He walked through Chicago's cold broken streets headed for Dorca's. Dorca's was the only bar in Chicago and it was run by an old bear of a smuggler who decided to settle down and set himself up in business. If you needed anything—a drink, a girl, some information—you got it at Dorca's.
A couple of street workers, the lowest form of life in Chicago, ducked into an alleyway as Bonner passed. A street worker was a common thief who would try to take you down in the dark streets. The street workers preyed on the weak, the dumb, and the new arrivals, those runaways from the states who hadn't yet learned the ropes in wide-open Chicago. They didn't mess with Bonner, the smart ones, anyway, though some had tried. They died. Bonner was lightly armed. He carried a Supermatic Citation .22. It took a ten-shot clip. Bonner's trademark weapons—his three, heavy, lethal throwing knives and his cut-down Winchester shotgun—had been lost on his raid into Leather-man's Slavestates.
The usual riot was going on at Dorca's. The long low room was jammed with the toughest men on the continent. Bonner knew them all and even trusted a few. A number of the patrons had women draped over their shoulders or hanging off their arms. Dorca was no whoremonger, but he didn't object to freelancers in his bar.
"Hey Bonner," shouted out a slimy pimp named Comer.
Bonner nodded in his direction. Comer was always at Dorca's, and he always had a drink in his hand. He longed to be accepted by the elite, the real men of Chicago, men like Bonner and those men he numbered among his friends
"Hey, Bonner, lemme give ya a drink." "Later, Comer."
"How about a girl? Hey Suzie, come over here and take care of the man." A slim blond girl detached herself from a knot of women who stood in a comer gossiping. She walked toward Bonner, putting all the allure she could muster into her stride.
He held up his hands. "No thanks, Suzie." Suzie stopped, put her hands on her hips, and looked hurt. "Whatsamatta?" yelled Comer. "You don't want my booze, you don't want my broads. What do you want, you prick?" His face was red and he had lurched up from the table; his hangers-on, his pilot fish, tried to restrain him. "Lemme go," he said, twisting free. "Hey Bonner, I'm fucking talking to you."
Bonner looked wearily at Comer. "Let it ride, man."
Men had stopped drinking and were watching now. A confused plan was beginning to form in Comer's mind. If he killed Bonner, if he killed the best, then the rest of them would have to respect him. ... It never occurred to him that there was a reason why Bonner was the best. . . . The raw alcohol Dorca sold made him courageous, powerful, and stupid beyond words.
Bonner sighed. "Why don't you sit down. Comer, finish your drink, and leave me alone?"
"Whatsamatta? Scared?" A low ripple of laughter ran around the room. Bonner? Scared of Comer Comer's cheeks flushed-red. "You sonofabitch," he screamed, and jumped at Bonner.
Bonner took a step back and Corner landed in a heap at his feet. Bonner placed his heavily shod foot on the man's neck, pinning him to the floor.
"Now," he said, his teeth clenched, "are you going to behave?"
"Outside, Bonner, outside. I'll take you outside," Comer screamed, and squirmed under Bonner's boot.
"Comer," said Dorca, "if you go outside with Bonner, only Bonner is coming back in here. You'll get your ass handed to you." "The hell I will," spat Comer.
"You're a good customer," said Dorca, "and I'd hate to lose you." He lumbered over to the prone pimp. Clutched in a hairy right paw was the instrument Dorca used to rule his establishment. It was the leg of an old pool table, elaborately carved and weighing about half a ton, but Dorca wielded it like a conductor's baton.
He picked Corner up by the scruff of the neck. Comer wriggled free and whipped a huge Super Comanche .44 Magnum from his belt. Dorca clubbed the gun out of his hand, then slapped the table leg onto Comer's jaw. He went out like a snuffed candle, and every man in the room winced at the sound of his teeth cracking.
"Get him out of here," Dorca bellowed at Comer's men. They dragged their boss out and everybody went back to drinking.
"What a dumb little shit," said Dorca, assuming his customary place at the end of the bar. In front of him, where other men would have had a drink, Dorca had a tall widemouthed jar filled with white sugar. He tipped it to his lips and took a swig. Dorca was a sugar freak and he knew all there was to know about the canciy of the old days. A few of the candy wrappers from the past were kept framed behind the bar. Bonner made a point of giving any sweet thing he found to Dorca, a generosity that always moved Dorca to tears.
"You shoulda killed him," said Starling. Starling was Bonner's right-hand man. Together they had raided Leather and the Slavestates, dealing death as they moved through every mile in enemy territory.
"Waste of time," said Bonner.
"So what brings you in, Bonner," said Dorca, swigging back his sugar.
"Got tired of reading."
"Still hitting them books, huh?"
"Doing you any good?"
"Nope." Bonner smiled.
"Awwwww," said Starling, "that ain't true. He don't mean that. When we went to New York, he knew all about it."
"Hey Bonner," said Dorca, "you heard that the Slavestates are right in the middle of a gas drought. Any chance you had anything to do with that?" He smiled broadly. Every rider on the continent knew that Bonner had blown up the fuel reserves of the Slavestates.
"Hell," said Bonner, "I never went near the place. Blame that man there. Starling and his pal Harvey."
"Hows about we just blame Harvey?" laughed Starling. Harvey had not made it back from the mission. His scrawny body had been consumed in the huge fire he had set himself.
"Poor Harvey," said Dorca.
"Yeah, but he went out happy," said Starling.
"Seriously," said Dorca, "you hurt Leather bad. Riders coming in from the east say he's got patrols everywhere looking for gas. With winter coming on, they're going to need it bad." "I'm sorry to have inconvenienced them," said Bonner.
Dorca threw his head back and rocked with laughter. As he did so, he saw the door of the joint open and standing there were Comer and his two thugs, all three with guns in their hands. They hunched their shoulders and threw out their arms in front of them in the classic combat stance.
Bonner saw them too. The .22 leaped into his hands as if it was alive. Comer's first shot shattered Dorca's jar of sugar. Bonner fired and a murderous .22 steel slug slapped, hot and true, into Comer's forehead. A red hole opened there, as if Comer had developed a third, bloodshot eye. Comer lived for less than half a second after impact. The bullet tore through his head and exited, depositing a piece of his brain—which had not served him well during his brief, violent life—on the door behind him.
Every other gun in the bar fired in what seemed like unison. Every shotgun, every revolver, every automatic, every rifle, even every dainty handgun carried by the whores fired after Bonner. Comer's two assistants were perforated from every angle by every type of shot and bullet. The wave of steel broke over them, tearing their flesh to brilliant scarlet tatters. Blood seemed to explode from them as if they were barrels. Bullets peppered around them, tearing up the floor at their feet and smashing the wooden doorframe.
As the chatter of gunfire died away, there was a moment of confused silence. No one could quite believe that Comer had come back and tried something so stupid.
A raider, still cradling his smoking shotgun said, "Hey, Dorca, anybody every try to take this place down before."
"Well, I reckon it's going to be awhile before anyone tries again." Laughter rolled around the room.
"Give 'em all a drink, Artie," ordered Dorca. His barman nodded and started setting up glasses.
Dorca turned to Bonner. "How do you like that guy Comer? What a jerk. Gonna miss his money, though. Say, you're pretty fast with that thing. The rest of the joint was a day and a half behind you."
"I broke the rule," said Bonner, "about shooting indoors."
"Yeah," said Dorca, laughing, "and am I pissed."
Web Site Contents
(Unless Mentioned Otherwise) ©2012
By Atlan Formularies, Post Office Box 95, Alpena, Arkansas 72611-0095