Intersections

Of course loyalty is in play. Principles. Ideals.

But what of conflicting loyalties? Which are the higher loyalties?

What of different principles that run to cross purposes?

When at these intersections of life, what shall we betray?
What loyalties and principles are inviolate?
Which are disposable?

Often the only way to choose is to move in the direction that hurts less.

Make that choice and live with the consequences.
Accept the pain along with the joy.

Such is life.

On Tough Guys

I was terrorized by so-called tough guys for much of my younger life.

In my elementary school days, it was not a problem. I was with the same kids right from first grade. I had my little circle, and my idiosyncrasies were accepted by my classmates. But I was in a French immersion elementary program and decided not to keep that up in junior high school. So I switched programs and went into a new school without knowing anyone in my class. I was also late to hit puberty, so even in grade 8 I was one of the smallest kids in the school.

It was rough at first, but I figured out my survival techniques. I kept my head down and my mouth shut, and it was not too long before those kids that bring it all on themselves were soaking up most of the hits. Then I did my best to befriend the gentle giants; the biggest boys who were not bullies. I got through just fine.

In high school, I finally grew a bit. Also, my idiosyncrasies, and those of my crew, created a reputation that we were some kind of psychos. We were left the fuck alone. But my school was beefing with another bigger school, and boys were always getting jumped walking to and from school. Up to four guys, with bats sometimes, would hop out of cars, beat kids down, and then “boot fuck” them. It was a paranoid atmosphere and I got pretty good at slipping through danger zones on foot.

After high school, I went to work pumping gas at a 24 hour gas station and automotive shop. This was the real initiation to the shitshow. It had never occurred to me that adults could consider fist fighting an acceptable stage of human interaction. Those mechanics were fucking rough. When I sprayed dirt onto “The Badger’s” (that was his real nickname) toolbox with the pressure washer, I got a real education. He grabbed and shoved me into a work bench; I was completely physically dominated with a basic violent assault and the implicit threat of a much worse one if that shit ever happened again. “Now clean it fuckin up!”

The location of the gas station was less than ideal for physical safety. It was in a kind of buffer zone between the university’s bar strip and daytime yuppie shopping promenade, and a light-industrial, blue-collar neighborhood one quick bus ride from downtown skid row. Urban poor would come to beg money from the yuppies and then get their drink on, while all the breeder boys from towns all around would come to cruise for poon on the strip. When unsuccessful with women, packs of those feral assholes would rove around looking for guys to intimidate and beat up. “Fag!” Stabbings were fairly common.

I spent a couple years being thoroughly terrorized. When a skid-row, tough guy bully wants to get free stuff, he doesn’t necessarily need to rob places. If he comes around a business everyday, by slowly terrorizing some solitary staff member for a couple of weeks, he can simply start taking stuff without paying. “I don’t need to pay fer this, do I boss? No one’s gonna notice.” Chips, pop, smokes, and dignity all for the taking.

Then I just fuckin had it. Enough was enough. I started bringing a zippo to work (I pumped gas for a living, remember), harboring the fantasy of burning some of these fuckers alive.

Around that time, things got even worse in the neighborhood. Meth had moved in. Now we had street dealing right at our location, with meth-heads swarming all over the place. We started restricting the bathrooms to gas customers only, which created friction with the down and outs. I guess there were some serious confrontations involving some of my coworkers. I was working more graveyard shifts at that time too. One night a Native-American gang enforcer got me cornered (Native street gangs are a big thing in my home town), put a high-end prison shank down on the counter between us (shitty photoshop recreation pictured below), and spent some time explaining that “you don’t fuck with my people.”

“Good to know, man.”

Prison Shank

After that, I started carrying a knife. It was a legal flick knife: one of those raised thumb-stud jobbies that may as well be a switchblade. I carried it legally too; riding high on my back pocket where everyone could see it. I had a year of fencing in junior high school, and I spent time practicing my draw and stab into wooden posts, so I was good to go. The next time a sketchy as fuck piece of shit started trying to stare me down, I shifted my stance, met his eye, and got ready to go. One look at me and the guy melted.

I had learned a new thing. With these tough guy bullies, you don’t need to run faster than the bear; you just have to run faster than your friend. When I got mentally prepared to do what I had to do, I no longer needed to do it. They took in my attitude and wandered down to the next open business to try their luck there. My life got a lot easier.

Then, with the realization of the power of that attitude, I flipped the coin over and became something of a bully myself. I have some regrets about that time in my life. Be that as it may, my deep hatred of and intolerance to tough guys has remained. Those shells of men who need to intimidate in order to feel whole. I would love to cut all their throats. (I am aware of the irony in this.)

Around the time when I was graduating high school, the Vietnamese were making their presence felt. I don’t know if they were proper gangs at that time (they later would become so), but they were definitely asserting themselves. It quickly became common street knowledge that if you fought an East Asian, you would probably get stabbed.

Many of the white tough guys I was forced to listen to at that time would go on and on and on about how the “gooks” were such “pussies.” Like, what’s wrong with a fair fight, man? Why can’t they just have a fair fight?

Fair? Really? These primate assholes spend all their time pumping iron and practicing fighting, and then act like it’s fair when they force some Asian kid that’s half their size to “step outside” in order to save face. Try moving to a foreign land where everyone is huge and mostly hate you, and punching people in the face is considered entertainment. Maybe then you too will learn to embrace the liberating power of escalating violence.

What’s that? You don’t like me calling you an ignorant asshole? You want to step outside? Well, instead of that, why don’t I just take yer fuckin eyeball out with a screwdriver right fuckin now? How’s bout that?

If a line gets crossed, and someone need to go, then what the fuck does a fair fight have to do with it? Bullshit, made-up rules about “masculinity” are not relevant. But “tough guys” don’t like that. They don’t like it when someone calls their bluff and bluster. They want the whole world to play along with the rules they’ve created to keep them safe while they dominate those around them. So, for those who break their made-up rules of engagement, they trot out the worst insults they can imagine: “pussy” (woman), and “fag.” If these guys think that accepting penis into your body is the worst thing someone can do, then what does that tell you about their self-identity? I think they realize, on a deep psychological level, just how toxic they are.

I may be white, but I was small for most of my developmental years, sensitive, quirky, and liked geeky things like D&D. So I do understand all too well being the victim of manly white men’s notions of fair play (of course, not to the degree that others do; I’m not trying to lay claim to the full experience). Their “fairness” is a system of codes of conduct and even legal rules that exist to give them every advantage. Be they the social conventions surrounding stepping outside for a fair fight, or America’s conceal carry and stand your ground laws.

If you want to find out who’s tougher, then by all means, get into MMA or step into the ring or dojo. Or, if you’re really nuts, the rugby field. There is a place for that in society. But thinking that being tough should have any relevance in modern society, in any way, is completely fucked.

We say to young men: “there’s never a reason to hit a woman.” I disagree. I say that a reason to hit a man is also a reason to hit a woman, and that self defense is the only acceptable reason (outside of sports that involve hitting). Other than that, there is never an acceptable reason to hit anyone.

Thinking otherwise is precisely the kind of macho bullshit that helps makes the world the shitty place it is today.

Hedda and Lance: a Love Story (part five)

by Balls Malone

part one here

part two here

part three here

part four here

part six here

Hedda was sitting down to another of her lunch dates with Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer. They were seated in the patio of Maurice’s Grill, under the pleasant shade of palm fronds swaying overhead in the warm breeze.

Hedda was very pleased. Maurice’s Grill was just about the best place to eat these days. Since Rupert was sure to pick up the check, she always insisted meeting him somewhere worthwhile being seen.

“How are you, Rupert? You look so tired.”

“Yes, no shit I look tired, Hedda. IBS is no joke!” Rupert snapped.

The quartet of actresses seated at the next table glanced over with shocked and disgusted looks at this. The two nearest ones slid their chairs further away from Rupert and Hedda’s table.

“Do not be so not nice to me, Rupert. If you are the one who makes chocolate shame in his pants, it is only you to blame.”

Rupert stared at Hedda in rage for a long time at this. He actual began to speak several times, but bit his words off again and again as he thought better of them. Hedda met his eye calmly the whole time. Finally, she gave him a cold smile and continued.

“I do say thank you now, for making contact to me at agency. I am booking many good shoots now. Is very good for me. You are good friend.” Hedda reached out to pat Rupert’s hand in a marginally friendly way. Then she picked up the menu to peruse.

“Yes, I told you Sandrice would take good care of you. She’s the best agent in the biz. Her taking you on was a huge favor to me. A fucking huge favor. She won’t be picking up another of my calls until I answer ten of hers.”

“I know. You are so nice. Is lobster keto?” Hedda asked without looking up from the menu.

“What? The fucking lobster now? How should I know? Probably. Don’t you have a fucking ap to tell you that?”

“Again, you are not being so nice to me now. I don’t like your tone,” Hedda said, looking up from her menu to lock eyes with Rupert.

Rupert took a few deep breaths to calm himself. “I’m sorry, Hedda. I’m just under a lot of pressure with everything right now. And I thought that, maybe, since I hooked you up with Sandrice, that… maybe…”

“What?”

“Well, I thought maybe that would be the end of all this now,” Rupert said. He stared down in his lap and looked like he was about to cry.

“I know. You tell me this. You tell me that you want Lance to finish it with you.”

“No! That’s not what I fucking said! Is that what you told him? Does he think that’s what I said?”

“I don’t know. I forgetting so many things what I say these days. And English is so hard! Lance, he is sweet, yes. But he does not listen good. So he come soon and we talk. You can tell him what do you mean yourself.”

Hedda flagged down the waiter and ordered the lobster for herself, the sirloin steak for Lance, and more mineral water for the table, while Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer, dealt with his panic attack. Hedda then sent Lance a quick message on her phone. It did not take him more than a couple of minutes to join them.

That day, Lance Johnson was wearing a mint condition, Adidas track suit: red with white piping, circa 1992. His red Adidas running shoes were a perfect match. As was his habit on sunny days, Lance had on his Ray-Ban mirrored aviator sunglasses, and a fuzzy white Adidas headband. He was also sporting a gold Rolex.

Lance gave a friendly nod to the four actresses who paused in their banter to look him over quickly. Only one of them lingered over his muscular form as he kissed Hedda on the cheek and sat down next to her. With his track suit zipped up and hiding his full sleeves and torso of prison gang tattoos, Hedda knew from experience that everyone would not think him anything other than a model himself.

They sat in silence until the food showed up. Rupert fiddled on his phone and Lance felt Hedda up under the table as he ogled the actresses. The one that had scoped him as he sat down continued to give him attention. Seeing the potential for a very lovely three-way, Hedda began beaming the actress with come hither lamps of her own.

The food arrived and Lance tucked in. Hedda played around with hers suggestively at the actress; taking a little bite here and there just to show everyone what she was all about orally. Rupert ordered a double scotch and soda.

“So what’s this Hedda tells me about you getting bitchy about helping her out,” Lance finally said through a big mouthful of steak.

“I’m not. Seriously, man! I’m not! I just think there’s only so much more I can do for her now. I mean, this has to end somewhere, right?”

(stare)

“Well, what next, man? What else am I supposed to do for her over here?” whined Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer.

“You know what, Rupert? Yer talkin to me like it’s been all take and no give with us. I think yer forgetting all that I’ve done for you. Didn’t I get those bangers off your back? Didn’t I take you to the orgy?”

“The orgy? You’re going to bring that up like it was a favor to me? Like I even wanted to be there? Like I’m not Rupert Fucking Cornelius! Like I can’t have my own fucking orgy any fucking time I fucking want to! With fucking models!”

As Rupert started yelling all this, the actresses looked over; two appalled and two delightedly amused. (“Did he just say orgy? Like, oh my God! I can’t even right now!”)

Noticing the attention, Rupert dropped his voice low into an intense hiss: “Fuck you! You know what happened to me there!”

“Oh quit being such a fuckin baby about that. It was fuck all. Deuce gets like that sometimes. He just finished doing eight on a tier four yard. His intensity can be a little much for people sometimes.”

“His intensity? Is that what you assholes call that? Yeah, it was a bit much.”

“Well, yer shitty attitude aside, I think it’s time to talk about the next phase of your collaboration with Hedda. Is that the right word, baby? Collaboration?” Lance asked Hedda.

Hedda was stroking Lance’s cock through his pants in plain view of the actress she was making eye contact with. “Yes, baby,” she said. “Collaboration.”

“Okay, then, what the fuck now?” Rupert asked.

“The swimsuit edition. Shoot’s in two weeks, right?”

“Yes. What about it?”

“Hedda wants to book it. I think that’s a good idea,” Lance said. He licked his steak knife clean and smiled at Rupert as he scraped the knife’s edge over his own neck.

“The swimsuit edition? I can’t fucking get her that! It shoots in two weeks!”

“Oh, I think ya can get her that. You’re Rupert Cornelius, bitch! Tell em that she’s yer new muse. That’s something you artiste types play all the time, aint it? That’s it, right? Hedda is your new muse!”

“My muse? What the fuck! If that’s the case, it has to be reflected in my work! Which fucking sucks these days, by the way. I’m an artist, not some kind of fucking technician. How the fuck am I going to produce anything worth a shit shooting someone I’m fucking afraid of!”

“In my experience, fear is one of the best motivators. So what I’m hearing here is that ya can get her on the shoot as yer muse. Ye just don’t want to. That’s unfortunate. You know the cops fucked with me this week about yer two banger friends in the club.”

“What? They did? How?”

“They made me from the front door camera. With my affiliations, it was a matter of routine to track me down and grind me on it. Don’t worry, though. I didn’t tell em what you did. But they’ll be back.”

“What I did? No, fuck you! What about Ariana? She knows—”

“What she knows,” Lance interrupted, “is that those two bangers had beef with you. That they confronted you in the bathroom over that beef, and she left you alone with them in there. That’s what she knows. If I were you, I really wouldn’t want her talking to anyone about what she fuckin knows.”

“But she saw—”

“Shit. She saw shit. And, to be honest, if she remembers anything about that night, it’ll be what Hedda’s spit tastes like in my asshole.”

“Oh that’s really nice.”

“It is. I’m sure you know; you’re Rupert Fucking Cornelius,” Lance said with a big grin.

“Listen, I probably could get her on the shoot if I insist. I’m not going to lie. But if I do that, that’s the last fucking time I’m ever going to book a job like that ever again. That whole scene is really corporate. They don’t tolerate the whole temperamental artist schtick. Do you understand?”

“I do. Listen, Rupert, the real question you gotta ask yourself is: how many jobs you gonna book from a tier three or four yard with two murder beefs on ya. Ya already know what the yard’s gonna be like. You met Deuce. That’s your fuckin choice now. Book the swimsuit edition for Hedda, or get fuckin lawyered up like yesterday. Do ya feel me? We’re done playin now.”

(…)

“I said, do ya under-fucking-stand what I’m motherfucking saying, bitch?”

“Yes. Fine. I’ll do it. But I’m telling you, that’s the end of my fucking career.”

“That’s okay. Also, I want to be PA for the shoot. The first location is way up the coast there right? It wouldn’t be a bad idea for all of us to get out of town like that for a bit.” Lance said.

“You want me to take you where as my what?”

“Not PA, baby. It’s assistant. Just assistant.” Hedda interjected.

“Wait… what? You want to be my assistant for the swimsuit edition? After forcing Hedda in there as a model? Why the fuck don’t you just chop my fucking hands off while you’re at it!”

Hedda sighed. She was sure that Lance was going to convince Rupert to see things their way, but she could tell the whole process of convincing him was going to be tiresome.

Thankfully, just then, the actress she had been making eyes with gave her a very direct look and left her table to go to the bathroom. Happy to have a chance to focus on a person not drowning in negativity like Rupert was, Hedda excused herself from the table and followed her. She was pretty sure she had figured out what movie she had seen the actress in, and was excited to start the process of getting to know her better.

An up-in-coming starlet really would be a marvelous way to celebrate her booking the swimsuit edition.

oracle

So this is modern life. What wonders.
Peer into your phone.
The modern Oracle.
This is what we live for now.

But…

If nothing is meaningful without transposition into pixels and code,
then how can I have meaning?

Take that selfie.
There you are. Ones and zeros in dots of light.
That’s better. Now you’re something.

Share it.
Like it.
Tweet it.

Except…

Why is it all so empty?
Why do I hate myself?
Why do I hate the ones I love?
Why am I empty?
What do I have?
What do I want?
What do I need?
What am I?

Who am I?

There are no answers for this most important question in your new Oracle.

A sea of likes and circle-jerk positivity will only muddy your mind.

Don’t worry too much though.
Though it wounds like a thorny parasite worming its way through you,
shitting cancer as it goes,
this is the modern condition.
The gift of consumer capitalism.
Suck it up.

They have pills for you to numb the worst of it now.

Ask your doctor what is right for you.

 

A Pirate are Ye?

Say! Those are some swell tattoos.

So, you’re a pirate, huh? Cut your teeth sailing the high seas, raping your way across the Caribbean in search of Spanish gold?

No.

Have you even been on a sailing vessel?

Again with the no.

Then I suppose it could be said that all your tattoos of pirate iconography just make you look like some kind of poseur hipster cunt.

Good thing for you that you’re appropriating the unearned badges of honor of a bygone criminal underclass. This way you’ll never need to have that, “so, tell me, where the fuck did you earn that ink? Who you with?” conversation with an actual, real life hardcase.

If you ever met a real pirate your booty would be the booty.

Hedda and Lance: a Love Story (part four)

by Balls Malone

part one here

part two here

part three here

part five here

part six here

In the club still. The Purple Onion. Hedda was dancing with Lance and fellow model, Ariana. Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer, was hanging back in the cut taking pictures with his phone, watching them get frisky.

After some time, all four of them were together in the ladies bathroom’s handicapped stall. Rupert was sitting on the toilet, snorting cocaine off the back of his phone. Lance was leaning back against the wall. He had his shirt off, thrown over his shoulder, having wiped his sweaty body down with it, and was spooning cocaine into Hedda and Ariana. The models were kneeling in front of him, their faces upturned right in front of the enormous bulge in his Adidas short shorts. Lance knew for a fact that it would only be about a minute before Hedda pulled his cock out and presented it to Ariana to suck, so the bulge was getting bigger by the second.

Hedda was comfortable; in the zone. Her favorite zone. She knew Lance would perform just as she desired, and knew that Ariana would take it. Like any well trained mount, Lance moved as directed when handled correctly. There was nothing Hedda liked better than fucking other women with Lance.

The only unknown was how Rupert was going to react when Lance really started going to work on his girlfriend. All his signals of being down for voyeuristic cuckolding aside, there was no telling how he would deal with the reality of it.

Well, whatever Rupert’s reaction would be, they were about to find out. Sufficiently high for what was about to come, Hedda reached up and began stroking Lance’s cock though his shorts. Then, she reached down and gently took Ariana by the hand.

Some asshole started banging on the cubicle door.

“Occupied!” Lance yelled.

“Yo! Rupert! You fuckin punk! Don’t think we didn’t see you come in here, bitch! Get the fuck out here!” a man yelled, banging on the stall door again.

“Oh, fuck me,” muttered Rupert.

“Motherfucker! This is the ladies’ bathroom! Get the fuck outta here before I come out and show ya somethin you do not want to see!” Lance yelled.

The man started banging on the stall door again, and did not let up with a steady, rapid cadence like a jackhammer. Hedda and Ariana stood up and moved to the back corner of the stall as Lance squared up to the stall door. Rupert hurried up finishing his cocaine.

“Okay, motherfucker, you have my attention!” Lance said as he unlatched the door and swung it open.

Facing him were two gangbangers: one in his teens and the other his twenties. Both were serious and tough. Their eyes flared wide when they took Lance in, standing as he was in nothing but his pristine white tennis short shorts and shoes; his fuzzy wrist and headbands still in place. His full chest and stomach of prison gang tattoos matched his sleeves and left absolutely no doubt as to their origins and his affiliations.

“What?” Lance barked, when the gangbangers just stood there glaring at him silently.

“We need a word with our boy Rupert there. Hey, Rupert! What up, bitch? Ya got my fuckin money?”

“What’s the problem?” Lance asked calmly.

“The problem? The fuckin problem is that bitch is in here snorting shit with you when he owes me almost five grand! That’s the fuckin problem!”

“No, that’s not the fucking problem,” Lance said quietly. “That’s your fuckin problem. The problem is that yer fuckin up me getting my dick sucked in here. You can take your shit up with him another time. Are we clear?”

“What the fuck? Yer fuckin crew aint deep up in this bitch, motherfucker. You got one chance to get you and whatever bitch is with you outta here before I make his problem your fuckin problem. Right?” the lead gangbanger said.

As though of one mind, both the gangbangers stepped a little back and raised their shirts to show Lance the pistols in their waistbands. The lead banger simply flashed his piece; the younger one put his hand on his and looked imminently ready to use it.

“Okay, man. You hard, homie. You hard. I feel ya,” Lance said. He turned back into the stall and spoke to Hedda calmly. “Baby, you and Twinkie here are coming out with me. Rupert, sorry man, yer gonna have to fuckin deal with this yerself. Right?”

Lance turned back to the gangbangers. “Okay, back the fuck up so’s I can get the ladies outta here and I’ll get out of yer shit and leave ya to it. All right?”

“Oh, come on, man!” Rupert whined.

They assented, each taking a step back, but kept their mad dog glares on Lance the whole time. Lance stepped out into the bathroom, and Hedda led Ariana out of the stall after him. She pulled the bathroom door open and pushed Ariana out in front of her. Halfway through the door herself, Hedda paused, looking back at Lance to see what he was going to do next. She pulled the door tight against her to block anyone else’s view into the bathroom.

Lance winked at her. He raised his right foot up and set it on the edge of the sink. Stretching his legs out, Lance gave them all a glorious view of his bulging lower ends.

The lead gangbanger stepped up to Lance, almost bumping him with his chest. “Okay, get the fuck out now, bitch. I won’t tell ya again!”

“Hold on, man. Hold on! Just getting myself presentable. Gotta look good for the ladies! You players know how it is, right?” Lance said. He took his time pulling his sock all the way up his knee and then smoothed it down nicely.

Knowing what Lance kept in his right shoe, Hedda watched his hands carefully as he fiddled and fussed with its laces. She was just able to spot him palm the straight razor before dropping his foot down to the floor.

Lance’s T-shirt was still draped over his shoulder. He grabbed it by its collar with his left hand and snapped it like a towel, as though to shake it out. Both the gangbanger’s eyes followed the misdirection.

With a fluid sweep of his right hand, Lance cut the throat of the lead gangbanger. He cut the carotid artery and both jugular veins on the left side of the neck. This immediately sent a jet of blood spurting against the mirror and wall. Lance pivoted around the falling gangbanger, adroitly avoiding the blood that continued to pump out of him, and closed on the younger one.

The young gangbanger stepped back, away from Lance, pulling his pistol as he did. Lance lunged and slashed his wrist with a downward flick of the razor, and then came up across the face with a backhand. The gangbanger dropped the pistol and recoiled.

Lance kicked the back of the gangbanger’s knee, grabbed him behind the head, and kneed his face as he went down. Then Lance cut the lad’s tattooed throat from ear to ear. He kept steady eye contact with Hedda the whole time he performed the final act.

“Take her to the car, baby,” Lance said to Hedda calmly.

Hedda did just that. She took Ariana by the hand and led her out of the club, across the street, and over to Rupert’s parked car.

“What happened?” Ariana asked.

“Nothing, sweeties. They talk a little. We wait for our men.”

Some of the louts waiting around in line outside the Purple Onion looked like they were contemplating following Hedda and Ariana over to the car, but Lance and Rupert joined them quickly enough to disrupt that.

Lance had his shirt back on and looked the same as ever: all pristine white Adidas and bulging muscles. Rupert threw up beside the car. However, this meant his key fob was now close enough to the car that it could be unlocked, so while the acclaimed glamor and fashion photographer took care of his business, Lance opened the driver’s door and popped the trunk.

Hedda put Ariana in the back seat and got in beside her. Lance got his Adidas tennis bag out of the trunk and sat in the passenger seat with it. Then they all waited for Rupert to finish up.

Lance unzipped his bag and dug around in it for a bit. He then turned around and handed two capsules to Hedda.

“I guess you both are real upset about those two assholes back there, baby. Why don’t ya take a couple of these. They’ll help ya settle down.” He looked Hedda in the eye significantly and then flashed his gaze over to Ariana. “Maybe you aint that upset though, Hedda. But I think Twinkle here could definitely use something.”

Hedda nodded and got a water bottle organized to help Ariana take her medicine. Lance had not been wrong: she really was rather upset. Pliable to the end, Ariana took the capsules.

When Rupert finally joined them, Lance did not give him a chance to settle in.

“Here. Hold this,” Lance said. He produced a Glock pistol from his bag and set it in Rupert’s lap; the barrel pointed right into his crotch with the handle in easy reach for Lance. “Drive, bitch,” he instructed Rupert.

Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer, did as he was told.

Lance dug around some more in his bag and got out a big Ziplock bag. Then he arched his back, thrusting his crotch up towards the windshield to reach down into his shorts. He came out with a folded up stack of paper towels stained dark with what Hedda knew could only be blood. He stuck the wad into the Ziplock bag.

“Okay, bitch. Pull over,” He told Rupert.

Rupert complied, parking on the side of the road next to what looked to be an abandoned warehouse. Ariana was already dozing off next to Hedda in the back seat.

Lance pulled the bloody straight razor out of the Ziplock bag, carefully holding it inside one of the paper towels. He unfolded the blade and looked it over closely. Then he grabbed Rupert’s hand off the steering wheel and pressed his thumb down on the face of the razor’s blade. Rupert was so out of it, he did not even register what Lance had done until after he had finished.

Lance folded the razor away into the Ziplock bag which he then sealed and put away in his Adidas tennis bag.

“Okay, bitch, listen carefully now. Hey!” Lance gave Rupert a slap across the mouth to get him focused. “Listen, I said. There’s gonna be two DNA blood matches on that blade. I wiped the blade down before. Two bloods, one fingerprint now. Your fuckin fingerprint. Fuckin fingerprint in blood on a murder weapon. Slam dunk prosecution.”

“What?” Rupert asked.

“Well, cops start asking us questions, maybe you say one thing and I say another. Maybe Hedda says the same thing I say. How that plays out is anybody’s fuckin guess. But a fingerprint in blood on the murder weapon is another fuckin thing entirely. D’ye follow me now, bitch?”

Rupert looked like he was going to throw up. Another slap in the mouth got a nod and a very quiet, “yes,” out of him.

“Now, don’t worry, though. This is all just insurance for me. A little peace of mind. It aint gonna come to that. We’ll work something out. Now drive.”

Lance had Rupert drive them back to the Family Mart. There, Lance and Hedda helped Ariana out of the car and over into one of the lowriders.

“We’ll be in touch,” Lance said to Rupert. “When Hedda sends ya a message, you fuckin reply, right? Okay, fuck off now.”

Hedda watched Rupert’s Mercedes pull out of the parking lot, feeling even more optimistic about her career prospects than she had at the start of the evening. She just knew things were really going to take off for her now.

Having Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer, as a friend was going to be very good for her indeed.

When the Mercedes could no longer be seen, Hedda got into the lowrider with Lance so they could figure out where they were going to take Ariana for the next part of their night.