Big thanks to everyone who has been sharing my Pixie excerpt posts… I foresee this project being concluded by late spring-early summer, and will probably self publish through a medium that will provide both e-books and paperbacks. Since the Pixie seems to have a (small) following started, I decided to piece together a new teaser: this is the first four chapters of the book, complete with some scenes/dialog that didn’t show up in previous excerpts.
My goal is to get as many page views for this post as possible over the next week, so I’m gonna push it pretty hard on facebook and twitter. Anyone else who shares this post will have my everlasting thanks! (And the Pixie’s magical protection).
Thank you for reading/sharing, and WARNING! The following content contains graphic violence and extremely mature subject matter. Please read at your own discretion.
I’d never been in a real street fight – at least not since the seventh grade. At a certain point around age fourteen the consequences of combat changed. The idea of being seen by society as a violent criminal for the rest of my life terrified me much more than the concept of taking a beating, or being called a pussy. I channeled my energy into martial arts and combat sports and gradually the bloodlust waned.
Ten years later the red mist returned to lick at the corners of my eyes. A gauntlet of unfortunate events filed my rough edges back into points. Weapons with only one purpose. And so I trudged the streets of Murderville, trying my best to disguise a limp.
The small city had a prettier name once. Before the Farmer’s Market dried up and the local businesses skipped town, leaving only the lowest cost franchises and warehouses amidst boarded up buildings. The population waned, but only slightly. A different breed of citizen occupied the haphazard assortment of smoky apartments and ramshackle houses. Those who slipped through the cracks in our capitalist society.
My refusal to vacate the barren town was one of the reasons she gave for not loving me anymore. I’d worried when communication became more about buzzword text messages than the long conversations we used to share. But I’d given her the benefit of the doubt… and when at last we saw each other again she force-marched herself through a complete breakup without involving me. She wept in my arms and then dried her eyes and left. She knew me too well, and inflicted as much pain as she could in parting.
I couldn’t sleep or stick to my diet. In a daze of insomnia and spiked cortisol I threw myself into training. The increase in vigor matched with minimal focus brought me a badly sprained ankle that refused to heal right. I couldn’t lift, couldn’t run, couldn’t jump, couldn’t train. It took less than three weeks laid up in my one-bedroom apartment for the red mist to boil over.
And then I blinked and found myself downtown, navigating the cracked cobblestone of old Market Square. The cold of the pavement seeped through my thin green crocs. There was a time when I never went walking without wearing sturdy shoes. In case I had to kick someone or run, or both. But kicking and running were out of the question with my wet noodle of a right ankle. I leaned against one of a long line of wooden supports holding up a wall-less roof that had once sheltered vendors on market days.
A low riding sedan nosed to the curb, fresh white paint reflecting overcast afternoon skies. I realized with mild surprise it was the same Honda Civic I’d seen circling the block in the opposite direction. My slow, deliberate pace had looped me through to where the civic pulled up to park.
Three of four doors opened and six feet hit the street. Inane conversation cut off as three skinheads in baggy T-shirts and jeans slid out of the vehicle. The passengers looked to the driver, who was looking at me. He was taller and broader in all dimensions than his buddies – fatter, more muscular, and his skin and scalp was several shades paler. The kind of pseudo-tan prison inmates get during their daily hour of outdoor recreation.
A thick marbled steak, fresh from the meatlocker.
Stories about inmates freshly released from maximum-security facilities just down the freeway circulated in Murderville like the flu. Men with appetites for blood and pain, picked up from prison by fellow bangers and dropped in the one place they could slake their thirst without consequence. Murderville attracted its own breed of tourist.
“The fuck you lookin’ at, bitch?” The driver spat. He took a half step forward and hesitated, waiting for his buddies to fill in beside him. The question hung in the air. There was no good answer. Even if he wasn’t fresh from the joint and they weren’t gangbangers, I’d allowed my eyes to linger to long.
In prison and in Murderville, six seconds of eye contact constitutes aggression.
I smiled. Not the kind of cocky self-assured smile you see on TV before the hero opens a can of whupass. My face split in half, cheeks stretched to the point of tearing, teeth bared and eyes wide. Like an addict’s grin before the overdose kicks in. I got what I wanted, and it didn’t hurt yet.
“Nothing,” I said, fighting off maniacal laughter, “I’m looking at a fat sack of nothing.”
The leader’s eyes bulged and his jaw dropped. The goons glanced at each other behind his back, uncertain.
One intriguing principal of self defence states that three aggressors can be easier to deal with than two. With three they tend to get in each others’ way, and there’s usually a leader and taking him down early can make the other two concede. A clever fighter can survive a three-on-one assault with careful angling and measured aggression.
I ignored all of this.
The opportunity shone like sun through a breach in cloudcover. The three of them arranged in a tight triangle of flat-footed stupefaction. The leader’s jaw loose and lolling at my audacity. A dip of the shoulder and a strong uppercut could have severed his tongue, knocked out half his teeth and spilled him to the pavement between his fleeing friends. Adrenaline surged as I saw the opening and forced myself to wait. The images in my head were projections of my survival instinct – an instinct I wanted turned off.
I spat in the leader’s face and then charged the lackey to his left. Caught the lackey’s windpipe in a tiger’s claw and snarled a handful of his sweat-stained collar. The white T-shirt stretched to unveil a spiderweb tattoo that reached the top of his shoulder as I propelled him across the square. My ankle screamed from strain despite a surge of adrenaline. Green crocs slapped the ground in rapid staccato that cut through the slipshod backpedal of poorly tied skate shoes. The goon’s heels caught a crack and he pitched backward. I fell with him, adding my weight to our momentum. He opened his mouth to cry out in shock but all I heard was the wet thud of bone yielding to pavement.
I rolled over the corpse with the caved in skull and hauled myself upright against a thick wooden support. I gulped air and fought the urge to vomit. It faded as the remaining two bangers raced toward me, one behind the other. The remaining beta’s focus split between me and his fallen friend, slowing his steps. The leader’s eyes never left me, and shone with a familiar fervor.
I laughed like a madman and leapt to meet him, injured ankle forgotten. His haymaker glanced off my forearm as I reached out and laced both hands behind his head in a tight Thai clinch. As my bad foot hit the ground I staggered sideways, dragging the enraged inmate away from his remaining ally. He drove soft, scarred knuckles into my ribs repeatedly. The blows forced more manic laughter from my lungs.
“Not yet,” I gasped, struggling to spit out the words, “I’m saving you for last bitch.” I dropped my chin and drove my forehead into his nose, hearing cartilage crack and feeling hot blood moisten my hair. I swept the bastard’s leg and dumped him on his ass with a final forward surge.
Strong arms locked around my midriff from behind and dragged me away from the bleeder. The second lackey finally found his place. I let him bear most of my weight for a few paces, wriggling to make space and lace both my arms around one of his in a figure-four lock. I lifted my legs and arched into the hold, breaking the bastard’s grip. He tried to keep his feet as I forced the ensnared arm behind his back, and we fell as one body.
The goon screamed as our combined weight wrenched his shoulder from its socket.
My knee came up to trap his good arm and I spun through ninety degrees to isolate it between my legs. I pressed the blade of his hand to my chest and bridged powerfully. His elbow inverted against the fulcrum of my hips. His second scream should have shattered my eardrums. I hauled the broken man upright by the ears and slammed him against a sturdy support.
His eyes and nose leaked fluid faster than his friend’s ruined skull. His left arm hung slack and useless. His right stuck out at a sickening angle. Eyes wide with fear dilated further as I gripped his throat.
“Wait,” he choked. His gaze flickered over my shoulder.
A shoe scraped the ground behind me and a heavy man exhaled.
Whatever remained of my survival instinct sprang up. I ducked and pivoted on impulse.
The weeping man’s head exploded as the tire iron from the Civic’s trunk struck him square in the mouth. The leader of the bangers had swung with both hands and all of his considerable strength. Blood and mucus washed the pavement and spatter-painted my face and shirt. Shattered teeth fell like hailstones. The tire iron left its mark in matted hair on the wooden support as the dead man crumpled to the ground.
The remaining banger barely missed a beat. He drew back from the kill as casually as a batter missing the first pitch and made a second, more measured cut at my leg.
The tire iron glanced off my shin just above the injured ankle, and the bloody ground met me before the pain could register. I made no effort to move as the inmate towered over me, weighing his weapon in both hands. I laughed until I choked and then twisted and spat and laughed some more. My saliva shone crimson as the sun’s rays came through a breach in the clouds. I must have bitten my lip at some point in the struggle. What a thing to notice with my final thoughts.
The leader of the dismantled trio was beyond words as he lifted the tire iron overhead. Spittle sprayed from the corners of his mouth and veins throbbed through the pale skin at his temples.
A thick marbled steak, fresh from the meatlocker.
He sucked air and lifted the heavy length of metal high. And then he wavered.
For an insane moment I wondered if he was waiting for the cops. Somewhere in Murderville sirens were screaming, and they drew closer with every second. And then he wavered again, and I heard the muted pat of a punch striking fatty tissue.
With a roar the big man turned and swung at the assailant behind him. Without bothering to look I rolled onto my stomach and crawled to the nearest post. My mind was a chaotic muddle of confusion, gore, and death. In that moment I couldn’t say whether I wanted to live or die… but I sure as hell wasn’t spending a single night in lockup. I hauled myself upright and limped across the street to lean on the wall of the dilapidated arena. The cool brick comforted my back as I turned to see who had saved me.
She moved like a gossamer winged butterfly on a summer breeze. Swift footwork propelled her slender frame around the roaring inmate. She swayed in and out and side to side with a cobra’s rhythm and venom. Her tasseled purple mask fluttered as she ducked a lethal swing of the bloody tire iron and jabbed the offender’s solar plexus. Her pink fingerless four-ounce gloves did little to lessen the impact, for the big man reeled away. She pursued him like a sparrow chasing a raven, flitting past his sluggish attacks to sting with crisp combinations that would have turned Freddy Roach’s head.
And then she swung onto his back, the tire iron trapped between his throat and both of her elbows. The inmate dropped to his knees and then fell on his face, slapping uselessly at the little warrior. She held the choke long after his shakes subsided.
Grey clouds swallowed the sun as the Pixie stood up straight and dusted her hands. She planted tiny pink fists on her hips and looked about the square, prominent nose beneath her feathered mask drawing a triangle between the three dead men. She reached up to school a loose lock of short dark hair behind a slightly pointed ear and straightened the royal blue cloak about her shoulders. Then she strode toward me, unhurried despite the sirens sounding mere blocks away. Any cop in the city would have loved to bring her in, to be the one to unveil the face behind the mask that made the front page of local papers on a daily basis.
Slender legs in purple tights swished to a stop in front of me. As I examined the Pixie’s modified pink climbing shoes I realized I had sunk to a seated position at some point. The cold of the city seeping through my clothing was a comforting embrace I longed to linger in. My ribs and lower leg throbbed distantly. A problem to deal with another time, perhaps never. The Pixie was not known for lenience with those who brought violence to her streets.
She shifted her weight from one leg to the other like a ballerina on demi-pointe, pink fists resting on slender hips. A meager breeze fluttered the rainbow skirt about her waist. The wail of sirens increased exponentially – the closest copper had rounded the corner. A strange half-smile quirked the Pixie’s painted lips, and she extended an open hand to me, palm toward the sky.
“This is certainly unusual,” she quipped, casual as a store clerk observing an over-stocked shelf, “you can explain it to me, or to the police. Two seconds to decide love.”
The leather of her glove was smooth and slick, the skin of her fingertips warm and callused. She pulled me to my feet and led me down a dark alley between the arena and the boarded-up pizza place next door.
Flashing lights of blue and red filled the old market square.
The Pixie’s firm grip on my palm supported me like a crutch. She hummed and practically skipped at my side. I hobbled and kept pace as best I could. We wove around clumps of dirt and dying weeds and sidled past a twisted shopping cart stuffed with trash.
The slamming of car doors and shouts from police officers filtered down the alley from the square. Cops covering corpses with readily brandished firearms.
“Here,” my savior said, stopping and scraping a loose brick from the arena’s rainwashed wall. “Put your good foot in there. I’ll give you a boost. Up!”
I followed her instructions and found easy handholds in the rough red brick. Time – or perhaps the Pixie herself – had worn the bricks down at uneven intervals. Her gloved hands on the back of my legs propelled me upwards easily. She was impossibly strong for her size and slight stature.
I reached the top of the single story building and rolled over the precipice onto the long slanting rooftop. The wall rose nearly a meter above the roof on all sides, sheltering me from sight of the police searching the square. I leaned on the overreaching wall and looked down.
The Pixie waited until she saw me safely on the roof and then replaced the loose brick. She glanced up again, gave me a dazzling smile and leaped backwards onto the ledge of the pizza place’s boarded up window. She sprang up as if from a trampoline and clung to the brick wall like a lizard. She flew up the carved handholds and vaulted over the precipice with a swirl of the royal blue cape.
“Give me a moment,” she said with a curtsy, “Il faut se poudrer le nez.” One dark eye winked behind the feathered mask and she sashayed to a large leather purse laying amidst some old newspapers.
My head spun as I surveyed the rooftop for the first time. At least twenty purses, satchels, and shoulder bags were strewn across the surface between stacks of newspapers and watermarked paperback novels. A broom and bucket lay along the battlement to my left, the bucket half filled with what remained of paper after too many rainstorms. The short rest and the odd scene finally sapped the wave of adrenaline that had carried me through the last five minutes. I fell to my hands and knees and puked in the bucket as the sounds and smells from the square came back to me. Everything I’d eaten that morning heaved up from my stomach at the echo of breaking bones and sundered flesh.
I rolled away from the smell of my own bile and wiped my eyes, seeing the Pixie rummaging through a nylon laptop case.
“Good,” she said, glancing up from her search, “we don’t want that on the ground.” She laughed like a wind chime in a spring breeze. “The police will search the alley, but not up here.”
“What is all this?” I asked, scooting backwards so I could sit against the wall. My leg twinged horribly and the pain came out in words. “Your secret lair?”
How could a cold blooded killer have such a musical laugh? She shook her head, swirling the tassels that tied her mask and making the feathers sway. She pulled a roll of electrical tape from the bag and stuffed it in the leather purse hanging from her shoulder.
“A few months ago I tracked a pair of purse snatchers to their loft on the next block,” she said around that quirky half smile as she paced back to me. “They had quite a collection. The valuables and IDs were all missing of course, but women keep all kinds of useful things in their bags.” She dropped down cross legged an inch from my feet and unveiled her treasures. Two cardboard nail files, a ball of twine, and the roll of black electrical tape. She set them in a line along the rooftop and then pulled the croc off my right foot.
I winced despite the gentle way she lifted my heel onto her knee. Elevation.
“Can you move your toes?” She asked as she examined the bruise blossoming across my shin. “This will hurt a bit.” She pressed her thumbs either side of the long bone and slid them up to my knee.
I sucked air through my teeth slapped the rooftop. My palm stung where the rough brick had scoured my skin on the climb up.
“Nothing seems broken,” The Pixie muttered as she dipped back into the leather purse and pulled out a length of technicolor fabric. As she tore it into strips I recognized it as a previous incarnation of the fringed skirt that touched the knees of her purple tights. The old garment seemed to have been ruined by several bullets.
“It’s just like bullfighting,” she assured me, noting the awe in my eyes, “they always shoot at the swirling colors.” Her tiny hands demolished the last of the skirt’s bands. She tied strips of red and orange around the throbbing welt in the middle of my shin. Compression. Around my ankle and heel she wound green and indigo. The nail files she taped together and lodged between the colors of the rainbow, tying them tight with twine and adding layers of blue and violet.
“I’ve been Pixied,” I commented, running my fingers through the colored ties like a lover’s hair. “thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” she responded, tucking the leftover fabric back into her bag, “but if you’d been Pixied, you would know it.” She slid the purse behind her back and weighed the ball of twine and electrical tape in her pink leather palms as if deciding which to use. “Why did you confront those thugs?”
I winced. The splint she’d put on my ankle implied that she saw everything, but most of me had hoped she’d been drawn to the sound of violence and assumed they attacked me. No such luck. I inhaled deeply and thought about telling a simpler version of the truth. That I blinked and found myself in danger. In truth – the full truth – I knew the exact reason. I leaned back against cool brick and looked up at Murderville’s perpetually cloudy sky.
“I’ve been awake for seventy-two hours,” I told her, “I guess you could say I’m a lifelong insomniac.” I took another breath and let the words flow. “A few months ago I hit-” the number of hours disintegrated in my head as I tried to add them up “six days and a bit.”
“That’s a form of torture,” she breathed, dark eyes hard behind the feathered mask.
“I know,” I said, as I’d said to many doctors. “I decided I didn’t want to get there again. That’s why I came downtown.” For an instant I thought I saw pity behind the purple mask, but then she set down the twine and began taping the splint from the top down. I was going to lose some leg hair later.
“So you’re a viking,” she said as she worked, covering her colors in a layer of black, “where did you receive your training?”
“Your combat training.”
I taught myself. For the second time I swallowed the simple answer and took a deep breath.
“I took karate and jiu-jitsu as a kid, until I got kicked out. Then I mostly learned kung fu from movies-”
“You can’t learn kung fu from movies,” the Pixie interrupted. She looked up from where the tape had reached the base of my ankle. “Not really. And most of it doesn’t really work.”
“It does for me,” I shrugged, “I practiced the tamer stuff with my friends and the advanced techniques on trees and fences.” I held up a long-fingered hand and showed her tiger’s paw. My fingers curled inward with unnatural dexterity, giving knuckles and nails to my powerful palm. “In highschool I got into combat sports, I’ve practiced jiu-jitsu and catch wrestling on and off for years, a little boxing and muay thai here and there -”
“Not that bullshit,” she interrupted again, “someone taught you how to kill. You’re not some dojo rat, you wouldn’t be that-”
“I’m not that good,” I pointed out, taking my turn to interrupt, “I would have died if not for you.”
“You weren’t fighting to win,” she growled, tearing the tape off halfway down my foot and crossing her arms, “You are much stronger than you showed. Much. I don’t believe your story.”
“It’s the only one I have,” I said, deflated. “I love fighting – always have. I’ve had more practice than most. But I’ve never killed before.” The bile stirred in my throat. “It’s been more than a few months since I’ve been to the gym,” I wiggled my right foot, now covered in electrical tape from instep to calf. “Sprained my ankle a few months ago and it doesn’t want to heal right.”
The Pixie stood and moved away, gathering the cape about her. I opened my mouth to call after her, considering inventing a more compelling backstory, when she stopped and crouched. For a moment she rummaged in a one-strap green leather backpack, and then she returned. A lighter flared in her hands and she pressed two cigarettes to her lips. Crimson embers ate away at their ends as her lungs expanded.
“She smokes?” I asked, genuinely surprised.
“She does many things,” she replied mysteriously, and passed me one of the cigarettes. Her deep dark eyes gazed into mine, tempting me to stumble and fall in.
I drew on the cigarette and could think of nothing to say, so I tapped it gently over the edge of the arena’s high wall and let the smoke steep in my lungs. Flecks floated to the ground like early ashen snow.
“Thank you,” I said at last, and the words sounded strange.
“Thank me by taking care of yourself.” She tossed her cigarette to the rooftop and ground it out with a sleek climbing shoe. “There’s a strong old drain pipe at the far corner that should get you to the ground. But I’d advise not moving until the cops clear out.” She swirled the cape and vaulted over the edge of the building.
I never heard her hit the ground, and when I leaned out I saw nothing but an empty, garbage strewn alleyway.
Lead Detective Boris Swinway shifted in the unmarked car’s big bucket seat, searching for a position where his guts didn’t feel like broken glass. Every time his wife brought the latest health craze or fad diet to dinner he wound up bloated as a damn balloon. Swinway was never this uncomfortable riding shotgun in the big Crown Vic after a night of pizza and beer.
The rookie behind the wheel was all smiles and happy banter, overexcited at the prospect of his first murder investigation at the rank of detective. It was an exciting case for the rookie – a triple homicide with potential links to the Pixie. The young detective wouldn’t stop yapping about it.
They pulled up to the scene, the Crown Vic making a wide smooth arc before nosing up to the curb. Old Market Square was already washed in blue and red light. Four patrol cars were parked across the faded blacktop at odd angles, lights flashing, and six officers were making a mess of winding the long yellow Crime Scene tape around the supports that held up the square’s wall-less roof.
The Rookie put the selector in park and popped the e-brake and leaped out of the sedan, all piss and vinegar and protocol. His belt stayed clipped behind him and the keys stayed in the ignition. The young detective took three long strides toward the half-dozen officers and then doubled back as if he’d forgotten something.
Something like maybe what the fuck he’s doing.
Boris sighed and opened his door and shifted his hips ninety degrees to get his feet on the pavement. His guts rumbled and an unpleasant belch rolled up his throat, tasting of brussel sprouts and broccoli. Cruciferous vegetables, the wife had called them. Because they crucify you? Christ! Swinway posted one hand on his open door and the other on the Crown Vic’s freshly waxed roof and hauled himself upright.
He slammed the door and took two tottering steps to where the rookie lingered sheepishly, awaiting instruction.
“Gloves on,” Boris said, peeling a pair of latex gloves from his own pocket and snapping them on with practiced ease. “Don’t touch anything until it’s all photographed and try not to step in any of the… evidence.”
“Yes sir,” the rookie responded, pulling on his own hand protection and falling into step beside Swinway.
They meandered across the square to the first body; male, Caucasian, clear gang tattoos showing through a torn T-shirt and clearly dead from blunt force trauma to the back of the head. He lay in a congealed halo of browning blood.
“Preliminary conclusions, detective?” Boris asked.
“It must be the Pixie sir,” the rookie gushed after noting the same deductions as Swinway, “who else could or would do this to three known gang members.
“I don’t know, detective.” Swinway shook his head as sarcasm seeped into his tone. “A rival gang? A falling out amidst bangers? Maybe their mommas finally caught up with them to deliver a much needed spanking. Or maybe some other vigilante is stalking our streets.” Boris hiccuped and rubbed his unsettled stomach. “Let’s take a look at the others.”
They detoured to the largest of the three victims, a man with pale skin and bulging muscles slumped on his face atop a gore-caked tire iron.
“Strangulation,” the rookie said, squatting down and tilting his head to examine the purpled bruising on the victim’s throat. “Again sir, who else could have done this but the-”
“Any other observations about the deceased detective?” Swinway rumbled. He couldn’t crouch that low and would probably shit his pants if he tried, so he put his hand on his thighs and stooped slightly.
“Err, yes sir.” The rookie replied, undeterred. “He’s considerably less tanned than the first victim. Extremely well muscled, and let me see…” he picked up the goon’s lifeless left hand and turned the palm away. “Aha, a recent prison tattoo on his pinkie finger. This boy just got out of the big house.”
“Correct, well spotted detective,” Swinway muttered, always loathe to praise an up-and-comer. He’d deduced the victim’s recent stay at the penitentiary but never would have spotted the tiny tattoo. The medical examiner would have done so at the morgue, most certainly, but it was always good to get information early. He supposed. “Let’s move on.” Swinway said as he straightened, alleviating the fold in his gut.
They had to step carefully to get close to the third body. Blood had spattered in all directions except behind the wooden post the victim was slumped against. Broken teeth and other bits of bone were scattered around like a child’s building blocks, and an indentation marked by blood and hair showed where the fatal blow was struck. If he hadn’t already seen the gory tire iron, Swinway might have thought the man was shot with a high-powered rifle.
“Same spider-web tattoos along the shoulders as the other two,” The rookie was saying, which in Swinway’s mind supported the theory of gang on gang crime. The younger detective crouched low again, checking the pooled blood and running his fingers through cracks in the pavement. “Sir I know I sound like a broken record but… this has gotta be the Pixie. We should ask local residents if anyone saw–”
“Give it a rest a minute, will you?” He rasped, rubbing his temples. “There’s no fucking point interviewing the locals. Probably no one saw anything, and if they did they probably won’t talk. Leave that to the uniforms.” He waved a dismissive hand at the officers who had established a perimeter and were sweeping the scene with digital cameras. “We’re here to examine the scene – and we ain’t calling the Pixie Squad unless we find some actual evidence to indicate–”
Swinway’s tirade trickled to a halt as the rookie straightened up with a long purple feather clenched between latex-gloved fingers. He looked like a goddamn kid on Christmas morning.
Boris groaned again.
“Alright detective, get on the horn and call in the cavalry. I need a cup of coffee.”
Tegan Labelle stood in her kitchen enjoying the click-click of money counters. She had three, and enough cash to keep them all working for more than a minute, and nothing could make a more perfect start to the day.
Noon sun slithered through smoke stained drapes that had once been white and bathed the linoleum floor and fake wooden tabletop.
The profits from her business were rising, and soon she’d have enough assets to necessitate a new house. Such things were expensive but worth every penny, and with what was whirring into a neat stack on the table she had more than enough capital. No one would be thankful though. More space? You’re welcome. Better amenities? Who would notice. As far as the Big Cheese was concerned, she was turning trash into gold. Or rather, selling trash for gold. She new her henchmen called her the Big Cheese behind her back, but so what? They could fuck themselves in the ass with a rake prongs first for all she cared.
Stretching and yawning the Big Cheese tottered around the table to the counter where a semi-fresh pot of coffee sat on the hot plate. She still had the morning stiffness and was not nimble by any means, so getting a mug from the top shelf and cream from the fridge door felt a little frustrating. By the time she added sugar she was getting impatient and slurped a scalding mouthful.
Should have had Tommy bring me the coffee, that lazy bastard. She could hear the television blaring in the back room, some stupid daily talk show. It’s Tommy today, right? She rotated slow and ponderously, stirred the coffee with a spoon she’d found on the counter and checked her smartphone. The glowing device propped against her favorite money counter said Tuesday. Tommy Tuesday, she smiled. She always knew where her people were.
The ratty robe she’d thrown on before stumping upstairs swished about her sore knees as she sauntered down the short hall to the back room. Her knees were pretty much always sore these days, a part of getting older she could handle. She slept in the basement because it had no windows. Her house had only ever taken small arms fire, nothing serious, nothing that couldn’t be fixed or replaced, but she liked to be careful anyways. Sometimes she shared the basement with one of her boytoys but of late she slept alone, anticipating the return of her man.
He’d been in K-town Pen four years, got busted on some drug charge even the greasiest lawyer couldn’t slip. Damn was he going to be proud of her. They had visited and talked on the phone only at first because it seemed to make things harder. But damn had she grown her business and come into her own in his absence. What had started as an impromptu out of the closet deal had blossomed into a budding enterprise over the years.
The Big Cheese padded over the back room’s shag carpet and slid onto the leather sofa at the opposite end from Tommy. They exchanged their daily heys and slumped into mutual indifference. Tommy wasn’t pretty like some of her boys or tall and muscular like her man, but he was a good little soldier. Was it today her man would return? She wasn’t sure, but she had an event on her phone that would let her know if it was. She always knew where her people were.
The show was actually pretty funny, one of those expose-people’s-problems-in-front-of-an-audience deals. She guffawed, careful not to spill her coffee, and was just about settled in.
The back door burst open.
“What the fuck man?” The Big Cheese cried, launching to her feet and spilling coffee everywhere. She wasn’t sure who she was talking to; Tommy for not keeping the damn door locked or the phallus-brained Brian for busting in on her.
Brian looked a lot different than usual. He was sweating so badly his boyish cheeks flushed and his long, fine dark hair stood in disarray.
“Seriously… what – the – fuck?” She repeated, stepping over the puddle of coffee seeping into the carpet (fuck).
“Fuckin’.. sons… of bitches. Pigs.” Brian sputtered, tracking dirt across the carpet and leaning on the sofa.
Tommy hurried to the kitchen to get him some water, or perhaps in case the pigs were outside. They kept the big guns in the kitchen.
“They killed him,” Brian said, making eye contact for the first time. “They killed–”
She didn’t hear the rest. The look in Brian’s eyes left no question as to which him.
The fucking cops had killed her man.
“Tell me what you saw!” Tegan demanded, shoving Brian onto the sofa. He leaned back and caught his breath as Tommy returned carrying a Heckler & Koch MP5 on a shoulder strap. Tegan bared her teeth. She wanted blood.
“Him and two of his boys at old market square,” Brian said, getting breathless again as he relived the experience. “Cop cars everywhere… cops everywhere. So much blood… it looked like they shot one of ’em in the head.”
“Fucking pigs,” Tommy cursed, checking the action on his submachine gun. “How do they call that justice?”
“It don’t matter,” Tegan raged, “Cuz we’re gonna make it right. Call the rest of the crew Tommy. We’re gonna get some revenge, and we’re gonna get my man back.”
The Big Cheese stomped up the stairs, leaving her boys to make the calls and get their gear together. Tegan was hot all over, ready for war, but no amount of emotion could make her forget her commitment to the business. Someone needed to check on the new asset before they left, and The Big Cheese almost hoped the bitch would be awake. She could slap her around before administering a stronger dose, a nice warm-up for the cops.
Tegan unbolted the solid oaken bedroom door and stepped into the darkly shaded room.
A girl – around eighteen, but who cared anymore? – lay unconscious in a single bed. Thin sheets and a single blanket covered her slender form, and long blonde hair slick with sweat splayed around the pillow. The needle in her arm was connected to an intravenous drip, the bag still three-quarters full with Tegan’s special cocktail of heroin and saline. Something to control her, and something to keep her alive.
“Stupid little fucking cunt,” Tegan said as she approached the bed. She twisted a knob above the IV bag to increase the flow into the girl’s veins. Not enough for an overdose. Just enough that by the time she woke up, she’d do just about anything for her next hit. And Tegan’s girls specialized in anything. “Sleep well little bitch,” she said, smoothing the messy blonde hair, “you’re gonna help Momma get a new money counter.”
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