“Holy cow bro. The roads are shit,” Shane bellowed walking into the gym side of the Summers Security dojo, shaking off snow as he did.

     He stopped brushing off his coat long enough to see it was only Carol in the gym. She was standing by the boxing ring wearing black Under Armour yoga workout pants with a matching black sports bra. Her long blonde hair was pulled back tightly into a ponytail. That was usually the only time Carol ever put her hair in a ponytail, when she was working out in the gym.

     “Oh, sorry Carol. Where is everyone?” Shane asked trying not to stare at Carol’s legs, which went on for days.

     Carol took a sip from her bottle of Poland Spring water.

     “Gone. My cardio class asked if they could leave early because of the snowstorm.”

     “Cardio huh? That’s why it feels so nice in here,” Shane said walking closer to her, discreetly looking while Carol wiped the sweat off her neck and chest with a towel.

     “Yep. So, it’s getting bad out there?”

     “Sure is. I think the weather dude f’d up his timing for this. They’re saying it’ll go most of tomorrow now too.”

     “Well, that explains all the cancellation texts I keep getting from my appointments.”  

     “For today or tomorrow?”

     “Both,” Carol replied looking at her phone. “And there’s the last one for today. I hope they realize they’re still getting charged a $100 cancellation fee. I don’t care if it is snowing.”

     Shane remained silent as he started to think. Carol texted something back.

     “Wait, so are you done for the day now?”

     “Apparently, that was my last appointment that just cancelled.”

     “Dude,” Shane said.

     Carol raised an eyebrow at him.

     “Uhh, babe.”

     Carol quickly glared at him.

     Shane smiled sheepishly and said, “That means you can watch the Patriots tonight.”

     “Watch them lose you mean.”

     “No way, they’re going all the way to the Super Bowl again.”

     “Not a chance. They let a woman join their team.”

     “That’s just Belichick sticking it to the Commissioner, showing he can win no matter what’s thrown his way.”

     “So you agree it’s just a stunt and she has no business being in the NFL?”

     “What? No. I mean… the girl is a great kicker.”

     Carol rolled her eyes.

     “You should watch the game with us tonight, then you’ll see,” Shane said.

     “Us?”

     “Yeah, I got Mendoza, Mark, Higgins, and Rey coming over for Thursday Night Football. I just came back from a supply run. Sean’s off helping Morgan and Wade on some job so I had to go shopping alone,” Shane said.

     Carol thought about making a comment to that but let it slide.

     “What kind of name is Higgins?”

     “Beats me. You’ve met him before. He’s kind of a black nerd. Well, I mean he is black but also nerdy. And not nerdy for a black person but for like for a person person.”

     Carol stared at Shane for a moment then said, “And yet he still hangs out with you, huh.”

     “He’s good at math. He helps me follow all the stats since Megan doesn’t have the time to help me.”

     Carol continued to stare at him.

     “You know Rey from here,” Shane offered.

     “He smells like a wet dog.”

     “Not always,” Shane said weakly.

     “I’m good Shane,” Carol said and turned away from him.

     “Wait, I forgot. Jillian said she was coming too. You like Jillian, right?”

     Carol said nothing.

     “Now you won’t be the only girl there. I heard she got a new tattoo.”

     “She still has skin left to tattoo,” Carol said under her breath.

     “Huh?”

     “Nothing. Thanks for the offer Shane but I’m going to put in a workout then settle down for the night.”

     “You push yourself too much,” he said.

     Carol said nothing. They stood there for several seconds in awkward silence.

     “Hey. How about I drop you off some wings later? How’s that sound?”

     Carol paused then said, “I’d like that. Thank you.”

     Shane smiled.

     “Alright, I’m going to go unload my truck. Leave the backdoor unlocked for me, okay?”

     “Sure.”

     Shane nodded then went back out front to move his truck to the parking lot behind the dojo.

     Carol stood there by the ring, thinking. She looked over, towards the large window in the front of Summers Security. The snow was coming down fast. She picked up her phone and sent a text message. If the Patriots were going to lose, she might as well make some money off their defeat.

     She walked around the ring, still thinking. She could hear Shane stomping around in the back by the stairs that to led to their apartments above the dojo.

     Her phone buzzed in her hand and she looked at the text back. It read, “You’ll have an answer in an hour.”

     Carol made a face. That was odd. Usually she got back an ‘okay’, or ‘sure’. Why did she have to wait an hour to get a simple answer?

     Well she might as well get her workout in if she had to wait anyway. Carol walked over to the thermostat and turned the heat up another ten degrees. For the next hour she worked out. Doing a little of everything. She started with 25 pushups then 25 situps and did 4 reps of them. She worked on her shoulders by doing seated dumbbell presses and seated side lateral raise, 5 sets with 6 reps each. Then repeated it again. She did barbell deadlifts, 4 sets with 6 reps then repeated. And chin-ups, 6 sets with 12 reps.

     Next she jumped rope for five minutes straight at a moderate pace as she watched out the large front window of the dojo as the snow fell fast. The windows to Summers Security were made of that special glass that could be controlled from a tablet. Currently it was set to privacy, so Carol could look out at all the people getting hit in the face with snow, while they couldn’t see her at all, just their snowcovered reflection.

     By the time Carol went to the punching bags to start another workout, she was breathing heavy and covered in sweat. The streets out front were all but empty of passing cars and she hadn’t seen any people in at least ten minutes of her punching and kicking combo workout.

     Carol glanced at the clock before switching stances to work on her ‘jab, jab, jab, smash you in the face and break your nose’ combo.

     If Shane wasn’t such a Neanderthal, she would have offered to spar with him in the ring, but the guy couldn’t go two minutes in the ring with one of the girls without getting a hard on. After the third erection in a row, Carol refused to train with him for a while. Which was why Shane was put in charge of dealing with most of the guy clients while her and Nick worked with most of the female clients.

     Carol made a face as she drilled the black punching bag with a straight right fist, sending it flying backward on its chain. Nick had asked if she wanted to come over for dinner and couch time but at the time he asked, she still had clients for the day and tomorrow.

     But now, at this rate, she’d be stuck in her apartment all day tomorrow with no clients and no work. She looked out the window as she jabbed with her right fist into the punching bag. She could make the drive to The Walker Compound in her jeep but it was almost dark and something told her the usual one hour drive to Maine would take at least two and she wasn’t in the mood for that.

     Besides, Nick was already hanging out with Megan by now. Megan had left at the start of Carol’s cardio class and of course she had to come in and announce she was leaving because of the storm. Which then got people to ask if they could cut the class short.

     Carol sighed. That was typical Megan. The girl was oblivious to the consequences of her actions.

     Whatever.

     Better Nick was hanging out with just Megan than Michelle, Carol thought, as she started throwing bombs with both fists into the punching bag, sweat dripping down her face. She couldn’t prove it but she was pretty sure Michelle was the reason Nick hadn’t had any private one-on-one training lessons with any female clients in the last two weeks. He even asked Carol to do his training session with Karla this week. And now he was bringing Michelle to the house in Maine.

     WTF.

     Carol slammed her fists into the punching bag several more times before calling it a night. She started pulling the tape off her hands trying to think back. She’d been doing most of the training sessions lately.

     She wiped the sweat from her face with her untapped hand. Come to think of it, the last time she could remember Nick hanging out with someone other than her and the other girls on the team, was when Cristina Diaz came over to make cookies in their kitchen with them before Christmas.

     Carol tried not to smile while thinking of Diaz. She wished she would walk through the dojo doors so she could kick her ass in the ring but alas, ‘Ms. Popstar’ was probably practicing for the Super Bowl somewhere.

     Carol finished undoing the last of the tape on her left hand and walked to the front of the dojo. It was dark out and she couldn’t see anyone walking outside.

     It was quiet.

     She checked the front doors to make sure they were locked then doubled checked the office side even though she knew Megan had already locked them before she left. She tossed the used tape in the trash can then shut the lights off to the gym. She grabbed her water and phone off the ring apron and headed for the shower room but stopped when she saw the backdoor slightly open.

     “Seriously Shane,” she grumbled and walked over to close the door.

     Carol had just grabbed it when a hand reached in and yanked it open. A guy in a ski mask stepped out of the snowy night aiming a Glock at her. Two other men in ski masks were behind him.

     Carol took a step back, her hands up in the air, as he took a step forward into the building, aiming the Glock at her.

     It didn’t stay there for long as Carol deflected the gun way with her left hand and stepped forward to drill him with her right elbow, making him wobble. She twisted his wrist and disarmed him with her left hand while she stepped on the back of his left leg with her right foot, making him fall to his knees.

     She tossed the gun away just as a second guy came forward into the doorway. She immediately smashed his face with a left fist sending him back out into the snow. A backhand right sent the guy already on his knees facedown to the floor.

     The remaining guy was now fumbling with his hands behind his back trying desperately to get to his gun he hadn’t expected to need.

     He never got it as Carol connected with a front kick to his chest sending him flying backward into the snow.

     The second guy was back to his feet and tried to strike Carol but she caught his arm and tossed him over her shoulder. He landed hard on his back and Carol kept hold of his wrist.

     “Who the fuck are you? And what do you want?” She demanded.

     He didn’t respond.

     Carol applied pressure to his wrist. “Who are you?” She repeated.

     He groaned in pain but didn’t respond.

     Carol snapped his wrist.

     He screamed.

     “He works for me,” came a voice from behind Carol.

     She spun around to see a well-dressed Asian man standing in the snow with two more men beside him.

     Oh shit. Carol thought.

     The well-dressed Asian man was Seng Chenghu, the eldest of the Chenghu brothers, one of Boston’s top crime families. On his right was Cong Li, aka The Asian Hulk. He was the head muscle for the Chenghu brothers and strong as hell. On Seng’s left was Tai Xu, Cong’s second-in-command. He was fast as hell.

     Either one of them would give Carol a run for her money and that was before she spent the last several hours training people and working out. Both of them together would be a problem, not to mention Seng, who was just as skilled as his bodyguards.

     “What are you doing here?” Carol asked, glancing to see the third guy she’d front kicked get up.

     “I’m here to cancel your accounts.”

     Carol narrowed her eyes at him.

     “What?”

     “You owe a dozen of my brother’s bookies a total of ten thousand dollars in lost bets.”

     Seng’s brother, Lu, was the most social of the Chenghu brothers and ran many of the gambling businesses for the family.

     “That’s not-”

     “Don’t,” Seng interrupted.

     Carol glared at him.

     “These men were sent to collect half of it tonight after you sent a text wanting to bet $5,000 against the Patriots.”

     “I had a good feeling.”

     Seng didn’t look impressed. In fact he looked pissed to be standing outside in the snow.

     “I’m forgiving your debt tonight. But no one from my organization will take anymore bets from you going forward.”

     “I can pay you.”

     “I don’t believe you. And I’m tired of listening to my brother’s excuses for why he doesn’t collect from you. But I’m beginning to see why,” Seng said looking at his men.

     The first guy was back up and out of the dojo helping his friend with the broken wrist.

     “So where am I supposed to gamble then?”

     “Maybe you should try Hammer and his boys. I’ve heard they like white blonde girls.”

     Carol made a face.

     “Why are you forgiving my debt?” Carol asked pushing her luck.

     “Because I don’t like you or your friends. This is my way of nicely telling you to fuck off and stay away from us. Because otherwise, next time it won’t be new recruits I send against you,” Seng said and nodded to both Cong and Tai.

     They continued to stand quietly behind him.

     Carol remained silent.

     “One more thing,” Seng started. “My sister is currently out of town. This arrangement stays between us. If my sister finds out what happened here tonight, then I’ll make sure Nick does as well. After he’s paid a surprise visit. Are we clear?”

     Carol narrowed her eyes at Seng but said nothing. She nodded.

     “Let’s go,” Seng said and left, his men following in tow.

     Carol spit on the ground. Damn it! She slammed the door shut and locked it. Then shut the lights off in the locker room and shower room. She wasn’t in the mood anymore.

     Carol went up to her apartment, pausing only to hear the cheers and laughter coming from Shane’s apartment.

     She should have driven to Maine.

         

 

    
 

CAROL'S CANCELLATIONS

​A Merc Series Short Story

The Merc Series