SynopsisJohnnie had thought his family ties were long behind him. He thought that he had finally escaped. But when an old friends show up on his doorstep, he is quickly drawn back into the sordid affairs that had pushed him away in the first place. With his best friends disappearance, and the kidnapping of his girl, Johnnie must find the strength to push through the deceptions of those around him and find the truth before things turn from bad to worse.
ExcerptThe night had gone dark, as thick cloud rolled in to conceal the moon and the sun had long since disappeared beneath the horizon. The noise from the freeway at my back almost managed to drown out the yokel sounds of redneck music coming from the biker’s bar in front of me. Tacky neon signs flashed over the doorway, entitling the bar “Freeway to Freedom”, which I assumed was something a bikie got, because I certainly didn’t.
There was nothing else around the bar for as far as I could see in the dim light cast from the single lamp over the carpark and the buzzing neon signs. But the row of eight highly polished, crome covered bikes lined up in front of the bar told me I had the right place.
My own car, a half rusted yellow cadilac rag top, despite being a classic and bearing as much crome as any of the bikes, looked sad and pathetic in the car park, with all of those nice shiny bikes. The tires were mostly bald, the paint was peeling back where it wasn’t rusted, the crome was dull and spotted, and the roof looked like it would be easier to replace than to repair. But it was a classic, or so I told myself, so it had to be worth something.
The cool wind of early spring blew cautiously around me, whipping my long brown overcoat out behind me. I’m sure it would have looked cool in a movie, but to me it was just annoying, and chilly. I rubbed my hand through my hair, messing it up even more than it already was, and made my way towards the door of the tavern.
I pushed the door in, and had to squint to make out the details of the bar. The lighting was no better than it had been outside, with only a few gloomy looking lamps hanging down over the two pool tables in one corner, and a couple of marketing signs lighting up the space behind the bar.
The one thing I could tell straight away was that everyone stopped what they were doing and stared right at me. I swallowed hard to clear the lump that formed in my throat and quickly tried to assess the situation. The dingy establishment consisted of five circular tables arranged around the room, a ratty looking bar desperately in need of resurfacing along the far wall, and two pool tables off to one side. Four men sat at one table, three at another. The bar tender, with a grubby looking dish rag hanging over one shoulder, and an old yellowed apron strapped to the front of him stood behind the bar. And a lone figure was sitting at the bar.
The four men sitting at a table were universally large, thick bodied men. With beer bellies, long ratty looking beards and leather vests covered in an assortment of patches and insignia, there was no doubt that these guys really were members of a bikie gang. The other three were more varied. One was a gaunt, stick of a man, with a clean shaven face, and well groomed hair, but he still wore the patch covered vest. Another was lean but muscled, with the sort of build that suggested he would be good in a fight. The third was tall, broad shouldered, with a shiny, shaved head.
The guy at the bar had long, oily looking hair that draped down his back over his heavy leather jacket. He was of average build, and sat with his shoulders stooped, never turning to face me, just kept focusing on the half empty glass of beer in front of him.
“You know, if you guys really wanted to show your support for the village people, you need to remember that there was more than just a gay biker in the group.” The words tumbled out of my mouth before I had a chance to filter them through my brain. My mind winced instalty, and tried desperately not to let it show on my face.
Finally, the bar tender spoke, breaking the tension, and giving me something to focus on other than the angry stares that had been the response to my comment. “What the fuck do you want?” I took a breath in and stepped further into the bar.
“William Fredick Dempsey,” I replied speaking slowly, taking deliberate steps towards the man sitting at the bar.
“Never heard of him,” the bartender shot back, staring me down with anger and resentment in his eyes. I continued my slow, deliberate walk through the bar towards the man sitting at the bar. “What about you?” the bartender asked the man I was focused on so intently. The man turned his face away from me slightly and spat a thick, brown mucusy lump on the floor, which based on the rank smell, I had to assume was tobacco juice. “Don’t know who you’re talking about,” he said into his beer, still refusing to turn and look me in the eye.
No one but me had moved, but every eye in the room was still watching my every step. I could feel the tension in the room, cut it with a knife if I had to. And the fear fluttering in my chest made me accutely aware of just how outnumbered I was. “Are you sure?” I ask the man sitting at the bar, my heart just about jumping into my throat to betray my false bravado. “I could have sworn he was like your brother or something.”
“Hey,” the bartender cries out loudly, bringing my attention back to him, “take the hint fuck face; get out of my bar!” I stood in stunned silence for a few seconds, reeling from the sudden verbal abuse. In retrospect, I really shouldn’t have been that surprised, my opening comment to them had been something about the village people. But I couldn’t let the blatant disrespect of my character go unanswered. “Fuck face?” I asked, pausing purely for dramatic effect. “You honestly have the nerve to call me fuck face, when you’ve got a mouth like yours that looks like it’s sucked more dick than a 50 year old porn star?”
In unison, seven chairs slid back across the bare wooden floor and the bikers sitting at the tables all stood up. In the instant it took me to glance over my shoulder, making sure they hadn’t advanced on me too far, the bartender reached under the bar and pulled out a big, heavy .357 magnum revolver. As I turned back to face him, he pulled the hammer back, with a loud mechanical click.
The guy sitting at the bar took another mouthful from his beer, and as he put it back down he said, “I suggest you move along bounty hunter, you’re out numbered.” I took a breath to try and calm my racing heart beat, and felt all of the muscles in my body tensing subconsciously. “Oh yeah?” I asked, hooking one foot around the leg of an empty barstool next to me, “Well, did you guys know that I don’t fight fair?”
With a single deft motion, I flicked the stool backwards, slamming it into the the knee of one of the bikers advancing on me, sending him tumbling to the ground in a mess of chairs. I spun around and hooked two fingers into one of the bikers mouths and pressed against the inside of his cheek so he couldn’t bite them. Then I dragged him around by the soft tissue of his face, and brought him into line between me another biker as they attempted to smash a beer bottle down over my head.
The half empty bottle crashed into tiny peices over my victims head, and frothy beer splattered out over everything nearby. I pull my fingers clear of his mouth as the biker quickly looses consciousness after the blow and collapses to the ground. Before the biker with the broken beer bottle in his hand could react, I pulled on of my knees up into my chest, and kicked forward, planting my foot heavily into the mans stomach. Air rushed from his lungs, and he doubled over, unable to breath.
Finally remembering the revolver, I dove to the ground, just as the revolver exploded over my head, sending a single bullet crashing into the shoulder of another biker. I clambered to my feet before I heard the click of the hammer being pulled back again. I dove into the biker that had just been shot, driving my shoulder into his stomach, and pushing him backwards into another biker, sending them both tumbling backwards onto a table, and then rolling onto the floor. I felt rough hands grab me by the shoulders and haul me off my feet. I kicked and lashed out uselessly and another biker grabbed a hold of my body, and between the two of them, the thew me headfirst at one of the round tables. With a crash, I landed against the table, its single central leg splintering as I did, and the table tipped woozily and fell onto its side.
With the tables now between me and pool table, I stood up quickly and grabbed a hold of one of the crooked pool cues lying on top of the dirty looking felt top. I brandished it light a baseball bat as the last two bikers still on their feet make their way around the tables towards me. The revolver exploded again, and I heard the whoosh of air as the bullet wizzed passed my ear and crashed into the wall, sending a small shower of plaster down onto the pool table I stood next too.
I flinched visibly at the sound of the gun going off, and the two bikers approaching me cautiously take the opportunity to strike. They rush in together, and I hunch my shoulders, and start trying to bring the pool cue into the path of their meaty fists. A blow glances off of the top of head, sending dazzling lights dancing through my vision, and another crashed heavily into my shoulder, causing me to grunt as I tensed against the pain.
Slowly, the pair of them managed to drive me backwards towards the only window in the establishment. Then, in an imitation of what I had done just moments before, one of the bikers kicked me in the stomach, and sent me crashing backwards through the single pane of glass. Shards of glass catch in my over coat, and I flet a single shard slice through my left ear. But it was the impact with the ashphalt carpark outside that really hurt. It seemed as if all the air had suddenly vanished from my lungs, and I had forgotten exactly how I was supposed to breath in. Pain lanced up my back from where a rock had dug into my spine, and the the dull ache of the impact ached all with the way down my arms and legs.
“So much for fighting dirty being enough to even the score,” I muttered to myself as I managed to get myself up on my elbows. Everything ached to move, but I managed to push myself back to my feet, and, still holding the pool cue, walk straight back in through the door. The room is in shambles, between broken chairs, and broken table, smashed front window, and a bullet hole in one wall. On top of that, the biker that had been shot sat in a chair, his face pale, and his eyelids weighing down heavily over his eyes. The biker that took a bar stool to the kneecap limped weakly over to a chair, and dropped himself down into it. One still lay unconscious on the floor, but the last four were all standing, and looked fit for a fight.
I looked around carefully, the bikers all stopping to stare back at me. “So who’s ready for round two?” I asked, as though nothing they had thrown at me the first time around had even slowed me down. The four burly men moved up quickly and surrounded me on all sides. I held up the pool cue, once again brandishing it as if it were a baseball bat. At the last instant, I snapped the bottom end of the pool cue forward, and poked one of my assailants viciously in the eye. He grabbed at his face, and a small trickle of blood started too ooze out from between his fingers. ‘He’s probably going to loose that eye,’ I thought to myself, as I turned to the other three.
One of them rushed at me, but I swung the heavy end of the pool cue down like a club, and caught him on the ear. I flicked the other end of the cue out as though it were a staff and aimed the blow at the another biker’s face. The second biker reached up and grabbed a hold of the narrow end of the cue that I had aimed at his face, and started to pull back on it. I yanked on the cue hard, trying to pull it from the biker’s grasp, but he just shoved forward, adding to my own momentum and throwing me off balance. Then, as my grip loosened and my focus turned to simply staying upright, the biker wrenched the cue out of my grip ans swung it back towards my face.
The blow landed on my cheek, and I felt it swell instantly, and a small cut opened up and started to bleed freely. Already off balance, the extra force of the blow tips the scales against me, and I fell backwards onto my ass. For a moment the three bikers still arrayed against me just stood in stunned stillness, surprised by my sudden lack of grace.
Using the moments pause to my advantage, I kicked upwards, smashing the toe of my booted foot in to the balls of the biker with the pool cue. He dropped the cue, and doubled over in pain, a pain that even though I had inflicted, I had to sympathise with. Not wasting a moment though, I swept out one leg, and knocked the feet out from under the biker who’s ear I smashed with the pool cue, and sent him crashing to the ground. I smashed the heel of my shoe into his face once after he landed, sending him into a darkness I could be sure he wouldn’t wake up from for a little while.
I reached out to grab a hold of the pool cue that rolled uselessly around on the ground nearby as the last biker buried his foot into my stomach. Instinctively, I curled up into a ball, trying depserately to protect my soft and unprotected underbelly. The blows raind down upon me, against my shoulders, arms and legs. Then tiring of kicked, the biker takes to stomping at me instead, landing a couple of heavy blows against my ribs, which I was certain he had managed to at least crack.
As the biker raised his foot to stomp down again, I reached out and grabbed a hold of the leg that was supporting him, and rolled away from him. The sudden pulling at his leg caused the biker to slip backwards, and fall backwards, his head clipping a chair ont he way back. His head snaps dangerously forward, and a small red smudge can ben seen on the corner of the chair where his head connected with it.
The biker I kicked in the nuts stepped towards me as I climbed to my feet, and I lashed out with the pool cue I still held in my hand, smashing its heavy end hard into his hand. He backed off quickly, staying out of range of the cue, but close enough that he could still rush me if he saw an opportunity.
I shifted slightly to my left, making sure to keep my last assailant between me and the bartender’s aim. With a quick step forward I fake a lunge toward the biker’s eye but he quickly brings his hands up to protect his face, and leans back away from me, trying to keep his head out of range of the pool cue. Using the biker’s sudden overreaction, I swung the cue around and hammer it up into his already bruised balls. The breath rushes out of the man, and he doubles over. I swung upwards again and slammed the cue into the biker’s chin, causing a small squirt of blood to spray from his mouth, making me think that he must have bit his tongue when I slammed his jaw shut.
A quick look at the biker with the gunshot wound told me that he was in no condition to continue the fight. He had gone completely pale, was shaking ever so slightly, and his lips had gone rather blue. I turned my gaze to biker with the injured knee, but he quickly held his hands up in defeat and shook his head urgently. ‘Finally’ I thought to myself, ‘things are starting to go my way’.
Confidently I turned to the last biker, still sitting at the bar drinking his beer, as if nothing had been happening around him at all. The bartender holds up his gun and points it straight at me. “Hold it right there mother fucker,” he saids, saliva spraying disgustingly from his mouth as he spoke. “You know, while I appreciate the fact that your mother remembers me, she doesn’t have to keep bragging that I’m better than your father in bed.” Once again my mouth started moving before my brain was fully engaged, and I silently cursed myself for being stupid enough to antagonise a man aiming a gun at my head.
The biker at the bar reaches up and puts a hand on top of the bartenders gun, guiding it down so that it wasn’t pointed at me anymore. “Put the gun away Deacon,” he said, turned toward me at last, “I’ve got this one.” He stands slowly, carefully, and adjusts his heavy leather jacket around himself. “You sure?” Deacon asks watching the long haired, bearded man preparing to beat the crap out of me. The biker nods slowly, and then says to me, “Alright bounty hunter, take your shot.”
I studied him up and down, assessing my opponent carefully. He seemed more like a fighter than the rest had been. Not that they were pussy cats or anything, but where there leathers looked like they came off the rack and hadn’t fit them for a few years now, his looked custom fit specifically to his body shape. He was lean, well muscled, and looked as though he was a lot closer to the prime of his life than the others who were at all at least five or ten years beyond it.
My opponent stared back at me, reached out and grabbed an empty beer bottle from off of the nearest table. He flipped it around confidently in his hand as I took a moment to calculate my next move. Finally, I step forward, and feint a blow with the pool cue, planning to spin 360 degrees when the biker leans away from the blow, and smash the end of the pool cue into the side of his head. But nothing I ever plan that meticulously goes to well.
Instead of leaning away from the blow, the biker blocks it with the beer bottle, smashing it against the end of the pool cue, sending small shards of dark brown glass spraying over the both of us. Then, with the broken bottle extended forwards from his body like a knife, the biker steps into me, forcing me to jump back to avoid being gutted.
Seizing his opportunity, the biker strikes again, forcing me to continue retreating before his onslaught. I feel my back press up against the jukebox that was still pumping out the crappy redneck music that was making my eye begin to twitch. The biker grins wickedly at my predicament and lunges forwards again. This time I drop below the attack, falling all the way to the floor. The broken bottle slams into the jukebox, exploding in his hand. Broken glass falling away from his hand leave behind them deep cuts in in his skin. The music skipped a few times before the song cut out completely, and the jukebox went silent. “Finally,” I muttered, “I hate that fucking music.”
I kicked upwards, aiming to push the heel of my boot into the biker’s balls, but he just stepped backwards, and then when my leg was fully extended, he stepped forwards and kicked me in the stomach. As the breath rushed from me, I hooked my upwards pointing leg around the back of his as he tried to pull it back to kick again, and I twist his own legs out from under him. With a crash and a moan of pain, the biker fell to the ground.
With nothing now keeping me down, I clambered to my feet and pick up a chair. I smashed the chair over his back as he got to his feet only a moment or two after I did. Spinters of wood showered over him and he stumbled forwards, stunned and disorientated from the blow. I rushed him, and shoved hard, sending him careening into the bar. He caught the edge of the wooden bar before he fell to the ground again, and managed begin hauling himself up so he could get his feet back under him again.
Pressing my advantage, I stepped up behind him, grabbed the back of his head by his greasy hair and started to slam his head down against the bar, speaking one word through clenched teeth for every blow. “I... don’t... like... to... have... to... fight... for... my... paycheck.” As I brought the bikers head down against the bar for the last time, I felt the still warm barrel of the bartenders revolver press against my head, and heard the hammer being pulled back. I let go of the biker and he slumped uselessly to the floor at my feet, clearly unconscious. “Give me one good reason not to blow your branis out right here,” the bartender said in his most threatening baritone.
The whole situation brought me a moments pause, and I began to question why it was I did this job in the first place. The pay wasn’t that good, the people where quite literally criminals, and the working conditions sucked ass. But, it was my chosen vocation, so what the fuck else was I going to do on a Friday night?
With my left arm, I reached up and shoved the barrel of the gun away from my head, grabbing onto the gun as I did. With my other arm I grabbed a hold of his elbow and shoved his own arm back against him with both hands, shoving the man off balance. When he leaned forward to compensate, I pulled him back over the bar, ripped the gun from his fingers and shoving the falling bartender headfirst into his own filthy floor, knocking him out cold. “Because you’re unconscious you redneck shit for brains,” I exclaimed, staring down at his still form.
The things I do for money...