This will be one or more short blurbs, without too much of an overarcing story. Besides, my last piece certainly seemed popular enough. The old disclaimer still applies. Anyhoo... Recently I had made a road trip to Minot, North Dakota and back. I was picking up a shipment of Chinese Glock clones (made without serial numbers, specifically for the black market) to sell to some spooky guys I know that could use a crate full of non-American made pistols without serial numbers or manufacturer's proofs. So there I was, at a lonely rest stop on US 2, a few miles east of Devil's Lake, North Dakota. It was around three in the morning; I had gotten off to a late start, and was running way behind. Poor weather had also slowed my trip and strained my nerves. I had been driving for eleven hours when I pulled into the rest stop, and was pretty strung out from the road. I parked the rental car I was driving at the non-handicapped spot nearest to the doors of the place and got out of the car. It was a clear spring night; the parking lot of the rest stop was deserted, as was US 2. The only sounds I heard were chirpin bugs and a few squaks from ducks on a nearby pond. The Rest Stop was situated inbetween the east and westbound lanes of US 2, and was designed to look like an old steam-powered riverboat. The flag pole was made to look like a mast, and the red and white building had a fake smoke stack and everything. I stretched upon getting out of the car, and meandered my way into the building. There were big bay windows facing the parking lot, and the building had a very well lit, if small lobby with some bochures for the tourists and some pop machines. I was the only one in the place. I wandered into the men's room, on the left, and took care of business. Finished with that, I found myself standing in front of the mirror, leaning on the sink. I swiped my hand under the motion sensor, and the sink began pouring cool water. I splashed some on my face and sighed heavily. I quieted quickly when I heard the lobby doors open. I listened intently as the sounds of boots on the concrete floor echoed through the small rest stop. I figured some cowboy in his boots had stopped to use the pisser, just like me. The footsteps stopped, and the person wearing the boots didn't come into the men's room. Whoever it was was standing in the lobby. Probably looking at the brochures or thinking about getting a pop, I hoped. I waited for a few seconds, not moving and holding my breath. Nothing but silence. And then I heard a harmonica. Whoever was standing in the lobby was playing a sad, wailing tune on a harmonica. It echoed through the empty concrete building eerily. I swallowed hard. Better get this over with, I thought to myself. I had a very bad feeling about the whole thing now. I patted the Colt Government Model that sat on my left hip, at about the eight o' clock position, and was thankful that I had bothered to put the paddle holster it was in back on when I got out of the car. (Obviously, you don't wear a paddle holster there when you're sitting in a car for eleven hours.) Keeping the pistol concealed beneath my jacket, I stepped out from in front of the mirror and into the small lobby of the rest stop. There, standing in front of a carved statue of a compass or something, stood a man in black. Seriously, the way he was dressed reminded me of Johnny Cash. Black coat, white shirt, black pants, black leather cowboy boots, brown leather belt. He had dishwater colored hair, with hints of gray, and a hard, leathery face. He looked to be in his forties, and he looked like he had had a hard life. He made me very uneasy, though. The man in black played just his harmonica, though, apparantly paying me no mind. I stood quietly for a second, then moved to walk out of the door. He stopped playing, lowered his harmonica, and fixed his gray eyes on me. Let me tell you, folks, if anyone every gave me the evil eye, it was this guy. "Evening," He said, in a gravel-ey voice. He made intense eye contact, and didn't seem to blink. He just leaned back on the staute, harmonica in hand, staring at me. "Name's Henry, son. Henry Hyde." He played the harmonica some more, and the sad, wailing tune filled the room once again. "My name's Parker. Parker Hale," I said, honestly wondering why in the hell I wasn't bolting for the door. Mr. Hyde stopped playing his harmonica. "Son, I didn't just fall off of the hay truck, you know. Your name's Michael Nightcrawler. Now, I'm sure your driver's license says Parker Hale, and I'm sure that's the name you gave 'em when you signed for that Rent-a-Wreck out there. But ya can't fool a pro, son." He raised the harmonica to his lips again, and played the sad tune once more. I was nervous. Very nervous. I had a very bad feeling about this. "You like that tune, son?" Mr. Hyde asked me, lowering his harmonica and sliding it into his coat pocket. "It's a sad one, I know. I always play it when somebody dies." Oh hell, I thought. Everything seemed like it was in slow motion. I watched him, in one smooth move, sweep back his coat and draw a nickel-plated, engraved Colt Single Action Army from a holster on his right hip. At the same instant, I was reaching to my left hip to draw my Gov't Model. I swiped off the safety as I brought the gun up. Two shots rang out nearly simultaneously, and two fat .45 caliber slugs passed each other in flight. My bullet struck Mr. Hyde in the chest, penetrating through the sternum. It exited out his back and took a chunk out of the marble compass-sculpture behind him. His bullet struck me in the chest as well. We both fell over backwards at the same time; he ended up on the floor, propped up against the scuplture, which was now stained with blood. I was flat on my back, looking up at the flourescent lights. It hurt, folks. I gasped for air, seemingly unable to breathe, and winced in pain. But, it could've been worse. My hand fumbled for my pistol, which I had dropped. It found it, and grasped it. I sat up, and thought lovingly of the Second Chance Level II vest I was wearing under my polo shirt. It wasn't the best protection, at only level II, and it was uncomfortable to wear in the heat, but it had been worth it. I felt fortunate that I hadn't bothered to take it off from the last time I had stopped; usually I take it off in the car. Whatever load he was using in that hogleg sure packed a whollop, though. It didn't knock me over by itself, obviously, but it sure knocked the wind out of me and caused me to lose my balance. It wasn't the first time I'd been shot through a body armor vest, though. You, uh, don't really get used to something like that, though. I stood up shakily, and looked down at Mr. Hyde. He seemed unable to move, but looked up at me. Blood leaked out of his mouth. Apparently the .45ACP +P jacketed soft point round I had worked up had been effective. I like it when I only have to shoot 'em once. Moving more quickly now, and trying to get my ears to stop ringing, I picked up my one piece of expended brass, walked past the dying Mr. Hyde, and out into the parking lot. Leaving him there to bleed out, I got in the car and drove away, heading west once more. I still had a bad feeling, though. Guys like him usually don't work alone. _____________________________________________________ Well, that's all for tonight, folks. I know, I know, this is FAR from my best work. but, it's late, and I did drive fourteen hours today.