The sight of the twisted frame of married glass and steel tightened Kid’s chest like it always did. The invisible fist squeezing his heart shifting fingers to a different kind of squeeze, a different tightness, when Kid saw Twitch pacing in his jerky jocular way beneath the gravity defiant mass of building overhang. Kid rushed out the garage, quick across the street, nodding as he caught Twitch’s eye, the one not flaring to seem to scan all around the courtyard.
Twitch clattered over, grasping Kid by the shoulder and spinning him around to walk away from the Library.
“Woul’n’ b’lie’e the shi’ wen’ down last nigh’.”
Kid shot a look over his other shoulder, as the Library retreated across a street, disappearing behind the facing block of apartments. Kid turned to attend to what Twitch was saying.
Wait, does he already know about the busted drop?
If he already knows we don’t have to tell him?
Um, ok. But does that mean he knew about last night while it was happening?
Wait, no. We don’t think that, do we? Twitch wouldn’t let us get set up like that. He wouldn’t.
Kid snuck a look at the older boy who was bouncing down the sidewalk with overflowing exuberance. His hands were flipping through varied contortions that might have been intended to offer further context to his rambling narrative. His cheeks stayed dimpled as he poured words, or parts of words, through a constant grin.
“’Ose muthafuckas don fug’ wit’a wro’nugge’s,” Twitch was waving his hands around slapping down a number of invisible fools who didn’t know who they were fucking with, “S’we goan t’the place, an’ layen the shi’down…”
I think he might be talking about the other stuff that happened last night. Remember how Ilk said everyone else was out handling things?
See! I knew Twitch was on our side. Told you he wouldn’t have set us up.
Well, we don’t know that he didn’t, really. All we know is that he isn’t talking about it right now. Um. That we can tell.
Do we think he would just tell us, if he was involved?
Um. Yes? I don’t know. I hate this.
Hate what? Thinking?
Having to think? Like, having to try and guess what Twitch knows or doesn’t, what we should say or shouldn’t. Or is this just what having friends is?
I don’t know, Whiny. Maybe this is just how it works. Maybe we will just get better at it, so it becomes like not having to think about it?
But, ah, since they have made it pretty clear that they don’t have a problem killing us if we do or say the wrong thing, maybe we keep trying to think about things in the meantime?
I get it. I’m just saying it sucks.
Kid pulled up sharp, breaking away from their ambulatory dyad as Twitch stumbled on a step, and two, turning to look back at Kid, eyebrows shrugged, hands left as dangling as his narrative.
“Um, last night,” Kid began, pausing.
Where do we start?
Um. What do we want to say?
More, what do we want to NOT say?
Ok, this thinking thing might be necessary and all, but maybe in the future we finish deciding what to say BEFORE we start talking?
Just say as little as possible. Fewer chances to get caught saying the wrong thing.
“Some guys crashed the drop,” Kid rushed to finish the sentence as Twitch’s brows and hands went from shrugged to flared, “and took the drugs and the money.”
Fingers curling into fists and various parts of Twitch’s face jerking in different directions face indicated the building internal pressure, and Kid dropped his gaze to stare straight at his feet as Twitch exploded, drawing looks from the other pedestrians who were now giving the two boys as wide a berth as the sidewalk would allow.
The taller boy slammed his arms down with so much force that his feet lifted off the ground.
I didn’t think ‘hopping mad’ was an actual thing.
Twist ran out of air in a literal way, all of his words smashed together like a traffic accident. Pulling deep, gasping breathes beneath writhing brows, Twitch made slow fists, releasing them in unsynchronized bursts just to bring them back.
Ok. I am willing to admit that seem like good evidence that he didn’t know.
I told you Twitch wouldn’t do us like that!
Should we keep talking, then?
Do we know what we want to say?
Well, if he doesn’t know anything, what do we want him to know first?
“Ilk gave me a bag?”
Kid began again, pausing as his friend unleashed a swiping kick with accompanying obscenity.
“Tha’ pig-fuggin twisted fack!”
Twitch spun a full circle off the kick, facing Kid with lips pressed together, flat as the brows above a pair of steady eyes. Kid swallowed.
“So I went to drop off the bag,” Kid tried to keep his voice steady, with an acceptable level of success, “and when I did these two guys showed up,”
“I saw the gun and his, um, fierce. Face. So I tried to take off,” Kid shuffled, looked up at Twitch, “They caught me. Took the shit.”
Twitch’s eyebrows were performing contortionists, nostrils flaring and quivering.
He has the weirdest, um.
“Ah fuggen TOL’IM,” Twitch stormed past Kid in the same direction they had been going, but with a difference in his stride like unto the difference between the way a clown walked into a child’s birthday party, and the way one left. “Sen’a fuggen kid’a deal wi’tha’ kin’a money, fuuuck.”
Kid rushed to catch up to the older boy, who was almost skipping in his rushed but halting stride. Twitch blew past two blocks, through the square with Kid’s entrance to the metro tunnels, weaving to the familiar metal door, muttering invective imprecations the entire way. The door was being minded by one of the guys Kid hadn’t heard named, yet, who started banging on the door as soon as he saw Twitch enter the alley. Chains rattled and the door was standing wide open so Twitch could stalk right through and start bellowing his imprecations at the target of his ire.
“Ya dirty cragface’ shit eater!”
The monster stood in the middle of the room next to Big and a handful of the older guys, Blaze and DD among them. As they approached Kid flicked a glance toward the corner where the younger guys tended to loiter, seeing the brothers and Chubz paying rapt attention to the confrontation. Ilk spread a sloppy smile, tucked his fingers through his belt loops and leaned against the front of his shirt, hulking like something…
“We fuggen TALK’D abou’ it,” Twitch waved at Big, “‘Ev’n he fuggen ‘greed w’stupi’, y’addled ass, because this woul’ fuggen happ’n.”
Ilk spread his grin, and Big turned to him, waiting with the tired air of a parent trying to decide which child to punish.
“Wal, I’ath thinkin,” the thug started.
Twitch interrupted with a sharp clap cutting the tension, and followed by another, and a third in the sudden stillness, “No’we kna wha’the fuggen pro’lem was!”
Ilk thrust a huge finger at Twitch, lurching forward a step into Twitch’s personal space and bringing the disparity in size between the two into even sharper relief, Twitch’s head being about the same height and size as a single one of the larger man’s shoulders.
“Tha’th whut I’m talkin’ about, you little bitch,” he snarled, and Kid tried not to take a step back. “Y’alwayth fucken call me thtupid, but I figured out thome thick shit and yur fucken panty-bunched,” He laughed.
“Someone better tell me what the fuck you’re talking about and be fucken quick about it,” Big said as calm as ordering food.
“This plastered prick gav’a Kid ‘ere a some bricks t’deliver, on a onesie an’en whoopdeefucken doo ‘hese fucks jack th’deal, ge’the cash an’a stash.”
“What’d they look like?” Big asked, as serious and attentive as Kid had ever seen him.
“Well, the one who had a gun was kinda bony and had tattoos all over his neck,” Kid said.
“Frank,” came a name from the crowd.
“And his friend was shorter, but, ah, puffy? Beard about as long as his hair?” Kid shaped a mass of invisible hair around his own face and head to demonstrate.
“Bean,” someone else supplied.
“Fuckers,” a third concluded.
Wait, they know the guys?
Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
“So ‘ese fucks jack us, jus’ li’e we fucken tol’is stupid shit ‘ey would.”
“This,” Big spoke through the hand had covering his face, “isn’t a great time to be givin’ product away.”
Twitch sneered up at the towering man in his face, who’s smug satisfaction was undaunted by the criticism. After a quiet moment Big looked up from his hand, the expectant look he leveled at Ilk growing harder with every passing moment. Ilk’s grin grew with the raising tension, doing weird things to a face so unaccustomed to the gesture.
“I put in bullshit brickth.”
“Wha’the fug ‘oes ‘at e’en mean?”
“Brickth, ya ingnant dick,” Ilk waved toward the surrounding walls, “th’shi’ wallth’re ma’e of.”
“So, they stole fucking bricks,” Big asked, as slow as a starting train.
“Fuck no,” Ilk face seemed about to split from the size of his grin, “they thtole our cheethe.”
The tension that had hung heavy in the room ever since Twitch had stormed in tightened, thickened, curdled.
The single word from somewhere in the crowd surrounding the cluster in the center lingered, no one rushing to either claim or clarify the contribution.
I don’t get it.
We didn’t even have any cheese.
“Y’been wante’ ta hit thothe lil nuggeth,” Ilk said, and Big was already nodding in response.
“Now we have a reason,” Big said, “Fucking right.” He looked around catching the eye of Blaze and a few others, “Guess las’ night was just a warm up, boys. 20 minutes, rolling, getcho shit.”
The crowd started to disperse, Blaze jogging up the stairs in the back, but Twitch stepped closer, sidling almost between Big and his beast. Kid took a half-step forward to stay within hearing distance.
“They coul’a fuggen kill’a Kid,” Twitch said in a voice not pitched to carry, staring at Ilk, who just smirked.
“And that’a been turrible.”
The giant turned with a dissmisive shrug to head toward his chair, and the bag slumping against the arm as Twitch stared a dagger into his back while his loose eye danced between Kid and Big
Big squared to face Kid.
“You got a problem, Kid,” Big said, and Kid turned with a start, “you keep fucking up in ways that ain’t awful enough to cut you loose, but ain’t useful enough to keep you.”
After a moment, Big seemed to reach a decision, peaked brows flattening as the slightest bit of tension flowed from between bunched shoulders.
“Come wit’ us,” he snapped a finger up to Twitch’s face, just one, never breaking eye contact with Kid, “tonight. Now.”
Big looked at Twitch, who had latched both eyes on his boss, then lowered his hand and looked back to Kid.
“Look, this ain’t goan be your only chance. Y’dun a’ight, but I ain’t tryin’a be sittin’ around figurin’ out if some’in’s safe enough for you ta try,” he looked back at Twitch, “I’ll let Ilk pick the nex’ one.”
“Loo’li’e Ilk done pick’d th’las’ one, already.”
Big held Twitch’s gaze for a steady moment, the shrugged and looked back down to Kid.
“Y’ain’t gotta be her’, ain’ gotta be part’a this. Plenty’a porch nugge’s ne’er put in no work. You coul’ go that way, f’sure. Or you coul’ get put on the hood right the fuck now.”
Well, we did go to all the trouble of putting on this rope armor.
Stupid. That is a stupid way to make decisions.
Not much time.
Wish we knew what ‘getting put on the hood’ was.
I hope they aren’t running us over with a car.
Doesn’t really matter does it?
“Ok,” Kid shrugged, trying to act relaxed, “What do you, um, want me to do?”
Big looked at the smaller boy for a moment. He did not smile. Twitch did not move.
“Be. Fucking. Useful.”
After holding Kid with his stare for a beat, and another, Big turned to join the group milling around the large bag Blaze had retrieved from the upper floor. Ilk could be heard leading a cascade of laughter as he towered over the group. Twitch grabbed Kid by his arm and pulled him to the side, eyebrows tangled.
“Wha’the flien furzy fuck?”
Twitch looked over at the door, at the bag being emptied of a multitude of firearms, and back around the room, shaking his head. Kid looked up at the older boy.
“It was gonna happen, right?” Kid asked, and Twitch paused. Kid shrugged, and Twitch let the boy’s arm fall free. “I mean, the getting into a serious fight? It was kinda inevitable, right? At least this way I got lots of big fuckers to hide behind.”
Twitch looked at him for a moment, then he grinned, turning to walk with Kid toward the door.
“Kid, y’migh’ be tha’ righ’ kin’a cra’y.”
Well, he’s bound to be half right.
Well, we might be the right kind of not-crazy? Or the wrong kind of crazy?
Huh. Well, thanks for straightening that out.
Now we just gotta figure out how to be fucking useful.
And not get dead.
And not get dead.