The Holmes Files - Roller Skate Roundup
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I have to admit I was a little embarrassed, even though there was
really nobody around to see it. This woman, who I'd thought
would be such an easy touch, was turning out to have more on the ball
than I had expected. That she'd just call the cops like that,
even though I KNEW she had dope in the house, suggested she was either
crazy or had an in with the department somehow. I'd seen
stuff like that before. More than one bad cop has stolen
"product" during a bust, and then turned around and sold it himself.
But besides being embarrassed—or maybe because of
it—I was pissed off too. I wasn't about to go back
to that sweet, dangerous-looking woman in Chicago with the half crew
cut and half dog ears hairdo, and tell her that her mother was smarter
than I was. I was beginning to get a glimmer of why Ronnie
had that dangerous, smart aura about her. She might not like
her mother, but she was a product of the woman's genes.
So I opted for plan C.
I was tempted to give it a day or two. I mean she HAD called
the cops and all, and sometimes they had this bad habit of actually
keeping an eye on someone who made a complaint like she had
made. I had no idea what cockamamie story she'd cook up to
tell them when they answered the 911 call, but I didn't need any extra
vigilance on their part when I executed plan C.
On the other hand, she might actually give them a description of
me. I'm burly, and that face full of hair isn't the cutesy
little goatee that most men who sport facial hair have these
days. I’m more the Grizzly Adams type, and fairly
recognizable, even sitting in a car. The last thing I needed
was a run-in with the law where I didn't have any friends.
I could just see it in my mind:
"Hello officer. I'm confused about why you stopped me. I know I wasn't
"Driver's license and registration, please."
"Do you mind if I ask why you stopped me?"
"You match the description of a man alleged to be impersonating a
police officer and threatening people."
"Hahaha. That's a rich one. Here you go, officer.
I'm just Joe Average. I'm not a threat to anybody.
"I see, Mr. Holmes, that you're from Chicago. You mind me asking what
you're doing in Dayton?
I couldn't lie to him. They have ways of checking these things. I
thought about saying I was a consultant in the information sector.
That's a little like calling a janitor an Environmental Sanitary
Engineer, but sometimes it makes people nod, like they know what that
means, ‘cause they don't want to look stupid. I didn't think
that would work with a cop who was already suspicious.
"Well, I'm a private investigator, and I'm on a case," I'd have to
"What kind of case, Mr. Holmes?"
"I'm trying to recover some very valuable property for a client."
"What kind of property, Mr. Holmes?"
"Uhhh...actually...it's a pair of roller skates."
"Step out of the car, Mr. Holmes. Keep your hands where I can see
I was pretty sure it would go something like that so, instead of hanging around Dayton, waiting for said scenario to play
out, I went shopping for what I'd need for plan C.
I waited until an hour after I saw the last lights go off in the house
and then eased out of the car, not closing the door
completely. I'd already taken the bulb out of the dome
light. The breezeway that separated the garage from the house
was enclosed. There was a storm door that led into it and,
once you were through that, you could turn left to go into the house,
or right to go into the garage.
I wasn't surprised to hear Muttley stirring around in the breezeway
when I approached. Some people leave a dog in all
night. For those people the dog is just part of the
family. But I suspected any woman who'd kick her own dog just for doing his job wasn't going to be that type, and would put the animal out so it couldn't bother her during the night. I was prepared for that
eventuality, though, as long as I could keep the dog from barking too
Muttley had given out two nervous barks before I opened the storm door
and tossed in $11.56 worth of beef chuck blade roast which, besides
having nice red meat on it, had a bone, to keep Rover happy after his
snack. The light from the street lamps was good enough that I
could see Muttley happily go for it. I slipped in and went
for the garage door immediately, while he was celebrating his good
I didn't want to draw any attention from the neighbors by turning on
the lights, so I used my flashlight to begin my search. I
understood immediately why the car was parked outside.
If you've lived in your house for four or five years, take a look
around. See all that junk you've accumulated? Now,
multiply it by four. This woman had lived here for twenty
years or more and the place was crammed with lawnmowers, a garden
tiller, and...of course...stacks and stacks of overflowing
boxes. Still, I didn't have to worry about making a
mess. Who'd notice in this clutter? I just had to
make that mess quietly.
I dumped one box and started transferring stuff from a second into the
empty one. I was on my fourth box when Muttley started
barking. I hurried to the door and opened it just enough to
speak to the dog in a whisper.
"What's wrong, boy?" I said in my best pet-friendly voice.
He was standing over that bone, which had been cleaned up nicely and
fairly shone, white in the dim light. He looked at the bone
and then back up at me, and barked some more.
"Eat the bone, you stupid dog!" I urged him in baby talk.
The furry fucker actually dipped his head and moved the bone with his
nose, before looking back up at me and barking some more.
Apparently Muttley wasn't interested in bones. He wanted more
meat. He barked some more. It was dog language for
"You didn't think you could buy me off with that paltry offering did
A light went on in the kitchen and I ducked back, closing the
door. Muttley started barking up a storm now, so that his
mistress would have no doubt whatsoever that he was doing his duty,
despite the fact that there was a nice fresh bone on the floor that she
hadn't given him and must have come from someplace else.
"SHUT UP, YOU FUCKING MUTT!" She was so loud I could
understand her clearly, through two doors and twelve feet of air.
Muttley came to the garage door and barked even more
furiously. It was dog language for "You don't understand,
Mama, there's an INTRUDER here! I'm doing my JOB!"
She yelled again, and was loud enough now that I knew she was doing
that yelling from an open door. I heard Muttley scratch at
the door to the garage and bark, if it was possible, even more
furiously. I went to the sectional garage door and attempted
to lift it. It was stuck fast. My flashlight showed
there was an electric garage door opener that was keeping it that way
and, of course, the emergency release rope was missing from the damn
thing. I was on my way back to where I hoped the button was
when dear sweet Maddie came storming through the door with a baseball
bat clutched firmly in both hands. She was choking up way too
much, but I wasn't in the mood to give her a lesson on how to properly
hold a bat. So I did the best thing I could think
of. I tried to blind her with the beam of my flashlight and
slide by her so I could seek the only egress easily available to me.
She was quick for an old broad, let me tell you. She blinked
myopic eyes and swung that bat like Barry Bonds on a whole shitload of
steroids. She punctuated her swing with a grunted
"Bastard!" I leaned back and heard the swish of air as the
bat went within an inch of my nose and slammed into a vacuum cleaner
that was sitting atop a stack of boxes. Plastic parts flew
every which way.
I ducked away from the vacuum cleaner and tried to push past her, but
she must’ve watched Conan, The Barbarian too many times or
something, because she used the bounce from the vacuum cleaner to swing
back the other way. I went to all fours, doing something like
a bear walk and heard the bat slam into the wall. I realized
that now the flashlight was telling her where I was. She was
standing over me, and I hoped like hell that the bat had gone through
the sheet rock and stuck, because if she brought it down now she'd
break my spine clean in two.
"BASTARD!" she screamed. Muttley barked right in my face.
I have to admit I panicked...just a little...and my instinct was to
roll against her legs and knock her down. The only problem
was that her instinct was to kick the shit out of the intruder at her
feet. So when I tried to roll, all I did was move my ribs
right into the path of her foot. I thanked my lucky stars
that she was barefoot, but it still hurt, and elicited an "OOF" from
me. Meanwhile I grabbed for Muttley's collar and pulled hard,
jerking him past me and crawling for the open door. He
yelped, more from surprise than pain, in my opinion.
"MUTTLEY!" screamed Madeline. Great. Leave it to
now for her to give birth to concern for her canine
I had both feet under me and was in the act of jumping through the door
when that fucking bat connected solidly with my left side.
Pain shot through me like fire and every bit of air left my
lungs. I saw stars and it was only by adrenaline rush that I
kept going. I lurched to my right, propelled by the force of
that strike, and bounced off the wall. That was fortunate,
because it bounced me toward the storm door. I put a shoulder
into that and fumbled for the handle. My weight was too much
for the latch, though, and the door sprang open.
From there, at least from the neighbors’ viewpoint, I must
have looked like Igor...you know, Dr. Frankenstein’s
hunchback assistant...shambling down the walk toward the
street. I was reduced to that bent-over one-legged loping kind of gait
that Igor would use when he was trying to hurry to do his master's
bidding. The pain in my ribs was overflowing down my left
leg, making it impossible to actually run.
She didn't chase me, but Muttley did. I heard her scream,
"SIC 'EM!" as loud as was humanly possible. The saving grace
was that Muttley, bless his black little soul, just wasn't an attack
dog at heart. He was a good guard dog, but as he scampered
around me in circles, barking like crazy, his tail was
wagging. It was like he was saying, "This is fun! I
LIKE you! You brought me a treat and now you're playing this
neat running game with me!"
Thank God I'd left the key in the ignition. I slid through
the door. My left arm wasn't working too good either, and
when I tried to pull the door closed it was like a one year old was
doing it. The latch caught, but the door didn't close all the
way. I twisted the key frantically, gunned the engine to
life, and would have left ten feet of rubber except that my '95 Contour
just didn't have the guts to spin the tires. It was good on
fuel economy, but not so much on power.
I left Dayton as if I had urgent business elsewhere. I did,
actually. I was pretty sure that, at a minimum, I had a couple of cracked ribs, and it was agony to breathe if I did anything more than suck in enough air to stay conscious. All that frantic activity had
encouraged my lungs to expand as much as they could and quite often to
boot, though, and I saw stars again for the next ten minutes as I made
my way to I-75 and north toward Toledo. I knew something was
broken, but I didn't know how bad it was. If the tip of a
fractured rib was making me bleed, I wanted to pass out on an
interstate highway, instead of some back road where nobody would have a
chance to find me before I bled to death.
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