Legal Notice:

The following contains descriptions of graphic sexual acts between consenting underage boys. It is an original work of fiction and has no basis in reality.

Do not read this story if:

1) You're not 18 or over.
2) If it is illegal to read this type of material where you live.
3) If you don't want to read about gay/bisexual people in love or having sex.

The author retains copyright (2003) to this story.  Reproducing this story for distribution without the author's permission is a violation of that copyright.

Perry and Jesse:  The Incredibly Romantic (and slightly kinky) Adventures of Two Boys In Love  

Part V  Truths and Lies

Chapter V  The Road To Hode Ranch

I was somewhat dismayed to see the tired and worn looking Nissan Sentra pull up to where I was standing.  It was mostly black, but had some gray patches where body parts had been replaced without a matching paint job.  But it wasn't so much the way it looked that worried me as much as the way it sounded.  The brakes squealed and the engine ran roughly, occasionally lapsing into brief coughing spells before sputtering back to full life again.  A cloud of dark gray smoke billowed out of the tailpipe as he shifted the transmission into 'park.'  Gary reached over and opened the passenger side door.

"Ready to go?" he asked, actually managing a thin smile that looked somewhat out of place on his wide, rough hewn face.  It seemed so long ago that we had first encountered each other on that crazy day at  the St. Agnus rummage sale, but he looked much the same as I remembered him--somewhat dishevelled, shaggy black hair that covered his ears, sharply chiseled features and high boned cheeks, and dark brown eyes that looked almost black.  I thought he might be wearing his Home Depot uniform, but instead he was wearing a T-shirt, his well-worn denim jacket, and jeans that had truly been faded by time and use.

I hesitated for a moment, realizing that Gary was, in a large sense, a stranger to me, but then imagined that Jesse might already be stepping into the Cage with some hulking high school brute.  I quickly got in and slammed the door.  The engine rumbled and the brakes shrieked as Gary focused on backing out onto the street.  There was a bobblehead of a Los Angeles Laker stuck on the middle of the dash--number 42--James Worthy.

Finally he glanced over at me.  "Hey, you got a hair cut!" he noted with that smoothly mature, resonant voice I remembered so clearly.  He gave me an awkward smile.

I blushed, feeling like I was practically bald.

"It looks good on you," he said.  "Sure is nice--a relief really--to see you uh...looking so good after that damned nightmare!"

"I guess you were just feeling bad about..about that day," I suggested.

He nodded in agreement.  "Probably.  Still, this whole cage fight business really has me wound up."

"Hopefully, Jesse isn't even there,"  I reminded him. 

"You could be right," he noted seriously, "but regardless, this ain't like going to Disneyland, Perry.  This is way serious shit and bad, bad people."

"You can just drop me off at the front of...of whatever it is, and I'll take it from there," I assured him.

" can do," he smiled helplessly.  "We're stickin' together or it's no go.  T. gave me some directions over the phone.  I hope she knew what she was talkin' about because this place is out in the middle of fuckin' nowhere.  Out past Pasqual Canyon."

That was southeast of Escondido and I had never been out that way--mainly because there really wasn't anything there except rolling hills of chaparral and the occasional pine tree.   Still, I was relieved that Gary wanted to see this through with me, even though I was extremely concerned that I was dragging him into potential danger.  I had already messed up his life in a significant way, and now there was the chance that I could mess things up even more--maybe even permanently!

Gary's old and sputtering car must have looked somewhat out of place as we rumbled through the hilly streets of the elite Coronado Hills community towards the main road that turned into the highway to Escondido.  But I didn't really care.  I just thanked my lucky stars that Gary had emailed me.  What if something happened to Jesse and I didn't find out until it was too late?  I felt a huge wave of emotion threaten to overwhelm me.

"Hey dude, you okay?" Gary asked, glancing at me worriedly.

"It's just that...I'm so glad you emailed me and stuff.  I was just thinking how terrible it would be if something happened to Jesse..."

"You guys really are close, huh?" he remarked, his eyes keeping mostly on the road.

At first I nodded, and then realizing that he was concentrating on his driving, responded frankly.  "We really are."  It struck me as a little odd that I wasn't afraid to tell that to Gary.

"Yeah...I could tell--even back at the rummage sale.  Just the way the two of you looked at each other...And then the way Jesse just jumped in there to get Goreski off my back..."

"That hasn't caused you any trouble, has it?" I asked anxiously, remembering my earlier concern.

"Well, I definitely lost a few friends that day," he laughed drily.

"But maybe they really weren't your friends then," I pointed out, "because what you did was really cool!".

"Yeah, you're so right about that--about the friends, I mean.  I don't even know exactly why I ever fell in with that crew...I guess I've never been Mr. Popular, so when Hernandez and Goreski seemed to take a liking to me..."  Gary shrugged even as he turned onto the main street.  I heard the engine rev as he picked up speed.  The car shook a few times but eventually the ride smoothed out.  We were already out of Santa Corina, headed towards the western border of Escondido.

"I'm really sorry I messed you up with your friends," I offered, apologizing sincerely for something I had felt bad about for several weeks now.

"No way, dude!" Gary brushed my apology away.  "You didn't mess up anything.  Goreski's a sick mother fucker and I'm glad I don't have to kiss his ass anymore.  And I sure don't miss hangin' with those twisted creeps, Hollister and Hernandez and the rest."

"But don't you date his sister?"

"Believe me--they ain't nothing alike!" Gary assured me confidently.  "There's like six kids in that family and T.'s dad left years ago.  And her mom is really...ill, and they all live with their grandma.  Now she's pretty well off-sends all the kids to Holy Trinity or St. Joe's, but she ain't like a real parent, ya know?"

I tried to imagine what it would be like living with my mom's parents, since my dad's parents were both gone.  They were active and interesting people to be sure--grandpa Waldman had been a history professor at CSLA and grandma owned a small bookstore for years in Hollywood before the competition from the big stores caused her to sell out.  Neither one would look right sitting on a porch in a rocking chair with a shawl wrapped around their shoulders.  I had even heard that they were both members of some radical political group when they were younger.  Were they left wing or right wing?  I couldn't exactly remember, and I wasn't even sure what that meant.  Now they always had friends coming and going at their big house on the beach, and they loved travelling.  Right now, they were touring all over Europe visiting the sights and catching up with old friends.  I couldn't imagine them having the time to pick me up and drop me off at school or to take me to basketball practices or to the mall or whatever, they were so caught up in their own busy lives.

"Well, I guess it's pretty nice of Mario's grandma to take them all in and pay for their school and stuff."

"Yeah it is.  She does her best, but she really can't handle a wild guy like Mario.  He just fell in with a crazy bunch of guys in high school and it seems like he just barely keeps himself from getting into big time trouble."

I was tempted to tell Gary about the incident at the mall.  Mario had held a knife at my back--or at least I think he had.  And even though I had since convinced myself that he wouldn't have used it, Gary's words forced me to rethink the possibilities

"Listen, dude," Gary said in a gentle, but more serious voice.  "Ever since that business at St. Agnus, I kept telling myself that I wouldn't have...gone through with it, ya know?"

That was good to hear.  I had no desire to suck Gary's dick or anyone else's for that matter.  What I had with Jesse was special and went totally beyond the physical relationship we enjoyed.

"But now...honestly, I'm really confused..."

I looked at Gary with sudden fear and astonishment.  I felt the blood leave my cheeks as my heart started to pound in my ears.  Had this all been a trick? A ruse to get me alone so that he could...?

"M...maybe you should let me out!" I stammered, trying to contain my fear while slowly reaching for my cellphone.

"Whoa...whoa, dude!" Gary said, taking his eyes off the road long enough to give me a reassuring smile.  "Calm down..I'm not gonna hurt you--ever!  Got it?"

Now I was pretty confused and I'm sure my face showed it.

"What I meant to say is--and believe me, this ain't easy to say out loud--is that now that I actually see you again, see how you look...Well, damn, Perry.  It's just that it was so tempting, ya know what I mean?"

I shook my head, and answered quietly, "No."

Gary took a deep breath, as if trying to calm himself down.  For my part, I slowly moved my hand back away from the cellphone even though my heart was still beating faster than it should have been.

"It's just that hanging around with those goons sorta brainwashed me, ya know? I started thinkin' things were right that weren't really right, ya know?"

"I think so..."  What Gary was describing sounded like a form of peer pressure, and that had been my theory all along for what he had been planning to do.

Now I won't say that there hasn't been some...uh...confusion in my life in regards to...well...what side of the fence I wanted to be on..."


"Well, that regards to know...sexual allegiance..."

"You mean, you didn't know if you were gay or straight?" I asked boldly.  I was actually glad he was talking about this because it was something I had been thinking about ever since I met him.

Gary laughed uneasily at my brash question, but didn't balk.  "You see, when I was younger--since I was like eight years old, this neighbor kid, Shane, was my best friend.  I mean, he was just a little older than me and we were really close, man--like brothers!"

"Like me and Jesse!" I offered.

"Yeah, something like that.  The only thing was, there was more to it than just being friends.  We used to mess around and stuff."

"Mess around with what?" I asked stupidly.

"You the stuff boys do when they're just hitting puberty," he explained uncomfortably, his eyes now firmly glued to the road ahead.  "It started out with wrestling..."  he admitted with a lopsided smile.

"That...that doesn't seem like such a big deal..." 

"Well, it sorta turned into...uh...nude wrestling," he clarified, "but even then, I think if that's as far as it ever went, it wouldn't have meant anything...But by the time we were eleven, as our bodies started changing and we noticed things about ourselves, like how we'd both get hard after one of our wrestling matches, we started experimenting a little..."

"You mean, you jacked off together?"  Gees, everyone I knew had talked about it or done it, so that didn't seem like a big deal.

Gary couldn't help but smile a little at my brashness.  "Well it started off like that, but pretty soon we were jacking each other off," he admitted.

Wow!  Gary was telling me that he had sex with his friend Shane!  That was really interesting.  There were so many things I wanted to ask him, but I didn't want to sound overly curious.  I also realized that no matter what Gary was willing to tell me about his own sexual experiences, I couldn't reveal anything about Jesse and me, and that was frustrating.

"We did a lot of...physical things for a while, but always telling ourselves that it was just experimenting, ya know?"

I thought about Derrin and his Martian friends.  "Yeah, I guess at that age, kids are curious about other kids' bodies."

"Yeah, that's probably true--although some kids are definitely more curious than others!"  He laughed drily at that comment and I couldn't tell if he was referring to himself or someone else he knew or had heard about.

I was tempted to tell him about my little adventure with Derrin, but I was too embarrassed.  How could I tell Gary that I had let my twelve year old cousin see me naked and jack me off?!

"Well, there was a time there, Perry, that I thought maybe it was about more than just two buddies experimenting.  It was like, I don't know exactly, but like maybe I had feelings for him--does that make any sense?"

"Sure, he was your best friend, and you liked messing around with him and that made you even closer."

"Yeah, I think it was something like that.  It sounds kinda bogus now, but at the time, man, we were like thirteen I think.  I thought I might really be--God, this is embarrassing--like be in love with this kid!  Can you believe that?"

Of course I could.  This was totally awesome.  Gary had been in love with another boy the same way Jesse and I were.  I couldn't wait to tell Jesse!  And then we could tell Gary all about us and he'd be totally cool with it and we could all be friends and trust each other and stuff!

Gary seemed completely caught up in his story now as he skimmed the western outskirts of Escondido, the weak December sun setting off to our right. 

"So one day, I just felt like I couldn't hold it in any more.  We'd had one of our hot make out sessions--"  Gary suddenly paused and glanced at me for the first time in quite a while.  At first there was a look of fear on his face as if he was ashamed of what he had just told me.

"Am I freaking you out with all this?" he asked nervously.

"I want to know about you, Gary," I admitted.  "Even though it was kinda crazy the way we met, I felt right away that I liked you, that you had just like...taken a wrong turn somewhere or something.  So I'm really glad that you're sharing this with me."

This seemed to relax him slightly.  "Wrong turn...?!" he laughed as he shook his head disbelievingly.  Then his expression turned more thoughtful.  "No doubt you'll be telling all this to Jesse..."

What could I say?  Should I just lie to make him feel better?  I couldn't do that, not after he had been so honest with me.  "I guess I will tell Jesse--and he'll be totally cool with it, I know!"  I assured him.

"Yeah, you guys are something--something special," he said half to himself as he seemed to study the street signs more intently.  "By the way, we're looking for Pasqual Canyon Road...It should be coming up pretty soon.  Even though we had to go back east a little, this is the only road that goes where we need to be."
We both concentrated on the street signs in the rapidly dimming twilight, passing rows of quiet, one story houses with chainlink fences and peeling paint, dogs barking and little kids riding their Big Wheels along the side of the road.

"There!" I said, pointing to the next intersection.  The sign was nearly hidden by a gnarled old Oak.

Gary made the turn abruptly, his brakes screeching and the car groaning under the sudden strain.  James Worthy's head bounced frantically up and down for a few seconds, and then we were cruising along again, through mostly empty fields and rolling hills of dry brown grass.  There was only the occasional house and a little further along a lonely gas station, but not much else worth noting.

"Anyway, where was I?" Gary said, his voice getting quiet and introspective again.  "Anyway, I just felt like I had to tell him how I felt.  That there was more to it for me than just two buddies messing around.  I was nervous for sure, but I really thought that in the end, he'd be okay with it.  Maybe he'd even tell me he felt the same way.  That's what I was hoping for I guess."

As we got closer to our destination, I again started feeling all the stomach churning apprehension I had earlier.  I was seriously worried for Jesse even though I knew he could take care of himself, even under extreme circumstances.  I just couldn't bear the thought of him getting hurt...even a little.

"Man, was I wrong!" Gary chuckled humorlessly, totally involved in his story and his own past.  "Shane was so pissed when I told him--tried to tell him, how I really felt about him.  He just went ballistic--totally ape shit ballistic!"

"I'm...I'm sorry," I offered sympathetically.

"Yeah, well, what can I say?   I mean, would it have been right to keep doing those things with him, keeping my feelings to myself, just pretending that it was all a little harmless experimenting between friends?  That wasn't right either.  But who knew?  It wasn't like I had an instruction manual to follow or anything."

"It's funny how people you're close to sometimes don't even really know you," I observed.  "I mean, they think they do.  They think they like you because of some thing, but it's just like something in their own head, and maybe--probably--it's not even real."

Gary gave me a strange look, and I realized that what I had said probably made no sense to him whatsoever.

"Sorry," I muttered.  "That was a stupid thing to say."

"No...I get it...I think," he said with a slight smile.  "I think I get it, dude."

I felt embarrassed now and wanted to get the focus off myself.  "So what ended up happening with your friend?"

"That was it.  End of friendship.  We not only never did anything together again, we hardly ever saw each other."

"Where is he now?"

There was a really long pause, and I was beginning to think Gary hadn't even heard my question.  But finally he answered.  "Oh, he moved away...a long time ago.  Just moved away..."

"That's...that's so sad," I noted, trying to imagine what it would be like for me if Jesse suddenly had to move.   He was always worried that he'd get in more fights and get in a lot of trouble at school, and then he'd have to leave.   "But you have Theresa now!" I pointed out.

"Yeah, and she's amazing.  Really looks out for me," Gary acknowledged.  "But there was a point to that story, Perry, believe it or not.  I wanted you to understand why I was even tempted to do that...horrible thing at the rummage sale."

"Was it because I reminded you of your friend, Shane?"

Gary nodded.  "Yeah, a little.  There actually is a vague physical resemblance.  And you're about the same age he was when we...when we broke up--he was close to fourteen--I was a little younger."

Gary turned to scrutinize me for a longer time than I thought was safe.  Finally he turned his attention back to the narrow country road.

"Actually, you're a hell of a lot better looking than he was," Gary said with a lopsided grin.  "You really caught my eye that morning--you and Jesse.  It actually shocked me.  I mean, since Shane...went away, I totally lost any interest in guys.  I convinced myself that it had just been him, just that we had been childhood friends and shared so much together, that it was like...inevitable, ya know?  We just naturally started experimenting with each other and the feelings just kept growing for me--even if they didn't for him."

I felt myself blushing, knowing that Gary felt some sort of physical attraction for me--and for Jesse.  I had even picked up that vibe the day of the rummage sale, despite the harrowing and violent incident we had all been involved in.

"So now, I'm having some of those same feelings again, like I did with Shane," he concluded, "and it's really confusing the hell out of me.".

I realized this was a big thing for Gary to be telling me, especially since we were practically strangers.  Still, he had tried to help me despite his fear of Goreski, and I think that caused us to bond in a quicker way than people usually did.  I felt close to him as well, like we had shared something special together.  Granted, what we had shared wasn't really a good thing, but it was an intense thing.  It had been the most frightening day of my entire life, and it would have been even more horrible if Gary hadn't come in when he did.

"I really am grateful that you came to help me," I told him.

"I know you are," he acknowledged.  "But you have to understand what I'm telling you--which isn't a good thing," he emphasized.  "I saw you--and Jesse, and got these feelings, feelings I shouldn't have.  And when Goreski presented the opportunity, I selfishly decided I was going to act on those feelings.  I'm ashamed of myself Perry, and I'll do everything I can to make it up to you."

I wished I could see a picture of Shane at thirteen.  I doubted that I looked better than he did, but maybe there was some resemblance: brown hair, or hazel eyes, or even freckles--oh wait, I didn't have those stupid things anymore...But something that caught Gary's eye that morning at the rummage sale.  His mind had gone back to his friend and how much fun they had messing around with each other.  Goreski had offered him an opportunity to maybe relive what had been a beautiful experience for him, and he hadn't stopped to think that I might not be as willing as Shane had been!

"You already did an incredible thing for me," I assured him.

We were quiet for a while as we both looked out on the vague and unfamiliar scenery spreading before us.  As the hills rose on either side of the road, I realized that we must now be driving right through Pasqual Canyon.  I felt a queasiness in my stomach, anticipating what we might find when we got to this place.  Would I find Jesse lying in some corner, broken and bleeding?  Or would I actually catch him in action, locked in a steel barred cage fending off the assaults of some hulking high school football player or wrestler.  While Jesse was really good, and really fast, the thing that worried me the most was the no holds barred mentality of these things.  What if someone brought in a club or a piece of metal pipe or a knife?  I knew Jesse would never do anything so dishonest, but who could say what others might do in the name of winning at any cost?

"I don't know if the phone'll work in these hills, but maybe you should try calling him again," Gary offered as he switched on his headlights, the worry clear in his  deep voice.

It was nearly five now and the sun was gone, leaving only the dim twilight and the headlights of Gary's car to guide us through this narrow country canyon.  I got my cellphone out and first noted that there weren't any missed calls.  I hit number two on my speed dial, and waited for the connection.  Nothing happened and I hit 'send' once more.  Finally, I got a signal, but it was noisy and sporadic.  I vaguely made out the default message on the Taylor's answering machine asking callers to 'please leave a message at the tone.' 

"Hello, is anyone there?" I asked excitedly.  "I mean, uh, this is Perry.  Is Jesse there?  It's just that I'm looking for him and...and he should call me on my cellphone when he gets this message.  He has the number.  Bye." 

"Well, that's not good," Gary noted.

"I have this terrible feeling..." I admitted.  "It's like in my stomach.  It feel all twisted up and it's hard to breath."

"You're worried about your friend," Gary stated.  "And I'm worried too.  I know Jesse's good and fast, but you never know what's going to happen at one of these least, that's what I've heard."

"So, you've never been to one of these?" I asked, my fear factor rising just a little at that disconcerting news.  We'd both be fish out of water when we got there.

"Naw, never cared much for the idea of watching a couple of people bash each other's brains out for sport.  And I never imagined they had these kinds of things with kids--that's just totally sick!"

He was right about that!  I wondered how desperate these kids had to be to get involved in something like this.  Undoubtedly, Gus and Julio recruited fighters when they saw some potential, enticing them with the possibilities of piles of cash for the winners.  And undoubtedly, there were others who did the same.

"Hey, I didn't mean to upset you," he said apologetically, seeing the look of dismay on my face.

"He's going to be all right," I said between gritted teeth, even though inside I was feeling something quite different.

"There should be a turn off coming up in a bit--Hode Ranch Road," Gary noted after a few minutes of uncomfortable silence.

"How much does it cost to get in?" I asked.

"Oh shit, I didn't even think of that.  Damn!" Gary cursed himself.  "I have no idea, dude.  I hope it ain't much because I got probably ten bucks or so on me."

"I've got money," I assured him.  My wallet was always stuffed with cash, although I actually had no idea how much was left after our trip to the mall last Friday.  I pulled my wallet out and counted.  "I've got about a hundred and twenty three bucks," I noted.

"Shit, that should be more than enough--Why're you carrying around so much cash?"

"Well, my dad sends me money every month, and then when we go someplace, my mom always gives me more money.  I usually don't spend that much--just lunch at the food court or ten bucks for quarters at the arcade, maybe a CD or two.  Last week I bought some expensive basketball sneaks though."

"Oh, that's right!  You're on the team.  I remember the Padre mentioning that when he introduced us--reintroduced us actually!" he noted with grim amusement.

"Yeah, and he said you were on the varsity team at H.T.  That's awesome!"

"Hmmm--you wouldn't say that if you saw us play this year.  We really suck!"

"That's funny.  Jason said the same thing about the junior varsity," I noted.

"Jason who?"

"Oh, Jason Tarentino.  He came by to pick up stuff for the rummage sale.  He has a really cool pickup truck."

"Oh, I think I know who you're talking about.  Rich brat, blond hair, with a bit of an attitude..."

"Well, he sure seemed nice the time we met him," I noted, even though I remembered that I had felt a twinge of jealousy, thinking that Jesse might be attracted to him.

Gary shrugged.  "Yeah, could be.  I don't really know him.  Like I said, I ain't Mr. Popular over there."

I laughed a little when he said that.

"What?" Gary asked, a slight smile appearing on his face as well.

"It's just that, some of the kids in my class, they sorta tease me by calling me Mr. Popular.  It always irritates me, but now I'm thinking, so what?  It's just my friends' way of saying that they like hangin' with me, I guess."

"If Jesse is representative of the kind of loyalty you elicit in your friends, then I'd say you're in pretty good shape socially speaking."

I shrugged.  "I have some good friends," I acknowledged.  "But I guess in high school, it'll be different.  Everyone will go off in their own little groups and I'll just disappear in the crowd."

"As long as you've got Jesse, I'd tell the rest of 'em to go fuck themselves!" Gary said in a joking way.

Well, that sounded a little harsh to me, but I got his meaning.  Jesse really was all I needed, but I cared for Morgan, Tom, Jessica, and the rest as well.  I wouldn't want to lose any of them if I could help it.

Gary suddenly slammed on the brakes and the old car shuddered and wobbled.  Suddenly, he turned left onto a  small road that went up the hill, as James Worthy's head bobbed violently on his thin plastic body.

"Shit, almost missed that!" he muttered.  "Next stop...Hode Ranch," he said uneasily.

I felt like all my insides were going to come sliding out in the most unpleasant manner imaginable, I was so nervous.  We drove the next fifteen minutes in silence, each of us lost in our own thoughts.  I kept trying to convince myself that Jesse could handle himself and that there was nothing to worry about.  He'd win a few fights, collect his money, and we'd all go home and celebrate.  But somehow, that just didn't sound right to me.  I sensed something bad was going to happen--or had already happened, and as frightened as I was about entering this unknown environment, I felt the greatest sense of urgency I had ever felt about anything.

It was so dark now, that if it hadn't been for the single dim, incandescent light sitting on top of a lonely pole to one side of the narrow and dusty road, we probably would have driven right by.  But there it was, 'Hode Ranch--no trespassers' written in crude paint brushed letters on an old wooden sign attached to a rusty steel-barred gate.  The gate was open and it was hard to make out much beyond it.

"Well, are we gonna do this?"  Gary asked, his own fear now apparent in his voice.

"If you want, you can just let me off," I reminded him.  "I need to go.  You don't."

"No way, dude," Gary assured me as he guided the car through the gate onto a dirt road that disappeared into the darkness.

We drove for nearly ten minutes through hilly country and I was beginning to worry that the ranch had been completely abandoned--perhaps for years-- when we spotted a yard light up ahead.  As we got closer, it became clear that this belonged to a dilapidated old house.  It might have been a nice place at one time, but now the front porch was in shambles, some of the windows were broken, and there were junked cars and parts of cars spread everywhere except on the narrow dirt road that seemed to lead into a darkly wooded area.  As soon as we got close to the house, a large, short haired dog sprang out of nowhere and bounded up to the car, barking louder than I had ever heard a dog bark before in my life.  Of course, since it was the only sound of any kind, it probably seemed a lot louder than it really was.

"Should we see if someone's here?" Gary asked half to himself.

I was wondering how we were going to get past that vicious looking dog, but before I could say anything, a side door opened, throwing a little extra light onto the shadowy scene.   A tall, heavy set man came out, dressed in a plaid shirt, scruffy jeans, and cowboy boots.  He had a white and green rancher's hat on his head, and curly black and grey hair poured out of either side.  He completely ignored the barking dog and came up to Gary's window which he tapped on lightly.

Gary, with fear in his eyes, glanced quickly at me, but what could I say?  We had to find Jesse!

Gary rolled down his window, making the barking of the dog sound even louder than it had before.  The fresh smell of the country air immediately hit my nostrils along with the cold temperature outside.  Up here in these hills, it probably got down into the upper thirties at night at this time of year.

"You boys lost?" he asked with a bit of a drawl mixed with a slight Hispanic accent.

He had a dark skinned face mostly covered by stubble and a short, scraggly beard.  While he was clearly addressing Gary, his eyes kept darting over to me in a way that made me feel really uncomfortable.

"Well, no, I don't think so," Gary said, his voice trembling a little as he spoke.  I could see his hands tightly gripping the steering wheel.

"So, you have business at Hode Ranch then, eh?"

"Yeah, I mean, we're looking for the fights," Gary explained.

"Fights, what fights?" the man asked, his Hispanic accent seeming to intensify and diminish randomly from phrase to phrase.

"The cage fights!" I added anxiously.  Jesse could be getting the shit kicked out of him right now!

"Oh...that," the man said smiling and nodding.  He hacked up what sounded like a huge loogie and spit it right at the still yelping hound dog.  He laughed at the mutt's startled reaction.

He bent back down so his head was nearly in the car window and looked us both over.

"You don't seem like the type," he noted.

"What...what d'you mean?" Gary asked, nervously glancing at me.

"Not the type..." the man repeated.

This was getting us nowhere fast and my gut was telling me that we were wasting precious time.  "I'm here to fight!" I suddenly blurted out.  Gary looked at me with wide eyed shock.

This seemed to get the guy's attention and he stared at me even harder.  "You don't look like no fighter!" he snorted in an almost disinterested tone.

Gary obviously didn't know what to say as he looked blankly from one of us to the other. 

"I'm a blackbelt!" I told him.

"Oh, another one, eh?" the man laughed, stirring up the phlegm in his throat.

"You've seen another one?" I asked anxiously.  "Another kid around my age, only blond, blue eyed?"

The man just kept staring at me, moving his lower lip up and down and wiping some watery mucous from his nose with his sleeve.  "Hmmm...maybe...All young tonight," he muttered.

Oh My God!  Jesse was here!  We just had to get in there before it was too late!

"Yeah, so, ah listen.  Maybe you could just tell us where we need to go and..."  Gary began.

"Bah, why'd you want to go get into that mess for?" he said, now leaning his head all the way in, rancher's cap and all.

Before I could answer, he poked Gary roughly in the shoulder.  "Why don't you come in--have a few beers, eh?  We'll have us a little fun," he said, rolling his eyes towards me.

"I don't think..."  Gary stammered.

"Yeah, a little fun with the blackbelt boy," he laughed.  "I gots a few black belts in there, myself--hehehe..."

"I think we're late already," I noted, not liking the implications of the man's invitation.

"Late? Yeah, you are.  They's all back there already," he noted, gesturing with his head towards the woods up ahead.

"Oh, is that where it is?" Gary asked, sounding a little hopeful.

"So's ya don't want to keep a bit of company with a filthy good for nuthin' like me?" the man asked, and there was a pathetic tone to his voice that seemed to indicate that he really didn't have much of a social life.

"I really came to fight," I said determinedly, thinking that was the only way we were going to get anywhere with this guy.  "And if I have to take you on first, then that's the way it's gotta be!"

Suddenly, the man pulled his head back out and stood his full height of six feet plus and laughed his rough, phlegm tinged laugh.  The dog started barking again.  When the man had laughed himself out, he bent his head back down.

"What's the password?" he asked gruffly.

"Password?" Gary repeated dumbly.

Oh no!  There was a password!  Of course.  An event like this would be totally hush-hush, word of mouth only.  Suddenly, those shadowy woods looming ahead of us took on an even more sinister appearance.  Who knew what lurked under those thickly woven boughs?  Men with guns? Men with machine guns?  Men who had orders to kill anyone who didn't have the proper password?

"The password--the Jesus H. Fuckin' password!" the man spat impatiently.

I had slowly put my hand on the door handle.  My plan was to make a dash for it straight into the woods while the man was distracted by Gary.  Even if there were guards patrolling there, it shouldn't be that difficult to elude them in the dark if I got a good head start.  While I wasn't too worried about the guy--he didn't seem to be in very good shape--I wasn't sure if I could really outrun that ornery dog, but I had to try...

"Oh yeah, shit--I remember!" Gary said, actually slapping his forehead forcefully.  "T. mentioned it..."

The man waited expectantly, but his eyes were always on me.  I didn't know if I could get into the woods fast enough...

"It's's ah..." Gary stammered, obviously no less flustered than I was.  "Something to do with George Bush..." he muttered.  "Bush and...Cheney..."

"You boys beginnin' to get on my fuckin' nerves!" the man growled angrily.

Gary glanced at me fearfully and I just nodded at him, trying to indicate to him that I was determined to get in there no matter what.  I even made sure he saw that I had my hand on the door handle.

Gary's eyes opened wide with shocked dismay.  He shook his head quickly at me, and then turned back to the hulking gatekeeper.

"George Bush loves Dick Cheney..." he stammered.

The man grunted and shook his head.

"Cheney loves Bush..." Gary offered.

"Damn, you boys is wastin' my time...!"

"George's bush loves Cheney's dick!" I shouted desperately.

The man backed off and launched into his rough, phlegmy laugh again.

"Go on then, git your asses down there before you're too goddamn late!" he urged.

"What about...about money?" Gary asked.

"Pay at the door!" he grunted, apparently having completely lost interest in us by this point.  He straightened himself up and slammed his palm down heavily on the top of the car.  Gary and I both jumped at the loud thud that shook the whole vehicle.

"Pay at the door," I repeated as Gary just sat there staring blankly ahead.

"Hmm?  Oh...yeah," he muttered, shifting the car back into drive.  The man had already disappeared back into the dilapidated old house by the time we got rolling again.  Into the Big Dark Woods...

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