The bright lights of the box-stores reflected their hypnotic dance on Vic's black-plastic shades as he cruised College Drive. In a well, practiced move, he pulled out a matchbook with his free-hand, flipping a match over the edge of the book and brushing it across the strike-pad with his thumb. It sparked heat in a flash, and he brought the flame to the half-burnt Marlboro dangling from his mouth. The hard lines of his face illuminated in the rear-view.

With a puff of smoke, Vic extinguished the match, bringing his gaze to the Hooters parking lot. Strange place for these motherfuckers to meet, he thought, Figured they'd meet at a fuckin' book-club or somethin'.

He whipped his car into a handicapped spot, confident that the stolen handicap sticker he had plastered to the window would keep him from being towed. He felt justified in using it; he had a heart problem. Well, his lack of one was certainly a problem to the people that crossed his path.

As he started walking, an elderly woman walking out of the craft-store next to Hooters shot him a disapproving look.

He returned the favor by twisting his nipple through his shirt, licking his lips provocatively. He laughed as she clutched her purse, shuffling through the parking lot like an old cow.

He pulled out the piece of paper he'd gotten from Slim. Word Thugs. How the fuck was he supposed to find these assholes? He opened the door.

Big tits and bright orange blinded Vic as he breathed in the atmosphere. He breathed in the fragrance of lust mingled with Louisiana shrimp. As he pulled up to the bar, he spun around on his stool, giving the restaurant a quick scan. A mixed crowd; this wasn't gonna be easy.

"Can I get you anything to drink?" A voice behind him made Vic give the stool another spin.

A cute Latina with never-ending cleavage stood there, doe eyed. Vic placed his order of a Corona with her breasts.

He wondered how many dollars he'd have to stuff between them to get her home. Then he wondered how far he'd get before she smacked him, calling one of the beefy guys she worked with to escort him out. He couldn't chance it.

This was business, and this was important, unlike women. They were simply entertainment.

"You Vic?"

He spun around again.

Standing there was a guy, couple years older than him, bald head with a black mustache and goatee. Orange fly collar shirt; silk, by the look, unbuttoned at the top.

He wore a sport-coat over the familiar bulge of a shoulder-holster. Subtle, but Vic knew it well.

"Who are you?" Vic asked the man after he finished a slug of his beer.

"You called us, didn't you?" The guy's face was granite.

Vic had to admire a guy like this.

"You the Wreck?" asked Vic.

"Come with me." was all the guy said, and he started walking to the back of the restaurant. Vic grabbed his Corona and smiled lustfully at the waitress before making his way to the back table.

"So this is the infamous Victor Ray Tanner." The guy in the black tuke said. "I've read much about you." He offered his hand, and Vic shook it warily.

"Vic, meet J.R." the Wreck said. "J.R., Vic."

The Wreck continued his introductions. "The man stuffing his face with hot wings is Drake Lightle." Drake grunted.

"My hot-wings, motherfucker." J.R. said, glaring over.

"I already told you, I got the next round."

"To my left here is Debra, and to my right is Crimson." Vic looked at Crimson and winked. Hottie, he thought. Suddenly he felt the tip of a stiletto placed strategically on his groin.

Crimson shook her head. "It's not in your plot, buddy, " she said, "so get it out of your mind."

"Anyways, " the Wreck continued, "Rob and Mike are over there trying to start shit with the rednecks."

"It happens every fuckin' time." Debra said, "Wreck, I'm tired of cleanin' up their messes."

"So you guys are the Word Thugs?" asked Vic.

"The one and only." The Wreck motioned with his head to one of the waitresses, and she came over to the table. Vic eyed her tits, and she eyed him with disgust.

"Hey, hon.." said the Wreck, "Can we trouble you for some more hot-wings?"

"Sure thing, sweetie, " she said. Vic kept his gaze attached until he felt the ping of a penny bounce across his forehead. He looked over to see the Wreck with a look on his face that said Don't go there. Vic looked at all four of them. Four stone faces.

"We don't tolerate that here." Debra said. "It ain't easy gettin' a waitress that'll give us extra weight on the hot-wings, " Debra looked at the waitress from across the room with a smile and a shrug, "Be damned if a fic' is gonna fuck that up for us."

"What's a fic'?" asked Vic, rubbing his head.

"Fictional character" said Drake as he wiped the hot-sauce from his mouth with a napkin. "Which is what you are."

"I don't appreciate your tone." Vic said coldly. "People who underestimate me wind up dead."

"I love this guy!" J.R. said.

"I like him better on paper, " Drake said, "where he belongs." Vic got up, pushing the seat back with his legs. Drake matched the motion.

"Now now, guys, " the Wreck said, "Calm down, both of you!" He pulled out a silver pen from the lapel of his coat. He wiggled it at Vic. "See this?" He pulled out a napkin, and began scribbling. Suddenly Vic didn't feel so good. His legs began to wobble.

"You ready to calm down?" asked the Wreck. Vic never felt panic before, but he felt it then. It was all he could do to nod. The Wreck scribbled again, and his leg-strength returned.

"How did you do that?" asked Vic as he sat back down slowly. Drake had already retaken his seat.

"Magic." replied the Wreck, stone face, staring straight at him as he held the napkin in his left hand, crumpling it up. He let it drop to the table, where it was picked up by J.R. They were out of napkins.

"You came here for a reason." the Wreck said. "And the way I see it, we got about ten minutes before Mike and Rob succeed in pissing off those two big rednecks over there." He pointed to the table by the dartboard. Vic could see two guys ducked behind the jukebox, launching peanuts. "We might be a bit busy after that."

Vic looked at the Word Thugs. Cold motherfuckers. Vic admired them. He couldn't kill them, so what other option was there?

Vic pulled out the piece of paper he had brought. He was lucky. He caught Liam nappin', and was able to steal the page references he needed.

"I need someone taken care of." He said, handing the page to the Wreck. "I'd do it myself, but, " he hesitated. He hated to make the admission. "he's got me over a barrel."

The Wreck looked at the paper before handing it to Drake. Drake scanned it with his finger as J.R. looked over his shoulder. J.R. laughed. "No fuckin' way!" he said.

"J.D. Fisher, " the Wreck said, "Hmm...."

"So can you help me?"

The Thugs all looked at each other with the same look.

Vic recognized that look. He'd seen it before many times; he knew it well. There was a problem.

"So can you help me out on this?"

The Wreck looked over to Drake Lightle, the punk. He shrugged.

"It's you're call, Wreck." He said. "You're conducting the train today."

"Wow, that's fuuuucked." said J.R. The waitress came back with a plate of hot-wings. Vic stared at the table, looking not once in her direction.

Debra grabbed a napkin, and moved some of the wings around. She turned to the Wreck.

"See?" She said angrily. "No extras. Dammit! She was the best one!!!"

"There's always Reynaldo at Benny's," said Crimson, "I'm sure he'll hook ya' up!"

"Oh please," Debra gave Crimson a disgusted look, "Ya' know he still calls me?"

"Last time I drink Vodka." She added. "You'd think a brain surgeon would know when someone's drunk!" Crimson laughed.

The Wreck pulled a silver money clip from the inside pocket of his sport-coat, containing enough Benjamins to cast a new George Lucas prequel.

"We'll be in her good graces by tomorrow." He said, tucking the clip back in his pocket.

"Why aren't you paying tonight?" asked Drake as he turned over. "You know, not all lawyers are loaded."

"Yer a lawyer?" asked Vic. "I could always use on of them..."

"I only take on clients that might be innocent."

Vic growled.

The Wreck flicked his fingers across the silver pen, and Vic cooled it.

"So what're we doing here?" J.R. asked. "I mean, we can't do both of 'em, right?"

"Might be fun, " said Crimson, swirling her beer as she stared into it, "Paradoxical, but fun..."

"What!?!" exclaimed Vic. "Can y'all say whatever the hell yer talkin' about in English?"

The Wreck sighed. "Vic, " he said, "We have a little problem with your request." He reached into the same inner pocket that contained the money clip, and pulled out a piece of paper, neatly folded. He opened it up and passed it across the table. Vic looked at it.

"Page numbers, " he said, "What the hell is this? Who gave this to you?"

"Have you ever seen J.D. Fisher's handwriting?" asked Drake. He and J.R. looked at each other, with matching grins.

"No." Vic said. "He always calls when he needs something."

"Now you know what his handwriting looks like." Drake and J.R. started laughing.

"Guys..." The Wreck put up his hand. The two of them calmed down.

"This time yesterday, Fisher sat in that very seat." said the Wreck. "Well, actually over there; we weren't sitting here yesterday."

"God-damn rednecks!" Debra shot an angry glance at the table Mike and Rob were launching at.

"The point is this; you seem to both want each other," he paused, "pacified." He reached for the paper. Vic thought to hold it back, but the Wreck gave him a look that said they could honor either request. He gave up the paper, lest he be on the losing end.

"Most kind, sir." said the Wreck.

"How often does he hear that?" Drake said to J.R., nudging him, "Sir..."

"OK guys, seriously." The Wreck grabbed the paper Vic had given him, and held it together with the paper Fisher had given them.

"Vic, I can't speak for everyone here, but I'm pretty sure we're all in agreement on this issue." He looked at the assembled thugs.

"J.D. Fisher is a ruthless prick." He said. "And you are a sadistic fuck."

"Damn straight." said J.R. quietly.

"But if we cut the balls from either of you, the story would become thin." The Wreck then tore both papers down the middle.

"So this pretty much makes you two even." He said, holding up the halves to Vic.

"Son-of-a-bitch!" Vic said, sinking back in his chair.

"You're welcome to stay, " said the Wreck, "have some hot-wings, 'long as you promise to be-, "

The Wreck was interrupted by a loud crash, followed by a thick, burly voice saying "What's wrong wit'choo, boy?"

"Aw Jeez, " Debra said, rolling up her left sleeve. "Here we go."

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