“Fuck does he know?”
“‘Fuck does he know?’ He’s the motherfucking boss, Walt.”
The men lifted the crate. Blue inked arms, sheening with sweat in the late August night, worked under the thin shaft of a propped flashlight.
Like four pythons crawling outta barbershop, Wade thought.
He readjusted the lens and snapped three more shots, ensuring no glare from the rinky-dink flashlight ousted him, then returned it to the duffel.
“We could’ve dropped this in the river and he’d never know.”
“‘less he checked the unit.”
“Ain’t gonna check the goddamn unit. Don’t even remember my fucking name most of the time.”
“Maybe ‘cause he ain’t got time to learn every Jim-n-Joe’s name. He’s the motherfucking boss, Walt.”
“I know he’s the motherfucking boss, Shawn. Shit. A little fucking respect wouldn’t hurt though.”
Wade typed into his phone.
Wade took the lighter fluid from the duffel and stuffed it into his back pocket. He picked up the bat.
The text tone reply echoed off the concrete walls.
There was a crash and the sound of splintering wood as Wade rounded the corner into view. The flashlight rolled off the pickup’s bed, clattering into darkness.
“Evening,” Wade said.
Something pungent began to seep out from the cracked bottom of the wooden crate.
“Y’all got butter fingers, Waltie? Up’n dropping things that don’t belong to you. Gotta be careful, Shawn.”
“The fuck’re you?” Walt said.
Wade watched the rise and fall of the big man’s chest. The head of a dragon crested then shrank under the dirty jersey.
“Fixer?” Shawn’s voice was sham incredulity.
His eyes widened.
Wade lifted the bat.
“What kind of fairy carries a pink bat?” Walt said, making a show of stretching his muscles.
“See, I use Sluggers. Can’t match their precision. Their sweet spot. That stiffer feel. Ain’t nothing like Sluggers.”
“Stiffer feel? Hear that, Shawn? He really is–”
Wade caught him under the chin. A pink clipped portion of Walt’s tongue heaved into the air with the spit and blood.
“That sound though? Hear?” Wade asked, turning to Shawn.
“I hate the sound of aluminum but,” Wade pointed the bat to the cracked crate, “they don’t splinter or break.”
“Smell that? Y’all must’ve cracked the vat too. How’s a body supposed to dissolve if the acid’s leakin’?”
Shawn stammered something like sorry.
Wade knelt and grabbed a handful of the semi-conscious man’s hair.
“Would it matter if I’s gay?” he said. “Your brains’re still gonna be all over my pink pole, pardner.”
Wade rose then set about making dents in the Slugger.
* * *
“God, man,” Shawn said, tears and snot smearing his goatee. “D-d-don’t–”
Wade reached around and got the lighter fluid. He tossed it to Shawn, who caught it awkwardly.
Wade encircled Walt with the bat.
Shawn hesitated, but complied.
“Little more, now.”
Shawn did as instructed. He made to toss the canister back.
Wade shook his head.
“You heard me.”
“N-n-no,” Walt said, holding out the canister.
“You gotta burn at least a little bit, Shawnyboy. How else can I say, ‘Sorry, boss. Thought he’s dead?’”
Walt stared open-mouthed.
“Go on. Just a little bit around the shoulders there. Good.”
The canister clanged onto the asphalt.
“Now, once I light you, count to three then take off just as fast as you can,” Wade pointed the bat, “to the river.”
Shawn tried to nod.
“Th-th-thank you,” he said. “You’ll n-n-never hear from me again.”
Wade flicked the Bic and touched it to Shawn’s shirt. It caught and spread, sending flames flickering up, lapping at Shawn’s bare neck and chin. Shawn jerked but Wade held his forearm.
Acid and burnt hair filled Wade’s nostrils.
Wade let go.
Shawn flung his hands at the fire. He turned to run but Wade caught his right knee with the bat. Shawn dropped, slapping at the flames. He started crawling.
Wade picked up the canister then dropped it, carefully, onto Shawn’s back.
It didn’t catch right away.
Wade lit Walt.
The screams died out after the canister went.