Again, this is a first pass through, and is rough, and will probably be full of typos.
There's already stuff I'm seeing that I'll be changing, such as the way in which Norman and Officer Gertrude King meet in Eudora's library.
Regardless, here you go:
EUDORA ISN’T A big town.
I ain’t small neither.
I like to think of it as the little town that could.
Located between Kansas City and Lawrence on Highway 10, Eudora has always had the potential to be more than it was, and slowly but surely, the town has struggled to crawl its way out of the small town moniker. Even after the bypass was put in back in the early 80’s, Eudora has managed to grow.
Eudora, for all intents and purposes, is made up of three main thoroughfares. Main and Church — which run North and South — and 10th, which runs East and West. Everything else is mostly residential … beyond a few exceptions.
Main Street, between 10th and 7th, is Eudora’s down town business district. Which, to be honest, ain’t much.
My office is there, of course. Plus we got a bank, a comic book store, the Pub, a coffee shop, hardware store, two eateries — Mexican and Chinese — but that’s about it.
10th to 9th is a park on the west side and the police station on the east.
We got two gas stations. There’s the General Store on 10th and Church, then further down we got the Quick Mart at 15th and Church.
I had an hour or two to kill while Jacqueline “Jack” Murphy fixed my window and I figured with what Eudora had to offer, I could get that done without having to leave town.
I went first to the library. I’d reserved a couple of books last week and I wanted to check if they were in.
I’d barely made it up to the information counter to speak with the librarian when suddenly there was a gun in my face.
“Hands where I can see them,” she said.
She was dressed in the uniform of a Eudora Police Officer, but I couldn’t place her face. She stood in the perfect shooter’s stance. Knees slightly bent, both hands on her pistol.
“Has my library card expired, officer?” I said, holding my hands in the air and smiling.
She had hair as black as the night sky that was tied loosely atop her head. Bits of it were spilling out here and there, but she kept it out of her eyes, which was the point.
I couldn’t see her eyes, they were hidden behind a pair of mirrored sunglasses. Heck, most of her face was hidden behind those sunglasses. On some I might find that cute, a tiny face behind big sunglasses, but on her? On her the over sized sunglasses did not diminish the hardness I could see in her. She’d shoot me down if I gave her the excuse. She’d shoot me down and then go have a few laughs with friends over a cup of coffee.
She was small, but not petite. I couldn’t see much of her under the uniform, but the way she stood she was like a spring under tension. Something told me if I tried something that spring would uncoil like a dern snake and I’d get bit.
“That’s a lot of hardware you’re carrying,” she said. “You got permits to carry those?”
I typically wear them under my arms in shoulder holsters. Most folks around here know me. They know I’m a private investigator. They know I go about armed most of the time. But when I’m wearing the coat and I have the Peacemakers under my arms, they tend to go unnoticed. And while most folks around here know and trust me, seeing the guns can make them a bit uncomfortable.
This morning I’d worn them around my waist. It’s an old habit and sometimes I don’t even know I’m doing it.
“Yes ma’am,” I said. “Got the permits in my wallet.”
“Okay,” she said, all business. “With your right hand, I want you to take out your wallet.”
I did it slow and handed it over.
“You’re new,” I said. “When did you start?”
She ignored me as she looked over my information.
“Norman Oklahoma?” she said. “That’s your name?”
“How’d you get saddled with a name like that?” she said.
I could see her relax, not much, just a bit.
“I wish I knew,” I said.
“You don’t know how you got your own name?”
I just shrugged my shoulders.
She holstered her pistol, snapping the flap over the top of it and handed my wallet back to me.
“You’re a private eye,” It wasn’t a question.
“You might want to think about wearing those things in shoulder holsters,” she said, pointing to the Peacemakers. “With the big coat they are a bit less obvious.”
“I’ll take that under consideration,” I said, giving her one of my special smiles.
There was something about this girl, like I’ve just been waiting for her … I couldn’t quite explain it.
She looked at the smile I directed at her and rolled her eyes. She was still wearing the sunglasses, so the eye roll wasn’t easy to see, but she did it.
“You didn’t answer my question,” I said.
“I’m the Police,” she said. “We don’t answer questions.”
Then she turned and left.
I don’t know how long I stood there watching the door she’d exited, but soon the sound of a throat clearing brought me back.
“You’re books are not in yet, Mr. Oklahoma,” the librarian said.
“What?” I said, turning to him.
Bob Todd had been Eudora’s librarian for the past twenty-five years. He was a long man. Long in body and in face. He’d always made me think of Ichabod Crane from that Headless Horseman story, at least what I thought Ichabod Crane would look like. Long, wispy, and gray.
But there was something about Bob that I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on. Something … predatory. Not malicious, I’ve never picked that up off the man, but Bob was someone you just shouldn’t mess with. I had the feeling that the first person who did might not care too much for the outcome.
“The books you reserved,” Bob said, giving me an annoyed look. “They are still out.”
“Ah, okay,” I said, turning back once again to look at the door the officer had used. “Who was that?”
“Officer King?” Bob said. “New on the force. Pat hired her last week out of Baltimore. She started today.”
Bob knew just about everything about everyone in town. I was never sure how he did it, he just did. I’m sure he knew what I really did, the kind of cases I took, but he never brought it up.
“King,” I said, testing the name out.
“Gertrude King,” Bob said.
“Gertrude?” I laughed. “And she had problems with my name?”
“Yes, well,” was Bob’s only reply. “I can give you a call when your books come in.”
“Thanks, Bob. I appreciate it.”
I left the library in somewhat of a daze.
Had I been paying more attention I would have noticed the limousine pulling in at the curb. Furthermore, I would have seen the gorilla that crawled out of the back seat.
“Mr. Lemonzeo would like a word,” the gorilla said.
I came out of my daze. The gorilla was a man in a suit. A man built like a brick wall. He wore a dark suit and sunglasses.
“I’m sorry?” I said, looking up at him.
“Mr. Lemonzeo would like to speak with you,” he said, motioning to the limousine and the open door.
“And I want a puppy,” I said. “We don’t always get what we want.”
Abner ‘Bud’ Lemonzeo was a local thug who had slowly established a massive criminal empire that stretched from St. Louis to Chicago to Denver. He wasn’t a big fan of mine, and I wanted to punch him in the face.
The man just smiled and took a step closer. “You’re going to get in this car.”
“You will or you’ll spend the rest of your life being fed from a tube. And even then, you’re still getting in the car.”
“Don’t threaten me, son. I don’t take to it well.”
He moved to take me by the arm. I stepped to the side and rammed my elbow into the man’s nose. He threw his head back and covered his face in his hands, blood flowing freely from between his fingers.
I wasn’t done. I don’t let just anyone try and grab me. Folks gotta know that you do something like that, you’re gonna bleed.
I slammed the flat of my right foot into the side of the fella’s knee. He screamed and went down, landing face first into the concrete. I snatched up his hand, and placing a foot on his shoulder blades, pulled his arm back a bit further than it was supposed to go. It didn’t break, but based on his screams, it hurt.
“Where’s my puppy?” I said, pulling his arm back a bit further.
His cries of pain rose.
“I want my puppy!” I yelled.
“Norman!” a voice said from behind.
I turned and found Abner Lemonzeo standing just outside the limousine.
“Hey there, Abner,” I said. “How’s business?” The man beneath me continued to scream.
“Let him go, Norman,” Lemonzeo said.
“He owes me a puppy.”
“Let him go. Please.”
I dropped the man’s arm and took my foot off his back. It was surprise more than compassion that made me do it. I don’t think I’d ever heard Abner Lemonzeo say ‘please.’
Two more brick walls pulled themselves out of the limo and looked at Abner expectantly.
“Get him in the car,” Lemonzeo said.
The two men grabbed up their fallen colleague and eased him into the back of the limo, the man cried throughout the entire process.
“I really must apologize for that,” Lemonzeo said. “My brother’s kid.” He shrugged his shoulders. “He was just trying to impress his Uncle Abner.”
“That’s why they make laws against nepotism,” I said. “What do you want?”
“Why don’t we walk down to the Pub. Let me buy you drink?”
“I don’t drink.”
“Fair enough,” Lemonzeo said. “I just wanted to apologize for the incident with the Walrus. It was not my intention for the whole situation to escalate the way it did.”
Yesterday Lemonzeo had sent a hit man over to my house. The hit man, known as the Walrus, was the equivalent of a genetic Lego set that took bricks from the Human Being box and bricks from the Walrus box and put them together to create a psychotic mutant walrus man who’d tried to shuffle me off this mortal coil.
“Come on, Bud,” I said. “You know I don’t hold grudges. I’ve got plenty of other reasons to take you down. Trying to kill me is just going to make that moment all the more satisfying.”
“Look, I’m going to make this quick.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way, Bud.”
“Something killed one of my men last night.”
“Something, or someone?”
“He was torn to pieces.”
“Why are you telling me?” I said.
“I know you aren’t too fond of me, Norman,” Lemonzeo said.
“Fond? I detest you, Abner. You live off of the misery of others. You make money from pain. No, I ain’t too fond of you.”
“Regardless, some … creature took apart one of my men. We found what was left of him this morning. I figured this was what you do.”
“It is, Abner,” I said. “It is what I do. I just don’t do it for you.”
“No, you look, Abner,” I interrupted him. “If whatever killed your man sets its sights on us regular folk, I’ll do something about it. But as long as it focuses its attention on you and your own, well … sounds like whatever or whoever it is deserves a medal. Maybe even one of them ticker tape parades right down Main Street here.”
“Please, Norman. I can pay you.”
“Abner, I ain’t interested. I got other things on my plate. Besides, even if I had all the time in the world, there ain’t enough money around that would make me want to work for you. Now hit the bricks, having someone like you loitering out in front of the library ain’t good for business. Besides, people may get the wrong idea and think you’ve learned to read.”
With that I got on my Harley, kicked it into life, and roared away, leaving Abner Lemonzeo behind.
There you go, I hope it intrigued you.
If you haven't already, make sure you pick up a copy of Norman Oklahoma 1: The Walrus of Death for just 99 cents for your Kindle today!