Breach Kick


From Bureau Junction, I drove Route 26 all the way into Elmville, and then turned west onto the Grand Army of the Republic Highway. In Elmville, they call the highway La Salle Street, because if you take it east, you'll eventually end up in La Salle. But I wasn't going east; I was going west. There's just one stoplight in Elmville, and it didn't take me long to drive through town, past the county fairgrounds, to the Ragon Motel. Shit-hole motels are always on the edge of town. It's kind of sad, though, because these places weren't always shit-holes. I remember a time when decent people would even stay in them. But I felt as though I had been watching the old highway motels slowly die my entire life.

The Ragon was one of those motels with detached cabins surrounding a central courtyard, which was basically a patch of grass with a few trees, some scrub brush, a picnic table, and a rusty swingset. A marquee, attached to the motel sign, advertised weekly and monthly rates, with free HBO. Actually, the letter "e" was missing from the word "rates", so the sign really said:

Weekly and Monthly Rat s
Free HBO

Probably some teenagers had stolen the letter "e" from "Rates", and the management never bothered to replace it. The second "e" in the word "Free" was red, which made me think that maybe they didn't have another "e" of any color to replace the one that had been stolen from "Rates".

I parked my car in front of the motel office, left my vehicle and looked around the motor court. A little girl was playing in the dirt with a doll, and I could hear a dog barking from inside one of the cabins, but otherwise there was little sign of human life.

I entered the office, causing an electronic bell to ring, "dee-dong." The desk clerk, a pimply-faced teenager, was reading a porno mag. He didn't bother to conceal the magazine, or even put it down, when I entered the office. The magazine was International Bachelor's Club, and featured a woman on the cover whose tits were so large that I initially thought they must have been fake. As I examined the magazine cover more closely, however, I observed that her areolas were also quite large, almost completely covered the tip of each breast. I didn't think that breast enlargement science had yet discovered a technique of fashioning artificial areolas. In fact, I recalled reading an article about breast enlargement—or "augmentation", as I believe it's called in the medical community—surgeries, and apparently the entire areola is removed from the breast before the breast is enlarged. After the enlargement, the areola is then sewn back on, in a position more appropriate to the newly sized breast, giving the finished breast a more natural appearance. The article featured diagrams showing what the tits would look like if the areolas were not first detached, and I have to admit it was pretty hilarious to see the nipples either too low or too high. It's the little things in life, you don't notice until they're all wrong. So the nipples are completely detached from the breasts during part of the surgery, and I couldn't help but wonder what the doctors and nurses did with the nipples during this period of detachment. I thought that, if I were a doctor, it would be funny to have my picture taken with the nipples placed over my eyes. That would be a funny picture to show the guys. I bet they'd get a real kick out of it.

After a while, it became evident that the desk clerk wasn't going to put his magazine down. At least he wasn't beating off. I rang the desk bell, which must have surprised him, because he put that magazine down real fast, and said, "Sorry sir, didn't realize you was standin' there."

"Well, son, just what did you think I was doing then? You must've heard the electronic bell ring when I entered, or were you too engrossed by that magazine to hear the bell?"

"No, I heard the bell. I thought you was just pickin' up yer mail," and he pointed to the pigeon holes behind me.

"No, I'm not picking up my mail."

Apparently quite eager to please now, he said, "What can I do for you, sir? You interested in a cabin?"

"As a matter of fact, yes, but not to lease." He probably thought I was looking for a fuck pad, because he didn't seem at all surprised. "I'm trying to find a resident here. His name's Will Sneed. He asked me to meet him here, but I forgot his cabin number."

This information seemed to surprise the kid, and he said, "You mean you spoke to Mr. Sneed recently?"

Sensing that something might be amiss, I hedged a little, "Well we made this appointment a while ago, maybe a month. Can't remember exactly when. But that's how come I forgot his cabin number."

"Nobody's seen nor heard from Mr. Sneed going on two months now. Did he say where he was callin' from?"

"No, but he did say specifically to meet him here at his cabin. Are you saying he moved out?"

"No, he never moved out. He just hasn't been seen by no one. Hasn't even collected his mail."

"Did you call the police?"

"Well his car's still here," he said, as if that somehow explained why they hadn't called the police.

"What did you do with his belongings? I imagine you'd be wanting to rent that cabin."

"Mr. Sneed was paid up in advance for six months. We don't call the police unless we got to evict somebody, and even then we avoid calling them if at all possible. Boss says, the golden rule is never ever to call the cops. In fact I got to get his permission specially before I'm allowed to call the cops. I called the cops once on account of Tommy Burke was pounding his old lady, and boy did I hear it from the boss. Says the people who stay here don't like having cops pokin' their noses around, and that once they come for one thing, they're gonna start comin' for other things too. Uninvited like. And that HUD don't like it. Boss says he could lose Section 8 contracts. Plus he says Mr. Sneed's got a right to his privacy, as long as he ain't botherin' nobody, and that we ain't his parents anyway and he has a right to come and go as he pleases, just so long as he pays his rent. Mr. Sneed's bungalow ain't Section 8 anyway."

"What if something happened to him? He could be dead in there."

"No he ain'd dead. Not in there at least. Every week one of us enters his bungalow to leave his mail."

So much for his right to privacy, I thought. "Do you think I could have a look inside his apartment? Maybe he left a note for me."

"Sure, I don't see why not. I got to drop off his mail anyway." The kid grabbed a pile of mail from one of the pigeon holes, and left the office with me, flipping the "Back in 5 Minutes Sign" as he locked the door.

Sneed's cabin was a short walk from the office. "Here's Mr. Sneed's bungalow: number seven."

I pointed to a blue Ford Escort parked in front of the cabin, and asked, "Is that his car?"

"Yes sir, it sure is sir."

His ingratiating tone was beginning to get on my nerves. I felt like telling him to just answer the fucking questions. He unlocked the door to Sneed's cabin, and we entered. The cabin was a mess. I somehow imagined that a union organizer would be tidier. The kid dropped Sneed's mail onto the desk, along with all the other mail. I looked around the room, and the kid made no objections. By the bed was a stack of newspapers and newsletters: the AFL-CIO News, the Detroit Labor News, the Fox Valley Labor News, the Industrial Worker, the Workers World, the Workers Vanguard, and the Nation. The waste paper basket by his desk was almost empty except for a few used condoms. I didn't bother to count how many, but I asked the kid, "Any idea who he used these on?"

The kid looked over my shoulder, into the waste basket, and said, a little defensively I thought, "No sir, no idea at all."

"Well did he ever have any guests to his room?"

The kid just shook his head.

I said, "Seeing as I have an appointment to meet Mr. Sneed here, do you mind if I just wait for him inside here? It's kinda cold out."

Despite the utter preposterousness of the suggestion, the kid readily consented, saying, "I have to get back to the office anyway."

To lend some credibility to the idea that I believed Sneed might still turn up, I said, "I'll have Mr. Sneed call you when he arrives."

The kid said, "Well, he won't be able to use his phone. It's been disconnected on account of the unpaid telephone bill."

"Oh, well then I'll just have him pop over to the office and say how-do."

The kid thanked me and dashed out the door.

I began sifting through Sneed's mail, looking for the telephone bills. I was curious to know who he had been calling. There was only one telephone bill in the pile, and it was from September. After opening it with my pen knife, I scanned the list of long distance telephone numbers he had called, but there were none that I recognized. Not that I really expected to. Most of the calls were to Peoria telephone numbers. I folded up the bill and put it in my coat pocket.

There was also a postcard in the pile of mail:

Towne House Motels Postcard

On the back, it was addressed to Sneed at the Ragon, and postmarked August 27 from Peoria with a brief message: "Not sure if K. told you this, but there's somebody up there you know, only you don't know, and even if you ever do know, you still don't know. Keep it in mind, and just do what you're there to do."

I was about to investigate the bathroom when I heard a knock at the door. I slipped the mail into my inside coat pocket. Approaching the door, I half expected to find my lie coming true, and to discover Will Sneed outside, all winded from his rush to make our fictitious appointment. But it was a woman, a woman in her thirties I'd say, wearing a pink, quilted jacket and a Chicago Bears stocking cap with an orange and blue pom-pon on top. She was attractive, and would probably be very attractive at a tavern, under the dim bar lights and through a haze of cigarette smoke. By daylight, however, her features were maybe a little too severe. Her nose was crooked, and had probably been broken sometime in the past. But she was attractive, and I thought of those used condoms in Sneed's waste paper basket. I said, "Hello."

She responded by asking, in an anything-but-agreeable tone, "Who are you?"

"I'm an acquaintance of Will Sneed's. I was supposed to meet him here today."

"And did you?"

"Did I what?"

"Meet him?"

"Well, no, I heard that—"

"Seems kinda strange then that you're in his apartment."

I didn't want to get the desk clerk into trouble, though she no doubt already knew it was him who let me in, so I decided to give congeniality one more try: "I'm sorry, won't you come in? How rude to leave you standing out there in the cold." Then, as she entered, I said, "My name is Bruce, by the way," and I watched to see if the name meant anything to her, but if it did, she didn't show it.

Once inside the cabin she became a little more pleasant. She asked, "How do you know Will?"

"I work at a factory, down in Carbondale, that he helped us to unionize. We became friends."

"You're dressed awful fancy aren't ya?"

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know, the perfectly combed hair, the cologne, the necktie...just seems kinda fancy for a factory worker."

"Well, I'm on a vacation. I decided to dress up a little, that's all."

"I see. And you say you was supposed to meet Will here today?"

"That's right." Then, trying to shift the focus of the conversation, I said, "And what did you say your name is?"

"I didn't say."

"Oh." What an irritating cunt, I thought.

But then she said, "I'm Amy, though. I live across the courtyard."

Trying my luck, I said, "Oh Amy Burke!"

She nodded.

"Sure, Will mentioned you on the telephone." Then, thinking that maybe the verb tense might give me away, I said, "He mentions you on the phone."

This lie seemed to please her, and she said, somewhat hopefully, "He does?"

"Yes, he does. In fact," and I thought again of those used condoms in the trash bin, "He said that you are about the only person who makes life here bearable."

She didn't exactly blush, but I thought perhaps she might have if she were still capable of it. In my experience, modesty doesn't survive long in places like this. I was feeling pretty good over my successful string of lies, even though, in retrospect, I see that they were fairly low-risk deceptions.

I asked her, "Do you have any idea what happened to Will?"

"The last time we spoke, he was upset because he said he was owed a lot of money, and he felt he was gettin' the run around."

"Do you remember when that was?"

"I remember exactly. It was Monday September 28th. Will, he comes over to my apartment and he's all upset and he wants to know what I know about Royal Donuts in Spring Valley."

"Royal Donuts?"

"Somebody called him to set up a meeting for midnight that night at the Royal Donuts in Spring Valley. Will was supposed to get his money at that meeting. So he wants to know what kinda place it is, whether it's in a safe part of town, how long a drive—that kinda stuff. He was nervous about the meeting. I says, it's just an ordinary, twenty-four hour donut shop; nothin' shady about it, far as I know. It's right on highway six, Grand Army of the Republic Highway, in the center of town, of Spring Valley that is; give yourself half an hour max to get there, I told him. I didn't see no reason to worry about meetin' somebody there, even at midnight. It's always real bright inside. But he was still nervous. At eleven thirty I seen him leave the motel in his car. He was gone a long time. Then, later that night, at four o'clock in the morning, I hear two cars pull into the parking lot out here. One of the cars was Will's. He parks it right in front of his apartment—exactly where it still is now. But the strange part is that he didn't go inside his apartment. Instead, he gets into the second car, which then drove away."

"Did it seem as though he was being forced into the second car?"


"Are you certain the man who got out of Will's car was Will?"

She thought about this question for a while. "Well, now you mention it, no, I guess I couldn't swear to it. It was dark, and the second car had cut its lights. But who else would be in his car? I mean, if it wasn't him, why wouldn't they just steal the car instead of returning it?"

She couldn't have been too bright if she was unable to imagine any alternatives. I asked her, "What did you do then?"

"What did I do when?"

"When you realized that he was gone longer than would be normal?"

"Well, nothing I guess. By the time I realized he'd been gone longer than normal, it seemed like it was too late to do anything."

"Did he tell you who it was he was supposed to be meeting?"


"Did you ask?"


"Did he ever mention the name 'Durney McKusker' to you?"


"What about the name 'Todd Menocken'?"

"Yes, he did in fact."

"What did he say about him?"

"He wanted to know if I knew who he was."

"And what did you say?"

"He's dead now, you know."

"That's what you told to Will?" Todd wasn't killed until September 30th, two nights after she claimed she last spoke with Sneed.

"No, I was just telling you that. For your information, like. Seeing as you're not from here and all. Todd Menocken was killed after I talked to Will the last time. But not long after."

Right: I had to keep reminding myself that I was posing as a man from Carbondale, just visiting town, and that I would have no reason to know that Todd Menocken was dead.

She continued: "Seemed kind of strange, him asking about Todd Menocken, then him disappearing, and then Todd Menocken getting killed by a car bomb a couple nights later."

"Are you saying there was some connection between Will's disappearance and Todd Menocken's death."

"I ain't sayin' nothin' mister. At least not nothin' I don't know as plain fact."

"Okay. So when he asked if you knew Todd Menocken, what did you say?"

"He didn't ask if I knew Todd Menocken. He asked if I knew who he was."

Jesus Christ, talking with this lady was like...I'm sorry, but it wasn't hard to see why her husband might get a little exasperated with her. Not that I'm condoning domestic violence, but that doesn't mean I can't imagine how it could come to happen. I said, "Okay, what did you say when he asked if you knew how Todd Menocken is?"

"Just that I heard the name, and that he owned some bars down in the river valley. He owned one outside De Pue that was named after himself. And that people said he was crooked."

"What do you mean by 'crooked'?"

"If I have to explain it, then I don't want to be the one to tell you."

Fair enough. "Did he ever mention any other names to you? Did he mention my name?"


"Was there anything else you can remember—anything strange?"

She stared at me. There wasn't a lot of goodwill in that stare. There wasn't any. She said, "Well, I guess...there was this one day, I come in the cabin, and he was on the phone. I don't know who it was, but it was a guy, 'cause he said later—. Anyway, he was on the phone, and I hear him say, 'What?' likes he's real mad or something. Then he says he has to go and he hangs up. Well, we have a fight about me coming in without knocking first, and I start crying 'cause it wasn't like Will to act that way..."

I thought of the telephone bill in my pocket, and wondered who Will was speaking with, not that the phone bill would tell me, since she couldn't remember when this happened, and anyway the phone bill would only reveal the telephone numbers Will himself had called. "Do you by any chance have a photograph of Will, one that I could borrow?"

"I don't, but they got one in the office. They have Polaroids of all us permanent residents on the wall. Jimmy'd probably let you borrow Will's." After a pause, she said, "I miss Will. I hope he comes back."

If she wanted him back so badly, I wondered, then why had she done nothing at all to find him? Not even call the cops? She began to frustrate me with her stupidity and her uncouthness. In fact, she disgusted me, and I wanted to strafe her with questions, to jolt her out of her complacency, or else to degrade her with the evidence of her degradation. Nobody her age lives like she did for no reason, unless she was hiding something, in which case I wanted her to understand that I knew all about the alcoholics and the drug addicts and the gambling addicts and the sex addicts, the pimps and the whores and the loan sharks, and all about everything; I wanted her to know that she wasn't fooling me. "Amy, you seem so. . .I don't understand. . .how did you end up here?"

She gazed at me, suddenly suspicious again, like when I first saw her at the door: "What're you talkin' about?"

"You're a pretty girl; this motel is a shit hole. These cabins aren't apartments, like you keep calling them: they're motel rooms. Why do you care why I'm in Sneed's motel room? Why did you come over here?"

Her suspiciousness turned to outright hostility, "We used to fuck sometimes. Is that what you want to hear, you fancy prick."

I didn't care for her attitude, and it only strengthened my resolve to question her more relentlessly, "Why were you two fucking sometimes?"

"What kind of a question is that?"

"Who broke your nose? Why didn't you call the cops when Will went missing? What do you do for a living?"

She interrupted me to say, "Okay, Bruce. So you see things, and you think that makes you smart. You see things, but you don't see—that's how come you have to ask so many goddamned questions. But you entered this place by the back door, or didn't you see that neither? And by 'this place' I don't mean this motel. When you enter through the back door, nobody comes out to greet you; nobody tells you why. You're lucky if they tell you what, and if they do, it's only once; after that you'd better just know, and you sure as hell better not ask why. Half the time there ain't no reason why. My husband, he broke my nose. Why? No reason at all, unless you call drunkenness a reason and only a damned fool would. If you came here on some kinda mission, I'd be careful. There's no purpose, there's no happy ending or unhappy ending, there's no satisfaction. There ain't even tragedy. Why was Will and me fuckin' somtimes? If I said it was 'cause we was in love, would it make any difference? It all comes down to the same thing anyway: fuckin'. Christ, we coulda been married and I still wouldn't see the difference. He's gone—if I'd've been his wife, would even that change anything? I'd still be here and he'd still be gone. What's left? Just the fact that we was fuckin' sometimes. Everything else? Poof! Disappeared into thin air, if it ever even existed in the first place. Anything else that's left is only in your head anyway. The fuckin' is the only thing I know for certain was ever real. Now are you happy you arrogant son-of-a-bitch?"

No, I wasn't especially happy, but I had obviously exhausted the potential of this informant, so I left Sneed's cabin and stopped by the office where, as Amy predicted, "Jimmy", the pimply faced kid, was all too willing to give me Sneed's photograph from the wall. "Oh," he added, "And can you make sure Mr. Sneed's door is locked before you leave?"

I decided I would drive to Spring Valley that night and visit the Royal Dounts; maybe one of the waitresses there might remember something.