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
pounds is a lot of weight on your knees, even when you’re built to
Once at the
helpdesk Tamara rummaged around in a filing cabinet and pulled out
two forms, sliding one over to me.
good at filling these out,” I muttered reaching for a pencil.
that up and we’ll put you on payroll,” Tamara smiled as she affixed
some tape to a sign with the infamous
Sorry, Out of Order
note before heading back to
the cardio equipment.
“If I get a
free gym pass I’ll take the job,” I said to her back while watching
her walk away wistfully.
“Don’t count on
it,” she said while throwing a quick glance and smile back over her
shoulder, completely busting me for checking her out in the
I smiled slightly in return. Tamara was solid.
Filling out the
form took maybe thirty seconds. But I hung around and pretended to
be working on it some more as I waited for Tamara to come back. She
was doing a round of the main room, checking in on patrons and
equipment alike. Place like this gets cluttered in a hurry with
people leaving cleaning tissues and rags on equipment. Forgetting
cell phones and ear buds. Turning the stationary television screens
not attached to treadmills for better viewing. Leaving dumbbells in
the middle of aisles.
included. Good luck seeing the backseat of my van between all the
fast food wrappers, empty coffee cups and miscellaneous pieces of
Don’t judge me.
I grab and go a lot.
slowly came under control and the sweat covering my flesh was
starting to give me a chill. I contained a shiver and glanced up at
the TV screen that Tamara had re-positioned so it was facing the
correct way. The news again, this time with a long still shot of
that most recent missing girl.
P.M.. according to the wall clock next to the TV. Enough time to
rush home, make dinner for Mom and help her with her meds before
showering and heading back to the club.
upstairs, big man?” Tamara asked as she returned with an armful of
miscellaneous gym garbage. “Should be plenty of room in the weight
pit right now. All the pretty boys have to do their faces up before
going out tonight.”
I grunted. “You
don’t think I’m a pretty boy?”
laughed. Not a giggle. A full on good natured laugh. “I don’t think
to be a pretty boy.”
She leaned on the counter and whispered conspiratorially. “Pretty
boys need a manicure before they lift weights.”
I examined my
chewed up and cuticle filled fingernails. “Knew I forgot
“Chicks dig humor. They think it’s hot. Robin Williams is a sex
god.” My back cracked loudly as I pushed back from the counter.
Somewhere in the back of my brain I could feel the beginning of an
ice-pick-behind-my-eye headache beginning. I closed my eyes and
groaned. Headaches have been coming more often and more fiercely
than I liked to admit. “That hairy, sexy beast.”
Opening my eyes
I looked down at Tamara, who always looked so tiny when I stretched
to my full height. Her face was concerned.
won’t go out with me?”
She pursed her lips and leaned against the desktop, staring up at
me on an angle that I willed my eyes not to take advantage of. “I’m
serious. The bags under your eyes have bags under them. Do you ever
“Sure. I sleep.
Just a busy coupla days.” I waved a hand at her. “I’m okay.”
unconvinced and shook her head slowly. “I don’t know how you push
yourself this hard without falling over. I would be asleep on my
“Maybe I’m asleep now.” Six-oh-five, time to roll. I pushed back
off the desktop. “I’m good, I promise. If you and your friends are
still coming out tonight ask for me at the VIP door around back. I
never have guests so they should send someone right for me.”
“Leave me your
number. If we end up going out I’ll text you.” Tamara reached for a
pencil as my face flushed.
“Yeah … uh,
just ask for me at the back.”
don’t want to give me your number?”
“No, I can’t
give you my number.”
“Why not? Wait,
do you have a girlfriend?”
that’s not it.”
I ran my hand
down over my face for what seemed the thousandth time that day.
I promise. My cell is … Sorta non-existent at the moment.”
her eyebrow. “You broke it?”
it. Well I did break it. But now I don’t have one.”
have a cell phone?”
I showed her both my thumbs and then pointed them directly at my
chest. Hopefully the look on my face came across as funny instead
leaned away from me with an exaggerated look of disdain. “I don’t
know if we can be friends now. “
“Cute. Just ask
at the VIP door. I gotta jet.”
She waved and
turned her attention to another staff member with a question as I
turned and walked down the hallway past the basketball court
towards the locker rooms, thankful to get away with a few shreds of
my dignity intact.
How do you not
have a cell phone in this age? When your credit rating with the
phone companies sucks so bad no one’ll give you a contract anymore
is one way.
I used to have
a cell. Several in fact. But when they kept breaking and
malfunctioning on me I got tired of paying reconnection fees and
contract cancellation charges. Cell companies are worse than loan
sharks, I swear to God. They create an environment where you
suddenly feel you can’t live without them and then they nickel and
dime you for every little thing.
damned inconvenient at times not having one.
A few feet from
the door to the change room I passed by a group of young native
toughs. Now don’t get out your “Racist Pig” banners on me, I am
just being descriptive. Walking through downtown Winnipeg was tough
to do without running into groups of aboriginal Canadians (happy
now?) congregating in groups. This group was like many others. A
bunch of kids in their mid to late teens wearing three sizes too
big clothing sporting angry and arrogant looks on their faces for
anyone who walked by.
uncommon to see this group or others like it leaning on the other
young kids who populated the YMCA, trying to intimidate them or
sell drugs or whatever. There’d been at least two occasions where
things got violent when I was nearby and helped to break up
It was too bad
really. The YMCA strived to provide a safe place for kids of all
ages from all walks of life. And kids like this who can’t see
beyond the rough gang lifestyle they’ve grown up with don’t
understand how they’re perpetuating the cycle by taking a venue
like this and turning it into a haven for crime and
this make me glad I never got into law enforcement. Too many gray
A lot of
haughty expressions greeted me as I purposefully walked directly
through their little group, not allowing them to intimidate me.
Heard a couple of them whispering insults behind my back as I
walked past. Whatever. I get called worse by the snobby bitches
waiting in line at
“All I need is
a ten gallon hat and spurs,” I grumbled, staring at my
big truly sucks. My bathroom mirror was at the perfect height when
I was thirteen years old and had moved into my parents’ basement
for the first time. Now most of twenty years later I had to bend at
my aching knees and scrunch my head down in order to see under the
forty watt vanity lights flickering above the mirror.
spilled out of the mirror’s frame but given the lack of space in
the washroom, it was the best I could do. While I actually think
the “western look” is a good one on me, I just never feel
comfortable in the black, long sleeved button up shirts that Aaron
makes all the bouncers wear at
. It was more Roy Rogers then Clint Eastwood. All
heavy cotton with white embroidery at the cuffs and trailing up the
arms to flare at the collar, connecting with the big SECURITY logo
written on the back in some rustic “wanted poster” font.
‘Course if the
damned shirt actually fit right I probably wouldn’t have cared.
wasn’t a double XL anymore and no amount of shirt tucking and
re-tucking would help me disguise that fact.
I blew out a
heavy breath, staring into my tired and unshaven face. “Maybe if I
had a hat and duster,” I muttered.
Turning away I
flicked off the lights and grabbed my coat on my way through the
rec room and up the stairs.
The clock over
the kitchen sink told me I was once again behind schedule, so I
tossed my coat in the general direction of the back door and ran my
eyes over the kitchen critically. A short moment later I sighed
again and began the process of tidying things up in as quick and
efficient a manner as possible.
from the living room. “I told you to leave that, Joe. I’ll clean it
up before bed.”
“Not a problem,
Mom,” I called back to her while loading leftovers in Tupperware
and turning on the sink’s hot water tap. “ I got plenty of time and
this’ll only take a moment.”
would only take a moment for
specifically. One pot to clean. A few dishes to rinse and
stack. A dishwasher to run. Some extras to put away. Five minute
job. For my mother, it might take her five minutes to get off the
couch and into the kitchen depending on how she was
“I am not a
complete invalid you know,” she said after a short coughing spell.
I grimaced and spritzed some Palmolive into the soup pot, shoving
it under the hot stream to get the soap all a bubbles. A quick soak
of the dish rag into the hot water made me wince but being all
manly and stuff I didn’t make a fuss. Just scrubbed the pot clean
and put it away using the remaining soap to hastily wipe the
“Are you going
to be late tonight?”
“No later than
usual.” Did the floor need a quick sweeping too? There were
probably crumbs under the lip of the cupboards but surely that
“You know I
don’t like you working so late, Joseph.” More coughing, into a
tissue this time it sounded like. “It’s such a dangerous job and
I’m always afraid you’ll get hurt.”
“Oh you know
me, Mom.” The floors’ll hold until tomorrow, I figured. It was
already after eight and mom was within half an hour of passing out
on the couch again. “Nothing hurts me.”
“Man Mountain Joe,” I said using my deep and theatrical radio
announcer voice. “Walks through walls, pitches drunks down stairs
and always comes home safe and sound. New from K-Tel. Order now and
Perogy Maker only at 863 Main Street so come onnnnnn
I could hear
her laugh weakly. That voice gets her every time.
I grabbed a
clean glass form the cupboard and filled it from the water filter
in the fridge before walking out of the kitchen and into my
mother’s living room.
suppose it was “our living room” but in truth I spent so much of my
time living downstairs and out of her way that it was hard to think
of it differently. Many years ago this room had been a disaster
zone of toys, spilled milk stains and the sight of many a flashcard
session to learn me some basic mathematics as I grew up.
These days it
was a much quieter place.
Dad’s old chair
was still near the little used fireplace, next to the side table
with Mom’s reading lamp. A two person faded loveseat that had seen
better days stood off to the left while it’s full length couch
counterpart sat on the other side of the room. An older knee-high
imitation oak coffee table sat in the middle of the room covered
with used and unused tissues, several dirty dishes, a half full
coffee mug and a variety of pill containers. Over on the old
tube-style TV screen Dennis Beyak and the local TSN crew was deep
into the action during the first period of the Jets game. Sidney
Crosby hadn’t caught the old “Lemieux Flu” and had actually shown
up to play in Winnipeg, giving the high priced ticket buyers a
chance to see the top player in the league in action against our