Oscar said, “Make him beg.”

Devin reached into his pocket, giggling. He held a Taser gun up in front of my face. “This is what she did.” “Twice,” Oscar said.

“Twice!” Devin repeated gleefully. “Damn lucky he didn’t have a friggin’ coronary.”

“Then,” Oscar said, “she laid a beating on him.”

“Went nuts!” Devin said. “Nuts! Booted him in the head, the ribs, punched the fuck out of him. I mean, look at him!”

I’d never seen Devin so thrilled.

I looked. Phil was coming to now, but once he felt all that pain, I’m quite sure he would’ve preferred sleep. Both eyes were almost completely swollen. His lips were black. He had dark bruises over seventy-five percent of his face at least. If what Curtis Moore had done to me had made me look like I’d been in a car accident, Phil looked like he’d been in a plane crash.

The first thing he said when he came to was, “You’re arresting her, right?”

Devin said, “Of course, sir. Of course.”

Angie stepped out of my arms, looked at him.

Oscar said, “You’re pressing charges, sir?”

Phil used the railing to get to his feet. He held onto it like it might just up and run away any second. He started to say something, then leaned over the railing and threw up into the yard.

“Pretty,” Devin said.

Oscar walked over to Phil, put a hand on his back as he retched some more. Oscar talked to him in a low soft voice, as if there was nothing out of the ordinary going on, as if he was used to carrying on conversations with people who vomited all over their lawns. “See, sir, the reason I ask if you’re going to press charges is ‘cause some people don’t like to do that in this sort of situation.”

Phil spit a few times into the yard, wiped his mouth with his shirt. Always the gentleman. He said, “What do you mean ’this sort of situation’?”

“Well,” Oscar said, “this sort of situation.”

Devin said, “Sort of situation where a tough guy like yourself gets his ass handed to him by a woman couldn’t weigh more than a hundred fifteen pounds soaking wet. Sort of situation that can become real popular conversation in neighborhood bars. You know,” he said, “sort of situation that makes a guy look like a serious pussy.”

I coughed into my hand.

Oscar said, “Won’t be so bad, sir. You just go on into court, tell the judge your wife likes to beat you up every now and then, keep you in line. That sort of thing. Ain’t like the judge’ll check to see if you’re wearing a dress or anything.” He patted him on the back again. Not hard enough to send him down the block, but close. He said, “You feeling better now?”

Phil turned his head, looked at Angie. “Cunt,” he said.

No one held her back because no one wanted to. She came across the porch in two strides as Oscar stepped out of the way and Phil barely got an arm up before she clocked him in the temple. Then Oscar stepped forward again, pulled her back. She said, “Phillip, I’ll kill you if you ever come near me again.”

Phil put a hand to his temple and looked on the verge of tears. He said, “You guys saw that.”

Oscar said, “Saw what?”

Devin said, “I’d take the lady at her word, Phillip. She has a gun and a permit to use it from what I understand. It’s a miracle you’re still breathing as it is.”

Oscar let Angie go and she walked back to Devin and me. I thought I saw smoke coming out of her ears for a moment. Oscar said, “You going to press charges or not, Phillip?”

Phil took a moment to consider it. Thought about the bars he’d be unable to show his face in. Everyone in this neighborhood for sure. Thought of the whistles and homosexual jokes that would follow him to the grave, the bras and panties that would show up in his mailbox on a regular basis. He said, “No, I’m not pressing charges.”

Oscar tapped his cheek with his hand. “That’s real manly of you, Phillip.”

The young cop came out of the house carrying Angie’s suitcase and set it in front of her.

“Thank you,” she said.

We heard a sound like a cat lapping at wet food, and when we looked over, we saw that Phil was weeping into his hands.

Angie gave him a glare of such withering and final scorn that the temperature on the porch must have dropped by ten degrees. She picked up her suitcase and walked to Devin’s car.

Oscar slapped Phil’s hip and Phil’s face came out of his hands. He looked up into Oscar’s huge face and Oscar said, “Anything happens to her while me and him” he pointed at Devin ”are alive, I mean anything, like she gets hit by some lightning or her plane crashes or she breaks a nail, anything and we’re going to come play with you, Phillip. Know what I mean?”

Phil nodded and then the convulsions returned and he began sobbing again. He hit his fist against the railing and got them under control and his eyes fell on mine.

I said, “Bubba really misses you, Phil.”

He began to shake.

I turned and as I walked down the steps, Devin said, “Hey, Phil, is payback a bitch, or what?”

Phil turned around and got sick again. We walked down to Devin’s car and I sat in the backseat with Angie. Camaros have just enough legroom in their backseats to make a dwarf comfortable, but tonight I wasn’t complaining. Devin pulled down the street, looked in his rearview at Angie a few times. “No accounting for taste, is there?”

Oscar looked back at Angie. “Boggles the mind. Absolutely boggles the mind.”


Devin said, “Socia’s definitely lost the war. He’s been underground for two days, and half his guys have gone over to the Avengers. No one counted on Roland being such a tactician.” He looked back at us. “Marion won’t last the week. Lucky for you, huh?”

“Yeah,” I said, thinking, that still leaves Roland.

“Not for me,” he said. “I lost a hundred bucks in the fucking pool.”

Oscar said, “Should have bet on Roland.”

“Now you tell me.”

They dropped us off at my apartment. Oscar said, “We’ll have a unit roll the block every fifteen minutes. You’ll be fine.”

We said good night, walked up to the apartment. There were eight messages on my answering machine but I ignored it. I said, “Coffee or beer?”

“Coffee,” Angie said.

I put some in the filter, turned on the Mr. Coffee. I took a beer from the fridge, came back into the living room. She was curled in the corner of the couch, looking smaller than I’d ever seen her. I sat across from her in an armchair and waited. She placed an ashtray on her thigh, lit a cigarette, her hand trembling. She said, “Hell of a Fourth, huh?”

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