Loyalty

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Chapter 21

It was Thursday morning, later in the week, and the convenience store day shift had only been going for about an hour. Henry was working out back on a car that needed a tune up, when a young guy, about eighteen years old, wandered through the doors of the convenience store. After browsing for ten minutes, he selected a candy bar and a soda. Henry walked in to grab some oil, when he spotted the guy at the counter, and moved closer to keep an eye on the situation. “Good morning.” Said Shyla, running through the mundane smile-and-wave routine. She was getting better at it, but still found it tedious at times.

“Morning, sweetie.” The customer replied, smiling sweetly at her.

“That’ll be a dollar fifty-five.” Shyla ignored the customer’s flirtatious smile.

“How about two dollars and your phone number?” the customer smiled again.

Shyla fumbled with the change and dropped nickels and dimes all over the counter. The customer helped her gather the coins and tried to grab her hand in the process. Henry wrapped his arm around the customer’s neck and yanked him to the floor. “Touch my girlfriend again, and I’ll rip your throat out.” Snarled Henry.

“I was just being a gentleman!” the helpless customer protested.

“Being a gentleman!” Henry snorted. “It was hardly polite to make advances at the lady in such a crass manner.”

“Henry.” Was all Shyla said.

Henry stepped back. Shyla helped the customer to his feet and ushered him from the store. “He shouldn’t have asked for your number.” Muttered Henry, picking up the can of oil on the corner of the counter.

“No,” countered Shyla, wiping the cash register. “You shouldn’t have reacted like that. I was doing fine.”

“You dropped his change!”

“And?”

“He made you nervous. What was I supposed to do?”

“Not that. I could have handled it.”

Their argument was cut short by the entrance of a regular customer. “Good morning, Mrs Wilson.” Said Shyla. “How are you on this fine day?”

“I’m fine, dearie.” Replied the elderly lady. She turned to Henry. “Be a gentleman, and get me a packet of cigarettes from that top shelf please. Make sure it’s menthol this time.”

Shyla laughed. Henry shook his head and scrambled up the ladder. He jumped to the floor holding the cigarettes. “Here you go, Mrs Wilson.”

“Thank you, dear.” Mrs Wilson paid, in small change, and left the store.

“Gentleman?” Shyla raised her eyebrows.

“Don’t laugh,” Henry grumbled. “The boss will hear you.”


Just then, Jake burst into the front of the shop from his office. “They’re coming.” He hissed.

Shyla and Henry simultaneously moved into action, abandoning their respective tasks. Any number of people from the neighbourhood could have alerted Jake to the impending attack, but they could trust that the Intel was sound.

“Joe’s boys. They’re at the end of the block.”

Joe Fragale had a vendetta against Jake. Jake had refused to pay security money to Liborio Fragale, and wouldn’t pay, no matter what kind of intimidation the business used. Joe wanted payment, even if it meant looting the store from time to time to make a point.

Shyla vaulted the counter and bolted the door from the inside. Henry grabbed two lengths of steel pipe from behind the counter and tossed one to Shyla. They had decided to avoid using their weapons unless it was an emergency. Jake pulled out a twelve gauge shotgun from behind his office door. “Ready?” he asked the ninjas.

Both nodded.


Five minutes passed silently, as they waited. Shyla stood behind the counter, and Henry was in the back corner of the store. A sleek, black car pulled into the parking lot. Five guys got out. Shyla and Henry dropped to the floor in a crouch as the men pulled out AK47 semiautomatic weapons. They drilled the front windows of the shop, shattering them completely. The men stepped through. “Well, well, well.” The man in the front said. He was obviously high up in the hierarchy of Liborio Fragale. “If it ain’t Jake Russell.”

“Cut the chatter, Vinnie.” Muttered Jake. “I know why you’re here.”

“Boss man’s gettin’ jumpy.” Vinnie pointed his gun at Jake. “Where’s the doe? He says you ain’t paid him yet.”

Jake stepped back from the counter, and rolled his eyes. “Stop with the ’ain’t’s. I know you have a law degree from Harvard.”

Vinnie shrugged, and levelled his gun on the register. “You have a point, Jake. Doesn’t change the fact that Joe wants his money now.”

He pointed one of his henchmen behind the counter, where Shyla was hiding. Shyla changed her crouch to a fake cower. The guy sauntered behind the counter and looked down. “Hey, Vinnie,” he said. “There’s a girl down here.”

Henry felt the blood drain from his face.

The guy pulled Shyla roughly to her feet by her shirt. She had concealed the pipe in her knee high boots, and appeared unarmed and helpless. As the guy dragged her to Vinnie, she lifted her leg slightly and held her knee in a way that they wouldn’t see the pipe sticking out. As they reached Vinnie, she yanked the pipe from her boot and struck Vinnie over the head with it. He dropped to his knees on the floor, groaning in agony.


Henry sprang to his feet at the same time and roundhouse kicked the man standing closest to him in the face. Shyla elbowed her captor in the ribs, back flipped over his head, and kicked him in the back as she landed. Henry shoulder charged one as he pointed his gun at Shyla. He went flying into the edge of the counter and landed on his face. The last remaining assailant made a dash for the door, but he was stopped by Jake, who aimed his shotgun at the man’s face. “Drop your weapon.” Said Jake.

“And if I don’t?” the man asked, clearly hoping to make a run for it.

“Do you want me to deal with you?” asked Jake sweetly. “Or them?” he indicated with his head toward Shyla and Henry.

The man let his gun clatter to the floor and held up his hands.

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