Two figures walked down a poorly lit cobblestone street. They stumbled and skittered on their feet, like two amateur performers on stilts for the first time. Nine deep droning rings chorused from the church. The streets were empty. Its silence broken idiotic laughter and the scruff of sloppy steps. All doors have been locked; and all windows have been closed hours ago, by owners who had gone home to their families; or to bars for those loners trying to avoid another night of solitude. Even in their drunken state, with both brothers barely resembling their sober self, it was not difficult to see who was visiting this part of town for the first time.
"What are we doing here Doug?" Ben asked like a bored child with his mother at the laundromat. "Everything's closed."
"Not everything." Doug relied dryly.
"Where are we going?"
"Just down and around the corner."
"It's late Doug. He's not going to be open." Ben tried to convince his brother, as if he was the one who had been here tens of time, and was bringing Doug along. "Who gets a tattoo at this time of the night?"
"Well, you will tonight, for starters. This guy is always here, twenty four hours a day. There is always someone in the shop Ben. Everyone comes to this guy."
Ben looked at his brother suspiciously, uncertain of the truth in his brother's claim. "Then why would he open shop down here Doug? He can do way more business on The Drive."
Doug shrugged his shoulders. "The guy is a little off. But he is really good. And...really selective."
"Who he inks. He doesn't do everyone."
"I don't know Ben. I just know he is really good." Doug kneels down and rolls up one leg of his trouser. "Here, check this out."
Ben squatted down next to his brother to see the artwork on Doug's calf. It was a picture of a coyote, prowling about with a hungry gleam in its eye. It was looking right at him, sizing Ben up for its next meal. Ben was mesmerized as he saw the coyote circle around on the giant leave that supported it. The green leaf turned brown on the spots where the coyote stepped, as if the beast's foot took a little life out of it each time. Suddenly, without warning, the coyote leapt towards him.
Ben staggered back, and fell onto his backside. He blinked quickly to clear his vision, and looked at the tattoo on his brother's leg again. The coyote was still there, standing on the green leaf, looking straight ahead. Ben stared for a few more seconds, confused by what he saw, or at least what he thought he saw. Finally, Doug rolled his trouser leg back down.
Ben was still in shock, not sure what he had seen. "Yeah, I'm fine. Might've drank a little much."
"Not really, but when you don't drink regularly," Doug said with a slight sneer, "You tend to be a little … less composed." He reached out a hand to Ben and helped him on his feet. "He's just a little further down. Come on."
As they walked in the darkness, accented by a shade of light at random, Ben couldn't shake the feeling. The one you get just before a the drop on a roller coaster ride. The one you get on the way from home knowing the principal had called your parents. The feeling you get when you see the security guard waiting at the doors, just a moment after you had pocketed a candy bar two aisles ago. He looked over at Doug. His brother was sporting droopy eyes, the eyelids weighed down by alcohol. His mouth was partially opened, as if hip lips were too heavy as well. Suddenly Doug's eyes perked up, still not enough to look capacitated, but just enough to reveal a hint of excitement.
"There it is."
Ben looked up at the building, and its distinguishing features. Even in the dark, he can see the smudges on its sign, and the paint peeling from each letter. Had just a little more paint been flaked off, it would've just read "Pup Too" with very untraditional spacing. In what Ben thought was a very respectable looking merchant district with the well kept shops and the beautiful cobblestone roads, the tattoo shop looked like the poor kid at an elite private school. The kid with the ragged hand me down shirt, the torn jeans, and shoes three sizes too big. Doug was already walking ahead of him in quick paces, almost mid run, towards the shop. Ben hurried behind him, but stopped at the sight a figure leaning against the doorway. Even with only a silhouette, the figure oozed intimidation. There was a small bright glow that lit and disappeared; a puff of smoke rose, only visible when contrasted against the faint and spotty street light.
"Doug!" Ben shout-whispered. His call did not elicit a response. He tried again, and had the same result. His brother was already walking up the steps with open arms. The figure mirrored the gesture. Ben couldn't hear the conversation but was quite aware words were being exchanged. Just as he was approaching the building, the figure flicked his cigarette into the street, and gestured for them to both follow.
"Come, come. Always time for you and friends." Said the mysterious man with a heavy accent Ben could not identified. He put his arm around Doug and disappeared into the poorly lit shop, almost like they were walking into a void. Hesitantly, Ben followed into the darkness.