Human Man
Chapter 38

Copyright© 2013 by Refusenik

Scott hit the heavy bag and gym equipment hard the week after Spring Break. The routine was comforting because the workouts were something he had complete control over. He set a punishing pace and dropped eight pounds. Any softness left in his body burned away.

After a particularly brutal workout, he climbed the stairs to the roof deck. With warmer weather approaching, the unfinished deck was on his mind. The 'interior' designer and his architect had sketched a vision of the roof as a green space, wrapped around a small barbecue and party area, complete with plantings, dwarf potted trees and grass sod.

Next door, the Black Horse was a two-story building. The insurance company building across the corner on Twelfth was another three-story building, but only occupied during business hours. There weren't any taller buildings on the south side of Main Street for at least a block. Behind, was the park and Saint Bart's. As odd as it sounded, the deck would be a private oasis in the middle of downtown Levall.

He needed to find a little peace, and was about to call the contractor to arrange for the work to be done when his cell rang. The 432 area code covered most of West Texas, but he recognized the number immediately.

"Hello?"

"Scott?"

"Mr. Mendoza?"

"What did I tell you to call me?"

"Hector, how are you?" Scott asked.

"I'm pretty upset about Janie's truck."

Great, Scott thought, what now? "I apologize if I overstepped my bounds."

"What I need is for you to tell my daughter that we talked and that everything is okay."

Scott was confused. "Sir?"

"I made a crack about the truck and my darling daughter read off a list of what was wrong with it. If I had known half of that, she wouldn't have been driving the thing. I don't take her safety lightly."

"That was my concern."

"I feel like a fool for not knowing. The problem is that when my daughter gets mad, she makes my life pretty miserable."

"I'm sorry about that, Hector."

"Scott, if you don't know already, Mendoza women hold a grudge. Once, when we were newlyweds, Connie didn't talk to me for an entire week over something I said."

"What did you do?"

"I did what all dumb smart men do. First, I bought her a gift, earrings, that we couldn't afford and pissed her off more. Eventually, I got down on my knees and begged her to forgive me."

"That worked?"

"It did, and let me tell you, Janie is definitely her mother's daughter."

"Message received loud and clear, sir."

"Scott, when can we expect to see you?"

"After the semester ends at the latest," he replied. "Earlier if I can swing a three-day weekend."

"Connie and I look forward to it," Hector said. "You mind a word of advice?"

"I'd welcome any you can spare."

"Send my daughter flowers."

"Yes, sir."

"Good man."

Scott hung up and hoped there was still a place in Fort Stockton that delivered flowers. He hit the phone directory and started dialing.


March turned to April, and that meant the Levall Spring Jazz Festival. Officially, the festival was a three-day event, Thursday to Saturday, the second week of April. Sponsored by the downtown business association, many unofficial events were hosted leading to the weekend and made for a hectic week. Starting on Thursday, a three-block area of Main Street from Twelfth to Ninth Street and a block north and south in each direction, was closed to traffic.

Jazz Fest turned downtown Levall into a combination street fair, bar crawl, and music lovers' extravaganza.

From a business perspective, the festival was a windfall for the Black Horse. From a personal perspective, the festival was a huge pain in Scott's ass.

Nearby Saint Bart's made money from the festival by charging for parking, and to Scott's surprise Twelfth Street was a favorite access point to the festival. The street was crowded with people. As a resident, he had a permit to drive to and from his home via Twelfth. After an early-afternoon trip to the grocery store, he decided to stay in for the duration of the festival.

Leaving hadn't been so bad, he activated the gate and the pedestrians moved out of the way. The Brute idled up Twelfth to the police barricade and ticketing gate. The crowd was not happy to be encountering a big vehicle.

At the temporary gate, he rolled the window down and apologized to the officers. They had to move the barricades to let him pass.

"I'm making a grocery run and then parking this thing until Sunday," he explained to one officer.

"Good idea," the officer replied.

Returning from the grocery store was the same story in reverse, but when he activated the gate a half block away, the crowd's herd mentality took over. A good dozen people passed through the gate before realizing there was no exit from the private courtyard.

"Must be nice," one woman snarked, as he herded them onto Twelfth and kept others from trying to gain entry until he could close the gate.

Scott spread his textbooks on the living-room couch and turned the stereo up until he could no longer hear the murmur of the crowd and strains from the bandstand erected on Eleventh Street. He'd been thinking about what he wanted out of college. The goal had always been to get a degree. His problem was that he had no idea what came next.

Between songs, he heard a knocking at the courtyard entryway. How the hell, he thought.

The remote brought up the courtyard views on the television screen. A kid, maybe college age was standing on the steps. The Twelfth Street gate was closed. He checked a few different cameras. The camera that looked down the fence line bordering the park showed two others by the pass-through gate who appeared to be yelling back and forth with the guy on the entryway steps.

Scott went to the kitchen to access the pistol safe hidden behind a picture frame. A quick touch of the combination and the door popped open. He grabbed the compact Glock and went to the door.

With the pistol hidden behind his leg, he opened the door.

"Thank you!" the kid said.

"You lost?" Scott asked.

"I was stupid and climbed the fence," the kid said. "Landed wrong and my ankle's hosed."

"Those your buddies at the gate?"

"Yeah."

"Okay, if you can make it over there," Scott said, "I'll unlock it."

The kid turned and started to hobble away.

Scott took the gun from behind his leg, tucked it into the front of his jeans, and pulled his t-shirt over the butt. He was on his own property and perfectly within his rights.

"Mister, you weren't going to shoot me were you?"

Scott looked at the kid. "You go to NTSU?"

"Freshman."

"From out of state?"

"No."

Scott shook his head and found the right key on his key ring. "You climbed a ten-foot fence onto private property, in Texas, in the dark. You're lucky all you got was a sprained ankle and not a dog, or worse."

The kid nodded.

Scott unlocked the gate.

The kid thanked him again, his friends got under each arm.

"I saw paramedics parked by the church," he said. "You ought to have them check your ankle."

"We'll do that, thanks."

He relocked the gate and the trio headed toward Saint Bart's.

He heard one of the kids ask, "What was in there?"

"It's like a house or a condo or something. He had a gun."

"No shit?"

"Did you see the size of him? What's he need with a gun?"

"Why don't you go back there and ask?"

Scott went inside and secured the pistol. He decided he needed a cold beer and a steak sandwich. He set the alarm, something he usually forgot to do, and went out the Main Street door. There were people sitting on the steps surprised to see somebody using the door.

"What is this place?" a girl on the steps asked. They had barely moved so he could get past.

"Just a place," he replied.

"What kind of answer was that?" the girl whispered to her friend.

People roamed the streets. The festival attracted a wide cross section from across the region.

Scott made his way to the front door of the Black Horse. Yegor was working the door, looking as imposing as ever. Though Scott was taller, the Russian was wider.

"Yegor, how are you?"

"Good, boss."

"Didn't we agree that you would call me Scott?"

Yegor smiled. "Yes, boss."

"How's the crowd?"

"Behaving. The wristbands make job easier. More will come when the band begins to play."

Entry to the downtown party was free. If you wanted to drink, you had to purchase a wristband each day of the festival. Even with the wristbands, the Black Horse was still checking IDs. The bar's manager, Shirl, had told him that the Alcohol and Beverage Commission ticketed bars every festival for serving minors."

"Have you heard these guys warm up, they any good?" Scott asked.

"Do you like this jazz?"

"Sure, you?"

"Me, not so much," Yegor said. "Elena, she loves the jazz."

"You guys going to get around and see the acts?"

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