Erkan frowned as he walked toward George’s Deli. It was his favorite, not because of the quality of their meats- though they were excellent- but because they were open. He didn’t imagine a 24-hour butcher’s/deli made much more money than one with normal hours, but it saved him having to go to a supermarket if he wanted more sandwich meats. Of course, it was somewhat ironic that it was only a 24-hour shop now that George was dead and there was a new owner.
He liked this place, and that was why he was concerned to see a red-headed woman standing outside sweeping up glass. The light from inside streamed out the window, lighting up her figure. As he approached, he could see the large front windows that covered most of the rather narrow shop were shattered.
“What happened here, Rosa?” Erkan scratched his head as he walked up.
“Ah…” the woman looked up toward him and smiled. It was the kind of smile that made his heart flutter and… well, he wouldn’t think about more than that since she was Justin’s girl. “Some of Marconi’s thugs came and smashed it up.”
Erkan hissed, “Sorry to hear that.” Marconi was a local crime boss. Not that Erkan knew much more than that, just that messing with him wasn’t a good plan. Of course, even if a random dude like him knew Marconi was a crime boss, he kept his own hands clean enough that the police couldn’t- or wouldn’t- do anything. “Uh…”
Rosa gestured toward the building, “We’re still open, go on in.” She went back to sweeping, and Erkan tore his gaze away to step inside.
“Hey, if it isn’t my favorite nighttime customer!” Though the voice was friendly, it wasn’t exactly enthusiastic. Of course, Justin never was. The butcher stood behind the counter- sporting the expected apron and cleaver. Without those, he would look just like any other guy walking down the street. Not chubby or bald or anything else one might think about butchers.
“Do you even get anyone else?”
“You’d be surprised. Why, I just had two fellows here a couple hours ago! Of course, they just smashed up my windows instead of buying anything so there haven’t been as many real customers. Shame they probably won’t go to prison.” Justin twisted his head and pursed his lips, as if to spit, but he just shook his head. “But you’re not here to hear about that. What do you want?”
“The usual, he says!” Justin shook his head, “The usual, he says! A handful of sandwich meat and some bacon for breakfast. Never a whole steak or anything…” Justin said sadly.
Erkan just watched as he gathered up a few types of sliced meats. Justin always told him he should get steaks… or whole chickens, or ribs, or any number of other things. Erkan supposed they would probably be good, but he didn’t have the time or the will to cook such things for just himself. Justin plopped down a bag on the counter then started working the register. Erkan noticed something conspicuous sticking out. “Uhh, I didn’t ask for any sausage.”
Justin waved his hand, the butcher’s gauntlet’s little links clinking together, “It’s good! Cut it up and eat it on crackers or something. Don’t worry, it’s on the house.”
“Umm, okay but…” Erkan looked toward the front windows- where a few lone shards of glass still stood straight, “Can you afford to give stuff away?” He didn’t want to turn down free sausages- Justin often threw in extras- but the circumstances weren’t as normal.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll just sell someone an aged steak or something…” Justin licked his lips as he looked toward the back for a moment. “The window’s not your problem. Just be careful on the way home- can’t afford to have someone mug you for some tasty meat.”
Erkan grinned, though the situation wasn’t quite as humorous as he would like. His walk home was made about twice as long by avoiding shady alleyways. In this part of town, especially at night, it was best to watch where one went. It wasn’t just Marconi’s men either. He would have liked to live in a better part of town, but he couldn’t afford to- and he would still have to come by for work anyway. It hadn’t been nearly so bad a few years ago… and changing schools so far into his doctorate studies could set him back months or a year.
Erkan’s phone rang just before he was about to head out the door Friday evening. “Hello?”
“Hey honey.” It was his mother, “Are you busy tomorrow?”
“Not really.” Erkan immediately regretted saying that, but it was too late to change it.
“Great! There’s a party tomorrow.”
“You know I don’t like to throw off my schedule…”
“It starts at six, and it’s just across the bay. I’m sure you can make it without too much trouble.”
“Well, I usually go to church then…” That was a lie. He sometimes went to church. Maybe slightly more than every other week.
“Just go Sunday. I know your church has Sunday night services too.”
Of course she knew that. She knew everything. Erkan sighed, “What sort of party?”
“The kind where you get out and meet people. It’s just some friends of the family. You can’t spend all your time in a lab, you know.”
Erkan might have argued that he pretty much had to. It was his job after all, and beyond that related to doctorate work. He didn’t spend every weekend at the lab, but there were a lot of them he went for at least half a day- or night, really. Still, he knew that he probably needed to see people and talk to them outside of work like most mentally stable people did. People at the coffee shop and Justin probably didn’t count as real socialization, either. “…Sure. I guess I’ll show up for a while at least. What time did you say it starts?”
“6PM. The address is…”