PART ONE IN A SERIES – DESPERATION

Written in 2007:
He had lain silent in the sun a thousand times before. The heat slowly baked his skin but the silence chilled his bones.
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> He had been observing the actions of a nearby gecko for some time now- the witless creature stretched across the hot red sand in, much like him, complete stationary meditation…for hours. A cricket had come into the reptile’s range some forty minutes ago, but the curious gecko had not reacted. With a disconcerted lick of the eye, it had allowed the potential breakfast to carry on, unscathed. He found this inquisitive, surely out here – in this vast stretch of barren wasteland – the cruel and hollow Nevada desert, it was difficult to be certain of the source of your next meal. Yet this seemingly uncaring animal had allowed the rare, tasty morsel to wander past unhindered. He couldn’t decide who was more stupid – the oblivious insect, or the lackadaisical lizard – The cricket had blindly, narrowly avoided death, and the reptile had drawn one step closer to it.
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> He jumped in shock when, with a speed like lightning striking itself, a previously unnoticed snake, darted forward, and seized the unsuspecting meal in its unforgiving jaws. He fancied he could hear the lizards brittle backbone snap as the cunning snake swallowed its mortal hostage whole. He hadn’t noticed the snake until it had made its lunge, by which time it had been a mere half a foot from its target. Suppose he had been the target… suppose the snake had been a person – armed? He cursed this careless lack of observation; breaking gaze from the predator in the sand, he scanned the wavering horizon for any sign of movement.
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> None.
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> He returned to observing the writhing beast that now presented itself, exposed out-with the illusion of camouflage, deceived by its own movement. He could see it more clearly now. He could lock gaze with the beast, from one stealth assassin to another, two cold-blooded killers crossing paths in the empty desert. Perfect! He thought, and for the first time since the sun rose against his back this morning, he moved from the log on which he was perched and motioned towards the rattler with a forked stick. The rattler, scales as red as the angry desert itself, was a feisty critter, it reared against his stick and prepared to strike. It was the moment’s hesitation that he had seen himself in many of his targets’ eyes that resulted in the snake’s failure. That immeasurably small instant in time where the attacker hesitates, even subconsciously, it was this little flicker of emotion that he had fine honed his senses to detect throughout years of service to The Employer.
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> Hefe37.
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> The defeated serpent was pinned beneath the forks of the stick as he dug them into the sand either side of its neck, effectively paralysing his prey while he scooped its tail up with a secondary stick and lifted his prize into the sack by his log. The creature was calm as he tied the sack and bundled it delicately into the storage compartment of his trusty horse, ‘Phantom’. He often found sitting in quiet through sunrise and beyond brought inspiration and clarity of vision. Countless times the exercise had brought him answers to whatever problems ailed him, but never quite so literally. He believed in the mystical workings of the universe, and he knew she would always aid him, for he was the passenger of death. The assistant Grim Reaper…
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> …And that is how he was known, all across the land, as The Grim Reaper, or Reaper Man to the Feds, and Mr. Grim to The Network, but G.R. to The Circuit. His real name however…was Druss. He stood a daunting six foot five from the soles of his feet to the crown of his lank, snow white curls that spilled like an overflowing grease trap down his furrowed brow – shrouding his beady eyes, the pupils of which burned like black holes in the night sky – It was hard to tell where the draping, dank ringlets ended and the haggard, gruff beard began. But his mouth was visible as a thin flash of yellow teeth across the middle of the forest of facial hair. His neck was mighty, but invisible between the bull-like shoulders and the jutting jaw, and the tremendous muscles of his upper body were no comparison to the enormous pot belly below. Six and a half feet of weatherworn leather, clanking chains, barrel chest, beer belly, and rippling muscles – each one twitching to the tremors in the air, every slight change in current or altitude was registered and rejected or accepted as a threat, highly strung and sensitized to snap into action. Just as the rattlesnake devours a gecko- Druss devours anyone that attempts to prevent him from his goal. Luckily, not many attempt that. Not without serious reflection beforehand, and men like Druss, they leave no opportunity for hesitation. The last man that had hesitated – some eleven hours previous – now lay facedown in a field of mud… vulture fodder. Consigned back to the dust of the desert from whence he came…Rotten bastard!
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> Druss maintained his provoking presence with care, he never washed, he never smiled, he never backed down to a confrontation, and he rarely spoke. When one projects the aura of imminent pain, one rarely has to inflict pain. Druss preferred not to have to inflict pain, but when he did, he did so quick and harsh – without hesitation – without hesitation, one does not end up like the rattlesnake, or worse, the gecko.
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> By now he was on his feet, he had been sharing the trance of the lizard, but the snake had broken the trance for both participants, and where the hunting lizard had become the prey, so the lizards’ superior had become the captive – but not to the snake’s demise – Druss had bigger plans than death for this beast, plans much like his own, plans to bring death to the next unwitting subject.
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> The next unwitting subject, details of whom would come down The Wire anytime now. Druss squinted up into the cobalt sky, stretched out firm and unyielding above his head. Unbroken blue for miles and miles more, stitched with the faint wisps of insubstantial cloud, sparse, fragmented, and visible only upon close inspection. He judged by the sun’s position that it was two hours short of noon in the desert land, and he had been seated beside the motionless gecko five hours, since five this morning. The gnawing twinge of hunger at his stomach confirmed this reflection and he donned his crash helmet. A plain silver helmet that he slipped over his greased curls, matting them to his eyes. He looked over his warhorse. She gleamed brilliant shafts of white light in the sheen of the soon-to-be blazing late-morning sun. Like a silver phantom she sat, patient and placid before him, he patted the muzzle of the beast affectionately. Ensuring the snake sack was secured to the back, he mounted his steed, swinging one leather clad and heavy booted leg over the saddle and kicking his heels against the flank. With a slight bounce into the air he kick-started the mighty creature and the engine bit its guttural tones into the still, wobbling heatwaves. The cricket ambling about the horses wheels dived for cover, as the tyre spun a small sandstorm and exploded forwards onto the scalding tarmac. The roaring warhorse ripped down the isolated highway – from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds.
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> Before long Druss and his thunderous steed are minuscule black dots on the intensely bright horizon. All the desert knows of its ghostly visitor is a startled cricket and the smoldering stub of a Marlboro cigar, as it rolls into the dust and is smothered by the blowing sand.
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> On the way into town he clocked an old headstone by the only road in, and out, the sign read; ‘DESPERATION POP.105’. He elected to hold off his growling gut until he visited the hardware store and obtained the tools for the job. Business before pleasure was the old adage, and in this business, eating could only be considered a pleasure…because every meal could be your last.
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> He pushed open the battered blue wooden door to the shop. It emitted the obligatory tinkle of a charming bell and a hunched figure approached from the recesses of the place. Druss ambled up to the old man like a warship coming in to moor at a dock, and he sidled up to the counter and placed a hand the size of a ham roast on the chipped and varnished surface, the old man ran his wearisome dull-blue eyes over the hand. The knuckles red and scuffed, glistening with the moisture of fresh blood, scarred, nicotine stained, and callous looking creased skin wrapped the steely-boned skeleton.
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> ‘Gloves,’ stated Druss, with the resonating tenor of a tombstone cracking ‘the kind for handling razor wire.’ The elderly gentleman nods emphatically and disappears back into the shadows of the storeroom. He re-emerges sometime later with a pair of thickset gloves.
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> ‘Five dollars ninety-five.’ Druss hands over six dollar bills, informs the clerk to keep the change and exits the shop, stepping out once more into the brilliant sunlight outside, the gloves he stuffs beneath his bulging arm, means for handling the snake, later on – at dawn – the killing hour.
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> He looked up and down the dirty street. ‘Desperation’, an all too aptly named locale, somewhere between the wide-open desert and Nowhere. Druss had noticed the sign on the way in depicting ‘Population: 105′ – a small number in any sense – Soon to be 104 regardless! He mused over this, chuckling inwardly but never grinning.

He considered the options – to the right, what looked like a chicken bar, and to the left, a quaint Southern café, complete with the obligatory red and white chequered tables, and a threatening row of Harley Davidson horses parked out front. He made his way towards the café, head down and shoulders hunkered against the howling, sandy zephyrs. The occasional gust fired little hot pellets of stinging sand grains into his eyes, by the time he entered the diner his eyes were reddened and he felt weary. He was due sleep. He slept in 18-hour cycles every 48 hours. He believed this to be the true sleeping pattern of the warrior, and he only settled down to sleep when he found safety, sanctuary, or obscurity, which was never certain. If this required him to share a cave with a coyote then so be it. If he was lucky enough to be anywhere near civilisation – he would treat himself to the luxury of a bed, but just something simple – bed, shaving basin, lock on the door – tonight he would embrace his eighteen hours in the comfort of a bed, hopefully. He had pre-booked a room at a modest local B&B. Before bed however, he had business to settle. This time though, before the next order of business came lunch.
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> He pushed open the café door to the accompanying shrill squeak of un-oiled hinges. As was tradition with these small-town establishments, every grisly head in the place turned to observe the newcomer with unwelcoming glances. Most people only needed to look at Druss once however, to know not to look again. A stare that had felled men with twice the finality of a blow from the giant’s bear-like forearms scanned the room as he glared each patron’s ardent stare back in the direction of their tabletops. Druss pushed onwards, everyone with good sense returned their gaze to their soup of the day seemingly with disinterest. Druss noted with a mechanical mind that everybody in the room – twelve in all – had reacted to Druss’ entrance and feigned ignorance to his continuing presence. One however, stood out, the oversized biker figure at the bar; he had not offered the slightest interest in the new customer. His massive back faced Druss as he paced towards it, and the back never turned when Druss reached the queue, and surveyed the figure to be heaping gravy-sodden slabs of lamb onto his plate and lavishing the soggy morsels with more gravy still. Druss offered a distasteful ‘tut’ to the spectacle of the hairy biker – two heads taller than Druss and two more wider still – licking his fingertips and proceeding to plunge them back into the mounds of meat to fork out more offerings with his bare nails. He slapped the new additions to the top of the already teetering mass of helpings, and completely bypassing the vegetables, he shuffled off, and took a seat at the only vacant table. Druss avoided the scraps of lamb the carnivorous scavenger before him had leftover, and tipped two heaped spoonfuls of mixed vegetable onto his plate. Steam curled up from the plate as he turned and inspected the sea of tables. The denizens of the bar were not dissimilar to one another; they all wore the same flannel jackets and stonewashed jeans. The feet beneath each table were clad in the mud caked Wrangler boots of the common labourer, except for one, the insolent bikers table; his feet were clad in shining leather riding boots, clad in metal studs and with metallic soles. Druss liked those boots.
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> He resented moving to sit at the biker’s table, but the others were decidedly more cramped. He could sense trouble from this lamb-eating motherfucker, arched over his meal, shovelling the thin strips of meat into his gaping maw with a noise like a farm animal at chow down. Druss slid his tray nonchalantly opposite the biker’s and spooned a mouthful of hot broccoli to his lips. The bite never made it, as Druss’s eating partner extended an outstretched claw, and with all the grace of a J.C.B. digger, he scooped a handful of Druss’ food onto his own plate and commenced shovelling. Druss cast a baleful eye over the intruder. His left cheek twitched once, the only emotion Druss showed as he rose from his seat, and carefully deliberately approached the counter. Once there he handed the bewildered clerk payment for the uneaten meal, then in cool, smooth tones he asked unwaveringly.
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> ‘How much for the rhubarb pie?’
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> ‘T-two dollars a slice.’
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> ‘The whole pie! How much for the whole pie?’
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> ‘Oh, um, ah…T-twenty…dollars?’ The clerk spoke as though issuing a question rather than a statement; Coolly Druss passed another twenty over to the weasel-faced boy. He received his whole rhubarb pie and with it tucked proudly in the crook of his arm he returned to the biker at the table who had almost finished his feast. The biker dabbed at some gravy smeared debris around his bearded lips and cast a doubtful cold grey eye over his approacher. Druss, noting the pie to be readily sliced, removed a piece and wrapped it in a napkin. Then, he carefully placed the dessert on the table before the bemused biker, nodded softly, and walked from the eatery with the remainder of the pie. He couldn’t draw any attention to himself – not before the deed at hand was done.
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> The biker snorts at Druss’s retreating back, showing contempt for his ‘weakness’, and crams an overfilled forkful of the sweet pastry into his smug mouth with a barely masked smile of satisfaction.
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> The dead of night had long since descended when Druss approached the main street – dragged out, dark, and bible black before him – The pale blue moonlight offered vague illumination over the mud-caked road.
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> The information came down The Wire four hours ago. Druss’s target was a young man. Twenty-two years of age. Exactly forty years his junior, this saddened the old man. He hated it when he was ordered to perform the extermination of a young life. This one wasn’t even entirely justified. Some rich kid rebel, addicted to heroin, a runaway disgrace to his father’s monopoly empire. His father owned a worldwide soft drinks company with so much money it was damn near a shadow government. Nevertheless, the kid, the son, had advocated the harmful reality of this drink’s ingredients, had went against his own father on national television to challenge the ethics of the soft drinks company’s products. The media, being the scrap-eating dogs they are, uncovered every dirty, disgusting secret the family disguised. Including the one about the heir to the throne’s drug habit…
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> …So merciless a man to order the death of his own child Druss concluded with a heavy sigh. He fancied that the man, who put this order forth, was a colder, more heartless killer than he, for putting Druss where he was now. But he also conceived he could be kidding himself, a vain attempt to soothe the painful truth of the matter – that Druss was evil beyond redemption – a devil’s advocate to say the least.
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> The devil’s advocate reached his destination and remained still and vigilant outside the young man’s room.
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> He had brought no weapon for this one. How could a brute such as he face a pup with a weapon in hand. Druss had morals, and he had a different weapon for each moral. He liked to meet his adversaries on a level playing field. If his target was young and helpless he would embark on his mission empty handed, he would give the poor creature a fighting chance, allowing them to use any weapon at hand they pleased without once lifting one of his own.

He would approach a scenario such as this by going in strong and quick, incurring any injuries that came his way and receiving them with pride and acceptance in his heart. Then, once he was in close enough to slide his fingers round the throat, he would cast himself back to childhood – when he and his brother Quinn would scale the moors behind their home to find the highest deepest gorges they could come across. Then they would launch themselves over the edge of the gorges to land with a splash in the pools, sometimes sixty feet below. Druss, who had always been terrified of heights, had a method for allowing himself the reckless abandon to perform these jumps. He had an uncanny ability to simply close his mind of all thought, and step from the edge unthinkingly – no fear, no hesitation – He would be thinking of this as he closed his mind to a blackout and snapped the neck of his wriggling prey with bare hands. Or crushed their larynx until they ceased to struggle and their screams escaped through their crushed windpipe in a harrowing, unmistakable whistle that would haunt Druss’ dreams for many a night thereafter.
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> Equally, if Druss’s opponent was a little stronger, say for instance his target had a background in martial arts, he would allow himself to be armed with a small axe. Against, say, a former FBI agent, he would use a knife, against a military trained personnel… He would deploy the use of his short sword – ‘Sting’, named after one of Druss’ all-time favourite singers. At the top of the list there was ex-assassins. If he had to face another of his fellowship he would use his longsword ‘Midnight’, five feet of acid-etched deadly Damascus steel. The elimination of fellow hit-men was a tricky business that had to be resolved with electric stealth and the utmost planning.
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> No weapons for this one though.
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> He stood silent and shadowed outside the motel room’s door. He noiselessly pressed his ear to the oak panelled wood and listened intently. No noise issued from the room, except for two barely audible hisses, the first was the white-noise static of a television set that had long since ended programming. The second, barely audible above the first, was the faint whisper of breath catching in the lungs. Druss’ skilled hearing detected this to be the sound of someone snoring gently, someone asthmatic, and in a state of REM. He slipped his hand past his waist and produced a key, shimmering golden in the dim lit night air, he twirled it between his fingers, and with a glance both ways he twisted the skeleton key into the lock with a slow ‘click’.
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> The midnight visitor surveyed the scene inside the room; a TV set buzzed without sound atop a chest of drawers at the foot of the bed. On the crumpled, unkempt bed, lying atop the ruffled duvet, fully-clothed, was a boy of young age, early twenties. Around the boy’s arm was a makeshift tourniquet and at his side was a drained syringe. With this, Druss figgered the boy wouldn’t be waking anytime soon and he approached the bedside cabinet where he found a small plastic ‘baggie’ containing some white powder and a half drank pint of orange juice. With a grim, stony expression, he pours a heavy dose of laxatives into the glass of juice and carefully swirls the mixture together with a nearby Biro. Druss then makes his way around the foot of the bed to the small softly humming refrigerator in the single room. He opens the fridge and removes a bottle of undiluted orange. He pours a larger measure of the laxatives into this bottle and, replacing the lid, he slides the beverage back into the door shelf and shuts the fridge without sound. He then heads off into the bathroom while the oblivious junkie slumbers peacefully on the bed.
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> The cold steel light of dawn is sneaking across the landscape when Druss returns to his own room at five in the morning. He tosses an empty sack into a dusky corner and flops himself onto the end of his bed. As he lies back and stares into the ostensibly vast space between his face and the slowly turning propellers of the ceiling fan, his brow squirms into a grimace. He clenches his eyes tight shut. When he opens them again, great, fat tears escape the corners of his lids and roll down his prominently scarred and wrinkled cheeks, to lose themselves in the folds of his grey-flecked beard. His ribcage convulses with stifled sobs…
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> …And he waits…
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> …and he cries…
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> …and he waits…
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> …and he cries.
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> The screams eventually come sometime around nine in the morning. Druss has not moved from where he deposited himself below the fan. He has not fallen asleep, as he should have done, but he hadn’t been able to think of anything other than that Private Eye that had caught him up in a field back in Texas. The dreadful muffled screams as Druss had pushed his face harder into the soil. The mans nostrils and lungs filled with particles of the damp earth…suffocating…and his body had started flapping, like a fish, wild jerking spasms, that eventually ebbed into slight shudders – and Druss had held his face down a little longer, just to make sure, and then left his victim fish-belly-white, face planted in the earth. Lifeless. Meaningless. Dead for doing his job, and dead because Druss was doing his. Druss realised afterwards he actually held a slight attachment to the man who had been tracking him for eight years – he wished he hadn’t held him down for quite so long, given him a fighting chance – but it had been do or die.
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> The screams were ringing out into the street now as a wailing woman alerted the world of Druss’s latest victim. Who, Druss suspected, had just been discovered by the chamber maid, slumped over the toilet, with his pants round his ankles. Perhaps with a shit-covered rattlesnake slithering out of the toilet bowl and leaving a long brown trail as it slinked off across the porcelain white bathroom tiles, angered by the manner in which it had been awakened, not surprisingly, but satisfied by leaving its rude intruder dead with its lethal poison injection.
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> Perhaps now, perhaps now, Druss would be able to sleep. He finally shifted position and rolled onto his broad shoulder, with his feet hanging off the end of the bed, boots still on them. He drifted brokenly into a nightmarish sleep where he was pursued by the dead souls of the people he had killed. They chased him down in the form of skeletal demons, determined to resign him to the ground with an eternity’s damnation in hell to account for.
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> He awoke with a start. Springing upright and lashing out with a combat knife swiftly procured from his belt and thrust in the direction of the empty room. Sweat layered his body in its cold, icy grip, seeping into the crisscrossing networks of his bodily scars and stinging the ancient wounds with their salty intrusion. His wide bulging eyes swivelled to drink in the room, eventually, confident the shadows weren’t about to detach themselves from the walls and attempt to smother him as they had done in his dream, he lowered the glistening blade and dragged his bleary-eyed gaze up to the face of the clock hanging despondently on the bare wall. It was five thirty-five in the afternoon, presumably the next day. The glowing sun dazzled in through the grimy windows in a last ditch effort to outshine itself before it slipped back behind the hills once more, leaving Druss in the never-ending grip of planetary orbit.

Druss approached the sink and splashed his weathered features with cold water, washing the salty tearstains from his face. He then confronts the mirror, burning an unremitting frown at his own reflection. Here we are again old boy. He brandishes the combat knife before him and considers the sparkling steel for a moment, the glow of the blade as pitiless as a midnight sun, a nuclear silence exists between Druss and the weapon for a short time.
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> ‘This one is for you.’ He growls aloud, and he firmly draws the sharp edge of the steel across his bare chest, cleaving a fresh gouge into his soft tissue with determination. At the climax of the self-mutilation, he grunts despairingly and a smattering of his crimson blood coats the flawless white basin. A new scar, to join the thirty-seven others he had self-inflicted over the years, one for each victim, target, as he preferred to call them.
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> One small task completed. One small task left for him in this town. Just a few more hours, then he can leave and not look back.
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> It’s Saturday night in ‘Desperation’, and the pubs are pounding. Rows upon rows of horses sit parked like sentries in lines outside the busy bars. Druss, edges his way along the dust covered walkways, a snarl of contempt etched into his expression, tuned by a lifetime of dealings with exactly the kind of scum he seeks as he explores the licence plates of the mules, he has one committed to memory, and when he discovers a match, his sneer almost lifts into a smile, almost.
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> Inside the bustling cavernous drinking hole, loud, fast, anger-fuelled heavy metal pounds from a jukebox. The whole structure trembles to the thumping drumbeats every table and chair houses clusters of redneck drunks, like a cockroach infestation on the building. Druss strides meaningfully among the throbbing crowd of cockroaches. No one returns his stare; this ilk is all too familiar with that look in the eyes, the look Druss sweeps over the heads of the boozer’s occupants with an arctic air of finality. The intent look dissects and spits out every soul that comes into its range, until it clamps on one… The large, bulky back of an overweight figure at the bar. Clad entirely in black leather, sternly ignoring the throngs of people massed behind as it raises a glass of Guinness to its lips at regular intervals. At one such interval it sips back a mouthful of the frothy black drink and a slight, inquiring tap of the shoulder causes it to turn and regard its visitor.
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> A thin layer of Guinness clings to The Biker’s upper lip as he dabs at it with his snaking tongue and tries to place the face presenting itself to him. Druss introduces himself, The Biker is still squinting through the clingy cigarette smoke of the bar when Druss’ grips a bottle on the whiskey-soaked counter by its neck and smashes the body of the glass across the wood. Then, with a deftly aimed swipe of the jagged neck of the bottle, he cleaves a hole in The Biker’s right cheekbone. A far-flung dollop of The Biker’s blood spatters across the face of the unsuspecting bartender. The bright red clashes with the pristine white apron of the bartender as he stands with his eyes clenched, hand halfway to polishing a glass, The Biker’s blood temporarily blinding him. Druss meanwhile has wasted no time waiting for a retaliation, he slams a hard left into The Bikers’ wounded face, then using the same left he grips his victim by the scruff of the neck and delivers three, heavy swung right-jabs to the man’s shattered face. Druss seizes the bleeding biker and points him in the direction of a nearby mirror.
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> ‘Take a good look at your face motherfucker…it’s the last time you’re gonna’ see it lookin’ that pretty!’ With a forceful thrust and a nauseating ‘crunch’, he slams the biker’s head into the glass of the mirror, shattering it into cobweb-like fragments. Upon retraction, The Biker swings a wild defensive left hook, but the punch goes way out and is met with three devastating right hooks to the jaw and mouth and a vicious head butt to finish the sequence, buckling Druss’s opponent at the knees, flooring him. Druss plants a painful stomp of his biker boots into the downed man’s throat, and the desecrated biker chokes out a plume of blood and teeth that squirt and rattle sickeningly across the now-cleared floorboards. An acquaintance of The Biker takes the initiative and crashes a barstool over Druss’ enormous shoulders. The barstools breaks into splinters and Druss, apparently unaffected and ignoring the new assailant, strides forward and delivers a warning kick to The Biker’s kidneys as he tries to drag his prey’s wounded carcass up off the bloodstained floorboards, The Biker fights through the wall of white pain and delivers a sharp uppercut to Druss’s testicles. Druss’s face creases into a cringe as the pain bites into his genital region, but he’s wading through red mists now, and pain is irrelevant out here on the moors of the berserker.
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> With incredible strength belying his age he lifts the injured man up off the floor, over his head, and launches the leather clad figure against the jukebox with an almighty din. The music ceases from the impact and the biker rolls to the floor with a heavy thud. Another well-placed boot to the kidney ensures The Biker isn’t getting up too quickly, and hooking his two fingers into his casualty’s nostrils, he drags The Biker across the pub floor, by the nose, and out into the dusty streets of ‘Desperation’, where the crowd has dispersed from the club and gathered outside. They step back again as Druss bursts through the swinging doors with his victim hooked by the nostrils. Druss dumps The Biker unceremoniously on the wooden decking and stomps down hard on the man’s ribcage, knocking the wind out of his lungs, he doesn’t retract his foot, he pushes it in harder, cracking a few more ribs to boot. With unadulterated scorn on his brow, Druss storms over to his silver and black horse ‘Phantom’ and he grabs the chain on the winch at the back. On the end of the chain is a powerful clamp. Before The Biker can react Druss has clamped the chain to his testicles, through his jeans, and dazzled him one more time with a penalty kick to the temple of his skull.
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> As The Biker lies spread-eagled on the deck, blubbering, blowing blood bubbles out his nose and mouth, his eyes lolling about loose in his head like a man in the grips of a fit. He probably hasn’t even contemplated the possibilities of the winch attached to his scrotum as Druss hops onto ‘Phantom’ and kick-starts the beast with a juddering roar. A wail escapes The Biker’s lips as the gravity of the situation sinks in, but the sound is drowned out as Druss’s warhorse hammers forwards and vanishes into the surrounding blackness at high speed. The chain attached to the winch starts to rapidly uncoil, the faces of the crowd blanch, The Biker stares up at the onlookers with pleading moist eyes.
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> ‘Pleeeeeeease…heeeeeeeeeeeeeelp…meeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’
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> And The Biker is gone, the chain ‘snaps’ straight and with a scream of cruel agony he plunges into the darkness after Druss, his banshee wail cuts through the night air like a ghostly scythe, as the chain drags him along in a shower of sand plumes never to be seen in the town of ‘Desperation’ again…
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> …As Druss passes the sign reading ‘Desperation’ on his way back out of town, dragging the howling biker along behind him by the ‘short and curlies’, he notices the population count is 105…he subtracts the number by two and a faint smile nearly dances across his lips…nearly.
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> TO BE CONTINUED…

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