Neil yapped away and the behemoth swiveled his head my direction, though I couldn’t discern any semblance of a neck between his chin and shoulders. Once eye contact was established, his forehead dipped forward, then returned. It must be a bitch to nod when your neck is thicker than your head. All Muscles needed to complete the stereotype was a crotchless grizzly bear suit.
I didn’t see the mountain man part his lips or alter his grimace, but Neil sustained enough conversation for both of them, then slipped inside. The giant folded his arms and flexed some banded Japanese characters which I didn’t understand any better than this detour in the first place.
Neil left the engine running.
Goddamned curiosity prevented me from shifting seats, shifting gears, and laying rubber, if the Windstar was capable of such a thing. To pass time, I surfed the radio, then I reset all his radio presets to a Mexican station I found.
Neil reappeared, carrying a milk crate overflowing with Styrofoam popcorn. Jumbo dug a paw inside the container and extracted three segments of PVC pipe, gingerly examined them, and set them back in the packing peanuts.
**** this. Ignorance was bliss. In all my time working with Howdy Doody, he was never a minute late for his shift. Forty-seven more minutes and I could take solace in a completely different plane of hell.
Neil reached into his pocket and the sliding door engaged. What kind of idiot keeps two keychains on his person? “Almost done, Jack.” The crate was carefully secured with a seatbelt through the plastic handle. “Don’t touch.”
He lobbed a wad of cash to Goliath and the big man moved with surprising reflexes to snatch it from the air. Neil said, “We’ll see you next week,” but I sure as **** wasn’t going to be part of whatever “we” he meant.
He returned to the van and shifted into drive, honking shave and a haircut for what must have been the umpteenth time this morning.
We rolled through the business district, and it was still early enough to get a parking spot on the street. I wistfully watched as we passed a bus dropping off an old guy in a navy suit. Neil whistled again. I didn’t recognize the tune, but it was something poppy and I suspected wouldn’t be able to get the melody out of my head all day.
I was wrong.
“Ever seen a pipe bomb, Jack?”
He giggled like a contestant at a kiddie pageant. Somewhere in fantasyland, a Pegasus lost its wings. “Not a pipe bomb. Three. Do you know how to juggle?”
I thought I’d have a bigger sense of relief when the Ford pulled into its regular parking spot outside the loading dock.