This article is part of the Eastwood series.
"Monarchy degenerates into tyranny, aristocracy into oligarchy, and democracy into savage violence and chaos."
"Sometimes you have to be a bitch to get things done."
This is the last day. It feels like a last day. It's got one foot on the gallows step and the other one in a pile of dog shit.
I'm the dog shit, shoved into an Escalade and then smashed between a couple of too-tan frosties I recognize from Pillman's San Diego crew. Pillman's a perverted asshole with both hands in the Tijuana drug trade and a gun-for-hire outfit on the side. He and his crew have had more war crimes between them than the walls at Spandau Prison.
These two in particular have the nasty acne scars of roid fiends and look like they probably have enough junk in their veins to get a vampire arrested for intent to distribute. When they yanked me out of the recovery room at UCLA Med one of them said his name was Ted and the other one didn't say anything. They smell like fried chicken and raw simian hatred.
The front of the Escalade is occupied by a couple of Benedict Arnolds that I hired from the freelance pool. They were supposed to be part of my crew. The fat guy from Kansas with the biker tattoos and the bald head is Dorothy, a fetal alcohol case with an affinity for shotguns and meth. His friend driving the Escalade is Mississippi Tar Coon, an aging ganger from Old South Central who gave himself that name so he'd have an excuse to beat up white guys. I figured they were both too stupid and mean to stab me in the back.
"You alright back there?" Dorothy asks me like he cares.
I'm far from alright. Before Ted and his buddy yanked the plugs out of my veins the doctor had a nice long chat with me. He told me they couldn't do anything for the pain because I had nearly bled out, but while he was cleaning up my guts and closing me up he stitched a little ball of time-release dope into the wall of my stomach.
According to the clock on the dash it's a little before seven in the morning. That means I still have over three hours to go before the dope kicks in and my body goes numb from the neck down. Until that happens I'm feeling it all.
It's sort of exhilarating in a really shitty way. I can feel every cracked rib, every tear and fissure in my guts, every place in or on my body where nerves have been abused.
I can see myself in the rearview. I look like a terminal cancer patient, complete with the hospital gown. I don't feel drained and spent like a cancer patient, I can feel the fire of all this pain cooking me up. I'm practically delirious with that shit.
"Hey, Dorothy," I shout and he makes eye-contact in the mirror, "did I ever tell you what a dumbfuck redneck piece of shit you are?"
"Now come on, boss," Mississippi chides, "we're just doing our job here. They sent us to fetch you so we're fetching you."
There's a joke in there somewhere, but I've got a hive of angry bees in my guts and they aren't letting up. Laughter is probably a bad idea anyway. My sutures feel like they are going to give way just from the jostling of the vehicle.
"Come on, don't I deserve a day off?" I ask.
"They said they need you for the Big Stunt," Mississippi explains. "I think Eduardo tried to talk them out of it, but it wasn't happening."
Fucking Eduardo. There's the real turncoat. These two boneheads just follow the carrot; I knew Eduardo and thought I could trust him.
"After that performance on TV last night, I'm surprised they even want you back," says Ted.
The guy on my left giggles and snorts.
"Who hired these two cut-ups?" I ask.
"Ah," Dorothy looks back over his shoulder, "Rollins told Eduardo he needed more manpower for the Big Stunt. Eduardo was on the road or something so he just hired people on the GAEN."
"He hired just about everyone not on a job," Mississippi adds with a hint of apology in his voice.
We're on Wilshire about three blocks west of La Cienega when I realize that things are not normal in Los Angeles. First, I hear the oscillating thump of multiple helicopters Doppler overhead. Next, it's the repeating shik-pop of LAPD riot cannons on automatic. Several of them by the sound of it. Finally it's the faint stutter of small-arms fire and the deep cataclysmic rumble of a major riot. Soon after that we start to see individual rioters.
Their noses and mouths are covered with handkerchiefs and their t-shirts declare their affinity for various fringe bands and political causes. These are the casual rioters and citizens swept up in the riot. When I start seeing professional rioters I realize that Mississippi has no idea what he's doing.
"They're out awful early today," notes Dorothy with growing concern, "something must've set them off."
The pros are lean and mean in milsurp gas masks and clothes woven with plastic inserts to protect them from the riot guns. They have smoke grenades and fireworks and carry stolen police shields and baseball bats. A few are even openly carrying AK-47s and shotguns. It's going to get real ugly if it hasn't already.
"Man," Ted says, "I don't know if I like this."
As the 19th century diver approaches a giant clam, a flash of brilliant golden light flares from within the shell. I emerge in a swirl of bubbles and do the timeless universal underwater hand signals for the following: ZODIAC KILLER, KKK, BLOOD OF YOUTH
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The misadventures of an aging mercenary navigating the intrigues of the dividing States of America.