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a Naomi Manymules mystery

Read an Excerpt

Peggy just shushed me and kept looking out the window. The whole scene was taking place two rows out into the parking lot below, and we couldn’t see everything because of some of the cars in between us and the action.

“What’s he going to do?” Peggy said.

“My bet is he’s going to get his ass kicked. Have you seen Fred?”

Before Peggy could answer, Fred got up out of the car and scurried around to put himself between it and Grant Carson. I figured that John Rice was sitting inside, with just the car door and window between him and whatever Carson and Fred were going to do next.

“He’s big,” Peggy said.

“Grant is big,” I said. “This guy is enormous.”

“And buff.” 

With the sharpened sense of hearing that I’d developed during my recent brush with blindness, I could hear a slight note of admiration in her voice.

There was no time for me to comment on that, though, one way or the other, because Grant Carson didn’t pause for conversation. He shot a swift right jab to Fred’s chin. Fred’s head snapped back a couple of inches, and he might’ve lost his balance for a second. Then he looked fine. Carson, on the other hand, had begun to flex his right hand and shake his head.

It was Fred’s turn to throw a punch, and he did so with surprising speed and accuracy. It caught Carson in the belly and doubled him over. Grant backed up against a nearby car and slumped to a sitting position on the pavement. Fred lowered his fists and apparently said something to him. Then Fred leaned back against his car and folded his arms across his chest.

After a moment, Carson managed to stand up without much difficulty. He looked pretty good, actually. Then he leaned over and picked something up, and Peggy let out a gasp.

“Is that a… that’s a gun!”

“Jesus!”

But Carson laid the .45 on the hood of the car where he was standing. Then he hitched up his pants and puffed out his chest. Next, of course, was the ritual raising of his fists.

Fred got into the spirit of things by taking off his jacket and removing his own firearm, shoulder holster and all. By this time John Rice had rolled down the car window, and Fred handed him the gun rig.

Next came the dance of the bantam roosters. Now, bear in mind that neither of these guys was a bantamweight, but there is no image to be drawn by my describing this as “the dance of the heavyweight chickens.” You see what I mean.

Fred stood cautiously while Carson sort of circled—his chin occasionally making little jerking thrusts. Carson had his fists up in front of him. Fred didn’t. Then John Rice apparently said something to Fred that distracted him because he turned his head. Carson took the opportunity to move in and land two solid blows. To tell you the truth, it didn’t look fair to me. I mean, Carson kind of blind-sided the big lug.

Fair or not, though, Fred did go down, and you could see that Carson had some real gristle and not a little experience. He stood back in a sportsmanlike stance while Fred got to his feet. This time, the larger man did raise his fists to join in the dance of the roosters.

“This is kind of exciting,” Peggy said. 

“Aren’t you a cop?” I asked.

“So?”

“Isn’t this illegal?”

“I’m off duty.”

“Don’t you want to keep Carson from getting hurt?”

“He’s not going to get hurt. He’s going to teach that guy a lesson.”

I felt a little disloyal betting against a man who had kept vigil at my hospital bedside, but I answered, “Ten bucks.”

“You’re on.”

Fred tried a few jabs, but Carson dodged them. Carson tried a few jabs, but Fred dodged them. Then Carson landed a pretty good right to Fred’s belly and stepped back to watch Fred fall.

But Fred didn’t fall. Instead, he caught Carson with an uppercut. The only reason the blow didn’t kill Carson was that he was a little out of reach, having stepped back to gloat a second earlier. He went down like a stone. No, that’s not it. A stone would have bounced on the pavement. Grant Carson went down like a sack of potatoes. Actually, I don’t think they package potatoes in a sack that big. I’m talking maybe two hundred pounds of potatoes here.

I have to admit that Fred turned around after he dropped Carson. He spread his hands on the hood of the car and leaned his weight on them, so maybe he was hurting a little too.

Peggy started to turn toward the door, but I grabbed her. “Too late,” I said. “You can’t decide to be a cop now.”

“How about a girlfriend?”

“You think he wants a girlfriend to see this?”

She stopped tugging toward the door and relaxed. “You’re right.”

“Peggy, we never saw this.”

Her eyes glued to the window again, she nodded and said, “Saw what?”

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