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the quarters and the pool balls hit the end of the table ready to be racked. As Wayne racks the balls, Jim finishes his beer and glances at his watch. He walks over to Wayne.

      “Got to go...can’t play anymore tonight,” Jim relays. Wayne looks at the bikers and back to Jim. “These guys can’t stay with us, easy money.”

      Jim walks over and puts the pool stick back into a rack on the wall.

      “Have no doubt you’re right, but got an early day tomorrow,” Jim asserts. “Henry’s at the bar, he can partner with you.”

      Jim is torn about leaving at this point even though it is close to 1:00 a.m. Something about the two bikers looks familiar and that usually means trouble. He shrugs off his instinct and heads out into the night getting home hours earlier than usual. Jim doesn’t live in the best of neighborhoods; partly a reflection of his finances, partly a kinship with the unwashed masses and equally wayward souls fighting through life against the odds. He pulls into the driveway, positive of movement in the second floor bedroom window. Someone is in his house. In Jim’s usual style, he meets trouble head on pulling his weapon and easing into the backdoor.

      Winston, a worthless English Bulldog, glances over at Jim’s entrance exhibiting little interest. The fact someone is on the second floor and his dog sits in the kitchen lying on blanket does not surprise Jim. The dog is damn lazy, only barking and farting when inconvenient for Jim.

      Jim looks into the small living room and adjoining dining room turned Man Cave not seeing anything out of order. He approaches the stairwell cautiously, moving up slowly avoiding the third step that makes a loud noise under the slightest of pressure. At the top of the landing area he checks out the second bedroom and small bathroom with similar results. His bedroom door is shut at the end of the hall. He’s sure it was open when leaving earlier in the day.

      Having someone in the house didn’t come as a total shock. Jim has a long list of people having numerous reasons to want him hurt or worse. Ex-husbands paying large child support and alimony abound in his profession, not to mention dozens of felons going to jail because he’s good at what he does. He once found a crack addict in his kitchen rummaging for food next to a resting Winston. He fed the man and gave him a ride downtown after a warning the next time a break-in wouldn’t end so nice. All of this added to a naturally suspicious mind bordering on paranoia.

      An ear placed on the bedroom door confirms something is happening behind it. Jim leans into the door and pushes through. Somebody is taking a shower in his bathroom pretty much eliminating any crack head’s visit and most of the crooks he dealt with in the past. Still cautious, he goes through the door and sees the outline of a well-endowed woman washing out a thick mane of black hair behind the foggy shower door glass. Jim is not sure exactly which lady friend is in the shower. Numerous options abound; but he’s not exactly unhappy this one decided to join him.

      A tap on the glass with his pistol makes the showering body jump. A “damn” interrupts the silence from the mystery woman.

      “Give me one reason not to shoot the shower full of holes,” Jim threatens in less than a menacing voice.

      “Blow job,” the confident voice of Janey Shaw announces as she goes back to rinsing her hair.

      Jim’s expression shows a quick approval. He walks back into the bedroom and undresses, soon returning to the shower stepping in.

      “So,” he asks calmly. “How did you get in?”

      Janey smiles looking at his cut-body lathering up next to her.

      “A ladder is leaning against your bedroom window.... climbed in.” She answers rather simply.

      “Really,” not hiding his surprise. “That’s a little scary.”

      Janey looks pleased. “It wasn’t hard, got a lot of Tom Boy in me,” she relates proud of the climbing skills and taking what she thinks is a concern on his part.

      “Not talking about you,” he states dealing out little grace. “The ladder doesn’t belong to me...shouldn’t be leaning against my house,” he laments as a threat Janey doesn’t understand.

      “Bastard,” she retorts with great aim. “I could fall to my death...that should be first on your mind.”

      Jim focuses on a stream of water flowing down her bare ass and slaps it.

      “Nice ass, but you don’t carry a gun intent on shooting me. Whoever put it there probably does. That’s just the way my mind thinks.” He underscores his last few words trying to regain favor on the previous blow job offer.

      They soon get out of the shower and head to bed. Jim goes to the window and looks out into the night in either direction seeing nothing unusual except a twenty-foot ladder lying against the window frame. He pushes the top of the ladder toward his backyard to get rid of the threat and it falls against his house. The moment it leaves his hand, he knew it was a mistake. It slides down the house and shatters a light fixture hanging next to the back porch.

      “Damn it,” he shouts into the non-caring night as the glass and ladder fall to the ground.

      Janey is tired of the ladder. “Get in bed,” she demands.

      Jim does as instructed.

      CHAPTER FOUR

      Bird Man

      THE SUN POURS into the open window, and Jim gets up to assess the damage caused by the ladder the night before. He sees John David Glover, the next door neighbor, picking up the ladder and placing it back on his house.

      “Hey J.D., how did your ladder end up on my house?” Jim yells.

      John David looks up at the window. “Damn kids be my guess,” he summarizes. “They took two gallons of my paint yesterday. Better not let me catch the little bastards.”

      Jim knows he states the brutal truth. More than one dog wandered onto John David’s property over the years and suddenly disappeared.

      He did like Winston, although Jim didn’t have a clue why. Winston has a way of challenging anyone’s patience and J.D. always seems to be fresh out.

      He moves to getting his day under control. After dressing he returns to Janey, a near perfect body lying on the bed.

      “Beautiful,” he whispers next to her ear. “Sleep long as you want, please feed Winston on the way out...gotta’ go.”

      Janey opens her blue eyes ever so slightly and gives him a wink.

      Janey sleeps late, she’s a stripper at the Booty Trap Jim has seen on and off for the last year. She’s the exception to most of the girls in Jim’s life, long on body and short on thoughts. Her rules are steadfast; she won’t touch drugs or men that do drugs. This is polar opposite for most women playing the stripper game. When Jim needs help for business or personal life he leans on Janey, a large endorsement from a man so independent.

      Jim drives to Slick Rollie’s Bond and Pawnshop where he spends a lot of time. It’s a source for much of his income giving him bond-jumping jobs. He earns 25% of the posted bond to retrieve the wayward soon-to-be caught criminal. It’s a modern day version of the old west bounty hunter, and it does pay handsomely. Bonds typically range from $5,000 to $100,000 for retrieving a law evading soul. If he goes international, the percentage can go as high as 40% plus expenses.

      Jim arrives early morning, getting a pick-up profile from Slick Rollie Silva surrounding the next bond-jumping target.

      Rollie Silva is a tough man in a tough business. The Pawnshop does well, but the real money comes from the bondsman business that equates to placing money down on black or red in a Vegas casino. A person who comes to Rollie needing a bond puts up 10% to 20% of what the judge actually requires for them to get out of jail. So if a bond is $30,000, the potential criminal gives Rollie an amount between $3000 to $6000. Slick guarantees the legal system the bad guy will show up for their court date or Rollie pays the full $30,000.

      Rollie got the nickname “Slick Rollie” because he finances other bondsmen that come to him when getting a risky bond staring them in the face. Slick Rollie rarely turns down any bond

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