McCollum's Run

Excerpts form McCollum’s Run

When I decided to become a professional gumshoe, my wife balked, “You’re sixty-seven years old. Relax. Enjoy your cooking. That used to satisfy your need for a hobby. Let the police deal with the violent. Besides, you always said no one should be bored as long as there were books to read.”

I wasn’t to be deterred, and can honestly say that in nearly a year’s experience as a professional P.I. I have not yet been confronted by a single act of violence despite Paula’s dire concerns. This is a good thing inasmuch as I’m somewhat short of five-foot-ten and not exactly built like a weightlifter.
I’ve spent most of my time in my new job on surveillance, ‘peeping’ if you prefer: Whenever hubby calls home his wife is out. She tells him she’s at the supermarket, but he can’t fathom how she can possibly spend so much time buying TV dinners, so he engages the agency to discover what’s really going on. They send me out to follow her. It’s really not the kind of thing I hoped to do when I decided to become a gumshoe, and it’s especially troubling when your grandkids ask what you do all day and you have to explain you’re a professional voyeur. But I have to serve my apprenticeship and I don’t give out the assignments.

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The crowd in the saloon was large for a weeknight, keeping Cal busy alone behind the bar. As he placed our drinks before us he looked wide eyed over our shoulders toward the saloon entrance. We turned around to see Martha Davenport, devotee of the vegan cause, at the back of the room holding a large sign with the same message we’d seen on her leaflets several days before: ‘Stop the Killing. Deer Have Feelings Too.’ She was accompanied by three youths in their late teens. Suddenly they all began chanting, “Deer hunters go home. Deer hunters go home. Deer hunters go home.”

Martha strode up to the corner of the bar where a carved redwood post rose from the bar-top to the ceiling. While her compatriots, still at the back of the room near the entrance, continued their chant, Ms. Davenport, using a plastic covered chain with a combination lock of the type cyclists use to secure their bicycles, affixed herself to the post. “I will remain here until the killing stops,” she avowed with passion.

A group of hunters sitting at a table in front of the bar began to yell taunts at the heroic Martha. Suddenly in the back of the room the chanting diminished perceptibly as Tony who dashed into the saloon from his office stood arguing with two of the vegans, while the third resolutely continued his chant.
One of the three hunters who had obviously been doing more drinking than hunting that afternoon became more vocal. “Hey, bitch! Shut your goddamn mouth.” Sitting at the bar we could feel the tension; Paula reached over and grasped my hand as the drunken hunter threw an empty beer bottle in the general direction of Martha. Fortunately it missed, smashing against the bar.

At this point, a massively built man about six foot three with a gray beard and nearly white hair falling to his shoulders, rose from where he sat at the opposite end of the bar from Martha. He was dressed in jeans and a black leather jacket; white letters on the back read ‘Boggs Hogs Harley Davidson Motorcycles.’ He moved quickly for a big man. My immediate perception was that the better part of valor would be to avoid a fight with this guy.

Meanwhile the drunk, annoyed that his beer bottle marksmanship had failed, was headed toward Martha. He reached out for her, and as he grabbed her by the front of her cotton shirt, Leather Jacket put one of his large hands on the man’s shoulder, spun him around and hit him with a blow that glanced off the side of his head. The drunk stepped back, and shaking his head in a combination of disbelief and pain, struck out at Leather Jacket. The blow landed on his chest. Unfazed, Leather Jacket, with a right cross to the jaw, sent the drunk sprawling to the floor, where he lay dazed. For a moment quiet filled the room. Even Martha and her cheering section were silent. Leather Jacket went up to Martha and said, “That man had no right to touch you or to talk to you that way.”
Martha, apparently forgiving, or at least ignoring, the man’s very un-vegan leather jacket gasped, “Oh, thank you sir.”

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