Scalp Collectors 2: Missionary Position

Scalp Collectors 2: Missionary Position

The red door that gated the civilization from the outside world widened like open arms. The jeep pulled through it and pulled into the Way Station. The door slammed shut behind, locking them in to Queensmen, home of the pair of Scalp Collectors. They both jumped out of the jeep and headed towards the Dealer, Georgie.

“Chaz Kramer and Alpaca Jones! How the hell are my favorite Skinners doing?”

They walked up to the widow where they saw his melted face. Georgie was recognized as a Burned One. They were people affected by diseases and radiation as infants, the ones that lived had melted and scarred skinned that looked like they were burned all over. Most lost their minds and roam the wastelands like brainless animals. Georgie was an exception of this rule.

“Seriously you two are the only twisted motherfuckers that I would allow to scalp my sorry ass.”

“Your skin aint worth shit!” Kramer said, handing the scalp in through the window.

“Oh, but this is! Contract completed. Let me run this through our DNA Database.” Neither of the Scalp Collectors have ever seen how they scan the skin in the DNA Database, it was some type of computer screen that was kept below the window. “Yes, yes, a perfect match!” His smile was obtuse and sent cracks through his blistered face.

A ghastly sight Georgie was. Bald in a milk white with red blotches across his skin that cracked and peeled, with a clear liquid that soaked his skin like sweat. The whites of his eyes were blood red with brown pupils swimming within. He could blend in well with a crowd of his own kind, but Jones was sure he could pick him out in a line up.

So, let’s see…. three thousand credits for the single. Same as last time, two three hundred checks and the two thousand four hundred in one check””

Kramer looked to Jones who nodded in agreement.

“Pleasure doing business with you boys.” Georgie said. Blood oozed from one of the cracks in his face. “Oh, you know it!” Kramer said, taking the three checks that he was handed from the window.

“So, tacos!?” Jones asked.

“Drop off first, then tacos….and booze.”

They walked to the Dwellers Door. It was a medal tube that stuck out of the ground. A sliding door was present but sealed almost 100 percent of the time. A tiny drop off box was next to the door.

“State your name?” The drop off box said. “This Chaz Kramer and Alpaca Jones.”

“Welcome Scalp Collectors! Insert your payment into the box. Have a good day!” The voice was robotic and fake. It left a sick feeling in the stomach of the average person. Luckily none of them survived to see this.

After Kramer inserted the check Jones asked, “How much more do we have to pay?”

“Sixty thousand two hundred and twenty-seven credits.”

“A lot better than three hundred thousand.”

“Long time ago.” Kramer nodded in agreement.

“Tacos?” Jones asked.

“Tacos.” Kramer agreed.

The headed towards the cantina with the rush of the dinner meals endings. Hordes of people left the outside patio. Civilians from Queensmen, protected by the walls and the few men with guns to protect them. Queensmen was a nice settlement, far from most of the dangers with people of all types working different divisions of jobs. Teachers say that this place is the closest to a city from the past. Long before the destruction of man and the Last Plague.

They walked to a table in the corner, ordered their food, and a waitress brought their drinks. The mugs were nearly the as tall as wine bottles and filled to the point of overflow. Foam rolled down the side of the glass and Kramer took a long drink before wiping the foam from his beard. A couple locals were gathered in the corner and were playing music, a mix of fiddles and guitars. People gathered around them and clapped to the music. Jones and Kramer watched and drank, but cared little for the music. The tacos arrived and they ate quietly. The meat wasn’t beef, but it wasn’t baby either. Kramer guessed it was skunk, Jones was sure it was rat. At least the cheese and lettuce was real.

When they finished, Jones pulled himself from the table after draining the rest of his beer. “I got to buy a dead pig. Gotta feed the beast.”

“How big is she getting? I can’t remember the last time I saw her.”

“You don’t wanna know.” Jones said, turning from the table. As he did he stopped in his tracks at the couple entering the cantina.

“Alpaca!” Amaryllis said, cradling the arm of her date. Her blonde hair was curled at the tips around her shoulders, make up was thick and worn, but she made it work. She always did.

“Chaz!” Allocer said, scratching at one of the blue crosses on his cheeks. His silver hair stood out to the bronze skin of his muscled body. Tall and strong, it was no wonder he was the best scalp collector in the land. Jones and Kramer begged to differ.

“Hey…” They both said at once. “What is the Great Duke himself doing here?” Chaz said with every drop of fake happiness he could muster up.

“Why, I just came to try some of these famous tacos that all you Queensmen get to feast on. This is my hot date, Amaryllis. I believe you all know each other…You both do think she is a hot date? I bet Jones does…”

The words struck Jones across the face. The look in her eyes made it worse. She was an ex-lover for many years when he first started scalp collecting. Whatever they had burned away and now the ashes were before him, locked with a man in charge of committing horrid crimes. Jones noticed her hand was wrapped around the handle of Allocer’s short sword, still sheathed to his hip. That was his weapon for scalping. Her hand squeezed and rubbed up and down the handle.

“She is, but we have been hearing tales of you just snatching up whatever you see fit.”

“Well, I can’t help that woman throw themselves at my feet.” Allocer said, whipping his silver hair back off his eyes so you could see the diamonds that shined.

“Funny, if they are lying at your feet I bet you put them there.”

“Somebody is just jealous about my date! I bet you still think about fucking her repeatedly. Tell me, will you imagine me fucking her next time? When I am deep inside her tonight, I am going to imagine you are standing outside the window looking in. Crying and jerking off your prick. That thought might make it a little harder.” Allocer said. Amaryllis looked to Jones with a small smile. Her eyes cut into him and he tried not to feel sick to his stomach.

“The only thing we are jealous about is how you fucking suck at collecting scalps, but you get more rewards than we do!” Kramer yelled.

“We will ask the Queen and see what she says. I do control thirty-six settlements. Soon to be thirty-seven.”

“Good luck.” Jones said, his tone darkened. Amaryllis looked back once as she walked away. He noticed she wasn’t wearing her razor fingers. A good scalp collector always carries their knife.

“Where is her razor fingers?” Kramer asked.

“Maybe she bought her way out. You know he is rich enough to do so.”

“Maybe she is just sharing his sword. She was almost jerking off the fucking handle.

Jones looked to the dirt floor when he saw her staring back at him. “I need to buy that pig. I’ll check for any contracts in the morning.”

“Alright later man.” Kramer said, finishing the rest of his beer. He got up from the table and walked towards Clinton Avenue, the name of the street he lived on. He watched children run passed him, kicking a ball in the street. Other people walked hand and hand, smiling as they did. He saw some men crowded around a burning barrel singing a song and some people had gathered to watch. Kramer had always thought Queensmen had been a great place for people to live. He had visited several others in his days and they were dumps. Kramer looked to the walls they had. Reinforced with logs and steal. They were so thick the guards could walk on the top. Guard rails were intact after too many had fallen off. Guards for the guards. Kramer lit a cigarette and moved on.

Jones parked the jeep in an old parking lot where he always did. Jones did own the double garage and the apartment above it, but his beast lived in the double garage. He threw his purchased dead pig over his shoulder and entered the building. He hit the second floor ignoring the burned wall paper and blood-stained carpet. He found the garbage shoot that lead to the garage and opened it. He took the rattle sitting on the floor and shook it. His pet always heard the rattle before food. He dropped the pig down into the dark. No sound was made in the darkness, this indicated to Jones that the beast caught its dinner. “Night, Girl.”

Kramer unlocked his home door and walked in. He had shelves lining the walls with toys from the old days. Many were still in good shape. He had more figures of super hero’s than any one he knew. Over the years his collection grew. He would take them as keepsakes from filling contracts. There was a humor in the hobby he had. He once said, “If super heroes were a real thing then they really shit the bed when it came to the world.”

Undressing, Kramer took a shower, hardly aware of the scars across his body. Old gunshot wounds, stabbings and even bite marks from a girl with metal teeth. The scars across his back where the oldest and the thickest. Whip marks from his childhood. Jones had them too, they both saw each other get whipped nearly to death. The training for their future was the worst thing they ever had encountered.

Jones was in a similar state in his small apartment. Only he rubbed the claw scars across his chest. “Cross your heart, hope to die.” Amaryllis had said to him when their relationship ended and her claws cut deep. Seeing her still hurt him and she knew it. One day when the cards were in his hand he would kill her, and he would do it to keep himself from sleeping with her. Her scalp would be the prettiest one he would ever take.

Neither one of them knew at that moment but Kramer and Jones were kneeling in front of their beds at the exact same time. Each mumbled the prayer they were taught as kids, on the day they learned of their bloody future. “I hunt for my Queen’s Hand, I skin for my Queen’s Grace, I kill for my Queen’s Love.”

Jones laid in bed and tried to get Amaryllis out of his head. He slept with his skinning knife under his pillow for sweet dreams, but they were all the same. Kramer stared at picture of the Queen on his wall. She was Knighting him with her jeweled sword, some say that was the Queen’s own personal scalping tool. Kramer looked younger in the photo, clean shaven and wearing the coat of scalps he had to collect and sewed together to complete his training. “The Knights of New”. Kramer read the banner in the background. It was the happiest day of his life.

Sleep was similar for both. They heard the cries of a thousand people but only saw their childhood, they felt the whip and could still smell the bucket of piss they poured on the open wounds. They could still feel the pain, it had been imbedded in their brains so well that when they are ever in a conflict and take on pain, the horrible memories come back and it makes them kill any opponent in front of them.

Kramer awoke first and sat up covered in his own sweat. He looked from his window and saw the sun was peeking into the darkness. Getting up from his bed, he winced at the slight pain in his knee, wondered into his bathroom and ate his daily vitamin, that enhanced his senses but dulled his pain receptors. This was his favorite medicine. Afterwards, he went to his kitchen to get breakfast. He lacked any motivation to go back to the dreams that his memory tried to repress. He lit one of his rolled cigarettes as snacked on strips of jerky. Today would be a day when he grabs the contract first, if there were any available.

Slipping into his leathers, goggles, and gun belt, Kramer took his way out into the street and towards the Way Station, seeing that the sun rising was bringing the towns people out. A line of people was out in front of the way station, mainly the poor looking for a job to keep them busy for the day. No other Scalp Collectors were in line, so this was a good sign for Kramer.

“Good morning, Sunshine!” Georgie said when it was Kramer’s turn in line. “You actually beat Jones up today.”

“Hey man, got to get paid.” Kramer said, keeping himself from yawning.

Georgie scratched at his ruined cheek, “And if you complete this one, you could get double what you had yesterday.”

“Two scalps then?”

“Yeah, couple runaways took refuge in a church some ways from here. Dead or alive. Looks like it is in Farm Top.”

“Easy, I hope he gets his ass up so we can get going. We can make it back by dusk if we hurry.” Kramer said, referring to Jones.

Georgie handed him the contract and Kramer took the paper quickly, being careful to avoid Georgie’s yellowed and green fingers.

“Heading back out two days in a row?” A deep voice said from behind Kramer. He turned and looked up into the beast of a man, Mika. A man built on long bones and a thick muscles body mass. His skin brown and dark, eyes bloodshot and looked half dead. He carried a great sword in front of him, that he used as a cane. This made the sword less intimidating. There were disadvantages to being his size. His legs really couldn’t take his weight anymore. He spends his days sitting on top of the walls that surround the town, surveying and keeping the bad out.

“Yeah, when there’s Queen’s justice to give out.”

“Where are you heading on this day?”

“Some Church in Farm Top.”

Mika looked taken back. “Taking skin in a church?”

“More like taking skin from a church.” Kramer said, walking away from Mika.

“Those are places of sanctuary and peace!” Mika said, stunned.

“There is no sanctuary that protects anyone from the Queen. “Kramer said, smiling.

Mika squinted at Kramer and said, “So the bad guys will lose, right? Just to be clear, the people looking to be forgiven from their crimes, they still are the bad guys, right?”

“I guess so.”

“What does that make you?” Mika asked.

Jones pulled around the corner in his jeep, his goggles worn to cover his eyes from the morning light. “You are up early!” He yelled to Kramer.

Kramer turned back to Mika. “Have a good day. Hope your legs feel better. You got to be dulling that blade when you lean on it.”

Mika squinted at the collectors in the jeep. The red door swung open and the pair drove off into the morning light. The tires of the jeep kicking up dirt from behind them, and trailed behind until the entered the forest that surrounded the civilization. Half dead trees amongst dead grass, it was still surprising that some animals were still hunted in there.

“What’s the contract?” Jones asked.

Kramer handed the paper over. “It’s at Farm Top, in the old church. Sounds like missionary position and not the boring kind.  We have to get two in there.”

Jones read the paper, slowing down the jeep as he did. “Mattie Loven and Kirk Myers. Wanted for aiding Head Hunters that lead to the deaths of four Queen’s men at Outpost Z. Scalps to be taken dead, or alive.”

“Another day closer to the end.” Kramer said.

“Maybe, remember when that Scalp Collector got killed in a church?”

Kramer scratched his beard. “Chris, Amaryllis’s old partner.”

“Yeah, walked right into a church and they had a sniper up on the balcony. Blew out his right lung.

“I doubt bullets will ever kill us. Most people are terrible shots.” Kramer said.

“True, but I remember Chris being full of church. Converted after his first professional kill. He said he scalped for God, not the Queen.”

“Funny that he was murdered in a church. God didn’t love him that much.”

Jones sipped from a water bottle and turned the radio on to static. Occasionally they could find music, or some religious propaganda. A couple times the found an old broadcast from the old world. A guy named Riley, who was thought to be long dead by now, but for some reason his voice still lived on.

“After all the shit we have seen, do you believe in God?” Jones asked when he gave up on the radio.

“I don’t know.” Kramer said, lighting one of his rolled cigarettes. “Which God are we talking about? I mean there’s too many to pick from.

“They say the Christian one is the most popular, or that shadow religion.”

“Well, we are driving to that Christian church so let’s say that one.”

“Christ?” Kramer asked. “The one with the cross, right?”

“Yeah, what do you think?”

“Man, I really don’t know. I don’t even know what it is, ya know? I can’t even give an honest opinion on it.”

“We run across so many fucking people who hide behind fairy tales, you know? I remember that one guy who meditated while I scalped him, he said his faith would keep him from crying. I guess his God didn’t hear him because he sobbed like a baby.”

Kramer laughed. “Oh yeah, we burnt that church to the ground….”

“We have seen some shit in our time, but the worst thing we have ever seen is people. People hide behind fairytales to feel better about how useless they really are. They create fairytales to make them feel better about who they rape, kill, or maim, and act like they deserve some grand reward. People are terrible, and they created their religion, in return their religion is terrible.”

“I think a lot of them can’t help it. Many of them were brainwashed when they were children. Forced to believe what they believe.”

Jones sat back and had a familiar feeling. “Like how we are about the Queen?”

“No, not like her. She is real and we are right.” Kramer said, smiling.

“We sound just like them.”

They drove in silence for the remainder of the trip, feeling the sun change course into the sky. The early signs of dusk were coming across the horizon. The moon was showing its mutated face, sharp points revealing a piece that had broken off years before. Each of them appreciated a cold front that accompanied the open plains at night.

They approached the town before dark. A civilization that consisted of three streets. An old school house is where the settlers slept, each classroom consisting of another home. The church was in the center of town. They both have collected scalps in this town before, but they were all in the school house. The church was new territory for Jones and Kramer. All the homeless and guilty slept in the basement of the church, and this close to dusk would have them all inside, hiding from the horrors of the night.

They parked the jeep between a few other cars. A rare sight in a lot of locations. “We need more ammo. You think the church has some hiding underneath the organ or something?” Kramer asked, adjusting his gun.

“It looks like they have cars, unless some other Scalp Collectors beat us to the contract.”

“Well, maybe they will have ammo?” Kramer said. “It has been a long time since we shot some of our own kind.”

“The worst kind of prey. Can’t even believe the Queen tolerates that.”

“Competition. Everyone likes a good game. Lucky for us, we always score when we need it the most.”

“With knifes and our dicks.” Jones said, rubbing dirt from his knife blade.

“Could be some broken whores hiding in here, if we get a couple fingers in, then we are in.”

“Remember Rocco?” Jones asked. “The girl did whatever he wanted, just to save her husband from being scalped. When he finished on her back, he took her scalp because she was too rough with him. She didn’t even notice that he took her husband’s skin as well.”

“Wasn’t he eaten by a pack of wild dogs?” Kramer asked.

“Live like a dog, die like a dog.”

“Alright, lets focus.” Kramer said, adjusting his shirt. “Get into character. We don’t know what could jump out at us.”

They walked side by side on their way up the steps. Each churning to look over their shoulders. They couldn’t feel eyes looking on them, but they were positive people knew they were in town, and a warm welcome wasn’t going to be likely.

They both opened each door and wandered in, instantly looking up to see if a balcony was above them. When none was present they now had the advantage. Their awareness was sharp and they kept it focused on the seats going up the aisle. This was not their first time in a church and they have plenty experience having gun fights within them.

They noticed the large crucifix that hung from the back wall. It was a statue of Jesus Christ but his head was missing. In its place was a human skull with a crown of thorns wrapped around it. A man came through the door behind the podium, sweat rolled down his bald head. He was nervous, but his voice didn’t show a crack of weakness. “Gentlemen! Welcome to The Second Baptist Church of the great town of Farm Top. What brings a couple wonderers this late in the afternoon?”

“Well, we were looking for a place to hang our gun belts for the night and we found this place to look nice and cozy.” Kramer said.

“Are you children of God?” The man asked.

“Last we knew, we were children of the Queen, I am not sure who knocked her ass up, but God is a suspect.” Jones and the stranger both smiled. Kramer really did have a way with words.

“Well, all children are welcome here. We do not turn a single person away. Currently, my flock is making a supper consisting of fried egg sandwiches and milk. Would you two gentlemen like to join us.”

“Cows and chickens doing well out here?” Kramer asked.

“We provide with what the good Lord blesses us with.”

“This is not exactly why we are here.” Jones said, handing the man his paper contract.

“But we will take those sandwiches to go!” Kramer added.

The man looked over the paper and a frown crossed his wrinkled face. His pointed nose moving back and forth in disapproval. He looked Jones in the eyes with the most sorrow. “Oh dear, oh my dear. So, this is a business trip?”

“We apologize to interrupt, but we can scalp them out back if that would help?” Jones asked.

“We don’t wish to kill them or spill any blood in the church.” Kramer said in his most sincere liar voice.

“Very well. There is a well outback. I will send Kirk outback to grab a pale of water. Meet him there.” Jones nodded to Kramer.

“On it.” Kramer said, drawing his knife and he headed toward the door. When the door was shut behind him Jones turned to the man and watched as he wiped the sweat from his brow.

“I didn’t get your name.” Jones asked.

“Jack. I guess I am the new pastor of this church. Pastor Watkins went out looking for another of the flock and he never returned.”

“Strange. How long has he been gone?”

Jack scratched at a small scar at his chin. “A couple months. He was only going to The Oasis of Faith. He received word that he was to find someone seeking sanctuary. A bit worried that he wouldn’t be welcomed to the town.”

“There was never a person there. Watkins is dead.” Jones said, making the room seemed colder.

“How would you know?” Jack said suspiciously.

“We got a lot of reports from all around about how cannibals usually camp at Oasis’s waiting for people to stop by for clean water. They have been sending false messages to people to get them to stop by. If he has been gone this long, then I bet he has been killed, gutted, roasted, eaten and digested by now.”

“Well, that’s …”

“Maybe you should show me Mattie Loven. She is a part of the contract. It is odd you did not mention her to attend the well?”

“I meant them both. I-I haven’t seen Mattie in some time.”

“So, she isn’t in the back, making sandwiches and pouring milk?”

Jack froze in place; the sweat was soaking his shirt now. “Can we just say she wasn’t here?”

“You love her?” Jones asked, annoyed.

“No, yes, maybe. Look, if you heard her story, you wouldn’t want to see her scalped as well.”

“Well, she helped some Head Hunters murder some people, so I don’t need to hear her bullshit. Now, you don’t want to get scalped I bet, and you are trying to protect her and I have the authority to scalp you at this given moment. Your bald head won’t get me much for a rebel scalp, but I do need more credits to buy some more ammunition, so it’s worth it.”

“Let me ask you something?” Jack said, with the last bit of courage in his face.

“Alright.”

“Do you see yourself as a shepherd or a wolf?”

“I see myself as a Scalp Collector who honors his Queen. What do you see yourself as?”

“A shepherd guiding his flock.”

“Maybe, but you are going to lead a couple of your sheep away. We will shear them, they will stumble back, and we will be on our way.”

“Give me a moment.” Jack said.

“I’ll give you three minutes. After that I am coming in gunning.” Jones threatened, tapping the handle of his revolver.

He watched Jack walk back up the stage to the door he came from. Jones didn’t feel threatened here. Moments later Jack stumbled out with a sad look and a red-haired man followed him, and a dark-haired woman walked out behind him. The red-haired man was carrying a couple of empty pales. “Howdy, friend! Always nice to meet a new face.” He opened one are for half a hug.

“Not a friend. Back off.”

“Sorry, some people just can’t feel the love.” Kirk said as he walked towards the front door.

“Someone is going to feel a lot of love in just a minute or two.” Jones mumbled.

During this, Kramer sat outside on the edge of the well and used his knife to dig the dirt out from under his fingernails. Staring up at the stars that began to shine down upon him. He was whistling a song he had heard them play at a pub years ago. He was halfway into a second song when Kirk wondered on up to him.

“Howdy, friend!”

“Howdy, friend!” Kramer said with excitement. “You wouldn’t happen to be Kirk, would you?”

“Why that is the name my dead mother gave me!”

Kramer opened his arms to embrace Kirk. “Come here you!” Kirk dropped the pales and went in for a big hug. Moments later Kirk was screaming and Kramer was laughing, fresh blood spilling down into the well.

Back in the church Jones watched Mattie argue with Jack. “Why do I have to go to the well? You know I am assigned to kitchen duties!”

“Mattie, I would you to meet this gentleman…”

“Why the hell do I care! Why!?”

Jones interfered. “Look, I asked him to call you out. I need to see you.

She turned to him, glaring with distaste. Jones could see how the girl could been beautiful in a different setting. Her hair was black, curly, and he knew she was going to miss it where it had always grown.

“I have seen you before! I watched you scalp Marty back at a gang I was hiding with.”

“Not ringing a bell, but I probably did.”

“So, you found me! Now what? You want my scalp?”

Jones walked towards her till they were nearly a foot apart. From the corner of his eye he saw Jack walked towards him and Jones held a finger up to keep him in place. Jack lowered his head and looked down at the floor. When Jones closed in on her he drew his blade and held it up to her nose. “It has never been this easy. Thank you.” Jones asked.

“You don’t scare me; your knife doesn’t scare me. If you heard what I had to say you would understand.” Her eyes looked ferocious and deadly. Jones could almost see the past events fly passed her eyes.

“I’m all ears.” Jones took a step back and lowered the knife.

“You stand there will all the confidence in the world, thinking that I am such a terrible person. That I did what I had to do to keep myself alive, and now I am guilty in the eyes of a woman who I have never seen, never met, who decides I deserve no trial but an active punishment! You stand by and hurt and kill the people over what a piece of paper says. You have no idea what I have done or what I have been through. I watched my parents and my brother get killed and they tied me down and force fed me pieces of their meat, while they took turns using me for whatever they wanted, tearing me up in every single way. Soon after I was used for their slave labor during the day and raped every night. Soon I had a child, and I never got to meet him since he was taken from me, to be eaten elsewhere. When I was pregnant again, I escaped the gang and fled through the woods and before they could trail me, I found another gang who protected me and allowed me to have my child. A child conceived by horrible men, so many I had no idea which one it could be. I wanted to hate him, but I couldn’t since he had my eyes. One day this gang wanted me to help them, sneak into Outpost Z, steal some supplies. I didn’t want to, but they held a knife to my son’s throat. I helped them and they killed four of the guards at the gate, but we never made it in. When I got back to the camp they killed my son for failing. They threw me out into the wild on my own. I couldn’t find any food till I found a frail old man. I had to kill him just so I could eat. In the middle of eating his leg was when Pastor Watkins found me and lead me here to clean my life up. Since then I have been doing well. I am part of a descent community, doing good for others. I never wanted what I had to do, but can I ask you that? Do you want to scalp me, do you want to hurt me, add another blow to my life, punish me for making the right choice for once? How many people have you hurt or killed? I watched you cut Marty’s throat after you scalped him and you did it with a smile on your face. I want you to question yourself, ask yourself that fucking question. Then, I want you to tell me what you want?”

Jones walked closer to her until their noses were nearly touching. He raised the knife up to her lips, the tip nearly kissing it. “I honestly understand what you are going through. I have scars you wouldn’t believe on the inside and out, but you know what? Who gives a fuck? Everyone has a fucking story and yours sounds practiced and true, but your nothing special, just like my story isn’t special. No single person is special. We all have seen shit, we all have done shit we shouldn’t be proud of. But you’re not special, sweetheart. After today I won’t remember a single word of this conversation. See, your story isn’t important to this story. This story is meant for others. The only reason you’re in my story is for me to scalp you, nothing more, and nothing less. Now, you asked how many people I have hurt? Hundreds, probably killed close to the same amount and I do it with a song in my heart. You asked me what I want? Well, I don’t need to ask myself these questions. I really do understand you, I really do…but what I need is that scalp of yours.”

Kramer walked into the church, still whistling a song. He treated the fresh scalp like a warm, clean towel, folding it kindly. “C’mon man, you’re talking forever!

Jones smiled. “So, shall we begin?”

Scalp Collectors: All in a days work

Scalp Collectors: All in a days work

The jeep roared across the desert plain, tires crushing the skulls of a forgotten people, killed long before the birth of the two men in the jeep. The driver and the passenger wore ragged uniforms of flannel and leather, goggles wrapped around their necks just in case of a dust storm. The rusty pieces of metal served as dog tags hung halfway down their chests. On each tag was a number that was tatted on to top of their right wrist. Jones, drove like always, Kramer sat passenger, smoking a rolled cigarette he made before getting into the jeep. Specks of tobacco still lingering on his pants. The contract was to collect from a neighboring settlement, with a high price that could be distributed between the two of them. Jones had his fear since they only had seven bullets between them, 3 for Jones’s .45 and 4 in Kramer’s 9mm magazine. They still had the knives, elegant and fine, or brutal with dash of gore. All good Scalp Collectors had their knives.

“So, what happened with that girl?” Jones asked, flipping the strands of long hair off the front of his face.

“I don’t know. I didn’t like her feet.” Kramer said, scratching his thick but short beard. The hit a small hole and threw them around in the vehicle. It lacked doors on both sides or even seat belts so they held on as if lost in a sand storm. This was common place in the desert.

“What, she has like mutant feet?”

“Nah, not like that. They were kind of manly. A little bigger than mine.”

“Well, it’s not like you were going to get a foot job, or suck her toes or some shit.” Jones said, smiling. They would often talk on their journeys. Usually, about anything even during the scalping process. The job itself was common place for the both, their conversations kept things interesting.

“Nah, not with feet like that. It would be like getting a hand job with toe thumbs.”

“Didn’t that happen to you? Jones asked.

“Fuck no! I broke up with her too! We spend all day looking at broken shit, I don’t want to come home to a girl who looks like broken shit.”

They both laughed. “We are going to hell.” Jones said.

“Nah, I think we already did.”

“And we can do anything with impunity.”

“Yup!” They fist bumped as they approached a sign that read, “Meadows Sanctuary, No Guns, No Knives!”

“Why the hell do they always write Sanctuary on their signs? That won’t stop us, nor would it stop anybody else from attacking them.” Jones said.

“Like we are not going to bring weapons.”

The jeep slide through the entrance gate. One guard tower stood with nobody in it. “Real fucking safe.” Jones said, shaking his long hair back.

They rolled down the street, kicking up dust as they did. The street was crowded with old rusted cars and ragged buildings. Most looked completed with old pieces of metal and rotted pieces of lumber. Kramer doubted that any of the cars still functioned, but something sat sour in his stomach as they drove on. “If no one in the guard tower, you think someone picked this place off already?”

“No idea.” Jones replied as her drove the jeep into the middle of the town square. Burned out buildings surrounded a fountain. A statue once stood in the middle of the fountain, but had since fallen over. Only the legs remained and a plaque that read, “Ghost t,he First Survivor.”

“Ghost?” Jones asked. “That hero from the beginning? Wasn’t he a legend?”

“Thought so. Wasn’t he that albino guy who killed a bunch of cannibals or something?”

“Something like that.”

Jones parked the jeep in front of the old fountain. Kramer slid out of the vehicle, taking a look down into the old fountain and saw how dry it was. He spat into the bottom and adjusted the gun on his waist. “What about you, man? Any girls lately?”

“Fuck no,” Jones said, tying his hair back. “There was this one that followed me back to my place and started stealing my booze.”

“What do you mean?”

Checking the cylinder of his revolver, Jones replied. “I was all drunk down at the Way Station. Some older lady was talking to me about how her boyfriend was cut to pieces by some Head Hunters. Well, I was trying to go home, but the bitch followed me back to my place. I had just shut the door and was taking my boots off when she just kind of walked in and instantly took her top off.

“What!?” Kramer said, laughing.

“I mean this wasn’t anything good either. She probably had like 15 years on me and her tits hung in different directions. I yelled at her to get out, but she walked over to my bar and started grabbing all the jars of liquor I had and ran out the door topless. She left her shirt and everything at my place. She was fucking gross, man. Boils on her neck and cheeks. I’m sure there was one on her nipple. It was like she bathed in a tub of radiation. She wasn’t even worth a scalp.”

“Man…” Kramer said laughing.

They found a town hall sign sitting outside an old white house. It was rare to see a three-story building still intact in the world anymore. It could have been a nice property years ago, but the siding on the home was faded and falling off, accompanied by every window being broken. The dead grass was long and yellowed in the dirt. The skeleton of a young tree still stood like a corpse of hope. It somehow tried to grow in this world but was prematurely killed, thanks to dehydration. Very common in these parts of the world.

“We need more bullets.” Kramer said, wiping sweat from his brow. “Don’t get payed enough for this shit.”

Jones just scratched his head. “Especially if Head Hunters are inside that building. We got to spot them if they feed us a line.”

Kramer took the gun from his left and let it hang lazily from his fingers for a quicker draw. “Let’s just walk in. If anyone is even in there.”

They walked side by side. Kramer trying to hide the limp in his leg where shrapnel hit him in the knee. Kramer always used to drive them to the jobs till that bomb went off. His leg gave out quite a bit and made it difficult to step on the gas pedal. It was one of many scars that were drawn over the bodies of each collector.

“You fucked that girl didn’t you!”

“Fuck no!” Jones replied. “God damn, all the booze in the world couldn’t get me to do that!”

“You have picked some winners, just saying man.”

“Like you never been there.”

“True, true.”

They walked the steps up to the town hall, barely glancing at the skeleton that sat in a chair as they did. The door swung open on its own and the head of a spear appeared in the darkness. The Scalp Collectors drew their weapons with lighting speed. They had been there, done that more than they care to.

“Drop your weapons and step out,” “Kramer said. “We are Scalp Collectors, show yourselves!”

“It’s alright Corey, drop the spear.” A woman’s voice said from the shadows.

A worn woman stepped into view, dressed in a dirty pink blouse, gray strands of hair were spread, throughout her brown hair. The Collectors had seen leather that looked better than her skin. Her eyes were aware, but tired all the same. “I am Gretchen, leader of Meadow’s Sanctuary. What brings collectors out this far from your safe zone?

“Contract to fill. One male, dead or alive. We mean to let him live if everyone cooperates.”

“If we don’t cooperate?” Gretchen asked, trying to show her strength.

“We take all your scalps.”

“Dead or alive.” Jones added.

Gretchen stepped more into view. They lowered their guns a bit. “Who is the contract for?”

“Arnold Jay Fletcher. Under Violation of propaganda publishing some 20 years ago, resulted in a riot that killed 7 of The Queen’s men.” Jones said this without a stutter. Kramer did most of the talking, but Jones memorized all the data.

“We follow no Queen but myself.” She said, a cold look overcame her leather like face.

“Treason, is it?” Kramer asked. “You know we could probably get more for your scalp if we say we got that leather from a cow.”

“Truth.” Jones agreed.

For a second they steadied the weapons higher, but shook with a magnitude of a fear they have once felt before. Jones saw from the corner of his eye that two more of her people had come out from around the building, spears in hand. “Give up Arnold or I will turn around and shoot both of your men in their spineless guts. You can’t trick us.”

For a moment, neither of the men thought she was going to give in. “Fine,” She finally said. “Stand down. We don’t have the fire power anymore to stop them. Follow me Skin takers!” She walked passed them down the steps with her head held high, as if this was to show she still had the power. Her spearmen followed her at her sides and the Scalp Collectors walked closely by.

“What happened to your firearms?” Jones asked. “You said you do not have it anymore? Was is Head Hunters?”

“No, it was a gang of your Skin Takers. Dressed and acted just like the both of you.” She didn’t show her face as if to hide her discomfort. A chill could be heard and felt from her voice that made both shiver somewhere deep within them.

“Scalp Collectors deal with skin, not theft.” Jones said.

“Well, maybe you should remind these men of who they kill and what they take.”

Jones looked over all five of the spearmen and saw they all had scalps. “They didn’t take any scalps, did they?”

“Just the guns and a couple of the children’s virginities.”

Kramer and Jones stared at each other for a slight second. They would keep this in mind later.

“How many?” Jones asked.

“Seven,” spearmen Corey said, “All had bigger guns than both of you. All took our guns and by night they took churns with some of the children and a couple of the older girls. Killed a couple of them that fought back. Still had their way with the bodies though.”

“You all just stood there and did nothing?” Kramer asked.

“They killed five of our own men from a great distance. Blew their fucking heads open.”

“Now I only have these five.” Gretchen added. “I admit we reacted poorly.”

“Got that right.” Jones mumbled. He felt Gretchen’s glare without looking.

They came upon on an old house that looked in better shape than the other ruined houses. Kramer thought it still looked like a piece of shit, but better than most. Jones checked all the windows, looking out for any snipers that Gretchen declined to mention.

“I’ll go in and get him,” Gretchen said. “Stay here.”

“Hell no! I’m coming in.” Kramer said, adjusting the grip on his gun. “You cool out here?” he asked Jones.

“I’m sure they would like to see my knife tricks if they get panicky. Drag his ass out of here. You guys are going to want to see Kramer scalp this guy all savage! You are in for a treat!”

They walked the steps into the house, Gretchen leading, with Kramer bringing the rear.

Jones sat back and looked at the spearmen who all eye fucked him raw. They all were skinny with scars and patches of hair across their bodies. Either shirtless or wearing the remains of once a shirt, Corey was a part of that category.

“So, what do you all do for fun around here?” Jones asked and felt the tension thick in the air. “You guys have any movies, like an old projector to show all those films they used to make a long time ago?”

“We don’t have electric anything.” One of the spearmen answered. He had a large gap in his mouth where his two front teeth were missing. Jones didn’t know what color those teeth were, but he guessed they were as brown as the others.

“Yeah, it’s a true wonder to live in a safe zone that our Queen gives us. It’s just as dangerous as this place, but it does have lights. Freezers to keep meat longer, and a movie is played every night. Giant walls to keep intruders out. It is real nice.”

“Those walls also keep you in.” Corey said, rubbing at a large sore on his shoulder, picking at it with a yellowed fingernail.

Jones had never thought it that way. His queen had always been good to them, providing them with contracts to make the land a safer place, showing that crime will not be tolerated. Since he was born, the walls kept Headhunters, walking corpses, and rabid animals out. As a child he felt safe, but now that he was older, it was the gun that kept him safe, and that little bit of paranoia that hung in his brain, kept his fingers on the handle of his revolver.

“GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!” Kramer yelled, dragging a short, round little man out onto the porch. The little man, Arnold, matched the contract description. The details were very elaborate, especially when it came to the pointed wart under his left eye, sticking out like a cone. His finger nails scratched at the porch as Kramer dragged him to the dirt. Gretchen stepped out of the doorway, her arms crossed with distaste.

“You got the wrong guy! I aint ever but had love for The Queen!”

“Maybe now you do, but 20 years ago you called her a robot!” Jones expressed. “Scalp him.”

Kramer removed his knife. A long crude thing that shined under the broken sun. The blade was zigzagged, almost like a lightning bolt. It was the same knife he had used since he started hunting scalps.

“Now, this will hurt a lot,” Kramer explained. “But if you don’t squirm too much, it will come off  quick and easy as those sheep skin condoms you all wear. You know, the ones you make from the intestines. So, we will begin at the middle of your forehead and pull it all the way to the middle of your skull and cut it free. You cool with that?”

“No I am not at all!” Arnold said, tears begin to roll down his face.

“Let us begin.” Kramer said and dug part of his knife into the middle of the forehead. Fresh beads of blood rolled down his face and Kramer jerked his knife to an angle and began skinning up. The little man squirmed and yelled in pain, but he couldn’t alter Kramer’s skill. He was a pro at what he did.

“Jones, how do you feel about those sheep skin condoms?” Kramer asked, working the knife farther up the skull.

“I don’t know. He replied. “I only use the latex ones back at home, or none.”

Kramer laughed as he got to the hair line of Arnold. The skin was peeled back from his forehead, looking like a bloody rag, pushed into a roll. “I mean isn’t like fucking the animal too, since your using its guts to keep you-.”

“GOD, THIS FUCKING HURT!” Arnold interrupted.

Kramer dug his blade into the skull, scratching at the bone. “Can’t you see we are having a very important conversation here?

“I hate it when people interrupt us!” Jones agreed. “I am getting sick of his sobbing. Hurry up and finish him off!”

Kramer ran the blade across the top of the skull, the zigzags in the blade helped cut and peel back. He made it look as simple as slicing a hunk of butter. Kramer was a little uneven, but when Jones would perform the procedure, he was straightforward and had a perfect rolled scalp by the end of it.

One final slice and he cut the scalp away from the skull, dropping Arnold into the dirt. His bloody face caked the dirt and he looked like a ragged mess, shaking and sobbing like a child. Jones reached into a leather baggy that hung from the side of his belt where he kept the powder. “Keep rolling in the dirt like that you are gonna get a nasty infection. Hold still, this powder will clean it and stop the bleeding.” Jones took a handful of the salt looking mixture and slapped it across the open head wound. Arnold yelled so loud he made both Scalp Collectors step back with laughter. The power caused a burning sensation across his skull, white bubbles foamed over and rolled down his face as he screamed like a child. For a split moment, Kramer felt sorry for the poor man, but the he looked down at the fresh scalp and the feeling went away. They were about to get paid.

“Is that all?” Gretchen asked. She was still standing on the porch with her arms crossed, a look in her face like she wanted to draw blood.

“Of course!” Kramer said. “Best be leaving.”

Jones looked back at all the spearmen, but they looked away in utter disgust for what they just witnessed. Arnold had calmed down to just a light sob. Shock had quieted him down some.

They were on the walk to the jeep and Kramer threw their payment at Jones. “What do you think, like three thousand credits?”

Jones rubbed the skin between his fingers and looked over the fine black hair. “He’s got some silver coming in, got to count for something worth a damn.”

“Yeah, might actually get to buy some more fucking bullets.”

Hoping into the jeep, Jones rolled up the scalp and handed back to Kramer so he could start up the jeep. “If I hurry I can get us back by dark. Maybe get some tacos at the pub?”

Before Kramer could answer Gretchen walked in front of the vehicle with her arms crossed. Her spearmen surrounded the car, spear pointed as if to block them in. “New development.” Jones mumbled.

Kramer stood up and pointed his gun at Gretchen. “We got a problem?”

“I just wanted to let you boys know that you are not welcome here ever again. Just a little warning of what’s going to happen if you come back!”

“I will tell you what’s going to happen. Jones and I are going to shoot each of these savage motherfuckers in their dicks and rape them with their own spears. Jones will run you over and spin the tires across your rubber face. Then we are going to scalp all of them, drive home and have steak for dinner. How does that sound?”

Jones smiled and all the spearmen frowned. Gretchen held her ground and didn’t let up. Kramer and Jones admired her at that moment.

“You seem certain of yourselves. Tell me, what are you going to do about those rogue scalp collectors? Will you let them dishonor the codes you live by, or are you going to deliver them The Queen’s justice?”

“If we find them, we will scalp them too, but we are going to do it for us, not for you.”

“Well the leader had long white hair and two crosses tatted on both of his cheeks. He forced me to watch as he raped my daughter. Make it painful.” Gretchen eyes watered as if she was seeing it all over again.

Jones and Kramer eyed each other. Jones nodded and Kramer lowered his gun. “Let them through!” Gretchen yelled and the Scalp Collectors rolled by, kicking up dust and decay from a world once lived.

Once they were out of the Sanctuary Jones finally spoke. “Allocer.”

“The Great Duke himself? How the fuck are we supposed to handle him? The Queen lets him control thirty-six settlements. He could have an army after us even if we mention his name!”

“I know! I know!” Jones said. His head shaking the entire time. “We can’t let him get away with that shit.

“The last time we took on a gang of more than 10 we nearly died. The scars are still pink, and we both do not have anywhere close to enough ammo.”

“We could invest the entire scalp into ammo. We can skip the donation to the Dwellers.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? That is our ticket out of here! One missed payment might come unforgettable.”

“Imagine how much more credits we can get from killing rapists!” Jones said,

“We can’t risk it. This could backfire on us and The Queen might want our scalps. It would be us against the world and eventually some fuck could come along and feed us to the reaper.”

They drove in silence for several minutes. The sun was beginning to settle in the west and they were nearly home.

“I would be fun though.” Kramer said. “You know, taking them all on.”

“All in a day’s work. Let’s wait on it for now. We are close to buying our way in with the Dwellers.”

“True,” Kramer said. “Did you mention something about tacos earlier?”

“Yeah, they sound good.”

“They won’t be as good as Big Mikes. Remember when we shared the 20 pack?”

“Yeah, but then we found out he cooked human babies in the meat.”

“Oh yeah…” Kramer said and grabbed his own throat. “We did get a shit ton for his scalp and an extra bonus for his skull.

“A job well done, but someone needs to feed the reaper.”

(Chapter 2, Missionary Position coming soon!)