An excerpt from The Reckoning – The Watchmaker – Book Three, by Lee Capp. Anticipated publication date: End of Summer, 2015
We hit Nevada Street just as the sun dipped beneath the horizon. It was not a good time. It was the time of day when the rough guys come out to play. It was the time of day when bad stuff happens. I could see a couple of rough guys just down the street and on the other side. Skulking next to an abandoned car up on cinder blocks. A couple of “ganstas.” Complete with hoodies. Bulges in the pockets too. I didn’t think they were sacks of candy.
I figured we probably had five good minutes before the shit would start. Trouble was . . . Brick wanted ten.
We stood on the sidewalk in front of the old house, leaning on an ancient and rickety picket fence. I could see that Brick was lost in thought and memory. He didn’t seem to notice or care that we might just be a couple of sitting ducks. Jedediah ‘Brick’ Wahl didn’t carry weapons of any sort, and wise-guy Johnny O’Brien had left Betsy back at the hotel. I felt just a little naked and vulnerable.
“My dad was born here,” he began. “The man who created me. Well, not actually in the house. In a hospital over on Seven Mile Road. It was called Grace Hospital. Long since gone now. Torn down years ago to make way for a Home Depot . . . progress, I guess.”
“This was a beautiful house then, back in ’49. And a lovely street as well. Tree lined. It was like a tunnel driving through them. Dutch Elm disease killed them all. This was what we used to call a ‘neighborhood’, Johnny. Everybody knew each other. All kinds of businesses and stores and shops within just a block or two. All gone now, of course. Empty, burned-out, or bulldozed away.”
He was right. The “neighborhood” had turned into what closer resembled the surface of the moon. It was hard to see the near ruin of the building in front of me as having ever been a livable residence, much less a nice house. I couldn’t quite squint my eyes that much. Death and destruction had long ago come to Nevada Street.
“The Detroit riots were in ’67, but it was even pretty decent back when I was a kid in the seventies,” Brick continued. “But then something happened. Something went bad. Something moved in to the city. For the want of a better word, I guess I’d have to call it ‘Evil’. Sure, you can blame the economy, blame the Democrats, General Motors, the post-industrial revolution period, or whatever else you like. But you just can’t get around the fact that the goodness here took a hike . . . and Evil moved in. Most of these empty houses are used now for doing drug deals, and for the dumping of bodies after the deals go bad.”
“The houses here used to be close together. Most of them are gone now. Long ago burned down for the insurance money. I’m surprised, Johnny, that dad’s old house survived. He worked for a while right next door at a garage and gas station. It was called Ned’s. It burned down a long time ago too.”
I looked around. Where Ned’s used to be was an empty and weed-infested parking lot. On the other side of the house was a vacant space. A brief outline of what was once a basement was the only evidence that a structure had ever existed there.
Brick went on. “Right across the street, was the Detroit Bank and Trust.” Now it was a liquor store. “Around the corner I used to run to Perry’s Butcher Shop to pick up stuff for mom to make for dinner. Next to that was The Rainbow Bar. A guy with no legs used to sit right over there on the corner of Nevada and John R. and sell pencils. He did a good business too. Everyone liked him.”
Brick was in memory lane. I could see that I was going to have a tough time getting him out of it. I could also see that the two goons down the street had decided to make their move. Brick and I must have looked like easy pickings for them–a quick payday.
They had pulled their guns. A couple of rather pricey and nice looking high-capacity semi-automatics. The two ganstas held them down low, next to their sides, with their fingers on the triggers, as they hot-footed it toward us. Looked to me that this was probably not their first attempted robbery.
“Time to go Brick,” I said. “We’re about to have company.”
Brick continued to stare at the house for a few seconds more. “Are they definitely coming at us?” he asked.
“Definitely,” I said.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Brick replied, as he turned to face the two rapidly approaching men.
“Why is that?” I asked.
Brick sighed. “Because I hate to hurt people.”
To be continued . . .