The Devil Wrote the Rules - Chapter 1


The Las Vegas Strip at night. It used to be my favorite place. Now, it’s an empty road filled with empty souls, searching with empty eyes. All looking for something that they won’t find.


I was looking for something else. I walked the streets every night. Down the Strip to Fremont Street then back to the Strip. Up Tropicana over to Eastern, then down Flamingo back to the Strip where I would start it all over again. Sometimes I get to listen to different music during my repeated travels but tonight the only song my internal DJ wanted to play was The Pretender by The Foo Fighters.

I wish I could pick my own music but whatever it is that chooses the melodies of the night usually puts me in the proper mood for what I am going to run into. So this has me a little anxious. I love the song but given my recent history, I would have rather been listening to You Are My Sunshine.

I crossed the road heading north on the strip past Caesar’s Palace. I stopped for a moment and watched the tourists come out of the Forum shops, loaded down with bags. I saw others arguing with their partners about the cost of items in the overpriced mall. This always brought a smile to my face for some reason. Maybe it’s because seeing the discontent of others reminds me reminds me I’m not alone in this world.

The crowds glided past but none paid attention to me. I couldn’t blame them. I wasn’t much to look at. I used to think I was handsome but I’d let myself go since then. Now I just didn’t really care about what I looked like. Once I find It, I hope that I’ll start to care again. But until then, I’ll continue to stay in cheap motels, using cheap shampoo and if I shaved more than once a week you were going to think I was either going to court or had just lost my mind. Working out constantly was my only healthy vice and even that is out of necessity. I hope I find it soon.  Then maybe things will make sense again.

I was moving down the street when I heard some muffled screams coming from beside one of the smaller casinos that littered this stretch of road. I sighed as the music in my head started to get louder and I began moving towards the sound I had heard.

After turning the corner I realized the sounds were coming from a woman and I was getting closer. I hated when it was women, children or animals. Everyone has the propensity for evil but I’d come to learn that men are more often the propagators than anyone else.

What were just shapes moments ago started coming into view. There were four men trying to subdue a woman and the woman was giving them a good fight. One of the men had let out a yelp and made a remark about her biting him again and that they needed something to gag her with.

I moved quietly, coming closer to the scene. I changed my thought that they were men, instead they looked like boys and they weren’t local. All of them were wearing UCLA shirts and two of them had on matching caps. I looked at the woman and decided that I had to change my thought there as well. She couldn’t be older than 19. She changed to a girl in my mind. Woman, girl, man, boy. For most it wouldn’t matter what you called them but my mind was messed up enough as it was and it was important for me to keep things in the perspective that made sense to me.

I stopped about three feet behind the tallest one. He was 6’2”, lean and muscular. His strawberry blonde hair barely visible beneath his cap, which cast strange shadows across his face, thanks to the single fluorescent light that sat on the wall above them.

He was a handsome boy. What a shame, he should have made better choices. The others were varied heights but none shorter than 5’9” giving them at least an inch on me. All of them had the build of an athlete. None of them were bad looking and could have easily be in one of the clubs here picking up a woman to do what they were hoping to do here. I’ve never understood rape. It and child abuse caused me to usually be a little harder then I should sometimes. I hadn’t been at this long but long enough to know what makes me go over the edge.

Strawberry was telling the others to hold her down and to find something to gag her with. I started unbuttoning my shirt as the lyrics in my head made their way out of my mouth.

I could feel the air thicken with tension as I began to recite the lines from the song, while hoping the boys would listen and indeed let me be the voice inside their head they were refusing to hear, that the song spoke of.

“What the fuck?” Strawberry turned around quickly looking at me with a mixture of wonder and anger.

“Who the hell are you? You a cop or something?”

I was annoyed that he cut the song off.  I like my voice, it sounded good. Why don’t people just learn to listen? I finished unbuttoning my shirt, slid it off and laid it down on a clean area of the pavement we were all standing on. It was my last nice shirt. I didn’t want to mess it up; you never know when you’ll need a nice shirt.

“Just listen to me then maybe you’ll figure it out and you’ll decide to just walk away.” I decided I should paraphrase the rest. I didn’t want to seem like a completely insane person who walked around speaking in random song lyrics.

“You know that voice that lives inside of our heads, the one that tells us if we’re doing wrong or right? You aren’t listening to yours, kid. So if you decide to move forward with this then you don’t only have to deal with me, you’ll have to deal with what you see in the mirror every day.”  Dave Grohl continued singing in my head, helping me feel reassured about what I was saying.

Strawberry stepped toward me and this was never good. This disappointed me, this meant a fight. I didn’t like to fight. I mean I can fight and it happens often but I don’t like to.

The boy that had been trying to cover the girl’s mouth stood up and came to the side of Strawberry. Blood dripping from his hand where she bit him.

“He’s just some nut job man. Kick his ass so we can do this and get the fuck outta here.”

Strawberry was looking me over, confused and cautious at the same time. 5’8”, weeks’ worth of beard, pretty sure my hair was a mess but what seemed to bother him most was I wouldn’t break my stare into his eyes. I’m not large but I’m not small either and it seemed to dawn on him that I was probably not just some homeless guy. Most homeless men don’t have a toned body.

“Look man we’re just messing around with her. We know her. So just get going. This is how she gets off. You know chicks.”

I looked down at the girl who stared at me with wonder and a plea for help.

It was obvious he was lying. Who in their right mind would actually believe what had just come out of his mouth? I shook my head in disappointment.

“I can’t say that I believe you. If that’s the case then let the girl tell me. She says she’s a willing participant I’ll walk away. If she doesn’t, well, then I don’t.”

One of the boys stayed with the girl pulling her up and holding her in a bear hug as the other three began to move towards me.

The music started to reverberate in my head, getting louder and louder. The song was fitting, there was no doubt about that. If these kids had been skeletons instead of college students it would have been an almost literal translation of the song.

Strawberry stopped, watching the moves of his two accomplices as they began to circle me.

I could smell liquor on their breath, as well as in the sweat that had begun to pour out of them. Even after the sun had set, the heat of the desert air can be unforgiving.

The muscles in their arms flexed as their chests rose and fell rapidly as they tried to anticipate my first move. I never throw the first punch in situations like this if I didn’t have to. It helps me keep the justification of self-defense in my mind, but if I was being completely honest with myself, I knew they didn’t stand a chance. And trying to rape a girl meant they deserved it.

The one that that had been bitten decided to swing first. I swayed back avoiding the punch, grabbed his wrist and twisted hard. The other one rushed in, punching wildly. I dropped to my knees pulling hard with one hand, while pushing up with the other and heard the first boy’s shoulder dislocate which was confirmed by his scream.

I turned on the new threat and pushed off the ground with all the strength my legs could bring and connected the crown of my skull with his lower jaw. I’m pretty sure I heard bones and teeth crack then he spun around spitting out blood and teeth.

I looked at where he had spit and saw it landed almost entirely on my shirt. That’s going to be hard to clean I thought to myself, as the spitter cleared his head and started to come at me again.

The music kept getting louder and my blood was pumping. I side stepped his rush, reached out and up, grabbed his throat and using his momentum, slammed him to the ground with his head hitting first and absorbing the majority of the impact. I watched as the recognition of the night left his eyes and he passed out. Blood started making a pool beneath him and I hoped that I hadn’t killed him but anything else I didn’t care about. This is what happens when you try to hurt women.

Strawberry remained in the same spot the entire time, watching the quick flurry of action between his friends and me.

I saw him reach behind his back so I rushed in already knowing what was coming. As he brought the pistol up, I quickly hit his wrist on each side simultaneously with both hands and the pistol flew out of his grip.

I reached out and caught it before it hit the ground, swung and slammed Strawberry across the side of his head with it.

Bringing the pistol back into alignment, I took aim at the last boy who was holding the girl. His eyes got bigger with each step I took in his direction.

“Let her go kid.”

He did so immediately and I pulled her behind me.

“You have two choices: get your friends and get out of here or call an ambulance, then the cops come and you’ll have to explain what happened. Your call.”

“We’ll go man. Just leave us alone,“ he pleaded.

I could feel the fear seeping out of the girl and anger start to take its place.

“Okay, but before you go I need you to stand really still and if you move or try anything I’ll do a lot worse to you than I did to your friends. Do you understand?”

He nodded his head, as I brought the girl out from behind me. I kept the pistol aimed at his head as I spoke to her.

“Anything you want to do to him?”

“Kill him.” She answered coldly.

“Can’t do that. They deserve it but it’s against the rules. Anything else?”

She moved forward and kicked as hard as she could landing squarely between his legs. He fell to the ground and she repeated the kick twice more and then aimed her next two at his face.

As she turned her eyes locked onto mine and she reminded me of a rabid dog. Her eyes then shifted down to the other three.

“What about them?” she asked.

“They aren’t moving much but have a ball.” Quickly realizing it may not have been the best choice of words.

She moved around, kicking Strawberry repeatedly and then Toothless got it. She then walked to the last one who tried to block her assault with his good arm. I pulled the hammer of the pistol back behind him reminding him that their fun was over.

She took the remainder of her anger out on him, which was a lot. I had to stop her, fearing that she may kill him. Against the rules I reminded her.

Sweat was rolling down her face and her hair had started to stand out wildly with all of the activity. She looked up at me again as the music came to a stop.

“What now?” she asked me.

I relaxed the hammer then put the safety on the pistol, took out a rag, wiped it clean and handed it to her.

“Take this. Don’t shoot anyone. When you see a cop tell them what happened and give it to them. That will give me time to get out of here.”

“Where are you going? You should tell the police you saved me.”

“It wouldn’t work out too well. Just do what I said and remember, no shooting anyone.”

I went over to my shirt and picked it up, thankful that it was summer. Someone walking around without a shirt wouldn’t draw any attention in the desert.

I made my way back along the Strip heading back to my motel. I needed to shower and get some sleep. I also needed to try to clean the blood out of my shirt.

Tomorrow was another day and since the music had changed to a strange mix from The Perishers, which was anything but combative, I knew my night wouldn’t bring what I was searching for anyway.

Moving past the Excalibur I looked up and thought of the night’s activity. Pretty uneventful compared to others. Maybe things were starting to change. 

© 1993-2020 by Jeremy Houghton.


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And it's just not nice, so don't do it. Be nice, it feels better, I promise.