What follows is an excerpt from the second book in my Armageddon series, The Nephilim and the False Prophet. You won’t find it in the Look Inside feature of the Amazon product page; this chapter is from later in the novel, when Bill learns the price of denial. If you haven’t read the first book in the Armageddon series, The Blessed Man and the Witch yet, you may want to hold off on reading this.
Chapter 15: Bill — Teamwork
The latest in the longest string of baseless lawsuits ever brought to a courtroom by the hardest-working ambulance chaser in Los Angeles has been put on hold by a judge yesterday in L.A. County’s Superior Court of California. The butt of all the worst lawyer jokes you’ve ever heard, George Smolla, is suing every company that has ever used the Happy Guy logo on any piece of clothing, artwork, or other paraphernalia, digital or physical. His client claims to have drawn the symbol ten years ago in her basement, which makes it an open-and-shit case (no, that’s not a typo). It’s pretty much impossible to find a place that doesn’t have the Happy Guy splattered somewhere, so basically he’s suing the entire world. If Smolla can get a settlement on a nuisance case from someone with deep pockets, more power to him…
You’ve Been Oversued Blog, 10/02/2016
“Come on, grandma. At least drive the speed limit,” Bill muttered. All he could see through the rear windshield of the car ahead were knuckles on the steering wheel and fluffy white hair peeking above the headrest.
What is it about COEXIST bumper stickers that make people think they can drive like assholes? Figures it’s not a Happy Guy sticker. Grandma here doesn’t qualify—
His phone rattled in the center console.
“Hey, Mo,” he answered.
“How’s it going? You still at the office?” Maureen asked.
Bill had to slow down even more when the old lady started riding the brake. “On my way home. Just gotta get gas.”
“Okay, cool. How’d it go today?”
With a humorless chuckle he said, “Great. None of the fumblefucks shot themselves or anyone else, so we’re playing with house money. Most of ‘em didn’t really hit the target either, but Homeland Security’s not about accuracy. Just there to get the participation certificate, and then right back to sniffing panties at bus stops on the government tit. Another standard work day.”
A brief pause. “I guess I’m glad I didn’t put the phone on speaker,” Maureen said dryly. “Jonah’d learn all sorts of new words.”
“How’s my little man doing?”
“Good. He’s had a good pain day, actually.”
Nodding, Bill said, “Good deal.” Fucking stigmata. Thanks for that, Heck. Thanks, Blessed Man, wherever you are. “I’ll try to be home by his bedtime. He watching Doc McStuffins?”
Maureen snorted into the phone. “What else? He wants to see the Nice Man.”
“Still fixated on that, huh.”
“Well…” Maureen said, drawing the word out, “I think he sees the dad as a TV version of you. Sort of.”
Putting a smile into his voice, Bill replied, “Kind of a stretch, seeing that I’m an old white man and Doc’s dad is a black guy, but sure, I can see that.”
“Maybe he misses Tim, then.”
He’s not the only one. Thanks for that too, Heck. “Could be,” he said, took a deep breath to settle himself, and added, “Anyway, I’ll be home in a few minutes. If the world don’t end before I get there.”
“Har de har har. See you soon.”
“Yup. Bye.” He hung up and hit the turn signal when he saw the green 7-11 sign. Even though they irritated her, his end-of-the-world jokes had become habitual since the Occupy Riots. She still believes in that Armageddon crap, even though it was all bullshit. The world’s still turning. A little more fucked up, but still—
Ahead, the old lady abruptly slowed to turn into the 7-11, making him stomp on the brakes. “Jesus Christ, grandma,” he growled, coasting to the pumps across the lot.
Thumbing through his wallet required a gut check. Got about a grand on the Amex, so that’s no good…fuck it. Citibank it is. It took several swipes with the card at the pump’s payment kiosk to get it to work, which didn’t improve his mood. We can at least still make the vig on this one, if nothing else. He jammed the nozzle into his F-150’s gas tank harder than necessary and locked the handle in the on position. From training black ops to babysitting Homeland Security pukes. How the mighty have fallen.
Lidske was behind it. The contracts dried up ever since Bill had divested Solution 39 from every Lidske-owned company he did business with. They didn’t have to hack us again: all they did was piss in every potential client’s ear. Now we’re not much more than a gun hobby subsidized by my big brother.
As the gas clicked off, someone approached from the side of the building by the trash cans. Young, dirty jeans, UNLV hoodie, tennis shoes beat to shit. Twitchy as all get out.
Meth heads. They’re everywhere, like roaches.
Before the meth head could get within arm’s reach, Bill lifted his head and said, louder than he had to, “What’s up?”
“Hey, sir. Excuse me, sir,” the meth head said, stopping. He shuffled his feet like he had to take a piss. “Could I borrow a few bucks until payday?”
Bill looked around to make sure no one was behind him. The old lady was still trying to figure out the credit card reader at the next set of pumps and a goateed man in a suit had just left the store with a handful of scratch-offs.
“Nah, man,” Bill said. “Hit up the suit over there. He’s flush.”
The meth head put his hands in the front pocket of his hoodie. “Just a buck, sir. Whatever you got.” The constant movement at the corner of his mouth made it look like he was trying to smile.
Just won’t take no for an answer. Bill lifted his shirt enough to show the butt of the Glock in his hip holster. Resting a hand on it, he said, “Fuck off. Now, bud.”
“Hey, sir, it’s okay, sir. Sorry, sir,” the meth head said, but didn’t back away and didn’t take his hands out of his pockets.
In his mind Bill had already drawn his gun and told the guy to get on the ground, but the instant his grip tightened on the handle someone wrapped an arm around his throat.
It was the old lady. Breath cut off, he slammed the back of his head into her face. Her only reaction was to hiss hot spit into his ear and grab his wrist, keeping him from bringing his gun to bear. As his left hand dropped to unclip his folding knife, pain exploded in his belly.
“Just a buck, sir,” the meth head said, pulling a screwdriver out of Bill’s gut. “Just a buck.” He stabbed again. And again.
He tried to double over, protect himself, but the old lady held him upright. The bloody vomit that gushed from his perforated stomach couldn’t make it past the forearm crushing his throat. Darkness bled into his vision.
“Just. A. Buck.” Each syllable was punctuated by a thrust of the meth head’s screwdriver. “Sir.” The last one went under his sternum, plunging upward.
Agony kept his free hand from working. He couldn’t even scream.
The meth head pulled the screwdriver out of his chest. “Sorry, sir.” A gout of blood splashed his grinning, twitching face.
The old lady let him go but he didn’t feel it. Not when he fell face-first into the blacktop, not when they doused him with gasoline. He smelled it, but it happened to someone else. Even the pain in his chest and gut had faded.
Bending to look him in the eye, the old lady said, “We’re going to get your wife, Billy. And your little boy. Going to rape them both to death.” Her seamed face brightened in a terrible smile. “I want you to think about that in Hell.”
Bill would have spat defiance, but his last attempt to speak was cut off by the roar of the flames as she set him on fire.
(Copyright 2016 David Dubrow)