The Mayonnaise Murders, Chapter 8, Scene 1

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I guess it was about another 20 minutes before we pulled up next to the safehouse, or safe shack, or whatever the hell this thing was supposed to be. Truth be told, it looked identical to the wreck we’d just left, and the air had that same scorched metal smell. Silence so loud it could hurt your ears.

But whatever. Really didn’t matter. Me and Vee both had some much bigger issues on our minds, which was why neither one of us had said a word the whole rest of the trip between shacks after Beardy had dropped that bomb about wantin’ to get Earth kids hooked on MayoMadd.

This was major.

Don’t get me wrong. It ain’t like I had any kinda love for those precious little Earth kids because I don’t. Can’t stand ‘em. My guess would be just about every critter in existence had wet dreams about settin’ that rock on fire just to keep our little webbed toes warm. But you can wake up from a wet dream. This crew was wide awake and serious.

“Yo, looks like we’re here, guys,” said Beardy.

“Yeah, OK. Umm…I think me and Vee need a few secs alone to process some of this stuff. Kind of a big deal to take in all at once, turning all the home planet’s kids into drug addicts.”

Beardy’s eyes jumped back and forth from me, to Vee, to me, to Vee, then back again. They were squinted so it wasn’t hard to tell he wasn’t in much of a trusting sort of mood. It also meant he wasn’t stupid, because anyone who just finished telling a page scratcher and a detective that they had plans to sell illegal substances to youngsters had to know that they just might be putting themselves at a bit of a risk.

“Don’t take too long, guys. We got a lotta work ahead of us, and that does include you.”

“OK, but see what you said there I think just may be part of the problem, right? Because what you said right there would seem to imply that me and Vee are working together with you on this thing when the truth is that we may have a few issues with this plan of yours. I mean, this can’t come as much of a surprise, seeing as you already know what each of us does for a living.”

Beardy grinned, but it wasn’t the kind of grin that would make a person feel like grinning back in return. It was more the kinda grin that would make a person’s butthole seize up like concrete. And for a guy like me, that wasn’t easy to do.

“Sure thing, guys. Yeah, OK. You do have a point, and I guess I should have seen it coming. So if you need to take a few extra minutes go right ahead.”

“Thanks. Appreciate it.”

“Don’t mention it. Just don’t forget that once the two of you are done with your processing then be sure to let me know whether you’re on board with us or not. Because if you’re not? Then, well, it might get kind of messy. For you guys, that is. Anyway, think about that, all right? All right, then. Later, folks.”

Vee and I looked at each other, then back at Beardy. We’d known each other long enough that some communications between us didn’t necessarily require words. Besides, we were both practical people. It didn’t take a lot of math to figure out what ‘messy’ meant, or to figure out what chance we had of derailing this runaway train if we were both planted in the dust out here in the Dregs.

“Hold on,” I said.

“No, really. You guys go ahead and sort things out. Me and the guys here will…”

“I said hold on….”

“Oh. Question? Wanna raise your hand, buddy?”

“Raise my…? Screw that. Listen…”

“Dude. Actually? You’re not really the one in a position to tell me what to screw, and I’ve done my fair share of screwin’ believe me. But OK. You don’t have to raise your hand. So what’s up?”

“About this being on board thing. Me and Vee need to know exactly what it is that’s supposed to mean.”

Beardy gave me another one of those grins that really wasn’t.

“Yeah. Right. So I’d say imagine it means exactly what you probably think it means. I know you probably weren’t a communications major in college or anything like that? But my guess is you can probably figure this one out.”

By now the chickens were all out of the trailer and were standing together in an ominous, simmering huddle behind Beardy giving us a look like all they needed was some sort of signal to do terrible things. Most likely to us. I nodded real slow, trying to keep from gulping.

“Yeah,” I said. “So maybe I can.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah…”

“Yeah?”

I looked over at Vee, then took a deep breath. Nodded again.

“Yeah.”

Yeah! Cool. So let’s get busy y’all.”

“Y’all?”

“Don’t be so picky. It’s annoying. C’mon guys, we need to set up shop real quick because I’m guessing we don’t have a lotta time before our good Cluck buddy gets here and we get down to the business of planning this whole deal. You know how things have to be in the right kind of order for Cluck before he can do anything, and as big a deal as this is it’s gonna have to be way the fuck more in order than your average day, dude.”

I gave Beardy a look that probably should have gotten a few of my bones ground into paste right on the spot, but I couldn’t help it. Some doors just shouldn’t be left open that wide if you don’t want nobody strollin’ through.

“You are talkin’ about Deep Cluck, right? The one with fashion sense on loan from the Three Blind Men? That Deep Cluck?”

Instead, Beardy bent over double he was laughing so hard. Even a couple of the chickens had to crack a grin. I saw one nudge another with his wing and start to chuckle. Then Vee gave me a soft nudge. I glanced over at her and she winked, giving me a not unpleasant sensation down there where I hadn’t had a pleasant sensation in, well, a long damned time.

“Dude! That was good! Seriously! Good thing Cluck wasn’t here to hear it, but since he isn’t, oh well. ‘Cause that was funny. But yeah. I’m talkin’ about that Deep Cluck, my man. The very same. He’s supposed to meet up with us here so we can get this whole thing rolling. He’s the man with the plan. And this is gonna be one big masterpiece of a plan. I guarantee you that.”

“Masterpiece. Right. So. Where do we start?”

It doesn’t take that long to straighten up a dump, and once you do you have to ask yourself who’s gonna notice. But it wasn’t my dump and I really wasn’t in much of a place – or much of a mood – to be questioning which busted up piece of furniture should be shoved over in which corner to make room for some other piece of junk. Wherever and whatever. The idea wasn’t to convert the joint into any kind of House Beautiful, because I’m pretty sure that would have scared everyone to death. The chickens never would have recovered from the shock. No, the idea here was to go through the motions of making the place look more presentable so that we could talk ourselves into believing it actually was more presentable later on once we got through.

We got through about an hour later, and then nobody knew exactly what to do with themselves. Vee and I wound up sitting scrunched next to each other in what I guess you could call the living room on a misshapen overstuffed piece of fabric that passed for a sofa trying not to look nervous. Beardy started doing chin-ups from one of the doorways and counting his reps out loud. Most of the chickens had gone downstairs, but a few of them decided to stay upstairs with us for whatever reason. Pretty soon one of the bigger chickens named Butch who looked like he was on some kind of weight training program got up from another ripped up couch across from where we were sitting and excused himself down a small hallway. A few minutes later he marched back in with a card table under his arm/wing and set it up in the middle of the floor, then fires up a smokey before yelling down the stairs to the other chickens.

CARDS! NEED MORE TABLES!”

First came the shuffling and the cursing, followed by a mammoth rumbling thunder that made Vee almost hop into my lap which, all things considered, would not have been such an unwelcome development. Next thing you know the room is packed full of game-happy poultry, only this was the first time I’d seen them looking like they were actually happy – no, ecstatic – about anything. Their eyes were twinkling, and you could hear a whole different tone in their voices, way more relaxed and genial. Beardy had cut off his chin ups and seemed to be as excited as everyone else, helping to set up the tables around the room. Then Butch looked over at me and Vee, his beak twisted into a sort of grin.

“You guys play?” he asked.

Vee looked confused for a few seconds, like she wasn’t quite sure what she’d just heard (probably wasn’t) but then broke into a smile that could have lit up a cave and  hopped up off the sofa like popcorn off a skillet.

“Ohhhhhhh I just love cards!” she purred, and I thought at first she might have been up to something. But when she turned around toward me with that look I could see she really was serious.

Damn. All these years and I’d never even known. You think you know somebody.

“Vid..?” she asked, arching an eyebrow.

I shook my head, motioning with my hands for her to go on without me.

“Naw. I don’t know a thing about no cards, honey. I’ll just sit here and watch.”

She gave me a small pout that was kinda delicious in its way.

“You sure? You don’t know any card games? You sure you’re not just being…you know…”

I couldn’t believe she was actually saying this in front of Beardy and the chickens, like all of the sudden was the outsider who didn’t fit and Vee was part of the gang. But I swallowed it ‘cause I knew I’d better. I noticed Beardy giving me an amused grin.

“Uhhh, no, Vee. I promise on my honor I’m not being…you know. All right?”

Vee looked embarrassed, which was what I was going for, then shrugged before she turned around to join a tableful of her newfound gaming partners. It was gonna be a long night.

Like what you’ve read so far? Get the book to see how it all ends! Then get Part 2!

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kaoblues
Writer and musician.

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