Monday, January 6, 2020

Issue # 59 -- January 2020

MAD DOG
By Stephen D. Rogers

I woke up with one end of a rifle in my mouth, Mad Dog at the other. Teach me to sleep on my back. Probably snored like a bastard.

Withdrawing the muzzle of the barrel, she stepped back, keeping the weapon aimed at my head. One thing about Mad Dog, she never let crazy get in the way.

I ran a tongue over my teeth to check for any new chips.

There seemed no need to call my dentist. Leave it to Mad Dog to be careful. "I don't suppose you brought me a coffee."

"Here's the situation." Mad Dog paused. "We're going to take a drive."

I didn't want to die before I finished waking up. "Maybe you're going for a drive, but I have other plans."

"Then you're going to break them." Her cheek twitched. Better that muscle than one in her trigger finger.

"Sorry, but I can't." I swung my legs out of bed and planted my feet on the bare wood. "It's first thing in the morning. I have to pee."

"Not my problem."

"Listen, Mad Dog, either I pee or I go back to bed, which I wouldn't exactly mind, truth to tell. You don't know this, but you woke me in a cliff-hanger of a dream. I want to see how everything turns out."

"I knew you were dreaming. I watched your eyeballs moving under the lids."

There was a creepy thought. "What I don't understand is how you think you can march me down three flights of stairs with a rifle in my back."

"Third floor means two flights."

"Same problem."

"You're going to turn around, and I'm going to smash your head with the butt of this rifle. Then I'm going to dump you out the window. I doubt you'll be able to crawl away by the time I get outside."

"Where is it we're going?" And how could I survive the trip?

"I was hired to deliver you to someone."

I flexed my toes. I'd made so many enemies over the years, she hadn't exactly narrowed the field of possibilities. "If my mother wanted me to visit more often, she could have just called."

Mad Dog grinned. "You're going to wish it was your mother."

"Can I go the bathroom before you scare the piss out of me?"

"Slowly." She took another step back and to her left, away from the bathroom, finally allowing me to see past the business end of the rifle.

Mad Dog wore a tailored blue-and-white striped shirt over jeans. No jacket. She probably sauntered from her vehicle to the lobby of the apartment building and up the stairs with the rifle carried on her shoulder.

I'd already lived longer than most people who woke to Mad Dog, but I wanted to beat my own record.

"Moving slowly." I crossed to the bathroom and lifted the toilet lid and seat. Unsheathed myself.

"Put your arms back to your sides."

"It's going to get messy."

"Not my problem."

I followed orders before letting it rip. Pee splattered everywhere.

I raised my voice to mask the sound. "Remember that time we broke down on 41?"

"I'm not here to reminisce."

"Right, you're here to pick up a package." I raised my arms higher, moving my left hand closer to the shaving kit on the edge of the sink. "Still, a little conversation never hurt anyone."

"It will if it causes me to bash your brains out."

I'd been crazy to even consider going for the razor. Mad Dog was a legend for a reason, and I didn't want to die today.

"Point taken." I queried my bladder. "Thanks for letting me drain the monster. Okay if I shake?"

"Slowly."

"Kind of defeats the purpose."

"Your choice."

Again, I moved slowly. Made myself presentable and turned to face her. "See? That didn't take long."

"Now throw on some clothes."

"Seriously? You're worried about someone seeing me walking around in my undies when you're carrying a long gun?"

"It would be disrespectful for you to stand in front of him this way."

"We could stop. I could buy a tie."

"We could simulate a red one when I crush your jaw."

"Never did like how ties feel around my neck."

"Shirt. Pants. Touch a weapon, and I'll shoot you where you stand and deliver you unconscious."

"Better that than screaming, I suppose." I opened my closet and searched for something that wouldn't clash with my captor. Green checked over chinos seemed to do the trick.

On the closet floor, assorted footwear. There was a knife in the loafers. I chose the sneakers.

Tossed the clothes on the bed and started dressing. "You could tell me where we're going. Or if you want to keep that a surprise, you could tell me who's paying the bill."

"You are."

I paused mid-button. Paying the bill? "Does this have anything to do with a certain jewelry job gone wrong? Mad Dog, I'm telling you right now: I don't have the diamonds."

Mad Dog wobbled the muzzle. "Finish getting dressed."

The Colombian. I was dead.

Not yet, but soon.

I couldn't overpower Mad Dog. Couldn't escape her. Couldn't catch her making a mistake.

I resumed buttoning.

The Colombian wasn't going to kill her to keep her from talking. He wasn't going to cheat her. He wasn't going to give me a single angle to use against her.

"Instead of delivering me, you could go one better by bringing him the diamonds. He'd appreciate that. Probably reward you for your initiative."

"He told me to bring you."

"He doesn't want me. He wants the jewels."

"And he'll get them."

I didn't doubt she was right. The Colombian specialized in bending people to his will.

My shaking hands kept messing up the laces. Back to the basics. Make two bunny ears. Cross the left bunny ear with the right to make an X. X marks the spot where you dig the hole.

I gave up before I panicked and rose to my feet. "You could keep the diamonds for yourself."

"And then he'd send someone to deliver me."

I scoffed. "Nobody would be able to take you."

"We're all meat." Mad Dog tipped her head toward the door. "Time to go."

My sight dimmed as tears welled. I didn't bother to hide the fact I was crying. Least of my concerns. "Could I have a minute?"

"Now."

What did it matter? There was nothing in the room that meant anything to me.

I straightened my back and marched.

Stepped on a lace and pitched forward, staggered to catch myself, tripped over my own foot and lost my balance, arms flailing.

My right hand connected with the barrel of the gun and I formed a fist around it. Dragged it down with me as I tumbled.

Mad Dog fired probably hoping for a lucky shot, and the barrel turned hot in my grip.

I might have screamed as I jumped at her but my ears still rang. Pulled the rifle toward me as I swung with my left, glancing off her shoulder.

She fired a second time.

Her collar clenched in my left hand, I let go of the scalding barrel to punch her in the face. Scraped her temple as she twisted away.

Mad Dog stamped my leading foot. Kneed me. Caught me in the neck with a hand that came out of nowhere.

I couldn't hear. Couldn't see. Couldn't taste anything but metallic red.

My senses gone, I let the room go dark as I kicked and punched and bit, pulling at clothes and hair and flaps of skin, an animal made savage by the alternative.

Blood I couldn't see felt sticky, interfered with my ability to maintain a hold, while sweat stung my eyes, and legs—too many legs—sent me down again and again.

Falling and rising.

Slamming into walls.

Dancing drunkenly with more chairs than had been in the room the night before, a showroom of furniture that interfered with charges and cracked my spine as I rolled away to evade blows.

Fists and fingers and elbows.

On my back. On my knees. On my side. On my feet.

In the air and until I landed with a resounding thud.

A head between my hands. I lifted and slammed. Lifted and slammed. Collapsed against an uneven softness and drew in deep, thundering gasps of air.

Lungs burning. Limbs jerking.

Stinking of sweat and fear.

I closed my eyes to concentrate on staying conscious.

Stretch and creak. Ride the waves of pain. Test to determine what still works.

Color the pain in angry hues to take my mind off the likelihood of internal bleeding.

Assuming enough still remained.

Deep breath. Wince. Roll off her to stare at the ceiling, the water stains chasing each other.

Count to ten, skipping the numbers I couldn't remember.

Crawl to the bed and climb it. Twist and drop into what could be mistaken for a sitting position.

A slow, faltering attempt to inhale the world.

Some time later, one eye closed, I went for a drive.



Stephen D. Rogers is the author of SHOT TO DEATH and more than 800 shorter works.  His website, www.StephenDRogers.com,includes a list of new and upcoming titles as well as other timely information.

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