Choices in the Dark – Gray Metal Faces, March 10A

“I ain’t got yer money, ‘cuz it’s lost.” Double-J’s pronouncement halted the growing anger in his two accusers, the two men momentarily confused. “Yuh lost yer damn money, when yuh fergot t’ ask me, or anyone else, t’ pay for that beer run — ” The Bird noticed Double-J’s accent becoming more pronounced with his agitation — “Yuh wanna blame someone, blame yurself, fer goin’ straight t’ the back room t’ get  high, ‘stead ah takin’ care ah bidness. Yuh wanna cry ’bout yur damn money — ”

“Yur one ah dem college kids, ain’t ya?” Grabbing control of the conversation, Baseball Cap regained his belicose demeanor.

Double-J shook his head violently. “Got no use — ”

“Not wha I mean, wheder you take classes or nuthin’.”

“Yeah.” The man to Baseball Cap’s right, the one whose beer money was in dispute, seemed able to communicate with his partner without speaking; The Bird wanted no part of either man’s telepathy. “Yuh got tha’ attitude, tha’ you kin talk yur way outta fightin’.”

The Bird’s instincts wanted to run back into the Pizza Place, and — she wasn’t sure what, scream for someone to help, to call the police. But Double-J and the two men were between her and the restaurant’s entrance, and she was certain one of the men would grab her if she attempted to run past, stop her as the other man attacked Double-J. There were three other buildings (an accountant, a salon, a bank) in this small strip mall, all windows dark with emptiness. She looked around again, saw no other person in the lot, realized there was nothing she could do to help, no reasonable course of action save to trust in Double-J’s ability to avoid further escalating the situation.

She heard him suck in, air reverberating in his lungs like a growl. “You guys wanna fight — ”

“No sah!” Baseball Cap stepped back, unzipped his down vest, flipped open the flaps towards Double-J. “Ain’t gonna be no fightin’ tonight, yuh understan’?” He brought his right hand down across his waist, patted his left hip twice. In the darkness, The Bird couldn’t see what he was patting, but saw in Double-J’s indignant yet resigned expression that she really didn’t need to know what was there.

“Gonna make dis simple, boy.” The man to the right crossed his arms. “You jus’ gimme my money, an’ we done here. You don’t, it gonna get messy.”

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