Tommy ‘Clyde’ Klick, the Fort Worth, Texas private dick, whose motto is “I find it quick,” meanders from getting the dirt for the cheated to protecting a movie star from her dangerous movie star husband to hunting a possible serial killer. Klick is just a blue-collar man trying to make a living – and survive through the end of a bad day’s work.
When Dorfer picked me up from the floor of his bedroom, a terrible pain shot through my body so intense I nearly fainted from the effort of stifling my scream, which was little more than a more rapid gasping for breath. It was like a bolt of lightning snapping from my neck down my spine. I realized I could move, twitter my fingers, though the pain was excruciating, like the jolt of electricity when you stick a fork into a wall socket. I didn’t want Dorfer to know.
I watched the floor moving underneath as Dorfer carried me through the house to the garage. As he hitched me around, propping me against the wall, I saw the Mustang. It looked just like the one that had followed me earlier.
He opened the tiny trunk and casually tossed me into it, not caring if my head banged into the spare tire.
Dorfer slammed the lid down on me and a finger twitched. If I’d had any working nerve endings, I’m sure I would have jumped at the noise. I felt like I was jammed into a coffin and the memory of a movie flashed in my head, a woman buried alive and clawing at her coffin. I was ten or eleven, I think, remember being scared to death. After a couple of minutes the car revved to life, the mufflers not doing much muffling.
The ride was short, but rough. I tried to think where he might be taking me, but the pain from my body awakening distracted me. It was cold in there, too, and all I could think about was not wanting to freeze to death. The guy in the Taken movies made it all look so simple, counting out time to track his whereabouts. Try it with a broken neck in the next sequel.
When he popped open the trunk and yanked me from his car I could see we were in a field somewhere. Then I saw the pond, or tank as we called it in Texas. I knew that tank even though I was hanging over Dorfer’s shoulder and the world was flipped upside-down as he carried me to the trees at the east side of the water. It was the same one I had explored as a kid, the same one in which Hitzfeld’s car had been found. No wonder the ride had felt so short.
Dorfer carried me down across a concrete bridge that spanned the creek leaking from the tank and into a ravine that I also knew all too well. The old, tire-worn bike paths were gone, overgrown with weeds. Maybe now the kids hung around in malls instead of doing all the outdoor adventuring kids of my era had done, riding bikes in empty fields, swimming in creeks, fishing and hunting, being Davy Crockett-wanna’bes.
Dorfer dropped me to the ground like a ten-pound sack of potatoes. I heard him walk away from me and chanced a move, turning my neck to watch him. The pain was subsiding now, my muscles calming down, relaxing from the spasms I’d fought to control. There was still a sharp pain between my left shoulder and my neck.
He bent down, his back to me, and I watched him pull up a solid, five-foot-square piece of earth. This guy was trying to move the world like Atlas. He gently laid the piece of earth aside, and I could see that it was nothing more than plywood covered with dirt, weeds and a shrub, and what looked like plastic on the other side.
He walked back over to me, picked me up by the armpits, pulled me over to the spot he’d uncovered and said, “Clyde Klick, meet Mrs. Hitzfeld.”
It was her, all right, the picture on the wall, only older. She was naked, pale white all over. Was she alive? She was so clean looking. Perhaps the dead don’t get dirty, I don’t know. The dead certainly don’t look dirty in their satin-lined caskets. The hole in the ground was sealed with plastic lining and perfectly squared. A literal casket made in the ground.
No, Lois Hitzfeld was dead, had to be. By the looks of it, she’d been alive when Dorfer had dropped her into her grave. And she hadn’t been alone. The were other bodies beneath her. The stench began to rise, ascending into my nostrils and again, I felt the urge to vomit.
She had been well tied, and gagged. I wondered if she had heard the cops nearby when they’d found her car nearby and had more than likely searched the immediate area. Had she tried desperately to make some type of noise to attract attention.
Then she blinked. I blinked, too, unbelieving. It had been a slow blink. Good God, how could she be alive. I noticed her pale skin had a bluish tinge. She was probably half-starved, and now probably freezing to death.
Suddenly the events of the last two days played in my mind, and everything seemed clearer.
I had screwed up, certainly. But now I saw meaning in my father’s death, in my provocation of Dorfer. He had died, and maybe I would too.
But she still had a chance if I acted quickly.
I closed my eyes and tried to feel the desperation she’d felt, the fear…and the anger at what had been done to her by a brute named Dorfer.
That brute was laughing now. He held me under my armpits, standing behind me, holding me up high enough to keep my feet off the ground.
The anger burst. With the assumption of Lois Hitzfeld’s desperation and anger, I twisted around in Dorfer’s hands. I drove my hands, fingers stiff and extended, over my shoulder behind me. My left arm reacted weakly, lacking force. But the right did its job. I felt a finger knife into the soft tissue of below Dorfer’s left eyeball.
He screamed, dropping me. I landed on my feet, but then collapsed, my legs still too weak. But the thought of Lois and her children wouldn’t let me stay down. I stood up, my legs wobbling like weeping willows in a West Texas breeze. Blood was spurting out of the hands Dorfer had clenched to his eye. He laughed.
“That all you got,” he said.
The fear I felt made me shiver.
I stumbled over to him, my left arm hanging limp and numb. Again, I drove my fingers at Dorfer’s face. This time, though, he swatted my hand aside. He grabbed me around the neck, clamping down on my throat with those oversized hands.
I grabbed at him, but he had several inches reach on me. The best I could do was slap at his shoulder. I was too weak to do anything else, and in seconds hardly any energy was left for me to struggle.
The past two days had been too hard on me. Too many fights, too much stress. Running this morning had been stupid. I should have rested, let my body regain its strength, fed it more food. Then the probable broken neck.
All I could do was regret as my hands went limp. My head felt swollen, as if Dorfer was squeezing my neck so hard it would explode from the pressure.
A red mist began to engulf my vision, but it was not a beserker’s rage. It was death.
Then someone stepped up to Dorfer and put a cocked pistol barrel to his head. I saw Dorfer’s eyes turn that way. His mouth opened as if to say something. The man with the pistol was Shinn. I don’t remember seeing his lips move. I couldn’t hear him if he did say anything to Dorfer. Surely he told him to freeze, surrender, something?
Then the hammer fell. A flash between Dorfer’s temple and the pistol. Something sprayed from the other side of his head.
It was as if someone had turned his switch off. He went limp and fell like a lead skillet to the ground, me along with him.
* * *
“Clyde? Clyde?” It was Shinn. He was pulling at me, trying to lift me up.
I pointed weakly at the pit. He glanced over. His eyes widened and he turned away. Again he tried to lift me. I pushed his hand off, pointed again at the pit.
“She’s…alive…Shinn,” I said.
He crawled to the pit, hesitated before moving over to Ms. Hitzfeld. He looked back to me, said, “Hang on, Clyde. My car’s up the road. I’ll get her in, get her warm and call for help. You hang on.”
I watched him lift her. Then he disappeared into the brush. I thought I heard water splashing.
Snow began to fall again. The ground was probably still too warm for it to stick…something I had heard from the time I was a kid. Funny, the ground felt cold enough for snow to stick. Cold enough for anything to stick. Certainly felt like it was sticking to me.
So cold. The numbness came back, but it wasn’t from whatever was screwed up in my neck, where Dorfer had hit me with the bat. This was the deadening numbness of freezing, the blood thickening in the veins like glaciers.
So cold, like Korea, the land mine exploding, shrapnel shredding skin and meat. Laying in the ice and snow…. The DMZ in Korea, decades-long truce, and some lost idiot steps on a land mine during a routine patrol. Jeez.
I couldn’t close my eyes. I tried. It was futile. The snow fell and fell and soon everything brightened into whiteness. Then I was in a fog again, like the time I’d been shot. No darkness, just light, now.
I didn’t mind the dying, but why couldn’t it have been in July? I hate the freaking cold!