** A day late due to illness. Apologies. **
The rhythmic thrum of the train lulled the packed car into a few moments of silence. An unspoken rule kept the conversation to a minimum. Even people that boarded as a group rarely spoke once they found a place. Mallory didn’t have to worry about that, she didn’t ride the train with friends. They were something she lacked. She didn’t consider that a bad thing. Friends meant baggage, she didn’t do baggage.
A subtle wave on her left caught her eye. It didn’t take long to see the cause. A hunched old man desperately weaved through the crowd of passengers. He looked from one direction to the other in search of a helpful face. Mallory doubted he would find one. This wasn’t the part of town that helped those in need. Keep your head down, do your time, and move on. Those were the rules, the fourth and unspoken one was ‘die on your own time’.
Another form moved through the crowd. A tall, thick thug stalked down the car straight for the old man. The tough had bright red spiked hair and cheap grease clown makeup to mark him as one of the many gangs in the area. She had lost track of the gimmicks, but stayed up to date on the color schemes. Red meant the clowns, yellow for the goblins, and white for the suits. Mallory didn’t understand why the three fought over the right to claim this little patch of paradise. Not even the tweakers and the burnouts were desperate enough to call this stretch of city home.
“Please.” A weary voice said near her.
She looked down to see the old man had stopped next to her. His short gray hair was stained crimson along his brow and his lip had been split sometime recently.
“Keep moving, man.” She looked away. “We all got problems.”
“I can pay you.” He begged.
“Sure you can.” She looked back at him. Aside from being a bit ragged for wear his clothes weren’t too shabby. “You aren’t from around here.”
“Hey.” Another voice, it had to be the thugs, but it was higher than she expected. “This aint’ your business, nako.”
Mallory stared at the clown for a moment. He was a good three inches taller than her and his arms were as thick as her legs. “How much is he worth to you?”
“Ain’t no worth, nako.” The clown stepped forward. “He’s mine and you hand him over to me or get a pie in the face.” He held up a fist. The word ‘pie’ was spelled along his knuckles.
“Clever.” She sighed. “Can’t blame a girl for trying.”
“Please.” The old man pleased as the clown closed in.
The clown clamped a heavy hand down on the old mans’ shoulder. A twisted grin flashed across the thugs face as he started to pull his quarry along. The old man cast a look back at her as he was pulled away.
“Damn it.” She groaned under her breath.
Mallory began to push through the crowd to catch up to the clown. Her hand closed around the tight around the plastic block in her pocket. She flicked to cap off as she closed the distance.
“Hey, Bozo.” She called.
The thug turned around. His painted face twisted in a snarl.
“Dance for me.” She stepped in close before he could speak.
Her taser snaked out of her pocket and into the clowns’ chest. He went rigid as a a few thousand volts pulsed through him. She counted to five before she disengaged the trigger.
“Come on.” Mallory grabbed the old man by the shoulder. “He’s a big guy, we don’t have much time.”
“Thank you.” The old man almost started to weep.
“Quiet.” She pulled him toward the back of the car. “Just keep moving before my brain starts working again.”