Bazooka 7

“What happened to Santa?”

“What?” I looked across the table at Officer Buck.

“You haven’t said what happened to Santa and the waitress yet.” He complained.

“Uh…”

“Did they survive the diner attack?”

“Yes,”

“Do you know what happened to them afterwards?”

“Kind of.” Buck raised an eyebrow. “I’m getting to it,” I said, annoyed. “I’m busy trying to get arrested at the moment.”

Unfortunately I was more out of shape than I thought. Shorty sped out of sight leaving me with a cramp in my side and all around feeling just a little bit lost. Aimlessly I wandered around the city until stars shone, eventually making my way back to my small and dingy apartment, befitting my long-term unemployed status.

I lay in bed and thought back on the day. Attacked by a hail of assault weapons, beat up multiple times by a girl half my age, height, and weight, a case of mistaken identity that’s made me one of the most wanted men of the last five years.  I felt all that should be spread out over at least a week’s time instead of less than twenty-four hours. 

I thought about going down to the police station the following morning. Maybe I could talk enough sense to warrant a memo for all the bounty hunters to leave me the hell alone. But what if they didn’t care I wasn’t the real guy? The police captain had been catching a lot of heat from the public for not catching the serial bank robber named Mike; perhaps he would lock me up in his place just to appease the masses? So perhaps I would wipe the slate clean and pretend the day never happened, instead going about my daily business of trying to find a job.   

I settled on pancakes for breakfast and fought hard to sleep, too sore and tired to weigh my options anymore. The next morning I forgot breakfast and instead walked out the front door heading to the unemployment office.

Walking down the sidewalk I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise up in fear. I whistled in an attempt to dispel the feeling but to no avail. I risked a glance over my shoulder and saw nothing. Breathing deeply I faced forward to have one of my few remaining lives scared out of me.

“It’s you!” A gruff voice bombarded me before a thick arm wrapped around my neck, bending me in half with excited affection.

“Who?” I croaked out, managing to look up from my crippled position. “You?”

The old man from the diner beamed down on me. “Gee, I’m sure glad you’re not dead!” He chirped merrily, dragging me down the street to an unknown destination.        

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Bazooka 6

“Oh for Christ’s sake,” I groaned despairingly as Shorty moved in for the cuffing deed. Then a thought occurred to me. “So that explains that woman!” I snapped my fingers in revelation.

Shorty blinked and paused mid-step. “You mean me?”

“No. Jesus, not you. You’re five. This was a woman…” I lost myself momentarily in the memory. That split second is all Shorty needed, tackling me to the ground and detained me in one fell swoop.

“Who are you talking about?” She pressed.

“Is that a gun?” I felt cold steel against the back of my neck. 

“No,” she chided. “It’s a piece of metal pipe I carry around for use in situations like this. Now tell me about this woman.”

“I don’t know who she is,” I said. “She showed up this morning after you punched me and shot up the diner I was at. I ran away and haven’t seen her since.”

“What did she look like?”

“Tall, thin, tan…”

“What was she wearing?”

“A dress?” I felt the metal move from my head. I glanced over my shoulder to see a withering look. “I think it was yellow,” I elaborated. “And she wore boots.”

“Damn it,” Shorty looked away, pained as she stashed her heat away in one of her infinite pockets. Promptly she stood and strolled away.

“Where are you going?” Jumping to my feet I trailed after.

“Oh, I don’t know. Probably back to the police station to look up another bounty.”

“So… you don’t want me anymore?” I felt relieved yet troubled at the sudden shift.

“It’s not that,” she sighed. “I’m just out of my league. Annett’s after you, which means no one else is.”

“Annett,” I tasted the name on my tongue. “So she is a bounty hunter?”

“Obviously,” Shorty condescended.

“I thought only grubby little dropouts like you were bounty hunters, not tall women in high heels.”

“It’s a strange line of work that attracts a strange line of people.”

“Is she really that good?” I asked. “She just outpaces everyone?”

Shorty glanced from left to right. “No, not really. She is good at what she does, no doubt. But more than that it means no one else is stupid enough to get in her way.”

“No shit, she tried to kill me.”

“She didn’t try to kill you, she just doesn’t know how to be subtle. I’m surprised she let you get away.”

“I ran.” I specified.

“She let you get away.” She corrected. “Either way I’m out. Have a nice life behind bars. Sorry about the mistaken identity, but no one’s going to give you sympathy. Especially not Annett.”

I slowed and stopped, watching the short figured girl shrink with each step. I wasn’t smart; not at all. But I wasn’t stupid either. “Hey!” I ran after Shorty and grabbed her elbow. “Arrest me.”

“What?” She asked, trying to shake me off.

I held tighter. “I’ll go with you willingly. Arrest me. If this Annett is as bad as you say she is and as bad as I remember her to be I’d rather plead my case in court than keep running.”

“Sucks to be you.” She said coolly. Disengaging herself she walked away faster.

“I’m serious.” I chased after. She quickened her pace and it wasn’t long before I flat out ran to keep her in sight. “Arrest me! You can collect the bounty and feet your cat!”

“Get away from me creepy old man!”    

“I’ll put the handcuffs on myself!”

“No!”

Bazooka 5

“Mistaken identity?” I repeated.

“Seems that way,” she observed.

“So some other guy committed a bunch of robberies and everyone thinks I’m him?”

“Seems that way,” The young girl and I walked along the boardwalk. The sun was setting, sending pretty pink hues over the land. The scene was stunning. I would rather be anywhere else. A man also going by the name of Mike just so happened to be a notorious bank robber. At large for more than a year, showing no signs of slowing down, the authorities were desperate. Lacking a last name or even a photo they called out the big guns; placing a hefty bounty on his head a flood of bounty hunters, the girl to my right included, flocked to the city from all over the world. “You look similar to the description and after some asking around I found out your name is Mike,” she continued and shrugged. “So I thought you were him.”  

“So what’s your name?” I asked, trying to take my mind off the reality looming over me.

“Shorty.” The girl answered simply. She held my hand, fingers laced. She insisted on the physical contact lest I “be tempted to dump” her. Others walking by probably thought I scored a girl half my age, the lucky bastard.

“Shorty?” I licked my second ice cream cone of the day.

“It’s what my mom calls me.” She smiled brightly at the mention.

“Did that start before or after you learned to punch like a street fighter?” I could feel my jaw move in a way it never had before. I was certain something was not where it should be.

“Oh, she doesn’t know I do this for a living. She thinks I work at a fruit stand.”

“Both sound ridiculous.” I couldn’t see it. The girl, Shorty, looked like she weighed all of a single pound and spent too much time at comic conventions. True, she’d gotten the upper hand on me twice, but she had the element of surprise preceding both.  

“How’d you get all those cuts?” She asked absentmindedly, working away at her own cone. “I only hit you a couple times, yet you look like you’ve been mugged by a gang. Better not hit you again or they won’t take you.”

“Who won’t take me?”

“You’re pretty slow too. No matter,” throwing the remainder of her ice-cream over her shoulder ( I felt slighted at the waste) she reached towards the handcuffs still dangling from my wrist. 

I pulled back, hands outstretched. “Please,” I begged a kid half my age for the second time in less than an hour. “I still don’t get it. Who are you?”

“I told you, I’m Shorty the Bounty Hunter.”

“But I’m not the guy. Mistaken identity, remember?” She advancing – I retreating, trying to bide time to think of an escape. Maybe I could bribe her with more ice cream?

“For the record, I believe you.” She said. “I believe you when you say you’re the wrong Mike. I believe you when you say you haven’t done anything wrong. But there’s a wanted poster hanging front and center in the downtown police station that’s got your face written all over it. Money is money and I got a cat needs feeding. Sorry pal…”

Bazooka 3

Bullets exploded a wooden light pole as I frantically rounded a corner. “What did I ever do to you?” I screamed, the woman in the yellow dress flying after me. Needless to say she seemed to be in fantastic shape, as the heavy artillery loaded around her neck did nothing to slow her down. 

Running blindly down one street after another I risked a look over my shoulder, witnessing the lady show surprising versatility as, in one bound, she leaped onto a low stone boarder while reloading her rocket-launcher. I could tell it wasn’t an easy thing to do. I wondered where her semi-automatic went and thought back fondly to those moments she wielded that instead. Upon loading the rocket she stopped, took aim, and fired.

“Oh shi –” The ground erupted beneath me as I was once again thrown through the air. Landing on the ground with a thud I rolled head over foot, coming to a stop in a crumpled heap covered in bruises and cuts, gravel and dirt blasted into every pour of my body. Smoke clouded my vision. I coughed and lay collapsed for an unmeasured amount of time before finding the motivation to sit up.

She was gone, but the damage left behind certainly acted as calling-card. A crowd of onlookers gathered to marvel at the crater in the middle of the street but somehow overlooked my presence. Content with that, I crawled to the curb and tried to clear my head, now nursing far more sores than a broken nose. Police officers came, I can only assume there’s a file on it, and chased everyone away…  

“So,” Officer Buck worried at my pause. “I already know all this. What happened next?” 

“My mom always gave me ice-cream when I fell,” I said absentmindedly. “So I got ice-cream.”

Luckily for me the park was nearby. I felt at this point in the day I should take a break and examine my life, so a bought a cone and strolled. I took a lick and thought back to the woman in the yellow dress. “Man, what a crazy broad…” I chuckled. Hell, maybe I’d imagined the whole thing? Unemployment can do that to a person.  

“Kyaa!” I heard above me. Looking up just in time to offer a landing platform for a foot, I felt my precious ice-cream fall from my grasp as legs locked around me. Fists pounded my head and shoulders left and right, but it felt more like the temper tantrum of a child than an actual assault. Blindly I grabbed an arm and tore the attacker away, throwing them to the ground.

 “You?” I meant to sound accusing, but came off more confused when the figure straightened from her fallen position. Remember the fetus that decked me in the bar? She simply rolled her shoulder and raised her fists. Instead of hitting me again she spun on her heels and performed a perfect round-house kick to my jaw. What was it with this chick and the face? It was all a bit much.  

Bazooka 2

“Where were we?” Buck asked.

“The beautiful lady,” I said.

“Ah,” He indicated simply, jotting down another note (he’d started writing shortly after I’d begun my narrative).

“So I was in the diner and she walked in,” I continued. “I said she is the most beautiful woman in the world, and she is. No doubt, damn near perfection.”

Wearing a short yellow dress and knee high boots, she dressed like she knew it too. Most, out of personal preference and opinion, would describe her as drop-dead gorgeous. In that moment I would have described her as leaning more towards striking; I must be honest, the massive gun slung over her shoulder swayed me. Semi-automatic, I guess. Aside from the waitress and old man near me there were all of five other people in the diner, and when she walked in all eyes gravitated to her.

She strolled with precision, casting her sight steadily around the room until her gaze fell to me. She stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes might have narrowed just an inch. I glanced around, confused and a little nervous as to why this woman fixated on such a lowly person.

Next to me, Santa chuckled and prodded with his elbow. “Another one…” I think he whispered. 

Quicker then lightning the woman reached back and grabbed her gun. “Uh…” I had time to get out before the first bullets flew. She hit the cash-register; the drawer exploded, sending dollar bills flying. The prospect she might be some sort of modern Robin Hood crossed my mind, and I thought that was kinda cool. Then she pointed the barrel at me. I thought, like an idiot, “Why would you shoot me? I’m not full of money.” She pulled the trigger.

I’d like to say my inner superhero reviled itself and I pulled off a daring escapade in which I dodged the bullets, disarmed the perpetrator, and won the heart of the youthful waitress in the process – truthfully the waitress wasn’t youthful, but then again neither am I – thus setting myself up quite nicely for the rest of my life as the town mascot.

What actually happened was far less graceful. I slid off my stool and fell face first to the ground. She shot, and continued to shoot; oblivious she was missing her target. The sound was deafening. I army crawled my way around the counter to find the only two friends I had in the world already there. The waitress and Santa hugged each other with their eyes squeezed shut tightly. 

Everything went quite. Santa opened one eye, then two. He looked at me and motioned. I shook my head. He motioned again, hugging close the waitress for emphasis. Balling my hands into fists I poked my head above the counter and there she was, this time with a rocket launcher. That stupid “Uh…” escaped my lips again. Where had that come from?

The woman heard me. Looking up, her hair fell away from her face in slow motion as she kneeled and hoisted her weapon. I looked back at Santa and the waitress.

Fire and pieces of everything exploded around me. She completely blew out the back of the small diner. Horror struck, I observed a pudgy youth on a tricycle across the street. Frozen in awe at the sudden excitement his chocolate cone dripped down his hand and onto the cement. I saw my opportunity and took it; clambering over the broken bricks down to the sidewalk.

The first words I heard her speak: a cry for me to cease and desist. The boy, jumping back to reality, put feet to peddle and booked it out of sight. I made like him and ran.      

Bazooka 1

Funny, the interrogation room seemed a lot bigger than I’d imagined it would be. The police officer, Officer Buck, handed me a cup of coffee and sat down opposite me. I cradled the cup of warm liquid and watched as he flipped through what I assumed to be my file. Looking at me, then down at the papers, then back at me he grunted and flipped the whole thing shut. “You’ll have to excuse me; I’ve been up for a while. Uh, Mr Kheschlavesh?”

“You can just call me Mike,” I humored him.

“Mike, why don’t we start from the beginning?”

“It’s kind of a long story,” I offered. The officer smiled and nodded in encouragement. I sighed and began my unfortunate tale. “It all started in a bar.”

I’d been laid-off for the better part of a year; filling out application after application with no luck I decided to take a day off and go to the bar. About a half passed noon the door opened and in walked a young girl, a teenager in her wildest dreams. This was a little concerning, why would a kid be in a bar? But the bartender was already walking over to see all about it, so I shrugged and turned back to my beer. I heard voices then scuffling. “Wow,” I thought. “Girl must really want to grow up fast.”

I felt a hand on my shoulder that spun me fast, bringing me face to face with the young girl. Definitely pre-anything, with short deep red hair offsetting her long cream trench-coat, she looked like an anime character – not that I know what that is mind you. Gripped my shirt she smiled in a way all-together unbecoming of her age. I had just enough time to look over her shoulder to spot the bar tender acting as a floor ornament before the young lady punched me in the nose.

“Wow.” The waitress said as she poured me more coffee. “And you have no idea why she hit you?

“Nope.” I mumbled, slouched at the counter. “At that point everyone else noticed what was happening and dog-piled her. I split as soon as I could and ran here.”

“Wow.” She said again.

“Oww…” I shuttered, adjusting the ice-pack the cook had given me against my nose. “She looked like she was five. A fetus. A fetus decked me.” I said in sad realization.

“What’s the problem bub?” An older gentleman, with a marvelous beard of rare white, seated himself next to me.

“Why didn’t you go home after the bar? Why go to a diner?” Buck interrupted.

“I don’t know,” I shrugged, honestly without a clue. “I just didn’t think about it. Anyways, so this guy asks me, “what’s wrong?” “Troubles with a woman,” I said.

“Ah, I understand bub. Love always had a way of tripping me up too.” The man chuckled and pounded the counter with his wooden palm. The waitress promptly fetched him his own cup of coffee.

I straightened from my weighted position and stared at him. “No, “bub”, love has not tripped me up”, I said with more sarcasm than necessary. “I don’t even know the girl.”

“Really? Well…” The scruffy man scratched his beard in confusion, then drew up a sly smile. “You old dog!” His bellowing tease accompanied a slap on my back. “You’re so good with the ladies you don’t know what to do! Let me give you some advice –”

“I don’t know her! I don’t know what she wants, but something tells me punching random strangers who haven’t done anything wrong their entire life is not how she woos them!” The waitress stood behind the counter, watching us go back and forth with amusement.

“Well you never know. This gal got a name?”

The pain rippling across my face had yet to give way to improvement. “I’m sure her mamma gave her one but I’d be damned if I know. We skipped formalities.” The heat of the coffee burned my nose as I tried to drink. I was sure the little girl broke it.

Somewhat subdued, Santa, as I have since come to know him as, pulled out a small flask and dumped the contents into his coffee. Downing the whole thing in one go he quickly ordered another cup. He then started to sniffle. “My wife –”

“No,” I threw my hands up. “No. We are not going down this road and I refuse to become your best buddy because that is exactly where this is going,”

The bell to the door rang. Everyone turned to see the most beautiful woman alive walk in. I would have liked to know her better. Too bad she shot me.

*Note: I’m super excited about this project. It’s an idea I’ve held onto since high school (feel the oldness!) and am finally setting into motion. This isn’t something I’ll be updating consistently but rather periodically whenever inspiration hits. I want this to be an ongoing story that spans a very long period of time, possibly years. A story that never ends one could say, but builds and changes over time.

West

All eyes turned to the man who blew in. Squeaky hinges announcing the arrival of a newcomer walking through the saloon doors without a sound. He headed straight to the bar, careful to keep his hat and eyes pulled down low, lower than the floor.  

 

“Where you from stranger?” The bartender asked, forever polishing a fine glass that hadn’t seen liquid in five years. The man remained silent, instead holding up a finger. Pouring a drink the bartender next asked him where he was heading. Again the man remained silent.

 

During this time the man’s attention had been drawn to a bit of a ruckus. Poker was the game, and a good game at that. Five men sat around a round table near the back of the saloon, as was customary. They’d fallen silent when the man had first entered, watching him with judging hawk eyes like the rest, but had quickly been drawn back in by their addiction.

 

Now the strange man was not a fan of gambling. But at the same time he was. Standing from the bar he invited himself into their game. These men of chance knew each other well and also knew a sucker to be had. They thought it good one had fallen into their laps so willingly.

 

A new game began and quickly ended. The newcomer lost what little money he had. Next he bet his hat. That he lost. Next his gloves. Those went. Then his scarf. That as well. Finally he bet his boots, a nice but worn pair. But alas, those he lost. The other men grew bored. It wasn’t even sport at this rate. But at last the underdog bet it all, his gun; a man’s pride packed into a handful of metal. This the other men were mildly interested in, so they went all in. A difficult battle ensued, making the whole room sweat.

 

Finally, finally, the stranger won. Outraged the others grabbed their own guns, flipping their chairs back. But the gunman was quicker, throwing up his gun into the nearest man’s face.

 

“Listen here boys,” His voice surprisingly coy. “I won fair and square.”

 

“I think not.” The click of a gun froze him. Turning his head and inch and his eyes a mile he found himself had by the sheriff. Reaching up his sleeve, the Sheriff discovered an ace stashed. “Throw down your gun and come along quietly.” The Sheriff ordered.

 

Obeying, the man started to laugh, then cry. “My family…” He spoke.

 

“What about them?” Asked The Sheriff.

 

“I’m trying to find them, but it seems the closer I get, the farther set back I become.” Raising his hands, the gunman slowly turned and bolted for the door. Shouting, the Sheriff cocked his gun and let a bullet fly.

 

The gunman saw light reflected off the sand the streets of the town were made of. It was awfully rough to land on, but by that time he felt little. Struggling to stand, the man promised in his heart that he would experience that ecstasy of a reunion soon regardless of any setbacks he encountered. Regardless of how many times he fell, regardless of the blood choking his throat, regardless of the cloud blocking out his vision. He was so certain he family was just within grasp. Why, they were so near he could smell the soap off his daughter’s head.