The sleeping pod slid out from the wall with a low electric hum. A gentle sunrise simulation bathed Bob in a rejuvenating light. He lay very still behind closed eyes and tried to ignore the wakeup call. A voice sweeter than honey said, “Time to greet the new day, Bob, and what a wonderful day it is.” Bob had the voice modeled after Scarlett Johansson’s. He had a thing for Scarlett. A bad thing. In fact, he was kind of waiting for her. Which would explain the absence of a significant other for most of his adult life? Bob had an ingrained storyline in his head all about the fateful day he and Scarlett would have a chance meeting. Their connection and intrigue would be so thick, as to eclipse the sun. Bob never did make any attempt to set the stage for this magical moment. He figured if it was meant to be the three Norns would make it so. Bridget always thought it was a defense mechanism, so he never had to get close to anyone. But, on this morning, not even the smooth sounds of Scarlett could ease the thumping behind his dry, crusty eyes. He rolled to his right side, tucked the covers up under his chin and tried to stop the cymbals from crashing in his head. “Come on, sleepy head. The hunt awaits you.” Scarlett urged him. Bob involuntarily stretched his legs long until they shook. Then, the muscles retracted in both calves, cramping tight, and pointed his toes.
“No, no, no, no!” He bolted up, reached for his toes and gently pulled back while breathing deep. He tried to make his muscles retreat to a relaxed position. His calves held steady in protest. “Shit, shit, shit,” he mumbled to himself. Just keep breathing, he kept reminding himself. Slowly the muscles released their obstinance and came back to reason. He sat hunched over with a large sigh. “Tequila,” the word dropped from his mouth on to his lap and drained down into the covers
Sanna’s pod slid open above him. Some incomprehensible grumbles came down toward him. “Please… keep it down.”
Hearing a soft sound, Bob turned his head to his right to see his mother sitting at the dining table. She wore a slight grin and bright eyes that were full of satisfaction and inquiry. Bob could read the meaning in her eyes. She was happy to have her pups back together, and she was also wondering just how she could have raised such a couple of lightweights.
She raised her coffee cup in a morning salute. “How’s that Silver treatin’ ya?”
“Ummmmhhh,” Bob let out and closed his eyes to see if that would help. It didn’t.
“Huuummm,” Bob let out with a nod.
“Seriously…please…quiet,” Sanna mumbled.
“Did anyone see the cat that shit in my mouth?” Bob asked
“No, but there are few ounces left of the dog that bit ya.” Bridget waved the bottle of Patron. “Shall I get a couple of fresh glasses?”
“Coffee…please,” was all Bob could get out.
“Quiet…” Sanna rasped, Then raised her arm and middle finger to place her drink order.
Bridget floated over with two cups of coffee, “Really, you two need to learn how to drink. This is quite embarrassing…need anything with that?”
“Come now, mother. You know I like my coffee like my women.” Bridget held the cup halfway to Bob as she pondered this. “Ya know, straight up and bitter.”
“Ah, Is that what you hope to find with you-know-who?” Bridget asked.
“Know who? What? Who is who?…” Sanna got out some kind of questions.
“I will fill you in later.” Bridget winked and handed a cup to Sanna, who begrudgingly reached over the edge of the sleeping platform.
Bob did wonder how the old woman was in such a functional state. After all she was there with them as they cried, laughed, ruminated, and professed revenge while lubricating their tongues and emotions with the clear fury. They recounted the past years and how they had all one another, not knowing just how close in proximity they all were. Sometimes minutes had separated their movements and one improvised left turn could have had them running square into one another. Both Bob and Sanna remarked more than once how artfully their parents had orchestrated the dance. Although Sanna knew of Bob’s general wereabout and his work, she didn’t have all the details. Truthfully, no one but the Regulator knew what the Regulator was up to and when he was to do anything. This kept all parties ignorant and thus inculpable.
Bob lay on his back, the coffee cup on his chest. He stared blankly up at the underside of Sanna’s sleeping platform. A few moments of quiet had held them in thought. “Time to hunt,” the Regulator said quietly to himself.
There was some more silence. Sanna sat up with a grimace. “Yes, it is…but first I need some breakfast, and I know just what I want.”
“Let me guess,” Bob said. “Bacon, eggs, and cheddar, wrapped in a waffle?”
“Fuckin A, right.”
“Ok but first we meditate and do Yoga.”
Sanna slumped back on her bed with a sigh. “Ahg. I heard about this morning routine of yours.”
“Meditation has been a long time practice of the pagans.”
“And the yoga?” Sanna said with a skeptic tone.
“Well, …one does need to modernize.”
Sitting cross-legged, Sanna fidgeted like a five-year-old through the 12 minutes of meditation. She struggled to hold the yoga poses, that Bob talked her through. He laughed at her, and she scowled at him. Then, as he tried to adjust her in Warrior Two, she looped her arm under his, lifted as she fell back, and threw Bob to the ground. He rolled out of the throw stopping in a crouch, legs in a runner’s position and hands pressed firmly to the floor. He looked like an animal ready to pounce. Sanna popped up off her back, landing like a cat on her feet. She took a fighter’s stance. Hands held up high like a boxer; she bounced on her feet. This was not an easy task, considering the thumping still holding on to her brain. Bob, waited in a crouch, looking for a weak spot. His eyes stopped blinking, and all traces of humanity had left his face. Sanna circled left. The Regulator sprung to her right tucking his right shoulder, coming around with his left leg for a sweep. Sanna jumped over the sweeping leg. She moved back right on her landing, thinking that The Regulator’s momentum would take him around to the left. She was wrong. As she moved the swift blow of The Regulator’s leg landed on the back of her knees. She buckled and before she knew it she was wrapped up in a leg hold and her arm was being pulled up over her head. For a split second she thought her arm would be torn from its socket, but as quickly as the hold had taken her, it was released. She looked up to see Bob’s eyes full of a spark. He smiled, and in a blink of an eye, he gave her a wet willy.
“Goddammit, Bob!” she squirmed away from him, wiping at her ear. “That’s gross! What are you, twelve?”
“Just making up for lost time.”
Then there was a sound they had never heard before. It was Bridget, and she was crying. Well, she was sort of crying and laughing at the same time. The two siblings looked at one another in confusion and then back at Bridget. She was hunched over, sitting on the couch. They had never seen their mother cry. Typically she was a stone. She was a badass, Viking shield maiden and she did not cry. They didn’t know what to do. Bridget waved them off and slowly gathered her self. “You have been apart too long. I hope you can forgive us for what we have done. Seeing you two fight was just too much for me to handle. I mean, really, I couldn’t be more proud of you two, but the fact remains you have been apart too long.”
They looked at each other and started to giggle. Then laugh. “Well then. She has a heart after all,” Bob said.
“Yeah, seems the old woman is getting soft on us, brother.”
“Oh stop it. Under it all, I am still just your mother, but don’t you be thinking I am getting soft.” They started laughing again. “Oh, fuck off and if you’re done screwing around with your violent yoga, why don’t you get busy making some breakfast. I’m hungry.”
“I, for one, don’t forgive you,” Bob said with a light tone. “Mainly because I don’t feel there is anything to forgive. We could have told you and dad to fuck off long ago if we wanted.”
“Yeah. We stayed under our own volition, not because of you guys.” Sanna sat next to her mother and shrugged. “It was our decision, not yours. I knew I needed to be there for Bob and to honor Odin.”
Bridget sat back on the couch, wiped her eyes and nodded. “Well then, no more about it. Case closed. We eat breakfast and then let the hunt begin.”
Bob cooked an amazing breakfast. He did not consider himself much of a cook but breakfast- that was his jive. He loved breakfast. If there was a meal to eat out it was breakfast. If there was a meal he wanted to cook it was breakfast. This obsession often leads to him cooking himself breakfast then eating out for lunch at an all-day breakfast joint. Bob often wondered how awesome it would be to have his own bed and breakfast. He had it all planned out:
- It would not be expensive.
- The guest rooms would be small.
- The common area would be large.
- The décor would be modern yet warm.
- The breakfast would be made to order.
- The food would be organic and as fresh as possible.
- All food would be decadent yet secretly healthy.
- Pretentiousness would be strictly forbidden.
- The use of electronics would also be strictly forbidden, and there would be no wifi.
The place would be known first and formost for the food. What a blessing from the gods the food would be. Bob would do all the cooking. If the guests wanted to help and learn they would be welcome. Many times, before the killing started and he felt the sickness, he would imagine it. Every minute detail, right down to the style and color of plates for individual dishes.
This was The Regulator’s dream, and no one knew about it, no one but Tommy. Tommy was the sole person in this world that knew literally everything about The Regulator. He knew about every problem The Regulator ever solved. He knew about every dream he has ever had. The Regulator trusted Tommy because Tommy is a bartender. But Tommy is not just a guy who stands behind a bar and serves alcohol to forgetful people. He embodies the essence of what a bartender is. He is a friend, psychologist, healer, spiritual leader, and authoritarian, all while keeping a professional disconnect. A true bartender is everyone’s honest friend without the emotional baggage and judgment. Every problem-solver needs this type of friend. From a young age, The Regulator knew he needed it, and he knew Tommy was the one. His father knew it too, and he cultivated the relationship between Tommy and Bob. Bob has always supported and protected Tommy. No one was ever going to fuck with Tommy. Not even The Regulator. Tommy was Bob’s sanity and The Regulator’s link to reality.
Fell and Bob were also close friends. They took to each other quickly during their training. Their shared love for adventure and mountain sports made an easy bond between them. They spent many hours, snowboarding, skiing, kayaking, climbing, and mountain biking together. They pushed each other well beyond their limits and into wild journeys.
Bob, invited Tommy along and even though Tommy was far less competitive, he would always have a good time. Bob really enjoyed their company and would often be fully entertained by Bob and Fell’s follies. But, Tommy was a very independent sort. He was just as happy sitting alone by a river as he was kayaking it in a group. He never had any issue with Fell and Bob’s friendship. This was not the same for Fell.
Fell was jealous of Bob’s relationship with Tommy. The way they had grown up together — their understanding of each other was second nature. Fell, wanted that type of friend and he foolishly decided that Bob was going to be that friend. Bob was going to be his sanity friend, but Bob was The Regulator. He was in the clan. The Regulator was a part of the world a problem solver, like Fell, needs to escape- an escape needed to keep a balance. If you don’t have an outlet into the “normal” world, you become something else. You become disconnected from all reality. You become unbalanced and unnatural. Fell didn’t understand that. He was not good at making friends. He didn’t have a mother or father and was raised by the clan. He was a master at his craft, there was no doubt, and he was driven to adventure. The problem was, Fell had no drive to be human. He didn’t want to embrace the real world. He only wanted to dwell in the simple and safe world of the clan or in an adrenaline rush. Fell became entrenched and bit by bit, he faded out of Bob’s life. Or at least that is how Bob saw it. Fell saw it as being abandoned by his trusted friend. This only fed the darkness in Fell and he retracted farther into the clan world and farther away from the Regulator.
Bacon, eggs, smoothies, and waffles consumed, Bob rolled out a large whiteboard. He, Sanna, and Bridget got down to planning. Detailed planning of the of how to take their revenge and to secure their family’s rule. They wrote down all the problems that needed solving. They wrote down every minute detail about these problems: Routines, habits, acquaintances, family, addictions, work schedules, food preferences, hobbies, even pet names. Sanna was entertained to know the Tax Man had a ferret. She chuckled at this. They detailed how they must be solved and in what order the solving should happen. They detailed the times of day, weapons, places and above all what to do with the leftover souls. Sanna was very concerned with this last one. Bob kept assuring her he had that worked out. By the time they got done writing everything out the whiteboard looked like an incomprehensible mess of different color marker, underlined words, and arrows. They stood back took a good look, and The Regulator said, “Ah, I do love a good plan.” The other two nodded, and a wave of satisfaction filed the Batcave.
“So, vehicles?” Bridget said with a quizzical tone. “We obviously can ‘t go strolling into town to get your Subaru and Sanna’s fancy little Jeep.” She gave Sanna a smirk.
“Right you are, mother,” Bob said. “I had my car towed last night. It is waiting at the impound lot. That way Tommy wouldn’t have to deal with it. Sorry, Sanna but I had the Girls pick up your Jeep last night and hide it, as well as take care of the few men staked out watching you two.”
“Watching us?” Sanna snapped to attention with wide eyes.
“Yes. I noticed something very off when I pulled into town yesterday for the show. I figured you would be coming down from the cabin to find me and so I called in the Girls before going into the Eldo. The douche bags were following you and the Girls were following them.”
“I knew I felt something when we dropped my Jeep at Kebler pass.” Sanna looked at her mother. “Did you feel it too?”
“Yes. I knew something was up but didn’t want to add any more stress to the night.” Bridget was very matter-of-fact.
The Regulator continued, ”Well, anyway, your Jeep is safe.” He turned to Bridget, “I also had them grab the bodies from the back of your truck last night.” Bridget slumped slightly, like a little girl that couldn’t have her candy. “I know, you wanted to deal with them yourself, mother, but all will be made up for in the days to come.” He rolled his eyes.
“Fine, but what about my truck and what are you going to drive? They will be looking for us.” Bridget moved to the kitchen to get another cup of coffee.
A big, uncontrollable smile came across The Regulator’s face. “I have a little surprise for you, mother, and as for me…” He just nodded to the Firebird. “I will be taking that.”
Sanna perked up again, “Hell yeah! Then I am coming with you, little brother!”
“Ok.” The Regulator shrugged and turned to his mother. “How about we throw the rest of that coffee in some travel mugs and then go see your surprise? After we get our shit together and clean up this place, of course.”
“I don’t like surprises, Bob. You know that.”
“Oh, but you will like this one.”
They packed up their problem-solving tools, and each took a picture of the whiteboard before erasing it. The kitchen was cleaned up, and the beds made. The Regulator slid into the Firebird, turned the key and fired up the Pontiac 400 V8. The sound inside the Batcave was deafening as he revved the engine. Sanna was all smiles. He pressed the garage door button on the sun visor. A large panel in the domed wall slid to one side and behind it was a rock wall. Then the rock began to move out and to the side. The Regulator moved the Firebird out of the Batcave against the rushing in of the midday sun.
Sanna and Bridget carried Bridget’s gear out the front airlock. They met The Regulator outside as the cliff wall slid back into place. The Regulator got out of the car and walked towards them.
“So what is this big surprise, son?”
“This way,” he said, as he walked passed them. He headed towards the stand of trees and fence where Bridget had parked the night before.
As they rounded the fence, there it was. A brand new, midnight black, Ford Raptor truck. Bridget stopped in her tracks and shook her head.
“No fuckin’ way am I driving that newfangled, pussy ass, town truck.” She dropped her gear and stood with arms folded. “No, Bob. I won’t do it.” Her head shook.
“Ah, come on mom,” Sanna egged her on. “This thing is sick! Did the Girls drop it off last night, Bob?”
“Yeah.” The Regulator nodded. “Listen, mom, you saw the whiteboard. We need this truck, and we need you driving it. You know it.”
She bowed her head, took a deep breath and said, “Fine. But no pictures and I get my truck back when this is all over. Without the bullet holes.”
They loaded up the truck. Bridget climbed in and after a bit of fumbling, she finally found the push-button start. She fired up the Raptor. The sound of the low exhaust made her crack a smile. She rolled down the window, “Meet you at the rest stop, tomorrow, noon. You’re sure about this John, character?”
“Yep. He will be just the man for the job.”
She put the truck in reverse. “Don’t be fuckin’ late.” She backed out from behind the trees and ripped up the gravel driveway as she sped out onto Spring Creek road.
Sanna said. ”I got ten bucks she won’t want to give that truck back.”
“I think you’re right, but I’ll take that bet.”
They stood for a second soaking up the spring sun. The Regulator looked down at the ground and smoothed over a patch of dried pine needles with his foot. “She might not make it through all this, you know?“
Sanna pulled a pair of Oakley wrap-around shades from a pocket in her leather jacket. She cleaned the lenses with her t-shirt then slid them on. She looked up towards the sun. “Keep her in the shadows, and she might have a chance.”
“Yeah.” The word stumbled out of the Regulator.
They stood in the light for a few more moments. “Let’s go get us a Christian healer,” The Regulator said, and they both turned toward the Firebird waiting in the shadow of a large pine tree.