People just can’t wait to be killed, I guess. My next contestant is someone I actually know in real life. In REAL life, people!
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So her real name isn’t Bootsy Hambone. And normally, I wouldn’t except that for this gig, but because I know her in real life and know she uses the name quite a bit as a stage and radio name, I made an exception.
Yes, stage and radio name, you heard (read?) me right. Bootsy is a bassist and also does a radio show for independent artists every Sunday evening with her husband, who is a guitarist and vocalist. They both adore rock ‘n’ roll and blues, and have been making such music for quite a while. I won’t bother to guess how many years. I’ve known them for far less than they’ve played, and they are great. So, killing her was pretty fun. I got to incorporate her love of music, her sense of style when she performs, and so on. It meant I got to write a pretty cool character. Especially, when you consider the character’s name in the story is Bootsy Hambone.
The above image is of the real Bootsy Hambone playing her left-handed bass. Stylistically this image also gives you a glimpse of the character you’re about to read.
And now, without further ado, I give you the story. Enjoy.
Bootsy Hambone’s Grease Monkey and Encore
Bootsy Hambone stepped outside the backdoor of the Grease Monkey, a blues jive she’d inherited from her mother ten years before. She stood under the rusty awning, letting it catch the rain and deposit it on the broken alley around her. She slid her black jacket over her white T-shirt and black jeans. Her ash blonde hair was cut off just under the ears and stood a harsh contrast to her dark attire. She adjusted the square, black sunglasses on her nose. The shades rarely came off. She went by the name Bootsy Hambone, which was a stage name her mother had given her at an early age. She put an electric bass in her hand as soon as she could hold it, which turned out to be age three, and said, “Play rock ‘n’ roll or the blues. Nothing else will do.”
Over time there were few people who knew her real name, and those that did eventually died off, like her mother. The name had stuck. Only those who were close to her could call her by her off stage nickname, Black Coffee. She liked her coffee like her clothes, black.
She ruffled her collar up, blocking the wind and stuck a cigarette between them. She lit it and shoved the lighter back in her jacket. She stuck her left foot in the door, so she could hear Rainy Day by Sandy Nelson play on the jukebox inside. She leaned against the rail of the stairs and tapped her right foot on the step below.
She was killing time. Biding time.
She always needed to let it roll off before a killing.
The door opened and out stepped Johnny, he nodded, “Black Coffee. He’s here.”
She saw that his knuckles were busted and bloodied. “Did he give you any trouble?” She took one final inhale of the drag before flicking it across the alley into the rain.
“No more than usual,” Johnny said, “It’s his kid you gotta worry about.”
“Fair enough,” she said and stepped into the back of the Grease Monkey.
They walked through the dirty, run down kitchen that smelled of cheap beer and dirty dishes. Her dishwasher, newly hired, was flirting with a cocktail waitress. She stopped and lowered her shades to glare at him. He spun around and started cleaning the dishes that had piled up in the sink from the night before. The cocktail scurried off.
“Remind me to fire him,” she said to Johnny. “And kill the music.”
“Right,” he said.
“And one more thing,” she stopped at the door to the lounge, “Get me the usual.”
“It’s done, on the front of the stage,” he said, and pointed through the round window of the kitchen doors. Sitting on the edge of the small stage was a glass of red wine, her usual.
“Am I that predictable?” She asked. He didn’t respond, just smiled.
She stepped through the doors and walked across the empty lounge. It was dark, except for a few lights installed above the booths along the walls. Each table in the middle of the floor had a simple candle, but those candles weren’t lit until just before opening time. They didn’t open for another hour, so the candles were cold. On the floor, just below the stage, were two men. One was Alexes Gartner, a small business owner who had been fronting her drug sales in the neighborhood for several years. Suddenly, he’d had a change of heart, and now he was quitting the business. He refused to accept deliveries of goods or sell them, either. An example had to be made.
She walked in front of him and looked down at him. He was looking at the floor, and blood dripped from his lips. He was panting. He had a horseshoe style haircut on the top of his head, and what little hair he had left was greying. She looked over at the younger gentleman, who she assumed was his son. He was looking up at her defiantly, and while he looked rather mangled in the face, he still tried to be brave and strong. She smirked at him.
She sat down on the front of the stage, her legs hanging over the side and swung her boots back and forth like a child might, and then crossed them. She picked up her wine and took a sip. She looked to the son, “You his son?” She pointed to Alexes.
“I am his son,” he said proudly, “And you have no…”
“Yeah, sure,” she interrupted, “Look, your father made a contract with me, and he’s honored that contract for many years. And I respect that. I respected him. Until,” she stopped to take a sip of the wine. “Until one day he decides to stop fulfilling that contract. I’m a business person and a musician. I’m simple, I’m easily pleased. Things run smoothly? I’m a happy business person. Things sound great? I’m a happy musician. It’s that simple. But your father,” she sighed and took another sip, “Your father interrupted something beautiful. It would be like pushing Ray Charles out of the way in a concert to pound on his keys with untrained hands. You just don’t do that.” She nodded with a look of understanding and disappointment. “That’s what your father did… to me. And I don’t let people pound on my keys. Actually, I’m a bassist, and I don’t mind letting someone play my instrument. I’m pretty laid back, but if you don’t know what you’re doing and you mess with my instrument? My instrument?” She took a gulp of the wine and finished it off. “You just don’t do that to a player’s instrument.”
“It was my idea, Ms. Hambone,” the son said, “I told him to quit, that he was going to get into trouble with the law. My dad is old, he can’t be doing this. He’s not a criminal. He’s just a store clerk. Always has been. He can’t survive in prison, and let’s face it, if things go belly up you’re not gonna care for my father.”
Bootsy looked at Johnny, as if to ask him something, but without a word he knew the question. She wanted to know what he thought of the boy’s admonition. “It’s the same as he said when we first arrived to pick up Alexes.” He said. “Seems legit. At least he’s sticking to it, Black Coffee.”
Bootsy looked at the son, who still looked confident he could talk his way out of the situation. This only aggravated her more. She wasn’t going to let both of them walk out of the Grease Monkey, and Johnny knew that as well. Only Alexes and his son were unaware that someone had to die. Someone had to pay the price. It was only a matter of who she felt deserved the greater punishment, or perhaps who was the better servant.
“So, if I understand you correctly,” she started, “You are telling me that you talked, or coerced, your father into abandoning his contract?”
“No, wait…” Alexes tried to speak up and interfere, afraid of where it was headed for his son.
“Dad, don’t speak, I got this,” the son chastised. “Yes. It was my idea, but he stands with me, too. We will not sell your drugs anymore, Black Coffee.”
Bootsy jumped from the stage and punched him across the face. “Don’t you ever, ever call me that.” She backed up and tossed her hair back with a twitch of the neck. “Alright, you’re free to go.”
Both Alexes and his son started thanking her over and over. Johnny stepped up behind Alexes and cut him loose. He helped him up to his feet, doing most of the work for him, and setting him on his feet. The son looked around, worried, no one was moving to untie him or help him up. Johnny reached into his leather jacket and pulled out a 9 millimeter handgun and tossed it to Bootsy. She caught it one handed, and quickly cocked it. She placed the barrel against the son’s forehead.
“You would make a lousy business partner,” she told him.
“But you said…” he tried to defend himself.
“I can’t have some hotshot changing the contract at will, you’re out.” She told him, and then pulled the trigger.
It had all happened so fast, Alexes hadn’t even had time to react and defend his son’s life. After the trigger had been pulled, the gun roared, and the son crashed to the floor in a pool of blood. Alexes put out his hand and shouted, “Take me!”
“Oops,” she tilted her head and shrugged in mock sincerity, “Too slow.” She walked over to Alexes and held the gun to his head and met face to face with him for the first time. “I don’t ever want something like this to happen again. Do you?” Alexes stood, frozen. “Do you, Alexes?”
He looked at her and made eye contact. “No.”
“I didn’t think so,” she said, “Now get out of here. Deliveries will return to normal on Tuesdays.”
“What about my son’s body?” He asked her.
“No,” was all she said.
A few moments later, he was gone and she was sitting alone on the edge of the stage once more. She had another glass of wine, and sipped on it to calm the nerves. There was only one other thing that calmed her nerves more than a glass of wine, and that was playing the bass. She looked at the glass in her hand, and it shook. Murder didn’t bother her emotionally anymore, that had passed a long time ago with the nightmares. But the adrenaline was always there, and it always took a certain calm to kill without going gun crazy and another calm to come down from that. She stood up and walked over to her bass. She picked it up by the neck and stepped around to the front of the stage. She leaned on a barstool and pulled another stool over with her foot. She sat the glass of wine on it. She had a wowing factor when she was seen playing for the first time. She was a female bassist and left handed.
She thought for a moment about what to play. She closed her eyes and a familiar tune resonated in the back of her mind. She could hear the bassline. She started to pluck the Peter Gunn theme by Henry Mancini. It didn’t take long for Johnny to come in from the kitchen, he had a Rueben on rye in one hand, and a cigarette in the other. He sat the sandwich down on a nearby table and stuck the cigarette in his mouth, which was still chewing a mouthful. He hurried to the stage and hopped up onto it. He found a guitar and a stereo cable, plugged into an amp and joined in. He picked up on the melody. Johnny was a well-versed and accomplished guitarist, and Bootsy often worried that all the fist work might eventually pay a toll on his ability to play.
They kept playing and trading solos, building the two-minute long song into a much longer and larger than life piece. They were so busy rocking and rolling that they didn’t notice Alexes come running back into the lounge, breaking a tackle from one of her henchmen and tossing a homemade grenade at them. It wasn’t until landed in the pile of stereo cables between them, that they looked up and realized what was happening.
One of the henchmen shot Alexes in the back just as he released the grenade, and he hit the floor. Dead instantly as the bullet cut through his back and carved around his already weak heart.
Bootsy and Johnny tried to untangle themselves quickly from their instruments, and Johnny leapt off the stage and looked back to his boss. She dropped the bass and went to take into a run, but her boot heel caught in a tangle of stereo cables and it pulled her down. She rolled over and tried to unloosen the knot. Johnny grabbed her under her arms.
“Tell me when, and I’ll pull!” He yelled.
“NOW.” She shouted back.
He gave a hard tug, but the grenade exploded before she could even reach the edge of the stage. The entire stage of instruments and cables went shattering and soaring into shrapnel. She saw a microphone stand fly over her and rip across Johnny, whose grip let go at that point. She felt her legs fly over her head and she crashed into table sixteen. She was lying face down, and felt a tremendous pain in her stomach. She propped herself up with her elbows to look underneath her, slipping on the flow of blood. Shrapnel from microphone stands, guitars and even her own bass were cut into her torso. She looked up and saw a large cloud of smoke where the stage once had been. She saw Johnny lying on the floor not far from where he had fallen, and she called out to him, but then realized it was useless. The microphone stand was piercing out of his head. There was no way he had survived it.
Some of the men gathered in front of her, she looked up and they were just staring at her. “What?” She asked. “I’ll make it. Just a little shrapnel.” She looked down, the pain of lifting was too much. The smoke had cleared some and she could see a pair of legs hanging off the edge of the stage. The legs were dressed in a pair of black jeans. They slowly slid and fell off onto Johnny’s body. “Oh,” she said, “That’s not good.” Her elbows gave out and she dropped her head, face first.