THE HUNT Part Three
Saint knew that he scared people. He didn’t mind. Liked it, in fact.
“Fear, that’s jus’ another word for respect,” he always said.
But he could turn it off, too. When it suited him. He always tuned it down for the ladies. Played it low-key. Kept just enough of the edge to keep ’em interested but not enough to make ’em run. Females are curious animals, he’d learned. Play it just right and they’ll come right up to you and eat out of your hand.
Saint had missed women the most during his stay in prison.
“I intended to kill that Warden,” he said to the girl sitting next to him at the bar. They kept the lights low here, but she didn’t need the dim lighting to make her look good. Prettiest girl in the place. Saint had picked her out as soon as he’d walked in.
“Really?” she asked. This particular girl, she was scared, but she was getting off on it. Saint figured she’d had a long line of abusive men in her history, jerks who’d slapped her around.
“Still might do it,” he continued. “See, it’s true, that old sayin’ ’bout revenge bein’ best when it’s served cold. Say I was ta’ go ta’ his house tonight an’ kill ‘im in his bed, right here after me bein’ released. Who’s gon’ be right at the top a’ the suspect list? But say I wait a few years. Then I’d be way down on that list. Jus’ good sense, no?”
“Yeah,” she said. Black hair, black lace stockings, black leather boots, black thong. Yeah, she’d do in a pinch.
That morning, Saint had walked out of Abbeville a free man. His first day of freedom in three years.
“Unless you’ve been locked up yourself, you can’t appreciate it,” Saint had told the girl when they’d started talking. “Even the air smells different. The sun on your face, it’s the same sun as when you were out in the yard, but it feels different. Better.”
“Wow,” she’d said, hypnotized. Like a little mouse in a cobra’s gaze, heart all aflutter.
“I walked back ta’ town. Good ten miles, I bet. Could’a called a taxi, but I wanted ta’ walk. Jus’ ’cause I could, you understand? No walls, no fences. Like I said, you’d have ta’ have been inside ta’ understand.”
“What else did you do?” she’d asked.
“Walked ’round for a while. This here’s a pretty little town. I been all over the world, chere, an’ I’ve seen a lot a’ pretty places. Reckon this here little town’s ’bout the prettiest I’ve seen.”
“Elysium’s a nice place,” she’d agreed.
“I went into this burger place an’ bought myself a burger an’ fries. You know, I’d ’bout forgotten how good they were. Went shoppin’, got myself some new clothes. Got this here shirt. You like it?” A silk shirt. Expensive. Bought with the credit card the Governor had given him.
“So how would you kill the Warden?” the girl asked, bringing the conversation back around.
“Him? Reckon for him I’d want it ta’ be intimate, personal. I expect I’d use piano wire. You know that’s what they called me in the papers? The Piano Man. ‘Course I only ever used a strip a’ piano wire one time, but I s’pose they needed a nickname for me, so that’s what they called me.”
“Ginger.” Another stripper (this one had a nice face but was too skinny for Saint’s tastes) walked up to where they sat at the bar. “It’s your set.”
“Cover for me,” Ginger said. “Ginger” had already told Saint her real name—Melanie—and had already skipped one set to sit and talk with him.
*Shoot, I could walk out a’ here with her right now. Take her straight back ta’ the hotel without her even botherin’ ta’ change her clothes. Business before pleasure, though.*
“What does he want you to do for him?” she asked.
“What’s that?” Saint took a swig of his beer. The coldest, best tasting beer he’d ever had. Or, to be more precise, the latest in a series of the coldest and most delicious beers.
“The Governor? What does he want you to do for him?”
“Speak a’ the devil an’ up he pops,” Saint replied. “You can ask him yourself. That’s him right there.”
Across the room, wearing sunglasses inside the dark interior of the club (They called the place the “Red Rabbit Lounge.” The neon sign outside looked so much like the Playboy insignia Saint wondered that the bar hadn’t ended up in a lawsuit.), Garrett Roth stood out amidst the regulars the way a man in a priest’s collar might have. He scanned the room—*No wonder he can’t see me, wearin’ those shades.*—until Saint flagged him over.
“You’re playing games with me, Mr. Saint,” Roth said, sitting down next to Saint on a barstool. Saint could scarce hear him over the throbbing of KISS’s “Strutter” over the loudspeakers.
“Speak up, boss.”
“Insisting I meet you here, of all places.” Did Roth always look so pale, or was it just the lighting? “You know I’m a Christian man.”
“You’re also the Governor,” Saint said, louder than necessary. “Ginger, say hello to the Governor.”
“You’re hoping I’ll be recognized, aren’t you?” Roth said to Saint.
“Now boss, you already know I’m the one in the driver’s seat, don’ you? I’m callin’ the shots, here on out. An’ if I say we’re gon’ meet up in a strip bar, that’s where we’re gon’ meet. If you wan’ my help, that is.” Another swig of beer. “You bring what I asked for?” Saint asked.
Roth pulled a manila folder from beneath his overcoat as the bartender came over.
“Bring the Governor here a beer,” Saint told her. “Best in the house, since he’s payin’ for it.”
“Whatever you say, baby.”
Saint took the envelope and opened it, dumped the contents on the sticky countertop. He picked up one of the several photographs.
“This her?” he asked.
“Yes. That’s Kiersten.”
“She’s pretty,” said Ginger/Melanie.
Saint looked at the other photographs. Kiersten Roth at her high school graduation, at a dance with some pretty-boy type snuggled up next to her, on horseback. In each picture the same corn-yellow hair and freckles and big smile.
“She looks like her mother,” Roth said. “My son and his wife were both killed when Kiersten was thirteen. I raised her after that.”
“Tell me how she ended up out in Georgia, diggin’ up Bigfoot,” Saint said.
The bartender brought Roth his beer. Imported, in a bottle.
“Jed Patterson was a personal friend,” Roth began. “A fellow member of the Elect. I thought it would do Kiersten some good, to spend some time working with him. He has mission camps all over the country.”
“Used to have,” Saint corrected him. “Said on the news they found him tore plum in half, right at the waist.”
Roth closed his eyes, sighed.
“Go on, boss. Why’d you send little Kiersten off ta’ camp?”
Roth hadn’t touched his beer. “I had a lot of trouble with Kiersten after her parents died,” he said after a moment. “She had so much anger. She started spending time with the wrong crowd, and then with the drugs. The last time she got in trouble…I’d always helped her out before, covered for her, but I intended for that to be the last time. I told her I’d help her only if she agreed to spend a year working with Brother Jed. It was that or her go to jail.”
Saint nodded. “Don’ blame you for feelin’ guilty, boss. She would’n been there, if not for you, which means she would’n be dead now, if not for you.”
Roth winced as if slapped. “I don’t believe she’s dead.”
Saint finished his beer, waved to the bartender for another. “One hundred thousand, boss, jus’ like we agreed—plus the pardon, of course—an’ I’ll find her for you, dead or not.”
Roth took a breath, steadied himself. “I am no fool, Mr. Saint, contrary to what you may believe. I haven’t forgotten the kind of man I’m dealing with.”
“Now what do you mean by that, boss?”
“I want Kiersten brought back alive and unharmed,” Roth said. “But if you did find her alive, as I believe she is, I have no reason to trust that she would remain so, if you are guaranteed payment notwithstanding.”
“Hold up, now. You’re sayin’ you’re not gon’ pay unless I bring her back alive?”
“I’m saying I don’t trust you,” Roth said. “Not without some kind of guarantee. That’s why I’m prepared to pay you double the amount agreed upon if you return Kiersten to me alive and unharmed.”
“Double,” Saint said.
“I can think of no better incentive. Is that acceptable, Mr. Saint?”
Saint grinned. “I’ll take your money, sure ‘nough,” he said. “Be glad ta’ do it.” The bartender had brought a fresh beer and Saint chugged a mouthful. “But there’s no need for you ta’ worry ‘that I might do your granddaughter harm.” Another swig. “I don’ hurt women.”
“Mr. Saint, the only reason I am sitting here with you, not afraid for my safety, is because I know, and you know, that it is in your best interests, your financial interests, not to do me harm. The money is my protection, and money will secure Kiersten’s protection from you. Please don’t insult my intelligence by asking me to trust in your good nature.”
Saint shrugged. “Whatever, boss.” More beer. “Now this here ring.” He picked up the piece of jewelry from the countertop. “This was hers?”
“When’s the last time she wore it?”
“I can’t say. Within the last year, at least.”
Saint slipped it on his right pinky finger, a snug fit.
“This is gon’ expedite the process,” he said. “Now that I’ve got her scent, I’ll find her plenty fast.”
“I trust so,” Roth said. “Now might I suggest you get some sleep, Mr. Saint? I have arranged for my private jet to fly us to Georgia and we take off at nine AM sharp.”
Saint slapped the counter in front of him and Roth almost jumped off his barstool.
“We leave at noon, boss. Maybe one, even. I got at least one more beer ta’ drink, then I’m gon’ take Ginger here back ta’ that swanky hotel you’re payin’ for an’ we’re gon’ ring the church bells for a while. I won’ be gettin’ ta’ sleep for a while yet, an’ I need my beauty sleep.”
Roth stared, then nodded, swallowing. “Noon,” he said.
Yes, people were scared of Beauregard Saint, and he liked it that way. He liked it just fine.
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!