Ten o’clock at night and Bud stood in the dark outside Harvey’s split-level luxury residence. His neck sticky with sweat. An hour and a half after sunset, it was still 80 degrees.
Through cracked jalousies he scoped what looked like a cramped workout room. In one corner a cheap UVB lamp looked dangerously likely to spark and catch fire if anyone was so foolish as to plug it in. It leaned on a foot-high stack of magazines and a set of silver dumbbells. A 5x8 American flag was tacked up on the wall, circled by some framed photos Bud couldn’t make out. An oscillating fan hummed by the window.
Bud pressed close to the edge of the glass, careful not to let the light hit his face. He heard water running inside. Then it stopped. A minute later Harvey entered the room, scratching the back of his head, his thinning hair wet and dripping.
Harvey sported a tight black swimsuit, the kind Germans almost wear to the beach. But here’s the kicker: the only other thing on him was a pair of sharp-toed cowboy boots. He had a slightly convex belly—taut, though, with muscle right under the skin.
He stretched on his back and completed a set of twenty 100-pound bench presses. His moderately thickset body glistened with sweat—the fan was not doing its job so well. A faded tattoo on the guy’s left pec. Otherwise, his skin was creamy and glossy as melting custard.
Bud calculated in his head how long it would take him to beat this guy up. More time than he had thought an hour ago, to judge by the guy’s arms and the tense pencil-thick veins on his neck. In a suit at work, Harvey looked average, balding, nondescript. But even in this preposterous getup, Harvey looked like a man who wouldn’t go down easy. Bud guessed this guy was two inches taller and ten or twenty pounds heavier than himself. Still, he figured he could take him—he, he figured, had more fight.
Bud’s body still smarted from small, uncountable bruises and a raw soreness in his lower abdomen—and whatever that drug Harvey had slipped him was, it was causing his ears to ring even a day later. Then there was that taunting message on the answering machine.
Slowly Bud backed away from the window. In the dark between houselights and streetlights, he jabbed his fists in the air at an imaginary opponent. Walked to the front door and poked the ringer. In twenty seconds the door flew open. Geoff Harvey there in his briefs, boots, and a lightweight house robe tossed over his shoulders, hanging loose at his sides.
Harvey smiled widely, like the top-notch used car salesman he was: “Any trouble finding the place?”
(To be continued)