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 (32 page)

 

The figure had
my face and my hair, but even that wasn’t quite right. My cheeks
were usually rounded, complete with a slight double chin, though
not jowly. Sure, the face was still soft, but I had a definite
jawline going on.

 

Veins tracked
down my neck and along to my shoulders down into my biceps. There
was clear separation for the first time in my entire life between
my chest and my belly. I still had flab, don’t misunderstand. But
there wasn’t any doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t have a gut for
much longer.

 

Every muscle
that I could feel tightness in was swollen to the max. From back
and shoulders down to my forearms and calves.

 

I was
stunned.

 

After a few
awkward moments of silence and staring, one of the downtown YMCA’s
elder statesmen walked by muttering “Someone get this guy a room so
he can be alone with himself.”

 

I flushed
crimson and stalked to the showers. I still had fifteen
minutes.

 

Chapter
29

 

“Okay, where’s
your real car?” Cathy asked, one brow raised quizzically as she
stood at the curb in front of the TV studio.

 

I held one hand
over my heart in mock agony as Cathy gave the stink eye to my rusty
beauty, taking a lap around it as she did so. Her eyes widening at
the busted out back window that I had … uhm … “repaired” by duct
taping sheet metal over the gap and sealing the inside with some
kitchen grade saran wrap.

 

“You’re gonna
hurt my feelings, miss.”

 

“Seriously?
What a piece of junk!”

 

“She may not
look like much, but she’s got it where it counts.”

 

Cathy
rolled her eyes dramatically. “Really? A
Star Wars
quote?”

 

“You started
it,” I said with my small smile. “If it makes you feel any better I
can assure you that I didn’t make any special modifications myself.
I leave that to my mechanic.”

 

“Whatever,” she
huffed, gathering up her oversized purse and stepping over to my
beat up old Windstar. I came around to meet her all gentlemanly and
even opened the passenger door. She smiled slightly at the gesture
then paused while climbing up into the passenger seat, giving me an
odd look.

 

“What?” I asked
worriedly.

 

“You look
different.”

“Uhm … Beg
pardon?”

 

“Not bad
different,” Cathy clarified as she looked me in the eyes, her face
in thought. “Just … “
I shuffled my feet self-consciously, a slight flush creeping up my
cheeks. Suddenly the fact that all of my clothes were fitting
differently made a lot of sense to me. So naturally I felt like a
schmuck with my too large jeans now belted uncomfortably tight, my
plain black tee-shirt that fit me like a tent and my oversized,
ratty leather bomber jacket.

 

“Just
what?”

 

She shook her
head, dismissing whatever it was that caught her mind. “Nothing,
never mind. Let’s get going. It’s chilly out tonight.”

 

I obliged.

 

Cathy provided
a destination located in the North End as I fired my baby to life,
so I cranked the wheel and piloted her away from the TV station. We
headed through downtown and up towards the Salter Bridge
overpass.

 

The roads were
slick in the darkening streets. Despite daylight savings times
kicking in the days were in no hurry to start getting longer. So
the sun hadn’t quite set on Winnipeg as I drove towards one of the
oldest areas of town. Much like any major city, the places with the
most history and heritage often end up being populated by the more
poverty stricken and hard luck members of society as time moves
along. Younger more affluent folks want newer things and better
amenities. Others got stuck with what was left over.

 

A shame really.
Some of the houses in this neighborhood were true classics that
with a minimum of effort and work could really be made to shine
again.

 

Provided you
didn’t mind the shenanigans going on with the neighbors.

 

A young lady of
disputable age waved at me invitingly as I drove past her spot at
the base of the Salter Overpass. I shook my head sadly as we rolled
on, cruising over the huge rail yard that was the lifeblood of so
many people and businesses in Central Canada.

 

“Just another
statistic” Cathy muttered sadly from the passenger seat, looking
over at the street walker.

 

I grunted
softly in agreement. “Wonder if anyone’ll notice if she ends up
going missing too?”

 

“I’ll notice,”
Cathy said determinedly, her voice firm.

 

A hard promise
to keep.

 

Likely
impossible.

 

I didn’t call
her on it.

 

“So, what’ve
you got for me?” I said, clearing my throat to get us back on
point.

 

Cathy shook out
of her reverie and consulted her ever present notepad. “According
to police reports this is Keimac Cleghorn’s last known address. No
mention if it’s a gang hideout or a family residence. I was
surprised doing my search about how little they had on this guy
given his rather impressive rap sheet. You’d think there’d be more
information about his whereabouts, known associates and so on. But
given how his juvenile record’s been sealed since he turned
eighteen I figure he’s just gotten smarter about things.” Cathy
pursed her lips in a frown, dimples flowering as she did so. “I
know it’s not much, but … “
“It’s a good place to start,” I said encouragingly. Confidently
“Thanks.”

 

“Regardless, I
still think this is a terrible idea, Joe.”

 

I shrugged,
turning the Windstar off of Salter and down one of the residential
side streets. “No arguments.”

 

“So why? What
are you hoping to find out?”

 

My thumbs were
drumming on the steering wheel unconsciously, a soft but insistent
thrum-thrum-thrumthrumthrum. Chalk it up to nerves.

 

“Honestly?”

 

“Of
course.”

 

Heavy sigh. “I
don’t know.”

 

Cathy stared at
me from the passenger seat. “Really? So we’re risking our safety on
what?”

 

“Actually
I just planned on risking
my
safety. Someone decided to tag along.”
“Deal with it, big boy. You’re stuck with me.”

 

“I can think of
worse things,” I muttered quietly, under my breath.

 

“Beg
pardon?”
“Hmm?”

 

“You said
something?”

 

“Just that I’ve
got a bad feeling about this.”

 

Cathy smirked
at me, getting the reference. “So more like a hunch?”

 

“Not
exactly.”

 

“Well good,
because I do not want to be the sidekick in a buddy cop movie.”

 

“Too bad, I
make a killer damsel in distress.”

 

She finally
laughed. It was good. Laughter breaks tension. I hate tension. I am
always better when things are loose. Relaxed. I make mistakes when
I’m tense.

 

I can’t afford
mistakes.

 

We rolled on,
the streets getting darker and more pot hole riddled. The people
got grungier and more desperate looking, hanging in groups to help
keep themselves safe from the more predatorial types. Corner stores
and boutiques began to be replaced by boarded up buildings and
payday loan establishments.

 

The street
signs clued me in and I hung a right, deeper into a very old
residential neighborhood. The houses along here were very rough.
Very short yards, house lots packed together. Any fencing on
properties were tagged in spray paint, advertising gang territories
and other such nonsense. The state of vehicles parked haphazardly
on the side of the road made me feel better about the condition my
van was in. We certainly didn’t stand out.

 

Making another
turn onto the street Cathy had provided I began examining house
numbers when her cell phone started to vibrate insistently.

 

“Shit,” she
muttered, picking up her purse and rummaging in it frantically. “I
thought I’d shut this thing off.”

 

“All good,” I
muttered, still scanning out the window. The house numbers were
getting hard to read in the growing darkness.

 

She rustled
some more, finally finding her phone and checking the display with
a sigh. “Dammit, I have to take this.” What, I was gonna stop her?
“Hello, Max? You still there?”

 

Ah, Captain
Boyfriend.

 

“Yeah, sorry I
meant to call you before the broadcast tonight.”

 

The house we
were looking for was on the right. I purposefully drove past it as
I scanned the area carefully, looking for people. Or cars. Or
anything out of place. The sorta stuff that people in movies and on
TV always seem to be looking for and only know it when they see
it.

 

Yeah, I had no
idea what I was doing.

 

“No it’s all
right, Max. I know things get busy in the off season too. You’ve
got commitments to the team and the league. The price of success,
right?”

 

I turned my
baby around at the end of the block, making a wide U-turn at the
intersection. Thankfully there was very little through traffic in
this area, gives a guy a chance to have a real wide berth. Which
the Windstar definitely needed. Power steering? What power
steering? Letting her idle forward on her own volition, I pulled up
in front of the house and settled to a stop.

 

“That’s fine.
If you have to go to a golf tournament in Calgary I totally
understand. Fundraisers are important. We can visit my parents for
dinner another weekend.”

 

It was a very
old single story bungalow with the obligatory paint peeling and
roughhewn eaves troughs. There had been a front porch at some point
that now looked more like a front flop, all listless and lopsided
and starting to pull away from the front of the house. The window
frames looked original and unpainted in years, with cracks
prominent in most of the glass. The roof had seen better decades
and looked as leaky as a raft.

 

The front door
was open slightly, swinging fractionally in the light breeze.

 

“Cuba? Well
sure, we could try that this year… Well why would we go in July?
Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of going somewhere warm?”

 

No one seemed
to be out and about. It was turning into a chilly and wet evening.
The snow hadn’t quite melted away so the potholes and beat up curbs
were slick and covered with post winter dirt.

 

I opened the
door to my van and slid out into the cool air.

 

“Okay, Max? I
have to let you go… No really, I’m just out on assignment …” Cathy
gave me an apologetic look, pointing to her phone. “Yes absolutely,
I … can you hold on a second?” She pressed the phone to her
shoulder and grimaced at me. “We’ve been playing voicemail tag all
day. Give me a minute?”

 

“Take your
time,” I told her, not taking my eyes off the house. “Let me check
the place out, see if anyone’s there.”

 

“I said I was
coming with …”

 

“You are with
me,” I cut her off, my eyes snapping back to her. I wish I knew
what my expression looked like so I could use it again when I
needed to win an argument in a hurry. Going by the way Cathy
blinked and leaned away, I’m thinking it wasn’t a good look on me.
“Please, just stay here a few minutes.”
Cathy hesitated. Muffled voices could be heard coming from her
phone. She glanced down at it guiltily. “You sure?”

 

“Absolutely.
I’ll be right back.”

 

The van door
shut with a creak and I turned towards the house.

 

The back of my
neck began to tingle in time with my accelerated heart in the cool
breeze.

 

I crossed the
street and headed to the front door.

 

Chapter
30

 

If there is a
drawback to watching too many science fiction and horror movies
it’s that they send one’s imagination to wild and crazy places.

 

What should
have been a mundane, run of the mill walk up to an abandoned
flophouse at sunset in a statistically dangerous part of town
suddenly felt like the opening scene to a Wes Craven flick. It was
all I could do to keep my pace and breathing steady.

 

Getting closer
it seemed like barren branches of the few nearby trees were looming
in, their shadows stretching towards me in a clutching manner. The
last of the daylight leeched away from the sky, leaving me with
lots of darkness and active imaginings. Wind whistled in my ears as
it flowed through shutters and ruffled my shaggy hair, giving me a
chill.

 

Up close
the front porch was even more beat up. Boards were cracked and
missing in places. Damned thing looked about as sturdy as a
see-saw. All the wood was beginning to rot, which happens without
proper maintenance in this climate to houses that
aren’t
almost a hundred years old.
But on this ancient piece of property the rot just added to the
overall spooky ambiance.

 

I refused to
break stride as I got closer. I refused to look about me anymore
either. I had every right to be here and nothing untoward was going
on. This was what I wanted to project to any passerby or nosy
parker who might be near.

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