At the bar she sits slumped-shouldered, weary to the bone, her beer barely touched but her shot glass twice-emptied. Dust and dirt cover her heavy shirt and boots, but their weight is nothing compared to the sludge in her soul. The poor girl has stared into the death-mask eyes of something for which she wasn’t prepared — how could she be? — the scars from which she’d bear for life.
It’s empty and early at the Liquor & Rubber Balls Sports Emporium and Leprechaun Chiropractic, so I lower my voice when I ask Don Tequila, tending bar, what the deal is.
No shit! Blog material! I ask Don to pour a shot of whatever she was drinking, and walk it over to place it by her trembling hand. She looks at it, then me. I give her my best sympathetic smile and tell her I’d love to hear how her day went.
She says nothing for what seems a long while, just stares at me completely deadpan and unmoved. (Hell, I’m used to that — they teach the technique at wife school, and Guido graduated summa cum rolling pin.) Then she puts the glass to her lips to drain it neat, and hands it back to me. I look over and hold it up for Don, who ambles over and refills it.
“They didn’t want a wrecking crew,” she finally says. “The wanted Navy fucking Seals.”
What — terrorists were living there? The first batch preferred Hollywood.
“Terrorists would have been an improvement. I could have handled terrorists — hell, they’re people. These — these –ghouls? They swarmed out from between the walls like fungus with legs. You wouldn’t believe the shrieks and stench. They must have been in there for all the years the place was boarded up and hadn’t seen the light of day since Dania Jai Alai had a crowd!”
Now that’s a long time. What happened to ‘em?
“We looked up and they were gone. Who knows? Maybe they just evaporated. I don’t give a shit. We just kept ramming the area with the ‘dozer and pretended we never saw nothing.” She shuddered. Maybe we didn’t.” She swallows her drink, and Don magically appears to refill it. “It must be like what patrolling the streets of Iraq was like.”
Yeah, but more humid.
“That was the hotel. Then we get into where the restaurant was. The wall with the walk-in fridge comes down and we get charged by a herd of fucking roaches the size of possums.”
Come on. Those weren’t roaches. Maybe rats. Dania has lots of ‘em. Ever been to a code enforcement hearing?
“I couldn’t handle it. I wanted ‘em to call Todd Hardwick before I went in. Or the university — for all I knew these things were prehistoric or protected species or some such shit. And there must have been millions of them!”
Think of yourself as a liberator. An environmental hero. The Al Gore of insects.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to close my eyes and sleep again,” she says, tearfully. “Especially after the one we found near the swimming pool.”
One what? Wait — the Pirate Inn had a swimming pool?
“Second floor, with a locker room. This guy looked almost normal — he could talk, but he was loony and paranoid. He like grabs this tattered suitcase he’s got and starts yelling at us to stay away he has a bomb and it’s his money and all sorts of crazy shit about if he had to he’d jump out of another airplane before he’d give up…..”
Oh my god — it was D.B. Cooper, wasn’t it? The rumors are true!
“D.B. Cooper or D.T. Kooky, I don’t care. I’m not going back. Somebody else can finish this job.” She pushes back from the bar, staggers a moment, then gives me a heavy-lidded glance. “Thanks for listening. And the drinks.” At the door she stops, turns, gives a crooked half-grin. “Nice tan for a white man.” And she’s gone.
I ask Don if he knows her, and whether or not she was going to try to drive home.
“Seen her once or twice. She lives close by, hangs with Tat and some other regulars. Long as she doesn’t try to drive her wrecker home she’ll be okay and she didn’t drive it here.” Pause. “D.B. Cooper? Where do you get your material, man? That story’s dead as, as, Dania’s antique district.”
Smooth segue, Don. You’ll see it in the papers tomorrow. You pouring beer?
He is, he will, and really, for Don, it was.