He spotted his mark strutting down the street – headed for the pool hall. To Denton, they didn’t have names. They were ‘marks’. Targets. Picked for him by his clients. The hot sun blasted everything in sight, right or wrong. There were no shadows on the barren boulevard. Denton snapped on a pair of shades and slowed the big, grey, late-70’s Chevrolet to a crawl. He parked the car and got out. He was huge. His eyes and mouth were soft, the rest: hard. His hands were gigantic and square, the fingers slightly bent – the hard, callused hands of a dedicated iron lifter. He turned the corner and went into the pool hall.
The place was a cool oasis after the street furnace. There were ten tables in the hall, five large, five small. Denton spotted his mark in the back, wielding a pool cue like a sword. His friends laughed. They had to, he was bigger than them. They called him Chad. Chad had a smart mouth and a vicious temper. He was something that didn’t want to be controlled, told what to do. Denton sat down at the six stool bar to watch. A three hundred pound tub of guts in a dirty grey T-shirt ambled out of the back of the bar.
“What’d ya have?” Fatso asked.
“Ice water,” Denton replied. He didn’t turn his head from the game. Fatso was a chunk of humanity he had seen many, many times before, and he wasn’t worth the neck strain.
Fatso snorted, wiped the bar, and started to trot away.
“And a BLT.”
Fatso nodded, one chin disappearing and two reappearing with every bounce of his head.
The pool hall was dank and dingy, like a hooker in the shower. It was old-style. A blue layer of smoke hung under the powerful fluorescent lights – smog over a green velvet landscape. Some punks played video games in a little room off to the side. A couple of geezers were shooting stick in slow-motion; killing time ‘til the killing time. They glanced nervously at loud-mouthed Chad and his buddies. They glanced friendly-like at the mountain called Denton.
One of the geezers accidentally jabbed Chad with the butt-end of his cue on the recoil from a shot. Chad spun around, grabbed the stick from the startled old-timer, and stuffed the tip into the geezer’s apologetic mouth. He blew green chalk out of his nose and choked. Chad and his entourage laughed. Fatso stormed out of the kitchen. He held a dirty knife in his ham-hand. The sight of Denton’s massive body gave him an unusual dollop of courage.
“Hey, quit foolin’ around or I’ll throw you out!” he roared.
Chad pulled the cue out of the geezer’s mouth. The old guy stumbled backwards, shoved his teeth back in his mouth, and chugged Denton’s glass of water. Chad eyed Denton coldly. Denton’s face was as smooth and impassive as a tombstone. Chad scowled at Fatso, threw him the finger. He spat on the floor and turned back to the game, a look of contempt plastered on his bitter face for all to see.
“Asshole,” Fatso muttered. He wiped his greasy hands on his greasy sweatpants. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand. “One BLT, comin’ right up.”
The pool game broke apart after an hour of profane yelling and taunting. Chad had taken a couple of hundred bucks off his buddies. They headed for the door, laughing and shouting, trying to be as obnoxious as possible, and succeeding. When they walked by Denton, however, they shut their mouths. To them, Denton was as big and quiet and inscrutable as a church, and they didn’t dare say anything – the repercussions were unknown, but most certainly bad. They tried to look ahead, and tough, but they stole quick, nervous glances at the big man as they passed. Denton coldly watched them drift by, and out the door. He crunched a final piece of ice in his mouth and slammed the chipped beer glass down on the scarred wood.
Fatso eyed him closely. He silently snapped his sausage fingers as his torpid brain clicked with an idea he had been turning over like a hog on a spit. “Say, you don’t want a -”
“Job? Got one.” Denton pushed open the door, stepped out, and sucked the clean air of reality into his lungs. His mark was two blocks away – tracking south. Denton glanced at his watch. Six o’clock – supper time.
Denton walked over to his car and got in. The shocks groaned with pleasure. He turned the key. Thunder. Chad’s head twitched, and he picked up the pace. Denton pulled a U-turn and slowly rolled down the street like an approaching tide. The gun-metal car flashed hot and bright in the sun. Denton knew the route and he knew the spot. It was an empty grass lot between two run-down warehouses. There wasn’t a soul around. The car radio played a slow, sloppy love song, and the tinny sound filled the street. Denton’s massive body almost swallowed the steering wheel. His huge shoulders were cinder blocks from which tree-trunk arms dangled. His head was a square chunk of granite. There was no compromise in that body.
Chad stepped off the cracked, sun-baked sidewalk and sauntered onto the grassy lot between the two old warehouses. He walked with his thumbs hooked in his pockets, a swagger rolling off his hips. He stopped dead when the big, grey car roared to the curb. The tires skidded hard in the gutter gravel, and five hundred and fifty cubic inches of engine growled angrily as it died. The driver-side door flew open and Denton exploded into the street. The hot sun bit into him and bounced away. He danced around the angry car with football agility and raced towards his mark. He was a rock-hard earthquake of a man tearing up the ground.
The cockiness drained from Chad’s face in a limp trickle. He stared bug-eyed at the huge man hurtling towards him and he let out a bleak whimper. He spun around and ran. Too late. Denton smashed into him, bulldozing him six feet in the air. Chad bounced off the stony wall and banged down face-first into the deep, green grass. At the bottom of the cool grass – garbage. He stumbled to his feet and Denton went to work.
“Been a bad boy,” Denton said. He casually and precisely took him apart with his hands. Twelve inch fists slammed into Chad’s face and body over and over, sounding like pilings being hammered into the ground at a construction site – a reclamation project. Lefts, rights, hooks, uppercuts, elbows, knees, forearms. Chad crumpled to the ground – a broken and bloody barely-breathing pile of meat spit out of a wrecking machine.
A phone rang in the ‘burbs. In the cozy kitchen of a two-storey bungalow. Something smelled good.
“Hello,” a soft voice came back over the wire. A woman’s voice. An anxious voice. A voice sick with worry and love.
Denton balanced the pay phone receiver between his thick ear and his big shoulder. He looked down at a bloody knuckle and wiped it with a tissue. It came clean. He stuffed the bloody rag into his pocket, next to ten neatly folded one-hundred dollar bills. “Done,” he said.
Silence. The kind of silence that follows the waking from a nightmare.
“Oh,” the voice said finally. Relief spilled over the wire. “I, um, I hope he’s finally learned his lesson.”
“I taught him a thing or two,” Denton replied, smiling, squinting his eyes at the sun.
“Y-yes, thank you. If we can straighten him out before he gets into high school, it might help-” Pause. “Um, but the law, you know – as parents we can’t do any-”
“Yeah. I know all about the law.” Denton looked at his watch – ten minutes until he went on duty. He disconnected.