Cold-Cocked…new writing, unedited…incomplete…

We walked out of the swamp and past Traylor. He glared at me and Tiny and said, “How about it, little piggy? Did you enjoy returning to your roots?”
I said nothing and continued past him. Tiny didn’t say anything until we got in my truck.
“Is it me, or is Traylor always angry, and if he is, does it have anything to do with him barely scratching four feet in the ole height department?”
“I imagine he’s had a hard go at it, Tiny. Being that short is sure to limit his capacity on how much cheer he can hold, and his perspective is probably limited by his lack of vision.”
Tiny laughed, as I fired up my truck and we headed into town. We stayed quiet for a while, but then Tiny began to hum a few lines of “Lie To Me” to break up the silence. He couldn’t stand silence, and I found calm in it. Still, I enjoyed listening to Tiny’s deep, smoky blues voice over the new-fangled lyrical butchering they called modern music.
“What do you think was in those other barrels, Abe?”
“Um, I’d assume the remaining digits, organs, and limbs of the victims, Tiny.”
“What kind of sicko chops up people and shoves them in barrels, and then tosses ‘em out in the swamp?”
“I don’t know, brother. It could have something to do with the black market. People pay a lot of money for healthy organs.”
“Yeah, I know that,” Buster said, as he stared out my window. “But that usually has to do with internal organs. You know, the heart, liver, in some cases lungs, kidneys, and even the eyes.”
“What do you mean, and?”
“Whoever killed these victims kept everything.”
“I know, man. That’s what isn’t making sense to me. If it was only the organs, we’d go bang on some doors. But who strips everything off the skeleton?”
“Well, I don’t know. It won’t do us any good to guess and make assumptions. When Abby knows, we’ll know.”
“Yeah. Mama June might be up,” Tiny said, changing the subject. “You wanna grab a bite to eat?”
“Sure. I could use more coffee.”
Tiny stared at me, and I raised my eyebrows at him and said, “what?”
“How’s therapy going, Abe?”
“Oh, is it that time again?”
“What time?”
“Time for you to begin worrying about my mental health.”
“You’re my partner, bro. I worry about you, and you don’t make it easy for people to care about you.”
“Tiny, it’s a Depersonalization Disorder, okay? I get detached from things, that’s all it means.”
“Yeah, plus you struggle with depression, anxiety, and now this. Tell me what it’s like, this disorder.”
“I detach myself from my emotions, have a hard time tying to keep an even keel. Sometimes, it’s like I am on the outside looking in, or when something happens it feels like it’s happening to someone else.”
“Like in a movie?”
“Is that why you cold-cocked Traylor a while back? Did you think it was someone else punching him in his bearded, round face?”
“No. I knew what I was doing.”
“So, why did you punch him?”
“Because he is annoying, Tiny. He feels like he must overcompensate for his lack of height by bullying everyone around him. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with it.”
“Dude, you got on your knees and said you wanted to look him in the eyes, and then you punched him while shouting, I smite thee with the Dwarven Hammer of Ponderance, over and over again.”
“Yeah. Good times.”
Tiny laughed, as I pulled up close to the entrance of Mama June’s House of Food. The lights were on in the back of the restaurant, and Tiny rapped on the glass door. Mama June unlocked the door and let us in. She stared at Tiny, then peeked around him and gave me a smile.
“Good morning, Abe.”
“Hey, Mama June. How you doing?”
“I’m okay, baby. You taking care of Buster, here?”
“I’m trying. He doesn’t make it easy.”
“He never did. Come on in the back, baby. I got some cold biscuits and hot coffee for y’all this morning. Buster said y’all caught a bad one.”
“It looks that way,” I said, as I pulled out a chair.
Mama June was in her early sixties, stood 5’10, and didn’t look a day over thirty. Her dark skin was flawless, her eyes a deep black, and she claimed she inherited her beauty from ‘living a clean life.’
I remembered thinking, “I don’t know how much clean living a voodoo priestess could do,” but in time I came to know Mama June as a protector, and a boon to her community. She helped the poor, provided medicine to the sick, and served as an listening ear to the unheard. You didn’t have to look far to know where Tiny got his personality from.
“Help yourself, Abe. You know where everything is.”
“Thank you,” I said taking two biscuits and putting them on my plate. Tiny joined me. Mama June came by and pushed a bony finger into Tiny’s side.
“You need to lose some weight, baby. You ain’t never gonna find a woman if you don’t.”
“Come on, Mama. Don’t say that.”
“Tell him the truth, Abe.”
“My name’s Bennett and I ain’t in it,” I said around a mouthful of biscuit. “Besides, my momma always said there’s someone out there for all of us.”
“Did she also tell you that you aren’t the dumbest guy on the planet, but you better pray he didn’t die?”
“Dang, mama,” Tiny said as he spread strawberry jam on his biscuit. “Why you so cold this morning?”
“Cause I ain’t got no grandchildren, Buster! What are you waitin’ on, the Lord to return?”
I sucked down the rest of my coffee, put a twenty on the table, and headed for the truck. Buster followed me out, Mama June was hot on his trail. Tiny leapt into the truck, and I fired it up. Mama wasn’t deterred. She opened the door and leaned in.
“Talk to him, Abe. He won’t listen to me none.”
“Will do.”
“You two be careful out there. Evil is roaming them hills, and it’s only gettin’ worse.”
I don’t know how I knew her words to be true, but I did. Goosebumps raced up and down my spine, and I wondered what kind of evil hid body parts in 55-gallon drums in the middle of a black watered swamp.

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