CHAPTER TWO- LUCKY STOP

The Lucky Stop Gas Station was literally that- a lucky stop. It was the only gas station in the sixty or so mile barren stretch between the Mississippi towns of Brookhaven and Jackson. The Lucky Stop was a hub for road weary travelers, seeking bathrooms, snacks, and refuge from the road.

The Lucky Stop was also a sort of tourist attraction for it was home to the largest concrete replica of human skull found in the world. Built by the gas station's original owner and founder, Lucky Donahue, in 1982, Lucky saw the skull replica as an opportunity to draw in travelers and their money. So far, he had done a slap bang up job.

And it was this very gas station that attracted the attention of the driver of a jet black 1967 Lincoln Continental.

Trailing dust and dirt, the car pulled to a stop in a free in the gravel parking lot. The car turned heads. It was classy, flashy, and backed it up by doing work. It had personality. The Lincoln was the kind of car you simply didn't see any more on the roads.

The driver side door opened up, and a pair of Nike clad feet stepped out onto the gravel with a crunch. A pair of blue jeans and a brown leather jacket son followed after. Next came a stubbly black beard then a pair of stark blue eyes and a mop of wispy, feathery hair. Top it all off with a Mississippi State University ball cap, and that was the man who sauntered into the Lucky Stop Gas Station.

The jingled as the door opened and closed, and the cashier, an old Indian man, waved hello to him. The man simply nodded and began perusing the snack aisles, deciding on a pack of watermelon bubblegum, a bag of Chex Mix, and a can of Coke.

He walked back to the checkout counter and handed the cashier his snacks.

"Will this be all for you, sir?" asked the cashier with a grin. He began scanning the items.

"Yeah, that's all," replied the man.

"Okay. That'll be…$8.37, sir."

The man nodded and pulled out his leather wallet from the back pocket of his blue jeans. He handed the cashier his credit card, and the cashier finished ringing him up.

"A Deesum, huh?" said the cashier, handing the credit card back. "Are you, by chance, related to a Soap Deesum? He runs the Intergalactic up in Pine Hills?"

The man cocked an eyebrow, blue eyes meeting the dark brown ones of the cashier. Slipping his credit card back into his wallet, the man nodded slowly, replying, "Yeah. Yeah I am. I'm his oldest brother. Name's Happy. What's it to ya?"

The cashier's face lit up in a wide smile. He chuckled, running his hand through his thinning gray hair. "Well, Soap is the boss of my youngest son. He was the first man to employ my boy was released from his stint in the pokey. He's been steady working there as a bar tender for nearly… three months. With pretty steady pay too."

Happy straightened his ball cap and gathered up his bagged snacks. "Oh really now? Well, I'll tell 'im you said hi if I see 'im any time soon. By the way, what's your name?"

"Arav Mehta."

"Ah well, it's nice to meetcha, Mr. Mehta," Happy grinned. He held out his hand for a handshake, and Mehta shook it wholeheartedly.

"Likewise, likewise."

Happy smiled, nodded once more, and grabbed his snacks, walking over to a window side table to rest to rest and relax. From here, he had a grand view of the skull. A frown crossed his face; graffiti covered the base of it all around. Someone had left a day old newspaper in the seat beside him, so he decided to catch up on the local happenings.

The first thing that caught his attention was a full-color snapshot of the smoking remains of a burned down house.

The headlines read:

JONES HOUSE BURNED

NO ONE LEFT ALIVE

FIVE BODIES FOUND

However, a small little paragraph in the center of the article caught his attention.

All five members of the Jones family share signs of a single stab wound to the chest runs from the front to the back. Investigators have decided that the Jones family was murdered prior to the torching of the home. However, any and all suspects and any motives for the murders still remain unclear at the moment.

Happy popped a handful of Chex mix into his mouth and chased it down with a swallow of Coke. Placing the newspaper down on the table, he leaned back in his seat, thinking.

An old green Ford pick-up truck roared into the gravel parking lot outside the gas station. From even inside the Lucky Stop, Happy could hear the radio full on blasting music. Recognizing the song, he couldn't help himself from nodding along to the beat.

"This here's the story about Billy Joe and Bobby Sue. / Two young lovers with nothing better to do. / Then sit around the house, get high, and watch the tube. / And here's what happened when they decided to cut loose…"

Two kids, a young looking blonde gal and a young looking shaved headed man stepped out of the truck, leaving it running. Happy shook his head. Kids these days, always wasting and never saving. He gathered up his newspaper and headed to the little boys room to take care of some business.

"You sure 'bout this, love?" asked Bobby Sue, the blonde gal. She stopped to look around the inside of the Lucky Stop.

"Yeah. I am. Keep it movin'," said Billy Joe, the shaved man, as he gently but forcibly pushed her to the table where Happy had just vacated.

Bobby Sue continued with looking around to gas station, checking for any type of security measures. "So, how are we gonna do this, love?"

"Simple, honey bun," Billy Joe answered. His left hand traveled down his front until it felt the familiar bulge of his Beretta 90 Series pistol tucked away in his waistband of his pants. "We wait for an opportunity when Old Man Baldy ain't lookin', and we jump this place. Get everybody you can on the ground."

Bobby Sue reached for her purse, feeling for her own weapon, a Ruger LCP, stuffed between her wallet and a box of tampons. "And if they don't comply…?"

"Well," Billy Joe grinned, miming blowing his brains out with his hand.

"I like it."

"I thought you would."

Happy sniffed and pulled up his pants. Buttoning up, he flushed and washed his hands when something in the mirror caught his attention. He finished washing up before investigating.

As it turned out, it was one of those twenty five cent condom machines. Curiosity peaking, Happy dropped in a few quarters and twisted the little silver crank. Three lambskin condoms condoms fell into the dispenser slot. He slid them into his wallet. Hell, you never knew when you needed a condom nowadays. Wouldn't be beneficial to catch an STD or worse from whatever lucky gal he managed to bed.

Happy opened up the bathroom door and was greeted by the cold, shining steel barrel of Billy Joe's Beretta. Raising his hands slowly in the air, he smirked. "Well, that's a mighty fine how do ya do, ain't it?"

"Can it, asshole," Billy Joe ordered as he grabbed him by the jacket collar and roughly hauled him forward.

"Yes, sir."

Happy was frog marched to the front of the gas station and pinned against the checkout counter. Billy Joe kept his pistol jammed firmly into the small of his back as he quickly patted him down.

"One wrong move, and you can kiss your kidney goodbye, ya here, asshole?" Billy Joe hissed.

Happy cast a glance at his captor from over his shoulder. "You got it, boss."

He shut his trap when he heard the safety click off.

"Yeah, shuddup, asshole. That's what I thought," Billy Joe said, pressing the Beretta harder into Happy's back. He ran his free hand nervously over his shaved head and looked at Bobby Sue. "How're we lookin' money-wise, honey bun?"

"Almost through clearing out the register, love," Bobby Sue replied. She smacked Arav in the back of the heaf. "Hurry up, asshat. Fill the bag up with the dough. Faster! Faster!"

Arav looked over at Billy Joe as he shoved a handful of bills into a plastic shopping bag. He shook his head, shivering with fear. "Why are you doing this? I paid my dues at the beginning of the month. I thought I was safe…"

"Oh yeah?" Billy Joe said, sneering. He waved his pistol at the cashier. "Well maybe we need a little more sugar. Ya know, to sweeten the deal an all."

"But the Boss said-!"

"Screw what the Boss says!" Bobby Sue hissed, smacking harder in the back of his skull. "We're runnin' a free lance operation from the Bleach Gang."

"Aw yeah, baby doll. Gimme some skin," laughed Billy Joe, raising his free hand up for a high five.

Briefly, for just a few seconds, a brand burned into the skin became visible. It was a single word: BLEACH, burned into the skin, right across the middle of the palm in all capitals. Happy's blue eyes widened curiously as Bobby Sue smacked her lover's waiting hand. The brand scar was visible on her hand as well.

Happy craned his head around to stare at Billy Joe dead in the eyes. He smirked. "The Bleach Gang, huh? So that's what they're callin' themselves nowadays. Lame."

Billy Joe cocked an eyebrow, confused. Leaning in close, he asked, "What do you mean by 'now'?"

"Here. Lemme tell ya."

Happy snapped his head back, smashing it into Billy Joe's nose. There were three ear-splitting cracks, one from Billy Joe's nose breaking and two from his pistol going off. Bobby Sue slumped against Arav on the floor. Happy winced; a burning sensation came from his side as the bullets just grazed the skin but did nothing more. He didn't let that stop him though. He spun on his heels and sent his elbow crashing into Billy Joe's head while he batted away the pistol.

He swept Billy Joe's feet from underneath him and slammed the would-be robber's head onto the top of the counter. He brought his mouth close to Billy Joe's ear. "Now, what did you say your gang's name was again? The Barf Gang?"

Billy Joe spat out a tooth and some blood onto the countertop. "Bleach Gang, dickhead. Get it right and show some respect. Otherwise the Boss is gonna make you eat those words."

"Boss, huh?" repeated Happy, smirking. He grabbed the robber's wrist and bent his arm painfully around behind his back. Any more pressure placed on it and Billy Joe's arm would snap like a twig. "Lemme tell you a thing or two about your so called Bleach Gang and this sign."

Billy Joe winced in pain, trying not to move. "Fuck off-!"

There was a loud snap as Happy surgically broke Billy Joe's arm about halfway up the humerus. It was a hairline fracture but enough to get his message across. He kept applying pressure, separating the broken bone a little more.

Billy Joe blacked out from the pain.

When he came to, he found himself bound to a chair at the table where he and Bobby Sue had sat earlier. Happy was sitting across from him, watching him lazily.

"What the…"

"Happy shushed him and smiled. "Story time, bitch."