Jason Dunlap enjoyed walking the streets of San Francisco in the early evening, especially in the section of the city coming to be popularly known as the Barbary Coast. Jason fed off of excitement and conflict, food was something that kept his body going, but he just ate to live, he lived to experience danger. He was not armed in the conventional manner—a gun just made it too easy.
Jason's weapon of choice was a short staff four feet long and an inch and a half in diameter. The staff was intricately carved with erotic scenes, and many conventional types would be scandalized if they ever got a chance to examine the carving. At the balance point of the staff was carved a classic mermaid figure, and pressing on her breasts released two blades hidden within the staff. Each blade was eight inches long and sharpened to a razor's edge on two sides, with a point capable of penetrating a quarter inch thickness of steel. A blade was hidden in each end of the staff and spring loaded so that it jumped from its hiding place so rapidly that the human eye couldn't follow it. When extended, the blades locked into place and could not be pressed back into the staff unless the proper breast was pressed.
The staff was heavy enough to serve as a cudgel of awesome power. If Jason swung his staff at arm's length, it could easily crush a skull, yet it was light enough that his great strength allowed him to swing the cudgel back and forth as he might a simple twig. A fine example of this ease of movement was Jason's encounter with the cutpurse he had met just a few minutes before.
That individual had been lurking in a darkened alley and waiting for a victim to pass by. As Jason stepped passed the alley entrance, the would-be thief stepped out behind him and placed his left hand of Jason's left shoulder. He pressed a dirk against Jason's back just at his right kidney. "Stop right there, me hearty. I'll have your purse or your life."
Jason froze in position and let his shoulders sag as if he intended to follow instructions. Sensing success, the thief relaxed the pressure of his knife against Jason's back. As soon as he felt that, Jason whirled to his left, spinning the knife away from his back and bringing his staff around and pointed at the breastbone of the thief. A quick motion forward with the staff caught the thief in the breastbone exactly over the man's heart. The staff was driven forward with such force that the thief's sternum was shattered and splinters of bone were driven into his heart. The man simply dropped at Jason's feet, never to move on his own again. Jason sniffed in disgust, "Amateur!" and walked on his way.
Jason did not need the meager rewards he could glean from the dead man, so he left the body to be stripped by someone less fortunate than himself. This was, indeed, a pleasant way to start his evening, Jason thought as he wandered more deeply into the realm of the Sydney Ducks.
The Sydney Ducks ran this district of San Francisco strictly to their own liking, which meant that there was absolutely no law but theirs of theft, rape, and murder. Jason Dunlap was not a do-gooder out to eliminate this sinister element of San Francisco's society, no, he was here strictly for his own reasons. If there were no Sidney Ducks, or the equivalent, to contend with, Jason would have moved on to another city. However, he really loved San Francisco, so he was happy to find what he needed right at home.
Jason was beginning to be perturbed, he had walked two blocks since he encountered the previous thief, and he had not been accosted again. Was this section of the city going soft? Normally, there should be at least one thief in every block, anything less was an affront to Jason's ideas of propriety. Just as he was about to cross the street, his faith in the Barbary Coast was restored.
Two men rushed at him with knives drawn and ready to slash him to mincemeat. The attackers might have paused if they had seen the smile on Jason's face when he caught sight of the two muggers. However, everything happened too fast for Jason's smile to register.
Jason pressed the left breast of the mermaid and one blade popped out at the end of the staff pointing toward the two attackers. Jason casually let the staff fall from his shoulder where he had been carrying it so that it pointed directly at the neck of one of the men. When the man got close enough, Jason flicked his wrist, and the blade at the end of the staff whipped through the neck of that attacker so that the man's head went flying and blood was pumped all over his companion.
The spurting blood was enough of a distraction to the second man that Jason had plenty of time to stab that man in the heart, putting an end to the attack almost before it began. Jason did stop long enough to clean the blood from the blade and the staff before resetting the blade back in its recessed position.
At this point he heard light applause coming from across the street. He turned to see who was clapping his hands and found himself facing a pistol pointed at his body. The person standing across the street was a woman dressed in the height of fashion for a prostitute. Once she was sure that Jason had seen the pistol, she returned it to her reticule and smiled at him.
"Sir, that was neatly done. May I inquire as to your name?"
Jason tipped his top hat and said, "My name is Jason Dunlap. May I ask who I have the honor of addressing?"
"Certainly. I am Big Ass Betty, the owner of the bordello your are standing in front of. I am in need of assistance, and you look like the man who can help me, if you are willing."
"Madam Betty, I have heard of you, and I would be delighted to be of service. How may I help you?"
"Come with me to my office and I will tell you my problem, and what I would like for you to do."
They went into the bordello and Jason was impressed by the opulence of the place. They walked through a large room full of overstuffed chairs and sofas, full of customers and whores, on down a hall to an office that might have been the office of a bank manager. They sat down and Betty offered Jason a drink, he asked for coffee, Jason never drank anything stronger than beer, and rarely that.
Once coffee was served, Betty got right to the point. "I have been threatened. I was told to pay protection money to keep my business from being destroyed. I don't know who is behind the threat, but I suspect that it is Big Ed Johnson. He has tried to buy me out on several occasions, but I have refused to sell. The last time I turned him down, he told me that I would regret my decision. I need somebody who really will protect me, and who will put a stop to the threats. I will pay you handsomely for your assistance."
Jason did not need the money, but he was not foolish enough to refuse payment for something he would enjoy doing. "Madam Betty, I would be pleased to help you, but I would need free access to your bordello, and I would need a lot of information on Big Ed Johnson. I know him only by reputation, so I would need every detail that you can recall to tell me. Also, of course, I would like to know how much you are willing to pay for my services."
"I will pay you $50 a day for as long as you work for me. That's a lot of money, but it would be worth that to get rid of whoever is threatening me. Will you work for me, starting today?"
"Yes, I will take the job. Now please tell me everything you can about Big Ed."
Betty spent over an hour relating everything she could think of that she had ever heard about Big Ed Johnson, pointing out what was simply hearsay and what she knew for a fact. By the time she was finished, Jason could tell that he was going to enjoy taking Big Ed down. If he could eliminate Big Ed, he should earn all kinds of credit in heaven, which Jason knew that he sorely needed. Jason did not care whether or not Big Ed was actually the source of Betty's problem, he needed eliminating, and Jason looked forward to doing it.
Jason was dressed as a dandy, since that tended to attract the attention he normally sought, but he needed something a bit less conspicuous for this job. Therefore, he bid Betty goodnight and returned to his hotel to change clothes. Jason switched to a close fitting pair of black pants and a black sweater. He donned black gloves and black soft shoes, along with a black hood. For weapons, he chose a pair of throwing knives and his staff. His staff was already black, so he did not have to worry with that.
The time was now after midnight, so activity in the Barbary Coast was picking up; therefore, he would have to be careful if he was to invade Big Ed's headquarters without attracting attention. He made his way to Big Ed's gambling establishment and climbed to the roof. He knew that there was access from the roof to the inside of the building; only a fool did not provide for a way to fight roof fires.
Jason found the hatch that led into the building and quietly lowered himself into the attic space. This area was cluttered with damaged gambling equipment and other junk considered not immediately usable, but too valuable to throw away. The problem was that the room was very dark; the only light came from the moon shining through the hatch that Jason had left open.
Jason found the stairs leading down to the working part of the building and moved down as quietly as he could; that was why he was wearing the soft shoes. This was a three-storey building, and the next floor was devoted to offices and small rooms where the whores plied their trade. Jason had to sneak by several occupied rooms, but he managed not to disturb the occupants.
Big Ed's office was at the far end of the corridor, and Jason headed for that. The door was guarded by a monster of a man. He must have been seven feet tall and weighed 350 pounds. Jason was six feet tall and weighed 175 pounds, but he was not afraid of the guard because he knew that he had to be much faster than the other man. Nevertheless, Jason saw no point in taking stupid chances, so he planned to eliminate the guard with one of his throwing knives.
Jason was very proud of his skill with the throwing knives, so he worked his way down the hall by staying in the shadows. He managed to get within 20 feet of the guard before he threw his knife. The blade caught the guard in the right eye and penetrated to his brain without resistance. Jason rushed behind his knife to try to catch the guard before he hit the floor with a loud noise. The man was too heavy for Jason to hold up, but Jason did manage to lower the man to the floor without a resounding thud. Other than a small feeling of triumph that his knife had hit the aiming point, Jason felt nothing from killing this man. He was one of those who was responsible for all that was evil in San Francisco.
Jason tried to ease the door open, but it was locked! Dammit, who'd do something like that? What could be going on behind that door that would warrant locking the door? Jason prepared to pick the lock when he heard a muffled woman's scream of pain coming from the other side of the door.
That sound affected Jason as practically nothing else could have. He stepped back and jumped at the door, catching it just above the lock with the full force of his jump. Both feet crashed into the door, throwing it open, as Jason's momentum carried him far enough through the doorway to see what was going on. He landed and rolled to absorb the remaining force of his jump.
Inside the room, a naked woman was tied to an X-frame. Her wrists and ankles were fastened so that she was totally helpless to prevent any sort of torture that her tormentor cared to inflict. At the moment, she was being beaten on her inner thighs and crotch with a cane that was leaving great welts. The man wielding the cane was less than five feet tall and could not have weighed as much as 90 pounds.
The man raised the cane as if to defend himself from Jason, but did not stand a chance. Before he could bring he cane down on Jason's face, Jason had grabbed the little man around the throat with his left hand and lifted him into the air. Jason used his other throwing knife to cut the tendons in the little man's arms so that they flopped lifelessly as Jason held him off the floor.
The little man tried to kick Jason, so Jason stabbed him in the balls with his knife. The little man screamed, or tried to, but that was prevented by the strong grip Jason had around his throat. Jason flipped the man face down on the desk and deftly cut his hamstrings, so that there was no way for the man to walk. With that, Jason threw him into the corner and turned his attention to the woman who was being tortured.
He cut her loose from the X-frame and helped her to lie down on the floor to keep her wounds from hurting any more than could be helped. "Who was that torturing you and why was he doing it?"
"I don't know his name, but Mr. Johnson ordered him to torture me until I agreed to join his stable of whores. I was kidnapped two days ago from my husband's farm just south of here. I refused to work for him, so Mr. Johnson was doing what he usually did to force women to work for him. Thank you for rescuing me, I don't know how much longer I could have held out."
"Where is Big Ed?"
"I heard him say that he was going down to the gambling hall and would be back in about an hour. He expected me to be broken by then, and he was going to be the first one to take me as one of his new whores. Please help me to escape."
"Yes, we will be leaving very soon. My name is Jason Dunlap. What is your name?"
"I'm Shirley Brown. Can you find me some clothes?"
"I'm sure we can, but I have to see Bid Ed first. I'll get something to cover you. You just lie there and try to recover from your torture."
Jason wiped the blood from his second knife and returned it to its sheath. He went out the door to find a blanket or something else to cover Shirley. In passing, he pulled his first knife out of the guards head and wiped it off before returning it to its sheath.
He found a blanket in the first crib room he came to, there were also some women's clothes in there, so he took them and the blanket back to Shirley. He spread the blanket over her and asked her to be patient while he waited for Big Ed to return to his office. Big Ed was not likely to come into his office voluntarily once he saw the dead man outside or the broken door. He might also hear the groans from his torturer, so Jason decided to move to a room closer to the stairs.
He did so and had to wait for about 15 minutes for Big Ed to come back from the gambling room. Jason had no trouble recognizing Big Ed, he was nearly as huge as the dead guard. The man came stalking in from the stairs as if he owned the world, which he did, at least this part of it, but that was about to change.
Jason waited for him to step passed the door before he said anything. As soon as the man's back was exposed, Jason used a knife on the end of his staff to slice Big Ed's right Achilles tendon. Johnson stumbled and fell on the spot. He rolled over and tried to draw a gun. When he did, Jason smashed his forearm with the staff, and the gun went flying. It didn't fire because Johnson had not had time to draw the hammer back. Before Big Ed could do anything else, Jason smashed his other forearm. Big Ed was rendered functionally helpless, so Jason now had complete control of the situation.
"Are you the one who threatened Big Ass Betty in the last few days?"
"Fuck that whore. I'm gonna take over her operation and make her one of the whores. I'll teach her a lesson she'll never forget."
"I'm afraid not, Mr. Big Ed Johnson. She hired me to stop you, and that's what I have done. Not only is this your last night in business, it is your last night on Earth. Goodbye, Mr. Johnson." With that, Jason used his staff to cut Big Ed's belly open and left him to die. Johnson started to scream for help, but Jason was sure that he would not be discovered until one of the whores brought her customer upstairs.
Jason got Shirley Brown dressed and helped her walk downstairs and out the front door. He took her to his hotel and put her in a room for the night. The next day he sent her home by stage coach. He planned to visit Betty that night.
Cast in this chapter:
Big Ass Betty—brothel owner and madam, heroine
Big Ed Johnson—member of Sydney Ducks, gang boss
Jason Dunlap—scourge of The Barbary Coast, hero
Shirley Brown—rescued victim of Big Ed Johnson