The drive back to Eddie’s was pretty haunting. This is usually a fairly busy town, but not tonight. Tonight, everyone’s indoors for the night. Like they already know what a warzone this town’s about to turn into, and no one wants to be caught in the crossfire. Rebecca blew smoke out the open window and I tired to focus on the road. She was quite a distraction. There’s just something about a beautiful woman with careless, just-had-sex hair smoking a cigarette.
Probably the sex.
I almost didn’t notice Joe standing in the parking lot of Eddie’s.
“We need a different car,” he said when I stopped about six inches short of hitting him. “A van. Something that isn’t already tied to us and something that can hold a lotta shit.” Joe’s the smart one. Dammit, why didn’t I think of that? What was I doing instead of planning this damn war? Oh, yeah.
Mike arrived shortly after we did, covered in fresh scratches and with a grin that took over the entire southern half of his face. This was Mike’s answer to just-had-sex hair. All of the scratches on him aren't from his stint in prison, his meeting with the Specialist or his time in a spider pit; they're all love bites from whatever it is that Mike has sex with.
“Whew, some of those girls really know how to say goodbye,” he said.
“You smell like the zoo,” Joe noted.
“And there’s a fish hook in your ear,” Rebecca added. He rubbed it affectionately.
“Caryn. Loves fishing, God bless her.”
We drove to “Crazy Jeremy’s Car Dealership.” Jeremy wasn’t crazy, not even a little bit. In fact, he was just a tool with a fairly uncreative marketing ploy.( “Check out the deal on this Honda, I must be crazy!”) We knew Jeremy back from high school and that, in conjunction with some of the other benefits inherent to our unique position as the unofficial underground kings of this town, normally got us free rentals, whenever we wanted. Tonight, as I should have already guessed, was going to be a problem.
“No,” Jeremy said as soon as we pulled up. He was always nervous, but today it was in overdrive: pit stains, coffee stains, circles under his eyes. He looked like someone who, like everyone else in this town was ordered to stay away from me. Ordered by a very large man.
“Jeremy, we need a van.” I saw a plain white van. “That one. We need that van.”
“No, no, no. Guys, come on. I-I-I-I just can’t help you out, not tonight, no. I’m sorry, but no.” He looked like he was about to cry. On one hand, the Emperor most likely put the fear of God in him. On the other, Jeremy was always horribly concerned with what people thought of him. All he wanted to was please everyone in the world so everyone everywhere would like him. All the time. Must be stressful.
“Just give us the keys, Jeremy, to that van, and we’ll go. You’ve done it before. Come on.”
“Please, it’s different this time, he-” His face went white.
“Somebody important show up, Jeremy?” He nodded. “Someone big and mean, making all kinds of threats? ‘Stay away from Hank, or else.’ That sort of thing?” Jeremy lowered his head.
“He showed me what he did to your bar. I just...I just can’t risk it. I mean, I’m- I can’t really lose this place. I’m just pulling myself out of the red, here, you guys. We’re...we’re still friends, though, I just...I can’t tonight.”
“Think we’re gonna have another chance to ask you again?” Jeremy closed his eyes. Joe stepped up to the plate.
“You’re afraid, Jeremy. That’s all, right? You don’t want the big mean guys messing up your shit-in-a-box car dealership?”
“Scared. Huh. Tell me, Jeremy, about how tall are you?”
“Uh...5'11", maybe 5'11" and a half?”
“I see. So, I guess Costco, then?”
“Was it Costco? They usually deal in bulk or ridiculous sizes, so was it Costco that sold you a five-foot-eleven-and-a-half-inch tampon?” Jeremy was trying to catch up.
“Are you..are you-”
“A vagina, yes, I’m calling you a vagina, Jeremy. A large, man-sized vagina.”
“A vagiant,” Mike added.
“Thank you, Michael. A vagiant. So...Costco?”
Jeremy produced a ring of keys from his coat pocket and started searching through them.
“You guys are assholes.”
We packed the van with almost everything Eddie’s basement had to offer. Guns, explosives, Samurai swords. We’d be outmatched and outnumbered, but we’d be prepared. Joe drove, Mike sat in the passenger seat memorizing the blue prints of the warehouse, something else Joe thought to get while I wasted the last few hours spooning, and Rebecca and I sat in the back, amidst a cargo van full of very dangerous objects. She studied her shotgun, and she looked great doing it. But she was just naturally beautiful, so I imagine she’d look good doing just about anything. Get a picture of her wearing a stained sweat suit and feeding stray cats and I guarantee it could end up in Maxim. Did I mention we had sex?
I guess I spend too much time staring at Rebecca and trying to figure out where I could get cats for the photo shoot because, the next thing I knew, we were there. Across the street from the warehouse, right in front of a building that used to be an Olde Towne Bank, but was now just a building. As Joe and I were checking to make sure everything we thought we were going to need was loaded, Mike ran across the street and quickly disappeared in the shadows. He’s messy and classless and painfully loud, but when it’s time for business, it’s time for business. Just as quickly and quietly as he’d left, Mike was back in the van.
“So?” He closed his eyes for a few seconds and then unrolled the large blueprint. He pointed to what, I guess was the first room in the building.
“Twelve guys in here, and none of ‘em looked very Emperory.” He pointed to one of the warehouse’s many large windows, this one facing the street. “If we get someone on the roof the Towny Bank, they can get a few through that window. Five, the rest of ‘em won’t be visible. I’m thinkin’ Joe on the roof with a sniper rifle, and Hank and I in that lobby, with just our fucking hands.”
“No, to the end of that. What about the rest of the place?”
“All of the other rooms were empty, except, I guess, the big storage garage.”
“Yea. All the windows around the garage were too high for me to reach, they’re all, like, a foot below the roof. Too high for me to see, and there’s not a building tall enough with a good enough angle where we could see in from a roof. The lights are on in there and nowhere else. We’re just gonna have to assume the Emperor, the Specialist, and everyone else is in that garage. Which is good for us; the garage door is weak.”
“Weak enough for, say, a white cargo van to drive straight through it?” Joe asked.
“Any color, really. But yes. So first, we gotta take care of those twelve. In the lobby. They look like guards; all carrying guns, all dressed alike, all lookin’ like total pricks. All standing in the room right before the garage. They’ve all got walkie talkies and some other little electronic devices. I don’t know what they are, but we probably don’t want them activated.”
“They give a signal,” Rebecca explained. “When the signal goes off, a great deal of the Emperor’s associates will arrive.”
“A great deal?” I asked.
“About how many assloads?” Mike wondered.
“Kay. So we don’t want them to hit those buttons. We want to get in there fast and quiet. Joellerskates, you need to get every single one of those guys you can. Hank, we need to take out the remaining seven. Don’t miss.”
‘OK,’ I say, like I’m not terrified. Like I go to war all the goddamn time. Like I'm not a cricket’s wink away from shitting my pants.
Did I just say ‘cricket’s wink’? I must be really losing it.
“Hey,” Mike said, cracking his neck. “Let’s fuckin’ do this.” I loaded my guns.
Let’s fuckin do this.