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The Butcher Shop by Neil Austin
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Genre/Category: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
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The Butcher Shop by Neil Austin
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Synopsis

Claire's life is peculiar but predictable.

Each night she works as a bartender and DJ at the Butcher Shop, a transportable, invite-only rave, operating from deserted warehouses and unrented commercial premises in and around downtown Denver.

Each morning, once the Shoppers have slipped away, Claire comes back to Dwight, her red and white Mustang, to get a couple of hours of slumber, and dreams of another life in Seattle.

When her ex is killed after a night later she can't recall, Claire must demonstrate she didn't murder him. Unless of course she actually did commit the crime. This was, maybe, not the best night to begin drinking once more. obooko.


Excerpt:

I wake up to the sound of a nightstick tapping on my window. “Frank, damn it; leave me alone.”

But of course the tapping doesn’t stop, so now I’m pissed. When you live in your car, you learn the value  of a good night’s sleep.  Frank is seriously dipping into the karmic debt I owe him. When I  pull Henry down off my face, though, I can see why he’s putting on the ‘serious police officer’ act.

“Bacon and eggs for breakfast; how thoughtful.” “You can’t sleep here, Claire. You know that.”

Which is so much bullshit, of course.  The lease on my apartment  is still in my name; I’m letting David live there until he finds some place else. Break-ups suck, but they are so much worse when you find out the guy you were dating is completely incapable of surviving on his own. You might think I’m kidding about this, but after I threw David out, the police called me from Safeway. The poor bastard had holed himself up in the toilet paper aisle with a jar of peanut butter  and a box of plastic spoons.  Apparently he‘d managed to build a  toilet paper igloo before the cops showed up.

It was actually Frank who brought David back home, and left him in my custody with little more than a warning. It’s Frank who’s been watching my back ever since. This is why I’m not going to give him too much shit about showing off for his new partner. Not too much shit, anyway.

“She’s better looking than your last partner, Frank. You plan it that way? Just keep killing off your partners until they give you one worth looking at?”

“Joe’s quite happy in Florida, Claire. You going to move this heap, or is Sandy here going to get some practice writing tickets?”

Sandy is short, Hispanic, has a hint of a mustache, but it kind of works for her.

“Pleasure to meet you, Sandy.”

I stick my hand out through the half-open window; it’s upside down, but that’s not a good excuse to ignore the gesture.  Sandy goes ahead and leaves me hanging, though,  so I decide right there  that she’s not getting an invite. It’s good for business to keep a few cops in the loop, but on the other hand,  when I have  a choice,  I  prefer to be the only bitch in the room.

“Alright, Frank, I’m moving. You might want to crank the A/C; it would be a pity if your princess melted.”

Frank tries to hide his smile, but the way Sandy twists her mus- tache,  I know he lost that battle.   Dwight turns over  on the third     try, which is pretty good, considering we’re about a thousand miles over-due for an oil change.

It’s Tuesday;  time to go  shopping.

I love warehouse club liquor stores. Where else can you ask about the price of a gallon of vodka without getting handed an AA pam- phlet?

“Didn’t expect to see you again for at least another three days.

Is business that good, Claire?”

Walt. He’s much too smart to be a register biscuit, but I think he actually enjoys it.  Something about fluorescent lights and a name-   tag gets him out of bed in the morning, I guess.

“Dog, I wish. Some jack-ass decided to go crowd surfing; ended up right in the middle of the bar.”

“You  shoulda lit him on fire.”

“Thought about it. DFD ain’t too happy with us right now.” “They can’t still be pissed about that?”

‘That’ was the last time we let Shoppers crash after last call. Scott had found an abandoned office building; looked like someone had been using it to print some sad little reactionary rag because the presses were still there, but the dust was thick enough that it looked like a sure thing. What Scott failed to mention was that he didn’t bother to ask around at all, so we weren’t even slightly prepared when the Denver Fire Department started chopping down the doors, and nearly crushed a tangle of kids sleeping off hangovers. Training, they said. I think firemen just like to bust shit up. These days, I do the scouting, and Scott does security.

Walter’s staring at me like he doesn’t know the meaning of rhetor- ical, so I give him a little shrug.

“They’ll get over it. Say, did you get my Krupnikas?” “You know I can’t do special orders, Honey.”

“What the hell good are you, then?”

The way he’s smiling I know he’s got a crate in the back, and he’s going to eyeball-wrestle me before he admits to it. I am the Queen of Staring Contests, though, and he goes down in flames before I even bat  an eyelash.

“Alright, alright. I’ll bring it tonight. Same spot?”

“Yeah, but probably the last time this week. The air is starting to feel a bit stale, you know?”

“You got another location picked out?”

“It’s a coin flip, this time. Bring the band tonight, and I’ll even pay you for the crate.”

“Generous.  We’ll  be there.”

So I pay for my booze with the L&L Meats and Poultry Amex I carry around – that’s a private joke right there – and it comes out  to $843.27, even with Walt’s employee discount. Business is slow enough that he doesn’t even make a show of it when he offers to wheel one of the carts out, then helps me load up Dwight’s trunk.

“I love this car, Claire. When are you going to sell it to me?”

Walt closes the trunk. The way he runs his hands across it is pornographic; the man has a serious car-fetish. I can’t help laughing, but I’m not sure what’s funnier; the look on his face, or the mental image I’ve just had of Walt  dry-humping  my  Mustang.

“No way, buddy; I’m not going to feed your sickness. Go get yourself a nice Subaru and settle down.”

“Five grand, right  now  –  cash.” “Do  you  even  have  that  much?” He gets a little shifty-eyed on me.

“I can get it. For this car? I can get it.” So I laugh again.

“See you tonight, Walt. Looks like you’ve got customers.”