(Here we go! Enjoy the 3rd possibly canon adventure of Cassidy & Lloyd. If you want, buy their previous rampages for $2 by clicking on the covers below.)
The Bankruptcy Bar is a hodgepodge of furniture, each one with a price tag in case a customer is interested in taking something home. Half of the doors are drawn onto the dull red walls, the faint lines of a former entrance visible around the edge of the realistic pictures. Flickering lightbulbs threaten to burst in the hanging lamps, which sway on rusty chains. A small collection of seedy-looking billiard tables are on the far side of the room, none of them having a complete set of balls. Wearing rags and a green visor, the owner stands behind the bar and stubbornly sticks to his prices for a few minutes before giving up. Even with a palpable atmosphere of desperation and looming failure, the Bankruptcy Bar is busy and lively thanks to the sense of superiority the customers get from visiting. Little do they realize, their host is probably raking in more supplies than any of his competitors thanks to overpricing his wares in the first place. All they know is that the alcohol is affordable, the food is not poisonous, and they negotiated a great deal for both.
Sitting at the bar, Lloyd Tenay and Cassidy do their best to remain inconspicuous in the crowd. The black-haired man casually fingers an empty loop sewn onto his belt since his personalized machete is in a box by the door. Wearing orange prison pants and a striped shirt from a horror franchise, he fails to blend into the more mundane crowd. It does not help that Lloyd repeatedly stares at one of his targets, which causes Cassidy to pinch him in the arm. Her blonde hair is tied back and she is trying to maintain thick bangs to hide a scar that goes across her forehead. She repeatedly blows the hair away from her eyes, which makes her wish she still had at least her hidden knife. Angrily eyeing the metal detector at the front door, she considers grabbing a drink and ‘accidentally’ pouring it into the machine when nobody is looking. Sliding off her seat, the mercenary stretches to reveal the gun and bone vine tattoo on her lower back. Cassidy smiles at how one of the nearby men buys her a beer, which she gladly toasts him with before slamming it back in one swift shot.
“You do that and get free stuff. I do it and I get told to pull my pants up. Life is so unfair,” Lloyd whispers with a smirk. He leans against the bar and slaps a package of buttons down to get a shot. “So, Commodus is supposed to meet us here. Good thing we were in the neighborhood for a job. I was getting bored and hoped some big adventure was heading our way. Hey, do you think that tattoo is a cannon? I can’t tell if it’s a cannon or a cauldron. Really frustrating when you can’t identify a cannon, right? Hope everyone at home is getting this.”
“I think it’s a black hole,” Cassidy replies as she settles back into her chair. She carefully eyes their targets, who stand out because of the brunette wearing a frilly pink dress. “None of us have our weapons, but we don’t know how good these kidnappers are in a fight. All I know is that our client is paying us well for a rescue. My baby needs those new tires. They go to the bathroom in pairs, which she said is our best chance to strike. I’ll follow them in while you keep an eye on the rest. Should we do this before or after Commodus gets here?”
“I was thinking after since he’s good in a fight,” the serial killer says, doing his best to act serious. Catching the pink-clothed woman’s attention, he wiggles his fingers and blows a kiss that makes her shudder. “Always thought people were more interested in you if you’re taken. By the way, Katie wants us to come home once we’re done with Commodus. Said something about a new enemy showing up in the area and giving her some trouble. Nothing dangerous, but she thought you’d want to help out and play with her new toys. I get to watch.”
Cassidy sighs and rubs her eyes, her other hand moving as if it is holding a stun gun. “Nice try, but I already saw the list on her desk and know the order that I want to test them in. There’s a sniper rifle that I’ve always want to shoot. Came close to getting my hands on one, but the target fell off the fucking bridge while holding it. People really need to drop their weapons when they know they’re going to die. It isn’t like they can take the guns with them.”
“Says the woman with more weapons than most warlords.”
“Doesn’t count if you have them stashed around the country.”
“Geez, the jeep gets stolen once and you get all paranoid.”
“You shouldn’t talk since you put graphic t-shirts in the caches as well.”
“Those are valuable collectibles even with the sweat stains.”
“Which aren’t even yours.”
“What doesn’t give me a rash makes me stronger, kid.”
“On that note, our client is giving us deodorant too. One of us smells like a locker room and I’m not sure who.”
A sharp whistle draws the pair’s attention to the front door where they see a familiar figure. Commodus has to duck as he passes under the metal detector, his massive sword requiring two people to drag it into a closet. Everyone stares in awe at the muscular gladiator, who grins and flexes for the crowd. His tight pants and sleeveless shirt help show off his impressive frame, which his friends swear is more chiseled than when they last met. Famous for fighting his way to the leadership of Battle Mountain, the dark-skinned warrior is nearly swamped for autographs that he happily gives out in exchange for food and drink. Grabbing a marker from the owner, Commodus signs the man’s shirt, which is immediately removed and auctioned off to the customers. Frowning at the unexpected reaction, the gladiator pushes through the thinning crowd and takes an empty seat next to Lloyd. Before the serial killer can protest, the larger man yanks him into a tight hug while shaking Cassidy’s hand.
“How the fuck did we ever beat a monster like you in a fight?” Cassidy asks as she watches her partner’s face turn blue. Instead of helping Lloyd get free, she notices that two of their targets are leaving the table. “Looks like I have to make my move. It’s a man and a woman, so maybe I’ll get lucky and catch them with their pants down. Take any advantage I can get. You two discuss the next job while I handle this one. Try not to bring attention to yourselves, which I regret saying. One of you can be seen from space and the other wears a pair of pants the color of a safety cone.”
“They say orange is the color of champions,” Lloyd replies while he wriggles free of his excited friend. Grabbing a bar rag, he wipes as much of the oily sweat from his face as he can. “I don’t remember you being so touchy feely. There any reason that you’re this happy to see me. I should point out that those pants don’t hide anything. Rather flattered by the compliment though.”
“I’m sorry, but it’s been so long and the stories of your battles has made me an even bigger fan,” Commodus replies, the local hero proving that even he can suffer from hero worshipping. Lifting his shirt, he shows the serial killer a fresh scar that has yet to receive its shadow tattoo like the others. “This was delivered by someone who claims to have fought and survived you. He said he was a former football player in Dallas and said you took his arm. It was such an impressive story that I spared his life after beating him to within an inch of it. The audience was upset about the verdict, but he has become a mild favorite thanks to a weaponized prosthetic.”
“I thought one of those guys was playing possum,” the killer mutters before scratching his stomach. The sight of the koi-shaped scar seems to put his targets on edge, their eyes never straying from him. “Got a bad feeling that our cover has been blown for a while. Cassidy and I keep forgetting that we’re minor celebrities in Nevada thanks to our fights. So, what’s the job that you have for us? Give me the basics as I get some work done.”
Commodus makes himself comfortable while Lloyd searches for anything that can be used as a weapon, his attention falling on a cracked billiard ball. “It isn’t so much an offer as an introduction. You may have heard about a new force appearing in the Shattered States about six months ago. The man in charge has claimed Las Vegas as his capital and wishes to employ the best to unite the country. He has taken over Battle Mountain and turned it into a training facility for his soldiers. We still have the gladiator competitions, but only once a month and for those who can pay. Due to this . . . partnership, he asks me to connect him with potential allies.”
“That’s a lot of talking to say that you’re the middle man,” Lloyd mentions with a wry smile. Juggling the billiard ball, he looks to the bathroom in the hope of seeing Cassidy emerging. “There is a time and place for everything, kid. Back to you and your non-offer. I guess we can meet this guy and listen. You know we’re rather exclusive to the Duchess of LaSalle. Well, certain parts of me are and Cassidy is kept happy with a steady flow of weaponry. As long as he doesn’t pit us against our friends, we might be able to do something. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m tired of getting the stink-eye from those three.”
Lloyd whirls around and hurls the solid ball at one of the kidnappers, the projectile missing and shattering a vase full of dead flowers. The customers remain silent as the serial killer whistles and puts his hands behind his back. Wandering away from the bar, he watches his enemies stand and walk away from the woman in pink. The three men grab beer bottles as they approach while Lloyd picks up a chair, the drunk girl sitting in it flopping onto the floor with a yelp. Holding his weapon like he is a lion tamer, the killer patiently waits for the kidnappers to come within reach. Instead of swinging, he lunges forward and slams the chair down with enough force to break both feet of the man in the middle. Leaping back, he watches the others miss with their bottles, which shatter in the face of their injured companion. Grabbing the man by the head, Lloyd drives his throat into the back of the chair to crush his windpipe. The gasping body tumbles to the floor as the remaining kidnappers rush forward, one of them stomping on his dying friend’s head by accident. Swiping a small candle off a table, the serial killer catches one of his enemies by the arm and spins him into the way of his friend. Unable to get out of the way, the man is stabbed in the side by his ally’s broken bottle and he stumbles while starting to scream in pain. The instant his lips open, Lloyd stuffs the lit votive into his throat, which has less of an effect than he had hoped. With a shrug, he kicks the kidnapper in the groin and grabs a fork to slam into the back of the man’s skull.
“You guys aren’t very good unless you have chloroform, huh?” Lloyd asks as he goes back to the bar. He picks up a corkscrew as his final enemy charges, the simple weapon easily driven into the enraged kidnapper’s face. “Now, we keep twisting until we’re sure it’s in there. Stop flailing and screaming because we all know this hurts almost as much as watching a movie adaptation of . . . Well, anything depending on if you were fan at first or not. Is it in there? Hey! Don’t deadweight yourself because you’re kind of heavy and ruining the show. Oh, he’s just dead. Didn’t think it would get far enough to kill him, but there’s that shock problem too. Anyway, I save the lovely prisoner who will shower me with payment.”
Hiking up her large skirt, the woman in pink smiles at Lloyd and moves as if she is going to walk around the table. Instead, she pulls out a plastic gun and aims it at the serial killer, who uses his last victim as a shield. Still confused by what is going on, he tosses the body aside and backs away. The woman draws a wooden stake out of her closed umbrella and continues advancing, her billowing dress and high heels making it impossible to do more than walk. Snapping out of his stupor, Lloyd grabs a bottle of hot sauce and cracks off the top before flicking the condiment at his attacker’s face. The contents splatter into her eyes, which burn and she falls to her knees crying. Not wanting to get too close, the serial killer starts throwing whatever he can find at a hanging lamp that is above her head. Unaware of the danger, the woman remains where she is and gropes blindly for her fallen weapon. At the same time, she finds the stake, the rusty chain above snaps and she is impaled through the back by the pointy chandelier. Unimpressed by his haphazard methods, the crowd gives Lloyd some mild applause as Cassidy pushes her way through.
“I had a warning for you, but I guess that’s pointless,” the mercenary claims as she searches the dead woman’s skirts. Finding a plastic knife and a few packs of batteries, she hands them over to the bartender to pay for the damages. “So, these kidnappers use one of their own as a decoy while the real victim is dressed to look like a member of the gang. Pretty cunning and we did fall for it. Our real client was that woman who went into the bathroom. The man is dead and she’s recovering, but she made a call to a friend who is coming over to give us the new tires. How does Commodus’s job sound?”
“As I told Mr. Tenay, it is more of an introduction than an actual offer,” the gladiator replies while handing drinks to his friends. Sensing that Lloyd is on edge, he stays a few steps behind Cassidy. “This is a powerful man who wants to unite the Shattered States and he has asked me to bring him the strongest. You are two of the best when it comes to mercenary work and surviving. Please come with me to Las Vegas and hear what he has to say. If you don’t like it then you can say no and leave. That is the promise that he has made to me.”
“Guess it wouldn’t hurt to check it out and possibly get a free meal,” the young woman admits, her interest in the drink quickly waning. Putting the mug on a nearby table, she stretches her back until it pops. “I’m sure Lloyd has already filled you in on our loyalties and all that. There’s a place to sleep down the road, so we can take a nap and leave in the morning. Are you okay, Lloyd?”
“You were having sex in the bathroom while I was fighting!” the serial killer blurts out, causing his friend to blush. With his voice echoing throughout the bar, everyone turns and stares at Cassidy. “I thought you were taking too long. Don’t even try to deny it because your fly is open and your shirt is on backwards. I mean, I don’t mind you getting some action, but at least look presentable when you come back out.”
“I was in a fight.”
“Tongue wrestling with the client?”
“That may have come after I killed the kidnapper, but . . . Look, she was grateful for the rescue and I trust you to take care of yourself.”
“That’s beside the point!”
“What is the point?”
“Because I’m never the one who gets laid during our adventures.”
“Shut the fuck up, Lloyd.”