Chapter 75:

Chapter 75 - The Ambush of Bubba Lee


“The Scourge of Biffle County?”

Solomon nodded solemnly. “The Scourge of Biffle County.”

“Oh. We’re in Biffle,” Mimi sniffed, wrinkling her nose in obvious displeasure. “That explains the lack of amenities.”

Roulette held up her hand, hoping to head off further slander until she’d had a chance to work on Solomon a bit. “So he’s done this in other towns across the county?”

“Yes, indeed. Travelers blow through all the time, talking about this and that,” the ruddy-faced lawyer revealed. “To hear them tell it, Stepladder got it worse than us–a full two-thirds of their population is airborne, if you can believe it! Shingles up north got all their roofs lifted off, and he bubbled all the kids in Biddytinkle just high up enough to make things inconvenient. I hear the local schoolmarm has to lean out her attic window to teach them grammar these days!”

Conrad returned from squirreling away his triangle in his desk, shaking his head so vehemently that his mustache and jowls waggled in tandem. “Shameful. Seems there’s no limit to that man’s depravity.”

The girl nodded sympathetically. “Those poor kids. How can you learn grammar proper if you’re stuck up in a bubble?” She noticed Solomon was tearing up, so she took the opportunity to place a steadying hand on his shoulder. “What makes him do such awful things, anyway?”

“He’s one of Gunn’s Nasty Nine,” he said bitterly. “They think that just because they run the enclaves, they should have free reign all throughout the rest of their counties too! He comes around to every town in Biffle once a month for ‘protection money’, and if they don’t cough up the slugs, he shows them clear enough that it’s him they need protection from! What I wouldn’t give to bring suit against that man one day…”

“Y’know, I admire you two for tryin’ to bring justice to the range,” Roulette admitted, extending a hand to settle on Conrad’s shoulder as well. “That was my Daddy’s dream, too. But if there’s one thing I learned after seein’ him gunned down on his own front porch, it’s that the long arm of the law doesn’t always reach nearly far enough. Sometimes you gotta fight fire with fire.”

Solomon wiped at his runny eyes and gaped at her. “What exactly are you proposing, young lady?”

“Me and my posse here? We’ve seen our fair share of combat,” she replied. “All I’m askin’ for is the chance to put our skills to work for you. If you can tell us when Bubba Lee will be comin’ through next, we can set a trap for him… And maybe, just maybe, we can put an end to his scourgin’ once and for all!”

Conrad gulped at that, and Solomon’s skin went white as a sheet. All the same, Roulette could tell that they were seriously mulling over her proposal; all they needed was a touch of reassurance.

“We won’t kill him–you have my word,” she added. “We’ll just corner him, spook him a little, and ‘convince’ him to change his ways. If we can do that, I reckon he’ll set everythin’ in Biffle County back the way it was.”

“And if you can’t?” Conrad asked.

“If we can’t… He’ll probably bubble us all to high heaven,” she said with a shrug. “And you’ll have that whole stretch of time, between then and the moment we die of starvation, to treat us all to the extended version of your jingle.”

Solomon rubbed his hands together giddily. “Ooh, well, when you put it that way it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea! In fact, I kind of hope your ambush goes awry–nobody’s ever listened to the full, unedited version of the Parge and O’Fleefe Personal Injury jingle all the way through before!”

“I have fourteen separate triangle solos in that one!” Conrad announced with aplomb.

With that, the deal was struck. Roulette shook both their hands and smiled back at her crew (who displayed varying levels of enthusiasm regarding their newly-formed partnership) before issuing the fateful command that would set everything in motion:

“Let’s get to work.”


Bubba Lee had a large head and a small body, with big, bushy brows and a prominent forehead that cast a perpetual shadow over his tiny, deeply-recessed eyes. He swaggered into town a couple days after they’d arrived, stopping in the middle of Toothless’s only proper road to confront its acting sheriffs just as Roulette had planned.

“Where’s my money, suckers?” he whistled, enunciating around his buck teeth with some difficulty. “If you ain’t got it, you know what the punishment’ll be…”

He thumbed in the direction of the buildings floating to his left, glaring at them pointedly as he adjusted the crotch of his snakeskin pants. Parge and O’Fleef looked to each other, no doubt infusing one another with a measure of moral support, before committing to their ploy:

“We tried to get it all together for you, Bubba Lee! Really, we did!” Solomon wailed, truly excelling in his role as a spineless sycophant. “But the lawyering business just isn’t what it used to be! We’ve only got half of what you asked…”

“I remember the real sheriff had a nest egg stashed away somewhere, though,” Conrad lied. “Perhaps if you lowered his office back to ground level, we could–”

Bubba Lee cut him off by horking back a lump of snot and spitting at their feet. “You must think I’m an idiot,” he scoffed. “You just wanna get your hands on some weapons and try to turn the tables. Well, nothin’ doin’–just hand over what you’ve got and I’ll decide how much more of Toothless is gettin’ pulled today.”

Roulette watched from her room on the local hotel’s second floor, her gun stuffed between two mattresses. They were intended to muffle the sound of Lady Luck’s gunfire as she dispensed bullet after bullet, waiting for it to discharge the one tool that would win the day without a drop of bloodshed: the arcan-seeking bandage she’d inherited from the mageling she fought back in Truvelo. It was taking longer than expected, though, and she could tell that the lawyers’ capacity for stalling was reaching its end.

Luckily, she still had Morgan and Marka lying in wait elsewhere along the strip. If their target started to get aggressive or move off before she could dispense a bandage his way, they had orders to deal with him themselves.

Solomon reached into his pocket and retrieved a pouch of slugs, depositing it in Bubba Lee’s hand. The man opened it up and rooted around inside for a moment before scowling up at him.

“This is barely anythin’ at all!” he complained, stowing the pouch away inside his duster. He then produced his weapon–an awful-looking handgun composed of several lumpy spheres–from the recesses of his coat and cocked it at the two terrified attorneys. “I bet you’re holdin’ out on me! Take me ‘round to that office of yours! I want a look inside your safe.”

Roulette cursed. She hadn’t expected the man to invite himself to the law office, much less to express any interest in seeing inside the safe! Its impenetrable iron frame and non-airtight nature had made it the perfect place for Beretta to hide in case things went south; now that it had become the focal point of Bubba Lee’s greed, though, things had taken a turn for the desperate.

“C’mon, c’mon!” she huffed through gritted teeth, waiting for the telltale feel of that long, snakelike bandage spewing from the tip of Lady Luck’s muzzle. She looked on anxiously as the three men started to move off toward Parge and O’Fleef’s place of work. I’m going to miss my chance! she thought in a rush. If Lady Luck doesn’t come through soon, he’ll be out of range!

Suddenly, she felt the long-awaited brush of cloth-on-cloth as a writhing bandage exploded from the barrel of her gun. With a whoop of relief she tugged it out from between the mattresses and shoved its muzzle out the window, watching with growing anticipation as the lively strip of cloth snaked its way through the air. It streaked toward the street at an alarming speed, making a beeline straight for Bubba Lee’s unprotected back…

…Until Morgan ran up on him from behind, preparing to make a last-ditch assault of his own.

Oh no.

Roulette looked on in horror as the bandage deviated from its original target in favor of Morgan, who had, at the very last minute, unintentionally drifted into its range.

“NOT AGAIN!” she heard him cry as the thing coiled around his ankle and subsequently bundled him up. Bubba Lee whipped around at the noise, now fully alerted to the true nature of his latest visit to Toothless.

“An ambush!” he snarled, turning to shove Conrad and Solomon toward the office’s front door. “Should’a known you rats would try somethin’! Now you’n’me are gonna have to go for a little ride!”

Roulette’s stomach dropped at the implications behind that threat. She tore out of the hotel room, barrelled down the stairs, and stumbled out into the street to find that her worst nightmare had come true:

Bubba Lee had enclosed the entire building in a giant bubble. Parge and O’Fleef’s Personal Injury law firm had taken to the skies, and there was nothing she, or anyone else, could do about it.

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