THE UNTITLED – collectively created by iPinion Syndicate contributors
CHAPTER 1 – What Are The Odds?
Debra DeAngelo, Gary Huerta, Kate Laddish, David Lacy, Jesse Loren, Matt Naj, Maya Spier North, Judith Newton, Julie Parker, Theresa Reichman, Donald Sanders, Sunny Schlenger, Christy Sillman, Cathy Speck, Kelvin Wade, David Weinshilboum, Carolyn Wyler
Edited by Gary Huerta
Arid wind arrogantly elevated its own status, surfing dry grass, sagging utility wires, and whistling through a bullet hole in the window of a 1966 turquoise Ford Galaxy. Flies within the vehicle competed vigorously for the Early Bird Special, as the tree car freshener spun impotently beneath the rearview mirror.
“Make yourself useful and hand me that burger,” Bob said. He had little patience for his passenger ever since they first crossed paths. Fucking Doug. Pathetic Doug. Everything Bob thought of Doug was filled with loathing and disdain. The truth is, if there wasn’t a ransom to be made, he’d have been just as happy to cut the brief case from his doltish companion’s arm, settle the debt and be sitting under an umbrella in the dry heat of Cuernavaca with a local native rubbing oil on parts further south. Oh well. So much for the best laid plans of mice and maggots.
Asshole Doug picked up the sloppy triple cheeseburger with a hand that needed soap and a scrub brush, and for a moment Bob thought he was going to comply without some pathetic act of defiance. As soon as Doug smirked, licked his chapped lips, and opened his mouth and shoved that greasy burger into his gaping maw, Bob punched him clean in the jaw. The burger landed on the dashboard like a Salvador Dali clock while Doug’s head rebounded off the passenger window, knocking him unconscious for the second time during this trip. Bob caught one of the overcooked patties as it slid a condiment slide from the dash. There was no telling when they’d be able to stop again to get something to eat.
“You had it coming, fucknut,” said Bob, wiping a splooge of Thousand Island dressing from his scrungy beard with the back of his hand, which he then wiped on Doug’s sleeve.
While Doug was out, Bob tried to think about where they should go. He narrowed it down to a choice between Lodi, California and Winslow, Arizona, but figured, what the heck, since they were both in the same general direction he could decide along the way. After Doug regained consciousness, and after about 40 miles of his non-stop, useless drivel that went on uninterrupted, despite the Eagles blaring from the CD player, Bob spotted a figure by the side of the road ahead. As he got closer, the shape became more defined. Tall, blonde, lanky, and good-looking enough to make him wish they were both gay. The stranger was wearing a pair of jeans he had been poured into, slung low, and a purple T-shirt with a peace sign in pink. Bob pulled over, rolled down the window, and asked him his name.
“Dunn, Archie Dunn”.
Bob looked at him, smiled, and said, “Hop in back!”
The Galaxy had barely reached a cruising speed of 76 mph when the grinning boy toy known as Archie raised an eyebrow.
“Say, is it just me, or does it smell like Thousand Island dressing?”
As Archie finished his query, Doug, who had regained consciousness, slowly turned his head and gave a sideward glance that said, “You’ve got a ride, enough with the questions.” The moment their eyes met, Archie lowered his brow and cleared his throat, a nonverbal retraction of the aforementioned question. As Doug again faced forward, Archie caught a glimpse of red splatter on the man’s shirt collar. Again, Archie’s brow arched. The red was undoubtedly blood. Then his eyes drifted to the passenger-side window where a thin smear of red remained.
Suddenly, Archie realized that his hitchhiking experience might not resemble some silly romantic comedy like “The Sure Thing,” but rather it could end up a brutal, unpalatable horror flick.
“Like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
“Say, where you fellas headed?” Archie murmured with a forced sense of calm. The truth was, Archie wasn’t fooling anyone. He was scared shitless.
It would’ve been easy for Bob to play into Archie’s newborn panic, but the truth was, Bob needed Archie. On the other side, Archie had no idea how instrumental he was becoming to Bob, to Fuckstick Doug, to the ultimate conclusion of their grimy annoying dilemma. Bob knew he had to keep Archie’s trust and keep him unwary. Most of all, he couldn’t let him know what was in the trunk. The trunk. The ticking time bomb. In a few days, not even Thousand Island dressing would be able to disguise the stench that was sure to emit from the makeshift Galaxy tomb.
“South, Archie, we’re headed South.”
Bob turned the knob on the stereo as “Hotel California” echoed through the car, an appropriately eerie presage to Archie’s ultimate fate.
Archie rubbed his sharp, boy toy chin as if he was seriously pondering their direction of travel and was attempting to come up with the most diplomatic response that suggested he needed to head north, west, or east instead. Any direction but south. The problem was, he indeed needed to travel south. That’s where Nickki was. Beautiful, blonde, thick-accented Nickki. Russian Nickki. “Nuclear Nickki” he called her. She called him “Bunker,” a play on his name and a place of retreat from her frequent explosions. He smiled, sighed, and squirmed a little all at the same time.
You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave.
Archie’s thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a loud scream that he quickly ascertained was resonating from the back of his own throat. He had seen the big rig veering into their lane before his chauffeur had and it was heading straight at them. Archie’s body jerked to the left as the driver swerved the car suddenly to the right in order to avoid a full head-on collision. The car became airborne as it flew off of an embankment. Archie was certain that all three of their lives were over. His thoughts again went back to Nickki and dreams of their future together that were not to happen. She was going to be really pissed at him this time, but whom was she going to yell at with him gone? He would have found it quite amusing if he weren’t going to be dead in about two seconds.
All at once, it was over. Silence took up residence where the sounds of chaos had once reigned supreme. Now the only thing that could be heard in the desolation was the sound of the radio.
Desperado. Why don’t you come to your senses?
Now it was dark, not a ray of light anywhere to help Archie see Nickki’s face. In the black abyss she was using her tongue like a washcloth, wiping Archie’s face. Archie, half-dazed, half-aroused, shook his head as the light began to stream in. It wasn’t until then that he saw the pig licking his face — a three-legged pig. A farmer stood behind the swine.
“Three legs?” mumbled Archie, his head aching.
Beyond the licking pig, a voice replied, “Yessir, that there is a good pig. You didn’t think I was a gonna eat him all at once, do ya?”
Archie tried to compose himself despite the ringing in his head and the searing pain running up and down his body. He looked at the twisted piece of metal that used to be a car. The hood was coated with guts, skin, and French fries – the last of the Bob, Doug and the Early Bird Special.
“Say… that’s a nice briefcase that feller had,” the farmer wheezed.
Archie leered and scanned the wreckage. His eyes immediately caught an arm handcuffed to a Samsonite briefcase. He smiled and grabbed the briefcase before the farmer could get to it. Archie smirked as he looked at the farmer and said, “Bob and Doug weren’t supposed to make their drop-off. Thank God Bob is a lousy driver. It saved me the hassle of having to kill them both.”
“Kill…?” the farmer said.
“Yeah. Kill. Like this.” Archie quickly drew a GLOCK 9mm that was hidden in his jacket and put two perfect holes in the farmer’s head. The proximity of the holes were testament to the assassin’s expert ability to execute hillbillies. Archie was a professional, and this perhaps was the easiest hit of his career.
Archie jerked his gaze back to the car where the lid of the dented trunk was slowly opening. The screech of the twisted metal forced him to cover his ears, an unusual reaction for a stone cold killer. He watched in horror as two bodies, covered in Thousand Island dressing, crawled from the gaping hole. Unrecognizable, the two figures moved slowly toward him.
“Good-bye Texas Chainsaw. Hello Day of the Fucking Dead.”
He backed up, bile rising in the back of his throat, realizing that the GLOCK would be useless against something already dead. The creatures wiped the slime from their faces and smiled toothless grins under empty eye sockets. As Archie’s brain was processing the vision of his new zombie reality, one of the undead raised a tire iron and swung it at Archie’s head.
It was done. They had stopped him. Betty and Veronica raised their fists in the air. Again, all went dark. Then light. Then gray and light. And the ringing came back.
“The Twinkie Defense, ” mumbled Archie.
“What the f-fuck.. ? W-what th-the hell?” Deputy Frank stumbled on his words as he stumbled around the Galaxy wreckage.”
“The Twinkie Defense,” grumbled Archie as he wiped his nose.
Archie was slowly breaking through his fog and squinted at two new players in his little drama. Both men looked a helluva lot more official than the zombie bitch that clocked him in the head. And one of them was definitely familiar. Archie’s concussed mind began rambling incoherently.
“C’mon man, you don’t fool me, Andy Mayberry. You know what the Twinkie Defense is… you probably used it for yourself. Are you on the down low, maybe, huh? You gotta nice ass there, Andy Mayberry. And so what, so what. Nickki is Nikkolaus the Russian. That tranny gives the best head and… you know what I think? I bet you’d like Miss Nickki too. Uh oh Andy, is that a pistol, or are you just happy to see me?”
Archie tried to get up but could only manage to move to his knees. He was laughing even though he had no idea why.
“D-d-don’t f-fucking m-move. J-j-j-just p-p-put your h-h-hands in the air, we ex-ex-ex-expected y-you!”
This was the first “big time” bust for Deputy Frank. There wasn’t much money in this desolate county, so the rookie deputy and his sheriff covered the day-to-day crimes. But when things got hot they had to ask for “volunteers.”
Archie kept fading in and out until he heard the deep, powerful voice of Sheriff Rod Blakely coming from the other side of the wreckage.
“Well, you don’t win this time, Archie the faggot. It’s so fabulous to see you again, Archie the faggot.”
Suddenly the fog cleared.
The last time Archie heard that sonorous voice was when the sheriff was on top with his mouth nipping the back of Archie’s neck. That loaded memory made Archie furious and even more lucid. The sheriff was tall, commanding, and despite the predicament, still looked damn good to Archie. He always did like men in uniform.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Blakely put one of his boots on Archie’s neck.
“Hey Frank, what the hell Frank, did you forget what I told you about the arm and the briefcase? Get the case and pick up the fucking arm, too Frank. Pick it up and bring it here, you stuttering fool.”
The sheriff had his cold-hearted pistol aimed at Archie’s chest.
“You’re a sad, sad idiot Archie. Did you really think I loved you, like I even gave a shit about you? It’s all about money, sugar pie, this whole twisted deal, all of it, was about sweet, sweet money. I knew the plan before you did, that’s why you’re on the ground with my gun pointed at your heart.”
Blakely took his size 12 boot off of Archie.
“Get up, faggot fuck.”
He took the briefcase from Deputy Frank and threw it in front of Archie.
“Go ahead Archie, open the brief case. Hold on tight to that arm, Frank.”
Archie opened the unlocked briefcase. He peered in, and his body slumped as a bit of blood trickled out of his nose. He turned the case upside down, shook it and shook it again even more violently. The sight of tightly folded newspapers falling out onto the dusty, gray, brown dirt made Archie whimper.
“Dirty rotten dirt.”
Blakely’s cheeks turned red and hot as he suddenly remembered how the bust was supposed to unfold. Shit-for-brains Doug was part of the heist. The arm was a prosthetic, hollowed and filled with $100 bills – over one million dollars cash, cold-hearted cash, along with some ecstacy and coke just for fun.
The sheriff whistled towards the two “creatures” who were hanging out by the back end of the once classy Galaxy.
“Hey girls, Betty! Veronica! Take off those monster masks, you’re giving me the creeps.”
The 30-something women who “volunteered” for this case were both Licensed Vocational Nurses at the community clinic and had the day off. They weren’t told the whole story before they put their masks and gooey costumes on, and climbed into the trunk. They had no idea this was a back-biting, double-crossing, corrupt and fatal adventure. But they were offered $100 each for just a couple hours of “crime fighting,” so why not try something potentially exciting?
Frank cautiously handed the arm to Betty who cradled the prosthetic and rested it on her ample bosom. Frank thought she smelled like hot Thousand Island dressing. The thought of eating a woman who tasted like a Big Mac was a throbbing turn on. He would have said something but the thought of fumbling his words and embarrassing himself in front of a woman with a 36-inch rack cooled his jets.
The sheriff signaled Betty to come stand behind him.
“Cuff ‘m Frank,” instructed the sheriff. “Cuff the faggot and make him get down on his knees and put his face down in the dirt.”
“F-f-f-faggot!” Frank could feel his face getting hotter as he snapped the cuffs on both wrists behind his back.
“And the sweetest part, Archie baby,” the sheriff gruffly whispered in Archie’s ear, “The sweetest part of this is, you’re finally going to jail. But, hey, you’ll like it in prison if I don’t kill you first. I haven’t made up my mind yet.”
The sheriff slid his pistol into his holster. Frank was silent, he clenched his teeth together so his lips wouldn’t quiver and his chin wouldn’t shake. Frank kept staring at the scene as if he were watching a late night cop show on TV. Blakely crouched down near Archie’s head and calmly pulled an iPod out of the left pocket on the front of his uniform, and then put the ear buds in Archie’s ears.
“Perfect song for you, sweet Archie Dunn.”
At first, the ringing in his ears seemed louder than the music, which he couldn’t decipher. But as his adrenaline calmed down, he recognized the top pop song from 1969. Back then, this was song that Archie loved to hate and hated to love:
Sugar. Ah honey, honey.
You are my candy girl.
And you’ve got me wanting you.
The sheriff pulled out his gun slowly, steadily as if he were deciding what to do. Time slowed as each second ticked by as loud as 4th of July firecrackers. He nudged the pistol into the nape of Archie’s neck.
“Just tell me one thing, Blondie…”
Archie knew the question before he finished it. He felt his heart relax and hard-pulsing blood slow to a steady calm. It was the question he had been banking on since before setting out on his hitchhiking endeavors. He didn’t move except to fidget with his hair, focusing on the way the prickly ends felt on his numb-calloused hands. Archie always had a knack for sending the right body language. Like a couple of months ago, when Blakely was getting too close to his target. We knew that he was a glutton for a young thing in scanty clothes. So, he did the damndest thing. He became a decoy. A decoy, who lay pinned beneath Blakely’s sweating body and his choking gasps of arousal. It wasn’t his proudest moment, but it worked.
“You’d be surprised what a faggot like me would do for a million bucks.”
“Where the hell is that Russian bitch of yours?” Blakely snarled, the embarrassment and bitterness of being duped was fresh on his ruddy face.
Nickki. God she was a brilliant motherfucker for a trannie, Archie thought. She knew how to lure you into her games. While you’re stupidly smitten and dipping your toes into a lusty life of scandal and danger, you don’t realize she already has you buried at sea you’re so far in over your head. Then you’re fucked – really fucked — and you wind up doing things like… well, like that Skoal-chewing Blakely-pig over there. But I love her. Even when she’s not her. Jesus. I was married before Nickki. But once I married her, I ended that. And sure, I had attractions to other men before, but Nickki was the whole package. Literally. There was no way I’d ever lead them to him or her, even if they sunk that bullet right into my chest. But they didn’t need to know that.
Archie feigned resignation. Tormented. Defeated.
“She’s hiding out…” he blurted the words out purposefully. He let his eyes well up.
“There’s a club… An underground club.” Not a lie… But not what they wanted. Keeping focus, he nodded towards the car. “I can take you there.”
The sheriff shifted his stinking tobacco from one wind-blown cheek to the other. Blakely gestured for Archie to hop in the car next to those dimwits, Betty and Veronica.
“Betty and Veronica. Was that another one of Blakely’s sick jokes? Where’s Reggie and Jughead?”
Archie shifted into autopilot and started thinking fast. Daylight was fading and the action at Club Nightmare would just be… waking up. All he needed was to get Sheriff Blakely, his knuckle-dragging pet Deputy Frank and the two zombie wannabes to take him there at just the right moment.
“Food for Nickki, money for both of us, and a tidy getaway to — where? Where does a hot young stud like me, with my double-take face, escape with a vampire tranny girlfriend and expect to live the high life? Alternate seasons between the Arctic and the Antarctic, chasing those lonnnnng winter nights? It could work.”
Before Archie could finish his thought, Betty and Veronica began elbowing him hard in the ribs. They wanted action and their bullshit meters were going off like nuclear warning sirens. They may have been unwitting volunteers and nothing more than nurses in the real world, but they were feeling their parts.
“Fucking method actors.”
Gravel pinged off the car’s undercarriage as Blakely accelerated down the godforsaken stretch of blacktop, while the smells of dust, ill-used condiments, and something with an almost-recognizable tang filled the too-close atmosphere of the crowded car. The Thousand Island bimbos were alternately telegraphing each other with their eyes and acting with an exaggerated, “Who-me?” kind of cluelessness.
More than anything, Archie hated when dumb-ass amateurs assumed their actions went without notice. At least they’d stopped digging their elbows into his ribs. Well, at least Veronica had stopped. Betty’s right elbow kept knocking into his left side whenever the car hit a pothole. What made it really bad was the way the corners of the damn briefcase…
“Wait. Fuck. Briefcase?”
Archie slid his eyes left. The briefcase. Reclosed but still attached to Doug’s arm. Dickbreath Doug and his damn elbow. It gave Betty three hands in her lap.
“Dumb motherfucker is dead and he’s still managing to feel this hottie up.”
Archie wanted to run a hand over his chiseled chin — reminding himself of his good looks always cleared his head — but having his hands cuffed behind his back made that a no-go. Instead, he counted to five and inched his eyes upward along Doug’s arm, not stopping to admire the set of hooters — not because he didn’t want to — but because Asshat Doug’s damn arm went all the way up and disappeared into Betty’s short sleeve. Archie stiffened, and not in a good way, with surprise. Betty caught his eye, raised one plucked brow, and drew his attention back to her lap where there were still three hands, two of which were attached to arms that were attached to Betty.
“Lost the right one when I was five,” Betty breathed into Archie’s left ear; “Slip-N-Slide accident,” whispered Veronica into the right, giving it an unnervingly bracing nip. Veronica reached across me and grasped Betty’s prosthetic right arm just above the elbow and started beating Blakely and Frank over their heads as Betty roared, “Do. Not. Fuck. With. Nurses!!!”
The horn sounded as the sheriff slumped forward and the driverless car careened out of control. As it did, two things raced through Archie’s mind: Who gets into two fucking car wrecks within a 20-minute span? And what are the odds of two fucking people having a prosthetic arm?
Blakely was already on his way out of the driver’s side window. That’s what happens when centrifugal force is imposed on a fat pig without a seat belt. All Deputy Frank could do was muster, “Holy sh-sh-sh-sh-sh.”
In those split seconds it took for all hell to break loose, Archie calculated the odds of the two questions he had asked himself.
The world outside the windows of the patrol car was now upside down.
“Ten million to one. Unless my Nickki was pulling the strings. In that case, it’s 50/50.”
For the third time, everything went black. Archie’s ears were filled with the ringing that was quickly becoming comforting in its familiarity. As planet Earth went from black to gray, the ringing was slowly being replaced by the sound of hissing from a radiator that had been pierced. It reminded Archie of his ex-wife.
“The lisp I thought was sexy just ended up as an irritating flaw in the end.”
As Archie’s eyes opened, two shapes and four sets of hot legs came into focus. Betty and Veronica had both been thrown halfway through the windshield, their once spectacular breasts now acting as silicone hood ornaments and their legs now assuming the role of life-size magnetic hula dolls, like the kind you’d find at a rest stop in Kingman, Arizona.
Get your kicks,
On Route 66.
Somewhere beneath the four lifeless legs was Deputy Frank. The late, g-g-great Deputy Frank.
Archie lifted his head a little further and looked out the window to survey the landscape. Off in the distance was Sheriff Blakely. He was now the latest roadkill on this stretch of highway. And there was someone else.
Someone else was standing over Blakely, looking down at the lifeless pile. The figure nudged at Blakely with a foot, lit a cigarette and proceeded towards the wreck. And Archie.
Still hazy, Archie checked to see if he could move his legs. There was feeling. He wasn’t paralyzed. But he was stuck. The “someone else” continued in a straight line towards the car. Archie knew there was purpose to this individual’s gate and checking for survivors was not part of the plan. This person was closing in for the kill. Archie was downwind and could smell the secondhand smoke. Scanning the car, he found Deputy Frank’s service revolver. Unfortunately, it was out of reach, on the floor below Frank’s soon-to-be decomposing f-f-f-feet.
“Archie, Betty and Veronica killed in highway mishap,” Archie said out loud. “Now there’s a headline.”
Archie prepared himself for the inevitable journey into the white light that would quickly turn left towards the bowels of hell. The last thing he would hear would be the clicking of someone else’s boots. After that, he’d be seated just to the left of Satan.
He closed his eyes.
“Let’s get you out of there,” someone else whispered.