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Logan’s Young Guns Nathan Walpow

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LOGAN’S YOUNG GUNS Stark Raving Group LLC—Publishers P.O. Box 1451 Beverly Hills, CA 90213 Copyright © 2014 Nathan Walpow First Stark Raving Group edition 2014 Cover Design and Illustration: Jeroen ten Berge ISBN: 978-0-9892129-2-2 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher, except by reviewers who may quote brief excerpts in connection with a review in a newspaper, magazine or electronic publication; nor may any part of this book be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording , or other, without written permission from the publisher. All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely

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coincidental. Electronically printed in the United States of America Distributed by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution and Bookxy

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Table of Contents Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7

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Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 6


Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 About the Author 7


Stark Raving Group

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1

Logan first heard of Johnny P. Jones at about eleven o’clock on a Tuesday night. Los Angeles was in the midst of its usual October heat wave and Logan was sitting in his living room in his Jockeys with the fan on high. The phone rang. Logan muted the TV and plucked his cell phone from the coffee table. The notification said Steve. “What’s up?” Logan said. He was pretty sure he knew what was up, because there was generally only one reason why Steve called him. 9


“Got another one,” Steve said. “How bad?” “At least three broken ribs and an eye we might not be able to save.” Steve was a nurse at Our Lady of Newport in Mission Hills. Women who’d been abused tended to show up there. Steve was pretty down on that kind of thing and knew Logan felt the same and would do something about it, though he didn’t want to know what. “Details?” Logan said, grabbing a pen and turning over a flyer some realtor had left. “Name’s Tiffany Titus. Lives in Sunland. I have an address.” “Shoot.” Logan copied it down. “You know who put her there?” 10


“Not for sure. But the emergency contact’s listed as a Johnny P. Jones. Same address.” “Seems like the place to start. Thanks. I’ll let you know how it goes.” “I’ll probably know when he shows up here,” Steve said, and broke the connection. Logan went into the room he more or less used as an office and pulled up some information he had no business looking at. The Johnny P. Jones living at the address he had was born in Bakersfield and had a rap sheet. Mostly involving stolen goods, either as the one who stole them or the one who moved them, but there were also a couple of assault charges, one of which got him into New Folsom for five to eight. Which turned out to be four, partly based on the character witnessing of one Tiffany Titus. 11


Logan threw on some clothes and went out to the car. It was cooler outside. Maybe even below eighty. But Sunland would still be an oven. He rolled the windows down and left the A/C off and turned on the GPS in his phone. It was about the only piece of modern technology he was fond of. It gave him a route involving at least four freeways. Right where the second connected to the third an oil tanker had overturned. It took him over an hour to reach Sunland. Which irritated him. Which was okay, because he liked to take his irritation out on guys like Johnny P. Jones. As expected, it was hot as blazes when he got to Johnny and Tiffany’s place, which turned out to be in a trailer park. Their single-wide had tires lying around and a trash can from which a stuffed animal 12


peeked. It could have been a bear and it could have been a monkey. There was a sad-looking rose bush in a five-gallon can. There were chickens. There was a late ’70s or early ’80s Corolla with a two-tone paint job. Blue and primer. Duct tape held the passenger door closed. Just as Logan was about to pull in he saw a gaunt young man emerge from the trailer he was headed for. He was short and long blond hair spilled out from under his John Deere cap. At the next trailer a man was showing his kids the stars through a telescope. Logan didn’t like witnesses. So he aborted the parking maneuver and continued down the lane. In his rear-view he saw the guy climb into the Corolla. The engine came to life. The muffler farted and the car drove away. 13


Logan turned around at a spot down the driveway and went back the way he came. The driveway ended in a T at the road. The only car in sight was headed north, to the left. Logan turned the same way. He stayed pretty close. Johnny didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would figure out he had a tail. They took the 210 to the 5 and the 5 to the 14. Logan was about ready to say to hell with it, leaving Johnny for the next night, when his quarry suddenly exited. It looked like he’d spied Logan and was taking evasive action, but when Logan managed to make the same exit and caught up at the bottom of the ramp, Johnny made no move to continue, and Logan actually had to give him the horn to get him to get his ass in gear. 14


They drove east three or four miles. There was nothing along the road except an occasional random streetlight. The dark consumed either side. Once or twice Logan picked up the smell of horse manure. Then they rounded a turn and right there in the middle of nowhere was a bar. It was called Sneeky Pete’s and it was surrounded on three sides by a parking lot that was filled with pickups and SUVs and a Cadillac or two. Johnny found himself a spot between a couple of F-150s. Logan continued down the road. He stopped, hung a huey, waited a couple of minutes, then found his own place next to a Dumpster with a mattress jutting out. He got out of the car and took stock. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and he hadn’t shaved in a 15


couple of days. Sounded about right. He locked the car and walked in. The sound system was blaring George Thorogood. Dozens of patrons were singing along. “One bourbon, one scotch, one beer.” It was louder than it needed to be, and one of the speakers was blown, making a sound that resembled Johnny P.’s muffler. The whole east side of the place was a bar. There were the usual neon beer signs and a couple of TVs broadcast silently. One had a basketball game, the other a commercial with that old actor who used to be a senator selling insurance to seniors. Thorogood finished and the noise dimmed to a dull roar. It was followed by “Frankenstein.” Logan approved. An instrumental. No words to sing along 16


to. Over on the west wall was a row of booths and in front of it a bunch of tables. There was a tiny dance floor where two women who were old enough to know better were shaking their booties. The men ranged in age from twenties to Social Security. Your typical rowdy bar crowd. Moving a bit too carefully, a lot of them, and speaking a bit too loudly. There were a couple of cowboy hats. The women, except the two on the dance floor, skewed younger. Some looked too young to be in a place that served alcohol. Three of those sat at a table sipping tall glasses of something an unnatural shade of pink. One had a tiny denim skirt and one had short shorts. The third was blocked by the table. Johnny P. Jones was standing at the far end of 17


the bar, with a Bud Light upended into his mouth. He drained it, slapped it down on the bar, asked for another. This came and he turned to survey the room, stopping to leer at the three young women. Logan went to the other end of the bar. The bartender looked him over. He evidently passed muster. The bartender said, “What’ll it be?” “Beer.” “Bottle or tap?” “Bottle. Got Heineken?” He figured that was about as fancy as this place would have. “Coming right up.” The beer came and Logan put a five on the bar and turned back to the room. Johnny P. Jones had made it halfway across to the three girls and was shooting the shit with a man in a corduroy jacket, 18


maybe forty, maybe fifty. The place was air conditioned, but still. Corduroy in October in SoCal. Logan sipped his beer and looked for anything awry. Everything, as far as he could see, was legit. No drug deals going down, no mysterious men with ominous briefcases. Johnny resumed his journey toward the three sweeties. They got up just before he reached their table. They’d gathered their stuff and looked like they were about to leave. Logan eased closer to observe. “Hey, girls,” Johnny said. “Hey,” one of them said, sparing about a fifth of a second to look at him. “We’re leaving,” another said. It was the one who’d been behind the table. She wasn’t wearing anything short like the others, but her jeans might as 19


well have been sprayed on. Logan took another couple of steps closer. “Party’s just getting started,” Johnny said. “Come on, don’t leave now.” And he put his hand on the first one’s arm. Back by the bar, a bouncer who resembled Mr. Clean pushed away from the wall and headed their way. The girl shook Johnny’s hand off. “Excuse me?” The bouncer was almost there. Logan stepped in. “Hey, hey. No need for any of that.” He wrapped an arm around Johnny’s bony shoulders and turned him away from the girls. He made eye contact with the bouncer and held up the hand not occupied with Johnny, his thumb and index finger still around his beer bottle. Don’t bother. I’ve 20


got it handled. The bouncer thought about it. Then he nodded and returned to his station. “Whoa,” Johnny said. “Shouldn’t have done that, my friend.” Logan spied a booth in the corner being vacated by two couples. “Let’s have a seat.” He hustled Johnny over there, guided him into the side facing the wall, took his own place where he could see the room. “I know you?” Johnny said. “No.” “So how come we’re sitting together?” “I wanted to get you off the floor. Because you seem to have some funny ideas on how to treat women.” 21


“Huh? Oh, you mean those three? Jeez, I was just trying to be friendly.” “You don’t put your hand on a woman like that. Especially one you don’t know.” “What are you, my father?” Logan took a swig of his beer. He put the bottle on the table. Johnny seemed to have lost his somewhere along the way. “Let’s talk about Tiffany.” Johnny’s eyes darted around in their sockets, as if he couldn’t think without moving part of his body. It was like when people move their lips when they read. Which Logan was fairly sure Johnny did too. Finally Johnny said, “How come you know about Tiff?” “I know all about you, Johnny P. Jones.” “Wait. Am I being punked? Are there 22


cameras?” “Tiffany’s in the hospital. You put her there. We need to deal with that.” “What? Tiff’s in the hospital? I got to go see her.” He made to get up. Logan reached across and grabbed his forearm and applied pressure. “Don’t.” “How’d she get in the hospital? And who the fuck are you, anyway?” “She got in the hospital because you put her there.” “No way.” “Really? I’m supposed to expect a schmuck like you who grabs girls in bars doesn’t get physical with his girlfriend?” Johnny’s eyes were jerking in their sockets 23


again. He said, “Girlfriend?” “Tiffany’s not your girlfriend?” “Hell, no. She’s my sister.” Logan had run across guys who’d hit their sisters a time or two. But he wasn’t getting that vibe from Johnny. “If you didn’t do it, who did?” “Fucked if I know.” Again he went to stand. This time Logan let him. “I gotta go see her. Is she gonna be okay?” The vibe Logan was getting was that the kid really cared about his sister. “She’ll live,” he said. Johnny dashed off across the floor and out the door. Logan sat there. Wait for it, he told himself. And back into the bar came Johnny P. Jones.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nathan Walpow Nathan Walpow’s Joe Portugal mystery series includes four novels and a soon-to-be-resurrected serial. His “Push Comes to Shove” was reprinted in t h e Best American Mystery Stories series and shares its title with a collection of his short fiction, to be released as an e-book this fall. His most recent story, “A Good Day’s Work,” appeared in Orange County Noir. Nathan is a past president of the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America and a five-time Jeopardy! champion. Visit his website at www.walpow.com. 25


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Logan's Young Guns (Preview)