Lab Rat part 33

Posted: February 16, 2011 in Fiction, Test Subject

“Have a seat, man. We have a lot to talk about, you and me.” Talky pulls out a chair for me. As I sit, Keegan motions his men away. They fan out into the room, and I notice that Pushy and Quiet are no longer brandishing their guns. I also pick up on the fact that they don’t wander too far away. It’s okay. I don’t plan on starting any trouble at the moment. “So, Asher, my man. I’m going to tell you what I know. You’ll have to fill in the blanks, dig?” I nod. He goes on. “I know you like sticking up for the little guy. That’s noble. Not a lot of folks like that anymore. I know there isn’t a lot of money in it, even for the cops. The boys tell me you have a modest place, but a place nonetheless.”

“I can keep a roof over my head and food in my mouth.” I don’t want to tell this guy much. Really I don’t want to tell him anything, but like he says, he knows some things already. I need to buy time to think. This would be easier if my mind were clearer. That, and I still need to pee. I decide on a tactic. “Mister Parish, do you mind if we get some food? Your boys said I didn’t have time for dinner tonight.” He laughs. “I also really need to use the can.”

“I did tell them I was eager to meet you. For what I pay them, they don’t like to disappoint me!” He waves Talky over. “Burgers.” He looks at me, and I nod my approval. “Fries. Cokes. The boy is hungry.” Talky hurries off somewhere. “Bathroom is right over there.” He points. I stand, teeter a bit, and head for the men’s room. I’m maybe halfway there, when I feel a tap on my shoulder. It’s Pushy.

“Don’t make me come in after you.” He sounds like he kind of wants to shoot me. I keep walking, keenly aware that Pushy is right behind me. I push the bathroom door open. It’s bright and fluorescent, and I squint against all the white light reflecting off of the white tile. It smells like lemons and ammonia in here. Surprisingly clean though. This has to be the first public bathroom I’ve ever been in that wasn’t mysteriously wet everywhere. I look around. No windows. No curiously large ventilation shafts. Damn. Die Hard has lied to me again. I pee and wash my hands. I really don’t want Pushy to come in after me. I’d be sorely tempted to use one of the labeled cartridges in the injector.

I go back to the table where Keegan Parish is sitting. He’s got a stripper on his lap, giggling and trying to separate him from his money, but he waves her off as I approach. Pushy takes up his position against a wall about ten feet away again. “You look like you like being in charge, Mister Parish.”

“Keegan. Right now, we’re just a couple of guys doing some talking. If I’m signing your paycheck, that’s when you call me Mister.”

“Uh, right. Keegan, then.”

“And yes, I do like being in charge. The pay’s good, I make my own hours, and the benefits…” He gestures around. “I’m having a business meeting right now. Not a bad view, right?” I look around. He’s right. The girls are beautiful. I suspect that I could be having another beer if I wanted. Food is presumably on the way.

“You have all your meetings here?”

“As many as possible. Sometimes, something comes up that would be inappropriate for this particular venue.” He keeps smiling. “I’m hoping this can all be wrapped up here.” I somehow doubt it, but I try to keep the conversation alive.

“How’d you get into the protection racket?” I ask him. I get the feeling that was the wrong thing to say, because his smile vanishes. I can see his jaw clenching and unclenching for a minute. Finally he speaks.

“This racket is a legitimate business. I am offering protection to the small shops of the entire town. The guys who brought you here – do you think that someone would so much as steal a pack of gum if they thought that Peter over there would be waiting and watching?” He points to Quiet. Guess I have to call him Peter now. “The cops can’t be everywhere, Asher. My guys can.”

“Good point.” I keep my face as neutral as possible. “So what if the cops were to try to step in?”

“Easy.” He’s relaxing already. “For now, we back off. My operation is too small to handle the cops. For now. Once I have enough people buying insurance from me, I’ll be able to shoo them off. Being legitimate is a matter of size. Now eat up.” A plate plops down in front of me. A cheeseburger the size of both of my fists nearly fills the plate. Any remaining space is taken by French fries as thick as my fingers. Talky puts down a pair of buckets of soda, and tucks a serving tray under his arm.

“Anything else, Mr. Parish?”

“We good?” Keegan looks at me.

“We good,” I tell both of them. I watch as Keegan picks up a fry and bites off half of it.

I need to write more. I know, I know – if you want to write more, write more! I set the bar too low, I think. I didn’t really realize when I started that I was mere moments from completely burning out on my job.

I have been having awful dreams lately. It seems to be bleeding into the other Ramser brothers’ sleep too. All three of us had the night terrors a couple of nights ago. So weird.

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