II. On the Ivory Coast
A Slayer of Beauty is on the Prowl, and Hell Patrol's Finest are on His Tail...
I don’t know where the hell the kid kept that in him, but two hundred pounds worth of megawatts was about what it sounded like.
Music will bring out crazy things in people, and it was in the middle of a little jam session at Doc’s Spot when I had something of a breakthrough with young buck Harry. I was playing with a favorite riff of mine. Song was a real screamer from a kicking band, my favorite of theirs. It was a tempo thing mostly, the kind of heavy speed-driven stuff I lived for.
Rory was getting his double kick into gear while I was letting the chords rip right through my bass and amps, and when what to my pointed ears should I hear…but Harrison Garret himself starting to sing along. He was very soft, but on key. I stopped and looked to him with a little gleam in my eye. Just a way to smooth him over.
“Wanna try it at full volume,” I asked.
“Oh, hell man, I can’t,” he begins, “I was built for many things, but singing ain’t one of them. Can’t carry a tune to save my life.”
“Oh c’mon,” I chuckled, “You only got us two to embarrass yourself in front of. Think about me going out there every night and digging the mic in my throat for a couple hundred of guys and gals.”
He pondered the thought and shook his head at me, muttering to himself all the while. He stood up and made his way to the mic stand, bringing it down from my preferred height. Once in place, he gave it a tap; the thing was live alright. Before he took a crack at it, I thought I’d give him a hand.
“I’ll even let you play with the band first,” I says, rummaging through my compact discs. I slid my demo album of the group into the player on the side of the stage. I skipped around a bit and finally landed on the song. I gave him the thumbs up and hit play.
After the kickoff, Rory and I lost our jaws to the stage. Harry took off like a bottle rocket and didn’t come down to earth for the next five minutes. He clung to that mic and let that iron-clad melody fire out of his throat with all the fury of his bullets. He sang like he drove, full throttle, and without a shred of mercy. Maybe digging out the LP would’ve been the way to go, if only to hear him double-track the whole tune with those titanium-plated pipes of his. After pulling ourselves together, Rory and I joined in on the fun, and now I had the whole band putting our twist on the tune. It might’ve been worth slipping into the set the more I think of it. Either way, at the track’s end, I turned off the player and came right up to him.
“Son, if that’s what you call shit, then I’ll take all the shit you can give me ol’ Iron Lungs.”
That marked the first time I finally got an honest-to-goodness smile out of our live-in J.D. Took me a month, but here we are. Just in time for our beloved commissioner to bring us only the best news there was to disseminate, hot off the radio on my hip.
“Nic, Rory, Harrison,” he starts in, “Wish I could say ‘good day’ but you know me by now.”
“Cold day in Hell when you can Sir,” I reply, “Fortunately for you it’s at least 80 outside.”
“Pipe down Ridgefield,” he barked back, “Today we’ve got something of a sordid case for you.”
When I heard a whisper of “so a day ending in Y” behind my back, I swung my hand about, gesturing for silence from the peanut gallery. The Commissioner had the ears of a hawk, so I stood praying he didn’t pay the line much mind as the Boys giggled like first graders.
“Name’s Davy Flynn. Middle-aged, 6’ 2”, white fur. Wanted for sex crimes chiefly. You’ll find the rap sheet on your data modules. He might have some ties to a couple of rings that have developed over the past few years. He’s a D.P.R. with an asterisk; really grill him before you do anything serious. You know what to do with those types, Nic. Last seen in the Western region, heading deeper within. That’s all for now. Godspeed gentlemen.”
When he hung up, I sighed.
“What’s wrong,” Harry asked.
“Well,” I start, “Boss being tight lipped about the bastard on call is never a good sign. Guess I’ll find out how deep in we are with him. Saddle up boys!”
“Sir yes sir.”
It was only when I clambered into my dark blue baby and turned the key did I learn how twisted this man was. I poured over my mod and Flynn’s mile-long rap sheet. Goddamn was he an absolute pile.
How could you do that to five chicks in a night? Why would you? Then you had to clean up all that blood and fur. Then you go do that shit five times over the course of a week. I don’t know what to be more wigged out by, the libido or the aftermath. God, that man right there was a sack of trash.
No sooner did I come to the end of the laundry list than I hear Rory spilling his guts out on the sand beside his bike.
“Yo, Madskins, you alright,” I asked.
“Just,” he gagged, “Looking over the case file.”
“Whadda fucking pig,” Harry spat, loading up his long-barreled revolvers, “Chief said he’s heading West. How deep you figure Speedfreak?”
“My dear Richter,” I says, tipping my shades to the edge of my snout, “We’re going to the Ivory Coast. A tender little strip between the Marshall ruins and the border of the Western region. I figure No Man’s Land is his preferred residence.”
“Lemme finish the job when you’re done with him.”
I paused before responding. Harry was capable alright, but execution work demanded something of a discipline that I sensed wasn’t on his mind. On the other hand, knowing who we were hunting, I felt that maybe some fireworks were in order.
“He’s yours when I’m through. Let’s ride Boys, can’t keep our beasts waiting.”
With that, we turned ‘em loose and bombed away into the desert. It was a longer ride than most, especially since Doc’s Spot was in the heart of Central. All our rides were filled up, but we weren’t worried about that. My Hilux would run bone dry for me if I had to make her.
It was making sure we could get there in time.
We didn’t know if he had a ride, if he was on foot, or if he decided to get creative and sprout a pair of wings on us. Knowing how much of a freak he was, he probably made ‘em out of the pelts. The passing minutes (and inevitably hours) were killed with some CB small talk. I mused about Lita and what she might be up to in Haven, Rory rambled on about some of his more daring moments in the field, and Harry started to talk of home, and of his folks, Rod and Bette. Wasn’t homesick, but he seemed like his childhood was one big joy ride from the way he told it. Knowing those two, I’d believe it.
It took us about another hour or so of conversing until we reached it; that corner of the world caught between a bona fide rock and the sharpest edge of a hard place. The Ivory Coast had all the color of centuries-old terracotta, and a vista view that’d make whatever poor unfortunate flower remained wilt on site. We never knew if it was a creation of the Party, A.C.E.S, or some other agency, but a cloud of dark gray haunted the land beyond the craggy cliffs of the Coast in perpetuity. Perhaps it was some kinda psyop to keep the civilians away from resettling. I wasn’t sure how Godred would take on that task, but Lord knows it didn’t keep Hell Patrol away.
I could tell it was the Boys’ first time. The two sat, staring into the specter of prosperity. You didn’t need to look past the shades to know their eyes were the widest they’ve ever been, shock all over their face.
“What you see there…that’s what the Base is fending off.”
I let the words sink in. With our respects paid to the scorched earth, we turned our attention to looking for Flynn. We chose to split up, myself turning left and the Boys turning right. A.C.E.S. had made a mighty fine crater out of old J.B.’s land, making the cliff of the Ivory Coast a jagged border for the remains of the Marshall settlements. The Hilux’s tires pounded the fine sand of the deserted plains as we made our way across it. She was running good and hot that day and thank God for that. What came next would be…hell, it would be something alright.
On the horizon sat a red-hot Camaro, late 70s. A real Old World beauty. Before it was our man. Dear old Davy was just as pretty in person as he was in picture. He had that sickly smile from the photo on record. And he had plenty to smile about. He had a pretty girl at the business end of his 007 knife, and his getaway ride looking on at it all.
The dame was white-furred and in a crimson one-piece and tan sandals; nothing but fear in those beautiful brown eyes of hers. I called in the Boys before jumping into action. I gunned my truck on ahead. There wasn’t gonna be no skinning on my watch.
Now Davy Flynn, for all his depravity, wasn’t stupid. When he saw a truck, whose front wheels weighed more than his entire body count, he knew to get the hell outta Dodge. He was even smart enough to take the girl with him.
He wasn’t smart enough on guessing his odds on starting the car up.
I slammed into that tail end, and I could hear his head slam against the wheel with the might of Zeus over the hostage’s scream. I dropped my truck in park and leapt out to nab him.
He was bleeding from the forehead pretty bad, but he still had spirit in him. He took plenty of swipes at me with the knife. Just for the hell of it, I played him at his own game. I threw him out of the car and drew my own switchblade. I’d cut a bastard or two myself, so I knew enough. If he wanted the blade, he’d get every inch of it.
My bare chest was an appetizing target for him, so he was always on the offensive. Each swing of his arm, each lunge of his 007 trimmed my fur closer and closer to the skin. It was a good way to give him a sense of security in the fight. That way, he wouldn’t see what was coming.
Two things came down on the menace: my boot and my knife. He got one in the chest, and two in the hand. I stabbed once to get the knife out of his grasp, and twice to pin him down. There he lay, crucified on the ground. The Boys were just in time for the interrogation.
“Davy, Davy, Davy,” I taunted, “You’re lucky to be alive right about now. Use that time to your advantage. Where you find ‘em?”
“Where I fine what,” he snarled.
“The girls, the pelts, the pairs of ‘em?”
“Cruising Dumbass,” he chuckled, “I just drive up, ask ‘em for a good time, and I show ‘em one!”
He cackled with a venomous zeal. I popped him one in the mouth.
“Any places you frequent?”
“Oh, just little dives here and there, nothing special.”
“Don’t lie to me Man, you got ties. I hit you with names, you hit me with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ got it?”
He shrugs, disinterested with a pang of pain running through him from his impaled hands. Sonofabitch ain’t squealing for shit.
“You sack of shit.”
I wrap my hands around the beast’s neck and start to squeeze. It’s not long before he changes his tune.
I release my grasp. He draws every ounce of breath he can get.
“Where’s he now?”
“The East,” he coughs.
“No, you dickhead, the EAST. Gone, out of here, heading for the Atlantic.”
The East? He was going right out of the desert entirely. This creep…this creep was his decoy! That’s it. Have us chase him while that smut-lord rolls away scot-free. Bastards.
“Enjoy the air while you still can.”
I give him one good kick where it’ll hurt him the most. Bet it felt a whole lot worse knowing he couldn’t cup ‘em.
Rory and Harry walk over, Rory goes to the body and Harry to the girl. We can hear the dame cry into his shoulder as Rory surveys my handy work.
“I give it an even 8,” he says, “Coulda cut him a bit more.”
I knew where this was going, so I let it happen.
“How so,” I cheekily inquire.
In a second, Rory slashes along the killer’s torso, the dirty white fur running red with the cuts. I’d bought him a switchblade a couple of Christmases ago and he’d been in love with that sucker ever since. I got him to ease off as I had promised Harry the final blow.
“You ready Richter?”
I look over to see him sitting passenger side with the girl behind the wheel.
“I want her to do it,” he says plainly.
“What? You sure about that? What made you change your mi--”
“DAMN IT MAN!”
The girl winced for a moment before Harry softly apologized. He soothed her before jumping out of the Camaro and walking right up to me.
I obliged. What he whispered into my ear just about had me throwing up in my mouth. I looked at the demented creature writhing on the ground.
“Right then…her kill to make. Keep her on the straight-and-narrow, alright?”
Harry jumped right back into the Camaro. From my end, all I knew was that we had to rig up another makeshift Maypole setup. Rory got to pilot Harry’s hot rod (lucky S.O.B.), and I got my Hilux into position. Flynn was strung up good and tight. I read him my usual decree.
“This one’s for all those beautiful bodies you desecrated with that demented brain of yours.”
Harry was giving the gal a talk through about the whole thing. He had just finished when Flynn blew the lady a kiss from his gallows. That was enough of a cue for her to punch it and grab the killer with her ride. She ran him so hot I was worried for a sec that she’d go over the cliff with him, but she knew just when to slam those brakes of hers. He dropped off and down. It was a good twenty-foot drop, so we all knew he wasn’t coming back from it. It was just how hard he hit the ground that we were surprised by. Right on a formation he went, right through the stomach too. I’d figured his guts were as rotten as his crimes, so when the stench came rising from his resting place, that checked out. Another dope fiend.
The only courtesy we afforded him was returning the arms to their rightful owner. Now he was A.C.E.S’s problem, not ours.
The ride back was a solemn one. We formed something of a mobile fortress around the girl and her ride. The fact she wasn’t catatonic by the end of the whole affair was a miracle in and of itself, but Harry’s preoccupation with the girl had me puzzled. He kept looking over to her repeatedly, even while he was on his phone. She occasionally glanced back to him but did nothing more. No smiles, no frowns, just a vacant acknowledgment. She was still there, that was for sure though. I could tell something was up between them, but it wouldn’t be until we returned to The Spot that it all came together with crystal clarity.
Standing outside the joint was none other than Mrs. Garret, a trailer hooked up behind that bright yellow truck of hers, Avalon. At first, I kinda couldn’t believe it, but the wardrobe was undeniable. The bandanna cap, tied crop top, cutoffs, those black-and-rainbow sandals of hers; it was Beach Babe alright, the great keeper of the Central waterhole herself.
When we came to a stop, the girl brought her car around and onto the truck’s trailer. When she set foot outside, the girl caught the fender and just about went head over heels into the ground. Bette was there to catch her in an instant, and my God was this little lady melting down. Harry darted over to help her back on her feet.
It was then that he said it all in one go.
“Ma will take you home, get you laid up. I’ll be over tonight. Sheba won’t be too hard a fix. Just…just take it easy. I love you Scarlet, don’t you ever forget that.”
She fell right into his arms, kissing him ferociously. He held her for a good long while before letting his old lady do the rest.
“I’ve sent for Eric,” she soothed in her soft ebony tones, “He’ll look you over and help you through. Let’s head home now.”
Bette gunned Avalon right for the horizon, and in a flash, the women were gone. I looked over to Harry, and he cuts right through me with that teenaged edge of his. He’d gone right back to his brooding old self, no sooner than I had just opened him up.
I let him calm his nerves while I radioed the Commissioner about the whole affair. He was naturally displeased about one of our live-in pimps evading his recommended dose of frontier justice, but he knew the circumstances a hostage makes. If Vanderburton managed to survive the march to the sea, we’d find him. Not that there were too many hiding places out there.
When I got off the line with the Commissioner, I looked over to Harry.
He had gotten back in his ride, ready to head for the waterhole to be with his girl. He said something before firing up the engine.
“Small fucking world, ain’t it?”
Damn right Son. Damn right.
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