He was sitting on a bench. When he saw me, he put his head in his hands.
“Are you kidding me?” I said. “This is our second meeting?”
He sighed. “This is not good.” Then he stood up, grabbed my arm, and walked me away from the entrance of the store. I dropped the box of Not Dogs, but when I went to pick them up, he yanked at my arm. “Did you see Julie?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Julie. She just went in the store. Did you see her?” He continued leading me around to the back of the co-op. We stopped at the dumpster. (It’s always a dumpster.)
“That’s what I’m telling you.”
“Well, what should we do?” I asked.
He pulled a knife from his pocket and flipped it open. “We don’t have a lot of options.”
I checked my pocket. The switchblade was still there.
“Listen, man, it was nice meeting you,” he said.
“Likewise.” I flicked the switch of my knife. It wouldn’t open. I shook it a couple times and tried the switch again.
“Oh shit. Did I give you the broken one? I didn’t mean to.” He stepped toward me. I jumped, ready to use my fists. “Here. Let me see it.” He closed his own knife and put it back in his pocket. I tossed mine to him.
He jimmied the switch a little and the blade flipped open. Just as he was passing it back, I heard footsteps behind me. I turned around, and three of us simultaneously shouted, “Fuck me.”
The third was standing there, mouth agape, reflecting the expression on my own face.
“So there was a third,” Jake whispered.
The third hung his head. “I saw the two of you and I ran. I thought I could avoid it.” He had a hint of an accent I couldn’t quite place.
“There is no escape,” Jake said.
“I know.” The third offered me his hand. I shook it. “I thought that maybe if you didn’t see me, I could avoid the whole thing. I’m Petra.”
“But we did see you,” I said.
“Yeah. I know that now.”
Jake shook Petra’s hand. “Crazy name, Petra.”
We stood there in that awkward triangle for some silent seconds until Jake spoke up. “Listen, do you think we can get started? My girlfriend’s in the co-op.”
“Is she hot?” Petra asked. Jake glared at him, but Petra just winked back.
We readied our knives; Petra’s was holstered to his shin. He had this Euro-cowboy look going: tight, metrosexual pants; black boots. His clothes alone almost made me want to kill him.