The wind picked up and pushed a noxious smell down the alley along with a couple of fat drops of rain. Jesse had the driver’s license, so he walked back to the truck parked around the corner and moved it as directed by George until the rear of the truck nearly touched the awning over the back entrance. George got the tailgate down halfway and then jumped to one side, causing a man with a baseball bat to strike the tailgate with a thunk and a clang rather than stave in George’s skull.
“What are you two assholes doing here?” the man with the baseball bat said.
“You’re going to hit a total stranger with a baseball bat?” Jesse yelled in disbelief, coming round the far side of the truck and keeping George between himself and the jackass.
The man with the baseball bat swung it at George again. George put out a hand and stopped the swing, wrenching the baseball bat away with such force that the jackass fell hard onto one shoulder and then, cursing and moaning, rolled onto his back. From this vantage point, gasping, the jackass watched as the baseball bat went soaring into the air to land with a subdued thump on the roof of his ex-girlfriend’s apartment building.
“Go away, or it’ll be you next time. I’m sure if my friend helps me I could throw you onto the roof.”
“Toss the human caber, oh, the hijinks you get up to,” Jesse murmured.
The jackass got up, wheezed in a way which would have been comical if he hadn’t already tried to kill George, staggered from alcohol and lack of oxygen and in a sideways lurch, closed the distance between himself and George. George tripped him, pulled two tangled zap-straps from his jacket pocket, and slid one over the jackass’s hands and the other around a bike rack before anyone could react.
“What the fuck! I’m gonna fucking kill you!” the jackass screeched, finally figuring it out. He looked up to where he had last seen his bat, as if it was going to pick itself up and fly back down to him. George pulled out a handkerchief and gently put it in his prisoner’s mouth, as he had extended his jaw to its furthest gape. The jackass doubled over and started scream-coughing behind the handkerchief, and then he blew it out of his mouth and started yelling again.
Trying to cut through the din, Jesse said, “Jesus. You carry handcuff-style zip-ties.”
George picked up the handkerchief, which had not been improved by its brief trip to the asphalt. He fashioned it into a gag and tied it around the thrashing jackass’s mouth while saying. “Not usually, but I couldn’t resist stealing them from that flaming asshole cop who was bugging us on our last job.”
“George, when I grow up, I want to be you.” The jackass was making disturbing noises, running the gamut from angry squeaking to sound-dampened growls.
“The position is already taken.”
“I’m sure I can take over if you die,” Jesse said. He made his blue eyes as puppy-like as he could, even though he knew George was impervious to cuteness.
“Can you wait a couple of hundred years?” George asked. “I don’t actually plan on dying for at least that long.”
“Me neither. Or growing up, either.”
“Oh, I imagine I’ll have to grow up someday,” George said. “Here she comes,” he added brightly.
The jackass, seeing his ex, Ilanna, started thrashing around and howling against the gag. Jesse was amazed nobody was coming to windows to yell at them to shut up.
“Devin,” Ilanna said.
Three words, likely, “You goddamned bitch!” came out in three explosive grunts.
“Language,” George said. “You’re going to sit here and stay quiet until we’ve moved everything. If you’re good, everything that’s yours will be in the apartment packed up for you when we’re done. If you are noisy or get loose or try to hurt anybody I’m going to spend fifteen minutes describing what I’ll do to you and thirty seconds actually doing it.”
“Wouldn’t advise it,” Jesse said. “The description is scarier, but the doing hurts like a bastard, especially if he pulls out the Sub-Atomic Wedgie,” he added with a smile.
Ilanna shook her head and tried again. She sat on the ground next to Devin but backed away rapidly when he tried to kick her. Looking down at him, pity and disgust meeting in her expression somewhere between her knotted brows, she said, “Devin, I went to the cops today and asked for a peace bond. If you agree to sign it and leave me alone – “ at which point two grunts which sounded like “Fuck you!” forced their way past the gag, “– it’ll go better.”
“If you don’t, in about three weeks they’ll put together a picture of how you get drunk and high and like to threaten to throw me off a building, and to prevent that they’re gonna make you pee in a bottle every month for a year, and we all know how you feel about cocaine and fentanyl, so you’ll be in breach pretty much right away, and then you can detox in jail while figuring out how to pay the fine.”
The response to this was a hate stare and a growl. Jesse said, “I think you’re getting through to him!” at which point the hate stare swiveled around to him like a laser pointer. Jesse smiled and gave him a little wave.
“But if you do, I’ve got some protection and you can keep snorting coke and if you don’t stalk me it’ll stop in a year anyway.”
“Can I talk to you for a second?” George asked Ilanna. They walked briskly out of earshot.
Jesse tried to make conversation, mostly to cover how uneasy he was that they were unlawfully confining a violent drug addict with a decade-long history of domestic violence. Ilanna hadn’t pulled any punches in describing him, and Jesse and George, per their mandate, spent no time sighing over her poor relationship choices.
“So,” he said, “Did you vote in the election? You look like a provincial Liberal to me if I ever saw one. I voted Green though and we got our asses kicked.”
The move went fast, considering Ilanna hadn’t slept in 24 hours so she could both pack and work a last late shift at the restaurant. The boxes marched down the stairs, and then Jesse and George staged all the big furniture. By four a.m. it was pretty much done. Devin’s wrists were bleeding and his eyes looked ready to pop from his head.
“Ilanna, get in the truck,” George said pleasantly. “I’ll make sure Devin’s somewhere else when we leave. Back soon!”
“Let’s go back to your car,” George said to his captive. He cut the zap straps, and faster than Jesse could make out from the dim reflection in the side-view mirror, George put Devin in an elbow lock and marched him past a sagging chain-link fence covered in dead ivy, away from Jesse’s view. George pushed Devin toward his car and tugged off the gag at the same time, sending him into a spin. He smacked into the car and bounced back, roaring and trying to grab George, who ducked and wove and didn’t even breathe hard while Devin puffed and blew and cursed at him.
“I’ll kill you!” Devin said. George checked for security cameras, and finding none, choked Devin until he passed out. He leaned the unconscious man against the passenger side door, found the box knife he was carrying, and carefully slashed all of his tires. He stepped back to admire the effect and, leaning forward, put the knife in Devin’s limp grasp.
Then he trotted back to the truck.
“Is he okay?”
“Last I saw he was passed out next to his car,” George said, truthfully if not usefully. “I think he’d had a lot to drink and we tired him out. He never asked me how I knew which car was his, but I think the cheap cologne would have been as effective as a flare gun!”
“So he’s alive,” Ilanna said. It was impossible to tell whether she was happy about this.
“Yes, you’ll still have to push on with the peace bond. Don’t ask me to kill him though, we’ll be lucky if he doesn’t report us.”
“Fuck,” Ilanna said, with no volume and little expression. “That won’t happen. The only people in the Lower Mainland he hates worse than you right now are the cops.” Without further conversation, they drove through streets empty of anyone but addicts, cabbies and cops.
The unloading was into a ground level storage unit, since Ilanna had decided to leave town, and they got everything off the truck in forty-five minutes, working flat out because dawn was coming and Jesse had to get the truck back. Ilanna paid them just under a thousand dollars, cash, and the party split up; George and Ilanna shared a cab back to their respective crash spaces (George picked up Ilanna’s fare, it only seemed right after she’d laid out a g-note), and Jesse returned the truck and took a cab home. The sun came up while he was going home, and he put his Evil Villain mask on, after warning the cabbie.
“Holy shit man,” said the cabbie, looking at him in the rear view mirror with sleepy horror.