VII. No Rest For White Hats
When A Day Off Is Anything But...
And just like that, there she was. Me and the boys had hauled in the last of our gear for the night’s show, and like a regular 007, she had slipped onto that bar-stool between bringing the Marshall stacks and the guitars. And before Harry could finish saying, “and here we go,” I was all over her.
No “how are yous,” no “it’s been so long,” no “God you look beautiful,” just the pair of us macking like the dickens, and why the hell not, she was my Lita-babe, I was her big ol’ hunk of cowboy, and it’d been a helluva long while since we last seen each other. And I’ll say, we coulda railed each other right then and there if it wasn’t for Rory cutting in with a “is this your bitch?”
At first I thought her temper was gonna show with a line like that, but she just chuckled and said “his one and only.” The boys finally got to meet her, Mohawk and all, and I must say they rubbed her all the right ways. Rory dug her wild side while Harry was all over her independent can-do attitude.
“Mind helping us?” I asked her. “You set up a coupla shows underground in the City, right?”
“Yeah, one or two gigs.” she said. “Ash knew the bands better, but the gear was a cinch. Lemme scrub in.”
Between the four of us, the gig was all set in half the time, and once night had fallen over Doc’s for the umpteenth time, and show time rolled up, we were back in business. Lighting up that stage like the Fourth of July with some ten-ton rock-n-roll. I had already warned the boys I’d want to take the tempo up tonight, and what wound up happening was like a heavy metal express. Every track coming down the pike would get faster and faster until we were all clocking hardcore speeds. Could’ve snuck a performance of “Sailin’ On” in if we had felt it. I remember Rory coming up afterwards with the pads of his hands sweating like mad.
“The hell you mean?” I asked.
Rory cocked his head. “Check the clock.”
Set started at 8:00 and we had just ended at 9 on the nose; we really had just knocked two off the set-list.
“Didn’t realize you wanted her that bad, Speed.” Harry teased, packing his guitar away.
Well, when Lita came up and wrapped all fours around me, I knew my punk princess had gotten her show’s worth. Didn’t take long to clean up the stage and get everyone heading their separate ways. Had her follow me home in the Bug and, well, we did what we do best; each other.
It was after the night to remember that we got to really talking. Gabbing about Haven, lawbreaking, records we were digging. She made getting outta there to visit sound like one mutha of a jailbreak, even with all her tough talk and drive.
“I’m just glad that Graham cat is off the streets,” she sighed. “Hope it got Varrick some peace of mind now.”
We carried on like that, Never forgot what she said though. “That’s the funny thing about the gig: wouldn’t have it any other way. Makes it more fun! Makes it feel good when you get it right.”
Of course she played by Hell Patrol rules, the more danger the merrier! When I told her that, she plopped the cowboy hat I gave her on her head and gave me the old finger gun routine, right down to a good old-fashioned “I’m the sheriff in this town! POW POW POW!” And boy what a sheriff she was.
Lita was only in for a few days though. It was a miracle she had gotten away at all, but she also had her obligations. City wasn’t gonna clean itself. Even though that’s kinda how it’s supposed to work!
Unfortunately, those first few were spent under cover of night. Work was riding my ass, and we had a full week engagement at Doc’s. She didn’t mind, especially since she got all the booze and metal she could ask for on my tab. She also liked bombing around in that blood-red Bug of hers during the day, so she never got bored. Always had something to go explore, and somewhere to just slap her paw down and let the Little Man’s horses run free.
But it was getting to me though. It was nice having her there at my house. Sure as hell nice bedding her, but spending the days apart just didn’t feel right. And so, with 48 hours to go, I finally got that most coveted prize every lawmen seeks: a single, full day off.
That morning, after I had made her breakfast, coffee, and we had our 32nd session of doing like we do, I finally sprung the good news. “Darling, I got the whole day! And I want to take you swimming. Can’t expect you to stay panting out all day with this heat.”
Well boy howdy was she all over the idea. Ain’t ever been in water, short of a shower in Château de Punk. Still couldn’t believe it, but hey, at least she wasn’t scared of swimming or anything like that. Hell, come to think of it, there wasn’t a lot she was scared of, short of that whole dome episode when we were hooking up in Haven.
Anywhosit, after we roll off each other and get dressed, there’s one last thing I ask. “Let’s take the truck. Let the little guy save his energy.” And for a second, those red eyes give me that kind of crazed, cock-eyed, “whatchu talkin’ bout Willis” look. But then she snaps back to reality like “alright, not a prob.” Always liked keeping me on the ball I guess!
Now getting on the road is a cinch. We were boogieing right for Beach Babe Bette’s swim hole, she was digging the Hilux’s vibes, and everything seemed set for a nice quiet day…and then that sweet Hell Patrol luck started to strike.
Lita taps me on the shoulder, and blurts out “Hey, Nicky.” I ask “what?” and she gives me something I’m none-too-pleased to hear about.
“He ain’t one of yours is he?”
I look out the shotgun-side window to see a biker holding up a man-and-wife driving an old Lincoln. The couple was black and the biker was an extra-mangy red wolf, the action all parked by one of the bombed-out houses from ye olden times.
“No. No he ain’t.” I braked to get a good look on the situation. Was quite a ways back, so I don’t think he heard too much over his rant-n-rave routine. Had quite the peashooter on him too, so I didn’t want to spook him and make a hostage situation worse.
Of course, the first thought Lita has is “want me to blow him away?” And while normally I’d say yes, at a distance like this, even a crack shot could veer off course and make mince meat of the missus unloading her belongings. Then I had the idea. “Let’s peg him.”
She snickered at first until she realized what I meant; I drop the hammer just as he backs away, pin him to the wall, and we make light work of the whole shebang. Didn’t take long for our mutt of the hour to start moving towards his black-and-white Electra Glide, making ballerina-sly moves in his harness boots.
Just in time for mine to drop.
The Hilux’s zero-to-60 saved my ass on that one. It all happened too fast for the bastard to do anything, and I braked just right so I didn’t pulverize him. Yet.
“Good to hold her in place?” I asked Lita.
Well, my be-Mohawked doll just smiled and said “anything for you Honey.” Wheeeeew-weeee did that feel good. She plopped her paws down, took hold of the wheel, and I popped out to look the fucker over.
“The hell you want from me?” he groaned.
I smile all gentleman-like. “Hell’s what I’m gonna put you through if you don’t cough up those stolen goods.”
“What makes it your business?”
Ah yes, one of the oldest lines in the book. One put to bed with a badge and a simple “you’re talking to Hell Patrol.”
Crook’s eyes went wide. It’s a hound with a license to kill, not that you needed one to do much of anything out here in the Wastelands. I lay the whole thing out for him so he gets the pretty picture.
“So. Appears I got free reign to put a .45-shaped slice of electric lead in your head, or have my babe pound you to pulp with my truck. And mind you, she’s a killer and a half behind the wheel.”
I shot Lita a wink and a nod. She played her part to feral perfection, hammering out some nasty revs and working those sweet crimson eyes of hers to perfection.
“Or,” I continued. “Seeing as it's my day off, and the last thing I need is to do paperwork, you hand over the shit you nicked and I let you live another day or two. Deal?”
His face said no dice, so I waved Lita forward a smidge. Just a little gas went a long way to get the bastard squealing. “ALRIGHT! Alright. Here it is.”
Out came the sack, nice and easy. I walked it back over to the couple, careful to keep my Smith & Wesson trained on his dome. When I came back, I plucked the peashooter, swung the cylinder open and when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but six genuine bullets.
“You a Scofield man too, eh?” I chuckled, “Good.”
Pocketed the bullets and waved Lita off. She backed the truck up, I gave him his gutted revolver and socked him one in the snout. “Now get the fuck outta here before I change my mind.”
Sure enough, he did. And boy did he! Limped like hell, flung himself on the bike and bolted. I checked back in with the couple. They were all pretty cool about everything.
“Thank you,” the wife sighed, “By God, thank you.”
“Think nothing of it,” I nodded, tipping my hat.
Hubby chimed in with “Tell your dame she’s a hell of a cat too.” Fortunately Lita could hear ‘em.
“Happy to help.” she grinned.
And just like that, the day is saved! We enjoyed a handy victory over the forces of evil and carried on like we…shit, almost said that with a straight face.
Yeah, things don’t go right for me anymore like that. No, what happened the second we loving couples parted ways and I’m back behind the wheel, is that I got a radio-in. Not a calling-all-officers or anything I could ignore, a straight-ahead “Calling Speedfreak, Calling Speedfreak.”
I start growling like a ten-ton migraine sprouted behind my skull, but before I go off the deep end, Lita turns my head towards her and just gives me the squarest damn read of it all I ever heard. “If you’re any good at whatever it is they’re asking, you’ll be done before you know it.”
“But Babe we—”
She shut me up with a kiss and a “we together right now, right? That’s all that matters.”
After being thoroughly convinced, I picked up the CB. “Speedfreak to HQ, what’s cooking?”
“Mind doing a quick May-Pole job?”
Those weren’t the words I was expecting. “Finding ‘em or killing ‘em?”
“Just an execution. Ax murder dropped off. Officers called into a chase.”
“So I just roll up, kill ‘em, and leave?”
“Well shit, I should’ve brought the gore poncho. Heading over now.” I hang up and catch Lita looking me dead in the eyes. She didn’t know what to do with me with the way I just handled that, but I knew what to say to her. “You’ve killed worse hounds in weirder ways than drawing-and-quartering, and you know it.”
And of course, the two of us bust up laughing. You gotta be just sick enough in our line of work to survive it. And fortunately, we were at that Goldilocks level of fucked-in-the-head by then.
So cut to me pulling up to our favorite lightning rod wedged in the middle of the desert, where the sands are always red with the blood of sinners and other such apocalyptic baloney. The killer’s all chained up and ready to go. I hop out, hoping to offer any last rites. “Need a prayer or something?” I asked coolly.
Dude looks up to me. Now he’s this battered to hell-and-back gray in nothing but jeans and boots, and with a pound of gravel packed into that baritone voice of his, says to me, “there’s no God for me now.”
All he got from me was dead-blank stare before I hooked the chains up to the truck. If killers were knives, that homicidal dirt-bag has enough edge to go round for the next dozen convicts.
Once I was back in the cab and ready to get it over with, outta of literally nowhere comes laser fire. Bolts of red and green whipping around the truck, and doming the killer I got my chains hooked up to. I look over and see who the raiding party is and it’s an absolutely shit-hammered Oldsmobile. A rusted-out 442, classic muscle car countenance, barreling along at probably 100. Guns still blazing, making Swiss cheese out of the killer behind us, rattling my truck like a Tommy Gun symphony. And I finally floor it.
“See that shotgun behind you?” I says to Lita.
“You want me too—”
I shoot her one look and she gets it. With that kid-on-Christmas-morning gleam in her red eyes, she rolls down the window, swings her head out, and starts pumping that thing like there’s no tomorrow.
Unfortunately, this asshole has decent aim, so as soon as she’s got her head out, he’s trying to dome her. And while she’s getting the car, she ain’t getting him. I whip her back into the cab, drift the truck out of the line of fire, and try to get some kind of plan for this nutjob, whoever he is.
“Hey, hol’ up now!” she growled. “Let me back at him dammit!”
At first I growl back at her, but then I realize I sure as hell ain’t shooting shit with two mitts on the wheel. “Alright, just don’t get your head taken off.”
She gives me a little salute before swinging back out and going the full John Wayne. And after enough volleys, she finally gets him in the head. Just in time for the Olds to swerve DIRECTLY FOR US!
I skid the truck outta the way as the thing goes right into the pole with a big ol’ BOOM! Needless to say, the other half of the killer was being roasted as we caught our breath.
Once I had grabbed mine and stuffed it back in my lungs, I hopped out, took the chains off, and swung the…parts I had been dragging around like a pair of truck nuts into the bonfire.
Back in the cab, Lita and I sorta just stared off into space for a second. She broke the silence with, “that always happen when you kill ‘em?”
She nods. “Sorry for snapping.”
“I’m sorry the day keeps getting away from us, dammit.” Boy was I starting to lose it. It was like God had come down to personally throw the book at me for the crime of He-only-knows what. Just as I go to put the Hilux in gear, she cozies up to me, puts a hand on mine, and a sandaled paw on my boot.
“So, how bout that swim?” she asked all sweetly. “Just point me in the direction and I’ll drive. You look like you could do with a break.”
Couldn’t say no to watching her work her magic, so we swapped seats. Sent her the right way with the wave of my hand, and she was on it like her and the Bug on an all-you-can-smoke buffet. If I ever sensed we were off course, I’d have her swing right or left, but for the most part, she was driving the Wastelands like the back of her hand. And boy was she driving them. Could watch her all day long shifting and steering and stomping and—ah shit, sorry! Fell into a trance there.
The trance I was in then was also broke up when the last of our bad luck decided to materialize. It was a white biker beating the shit outta driver in a pickup. Lita gunned the truck and started swinging for the road warriors when I realized who was on the bike. “Easy Babe. That’s Rory.”
It was the blood-splotch on the back of the leather vest; kinda shocked he was in one, but the old blood-mark was the sign of the Patrol.
“Aye Rory! Need an extra set of claws?”
When that crazed hound looked at me, he just winked and smiled. “Nah Speed, I got this.”
And boy did he. Rory decked the driver hard, sent his head slumped over the wheel, and in seconds the crook’s pickup veered out of control and down an embankment. Thing went up like a Roman candle.
“Alright, that’s that.” I smiled.
Then came that wonderful radio of mine. “Calling all officers, calling all officers, we’ve got a” ZAP!
I pulled that fucking plug so damn fast, the receiver spun. I just couldn’t anymore. When Lita looked over to me with those red eyes, I figured she was about to come on with a righteous “wait a minute, someone’s in trouble,” but nope. She just pulled my hat down over my head and chuckled. “Get some sleep, Mountain Man. I’ll let you know when we get there. We in the home stretch anyhow, right?”
I looked up one last time to check; yup, Bette was gonna be somewhere off on the roadside. “All yours Beautiful, keep her floored.”
Musta been out no more than fifteen minutes when she finally woke me up.
“We there yet?” I asked.
“Yes and no.”
My eyes went dinner-plate sized. We were in fact at the swim hole, but it was also the sight of a five-alarm Mexican standoff. At one end, a fellow lawman. A tough older gray dressed to the nines in Western ware. Never caught the cat’s name. On the other, a full-on radium addict suffering all the side effects. Molting tan fur, sunk-in eyes, all ghoulified.
“It’s over Deere!” the lawman shouted. “Cop to the stash or you get it between the eyes.”
The deteriorating hound named Deere simply did what all these dummies did, start busting up a storm. Cackling, howling, all the maniacal stuff, and then he gets to shooting. Wildly, no aim, just pot-shotting everywhere. One comes towards the windshield and she drops me to the seat. Glad she did too; fucker finally cracked my goddamn windshield.
With our heads down and her snout next to mine, she looks to me and asks, “what do we do here?”
On one hand, I knew if we took the easy way, the Hilux would reek like hell from the bastard’s guts. On the other, I wasn’t gonna let a Patrolman die just to keep my truck clean, even if it meant having to turn around and head for a detox station. With a heavy sigh, I look right back at her and said. “Go fuck him up.”
We snapped up from the seat, she slammed on the gas, and I got my revolver out. We go right for the putrid SOB, but the cat’s still got some coordination left in him and he starts leaping around like he’s in a knife fight with this pickup. And well, Lita obliged. Curving and swerving, she circled this maniac like a vulture. He got a shot through the shotgun side window that sent the pair of us ducking again. And just when we couldn’t see where we’re going…SPLAT!
Dude went right under in a pile of minced, irradiated meat. The patrolman came up to us with a tip of his hat. “Thanks strangers. Wish he’d just talked, but I guess when your brain’s that far gone, there ain’t much to work with.”
Lita nodded, a little grossed out by the smell. The Patrolman was good to clean up the mess, so I had her back off and sit tight for a second. That was when I broke it to her about some of the side effects of radium on these junkies, and what it means when you smite ‘em, and all she could do is laugh. “It really never ends for you, does it? Whole world’s a mutha of a time for you guys.”
“Just wish it didn’t happen on your last damn day!” I was pissed. Hell, I was fucking furious. Felt like the whole damn day had gone to hell. And I don’t know where it came from, but I thought I let her down because of it. Not even that big of an ask. I wanted to take my bitch swimming and everything goes fucking pear-shaped because of it. She didn’t make me feel that way though.
“Let’s get her cleaned.” she smiled, rubbing my back. “Ain’t your fault about the loonies. If you weren’t killing ‘em with a badge, you’d just have to kill ‘em anyhow. That’s the way the streets work.”
She nipped my cheek, but she could see I was still bummed. “I know it ain’t the best way to spend a week the way we have, but we did spend it together. Even all this.” She finally broke through, and I nuzzled her right back. Whipped out the truck’s module, ran a map, and found the nearest detox station.
When I saw the distance, I took a deep breath, pulled her close, and kissed her square on the cheek. “Alright. Let’s get ‘er cleaned, get something to eat, fuck on the way back, and see if we can get you floating. God-willing she won’t be closed when we get here.”
“You want to drive?” she asked.
Shook my head. “Baby, you make better time than I ever could.” The way she made my tires scream proved me right. Even if it was our last day for now, I guess we coulda spent in worse ways. Trapped in a magic lab, dealing with her friends in the fuzz. The more I thought about, kicking ass and raining blood with my favorite punk wasn’t that bad a closer.
At least we had fun.
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