Bazooka 17

Ricardo walked me to the door, following me outside. I wanted to ask him a million questions, or at least some advice, but held back. Fact was I felt sick to my stomach of the whole business. Without a word Ricardo grabbed the chair the unconscious Bulldog still sat in and began wheeling him around the back of the building. A big part of me wondered what would happen to him next. I felt bad for the sucker and wanted to make sure he got his life back on track. But a little Ricardo-esc voice in the back of my head told me that’s why I could never be a good bounty hunter. I got too attached.  

In the distance police sirens could be heard. With little else to do I listened to see what direction they were going. The sirens grew louder. Unexpectedly a fleet of cars came over the hill, speeding like nobody’s business. I watched with awed interest as it seemed to be one car chased by many, the later all being the source of the cop sirens. The first was a ridiculously nice convertible, top down cash billowing out the backside. It looked like a scene from a movie and as such, as the car passed me, everything seemed to slow. Looking at the driver, wearing sunglasses and a hat with wads of cash poking out of every which way, I couldn’t help but think it.  

My God. That’s him. That is him.  

The car sped by stirring up a gust of wind that caught the man’s hat and tore it from his head. The cops flew by after. A few spare dollars floated down here and there, the hat landing at my feet, as things settled and the sirens faded into the distance. I bent down and picked up the hat. Plain, maroon, ugly. 

Crashing through Ricardo’s door I waved the cap around wildly. “Look!” I said with glee like a child. Ricardo was back behind his counter, Bulldog nowhere in sight. I ran up to the shopkeeper and waved my found item in his face. “Look! Mike just drove by!”

“What are you talking about?” He sounded annoyed the pest had returned.

“Did you hear those sirens? A bunch of cops were chasing after a car and I swear to God it was Mike.”

“How do you know?” Ricardo asked.

“Because he was driving a convertible with enough cash to buy my life in the back seat.” I said. “I just know. Like sixth-sense.”

“Uh-huh.” Ricardo snatched the hat from my hands and examined it with the utmost scrutiny. Silently I tried to settle my heart. I didn’t know what was going to happen. All I knew was Mike was in town and I had seen him. And I had his hat.

A crazy look came into Ricardo’s eyes. He whirled around and attacked one of his many filing cabinets, ripping the draws open until he found the file he searched for. It was thick, needless-to-say, as it was Mike’s. Gutting it on the counter he found a picture and held it up to the light. Catching a glance the face of the man in the car reflected back at me.”That’s him! That’s the guy!” I stabbed the picture furiously. A thought hit me. “Hold up, you have a picture of Mike? Do you know what the cops would do for that?”

“Do you know what the cops would do for this hat?” Ricardo asked, setting the picture down. “He’s here.” He whispered, seemingly in a daze. “Do you know what you have done? Do you know what this means?” Ricardo looked star-struck. “We’re back in business.”

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Bazooka 16

With much difficulty I accepted the fact a bird beat me to the punch. He sat indignantly on a chair in the corner, clearly seeing me as an insufferable burden. He cawed and I stood up as ordered. Frantically I stumbled forward and slapped my handcuffs on the unconscious criminal. Satisfied, I realized I faced a new conundrum: how to get this man to Ricardo’s shop. As an employee to Ricardo I was never to deal with the police directly, but only through him. But how? I had no means of transportation and there was no way I could carry the man even half the way. Pete cawed again. I examined the chair he perched on and sighed. It had wheels.

With much difficulty I can only hope you have enough imagination to muster the appropriate image I hauled Bulldog off the bed and onto the chair. Gasping for air I fell to the floor clutching my chest. Pete the Bird had long flown the coup. I never quit a job once I’ve started. I only get fired. So with much effort I grabbed hold of the chair’s arm rests and began pulling. Thankfully since Bulldog was confined to a wheelchair most of the time the house had been made handicap friendly, including a ramp from the front door to the driveway.

I can only guess what I looked like pushing such a man down the street. I care to not think back on it. Over a hill and through a few lawns later I wound my way back to Ricardo’s shop just as dusk crept in. Pete was there of course, as was Ricardo. “Pete’s told me everything.” He greeted me when I walked through the door. Side note: Ricardo’s shop door is absurdly narrow, so Bulldog had to wait outside.

“Like a dog.” Officer Buck said excitedly.

“Sure,” I guessed. “If you wanna look at it that way.”

“Poor little Mikey, can’t even handle a dog.” Ricardo said, picking at his nails.

“I brought him in just like you asked.”

“But what happened before?” He questioned knowingly. “How did he get to be in the state he is in?”

I didn’t want to believe some guy with skulls on his walls and herbs hanging from his ceiling could talk to a bird, but who knew? I ran my fingers through my hair, frustrated. “He’s here, isn’t he? Who cares how it happened?”

“I care.” Ricardo said. “I care when it deals with my business and who I do business with.”

“So Pete helped! I thought that’s why you sent him with me in the first place?”

“Meh, he needed the exercise.” He shrugged. “He did the job though, so I guess it’s a new bird cage for him.”

“You ─ you’re giving him the reward?” I stuttered.

“He did the job.”

“But I brought him here!” I argued for at least half the credit. The fact I was arguing my case against a bird is irrelevant and should not be held against me.

“You had one job.” The broker scolded me, massaging his temples. “It was so easy… No. You’re more like the delivery boy. No money for you.”

Bazooka 15

Bare save the TV, a nightstand, and a bed the room was dim despite the broad daylight outside, dark blue curtains being drawn. And there he lay. He was everything I thought he’d be and more. Very big and very bulldog-ish, his jowls forming something like double chins tumbling down to his collarbones. He sat up in bed, a stack of pillows at his back, and stared at the small TV screen across the room.

I cleared my throat. I cleared my frickin’ throat to get his attention. He looked over at me, seeming very confused at first. He glanced back at the TV before reaching back between the pillows, pulling out a gun. I ducked out of the doorframe and hit the floor just as bullets riddled the walls. “Hey,” I shouted as there was a pause in the firing. “You’re under arrest!”

“Kiss my ass!” He shouted back and bullets once again began flying. He had to run out of bullets eventually, which he did. Taking the pause I peeked back into the room and saw he had not moved from the bed, and then realized he was not able to due to his apparent failing health. A moment of sadness tugged at my heart. “Surrender now!” I shouted, pulling from my pockets the handcuffs Ricardo gave me. “You’ve got nowhere to run!”

“Kiss my ass!” He shouted again. “I’m not going nowhere!”

“You’re mom’s left you Greg!” I said, taking the low road. “There’s nobody left in your corner. Let me take you in and maybe─” He by then managed to reload his gun and let off another round. I fell back against the wall and scrambled for an idea. If there are classes for capturing criminals I should have taken one.

You mean the police academy?” Officer Buck looked at me.

“Or, you know, something along those lines.” I blushed.

“Listen!” I shouted. “There’s no way you’re leaving this house by yourself! You can barely walk! Let me help you,”

“Help you take me in for some reward!” Bulldog shouted. “It’s so measly no one else wants it, so they send you…” He trails off into a low, depressed chuckle.

“You’re right,” I said. “I have no idea what I’m doing. But I’m not stupid. You’re eventually going to be caught. Would you rather it be me to Annett?” I took a gamble. A huge gamble. I had no idea if this guy even knew who Annett was, but I had to try something. There was silence. No talking back, no gun fire. I’d found my niche. “Listen, your crimes aren’t too severe. You get booked, you serve your time, you’re out in a jiffy. You can get your life on track. Don’t you want your mom to come back?” More silence. Slowly I crept closer to the doorframe. “Hey man, it’s never too late─”

A flurry of silent mission flew past me and into the room. Bulldog began roaring up a storm. I quickly leaned in to see Pete the Bird mauling Greg. With a few expert pecks and blinding wings about the head the gun was dropped. Silently I congratulated by companion and readied myself to move in for the kill. Pete flew up, over, and around the man in bed before tucking his wings and dive-bombing directly into his face. Greg, or Bulldog, fell back unconscious, never knowing what hit him.

Bazooka 12 (Updated)

Walking into Ricardo’s “shop” was like walking into a medieval witchdoctor’s hut─

“I don’t think they actually had those…”

“Whatever,” I waved a hand. What I hoped weren’t dead things hung from the ceiling while certainly dead things sat in rows of jars on high shelves. An unidentifiable species of large bird perched on a willow stick in a corner, glaring down at me with an evil eye. “Hello…?” I called in barely a whisper. Clearing my throat I straightened my spine and called out louder.

“So you are the one who is having the identity crisis.” Behind the counter piled high with papers and merchandise sat a weathered looking man, smoking a heavy cigar. He blended into his environment exceedingly well. Looking at me through the purple smoke the man looked amused at my wide eyes.

Nervously I laughed. “Identity crisis? The only crisis I’m having is being empty handed.”

“Don’t pussy-foot around,” Ricardo said. “I know all about you. Shorty was in a bit ago. Such a nice girl. Told me about this “lame-Jane” fool everyone was after on account of you and Mike having the same name. And now Georgie-boy has sent you to me. What luck.” Over my head the sound of flapping wings made their way to his side. The giant bird, carrying the charisma of ten Godfathers, doubled the pressure you only feel when under a critical gaze. Swallowing, my mind blank, I stood in the shop without a single idea of what to say. Ricardo looked me up and down and took a long drag from his cigar. “You’re the most pathetic looking piece of blubber I have ever see. You wanna be a bounty hunter?”

“Yes. No. Not really, but yes.” Ricardo appropriately raised an eyebrow at my answer. “I don’t want to be a bounty hunter, but I’ve been told, rather convinced, it’s the only way to keep random people from attacking and arresting me.”

“Annett got to you?” He smiled.

“And Shorty.” I admitted.

Ricardo took a drag from his cigar and shook his head. “Forgive my age, but I’m having trouble wrapping my head around all this.”

“How do you think I feel?”

“No offence guy, but I don’t think you have what it takes to be a bounty hunter.”

Bazooka 13

“I sympathize with your predicament, I do. But maybe just leave it to the professionals?” Ricardo offered a shrug. 

“The professionals are to ones I’m trying to─ look.” I leaned onto the counter and pleaded with my hands. “I don’t know of anyone I can rely on. I feel like the whole world’s out to get me.”

“That sounds like every person’s complaint.”

“I’m serious,” I said.

“So am I.” He said.

“That’s not fair.” I argued.

“Yeah, actually, it is. Listen up kid, there’s a reason you were sent here to me. Nobody moves without my say-so. I’m the king-pin. I am the one and only. I am the end all be all of bounty hunting and there’s a reason for that.” 

“So you really are the only broker in town?” I asked, sad defeat was nigh.

“Yes.” He responded almost bored.

“Just give me a chance.” I begged.

“Every other person and their mom is after Mike. What makes you think you’ll get him?”

“Sheer desperation.” I answered honestly. “It’s all I got.”

“It’s a start.” He snorted. The man looked long and hard at me, judging my worth by every blink I took and every line in my skin. He turned, opening one of his many filling cabinets and riffled through the papers. I was so excited I almost jumped for joy but stopped myself just in time for him to turn back round. “Here’s one we just got in.” He threw a file at me. I caught it just in time and opened it. Line after line of boxed info read out to me, making little sense, but there was a picture and what an ugly mug it was. “His name is Greg, but he goes by the name of Bulldog. God knows why. Dude’s wanted for petty larceny and public intoxication.”

“Nothing too difficult?” I asked, willfully.

“He’s diabetic and in a wheelchair.” Ricardo sassed. “He lives with his mom but she don’t want him no more. Lazy ass, her exact words were. She’s going to take his wheelchair and leave him for vultures to peck at. So no, nothing too difficult. You want the big dog?” Ricardo suddenly jabbed me in the chest. “Prove yourself first.” 

“Oh sure.”

“Reward’s $50 dollars.”

“That’s it?”

“I don’t run a charity house.”

“I have to get this guy.” I said seriously, looking at Ricardo. “I have to get Mike. He’s ruining my life and no one is stopping him. I have to do it.”

“I know.” He said, folding his arms. “But emotions pay for jack around here. Buck up kid. You got work. I’m going to send someone with you. Pete to be exact.” He motioned over his shoulder.

“The bird?” I asked. The grey feathered mass cawed at me.

“My partner. He’ll help you more than most men, trust me. It’s this or nothing. Take it or leave it.”

“No gun?” I asked.

“Get out.”

Bazooka 12

Walking into Ricardo’s “shop” was like walking into a medieval witchdoctor’s hut─

“I don’t think they actually had those…”

“Whatever,” I waved a hand. What I hoped weren’t dead things hung from the ceiling while certainly dead things sat in rows of jars on high shelves. An unidentifiable species of large bird perched on a willow stick in a corner, glaring down at me with an evil eye. “Hello…?” I called in barely a whisper. Clearing my throat I straightened my spine and called out louder.

“So you are the one who is having the identity crisis.” Behind the counter piled high with papers and merchandise sat a weathered looking man, smoking a heavy cigar. He blended into his environment exceedingly well. Looking at me through the purple smoke the man looked amused at my wide eyes.

Nervously I laughed. “Identity crisis? The only crisis I’m having is being empty handed.”

“Don’t pussy-foot around,” Ricardo said. “I know all about you. Shorty was in a bit ago. Such a nice girl. Told me about this “lame-Jane” fool everyone was after on account of you and Mike having the same name. Tough luck.” Over my head the sound of flapping wings made their way to his side. The giant bird, carrying the charisma of ten Godfathers, doubled the pressure you only feel when under a critical gaze. Swallowing, my mind blank, I stood in the shop without a single idea of what to say. Thank god Ricardo loves to hear himself talk. He looked me up and down and took a long drag from his cigar. “You’re the most pathetic looking piece of blubber I have ever seen. I tell you what. You must prove yourself to me. Catch a low life and I give you permission.”

“Permission to what?” I asked.

“To hunt.” He said simply. “Nobody moves without my say-so. You must prove yourself to me before I give you what you want.” My expression must have betrayed me. “Know you are after this man as well as every other soldier on my roster. You want a gun with no questions, no strings attached to ride off towards a fairytale ending where the good guys never lose. Sorry boy, that’s not how I work. You look disappointed. Not what you were promised? Don’t take Georgie boy’s word for anything. He’s a good lackey, the bar is a cover, but that’s all he’ll ever be.” Ricardo took another long drag from his cigar and stroked his bird. “So you wanna be a bounty hunter?” He chuckled.  

Bazooka 11

“You don’t know what a man pushed to the limits is capable of.” I said stoutly.

“With all respect, neither do you.” Pouring a glass for himself the bartender raised it to the lights, examining the amber liquid sway back and forth. Finally he sighed. “I know this guy,”

“And I didn’t even have to ask,” I smiled. Bartenders are great connections. They know everyone.

He narrowed his eyes. “Don’t take the situation so lightly.” He glanced around at the empty bar and drew closer once more. “Look for Ricardo. He’s a dealer who works with a lot of bounty hunters who aren’t looking to work directly with the police, if you know what I mean. He gives tips, tricks, and info on which rock to look under. They bring him the bounty, he turns them in and they split the reward. Not a bad gig really… But he doesn’t work with just anyone.”

“Where’s he at?” I asked, looking for a pen and paper.

“Tisk, you do your own leg work. Be the brains and the brawn. But keep your eyes to the ground. He doesn’t like new faces and if he decides he doesn’t like you he’ll act on that. Shoot you right then and there and collect the bounty all for himself. The first rule of street smarts is don’t be stupid. Got it?” I nodded. “If you’re lucky he’ll work with you. Maybe. If he likes you.”

“How do I make him like me?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Same as you get anyone to like you. Just walk in, explain what you’re after, buy a gun, and leave. Don’t pussy-foot around.”

Sheepishly I looked at the bartender. “Do I have to buy a gun?”

“Jesus, you really are stupid.” He touched his forehead to his palm. “You want him to like you, yes?”

“Yes.”

“You want him to talk to you, yes?”

“Yes.”

“Money talks but only if changes hands.” He leaned in close. “So go talk with money.”

Sighing I stood from the bar and headed towards the door. “Hey, what’s your name?” I stopped and asked. Funny, I’d frequented the place for months and he was the only one ever working, but I didn’t know his name. Seeing as he knew so much and was helping me, a complete stranger, I felt it only right. But also, maybe if I did some name dropping, Ricardo would warm up to me a bit easier.

“I have no name,” the bartender drained his glass. “Don’t think about telling him I sent you. I have a reputation to uphold and I can’t have people knowing I associate with guys like you.”