Had to spend the night in Bakersfield California. Checked out Deja Vu nightclub on Golden State Avenue, flashed my VIP card and sought some comfort inside. Yes, I have a VIP membership, OK, I’m not proud of that, but it gets lonely on the road, and for a small yearly fee, I get treated like a king. I tried to chat up a girl named Candy, but the overly loud music provided unfair competition. In the end, I returned to the hotel alone.
Sitting in an old fashioned luncheonette, the kind with spinney stools bolted to the floor, in front of a long counter. The large store-front windows, once clear, now hazed with a mixture of grease, cigarette tar, and soap, emit a comfortable din of light from the blazing midday sun. Reading the laminated, one page menu resting on the avocado green laminated counter-top, deciding between grilled cheese and turkey club.
The waitress comes over, a pretty, young thing, blond hair in a ponytail, high school age I estimate. I decide on the turkey club and a coffee. Looking around, I notice several large stainless steel kitchen appliances about four feet away across the counter. The metal is remarkably clean and allows me to spy, undetected, on my fellow diners. I checked around the diner for problems and/or birds, negative on both, I relaxed a little.
As I wait, I’m observing a middle-aged man. His medium build is athletic yet shows signs of abuse and overuse. He carries himself with confidence, handsome, but not overly so, a world of mileage in his face. I wonder what he might be thinking. What sequence of events has him here, now, today. How did a lifetime of decisions, coincidences, and consequences affect the path that brought him to this musty luncheonette.
He gazes blankly in front of him, mindlessly stirring his coffee, pondering his fate. Introspectively I consider my own life. Sure, I’m successful, I have money in a numbered account, not Swiss by the way. I travel the globe for work and pleasure. I have friends, and a few lovers. Love, what happened to that? Mandy, my true love, was stolen from me off the coast of New Zealand many years ago in a bizarre deep-sea fishing accident.
Before I can ponder any further, the schoolgirl brings my food, snapping me out of my daydream. I glance over to the fellow whose thoughts I was imagining, to give a friendly nod of acknowledgement, let him know I’ve been there, I know the rigours of life, only to realise I am the only one sitting at the counter.
My sandwich is tasty, the turkey moist, I’m enjoying the simple victuals when suddenly my pickle explodes. Cucumis sativus detonation can only mean one thing, time to move. I leap over the counter, slamming my shoulder against one of the introspective stainless appliances. I grab my backup piece and return fire. I catch a glimpse of my assailant via a reflection off the coffee pot just before it too explodes.
The shooter is an old mate from our time together in Special Branch. We had a parting of ways; Sam went into law enforcement, I into the lucrative world of independent contracting. Sam tried to get into Interpol but his inability to grasp other languages dampened his career. He toiled a few years in Scotland Yard then settled in the US after the disappearance of his sister Mandy, for which, by the way, he blames me.
More bullets rocket through the diner, one hits the stainless refrigerator, by the size of the hole, I judge Sam’s using a .38, probably a special, based on his aim. The waitress stopped screaming, now just whimpering. There is a break in the noise; he’s reloading. I make a run for it, straight at him. They never expect it and Sam was no exception. I tackle him just as he’s about to close the cylinder on the revolver.
Wrestling him to the ground and disarming him, I struggle to decide whether or not to finish him off. We decide I should let him continue on to his gun convention in Nevada. I know I’m safe for the time being, this is California after all, I know he won’t have access to firearms until he reaches Nevada or back to his home in Tulare. I attempt to convince him revenge, particularly unwarranted, is outside the call of duty for a small town Sheriff.
My shoulder aches, I get it checked in a local Doc-In-The-Box. The attending PA reminds me of Kylie Minogue. Kylie informs me my shoulder will be fine, nothing broken or dislocated. The PA tells me I shouldn’t be playing pickup football at my age. Well, I couldn’t tell her about the firefight, could I? She hands me a couple of Tylenol and shows me the door. I return to the hotel. I’ll be heading south in the morning.