The man lurking in the parking lot shadows was more than startled when another shadow strolled up and addressed him by name; in fact, he almost peed his pants. “Martin, I believe you aren’t supposed to be within a hundred yards of this building, or within double that of Max Tegan – who is currently inside this building, so you’re breaking two restraining orders at once,” the other shadowy figure admonished. It stepped into the light just enough for him to see that it was male, short and slender and probably Asian. It was also smiling. “So…what are we doing here tonight, hmm?”
Martin scowled. After the initial startle-scare, he wasn’t afraid –he was easily a head taller than this guy, and probably outweighed him by fifty pounds. “What business is it of yours?”
The small Asian man smiled even wider. “I’m temporarily filling in as the HR director for FindLove.net,” he said. “As part of my orientation I was thoroughly briefed about you, and what you did, and the multiple restraining orders against you. Oh, and I’m only here filling in because my team knows Elise and she asked if one of us was free to help her get things straightened out in her company.” A shrug. “We drew straws, I got the long one, here I am. Cleaning up the mess you made, and the messes you let get messier, and the messes you probably weren’t smart enough to even realize were problems in the first place.” The man shook an admonishing finger. “Naughty you, Martin. Running the HR department is serious business – didn’t you know HR is the only department in any company that has federal oversight and backing? Not the place to screw around in a company, really.”
Martin puffed himself up. “I am not here to talk to you, little boy,” he sneered, managing not to wince at the nasal whine that invaded his voice. His broken nose had seen to giving him that little speech defect, mainly because he’d been under arrest when he’d been taken to the hospital and so hadn’t been able to get a rhinoplasty specialist to reset things for him before they’d taken him off to County. “I’m not even here to mess with that sniveling bitch Tegan or the pistol-packing cunt who runs this joke of a company; I’m trying to catch the bastard who attacked me that night, because the cops haven’t been able to.”
“Oh, I see.” The little Asian man nodded. “You’re after another ass-kicking. Liked it, did you?”
“He took me by surprise!”
Another nod. “Like you took the man you attacked by surprise? Sounds fair to me.”
“Tegan deserved it, he…”
“…Wasn’t the one who told your boss what you’d been up to.” His smile at Martin’s automatic attempt to deny that was darkly amused. “Oh no, it’s true. You were caught by a security camera, and someone showed it to your boss. Mr. Tegan knew nothing about it until you came upon him that night with your tire iron, saying you were going to get back at him for something he didn’t do and didn’t even have any idea had been done.” His eyes narrowed. “But of course, you should already know that because it came up when you went to court, just like you should know that a man on probation really shouldn’t be breaking restraining orders that have been filed against him with the very judge who was over his case. So why are you out here again? Give me a good reason.”
“If I can catch that guy…”
A shrug. “Nothing would happen, Martin. If you could catch that vigilante – if you could find him, that is, because he hasn’t been seen in the area since that night when he handed you your ass and then walked away, leaving you bleeding on the ground like a whimpering piece of human garbage – nothing would happen except you going to jail and staying there. Because they’d arrest him, yes, but he’s also the only other person around who can tell the police exactly what he caught you doing that night. Pretty sure he would, too, just for the hell of it. It wouldn’t matter to him at that point, would it?”
Martin made a face. His probation officer had lectured him about this very thing, but he’d just blown it off. He hadn’t thought this plan through, hadn’t considered all of the ramifications. He’d been sneaking around on the outskirts of the parking lot for the building that FindLove.net was housed in for days now, hoping he would get lucky and run into the vigilante bastard who had messed things up for him. He’d been confident that he could take the guy, and hoping he might even be able to turn the tables and take the guy by surprise himself. And instead he’d been surprised by this little pipsqueak who had gotten his job, and who was patronizing him like he was stupid or something.
He was startled to see the smaller man nodding at that. “Yes, I am patronizing you and yes, you are stupid,” he confirmed. “And did you know you talk out loud when you think too hard? That’s a really embarrassing habit to have.”
“You…” Martin really, really wanted to hit this guy, he just knew he shouldn’t…and then he thought of something. He was already going to be in trouble for violating the restraining orders and at the same time breaking his probation, which meant he was going back to jail anyway…so why not send a message? To that bitch Elise. To whiny tattletale heart-on-his-sleeve Max. Hell, even to the vigilante guy, wherever he was. Why not let them know that Martin was not a guy to be messed with, and if you did you were going to pay. So, without warning, he swung.
And missed, because the Asian guy just wasn’t there anymore. A throat cleared behind him, and he spun around. There was the Asian guy, rolling his eyes. “Really? This is your new plan?”
Martin snarled and jumped, swinging again…and again, he missed because there was nothing there to hit. This time the sound behind him was a snicker. “I look forward to informing Mr. Tegan that you had to sneak up on him because you couldn’t have won any other way, even with the tire iron. You’re pitiful, Martin.”
This time Martin roared in rage and tried to rush him, spreading his arms wide…and ended up face down on the asphalt at the little guy’s feet. “No, you’re definitely not good enough to fight with me,” the man assured him, overtly patronizing now. “That would be murder on my part, or possibly attempted suicide on yours.” He buffed his nails on his shirt. “I’m so far out of your league that I don’t dare lay a finger on you, in fact. So I decided the best thing to do was just keep you standing around in the parking lot for a while…so the police I called for when I spotted you would have time to get here.”
And that was when two police cruisers pulled into the parking lot, lights going but sirens off, heading straight for them. Martin considered trying to run and decided it wouldn’t do him any good; instead, he pushed himself to his feet and put both hands in the air, which also raised the hem of his untucked shirt to display the short club he was carrying tucked into his pants for all to see. He winced away from the overbright halogen headlights which were now spotlighting him, and wondered if any of the people he’d met the first time he’d been in jail were still there and might be happy to see him.