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The Crusty Nazi took another vicious bite, clearly furious with his burger now. The mall girls were there, pointing toward Crusty like Myron might not know which guy they’d been talking about. Myron signaled them to stop with a shushing finger at his lips. They obeyed, overcompensating by engaging in a too-loud, too-casual conversation, sliding furtive-to-the-point-of-totally-obvious glances in his direction. Myron looked away.

The Crusty Nazi finished his burger and stood. Good timing. As advertised, Crusty was very skinny The girls were right—the boy had no ass. None at all. Myron couldn’t tell if the kid was going for that too-big-jeans look or if it was because he lacked a true backside, but every few steps, Crusty paused to hitch up the pants. Myron suspected a bit of both.

He followed him outside into the blazing sun. Hot. Damn hot. Myron felt almost a nostalgic longing for the omnipresent mall air-conditioning. Crusty strutted cool-like into the lot. Going to his car, no doubt. Myron veered to the right so as to get ready to follow. He slid into his Ford Taurus (read: Chick Trawler) and started up the engine.

He slowly cruised the lot and spotted Crusty heading way out to the last row of cars. Only two vehicles were parked out there. One was a silver Cadillac Seville. The other was a pickup truck with those semi-monster wheels, a Confederate flag decal, and the words BAD TO THE BONE painted on the side. Using his years of investigative know-how, Myron deduced that the pickup truck was probably Crusty’s vehicle. Sure enough, Crusty opened the door and hopped up and in. Amazing. Sometimes Myron’s powers of deduction bordered on the psychic. Maybe he should get a 900 line like Jackie Stallone.

Tailing the pickup truck was hardly a challenge. The vehicle stuck out like a golfer’s clothing in a monastery, and El Crust-ola wasn’t heavy on the gas pedal. They drove for about half an hour. Myron had no idea where they were going, but up ahead he recognized Veterans Stadium. He’d gone with Win to several Eagles games there. Win always had seats on the fifty-yard line, lower tier. Being an old stadium, the “luxury” skyboxes at the Vet were too high up; Win did not care for them. So he chose instead to sit with the masses. Big of him.

About three blocks before the stadium, Crusty pulled down a side road. He threw his pickup into park and got out running. Myron once again debated calling Win for backup, but it was pointless. Win was at Merion. His phone would be off. He wondered again about last night and about Esperanza’s accusations this morning. Maybe she was right. Maybe he was, at least partially, responsible for what Win did. But that wasn’t the point. He knew that now. The truth, the one that scared Esperanza too, was far clearer:

Maybe Myron didn’t care so much.

You read the papers and you watch the news and you see what Myron has seen and your humanity, your basic faith in human beings, begins to look frighteningly Pollyanna. That was what was really eating away at him—not that he was repulsed by what Win did, but that it really didn’t bother him that much.

Win had an eerie way of seeing the world in black and white; lately, Myron had found his own gray areas blackening. He didn’t like that. He did not like the change that experience—seeing the cruelty man inflicts on man—was forcing upon him. He tried to hold on to his old values, but the rope was getting awfully slick. And why was he holding on, anyway? Was it because he truly believed in these values, or because he liked himself more as a person who believed?

He didn’t know anymore.

He should have brought a gun. Stupid. Still he was only following some grunge-ball. Of course, even a grunge-ball could fire a gun and kill him. But what choice did he have? Should he call the police? Well, that would appear a bit extreme based on what he had. Come back later with a firearm of some sort? By that time, Crusty could be gone—along with Chad Coldren maybe.

Nope, he had to follow. He’d just be careful.

Myron was not sure what to do. He stopped the car at the end of the block and got out. The street was crowded with low-rise brick dwellings that all looked the same. At one time, this might have been a nice area, but now the neighborhood looked like a man who’d lost his job and stopped bathing. There was an overgrown, faded quality to it, like a garden that no one bothered to tend anymore.

Crusty turned down an alleyway. Myron followed. Lots of plastic garbage bags. Lots of rusted fire escapes. Four legs stuck out of a refrigerator box. Myron heard snoring. At the end of the alley, Crusty turned right. Myron trailed slowly. Crusty had gone into what looked like an abandoned building through a fire door. There was no knob or anything, but the door was slightly ajar. Myron reached in with his fingers and pried it open.

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As soon as he crossed the musty threshold, Myron heard a primal scream. Crusty. Right in front of him. Something swung toward Myron’s face. Fast reflexes paid off. Myron managed to duck enough so that the iron bar only clipped his shoulder blade. A quick flash of pain bolted down his arm. Myron dropped to the ground. He rolled across the cement floor and stood back up.

There were three of them now. All armed with crowbars or tire irons. All with shaved heads and tattooed swastikas. They were like sequels to the same awful movie. The Crusty Nazi was the original. Beneath the Planet of Crusty Nazi—the one on his left—was smiling with idiotic glee. The one on his right—Escape from the Planet of Crusty Nazi—looked a bit more frightened. The weak link, Myron thought.

“Changing a tire?” Myron asked.

The Crusty Nazi slapped the tire iron against his palm for emphasis. “Gonna flatten yours.”

Myron raised his hand in front of him with the palm facing down. He shook it back and forth and said, “Eh.”

“Why the fuck you following me, asshole?”


“Yeah, you. Why the fuck you following me?”

“Who says I’m following you?”

There was momentary confusion on Crusty’s face. Then: “You think I’m fucking stupid or something?”

“No, I think you’re Mr. Mensa.”

“Mister what?”

Beneath the Planet of Crusty Nazi said, “He’s just fucking with you, man.”

“Yeah,” Escape chimed in. “Fucking with you.”

Crusty’s wet eyes bulged out. “Yeah? Is that what you’re doing, asshole? You fucking with me, huh? Is that what you’re doing? Fucking with me?”

Myron looked at him. “Can we move on please?”

Beneath said, “Let’s fuck him up a little. Soften his ass up.”

Myron knew that three of them were probably not experienced fighters, but he also knew that three armed men beat one good man on almost any given day. They were also a bit too jittery, their eyes as glazed as morning doughnuts. They were constantly sniffing and rubbing their noses.

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