Mitch "Mad Dog" Burhammer and three of the toughest, filthiest, most brutal enforcers in the Satan's Reich motorcycle club stalked into the darkened interior of the Last Ditch Saloon. It was a dingy place, rotting away on a rural road in Tumlinson County, Texas. A TV in the corner soundlessly flashed images of wrestlers locked in battle. A bartender shuffled cans of beer into a cooler while the single customer stood absorbed in a solitary game of pool.
Mad Dog studied the pool player. He was a lean, muscular man dressed in a tight fitting shirt with a distinctive Texas flag design. His legs were encased in leather pants and sturdy engineer boots. The man's eyes were hidden behind sunglasses.
"Why are you dressed that way?" Mad Dog demanded. "Are you a fag or something?"
"No... I don't... I guess not," the man replied. "I'm just different." He shrugged. Mad Dog grunted. "Are you the scumbag that called me? If you know something about the piece o' crap that torched my meth lab you'd better talk real fast. The last dudes that messed with my meth got stomped. Permanent. Taking a dirt nap."
"I heard. Couple of teenage boys, right?" The pool player's grip tightened on his stick. "Anyway, I got a line on your man, Mr. Mad Dog, sir. The guy is obsessed with the frontier vigilantes, what they called 'Regulators'. He's a descendant of the leader of the bunch that ran this county. That ol' Regulator boss was a badass. He could shoot and ride better than anybody. He was a scholar and a poet. Me, I dropped out of school, but I read and write a lot. The Regulator boss had a crazy laugh." The man emitted a hyena-like chuckle. "His ma and pa doted on him, too. Hold on..." He fished in a pocket and retrieved a cell phone. "Hi. Nothing much. Just fine. I love you too." The cell phone returned to the pocket.
"Anyway, the this guy rode his friend's horses and borrowed their clothes." One of the bikers swore and pointed at a coat rack in the corner. "That's my good leather trench coat, someone stole it from my place!"
"The Regulator never had any money but what he borrowed. Hey bartender, put another tall-boy on my tab, will you please?"
Mad Dog made a growling noise. "Alright Regulator man or whoever you are, you better quit fooling and start talking or I'm gonna rip off your head and stuff it up your butthole!"
The man continued as if he hadn't been interrupted. "The Regulator was a good bowler and pool player..." He lifted the stick. "And he broke guys heads with his pool cue!" The stick whistled with preternatural speed and shattered against Mad Dog's jaw. A kick to the throat sent the biker boss reeling.
The enforcers moved in with savage speed. The Regulator whipped the eight ball off the table and hurled it with pinpoint accuracy into a biker's nose. The Regulator ducked a swinging fist and lashed a kick into the man's leg that sent him sprawling. The third enforcer landed a roundhouse blow that sent the Regulator staggering back.
The biker lunged at the retreating figure as if to grab his victim and pull him apart with bare hands. Instead the Regulator stopped and with the speed of a striking rattlesnake launched the biker with a hip throw. The biker landed in the TV amid blood, broken glass, and smashed electronics.
The bikers were regaining their feet and moving more warily now. The Regulator backed up to the coat rack. A quick snap of his foot popped a stout hickory stick from the ground and into his hands. Suddenly he stopped retreating and advanced.
The bikers were after him with fists and boots, but the Regulator lashed out with his stick again and again. Bones snapped where it fell and ribs cracked where it jabbed. Sunglasses gone, bleeding from nose and mouth, the Regulator was like a tiger shark among lumbering whales.
There was the sound of a bolt clicking. "Enough, scumbag." Mad Dog stood clutching a 9-mm in his hand. The Regulator studied the space between them for twenty heartbeats. The hickory stick spun into the air like a drum major's baton. Mad Dog's eyes flicked to it and the Regulator crossed the space. The gun barked and the Regulator gripped Mad Dog's arm. A biker cried out in pain from the bullet that had entered his leg.
"No guns Doggy." The Regulator twisted and Mad Dog's arm snapped with a sickening crack. The Regulator took the weapon from the biker's nerveless hands.
Mad Dog snarled through teeth clenched from pain. "I'm gonna practice using my left hand to kill you!"
One of the enforcers swayed to his feet. "Next time we'll see you over a shotgun barrel."
With lightning speed the Regulator fired. A pool ball exploded, showering fragments into the biker's face. "Not if I see you first."
The Regulator retrieved the hickory stick, trench coat, and a heavy belt bearing a matched pair of .357 revolvers and a bowie knife. "Didn't hardly need these. Next time I might use 'em. Listen up losers! Satan's Reich is finished in Tumlinson County. Get used to it fast. The Regulator is on the job."
He strode through the door, then paused. "Dude, sorry about the TV. I'll send you some money." Then the Regulator mounted his motorcycle and roared off into the night.
At a crossroads the Regulator paused, idling his bike while he scanned the area. To the left were the burned out remains of a farmhouse, once the meth lab for Satan's Reich, now a ruin. To the right was the house two young men had rented. Two young men who had known a little too much about Mad Dog's meth-amphetamine business. They no longer lived there, they were in the Tumlinson Baptist cemetery. Mad Dog had gotten off lightly. The Regulator gunned his motor for home.
At the door a note, crudely worded, reminded him that his rent was late. Similar messages awaited him on his voice mail. Watt Armstrong sighed. Beating a gaggle of hoodlums senseless was much easier than earning a living. It was far more satisfying. As Armstrong forwarded through the messages one brought his senses fully alert.
"Watt, it's Carlos. I've got to ask you a favor. Can you watch my cat for few days? I've got to go down to Brownsville and take care of my aunt. My cousin Sophie went missing in Nuevo Durango a few weeks back and the family needs me..."
In moments Watt Armstrong had dialed Carlos Rodriguez. "Carlos buddy. Sorry to hear about your family. Of course I can take care of the cat. So what happened to your cousin?"
"You know she lives in Durango, down on the Border. Well, last weekend she went to visit a friend on the Mexican side. They went to a club and never came back. You know how crazy things have been down there with the drug gangs. There are a dozen murders a week, the Mexican cops are all too scared or too crooked, the Texas cops can't help, the Border Patrol sticks to catching illegals, and we can't do a thing."
"Scary man. I'm real sorry to hear about Sophie. I'll take care of your place while you're gone." Watt paused. "Uh, say ol' buddy, you know, well there's this thing..."
"Your rent's late right?"
Moments later, the formalities of a short-term loan and cat care resolved, Watt Armstrong began to lay his plans. He'd need a picture of Sophie, a map of Nuevo Durango, information on the local police and major criminals, a way to smuggle his weapons into Mexico, sufficient funds for "la mordida", and a cat-sitter for Carlos.
The Regulator © Dave Hardy. HTML © Tim Hartin.
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