Sanna and The Regulator stared blankly into the dome of the light ahead of them. Highway 67 rolled quickly under the Firebird, and the exhaust rumbled at their backs. The melodic heavy tones of Clutch filled their ears. The Regulator bobbed his head with the rhythm and played drums on the steering wheel. Sanna slumped down in her seat with her bare feet on the dash. After leaving the Taxman’s house, the night had taken on a pensive mood and the two had not spoken for many miles. Both of them were lost in the details of the next few days, thinking through the steps, the devices, and the problems. They were heading south through the windy foothills road. The big, star-chocked Colorado sky opened up above them. They were slightly behind schedule, so The Regulator was pushing the Firebird hard and watching for deer.
Sanna slid up in her seat, reached over and turned down the music. The Regulator didn’t flinch. “Bob?” she asked.
“What’s up?” he responded, never averting his gaze.
“I’ve been thinking about our chosen schedule of things. You did go to see Nagli? And, you did talk to your spirit animal, right?”
“Sure did.” A slight smile came across his face. “It was good to see that lazy old lion after so much time. I am assuming you consulted your spirits as well.”
“Yes, yes I did.” Never one to beat around the bush, Sanna turned to Bob and said, “What were you told was the correct order of their deaths?”
Ever since they pulled out the whiteboard and started their planning, The Regulator had been waiting for this question. He knew that Sanna and his mother had consulted the spirit world for guidance. He also knew that it was taboo to talk about one’s conversations with their spirit animal. It was something he found completely old school and silly. He often rambled away to his father about what the spirits had told him after a quest. Reynor would try to cut him off, but Bob would just keep going. Eventually, Reynor would walk away in confusion as to why his son wouldn’t shut up. The Regulator figured Sanna and Bridget had been told the same thing as him: “The sons of Jane die first.” But, right off the bat, he had insisted they kill the Taxman first. Now, Sanna wanted to know why.
With a bit of sarcasm The Regulator said, “Well now sis, I don’t think it would be wise for us to compare notes from our spiritual quests.” He stole a sideways glance at Sanna.
“Oh, fuck you, Bob,” Sanna said. “What were you told?”
“Todd and Jason die first.”
“Sooooo? Why have we just left the Taxman’s house?” Sanna said with both confusion and inquiry.
The Regulator turned fully to Sanna for the first time since the conversation had started. In a very matter of fact tone, he said, “Fuck the spirit world.” He then turned back to the road.
Sanna sighed in exasperation. “Ok.” She rolled her eyes. “And why should we be telling the spirit world to fuck off and have him with us.” She pointed a thumb to the back seat.
“Here is the deal. I don’t really like the spirit world shit. I have never fully bought into the whole thing.”
“Then why go to Nagli? Why did you go to the Altar and seek information and guidance.?”
“Because I needed a nap. He does have those really awesome rooms with no light. Very relaxing.” The Regulator said almost longingly. Sanna took a breath and ran her hand through her hair. Her brother had always been stubborn and in his own world. She figured this was going to be a very trying conversation to get him to reveal his thinking.
“Yes, I agree they are very comfy rooms and beds. Not to mention the psychoactive herbs.” Eyes rolling again. “Listen, if you don’t care to help the spirit world that is your prerogative, but if that is the case let’s just recruit an arm of The Girls and go waste these fuckers. No need to go through all the baptism shit and what not.”
“Lejon was lying,” The Regulator said. “He was saying what he wanted someone else to hear. I could see it in his eyes.” The Regulator thought of the prying buzzard Lejon had shoed off. The Lion’s comment on how they were gossiping creatures. “Truth is, the spirit world has its own issues, battles, and struggles. The way I see it, they have their shit to deal with there, and we have ours here. You and I have to worry about our futures and our problems here in the real world. This quest is to secure our family and clan. To secure leadership.” He paused for a second. “To secure your leadership, Sanna. If we can help out the spirit world in the process, so be it, but I am not going out of my way for those fuckers. It made sense to solve the Taxman problem first. So, that is what we did.” His voice had a tone of finality to it like the conversation was over.
Sanna sighed and looked out the side window, first at her reflection then out into the darkness. Wearily she asked, “And you’re ok with that? Me being the head of the family and all?”
“Yep,” he said almost before she could finish asking. “Let’s face it sis; I am not leadership material. I have the curse of death in me. People know it. They fear it. One can’t lead through fear. Don’t get me wrong, to be The Regulator, I need people to fear me. I need people to think I am a mysterious, unhinged, cold-blooded loner. Keeps them all honest. Nope, running this family, you need to be strong on one hand and approachable on the other. Especially with the pact running out and possibly losing some good Hansen families.”
She turned back to him. “People shouldn’t fear you, Bob. And you are not cursed; you’re just gifted.”
“Ha! Gifted huh? Not sure about that.”
“You are!” Sanna had a protection instinct when it came to her little brother. Even if he was The Regulator and the last person on the planet that needed protection.
“Ok, let’s say I have a gift. The problem remains that my gift often renders people dead. Trust me, I don’t run from myself or make excuses. I am what I am, and that is why you must lead this clan. I, on the other hand, need to make sure you get to the head of all this and then keep you there. Let them fear me. I’m used to it. You play the role of the stable mastermind.”
“We do make a good team, huh?”
“The fuckin’ best. Doesn’t hurt that we are both incredibly good-looking, too.” He smiled
Sanna laughed at this and nodded. “True dat!”
Now they both laughed and the from the back seat they heard a grunt and a snore. John had somehow gotten himself situated so he could lie across the back seat. Sanna turned and marveled at how the big man could possibly be comfortable enough to sleep. John had passed out right after the bullets blasted the Taxman back into his easy chair. He had warned them it might happen. In order to chaperone the newly baptized Christian to the underworld, he would have to leave this one for a bit. This work often rendered him unconscious. He had laid on the floor mumbling in Latin for fifteen minutes or so. At one point his mumbling became almost reverent. Sanna had watched over him with curiosity while the Regulator went to the bathroom to be sick. He came back with two bottles of sparkling water from the kitchen, and they watched John tremble. All of a sudden, he came to with a start and sat straight up. He took in a deep breath, slumping back down and passed back out. The two picked him up and helped him to the car. It took a bit of effort to stuff him in the back seat, but eventually he was in and started to snore. John had told them that he would most likely be very tired after his journey, warning them he would probably sleep most of the way to meeting up with Bridget. He was holding true to his word.
“He is an odd fellow, isn’t he?” Sanna mused as she looked back at him.
“Sure is. I like him, though. How old do you think he is?”
“That’s hard to say. He talked of being a boy in South Africa when Apartheid was repealed.” The regulator mused back to the man’s stories on their car ride a few days back.
“I mean his soul. How old do you think his soul is?”
“Oh?” The Regulator thought for a few moments. “Much older than yours or mine. That I am sure of.”
“Yeah, he has some miles behind him.” Sanna looked at him for a while longer as he slept. “Yes, a lot of miles.”
John snorted again. The Regulator downshifted on to the straightaway and turned the music back up. Bridget stood on the top of a rise by the side of the road. The hum of the Firebird was distinctive against the empty night. She watched the headlights move towards her across the straight valley below. She checked her watch. They were right on time. Then, hidden in a soft breeze, a chill moved up through her spine, and she slowly backed herself up against the muddy truck door. Something was watching her. Something wicked. She calmly reached under her down jacket and removed the 45 caliber revolver from its holster. The other hand unsheathed a knife. Then she listened and felt and calmly waited.