So here I am with a fistful of weird pink begonias I bought at the gas station on the A9 on my way to the hospital. It’s the last place on earth I want to be. I guess it stems from that one time I took a bullet right in the crotch. Almost cost me my crown jewels. But enough about me and the pitch of my voice. I am on my way to visit Nasty. He got hit, hit real bad. We were holding up a gas station (the same one where I just bought the pink begonias) when Nasty suddenly saw himself as Elmore Leonard’s Hot Kid and started acting the part. The cops, who for some unexplained reason seemed to be waiting for us, figured him for target practice and started shooting. Bullets were flying left and right and in no time my compadre looked like a piece of Emmenthaler cheese. Now he is lying in hospital room 237 all by his lonesome with two guards in front of his door, no doubt hating himself for acting out like that. So this morning I had me ‘a little dress up party’, like Fredrick Forsyth’s the Jackal, and now I look like a fuckin’ law abiding citizen, gray, bland, and boring. My mother would have been so proud.
At the door of room 237 I show my little visitor’s pass, which says I am a lawyer. Yeah right. I always told Nasty that our ‘friends’ at the Justice Department would come in handy one day. I guess extortion does pay. The two cops in front of the door just nodded, as if I was nobody. I nodded back and went in. Nasty looked up, his head heavily bandaged to keep his brains from leaking out, a flicker of recognition in his eyes. He showed me his crooked broken smile and made a nasty remark about my suit. Thank God his crime-riddled mind and his sick sense of humor were spared. First thing he wanted to know was how I was gonna get him out of there. I said I was working on it and he shouldn’t worry his pretty little head about it. I opened my bag and showed him the goodies I’d brought: a small handgun, just in case one of the cops in front of his door got needy for attention, the weird pink begonias, which were in dire need of some intravenous fluids, and a pile of hot new crime titles waiting to be read. I dumped the books on his bed and gave the begonias some water in the adjoining bathroom. I just can’t stand the sight of dying plants. When I came back, Nasty had his nose buried in one of the books. It was good to see him getting his mind off the healing process with something more to his liking. Instead of talking some more bullshit I took another book from the bed and started reading too.
Minette Walters has a sharp mind. I don’t like that in a woman, but what can you do? She is one of the few crime writers who can combine psychological crime and hard-edged violence and really make it work. In The Chameleon’s Shadow she crawls into the brain of Lieutenant Charles Acland. Before he was sent to Iraq, Charles was a nice, outgoing, law abiding citizen (bucket please!). On his return he’s a wreck both physically and mentally. He experiences increasing outbursts of anger, especially towards women. He goes to a shrink who he doesn’t trust, which doesn’t help him one bit, and he starts to gets more and more paranoid. If there’s one thing that Nasty and I learned early on in our line of work, it’s to stay the hell away from paranoid people. They are freakin’ dangerous! When Charles finally snaps, only the intervention of a female weightlifter keeps him from killing someone. Was that the first time he snapped? Or had it happened before? Could he actually have killed someone? When I finished the book my armpits were smelly in my polyester suit and I looked at Nasty with suspicion. What if the bullet wrecked something in his brain and he was going to snap? That Walters broad sure knows how to mess with your mind.
Outside the sky was dark and from the window of Nasty’s hospital room you could see the lights of the city. The town was filled with opportunities. It would be a while before Nasty was well again and we would be out on those streets doing what we do best. A juicy blond nurse came in, bringing some disgusting hospital food that could have killed a grown man in mere minutes. Why is it that they can’t make edible food in hospitals and airplanes? Not to mention jail?
After I sucked up the jello from a plastic cup, I picked up a second book: The Ghost by Robert Harris. Imagine you were a ghost writer writing biographies for lousy B actors and over-the-hill pop stars when the former prime minister of the UK asks you to write his bio. Not only that, he also invites you to stay at his luxury house in Martha’s Vineyard. You’d be on the first plane out there, wouldn’t you? So would I. But what if you found out that the writer who started the bio was killed under mysterious circumstances? That the former prime minister has so many skeletons in his closet that it becomes dangerous for you to delve into his past? Right! This book made my balls squirm! It’ll be tough going for you lesser mortals. Great read that had me almost crapping my polyester pants!
The third book I picked up was Written in Bone by Simon Beckett. It’s the story of forensic anthropologist David Hunter who gets stuck on a remote island in the Outer Hebrides to investigate human remains burned beyond recognition. Funny thing is that the burned body was in a cottage that was otherwise undamaged. Before you can say “what the fuck?�? people are being killed off left and right. Dark secrets and long-held resentments erupt in the small community. The suspense mounts along with the body count and the approach of a storm that cuts the island off from the outside world. There are twists and turns up to the very last page. Great read for when you’re lying farting in a hospital bed.
I looked at Nasty who had fallen asleep and was mumbling something about thinking he had died and gone to heaven, seeing an angel. Then I heard the name Elvis and I knew he was dreaming about us and all the jobs we had pulled off. Damn we had some good times together. For me it was time to plan our escape. Then Nasty and I could finally get back to what we do best.