The NRA had a lot going for it, Candy decided as she sprinted across the parking lot. Guns and plenty of them. At least half those guns appeared to be prominently displayed in window racks in the muscular pickups strewn around her. The patrons of the Happy Camper Bar and Grill obviously enjoyed a hefty dose of firepower with their horsepower.
Hopefully, they were already locked and loaded, because time was of the essence, and the right to bear arms had just become her favorite constitutional amendment.
An eerily glowing porthole punctuated the Happy Camper’s massive door, a slab of oak she all but ripped off the hinges as she stumbled into the second dive she’d visited in three days. If she kept hanging around with George, she’d be making a name for herself in no time. Candy Johnson, codename: Barfly.
Unlike Hog Heaven, which resembled a concrete cave, the Happy Camper sported wooden walls festooned with beer signs, a herd of deer antlers, and a mounted trout the size of Jaws. The backslapping, two-stepping, cue-clacking crowd in denim, flannel, and a colorful assortment of gimme caps had probably tippled through several consecutive happy hours.
She noticed these details peripherally as she did the dodge-and-weave to the bar. Perched on the corner stool, Henry Adams hefted a pilsner glass, working diligently on his already impressive beer belly with his eyes glued to the flat screen angled in the corner.
Candy clutched his red flannel sleeve. “Henry, thank God. I need—”
“Bottom of the sixth, two outs,” he bellowed. “Dodgers are up by one.” And that’s when she remembered he was practically deaf.
She whirled to face the man on her other side. “Chet, please, I need your help!”
“What?” Chet Lewis swiveled his scarecrow body on the bar stool. “What’s that you say?”
“I need your help.”
He shook his head, jabbed a finger toward the bawling jukebox. “You’re gonna have to speak up.” Then he scowled, fiery brows snapping together. “Hey, what’re you doin’ here, anyway? This ain’t no place for a school teacher!”
You’re telling me, and what I’m doing at the moment is getting nowhere fast.
Loosing a frustrated growl, she bounded across the room and lunged for the jukebox. Nobody noticed her mad scramble for the cord, until she jerked the plug and snuffed Pam Tillis mid “Crazy Life.” Slurred what the hells followed her back across the dance floor.
Clambering onto the bar, Candy planted herself between the viewing audience and home plate. “Listen up! I need—”
A drunken hoot from the vicinity of the pool table interrupted her clarion call to arms.
“Well, aww right! We got us one of them exotic dancers! Crank ‘er up, honey! Shake that thang!”
Mac the bartender’s murderous glare cut from Candy to the back of the room. “I warned you about that last beer, Winston. And you’re a damned site drunker than I thought, if you can’t tell the difference between an exotic dancer and a gym teacher.”
Leaning heavily on his cue stick, beefy Winston Powell squinted. “Gym teacher, you say? Well, hell. What’s she doing up there on the bar, if she ain’t gonna—”
“Will you all shut up and listen?” Candy roared, and silence fell like a ton of bricks. She drew a deep breath. “I need men.” When Winston and his lewd grin stepped forward, her hand shot up. “Let me qualify that. I need a posse.”
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