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So, Harv Walks Into a Bar

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               Mack took a long swig of coffee and unlocked the back door to the bar.  It was just after eleven in the morning and since she had been up til' six it was way too early.  She shut the door behind her, not bothering to lock it.  Dave, the man who had delivered her alcohol every Tuesday morning would be there shortly and he knew to let himself in.

               Sitting down at the bar, she scanned the front page of the Gotham Globe, halting when a headline on the lower left hand corner caught her eye.  Fire at Harry's: Arson suspected.  The article was under the local heading, and Mack quickly flipped through the paper and pulled out the page in question. 

               Mack's eyes widened in horror as she read the article, and a funny lump began to form in the back of her throat.  Harry's, a local bar like her own, was two or three blocks west of hers.  Early that morning- around four thirty- the building had caught fire.  Police and fire officials found accelerants at the scene and believed the fire was caused deliberately.  There were no suspects at this time, and no one was injured.

               Mack swallowed and looked at the picture the paper had so thoughtfully provided.  The building had been almost completely destroyed.  Only a few pieces of the frame were left standing, and you could just barely make out the remnants of a pool table.  Mack had known Harry.  Not well, but most of the business owners within the vicinity were at least acquaintances.  His bar had been on the same level as hers.  Run down, slightly shabby, but business was steady.  It wasn't a great life, owning a bar, but it was a livelihood.  Now his was gone, and because the bar had been in such a state of disrepair it was unlikely his insurance would pay him enough to rebuild there, let alone anywhere else.

               Mack took a deep breath and told herself not to panic.  After all, it was an isolated incident.  There was no proof that the people who had started the fire over at Harry's would attempt to give her problems, too.  Unfortunately, the thought of losing her bar in much the same way as Harry had was not an easy one to shake.  Sure, her bar was a pit, and most of the time it was more headache than it was worth, but it was hers, damnit.  She owned her house, but she still had mortgage payments on the bar- not to mention utilities to pay at both places.  If something happened to her business, the insurance would cover most of the mortgage on the bar, but she'd have to find work almost immediately to continue paying her living expenses.

               She took another deep breath and mentally slapped herself.  She was being silly.  There was no reason to think anything would happen to her or her possessions.  It was probably the result of a bunch of punk kids trying to prove how big and bad they were.  The gangs around here didn't run in protection rackets.  Hell, she'd been here on her own for over a year now; if they were going to approach her about it they already would have.  So unless some new big shot crime boss was moving in....

               The styrofoam coffee container slid out of her hand and hit the floor with a splat.  Mack slapped one hand across her mouth and tried not to hyperventilate.  It wasn't working.  Placing her elbows on the bar in front of her she leaned her head on the palms off her hands and just sat there.  A few minutes later, her breathing considerably slowed, and she thought back over her last few encounters with her group of mafia guys.  The four of them, and their still unnamed boss, hadn't done anything to suggest they'd give her any trouble and they'd been coming in regularly for close to a month.

               In fact, every time she'd waited on their table, the boss- if indeed he really was- couldn't be more pleasant. Generally speaking, she exchanged words with him every night and it turned out that he was really pretty damn funny.  Oh sure, about fifty percent of the time he was caustic and abrasive as hell, but so far he hadn't been shitty with her.  God help the poor schmuck who did irritate him, but he seemed to be trying very hard to put her at ease.  Even when he was in a decidedly bad mood you could hear the forced smile in his voice. 

               It didn't really make sense that a crime boss would spend five or six nights a week at one particular bar, softening up the hired help only too strong arm them later for money.  Still, it was really pretty coincidental that they showed up a few weeks before this arson thing happened.  Fortune hadn't exactly smiled on her of late and she couldn't quite shake the feeling that something earth shattering was about to happen.  She wasn't sure just how many more "events" she could stand before she went postal.

               Looking up at the sound of Dave's voice, she slid off the bar stool and almost busted her ass when she slipped in the spilled coffee.  Cursing, she made a mental note to clean up the mess and went to start stocking shelves.

 

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               Harvey was displeased.  Mack was once again delivering a new round of drinks to their table and once again she was spouting nothing but empty platitudes when he spoke to her.  She was deliberately avoiding him.  The woman hadn't even looked in his direction once this evening. 

               Harvey drummed their fingers on the table in irritation.  He had purposely gone out of his way in the past four or so weeks to be nice and charming.  Hell, even Two-Face had been fairly polite... well for Two-Face anyway.  Still, they had done everything possible to put her at ease and things had been going beautifully until now.  How the hell was he supposed to make any sort of arrangement with her when all of a sudden she didn't want anything to do with him!  Christ on a crutch...she'd probably run screaming for the hills if she knew who she was really dealing with.

               No... something was wrong.  This change in attitude was too sudden.  The only reason she would have to avoid him was if someone had said something to her about his real identity, which considering only himself and his four men knew, wasn't at all possible.  Or she suspected him of having something to do with some crime related incident that had upset her.

               Harvey paused and pursed his lips.  The wench might just be acting fickle, but Mack didn't strike him as a fickle sort of person... well... for a woman anyway.  Either way, something had to be done.

               "Mack," Harvey drawled, "Is something," he paused as if searching for the proper phrase, "... bothering you?"

               Mack swallowed convulsively.  She had never had a good poker face; people said her face was too expressive.  Christ, from the tone of his voice she must look as nervous as she felt.  No matter what she had told herself, the minute they had walked through the door the bottom had dropped out of her stomach.  She just couldn't forget the picture of Harry's bar they had printed in the paper today.

               Mentally slapping herself for what was easily the hundredth time today she attempted to pull herself together.  For the love of God!  I've got to have more mettle that this! 

               Mack raised an eyebrow and pulled one corner of her mouth into a halfhearted smirk.  Inwardly sighing, she decided some sort of excuse was needed.  She really had been acting oddly this evening.  Even Andy had commented on it, and he was about at observant as a box of rocks.

               More than likely, these people were crooks; and chances are they'd know if she attempted to lie.  Some perverse "spidey sense," and all that.  So the best thing to do would be to tell them some of the truth, topped off with a small show of camaraderie. 

               Looking back to the darkened corner where the boss sat, Mack sent him a considering look.  "Actually, it's been a little hectic around here today.  There was an article in the paper, I don't know if you saw it, but a bar a few blocks west of here was a target of arson early this morning.  Naturally, it has the other business owners in this area a little on edge." Mack leaned over the table and reached for John's empty glass.

               Harvey reached their hand forward and lightly wrapped their fingers around her wrist.  Mack started and looked up, but could only make out his outline and the very top of his hat.  His hand was surprisingly warm, and Mack couldn't help but notice how large his hand was compared to her own.  Blinking, she realized he wore a scuffed class ring on his ring finger, and looked at it more closely.

               When Harvey spoke there was an added edge in his voice.  "Is someone bothering you Mack?"

               Mack jerked her head up and gave him a surprised look, "What?  Um... no.  I mean, not yet." She gave him an odd look, "Did you go to Harvard?"

               Harvey blinked and looked down at his hand.  He had been wearing the damn thing for so long he'd forgotten it was there.  "Yes, I went to Harvard."

               "I thought Harvard was primarily a law school." 

               "It is."  Harvey looked up and saw the odd questioning look in her face.  "Tell me, what you meant by that 'not yet' comment and I'll tell you what I went to Harvard for."

               Mack bit her lip and weighed her options.  She could let the whole thing go but he'd just read the damn article himself and come to his own conclusions.  Besides, despite her better judgment she was really curious about the Harvard thing.

               "Deal." Mack nodded and leaned slightly on the table underneath.  His hand didn't move from her wrist.  Surprisingly enough, the touch was oddly comforting.  "The paper said that fire was most likely caused by arson.  Well, Harry's is only a few blocks from here, and I don't need some schmuck getting any ideas about my place being his next target.  Yes, It was probably just a group of punk kids being jackasses- but the whole thing is making the rest of us nervous."  Mack shoved a stray hair absently behind one ear.

               "Do you think that fire was random?"

               "I want that fire to have been random."

               "But do you think it was?"

               "You're a persistent son of a..." Mack caught herself just before she managed to insult a man who, with her luck, owned half the bloody criminal underworld.

               "I believe the word you're looking for is tenacious," Harvey smirked.

               Mack huffed, "No, I don't think it was random."

               "Who do you think was responsible?"              

               "I don't know who was responsible."  Mack shoved the same rebellious strand of hair behind her ear, this time a little more roughly.

               "In your opinion, Mack, what would the motive be for destroying that bar?"

               Mack blinked at him in disbelief.  "Are all lawyers this damn pushy?"

               "What makes you think I'm a lawyer?"

               Mack made a small hmph sound, "Only a lawyer could be this bloody exasperating."

               "Tell me one thing Mack."  Harvey paused and when he spoke all trace of amusement had left his voice.  "If someone was bothering you, would you tell me?"

               Mack looked towards him and could feel his eyes boring into her own.  Her voice was slightly resigned, "No.  I wouldn't tell you."

               Harvey sighed irritably. "One of those 'independent' women I take it."  I was more of a statement than a question.

               She bristled at the insinuation there was something wrong with independent women.  He smirked.  "Do you have a problem with independent women?" she declared indignantly.

               "Only where they're being deliberately obstinate."

               Mack narrowed her eyes.  "I believe sir, that you owe me an explanation concerning your connection to Harvard."

               "I graduated from Harvard, and passed the bar when I was twenty-six."

               Mack jerked back slightly.  She had been expecting a similar response, but hearing it was still a shock.

               Harvey released her wrist and watched her absently gather the rest of their empty glassed.  She looked back at him over her shoulder as she headed back to the bar, suddenly not knowing exactly what to make of him.

               He watched her until she slipped behind the bar to fill someone else's order.  Pulling out a cigarette, he leaned their head slightly to the side and lit the end.  Taking a long drag, Harvey conferred briefly with his other half and when his men turned to look in their direction Two-Face was staring back at them.

               Flicking his cigarette angrily to one side, he nodded at the Brodericks.  "It's still early.  Go find out who the hell is nosing around this goddamn area.  Some fucker is setting shit on fire around here and I want to know which worthless bastard is responsible.  If some fucker is trying to set up a protection racket in this shithole area, I want to know whose ass I need to kick." 

               He snorted.  "If by some fucking chance it is some punk kids," he rolled their eyes, "looking for a good time, then give the fuckers something to think about."

               He looked around the table.  "Since we all know how fucking unlikely that is, I want the name of the family responsible for upsetting our little fucking operation and I want it in the next twenty four fucking hours." Two-Face looked at the Brodericks and snarled, "Feel free to be persuasive."

               Brian gave the boss an evil smirk, "I love it when you let me go out and play."  He stood up and finished off his Bud Light before turning away from the table.

               "Brian, sometimes you're a little odd."  Kevin shook his head and stood up.  He re-buttoned his suit jacket so his firearms wouldn't show and adjusted his collar.

               "Are you telling me you don't like knocking some punk ass bitch around for the fucking hell of it?"  Brian started across the bar room floor, Kevin directly behind him.

               Kevin rolled his eyes.  "I never said that.  I just said you're odd."  He snorted, "Go outside and play... how corny can you get." 

               "Kindly remember that you are related to me, shit head.  One of these days you might wake up and have the same affliction as I do.  It's called a sense of humor."  Brian enunciated the last three words to emphasize that Kevin, in his opinion, didn't have one.

               "God forbid," Kevin followed his cousin out the front door of the bar and the three remaining men could still hear Brian arguing with his cousin until the door swung shut behind them.

               Mark turned to Two-Face in astonishment, "I don't know what's scarier- Brian's personality or the fact that you just unleashed him on some poor unsuspecting fool."

               Two-Face took a swig of Jack Daniel's and chuckled, "Cruel, ain't it." 

 

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               Mack sunk down into the porcelain tub feeling innately pleased with her self.  The weather had finally cooled down to a reasonable seventy degrees and she had opened the windows first thing this morning.  Shockingly enough, she had actually managed to complete the crossword puzzle in this morning's Gotham Globe; a feat that always left her with a puffed opinion of her own intelligence.  To celebrate, she had rewarded herself with a long hot soak in the tub.

               Music from Enya was echoing through the house as she tried to decide whether to paint her nails fire engine red or blood red.

               Decisions, Decisions… she mused.

               Her head lolled to one side and Mack found herself distinctly wishing for a glass of wine, in one of those really fancy glasses you use at weddings.  What was it about bubble baths that made you go all girly?

                Looking over at the clock she stretched and reached for a towel.  If she wanted to prim and preen and still get to Barnes & Nobles before she had to open the bar, she was going to have to get her butt out of the tub.  Besides, the water was getting cold.

               Stepping out of the tub, she wrapped a hair towel around her head and wrapped a larger one around her torso.  She wiggled her toes in the cozy blue bath mat and reached for the nail polish- fire engine red it was.

               One manicure and pedicure later, she stood in front of her closet with pursed lips.  Generally speaking, Mack was a very down to earth sort of woman.  The fact that over half her closet consisted of jeans, button fronts, and tank tops would attest to that. Still, every once in a while it was nice to look like a chick. 

               Throwing caution to the wind, she grabbed her favorite pair of hip hugging black pants, the kind that made your ass look perfect, and reached to the very back of the closet to pull out a fitted shirt.  It was slightly lower cut than her normal attire, but what the hell, it wasn't that low.  Besides, it was as close to her nail color as humanly possible.  Her standard button up could go straight to hell today.  Sure, she wouldn't be able to carry the gun this evening, but what the hell; she had one under the bar anyway. 

                Tossing her hair back behind one shoulder she reached for her favorite silver earrings.  They were dangly, sparkly, and had cost six bucks at Claire's.  How could she not love them?

               She choose to forgo her standard steel toed shoes this evening and opted for a pair of leather boots that gave her an extra inch.  When you're only five feet four… you'll take what little help you can get.  Purse slung over one shoulder, and her book list in her back pocket, she made her way out the door in record time.

               Sliding a pair of sunglasses on, she strolled across the lawn to her Honda.

               Oh yeah… looking 

               Fifteen minutes later Mack found herself at the back door to her bar. 

               It's just like me to forget and leave the damn bills lying on the office desk.

               Last night had been fairly slow and the clean up had been easier than normal, so she had stayed over and balanced the store account.  The checks had been made out, and she had planned to drop her mortgage payment off at the bank on the way to the bookstore.  It might have helped if she'd remembered to take the envelope home with her.

               Another five minutes and she would have made a clean get a way. 

               Mack stared over the top of her car, keys already in hand, at the black Crown Victoria that pulled in directly behind her.

               Well, this is a good sign- an unknown car just purposely blocked me in.

               The back door to said vehicle opened and a gorgeous blonde man in a gray suit stepped out.  She hated him on sight.  He looked like he'd just stepped off of a used car lot.  It was probably the incredibly fake smile that was plastered to his face.

               Hey there little lady, I have this nice bridge for sale…

              Blondie approached her and quite effectively, and no doubt purposely, pinned her between the hood of her own car and himself.  Intimidation techniques, expensive suit, black car…yup… ten to one it was a gangster.

               She wondered briefly if there was some sort of spray she could buy.  Mob Be Gone or something similar… 

               Blondie turned that vapid smile up to one hundred watts and gave her a slow once over.  He stopped at her chest on the way back up.  How original…

               "Can I help you sir?"  Mack tried to sound polite, but she was positive her body language was telling him to fuck off.

               "I'm so glad you asked, little lady."  He managed to pull his gaze away from her chest and she swore to never leave the house in anything less than a turtleneck ever again.  She'd had drunk men stare at her more times than she could count, but this guy gave her the heebie jeebies.  "My colleagues and I are new to the area and we're just going around introducing ourselves and getting to know the local business owners."  His smile started to look suspiciously like a smirk.

               "You're Jamie Mackenzie, right?"

               "Yeah, call me Mack."

               "Leon Schultz at your service."

               Mack sighed and rolled her eyes.  She recognized the surname- it was in the paper on a regular basis.  Article after article about crimes that the cops were trying to link to Nick Schultz.  The way this schmuck was acting, chances were good he was related to good ol' Nick.

               Leon gave up all pretense of a real smile and smirked.  By the resigned look on the her face, she had been expecting something like this.  This neighborhood was going to be a pushover.  After that little episode at Harry's, the other small business owners around here had fallen quickly in line.  

               This area wasn't going to generate much revenue compared to some other areas Schultz controlled, but strategically it was a goldmine.  A couple of years ago Nick Schultz had lost his only son Andrew when a deal with Tater went sour.  Andy had caught a bullet between the shoulder blades and there had been bad blood between the two organizations ever since.

               Shultz couldn't really move against Tater without serious cause or the other major players in the area would take sides against him.  At the level that the larger bosses operated, most maneuvers were primarily political and generally slightly petty.

               Shultz couldn't outright confront Tater, but applying pressure on the edges of his playing field might someday prove beneficial.

               Leon looked up at Mack, "This neighborhood can be a little rough Jamie." Mack narrowed her eyes at the use of her first name, "My friends and I want to see the small business owners in the area continue to flourish, and we're willing to do whatever it takes to see that happen.  Now for a small…" 

               Mack held up one hand, "Look… Leon was it?  Don't take this the wrong way, but some of your friends already drink here.  I don't think there's room for more than one group of you."

               Leon blinked and hid his surprise.  More than one group...  He narrowed his eyes in irritation.  The bitch must be having him on.  If this bar was catering to somebody else his uncle would've mentioned it.  Besides, if there was somebody hanging around it was probably some low-end gang.  He'd have them 'removed' and then it would be business as usual.

               "Look sweetheart, I don't want to see anything happen to that pretty face of yours so I suggest you reconsider.  I couldn't give two shits who drinks at your bar; your patrons are not my concern.  We'll be back tomorrow evening- you might want to think about how much this bar means to you."  Leon shot her a dark look and turned away.

               His car door slammed behind him and the Crown Victoria pulled out of the parking lot, leaving her standing there staring after him.  She rubbed the back of her neck, and wondered how the hell she was going to get out of this- all thoughts of Barnes and Nobles forgotten.

 

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               Brian Broderick opened the front door with a flourish, bursting into song. The chorus to 'Walking on Sunshine' echoed through the house as he tossed his suit coat haphazardly to the side. Spinning on the sole of one leather loafer, he did an insane version of the electric slide while shouting the ending line, "And don't it feel good!"

               John looked up from the kitchen table and laughed.  Brian was one of the meanest sons a bitches in the surrounding area, and he carried a small arsenal with him wherever he went- but damn if he wasn't fucking hilarious.

               Brian moved his performance further into the living room and proceeded to take gross advantage of the extra space.  Mark took a seat at the table next to John and waved at Kevin, who was currently dodging his cousin's flailing dance moves.  Kevin managed to escape unharmed and crossed the short distance to the kitchen to lean against the kitchen counter.

               "I take it the evening was productive."  Mark looked over at Kevin and then had to chuckle as Brian busted into his personal rendition of, "Brick House'.

               "You would not believe the shit that punk ass bitch Shultz is up to."  Kevin made his way down the hallway, tossing his coat absently on the bench seat that graced the hallway.  Mark and John exchanged glances and then followed him.

               John raised one eyebrow in disbelief, "Are you telling me that Shultz is strong arming that shit ass neighborhood?"

               Kevin nodded, "The same shit ass neighborhood that just happens to be on the boundary line of Tater's property."

               Mark chuckled darkly; "I can't wait to see Tater's face when he finds that out."

               "Fuck I can't wait to see what he does to Shultz," John muttered and ran a hand through his hair.

               "Want me to go fill in the boss?"  Kevin turned to look at Mark.               

               "Naw, he said he'd be down after watching the Raiders vs. Patriots game.  We'll fill him in then."

               Kevin loosened his tie, shrugged, and in a purely spontaneous moment joined his cousin in the electric slide, his deep bass blending in smoothly with Brian's off key singing.

               John and Mark laughed and very shortly found themselves joining in as well.  John's tie followed his suit jacket onto the nearest chair and Mark rolled up his sleeves to reveal a set of tanned forearms just as Kevin initiated a stirring rendition of, "Play That Funky Music White Boy."

               When Harvey came back downstairs, slightly irritated at his teams' defeat, he found the four of them at the kitchen table, brewski's in hand, yapping about god knows what from their bar hopping days.

 

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               Two-Face yawned and rubbed one hand across their eyes.  Blinking, he looked over at the alarm clock next to the bed.  Five-thirty... fuck, the bloody sun will be up soon.  Good things they had dark drapes. 

               Sitting up he scratched their stomach and threw the sheets off to the side.

               One of those days...

               There was nothing more irritating than being tired and still waking up every few hours for no bloody reason.  Padding across the carpet on bare feet, he groped for the handle to the top dresser drawer.  Digging around, he felt for the tell tale feeling of flannel.  He paused and then searched again.

               Harvey.

               Silence...

               HARVEY!

               What?!  Harvey's irritation was obvious.

               Where are those plaid flannel pants I like to wear?

               You bothered me to help you find your laundry? he asked incredulously.

               Yeah.  What's the fucking problem?

                Never mind... Harvey paused; I didn't think you liked those blue and green plaid pants.

               I don't.  I want the red and black ones.

               They aren't in the dresser.

               Obviously fucking not genius.   Would I be bothering to talk to you if I knew where to fucking find them?!

               All right, don't keep snippy.  Look in the damn closet on the top shelf.

               I'm not, nor will I EVER be snippy, and why the bloody hell would the damn things be in the closet?

               Because I vaguely remember stuffing them up there when I ran out of room in the dresser.

               Well next time stuff your own shit in the closet.

               Those pants are my stuff.  I specifically remember asking John to pick me up a pair from Old Navy.

               Harvey?

               What?

               Shut the fuck up and go back to whatever the hell it was you were doing.  You're starting to fucking irritate me.

               Imagine that...

               Two-Face pulled the pajama pants out of the closet and slipped them on.  Grabbing one of their glocks he padded down the stairs towards the kitchen.  Crossing the formal dining room he prepared himself for the inevitable shock of bare feet on cold linoleum.

               Laying the gun on the small table in the 'breakfast nook' he opened the door to the fridge.

               Breakfast nook... He snorted, Why can't people just call it what it fucking was- 'The space where the kitchen table fucking went.'

               Digging out the mustard and a pack of deli sliced turkey, he turned around to rummage through the pantry for a loaf of bread.  Despite what people said, he did eat more than red meat and pork rinds. 

               One turkey sandwich and a beer later he was at the small table, feet purposely propped up on the bottom rungs.  Hey… even he didn't like cold feet.  Well... unless you were purposely placing them on your bed partner's legs just to be a shit head.

               Taking a large bite of sandwich he considered the current situation with the Shultzs.

               Nick Schultz had once been a rather formidable force.  For the last several years; however, he had only been interested in yanking Tater's chain.  It sucked that somebody had put a bullet in his little brat, but he really needed to get the fuck over it.  If the sorry bastard hadn't been trying to double cross Tater his son wouldn't be six feet under to begin with.  Why couldn't he just shoot himself or move the fuck on?

               All that wussy ass political bullshit was starting to get old.  Running around being shitty to people, but not doing anything openly hostile so nobody really had a reason to retaliate…

               He snorted.  Power plays... what a bunch of bullshit.  If the fucker hated Tater so much then why didn't he just walk up and put a bullet between his eyes.

               Because the other families would take offense if he killed him for no good reason, and then they'd have him eradicated from the face of the planet.     

               Nobody got shitty with us when I knocked off old man Denati and everyone connected with the worthless fucker.

               We're crazy, we don't have to have to have a reason- something you take gross advantage of.

               Why waste a good opportunity.

               Not that it really matteredif it was Shultz sniffing around or somebody else.  He wasn't about to let some two-bit thug walk all over his property.

               Oh... so it's our bar now.  I thought you didn't want to set up anything permanent there?

               Yeah well, I changed my fucking mind.

               You mean you didn't want to set up anything there until someone else wanted to.

               Hey!  It's my fucking bar.  I fucking drink there.  I'm not so hard up for company that I want to be drinking with Nick and his worthless fucking nephew.

               So you're stepping in so you don't have to drink with the undesirables of the city?  Harvey's voice was skeptical.

               Two-Face swore.  Christ... why in the fuck else would I interfere.  It's sure as hell not out of the fucking goodness of my heart.

               And here I thought Mack might be growing on you.

               Are you suggesting I'm only stepping in because of a WOMAN?! 

               Well she is the only person in a fifty-mile radius that actually laughs at the shit you say.  Harvey paused and then added.  Not including the fuckers who are too scared not to laugh.

               She is not the only person who thinks I'm fucking funny.

               Well of course she isn't.  You think you're fucking hilarious.

               Oh cause you don't put everyone else to sleep when you start rambling on about what the hell ever it was you read in the fucking paper.

               Just because the woman stays up on current events doesn't mean nobody else does either.  Kevin reads the paper all the time.

               Only cause' he's a suck up.

               Harvey sputtered and flushed slightly.  Would you stop changing the bloody subject?  Admit it!  If the bartender was some middle-aged, balding white boy you'd throw him to the fucking wolves.  Better watch out... you might be starting to develop some protective male instincts.

               My fucking male instincts are just fine, and they sure as HELL don't include feeling protective about some goddamn skirt.  I like the fucking bar...

               Yeah, cause' the interior is so upscale.

               Look wiseass, keep fucking with me, and I WILL hang the wench out to dry.

               I don't believe you.  You're too goddamn territorial to turn and walk away now.  Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if you'd already pissed in one of the corners.

               Harvey... I really fucking hate you.  If I wasn't so fucking fond of myself, I'd blow your goddamn brains out.

               You do realize that you're starting to sound a little unhinged.

               I AM A LITTLE UNHINGED.  I have to put up with YOU!

               Don't worry; tonight you can drown your sorrows in a beer and stare at Mack's ass until you feel better.

               We're not going to Mack's tonight.

               Yeah... sure we're not.  What if the Shultzs show up?  You gonna let em' wander around the bar like they own the place.  Hell, I'd bet they'd even sit at our table.  It is the closet one to the back door, after all.

               No fucker is gonna sit at MY fucking table!  I don't care if I have to take the bloody thing with me when I leave.  IT'S MINE!

               Well actually it does belong to Mack...

               Yeah, well what's hers is mine.

               Everything that's hers...

               Two-Face smirked, Everything.

               So, I take it were dropping by.

               Yeah, shit head, we'll drop fucking by.  That is why you bothered to goad me into that little rant isn't it? Two-Face sneered.  Some piece of tail you've known for barely a month has already got you whipped.

               Considering you let me goad you into that little rant, I'd say you're right behind me.  She might have to break out a chair to go with that whip...

               There's a few things I could do with Mack, a chair, and a whip, but letting her turn lion tamer isn't one of them.

               Two-Face finished his beer and deliberately tossed it into the trash and not the recycling bin.  Making his way back up stairs, he tossed the flannel pants on the floor and sprawled chest down across the bed.  Yanking the covers up, he made a mental note to pick up a pool table and a couple of tables and chairs.  He'd be damned if he was gonna keep drinking at a table that made him fucking cringe every time he sat down. 

               The fact that it really would be your table is just a bonus right?

               Fine, be a dick.  You can sit at her wobbly ass table all you want, but I'M not.

               I think I'm gonna need to transfer some money to our bank account.

               Considering what we'll be spending on that damn bar in the next month or so.  Yeah... might be a good fucking idea.  Now shut up, I'm trying to fucking sleep here.

               Two-Face reached out to turn on the pedestal fan next to the bed, and then shoved one arm under the nearest pillow.  Surprisingly enough, he only argued with Harvey once more before managing to drift off.

 

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               Mack wasn't sure if she should be breathing easier or not, now that her normal group of mob guys had arrived.  After her conversation with good ol' Leon she had pretty much ruled out all possibility that they had something to do with the fire at Harry's.  If her mob boys had been working for Shultz, then Leon wouldn't have needed to drop by this afternoon. 

               Still… the nagging little voice in her brain wouldn’t quit feeding her "what ifs."  Mack sighed and rubbed the bridge of her.  She had gone back to the house after Leon had left, to pick up her gun and a dressy black button front.  She wasn't really sure what good it would do her, but it made her feel better. Not that it was a good idea to shoot anybody, let alone someone connected to the mob.  They seemed like the kind of people who held a grudge.

               She never had gotten to Barnes and Nobles, though she wouldn't mind drowning her sorrows in one of their premier desserts.  Instead she had sat at her kitchen table for a solid hour going over scenario after scenario, trying to reason out a solution to this problem.  So far the only idea she had come up with was based purely on the hope that the bastards were in a car wreck on their way over.

               When had life gotten so bloody complicated?

               Mack pulled down a couple of glasses and began the makings of another round for the boys.  Sliding one hand under the tray she pulled out a Michelob for Carl, an older guy whose wife had died a couple years back.  Mack dropped it off at his table and exchanged the normal set of pleasantries before making her way towards the back corner.

               Mack smiled and greeted them with the usual, "So how you boys doing."

               Brian, who was always incredibly talkative, leaned over.  "I am fantastic - had a damn good night last night."  He paused and gave her a conspiratorial glance, "have you ever seen four grown men do the electric slide?"

               Brian covered his head with his hands, as Mark, Kevin, and John all moved to smack him.              

               "Actually," Mack replied with an amused glance, "I've seen The Replacements.  That jail scene is one of my favorites.  Tell me, did you boys to sing, I will survive, too?"

               Two-Face laughed.  "No I believe the preferred tune was Brick House."

               Mack couldn't help it.  She laughed so hard her eyes started to water.  Maybe she'd blame it on the stress.

               "Laugh all you want," Brian said in a mock dignified tone, "I bet your evening wasn't as much fun as ours was."

               Mack tossed the empty tray onto an unoccupied table behind her.  She shoved the button up out of her way and placed one hand on her hip.  "Actually, I made sure to record the Patriots vs. Raiders game yesterday evening, so I had something to watch when I went home.  I'm happy to report that my team kicked some Raider ass last night... as if there was ever any doubt." 

               Mack's lips curled up into a smug sort of smirk.  "I don't know if you guys saw the game, but our defense was all over it.  Especially the way they sacked the Raiders QB in the third quarter.  I mean what were they thinking letting some newbie QB play in a game against the Patriots, for god's sake.  Did they really think he could keep up with Tom Brady?"

                Mack shrugged and stood their looking innately pleased with herself. "But hey... not everybody can be the best." 

               The table full of men stared at her in astonishment.  Mack misinterpreted their silence, "What, you think chicks don't like football?"

               Brian slapped a hand across his mouth and tried not to laugh.  The rest of them were doing their best not to grin, but she could see the corners of their mouths twitch.

               Mack furrowed her eyebrows.  What in the hell...  I mean I know I tend to ramble on occasionally, but it's not the first time that I'm talked to them and got slightly carried away.

               Suddenly Mack eyes widened in horror. She placed one hand across her mouth and looked around the table.  Everybody was trying not to laugh, except their boss who she couldn't see.  If they were trying not to laugh, then there was a very good possibility that it was because their boss was a....

               Open mouth... insert foot.

               Mack leaned over towards Mark, occasionally sending their boss slightly alarmed looks.  "Ummm... Mark?"

               Mark cleared his throat and rubbed one hand across his chin.  "Yes, Mack?              

               "I... ah... don't suppose that your... ah..." Mack looked pointedly back towards the unknown man.

               "Boss." Mark supplied helpfully.

               "Right," Mack drawled, "I don't suppose that he's ah..."

               "A Raiders fan?"  Mark slung one arm across the back of the table, and smirked.  It was kinda fun watching Mack squirm. 

               "Right.  Cause' I've heard that their fans were kind of..." she groped for the right word.

               "Hardcore?"  Mark gestured with his glass and then took a swig.

               "I was going to say insane," Mack made a placating gesture, "but hardcore is good."

               Two-Face drummed his fingers on the table and drawled, "Why yes Mack.  I am a Raider's fan."  His voice became slightly amused, "One of the insane ones."

               Mack sighed, "I knew you were going to say that."  She leaned one hand on the table and adopted a rather wry expression.  "So I don't suppose there's, you know, a form or something I can fill out.  Something like a formal request not to kill me."

               Two-Face choked slightly on his whiskey and alternated between trying to cough and laugh.  "Uh, actually Mack... people generally... you know... just beg."

               Mack gave him an indignant look.  "Beg!  Like hell!

               He threw back the rest of his beverage and slid it across the table.  "Well, lucky for you, I'm feeling benevolent this evening."  The smirk in his voice was evident.  "I suppose I could let your disparaging remarks slide just this once."

               Two-Face paused briefly and went in for the kill, "It's not your fault you're so misguided.  Women tend to overlook the more important intricacies of the game, so you really can't be held accountable for your delusions.

               He sighed theatrically.  "I suppose you couldn't really help yourself."

               Mack bristled, and she slurred her sentence until it sounded like one long word, "Why I oughta..." She narrowed her eyes; "You know at least we don't go around shouting, 'Ahoy Matey', on game day."

               "No you'd much rather carry a fife and play the drums."

               Mack started to reply, but he kept right on talking, "Now why don't you be a good girl and run along back to the bar and get me a refill."

               He sounded so goddamn pleased with himself that it was all she could do to keep from reaching across the table and strangling him with his tie.

               Two-Face watched her standing there, sputtering in indignation.  It was so amusing watching someone so small get so damn irritated.  And damn if she didn't look hot, staring at him like she couldn't decided if she wanted to keep arguing with him or just throttle him.  He couldn't help himself... he laughed.

               Mack had never been so outraged in her entire life.  Why don't you be a good girl, Mack mocked his voice in her head.  And now he was laughing at her.  

               Oh, hell no...

               Mack let a particularly evil smile cross her face, "I suppose when you root for a team, like… say the Raiders.  You have to console yourself with these 'little intricacies' since they can't seem to actually win.  Fortunately for us 'mere women' we at least know how to read a scoreboard."

               "Why you cheeky wench!"  Two-Face broke off and muttered a string of unintelligible curses.

               She couldn't help it, she smiled and replied in a slightly sarcastic tone, "Aaahhhhh... you say the nicest things." 

               Mack slid one small hand around his empty glass and afforded him a genuine smile.  "If I every go to one of your football parties, remind me to bring along a white flag."

               Crossing the bar floor, Mack slid open the swinging door that served as an entrance to the behind the bar area.   She saw Andy and Ty waving for another round and had to smile.  Ah… Friday night.  Was there anything like it?  Andy and his friends were being rowdy, as usual, and Peggy and Barb were working their magic over at the pool tables- though most of their allure was in the curves on their body, and not their pool playing abilities.  Grabbing two long necks for Andy and company she headed out onto the bar room floor, the boss's whiskey in the other hand.

               "Well you look pretty damn smug with yourself?" Andy reached out a hand for his beer.  Sam was absent from their little group, most likely out with his new bride, but Ty was sitting dutifully on Andy's left side, making eyes at Barb.  Hell, knowing Ty he was making eyes with both of them.  Mack’s smirk got bigger.  There was no way Ty was man enough for both Peggy and Barb... and that was saying something.

               "Those guys in the corner were talking smack about my football team, I politely remind them that they were losing their marbles.”

               Andy snorted and took a long slug of beer.  "Girl, I hate to break it to you, but your team does suck!"

               "This from the man who roots for the Buffalo Bills?!"

               "Listen here girly, the Bills are going all the way this year, just you wait."

               Mack gave him a skeptical look, "Mmhmm... sure they are."

               Mack stepped away from the table and Andy yelled after her, "We'll see how smug you are after the Patriot's/Panther's game tomorrow.  Your team is going down!" 

               Andy smirked as Mack flipped him off and kept walking. “That’s it Andy, I'm cutting you off!

               He laughed and turned back to Ty who was still eyeing Peggy and Barb. "Dude, don't even think it.  Those chicks would tear you up."

               Ty smirked, "It'd be worth it."

               Andy rolled his eyes.  "Well, go on then, ask the broads for a game of pool." 

               Ty smoothed out the collar of his blue polo and gave Andy a considering look.  "I think I will actually."  Ty headed up to the pool area and Andy surveyed the rest of the room.  Carl was sitting by the window absently staring at the traffic driving by, and there were a few small time gangs hanging around, but that wasn't all that unusual.  Lou and David, who both worked at the gas station down the way, however, were occupying a table just left of the front door.  Grabbing his beer, Andy weaved around the cluster of tables and went to join them.