Green note: This guy Slade popped out in a Oneword earlier this month and he dogged me to the point I used SS #271 to explore him more. So here he is, the proprietor of Painted Ponies body shop, in his first flash.
Photo from IMCDB
It was just mid-morning in Iron City, Georgia and already it was 100 degrees.
Even with the fans going full tilt, it was 90 degrees inside the Painted Ponies body shop.
Slade pulled his head out of a big Cutlass 442 and grabbed a shop towel, ran it around his face and the back of his neck. He walked to the front office like a cowboy off a two-month cattle drive and banged on the side of a vending machine he’d rigged up. A can of Budweiser banged its way down through the machine and bounced into the tray.
The shop grunt looked over at Slade, hotboxed his cigarette and shook his head. “Why don’ you jus’ keep yo’ beer in the fridge, Boss?” he said.
Slade just looked at him and pulled the tab. Beer sprayed into his mouth and face and hair. He grinned and shook his head like a dog and growled, “That’s why, you unimaginative bastard.”
The grunt rolled his eyes, flicked his butt onto the dirty linoleum floor and ground it out with his boot. “Guess I’ll git back to work seein’ as I’m borin’ you with my mundan—”
“Shut up and listen, Lance,” Slade whispered.
“If that ain’t the sound of a 1977 Super Duty 455 V8 Trans Am comin’ our way, then slap my ass an’ call me Sally!”
Slade strode all excited out the front door and past the gas pumps, almost to the road, and he stopped. He threw his head back and hollered, “Whoooeee!”
Lance ran out to look, shielded his eyes from the sun with his hand.
A mint condition 1977 black-and-gold special edition Trans Am tore into view and fishtailed to a stop just a few feet from Slade. A wiry kid rocketed out of the driver’s side door, ran at Slade and grabbed both sides of his leather vest. “Slade, dude, ya gotta help me!”
Lance postured for a fight.
Slade brushed the kid’s hands off his vest. “Whoa now, boy, you don’ just come on a-grabbin’ a man like tha—” He squinted at the kid. “Say, ain’t you Judge Beeman’s boy?”
The kid panted, “Yessir, Slade, sir.” He gulped for air. “An’ like I said ya gotta help me please I got drunk and stole this car outside a shack near Andalusia, Alabama and hell the keys was danglin’ from th’ ignition jus’ a-beggin’ me to take ‘er and I been drivin’ all night and ya gotta help me and paint this here car real quick-like.”
Slade spat on the dirt. “You fool kid!” he growled at the boy and slapped him hard upside the head. “It ain’t as easy as that.”
The kid staggered back, panting and rubbing his ear. He looked like he was gonna cry. He whined, “What then, Slade, what’ll I do?”
Slade pulled gloves out the back of his jeans and put them on. “The next step is to look for a LoJack,” he said, “and if I find one, it’s too late for you, Bub.” He motioned to Lance to get gone.
Lance nodded and scrambled on into the shop to make ready.
Slade grabbed a couple of tools out of his pocket and opened the passenger door. He unscrewed nuts and bolts, got up in the glove box hole and unscrewed some more and scoured the dash then looked under the seats. “A shack in Alabama,” he grumbled. He leaned into the back, pulled up the seat and looked. “Fool been drivin’ all night.” Slade pulled the hood release and jumped out of the car.
The kid was wringing his hands, walking in circles.
Slade lifted the hood and scoured the engine bay. “It’s 9 o’clock now. Dude owns this car mighta heard you takin’ it and called the police as many as 5 or 6 hours ago!”
The kid stopped his circling. His voice was shaky. “Oh man, dude, well I put ‘er in neutral and pushed her a long way down the road ‘fore I started ‘er up and anyway I don’ know if anyone was even home.”
Slade pulled his head up out of the engine and growled, “You don’ know if anyone was home and you even think of stealin’ a car like this?”
Two steps and he was at the kid’s neck. He gritted his teeth in the kid’s face and snarled, “You stupid little fuck! Now give me the keys!”
The kid just stared. His lower lip quivered.
Slade shook the kid silly until the keys fell out his cold sweat hands and onto the red dirt. He pushed the kid out of the way, grabbed up the keys and opened the trunk. He jumped back like he was on springs. “Sweet Jesus!” he hollered.
He turned and took the kid in. Maybe 20. Almost six foot and skinny. Peach fuzz on his face. Baby eyes that hadn’t a clue. “Son,” he said to him, “There’s a dead woman in the back of this ‘ere trunk.”
The kid snapped out of his daze. “Oh no, God,” he said. He rushed to the trunk. His eyes got the size of half dollars.
There was a middle-aged woman, her eyes staring, big and dull. Her cracked red lips were parted, like in mid-sentence. A pool of blood congealed around her teeth. There was a gaping hole in her chest and her heart was hardening in one of her clamped hands. Below her skirt, her knees were caked with blood and her feet had been cut off.
The kid’s face was green. He stepped back falteringly, his stomach waved and heaved. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, whispered, “I dunno what this is, man, and I swear to you on my mother’s grave that I didn’t do this.” He shook with weeping. He let out in sobs, “What…will…I…do?”
“The next step will cover your ass,” Slade said. “It’s all you have to know, Bub.” He knew the kid didn’t do it, and he suspected the killing fucker what owned this car didn’t have a LoJack, but he ripped out the sides of the trunk to be sure. Then he lifted up the panel to the spare. The body rolled to the back. He tore up every place there and under. Nothing. He looked toward the shop.
Lance gave Slade a thumbs-up from the window, then walked out to take care of the kid. He had a bottle of Jack in the back of his pants and a pack of Lucky Strikes rolled up in each T-shirt sleeve.
He sauntered up to the kid. “C’mere, man,” he said. “Slade’s gonna take care of your five-finger ride. Now I need to get you the fuck away from here.” He offered the kid some Jack and he gulped it like a thirsting, dying man. “You’ll be safe, man.” Lance lit a smoke and offered it to the kid. He sucked on it like breathing to live. He walked the kid to his piece of shit pick-up, helped him in and drove off.
Slade got in the Trans Am, fired it up and drove it with the dash in his lap back behind the shop. He pulled up under the ceiling of turf Lance had raised and he pulled a transmitter out from his front pocket. He pressed a button and the freight elevator took him down while the raised turf above him lowered and clamped down to ground level.
After-party notes: no time to proof this but at a glance back, it looks like there’ll be more to this. Just like with Liza. Maybe the two will meet. Maybe cool dude Slade, who I enjoy writing about, will lead me to Psycho Liza by surprise.
Click here for more on prompt “#271 – The Next Step” from other Sunday Scribblings participants.