Sunday, 23 August 2015

Bounty Hunter

I'm sat out back when he comes round; white collar on his shirt and nicely pressed cuffs.  Hands that look like they know what a manicure is.  There's a smell about him too, takes me a minute or so to realise that it's cologne.
I grunt and point towards the outhouse.  It's a wooden structure, two stories and you don't want to be pissing downstairs when it's busy and everyone else is pissing upstairs.  The man shakes his head and there's a fine sprinkle of dandruff comes off him and floats around him for a moment like a dandelion clock exploding in September.  I shrug, spit at a beetle that's pushing some ball of dirt along and hit it.  Not sure it likes it.
"Evan."  Ah, there's no question now.  Someone knew who he was looking at all along and thought he'd be clever about it.  I point at the outhouse again like there's a devil sitting on my shoulder, egging me along.
"Right," says the man.  His voice is rougher than I was expecting from someone who takes such good care of hisself.  "So I go and check out that edifice and when I come back you're gone and no-one knows where, right?"
Edifice?  Last time I heard that word was in a saloon bar where two old ladies decided to sit and play scrabble while their grand-daughters led the burlesque show.  That was quite a sight, and it was a damn shame I was there to collect a bounty on one of the bar-staff.  When he saw me he took down a bottle of good sipping whisky and threw it at my head.  Missed by a barn-door, but it clonked one of the grannies good and hard; knocked her false teeth out of her mouth and across the board.  While I was drawing and getting a clear shot, the burlesque girls had left the stage and stormed the bar; I ended up having to pull him free but I was a bit on the late side; one of the girls had got her thighs around his neck and strangulated him.  He looked happier than he would have done if I'd got to him first, but it was another of those dead rather than alive bounties.  Folks tend to pay less if they don't get to inflict their own brand of justice.
"You're Evan the bounty hunter.  You brought in the body of Dougal "Four shots" McInney, the body of Singapore Sally, and...," he pauses for a moment, his eyes looking up at the sky.  I could tell him there's nothing up there, not even a turkey vulture today.  Might be a cloud in that bright blue if you're hunting hard though.  "... and the face of Georgia Oates."
Hah, yes,  Georgia Oates.  Sweet girl by all accounts, bit on the heavy side but could still make a leg on the dance floor and popular afterwards too, from what I heard.  Took herself off with a lad from Nags Hill way and her family couldn't quite handle the idea.  So they took out a bounty on her, but as it was told afterwards, they couldn't manage the alphabet between them and didn't understand that it read Dead or Alive.  That's not the way I got it, and I spend time talking to both of her brothers, but it's sure the way they told it later.  She wasn't hard to find, wasn't hiding, just living her life with the guy of her choosing and his sister.  So I turned up and explained to them what needed to happen for everyone to go on being happy and we were mostly sorted out and organised to go when her father-in-law turns up and turns out to be Jeddy Teems, a man who's never let his gun out of his hand.  Then there's shouting and there's arguing and hollering, and despite it all being sorted and easy already Jeddy's having none of it.  And then it all went a bit messy.
So... since no-one was paying me for Jeddy Teems, even though by all rights I should have picking up six or seven bounties for that one, we sat down together with a sheep-knife, some lipstick and a needle and thread and I went back with the face of Georgia Oates.  And if there's a girl out there, bit on the heavy side, who looks a lot like her still, then I guess that must be one of them doppelgoers you hear tell about.
I point at the outhouse again.  I doubt it's going to work but sometimes with these clever ones if you act dumb enough it gets to be catching.  He shakes his head.
"There's a new bounty out," he says.  "They've got a name for the Coffin-robber.  Robert Kinsome."
Bobby Kinsome, huh?  I figured he was up to something, but bodysnatching seems low even for him. And he'd sell his mother and his grandmother to the brothel in exchange for a room there for the night and not complain when the management puts his mother and his grandmother in his bed.
"You going after him?"
I nod, there's not much point denying it.  Everyone knows that I pick up the bad bounties.
"That's great," says the man.  "I'll be coming with you."
I don't say nothing, but I can feel my eyes widen in surprise.  Before I react any further he's talking again, and I'm starting to get pissed off.
"Don't bother, Evan.  I know what you're thinking, I know what you're going to say.  But that bit of paper you got, the one that says you're a bounty hunter?  That's got an expiration date on it.  And that date is just seven days away.  You need it renewed, Evan, and that means you've got to convince me that you can do the job."
"Inspector?" my voice always surprises them, it's almost high enough to be a woman's.  Guess it never broke from when I was a kid.
"That's right Evan.  Of the last twenty bounties you've run you've brought in every one of them dead. We're assessing you to make sure that you're not just taking the easy option."
Easy option?  Singapore Sally with her bodyguard disguised as a nursemaid and her poison-dipped shuriken and a line in arson that'd make a pyromaniac look like a kindergartener was the easy option?
"So, you and me, Evan.  Bringing in Robert Kinsome."
Well now, that could be fun.  I wonder if I'd get re-licensed if I bring Bobby in alive and the Inspector in dead?

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