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Mysterious strangers

Another memorable scene in The Highway Shooter occurs when newspaper reporter Glennis Dunning and her sidekick Pettrolius telephone operator Ruby Daily cruise the Pettrolius Beer Joint in an attempt to uncover the identity of four mysterious strangers who’ve been lurking around town driving locals crazy with curiosity. Glennis and Ruby decide to make an evening of it, dressing up like starlets to attract the attention of the four men. Here’s what happens:

Glennis and Ruby breezed into the bar like celebrities; posture erect, breasts thrust forward, lips puckered, hips swinging, eyebrows arched. The four strangers sat in a booth drinking longnecks. Glennis and Ruby glanced at them for an instant. Glennis tossed her head to make her earrings sparkle, and Ruby swung her hips like Marilyn Monroe as they floated toward the bar where Luke Elsner was working furiously.

“Well, look who the cat drug in.” Luke said, loud enough for the strangers to hear. “Where’ve you two good-looking women been lately?”

Glennis and Ruby nodded and smiled, and Luke slid two longnecks over to them. They both took a long drink as if their throats were parched. “A woman has to try something different, now and then,” Ruby said, setting the beer back against the bar.

“Men in this town don’t know how to have fun,” Glennis complained, pouting her lips. “We’ve been going to the bars in Kenedy just to go somewhere different.”

“Well, it ain’t the same when you’re gone,” Luke said, flashing his easy grin.

Glennis plucked a bill from her bra and tossed it toward Luke. “Sweetie, could you get me some change for the jukebox?”

When Luke came back with the change, Glennis and Ruby sauntered toward the jukebox, eyeing the strangers with sidelong glances as they passed.

As they stood in front of the jukebox selecting songs, Ruby whispered, “It won’t be long.”

Glennis smiled and fed the jukebox some change.

Someone murmured and laughed and got up from the booth, sauntered over, and stood next to Glennis, a little more closely than under normal circumstances she would have felt comfortable with. A moment later, someone else got up, walked over, and landed next to Ruby.

“What are two good-looking woman like you doin’ in this God-forsaken town,” he whispered in a voice as smooth as velvet.

Glennis heard the other man tell Ruby something, and Ruby giggled.

As Glennis continued to flip through the list of jukebox music, the man began to nuzzle her neck and grasp her around her waist. She kept looking through the list of songs.

When Glennis punched the last song and the music began to play, the man next to Ruby spoke. “Would you two girls like to take a booth with us?” He pointed toward an empty booth at the back of the beer joint.

“What about your friends?” Ruby asked, nodding toward the table where the two other men sat watching them.

“They’ll be fine,” the man with the velvet voice assured her.

The four of them sat at the booth, introduced themselves by first names, and ordered another round of longnecks. The man with the velvety voice called himself Robert, and the man pawing Ruby went by Daniel. Robert was short and baby-faced with a pug nose, dark hair, and a good build, and Daniel had sandy blond hair, high cheekbones, and full lips.

After several more rounds, all four of them were laughing, and the men seemed to be letting their guard down.

“Robert, you asked what Ruby and I were doing in this town. What about you? Why are you here?”

The two men looked at each other and guffawed, and Daniel spoke up. “You might say we’re here on special assignment.”

“Are you here with the oil field?” Ruby put in, knowing full well that was not the case. “We have a lot of oil men come in here out of Houston.”

The men laughed again and squirmed in their seats. “Yeah, you might say that,” Robert said. He looked around the beer joint, leaned closer to the table, and in a lower voice stated, “You might say we’re working for the entire industry. To make sure it stays afloat.”

“Then you’re not with the Texas Rangers?” Glennis probed. “That’s what people here think.”

They looked at each other again and chortled. “Is that what you two girls want?” Robert said. “Lawmen? I can be a lawman.” He winked at his buddy. “How about you, Daniel?”

“Are you here to stop the workers from organizing a union?” Ruby blurted.

Glennis flinched, startled by Ruby’s bluntness.

“You two girls sure ask a lot of questions,” Daniel said. “Are you reporters or something?”

Before they could answer, another song came on, and the two men jumped up to get another round of beers from the bar.

“Come on, let’s get out of here while we can,” Glennis said, tugging at Ruby’s arm.

“They’ll see us.”

“We can act like we’re going to the bathroom. It’s off the hallway near the rear exit.”

“Okay.”

By the time Robert and Daniel got back to the booth with the beers, Glennis and Ruby had screeched away in the Belvedere.

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About cchessher

Librarian, writer, editor, teacher

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