(Faceoff - by Cor - 2007 - ?/MM, tk, nosex, magic)
(Constructive criticism of all kinds is invited and hoped-for.
My very first add to a wiki - be gentle. Sorry, I don't see any categories that match this...
Not sure if / how I'll continue this tale...)
I kept noticing John. Distracted by somebody behind me...
"Bird-dogging?" I joked.
He blinked at me. "There's a tickler in here."
Well, that woke me right up. "No. This place?"
He frowned. "I just got a bad feeling."
That got me looking harder.
A few minutes later, a rough-looking dude stood up. He was tense - and his arm was behind his back.
"Johnny," I said quickly. "Hey. Black leather jacket, near the end of the bar."
We both watched the guy shake his head, and turn...
His mouth was moving.
"That sucker's getting marched off," I sighed.
"Is there even a back door in this place?"
"It's chained shut. I think."
We looked at each other. "Dammit," I groaned, "I am NOT up for more of that shit."
"What's it been, two weeks?"
"Not even." John hadn't been grabbed for almost a year. "I guess we gotta... do the right thing."
But I couldn't get my body to move. Walk in the direction of a tickler? Crazy. Everything in me said to run and don't look back.
"Do we tell the bartender?"
I thought about it. "Not sure what he could do. Y'know. To stop it."
John nodded. He didn't look happy either. "You okay?"
"No," I snorted. "Definitely not okay."
"Up, Rick. Let's try to... cut that gorilla a break."
And get snagged myself, I thought. Shit, I was such a basket case...
He got up and stuck his hand out.
"Ain't nearly drunk enough for this fuckin' deal," I complained.
The door was still locked.
"Well. Huh," John said. Then he grunted suddenly.
A second later, a glove clamped over my mouth.
The storeroom door opened, and in we went -
Up. There was an attic? Dammit. Clever sucker.
Straps pinned my arms before my ass landed on the floor. It was already too late to kick my legs.
Something popped. My neck hurt. Airgun. Damn tickler. John yelled as loud as he could, which wasn't much.
And I was getting dizzy.
My face hurt.
Opening my eyes a little, I saw an overflowing ashtray. It made me sneeze, and that got me to lift my head.
I sprawled over a table as if that was where I'd passed out. The bar was quiet. Empty, except for... three other guys. Johnny was one of them.
A beer was floating in my direction.
"Sssssh," a scary voice warned me. "Here."
My hands moved. Thin leather gloves. I tried to freeze up, but they had my hands.
Cigarettes and a lighter were pulled out of my jacket pocket.
I was on my second smoke when the young guy woke up. He glared at me - until I gave him a tired little wave. That got him looking at his own hands. More gloves.
Soon enough he was lighting a smoke of his own. A glass of milk floated to his table.
"Real funny," he sneered -
A bottle of rum flew over and poured a good couple shots into the glass.
"Better," I ventured.
He shook his head irritably. "Guess so."
"Mark," he replied. "Under different circumstances, and all that SHIT."
I chuckled, nodding.
The big guy took a while to pull himself together. His gloves were obviously making him smoke.
"Strong dose," John guessed. "Of whatever it shot us up with."
"Aw, he'll be alright," the tickler said. All of us looked toward the bar.
"Four at once," Mark sneered.
I looked at Johnny, and he shook his head a little. We were on the same wavelength. If it had wanted all of us, we wouldn't still be in the bar. Some spooky dungeon somewhere that would never be found, sure.
"Another time," the voice said. "But now, I think a long... LONG laugh-fest for one."
We all looked at each other. All with the same reaction, though none of us said it out loud. Ain't gonna be me.
"P.D.," the tickler said. "C'mere."
The biker stood up suddenly, wobbling. His hands led him to the bar. "It's Pete," he finally sighed. "But you fuckin' know that, probably."
"Stands for... pretty damn ticklish," the voice taunted.
Pete sat down heavily. A new beer was stuck in his hand.
"Rick, to his left. Gotta separate you and the Shrieker."
"Son of a bitch," John groaned. The bastard knew that nickname.
Slowly, I walked over and sat down.
"And the innocent kid just rolling by - here. This cigar's waiting."
We took our assigned barstools.
"Let's see who I haul off," the tickler gloated. "Somebody's gonna squirm. Until winter."
We exchanged looks. Right then it was early April...
"I've been keeping score ever since you fuckers came to," it boasted. "Every look, every word counts. Somebody's gonna win a ride out to my island getaway. We leave an hour from now."
I could see the other dudes thinking hard. Just like me. Hell, I had no intention of being the one. But what was the asshole looking for?
A black bag swung up and landed on the bar. Soft-sided computer case, unzipping -
"Let's start with Mark." The folders shuffled, and one opened up. We couldn't see what was on the papers inside. The kid flinched, trying to back up, but his hands didn't move at all. "Just happened to be passing by the bar. But he's experienced. Aren't ya? The past two summers -"
"And last fall," he complained. "Seven weeks."
"Twenty years old, and still shooting off his mouth." The tickler chuckled. "Smoke up. It'll keep you from digging your hole deeper, Mark. Next to him... Johnny. Eight captures?"
"Then we got Pistol Pete -"
"File," the big guy said suddenly, "they got a fuckin' FILE on me."
"Easy," I said. "It's scamming you."
"Head-games," John muttered.
"Boys. Don't get too smart, now. Ol' P.D. has seventeen notches on his belt. Almost twenty years of good times. Ran all the way from Vancouver, but I got his number. And Rager. Yeah, slick, I'm talkin' to you. Thirteen grabs. How long was that one in the fallout shelter, scumbag?"
"Fourteen months. Give or take."
"Yeah." The folders slid in front of Pete. His arms trembled, but I watched his hand just bring the cigarette up again for another pull. "Four wild animals -"
"Fuck this," Mark yelled. "You already got your victim. Picked which one. Save some time, here."
I thought he was probably right.
"You need to be taken down a peg," the tickler said. "You're that much closer, skate-punk. Keep it up. In fact..."
My hands curled around the bar-rail. All of us grabbed it.
"Time for some quality control."
Fingers dug into my armpits. Pete gasped too, and I heard Johnny wail.
Now all I could pay attention to was the hands - four, maybe six - fuckin' ravaging my sides, making me bark my guts out.
After a couple minutes I slumped on the bar. A cigarette hung in front of me, waiting for the heavier gasps to die down.
I turned my head. Pete looked spooked, alright. The other guys were just as wrecked. This was not a novice tickler...
"Four men, with particular gifts," the voice announced. "One has more endurance than the rest. More hours of fun per day. Rick - who is it?"
Thinking back on some of the speed-driven marathons I'd lived through, I had a real bad feeling. "I guess, uh, it's me."
"Pete. Your turn."
He looked at the other guys. "Skater."
"Uh... Look, I don't want any trouble."
"Honesty. Nobody's gonna get revenge, here."
"I'd say Pete. Sorry."
"Asshole," Pete hissed.
"Rick's got it. I'll take his word -"
"Wrong! Everyone gets points added... except Pete. He's right. The kid's inexhaustible. Now, one of you has the most trusty shifter. Gearstick. You know what I mean. Stepping up the effect of all those feathers and hands. Marky?"
"The old guy," he snarled.
"Hey," Pete complained.
I scowled, but he was stuck there.
The look Pete was giving him must've been severe. "I'll go with John." So much for trying to be nice - the biker picked Johnny anyway.
My hands got me a new smoke. I watched 'em. "Well, I think it might be me, but I'll say Pete."
"And you're right. So is Mark. Next... which one of you laughs the most? Loud and hard."
We all guessed Johnny. He said me, but it was purely out of desperation and I didn't hold it against him.
"And last," the voice said - real amused fucker - "one is more ticklish than the rest. If you can even imagine that."
I'm fucked, I thought. It's after me. Months of crazy delirium... a word I learned from one of these bastards.
They were subdued, the other guys, but they picked me.
We each got a shot of whiskey. There was no refusing the tickler's hospitality. The gloves saw to that.
"Rick, my man. Who should I take with me?"
"Don't do this," I complained. "It sucks."
"Failure to cooperate will mean double points on your ass. Or maybe a forfeit. This could be the most important question, shithead."
"Go on," Johnny urged me. "We're all gonna have to."
"Me," I blurted. Pete was staring as if I got two heads. "You already decided anyway. And I can deal with it, sorta."
"You like it?" Mark fairly shouted.
"No," John said immediately, "not at all. He just -"
"Fuck. I love it. Bring it on," I sneered. "Asshole tickler. Just let 'em go already."
"Interesting," it said. "But you should never play a player. I'm not in the mood for a noble son of a bitch, maybe. Pete?"
He glanced at me, weighing the odds. "Anybody. Other than me."
"P.D.," the tickler said threateningly.
"Okay." His gloves made him light a new smoke off the last one. "Uh, Johnny then. If you're gonna make me choose."
"He's up for it."
"Oh, fuck you!" John laughed. "This is so sick."
"Ain't it, though?" And Pete sorta laughed too. Relaxing. Or maybe it was just the booze.
"This big ol' bastard right here."
"I'll second that," Mark said spitefully.
"Now why would you want this lowlife to howl and cackle for the next few months, punk?"
He took a few puffs. "He's got more experience. Must be a hell of a lot of fun."
"When I get my hands around his fuckin' neck," Pete said to me.
"Yeah," I nodded, trying not to grin.
"Down, boys. I'll do the punishing 'round here."
Pete's eyes were closed, and he was saying something to himself. I imagined it going something like Mark, aw please, please let it be the smartass kid...
"Who's got a great job," the tickler said, "that he just doesn't wanna lose?"
We looked at each other. Guys like us didn't tend to stay at a job for long. John's brother-in-law took him back whenever he was sprung. I'd gone back to Vallee's warehouse four times, but only 'cause his son was getting hunted by other tickling bastards down there in El Paso. Val had some understanding of how it was.
"I got a line on the Snailer team. Pro 'boarding," Mark said proudly.
"But not an actual slot?" the voice asked.
"Well... Yeah. Um. I'm next in line," he added, not sounding as certain now.
"Listen," Pete said.
"To a dealer? Pot and hijacked pharmaceuticals," the tickler said, sounding disgusted. "Yeah, like you won't be able to step right back into that honorable profession." Pete, he just shrugged. No shame or anything. That's just how it was.
"Fuckers deserve to chuckle your asses off," it added darkly. "You all got it coming. Who's got kids?"
"I do," Pete said.
"Me," Mark chimed in.
"That they've seen in the last year?"
"She won't let me," the biker complained.
"I don't know where she went," Mark said. "After she moved."
"But you're both supporting your brats. Right? They need your source of income."
Neither man spoke up.
"That's what I thought. Scumbags. Maybe little brothers to watch out for? Nephews... who might be ticklish?"
John looked down. His brother had been caught twice. I think my cousin, who's three years younger and like a brother to me, was snagged when he disappeared from college... but I didn't have the nerve to warn him about what my life was like. We were busted, alright.
"No one here gets out alive," Pete rumbled.
"Alright. Cool under pressure," the voice said. "Good for you."
"Good, as in bad?" But the biker gave me a conspiratorial smirk. I had to grin.
"You'll see. Okay, now. Each one of you gets a chance to tell me why he shouldn't be the one I torture all year. Rager."
I sighed hard. "Just got let go a couple weeks ago. I'm still sore... but I don't think that matters -"
John smacked the bar. "Wait a sec."
"You're interrupting, Shrieker."
"How the hell could you know who's the most ticklish? You didn't boogie on all of us."
"Yeah," Pete said.
"Or who's the most wrecked when he's... fired his gun."
"Somebody's tryin' to ruin my fun," the tickler said sternly.
"No, no. It's just been buggin' me. You're going on secondhand information. I think. Unless you can change your voice."
"Maybe I did, and maybe I didn't. Alright, big mouth, you're on. Defend yourself."
John's mouth moved, but he ended up shaking his head. Taking a drag. "I got nothin'."
"Dude," I said.
"You're not even gonna try?" The tickler sounded skeptical.
But Johnny, he just shrugged. "Naaaah, I can't think of a reason that sets me apart enough. All that screaming, y'know, I guess I won't last as long as one of these tough sons of bitches who aren't able to laugh after the first hour. Right?"
"Not really. But thanks for playing. Pete, we skipped you."
"And you can just skip me altogether," he said earnestly. "I'm almost twice as old as this skater-dude. I've done my time. Fuck - the way my luck goes I'll get yanked off my bike tomorrow night and hauled into some fuckin' tricked-out dungeon anyway. Ricky here has it figured out, I say. Done deal."
"I gotta figure, if a guy's worth reeling in all those times -"
"You little asswipe," Pete sputtered.
"That sounds like he's a lot more fun than I am. But hey, I only got a shot at 'boarding for money, getting paid for it. Probably I'm gonna end up with twenty or thirty fuckin' grabs under my belt... but not all year. I'd rather, y'know, try harder and find my kid. Do the right thing -"
We all howled at that. Protesting.
Mark started to look all indignant, but couldn't keep it up. He laughed too.
We're bonding, I realized. Brothers in battle. And none of us really sold each other out bigtime, not really, though if the tickler had leaned on us for a couple more hours -
"Up. I've decided."
My hands pushed against the bar...
And I was led back to a chair.
Rope whipped around, like lightning. We were all getting tied.
Then a hood was tugged down over my face.
"Another time," the tickler whispered. "Count on it."
A guy bellowed - into a glove, I guessed - and the sound got fainter as he was dragged to the door.
I heard a whistle of relief.
My hood was pulled off.
It was Mark - grinning at me.
The other guy, still tied, was bigger than I am.
"Can't believe it's gonna fuck with Johnny," I said.
"Jealous?" Pete held out his cigarettes.
"Hell, no." I took one, handed 'em back...
"The door's unlocked, I guess," Mark said.
We all stumbled in that direction.
"It's gonna take me down. Somewhere in the indefinite future," I complained.
"Me too," the biker nodded. "And that's not all I heard." He laid a hand on my arm... and Mark walked a little further ahead.
"Freedom!" we heard him crow.
"I see... a van," Pete whispered to me.
"Oh, shit." And it was sick, but I had to laugh. Double-cross. The bastard got his hopes up, and here Mark was gonna get snagged anyway -
Mark was thrashing all around. Floating...
Into the van.
"Sweet," Pete sighed.
"You're a mean one," I told him. "See any more vans?"
He studied the street. "Nope."
"I just realized - John drove."
"Check your pockets," he said coolly. So I do... and Johnny's keys are in there, jammed next to mine.
"He got any dogs? Pets?"
"Yeah. I'm on it. You're not the only one who's done time."
He nodded. "Just makin' sure. Nope, not the only one. Not by a long shot."
"You good to drive?"
Pete let out a horse-laugh. "Not even close."
"C'mon, then." I started walking to Johnny's truck. "You can keep me from running off the road."
"Crash on my couch. Bring me back over in the morning." He gestured at his bike.
"The lucky ones," he said, "gotta watch each other's back."
"Lucky. Sure. Until the next time."
"Fuck. You said it."
- - - 0 - - -
Cor 04:13, 4 June 2007 (UTC)