Chapter 41: Back to the Past (Shotgun Mary’s)

Brain hurried down the sterile corridor on foot. He was fast and quiet, there was nobody around which made him feel even eerier about his behavior. He slipped in through the swinging door and turned and locked it shut behind him, although he knew if someone came by the staff’s general restroom (the men’s) and found it locked there would likely be some impatient fist-pounding to rush him along in his task. He went to the mirror and stared back at the face of Dr. Fraurenspeigel (aka Mindbender), or a reasonable facsimile of his face. The fact that Brain was blood-related – or had been until Brain had ordered the death of him – didn’t chill him in the least. He grabbed the edges of his father’s facsimiled face be the edge under the curve of the chin and gave it a good hard yank upwards, revealing his own reddened features sticky with the mask’s spirit-glue. He picked the glue reside off his cheeks with his fingers, crumpling the latex mask and wig into the insufficient pockets of his lab coat. No matter, he was intending to make a swift getaway. The though of Kodek locked up there in Bedlam, only a few corridors away from where Brain was now staring in front of the mirror, put a smile on his lips. He held no disdain for Kodek, all it was, really, was that Brain finally felt like he was ahead of a game that he himself had put into motion. He was winning. Despite so many obstacles, he was winning.

***

Zarana opened her eyes in the darkness, and she freaked. Internally freaked. Her arms weren’t spasming and she wasn’t kicking and screaming – which was good, because she was currently locked tightly in the trunk of some vehicle. She couldn’t tell if the vehicle itself was moving, or – thinking of the eighteen-wheel truck on the beach – if the vehicle was up inside another vehicle, and that vehicle was moving. She was freaking because she though she was dead. Or might have been dead. Or was dead and still thinking about it, and then she wondered if that might happen even if one were to have been decapitated.

Someone went over a bump and her head hit the underside of the trunk. Pain shot through her, and she was suddenly aware of a foreign, creeping wetness that was going on not just around her and over her skin, but inside her, like a wetness that was somehow alive.

Somewhere, there’s a truck on a beach and I’ve had my head caved in with a rock. Yeah, I’m probably dead.

And still, things remained in motion…

***

It was about a month ago when Johnny had smashed the rock into her skull on that beach. A month ago, or a few years from now, he wasn’t exactly sure. He was pretty sure of where he was now. Pretty sure…

When he stepped through the door of Shotgun Mary’s roadside diner, his eyes darted to the waitress in the yellow uniform who was busy leaning on the counter looking perfunctorily over a newspaper. Johnny got the notion to check the newspaper for the date, then realized he hadn’t known the date of what he now mentally referred to as “The Beach Incident”, so really, it didn’t matter what the date on that paper was. He decided not to look. The waitress was folding the paper away, anyway, no doubt she expected him to expect her to be attentive and provide efficient service. Johnny didn’t care about efficient service, though, he was strictly here to chill the fuck out…

As he approached the bar stool bolted to the floor on the customer-side of the counter, he felt like he was moving through a scene in a spaghetti western. The Man with No Name. Man with No Mission, more like it, he thought to himself. He only had a vague idea of why he was here, really here, and even that vague idea might only have been a vague memory. Johnny decided it wasn’t worth taxing his mind over, as nagging as it might be, because whatever the reason he was damned sure he wasn’t supposed to be here-here for any particular reason, not in some greasy spoon roadside dine owned by some chick who obviously though she was pretty bad to the bone. Shotgun Mary’s.

What can I get you?” the girl with the LIZZIE nametag leaned over and asked, and Johnny was a little disappointed to find that there wasn’t much cleavage to speak of. He looked at her face instead, and tried to remember going through the action of actually sitting down on the bar stool, and found he couldn’t. But here he was, perched at the counter, as if this little part if his life-movie had been edited out, just a few seconds missing, nobody would notice, right? Or at least, they were unlikely to complain about it, jump-cut or not.

You got bacon and eggs?”

You like corned beef has with it?”

That’ll do it,” he said, and realized she hadn’t asked how he’d wanted his eggs cooked. She was already facing into the kitchen and calling his order out. She didn’t specify the cooking method to the cook back there either, who Johnny assumed was Shotgun Mary. He opened his mouth to clarify the egg detail, but all that came out was:

And a coffee!”

Lizzie turned to look at him and she gave him a half-hearted smile. “No problem”. She poured a cup of coffee from the pot that had been sitting on the heating element for the last two and a half hours, decided not to mention that fact and brought the steaming cup over to Johnny.

Johnny really looked at her face now. “I know you?” he asked her.

Lizzie shook her head. “Don’t think so.”

He glanced at her nametag again. “You’re not Lizzie.” As soon as he’d said that, he wondered why the hell he had said it. Did he know a Lizzie? His memory was a nearly constant source of frustration for him these days. No, he remembered, Lizzie know his… sister? Sister Mary?

Zarana.

Was he related to Shotgun Mary? He craned his neck and looked over Lizzie’s shoulder into the kitchen. There was certainly a chick cooking back there, and she was hot. But that wasn’t Mary. This wasn’t right at all…

Your sister said you were going to keep your cool, Johnny. Are you cool?” Lizzie asked.

Johnny blinked. The nametag clearly said ANNA. What the hell…? He cursed his own mind, and the copious amount of drugs he consumed during his high school years. And after high school. And last weekend.

Lizzie?” he asked her, to be sure, in spite of her nametag

(It said LIZZIE before…)

No, no problem,” he decided.

Good,” she told him. “I’d better not see that Roscoe make an appearance, either. We’re all supposed to be cool as cucumbers, right?”

Only now Johnny noticed the brush of the six-shooter at the side of the ribs, as if it had just now magically appeared out of thin air. Johnny the magician – making guns appear out of nowhere. Awesome.

At least until he gets here,” Lizzie finished, then wandered away from the counter and picked up the folded newspaper again.

What the fuck was that supposed to mean, Johnny wondered. After some other dude gets he he doesn’t have to be cool anymore? His eyes darted over to Lizzie, she was sitting on the back counter with her foot up on the customer counter, reading the paper, but not really paying attention to it. His jaw parted to say or ask her something else when his sight caught the date on the paper. His jaw clicked shut.

Guess it did matter after all, he thought.

A bell rang through the kitchen and Lizzie put the paper down, took the plate from the ledge and served it to Johnny.

Sunny-side up, cooked perfectly. Johnny’s usual.

His mind began to ache, which put him on edge. He felt a nagging intensity as he began to eat his breakfast, and he shut his eyes most of the time. He could hear Lizzie turning the pages of the newspaper. The coffee tasted like shit.

Eggs were good, though, so he tried to focus on that, even thought the squeaking of his own teeth were grating his nerves.

When the bells over the door to Shotgun Mary’s chimes out, he looked aver and saw Kodek walk in.

What the fuck…

Johnny continued to chew his bacon through the dumfounded feeling that had completely overtaken him. This guy, Kodek, had been left dead in a truck ages ago…

In a truck on a beach

The rock crashed through her skull and a splash of crimson shod out like a sticky wad into her hair, the air, beading up on the sand at her pretty feet

and yet here he was, taking a seat at the counter three stools down from Johnny. Johnny took a bite of his stale toast and chewed. His brain hurt.

Thirteen minutes and a very brief, minor, and agitating argument later, Kodek made those bells ring again as he exited the diner, apparently he’d forgotten his wallet in his car, or some such crap.

Johnny pulled the Roscoe out of his waistband and it CLACKED on the countertop. Six-shooter. Old school. Very film noir.

Johnny, leave it be, okay?”

To Johnny and Lizzie’s utter surprise, Kodek cam back, really damned quick. Johnny couldn’t hear his chewing anymore due to the insanely loud buzzing of the fucking chainsaw in Kodek’s hands. And the guy looked pissed…

Lizzie actually screamed out, and Johnny grabbed his Roscoe and aimed it, but by now Kodek was actually charging at him and there was Johnny, his ass seeming glued to the top of the fucking bar stool. What a jerk.

At least he got off a shot. Hit Kodek in the chest, too, but goddamn it if some shit-black oil wasn’t oozing out of the flesh opening and swallowing the bullet… everything was going in slow motion, but Johnny couldn’t make himself move any faster, the next time he fired the Roscoe he noticed the shot had gone sideways – through the back wall and into the kitchen, missing Lizzie, thankfully – because his arm was now no longer attached to his shoulder.

Crimson blinded him

(beading on the sand)

and Johnny realized it was him, he was bleeding (fuck that, he was a fucking fountain of blood) and the chainsaw was fucking him in the gut, tearing through his torso, shredding his ribcage and the internal organs behind it, splitting his throat in two, his world became hot blood and nothing else, and he knew with divine absolution, that this was definitely the most annoying thing that had happened to him all fucking morning.

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