Terence leaned forward. “Hired to beat your ass to a pulp, Sam.”
Sam nodded. “That’s why I’m here, too. Got paid to knock out teeth. Even got some knuckles for the job.”
The crowd in the Barnes and Noble Starbucks paid no attention to the two men. Most were students deep in the mud of scholarly pursuits. Three grannies, some with gray streaks, some blue and chopped short, sat around their table, all holding the same historically romantic mystery novel. All wearing floral prints too.
Sam pulled the metal knuckles from his back pocket. He displayed the stainless-steel weapon in his palm. He made sure Terence could see the words “Irish Devil” inscribed on the side.
Terence lowered his gaze and smiled. “A Dalton. Wicked choice. Kept mine classic.”
Sam lowered the Dalton into his lap. Terence’s turn to show his.
“Patriot. Cheap, effective, and one hundred percent brass.” He ran his fingers over the metal. Petting it like a fucking baby bird.
One of the gray hairs burst into laughter, then covered her mouth in embarrassment. Sam heard enough to know one of the other ladies said something about an English lord’s girth.
Sam slipped the Irish Devil over his left hand. “How’s Brenda been?”
“Still in remission. Thank God.” He followed Sam’s lead with his brass knuckles.
Middle of the day on Thursday. Sam hadn’t counted on so many witnesses. Not that it mattered. Way out in Walnut Creek He was far from his usual spot.
Knuckles tightened around the weapons. Sam planted his black slip-on shoes and prepared to lunge. He noticed Terence wore black steel-toed Doc Martens. Should the fight get to the kicking stage, Sam would be at a disadvantage. Both wore button up shirts, which could be easily torn. Sam wore a navy-blue flannel over khaki Dockers. Terence, black Dickies shirt over blue jeans.
“Glad to hear it. She’s a tough cookie,” Sam said.
“Your kid? Doing all right?”
“Into taking selfies lately. Bugs the shit out of me.”
Terence kept stone still. No sudden movements at this stage. “Gonna do this right here or you wanna step outside?”
Sam tilted his head to the mocha by his feet. Terence had one by his too.
“Maybe finish these first. Plus, I’m having a thought,” Sam said. “Both got paid from this mysterious envelope left on the table. Two grand each.” Sam leaned forward again. More students poured into the café. “Stupid move considering we can just walk away.”
“We’re hoods, Sam. Remember? Reputation’s all we got. Can’t go pissing on it.”
“Spikes on the Irish Devil. Won’t look pretty when it connects.”
“If, Sam. If it connects.”
Both reached for their mochas with their knuckles on their fingers. In no hurry. Sam took a sip. Old ladies laughed again, quieter this time. He held his drink with his free hand, kept the Irish devil close to his lap. Sam resigned himself to hit first. Might drop him with the first salvo. After his sip, before he put the cup down, he’d strike.
“Don’t think I don’t see you tensing, Sam.”
A voice interrupted them. “Forget it, boys. Forget the whole fucking thing.”
The three grannies circled them. The one closest to Sam gripped a snub nose revolver. The old lady held it against her floral dress, keeping it visible to them but out of sight from everyone else.
The woman by Terence spoke. Her voice whispered over his shoulder.
“Hired you to see who would take the first punch. Needed a man of action. But you’re both a couple of pussies.”
“Blame this guy,” Terrence said.
The gun barrel pushed against the back of Sam’s neck. The one with the gray streaks spoke up this time. She didn’t bother to keep her volume down.
“We’ll want our money back, pussies. Throw in those brass knuckles too,” she said.
So much for the Irish Devil.
“Let’s agree never to speak of this, Terence.”