I tried to enlist the creative genius that is Greg Hardy to assist me in the writing of this piece, unfortunately his Krakeness was (presumably) busy recovering from the food sickness he got after eating Terron Armstead’s lunch last Sunday.
An uncomfortable chill crept into the air as I walked down the street. It wasn’t the kind of chill that fear and regret inject into your spine when your scoop of ice cream drops off your cone and splats on the ground. It wasn’t neither the chill of shame that most folk feel as they lick their spilled cream off the sidewalk. To be truthful, I doubt if some educated schmuck like me could put the right words to it. Street words. Suffice it to say that it felt like the weather was changing in new ways, ways the birds weren’t even sure if they wanted to sing about.
Word on the street was that the Panthers hadn’t been tripped up in some trap that had been set for them. Fans were starting to get confident, and the crickets of our enemies seasonal discontent were starting to get quiet. Too quiet. I still had that smell of fish in my nose as I walked past the wharf that Charlotte doesn’t have. I knew I had to follow up on that sodden sap’s suspicion and so it was that I approached Greg Hardy.
Here was a man that made a private instigator like me nervous. Some of it was fear ( a healthy, big-boy, not-in-a-way-that-makes-me-need-new-pants-just-yet kind of a fear), and some of it was professional jealousy. Here was a man that could go from friendly and humble hot dog pie vendor to wild-eyed, three-sheets-and-then-probably-another-three-or-maybe-even-four-sheets-to-the-wind kind of a Kraken with the flip of a switch. You could call him a tornado in tentacle form (that is, you could call him that if you wanted to give thousands of elderly Japanese men Midwest themed erections). We hadn’t officially crossed paths yet and I wasn’t eager to jump on his street corner, particularly since I didn’t know if he was actually a wizard, if my client was delusional, or if wizards were really even real at all. The thing about these kinds of cases, though, is that you knock off a lot of firsts. I wasn’t walking away from this one.
“Mr. Hardy, sir? Do you have a second?”
The physically intimidating man did not look at me, his back was mostly to the street such that I could only see the corner of one eye and his hands holding something that looked like a hot dog up to his open mouth. The sign next to his hot dog stand said ‘open’, but I’m not convinced there was anybody home. A twinkle in his eye told me that Mr. Hardy wasn’t there. Kraken was tending the stand.
“Kraken, I humbly seek an audience.”
“I was warned that you and your friends might be in trouble. I was told you might be able to tell me how to help.”
“Hold it, bro. I got a Terronble stomachache. Must’ve been LUNCH!”
With that Kraken dropped the hotdog from his hands and ran across the street to a port-a-john. The hotdog made a crashing sound when it hit the ground. I bent down to see a hotdog bun wrapped around a now-broken pint glass from the Falcon Pub and Tub, a state of the art brew and bath facility that always left you feeling oddly sober and a little dirty. Their success didn’t seem related to their on the street performance, which always implied mob ties to me.
I didn’t want to keep following this lead. The danger of organized crime here was as real as the risk of embarrassing questions when you get your bottle of rubber cement stuck where the sun don’t shine. The deeper you go, the darker it gets. I thought of waiting for the Kraken to return from the john, even if he was only Greg Hardy he would be damn useful in the pub. When I looked up from the broken glass, though, the port-a-john was gone. I never did find out if it was magic, a kidnapping, or a TARDIS. Regardless, this day seemed to be full of wizards and gangsters. Just the combination the Panthers needed to end the season with. Still, when a soaking wet cheerleader tells you that you are her only hope, you do what your Daddy taught you: Smile and say “Yes, Ma’ammary. What can I do?”
Join us next week for the thrilling and yet to be written regular season conclusion of the Queen City Confidential in which we find out just who was plotting against the Panthers hopes and dreams and how successful they were. Keep an eye out for Queen City Confidential Chapter Three: The Maltless Falcons