Face Down In the Dirt

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In the glow of a clear 40 watt incandescent bulb, Wendell made several attempts at inserting a skeleton key into the rusty lock, finally locking the back door to Poor Joe's. Muttering to himself about the 'damn lock', he turned toward the parking lot. A dark complexioned man with high cheek bones and sneering lips struck him on the forehead above the right eye with a rusty metal pipe. Bright blood spurted through the soft light and splattered on the white clapboard exterior of the old bar. Wendell slumped, unconscious, face-down in the dirt. Three men dressed in dark Armani suits stood over him for a few seconds, discussing something in Spanish. The men picked up the limp veteran and tossed him in the trunk of a black Lincoln Continental. They drove slowly down Union Street and turned left on Wayne Street, traveling up the hill, past the big elm tree and Benjamin's Seafood Restaurant, and toward a cabin deep in the woods.

Doug and his German Shepherd named Malcolm exited the bar using the front door at sunrise the following morning: Doug to smoke a cigar, while Malcolm relieved himself. Malcolm sprinted towards his favorite peeing locations behind the building. Doug lit a cigar and followed. They were the first to see the arc of blood sprayed on the back wall.

A prickling sensation spread over his body, and Doug froze for several seconds. He reached into his jacket pocket and tightly grasped a Smith and Wesson Thirty-Eight Special. Slowly he surveyed the parking lot through adrenaline dilated pupils. Malcolm ran back and forth, sniffing in the tall dead grass on either side of the back door, and then picked up a set of keys, holding them in his mouth by a short leather strap.

Oh shit... it's Wendell! Doug thought. He reached down and took the keys from Malcolm.

Dora had arrived to start cooking breakfast while Doug was walking Malcolm. The aroma of coffee coming from the old Bodum coffee maker had the bar smelling sweet. Doug, followed by Malcolm, charged through the front door and stopped. Dora looked up from the large frying pan she had just filled with western hash browns and studied Doug's face, his jaw clinched and a burning in his eyes she had not seen since the night the "HELL'S SPAWN" biker gang from New York City had crashed Norma's retirement party.

"What's wrong Doug?" she queried with a hint of alarm in her voice.

Doug stared back at her. Dora saw tears appear in his brown eyes.

"They got Wendell last night when he was closing. Somebody got Wendell."

Dora had never seen even a hint of tears in this battle-hardened man's eyes.

"What...who?!" she asked.

"I don't know." And he held up the set of keys that Malcolm had retrieved.

"There's blood all over the back wall and on the ground by the back door. Dora I'm going to find them and I'm going to kill the bastards!" Doug said with certainty.

Dora watched Doug climb the stairs leading to the apartments above the bar to wake up Wayne, Morris, Pete, Ralph, and the new fellow, Ric. Her hands trembled as she reached under the counter for their coffee mugs.

Dora carried a tray with six mugs of black coffee to the southwest corner table. The men huddled around, staring at the bloody keys.

A ripping grief and anger built around the table. The unshaven men with matted hair stared at the keys and each other. This shock, compounded by the recent loss of their closest friend Timothy to Nashville, and the absence of Stanley who was on his honeymoon in Key West, seemed overwhelming.

"We need to call the cops, I guess," Ralph stated.

"I suppose, but that new guy is no Charlie Johnson," Pete commented, referring to the beloved Big Bay Chief of Police who had been shot to death by a junkie named Ronnie.

"I'll call Chief Strait," Dora volunteered from the kitchen area. "You guys need to call Timothy."

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