William was leaving the bar. He had spent the better part of the evening enjoying a few drinks and some casual conversation with a couple of ladies that were not interested in anything other than conversation. All in all, it had been a pleasant night.
He was walking home, unhurried; strolling the isolated streets when he noticed someone approaching through the alley. A woman stumbled out, wiping her face and moving faster than her balance allowed. She almost ran right into him. She was cute, curvy and blonde with caramel skin and a small, black dress. She was carrying her shoes. The black lines around her eyes had melted down across her cheeks, and William could see trickles of blood along her chin.
“Oh,” she gasped. “I…” she started to speak, but then she looked at him.
William was always intimidating. A large man with an angry scar running down the left side of his face. He carried himself older than your typical twenty-one-year-old, and he invoked his smile only out of necessity.
A loud howl sounded from behind her, followed by laughter. She stopped hesitating and stepped very close to him. She tried to smile and whispered,
“Hey, what you doing, huh?” William did not respond and she continued, “I got a place, Daddy. It’s real close. You wanna take me home? We have some fun, huh?” The laughter continued to approach and she became more insistent, repeating her request until she finally asked, “Help me out, huh? I promise I be good to you.”
“Angel!” a voice screamed from the dark followed by the same laughter. To William, it sounded like intoxicated laughter. He glanced behind her toward the sound and saw two shadows approaching. He did not speak, but he did offer his arm to the lady. She grabbed it and tried to pull him down the street, but he preferred to await the arrival of the shadows.
Two young men came loudly onto the sidewalk. They were both white, well dressed, but worn from the evening’s festivities. Neither one looked like they would frequent the Chicago streets around William’s apartment. They were obviously intoxicated, one more severely than the other as he could barely walk. When they stepped out, they roared in celebration that they had found her.
“There you are!” one exclaimed loudly. The other just grinned. “What happened, Angel? Why’d you take off on us?” The loud one looked up at William and added, “You said she’d be fun.”
“She looks fun to me,” William said.
“Come on, dude. You said the night. We paid for the night. She took off. You owe me,” the louder one continued.
“I don’t owe you shit,” the girl said from behind William’s shoulder.
“What happened to your face?” the drunk one blurted out, just noticing William’s scar. The loud one started laughing and pushed his drunken friend.
“I was injured a while back,” William said.
“Shit, dude,” the drunk one said. “That sucks.”
“Whatever,” the loud one said, “Give her back.”
William pulled out a few bills from his pocket and held them out. “Here, here’s a few hundred. Now you will not have to bother the lady anymore,” he said.
“Do I look like I need that?” the loud one said. “I don’t want the money, dude, I want the chic.”
William held the cash over his shoulder to the lady on his arm and said, “Honey, why don’t you call it a night.” The lady paused for a second before snatching the money and quickly walking away.
“Ah, shit, what the hell?” the loud one said. “Fine, get me another one then.”
“What kind?” William said and lit a cigarette. “Blonde, brunette?”
“Yeah dude! That’s what I’m saying,” the loud one laughed. Right then, his companion started to vomit and the loud one scolded him, “What the fuck, dude? Back up!” The drunk one stumbled to the wall to help hold himself up and swayed there. The loud one continued, “A bitch who likes to have a good time, dude, like I said. One that don’t run off!”
“I don’t know any bitches who like to get hit,” William said and added, “Though they may be out there. There is an inexhaustible variety in life.”
“How much?” the loud one said. “You must have one you know that we’d like.” The drunk one had stopped vomiting, but he continued to sway and yelled,
“Red-head! Yeah, everyone says they’re crazy!” the loud one agreed.
“I don’t run girls,” William said. “I never have. They are around here though. I’m sure you can find one.”
“What? What the hell, dude? Why are you talking to me, then? What’s she all over you for?”
“She found me here,” William shrugged, “She offered me a good time if I would run some interference with you boys, and I have to admit, I am having a good time.”
“You gave her money, dude,” the drunk one mumbled. “Get me another one. Come on, it’s my birthday. I just turned twenty-one.”
“You are my age?” William asked.
“Yeah, he just turned twenty-one. What do you care about it anyway? Your mom a hooker or something?” the loud one laughed, echoed by his friend.
“I don’t care, she just asked so sweetly I couldn’t say no,” William said.
“She’s just a hooker, dude.”
“And God bless all their little lies,” William said, “But she’s gone, now, so why don’t you two just cut your losses and head home while your night is still salvageable.”
“What is that?” the loud one sneered, “Some kind of threat?”
“No, just referencing the time.”
“Sounded like it, dude. You know there’s two of us here.”
“I have always found threats to be wasted words,” William said. “I threaten you; you threaten me back. Then we exchange threats for a while. There is no point. You will do what you do, and I will do what I do.”
“And what are you gonna do?” the loud one sneered.
“Right now, I think I’ll go see if the lady needs anything else now that her evening is free.”
“You mother fucker!” the loud one yelled, “That’s bullshit.”
The drunk one started to laugh, “No, dude, this guy’s fucking cool. Drink with us, I want to have a drink with this guy!”
William smirked, “Perhaps another time.”
“Fuck you,” the loud one said. “I’m just gonna get another one.”
“Come with us, dude!” the drunk one said again.
“Shut up,” the loud one sulked. “Fuck it, let’s go.”
The two started to walk away, the loud one getting louder, restless; unsatisfied. He angrily returned and yelled,
“No, dude, this is bullshit! I’m gonna-” He stepped to William, and so William put him down with one light, unexpected hit to the jaw. He fell back more out of being drunk than hurt, and started screaming and getting up. His drunken friend swayed silently beside him.
“That is another reason I find threats to be useless,” William said.
“Mother fucking cheap shot!” the loud one yelled. He continued with his young, intoxicated ramblings and added, “You can’t fight me straight up like a man!”
“Maybe you’re right,” William agreed, “Fortunately for me, I have a gun,” he added with a smile.
The loud one either did not hear him, or did not believe him, because he returned to posture in front of William. His drunken friend tried to intervene and mumbled, “Dude, let’s go.”
The loud one drew back his fist and William put him down again, just a little harder this time. His drunken friend continued to sway, but it was evident he had no intention of becoming involved. The loud on kept yelling from the ground until William knelt down, pulled out his gun, and rested it on his thigh.v
“Why did you hit her?” William asked.
“I didn’t hit her!” the loud one said.
“I’m not judging you,” William said. “I’m curious.”
“Fuck off, it just…she’s fine, dude.”
“I have not yet had an urge to hit a woman,” William continued.
“She’s fine, I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry.”
“They do make easy targets,” William agreed. “There is not even any hunt with a working girl. I imagine it is similar to setting a cat on fire or stabbing a homeless man?”
“I just…it was just…just happened, okay? Jesus, what the hell?”
“It seems she just inadvertently stumbled on a life altering moment,” William said softly.
“Yeah, dude, sorry, don’t…just don’t…”
William returned to his feet and again said, “So, why don’t you two just cut your losses and head home while your night is still salvageable?”
“Yeah, you got it, we’re going, don’t…”
William stood until the loud one crawled to his feet. The loud one grabbed the drunken one, and both silently made their way down the street.
“Have a good night, gentlemen,” William called after them. “My age,” he said to himself. “Interesting.”
He did not go look for Angel. William just returned home. He would see her soon enough.