Writing: Untitled Turf War Story

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Aw, crap, I think. I don’t need this right now.

There are three of them, all dressed alike. Gang colors. I’m on the edge of Deuce territory.

“Maybe you didn’t hear me,” the leader says.

“Look,” I say, my voice firm but non-threatening. I don’t want this to escalate; the last thing we need is a turf war. “I just want to use the restroom.”

“You’re a long way from home, aren’t you?” The leader smiles and I realize I’ve never seen him before. That explains a lot.

“Back off,” I say, letting a hint of aggression creep into my tone. “This is neutral territory, or didn’t your Deuce buddies tell you that?”

The leader glances back at his cronies; they just shrug. They’re all new, and the guy I’m staring down may be the big dog of the three but he’s clearly just another flunky trying to make an impression. More than likely the next guy up on the food chain sent him out here as a joke.

While they’re trying to figure out their next move, I give them a once over: all khakis and cornflower polo shirts and some kind of bargain bin loafers; all wearing their badges with the ID photos turned in so I can’t see their names; all with last year’s cell phone hanging from their belts right next to their equally-outdated pagers. Strictly minor league. They may outnumber me, but I can take them without breaking a sweat.

The leader straightens to his full height. He’s got maybe a half an inch and easily thirty pounds on me. “Just turn around and get out of here,” he says, his bravado wearing a little thin around the edges. “Go use your own restroom.”

“Third floor restroom’s closed,” I say, narrowing my eyes. “But you already knew that didn’t you?”

They all flinch as I reach for my hip. They may be younger, but I’m faster; I’ve got my cell out before any of them can clear their bulky holsters.

“What you apparently don’t know,” I say, tapping the stylus rapidly on the screen, “is that according to the Interfloor Facilities Closure Treaty of 1999, all washrooms in the building are neutral territory and no one can be refused entry to any restroom while their home facilities are closed for cleaning and/or remodeling.”

I flip the screen around so they can see the document I’ve pulled off the corporate network. They all stare, slack-jawed, and I know they’re less interested in the Treaty than they are in my shiny smartphone. After a moment they back off, retreating wordlessly to their cubicles.

I holster my cell and push through the door into the second floor mens room. The confrontation was annoying, but something else is nagging at the back of my mind. The ambush was a little too convenient to be coincidence. How did those three know the third floor washroom was closed for cleaning? Two possibilities occur to me, both equally unpleasant: either the Deuces have an inside man in the facilities crew or someone on the third floor is feeding them information.

Washing my hands, I mull over both possibilities. A Deuce in the facilities crew would be bad news for all the Treys, myself included; but a mole inside the Treys would be much, much worse.

The hand-dryer is still whirring as I leave the washroom. I need to make a few phone calls and call in some favors. One way or another, I’ve got a war to stop.