“SHHHH! Hush, this is a library! A place for reading and concentration, not a social lounge gentleman,” the elderly woman with large black-rimmed glasses with a dangling silver chain reprimanded in a stern but hushed tone.
“We’re sorry, miss, just got a little excited over our discussion on this book here,” said a rough-looking fellow wearing a leather jacket and fingerless black leather gloves, his hands on an open book splayed out on a table.
The book was open, displaying a large illustration of a man garbed in robes holding up a large staff with a large bulbous end. The rocky scene around the figure was littered with men laid out on the ground, blood flowing from their heads and faces. By the looks of the picture, the robed man with the staff had killed them all with the odd staff he was holding high over his head. The librarian leaned in, squinting her makeup-covered eyes at the image.
“Hmm, that would be Shamgar the Judge killing the 600 Philistines in the Biblical book of Judges.”
“600 hundred, you say? Whew, ain’t that sompin.” the leather-clad fellow answered in a low voice.
“I am glad you are discussing literature, gentleman. Remember you are in a library, so keep your voices to a quiet tone. Please respect other readers. If there is anything I can help you with, feel free to ask,” the elderly librarian turned and headed back toward the front desk.
“Hey, she’s sompin. Reminds me of me old librarian at school yacking me head off for fiddlin’ around with the girlies in the back isles of books,” the leather-clad man half-whispered, looking toward his other two well-dressed companions sitting at the table with him.
They stared straight-faced, shaking their heads at him.
One of the two, sporting a trimmed beard, remarked in a whisper, “I thought I told you to wear something decent, you barbarian. Ughh, anyway, you’ve seen what we are talking about, so let’s get out of here.”
“Hey, lay off me duds, Poindexter! Or I shows ya a barbarian in fronts of all these nice readin folk.”
A voluminous, “Shhhhh!” echoed from nearby patrons.
The three stood up and made their way out of the library and onto the sidewalk outside. The leather-clad fellow was a rather large man, standing around 6 feet 1 with wide broad shoulders. His upper torso crammed into the black leather biker jacket like a Mr. Hyde trying to burst through his enclosure. His hair was cropped short with a chiseled face that carried a scar across the side of his left eye. He could be considered handsome in a sinister sort of way. He reached into the inner pocket of his jacket, pulling out a short cigar, bit a chunk off the end, and spat it onto the street. He then pulled a Zippo lighter from his blue jean pocket and gave it a flip igniting the flame that he lit the cigar with.
“Ok, Steve or whatever your name really is. You know what we’ve asked you to do and we expect it done within a month. Once we have it confirmed, you will receive your next payment,” the man with the trimmed beard said while standing in front of Steve, his other companion standing just behind him on his right.
Steve flipped the Zippo back closed and shoved it into his pocket, “Not Steve, now it’s Shamgar. It’ll get done, don’t you worry, you little freak. I don’t care much about religious nutties, them or yours, but a jobs a job, and I think I’m gonna enjoy this one,” Shamgar grumbled at the bearded man, blowing cigar smoke into his face as he spoke. The bearded man gave a slight cough as Shamgar turned and started crossing the street just as the pedestrian walk sign began to beep.
“The brothers of the Way would never approve of such a beast, James,” said the companion behind the bearded man.
“The brothers of the Way trust in my guidance, Jacob. God uses instruments of neutral alignment and even that of evil to do his work. I think our fallen brethren that chose another path are in for a bit of a learning lesson,” the two watched as Shamgar crossed the street, puffs of cigar smoke wisping into the wind as he went.
After he crossed the street, Shamgar turned left, heading for the next subway station. He pulled out his cell, “Call mum,” he listened to the ring at the other end.
“Hello dear, how we doing? I have some lovely roast in the crock. Will ye be home later?”
“Yeah, mum, I’ll be there. Listen, I need you to book me a flight to Phoenix, say day after tomorrow…yeah, gots me another job I do. Go with the same arrangements. Delta…of course business class, it’s business, ain’t it?”
He sighed as he listened to her starting to cry. “Mum, I’m sorry…just busy puttin things together in me head. Just make the flight usual arrangements, and I’ll be home for some of that roast in a while. Ok, love you’s too. Bye.” He hung up, “Mums, jeez!”
He dropped the remainder of his stogie to the sidewalk smashing it with his boot and headed down the stairs of the subway station.
Two days later, Shamgar was on a Delta flight to Phoenix, Arizona. His contract job involved a cult group holed up out in the middle of the Yuma Desert. Shamgar could have flown directly to Yuma, but he knew a special weapon designer in Phoenix and a good place to borrow vehicles for getting out into the desert. He looked forward to the nice three-hour drive through the Arizona desert from Phoenix down to Yuma. He ordered two drinks of Woodford Reserve bourbon with a cup of ice.
The stewardess came back with his drink and glass, “Here you go, sir. Excuse me but aren’t you a rockstar?” she asked with a gleam in her eye.
“I most certainly am miss,” Shamgar smiled as he took his drink with his leathered gloved hand.
After preparing his drink, he got out his Apple notebook and started going over the information his clients had provided him. He was looking at a briefing about this group called the Correct Path. The PDF file also contained a google map tag of the group’s last known location and a GPS Lat/Long coordinate of the point.
The briefing described the group as a radical cult that used hallucinogenics to brainwash followers into believing in mythical tales. Written in a coded message were the instructions on how to complete the job. Uncoded, it said that Shamgar was to infiltrate the cult’s compound during one of their hallucinogenic rituals. He would be dressed like the figure Shamgar from the Book of Judges in the Bible. He was to convince them that he was a judge sent by the followers of the Right Way by the direction of God and that they had forsaken their covenant and were to be punished. At the end of the brief was an illustration of Shamgar with the ox goad.
“Oh, I believe this is going to be fun, " He copied the image of Shamgar and sent it in a message to his weapon friend in Phoenix.
“Sam. I’ve got another job for ya. See this cat in this picture, well I need to look like him and a crazy staff like that, but I want to update it. I want the staff to be metal, some medieval lookin shit but with a modern touch. I know you will come up with just what I want. You never cease to surprise me. See you tonight, Max.”
A message popped back from Sam within a few minutes.
“Hey Maxie, been to the library again? Guess you got another movie shoot, or who knows what? Sure, I can come up with something, may take a couple of weeks to put it together, though. Stop in around 8 pm, and I’ll have some sketches for you, and we can go over them along with a nice tequila. Sam.”
“Figured as much, why I came out early. That’ll give me time to go scout out the Correct Path or whatever assholes in the desert,” Shamgar/Max said to himself, shutting down his notebook. He leaned back in his seat and enjoyed the remainder of his drink and flight into Phoenix. At 8 pm, Max arrived at Sam’s shop tucked away in an industrial section of Phoenix by way of a taxi.
“Here’s what I came up with for ya, Maxie,” said Sam as he slid over a drawing pad with sketches of a wicked-looking steal staff with a steel-balled head. Max began looking at the drawings when a shot glass of Patron tequila slid up next to him.
Max whistled, looking at the drawing while picking up the tequila. “Looks like the ball comes out on a chain with spikes?”
“Hell Max, you said medieval with a touch of modern. So, I thought of the old mace ball and chain weapon, put it on a 6 1/2 foot tall staff, and added a switching mechanism so that the chain and spikes extract when you twist the handle. You can swing it like a weighted staff or twist the handle in the middle of the staff, making the spikes pop out of the ball while the barbed chain extends out about another foot while you swing it. As for the robe garb and beard, I got a friend who does props for a local movie production company that could hook you up there if you want the whole getup of that picture you sent me?”
“Oh, I want the whole shebang, Sam. Your the best mate, cheers!” Max held up his glass in a toast to Sam, who followed suit.
“I can get that piece together in about two weeks. I’ll get with Jack tomorrow about the costume. You got stuff to occupy your time with until then? And I don’t want even to know what it may be.”
“You know I do, Sammy ole boy. Going to enjoy the desert scenery a bit. I’ll text you where’s to sends the goods to when they’re ready.”
Max and Sam sat around for another couple of hours, having shots of tequila and sharing stories. The next day Max went to an off-road shop of an acquaintance of his and rented a Dodge Ram, trailer, and a custom-built UTV specifically designed for desert trekking. He then spent the rest of the day gathering up supplies and equipment to do some desert reconning. The next morning he hit the road with the truck, trailer, UTV, and gear for Yuma, Arizona.
For the next two weeks, Max snuck around the location provided to him for the whereabouts of the cult. He utilized his gear and off-road vehicle to the utmost and discovered the compound out in the depths of the desert.
The compound was a rundown airstrip enclosed by fencing. A large sheet metal hangar had been converted into a central meeting place for the cult’s activities. It didn’t take long for Max to apprehend one of the cultists that had wandered outside of the compound to reflect at the stars in the desert night. Max subdued the fella dressed in toga-type robes and dragged him off into the desert night.
“What, where am I? Who are you? Why are my wrists and ankles bound?” the robed man asked as he came too.
“Call me Shamgar. And you are going to tell me everything I need to know about your little friends in that airstrip back there.” Max glared at the man through the starlit desert night.
“Like hell, I will! They’d kill me,” robes replied.
“Thought you might say that.”
Max looped the grapple hook from the back of the UTV’s tow cable system to the man’s ankle ties.
“Now methinks a nice little ride through the desert here meeting every cactus we cans see along the way can be a mind changer.”
Max stood up and jumped into the UTV, starting it up. He didn’t have to travel very far or ride over many cactuses before he could tell by the screams that the now nearly stripped naked fellow had a change of heart. The next conversation he had with his captive gave Max all he needed to know to get into the compound and that the next peyote enhanced ceremony would be the following night.
“Perfect, me stuff arrived yesterday. Philistines ya say, hey?”
“Yes, the next ceremony, Master David will be wearing the goat mask imitating the God Baal of the Philistines. I help with costumes. With the acolytes being unknowingly dosed with peyote, they will believe they are experiencing a piece of Biblical history.”
“A perfect time for ole Shamgar to show up and sit the record straight. Thank ye, ole boy,” Max patted the man with a damp towel over his fresh wounds.
“They are going to miss me, you know?”
“Don’t worry, sure the show must go on. And you’re lucky see, I’m gonna let ye live so that ye can tell any of your other friends about screwing with the Right Way bunch.”
The night of the ceremony arrived. The acolytes gathered in the main room, all were on their knees facing toward a stage. They were all in the depths of a peyote trip listening to astral-type music pumped through the building’s sound system as fog machines produced heavy smoke across the stage. A robed figure appeared in the fog, wearing a large goat head mask holding a sword with both hands uplifted above its head.
“Children! Behold Baal God of ancie…”
Just then, the goat head smashed into pieces as a large spiked ball slammed into it from above. Blood splattered like an exploding hand grenade. The body crumpled to the floor, sword clanging off the stage. Max stepped forward from behind the crumpled figure dressed as the image of Shamgar, beard and all. He lifted the staff with the spiked ball soaked in blood high above his head.
“I am Shamgar the Judge, and God has instructed the brothers of the Right Way to send me as his wrath!” Max yelled at the cowering acolytes below.
A couple of the strong arms of the cult started to rush the stage. Shamgar gripped the staff with both hands in a defensive posture and twisted the middle handle. The spiked ball dropped down, dangling from a chain covered in concertina wire. Shamgar whirred the spike ball around above him and caught the first strong man coming for the stage against the side of his jaw. The man’s lower jaw disassembled from his face, sending the man backward off the stage in a spray of blood and teeth.
The next tough guy slowed his pace and grabbed a torch hanging on the side of a nearby wall. He was no match for the reach of the staff. Shamgar disarmed the man using the wired chain, ripping the torch and most of the hand from the defender, sending flame and fingers into the crowd of acolytes.
The flame from the torch managed to hit two of the robed peyote, tripping cultists setting them ablaze. They began to jump and frantically thrash amongst the others setting others on fire in the process. The group stood in utter confusion with the intoxication of the peyote piercing their brains. They had no idea what to do. Most of them even appeared to be enjoying the mad show unveiling before them.
Max proceeded down into the melee, crushing skulls and smashing faces until all were a sprawling heap of blood and gore on the floor as the fire began to spread. He walked out of the fire engulfed building into the desert night. A couple of guards outside saw this bearded robed figure wielding a long staff with a spiked end, all of which were blood-soaked. One started to aim his AR-15 at the blood-drenched specter when the other shoved the rifle upward as the shot rang out.
“No, this is a sign from God. Let’s leave this cursed place. I told you this was a bad idea coming here!” The two turned and fled into the dark.
Max walked out to where he had hidden his UTV. His first prisoner was still tied and gagged in the passenger seat. Max threw the staff into the rear of the vehicle, started it up, and drove over to the now completely burning compound.
“Here’s where you get off, chap. I am going to leave you a jug of water and this knife,” Max told his prisoner as he cut his ankle straps free and pushed him out of the vehicle. He tossed down the knife next to him, followed by a plastic jug of water.
“Remember to tell any of your other Correct Path nuts that the Brothers are watching. And if I were you, I would forget me lest Shamgar return! Cheers mate!” Max sped off into the dark, leaving the bleeding crumpled man lying on the desert ground with a great burning pyre of rubble and bodies in the background.
Job complete; time to relax. Max checked his offshore account that just registered a second deposit of $50k US. He then headed down to a local dive called Red’s Bird Cage to have a good whiskey and maybe sing a tune with a local band. “Rockstar,” he chuckled under his breath. Just before he walked in, his phone rang.
“Hello, mum…Yes, everything’s ok. Say, schedule me another flight from Phoenix back home for day after tomorrow…Yes, business class Ma…A job, huh…You say they want to meet me? Well, tell’em next Wednesday... Where? Well, down at the ole library, of course.”