On the dry end of town, inside Clancy’s Bar and Grill, in his own unique way, The Dog Man was grieving his friend. Dog saw Billy run for the truck, then disappear into the wall of rain. By the time Dog arrived at the half-submerged truck, Billy was gone. Following our plan Dog went for the canoes, but they were gone too.
How could that dick have been so stupid to park in the path the flood? All that money lost because of fucking Billy Marlin.
The Dog was working on a sixth beer quietly giving thought to the loss of a fortune. Mostly, Dog missed the balls-out adventure of stripping all the houses in Tenican Heights, the wealthiest digs in the county. Dog also thought about the lost canoes, oh yes, and by the way, that fucking stupid-assed Billy Marlin’s dead.
Dog wanted to buy a round of drinks for the bar and honor Dog’s lost money, but like Billy, Dog’d been counting on that big-assed caper to pull us through the rest of the year. We’d counted on it so much, we’d spent money like falling leaves from a tree. Dog had enough money left for three beers, a burger, which was on the griddle and a fifty cent tip for Cindy, the big hooter babe waiting tables.
Dog wasn’t cheap. He knew when to tip and how much. The way to a waitress’s heart and maybe a chance to get into her pants, was big tips. Dog Man wasn’t about to pass any chance to get closer to Cindy with that hot ass, but fifty cents wasn’t gunna cut it.
The Raiders game on the big screen flipped to some dick in a suit. “We interrupt this broadcast to bring you an update on the levee break in Marysville.”
Dog shouted, “would you get on with the goddamn game.”
Of the seven people in the bar, only one turned toward Dog for a second. They all were listening to the middle-aged asshole on the screen.
“What the fuck you want?”
“Nutin, Dog.” He snapped his head back to the TV.
Oh yes, Dog Man was in a foul mood all right. He’d just lost a boatload of money and his buddy drowned, but Dog couldn’t tell a soul about it.
The Dog wasn’t looking forward to going into Clancy’s back room and hustling pool to make beer money.
Dog Man just watched all those dreams float down Shit-creek and he definitely didn’t have a paddle.
Clancy, with his beer gut gait, his six-inch long handlebar mustache, stepped over and dropped the burger and fries on the table.
“Dog’s always okay, motherfucker. What the fucks it to you?”
Clancy’s mustache perked up followed with a smile. “I don’t know, you’re looking kinda’ down.”
“Well, shit. Dog guesses he is. This major job Dog had lined up, fell through.”
“Make you feel any better, I can run you a tab for a week or so.”
“Money’s not the bummer,” Dog lied.
Clancy leaned one arm on the bar, reached up and twirled his mustache.
“Billy’s drowned in the flood.”
“No kidding? How do you know?”
“Dog and Billy were on the levee fishing when it let go fifty yards upstream. Dog watched Billy sprint for the truck, but Billy and the truck was gone when Dog got there.”
“What the hell did you do?”
“Stood there. Dog Man was hoping Billy was just fucking with him. He’s good at that kind of shit, you know.”
“Anyhow, Dog Man waited ten minutes and Billy never showed, so Dog came here.”
“Maybe you should call the cops.”
Dog waved an arm. “Dog Man sits this one out. If Billy’s okay, he’ll show up. If he’s not, there’s nothing the cops can do.”
“You got a point. Want another beer, it’s on the house.”
I nodded. “Hey Clancy, front The Dog Man a five for Cindy.”
Clancy shook his head, pulled a five and grinned. “You never give up, do you?”
The Sun Dog took the first bite of a burger he couldn’t taste. Dog took another sip of a beer that didn’t satisfy. Dog Man wanted to tell someone the rest of the story. Billy’s disappearance was a blow, but the money, the jewelry, the guns and knives, the antiques, but most of all the adventure. The Dog missed it all. The cool-assed charge of searching for goodies, and most of all checking out women’s underwear was the real loss. It always left Dog breathless.
Dog Man stalked the house first and only raided houses with beautiful women. Along with everything else, Dog always took a piece of underwear. The Dog’s collection was in a refrigerator-shipping crate in the storage unit. Sometimes Dog would crawl into the mound of silkiness.
The next beer came, then the next and the next. By the end of the night, Dog was plastered.
* * *
When Sundog’s head dropped to the bar, he stayed in that position until Cindy and I closed.
I shook him. “Come on Dog, we’re closing. You gotta’ go home.”
Cindy put her hands on her hips. “I don’t think he’s moving, boss.”
“Let’s lower him to the floor where he can sleep it off. When he wakes he’ll find his way out.”
Cindy helped me lay him out on the floor. “You know, when he’s out like this, he’s kinda’ cute. If he wouldn’t open his racist and sexist mouth, a girl like me could fall for someone as cute as he is.”
I put a towel under his head. “There’s a bunch of cute jerks out there, Cindy. They’re usually the most exciting ones. If you want to live a normal life, find one not so exciting. This guy is trouble with a capitol Tee.”
“How can I tell?”
“Each one’s different. Each one is a jerk to some degree. Look for one whose jerkiness matches yours.”
“You don’t seem like a jerk.”
I walked over and flipped the six electrical switches. “I got my shit too. It’s just well hidden in my fifty-three years.”
The room went dark and Cindy and I walked into the parking lot. I locked the front door.
“I’d like to find someone like you, Clancy.”
I knew Cindy was infatuated with me. What, was she twenty-two? I didn’t need the trouble. Back when I first opened the bar, I’d taken advantage of situations like that, but I learned my lesson and I wasn’t about to make the same mistake.
I walked her to her car. “Keep your eyes open. Some great guy is going to walk into your life.”
“I’d like to know what he looks like so I don’t tell him to get lost.”
“Think about it this way. The exciting ones are just that, exciting. Most of them don’t have the wherewithal or the stamina to stick something out for the long run. The ones who are more predictable might have the ability to stick around and work through the stuff that comes up in a relationship.”
“The exciting ones are so much fun.”
“Just my point. Wouldn’t it be easier to choose one less thrilling and try to figure out how to have fun with him, than constantly being abandoned or abused by the likes of guys like Sundog.”
“You might have a point.”
We got into our separate cars and drove in opposite directions.
The next morning, when I opened the bar, Sundog was still in a fetal position.
“What?” Sundog demanded when I nudged him with my foot. “What the hell you want?”
“You gotta’ get up, Dog. I’m opening in a while and you can’t sleep on the floor.”
Five minutes later, I nudged him again and we went through another round.
The fifth time Sundog opened his eye. “Things’ll be much better with a Bloody Mary.”
I mixed the drink, then penciled the four dollars under a long list he’d drank the night before.
I held the drink over his head. “I got your drink, but you gotta’ sit at the bar to drink it.”
He pulled himself to his knees, then to one foot. He held onto the closest barstool and drew himself to a standing position. When he found a seat at the bar, I slid the Mary in front of him. “Hey man, you look like shit.”
“What the fuck’s it to you.”
“Don’t you think you ought to go home and sleep this off?”
“You go home and sleep it off. It’s Dog’s nest egg that just flew the coop. It’s Dog Man’s buddy out there drowned in the big muddy.”
“Well, at the very least, why don’t you go into the bathroom and wash up. I got customers–.”
“Fuck off, asshole.”
The old guy gave us all a ride back to dry land. He dropped Billy off first. I wanted to give Billy a juicy goodbye kiss, but he had something on his mind. I wanted to give him much more than a kiss. Pulling him to the bottom of the boat and having my way with him again was more of what I had in mind.
He got out of the boat without as much as a glance in my direction. No man ever brushed me off and walked away. I’m Yamelda Keating for God sakes. I’d never been so humiliated.
We pulled away from shore. I sat in shock. I couldn’t help look at his cute butt and his sexy, Marlboro-man stride. God, I wanted him. There was little in my life I didn’t get when I set my mind to it. Billy goddamn Marlin wouldn’t be an exception.
A voice brought me out of my thoughts. “You got it bad.”
I shot a look at the pertinent little bitch sitting across from me. “What did you say?”
She held out her hand. “I’m Bunny Ollinski. I waited on you at–”
“You must really like him. I mean, I don’t blame you, but honey, you’ve got it bad.”
“I don’t have anything bad, sister.” While I’m responding to the little twit in the waitress outfit, I have to pull myself away from the last sight of his sexy backside. “He’s only a man. There are many more where he came from.”
The bitch gave me an all-knowing smile.
After a stare down, of which I won –I always win– she glanced away and I went back to my thoughts.
Why’d he walk away? No man’s ever done that before. Is my beauty slipping? Is my sexual magnetism failing? The only time my seduction doesn’t work on a man is when he’s gay. Even then sometimes it works, but it didn’t work on Billy? After a night of the best sex in years, he simply walked.
The boat wound its way through town and stopped by my office. I’d resolved not to think about that bit of fluff called Billy Marlin. I mean, hell he was only a man after all. No man ever meant more than a roll in the hay to me. Truth be told, it’s all that happened, a roll in the hay.
I walked into the building, not exactly fresh and prime for the noon news, but ready for work. Sylvia could fix anything.
“What happened to you?” the waif of a receptionist asked.
I stormed past the desk without saying a word. She’s not a main player, so there’s no reason to respond.
I stomped upstairs and burst into the newsroom.
I heard a bunch of, “where you been’s and what happened’s”, but it didn’t slow me down. I was headed for Sylvia and straight for the telephone to find Billy Marlin’s number. Why couldn’t I get him off my mind?
I walked into my change room and some fat, dizzy blonde was standing with a comb.
“My makeup girl.”
“I don’t know. I’m a temp for the next few days.”
“I want Sylvia.”
The door burst open and my producer, Harlin stepped in. “What the hell happened last night?”
“You’re not going to believe me.”
“I already got the story about the mobile unit. Two of the guys and Sylvia are missing. The other two are in the hospital.”
“Sylvia’s missing? Well who the hell is going to get me in shape for the noon?”
Harlin points at the blonde. “This is Anne.”
I put my hand on one hip and glared at him. “I don’t want some dipshit blonde, I want Sylvia.”
He takes a breath. She’s missing. . . and presumed dead.”
He nods. “It was pretty crazy last night. Till you showed up, we thought you were a gonner too.”
I sat on my chair. “Sylvia’s dead?”
“Anne’ll have to do for now.” Harlin turned and left the room.
I submitted to the coarse treatment of the blonde who eventually brought me back to something suitable for noon news as I fingered the white pages.
“No Marlin. I can’t believe it, there’s no Billy Marlin in Yuba County.”
Anne teased my hair back to life. “Call information.”
I picked up the phone and actually punched the nine of 911 before I caught myself. Well hell, it was an emergency. I’m Yamelda Keating, 911 would understand.”
After getting information, I hung the phone up and looked at Anne through the mirror. “No one by that name in the Sacramento valley.”
“Maybe Billy Marlin doesn’t exist.”
“I just spent the night with him.”
“Maybe he gave you the wrong name.”
“I do it all the time.”
I stood as Blondie put on the finishing touches. “I’m Yamelda Keating. No one does that to me.”
I left the room headed for the news set.
“Good morning,” I said, my camera smile in place, hair and makeup adequate, attitude of concern. “In late breaking news about the flood in the Marysville Valley. . .”