The day passed quickly. Mike was by now an expert pump-boy. He did his work cheerfully and the customers seemed to like him. Halfway through the morning and his pockets were already bulging with tips. He used his hustler's charm, but not as a hook for action. Just because it made the customers happy, and it felt good doing that. Generous tips were good too, but they were the dessert and not the main course.
Mike was filling up a sleek, graphite-gray Jaguar XJS and passing the time swapping jokes with the owner when a junk-tip on wheels pulled off of the road. Billy Ray slammed on the brakes - a futile action, for the ill-maintained old pick-up ignored the urgency of the command and ground to a lazy halt. Jimmy wasn't even thrown forward.
'Jesus Jimmy lookit!' managed Billy Ray
'What the hell's wrong with you, Billy Ray? It looks like yo' ass is knittin' button holes!'
'The kid at the pumps. He's that dead kid off the road!'
Jimmy leaned forward so he could see better through the fly-splattered windshield.
'Him all right! Guess he couldn't 'a been dead after all.'
'No Jimmy. He was dead as dead as dead. I felt his pulse!'
Jimmy thought for a while, watching Mike as he laughed and chewed the fat with the pretty blond lady owner. Then he stuck his arm out towards his brother. 'Feel my pulse.'
Billy Ray stretched his fingers and did like his brother asked. His face fell. 'Jesus Christ in Heaven, Jimmy Williams. You's dead too!'
Jimmy let his head fall into his hands and refrained from saying what was on his mind.
'So what we going to do? Maybe we should use him for...' Billy Ray recoiled from Jimmy's punch and put a hand up to his now bloody nose.
'We don't do the findin'. We don't do the killin' We only do the dumpin'.'
'And the dressing!' said Billy Ray through his hands, one finger and thumb pinching his nose to stop the flow of blood. 'Don't forget it's us that put the clothes on 'em and burns their own stuff, and we...'
'Come on,' interrupted Jimmy. 'Let's get out o' here. Get our gas some place else - then make a phone call.'
Mike noticed the pick-up pull off onto the road, but paid less than a little attention to it. The sun was high in Mike's sky, and he didn't see the gathering of the clouds.
Late in the afternoon, just when he was beginning to look forward to the sight of Johnny's big old sedan growing from a dot on the horizon, a Dodge pick-up pulled in. The driver was overweight, but he had a kind look that Mike took to, and a cheerful smiling face. He wore a baseball cap and Mike recognized the Star Ball logo. 'Mariners!' said Mike pointing to the hat.
'Yes, sir, it certainly is. Say are you from Seattle?' asked the guy.
'I've been around. Lived in Seattle for a while. But you've got Idaho plates. How come you cheer for the Mariners?'
The man smiled as his eyes drifted to another time. 'Oh I was raised in Washington State, just outside of Seattle. Right up until I got my call up papers.'
'Yes, sir. Vietnam. But I got lucky. The ah, policing action, ended before I was shipped out.'
They chatted on for a minute or so, then the guy paid by Visa card asking Mike to be sure and provide a receipt.
As he eased to a halt, waiting for a truck to pass before pulling back onto the road, Rob Thacker looked at Mike in his mirror. Cross-hairs on target. BANG!