Flashback: “The Man With the Golden Eye”

I’m not gonna say I’m suffering from writer’s block. But I’m certainly lazy as shit.

So here’s another flashback from the early days. It was a sequel to Shoot Me, Deadly and it’s by far my least read story. It’s not nearly as good, plus it’s replete with grammatical errors.

But, eh.

Whatever.

The Man With the Golden Eye

The phones were ringing off the hook. Everyone was missing something: cat, dog, prosthetic arm, leg, penis, you name it. Business was booming.

But I needed help. I was on the phone all the time. Not solving cases.

Isabella brought in lunch: a Philly cheesesteak from Tony’s off 5th Avenue.

“Gee mister,” Isabella said. “After I sent a butthole pic to that producer on the internet, I’ve been getting all kinds of acting job offers!”

“That’s good to hear Izzy,” I replied. “But you can call me James.”

The calls kept coming. I couldn’t keep up. Unfortunately, between the court fees, medical bills, fines owed to the state of California for burning down a nature preserve, and replacing the window in my office after a man fell through it, I couldn’t afford help.

“Say James,” Izzy said. “You look swamped. Since you saved my life and all, the least I could do is help you out with your business.”

“Oh you’re a lifesaver Izzy. I had to let go of my secretary the other day. If you could sit at her desk and answer phones, that would be great. Just ignore the calls with a Sacramento area code,” I replied.

As I was explaining the job, Sgt. LP Anderson of the LAPD called.

“What do you know about Franco De Werner?” Anderson asked.

“He’s around 5’10.5 with a great head of hair. He’s the biggest arms manufacturer on this side of the Mississippi. He’s been a financier of various counter-revolutionary movements in South and Central America. In fact, his eye got shot out in Nicaragua for which he now wears an eye patch. He’s earned a reputation as a solid middleman between the CIA and various fruit companies in war-torn countries. He graduated summa cum laude from Emory, earned an MBA from Wharton. His wife is Becky, they have two children ages 15 and 18. His drink of choice is Kentucky Bourbon, and he enjoys the works of Dostoyevsky. Otherwise I don’t know much,” I said.

“Well the FBI called, seems like a shipment of Werner’s has gone missing en route to Costa Rica. If you provide your assistance, the FBI said they’ll drop their investigation into you. I’m assuming you know they’re talking about,” Anderson asked.

I sighed.

“Very well,” I said. “Tell your FBI contact that I’ll set up a meeting with Franco De Werner.” I hung up the phone.

“Lazy bastards,” I thought to myself.

I went to Izzy. “I need you to gather all the information you can find on Franco De Werner. Print it off and slide it under the door of the bathroom. I’ll be in there for awhile,” I instructed.

The Philly cheesesteak went out as fast as it went in.

***

I took the California 1 up to Malibu. Again, I got pulled over.

“You need to stop fuckin around,” the officer said. “I’ve seen your kind before. You come around here thinking you solve everything. But you can’t. You’re just one man. You can’t change the system.”

“First off,” I replied. “Weren’t you a sheriff in San Luis Obispo last week? And secondly, I’m just helping the FBI on an investigation into Franco De Werner’s missing property. I’m not trying to change any system. And third, how the hell do you know who I am? Hand me my ticket and fuck off.”

The officer glared at me for awhile then wrote up the ticket.

“I better not see your face around here again. And fuck this piece of machinery that you call a vehicle,” he warned.

“I’ll have you know that I get 12 mpg in this piece of machinery,” I replied.

The cop flipped me the bird and walked away.

I pulled up to Werner’s beachfront property. As I walked towards the house, a 50 cal. machine gun knocked up a bunch of sand and blew my bowler off. I dropped to the ground and pulled out my .45.

Seconds later, there was a laugh and a man walked up. His smile was perfect.

“Those commie bastards did me a favor by shooting out my eye. My aim has never been better,” the man said.

I stood up and knocked the sand off.

“Mr. Franco De Werner, I presume?”

“Indeed,” he replied. “You must be the investigator the FBI sent. Welcome to my humble abode. Can I offer a refreshment? A bourbon perhaps?”

“A change of underwear if you’ve got it.”

We went inside to Franco’s Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home. His servants offered cucumber sandwiches and some 90 proof Elijah Craig.

“I heard you slaughtered an entire mafia up in the mountains,” Franco said.

“How did you hear about that?” I asked.

“For a man in my position, it pays to have eyes everywhere,” he replied. “I could use a man like you.”

“I’m just here to assist the FBI, Mr. Werner. Not for a job interview,” I said.

“Right”

Franco sat back in his seat and lit up a cigar. Villains love their cigars.

“There was a whole shipment of M4s and Carbon 15s going to counter-revolutionary forces in the jungle. The communists had to of intercepted it,” Franco explained.

“How could they have known?” I asked.

“I must have a rat in my midst,” he explained as he puffed on his cigar. “I need you to sniff him out Mr. James.”

“I’m a simple private investigator Mr. Werner. Not an undercover agent.”

Franco took a drink of his bourbon.

“I know about your troubles. I know about you burning down an apartment building, about the massacre in Big Bear, about your medical bills and unpaid fines to the California Highway Patrol. I can make all your problems go away if you do me this favor: join my team, and find this mole.”

I thought for a second, then poured a glass of Elijah’s.

“I’m all ears,” I said.

***

“Do be careful James,” Izzy said.

“Be sure to pack my Beretta 93R,” I replied. “Things might get heavy.”

Izzy handed me my aluminum edition suitcase and drove me to Burbank International. I was headed to Belize to pick up the trail of Franco De Werner’s missing arms shipment. 

To infiltrate his elite team of mercenaries, Werner provided me with false credentials. My name: Carlos Newhouser…a half-Austrian, half-Mexican, former member of Spetsnaz. 

My mission: snuff out the communists.

Kill, if necessary.

At the airport, a rag tag crew of rednecks, Arabs, fishermen, nomads, musicians, accountants, fur trappers, Canadians, dope heads, dope dealers, truckers, Canadians, hockey players, Arsenio Hall, and former special forces were there to greet me. This was Franco’s crack team.

“I’m Carlos,” I said.

Everyone glared. 

“Anyone gonna say anything?” I asked.

A female stepped forward.

“Welcome to Belize, Mr. Newhouser,” she said. “I’m Angelika Anotolukolopolous.”

Angelika was red headed. She spoke with a Scottish accent.

“Let me take your bags,” she said.

“No thanks,” I replied. “I prefer to carry my own.”

We all piled into the bed of a jacked up 95 F-150. Anna tried to brief me on the situation while on our journey to the hotel.

“What?! I can’t hear you through this loud ass Diesel engine!” I said.

“Franco has tasked us with finding the missing arms shipment! He suspects the communists of stealing it!” she replied.

“I know! We’ve already gone over this!”

We arrived at Helena Bay Family Resort. The hardened crew gathered by the poolside bar while children ran and played about.

“I heard you torched a school in Sarajevo because you suspected they were harboring communists,” one of the mercenaries said to me. “You’re one cold blooded son of a bitch.”

“Better dead than red,” I replied. I looked over to the bartender. “Mai Tai please.”

Angelika stepped out in her bikini. The ruffians glanced over and went back to their mojitos. I stripped off my shirt and jumped into the pool.

Angelika looked me over through her Ray Bans.

“I see you have a good taste in music,” she said. She was referring to my Def Leppard tattoo. 

I hopped out of the pool and dried off.

“Thanks,” I said. “Got it during their Slang Tour in 96.”

“I’d like to see what else you got,” Angelika replied. She was playing seductively with her straw between her lips.

“On my left ass cheek is the Whitesnake tour from 92,” I replied.

She slipped me the key to her room.

“Come see me tonight, after 10:30. I’ll show you what I got,” and with that Angelika got up and slowly walked away.

She suspected something. We suspected each other. But I had to follow my leads, and Angelika was at the top of my list.

After 10:30, I unlocked the door to her room. 

“Angelika?” I asked.

From behind the bathroom door appeared Angelika in a purple corset and black undies.

“Well,” I said. “I don’t see your tattoos.”

“Hello James,” a woman’s voice said from behind. 

I turned around and there stood another Angelika in the kitchenette.

“Sorry ladies, I only brought enough protection for one,” I said.

“Please sit down,” the Angelika in the kitchen replied.

I complied.

“Care for a drink?” she asked.

“Irish whisky,” I replied.

A third Angelika appeared and handed me a glass.

“Can I have the bottle please?” I asked. “What’s going on here?” 

“We are genetically enhanced clones from the Ionian Liberation Front,” the first Angelika said. “We know you’re not Carlos Newhouser. You’re a hack detective from some agency in Los Angeles.”

“Genetically enhanced?” I asked.

The second Angelika took my glass and smashed it against her head.

“I see what you mean,” I said.

“We’re after Franco De Werner. Join us, or you won’t be leaving this room alive.”

I thought for a second, then I saw an opportunity: The burrito I ate earlier was roaring back with a vengeance. So I stood up.

“I need to use the bathroom,” I said. “It must be Montezuma’s Revenge.”

“Very well,” one of the Angelika’s said begrudgingly.

I sat on the toilet and started thinking through my options. As I stunk up the room, a forth Angelika handed me a roll from behind the shower curtain.

“Don’t forget to wipe,” she said.

***

“If you stray a foot, I’ll murder you where you stand,” one of the Angelikas told me.

All the mercenaries, 40 of us in total, boarded the black hawks en route to the jungles of Honduras. The three other Angelikas disappeared hours earlier. Only one was left to watch me.

“Why are you after Franco De Werner?” I asked her.

“In addition to killing our comrades, he holds the key to a secret nuclear arsenal somewhere under the Gulf of Mexico. If we can capture him, we’d control enough fire power to destroy the Western Hemisphere,” she replied.

Well fuck me, I thought. Angelika(s) plan was to massacre the mercenaries in the jungle during their communist hunt, forcing Franco down to Honduras. 

I was caught between a rock and a hard place: between a diabolical madman and a kill squad of four genetically enhanced clone-ladies

“But why me though?” I asked. “Are you aligned with the mafia? Are they still pissed because I torched the shit out of them in the woods?”

“Just shup and do what you’re told.”

The choppers dropped us off on the beach. We set up camp for the night. All the men gathered around the various fires, cracking open one Keystone Light after another.

It became a beach party.

I stood watch along the tree line. Angelika handed me an MK 556. She pushed me up against a tree and grabbed my dong.

“Remember,” she said. “I am always watching you.”

She then kissed me and disappeared into the jungle. I began to cry.

The men started to get rowdy. I told them to quiet down, that the communists could be watching.

“What are you afraid of, Carlos?” replied Tiger Tanaka, the most ruthless of the bunch. “You’re the most notorious arsonists in Eastern Europe. Quit being a puss.”

Tiger then pulled out a Henri Selmer saxophone and started rockin’ out like he was Clarence fucking Clemons. This noisy instrument was echoing across the bay and into the jungle.

“Damn it Tiger! If you don’t put that loud piece of shit away, I will shoot you myself!” I yelled.

“I ain’t afraid of nothin in this jungle!” he yelled back.

Ironically, a tiger then jumped out of the woods a mauled his face off. The men quickly scattered into the jungle, leaving their weapons behind. I fired a few rounds at the animal before it disappeared.

“There’s tigers in Honduras?!” one of the men yelled. I shrugged.

Angelika must have something to do with this, I thought.

The men attempted to retrieve their weapons. Every time they got close, the tiger would reappear and drag one of them into the woods.

“It’s an ambush,” I said. “We must fall back.”

“Fall back into the jungle?! WITHOUT OUR WEAPONS!” said Thomas Jane “Little” P.P., the explosives expert.

“Calm yourself, Little PP,” I replied. “Fall back and we’ll regroup.”

As the men retreated, trip wires began going off. A fireball would light up the sky and body parts would fall back into the trees.

“We’re gonna die!” screamed Little PP. He ran ahead a few yards in front of me before falling into quicksand.

I extended my rifle to pull him out, but he kept sinking deeper. “I don’t want to drown!” Little PP yelled. “Please kill me, Carlos!”

When I realized that I couldn’t rescue him, I lifted up my rifle and fired one round into Little PPs chest. I watched as his dead body sunk below the surface.

The screams of men continued to echo across the jungle. I heard growling behind me. The tiger was near. I fired a few rounds into the bushes and ran off.

I hopped across a trip wire and hid behind a tree. “Come at me mother fucker,” I said. The tiger jumped out and hit the wire. The explosion was brilliant.

Tiger blood rained from the sky.

I sat down and radioed in.

“To Angelika or whoever’s listening,” I said. “Tiger’s dead. Both tigers are. There can’t be very many of us left. But I’m still standing. If you want me, you’re gonna have to come down here and get me. 

But be warned: it’s gonna take more than a tiger and a few land mines to kill me.”

***

The warm breeze blew through the trees while the sun beamed down. Dead and mangled bodies littered the jungle floor.

I rested beneath a tree, waiting for the Angelikas.

A chopper rattled in the distance. The trees rustled as it hovered overhead. Four ropes dropped down to a clearing in front of me.

The four Angelikas lowered down.

“You’re coming with us,” they said.

“Not today sisters!”

I attempted to fire off a clip, but my rifle jammed. I threw the weapon down. If it came down to hand-to-hand combat, I was fucked.

Three of the Angelikas attempted to corner me. One stood back. I threw a grenade, but one caught it and threw it back. The explosion knocked me back a few feet.

The chopper continued to hover overhead.

As I laid there in a daze, I suddenly remembered: Izzy packed my burst action Beretta. The Angelikas were inching closer. I pulled out the sidearm and unleashed the three rounds into the chopper.

I could see the pilot’s brains splatter across the glass. His body leaned forward and the helicopter came careening down into the jungle. As it exploded, fire rained down onto the three Angelikas.

They might’ve been genetically enhanced. But as I’ve learned time and time again, no one is immune to the destructive force of a fireball.

I walked towards the last remaining Angelika. She instantly cowered down.

“Don’t kill me! I’m the original, I’m not genetically enhanced,” she screamed.

“Where’s Franco?!”

“He’s holed up at the abandoned airstrip a few klicks away.”

“You’re taking me to him.”

I held her at gunpoint as we journeyed towards the airstrip. Franco was in the hanger while his private jet rested on the runway. 

“Here’s your communist mole,” I told him.

“Excellent work, Mr. James,” he replied. “Now that I can trust you, I’ll reveal to you my secret plan.”

Franco turned around and removed his eye patch. A brilliant flash of gold appeared from where left eye once was. He laid a steel briefcase on the table.

Inside was a ridiculous looking retinal scanner.

“When I run my golden eye through this retinal scan,” he said. “50 scud missiles armed with nuclear warheads will fire from beneath the Gulf of Mexico. Each aimed at a major city in the Western Hemisphere.”

“You’re a madman, Mr. Werner,” I replied. “You’re not even gonna attempt to blackmail world leaders? What kind of villain are you?”

“Once when the world’s major cities have been destroyed,” Franco continued. “They’ll blame the communists, and leaders of the world will have no choice but to use my services to defeat them.”

“Billions of people will die, just so you can make a profit,” I replied.

“Basically, yeah.”

I’ve seen these cases hundreds of times: madman wants to destroy the world just so he can make a few extra pennies. People will do anything for money these days.

“With that type of destruction,” I interjected. “Nuclear winter could last ages. Are you sure that you completely thought the consequences of your plan, Mr. Werner?”

Franco pondered for a second.

“Shit, I guess I didn’t,” he replied. “Oh well, it’s a risk worth taking. But tonight, we feast!”

Franco left the hanger. Angelika was locked up behind a gate.

“James,” she said. “Franco killed my friends, my family. All I’ve ever wanted was justice. Please don’t let him do this.”

Franco returned with his servants. They were bringing in cartons full of local cuisine out of the jet. He poured a glass of bourbon, then lifted it to make a toast.

“To the future,” he said.

I had to act quickly.

***

Franco stuffed his face with Chile con queso and guacamole. When he finished, he pulled out a cigar.

“Time to get this show on the road,” he said.

Franco ran his golden eye through the retinal scan, which initiated a countdown. He laughed as he lit up the cigar. When the clock reached zero, the computer informed us that all fifty missiles were launched, all aimed at the fifty largest cities in the Western Hemisphere.

“We better get the fuck outta here,” Franco said. “We don’t want to be on the ground when those warheads hit.”

Angelika, myself, Franco, and a few of his minions boarded the private jet. When we were up in the air, Franco was still amused with himself.

“In 19 minutes,” he said as he puffed on his cigar. “We’ll be the richest fuckers in the universe.”

Then he leaned forward as his stomach cramped.

“Damn it,” Franco said. “Montezuma’s Revenge.” He got up and ran to the toilet.

I looked over to the steel briefcase that controlled the warheads. “James, do something!” Angelika yelled.

I swiftly leapt out of my seat and kicked the guard in the dick. “Ow! My groin,” he yelled as he fell to the ground.

With the guard incapacitated, I opened the briefcase and attempted to redirect the missiles. However, I didn’t know how to operate the computer.

“Remove the handcuffs James, I know how to do it,” Angelika said. I took the keys off the guard and set her free. She redirected the missiles into space, where they’d all converge to create one massive explosion.

Moments later, the sky lit up…almost as if there were two suns resting on the horizon.

“Congratulations Angelika, you saved the world,” I said.

“We still have a problem,” she replied. “One missile is not responding to the commands. It’s headed straight for Mexico City.”

I thought for a moment.

“What’s our flight path?”

I busted into the cockpit and knocked out the two pilots with the butt of my rifle. “Our path takes us near Mexico City. We can intercept the missile with this jet,” I said.

I took control of the cockpit in an attempt to steer the jet into the missile. I never flew a plane of that magnitude before. I flew a Cessna once. I figured that flying a Lear at 745mph couldn’t be that different.

“Two minutes to intercept,” Angelika yelled as she was putting on a parachute. I climbed out of the cockpit and began strapping into one on as well.

I kicked open the emergency exit and the cabin depressurized. At that moment, Franco ran out of the bathroom and began firing his Ruger. Angelika grabbed his arm and attempted to knock it out.

“Jump James!” she yelled.

I jumped out of the plane. Angelika engaged with Franco for a few more moments before throwing him out of the plane without a parachute. Then she jumped. 

The missile crashed into the Lear, detonating the last nuclear weapon several thousand feet above us. We deployed our parachutes. When we were 20 feet above the ground, Franco rifled out of the sky like a lightning bolt, grabbing ahold of me and crashing us into the ground from his tremendous momentum. 

Franco somehow managed to keep his cigar in.

We wrestled on the ground, with him getting the better of me. When Angelika landed, not even she could overtake him. I took out my Beretta, but Franco kicked it out. 

While I was laying on the ground, Franco grabbed the gun and aimed it at me.

“Goodbye, Mr. Private Dick.”

The wind then kicked up and my parachute blew on top of him, obscuring his view. I jumped on top of him and began to strangle him.

By this point, I’ve probably killed hundreds of men. But there’s nothing like killing a man with your bare hands.

Franco gurgled for a bit, then the bones and muscles in his neck began to break. When his eyes rolled back into his head, I loosened my grip. 

“Let him go, James,” Angelika said. “He’s dead.”

I took my hands off his lifeless body and stood up.

“That was fucking brutal. Jesus!” Angelika told me.

I began to strip off the parachute when a man fully decked out in military regalia came out of nowhere and began to clap.

“Well done, well done,” the strange man said.

He walked over to Franco’s body and picked up his cigar. “I am Admiral General Colonel Majors. United States Navy,” he explained.

“Where were you guys when we needed you?” I asked.

“You were never in serious danger. We were monitoring the situation the entire time.”

Angelika and I look at each other.

“But 50 nuclear missiles were launched,” I replied.

“Don’t worry about it,” Admiral Majors said. “What’s important is that I’m here to recruit you into my ultra top secret kill force, the most lethal unit in the world.”

“Why me?”

“You’re a killing machine James. You know that. You love the thrill of taking a man’s life. I watched it with my own two eyes. Face it James, you were born to kill.”

I finished taking off the parachute and threw down the Beretta. “I’m a simple LA detective, Admiral,” I replied. “I seek the truth. I’m not very good at it, but people pay me to do it. But I’m not a killer.”

“Suit yourself,” the Admiral said. “But this isn’t the last you’ll see of me.”

Angelika was later arrested due to being wanted by INTERPOL. Something to do with “terrorist activities” in 14 countries. I called Izzy.

“Mission complete,” I told her. “I’ll back in LA in a couple of days.”

“Oh that’s wonderful, James,” she replied. “Did you find that missing arms shipment? It would be really bad if all those weapons fell into the wrong hands.”

“Fuck! I forgot!”

THE END 

Flashback: “Shoot Me, Deadly”

This is the second short story I wrote for the blog, the first, of course, being my magnum opus A Shot At the Title.

Clearly I was going for a 50s pulp novel kind of feel. And I think I was partially successful there. Keep in mind, I put even less thought into these stories then than I do now.

So I’ll let you be the judge.

Shoot Me, Deadly

I burned the apartment complex down while making nachos. After the court cases were settled and 20 people were made homeless, I needed the money.

A strange man walked into my office. He laid his briefcase on the desk and pulled out his revolver.

“I’m here to offer you a shot at redemption,” he told me.

“What’s the case?” I asked.

“You’re the worst private dick in town,” he said. “I need a moron, a dipshit, a loser, a complete piece of shit that would be willing to take the fall when things go south.”

I took out a cigarette and thought for a moment. Fuck it, I thought. I needed the paycheck.

“Give it to me,” I said.

“A mafiosos daughter has gone missing. She was last seen in San Diego. Here’s her picture.”

She looked like a woman that could eat your heart out and save room for dessert.

“What’s the dame’s name,” I ask.

“Isabella Maria,” he replied. “She was a spoiled brat. She dropped out of law school to pursue a career in phlebotomy but got caught up in the wrong crowd if you know what I mean.”

“Drugs?”

“No, improv comedy. She was terrible.”

“Well,” I said. “I’ll need a $5,000 deposit and a list of references.”

“Just send me the bill. Everything you need to know is in this briefcase.”

The briefcase was a Boccio. Italian leather. Not sure why he bothered. A Manila folder would have worked just fine.

“I didn’t get your name sir,” I said.

“My name’s not important. But what I represent is.”

Fuckin weirdo.

The man left and I told my secretary to not take any calls. I went back into the office and pulled out a handle of Everclear. After popping my Zeldox and Zoloft, I lifted the glass up to a picture of my dead mother.

“Welp, things are shit and they ain’t getting any better,” I said.

And down the hatch she went.

***

I took the Sunday drive up to San Luis Obispo in my Chevy SSR to visit Isabella’s father, the mafioso Roberto Benigni Vittorio Stararo. Or “Vito”.

The county sheriff pulled me over.

“You don’t know what you’re getting into James,” the sheriff said.

“Just hand me the ticket so that I can be on my way,” I replied.

The sheriff wrote up the ticket and gave me another warning: “I better not see you or this piece of shit vehicle in my county again.”

Asshole.

I pulled up to Stararo’s estate. His wife came out to greet me.

“I’m Michaela Sabine Stararo,” she said. “Vito is fox hunting. He’ll be joining us shortly.”

She was wearing a white blouse tucked into her equestrian pants with boots. Her figure could make a man have a boner, if you know what I mean.

Michaela invited me in and offered a Chardonnay.

“Are you Isabella’s mother?” I asked.

“Her step-mother. Poor girl. She never got to know her real mother,” she replied.

I took a sip of the Chardonnay. It was Laguiche, ‘09. 

“It must be rough being an LA detective,” Michaela said.

“If people quit disappearing and fucking around on their spouses, I’d be out of a job.”

Vito walked in with his Winchester. “È questo il detective idiota assunto dal mio socio?” he said.

“The fuck did he say?” I asked Michaela.

“Vito welcomes you into his home,” she replied.

Vito had to of been 90 if he was a day. Michaela was clearly a distraction from that fact. Still, tough old man. He pulled out a cigar and poured a Chardonnay.

“Quindi questo perdente pensa di poter trovare mia figlia?” he asked.

I looked over to Michaela.

“Vito is prepared to give you all the information you need to find his daughter,” she said.

“I need to know her entire background. Who her friends are. Her lovers. Her enemies. And any enemies that you might have, Mr. Stararo,” I said.

“Chiamami Vito,” he replied.

We talked for hours discussing the case. We went through the bottle of Chardonnay. Then another. Then came the brandy.

As I prepared to leave, Michaela came up to me. “LA is a long drive,” she said. “Why don’t you stay in the guest house. I’ll have the servants prepare it.”

Why not, I thought. It sure beats sleeping in a burned down apartment building.

As I was laying in bed, Michaela came in wearing a silk robe. She slowly walked towards the bedside.

“Stanotte siamo solo io e te,” she said.

Michaela dropped the robe and climbed into bed.

***

I woke up in Vito’s guest house. I was alone. Except for the large bald man standing over me.

“Who the fuck are you?” I asked

“Luigi. Michaela wants to talk to you.”

“Can you give me a minute? I still got morning wood.”

“Now”

Luigi escorted me through the garden to the large chateau. There, standing in the kitchen, was Michaela holding a glass of brandy.

“Vito died”, she said.

Luigi punched me in the stomach and I fell to the ground. While on my knees, I tried to catch my breath.

“My condolences, Mrs. Stararo,” I said.

“Don’t give me that shit. What happened to Vito? Where were you?” She asked.

“I think you know where I was.”

Luigi then socked me in the face. I got up and wiped the blood from my nose.

“Does it look like foul play? The man was 90 years old and drunk as hell last night,” I said.

Michaela downed the brandy.

“No,” she replied. “I need to know if I can trust you.”

For good measure, Luigi kicked me in the dick.

“I don’t know who any of you are! I was just hired by some man with a leather briefcase to find Isabella!” I said.

She waved Luigi out of the room and handed me a towel.

“Is this how you treat all your guests?” I asked.

“Sorry, a lot of people have wanted Vito dead for a long time. With him gone, I don’t know if they will come after me,” she said.

Michaela grabbed an ice pack and put it over my eye. “I’m going to need protection,” she said longingly.

“I just got my ass kicked. Are you sure you’re asking the right person?” I replied.

“Don’t go back to LA. Stay here with me.”

“I gotta find Isabella.”

“I don’t know where she is. But as long as she stays away from here, she’ll be safe.”

“I can’t take that chance.”

I grabbed my bowler hat and coat. “I’ll check on you soon. If things get tough, come to LA,” I said.

I took a shot of brandy and departed.

It was clear that Michaela was behind the death of Vito. I’ve seen these cases hundreds of times: wife gets jealous of husband, wife kills husband, wife takes husband’s place as head of a crime family. It’s a tale as old as time.

But one thing was clear: Isabella was certainly in trouble.

I arrived at the LA office. The secretary said that the strange man looking for Isabella was sitting in my office. I walked in and hung up my coat.

“Well well well Mr. Italian Leather, perhaps you have answers for me,” I said.

“That’s what we’re paying you for Jimmy,” he replied.

I sat down at the desk and put my feet up. “Who’s ‘we’? Vito’s dead,” I said.

“I know. I see that Luigi paid you a visit,” Mr. Leather said referring to my bruises. “She’s dangerous you know?”

“You don’t say?” I said sarcastically. “Do you really think this is my first rodeo?”

“I know that you’re a busy man, so I don’t want to take up too much of your time. But I want you to meet me on the campus of UC Irvine on Thursday,” Mr. Leather told me.

“You could have told me this by email,” I replied.

“I just wanted to make sure you got the message.”

Mr. Leather stood up and as he was walking towards the door, I said: “if you’re gonna make me drive all over SoCal, I’m gonna start charging by the mile.”

“Keep sending me the bill,” he said. Then he shut the door.

I told the secretary that I didn’t want any interruptions. I popped open a beer and a Vicodin and took a nap.

***

I put a hurtin’ on the whisky bottle, hoping that it would clear my head. Nothing about this case made sense.

I met Mr. Leather at UC Irvine. He was sitting alone in an empty theater.

“What’s this about?” I asked.

“Take a seat. I’m about to make your life a little easier,” he replied.

Two other people entered the theater. The lights dimmed and the curtains opened. Entering stage left was Isabella, all alone.

“I guess I owe you a refund,” I told Mr. Leather.

“Forget it,” he said.

Isabella began her solo performance with a vaguely racist monologue. Then she stripped to her underwear and two nude men flanked her on both sides and they began rolling around on the floor.

“The fuck is going on?” I asked Mr. Leather.

“It’s art.”

The two men then turned around, spread their ass cheeks, and took a squat while Isabella pissed all over the stage. The performance ended with her reciting the lyrics to Motownphilly. When the curtains lowered, no one clapped.

“That was godawful,” I said to Mr. Leather. “I’ve never seen anything more disgusting in my life.”

But when I looked over, Mr. Leather was nowhere to be found.

I went back stage. Isabella was in her dressing room removing the clown makeup.

“Keep trying kid,” I told her as I lit up a cigarette. “You’ll get em next time.”

“Did you enjoy it?” she asked.

“No, my mother was Canadian so I’m partly offended. But keep your head up.”

“Oh,” she replied and slumped back in her chair. I walked over to cheer her up.

“Look,” I said. “If you’ve got a passion, you gotta keep chasing it. Sure you’re gonna hit some potholes in the road, but keep going. You’ll get there eventually.”

“There’s just nothing that I’m good at.”

“That’s not true. You’ve got talent. It just needs some finessing,” I said.

“Yeah I guess,” Isabella said while she was packing her things. “Say, who are you mister?”

I took a big hit off the flask and offered it to Isabella. “I got some bad news kid,” I told her.

She took the flask and waited for the news.

“Your father is dead,” I said.

A blank look came over her face. Then she took a drink. “Was it Michaela?” she asked.

“I suspect it was.”

Isabella sat back down and looked at the floor. “I knew this would happen.”

“Your life is probably in danger,” I said. I took out the wad of cash that Mr. Leather paid me and I handed it over. “You need to get out of town.”

“But there is nowhere I can go where they can’t find me.”

I took out a pin and paper and wrote down an address. “This is my father’s old cabin up in Big Bear. Lay low there and I’ll come and get you in a few days.”

“But who are you?” Isabella asked.

“I’m James, Private Detective.” I handed her a business card. “Also, one other thing.” Then I handed her a .38 special.

“You may need it.”

She packed the items into her purse.

“Go now,” I said. “There’s some things I got to take care of here. I’ll see you in a couple of days when I have more information.”

I drove back to the office for the night. The apartment was still burned to shit. I walked in the office, removed my coat and holster, turned on the light, and there was Michaela and Luigi.

“Sorry, business hours are over,” I said.

Luigi picked up a phone book and ripped it in half. Michaela stood up from the couch, again with a glass of brandy in her hand, and walked towards me in her form fitting gown.

“But darling,” she said. “We’re just here to check in on a case.”

When she got close, Michaela head butted me and I fell backwards into the filing cabinets. While dazed, I tried to stand up and reach for my holster. Luigi grabbed my hand and threw me over the desk.

“Couldn’t this have waited until morning?” I asked.

“You need to tell us where Isabella is going,” Michaela said.

Luigi picked me up by the shirt and held me to the wall. I thought that this was the end until Mr. Leather busted in with his Tommy Gun.

“Let him go,” he said to Luigi. “Or I’ll blow you ten new assholes.”

***

“What’s it gonna be Luigi?” Mr. Leather said with his tommy gun.

Luigi paused and slowly lowered me to the ground. Leather pointed his tommy at Michaela.

“You’re not gonna get away with this,” she said.

“Beat it bitch,” he replied.

Luigi quickly reached for his sidearm. Mr. Leather unleashed his machine gun, blasting holes and blood everywhere. Luigi smashed through the window, falling five stories to the ground.

If the bullets didn’t kill him, the fall certainly did.

Michaela pulled a single shot derringer out of the bosom of her dress, hitting Mr. Leather in the stomach. She ran out the room. I ran over to him.

“We gotta get you to the hospital,” I said.

“Can’t. They’ll take me to prison.”

“I was a medic in the Army, I can probably stop the bleeding,” I replied.

“I’d rather go to prison.”

I helped the blood soaked Mr. Leather to the car. As we sped out of there, he took out a cigarette.

“Where you taking me?” he asked.

“The only place we can go.”

We arrived at the Big Bear cabin early in the morning. Isabella helped carry the wounded man inside.

“Who is this guy?” she asked.

“You know,” I thought for a moment. “That’s a good question.”

As Mr. Leather began fading in and out of consciousness, he began speaking to Isabella.

“Am fost îngerul păzitor al tatălui tău. Și sunt și a ta. Dar timpul meu este aproape terminat. Ai încredere în acest om prost,” he said.

“Am știut întotdeauna,” she replied.

“What did he say?” I asked.

“It’s not important,” Isabella said. “He doesn’t have long.”

“Obviously!”

“Just let me die,” Mr. Leather said. “It’s time.”

“Are you ever going to tell me who you are?” I asked.

“Fuck off,” he replied.

I shrugged and did what I could to stop the bleeding. I stayed by his side all morning.

“What’s the deal with Isabella?” I asked him.

“Poor girl,” he said. “Vito had her mother killed when she was just a little girl. Vito never understood his daughter. She grew up lonely, neglected by her own family.”

“Why did Vito kill her mother?” I replied.

“I’ll never tell.”

“Did you kill her?”

There was no reply. The mysterious man was no more.

I buried him that evening.

Isabella joined me outside over his shallow grave. I took out another cigarette.

“I don’t know if this guy was a pervert or your guardian angel. But either way, I think he was your biggest fan,” I told her.

“Michaela will find us,” she replied. “We gotta move.”

I handed her the money out of Mr. Leather’s wallet, then I emptied out my own.

“Take this,” I said. “Go to New York. Go do Broadway. Go do stand up. Go do something with your life. That’s what our mystery man would have wanted.”

“What are you going to do?” she asked.

“My father buried an entire arsenal from his time in Korea under this land. I outta put it to use.”

***

If Michaela and her army wanted to lay siege to this cabin, I was fully prepared.

After Isabella said her final goodbye, I began work on a defensive attack. Booby traps, trip wires, and explosives were scattered around the perimeter. Thanks to my father’s arsenal, I had RPGs, M16s, M4 Carbines, AKs, AR-15s, Uzis, and all the usual weapons you’d find in these stories.

I climbed up into a deer stand, and watched. Waited. I stared down the scope of my rifle. A caravan of black SUVs was rolling down the dirt road.

The first vehicle struck a trip wire, causing a massive explosion. It obliterated the SUV and the one behind it. Eight people were killed immediately.

Men in the vehicles behind began fanning out into the woods, but they kept triggering the C-4, causing more explosions and death. The unlucky ones got caught in bear traps where they became easy prey for the mountain lions.

I realized that I created a horrible, if not tragic, death trap.

I climbed down from the deer stand and ran back to the cabin. I knew that the men who survived the initial barrage would eventually breach the defensive perimeter. So I armed myself with multiple automatic weapons.

Meanwhile, explosions kept going off. I grabbed the RPG-7.

I knew Michaela was getting close. One of her men yelled “you fucking bitch! You told us that we’d only be facing three people! Not the threshold of hell!”

Her men started to retreat. So my defensive campaign suddenly became an offensive one. I fired an RPG right at her gaggle of men, killing or maiming all 20 of them.

The few survivors that weren’t screaming in agony began to fire back. So I let loose another RPG.

I looked out into the woods. Fires were emanating from the charred remains of hundreds of dead bodies. It was lighting up the night sky. Yet none of the bodies were Michaela.

I slowly paced through the woods. Then a bullet went right through my left kidney. I fell to the ground and Michaela popped out from behind a tree, doing all kinds of strange martial arts.

She round house kicked my face. She broke one of my arms, both legs and my eyes were nearly swollen shut. I was helplessly crawling on the ground.

“Where’s Isabella?!” Michaela kept asking while punching me in the face.

“If she was up your butt you’d know where she was,” I replied.

Out of frustration, Michaela stood up and pointed her Glock 19 at me. “Goodbye, private dick!”

Luckily, I had dozens of sidearms on me. So I managed to rip a clip into Michaela before she got off a shot.

With fire all around me, I managed to craw back into the cabin. I might’ve been a fuck up my entire life, but at least I’d go out the way I wanted.

I lit up a cigarette and looked over to a picture of mom and dad.

“I’ll be with you soon Ma and Pa!”

And I closed my eyes.

….

Unfortunately I woke up in the San Bernardino Community Hospital. Isabella and an FBI agent were in the room.

“I couldn’t leave you there mister,” Isabella said. “You were sitting in a pool of your own blood with all your limbs broken.”

“Despite the horrendous injuries and the state we found you in, you’re expected to make a full recovery!” the doctor said.

I didn’t have health insurance.

“You somehow managed to slaughter the entire west coast mafia. There will be a federal investigation into this,” the FBI agent said.

“Do I need to lawyer up?” I asked.

“Oh yeah, BIG TIME,” the agent replied.

“Aren’t you so happy to be alive?!” Isabella asked.

That night, I cried myself to sleep.

THE END

Flashback: “Randy Returns”

Sometimes I wonder: “as a writer, have I lost a step?” Then I read my old stuff and conclude it’s an unambiguous “yes”.

When I started this blog, I initially posted random thoughts and stories about my literary alter ego “James”. Before I abandoned that project, this was how that story ended (without resolution, I might add).

Now the story you’re about to read may be a little confusing, so let me provide some clarity. “Dick” was my Scottish roommate who was also a private detective. Nicky Wallz was my “father”. Dale was a coworker and reoccurring character. And Randy was my comical arch nemesis (later revealed to be my real father).

I dunno, I thought it was pretty funny.

****

RANDY RETURNS

I was hopping up and down to the sounds of 80s pop phenom Human League when there was a pound on the door.

“Open up! It’s LAPD!”

It was Randy. I wasn’t fooled.

“What can I do for you Randy?” I asked.

“Can you believe they let me out on bail?! I mean, seven vehicular manslaughter charges!! That’s crazy!” Randy said.

He was flanked by his two female henchmen, Anthrax and Honda. As Randy hoot and hollered, the ladies just stood there, arms crossed.

“So Jimmy, wanna do some drugs? I gotta speedball here,” he asked.

“Gee, I don’t know Randy. Isn’t that dangerous?”

“Not at all! Everyone’s doing it.”

He didn’t have to tell me twice. 

Eventually I found myself in a daze sitting in the backseat of Randy’s Pontiac between Anthrax and Honda. Randy was driving like a maniac down the streets of West Hollywood when he looked to the backseat. “You see! I told you everything will be alright!” he said.

I didn’t think anything was suspicious.

Finally Anthrax and Honda carried me out of the car and into the back of an abandoned warehouse. I recognized the place. I survived a stabbing there a month earlier. They laid me down in a tub of ice and an overweight German doctor wearing a lab coat and nipple piercings tried to load me up with barbiturates.

However the joke was on them. I was always loaded up on barbiturates. 

But then it occurred to me. 

“Fuck, they’re gonna harvest my organs.” I thought.

Now, like most people, I’ve had to talk my way out of an organ harvesting attempt before. But this one was different. 

It was going to take some skill.

“You know, there’s other ways of making a quick buck,” I said to Anthrax. “You can humiliate yourself in front of complete strangers on the internet like I do.”

But she stood there motionless. So I tried a different tactic: the art of seduction.

“It’s a shame I’m about to die. I wish we’ve gotten to know one another more. But, I guess I should count myself lucky. At least the last thing I’ll ever see is your beautiful face,” I said.

Finally Anthrax uncrossed her arms and adjusted her posture. Clearly she was responding to what I was saying.

“I have a confession to make. That time when you and Randy cornered me behind Dick’s Sporting Goods, pulled down my pants and shoved golf balls up my ass, I thought: ‘I could spend the rest of my life with this woman.’ Well it appears I’ll get that chance,” I told her.

Finally she removed her black Gargoyle sunglasses so I could see her eyes.

“I believe it’s customary to grant a dying man his last request,” I said.

“What’s that?” Anthrax replied. “A kiss? How lame.”

“No. I just want to cop a feel.”

She stood there and thought for a second. Finally she moved in closer, removed the handcuffs from my left wrist and placed my hand down her low cut tank. I then grasped as hard as I could on to her tit.

“Ow my titty!” Anthrax screamed.

I then leapt out of the bathtub and kicked Honda in the coot as she moved in closer. I grabbed her nickel plated .45 and pistol whipped Anthrax unconscious. With both henchwomen neutralized, I moved over to the doctor.

“Nein nein nein!” the man screamed. “Ich spreche kein Englisch. Ich weiß nicht wo ich bin!”

“I don’t want to hear that shit!” I yelled while he stared down my .45. “Where’s Randy?!”

I took the doctor by gunpoint into Randy’s lair. There were computer monitors everywhere with live feeds from CCTV cameras all over the world. Mostly in women’s bathrooms. 

There were also scientists everywhere and a shit ton of beakers.

“Well well well,” Randy said menacingly. “It appears that you foiled my plan.”

“This ends now, Randy.”

“No, you can’t stop me. The LAPD can’t stop me. INTERPOL can’t stop me. Not even unadulterated black tar heroin can stop me! You will never catch me Jimmy, so help me GOD!”

At that moment, men in black shirts began pouring out of every dark corner, firing their AK-47s indiscriminately at me. I used the doctor as a shield while I fired back. 

In the mayhem, Randy disappeared while a timer began a countdown to 0 before 200 tons of dynamite exploded. As the clock ticked down, I jumped through the glass window, falling 14 stories into a dumpster while the warehouse exploded into a magnificent fireball, lighting up the Los Angeles skyline.

When the police and fire department arrived, I chastised the New York police officer with the LAPD for releasing Randy on bail. 

“We didn’t let Randy out on bail. Dat man is dangerous! He escaped weeks ago!” the officer said while shoveling a hot dog into his mouth.

Then a junior officer came running out of the wreckage, claiming they didn’t find the bodies of Randy or anyone else.

“Say, are you sure that you were kidnapped and held against your will and did not just blow up 16 square blocks of West Hollywood because you were high on methamphetamine?” the New York officer asked.

I knew it.

Randy escaped.

We faced off once. But I knew that he’d come back for vengeance.

***

Dick was a Hall of Fame stalker.

Or “private eye”, as he called himself.

I shot up on some ‘roids to help with my low T when I got pissed off.

“That mother fucker,” I though. “He borrowed $15 from me ten years ago and never paid me back.”

I was of course thinking of Nicky Wallz, a bouncer at a strip club I once frequented. I lost touch with him after the joint got shot up in a disastrous FBI raid. 

“I’m gonna beat his ass,” I thought. But I didn’t know where to find him.

Dick was sitting there, cutting away a slice of deer meat with his sawtooth Bowie, when I asked him: “I need you to find me a Nicky Wallz.”

“Aye mate,” he replied. “The price es steep though lad. Ya donnae have a penny to yur name. I just a might be callin n a favour from ya.”

“Just find him.”

Weeks went by. In my restlessness, I began bulking and sculpting. I fought every shit heel in the bar that wanted some, smashing glass and busting heads…all in preparation for my showdown with Nicky Wallz. But Dick was dragging his ass.

“Hey Dick!” I yelled. “What’s the word on Nicky? I told you to find him seven weeks ago. You better not be cruising the the rest stops again.”

“Oy mate, I see ya lookin’ fit lad. But donnae talk to me like tha again. Or else I’ll stab ya in the scrote,” he replied.

“Oh you want some of this?”

“Aye I do.”

We both removed our shirts, displaying our perfectly sculpted abs and chest. Before we fought, we rubbed each other in oil…down our arms, down our legs…before removing our underwear, where I used the oil to rub his magnificent c—…..

Anyways, after venting my frustrations, Dick asked me, “Aye mate, why you bein such a snoot lately? What is it with this Nicky fella?”

I didn’t know how to answer.

“Perhaps I just haven’t noticed how the time has passed,” I said. “I’m getting older. I’m losing friends, acquaintances. Maybe they’ve moved on and I haven’t. I just feel like I’ve learned nothing. Nothing of importance. Nothing about myself.”

We sat in silence for a few moments.

Dick spoke up. “Well lad, I found him weeks ago but didnae wanna tell ya. Maybe let sleepin’ dogs lie yeah?”

Maybe he was right. Nevertheless…

“Where is he?” I asked.

Dick and I went down to the Los Angeles County Hospital, Psych Ward B. The doctor warned us to handle Nicky with utmost care. The nurses were handing out meals to the patients when I walked up to Nicky and slapped the trey out of his hands.

“Recognize me asshole!” I said. 

Amazed, Nicky said, “James, you’re alive old friend?”

“Still?! Old friend?!” I said. “Where’s my $15 you piece of shit?”

“Is that what this is about? Money? Nothing else?” he replied.

“What do you mean?”

“James, when I was 15, I was homeless and sleeping under a car. An older woman found me and took me in. She fed me. Clothed me. And gave me an education. We were close. Too close. We began a forbidden love affair. It was wrong, we both knew that. We tried to hide it, but the authorities found out. They took her away but not before we sired a child. That woman was Jenny, your mother.”

“Horseshit,” I said.

“Not horseshit. My only regret is never having the heart to tell you. After that strip club got shot up to absolute shreds, I never recovered. That’s why I’m here, because I just can’t bear the guilt of knowing who I am.”

Dick and me left the hospital in quiet contemplation. Could it be true? How could my mother have hid this from me?

We wandered back to the car then I pulled out a cigarette. I said to Dick:

“Damn, I should have asked for more than $15.”

***

I’m gonna slap those chilli fries right out your mouth,” Jenny, my mother, said.

“Jenny, I’m just asking you if Nicky Wallz is my father,” I replied. 

“I don’t know who da fuck dis Nicky is, but he can suck my lef nut,” she said. My mother never explained how she got a Brooklyn accent.

“Ma, did you ever take in a homeless kid 30 some years ago?”

“It was da 80s, everybody was doin wacky shit then,” Jenny replied as she took a drag off her cigarette through her stoma.

I couldn’t stand to be around her when she was like this. I started to walk away.

“Where are you goin?” she asked.

“I gotta take a shit Ma!”

Later I was browsing the porno mags in Safeway when a strange woman bumped her cart into me.

“Watch it lady!” I yelled.

It was Anthrax. I haven’t seen her since I escaped from that exploding warehouse.

“Hello James,” she said.

“Anthrax”

“I just thought I should tell you that I am three months sober. I am attending AA and I am currently seeking to make amends to those I have harmed. Therefore, I apologize for drugging and kidnapping you, and putting objects up your rectum.”

I was shocked.

“Well, you are forgiven. And I am sorry for squeezing your tit and pistol whipping you unconscious,” I replied.

“I forgive you as well,” she said.

We both stood there in awkward silence. Finally I spoke up.

“Say, can I get you a cup of coffee?”

“Yes. I would like that,” Anthrax replied stoically.

We didn’t have much to say at the coffee shop. I was still hyped up on the MDMA I took earlier, so I just drank water.

“So what happened to Honda after that deadly explosion that nearly destroyed West Hollywood? Is she okay?” I asked.

“Her face was ripped off and her arms and legs were mangled beyond repair. She survived though, whisked off by the black shirt men to an undisclosed location,” Anthrax replied.

“Well that sucks. Weren’t you two close?”

“Yes. We were sisters in the crime syndicate known as TOILET: Terrorism Or the International League that Engages in Terrorism. Honda rescued me as a small child off the streets of Stockholm and trained me in the ways thievery, extortion, and deception. I owe her my life. I would do anything to find her.”

“But how did you survive that explosion?” I asked.

“I have my ways”

Anthrax continued to sip on her coffee. I took one last gulp of my water.

“Welp, care to have sex?” I asked.

“Yes. I’d like that.”

***

“Dick, you’re gonna have to hide your Ruger collection until dad’s suicidal tendencies go away,” I told my roommate.

Nicky Wallz was recently released from the psych ward. To help get him back on his feet, I agreed to let him stay with Dick and me.

“Aye lad are you sure Nicky’s yer da and wasn’t just trying to get out of paying you $15?” Dick asked.

“I’ve never known Nicky to lie.”

There was a knock on the door. Nicky waddled in completely disheveled and reeking of skid row.

“It’s swell of you guys to take me in. I sure do appreciate it. I’ll try not to be a burden,” Nicky said.

“You just let us know if you need anything.”

Dick called for me into the kitchen. “Aye mate, how long is he gonna be stayin’ with us? The man’s still walkin aroond in his shittee underwear,” he said.

I turned around and Nicky was pissing into an air vent.

“No no dad, the bathroom’s over here.”

Dick was right. I had to find another option.

So I went back to work at the toilet factory and in walked Dale, fresh out of the hospital after taking a sniper round to the leg during a hostage situation weeks earlier.

“Dale how’ve you been you lunatic bastard! Long time, no see,” I tell him.

He was all smiles.

“Boy I tell ya,” Dale said. “This new medication is working out great! I have absolutely no urge to walk in here with my Mossberg 12 Gauge and shoot the place up. Life’s been great!”

“I’m happy for you Dale. But how are you doing living out in the woods all by yourself?Without your family? Without friends?Completely ostracized from society? Not permitted to be within 500 yards of any school or church due to your shameful, shameful deeds?”

“Come to think of it, it is quite lonely out there,” Dale said.

“Well shit Dale, why didn’t you say something?! My father is looking for a place to stay. You two would get along great!”

I’m always happy to play matchmaker. 

So I had that problem solved. Now I just had to take my dad out to Riverside County

***

I haven’t been to Norco since I was mugged behind that high school in 95. 

But I was taking Nicky, my dad, to Dale’s house in my mom’s Saturn Ion. It was a pleasant drive down I-10.

“You know,” Nicky said. “I haven’t been to Norco since I mugged a guy behind that high school in 95.”

“Well hopefully this will be your first steps towards a new beginning,” I said. “Say, when was the last time you’ve seen Jenny?”

“Not since you were born. I’m sure your mother is as beautiful as the day I met her.”

I didn’t reply.

Nicky looked out the window, taking all the sights that Riverside County had to offer. After several minutes of silence, Nicky said:

“You know, I’ve fucked everything up. I’m just a total disaster, a loser, a piece of shit, totally worthless, absolute garbage, just trash, deserve to be castrated, impaled, burned alive, and dumped into the sea. But if I’ve done one thing right in this life, it’s having a son like you. It’s made it all worthwhile.”

We continued to enjoy our drive as father and son.

We arrived at Dale’s cabin outside of town. Dale was outside, firing his rifle aimlessly into the air.

“Now Dale,” I said. “Dad gets depressed and suicidal frequently. So you might have to give him some of your unused medications from time to time.”

Dad went inside to take a nap while I went to the car to get his bags. Something glistened across the horizon out of the corner of my eye. I looked again at the eerie apparition.

“Fuckin Norco,” I thought.

Then the howling of hell echoed across the valley. A legion of bikers, renegades, outcasts, mohawks, and cenobites filled the prairie, ripping up the fields with their choppers, dirt bikes, and jacked up Dodges. Their storm cloud of dirt and smoke moved ever closer.

“Could it be?” I thought.

Dale stood in awe of the ungodly sight, paralyzed by fear. 

“Dale,” I said. “Grab your G36.”

But it was too late. The ragtag army had us surrounded. The leather cladded gang bound both Dale and me and took us to an undisclosed desert location.

We were forced to our knees and the shrouds were lifted from our faces. A hooded figure, decked in black robes appeared before us. The figure slowly began to remove their coverings, revealing a face that neither resembled man nor earthly creature.

I instantly recognized this devilish being.

“Honda,” I gasped. Her face was no longer human. She was more machine than man. 

She walked up to Dale and looked him up and down. “You. I don’t know you,” she said.

“But you, I never forget a face. James.”

“Honda,” I said. “What’s the meaning of this attack? If it’s money you want, then I’ve got some bad news for you.”

“SILENCE!” she yelled. She moved closer to us. “You know how I got this face. You know that you kicked my uterus into sterility. You’ve cursed me to wonder this earth as a nomad, as a castoff. Unwanted by the syndicate. Unwanted by society. This crew you see, we seek not money, or acts of deception, or extortion. We have one aim that unites us all: Revenge.”

“Okay, I’m sorry for kicking your poonan beyond repair,” I said. “But it wasn’t me that detonated all that dynamite. Randy did that. He was trying to cover his tracks. He never cared about you and Anthrax. You were both cannon fodder to whatever his deranged plan was. Come on, Honda! You know that’s true! It’s Randy you want, not me!”

Honda turned around in contemplation. After a long pause, she slammed her hands into the table in front of her, smashing it to bits. After standing over the wreckage, she directed her attention towards me.

“Perhaps you’re right,” she said. “But you and I have some unfinished business.”

Honda then slowly lifted me off the ground, gazing into my eyes, and kneed me square in the dong.

***

“Your dick don’t work,” the doctor said.

“Thank you doctor,” I replied.

Dale and I were found outside of Palm Springs buck naked. We were bound together and gagged. It took awhile for the police to realize we were victims and not nudists.

We were taken to the hospital where I was treated for massive scrotal damage. Dale was alright.

“Aye, don’t worry lad. We’ll get your wee workin again. You watch,” Dick (my Scottish roommate) said.

“Never mind that. I need you to find Honda. It isn’t over between us,” I instructed Dick. 

“Aye”

Dick quickly left the hospital room to begin work. Dale spoke up.

“I’m just glad that we all made it out alive,” he said.

“No one asked you anything,” I said.

Anthrax also came to visit. After Dale and Dick exited, she came to my bedside.

“I need you to tell me everything you know about Honda,” she inquired.

“She seems to possess extraordinary strength. I don’t think she’s human anymore, Anthrax. I think she’s a cyborg. Who the fuck would do that to her? Randy’s a dumbass, there’s no way he could’ve done something like that,” I told her.

“I think I know who.”

“Who? That stupid ass crime syndicate? Honda said that they didn’t want her anymore. That’s why she’s riding around with those dorks like she’s Peter fuckin Fonda,” I replied.

“It’s not Randy. It’s not the syndicate,” Anthrax said.

“Alright. This is getting too complicated and contrived. But if you or Dick find Honda, tell her I’m coming after her,” I said.

“I’ll find her. But please, before you do anything, I need to know if there’s at least an ounce of humanity in her. If there is, I know that I can save her. Please James.”

I agreed. 

As Anthrax began to leave, I grabbed her by the hand.

“I learned from a James Bond movie that before one seeks vengeance, they must first dig two graves,” I said.

“But I’m not seeking vengeance,” Anthrax replied.

“Oh yeah, I am. I mean….please be careful.” 

Anthrax gave a faint smile then departed. I laid in the hospital bed bored and feeling awkward for not feeling like I have to compulsively masturbate. 

“Your mother is on the phone,” a nurse told me.

I reluctantly took the call.

“Ohh my poor Tony,” mom said. “I heard that you were in the hospital!”

“This is James, ma. Who the hell is Tony?”

“What do you mean? I don’t have dementia,” she said. “How’s my sweetheart doing?”

“I’m alright. Is something wrong? I’ve been to the hospital hundreds of times and you’ve never called.”

“I’m just checking up on my favorite son. What are you, a moron?” 

“I’m your only son Ma,” I said. “Anyway, are you sure Nicky is not my father?”

“Did you not read your birth certificate?”

“You put down Lou Diamond Phillips. Is there anything you can tell me about my father?”

“He was a tall glass of water. He could send shivers up and down my body with one touch. He was smooth, suave, with a voice of gold like Sinatra in a younger day. You don’t remind me of him at all,” Ma replied.

That definitely didn’t sound like Nicky.

***

You know, I lost a testicle too in a savage kidnapping plot,” Dale said to me while we were setting up C-4 explosives.

“Did you get it back?” I asked.

Dale and I were putting up booby traps around his cabin outside of Norco. We knew Honda was going to strike again so we wanted to establish home field advantage.

Nicky (my alleged father) was sitting around the campfire staring down the barrel of his .44.

“No no dad,” I said as I took the gun out of his hands.

All three of us sat around the campfire under the Norco moonlight. The air reeked of cow shit.

“What a god forsaken place,” I said.

Dale took in a deep breath of shit stained air.

“I was born here. I grew up here. I lost my virginity here. I got married here. I got divorced here. Got married again. Got divorced again. Lost everything I had. And never gained it back. I’ll probably die here,” Dale said.

“Probably so,” I replied.

Nicky spoke up. “You know, I’m just glad that you boys are out here to protect me. When the FBI shot up that strip joint, I remember that I completely blew out my pants. Shit got everywhere. When they arrested me, they made me sit in my shitty underwear. Then I cried.”

“Don’t worry about it dad,” I said. “Dale and I have faced Honda before. We know what to expect.”

“By the way,” Dale chimed in. “Who the fuck is Honda and why are we in this mess?”

We all looked at each other and shrugged.

“It’s important to not think too much on this,” I said. “The important thing is that we are family, except for Dale, and that we are all going to help each other out this train wreck we find ourselves in.”

We nodded and started to enjoy the campfire.

Finally I asked Nicky, “So what do you remember about mom?”

He smiled and said, “what a lovely woman. Legs, ass, tits. The whole package. Eyes as blue as the sky. But a warm heart. She knew how to brighten up my day.”

I looked back at the fire and thought that doesn’t describe mom at all.

Finally Dick called.

“Aye lad, I’ve been tailin’ Anthrax all dee. I’m watching her outside a trap hoose n Pasadena,” Dick said. “I donnae think you’ll like who she’s with mate.”

“Randy,” I said.

“Aye”

That bitch, I thought. I knew she was going to double cross me and I fell into her trap. Instead of a battle, we were now facing a war on two fronts.

“Then you might get your M2s, M4s, AKs, AR-15s, 44s, 94, and 22s,” I told Dick. “We’re headed for a Mexican standoff.”

***

While sitting around the fire, Dale was free style rapping like a shitty 90s PSA.

Then the first explosions went off. A booby trap was tripped. Dale and I threw on our bandoliers, our machetes, and our AKs.

I tossed an AR-15 over to Nicky. “When in doubt, just spray bullets indiscriminately across that tree line,” I told him. “If they catch you, go ahead and use the weapon on yourself.”

Both Dale and I penetrated deep into the woods, deep into the cold of night. Another explosive went off. Someone, somewhere was close.

“Drop your weapons,” we heard. 

We dropped them.

We obviously made shitty commandos.

Dale and I were surrounded by men in black uniforms and state of the art technology. They patted us down and escorted us through the dense woods to a large, portable, tank-like structure that resembled something out of Avatar.

How this structure moved undetected through Southern California is a mystery.

We were brought up to the bridge of this mega tank, and just like when Dale and I faced Honda, we were placed on our knees and presented with a series of theatrics that culminated in a villain presenting himself.

“Cut the bullshit, Randy,” I said. “We know it’s you.”

“Damn,” he replied. “But this tank is pretty cool, huh?”

“What are you and the dumb syndicate up to now?” I asked. “Poison the world’s food supply? Creating a race of super humans for world domination?”

“How did you know?” Randy replied.

“Just leave me out of it,” I said.

Then the black shirts brought in Nicky and placed him in front of Randy.

“We found this asshole with a rifle in his mouth. He didn’t even put up a fight,” one of the soldiers said.

“Damn it dad!” I said. “You were supposed to at least get off ONE shot before you offed yourself!”

“Sorry son,” Nicky replied. “I’m just not very good in firefights.”

Randy spoke up.

“Son? Dad? What’s this about?” he asked.

“Nicky’s my dad,” I replied. “I may die today, but at least I’ll die knowing who my family is.”

“Nicky’s not your dad,” Randy said. “I am your dad.”

“Bullshit,” I replied. 

“It’s true! I thought I told you. Guess I forgot . Anyhow, your mom and me were partners in another syndicate before we joined TOILET (Terrorism Or the International League that Engages in Terrorism). Unfortunately it was the 80s, so we were coked up and fucked, then you were born. So she left the syndicate. 

Years later, the syndicate wanted to cover up its tracks, so I deployed my other son, Nicky, to kill you and your mother. But then the FBI shot the fuck out that strip club and Nicky got amnesia. After realizing that you were just some loser, the syndicate decided it wasn’t worth spending resources to kill you. 

So Nicky, I’m also your father.”

I felt the world disappear beneath my feet. My heart sunk. I knew it was true.

“So what do we do now?” I asked. “I know the truth.”

“Excellent question,” Randy said.

Out of the shadows appeared Anthrax in full battle rattle. “I say we finish the job,” she said.

“Great idea!” Randy said.

“Traitor,” I said to Anthrax.

The soldiers grabbed Dale and placed him up against the wall. Randy took out his flame thrower and began taunting us.

“This has been quite a reunion,” Randy said. “You thought that Anthrax was your friend. You thought that you could stop me. But your plans just went up in flames.” 

Randy then unleashed the full wrath of hell onto Dale. There were no screams. Dale just danced around as a gigantic flame before falling to the ground. What was once a man was now just charred, smoldering, remains. 

“Was that supposed to scare me? Because I just shit my pants,” I said. 

Just then the structure began to violently shake. Then there was a massive explosion and soldiers began to man their stations.

Honda launched her attack.

TO BE CONTINUED

Jack Hardcock: The Legend Continues (Full Story)

“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.”

“ID?”

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.”

“How so?”

“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!”

“Layla WHO?!!”

“Layla HUFFINGTON!”

***

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.”

“Dickle?”

“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.

“Why not?”

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.

“But why?”

“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.”

THE END.

JACK HARDCOCK WILL RETURN 

Jack Hardcock: The Legend Continues (Part XII)

“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.

“But why?”

“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.”

THE END.

JACK HARDCOCK WILL RETURN

Jack Hardcock: The Legend Continues (Part XI)

“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.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Jack Hardcock: The Legend Continues (Part IX)

“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.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

Jack Hardcock: The Legend Continues (Part VII)

“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.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Dirty Harold

I sometimes forget the impact that Dirty Harry had on me as a kid. I was expecting it to be some stupid exploitation flick from the 70s, but it turned out to be much more.

Unlike other gritty crime films from the 70s, like The French Connection or The Taking of Pelham 123, director Don Siegel and DP Bruce Surtees shot the movie like it was a western. Clint Eastwood looms large in mythic form over the screen, but he never completely dominates it. Like how the rough and tumble deserts and mountains are a major character in westerns, the streets of San Francisco play a similar role.

But Dirty Harry was slightly ahead of its time. While westerns were fading away, and with it the gunslingers delivering justice on the prairie, Clint Eastwood was offering the a audience a new hero: the pissed off cop that’s tired of rules and regulations and the constant whining from bureaucrats over the rights of individuals. Dirty Harry fit the mood of white conservatives during the age of Nixon and those that wished to return to a simpler ethos of good guys vs bad guys. In short, Dirty Harry was the predecessor to the Cannon Film craze of the 70s through the 80s.

But in my view, the unsung genius of the film is Andrew Robinson as the crazed villain. Even now, it’s an unnerving character…one that no one could get away with today. The closest comparison that I can think of is Heath Ledger’s Joker, but no sensible writer would permit Batman’s arch nemesis to kill, rape, and abduct children. THAT would be crossing the line. But Robinson’s Scorpio does it numerous times throughout the film.

Which is why the ending was so effective. Sure, it’s a cliche to hear Eastwood utter “do you feel lucky?” before blasting his last round into the bad guy. But you actually feel his rage as he asks Scorpio “well do ya? PUNK!!”. In my view, that was Eastwood’s finest moment as an actor.

While Dirty Harry might be synonymous with Clint Eastwood, I think it would be interesting to see the character return to the screen given its political undertones. Obviously Clint Eastwood is too old, and casting someone like Karl Urban to replace him would seem like parody. But now that the nature of masculinity on film has come under scrutiny, and the zeitgeist has turned skeptical towards law enforcement, it would be fascinating to see Harry Callahan return…especially to such a divisive city as San Francisco.

Jack Hardcock: The Legend Continues (Part V)

“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.

TO BE CONTINUED…