A Trace Walker Temporary Mystery
By David Boop
The alarm rang and I reached for my phone. I hated calling the temp agency every morning, whether they had a placement or not. I would’ve much preferred for them to contact me when they had something, but that was their policy; call in or don’t work.
“This is Trace Walker. Got anything?” My sleep-laden words sounded more seductive than I would’ve preferred. The Rep didn’t react, instead answering my alluring voice with the tapping of keys. While classified general labor, my unique background occasionally netted me unusual gigs. The hesitancy in her voice told me she had one of those.
“Ever done repossession work?”
“As in auto?”
“Sure, piece of cake.”
“The client wants it detailed before being dropped off.”
It was an extra Benji for the clean-up. The agent recited the pertinent details on the fresh-off-the-lot cotton candy pink Nissan Versa. The owner’s name rang a bell. Not being able to afford internet, I visited a library and Googled her.
Hazel Prescott, better known by her “professional” name, Haley Phoenix, was a favorite chew-toy of local goombah Larry the Knuckles, also a professional name. That’s why the bank went outside their normal channels… no respecting repo man would touch a moll’s car.
Knuckles faced assault charges after publically beating Haley senseless outside his club. When she disappeared from witness protection, the ensuing scandal caused the Feds an even larger black eye than hers.
Yet somehow her car escaped being brought in as evidence in her disappearance? If it wasn’t sitting in an impound lot, then I hadn’t actually been hired to repo the car, as much as find it.
Cheryl Marsden worked at the DMV during the day and waitressed nightly at my favorite watering-hole. She picked up her cell after my third try.
“I’m working,” she whispered.
“Yeah, I know. I need you to work some magic.”
Cheryl’s tone suggested she wasn’t amused. I imagined furrowed brows under auburn bangs. “Isn’t it bad enough you lost your P.I. license breaking the law? You want me to lose my job, too?”
“It’s just running a VIN. Nothing illegal. You’ll get a big tip tonight.”
“Ha! If it was legal, you wouldn’t call me.” But Cheryl had a soft spot for hard-uppers like me. “Fine, read it to me.” Thirty seconds later, she busted my chops again. “Not illegal, eh? There’s an APB out on it. Holy shit! The missing stripper’s car?”
“Yeah. I don’t suppose the database would show if it’d been scrapped?”
“For a car less than seven years old to be destroyed legally, we’d have to issue a salvage tag. If we’d done that, the police wouldn’t still be looking.” She sighed. “But there are scrap-yards that’ll turn a blind eye if bribed.”
I hit the street asking around which scrap-yards would be the most likely have a no-ask/no-tell policy. Word came back from a wheelman that most used McNabb’s on 125th when dumping a car. No wheels of my own, the bus deposited me a short walk away from McNabb’s.
A bleak castle made of discarded autos towered over a fiefdom of double-wide trailers. Inside, a man held court in the scrap-yard’s office. His stitched nametag pronounced I was in the presence of the lord himself.
His wrinkles had been lined with dirt and oil so long, they’d become tattoos. Hard gray eyes tracked me to his counter.
“Kin I help ya?” McNabb asked, as he looked out the window. My lack of transportation may have given him the wrong idea, because he followed with, “I’m not hiring.”
“I’m looking for an engine sensor.”
“Over there.” He pointed to a monitor so old, Noah may have used it to inventory the ark.
I spoke casually over my shoulder. “Trying to impress a girl I met at a bar. Told her I could turn her check engine light off without going to a garage.” I returned his unimpressed glare with a cocksure grin.
Typing “Nissan Versa” into the neon-green database brought up two listings, both crushed. Neither specified pink, but if I was going to scrap a dead body in such an obvious car, I’d repaint it first in case detectives came snooping. The thing most didn’t expect was a dick who spent time on the dark side. Now, I thought more like the bad guys than the good.
Haley could be in either, so I jotted down the location numbers.
McNabb, resting his elbows on the counter, stared at his own computer. “Whatever you rip out, bring to me and I’ll price it.”
Towering stacks of dilapidated dreams cast the labyrinth in half-light. Within moments of leaving the office, another set of footfalls echoed mine. McNabb’s words, “rip out,” bothered me. I cuffed my forehead. Tools. I hadn’t brought tools. Such an obvious tell would set the hackles down McNabb’s neck. Had he mirrored my search?
I ran. McNabb would know this maze like a Minotaur. He’d find me, kill me and stick me in a trunk to rot. I had no weapons and nothing I pried off any of those scrapheaps would be enough to protect me.
Instead, I picked a pyramid of crushed compacts and scaled it. Near the top, I wedged myself into a gap between blocks. The cave wouldn’t afford me cover for long, but that was fine. I waited until I heard McNabb’s shuffling step and then coughed just loud enough for him to hear.
McNabb looked up and fired a gun. I was too shielded for a clear shot. With a twisted smirk, he ascended the metal Matterhorn.
When McNabb reached the half-way mark, I backed up against one block and, with my legs, pushed a cubed Subaru in front of me. Balanced precariously, the car tipped and rolled down the side. McNabb tried dodging it, but the metal boulder caught him, crushing his hip.
“Give me a fulcrum,” I said to no one.
My nemesis, Detective Lopez, found Haley’s remains in the second crushed Vespa. Needless to say, I didn’t get the extra hundred for detailing it.
David Boop is a bestselling Denver-based speculative fiction author. His novel, the sci-fi/noir She Murdered Me with Science, will return to print in 2016 from WordFire Press. David has had over forty short stories published and, while known for Weird Westerns, he’s published across several genres including media tie-ins for The Green Hornet, The Black Bat, and Veronica Mars. His RPG work includes Interface Zero 2.0, Rippers Resurrected, and Deadlands: Noir.
He’s a single dad, part-time temp worker, and believer. His hobbies include film noir, anime, the Blues, and Mayan History.
You can find out more on his fanpage, www.facebook.com/dboop.updates or Twitter @david_boop.
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