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 

Dream on!

I’ve said before that I get some wild ass dreams. Maybe it’s the side effect of Cialis or maybe I should stop eating popcorn before I go to bed. But at any rate, these dreams can really fuck up my day.

The latest one involved the guys from Cum Town and an LSD trip that I won’t go into. But it got me thinking about the most fully fleshed out dream I’ve ever had.

About ten years ago, I dreamt about a dictator that summons his advisers to a dinner and everyone had to wear war paint. When the meal was served, the food is revealed to be the pieces of carcasses from the dictator’s vanquished enemies. One guys is served a dude’s face. This alarms the advisers who request foreign assistance to topple the dictatorship.

Obviously, the US responds by deploying an elite task force, led by a commander that was a drama major in college. Unfortunately, other nations have an interest in this country, so they too deploy special forces to take over the government. Without warning, the US task force is killed off by a competing nation and the commander is held captive. To make matters worse, even more competing nations pile into the country, escalating into an orgy of death and destruction.

Good news is: the dictator is killed. The bad news: the entire country is in ruins.

Of course, I’ve added more detail and commentary as time progressed. I really wanted to turn this into a novel, screenplay, etc. US military intervention was, at that particular moment, still a point of contention. Now that discussion has shifted (what a difference ten years makes) so I don’t know if I will ever flesh out this dream into a full blown story. But the nihilist in me still loves it: while outwardly it appears political, the story ultimately turns anti-political by devolving into pure action schlock. Everyone is a bad guy, so you root for everyone to die as you enjoy the spectacle of some poor nation getting blown the fuck up.

So please, somebody write this story into a book, movie, or whatever. Cuz I’m too lazy to do it.

Jack Hardcock: Christian Detective (Full Story)

Jack Hardcock will be returning in November. So here’s an introduction to the man, the legend.

Enjoy.

“Cleveland. Shit,” I uttered to myself. “Still only in Cleveland.”

“What’s that, Jack?” the Chief asked.

“Nothing, Chief,” I replied. “It’s just that I’ve been stuck in this godforsaken city for the last two months.”

“Eh,” the Chief shrugged, “at least it ain’t Cincinnati.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” I replied as I lit up a cigarette. “What do you got for me?”

“A triple homicide. Two dead hookers and an anonymous John.”

“So the usual, huh?” I said. 

“Jesus Christ, Jack! Do you want the case or not?! I’ve got two detectives downstairs itching for a case like this and you’re up here bitching like a little bitch!”

“Don’t use that language around me Chief,” I replied. “I was raised Southern Baptist.”

“My mistake, Jack,” the Chief said, “you know me, I always try to be respectful of other people’s belief’s. Except for Seven Day Adventist.”

“Word.”

“So what’s it gonna be Jack? Do you want the case or not?”

I put out my cigarette and grabbed the file. “I guess so Chief,” I said, “Sometimes I wish the Lord would come back and unleash hell on this town. If it ain’t a serial killer, it’s some goddamn junkie robbing his grandmother for his next fix. I swear, you unbelievers will learn the vengeance of God! May this city be cast into Hell!”

The Chief got on his knees and begged for mercy. “Please Jack! Don’t let me burn in hell for all of eternity!” 

“Then accept the Lord Jesus Christ into your heart,” I said, “and pray for the forgiveness of your sins.”

And on February 23rd, 2022, the Chief accepted Salvation through Jesus Christ.

After the Chief’s conversion, I loaded my .38 and asked God to guide my bullets into the bodies of my enemies. “Thank you Lord,” I prayed, “let vengeance be Yours…and mine.”

I kissed the barrel of my gun and entered the mean streets of Cleveland. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil,” I uttered.

I grabbed the first pedestrian I saw on the streets. “Do you recognize this man?” I asked while holding up a picture of one of the victims.

“No,” they replied.

I slapped them across the face with the butt of my gun. “Liar!” I yelled, “Do you know what the Lord does to liars? He mutilates their genitals and they feast on them in heaven! So don’t let the devil catch your tongue! For it’s not the devil you should worry about if that happens! It’s GOD. And you WILL know God’s wrath AND the wrath of my .38!”

After the pedestrian pissed their pants, they confessed the victim’s name: Art McGarth. 

So I let that poor sack of shit go and lit up a cigarette. “Not bad for an honest day’s work,” I thought.

***

“What can you tell me about Art McGarth?” I asked the cop at precinct 13.

“Fuck you Jack Hardcock!” the cop said. “You don’t run this city! Every time you come around here, a cop ends up dead. You’re a loose canon! I will not be cooperating with you!”

I pulled out my .38 and reached across his desk. “Listen here, HEATHEN,” I said, “I’m doing the Lord’s work by saving this city from the clutches of SATAN! You will cooperate with me or else you will be swallowing one of these bullets!”

The Chief detective of the precinct, Sally Wally, intervened. Her bottom of her skirt went just above her knees. “Jack, put that gun away,” she ordered.

“Sally, you’re dressed immodestly,” I replied. “I can’t do my job with an erection.”

“Step into my office please.”

I went into Sally’s office. I threw my coat and jacket down on the couch and kicked my feet up on her desk. “Did I say you can sit?” she asked.

“Sally, with all due respect,” I replied, “you might be over this precinct, but I’m still a man. And as a man, my authority supersedes yours.”

“What do you want with Art McGarth?” she asked, completely ignoring my comment. “This investigation is under our jurisdiction. We will handle this case.”

“The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations has asked me to look into his murder, along with the murder of two prostitutes,” I said. “McGarth was listed as a John Doe with the Bureau before I identified him and his name only appears in your databases. So what can you tell me about him?”

“After you got 14 of my officers killed in your last investigation,” Sally explained, “a federal grand jury decided that my department no longer has to cooperate with yours. If you have a problem with that, take it up with the Supreme Court.”

“You see, that’s the thing,” I replied as I lit up a cigarette and let the ashes fall to the ground, “man has his laws. And God has His. And I don’t answer to the laws of man.”

“That’s why you were kicked out of the FBI,” Sally said.

“Come on Sally! I wasn’t booted from the FBI! I voluntarily left because I couldn’t work for a heathen President like Joe Biden!”

“Tell your department that if they want our cooperation,” Sally said, “they will have to get a federal warrant. Until then, get the fuck out of my office and don’t show up here again.”

I stood up, grabbed my hat and coat, then put my cigarette out on Sally’s desk. “Have a blessed day,” I said.

There was something fishy going here. Whatever Precinct 13 was hiding, with the Lord’s help, I was going to get to the bottom of it.

When I walked outside, I reached into my holster and pulled out the .38. “Don’t worry sweetheart,” I said to the gun, “this city will soon know your wrath.”

I kissed the gun and put it back into the holster.

***

I unlocked the door to 12th story apartment overlooking downtown Cleveland. I threw down my keys and coat then turned on the light.

The local gangster, Gregg Poppovich, was pointing a gun at me. “What do you want with Art McGarth, Jack?” he asked as he lifted a stogie to his mouth.

“I’m investigating his death, Gregg,” I said. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”

“Of course not,” he replied, “I just didn’t want you pointing the finger at me.”

“Now why would I want to do something like that?” I asked while I studied him over.

Gregg laughed and put the pistol away in his holster. “I didn’t suppose you did,” he said, “you’re too smart for that.”

“But you must know something. Or else you wouldn’t have broken into my apartment.”

He laughed some more. “Of course,” he said, “that’s why I’m paying you a visit. It’s neither organized crime nor police corruption. There’s a madman loose out there, Jack. I don’t know much more than you, but watch your back.”

“Thanks for your concern, Gregg. But I have the Lord’s protection. Besides, why kill McGarth? He must have had some connections.”

“Not McGarth,” Gregg said, “but the two prostitutes. They’re disappearing all over the city. I’m telling you, Jack, it’s a Jack the Ripper kind of situation.”

“A serial killer?” I laughed, “in a city like Cleveland? Never heard of such a thing.”

“I’m not crazy, Jack. I don’t believe in that silly God of yours, but I do believe in the Devil. And he’s here in this city. So you better watch yourself.”

“I’ll pray on it,” I said, “and I’ll pray for you and your Salvation. May the Lord guide you towards the Light.”

Gregg left and I took a shit. All that scotch and nicotine was running through me. I absolutely destroyed that toilet.

When I walked out of the bathroom, Sally was lying on the bed. “Jesus Christ, Jack!” she said while puffing on a cigarette, “someone light a match!”

I closed the door and loosened my tie. “You shouldn’t use the Lord’s name in vain,” I said. “What are you doing here? I should really change the locks to this place.”

“Just paying you a visit,” she replied while hiking up her skirt to expose her gorgeous legs. “Have you found out anything about Art McGarth? Seeing as we’re both investigating his death.”

“His murder appears to have been collateral damage,” I said. “Other than that, I know nothing.”

“Are you sure?” Sally asked as she unbuttoned her blouse.

“Sally, I don’t know what you’re expecting to happen here. You know I don’t know what to do with a woman. I’ve never had sex!”

“I could show you,” she said as she lowered her shirt to expose her shoulders.

“No thanks,” I replied, “I don’t believe in sex before marriage. Now please leave.”

After she left, I straightened out the bed, loaded one round into the revolver of my .38, spun it, pointed it at my head, and pulled the trigger.

Nothing.

“Thank you, Lord, for always watching out for me,” I prayed. Then I went to bed.

I always sleep better after a game of Russian Roulette.

***

I returned to DCI headquarters to check in the Chief. He was shoveling jelly donuts down his face hole and getting shit all over the paperwork.

“Can you believe this shit, Jack?” he said while shards of donut was flying out of his mouth.

“I’m a Christian, Chief,” I replied, “I believe everything that I’m told.”

“Take a look at this.”

Chief handed me a report from the Pittsburgh FBI office regarding a series of murders. I had to swipe away jelly just to read all of the paragraphs.

“So what?” I asked.

“The autopsies came back from the McGarth killings. It can’t be a coincidence Jack. The same guy killing all them hookers in Pittsburgh is the same guy who killed McGarth and our two prostitutes.”

“The FBI are a bunch of jokers, Chief. I wouldn’t trust them to find a missing cat. Especially after what they did to President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago!”

“Now cool it, Jack!” Chief said. “I know that you hold a grudge against the Bureau after they shitcanned you and sent you to Ohio BCI, but I expect your full cooperation!”

“Cooperation?” I asked. “The fuck are you talking about, Chief?”

“The Feds are coming to help us with our investigation,” he replied, “and I don’t want ONE word out of you! You hear?! Or you’ll be sent to Toledo so fast that you’ll bust your pants!”

“I already busted in my pants once today, Chief,” I said, “then I prayed for the Lord’s forgiveness. So don’t threaten me with a good time.”

“That’s it!” the Chief yelled, “get out of my office!”

“With pleasure.”

The FBI would not be getting my cooperation. But I couldn’t solve this case on my own. So I went looking for my good friend: local gangster Gregg Poppovich. 

I found him enjoying a plate of lasagna at his Italian restaurant that he owned just outside of town. I grabbed his head and shoved it into the plate.

“Jesus, Jack!” he said as he wiped away the tomato sauce from his face, “you could have just said hello!”

I laid the .38 down on the table. “I need some answers,” I said.

“About what?!”

“Art McGarth.”

“I told you! I know what you know!”

I grabbed the plate and smashed it against his face. “Not good enough!” I yelled.

Gregg grabbed another towel and began wiping the blood from his face. “Is there something wrong, Jack? You seem a bit agitated,” he asked.

I took a deep breath and exhaled. “Thanks for asking Gregg,” I said, “but it seems like the FBI is always up my ass!”

“I know how you feel,” Gregg replied, “it ain’t easy being a local gangster, ya know?”

“Unfortunately, they’re coming down here from Pittsburgh to investigate the McGarth killings,” I said. “I don’t need their help. What good has the Federal government ever done?!”

“Jack, I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye,” Gregg said, “but if you ever needed any assistance, I’m always here to help.”

“Thanks Gregg,”I replied, “you’ve always been a good friend. So since you’re offering, I’m gonna need the entire Cleveland criminal underworld to help me catch a killer.”

***

I couldn’t sleep that night. I even loaded .38 revolver with two extra bullets. 

Nothin.

I prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ Our Savior. I said, “Lord, every time Ohio BCI tries to give me a partner, I tell them I don’t need that shit because Jesus is my partner. Well now I’m calling on that partnership. Please let me find the killer of Art McGarth and the two prostitutes before the FBI does. Amen.”

Immediately, there was a knock on the door. It was Sally. 

“Sally,” I said, “for the last time, quit coming around here. I don’t know how to fuck.”

“This isn’t a social visit,” she replied, “you’re wanted at the precinct. There’s been another murder.”

***

“How long ago did the murder take place?” I asked as we were walking into the coroner’s office. 

“Approximately 8 hours ago,” Sally replied.

“Have you identified the body?”

“We were hoping you would help us with that,” she said. Sally then pulled back the sheet covering victim’s body. 

I was aghast.

“My god,” I said, “Sally, that’s, that’s…”

“The Chief?” she replied. “Yes, how convenient. You were the last one seen with him.”

“Listen, I had nothing to do with that!”

“Put your hands behind your back,” she ordered.

“You’re making a big mistake!” I yelled.

“Am I? The Chief was killed with a bullet to the brain fired from a .38 special. That’s your modus operandi. You had a means to kill him, now I just need a motive. I hereby place you under arrest, Jack Hardcock!”

Two other officers flanked me on both sides. I roundhouse kicked one and kicked the other one in the gonads so hard that he passed out. I pulled out my .38 and pointed it at Sally. “I demand you tell me what’s going on here!” I ordered.

“You’re a renegade cop, Jack!” she said. “You are the biggest menace to the streets of Cleveland and I’m taking you down.”

I laughed. “Better luck in the next life, sweetheart,” I said, then pulled the trigger. Sadly, I only had two chambers loaded in the revolver because I was playing Russian Roulette earlier, so nothing fired. 

“Sorry,” I said to Sally. Then I pulled the trigger again. Unfortunately the bullet missed her.

Before I could fire off a last shot, the two cops re-emerged from their blackout. So I jumped out a window and fell 20 floors into the dumpster below. I shattered my pelvis, ruptured my spleen, punctured both lungs, broke all of my limbs, and was severely concussed. 

I laid in the dumpster where a dump truck scooped me up, poured me into a rubble heap, and carried me off to a landfill. When I awoke the next morning, I crawled out of the trash dump, and all the way to Gregg Poppovich’s restaurant outside of town. 

It ain’t easy crawling 8 miles while undergoing organ failure with all your limbs shattered. But that’s just life in Cleveland.

***

Jack, you magnificent sack of shit,” Gregg said to me after he patched me up, “I don’t know how you do it, but I’ve never seen anyone heal from broken limbs, organ failure, and brain damage as quickly as you have.”

“That’s the power of prayer,” I said in response. “I don’t need any of that medicine bullshit. I have God on my side.”

“You have proven the Power of Christ to me, Jack,” Gregg replied. “Despite growing up in America, getting hounded daily by Jehovah’s Witnesses, raised in the Catholic Church, and the Bible essentially being the cornerstone of Western art and literature, no one has ever told me about Jesus Christ or how to receive His Grace.”

“Bow your head,” I said. And on February 27, 2022, Gregg Poppovich, local Cleveland gangster, accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior.

I got up from the operating table, buttoned up my shirt, and punched Gregg in the stomach. “I’m gonna need more bullets for my .38,” I said.

Gregg was wheezing on the floor. “You could ask nicely, Jack,” he said.

“I don’t have time,” I responded, “Sally’s behind these murders, I’m sure of it. She’s already framed me, which means the FBI will be looking for me. Have you amassed your army of fellow gangsters? I’m gonna need them.”

Gregg stood up and straightened out his jacket. “They’re ready and waiting on your orders, sir,” he said.

“Good,” I replied, then socked him in the face. “I want a stakeout on Sally and a few of her officers. They are NOT to engage with any of them. Understood? Once when they have them cornered, your men should reach out to me. Okay?”

“Understood, sir,” Gregg said as he wiped blood away from his nose.

“Alright, now where are those bullets?”

I went to the back of Gregg’s Italian restaurant outside of town to do some target practice. I had just recovered from shattering every bone in my wrist after falling 20 stories into a dumpster. Unfortunately I missed every shot.

Gregg stood on the back patio laughing with a stogie hanging out his mouth. “Are you sure you’re ready for all this?” he asked.

I turned swiftly and shot the stogie out of his mouth. “As ready as I’ll ever be,” I said. I twirled the gun around my finger and put it back in my holster.

***

I received a page from my beeper,” Gregg yelled. “They spotted Sally alone off Market Avenue!”

So Gregg and I piled into his 78 Buick Regal and sped off northbound into town. “What are we gonna do when we catch her?” Gregg asked.

“Just gonna ask her a few questions,” I said.

But before we reached Market Square, a black SUV rammed into the side of us. The Buick crashed into the side barrier then went over the edge into the Cuyahoga River.

Thankfully the river wasn’t on fire at that particular moment.

***

Gregg and I were individually strapped to a chair in an abandoned warehouse. We were revived by a blinding flash of light.

“Well well well,” a voice said from behind the light. “If it isn’t disgruntled Ohio BCI agent Jack Hardcock and local Cleveland gangster Gregg Poppovich. You two make strange bedfellows.”

“By the authority of Jesus Christ, I demand to know what’s going on here!” I exclaimed. 

The light shut off and in front of us were three FBI agents. I recognized one of them. “Peter Tucker,” I said.

“Jack, how’ve you been?” Peter replied.

“Pete, untie us now! I don’t know what Sally told you, but I am not the killer!”

“Yes I know,” he said, “I just wanted you to know that I am in charge here.”

“What do you mean?”

Pete lit up a cigarette. “You see,” he stated, “we know that Sally and her minions are the ones that killed Art McGarth and many, MANY others.”

“If you have something to say, Pete,” I said, “spit it out. We don’t have all day.”

Pete took a long exhale as smoke billowed out his mouth. “Sally is a vigilante, Jack,” he continued. “We’ve keeping a watchful eye on her. She’s been executing pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, stoners, plumbers, hipsters, Hoobastank, and anyone she deems a menace to society. She’s gone renegade, Jack. She thinks she’s above the law.”

“My God!” I said. “That means…”

“Yes,” Pete interrupted, “that means you were next.”

An agent came up and cut Gregg and me loose from our chairs. “Since you’re in charge,” I said to Pete as I massaged my wrist, “what happens now?”

Pete put out his cigarette and stepped out from behind his desk. “Jack, you can fool BCI but you can’t fool me,” he said. “I know you want back into the Federal Bureau. Cleveland’s a toxic wasteland. It’s Ohio’s toilet for fuck’s sake. It’s no mistake that the Browns are perpetually terrible. This city is cursed! I know that you don’t want to spend the rest of your career here.”

He handed me my .38. “All I’m asking,” Pete concluded, “is that you help me catch Sally. If you can do that, we can forget that time you accidentally burned down a retirement home and shot up a Denny’s. You’ll be back in the Bureau. What do you say?”

I looked him square in the eye.

“Pete, if I help you do this and you go back on your word,” I said, “you won’t have to wait on the Second Coming. I’ll send you straight to hell myself.”

***

Sally’s trail went cold. But somewhere beneath that shit-crusted anus that is the Cleveland underworld, she was waiting on us, plotting her trap. 

The FBI was generous enough to fish out Gregg’s Buick from the bottom of the Cuyahoga River. Despite being busted up on the side and immersed in water for hours, it started up like a charm.

“A Buick will never let you down, my daddy always told me,” Gregg said. 

“Ain’t that the truth.”

We were passing back and forth a bottle of brandy while on stakeout outside of Progressive Field. Peter Tucker sent us there. He had his suspicions that Sally would strike there next.

“What kind of idiot would send us here?” I asked Gregg. “It’s not even baseball season!”

“That ain’t true boss,” he replied. “There’s a celebrity baseball game here tomorrow.”

The blood drained from my face. “Oh fuck!” I said. “Gregg, get to the nearest pay phone and page Pete’s beeper. We’re gonna need backup.”

I knew what Sally was thinking. Celebrities would be there. That means pedos, druggies, rapists, all-around scum of the earth. She would have all of her eggs in one basket.

So I readied my .38 and scaled the fence into the stadium. It was night. The security guards were sleeping. 

Sally was there. I knew it with all my instinct. I kicked open doors and trashed the stadium but found no one. 

Then I entered the equipment room. 

Inside were countless bald eagles locked up in cages. Strapped to them were contraptions that, when activated, would release live hand grenades onto unsuspecting people below. 

“What are you doing in here?!” a man shouted. It was the bird keeper.

I lifted the .38. “Where’s Sally?” I said.

The man raised his hands in the air. “Hey man! I know nothing about that. I was just paid to do a job!”

I clicked the gun. “I’ll give you three seconds to answer before I blow your brains out,” I replied.

The man pissed his pants and continued to cry that he knew nothin. I pulled the trigger and his brains splattered all over the wall. In hindsight, that was a bad decision because I should have took him in for questioning.

C’est la vie.

I walked back out to the Buick and looked for Gregg. Off in the distance, underneath a pay phone, I saw Gregg laying on the ground holding his guts in. 

I ran up and tried to stop the bleeding. 

“She got me good, Jack,” Gregg said.

“Shut the fuck up you stupid bastard,” I replied. “You’re not gonna die.”

With his last bit of strength, Gregg grabbed me by the back of the neck. “Jack, I want you to know,” he uttered, “I regret every moment.”

There I held Gregg Poppovich, local Cleveland gangster, dead in my arms.

Then the pay phone rang. “Jack! This is Pete Tucker,” the voice said, “I received an urgent page from Gregg!”

“Gregg’s dead,” I said to Pete. “Sally killed my boss and now she’s killed my best friend. But I have her right where I want her. She’s here, Pete. Vengeance is mine.”

***

“What are you gonna do Jack?” Peter Tucker asked me at the FBI flophouse. I was washing local Cleveland gangster Gregg Poppovich’s blood off my hands.

“I’m gonna do what the Lord should have done a long time ago,” I said, “I’m gonna send her back to hell. Right where she belongs.”

“Say it ain’t so, Jack,” Pete replied, “are you actually losing your faith?”

I grabbed a cheap towel and began drying my hands. “I never question the ways of God,” I said, “but I sometimes wonder if He really has forsaken us. He’s certainly done so to Cleveland.”

Pete poured two glasses of whiskey and handed one to me. “We’ve always hated each other, Jack,” he said, “in fact I despise the ground you walk on. Someday I hope you die a slow agonizing death, preferably by fire or some means of disembowelment. You’re a piece of shit and I would love to grab this bottle of whiskey, shove it up your ass, and throw you out the window. However, unlike you, I have restraint. But goddamnit Jack, I’ve always respected your faith. And I’ll drink to that.”

“Thanks Pete,” I replied, “I needed that pep talk. It’s tough out here on the streets. It’s tough to make friends when they always end up dead. At least the Chief and Gregg found Salvation before their deaths. I do find consolation in that. I hope that someday you’ll find Peace through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Fuck that shit,” Pete said, “a lot of good that did to your friends. They found a guarantee into Heaven and next thing you know, they’re dead. That’s not for me Jack. I need the constant threat of Hell to keep me alive. That’s how you survive these streets.”

I shook my head. “You’re too short sided Pete.”

“No, dipshit. I just ain’t stupid.”

“Well, whatever,” I said as I downed the whiskey, “we’ve got a demon on the loose. And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned about the Lord is that He always vanquishes His enemies. Specifically through MY .38.”

“What a pussy ass weapon,” Pete replied.

As he raised the whiskey glass to his mouth, I fired a round right through the glass. Shards and liquid went everywhere. 

“Alright, now I see what you mean,” Pete said as he wiped away whiskey that splashed on his face. “So what’s the plan? How are you gonna get to Sally?”

“Thankfully we cleaned up the blood and brains from that guy I shot at Progressive Field,” I replied. “Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have killed him, but what’s done is done. Hopefully she won’t notice he’s missing and she’ll move forward with her plan.”

“And then?”

“And then?” I thought, “God will provide a way.”

“That sounds like a stupid plan.”

***

“Stop calling them the Cleveland ‘Indians’ Jack,” Pete said while we were prepping to enter Progressive Field.

“I will never give into the woke agenda,” I replied. “This is a Christian Nation and I will never let a Catholic like Joe Biden tell me who to respect! Build the wall!!!”

“You’re a moron,” Pete uttered.

Security let us through the gate and we were handed a program. It stated that at the conclusion of the National Anthem, hundreds of bald eagles would be released over the stadium. 

“We gotta stop those eagles,” I said, “thousands of people are at this celebrity baseball game. If Sally armed those birds with live grenades, there’s no telling what kind of damage that will do.”

“We should split up,” Pete ordered, “we’ve only got 10 minutes!”

Security was tight. There was no way we could search the entire stadium. I had to act fast.

The Village People were prepping to sing the National Anthem. One of them stepped into the bathroom and I followed him inside. While he was taking a shit, I kicked open the stall door and knocked him out. 

With him unconscious, I took his costume, added a lot of makeup, and flushed the toilet. As I exited the bathroom to search for Sally, one of the Village People, the construction worker, shouted at me. 

“Hey buddy,” he yelled, “it’s time to go on!”

“Fuck,” I said, then followed them out onto the field.

I had the .38 hidden under my smock.

As we danced to an upbeat rendition of the National Anthem, I kept a lookout for Sally. When the song concluded, Deshaun Watson was coming out onto the field to throw the first pitch. 

Then the bald eagles came flying.

“Everyone hit the ground!” I yelled as I drew the .38.

I ripped one bullet into the air after another. Each one made it into a bald eagle and they came plummeting towards the ground. The stadium erupted into a panic and security rushed the field.

“I’m a cop!” I yelled after they tackled me. I pulled out my badge.

Pete came running out behind them with his weapon drawn. “Jesus Christ, Jack!” he said, “What the hell’s the matter with you? Out of all the Village People, you came out dressed as the Native American?!”

“Never mind me!” I said, “What about the bald eagles?! Did anybody get killed?!”

“There were no grenades,” Pete replied, “you just senselessly shot six bald eagles out of the sky in front of everyone!”

“Damn it Pete!” I yelled, “Sally is here! We’ve got to stop her!”

There was a quiet roar overtaking the stadium. It continued to grow louder and louder. “The fuck is that sound?” Pete asked.

A large, smooth object the loomed large over the stands and was slowly moving over the field. It was the Goodyear Blimp. I squinted to see who was piloting it.

It was Sally.

“My god, Pete,” I said, “it’s a trap…”

***

“Shit!” I yelled. “After killing those bald eagles, I’m all outta bullets!”

“Jack,” Pete replied, “if you can get us out of this, you might make me a believer after all.”

That was all the motivation I needed. So I said a prayer: “Lord, everything that’s happened so far has led me to this point. Give me the strength to kill Sally and lead Peter Tucker to Salvation in Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Right then, as the Goodyear Blimp hovered above, Sally, who was piloting the aircraft, released dozens of live hand grenades down onto Progressive Field. Pete and I weaved and bobbed our way through one explosion after the next but when the last grenade landed, it didn’t explode.

That’s when the Lord gave me a sign.

I saw Deshaun Watson, who was supposed to the throw the first pitch in the celebrity baseball game, cowering in the corner and pissing himself in the dugout. “Deshaun!” I yelled, “we need your arm strength! If you pick up this live hand grenade and hurl it back at the blimp before it detonates, you might be redeemed in the eyes of the public for all those disgusting sexual acts you did to those masseuses. Maybe not though. But what other choice you got?! Hurry before it explodes!” 

Watson gathered up the courage, climbed out of the dugout, picked up the grenade, and with all of his strength he launched it towards the blimp. 

He was right on the money. The grenade exploded, and the blimp came tumbling down onto the field. 

Sally was in a daze when she climbed out of the wreckage. “Holt!” Pete ordered as he lifted his 9mm towards her. But Sally was too quick. She drew her weapon and shot Pete in the abdomen.

Then she turned her gun towards me and laughed maniacally. “I finally have you where I want you, Jack Hardcock!” Sally said, “Prepare to meet your maker, Cleveland scum!”

Sally then ripped an entire clip into my direction, but to her surprise, every bullet missed. I dodged my way over to Pete’s position. With one hand over the bullet wound, he tossed me his 9mm with the other. “Pete,” I said, “without my .38, I’m useless!”

“I believe in you, Jack,” he replied, “have faith!”

I lifted the 9mm and emptied five bullets into Sally. As she dropped to her knees, I walked towards her, still aiming the weapon. “But why, Jack?” she asked, “I was only trying to clean up the streets. Wouldn’t your God approve?”

“No Sally,” I said, “Vengeance is the Lord’s. And I am His instrument.” 

I fired one more round into Sally’s skull and her body fell to the ground.

***

“I hate the everlasting shit out of you, Jack,” Pete told me on the hospital bed. “But goddamn it, you saved my life. I’ll never forget that.”

“Good. So you’ll accept Jesus into your life?” I asked.

“Fuck no! We got lucky that Deshaun Watson was there. It happens. No need to thank god for that bullshit. Deshaun might be a sex pervert but he’s got a rocket arm!”

“Yeah? Well that’s, like, your opinion, man. Next time your life’s in danger, you might not be so lucky. But someday, Pete, I’m gonna prove to you that God’s real. You watch!”

“Fuck off, Jack.”

The mayor of Cleveland stormed into the hospital room with all smiles. “Jack Hardcock, with Lebron James gone, you’re the biggest hero to this town,” he said, “I would like to present to you the keys to the city.”

“Thank you, Mayor,” I responded, “but you can kindly stick those keys up your ass. I’m resigning from the Ohio BCI and moving on with my life. My only hope is that the next time the Cuyahoga River catches on fire, it will burn this entire city down.”

“But Jack, where will you go?” Pete asked.

“God made me a rolling stone,” I replied, “I will go wherever the Lord tells me. With the help of my .38, I will perform God’s wrath on any son of a bitch that asks for it. And I’ll spread the Word of Jesus and whatever.”

“I wish you the best of luck,” Pete said.

“Thanks Pete, but I don’t need that shit either. I have the Lord’s protection.”

We shook hands and I departed the hospital room. Where I was going, I didn’t know. My only guide was the Word of God and my .38.

THE END 

BUT JACK HARDCOCK WILL RETURN…

Jack hardcock: Christian detective (part xi)

“Shit!” I yelled. “After killing those bald eagles, I’m all outta bullets!”

“Jack,” Pete replied, “if you can get us out of this, you might make me a believer after all.”

That was all the motivation I needed. So I said a prayer: “Lord, everything that’s happened so far has led me to this point. Give me the strength to kill Sally and lead Peter Tucker to Salvation in Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Right then, as the Goodyear Blimp hovered above, Sally, who was piloting the aircraft, released dozens of live hand grenades down onto Progressive Field. Pete and I weaved and bobbed our way through one explosion after the next but when the last grenade landed, it didn’t explode.

That’s when the Lord gave me a sign.

I saw Deshaun Watson, who was supposed to the throw the first pitch in the celebrity baseball game, cowering in the corner and pissing himself in the dugout. “Deshaun!” I yelled, “we need your arm strength! If you pick up this live hand grenade and hurl it back at the blimp before it detonates, you might be redeemed in the eyes of the public for all those disgusting sexual acts you did to those masseuses. Maybe not though. But what other choice you got?! Hurry before it explodes!”

Watson gathered up the courage, climbed out of the dugout, picked up the grenade, and with all of his strength he launched it towards the blimp.

He was right on the money. The grenade exploded, and the blimp came tumbling down onto the field.

Sally was in a daze when she climbed out of the wreckage. “Holt!” Pete ordered as he lifted his 9mm towards her. But Sally was too quick. She drew her weapon and shot Pete in the abdomen.

Then she turned her gun towards me and laughed maniacally. “I finally have you where I want you, Jack Hardcock!” Sally said, “Prepare to meet your maker, Cleveland scum!”

Sally then ripped an entire clip into my direction, but to her surprise, every bullet missed. I dodged my way over to Pete’s position. With one hand over the bullet wound, he tossed me his 9mm with the other. “Pete,” I said, “without my .38, I’m useless!”

“I believe in you, Jack,” he replied, “have faith!”

I lifted the 9mm and emptied five bullets into Sally. As she dropped to her knees, I walked towards her, still aiming the weapon. “But why, Jack?” she asked, “I was only trying to clean up the streets. Wouldn’t your God approve?”

“No Sally,” I said, “Vengeance is the Lord’s. And I am His instrument.”

I fired one more round into Sally’s skull and her body fell to the ground.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Jack hardcock: Christian detective (part ix)

“What are you gonna do Jack?” Peter Tucker asked me at the FBI flophouse. I was washing local Cleveland gangster Gregg Poppovich’s blood off my hands.

“I’m gonna do what the Lord should have done a long time ago,” I said, “I’m gonna send her back to hell. Right where she belongs.”

“Say it ain’t so, Jack,” Pete replied, “are you actually losing your faith?”

I grabbed a cheap towel and began drying my hands. “I never question the ways of God,” I said, “but I sometimes wonder if He really has forsaken us. He’s certainly done so to Cleveland.”

Pete poured two glasses of whiskey and handed one to me. “We’ve always hated each other, Jack,” he said, “in fact I despise the ground you walk on. Someday I hope you die a slow agonizing death, preferably by fire or some means of disembowelment. You’re a piece of shit and I would love to grab this bottle of whiskey, shove it up your ass, and throw you out the window. However, unlike you, I have restraint. But goddamnit Jack, I’ve always respected your faith. And I’ll drink to that.”

“Thanks Pete,” I replied, “I needed that pep talk. It’s tough out here on the streets. It’s tough to make friends when they always end up dead. At least the Chief and Gregg found Salvation before their deaths. I do find consolation in that. I hope that someday you’ll find Peace through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Fuck that shit,” Pete said, “a lot of good that did to your friends. They found a guarantee into Heaven and next thing you know, they’re dead. That’s not for me Jack. I need the constant threat of Hell to keep me alive. That’s how you survive these streets.”

I shook my head. “You’re too short sided Pete.”

“No, dipshit. I just ain’t stupid.”

“Well, whatever,” I said as I downed the whiskey, “we’ve got a demon on the loose. And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned about the Lord is that He always vanquishes His enemies. Specifically through MY .38.”

“What a pussy ass weapon,” Pete replied.

As he raised the whiskey glass to his mouth, I fired a round right through the glass. Shards and liquid went everywhere.

“Alright, now I see what you mean,” Pete said as he wiped away whiskey that splashed on his face. “So what’s the plan? How are you gonna get to Sally?”

“Thankfully we cleaned up the blood and brains from that guy I shot at Progressive Field,” I replied. “Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have killed him, but what’s done is done. Hopefully she won’t notice he’s missing and she’ll move forward with her plan.”

“And then?”

“And then?” I thought, “God will provide a way.”

“That sounds like a stupid plan.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

Jack hardcock: Christian detective (part vi)

“Jack, you magnificent sack of shit,” Gregg said to me after he patched me up, “I don’t know how you do it, but I’ve never seen anyone heal from broken limbs, organ failure, and brain damage as quickly as you have.”

“That’s the power of prayer,” I said in response. “I don’t need any of that medicine bullshit. I have God on my side.”

“You have proven the Power of Christ to me, Jack,” Gregg replied. “Despite growing up in America, getting hounded daily by Jehovah’s Witnesses, raised in the Catholic Church, and the Bible essentially being the cornerstone of Western art and literature, no one has ever told me about Jesus Christ or how to receive His Grace.”

“Bow your head,” I said. And on February 27, 2022, Gregg Poppovich, local Cleveland gangster, accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior.

I got up from the operating table, buttoned up my shirt, and punched Gregg in the stomach. “I’m gonna need more bullets for my .38,” I said.

Gregg was wheezing on the floor. “You could ask nicely, Jack,” he said.

“I don’t have time,” I responded, “Sally’s behind these murders, I’m sure of it. She’s already framed me, which means the FBI will be looking for me. Have you amassed your army of fellow gangsters? I’m gonna need them.”

Gregg stood up and straightened out his jacket. “They’re ready and waiting on your orders, sir,” he said.

“Good,” I replied, then socked him in the face. “I want a stakeout on Sally and a few of her officers. They are NOT to engage with any of them. Understood? Once when they have them cornered, your men should reach out to me. Okay?”

“Understood, sir,” Gregg said as he wiped blood away from his nose.

“Alright, now where are those bullets?”

I went to the back of Gregg’s Italian restaurant outside of town to do some target practice. I had just recovered from shattering every bone in my wrist after falling 20 stories into a dumpster. Unfortunately I missed every shot.

Gregg stood on the back patio laughing with a stogie hanging out his mouth. “Are you sure you’re ready for all this?” he asked.

I turned swiftly and shot the stogie out of his mouth. “As ready as I’ll ever be,” I said. I twirled the gun around my finger and put it back in my holster.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Jack hardcock: Christian detective (part v or vi, can’t remember)

I couldn’t sleep that night. I even loaded .38 revolver with two extra bullets.

Nothin.

I prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ Our Savior. I said, “Lord, every time Ohio BCI tries to give me a partner, I tell them I don’t need that shit because Jesus is my partner. Well now I’m calling on that partnership. Please let me find the killer of Art McGarth and the two prostitutes before the FBI does. Amen.”

Immediately, there was a knock on the door. It was Sally.

“Sally,” I said, “for the last time, quit coming around here. I don’t know how to fuck.”

“This isn’t a social visit,” she replied, “you’re wanted at the precinct. There’s been another murder.”

***

“How long ago did the murder take place?” I asked as we were walking into the coroner’s office.

“Approximately 8 hours ago,” Sally replied.

“Have you identified the body?”

“We were hoping you would help us with that,” she said. Sally then pulled back the sheet covering victim’s body.

I was aghast.

“My god,” I said, “Sally, that’s, that’s…”

“The Chief?” she replied. “Yes, how convenient. You were the last one seen with him.”

“Listen, I had nothing to do with that!”

“Put your hands behind your back,” she ordered.

“You’re making a big mistake!” I yelled.

“Am I? The Chief was killed with a bullet to the brain fired from a .38 special. That’s your modus operandi. You had a means to kill him, now I just need a motive. I hereby place you under arrest, Jack Hardcock!”

Two other officers flanked me on both sides. I roundhouse kicked one and kicked the other one in the gonads so hard that he passed out. I pulled out my .38 and pointed it at Sally. “I demand you tell me what’s going on here!” I ordered.

“You’re a renegade cop, Jack!” she said. “You are the biggest menace to the streets of Cleveland and I’m taking you down.”

I laughed. “Better luck in the next life, sweetheart,” I said, then pulled the trigger. Sadly, I only had two chambers loaded in the revolver because I was playing Russian Roulette earlier, so nothing fired.

“Sorry,” I said to Sally. Then I pulled the trigger again. Unfortunately the bullet missed her.

Before I could fire off a last shot, the two cops re-emerged from their blackout. So I jumped out a window and fell 20 floors into the dumpster below. I shattered my pelvis, ruptured my spleen, punctured both lungs, broke all of my limbs, and was severely concussed.

I laid in the dumpster where a dump truck scooped me up, poured me into a rubble heap, and carried me off to a landfill. When I awoke the next morning, I crawled out of the trash dump, and all the way to Gregg Poppovich’s restaurant outside of town.

It ain’t easy crawling 8 miles while undergoing organ failure with all your limbs shattered. But that’s just life in Cleveland.

TO BE CONTINUED…

pennies for the dead (part vii)

“Just be warned,” Joe said to me, “Hell ain’t what you think it is.”

“How so?”

“You just have to see.”

Joe, Pete, and I gathered our divinely blessed weapons and proceeded to the cellar in the woods. Joe went into the portal first, then Pete. I hesitantly went in last.

I felt my body break down into its molecular and atomic parts while time and space melted down. Then reality reconstructed itself and the three of us were in a large theater.

On stage was a nude couple: one an elderly woman and the other an average-looking dude with an abnormally large dong. A horse was also on stage. It was a community theater production of Equus.

“Ah shit. Now I know what you mean,” I said.

We rushed out of the theater, side by side, weapons on ready. We were men on a mission, a mission to find…and kill…Jezebel. And more importantly, we had to stop the dead from invading the earthly realm.

Outside the theater, we hailed a cab. The driver stopped and we all piled into the back. “Does anyone want to sit up here with me?” the driver asked. “Son of a bitch,” I said then got in the front seat.

“Where to?” the cabbie asked. “Downtown” Joe replied.

The cab driver then blasted Jon and Vangelis from the radio and was humming along. I turned to the backseat.

“Hell seems more boring and mildly irritating,” I said, “much like Minneapolis.”

“Yeah, but imagine spending spending eternity here,” Joe replied.

He had a point.

The cap pulled up to a downtown bank. We all piled out of the car. “Are you sure that the Empress of Hell and all of Damnation is here?” I asked.

“Of course, with their ungodly interest rates, there’s nowhere else she could be!” Joe said.

So the three of us…a wizard, an idiot, and a guy with a shotgun…walked into the bank lobby. We went up to a loan officer.

“We’re here to see Jezebel,” I tell the man.

“Do you have an appointment?” he asks.

I cocked the shotgun and blasted a hole in his chest. “She’ll be with you shortly,” the loan officer replied.

Security guards rushed into the lobby and began firing indiscriminately. Pete became an absolute beast and started slicing away with his machete. Joe unleashed fire bolts from his staff. I unloaded shell after shell from my shotgun.

As we looked over the absolute slaughter of security guards, with blood and guts strewn about the lobby, Joe nodded his head. “I think our plan is working out pretty good,” he said.

“I’m out of shells,” I said and dropped the shotgun. Then I pulled out the .38 and kissed it. “But I still got six shots.”

We all went into the elevator and Joe hit the button for the 666th floor. “Holy shit!” I said. “How many floors are in this building?”

32 minutes later, we arrived. Jezebel was in a conference call with all of her minions. She was planning the final stages of her Hellish invasion of earth.

“What took you so long?” she asked.

“Your slow ass elevator,” Pete said.

“You think your earthly powers can stop me?”

I lifted the .38. “Nothing can stop these bullets sister.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

pennies for the dead (part iv)

I quietly hoped that Pete lived a lonely, miserable life. He never mentioned anything about a spouse. His mother was barely cognizant of his existence. Honestly, he seemed to be a stupid sack of shit and nobody would have missed him.

But I didn’t want anyone reporting his disappearance. What would I have told the police? That he was sucked into some black hole in the middle of the woods?

I had to find Pete. And finding Pete probably led to solving the mystery of Joe Morris’ death.

Actually, I could have walked away from this entire thing and no one would have been the wiser. But I knew the spirits were listening in. I had to get to the bottom of this thing before they got to me.

I picked up the spirit box. “Listen here, damn you,” I said, “I know you can hear me. I want some answers! Where’s Pete? Who’s Jezebel?!”

The spirit box began scanning through the channels before spitting out “suck.my.penis.”

That’s it, I thought. I reloaded the .38 and went back to the Morris Estate.

It was 12:30am. I pounded on Dorthy’s door. “Is it the milk man?” I heard her ask. “Come in!”

I opened the door and there was Dorthy playing Trivial Pursuit alone. “Damn it Dorthy!” I said, “I need answers! Who’s Jezebel?!”

“Jezebel? She’s been dead for 20 years.”

“Records say she died in 1951. Stop jackin me around!” I pulled out the .38. I meant business.

The candles around the aged mansion began to flicker. Random objects started to move: books flipped open, mirrors were rattling, the record player was blasting Lionel Richie’s ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’. Dorthy meanwhile went into a trance. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she backed up into the shadows.

I turned on the spirit box. “Alright Jezebel! I know you’re on to me,” I said. “Talk to me! Let’s settle this thing!”

Suddenly the doors flew open. A woman floated into the room. Her eyes were as dark as night.

I lifted the .38.

But it was Sheila.

“Sheila, you’re drunk,” I said. “Go home!”

“I am not Sheila,” the demonic voice said. “I am Jezebel!”

TO BE CONTINUED