As Thatch walked into the warehouse, he felt the tingle of a familiar presence.
“Oh, good; you’re back,” he said out loud to the empty air. “It’s been a few days, and I was beginning to wonder if you’d come back. I’ve been kinda busy since your last visit. I’m actually on my way to a business meeting right now.”
Inside, there were dozens of pallets, all piled high with the newest video game consoles, still in their boxes, ready to be shipped. In the middle of the space were four men, standing in a tight circle, smoking cigarettes as they waited. Thatcher walked up and greeted them enthusiastically.
“G’morning, gents! How’s everyone doing today?”
“You’re late,” one of the men said gruffly.
“Where the hell have you been? We’ve been waiting here for you for two hours. We were just deciding if we should pack up the rest of the shipment and leave without you,” exclaimed another.
“Ah, well, I do apologize for that. You see, there was a bit of a traffic jam on my way over here, and I had tacos for dinner last night, so my tummy wasn’t feeling the greatest. I had to stop a few times for that, and then I got hungry, so I pulled into the Burger Hut over on 63, and they were packed, so I was in line there for about twenty minutes…”
One of the men held up his hand and flicked his cigarette away. “Enough! I don’t care where you’ve been. The boss won’t be happy about the delay, but there’s nothing we can do about that now.”
Thatch nodded in agreement. “True; now that I have arrived, what do you say we get this show on the road?”
The four men laughed softly, and as one, they all drew their weapons. Thatcher raised his hands and gingerly touched the end of the barrel of each .45 pointed his direction. “What’s this all about?” he asked.
The tallest man raised an eyebrow and replied, “It seems you are no longer needed. The powers that be have decided that you have worn out your welcome, and they don’t believe you are worth the money we are paying you. Obviously, we will be holding onto your last paycheck; it won’t do you much good where you are going.”
Thatcher’s signature smile fell into a scowl immediately. “I highly advise against this course of action, gentlemen. I’m not sure you understand what you’re doing.”
The four men laughed again. “I’m pretty sure we can handle a simple elimination. It’s basic subtraction.”
Thatch cracked his neck. “Alright, then; let’s get this over with.” Looking behind him for a moment, he said, “Folks, this might be a good time to put the kids to bed, or at least cover their eyes. And kids, make sure you brush your teeth before you hop into the sack.”
The four men glanced at one another. “Who the hell are you talking to?”
Thatch snapped back to looking at his assailants. “The Audience; duh.”
With that, he ducked down low and swept the men’s legs out from under them. They all instinctively squeezed the trigger, missing their mark by a mile. Thatch dove over to where the first man had fallen and slammed his head into the slick concrete. The man’s body went limp right away. “Nighty-night,” Thatch said gleefully.
He quickly got to his feet and spun towards the other three. He rushed the closest man and tackled him, driving him into the next man. The three of them tumbled to the ground, and the attacker who was still standing attempted to get a bead on Thatch. He fired off a couple rounds, with one of them becoming embedded in his associate’s shoulder. Seeing an opportunity to take control of the situation, Thatch drove his fist into the wounded area repeatedly. When the man’s arm went limp, he rolled onto his back and put his opponent into an arm bar, quickly popping it out of socket and tearing the ligaments as he did so. The man cried out in pain, and Thatch let go of his arm as he drove his heel into the man’s temple.
“This is where things get tricky,” Thatcher said as he stood up. His other two attackers were both on their feet by now, and had trained their guns on him. The three of them stood there panting, staring at one another. Suddenly Thatch started laughing. Confused, the two gunmen looked at each other.
“W-what are you laughing at?” one asked, trying to sound tough, but his confusion and worry clearly ringing through in his voice.
Thatch wiped a tear from his eye and attempted to compose himself. “Oh, nothing. I just remembered a joke one of my bar buddies told me a while back. A huge guy walks into a bar, approaches a little guy and karate chops him in the back. When the little guy gets up, the huge guy says, ‘That was a karate chop from Korea.’ A little later, the huge guy walks back over to the little guy and karate chops him in the back. The huge guy says, ‘That was a karate chop from China.’ The little guy leaves the bar, comes back and hits the huge guy on the back. The huge guy lies unconscious on the floor. The little guy tells the bartender, ‘Tell him that was a crowbar from Sears.'”
The two men were even more confused. The joke wasn’t all that funny. What they had failed to realize was while Thatch was telling the joke, he had been inching closer and closer to them. Once he finished telling the joke, he took another step, jumped into the air, and landed a roundhouse kick to the side of the first man’s head. The man slumped to the ground, out cold. With one opponent left, Thatch dropped to his knees and broke the last man’s left knee, snapping it backwards with a swift palm strike.
The man fell, and Thatch swatted the gun out of his opponent’s hand. He kicked the man in the chest lightly, putting him on his back, and he stepped over him. Thatcher grabbed the man by the lapels and pulled him close.
“Now, I told you not to fight me. I happen to be rather skilled in the martial arts. Toot-toot!”
“What?” the man asked.
“That was me tooting my own horn. I used to actually carry a bike horn around with me wherever I went, but it was a little cumbersome. I sat on it one day, and the guy whose house I was robbing woke up and chased me out with a baseball bat. It makes me a little sad that I can’t actually toot my own horn anymore, but saying ‘toot-toot’ gives me a chance to tell that story to people, so I guess it all works out…”
The man coughed nervously. “So…are you gonna kill us now?”
Thatch laughed whimsically. “Hell no. Murder is icky; it’s always so messy and inconvenient. I prefer to beat the tar out of people until the GIVE me what I want. No, what I’m gonna do now is find that little briefcase of yours, take my money, and leave. You can tell your boss that he can keep the shipment, I just wanted my money. If you try coming after me, I will be angry; perhaps angry enough to break the ‘murder is icky’ rule. Are we clear?”
The man shook his head vigorously, and Thatch smiled real wide.
“Good. I’m just gonna grab my stuff, and then you can call your doctor. You’re probably gonna want to get that knee reset today. I would hate to hear people started calling you ‘The Gimp’ all because of our little misunderstanding here today. Tootles!”
Thatcher skipped over to where a briefcase sat on the ground. He popped it open, counted the money inside, and took out a few bundles. He closed the briefcase and walked back over to the only other conscious person in the room. Dropping the cash in his hand on the man’s chest, he said, “You guys overpaid me. I don’t want to get a reputation as a thief among thieves.”
With that, he began to whistle and walked out of the warehouse.