I took another look at the guy I’d smacked. His eyes were spaced far apart, his chin was weak, and his nose was a small bump, a blackhead-covered afterthought. Mr. Backpack had similar features.
Shit. I had stumbled into a nest of Abshires. They lived on the outskirts of Riverside, on a weedy plot of land surrounded by a fence constructed of stolen sheets of tin and plywood. They were drug-dealers, shoplifters, high school dropouts, connoisseurs of the Texas penal system.
Silas touched his nose. “Let’s go,” he said.
“I’m sorry,” the guy who looked like his family tree actually had branches said. “They live next to me,” he said. “They said their grandpa was sick. I told them I’d help them get medicine.”
I tried to remember the name of the pharmacy.
S & L Drug. That was it.
“So are you S or L?” I asked. Silas twitched to his left. I snapped my head in his direction. “Don’t move,” I said, wagging the bat for emphasis.
“Neither,” he said. “I’m a pharmacy tech. Kevin. My name’s Kevin. Mr. Leeds gave me the keys because I usually open, and sometimes he or Mr. Sanders is late, and–“
“Shut up,” I said.
“Okay,” Kevin said.
“They know you’re here stealing from them?”
Kevin shook his head. “I’m not stealing! I’m keeping track of what I’m taking, and I’m gonna return what I don’t use. Jeremy said he’d pay for the rest.”
Jeremy, the inbred with the backpack, smirked.
“Awful lot of stuff for one sick grandpa,” I said.
“He got the diabetes,” Silas muttered.
“Shut up,” Jeremy said. He slid the backpack on his back.
I tossed the Louisville Slugger aside and put my hand on my gun. “Take the pack off. Leave the drugs and get out of here. And give me the keys.”
Kevin blinked. “The old man’s sick,” he said.
“With what?” I said.
Kevin swallowed. “What Silas said. Diabetes.”
“Right. Type 1 or 2?”
The pharmacy technician’s eyes flicked to the ceiling for a second. Then he said, “Type 2.”
“So when I check that pack, I’m gonna find metformin and stuff like that, right?”
Kevin clenched his jaw. “Why you being a bitch? I’m trying to help an elderly man.”
“Fuck this,” a new voice said.
The remaining two looters splashed into view. The taller one shoved Kevin aside. He held a sawed-off shotgun, which made my stomach drop to somewhere around my boot laces. The other carried a baseball bat. He was the one who’d spoken, and he spoke again: “We gonna let you leave, Deputy Dumbass, cause we feelin’ charitable.”
Wow, a whole four-syllable word. This must be Franklin Abshire, the one who’d made it past the tenth grade and was considered the leader of the bunch. The shotgun toter was Jaxson; he had his name tattooed across the front of his neck, with a small Confederate flag subbed in for the X.
I didn’t doubt that Kevin was telling the truth about being employed here and how he had the keys. It was everything else that was utter bullshit. The Abshire family’s compound was in a part of the county known for meth labs and crack trailers; it was debated among us Deputy Dumbasses which had come first, the Abshires or the meth labs. Were they drawn to the places of ill repute, or did they cause them, like a white trash peckerwood virus?
Totally moot, at this point. I didn’t care that I was outnumbered. I cared about that shortened scattergun in the hands of Jaxson Abshire, who was wanted by three counties for a long list of felonies and misdemeanors. Every family has an overachiever, and Jaxson was theirs.
I stared at him, almost able to read his thoughts. I was alone with no radio dangling on my shoulder. Even if there was another cop out there, he could duck out the back door. He could gun me down and get away with it.
“Just go, all right?” Kevin said.
A corner of Jaxson’s mouth twitched up.
“Yeah, go, Deputy. Suffer some amnesia, whyn’t ya, and forget what you saw,” Franklin said.
Jaxson lifted the shotgun. The twin barrels were huge.
Jeremy stood up on the counter. The bottles in his pack rattled.
I calculated the distance between me and those two black holes. The long muscles in my thighs jumped.
Kevin screamed. Jaxson spun in his direction.
I dove to the left, in front of Silas. Even underwater, I could hear the shotgun blast. I popped my head up, saw Silas running to the back, lifting his legs out of the water in big cartoonish movements.
There was an aisle of shampoos and soaps between me and the Abshire bunch. I pressed in close to the aisle and drew my gun. I could hazard a pretty good guess what made Kevin scream.
I raised my head a bit, enough to see what was going on. Three of the Abshires were crowded on the pharmacy counter. Jaxson had the gun pointed at the water. Silas was trying to climb aboard.
“What was that? The fuck was that thing?” screamed Jeremy.
“It got him, fuck it, let’s go,” Franklin said.
“Ah, maybe it’ll eat her too. Come on, let’s go. Fuck’re you doing, Silas? We’re leaving. Get the door.”
They joined Silas in the water. Jaxson swung the gun toward my aisle. He stopped when he saw me. “There she is.”
I ducked down. The gun boomed. Bottles of coconut-scented Suave shampoo exploded overhead. My ears rang. Through the ringing, I heard Franklin tell his brother to save his shells.
There was another scream, a lot of splashing. The shotgun went off again, not at me this time. My ears were still ringing, but I still heard Franklin yell for Silas to get the door.
I saw Silas wade to the door. He was pale. He yanked open the door and ducked under the half-drawn shutter. Franklin was next. Jaxson backed up to the door, keeping it open with his elbow while his shotgun was pointed toward the pharmacy counter. His white T-shirt was spattered with blood. Then his mouth opened, his eyes widened. He screamed and pulled the trigger. The shotgun was silent.
A second later, I finally saw the man-shark, a gray, man-shaped blur that slammed into Jaxson, driving him into the shutter. It vibrated. The man-shark’s head snapped back, then darted forward. Razor-sharp teeth tore out Jaxson’s throat. He dropped the gun.
The creature had a short, stubby fin-like projection on his back, and what looked like gills on his neck. He was bald. His eyes were dirty white, until he blinked. Then they were human, with brown irises. He had a membrane over them, like an actual shark. He dropped Jaxson’s body into the drink, then bent down and fished around until he found Jaxson’s leg. Then he started dragging him back toward the pharmacy counter.