When I got home, after the day from hell, Gwen had her new camera man. Yes it was a man and she brought him by to meet me. His name was Earl, believe it or not. I thought they were kidding, but it was not a joke. Earl was from West Virginia, so the name was appropriate.
“I understand the rules are I stay in he background. I do not get involved in any situations?” he asked.
“This isn’t like your housewife wars,” Gwen said. “You might need to defend yourself, you should be ready for that.” She suggested.
“Sweetie, when I was sixteen, I worked in a coal mine. It was pretty rough in the holler, where I lived. I think I can take care of myself,” he replied.
“That’s good to know,” I said smiling. I knew that only time would tell for sure. “I’m going back to the Cop Out tonight. Last night was a bummer.”
“Yeah I know, it wasn’t much fun for sure.” Gwen agreed. “I’ll send Earl along, so drive slowly or he will get lost.”
“It is impossible to get lost in Aster,” I said. “Anyway Earl, just watch and try to fit in. You aren’t supposed to make waves.” I knew that it would be hard, if not impossible for a new man, or woman for that matter, not to be noticed in the Cop Out.
“If you are going to the Cop Out, I need to teach Earl how to use the phone cam,” Gwen said.
“I need a bath and then I am going out for Chinese, before I go to the Cop Out.” I said. It was how I managed to push the two of them out the door.
After a long bath I felt a little better about life. I was having one shitty day, but I was optimistic that it would get better. Once I was dressed, I spent a little time on the computer. Checking my mail and the news. Actually I hung around the place until 7PM. At that time I drove to a new Chinese restaurant called the China Beach.
It was a very small restaurant with seating for about twenty. All of the table were set for two but could easily be pushed together for larger groups. It had originally been a fast food restaurant, which had moved on to a larger space. The new Chinese restaurant was going to need a huge take out business to make it. When I got to the restaurant there were at least five cars at the drive thru window, so they seemed to be doing okay.
The small oriental woman who seated me also left a menu in front of me. It was only one side of one page. The menu had very few items, which suited me fine, since it had the one I wanted. I love shrimp fried rice. It came on a plate with stir fried oriental veggies, or at least veggies faked to resemble oriental veggies.
I had been in the restaurant about five minutes, when Earl came in with Gwen. They sat at one of the other small tables. We made eye contact, but nothing more. They looked like a husband with his slightly older wife. I took a better look at Earl while I waited for the fried rice.
Earl was likely to be a little over 6‘ tall. He might be twenty pounds over weight but not so much as to be a problem. He had black hair and very blue eyes. It had become a very popular combination lately. His dressed was what I called poor boy chic. He looked like a kid, who grew up poor, but now could finally afford nice clothes. In other words he was over dressed for Aster in general, and the small Chinese restaurant in particular.
It was late and I was hungry, so I made quick work of the fried rice and veggies. I left the two of them working on their dinner. They knew where I was headed so there was no problem. I arrived at the Cop Out to find the place more or less empty. From the night before ,when it was packed, to the next night when it was empty was a big change.
“What the hell happened here?” I asked.
“Beats the hell out of me,” the bartender said. “I expected a midweek lull, but this is ridiculous.”
“Well give me a cup of coffee and let’s see if it picks up any.” I suggested.
“Here you go,” he said a moment later. “You know that chick you came in with for a while, the one with the great body?”
“Of course I know her,” I said.
“She came in about an hour ago looking for you. Said she would be back in a bit, then left with the chick you were with last night.”
“Damn that was one confusing message,” I said with a laugh.
“Yeah, I would just as soon this not turn into a gay bar,” he said.
“Now what makes you think we are gay,” I asked. “Hell, I’m not even a little light hearted at the moment.”
“The two of them were making out in the back corner. I thought I was going to have to ask them to leave.” he said.
“Wow, I would have liked to have seen that,” I said.
“I bet you would. I have heard the rumors about you.” he replied.
“Believe the bad ones and not the good ones and you will be right most of the time,” I suggested.
“Anyway try to explain to them that this is not that kind of place,” he said.
“So what kind of place is it. It looks like an empty dive to me at the moment. You could probably use the business.” I suggested.
“Maxine, I like you. You got more balls than almost any of the men who come in here. You never brought your girls in before, so we never had a problem. Looks like now we might have.”
“Yeah, it does look that way, if the girls come back looking for me, just send them home.” I said that as I stood to leave.
“I hate you feel this way,” he said.
“No, you don’t really, or you wouldn’t have started this. I don’t mind that you are a homophobic rat bastard, but I do mind spending money in your place, now that I know.” With that I left.
Since it was only 9:30PM, I still wanted to go out. I decided to try the Country and Western bar on the highway. Yes the one where I had found my divorced victim. I parked the cruiser in the small parking lot, then hobbled into the building. Just before I entered my pocket played the Mag 7 theme again.
“Hello,” I said irritated.
“Easy lady,” Earl said. “Where did you go. The bartender here is not too helpful.”
“Sorry he and I had words. You can find me on the highway at Cowboy’s Bar and Grill.” I said.
“How the hell do I get there, I dropped Gwen off at the apartment.” He said.
“Enter 1254 hwy 68 in the GPS on the dash,” I said.
“Damn, I know where the fucking GPS is. Don’t get into anything fun till I get there,” he said.
“Then you better shake a leg, I’m headed in now.” I said.
The place didn’t look any better than it had the night before. It was still shabby and dark. The dark was probably to hide the dirt, I thought. The juke box was playing nice and loud. There would be very little conversation. I didn’t mind that at all. I had about all the bullshit conversation I could stand for a while.
I looked around, but all the table had people sitting at them, so I went to the bar. “What can I get you hon,” the young woman asked.
“You got any coffee back there,” I asked.
“Coffee in this place,” she broke into a hardy laugh. “I got a pot that me and waitress drink from. I can probably find you a Styrofoam cup around here somewhere. So if you can take it black and from foam, I can do it.” she informed me.
“Well that’s how I like it, the same as my soul, Black and plastic,” I said with a laugh.
“Then sit right down, you done found yourself a home,” she replied turning away. When she returned, she had my coffee. I tried to pay her but she said, “First one is on me. Us ‘friends of Bill’ have to stick together.” I didn’t bother to tell her that I wasn’t a ‘friend of Bill’.’
When I turned to look at the small dance floor, I noticed that it was full of good old boys and rough looking women. Not exactly the kind of place for a liberal minded chick, I thought. Some of these guys would really, really resent losing their lady love to another lady. Of course the fact that I would just as soon do them both as either one, might make a difference.
“You are Maxine Stone ain’t you?” a much younger man asked.
“I am on my bad days, on my good days, I’m just Max.” I said.
“Well Just Max would you like to dance?” he asked.
“Ordinarily I would love to dance, but I am a bit of a gimp right now,” I said.
“How about, if we wait till something slow comes on, then I hold you up?” he asked.
“You do know I’m old enough to be your,” I paused a moment then said, “Older sister.” We both broke out laughing.
“Well I won’t tell mom what we did, if you don’t.” he said. He thought a lot faster than I would have expected from a young man with that hillbilly accent.
“Fair enough,” I said. “He stood beside me until the juke box played a slow song. I let him support me as I swayed to the unfamiliar music. Yes it was nasal, but it was kind of fun music as well. I was having a great time, when I heard the commotion in the rear of the club.
I stopped dancing and removed the younger man’s hand from my ass, while I looked for the cause of the noise. Sure as hell Earl was surrounded by three men. Excuse me hon, I need to go break up that fight.” I said.
“Oh leave ‘em be you don’t have to be a be like that tonight,” he said.
“Actually I do,” I said as I recovered my cane from a chair near the dance floor. When I got to the gaggle of men, I saw Earl and he saw me at the same time. I nodded then I used the crook of my cane to grab one of the men, and spin him around.
“What the fuck,” he said as I hit him across the bridge of the nose with the light weight cane. It was the only place that I knew, it had a chance of doing any real damage. His nose and probably mouth filled with his own blood took the fight right out of him.
As he was struggling to breath, Earl just knocked holy hell out of one of the older guys. The third one came out with a knife, and I came out with the .38 concealed hammer S&W revolver. “Now we have a problem. See if you move that knife toward me, I’m going to be in the police station all night explaining this, and you are going to be in the morgue. Don’t hardly seem fair all that bother over a stranger,” I said. “Why don’t we all just agree that he is an asshole, and let it go at that.” I suggested.
The crowd seemed to agree with me. Finally the guy put the knife away and I motioned for Earl to leave. I backed to the bar. I put a ten dollar bill on the bar and asked, “Can I come back tomorrow night. This was a real blast.” I smiled.
“Honey, you can come back anytime you want. And I have a sawed off bat and a cut down shotgun behind the bar. Next time take the bat at least. Looks like you bent your cane.” she broke into a huge smile. I saw her out of the corner of my eye. I was watching the crowd with the rest of it.