I was a few minutes late in my arrival at the bar. Most days you could set your clock to six p.m. by my arrival at Mike's tavern. That night, I had been held up by a client. Poor kid needed to be twenty-one in the worst possible way. His exact reasons, I didn't bother to ask. I knew that he was nervous enough to have been on the lamb. If he were on the lamb, the fifty-dollar driver's license wouldn't help him much. I knew exactly what it would take to successfully disappear. I should. I had done it enough times.

Not for myself mind you for ten years I had worked in the document section of the U.S. Marshal's office. I would have been there still, if I hadn't arranged a fake driver's license for a friend. My supervisor, Julie Francis took a dim view of my little moonlighting. She was kind enough to allow me to resign without the incident making it to my file.

Why on earth would she do that, one might ask. Well, you see Julie and I had shared a few nights together. Not only had we shared them, but I had a couple of interesting videotapes of the incident. The quality wasn't as good as the ones I had starred in as a college student, but they were good enough to recognize Julie. Not only could you recognize her, you could not help being shocked by what she was doing with her subordinate.

I know it isn't the gentlemanly thing to do. Secretly taping your lover just isn't done by nice people. So, who said I was a nice guy? Just to show what a louse I am I have a closet full of those tapes. Most of them have no real value, but a couple might help me out of a tight spot one day.

The interior of the Tavern was dark and even a little dirty. Mostly it was dark. I waited by the door for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. If it had been December, I wouldn't have needed the adjustment time. In June, it took more than a few seconds to see anything in the cavern.

Mike kept his air conditioner set so low that inside a sweatshirt was a good idea. Nobody wore one, so the chill bumps covered each new arrival. Fortunately, they did pass quickly.

When my eyes finally adjusted to the dark, I noticed Jerry behind the bar. I moved to sit on a stool at the far corner of the leather and Formica bar. The walk to the stool took me past the other fifteen stools. I had actually counted them once.

"What can I get for you Mr. Sledge?" the young bartender asked.

"Just coffee, Jerry." I replied with a facial expression as close to a smile as I ever got.

"You want it in a plastic cup or a real one?" he asked.

"Put it in a doggy bag, I may have to leave before I finish it," I suggested.

Jerry returned a few moments later with a large Styrofoam cup filled with black coffee. Along side the cup he placed a shot glass. In the glass was a good-sized measure of half and half. I knew from experience that the half and half was also laced with a half-onceof simple syrup. The combination added both rich milk and sugar to the coffee.

I sipped my coffee while looking around the tavern. I noted that the usual 6p.m. handful were on hand. Of the other six people only two were of any interest to me. I noted Lois, a former 'date' sitting with another secretary type. Her companion was a little hippy, but not objectionably so. I also noted that they glanced at me from time to time. With each glance a quiet giggle could be heard coming from their table.

I knew it would only be a matter of time before one, or both of them joined me. When women talked, glanced and giggled at me, they soon came calling. It was so predictable that it would have been laughable had I not enjoyed a variety of women. It was certainly no laughing matter that night. It had been several days since I had been with a woman. For me that was a long time. In a way the drought was self-imposed. I could have had a girlfriend or even a wife; I made a conscious choice not to do so.

I almost finished my coffee when she approached. "Hi, I'm Cheryl." She said it while taking the bar stool beside me. "You don't mind if I sit here, do you?"

"Now why would I mind the company of a beautiful woman?" I asked only half seriously.

"Well, until she comes will I do?" She asked it with a very warm smile brightening her face.

"Sure, by the way, my name is Rudy Sledge." I said it while holding my hand out to her.

She took my hand as she said, "I know. Lois told me."

I simply nodded while I awaited her next question. I didn't know exactly how she would ask it, but I knew she would eventually get to it.

"Is it true that they call you "Hammer?" she asked shyly.

"Not too many people call me that these days, but yeah, they used to call me "the Hammer".

"Why?" she asked.

"Probably for the reason Lois said." I answered her as I swung around on the barstool so that I faced her.

She turned to me. Since we were so close together. She was forced to insert her knees between mine. All the tables behind me were empty, so no one, other than Lois, could see anything. She actually couldn't see anything either, but she would know from the subtle movements.

I took hold of her hand, then pulled it to my thigh. She gave me no resistance at all. What she did show was surprise when her hand came into contact with me. I listened to her gasp which was one of the reactions women had. Some of them would giggle and others would just grin wickedly.

I removed her hand then swung back to the bar. I took a sip of my coffee knowing I would be forced to buy a second one. I could hardly leave the bar at that moment. Even with the monster down the leg of the pleated pants, walking out would be embarrassing. Besides I had no intention of leaving without Cheryl and she wasn't quite ready. At least not in my humble opinion.

I drank the coffee in silence. Actually, I worked math problems in my head to pass the time. I didn't think about the silent Cheryl for a while. She intruded on my thoughts with another question.

"So, what is it that you do for a living?" she asked.

"I'm self employed." I could see that she was still curious, so I added. "I run a computer consulting business." A small lie, but a necessary one.

"With a thing the size of that," she said nodding toward my crotch. "You should be in the movies or the 'Guinness Book of Records'.

"Not big enough for the record book, and the movie business is too dangerous these days." I tried to give her a disarming smile but I'm afraid it came off as a wise assed smile.

"So, how big is it?" she asked quietly.

"If I told you, you wouldn't believe me. Why don't we go somewhere so that you can measure it?"

"Oh, I couldn't do that. I'm engaged," she said looking down at the bar.

"Measuring my tool doesn't mean you are going to get raped," I replied.

"I don't know, I think maybe I should just go back to Lois," she suggested.

"Whatever," I said shortly.

"You aren't mad at me, are you?" she asked.

"It doesn't matter. You just go back to your nice safe life. Then someday when you are my age, you can tell your girlfriends about the chance you passed up." I figured there was no need pulling any punches, she was already a lost cause.

She stood then walked away. So much for getting laid tonight, I thought.

"At least she didn't run away screaming," Jerry said as he refilled my coffee cup.

"Don't matter, the results are the same," I said with a fake smile.

"There's always Lois," Jerry suggested.

"I would have to be even more desperate than I am right now." I replied.

"Lois says you two had a couple of wild nights," Jerry suggested.

"That much is true, but I try to never revisit the scene of my crimes," I admitted.

"God, I need to follow you around just to pickup the left overs," he said.

"Your wife would kill us both," I replied.

"So true," Jerry admitted as he walked away.

I worked on the second coffee for half an hour. I considered switching to beer at least a dozen times. I considered it, but I didn't. I knew that I was one beer away from skid row. I was a reformed drunk. I would have been an alcoholic, if I had been able to tolerate the meetings.

I liked to say I became a drunk after I lost my job, but the truth was I lost my job because I was a drunk. The license was for a drinking buddy. I would never have risked my job for a regular friend. It didn't help any that I was half hammered when I fixed old Earl up.

I resisted the beer for about the thousandth time. I hadn't touched a drink in over two years. I wasn't nearly as particular about forgery. I justified it as the only thing I knew how to do. At least the only thing that paid.

Things were close enough to normal, so that I could walk out without creating a scene by the time the cup was again empty. I was on the verge of standing to leave when a small voice from behind startled me.

"Can a girl change her mind?" the voice asked.

I didn't even have to look to know the voice belonged to Cheryl. "No problem," I replied honestly.

"Would you mind going to my place? I really would feel better."

"Whatever you say. I do insist that I drive my own car. I don't want to be at your mercy anymore than you want to be at mine." I said it as I led the way out the door. Once outside in the parking lot Cheryl pointed out her car to me.

I followed her tiny Chevy as it wove its way out of town. It took about twenty minutes to reach her apartment building. She waited for me in the parking lot. I followed her up the outside stairs then to her door.

Once inside she seemed uncertain as to how to proceed. I pulled her to me for a long wet kiss. She pulled away obviously frightened. "If you want to measure it, we have to get it hard." I informed her. For some reason that lame excuse seemed to relax her. I had given her a way out. She could always say,I romanced her into bed.

She allowed me to kiss her for a long time. I finally broke the kiss. "I have to do something with this thing," I said pointing to the long thick lump hanging down the leg of my trousers. The lump was fighting hard to stand upright. It was being restrained by the tough cotton twill of my pants.

"My god," the young woman gasped. There was actually a frightened look on her face.

"Don't worry honey, it isn't as big as it looks. It's just because it is inside my pants leg. I do have to take it out though. The thing is beginning to hurt from the strain to stand up." I tried to smile warmly, but I expect it came off rather nasty.

"Maybe this was a mistake," she suggested.

"Look Cheryl, I'm trying to be nice, but you need to make up your mind. If you want me to leave just say so," I demanded.

"I don't know," she answered miserably.

"In that case, I guess I will be leaving. Do me a favor though, if you change your mind, don't bother to call me." I said it as I limped out her door. I was grateful that the parking lot was deserted. Even meeting strangers would have been embarrassing.

I was tempted to return to the bar for a real drink, but I fought it off. Instead, I drove to my own place for dinner. I ate out seldom, especially with my problem visible.

Fortunately, my apartment had a parking space just outside the door. It was one of the reasons I took the tiny little apartment. Once inside the two-room efficiency apartment, I began fixing dinner.

Dinner was a plastic tray removed form the freezer section of my side-by-side refrigerator. The large freezer unit was the reason I had made the purchase. That, and the large discount offered by the 'Meals for One' company.

'Meals for One' was a hell of an idea; one I wished I had come up with. According to their brochure, a little old lady cooked dinner for all her customers. Actually, whoever cooked the meals did one hell of a job. The food was as close to homecooked as I had ever tasted from a frozen platter.

The food was very basic. The menus were based on the fact that single people would go to restaurants for fancy foods. At home, we wanted your basic fat food group. I expect they had a point since the owner was getting rich from franchises all over the country. On the menu that night was meatloaf. Hamburger seemed to be featured in about half the meals. That, I expected, was pretty much the same in traditional family meals.

After my dinner I drove the Thunderbird to the mall. I was on a mission to find a new set of batteries for my digital camera. The camera made forgery much easier. Easier than it had been when I was in the Marshal's office for sure. In those days I forged IDs for government witnesses. Having access to all those files taught me a lot. Even the Marshals didn't want to go through the regular channels. In a case where the fewer people who knew the witness' new identity the better, for him at least, I was the man to call. I had the list of how, where, and when to change a person's life. Naturally, I took a copy of the list as my severance pay.

I bought the batteries at the Radio Shack store. I was walking toward the exit when I heard my name being called. "Rudy," the voice said almost a shout.

"Sammy, what the hell are you doing in the mall?" I asked.

"Here with my wife. How about you?" He asked it looking pointedly toward my bag.

"Just buying some batteries for my remote control. So how have you been?" I asked.

"Not bad. Why the hell don't you come over to the house for dinner sometime?"

"Why the hell don't you invite me?" I was tired of the polite conversation.

"I'll have Millie do that." He took my arm gently pushing me toward a stone bench by the waterfall. "Rudy, I hear you are up to your old tricks. I sure hope that isn't true."

"What makes you ask?" I replied nervously.

"The boss got word that the street mutts are talking about disappearing without a trace. Outside of our people, you are the only one who can do that."

"Sammy, I don't know what you are talking about. I am just building a few computers for people" I replied. It was almost the truth. I did build a few for a couple of small businesses. The gig was set up by the office supply store where I bought my supplies. It had begun as a cover story. It then became true as they sent me a few customers.

"Well, if it ain't you, then it ain't. If I was you, I would be real careful. I think the 'J' department is taking a look at you."

"Thanks for the warning, but I am as clean as a brand new snow," I replied.

"With all the air pollution, I wouldn't use that as a defense," Sammy said. "Well, you take care."

"I will, and Sammy, thanks," I said it to his back. He lifted his hand as he passed.

The Justice department looking at me was not a good thing. Sammy's warning triggered my own plan B. I had known all along that some day I would come to the attention of the government. I had hoped to get away with my work for a few more years. "Too bad," I thought as I drove home.

When I arrived home I opened the convertible sofa in my living room\kitchen combination. I fell into the rather uncomfortable bed. I did my best thinking while lying down.

I lost track of time as I made my plans to cover my tracks. The planning had to begin with an assessment of what I knew. For one thing Sammy didn't just bump into me. The meeting had all the earmarks of a planned warning. Either Sammy, or someone he had ordered, followed me to the mall. The mall would have suited their purpose perfectly, no matter what that purpose might have been. If anyone saw Sammy with me, it could be written off as an accidental meeting.

Sammy and I certainly hadn't been close friends, so why the warning? I supposed,atthe time that he wanted the department to avoid the embarrassment of having a former employee jailed. Then again, I thought, he might be trying to protect the department's methods. Either way, the warning had to be heeded.

I figured time was of the essence. Sammy wouldn't have warned me if there were nothing I could do to prevent the damage. I figured a wire tap and search warrant would be Justice's first steps. The tap was probably already in place. The search might be conducted at any moment.

I moved from the bed to what should have been my bedroom. It was instead filled with equipment. I quickly went through all my files to remove anything incriminating. I tossed all the scraps of paper, which I had used to print phony driver licenses. After all the papers were gone, I began downloading the computers.

The download proved to be a good time to use the CD writer I had bought. I made two different copies of my hard drive, and then loaded programs that I had bootlegged from the Marshals. When it was all finished, around midnight, I had two sets of two CDs each. I placed them in a mail envelope, then addressed them to my mailbox in a town twenty miles away.

I had rented and kept the mailbox just for that kind of thing. In a business which is absolutely illegal in every sense of the word, one is probably going to need a place to stash something. At least it was the way I had figured it. It had proven to be correct.

I carried the plastic bag of shredded paper along with the CDs as I left the apartment a few minutes later. When I left the apartment, I had no idea where I would go. I knew only that I had to find a dumpster. I also knew enough to check for cars following me before I dumpted the trash.

Without knowing why, I found myself behind a restaurant at twelve thirty. I opened the bag, then spread the papers throughout the dumpster. After the papers, the hard drive from my computer followed. I knew damn well that cleaning it wasn't nearly enough, I needed a new one or at least to put a powerful magnet to the one I tossed. Since I didn't have a magnet at that moment, the hundred bucks for a new drive seemed pretty reasonable to me. At least, when compared to ten years in lock up.

I was pretty sure everything was clean when I drove across town to Mike's Tavern. I planned to have one cup of coffee, then head home.

"Mr. Sledge, kind of late for you isn't it?" the young female bartender asked.

"It is Laura, but I thought I would stop in for a coffee anyway," I replied with a smile.

"One coffee with a shot, coming up," she replied with a smile of her own. I had to admit the smile of an attractive twenty-five year old woman beat hell out of my worn-out smile.

I sat in a booth after claiming my coffee. I was forced into the booth since a middle-aged man in a mechanic's uniform held my seat at the bar. I figured if I demanded it, the mechanic would kick my ass. I had my back to the half-crowded bar, as I sat facing the door. Even so, I should have felt her approach. The first thing I knew, Cheryl was sitting down across from me.

"I sure am glad you came in," she said.

"Really?" I asked. I was reluctant to start a conversation with her.

"Yes, I wanted to apologize for this afternoon. I guess I got a little frightened by, you know."

"It happens some. I accept your apology." I waited for her to either leave or say something more. When she didn't, I finally broke the silence. "Is there something else?"

"Actually, I was kind of hoping you would give me another chance," she said.

"Another chance to what?" I asked.

"You know," she said tilting her head toward me.

I thought about it a few minutes then said, "Sure, why not. You can follow me home right now."

"Actually, I had expected it to be another night," she said.

"Look Cheryl, why don't we just forget it? It is pretty obvious that you don't really want to do this."

"Sure I do. I just, kind of, planned to see my boyfriend tonight," she informed me.

"Okay, then sometime when you aren't too fucking busy," I replied dismissing her.

"I know that sounded rotten, but I just don't know any other way to say it," she replied miserably.

"You don't need to explain, I think we both understand. Why don't you just go away?"

"I think you are just plain mean," she said standing to leave.

I took a deep breath to explain, then decided to hell with it. I really didn't care what she thought. I returned to my coffee.

I had almost finished the coffee and my thoughts on the Justice department 'looking at me' when Cheryl returned to the booth.

"Okay, I called Ronnie. I told him I had a terrible headache."

"So?" I asked.

"I did it because you wanted me to," she said dumbfounded.

"Kid, you are nuts. I never told you to call your boyfriend. If you want to come home with me fine, but it is just going to be this once. Frankly my dear, you are just too damned crazy for me." I know it sounded mean, but she was about to drive me nuts. Not so nuts that I wouldn't make it with her, but nuts nonetheless.

"I am not crazy, but once with you is all I could stand," she replied angrily.

"Good, you follow me," I said as I stood to leave. "I don't intend to get out of bed to drive you home." To this day I have no idea why I was so mean to her. Sure, she had upset me, but no worse than half a dozen other women. Women to whom I hadn't talked so mean.

I checked my rearview mirror often during the drive. I didn't want to lose her, even if I had been rough on her. I had a feeling things would only get worse, but in some perverse way I was looking forward to it.

I parked under the awning, and then waited while she found a space in the visitor's lot. I didn't move to meet her; I waited for her to walk to me. When she did, I didn't speak and neither did she. I walked to my apartment followed closely by Cheryl. I opened the door then stepped aside to allow her to enter before me. When she walked into my brightly lit apartment, I noticed that Cheryl was pretty well hammered. I wondered why I hadn't noticed it in the bar, or in her driving. I chalked it up to not wanting to see.

As soon as I entered she wrapped herself around me. She also captured my mouth. I could taste the stale beer but didn't mind since I was getting seriously aroused. Her kiss, when bombed, was a lot more erotic than it had been sober. It didn't take long for my tool to become angry at being trapped inside the leg of my trousers.

That time I didn't bother to explain, I simply stepped back from the embrace. Even as I unbuckled my slacks, Cheryl captured my mouth again. She had her tongue in my throat as I slipped my slacks and shorts off. I was able to reposition my penis upwards and between us before she pressed her body against me again.

As she kissed me, I lifted her cotton tee shirt. I ran my hands up her back. I was surprised to find that under her tee, she was naked. From the firmness of her breasts pressed against me, I would have though she wore a heavy bra. I broke the kiss long enough to remove her tee. I was glad I couldn't see us stand in the middle of my living room. Her stripped to the waist still in her striped shorts and me naked from the waist down, still wearing a white dress shirt.

Fortunately, she began unbuttoning my shirt as we continued to explore each other's mouth. I noted that my penis was long enough to rest against her naked belly. While she worked at the buttons of my shirt, my hips involuntarily moved against her. The result was a deposit of thin lubricant on her belly. My penis moved easily along her soft belly as she moved her hips in concert with my own.

She broke the kiss gasping for air. "Jesus, that thing is big," she exclaimed. "You are going to have to help me or it will tear me apart."

I didn't speak; instead I lowered my head to her pudgy right breast. I sucked it into my mouth, while capturing her left breast with my right hand. I teased one hard nipple with my fingers and the other with my tongue. With her mouth free she gasped and moaned continuously.

Even though our hips were a few inches apart, her body was in contact with my penis. It moved along her belly even more freely.

I felt her hands move between us as she unhooked her shorts. In only a second we were both completely naked standing in my living room. Since she was naked, I lowered my hand from her breast. I gently traced a path from her breast to her public hair and beyond. I intentionally skipped her bud as I moved my hand to her lower set of lips. I easily slipped a finger inside her. She gasped and jerked as her muscles contracted.

I had a two-fold purpose in the move. One, I wanted to move her even higher, and two, I wanted to check her moisture level. I know that sounds awfully unromantic, but the mechanics are very important to the minimizing of pain later. As usual, I could only guess at the state of her arousal.

I decided to just move forward. I maneuvered her to the already opened sofa/bed. When her knees touched the bed she sat down immediately. I followed, still attached to her breast. I found myself kneeling on the floor between her spread legs.

"Oh God, please put it in," she begged.

I broke the kiss, and then stepped back. "Turn around," I demanded.

She looked up at me with a blank stare.

"You have to take it doggie, or it will hurt like hell," I said with what I hoped was a patient smile.

She looked apprehensive but she moved onto the bed. She crawled like a child until she was in the middle of the sofa/bed. I moved to my knees behind her. I put my hand on her butt to position her for my entry. I was actually pretty far away from her when I pressed the head of my penis against her vaginal lips.

Once I was in position, I tried to force my penis inside her. As usual, it wouldn't go in easy. I held her hips tight, while I worked my penis inside her. I got about an inch of it inside her when she yelped the first time.

"Just relax, it will go easier," I suggested. She didn't answer so I continued to work it inside her. I had about two inches inside when she began to cry. I knew she was in pain but I just didn't care. I was far too involved in the feeling created by my penis inside her body. I could only think of getting it deeper inside her.

I worked it out just a little then thrust harder than ever. With that thrust another inch or so disappeared inside her body. At the first movement she groaned through her tears. I was about to make another thrust when she cried again.

"Please no more, it hurts, take it out," she was almost wailing. Not only that, she tried to collapse onto the bed.

I didn't even bother to answer. Instead, I held her up while I drove another inch into her. I was greeted by yet another wail. Before she could beg me again, I pumped her three quick, hard strokes. I found, to my pleasure, that I had almost six inches buried in her throbbing body. I tried to stroke her. I found it terribly difficult, as I usually did the first time. Her body was just too tight for an easy stroke.

While Cheryl moaned and wailed, I stroked her as best I could. There was actually very little real movement inside her. Mostly it was a minor repositioning of my penis. It, along with Cheryl's begging, was enough to drive me to an orgasm. When the semen left my body, it wasn't in spurts but in a steady stream like water from a garden hose. I was positive that when Cheryl stood she would find it running down her leg. It was actually too bad that I had no desire for her again, since it would have been much easier with all the lubrication inside her.

I allowed her to collapse onto the sofa/bed, after I orgasmed. I was gasping for air when she left the bed for the bathroom. When she returned, she came to stand over the bed. In her right hand she held a tiny automatic pistol. It had to be either a .22 or a .25 not much of a gun but enough to end my miserable life.

"Now, what the hell are you going to do with that?" I asked.

"I ought to kill you. You hurt me." She was so angry that she was shaking. "Why didn't you stop when I begged you to?"

"Because love, if I stopped every time a woman complained about the pain, I would never get it done. Besides, you had two chances to walk away. You came here because of the size, not in spite of it. If you want to play, you have to pay." I waited to see if I had pushed her over the edge. I knew she was a nut case, but I didn't know just how dangerous she might be. Still, I refused to back down. I expect that if I had really believed her to be dangerous, I might have begged for my life.

"You son of a bitch," she said pointing the small pistol at me.

"If you intend to shoot me then please do it, or else get the hell out of here. I am tired and I have a big day tomorrow. I said it turning my back on her. I might have acted all brave, but I was actually terrified. I lay with my face turned away waiting for either the sound of the door or the sound of my death. It took a few moments but it was the door opening then closing.

I actually gave a sigh of relief. I arose from the bed to lock the door. While I was up, I went into my home office to check it one last time. I did it more to get my mind off Cheryl than anything else. I found nothing incriminating, so I returned to bed. Sleep was hard to find that night; I had a lot on my mind all of a sudden.

For breakfast the next morning, I had a bowl of the 'Meals for One' cereal. I think what the owner did was to buy about a hundred boxes of generic cereal of all kinds. Then she mixed it all together along with a couple of pounds of raisins, dates, and nuts. I expect she even tossed in a little dried fruit. With the crap all mixed, she must have then packaged it in sealed one serving bags. 'Meals for One' had about three different varieties of cereal. I picked one at random, and then added milk.

After the less-than-wonderful breakfast, I drove to the mall. From the mall I began to call all of my bartender associates. Bartenders sent me most of my phony driver's license business. I explained about the 'J' department's sudden interest in me. That was all it took to convince them to cool it for a while.

I arrived at the only bar in town, whose tender didn't send me business. In Mike's tavern I was known as just another computer nerd. There were plenty of them around even then. I walked to the far end of the bar and took my usual seat.

Even at ten a.m., there were a few drinking customers. Once upon a time I would have been one of them. "Mike, how about a cup and a shot?" I asked.

"Coming right up," he said as he moved to the coffee pot. When he placed the plastic cup and the shot glass in front of me he asked, "Mr. Sledge, can I ask you something?"

"Mike, you can ask anything, I might not answer though," I replied with a smile.

"You come in here two or three times a day. You order a cup of coffee in a doggie bag. Now, I understand that you were once a drinker, so why do you come here for your coffee. I would think you would get it as far away from a bar as possible."

"Mike, it's a little hard to explain. I tried to quit the sauce for a couple of years and couldn't get it done. I met a man when I was at my lowest point. He explained to me that changing any behavior was tough. The only way he could do it was to learn to enjoy the struggle. According to him, the struggle becomes its own satisfaction, not the end product." I waited, but he looked blank.

"Mike, do you see these cigarettes?" I asked. He nodded. "They are herbal. No nicotine at all. I smoke about three of these a day. They have a peppermint taste; actually, they are pretty awful. I come to a bar and drink coffee with an herbal cigarette, rather than a real cigarette with a glass of bourbon. I know it doesn't make much sense but I enjoy the struggle to stay off both. What better place to enjoy my misery?"

"You know, I don't understand a word of that, but if it works for you, what the hell."

"To tell you the truth Mike, some days it works better than others," I replied with a broad grin.

I sat alone for over an hour before I finally decided to leave. I drove the five-year-old T'bird to the video store. I had always had time for a movie and it looked like I would have even more time for a while. The video store I patronized wasn't one of those giant chain things; it was more a small chain thing.

I entered the door to find the clerk reading a movie magazine. "Research?' I asked as I passed.

"Not really, how are you today?" she asked.

"Just about the same as every other day. How about you?" I asked.

"Not too bad, we got that movie you were asking about. It's over in the corner," she said as she waved her tattooed arm toward the rear wall.

I nodded as I headed in that direction. It was obvious that the tiny blonde had some new tattoo she was dying to show me. She seemed to always have a new pierce or tattoo she wanted to show off. With the movie in hand I returned to the desk,

"So, you got a new tattoo for me, or what?" I asked.

"Come on back and I'll show you the new one," she said with a conspirator's smile.

I left the movie on the counter while I followed her to the lady's room door. She went inside leaving the door open. I stood outside while she dropped her jeans. "It's the tiger on my right leg," she said as she turned her back to me.

I couldn't have missed the tiger, even if she hadn't told me. I pretty much knew her body from all my previous visits. Not only that, you couldn't forget that tiger once you saw it. The damned thing had blood dripping from its mouth. "If you ever have kids that thing is going to scare hell out of them." I said it shaking my head.

"I know, I am going to use it to keep them in line," she said as the entrance bell rang. She pulled up her pants, and then hurried to greet the customer.

When I went to pay for the movie, the customer had already gone to the rear to search the shelves. "So, when are you going to let me take a real close at 'Godzilla'?" she asked.

"I done told you that you are too young and too small to be thinking about me." I said it with a smile while I searched for my membership card.

"Hammer, you know that is bullshit," she said laughing at me.

"Please don't call me Hammer," I replied.

"Just as soon as I can find it, I am going to get a copy of that movie," she said.

"Sweetie, there is no copy of that piece of crap," I replied.

"Sure there is. Old soldiers, and old porn, never die." she stated positively.

"Well, good luck." I said as I headed out the door. Even after I left, the image of the tattooed lady lingered on my mind. She must have been twenty-one going on forty. She couldn't have been more than five two and maybe a hundred pounds of bones in a skin bag. There was no way she could take me. Still, it might be interesting to try.

I sat home watching the movie during the afternoon. I wasn't surprised when the FBI showed up with a search warrant around four. I should have acted more surprised, but I was a nerd, not an actor.

"I'm agent Harley," the woman said. "And this is agent Davis." At that time she was tilting her head toward the male agent.

"Let me get this straight," I suggested. "Agents Harley and Davis are here to search my house." I probably shouldn't have broken up laughing. It showed a definite lack of respect or fear. Either way, I knew I had just failed the attitude test. Life was likely to get real difficult for me.

"Yes, we are Harley and Davis," the male said menacingly. "And we are about to search your apartment. I'm afraid this is going to get messy, real messy."

"Don't worry, I will bill you for anything you destroy. If you tell me what you are looking for, maybe I can help?"

"According to the warrant, we are looking for files, either paper or digital, that would tend to suggest that you are involved in computer fraud or forgery." She read it right off the warrant.

"Since I don't have any idea what you are talking about, I can't help you. I do feel it is necessary to warn you that you are wasting your time." I said it hoping I sounded a little more sincere.

"Well Sledge, it's our time," the female said.

"It is, at that," I replied knowing it was time to shut the hell up.

I watched as the trim Harley and the chubby Davis ransacked my apartment. Harley was a brunette about five years older than my thirty-five years. Davis was almost bald and probably ten to fifteen years older then me.

In the end they took only a shoebox filled with floppies and my computer. "You are going to return those aren't you?" I asked.

"Sure, just as soon as we finish analyzing them," Harley replied.

"Good, I'll be expecting them back tomorrow," I suggested. I didn't bother to tell either of them that the computer held no hard drive. Without it, the computer would be of absolutely no value to the investigation. The two agents finished with my tiny little apartment, and then moved on to my car. The old T'bird succumb to their heavy-handed manipulations quickly. They were gone by six, leaving me with a mess.

As happened, more often than not, I went out to dinner. My restaurant of choice usually had a clown's face somewhere on the window, or at least hanging on the dining room wall. That night I chose a more conventional restaurant.

Girt's diner had started life as a small frame house. Somehow it got transformed into a small cafe hidden away among the industrial plants on the east side of town. I had found Girt's by accident a few years previously.

I entered through the front door and found myself in what had once been the living room and one of the bedrooms. My namesake had created one long room from the two. I immediately moved to sit at the counter.

"Mr. Sledge, it's about time you showed up. I had a bet with the cook that you would be in yesterday," the woman with the bad red dye job said. Girt, who spoke, was at least sixty.

"Oh, why is that?" I asked.

"Because Jess cooked his 'hot' ribs."

Jess was the black cook whose specialty was barbequed ribs. When Girt had said hot, she didn't mean temperature. The fumes from Jess' sauce would take paint off walls. I expected a stomach transplant was in order for anyone who ate his ribs on a regular basis. Keeping that in mind, it was probably a good thing that I had missed them.

"Too bad Girt, I would have liked some of Jess' ribs." I honestly would have liked the ribs; their effect on me would have been a different story all together.

"Well, we ain't got none left," Girt said.

She seemed to enjoy disappointing me. She probably didn't really, but Girt had a way about her. Her ways probably accounted for half the customer's loyalty. Sure, the food was good, and the prices low, but so where half a dozen other places. There were others like Girt's but none with the same loyalty. Hell, everyone knew that he or she might have to wait fifteen or twenty minutes for a seat at her counter. I wouldn't think of leaving because of the line, nor would I ever agree to waiting as long at any other restaurant. There was a kind of mystique about Girt and her diner that all the customers recognized.

"In that case, how about a foot long dog?" I asked.

"What you want on the dog, and do you want fries? Girt asked in a voice much too large for the dumpy little woman.

"Everything on the dog and chili fries," I suggested.

"Jess, give me a foot long all the way, and a chili fry," Girt shouted through the hole cut into the kitchen wall.

No matter where you chose to eat, you had to stand at the front counter to order. After ordering, I turned to the long, narrow room. The front counter was filled with customers, so I wound up standing at the shelf along the outside wall. The dog and fries were ready before I found a place along the crowded shelf. I juggled the cafeteria-style tray while I searched for a spot.

I choked down the grease without a word being exchanged between me and the plant workers on their dinner break. When I left, it was with the satisfied feeling, which comes from a belly filled with animal fat.

I drove directly home from the cafe'. When I arrived, shortly after seven, I noticed the rather plain looking Crown Victoria parked in the guest space. I recognized Harley behind the wheel. I ignored her as I pulled into the parking space under the canopy and beside my apartment door.

Harley and Davis rang my bell before I could even pour a glass of iced tea. "I thought you two would be at the office reading my files," I suggested.

"Can we come in?" Davis asked as he pushed past me.

"Sure, come right in," I stated to his back. I invited Harley in with my eyes.

"You could have told us that you trashed the computer before we wasted our time taking it in," Harley said as she entered the living room.

"What do you mean trashed my computer? What the hell did you do to it?" I asked, pretending to be angry.

"When we got it to the office, the hard drive was gone," Davis snapped.

"Oh that, it broke a couple of weeks ago. I haven't used it in a while so I haven't gotten around to buying a new one," I volunteered.

"Speaking of buying, what the hell are you using for money?" Davis asked.

"I build a few computers," I replied.

"How many is a few?" Harley asked.

"I don't know a couple a month," I admitted.

"And how much do you make on a system?" Davis asked.

"I don't know a couple of hundred bucks each," I said, and I knew how it sounded.

"So, you are living on four hundred a month?" Harley guessed.

"Not exactly, I paid tax on sixteen grand last year," I replied.

"That's not much," she suggested.

"No, but I don't have a fancy life style either," I admitted.

"If you only made five grand building computers, where did the other ten come from?" Davis continued.

"Not that it's any of your business, but I play the horses."

"I suppose there are records," Harley commented.

"No, I bet with a bookie, and I am not going to rat him out."

"You know we don't believe a word of that fairy tale," Davis said angrily.

"Davis, don't raise your voice at me. I don't have to talk to you at all." My own voice was getting a little loud.

"Well, you do if I bust your ass," he informed me.

"Well then, bring it on." We were eyeball to eyeball. I waited for him to flinch. He caved first, but it took a long time.

"Come on out to the car asshole. I have your computer in the trunk," he said.

"You took it out, you bring it in." I took a look at Harley who was trying to warn me with her eyes.

"I ought to kick your ass," Davis said.

"You do what you got to do, but it might interest you to know that I have a video camera over the sink."

"Bull, if you did we would have found the recorder," Davis replied.

"And you are willing to bet your job and ten years in the joint on that?" I asked. It felt good to be in control for a change.

"Come on Davis, I'll give you a hand with the box," Harley suggested as she pulled him away.

After the two of them lugged in the box of disk and the computer, they left quickly. I stood in the door to make sure they actually drove away. I didn't much want to find them staked out in the parking lot. I supposed that it didn't really make much difference since all the dirty work had been done.

I slept really late the next day. I expect it had something to do with my not being able to sleep much the night before. After my morning cereal, which I ate at one in the afternoon, I returned the tape to the tattooed lady's store.

"Don't wait so long next time," she demanded as I dropped the tape on the counter.

"There aren't that many movies I am dying to see," I replied.

"I know, they make a lot of crap these days." I nodded my agreement. "Look Mr. Sledge, I am having a little party at my place this weekend. How about you showing up?"

"You know, I have been coming here for two years and I don't even know your name," I said.

"Janet," she informed me.

"Janet, I appreciate the offer but you are just a little too young for me," I admitted.

"Okay Hammer, but I ain't all that young, at least not in experience.

"Why don't you call me Rudy?" I suggested.

"Okay, so how about it Rudy?" she asked.

"You are still too young, but I might if you invite your mother."

"No way, I got a daddy who could kick your butt," she said with an impish grin.

"Then I am going home."

"Are you sure I can't talk you into the party?" she asked yet again.

"If I change my mind, I'll call you for directions," I suggested.

"I sure hope you change your mind."

I was pleased by the conversation. Not just pleased, hell, I was flattered. Everybody likes to have his or her ego massaged. I told myself that she really did want me to show up at her party. The only problem with her party would be the guests. God only knew what kind of freaks she ran with.

From the video store I drove to Mike's Tavern. When I entered the cool dark room, I was struck again by how many people began drinking in the mornings. It was early afternoon, but most of the customers had been in the bar since it's opening.

"Rudy, how the hell are you?" an old man asked as I passed.

"Doin' fine, Harold. How goes it with you?"

"Not bad, but then not all that good either," the old man laughed as though he had made a major funny. Harold always laughed at his own jokes. If anyone was going to laugh, it would have to be Harold.

When I was seated on a stool at the rear corner of the bar, I ordered my usual coffee and shot. "So Jerry, things been quiet or what?" I was expecting the FBI to show up at the tavern.

"Quiet as a mouse, oh are you talking about the baseball game. If you are, Harry came by this morning with your bread. I got it in the register for you." He might have had it, but he made no move to retrieve it.

"Okay Jerry, you got something else to say?" I asked.

"You know I don't mess around in nobody else's business, but I got to make an exception in your case. I mean, you are a good customer and I like you."

"Come on Jerry out with it. What the hell did I do now?"

"Nothing, at least I don't know of nothing and that's what I told them."

"Told who?" I asked. Hell, I knew who.

"Couple of cops came around asking questions about you," Jerry informed me.

"A man and younger woman?" I asked.

"Yeah, FBI they said."

"That's them. I got no idea what they are up to, but I got nothing to hide," I replied.

"Well until they stop nosing around, how about telling Harry not to leave you any more envelopes."

"No problem, I'll tell him to drop them somewhere else," I agreed.

"You ain't mad, are you?" Jerry asked.

"Not at all," I replied. I was mad as hell, but not at Jerry.

I was on my second cup of coffee when the objects of my anger came into the bar. Harley and Davis must have discussed it earlier because Harley did all the talking. "Sledge, we need to talk," she informed me.

"I think you mean, you need to talk. I don't have a burning need to say anything at all."

"You do have a burning need to listen to us, sport," Davis interjected.

"Well Davis, you managed to keep quiet twenty seconds. That has to be some kind of FBI record." Davis tensed so I reminded him. "There are lots of witnesses here, Davis."

"Guys, can we dispense with the 'whose is bigger' for a while. Sledge, we need some help here."

"You know, that was probably the best approach to take from the beginning. Come on back to my office." I said that as I led them to a table far from the bar and from any other patrons.

"Now, what exactly is it that you need?"

"We are going to do a no harm no foul for you. You do understand what that means?" Harley asked.

"Sure, it means you can't prove shit, but you want me to help you against my own best interest. It is also called fuck the rube."

"There is something in it for you," Harley replied.

"Fuck him, Harley. Lets just keep checking him out. We will get something."

"Even if you have to plant it?" I asked. Visions of Richard Jewel passed though everyone's mind.

"Let me just do this Davis," Harley said. She was faking the anger for my benefit, I knew. God, dealing with an ex-lawdog must have been frustrating for them. Davis nodded, pretending to be contrite.

"What we need is just a name and location on a man. We don't care how you know it. You give us that and all this goes away."

"And why do you think I know this person?" I asked, because I wasn't sure they knew anything at all.

"Because the girlfriend he left behind said and I quote. 'You ain't never gonna find him. He is in the witness protection program."

"So, why don't you check with the Marshal's office?" I asked.

"We did. They want him too. Seems he was never on the list because he wouldn't cooperate. What he is doing on the lam very much interests us. Word on the street is that there is a large contract on the man. Before you ask, last we heard it was half a mil."

"So, why do you think I know anything?"

"This," she said it as she tossed a small book on the table. I knew the book had exactly fifty-two pages of print. Each page was eight and a half inches by five inches. The book was a self-published thing with a rather generic look about it. I knew all that because I published it. The book had a rather short success on the Internet. It was put there for just such a situation as I was faced with at that moment.

"So you found a book. So what?"

"You do recognize it?"

"Sure it is an Internet copy of 'How To Lose Yourself.' Since I wrote it and published it myself, I should recognize it. So your man bought a copy, or more likely stole it from the net."

"You forged new papers for him, Sledge, then you gave him the book to show him how to make it work." Davis said it with a slightly too high voice.

"Look Sledge, just give us the name. He doesn't have to know it was you."

"I don't do what you are suggesting. I build computers and bet on sports and horses. That is all I am involved with, period."

"Well, let's hope the mob doesn't get wind of your little business." It was a threat from Davis. If the mob had a half-mil contract on the mooch, somebody would squeeze me hard for the info. The others would not be as gentle as Harley and Davis.

Well, I don't know what you are talking about so I can't help them, or you. Just for the hell of it though, who are you looking for?" I asked pretty sure of the answer.

"Michael Corbin, you might have heard of him." Davis said with a nasty grin. Something about Davis bothered me. He was just way too intense for a man putting in time. He seemed really interested in getting this Corbin guy.

"Never heard of him," I replied. Actually, the name meant nothing to me. I hadn't expected that it would. I was pretty sure I knew the man. I had made a man disappear recently. He was most insistent that he disappear immediately. He was so insistent that I was forced to mail the final papers to a town in Utah.

"You got a picture? You know, just in case I've seen him around." We both knew that I intended to see if I knew the man by another name.

Davis tossed a mug shot on the table without a word. I took a long look then said,"Nope, never seen the guy." Everybody knew I was lying.

"Like I said, I surely hope the mob doesn't find out about you." The warning from Davis was ominous.

I knew that if the man who called himself Tom Chaney could find me anyone could. The Internet book was my advertising. The girlfriend might be able to steer the hit men to me. On second thought, it wasn't the girlfriend who gave me up to the FBI, it was the Marshal's people. They had, at least, given me a heads up to dump the evidence before we all went up in smoke.
Corbin/Chaney was smart enough not to leave anything around with my name on it. It was in his own best interest that no one be able to find me. He couldn't know whether or not I would roll up on him. My problem was that if I rolled up on him, I was pretty much out of business.

After all the machine gun like thoughts cleared my head, I looked at Davis before I spoke. "Don't know the guy and I expect he don't know how to get lost. Nobody listens to the advice in that book. Just plain old police work ought to bring him in."

"That is what we are doing Hammer," Harley said with what might have passed for a smile, if I hadn't known she was a cop.

"You can call me Rudy," I said it smiling back at her. I did not try to tone down the leer at all. If she wanted to play games, she had to be prepared for the payback.

I was surprised when she didn't flinch. Instead she turned to Davis, then said,"Give us a little space, Davis." He was not a happy camper but Davis walked to the bar where he ordered a Coke. He, of course, didn't pay. I expected to see the Coke on my tab.

"Look Rudy, this is some serious shit. There are going to be some really bad people looking for Corbin. I can save you by finding him first.

"I just don't know what you are talking about." What I couldn't figure out is why they didn't take in and sweat me. They had certainly not been pleasant, but they also hadn't carried me down to the Federal Building.

"Have it you way Hammer, but when they start chopping on you, and we both know where they will start in your case, you are gonna talk. You really could save us all a lot of trouble and talk to me now."

"Tell me what this guy did to get you and the mob after him." I asked it smiling at her.

"You know I am not going to do that." She raised her eyes to meet those of Davis, who was standing at the bar. She nodded, and then stood. I had a really bad feeling about that nod. It looked a lot like permission for Davis to do something.

I shifted my weight in the chair. I carried a very fat wallet on my right hip. The wallet wasn't filled with money or credit cards; it was filled with a .22 mag derringer. The wallet was for a little protection so that I didn't shoot myself in the ass but also it was to disguise the profile of the weapon. It would take me a few seconds to bring it into play. I might get knocked to the floor first but I was gonna have a hell of a surprise for Davis when I came up.

To my surprise and relief, the two of them walked from the bar in silence. Even that worried me, something just wasn't right about those two, I decided.

I wasn't going to be doing any more business for a while. So, I decided to just go back to the apartment. I had no idea what I would do there except maybe not spend money I wasn't replacing.

I was nervous. Since Harley and Davis gave me the heads up about the mob and Corbin, consequently I had been checking my rearview mirror carefully. I suppose, on any other day, I wouldn't have noticed the car on my tail. Since it followed me into the mostly deserted, industrial area where my small apartment was located, I did something very unlike me.

I drove past my apartment and on to the town's police station. I pulled into the parking lot. I enjoyed watching the two occupants of the car as they parked on the street. They seemed to be in a heated discussion. I could imagine their confusion. Should they wait or should they leave and hope to pick me up later.

Since they opted to drive away, I got back into my car. I drove quickly away. I got the hell out of there before the guys could get around the block. I had a feeling that if I went home, I would be in a world of shit.

I decided that it was time to take my own advice and disappear. Being in the business, so to speak, I had three sets of papers stashed around town. I knew from my Marshal days that it wasn't always a good idea to go home, as a matter of fact, it was usually a lousy idea. There was a little cash in the house, but very little. Everything else could be replaced without me missing a beat.

As I drove to pick up my papers and what cash I had, I began thinking about Corbin and my lack of cash. I wanted to know more about the man who had put me on the run. Something about him interested not only the mob but the FBI, as well. He was obviously more that the street thug I had assumed him to be. Most of my customers who want to disappear are on the run from wives and child support, or, perhaps, massive amounts of debt to the wrong people, ones who consider your body your collateral. It looked as though Corbin was a little more than that.

Since I had stripped my computer and tossed the hard drive, I had no idea how to find Corbin's old life. I sure as hell didn't want to run down his new life on a whim. I had neither the time and money, nor the desire to do it. I did have a burning curiosity about it all. Actually, I was trying to figure the best way to make a buck from it all.

Rolling over to the FBI would get me nothing but a pat on the back. Rolling over to the mob might get me either a few bucks or dead, depending on the mood of some guy in a fancy suit. If Corbin had taken a few bucks with him, I might be able to work a deal with him.

It looked as though it was going to all boiled down to why the mob wanted him. To find that out, I had to ask somebody who knew. It was my preference that it not be somebody who was going to run to them or the cops. The person who came to mind was Eddie Wheels.

Eddie was one of those wanna be mobsters. He hung out on the fringes of the mob. He was also my bookie. I bet with him because he was not a real gangster. Don't get me wrong; he could get a really bad guy to collect for him. But he was not reliable enough to be one of them. I had no idea what the term for his position might be. I was sure, even then, that they had a colorful phrase for hangers on. Eddie got his name from the simple fact that he could get you any wheels you wanted for a job, then return them clean to the place he had borrowed them. That, and the ability to switch the plates, kept the cops thoroughly confused about the car's identity for weeks, if not forever. Eddie would tell anyone who listened that there were hundreds of cars running around with the wrong plates from his work. Although he had gotten so sophisticated that he returned the original plates with the car.

I found Eddie's Lincoln Town Car in the parking lot of the Red Spot Grill. It was the neighborhood bar of choice for people about half a step from being winos and over the hill street punks. Eddie was an over the hill street punk. At something over forty he would have been settled into a boss job if he had been with the mob. Instead, he was a bookie and still hustling to make it in the world. His kind of bookie placed the bets with the local wiseguy gambler. I knew where my money eventually went but as long as I didn't deal with the wiseguys, I was okay with it.

I saw Eddie as I entered the place. I walked by him without speaking. I did touch him on the shoulder. As far as Eddie knew, I was a simple gambler, one with a system that allowed me to win only slightly more often than I lost. I actually won 22% more often than I lost. The reason I didn't gamble more was simple. I didn't fully trust that I was going to win more than I lost. I expected one day for the system to dump me on my ass. The system was based solely on my belief that everyone was a thief. By analyzing the numbers from Las Vegas and the numbers the local bookies were quoting, I was able to predict when a fix was in. Or, it could have been just luck. Either way, I took a look at the numbers, and then bet with what I thought were the people in the know. None of that was on my mind that morning; my mind was filled with questions about Corbin.

"So Rudy, didn't you get you money from Mike?" Eddie was not used to winners looking for him, I suspected. Since he didn't owe me money, he had been quick to come back to the table in the rear.

"I got it Eddie. I came to get some information this time." I looked at him like a bug under a microscope.

"What kind of information?" Eddie looked a little worried at that moment.

"I hear there is real money on the street for a guy named Corbin. I might be able to shed some light on his whereabouts but I want to know why they want him."

"Hey, if you know where Mickey Corbin is we can make a few bucks on it." The dollar signs were rolling in Eddie's head.

"Before I do that Eddie, I want to know what he did. Sometimes the guy had a right to be left alone. I ain't interested in gettin' some guy who wouldn't pay protection killed." Eddie knew me well enough to know that I did have some conscience. It sounded pretty good to him, I expected.

"Corbin ain't no storekeeper. Corbin was a runner. Do you know what that is?" Eddie asked it with obvious pride in the fact that he did know

"Not a clue Eddie," I replied.

"Guy who drives down to Atlantic City and back. He drives down with the trunk of his Caddie empty. He goes to a fancy hotel for a fancy dinner, and then he picks up his car. He drives back to the city with the truck full. He parks the car in a parking garage, then goes to bed."

"This runner, he is connected?" I asked.

"Not really, he is usually family of somebody. But he is not an insider. The ones on the inside get watched real close. The Jersey gambling commission is real strict; a lot more careful than the Vegas crowd."

"So Corbin was a runner who opened his truck for a little sample?" I asked.

"He never got to the parking garage that last night. For a while, the old man thought he had been hijacked and killed. Corbin is his old ladies nephew, or some such crap. Turns out Corbin just never came back to New York. They found his car at the Newark airport."

If Corbin had done it right, he had caught a shuttle bus to either the New York Or D. C. airport, then a couple of more flight changes before he wound up in the town where I sent him. If he got lazy, he could be traced.

"He done some fancy footwork but they traced him to Atlanta, then lost him. I hear everybody is pissed about that. The old man laid down some heavy bread to find out that much. He is embarrassed, as much as pissed, about having to make up the losses of the others. You know how they are about family shit."

"So, how much did Corbin take?" I asked it trying to stay calm.

"I don't know for sure but some of the guys say it was over five mil."

"Holy shit, no wonder he drove a Caddie."

"Yeah, you can get a small boat in one of those trunks."

"How the hell did he get that kind of bulk on the plane?"

"Part of that fancy footwork was a trip to the diamond exchange in the city. When he left, he could have put five mil in a lady's purse."

"Do you mean Corbin was traveling as a woman?" I wondered if they knew.

"No, he was still Corbin, but they say he was pretty, if you get my drift?"

"Ah, I see," I said it as I stood to leave.

"So, what you got Sledge?" Eddie was getting antsy.

"One of the girls said he was in Florida. But if he was a sissy what faith can you put in that?"

"Well, I will pass it on," Eddie said.

"I wouldn't Eddie. The information might not be any good. The old man will be pissed if he wastes his time."

I had a lot to think over during my drive out of town. I didn't go far, just to a motel in the first small town. After checking in, I sat on the king-sized bed where I worked out the last of it. Then I took a look at it from the other side. If what I thought were true, I would be having guests soon.

The thing I had to do was not a pleasant thing. It was also guaranteed to get me high on the FBI most wanted list. That, however, seemed secondary to staying alive. I had removed the battery from my cell phone before I left the Red Spot Grill. I had all the pieces and the plan so I replaced it. If they came, it meant that Harley and Davis were on the pad. A nice way to say that they were dirty.

It was the only way the mob could have traced Corbin so quickly. After they lost him in Atlanta they began tapping into the FBI computers and came up with me. Since I am no dummy, the agents did the questioning. I had a suspicion the FBI knew nothing of me. Harley or Davis must have called Julie to ask about the story Corbin's girlfriend gave them. To protect herself, something Julie is good at, she gave them me. She also arranged the warning so that I could dump all my files. Covering her ass both ways, a true political woman, I thought.

So with the resources of the FBI at their disposal, both Harley and Davis were on the way, or they were giving the info to the mob that would be sending someone over. I hoped for it to be someone from the mob, personally. Killing two Agents, even dirty ones, was bad, bad news. Killing a couple of mobsters would discredit Harley and Davis with the mob. The letter I planned to mail to their boss would do even more.

I asked myself why I didn't just slip away. The answer was irrational and foolish but it was me. Somebody had to pay for screwing up my life again. It would be whoever came to kill me.

They didn't come 'til midnight. I was glad that it wasn't Harley and Davis. The letter to the director should take care of them after I was gone. I leaned back in the vans big driver's seat while I watched my room. One on each side of the door as they listened to the TV play. They kicked in the door and rushed into the room.

I wonder if they realized that the gallon of gasoline that soaked them was filled with dishwashing liquid or that the fumes, inside the confined space, were equivalent to a stick of dynamite.

The control for the tiny car had been bought at Radio Shack. I had removed the wires from the motor then taped them to the top of the car. They stood up on the top. When I pressed either the forward or backward buttons on the remote, it caused a spark. The spark in a room with the gasoline fumes was an instant source of ignition.

I tried to think of some appropriate final words but couldn't, so I just pushed the button. If the blast didn't kill them, the burning gasoline on their clothes did. It happened a lot faster than the telling of it. I made sure the other three other occupied rooms emptied before I drove away in my newly purchased, ten-year-old van.

I figured I had a date with Michele Collins of Williamsport Maine. Yes, Mickey Corbin did make a good-looking woman.

The end