Anyway, it's a story about Hap Callahan, but not really a continuation of the stories, but it kind of is. It's about his life (or after-life maybe?) after the consequences of his choices. There's some crime, some fantasy elements or maybe just a really unreliable narrator at work.
Here's a little snip of the thing I'm calling The Long Walk Home.
Hap Callahan was sitting in the parking lot of an hourly rate hotel. A flickering light at the far corner cast its yellow illumination on the closed doors and pulled curtains. The people beyond remained hidden, though their actions were as plain as day.
It wasn’t the first time he’d watched from the intermittent shadows, though he never thought he’d be watching from his car again after what happened a month before. Of course, nothing happened the way he expected after the lights went out. He tried to push all those thoughts out and focus on the job.
In one of the so-called Fantasy Suites, Derrick Graves was continuing his party with Jazzmine. Hap imagined a room with lots of red tinted paint, stupid artwork and the remnants of the last dozen couples that had been through since the sheets had been changed. He’d never felt so relieved to be in his car all night.
When he woke up from what should have been his final nap, Hap went looking for that car. It took him years to find and then repair the old Can Am and he wasn’t about to let a little thing like a bullet to the back of his head keep him from behind the wheel. He gently stroked the steering wheel as he examined his surroundings and waited for the next move.
The single street lamp at the intersection where the hotel stood cast its constant and harsh glow on the office and left the rest of the motel to the hands of the light not quite up to the task. The dark red exterior doors bled through the monolithic shadowed, dirty white walls. The stairs rose from below. Beneath them lurked drunks and opportunists looking for various kinds of scores.
Then there was the other guy.
Face down while he tapped his foot and checked his watch. Glanced up the stairs every now and then at the same room Hap watched. Other guy paced. Looked at his watch. Up the stairs. Changed sides of the stairs. Checked his phone. Changed sides. Repeated. Over and over. Sometimes he’d mix in a kick to a pebble or piece of trash.
It was pretty clear Graves wasn’t in for the kind of party he expected.
Hap had been following Graves for a week. He watched the man go through the routine each day. After noon, Graves would leave the extended stay hotel just down the road and grab a couple of hot dogs, always with chili and mustard, from the 7-eleven at the corner. Sometimes and tanker of soda would be in his hand as he left, sometimes a beer. Guessing the beverage was one of the few diversions from the tedious trailing.
Once he’s inhaled the roller grill wonders, he’d take some money out of the ATM and head to the club. Each day, Hap watched the dude dump a few hundred on drinks and Rose Room dances at the Two-Lip Lounge. Hap had seen this thing play out five days out of the week. The other two Graves just stayed in.
Each time was the same. Derrick would waltz in, get his nods from the bartender and bouncer, get his bearings and feel like he was among friends as opposed to people who just saw his big tips. Derrick seemed to think he was buying their friendship, but they were just expensive rentals. Hap admitted to himself he could be wrong. Graves might have been more aware and just not care. Some guys want to feel liked, even when they know it’s fake.
As fake as Jazzmine’s chest.
Derrick didn’t seem bothered by that deception either.
It had gone as always that night. After the nods, shots and cash, Derrick watched his favorite girl do her thing on stage. Hap wasn’t a big connoisseur of the scene, and even less interested after the shooting, but he had to acknowledge the athleticism of the woman. He almost missed the lust he used to feel. After her routine was done, she’d sachet over, spend a few minutes on Derrick’s lap at the bar, and then lead him by the hand to the back. With those shoes, she was a head taller than the guy.
Hap watched them head back beyond the rope. He thought about getting a girl so he could have a better look at what Graves was up to. He thought better of that and took a seat at the bar where he could watch both doors. He ignored the grinning idiot on the stool next to him. Wouldn’t do any good to talk to him anyway and he was pretty sure no one else could see the fool.
“What’ll ya have?” The bartender didn’t seem as chatty as Hap expected. He’d probably noticed Hap didn’t drop any cash for the talent.
Hap kept his eyes on the pink padded door across the way. “Just water.”
“Two drink minimum, pal.”
Hap eyed the guy. Tall. Old enough to hate the stupid job. Seemed to have been there long enough to not care about all the skin on display. Not worth the argument. He slid a ten across the bar. “Then charge me for the water, okay?”
Bartender shrugged and placed a glass of water in front of Hap and walked off.
“So, they don’t let you drink when you’re on one of their errands?” The voice sounded like a quartet of drunks.
Hap didn’t look over. He knew the routine. “Don’t waste your time. I’m not in the mood for the witty banter today.”
“Wow. A month in and you’re just as humorless as the rest of them. Sad to see it happen to you, Happenstance. You used to be fun to hang around.”
Hap just shook his head. Kept his eyes on the door. “My name’s Hap.”
“Don’t really care, water boy.”
Hap nodded at the bartender then reminded himself to stop looking like a crazy person and talking to people who weren’t there. Or paying attention to the braying laughter that no one could hear.
“That was great, Happenstance. Thanks for the laugh.”
Hap turned his back on the familiar stranger but kept his eye on the pink door. That was always the worst part of the night. The waiting. He hated waiting. It’s why he never took any of the picture taking jobs that came his way. No, he preferred to call the shots. Make people come to him. He wished this was another simple blackmail job. But, he wasn’t calling the shots any more, and he didn’t have the chance to turn down jobs. He didn’t even know where they came from.
Just knew that when he ignored them, the bad things happened.
The idiot next to him was still laughing an hour later when Graves stepped out of the room, dragged by his untucked shirt by the woman he just paid a load. It all seemed familiar until they took a right. A left turn took him back to the stage where Jazzmine would get some smaller bills from more desperate dudes. The right turn they took went out the back exit.
Hap slipped off the stool and headed toward the exit. A slab of beef eyed him as he took a step toward the back exit. Hap thought about forcing the issue, but remembered how the new boss felt about violence when there were other options. A little smile later and he was out the front door.
He ran headlong into a pack of suits laughing it up and talking up a storm. Cat calls, descriptions of future conquests, various disparaging remarks. Standard stuff, really. Hap moved through them without comment.
At least that was his plan.
At least that was his plan.