~ Florescent Horizons~
Fists was surly that night which was unusual because he didn’t usually wax surly unless you got on the wrong side of him. You didn’t want to get on the wrong side of Fists. Oh no, you didn’t. He’d been out of sorts of late because Tinker, the guy who wrenched for him, disappeared a few days before. This, in and of itself, wasn’t all that unusual. Tinker was a drunk and had a liking for meth when in the process of doing what he liked most, diving to the bottom of a bottle. He showed up late for work more often than not, red eyes, puffy cheeks and shaking like a flea-bitten old dog. What was a bit unusual this time is that he hadn’t shown up at all. Oh, and Fists’ crank was gone too, a whole ounce, three thousand dollars worth after the cut.
Willy handed Fists a baggy with white powder in it. “Here’s a half ounce of mannitol, all ready for the cut. I got a commitment for half a ‘Z’, twelve hundred bucks.”
“Later!” Fists said tersely. He tossed the bag on his desk. “We got something to take care of tonight. I need your help.” He handed Willy the keys to his Eldorado. “You drive. Take I-70 east to the Last Chance exit. We’ll get off there.”
Willy took a deep breath, got in the Eldorado and backed it out of the garage. He waited in silence as Fists let the dogs loose and locked the shop. Willy’s mind was loco-looping, wondering what the hell was going on. He didn’t like the feel of it and wasn’t about to ask Fists any questions. He didn’t want to get on the wrong side of Fists. Oh no, he didn’t.
The moon was around ninety-nine percent and Willy let the Cadillac have its head. Smooth as a baby’s butt at a hundred miles an hour. “Slow down!” Fists ordered, “You’re behaving like a pig magnet.”
“Nice night for a ride,” Willy said offhandedly, thinking wistfully of his and Fists’ Harleys parked in Fists’ shop.
“Not tonight,” Fist said, “Just drive.”
Last Chance, Colorado, a blink into Kansas and you’d miss it. Willy followed Fists’ instructions, took the off-ramp and bump-bumped the Eldorado across the rough dirt road in a farmer’s field. “Stop and open the trunk,” Fists ordered.
Willy breathed a little easier. Now everything was beginning to make sense, hideout guns and cash. That’s what was probably in the trunk. They were out here to do a deal, maybe take someone down. Fists wasn’t usually so closed mouthed about details.
Willy turned the key and the trunk popped open. Fists stepped forward and smashed the trunk light out with the butt of his forty-five. “Should have taken care of that before,” he said.
Willy blinked his eyes. Had he seen what he thought he saw in the instant of bright light before Fists put it out? Tinker, a bandana stuffed in his mouth and bound with cable ties. Fists gave him a nudge from behind and placed a set of wire cutters in his hand. “Here, cut him loose.”
Oh, this wasn’t going well at all. Willy and Fists had talked about him making his bones but he wasn’t sure he wanted to go that far in and he sure as hell didn’t want to earn them by offing Tinker. Tinker was a drunk but Willy had a soft spot in his heart for alcoholics and drug addicts. His father and brothers were of that ilk. They usually hurt themselves more than anyone else.
Willy reached into the dark cavern of the trunk. He had to feel his way to the plastic ties binding Tinker’s ankles and wrists, difficult because they were trussed up and linked together behind his back. “I hog-tied the sumbitch,” Fists offered.
Tinker climbed out of the trunk. “Thanks, Willy,” he said sheepishly.
“Get that pillow case out of the trunk,” Fists said to Willy. He took Tinker by the arm. “You come with me.”
The pillow case had some heft to it, something metal clanking together suspiciously. Willy wasn’t about to risk a peek or put his hand in there. He followed Fists to where he had taken Tinker. They were silhouettes bathed in the moon of the still night, so dark and desolate a mantle of stars was visible. Moon or man could not own their light in the true domain of earth and space. Tinker was on his knees. Fists’ hands held his gun, arms stiff, a shooter’s stance, the barrel of the gun pressed tight against Tinker’s forehead. Fists twisted it a bit and a trickle of blood ran down the man’s face.
“You regret lying to me?” Fists asked.
Tinker groaned, an animal sound deep and lost inside. “Agh, yeah, I am..”
“I got customers,” Fists said softly, tapping the pistol against Tinker’s head. “You lie to me and I lie to them. I don’t like that.”
Tinker pressed his face into the gun. “I didn’t mean to. I’m no good. Just.. just.. you know.”
“You been running your mouth in the bars,” Fists said. “Telling everybody you don’t care if I find you. Well, here I am.”
Fists stood away, tucked his pistol into the back of his jeans. “Stand up and take your clothes off,” he ordered.
Tinker struggled to his feet and began to walk round and round in a tight circle mumbling incoherently. “Undress that sonofabitch,” Fists said to Willy.
Willy took a step forward. He reached out and touched Tinker’s arm. Tinker jerked away. “No, please!” he begged. “I know you’re pissed ‘cause I took your speed but I’ll pay you back, Fists. I promise! I’ll work for nothing, show up on time every day. Please!”
“Did you hear me?” Fists addressed Willy. “Or was that cockroach making too much noise?”
Willy grabbed the front of Tinker’s shirt. Tinker turned to run and the shirt ripped from his body. “Get ‘im,” Fists said softly.
Tinker fell face first into the freshly plowed earth. Willy, a football player in his high-school days, had run him down and shoulder tackled him at the knees. He pulled Tinker up from the ground and marched him back to where Fists waited on the moonlit path. “What are you gonna do?” Tinker whined plaintively.
“You won’t like it,” Fists chuckled. He pulled the forty-five out and pointed it at Tinker’s head. “But it’s better than being shot in the head. Now take your clothes off, all of them.” He leveled the gun, took a step forward, and nestled the end of the barrel into the spot between Tinker’s eyes. “A man should always have a choice. I respect that. You didn’t. This is your choice.” The distinct noise of the metallic mechanism of the pistol owned the moment as Fists pulled the hammer back with his thumb. “Last time. Take your clothes off.”
Tinker pulled down his trousers. He had begun to choke and sob. His hands were shaking terribly and sharing some inconsolable rhythm with the gurgling sounds coming from his throat. “Pull down your boxers,” Fists ordered.
Drool running from his mouth, Tinker was barely coherent, literally shocked out of his mind at the mere prospect of what might be about to happen. Fists nodded at Willy and he pulled down the man’s boxer shorts. Fists stepped forward and slapped him on his bare ass. “Ya know, Tinker, I could have had you the first day you screwed me around.” He waved his gun toward the moon. “I waited for that because I wanted you to see the full light of your mistake.” He chuckled. “And I need light to do what Willy and I are about to do about you.”
Willy was almost as apprehensive as Tinker. He had no idea what Fists’ plans might be but hoped it wasn’t what he was thinking. He couldn’t do that, no way he could do that. He glanced at Tinker just as Fists slapped him hard in the chest. Tinker fell flat on his ass, a loud oomph of air rushing from him, forced out in a surprised gush. “Take his shoes off!” Fists ordered. “I want him butt-assed naked and we’re running out of time. We got things to do.”
Tinker stood on his tiptoes, arms reaching for the sky. “Turn around,” Fists whispered. “Now bend over and grab your ankles.”
“Oh, God, God,” Tinker moaned.
“Now for your part.” Fists grinned at Willy. “Go clean him up. He done shit and pissed all over himself, then fell in the dirt, poor l’il guy.”
Willy used the rag of Tinker’s shirt to wipe him off. “Make sure he’s dry everywhere,” Fists advised. “We gotta have ‘im tight ‘n dry.”
Good God, Willy thought. This is some crazy shit. Any sympathy he had for Tinker was quickly dissipating as he began to wonder how he was going to handle the next few minutes of his life. “Hand me that bag,” Fists said. “Then go over and reach into the hidey-hole of my ride. We gotta get ready for the next part.”
Willy returned with a can of WD-40. Fists smiled at him, dark and evil. He took the can of lubricant from Willy’s hand. “Good stuff.” He unscrewed a false bottom from the can, palmed a vial, winked and tossed it to Willy. “Have yourself a blast o’ that. Tell me what you think.”
Willy held the vial up to the moonlight, squinted his eyes to better see its yellow/white powder contents. “Hurry up!” Fists said impatiently. “We don’t have all night.”
The cap of the vial had a tiny plastic flip-out spoon which Willy used to scoop out some of its contents. He placed a finger on his left nostril, applying pressure to hold it closed, while he inhaled the powder up the other side of his nose. “Holy shit!” he exclaimed, extending his arm, offering the vial back to Fists.
Fists waved him off. “Do the other side. I can’t have you runnin’ around in circles on me.”
Willy laughed and loaded up the other side of his nose. Fists took the vial and quickly had a couple of blasts for himself. He stashed the vial back in the base of the WD-40 can and handed it to Willy. “Well, what do you think?”
“Holy shit!” Willy repeated. “It’s great! I feel like someone’s taking the back of my head off.” He wiped his nose with the back of his hand. He held it up for Fists to see. “Bleeding like a stuck pig. That stuff’s a little raw.”
“Yeah,” Fists agreed. “A brother of mine cooked it up to help cover up shithead here rippin’ me off. Made me a good deal and did it quick. Too quick maybe, he didn’t cure it right.” He glanced thoughtfully at Willy. “Hey, while we’re dealing with Tinker here, you be thinking about something to name this shit. It’ll smooth out some with that mannitol but it won’t take the yellow out. Shooters won’t like it one bit.”
“Sure,” willy said, casting a worried sidelong glance in Tinker’s direction.
“Go spread his butt cheeks,” Fists ordered, all friendliness gone from his voice. He was definitely in back to business mode.
Here we go, Willy thought. Tinker jerked violently when Willy touched him. “Knock it off!” Willy hissed. “This will be over before you know it. You’re just making it worse with your bullshit.”
Fists, in his directorial voice, intoned, “Turn his asshole toward the light.”
Tinker shuddered as Willy arced his body around. “He has dirt on his ass,” Fists advised, “Wipe ‘im off again.”
Willy picked the rag up from the ground and pushed it up and down Tinker’s butt crack. He heard Fists pick up the pillow case behind him, whatever was in it clinking and clanking in the still darkness. “Hold ‘im just like that,” Fists crooned. “We gotta start in the tight spots.”
A tiny steel ball ding-ding-dinging against the inside of a tin cup. Willy’s mind jumped back to his poor-boy childhood, aggies and steelies, turf wars in the housing projects. He glanced back at Fists and just didn’t get it. The man was standing there casually shaking a can of spray paint as if he was preparing to prime a gas tank on his Hawg. Hold ‘im tight,” he said. He held the nozzle a couple of inches away from its target and began to paint Tinker’s asshole. His eyes were next and under his arms. Then came the pecker. Willy had to hold Tinker’s balls up because he was shaking and gasping and literally couldn’t get hold of himself.
Fifteen cans of florescent green spray paint, that’s what was in that old pillow case. Fists stood back to admire his work. He had Tinker turn in slow circles, tried to talk him through a pirouette but the man was way past being able to manage such tricks. “Hey, Willy,” he said. How do you like that? Is that better than killing a man or beating him up or what?”
“I don’t know,” Willy replied. “I just don’t know.”
“Must be all right if I put one over on you,” Fists mused. “Did I miss anything?”
“Hell,” Willie said, “That man is green everywhere but the bottoms of his feet.”
“Good man!” Fists exclaimed. He gave Tinker a shove. “Sit down. You ain’t done yet!” He tossed a can of paint to Willy. “You finish ‘im off. Get the bottoms of those feet and in between his little tootsies. I’ll lay us out a proper line on the mirror before we send him on his way.”
Willy was relieved to finish ‘im off as it were, glad it didn’t seem to require a bullet or baseball bat as finish ‘im off usually did. Tinker kept trying to ask him questions but Willy refused to engage. He had a feeling this was going to turn out okay, no dead guys or anything.
“Go get yours!” Willy jumped at the sound of Fists’ voice. He stepped away and Fists ordered Tinker to his feet. If it was going to happen, now would be the time. While he was on the way to the car, sixteen steps, or when he was inside with the hundred-dollar bill straw giving himself another nose bleed. It didn’t though. He returned to Fists and Tinker and found Fists in a campfire stories kinda mood. “See,” Fists said to Tinker. He tapped him on the nose with a stiff finger. “Look at me when I’m talkin’ to you.”
Tinker winced as he forced his eyes wide open, flinched when Fists’ hand moved. “Burns, don’t it?” Fists said. He pulled a tissue from his shirt pocket and dabbed at the corners of Tinker’s eyes. “You’re just skittish as hell, aren’t you?” he chuckled.
“Farmers hereabouts been reporting flying saucer sightings longer ‘n we been alive,” Fists said in a conversational tone. “Most of ‘em pack iron for skunks, eagles, coyotes, any critter posing a threat to their critters. Don’t know how they’d react to a green man come to the door.” He looked off to the west. “Denver’s about forty miles from here,” he said. “That’s where Willy ‘n me are going.” You can too if you’d like. Thing is, me being a man of my word, I’ll kill your ass first chance I get.” He pointed to the east with a crooked finger. “Kansas that way, Dorothy, Toto, and all that shit. Scarecrows and tin men, maybe they’ll think you’re just another strange character jumped outa some writer’s brain.”
Fists pulled out his pistol, made a big display of ejecting a shell and jacking a fresh one into the chamber. “One with your name on it,” he said to Tinker. “I’d get packin’, I were you. Make your choice.”
Tinker went to Kansas.
“Clean up this mess and let’s get out o’ here,” Fists said to Willy. “I’ll drive back. You drive too damned slow!”
Interstate 70, speedometer pinned, four o’ clock in the morning, beatin’ the sunrise to Denver. “Well hell,” Fists pulled his fingers through his beard. “What we gonna call it?” He made a cluck-cluck sound with his tongue. “I wanna draw some connection to tonight’s events but not directly and I want something catchy, some snazzy assed thing to draw in the shooters. We gotta move this stuff quick to cover our ass.”
Willy stared through the windshield, mesmerized by the predawn silhouette of the Rocky Mountains against the sky. He glanced across the car at his friend, green fingers tapping out a beat with ZZ Topp, “Easing down the highway in a new Cadillac.”
“How ‘bout ‘Florescent Horizons’ Willy said dreamily.
“Goddam if that ain’t it!” Fists slapped the steering wheel with the palm of his hand. He flipped the vial across the seat. “Glad you was with me tonight, Willy. Let’s get to shakin’ and bakin’! We gon’ make some Florescent Horizons.”
So they did, down the road, singin’ with the radio, “I’m bad, I’m nationwide!”
© 2017 artwork, music & words
conceived by & property of
Tom (WordWulf) Sterner 2017 ©