Part Two: Down But Not Out In St. Louis
When I came to in the hospital I was greeted by the ugly mug of Detective Holland from the SLPD and the even uglier mug of one Nurse Fatlap.
"So, you're coming around, eh." this was from Holland and said with a smug smile.
"Once again, detective, your powers of observation astound." I replied.
Holland's smile died a quiet little death and a scowl came over him.
"Alright, smart ass. You want to tell me what happened out there."
"What?" said Holland perplexed.
"A cat was trying to cross the highway. Campbell musta tried to avoid hitting it."
"That's bullshit, Johnson, and you know it!" Holland was nearly apoplectic.
I shrugged. "What else can I say?" When I made it clear I wasn't about to change my tune Holland stormed out of the room. There was no way I was going to get the city bureaucrats in on this, not until I knew exactly what I was up against. The coppers get a whiff of something like this and they will keep you completely in the dark. That was a good way to wind up more than slightly dead.
"You are probably wondering about your friend?" chimed in Nurse Fatlap.
Friend? I thought. Oh, she must mean Campbell. "Yeah," I said. "How is he?"
"I can take you to see him." Fatlap motioned to a nearby wheelchair. I saddled up and allowed her to roll me down the hall to another private room.
Campbell looked like someone who owed Todd Bertuzzi ten bucks. He was flat on his back, both of his eyes were bandaged shut and his right arm had a cast on it.
"He will probably lose the use of his left eye." stated Fatlap matter of factly. "His right eye should be okay, and his right wrist is broken. From what the paramedics said he was very lucky, and so were you. They didn't expect to find anyone alive when the saw the state of the car."
"Yeah, lucky. How do I check myself out of here?"
A little paperwork and a call to a cab company later and I was back on my way to my office. It was just past 2 AM when I collapsed into my office chair in my Washington Avenue loft.
I tried to make sense of what had happened to me during the past week, but it just didn't add up. If someone wanted to kill me why would they pull the stunt with the golfcart? There was little chance for that to be fatal to anyone. And, if they did mean to only injure me, why are they suddenly trying to fill me with lead?
My head hurt too much to think about it anymore. I pulled a bottle of rye out of a desk drawer and after the third slug I was ready for some shut eye.
A full eight hours later the phone rang. I cursed and picked up.
"I have to hear you are in a car accident from the police?" It was Davidson, and from his tone he was none too happy.
"Well, I got in kinda late to call...," I began.
"It's almost 11! If detective Holland hadn't called would I have ever found out?"
Damn that Holland. You can never trust a cop. Once a flatfoot, always a flatfoot.
"I'm okay Johnny boy."
"What about Campbell?"
"What about him? You getting desperate for washed up third liners?"
"Stow it, smart boy. He was supposed to tape a Dairy Queen commercial today. How can he do that with a fucking eye patch?"
"Tell them to make it pirate themed."
"Johnson, you are not helping."
"I know. Listen, I've got to run to physical therapy. Catch you later."
I hung up as Davidson began screaming at me. Switching lines, I selected a page from my Rolodex and dialed. After a series of clicks and a silence lasting twenty full seconds a voice came on the line.
"Hey, big guy. EJ here."
"Johnson, yeah. What can I do for you? How'd you get this number anyway?"
I chuckled, "Never mind that. I need to ask a favor. Actually, I need to borrow your plane. I just got my knee fixed up and there if no way I could fly commercial."
"Well," Checketts thought a second. "I don't see why not. Where you going?"
"Better you than me. Yeah, you can have the plane. It will be fueled and ready to go at Spirit by 7 tonight. Good enough?"
"Perfect," I said.
"That's fine," he replied. "Oh, and Johnson?"
"Call me on this line a second time and I'll have your ass traded to Atlanta." And he was gone.
Great. Now I'm in dutch with the man who signs the checks. Again.
I had a few hours before the flight to big Dildo, so I decided to beat the bushes a little. A short cab ride later I was in McGurk's for a pint, some fish 'n chips, and, hopefully, some information. After my meal I found, as I expected, Gallagher manning his stool at the end of the bar.
Gallagher is the type that puts the fanatic into fandom. He publishes a fan paper and as a result kept up on all the gossip. He had lines into just about everyone who mattered, even if they didn't know it. A player couldn't get a hang nail or knock up an underage babysitter without Gallagher hearing about it eventually. He pretty much worshiped us Blues, which was always vaguely nauseating, but the guy knew his shit.
"Johnson!" said Gallagher, with his usual dose of toady admiration. "What brings you to Soulard? How's the knee?"
I ignored his question about my health. "I'm here to ask a favor of you."
"Me? Sure, anything." He was my eager little puppy.
"I want you to start asking some questions. Hit all of your sources. Hint that I'm making inquiries as to who might be holding a grudge against me."
A look of something like fear crossed Gallagher's face. He called the barkeep over to order another Jameson. After downing the whiskey in one gulp he said. "That sounds dicey."
"Well, I could always ask Lee." I made as if to go.
"No, no. I'll do it." He was all accommodation now. "It's just...well, I've heard...things."
"What kind of things?"
"Nothing definite." He looked quickly over his shoulder to make sure no one was within earshot. "But I've heard more than one source question our blue line depth, before you went golfing."
That's the thing about the hockey underworld. We are not talking about rocket scientists here. Goons always talk. The skinny was out there and I was gonna sniff it out even if I had to stick my nose into Elisha Cuthbert's cooch.
"Well," I said, pulling on the dregs of my Guiness. "Just do what you can. I may, or may not get back to you." I flipped him a cool G in a silver money clip.
As I left Gallagher looked puzzled, but not so much he didn't take the cash or call the barkeep over to order another.
Back in my office I pulled my kit together for the trip. Extra shirt and socks; the wing tips; the white linen suit; the grade seven Panama; and the .38. Another nice thing about flying Checketts Air was I could take my roscoe with me. Dallas could prove to be hostile country.
I noticed the clock and made a call.
"Hi there, this is Erik Johnson of the St. Louis Blues. I'd like to make an appointment to see Mr. Hull tomorrow morning. 9 o'clock? That'll be fine. Thank you."
Brett may or may not be trying to kill me, but either way he now knew I was coming.