This must be the place. An angry red "TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT! THIS MEANS YOU!" sign is duct-taped to the front window. Hundreds of beer cans litter the yard. The remaining windows are covered in aluminum foil, effectively blocking electromagnetic energy. Chained to the porch, a cooling BMW Boxer ticks beneath dozens of obscene decals: the legendary Black Betty. I mount the steps. They put up token resistance.
An instant before I can knock, the door swings open. I freeze. The sugary smell of decomposing corndog swirls around the muzzle of the emerging Norinco assault rifle as a pasty-skinned man resolves into the drab Seattle sunlight. I should have known when Editor Catterson asked me to join Iraq War vet Jack Lewis on a ride, there would be a hitch.
"Jack, it's me, Joe! The boss sent me." If I am going to live, I have to act fast. "That's right, Jack, you know me. I'm the other subscriber to Motorcyclist." The barrel of the rifle drops to neck level. "Everyone else cancelled their subscriptions on account of our drinking and writing, Jack. We're Gonzo, you and me, Big Daddy." Monitor-syndrome eyes squint through thick, round spectacles. "Gresh?" The Norinco swings limp at his side, "Hell, stand down, punk. Let's go have a beer!"
We split, Jack on the BMW, me on my Razor scooter, holding onto Black Betty's luggage rack. Since losing my driver's license due to 13 consecutive undeserved DUI convictions, it's the only bike I am legally allowed to ride. Jack accelerates Betty onto the highway and at 140 mph it's not long before the Razor's 3-inch, solid-rubber tires start to go greasy. I'm about to bail when Jack tilts the horizon and Betty veers wildly to the left through two lanes of oncoming traffic.
The BMW blasts apart a chain-link fence and slews sideways onto a gravel road. Jack glances over his shoulder, Mr. Magoo eyeglasses akimbo. "You still back there, Gresh?" The poor bastard's blind as a bat.
"I'm hanging on, Jack. Wouldn't it be easier to pick up a suitcase of Bud at the mini-mart?"
Jack slams on the brakes, the luggage rack tears from my fingers and the Razor and I slingshot head-first against the flimsy siding of a tumbledown, single-wide trailer. Lewis fumbles in his saddlebag and pulls out a contraband Improvised Explosive Device. I'm starting to think this guy may have lingering issues...
Jack's slowly revolving, trying to echo-locate me: "Marco...Marco...Marco..."
"Polo. Freakin' Polo, okay Jack? I think I broke my arm!"
Jack tosses the IED into my lap and starts dialing a number on his cell phone. For the second time in an hour, I'm staring Death in the eye. I notice the phone is a Nextel and breathe a sigh of relief. Jack wanders around, watching the little signal bar fade out and cursing.
I roll the IED under the trailer and stand up. "Where are we?"
Jack looks surprised at the question. "This place? This is the Twelve Times Sexy, a retirement home for over-the-hill motorcycle-product-introduction-chicks. They named it after the outside dimensions of the trailer. Watch this..."
Jack starts yelling "Liesl! Liesl!" like a low-rent Brando. The door of the trailer swings open and a 23-year-old woman sticks her coiffed head out.
"Have a heart, Jack," she moans. "I got no more freebie jackets. I'm too old for that game. Now beat it, ya' bum!"
Jack gets on his bike. "Let's lock-and-load, Gresh." We tear off down the side road until the shock wave hits us. I look back to see a glittering sheet-metal rainbow over the spot where the trailer once stood. Jack is laughing and screaming, "Let's get this par-tay started!"
We pull up to a biker bar. "Jack," I say, "just tow me home. I can't get the image of that trailer out of my head." Jack pokes me in the chest with his forefinger. "Listen, punk, this ain't Cycle World (poke), we're writers for Motorcyclist (poke), and I say this par-tay ain't over (poke) 'til we're in the emergency room getting our stomachs pumped (poke)."
Inside the bar, Jack makes a bee-line for the restroom. When he returns, both of his nostrils are caved in like a stunt rider's gas tank and a toilet seat is stuck to his hand-the telltale signs of a Super Glue abuser.
I intervene: "Look, Lewis, maybe we better lay off the beer. The readers have been complaining."
In a strange, high-pitched voice, Jack replies, "That's a fine thing, Gresh. Maybe we have been overdoing it a bit on the alcohol. But if we can't drink beer, what'll we use to sterilize this needle?" He holds up a syringe the size of a caulking gun, grabs my arm with a vise-like grip, and sinks it home. Through snarling teeth, he says, "Adhesives, punk, adhesives." It is a caulking gun. Jack's pumping door and window sealant into my arm!
Butyl rubber, silicone ... whatever is in that syringe is making it dark really, really fast. The connective tissue in my body fissures into a Mentos-and-Diet-Coke explosion. Jack's comic face is wavering in front of me, nostrils glued shut, eyes twirling in his head, the helium voice laughing. "How's it feel, Gonzo Boy? Now maybe you can get your first cancel-my-subscription letter!" He sticks the needle in his own arm, shoves the plunger down hard and says, "See you in the emergency room."
A hospital beep wakes me. "Hell, Catterson, how was I supposed to know he was such a friggin' lightweight? You told me he wrote for you. I just assumed he could handle..."
In the bed next to mine, Lewis is smoking a cigarette and talking on the phone. "I feel fine. I've been playing with the house's money since the war, ya' know. Yeah, hold on, lemme see..."
Jack looks over at me. "Yeah, he's awake. Got a black eye and a real bad cut on his arm. Looks like a damn motorcycle writer now. Okay, I'll get right on it, boss. Just as soon as I figure out where I left Betty..."