Monday, December 15, 2008

Desert Vengeance 6

One hundred and forty one Harleys riding full bore down Interstate 17 was enough to make even the most stout hearted trucker pull his rig over onto the highways shoulder and stop.

The close formation and intense speed made it clear these riders had a purpose and they were pissed.

A rolling, rumbling mass of thunderous sound reverberated clear into the valley below.

Buildings shook, the occupants peered out windows and seeing the oncoming horde quickly closed the blinds and locked the doors.

Not understanding the purpose, no one wanted to be the reason for this groups arrival.

Pop, leading the pack, headed straight onto the off-ramp for Grand Avenue.

At speeds almost seeming to defy physics. The parade of angry snarling bikes rolled through town. Streets full of activity just moments before were devoid of any signs of life. Air raid sirens have never been known to be this effective.
Turning onto Camelback road from Grand Avenue The pack gained speed. Seeing the sign for the Panama Red bar. Pop raised his arm and made a circular motion. The military precision in which the bikers encircled the building would have made a West point drill team seem disorganized.

As one, the riders placed the bikes on their side stands, killed the ignitions and dismounted. The abrupt silence amplified the still reverberating echoes shuddering across the valley.

Local clergy hiding behind the doors of their churches hastily checked the big book's passages on the Apocalypse. Checking to see if perhaps they had misread it, just in case it was one hundred and forty, not four. Judgement day must have certainly arrived.

And for some. It had.

Animal heard a shot. Before his ears could tell him the direction of the sound, his eyes watched the gunman's upper body explode onto the walls of the tavern.

A second blast tossed the gunman's accomplice clear over the upturned table. The look of surprise frozen forever in his eyes.

Animal looked to the direction of the sound having regained his sense of direction. Oracle was standing at the bar with a shit eating grin, holding a duffel bag in one hand and a sawed-off shotgun in the other.

Oracle laughed and said, "They made a helluva motorcycle back in nineteen fifteen and they make some damn fine guns too." referring to the Iver Johnson shotgun.

Tossing the duffel bag over to Animal he continued, "Those two idiots were sent to take you out? They could have sent Abbot and Costello and they wouldn't have been as sloppy."

"Sloppy or not, had you not been here they might have succeeded," replied Animal.

"I doubt that dumb shit could've aimed well enough to hit you. Shit, he got Henderson in the leg. Not exactly a marksman."

"Still I owe you one."

"Yeah and for the times in ninety five and ninety eight. But then lest we forget the times in ninety one, two and four where you saved my ass. But who's counting?"

Looking over at Henderson, Animal wasn't really surprised to see him sitting upright in the doorway casually smoking a cigar. One hand holding a tablecloth over the bullet wound in his thigh.

"I don't know if I should even ask. You OK?" asked Animal

"Sure why wouldn't I be" replied Henderson.

"Oh, I don't know. Perhaps the sudden ventilation of your leg?"

"This?" pointing to the hole in his pants leg. "I've gotten worse being bitten by a horsefly."

"Remind me never to go to your ranch." Chuckled Animal.

The tavern walls started to vibrate with a slow but steady capacony. The wooden floorboards creaked aganst each other spraying up dust plumes. Animal could hear the sound encircle the tavern and suddenly fall silent.

Oracle spoke up "The Cavalry's here, just in time, too" he laughed.

Animal, seeing Pop enter the doorway chimed in, "Hey Custer, too many Indians on the way here?"

Pop holding up a one fingered salute smiled and said. "Jack in the Box was having a lunch special today. We didn't feel the need to be in any real hurry. After all, it's just you three."

Henderson grinning replied, "Hey, don't bunch me in with this scooter trash. I'm a talented kinda guy, I'm worth saving. Can't say the same for this cretin," pointing a finger at Animal.

"Cretin? For a guy two barely evolutionary steps above primordial soup you should talk."

Marduk hearing the banter back and forth said, "Look if you idiots don't knock it off. I'll take your bikes and lock'em away for a week."

Oracle,Pop, Henderson and Animal replied almost as one "That's harsh Bro!"

"Hey I'll do what I gotta do and Henderson, stop bleeding all over the damn floor. This is a respectable joint."

Henderson lifted his leg saying "I've heard this place called many things...but respectable? I gotta look up the Websters meaning of that word because I must have got it wrong."

Oracle looked around the bar that was rapidly filling up with thirsty bikers and asked, "Before you get to tilting back the brew, anybody want to tell me if anyone figured out what that hell is going on yet?"

"Pop's got a theory." said Marduk, flipping his thumb back at him.

"Me? I wasn't the one who came up with it," waving is arm in a sweep, "it was those two. Digger and Springer."
"Well then out with it." said Oracle.

Springer proceeded to bring Animal, Henderson and Oracle up to date. Animal looked over at Digger, "All the possible outcomes and you still got that damn knack for getting close to the truth."
"You mean I was right?"

"Damn close. Since it's out among this brotherhood and I know it''ll never leave this group I'll tell you what I know."

"It all started with an ancient culture called the Toltec's. They wrote a codex that has yet to be completely deciphered. The scientists were able to gather this bit of information from them. Dec 24 2011 is believed to be universally accepted as the doomsday date in Mayan calenders. This is fairly common knowledge. But what the scientists figured out was, it's not an ending but a beginning. And if it comes to pass, shit's gonna hit the fan."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Desert Vengeance 5

"Marduk! You old goat I see you brought some friends with you. You need 'em to hold your date steady? Those hiefer's sure can run." chuckled Pop.

"Goat?" Marduk laughed ."This from a man who grabs his dick to take a leak with three fingers...and pisses on two? Shit, I didn't bring' em. As soon as the news went out that Animal was a suspect in a federal treason case they all showed up here on their own. There's not a man here who would consider it even a possibility."

Pop glanced around the circle of men. Some faces he hadn't seen in years.
Others had lived under his roof at various points in their lives. Some had stood with Animal in dense jungles and foreboding forests fighting for their country with extreme honor. Animal had saved the lives of a few of these hardened men. And several had saved his.

Seeing the respect earned of the son he raised left Pop at a rare loss for words.

Kathy aware this was a extraordinary event stood quietly watching.

"I still have contacts in the various agencies involved in this case. This is what I know so far. The stolen file has to do with the last mission Animal and and a few of us here today had worked together. It was called Mayan dawn. We were ordered to recover two professors and some crates from the ruins of a dilapidated warehouse near Peurto Penasco Mexico. We weren't allowed to inquire as to what was in the crates or even talk to the men. It was a straight forward in and out extraction," said Marduk.

"An entire team to recover two geeks and a copula Mexico? There's something wrong with that picture," replied Pop.

"All I know is that the crates were covered and the professors didn't say a word. The only thing out of the ordinary was the fact that Animal and Tank received orders to load the crates separately from the team."

"Tank? Didn't he muster out just after that mission?"

"Yes, when we reached the base stateside he kept to himself. He didn't re-enlist and never kept contact. A few of the guys tried reaching him but it was as if he dropped off the face of the earth. Nobody's seen or heard from Tank in years."

"I remember that mission. Animal wouldn't talk about it and seemed to get pissed off if it was even brought up. I could tell from the way he was acting when he got back, something shook the living shit out of him."

"We are never allowed to discuss missions even amongst ourselves. But even at that, this one was different. They didn't debrief us afterwards. No one ever even referred to that day after it was completed."

"Well, today that changes. We need to discuss that mission here and now. We've gotta piece together what the hell is going on."

Marduk gathered the four men who served with Animal on Mayan dawn. Walking to the rear of the clearing they stood in a circle. Each man fully aware of the consequences of breaking their solemn oath of silence.

Five men thought as one.

Not a word was spoken between them. None were needed. After years of serving together in all corners of the globe, each man knew the measure of the other. With a simple nod of assent they all walked back to the table and sat with Pop.

'Digger' having earned his moniker by always having the ability to quickly figure the bare bones of a mission, spoke first. His instincts were legend.
"Whatever it was that Animal and Tank saw that day had to be an abrupt change in a spiritual way or a relevant change in accepted history. I can't think of any other instance that would affect two battle hardened men like that. Both have seen greed and atrocities too numerous for them to be affected like they were. For the kind of life changing reaction they showed I'd put money that it was a combination of the two."

" I agree," said Springer, "but considering that Animal is less religious than Tank and the fact that Tank changed virtually overnight I'd also say it has to be something along the lines of rewriting accepted beliefs about our origins."

"What the hell could do that, in the middle of the Mexican desert?" asked Pop.

Weed stood up to his full six foot six height, looked around the men gathered around the table. Stroking his long pepper salt beard. He looked as if he considering how to say what it was that he knew. Taking a long deep pause he said, "Tank called me about a week after the mission. He sounded drunk and incoherent, all he kept saying was 'They knew...They always knew.' At the time I didn't give it much thought, I figured it was just the ramblings of a drunk...until today. Now I'm remembering a conversation we once had years ago about man's origin. Just idle campfire philosophy. Tank once made the statement that governments knew more than they were telling. He claimed he had collected many books researching it. Tank just needed to find the one missing book to prove it. The books content was supossedly written in ancient mayan pictographs. Which until just a few years ago no one could decipher. At the time I thought it was just conspiracy bullshit. But, now I'm not so sure. The one concept he kept harping on was that the true story had been fractured and that's why organized religions never seemed to get it just right. Think about it, if all the differrent 'bibles' telling the stories were right in general context..but not complete. If various religions each had just a part of the story and they found the one journal that tied them all together. Every religion would have to be rewritten. The implications would be staggering. churches and mosques would fall from power. Governments would collapse. Even being an agnostic, Animal would have to agree anarchy would reign. It was always Tank's belief that if it were true the information should be released immediately."

"Wait a minute, are you trying to tell us our beliefs are wrong?" yelled out Pope. Pope being ordained a christian minister looked visibly pissed.

"No, not at all...we are just speculating here. We have no proof of any of this. Just following a line of logic as to what could affect two men so deeply. What would it take to turn Tank against his brothers and distance himself and why our goverment is going to such great lengths to discredit Animal. Whatever it may be, it's huge. And simple espionage dosen't cut it. Homeland security my Ass!" replied Marduk

Silence fell among the canyon walls. Each man lost in thought. They all had heard rumors through the years of the existance of such a journal.
Secret societies throughout history had claimed to posess the knowledge.
But to date it had never surfaced. Belief that goverments and religious organizations weren't always truthful or forthcoming was part of what made them bikers. They stood outside societys conventions. Often paying the price of losing freedom and for some even their very lives.

They also understood that even if it was true, information like that would have to be released gradually to allow the worlds population time to grasp the changes. Releasing proof like that all at once would be devastating.

Many had held the private belief society was already being given clues to this very subject. But slowly to give it time to assimilate into mainstream thought.

Pop surveyed the men surrounding the granite table, stood up and said, "Well, we ain't gonna find out sitting here. Mount up!"

Canyon walls shook as every bike in the clearing fired up at once. Some bikes cold from sitting had popped and backfired echoeing sharp staccato shots. Sand filtered off of the mesa walls in mini avalanches. Pungent fumes of oil and fuel permeated the dry desert air.

Almost as one the riders kicked into gear and rode out single file. Heading into the Valley of the Sun.

Friday, November 21, 2008

BSA blues

I just took in trade for some work a 65 BSA frame. 650 engine and wheels

I dug out some parts and threw them on.

A old triumph front ribbed fender for the back.

A maltese cross tail-light on a old sissy bar. placed at the top. instead of using it as a tailight I'm thinking a leather pad for a backrest.

A tank that was rusty and caved in but I couldn't bear not to restore so I cut it open and striaghtened.

I haven't decided what to do about the oil tank, I have several to pick from.

Apehangers of course.

short stack exhaust.....obnoxiusly loud...this a 10.5 compresson engine.

Bates headlight.....perhaps 2 staggered one over the other. How we ran them in the seventies.

I'd like a 8 over girder or twisted springer front forks.....

Pagan gold or big metal flake green......or perhaps pearl orange..[yes I know Ann you hate that color] but it's for me ...not for you
You already stole one of my bikes.;]

Maybe even a metalflake king and queen seat.

But then I discovered a dillema.

After measuring the engine, with a few mods this thing would fit in my old servicar frame.

Be a helluva lot cheaper than finding a harley flathead and tranny.

I have a spare triumph 650 that would bolt right into this chopper frame [BSA and Triumph used the same frame configuration]

But I already have a triumph chopper.

And a BSA chopper is kinda rare nowadays especially with a lightning rocket engine.... very rare.

On the other hand Rascal would get to ride.

I could also use the trike for B.AC.A rides for the kids.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Desert Vengeance cont 4

Animal's legs were sending his brain mixed signals, the heat generated by the mighty twin was warming his calves and the cooling from the nitrous lines under the gas tank freezed his kneecaps. That is , if his gray matter had even a chance of listening. Preoccupied as it was with handling June at 180 miles an hour.

Animals senses already approached overload.

Hanging desert valley turns and twists. Busting free of mother earths gravity at every hill crest. The snarling Crocker was in her element.
Rapidly braking and downshifting, hanging his boot to the pavement. Animal broadsided around hairpin turns.

The ghosts of every ancient dirt tracker watched in pride.

Straightening out on long straightaways, Animal would tap the nitrous switch and send the spoked invader wheel reaching for altitude. The wheel's ceramic bearings allowed the rim to spin smoothly giving June the appearnce of clawing at the moon. Instinct was the driver. Animals conscious thoughts as always, centered around the mission at hand.
For a secretive agency like the N.S.A to release a surveillance video of the
'theft' of government property. Whatever was on those chips was definitely a national security issue. You don't screw with an American biker's family and brotherhood. You damn sure don't mess with his country.

Awakened from her peaceful slumber June seemed to be looking for payback. The supercharger's whine screamed a song of retribution.
Reaching the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona, Animal slowed June to a legal speed. Wanted by everyone and anyone who ever carried a badge and then some, it wouldn't do to announce his arrival with a dozen speed cops on his tail.

Turning onto Camelback Road from Grand Avenue, Animal cruised the three miles to his destination. pulling into the gravel lot and rolling up to the building's entrance.

Animal dismounted and walked to the bar's swinging doors. Looking up at the sign overhead spelling out Panama Red's, Animal smiled and entered. Whoever had been listening in on the phone call with Commissioner Henderson probably wouldn't enjoy the private joke.

The soft neon glow filtering through the haze of cigar smoke cast a pale light on the military bearing of the man seated at the booth tucked in the corner. Commissioner Henderson waved Animal over and motioned to the waitress.

Animal slid onto the bench facing across from Henderson. "If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I would not have believed it possible."

Henderson looked at Animal quizzically and asked, "What wasn't possible?"

Animal replied, "The last time I saw you I said there's no way you could get any damn uglier....yet you pulled it off'."

Henderson laughed and responded, "This is the kind of response I'd expect from the poster child for outlawing relations to marry."

After the waitress had served their drinks. Henderson took on a serious tone and said, "We've got a lot to talk about."

Producing a folder from his briefcase Henderson pulled out a series of photos and placed them on the table. Pointing to the photo of the gate crashers he said, "This is the couple who stole the chips."

Animal, studying the photos, couldn't make out the face of the driver. The passengers helmet also hid her face. Barely visible in the picture you could see a few lines of a tattoo on the girl's leg. The chopper looked to be an old XS750 Yamaha. Looking over the bike he saw a custom made oil cooler prominently sculptured into the bike's front down tubes.

He suddenly realized he knew the bike and the girl on the back. With this realization came the knowledge of who the rider was. Animal asked, "Did you get anymore info on what was taken?"

Henderson nodded his head slowly and replied, "It's not quite clear yet but I did get some intel unofficially. It all has to do with a file named Mayan Dawn and a case from the late 80's."

Animal's heart skipped a note when Henderson mentioned the name of the file. Instantly aware of the magnitude of the case, Animal instinctively looked around the bar and saw two men entering with their guns drawn.

Both Henderson and Animal sized up the situation. Grabbing the table in unision they flipped it between them and the gunmen and both dove for the exit. Multiple shots rang out. Animal heard Henderson groan as he was hit in the leg. Henderson fell in the doorway blocking Animal's escape.
Never one to leave a friend behind, Animal reached down to aid Henderson and looked behind him to see one of the gunmen taking careful aim.
Pop and Kathy headed out of the bunker on Delores to rendezvous with Marduk at Devils Girdle.
Like all the bikes Animal and Pop had built, this old '62 panhead had a few tricks of her own on her duo glide frame.

Able to outrun and even out handle a race-prepped sporty. This ol' girl's suspension could take to off-roading like a luxury dirt scrambler. Crunching rocks, branches and cactus beneath her meaty tires, she rode like a cloud over the uneven desert terrain.

The twin peaks that signaled the entrance to Devils Girdle towered over the landscape. Rolling into the pass in second gear Delores shook the canyon walls with thunderous echoes.

Pop deftly throttled the panhead through the narrow gap that gave the hideaway its title. Rolling to a stop near the center, Pop set Delores on her side stand and felt his chest swell with pride as he surveyed the surroundings.

Parked neatly around the perimeter of the canyon walls sat one hundred and forty bikes. Standing in a semicircle near a granite table slab at the center, arms folded at their chests, the brothers who answered the call waited silently. From all points of the southwest, these men had all at one time had stood beside Animal and fought for their country in various situations. The most skilled fighters and riders wearing colors of various MC's and RA's had gathered to offer their assistance to a well respected brother of the road.

Pop switched off Delores and stepped off to embrace the men who had come to his son's call.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The '66 Sporty

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Desert Venegence cont 3

Animal and Pop winced at the high pitched yell reverberating along the long cavernous walls of the bunker. Kathy had started wailing as soon as the reinforced door had swung shut. The sounds of the barn collapsing overhead did not penetrate the reinforced walls. It also didn't let sound escape, giving no relief to the assault on their ears.

"Hey, quit your damn yelling, it's over for now, you're safe!" yelled Pop.
"Safe. What the hell are you talking about? We just got shot at by a jet plane, it destroyed your entire property. It's gonna come back and attack again." replied Kathy.

"The barn was shot to hell. Not many people know about this bunker, they'll think we were killed. This place could just about take a direct hit from a missle. It will buy us some time before they send someone to check for our bodies in all that wreckage." said Animal.

"We'd better come up with a plan damn fast. Whoever sent that plane knew you were here. I imagine it won't take them long to find about the bunker, too," said Pop.

"I agree, however with no official records of any of the extensive renovations you and I have made over the years to this place. They'll probably think it's still a dirt covered shack like it was when you first bought this place. No one will believe we could have survived," replied Animal.

Sweeping her arms out over the various motorcycles and vehicles that were parked neatly along the sides of the acre-sized cavern. Kathy asked, "Just what the hell is this place?"

Laughing, Pop replied, "This, my dear, is the ultimate man-cave. We built this when Animal was still undercover. It has all the toys a secret agent would ever need. James Bond would need a cold shower if he ever set foot in here."

Kathy stared at the two men like they had lost their minds.

Animal shot Pop a withering glare. It had always bugged the hell out of him when Pop would bust his chops about being a "secret agent man". When he was particularly liquored up he would even start singing it.

Pop saw the look and started laughing again. "Easy boy, your super agent wristwatch will get all funky and explode or something."

Animal took a step and started chasing Pop across the bunker. Pop was laughing at his own quip so hard he nearly fell to the floor. His words had produced the desired effect. The tension had been broken. Even Kathy began giggling at the scene unfolding before her. The weight of the days events gave way to outright laughter.

Animal looked at his two nearly hysterical companions. Shaking his head, he walked toward the office set along the back wall, and said, "I gotta check on some equipment. I'll leave you two clowns to your own devices."

Entering the office he grabbed the bottom of a life size portrait of Lee Marvin smiling evilly on his Harley from the movie The Wild One. Hinged at the top, it swung up and out from the wall. Behind the picture was a door with a combination lock. Spinning the code, he pulled the reinforced door open wide.

The walls of the room held different weapons that Animal had confiscated over the years in his career as a customs agent. Set on a pedestal in the center of the room, his black Desert Eagle pistol quietly awaited it's owner's return. Opening a door in the pedestal's side he pulled out a shoulder holster and put it on.

Replaying the days events in his mind, Animal couldn't shake the idea that this just wasn't adding up. His intuition was warning him with questions he didn't care for. The A10 attack was too quick in arriving. Kathy's behavior suggested a comfort with the situation that didn't jive with what he'd been told. Holstering his weapon, he walked to the rear of the room and took down a pair of sculptured carbon fiber saddlebags that were hanging on a steel pin. After he checked the contents, he headed back out to the motorcycles parked along the walls.

Kathy and Pop sat silent, reality had started to sink in.

Walking past the many bikes that he and Pop had built over the years, he thought of the choices before him. Custom Harleys, Triumphs and Indians.

There was only one real choice for a mission like this. One bike sat covered in the center of the floor. He pulled the softcover off. The lights overhead danced on the paint. Chrome sparkled.

The silence was broken by an audible gasp from Kathy. Even Pop stared reverently at the reveal of the legendary steed.

Famous in it's day for being a well built 'super bike' the 39 Crocker had been a hand assembled jewel of engineering. Extensively modified and upgraded well beyond anything the original designers could have ever dreamed possible, Animal and Pop had transformed her into modern sport bike killer.

Cut and bobbed chrome fenders swept over the carbon fiber invader rims shod in super sticky custom tread Pirelli tires. A black and gold painted aluminum coffin styled gas tank sat perched on the backbone. The bike's name, "June" lettered in 24-carat gold was flanked by twin nitrous bottles slung along the bike's light titanium frame. Double xenon headlights sat perched on the custom Ohlins super bike forks triple tree and a minuscule taillight was blended artfully into the bike's rear fender design. With no tach or speedometer, the prominent supercharger told anybody who cared to notice...this Huntress was out for blood.

Attaching the saddlebags, he opened one and pulled out a satellite phone. He placed a call to his long-time brothers in the wind. The voice that answered grunted, "Yep." Animal smiled and replied, "Classy way to answer a call as always, Marduk. I see that being named after an ancient god didn't impart you any manners."

''Animal! I was just thinking of you! I just saw a gawd-ugly old scooter bitch and figured you had to be close by."

"Hey, I haven't touched yer mama since you crawled out. I took one look at you and started humping Buffaloes. I figured the kids would be better looking," said Animal.

"No shit, really? I think I just ate your date," quipped Marduk.

"Why, did it have a creamy filling?" 'laughed Animal.

"What graces us with your annoying whiny-assed call?" asked Marduk.

Animal's voice took a serious tone as he described the events of the day.

Marduk didn't speak for a bit. Then he replied, "Whatever you need bro, I'll send Oracle to get the package left at the rest area and then round up the rest of the brothers. Meet at Devil's Girdle?" Animal agreed, snapped the receiver off and placed it back in the saddlebag. "Devil's Girdle," Animal whispered to Pop.

Pop nodded in assent. Devil's Girdle was a familiar location to him. It was a pass deep in the superstition mountains that narrowed to the width of one bike earning it's name whenever the club would race to the campsite. With only one way in or out it was an easily defensible position.

"You take Kathy and meet up there with Marduk. I gotta go see Chief Henderson," Animal said to Pop. Kathy looked around the bunker and asked "How? The door is buried under a ton of rubble!" Pop chuckled, "You think we only had one way out?" Pointing to the opposite end of the bunker, he continued, "There are three separate tunnels leading out through the mountains."

Animal stepped over June's frame, settled in and fired her to life. The reverberating twin echoed loudly off the walls. Stepping her into gear, the bike rolled smoothly out of the bunker, reaching the tunnel entrance. Animal twisted the throttle, and flipped the nitrous switch. June revved instantly, looking like a star ship reaching warp speed she tore out along the mountain shaft.

Pop looked over at Kathy. "Satan's gonna have to put up a no more vacancy sign when these guys are done."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Desert Vengeance continued...

Kathy's parched and sun burnt skin seemed to sizzle as she lowered herself into the cool waters of the natural jacuzzi that nature had provided beneath the overhanging ledge of the rocks in Oak creek. Four hours of hard desert riding had taken its toll on Heather and her riders. Finding respite along the oaks and mesquite trees along the river, Animal had set up camp for the night. Listening to the rolling waters quiet rhythms and Heather's ticking and gurgling as the steel and aluminum cooled, Animal unpacked his saddle bag retrieving drinks and a glass mason jar of chili, packed carefully that very morning. Animal chuckled to himself, “At least I learned some skills in the service.” He was painfully aware the fact that anything surviving after today’s ride was something bordering on a near miracle. He set the jar atop a large sunlit boulder. He'd let the desert sun’s natural heat warm the contents.

Watching Kathy contentedly relaxing in the shade, his mind replayed the day’s events; eleven customers had paid the coroner’s son's tuition to college in the space of an hour. A scrap yard had received a recycler's bounty, the local constabulary’s paychecks just went into overtime, hell’s denizens were dancing the Macarena in celebration of its new arrivals and Heather’s tanks were almost empty of fuel. All for a bunch of computer chips that sat buried a hundred miles from here. What the hell was so damn important on those chips that killing was necessitated, who was looking to gain? And how far was the extent of the threat to Animal and Kathy? Knowing no answer would be forthcoming from the desert air; he got up, undressed and waded out to join Kathy.

Settling beside her Animal breathed a sigh of relief as the cool waters swept away the dust and heat from his dry wind burned skin. Watching with a sly smile Kathy stood up and washed the dirt and grime from his back and shoulders. Low setting rays of sunlight sparkled in the crystals of liquid rhinestones on her well toned form. Droplets ran down her breast and fell from her gold piercings. Her hair gently brushed his chest as she reached over his arms to splash water down his crimson burnt skin. Sliding over to sit beside him she softly said, “Thank you for saving me out there today. If you hadn't come along when you did...,” the expression on her face said it all.

Animal didn't reply with words he just smiled and brushed the hair from her face. Kathy placed her head on his arm as they watched as the sun made it's farewell to the day with a spectacular array of colors in varying shades of orange, reds and purples. The last fading rays reflected off the clouds giving the appearance of neon tipped brushstrokes seemingly applied by the unseen hand of Michelangelo. Animal gently gathered Kathy up in his arms and carried her over to the blanket. Setting her down, he grasped her hand and said, “I'll be right back.” He walked over to the nearby boulder, retrieving the sun cooked chili and reaching into his cooler procured two bottles of beer and some utensils, and then headed back to join Kathy on the blanket. "Hope you like chili and beer.”

“Right about now I could eat lizards raw, but it just so happens I love chili and beer!” smiled Kathy.

After lighting the pile of mesquite surrounded by rocks Animal had set up earlier, they ate in silence watching the stars coalesce into view.
“Tomorrow we will ride to a place a good friend of mine lives. Then we will decide who to contact and what to do about all this.” said Animal.
She nodded in ascent and lay on her back pressing in against his hip. Animal reclined beside her, pulled her in tight and wrapped a blanket around them.

Morning came with the harsh return of sunlight reflecting over the waters of the stream. After putting on the river washed clothes they had left drying on the branches of a greasewood bush, Animal and Kathy erased all traces of having been there, packed Heather for the ride out. Animal pointed out over the desert. “Pop lives about fifty miles past that mountain in the distance. Once we get there we'll be better able to decide what we need to do.”

Heather awakened from her slumber shook and rumbled to life. Animal stepped her into gear and rolled her onto the dirt road leading away from the river. Keeping Heather’s speed slow to conserve what little gas she still had. The miles to the nearby mountain seemed to grow with each passing minute.

Spotting a silvery flash out in the nearby wash Animal stopped Heather, shut her off and speaking to Kathy said, “Wait here.” He dismounted and walked toward the source. An abandoned four-wheel drive truck was resting partially covered by the sand of the dry river bottom. Animal, hoping against hope, twisted the gas cap off the fuel tank, leaned in close and sniffed the fumes emanating forth. Gas!

Looking inside the truck’s cab, he found a three gallon water jug behind the driver’s seat. Pulling it out, he placed it under the truck’s gas line. Opening his multi-tool, he sliced the line and golden liquid poured forth into the jug. Elated at his sudden good fortune, Animal didn't even notice his muscles’ painful protest in carrying the jug back to Heather. He topped off her twin fat bob tanks and tossed the jug back toward the wash.
Animal shoved Heather’s kick start and she responded with her characteristic roar. Not having to conserve fuel Animal twisted the throttle ran Heather up thru the gears and covered the miles ahead in just over an hour.

Arriving at the well isolated ranch, Heather was ridden into the barn and covered over with a hay tarp. Animal and Kathy headed towards the main house. Sitting at the picnic table on the long covered porch, Pop was waiting with three hearty breakfasts and a pitcher of hot fresh coffee.

Animal smiled and said, “You were expecting us?” Laughing, Pop replied, “That old shovel of yours is so damn loud you couldn't sneak up on a Stones concert and Heather's distinctive bellow makes her all the more identifiable. Besides, you two are all over the news this morning, something about espionage? I knew you'd be arriving soon, after all where the hell else were you gonna go?”

Animal sat down and motioned Kathy to join them. She walked over slowly and sat next to Animal across from Pop while he continued on, “I made some phone calls and it seems that you two are wanted for stealing top secret files from the Tucson NSA Agency. There's a million dollar bounty on your heads dead or alive.”

“Are you gonna turn us in?” asked Kathy.

Pop could hardly keep from falling of the bench in laughter at that question. “Animal is more than a brother and son to one will be turning anybody in around here, I can assure you. I will make a few calls and we will have trusted brother bikers up here in no time flat.” Animal finishing off the last bit of corned beef hash on his plate, stood up and said, “I'll go make some calls myself and see if I can get a little more detail concerning the case.” He walked into the cabin and closed the door.

Pop and Kathy continued eating. Kathy looked up at Pop and asked, “How did he get the name Animal?”

“Well what did he tell you?”

“He never said, but I could guess,” she said suggestively.

“Well then, you'd be wrong,” chortled Pop. “I gave him that name myself when he was just a young lad. I found him being jumped by a gang of teenagers, he fought them all off like a caged Animal...the name stuck even after I adopted him as my son.”

“What about his parents?”

“They were killed in Mexico by a drug smuggler for refusing to help bring cocaine across the border.”

“What else can you tell me about him?”

“Nothing,” Pop replied, “If you have any questions about Animal, you’re better off asking him yourself.”

Animal was never known for wasting time when it came to finding the details of a case. Today certainly would be no exception. Picking up the old style rotary phone he allowed himself a momentary smile. Things never change around this house, he thought. Pop was as stubborn and predictable as triple digit temperatures in a Sonoran desert summer. Animal remembered asking as a teenager why they couldn't have a new phone with touch tone dialing and Pop's gruff reply, “Why spend money for new-fangled phone when it could be better spent on our bikes?” Back then, Animal couldn't argue against the logic, thinking to himself, “Still can't.”

Placing a call to a direct line of the head of U.S Border Protection Service using his old undercover alias, the call was placed straight through.

“Commissioner Henderson speaking.”

“George it's me, Animal. I need to know what the hell all these espionage charges are all about. Who is claiming I had any part in this?”

“All I can tell you is they are showing footage around the agency of a biker and his female passenger busting through the gate at N.S.A I checked the footage myself and the chopper’s three exhaust pipes exiting from the front of the engine told me clearly it wasn't you. Commissioner Henderson was a longtime collector of rare vintage American bikes and knew exactly what to look for. “Somebody is setting you up. And they're doing a damn good job of it.”

“What is it they are saying was stolen?”

“N.S.A is being tight-lipped about the details. Our division of Homeland Security is being kept in the dark. Even the White House is keeping silent about this. None of my contacts there will mention anything about it. Whatever it was you stepped in, I hope you have a long snorkel because this is some deep shit. I'll keep looking to see what I can dig up. How can I get hold of you?”

Animal replied, “I still have the satellite phone from the Panama mission around here someplace, call me on that, I doubt anybody will still be monitoring that old frequency. Even if they are, the built in encryption should still hold them off for a while.”

Pop's sudden yell to “Run” was followed by a sudden rain of ordinance that tore half the house to splinters in a fraction of an instant. A growling sound and a sudden boom of a jet engine passing overhead told Animal what was happening: an A10 gunship was firing on the house.

Jumping through an open window he sprinted toward the barn following Pop and Kathy. Once inside they ran to an old horse stall and swept away the hay covering a door. Grasping the clasp and swinging the door ajar, they jumped down the steps to an underground bunker. The bunker had been part of the property when Pop had purchased it in a government auction back in the early seventies. It had been used as an underground hydroponics lab for growing marijuana.

The A10's gun shredded the barn just as they reached the bottom steps leading into the interior. Pop looked at Animal, pointed to the ceiling and said, “I don't know what the hell you got yourself into son, but I can guarantee you there's gonna be some serious payback for this.”

Friday, September 5, 2008

Desert Vengeance

85 miles per hour was the sweet spot on Heather, cresting the long rise and peering down the miles long straight stretch of deserted highway.

Animal was kicking back and enjoying life just for the sake of it. Boots on the forward controls, his left hand splayed across the bottom of his 'king tank', right hand palming the throttle, twin cylinders singing a note of contentment.

‘Life is good’ was the mantra repeating itself over and over in his head.

The air was so crisp, clear and cool. Animal's bike had an extra helping of torque and horsepower today...Heather was loving the extra charge of oxygen.

A momentary blip of the throttle and Heather jumped to over a 100 in an instant. Rolling off the throttle brought the iron mare back to 85. Animal yelled out over the bike's sound an earsplitting, "Yeaaaah!"

Having no demands on his time, a pocket full of cash and no particular destination in mind, it was the ultimate taste of freedom.
Reaching the end of the long straightaway he saw a rest area up on his right, smoothly downshifting, he slowed and rolled up to a shaded picnic table, shifted into neutral, switched the bike off and kicked out the side-stand. Stepping off the bike, he allowed himself a long slow stretch.

Pulling a pack of smokes and a tall cool drink from the cooler in his saddlebag, he proceeded over to the table. Instead of sitting he lay on his back across the table and watched the eagles soaring overhead. 'Yep, life is good." he whispered aloud to the majestic gliding birds. He thought to himself, "This day would be absolutely perfect if I had a lady to share it with." Another voice in his head replied, "Still, it's a damn great day.

In his relaxed state of mind he started to drift of to sleep. "Mister?" a voice from the nearby sagebrush called out to him. Thinking for a moment that he was dreaming Animal almost didn't respond. "Hey Mister." came the voice again. Animal rolled over off of the table and walked toward the sound.

'Hello?" answered Animal questioningly. A young woman emerged from the bushes and asked, "Can you spare a drink?" Animal looked around the park and saw no vehicle other than his bike and asked, "Where the hell did you come from?"

“My boyfriend kicked me out of the car yesterday and left me here,” she replied.

“You've been here overnight?” Animal replied as he walked over to the bush and peered under it,”With no blanket or anything?”

Standing back and taking stock of what the girl was wearing; Animal couldn't believe the girl was still alive. The desert can get damn cold at night, all she had on was a pair of Daisy Duke shorts and a halter top with knee high boots. It wasn't exactly the sort of clothing that fostered overnight survival.

“If that's the case, this is one tough chick,” Animal chuckled to himself. Still he found it odd that she was looking no worse for wear.

“Do you need a ride into town?” Animal asked. “Yes I do,” replied the girl, “but I don't think I want to ride on a motorcycle. I have never been on one and they look very scary. I'm afraid I'll fall off.”

Animal smiled and thought to himself, I've heard this a few times. ”You don't need to worry; there is a sissy bar on the back to keep that from happening. All you gotta do is keep yourself centered on the seat and hold onto me if you need to.”

The girl looked at Animal and over at his bike and seemed to be contemplating whether to take the ride or face the prospect of another night in the desert. It didn't take long to make a decision. Cautiously she replied, “I guess it would be okay to ride into town...If you ride slow and easy.”

Animal laughed and said, “Don't worry; I'll get you there safe and sound.” He pointed to the picnic table and continued, “But first lets get you something to drink and I have a couple of sandwiches in my saddlebags. You'll feel better after you have had something in your stomach. By the way what's your name?”

At first she didn't respond. She looked as if she was wrestling with the idea of giving this stranger her name. Finally she half whispered, “Kathy.” Sensing her discomfort at being asked, Animal didn't pursue the subject any further.

As the two just sat and ate quietly, Animal had a recurring thought that all wasn't as it appeared...but couldn't see any evidence to the contrary. Dismissing it as old habits from his former career as an undercover customs agent, he relegated the idea to the back of his mind.

“Would you mind if I had one of your smokes?” she asked. “Help yourself,” said Animal. Drawing a long drag from her cigarette, Animal could see that Kathy relaxed a bit. Finishing it and stubbing it out on the concrete slab she looked over at Animal and said, “I'm ready whenever you are.”

Animal packed up the contents of his saddlebags and threw a leg over the bike, motioning for her to get on the back. “Just place your foot here on this peg and swing your leg over.” She did as he asked. Animal wondered if she did it just a little too easily for a novice.

Bringing Heather to life, he waited for the knee-squeeze that always accompanied a new girl’s first reaction to the shaking and loud rumble. When she didn’t respond at all it struck him as more than a little odd. The thought nagged at him as he shifted into gear and pulled out from the rest area.

After he got up to a cruising speed of 70 mph, Kathy leaned back against the sissy bar and Animal could feel her settle in for the ride. 20 minutes later, as they were approaching town, her casual posture almost made Animal wonder if she had fallen asleep.

Rolling down the town's main drag, Animal saw a group of bikes parked in front of a local tavern. He slowed and started to turn into a parking spot. Kathy suddenly seemed to come to life, and now he felt the familiar knee-squeeze, extremely tight, and she grabbed his shoulders and pleaded into his ear, "Don't stop here, keep going, get out of town!" Animal twisted the throttle and took off.

Reaching a few miles outside of town, Animal pulled over to the side of the road, shut off the bike and turned on his seat and said, “OK, what gives? What the hell was that all about?”

“I haven't exactly been truthful with you.” she replied.
“No shit. But now would be the time to come clean,” said Animal.
Tears were welling up in her eyes as she looked at Animal and mumbled, “Those bikes you saw in town....they are looking for me.”

“What the hell for?” Animal yelled. He was getting a sinking feeling in his gut as he waited for her response. This 'good day' was looking like it was going to hell pretty damn quickly. Suddenly, Kathy jumped to a standing position on Heather’s foot pegs and screamed, “They’re heading this way!”

Glancing over his shoulder, Animal witnessed ten sport bikes screaming out of town and heading in their direction. Animal figured an explanation was gonna have to wait. Waiting on what sounded like a pack of angry diuretic mosquitoes didn't look to be a healthy pastime. Animal started Heather; her angry, deep-throated bellow spurred into action with a twist of the throttle. He shifted into gear and laying rubber for 20 feet, hurdled out on the asphalt. Knowing that even on her best day, Heather couldn't outrun the pursuing multicolored wraith that was rapidly approaching.

Looking for a means of escape, Animal saw a Cadillac heading into town towards them. Figuring to at least have a witness to what, at this point, wasn’t looking good, Animal aimed to close in on the vehicle.
The oncoming Caddy driver was less than a quarter mile away and closing quickly. Animal looked into his rear view mirror to see the pursuing bikes no less than a hundred feet behind him and one was almost abreast of Heather.

“Damn.” thought Animal, “they caught up quick.” The lead rider pulled almost even alongside Heather. Looking forward, Animal saw the Caddy driver stick his hand out and before he had time to react, he saw a flash and heard a loud pop. Instinctively swerving, the bullet ricocheted off the triple clamp of his front forks. Adrenaline caused his eyes to follow the path of the bullet, and then he watched as the rider next to him flipped backwards off of his mount as his face plate imploded. The now rider-less bike continued on following a straight line, narrowly missing the oncoming Caddy.

“One down,” flashed in Animals consciousness. Not wanting to be in line for another shot from the Caddy driver, he swerved sharply to the left across the path of the Caddy. The driver, reacting to the sudden move, yanked his wheel left and in doing so, had turned into the headlights of the onrushing bikes. Two bikes became a mangled twisted decoration of the Caddy’s grill. The helmeted riders flew along the hood and into the windshield. Before the Caddy driver could get the fabled image of life flashing before his was game over.

Animal witnessed the melee in his mirrors just before Heather decided she was a trail bike, taking to the air across a drain gully, barely clearing with the front tire. The rear tire landed partially on the ledge and forward momentum pushed Heather out into the desert.

Animal turned to see three more sport bikes go down; one high siding and sliding into the roadside ditch, two others didn't make the leap, impacting straight into the side. The resulting effect looked as if some lunatic farmer was planting wheels. Animal's innate sense of wit popped the question, “I wonder if that counts as a bumper crop?” Before his subconscious could respond with a retort, Animal rolled the throttle open wide and hauled ass over the barren desert.

The harsh terrain was giving Animal a fighting chance of escape. Heather’s rugged frame, born from decades of dirt and board-track racing was sufficient enough to handle the strain; the factory had built her well. The pursuing plastic-covered rice-rockets could not hold up to that kind of abuse. Animal noted that the remaining four riders didn't even attempt it. They headed down the road looking for a pathway leading in his direction.

Animal saw a trail heading up between the mountains ahead and steered Heather toward it. Downshifting and letting Heather’s ample torque pull them up the mountainside, he spotted an old mine entrance. Rolling in just enough to be out of sight, he shut off the bike and set her on her kickstand.
Turning to his ashen-faced passenger, he could see the fear in Kathy’s eyes. He realized growling at her wasn't gonna help. After taking a minute to breathe and give her a chance to regain some composure Animal calmly asked, "Are you ready to tell me what the hell is going on?"

Kathy wailed, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, so, so sorry! I didn't mean to get you mixed-up in all this."

"Just what is all this?" questioned Animal as he pointed outside. "Why are all those people after you?"

"The riders you saw are computer chip smugglers. I was catching a ride from a guy I knew, and we were just supposed to be going on a long cruise. When we stopped at that rest area you met me at, I had opened his backpack to get a drink when I saw computer chips stamped 'Classified - Government Property'. The leader of the group saw me and pulled a gun. I ran into the bushes to get away. They all started running after me, so I jumped down a rocky ledge and found a hiding spot. That's when I realized that I still had the backpack in my hand. Two of the group passed by almost on top of me and I heard them screaming that they needed to find the bag because they were supposed to meet the buyer today. They searched all morning, then I heard them arguing that I must have doubled back and could have gotten a ride into town. At that point, they all ran to their bikes and took off toward town. Later when you pulled in, I wasn't sure if you were the buyer they had been waiting for. That's why I lied to you."

For a very brief moment Animal thought back over the day and wondered if somehow he had accidentally ingested some peyote for breakfast and this was just a bad trip. The pain in his aching back from the gut-busting ride told him that no, this was real.

Animal had dealt with smugglers when he was still a customs agent; he knew too well the lengths they would go to avoid being caught. This was a dangerous game of cat and mouse he had stumbled into. Animal got a mischievous gleam in his eye and thought too bad for kitty because this particular mouse had a nasty bite.

Looking over at Kathy he tossed her pack of smokes and calmly asked her to stay put while he went out to assess the surroundings. Stepping out of the mine into the exposed mountainside he looked over the desert below, two separate dust plumes below told him the four riders had paired off and took different paths. He could see that at least one pair had found the old mining road and would soon be heading up his way.

Animal decided that it would be rude of him not to be a gracious host and prepare a welcome. Heading back into the mine he opened his saddlebag and pulled out a leather pouch. Untying the knotted string the contents unrolled to reveal a silver gilded pommel of a custom made bowie knife. Animal reflected for an instant that it had been 5 years since the blade had seen daylight. The custom hilted knife had been a gift from a grateful family that had been threatened by drug-runners. Animal had saved the mother and daughter from being shot in a firefight. Shot in the thigh he had still managed to kill two attackers with his bare hands. The resulting wound from the firefight forced him to early retirement. Extreme cold or humidity always gave a noticeable limp in his gait. Still, he'd gladly pay the price again anytime to save a woman or child. Unsheathing the blade Animal heard Kathy gasp in shock. Attaching the scabbard to his belt he walked over to her and spoke in a soft tone, “Don’t worry, I will get us through this”.

Kathy looked and saw the Machiavellian twinkle in his eyes and his quiet confidence. She somehow knew the pursuing killers had just picked a fight they had no clue how to win.

Animal retrieved a 50 foot roll of stainless steel multi-strand cable, ten times as strong as the best test fishing line ever devised and just as thin. He pulled out a custom purpose built multi-tool and it's nylon-leather constructed sheath and attached it to the inside of his vest. The last item from the collection was a telescoping nightstick, which, when collapsed fit into his left boot’s sewn in holster. Animal carried no gun; he stopped carrying when he retired. Too many mothers’ sons had met their (deserved) express ticket to hell at the end of his desert eagle. Remembering that it had been his job didn't always make it easier to sleep at night. Animal didn't particularly like killing, but had no compunctions when it was necessary for survival. Then there was days like today...when they came out shooting first.

Animal was making reservations for the sport riders. Lucifer was gonna gain few more arrivals today. Hope he's got his furnace warmed up, thought Animal.

Stepping out from the entrance once again, Animal headed down the trail away from the mine. 1500 feet down the mountain he found the place to spring his trap. Towering saguaro cactuses flanked both sides of the mining path. Tying the steel filament across the roadway just above handle bar height would certainly do the trick. Animal walked 100 feet back up the road, paused to light a smoke and waited for his guests.

The yapping cylinders of the oncoming riders gained in intensity as they saw Animal standing in the road casually smoking a cigarette. Furious at his audacity, both riders downshifted and poured on the fuel. Twin helmets went sailing out over the desert air as the headless bikers and their whining mounts flew forward and exploded on impact with the boulders along the trail.

Animal surveyed the carnage and knew the smoke and flames would be seen for miles. He knew he had gotten off easy with the first pursuers. He wouldn't be so lucky with the remaining two. He knew they would be aggressive in their approach. Heading back into the mine, Animal told Kathy it was time to go.

Rolling in second gear, taking advantage of the engine’s braking power, they headed down the opposite side of the mountain. From this vantage point on the trail, Animal and Kathy could see police cars arriving at the highway wreckage.

A sudden flash of yellow off to his right warned Animal that the remaining two riders had found them. He leaped onto the highway from the dirt road that paralleled the highway. The sport bikes rapidly closed the gap. Flanking Animal on both sides, the rider to his left reached for his holster and started to pull out his gun. The one on his right pulled in close and tried to grab Animal’s forearm. Before Animal could react, Kathy pulled his knife from its sheath, swung the blade wide and brought it down on the grabby biker’s neck. The bike veered off crashing in a whirl of dust and gravel. The left side rider pulled out to the left and thinking they had no weapons opened his faceplate to better sight his nine millimeter. He leaned in closer to look Animal in the eyes before he killed him. Lining up the shot, he was shocked to see Animal look back at him and smile deviously. Before he could pull the trigger, Animal reached and pulled the nightstick out of his boot and shoved it into the front wheel, sending a flaming yellow comet cart wheeling end over end down Main Street.

Animal downshifted and brought Heather to a sliding stop. A lone rider was sitting on his bike in the middle of the street. A sheriff’s car was parked next to it. While revving his engine and taking a long hard look at Animal, the rider spun his mount around and headed away out of town. The sheriff turned on his blues and started heading in Animal’s direction.
Animal looked over his shoulder and quietly said to Kathy "This goes higher up and deeper than we thought, and it isn’t over yet." Spurring Heather into gear they headed out across the desert.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Little Jimmy

Batman folded the leather vest and placed it carefully over the package in his dusty, well-worn saddlebag, pulling the leather straps tight and clasping the buckle. Lost in thought, he was not aware of the time spent just staring at the dirty shop floor. It was going to be a bittersweet day. The events that were to take place in a couple of hours made his chest feel heavy, for while proud to do so, he wished the need would never arise.

Grasping a faded vest down from the hanger he carefully checked it over. The memories this particular vest brought forward were tangible in his hands. Only worn for occasions such as today's, the names embroidered were all crisp and perfectly stitched and stood in stark contrast to the weathered patch on the back. Names forever etched in his psyche. Today a new name will be added to this roster. A place of dubious honor. The price of admission to this "roll of honor" always came at too steep a price. The scars and nightmares that paid the cost of membership would last a lifetime for the inductee.

Putting on the vest Batman allowed himself a moments respite to gather his courage. Glancing at his bike, giving it a once-over look, satisfied that all was in order, he swung a leg over and brought it to life. Today this chariot of chrome and steel would announce to all the world: a new member is part of this international organization. He rolled out onto the street, settled back on the seat and headed toward the designated meeting place.

A hundred riders waited for his arrival. Some were members long before the existence of the patch, some were relatives or friends of inductees and some were there as patch holders on the premise of never having to add another member.

This organization had the distinction of never wanting to exist, and all who belonged would gladly burn their patch if the club's charter would no more have relevance.

Arriving at the staging area Batman watched as the members all gathered in formation for the upcoming ride. Pride filled his stature as he heard the thunderous roar of iron horses come to life. The ground trembled. A sound that would soon announce to the inductee: you are safe now.

And to the one who caused the price of admission.......Beware!

Jimmy stood on the lawn next to his mother, clutching a torn and tattered teddy bear stained with far too many tears and quietly holding sorrowful guard. This Bear's six-year mission of being the only defense in the world for the boy would soon be joined in force a thousandfold.

In the stillness of morning a rumble grew in power and proximity. Jimmy's mother gently squeezed her son's hand and whispered in his ear, "This is all just for you," and pointed in the distance.

Jimmy's eyes grew wide as the road filled with motorcycles as far as he could see. Waving to him and parking in a circle around his yard the riders dismounted, smiling, and all gathered in front of Jimmy and his mother.

Batman stepped forward with the contents of his saddlebag. Jimmy opened the brightly wrapped package to reveal a helmet custom-painted with his name on the front and a painting of the patch that all the riders in front of him wore. Custom-fitted just for him, he eagerly placed it on his head, his hair falling over his forehead. Batman gently brushed his leathered hand across the boy's face and tucked it under.

Batman unfolded the small vest in his hands and placing it on Jimmy's shoulders, said to him, "You are one of us now. You no longer have anything to fear. We will always be here for you."

Seeing this interaction between the giant bear of a man that is Batman and little Jimmy, who barely grew taller than his kneecap brought those in attendance to near tears.

Jimmy could barely contain his glee when asked if he was ready for his first ride. Proudly sporting his Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) patch, Jimmy rode with Batman, leading the formation towards his brighter, new destiny.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Midnight Flight

"Oh shit! Hubby's home!" yelled the sweet young nymph that Spider had met at the local watering hole.

Spider glanced out the window and saw the headlights of the white 4 door sedan pulling into the driveway. The realization that it had a box of lights on the roof didn't exactly make him want to stay around for a chat. "What the hell, you're married, to a patrol cop?" exclaimed Spider.

"No, he's the Chief," replied Dawn.

Jumping into his boots and pulling up his pants which had been left fireman-style just for these kind of unforeseen situations, Spider stumbled for the back door, knocking loose all the knick-knacks and memorabilia that had been set on the shelf in the hallway entrance. His hyperactive brain briefly made note of the fact that they were all awards for marksmanship. "Shit!" thought Spider, "What a way to make a bad situation worse."

Jumping on his chopper from the last step out the back door, he landed square on the seat, a lot harder than he intended. "Talk about getting blue balls," he winced to himself.

Jamming his leg down on the kick start the bike roared to life. In his haste, his foot slipped off and the lever came smashing up with a sudden crack to his shin. Screaming in rage and pain he twisted the throttle and popped the clutch. Popping an unintended wheelie, his tall custom-made sissy bar hit the ground and dragged the whole length of the driveway out on to the street. Rolling off the throttle brought the Avon back to the pavement.

Spider snapped the shifter into the next gear while glancing behind him to see the "Chief" hauling ass out the front door with a shotgun. A loud blast solidified his urgency. Knowing that if caught, his bike would certainly be impounded and if he made it to jail, his long-kept secret would be known. His deception would break their hearts.

Spider had once made a promise to his folks that he wouldn't ride anymore. The long history of his old escapades on bikes doing jumps and many a month spent in the hospital made the old folks jittery whenever they heard a burbling twin. For years he still rode but kept the bike out of site in a 'Bro's' garage.

Cresting the top of what the locals call Jacob's Ladder, the bike sailed airborne. When it landed, the tires howled in protest, and the next step in the ladder launched the screaming mechanized comet skyward again.

The seven hills started to take their toll on 'Liz's' hardtail frame.

At the base of the hill Spider downshifted and stood on the rear binder. The 12 inch over girder flexed and twisted as Spider slid a wide left to shoot down a narrow alley. The fat rear tire made a staccato beat as it rubbed along a wooden fence. Shooting upright as the bike straightened out, he repeated the trick each time at every intersection. Gaining distance with every turn, Spider looked for the quickest way out of town.

Spider felt rather than heard the bikes backbone bend as he leveled out on the straightaway leading towards the salvation of a bridge crossing the river in the distance. The city's skyline was in view. "Come on, baby hold together for me," he exhorted his wailing mount. Doing well over the posted double nickle, the last hurdle to his escape was in sight. The siren's scream fading away amplified 'Liz's' howling anguish. Reaching the last obstacle to his freedom, Spider twisted the bike's throttle hard enough to bend the handle bars.

Had they been standing on the bridge that night, the Wright brothers would've thought that flight had already been mastered seeing the black banshee leap from the summit.

Landing in a screeching shower of protesting drag pipes, Spider's knees, which had formed a vice grip on the bike's frame, smacked the bottom on the coffin tank ripping the fabric of his jeans from his kneecaps and blood rapidly filled his old boots.

Bringing 'Liz' back to a slower pace, the rear tire chattered on the pavement telling Spider that 'completely round' was no longer one of the features of his rim. The chattering clutch rattled to him its tale of woe. The oil pressure light glared on as he made the last turn into the open door of Roach's shop. Making her final effort, the overstressed twin seized tight and abruptly fell silent.
Roach, standing at his workbench, raised an eyebrow and uttered, "What the hell is going on?"

Spider watched as 'Liz' broke apart to the shop floor and replied with a wink, "I'm just fulfilling a promise."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Bad Day?

"Watch your head," said the officer as I was being shoved into the back of the cruiser. Contemplating how I ended up in this mess was just making my headache even worse, and watching the hamfisted kid loading my bike on his truck wasn't helping.

How did I end up here? Well, that's gonna take some explaining. There really is something called the Harley Davidson Mystique; sometimes you just don't see it coming.

It started simple enough, taking a cross country trip to relax and get away from it all. Just me and my girl, a Harley named Stephanie. Cruising the back roads of Iowa, passing the cornfields and country lanes. When I spotted a little cafe just up the road, I pulled in for a good ol' hearty breakfast. A dozen bikes were parked in front, and a club prospect was motioning for me to park next to a nice custom FLH.

Dismounting and heading in to the cafe, the bike club's sergeant-at-arms opened the door and welcomed me in. "You in town for the poker championship?" he asked. "Didn't even know you had one, just passing through." I replied.

Seeing what he thought was an easy mark, the road captain of the club responded, "There's a grand prize of $500 with only a $10 buy-in. Simple five card stud with jokers wild". Musing that I was a fairly good player with a decent shot of winning some much needed green prompted me to abandon my good sense and agree to sit for a few hands.

I managed to win a quite a few hands and was up $200 when common sense returned and I elected to get out while I was ahead. As you would expect, this didn't sit well with the other players.

You would have thought the patch-holders looked like a horde of marines storming the beach on D-Day when they started after me. The waitress who was simply curious about all the ruckus came out of the kitchen; lucky for me the closest of my pursuers tripped over her and then his followers fell on him like dominoes, which gave me time to haul ass out the door.

The club's prospect was heading in as I was going out. I bowled him over with a right hook and jumped on "Stephanie". Spinning dirt and gravel, I hit the road doing about eighty.

Winding that V-twin for all she was worth put me well over a hundred and a few miles from the cafe in no time flat. In the rapidly approaching distance, I saw what appeared to be a dust storm blowing accross the road.

What felt like a million hot BB's stung me as I rode into it. Katydids swarming over the fields had soaked the bike and myself; a nasty, green, gooey mess covered everything.

The heat of the engine baked the slop hard and tight, clogging the air-cooling fins of the cylinders and oil filter. Overheating almost instantly, "Steph" siezed up and busted A-rod, scattering hot oil and fragments all over my jeans.

The rear tire screeched in protest of the sudden lockup of the grenading motor. Road grit filled my torn Levi's, branding my ass with the hot oil and metal as we slid along the dirt for nearly a thousand feet. When the entire mangled mess finally came to a stop in a cloud of smoke and dust, the bike and I looked like refugees from a tornadoed trailer park.

Just when I thought things couldn't possibly get any worse. An old biddy on a golf cart rode by smirking, and yelled over at me, "Nice job there, Mr Motorcycle!" cackling to herself and continued on down the road. The distant siren drawing closer told me this day wasn't gonna get better anytime soon.

A random thought occurred to me that if I would've just gone to Hollister or Salinas, I'd have been sitting on a stool drinking a cold beer right about now.

The brief pause inside my head was interuppted by the officer's voice. "How did you find yourself gliding along the gravel on this fine sunny day?" Before I could reply the officer held up a hand and contiued, "Connie called me from the cafe and told me all about what went down." pulling me upright the cuffs were applied instantly. "Let's go, hotshot".

The cruiser hit the highway and started to head away from town. "I thought the county cell was in town?" I grunbled. "Who said anything about jail? You do something I don't already know about?" Figuring discretion being the better part of valor, I kept my tongue in check and sat silently, wondering what the hell else today had in store for me.

It turns out, Officer Wendy is a biker chick who owns her own hog named LadyR, and rides a lot of miles with her sister Connie the waitress. So, here I am stuck in this hot tub with the two sisters drinking a cold one and getting "special" treatment of my road rash. Also, it turns out the hamfisted baby brother owns a bike shop and "Steph" is being rebuilt for free in time for the three of us to ride up to Farmington, MN for the Bottoms Up Rally.

On top of all that, I'm still ahead $200.

Idle thoughts flew through my brain...can I really call this a bad day?!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"Becca's" Last Ride

Desert winds had gently unearthed the sand encrusted handlebars of "Becca", the worn chrome glistened in the early morning sun. Long buried and lost, "Becca" awakened from her dusty dreams. A voice carried over the boulders and scrub, the cadence of the sounds brought forth the long ago memories of how she came to be enshrined in a dry riverbed.
The day of Sept 2, 1972 is forever etched in her memory. It was the day that Art (Silver Fox) Valdez had first walked into the showroom of the Harley dealership in Glendale, AZ. The die had been cast, set in sweat, blood, leather and steel.

When friends were met and many adventures taken, Silver Fox's easy laugh and her contented rhythm were always paired. When attention was needed, he was always at her side, tending to her. Washing and waxing her, she always looked sharp.

When he met a lovely young woman at a social dance, she did not react in jealousy. It was understood his affection for her wouldn't change. The woman destined to be his wife would come to revere "Becca", as well. The honeymoon ride to the Bradshaw mountains was a testament to "Becca's" power and sure-footed ability. Silver Fox's riding abilities were legend. For the two week stay, many miles forged a bond for the (now) three.

Fast-moving storm clouds gathering over the horizon soon brought the need to return to "civilization". The delay in packing for the trip out gave the rain time to arrive. "Becca" labored mightily against the muddy slick trails down the mountains. Over ruts and gullies deeper and more treacherous by the minute; Silver Fox's skills, taxed to the limit, were not enough. Only "Becca's" pride and steadfast loyalty kept her upright.

The distant rumblings of rushing water rapidly closing in, she redoubled her efforts to gain traction and torque. At a quarter mile from the interstate, the race was lost. In the final moments she pitched over a gully and tossed her riders off to higher ground. The raging waters claimed her as a prize.

Silver Fox and his new bride had stumbled to the highway from the safety of higher ground. Both knew only a supernatural effort had made this possible. In the years to come the tale of "Becca's" herculean last ride was oft repeated to friends and family. Every anniversary the grateful couple would hike out to the last known spot and toast a drink to her honor. A long standing ritual of twenty-nine years.

On the thirtieth year, a family reunion was held at the spot. they regaled their grandchildren with the story of the family legend. Christian and Jayden, their oldest grandsons, walked to a small rise overlooking the wash. A flash of chrome winked in the dusty, dry wash below.
"Look Grandpa!"

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Rider - Chapter 6: Fables

David walked up the counter and sat down on a well worn stool, looking around the diner. Noting that nothing in the diner was newer than the 1950's, even the calendars on the wall still said 1952 under an advertisement extolling the virtues of the new foot shifter and hand clutch option available for the Harley-Davidson Hydra-glide Panhead of ‘52.

As he reached for the menu clipped to a condiment tray, he realized that although the parking lot was full of cars and trucks, the diner was empty besides himself and the waitress. He briefly wondered to himself that maybe the other people were behind the diner and he just hadn't seen them…or perhaps they rode off in some tour bus to sightsee.

He glanced at the menu while motioning to the waitress who had retreated to the back of the counter near the rear entrance. She didn't even glance up and seemed to him that she was purposely ignoring him. He chuckled to himself at the absurdity of it as he was the only customer in the joint. He spoke up, “Excuse me, can I put an order in?” She didn't reply. David wasn't sure if she just hadn't heard him or he was just being ignored. He repeated himself in a louder tone…No response. He stood up and walked the length of the counter to where she was standing and tapped her on the shoulder to get her attention. As he did so he noticed that she seemed trancelike, her skin was cold as ice... still she gave no response. David smacked his hand forcefully on the counter yelling, “Hey! Do you hear me?” as he watched for a reply, she faded into smoke and disappeared. While at the same time the diner was reverting into its old state of disrepair.

Momentarily stunned by what he had just witnessed, he stood blankly staring at the surroundings. The cars and trucks in front of the diner faded away. He could see his bike leaning on its side stand out in the now otherwise empty parking lot. The storm was gathering strength over the diner; the clouds swirled into a vortex and created the resemblance of an ancient fortress. The sky above and around the diner then grew more ominous and black...the air inside fell still with a sudden abruptness. From the desert a single breeze had started to drift across the gravel and seemed to him to settle on his bike. Unbidden, the ridiculous thought came to him: It appears like it's checking out my bike. Then his ears heard what sounded like the wind howling franticly: “David?”

“Okay, I got it, I'm dreaming,” said David aloud. “I just gotta wake up. It's gotta be the stress from sleeping under that overpass last night. I gotta stop working so many hours. Maybe it's paint fumes from the garage attached to the house, I'll check the cans when I wake...I'm home in bed...just gotta wake up...” At the same time he knew...this was no dream. Bizarre as it may be, it was too real; the air was too crisp, the smells too clear,
the feel of his surroundings too solid to be a dream. Then there was the feeling of severe deja vue.

But still what he was seeing and hearing couldn’t possibly be real. He started to run towards the door and got no closer to the entrance, as hard as he ran it was as if he was on a treadmill going nowhere. He screamed out in frustration...the sound didn't travel, it just fell from his lips around him. “Is this what the beginning of insanity is like?” thought David. “No,” replied his subconscious, “you know what this is,” Long forgotten memories drifted to him slowly. His mind took him back in time to when he was young....He remembered his grandfather and his dad talking about old legends; the Riders. At the time he was hearing those stories he knew instinctively that they were not mere fables. How he knew that was never really clear to him, but as he listened he always seemed aware that he knew more details than the narrative was telling, almost as if the knowledge was hardwired into his psyche. It was if he had actually been there once. But, as the years passed since, he had begun to convince himself that he had heard the stories when he was much younger and was just remembering details from then. Now it became clear to him......they weren't fables.

Knowledge flooded back into his consciousness. He knew who he really was...and his true calling. Instinct took over and he whirled around to see what had been the back entrance....was now opening to another dimension. The sudden clarity of his mind forced David into action.

Yasuda! ...He can't be allowed into this plane. The only access for him is with a connection to a still-mortal Rider. “But,” he thought, “if I am not on this plane he can't break through.”

He dove into the portal...

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Rider - Chapter 5: Yasuda

"What the hell do you mean David's disappeared?" exclaimed D pounding his fist on the table in emphasis.
A-rod jumped to his feet and yelled "How do you lose somebody...I thought you see all?"
The Boss replied "Look guys, you know how this works...I just oversee this Earth....I'm not in charge of the whole universe. I don't make the rules... I just make sure that 'natural' laws are followed and prevent undue influence by outside forces. My job is to make sure that free will is paramount and to let events here take their own course."
"I'd have to say you're doing a pretty shitty job of it, if you can't even keep track of one man." replied Kingpin.
"If this is the kind of overseeing you do...that sure explains a lot of this royally screwed up planet's history!" yelled A-rod.
"Apparently you can't even do that, as you somehow lost my grandson! Good job." said D sarcastically. "Can you even tell us what happened?"

The 'Breeze', after notifying the 'Boss', flew quickly to tell her Elemental friends what had just occurred. She found them gathered together at the base of a mountain. V, Julie and Shannon were tending to the south side. Earth would toss up various colored minerals and Fire would bake them onto the rock face. Then Water would cool them down to set. This was part of their day to day duties in the southwest, and was one of the most enjoyed, ensuring the various shades of color known as the Painted Desert would always be there for future generations to enjoy. "It's about time you arrived; we could have used your help getting the minerals blown higher up on the cliffs." said Julie. "We need to get up to the boss's place, there is an emergency...David is missing." replied Ann. Without questioning or delay the three elements joined with Breeze. To Air, Fire was added, then Water, and Earth. The combination produced a small but powerful tornado, which then lifted up into the sky. The whirlwind descended onto the boss's cloud and the dissipated back into its separate elements. "Let's go" said V.

The four Elements, called Breeze/Air (Ann), Fire (Julie), Water (V) and Earth (Shannon), entered the room. Ann went straight over to D and said, "What I saw was not natural to this world. It was like a hole in space had materialized in the sky over that diner. David's not on that plane of existence anymore. He has passed out of his space and time".
D jumped up, grabbed the table and flung it across the room. It tore through the walls and out to infinity. "How is that even possible?"
The rage in the three Riders eyes was clear enough to melt diamonds. Kingpin, who had stood up at the arrival of the women, was unconsciously squeezing the back of the heavy wooden chair he had just vacated. The wood shattered into powder.
A-rod stamped his foot in fury and splintered the entire marble floor into fragments.
"It's not supposed to be possible. Something or someone is altering the fabric of light and gravity, creating a doorway through dimensions. And we need to find out whom, how and more importantly... Why?" replied the Boss.
Julie spoke up and said, "Mortals are at least a century away from this kind of technology…and even then, not on this scale. That means someone from our side of the realm has to be doing it."
V said "Why David? Is it random or by design?"
"It can't be Random. There's too much work involved for it to be accidental. David had to have been the target." said Shannon.
Julie said, "If David is the target…why and for what? Who stands to gain from David's absence?"
"If we can figure out the answer to that question ...Then we'll know where to start." said Kingpin.
"David has no enemies on this side...there's no point. His life doesn't affect our realm". said V.
"Ah...but he does. His life is tied to everyone in this room. What concerns him affects us." replied Ann.
"Ok then…who would gain by our being affected or distracted?" said Julie.
"You can't affect the laws or power of the Elements. Their mandate is absolute and unchangeable. And any coercion would only affect the earthbound plane. And, since each one of the Elementals only controls the geographical area they are affect a change you would have to gather the power of all the thousands of Elementals worldwide. And also, since you four are the only ones seemingly connected, that rules you out for being the target." said The Boss. "Which leaves you three," he said, referring to the Riders. And who would stand to gain by your absence? It can only be... Yasuda!"

Yasuda's name was well known by all in the room; he had been a legendary warrior at the beginning of history and upon his death in battle had become one of the first immortal Riders.
Choosing, instead of honor, to turn against his kind; he was banished from the realm, vowing one day to return and reign over all, and making all Riders his sworn enemies.

"He knows that as long we exist, our presence would prevent him from altering events to his own agenda, he could not succeed. But, if he stops David, it will break the succession of Riders who come after us. He also knows that we would pursue and stop him." said A-rod forcefully.
Kingpin responded by clenching his fists and exclaiming, "He's laying a trap for us!"

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Rider - Chapter 4: Storm Clouds

As the rays from the rising sun pierced the dusty windowpanes of David's bedroom, the illuminating streaks made the shadows of the slats of the wood and caulk grow ever thinner and longer. The beams danced over the colorful, yet well-worn apache rug that surrounded David's bed. The light fell into his old boots lying haphazardly next to the old cedar chest that rested against the foot board. A few seconds passed, and to any observer it would have appeared that the light had jumped out of the boot directly onto the denim vest that hung on the bedpost. Then it slowly and surely crawled up along the down comforter and the still form atop the mattress, finally reaching its limits on the soundly sleeping man's face. The thin membranes of his eyelids could not prevent the assault, and abruptly he was stirred awake.

It had not been more than two hours since he had arrived home after finding himself sleeping under an old highway bridge. How he had found himself there and the strange dream he had experienced was still fresh in his mind. As he rolled over and sat up on the edge of the bed he thought, "It must be due to overwork." After all, the extra hours he had been putting in at work to save for the upcoming trip to the Sturgis motorcycle rally had surely had begun to take their toll. But, despite having only spent two hours asleep, he found he was surprisingly refreshed.
He rose up and walked over to his bureau and shook the stuck drawer loose to slide it open over the protesting sounds of wood on wood. He reached in a pulled out a pair of raggedy old black jeans, a pair of holey socks and a pristine black t-shirt that showed a flaming skull silk-screened on the front and back with the letters AZ Bike Week Glendale…2045. He got dressed quickly; pulling on his old snakeskin boots, and headed out the backdoor to the still-warm sporty.

He sat astride the bike and lit up a smoke, enjoying the morning air. When he glanced at watch on his left arm and saw that it was still too early to head into work just yet, a plan came to mind of a long ride around some of the back roads not usually taken on his normal routes and hopefully finding a breakfast diner. It seemed like just the thing. Finishing his smoke, he stubbed it out with the heel of his boot, switched on the key and pushed the starter button firing "Annabelle" to life. With the toe of his boot he snapped the shifter into gear, released the clutch, twisted the throttle, spinning tires and gravel blasted out on to the pavement.

There is simply no better way of life than tooling down old country roads on a Harley in the warm, clear morning air of the Sonoran desert. As he took the long route through the old canyons and desert plains, David realized that this stretch of road was one he had ridden several years ago and he tried to recall if there were any diners along the way. The only one that came to mind was an old abandoned one from the 1950's that was about a mile ahead. "I guess I'll just have to wait til I get back into town," he thought. As he crested the small hill on the road, the old diner came into view. There were old cars and period trucks parked in front of it, and the old sign looked restored. "Must be a car show," he surmised as he pulled up to the front entrance.

The diner was open for business. The bike was leaned over onto its stand; he reached down turned the fuel off and switched the key back and out, and dismounted in one fluid motion. Briefly glancing skyward on his way into the diner, he noticed the sky had swiftly and suddenly gathered dark clouds. "Lucky I found this open. Looks like it's gonna rain like hell with those black thunder busters forming." The waitress didn't reply she just smiled and closed the door behind him.

The "Breeze" carried herself aloft the desert sky and surveyed her surroundings. In the distance she saw dark clouds forming and thought, "There were no storms scheduled for today in this area, "and drifted over to investigate. When she arrived, the remains of a long forgotten and crumbling building came into view just below the ominous clouds. The well-worn and barely legible sign out front read: Bob's Diner. Parked near what was the front entrance was a shiny old bike, which upon investigating she knew to be her namesake from her mortal life. It now belonged to her grandson. She knew that he would never leave his precious steed out in the desert, abandoned. The wind howled... David???