Sunday, December 18, 2011

Repo Man & The Outlaw

Today, our guest blogger is (Mike) J.M. Hayes. Mike is an original, a writer with a conception all his own. He is also an astute observer of behavioral and social change. There are echoes of election fixing in English Lessons, but the real riff is on Second Amendment rights and gun laws. As a resident of Tucson, Hayes could hardly be on better ground for satire . Mike was raised on the flat earth of central Kansas. After graduating from Wichita State University Anthropology/archaeology), Mike did post-graduate work at the University of Arizona. He still lives in central Tucson with his wife, thousands of books, and a small herd of German Shepherds. English Lessons (2011) is his seventh novel and the sixth in his Mad Dog & Englishman series. The Library Journal selected his previous novel, Server Down, as one of the five best mysteries of the year.


REPO MAN & THE OUTLAW

Since writing doesn't earn me a living wage, I do bookkeeping a couple of days a week at Grumpy Old Men's Auto Repair here in Tucson. Times are tough. I'm not the only one working multiple jobs to get by. One of our customers, a teacher, moonlights as a Repo Man. That means he surreptitiously repossesses vehicles from owners who haven't kept up with their payments. It's a risky job, not something you'd normally expect a high school teacher to do on the side. But, risk brings rewards. It pays well.

 Repo Man is small time. He's got a little salvage yard where he stores what he picks up. He's licensed and bonded. And he got himself a very cool tow truck. It's a big Ford 250, equipped with a stealth boom that hides in the truck's bed until he needs it. When he finds one of the vehicles he's after, he can pull up in front or behind and activate the towing mechanism. It unfolds out of the bed like one of those convertible hardtops popping out of a trunk. The boom drops to just above ground level. It's then maneuvered under the target, lifts a pair of wheels, and get's out of the neighborhood fast. Some folks object, assuming they should be allowed an infinite number of months without payments. Bringing a gun to the argument is not unheard of. This is Arizona, remember. Our legislature made it legal for everyone here to carry concealed—no permit required. And there are lots of ways to buy the weapon of your choice without any record of the purchase.

 Some people might call it perfect justice—or evidence of a divine sense of humor. Whatever, Repo Man had his tow truck stolen a few weeks ago. Ironic, isn't it, that someone with a complete understanding of slim jims and lock busting slide hammers should get hit by an outlaw with similar skills. Law enforcement, however, recovered the truck within a couple of weeks. Without the stealth towing system, though, which the thief sold on the theory that anything you don't pay for is all profit. Not enough, though, since the outlaw and the truck got caught at a local casino. The thief probably thought wagering the proceeds of that towing system wasn't a real gamble and could turn small profits into bigger ones.

 Unfortunately, the truck came back a little the worse for wear. One of the door handles was broken for access, of course. And the ignition switch no longer required a key. A couple of fenders were also a bit crumpled. Nothing major, but the insurance company added up the costs of replacing the towing rig and fixing the truck and decided to declare it a total loss. Repo Man bought it back for salvage value. He thinks he can sell it at a profit. Big trucks are mighty popular along the border. Never know what or who you might need to haul around. Besides, he's found a newer truck and a used stealth tow rig he thinks he can pay for with the insurance money and by selling his former truck.

 His story caught my attention because it's a lot like my Mad Dog & Englishman novels—a Murphy's Law kind of situation with a sweet sense of irony, some justice in the end, and unexpected twists. Repo Man's twists arrived a little after he got his truck back. They came in two letters from the City of Tucson—parking tickets. Red zone violations, and those aren't cheap here. He called Tucson's police department. After all, he has documentation that the truck was stolen at the time it got ticketed. Only it turns out the auto theft division can't fix parking tickets, not even for the obviously innocent. So he's going to have to waste time in court because our outlaw was willing to gamble on parking spaces as well as gaming tables. Repo Man is a little upset by that, to say nothing of the fact that the cops issuing the parking tickets couldn't be bothered to run his tags and identify his truck as a stolen vehicle. The truck might not have been damaged or the repo rig removed yet when the parking tickets were issued. And two opportunities to retrieve his property were wasted.

 That's exactly the kind of plot twist I throw at my characters. Spend a day with the heroes of my Mad Dog & Englishman mysteries (less, actually, since all the books take place in under twenty-four hours) and you'll find that cosmic jokes are the rule, and things are never so bad that they can't get just a little worse.


3 comments:

Rick Blechta said...

To those people who want to use our comment section to post their spam addresses: your comments will be removed immediately. Please respect our blog and those people who wish to leave real comments. Thank you.

Donis Casey said...

Love,love, love this series, Mike. How you manage to get the whole rattling story told in a twenty-four hour period is just breathtaking.

synge lucia said...

Adore, adore, adore this particular sequence, Paul. The way you handle to find the entire rattling tale informed inside a twenty-four hr time period is simply spectacular.




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