The days before
Desperately running through the woods, the big biker, who normally would have been about the most imposing man in whatever situation he found himself, knew that he was the one in trouble this time.
The name the 6'5" man had been born with was Ralph Peterson, but the only people who called him that were either cops or corrections officers during his frequent run-ins with either group. His friends simply called him Bigfoot for the most obvious of reasons.
Speaking of cops, he'd just left one of L.A.'s finest back on the trail, and even now, with every step of his oversized feet, he was putting even more distance between himself and his last two companions.
The three of them had just seen the freak who was gunning for them shoot that wetback gangbanger Raul just moments before, and the lady cop he'd been stuck with out here in the sticks (wherever the hell they were) still wanted to arrest the crazy motherfucker. Bigfoot just couldn't believe it, not after everything they had been through over the last couple of days. The cop's name was Sandy, and Bigfoot personally thought she was a pretty hot Amazon-type chick. Sandy was one of that new type of cop, with all the muscles, not the pot bellies and fat asses.
But after Raul got his head blown off, Sandy and her gal pal Sarah, who was some business suit type, had decided to wait for him to come out and then arrest him for murder among other things.
Now Bigfoot would have gladly killed the son of a bitch, but the idea of arresting him didn't hold much appeal to the big biker. So after first trying to talk some sense into the two women, then giving that up, he simply tried to drag them along with him.
But it didn't take long for him to realize the futility of that effort and let them go. With one last effort at talking some sense to them, trying to explain that running for it was the best option they had, and not getting anywhere, he finally gave up, sincerely wished them luck, and took off into the forest in a clear and deliberate effort to save himself.
Even though he moved now as quickly as he could over the wet ground, the trouble was that no matter how fast he went, Bigfoot couldn't outrun the last sight he had of the two women he'd reluctantly left behind. Bigfoot could still see them standing there in the damp forest, covered in mud and soaked through with both the rain and sweat, watching him prepare to leave them behind.
Sandy's blond hair had still been more or less in the ponytail she had put it in, while Sarah's dark hair was hanging loose and matted down from the rain, making her look like a drowned cat.
But it was Sandy's blue eyes that haunted him now as he moved his big feet as fast and as quietly as he could down the trail. It was the look that she'd given him when he tried to talk her into coming with him to simply save herself. That look in her eyes told him that the young beautiful women knew that she was probably going to die today but she was still going to do what she thought was right.
He'd looked into Sarah's eyes at that moment too, but in that instant of communication, he was reminded of his early assessment of the woman he had been trying to survive with for the last few days. There was just something about her that Bigfoot didn't like. It wasn't anything he could put his finger on really, just something about her that bothered him. Bigfoot had spent too much time both in jail and on the street to completely ignore that instinct no matter the circumstances. So he wasn't too sorry really to leave that one behind.
But it was those soft blue eyes of Sandy's that finally brought the big biker to a gasping halt. Sitting down on a log to catch his breath for a minute, Bigfoot couldn't honestly believe it, but he was actually thinking about going back for her -- a cop of all things, not exactly his favorite sort of person, especially after his manslaughter conviction.
He'd done eight years for that, but Sandy at least had become more than just a cop to him over the last couple of days; she'd become his friend. As crazy as it sounded even to him sitting there in the rain on a soggy log, the four of them -- so different from each other in the beginning -- had joined together, each watching out for the others.
Now Raul was gone, but Sandy and Sarah were still out there alone. He couldn't just leave them, Bigfoot concluded suddenly. It was one of the most important lessons he'd learned in both his motorcycle club and in prison: You watch out for your friends. Knowing that, the answer became simple: He had to go back.
Having made his decision, the biker started back up the trail, moving as fast as unfamiliar ground would let him. At last, getting close to where Bigfoot had thought he'd left the two women, he started to slow down and go easier, since the last thing he wanted was to stumble into something or someone and get shot for his trouble.
That wasn't all that easy for him, since the forest the group had found themselves in was full of strange sights and sounds that a kid who grew up in the concrete jungle of L.A. had never seen or heard before.
All at once, in the trees up ahead, there was a burst of gunfire. It sounded to Bigfoot like the 9mm's they had been given as some sort of sick joke by the guy who was gunning for them. As if they ever really had a chance to defend themselves, since there was no doubt they were fighting on the guy's home turf and that they were seriously overmatched.
But at the first sound of gunfire, Bigfoot had wasted no time. He dove into the bushes and pulled his own gun out. He knew full well it wasn't much, really, compared to what they were up against, but it did give him an added feeling of security to have it in his hand.
After the four or five shots, probably from Sandy, there was a single rifle shot in return. That was from the nut that was behind all this, and it sounded really close by to Bigfoot.
Could Sandy have been right all along? About wanting to wait for the nutcase and nail him when he got close? Of course Sandy had wanted to arrest him. Bigfoot would rather have simply shot him; on the other hand, whatever it took to get out of this alive was certainly something he was in favor of. He had to admit right now it was certainly looking like Sandy'd been right. He'd have to tell her that when he found her, he thought as he eased forward.
After a few moments, one of the women got off a couple a more shots. When there wasn't any return fire, Bigfoot thought again that maybe they really had gotten him.
He got back to his feet in preparation to rush forward to help, but before he could advance, Bigfoot was stopped in his tracks by both another sudden series of pistol and rifle shots and the sound of a woman screaming in pain.
Bigfoot had prudently dropped back to the ground as soon as the shooting had started up again. Now, lying there on the damp ground and listening to the drama that was unfolding somewhere out in front of him, Bigfoot was sure of one thing: He was listening to the sound of someone dying. The biker had no doubt about it, since he'd heard it quite a few times before in his life.
To her credit, whether it was Sarah or Sandy, she did manage to get off a couple more shots before a single sharp crack of a rifle shot finally brought silence to the woods. Hearing all the noise suddenly cut off like that, Bigfoot knew that whichever one of his companions had been out there was certainly dead now. But maybe if he was lucky, the biker could still get some payback on the guy responsible, if he could get close enough.
After what seemed like an eternity of waiting to make sure things had really calmed down and to make sure he wasn't walking or rather crawling into an ambush himself, Bigfoot started slowly crawling forward.
Bigfoot at last found a spot hidden behind an old rotted out tree stump. Looking out into the clearing where he'd left the women earlier, he could see Sandy's body lying there across from him, just inside the opposite tree line.
Looking all around, he couldn't see any evidence of Sarah or the guy who was chasing them. Though he desperately wanted to go out there and make sure that Sandy was really dead (even though he felt sure that she was), he wasn't nearly that dumb. After all, whoever had arranged all this had to still be out there somewhere. In fact, the man responsible was a lot closer than Bigfoot thought.
After being in prison for a while, Bigfoot had through necessity grown eyes in the back of his head, and he could feel someone behind him now. The act of suddenly turning to confront whoever it was saved his life, since the shot meant to kill him just blew a small crater in the dirt right where his chest had been a second before.
Looking up, he saw a man he didn't recognize dressed in the same camouflage clothing he was wearing, but this guy was standing over him with a still smoking rifle in his hands. Bigfoot didn't have time to wonder how this guy had managed to sneak up so close to him. The biker was way too busy fighting for his life.
Kicking out with one of the huge feet he was named for, he got the guy in the knee, staggering him back. This move gave the big man time to get back to his feet. As Bigfoot raised his pistol, his attacker swung a rifle butt and knocked the pistol out of Bigfoot's hand, sending the weapon flying into the bushes.
Not giving a second thought to the loss of the weapon, Bigfoot reached out instead and grabbed the rifle before his opponent could bring it back around for another shot.
Wrestling for the gun, the two men were finally close enough together that Bigfoot was surprised to see through the green and black paint on his assailant's face that this was an old man. He had to be in his fifties at least, Bigfoot figured.
Thinking now that maybe he could just out-muscle the guy, Bigfoot used his larger size and youth in an effort to take the older, smaller man to the ground. But his opponent was a little too smart for that.
Just when Bigfoot thought that he was getting the leverage to bring his adversary down, the man sidestepped and used Bigfoot's own momentum against him to send the biker flopping to the ground. Bigfoot landed unceremoniously flat on his face, but an even bigger surprise was that he was now holding the contested rifle in his hands.
Unfortunately for Bigfoot, that rifle was currently trapped uselessly against his broad chest, forcing him to roll over to free the weapon to get a shot at whoever this was. Even more unfortunately, his attacker never gave him the chance. After releasing the contested rifle, the older man quickly pulled his own 9mm pistol out and fired one round right into Bigfoot's back.
Hitting him like a hammer blow, the bullet knocked him face- first into the ground. Gasping for breath, Bigfoot could taste blood in his mouth. He knew that he was hurt bad but still wanted more than anything to take this miserable son of a bitch with him. Summoning up all of his considerable strength, he started to roll over again, still hoping to get a shot at his murderer.
But it just wasn't meant to be. Through all of Bigfoot's struggles, his killer hadn't been just standing idly by. Like any hunter, he would never knowingly leave a wounded animal. After seeing that he hadn't finished his prey, he simply re-holstered his pistol and pulled out his combat knife and moved in for the kill.
Bigfoot was indeed alive and making a valiant if futile effort to move, considering the fact that he had a collapsed lung and was rapidly bleeding to death. He felt a knee land in his back, causing a burst of blinding pain to go through him.
This left Bigfoot only dimly aware of the hand grabbing a fistful of his long hair and pulling his head back. But he did feel, through the haze of pain, the sharp biting agony of the knife digging into the flesh of his neck, cutting him from ear to ear.
Once the cut was done, the hunter released the man's head and stood clear of his prey so he could watch it go through its death throes without risking injury to himself. He observed, in a detached sort of way, that the head flopped around a lot more now than it did before -- so much so that even in the fading afternoon light, he knew that he'd gotten a good cut.
After his prey had at last stopped moving, the hunter moved in to collect his trophies and then left the remains where they fell, since he still wanted to get his trophies from the female before he lost his light. He was also considering how difficult it was going to be to track down the last member of the group.
Finishing up with the female, he heard movement behind him. Acting on instinct, he whirled suddenly, pistol drawn till he caught sight of his target.
"I was wondering what happened to you," he said, visibly relaxing as he re-holstered his pistol.
"I wanted to stay out of the way while you had your fun," the new arrival told him.
Later, basking in the after glow of a hearty meal cooked over an open fire made all the more pleasurable by the completion of a successful day's hunt, he said, "I'm glad you were able to make it this time."
"I know; I'm sorry," his companion said in an effort to mollify him. "It's just hard for me to always get away."
They both knew that, unlike the older man, his partner, while greatly enjoying the hunt, had a life that couldn't be just walked away from -- not if they weren't going to arouse suspicion. Not that anyone would ever suspect what was really going on, of course, but the last thing either of them wanted was a lot of wagging tongues.
"I understand," the older man replied honestly. "Are you going to be able to make it next time?" he asked, already thinking about the next group he had lined up.
"I don't know; we'll see," was his companion's noncommittal reply.
Later, lying by the fire and thinking about their conversation, the older hunter wondered if he should have his people grab his partner like they did the others. He hadn't done that before, so it could add a new level of excitement to the game for them both. Drifting off to sleep, he decided to consider it, knowing all the while they'd both sleep well tonight and return to the mainland and their respective lives tomorrow.
The days before, pt. 2
Grabbing his lunch box out of the beat up old car, Mark Anderson trudged up to the door of his run-down apartment. He wondered -- and not for the first time -- how his life had gone so wrong. He knew how it had all started, of course. It was back over ten years ago when he'd been in the National Guard and had decided to try going to active duty. He'd been happy in the Guard, so what in the hell had he been thinking? The NCOs he'd talked to though had made it sound so good.
But Mark soon found out that it was anything but. He'd managed to stick it out for his enlistment, but when he'd tried to get back to his old guard unit, they told him that they didn't need him anymore. Even though he'd been promised repeatedly when he'd first expressed an interest in going to active duty that he could come back afterward if he wanted to.
The thought had never occurred to him at the time that the whole thing had been arranged from the beginning just to get him out of his National Guard unit.
Everyone involved, other than Mark, knew he'd never amount to much on active duty. However, when Mark had expressed some interest, the shrewd-minded staff sergeant in charge of recruiting had seen a golden opportunity to get rid of one of the biggest fuck-ups in the whole company. Accordingly, the sergeant did everything he could think of to make sure that Mark was convinced that going to active duty was the best possible thing he could do.
Then, four years later, the same recruiting sergeant had almost laughed out load when he'd gotten a call from Mark asking to transfer back into the unit. There was no way in hell that was going to happen, and everyone but Mark knew it. Maintaining as professional a demeanor as possible, he informed the young man that they didn't have any slots available at the moment. He advised Mark to re-up in the regular Army and then to try again in a few years.
Even though he really didn't want to, Mark did consider doing just that, but with the force reductions taking place, he was told there was no place for him in the regular Army anymore either.
So here he was at 23 -- out of the Army, which was the one thing he'd always wanted to do, and stuck in a job that even he knew was a loser. One of the few bright spots was the little Internet business he'd started while he'd been in the Army; it was at least making him a fair piece of change.
He'd gotten the idea while he'd been stationed in Europe. Mark had taken a weekend pass and had gone into Amsterdam looking to get laid just like everyone else. It hadn't taken long for him to find his way to the city's famous red-light district, and it was while he was getting ready to take care of business that he'd seen an advertisement for online adult entertainment -- in others words, porn.
Knowing just how popular magazines like Playboy -- not to mention the more hardcore publications -- were on the base, Mark got the idea that maybe he could set up his own site. So after taking a computer course generously offered by the U.S. Army, he suddenly found himself in the online adult entertainment industry.
Mark, though, had been smart enough to keep it low profile since he didn't think that his superiors would be all that much in favor of his little enterprise.
He honestly didn't think of himself as some sort sleazy porn distributor the way most of the more morally uptight people in the world would probably look at it. No, Mark thought of himself as more of an equal-opportunity provider of adult entertainment.
He didn't judge the people that came to his site as a matter of course; whatever the people that came to his site wanted, he got for them. It didn't matter how he felt about it personally, though some of this costumers might be more than a little strange even to him; in those instances, he just liked to remind himself of the old adage that the customer is always right, since it was just business after all. Even after he got out of the service, Mark had wisely kept the site going as a convenient means of supplementing his income.
Knowing how Mark felt about his decision to get out of the Army, one of the guys at work had shown him a copy of Soldier of Fortune magazine and helpfully suggested that Mark, if he still wanted to be a soldier, should check out some of the ads looking for people with military experience willing to fight for money.
Mark knew that a lot of the ads in magazines like this were from white supremacist groups. Now Mark didn't really consider himself a racist, per se. He honestly didn't have any problems with spear chucker's or wetbacks or any other ethnic group. He didn't go out of his way to socialize with them, but as long as they didn't bother him, he didn't bother them.
On the other hand, he could always use the money these groups obviously had, and the thought of being back in some kind of uniform held a lot of appeal, so after thinking it over, Mark started answering ads. Today, though, digging through the day's bills, he found a letter he didn't recognize.
There was no return address, and even though Mark didn't know it, there wasn't a single trace of a fingerprint or DNA from the sender on it. Dropping his stuff just inside the door, Mark flopped down into his recliner and tore the anonymous letter open.
Dear Mr. Anderson, We were delighted to receive your inquiry and after due consideration have decided that you are just the kind of person we are looking for. One of our representatives will be in touch with you in due course to set up a meeting to discuss our future business relationship.