12 ouncesof mayhem, scream of sarcasm, trounce of romance, dash of terror—Slacker Jon Reagan bungles along with his caped crusader partners and continues to pay for his poor decision to hunt wanted criminals for a living. How long he lives is always in question. Past entanglements embroil the crew in more adventures in the fringes of legality with mob hitmen, money launderers, sociopaths, and dubious love interests. Jon proves a little dumb luck and absolute stupidity works for him. Maybe next time he’ll apply careful planning, skill, and cunning. If he had any.
SEEker 4Chapter 1~My butt slid as I slumped into Shrink-lady’s soft leather chaise, but I didn’t end up on the floor. Close, but I saved my pride. She continued with a rash of grief for cancelling last week before finally moving on. “How have you been?” she asked.“I killed some people.” I saw no reason to beat around the bush.“We discussed that last time.” She busied herself getting her skirt perfect as she crossed those sexy legs of hers. Black skirt. Black pumps. No hose. Her legs were silky enough naked.“No,” I said. “These are new dead guys since we first spoke. And I couldn’t help missing our appointment. I was in the hospital.”Her mouth was stuck open, maybe.She recovered. “In the hospital?”“Yeah. The docs had to sew up that ulcer or something.”I think she read her notes, but her lips didn’t move. “You had been in the hospital before, with a bleeding ulcer.”“Yeah. And that was before Amelia, my mom, and dad, got held for ransom.” That should explain why my ulcer hadn’t gotten much better.“Did that have something to do with—” She really stuttered. “With killing—” She couldn’t finish her question. Maybe I rattled her.“Instead of paying the two-million ransom,” I explained, “we went after the drug dealer who held them. He threw some thugs at us.”“Did you shoot him?” she asked.“The drug dealer?”She nodded.“With a pea shooter. A couple of times. He’ll live a long life in a federal pen.”“A pea shooter?”“A little .22 automatic I hid in the crotch of my pants.”I described our other shootouts and the drive by that put four rounds in my Kevlar, and by the time I finished I think her hand shook too much to take notes. Telling it all at once made it sound more exciting than it was.“Maybe we should meet twice a week for the time being,” she said.That would get me off the street. “Whatever you think.”She asked if I was sleeping. I explained the stomach tube-thing, being propped up by pillows, made it hard. She jolted a look down at the courier bag setting next to me. I could have left that at home. I don’t have to stay connected now.“The ribs are still hurting a bunch too,” I said. The headaches didn’t help. I probably should tell the doctor about those.“Ribs?”“Kevlar keeps you alive, but lead stopping in your chest still gives you a pounding.”“Uh. I guess so.”I told her how the team had gotten into teasing me about bullets loving me. Her mouth hung open a moment again. When she recovered, she asked me if I needed anything to help me sleep. I explained I had four scripts for pain. Three I’d never filled.I really need to get health insurance. Hum. Maybe life insurance, too.“I was thinking more in line with—”“No offense, but I’d rather stay away from the pills.”“So. You think you’ll sleep when the other—”“I’ve never had much trouble sleeping.” Why’d I lie?She stuttered a second. “Back, before, all the, uh, killing, you mean.”I nodded. I was getting a little tired of talking. I peered over at the clock on her desk. I’d already been going blah, blah for over two hours. We were only scheduled for one. I had another thought. Blabbed about how my sleeping goes in cycles. Lots of naps when I’m not having shootouts, summarized my explanation.“Your Miss Amelia brought you here originally—” She was speaking very slowly, as though she was afraid she might insult me. “Because you were troubled over, previous, violence, you’d been involved in.”Oh. Yeah. That was a whole ’nother story. I glanced at her desk clock again. She followed my line of sight and jolted in her seat, almost kicking off a shiny spiked pump. “Oh, my. The time.”Yep. And I’d never even gotten a chance to talk about Amelia.She suggested returning Thursday. Three days. She must be eager to hear more of my issues. I may end up in her memoir. My life the last six months has been rather busy. She uncrossed her sexy legs and leaned toward me.“Are you having any thoughts—of harming yourself?”I’ve experienced plenty of depression in my life, but never worried about it. Never got so bad I thought about poking myself in the eye with a ten-penny nail.“There are excellent pharmaceuticals—” “Maybe when I’m over some of my physical pain,” I said.She suggested we’d talk more Thursday. Fine. Clearly I’m pretty good at talking. Who knew. We shook hands, which I think made her feel awkward. Maybe I shouldn’t have stuck my hand out. What’s the protocol with a shrink? She led me out that backdoor which still bothers me. Why in one door, out another? Seems weird.Stomping down the stairs I drew my phone out of my cargo shorts and dialed Amelia. Was I ever going to get the guts to call her Lia, to see how she’d take it? Amelia is a pretty name. But it reminds me of 1950. And Amelia is nothing like 1950.“You alive?” she asked.Dang. She had to ask that just on a visit to the shrink? “Well, I was expecting your call an hour ago,” she said.Yeah. I told her I was heading for the dealer. “She isn’t on to anything, is she?”There was a long pause, so she must have been in the dining room with everyone. “Doesn’t expect a thing. But Denny cornered me.”The blind woman figured something was up?“Augie knew something was up.”Of course. And he sicced his blind guard dog on her. Why should I be surprised Augie got scent of the car we put on hold?“Mom didn’t think it was weird you borrowed her car and not Michael’s?” There is nothing sexier than a good looking woman driving a truck. In my opinion. “Or Roger’s.” I could hear the sigh in her voice.Amelia just didn’t understand. Doing something behind Mom’s back is dangerous in the extreme. The woman scares me. More so now, since I know she can break a man’s neck with her bare hands.“Grow up, Jon.”That was rude. “I’ve tried to get her out of her Taurus for ten years,” I whined. I shouldn’t whine so much.“I’ll meet you there in thirty minutes.”Not that they would give us ten bucks for Mom’s rusty Taurus.Amelia hung up before I could agree with her. Maybe while we were there I’d look at the new Mustangs. No. I slid into my seat and caressed the dash. Baby was fine for another hundred thousand miles. Just a new clutch, door locks, and—I didn’t have the imagination to guess what all else she needed. The seventeen years had been hard on her. If the tab came in under three thousand I was going to be amazed.But you don’t dump your loyal friends.I started her up and headed for dealership row. I should have gotten Mom the Lincoln. That car was sweet. But she’s going to freak enough over the Edge. Too big, too expensive, she’d say. But she’d skimped enough the last fifteen years.My mind wandered as I trudged through the midday traffic. Tampa needs more overpasses and fewer traffic lights. Maybe a few roundabouts would help. No. Too many people driving around with licenses from K-Mart. There would be carnage. Roundabouts require firing synapses.The ramp off Hillsborough backed up in front of Bill Currie Ford. I told myself to be patient as the cars in front of me managed to skirt the lane and merge with the Dale Mabry traffic. The car in front of me lurched two lanes out to get around our snarl and I realized the entrance to the dealership’s service area was blocked by two cars mashed together in a tow truck delight. Two men stood where their bumpers crumpled together. Clearly, words were getting hot, the fingers pointing with vigor. Ah, man. They should look on the bright side. They were thirty feet from a body shop.Go around, Jon. Use the other entrance.Crud. One of them reached for the back of his jeans. I knew what that meant. Horns blared as I flung my door open, twisting away from my seatbelt. By my first step I knew I was being absolutely stupid, particularly because I hadn’t unhooked my bag, and my piping ripped at my gut.I stumbled a step with the pain, about the time I heard the first pop. I looked up to find a short barrel pointed at my head. I saw the flash before I heard it.Chapter 2~The bullet whizzed past my ear. A sensation I’ve experienced often since meeting the Muellers. Those two introduced me to Trouble. Before that I lived a safe, uneventful life. Now I drink beer with Trouble twice a week whether I’m thirsty or not.Before the Muellers, BM, I couldn’t even afford a beer most nights except payday. As with most things there’s a silver lining. My prayer is the silver lining isn’t in the fancy cloth covering the lid of my coffin in the near future.Perhaps my heart didn’t pump as I watched the shooter driving away. Maybe I should catch his license plate. Before I blinked to clear my vision the car merged with traffic. It was a silver Kia. Like there aren’t many of those running around.The guy on the ground five feet away hadn’t budged. My experience is a bullet hurts so darn much, if you have only one second to live, a guy will be thrashing in agony. I’ve been hit plenty of times through my Kevlar, and that hurt enough to make me wish I was dead, for several minutes.There wasn’t a lot of blood. That means, usually, the heart isn’t pumping it out the gaping hole.Cars continued to blast past me on my left. I pushed my feet forward. The nearing whine of sirens nudged at my synapses. I knelt and pressed two fingers into the guy’s throat. His eyes glared straight up without moving, an expression too serene. He was toast. A crumpled bumper. What a crappy reason to die. Sweat dripped off my nose. Dang. My shirt was soaked. How long had I been standing there?Second week of September. Bad day to die. I hope when I buy it, it’s a pleasant spring day. Mostly because that means I have several more months to live, and since meeting the Muellers, every day has been a question mark.You have family, dude? You’re old enough to have a couple kids.I wiped my brow. With a jerk, I realized a voice screeched at a hundred decibels not to move. To my left, a young kid, blond, short-buzzed hair, in the almost-black uniform of the Tampa Police, leveled a piece aimed at my forehead. I looked across the Glock’s slide to meet his eyes.He gave his service weapon a little shake, as though correcting a puppy for peeing.“What?” I mumbled.He was shouting instructions that blurred in my mind. Maybe because he couldn’t decide if he wanted me to freeze, or place my hands behind my head.“You want to put out a BOLO for a silver Kia?” I asked.“On your knees. Clasp your hands behind your head.” He sounded a little freaked out. I was already on one knee. Maybe he was just out of the academy.Another cop walked toward me a little to my right. He held a gun too, but his eyes flicked from me to the younger cop and back.The last time cops found me with a dead body, two of them, they patted me on the back and thanked me for cleaning up the streets a little. No. That wasn’t the last time. Last time they called an ambulance for me. Time before that too.I slowly raised my hands up, fingers extended wide, and entwined them at the back of my head. The blond kid holstered his nine and rushed to me, pressed me forward. Bam. The asphalt creamed me in the cheek, hard enough the world exploded with stars and tears flooded my eyes.“Easy! Easy!” the other cop shouted, a little late as far as I was concerned.The asphalt pressed against the spigot thing leading into my colon. My right arm wrenched backward and steel slammed across my wrist. Ouch. Ouch. My left arm followed a similar flight path and steel clamped just slightly lighter over my left wrist. Still hurt. I bet this is the first time he’d ever collared anyone.Why was a rookie riding by himself? I’ve watched lots of cop shows late at night. They’re always buddied up with the wise old-guy who is all-knowing. The pain in my cheek tweaked from new pain to that it’s-going-to-really-ache style of pain. Young-kid and Old-guy were throwing around thoughts as the rest of the police force arrived. I turned my head to the left in time to see traffic cones getting plopped a half-lane away. The arguing continued. Young-kid patted me down. Didn’t he wonder where the gun went that I shot Dead-guy with?Goldman’s attorney had told me often enough to keep my mouth shut so I didn’t bother to point out that first little contradiction. But shouldn’t they be wondering where the back bumper was that smashed in Dead-guy’s front bumper?So I was stashed in the back of a van and buckled in. Oh, bother, Pooh always said. Someone had said they needed to transport me quickly because of all the blood. I first thought they meant from Dead-guy. It wasn’t until I slumped forward in the little bench seat I noticed the blood covering my shirt.Oh. The cheek.Michael was going to shout at me. Like this was all my fault.The van wasn’t even starting to cool down when they dragged me into an emergency room. Ha. An ER I’d never visited before. Each time I should get a new hospital, just for the change of scenery. I had started to get a rep at Tampa General. A doc visited me quickly enough. Maybe it was my three, black-uniformed escorts.He thought my cheek was fractured. Who would have suspected that? I never make it to the ER for just a nick. Usually it’s a concussion. A broken rib. Deep sigh. They were really concerned about my spigot, too.Five hours later without me speaking to anyone but a nurse or doctor, I was hauled to the main edifice of Tampa law enforcement. At least I was close to home. The first thing Goldman’s attorney said when he walked into my two-foot by three-foot interrogation closet, after shaking his head, was, “Why did you test positive for GSR?”“Jeez,” I said. “The guy shot at me from six feet away.” And still missed. “How far can that stuff flutter around?”“He shot at you?” His jaw dropped a bit.I nodded. He stared at me a moment. “You tell them that?”I shook my head, which hurt. All my recent concussions keep me in a constant near-migraine. The attorney batted his eyelids. “Jon. Are you cursed or something?” Good question. He sat and drew a pad out of his fancy brief-thingie and told me to walk through it. He shook his head a lot. Actually he mixed it with chuckles. The sad variety. “That’s it?” “Yep. Pretty much.”“How much you want to sue the city for?” he asked.I didn’t answer him. Maybe it was a rhetorical question because he didn’t wait for an answer