May 27, 2004

Dog Warrior Pre-order

I see today that Amazon.com has Dog Warrior available as a pre-order. I'm celebrating by posting a part of it here.

Warning -- Spoilers

CHAPTER THREE


Hog Heaven, Hull, Massachusetts
Monday, September 20, 2004

The town of Hull sat on a narrow dogleg of land that jutted out into the Atlantic Ocean. On the way out to it, they past signs for "World's End" which seemed appropriate as they drove down Nantasket Avenue, water flanking either side of the road. To their left, the water was nearly pond still, fringed with trees dressed in fall colors. On their right ran a sandy beach, open ocean, and empty parking lots. Seasonal businesses were closed up, and no one was out on the rainy cold afternoon.

They scouted the area in the drizzling rain before dusk started to set in, not there was much to be learned. The bar sat on a lump of land in the middle of the narrow peninsula, between the mainland and the bulk of the town on the bulbous tip. Nantasket Avenue split around the bar and its parking lot, with traffic going out to the land's end running in front of the bar, and the lanes heading for the mainland laying behind it. Motorcycles already sat in the bar's parking lot, so they had no real chance to scout in the inside before the buy.

When it came time, they parked the Jaguar where Kyle could keep watch on both it and the bar and yet out of direct sight. They had the money in a backpack on the theory it would draw less notice than a briefcase. Atticus slung it onto his back, made sure it didn't interfere with drawing his pistol, and then lead the way into the bar.

Steffenwolf leaked out around the door, wailing about heavy metal thunder. Atticus opened the door and the music flooded out on a wave of warm air, thick with cigarette smoke, beer, and hot grease. The refuge of men who had nothing better to do than sit around an abuse themselves with diluted poisons. He stepped in far enough to give Ru room to enter, and paused, letting all the little details that wanted attention sink in. Once the bar became known, his senses would work on automatic, acting like 'spider senses,' alerting him to danger as long as he didn't get too deep into focus on something.

'Born to be Wild' beat against his skin. The banks of smoke came from Winston, Old Gold and Marlboro cigarettes. Off to the right was the clack of billiards, the table screened by bodies. The beer on tap was Samuel Adams and the whiskey of choice seemed to be Jack Daniels. Unlike other bars he'd been in, this one was heavy with cured leather and blue jeans embedded with the exhaust and engine oil of motorcycles. After the bars and raves of the Beltway, the men were shaggier, dirtier, and more heavily armed. He picked out knives -- and in lesser numbers pistols -- hidden in boots, in pockets and under clothing.

It was a WASP blue-collar bar. They'd dressed down to blue jeans and T-shirts and leather jackets, but everything from the shape of their eyes to the color of their skin set them apart.

Draconis leaned against the bar, looking up when they came through the door. Recognizing them, he ground out his cigarette, picked up his beer and sauntered across to greet them.

"Daggit is waiting for you in the back room." Draconis gave a jerk of his head to indicate a doorway behind him. Getting a nod from Atticus - interestingly Ru didn't rate attention - Draconis lead the way down a long narrow hall past restrooms reeking of urine to a back room.

The walls muted the music; the thumping bass like a heartbeat of a giant beast.

Five of the Iron Horses sat around a poker table; a single shaded light hanging down, throwing harsh shadows on their faces. Crushed cigarette packs, overflowing ashtrays, guns, and crumbled bills littered the table.

Animal was dealing out cards; making them flash across the table in easy, well-practiced throws. He had a pile of crumbled bills in front of him, while the others wore surly looks. "Seven card stud, black deuces and red fours are wild."

A groan went up from the players.

"If you're going to do wild cards, j-just make it one or the other," Rebar cried as the first card landed in front of him. His complaint came too late; his first showing card was a two of diamonds. "Crap. This isn't poker, it's a kids game."

"They're here." Draconis announced.

Daggit's showing cards were a five of clubs and a nine of hearts. He glanced at his hole cards, frowned and shoved them back toward Animal without revealing them. "Games over. Everybody clear out."

"Ahh, I had two queens." One complained, flipping over his hole cards.

"I had three of kings." Another said, showing a king of hearts, the two of hearts and the four of spades.

Animal laughed, flashing his gold tooth. "Black deuces, red fours."

"But last time…"

"Was last time, and this time is this time." Animal tucked away the bills in wallet already fat with hundred dollar bills.

The sheered lambs fled, leaving the wolves behind to deal a different type of game.

Atticus gave the opening bid. "Could you've picked a place more public? We'll do this deal, but next time, we pick the place."

"This is how I do business. My turf. My rules." Daggit took out a revolver and laid it on the table and then produced bullets with dramatic flair. They were self-loaded shells with silvery tips. "I know about Pack and I'm ready for you."

Only confused by the odd display, Atticus glanced to Ru. There was laughter dancing in his partner's eyes.

"Silver bullets?" Ru guessed.

"Damn right!" Daggit said. "The only way to deal with werewolves."

"Werewolves?" The word slipped out before Atticus could stop himself.

"Do you think we're stupid?" Daggit ticked factoids off with his fingers. "The Pack. Dog Warriors. Demon Curs. Hell Hounds. Growling like a rabid dog anytime you're pissed off. Howling at the full moon? Jesus, you might as well have it tattooed on your arm: werewolf."

Howling? Atticus had never felt the urge to howl.

"They can't do tattoos, dickhead." Animal snickered. "Their bodies reject the ink and heal it over. They don't fucking scar."

That's true, Atticus thought.

"They could use silver ink," Daggit used one of the bullets to imitate the rapid jab of the tattoo needle, complete with soft 'tat tat tat' sound effect.

"Silver only works as a bullet in the heart," Animal said. "If it just goes through the heart, you're screwed. You're going to get your face torn off by a piss off Pack dog."

"Whatever." Daggit waved it off. "Where's the Cub?"

"He's sleeping." Atticus said.

"Someone fucked him over good." Animal tapped out a cigarette and light it. "Who is this walking dead man?"

"U-the Cub doesn't remember what happened," Atticus caught himself from using Ukiah's name. Annoying as it might be, they were safest dealing under the Pack's cover.

"He lost that mouse, eh?" Daggit said. "Or hasn't he taken the mice back yet?"

"That's why he's sleeping. He took them all back." Actually, they released the mice into bed with Ukiah. Nature would take its course, keeping his brother asleep longer than any drug would. Still, it was startling that the bikers knew things Atticus thought were secret. Was what they telling him about werewolves true?

"Someone going to get their ass kicked, then." Animal said.

"You're Pack too, aren't you?" Daggit said. "You have that look."

"I didn't know we had a look," Atticus said.

"You're lean and mean." Daggit patted his paunch. "You never see a beer gut on Pack. Six-pack abs. It's all part of the magic."

"Like voodoo." Animal "The werewolf curse."

"It's one of the reasons that these dipheads are all drooling over the idea of being Pack. Ask any one of them if they were willing to run risk to be Pack, and they'd sign up for a mauling in a second."

"Not you?" Ru asked.

"Hell no. Any retard can do the numbers. A couple dozen can take the walk in the woods with the Pack, maybe one will come back out changed, one of them."

"A Get," Animal said with reverence.

"These dipheads see one of their brothers go all tone without lifting a weigh, able to throw a bike around with one hand, and take any amount of shit and get back up, and think 'that's so cool, I want that too.' They can smell the power, without thinking it all through."

"Hell, I'd do it. Like that!" Animal snapped his fingers.

"Yeah, and if you do come back, there's a stranger looking out through your eyes." Daggit said.

"Look." Animal pulled out his wallet and thumbed through it to pull out a photo. "Look at this."

Daggit took the photo and studied it a moment. "So?"

Atticus intercepted it before Daggit could hand it back. It showed Rennie Shaw and a young Animal with a Mohawk haircut. The enforcer faced the camera while the Dog Warrior was focused on something else. On the back was written "Mike 'Animal' Ross, Rennie Shaw, 1984 Gather."

"I was seventeen in that picture. Look at Shaw. The fuck hasn't aged a day. He still looks like he's in his mid-twenties. They live forever, Daggit. Shaw was in the fucking Civil War, man."

"Come on, that's all bullshit. Urban legend."

"And the chicks." Animal went on, undeterred. "Prime babes. Not an ounce of fat on them, and that sexy wild thing look. They only spread for Pack dogs."

If the conversation had sunk down to sex, then they weren't going to get more useful information - if you wanted to call the werewolf theory useful - out of the bikers.

"Let's do this." Atticus unslung the backpack and thumped it down on the table. "Show us the goods."

Animal reached under the table to pull out a black leather dufflebag. He unzipped it and lifted out reseal-able plastic bags, the contents shifting like invisible sand. Empty, the inside of the dufflebag glittered faintly from a dusting of the drug, meaning that the plastic bags were probably coated too. Atticus warned Ru off with a look and reluctantly examined the bags. The chiming in his ears had started the moment Animal opened the bag, releasing tainted air. As Atticus handled the bags, the chiming grew louder.

Ru unloaded the backpack, stacking up the bills. He gave Atticus one worried look and then kept his focus on the bikers. The bikers, in turn, thumbed through the stacks of twenties, examining the bills to see if they were real, and even checking for sequential numbers.

Animal produced a scale and they weighed out the bags. Normally Atticus would open the bags and check the contents - his system shrugged off most drugs -- but there was no way he was going to do that now, not if he wanted to stay in control. As the drug burned through him, all his senses took on a sharpness to make irritating little cuts into his patience. It was like wading through sawgrass. He packed the plastic bags hurriedly into the backpack, trying to handle them as little as possible.

"We're going to want more," Ru said. "Double this. How soon can you get it?"

"More?" Daggit looked to Animal, who shrugged. "You'll have to give us a couple days."

"This is Tuesday. By Thursday?" Ru asked.

"Saturday."

"If the Pack are werewolves," Ru, seemingly causal, asked, "Does it mean that pixies literally make this shit? Do you hold them upside down and shake hard?"

The bikers laughed, showing teeth yellow from cigarettes, filled with silver.

"Just about," Animal said. "The Temple are all fucking fairies."

Temple of New Reason? Was that their source? Suddenly Ukiah's hate of the drug became clear. Atticus felt sudden dread; the bikers knew where Ukiah slept alone at the isolated beach house. "Did you talk to them after you left us?"

"That's none of your business." Daggit sneered. "The middle man stands in the middle, you don't go around him. Pack or not, you're not cutting us out."

Attticus lashed out, grabbed Daggit by the hair and slammed his head face first into the table. Everything littering the table leapt up, if startled by the violence. The smell of blood blossomed into the room. "What did you tell them about us?"

Daggit tried to rise but Atticus kept him pinned, grinding his bleeding nose into the cigarette ashes. Daggit flailed for his pistol, and Atticus caught the hand by the wrist and jerked it up behind Daggit's back.

Ru snatched up the pistol, and aimed it at Animal who was starting to rise. "Easy, easy. Atty?"

It was more the awareness of Ru's exhale, the air warmed by his body and carrying his scent, than Ru's words that made Atticus realize that it was the drug pushing him to act.

"What did you tell them?" Atticus managed a calmer tone.

"Fuck off!" Daggit cried. "I'm not telling you nothing about them."

"I didn't ask about them," Atticus said. "I want to know what you said about us! Now tell me, or I'll rip your arm off."

"Nothing! Not a god damn thing."

Atticus could tell by the slight jump in the pulse under his fingertips that Daggit was lying. Clearly, though, he would have to pretend to believe him or beat the information out of him. He was already putting the whole set up to risk for what - a stranger he just met yesterday? A man that might be the coldest bastard on the planet?

Letting go of Daggit, he stepped back out of the Daggit's reach as the big man surged to his feet. The room suddenly seemed claustrophobic, taken up by the angry biker, the seated Animal, and the table blocking the exit. There was some part of him, that punk kid that he used to be, that wanted Daggit to come at him so he had an excuse to beat the snot of him. The other -- older wiser -- self, nearly swamped under the drug's influence, knew that would be a bad thing. Guns were already into the mix, and Ru could easily be hurt.

"Daggit, he's Pack," Animal drawled, seemingly undisturbed by the violence or the gun that Ru held. "That's a losing hand. Just fold."

Daggit checked, hands clenched into massive fists, panting out breath tainted with beer, blood and years of cigarette smoking. He glared at Atticus like he meant murder. Atticus stared back, ready and waiting to see how things played out. They stood statue-still for a minute, like samurai testing each other's will. Finally, Daggit wiped his bloody upper lip with the back of his hand and looked away.

Ru took it as a sign that danger was past. He thumbed the revolver's cylinder out and rejected the silver-tipped bullets; they rained onto the tabletop. "You don't want us to know about them. We don't want them to know about us. It seems fairly simple - mums the word, all the way around."

Daggit grunted.

"We lost three men at Buffalo." Ru reminded Daggit as an explanation of Atticus' reaction. "You lost two."

"Three." Daggit spat out blood and wiped ran his thumb over his lip. "No one heard from Toback since; whoever hit the place, took him."

"You sure he wasn't in on the hit?" Ru asked.

Daggit glanced to Animal, and shook his head. "I don't know him that well. He's part of the Buffalo chapter."

"Big, stupid, and loyal as a dog." Animal said. "That was David Toback."

So the nomad Animal was the link between Buffalo and Boston.

"Did you tell the Temple about the Buffalo deal before it went down?" Atticus asked.

Animal thought a moment this time before shaking his head. "No. Core got really creepy in the spring, moving out to Buffalo and talking about the end of the world. Let's just say I don't drink around them - just in case they're in the middle of doing a Jonestown thing."

"So they're based in Buffalo now?" Atticus asked.

Animal eyed him warily and then shrugged. "They moved again. To Pennsylvania or Ohio. No forwarding address."

Posted by wen at May 27, 2004 11:31 PM
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