“Why did you give me this ‘Jesus Saves’ tract?” the bank robber asked me. I had the .38 pointed directly at his skull.
“Because I’m giving you one last choice,” I said. “And I suggest you accept the Lord Jesus as your personal Savior.”
“And what if I tell you that you can wipe your ass with this?”
I shook my head in disappointment. “Then tell Satan he’s next,” I said. I pulled the trigger and unleashed the full fury of my .38 right there in the bank lobby.
Shouts and screams echoed throughout the halls while the robber’s brains spewed out onto the marble floor below. I raised my hands to calm the crowd. “No need to thank me,” I said, “I’m just a good Christian Samaritan doing his job. Have a blessed day.”
I exited the bank just as the police arrived. The officer in charge started yelling in my face. “Goddamnit Jack Hardcock!” he screamed, “you had the suspect disarmed and apprehended, but you shot him anyway!”
“It’s good to see you too Sarge,” I replied sarcastically. “I figured that I save the taxpayers money by executing the bastard right then and there.”
“That’s not how justice is done!” he exclaimed. “Get out of my city before I throw these cuffs on you!”
“With pleasure,” I said then spat on the ground. But that’s the kind of thanks I get for being an instrument of the Lord’s Wrath.
“It’s time to go to Bible study,” my brother Pete Hardcock said. Him and his wife were kind enough to allow me to sleep in their garage while I got my life together. This was a year after I saved the city of Cleveland and Progressive Field from a renegade FBI agent. To pay the bills, I was now doing private detective work; stalking cheating spouses and such. It was beneath the dignity of a lethal holy weapon such as myself.
“You know I don’t need that shit,” I said to Pete, “I don’t have to read the Bible. I know everything in it is true and divinely inspired. That’s good enough for me.”
Pete’s stay-at-home wife, Jesseka, brought me a plate of green bean casserole. “Where’s the bourbon?” I asked.
“You know we don’t drink in this house,” Jesseka replied.
“If God didn’t want us to drink, He wouldn’t have made Kentucky bourbon,” I explained.
“Say Jack,” Pete said, “why don’t you come to church and meet a nice Christian lady. You’re 21 years old. Don’t you think it’s time to settle down and start a family?”
“Poppycock,” I replied. “How can I settle down when there’s so much evil on the streets? Like I tell everyone, I’m a blunt instrument of the Lord. So I have no thoughts or desires of my own.“
Pete and Jesseka’s son, Klyde, came rushing into the garage. “Uncle Jack,” he said, “someone’s at the door for you.”
“Back to work,” I uttered to myself. So I pulled up my pants, lit up a cigarette, then walked towards the front door. There I found a woman with tears streaming down her face.
“Are you Jack Hardcock?” the woman asked. “My daughter has gone missing. I need your help!”
“My daughter ran off to California to do porn and I’m absolutely devastated!” cried Ariana Huffington after I invited her into the home. I handed her a towel to dry herself from the pouring rain. “I don’t know what could have led her to such a decision! She was raised in a good Christian home!”
Ariana and myself, along with Pete’s family, sat around the fire place as she explained her story. “The Devil got to your daughter,” I said, “he’s my longtime nemesis. I’m quite familiar with his tactics. So you came to the right place.”
“Can you bring her home, Jack Hardcock?” Ariana asked.
I lit up another cigarette and took out a notepad. “I can,” I replied, “but it’s not going to be easy. I’m gonna need her name, age, and her last known whereabouts. I’m also gonna need a $78,000 advancement, in cash preferably, plus a $2500 per diem.”
“Also, where we could find these pornographic videos? You know, for research purposes and such,” interjected Pete.
“Good thinking,” I replied. “Knowing what kind of porn she does…anal, BDSM, etc…would be quite helpful in this case.”
Ariana bawled her eyes out as she provided all the requested information. Pete immediately pulled out his phone to do research. “This videos are too upsetting,” he said. “Excuse me. I’ll be in the bathroom for awhile. No one knock on the door.”
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Huffington,” I said, “I’ll bring your daughter home.”
I laid in bed twisting and turning all night. To comfort myself, I started cleaning my .38. But the green bean casserole that Jesseka made was running the through me.
As I was walking to the bathroom, I found Klyde…my nephew…watching pornographic videos on his computer. I lifted the .38 and fired a round into the monitor.
“Jesus Christ, Uncle Jack! I was just trying to help you with your investigation!” Klyde screamed.
“You’ve defiled yourself AND that computer,” I said. “If you’re not careful, you’ll end up just like that poor girl. Do you wanna be shoving metal rods into other men’s pee holes for a living?”
“I don’t know, Uncle Jack,” Klyde replied. “It seems like pornography is everywhere these days. I just can’t avoid it.”
“I understand,” I said as I put my arm around him. “But just remember: Jesus will be returning very soon to vanquish our enemies. All hell will be unleashed on Earth and every man, woman, and child forsaken by God will know His wrath.”
“So true Uncle Jack,” Klyde nodded.
“Now you run off to bed.”
I went to the bathroom to take a shit. While on the toilet, I began looking through my notes. They read, “Subject’s age: 20 yo. Last known location: Oakland, CA.”
Then I paused to ponder the name: Layla Huffington.
“Don’t forget your Winchester ammo, Uncle Jack,”Klyde reminded me before I boarded the Greyhound bus.
I chuckled a bit. “You must mistake me for some stupid moron, Klyde,” I replied, “I never forget that!”
Thankfully he did remind me because I forgot.
“Well Brother Jack,” Pete said as he slapped me on the back, “don’t you be enjoying California too much. If you come back as a Democrat, I’ll strangle you with my bare hands and hang your corpse in the front yard.”
“Heh, good luck getting passed my .38,” I said as I pulled out my gun.
We laughed and exchanged hugs before I took my seat on the bus bound for Oakland, CA. When I arrived 12 days later, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched. So I grabbed my bags and checked in at the La Quinta Inn in Alameda.
“Name please?” the clerk asked.
“Hardcock. Jack Hardcock.”
I laid the .38 out on the desk.
“Ah yes, Mr. Hardcock. Welcome to Alameda,” the clerk said. “Room 213 is ready for you.”
I went up to the room, threw my bags on the bed and began checking for bugs and wiretaps. I found nothing. Then there was a knock on the door.
“Room service,” the voice said.
I drew my weapon and cracked open the door. “What do you want?” I asked.
“I’m here to bring you more toiletries, Mr. Hardcock,” the housekeeper replied.
I opened the door and invited her in. She pushed her cart in front of her and started dispensing soaps and shampoos on the nightstand and skink. When she was finished, she parked her cart in front of me.
“Is there anything else I can get you?” she asked.
“Yes, just one more thing…”
I punched her in the face and wrestled her to the bed. As I had my knee to her back, I ripped off the wig.
“Nice try, Peter Tucker: FBI agent!” I said.
I released my knee and Peter started laughing as he rolled over. “Nothing gets passed you,” he said, “you’re as sharp as a tack!”
“What the fuck do you want? Why are you watching me?”
Peter sat up in bed and began wiping away the makeup. “Now now, settle down Jack,” he explained, “I know you’re after the missing Huffington girl. I promise to not interfere with with your investigation, the only service my office will provide is protection.”
“Protection from what? There’s nothing on the streets that I can’t handle myself. Remember, I spent six months in Cleveland?!”
“I know that! But things operate a little differently here.”
“Well, for one thing, I’m in charge.”
I let out a huge guffaw. “Don’t tell me the FBI put you in charge of the San Francisco field offices!”
“You better believe it, bucko,” Peter replied. “Furthermore, I don’t you running around here with that puny ass peashooter fuckin everything up! So you play by the rules or I’ll have you locked up in San Quentin! Do we have an understanding?”
“Peashooter? You mean this LETHAL weapon?”
I then pulled out the .38 and shot Peter’s makeup sponge right out of his hand.
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about, Jack!”
“Alright Peter,” I said as I placed the .38 back in its holster, “I’ll play it your way. But what’s with the disguise?”
“Disguise?” Peter asked. “This is how I dress.”
Please take the barrel of your .38 out of my nose!” the manager of the porn theater cried. “I don’t recognize the girl!”
“I know you know something!” I replied. “If you like having a nose, you better spit it out!”
“I know nothing! I swear!”
“You’re a liar. And you know what the Lord does to liars and pornographers? There’s no forgiveness! The Book of Isaiah says so,” I said. “But you will live to die another day. So get right with the Lord, for hell is in your not too distant future!”
I pulled the trigger and his nose splattered against the wall. The manager screamed on the floor while blood streamed through his fingers as he held his hands over his face.
Meanwhile, Peter Tucker was waiting outside of the manager’s office. “I’m proud of you, Jack,” he said. “You didn’t put a bullet in the suspect’s brain this time. You’re really maturing as a person.”
“Thanks Peter,” I replied as I put the .38 back in its holster. “Gosh though, this Layla Huffington girl is really hard to find. I mean, millions of men beat off to her picture everyday! You’d think SOMEONE would recognize her.”
“People go missing all of the time. I think you’ve done enough work for the day. C’mon, let’s get drunk and forget about it.”
I nodded then Peter and me left the theater and began walking past skid row. I couldn’t shake the image of Layla from my mind. There was something about her face that was haunting me.
As we were about to enter the bar, a street performer was playing a familiar tune on his guitar. “Do you hear that song?” I asked Peter.
“Yeah, it’s a shitty acoustic version to that Eric Clapton song. What of it?”
“Layla,” I said.
I walked up to the street performer and handed him a $20 bill. “You better take the money,” I told him, “cuz if you don’t give the answers I want, you’ll get a bullet instead.”
“Fuck off copper!”
I slapped him across the face with the butt of my .38. As he laid on the ground, I pointed the gun at his skull. “I ain’t no cop,” I said. “I’m Jack Hardcock and I don’t play by the rules. So tell me about Layla or else you’ll be my next victim of the day.”
“It’s just a song, man!”
I cocked the .38.
“Alright alright!” the performer cried. “She’s my ex-girlfriend! She dumped my ass and fucked off to Los Angeles!”
Don’t you have a whole FBI field office to run?” I asked Peter Tucker. Donavan McNabb, the guitarist I threatened to shoot on the streets of Oakland…and Layla’s ex-boyfriend…was packing his van before the two of us departed for LA.
“You know,” Peter explained, “the funny thing about San Francisco is that no one commits crimes there. What are the odds? So I’ve got nothing better to do.”
“Well if you’re tagging along with us, you’re paying for gas,” I said.
“Don’t worry,” Donovan interrupted, “this is a 1994 GMC Vandura. It’s a marvel of modern engineering. So this thing DEFINITELY doesn’t suck up a lot of gas.”
“It’s all good,” Peter replied, “I’ll just use my credit card issued by the federal government to pay for the $15 per gallon gas here in the State of California for an investigation that has absolutely nothing to do with the government.”
“Good thinking,” I said. “Well hop on in! Let’s get this show on the road!”
We all got high driving down the SR 1. It didn’t help much. I couldn’t shake the half naked images of Layla from my mind; something was compelling me towards her. And it wasn’t just my erection either.
“I know I’m a federal agent and all,” Peter said to Donovan, who was driving the van, “but goddamn this is some good weed.”
“For Christ sake,” I said to Peter, “stop using the Lord’s name in vain!”
“Come off your high horse, Jack,” he replied.
“No, he’s right,” Donovan interrupted, “God is all around us. God is love. We should treat him with respect.”
“That’s an interesting perspective,” I replied.
“Shut the fuck up Donovan,” Peter said. “You’re just a dumbass California stoner. I shouldn’t even be letting you drive! It would have been much faster taking the interstate!”
“What’s the rush, man?” Donovan asked.
“A girl’s gone missing,” I said, “and her mother is paying $3500 per day to find her.”
“All Layla did was move to LA for work,” Donovan said as tears began to stream down his face. “I just wish she hadn’t had dumped me.”
“There there,” I said as I patted him on the back, “I completely understand why she left you.”
Donovan pulled off to a lone gas station overlooking the California coast. Peter went inside to ask for directions and take a shit while Donovan stood around with his thumb up his ass. Meanwhile, I continued to study Layla’s dossier.
Then some jackoff in a red Porsche convertible pulled up behind the van. “Hey, are you gonna pump any gas?!” the man yelled. “You’re holding up the line!”
“There are other pumps, sir,” Donovan replied. But the gentleman wasn’t having it.
I grew annoyed as he continued to lay on the horn. Finally, I walked up to the Porsche and pulled out the .38.
“Listen here, shitheel!” I said to the man, “we’re on a mission from God, GODDAMNIT! That means we don’t have to obey the laws of man. So I hope you’re right with the Lord, because if you keep laying on the horn, you might be meeting Him sooner than you think!”
The man began to piss himself as he wept and raised his hands in the air. “I’m so sorry mister,” he cried, “I just need some gas.”
I lifted the .38 and pulled back the hammer. “Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior?” I asked.
The man bawled as he accepted Jesus into his life. Then I shot him in the kneecap for the inconvenience
Peter ran out of the gas station after he heard the gunshot and patted me on the back. “I’m really proud of you Jack,” he said, “you’ve shown a lot of restraint these last few days.”
I nodded as put the .38 in my holster. “You know, it’s just never occurred to me to NOT kill everyone I come across. I don’t what it is. I guess California has really gotten to me.”
We both laughed then continued on our journey to LA.
I threw Donovan McNabb against the wall in our room at the Cecil Hotel. Then I put a knife to his throat. “Did you bring an extra toothbrush?” I asked. “I forgot mine.”
His hand was shaking as I took the toothbrush from it. “Relax,” I told Donovan, “why are you so stressed out?”
Right then, Peter Tucker startled me as he came in through the door carrying a trey of coffees. I drew the .38 and blasted the trey. Piping hot latte got all over him.
“Goddamnit Jack!” Peter yelled. “That’s the fifth time I’ve had to go to Dunkin Donuts! Will you stop blasting every trey I carry in?!!”
“We’ve been in LA for two days!” I said as I put the .38 back into the holster. “We’ve got nothing! NOTHING! We need Layla Huffington before it’s too late!”
“Too late for what?” Donovan asked. “She’s already in the porno business.”
I then backhanded him across the face. “I know that,” I replied. “But maybe it’s not too late to save her.”
“Save her?” Donovan said as he rubbed his cheek. “I don’t think she’s in any danger. I just want to talk to her to get some closure!”
I kneed Donovan in the ballsack then threw his head into the mirror, shattering the glass. “Goddamnit Donovan! Don’t you get it?” I said. “Layla is under the clutches of Satan! The Lord has made it MY quest to rescue her! MY QUEST! And when the Lord speaks, I answer the call! So you best not get in the way, or you will be the NEXT one to swallow a bullet.”
Peter stood back in quiet contemplation as he rubbed his hand across his face. “Donovan, will you step outside the room, please?” he requested.
Donovan granted his request as he wiped blood from his temple. Peter closed the door behind him. “I know what’s going on here, Jack,” he said. “I know you too well. You’ve been watching her videos, looking at her naked pictures constantly. That’s too much for a man that doesn’t masturbate.”
Then a dark revelation came to me. I looked down at the broken shards of mirror at my feet. “And I want her for myself, is that what you say?”
“It’s an obsession,” Peter replied, “an obsession that has gotten ahold of many men in your position. And as a man with 20 years of backed up semen running through him, it’s an obsession that will crush you.”
I nodded in agreement. “So what do you recommend?” I asked.
“Seeing as you are emotionally compromised in this case, I’ve had no choice but to utilize my massive FBI resources to track Layla Huffington down. So I posed as a porno producer and got in contact with a director that has worked with her many times before,” Peter said. “Plus, you should beat off every once in awhile.”
“Who’s your contact?”
“A very well respected man in the business,” Peter replied. “His name is Dillon J Dudenburg.”
“ I’m Dillon J Dudenburg. I’ve directed hardcore porn, I’ve directed softcore porn. I’ve studied under Stephen Sayadian AND Nick Millard. And I’ve also directed episodes of Grace Under Fire,” the famed filmmaker, recently fired from a major motion picture, informed us. He was puffing on his Black & Milds while we interviewed him in a U-Haul storage unit in El Segundo. We were using it as a “casting couch”. The three of us…Peter, Donovan McNabb,and myself…were all donning our fake mustaches while undercover as porn producers.
“That’s very interesting, Dillon,” Peter said. “Jack, do you have anything you’d like to ask?”
“Yeah,” I replied, “what does the ‘J’ stand for?”
Dillon took a drag off his cheap cigar. “Just ‘J’,” he said.
“Did you read the script?”
“Uhh, yeah,” Dillon said as he dabbed his cigar in the ashtray, “and I have a few ideas. First, I’d like to cast as our leading lady an actress I worked with on Pee On Me Vol. 9….Bella Bixby. I think she’s perfect for the role.”
“But part of the agreement was to cast a different actress that you worked with on Info Whores: Layla Huffington,” Donovan interrupted.
“Layla Huffington?! No way man!“
“May I ask why?” Donovan said. He was getting irate.
“She gave the entire cast and crew crabs man! We had to shut down production for a whole month!”
That was enough. Donovan McNabb leapt out of his seat and began to strangle Dillon. “I GAVE HER THOSE CRABS!” he kept shouting.
Peter and I wrangled Donovan while Dillon laid out on the floor trying to catch his breath. “Donovan, chill out,” I said, “that’s my responsibility!” I then kicked Dillon in the side and grabbed him by the lapels. “Where’s Layla?!” I kept asking.
“Last place I saw her was at a strip club in Riverside,” Dillon replied as he coughed up blood.
I stood up straight and ripped off my mustache. “Let’s get going,” I ordered.
“Wait a minute,” Peter said, “we have this place rented out until the 24th. So how are we gonna….”
While we were talking amongst ourselves, Dillon, still on the ground, pulled out a switch blade from his sock. As he charged towards Donovan, I drew the .38 and blasted a hole in the filmmaker’s face. His body fell to the ground as blood gushed out of every orifice.
“My god, Jack, what have you done?” Peter asked as he knelt beside the body. Then he began to weep.
“Peter, you’ve seen me kill hundreds of people,” I said, “why are you crying?”
“Don’t you get it?!” he yelled, “Dillon was the greatest artist of our time!”
“The Bible specifically prohibits the production and viewing of internet pornography,” I replied as I put my gun back in the holster. “I did the world a favor.”
Peter stood up and got in my face. “When you find Layla Huffington,” he said calmly, “you take her and get OUT of the state of California. Or else I will kill you myself.”
I lit up a cigarette and gave him a smirk. “Gladly,” I said.
Then we were off to Riverside.
“So it’s totally cool that we left a dead body in that storage unit?” Donovan McNabb asked Peter. We back in the Vandura en route to Riverside. Peter sat silently in the backseat. He was still pissed at me for killing his favorite porno director.
“Yup,” Peter replied to Donovan. “There’s a dead body in every storage unit in El Segundo anyway.”
“Do you know the strip clubs in Riverside?” I asked Peter. “Would you happen to know which one Layla Huffington might be at?”
“She’s at the Glory Hole,” he said while thumbing through the latest issue of Fine Gardening.
“How would you know that?”
“You mind your own goddamn business, Jack Hardcock!”
We rolled up to the Glory Hole an hour later. Donovan was adamant that he go inside first. “I really need the closure,” he said.
“No,” I replied as I reloaded the .38. “This is about me. I’ll go inside and scope the place out.”
I put the fake mustache back on and wondered inside. “That will be a $20 cover charge,” the bouncer said to me.
“That’s outrageous,” I replied, “it’s 1:30 PM!”
“Those are the rules.” So I shelled out the 20 bucks and went to the bar area. Strippers were everywhere but I was the only patron. “What can I get you, honey?” the bartender asked me. She was a mature woman, 65 to 70. All she was wearing was a tiny purple thong.
“Bourbon please,” I said.
“All we have is Tennessee Whiskey.”
“Just Evan Williams, green label.”
“That’ll do. I’m here to hate myself anyway.”
She poured the stiff drink and I scanned the club. There was no sign of Layla Huffington anywhere. So I summoned the bartender back.
“Excuse me, but does Layla Huffington work today?” I asked. The bartender leaned forward and her boob rested gently on my forearm. “Sweetheart, Layla ain’t a stripper no more,” she said.
I lowered my head, fearing my search had come to a dead end.
“She does peep shows in the back,” the bartender continued. “Go on. Pay her a visit.”
I nodded and picked up my whiskey. A puny bald man greeted me in the back. “Sir, just step into one of the rooms, drop a quarter into the slot, and the curtains will open,” he informed me. “The performer will do whatever you ask of her for five minutes before the curtains close. At that time, you will have to insert another quarter if you want the show to continue. You will be able to see her, but she won’t see you. If you make a mess, clean it up. Enjoy the show.”
I walked into a pitch black room and dug into my pocket. I only had one quarter. I dropped it into the coin slot and the curtains swung open. The room brightened up and in front of me, on the other side of the glass, was a scantily clad Layla Huffington.
I quickly turned my head. My back was facing the glass.
“Hello?” Layla asked, “is anyone there?”
I was too terrified to speak.
Then I could hear her knocking on the glass. “You have me for five minutes,” she said, “is there anything you want to see?”
“Uhh,” I stuttered, “my apologies. It’s been so long since I’ve laid eyes on a woman.”
“You have nothing to fear mister,” I heard her say, “I do this all of the time.”
“I suppose you do,” I said.
“So?” Layla asked after a long pause. “What do you want me to do?”
I backed up and leaned against the glass, still not facing her. I couldn’t find the words. “I just want to hear your voice,” I finally said.
“My voice? What do you want me to say?”
“Who are you? Where do you come from?”
“Umm, well,” I heard her chuckle, “no one’s ever asked me that before.”
I didn’t reply.
“I grew up on a farm in Iowa,” she explained in a soft voice. I could feel her standing near the glass. “I dreamt about being somewhere, anywhere but where I was. One day, I left for the big city, expecting big things. But big things never came. I realized that I’m just a small town girl, meant for a small world. And now I’m here. It’s a tale as old as time.”
My left hand reached across my body and I placed it against the glass. I could see Layla out of the corner of my eye, but I still couldn’t face her.
“Do…” I started to say. “Did you ever love someone?”
There was a long, awkward silence. “I…I…,” she stuttered.
Then the curtains shuttered and the room returned to black.
“So you’re telling me that you spent three hours in a strip club and Layla Huffington wasn’t there?” Peter Tucker asked me while we were staying at the Red Roof Inn off 91. “Meanwhile, I had to smell Donovan McNabb’s farts while sitting in a van under the blazing sun?” he continued.
“That’s correct,” I replied.
“Why are you lying?”
“Why is it so hard for you to believe that I’d spend three hours in a strip club?”
“You’re a Christian man for fuck’s sake!”
“I was doing my job!”
“Goddamnit Jack! You’re hiding something!”
“No!” I screamed, “NOOOOOOOOOO!” I threw my .38 into the mirror, shattering it into a million pieces. The gun itself, my most prized possession, was destroyed. “Pete, you don’t know the burdens I carry,” I said, “men have families, people they love. I have no one. Men have friends, people that understand them. I have no one. I have been, and I fear always will be, an instrument of God’s wrath. Only Jesus can understand the weight I carry on these shoulders!”
I stood silently by the window while Peter picked up the crippled .38. “You broke your little gun,” he said.
I said nothing.
“Sally Wally was right about you back in Cleveland,” Peter continued, “you are a menace. I know you know where Layla Huffington is. So get her and take her back to the pit of hell where you come from. But know this: today won’t be the last time you’ll see me. I will find you. You are getting what’s coming to you.”
Peter grabbed his coat and slammed the hotel door. I poured a shot of bourbon and joined Donovan on the patio where he was smoking a joint.
“What was all that commotion about?” he asked.
“It was nothing.”
Donovan took another hit off his joint and began to stammer. “You know Jack,” he finally uttered, “I’ll never forget what you did for me back in El Segundo.”
“What do you mean?”
“Shooting that knife-wielding porno guy in the face like that. That really meant something.”
“It was all instinctual. I would have done it for anybody.”
“Yeah but…it’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. I’m really thankful that you mysteriously appeared to me on the streets of Oakland. After Layla left me, I thought everything was over. But I didn’t realize that this was only the beginning of my journey. While I still want to face her, I feel like I’m becoming whole again. And for that, I feel like I owe you one.”
I took a swig from my bourbon and looked out to the Riverside cityscape below. “I’m gonna cash in on that favor immediately,” I said to Donovan. “I’m going back to the Glory Hole again tonight and I don’t want you there. But I’m gonna need a SHIT TON of quarters.”
“I don’t know what you want from me, mister,” Layla Huffington said from behind the one-way mirror, “so you DON’T want me to take my clothes off?”
“No,” I replied, “I want to preserve your dignity.”
I finally gathered the courage to look at Layla. She was everything that I had hoped for. God was speaking to me at that very moment. He was telling me that it wasn’t a sin to gaze upon her; she was already mine.
“Look, if you just want to talk,” Layla said, “I can just meet you at the bar. It’ll cost you, of course, but at least I’ll be able to see your face.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” I said.
I didn’t know how to reply. So there was a long silence then the curtains fell in front of the mirror. I dropped another quarter in the slot and they opened again.
“You must have a lot of quarters,” Layla said, “you’ve been here for two hours and told me almost nothing. Sure, not having to take my clothes off makes things easy. But it’s been really boring. So please, say something.”
I figured it was time to come clean. After all, it was costing her mother thousands of dollars a day for me to find her. So I took a deep breath and considered my words.
“Layla, I can’t get you out of my mind,” I explained, “I’m a lonely man. But that’s the cost of being a blunt instrument of the Lord. Yet I’ve been sent on a mission to find you and return you to your family. But I can’t shake the feeling that God has finally smiled upon me and said ‘it is not good for man to be alone.’ So he delivered you to me.”
Just as I had feared, a look of puzzlement fell over Layla’s face. “Excuse me?” she laughed, “Is this a joke?”
“This is certainly not a joke,” I replied.
“Look, I don’t know who the fuck you are! And my family? Those abusive fucks? They can go to hell! I’ve spent my whole life trying to get away from them and there’s no way I’m going back!”
“Layla, listen to me…,” I said. I was beginning to panic. “Maybe you’re right,” I continued, “maybe we should meet face to face at the bar…”
“Like hell we are!” she interrupted, “you stay away from me!”
Layla pressed a panic button. The lights went out and the curtains closed. I began pounding on the glass. “Layla!” I yelled.
Two large bouncers stepped into the tiny room. “Sir, you need to leave,” one of them ordered as he laid his hand on my shoulder. Without my .38 special, I had to rely on my physical prowess to overpower the men. So I utilized my signature move: a kick to the scrotum so hard that it induced vomiting.
As the bouncers barfed all over the floor, I took one of their taser guns. Then I roundhouse kicked the one-way mirror and the glass came crashing down.
“Layla, wait! I love you!” I yelled as I chased her out of the strip club and into the parking lot. As she frantically dug through her purse to find her keys, I pulled out the taser.
“Don’t make me use this,” I warned her. I inched closer towards her as she swiftly opened the door to her vehicle.
“Stay the fuck away from me!” Layla screamed. Then she swung around and nailed me in the stomach with a pair of brass knuckles. I dropped the taser as I fell to the ground.
Layla then squealed her tires as she attempted to back out of her parking space. But standing behind the vehicle was Donovan McNabb. “Layla!” he shouted.
She slammed on the brakes and put the car in park. “Donovan?! I could have killed you!” she screamed through the window. Then she stepped out of the vehicle to confront her ex-boyfriend.
“Donovan, goddamnit!” Layla shouted, “how the hell did you find me?”
“Nevermind that!” he replied, “I was worried sick about you after you ran out on me!”
Layla slowly rubbed her fingers through her hair as she tried to find the words. “I’m sorry I did that,” she replied, “I just didn’t have the courage to tell you.”
“Tell me what?” Donovan asked, “That it was over?”
Layla began to stutter. “I…I don’t know,” she said, “Donovan, I just don’t know who I am, okay? When I’m here, I want to be there. And when I’m there I want to be here. I just needed time away.”
“You could have said so!” he said.
Before Layla could answer, a squad car pulled into the lot. The police officer slowly rolled up and shined his bright light into our faces. I climbed to my feet as I was still struggling to catch my breath.
“Everything’s alright, officer,” I said, “no need for the law. Thank you for your service and blue lives matter.”
The officer slowly opened the door and stepped out of the vehicle. I couldn’t see his face as I was still blinded by the light. Then I heard a faint laugh.
“Well well well, Jack Hardcock found Layla Huffington,” the officer said. Then he stepped in front of the light and his face was plain as day.
It was Peter Tucker.
“Peter, I don’t have time for your theatrics,” I said, “let me get Layla and we’ll get the fuck out of California.”
“You know Jack, I was thinking…,” Peter replied, “I could save the taxpayers a lot of money by just killing you right here.”
“Look, how many times do you want me to say I’m sorry for killing your favorite porno director?”
“Dillon J Dudenburg was his name, Goddamnit!” Peter yelled as he pointed his 9mm at my head.
“Whatever. You can’t kill me. There’s too many witnesses. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life in prison for murder and impersonating a police officer?”
“I’m in the FBI. I AM THE LAW.”
“Peter,” Donovan interrupted, “Jack saved my life. I will be forever grateful for that. So if you’re gonna kill Jack Hardcock, you’ll have to kill me too.”
Peter thought for a moment, nodded, then turned the gun on Donovan. He pulled the trigger and a bullet landed square in his chest.
Layla screamed as her ex-boyfriend fell to the ground. That provided enough of a distraction for me to grab the taser gun and fire it towards Peter. The hooks grabbed ahold of him and he began to spaz out. Yet that wasn’t enough to bring him to the ground.
“I’ll get you next time, JACK HARDCOCK,” Peter yelled. While volts were still discharging through his body, Peter pulled off each of the hooks like they weren’t shit, then he slowly walked back to the police car and drove away.
Layla was holding a dying Donovan in her arms. There was no stopping the bleeding. As he was drawing his last breath, he grabbed me by the arm. “You were right, Jack,” he said.
“About what, Donovan?”
“There is an afterlife. I see it now.”
“Do you see Jesus?”
“I don’t see Jesus,” he explained, “but I do see Satan. Oh shit…”
Those were Donovan’s last words.
Care for a Fruit Roll-up?” I asked Layla. I was riding in the passenger seat while she was driving down I-10. We we’re leaving California for good.
“No,” she simply replied.
“More for me then.”
We didn’t say much. Before we left, I loaded Donovan’s dead body into the trunk. The two of us were still covered in his blood.
“I’ve been wondering, Layla,” I said, “have you gave any thought to what I told you back there at the strip club?”
“The fuck are you talking about now?”
“You know…about me being madly in love with you, God sending you to me, and all that jazz…”
Layla then swerved off to the shoulder and slammed on the brakes. The sudden stoppage made me spit out my Fruit Rollup.
“Get out,” she demanded.
“I’ve known you for maybe four hours and you’re already the craziest son of a bitch I’ve met.”
“Layla, I’m just asking you a question. I have feelings, ya know? And you’re not being very receptive to them!”
“I’ve got my boyfriend’s dead body in the trunk, and you want to talk about FEELINGS? Who do you think I am? Your mother? Your therapist? Fuck you AND your feelings!”
“But…but…I know that God…”
“You think that God is on your side?” Layla interrupted. “Then good for you buddy! Maybe he’ll give you a ride cuz I certainly won’t! Now get out of MY car!”
I stepped out of the vehicle stunned. But before I shut the door, I leaned forward to say one more thing. “Layla, I just want to say that I will always love…,” but she squealed the tires, with the sudden force shutting the door closed, then off she went…going 9-0, eastbound down I-10.
Other than the blood soaked clothes on my back, I had nothing. The sun was just dawning over the desert horizon.
About five miles down the road was a lone gas station. I walked inside, grabbed a biscuit, and tossed it into the microwave. Then I walked up to the station attendant.
“Gotta take a shit,” I said.
“Bathroom’s down the hall.”
While glancing through a porno mag while sitting on the toilet (I must’ve been in Nevada), I heard a commotion outside. I quickly wiped my ass and stepped out of the bathroom. The attendant was being held at gunpoint by a couple of bikers. One of them was holding a .38 special.
Before they noticed me, I grabbed my biscuit from the microwave. “You guys should really try the food here,” I said as I chewed on the bread.
The biker with the .38 turned his weapon on me. “Give us your money too, pal!” he ordered.
So I took out my wallet and pulled out a $5 bill. “I’ll tell you what,” I said, “I’ll make you a deal: you give me that .38 and I’ll give you this $5 bill.”
“Or else what?” the biker chuckled.
I took another bite of the biscuit. “Welp,” I wondered aloud, “then I hope you’ve accepted Jesus into your life. Cuz you’re about to meet him.”
The two bikers nervously cackled while sweat poured down their faces. I stared them down while continuing to eat the biscuit. Finally one of them looked over to the other. “Can you believe this jackass?” he asked.
Then I threw the rock hard biscuit into his face, wrestled the .38 out of his hands, and shot dead the other biker. With the last thief on the ground and my knee to his throat, I pointed the .38 between his eyes. “I’ve already sent two people to hell today: Donovan McNabb and your friend here. Shall I make it a third?” I asked him.
The biker cried as he shook his head ‘no’.
“Then accept Jesus in your life,” I said.
“I accept! I ACCEPT!” he yelled.
“Then I’ll see you in heaven,” I replied. I pulled the trigger then bits of skull and brain matter went all over the floor.
I stood up straight and secured the .38 in the front of my pants. Then I looked over to the attendant. “Sorry for messing up your floor,” I said, “and for clogging your toilet.”
JACK HARDCOCK WILL RETURN