I sighed and scratched the back of my head, looking at Chevy and cursing it for everything it had put me through. “Fine,” I finally said. “I’ll find another way back to Austin. I’ll send someone over to pick it up tomorrow.”
“Your call, boss,” Hank said, looking at me like I was in desperate need for a friend.
I thanked him and made my way back to the motel. I speed dialed Alice on the way.[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======
“Tell me you’re on the road,” she said.
“Truck’s down until tomorrow,” I said. “How was the meeting?”
“Postponed until tomorrow,” Alice replied. “Are you sure the truck will be ready in time?”
“I’m not waiting until tomorrow,” I said. “Call Miles and tell him to come pick me up. I’ll send you the location now.”
I sat on my bed, the smell of the lilies faint now that Ashlyn hadn’t replaced the flowers in two days. I twirled the phone between my hands, trying to decide whether or not to call her. She wouldn’t answer me anyway; I was sure of that. But a part of me still wanted to dial that number.
I tossed the phone aside, ran my hands across my face and ruffled my hair in frustration. I needed to get a grip. There were bigger problems right now. I needed to get to Austin and deal with Dennis first, and then I’d be able to figure out just what to do about Ashlyn. Right now, my mind was clogged with problems, and there would be no thinking straight until the one thing that got me into this mess in the first place had been dealt with.
I stood up and paced about the room, grabbing my phone again and checking the time. If Miles had left when I called Alice, then it would be another three hours at least until he got here. I should have told her to send the damn company helicopter. That meant three hours of me alone with my thoughts, and if that didn’t kill me, I didn’t know what would. If I didn’t get a hold of my emotions, that heart attack would be knocking on my door a lot sooner than foretold.
I needed to clear my head. Maybe walk a bit around town, although that would only kill a half hour or so, not more. Chuck would only be good enough company for maybe an hour before we both got bored of each other, and Hank wasn’t a better choice. Besides, I wanted him focused on fixing the truck, even if I wasn’t going to be driving it back.
So many things would have gone differently if that damn head gasket hadn’t have blown. I could have been in Booth right now, enjoying my mother’s food and a relaxing time out in the fields. I wouldn’t be tormented with thoughts of Ashlyn or anyone else for that matter. And I probably would have been able to stop Dennis far before things had blown out of proportion.
I silently cured my fat
her and his piece of shit old truck. Even in the grave, he was still tormenting me. If I had it in me, I’d dig him out, burn what remained of him, and scattered his ashes across the cow dung at the farm back home.
You need to get out of the room.
I needed more than that. I needed a fucking drink.
Just like every other store in this damned town, the bar was named after the owner, the apostrophe after the name whimsically created in the shape of a beer glass. I hadn’t expected anyone to be at Joel’s this early in the afternoon, but apparently, I wasn’t the only one drinking my troubles away.
I pulled myself up on a stool at the bar, briefly taking note of two men watching me from a booth in the back and an old geezer who looked like he was half asleep over his drink, his head nodding every few seconds before he snapped it back up again and blinked rapidly. The overall atmosphere was enough to make you want to drown in liquor, and the jukebox was playing some old tune that sounded like cats scratching across a chalkboard. I started to regret the choice to come here, and only the view of lines of liquor bottles lined up and waiting to be drunk made me feel a little better.
The bartender was a huge man, easily shadowing Chuck and making me look like a matchstick in comparison. He had a towel in his hand and was cleaning a glass, making me wonder how in the world the thing hadn’t shattered in his grip.
“What can I getcha?” he asked, giving me a suspicious look.
“Bourbon,” I replied, taking out my cigarettes and lighting one. I inhaled the smoke like a man gasping for his last breath. The smoke burned my lungs, but immediately chilled me out. “Best you got. And keep pouring until I say stop.”
The bartender didn’t move. He stood there, glaring at me, his hand twirling the towel inside the glass as if he were on cruise control. I took a drag from my cigarette, stared back at him and waited.
“You’re the new guy, aren’tcha?”
He nodded. “Over at the motel. The one that’s been hanging around with Ashlyn Carter.”
Word really did spread in this fucking place.
“You don’t have to worry about me anymore, sport,” I said with the smoke billowed from my nostrils. “I’m leaving in a few hours.”
“Earl Greene’s been looking to get his hands on you.”