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By Cliff Fausset

Part One- Red Heat

My heart pounding, lungs straining for air, sweat beading and stinging my eyes, but I still was determined to catch my man.  Through a vacant house, out the window, clearing a fence the perpetrator forced the chase to drag on.  I prayed that he might trip on his shoelace, stumble and fall.  Just something to end the chase.  Gaining on him, almost in my reach, he turned a sharp corner and just as a did I was thrown off my feet by the wake of an explosion.  "What the...... What the..... Where the hell did he go?" I panted to myself sitting up.  I felt a strange sense of relief but it bothered me that I lost him.

"YOU LOST HIM?  THE ONLY MAN IN THIS WHOLE CITY WHO KNOWS WHERE THE GODDAMN BOMB IS, AND YOU HAD TO LOSE HIM.  Damn it Jimmy, we better yet, you have forty-two hours to find that bomb.  This city does not, I repeat DOES NOT need another riot and with a bomb threat floating around a riot is what you'll get.  So get out there, AND FIND THAT DAMN BOMB!!!"  The chief always had a way of making someone feel special.  With my head hung, but my pride still intact, I closed the door behind me only to hear the last voice I wanted to hear.  "I would have just kicked him in the nuts," the voice chuckled behind me.  "Please man, not right now."  I turned to find my brother Billy leaned back hugging the wall behind him with his arms folded in front of him and his huge trademark grin.  His tailored blue wind-breaker suit shown brightly under the overhead lights and a hand came out to glide through his bleach-blonde hair as he said, "So where ya headed to?"

"Home..... I'm headin' home, after I get some work done here, what you gonna do?"

"I gotta get some frustration out from workin' on my car so I think I am headin' over to the karate studio and hit the bag," he smiled, looked down and whispered just before he left, "Don't worry about the chief....... he's an asshole."  He winked and we both laughed.

Exhaustion hit me as I began to head up the flight of stairs to my apartment.  Something didn't feel right when I inserted the key into the lock.  I looked behind me and the homeless man always by my door began to laugh.  With hesitation I opened the door, stepped in, and flipped on the light.  Instantly I was spun around and thrown against the wall and just as quickly I doubled over in pain from a swing of a bat in my gut.  Choking for air I looked up to see a short figure but it was too dark and I was in too much pain to make out any of the assailant's features.  The word "goodnight" echoed in my mind with a Spanish accent just before a shot to the head turned the lights out. Black.

Part Two- Dark Blue Nights

The fluid motion of kata, pouring out of my hands.  I have always used martial arts to calm my nerves after a race or maybe working on my car.  I even at times use martial arts to diffuse my emotions in stressful situations.  Kicks flew from my body with uncanny placement.  Punches uncoiled driving into the canvas bag with a thud.  With a torque of my waste and a twist of my arms, I pushed off a kick to the rear and drove the bag with all my might.  After my workout, I grabbed a towel and headed to the showers.  I showered up real quick and while I put on my clothes I heard faint talking in the dojo.  I threw on a shirt and stepped outside of the dressing room to find three hefty Hispanic men dressed in all black.  One wearing a Los Angeles "Dodgers" baseball cap, sideways, examining the weapons on the wall while the others stared at me, grinning.

"Hey, sorry guys the dojo's closed come back tomorrow and......."

"We ain't here for lessons Billy," said the apparent leader of the three. With a nod of the head the man behind me lassoed a whip, from the wall, around my neck.  I fell to my knees to relieve some the the pressure on my neck.  I was cornered and trapped.

"Hey man, why you and your brother givin' mi amigo hell, eh? What he do to you?"

He kneeled down and pulled out a butterfly knife from his pants pocket.  "Should cut your balls off, ese?" he asked.  The stench of tequila and burritos from his breath seared my nostrils.  "Not talking, eh?  That's cool man, it's cool.......... I'll just mess you up like I did your brother.  That's what I'll do."

That did it for me, I was pissed after he said that.  I reached a blind kick behind me and snapped the guys knee cap.  He fell, clinching his leg, releasing the grip on the whip and freeing me.  I looked to my left just in time to dodge a wide-swung punch.  A bladed hand to the artery on the throat dropped his ass in a hurry.  With one screaming, holding his knee and the other gasping for air, I focused all my attention on the knife-wielding third man.

"What's wrong ese, huh?  Come on what's with the knife.  To scared to fight me without it?" I said pissed.

He pulled the knife and began slashing.  With careful uncertainty, he chose the placement of each cut.  His eyes gave him away though.  Just before each slice, his eyes traveled to the spot of the cut.  So with a swift motion of the hand and arm I disarmed him and finished with a back kick driven into the ribs.  I bent over the panting hip-gangsta wanna-be and screaming in anger, "WHERE THE HELL IS MY BROTHER?"

"Screw you, ese" he replied forcing it out, just before I kicked him in the gut.  I grabbed a sword from the wall, unsheathed it, and set the point on the bridge of his nose.

"Last CHANCE asshole, WHERE is MY brother?'' I asked in a shaky voice.  He looked down and said nothing.  I rotated the sword broadside and struck him on the back of the head knocking him unconscious.  I checked his pocket for anything useful to me and found a pack of matches that read:

Shadow Nights
Johnny Jones, Owner

I grabbed my bag, the sword with sheath and got in my car, a blue Ford "Mustang."  I drove faster than any race I drove in.  This time it was personal, this time it was my brother.  I had a good feeling Johnny Jones knew where my brother was and I was going to get him.  Time for redemption.

Part Three- Redemption

I only saw black and white at first, but slowly the color red came to me and helped me see.  I felt a sharp, throbbing pain on the back of my head.  I tried to lift my hand to sedate it, but found out I had been tied down with nylon rope.  Images came to me.  I faintly remembered I had been hit on the head with a good shot of a baseball bat.  Then shortly after I was thrown in a van and driven to the place I am now.  I viewed my surroundings and came to the conclusion that I was in a shipping/receiving warehouse.  Wooden crates and boxes of various sizes clued me in on the fact.  The red overhead lights made it hard to see and aggravated my headache.  I could hear a stereo blaring the Led Zeppelin song "Kashmir" in the other room.  My brother Billy and I grew up on rock and roll.  I could spot that song any day.  It fed my blood, like fuel to an engine and I looked around for something to cut me free.  I saw a machete near by.  I silently hopped the chair over and straddling my hands with the blade, fell back cutting my hands free from the rope.  Relieved, I popped out of the chair and grabbed the machete and a red bandana next to it.  Just before I left the room I wrapped the bandana around my head to protect the wound.  In the main warehouse, I instantly scoped out three Hispanic men patrolling; each carrying semi-automatic weapons.  I knew I was no match for them so I crouched down using the crates as cover.  On one of the crates I found a 9mm handgun cocked and loaded.  Then I made a startling discovery.  One of the crates read: "LIVE AMMUNITION."  I used the machete to pry open the box to see inside.  Sure enough, the box was packed with fully loaded machine gun clips.  I also noticed the box next to it had the guns to match.  It didn't take me long to realize that the warehouse was filled with many more weapons.  The guards patrolling were protecting them.  Seemed like someone was going to war.  I replaced the machete with the sidearm and a few rounds, just in case.  I snuck outside.

Outside the morning light revealed to me four more armed patrols.  I also noticed I was not in the city anymore.  My immediate area was dry dirt and sand but I saw an area in the distance.  "The dry dirt will help silence my footsteps," I thought, as I crept behind a couple of barrels and around the corner of the warehouse.  An uneasy feeling overwhelmed me at the sight I witnessed.  The Hispanic man I had chased the day before, whom I thought had died in the explosion, was there alive and well.  He was calm in his mannerisms as he smoked his cigarette.  His white tank top and pants flowed in the light wind of the morning.  I ran up behind him and aimed my gun at his head. "Freeze," I softly said, as to not alert any of the patrols.

"Jimmy you have no clue what you are doing, please let me explain," the man said, slowly turning around.

"Who are you?  Tell me your name."

"Mi nombre es Josť Rodriguez but my compadres call me Pepe."

"Where's the bomb?" I muttered.

Frustrated, he said, "I told you please let me explain.  First off, let me congratulate you for evading my men thus far.  I don't have the bomb you search for.  Maybe you should look elsewhere amigo."

Confused I asked, "Well why did you run?  I just needed to ask you some questions.  What did you have to hide and what is the deal with the weapons?  There's enough ammo there to start World War 3"

"Well what would you do if someone pointed a gun at your head much like your doing now?  Hmmm?  You'd run.  I don't need any cops sniffing around here.  This ain't my stuff, I'm just holding it for someone.  If I go down I will take down everyone with me.  Listen, I am just doing an honest job and sometimes it's a little hairy, but I do nothing illegal.  Why don't you run back to your department and talk to your chief and tell him to get off my back, eh?"

His manor changed, I noticed he was no longer nervous and soon I knew why.  I could hear a gun being lifted and cocked.  I saw the reflection on a window nearby of one of the patrols holding a gun to my back.  I reacted instinctively, spun around disarmed the man and threw the stock back into his face.  I turned back toward Pepe to find him running into the forest.  The chase began again.  Dodging tree limbs, bushes and vines, I kept up with him.  I slid down a few moss covered slopes but it didn't slow me down much.  The humidity made it hard to breath though.  I could tell Pepe was in his natural element the way he took every obstacle with stride.  It became hard to keep up, so I had to slow him down somehow.  On the run I pulled a stick from the ground and slung it in front of his legs causing him to slip up into the water of a creek bed.  It must have been deep because he caused a big splash. I took my chances and jumped on his shoulders, pounding away with my fist.  He grabbed a hold of my legs and swung me off into the water and landed with an elbow into my gut.  I used my legs to kick him off, then kicked myself up on my feet.  In anger he charged for my waste and I avoided the tackle.  When he turned back toward me I laid a kick into his throat.  When he bent over I finished with a upper-cut.  He collapsed into the water with a huge splash.  I reached in and pulled him out and set him on the bank of the creek.

"Whose guns are those?" I gasped.

"I dunno his name or what he looks like.  All I know is he owns several night clubs downtown.  You might wanna try the club 'Shadow Nights,' he's there a lot of the time.  His main man Johnny Jones runs the place, but you can find him there.  Here take my jeep."

He handed my a set of keys and with that I was off.  I needed some new clothes and some supplies.  I couldn't go to my apartment.  I knew someone would be waiting for me there, so I decided to go to a place they didn't know about, my girlfriend Marion's apartment.  I had some clothes there and I could pick up the supplies I needed.  I also had plans to make a stop at the church; I had a lot to confess.  I found the red Jeep Wrangler, got in it, and peeled off dust pouring from the back.  I already knew today was gonna be a long day.