a saturday night in cincinnati

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic


troy ash ends up broke and lost in the worst part of 1976's cincinnati. after leaving his friends with a girl to meet red's announcer, joe nuxhall, troy gets mugged and dropped off in over the
rhine. in his efforts to find his friends, he meets up with interesting characters and reevaluates his life.

Submitted: May 21, 2018

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Submitted: May 21, 2018

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"Did I really fall for the line that she was Joe Nuxhall's niece and she was taking me to where he and Red's players were going to be?" Troy Ash rubbed the bump that had formed on the top of his head. He moaned to himself, "I guess for being that stupid I deserve to be lost and drunk in Cincinnati. I'm broke and over three hours from home and I have no idea where my friends are staying."

Just fifteen hours ago, the twenty year-old Marshall University student and three of his his friends left Huntington, West Virginia to head to Riverfront Stadium to see the defending World Champion Cincinnati Reds take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Of course, the quartet split a case of ice cold Budweisers for breakfast. Then as the sun beat down on Riverfront Stadium on this hot August day in 1976, Troy, Johnny Mayes, Jeff Robinson, and Mark Bright made a new best friend out of the beer vendor. They loved the way the old vendor breezed through the stands yelling "Huuuuuddyyy.....get yer ice cold Hudy's here. Huuuuddyyyy!"

They were not big fans of the Cincinnati brewed Hudepohl beer...but the suds were cold and the sun was hot so the full beers were quickly emptied. The four were ready to start their final year of college. They needed a fun road trip to get ready for their senior year. So many tough decisions were waiting to be made. Marriage? Career? Where to live?

For now, the task at hand appeared simple: try to get Downtown to Cadillac's in time to meet his friends before they go to the hotel. Hotel whatever. It may as well be Hotel California...he could not recall where they made reservations but he thought it was in Covington, Kentucky.

The tall slender Troy Ash looked down and noticed a few spots of blood on his number fourteen Pete Rose jersey. No wonder his nose hurt. He felt groggy. It was hard to tell because he had stopped drinking or if it was from the ambush. He looked down the street and saw a sign that said Pony Keg so he stumbled toward it. He was in a rough looking neighborhood. The few cars that passed were older models. A heavy set man in a stained white T shirt passed by him. He stared at Troy.

Troy was a clean cut young tanned boy wearing a pair of nice Levi jean shorts and a shiny pair of white Converse tennis shoes with nice straight white teeth. Troy was a good looking preppish college frat boy. The man he passed had dirty black uncombed hair. It was not even long hippie hair, it was long "Fuck it, I'm not taking the time to comb my hair" hair.

It became more obvious to Troy with every step he took that he was not in a neighborhood he should be in. It was only about 9 o'clock so he had time to find out where he was and get to Cadillac's and meet his friends.

He knew he never should of left Joe's Bar. The Stroh's was ice cold but Carla was hot. Carla, if that was really her name, was a total fox. A long legged long black haired beauty with wide green eyes. She was wearing a Rose jersey like Troy's. They started talking about the Reds. Carla was the neice of Red's announcer Joe Nuxhall. The old lefthander Joe Nuxhall was the youngest player to ever perform in a major league game. At the age of fifteen, the southpaw made his debut in 1944.

But Troy never got to meet the old lefty. Troy got to meet about four Cincinnati thugs who gave him a good old fashion welcome to Over The Rhine. They busted him up and relieved him of his wallet the way Reds manager relieved Gary Nolan in the seventh inning of the game in favor of Pedro Borbon. Except Gary got to enjoy the Reds' victory from the clubhouse and Troy had to wander the streets of one of Cincinati's roughest neighborhoods.

Troy walked up to the tan building with the sign that said Pony Keg. It was an older building. He opened the heavy tan door. The building was part carry out and part bar. In the middle of the building was a long bar. Two guys sat at the bar. One of the guys looked to be about Troy's age. He was tall and skinny kid like Troy. The similarities stopped there as where Troy's teeth were a perfect white, this boy's teeth was a raunchy shade of yellow and he was missing a lower front teeth. The boy had a stained white t-shirt on. Troy was wondering if stained white t-shirts were the uniform in this part of town.

The other man sat at the end of the bar. He looked like he was falling asleep behind his can of Pabst. His head was sinking lower and lower. Troy was wondering if it would eventually bounce off of the bar.

The kid shot Troy a grin. Troy's vision was focused on the kid's missing tooth. For some bizarre reason Troy could not look away from that tooth.

A short gray headed man in a Stroh's t- shirt emerged from a cooler carrying a case of Little Kings. With a thick German accent he asked, "Can Ii get you something?"

Troy could not think of what to say at first. His tongue stumbled as a he said, "Yes. I men no. I mean I don't know."

The man stared at him, "Let me guess, Kid....you are from West Virginia?"

Troy took a step back and gasped, "How did you know?"

The expression never changed on the bartender's face. His German accent continued, "One you got that golly gee look like Richie Cunningham on Happy Days. You look like you'd believe anything someone tells you. You've got nice clothes. You are a rich kid from a small town travelling to the big city to see the Big Red Machine."

Troy kind of grinned and said, "Well, maybe some except for the rich part."

The bartender continued in the same bored tone of voice, "Well, you have more money and chances than that boy over there. You are priveledged...you may not realize it but something tells me you will by the end of the night."

Troy started to speak but the bartender cut him off and raised his voice louder, "I'm not done speaking. You have a busted face so you've had your ass kicked. You don't belong here you can tell you are not from here. The fact that you haven't called a cab and gotten as far away from this hell that younever would have stepped in tells me you were dropped off.

Troy looked at the man in awe. The other kid looked amazed as he listened and the old man at the end of the bar's head finally came to rest on the bar.

The bartender continued, "You got robbed but you don't want to call the police because you want to find your buddies and tell them your wild adventure in Over The Rhine. The thing you don't realize is that you keep walking around where you don't belong you will probably wind up dead. Now, I may mot be a smart college boy like you but I'm willing to bet I'm right."

Troy shook his head up and down. He admitted, "close. Very close. Is there anyway I could have a beer. I'm starting to sober up and get a headache."

The bartender grimaced and said in a frustrated tone of voice, "See, you are used to just getting things. You don't have money or you wouldn't be here. It's still early. You don't have time to drink. You need to get out of here before it get's late. Stories don't usually end in happily ever after down here."

Troy pleaded, "Please....I need to get my mind set. Just let me have a beer and when I find my friends I will bring you the money back by and a tip."

The bartender had a disgusted look on his face and reached into a cooler. He pulled out a bottle of Big Jug and handed it to him.

Troy looked at him and said, "Thanks...but Big Jug? Can I at least have a Stroh's."

The bartender look amazed, "This is Cincinnati beer. It is made in this city. It is good enough for the hardworking people of this city...but it is not good enough for pretty boy from West Virginia?"

Troy put his hands up to apologize, "Sorry, Sir, I did not mean to offend you." He took the large bottle and took a huge beer. He tried to hide the look on his face, but could not.

The boy at the end of the bar giggled and said, "Beggars can't be choosers."

Troy went over and sat next to the other kid. "Sorry, I didn't mean to sound ungrateful I appreciate any help you can give me. My name is Troy." He extended his hand out to the kid next to him.

The kid shook his hand and smiled, "I'm Carl. How did you end up down here?"

Troy took another drink of The Big Jug and made another face, he shook his head and said, "I met this hot girl at Joe's Bar. She said Joe Nuxhall was her Uncle. Je was going to a bar with some Reds players. We drove a little ways and I got out of a car and some guys jumped me. I woke up and the girl and my wallet was gone."

Carl shook his head, "Wow, man, that's messed up!"

Troy shook his head in agreement and asked, "Carl, can you take me to Cadillac's?"

"Yeah, I can get you to where you need. I got a vehicle in the alley." Carl took his last drink of beer.

Troy looked at the bartender, "Sorry, Sir, but I can't drink this beer. I tried. I'll still drop off some money. Thanks for the beer anyway."

The bartender put his hand up. "Bye Richie...be careful."

Troy leaned his head back and said, "I told you I'm not rich."

The bartender said without an expression, "Richie Cunningham. You remind me of Richie Cunningham. Be safe Richie."

Chapter 2

The two men walked out of The Pony Keg together. Troy let Carl walk ahead of him. He was laughing at the guy he had just met. Carl was bobbing up and down as he walked. Troy thought he looked like a flamingo or some type of large exotic bird. Every few steps, Carl would perch his neck out.

"What are you laughing at? " Carl demanded without breaking a stride.

"What are you doing bebopping? Your walk....Man, it's weird. You walk like a freakish bird," Troy laughed.

Carl looked back at him and said," I'm free. I got the spirit. I'm a free bird drifting in the wind."

Troy could not stop laughing, "Man, how old are you?"

Cark turned around and flapped his arms at Troy like he was a bird flapping his wings. "I'm eighteen," Carl screeched. "I'm eighteen" he sang over and over as he tried to imitate Alice Cooper.

"You're crazy," Troy laughed as he was starting to have fun again. He was curious about Carl. He seemed to have a different life than Troy and his friends. "So do you go to school?"

Carl was twirling around in circles with his arms still out like bird wings, "School? I left school when I was thirteen. I don't have time for school."

Troy was perplexed. "How will you get a good job without an education?"

Carl jumped up in the air like a bird taking off, "I 'll get by like I get by like I've gotten by. I'm a free bird."

Troy did not want to think about it too hard as this was Road Trip Saturday. Still, he felt grateful he was on the way to getting his college degree. He admits there were times when he may have drank with his friends when he should have studied. There were times when he skipped class to go to parties. But, he was getting close to getting that all important piece of paper known as a college degree.

Suddenly, Carl shrieked and started running toward a square object with a few tarps attempting to cover. With his arms flapping like a bird, Carl ran toward a big building in the alley. "Here it is. Here it is," Carl chirped.

"Here's what?" Troy wondered. He was getting a kick out of Carl but he could not help but to feel sorry for his new friend. Troy realized he constantly complained about his parents and often resented them for nagging him to go to college and to dp well in college. Troy wanted to be a free bird too. Watching his unguided acquaintance, he realized the kind of freedom Carl had and was headed to was certainly not the type of freedom that one should desire.

Carl had the freedom to starve. Carl had the freedom to freeze in the Winter. The options that Carl had the freedom to choose from were limited and not really desirable.

Carl was pulling the tarps off. "It's your ticket out of Over The Rhine. It's my golden chariot. It's the wings that make me a free bird. Carl started singing, "I leave here tomorrow Would you still remember me? For I must be traveling on, now Cause there's too many places I've got to see But, if I stayed here with you, girl Things just couldn't be the same Cause I'm as free as a bird now And this bird you can not change Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh And this bird you can not change And this bird you can not change Lord knows, I can't change"

Troy stopped dead in his tracks in utter amazement. "Golden chariot? It's an ice cream truck!" Troy was amazed. It was a blue and white Mister Softee truck. He had not seen one in years since he was a small boy growing up in Cincinnati before his dad was transferred to Huntington.

Seeing The Mister Softee conehead logo made him feel like a kid again. He could not keep from laughing. He did not know if it was because he had almost a case of beer today but he found himself bent over with his hands on his knees having his first big belly laugh that he has had in a long time.

He was howling in laughter and trying to talk, "Where in the heck did you find this? Is this where you work? Are you Mister Softee?"

Carl jumped in the truck and fired it up. He immediately made a chocolate milk shake. He looked at Troy. "You can say its part of my job! Would you like to drive?" Carl started to chug it and tried to laugh and ended up spitting it all over his already stained shirt. "I forgot how horrible milk shakes taste after drinking beer."

He hit a switch and the ice cream truck started making the familiar Mister Softee dinging machine. " Hey, ya wanna make a little cash on the way to Cadillac's?"

" Naaa, I've got to get there before they leave. Besides, it's Saturday night. If we sold beer we'd make money but ice cream on a Saturday night isn't going to sell."

The truck was a manual truck and it soon was obvious that Carl did not know how to drive it. The truck pulled out of the alley onto the street and the engine stalled. It rolled up against a parked car.

Suddenly blue and red lights engulfed the truck. Carl almost by instinct leaped out of the truck and with long-legged bird strides disappeared into the night.

Troy did not know what was going on. He looked to his right and was met by two guns in his face. Before he realized he was surrounded by police, he found homself jerked out of the ice cream truck by a burly young policeman with a military haircut. He heard his own voice in his head say, " Say goodbye to college, Chump!" He pictured Carl and him flying around prison in striped uniforms with arms stretched out like bird wings.

He was being frisked, handcuffed, hit hard in the ribs, and was spun around to face a grizzled gray hair cop with the attitude of a drill sergeant.

The old cop spit in Troy's face as he bellowed out, "What's wrong, Son? Did you have a hankering for some ice cream. You couldn't afford a cone at Dairy Queen so you heisted a Mister Softee truck."

Troy was terrified. He heard himself scream, "No sir, no sir...it wasn't like that. I swear....I don't even like ice cream! I just wanted to meet my friends."

The cop stuck his face even closer to Troy's and spit out, "You wanted a ride to meet your friends so you stole a Mister Softee truck? Son, why didn't you just call a cab?"

"I'm lost. I just want to go home. I got beat up and mugged because I believed a girl was taking me to meet her Uncle Joe Nuxhall. That boy told me he'd take me to meet my friends at Cadillacs." He was openly crying.

There was a silence of a few seconds then several policemen started laughing. The old policeman laughed and said softly, "Joe Nuxhall. You believed she was taking you to see the old lefthander? Well, he done rounded third and headed for home. And you are going to jail."

Troy was hysterical, "I swear, I swear. I thought he worked for Mister Softee. You can ask the bartender at The Pony Keg. That's where I met that boy. I'm from Huntington, WV. I haven't been here in years."

"So you met George? I know George from the Pony Keg. We are old friends. We will see about your story."

The policeman put Troy in the back of the car. Without saying a word, the old cop drove to The Pony Keg. He opened the big tan door and went inside. He came out less than a minute with the expressionless bartender that never smiled. The funny thing was that George the expressionless bartender with the thick German accent smiled when he saw Troy.

With his thick German accent, he said, "That's Richie. That's the boy that reminds me of Richie Cunningham. A rich innocent boy lost on the mean streets of Over The Rhine. He's lucky he got arrested and not killed."

The policeman stated, "We pulled him and another boy over in a stolen Mister Softee truck."

George was laughing hard, "He's a gullible one, that Richie. He thought he was going drinking with ol' Joe Nuxhall tonight.

The cop joined in laughing, "Joe Nuxhall. Hahaha. Hey, so you don't think he was in on the theft."

"Of course not. Richie is green enough to believe that punk Carl Little drove an ice cream truck. He probably believed they were making a special delivery to Pete Rose's house."

"Ah, Carl Little. We know him all too well. That explains. Well, I'm going to cut Richie loose and go find Carl," The officer said.

"Stay out of trouble, Richie", George the bartender said without an expression on his face as he went back into The Pony Keg.

Troy was once again on his own in the middle of Over The Rhine. The clock was now striking ten o'clock. His friends were waiting at Cadillac's.

Chapter 3

Troy had been walking about fifteen minutes. He looked up and saw a sign that said Vine Street. He was not sure where he was. He was getting tired. He was tired of walking. He was tired of being lost. He was definitely tired of not having any money. He prayed to find five dollars. With just five dollars he could buy a few beers. Right now, he needed a few beers more than anything. His head was hurting and he was sure a cold beer would ease the pain. He had been drinking all day and then the beer stopped as did the dream of meeting Joe Nuxhall.

He passed a few bars including The Dugout. He stopped to rest against the bar and to look around for any clue that could send him on the road to Cadillac's.

He was standing there pondering how things were going so good and then so wrong. The door of The Dugout popped open, and like a gate to Heaven...a beautiful angel sprung out. He swore he heard Stairway to Heaven as she walked....then he realized that two people were holding the door open and he did indeed hear Stairway To Heaven because it was on the jukebox.

Her curly long red hair was flowing behind her like the wind was following with her. She wore a white sundress which made her fire red hair stand out even more. Her eyes were green as emeralds. Her smile lit up the dark street. She saw he was gawking at her and she stopped in front of him. She put her hands on her hips and said with a smile, "My God, what has happened to you tonight?"

Those words were certainly not the remarks that he was hoping for, but with a bloody shirt and swollen jaw, he should not really be surprised. He knew she was well out of his league, so he did not try to flirt with her, instead he went with the truth. "Short version...here for the Reds game. Seperated from my friends because a girl was going to take meet to meet Joe Nuxhall but she took me to get robbed instead. I met a guy at The Pony Keg who was taking me to meet my friends at Cadillacs but The Mister Softee truck he was driving was stolen so the cops aboutbroke my ribs." He smiled and decided to add some charm after all, "I know it sounds kind of boring but you know."

She started to laugh but caught herself, " Oh My God, that's terrible. I didnt mean to laugh but you are taking it in stride."

He stuck his chest in and decided to get macho and said, "I'm sorry but the worse part was drinking from early this morning until this evening and suddenly it stopped because she took my money."

"I am so sorry you look so cute and innocent you certainly can't deserve all of that. May I ask how old you are?"

Troy started to lie because he knew she was several years older than him. "I'm twenty, Mam," he said in his sweetest and politest voice.

Suddenly, she noticed right when he started to pour on the charm, he became kind of skittish and was looking all around him. "Is something wrong? You seem kind of nervous all of a sudden."

Looking around, Troy said, "Well. Mam, you look so beautiful and the way this night has gone I'm sure this can't be happening. I keep waiting for your boyfriend or pimp to jump out and start punching me."

She flashed him a dirty look and then a smile to let him know she was playing and said, "i'm not sure but did you just call me a hooker".

No mam,no mam. I promise," he pleaded. He was serious he did not mean it. He thought for sure he was about to get beat up again.

She took a step toward him and pointed her finger at him. "Now, I see why you get beat up so much." Then, she started laughing. "You are just so precious, we have to get you back to your friends. My name is Rose. Follow me."

"I'm Troy. Are you really going to take me to Cadillac's. I cannot thank you enough. I was afraid I'd never make it."

"Not so fast. I've got to make a quick stop." She said. "Don't worry, I know you are broke so I'm not going to rob you," She looked at him teasingly.

"Just great," He thought to himself. He knew things were going to go bad. He knew he was not going to score with her but it would be amazing for his friends to see him walk in with this angel.

She took him to her newred Corvette and they drove to a familiar area. They got out and walked to Joe's Bar. " We were here after the game," Troy said.

"There is someone I want you to meet", Rose smiled.

For a horrifying moment, Troy was afraid she knew the girl who had him jumped and that is who they were going to meet.

They walked through the crowded bar and right in front of Troy was Joe Nuxhall.

Troy was stunned and gasped, "The ol' Lefthander....Joe Nuxhall. I'm a big fan." Troy turned to Rose and asked, "How did you know?"

Rose laughed, "I work for the Reds. I knew him and Marty were stopping by. Ironic, huh? You left to meet Mr Nuxhall and then he comes in. If you would have stayed, you would have met him."

Rose handed him a cold Budweiser. Look over there she pointed. Sitting at a table was no other than Pete Rose and Johnny Bench.

Troy was stunned. Rose went up to Pete and introduced him to Troy. Troy could not help himself, he blurted out, "Rose, if you married Pete, you'd be Rose Rose."

Johnny Bench gave him a sour look and said, "Son, you are either drinking too much or not enough."

Pete quipped, "Kid, you got blood on my jersey."

Troy was alarmed but then became confused because Pete had on a sport jacket. Then, he realized, he was wearing a number 14 Rose shirt and had blood on it. He laughed and felt like he belonged.

An athletic looking man in a tan sport jacket came up and kissed Rose. Rose introduced him as her husband, Nathan Miller. Troy was not bothered by that at all. Rose had saved his life. She had made this a night he would never forget.

Time was getting away from Troy as he drank a couple of more beers and chatted with his heroes. It was now after midnight. He got directions to Cadillacs as it was just down the street.

Rose and Nathan Miller approached him as he said goodbye to everyone. Nathan handed him a $100 and said. "It was a pleasure meeting you. All of the Reds here took up a collection. This is to help you get home. If you can't find your friends, this will help you get something to eat and get a room until you can get ahold of someone."

Rose smiled and said, "The Cincinnati Reds really appreciate having a fan like you. We appreciate your support. We hope you come back to a game soon. Now that you have met Joe Nuxhall, maybe you won't wander off again.

Troy beamed "I really don't know what to say. This day started great and then turned into a nightmare but now it has turned into one of the best nights of my life. Thank you very much."

CHAPTER 4

Troy walked out of Joe's Bar and heading down the street to Cadillac's to meet his friends. This had turned out to be a great evening after all. It started out great.

Riverfront Park was packed with 50,000 people jammed in to watch the West frontrunners The Big Red Machine take on the Eastern Divison leaders The Pittsburgh Pirates.

Al Oliver shot a looping liner into the gap in right centerfield. Long-legged Cesar Geronimo slashed into the alley with quick strides. At the last moment, he sprung into the air with his arm stretched out and speared the ball in the webbing of his glove.

Young Pat Zachary pitched well for the Reds but the Pirates were the Lumber Company. Willie Stargell took Zachary deep with what Pirates announcer Bob Prince called "a little chicken on the hill with Will to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.

Pirate hurler John "The Candy Man" Canelaria had a perfect game for three innings. Pete Rose lined a bullet into the gap in right center and as Dave Parker bobbled the ball as it bounced around on the warning track, Rose (Charley Hustle himself) hustled around second base and landed on third base with one of his patented head first slide. Rose game home on a sacrifice fly by second baseman Joe Morgan.

Pirate third baseman Richie Hebner doubled home a run and through five the Pirates were up 3 -1.

But in the sixth Tony Perez launched a three- run drive off of the facing of the red seats out in left field. The Reds never looked back.

Johnny Bench threw out Rennie Stennet trying to steal second. Davy Conception and Joe Morgan turned a beautiful double play as the shortstop Conception grabbed a grounder past second and flipped it to Morgan who leaped over the sliding Pirate catcher Manny Sanguillen and fired to Tony Perez for the double play.

The Reds were in top form. They edged the Pirates 4-3. The day was beautiful. It was just the trip Troy was needing.

The bad events that happened had him thinking. If either incident had gone a little further, his life could have ended or have been ruined. He could have easily have been killed in the robbery. Another policeman may have arrested him in the ice cream truck. Dead or in jail...not good either way.

Troy and his parents have been arguing since he became old enough to drink legally at 19. His grades were bad his first two years in college. He wanted to drop out but his dad fought to keep himin. He was finally getting mature enough to realize his dad wanted what was best for hom and he was beginning to understand that his dad was right. For a long time, he resented his dad thinking his dad wanted him to stay in school so his dad could continue to use him as a tax write-off.

His dad did not like his binge drinking. His parents really did not like the idea of Troy and his friends heading for Cincinnati. They knew that Cincinnati could be a rough city because they have lived there. They worried their son and his friends would be thinking the trip was a big party but find trouble that they did not expect.

He walked up to Cadillac's happy as can be, ready to share his adventures with his friends. The doorman was huge. He was about 6 foot 5 and over 300 pounds. Troy wondered if he ever played football for the Cincinnati Bengals. The doorman looked at him and said, "Man, you are a mess. Hey, wait a minute, were you with three guys in Reds' jerseys?"

"Yes! Are they still here?" Troy was excited.

"No, Man. They left about twenty minutes ago. They said they were headed over to the hotel in Covington. They said they'd hit a club or two over there."

"Aw hell. Do you remember the name of the hotel?"

"Sorry, I don't. Good luck, Dude."

Troy walked outside and looked at beautiful Downtown Cincinnati. It was about 12:30 but Downtown was still lit up and very much alive. The crowd going in and out of Cadillac's were dressed up and pretty. Despite some of the bad events of the evening, Troy still loved Cincinnati. He thought he may move here one day after he graduated Marshall University.

Maybe Troy would get a job working for Proctor and Gamble. He would soon have a degree in Marketing. He could save money and buy a house in the suburbs. Maybe he'd meet a nice Buckeye girl. They could settle down and raise a family. Someday, they could have season tickets to the Reds and Bengals games. He would not be far from his family and friends in Huntington, WV.

He was finally starting to get sleepy. The excitement of meeting his heroes was wearing off. He was grateful that they chipped in and gave him money. He was going to catch a cab to Covington and look for his friends' car. If he could not find them tonight he would rent a room and look in the morning. Of course, he could eat. His stomach was screaming for something to hold down the beer.

A hot baby blue 69 Camaro rolled by with the window down blasted "More Than a Feeling" by Boston on it's 8 track tape deck. The song sounded great. Behind it was a cab, Troy flagged it down.

An older heavy set man with gray hair and silver sideburns pulled up and let Troy in the car. "Where ya going, Son?" The driver said in a deep cackling voice. The man had a no nonsense look that reminded Troy of his Grandpa Jimmy. He was wearing an old time 50's style Reds pinstripe jersey.

"Well, Sir. I know but I don't know," Troy chuckled as to reassure himself but the man did not laugh with him. He just looked at Troy with a bored, tired look. Again, the man reminded him of Grandpa Jimmy. The unamused and uncompromising look also reminded him of the bartender at The Pony Keg and the police officer that almost arrested him. Troy thought to himself, "Does any of the older people in this city have a sense of humor?"

The old cab driver turned around and looked at Troy and cackled? "What the hell happened to you?"

"Been and up and down day, Sir. I think it's getting better. I'm actucally going to Covington. I just don't know where."

The old driver shook his head and prepared to pull out. "You could have least cleaned yourself off and wiped the blood off of Rose's 14. That's sacrilegious, Son."

Troy cocked his head and said, "Actucally Pete liked it. He says that's the way he plays. He said his uniforms are always dirty and bloody."

The cab driver was not sure what that meant as surely this drunk kid does not know Pete Rose so he went on to his next question as he checked for traffic, " Kid, do you have money?"

Troy smiled and flashed a few twenties. "I do, I did, but didn't, but do now."

The driver thought to himself, "These goofy kids today." Then said, "Well, Covington it is." He headed out into the street.

Troy started, "Well, I'm from Huntington. We got drunk. I was lost and broke in Cincinnati. Then I finally met Joe Nuxhall and him and Pete and Bench and other Reds gave me money. Now, I want to go to Covington and find the hotel where my friends are."

"Well, it sounds like to me you are still drunk. But, I'll try my hardest to get you to your friends. Cincinnati is a pretty city, Son, with lots of bright lights but it can be pretty dark after the sun goes down, if ya know what I mean. Now Covington can be dark with the sun out."

Troy shook his head up and down and said, "Yeah, I found out tonight Vine Street sure ain't Riverfront Stadium." The cab driver started loosening up and laughed, "No, it sure isn't but it does look like George Foster got a whack at your head with that black bat of his."

Troy could feel the tension break under the strength of the laughter, "No, not George Foster...George Foster would have ripped my head out into the Ohio River....Darrell Chaney....maybe?"

The cab driver was laughing hard and cackled, "Kid, my name is Norm. I just worry about kids like you. Not totally country but half-assed country....real green. You see the bright lights of the city and you get all liquorred up and run wild. There are snakes out here looking to take advantages. They know every night that Riverfront gets thirty to fifty thousands in there is that are plenty of guys like you walking around. Now, I'm not saying anything bad about you....I can tell you are a good kid. You come from a good family, you work, and you have college written all over you...but you are just a sack of cash that is easy for the taking for them."

Troy was looking out the window as they climbed onto the bridge toward Covington. "I admit I've been lucky tonight. I've made some stupid choices but I really needed this trip to blow off some steam. I mean school and work have been a struggle and my parents think I need to grow up but I have this feeling like everything I've ever wanted is right in front of me. I really think it is all in my reach."

The cab driver smiled and got serious as he spoke, "Kid, I know I may seem like an old ignorant cab driver to you but I've done a lot in my life. I've had nice cars, good jobs, and pretty women. But I let things change me until I really didn't like myself very much. Once you don't like yourself very much then it doesn't matter what you have...it won't be enough. I crawled into a bottle and by the time staggered out...it was all gone. No women, no car, no job."

Troy listened respectfully as the driver talked, but tried to change the subject. He liked the driver as he seemed to care but he got plenty of lectures at home. Troy said, "We will be looking for a big old blue Chrysler Newport. I'm not sure which hotel but I'd say it would be one of the close ones."

The driver continued as they pulled into Kentucky. "All I'm trying to say whoever you are or whatever you have it can all be gone. I'm sure you remember Greg Cook. In 1o69, he had the world by the horns. Rookie of the Year. Hometown Kid...Quarterback of the Bengals. Got hurt ....never played another season. Wayne Simpson 14 and 3 for the Reds in 70. No one could hit him. Got hurt. Never heard from again. You are o. Top of the world one day making plans you' ll never see. Just say humble. Aware and focused."

"Thanks. I understand what you are trying to say. I'm not trying to think much about it. I mean what I want out of life is to not live in fear. My parents just seem so afraid of everything, they seem scared of being happy. I know you have to make better decsions than I have lately but you have to live a little."

The cab drove through the hotel parking lots in Covington without finding the Newport. It was nearing one o'clock. Troy was ready to get out of the car. "Thanks for helping me try to find them. They are probably still partying. Just drop me off at a bar."

The driver shrugged his shoulders and said, "Whatever you want. Just be careful. This part of town is very rough. They prey on people who come to the games and stay there. You've got a bright future, Son, but you have to make it home. Please get a room while you can."

Troy paid him and tipped him a few dollars. "Thank you, Mr Norm. I will think about the things you told me....soon as my head quits hurting."

Chapter 5

Troy was walking in Covington, Ky. He came upon an old rundown brown building. It had a sign that said Captain's Quarters. He knocked on the brown door.

A long-haired blondish man complete with a blond beard and wearing a black leather jacket and Deep Purple t-shirt answered the door. There was another brown door as the man waved him into the foyer. The Deep Purple song Highway Star could be heard spilling out from behind the second door.

The man waved him. He had a Marlboro danging from his lips. With the cigarette in his mouth, he said, "No cover, we are closing up soon. Just tip the ladies."

Walking into the bar, Troy could see it was a strip club. He had been in a couple before but never by himself. At the otherside of the room was the brown stage. Troy thought to himself, "Everything in this bar is brown. The bar is brown. This bar is literally a piece of shit.

The girl dancing on stage was brown, too. She was heavy and was now down to a red bra and panties. "A stripper dancing to Highway Star....I guess it's worth checking out," Troy thought.

He looked around the bar and, of course, he did not see his friends. Parts of the bar were lit up and a few tables in the back were in the dark. The smoke in the bar hurt his eyes. He was almost ready to swear that the smoke was brown, too.

There were about ten customers in the bar. Most of them seemed more interested in him than the dancer. As he waljed, he felt like ten sets of eyes were following him.

A cute but tired looking girl with a red robe on walked up to him. Troy thought she was sort of attractive but she was about ten years older than him. He did notice that she had too much red lipstick on. He was relieved it was not brown.

She looked at him with a big smile. "What has happened to you? You are very cute but it looks like the cat dragged you in."

Troy sighed, "Trust me....it's a long story."

A skinny black- haired girl in a white t-shirt with Linda Rondstadt written in red cursive walked up carrying a tray. "Would you like to buy the lady a drink?" She asked.

Troy looked toward the waitress and tried to act cool and said," I'll have a Bud.. Do you want a beer?" He asked looking at the girl in the robe.

"Sure, it's been a long night, Sweetheart. My name is Heidi. What is yours?" She looked at Troy with wide eyes. You sure are a cutie. Let's sit over there." She pointed to a table in the corner of the bar and they walked over to it.

"So...I'm going to assume that you perform here," Troy said after they sat down. "Because I really doubt that you go out dressed in a robe.

"Well, sometimes I do go out in my sexy black lingerie," She looked at Troy allurlingly. "I know you aren' t from around here...you are way too cute to be from Covington."

Troy was trying to act cool. They snuggled up close together and he said, "I'm from a little bit of everywhere. I was born in Cincinnati. I go to college in Huntington."

The waitress came to the table with two bottles of Budweiser. She picked them up off the tray and in a nonchalant mood said, "Twenty-two dollars."

Troy laughed at first thinking she was kidding. He reached out for the beers and she pulled them back. "Twenty-two dollars!" She said.

Troy still could not believe it and questioned, "Twenty-two dollars for two Budweisers?" He still did not know if this was possible or just a joke.

The waitress had a fristrated look on her face and said flatly," Yes. Two dollars for your beer and twenty dollars for the lady's drink."

Troy was starting to see that the waitress was serious and was beginning to get aggravated. He raised his voice and in an incredulous tone said," They are the same beers....no doubt out of the same six pack. How could one be two dollars and one be twenty dollars? Take the twenty dollar beer back and bring her one of the two dollar beers."

Now, the waitress was starting to get annoyed and it could be heard in her tone of voice as she barked, "You are paying for the lady's company."

Troy shook his head no and said, "Just take her beer back. I won't sit with her. I can't afford twenty dollars for a beer."

A bouncer came out of the backroom and was now standing behind the waitress. Troy thought the bouncer looked like Bubba Smith that played for the Baltimore Colts. His arms were bigger than Troy's thighs and Troy could tell by the look on the big man's face that he was not in a good mood. The waitress looked at the bouncer and then said to Troy. "I need twenty-two dollars. I can not take them back they are opened."

Troy shrugged his shoulders and sighed, "I'm sorry. If I would have known her beer was twenty dollars, I would not have ordered it. I was just being nice."

The bouncer pushed the waitress out of the way and stepped into Troy's personal space. "Listen, Kid...I don't have time for this. Give the waitress the money for the beers you ordered."

Troy decided to try to compromise. He reached into his wallet and pulled out a five dollar bill and offered it to the bouncer. "I'm not going to pay twenty for a beer...that is ridiculous. Here is a five. Two dollars for each of the beers and a dollar tip for the waitress."

It was obvious that the bouncer had lost all patience with the situation. He lowered his face until it was even with Troy's face and said. " I'll tell you one last time. Pay for the drinks you ordered your tab is twenty-two dollars!"

Troy calmly said to him, "I am not going to be extorted. I do not have that much money. You are being rude and I'm starting to feel threatened."

The bouncer reached down and snagged Troy by his jersey and started half carrying, half dragging him to the door. Troy was protesting with his arms flailing around. The doorman opened both doors. They took him to the doorway to the sidewalk. The doorman grabbed him too. They slung him face first onto the sidewalk.

Troy got up on his knees and stayed there for a minute or two. When he thought everyone had gone back inside, he stood up. He did not get hurt as much physically from the toss as he did mentally.

Suddenly, a voice came out of the shadows, "You looked just like Pete Rose flying headfirst in the air. You were out though....tagged out at third. Are ypu okay, Boy. You,ve had a bad evening, haven't you? Bad roadttip, huh?"

Troy looked into the shadows and suddenly a big black with a bald head emerged out of the shadows. The man said, " I know what you are thinking....No, I'm not Shaft!"

Troy was intimidated. He did not know what to say. The man had big arms and broad shoulders. Troy did not know what to say. The guy was not as big as the bouncer, but there were other people inside when the bouncer was after him. He was all alone in the dark shadows with this Shaft look-a-like.

The stranger walked right up and grabbed Troy by the chin and assessed the bruises that had begun to form on his face from the robbery earlier. The man whistled, "Someone sure worked you over good tonight. Rough roadtrip, huh?"

Troy suddenly became defiant. He jerked away. "What are you going to do, rob me?"

The man whipped out a pistol and grabbed Troy by the head and stuck the pistol to his head.

Troy came aa close to peeing his pants as he ever had in his life. He was totally frozen with fear.

Suddenly the man released him and shoved him backwards. " Man, I'm not going to rob you....that pisses me off. Now why would I rob you...because I'm black? I know that's it. I'm a big bad black man and there's no other white people around so I' m going to rob the little skinny whiteboy. Jesus Christ!"

Troy suddenly felt relived and ashamed at the same time. He spoke up, "I'msorry. I've been beaten up and robbed once already tonight. It's really been a bad night. It really has."

The man laughed, "I can tell. I can tell. Relax, Whiteboy...I'm not going to hurt you. Never be afraid of a man just because he is black. Call me Chiders."

Knowing the man's name was reassurring to Troy that this man did not mean any harm. Troy still could not think of much to say.

Chiders sure did not have any trouble finding words. He said in a less preaching voice, "You watch too much TV. I know where you are probably from there isn't a lot of black folk. But the world isn't All in The Family. You aren't Archie Bunker and I damn sure ain't George Jefferson. We don't have to be totally conscientious all of the time that I'm black and you're white."

"Sir," Troy started, "If I appear nervous around you, it's not because you are black and I am white. It may be partly because you have a gun and I do not. It is mainly because I have not been able to tell who is friend and who is foe. All day long, I have been friendly with people who either beat me or trick me. I'm lost and almost four hours from home. Let me say, that I have already robbed so I do not have money."

Chiders jumped in, " And you say that because I am a big black man and you want to make sure that I do not hurt you and take your money?"

Troy rolled his eyes and sighed, "I say that because you are a man with a gun and I want to make sure you do not shoot me, because it would be a waste because I do not have any money to take."

Chiders rubbed his chin, "Okay now that we have determined that Chiders is not going to hurt you, let's determine how Chiders can help you. First what is your name?"

Troy looked around and then looked at Chiders and said. " Troy. Troy Ash."

"I'll call you Ass," Chiders said with a big grin. "All right, Ass, what are you doing in Covington, Ky at one-thirty in the morning?"

Troy pondered for a moment and said, " You know at one point I thought I was trying to find my friends that I've got separated from but now I'm starting to wonder. It's like something bigger than that. I honestly don't know. The way this night has gone has me a little confused."

Chivers lit up what Troy first perceived to be a cigarette but once he smelled it, he knew it was a marijuana joint. Chivers said as he toked on the joint, "So, Man...what's up? You some kind of a traveler on a mystic journey? If so, here's some more fuel for your trip." He handed the joint to Troy.

Troy took the joint and took a big hit off of it. He stood silent for a minute or so and let the weed engulf him. He then looked at the stars and the sky and said, " I'm not saying all of that but it just seems like it is in the stars for this night to happen. So much has happened tonight that it's almost like it was meant to happen for some reason. Destiny at it's finest."

Chivers grabbed the joint and took another hit. He relished the hit and then said, "So you think it's no accident that you are sharing a joint with Chivers somewhere in Covington. Far from your home and probably way past your normal bedtime."

Troy thought a moment and shook his head up and down. "Yes, Chivers. I'm not sure why things have happened tonight and to be honest...I'm not sure what has all happened tonight. I probably won't even realize what all has happened until I sit down sometime all by myself...and analyze all that I can remember. This night has been so weird that it can't all be by accident. This night happened for a reason. I just do not have any idea of why. Chivers, do you have any idea of why I met you?"

Chivers grinned, "Maybe someone in the cosmos knew that I was the one that could help you. Someone wanted you to get home safely and they knew my secret identity."

Troy thought for a moment and thought Chiders' comments were a little bizarre. Suddenly, Chivers was no longer standing in front of him. Chiders had dissappeared into the shadows. Troy looked all around and Chiders was nowhere to be found.

Suddenly, there was a man standing in front of Troy again. The man was wearing a black costume and a black mask that covered his face.

The costumed man spoke, "I am The Night. I guard and protect Covington, Ky."

Troy did not know whether to be amazed or amused. He knew it was Chiders in the costume.

The Night spoke again, "Young Man, The Night senses you are lost and in danger. The Night senses you have had a bad night. The Night serves and protects those in danger in Covington. How can The Night serve you?"

Troy did not know if he was supposed to laugh or play along. He decided to play along as he said, "Wow. You are a super hero lime Batman or Superman. The Night! My night is saved by The Night. Do you fly like Superman? .if you do I'll jump on your back and you can fly me home!" Troy knew the costumed man could not fly but he was laying it on thick.

The Night shook his head no. Troy quickly responded, "Well, are you fast like The Flash? Because if you are you can run around Covington in seconds and find my friends' car!"

The Night shook his head sideways once again. Troy asked real slow, "Well, if you are a super hero just what are your powers?"

The Night perked up, "I am very strong and am an expert fighter!"

Troy rubbed his chin, this was beginning to be fun.....he said, "Well, that is pretty cool but I just do not see how those particular skills are going to help me out very much."

The Night spoke, "I will lead you to a safe place where you can have shelter for the night. Otherwise, you will get hurt in this neighood."

Gunshots pierced through the night. Four or five shots disrupted the peace in Covington. The Night sprung in action. He said to Troy, "I'm sorry but I must go. This is a job for The Night. Stay safe."

Troy was going to say goodbye but The Night dissappeared into the night.

Chapter 6

"Jesus Christ!" Troy exclaimed loudly. Troy could not believe how much the guy working the counter at King Kwik looked like Jesus. The man looked exacctly like all the pictures of Jesus except he had a King Kwik smock on. Troy could not get over the resemblance.

Troy had just walked two blocks and saw the convenience store. He was done drinking alcohol and was getting a bottle of Coke. He was hungry but was just buying a Milky Way candy bar for now.

Troy was at the cash register to pay for his purchases. He could not resist saying to the cashier, "What is Jesus doing working the midnight shift at King Kwik?"

The man looked at Troy and smiled, " Mainly making people mad telling them it is too late to buy beer."

Troy joked, "But couldn't you just turn their water into wine?"

"Not after legal alcohol hours. That would be against the law."

Troy felt at ease in the man's presence. He had hoped someone was watching over him and would help him get home. It was now two AM. Troy looked at the man. "I just need to get home. Or at least find my friends."

The cashier looked Troy in the eyes, "Have faith, my friend. Make the best of the situation you are in. We never know where we will end up. Only God knows. Sometimes we end up just where he wants us without any idea of how we got there. Just be aware of your surroundings. Be truthful with yourself. If you are in a bad situation, do not let it change you by doing something you would not do."

Troy got his change from the man. He stood and looked at the man. There was something different about the man.

"You will get home," The man reassured. "Please learn from this night. Learn to be more responsible. Fun is good. Roadtrips are good...but just make better decsions. Recklessness can make you a victim. Always be the good person that you were meant to be. Always remember that God is with you. He is also always watching so make him proud."

Troy did not know what to say. He did not take his eyes off of the cashier as he walked outside. He ate his candy bar and drank his pop.

He did not know what to think of his conversation with the clerk. He stayed outside a few minutes and then back inside. Another man was behind the counter. This man was much shorter and heavier with a short graying mustache and hair.

Troy asked the man, "Where is the other cashier?"

"What other cashier?" The man asked.

"The guy who looked like Jesus," Troy stated.

"Buddy, I' ve been the only one here since ten."

Troy was confused. This was another thing he would analyze later. It was time to walk and look for his friends.

He walked until he came upon a White Castle. He was very hungry. He was on his way to grab a few hamburgers when he saw a hippie girl leaning against a yellow Volkswagon van. She was cute in a quiet way. Her brownish- blond hair was straight. She was wearing a dull white long skirt and a big white shirt. Troy could tell she did not have on a bra. She did not wear anymake up. The smile, though....the smile was priceless. She wore lots of jewelry. She had several rings. Troy thought one was a mood ring.

She had big hoop earrings. Troy thought they looked like something a gypsy would wear. That smile though...everything kept going back to that smile. She was smoking a cigarette and she returned Troy's smile. Her eyes followed Troy as he walked by.

Troy was intoxicated by the smile she gave him. He felt like an old sailor lured by a siren of the sea. He turned around and walked up to the van.

"Are you okay?" Troy asked a little surprised at how comfortable that he felt talking to a girl he had never met.

She gave him another smile and said, "i'm just a little bummed out. I had a fight with my old man. I ditched him. Just needed to chill. Where better to chill than White Castle?"

Troy smile, shrugged his shoulders, and said, "It's hard to resist them little burgers...especially after drinking all day."

"So what did you do?" The girl purred.

"Just got robbed and beat up, slammed in the ribs, and physically thrown out of a club. Not to mention separated from my friends," Troy said flatly.

The girl smiled again and asked, "So what did you do. I'm a big believer in karma. I believe for you to have had so many bad things done to you that you have done some bad things yourself. What comes around goes around and vice versa."

Troy pleaded his case, "I'm really a good person. I come from a good family. I have a job and work real hard. I go to college. I don't deserve this night."

The hippie chick was flirting a little now, she grinned as she talked, " You have karma written all over you. Think real hard, man. Karma trashed you. You have done some very bad things."

Troy liked the fact that she was blazing hot in a very laid back way. She was all natural beauty with no makeup. She may not be the type of beauty that instantly snagged your eye, but once your eyes realized what they were looking at...they did not turn away very quickly. Troy got close to her and said, "Okay. I am going to be honest right now. As bad as I look and feel right now, I have had some very good things happen to me today. Right now, as a whole...this day could go either way. I'm sitting on a tie right now. This day is really close to over right now. What could push this day over on the good side is if you could join me for some little White Castles." Troy gave her a smile and added, "By the way, I'm Troy Ash."

She flashed him one of her patented sexy wide smiles and said, "Nice to meet you Troy Ash. I'm Beth Owen. Just keep in mind, I said I have an old man. I don't want karma to beat your ass again...or my old man, for that matter."

Troy started to sing, "Beth, I hear you calling but I can't come home tonight."

Beth shot him a weird look and asked, " What in the world was that."

Troy answered, "That's the new Kiss song "Beth". They've been playing it on the radio."

Beth sighed, "I don't listen to Kiss. I'm a Dead Head."

Troy lied, " Grateful Dead. I've got a few of their albums."

Beth shook her head, "Far out. I've been to five Dead shows. They put on a groovy show."

Troy ordered a dozen hamburgers and the pair found a table. They talked about karma for over an hour.

Suddenly, a loud voice interrupted their conversation. Troy looked up and was face to face with a tall skinny hippie with long stringy hair. The hippie yelled, "We have an argument and you get with some dude."

Beth jumped in front of him and explained, "Honey, he was lost and had a bad night. He is not even from here. He iis looking for his friends."

The man tried to get to Troy but Beth kept in front of him. He said to Ttoy, "You mess with someone's old lady, you get bad karma. I'll show you what karma has for you."

Troy laughed and said, " I thought hippies were peaceful bastards."

Troy's comment triggered the hippie, "come on out here. I've got some karma for you.

Troy had enough of the hippie. He figured he could take the skinny hippie. He walked out into the parking lot of the White Castle. The hippie came at him and swung and missed. Troy peppered his jaw with a couple of left jabs. The hippie swung again and missed and Troy nipped him with a left jab and stung him in the opposite jaw with a hard right.

The hippie started to realize that he could not beat Troy. He yelled to two other guys who stepped up to help.

Out of nowhere a blue Chrysler Newport rolled onto the lot. Like the Calvary...Johnny Mayes, Jeff Robinson, and Mark Bright jumped out of the car. They were drunk and starving and were there to eat. When they saw what was going on and that their friend was outnumbered, they jumped in and were ready to fight.

The hippie and his friends decided not to fight. The hippie grabbed Beth by the arm and pulled her with him. Beth turned to Troy and smiled and said, "You better get your karma in check."

Troy was so glad to see his friends, he hugged each of them. It had been a wild and crazy night and Troy sure had some stories to tell.

Epilogue

Troy Ash thought about that wild night in Cincinnati and Covington many times over the years. He analyzed it and reanalyzed it.

Troy finished college. He tried working in marketing and sales but it was not for him. He always thought about Cincinnati.

Ten years after that hot August night, Troy was back in Cincinnati. He did not even realize it was ten years from that night.

Troy had been a policeman in Cincinnati for just about a year. Like someone once told him, "We never know where we will end up." This was his first night with a new partner, Frank Cooper, and covering a new beat. His new area was Over The Rhine.

His new partner was a nice older man. He kept talking about his old partner. His partner just recently died of a heart attack. Troy was his first regular partner since then. After a few hours of stories, Troy's new partner showed him a picture of his old partner.

Troy looked at the picture...it was the policeman that pulled him over in the Mister Softee truck ten years earlier.

Just a few minutes after that, the two cops were down the street making a call next to the Pony Keg. A couple walked by hand in hand. A pretty couple although in their forties. It was Rose and Nathan Miller.

Rose was still stunning. Troy smiled as he realized who they were. Rose shot him a glance but she did not seem to know who he was.

Troy noticed they were notfar from The Pony Keg. He told Frank he was stopping in their a moment. He looked in and the bartender was George, the expressionless man from ten years ago.

Troy smiled as he walked in. George did not recognize Troy from ten years ago. George said without smiling, "can I help you, Officer?"

Troy said, "I just wanted too see if you remembered me. I was in here about ten years ago. I had gotten robbed and was lost and broke. You gave me a bottle of Big Jug and I've never been back to pay. I met a guy in here and he stole a Mister Softee truck."

George pondered a moment and said, "No...sorry, I can't place that.

Troy was dissappointed and said, "I guess it's been a long time. Well, my name is Troy. I'll be working in the neighborhood so I guess I'll see you around."

George waved as Troy walked out the door. George said as the door closed, " Be careful Richie. It's a tough city out there.

Troy was walking back to the cruiser. He saw something lying on the ground. It was a baseball card. He picked it up and was speechless. It was a 1965 Joe Nuxhall baseball card. "What the hell is going on?" Troy wondered.

He did not have time to think much about it. As he got in the car, Frank was getting a call of a robbery in progress down the street. They hit the lights and arrived in time to see a man run into an alleybehind a bar. The bartender was out in the street pointing at the running man and saying he robbed him.

Troy ran into the alley. It was dark. He had trouble seeing. Suddenly, he was hit hard and knocked off of his feet. At the same time bullets crashed right into where he was standing. Troy lookex to his right and saw a figure dressed in black with a black mask and charge down the alley. The Night had tackled him and kept him from getting shot!

Troy sprung to his feet and drew his weapon. The shooter was ahead but Troy could hear he fell in the dark. Troy ran toward him. The man was up and running again in the dark.

The shooter knew Troy was behind him. The shooter turned and fired wildly toward Troy. Troy fired and hit the shooter in the chest.

Troy ran toward the fallen man with his gun in front of him. Troy already knew who the shooter was. He checked and there was not a pulse. He looked at the dead man's face. It had been ten years but there was not any doubt. The dead man was Carl. Carl, the young man who stole the Mister Softee truck so many years ago.

Troy could hear sirens in the night. He stood up. He was stunned. Frank came driving down the alley. Soon the alley was filled with police.

Frank talked Troy into getting away from the crime scene and to head back to the police station to destress after the shooting On the way back, Frank pulled out a folded sheet of paper and said, "While you were talking to some of the other officers, a girl with long brown hair brought this note to me and said to give it to you. She said she was an old friend of yours. She had a very pretty smile.

Troy opened the note. It said, "You finally got your karma in check."

Troy would analyze that night for years. He often compared it to that night ten years before. He would never see any of the people from ten years ago again. The bartender at The Pony Keg had a heart attack and died a few days later.


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