I bit a good chunk out of my cheeseburger while Glew slurped his milkshake. He focused on it to the point that I thought his head might bust right there in the diner. We sat at a booth near the back. A few other folks took up more booths while eight or nine folks occupied most of the bar chairs. I washed my burger down with coffee. “Don’t strain, Glew.”
Glew kept slurping. Our waitress brought the check. I reached for it but Glew beat me to it. I said, “Come on, now. You’ve got the last ten.”
Glew let go of the straw and took a breath. “Well, you know how it is. Given your clothes, you’re not worried about appearances. But when you’re a ladies man like myself, you have to show them a little something and every lady loves a man who will pick up a check.”
I rubbed my chin. “You keep going and you’re going to be writing child support checks…ladies man.”
Glew swallowed. “Why do you say that? Did somebody tell you something?”
I took another bite of the cheeseburger and shrugged. “I don’t like to gossip…”
He studied me for a moment. Then he removed his credit card from his wallet and placed it on the check. I said, “But…”
“But? But what? What are you talking about, George?”
I chuckled. “George? You must be worried. Ain’t nothing wrong with a child. You can pass on your fine lineage of skirt-chasing.”
“Come on, man. You don’t just open up that door and…oh…”
The young lady scooted her chair up to our booth. She sat down as if she were a nurse trying her best not to disturb her sleeping patients. I almost her to be holding reading material. Her hands were empty but they shook. She stared at her lap. I said, “Um…ma’am…”
The waitress came by and got the check along with Glew’s credit card. The girl kept her eyes down. I found myself playing along until the waitress dropped the check off and carried a tea pitcher toward another booth. I said, “So, um…what can we do for you, ma’am?”
She mumbled something. Glew said, “How’s that, miss?”
The girl looked at me. I stared into her eyes. She glanced over at Glew and then back at me. Her bottom lip trembled. “Okay. You…you two guys…I…somebody said that you guys could…”
We waited for her to continue. After a solid minute, I said, “Ma’am, I don’t know what-
She leaned forward, keeping her voice low but loud enough for me to hear. “Joe’s Storage.”
I looked at Glew who snapped his fingers. “Just down the road a ways. Right?”
The girl nodded. After looking Glew over a while, she turned back to me. “My boyfriend has been selling power drills out of a unit there. He got them from Roy’s Hardware.”
I pointed at her. “I know that place. So you’re saying he-
She nodded. “The number to his unit is 63. Here’s the key.”
She slid a key across the table next to my hand. “Just set him right.”
I said, “Ma’am, I don’t know who you’ve been talking to…ma’am?”
She walked out of the diner. I looked over at Glew. “What do you think?”
Glew said, “That’s the power of reputation. Let’s go.”
I said, “This ain’t good, man. The next thing we know, some blue boys might get after us.”
Glew stood and smoothed his shirt out. “Maybe. Come on. We’ll check it out.”
I shook my head. “I don’t feel too good about this. I mean, who was she? How does she know? Who told?”
Glew wiped a crumb off my shirt. “Take it easy, stud. When you help people, others talk. It happens. We’ll just check it out.”
I shrugged. “When they lock us up, you get bottom bunk.”
We headed for the door.
He said, “Fine. Now, what did you hear about me and child support?”
I turned back to him. “Well, it’s probably nothing.”
“Oh, come on. Probably nothing? What does that mean?”
I drove us over to Joe’s Storage. We idled through the rows. The units were about eight feet long apiece. Long rows of blue metal doors. I figured they were filled up with old junk and maybe a few decent pieces of furniture. We found number 63. I examined the key. Glew said, “Well, we could check it out. There’s no tail or anything.”
I scratched my cheek. “I don’t know, man.”
Glew said, “It’s up to you.”
I said, “Let’s sleep on it.”
I dropped Glew off and took my time getting home. I stayed up, mulling the idea over. The police didn’t scare me in this matter. I couldn’t picture them being bent out of shape over us roughing up a thief. I’m sure rumors had floated around about us but we hadn’t caused chaos in the streets by any means. Any people we straightened out would not be going to the police. So, I couldn’t picture any trouble from them, although you never know.
But who was this girl? And who told her about us? Was this a set-up? Did we already have a run-in with the boyfriend? She didn’t give us much. We could just walk away. Still, I knew Roy, owner of Roy’s Hardware. Roy and his wife were pleasant people who always met me with a smile. I could definitely beat this boyfriend down for robbing them. So I called up Glew the next night. He picked me up and we rode back over. We took a car Glew usually keeps parked at his parents’ house. It’s an older model that he only brings out for such jobs now and then. I mean, after all, the storage place could have cameras.
Street lights lit up Joe’s storage. We parked in front of unit 63 which unfortunately could be seen from the road. Of course, how often do passing cars pay attention? We zipped up our hooded sweatshirts, threw our hoods over our heads and stepped out of the car. I inserted the key the girl gave me into the lock and turned.
I looked behind us. No cars or people approached. I stood and surveyed the area. Glew said, “Wow. For real?”
I hunkered down and tried the lock again-nothing. I scratched my head. Glew said, “Maybe she got confused?”
We could drive off. But then, Roy and his wife had lost some tools. They didn’t deserve to suffer because this girl gave us the wrong key. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my picking tools. Glew kept watch while I worked the lock. Glew said, “We’ve got a visitor, stud.”
I let go of the lock and untied my boot. After peering across my shoulder at the car stopped at the entrance, I shrugged. “If it’s him, he’s made us and he’ll do something.”
Glew said, “Right.”
The car pulled by our row and onto another. I got back on the lock until it opened. Then I lifted the unit door. Glew shined his flashlight inside. “Do what?”
Shelves lined the walls, all covered up with power drills. At least twenty more sat in the center of the room on the floor. Glew said, “Wow.”
I said, “Let’s get to it, then.”
Glew popped the trunk lid and opened the back passenger door of the car. I grabbed the biggest stack I could off the floor and placed them in the back seat. We passed each other, loading up what must have been fifty power drills. After ten minutes, the backseat sat full to the brim as did the trunk. Then the white car roared up to our bumper. I shut the passenger door and trunk.
The boyfriend stood six feet five inches tall, wearing a white T-shirt and white jeans. He sprung from the driver’s side and raced around to his own trunk where he removed a wooden bat and brandished it in the air. A passenger stepped out. The man wore gray at his temples but he looked like an older, thicker version of the first man. He didn’t carry any weapons but he filled out his brown shirt with a lot of muscle.
White Shirt bolted at me with the bat, taking a wild swing. I took a quick step to my left and ducked under the attack. From there, I tackled White Shirt hard enough so that he fell back into Brown Shirt. Brown Shirt did not budge. The both of us bounced off him. Brown Shirt gripped my neck with hands that could wrap around a tree trunk. My head tightened like it would pop.
Glew’s pepper spray hit Brown Shirt in the face. He eased up on my neck just enough. I wiggled free of his grip and laid into his square jaw with a left hook. Brown Shirt’s head moved but my hand thumped from the impact. White Shirt sprang up and jumped at Glew who sprayed the pepper spray at him but missed, dropping the can. I dodged a slap from Brown Shirt and retaliated with a right-handed punch smack on his nose. Brown Shirt paused, blinking his eyes. I grabbed the pepper spray off the pavement and gave him a second dose. Brown Shirt stumbled back, rubbing his face and sneezing.
When I turned to Glew, he and White Shirt wrestled on the pavement. I grabbed White Shirt’s ankle and pulled him off of Glew. White Shirt spun his body around and grabbed my…well…private area.
I dropped down onto my knees and shoved White Shirt’s bald dome into the pavement until he let go. Then I pressed down more, hoping for a pop. Glew pulled me off of him. When I stood up, I kicked White Shirt in the jaw. Brown Shirt grabbed me from behind. Glew pulled out his club and caught the bigger man in the temple. He let me go and stumbled back until he leaned on the car. Glew jumped into the driver’s side of his car. I hobbled to the passenger side and slid in. We took off.
I checked the side mirror before we turned the corner. White Shirt rolled around on the pavement, screaming and holding his arm. Glew said, “What did we hit?”
My groin throbbed. I winced. “Good job, Glew.”
“Now, that’s something I don’t hear everyday. To Roy’s?”
Glew drove a little higher than the speed limit until I warned him to slow down. With fifty stolen power drills in the car with us, I didn’t see any intelligence in getting pulled over. Glew did as instructed. A half an hour later, we pulled up to Roy’s Hardware. The place sat empty and dark. Glew sighed. “Should we come back tomorrow?”
I took a deep breath. “Pull around to the back.”
Glew said, “Aw, man. I have a date later.”
Holding onto my groin, I gave Glew a look.
He said, “Come on, man. I need to work on my lineage…even if your chances for a lineage just went down.” He glanced at my lap and grinned. I shook my head. “Roy and his wife are good people. We have to do this.”
He threw up his hands in surrender and drove around to the back. We got out and piled the boxes of power drills up against the back wall of the store. Glew told me that he didn’t see any cop cars drive by. I didn’t bother to look. Once we got them all out there, Glew drove us to a motel across the street where we had a clear view of the drills. Glew said, “You know, I could have her swing by and then we go to her house and she has me back in an hour.”
I said, “Go ahead.”
Glew dialed some numbers on his phone. I kept watch over the boxes, denying myself any looks at my watch. There would be plenty of temptations for the next nine hours to do so but we didn’t steal these just to see them go right back. White Shirt and Brown Shirt could return and reclaim Roy’s property anytime.
Glew shut his phone. I looked at him. He said, “You know, that girl. The one who told us about the job. I never saw her before.”
“You mean there’s a woman within a thousand miles that you’ve never seen?”
He said, “Right? And yet, she came to us to tell us about this. She knows what we do. That means other people know now. Does that scare you a little?”
I shifted in my seat. “It was bound to happen I reckon.”
He said, “What about enemies though? She could tell those two things we fought back there. She could tell them our names. Where we live and all.”
I shrugged. “We handled them back there. We can handle them again.”
“Yeah, but one against two?”
I said, “That’s life.”
He opened his phone. Then he shut it again.
“What do you mean?”
I rubbed my nose. “Every one of us is supposed to fight more than one thing every day. We got family obligations and work obligations and friend things and recreation things. We’re hit from all sides. Bills don’t stop needing to be paid. Girlfriends don’t stop worrying or complaining. Bosses don’t stop demanding. It’s life, Glew. We’ve all got numerous attackers day in and night out.”
“So you’re saying we’ll be okay?”
I said, “I’m saying how it is. We will be okay until we ain’t and then, if we have anything left, we’ll pick up and be okay until we ain’t again. We’re going to do that over and over until it’s over. Hell, let them come after us. I’m going to take their balls next time.”
Glew let out a chuckle. Then he fell into a laugh. “I love your spirit, stud! Yes, sir. To hell with her. I’ll camp out with you. We have something going here.”
“Damn right, hoss.”
The sun inched its way from the heavens, its rays lighting up Roy’s Hardware store’s black and red sign. Roy himself and his wife pulled up to the back at seven o’clock on the dot. When they spotted the drills, they examined them and talked for a while, wondering how such a thing could happen. They looked around the lot and eventually in our direction. Glew scrunched down in his seat, but I just watched. Roy took hold of his wife and hugged her. They must have embraced for five full minutes, wiping each other’s tears away.
I said, “Just like them, Glew.”
Glew rose and looked at them. I said, “Things were not all right for them a few days ago. Now they are again.”
Glew wiped his eyes. “It’s a real sight to see.”
I said, “I’ll drive home.”
Glew yawned. “You sure?”
I hobbled around to the driver’s side. Glew slid over. I drove us across the street to Roy’s Hardware and pulled around back. Glew said, “Hang on, now. What are you doing?”
I pulled up a few feet from Roy who turned toward me with a couple of drill boxes in his hands. I said, “Howdy.”
Roy focused on us. “Hello? George?”
I nodded. “You’re welcome.”
Roy’s mouth dropped open. I drove us away. Glew said, “You think that was a good idea?”
I said, “Yes, sir. We’re passing on a lineage.”
I said, “To the world.”