Hap's Own Brand of Vigilante Justice

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Everyone's favorite TV star steps in to save the day, mostly for himself.

Submitted: July 12, 2012

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Submitted: July 12, 2012

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Hap’s Own Brand of Vigilante Justice

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Mack’s sat on the corner of Twelfth and Hoyle, which has never been a good neighbourhood; the sort of streets where you saw as much plywood as glass, and if there were proper windows, odds were they’d got some mildewy bed sheet up instead of curtains. It was the kind of area that was always full of parked cars, but where everyone walked or took the bus. Mack’s was the kind of convenience store where you could find sugared donuts in the same aisle as motor oil, but both cost more than you were willing to spend.

In short, Mack’s was the kind of convenience store designed specifically for the convenience of one person: Mack. The place was small; it had started life as the front room of a corner house, which had once held four families, but which now housed Mack and five or six rooms full of excess stock. It was filthy, because even though Mack sold mops and brooms and all manner of cleaning supplies, he was loath to actually use any. And, it was never open when you ran out of milk or toilet paper. Mack had a habit of closing shop for lunch, falling asleep in his recliner with a microwave burrito in his lap, and waking up in time to turn on the burglar alarm and go to bed.

In fact, the only time Mack could be relied upon to be both awake and open was first thing in the morning. And it was a warm one already when Hap shuffled in for some coffee.

"Well, hey there, Mister Happy," Mack said with genuine sentiment. He liked Mr. Happy, not just for his regular purchases of ten-spot booze or a fistful of lottery tickets or a carton of smokes, but for other reasons. He couldn’t tell you what those reasons were if you’d asked him, but he knew they were there. It was just something you knew with Mr. Happy.

"Mmmm," Hap said, the cigarette stuck to his bottom lip bobbing up and down like a fishing pole. He wasn’t normally in a conversational mood, especially pre-caffeine.

"How’s tricks?"

"She’s dead, but thanks for asking."

Mack started to titter behind his chipped little counter. Hap eyed him with wariness.

"No smoking, Mister Happy. You know that."

Hap stopped in his tracks, looked sideways at Mack, and flicked his half smoked smoke at the brand-new fireworks display. Mack ran around the counter, still tittering, and stepped on the butt.

Hap shuffled his big shoes along a blackened path worn into the linoleum by thousands of dejected feet. The path led from the door, with its security-screened glass, straight to an old desk at the back of the shop. On the desk sat two industrial coffee makers that knew nothing of hygiene, a scattered stack of Styrofoam cups, and little bowls with packets of creamer and sugar in them. The bowls, and the condiments in them, had been stolen from the diner around the corner, and were topped up every time Mack bought himself a danish. A steady line of ants was busy making a mockery of the honour system, as far as the sugar was concerned.

"Coffee hot?" Hap asked, swishing the black liquid around in the stained pot.

"Oughtta be," Mack said. "If it ain’t, stick it out on the sidewalk for a minute."

"Yeah." Hap poured himself a cup and tested it gingerly with his lip extended. It was warm, but not hot. Hap quickly drank the cup dry, then looked over his shoulder at Mack, who had picked up a newspaper. Hap guzzled two more full cups and refilled a fourth. This one he would pay for. Pleased with his economy, he lit a fresh cigarette and turned up an aisle to the front of the store.

The bell over the door jangled frantically. There was a sudden rush of movement around the counter, and Hap heard Mack say something like, "Ut!" But, from where he was he couldn’t see much.

"Get out a bag and fill it with cash," said a voice which had not yet fully broken. Hap quickly drank his fourth cup of coffee, set the empty cup on a shelf, and stood on his toes so he could see.

From the counter, all that was visible of Mr. Happy over the boxes of cornflakes heaped with dust-bunnies was a few tufts of cottony red hair, squinting, shifty eyes, and a plume of smoke like a tiny campfire.

"Then, get out another bag and fill it with cigarettes," the robber continued, waving a fillet knife like a conductor’s baton.

For his part, Mack seemed to be complying with the instructions, though he was swearing steadily under his breath.

"Then, get you another bag and fill that with them lottery scratch things."

Hap’s eyes widened at this. He shrank back down behind the cereal and started quietly rooting around the shelves.

The robber had his bags and was issuing some grandiose threat or other as he left.

Mack swore louder and informed the retreating thief that he shouldn’t bother coming back because he, Mack, was going straight out after lunch to get some bullets for his gun, probably.

The bell jangled once more and Mack gave out a defeated, "Shit."

At which point, Mr. Happy emerged from the end of the aisle with a 16oz. can of tomatoes in one hand, and a toilet plunger in the other.

"Which way?" he asked Mack, cigarette pinched between thin lips.

"Toilet’s bust," Mack said with his head low.

"No, stupid. Which way did he go?"

"Huh?" Mack raised his head and saw the glint in Hap’s eye. "Left," he said quickly. "I saw him go left."

Mr. Happy shouldered out the door, angering the bell afresh.

Outside, he turned the corner and saw the adolescent pelting down Hoyle Street. He took a few strides in pursuit, but running in clown shoes was a logistical impossibility. He gave it up in favour of the toilet plunger.

It has been said that Mr. Happy throws the fastest, most accurate cream pie in the whole of Big City light entertainment, and the substitution of a plumber’s helper was easily compensated for.

Still on the trot, Hap drew his right arm back, focused his chi, and flung the plunger with all his weight. The force of the throw raised him a foot or so off the sidewalk, and he was careful not to skimp on follow-through.

The stick was propellered down Hoyle Street on an arced trajectory, making a low helicopter-like noise. It hit the fleeing robber in the left calf, just below the knee. It then became entangled in the young man’s legs, the rubber business end catching the right foot, mid stride. The boy went down like a laundry bag filled with raw beef, all cement and wincing and abrasion. His knife and two of his bags of loot flew from his clutches, one expelling smokes as it went. The third bag was crushed between his body and the pavement.

Hap closed the distance to his quarry and stood over him like a malevolent eclipse.

The thief rolled himself slowly over, hissing and moaning with each fraction of movement. His hands, elbows and chin had all been wiped free of skin. When he’d gotten onto his back, he held up one reddened mitt to shield his eyes from the sun.

"Who?" He began.

Hap leaned in close and the punk started grinning.

"Mister Ha-"

Wham!

Hap brained him with the can of tomatoes and sent him off to the Sandman. He looked around for witnesses and got to work.

The crushed bag, now on the sidewalk next to the prone thug, was examined and found to contain accordioned strips of lottery scratch cards. Hap stuffed this down inside his polka-dot jump suit, thankful for its baggy cut. Then, he rolled the thug to the inside edge of the sidewalk, up against someone’s chain link fence, and partially covered him with bags of trash. He gathered up the other two bags of stolen stuff and his commandeered sundries (the plunger was now splintered into an acute angle), kicked the fillet knife down the storm drain, flicked his fag end, and headed back to Mack’s.

He debated the merits of just walking home with all three bags, but distrusted Mack’s distrusting nature. Plus, the guy knew where he lived. Plus, plus, Mack’s was the closest, easiest dispensary of oblivion to Hap’s apartment, and Mack might be reluctant to open up at two in the morning to sell Hap an emergency quart of Captain Kidneystone’s if he suspected that he’d been taken advantage of.

When he went through the door, the bell jingled and Mack put a gun in his face.

"Oh. Sorry, Mister Happy," he said, realizing his error and lowering the pistol. "It’s alright. I still don’t got no bullets." Hap gave him another wary look.

"Here," Hap said, dumping the cash and cigarettes on the counter.

"Say hey! You’re alright, Mister Happy." Mack stuffed the cash back in the register and started poking the packs of smokes back into their little slots. "I don’t care what that guy on Channel 5 says. This town needs more people like you."

"There’s only one Mister Happy."

"No shit! Ha ha!"

Hap continued to eye Mack, feeling in his pockets for a smoke, but not finding one.

"You stayed behind there the whole time?" he asked, pointing at Mack.

"When?" Mack asked, still stuffing cigarettes back into place and grinning.

"Just now."

"Yeah." Mack stopped, mid stuff, and looked around the countertop. "Hey. Where’s the lottery cards?"

"Oh," Hap began, trying to sound aloof and disappointed. "He got away with them."

"Got away?" Mack was stunned. "But, how did you get these?" He held up a half dozen packs of Blue Ribbon filterless. Haps eyes followed them and he licked his lips to keep Pavlov at bay.

"I, uh," Hap was usually good at thinking on his feet. The ability has saved his ass and his job on an almost daily basis for longer than he could remember. He picked the bent plunger off the counter and slyly pushed the dented can of tomatoes out of sight behind a display of lighters. "I tripped him with this."

Mack took the plunger and turned it over in his hands like it was actually something interesting.

"He dropped those two when he fell," Hap continued, "but he must have held on to the other one. To be honest, I didn’t notice until you mentioned it."

It was Mack’s turn to look wary and Hap didn’t like it. Time to change tack, he thought.

"Hey, don’t I get a reward, or something?"

Mack put the ex-plunger back down on the counter and the wary look was pushed aside by his haggling face. This was a close approximation of Hap’s attempt at disinterested disappointment, but without the whiteface and red nose. It had been perfected through regular trips to the cash-and-carry across town, which was operated by two Bangladeshi brothers. It was their firm belief that if you didn’t barter, you were asking for a soaking. Mack stroked his stubbly, pitted chin. He was reluctant to reward anyone for anything, but Mr. Happy was one gravy train he didn’t want leaving the station without him. The clown had bought more booze and cigarettes from Mack than the rest of the neighbourhood combined.

"Free coffee all day," Mack said.

"I’m not thirsty anymore," countered Hap. Four cups of stolen java sloshed around his guts and discussed a plan of escape with a Belgian waffle with too much butter.

"Pack of smokes?" Mack held up the Blue Ribbons. This was shrewd and he knew it, even if he gave Mr. Happy a case of cigarettes, he’d be back for more before dinner.

Hap ran a hand over his flyaway hair. He could feel his resolve slipping.

"A carton," he said.

"You broke my plunger," Mack said with a shrug that told Hap to be reasonable. "Besides, now I gotta fill out like twenty different forms for the lottery people. Then I gotta call the cops."

"Cops?"

"Yeah. I gotta report the lottery cards as stolen or the lottery people think I took ‘em." He shook his head sadly. "I need some damn bullets."

"Okay. Five packs."

"Two."

"Four."

"Three."

"Deal."

Mack slid sixty cancer sticks across the worn Formica. Hap pocketed two packs and opened the third.

"Got a light?"

"No smoking," Mack said, his dopey grin back with a vengeance.

Hap stuck a cigarette between his lips, took a plastic lighter from the display on the counter, lit, inhaled, and replaced the lighter. He blew a luxuriant cloud of smoke into the space between them. Then, he turned and left.

"Thanks, Mister Happy. See ya tomorrow."

Hap might have said something in reply, but all Mack heard was the bell jingling.

Outside, Hap passed a disturbed pile of trash bags. They looked as if something had crawled out from under them, but he didn’t notice. He was too busy thinking about the bender he’d go on when he cashed in all the scratch cards. Of course, he’d have to cash them in at other convenience stores, but that didn’t matter. In Big City there were convenience stores on almost every corner.


© Copyright 2017 robhart. All rights reserved.

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