Skeletons and Keys

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Skeletons And Keys

Skeletons and Keys

Steve Beigel

Copyright 2008 by Steve Beigel
All Rights Reserved


The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain
– Bob Dylan, Visions of Johanna



Chapter One: The Derringer Kid


The door to the gun shop jingled when I opened it.

Or maybe it was a tinkle. I hadn’t taken bell chimes in school. Tweed probably had, that asshole. He’d probably say it tintinnabulated. It’s tolling for you, Tweed, that’s all I can say.

The guy sitting behind the counter looked up and eyeballed me. He closed his eyes and sighed, then got up and leaned on the counter. He was wearing a white T-shirt with some sort of death message on it, Levi vest, jeans, wide leather belt, long dirty hair, big hairy arms.

“Hi,” I said.

He gave me a bored nod.

“Nice shop. Lot of guns in here.”

“That’s what we sell. We got everything.”

“I was thinking of buying one.”

“I’d guess that’s why you’re here. What are you looking for?”

“I’m not sure. This is my first time.”

“No kidding. What do you need it for? Hunting?”

“No. Protection, I guess. My neighborhood is making me nervous.”

“Well, a shotgun is pretty effective. Especially for a first-timer. You don’t have to worry about aiming it. General area will do the trick.”

“Sounds good, but I don’t think that would work. If I had to use it on a burglar or something, it would probably mess things up too much. I’d lose my cleaning deposit.”

“Right. Hand gun, then.”

“Yeah. I think so.”

“Okay. Let’s take a little tour.”

It was amazing how many different types of guns there were. And you could just buy one if you wanted. Like Mom had always reminded me, it was America, son. Wise up.

Unlike people who sold any one of two trillion types of worthless or disgusting commodities, this guy loved his goods. Fondled them, if you wanted to get psychological headed about it. Freud skulled.

There was an awesome amount of choices and he seemed to know everything about each of one of them, speaking in a foreign language about all of them. Millimeters, recoils, grains, takedown pins, cam slots, compressed recoils, locking lugs, blowback vs locked-breech, square-bar steel, rimlock, SAAMI drop-testing. Even bullets had their own exotic dictionary of decimal denominations under 1.000. None of the decimals was bigger than one. Small was big. .50 was huge. A real hole maker.

I was familiar with the terms barrel, bullet, chamber, and trigger. And the thing that stuck up for aiming purposes, whatever it was called. I knew about the Walthers from reading spy books. The revolvers from cowboy movies. The mammoth Clint Eastwood model was definitely impressive. Unlike the movie stars, who were always smaller in real life than they looked on the screen, this gun was bigger when you saw it up close. Heavy, too.

“You like that puppy, don’t you,” he said, watching me point it around the room.

“It’s definitely a pistol. No doubt about that.”

I wondered how many guys he had killed. There was always a back room in these types of shops. Where the stolen Army bazookas were stored. Only guys who knew inside slaughter talk could hint their way in there for a looksee.

“I own one of them myself. It scares people so much you don’t have to actually shoot them. Might have to change their diapers, though.”

That cracked him up. Somehow, he didn’t look like the diaper changing type, though. I wouldn’t want him changing mine, that’s for sure. It was a scarier thought than having my guts shot out.

“This gun’s a dual purpose weapon. Best gun in the world for pistol whipping some schnook upside the head. A real brain rattler.”

“It’s a real beauty, all right. But I think I want something a little smaller. My kid might have to use it, you know. If I’m not home or something. Too big for him.”

A lie. I didn’t have any kids.

He showed me some other guns. I kept shrinking down the size of them with one amazing pile of horsecrap excuse after another.

Finally, he said, “You want a derringer?”

The way he said it made me suspect what he really meant was “We don’t sell pea shooters here, lame guy. You want a gun or what?”

“Derringer huh.” I made a mulling it over face. “Yeah. That sounds pretty good. I always wanted one of those.”

“Right,” he said. “Well, you don’t look like a handbag guy, if you know what I mean. It’s a good gun for a crooked poker table or suicide. Backup pistol from a leg holster. You have to be real close to be effective. Know what I mean?”

“You’re saying you have to stick it in some guy’s ear. Right?”

“Pretty much. Anything past ten feet wouldn’t be a kill shot unless you were damn lucky.”

“You have one of them?”

“Nope. Nobody carries them anymore.”

“Why not?”

He reached into a display case and produced a tiny little thing that was smaller than a plastic water pistol.

“Got better stuff now. This is a Kel-Tec P-32 semi-automatic. It’s 5.07 inches long, 3.5 inches tall, and .75 inches wide. Weighs 6.6 ounces empty and 9.4 loaded. Seven cartridge magazine. Very nice little piece. All edges rounded and smoothed so it don’t get snagged on your clothing upon extraction.”

Extraction. Hmm. I guess they didn’t say draw anymore. No wonder they stopped making westerns. The dialogue wouldn’t work any more. Two guys facing each other down on a dusty street under a digital display tower clock and one of them spitting out, “Extract, you society bottom feeder!”

He handed it to me. It weighed about as much as a cube of butter and was smaller than my hand. Not much bigger than a pack of cigarettes. Unbelievable.

“This is perfect,” I said and handed it back to him. “I’ll take it. And one of those ankle holsters you mentioned, if you have one.”

After the mandatory ten day wait, I picked it up and took it home. It was as easy as buying a suit on layaway. The gun dealer didn’t care if I was going to kill myself or my wife or the dog. Well, he wouldn’t like the dog. That would steam him. All big burly guys who shot hell out of things always had big burly dogs who were their best friends. Rex or Sam or Meat. Never Patrick or Sidney.

All very Second Amendment. None of his business.

But the Derringer Kid was now armed and dangerous.

Continued . . .    Chapter Two: A Bad Day For Golf

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