Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Riding With Mary Crow Part 1 of 2
I set my jaw and kept my eyes on the cat.
A small, black cat. Not much more than a kitten with a white belly, white paws, and big ears. He sat next to the door, watching, as a uni-browed heavy-hitter in a black t-shirt and camouflage shorts and his pal-- a little albino in a good burgundy suit-- dragged me into the room and tied me to a cheap, wooden chair.
I'd never seen either man before they t-boned my cruiser with their Land Rover and carried me away.
The cat looked at me without an ounce of pity, like always.
Some people got eagles. Some got wolves or dogs. I knew one guy who got a horse that followed him all over the res, wherever he went.
I got a kitty cat.
In the end it doesn't really matter. All spirit guides are powerful in their own way and my black cat was no exception.
He never gave me his name so I called him Lenny, after Leonard Peltier.
You might think that just sitting there, watching me get my ass kicked wasn't much help.
You'd be wrong.
I kept my eyes on his and got ready. He'd let me know what I needed to do.
The albino asked the questions.
“Where are they?” he demanded.
I shook my head.
He nodded to his hulking companion.
A fist the size of Nebraska crashed into my left cheek.
The chair rocked up on two legs, then fell back to the floor.
“Where are they?”
The big guy didn't give me a chance to answer. A hard, chopping left evened up the swelling in my face. The right that followed loosened teeth.
“You kill Mary Crow?” I asked the albino. “You the one I've been looking for?”
That earned me another left.
“Where are those witnesses?” he screamed.
And so on. And on.
Every so often I'd test the ropes and curse when I couldn't wriggle loose.
Lenny watched from his post by the door, his eyes dead on mine, steady and unsympathetic to my predicament-- I truly did not know where the witnesses were being held. Not for sure, anyway.
The bruiser fed me a three punch combination that snapped my head back and knocked the chair over on its side.
“Take it easy, Luke,” said the albino. “You're gonna take this guy's head off.”
Luke straightened up and pulled a big, theatrical sigh.
“Don't go nowhere,” he grumbled as he cuffed me on the side of the head, then turned around. It was almost playful.
I tested the ropes again. No give. These guys were good.
“Hector,” he said, “do I go 'round tellin' you how to plan a job?”
Hector adjusted his glasses and sighed. “Luke,” he began.
“The word you're lookin' for, Hector, is no. I don't tell you how to plan a job. So how 'bout not tellin' me how to work a guy over.”
Hector threw his hands up in the air. The light from that one bare bulb caught a stone in his pinky ring.
“All right,” he muttered. “All right, Luke. Have it your way. Just remember-- a dead guy can't tell us what we need to know.”
He didn't stick around to hear what I'm sure would've been a colorful rejoinder.
Luke turned his attention back to me.
“Sorry 'bout that. Some people.”
I worked that loosened incisor free and spat it on the floor.
He grinned. It was worse than the angry glare.
“Now,” he said, cracking his big knuckles, “where were we?”
“Short left, Luke.”
He raised his eyebrow at me.
I packed two eyes-worth of badassary into the one that wasn't swollen shut.
“You've hit me thirteen times. Seven right crosses. Six short lefts. Whatever you do, don't start in with the uppercuts. I kinda like my head where it's at.”
“Jesus,” he grunted, pulling his left arm back.
He let his arm fall to his side.
“Doesn't have to go like this,” he said.
The short flew but there wasn't a lot on it.
“Listen, Running Bear, you're makin' this hard on yourself.”
“Rushing Bull. My name is Rushing Bull.”
“You're with the Tribal Police?”
“Why are you asking me questions you already know the answers to?”
He pulled the other chair over and parked himself in front of me.
“That means you got access.”
“No. I don't.”
He squinted at me.
“Didn't go down on the Res, man. It's the Sheriff's jurisdiction and she has them stashed away. You'll never find 'em. I don't know if I could find 'em.”
“Yes. Sheriff. Tall woman, big hat. Carries that pair of Colts. I hear she sings a mean, 'Fame' on karaoke night over at Slim Jim's.”
My voice sounded funny to me, heard through the pounding in my ears.
He stood up and started to pace.
“Since we're being all honest here, what'd you guys kill Mary Crow for?” I asked.
He stopped pacing and raised his eyebrow at me. A non-denial denial.
The door flew open and Hector marched into the room.
He'd removed his jacket and rolled up his shirtsleeves.
“For fuck's sake, Luke,” he spat as he walked right up and slugged me hard enough to lift the front legs of the chair in the air.
As soon as they hit the floor again he fed me one short right after another. When he got tired of punching me in the face he went to town on my body.
He worked until he was out of breath, then stepped back. His crisp, white shirt had blood and sweat all over it.
Luke crossed his arms while Hector sucked wind.
“Thought you said a dead man couldn't tell us what we need, Hector?”
The little guy glared at him.
“He look dead to you, Luke?”
I wasn't so sure of the answer to that question. My ears rang, my face throbbed, and I saw three Lukes and three Hectors when I looked out of my good eye.
Lenny was nowhere to be seen.
“You're really not gonna tell us, are you, tough guy?”
“What do you think?” I croaked.
He leaned in close, shaking his head.
“Throw him downstairs, Luke. Give him a little time to chill out.”
He raised his hand to hit me again, then changed his mind and stormed out of the room just like he'd stormed in.
Luke gave the air a minute to settle, then, without a word, cut me loose and hauled me to my feet.
I kicked the shit out of him in my mind. In reality, I slumped over like overcooked broccoli and offered no resistance as he drunk-walked me to a big metal door at the end of the hall.
He propped me up against the wall while he unlocked and opened the door.
A rush of icy cold air crashed into me, reviving me just enough to be very aware of being thrown down a flight of stone steps.
“You should've played ball,” said Luke.
He slammed the door shut before I hit bottom.
I stretched out on the snowy floor, grateful for the numbing cold. My entire face throbbed in time with my pulse. Pain in damned near every part of me hollered for my attention.
When my sweat began to freeze I sat up and opened my good eye.
Failing florescent light overhead created a soft blue glow that floated around the iced-over surfaces and reflected off the meat hooks hanging from the ceiling.
The corners remained in shadow.
Lenny sat on the bottom step, watching me freeze.
“What now, Lenny?”
I shivered and forced myself to stand.
“What more do you need?” he shot back. “You're on a quest for Mary Crow's killers, aren't you? Well, we've found them.”
I looked around the room, which proved empty of everything but ice and snow. And meat hooks.
“Like I asked you before,” I said, “what now?
“One thing at a time, my boy. One thing at a time.”
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Jeff Tsuruoka is an author in search of a writing career. He has found a home in the Flash Fiction circuit and is grateful to the blog hosts that give him the opportunity to get his work out there. You can follow him on Twitter @JTsuruoka and be sure to keep tabs on his weekly contributions to Daily Picspiration.