The Assassins Club by Dixon Rice

The Assassins Club is a thriller by Dixon Rice that takes place in Montana in 1970.  It is on sale for a mere $2.99 as both Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook.  In the first chapter, bartender/college student Tyler Goode is cornered by the town bully, and kills to save himself.  He walks away, amazed that nobody saw the fight and thinking that he did the town a favor – plus he got quite a rush from it.  In this excerpt, the usually timid Ty hooks up with an exciting beauty, a girl he never would have spoken with before.  Then, confused by the sudden rush of events, he seeks out his best friend.

 

Instead of sleeping late like most Saturdays, Tyler Goode sat up wide awake at 6:30 the next morning.  He looked out at the overcast sky, half-expecting a dozen deputies with drawn weapons in front of the trailer.   Nothing but snow piled so high he could hardly see the roof of the Barracuda.

Had the fatal fight with Brute been just a bad dream?  The pain from his scraped elbow told him he hadn’t imagined a thing.  He held out his hands.  Not a quiver or a shake.  Was it normal to feel so calm and relaxed?  Ty brewed a small pot of strong coffee and then jumped into a hot shower.  He found himself humming while he scrubbed up.

Okay, so he wasn’t going to dissolve into a puddle of anxiety over killing Brute.  God knows the bully deserved it.  But this…euphoria over taking a life and getting away with it – it was so unexpected.

He toweled off and padded into the kitchen to pour himself some coffee.  Ty dialed his friend Adrien.  No answer.  With that guy’s luck, he’d probably run into some gorgeous triplets last night, and still hadn’t come home.  Ty ran his fingers through his hair until it pointed in the same general direction, threw on some jeans and a comfortable flannel shirt, and shrugged into a ski parka.  Time to get away from the silence bouncing off the trailer walls and find a hot breakfast.

He drove to Columbia Falls and walked into the Saddle Tramp, a cowboy bar with a 24-hour short-order grill.  On the juke box, Okie from Muskogee faded into the opening chords of Who Drinks My Beer When I’m Gone by Canada’s Mercey Brothers.  Rumor had it the cook who’d been there for the past month made the world’s best crab and artichoke omelet.  It wasn’t on the menu but Ty had heard about it.  He ordered one along with a stack of sourdough toast.   A guy named Dave, a regular patron at the Ruff Rider, waved him over to a large round table with a bunch of other early-twenties.

In the past, Ty would’ve shrugged off the greeting and enjoyed a peaceful, solitary meal.  This morning he felt confident and sociable.  He walked up to Dave’s table, catching a whiff of bourbon and stale beer.  “Still celebrating Friday night, my friend?”

“You bet.”  Dave’s face glistened with the shine of a happy drunk.  “Started out at the Outlaw Inn and then hit a private party up on Big Mountain.  Threw cash at the band so they’d play all night.  We ran into your buddy Adrien, the life of the party.”

“He does get around.”  Ty looked around at the other revelers, noticing a petite brunette in a Twiggy haircut who was busy pretending not to notice him.

“Yeah, Adrien was with some Swedish stewardess – at least, that’s what he claimed.  She didn’t speak a word of English.”

Ty laughed.  “I’d imagined him out all night with triplets.”

Twiggy looked over and laughed along with him, not knowing why.

“Man,” Dave said.  “This chick was good-looking enough to be triplets.”

Dave talked for a few minutes about the wild happenings of the night before.  Then a guy in the chair next to Twiggy grabbed his jacket and staggered towards the door.  Ty went over and sat down.

“My name’s Ty.  I don’t think I’ve seen you around before.”

“But I’ve seen you – slinging drinks at the Ruff Rider, teasing all the girls and acting shy.”  She took a sip from a Bloody Mary.  “You can call me Sugar.”

The juke box went silent.  Dave and one of the other girls walked over and fed it some quarters.  Soon Kaw-Liga by Charlie Pride blared from the speakers.

“I would never tease you.”  Ty reached out and covered one of her tiny hands with his, surprising himself at his boldness.  “Let me buy you a cup of coffee.”

“Big spender, huh?”

“I just wanna make sure you don’t fall asleep in the middle of something interesting.”

For a moment, Ty thought she would slap him.  Then Shirley, the buck-toothed waitress who’d worked there forever, set his breakfast and a cup of coffee in front of him..

Sugar smiled.  “Is that the famous crab and artichoke masterpiece?”

“It is, indeed,” he said.

She looked up at Shirley.  “A second fork and another coffee, please.  Nice and strong, if you can.”

 

* * * (Sorry – skipping over a sensual scene) * * *

 

Ty drove through Columbia Falls on his way back to Hungry Horse.  He liked this blue-collar town, partially due to its location.  From here, Whitefish, Hungry Horse and Kalispell were each about a 15-minute drive.  Big Mountain Ski Resort loomed a short drive past Whitefish, and Bigfork lay not far beyond Kalispell on the east shore of Flathead Lake.  The peaks of Glacier National Park rose up beyond Hungry Horse.  All of the Flathead Valley stretched out conveniently before him – a good thing, since gas prices were rumored to be heading to fifty cents per gallon.

He noticed his friend Adrien’s 1966 Datsun Roadster parked next to a roadside business.  A taxidermy and gun shop.  That seemed strange.  Ty couldn’t remember Adrien ever making mention of hunting, fishing, or any other backwoods activity.   He flipped a u-turn and pulled up next to the gunmetal-gray sports car.

Inside the shop, all became clear.

The clerk behind the glass counter was a breathtaking beauty – tall, shapely and athletic with classic Scandinavian features and tangled auburn hair.  She was laughing at Adrien as the African held a snowshoe like a tennis racket, pretending to be returning volleys.  Originally from Cameroon, the blue-black giant stood six-foot-six with an infectious grin.

“You have arrived just in time to serve, Tyler.  The score is thirty-love, whatever that may mean.”

Ty looked around.  Every square inch seemed crammed with mounted game animals, rifle cabinets, knives, Pendleton blankets, Head ski equipment, snowshoes and displays of camping gear.   Handguns, bayonets and binoculars crowded together under the glass counter.  “So, my friend, stocking up for the revolution?”

Adrien let out a booming laugh.  “Did I not tell you, Leika?  He is the most funny man.  The two of you should be together.”

Ty looked over at Leika but she didn’t seem aware he was present.  He turned back to Adrien.  “I don’t want to disturb your business, selling her shrunken heads or whatever.  Meet me at the mounted fish museum when you get done.”

He left the shop with the roar of more laughter in his ears and drove a few blocks to one of his favorite spots in the world.  The first time he walked into the Pines Café and Fish Museum and saw the tree trunk growing up through the floor and out the roof, and all the mounted fish on the walls, he’d known this was someplace special.  And the coffee actually tasted quite good.  He wondered if any of the trophy fish had passed through Leika’s lovely hands.

After his third refill and second doughnut, Ty noticed all the customers in the café turning their heads toward the front door.

Adrien must be making his entrance.

The young man from Cameroon wove his way through the tables, oblivious to the stares of the lily-white patrons, and came over to slap Ty between the shoulder blades.  “Was she not magnificent?  As you seemed not so interested, I made the arrangement for a rendezvous this very evening.  Life is good, yes?”

“For you, my friend, life is grand.  Myself, not so much.”

Dixon Rice

Learn more about Dixon Rice at http://wredhead.blogspot.com/

James D. Kellogg

James D. Kellogg is a water resource engineer in Glenwood Springs, Colorado and the author of Radical Action: A Colt Kelley Thriller. His Right Angles opinion column appears monthly in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent newspaper.

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