The CAMELOT CLUB is the third book in the Detective John Bowers series. He's a witty veteran with the Portland, Oregon, Police Bureau, a dedicated realist railing against the politically correct injustice in his life. The only mysteries Bowers hasn't solved in twenty-three years behind the badge are women, especially his exes. The last split cost him everything but his Fruit of the Loom.
The Camelot Club - A Detective John Bowers Mystery
THE CAMELOT CLUB
Bowers pulled off the road and parked the Chieftain in the shade of a Sequoia. The sentinel stood near the freeway exit to Mount Vernon, a Washington hamlet ablaze each spring with acres of tulips laid across the Skagit valley in a crazy-quilt patchwork. People here had time to smile at strangers passing through, to give directions with a friendly smile and point out the nearby scenic sites in the Puget Sound delta.
Bowers made himself a cheese, pastrami, sauerkraut, hot mustard, horseradish, onion and dill sandwich and washed it down with a couple cans of beer while he relaxed in the plush recliner. He put his feet up and watched the traffic whiz by on the Interstate. Behind him a needle-nosed steeple poked through the light overcast, and to his right an evergreen circle buffered a roadside park with a statuesque blue spruce. He cranked open all the windows to let in a little of Mother Nature’s perfume. Maybe all the old Chief needed was a little fresh air to kill the stink. By now, even his beer was tasting fishy.
“Hi, there!” A cackling voice startled him as the Chieftain shivered with the weight of an intruder on the doorstep.
He put the sandwich down and grabbed his beer.
“You home?” A brassy head poked in and speared him with two milky eyes rimmed in black eyeliner. It was her again – Jabba the Hut's sister. This time in striped shorts and a halter-top that barely confined the battleship boobs and belly folds lapping at her waist like waffle batter. She grabbed the door handle and hoisted herself aboard.
Bowers smelled sweat, hair spray and the licorice gum she was popping.
“Hey there! We found ya. Must be goin’ the same way, huh? You goin’ all the way up to the border?”
“At least.” The North Pole didn’t seem far enough.
She grinned and tugged at a rat’s nest in her hair. Tattooed initials spotted her knuckles. He wasn’t expecting to see a tennis bracelet. The fake nails were chipped and painted with cadaver-green polish. Her elbows were grimy, and she could stand a shave. This Motorcycle Mama clone would need a body-shop makeover to bring her up to ordinary ugly.
He surrendered his sandwich inches away from her grappling hooks.
“Goin’ fishin’, huh?” Plop. Squish. A hunk of pastrami fell on the sofa arm. She flattened it with an elbow as she repositioned herself to get a toothy grip on the bread.
He reefed on the door. “I gotta shove off, Boydra. Go ahead and take the beer.”
She didn’t budge. Another over-sized bite left a dab of horseradish stuck to her lower lip. “You like ’em strong, don'tcha?” she gasped, flushing pickled-beet red.
“Puts hair on your chest, Boydra.” Probably a redundancy.
He watched her glug more beer. She belched again, licked her lips and set the beer can on the arm of the sofa. It teetered for a moment and fell over. “Oops.” She shrugged. “Beer don’t stain none. Hey, you gotta another cold one to go?”
“Fraid not, Boydra.”
She anchored her ass in the pliant cushions. “We could travel together, ya know? The kids is takin’ care of theirselves pretty much. My oldest Shawna Lynn is too busy makin’ out with her boyfriend to notice where I’m at. How many kids you got? For real.”
“None I know about.”
He gave her a shove as soon as she heaved her bulk off the sofa. Bowers was not surprised to see a stain under her ass – beer and sandwich dribble. This woman wasn’t even housebroken.
“Hey, gimme a couple cold ones for the road, willya? Our fridge conked out.”
“Sorry.” He shoveled her out the door with a hand at the small of her back that was damp with sweat. She smelled like a prison cot.
Boydra stumbled down the steps, stopped to jerk down her halter-top and shade her eyes from the sun. “Say, ya gonna stop at Sedro-Wooley for supper? I know a place ya can git a good burger at. Chicken fried steaks ain’t bad neither. How ‘bout it?”
“No thanks. Think I’ll just fry up a little road kill.”
She giggled as Bowers slammed the door and clicked the lock. He closed the windows, started the Chief and pulled out into traffic, drove around the fifth-wheeler parked on the asphalt apron and tried not to notice the bare-chested beast with a Fu Manchu mustache smirking as he went by. Must be Boydra’s boy Donny. Missed his Deliverance II casting call.
Before he knew it, he had coaxed the Winnebago to eighty. Didn’t seem fast enough to make space between him and the unwashed Dog Patch clan on his tail. His cellular phone rang. He let off on the gas and picked it up. “Yeah?”
“I’m sorry to spoil your trip, John.” She snuffled. “But Purvis gave me this number.” Purvis Hall, his commander at Central Precinct in the new Justice Center back home in Portland. “You know Lyle has a little boy.”
His ex’s boyfriend. That’s about all he knew. “Yeah.”
“He’s been kidnapped, John.” Now the waterworks sounded like Niagra Falls. “God, I don’t know what to do. Help me, please, John. They won’t tell me anything. Please. I need you.”
He flipped on the signal and pulled off onto the shoulder. His vacation was suddenly over. Leslie’s plea threw him right back into the dark hole he had only pretended to leave at the border.