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20130620

The Coffee at Ling's Lotus Palace

The grungy looking punk with the skateboard sat at a booth by himself. The one thing that looked out of the ordinary was the bible plopped down before him. He had a dinner of chicken fried rice and some sweet and sour ribs on a plate, yet he hardly touched it.

"What you reading?" Max asked the kid. He had emerged from the bathroom, saw the bible and paused to make conversation; he had this feeling that the kid might be involved in something that might be happening.

The punk looked startled at first; he closed the book and looked at the man standing before him. Then he slid the bible back into his trenchcoat, and picked up his chopsticks.

"Ummm," the kid started, trying to figure out what angle this stranger was working. "Just doing some research actually. For a thesis. That's all."

Impressed, Max nodded, turned and took his spot down at the counter. The old woman placed a new cup of coffee before him. Max had left his cigarettes on the counter; he opened them up and took out a smoke.

Three Tongs came through the front door and up to the cash register.

"Bù, nǐ zuótiān lái. Zuótiān nǐ ná qián," the old woman said nervously.

"Ń, zhè shì zuótiān," the leader of the Tongs said with a wicked smile. "Jīntiān shì xīn de yītiān."

"Méiyǒu, yīdàn xīngqí. Xiéyì." The woman sounded desperate.

"Kàn biǎo zi," the leader said angrily. "Wǒ hé nánshēng xiǎng qǔdé yīxiē huà hén. Gěi wǒmen de qián, wǒmen bù huì dǎrǎo nǐ xià zhōu."

"Wǒ méiyǒu qián."

The leader was about to say something, but that's when a huge bald man in a leather jacket stepped up from a nearby table. He held a badge in his hand to show the punks who they were about to deal with. "Is there anything going on here?"

Max glanced at the cop and nodded. That fellow too, he's here for a reason as well, he thought as he sipped his coffee.

"Nothing at all, just mistook this place for something else," the leader said. He looked at the cop with disgust. He knew this one by rep: a real hard-ass honest cop.

"Yeah, something classier," one of his boys added in. They backed out of the store and ran down the street.

The cop turned to the old woman and asked, "How long have they been shaking you down?"

The old woman looked up and shook her head; she was scared.

Years of combat duty and several more years on the force had honed Dexter Washington's reactions. As soon as he heard the squeal of tires he dove behind the counter, taking the old woman down, right before hundreds upon hundreds of rounds came a calling.

The front window imploded and let in a special delivery of hot lead. Everyone was taking cover, ducking under tables.

Max just sat there as bullets destroyed everything they touched. As he reached for his coffee, bullets danced along the counter, and hit the area where Max's coffee had been sitting. He brought the mug to his lips.

Damn, Max thought, that is one good cup of java.