Balladbird Lee walked out Magritt Oil’s south exit.
“Hello, James,” he smiled at the young valet.
“Hey, Mister Lee,” the boy grabbed his keys and took off for the parking garage.
A few moments later he returned, terrified.
Balladbird was no longer smiling, “Where’s my truck?”
“That man,” he glanced over his shoulder at the sports car idling noisily as it pulled up beside them. “He took the keys from me,”
It was Kugashira Bunji driving Brandon Heat’s new red Porsche.
“Yo, Balladbird,” the smug idiot hollered, “I’m going to need you to get in,”
Balladbird leaned into the open window, “I don’t associate with Sweepers.”
“You can make an exception for me,” he said, revving the engine.
“You’ve only been with Millenion about a week, so let me give you an education,” Balladbird kept his composure as the setting sun reflected brightly on Kugashira’s sunglasses. “You don’t tell me what to do, nor suggest what I should do. You don’t look at me when I look at you, and you don’t speak to me when I speak to you.”
“Well, smell me,” he snorted.
Balladbird held out his hand, “My keys, please,”
“I don’t think so,” he said. “You need to get in,”
“Heat send you?” Balladbird asked.
“This ain’t a Graves ‘sitch,” he said. “I’m off the clock,”
Balladbird straightened up and felt his senbon slide down from their holsters; their anchor balls resting snug between his knuckles.
“Don’t even think of whipping those pins out on me, I don’t like needles,” Bunji moved his glasses down the bridge of his nose. “My little bro’ never liked ‘em either, you know my bro’ right? Juji Kabane?”
Lee's canvassed the area for onlookers. Contentious liaisons and long-term regret clouded his memories of Lightning. After five years of sleeping his way to the middle, Balladbird was finally ordered by his brother, Cannon, to jump ship for Millenion.
“That’s right, elegant, Juji’s my little brother,” Bunji’s tone hardened. “Now get your boney ass in the fucking car,”
“I can’t fit in these cars, you idiot,” Balladbird hissed.
“You’ll fit in this one,” he grinned and yanked the passenger seat lever, sliding it back. “It’s made special, just for big fucks like you and aniki,”
Heat should’ve killed this scrub after Bob discovered he’d been hired to take Harry out. Instead he brought the shithead to Harry’s office, and then that blue-eyed dick made him Heat’s partner!
Balladbird got in the car and refused to look at him as they rolled out of the parking garage.
“Man, oh man,” Bunji’s hand moved from the gear shift to Lee’s knee, “You are one fine looking piece of-”
“—Don’t touch me,” Balladbird kept his eyes on the boulevard.
“You better change your attitude, elegant,” he said. “You’re just like Juji, no wonder you two used to team up,”
“What do you want, Kugashira?” Balladbird demanded.
“Question is,” he stopped at a red light. “What do you want?”
Balladbird ceased responding as Bunji drove them through mid-town.
“I like this place,” he said, pulling into line at a car wash. “You know why?”
“I don’t care, Kugashira,”
He grinned, “I bring hustlers here,”
“The boys working the avenue?”
“Yep, those boys working it,” he said.
“Ugh, they must love you,”
He growled, “You’re gonna love me,”
“I don’t think so,”
“I like the extra-long wash,” he said, pulling up to the kiosk and entering in a code. “Gives me plenty of time to discuss price options and shit like that,”
“You haggle with whores,” Balladbird said. “You, scuzzy little fuck,”
“Drop that attitude, bitch,” he removed his sunglasses. “Unless you want the boss man to know about your history with Lightning?”
“What makes you think he doesn’t know already?” Balladbird asked.
“He’s got Bob searching high and low,” his eyes roamed Lee’s body. “Only Bob ain’t looking high enough,”
Balladbird quieted as Bunji drove them into the automatic wash. Suds and water spat on the windshield as thoughts of killing Kugashira flashed behind his eyes. One prick to the throat would do it, but he’d have to explain why.
Staring over at him was a mistake; those eyes laughed at Lee. Oh yes, he was Juji’s brother, there was no denying the confidence oozing from that shit-eating smile.
“You know, Juji’s still in Lightning. I ain’t talked to him in years,” Bunji’s hand clutched Lee’s headrest and his thumb grazed Lee’s hairline. “You ask me, that’s one thing we got in common, Balladbird, we don’t like to play with past associations.”
“Associations,” Balladbird said. “That’s a multi-syllabic word, Kugashira, try not to give yourself a headache.”
“That’s funny,” he poked Lee’s head. “Dumbass Madness, right?”
“If the cranium fits,” Balladbird said.
“I got something to fit your cranium,” he seized Balladbird by the hair, freeing a few strands from the tie. In his painful grasp, Lee’s hand fell to Kugashira’s zipper. “I said, lose the fucking attitude, bitch,”
“Please release me,” Balladbird asked calmly.
Kugashira’s grip relaxed, but he didn’t let go. Soft lips grazed Lee’s angular cheek, “The way I see it, I can go to Heat and tell him all about your Lighting days, or you can be my friend for a while,”
“How long is a while?” Balladbird asked, teeth clenched.
“Until I get fucking sick of you, bitch,” Kugashira licked his jaw bone and then kissed him on the chin, releasing him. “You ask me, you’re hot for it,”
Balladbird took in his self-satisfied stare; those cold eyes incensed but also aroused. Wash-water hammered the windows, creating this quiet storm that trapped Balladbird in Kugashira’s world.
Kugashira kicked back and laced his fingers behind his head, “Take it out, squints, and finish me off before the dry cycle starts,”
“I’ve got something to say,” Balladbird whispered.
“Say it with your mouth full,” he snapped.
Resigned, Balladbird pulled the rest of his hair up and refastened the band. Gathering spit into his mouth, he pondered the many ways he would kill Kugashira. Horrid, painful, and humiliating ways; these thoughts kept Balladbird going well into the dry cycle.