WARNING! Strong language
“God, you guys are so fucking noisy,” said Freddie. He was scratching his black beard and adjucting his ruffled fauxhawk as he came in. His protruding ears reflected the morning light in a peculiar way. They were almost mesmerizing. “My fucking head is killing me. And I know you guys have coffee. I mean, if they weren’t all dead wasted, the entire fucking house would’ve heard your conversation.”
“Dude, I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize we were so loud,” I said to him.
“Here you go,” Jess said as she handed him a large mug of coffee.
“Thank you,” he said and pretty soon half his face was obscured by the mug. “This is fucking terrible.”
“Don’t blame me,” Jess shrugged. “The coffee was in the pot when I got here. I just reheated it.”
“I think Martin was making coffee during the game,” Freddie said. He winced every time he took a sip of the liquid. “Guess he forgot about it when he rage-quit. Still, congrats on winning again, man.”
“Yeah, we’ll see how long this winning streak keeps up.”
“I’ll bet you ten bucks the next one will be the end of you,” Freddie grinned. His tanned skin made his teeth seem unnaturally white.
“Oh, that reminds me,” Jess said. She seemed very excited all of a sudden. “Martin said pretty much the same thing before he stormed off. Plus, he left this.”
She picked up something from the kitchen table. It was a golden DVD sticking out of a plain white envelope.
“Well fuck me backwards, a blinged-out DVD! Just what I always wanted,” Freddie said in a mocking voice. Jess looked at him in disapproval. She was still avoiding eye contact with me. “Seriously, though, what is it?”
“He said it was a new batch of crosswords.”
“But we still have a month before the next meeting. Why would he leave it here, with his rivals?” I asked. She turned to me and finally, our eyes met once more. Thank God, she didn’t look like she still remembered how our previous conversation ended.
“That’s the thing. He wants a rematch,” she said. She was apparently awaiting some sort of reaction from us, because what followed was a couple of seconds of silence, then an irritated sigh. “As in, today.”
“Let me see that,” Freddie demanded. Jess complied, handing him the DVD. Our eyes met once again, but only for a brief moment. As Freddie was carefully examining the disc, my phone rang.
“It’s Martin,” I said. Jess and Freddie exchanged surprised looks. I answered the call. “Martin, my man! What’s up?”
“Hi, Leo,” he said in an urgent tone. At that point, Brandi joined us in the kitchen. She waved at me as she entered, grasping at her forehead where I’d seen the bruise. Jess gave her a coffee mug which she graciously accepted. Freddie sent her a malicious grin and said something to her, to which she punched him on the shoulder and then flipped him off. “Listen, there’s something important I have to tell you.”
“Yeah, Jess already told me about the rematch you’re planning.”
“Leo, I was drunk and I was furious and I’m sorry I lost my composure. But this is serious,” his voice was raised. I could almost see his pasty face get red with irritation as it usually did. “It’s about the disc I left with you guys.”
“The golden crosswords DVD?”
“It’s not crosswords, Leo,” his voice was shaking. “I can’t really tell you what it is, but it’s really important. I’ll try to be there ASAP, but until then, you have to keep it safe. They might come and try to get it from you, but you just can’t let them have it.”
“Dude, you really need to work on this sense of humor business, you know? I know you’re pulling my leg and it’s not even funny.”
“I’m not joking! I mean it!” he really sounded like he wasn’t joking. It made a weird kind of sense, actually. Martin never really joked. “You guys are in danger as long as you have the DVD. I’ll be there in a couple minutes. Just hold on to it for a little longer.”
“Can’t you just tell me what it is, then?” as I said that, the doorbell rang.
“Was that the doorbell?”
“Yeah, I think I need to-”
“Oh God, it’s too late,” Martin was almost sobbing. “Just, don’t let them in, don’t believe anything they say. Just get the hell away from there and then we’ll arrange a meet-up, OK?”