the fan whirls, whines, above their heads, pushing against the equally loud groaning of the air conditioner. sweat drips down antonio’s neck, his back aches -- all small annoyances working with others as he keeps his eyes trained on oscar franzier in front of him instead of the screen in front of him.

to say he was annoyed at this entire situation was an understatement. to say that he was pissed, embarrassed and a hair’s breadth away from throwing a tantrum was better. one missing week and everything had changed for him. twenty missed calls, more than enough text messages and emails and no explanation had landed him here: having to keep up with the grunt work matteo usually deemed too boring for antinio to due while that asslicker oscar got to do antonios’s normal work.

and of course the idiot was doing it badly. he kept having to restart the bill count after being completely incompetent at using the machine they’d brought, and his numbers were always so off that antonio ended up having to recount them all silently before logging them. if his jaw wasn’t aching, if he he still didn’t have a shiner on his face, he’d be doing it instead. he wouldn’t have to drive around this sweaty, greasy fucker around town collecting debts, and at the end of the day, he’d be in matteo’s bed, getting his brains fucked out.

but no.

he was here, grinding his teeth as oscar bumbled out, “you’re two hundred short.”

antonio fixes his eyes on poor carla ramirez, her lips pinched, her greying hair sticking to her forehead as she shakes her head, “no. no, i counted. it’s correct.” she’s smart; doesn’t raise her voice, doesn’t really fight. just shows that she’s done her homework, as always.

oscar, huffs, his enormous hands waving in front of him, that stupid fake rolex he wears glinting, the band biting into his wrist. “it’s not. i counted. you’re two hundred short. the boss won’t let that slide, senorita.” antonio can’t see his face from here -- that doesn’t mean that he couldn’t immediately know that oscar leers at carla.

unlike him, antonio had known carla for three years now. just because they were extorting her every month on her tiny restaurant didn’t mean that he couldn’t be personable. things usually worked smoother whenever there was some attempt at being professional and kind with the people who needed your “services” no matter how sketchy they were. usually, if someone came up short, antonio would have a talk with them. stern, efficient. most didn’t come up short anyway -- that usually made this bad. matteo was always particular about his money, no matter what.

long time “patrons”, however, he seemed to know how to handle. let is slide, charge interest. don’t squeeze them so much that they are too afraid to pay up later or be tempted to go to the cops, yet still show that he was in charge, that he was the one who kept them going. it was a lesson he’d always imparted to antonio.

oscar? that fucking bastard oscar was fucking it up as he continues, “we can’t let you slide. that much money is too important -- and we’re the ones who made sure you could put this place on the map. so you fucking owe us.”

carla’s face goes red in response; she was one of those church going ladies who never cared much for language like that.

antonio attempts to bore a hole into oscar’s greasy hair with his glare. “ms. ramirez,” he speaks over oscar, forcing his voice to stay calm, schooling his features into less of a gangster and more of a choir boy, “can i talk to you? oscar is new on this -- don’t let him alarm you.”

oscar stiffens. carla makes it over to him quickly, her voice low and frantic, “i swear, i know it’s--”

“hey, hey,” antonio smiles, and holds up his hands, “it’s okay. matteo knows you, ms. martinez. we’ve been helping you for years. you’ve never been short before, you’ve always been on time. we can let this month go.”

oscar’s chair scrapes and he hisses in italian, “what the fuck--

antonio talks over him confidently, “i’ll talk to him.i’m good at that.” he winks.

carla doesn’t look entirely convinced as she frets with her skirt. she does relax enough, and she does nod. “thank you. thank you very much.”

he smiles at her again. “no problem. could you bring us some drinks, for the road?”

when carla exits the room, antonio watches coldly as oscar stands up, his face red with rage. “who the hell do you think you are? she’s fucking short! you know the rules--

fuck off oscar,” antonio volleys back immediately, not the least bit intimidated. “this isn’t a goddamn movie where you can just threaten her like that. are you fucking stupid? you press too hard, they go straight to the cops!” his voice raises, all of the frustration, aggression, slipping out, “you don’t know a fucking thing--

oscar lashes out, unwilling to back down. “yeah? i know less than matteo’s fuck--

antonio moves before he thinks. oscar goes down, stunned from the punch to his nose. the table goes down with him, bills raining down in his wake. antonio’s hand hurts -- and it’s nothing compared to the anger as he spits on oscar’s face. he throws the keys to the car with him, turns on his heel, and walks out the back door.

he knows exactly how that sentence was going to end. and he’s tired of it.