Devi met her owner at the door with a long yawn, gave her a sniff and crawled into her kennel. Magali stopped in front of the altar to light a candle, the golden crown on the virgin’s head shimmering. Bowing her head for a quick moment, she gave thanks and ambled into the living room. Running her fingers through her raven hair, she frowned at the loss of yet another shirt. She had discarded the ripped and bloody garment into a garbage dumpster and, wearing only her jacket and sports bra, came home shivering. She shrugged her jacket off and rubbed her bare arms, the leather of her holster cold against her skin. Her neck popped as she tilted it to the sides and rolled her shoulders, getting the same effect. The freshly sewn gash on her arm ached, and the night’s events had left her skin sticky and rust-stained. I need a shower, big time, she thought, walking into the bathroom.

The water was warm, and she breathed in the steam. Letting the torrent wash over her, she thought of Casey’s touch. Seven days left of freedom, then two months without her. They’re going to be longer than I thought, fuck. She rinsed the soap off and stepped out into the dim light of the bathroom. Fresh, dark blue towels had been slung over the rack behind the door, and she smiled. A terry cloth bathrobe hung off a hook on the wall, and she pulled it over her long frame. I could get used to having her around… though I shouldn’t. Sticking her hands in the pockets of the robe, she found a neatly folded paper and held it up to the light to read. Simply written there in neat script were the words "come to bed", and her smile broadened.

The sheer curtains draped in front of the balcony doors let in the moonlight reflecting off of the black currents of the river below. The sheets had been changed from satin to solid flannel, and a quilt she remembered buying but never using laid in neat folds at the foot of the bed. Peeking out from the dark colors of the sheets, a fair contrast in blue depths, she could make out half of Casey’s bare form. Her arms were tucked under the pillow on which she lay, and strands of hair fell gently around her face and shoulders. Magali’s breath caught in her throat, her pulse jumped into high gear, and she gazed at the sight before her-- admiring the deep crease down the middle of the woman’s back.

Quietly she stepped closer, the clean smell of the sheets mixing with her Saint’s mild scent. Magali knelt by the side of the bed, tentatively touching the warm skin, tracing a line with her finger down from her shoulders to the edge of the sheets. Casey moved slightly at the touch; still asleep, she emitted an uninhibited moan. The temptation produced by the low sound was enough to make Magali bring her lips to taste the woman, and she planted small kisses down Casey’s spine. She stirred slightly, a humming in her throat and a small gasp for air as she turned onto her back and grabbed for dark hair, tangling her fingers in the wet tresses. Magali’s hand skimmed her skin, ending its journey at her breast; her lips, never losing their contact, followed. Her mouth captured a hardened nipple, and she licked it teasingly.

Casey gasped as a second hand burned a pathway down her belly, stopping over her mound and pressing lightly in a circular motion. Her hands wandered over to strong shoulders, pressing her Black Velvet closer, seeking the skin hidden beneath the robe. The hand left her briefly and found the small of her back, lifting her up to sit and then kneel on the edge of the bed. Magali stood before her, and she lifted her hands to the knotted belt around her waist and undid the binding. The robe fell open, and Magali pulled it off her shoulders, letting the dark cloth fall to the floor. Casey licked at her navel, breathing deeply the musk of her skin. Her hands wound their way around Black Velvet’s waist as Magali’s hands grabbed her hair pulling her head back gently, and devoured her with a desperate kiss.

Disentangling herself and climbing onto the bed, Magali placed herself behind Casey. Pressing her chest to her Saint’s back, she let her hands roam and found Casey’s breasts, her fingers twisting the nipples tenderly and kneading them. With one hand, she trailed her Saint’s midsection down to taut thighs and spread her legs wider. Magali felt the wetness smeared on them and headed for its source, finding silky folds saturated with need. She longed to crawl inside of her and be enveloped in her silkiness. Intently, she pushed in two fingers, groaning at the sensation of being inside Casey as the woman writhed. She leaned close to her ear, and in a husky voice whispered, "Touch yourself for me." Casey inhaled sharply, the tone commanding and seductive and, with a shaking hand, she reached for her own heated center.

Her fingers circled her swollen clit, the touch making her buckle, and Magali pressed another finger into her opening. "Yes, baby…please, more." Black Velvet latched herself onto Casey’s neck, sucking the tender skin and grazing it with her teeth. She shivered with the strain of holding back, not wanting to release the beast that raged within her and, in a moment of weakness, pushed in a fourth finger harder than she intended. A whimper escaped Casey’s lips, and she reached for Black Velvet, arching her back in the process. Fiery tendrils worked their way up from deep within Magali, and she pushed harder as Casey thrashed against her and clawed at her shoulder.

Black Velvet groaned, squeezed her thigh, leaving a mark there. She raked her nails up Casey’s body, roughly gripping at a breast. Without warning she pulled her hand out, and pushed her Saint face down, laying over her and biting into the skin of her back as she pushed her legs open and entered her. Casey’s head whipped back as an open palm struck her skin. Her cheek on fire from the heavy stroke, she buried her face in the sheets. Magali could feel her fingers hitting the wall inside of Casey, watched her back move in labored breaths and a roar reverberated within her mind. Black Velvet extricated herself, and Casey squirmed, clutching at a pillow, her hands trembling with effort. Magali reached for the robe and pulled the belt free from its loops. She flipped Casey over, her chest burning, and captured both of her Saint’s hands, binding them together with the belt, and raising them above her head. Her mouth fell onto her breasts and she feasted on them hungrily, pressing her hand into the woman forcefully, lost in the aching. Her thumb circled Casey’s center, and she bit on a nipple, twisting her wrist to accommodate her position over the woman. What are you doing? You’re going to hurt her. She centered her thumb on her palm. She won’t be able to take this; stop, Zee, don’t show her this. The tip touched the fold of her entrance-- another twist, and she would be completely inside her. Magali placed her hand under her Saint’s head, lifting enough to arch the woman’s neck and see the lip she was biting, Casey’s eyes tightly shut as she gave a whimper. The taste of salt came to her lips, an icy grasp around her heart.

"Casey…I’m sorry," she rasped.

"Please, baby…don’t hide from me."

A shudder went through her, and Magali bit down on her own lip, the metallic taste of blood flooding her senses. No, Zee…no. Her hand moved seeking what her soul desired, and she entered Casey fully, the smaller woman arching her back in response to the intrusion. Magali wound an arm under her and around her waist, cradling her torso as she thrust. Her Saint’s silky wetness coating her wrist. Beads of perspiration formed on her skin from the effort. Slowly Magali made her way down to the light triangular patch with her lips. Her tongue tasted the sweetness between Casey’s folds, and she delved deep, surrounding her with lips and tongue as her hand continued the stroking steady rhythm. She pushed the bottom of her tongue to her lip, pressing the silver stud there onto the hood of Casey’s clit, heightening the sensations of her tongue’s caresses. Casey shuddered; her bound hands gently pressing Magali in, she shook and her hips came high off the bed. The dark woman felt trembling muscles contract around her wrist, the pulsing of Casey’s nub against her tongue, her movements urgent. Black Velvet drank her Saint in.

With great care Magali removed her hand from inside of her Saint, one finger at a time, while firm thighs pressed down on her shoulders. Chills ran through her body as Casey’s small whimpers reached her ears, and she laid her length over the smaller woman, placing her own heated center over Casey’s thigh. Strands of fire curled around her as she began a furious rhythm, Casey’s nails clawing the skin of her back adding to the intensity. Wave after wave hit her, capturing her in powerful crests of combined pain and pleasure. For a brief moment her lungs stalled, and her chest exploded with a tearing guttural scream. Spent, she lay over her Saint gasping for air as the beast subsided and slunk away into a dark corner.

Casey could feel her ragged breathing and stroked her back gently where, moments before, she had dug her nails into the tender flesh. She felt her Black Velvet shake, silent sobs on her shoulder where Magali’s head rested. The breathing slowed and, exhausted, Magali began falling asleep, Casey underneath her in a protected embrace.

"I…I…" Magali began in a hoarse voice, Casey’s lips stopping her mid-way.

"I know…I love you, too."


Toys-R-Us four days before Christmas was a place of nightmares; one Magali would have gladly exchanged for one of her own, as she and Eddie strolled the crowded aisles. The traditional trip to the toy store had quickly become one of Eddie’s favorite days of the year, with Magali only occasionally scowling at some errant push by a harried parent. With a small entourage of haggard looking boys, who scared the daylights out of the store clerks, the pair pulled toys off shelves and threw them into carts already brimming over. By the time they reached the cashier, there were six carts following them-- filled with stuffed animals, small cars, dolls, and electronic gadgets. Frustrated shoppers watched them suspiciously, as they made their way to the front of one of the lines. Magali eyed a tall man in a dark suit standing at the head of the line with a large teddy bear firmly clasped under his arm, and gave him a wicked smirk.

"You don’t mind if we skip ahead, do you?" she asked, slightly opening her leather pea coat and exposing the gleaming silver of the gun hanging at her side. Sheepishly he glanced away from her and around the store for some invisible savior but, finding none, he took a step back and allowed her to pass. She raised a hand, waved to the cart-pushing boys to follow her, and stepped up to the cashier. "Cash," she deadpanned, raising an eyebrow.

Casey shouldered her way through the crowd of bitter faces in time to see her dark lover scare the hell out of a customer and force her way to the cashier, her cerulean eyes gleaming in silent delight. She took a deep breath and cut a path towards Magali who, with crossed arms, was watching her troop unload the toys onto the moving counter. She felt the blue eyes turn on her, a secret smile meant for her alone, and Casey was suddenly wrapped in warm arms and pulled into the taller frame of Black Velvet. She patted the strong chest breathing near her, and gave her Black Velvet a conspiratorial smile.

"Was that necessary, baby?"

"Hmm? What," Magali asked, raising her brow.

Casey gently kissed her cheek and darted her eyes over to the shaken, suited man who was still clutching the bear tightly. Magali frowned, taking in the scene around her, the dark eyes watching her every move from behind toy- filled carts, and the looks of anticipation from her haggard troop. Her resolve slowing melting in the presence of expectant emerald orbs, she stretched her hand out towards the man and pointed a long finger at him.

"Hey, you!" Startled at the attention, the man took a step back, pointing at his own chest, terror in his eyes. "Yeah, you…give me the fuckin’ bear…I’ll take care of it," she added with a smirk and snatched the toy away.

"Well, it’s not perfect, but better," Casey whispered to her as Black Velvet planted a wild kiss on her lips and smiled.

Magali slung the bear onto the counter and swaggered away, pulling Casey behind her "I’ll meet you boys later," she shouted over her shoulder as she maneuvered through the parting crowd and towards the exit.

"Who’s going to pay for the toys, Gali?"

"Eddie has my money. Don’t worry, we wouldn’t hold up Toys R Us…not at Christmas time, anyway." Magali’s laughter was a deep rumble, and it imbued Casey with a warm mood despite the night chill.

Fifth Avenue turned adults into children under blinking lights and huge wreaths decorated in red and gold. Holiday music flooded the streets from department store doorways, and people rushed by in their attempts to purchase last minute gifts. Grates on the sidewalk gushed warm air from underground train tunnels, and traffic was at a near standstill. Angry cabbies honked at the two women weaving their way through the cars-- one dark and smiling, the other with a look of exhilaration. Magali hopped onto the sidewalk, laughing defiantly at the infuriated drivers stuck in an immovable chain of metal and headlights. With childish abandon, she pulled Casey under her arm and into an embrace, breathing in the cold and the soft scent of her Saint. Looming over them, brilliant with billions of tiny colored lights and immense ribbons, a giant from a far off forest spread its branches over an icy rink. The golden landmark statue marking Rockefeller Center gleamed in the spotlight over fumbling skaters, and winter blew around them, arctic wind and the music of the city

"Oooh, ice skating." Casey piped, a wicked grin splashed across her face.

"No." Magali’s dark features went serious, and she bit her lower lip in restraint against the pout meeting her glare. "Hell no…" and the pout thickened, "no way?" You’re a sucker for that look from her Magali Guerrerro.

The skates were tight around her ankles; the front of the boot cut into her toe and her backside was wet from having slid onto the ice saving Casey from a wanna-be hockey player. The slender arm around her waist tightened as Casey struggled to maintain her balance, and she eyed the other skaters with narrowed eyes.

"Would you stop that, Gali. You’re scaring people."

"That’s the point," she sneered spinning on her blades and picking the blonde up off her feet. Tilting her head, she seized Casey’s lips with her own and grinned. "That’ll give ‘em something to look at."

Casey gave her a slap to the arm and grinned back. "You are just evil."

"Born that way," she agreed unrepentantly, kissing her deeply.

The music faded away and a young voice over the speaker system announced the end of the round. Slowly the rink emptied around the two figures bathed in the yellow light of the season, tangled in a kiss in the center of the rink. An attendant in a red jacket slowly neared the two, wary of how to approach the impassioned pair. Gali heard his blades cutting the ice and tenderly released Casey back onto the surface. "Case, we better get off this ice…I think it’s melting." The blonde nodded, her eyes closed, senses raw with urgent need, and followed Magali out of the rink.

They unlaced their skates and handed them over to the pimple-faced teenager behind the rental counter. Fresh customers were piling in, eager to seize their turn on the ice. Magali’s jacket began ringing, and she retrieved the ever-present cell phone from a pocket and pressed it to her ear. "Yeah…" Scratchy silence from the other end brought her nostrils into a subtle flair as she disconnected the call. Immediately it rang once again, and she suppressed the impulse to fling the small device across the rink.

"What," she growled.

"Hey, Zee…it’s me, Eddie. What the hell happened to you?"

"Nothing…what do ya’ want," she replied harshly.

"We’re wrapping all this shit we bought…damn. It’s gonna take a few more ATV’s this year, Zee."

The thought of her thuggish-looking troop, fumbling with gift wrapping paper and strips of scotch tape amidst bags of cocaine and loaded guns, brought on an irresistible urge to giggle that she was barely able to suppress. "Then get the extra bikes, Eddie, and get my baby out of storage. This…is gonna be fun," she said shutting the call off, and pulled Casey behind her up the stairway to the street.

"What’s going to be fun?" a small voice questioned.

"Oh, just a little job I’m doing." Magali’s eye’s danced secretly in her poker look face.

"Gali! Haven’t you caused enough havoc this month? I better not have to sew you up again, or I’ll…" Her ranting was stilled by a pair of firm, warm lips and a velvet tongue that departed as abruptly as they had arrived.

"You won’t have to sew me up…I promise, as a matter of fact…" she grinned wickedly, "you’ll be coming along for the ride."

High atop Magali’s tower of safety, where the child in her played secretly with video games and her collection of CD’s, Casey hibernated with a naked, relaxed Magli, momentarily putting the dark world where the woman lived at bay. Two days and nights of silence, peace, wine, and take-out-food made the scene all the more surreal for a dazed Casey. The clouded winter sun had disappeared behind the city skyline, and the humming of twenty, idling ATVs, piled high with red cloth bags filled with toys, drowned the sounds of the night. They were lined up neatly in two rows, stretching from corner to corner at 164th street, manned by the motley troops in a myriad of colored riding suits and voicing shouts of pure adrenaline. At the head of the vibrating battle columns, a Harley Davidson ‘Night Train’ patiently waited. Its handles jangled with bells and its sleek black body, dark as its leather clad mistress who stalked the columns issuing orders and laughing at rude jokes, reflected the dim street light in golden streaks. "Yeah, your mother likes my engine between her legs too," a rough male voice yelled over the cacophony. Magali chuckled.

A delivery of two long boxes earlier in the day had produced two tight-fitting leather suits—one, white and the other midnight black. Casey could still see the lust in her lover’s eyes as she watched her don the lighter suit over a set of thermal long johns, and slip into the matching riding boots. Casey approached the bike she had earlier watched Magali caress as if it were an old familiar lover, and swallowed hard at the thought of straddling the warm engine, her chest pressed against Black Velvet’s leather-covered back. Children crowded the street reaching for the joyful riders and the gifts they were patiently passing out. Above the din she could hear Magali’s voice, clear and strong, commanding the riders to mount and, as her voice grew nearer, the warm presence of the dark woman touched her. A strong hand at her midriff pulled her into an embrace, and soft lips brushed her neck above the collar of the suit.

"Ready to go?" The husky voice whispered in her ear.

" do this every year?"

"What’s money for?" Black Velvet shrugged and straddled the bike, beckoning to Casey with an open palm. "Come on, wild child."

Casey smiled and pulled on her helmet, taking her place behind her dark lover, and settled in for the adventure. Twenty-one headlights turned on simultaneously and flooded the street with white. A roar of engines vibrated, and Casey felt the bike begin its glide, the power of the machine seeping into her bones.

They knew the sound of the approaching army; they had been listening for it through half open windows, and when the column turned the corner, they pulled on worn shoes and ran down into the street. "It’s Santa Claus! It’s Santa Claus," their voices lifted in unison. "I told you, I told you, Santa don’t have no damn elves, they thugs like us and they have bikes!" Riders dismounted and handed packages of gold and red to shivering children, who ran back inside to yelling mothers leaning out of windows. Magali scanned the buildings, always vigilant for something to go wrong, some gun, some bad ass, and was glad to only find grateful faces looking down at her instead. Faces that had prayed for her to arrive and fill empty spaces under plastic trees, to make their children believe, hoping they had not lied when they had told them "Santa brings all good children presents." Casey glided off the bike under the watchful gaze of Magali, whose raven hair was whipping around her face, her breath visible on the wind. Happily she dug into the red bags and handed a square box to a ruddy-faced little girl.

"Is it Pokemon, Mrs. Santa?" she asked meekly, but with a tinge of hope.

"I don’t know, sweetheart." Casey replied, suddenly taken with a bout of worry.

"It’s ‘kay if it’s not, Mrs. Santa. I didn’t think I would get anything, ‘cause I told mommy about Julio’s pipe and she threw him out, and I thought Santa would put me on the bad list…" Her small confession was interrupted by a call from a window, and Casey watched the little girl disappear into the darkness of a lobby.

She returned to Magali, who patted her thigh and looked at her watch. "Merry Christmas, Baby," Black Velvet grinned. Casey squeezed her and leaned in closely, "Merry Christmas, Gali," she whispered, as the bike began its smooth push forward.

The ATVs broke formation, slipping through traffic and riding haphazardly onto sidewalks and off again. Their riders hollered, stood up on the seats and pulled on the handles to bring up the front wheels, shouting and competing with each other. They raced the city streets, headlights cutting through the darkness and orange glow of the lamplight. Coolly Magali rode the middle of the street, Casey hugging her waist just above the nestled holster, indifferent to the stunts happening around them. Yankee Stadium loomed over them in all its bright glory and tiered columns as they crossed a small metal bridge into the Bronx. Its Romanesque influence presiding over the small rambunctious legion. They filed into a narrow passage, Magali the last to enter, and emptied out into the open space of an underpass, broken only by the massive supporting columns of the highway above them.

Scattered metal barrels burned brightly with plumes of smoky flames, while fiery ashes floated upwards and disappeared into the acrid air, effectively warming the space. Dozens of men and women milled around the fires, some drank, laughing and pushing at each other, while others were locked in passionate embraces. A large pine decorated with beer bottles and tinsel towered off to the side, casting its shadow against the peeling concrete ceiling. The intrusion of the riders sent the crowd into a frenzy of shouts as the riders continued their tricks, weaving through the columns and finally parking in neat lines behind Magali. Casey surveyed the scene, all at once understanding the immensity of the empire under her lover’s care. There were easily over a hundred people gathered, all looking towards the dark woman with a sense of respect, awe, and fear. She recognized some of the faces, and wondered who was left to sit abandoned on the stoop waiting for customers to pass in their hour of need. A wave of Magali’s hand brought silence to the throng, and another produced a stream of young men carrying black sacks over their shoulders from a parked van. "Remember who does for you," Magali shouted, as wrapped boxes were flung out into the horde and snatched by hungry hands. Slowly the mob dispersed with cries of delight at their gifts of shirts and polar fleeces, as the impervious Zero graced them with a rare smile.

A warmth in the air, not of the bright fires, but of a moment of camaraderie, seeped through the den of rogues. Solemnly a few spilled some beer onto the littered ground, hanging their heads momentarily in a whispered prayer for those who were gone from the world, the names light on their lips. Zero too, hung her head briefly, too many names to mouth running through her mind at once. Just as quickly, the gleam in her eye returned, and she crooked her finger towards a laughing Eddie and whispered something in his ear. As she swung a long leg up and over the bike she pulled on Casey’s arm for her to dismount as well, a wicked grin on her face.

"What are you up to now, Gali?" Casey asked, catching a glimpse of the mischievous look on Magali’s face.

"Oh nothing, just well…everyone has something, except for the one person that means the most to me," she replied, giving the smaller woman a squeeze and, positioning herself behind the blonde, wrapped her long arms around Casey’s midriff.

With her heart hammering in her chest, Casey watched the crowd move to clear the center, creating a passageway of human bodies pinned closely together. At the far end, a set of angled headlights beamed right at her and grew larger as a vehicle was brought slowly forward. She could feel the heat of Magali’s smile behind her, the strong arms nearly supporting her weight against the taut body she knew as her lover’s. The lights blinded her momentarily as the shining VW beetle stopped a mere three feet away from her. Across its canary yellow body a cross of thick red ribbon rested, ending in a huge bow on its curved hood. "For you, my love," she heard the husky voice of her Black Velvet murmur, as Eddie opened the driver’s side door and slid out with a huge smile on his lips.

"Please say you love the color, or she’s gonna kill me," he said pleadingly, inundated with a roar of laughter from the onlookers.

"Love it? I…I…don’t know what to say…it’s too much…it’s…" her words ended with the contact of warm lips pressing against hers, Black Velvet’s welcomed custom for shutting her up.

"It’s yours. If you don’t like it…I’ll just kill Eddie; he insisted you’d like the color," she replied pursing her lips towards a worried looking Eddie, her dark eyebrow arched over her left cerulean eye.

"No, it’s not the color…I mean, all I got you was…" Meekly she handed a small box to Magali, who quickly ripped the wrapping off. "Eddie said you would be able to wear it in…"

Prison, Magali thought silently, as she fingered the long hematite rosary in her gloved hand and slipped it around her neck with an uncommon tenderness. The heavy symbol hung lightly on her chest, its mirror-like beads catching the red light of the fires. How many times have I seen a rosary given by a mother or a wife to the condemned? Never thought anyone would care enough to want me protected from harm. Wonder if she knows…

"I didn’t know what to get you. Then Eddie told me about how Marianna had given him a rosary when he was ‘away’, and what it meant. I want you back safe, Gali, and I want you around for a long time. As long as you wear it, I’ll have you."

"I will always wear it." To the grave. "Now…are you gonna get in, or what?" she demanded, pointing a finger to the car and smiling broadly.


Casey gave a small squeal and grabbed the offered keys from Eddie’s hand. She settled herself into the bucket seat behind the wheel, touching the dashboard with loving fingers. Married to the mob. She turned the key in the ignition and thrilled at the gentle humming of the engine. The passenger side door opened and Magali threw herself into the seat, feeling around the interior, including the blonde who wriggled under her touch.


"Cut that out, Gali, everyone’s watching," the blonde said, slapping away the roaming hands that teased her, while Magali chuckled. "Where to?"

"Well, I thought we could spend a day at the cabin…you could see your family in Walden if you want.’

The sudden thought of arriving at the old trailer home with the new car and the long dark form of Magali next to her, sent a chill down her spine. "We’d have to pack first."

Magali rolled down the window and shouted for Eddie, who promptly trotted towards the car.

"Yeah, Zee, what’s up?"

"Put my Baby away. I’ll see you in two days; I’ll be up in the cabin if you need to reach me."

Eddie nodded and gave the side door a pat as the car veered away. A thin form sidled up to him, barely nudging his side, the sweet scent of the small woman sending the taste of bile into his throat. "The little brat likes expensive gifts, huh?" He heard resentment in the small demanding voice that he knew could belong to only one woman. Callie.

Her hazel, green-specked eyes followed the yellow bug weaving through the columns towards an open gate. She cocked a hip to the side and flipped her head, sending long tendrils of her brown hair flying, while she sucked on the tip of her index finger thoughtfully.

"Stop dwelling on her, Callie, you saw it wit’ your own eyes. Zee loves her, and not you or anyone else is going to put an end to that." He said the words without looking at her, afraid that the sight of her would unleash the hate he felt for the seductive woman.

"No, but sooner or later ‘the little brat’ will. She doesn’t have the balls to deal wit’ someone like Zero…and I’ll be here to pick up the pieces." Callie shrugged, walking away and hoisting a 40 ounce bottle of malt liquor to her lips, she melted into the mob of men and women tangled in a mass of arms and legs, high on ecstasy.

Eddie glared after her.


It was just after five in the morning when they reached the cabin, the indigo blue of the threatening sun changing the color of the lake’s water. Somewhere along the line Casey had begun to yawn and, at the behest of Magali, had pulled off onto the side of the road and turned the wheel over to her. The bumpy road jarred Casey awake in time to see the darkened structure of the cabin tucked away amongst the lifeless trees of winter. The cold rushed in when Magali opened the door to get out, pulling on her leather pea coat as she did; Devi followed her mistress faithfully into the arctic air. Her figure disappeared into the shadow of the cabin, and lights quickly illuminated the porch and the front lawn. The clean scent of snow hung lightly in the air as she made her way back to the car. Frosted bits of grass crunched under her boots, and she opened the trunk and shouldered the bags, before opening the door for a sleepy Casey.

"Come on, Baby. There’s a fireplace in there beggin’ for you to lay in front of."

Casey complied sluggishly, fighting the sudden chill of the crisp mountain air. She rushed inside finding, with dismay, that the cabin was just as cold as it was outside. She settled on the couch while Magali gathered wood and piled it into the fireplace. When the first flames licked cautiously at the dried logs, she turned the thermostat up and warm air gushed noisily through the under-used vents in the floor. Casey had curled herself in a corner of the sofa; still in her coat she had fallen back to sleep with Devi slumped against her. Magali gathered some blankets from the upstairs bedroom and a few pillows. She arranged them before the flickering fire, and gently picked up the small blonde. Laying her on the makeshift bed, she stripped the coat off of her and curled around her, pulling a quilt over them. Devi settled at her feet, glad for the warmth of the fire.

She thought of their first love-making: it had happened in the cabin, in front of the fire. At the time, she had been a fugitive, running from a potential death sentence. One, which she had thought, was inescapable. A police officer’s homicide, New York’s greatest crime, was being blamed on her. Her name was once again in the papers, and she had sought out the peace of the cabin to gather her wits, and prepare for the then inevitable. Casey had found her way to her, and it had been her presence-- at last-- that had given her the strength to face it all.

Morning found the two sleepers unmoved, shaped perfectly into each other with the muscled mass of Devi soundly asleep across their legs. Magali groaned; unwilling to let go of the comforting presence of Casey by her side, her back and neck had become stiff from sleeping in the same position. The small sound stirred a peaceful Casey, who enjoyed the safety and warmth that surrounded her in the form of long legs and strong arms.


"Good morning," Casey moaned into the leather-scented neck of her Black Velvet.

"Past morning, Baby. More like afternoon now. Did you want to head over to Walden, see your family?"

It was just too easy to refuse with Black Velvet so close, so warm, so…have to cut that out or we won’t make it out of here. "Yeah, I should make an appearance, shouldn’t I?"

Magali nodded and began to move, slowly stretching her muscles and displacing a weary Devi while dodging the blonde’s grasp. "Don’t you guys celebrate Christmas Day, or somethin’ like that?"

Missing the opportunity to wrestle Magali back under the covers, Casey held on to the offered alternative of a happy Devi. She wrinkled her brow at the strange question and, before she could bite the words off, was replying with "Yeah, doesn’t your family celebrate Christmas Day?"

"I don’t have…no. Hispanics party on Christmas Eve, get drunk, spend money and then sleep all of Christmas Day." And I did spend it with my family… the guys, Eddie, you…family. "That means they’ll have food at your mom’s, right? I’m starvin’," she finished with an evil grin and tackled an unsuspecting Casey, who gratefully took her back under the covers.




It was the time of the day when Maxine would have gratefully been in bed nursing a hang-over. Instead she found herself pacing the small living room of her trailer home, a cigarette hanging out of her mouth as if it were a natural extension of her lip. She glared at the slightly leaning Christmas tree in the corner, safely tucked into the overcrowded space between the wall and the worn, brown sofa. Some of its lights had burned out, and only a small strand of blinking bulbs stubbornly persevered among the plastic, colored balls and silver tinsel. Idly she picked up a discarded bag of microwave popcorn from the littered coffee table, only to discover the overflowing ashtray for which she had been searching. She hissed through her teeth and, snatching the ashtray, stomped into the kitchen to empty its contents into the garbage can.

"Clifford! Get yer ass up and come take this garbage out, damn it! I tol’ ya to do it days ago, Clifford!"

He had heard her steps creaking against the warped wood of the living room floor for the last half-hour, and had successfully feigned sleep. His head swam, the need for insulin and food growing in its intensity from the moment consciousness had grabbed him. Christmas Day had started with a bang at the stroke of twelve, when a call from the local police station kindly informed them of Russell’s latest arrest. After spending some time silently listening to his mother rant and rave, he had left her looking for some object to pawn and hid under the blankets of his bed. Fortunately, for her, his sister Becky had not returned home the previous night, and he was left to deal with the rhetorical questioning of his birth and his siblings all on his own. The mattress caved in at its center as he hauled his body up and over the side, plucking at the wedgie from the boxers he wore. A copy of Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban slid to the floor. His short blonde hair stood up on end in places, and somehow his T-shirt had managed to crawl half way up his chest exposing the stark ribs underneath. A short trip across the closet-sized room he shared with his brother and down the narrow hall, he faced his disgruntled mother still in her Walmart uniform.

"I’ll do it right now, mother."

"I hate it when ya use that tone with me, Cliff, and ya know it. Where the fuck could yer sister be?"

As if on cue, the screen door slammed shut, and a chill breeze followed the haggard-looking Becky into the kitchen. Her jeans barely reached her navel and the flannel shirt she wore, a favorite of her older brother’s, hung wrinkled over the black sports bra that propped up her chest. She crossed her arms at the angry gaze of her mother and flounced away into her bedroom at the far end of the hall, her dark brown hair swinging behind her.

"I could care less where the hell ya’ been, and yer just lucky yer brother is in trouble again, or I’d take a cane to that little ass of yers, missy!" Maxine had a way of standing in a doorway as if she were talking to someone facing her, and usually it was when she yelled at her children who seemed to disappear into the woodwork.

"Trouble?" Becky yelled from her room. "Call Casey! She solves everything, dun’t she?"

Cliff pinched the skin on his abdomen and pushed the needle in. Pressing the clear fluid from the syringe into his body, he gazed through the kitchen window and caught sight of a yellow Beetle turning the corner onto the pebbled driveway. Unmistakable golden hair shone in the afternoon light behind the steering wheel; he could recognize the posture of his oldest sister at a distance, and pulled out the syringe awkwardly as he did.

"Shit," he yelped at the sting.

"Stop cussing, Cliff. I…" Maxine retorted giving him a slap to the back of his head, as a small knock from the front door interrupted her speech, and she padded over to the door and opened it. "Who the hell…Casey!"

She could hear the yelling from down the street as she had pulled into the trailer park. The sight of her mother disheveled and in her uniform served to heighten her sense of dread. Behind her Magali leaned on the curved fender of the new car, as out of place as the classical CDs she owned scattered among her gangsta’ rap collection. Oh boy, Casey, this is bad. Why did I come here? Because it’s Christmas, and you felt like you had to. A loud shout of glee told her Clifford was awake and on his way to tackle her. His lanky form, half-naked, pushed its way past their mother and out onto the icy welcome mat in bare feet. His long arms clutched her in a bear hug, her head crushed against his chest.

"Shot up a few inches, did ya’?" One second in front of this trailer and I sound like mama, argghhh.

Clifford’s boyish looks gleamed down on her, but the immutable weariness of his sickness darkened his eyes, and she swallowed down the sudden sadness.

"I guess so, big sister. Ha, you’re not so big anymore!"

"Oh sure, crack on my shortness, beanstalk" she replied, following his eyes to where they rested on the dark woman nonchalantly smoking a cigarette. "Let me introduce you…and I dare you to say something about her height," she whispered in his ear as she landed a smile on her lover.

Magali could cut the tension in the air with a knife, and she wondered what was going on behind the eyes that stared at her. She caught the prologue to introduction and flicked the cigarette away, reaching Casey’s side in a few long strides, and extended her hand out to the tall boy with his arm around the small woman’s shoulders. His grip was firm and gentle, and she thought how similar his smile was to his sister’s, though his eyes were the deep color of mahogany.

"Come inside, y’all are creating a scene out here," the raspy voice of her mother commanded, as she let the door slam behind her.

"What’s going on?" Casey questioned, her brows knitting.

"Russell’s in jail again. We better go inside. You know how she gets." It was the conspiratorial whisper her brother used when he didn’t want his mother to hear him, and Casey cringed inwardly.

Maxine wasn’t bad looking, Magali decided. Her blonde hair was stringy and oily, and she could stand to put on some weight but, other than what stress and age had done to her, she was an older version of Casey. The sofa was lumpy and threadbare in places, and a gray cat at her feet was demanding attention. Go away cat, or I’ll feed you to Devi. The soft sound of percolating coffee and its rich scent floated in from the kitchen. Casey sat next to her smiling at her brother, who slumped in an arm chair; their younger, dark-haired sister Becky sat near him on the floor, her knees drawn up to her chest, scowling. No one had spoken to each other since their wordless gathering in the living room, and Magali was beginning to fidget in the silence. She surveyed the room, took in the dusty knick-knacks scattered about the place and the empty soda and beer cans occupying every spare inch of furniture.

"Clear that coffee table, Becky!" Maxine’s sudden shout made her children jump, and Becky shuffled away with an armful of garbage.

Minute’s later Maxine entered the room carrying a loaded tray of steaming mugs, and placed it squarely on the center of the table. Deliberately she placed herself on a corner of the sofa, facing Casey with a skeptical glare.

"I’m guessing yer brother already told you what happened." Maxine handed out the mugs while she spoke.

"Yeah, not everything though. When’s Russell gonna learn Mama, he just can’t do what he wants to all the time." Casey sipped from the mug, steeling herself.

Maxine lowered her head and shot her daughter a knowing gaze beneath hooded lids. "Now you know, Casey Lynn, he just needs a firm hand ‘as all, and with you gone…well, there’s no one here to keep an eye on ‘im, seeing as I have to work all the time. We’re not all as smart as you."

"It has nothing to do with that, mama, and you know it."

"Maybe yer right…but we sure do miss you, baby. I just don’t know how I managed things before ya came along and grew up to be such a help. Sure could use some help now. I would hate for yer brother to spend the holidays in there. Just ain’t right. Maybe the Lord will send something our way," she finished off shrugging.

Casey shook her head pleadingly, grasping her mother’s hand gently in her own as she leaned forward hoping Magali’s hearing wouldn’t pick up her words. "Mama, I don’t have the money for another bail."

"So…where’d ya get the car?"

"Umm…" Casey stuttered, thinking of how to forestall the inevitable response she would get from her mother.

"I bought it for her. It’s a Christmas present." Magali fought to keep from clenching her teeth and smiled smugly instead. She wasn’t at all sure that she liked the look Maxine was giving her Saint. Yeah, I see what you’re about lady. You should hook up with my pops; you’d make quite a pair. Then again…I’d have to hustle a lot harder with you on the team.

"Oh." Maxine was priceless; dollar signs lighting up in her eyes couldn’t have made the evident interest flashing across her features any more obvious. Suddenly the fact that her daughter had walked in with a dark, mysterious woman, who was apparently her lover, was unimportant. Magali could hear the ring of a cash register, and clamped down on her jaw.

"My family’s in the restaurant business. We…cook," she volunteered before Maxine could go further with her line of questioning, and Casey coughed, clearing her throat.

"Yeah mama…umm…Magali’s family has a chain of Cuban restaurants. She manages everything for her dad." And now that you know she has money, I could kiss her into a fervor in front of you and you wouldn’t flinch, would you?

"Well, that’s real nice. Taking care of family is important don’t ya think, Maggie?"

Maggie? "It’s Magali, and yes, family is important…but sometimes we have to stand on our own two feet." I kill my family…

"She wants you to bail Russ out." Becky snapped from the floor, and met the cold ice of Magali’s eyes.

"Hush, Becky," Maxine barked, leaning menacingly towards her youngest child.

"Can I talk to you outside, Baby?" Magali whispered to Casey, standing quickly and heading for the door.

"Excuse us." Casey followed.

Magali lit another cigarette and tilted her head back to watch a few storm clouds gathering in the distance. The cool air felt good on her face, and she breathed it in deeply with a long pull of smoke. She heard the crunch of Casey’s footsteps on the gravel of the driveway, felt the woman’s arms tighten around her waist. Absentmindedly she licked her lips, her stud gleaming in the light.

"Do you want me to bail him out?" The arms tightened, and Casey snuggled her head against her, burying her face against Magali’s chest.

"I don’t want to use you like that…it’s not what we came here for..."

"If I bail him out…will it get her off your back?"

"She’d be happy…but…I don’t know…" Not her money, Casey, not that, not ever.

"Then it’s a done deal. Let me call Eddie and have him Western Union some money to me. Go find out how much it is," she said and playfully whacked Casey’s bottom as her Saint walked away. She reached into the car, where she knew her cellular was and, finishing her cigarette, waited for Casey to return, admiring the openness of the sky. She was stomping out the embers when Maxine’s head popped out through a small window, a huge smile on her face.

"Maggie, ya get in here now, yer’ll catch yer death out there." Then she was gone.

"It’s Magali," she scowled back, shaking her head and shuffling over to the door of the small home.


Police stations in upstate New York were very different from the precincts of the city. They were clean, well ordered, and there was no sign of vandalism on the furniture. The sound of metal doors clanging shut somewhere gave Magali a chill. Too soon I’ll hear that sound shut me in. She walked to the counter, half expecting to see a sliver of hay sticking out of the attending sheriff’s mouth, and cleared her throat.

"I’m here for Russell Bridges."

Her voice disturbed the uniformed man, who gave her a weary look before looking away from his paper and glancing at the clipboard lying under his hand.

"Are you his lawyer?"

Great, now I look like a fuckin’ lawyer? "No, I’m just posting bail for ‘im." A whole big whoppin’ hundred bucks, oooohhhh, bad boy he is. Had that shit in my pocket.

"You have the cash, I’ll get the kid." He grabbed a large ring of keys and disappeared in through a small doorway, grinning at Magali’s obvious discomfort.

Magali had nodded her answer and leaned her back against the counter, her arms resting behind her. Casey waited outside; she could see her through a huge bay window in the waiting room, tapping restlessly on the steering wheel. Holy mother, she looks so good in that little car. Then again…she’d look good in anything little…or nothing at all. A heavy door shutting wiped the wicked smirk off her face, and she replaced it with her usual unreadable countenance. A tall, husky, young man with long dark hair and a lighter goatee followed the sheriff in. The smug black T-shirt emblazoned with a Metallica logo hugged the man’s shoulders and hung loosely around the waist of his faded jeans. Oooh, bad biker movie…anyway.

"This nice lady bailed ya out, Russ. Now be a good boy and go home, huh. The judge is gonna have a field day with ya, son, if ya keep this up." He gave the prisoner a shove in Magali’s direction and resumed the reading of his paper.

"Who the hell are you…my fairy godmother?" Russell asked scratching his head and shoving his hands in his pockets.

I definitely don’t like him. "Funny you should mention hell," she drawled, delivering a thinly-veiled threat. "Now let’s go, your family’s waiting for you."

Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the bright color of the VW beetle outside and, taking a long look at its driver, smiled broadly. "Well, well, sis’ has a new sugar mama, huh?

She stopped mid-step and turned on him, bringing her eye to eye with a suddenly shaken Russell. It took all of her meager control not to swing on the kid, and a few seconds to get the mental picture of splitting his mouth open out of her mind. "Say one more fuckin’, stupid shit sentence, and I’ll be the fuckin’ tooth fairy come to pry ya fuckin’ jaw open…stick my fist down your god damn throat and rip your fuckin’ beatin’ heart out, understand?"

A moment of dead silence and edgy awareness passed between them. Magali wrestled with her temper, feeling the weight of the hidden gun on her hip growing, while Russell’s pride warred with his common sense. The sheriff at the counter glanced at the Mexican standoff, his own hand slowly reaching for the revolver at his side. Static over the station radio. Russell shrugged and turned away; shuffling towards the doors he murmured under his breath "Suit yerself, tooth fairy."

Casey watched her brother amble out of the station and jumped out of the car, glad that his fee had been minimal. She hadn’t been in the mood to face any police officers, knowing that her Black Velvet would soon be locked away from her, and had chosen to wait outside. When her mother had told her that it was an actual fine he had to pay and not bail, she had giggled at the simplicity of the charge. Apparently Russell had had too much to drink at a local bar and had been arrested for being underage and intoxicated, wandering the main street of town. Knowing his mouth…he probably had something smart to say and made the cops angry. He was the local bad boy, breaking hearts and stealing cars; the kid in the back of the class with the constant brooding air about him. The sudden disappearance of their father had affected the boy beyond repair, and Casey ached for him to find some peace or, at least, a job.

"Hey, little brother," she smiled into his neck as she gave him a bear hug. "Fancy meeting you here."

"Thanks for the ‘get out of jail’ card, Sis. Who’s the new money bags?" he whispered to her while Magali was well out of range, paying the sheriff for his freedom.

"Listen, Russ, it’s not like that…Did you…say something to her?" She pushed away from him and caught his eyes in hers, looking for a lie.

"Who me? Naw, no way…she looks like she can kill a bear with them eyes of hers."

"haha…eeyah. Come on, get in; mama is gonna drown you in kisses." You better not have said anything, you rug rat.

The ride back to the trailer park was silent, with Russell splayed out in the backseat and Magali staring out the window, her eyes hidden behind her blue Ray-Bans. Casey sang along with the new Vertical Horizon song being played on the radio, intent on keeping her brother’s words from flaring into memory. True to her character, Maxine received them at the door, yet another cigarette in her mouth, kissing and hugging her son before slapping him into the house.

"Well, you girls better stay for dinner. It’s a long ride back to the city with an empty belly."

Christmas dinner consisted of some sort of casserole and a turkey, a few cans of beer and plenty of belching. Magali scratched at her plate, wondering why there were potato chips mixed into the green beans, and where the spices for the meat had gone. She had kept quiet most of the evening, occasionally looking at her watch and gauging what time they would get back home if they left right away. Devi waited at the cabin, and she wanted some time alone with Casey before turning herself in for sentencing the next morning. Halfway through the passing out of presents Magali excused herself and walked out into the night. She sat on the hood of Casey’s car and looked for the joint she had tucked away for emergencies. Casey had not wanted her to take any drugs, but somehow she managed to tolerate the weed. The sweet fragrance of the burning plant permeated the air around her and, as she closed her eyes and relaxed, she heard the screen door bang closed.

"That weed I smell?"

It was Russell’s voice, arrogant and condescending-- the kind of voice that tweaked her in just the wrong way.

"Did I invite you out here…boy?"

"Well…this is my house yer standing in front of." He pointed with a thumb lazily thrown over his shoulder. "You ain’t bought all of us yet," he added smugly, crossing his arms before his chest.

She exhaled the smoke she was holding in her lungs, and spat on the ground near Russell’s feet. This one thinks he’s a bad ass…you have no idea. "Just what the fuck is that supposed to mean?"

"You rich people are all the same-- think you can come in and flash some money around, and we all will bow down to yer fuckin’ feet. Well…my sister might be fuckin’ you fer yer money…but I could…"

"Shut the fuck up!"

It was instinctual, to reach for the comforting piece of metal that sang in her hand, an extension of her body and being. Russell’s dark eyes widened and his breath caught in his throat. The practiced movement eluded him, and he found himself staring into the black barrel of death come early.

"You piss ant wanna-be. You think you’re big enough to come and play big kid’s games, motha’fucker? What the fuck did I tell ya’ about ya’ mouth, stupid?"


"I, I, nuthin’. Shut up! I’ve fuckin’ had it wit’ ya’ talking shit about ya’ sister, maricon." The beast was close enough to the surface to rip its way out of her chest, spittle glistening on the edge of her lower lip as she let words fly, portraying her anger.

"No, it’s…I just thought…rich ladies…she’s into that, ya’ know, and I just don’t want her to get hurt again. That’s all…I didn’t mean to…."

She took a step closer to him, needing to see the fear clearly etched upon his face. Her chest heaving in fury. She had endured the looks of deprecation from him, and the snide remarks during dinner, but the line was drawn at Casey.

Casey had gone into the kitchen and, placing a dirty glass in the sink, glanced out the window. She caught the flare of danger crossing her lover’s face as she engaged in a conversation with her brother. It was the same look she had seen her wear when she had wielded a bat on a nearly unconscious man. A lump rose in her throat when the tale-tell gleam of Magali’s gun shone from her hand. She watched Russell fall to his knees and, moving quickly, ran towards the door. She has got to learn to control that temper.

"Gali…Stop!" Magali heard in the hushed yell as Casey ran towards her, exasperated. "What the hell is going on?" Casey breathed.

She nestled the weapon back into its holster, and Russell rose to his feet cautiously, his eyes steady on Magali’s hands. "Your brother has a real big mouth on him."

"So you try to shoot him?" She raised her arms in exasperation, letting them fall to her sides with a slap.

Russell swallowed, his eyes darting back and forth from Casey to Magali.

"I wasn’t going to shoot him," she said shaking her head. "He’s got to learn to be careful who he fuckin’ talks to like that. Right, you little pussy?"

Casey knew that if Magali had really wanted to hurt her brother, nothing would have stopped her. She knew that she should just let it go; but, the guilt of her past wouldn’t let her. "So you were going to teach him? He’s just a kid."

"Yeah, a kid that thinks he’s a big shot."

Oh, this is good. Just like Julia…she didn’t like me either, maybe I can get ‘her’ to hit me. Poor Sis, you’re about to get an ugly flashback. It’s for your own good. Calling up the memory, he made his voice mimic the sound of a wounded boy as best he could. "She was, Sis, she was. I begged her not to hurt ya’, and she said ya were just a piece of nice ass. When I said I would tell ya’, she pulled out on me!"

Her brother was pleading with her on his knees, and it confused her. The vision of a younger Russell, in the same position, surfaced from Casey's memory and, in a flash, she was reliving that past. An expanse of light-colored marble under him had made him seem smaller; dark strands of hair stuck to his damp forehead. A red mark across his cheek had slowly begun bruising. Standing firmly above him, in her tight black jodhpurs and high shiny boots, was Julia. Crystal blue eyes sparkled under her short, neatly arranged, blonde hair. She held a riding crop in her right hand, her left rested authoritatively on her hip, just under the flap of a white shirttail. Her mind flashed between the images of Julia and Magali standing over Russell, the faces and stances overlapping, forming and melding. Casey held her breath, willing the resurrected specter of the memory back into its dark corner.

Magali was staring at her, mindlessly chewing her bottom lip, letting the expression of hurt displayed on her Saint’s features sink in, not knowing that it wasn’t really because of her. Casey began to speak but, with a look of terror, hesitated. Her words failed.


"You lying sack of—" She believes him. I’m gonna bleed the fucking truth out of you, you sonofabitch.

Magali’s worst fear was becoming reality. Frayed with tension, the fine cord of control she held snapped, and in one sudden powerful move, she leapt at him. Casey had a split second to think; her impulse to protect took over and made the decision, and quickly she stepped into the way of a savage Magali gone cold. Blinded, her heart pounding in her ears, Magali produced her weapon while lunging for Russell, knocking him and Casey to the ground. Twisting her body, Casey grabbed for her from behind. Magali had straddled Russell’s cowering body and pressed the gun’s muzzle into his mouth. Her nostrils flared, colorless eyes narrowed; she bared her teeth in a show of dark delight. A familiar hand grabbed for the gun. A soft click, one she felt more than heard, told Magali that the safety had come undone.

Shit, shit, this thing is hair-triggered. Damnit woman, a little more pressure and this baby is gonna blow a hole in this kid’s head. " Get off, Casey! You don’t understand." Fuck, just let me scare ‘im. Tell the truth, asshole. God, please make him tell the truth.

She’s going to kill him! Too angry…why is she so angry? Casey lunged for the gun once more, slamming her chest into Magali’s back, pinning the dark woman more tightly against her brother.

One chance…have to get her off me. Have to break her grip.

Magali threw back an elbow, aiming for her Saint’s arm, just as Casey came at her again. She froze as her Saint’s thrashing threw off her aim, and she struck the soft tissue around Casey’s mouth. Instantly she recognized her error, and abandoned the attack on Russell to cradle her Saint. Relieved at the chance to run, he escaped with faltering steps into the house, a satisfied smirk curling his lip.

"Casey…I’m sorry," she pleaded, cupping her Saint’s face, gazing in horror at the trickle of blood running from her lip and the small tears brimming in the woman’s eyes. "God…please, don’t cry, Baby, please. That was dangerous…I…" Magali shook her head, trying to organize her thoughts. "I didn’t know what I was doin’, I was…he made…fuck." Now more than ever, she could see the fear in Casey’s eyes, the betrayal, and her pride reared its stubborn head. "You should have left him in jail a while longer…maybe he would learn…"

The rusty tang of blood in her mouth and the sting of the accidental blow coupled to bring the past into a vicious collision with the present. Not again, I can’t do this again. "Learn what? To be like you?" she nearly yelled, pointing a finger at Magali’s chest as they both rose from the ground. Cerulean eyes winced in a momentary display of inward pain, reminding her, too late, of who stood before her. Fuck…I can’t believe I just said that. She’s not Julia.

It was her heart that dropped first, its beating stopped; her soul took flight as the world crashed soundlessly within her, leaving her empty, and alone once again. Truth, from your lips-- a knife. No judge, no jury, had ever rendered a decision that brought her to such a low. Their opinion never mattered, she had seen herself through their eyes, and had accepted the image. Fragile, the new image she had begun to see reflected in an ocean of tender, emerald green faded under the destructive onslaught of waves fashioned out of four words. To be like you. Zero had never been more welcomed to take possession, and willingly Magali stepped aside, letting Zero swallow and numb the pain shredding her spirit.

"I think I better go, Casey," her voice devoid of emotion.

Her words, intended for another, weighed heavily, their import stunning and rendering her speechless. With repentance stuck in her throat, Casey lost her one chance to recant and explain. Her Black Velvet disappeared in the dark shadow of Zero, along with her chance to make amends.

"I think you’re right." She said I, Casey. Not we, but…I.


The cabin had been dark when Eddie arrived, the flicker of a fire from within splashing against the pane of a window-- the only sign of life. Magali sat on the sofa fully clothed, her legs wide, feet firmly on the floor, with her head bent back, staring at the ceiling. Images of the silent ride back with Casey flashed mutely in her mind. "About fuckin’ time," was her greeting to him before she extinguished the fire and pushed past him in a liquid rush, Devi at her heels. He barely had time to get back in the Jeep, his injured leg slowing him down, when she put it in gear and began to back out of the driveway. He dared to ask after Casey, his concern answered with the brief, cold retort of, "She’s spending a few days with her family." He knew her moods, had braced himself through enough rampages and surges of anger from the dark woman to know when to stay perfectly quiet. She played turbulent music, loudly, and didn’t speak until they hit the corner of 164th Street.

"Go upstairs, and get me my party bag," she ground out through clenched teeth.

"What’s going on, Zee?" he pleaded, finding courage in the knowledge of what she was planning.

"Eddie…" she growled menacingly as she pulled the Jeep to a full stop.

"Fine…I’ll be right down," he breathed and winced inwardly as the door slammed behind him.

What the fuck? Damn it, don’t act so surprised, Eddie. This is what I am, all I am. I see it…she sees it. It was just a matter of time, Zee. You were fooling no one but yourself, stupid. Thought maybe she was it, naw, there’s no way a woman like that could stay around a fuckin’ animal like you. From the cradle to the grave. Try not to forget again. What sin did you commit, Casey… to have me as your penance?


He hobbled up the stairs, unsure whether he should be upset or worried. The party bag. He had not thought he would be gathering her party favors ever again; he had seen the smile that crossed her face when she looked at Casey, and the gleam in the blonde’s green eyes. Yet, almost without thinking, he retrieved the brown leather backpack she kept in a closet of the "office", and began to fill it. A bottle of Glenlivet, a roll of cash, a twenty dollar bag of weed, and a half of a kilo. With his errand finished, he made his way back down the steps-- the ache in his leg a sharp stabbing-- to find a familiar scene. Two women sat in the backseat of her Jeep, leaning over each other to put their hands on her, while she fondled a third in the passenger seat. These women worked for her, would die for her, and regardless of their usual preference, would sacrifice their bodies to her every whim. He was relieved not to see Callie among them.

"Here, Zee," he yelled over the blaring music cascading out of the open window.

With three pairs of hands caressing her, stroking her hair, she turned her eyes on him. They were empty. He nearly choked on the tears he stubbornly held back, and patted Devi’s head while he listened to Magali’s instructions.

"Get me a limo for tomorrow, and get a suit out of my closet. Meet me at the Hilton no later than eight in the mornin’. I get locked up tomorrow…don’t want to be late." She scowled and grabbed the bag, the tires of the Jeep screeching away.

The ride went by in a blur of roaming hands and heart pounding bass. The deep potholes of the city streets occasionally jarred the riders as she pushed purposefully on the gas pedal. Her eyes caught the glimmer of the ‘Z’ pendant hanging from the rearview mirror; it flashed a golden reflection onto her hand, where her ring caught the light with glittering diamonds. She called ahead to the hotel and made her reservation for the night. Light fingers touched her neck. A garage attendant in a dark jacket met her with a smile and an outstretched hand. She pushed the Jeep keys into his palm and motioned for the women to follow her in. Catching the moment of hesitation from the valet when he spotted Devi, she slipped two hundred-dollar bills into his other hand. "I’ll call down when I have a room; send them up the back way, Bro’." He nodded, his smile wider than before, and gave her a wink.

She registered in the lobby alone, the backpack hanging from her shoulder, and wordlessly took the small card offered to her as a key. The elevator played easy listening music as it ascended to the tenth floor, and she watched the numbers light up one by one on the door panel. Low lights cast a soft shadow over the hallway, the plush carpet muffling her footsteps. The room was spacious with one king-sized bed, its dark blue quilt matching the coloring of the wallpaper and rug. A lounge chair and coffee table were placed near the window; a large screen TV filled an open cabinet. She picked up the phone and dialed the valet, giving him her room number and hanging up the phone in the same instant. Quickly she searched the edges of the furniture, the sprinkler system, TV and lamps for any surveillance devices. Satisfied that there were none, she prepared for the night. She opened the backpack and, taking advantage of the smooth surface of the mahogany furniture, opened and spread the white crystalline powder on the coffee table by the window. A quick dip of her fingertips into the mound and she was breathing the substance in, shaking her head as the bitterness hit the back of her throat. She pulled her jacket and holster off and, throwing them into a corner of the room, placed her gun by the deadly white heap on the table. She finished emptying the bag, placing the roll of cash in a drawer, the weed on the table with its book of rolling paper and, with the bottle of Glenlivet open and in her grasp, she slumped into the lounge chair.

A small click from the door, and Devi loped in; settling her self by the door as it closed behind the three women, she yawned. Their bodies were sleek, shapely from shoulder to calf, strong sharp features in the tradition of those of mixed race. Coffee- and cream-colored skin graced the tallest of the three; the other two, although equal in height, mixed in a beautiful blend of caramel and bronze.


"Mmm…Coffee, Cream and Berry… take what you want." Magali smirked and waved her hand over the table.

Magali took a long swallow from the bottle, watching the women separate the powder into long thick lines and inhale them with a rolled bill. Cream packed the web of skin between her thumb and index finger with some of the powder and, straddling her lap, held it up for Magali to snort. She pressed her lips onto the dark woman’s, her hands wandering down Magali’s chest, patiently unbuttoning the denim shirt she wore. Stripped of her shirt, Magali pulled the white T-shirt out of the waist of her jeans and sighed, leaning further back into the chair. Coffee sat on the edge of the bed, Berry kneeling at her feet, while she rolled the shredded weed into two sheets of paper. Berry lit a match and held it up for Coffee, who puffed on the end of the joint until a small orange ember appeared. Coffee leaned over, placing the lit end of the joint in her mouth, offering her lips to Berry, who closed her mouth around the other end. Their lips brushed lightly. Berry plucked the joint from Coffee’s lips, passing it to Magali, her lips and tongue exploring Coffee’s mouth.

Magali watched - Cream suckling the skin of her neck, grinding her hips against her, as the other two women relieved themselves of their clothes. Hands searching and cradling. She took in some of the smoke, holding it in, her lungs on fire as she finally exhaled it. They knew exactly what she wanted. To lose herself, fill the cold emptiness, forget. She felt Cream remove her top and bra, fling them to the side, and press her bare chest to her as she continued to grind. Coffee and Berry knelt in the middle of the bed their bodies tightly pushed together, their mouths locking, lips glistening. Their small moans reached Magali’s ears, and she put the joint in an ashtray.

She brought more of the powder into her system with the edge of a matchbook, and pulled back on Cream’s curly, long black hair, grazing her neck with her teeth. "Get up and take everything off, Cream," Magali demanded. When the woman stood before her, naked, she grabbed her waist and turned her, forcing her to sit on her lap, facing away from her. Cream’s legs spread open. A strong bronze hand grabbed and kneaded Cream’s breast, a second wandered down her taut belly, stopping momentarily to pull the silver ring piercing her belly button. Magali explored the woman’s folds with her fingers, caressing her center, entering her when she found her more than amply wet. "Watch them, Cream." The woman squirmed on her lap, rubbing herself against the rough cloth of Magali’s jeans. Coffee and Berry touched each other, their hands making small urgent circles at their cores, beads of sweat shimmering on their skin. Berry bowed slightly; capturing a dark erect nipple in her mouth, she suckled lustfully.


"They’re getting close, Cream…can you see it?" she whispered into her ear. "I think you should do something about that, don’t you? It’s too early for the show to end."

Magali pushed the woman away from her and up to her feet. With one hand she pulled the belt off her waist and handed it to Cream, giving her a small nod of permission. Cream circled the bed, swinging the doubled belt first on one woman’s buttocks, then the other. Each flung her head back in response to the strikes; red welts rising on their skin, they continued to rub and touch, emitting deep moans. Magali picked up the joint and pulled from it, her eyes intent on the display of passion being exhibited for her entertainment. Sensed her own heat rising between her thighs. When nearly every inch of their firm globes had turned bright with color, Magali commanded "enough", and beckoned Cream to her side. Standing up from the chair, she clasped the woman’s hands and placed them on the buttons of her jeans. Delighted, Cream began the process of disrobing her.

Bereft of clothing, Magali sat once again, pulling the woman towards her to straddle her lap as before. Cream writhed at Magali’s touch, pinching and rolling her nipples between strong, fiery fingers. The sight of Coffee burying her mouth in the plush darkness of Berry’s triangle, as she – knelt -- spread over Berry’s own mouth, was propelling Cream forward. Magali felt her shiver as the women’s bodies rose in waves, their climaxes making their imminent appearances. "Come for me, ladies." They shook, groaning into each other, their breath drawn and ragged in final release. Magali pushed herself onto her feet. Cream turned, wrapping her legs around Magali’s waist. Cupping her hands under Cream’s ass, supporting her weight, she made her way to the bed and laid over her.

Soft, warm lips on her back made her shiver. The feel of flesh both beneath and above her scalded her skin. Cream’s thigh found her center, and she ground against her. The smaller woman under her arched her back, offering herself, as two pairs of hands and lips scorched the skin of her back, shoulders, neck, and legs. She was surrounded, every nerve on end, yearning filling her. She rolled onto her back and pulled Cream over her shoulders. Her lips sucked on the woman’s hardened nub and, tasting the honey moistening Cream’s nether lips, felt it dripping onto her chin. Two tongues and two pairs of lips kissed at her own core, exploring her folds as well as each other’s mouths. Hands caressed her legs and stomach, and she slapped her palm onto the buttocks above her, causing a small yelp to rise from Cream’s throat. She rode the crest, giving both pleasure and pain as her body was worshipped. The ice within her melted momentarily and, as Cream rocked and quivered, an inferno of sensation overtook her. Ripping through her. Brutishly she grasped the thighs at her shoulders, the mouths and tongues teasing the rush of orgasm out of her.

Cream lay to her right, Coffee to her left, her tight bleached blonde curls tickling her neck, both their heads on her shoulders, their legs tangled with hers. Berry stretched herself out on her stomach, laying her head on Magali’s belly, her shoulder-length, auburn hair covering Magali’s pelvis, her arms wrapped around the dangerous woman’s waist protectively.

"Plenty of blow left…don’t let it go to waste."

Berry planted a wet, tender kiss on Magali’s thigh, crawled off the bed, made a white line and took it in. She padded into the bathroom, returning with a glass she quickly filled with Scotch. As Cream took her turn at the table, Berry lifted one of Coffee’s breasts in her palm. Tipping the glass and wetting the woman’s nipple with the golden liquor, she offered it to a casual Magali. Coffee leaned in closer, bringing the treat to Magali’s mouth. To be like me. The dark woman’s lips surrounded Coffee’s areola, licking the strong liquid cleanly off the flavored nipple, as her other hand caressed its partner. Berry bit at the tender skin of her inner thighs, smoothing out the nips with loving kisses. Coffee’s mouth met hers, allowing Magali to ravage her lips and mouth with tongue and teeth. Coffee savored the feel of the warm stud running across her lips. A dip in the bed announced the renewed presence of Cream, who eagerly took in one of Magali’s nipples, as Berry’s lips closed around her clit. The sensations began anew, with Magali surrendering to the attentions of her three playmates. An open temple to the devoted few, who prayed licentiously, while the goddess smiled.

Early in the morning Eddie knocked on the door, a garment bag flung over his shoulder. Wisely he had chosen to use his cane after over using the wounded leg the day before. He heard the running hum of a shower cease, and the slamming of a door. Magali appeared in the doorway, a towel wrapped around her torso, her wet, black hair clinging to her skin. He could tell she had not slept yet.

"Great fuckin’ timing, Eddie," she huffed and returned to the bathroom.

The room was a mess with empty glasses and discarded towels strewn about. A heap of white powder remained on the table, Magali’s gun, black as coal, next to it. He could smell the heady scent of marijuana and women after sex, something akin to the smell after a hard rain, and debated whether or not to venture further into the room. Shrugging off the thought, he stepped foot into the room proper and gazed at the large bed. The three women he had watched Magali leave with were asleep. Their naked bodies tangled in a collage of white sheets, skin, hair and limbs. He caught a glimpse of a few bruises, long and angry, some clearly finger and hand prints. Eddie chewed on his lip, imagining the goings on of the previous night. He kicked the side of the bed and the women stirred, mouthing whispered complaints and groans.

"Get up and get out," he stated flatly, pointing at the door with his cane and throwing what he found left of the roll of cash at them. "Quickly."

"Aww, Eddie, you’re not gonna take her away from us already, are you? It’s too early, what’s the rush?" The dark blonde-headed woman stretched herself away from her groaning companions, and knelt on the bed. Eddie took in her length before turning away with a smirk.

"Nice try, Violet. But the big mean in there has a court date."

"A court date?" groaned the mass of auburn hair from under a pillow.

"Morning, Shy. Yeah, she’s got a court date, and we can’t be late."

"Why? It’s not like they’re gonna lock her up again right?" A surprised black-haired woman jumped out of the sheets, a thread catching the ring on her belly and making her flinch.

"She’s going in for sentencing, Vicky, I don’t know when she’s coming back. So just be quiet, get dressed, and leave. I don’t think she’s in the best of moods."

"Who’s gonna take care of things, Eddie?" a startled Violet exclaimed.

"Don’t worry about it, it’ll all get done. Now move, before she comes out."

"Aye Dios mio…Eddie, tell her I’ll light a candle for her alright?"

"Yeah, sure."


By the time Magali emerged from the bathroom, the room was cleared except for Eddie, who was packing away her gun for safekeeping. Slowly but surely she was being stripped of herself. Left, eventually, with only her name and, then, within a few hours she would be nothing more than a number.

"You got rid of ‘em…good," she said removing the gold chain and medallion her father gave her, and the gold ring crowned with onyx and diamonds from her mother. It was an heirloom passed down from colonial days. She left the heavy, hematite rosary to hang against the skin of her chest, and frowned as she twisted the screw ball off her tongue bar.

"I bought you this plastic thingie you can put in there, Zee." He handed her a tiny, clear plug. "Oh, and Vicky said she would light a candle for you."

She replaced the bar with it and gave him a nod of approval, and knitted her brows. "Good lookin’ out. Who the fuck is Vicky?"

A hard slap hit him on the back of his head, and Magali gave him her wicked smile. "Love you too, Zee," Eddie smiled back, rubbing his neck.

Devi padded to her side, and she rubbed the dog behind her ears. "Tell Jesse to take good care of her for me, alright?" As if knowing her mistress was leaving her for more than a few days, Devi let out a low, deep howl. "And you…look after Casey."

Eddie nodded and brushed an errant speck off the shoulder of her dark blazer. She looked as menacing as ever in a black turtleneck and pantsuit, her hair wild and loose. Taking a last look around the room and rolling her shoulders, she took one last deep breath of the scent of freedom.

"Let’s go."



She rode in the limousine Eddie had procured, alone, stretching out on the polished leather, sniffling briskly from the effects of using drugs once again. Busy downtown streets bustled with activity; she watched the people and buildings with dead, ice blue eyes. The long vehicle made its way through traffic, and came to a smooth stop in front of the court building, finishing its delivery of previously ground meat for the butcher. It wouldn’t be the first time she was put through the justice sytem’s grinder. Steep marble steps flowed upwards, ending on a small platform lined with columns, a frieze above it in the Greek style of public buildings. Amongst all the boroughs, it was the grandest of court buildings; the others were monstrosities of modern architecture. Without windows or style, they were mere blocks of brown brick compared to the Manhattan branch; it stood out on its own in a city full of elaborate and varied structures.

Daly waited for her at the top; his blonde hair had recently taken a cut. Finding her bearings, she took the steps one at a time, pulling on her Ray-Bans. He spoke to her in hushed tones, while she ignored him but nodded her head, feigning interest. Inside people of all types milled around. He found her docket number posted on a board and instructed her to follow. The courtroom was loud, with more then a dozen offenders waiting to be called to judgement. Legal Aid lawyers scampered about like rats, holding piles of papers and folders. The benches were wooden and well worn, and quietly she took a seat next to a young Hispanic man wearing the latest in thug fashion. He opened his mouth to speak, and she nailed him with her eyes.

"Say one word to me and I’ll fuckin’ kill you right here."

Disguising his unexpectedly shaken confidence he wordlessly slid away from her, trying to look very much the part of a hardened criminal.

Hers was the first case up, and she, practiced in the procedure, went through the motions blindly. She opened the small swinging door of the low wooden wall that separated the benches from the courtroom floor; it creaked, and then took her place behind the left table. Standing numbly next to a straight-backed Daly, she removed her shades and trained her eyes on the wood grain of the table before her. This was a sentencing, and she needed only to utter one word during the entire process, a word that had rung repeatedly in her head throughout the ride there. Guilty.

From a distance, she heard her cue. "How do you plead," she was asked. "Guilty" slipped easily from her lips as she focused her eyes for the first time judge seated on the high bench. Who the fuck is that? The dark-robed woman, with graying red hair, peered over the file before her through small reading glasses.

"Daly, where’s the other judge?" she whispered to him, panicking.

"I told you…he had a heart attack. Weren’t you listening?" he whispered back out of the corner of his mouth.

"Fuck," she breathed under her breath. The judge looked up.

"I see here you have a long list of arrests. Only minor convictions, except for something when you were younger. I would know what that was if you had not been a minor at the time. But do you know what that tells me, young lady? It says you haven’t changed much, and you’ve probably just been lucky…and have gotten away with much more serious offenses since then. These charges you have just pled to carry a penalty of up to a year in prison, with the possibility of parole within six months. However, for some reason I do not understand, the generous D.A has asked that the maximum sentence be foregone and replaced with a maximum of six months for you. That means you could be out in two to three months. Somehow I doubt someone of your apparent temper could manage that…so, I’m willing to abide by his strange wishes, and sentence you to a maximum of six months…maximum security." She closed the file and, looking straight into Magali’s eyes, lifted the gavel and slammed it home.

The sound thundered.

Her eyes never left the judge, and she felt, more than saw, the two guards closing in on her. With a casual, but tight-lipped, air, she held up her wrists and the cold steel clamped down on flesh and bone. When they went for her arms she pulled away, and walking in the direction of the scarred wooden door tucked into a corner of the room, spat on the floor.

Hours later with both wrists and ankles manacled and connected by chains to another on her waist, she was pushed out through a steel door chained to ten other women. A bus waited, with enough steel bars and armor to scare the woman behind her to tears. Down a narrow alley, just beyond the gates opening up to the street, she could see people walking by, going about their daily business. A tug on the metal lead pulled her forward, as she searched for any glimpse of golden hair. Magali flared her nostrils as another tug forced her up the stairs of the bus. It was useless she knew but, despite herself, she took one last look over her shoulder, and allowed hope to die. Fucking me for my money. The cries behind her grew louder. If she doesn’t shut up, I’m gonna wipe the floor with her. The grates on the windows sliced the light into squares and, as the door slammed on the cage dividing driver from prisoners, she let her head lean against the Plexiglas window and shut her eyes. Home away from home. Right where you belong.

Continued - Part 3

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