The Bowl-O-Rama was rather a seedy looking place, but it was the only bowling alley in town, and this early in the afternoon in the heat of summer, it was pretty empty.
Big George Lesslie ran the place. The same Big George who had dated Katt Hall briefly, until she realized that not only was he big, but he was on the wrestling team, and he didn’t exactly have a penchant for showering on a regular basis.
The Big Katt kind of liked jocks, as most attractive high school girls seem to do, the stellar beauties who in middle life often morph into rather hideous monstrosities. For feminine beauty is a funny thing -- the homely 12-year-old can morph into a drop-dead beautiful girl of 20, and the sultry 16-year-old can lose her Miss America looks by the time she hits 30. Indeed, beauty truly IS only skin deep, but in the case of one Katt Hall, like the hardiest of flowers, her beauty had managed to hold its bloom from the very first opening of its petals, and now the stranger was hot on that flower’s scent.
As for Big George Lesslie, he managed this bowling spot. Rented the shoes and bowling balls from behind the counter, checked on the operation of the automated pin spotters, and kept an eye on goings on in general. When the stranger entered the place, Big George was assisting the soda vendor as he loaded cans into the vending machine. What the stranger didn’t realize was that an undercover cop was bowling a couple of lines and had been assigned to keep an eye on him.
“You George Lesslie?”
“You remember me -- Billy Richards. We were friends in high school.”
George looked puzzled.
“I know, it’s easy to forget. You were on the wrestling team. I never much went in for that. But you were really great. Say, you want to have a beer sometime?”
“You some kind of faggot?”
“Hey man, I don’t swing that way. I’m just a friend.”
“I’m not surprised. You probably don’t remember me, I was so quiet. You might have placed me in the nerd category. But I admired the heck out of you.”
“You don’t look the nerd type to me.”
“Anyway, I came back to town a couple of months ago, heard you were still around. Aren’t too many of us left from those days, at least not in Baton Rouge.”
The cop had sensed trouble and now joined them. “What’s up?”
“A friend,” George said. “You know this guy?”
“Sure I do. And I say it’s okay.”
The cop looked the stranger over. “You got ID?” “Hey,” Big George said. He wasn’t exactly fond of cops. “I’d still like some ID.”
“Lay off,” George said. “I’ll vouch for him.”
“I’m watching you,” the cop told the stranger. And gave George a dark look, and grudgingly moved away.
“I hate cops. I read the papers, and I see them watching me. They think that psycho killer might have me on his list. If he does, he better watch his ass. I’ve done time, you know.”
“I beat a few guys up. Pretty bad. I get excited sometimes.” “So how about a beer?”
“Maybe when I get off at five. But I got a wife and kid.” “Five o’clock -- I’ll be here. Hey, remember -- Baton Rouge
Yeah, George remembered. And the cop was still watching them, awfully suspicious. George remembered a lot of things, including Katt Hall. Her beauty was somehow too fragile for him, despite its undercurrent of ferocity. He remembered, all right, but the intervening years had been rough and tumble. But not quite as rough and tumble as what he would experi-ence at the hands of someone who called himself Billy Richards. Whatever the local beer hall had on draught tonight couldn’t possibly be as strong as what Billy was offering.
Because strong had the odor about it of something rather sin-ister, something that went by an age-old name. And I believe that something was called death.