James hadley chase — like a hole in the head
LIKE A HOLE IN THE HEAD
In theory it seemed to me to be a pretty bright, money making idea,
but it only took around four months for the fact to sink in that The Jay
Benson School of Shooting was headed for a flop.
Of course, I should have known. The previous owner, a nice old guy
named Nick Lewis, had hinted that the school had long ago run out of
powder. It was certainly ramshackle, and in need of a lot of paint. Against this it was plain to me that Lewis was long past good shooting and this, I told myself, was the reason why he had only six paying pupils, all as old and as doddery as himself. He had been running the school for twenty years. Over this period his books showed an impressive profit and it was only during the past five years the receipts had fallen off as his shooting had fallen off. I was confident enough to believe my shooting talent could put the school back on its feet, but I didn’t take into consideration two important factors: my lack of working capital and the location of the school.
By the time I had bought the lease, the buildings and the three acres
of sandy beach I had used up all my savings and most of my Army
gratuity. Advertising in Paradise City and Miami comes high, and until I
could make some kind of profit, advertising had to remain a pipe dream.
Until I moved into the black, I couldn’t afford to give the shooting range,
the restaurant, the bar and our bungalow a much needed face lift. This,
of course, turned into a vicious circle. Those few who were willing to pay to become good shots expected a decent restaurant and a comfortable bar. Those who did show up lost interest when they saw the set-up. They expected something in mink. They turned up their rich, spoilt noses when they saw the paint peeling from the buildings and that the bar carried only a bottle of whisky and a bottle of gin.
At least we had inherited Nick Lewis’s six pupils, old, tiresome and
hopeless as they were, but they did provide us with eating money.
Four months after we had opened, I decided to take stock. I looked
at our bank balance ($1050) and our weekly turnover ($103) and then I
looked at Lucy.
We’re not going to get anywhere unless we make this place fit for
the rich and the idle,” I told her.
She fluttered her hands. This was a sure sign she was getting into a
“Take it easy,” I said. “Don’t get excited. We can do quite a lot
ourselves. Some paint, a couple of brushes, some hard work and we can put this place nearly right. What do you think?”
“If you say so, Jay.”
I regarded her. Every now and then, I wondered at the back of my
mind, if I had made a mistake. I knew this school, if it was going to make money, had to be worked on. I couldn’t do it alone. Maybe, if I had
married a pioneer type of girl who could work as hard as I could, there
would be less of a problem, but I hadn’t wanted to marry a pioneer type
of girl, I had wanted to marry Lucy.
Whenever I looked at Lucy, I got a lot of satisfaction. The moment I
had seen her, I felt sure she was for me. We had run into each other in
that strange way that destiny has for pairing off the male and the female.
I had just got out of the Army after serving ten years as a range
instructor and three years in Vietnam as a sniper. I had ideas about my
future, but no idea of getting married.