Ryan O’Shaughnessy is standing in front of The Pink Panther, a strip club in downtown Sydney. His gaze is narrow, like a cop’s, and complements his close-cropped hair and walnut-sized knuckles. The fact that he is a street thug in no way belies his sense of proprietorship. His mission is sacred, after all, for tonight he is hunting bear—not the grizzled variety, but a snitch who badly needs killing, a tall, bearded jerk who fingered him to the cops after selling him a bag of meth. The cops had tried to make Ryan an informant as well but Ryan, a man of real character, had told them nothing. And so he had been forced to spend another year in the city jail. And a damn hard year it was. Even buggering the Nancy boys had not kept the walls from crushing in on him. It seemed as though the jail had swallowed him alive.
But tonight he is back to living in Hyde Park. And tonight he is hunting for bear.
His gaze remains steady as a cop car rolls past him, its black body shivering in the bright lights of the strip. This time Ryan refuses to flinch. Fuck the cops—he has served his time and now has comeuppance to collect. The fink he is going to kill is named Stork—if that’s what he’s still calling himself. Street names are usually changed every month—if not, it’s too easy to get snitched out. Ryan has had over fifty different street names and so he has gotten snitched out only once. And tonight his name is Hunting Bear, kinda like the Indian brave in that movie he saw last night—the guy who apologized to a deer after killing it. But Ryan is not going to apologize for wasting Stork.
What was the name of that little twitch—the cute little junkie he’s going to marry tomorrow at the Wayside Chapel? Her street name is Miss Muffet, but what’s her real name? Probably it’s Berta or Frieda or something god-awful. She’s only marrying him for citizenship papers—so she won’t get deported if she’s caught shooting heroin—but what the hell: she has promised him fifty bucks and a bang. And money is money—crotch is crotch. That boy who was with her—probably her pimp-to-be—had told him she was a hard lay. Hymen like leather. “If you can bust her, you can have her,” he had joked, and Ryan had laughed heartily. “I’ll bust her,” he said. “Busted me a thousand cherries.”
And so his itinerary is set: First ice that canary. Then bust himself a cherry.
Another squad car rolls by, gliding to a halt when the street light changes to red. The city is thick with cops tonight. Ryan catches his reflection in the rearview mirror of the squad car: he is a broad-shouldered man with thick horn-rimmed glasses and a rather menacing harelip. And his triceps, swollen from fifty daily pushups on the cell row, threaten to rip through his short-sleeved shirt. Fifty-five years old and he can still lick his weight in wildcats. Ryan doesn’t even need the pistol—the .44 Auto Mag that is hidden in his crotch. He could strangle that canary with his bare hands.
Ryan studies the street as the cop car speeds off. The hit should be easy—a piece of cake. He has already killed off a hundred snitches—iced them just to keep in shape. His life as an outlaw—his thirty years of breaking into cars, dropping meth, and getting into fights—has turned him into a rock-hard terminator. Even the cops don’t intimidate him. Only yesterday, after getting out of jail, he wrote eat shit on the back of a squad car. Wrote it in his own shit just to press home the point. That’s what they get for throwing him into the meat wagon every chance they get. How many cops has he punched?—he’s not sure. Maybe he’s got Alzheimer’s—that’s what the jail shrink told him. Or maybe he just forgets things now and then. But he hasn’t forgotten that crotch of a jail—the scurrying roaches, the stench of stale socks, and the pulsating racket.
The sidewalks are crowded with tourists and hippies, but Ryan is quick to identify the tall gaunt figure on the opposite side of the street. Stork—it’s got to be Stork. Only Stork could be so dumb — strutting around in a bright red jacket when he should know there’s a price on his head. This is going to be even easier than he thought. Ryan takes a deep drag on his cigarette—exhales a silvery stream. With a flick of his finger, he fires the butt at a passing truck. Bull’s eye.
Slowly, stealthily, Ryan eases himself into the stream of pedestrians. He is forced to walk slowly since a bunch of Hari Krishnas are blocking his way—shoeless kids with tambourines and halfwit expressions. What a way to end up: banging on tambourines, singing like sin. And there’s not a real bang in the whole bunch. He had attended one of their feasts only yesterday after getting out of jail. Some feast—raisins and brown apples on a dirty tray. There oughta be a law against serving that crap. He had nibbled a piece of apple—politely—and then left. Let them serve him pork chops if they want him back—and maybe some Bristol Cream Sherry. And let them wash their feet.
“Hunting Bear” somebody shouts—Ryan tenses. It’s one of the fucking Krishnas: a sunken-chested boy with blazing acne. One day out of jail and Ryan has already been recognized. The boy slaps his tambourine. “Rama,” he bleats. “Rama Rama.” Krishnas are all around him now, laughing and singing—praising him like he’s some kind of elephant god. Ryan dances along with them, hoping that by doing so he will avoid greater scrutiny. He is careful not to dislodge the gun. Ryan dances the twist while the Krishnas leap about aimlessly. When the dance is over, he slips back into the crowd.
Stork is still standing on the opposite side of the street. Ryan pats the magnum-powered pistol in his pants. The word is go. Sooner or later we all gotta pay—and Stork’s gotta pay tonight. But the job needs to be done in a vacant alley: there, Ryan can take his time about it—there, Stork can see the bore of the gun pointed leisurely at his chest. Let him grovel a bit before taking the slug—otherwise, he won’t have paid enough. Be a waste of a good hollow-point bullet to dust him on the street.
Ryan crosses the street—hops to the curb. He pauses when Stork looks in his direction, but the boy’s wooly face remains calm, benign—kinda like the face of Jesus. Clearly, Stork has not recognized him—probably he doesn’t even remember dropping the dime. But just wait until he goes into an alley to make a drug deal. Ryan will have a chat with him there—bring him up to speed. Ryan laughs at his joke then ducks into a doorway.
Ten minutes pass and Stork does not budge. Ryan decides to wait him out. Can’t make it too obvious though. Ryan glances at a flock of transsexual prostitutes who are also soliciting on the street. He had better pretend that he’s one of their johns or Stork may start to get suspicious of him. Ryan winks at one of the prostitutes—an invitation that sets his teeth on edge. It is against his ethics to pay for ass. Hell, woman ought to pay him.
The hooker hesitates before approaching. She’s a willowy kid with wary eyes and she knows he’s not a regular. Ryan pats the bulge created by the gun. “I’m loaded for bear, sister,” he says.
She smiles thinly then bites her lower lip. She is young, remarkably young, and her front teeth are smeared with lipstick. She looks like an adolescent who has stolen her mother’s makeup kit. “Do you really date?” she scoffs.
Ryan nods. “I mean business, sister.”
“It’s twenty for head.”
Ryan opens his wallet and rummages about. Thankfully, he still has his gate money from jail. He makes a show out of handing her the twenty dollars. “Dinner and a movie,” he jokes.
Ryan grimaces as she takes the money. What a waste. The only consolation is that she won’t bother him after the sex. After sex, all women ought to turn into pool tables.
He follows her into an alley and waits patiently while she adjusts her dress. When she kneels at his feet, he can only feign interest: her teeth are so small, her eyes so vacant, that she reminds him of a dead fish. Ryan takes off his shirt and flexes his biceps. Maybe this will get him a discount. He needs to delay matters anyhow—bide his time until Stork comes into the alley. A good Indian brave keeps his mind on the hunt.
The tranny stares up at him. “Don’t take all night about it, mister.”
Ryan balls up his shirt then stuffs it into his rear pocket. “Twenty minutes of your time—that’s all I want, sister. I’m hunting for bear.” He opens his wallet and hands her another ten dollars. “Just keep outta sight.”
Her eyes flash. “You ashamed to be seen with me, mister?”
“Gotta be careful. Tomorrow, I’m getting married.”
She jumps to her feet and snatches the money from his hand. She then crumples it up—throws it on the ground. “Who’d marry you—weirdo?”
Indignant, she sashays to the back of the alley—probably to take a leak. When she doesn’t return, Ryan lets the money lie. A deal’s a deal. He waits for twenty minutes, but Stork does not appear. Nor does the tranny.
Loud voices force Ryan to peek from the alley. The sidewalk is now crowded with demonstrators: a bunch of hippies, longhaired freaks, are yelling at a group of soldiers. The hippies look young—the soldiers even younger; the exchange is tritely familiar. Baby burner … I’m proud to have fought … You’d fight for any cunt.
Ryan listens attentively. If a fight should break out, he wants to be part of it. Pop himself a few longhairs—maybe even a soldier or two. He hopes the cops don’t show up too quickly.
The judge should have sent him to Nam instead of jail. He’d have killed a thousand of those little gooks then chopped off their ears and used them for fish bait. Hut two three four—dust a foe and look for more. Plenty of good weed there too.
A cop car arrives. The hippies scatter while the soldiers walk away. Stork is no longer around, but Ryan is not worried. The fucker will soon be back, and he can watch for him from the coffeehouse across the street. Ryan needs to piss anyhow and only bums piss in alleys.
Ryan crosses the street and struts toward the coffeehouse. A street urchin watches him approach—an elfin teenage girl who is panhandling in front of the glass doorway. Her face is so thin that she looks supernatural—like maybe she’s a vision of some kind. Ryan doesn’t like visions; he’s seen too many of the damn things. But that doesn’t make him a schizo—or whatever that jail shrink called him. Ryan just notices things.
To make sure she’s real, Ryan hands her five dollars. She takes the money and pockets it in her jeans. “Thank you, dear sir.”
Ryan thumps his naked chest. “I’m hunting bear, Dolly. You’d better get out of here.”
She titters. “Then why are your pants still on?”
“Stork I mean. I’m gonna plug Stork.”
She giggles again. “Storks deliver babies.”
Ryan shakes his head. Maybe she’s an angel. He gives her another five dollars then pats her on the head. Never know when you’re gonna need an angel on your side.
Ryan puts on his shirt and enters the coffeehouse. A beak-nosed woman behind the counter watches him as he strides towards the john. Once he has relieved himself, he returns and makes his purchase: a latté and two chocolate donuts. The woman’s eyes remain fixed on him—even after he sits at a table and starts to sip his coffee. Ryan watches for Stork through the glass doorway of the shop. The girl is gone.
The coffeehouse is pleasant, the coffee sweet, and Ryan feels good for the first time in months. What more could he wish for than a cool summer evening, a snitch to kill, and sprinkles on his donuts? He does not bother with further reflection: his boyhood in that flea-pit orphanage, those bull dyke nuns that whipped him daily—catching their switches in their holy beads—and his many internments in jails and mental institutions. Had he burned down that orphanage?—fuck it, who knows? His memory is unreliable now—just like those freaks that keep popping up: dog-faced midgets, glowering mimes, hags with painted faces. Only the gun, the hard press of metal in his crotch, can be counted on.
Stork is now back on the other side of the street. He has changed into a denim jacket, probably to confuse off the cops. Ryan nibbles a donut—slowly. Dry Puss is still watching him from the counter. If he greases Stork now, she’s gonna call the cops on him. Big mistake—coming into the coffeehouse. Ryan is still sitting at the table when Stork, accompanied by one of the trannies, ambles into the alley to make a sale. It’s the same damn tranny he paid good money to.
“Ahem.” The voice is calm, gentle—like water chuckling in a stream. A gentleman is standing by his table—an elegant man in a gray pinstriped suit. His eyes are soft, his hair silver white, and he is wearing a pink carnation in the lapel of his jacket. He isn’t a cop—probably he isn’t even a ghost. Probably, he’s just a tourist visiting the city. Plenty of cruise ships in Sydney Harbor. Plenty of easy pickings on those ships. “Ahem,” the man says. “Who might your trainer be, sir?”
Ryan flexes his biceps. “Got ’em hoisting beer bottles.”
The man smiles. “Would you like a bit of sherry?”
The gentleman sits down. He places two mugs on the table—probably got them from Dry Puss. He removes a slim bottle from inside his jacket and empties it into the mugs.
Ryan sips his sherry then glances toward the counter. Dry Puss, preoccupied with another customer, is no longer eyeballing him. Ryan looks back at the gentleman and winks. He has decided to string him along; that way she’ll think he’s a hustler—not a hit man. Anyhow, it’s against his principles not to roll a faggot.
The gentleman is now boring him with drivel about his family: a dog named Spook, a daughter in college, a wife from whom he’s estranged but still loves. Ryan puts down his sherry. “Don’t miss the boat, Pops.”
The gentleman nods profoundly. His eyes are so soft that they look like poached eggs. “You’re very astute, my good man.”
Ryan laughs heartily. “That’s me, Pops. I go deep.”
Ryan takes the gentleman by the arm—guides him towards the door. The man stumbles as he walks. As they stroll along the street, Ryan keeps his eyes on Stork. He is standing alone on the opposite sidewalk. He is smoking a cigarette—his last damn cigarette—but, thanks to this faggot, he will have time to finish it.
Ryan walks in the direction of Hyde Park. His shadow, emboldened by the streetlights, intermingles with the shadow of the gentleman. The gentleman is singing. “Hoo rah, hoo rah. The Campbells are coming. Hoo rah.”
The punch, when Ryan delivers it, is swift, scientific—the gentleman grabs his stomach. “Ooof,” he says—his carnation pops off. Ryan catches him as his knees begin to sag and sits him down in a doorway. He searches the man’s pockets, finds his wallet, opens it up. Only forty dollars—hardly worth his time. But principle is principle. Ryan pockets twenty dollars and leaves the rest in the wallet. The coot will need money for a cab. “Let that be a lesson to you, Pops.” He tosses him the wallet. “What would your wife think?”
Leaving the gentleman in the doorway, Ryan marches back towards the coffeehouse. He knows from experience that the man won’t call the cops. And he has bigger matters to worry about. It is late—nearly midnight—and Stork is still alive.
Ryan lurks outside of the coffeehouse. Stork is not around. While he waits, Ryan swallows a hit of meth—a capsule that he smuggled out of jail. Twenty minutes pass, but Stork does not appear. Fuck it—there’s no sense in hanging around all night just to kill off another snitch. He may as well party instead—have himself a ball. In case the cops get lucky enough to nab him.
Ryan walks two blocks downhill to the classiest nightclub in town. The sign on the Marquee—Whiskey A-Go-Go—flashes then fades, flashes then fades. Ryan sucks in his belly as he walks towards the doorway. No sense in advertising the bulge from the gun.
A burly bouncer waves him in, and Ryan strolls into the club — unsearched. The club, a cavernous place, is filled with servicemen, cigarette smoke, scantily dressed women serving drinks. The lights from a chandelier force him to squint. His pupils, dilated from the meth, are probably bigger than saucers now.
A hostess approaches him—a pencil-thin woman in her fifties with stiletto heels. Her silvery dress clings like cellophane to her tits and spits back the light from the chandelier. Her cheekbones have the windswept look of a bad facelift. She is looking at him with exaggerated concern. “Are you hungry, my dear?”
Ryan grins. “I could eat.”
She points towards an empty booth at a far corner of the club. “Have a seat, poor sir. A waitress will bring you something. It’s entirely on the house.” The woman’s eyes are tender, her voice is softer than silk, but there is an unmistakable putdown to her offer. Behave and we will feed you—just like a dog.
Insulted, Ryan takes a seat at the far end of the nightclub—a corner so dark that his eyes have to readjust. A half-naked waitress brings him his bribe: a hamburger on a paper plate. Ryan orders schnapps with a beer chaser and pays for it with his own money.
Ryan takes a bite out of the burger. It is soggy—practically raw. What do they think he is—a vampire? He spits the mouthful out and shoves the plate to one side. He then downs the schnapps quickly to wash away the taste of the burger. He finishes his beer in several gulps.
The room is now glittering like a diamond. A faggot band is beginning to play. A tight-butt woman is singing a Beatles song—something about Mother Mary and letting it be. Ryan gets a hard on listening to the woman. He’d nail her a good one if he wasn’t getting married tomorrow—show her what a real man can do. And after he had her begging for more, he’d turn her into his squaw. Ryan closes his eyes and listens to the beat of the ballad. There’s nothing like a bit of music before icing yourself a snitch. Helps put a man in the mood.
The music fades as Ryan begins to nod off. He wakes up abruptly. The room is now dotted with flashes of light. They mingle with the band, the couples on the dance floor—even with the bouncers standing like sentinels near the doorway.
A towering nun, obscured by the jumping lights, is drifting from table to table. She seems to hover like a bird of prey. What the fuck is she up to—trying to pluck souls? Nuns don’t belong here and that’s for sure. It’s bad enough when they show up in jail.
Ryan slips from the booth and struts towards the dance floor. Screw that skinny hostess. Ryan came here to party and he’s going to party. Time to show the women here his moves. The band is now playing “I Shot The Sheriff”—which has put him in the mood for a war dance.
Standing in the middle of the dance floor, Ryan struts his stuff. He hops nimbly from foot to foot while singing. “Hiii yah yah yah yah.” The bouncers are watching him intently while the women are checking him out. When the song is over, the room is spinning: an aggravation since Ryan needs to piss—badly. His bladder has swollen to the size of a medicine ball. Slowly, as though navigating a carousel, Ryan makes his way towards the men’s room.
The door to the men’s room is hard to find. When he finally spots it, it seems as though an hour has passed. Ryan enters the room judiciously as though walking into a church. It is empty—thank god—and a shiny urinal sits before him like a shrine.
Ryan throws back his head as he urinates. The relief is so great that he closes his eyes. He sighs like a hound when he has finished and shakes himself for several seconds. A good strong piss is better than sex. Lasts longer too.
The door to the bathroom bangs open.
Instantly, Ryan crouches. His shoulder is turned towards the door, his fists are balled and ready to strike. A jailhouse stance.
His muscles relax when he sees the intruder—a beetle-browed man with a pork pie hat. He couldn’t be more than five feet tall and he’s scuttling into the bathroom like a centipede. The man halts when he sees Ryan. He yelps and then scuttles back out. That cocksucker better run. He deserves a good ass whipping—just for looking like a bug. And he might have knocked.
Ryan stumbles to the sink—turns on the faucet. Time to wash up and get the hell out of here. Time to get on with his mission. When he presses the liquid soap dispenser, he pauses. The soap is red and irresistibly glossy. Ryan covers his fingers with the soap and then combs four streaks onto each of his cheeks—bear claw marks. It looks like he’s wearing war paint now. He admires his reflection in the mirror as he finishes washing up.
Ryan strolls back into the clubroom. The lights are still jumping—popping all around him like flash bulbs—but he can still make out faces. The women are watching him, mouths agape—the men are applauding him loudly. Ryan bounces as he walks and chants, “Woo woo woo.” It’s about time they paid homage to a true Indian brave. Even the hostess is looking him over, her eyes growing wider than doorknobs.
The hostess is in front of him now and her tits are heaving with excitement. Let her wait her turn—she’s a little too skinny for him to fuck first. He should have brought a rubber hose just to beat off some of the women in here. When she speaks to him, she is still gulping for breath—so much so that it sounds like she’s uttering a single word. “Siryou’reindecent.”
Irritated, Ryan thumps his chest with his fist. “I’m Hunting Bear, woman. Show some respect.”
She is wringing her hands as though ridding them of ants, but her voice is now measured and stern. “That’s just the problem, sir. You’re a little too bare.”
Ryan bows his head, notices his exposed willie, and sighs. It’s not a good day for meat. Still, she didn’t have to call him indecent. Twelve inches on the slack is pretty damn decent.
Reluctantly, Ryan shakes his head. She has forcedhim to even the score. Not that he wants to upset her, but honor is honor. No one talks that way to Hunting Bear. Especially, when he’s on the warpath.
Ryan grabs the front of the woman’s gown—yanks. The fabric tears—her breasts spring free, wobbling about like water balloons. Not a bad rack for so skinny a broad. The woman gasps. “The cleaners,” she says. “This dress just came back from the cleaners, sir.”
Ryan takes off his wristwatch and hands it to her. It’s gotta be worth thirty dollars to a pawnbroker. “That oughta cover it, sister” he says. “Save me the bill if it costs any more to fix.”
She doesn’t accept the watch—instead, she clutches her dress to her breasts. Her voice is now shriller than a police siren. “Get this tramp out of here. We fed him and look how he acts.”
Ryan shakes his head. Some hostess she is—can’t handle a little tit for tat. Hell, the bitch is lucky he didn’t spank her.
The bouncers are on him now: a hand grabs his collar, yanking him backwards—more hands pin his arms to his sides. “Zip it,” a voice cries, but Ryan cannot move. There’s got to be four of them, at least—that’s how many it takes to handle Hunting Bear.
‘WE EVEN FED HIM,” the hostess cries. “We even fed him. We even fed that boar of a man … ” Her voice grows fainter as the bouncers frog march him to the back door of the club. Bouncers and cops—they’re all the same: too chicken shit to fight him one on one. And they always take the woman’s side.
Although Ryan struggles mightily, they throw him into an alley behind the club. His hands—quicker than a serpent’s tongue—break his fall as he hits the pavement. The door to the club slams shut behind him.
Remarkably, Ryan can still feel the press of the pistol in his crotch. He could have popped all four of them but fuck it. The bouncers were just doing their job—even if they were gutless about it. It’s that goddamn Stork who needs popping.
Ryan rises to his feet, dusts off his knees, and eases his tallywhacker back into his pants. Oughta have a pulley to reel in that baby. Zipping his pants up, he steps from the alley back onto the sidewalk.
A street clock reminds him that it’s two o’clock in the morning. It may as well be noon, high noon, like that movie he saw a year ago with Gary Cooper as the sheriff. Now there’s a real man: he popped off four bad guys who all needed dusting. Slaughtered them like hogs. Do not forsake me, oh my darlin’, on this our wedding daaay. The theme song from the movie runs through his mind as he marches back to the coffeehouse.
The streetlights are floating like jellyfish; the storefronts sweep by him as though borne upon a current. He has all but forgotten the incident in the nightclub; like a piece of flotsam, it will soon be lost in the swampland of his memory. Ryan is grateful his memory is shot—the streets are no place for a cluttered mind. Stick to the basics and the basics will take care of you. And so hussies you hump, snitches you kill, faggots you roll, and angels you guard—that is if you can find an angel. The streets are practically empty now.
That he still has the gun means his mission is sealed. It is in the stars that he rid the world of scumbags. And a man can’t be arguing with the stars. The sanctity of his mission grows clearer still when he sees Stork standing alone at the top of the hill. With his back pressed against a storefront wall, his eyes staring blandly ahead, he looks like a prisoner awaiting execution. Stork turns his head slowly in Ryan’s direction. He slowly looks away.
Ryan slaps the clip into the gun. The clip has four rounds in it, but he will only need one. Ryan, an expert marksman, can hit a dime at fifty yards. Too bad for Stork that he had to go and drop one.
Since his mission cannot fail, there is no point in putting things off. He will lure Stork into the alley himself. He will use the pretense of making a buy. Stork did not recognize him, after all. He does not know that Ryan, heaven’s avenger, will be the last person he sees on earth.
Ryan pulls back the slide, chambers a round, and puts the gun back into his pants. The time is now.
Stork’s face softens as Ryan approaches him. His smile is warm, infectious, and utterly disarming, but it is a smile of solicitation—not recognition—much like the smile of a supermarket clerk. Sample our cheesecake, the smile seems to say. The first piece is free. That asshole would need plugging even if he wasn’t a snitch. It’s too bad he has to look like Jesus.
Stork keeps smiling as Ryan plants himself in front of him. The fucker still doesn’t know who he is. Ryan snaps his thick fingers. “A buck’s worth of speed.”
Stork’s eyes crinkle warmly as he looks Ryan over. He seems amused by the red soap streaks on Ryan’s face. Obviously, Ryan is not a narc. “Might I see the money, my friend?”
Ryan dips into his pocket and pulls out a wad—a roll of one-dollar bills wrapped up in a twenty. Stork seems convinced that he is holding a hundred dollars. “Come into my office, sir.”
Ryan follows Stork into the alley. The alley is darker than he remembers and smells of piss. When Stork turns to face him, Ryan is pointing the pistol at his chest.
Stork shows no alarm—only benign interest. His smile seems chiseled upon his face. “Do you do hits?” he asks.
Ryan shakes his head. The cocksucker still thinks he’s in charge.
“Do you do hits?” Stork repeats. “I could use a man with courage. Now you can rob me for chump change or you can earn some real money. And I’ll give you that buck’s worth for free.”
Ryan extends his arm. The gun is now six inches from Stork’s chest. So the fucker wants him to kill for drugs and money? That’s not a bad idea, but Ryan has justice to perform. And Stork needs to know that his hour has come.
“I hittin’ you, asshole—let’s get that straight. You dropped a dime.”
Stork’s smile remains frozen upon his face. “My friend, I don’t know you from Adam.”
“Get a clue, asshole. Adam wears a fig leaf.”
“I see,” Stork replies. “That must be him behind you.”
Ryan looks over his shoulder—no one is there. When he looks back at Stork, the cocksucker is fifty feet away and running. The oldest damn trick in the book.
Ryan wraps both his hands around the pistol grip. Anticipating the kick, he presses one hand against the other—the old push-pull. Can’t ice a snitch if the gun isn’t steady. He pulls the trigger—twice—and the gun starts bucking like a bitch in heat.
Ryan’s ears are humming—he should have put plugs in them. He lowers the pistol to finish Stork off, but the fucker is still sprinting like a deer. Impossible—he’s got to have two slugs in him. Ryan fires again—the sound splits his eardrums. Pavement explodes near Stork’s heels.
Ryan kneels down to steady his aim. The gun is kicking too much, and Stork wasn’t hit at all. He raises the pistol. “I’ll pay you,” Stork shouts, but his voice is practically buried by the ringing in Ryan’s ears.
Stork is zigzagging as he runs, throwing off Ryan’s aim. That fucker’s been shot at before. Ryan squeezes the trigger—g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y. POW. Stork stumbles the instant he fires and falls down, but Ryan hears the slug ricochet off the alley wall.
Stork is back on his feet—running like a greyhound and not even wounded. His footsteps echo hollowly as he disappears down the alley. He should have taken his punishment like a man. Now Ryan is really pissed.
Ryan rises to his feet. He does a quick war dance. No one gets the better of Hunting Bear—not even when his gun is empty. He will track Stork down and beat him to death with his tallywhacker, if necessary. Ryan can track an ant across a desert.
For now, Ryan needs to get out of here. A police siren, wailing like a banshee, challenges the ringing in his ears. Ryan picks up the shell casings, hotter than live coals, and shoves them into his pocket. He plunges the gun back into his pants.
Ryan’s belt snags the trigger.
The gun bucks and roars.
A blow knocks his leg out from under him.
Ryan tries to run but can only stagger. Hunting Bear is hit. He must have miscounted the bullets.
Pulling a handkerchief from his pocket, Ryan quickly wraps the wound. The handkerchief reddens instantly—no matter. Ryan has survived a dozen wounds.
Dragging his leg behind him, Ryan peeks from the alley. The street is empty—he can make his escape. If he can make it to Hyde Park, just a half mile away, the police will never find him. Like a true Indian brave, he will vanish among the trees.
Ryan depresses the clip from the gun. Catching the clip, he tosses it into a dumpster. He throws the gun back into the alley.
Moving gingerly, Ryan hobbles in the direction of Hyde Park. His leg feels transformed—it is now a dead log—but it is not the leg that is slowing him down. A fat clown, juggling water balloons, is blocking the entire sidewalk. The clown’s mouth is crimson, like an open wound, and he is calling cadence as he tosses the balloons. “One, two, three, faw. One, two, three faw.” His concentration is so intense that he may as well be throwing up grenades.
Ryan veers too sharply to avoid the clown. He falls to the ground—pain shoots through his knee. Another damn rip in his pants. Scrambling to his feet, Ryan continues to stagger toward the park.
That clown needs an ass whipping—hogging the entire sidewalk—but Ryan hasn’t got time to do it. Hopefully, the circus will take care of him.
The police siren is growing louder, but the street is still empty. Ryan limps on, his leg dragging with every step. The wound starts to thaw as he approaches an intersection. His thigh is now aching like a bad tooth.
The street light changes. A towering mass, dumped in the center of the crosswalk, is bathed in a scarlet glow. The mass takes shape as Ryan draws nearer. It’s that fucking nun again.
The nun turns toward him and he can now make out her face. Her lips are pursed, as though she is preparing to kiss him, and her jaw is moving mechanically. She is holding a small pig, stroking it behind the ears. The pig grunts affectionately, unaware that it has been stuck—that one of its intestines is dangling like a dick.
The nun nods as Ryan approaches her. She is looking at him possessively, a dominion not born out of reverence—not even concern for his injury—but from the tacit understanding that he will be her next meal.
Ryan dashes past the nun and finishes crossing the street. Fuck that bitch—she will have to catch him first. And no one catches Hunting Bear.
The park is now only a block away. The trees, the lamp posts, the bushes emerge—much like soldiers advancing through a fog. Ryan staggers on—only fifty yards to go—but the siren is growing louder.
Distracted by the fog, Ryan practically trips over the elfin girl—the waif he gave money to earlier that night. She is sitting upon the sidewalk, giggling loudly and polishing an apple. Her feet are bare and her naked toes are wiggling like newborn mice. She is wearing a pink dress.
Ryan stares at the girl. “Beat it, Dolly. I told you that once already.”
She laughs merrily. “Storks deliver babies,” she chirps.
Ryan shakes his head. He’s seen geese with better sense. If she gets herself shot, she can’t say he didn’t warn her. And the police are just about to close in on him.
Ryan staggers on—only thirty yards to go. The park grows fainter with every step he takes, as though he is approaching a mirage. It is not until he feels the grass beneath his shoes that he realizes how far he has come.
The siren is deafening now but Ryan, crouched behind some bushes, knows he has made his escape. His wound is now pounding like a war drum, a tribute to his triumph. Ryan closes his eyes, stretches out on the grass, and allows the fog to deepen.
Ryan awakes to a popping sound. It is morning, he is alive, and a bunch of Nancy boys are playing cricket. Ryan hobbles to his feet, unimpressed by the contest. He doesn’t have to worry about Nancy boys. Dressed in white and scuttling around a green, they look like a bunch of geese. The fuckers don’t know what real sport is. Real sport is dodging cops, rolling drunks, and icing snitches. If it wasn’t his wedding day, he’d go and have a talk with them.
Ryan rummages through the bushes, locates his backpack, and pulls out a change of clothing. Kneeling behind the bushes, he peels off his ruined pants. When he inspects the wound, he is pleasantly surprised. Although his thigh is splotched with gray and yellow bruises, the bullet holes are scabbing over. The slug went clean through his leg—didn’t even touch an artery.
Ryan tears up a tee shirt, rewraps the wound, and slips on a clean pair of pants. He shaves by running a straight razor over his dry face. Only Nancy boys need soap and water.
Ryan quickly puts on a fresh shirt and a tie. A subtle joy has caught up with him—he is not in jail, his wound is only a scratch, and tonight he will finish off Stork. And this morning he is getting married.
Ryan’s happiness grows as he limps from the park, rests upon the sidewalk, and then hops on an eastbound bus. His heart remains full when he gets off the bus and hobbles the four remaining blocks to the Wayside Chapel. Even when he spots Miss Muffet, a skanky little broad sitting on the chapel lawn, his chest can only swell. Her greasy hair, her flinty eyes, the needle bruises on her forearms all seem endearing to him.
She looks at him impatiently. “You ready, mister?”
He nods, accepts her hand, and follows her up the chapel steps. He can feel his wound starting to bleed, but fuck it. Get that blood into his pecker and he won’t have to worry about seepage.
At the chapel door, they are met by a plump minister with a lazy eye—a saint of a man who, after examining the forged blood tests, walks them to the altar and guides them through their vows. Placing a ring on the girl’s dirty finger—a ring she had slipped into his pocket—Ryan repeats, “Until death do us part.” Not much longevity there, Ryan chuckles. How about until a better piece of ass comes along?
When the ceremony is over, Ryan accompanies the girl down the steps of the chapel. A taxicab, paid for by her pimp, is waiting to take them to a suite at the Holiday Inn. The girl hands him a package of rubbers—he smiles. Nothing like a bit of cherry busting to get him into the mood for a hunt.
Following Miss Muffet to the taxicab, Ryan whoops like a rustler. The day is young—the cops are nowhere in sight. And his life, for all good purposes, has unfolded like a bouquet of roses. Before him lie further adventures. Behind him lie wanton red blots.
James Hanna is a retired probation officer and a former fiction editor. Due to his background, the criminal element figures strongly in much of his writing. James’ stories have appeared in over thirty journals, including Sixfold, Crack the Spine, and The Literary Review. His books, all of which have won awards, are available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/-/es/James-Hanna
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