Hillbilly Bob nodded and walked away without saying anything. It was pointless trying to reason with Smiley Jack when he was like this. Besides, Jack was right. This whole situation could’ve been avoided if the assigned crew had done their jobs without taking liberties with the wife.
Bob motioned for three hulking thugs to join him, and they all piled into his truck. The big, black Ford rumbled to life. Bob pulled into traffic and started for The Ruddy Lady, or TRL as the locals know it.
The Ruddy Lady served as a two-bit whorehouse, but it was listed as an adult nightclub. Its only purpose was to build blackmail cases against the elites of Fredericksburg. Law enforcement types, judges, political figures, they all went to the Ruddy Lady to blow off steam.
Smiley Jack had files on all the who’s who in town. The girls that worked at the Ruddy Lady served as bait to entice the rich to let down their guard. Hidden cameras in the walls and ceilings did the rest.
Ned Watkins and his crew posed as ‘security’, when they were not called upon to dispose of those who crossed Smiley Jack. Bob pulled into the parking spot that had a sign on it that read ‘management.’ He and the boys unloaded and shouldered past the doorman.
Ned Watkins crew stood in the shadows watching the crowd, who in turn watched the girls. Several young women led older men back into the back rooms which were hidden by long red drapes. One of Watkins crew walked up and nodded at Bob.
“Hey Bob, what brought you out? Are you looking to wet your beak?”
“I don’t know. He hasn’t shown up yet. Probably just stuck in traffic or running late.”
“He ain’t home, idiot. We went there. His house is trashed….”
“Bob, that’s his usual house. Ned ain’t known for his house cleaning.”
Hillbilly Bob smiled and put his arm around the shoulders of the young man. With his right hand, Bob gripped his throat.
“Listen to me, idiot. I know you raped that wife. You and all your crew, including Watkins, took your liberty with her. Now, Watkins is missing. Nod your head. I want to know exactly what went down, time now.”
Bob released the man’s throat and open palmed slapped him. The young man coughed and gasped trying to get his breath back. Bob looked at his watch.
“We did the job. Popped the husband, but Ned said the wife was to pretty. She needed to be taught a lesson. So, we…”
“Un-huh. You took turns, what happened to Watkins?”
“I don’t know, Bob. We left after we killed the wife.”
“If Watkin’s ain’t home, and he ain’t here, where is he?”
“He’d be at his girl’s house.”
“And who is that, and where does she live?”
“Suzy. Her name is Suzy, she’s the girls house madam. They stay at the end of the dirt trail leading to Walter’s Leap.”
“If you see Watkins, he doesn’t go anywhere. You understand. He doesn’t go pee, he doesn’t ‘wet his beak.’ He stays right here.”
Bob motioned for his three men to follow him. He led them to a dark corner and looked at them.
“Stay here. If Watkins comes in, secure him. If any of these moron’s get out of line, crush ‘em. I’m going to Walter’s Leap. Call me on the cell if you need me.”
Bob walked out into the quiet night. He put his truck into gear and raced toward what he hoped would be answers.
When Hillbilly Bob got to Walter’s Leap, the Sheriff’s vehicle sat in a parking spot near the front door. Bob frowned. A military man from his youth, Bob respected law enforcement and the job they did. He hated corruption. How did he marry working for a criminal and his dislike of corrupt police? To Bob, he knew he worked for a criminal, and he would tell anyone that he was a crook, just an honest one. Corrupt cops on the other hand broke every oath they had sworn, and Bob could not stomach that.
He got out and walked into the house. Sheriff Salmon, he was known as Chubb, sat with a girl on each knee. He would bounce the girls and they threw their arms in the air and squealed, “wheee.” Salmon quit when he noticed Bob staring at him.
“Ahem. Excuse me, girls. Duty calls.”
Salmon walked over to Bob and stuck out his hand. Bob ignored it. He stared into the eyes of the Sheriff. Salmon looked at the floor.
“Having a good time, Sheriff?”
“Just taking a tiny break, Bob. Suzy got a new crop of young fillies in, and I thought I would check ‘em out.”
“Un-huh. Get on the road and find Ned Watkins.”
“Bob, that’s not my job.”
“Your job is to do whatever Smiley Jack tells you to do. He told me to remind you, if you decided to buck his orders.”
“There’s no need for that, Bob. I’ll get out there and look for the old boy.”
“You do that.”
Hillbilly Bob watched as the Sheriff sullenly walked out of the whorehouse. He waited to see if the Sheriff would come back in once he thought Bob had got a girl. He didn’t. Bob went off in search of Suzy.
He didn’t have to go far. On the couch, in the center of the room, sat a beautiful red-haired lady. Her skin was pale, her eyes a deep green. Bob stopped and stared at her. She looked at him, not in a lustful way, but in a way that sent shivers down Bob’s spine.
She knew what Bob was, and she was not afraid of him. He walked over and sat beside her.
“Yeah, I figured. I’m looking for Ned Watkins.”
“I haven’t seen him, Bob.”
“You’re his girl, aren’t you?”
Suzy turned to Bob, her green eyes pierced Bob’s. Her full lips pulled back into a snarky grin, as if to say, “yeah, right.”
“Do I strike you as the kind of woman who knocks boots with a louse like Ned Watkins?”
“I would hope not.”
“If you see him, would you have him call me at this number?”
Suzy looked at the card and then plucked it from Bob’s massive fingers.
“Thank you, Suzy.”
“You’re welcome, Bob.”
Halfway back to town Bob’s cellphone rang. It was Sheriff Salmon. Bob kept one eye on the road and pressed the green button on his screen.
“We’ve found Ned Watkins. You ain’t gonna like it.”
“He’s dead. Got himself shot in the head.”
“Fine. Do your job, keep us informed. Don’t make me come find you no more, or you’re going to get a bullet to the head. You dig?”
“Yeah, Bob. I got it.”
Bob drove back to town and walked into The Hollowing Hollow. Smiley Jack was leaned back into the thick, soft cushions of the couch. He smiled when he saw Bob.
“You find him?”
“Salmon did. Watkins is dead. Shot in the head.”
“Bob, who would shoot Watkins?”
“I would. Never did care that piece of garbage.”
“Did you shoot him, Bob?”
“Besides you, who would do it?”
“A family member, maybe. A friend. Someone who didn’t like Ned Watkins.”
“Find out who and give them the treatment they gave poor Ned.”
“And Bob, I never cared for Ned Watkins either. Still, he worked for me, so try to show a little sympathy, yeah?”
“Thank you, Bob.”