Read Cowboy Ending - Overdrive: Book One Online

Authors: Adam Knight

Tags: #fiction, #adventure, #murder, #action, #fantasy, #sex, #violence, #canada, #urban, #ending, #cowboy, #knight, #outlaw, #dresden, #lightning, #adam, #jim butcher, #overdrive, #lee child, #winnipeg, #reacher, #joe, #winnipeg jets

Cowboy Ending - Overdrive: Book One (2 page)

The man scowled
briefly. “Lay off me, man! This is the first shirt I could find
after I called the babysitters for …”

 

Linda’s latest
cry cut the air, high pitched and agonized. Dr. Stevens gave his
full attention back to her. “Okay people, here we go.”

 

Linda’s hand
was held by her husband (Nurse Gregg never learned his name) who
spoke soothingly while smoothing back her hair. Nurse Berry
monitored the equipment and maintained a steady hand on Linda’s
arm. Nurse Gregg stayed at Dr. Stevens’ shoulder, needing to see
this through.

 

And then the
hospital’s generator blew.

 

Darkness.

 

Linda screamed,
this time with fear. Dr. Stevens’ voice rose in alarm he still
issued soothing words; coaching her through the moment. A sense of
panic filled the room but Dr. Stevens fought down his own anxiety
and struggled to keep everyone focused.

 

Moments felt
like hours while everyone remained motionless. Save for Linda who
continued to push at Dr. Stevens’ command.

 

After an event
of this nature it is very common for eyewitness reports to be
unreliable. There is chaos all around and often too many variables
to get the facts right.

 

But everyone
who saw the lightning bolt strike St. Boniface Hospital said it was
a sight they will never forget.

 

Out of the
storm there came a brief pause. A moment where even the downpour
seemed to lay up. Like a child taking a deep breath before blowing
out its candles on their birthday.

 

One brilliant
blue-white bolt split the blackness and struck the radio tower on
the hospital’s roof, illuminating the sky around it. A surging
charge flowed over the rooftop, down the concrete and brick walls
along with the rainwater. Powerless exterior lights around the
building suddenly flared to brilliance, more than a few bursting
from the overpressure and sending shards of glass into the
night.

 

Investigators
and engineers later speculated on what happened as a result of the
lightning blast. It was universally conceded that somehow the
lightning strike managed to reset the building’s generators. Firing
them back in to motion and providing power to the hospital. Life
sustaining machinery returned to sudden activity and lights flared
in hallways.

 

None of that
could be explained scientifically of course, but no one questioned
it too far. In the end all that anyone cared about was that it
happened. Enough people had died that night.

 

All Nurse Gregg
remembered were the sounds. Linda’s screams. Her husband sobbing as
the pressure and worry finally got to him. Dr. Stevens maintaining
calm, his voice reassuring. Nurse Berry whimpering off to the
side.

 

By the time she
realized what the sensation of her hair trying to rise up from the
back of her neck meant the light in the room became blinding.

 

Electricity
arced from machine to machine. The darkened lights in the room
flared up and burst into fiery fragments, glass shards spraying at
random around the ready room. Nurse Berry screamed in fright as the
EKG machine beside her lurched away from the wall, sparks
blossoming in a fountain from the wall socket. Linda’s husband
jumped up, covering his wife’s head and torso protectively. Dr.
Stevens remained impossibly calm, leaning forward and hollering at
Linda to push while thunder boomed impossibly loud inside that tiny
room.

 

The light
continued to flare. And then it was gone. Returning the room to
darkness.

 

Nurse Gregg
shook her head and tried to resolve the ringing in her ears. After
a moment she recognized a new sound.

 

A throaty
child’s wail.

 

Chapter 1

 

I hate getting
punched in the face.

 

Makes me
angry.

 

And with
respect to the late Bill Bixby; nobody likes me when I am
angry.

 

The stars that
light up behind my eyes after a solid strike to the noggin are
never fun. Even with only a glancing blow off my left cheekbone
from a drunken frat boy caused the Tinkerbell fairy sparks to
flicker up and cloud my vision. Immediate swelling. Blood trickled
down, mixing with sweat. Stinging in the abrasion on my cheekbone.
My neck torqued from the impact.

 

Sucks ass.

 

“Hang on,
Joe!”

 

I shook my head
clear and glared death at the entitled punk now being properly held
by Mark and David. The ringing in my ears was more likely a result
of the relentless bass beat pounding out of the forty-thousand watt
speakers as Ke$ha’s latest affront to the music industry got ladies
and their boyfriends moving on the dance floor.

 

The young man
in my arms took advantage of my lack of movement post face-punching
to thrash and kick, trying to break my grip. Cursing and spitting
about “unfair”, “gonna call the police”, and the always popular “my
uncle’s a lawyer.”

 

Too bad about
that doorframe. Really did a number on his face.

 

Don’t judge me.
You’ve never done this job.

 

A few minutes
later we got past the packed lineup crammed into the main entrance
and out to the street. It was cold for April and snow was still on
the ground, though most of it was slush when the sun was out. But
that night it was chilly, slick and brutal to be stuck out on
Portage and Main without your coat.

 

So naturally we
dumped the troublemakers hard to the sidewalk in the deepest snow
piles available.

 

I reached up
and felt at my cheek. The cut didn’t seem bad though it throbbed
mightily. Most of the bleeding had stopped. Several of the
underdressed and shivering folks waiting in line seemed put off by
my blood. I was put off by people willing to risk pneumonia in
favor of saving five dollars on a coat check fee.

 

“How you feel,
Joe?” David asked in his deep, gruff voice. Sparing me a glance
after dumping his frat boy to the curb.

 

I grunted.

 

Seriously,
what’s to say?

 

The two young
men scrambled up to their feet, clearly aggravated. The slightly
bigger one in his too tight Affliction shirt tried to get in my
face, but Mark stepped up and shoved him back into his buddy.

 

“You fucking
bouncers are gonna pay for this!” Buddy yelled after regaining his
balance. “Me and my frat brothers come here every weekend. You kick
us out and we’ll tell everyone we know to never spend another dime
in this shithole.”

 

I peered over
my left shoulder at the hundreds deep line of people waiting to get
into the club. It was twelve-thirty. Less than ten percent of those
people would get the chance to see the inside of the bar, much less
spend money on booze.

 

“I think
we’ll manage without your parents’ tuition fund, boys.” That snide
voice was immediately followed by Aaron, the club owner. All
five-foot-three of him came strolling out the door looking like the
sleaziest sleaze who ever opened a nightclub. Dressed in a
six-hundred dollar suit with his fake-n-baked, fresh from the spa
face smirking openly at the shit disturbers. “You boys start
trouble in
Cowboy Shotz
and
you get escorted out the door.”

 

“Trouble?” the
other kid blustered, his teeth starting to chatter. “We didn’t do
anything! These gorillas started it!”

 

This was the
kid who took the cheap shot while I was dragging out his buddy.
Successfully trampling down the sudden urge to front kick him into
oncoming traffic seemed a moral victory.

 

Aaron glanced
back at the three of us, inspecting each of our faces.

 

Mark and David
looked at each other. Mark shrugged and pointed a thumb at me.

 

Aaron quirked
an eyebrow.

 

I grunted
again, motioning with my head to Affliction boy. “Caught him
stealing tips from Shelby’s jar.”

 

“I told you
that never ….”

 

“Shut it!”
Aaron barked. He gave both boys a level look. “You’re barred. Don’t
come back or we’ll press charges.”

 

Then he turned
on his heel and stepped back into his club.

 

I followed. The
boys curses and shouts behind me already not worth my time.

 

Cowboy Shotz
was an institution on the Winnipeg
nightclub scene. A converted old bank on the fringes of the famed
Exchange District right near the intersection of Portage Avenue and
Main Street. Literally at the center of town.
Cowboy Shotz
catered to less of a teeny-bopper,
fresh out of high school clientele and leaned more towards a mature
post-university crowd of professionals. It basically meant the club
had more affluent socialites eager to spend even more money on the
same drinks. Plus factoring in the faux-Western theme of the club
allowed for a wider variety of clientele as well. Not a hip-hop
club. Not a country bar. More than just a rock cabaret.
Cowboy Shotz
was a full on grown-up
establishment that offered a little something for
everybody.

 

Plus, hot girls
in Daisy Dukes and cut off tops serving booze never hurt
either.

 

The sound and
light equipment was reportedly state of the art. I was a bit out of
touch on what the cost and specs for a lighting grid and soundstage
were going for, so I took the bar manager Aasif at his word. All I
ever noticed was a constant static hum every time I passed a
speaker. Odds are someone botched the wiring or something.

 

Money well
spent.

 

It was a
spacious old building. Very high ceilinged with a full service bar
along one whole wall. A small spiral staircase behind the main bar
led to a small office directly above and to the right of the live
stage where some local flunkies were destroying my favorite Bon
Jovi track. A barely private VIP section was tucked away near the
front entrance, complete with high-def TV’s a champagne bar and
those fancy rope things to keep the plebes at bay.

 

After nodding
to Aaron and the boys I threaded my way through the over-capacity
dance floor. Sweaty, gyrating bodies of all different shapes and
sizes made that a more difficult task than you’d think. While I’ve
obviously never witnessed a Greek Bacchanal in person I’ve often
assumed that it would resemble something like that dance floor.

 

Only with fewer
spray tans and more fucking.

 

Making my way
to the front steps I nodded to the girls at coat check and waved
off their concern over my face. The old bank’s original staircase
was a thing of beauty if you’re into turn of the century
architecture. I’m not, but this is what I’ve been told. Over fifty
steps to the private upper levels where Aaron hosted exclusive
parties for important dignitaries or sports stars looking to get
away from the crowds.

 

I was neither,
so I hung a left around the corner and took the other steps to the
basement.

 

There were a
few smaller lounge areas downstairs in the cubbies where vaults had
been once upon a time. It was fractionally less noisy down there as
the speakers weren’t quite as top of the line and the incredibly
thick stone walls and flooring muffled a lot of sound. Though the
neon running lights and random-motion spotlights weren’t annoying
in the least. No matter which way I turned they always seemed to be
flickering right in my eyes when I passed.

 

Sliding past
two lipstick lesbians trying to score free liquor out of the
gawking young businessmen cheering them on, I made it to the men’s
room.

 

Ignoring the
putrid combination of vomit, urine and various hard liquors
permeating the air was a challenge. I managed and stepped past the
people in my way, bellying up to the sinks to inspect the eventual
new scar on my face.

 

Wasn’t bad all
things considered. Less than an inch long and just under my
cheekbone. Barely swollen at all. Fat, fleshy cheeks were good for
something other than turning off women. If it wasn’t for the blood
the cut wouldn’t look so bad.

 

Sadly head and
face cuts are bleeders so there was enough of the red stuff to
trail down my unshaven face, onto my double chin and down my
neck.

 

“No black eye.
That’s something,” I muttered to myself while unbuttoning my
long-sleeved black security shirt.

 

Cold water was
all there was in the men’s room. Not too surprising, really. None
of the drunks populating the stalls would notice. Though given the
lack of cleanliness on display a bit of hot water for sterilization
would’ve been nice.

 

An operating
room this wasn’t.

 

Soaking one of
the shirttails in cold water I scrunched it up into a ball and used
it to carefully scrub at my face while ignoring the looks and
gestures from the other men in the room.

 

I’m not
normally self-conscious about my size. Like most big men I tend to
revel in it to a degree. But standing in a filthy men’s room,
tending to a fight-induced cut with a dirty shirt while stripped to
my stained white undershirt as my belly showed itself to the world
isn’t a good look for anyone.

 

Aggravating.
Given the amount of time I spend walking around tensing my abs to
hold my gut in you’d think I’d have a King Leonidas style six-pack.
Alas, eating like a thirteen year old trumps constant abdominal
tension. No matter what the late night infomercials try to sell
you.

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