The Dispensanator: Book One: Death Wears Overalls
™ and ©2005 Estate of Rock Hardlin. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the Estate.
CHAPTER FOUR: COOL CATS AND DEADLY DOGS
It was a horrible nightmare, as nightmares go. I was laid out, flat on my back, unable to move. A repulsive smell wafted into my nostrils. A thousand scratchy, sand-papery instruments tortured my face. The sound of loud water dripping assaulted my ears.
And then I woke up and realized 5 cats were licking my face. And that smell…Gas!
I bolted upright. Whoever did a dance on me had split fast, after splitting my head wide open. I had a gash on the top of my noggin that felt like someone was excavating for brain. The cats were moving around, slowly, the gas getting to them. And while I personally think there’s nothing funnier than 51 drunk-looking cats, I knew Marsha would never forgive me if I let them die. That certain someone had turned on the gas oven full tilt. Those 5 cats saved my sorry ass, although I must admit it was the first time a pussy ever licked me. I shut the gas off pronto and opened all the windows and doors in the house. I did a tail-count and found all cats present and accounted for, so I had all the tail I needed. But then I realized what—or who—was missing. Marsha was gone.
So that was their game, eh? Knock me flat on my keister and then steal the doll. I’m guessing Mackey, or whoever was behind all this, had me followed. Poor kid. Marsha was right. She kept looking back to see if we were followed. Maybe in addition to being a crazy cat lady, she was also some kind of psychic.
With that the phone rang, bringing me out of my pain-induced haze. I hesitated…it could just be someone for Marsha; her mom, her girlfriend, her--and this bothered me, strangely--her boyfriend. Did she have a boyfriend, I wondered? Did they go to movies together and dinners? Did she dress up for him like Little Bo Peep, with those adorable little inflatable sheep? And what exactly did she do with that staff Little Bo Peep always carried around? Was there any pie in the refrigerator, and if so, did she make it for HIM? I hated him already.
And then I realized…the phone might be for me. They--whoever they may be—may be counting on me still being here. But wait, didn’t the turning on of the gas ensure my untimely demise? Oh, to answer, or not to answer…ah, screw it!
“Hello,” I barked into the phone with my best tough guy gravel in my voice.
A long pause…
“Ahhhh, Mr. Dispensanator. If I may call you Mr. Dispensanator. May I call you Mr. Dispensanator?”
“Sure. Call me that. I’ll enjoy answering to that when I beat the living daylights out of you.”
“Oh, such bravado from a man who was just saved by little kitty cats.”
How did he know that? Was he watching?
“No, Mr. Dispensanator, I wasn’t watching. I know you were just now thinking of that.” His phrasing was awkward, like some foreign guy who held his cigarette in that funny, un-American way. “You see, I suspected the cats, torn between succumbing to the sweet, sickly smell of the gas flowing through the house, or awakening their only hope for survival, the human on the floor, would spring to your rescue. Cats are very predictable. Their utter predictability makes them so…predictable.”
“Well, you suspected right. Now where’s Marsha, you bastard…”
“Marsha? I have no idea where this Marsha is. Your demise is what I was concerned with.”
“So you turned on the gas. Okay. But what did you do with the girl?”
“No, Mr. Dispensanator. You have this all wrong. I did not turn on the gas. I did not take your busty little girlfriend. I am only an innocent bystander in this turgid little melodrama in which you are currently play-acting.”
“Turgid little…listen you foreign piece of crap. I will hunt you down and give you a third eye in the body location of your choice. I will make you wish your mother and father never even thought of mating. I will reach down your throat, pull out your intestines and beat you to death with that undoubtedly spastic colon you’re walking around with…”
“Oh, Mr. Dispensanator. You are so witty. Have you considered writing for the television comedies or perhaps the motion pictures? Now listen to me closely. I am not your adversary. THIS time. That book is still to be written. But I do have information that may help you and that is why I am calling you now. Suffice it to say, I have my own reasons to keep you alive and fighting.”
Who was this guy? I’ve lived a checkered past, all the way back to the Korean War. I’ve been CIA, worked with MI-6, Pinkerton’s, the Treasury Department, Woolworths’ in-store security force. I was what you’d call a journeyman adventurer and I had encountered all types on both sides of the ocean, around the world and back again.
“Okay, buddy. I give. Spill the beans and tell me what you know.”
“Oh, so quaint are your colloquialisms. So brutal the banter.”
I knew one thing: friend or foe, I hated this guy. And one day, he’d find out just how much.
“Your little stripper friend is being held at the Rosecranz dance hall. In Mr. Mackey’s private office.”
“Mackey! I knew it!”
“Don’t be so quick to rush to judgment, you may get into a bad car accident,” and with that he laughed so hard he started to cough up a lung. Maybe I wouldn’t have to kill this mook. Maybe he was halfway there on his own.
“Mr. Mackey is the least of your worries. If I were you, I would watch out for any sudden reappearance of anyone from your, shall we say, rather colorful pre-San Diego days.”
“Let’s just say your long and adventurous career has resulted in more than a few enemies, Mr. Dispensanator. I would be very careful on who you rely upon in your hour of need.”
“Whom. You said who. It should be on whom I rely upon.”
“No, I believe who is the correct usage of your bastardized language in this case.”
“Whatever.” That just cost him another gun butt across the bridge of his nose whenever I finally met him. Sanctimonious English-teacher bastard.
“Alright. So Mackey’s sanctum sanctorum it is. I don’t suppose you know how many goons he has guarding her?”
“Oh, Mr. Dispensanator…it’s not the goons you have to worry about. It’s the 5 starved Dobermans. The 5 starved Dobermans who smell the 51 cats she lives with. The 5 starved Dobermans who are trained to rip the flesh off a man’s body in less than 3 minutes flat. That’s your real worry. And if I were you, I’d get moving now…Hello? Mr. Dispensanator? HELLO?”
The phone was swinging from its cord. I was already gone.
TO BE CONTINUED...in Chapter Five: Strippers, Salesmen and Silly Putty