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Further Adventures of the Borderland Biker -Chapter 23

Things are NOT what they seem.

By Derrel Whitemyer
6/28/2016


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We rode the rest of the night putting mile after mile between us and the town of Oakley. The longer I was on the Raider the more I remembered its particulars; in particular the particulars surrounding its six foot wheelbase and extended rake. When I say extended rake I mean extended relative to the rake of the Suzuki M109 and Larry’s Victory Vegas 8-Ball. Larry’s 8-Ball with its lighter weight and shorter wheelbase was definitely more at home through tight corners while the Raider had the edge in comfort and with those big high speed sweepers. And the M109…well the M109, like the Yamaha Road Warrior with its R1 front end, was one of the elite that would always command a place for all round handling and brute power. To compare them was expected; however to expect one bike to be like the other would be like expecting different restaurants to have the same menu.

It was sunrise when we stopped, “Do you think that lawman a.k.a. the shape shifter will be there if we returned during the daytime?”

Larry walked to the side of the road, “Hard to say. My guess is, if its umbilical cord holds together, it’s retreated into some sort of lair to heal…some sort of dark place.”

“You mean like below that saloon…maybe down in the basement? Its umbilical cord led back into the saloon.”

“I mean like,” laughed Larry, “I’m not going out of my way to find out; I mean like unless we have no other choice we’re not riding back through that place.”

We continued on towards the foot of the mountains knowing we’d never be able to catch up with Hilts and Kate. Our ride was straight for the most part with only the occasional sweeping high speed curve to interrupt its progress. It was as if the road had been made for the M109. It wasn’t until late in the afternoon we arrived and began to skirt the foothills. We’d agreed to meet them at the crossroads which was another five miles; instead we found Kate and Hilts waiting for us around the next corner. The M109 was parked off the shoulder and behind them. Both were waving for us to stop.

“I thought you told us,” I was the first to ask, “to meet you at the crossroads. Why stop here?”

Hilts and Kate looked embarrassedly at each other then back at us. They reminded me of two high school kids caught under the bleachers then having to explain why they were there to the principal.

Kate spoke first, “We stopped to set the third and final monitor. We’d set the first and second of three monitors,” Kate continued at the same time pointing to the foothills behind her. “The third monitor was to be set at the crossroads. We’d then activate the three so as to triangulate crystal frequencies. We’d be able to predict with more accuracy the opening and closing of portals between Borderlands but after further calculations I decided to set the third one here and to…”

“…and, and to rest,” added Hilts. “We were tired and had more than enough time to…”

If Kate could’ve changed to a deeper shade of red she’d have become a tomato. Larry rescued her.

“Hey we’re tired too;” said Larry winking a ‘you old dog’ at Hilts, “I say we all take a nap. I know I’m overdue.”

“We’re ‘all’ overdue;” Hilts had ignored the wink, “but we have a problem.”

And just when things were starting to go smoothly and I said it without winking, “And I thought things were starting to go smoothly?”

“We’ve a problem,” continued Hilts. “I’m pretty sure Middleton a.k.a. Oakley is actually the edge of the city I once created, rather conjured, the one where we first met. I wasn’t aware when we rode through because I was in hurry to get Kate out of there. I should’ve recognized the buildings; they were the first buildings I conjured up creating the city.”

“Your city was disappearing when we left on the Twilight Wave;” it was Larry’s turn, “it was changing to mist.”

“Hilts agreed, “You’re right it was changing to mist; however someone was able to stop, rather reverse the process and then resurrect it…and…”

Somehow I knew the other shoe was about to drop, “…and, and what’s the other shoe?”

“The other shoe is you two must return to Middleton, become my eyes and ears, find out what’s happened. Kate’s the only one that understands how the crystals work but she’ll need me to chauffeur her around,”…and the blush returned to Kate’s face. “I can give Kate a hand but not while checking out Middleton.”

Larry laughed, “So instead of…To Protect and to Serve… your motto is now…To chauffeur and to give Kate a hand…”

“Ok, ok, enough,” I interjected, “We get it. We’re to ride back and investigate. But if your city has been resurrected how do we get its citizens to cooperate? We’ve no official capacity; we can’t just go in and start asking questions.”

“You can if I deputize you.”

“You can deputize us…are you a marshal?”

“Actually I am ‘the’ Marshal. I created the city and to keep order I made myself Marshal. You’ll have official status and that’ll open most doors. You’ll be able to move around relatively freely in your investigation…and.”

“What,” I had to interrupt, “are we looking for?”

“Find out who is behind my city’s resurrection but no confrontations. Report back to me and I’ll deal with them…and no heroics.”

While Hilts was talking he handed us two Safariland holsters and two badges. The badges looked official until I read what was inscribed on them.

“You’ve got to be kidding; our badges have ‘Elvis Fan Club’ printed on them. No one’s going to believe they’re real.”

“If you believe they’re real,” countered Hilts, “then others will believe they’re real. They’ll believe what you say. Bluster and attitude will get you farther than any badge.”

“And if,” it was Larry’s turn, “they don’t believe in our bluster and our fake badges and want to stuff them up our…?”

“Then,” said Hilts pointing to my 44 Magnum now nestled in its new holster, “show them what they will believe.”
 
“You’ve got to be kidding; my badge has ‘Elvis Fan Club’ printed on it. No one’s going to believe it’s real.”
“You’ve got to be kidding; my badge has ‘Elvis Fan Club’ printed on it. No one’s going to believe it’s real.”

 

Hilts quickly added, “But hey, you’re needlessly worrying about something that’ll probably never occur…just stay cool. You’re there to scout around, find out what’s happened, who’s behind it then report back to me. Once I explain to them their mistake we’ll be able to work things out.”

“And if,” Kate asked in a concerned voice, they don’t want to work things out?”

“Then I’ll call in the cavalry.”

“Cavalry,” Kate asked, “who’s the cavalry?”

“Me,” said Hilts at the same time he stopped smiling.

Hilts’ face quickly changed back into a smile, “Again you’re all assuming the worst. It’s most likely just the simple mistake of someone dreaming someone else’s dream…it happens. I’ll explain to them it’s my dream, my city and to please leave. Most folks are reasonable. Being reasonable they’ll probably apologize, then pack their bags.”

Larry laughed then looked at Hilts, “Even you don’t believe it’ll be that easy?”

Hilts seemed saddened when he took in a deep breath then let it out slowly, “No I don’t…but I want to believe.”

There was really nothing left to do but get something to eat and then some rest. By leaving at a specific time we’d arrive at Middleton in the morning. Our plan was to enter near the saloon by way of the older part of the city then work our way through to the newer sections. Some well directed questions posing as Deputy Marshals, some luck, and we’d have our answers and be on our way back before sundown. And most importantly by leaving before sundown we’d avoid the shape changer.

“I’ll set the alarm,” said Kate, “so as to awaken us when you two have to leave. I’ve calculated the time you’ll need to arrive at sunrise. That’ll give you the rest of the day to find out what Hilts needs to know.”

“You’ll have a full moon with no clouds for your ride,” added Hilts. “Get there, get the info then get out. The fake badges I gave you should work. People rarely look at them.”

“Get there, get the info then get out. The fake badges I gave you should work. People rarely look at them.”
“Get there, get the info then get out. The fake badges I gave you should work. People rarely look at them.”

 

Except for a dream where my 44 Magnum became as fake as my fake badge; I slept surprisingly well until the alarm went off and Kate awakened us. As Hilts predicted the moon was full and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky…that was the good news. The downside was that without any cloud cover it was going to be a cold ride.

“Bundle up,” said Kate in her best motherly voice, “and get some of my warm coffee into you. I’ll even give you a thermos of it in case you want some later.”

Larry had somehow found an old Navy Pea Coat while I buttoned up as tight as I could in my classic leather jacket. Both the Raider and the Vegas 8-Ball were as ready as they’d ever be and we’d run out of excuses to delay going.

“Remember,” said Hilts as we rode by him and Kate, “you’re only there to gather information then return back here as quickly as you can…no heroics, avoid confrontations if at all possible.”

For the rest of our return ride Larry led at a steady 70 mph. As bright as the moon and cloudless sky made the night and as good as Larry’s vision was we never rode faster. Kate said 70 mph was the perfect speed to get there at dawn.

Kate’s calculations were right on the money and had us arriving at Middleton moments before sunrise. She and particularly Hilts had emphasized again the importance of avoiding any confrontations. Their instructions to not get there too early; just get the info, then get back became my mantra…Oh, and to avoid the shape changer. We crested the hill overlooking the town of Oakley just as the sun rose and Oakley changed into Middleton.

What had once been Oakley became in an instant Middleton when daylight touched it. From the street where the old saloon had been a modern city spread down the hill. It was as Hilts said it would be. He’d recognized it as his creation when he rode by with Kate and Larry now agreed.

“See,” said Larry pointing in the distance, “the elevated highway we rode on and in the far distance the ocean.”

I pointed to where the 1800s era Oakley saloon had been. Memories of the shape changer, in the shape of a horse, talking to us from its balcony were still fresh, “The saloon’s changed; now that the sun’s up it’s become an office building.”

A few cars were parked on the street but it was still too early for anyone to be out and about. Larry rode over and stopped in front of what had been minutes before sunrise the Oakley saloon.

“Hey,” I said at the same time I was picturing a pissed-off seven foot shape changer charging out of one of the shop doors, “is this really a good idea?”

Larry didn’t answer but got off his bike and walked up to a law office on the left and at ground level. He tried the door but it was locked then he stepped back. He seemed fixated on staring at the couch in its waiting room.

“Come here and take a look at that couch; tell me what you see.”

I did as Larry asked and soon found myself standing beside him looking at a typical couch in a typical waiting room.

“Wow,” I said laughing. “What a beautiful piece of motel furniture. So what’s the big deal; what am I seeing?”

“Look closely at the pillow and blankets piled on it.”
 

I saw what appeared to be a pillow and some blankets on top of the couch and said, “I see what appears to be a pillow and some crumpled blankets on top of a couch which probably means the janitor’s not doing a very good job cleaning up…and aren’t we on a mission for Hilts?”

Larry didn’t answer but walked to where his bike was parked and took an almost emerald green pair of sunglasses from the top of his handlebar bag and handed them to me. I had a pair on my Raider’s bag but it was parked farther away.

“When Auggie Fresnel gave us these glasses he said we’d be able to see things as they really were wearing them.”

“Yes…so what?”



“Look at the couch again but this time wearing the sunglasses. What do you see?”

On top of the couch was a shrunken little man with an oversize head and baggy skin. The skin barely covered his bones.
On top of the couch was a shrunken little man with an oversize head and baggy skin. The skin barely covered his bones.


Without the sunglasses I saw as I had before a couch with a pillow in one corner and some rumpled blankets. I then put on the sunglasses remembering what Auggie (Auggie’s short for Augustin) Fresnel had said…that we’d be able to see things as they really are…clear and with no distortion.

On top of the couch instead of a pillow and some blankets was a shrunken little man with an oversize head and baggy skin. The skin barely covered his bones. He looked dead but then the tiny skeletal hand that he’d squeezed into a fist and tucked up under his chin moved.

“He needs our help,” said Larry the same time he broke the window in the law office door, reached in, turned the knob and walked inside.

“What about the no heroics rule?”

“This is an exception. Help me lift his head; he’s trying to say something.”

The man’s head was huge in comparison to his body. And his body, if you could call it a body, looked like it had been dropped from a ten story building. That he’d managed to crawl onto this couch was impossible; that he was gesturing for us to get closer and was trying to raise his head to speak had to have been a miracle.

“He looks as if every bone in his body was shattered; like he’d been dropped then run over by a truck. He wants us to get closer; he’s whispering something.”

Larry and I bent down to listen. Hilts and Kate’s warning not to do anything heroic was long forgotten; not that we could’ve done anything heroic.

“Hey there little buckaroos, bet ya didn’t expect to see me like this when we met again…can’t talk for very long…you’re both in danger…Middleton’s not what it seems to be...and, and…”

“…and don’t move;” said Larry, “you’re all busted up.”

“Why,” I asked holding up a shriveled but still intact umbilical cord, “with your cord in one piece aren’t you your old seven foot self? Last we saw you’d patched it together.”

“Hey there little buckaroos, bet ya didn’t expect to see me like this…can’t talk for very long…you’re both in danger…Middleton’s not what it seems to be…and, and…”
“Hey there little buckaroos, bet ya didn’t expect to see me like this…can’t talk for very long…you’re both in danger…Middleton’s not what it seems to be…and, and…”



“I did patch it. Wouldn’t have hurt you though…scared the crap outta ya…but I wouldn’t have hurt you. I was stationed at the saloon just to scare people away and I was good at it. It wasn’t until the new owners learned that you’d gotten by me and said I’d outlived my usefulness that they cut my umbilical cord at its source. They pulled the plug so to speak on their junkyard dog. Without it my body began to feed upon itself, first on what was left in the cord then on my soft tissue then on my bones. You see me now looking like a deflated balloon filled with broken sticks and connected to a shriveled up garden hose. If you arrived a little later there wouldn’t have been anything left.”

“You should’ve bargained for a better retirement plan.”

Larry interrupted my attempt at humor, “If we follow this shriveled up hose, I mean umbilical cord to its source can we turn it back on and reverse the process?”

It was amazing there was any life in him. Once an imposing shape changer able to change from a horse to a seven foot lawman to who knows what else…he lay crumbled and broken on the couch, not even a shadow of his former self. Whoever did this to him had to have been cold and cruel with no thought as to the suffering their actions would bring. The shape changer had been given the task of frightening people away and up to his encounter with Larry and me he’d been successful. I felt responsible for what had happened to him.

“The process once started can’t be reversed and please don’t,”…he said as if reading my last thoughts, “feel responsible for what’s happened. The new owners were looking for an excuse to replace me.”

Thoughts of something even more formidable than the shape changer made me ask, “What kind of replacement…?”

“They’ll be here with it at sunset. That means you two have only the rest of the day to do what you’ve come to do.”

“What about you…we can’t leave you?”

“There won’t be any ‘you’ I mean me in a few more minutes; I’m already turning to stone.”
“There won’t be any ‘you’ I mean me in a few more minutes; I’m already turning to stone.”



Larry looked down at the dying little man now turning to stone; once a seven foot shape changing lawman, then over to me, “We gotta make this right. I say we ride into the city, find out what Hilts wants to know then ride back here and introduce ourselves to the new owners.”

I knew before I asked but I had to ask anyway, “What about us not confronting anyone, to just scout around?”

In the time it took to ask my question the little man had turned to stone. I had my answer. We’d be meeting the new owners and I was looking forward to it.

In the time it had taken to ask Larry my question the little man had turned completely to stone.
In the time it had taken to ask Larry my question the little man had turned completely to stone.





Chapter Twenty Four
Coming soon 

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Back to Borderland Biker by Derrel Whitemyer, Two Wheeled Tales


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