Caleb couldn’t bring himself to gas up at the Circle K. If Ratchel was back at work, what would he say to her? He drove across town to the Texaco, and as he was filling up, Sheriff Sanders drove past. He hit the sirens and the lights when he caught a glimpse of Caleb. He pulled into the Texaco as rubberneckers craned towards the action, reveling in the misery of others.
“Morning, sheriff. Looks like you’re after me for something or another. Is it something I did recently or something I did during my checkered past that you just found out about?”
“Caleb, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but that biker didn’t make it. He died three hours ago. I’m afraid I’m going to have to take you in.”
“Okay. I get it. But, can I drive the truck over to the station so we don’t have to pay the impound fee?”
“Suit yourself, Caleb.”
Caleb called Harland by cell phone. He had to leave a message when Harland didn’t answer. The kids gone, me going away, Carissa never really here. No wonder the old bastard’s so fucked-up. He can’t get a minutes’ rest with all this drama. As the drama was to play out,
this was merely the opening act.
Harland had a few odd consultations around Anza-Borrego with which to occupy the remaining time in his day. As he crisscrossed across the low desert floor, he would swing into one local honky-tonk after another, aimlessly searching for Carissa. It would do no good for him to try to go and talk to Child Protective Services. Hell, once Curt Beasley filed charges, he would probably be up the river slightly downstream from Caleb. The only one, the only family anyways, left to take care of the kids was Sally, and nobody even knew just where the hell she was. What a fine kettle of fish this was. What a fine fucking kettle of fish.
As the sun set behind the rugged mountain ranges of the Cleveland National Forest, Harland drove over to Cynthia’s. He was sorry for the trouble and inconvenience he had caused her. He would clean up, pack up, and prepare to clear out of there by morning. Then he saw that the cleanup effort was going to have to be conducted to far greater lengths than he anticipated. The interior of Cynthia’s house was in complete disarray. Furniture was smashed to smithereens. Holes kicked in the walls. Doors ripped off their hinges. Through his shock, Harland could hear Cynthia’s muffled, tormented shrieks. He found her in the master bedroom, gagged facedown on the bed, saturated with piss, struggling to turn herself over. He pulled her from the bed, pulled the gag from her mouth, and quickly turned his face to avoid the full frontal force of her spit.
“Goddamn you, Harland Waverly! Goddamn you to hell!!”
“Jesus, Cyn, I didn’t do this.”
“Because of you, or more appropriately, because of that slut daughter of yours, this was done. Those animals took turns pissing on me! They ripped my shirt off and stuck this in my bra.”
She turned so Harland could see the note sticking between her cleavage. He reached for it, and Cynthia jerked herself away.
“Jesus, Harland, aren’t you even going to untie me before you read it?”
Harland was embarrassed by his inconsiderate act. What could he say to her? What could a Hollywood psychologist say for that matter? Nothing could console her over the treatment she had received. Sheepishly, he unbound her. She rushed to the bathroom.
“Jesus, they’ve torn the shower door off its hinges! Those contemptible fucking pigs.”
She got in anyway. Harland could hear the water running over her while hearing her muttering, “No amount of soap in the world is going to wash this scum off of me.”
Harland opened the note. It must have been written by the gang poet.
If you want to see your daughter again
Bring twenty-five thousand
To the White Pelican
Come alone, no policeman
Or you’ll never see her again”
Sick motherfuckers. How would they get around the police barricades and into Salton City? Probably hiked out through the desert and got picked up by their sick, fucking brothers. Oh, Christ! There could be hundreds of them.
The White Pelican was a seaside bar that had seen better days, resting besides a water body that had seen better days. As impossible as it could be for real estate to be depressed in southern California, Salton City was about as flat as a pancake. Its hey-day of the fifties and sixties, when the area was referred to as the “Salton Rivera”, ended soon after original developer, M. Penn Phillips, pulled up stakes, apparently taking his vision along with him. Hundreds of platted lots changed hundreds of hands with not much of nothing ever being built.
Coachella Valley Water District, the 900-pound bullying gorilla in the room, controlled water meters and shut off the taps at every turn, frustrating ongoing development efforts with the net effect being that there were no longer any more development efforts. Entire streets lay barren, the skeleton of a would-be city that stupidity and greed would always destroy every time the effort was made to see it take form. Salton City was a lonely isolated anomaly to the first rule of real estate, which is location, location, location. It was a mystery to which there was no explanation. For how could a city sitting aside a water body the size of Lake Tahoe, smack dab in the middle of the desert, lie largely deserted? In short, it was the perfect place for attracting a gang of unruly, unwashed, uncouth, misfit bikers. There were eighty, at least in the bar itself, with half as many again blasting their Harleys about the vacant streets, itching to accommodate whatever trouble they could stir up.
The Rogues were a notch below the Hell’s Angels. Degenerates, the scum of the earth, unwashed heathens, unapologetic bullies. Two-bit criminals, above-average meth cooks, sex fiends, drug addicts, alcoholics, dysfunctional shells of human beings. Perhaps they were genetically linked to the Neanderthal reign of a prehistoric clan. Sixteen were without bikes, which made them little bitches in the eyes of their classmen, and the only way they could regain their status was to kill the sons-a-bitches who had destroyed them. They had the old man’s daughter leashed to a doorway by the filthy bathroom. Every member of the gang had stopped by to give her a pump. They laughed hysterically when she finally shit and pissed in place on the floor. And then they pumped her again for good measure.
Ratchel, the kid’s squeeze, was one hot box who could dance (for now) on the table tops and suck an occasional cock. Inevitably, she too, would pay for her former boyfriend’s mistakes. Eventually, the Rouges would turn her out, perhaps even kill her if she ran her cunt mouth and protested. She would end up a low-level mama, or even dead, but for now, she wasn’t used up, her pussy was clean, and she got dicks stiff when she rubbed up against them. For now, she served a purpose, so they plied her with cocaine to keep her mind off of things to come, and enjoyed the sick pleasures of letting her think she could shake, slither, gyrate, suck, fuck, and talk her way out of the fate that awaited her.
Carissa was half-numb, half-dead, half-human, half-interested in living another second. She had never prayed, would never pray. She realized that night in the shower was not her bottom. The Rouges would give her just enough crystal meth to keep her awake and snarling at them as they indulged in their acts of degradation. She half-understood that she was the bait by which they wished to catch her father and her brother, and she also half-understood that what they were doing to her would be a cakewalk in comparison to what they would do to them. She could see the error of her ways, not that it mattered now. Death couldn’t come soon enough, yet death being as sadistic as the Rogues, wouldn’t come at all. She understood that she was barely alive, living in hell, controlled by a devil that wouldn’t let her die. The God she didn’t know and couldn’t pray to looked down upon her and knew that whatever evil that had existed within her that allowed her to do the evil things she had done was now negated by the evil being visited upon her. In utter blackness, a new soul could be born again fresh and new. Or not. Only He could save her from herpes, and AIDS, and death, and, as time was running out, He pondered about what He would do, and the only thing He knew for certain was that He was undecided.
Not so for Harland. He would save his daughter, if he could, or die trying. All he had to do was sneak past police barricades, traverse 30 odd miles east on State Route 20, sneak into Salton City, fight off 120 enraged, methed-out bikers, and bring his daughter safely home. Harland felt like he was riding a peeshooter in the form of Caleb’s 120 cc dirt bike when he compared it to the Harleys he would be going up against. He would skirt the police, by riding through the Borrego Badlands, a rise of devilish earth that had claimed the lives of several would-be gold miners as they tried to find a shortcut through to the gold fields of San Francisco in the fatalistic winter of 1849. Some of their bones were never found and were still bleaching in the blistering summer sun. A humble monument to the idiotic victims who tried to cross a waterless land without enough water.
That the Rouges should choose the Salton Sea and its surroundings as their stomping grounds for meth production, devil worshiping, flat-out riding, and hard drinking was no great mystery. An accidental water body formed when the Colorado River flowed through the infamous “Mexican Cut” diversion canal located just south of the international border during the desert’s wettest years of 1905 through 1907 that was subsequently capped off and thereafter forgotten about. The river water flowed to the lowest of the low (not unlike the Rogues) and so situated, could not purify itself for it had nowhere else to flow. It sat pitiful and hopeless, growing more putrid and polluted by the day as Mexico transported her shit northward up the New River and into the sea with no outlet. The Salton Sea awaited its fate as politicians debated on what to do and eventually got around to doing what they typically do, which is nothing. A festering toilet bowl of ineptitude that couldn’t be flushed. Shit on top of shit. Like life itself.
John C. Krieg is a retired landscape architect, landscape contractor, and certified arborist. He remains a social malcontent, bordering on loose cannon. John has always been a tree nut in general, much preferring them to people.