Did I murder? The song lyrics kept ringing through my head. I'd lived there before. I knew the place. Although this time I was to rendezvous at an unknown location, deep in The East. Land of the dead. Whores for free. Just run 'em down and rape 'em. Most won't even try to get away. Burned cars. No glass. Mean black faces at the ends of death alleys. Did I murder? Did I murder? The song. Eye contact. Did I murder, did I murder? The rough brick and broken pavement caused the forks of my Wide Glide to work overtime.  
   I'd been here before. The East, as it is known. East New Orleans. Dumping ground for lost souls. Desperation is all the rage there. Fatigue is the dress of choice. Abrasive fatigue that wears a man down. Constant, relentless darkness. Murder, mayhem. This was a Hollywood set come to life. A self-contained nightmare.  
   The Reverend had scheduled to meet in this most peculiar place. This did not surprise me. My years of working with him had readied me for the oddest of human dealings and The Rev was clearly one of those rarefied individuals who operates so far out of the boundaries of what could be considered The Norm that attempts at prediction go beyond vain to absurd.  
   A leaning blacksmith shop made from hand cut slave bricks. A burned pickup. Glass and barbed wire in an angry knot and rammed into the doorway of a blackened movie theater. No 2307 Chef Mentuer. It was an address that was to elude my searching headlight for all eternity, sending me on a horrifying trail through the underrot of The East and a strange dot of sparkling light with cannibalistic fairies and a poisoned grandma.  
   The phone rang. I had no outstanding warrants that I was aware of so I picked it up.  
   "Striped Horse, Rev here."  
   "Rev, how do you find me like that?"  
   "July 5, Big Easy, The East. Rendezvous, 2301 Chef Mentuer Highway."  
   "The East. New Orleans? Why? Who's coming?"  
   "Myself, yourself, Special Agents BV and D and Swami."  
   "What should I bring?"  
   "Bring some of that fine nutmeg you meg so well."  
   The line went dead.  
   The Rev sometimes did things normal men didn't do. It wasn't a good thing.  
   The bastard. He'd done it again. He knew exactly how much bloody carrot to dangle to hook my perverse mind on his stunt barb. I cussed. Dammit. He'd done it again. I had to go see just what in the hell could be so important that he'd gone to the trouble to find me, holed up like I was. This was going to be a good one. The Rev was planning something big. I could feel it.
   I walked out onto Collins and looked at the Atlantic. The sun was just beginning to rust on the watery, eastern horizon. It was 5 a.m. South Beach was silent. The bell fuck behind the desk in my hotel, The Franklin, was in a red sleep. The Beautiful People had gone to bed or were still behind the smoked glass of Warsaw, The Spot-or whatever new club had been opened the day before-spinning, sucking and eachotherwatching. I could smell the salt, fish. Whiskey. Puke. And money. I could smell the money and the desperation money always brings with it. And the rot of art deco hotels being allowed to go bad through neglect and commercialization. But there was no time to enjoy such simple pleasures. The Easy was a hard day's ride through endless highway patrolmen in Florida and half-assed roads through Mississippi and Louisiana. Not the kind of ride one makes for pleasure. 24 hours of screaming wind, big twin roar, bugs, rain, rocks, vibration sickness and a jacked spine that would leave strong men bent-backed with pain. This had better be good, I thought to myself as I tromped the kicker to my battered '81 hog. 
   I noticed a bank clock which was behind iron bars. 11:38 p.m. Bad time to be cruising the back streets of The East, a neighborhood known to the FBI statistics bureau as one of the two worst murder areas in the continental U.S. The Desire housing project was coming up. I knew a honkey on a loud bike wouldn't make it to the far side of the mile long rows of brick buildings. I wondered what in the hell The Rev was up to. 
   The lights in my rearview mirror had been behind me for a while. I turned left over some abandoned train tracks and got a side view of the ride in my mirror. A low rider Plymouth. '60's era. Dark purple. Chromed rims. Black windows. Locals. Every town has them. A group of resident badasses. 
   Unfortunately I was running low on gas, or I probably could have simply used the quarter-mile ability of the bike as a weapon and left them in a pile of sound and big-twin muscle. I rolled up to the only set of station pumps around and stopped. The attendant was warily eyeing both the hippie on the Hog and the brothers in the lowrider through pock-marked bullet glass. What transpired after our arrival probably got a good pair of Texaco-wear britches ruint. 
   The attendant took the five I slid into the change box without looking me in the eye. I walked to my motorcycle. The hammer from the Double Eagle Colt was outlined in the worn area it had made in the leather of my vest. Five gangsters got out. I silently cursed The Rev. That prick, this had better be a great one, I thought. 
   "Say, bra, say, bra," a punk with cheap black glasses and a concealing sweatshirt said as I removed the winged gas caps. "Say, bra. What type bike dat is?" 
   "Wide Glide," I said, watching his hands. 
   "Wide Glide, oh yeah, oh yeah, I heard dem," he lied. The others nodded in agreement. 
   "Say, bra, you couldn spare no hep fo us? See, we's low on gas and we needs fi dolla." 
   I was quickly losing his pals from my peripheral vision as they sauntered around behind me. Bad-assed locals pissed me off more than anything I could think of. Bike thieves pissed me off less. The last one of those I'd encountered earned himself a permanent track across his left eye from a bottle opener. The only person I wanted to pop more than these strong-armed local fucks was The Rev. He would get his. But for the moment, these brats needed to learn something Outlaw bikers call "class". I pulled a lighter out of my side vest pocket which I'd picked up in a bar in SoBeach a few weeks before. Someone had left it behind. I'd figured I'd find a need for it. Sure as hell, here it was. Leaning one elbow onto the gas tanks next to the spewing nozzle, I fired up the three inch flame. 
   "Ain't got no cash for ya, bra, but I was wonderin' if I could bum a smoke. See, I smoked all mine already," I said, staring back into the black lenses. 
   "Say, bra, don' you know nuthin' bout no gasoline?" the glasses yelped, jumping backwards. "That shit splode!" 
   "Muthafuka!" I heard from behind. 
   The gangbangers quickly returned into view. "Don't tell me you're out, too," I said. 
   "Fuck. Now what kind of luck am I having tonight?" 
   The bangers were too rattled by their brush with death by incineration to remain focused on their original plan, whatever it may have been. They made their way back to the lowrider and drove off into the sticky blackness. 
   I replaced the caps on the gas tanks and noticed the station attendant on the phone, talking rapidly into the receiver. Just what I needed. Heat. I slipped down on the faded seat and raced out into the busted streets of The East. 
   I couldn't stay out much longer. The heat was alerted. And no doubt once they got their wits back, the gangsters in the lowrider would be looking to even things up. I could be sure that the phone calls were starting to circulate through the neighborhoods. A fucked-up white cracker in the area. It was only a matter of time before I caught a cheap shot in the side of the head. Then I saw it. A light at the end of the tunnel. A huge, blue, lighted sign that said, RollerWorld. A zit on the Pope's ass couldn't have looked more out of place. 
   I figured that had to be where The Rev was holed up. It was just his style. There was no place else where he, Special Agent BV & D and Special Agent Swami could go in this dank orifice. I pulled up and chained the tryke to the hand railing. Then I went in. My second mistake. The first had occurred about an hour before, when I popped a hit of Cheshire Cat on I-10 in anticipation of meeting The Rev. 
   I'd felt hints of the Cat when I was trying to bum the smoke from the kindly locals at the fuel station. The lights in The Great Hall of Death apparently activated the smooth SoBeach tab. The crowd of gay fairies turned as one and began to float towards me when I stepped in the door. I instinctively reached for the Double Eagle .45, but common sense managed to override the actual draw-and-fire impulse. Fairies, as far as I knew, were harmless. Besides, my first-target priorities were quickly changing as I noticed a twinkling star in the middle of the room begin to flash like a pulsar in space and the voice of a GodGrandma boomed through the flowing maze of the fairyswarm. 
   "Hey, everyone, looks like we have a newcomer! Let's all give the newcomer a big RollerWorld welcome!" 
   A tremendous electronic scratching sound, not unlike the old fashioned 45 LPs used to make, ripped through the body-warmed air and an ancient Sister Sledge song, We Are Family! began to shriek from every corner of the heaving vortex. 
   "The Rev went too far on this one," I mumbled to myself. 
   Suddenly she had me. A set of claws rammed through the flesh on my right arm. Scorching pain. I struggled to free myself or get to the giant .45 beneath my bug speckled vest. The fairies scattered with squeals of terror and began to race in large, circular schools- no doubt for protection. GodGrandma roared, her voice booming through the Great Hall. 
   "Limbo time!" My adrenal gland flushed. I spoke the rare language of the SwanGoose tribe. I knew Limbo meant "to cannibalize." 
   Everything began to oscillate. I figured it was from loss of blood through the sagging wound where GodGrandma's talons had punctured my arm. Then I realized she must have injected some sort of hideous spider venom into me. I turned and got a good look at the monster. She had a purple battle helmet made from tiny fibers on her head. Around her neck was a curious wire with what appeared to be a tiny, remote microphone. Clearly some sort of electronic Marquis de Sade device. Her hide came down her face in great, cascading waves, broken by a roughly hewn nose and her teeth floated freely in her mouth when she spoke, making menacing little clicking noises, letting me know that she had the ability to spit the venom-filled bastards great distances and with tremendous accuracy, poisoning her victims on contact. 
   "Wheeeeeeeeeee," she screeched. 
   And with a mighty hurl, she flung me at a crude guillotine on the far side of the Hall of Death. All around me shrieks of ecstasy from the evil fairies Dopplered past as I hurtled towards the sharpened bamboo pole lying horizontally only a few feet above the floor, supported on either end by bloodstained uprights. At the last second, off balance and flying out of control, I managed to duck, narrowly avoiding death by decapitation. 
   The fairies let off a loud cheer, their lust for blood only heightened by my fighting spirit. They floated towards me as a group at a tremendous speed. I could hear the GodGrandmother laughing the Cry of Doom, her voice echoing off the walls. I rolled to my back. Yanked my vest open. Everything else came automatically. The huge Colt barked fire and the fairies scattered like quail at the muzzle of a fall gunner. 
   GodGrandmother shrieked in fear and spit her poison teeth at me, but they missed their mark, falling several feet short of my exposed right leg. I ran for the door and flipped over a bench, nearly breaking my arm. Regaining my feet, I dove the railing and landed on the motorcycle. Firing the v-twin and slipping the clutch as one, I shot to the end of the chain holding the big chopper to the guardrail. The bike violently swapped ends and slammed down on its side. My head ground deep into the gravel as I slid to a stop several yards from the downed tryke. The evil fairies charged out the door at the sound of the crash, the notion of having a second chance at their prey reviving their lust for human flesh. I banged in a second clip and began to soften the parking lot. The fairies screamed and made strange galloping strides through the gravel, leaping over the burned cars and barbed wire. The GodGrandmother, her pestilential teeth now spent, made ragged sucking sounds of confusion and tried desperately to rally her deserting fairies. I used the last round of the .45 to twain the log chain holding my escape route prisoner. Wrenching my back, I righted the rumbling Hog, jammed it into second and sent a meteor shower of gravel into the face of the tainted granny. 
   Later that night, in some nameless rest stop on the Florida Turnpike, I washed my wounds and pondered the night's events. I'd had a bad run-in with cannibals. Not only that, my rolling ego now had a bent front rim that was causing her to travel with serious limp. The Rev had sent me on a wild goose chase. No doubt his perverse sense of dope-torqued humor made it somehow funny to send good tax-paying citizens into deep peril. When I got back to the Franklin, I'd have to sit down and figure out how I was going to get even.  
On the road  
Special Agent Zebra  
Copyright, 1994, Jim Houck