Breach Kick


I drove back to my house to get a highway map. While inside searching for the map, I heard a knocking at my door. I went to the front door and standing on the porch behind the screen was the man I had seen at the Hendricks', the man who Mrs. Hendrick had gotten so worked up over. Seeing him from a closer distance, I thought again that he looked like a movie star; in fact, he looked like Tab Hunter; he looked like Tab Hunter in The Girl He Left Behind.

Without opening the screen door, I said, "Yes?"

He responded, with no enthusiasm, "I'm selling magazine subscriptions."

"Oh, well I don't want any magazine subscriptions."

"I really think you would like a magazine subscription. With a magazine subscription, you only see what you're supposed to see. A lot of people like that. I think you would too. No kidding."

"I didn't think you were."

"You didn't think I was what?"


"Oh," he said, "but I'm not kidding. We have quite a list--"

"Thanks but I don't want any magazines."

I was about to close the front door when he asked, "Are you going someplace?"

"What kind of goddamn question is that?"

"You seem like you're in a hurry to rush off somewhere. I just thought maybe you might be going someplace."

"Even if I were, it wouldn't be any of your business."

"No," he conceded, "It wouldn't. It's just that it might account for your behavior."

"My behavior?"

"I mean, why you seem so rushed. I have to make a record of why I fail to make a sale at each house where I fail to make a sale. I just thought that maybe you were in a rush to get somewhere. Sorry if I was wrong." Then he said, reading from a card, "You've always had such beautiful eyes."

"What is this? What the hell are you--?"

"Sorry," he said. "Should have explained. I'm a fundraiser. We're raising money for the Yoked Parish Church. I'm sure I must've mentioned it. Magazine subscriptions and then this secret admirer auction. Well it's not really an auction, but I tell you something that a secret admirer has written, and for thirty dollars, I will reveal the name of the person who wrote that."

"Somebody wrote that about me?"


"Somebody here, in Tiskilwa?"

"Uh-huh. A member of the parish."

"I don't believe it."

"You don't have to believe it. You could still make a donation."

Though I pretended not to believe him, he had captured my interest--my vanity, really. I believed him because I wanted to believe that somebody in town had written something like that about me. Against my better judgment, I said, "Wait a minute; hold on. I'll pay the thirty dollars. A donation, and just for kicks, to see who wrote that." I rushed to my bedroom, removed a twenty and a ten from my wallet, returned to the front door, flipped the latch hook off the eye, and opened the screen door so that I could hand him the money. I'm not entirely sure what happened next. He grabbed my hand, and since the screen door opened outward, he easily pulled me outside. After that, he must have sapped me on the head. In any case, he knocked me out; I saw stars, like in the cartoons.

When I regained consciousness, I was lying on the floor of the living room. The room was dark; puffs of colored light were faintly illuminating the window shades, all of which had been drawn, and during these moments of colored light I could see the texture of the popcorn ceiling above me. Loud rocket explosions accompanied each pastel burst of light upon the shades, and each burst of light brought the texture of the popcorn ceiling briefly into view.

I became a little dizzy as I slowly tried to stand. I turned on the lights. The house had been ransacked: drawers removed from cabinets and turned upside down; furniture pushed over; pictures ripped from the wall; my record collection torn apart. The Motorola hi-fi stereo console had been gutted and its turntable tossed into the front hallway. No, the turntable was duct-taped to the hallway floor. Christ, I thought, what's that duct-tape gonna do to the finish on the hardwood floor? Duct-taped to the turntable was an envelope addressed to Durney at a P.O. Box in Peoria. The envelope had been knifed open across the top, and was stamped but not postmarked. The edges of the envelope were bowed, as if at one time the envelope had contained a thick packet of papers. Inside the envelope, however, was nothing but a slip of paper on which somebody had written "Mind your own business."

The front door was closed and locked from the inside. A revolver that I kept hidden in a bookcase by the front door was missing. The books from the book case were scattered about the floor. I wondered if the man was still in the house. I clenched my fists, ready to fight, and proceeded to inspect the house, room by room. Every room had been ransacked; all the blinds had been drawn, and every window closed and locked. When I reached my bedroom, I saw that one of the window screens had been removed from its frame, and was lying on the floor. The man must have left through the bedroom window.

My head hurt like hell. I fell onto the bed and went to sleep without even undressing.

I dreamt that the man who had rifled the house, the man who looked like Tab Hunter, entered my bedroom through the bedroom door. He helped me to get out of my clothing and into my pajamas. He pulled the bedsheets over me. He told me, in a friendly voice, that I must mind my own business. He then left through the bedroom door. I heard the front door open and then close. I wondered if he had left the house, or if instead he had let somebody else inside. That's all I remember of the dream.

When I awoke the next day, I was in too much of a hurry even to attempt tidying the house. Aside from taking my pills, brushing my teeth, combing my hair, and shaving my face, I skipped my usual morning ritual--the first time I had skipped it for years. Instead, I searched for the roadmap, the roadmap for which I had returned to the house in the first place. It was in a pile on the floor among the contents of my desk drawers. Holding the road map in my hand, I couldn't help but wonder, if it hadn't been for that map, what would have happened, what would not have happened?

I charted my route, got into my car, and headed for Glenview. I didn't want to lose any more time--I had already lost almost seven months. Two days ago it had been the day before Thanksgiving; today it was the day after the 4th of July. Seven months gone and disappeared just like that. Had the trail grown cold in the meantime? Or did the fact that it was now summer mean the trail had grown warm, maybe even hot, as hot as the day; and that two days before--the day before Thanksgiving--the trail had been cold, as cold as the day? My goddamned life had to have some meaning, and if I lost seven months of it, there was still the possibility that I had gained something else besides, that there was some meaning, even in the gaps. That was my hope, anyway. People always think strange thoughts when they drive, at least I do.

Driving to a town where you've never been before is a weird experience. At the beginning of the journey, everything is familiar and normal. You start from what you already know. The farther away you travel from where you began, however, the less familiar everything feels. Sure you've been to this town and that town before--to this restaurant and that bar--but not very often. You still know your way, but your way doesn't know you. If you were to stop at a gas station where you've fueled up a few times before, you might even recognize the attendant, but he wouldn't recognize you.

Eventually, however, you cross a frontier. Sometimes it's quite definite: you say to yourself, I've never in my life been a foot north of that truck stop there. Other times it's indefinite: you say, I've been up in these parts at least once before, but I'm not sure I've ever been here before.

My journey to Glenview was of the second kind: at some point I was most definitely in unfamiliar country, but I did not know when exactly I had left familiar country.

It was a good long drive to Glenview. While I drove, I focused on Fernando Pedrosa: he was the link between Will Sneed and Mr. X; Will Sneed in turn was the link between Mr. X and Durney. Hopefully, Mr. X would be the link between Durney and Bruce:

Will Sneed → Fernando Pedrosa → Mr. X

Mr. X → Will Sneed → Durney

Durney → Mr. X → Bruce?


Will Sneed → Fernando Pedrosa → Mr. X → Will Sneed → Durney → Mr. X → Bruce?

I knew I was dealing with at least one crime syndicate, out of Peoria--even if Kevner wasn't the big gee himself, it was pretty clear he was a Peoria mob lieutenant. At this point, I was beginning to believe I had a second crime syndicate on my hands. Mr. X had been scoping out Elmville for some sort of operation, and he had worked through a network of accomplices, what Leona Pecorelli disingenuously called "a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend". Leona was pretty good at playing dumb, but she hadn't set up that medical hush joint with the help of "friends". I had always assumed that Todd Menocken was the money and the protection behind her South Bluff Sanitarium. Now I understood that somebody else had been controlling La Salle all along, controlling La Salle and Leona Pecorelli and her sanitarium and whatever other rackets were good for an easy buck up there. Who knew how far north this person's territory stretched, or who was running it. Maybe Mr. X himself, and maybe Mr. X got it into his head that he could expand west, right onto Durney's turf. Maybe Mr. X learned that the crime syndicate in Peoria had the same idea. Maybe Mr. X and Peoria made a deal to divvy up Todd's territory, and then decided to do the same with Durney's too.

I was beginning to realize how little I understood. I also realized that I had finally arrived in what people call the "suburbs".

The suburbs are just about the strangest goddamned place I ever went. For starters, I never in my life had to sit through so many meaningless stoplights. Some stoplights controlled the entrances to all-but-abandoned strip malls, and I would have to sit, roasting in my car in the July afternoon, at a red light where there wasn't even a single car waiting for the green that was giving nobody the "all clear". It was insane. My a/c was on the fritz, and I had all four windows rolled down, but almost every square inch of the suburbs was paved over in concrete, and the sun just cooked off that concrete; it was like radiation, like radiation from a nuclear bomb or the kind they use to cure people with cancer--the kind that can either cause cancer or else cure it. I couldn't stop thinking about cancer. Jesus Christ, it was a hell of a thought to have knocking around your head. I tried to focus on Fernando Pedrosa, but I couldn't, so I lit a cigarette to help me focus, but that just made me think of cancer even more.

As I traveled farther north and east, the amount of concrete began to decrease--the number of stoplights too, and certainly the number of purposeless stoplights. At some point, I stopped seeing abandoned strip malls altogether, finding myself instead surrounded by grand green lawns, green lawns behind white-painted post-and-rail fences. I guess I was in the country again, but it was like no countryside I had ever seen before. Where I come from, country means cornfields and soybean fields. Up there, country apparently meant vast lawns so green and perfectly maintained, they looked like giant miniature golf courses. They weren't pastures either. Elaborate sprinkler systems were spitting water over the lawns, and much of the water evaporated in the hot afternoon sun before it ever even hit the ground, creating curtains of tiny crystals through which the sunlight was refracted into rainbows that seemed to arch in every which way. By the time I reached the Pedrosa Stables, I was almost drunk from the beauty of it all.

The sight of the Pedrosa Stables, as magnificent as the other properties I had passed, snapped me out of my reverie: I considered my old Nash Rambler, and realized that I could never drive it up that long, gracefully curving driveway. Even if I had a decent vehicle, this was probably the kind of place that ran credit checks before they'd even look at you. Hell, they might even request references. I've heard guys talking about places like that before, places meant only for the very rich.

I was a little surprised by my own stupidity, driving all the way up there without a plan for getting inside. I continued on past the Pedrosa farm, trying to think. As I was contemplating my options, I noticed a delivery truck enter the road a few hundred feet ahead of me. "Fenton Hardy Tack and Feed" was painted in big letters on the side of the truck. The vague contours of a plan began to form inside my muddled mind.

I followed the delivery truck. It turned off Hill Road. About fifteen minutes later, we were in a decidedly more downscale neighborhood, or maybe a different town altogether--it was impossible to tell where one town began and another ended. The delivery truck turned left into the parking lot of a gas station, "The Golden Horseshoe Cafe: Fuel and Food". After reading the sign, I noticed that the gas station did indeed have a restaurant attached to it. The man driving the delivery truck went into the restaurant and sat by himself in a booth. I sat at a table behind his booth so that I could observe him.

He ordered a cup of coffee; I ordered a cup of coffee as well. A few minutes after his coffee arrived, he left his booth. At first I assumed he was going to use the bathroom, but he approached the cashier instead. This action caught me off guard--he couldn't have finished his coffee, and his waitress hadn't even brought his check. I tailed him to the cashier's stand, in time to see her hand him a key attached to a paddle-sized piece of heavy cardboard. The cashier, a pretty girl who wore too much mascara, said "There you go."

He said, "Thanks Tammy. I'll be right back."

He left the restaurant. I originally intended to pay my bill, but since he had promised to return shortly, I decided to stall for time. I asked the young woman he called Tammy, "Where's the bathroom?"

"Oh," she said, "It's outside, actually. Out that door to your left, and then to the back of the building. You'll need the key, but that guy just took it. You can just wait for him outside the bathroom door, and tell him Tammy said to give you the key. There's a sign on the door that says 'This is not a bathroom,' but it's the bathroom." She must have sensed my confusion, because she added, "It used to say, 'Customers only,' but then people would come in and buy the cheapest thing off the menu just so they could use the bathroom. Anyway, that's the bathroom, and just tell Buddy--that's the guy who took the key just now--that I said you could have it after him."

"Okay, thanks."

She said, apologetically, as if she thought I wanted to stand there chatting with her all day, "I think I have an order up."

Again I said, "Okay."

I left the restaurant, and walked alongside the building until I reached the door with the sign that said "This is Not a Bathroom". It took me about a minute to pick the pathetic-excuse-for-a-lock. Two hair pins can pick a door lock with very little noise, and I could hear an air dryer blowing inside, so I doubt very much that he knew what was coming. When I opened the door, I saw "Buddy" frantically taking one last snort of cocaine, which he had lined out onto a stainless steel ledge beneath the mirror above the sink--the Golden Horseshoe must let truckers wash up in that bathroom, because usually gas station bathrooms don't have ledges above the sinks. Buddy began sweeping the cocaine residue into the sink, and cursing me, trying to sound outraged, "What the fuck are you doing you asshole? Can't you see I'm using the fucking--"

Before he could turn on the faucet to wash the cocaine down the drain, I shoved him against the wall; the door banged shut behind me. I drew my 44 Special, and said "Calm down there, bright eyes." It all happened very quickly.

He put his hands in the air.

I said, "What's your name?"

He was silent.

"What's your name goddammit?"


"Your first name, I mean."

"That is my first name. King, King of the Highway."

"Bullshit. You're name is Buddy; I heard the waitress call you 'Buddy'."

"My friends call me 'Buddy'," he said, in a tone I thought rather bold for somebody in his predicament. "But my Christian name is 'King', 'King of the Highway'."

"Let's see your driver's license. Take it out. . .slowly. . .that's right. . .hand it here."

Sure enough, the son-of-a-bitch's license identified him as "King of the Highway Jonathan Durant". Buddy Durant. His parents must have been real fine pieces of white trash--I didn't think there even was white trash in the suburbs. I gave him back his wallet, and said, "I'm not calling you 'King' or 'King of the Highway' or anything else. Let's say we move straight to friendship and I'll call you Buddy, same as all your other friends."

He nodded his reluctant consent.

"So, Buddy," I continued, "I want something from you. Only it's your lucky day, because what I want, I'm willing to pay for. I pay in cash."

"And what if I don't give it to you--?"

I grabbed him by the throat, slammed his head against the white tiled wall, jabbed him in the stomach with the barrel of my gun, and said "You don't want to go there Buddy."

He said nothing, but nodded.

I too said nothing. The smell of the filthy bathroom bothered me, the smell of urine and disinfectant and mold. I wouldn't snort a line of cocaine off any surface in that bathroom, not for all the tea in China. Plus I don't do drugs anyway. The bathroom was small, the walls spray-painted with swastikas. There must have been less than four feet between the toilet and the sink. No urinal. It bothered me. I fucking hate public bathrooms with no urinals. I hate toilets. At least this toilet was white. I hate it when you go to people's homes and their toilets are lime green or sometimes even pink, and they have padded seat covers. Padded seat covers make me want to start slitting throats, and not my own either. But I really hate public bathrooms that don't have urinals, because If you need to go to the bathroom in a public bathroom with no urinal, then you have to kick the seat up with your shoe to avoid touching it, and then try to flush with your shoe as well. I glanced up from the toilet at Buddy and thought that, if the situations were reversed--if he had the gun instead of me--he might be shoving my face in that toilet. But the situations weren't reversed. I did have the gun.

He said, "Okay, okay, I understand," then and began to unbuckle his pants. "You want--"

Funny thing was, I did want his pants, and his shirt too, but then it hit me like a pistol whip to the face that he thought I was a faggot. I knocked his hands away from his pants and punched him in the face, a punch packed with all the force in my body--all the force in my body and my soul and my very being: every fucking thing I had went into that punch, and it broke his nose with a crack so hard you could feel it as loudly as you could hear it.

Blood began spewing from his nose like water from a fucked-up faucet. He shrieked, "Jesus fucking Christ, what are you some kind of maniac--?"

I put my hand over his mouth, which was already covered in blood, and the blood from his nose poured over my hand. "Keep your mouth shut. It'll save. Don't be such a pussy. For Christ's sake, haven't you ever had your nose broken before?" I removed my bloody hand from his mouth and started pulling toilet paper from the toilet paper roll. Cheap-ass fucking toilet paper kept ripping, so I could never get a decent enough wad to stop the blood. That toilet paper was so fucking cheap it practically dissolved when it touched his bloodied face anyway. Meanwhile the blood was flowing onto his uniform--thank God the uniform was navy blue. I said, "Take your shirt off--you're staining your uniform. Your pants too."

He removed his shirt and his pants, and stood there, just a foot or two at most between us, in his underwear and t-shirt.

"Okay," I said, "I'm sorry to have to do this."

"Do what--?"

I holstered my gun and ripped his shirt down the front. "Now take off your t-shirt; I'm sorry but we need something to stop the bleeding and you couldn't have pulled that t-shirt over your head so don't just stand there do it." I kept punching the air dryer to keep our voices covered.

He quickly removed the ripped t-shirt from his body, and handed it to me. I don't know why he handed it to me--was he that helpless? I began ripping the t-shirt into strips, and then packing the strips into his nostrils. He screamed, I guess because of the pain.

"Shut the fuck up," I whispered. "This'll stop the bleeding."

I would have felt awkward standing there with him in that tiny bathroom, if he hadn't been covered in blood. Even so, the blood couldn't disguise--it might even have emphasized--the fact that he was strong, or at least his body was: broad shoulders, muscular arms, flat abdomen. Above his left pectoral was a tattoo of an Indian wearing a feathered head dress and holding a calumet. The tattoo was covered in blood, which I felt bad about because it seemed disrespectful to the Indian--I mean, hadn't the Indians suffered enough already?--so I wet my hand under the faucet and wiped the blood off the part of his chest that had the tattoo. Even on his upper pectoral you couldn't help but feel the hard musculature that covered his body, the musculature of a young man who lifts and totes and packs for a living. You had to admire that, even if he was a drug-snorting degenerate: he looked as though he would have tremendous upper body strength. I wondered why somebody with such strength hadn't put up more of a fight when I first broke into the bathroom--before I had drawn my gun, that is. Probably because he was too worried about getting caught doing drugs. He was physically strong, but mentally weak.

He had to have been in extreme pain by this point, and given his mental weakness, he must have been struggling to cope with the pain. Intense physical pain really is a mysterious ordeal; my grandfather always called it a "visitation", but I never really knew what he meant by that. I felt a little sorry for King of the Highway "Buddy" Durant, but I consoled myself with the thought that enduring such pain would make him mentally stronger, and therefore a better person. My grandfather told me that every man should have his nose broken at least once, and that anything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

I thought it would be safe to leave him alone for a moment--given the pain he was in, and the fact that he was wearing nothing but boxer shorts, it seemed unlikely he would try to flee--so I washed my hands, grabbed his uniform, and left the bathroom.

I rolled up his shirt and pants, concealed them under my left arm, ran to my car where I grabbed an oxycodone from a stash that I was selling on the side for pocket money, ran back to the restaurant, and asked Tammy, the waitress, for some ice. She said, "Has Buddy come out of that bathroom yet?"

"No not yet."

She giggled and said, "Oh, I bet I know what he's doing."

"I really need that ice," I said impatiently.

She frowned and asked, "What's that under your arm?"

"I was working on my car while I waited for the guy to come out of the bathroom. Look, I really need that ice--my car, it's overheating."

None of what I told her made any sense, but fortunately she must have known nothing at all about cars because she appeared to accept this explanation, and hurried off to the kitchen, quickly returning with a big, white, styrofoam cup of ice. No lid. Really, I thought, she could have given me a lid, even though I didn't need one, but it was the principle, and it's not as if plastic lids are that expensive.

I ran back to the bathroom, and gave Buddy the ice. I told him to wrap the ice in what-remained-of-his-t-shirt. "There, now you have a makeshift icepack; hold it against your nose. Do I have to spell everything out for you?" After he had put the ice pack on his nose, I said, "Now open your mouth," which he did, and I dropped the oxycodone onto his tongue--it reminded me of a priest giving communion. I said, "That's a strong pain killer; swallow it." I was a little surprised that he swallowed the pill without any hesitation; I suppose drug addicts will take just about anything.

I then left the bathroom again and, after I found his keys in one of his pants pockets, I unlocked the rear door to his delivery truck, "Fenton Hardy Tack and Feed." I entered the truck and closed the door, so that nobody could see me. The back of the truck was dark, almost pitch black--there must have been a light switch somewhere, but I couldn't find it. I was standing in a narrow aisle, surrounded by shelving on either side and the odor of what-I-assumed-must-be-horse-food. As quickly as possible, I changed into Buddy's uniform, exited the truck through the door I had just entered it through, and brought my pants and shirt to him in the bathroom.

Handing him my clothing, I said, "Here, put these on. I'll help you. I'd give you my t-shirt too--even though it's really your own fault that yours got ruined, since you practically forced me to punch you--but it would have to go on over your face and that would only cause you more pain."

He looked surprised to see me wearing his uniform. I viewed myself in the tiny bathroom mirror: his clothing had transformed me into a delivery truck driver. A delivery truck driver with a uniform saturated in blood, still wet, still warm. I suddenly became intensely aware of the clothing's bloody, soaking warmth, and it made me feel more like Buddy, like I was Buddy inside and out. Looking at him again, I realized he was somebody I wouldn't mind being, at least physically--I wished I was even half as attractive as him. Maybe women wouldn't hate me so much if I was.

Then I remembered that he had thought I was a faggot, and, wanting to set the record straight, I said, "You had the wrong idea. All I want from you is the use your uniform and your delivery truck, for about an hour this afternoon--"

"That could get me fired; this whole--"

"Yeah? I have a feeling doing drugs on the job could get you fired a lot faster."

He nodded.

"You'll get a hundred smackers for your trouble."

Despite the excruciating pain he undoubtedly was in, his face brightened a little at this additional information, and he nodded.

I washed my hands in the sink again--I hate bathroom doors that have knobs instead of handles, especially when the bathroom doesn't have paper towels I can use to grasp the handle with. Door knobs are so fucking filthy I can't even stand to think about it. "Now," I said, "have you made any deliveries to the Pedrosa Stables today?"

"No. Not on my route today."

"Good. We're going to accidentally make a call on them this afternoon."