Tasha drove her junker. Butchie rode shotgun. In the old says he’d have roared up these twisting roads in his Kamikaze Chopper. But he knew that, in his fragile condition, and with all the drugs he was taking, he’d never ride a motorcycle again.
“Left here,” Butchie said. “Shortcut.”
The western hills of Bayside County rose gently through a forest to the leafy state park at Jackson Falls, its campgrounds crowded all summer but nearly deserted after Labor Day.
“Lisa Fucking Lange,” said Butchie. “I thought she’d end up in Hollywood.”
“So did she,” said Tasha.
“And now she’s a snitch?”
“What makes her a snitch? She called me, not the cops.”
“A snitch is a snitch,” Butchie said and winced in pain as Tasha’s beater bounced over a bump. “Jesus, take it easy, you got a wounded man here.”
“We’ve got to get there, Butchie, he could leave any minute.”
They entered the parking lot of the main campground. Tasha focused on a shiny black Range Rover and pulled up behind it.
“That’s his machine?” Butchie asked.
“I’ve got sources at DMV,” Tasha said.
“Ninety thousand dollars, easy,” Butchie said. “I’d love to chop that car.”
Tasha drove over a carpet of golden leaves to a parking spot at the ranger headquarters. Its broad veranda was hung with a banner that read:
WELCOME WITCHES OF THE WORLD
Register at Window
“She’s a witch now, Lisa?”
“Always has been.”
“How about that?” Butchie said. “A witch and a snitch. I did’t know witches had conventions.”
They approached the lodge’s stairs and out of the Great Room stepped Lisa Lange.
“Thank you for calling,” whispered Tasha. “Where is he?”
“At the falls,” said Lisa. “With Adora.”
Lisa points the way to Nick and Adora.
Tasha touched Lisa’s skinny pale arm. “I owe you.” She turned to see Butchie inspecting the display of taxidermy: Coyote, owl, raccoon, weasel.
“Let’s go,” Tasha said.
“Weasels,” Butchie said. “Reminds me of certain guys I knew in the Joint.”
They descended the wooden steps, headed for the dark forest path leading to the falls.
“Butchie,” Tasha said, “you ignored Lisa.”
“She did us a big favor. Learn to acknowledge people when you walk into a room.”
“I don’t have the social faux pas, I know.”
“Poor thing,” said Tasha. “Her business isn’t doing so hot, that’s what Maggie told me. I have a feeling she’ll end up waiting tables again.”
They walked through the tunnel of trees and when they reached the clearing, looked down at falls and pool. There were two people in that pool: Nick and Adora. Nude.
Nobody wants to be surprised while skinny dipping.
“Nothing like catching a guy skinny dipping,” whispered Butchie.
Tasha followed him down the path and into the sunshine.
“Nick the Fucking Bulgarian!” bellowed Butchie.
Nick, sitting on a rock, looked up in shock and anger.
Adora, showering under the falls, step backed behind the curtain of water.
Butchie, hiking his bluejeans shorts, waded into the shallow end of the natural pool. Tasha walked around the rocky rim, headed in the Bulgarian’s direction.
Nick sat back. The rocks made a kind of a throne, and he posed like a muscleman king, lips pursed, looking askance.
Butchie stood, one foot on a rock beside him.
“Cops looking for you,” Butchie said. “Good thing I’m not a snitch.”
Tasha madly took pictures with her cellphone.
“What you need, Mister Butch?”
“Simple answer,” said Butchie. “Night of May 23, 2017. You remember? You should. Because that’s the night you persuaded Marco the Ferryman to skip his last run. How’d you do it? Pussy, cash, or strong arm?”
“Don’t make us laugh.”
“Do I look like a comedian?”
Adora scampered from behind the falls, snatched up a towel, and bolted into the forest.
Nick eased off his rocky throne and sank waist deep in the dark burgling water.
“We’re talking about the night Liz Burns disappeared,” Butchie said. “I’m a gambler, Nick, and I always bet the favorite. And right now, that’s you.”
“Fuck you Mister Butch.” From the water, Nick raised a hand, middle finger extended.
“All’s I want to know is who put you up to it. Because I know you didn’t think it up in that tiny Bulgarian brain.”
Adora’s voice echoed out of the forest. “You stink. You’re a horrible man. Go away and leave us alone.”
Butchie said: “Tell me who put you up to it, and me and my girl here …”
“I’m not your girl,” said Tasha.
“Me and the lady go riding off into the sunset. Leaving you and your lovely companion to enjoy the peace of the forest. Or to to fuck each other blind, your choice.”
“Your fucking joke, right?”
“My sidekick here has a cellphone, and unlike me, she knows how to use it. What’s your favorite number, honey?”
“9-1-1,” said Tasha.
“See?” said Butchie. “The cops will be here before you can trudge back to your room. Be hell spending the night in the woods, hiding from the cops.”
“Maybe I smash you both.”
“Hell, I been shot, stabbed, sliced, kicked around, beat up since I was 5 years old. I don’t care how big you are, I can handle a dude like you.”
Nick rose from the water, grabbed a towel from between rocks, used it to dry himself, turning his ass toward Tasha and Butchie.
Tasha calls 9-1-1 as Butchie and Nick grapple.
“See the way I figure it,” Butchie said, “you’re not guilty of nothing too bad. Somebody gave you a job. You thought it was a prank. No big deal. You didn’t know they was gonna strand that lady on the island so they could kill her. All you’re guilty of is being a stupid pimp, right Tasha?”
“Oh, said Nick, “you’re a lawyer now?”
“Do not listen to him, Nicholas,” Adora shouted unseen. “He is a bastard.”
“Once Tasha hits the magic numbers,” Butchie said, “there’s no going back. Even if you killed us, there’s only one road out, and you’d never get past the cops. So Nick, tell me, who hired you to goose the ferry run. Billie McGinn?”
“Fuck you I spit at you.”
Nick lunged at Butchie, who sidestepped like a matador, knocking Tasha and her cellphone into the pool. Butchie swung at Nick, who arrested his arm and judo-flipped him into the pool. Tasha arose bleeding, holding her hand to her face.
Butchie gurgled and fought his way to the surface, choking and coughing. He was frightened by how weak he’d become, and feared that his big wound might split open.
“Fuck you,” Nick said. He grabbed his underwear from atop a rock, slipped into it and shouted over his shoulder: “I am green card man. Cops cannot touch me, citizen of the USA.”
Adora emerged from the forest, wearing a towel, just as a sheriff’s brown-and-white car rolled down the maintenance road.
Adora shouts at Butchie as Nick emerges triumphant from the pool.