Read Butcher Online

Authors: Rex Miller

Tags: #Horror, #Espionage, #Fiction - Espionage, #Fiction, #Intrigue, #Thriller, #Suspense, #Horror - General, #Crime & Thriller, #Horror & Ghost Stories, #Espionage & spy thriller, #Serial murderers, #Fiction-Espionage

Butcher (23 page)

Quick resupply. A fast gathering of money, food, weapons, this and that. He cut the horses loose and waddled back toward the ride.

As he pulled off the gravel the fucking car was limping—a flat. He sighed, heaved his tonnage out of the vehicle, opened the trunk. Nothing. The asshole hadn't even been carrying a spare. He left the thing where it sat, his duffel and weapons case in his hand, and started down the road toward the nearest heartbeat.

The kill had been satisfying in one respect but Bunkowski was less than devoted to firearms. They were never his weapon of choice in ambush situations, where he preferred a killing chain, his hands, a club, or his fighting Bowie. Grenades and shaped charges were next on the list, and, finally, guns. Shotguns were accessible, cheap, and disposable, but they were noisy. The one exception, a suppressed street-sweeper with poisoned shell loads, had grown difficult to obtain for field-exigency situations. Even distant neighbors would have heard this ruckus. He shrugged it off.

The ma ‘n’ pa bait-food-crackerbarrel-gunsmith-dog pound-shit hole never closed, apparently. He propped the used shotgun up against the wall by the screen door, opened the door, and clomped in, his ankle now one more point of hurt. He was beginning to drop back into one of his dangerously ill-tempered moods.

“Hey, big boy!” the proprietor called to him. Chaingang's face crinkled in its deadliest configuration, a malevolently beaming ear-to-ear grin. The President of the United States mouthed platitudes and promises in the background darkness. “Come on in. I been watchin’ that fackin’ liar on TV,” the older man said, viciously. “Them sons of fuckin’ bitch'n crooks in War-shington—” he began a tirade about politics in Missouri pidgin English, as Chaingang fumed. While the store owner ranted he noticed mud on the giant's booties.

“I know what you been up to,” he said, knowingly. “You the one, all right. You behind the Winchester
shoot!"

How could he have known? Obviously someone had found the body already. Perhaps it had been on the news, a television bulletin, or the noise of the blasts had ... he was too exhausted and irritated to aggravate himself with the illogic of it. A yard-long steel snake that slept in a specially reinforced canvas pocket dangled from the beast's hand. Taped steel links the size of cigarette packs chainsnapped the idiot into oblivion.

Daniel stepped over the body and without preamble searched the premises, taking some money, another shotgun, and the keys to the man's pickup. He placed the Winchester, wiped, not that it mattered, back on the rack of firearms for sale, and, almost as an afterthought, added the weapons he'd taken from the punk's shack.

The truck was a real piece of crap, but the tires were fairly round, at least before Chaingang threw his elephantine load into the front seat with a crash and groan of old springs. He got the seat back, arranged his duffel and weapons case, and drove to the pumps. After filling the rusty pickup with gas, he wedged his bulk back in behind the wheel, started up the sewing machine engine again, and gunned it into life, driving down the road in newly acquired wheels which he knew he'd have to dump immediately.

About a mile and a half down the blacktop there was a muddy access road that led up over a nearby levee, where it disappeared. It was near the river, probably a place frequented by local hunters and fishermen. The small sign by the road told the whole story: Winchester Chute.

Nobody's perfect.

The loud vocal bark that was his approximation of a human laugh snapped forth involuntarily.

45

Bayou City

B
y late morning Meara was working on a piece of fence out behind the house. The sky was a wet-looking gray at the horizon, and the sun had come out for a time, but the pollution of industry from Clearwater to the south scumbled the blue with semiopaque, dirty smoke. The clouds and smog gave everything an ominous overcast layer of foreboding.

He saw a speck down on the Mark Road and was trying to place the car as it drove past the big willows and came winding down the gravel in his direction.

Ray realized it was Sharon Kamen's car and in spite of himself he could feel his heart pounding like a little kid's on a springtime Saturday night. What a fool! But by the time she pulled up on the chat driveway he had a big smile plastered across his tough, scarred face.

“Hi!” she called out, getting out of the car.

“Hi,” he said. God, she looked good.

“I tried to phone but you were outside, I guess."

“Yeah?” He couldn't imagine what had happened to bring her out there. “Did you locate your father?"

“No."

“Oh. I thought maybe...” he trailed off.

“No, I just wanted to, you know, talk. I thought I'd call, but when I tried to phone three or four times this morning..."

“How'd you get through the water on Highway 80?"

“The woman in the motel office told me how to come around the back way.” She gestured.

Hair. Chest. Face. Meara struggled with his involuntary reactions to her slightest movements. He tried to keep what he was feeling out of his eyes. “Good,” he managed to articulate. Jesus. Eyes. Mouth. He was so drawn to her.

“You have a nice farm,” she said, feeling like an imbecile. “Oh, did you see the paper?"

“Uh-uh, I haven't."

“I brought one,” she said, and he followed her back around the side of the car as she reached in. He looked at the back of her legs.

She had on high-heeled shoes—in the country! The women here wore flat shoes, or what the guys called hag-pussy shoes, big old thick, clunky jobs favored by wrinkled country grannies, therapeutic boondockers to go over their ugly, wide-ankled support hosiery.

A few inches of the backs of her legs were visible, smoothly muscled, slick, tanned flesh under pantyhose or sheer stockings that curved up from trim, perfect ankles to flawless calves. He held the door as she turned and handed him the paper.

Ray assumed it would be something about the Neo-Nazis and the scuffle but it was the write-up on her dad:

DISAPPEARANCE IN BOOTHEEL

LINKED TO SEARCH

The search for a fugitive German war criminal, Nazi scientist Emil Shtolz, may be connected to the disappearance of celebrated Missouri Nazi hunter Aaron Kamen, of Kansas City, and a Bayou City resident, according to law-enforcement sources.

“Well,” he said, after he'd skimmed the rest of the story and found nothing on the skinheads, “it finally made the papers.” He handed the newspaper back to her.

“Look, Ray, I know I have no right to ask, but I was wondering,” the green eyes reached into him, burning him, “if you'd consider being my chauffeur some more. I want to keep asking about Dad.” Not batting her eyes or even using them. Not blinking her “Gee, officer, could you let me off with a warning?” eyes.

“Sure, if you really think that's what you want to do."

“I don't see anything else I can do. I want to give it my best shot."

“Well,” he said, exhaling a lot of air and then puffing his cheeks out, “I'll help any way I can.” He made a move with his hand the way she'd seen him do several times since they'd met. It was a characteristic movement that seemed to say to Sharon,
I know what these scars make me look like
. She found it a touchingly vulnerable thing for him to do. “Speaking of your best shot, come here a minute. I want to show you something.” He turned away and started walking.

She caught up with him. Her heels sank into the mud.

“What are you going to show me?"

“It's over here,” he said, motioning across the field toward a huge, old barn that stood beside a weather-beaten tractor shed. They walked in silence for a few seconds, Sharon doing her best to stay on a crude board walkway that spanned the muddy ground.

“Vanishing Americana,” she said to him, her words surprisingly loud in the stillness of the Bootheel boonies.

“Him?"

“Old barns. Part of the past. They always seem to make a powerful statement about yesteryear to me. Do you feel that way, too?"

“Barns just mean a lot of work to me. I think of stock when I see one. Livestock's one endless headache."

“You mean barns are only for farm animals down here? We had hay barns where I was raised."

“Nah. They have grain barns here, but I mean in the old days everybody had some stock. I used to run about fifty head of cattle myself, here and on my other pasture land. So I look at the barn and that's what I see—all that work."

“It's immense."

“Watch your step here,” he said, as they went through where stairs had once been, stepping through a framed doorway, walking on a floor of old straw. “It's all hand-hewn cypress. Man could build himself a hell of a little cabin out of this. You'd have your fireplace out of the foundation. All that rock was hauled down here from the Black River. So there's all your stones. You got enough cypress the termites haven't ate, you'd have your walls. And you could burn those others in your fireplace after you built it.” He pointed up at the roof high above them. “Those are Shaker shingles. They'd be your kindling."

“You should do it. Build yourself an old log cabin—My God,
Ray?"
He was holding a pistol in his hand.

“It's okay. You're not afraid of firearms are you?"

“Yes,” she said, “I certainly am. Where did that come from?"

“Under my arm."

“You carry a
gun?"

To answer her he pulled open his jacket and she saw the leather shoulder holster, but her eyes were riveted on the deadly looking object in his hand. “Why do you carry a gun?” She was frozen in terror.

“Habit, I guess. It's a good idea, being afraid of firearms, but they're like saws or hammers or vehicles. Tools to do a job with. You don't play with them, you treat them with respect and take care of them and then, when you need them, you have the tool to help you.” He'd misinterpreted her fear.

“Please put it away. I hate guns.” Sharon's voice sounded as small and helpless as that of a scared child.

“I don't want you to be scared of it, Sharon. A little fear isn't bad. It's okay. A healthy respect. But don't be scared to use it if you have to. Have you ever fired a handgun?"

“Yes, as it happens, I have. I won't again. Not ever."

“Why's that?"

“I just won't.” She wanted to tell him about Stacey and her boyfriend Duane, why she'd never touch a gun again. But she couldn't talk about it. Instead, she said, quietly, “I hate violence and violent things. I don't believe in guns."

“You probably fired a forty-five or something that made a lot of noise, and had a heavy kick, and it made your wrist sore or whatever.” He continued to misread her reaction. “But sometimes a firearm can save your life, or someone else's. In the old days they called ‘em equalizers. If you're going up against some old Nazi who may be an experienced killer, you better be holding some protection."

“I have protection, Ray. God is my protection."

“That's fine. But a little iron is good, too, for insurance.” There was a small white paper square stuck in some rotting hay bales that stood against the far wall of the barn. “Imagine that a feller who meant to do you harm was standing over there.” He pointed. “This is my friend, Irma,” it sounded as if he said, as he held the pistol, finger off the trigger. “This is my baby. She's an ERMA EX-CAM, RX-22. Fires long rifle rounds. CCI Stingers.” He turned and did not appear to aim, his hand and arm and body sort of pointed toward the hay bales and the weapon barked twice. It was deafeningly loud and Sharon turned and ran, tripping over the sill of the doorway,
falling, getting up, falling again, screaming, crying, letting it all come crashing down around her, all the fake toughness, the pain of missing her dad and knowing he might be in grave danger, of being all alone and trying to stay strong and failing, the pain of a thousand Duanes and Staceys and river rats and cops and robbers and he was holding her and she was letting him, not caring, not caring about anything, sobbing, shaking, wishing she were back in their nice snug home, Mom in the kitchen, Dad not knowing from Nazis, everybody nice and safe.

She finally got quieted down to a soft snuffling, and he held her in his arms as gently as he could, rocking her a bit, or perhaps she imagined it, and then she felt one of his hands touch her, dipping beneath her hair, cupping the nape of her neck, and she read his desire in the heat of his palm, and it fed her somehow and she looked up at him and her full lips were so perfect, the wide inverted V a model's pout, an actress's temptation from a zillion seduction scenes, but when you're near it and you can touch it the pull is more magnetic than any gravity.

Sex with anybody, Raymond Meara or whomever, was so far from Sharon's conscious desires she'd have bet anything such a turn of events was out of the question. Her father might have perished, there was a monster of an old Nazi out there somewhere ... but sometimes the act of lovemaking can be a release or a physical pressure valve. There are times when it becomes an astonishing, life-affirming reaction.

The first kiss took him under and her with it, and against all odds and reason they were inside the barn, touching, tasting, holding, kissing, enflaming, exploring, swallowing each other in the searing heat of tongue and caress and passion that spurted out, melting what-ever it touched, brooking no arguments, taking no prisoners.

It was the oldest equation on earth and totally unsupported by math, common sense, logic, or science, but it still worked. The old heat-plus-mass formula, its impossible arithmetic continuing to defy law by cognition. Two into one equals one.

46

Marion, Illinois


Y
es, sir,” Dr. Norman said, in what was for him a nearly obsequious tone, “that was my intention when I phoned you.” The old man to whom he was speaking was one of the most powerful leaders in the world, yet few knew his name. The force behind the throne of several former and present monarchs, CEOs, and U.S. presidents, he had personally mandated the organization known as SAUCOG, in an executive session of the National Security Council, which he had then headed.

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