“If you apply pressure here,” Maynard began, “You can separate the metacarpal bones from the flexor sheath.” Almost as soon as Maynard had finished saying the last syllable, Van Varenberg tapped the mat.
“OK,” Maynard said, and we got into pairs to practice. Maynard meandered about and offered advice when he thought it was needed. Most of us were pretty seasoned already, so everyone was able to pick up the moves quickly. This, of course, delighted Maynard who had no reservations about excoriating a recruit who needed to be led by the hand.
Someone knocked on the door and it broke me from my memory. I laid out the bath towel and rested the piece on top of it. When I opened the door, a Louisville slugger had already begun to rapidly descend in a downward trajectory toward my head. I spun out of the way and lashed out with a palm strike.
My assailant was a lanky junky.
The palm found his nose with a satisfying snap, and his head lurched back as if he was expecting communion. I followed up with a left hook to his liver.
“Oof,” he said and fell to his knees. The bat spun out of his hand and crashed onto the stairwell’s landing on the floor below. It resonated against the ground and finally settled somewhere in the courtyard. He had grazed me nonetheless, and the pain was beginning to register. I massaged my shoulder to get some of the feeling back and guided my assailant into the apartment. I deposited him on the ground, picked up, and racked the slide of the 1911.
“So,” I said and took a position on the bed. I kept the gun pointed toward the floor, but it gave off a bad aura nonetheless.
“Hey, man,” the guy started to say, “easy, go easy.”
He had long greasy hair and wore a sleeveless t-shirt; some band I’d never heard of before.
“From the beginning,” I said.
The guy took a few deep breaths and looked at me. His pupils were all over the place. “Guy gave me fifty bucks, says to come over, and lay into you a bit.”
“That all?” I said. I raised the weapon this time, but I kept it pointed away from him.
“Says to give you the message, ‘this is only the beginning.’”
“What’d this guy look like?” I said.
“I don’t know, man,” he said, put his hands up, and looked down at the ground. This time I pointed the weapon at him.
The guy started waving his hands at me as if trying to ward me off.
“Jesus, man, you don’t need to do that.”
“Come on,” I said, “I’ve got better things to do.”
“All right.” He looked up at the ceiling as if the answer was written up there.
“I think his name was Brian,” he finally said.
I lowered the weapon. Clarence snapped his fingers and gestured toward the door. I stood up, opened it, and fired a bullet into the kneecap of another man with a bat. The report was loud, but it wouldn’t’t send anyone running in this neighborhood. The man who took the shot dropped his weapon, screamed, and fell to the ground. He clutched at his knee. I turned to look toward the first guy.
“They get a discount for two of you?” I said.
The guy inside the apartment had fallen to his side and mumbled Jesus Christ’s name over and over again.
“Hey!” I said, walked over, and slapped the guy. He quickly emerged from his haze.
“Take your friend, and tell ‘Brian’ he’s going to have to do better.”
The guy scrambled over to his buddy and helped him off the ground. The man with a bullet in his knee moaned in pain, and together the two of them three-leg hopped it down the stairs. After a moment had gone by, Larry popped his head out of the door, looked around, and saw me.
“The Hell was that?” he said.
“Amateurs, my friend,” I replied.
He shrugged his shoulders as if it wasn’t important.
“Motörhead,” he said. “I was just on the phone with Lem. He liked the name.”
Larry held up a drawing. The name Motörhead had been crudely sketched above what looked like a football with tusks.
“Looks good,” I said and headed back inside my apartment. I shut the door behind me, picked up the phone, and dialed Sol.
“Hey, it’s me,” I said after he had picked up.
“This better be good,” he said.
I put the weapon back on the towel and went to the fridge. I dragged the phone cord behind me. While cradling the phone in my ear, I grabbed a Miller and opened it.
“O’Brien sent me a message,” I said.
“Oh yeah?” Based on the shift in the tone of his voice, I could tell I now had his full attention.
“Hold on a second,” Sol added. “Hey, Esther, hang this up for me will you?”
I heard Sol put the phone down and the echo of his footsteps getting lighter as he went into another room. A moment went by, and he picked up again.
“OK,” he said, and Esther hung up the other phone.
“Nothing; he paid two idiots to come rough me up,” I said.
“I sent them packing.”
“This is not good,” Sol said. Usually, his voice, while loud, still maintained some tranquility. However, the calmness no longer registered in his tone.
“There’s only so much I can do, you know?” Sol added.
“Don’t worry about me,” I said and took the first pull from the Miller. “Can you call Wasserman and tell him I’ll take the job?” I said.
There was a pause.
“Are you sure about this?”
“Yeah,” I replied.
“I’ll make the arrangements.
“Just be careful,” he said.
“See, and here I thought you weren’t my friend.”
He laughed and hung up. I took another swig of my beer and started packing.