Mac walked through the door of C&S Diner with his hat in his hand and a shiner on his face. He looked good.
Nodding, he walked over toward me and sat down at the table I'd picked out. I liked the one in the corner by the window. I always sat in the seat closer to the kitchen because it meant I could see the whole room and the window stopped about halfway through the table so I didn't have to worry about the sun beating through.
"Hey Harlan." Mac always spoke in a breathless way, like he'd just gotten in from the busy day of his life and was taking a second to talk to you before he got back to it.
He pulled his seat in and glanced over both his shoulders. "So, we on for tonight?"
About two weeks ago, a buddy of mine who makes his living off other people's misfortune slipped me Mac's name. Said the kid needed help. He worked at The Quarry, a low-end, all-purpose fighting arena not far from here. He'd gotten a job sweeping trash out of the ring and cleaning blood off the stands. Time had been kind to him and he'd moved up to king handyman, checking pipes, testing wires, switching out filters. The last of the three was a big no-no. TruAir didn't allow anyone to fix their product. Said so in the warranty. You fix it, we break it. He'd been busted tinkering with the system by a fighter he thought he could trust. He was learning the hard way that no such thing existed.
"You think getting Ricki busted for throwing a fight will really get him canned?"
"Hey!" He ducked his head lowered into his shoulders like sound more poorly at that level. "Easy. Don't go talking about that here."
"What's the matter. Afraid the clientele have two way radios in their canes." I nodded toward the only other people in the cafe. A gaggle of geriatrics on the other side of the room.
"I don't put anything past them. Or anyone. Thought you understood that."
The waitress walked over and plopped two glasses of dirty water on the table. I ordered the least offensive thing on the menu. Mac waved her off. She scowled at him like he'd just spit on her shoes then walked away.
Mac reached into his coat and pulled out a small tube. Removing the cap he squirted the contents into his drink and began stirring it with his finger.
When he caught me staring at him he said, "Limes."
I nodded like I cared and waited for him to get back on track.
"I think if the right people find out Ricki's taking money on the side then Cockrum will have to let him have it."
"And that'll solve all your problems?"
"Cockrum doesn't care about me tinkering. It's the reason he gave me the job in the first place. If I can save him money, he's happy."
"And if saving him money means catching the attention of the wrong kind of people?"
"Which is why we need to get rid of Ricki."
"How much was he asking for?"
"Not bad for a washout."
"So you'll do it?"
"I'll think about it."
"But it's tonight!" The old people in the corner raised their heads like geese suddenly realizing they're not the only ones at the pond. It was my turn to quiet the kid down and I'll admit I smiled the whole way through it. "He needs to get caught tonight," he continued, his voice back to a more proper volume. "The deals in place. Fourth round."
"And how do you know that's what's going to happen?"
"People talk, Harlan. You know that."
"That's true, but not usually loud enough for people to hear."
"I've been working at the quarry since I was fifteen. People trust me there."
"People don't trust each other. They just decide who they do and do not need to fear."
"And I've never given anyone reason to fear me."
"Only Ricki knows about that."
His hand went to his head, scratching feverishly at his scalp like a flea-ridden dog. I think it was his reaction to thinking. "If Cockrum didn't trust me he would've just fired me."
"Unless there's something in it for him."
His hand went back on his head, but this time with far less enthusiasm. Eventually it evened out into a slow pat until he was nearly gently tousling his own hair. It made him look like a kid.
"Cockrum knows Ricki saw me."
I made a sound in my throat that let him know I agreed with him.
"So he knows TruAir knows. Or at least, that they might know."
I repeated the sound only louder this time. Warmer.
The following challenges were completed during the writing exercise:
Begin Start typing to begin
Words Reach 50 words
Location A cafe
Words Reach 100 words
Words Reach 200 words
Character A revered chimney sweep
Words Reach 300 words
Letter Use the letter W
Words Reach 400 words
Prop Include a lime
Words Reach 500 words
Words Reach 600 words
Words Reach 700 words
Words Reach 800 words
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