By Aeiu

The young man's eyes were wild with fear as he drove much too fast down the dirt road. In his review mirror, he saw the multitude of police cars following behind him; their lights and sirens blaring through the night air. He bit back a cry of fear as he heard the first bullet ping against the metal of his car. Desperate for a way to escape he made a sharp turn off of the road toward a sharp embankment. But the drop was too sheer.

The first police car on the scene stopped short of the ravine. The officers in the car watched as the suspect's vehicle seemed to hang for a moment before plummeting into the hard ground. It exploded on impact and continued to roll down to the bottom of the chasm.

"Nobody could have lived through that," said the first officer as his partner nodded in agreement. "Let's see if we can find the drugs he was smuggling."

The police didn't see the young man huddled behind a rock where he had landed when he jumped from the car. The young man watched helplessly as the officers pulled large bags of white powder from his vehicle.

"I can't believe you dragged me out here to watch a movie, McCormick," groused Judge Hardcastle as he adjusted the volume on the speaker which hung in the window of the car.

"That's what Beverly said last night, when I stopped what we were doing and started watching this," said McCormick. "But it grows on you."

The scene had changed to a cheap office where an angry looking man clutched a large ugly gun as he sat behind his desk. The wall behind him was filled with various movie posters of films produced by Bands Production. He slipped the weapon into his jacket as he heard the knock on the door.

"Come in, Robert," he ordered. A cold smile sprang to his lips as he saw Robert drag the young man who had escaped the car crash into the room.

"Look who I found trying to slip out of town, Mr. Bands," sneered Robert as he pushed the cowering young man into the room.

"Timmy," smiled Bands as he moved closer, "I heard you had some trouble making your delivery."

"It wasn't my fault," said Timmy trying to keep the sob out of his voice. "I was following the route I was given and I found myself surrounded by cops. I didn't have a choice. I had to ditch the car."

"But you lost the goods, Timmy," reminded Bands as his smile got more ugly. "That cocaine was worth over fifty thousand on the streets. I have customers who are expecting their deliveries. That money pays to make the movies, to pay the salaries, and all the extras that we enjoy. It's our life's blood."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Bands. Real sorry," babbled Timmy. "I'll make it up to you. I swear."

"I don't think so, Timmy," said Bands as he pulled out the weapon and pulled the trigger.

Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang… Each bullet caused twitch or jerk from the tortured body of Timmy who lay dead while copious amount of blood pooled on the floor.

"How many bullets does that thing hold?" asked Hardcastle. "I thought I counted about fourteen shots."

McCormick shrugged as he shoveled buttered popcorn into his mouth.

The opening credits of 'The Mongrel' ran across a backdrop of a seedy race track where various cars zoomed by in a combination speed race and demolition derby. Despite the gorilla driving tactics, one slightly familiar looking bright red car remained in the lead and passed the finish line after running the other vehicles off of the track. As it screeched to a halt, its license plate proudly displayed the moniker 'The Mongrel'. The driver exited the car, and acknowledged the cheering crowd as he removed his helmet to revel a full head of tight brown curls.

"Wow," stated one of the spectators in the crowd. "That Mick McMartin is great. Why is he driving in a dump like this?"

"I heard," said the spectator's companion, "that he got a bum rap and sent to jail a few years ago. Now he's banned from the professional track. It's too bad because he could be a big star."

"Ahh," said Hardcastle. "I see where this is going."

"Oh, it gets better," promised McCormick.

"Can you really get banded from professional driving for having a police record?"

"Nah. If you got a good car and are fast enough, they'll let anyone drive," answered McCormick with a hint of wistfulness in his voice.

Hardcastle cast a quick look at McCormick. Though they had never real spoken of it, he sometimes wondered if the parolee missed racing. Mark's car, 'The Coyote', was an impressive machine and his part-time job as Tonto kept his driving skills sharp as they ran down the criminals that plagued the city. But it wasn't the same thing as winning the big prize on the race track. Part of him wanted to maintain the status quo but the other hoped the young man would get another chance to show what he could do on the track.

The scene had switched to the inside of a squalid bar where Mick drank beer and made scant acknowledgment of the good cheer around him. Men slapped his back and offered congratulations while their girlfriends batted their eyes and silently offered more but ultimately Mick stood alone; too cool to have friends.

Unseen by anyone, a cragged faced man slipped into the bar. Though older than most of the patrons, the man's large biceps bristled tightly his shirt. He lifted the brim of his cowboy hat and scanned his eyes across the bar before they came to rest on the lone figure of Mick McMartin.

"Let me guess who that's supposed to be," said Hardcastle.

"Shh," admonished McCormick, "we're getting to the good part."

Silently the older man walked until he stood behind the recent winner of the race. "Mick, it's been a long time," said the man.

McMartin's hand froze and he slowly lowered his drink back to the bar. "It's been a long time, Judge Stone, almost two and a half years."

"I need to talk to you," said Stone.

Mick pivoted and struck Stone hard in the face knocking him back a few feet and watched as the man fell to the ground. "That's my answer to anything you have to say to me," said McMartin as he turned back to his drink.

"Wham," said McCormick with a grin as he made a short air jab in the air; much to Hardcastle's disgust.

"If that's the way you want to play it," said Stone as he stood up, twirled Mick around and socked him in the mouth causing McMartin to hit the wall hard.

"You're right," agreed Hardcastle, "this is the good part."

Stone and McMartin exchanged a few more blows before a couple of bouncers came to break up the fight. Both men struck the bouncers and caused them to fall against other customers which caused a full riot to break out involving all of the bar patrons.

The fight continued for several long minutes. At one point a man standing behind Stone pulled a knife and prepared to thrust it into the older man's back. McMartin grabbed the man and broke his arm before casually throwing the knife into a corner. At another point, two men held McMartin while another pummeled him in the stomach until Stone intervened and knocked one of the men away and allowed Mick to regain the upper hand on the remaining assailants.

Throughout the melee, Hardcastle and McCormick yelled out instructions to their avatars and took personal credit for their successes.

The scene changed to an outdoor shot of the bar. The front door swung open followed by McMartin, then Stone, then Stone's hat being tossed out into the street. Stone got up, put on his hat, and offered a hand to McMartin who swatted it away.

"Get out of here, Stone," McMartin hissed. "I said all I had to say to you in court before you sentenced me."

"I followed the letter of the law, McMartin. I won't apologize for that."

"The letter of the law based on the word of two crooked cops."

"I didn't know that at the time. When I found out, I did what I could. I couldn't get the charges dismissed but I got them commuted."

"And I still lost two years of my life," sneered McMartin. "I got nothing to say to you."

"Just take a look at this," said Stone holding out a snapshot of Timmy.

"Where'd you get that?" asked McMartin.

"It's your brother, isn't it? Your younger brother."

"So what?"

"He's dead."

McMartin's face filled with pain. Stone's hand started to reach up to offer some comfort to the distraught man. But the moment was lost as the emotions bled from Mick's face and Stone's hand dropped back to his side.

"Who?" asked McMartin.

"He was running drugs for a man named Bands. When he lost his delivery, Bands had him shot. The police found the body in a ravine about a week ago."

"Thanks," said McMartin as he turned and began to walk away.

"What are you going to do, Mick?" asked Stone.


Stone grabbed McMartin by the shoulder. "Don't be a fool; you're not a killer. Maybe you'll get Band and maybe you won't. Either way, you'll end up dead or in jail."

"What do you care?"

"A few months ago, I retired from the bench. Since then I dedicated my life to running down those criminals that have escaped justice for too long and Bands is on the top of my list. He has his worker's drive drugs up from Mexico and sells them to young kids. With your help, we can put him in jail and close down his entire organization."

"What's your plan?"

"Do you still have that hotrod?" asked Stone.

"Crooked cops and dead brothers, who writes this stuff?" snorted Hardcastle.

"Be fair, Judge," retorted McCormick. "Who'd believe a guy going to jail for two years for driving his own car and then working for the judge that sentenced him?"

"What's hard to believe about that?"

"Come on, even Hollywood would have a hard time selling that story."

"Shh," said Hardcastle suddenly entranced by the screen.

"Who is that?" asked McCormick as he nudged the judge. "I thought I recognized him last night but I can't think of his name."

"That's Lorne Green from 'Bonanza'. What's he doing in a movie like this?"

"A western? For some reason I keep thinking of him in a space suit. Anyway, he probably just wanted to make a few quick bucks."

On screen, Stone introduced McMartin to Lorne Greene, playing himself, who was anxious to help because Bands had supplied some too pure drugs to a house party where a his nephew had bowed to peer pressure and used the drug for the first and last time.

Under Stone's instruction, Greene had called the offices of Band's Productions and offered himself for a few days work claiming he was in need of ready cash to complete a slightly shady purchase. The producer at Band's Film leaped at the chance to have a recognized actor appear in any of his films for any amount of time. The producer even agreed to hire on Lorne's small entourage of a stunt double and gopher.

The star of the currently shooting movie named 'Lightening Highway' didn't mind giving up his top billing to be the second lead actor under Lorne Greene. They agreed to start immediately and film a few scenes with Lorne Greene as an older sheriff who came out of retirement to help the new sheriff, his son, and track down a group of vicious car thieves. The scenes would be spliced into the already filmed movie.

"Greene's awfully flat in this movie," observed McCormick.

"Yeah, he's just phoning it in," agreed Hardcastle. "After reading the script, he probably wanted to get out as quick as possible."

Greene was reading his lines of a retired sheriff on the set of "Lightening Highway' while Stone and McMartin snooped around.

"I don't know how this is going to work," complained McMartin. "It seems that Bands hardly ever comes to the set so how are we going to meet him."

"See that girl over there," said Stone as he nodded toward a voluptuous peroxide blonde who was reading a script.

"Do I ever. Who is she?"

"That's Bands' girlfriend. Her name is Starry Night and he's put her in just about every movie he's made. She's probably our best bet to meet Bands."

"Leave it to me," said McMartin as he poured some coffee in a styrofoam cup.

"Be careful. Bands is a jealous man."

"I can handle Bands," said McMartin as he carried the coffee to the obviously bored woman.

"Can I interest you in a cup of coffee," asked McMartin.

Starry Night looked up at the young man in front of her. "Why don't you bring it to my trailer," she purred as she got up and walked into the abode.

Upon entering the trailer, Night ripped off her shirt and exposed her breasts across the golden screen. She pushed McMartin onto the nearby bed and they spent several long and loud minutes making vigorous love.

"Yeah," nodded McCormick, "that's pretty much how it happened."

"Why don't you close your eyes, McCormick, because the only way it happened like that was in your dreams," chuckled Hardcastle.

"I don't normally do this," said Night as her head lay against McMartin's naked chest, "but you're not like the other thugs that Bands has working on the set."

"About Bands," began McMartin before he was interrupted by a knock on the door.

"Better hurry up in there, hotshot," said Stone. "Someone must have tipped off Bands because he just pulled up and he looks mad."

"Oh my God!" exclaimed Night. "You've got to get out of here. He'll kill you. Quick, get in the closet."

"Now that's total fantasy," said Hardcastle. "How did they get that big of a closet in her little trailer?"

"It's classier than crawling under the bed," responded McCormick.

Bands and his goons stormed into the suspiciously small on the outside and large on the inside trailer and pulled McMartin from the closet. During the few seconds, it took for them to enter the abode, Night and McMartin had not only managed to dress but remake the bed. Band had ordered his men to kill McMartin but stopped them when Mick explained the whole thing had been a set-up to offer his services as a driver to Bands' business. McMartin, also, assured the jealous man that nothing had happened between him and Night as he wouldn't try anything with the woman of the man he wanted to work for.

"That was pretty quick thinking," complimented Hardcastle.

"Well, you can get real creative when hiding in a closet with an armed jealous boyfriend on the other side," said McCormick as he thought back on a recent similar incident.

The scene switched to Stone who had found a lead to the location of Bands' drug cars. He was going to check it out with Lorne Greene who wanted to experience a real criminal investigation. They had checked out the location only to be accosted by five brutes armed with bats and brass knuckles. The two elderly men used their fists and the various props strewn throughout the warehouse to beat the minions into unconscious submission. Stone turned the captured men over to a friend in the Los Angeles Police Department who promised to keep the crooks under wraps until the investigation was complete.

"Talk about in your dreams," said McCormick in a loud sotto voce.

"It wasn't quite that vigorous but Ebsen held his own," said Hardcastle as he thought back to how he and Buddy had run from the armed guard.

"Held his own? He was as white as a sheet and breathing so hard I thought we were going to have to do CPR."

"I think it did curb his desire to be a crime fighter."

"Shh. We're getting to another good part."

McMartin had already been snubbed several timed by Night when he approached her outside of her trailer.

"I need to talk to you, Night," implored McMartin.

"What about? You already got your job with Bands. You don't need me anymore."

"I'd like to explain."

"We can't talk out here. Come inside."

"Ah geez, they're at it again" complained Hardcastle as the two people on screen ripped off their clothes and indulged in another unnecessary steamy sex scene. He closed his eyes and refused to open them until McCormick nudged him and indicated that it was over.

"I didn't mean to lie to you, Starry," confessed McMartin. "But me and my friends are looking for a way to shut down Bands' organization. We could use your help."

"I'll help," said Night. "I've been trying to figure out a way to bring him down since I started up with him a few years ago. You see he's responsible for my sister's death."

"Is there death in the city that this guy's not responsible for?" asked Hardcastle.

"My older sister met up with him about ten years ago," Night continued oblivious to the comments from the audience. "He brought her along as his girlfriend, used her in his movies, turned her onto drugs, and then turned her out into the streets when he got tired of her. She was so ashamed that killed herself and I swore revenge." Night proceeded to tell Mick the little knowledge she had of Bands' organization.

The scene faded and was replaced with Stone and McMartin pulling the tarp off of 'the Mongrel' which they had towed down to what might have been Mexico if you ignored the American style building and concentrated on the lone woman in the street wearing a Mexican style dress and the one man eating a taco.

"Guess the budget was running low," observed McCormick.

"So let's go over the plan again," said Stone.

"I know what to do," said McMartin. I'm going to drive to one of Bands' drug houses here in Mexico where they'll load up the Mongrel with cocaine. You're going to be following overhead in a helicopter watching my back. Once I get the drugs, I deliver them to the warehouse where Bands and his men will be waiting. Then you and the police will come in and arrest everyone."

"Well that synopsis saved them about four pages of script," said Hardcastle.

"Here," said Stone handing McMartin a radio. "We'll be able to keep in touch with these."

"Can't afford the good stuff," observed McMartin as he threw the radio into the car.

Stone gave him an apologetic shrug. "Be careful," he admonished, "Bands plays for keeps."

Hardcastle squirmed uncomfortable as he felt McCormick's eye bore into him. "What!" he exclaimed. "It was an honest mistake."

"You got me a cheap radio which could be overheard by anyone with a bent hanger and a CD radio."

"Well, live and learn."

"I'd like a little more emphasis on the live part, if you don't mind."

McMartin reported successfully picking up the drugs over the radio. The signal was overheard by Bands' lieutenant who was following unseen behind McMartin's car. Aware that McMartin was betraying them to the police, he decided to take McMartin out.

Bands' lieutenant's car came up quickly behind McMartin. It was a war of speed and metal as each tried to run the other's vehicle off of the highway. The lieutenant brought his car parallel to the Mongrel. McMartin looked over and saw the lieutenant had pulled out a large and nasty looking gun which was aimed directly at his head. McMartin turned his wheel sharply to the right. The lieutenant's grin of triumph turned to horror as his car was pushed through the guardrail and over the cliff. A moment after leaving the ground, the car burst into flames and fell into the ocean below.

"Why did the car explode?" asked Hardcastle.

"I don't know. Because it looks good on the screen," guessed McCormick.

"Are you okay, kid?" asked Stone.

'I'm fine," said McMartin who hadn't been even broken into a sweat from his race of death. "It should be smooth sailing to LA."

"Don't be so sure," said Stone. "Look behind you."

McMartin looked in his rearview mirror and saw five more cars that had appeared out of nowhere. All being driven by Bands' men and all intent on seeing that he never reached LA.

"If Band has all those men available, why did he need to hire that guy to deliver drugs for him?" asked Hardcastle to McCormick who shrugged his shoulders.

For many, many long minutes McMartin raced down the highway trying to escape the convoy of murderers behind him. Some he was able to run off of the road and some were taken out by a single shot of the handgun fired by Stone from above. All exploded in an eruption of fiery inferno.

"Are all of those guys carrying nitro?" asked Hardcastle. "I think that last one went up after it hit a pothole."

"It's the law of B movies," said McCormick. "Ninety percent of the cars have to explode before the end of the film."

After vanquishing all of the villains, McMartin rode into LA to meet with Bands while Stone met with the police and coordinate the raid.

"Did you have any trouble?" asked Bands as McMartin got out of the car.

"Nothing I couldn't handle," said McMartin with a knowing grin.

"You think one of those guys who were trying to kill him a few minutes ago would have called their boss and told him what was happening," said McCormick as Hardcastle loudly slurped the last of his Coca Cola.

As McMartin waited to be paid his money and to leave before the police entered the building, one of Bands' men walked over to the Mongrel and saw the radio sitting on the passenger seat.

"It's a trap," shouted the man. "He's working for the cops."

"I can explain," said McMartin as several guns were suddenly turned on him.

"Explain it to your maker," sneered Bands as he cocked the pistol in his hand.

Stone's car made a loud sound as it crashed through the front of the building. McMartin used the distraction to coldcock the nearest goon with a gun and the fight began. Stone exited his vehicle with his fists raised. Despite being unarmed, Stone and McMartin made short work of the gang leaving most of them unconscious as the police finally arrived on the scene and declared the criminals under arrest. One villain tried to slip out of the warehouse, only to be knocked out by Lorne Greene who had inexplicitly been standing in the alley.

"Looks like a good day's work," observed Stone to McMartin who leaned casually against his car.

"Yeah, it does," agreed McMartin.

"Is it over?" asked Hardcastle with a note of hope in his voice.

"Just about," promised McCormick.

"The scene changed back to Starry Night's trailer where McMartin was getting dressed while a topless Night looked up at him longingly.

"My fiancé called last night," confessed Night. "Now that Bands has been arrested he wants me to come home to Boise so we can be married. I'll tell him no, if you think you and I have a future."

McMartin stopped buttoning his shirt, sat down on the bed next to Night, and stared sensitively into her eye. "I care about you, Honey. I really do. But I'm a man with an ugly past and no future. You deserve better than that. You're better off without me," he added as he kissed the top of her head.

"I'll always love you Mick," she cried.

"I know, baby, I know."

McCormick snorted. "If I tried that line, she'd break a bottle over my head."

McMartin and Stone watched as Night left on the bus to Boise.

"So where you headed, kid," asked Stone as Mick climbed into the Mongrel.

"Nowhere. Where are you headed?"

"There's still a lot of crime in this old city and a lot of innocent people being hurt. I'm going to hang around and clean it up."

"Maybe, I'll see you, pops."

"Maybe, you will, son," said Stone as the Mongrel pealed out in a cloud of dust and gravel as the closing credits started to appear on the screen.

"Thank god," muttered Hardcastle. "Who made this crap? I thought they shut down Sand Films."

"Oh, they did," said McCormick, "but a bigger movie company bought them up almost immediately. I don't think they lost more than a couple of days shooting."

"Who would have bought that two-bit company?"

"Just watch," said McCormick as the ending credits continued to roll.

"That son of a …" Hardcastle cursed as the credits came to an end and McCormick started to laugh.

A Joseph Cadillac Production flashed across the drive-in screen before it went black.