When the Well Goes Bust, Ch. 13

Harland still half-thought he might come out of this scrape alive. That he might be able to get somewhere, call Cynthia, and just up and run off with her. Logic is not the forte of the desperate. It was the final countdown, and a numbing warmness came over him. He called information and got the number to the White Pelican. The surprised bartender nearly shit his pants when he told him who he was. Headbanger was skeptical as he took the phone.

“You stupid fucking fossil, how do I know it’s you?”

“I imagine you got that little bitch I blew a hole through hid before the police or anyone else showed up.”

“You motherfucker!”

“Look, ass breath, I’m sitting here all alone at the old Land Lover Hotel. Just me and my guns. One man against all you great big tough biker cunts. I’m waiting to see what you little pussies are made of.”

Headbanger may have been psychotic, deranged, and bipolar, but he wasn’t a fool. He dispatched two of his lieutenants to ride nice and easy up to Salton Sea Beach. They circled the old hotel while Harland followed the dirtiest, meanest looking one through the sight of his 30/30. His eyes narrowed to the directness and finality of a gun barrel. Then they tightened to the width of a screwdriver before taking on the proportions of a penetrating screw that twisted its way through you. That’s exactly what the bullet did. The biker fell dead to the ground while his bike careened into the side of the hotel. His partner booked, as Harland knew he would, straight back to the White Pelican. All hell broke loose. Headbanger had to retaliate, or look like a little bitch in front of his clansmen, of which there were six, at least, that could use an obvious show of cowardice as an excuse to shoot him and take over the reins. He was being judged by pirates who needed red rum, and he better order it, or someone else would.

“Mad Dog, you take your men and blast out of here hell-bent for leather south for Westmorland. Herseysquirt, you blast balls out west on S22 towards A-B. Make those fucking pigs think you’re coming to kill whatever fine upstanding citizens you can lie eyes on in A-B. Run whatever barricades you come across, and turn smack around when you hit the city limit signs. Get back up to Salton Sea Beach, and help me clean up.”

Bikers flew out of the White Pelican parking lot like sparks flying from a blow torch. Law enforcement took off after them in hot pursuit. Headbanger watched the melee developing and the area rapidly clearing of gang members and fuzz.

Harland heard the Harleys approaching. Soon they were circling the Land Lover. Headbanger sat back safely out of rifle range like a Civil War general while his Calvary rode back and forth to him awaiting instructions on maneuvers. Headbanger’s head was banging and was poised to explode, when Harland forced his hand by riding out on the Harley he had retrieved and blasted two soldiers off their metallic mounts with his 16 gauge pump-action shotgun. He then turned and rode back into the decrepit building. Three Rouges raced in after him. Headbanger watched his men exit the far end of the structure and was amazed when Harland circled and dived-bombed them before going back into the building. He lifted his arm in the signal of all-out assault, and forty bikers descended into every opening in the hotel. Headbanger could see Harland on the roof doing something. Amongst all the action, that old bastard was calm enough to be lighting a cigarette. Or was it a cigarette? Fire spat its way along a fuse running down a stairway. Utilizing his climbing ropes, Harland repelled down the face of the building, gathered up his guns, and high-tailed it into the ancient swimming pool. The dynamite detonated a vicious rumbling blast. A mushroom cloud of wood, concrete, roofing, bikes, and bikers, emanating like enraged bees leaving a hive under attack, rose skyward with the billowing black smoke and scorching devastation.

The cops came on the dead run. Harland groped his way up through the rubble and human carnage. He was bludgeoned by flying objects, some still alive. He sent a few odd 30/30 bullets in fleeing Headbanger’s direction, not really thinking they would hit him, but wanting the piece-of-shit to know that eventually they just might.

Sheriff Sander’s voice hummed and vibrated and roared out of a megaphone. “Harland Waverly, we see you. Harland, you’re surrounded. Come out without your weapons and with your hands up.”

Harland dove back into the swimming pool shell, now filling with human blood that squished under his feet. “Let me go, Charlie. Hell, you fellows all know this riff-raff needed to die. How much crystal meth is off the streets because they’re dead? If you got any decency at all, you’ll let me take on the rest of them. Let me go for now, at least until I finish this or die trying.”

“Harland, listen to me. This ends right here, right now. Come out or we’re coming in!”

“Hold your ground, Charlie, I don’t want to kill no law. My beef ain’t with you. They humiliated my daughter, and left her good as dead. You know I can’t abide that.”

“Harland, please, I don’t want any officers dead either. Please give yourself up.”

“Can’t do that, Charlie. There ain’t no water left in this here well. Only thing left to do is kill every fucking Rouge on the face of this earth. Let me go, Charlie. I’ll do your dirty work for you.”

“Harland, I’m begging you, please. I don’t want good men to die coming in there to get you.”

“You won’t take me alive!”

For once, on too few occasions in his life, Harland was right. The sniper’s bullet hit him dead center between the eyes. His heart pumped and pumped blood to his retching brain. It pumped until it could pump no more.

The well had run dry.



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.