“How long’s it been there, Boss?”
“About two hours,” Keitaro said.
Concealed by the darkness of their closed restaurant, Keitaro and TJ stood at the sides of the picture window with an idealistic view of the casket black Cadillac parked across the street. All the other shops had closed hours ago, giving the plaza its graceful ghost town essence. Only five cars belonged on the street. Five cars for Keitaro’s five-man closing crew. Counting the Cadillac, there were six.
“Their windows are too tinted, I can’t see shit,” TJ said.
“Through the windshield you can see two guys, and they’re moving around a lot,” Dylan said.
“They’re getting antsy,” Keitaro said.
“Why not just come out already? It’s not like they’re afraid of getting caught. They’re parked backward in a handicapped spot,” TJ said.
“Maybe they’re outnumbered by us,” Keitaro said.
“Something silver keeps reflecting moonlight,” Ramirez said from behind Keitaro. “You see it?”
“Probably a gun,” Keitaro said.
“Shit.” TJ lowered his head with his eyes closed.
“Who do you think they’re here for?” Dylan said, wringing his hands.
“Ramirez, whose bitch did you not pay?” TJ said.
The cook recoiled as if insulted. “Nobody, man. I ain’t been downtown lately.”
“Dylan, you owe somebody money?” TJ said.
“Just student loans, I swear,” the waiter said.
TJ glanced at Keitaro. Keitaro glanced right back.
“I haven’t pissed anyone off in Call of Duty lately, Boss,” TJ said.
“Sure you ain’t got enemies in that private life of yours, Boss?” Ramirez said.
“I water my flowers. My only enemy is winter,” Keitaro said.
“Maybe we should call the cops,” Dylan said.
“You know how long it’d take the cops to get here?” TJ said.
“If they even took the call seriously,” Keitaro said.
“You got a plan?” TJ nodded toward Keitaro.
“Always.” Keitaro turned away from the window to address his crew. “We leave now. Everyone shifts into drive in sixty seconds. Don’t put your seatbelt on. Don’t check your phones. Just get in and go.”
“Ain’t gotta tell me twice,” Ramirez said.
The closing crew gathered around the front entrance.
“What if they tail us?” Dylan said.
“Drive to the police station. It’s only a few miles from here. Just don’t let them pull up next to you,” Keitaro said.
“Why?” Dylan said.
“Because they’ll probably shoot you through the window. Here we go,” Keitaro said.
Keitaro punched in the code on the rubber security pad. The alarm beeped three times warning it would be armed in thirty seconds. He unlocked the door, shepherded everyone out and locked the door just as fast.
“What if it’s you, Boss?” TJ said.
Keitaro produced a black pocket knife from behind his back and flipped it open with a sharp click. “Then they’ll regret that choice.” He gripped the handle to slice.
“There could be six guys in there.”
TJ backpedaled reluctantly. “It’s a bad idea, Boss.” He crossed the street in haste. “Fuck it’s a bad idea. They’ve got guns.” He slid into the driver’s seat and gripped the steering wheel with shaking hands. “Hurry up, Boss. Get in your damn car.”
Keitaro glanced at the Cadillac then turned toward his Audi parked at the alley’s opening and stopped cold.
“What are you doing? Just get in…” TJ said.
Keitaro slowly backed out of the alley as a man approached him with a gun to his face. Two guys got out of the Cadillac.
“Oh fuck,” TJ said.
TJ glanced over his shoulder at Ramirez’s taillights as they blinked out when he turned the corner headed home. Dylan’s mom’s minivan had peeled out in fifty-two seconds. “Fuck, fuck.”
TJ rocked back and forth in his seat. “What do I do? What do I do? Cops. Cops! Gotta call the…” He snatched his phone out of his pants pocket.
TJ looked up to see Keitaro had somehow maneuvered the gun in his favor.
Keitaro flipped the gunman and served him to the ground. Keitaro stood tall and accepted the challenge of the fight.
The guy in the gold suit threw a weak punch. Keitaro blocked it. Keitaro punched the suited guy in the gut then in the face. The guy stumbled back.
The buff guy from the Cadillac raised his gun. Keitaro let the gun glide beneath his arm. He clamped down on the buff guy’s elbow to trap the weapon. The buff guy fired a surprised shot that disappeared into the night. Keitaro knocked the gun from the buff guy’s hand. With a shift of his feet, Keitaro flipped the buff guy over his shoulder and slammed him hard into the cement.
“Holy hell! He can fight.” TJ leaned on his steering wheel for a closer view.
The blade in Keitaro’s hand glinted in the moonlight. TJ realized the whole fight Keitaro hadn’t been punching, he’d been slicing. Hence why the suited guy held his arm and gut the way he did. Why the buff guy wiped the back of his hand down his sleeve, staining it crimson. Keitaro hadn’t knocked the gun out of the buff guy’s hand, Keitaro had cut it out.
“Will someone shoot the motherfucker!” the gunman said when he got to his feet.
The suited guy rushed in from the right, lifting his reattained pistol. With a spin kick, Keitaro knocked the gun from his hand. The gun flew and hit the gunman in the face. Keitaro drove the heel of his foot into the suited guy’s kneecap. An instant attack of pain shot up the suited guy’s stiff leg. He limped back in paralyzed agony.
The buff guy spotted his gun near Keitaro’s feet and crawled on all fours to reattain it. Keitaro kicked the gun near the street. He kicked the buff guy’s arms out from under him. The buff guy toppled hard onto his right shoulder, nearly throwing it out of socket. Keitaro threw his leg up into the suited guy’s face then turned face to face with a gun.
Missed. Keitaro had thrust his wrist into the gun, sending the aim off course. Keitaro sliced upward at the gunman’s bicep. Blood sprayed into the air. The gunman’s groan echoed between the alley walls. Keitaro thrust both fists into the gunman’s chest, sending him away hollering, “Son of a bitch!”
Keitaro caught the buff guy’s wrist in mid-aim. Keitaro kept the pistol away from his face. He threw his knife up to slash the buff guy’s face. The buff guy caught Keitaro’s hand and stopped the knife. In a grunting battle of strength, the men twisted each other’s arms away. The knife hovered higher near the buff guy’s throat. The buff guy’s gun targeted Keitaro’s heart. Keitaro shoved it down more to his left.
“Oh shit,” TJ said.
Keitaro slunk to the left.
“Yeah, fuck you,” the buff guy said.
The buff guy beat Keitaro to the ground. Keitaro didn’t recover quickly enough before the three guys were on him, punching and kicking in full riot.
“Oh shit. Get up, Boss,” TJ said.
“All right! All RIGHT! HEY!”
The suited guy broke up the pack. The men hovered above Keitaro’s motionless body. The buff guy threw one last ruthless kick as he spit something in Spanish.
TJ picked up his phone.
“Nine-one-one. What’s your emergency?”
“Yeah, I need an ambulance. I need the cops! My boss just got jumped. Yeah. The Roquefort. The restaurant. Hurry, he’s hurt bad. I don’t even know if he’s alive. They beat the hell out of him. Wait.”
The buff guy and the white gunman lifted Keitaro up by the arms.
“They’re taking him,” TJ said.
The thugs carried Keitaro across the street to the Cadillac and shoved him into the backseat. The suited guy gathered items from the alley before hurrying to the driver’s seat. He started up the engine. The headlights flashed on TJ, and he froze.
“The license plates? Oh shit. They see me. They fucking see me,” TJ said.
The Cadillac peeled out. As it passed by TJ’s car, the back window rolled down and glistening metal appeared out of the shadows. Two shots were fired in succession. The first shattered TJ’s window. TJ cursed and took cover leaning into the passenger’s seat. The second bullet struck the passenger door. When the Cadillac passed, TJ stuck his head out of his broken window and caught the license plate number.