Morrissey twisted his head one way and then the other trying to pop the knot in his neck. He made notes inside his head as he drove on through the night headed northeast out of Montgomery on the highway to Atlanta. He re-traced the last several days. The Mole Man couldn't possibly have found Melody unless he had been tracking her all the way up from Orange Grove. It must have been him who killed Melody's parents. Most likely he had forced them to give him some clues to Melody's whereabouts, before putting bullets in their heads. He made a note to knock off Mole Man once the thug had given Kieriakas his message to her. He was playing out the scenarios in his head. Mole Man must have known Melody was headed toward Atlanta.
He came to a junction in the road and veered off on a more westerly route. Kieriakas would have people on the look-out for them in Atlanta, so Tuscaloosa sounded like a better place to lay low. The sky went from black to midnight blue and then to streaks of pink as morning threw its first rays on the city of Tusaloosa in the distance. Tuscaloosa, home of the Crimson Tide. Perfect.
THE ART OF HIDING
Penny stretched and yawned. "Where are we?" she said, as she rubbed her eyes with her fists.
"Pulling into Tuscaloosa," Morrissey said, smiling over at her. "Hungry?" Penny nodded and looked back at Melody curled into a fetal ball on the back seat. Morrissey pulled off at a place called The Crimson Chow House. "This looks good," he said pulling into the parking lot.
Morrissey stood outside the Studebaker stretching and yawning and trying to rub on that damned fibroid knot h down along his shoulder blade where he couldn't quite reach it. He glanced over at Penny kneeling bent over on the car seat trying to wake up Melody. She ran her hand gently through Melody's hair and along her cheek trying to wake her up without scaring her. Morrissey smiled at the girls as they climbed out of the car, their hair quite disheveled, their clothing wrinkled, sleepy puffy eyes. There was something sweet about that. Something intimate and personal.
The Chow House was busy with morning people chattering and reading the daily news over their coffee. There was the clattering of dishes, glasses, and silverware as a busboy cleared a booth and waved them with a rag in his hand.
"I really like this upholstery," Penny said sliding in over the cushioned red naugahide seats trimmed in white. Melody sat down beside her. "Don't you think this is nice?" Penny said to Cully.
"Think what's nice?" Cully answered, still looking about the room getting a quick fix on people seated here and there.
"This upholstery, don't you think its nice"
"Yeh, sure," cully nodded. "Maybe we should get the torpedo's seats covered like this." The waitress approached, chewing gum and pulling a pencil out of her black bouffant hair. She produced a tablet from the pocket of her apron.
"'Mornin' folks. Get you started with a little coffee?" They all nodded. And she disappeared. Melody said she need to go to the girl's room and splash off. Cully gave Penny a wink and a sideward nod to go with her. He sat there drumming his fingers on the formica table top and pondering the plan.
The 'Number 3' Breakfast plates the waitress recommended arrived with ridiculously generous servings of eggs, bacon, sausage, cheese grits, pancakes, piping hot biscuits and jam. For several minutes the three of them sat there eating like pigs at a trough.
"I guess we need to get a room somewhere," Penny said to Cully. "You haven't slept in two days."
"Well," Cully replied, as he leaned back in the booth and let out a notch in his belt. "Here's what I think. I think I need to make a quick run up to Terre Haute and see what's going on."
"You mean leave us here?" Penny asked. Cully nodded.
"It'll just be for a couple of days. You two can drop me off at the airport and I'll catch a plane. You can take the torpedo and find a motel. Somewhere close to the University campus. I want you to go shopping. Check out what the college girls are wearing. Dress like them. Get yourselves a couple of Crimson Tide sweatshirts, jogging shorts, whatever. This town is crawling with U of A college kids. So, blend in. Dig the scene."
"But, how will we know where you are?" Penny asked.
"Call Mickey, he'll know. I'll check out my apartment but probably won't stay there. I'll check out your place too."
"I'm a little nervous about this, Cully," Penny said.
"So am I," Melody added. Cully leaned forward over the table.
"Look, my guess is that Kierikas has got a few Joes out looking for us. Most likely they think we're going to show in Atlanta. That's why we're here, instead. I need to talk to Mickey and get a few things lined up. Then, I'll come back and we are going to hit Florida and wind up all this business with Kierikas." He glanced over to Melody. "We're going to settle the score, Melody."
"You're scaring the shit out of me," Melody said.
"Don't be scared. Penny will be right here with you. I want you to just relax. Have some fun. Go shopping. Sit by the pool. Get your hair done. Do whatever a couple of girls would do. Hit the campus bars and check out the hunks." Penny giggled.
"Them 'Bama boys are cute, Melody," she said.
Cully opened the trunk of the torpedo in the airport parking lot, and pulled out the spare tire. He reached down for a small grey metal box and opened it. He stuffed a handful of bills into his pocket and handed the box to Penny.
"Here. This is your bank. Have a party. Take Melody shopping." He turned to Melody. "Kierikas fronted us a lot of dough to find you and bring you back. But, things have changed now. All I am asking for you and Penny to do right now is have some fun at Evelyn's expense." Melody smiled and hugged him.
"You're really pretty when you smile, Melody. You are in good hands with Penny."
He turned to Penny. "Come here, Penny." He put his arms around her. "I love you," he whispered in her ear. "I love you too," she said. Melody stepped away to give them their moment. "Penny, I want you to go to a pawn shop, pick up a .38 for Melody. Take her for a drive outside of town somewhere, and show her how to use it."
"Ok," Penny replied. He cupped her face in his hands. "We've got a few more pieces of business to take care of, and then its just you and me, right?" She nodded. They kissed.
Morrissey took one look back as he walked toward the terminal. The girls were leaning on the front of the car, their arms around each other. They waved. He waved back.
CATCHING UP WITH MICKEY
The plane came down through the dark clouds and into a pouring rain. Morrissey stared out the window as the city came to view. A city of concrete, asphalt, brick and stone. Cold and hard. The dreariness of having lived and worked in Terre Haute too long came over him like a blanket of sludge. He caught a cab to the downtown station. Time to drop in on the boys, see what's been going on in sin city. Mickey was perched as usual at the front desk, leafing through a newspaper.
"Cully!" he exclaimed as he glanced up. "Where the hell you been?"
Morrissey slapped him on the back and shook his hand. "Good to see you, Mickey. You doing alright?"
"Oh yeh, you know how it is Cully, same old baloney day in, day out. Where's Penny?"
"I left her and Melody down in Alabama for a few days," Morrissey replied.
"You found the Johannsson girl?" Mikey nodded.
"Yeh, I'll fill you in later. Listen Mick, Penny might call here looking for me. I told her not to talk to anybody but you. If she calls get the phone number for where she's staying.
"No problem. Some kind of heat going down?" Mickey asked.
"You might say that. You come up on anything about this Walt Thornton guy?"
"Well, we staked out your neighborhood for a few days. I went by there a couple of times after work and hung out at Penny's place to see if he'd show. But, basically I figure he's gone back to Ohio. At least we haven't seen any sign of him, and we put out a bulletin on his car. Nothing. I found out he does have a pretty nasty rap sheet over in Toledo though. Several counts of domestic assault."
Cully nodded. "That's about what I expected. Were you able to get any kind of address on him?"
"Yeh. We know his last address. Whether he's still living there, I couldn't say. The boys in Toledo said they couldn't go hunting him down without just cause and a warrant. So, that's about all we got so far."
Morrissey scratched his chin, and waved to a couple of the guys from homicide on their way out the door.
"Anyway you could get an afternoon off, Mick?"
"Probably. What's up?"
"I was thinking you and me could take a little ride over to Toledo and poke around a bit."
"Hell, yeh," Mickey answered. "Let's go find the son of a bitch. How about tomorrow? I'll work the morning and break at lunch. We can take my car."
"Thanks, Mick," Morrissey said. "I'm going to head over to my place and take a look at Penny's apartment."
"Well, this Thornton guy went on a rampage there, I'll tell you that much. Everything is just like he left it - a big fucking mess. We've got the door taped off as a crime scene."
THE TROUBLE WITH TOLEDO
Mickey swung by Morrissey's place and honked. Morrissey came down the steps of his apartment building looking up and down the street as he approached the car. He was in a bad mood about what Walt Thornton had done to Penny's apartment.
"Ok Mickey, rock and roll!" he said as he got into the car. "Hope you told the wife you'd be later for supper." Mickey laughed.
"She's cool with it, she thinks we're just having a boy's night out. I told her not to wait up."
It was about a five hour drive to Toledo. Morrissey caught Mickey up on the Melody Johannson story, and how he had a score yet to settle with Evelyn Kierikas down in Palm Beach. Mickey let out a whistle.
"Ooh Cully. You gotta watch it down there. There's a lot of turf wars goin' on. You're liable to walk into a loaded situation."
"Yeh, I know," Morrissey answered. "I'm thinking it through real careful like. I figure I'd need to get in and get out of there in a hurry. She's got some real thugs working for her."
"Let me know if you want some company," Mickey said. "So what are you thinking? You gonna just plug the bitch?" Morrissey nodded.
"Yeh, I hate to beat up on women even if they're monsters. Putting a bullet in her head clean and simple would be an act of kindness, so to speak."
The sun had just gone down when Morrissey and Mickey pulled down the street where Walter Thornton was supposedly living. It was a pretty dismal neighborhood. Rows of run-down tenement houses, some of them abandoned and boarded up. Empty lots here and there with junked cars overrun with weeds and vines.
"Pretty classy neighborhood this Thornton guy lives in," Mickey said. They cruised slowly down the next block passing several shabby looking characters jiving on the sidewalk and swigging quart bottles of beer in brown paper bags. Mickey slowed down and pulled to the curb. "That's the place over there," he said, with a nod of his head. Morrissey stared over at the building.
"Looks like the kind of hole a rat would live in, alright."
"Yeh," Mickey said. "And there's the car he was seen in outside Penny's place. So, how do you want to go with this, Cully?"
"I just want you for a little back up, Mick. I'll handle it," Cully replied.
"Yeh, ok. But I mean, you planning on taking the guy out?"
"Let's just say I'm going to pound a little sense into his thick skull," Morrissey muttered.
WHAT'S A GIRL TO DO?
Penny and Melody found a gun store in Tuscaloosa and picked up a.38 for Melody. And then they went shopping for clothes. Melody got a dark blue pleated skirt, a white blouse, and a small red backpack with a University of Alabama logo embossed on it.
Penny went with the black slacks and matching jacket. She got the same backpack since they had noticed a lot of local girls carrying that kind. Penny was happy to see Melody looking happy.
"You look hot, lady!" she said to Melody. Melody giggled.
"So do you."
They strolled past a salon.
"What do you think, Melody? Crimson red nails?"
"Definitely!" Melody answered.
The girls stood in front of the full length mirror in the motel room. Penny demonstrated the way to handle a .38. She even passed on the little trick Cully had taught her about shooting a gun that is still in your purse. Except in this case it was in a backpack. She told Melody about how she plugged Doyle in the head that way, and how she also almost shot Cully in the foot.
"Now, the knife. I forgot to get you a knife. We'll get one tomorrow. Meanwhile check out mine." She showed Melody how to hold it, how to snap it open with a squeeze of the handle. "Here's the thing Melody. Hold it with the sharp edge straight up. Hold it waist high and jab. If you are real pissed and want to do some serious damage, you stick the guy and then jerk it straight up inside him." She grabbed a pillow off the bed and set it upright in a chair. "Give it a try," she said, handing the blade to Melody. Melody took a stab. "No, no, no," Penny said. "You've got to really jam it. Like you want it to come out the other side. Like this." Penny lunged at the pillow. "You bastard!" she screamed. Feathers went flying out of the pillow. They both laughed. "Try it again," Penny said. Melody took the knife. "Do it like you mean it."
"I hate you, you fucking asshole!" Melody screamed. Another flurry of feathers flew out and floated to the floor.
"That's the spirit," Penny said. "Now you're getting the hang of it. Ok, that's enough for tonight. Tomorrow we'll get in a little target practice. Let's take a bubble bath."
"Ooh," Melody laughed. "That sounds good! With wine."
"Yes! With wine!"
Morrissey made his way up the creaky wooden steps to the landing, with Micky following close behind. He glanced back to Mickey.
"This should be fun," he said, with a smile. He knocked calmly on the door.
"Just a minute," a voice called from the other side. The door swung open.
"Wally!" Morrissey said with a smile.
"Who the fuck are you?" Thornton replied, attempting to close the door. Morrissey stepped forward and pushed him back into the room.
"Wally, Wally, Is that any way to talk to your ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend?"
"Get the fuck out of my house," Thornton shouted.
"No Wally, you sit your ass down," Morrissey said, grabbing him by his shirt collar and throwing him onto the couch. "I just want to have a little friendly conversation with you Wally, that's all."
"Where is she?" Thornton asked angrily.
"You mean Penny? Oh, Penny's long gone Wally. After that interior decorating job you did on her apartment, she split for the west coast. And the thing is, that sorta pisses me off since, before you came along, me and Penny were having a real nice time." Morrissey looked around the room. "Hey Mick check it out," he said, pointing to a Cleveland Indians pennant on the wall. "You a big baseball fan, are you Wally?" Thornton started to get up off the couch.
"Sit the fuck down," Mickey shouted taking a quick step toward him. "Oh hey, what have we here?" Morrissey said, picking up a baseball bat from the corner of the room. "Well, I'll be damned," he said, looking it over. "Check it out, Mick. "Signed by Rocky Colavito!"
"No shit," Mickey said. "Too bad the Indians traded him off last year. The Indians have sucked every game since."
"Yeh," Morrissey said, brandishing the bat in both hands feeling its heft. "That Rocky, he could knock 'em outa the park with this sucker." He took a sudden swing shattering a large ceramic lamp that was sitting on a side table. "Blam! Just like that!" The lamp crashed to the floor sending pieces flying across it. He held the bat up and looked at the signature again. "Wasn't he number one in home runs last year for the American League, Mickey?"
"Yep. That's why I say it was stupid for the them to trade him to Detroit," Mickey muttered. Morrissey brought the bat down like a sledge hammer on the coffee table.
"Blam! Yeh ol' Rocco he could do some damage when he stepped up to the plate."
"Hey, come the fuck on, man!" Thornton said, as Morrissey took a few more swings at the table breaking it in half.
"Hey, calm down Wally. I was just doing some interior decorating. I thought you liked interior decorating." Morrissey cocked the bat over his shoulder. "The pitcher is spitting on his fingers...he's winding up...here comes the pitch...a fast ball...Blam!" There was a loud cracking sound as Morrissey swung the bat catching Thornton on the kneecap. Thornton screamed, rolling onto the floor and clutching his leg.
"You mother fucker!" Thornton shouted.
"What did he just say?" Morrissey asked, looking over at Mickey. Mickey shrugged. "I think he said something about fucking your mother."
"I guess I need to break his other leg," Morrissey said.
"No don't!" Thornton pleaded still clutching his leg in pain.
"You see Wally, when you go beating up on a girl, sooner or later her new boyfriend finds out about that. Then her new boyfriend comes over and breaks your leg. In fact, he breaks both your legs." Morrissey swung the bat again. Blam! Crack! Morrissey looked down at him. "You know Wally, those legs don't look too good. They look all crooked."
"Maybe if we pulled on them we could straighten them out," Mickey said.
"Oh, that's a good idea," Morrissey said, reaching for one of Thornton's ankles.
"No!" Thornton screamed. "Please, No!" Morrissey knelt down next to him and grabbed him by the hair.
"Now listen to me you piece of shit. If you ever come near Penny again, I will kill you. If you try to find her, try to call her, I will kill you. If you even show your face in the same town, I will kill you. Am I making my point?"
"Yes, yes.." Thornton sobbed.
"Ok," Morrissey said, as he stood and looked down at him. He looked over at Mickey. "What do you think, Mick? Do you think he gets the point?" Mickey shrugged.
"I don't know. Maybe you ought to go ahead and kill him now."
"Yeh, maybe you're right." He reached inside his jacket and pulled out his gun. He cocked the hammer back and aimed it at Thornton's face. "You're a sorry piece a shit, say it."
"I'm a sorry piece of shit," Thornton sobbed.
"And you deserve to die, say it."
"God no, please," Thornton cried.
"I...I...I... deserve to die." Morrissey pulled the trigger and fired a round into the floor next to Thornton's head.
"Next time, I won't miss," he said. "Let's get out of this dump," he said, turning to Cully. "I'm kinda hungry."
To be continued.....