-B27-

The rusty hinges screech out and a metal door slams open against the dirty brick wall. The cacophony of old steel and decaying stone echoes through the damp alley way. Rubbing his temples, a middle aged man grits his teeth and shakes his head, as he walks fast through the doorway. A younger man rushes out after him, glances back at the hydraulic door closer hissing, and steps up in pace next to the other. He cranes his head around to stare at the middle aged man while navigating around rotting trash bags. After a few stumbles over plastic bins, he anxiously combs his hands through his wild, unkempt hair, and presents an awkward smirk. “So, Harry! What did you think!? It’s a pretty good deal, right? A step to the BIG LEAGUES! It’s what you’ve been talking about, right!”

Exiting the narrow alley way, Harry halts briefly upon the cracked sidewalk, scans the empty street, and gazes up to the night sky through the scattered, dim street lamps. Drawing in a long breath, he pulls both palms tightly down his face, blinks through his thoughts, and snaps his attention down the street towards an old, green sedan. “Ty. To the car. Now. Don’t speak until then.”

Without another word, Harry steps fast down the crumbling walkway, darts his eyes around the tall buildings, and pauses his scans upon darkened windows. Ty puzzles and blinks blankly in a growing state of confusion. He remains silent despite moments of temptation to open his mouth. Cutting quickly around the front of the car, Harry draws out his keys, deftly flips to the one for the drivers door, and opens it one exact, rehearsed sequence. Slipping into the seat, he works the next key, stabs it into the ignition, and turns it. Popping the door locks with a button press, he starts the car and readies himself while eyeing the passenger’s spot. Ty flops himself into the tattered leather seat, closes the door, and cocks his head towards Harry. “Okay... The fuck is wrong dude?”

Harry points to Ty’s seat belt, waits for Ty to clip it in, and puts the car in gear. Speeding out of the area, the vehicle coasts down to just below the posted speed limit. Releasing a long, hard sigh through his gritted teeth, Harry shakes his head and growls. “God fucking dammit! Fuck... Fuckity, fuck fuck! Everything is FUCKED now.”

Ty narrows an incredulous stare at Harry, tilts his head in disbelief, and scratches the back of his head. “The fuck, dude? We just got offered THE BEST we’ve EVER had before! From one of the THE BIG dogs! We’ve busted our asses for months trying to get into this market despite everything else.”

He holds his up palms up as bewilderment radiates through his body, and gawks at Harry. “And you’re acting like this was some kind of... some kind off... I don’t fuckin’ know. Like we just got marked for death or something!”

Leaning back into his worn seat, Harry squeezes the foam steering wheel cover tight, vents out his unease, and cracks his neck with a grimace. “Not quite it. But too fuckin’ close to it. Damn it. We have been so careful. Shit... Just... Fuckin’ shit…”

Contorting his face, Ty glances around the cab of the car as astonishment washes over him, and turns slightly in the passenger’s seat to face Harry. “OKAY. What the fuck is wrong?! You were completely cool during the whole meeting! A true goddamn professional. Most ice cold I’ve EVER seen you. The whole time making me proud I work for you! Now you’re almost pissing your pants here!”

The green, aged sedan slows to a stop at suburbia intersection, and idles under the overhead red light. Harry draws in a long breath, glances behind, and snaps his gaze towards Ty. “I assume you didn’t see ANYTHING wrong with that whole situation? That you obviously didn’t pick up the ACTUAL deal?”

Ty flutters his eyes, rests his arm on the dash, and shakes his head slowly. “What actual deal? Dude, he stated all the terms up front. All pretty goddamn good terms for us, too! I mean, you played it like a boss stating that would consider his offer after some proper contemplation. That straight fuckin’ business tone, cool attitude. I thought I brought you there for a reason man!”

Slapping his hand on the dash, he grits his teeth briefly, and growls out. “What is your fuckin’ deal man! What’s the motherfucking situation I need to know about?! I brought you with me because I thought you could see what kind of good deal he was offering!”

A cast green blends with the hood of the car, and Harry gently accelerate the vehicle through the intersection. Moments of tense silence pass, and he finally shakes his head with a slight drop. “Okay. You want me to spell it out to you?”

Ty waves outs his hand, cocks his head to the side, and stares at Harry. “Oh, please. Enlighten this fool before you, wise master.”

Harry rolls his green eyes, combs his hand through his longer brown hair, and chuckles. “Okay. Fuckin’ okay.”

Staring ahead at the dark, scantly illuminated road before him, he pushes back into the wear-molded contours of the driver’s seat. “It’s too much up front.”

Ty blinks blankly. “What?”

Drawing in a long purposeful breath, Harry calms his tone and explains. “Why would a big player in this town bring us in? Why would someone with that much territory, that level of operation, want to talk to us? It doesn’t make sense. Something didn’t feel right going in, and after hearing the offer... I know things are fucked.”

Ty twist his mouth to start a reply, and Harry halts him with holding up a finger. “We’ve only been in this town a few months. While we’ve made a lot of head way getting into the markets... We’ve just started. We are nobodies. Why does somebody like that want to meet with nobodies like us?”

Rolling his brown eyes, Ty blurts out and rocks his head back. “You’re just being goddamned paranoid! That’s it. You get like this. This is a big step. I know you are cautious, sometimes too cautious. But, can’t you recognize his offer is fucking amazing!”

Harry glances over to Ty, stares coldly, and frowns. “Exactly. That’s the problem. I knew the offer was going to tell me what kind of relation he expected to have with us. If he’d given us a kind of crappy starting percentage and offered a chance to move in some parts of town that weren’t the big earners. That’d be one thing. That’s a usual starting position in any organization. That type of offer tells you they want to see what you can do. They want to see some evidence that you can do what you say you can do. This offer wasn’t that. It’s completely different!”

Ty dons a pleading grin, cranes his head around to gaze at Harry, and gestures out his eagerness. “EXACTLY! This guy must have seen what we’ve been able to do in our short time here! He wants working for him! He doesn’t want our talent to go elsewhere. Maybe he wants us to help him expand! God dammit, didn’t you see the amount of money he’s offering! More than we’d make in a year right now!”

Harry’s eyes widen, he grimaces harshly, and glares hard at Ty. “He wasn’t offering money. He was demanding obedience.”

Ty blinks blankly, and searches Harry’s face for an answer. Returning his gaze ahead, Harry sighs with a curse under his breath. “What he offered wasn’t money to him. It’s a lot to us, but that is NOT money to him. We move per street. He moves per city. He wasn’t trying to buy us. He’s trying to get us loyal to him. He wants us under his control and command. “

He shakes his head while his distant stare ahead fades into the shadow of the cab between street lamps. “We accept that deal... We’re his for life. That’s how that type of organization works. Take the money, he gets you. You leave him, he takes you.”

Ty watches the cold severity emerge on Harry’s face, and gradually sinks back into the passenger’s seat of the green sedan. Slowly shifting his head ahead, as revelation crushes the hollow fantasy in his mind, Ty wrestles with an awkward smirk. “Huh... You really do think that.”

Harry sighs and nods. “Yes. The only thing that explains it to me.”

Searching his own mind between brief distractions at passing rural scenery, Ty grits his teeth, hisses out an uneasy thought. “So... What are we going to do?”

Tapping his finger tips on the steering wheel, Harry twists his mouth, and rocks his head side to side. “Don’t know. Taking that deal is out. If we don’t take it, there’s good chance the big guy won’t be pleased. Once, he’s not pleased, I don’t think we’ll be welcomed for much longer. I leaning towards moving to another town he’s not in.”

Ty snarls up his upper lip, contorts his face with a tinge of frustration, and grumbles. “Are you fucking kidding me? We just got things set up! We can’t drop all our stuff now!”

Harry shakes his head, continues his watch of the long winding two lane street ahead, and sighs. “Won’t be ours eventually. Better to cut our losses now than fight for scraps later.”

Glaring at Harry briefly, Ty rolls his disgust, settles down his seat, and stares out the window. In silence, he wrestles his thoughts on his face, and glances out of the corner of his eye towards Harry with flits of a sharp frown forming.