Nate looked up when he heard the huffing and wheezing. Tiny was running toward him, his hulking body heaving and sweating as he barreled across the street.
“Nate, ya gotta come with me, ya gotta come,” he wheezed.
“What is it?”
“Up at Maggie’s place, they come for ’er daughter, ya gotta hurry.”
“All right, get in the car,” he said, slipping into the driver’s seat and letting Tiny ride shotgun.
The old Pontiac’s engine roared to life, they pulled onto 15 and sped inland to Vick’s Trailer Park. Tiny pointed them up the puddle-pocked dirt road and Nate inserted his sedan between the black Lincoln Town Car that was parked in the driveway and the front door that was hanging open.
When they burst in the kitchen, a tall, black-t-shirted man in expensive jeans was leaning his muscular torso over the diminutive woman.
“You better put that away and let me in there,” he said.
Maggie’s hand shook as it clutched the meat cleaver. “Stay away from her! Get outta here and stay away!”
“You wanna tell me what’s going on here?” Nate asked.
The man pivoted on the heels of his leather boots. He was tall, bald, and tan, had four inches on Nate—but if he was leaner in the middle, they were of a size in the shoulders and arms.
He looked Nate up and down and snickered. “Better head out the way you came, Captain Ahab.”
“That’s Constable Morgan to you.”
Nate stepped forward, inserting himself between the thug and Maggie. “Tiny, take her in the living room,” he said.
The drunken man nodded, still huffing over his sweat-soaked shirt. He coaxed Maggie over the filthy shag carpet to the sagging couch.
“Look pops,” said the thug. “I got no beef with you. Her girl Diana’s a grown woman. She made a deal with my employer and I’m here to pick her up.”
“Who’s her employer?”
“I’m supposed to know the name?”
“No, but his yacht’s in your harbor, and he’s made an arrangement with the young lady, so if you’ll excuse me…” The thug gave Nate’s shoulder a shove. It was sudden enough to drop him to the linoleum, though he was fast enough with his foot to trip the goon in the living room doorway, bringing him down.
Both men were up in a shot, face to face.
“Maybe we should have a word with Diana,” said Nate. He turned to Maggie: “She here?”
“Yeah, but she can’t talk right now.”
Maggie pointed down the hall, between slanted walls of the trailer’s warped paneling. Nate saw an open bedroom door, weak lamplight cast across a bed with a slight crescent of a body lying across it. She wore black lace negligee that was enough to make him blush, that is, if it lace wasn’t streaked with vomit.
“Little too much partyin’ last night,” said her mother.
Nate turned back to the thug. “I think you’d better go and tell your employer Diana’s not up for it tonight.”
The thug shrugged. “No big deal,” he said. “We’ll refresh ’er in the car. Now step aside.”
Nate ducked the left hook and spun away from the right that was meant for his kidney. The man was accurate, he gave him that, just slow and too much on the fists like most punks his age. Nate threw his elbow into the man’s throat, cutting off his breath long enough to stomp the side of his knee.
“Learned that one in the Navy while we were in Pusan Harbor. Military’s a career move you might consider. Good for a young man without direction. For now though, I suggest the direction of the door.”
Before the thug had caught his breath, Nate took him in a choke hold, dragged him to the rickety plank of a porch, and dumped him in the puddled gravel.
His partner was already out of the car and pulling his pistol from is gray sharkskin blazer. He aimed at Nate’s stomach and gave him the stone-cold eyes that told him he didn’t give a hell. The feeling was mutual. Nate pulled the .44 from his coat pocket and shot him in the hand.
A splatter of blood and broken pistol landed in the puddle beside t-shirt man, who’d finally caught his breath and was up on his knees.
“I suggest you start driving. Closest hospital’s an hour-and-a-half away. Make a tourniquet first, then get your ass in gear.”
But the thug had already pushed his partner into the passenger seat. He gunned the engine and screeched from the driveway.