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Double take (a dan wilde.., p.1
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       Double Take (A Dan Wilder Short Story), p.1

           Chris O'Grady
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Double Take (A Dan Wilder Short Story)
Double Take

  A Dan Wilder Short Story


  Chris O'Grady

  * * * * *

  Double Take

  Copyright © 2009 by Chris O'Grady

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.

  For information address: Twit Publishing PO Box 720453 Dallas, Texas 75206.

  The following work is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  “Double Take” was originally published in Twit Publishing Presents: Winter/Spring 2011.

  * * * * *

  Double Take

  by Chris O'Grady

  They hit Wilder half a block from the square, three of them at once. They worked it fast, staying close together. “Pros,” Wilder thought.

  He snapped a reflex left against the skull of the one on his right. That one dropped. Wilder swung to face the one trying to jab a gun into his ribs and used an elbow to knock the gun aside. He drove a short hard right up into the man’s middle. Sour breath ooophed into Wilder’s face. He pulled back too far to get away from it, but before he could turn to the one coming up behind him, the back of his head was kissed by a sap. A black universe billowed around him, then he felt nothing.

  A jolt tumbled him and started to bring him out of it. The jolt was a car stopping. They dragged him out of the car, up a dirt path onto a wooden porch, and into a house. Lights went on.

  Wilder’s eyes weren’t working right. One eye picked up a blurred picture of a room with furniture in it. The other saw the same furniture a couple of feet to the side. He closed his eyes.

  “Did you have to pick such a big guy,” gasped one of the men hauling him. A giggle behind him. “Alright, laugh,” he said, “but you ain’t lugging this bastard.”

  The man on Wilder’s other arm said, “Come on, let’s get it done. He’ll be snapping out of it soon.”

  The one behind him said, “He snaps out, we snap him back.”

  They dragged Wilder a little farther. The one on his right pressed Wilder’s hand down on a tabletop.

  “Not yet,” the other gasped. “Dump the bastard on the sofa. Bring the stuff to him. We’ll kill ourselves, dragging a guy this size all over this joint.”

  One of the others laughed and a moment later they dropped Wilder face down onto the cushions of a sofa. He could smell sofa dust.

  Everything stopped for awhile. Then he began coming out of it again but not far enough. Their voices went on around him but he couldn’t make out what they were saying most of the time. Only snatches of words heard through the cloud in his head.

  “Is he still out?”

  “Looks like it.”

  “Keep those gloves on.”

  “It’s hot in here.”

  “Never mind the heat. Keep the gloves on. We want his prints to be the only ones the Feds find here.”

  “When do we pull the snatch?”

  “After we get this guy back to his hotel.”

  “Quit the talk, you two. Pick him up. We want his prints on light switches and walls. Doorknobs, too. Not just on lamps and little things.”

  They lifted Wilder again. One of them groaned. The other laughed. Wilder felt his hands being pushed against door-posts, light switches, and other stuff he couldn’t identify by touch. He tried to open his eyes. It seemed to take a long time. Finally they opened a little.

  Below his head swayed a black-and-white checkerboard kitchen floor. A thick rope of his own spittle hung down from his mouth about a foot, bouncing and swinging back and forth whenever they moved him.

  “He’s waking up,” the one on his left said. “His eyes opened a little.”

  “I’ll give him a booster,” the one behind said.

  Wilder tried to shove himself forward. His legs thrashed but his feet slipped on the kitchen floor. He caught the sap low on the back of his neck. Red flame exploded behind his eyes. Someone made a whining sound. Wilder knew he was the one making it.

  “Too low,” the man holding his left arm said.

  “Yeah, he moved,” the voice behind agreed.

  “Another one should do it.”

  Wilder tried to make himself do something but he couldn’t think what to do. Another head-crack! The black cloud came back inside his skull, so he didn’t have to do anything.

  When they dumped him back into the car, he started to come awake again. He forced one eye open and found himself sprawled across the back seat. His face was pressed against the cold, smooth glass of a side window. In the distant darkness, two green lights shone steadily. In the distance, higher up, and a little to the right of those lights, a red light blinked on and off, on and off.

  “Big boy’s back with us again,” one of them laughed. The car swayed as they all climbed into it.

  “Let me give it to him this time,” another said. “He like to busted my skull when we took him.”

  “When I took him,” the third voice said. “Okay, but don’t kill the guy. We want somebody the Feds can look for. If this joker hasn’t got a record somewhere after the way he was casing that bank, I’ll eat this sap.”

  Wilder closed his eyes. “A fall guy!” he thought. He hardly felt the familiar crack when they sapped him again. Maybe he was getting used to it.

  A window curtain was blowing in the night breeze. Wilder laid on his back on the floor, watching the curtain move, and moonlight shining on the wall near the window. His eyes had been open for some time. When he came awake enough for the pain to reach him, he tried to roll over onto his stomach. It seemed to take him forever. He felt better when the back of his head wasn’t touching the floor anymore.

  He crawled. He stopped, sweating, staring down at the carpet along his shaking arms. The sound of his breathing was the only sound in the room.

  After awhile, he crawled some more. Then he stopped again, listening to the breathing sounds. His nose was stuffed up; he breathed through his mouth. He crawled some more until the top of his head bumped into something. Tigers started tearing the inside of his head to pieces. When they stopped, he pushed up against the pain in the back of his neck, enough to lift his head so he could see what he’d come up against. A wall.

  Turning, he crawled along the wall carefully until he came to some furniture shoved against the wall. He used the furniture and the wall to rise to his feet. Then he felt around the furniture (a dresser of some kind) and miscalculated when he made the turn around the first outer corner. The floor came up and slapped his face. He laid on the floor for a few minutes, then pushed himself up onto his arms again, crawled around the dresser to the wall on the far side, climbed to his feet again, and went on along the wall.

  Later, he circled the room a couple of times before he was conscious enough to notice that he had opened a door. He flipped the light switch on. A bathroom.

  He started running water in the tub, wondering whose room this was. He got his coat, pants, and shoes off, managed to get his tie off, too, but didn’t bother with anything else. It took him awhile to crawl carefully into the tub while water ran into it, but when he finally slipped down and flopped his legs over the side of the tub after the rest of him, he went underwater, and that ended the half-conscious part.

  He gritted his teeth, hoping his head didn’t crack the bottom of the tub; it didn’t. He got his head back up out
of the water and just hung on. By the time the tub was starting to overflow, Wilder recovered, sat up, leaned over, turned the faucets off, and drained the tub.

  Long after the last of the water gurgled down the drain, he was still sitting in the tub. When he began to shiver, he climbed out and peeled off the rest of his clothes, leaving them on the bathroom floor where they plopped. He dried himself with whatever towels were hanging on nearby racks, and when he was reasonably dry, left the bathroom and found they had brought him back to his own motel room. So they had known even that about him. Figured!

  He took his time dressing, careful of the way he moved his neck. He could still feel where the sap had rabbit-punched him. After combing his hair, he stood in the darkness of the motel room, looking out the big picture window across the north-south highway that passed it, studying the city beyond it.

  His window faced eastward, upriver. The city was mostly on the north bank of the river, right in front of him beyond the highway. It climbed up the bluffs to his left, still scattered with lights in people’s houses, even this late at night.

  On his right, south of the river, the bluffs climbed up without nearly as many lights, only a small gleam here and there. From where he stood, Wilder couldn’t see the new highway bridge which spanned the river, but the road in front of his motel ran onto that bridge, less than a quarter mile to the south.

  Off to his left, a high red light blinked, on and off. It would be standing on top of a steel tower, which he couldn’t see in the dark, but knew was there. It was the local radio station’s beacon.

  Wilder smiled grimly. Okay, that’s one thing. He looked for the other two, and found them almost immediately: green lights atop each end of the Old Iron Bridge, which crossed the river in the east, in the old waterfront part of the city.

  So they’d left his fingerprints in a house somewhere across the river. The two green lights had been closer than the on-and-off red one.

  Wilder stared across the river at the wide dark bulk of hills to the south. “Somewhere up there,” he thought

  A truck on the highway drove past the motel. The floor under Wilder’s feet trembled. He idly watched the truck until it passed beyond where he could see on his right, heading toward the new highway bridge and its route into the hills south of the dark river.

  He watched the two green lights shining steadily at each end of the old bridge a half-mile or so upriver. He’d have to get hold of his car before he could even start looking for them. He checked his watch. It was after two in the morning. They might have had as much as three hours since they’d mugged him near the Square at, roughly, half past ten.

  One of them had mentioned a snatch, a kidnapping. Apparently they didn’t intend to grab their victim until the fall guy was ready. Okay, he’d been ready at least an hour now. That meant they might have pulled the snatch already, left some kind of trail to the house they had filled with Wilder’s prints, and be working on the payoff note or the phone call part of it.

  It looked pretty bad but maybe they had forgotten one thing: whoever paid off would have to get cash. That meant banking hours.

  “Maybe I’ve got till midmorning,” Wilder thought.

  For a moment, he was almost relieved. That bulge of hills climbing up from the south bank of the river was a lot of ground to cover, especially at night, but
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