DW, an Army vet, has published 9 novels. His day job is teaching elementary school. In his spare time, he camps with his wife of 30+ years.
The Jangle of Spurs
The weak rays of the setting winter sun did little to warm Mort as he stood watching the back door to the Last Drop Bar waiting for his bail jumper to come slithering out. Mort knew the scumbag wouldn’t leave by the front door. Mort had watched from a doorway across the street as Regnar had slunk down the alley and into the bar via the kitchen door. He had no doubt the fugitive would eventually leave the same way. When he did, Mort would be there to grab him.
Another chill wind blew down the alley sending a shiver through Mort’s six-foot frame. The bounty hunter adjusted his collar for what felt like the hundredth time that night. While his ankle-length leather duster kept the cold at bay, it did nothing to filter out the smell of rotting garbage and urine that permeated the alley.
“I sure wish that sum-bitch would hurry up and come on out,” Mort muttered to himself.
The object of Mort’s impatience was inside the bar sipping on a whiskey and Coke, oblivious to Mort’s discomfort. Had he known, he certainly wouldn’t have been in any hurry to leave the bar. Having missed his arraignment five days before in Boston on a variety of charges including armed robbery, Cliff Regnar was in no hurry to be repatriated to his home state.
Outside in the alley, Mort’s attention was drawn to a motion near the corner of the bar building. He turned his head just enough to see what or who had passed the end of the alley without losing sight of the back door. All Mort saw was what looked like the back of Stetson and the tail of a trail coat. Over the noise from the street Mort could have sworn he heard the jangle of spurs.
Mort Meets Hank
It hadn’t taken Mort long to track Regnar down. The career criminal had left an easy trail to follow if you had the skills Mort had.
Regnar was reported to be armed and dangerous. Mort wasn’t worried about that. He was also good with a wide variety of weapons, from handguns up to sniper rifles. Mort’s favorite was his pistol gripped, twenty-inch barreled, semi-auto, twelve-gauge shotgun currently concealed under his coat. He’d only had to fire it once. The gaping open end of the barrel was usually intimidating enough to convince Mort’s quarry that surrender was preferable to a fight. Few people won an argument with a twelve-gauge loaded with double-ought buckshot.
The jingling sound of spurs returned and got louder. The cowboy Mort thought he’d seen go by the end of the alley earlier came around the corner of bar building and walked toward him. Mort straightened up and put one hand on the pistol grip of his shotgun.
“You won’t be needing that,” the cowboy said. “I’m not here after you.”
“Then why are you here?” Mort asked, not removing his hand from his weapon.
“Names Hank,” the cowboy said. “Hank Paulson. What’s yours?”
“Mortimer Talley,” Mort replied. “What’s your business here?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing,” Hank said, pushing his Stetson back on his head. “You make a habit of hanging out by the back doors of seedy bars?”
“I’m on the job,” Mort replied. “There’s a guy inside who didn’t show up where he was supposed to. I’m here to make sure he doesn’t miss his next appointment.”
Bounty Hunter Meets Soul Collector
“You’re a bounty hunter,” Hank said. “We’re in similar lines of work, Mortimer. I’m here to make sure certain of those guys in there get where they deserve to go, too. Which one are you after?”
Mort decided Hank wasn’t a threat and relaxed his grip on his shotgun. “A seriously nasty SOB named Cliff Regnar,” Mort told Hank. “He was up for arraignment the other day and skipped out. My boss is on the hook for his half-a-million-dollar bond if I don’t bring him back.”
“That could pose a problem,” Hank said. “See, your buddy Cliff is on my collection list.”
Collection list was not a term Mort was familiar with, at least not in connection with bounty hunting. “I’m not sure that has to be a problem,” Mort said, hoping to defuse the situation. This wasn’t the first time he’d tracked down a quarry who was being hunted by others for return to different jurisdictions. As long as the perp wound up in custody, things regarding his boss’s liability for the bond could be worked out. “As long as Regnar winds up in custody somewhere it’s all good.”
Hank shook his head slowly. “See, that’s the problem. I’m not exactly here to take him into custody. I’m here to collect his soul.”
Tension filled Mort’s body, and his hand tightened once again on the grip of his shotgun. “You’d better explain that.”
“Why are you after our friend Cliff?” Hank asked. If Mort’s shift back to a defensive stance bothered Hank, he gave no outward sign. “What do you really know about him?”
Hank Tells Mort the Rest of Regnar’s Story
“I know he was due to be arraigned on charges related to a drug deal gone wrong that resulted in the killing of two undercover cops,” Mort said through clenched teeth. “I know some idiot judge let him post bail. Maybe he thought the scumbag would never come up with that much money. Why my boss even agreed to post the bond is beyond me.”
Hank nodded. “That’s just the latest of our friend Cliff’s resume building endeavors. He’s been to jail twice already; did you know that? His first stint, when he was seventeen, lasted three years. That’s all they gave Cliff after he was found guilty of manslaughter when his girlfriend was found dead on the beach. He choked her to death when she refused him oral sex.”
Mort knew that Regnar had been in jail before, and why. He was surprised to learn Hank knew. “How do you know that?”
“Our surveillance is extensive,” Hank said. “Before Sam sends one of us out to collect he needs to be very sure the soul isn’t worth saving.
“It’s not the things Cliff’s done time for that are the worst, though. If you only knew some of the crimes he’s committed that he’s gotten away with, until now anyway.”
“Give me a for instance,” Mort challenged.
“How about pimping out his ex-girlfriend’s eleven-year-old daughter?” Hank responded. “Or torturing a fifteen-year-old high school kid to death because the boy wouldn’t help him sneak drugs into the school?”
Not Evidence for an Earthly Court
“If you’ve got evidence of all this,” Mort said, “why don’t you turn it over to the police?”
“Our evidence isn’t the kind that would hold up in an earthly court,” he explained to Mort.
Mort tilted his head and squinted at Hank. “What the hell does that mean?”
“My boss knows things about people, Mort,” Hank explained. “But knowing and being able to produce evidence that’ll hold up in court,” Hank paused and shook his head slowly, “they ain’t the same thing.”
Mort took a deep breath and let it out through clenched teeth while he tried to make some sense out of what Hank was telling him.
“So, your boss decides that someone is such a scumbag that he deserves to die and sends you out to perform the hit?” Mort asked. “Is that what you’re telling me?”
“It’s more complicated than that,” Hank said. “The debt owed has to be more than the soul is worth, beyond redemption in other words. At least by Sam’s calculation. Samael and the kid don’t always agree on it, but the Big Boss gives Sam the green light.”
“Sam?” Mort snorted. “Who in the Hell is Sam?”
“You might know him better as the Grim Reaper,” Hank said. “or the Angel of Death.”
“Yeah…right,” Mort scoffed, taking a step back to put some distance between him and Hank, the crackpot.
Hank held up his hands, palms out, and said, “I know it’s hard to believe all this. I don’t blame you for thinking I must be nuts. But I’m fixing to go in that front door and start collecting. Cliff’s not the only tainted soul in there. If you want to make sure Cliff doesn’t get away, when you hear me start, you come busting in the back way. Just make sure you're ready when you do.”
Mort Talley's story continues in Part 7, Mort's Audition
- Soul Collectors Part 7, Mort's Audition
Mort goes into the bar with his gun blazing and passes Sam's test.
© 2019 DW Davis