Authors: Adam Knight
Tags: #fiction, #adventure, #murder, #action, #fantasy, #sex, #violence, #canada, #urban, #ending, #cowboy, #knight, #outlaw, #dresden, #lightning, #adam, #jim butcher, #overdrive, #lee child, #winnipeg, #reacher, #joe, #winnipeg jets
already?” I muttered.
“Oh that Crosby
is a menace,” Mom said in a small voice. “He’s always down in our
end with his stick on the puck. It’s not fair.”
Propped up on
four or five different pillows and tucked up to her waist in
comforters, my mother Linda watched the game with rapt attention.
She watched all the games though I’m not certain she’s ever really
understood what was going on. Always with insistent cries for her
team to “Go to their end, stay away from ours!” and other such
helpful advice. To be fair she came by it honestly, as I remember a
lot of similar things being shouted at my grandfather’s TV screen
as we watched his beloved New York Yankees when I would visit
during lunchtime as a kid.
used a few more expletives that I wasn’t supposed to know or
understand as I recall.
wetly again into a tissue as I scooped up a few fresh ones and
handed them to her, sweeping as many of the used ones into the
nearby plastic bag we always kept handy for just this purpose. Some
weeks we went through more tissue paper than anything else in that
Seeing her laid
up on the couch always made my chest ache, and she was the one
battling early onset heart disease. I always remember an energetic
dynamo of a woman, bustling me from school to home every day.
Constantly involved with the church, the PTA and still finding time
to work part time with a local market research firm in the
evenings. Tireless, enthusiastic and brilliant. Driven to set a
good example for her kids and lead them by the ear to her level of
energy even if we went there kicking and screaming.
Which I often
Now Mom spent
the majority of her day laying back on that couch, propped up nice
and high to help with her breathing. Never a big woman to begin
with, the thirty or so pounds she had lost in the last few years
left her looking frail and like a woman much older than her late
fifties. Skin the color of chalk and the clamminess of a damp rag.
Her hair – once thick and curly like mine – was stringy and
wanted her moved to a medical care facility but Mom had refused.
“Just because I’m sick doesn’t mean I am old enough to be in a
home” she had said. The house had plenty of room now that it was
just the two of us and held everything she needed. Plus, she was
comfortable which was the most important thing. A home care nurse
came by every other day while I was working to check her blood
pressure and to help out with things that came up. A benefit that
Mom resented needing but accepted out of reality.
“Don’t stare at
me like that, Joseph.” She admonished without looking away from the
TV screen. “I’m right as rain.”
A smile forced
its way onto my face. A small smile. That’s all I could muster
“I’m staring at
your pillow nest, thinking about getting one for myself.”
That sounded lame as I was saying it. But Mom still smiled.
one’s mine and you can’t have it.” She glanced at the time on the
cable box before looking up at me. Her expression turned worried.
It always did.
what Moms do.
you’ll be careful?”
did it’s work on my face again. “I’m always careful.”
“It’s just so
crazy in this city now. Not like it used to be at all.” She coughed
and I handed her the fresh glass of water I was still carrying. She
sipped as I started to clear the extra dishes.
“We used to be
able to take the bus downtown to go shopping without being harassed
and intimidated by people. It was clean and well maintained.”
Coughing she took another sip. “And now Winnipeg is the Murder
Capital of Canada for the tenth straight year. Girls are going
missing. Drugs and biker gangs are taking over neighborhoods.”
“It’s not all
bad out there.”
She shook her
head. “I read it in the paper every day. Even here in our own
neighborhood. I used to let you boys run around and go to the river
trails to play. Now I wouldn’t let a child out without being able
to keep an eye on them at all times.”
tougher than you think, Mom.” A number of rough and tumble types
from the downtown YMCA popped in my mind’s eye at the thought. I
walked the dirty dishes into the kitchen and ran some water over
them, before popping them into the dishwasher. It started on the
third try after a brief Han Solo-esque rap on its control panel to
get it going.
scary, Joe. Some of those kids are beyond bullies. They’re
“Might be a bit far there, Mom.”
“I hardly think
so given all of the … Yes! Yes! Go to the other end!!”
“No but ..” coughing, bit of a gurgle from water consumption. “No
but it was really close.”
replay as I came back into the living room didn’t impress me
overmuch with it being all that close. Two on two rush with a
dribbling drop pass back to Poulin who fired though traffic at the
net. Fleury had an easy stop. But it seemed to have awoken the
crowd at the MTS Centre once again, so with any luck the Jets had a
shot at getting one back before intermission.
I placed my
hand on Mom’s forehead and ignored the clammy chill. “I gotta
“Be safe and
don’t be too late.”
“I’ll do my
best. Are you going to church in the morning?
She shrugged slightly, her housecoat barely moving at all. ”Let’s
see how I feel when I get up.”
“Sure, Mom.” I stepped away and headed towards the kitchen. “Just
wake me up if you want to go.”
“Okay. I love
“Love you too.”
steel toed, second hand army surplus boots into place; I grabbed my
coat, jingled my keys and headed out the door for the second half
of my Saturday.
It was quarter
to nine by the time I had managed to find parking. With the hockey
game three blocks away and the weekend party goers out in full
force for their Saturday night debauchery, finding a spot on the
street to fit my rusty 1995 Ford Windstar was a bit of a bitch. I
was so far back on Waterfront Drive I would’ve been better off
parking over at the Forks Market.
But I was
broke and street parking on weekends was free. Covered parkades
close to the action were five bucks a night minimum. And since I
went to bars on the weekends in order to
money, I put my chilly hands in my coat
pockets and trudged five blocks through the slush to
By a miracle I
made it there without getting splashed to death by oncoming traffic
and having to spend the rest of my night soaked to the skin. That
did nothing for my feet however. Steel toed army issue these boots
may have been, but second hand anything’s got wear and tear. So of
course the squishing sound in my left boot guaranteed a night of
one wet sock and some chafing discomfort from standing for six
Main Street entrance a small line had already begun to queue up.
The club was technically open already but standard policy was to
make people wait until at least nine p.m. and even then only small
groups in at any one time. Builds anticipation and theoretically
convinces partygoers to arrive earlier next time.
heavy, thumping music was already spilling out in to the street as
I jaywalked across six lanes of sporadic traffic. I got honked at
blaringly by a bus driver who was a good ten feet from even being a
threat to hitting me. I nodded at him politely after hopping up
onto the safety of the sidewalk.
was at his favorite place, right at the Main Street entrance where
he could get first crack at welcoming the guests and charming the
ladies. As I’ve mentioned before, most people would consider me big
but Mike’s in a class all by himself. Pushing seven feet tall and
over three hundred pounds of jacked, tanned and excessively pretty
man he was the exact image that Aaron wanted to present to all
legs, broad shoulders and beyond charming. Big Mike able to make
hard-assed dudes drop their guards a bit when things got
complicated and made more than the ladies’ guards drop when he
turned his perfect smile on them.
I got along
with Mike fine. Both of us were gym rats and had that to talk
about, though it was clear which one of us was having greater
success in the physical fitness department. He was a great guy to
have at your back when things got all punchy in the club which
thankfully was a rare thing with a guy like him, myself and others
“Big man!” Mike
barked in his deep baritone, clapping one of his freshly manicured
meathooks on my shoulder with that damned Hollywood smile of his.
“Starting to wonder if you were gonna make it.”
I clapped Mike
on his rock hard arm in return. “Yeah. Traffic. Sorry.” Patrons
shivering in line started muttering to themselves at the half-ton
of bouncer standing between them and their inebriation stations. I
can admit it, we were an imposing sight. I spared them a glance.
“Big crowd tonight?”
Mike laughed, his blue eyes wide and bright. “Oh yeah, man. Gonna
be a wild one.”
Did he have to
look so damned cheerful about it? All taller than me and built like
a muscle car?
petty. Get used to it.
I cleared my
throat, looking back at the line again. “I may have a couple of
friends coming down later tonight. Should I leave a name with you,
or will you send someone for me when they get here?”
about it, Joe. You never have guests. Anyone you want in just has
to drop your name. I’ll take care of it.”
I clapped his arm again on the way past him, taking the steps
“Is she hot?”
Mike called out from the sidewalk.
I stopped on
the stairs and looked back. Big Mike’s smile was wide as ever
underneath his cowboy hat as he waited expectantly.
irrational moment I nearly told him off. Who cares if Tamara was
hot? Any of my friends who wanted to come out could come out, same
as any other bouncer. More to the point, I didn’t need Mike’s
approval for having hot friends did I?
“You tell me,
man.” I nodded to the line. “Have fun out here freezing your
the club I hung up my coat in the staff room and tried to do
something about the disaster that was my hair. Wet spring wind in
Winnipeg made my curls a mess in a hurry.
All around me
various staff members made ready. Bartenders were checking their
tills, making sure the counts provided by Aasif were accurate.
Danny and some of the other young bouncers were nearby talking up
each other’s most recent sexual exploit. A few of the waitresses
were adjusting their outfits, trying to show just the right amount
of cleavage in order to secure tips as opposed to negative
staff room I began my nightly ritual of making a perimeter sweep of
the club. Just to be sure there wasn’t anything out of place before
we let the general public in.
I started with
the restrooms, did a lap around the basement checking in with both
of the mini bars and headed up the side stairs to the VIP entrance
at the loading dock.
David and Mark
held court here, complete with the guest list on a clipboard and
earpieces already in place. I asked the same favor of them as I had
from Big Mike, gingin a brief description of Tamara so they’d know
her to see her.
hot,” Mark said with a touch of surprise. “Fitness desk chick? Good
on you, Joe.”
“It’s not like
that. She and her friends don’t get out much between work and
school. Just helping them get a night out is all.”
knowingly. Sagely, almost. “I hear ya, man, working the long game.
All good.” He added Tamara’s name to the guest list. “She comes to
this door I’ll come get you myself.”
“Man have I got
some good shit for you, Joe” David gruffed out at me in his usual
deep chested bark. He leaned in conspiratorially and then kept his
voice the same volume to be heard over the pounding sound system.
“I got some new stuff in from my guy. When you’re ready to get
serious in the gym and blast it up, I got the perfect stuff for
you. A bit of test, some vee and you’ll be jacked the fuck up. Help
you take care of this too.” He said the last bit while giving my
abdomen a nudge.
I took a step
back from David’s six foot, two-hundred-and-sixty pound belly
nudging frame and gave him a look. He was a monster, no doubts.
Wider and thicker than Big Mike with veins bursting at his forearms
and neck. His shoulders were doing a Lou Ferrigno impression with
the seams of his security shirt. His big, wild beard the only hair
on his face as the rest had retreated past the back of his