Time To Get A Watch.

"You know, the last guy who said that to me walked away down one thumb."

"Sorry boss. It's 9:37."

Perry Joseph stood in the bagel line in front of all this, wondering if he hadn't accidentally slipped into an episode of The Sopranos. One step forward; he couldn't help but listen further.

"Did you do the thing I told you to do?"

"Done, boss."

"Good. That's good. You're learning."

"Thanks boss."

Perry stepped forward again. He forgot what he was planning on ordering. Still five more people before he was up, though. And this one looked like a big order.

"What'd Ricky say when you told him?"

"He didn't sound too surprised."

"Yeah, well, that prick had it coming. I told him, I said, 'Next time you fuck with me, you're gonna be in a world of hurt'!"

"You warned him, boss."

"Damn straight. Maybe next time he'll think twice."

Perry stared at the neck of the guy in front of him. Assault! And, not only that, Organized Assault! Contracted out! Perry's eyes shifted from left to right repeatedly. He swallowed.

"What do you want me to do with the other thing?"

"Dump it. Usual place. Tommy's expecting you this afternoon."

"'Bout time. That thing's been stinkin' up my car for days now. I don't know if I'll get the funk out or not."

"Well, if you'd done it like I asked in the first place, then maybe you wouldn't need so many air fresheners."

"You're right boss."

"I know I'm right. And another thing," he lowered his voice so the only other person who could hear besides his intended target was Perry, albeit unintentionally. "Just because I say 'no guns,' that don't mean I want a bloodbath on my head. You gotta start usin' your brain, otherwise I'll get someone else to replace you. And you know what happens when you get replaced."

Perry's breath tightened up. He walked two steps forward, now one place from the front of the line. He considered leaving it altogether, but resisted. Even though he lost his appetite, he knew he needed to keep up appearances, to show that he hadn't heard anything. Eventually, he remembered to breathe again.

"You enjoyin' the conversation?" Perry shouldered a forceful tap from the gentleman behind him. He turned around.


The stocky man with the lone bald spot where his cowlick would normally be, clad in swim trunks, flip flops, and a tank top, standing next to his tall, skinny underling stared Perry in the eyes. "You got a vested interest in knowing my business?"

The bagel shop continued humming like nothing was happening. The stocky man stepped forward, his forehead an inch from Perry's chin. "I . . . I wasn't. I mean, I didn't hear any . . . what? Did you say . . . were you two . . . I mean . . . I'm just getting a bagel."

"Come with me." The stocky man grabbed Perry by the collar and led him to the door. "Jesse, order me a coffee to go. No cream, lots of sugar, garlic and cheese bagel. Our friend and I are gonna have a little chat."

Perry stumbled at the behest of the stocky man halfway down the block, dragged by the collar all the way. The stocky man shoved Perry against the wall, around the corner, socking him twice in the gut. "Listen motherfucker, you're about to pay your dues! I don't like it when I'm bein' eavesdropped on. That's privileged information you were spying on, and I don't trust you. What's your name?"

Perry stammered again, so the stocky man bitchslapped him. His ring cut Perry's upper lip. Perry immediately released his name.

"Well, Perry, this is what we're gonna do. I'm gonna steal your wallet," the stocky man held out his hand, making the 'give it here' motion with his fingers together until Perry dug it out of his pocket. "And then I'm gonna call you. Later. Not today. But soon. Soon I'll be conscribing you into my organization and you'll be doing some freelance work for me. Since you're so hell-bent on knowing my business, I figure I'll give you a break and show you my business."

"But, I . . . I wasn't," Perry continued stumbling over his thoughts, so the stocky man punched him again, then pulled Perry's ear right down to his lips.

"And if you think about disappointing me, remember, I know where you live." The stocky man let Perry go while he rifled through the wallet until he found what he was looking for. "And I know where your beautiful wife and kids live. Understand?"

Perry nodded. The stocky man took all the cash out of the wallet and threw it at Perry's chest. He managed to catch most of it. "Go buy your fuckin' bagel." As Perry walked apprehensively around the corner, he nearly collided with Jesse and his two coffees. The last thing Perry heard before he started running down the block was, "I told you no cream, ya moron!"