“Well, slap my ass and call me Darlin’,” the big man said. “If it ain’t Simon Dewgud!
“Mr. Beefchip,” the prisoner answered with a calm belying his dire predicament.
Curtis Beefchip, the Texas cattle baron – and criminal mastermind – addressed his head henchman, “Toro, son, you gone bass fishin’ and done caught yourself a lunker. This here’s Simon Dewgud. He’s the prize-bull investigator for the Poultry Association of America. Top hombre of their counterintelligence wing. I guess you could say he’s the biggest chicken spy in the country.” Beefchip’s face lit up. “Hoo boy! That’s a good one. Chicken spy. You’re a chicken spy, Mr. Dewgud!” The Texan had a belly laugh, caught his breath, then, “You done good Mr. Macho. You done real good.”
“Thank you sir.” responded Toro Macho, a 6’7” muscle-bound Tejano, blue-black hair slicked back into a braid, thick as a child’s arm. Looked like he could snap a steer’s head clean off with his bare hands, something he had actually done. Twice. Right at the moment, he was giving the prisoner some serious side-ojo. “I found him hiding behind the soda machine in the break room. Musta snuck in through the bunkhouse entrance.”
Curtis Beefchip’s compound, or lair in the vernacular of the criminal mastermind trade, was located under his massive Texas cattle-ranch, The Lazy Geegaw – somewhere north of 500,000 acres, or, bigger than the city of Houston. The lair, labyrinthian in size and shape, included quarters for staff, from foot-soldiers called Brown Jumpsuits – or BJs for short – to scientists to cooks to HR personnel, mess hall, rec hall, R&D facilities and labs. But the entire compound revolved around where Beefchip, Dewgud and Toro Macho now found themselves, Control. Or, as Beefchip liked to refer to it, The Family Room.
The Family Room was the size of a couple of football fields, side-line to side-line. Ceiling as high as a concert hall. The walls were lined, floor to ceiling, with poultry cages containing the roosters; robot roosters, seemingly thousands of them. Accessed by the staff via library-like rolling ladders, the robot roosters pok-poked, p-kacked, and occasionally outright cock-a-doodle-do’d. On the floor, the outer areas of the Family Room were taken up by rows of work-benches, each one strewn with roosters, some half-assembled, some in a stage of repair. Lab-coated technicians hunched over each, tightening, ratcheting, tapping.
The inner-most ring of work stations were lined with computer terminals and screens showing maps, spreadsheets, graphs, charts and statistical displays of a dizzying variety. In the middle of these, sat Curtis Beefchip in a 360-degree rotating chair not unlike that from which Captain Kirk commanded the starship Enterprise. In the compound, and in The Family Room, it could be said that all roads lead to Beefchip.
“I give a man his due,” said Beefchip. “I know you’ve been on my trail for a spell now, and son, I’ve had dick chiggers were easier to shake. You’ve eluded and killed every operative I’ve sent after you. I sub-contracted the removal of your mortal coil out to two different blue-ribbon, Yankee crime outfits. You bamboozled ’em both. More to the present, I pulled out the big gun and asked Toro here to track you down and open a can of whoop-ass on your earthly well-being. But you’ve wriggled yourself out of even his best efforts. But now? Now you’ve walked right into my lair and placed yourself at my convenience. All by yourself with no back-up. It’s like you brought, I don’t know . . .”
“A knife to a gun fight?” Dewgud offered.
“Well, I was gonna say a heifer to a horse race, but we can go with yours. You ain’t got a hounddog in a hail-storm’s chance. Now, you’s in a world a hurt and ’bout to be wishin’ you was a . . . ”
“Do you expect me to squawk, Beefchip?”
“Well, heavens-to-Murgatroyd no Mr. Dewgud. I expect you to fry,” the boss laughed. “Fellas, fetch me out El Capitan!”
A handful of BJs scrambled to a garage-style door at the end of the room. They wheeled out El Capitan, a Zamboni-sized deep-fryer. There was a bit of confusion over which outlet to plug it in to and whether an extension chord and/or surge protector was needed. But in a few minutes it was placed, humming and clicking menacingly, a few feet in front of Simon Dewgud. The squad leader informed the boss that the fryer should be ready to use in a couple of hours.
Beefchip shook his head. “How in the name of Tom Landry’s ghost is it that we can build robot roosters that do any dang thing we want ’em to, anywhere in the world, but we can’t heat up a thousand gallons of oil any quicker than that? Toro, get R&D on this right away. I want, like, the microwave of giant deep-fryerers.”
“Yes Sir,” Toro replied with an internal eye-roll.
“You’ll never get away with this Beefchip,” Dewgud interrupted.
“Well, I think I done plum did!” Beefchip delighted. “We’re past the quarter-pole and pullin’ away like Secretariat at the Belmont, son. And you? Well, we done hog-tied you up.” He hesitated. “Well, right now that’s just figurative. Toro, literally hog-tie this man.”
Toro carried out the order and Dewgud found himself tied to an office chair.
“There’s no way to stop me now,” Beefchip said. “I got more momentum than a quarter horse with it’s ass on fire. The only way my plan could be hornswaggled is if somebody was to push the self-destruct button. That one right there.” He pointed to a nearby panel that featured a bright crimson button the size of a melmac dinner plate. “Big and red as a baboon’s ass. As long as nobody fools with that before go-time for phase one tomorrow morning, I’ll be happy as a pig wallowing in a Cracker Barrel dumpster. Too bad you’ll be a crispy critter by then.”
Toro Macho bit his tongue and began to mentally revise his resume.
“I’ve figured it all out, Beefchip. And I’ve forwarded all I know to the P.A.A.” Dewgud said. “We know how you’ve circulated the robots throughout the poultry population. We know about the activation code. We know about Abilene and we know about. . .”
“You don’t know shit Mr. Dewgud,” Beefchip laughed. “But I’ll tell you what, we got a couple hours to kill so I might as well fill you in. I do want my guests to fry happy, after all.”
“Um, Boss,” Toro spoke. “Maybe we should just lock him up until . . .”
“You worry too much compadre. We got him trussed like a turkey in middle of our lair. He’s surrounded to boot. Ain’t no harm. Besides, I do like a chance to crank my own shaft.” He stepped off of his command chair, began pacing for dramatic effect. Then, “Well, Dewgud, you’re right ’bout some things, blind squirrels finding nuts and all, but here’s what you don’t know . . .”
“And that’s how I’m going to pluck you chicken-shit chicken growers. And me? I’m gonna be raisin’ bovine gold,” Beefchip wound down an hour later. “Whaddya think cowboy?”
“You’re insane Beefchip. Look at this place. You’re overhead must be incredible. There’s no way this is cost effective.” Toro couldn’t resist a slight nod of the head at that.
“Well, I tell ya, there’s more to life than stacking bills. Sometimes it’s just about coming out on top. Crushing your adversaries Mr. Dewgud. Besides, I’ll make out alright. There’s lots of ways these roosters pay their own keep. We been making good dough by cleanin’ up at the cockfights.”
“You sick fuck!”
“Well, they’re machines, they can’t really lose unless they get a rivet knocked loose or something.”
“Oh. I thought . . . Still, that’s cheating. And illegal. Shame, Beefchip. Shame.”
El Capitan had begun to beep more and more frequently. The squad leader announced the fryer would be up to temperature in ten minutes. Just then a small door to Simon Dewgud’s right opened. A stunning young woman walked in. Half Beefchip’s age, wearing a gingham bikini top and cut-off shorts, Louis Vuitton shades propped atop her shaggy blond mop. In her right hand she swirled what appeared to be a mint julip. She addressed Beefchip, “Hey Big Daddy, I was thinking of going into town,” she hesitated, looking at Simon Dewgud. “Well whadda we have here?”
“This here’s my little gal, Mr. Dewgud. Daisy Petunia,” Beefchip made the introduction. “Look at the way she wears them little britches. Know what? They should call them britches Daisy Petunias, not Dukes. That Duke girl wern’t even real. Whaddya say, Mr. Dewgud?”
“Nice to meet you Ms. Petunia,” Simon said. Daisy flashed him a quick wink. Simon returned an almost imperceptible nod. Beefchip was oblivious. Toro Macho was not.
“Hijo de la chingada,” the henchman murmured to himself. “Not again.”
“Now?” Asked Daisy.
“Now what?” said Beefchip.
“Now!” shouted Simon.
Daisy thew her drink in Toro’s face, then whirled and kicked Beefchip in the nuts. As the big Texan crumpled to the ground, she raced to Simon’s side extracting a small blade from her Daisy Petunias.
“Abeline! Abeline! Seven Five Staubach!” Simon shouted as loud as he could. Robot roosters throughout the room began to run their self-destruct protocols. The Family Room rapidly filled with a cacophony of p-kaks and tiny, rooster-sized explosions. BJs fired automatic weapons in Simon and Daisy’s direction with a singular inefficiency, managing only to hit command consoles and equipment. Lab-coated personnel began to run. Beefchip’s eyes were big as saucers as he still clutched his oysters. Now freed, Simon Dewgud, crack investigator for the Poultry Association of America, lunged for the red button. Robot roosters around the world p-kaked their last.
Toro Macho wiped the stinging bourbon from his eyes, shook his head, shrugged and turned to walk out, “Pinche Beefchip. Pendejo never would listen.”
© 2015 Whiskey Leavins