Rick was temporarily disoriented when he awoke the next morning. The combination of the firefight and his resulting wound, along with the fistfights, the thrill of meeting and winning Michelle, and the terrible nightmares, had him wondering for a moment just how much of what he remembered of the previous day had been reality.
A clock on the bedside table said it was nine in the morning. Thinking of the time reminded Rick he'd beaten Scooter up twice and nearly killed three other men in just the last thirteen hours. Not a bad average for so early in the week, Rick thought wryly. He stirred and the wound in his stiff arm informed him it was certainly all too real!
Something wonderfully soft and warm pressing against his back inspired him to carefully turn over. A great feeling of relief came over him as he saw Michelle and remembered that, though the parts of the day that had included her had seemed like a wonderful dream, thankfully they'd been reality. Her delectable nude body lay stretched out on the sheet next to him.
Michelle must have felt him stirring, she opened her alluring blue eyes and saw Rick. She murmured sleepily, "It all seems like a beautiful dream."
"I know. Babe." Rick told her. "I just pinched myself to make sure you were real."
Michelle whispered sexily, as she turned to him and kissed him. "If being in love with you is a dream, Baby, I don't ever want to wake up!" When they finally got out of bed that lazy morning, they headed for the shower. Rick enjoyed washing Michelle's back.
He was making long sweeps with the soap from her shoulders, down her beautifully tapered back to her fine ass when a call from the bedroom disturbed them. "Rick, are you in the shower?" Rick recognized the voice as belonging to Brenda, one of the women he'd been dating recently. "Oh shit!" Rick thought to himself.
Michelle turned and smiled inquisitively at Rick; she showed her class when she spoke. "Were you expecting someone this morning? Don't be embarrassed, you didn't even know me this time yesterday."
Rick grinned self-consciously back at her as he stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around his waist. "No, I wasn't expecting her. Uh, I forgot I gave her a key the last time I went out of town. I'll be back in a minute!"
He entered the bedroom as Brenda picked up Michelle's leather bustier from where they'd thrown it on the floor. She held it in front of her as she cocked her head to one side. A tress of long auburn hair fell across her pretty face as she asked him, "Did one of the, uh, Bros stay over last night, Slick?
"No, Brenda." Rick chuckled nervously. "That wouldn't quite fit any of my Bros!" Rick took the piece of clothing from Brenda's hand and laid it on the bed for want of something better to do. "You knew from the first I'd been seeing another woman."
"That's why I'm here." Brenda's voice was tense as she spoke. "Gloria called me, she told me you were cheating on us!" Brenda snorted; she grabbed for a tissue, then she broke into strained laughter at the ridiculous situation! "Oh, Rick! I didn't mind you going out with Gloria; I knew I could beat her time. A vindictive girlfriend of hers told her this morning you'd fallen hard for someone and she gave me a call!"
"There's isn't a thing I can say, Brenda." Rick spoke frankly. "It's nothing against you or Gloria! I met someone really nice, and we just seemed to hit it off..."
Brenda squared her shoulders and shrugged. "Daddy was going to buy us a house, I thought we ... Good luck, Rick!" Brenda grabbed Rick and hugged him, then she ran from the room. The front door of the apartment slammed shut behind her.
"Was that the door?" Michelle called from the bathroom. "I'm wrinkling up like a prune in here!" Rick was thankful Michelle never mentioned the embarrassing incident again.
They dressed and rode on over to Snowman and Cat's apartment. Snowman was up and already dressed. He welcomed them both warmly; then he made a quick phone call to Cat's Dad. The old bail bondsman liked Snowman a lot, not only because he kept Cat happy, but also because he did some bounty hunting on the side for any of the old man's clients who tried to skip town.
Snowman liked the bounty hunting because it was unstructured work. There were no office hours, and if you failed to find the runner, you didn't get fired or bitched out; you just didn't get paid until you did catch him. Most of their fellow bikers liked unstructured jobs without a lot of red tape and requirements, also. Some of the Desperados drove wreckers, others repossessed cars, a few of them worked as bouncers in the clubs, but bounty hunting suited Snowman's likes and abilities just fine.
Snowman wasn't on the phone for long. Cat's Dad promised to help them all he possibly could. They got lucky this time, about thirty minutes later he called them back with Chico's address. He'd gotten the information from one of his many contacts on the street.
The address was in one of the rougher areas on the north side of town. As Michelle drove them slowly by the address in her car, Rick and Snowman hunched down in their seats so they couldn't be seen. They couldn't tell a whole lot about the house except it was in something of a rundown condition and it had several bikes parked out in front. One of the bikes fit the description they'd been given of Chico's Harley perfectly.
Rick called the others attention to the sprawling house across the street. "Look at the faded rental sign over there, there's at least two month's growth of grass around it, and I can't see any trails through the grass to the street or to the mailbox out front. I'll bet you anything you'd care to bet the house has been vacant for a couple of months. It looks like it would make a great place for a forward observation post."
"Okay, how about if we break in over there and stake it out for a few hours tonight?" Snowman suggested. "Maybe we'll see something that will give us a feel for how to handle this fuckin' Cuban."
"That's just what I was thinking, Brother." Rick agreed eagerly. "How about you, Doll? You seem to be real interested in what we did during the war; how would you like to play Army Recon with us for a while tonight?"
Michelle quietly told them, "I'd love to be with you, doing anything you'd like to do, but I'm afraid I'm still on the schedule to dance tonight."
Rick had his arm around her shoulders so he'd felt her entire body tensing up as she spoke. Rick realized immediately they hadn't yet discussed whether he expected her to go on dancing. Rick didn't even have to think about his answer. "You're way too smart and classy a lady for that strip joint, Baby. How'd you like to quit that lousy job? If you still feel like you want to work, you can put in a couple of applications for nursing jobs later on this afternoon."
Michelle began to cry quietly in relief as tears ran down her bruised cheeks. Rick leaned over and kissed away a salty tear as he softly told her, "We're going to do things a whole lot differently from the way Scooter did, Sweetheart. Right up at the top of the list is keeping you happy. I've got a little cash stashed away that says you don't have to work anywhere you don't want to."
"Thank you from the depths of my soul, Slick!" Michelle murmured sincerely as she turned to smile at him through her tears.
"I thought that might make you happy, Baby. Besides, my motives aren't entirely unselfish; I can't wait to see how you fill out your nurse's uniform!" Rick laughed and teased her as she pulled the car over to the side of the road and she turned to kiss him passionately.
"Would you like to play doctor, Big Boy?" Michelle purred sexily at Rick as she rubbed against him like a pussycat wanting petted.
Snowman rudely interrupted the lover's explorations of each others bodies. "Alright, you guys. If you're going to have sex right here in the front seat, I'm going to have to get in the back and jerk off; Cat gets fuckin' insanely jealous every time I get into group sex without her!"
"You're no damned fun sometimes, Snowman!" Michelle told him in an exasperated tone of voice. She stuck out her tongue at him, and then she put the car back into gear and drove on.
Snowman fussed right back at Michelle, "Damn you, Michelle. Ain't you got no dignity? You should be ashamed of showing your sex organs on the street like that!" Snowman made it a hard and fast rule never to let anyone get the better of him, verbally or physically!
The three of them went to pick up Cat at her Dad's office where she sometimes worked part time, then they went out to lunch at a popular local restaurant. Rick was very aware of the sensation she caused. Virtually all of the mens and most of the women customers attentions were drawn instantly to Michelle when she entered.
He thought to himself, he damned sure couldn't blame anyone else for looking; Michelle was an absolute knockout in anything she happened to wear. Michelle noticed her intrigued companions observing the many people who were intently watching her.
She showed them she was all too aware of the unwanted attention. "To tell you the truth, the attention used to embarrass me and sometimes it gets to be a real pain in the ass. People ask me for my autograph several times a week. The silliest thing happened last year, I saw two men nearly get into a fist fight arguing over just which movies I'd starred in." They enjoyed their meal and the pleasant conversation despite the unwanted attention.
Before they left, the waitress's curiosity finally got the best of her and she asked Michelle, "The other waitress and I've made a bet about you. You're what's her name, aren't you? Burt's wife?"
"No, thank you, but I'm not Loni." Michelle informed her. "Actually, she's a much smaller woman than I." Of course, Rick gallantly informed the waitress he thought Michelle was much prettier than Loni. Rick thought to himself if he had to compare Michelle's attractiveness to that of any of the great blond beauties of all time it would have to be the sexually dynamic Ursula.
After lunch, Michelle called the club she'd been dancing at to turn in her resignation. The manager immediately offered to give her a big raise if she'd change her mind and stay on. After all, he admitted, she'd been their biggest draw since she'd started there. She covered the mouthpiece of the phone and told Rick. "Slick, he offered to give me a ten- percent raise if I'd stay, what do you think?"
Rick wasn't even tempted; he told her, "Not a chance, Baby! Your act is way too damned classy for that cheap place!" Michelle's alluring mouth widened in an adoring smile and Rick told her, "Baby, it's always nice to have cash in hand, but I literally wouldn't trade that smile you just gave me for a cashier's check for a million dollars!"
Michelle hung up the phone on a distressing part of her life, then she turned to give Rick a thankful kiss and embrace! Several of Rick's Bros had their old ladies dancing, and a very few of these couples had lived happily like that for years on end. Rick personally had nothing against it, but Michelle obviously did, and he saw no reason to risk the happiness of their new relationship over it. He thought that would be ridiculous when she had other high paying professional skills she did enjoy doing.
They went by one of the local hospitals where she'd worked before for her to put in an application. The hospital's personnel director was out of town, but his assistant assured Michelle she would have her old job back as soon as he returned. The assistant told her, "The Old Man cried on my shoulder for days when you had to leave here for that lousy dancing job. You were so efficient and sweet to everyone the whole staff loves you, Dear!"
The rest of their day was spent in preparation and resting for their anticipated night watch. Rick caught himself smiling from ear to ear at odd times during the day. He and Michelle were both subject to sudden fits of laughter whenever they exchanged possessive looks!
Eight o'clock that evening found Rick, Snowman, and Michelle leaving her car in the relative safety of the parking lot of an all night super market a few blocks away from Chico's house. Rick had suggested they probably shouldn't leave the car on the street anywhere near their target's house. There were too many chances of it being noticed by Chico or his neighbors.
He'd suggested the super market as a convenient drop for the nondescript car. The place was lighted, there were people in and out and it was busy enough that one car, more or less, should draw little or no attention. He did make one quick pass on foot past the front of the building to ensure there were no surveillance cameras pointed at the parking lot.
They were all three dressed in nearly identical black Levi's and dark shirts. As usual, Michelle looked absolutely incredible even in the casual clothing. The two men carried small gym bags containing extra arms and equipment.
They hadn't walked far before Snowman began eagerly questioning Rick. Snowman wanted to know, "How come her fuckin' sweater and pants look so much better than ours, Slick? They're all the same color and the pants are the same kind."
"Because she has those righteously big tits and an awesome ass, Brother. I keep telling you, it's the tits and ass." Rick spoke seriously to Snowman and didn't crack a smile. "All these years now you've been asking me these same sort of questions and the answer is always the tits and ass. How many times do I have to tell you about tits and ass?"
"But I like talking about tits and ass!" Snowman answered Rick seriously as Michelle laughed at the two of them.
"Are tits and ass all you two ever talked about in Vietnam?" Michelle asked inquisitively.
"Sure thing. Tits, ass, and Harleys, what else is there?" Snowman answered and Rick agreed with him whole-heartedly. "Okay, maintain radio silence from here on in." Snowman suddenly became about as serious as he ever got.
They were already approaching the rear of the house they'd targeted as a probable reconnaissance post. A vigilant guard dog in a yard several houses down began barking at them. The ever faithful and watchful dog had seen their furtive movements and he was dutifully attempting to alert his beloved master that some people out here in the dark were up to no damned good.
The dog was thousands of years of haphazard breeding away from the wild, but his sharp nose and instincts could still detect their potential for deadly violence in the humid evening air. The faithful dog barked, "Murderers, assassins, sneak thieves and cut throats are coming!" Then the loyal sentinel was treacherously silenced by an angry drunken shout from his One True God calling him a son of a bitch and promising to kick his black ass if he didn't quit barking. The dog's tail lowered between his legs and he slinked into his house as Death silently entered the neighborhood with no further warning!
Snowman waved the others to a halt at the corner of the house; he went on up to the back door alone. Michelle could barely make out in the dim light that he lightly brushed his fingertips around the trim over the door. Next he stooped to lift a flowerpot from the porch. He straightened up, he inserted the key he'd found into the doorknob, and then he swung the door open slowly.
Snowman hadn't made a single sound Michelle could hear; her confidence in the mens ability increased radically. Snowman made a quick tour of the house, then he came back to the door to wave them inside. He whispered, "The place is partially furnished, but it's been vacant for quite a while. Come on in and have a look at this layout." With his shielded penlight he led them through the musty smelling, unfamiliar rooms to the front of the house.
"Grab one end of this couch, Slick." Snowman instructed as he slid a small coffee table to one side. They turned the couch around and Michelle saw it now faced a low picture window. It gave them a ringside seat and a perfect view of Chico's house across the street and his bike parked out in the front. The three of them comfortably sprawled on the roomy couch; they put their feet up on the low windowsill.
They sat quietly for a while; each of them wrapped up in their own thoughts. After a few moments, Rick spoke conversationally, "You know, Michelle, if Snowman had been here by himself that dog out there wouldn't have seen him. He makes himself invisible; he taught me enough so I can do it sometimes, if I'm careful and I really concentrate."
Snowman informed her, "An Indian medicine man taught me that one. Some of the People, as some of the Indian tribes call themselves, call it Wind Walking. Somebody pass a bottle of the wine over here; all of this walking and talking has made me fuckin' thirsty."
Michelle reached over and unzipped one of the gym bags; she got a bottle of wine from it and handed it to Snowman. He opened the bottle and drank a healthy slug of it; he grunted deeply in satisfaction, and then he passed the bottle back to Michelle.
"Hey, did you guys hear about the drunk who started a fight down at the Poker Lounge the other night?" Snowman asked. Rick and Michelle both admitted they hadn't. "Yeah, he saw a nun come walking through, she was from the Sisters of Mercy Convent and she'd been in the lounge to pick up a donation from the manager for an orphanage. Anyway, this guy jumps up, he slams the little old nun against the wall and when she falls unconscious to the floor. This fuckin' drunk bastard proceeds to stomp all over her!"
Snowman waited for their reactions; Michelle and Rick made noises that showed they were suitably appalled at the drunk's dastardly actions. Michelle drew closer to Rick and braced herself for the conclusion of Snowman's story; she knew by now to always expect the worst! "Yeah, then the drunk stands up all tall and proud and he says to the nun, "You're not so fuckin' tough now, are you, Batman?"
Poor Michelle collapsed in convulsive laughter in Rick's arms and Rick wasn't very much better off himself. She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket to wipe away her tears before she could attempt to recover her poise. "Snowman, you irreverent asshole!" Michelle choked out. "That story was cruel; you should be ashamed of yourself!"
"Oh? Is that why you laughed so hard when you heard it?" Snowman laughed and asked her. It took several more minutes of laughter before Michelle was able to relax again. "That really feels good, Baby." She said as she felt a hard strong hand slide up under her sweater and begin to gently and lovingly caress the curves of her shapely back. She turned to look intimately at Rick and the first thing she noticed by the subdued light coming from the window was that he was looking back at her with a silly grin on his face.
She also happened to notice he had both of his own hands in front of him. She jumped up and yelled, "Snowman, quit that, you sneaking pervert!" It sure hadn't been Rick who'd been caressing her back under her sweater. The two men laughed crazily at her outrage as they passed the bottle again. "Slick, are you going to just sit there while that little pervert paws your old lady?" Michelle asked indignantly.
Rick laughed, "But Sweetheart, I thought you must have been liking it, you were sure as hell telling him how good it felt!" Michelle had to agree that she had, she laughed at her own self-righteousness and at the pair of incorrigible men. Then, like the good sport she was, she sat right back down between them.
"Slick, remember that beautiful virgin baby-san we shacked up with during that in-country R&R at Cam Ranh Bay right after the '68 Tet?" Snowman asked. "Michelle reminds me a whole lot of her."
Rick distinctly remembered the girl. She had indeed been very beautiful; Rick also remembered she'd claimed to be very deeply and equally in love with each of her fine young American Green Berets. Rick had often wondered what had become of her; he'd unaccountably felt guilty for having had to leave her. "Sure, Idiot. They both have two arms and two legs. That little Eurasian girl was beautiful, but she didn't look anything at all like Michelle."
"No, Slick, I didn't mean she reminded me of Michelle in the way she looked. I was talking about the lively way she always jumped whenever I goosed her!" This irreverent idiocy set off another round of raucous laughter from the two men.
"Very funny, you two." Michelle scolded them, even as she reluctantly giggled at the two old friends. "Twenty thousand professional comedians are out of work in this country today and you two are putting on an entire comedy show for free." Her voice suddenly became serious as she glanced back out of the big picture window. "Speaking of something really funny, I'd swear that bike that just pulled up at the stop sign looks identical to Scooter's!"
A red Harley Sportster had rounded the corner. The tall rider turned in at Chico's driveway; he parked his bike and dismounted. When he approached the dimly lighted porch he removed his helmet. Rick and Snowman were standing, looking intently through the window by this time and they bitterly confirmed the accuracy of her identification of the man!
Rick growled, "That sorry bastard! So that's how the Maniacs knew where and when we were holding our fuckin' meetings, and now we know how the fucker knew not to show up at the meeting yesterday evening!"
Snowman spat angrily, "Scooter knew you'd be guarding the bikes in front of the club house alone; the fucker was trying to get you killed! I'm going to hurt that son of a bitch bad!" The Maniacs had been shooting in his direction too, but typically, he'd unselfishly thought of his Bros safety first.
They watched as a man opened the door; he exactly fitted the description Michelle's friend Melissa had given them of Chico. He shook hands warmly with Scooter and then he invited him inside the house. Rick and Snowman were quickly approaching a critical mass nuclear meltdown by now! Rick knew he was seriously considering breaking one of the basic rules of survival on the street. His intelligent mind had already sifted through and then discarded several possible scenarios for taking out Chico and Scooter at the same time.
The only workable plan he was left with depended on them trusting Michelle to keep her mouth shut about a hit! Normally, Rick or any other shooter with any intelligence at all would never trust any witness they hadn't known for years, but then again, nothing about the last twenty-four hours had been normal. The one thing that clenched it for him was she'd already inadvertently been involved in the entire crisis that had led them up to this suspenseful moment.
"Michelle, are you really in this thing solidly with us?" Rick hugged her fantastic body to him as he asked. "Normally, we wouldn't involve a woman in anything like a hit, but this is just too fuckin' good a setup to pass up! I've got to know quickly and honestly if you're strong enough to commit yourself totally to what we've got to do now."
Michelle clung tightly to Rick. "Scooter's always been more like a kidnapper and a rapist to me than he ever was a lover. He never did anything but hurt me. You're my man now, Darling; I'll do anything you want me to do!"
"Alright! That's what I wanted to hear, Babe." Rick next turned to Snowman for his input. "What do you think about us going ahead with this, Brother?"
Snowman was very enthusiastic. "I think you've finally met up with the only old lady you'll ever have, Slick. Michelle is a member of our Team, I say we go for it."
Snowman's supportive statement made up Rick's mind; he was committed to going through with the hit now. He had the rough sketch of a plan already in his mind and he was still fleshing it out as he began running it down to his Brother. "Snowman, we're changing that traitor to our primary target. We use some of the plastic we have in the bag. We wire his bike and when he cranks it, the Sporty blows. We leave a timer set on zero on the bike, so it looks like Chico set it for too short a time. Then Chico falls down and bumps his little fuckin' head when he tries to run out his back door; he's found with traces of the explosives on his hands and the rest of it's in his pockets."
It didn't take but a few seconds for Snowman to run the logistics of the proposed plan through his sharp mind, he responded with his answer instantly. "It works for me, Bro. The Fee Bees won't look any further than Chico; they'll slap him in a hard time Federal pen for the next thirty years for bombing one of us! You doing the wiring or do I?"
Rick hesitated for only a second; he gave Snowman the answer he was already expecting. Rick seldom, if ever, showed he had unrealistic ideas about his own limitations. "You're a better mechanic than me, Brother, I'll cover your ass. Let's straighten up in here, then we'll get going."
They turned the couch back around smoothly. Michelle stood by and watched in rapt fascination as the two men did an expert job of quickly dusting the windowsill, the coffee table, the floor, and everything else they could conceivably have touched. They retreated to the back door and Rick got the explosives out of their wrapper with his gloved hands and handed them to Snowman.
"Michelle, you'll have to wait for us right here, Baby. We don't have any idea how long Scooter will stay in there with Chico so we've got to haul ass now! Watch Chico's house and when you see Scooter come out, you get behind this house, plug your ears, and stay low. I promise you we'll be here to pick you up within a minute after the fireworks start."
"Don't worry, I'll do exactly as you told me; you just be careful!" Michelle whispered with feeling as she kissed and hugged Snowman affectionately, then she kissed Rick with passion. "I've only known you for a day, but right now, I don't see how either Cat or I could live without the two of you!"
Snowman wiped the key; he put it back where he'd gotten it, then he seemed to vanish inexplicably right before Michelle's eyes. Rick kissed Michelle affectionately one more time, then he followed his Bro. As good as Rick was, even he had a difficult time detecting Snowman's movements. Rick quartered across the street, then he slowly crawled under a big commercial truck that was parked in front of a neighboring house.
Rick figured he had a good enough field of fire to give Snowman effective covering fire from there. He had pulled both of his big .45's from their concealed shoulder holsters as he crossed the street and he rested them on the curb before him as he waited. Some rocks in the road caused Rick some minor discomfort and the tenseness in his muscles had started the bullet wound in his injured arm to throbbing again. He ignored the pain; way back in his youth he'd learned some extremely hard lessons about how to endure discomfort while waiting in a killing zone.
The pain in Rick's arm served to remind him Chico had used an Uzi the night before. Though the accuracy of the Maniac's gunfire had been lacking something, the sheer volume of fire had been fuckin' awesome! He certainly didn't want his Brother to be exposed to it again. If Chico opened his front door right now, Rick was determined he'd cut him down! The only thing that did divert any of Rick's attention was his concern for Michelle and how she'd learn to live with being an accessory to murder.
A dark shadow over by the Sportster became slightly more intense as Snowman moved into position. Rick was counting now and mere seconds had passed until he saw the shadow seem to flicker again while moving away fast. Rick carefully crawled from under the truck; he ghosted over to join Snowman at the side of the house. Rick was still counting seconds in his head as he controlled his breathing. He'd just gotten up to eleven minutes when he heard the front door opening.
He heard Scooter's voice and then he heard someone with a strong Cuban accent that had to be Chico. "You call me here the next time you hear something, Scooter. I don't like you taking the chance of somebody following you over here."
"It's alright, Chico. I doubled back twice to make sure nobody was tailing me. Those dumb ass Desperados ain't got a fuckin' clue!" Scooter spoke with all of the confidence in the world, and that really pissed Rick off! He deeply regretted they'd be sending Scooter to hell while he was still in such a good mood. He didn't see any easy way he could change the game plan and let Scooter know he was being killed with the plan already this far along.
Snowman lightly nudged Rick in the ribs, then he headed for the back of the house. They both had their fingers jammed in their ears so they wouldn't be deafened by the imminent blast. When the thundering explosion came, they were standing under the eaves of the back of the house for protection from the falling shrapnel. Pieces of the bike and Scooter splattered against the sides and the roof of the house as the ground shook beneath their feet and glass shattered in windows for blocks around!
The front forks of the bike and a mangled wheel bounced over the roof and fell into the back yard. A battered helmet and its grisly contents bounced heavily from branch to branch as it fell through a large tree and into the back yard! "Hmm." Rick thought, "It is a damned good thing Scooter's bike didn't have more gas in it."
Some smaller pieces of debris were still falling when the rear door of Chico's house swung wide open. The two veterans had positioned themselves on opposite sides of the door so they could catch Chico between them when he came flying out. The short Cuban had a pistol ready in his fist, but he never had a snowball's chance in hell of using it; Rick hit him hard in the mid-section with one of his own Colts.
He was rewarded with a muffled gasp for air that told him he'd succeeded in knocking all the wind out of Chico. Snowman lowered the boom on the frightened Cuban! He flattened Chico with a sharp clip to the ear with his revolver butt that was guaranteed to immobilize him for at least an hour.
Snowman pulled the remaining packet of explosives from his own pocket with his gloved hand. He smeared some of it on Chico's fingers, and then he mashed it flat on his fingertips to get the man's prints. He stuffed the evidence into Chico's pant's pocket, then he replaced the wrapping securely into his own pocket.
Rick kicked Chico once in the head for insurance, then they dragged him back into the house to be sure the cops would find him fast. They sprinted around the back of the house next door so they wouldn't leave any tell-tale footprints in the sickening mess scattered around the front yards that was all that was left of Scooter.
The people of this neighborhood had been well trained by frequent violence. There were only heavily curtained broken paned windows to witness the two black clothed figures running as swiftly and as surely as death across the silent street.
Michelle had done exactly as she'd been instructed. She was waiting right where they'd left her; they picked up their bags and walked calmly away. Two of them were calm, at least. Michelle's spring was wound up as tight as a cheap Taiwan alarm clock! Rick wrapped one arm around her soft shoulders and he could feel her fantastic body trembling in reaction to the deadly violence. Rick recalled the sick feeling he'd felt in his stomach after his own first verified kill.
He squeezed Michelle's shoulder and told her, "Take a big chug of the wine before the cops get into the area; it'll help you to calm down." Snowman took the bottle from his bag and handed it to her. Michelle followed orders like a real trooper; she dutifully gulped down a big slug. "Take another drink." Rick instructed as he carefully watched her, gauging her emotions.
After she'd drunk another big swallow, Rick took the bottle from her shaking hands and drank deeply, then he handed the bottle back to Snowman. Snowman raised the bottle aloft in a toast. He said grimly, "Paybacks are a mother fucker. Here's to us mother fuckers!"
He finished the rest of the wine; then he wisely stuck the empty bottle with their incriminating fingerprints securely back into his bag. Two blocks up the street an empty wine bottle in a ditch would only be trash, but this close to the crime scene it would be potential evidence in a murder case.
The fire and police sirens were coming now from all directions and curious residents were starting to venture out. Rick knew they looked like normal pedestrians calmly strolling toward a nearby bus stop or a friend's home. One of the noisy patrol cars came down the street they were on, but by the time it had approached closely enough for the officers to see them, they had hustled Michelle behind a nearby truck.
Thankfully, the rest of the walk to her car was uneventful. The car was parked exactly as they'd left it. They securely stowed their equipment in the back seat, then Rick told Michelle she probably ought to let him drive. "The cops are plenty busy with that big mess over there, but you're nervous and the last thing we need is a traffic ticket tying us to this incident." She gladly agreed with his intelligent reasoning.
"Let's go report in to Larry, Snowman. I'm glad to see you've still got the touch with the plastic. You had that fucking bike wired in less than five minutes!" Rick couldn't resist kidding his partner as he cautiously drove from the parking lot. His joking had another purpose, too; he was making a conscious effort to distract Michelle's mind by keeping a busy conversation going.
"Bullshit, Asshole! You know I was counting, too. I did it in less than twenty seconds. That ain't too bad for an old man doing it in the dark. Ain't that right, Michelle." Snowman fired back.
Rick had known Snowman would recognize his motives and help him divert Michelle's mind. He continued, "Yeah, but we ain't talking about old men screwin', Pard. Back in Nam, you could have done a wiring job faster than that in your sleep." Rick's voice suddenly got softer, he took a deep breath, then he spoke seriously to Snowman, "Hey, Bro, I went back to our camp near Phu Cat again last night."
"That's heavy, Bro. I'm really sorry, Slick." Snowman said, he knew immediately which painful incident Rick had referred to. Snowman had been a close friend of several of the members of that ill-fated team and Rick had confided his agonizing secret about that day to him years ago.
Rick noticed Michelle was sitting quietly between them so he asked Snowman to break out another wine bottle and give her another drink. Snowman got a full one from the bag in the back seat and opened it then he handed it to her.
As she took the full bottle from Snowman, Michelle broke her awkward silence. She slurred her words slightly as she talked, but she spoke with a fierce resolve! "You know, when I was dancing, I used to sit in the filthy dressing room of that lousy place and stare at every one of my ugly bruises in the mirror. I'd think about all the enjoyable ways I could kill that sorry bastard, and now I've actually helped you do it!" She raised the bottle and drank deeply. "I'm gonna watch and make sure they put what's left of that sorry dick head into a deep, dark hole in the ground. Then, I'm gonna get drunk on the cheapest wine I can buy, and I'm gonna go piss on his fuckin' grave!"
Snowman gave her a brotherly pat on her thigh and held her right hand with her fingers entwined with his in support as Rick put an arm around her and hugged her closer to his side as he drove. Rick knew this whole thing had to be tough for Michelle emotionally. Hell, Scooter had been her fucking old man up until yesterday evening! He was concerned that they'd been forced to put her through all of this by the weird circumstances, but somehow he still knew instinctively, she was strong enough to handle it.
In the short time they'd been together he'd been blind-sided so hard by love he couldn't even imagine a future without her. It had been lust at first sight for him. He'd wanted her desperately because she was so God damned beautiful and sexy, but after they'd spent this last twenty-four hours together her personality had captivated him completely.
Their wine bottle had been passed around some more and was empty by the time they arrived at Larry's house. Dana opened the door for them when they knocked. "Another dead soldier!" Snowman quipped all too fittingly as he tossed the bottle to Dana. She deftly caught the empty bottle.
"I'll bring you some refills." Dana remarked, as she turned and headed for the kitchen. Larry and Mike were in the living room; they had worried expressions on their faces. Mike got up and pulled the heavy curtains closed, then as they sat down, he turned the television up louder to prevent the possibility of anyone recording their conversation.
"We got the job done." Rick told Larry.
"Yeah, we just heard, a special news bulletin said there was a vehicle bombing in that area. They think just one man was killed, and they said one suspect was already in police custody. We were sitting here hoping something hadn't gone wrong or they'd caught one of you! Which one of those two was Chico?"
"He's the suspect." Rick explained. "We were doing some preliminary scouting of his house when we saw that fucker Scooter reporting in to him. That bastard was working with the Maniacs all along. We wired his bike, then when it went off, we caught Chico coming out of his back door!" Rick paused and looked expectantly at Snowman; he wanted the officers to hear this intriguing story from them both.
Snowman smoothly took over the narration of their report. "We stashed the rest of the explosives in Chico's pocket with his prints on them. With his military background and criminal record, they'll never believe he didn't do it. It will look like he wired Scooter's bike, then it went off prematurely. He's going to take a long fall for snuffing one of us!" Snowman let that information soak in for a moment then he continued. "The last thing Scooter said, right before his asshole went right through his brain was, 'Those dumb ass Desperados ain't got a fuckin' clue!' That's kind of a catchy phrase, huh?"
Crazy Larry looked at them thoughtfully; he was running their story back through his steel trap of a mind. Mad Mike was still looking very concerned. He was fingering the blade of a skinning knife he'd been sharpening as he remarked, "Very neat, but what about Michelle? She's a witness." Mike's face could have been made of hard granite rock when he spoke. Michelle somehow managed to maintain her calm expression, but despite the numbing wine, she felt a cold chill run up her spine as if someone had stepped on her grave!
Rick felt a killing rage come over him; he stood up and spoke forcefully. "She's alright, Mike, and she's my old lady. Larry told us to handle Chico and we did it in less than a day. We got him and the traitor and we did it neatly. It was my decision to go ahead with the hit with her there, and if you want her, you'll have to go through me to do it."
He was pleased but not surprised Snowman had stood up beside him. Rick had already made the decision he wouldn't take any chances with Michelle's life; he would kill Mike where he sat if he didn't back down. Larry was a different story; he'd try to reason with him.
Rick knew he was standing up against an awesome opponent. Mike already had his blade in his hand and he had a hell of a long reach, but Rick still had his leather jacket on. If he could deflect Mike's first swing, he'd have at least one Colt in action and it would all be over but the crying!
"She's rock solid, Mike." Snowman said coldly. "It was my decision, too. Michelle's not a witness; she's a willing accessory to murder. She approved the hit. She's on our Team and packing with us and me and Slick would both be real fuckin' upset if anything were to happen to her." Mike was probably certifiably insane, but he was anything but stupid. He might have tried to take Rick alone, or maybe even Snowman, but he damned sure knew better than to cross them both!
"Alright, but she's your responsibility." Mike conceded. As if he'd guessed Rick's intentions, he slowly laid the knife on the table in front of him, but he still stared icily at Michelle.
"No problem, Bro! She's with us a hundred percent." Rick reassured Mike. He and Snowman both took their seats again. Rick would have breathed a deep sigh of relief if he could have, but he'd been focusing so much of his energy into concentrating on Mike he had to calm down gradually for a moment.
Larry set the mood of the meeting firmly back on the right path and broke the deadly tension when he spoke firmly to Mike. "Fuck this shit! She was right there for the planning session in her apartment last night. Now, if you'll shut your big mouth just long enough for me to say something, I want to say I'm proud of Rick and Snowman; you both did good." He turned to look at them. "But, then again, I'm the one who made the decision to let you handle it, and I'm always right!" Rick could have hugged Larry's big, thick neck when he added, "You need to remember that, Mike!"
Larry had effectively defused the dangerous situation and Michelle realized she'd been holding her breath. She started breathing again thankfully as she felt a flood of gratitude come over her for what her old man and his Bro had just done. She knew they'd both put their own lives on the line to save hers!
Dana must have guessed earlier which way the wind was blowing. She'd shrewdly been waiting for the serious business of the evening to be taken care of; she came in with an insulated cooler full of iced down beer and passed cold cans around. Rick opened a beer for Michelle and handed it to her first, then he opened one for himself. "Here's to the Desperados!" Rick saluted the others with his can, then he chugged the beer.
Larry again made a point to Mike when he reached back into his cooler and handed Rick, Snowman, and Michelle their next beer. He called out, "Dana, see if there ain't a suspect hanging out around here somewhere. We're going to need us a whole lot more booze if we're going to send that fuckin' Scooter off with another big bang!"
They all laughed loudly at Larry's cruel joke, though Rick thought the tone of Michelle's laughter was perhaps a little on the grim side. Larry and Mike decided to call in all the members and they made the party a mandatory club function. It started out at Larry's house right then and it lasted on through the day of Scooter's wake and funeral.
The swift and fatal conclusion of Snowman and Rick's mission had made believers of the Maniacs. Their crippled leaders had gotten the word about Chico and Scooter's fates quickly because they sent a message to Larry a few hours later; they were disbanding their club and would be retiring and leaving town as soon as they were discharged from the hospital. This was all the Desperados needed for another excuse to party down!