Silent Partner

The truck in front, an old Booker oil-burner, pulled ahead six inches and I nudged forward, close enough for the black exhaust to roll over the hood. Frank was growling now, eyes locked on the punks on the corner. I decided to play it safe and kept my eyes forward, so I never saw what set Frank off.

"Aw, that's it!" he said, door already open. "I don't have to take this crap!" Then he was out of the car, hand reaching for the cannon under his meat spattered jacket.

By the time I had my seatbelt off, Frank was in a shoving match with the beefiest, a squat mastiff of a punk with a face covered in labyrinthine gang tattoos. At least the gun was still holstered. The others were circling, hooting and cheering and shoving. Most of the pedestrians had already crossed the road, but the drivers started to get nervous.

One of the little guys came in close, giggling. “Hey, Father!” He struggled to hold back the laughter long enough for his one-liner. “You got a limmmf . . .” Without taking his eyes off the big one, Frank palmed the kid's head and shoved.

Only the kid was charmed, some sort of ward. There was a crack and a flash, and Frank spun face first into the side of a bus. The scrawny kid never budged. The gang exploded into that freaky goblin laugh, all wet and hissy. I was still on the wrong side of the car, watching through the Booker's oily exhaust.

Frank staggered to his feet, his nose broken and bleeding. He steadied himself against the bus, dragging a muddy palm print down the side. The goblins staggered with laughter, hissing and hooting, their too-white milk teeth and luminescent eyes stark in the growing shadow.





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