The Road to Hell Ch. 02byJAMESBJOHNSON©
ALL CHARACTERS ARE ADULTS.
While Hank Johnson was inside the bus station filling the gum clogged urinal with piss Mildred Meek boarded the bus to Capital City, took a window seat in the back, and watched as the bus filled with human debris. Most riders looked as if they were dressed for Halloween a few days away. On second thought, maybe Lady Gaga-Miley Cyrus impersonators and clowns.
As the bus backed away from the terminal, a homeless bum with a nauseating aroma of old sweat, and wearing filthy clothes, pushed his way through the throng of freaks and sat beside Mildred. Hank jumped aboard the bus in the nick of time and walked toward his seat near the back.
Mildred absorbed the bum's bizarre aspect and stench, looked about for an appealing companion, and rose to leave, clutching her handbag close to her side. "Sit down!" The bum said as he pressed his large hand against her chest and pushed her back into the seat.
"You're in my seat," Hank said to the bum.
"So?" The bum replied with bloodshot eyes and halitosis.
"So I wanna sit by my wife," Hank said.
"So fuck off," the bum replied. Hank looked at him for a long moment then forced his finger into the bum's ear canal. The man jumped from his seat and squealed, fleeing from the pain. Hank then pushed him away and sat beside Mildred. The bus driver heard the noise and looked up into the overhead mirror at the kerfluffle at the back of the bus. The bum faced Hank, rubbing his hurt ear. "We ain't done, mother fucker," he said, and waddled to another seat. Hank threw the bum's army field jacket at him.
"Are you OK?" Hank asked Mildred.
"I think so, thank God you came along," she replied. "My name is Mildred." She extended her hand to Hank. He took it and pressed it gently.
"I'm Hank," he said.
"That guy creeps me out," she whispered, and unconsciously touched his arm with her hand and tit, as she watched Hank and the bum glare at each other until the bum turned around to face the front.
"You don't look like the usual bus rider," she said.
"My car is in Capital City being fixed, and bus is the only way to get there these days," he replied.
"That's my problem," she said.
"Going there on business?" Hank asked.
"Training," she replied. "I wish I had something to read. I always forget to bring a book." Hank pulled a paperback out of his satchel and offered it to her, GETTING OFF: A Novel of Sex and Violence by Lawrence Block. She examined it then looked at Hank. "Will it corrupt me?" She asked, looking over the top of her glasses at him.
"I hope so, and my fingers are crossed," he winked at her.
"Hmmm. Maybe I was safer with the wino," she thought out loud.
"Brains, and beauty!" Hank flirted. His cell phone chirped with a text message. Mildred nudged him and nodded toward the bum who had pulled a paper bag from his army field jacket to take a snort from a pint bottle concealed in the sack.
Halfway to Capital City the bus stopped at a Bob Evans restaurant to feed the passengers supper. The freaks and bums off-loaded, and Mildred kept reading. "You gonna eat?" Hank asked.
Mildred looked up at him. "I'm not really hungry," she replied.
"C'mon, I don't like eating alone," he pulled her up. "And if Stinky starts any trouble, I can use a friendly witness."
"OK, but I'm really not hungry," she insisted. Most of the bus passengers went next door to the Quickie Mart for beer and ninety-nine cent burgers.
Hank ordered two dinners, and pissed Mildred off. "You got some nerve, buster! Where'd you get the idea I even like pot roast?"
"Did I not ask you what looks good?" He replied. "I can't make you eat it, but you look hungry."
"Now that it's here it's a shame to waste it," she frowned. She ate it and found room for dessert.
Outside, Stinky loitered near the entrance with a quart bottle of Ice House beer and a bologna sandwich from the Quickie Mart. Mayonnaise and pickle brine and beer dripped from his lips onto his jacket. He scowled at Hank.
"Look, I need something from the convenience store and I can't leave you here alone, so will you come along so I don't have to kill Stinky?" Hank asked.
"I'll be okay," she replied.
"Humor me, alright!" Hank growled. In the Quickie Mart he bought a pack of Newports and a lighter.
"I didn't know you smoked," Mildred noticed.
"I'm not," Hank replied. Stinky was burning a 305 as they walked past him returning to the bus.
"I wonder if I have time to use the rest room?" Mildred wondered.
"I'll wait for you," Hank assured her.
Stinky finished his cigarette, tossed the butt on the pavement, and went inside the Bob Evans. Hank gave him two minutes and followed. Hank then waited another minute outside the rest room door, and kicked it open. Mildred was in a stall, Stinky was lying on the floor behind the door, knocked down and unconscious.
Startled, Mildred flushed the toilet and came out of the stall. She looked at Stinky. "Get on the bus," Hank ordered. "I'll be out in a minute. Hank dragged Stinky to a stall, sat him on the commode, closed the door, and boarded the bus. Mildred seemed glad to see him.
"God I wish I had a cigarette," she said. Hank pulled the Newports from his shirt pocket and offered them and the lighter to her. She looked at them and looked at him, then accepted the pack. He offered her the lighter. "Here," she tried to hand the pack back to him.
"I don't smoke," he said. "Keep them."
"Why'd you buy them?" She asked.
"Because you smoke and are trying to quit," he replied.
"Now how did you know that!" She demanded to know.
"You look like every smoker I've ever seen who's trying to quit," he replied.
"You mean nervous?" She said.
"Stressed and edgy," he said.
"The driver's gonna throw me off the bus," she said.
"He's rounding up stragglers," Hank replied. Stinky came out of the restaurant with three other passengers. He looked hurt, and limped along like Quasimodo. The driver walked behind, herding them toward the bus. Mildred took a deep drag off the cigarette then dropped it on the floor crushing it with her foot.
At the Capital City terminal Mildred pushed hard against Hank to get past him and leave the bus, he grabbed her arm, pulled her back, and forced her hand open to retrieve his wallet. "Let me go! What in hell do you think you're doing!" She demanded to know.
"Relax," he advised her. "You can go to jail, or you can make a few bucks and go about your business. Think about it." Ahead of them Stinky waited, in no hurry to exit. "Hey?" Hank said to Stinky, "You go on and she'll catch up with you later, or you can wait for her at the Marriott."
"What do you mean!" She asked. Hank didn't answer. In the next breath she asked, "How much money?"
"I'm thinking three," he replied.
"For how long?" She asked.
"All night," he replied.
"Five!" She insisted.
"Three, or go to jail," he replied.
"What you mean is you wanna fuck me!" She snarled.
"That's the general idea, and it's better than jail," he reminded her.
Mildred wore her blonde hair in a pixie bob popular with older gals. Her eyes were green, she was five foot nuthin and one-hundred, five pounds. Hank thought she looked damned good for sixty.
They took a taxi to the hotel, checked in, and went to the room. "I need to shower," she said.
He ordered two club sandwiches and champagne while she was in the shower.
In the taxi she told Hank her real name was Margo, and Stinky was her nephew, Leroy. "My sister threw Leroy out years ago, he's kinda retarded, and I've taken care of him since then. He's my protection on the road," she said.
"And you make your living off the road?" Hank asked.
"Uh, huh, pretty much. Whatever makes a buck," she said. "I'm too old for a real job."
"Hustling men is risky business," Hank noted. "A small woman could get more than her feelings hurt."
"I'm okay, and it pays the bills," she replied.
"Maybe, maybe not. If you're interested in a real job I might have something you can do," he suggested.
"Like what?" She asked.
"I own an old hotel, and I'd like to do something with it," he said. "Maybe a den of iniquity for the better class of people. Maybe you could be the den mother."
She laughed at the thought. "A madam?" She looked at him over her glasses. "What about Leroy?"
"He looks like he needs to be in day treatment somewhere," Hank said.
"What exactly is it you do?" She asked.
"I troubleshoot problems for my clients," he replied.
"Like a mystery shopper?" She guessed.
"It's a little more than that, I check things out, you know, like when the cat's away," he said.
Margo went to the bathroom to shower. "Do you need in here before I get started?" She asked.
"No, I was thinking about going downstairs for a cup of coffee, want anything?" He replied.
"I can't think of anything," she said, and went in the bathroom, locking the door behind her.
Hank took the elevator to the lobby and casually looked around for signs of Leroy. Then he walked to the parking garage where his Willys was parked. He unlocked it, opened the door, pocketed his Ruger LCP .380 from its hide, and waited.
After several minutes he went inside and found Leroy loitering in the lobby. Pulling his roll from his pocket, he handed Leroy enough cash to eat and get a room. "Be here by eleven or you get left behind," Hank made it clear. "And shower, you smell like shit."
"Fuck you, asshole," Leroy replied.
Room service arrived soon after Hank returned to the room. Margo came out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel. Hank paid the bill and gave the kid a tip. Margo saw the roll. "That's a lot better than socks stuffed in your jeans for impressing a girl," she said. She removed the lid covering the sandwiches. "How'd you know I love club sandwiches?"
"Lucky guess," he smiled.
"You married?" She asked as she chewed her sandwich and sipped her champagne.
"Un uh," he shook his head, chewing.
"Never?" She asked.
"Never, ever," he replied, swallowing, and pulling her towel off. "On second thought, maybe five is a good deal," he winked at her. "I need to go shower."
Hank wondered if Margo would be there when he finished showering. She was. Under the sheet, lights off, his side pulled down. He loosened his towel and tossed it onto a chair. "I fed Elroy and put him to bed," he said.
"Leroy,"she corrected him.
"I told him to be in the lobby waiting at eleven or walk home," he said, and pulled the sheet off her.
"He didn't give you any problems?" She asked.
"I told him to shower, think he will?" Hank asked.
"Hard to say," she replied as Hank played with one of her nipples and washed her ear with his tongue. She responded to him and was in the mood for a fit and good looking man. She closed her eyes when he got between her legs, laid them on his hips, and guided his cockhead inside her moist gash. She liked this moment almost as much as the finish. And she liked feeling him seep out of her after he had filled her.
She waited till he was asleep then went through his pants searching for his money. It wasn't there. She looked through the bathroom with the same results. Yet she had seen the money when he paid the busboy. She gave it up, went back to bed, snuggled beside him, and fell asleep.
In the morning he kissed her awake after he peed and brushed his teeth, and had her again while the coffee brewed. She had a quick cup and took another shower.
While she dressed in fresh clothes Hank got up, dressed, pulled her money from the roll, and put the roll back in his pocket. "I hid it in the air duct after I showered," he said.
Leroy was waiting for them in the lobby. They had breakfast. Leroy hadn't bathed, and smelled like a truck stop urinal. He slept in the lobby, and was broke.
Afterwards Hank made everyone pee then walked them to the Willys. No one was impressed. "Get in the back," Hank told Leroy and left for home. Margo sat beside Hank, her hand on his thigh for one hundred miles, and well into Panther County and its seventy miles of swamp and pine forests and few vehicles.
About twenty miles from the nearest gas station Leroy got behind Hank and held a razor against Hank's throat. "First road you come to turn off the highway," Leroy said. Hank then slowed and turned off the highway onto a dirt trail through the pines. Margo looked at him, and looked at Leroy. Hank followed the trail for a mile. "Far enough," Leroy said. Hank stopped and killed the engine. "Gimme the money," Leroy demanded.
"It's at the bottom of my pocket, underneath some stuff," Hank replied. "I gotta get out so I can get at it."
"Bull shit," Margo said, "just open your door."
"Back off with the blade, Elroy, and gimme a little wiggle room," Hank said.
"Don't do it, Leroy, it's a trick," Margo warned him. Leroy lowered the knife to think. Hank stuck his hand inside the pocket pulled out the nine ounce Ruger, and shot Leroy in the head.
Margo screamed then sat shocked and speechless, pulled away from Hank, her wits stampeded, thinking about running, and dismissing the idea as futile. She looked at Hank and waited. Hank got out, opened the lift gate, and dragged Leroy out.
"What now?" Margo asked.
"I'm wondering if I need to shoot you, too," he replied as he dragged Leroy into the trees and palmettoes.
"You're not gonna leave him here!" She exclaimed.
"Yep, that's pretty much the plan," he replied. "Someone will find him soon enough."
"Well?" She asked without looking at him, tears running down her face.
"I have no idea what to do with you, I'm thinking about it," he replied. "You can stay here dead, or get in the truck. Maybe I oughta just hand you over to the cops. You got some bullshit warrants, but you know that."
"Are you a cop?" She asked.
"No, I'm more like a bounty hunter; Elroy's worth two grand, so are you," he said.
"What happens if I get in the truck? And stop calling him Elroy!" She snapped.
"You don't die or go to jail," he replied. "Or maybe we find something useful for you to do. But first I gotta clip your wings to slow you down. You're not exactly scoring any points for trustworthiness."
"What do you mean?" She asked.
"You're about to find out," he started the old truck to return to the highway.
Back in Palmetto County the sheriff met with the lead detective and two men recruited to identify and catch the killer responsible for the dead deputies and town official. "What we got so far, Floyd?" the Sheriff asked.
"Not much, Sheriff; whoever it is, is a pro," Floyd Hancock said.
"Do these men know what it is we want them to do?" The sheriff asked.
"Yes, sir," Floyd replied.
"OK, we'll sign you up for one month, to see what you do," the Sheriff said to the bounty hunters. Then looked at them and thought, "These assholes look like the gorillas Charles Bronson shot at the train station in that movie."