The business trip to the Dominican Republic proved to be a huge success for Jed and his new venture. Once Jed, Ray and Joey were stateside, there was little time for anything but work. However, with the pace that they had set, Jed was beginning to feel a need for a break. So he and Ray took an evening off and met Brian and Billy for dinner, a little distraction to break the monotony.
“So how was the trip to the third world country?” asked Billy.
“We were in the Dominican Republic you douche” answered Jed sipping the latest craft beer Brian suggested. “What the fuck is this, piss water? Looks like a damn urine sample!” Jed said putting the pilsner down in disgust.
“I think you mispronounced awesomeness” retorted Brian, Jed just rolled his eyes.
“Everything went well” said Jed in between sips of lemon water to wash out the taste of the beer. “Joey is busy rolling to get the samples ready. Once we have everything in place, we have to go back to hire some rollers but we have to secure some vendors first.”
“Oh, I thought you just bought cigars from other companies and resold them to the public” Billy said.
“Naw man. That’s why it is going to be their brand, they make the special blend themselves” Brian explained.
“How cool is that!” exclaimed Billy who finally understood the plan.
“I’m glad I could help, I’m just here to wipe thought boogers on the Kleenex of your mind” Brian said.
“Well aren’t you just a pious sum bitch” laughed Ray.
Billy with a look of total disgust on his face plucked a short, black hair from his head and dropped it onto his freshly served steak. He then motioned for the waitress to come back to the table. “Ma’am, there was a hair in my food” he whispered to their server, “could you please take it back and off my bill please”.
“What the hell” said Brian in shock as the waitress carried Billy’s plate back to the kitchen. Knowing the love of the near raw protein Billy possesses Brian asks “why did you do that?” As Ray and Jed busted out laughing.
“Dude, you fucking grossed me out talking about wiping boogers, now looking at food makes me wanna hurl” said Billy in disgust.
“I had no idea you had such a weak stomach, I’m sorry sweetheart” said Brian with a smirk.
“Well thank you for your thoughtfulness, dick. If they don’t take it off the tab, you can buy it for me.”
Jed sat with his head in his hands in embarrassment. “Why do I even come out with you two?” he asked.
“Because we ain’t Ashley” laughed Brian.
“I’m going to the pisser”, laughed Jed.
Ray rolled his eyes and said “and I left a Dominican paradise for this shit!”
A few moments later Jed returns and announces “I’m wrapping it up for tonight, I’m beat” he said. “Long trip and the jet lag sucks” he said as he swilled the last of his lemon water.
“Well damn! And I was waiting to hear more about the exotic beauty you met in the Dominican Republic” said Billy.
“I bet you were” said Ray finishing the last of his scotch.
“See you tomorrow bro?’ Brian asked Jed hoping to be able to get away from home for another evening.
“Naw, I got some paperwork and calls to make, I will call y’all in a few days or so” answered Jed slapping Brian on his shoulder.
As the four gentlemen filed out of the restaurant, a loud shriek of a desperate woman ripped through the early lowcountry evening. Ray, the first out of the door, immediately turned his attention to the damsel in distress.
The scene was a lovely younger woman in the company of three thuggish gentlemen. One of the men, slightly taller than his buddies had the young woman with a tight fist full of her long, blonde hair. Through gritted teeth, the obviously drunken, irritated man said “don’t you ever correct me in front of my boys again, do you hear me?” violently shaking her head.
The woman sobbing tried to apologize and plead with the drunk to turn her loose which only angered him more but seemed to bring the rest of the entourage delight.
“We gotta do something!” said Billy with a four and a half beer mentality itching for a fight.
“You gonna take all three?” asked Brian using reason that two beers on a full stomach will bring you.
“I got this one” said Ray, “it’s been slow lately” he said with a laugh.
Leaning against the black Cadillac, the three men watched as Ray approached the scene. “Excuse me, but I am here to help you untangle your hand from the this young lady’s beautiful hair” Ray said smiling at the woman as he began to gently pull the hair from the abusers fist.
“Da fuck?’ said one of the men with a puzzled look at his aggressive friend. The abuser turned his scowl towards Ray and doubled his grip on the young woman’s golden locks. “Mind your own old man, ain’t nothing here but an ass kicking if you don’t back off.”
“Yeah, I’m gonna need you to let her go like now, got me? otherwise the city of Charleston is gonna be cleaning more than just horse piss off the street” said Ray still with his hand in the lady’s hair also.
The abuser released his grip and shoved the girl into Ray. Ray pulled the woman behind him as the abuser turned and laughed with his boys. With a quick turn back toward Ray throwing a wildly miscalculated swing, the abuser’s knees buckled as his face met the cold, solid knuckles of Rays lightening fast fist between his eyes. Ray, wearing his dark gray pin striped suit jacket over a dark gray dress shirt was partially camouflaged in the late evening shadows.
Reaching behind him, Ray grabbed the hand of the young lady who was standing and starring in disbelief. “Anyone else wanna disrespect this young lady? Or, maybe wanna try my patience you weak, pathetic excuse for men?” Ray said. Like Jed, Ray hates a woman beater.
The other two men starred at their unconscious friend sprawled out on the pavement with a clear crease in his forehead and decided that their buddy was more important at the moment. Without another word, they quickly stooped and struggled to get their limp friend to where they could carry him.
As the two began hauling the unconscious punk back toward their car, the woman flung her arms to her side saying “great, there goes my ride home.”
“I’m your ride home” said Ray “but first I will need your name and then his” he said pointing to the lump of flesh being laboriously hauled down Queen Street.
“I’m Kimberly Legare, for now anyway and that is Josh Horner unless you killed him, that was a helluva shot you gave him!” she said wiping the mascara from her cheeks. “Josh is a big man, he has never lost a fist fight that I am aware of” she said unable to hide her amazement.
“Thanks, it must have been my lucky day. Nice to meet you miss Kimberly and what do you mean “for now”?’ I take it Mr. Josh has a habit of hitting you?” said Ray searchingly as he handed Kimberly his clean , white handkerchief .
“Only when I piss him off, which seems to be more and more frequently lately.”
“You wont have that problem anymore” said Ray as he gently guided the young woman to the black Cadillac.
Brian, Billy and Jed quickly got off the car as Ray and Kimberly approached. Ray introduced Kimberly to the three men who said hello as gentlemen and then Billy and Brian took their leave of Jed and company.
Ray opened the front, passenger door of the Cadillac and let Kimberly get in. Jed said nothing as he exchanged smiling glances with Ray as Jed climbed into the back seat.
The ride to Kimberly’s place was anything but quiet. It seemed that Kimberly was quite “chatty” when nervous so the conversation seemed never ending. She was going to spend the night at the home of her parents who live in Dunes West, the old money part of Mount Pleasant. Pulling up the long, professionally manicured driveway shaded over with magnificent Palmetto trees, Ray asked “is this your home?”.
“No” replied Kimberly, “this is my parents place. I know that once Josh recovers, he will come looking for me but he won’t come here, he knows daddy will shoot him!”
“With all due respect, why the hell are you with that looser if your dad doesn’t like him and he obviously treats you like dirt!” asked Jed pissed at the beautiful young lady’s behavior. It bothered Jed because this is the mentality that so many of his clients possess and keeps the karma business booming.
“I don’t know, it’s like I’m in a rut, you Know? I can’t quite figure it out but I feel sorry for Josh. I mean, I know he is aggressive and maybe it’s my fault but I just feel like maybe I can change him” she said as she sat nervously scraping the royal blue polish from her fingernails.
“Young lady, all you are gonna do is end up dead, trust me I know” answered Ray with a sidelong glance in Kimberly’s direction.
There was something in the way Ray said that to her that sent chills up her spine. Piecing together Rays approach and taking Josh out with one punch made Kimberly realize she was not talking to an amateur or just a kindly older man, this guy has dealt with Josh’s before. Kimberly bowed her head in deep thought.
As the Cadillac came to a stop at the peak of the driveway, Kimberly raised her eyes and asked “can I call you, you know, just talk? Maybe coffee at Barnes and Nobles? I love it there, I find peace around books, like the libraries, I have a passion for reading” said Kimberly.
“Sure” said Ray with a chuckle. “But understand, it is just for talking and only in public places, deal?”
Kimberly smiled and said “deal”. There was no denying she felt like this guy could protect her. Ray put the Cadillac in Park and came around to Kimberly’s door and opened it. They walked to the front door of her parents home and exchanged phone numbers.
“Thank you for helping me tonight, there is no telling the hell I was in for if you hadn’t come along” Kimberly said. She leaned close as if wanting to give Ray a hug but Ray stepped back and took Kimberly’s hand gently in his. “I look forward to coffee miss Kimberly” he said with a soft smile and turned back toward the Cadillac.
Ray made sure Kimberly was inside the house before he returned to the car. When he was back in the car, Jed asked “no disrespect but do you want me on this one too or you got it covered?” Jed only asked because he wanted Ray to know he had his back; it was purely out of respect and Ray knew that.
“I appreciate that, but I got this one brother” answered Ray as they pulled back out onto route 41 and into the quickly fading color of a lowcountry sunset.