Interlude

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Eddy’s job involved a lot of travel. It was one of the perks of the gig. He enjoyed the chance to see new places and meet new people, even if he had to dump some of those people in a shallow grave before he went back home. His goal was to visit each of the fifty states at least once. He’d been to thirty-eight so far and was collecting souvenir magnets.

At the moment, he was driving through the great state of Wyoming. It was one of his more pleasant drives, and not just because he didn’t have any cops chasing after him. The scenery for the past few hours had been nothing short of spectacular: grassy green fields, lush forests, and distant snow-capped mountains. It was the kind of place where a guy could get some real peace and quiet.

“That a new dress?” he asked his companion.

Irma Grimaldi, one of the scariest damn women Eddy had ever met, glanced down as if to remind herself what she was wearing. She was gaunt and graying, and Eddy had always secretly thought she’d look at home in a witch costume. But today she wore a pale purple dress and matching flowered hat, looking for all the world like she was on her way to Sunday mass. Oddly appropriate, since the two of them were heading to see a preacher.

“Yes,” she said. “Why? Is this a compliment? I think I might die of shock.”

“You know you’re gonna get blood on it.”

“Not if we keep this quick and clean like we’re supposed to.”

“I know how it’s supposed to go.” Eddy kept his eyes on the road. “But it never goes exactly as planned, does it?”

“Just keep the screw-ups to a minimum,” she said. “I can carry your slack.”

A car zoomed past them, as Eddy was doing five miles under the speed limit. He wasn’t going to risk getting pulled over. Not that there were many cops out here. There wasn’t much of anything at all. Every so often, they passed isolated houses, making Eddy wonder how people managed to live there when the closest grocery store must be miles away. Eventually, they reached the preacher’s place.

The house was perched on a hilltop, overlooking the road and fields. It was a mansion done in the style of a log cabin, a rustic aesthetic that didn’t sacrifice any luxuries. Eddy started up the driveway and stopped when he reached a gate manned by a security guard.

Eddy rolled down the window as the guard stepped out of his booth and approached him, but he didn’t even get out a hello before the guard said, “This is private property. I need to ask you to turn around.”

“I am so sorry,” said Irma in a cheerful tone that gave Eddy shivers. “We didn’t mean to intrude on you. But could you tell us how to get to Highway 89? My husband promised me he knew the way, but, well, here we are.”

The guard’s stern expression softened. “Yeah, sure. Just turn right when you reach the—”

Eddy pulled a gun on him, and he froze.

“Actually, I think we’d like to do some sightseeing first,” Eddy said. “Mind opening the gate for us?”

Once they’d pulled in and duct-taped the guard’s ankles and wrists, Eddy and Irma found the door conveniently unlocked and strode right inside. Someone had a little too much confidence in his security guard, not that the poor guy was equipped for much more than deterring burglars and keeping out the preacher’s more fanatical admirers.

“See you in a minute,” Irma said, and the two split up.

Eddy headed up the stairs, gun drawn, because while the guard at the gate was taken care of, there could be others inside who were more competent. The stairs opened up to a landing with wide windows affording a picturesque view of the countryside. Plush couches were angled towards it, and the walls were decorated with deer antlers and other hunting trophies.

Eddy continued down the hall, checking every room he passed. The bathroom was empty, and so was the study, though it contained tall stacks of books with the preacher’s face on it, which he seemed to have left in the process of autographing. Sounds came from behind the next door, and Eddy slowed as he approached it, listening intently.

Never mind. There was no reason to strain his ears. He knew the sound of people knocking boots when he heard it.

He tried the doorknob, but it was locked. That took him no more than thirty seconds to fix, and then he swung open the door and went in gun first.

“Sorry to interrupt.”

Screams greeted him. Eddy found a flabby middle-aged man in bed with two blondes who couldn’t be a day over nineteen.

“Everybody up. Slowly. Hands where I can see them.”

Whimpering, they obeyed him. Eddy watched for any indication one of them was about to pull a gun from between the sheets, but none of them did. At least while they were naked, he could be sure they didn’t have a piece hidden on them. Distracting as hell, though. Eddy kept his gun trained on them as he walked around to the various clothes strewn about the floor, stepping on the cloth to make sure there were no weapons concealed in the pockets.

“Alright, you can get dressed one at a time.”

By the time the girls had pulled on skimpy dresses and the man buttoned up his pants, Irma arrived. There must have been one more guard, judging by the small blood-splatter on the edge of her skirt, staining the petals of the fabric’s patterned flowers.

“Told you,” Eddy said.

“Shut it,” she replied.

“Do me a favor and tie up the ladies, then? I already feel like a creep.”

Irma duct-taped their limbs together, shoved them into a large closet, and pushed an armoire in front of the closet door to keep them in. Then she pulled out a bloodied knife and poked the preacher in the back with it.

“Forward,” she snapped.

“We’re going to walk out nice and slow.” Eddy gestured to the door with his gun.

Pale and shaky, the preacher followed Eddy out of the room, Irma at his back. “What do you want with me?” he asked. “I have money. I’ll pay you whatever you want.”

“Got enough money already.” Eddy walked back down the stairs. “Your powers, though, we don’t got anything like that yet.”

“Powers?” The preacher laughed, but it was high-pitched and completely fake. “I don’t have any powers. The faith healing—it’s all a scam, a show.”

“You do put on a good show,” Eddy agreed. “It was a decent idea, hiding in plain sight like that. But you had to know somebody would figure it out eventually. You’re lucky it was us and not the government.”

They walked out the front door, and Eddy popped the trunk. Irma fiddled with her knife while Eddy went through the duct tape routine one more time. The preacher pleaded and whined until Eddy taped over his mouth and shoved him into the trunk.

“Look on the bright side,” Eddy said, “We need your powers, so we’ll keep you alive. Behave, and we might even add ‘unharmed’ to that.”

He shut the trunk, and he and Irma got back inside the car.

“So,” he asked her, “What do you wanna do for lunch?”

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Kristen’s Corner

Eddy and Irma are some of my favorite characters in the series, but I never seem to have space in the books to give them a bigger role. Do you guys have any favorite minor characters you’d like to see more of?

That ends our brief interlude, and the next episode will start on Monday, February 20th.

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