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Discount Dennis' Army Surplus is a one-story shop in a two-story building Possibility City's downtown sandwiched between other buildings that in the turn-of-the-century housed tobacco or were clothing factories. They now stand in days of forgotten history in danger of becoming a parking lot. Dennis moved there in the Seventies when the population peaked. No one goes downtown anymore and it's everything he can do to pay the bills.
Aiden got to know Dennis from the get-go of his career. Back then crackpots and wingnuts were few and far between. He would drop by and they would shoot the shit, have a few beers sitting around the back patio, then he would gather some equipment and be off on a new assignment. Since he got back into town he’d been meaning to drop by.
An overhead cowbell announces Aiden's entrance. Must and dust assault his senses. The place hasn't changed. A few new “shiny, flashy” electronic toys maybe. The right wall showcases surveillance equipment going back to the reel-to-reel. He could swear a CB caked in dust sat at the end of a shelf. Jackets, pants, hats, and any other military clothing jumbles and crowds the clothing racks in the center walkway. To the left a glass case is filled with “Rambo knives”, samurai swords, switchblades, and daggers.
Cory plods to the front. Aiden watches as this punk in the t with cut-off sleeves and baggy blue jean shorts and brand name tennis shoes walks up to him. The kid couldn’t be more than sixteen and already he has blue flame tattoos on both sides of his neck. Does he think he's some kinda bad-ass or something?
“Discount Dennis's Army Surplus. Can I help you?” delivered with a Chicago ‘tude.
“Who are you?” Aiden's words cut through the kid with knife accuracy.
Cory stiffens up. “I... I work for Discount Dennis,” he clears his throat. “How can I help you?”
“Do you have a name, 'Help'?” the words are clear. Precise. Crisp.
“Eduardo Rodriguez.” He nods his head. He's trying to hold his ground.
“Well... Felipe Benedito Ramirez, or Jose Carlos Hernandez, or whatever your name is, I want to see Dennis.”
“Someone givin' ya trouble up there?” a raspy retort comes from the back. Aiden knows that it's Dennis.
Cory turns around. “This guy...”
Aiden cuts him off. “Wants to speak with the proprietor of this establishment.”
“Proprietor?” The footsteps come closer. “There's only one motherfucker I know who uses fifty-cent words.”
Dennis approachs from the same hiding place the kid came from. A few inches shorter than Aiden, in his early fifties, with glasses and receding hair his years-of-smoking gravel voice is unmistakable. Aiden holds out his hand and Dennis grabs it, shaking it.
“How the hell ya doin', boy?” A huge smile on his face showing his yellowed teeth.
“I'm good.” Aiden smiles back.
Dennis looks at Cory who steps back to watch the camaraderie. “Don't you have something you should be doing? Get fuckin' gone.”
He throws up his hands, turns and heads back the direction he came. Dennis returns his attention to Aiden.
“My sister's kid. Cory. He wanted a job for the summer. I ain't getting’ younger, so I decided to take him on. Now I have to decide between him and the light bill.”
“Can we talk?”
“Sure, sure. In the back. Hey Cory!”
“What?!?” he yells back.
“Watch the front door, willya? We're goin' out back.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Dennis mumbles. “Follow me.”
Dennis cuts through the coat racks with ease while Aiden tries not to touch anything. He's particular about not catching fleas or disease. Stopping at a wooden door Dennis unbolts it. He pushes the door open and instantly they are blinded by the outside light.
The patio's badly painted white table and thin aluminum folding chairs sit in back against the ten-foot wooden fence. Aiden surveys the area before calmly taking a chair and sitting down. Dennis grabs his, sits and lights a cigarette. A long moment of pause as Aiden breathes in heavily.
“What have you heard?”
“Nothin' good.” Dennis blows smoke out of his mouth.
“Right,” Aiden draws out.
“No one knows if it’s real or not and it must not be serious 'cause yer still walkin'.” Dennis takes a drag from his cigarette. “Don't they get other professionals to take out professionals?”
“That's what I don't understand.”
“You know Thad never makes an idle threat. He's trying to get my attention.”
“He has to raise his hand and wait his turn in class.” Aiden replies. Coldly.
“Shit.” Dennis crushes the cigarette out in an ashtray, “What's this about some movie?”
“That came up. No one knows the name of it. Thad wants it back.”
Aiden is silent.
“I take it you got it?”
“I heard your buddy is missing a face.”
Aiden looks away. Now is not the time to deal with it.
“That's all I know.”
Aiden turns right, gazing off into the background. Nothing happening on the river today.
Aiden takes a deep breath.
“He found out.”
“Would anyone have believed him?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
Dennis pulls another cigarette from the pack. He's down to five. He lights it and looks at Aiden.
“Helluva thing to do, Aiden.”
“I didn’t make the decision lightly.” He is precise on these words.
Dennis sits and smokes. Aiden sits in his own thoughts. The cigarette burns down to the filter.
“Bridgette. She’s stopped-up.”
This is news. “How?”
“Fuck Aiden, I ain't her accountant and even if I was I wouldn't a done what she did?”
“What did she do?” The sentence very cool.
“A while back she got in over her head on something. Some say student loan bullshit, but you one of them…”
He began waving his hand in a circle.
“Deferrals,” Aiden calmly replies.
“Yeah. You can get one of them deferrals. So anyways I don't know what she got into but it was pretty bad. Maybe the loan shark she went to liked her because of her tits and ass; I don't know. Anyway, she shacked up with your boy Steven maybe 'cause he kept talkin' 'bout that stupid movie as if it was some pot of gold or somethin'. Anyway I'm thinkin' maybe he let info on you slip to her. There's a contract out on you and yeah, somebody'd have to be stupid to claim it and while she may be smart in some areas, she just might be that stupid.”
The wheels turn in his head. Was it happenstance that they met at the airport? It isn't looking that way.
“Now if she gets the movie she can turn you and it in and be square with the loan shark who, of course, works for...”
“Thad,” Aiden says flatly. Reaching into his pocket he pulls out a slip of paper. “Nephew any good with computers?” He scrawls on it and folds it over.
“Shit, Aiden. If they had Internet in the womb...”
Aiden handed the slip of paper to Dennis. “I need you to run this code and find out whatever you can and get back to me.”
Dennis takes the paper and gazes at it. “Sure thing, Aiden.”
“Thanks for the talk.” Aiden gets up and leaves.
“Anytime, man. Next time we'll grill out.”
Aiden opens the door and disappears into the surplus store.