Jake struggled to his feet. The guy hit like a freight train, but he was sloppy, uncoordinated. Jake—even though he was grossly undersized—still had a chance to win. 


“Hey, ugly. I bet you won’t try that again,” Jake said as he steadied himself against the alley wall.

The bald, lumbering brute standing before him laughed. Jake swallowed hard when the man started marching forward with clenched fists.

“Wait. I need to—”

Like a swooping hawk, the big man’s meaty knuckles came out of nowhere. He missed by mere centimeters as Jake dodged at the last possible second.

“I said wait, you fat fuck.” Jake hobbled back away from the man. “Why don’t we settle this another way?”

This time the man didn’t smile or laugh or anything. He just rushed forward with murder in his eyes.

Jake wasn’t as lucky this time and caught a haymaker flush on the chin. He went down like a gigolo at a cougar party. The whole world shut off for a few seconds until his brain started to reboot. When the fog lifted and he was aware of his surroundings again, a sharp pain shot through his ribs and his lungs sucked up like something just pulled all the air from them.

“Stop,” Jake groaned just before the man sent the tip of his steel-toed boot crashing into him again.

“Maybe this will teach you not to gamble with other people’s money,” the man said with a smile.

Then, just for good measure, he cracked Jake with a quick jab to the nose. Blood exploded like a broken fire hydrant and Jake blacked out again. 

As if he were floating in some distant void just outside of this dimension, Jake heard the man’s voice drifting through time and space, “You have until Friday to pay up.” Then the echo of heavy footsteps grew fainter and fainter until the only sound left was the beating of Jake’s own heart. 

****

The transition from numbness to hot pain was almost unbearable. Jake’s chest and face were on fire and the cold, hard concrete of the alley gave no relief. He could barely sit up—using all his strength to push himself up against the alley wall in a seated position—and he was pretty sure a few of his ribs were broken. This was not how he imagined the night would turn out. 

“Guess that ends my poker career,” he whispered with a stubborn grin. 

Some time passed and the alley seemed to grow darker and colder. If he had to guess, the hour was probably in the ballpark of three in the morning. But Jake couldn’t be sure. His watch had been smashed during the fight and his phone was missing; probably stolen by the big bastard who so kindly tucked him into night-night land. The big fuck even jacked his wallet and the whole 14 dollars he had in it. No, this wasn’t a good predicament to find himself in, but Jake had managed to wiggle his way out of worse spots. The key was to play it cool and take things one step at a time.

First thing on the list, go to the hospital and get patched up. That would prove tough without insurance or ID, but all he had to do was tell them he’d gotten mugged and talk to the police. In this shithole of a city the cops wouldn’t even bother filling out paperwork. And he wouldn’t actually be lying about getting mugged, anyway.

Second, take a trip down to Marvin’s and pick up some “supplies.” Marvin wouldn’t be too happy handing over anything without some money up front, but Jake had always paid in the past and returned the tools in perfect condition. His credit was always good there as long as he didn’t fuck anything up. 

Third, get a burner phone, call up Francis, and have a cheap car delivered. This wasn’t ideal, but Jake would need a getaway vehicle. And without money, his name was only worth enough to score him a real beater, so he would have to be careful and make do with what he could get. 

Finally, he would load up the car with Marvin’s weapons, phone his twin brother John to go buy a few things from the gas station near their apartment (using Jake’s emergency credit card to create an alibi), then head on down to Dannatores’ to “pay off” his debts.  

This was going to be bloody, but that’s how Jake liked it. Whenever someone screwed with him, he would screw with them twice as bad. If they stole from him, he would cut their hands off. If they beat him up, he would burn their mother’s house down with the old woman tied to the bed. And if they beat him up and robbed him, he would fucking massacre the whole lot of them.

Everyone knows not to mess with Jacob “Kamikaze” Okada, but some people just don’t listen. And that’s why they end up dead.

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