Puchard passed his first few weeks after release adjusting to life outside. He moved in with Shelia, finding out to his consternation that Dino was not only already living there – something he rather expected, convenient as it would be once they resumed their criminal inclinations – but that he also reported such as his address on his parole paperwork, placing both himself and Puchard in violation of the terms of their release. It was the first trial of his new life, struggling mightily to swallow his rage; Puchard had directly instructed his underling not to use Shelia’s address on his paperwork which Dino, in his typical manner, misremembered as direction to use Shelia’s address.
As vexing as it was though, Puchard abided with it; for whatever reason, despite Puchard’s record being worse than Dino’s – Puchard having a history of repeat offenses of drug trafficking as well as possession of stolen goods, versus Dino’s unremarkable record of B & Es, Disorderly Conducts and DUIs – the terms of Dino’s release were more stringent, Dino being a parolee while Puchard’s Federally mandated release was of a more nebulous sort.
Still, Puchard didn’t wish to test the boundaries too quickly. He mainly occupied himself with socializing; being incarcerated for nearly two years had left him lagging regarding the current state and status of the subculture. Shortly before he was sent away, he and Shelia struck up a friendship with a woman in her late-20s named Misty, an enchanting lass and kindred spirit like themselves.
Misty was the proprietor of a tattoo parlor – aptly named ‘Psycho Angel’ – a small operation in one of the local strip malls whose storefront served as a sort of clubhouse for any manner of like-minded souls, a perfect venue for Puchard to reenter the stream. Misty was what she called an ‘Atheistic Satanist’, specifically a variant – apparently from what Puchard was able to gather from their conversations, there were variations within the Satanist community – a variant which professed something called Libertine Utopianism. Or perhaps it was Utopian Libertinism; Puchard found it all rather difficult to follow closely.
Puchard wasn’t entirely approving, finding the whole pretense of Satanism unnecessarily provocative although, considering her choice of profession, it didn’t seem too damaging; Psycho Angel hardly seemed lacking for customers, Misty being both talented at the craft of ink application and possessing the attitude necessary in creating a destination.
On the other hand though, he was quite enthusiastic regarding the Libertine Utopianism or Utopian Libertinism. “It’s all about empowerment,” she explained to him once, lounging about and smoking cigarettes in the foyer to Psycho Angel, “Living the life you want, embracing the life that is calling you, the will to dream for yourself with an open mind and clear conscience, transcending the boundaries the world sets in your way. You’re really not the target at all – you’re the arrow, and the world is the air you’re flying through.”
Puchard nodded magnanimously as he flicked a large ash onto the floor; such sentiments, although he never labeled them as such nor expressed them so, had formed the essence of his philosophy of life for as long as he could remember – or at least since reform school.
Puchard’s average day consisted of waking up at 7:30 AM to drive Shelia to her job at the cable company. He would be back home by 8:30AM and nap for a few more hours before rousing himself to take a late breakfast. From there he would drive to the tattoo parlor, holding court for a few hours with the regulars, mostly budding criminals in their teens or early-20s, types who no longer attended school but weren’t suitable for any steady employment. He also had the van there to serve as a private office, retreating to it to make calls and conduct other personal business.
It took the better part of the first week before Puchard managed to put himself in contact with some of his previous associates. He spoke to some cellmates who were part of the same release program; according to them the call-in requirements were nothing more than a registration process for future employment opportunities while several told him that they hadn’t even bothered to call in to no noticeable effect. Upon hearing this, Puchard decided to skip registering; if things got heavy enough that The Man was looking to give him a job, he reasoned, then things would certainly be heavy enough that he would have already found his own means of filling his time.
Puchard would leave Psycho Angel at about 4:30PM to pick-up Shelia from work, napping again for a few hours before taking his supper and then returning to the tattoo parlor. Dino would join them for the evenings – he worked days at some self-storage center, a state-sponsored job as part of his parole agreement – and they would remain there past closing. Shelia would take the van home to get to sleep while Puchard would remain until late into the night or the early hours of the morning, catching a ride with either Dino or Misty.
Properly settled in and reasonably sure of his security, he set about procuring the tools of the trade. Puchard made some calls, established some contacts and, using the resettlement stipend he received at his release, purchased some guns. It wasn’t much, a Smith and Wesson 38 Special Revolver and a Mossberg 12 Gauge Pump shotgun; leave the automatics for the kids, he thought with cool disdain, preferring the quaint and even traditional implements of his Bayou upbringing.
Still, even with the freedom of release it was a boring life, uneventful to a degree Puchard could hardly be expected to tolerate for any length of time. He even indulged in a dalliance with Misty, the girl having the exotic tastes to accompany her wildly decorated exterior but found that ultimately less than fulfilling, the outlandish girl all too willing and scarcely needing to be led.
He contented himself with small projects, making some improvements to the van, adding some folding chairs and cushions to make it more amenable as a workspace. Being a helpful sort and considerate of all the time he spent at ‘Psycho Angel’ Puchard set himself to helping around the shop. There was a large mural in the window consisting of a buxom female angel, dressed in a black bustier, a pair of black wings folded behind her back. In one hand she held a trident while the other clutched a disembodied heart, the blood dripping down her arm the same red as her lips.
A smaller version of it was on the sign by the street, both variations of a tattoo Misty had on one of her thighs. Puchard quite loved the decoration but always found it lacking, missing that last je ne sais quoi. Finally after considerable reflection, it occurred to him; a recollection from the holiness background of his youth, the addition of a motto, ‘Sullied and polluted in thy own blood’, scripted in Old English style letters in a banner beneath the angel.
Misty was in nearly complete agreement, making only the slightest of revisions, changing the word ‘blood’ for ‘skin’, reasoning that concerns over hepatitis and whatnot being of such importance in the body modification industry, any advertising which boasted of polluted blood would be of limited appeal. Puchard for his part was disappointed but took the setback in stride, understanding the practical considerations behind the decision.