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A Run for the Border

We spend a day on Denver's dividing line: Sheridan Boulevard.

But when I get to the psychic's door, I chicken out; something, some nervousness or internal governor of unwise impulses, stays my hand. Below the open sign is a smaller sign. KNOCK HARD. I don't. I keep walking, making another long circuit of the block and consider my options, noticing without really making anything of it a crowd clustered around the 7-Eleven across Sheridan. Weird, I think. Wonder what they're all doing.My second time ghosting the psychic's front door, I actually make it so far as to lay hands on the glass before stopping. I look over my shoulder. That group of guys is still hanging around on the corner, and I make a sudden decision to stall, convincing myself first that if there really is a psychic working inside, he or she would already know I'm out here, meaning I don't really need to knock hard. And if there is a psychic working inside, how she would probably appreciate it if I showed up with cash rather than plastic.

There's an ATM at the 7-Eleven, so I cross the street, passing the knot of guys on the corner. The first thing I notice is that they're all dressed alike, and not like a street-corner doo-wop group or a bunch of teenagers trying to pool their cash for a case of beer.

The second thing I notice are the guns.

And the third thing I notice is that I know two of them, which, I grant you, is somewhat strange but not inexplicable, seeing as how I am an insomniac and a night creature and spend many of my nights out at diners and after-hours places. The population of dedicated late-nighters, even in a city the size of Denver, is still fairly small, the places where we can go limited. As a result, I know some unusual characters — strippers and prostitutes, cops and criminals, cab drivers, vampires. In this case, it's a bounty hunter and his wife who I recognize — him standing there shuffling papers in his big hands, looking angry, a black, short-sleeved shirt stretched across his significant frame with FUGITIVE RECOVERY stenciled across the back in large white letters.

There are eight of them in black jackets, black button-downs, black leather gloves, black body armor and with matte-black automatic pistols on their belts. Then there's my friend's wife in a nice maroon sweater and tight slacks. She is the one I say hello to and make a joke about us always bumping into each other in the strangest places. She smiles, and I don't make anything of it when she quickly boxes me off from the fugitive recovery team and herds me back a couple steps. Her husband never even looks up.

We talk about restaurants, of course — where to get good Italian, good pizza — while the boys pore over their paperwork, look for a phone book, fuss with their gloves and shout at a car full of Mexican kids with a bumping stereo to turn the music down. As they pull out of the parking lot, the driver mouths "Fuck you" to the guys, and one of them says back, "Yeah, there's a good idea. Say 'Fuck you' to the eight guys with guns." Another takes down the license plate number. Another walks out of the 7-Eleven holding a couple of paper bags. "Check it out," he says. "Taquitos. Two for a dollah."

I ask my friend's wife if they're starting work or coming off, and she tells me they're just starting, then asks me if I know a good place for cheap Mexican food. I ask her who they're going after. "Oh, just some woman," she says.

"Must be some big woman," I reply, laughing, "if you need eight guys."

"So how's your wife?" she asks.

I'm kinda dim, but I get the point. It would be best if I left and didn't look back. Which I do. Across the street, the light is out at the psychic's, but I don't feel bad. I hadn't really wanted to go there in the first place. And anyway, now I know a little bit about what's going to happen in the future. Not to me, but to some woman, somewhere, who is about to have a very bad night. — Sheehan Hicc Ups Sports Bar & Grille
7980 Sheridan, Westminster
11:30 p.m.

Hicc Ups is not as it seems from the outside. The place, situated on the north end of a well-traveled stretch of Sheridan, looks like another nondescript suburban strip-mall bar, minus the strip mall. There's quite a few more cars dotting the parking lot than you'd expect to see this late on a Tuesday night. A quartet of Harleys are bellied up to the edge of the outdoor patio, which is buzzing with activity.

As the familiar strains of Brooks & Dunn's "Neon Moon" pour out onto the street through the bar's open doors, a lone couple makes their way inside. There, they're greeted by a friendly but mostly expressionless oversized door guy who collects their IDs and gives them the once-over before sliding their identification back to them.

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