Become a Fan
The Out of Body Shop
By Steven D Fisher
Thursday, June 27, 2002
THE OUT-OF-BODY SHOP
A pimp, a whore, and a royal personage. Leon has everybody at his service station-- except customers......
A snotty female voice interrupted Leon as he worked on the stubborn hoist holding the pimp’s canary-yellow Seville. The mechanic didn’t want to be interrupted. It was hot, the hoist would go up only so far before it stuck, and he was screwed if Slimmy Rausch found out that his car wasn’t done on time. The big man was due any moment.
“You are not of the franchised kind,” the woman said, speaking as if all her words were in uppercase letters. “You wear no uniform as they do at the businesses Midas or Rapid Oil Change. They were of no help to this One. It looks as if there is faint hope of assistance from you as well, but We are here to request such.”
Pissed, Leon came out from beneath the hoist and adjusted his glasses to get a better look at the pale, whacked-out hooker with the fake English accent. He knew immediately that he had to get rid of her. Slimmy not only didn’t like getting his vehicles late, but he tended to get violent when his stable started coming around places he didn’t know about.
Wiping sweat from his forehead, Leon had to admit it was his own damned fault. He’d done favors for a couple of the pimp’s girls, and now the rest of them had picked up on it, coming around to wash clothes in his bathroom and simply to get away from the hooking business. His place was starting to look like one of Slimmy’s whorehouses.
Next thing I know, the johns will be coming around to pick up the girls instead of their cars, Leon grumbled. I’ll have to be tough with this one. Business is bad enough without Slimmy putting the word out that my garage is off-limits.
This one seemed dressed for some mighty special action, though, and Leon had always been a curious type.
“What’s that silly thing around your neck?” he asked. “It looks like an air filter.” The whores had told him that some of the johns had real strange tastes, so anything was a possibility.
The woman laid a delicate, bone-white hand on the goofy contraption, then glared at Leon as if he were a low-life, dirty-talking comedian. “If a filter is a vehicle part, then it is decidedly not that. It is a ruff.”
The way she talked, it made the mechanic feel he’d done something stupid like forgetting to put oil in an engine.
She sounds like an actress, he decided. Like somebody starched her tongue. I’ll still vote for prostitute though.
Some of them had acts that Shakespeare would be proud of, like Heidi. She was due in today to wash out her Scarlett O’Hara things. The legislature was in recess, and the action would be slow enough that Slimmy would have put all his girls out of the comfort of the Taj and onto the street.
When money wasn’t coming in, the man was mean, so Leon was sure that the hookers would be glad to be free of the pimp’s house even if it meant dealing with the dangerous johns cruising University Avenue. He glanced back at the Seville up on the hoist and sighed.
Slow times for Slimmy means he’ll be slow in paying for the transmission work. His accounts receivable are already larger than he is, and that’s saying something.
It was too depressing to think about anymore, so Leon shifted his attention back to the whore. He guessed she was older than Heidi, maybe in her mid-Thirties, not a good age for a hooker. With the weird hairdo, it was hard for him to tell her exact age. Shaved high onto her forehead, the red-gold hair was pulled back into a fancy bun and decked out with pearls that had to be from Target because they were so uneven.
The dress was even fancier, brocaded and heavy-looking. It was a white color with a pattern of red and blue flowers and more pearls. Flaring out from the woman’s waist, it reached all the way down to his grease-soaked floor.
As far as I’m concerned, she looks like a bell, Leon thought. One with a crack in it.
Searching for a word to describe her appearance, the mechanic startled himself with the word that popped into his head—handsome.
I never thought of a woman as “handsome”, but it’s the only word that works.
If it had been anybody else, Leon would have called her ugly. With thin lips, a curved nose, and nearly-invisible eyebrows, she wasn’t somebody that’d he want if he was a john. Especially if he’d caught sight of her eyes first. A cold, distant brown, they’d shrink his dick to the size of a well-used pencil, not a good selling point when you were turning tricks for Slimmy.
Reading his name of his shirt, she said, “You are Leon.”
“Yeah,” he answered. Using a black marker, he’d written his name on the Clark Gable t-shirt that Heidi had boosted. She’d given it to him as partial payment for tying up his bathroom so many times. He’d told the hooker she didn’t really have to give him anything because she always cleaned the room up which cut down a lot on customer complaints. Scratching his exposed belly, Leon wished Heidi would steal things in his size. She’d lifted a medium, and he was an extra large.
Annoyed that the woman was wrinkling her nose as if something had died in his place, Leon demanded, “Look, I’ve got a hoist that’s not working right. I need to fix it quick. You want something?”
A frozen smile greeted his demand. “We are in need of transportation, sir.”
“This ain’t Hertz. We don’t rent cars here.”
She replied, “That does not surprise us. However, We do not need a vehicle of that kind.”
“Don’t matter, lady. I don’t rent any kind of wheels—no minivans, trucks, or buses. This is a garage, plain and simple.”
“We would choose a means different from any of those.
“You’re looking for something special?” Leon asked.
A regal nod answered his question.
“Well, look, you go two blocks east, and you’ll find the Saigon Limo Service. Minh’s got some nice stretches that’ll take you anywhere you want to go in style. Viets run everything in this neighborhood these days that your boss don’t run.”
Her act is good, I’ll have to admit that, the mechanic thought, then answered, “Yeah, Slimmy.”
“We are not familiar with a ‘boss’ or this Slimmy person, but that is not important.”
Leon whistled softly. If she really was an independent and new to the neighborhood, she’d learn about Slimmy fast. She was just asking for the pimp to leave a mark on her face or anywhere else he pleased.
“What is important is the answer to Our question,” she continued. “Will this vehicle take Us back?”
“For a price, Minh will take you anywhere you want to go, lady.”
“My good and greasy simpleton, We mean will it take Us back to England?”
Annoyed at her uppity tone, Leon replied, “Limos don’t float. You gotta take a boat or a plane.”
The hooker sniffed at him as if he hadn’t taken a shower the day before yesterday. “You are a thick-headed lout, are you not, one who is too fond of ale? We need a vehicle that will take Us back 400 years. This is not Our time.”
Leon bristled at the insult about drinking, then realized, She is cracked. Slimmy Rausch don’t mess around with girls who end up useless from too much coke. “Short shelf life” is what that pimp calls it when he finds he has a hardcore user on his hands. I don’t have anything to do with it, but Rausch sure as hell will find a way to blame me.
Slimmy was big on “accountability” as long as it was everybody else who was held accountable. The mechanic shook his head at the impact of Slimmy’s education. Two years of business college had made the pimp end up talking like one of the factory reps that kept visiting Leon’s shop to demand payment for parts he never sold.
Leon wanted to humor her, but the thought of Slimmy trashing the place and his body along with it made the mechanic’s tongue sarcastic.
“You want a time machine, is that it? I’m fresh out. I rented the last one an hour ago.”
A stare cold as freon froze Leon. “You are an impudent, gap-toothed fool who smells worse than a stable boy. There is no such thing as a machine that travels time.”
“Well, then, what the hell are you doing here?” Leon asked. “Vehicles is all I work with, and I already told you that I don’t rent none.”
She frowned at this reply, and as far as he was concerned, it didn’t improve her looks any.
“This is what is called a body shop, is it not, simple one?” she asked.
“I do some body work,” Leon said. “Last of the full-service stations, that’s me. Tune-ups, lubes, engine work and now and then I straighten out some fenders and paint them.”
He didn’t see any point in mentioning that it was mostly chop-shop action from stolen vehicles Slimmy’s people brought in from time to time. Some income the IRS didn’t need to know about. Besides, it was the only way he had to pay back the money that the pimp had loaned him to keep the place going.
The hooker puzzled over something, then asked, “We were told that you can channel. Is that true , fellow, or not?”
“Channel? You got a boyfriend who’s into hot rods, lady? I haven’t chopped and channeled a car in years. Hot rodding ain’t what it used to be.”
The woman started at this answer. “You can channel an entire vehicle?”
“Sure, but nobody wants to cut and lower a frame these days. It’s too expensive and not really worth it with unibody construction.”
I miss those days, Leon realized. The crazy whore interrupted that nostalgic thought by snapping, “Confound your expense. We want to channel. That is Our plain and simple wish. Can you not understand that?”
“Hey, women don’t channel,” the mechanic said, reasonably sure of what he was claiming. In thirty years in the business, he’d never seen a female handle a torch, so it had to be true .
“That, knave, is either a bald-faced lie or the kind of ignorance that accounts for your lowly station in life. We channel. Or, more properly, We have been channeled.”
Leon tried to digest just what the hell she was talking about, then a thought teased his mind as he inspected Miss May on the Snap-Sure Tools calendar above his workbench.
“Shirley MacClaine!” he burst out. “She believes in that channeling stuff.”
The hooker arched a suspicious eyebrow again. She was very good at it, Leon had to admit. It made him feel stupid and guilty every time he opened his mouth.
“Who is this person?” the woman demanded. “Is she a Scot like that whore, Mary, who engaged a witch to send Us to this godforsaken place?”
“She’s an actress,” Leon explained. “She’s the one who made channeling popular. You’re talking about stuff like reincarnation and spirits moving through time and taking over bodies, aren’t you?”
“We are, indeed.”
Leon found this interesting, even if it wasn’t true . You never knew about things like that. “So, then,” he asked, “who’s set up house in your body?”
“No one has ‘set up house’ as you say. We are the Queen.”
“Sure, sure. Which one?”
The “Queen” drew herself up into a haughty posture, but the mechanic wasn’t impressed. Customers who couldn’t pay their bills acted the same way.
“We are Elizabeth.”
“Never heard of you.”
“Of that, We are more than sure. Just as We are equally sure that you could not put food in your mouth without fatally wounding your pig’s snout with the fork.”
Leon held his temper. This one’s so far gone, there isn’t much point in arguing with her.
“Look, Liz. I don’t channel spirits here. When I’m talking about channeling a car, I mean I’m changing it—taking a torch to the frame and body and that kind of thing. You understand?”
Leon thought he saw a hint of tears in her eyes, but no more than a hint. The “Queen” seemed to be older than her years, but then that was true of all whores.
I have to admit, though, if I was the type to visit Rausch’s place and wanted to get it on with royalty, Liz would provide that fantasy in spades, the mechanic thought
“Hey, I’m sorry,” he apologized. “You want to channel maybe you should try Madame Leeva down on Faye Street. It’s the pink and blue house with the palm of a hand on the sign in the front yard.”
“She sent Us here. She was of no help.”
That doesn’t surprise me, Leon thought. He’d always suspected Leeva was a fake ever since she read his palm and told him he had a big future in the automotive industry.
In an instant, the woman wiped the sad expression from her face and commanded, “Fetch Us a chair. We wish to sit.”
Leon jumped to accomplish the task despite himself. Liz had an edge to her voice that made you obey an order before you even thought about it. In his office, he found one of the two computer chairs Heidi had lifted from the back of a delivery truck and wheeled it out into the open bay. He adjusted it high so it would be easier for the “Queen” to sit down in the silly dress she was wearing.
“You ought to try something more comfortable,” Leon suggested. “And practical. It must take time to get that thing on and off.”
“It is a burden, but necessary to Our rank.”
Leon suppressed a laugh at her high and mighty act. “Yeah, well, I don’t know about that, but it seems to me if you’re gonna make the kind of money Slimmy will want you to make, the action will have to be a little quicker—you know what I mean?”
“We have already told you that We do not know this person,” Liz said. “Nor do We know to what action you are referring.”
Leon decided to see if he could cut through some of the cotton the drugs had stuffed between her ears. “Liz, what I’m talking about is hooking.”
She looked at him as if he was the one that was crazy. “Explain this ‘hooking’ term.”
Leon sighed. “Doing it for money.”
“Doing what, you imbecile?”
“Screwing. Sex. Dipping the wick. Jumping your bones.”
The hooker slapped him so hard his glasses flew off, and Leon sat down hard in the oil slick he’d failed to clean up. Scrambling to all fours, he shouted, “Where are they, damn it? I’m near-sighted, and they’re my only pair. I can’t get any work done without them. Right now, I don’t care if you end up as one of Slimmy’s stable or not. I’m going to give you a belt you’ll never forget!”
Liz wasn’t impressed. “You dare call the Queen a harlot, a whore? Get yourself onto your knees before Us and beg of Our mercy!”
“I’m already on my knees, damn it!” Leon mumbled through the blood soaking his tongue.
“Do as We say! Or, your spectacles shall remain hidden from your sight.”
Leon had had enough. He lunged upward at her, but slipped on the oil and cracked a shin. He yelped and rolled on the floor, trying to rub the pain away.
“Do not be so enthralled with your injury,” she said in a cold voice. “It is the size of the fleas infesting your pantaloons compared to those of a country without its Queen.”
“Thanks for the damned sympathy!” he yelled while squinting to find his glasses.
“On your knees!” Liz commanded again.
Leon tried to move close enough to make a grab. A warning stopped him.
“You may indeed put your hands on the Royal Person, but then your spectacles will be like the glass on that vehicle We see outside your shop—in splinters and shards!”
The mechanic didn’t know what else to do, so he got to his knees.
She instructed him, “You may beg Our pardon with bowed head.”
“I’ll beg your ass, lady!”
“You may beg Our pardon,” she repeated.
Leon swallowed. The important thing is to get my glasses back. Until then, I can’t do much.
“I beg…I beg your pardon,” he said as he bowed his head.
“That is not correct.”
“Hey! I apologized. What more do you want?”
A sniff greeted his answer. “You must refer to Us as ‘Your Majesty’”.
“I’m an American. We don’t recognize any majesty.”
“Be that as it may, lout, you will do so, or you will not receive your spectacles back.”
Leon spit the words out. “I beg your pardon, Your Majesty!”
“You will not refer to Us as a whore again?”
“Then, here they are.”
Leon grabbed the glasses from her hand, stood up, and was getting ready to slap her silly when a familiar voice interrupted.
“Hey, Leon,” Heidi called. “You want to give a girl a good time, you start with me, hear?”
Slimmy’s whore stood in the doorway dressed in her usual uniform—skintight black and pink bicycle pants, a pink blouse cut to her navel and heels so high that Leon was afraid she’d get a nosebleed. A red-haired wig and the Scarlett O’Hara clothes hung out of the leather bag she had strapped over her shoulder.
Without the wig, she was a blonde, blue-eyed girl with a snub nose, freckles and legs thick from too much farm work. It must have been some farm, he’d often thought, if it drove her into prostitution.
Heidi wobbled into the bay on the heels, trying to get a better look at the “Queen”.
“Who’s your friend?” she asked.
Leon shrugged. It seemed the safest thing to do at the moment.
“You don’t know?” Heidi asked. “You always get this chummy with people you don’t know?”
“I wasn’t doing anything,” Leon said. “Liz slapped me, and I wasn’t doing anything.”
Heidi dismissed that idea with a laugh. “Guys don’t get slapped for doing nothing. You’re probably lucky that’s all she did.”
“No argument there,” the mechanic said. He’d seen how the hookers protected themselves. Heidi carried a long knitting needle for protection, and she’d told him about other whores carrying razors, scissors, and ice picks. It made his scrotum tighten just to think about it. Glancing at Liz, he decided she probably wasn’t carrying any razors and probably didn’t need any. None of them could be as sharp as her tongue.
Heidi sized up the hooker and her dress, then asked, “Are you okay, honey?”
“If that is a question about the state of Gloriana’s physical being, then the answer is that We are fine,” Liz answered.
The answer stopped Heidi, a motormouth if ever there was one, for a full second or two. When she recovered, she said, “Oh, wow! Listen to that accent. Is that good or what, Leon? Can you do that again, honey?”
Liz stared at Heidi, then turned to Leon. “Does this creature suffer oddities of the brain? Is she quite safe?”
“Heidi’s fine,” the mechanic assured her. “She just likes your act, that’s all.”
Liz drew herself up. “We are no act, you grubby-fingered dog.”
“Dogs don’t have fingers,” Leon pointed out, then before she could reply said, “I’m going to help Heidi put her stuff away, okay?”
The mechanic grabbed Heidi by the arm and pulled her into the office. Nodding back at the crazy woman, he asked the whore, “You sure you don’t know her?”
“Never seen her before, Leon. Boy, she’s a piece of work, isn’t she?”
“You ask me,” he said, “she’s at least three bricks shy of a load with a temper to boot. Slimmy finds out about her, then she’s going to be missing all her bricks.”
“Slimmy don’t like girls with attitudes,” Heidi agreed as she gazed at Liz with a wistful expression on her face.
“What the devil are you looking at?” Leon asked.
“That dress. Isn’t that something? Where did she get it?”
“Will you forget the damned dress? Can’t you do something with her?”
“What do you want me to do?” Heidi snapped back. “We’re on the street while the legislature’s out of session, you know that. That’s why I came by here—to wash a few things. Slimmy won’t let us back into the house until we reach our quota; he’s got Hench and Witner posted to check us out.”
“Sonuvabitch,” Leon swore. “I owe your pimp money, his Seville isn’t finished, and I know damned well he’s going to be coming around anytime now while I’ve got the two of you on my hands.”
“Stop sweating,” Heidi advised. “Tammy Lee said Slimmy decided to stop down at Fannaman’s for a new suit before coming here. It’ll take them a week just to get the tape around his belly.”
Leon laughed, quietly in case Slimmy might be lurking outside the garage and eavesdropping on their conversation. It was always best to laugh when the pimp wasn’t around.
“So, what do we do?” he asked Heidi.
“So?” she parroted back at him.
“I asked first.”
“We haven’t got a clue, have we?” Heidi asked.
Leon thought hard. Something had to be done so he suggested, “We could take her down to the mission or over to the cops at the neighborhood station.”
“The mission, maybe,” Heidi said, “but I ain’t going near the cops. They know Slimmy’s put us out on the streets.”
“Hell, you won’t be turning any tricks, woman.”
Heidi shook her head. “Why should I take any chances? You do it. You’re clean.”
“I’ve got to get Slimmy’s Seville done.”
“Leon, you’re just scared of him.”
“No shit, Sherlock,” he said, then threw his ace at her. “Heidi, you want to keep using my bathroom, you take her somewhere. I don’t care where. Just get her out of here so I can get the work done.”
The hooker cussed him out, but finally went out into the garage where Liz sat. Leon followed.
“Liz, honey, why don’t you come with me?” Heidi asked.
Liz raised both eyebrows this time and let her eyes travel up and down Heidi’s body, then she asked, “To what end should We travel with a harlot?”
“I’m not having any of that attitude,” Heidi warned. “You’re coming with me so none of your bones get broken. That’s to what end.”
“By you?” Liz asked in a haughty voice.
“No,” Heidi answered and pointed to a deep scar on her upper arm. “By Slimmy. He done this with a broken beer bottle.”
Liz frowned. “This is the second time We have heard that name. Who is this person—a brigand?”
“Worse than that,” Heidi answered, and Leon was surprised that she knew what a brigand was. He sure as hell didn’t, except that it sounded bad.
“He’s the kind of man who would kill his own mother if she didn’t give him his share.”
“Share?” Liz asked. “Share of what?”
Heidi sighed and said, “Honey, don’t play dumb. Of a trick, of smack, crack, or booze—whatever he’s got his fat hands into.”
“Oh,” Liz said and for a moment Leon thought the message had gotten through. “We have had intercourse with English lords. This Slimmy sounds of a kind.”
Leon ignored the stuff about intercourse and asked, “They’re into drugs too?” There was a faint possibility that Liz really did know a duke or two, and he was genuinely interested since he didn’t know nobility got their hands dirty with that kind of thing.
“Of the most potent kind,” Liz assured him. “Their drug is power.”
“Hell, that ain’t no drug at all,” Leon said, disappointed because he thought he might have the inside scoop on a story he could phone into the National Enquirer.
“Perhaps you should ask this Slimmy person about that,” Liz suggested.
Impatient now that there was no opportunity for some extra cash, Leon said, “Look, this is getting us nowhere. You’ve got to leave here before Slimmy shows up. If he’s in a good mood, he might add you to his stable. If he don’t, it’s gonna hurt worse.”
Indignation crossed Liz’s face. “You are saying that he intends to make a slattern of Us?”
“You hit the nail right on the head,” Heidi said, then whispered to Leon, “Why does she keep talking about ‘we’ and ‘us’?”
Leon shrugged. “She thinks she’s from England—the England of several hundred years ago. She claims that she got channeled here by somebody named Mary. She wants to get back home.”
“Weird,” Heidi said, “but it can’t be true . If somebody was really channeled, they wouldn’t end up here.”
“Maybe that Mary she talks about really had it in for her,” Leon suggested. “If you had an enemy like that, could you think of a better place to dump her?”
Heidi conceded the point with a nod, then said, “Wait a minute, we’re talking about this like it really happened, and it hasn’t.”
The mechanic pointed out, “Shirley MacClaine says it does. She wrote a book about it.”
“Shirley, my big butt,” Heidi said, dismissing that thought. “What I want to know is this—if Liz is in such a sweat to get back home, why’d she come to you?”
“Madame Leeva Wiseass told her I channel and didn’t tell her it was cars and not people.”
Heidi gave the woman another long, studying glance and said, “She don’t look crazy to me.”
“I didn’t tell you were in the presence of a Queen, did I, Heidi?” Leon said, making a mock bow toward the woman in the chair.
Instead of giving him the laugh Leon expected, Heidi went thoughtful on him. “She’s sure dressed like one. And now that I have a better look at her, I can see she’s no whore, either.”
“How can you tell that?” Leon asked.
“Believe me, I know a sister hooker when I see one—and she’s definitely not a prostitute.”
“Well, then, what is she?”
“I don’t know. A street person?”
“Yeah, sure. They all go around dressed like this. Just get her out of here, will you?”
A nasty, low voice made the mechanic’s balls beat a hasty retreat northward as he turned toward the bay entrance. “A good idea, Leon, but a little late.”
Slimmy stood there, the hot afternoon sun lighting his yellow double breasted suit and shoes so shiny that a drill sergeant would have been proud of them. In Leon’s opinion, the pimp would have made a good weatherman with his sandy hair, blue eyes, and snub nose—if he lost a couple of hundred pounds, didn’t carry a case with a sawed-off pool cue in it, and went out and bought himself a conscience.
“Slimmy!” the mechanic said in a forced greeting. “Hey, your Caddie isn’t quite done yet because my hoist isn’t working right. It’ll go up only so far.”
The pimp waved his free hand in a magnanimous gesture as false as Leon’s greeting. “No problem, Leon. I got extra time because my suit was done before I even needed it. I can wait. If you got another chair, I can sit and talk with this lady here, and we can get acquainted.”
The pleasantly deadly smile drove Leon into the office and back with the chair.
Slimmy scowled down at it. “A computer chair? This is the best you can do?”
“Sorry, Slimmy, it’s all I’ve got. Heidi boosted it.”
The scowl grew deeper as the pimp stuffed his behind into the chair with a grunt, then glared at his whore. “You’ve been copping merchandise and not bringing it to me?”
“They was factory seconds,” Heidi answered quickly. “I only bring you the best, you know that, Slimmy.”
“Don’t you shit me, woman!” Slimmy said.
Heidi kept her silence. When the pimp was satisfied that nothing more was coming out of her mouth, he turned to Leon and said, “Fix the hoist while we have a talk with the lady.”
Relieved, Leon fled to the far side of the Seville but made sure he could see as he worked.
The pimp squeezed his bulk back into the narrow seat, sat the case next to the chair, then put a hand thick with rings on Liz’s knee.
“Now, what’s your name and what are you doing in my neighborhood?” Slimmy demanded.
Liz drew herself up and fixed him with a stare that, Leon swore, would have freeze dried most men. Slimmy isn’t most men, Leon reminded himself. He’s mostly animal.
Liz ordered, “Take your hand off My person, you rotund cretin!”
Heidi jumped in quickly. “Slimmy, she don’t know. She’s new.”
“No shit,” the pimp said, keeping his hand where it was.
“I don’t think she’s got it all upstairs,” Heidi tried again. “She thinks she’s some English queen and got transported here from 400 years in the past.”
Slimmy raised his head and offered Heidi a cold stare. “If you were out on the streets where you belong, you wouldn’t be making up this big pile of crap.”
“I ain’t making it up, Slimmy!”
“She ain’t,” Leon said, giving his support from beneath the Caddy.
The pimp turned toward the mechanic and ordered, “Shut the fuck up!”
Leon jumped to work while Slimmy turned his attention back to Liz just in time for her to stand up and slap him hard across his jowls.
Oh, jeeezus! Leon swore in his mind. She’s in for it now.
Liz bent over the pimp, showing no signs of backing down. “I know not the meaning of these words. However, their intent is clear, and the intent is not one of a gentleman. You will leave these two unfortunates alone. In their own limited manner, they have tried to help Us, and that is to be valued.”
“Fuck you, bitch!” Slimmy said and was stunned by another whack across his face.
Even from ten feet away, Leon could see the pimp’s eyes harden into black pinholes. He shuddered. When Slimmy got up out of the chair, Liz was dead meat.
But the woman seemed to know how to handle herself. Hiking up her skirt, she put a foot into the pimp’s chest and pushed. Slimmy and the chair rolled squealing across the concrete and banged up against the work bench. The pimp’s head slammed back against the edge, and Slimmy bellowed as he struggled to free his bulk from the chair.
Liz ignored his curses and strode toward the pimp, talking calmly as she went. “The Baron Seymour was such a one as you. He treated Us as he would one of the chambermaids. We left his head on the block. It would be a proper fate for you as well, but it would take a sword of magnificent heft to cut through that much fat.”
Slimmy scowled up at her and promised, “When I get free of this chair, I’m gonna hurt you so bad you’ll be sorry I leave you alive.”
“Liz,” Leon warned, “he means it.”
“He does, Liz, he really does,” Heidi added with a tiny moan of fright. “And he won’t stop with you.”
The pimp grinned an unpleasant grin. “That’s right. When I get through with the three of you, there won’t be enough left to make up one good body.”
Slimmy heaved hard at the chair again and broke one of the arms off.
Evading his grab, Liz pulled a socket wrench from the wall, then rapped the pimp across the head with it. Slimmy screamed and slumped back into the chair as blood poured down his face and onto his suit.
“Leon,” Liz ordered, “come out from beneath his wheeled vehicle.”
“What?” he asked, confused by the sudden switch of attention away from the pimp.
Liz asked a question of her own. “Is Slimmy’s strange vehicle heavy?”
“You said the hoist is not working properly. It will not go all the way up, but it will come down, is that correct?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“Then lower it close to the floor. About one foot above should do it.”
“Why?” Leon asked.
“Just do as I say.”
Leon listened to the hydraulics hiss until the Seville was at the height Liz wanted. Nervous about what was going to happen next, he ventured a hopeful question, “We going to use the Caddy to get away, Liz? There ain’t much gas in it, but it’ll get us out of town.”
“We are not traveling anywhere, Leon. This cretin, however, is.”
Horror laid its hands around Leon’s throat as Liz bashed the groaning pimp over the head again, then wheeled the chair across the bay and positioned it parallel to the hoist.
“You two must help Us,” Liz said. “We cannot do it by Ourself.”
“Help you do what?” Leon asked.
The crazy woman gave him a frigid look. “Even as dim as you are, you already know the question’s answer, miserable cur.”
“Oh damn!” Heidi said. “I can’t do that.”
“Me, neither,” Leon said.
“You can!” Liz replied sternly. “If not, he will kill you both. Need We point out the harsh truth of that statement?”
Leon checked with Heidi to see if she was in. When she nodded, they joined Liz. The pimp was so heavy that it required Leon’s full weight behind the chair to tip it over while the women maneuvered Slimmy so that he spilled out onto the floor with his head directly under the hoist track.
“You may lower the device,” Liz ordered as the dazed pimp flailed arms about in an attempt to roll his body away from the hoist. She hit him with the wrench again until he stopped moving, then issued the command, “Lower!”
“Sweet Jesus,” Leon whispered, but obeyed.
Amidst the hiss of the hydraulics, Slimmy’s skull cracked and splintered under the impact of the track. The sound reminded Leon of driving over migrating giant snails on Okinawa when he was in the Army—the sickening pop of hard shells followed by the crushing of soft innards that leave a streak on the pavement. He tried hard not to be sick and failed. Heidi fainted and joined his vomit on the floor.
Liz had the decency to wait until his stomach heaved itself dry, then commanded, “You may cause the machine to rise again.”
Leon hit the lever while he tried to retrieve a voice from his throat. After a couple of tries, it came back, and he said, “Ohmigod, what are we going to tell the police about this?”
“What could they do to you that would be worse than this Slimmy person would have done?” Liz said.
She had a point. It didn’t make Leon feel much better, though. He was pretty sure that the pimp had friends on the inside at Stillwater.
“Besides,” she continued, “We do not think it will matter much with this one. Will not everyone be glad that he is in Hell?”
“Everyone will be happy,” Leon said. “In this country, though, murder is murder, and they give you life for it.”
Liz was puzzled. “Why would they give you a life for one just taken?”
“I mean, they put you in prison for life,” Leon explained. “You never get out.”
The mechanic fidgeted while the woman took in this idea. He was afraid someone would walk in and find Slimmy’s head splattered on the concrete. Just when he was ready to take off and to hell with everyone else, she gestured toward the hoist and asked, “This device does not operate properly, isn’t that what you told Us earlier?”
“Yeah,” Leon said.
“Then, is it not likely that this misbegotten son of a whore may have drunk entirely too much ale and laid down in the wrong place?”
Leon snorted. “Lady, nobody gets drunk enough to lay down under a hoist.”
Well, almost nobody, he corrected himself. He and that lazy mechanic Hoffmeister played with the hoist one night, running it up and down after sharing a quart of bourbon. Hoffmeister had crushed a finger. It hadn’t mattered much as far as Leon was concerned—the goof couldn’t fix a little red wagon much less a real car.
Liz sighed with impatience. “Leon, Slimmy is gone, and you are still worrying. It is time to cease fruitless endeavors and take action.”
“Like what?” he asked.
“Do you have ale on your greasy premises?”
“Only yuppies drink ale,” Leon said. “It’s not as popular as in…uhh…your days.”
“It has only to be alcohol,” Liz said. “If you do not have any here, then purchase some. Now!”
Leon hopped to it immediately. It was something to do when he didn’t know what to do. When he got back with the bourbon, Liz had Heidi off the floor and sitting in a chair.
“Here it is,” he said, holding up the bottle.
“Pour it on him, then,” Liz said while she rubbed Heidi’s arms and hands to stir the whore out of her faint.
Leon glanced at the crushed head and protested, “I don’t want to.”
“Leon, he can’t hurt you now, remember? Just make sure you pour some into his mouth.”
“Then, splash it on what remains of his head.”
Leon took a quick swig of the bourbon, then dumped the liquor down into Slimmy’s mouth and body, placed the bottle by the pimp’s hand and backed away quickly. Turning to the two women, he found Heidi coming awake.
“Oh, God, what am I going to do?” she cried as she caught sight of the body again.
“You are free now,” Liz said. “You can do whatever you want. We have arranged it so as to look the action of a drunken fool.”
“But I don’t know what I want to do,” the whore wailed.
When Liz turned to Leon for an explanation, he said, “The pimps tell their girls everything what to do right down to the smallest thing. It keeps them under control.”
“Then, in their petty ways, these fellows such as Slimmy have kingdoms.”
“That’s a fact,” Leon agreed.
Lifting Heidi’s chin with a pale hand, Liz asked, “You need someone to take care of you, is that the matter?”
With a deep sigh that seemed to Leon to be one part exasperation and one part sadness, Liz said, “Since there seems to be no way back for Us, We can see that We will have to be Queen in this time. It seems a poor substitute for England, but We have always been practical, making do with what is available.”
“Uhhh…we don’t have much use for queens, anymore,” Leon ventured.
“We have presidents and prime ministers and dictators and leaders like that.”
Liz regarded his speech with astonishment. “Then, this time is truly in need of Us. Such barbarism.”
The woman studied Leon and Heidi, and the mechanic saw that she didn’t think she had much to work with.
“Whores and simpletons,” Liz said. “We have worked with English lords, so We know that great kingdoms have started from less. It will be a challenge, but one fit for a queen. Leon, fetch the enforcers of law, so we can put all this behind us and start the important work.”
“What do you mean ‘we’?” Leon asked. “I run a garage, and that’s all I want to do.”
Liz’s eyes frosted him over with one glance. “Then, We shall tell the law that you murdered Slimmy. You did operate that machinery, did you not?”
Leon’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “Okay, okay,” he said and started toward the telephone trying to work out in his mind what had just happened.
With Slimmy, I was just plain screwed. With this crazy hooker who thinks she’s a queen, I’m involved in a murder and trapped into her loony plans which will take us God knows where.
As he picked up the phone, he could come to only one miserable conclusion.
Now I’m royally screwed.
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