“Lucky, lucky, lucky,” then man coos as he kicks me in the face.
“Looks like your luck’s finally ran out, hasn’t it, Siegel?” he asks.
Stars fill my vision as I am sent reeling backwards, the hard concrete floor is there to catch me as I land, knocking the wind out of me. If I wasn’t bruised before, I am now.
This is what I get for trying to be a good guy.
I spit out a mouthful of blood onto the floor as I roll over onto my side. I can’t help but groan. My jaw is aching something fierce before looking back up at my jailer. That big bastard looks so smug, like beating my ass is such a feat. It’s really not.
Benji is a tall man, his muscle-bound frame is as heavy as he is ugly, trying to hit him would work out about as well as smacking against the ground a few more times. I barely come up to his chest.
His stocky face looks like some kid went to town with a sharpie after shotguning a couple cans of Redbull, Random cursive words line his forehead and his cheeks, though I can’t make out what any of them actually say.
‘Always Pliers?’ That can’t be right, can it? Or is it ‘tired’?
Who knows? I’ve never bothered to ask.
“The boss was real disappointed you skipped out on the meet, Lucky. Especially after you promised you’d have her money. She wants the cash, right now. Where is it?”
I can’t help but to chuckle. Benji knows full and well what’d happened, that I’d gotten jumped on the way to my meeting with Black Pearl. Hell, I’m almost certain it was some of his muscle that’d got me. Buying my way out from under BP’s thumb was supposed to be my fresh start, my way out of the game.
Christ, I’m almost as dumb as Benji looks.
“Oh, I’m sure it breaks your heart, Ben. I can tell just by looking at you that you’re such a sweet boy underneath all of that shit on your face. You’re a real Mother fuckin’ Teresa.”
Benji laughs, exposing his mouth full of razor-sharp teeth. Guy filed them into points like some kind of shark. It’s going to lead to a world of dental problems down the line, but it accomplishes what he intends it to. My blood is frozen in my veins and my heart nearly skips a beat.
“Don’t bullshit a bullshitter. I saw Lil’ Nate and Jer-Bear rolling with those chumps that jumped me earlier. I know you’re the one who took Black Pearl’s cash, and since I know that, I also know you’re not letting me walk away from here able to talk. If you’re gonna kill me, kill me. Just have the stones to admit it.”
As I’m talking, my hand inches towards the knife hiding in the back of my belt. If I don’t play this right, I’m done for. If I do, then I have a shot. Not much of one, but still, it ain’t nothing.
“Of all the things I’m gonna miss about you, I’m going to miss that spunk the most,” Benji says. “You got heart, just no sense. What a waste.”
Benji slowly licks his lips as he pulls off his suit jacket, tossing it down beside him without looking away from me, his beady black eyes feel like they’re burrowing holes through me. Steam gushes out from the nearby sewer like some teenager’s vape cloud, giving Benji the appearance of a smoldering devil in the darkness.
My breath grows shakier as realize just how fucked I really am. Truly, horrifically fucked. If I had my gun, maybe I’d have a shot. But that went missing too, right along with Black Pearl’s cash. All I have on it is the dinky butterfly knife hiding in my waistband, even though my finger is a mere hair away, it feels like it might as well be in a different state.
“Why, Ben? Why betray BP like this? Eh? I get you have no love for me, you’ve always made that clear, but why steal from her? I don’t get it.”
“Do you ever stop bitching? Why can’t you just die like a man?” Benji mutters as he begins approaching me, his rippling muscles glistening beneath the lights of the streetlamp.
“You know if she finds out about this, your big ass will be dead
right next to me, right?”
“How is she gonna find out? You plan on popping up at a séance and telling her?”
I swallow hard. Sweat is pouring down my face as I scootch back against the sidewalk. With every movement my hand gets closer to my knife. I can feel the cold metal against the skin of my finger.
“You never know, Ben. I might just find a way.”
“You don’t know shit, Lucky. All you do is scurry and scramble in the dirt like a fucking worm. I told her before not to bother with a street rat like you, but she didn’t want to listen to me. Now both of y’all are gonna pay. Her with her green, and you...you’re gonna pay with your life.”
Gino. Another runner, like me. Decent guy, good at drawing birds. He ghosted Black Pearl about a month ago under similar circumstances. Can’t imagine it’s a coincidence.
Benji pauses for a moment, a dark look crosses his face before returning to that evil grin.
“Yeah, like Gino.”
“You know the only thing worse than a rat, Ben?” I ask.
My heart is pumping a hundred miles a minute as my fingers disengage the lock at the bottom of my knife. Someway, somehow, it doesn’t clink. Thank God it doesn’t clink.
“What’s that, dead man?”
“A traitor!” I yell as I whip the knife out, twirling it in my hand so its blade pointed towards Benji. I lunge forward, stuffing the blade deep into his pectoral muscle.
Benji gasps as I give the knife a hard twist, ripping it down with all of my strength. A dark torrent of blood jets out from the wound and down my hand. I look up at him, my eyes wide.
Did it work? I can’t believe it—
His massive fist connects with my face, sending me colliding into the nearby wall like a tennis ball before bouncing back to the ground.
“Fuck,” I groan as Benji continues his approach, my knife poking out from his chest like a damn needle in a pin cushion.
“Really? That was your plan? Say something dramatic before stabbing me in the titty?”
“Not my greatest moment,” I say as I force myself up to my knees.
A river of warm blood pours from my busted lip down my chin. The collar of my shirt is sticky, clinging to my chest like a newborn to its mother.
“I was gonna kill you fast, but now you're gonna die slow. Real. Slow,” Benji says, ripping the knife from his pec before casting it further down the alleyway. “Ow," he mutters.
“Yep, kind of figured that,” I say before spitting out another mouthful of blood.
Benji starts towards me again, murder in his eyes. I get the feeling there’s not going to be a next time. I close my eyes and brace myself for the hit that’s heading my way.
Besides that, there’s really nothing I can do.
A shot rings out and I almost shit myself.
This is it. It’s over.
A moment passes, then another.
Where’s the pain?
Am I dead already?
I finally muster up the courage to open my eyes and I face it, whatever it is and I see a woman standing over Benji’s twitching body, a large silver revolver resting against her side.
“BP,” I manage to say, nearly crying out her name with adulation. In his mind, he’s that little boy again, the one with no parents, no family and there she is, saving his ass. “It’s really you," I whisper.
“In the flesh, Lucky Siegel," she says, holding her stubby arms aloft. “For now, at least. Should probably be making ourselves scarce, don’t you think? Somebody's likely to have heard that shot.”
I try to stand, but stumble back to a knee. Everything hurts.
“How did you know?” I ask, my voice breaking.
“Because I’m not as big an idiot as Benji thought,” she replies, casting a hard glance down at her henchman’s corpse.
If looks could kill, the bastard would be dead twice over.
I nod knowingly, trying to play catch up in my mind.
“Where are we gonna go?” I ask.
“Me? I’m going for a drink, I’ve got to go and find me some more muscle anyways. As for you, well, I’m not so sure about where the hell it is you’re going to go, but it’d better be somewhere far from here,” Black Pearl says with a little smile.
“What do you...”
“Your debt is paid, Lucky. You’re a free man.”
“I’m free,” I repeat. The words sound strange as they pass my lips, almost foreign.
“You’re also a bloody parrot, apparently. Did Benji knock something loose in that noggin before I put him down?” she asks.
“No—well, maybe. I just...I almost can’t believe it.”
“You can’t have shitty luck all the time, kid, she says. “Now, go on and get out of here. Fly the straight and narrow for a while, or I’ll find out and come kick your ass.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I say as I hold out my hand to her.
She takes it and gives me a nod and a firm shake.
“Make me proud,” she says before releasing her grip.
I flash her a grin before turning to leave. I have no idea where I'm going, but it really doesn't matter. Everything is going to turn out alright.
I can feel it.