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Page 9

Behind me, Lee lost his cool and spewed out a stream of epithets. “I turned around and saw that he had unzipped his jacket. He held a .38 revolver about twelve inches from my forehead.

You’ve never lived until you’ve almost died. I’ve been close to death many times. . .from cystic fibrosis or from my own risk taking. For one brief moment of clarity, adrenaline swept away the drunken fog, as though I’d been dunked in an ice cold bath. I had thought I wanted to die, but I knew now that I wanted to live. The night was cold, but I began to sweat fear from every pore.

“I’m going to cap this narc,” spit Lee, foam flecking the corner of his mouth. I could see that he was working up the nerve. If I didn’t dissuade him quick, he would do it. I didn’t try to second guess him for one second. I believed he’d kill me, like I’d never believed anything before.

I threw up my hands, with palms open. For a brief instant, I considered going for the gun, but thought better of it. It was a horrible risk to take, and even if I could get a hold of the pistol without getting a bullet in me, what chance did an inebriated, sickly 135 pounder have against a big guy like Lee? Even if by some miracle he didn’t beat the crap out of me, and then shoot me- there were Sebastian and Chance standing behind me to finish the job. I decided to rely on the one thing that had gotten me in and out of hundreds of scrapes. . .my mouth.

“Hey man, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He pressed the barrel of the gun against my head so that I could feel the barrel against my skin. “You’re a narc,” he repeated. “No way, man. You’re crazy.”

“You think he’s wired?,” asked Chance.

Sebastian shrugged.

“I’m not wearing a wire man. If I were a narc you guys would be busted right now. I’ve got no reason to screw you guys over. Listen, I’ll prove it.”

I began to strip off my shirt. I’d raised a sliver of doubt in Lee’ mind. He backed off a couple feet as I threw my shirt on the back of the Vette and stood there bare-chested with my arms raised up. “See, nothing. Look at me. I’ve got no wire. . .no gun. . .no nothing.”

Lee and Chance still weren’t convinced. I sat down in the cold grass and took off my shoes and socks, then standing up, unbuttoned my Levi’s and let them drop to the ground- so that I stood naked, except for a pair of red Jockey shorts.

Keeping the gun trained on me, Lee watched while Chance collected my trousers, and emptied the pockets of my wallet, keys and a few other odd trinkets. Chance handed the keys to Sebastian while he turned my pants inside out, and checked the seams for a wire. When he satisfied himself that there was nothing there, he did the same thing with my shirt, and then checked my shoes, and even my socks.

While Chance was doing this, Sebastian went back to his Camaro and stayed warm. I couldn’t stop shivering now. Fear could only keep me warm for so long, and that time was long passed. My teeth chattered and I crouched down, hugging my knees to my chest, trying to retain some warmth while I awaited the verdict.

Finally, Chance threw a pile of my clothes at my feet. “Get dressed,” he said. There was no apology, and no admission that I wasn’t a narc, but I wasn’t going to press the point. I wasn’t in the clear, yet. I quickly threw my icy clothes back on, and slid into the back seat

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