"Hey, Yo. Wassup? Devi in da house! Yeah, its me the dog, whod you expect? Huh? This heres the second Sacrament, and if ya dont remember dat it all started with the first then Im remindin ya. Ummm, dat would be Absolution. My mistress, and her girl the one she, you know may look like you know who, but theyre not, alright? So I own em okay, so Morrig owns em. Theres lots of heavy shit, what is it you humans call it? Yeah dats it violence in this story, and yeah lots of sex too Im waiting for my turn, since its like Im the only one who isnt gettin any in this friggin story. Theres some mushy stuff, some steamy stuff, some whips and chains too. If ya cant take it you know girls doin girls take it to someone who cares. Oh, yeah theres bad language, come on, my human talks like a truck driver sometimes ghetto! If youre looking for a story that gives ya the fuzzies all the way through it it aint here, these streets are mean and sos my mistress I like her like dat. Now grab your biscuits and your bowl of beer and sit! Rough rider comin through! Bring a toothpick too, the grit gets thick .Heres a little something to start you off, I found this in a book Im chewing hey, the covers leather, I couldnt help it the page this is on is heavy with my mistress scent."Invictus
Out of that night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be,
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeonings of chance,
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears,
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years,
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Penitencia: the second sacrament
Morning was a black and white documentary. Hazy winter light filtered in through the curtains of the glass balcony doors and fell timidly on the occupied four poster bed. What was morning to the restless figure staring dazedly at the blank ceiling, was, in reality, well past noon. The last thing the dark-haired woman wanted to do was move away from the incredibly comforting presence nestled at her side. Casey slept peacefully on her shoulder, steady breaths warming the skin of her neck. A small tender hand lying at the center of her bare, bronzed chest radiated tranquility, but did little to calm the pounding in her chest. The stark walls began to close in on her, and her breathing quickened, sweat dampening her brow. Fuck, this is what I get for sobering up? I must be in love with you, she thought glancing at the sleeping woman. A rumbling in her stomach announced her bodys intentions, and she grimaced. Withdrawing from the securely attached blonde was painful, and the chill air struck against her skin, momentarily distracting her from the tenacious cramping gripping her. Holding on to one of the bedposts, she found some balance and moved on unsteady legs towards the bathroom.
Her senses rebelled and, thankfully, she found solace in the cool feel of the tiles against her back as she leaned on the bathroom wall. A long dark bruise across her shoulder blades marked the impact of the fire escape, where she had fallen with the weight of one angry corrupt cop on top of her the previous night. She replayed the scene in her head, how she had twisted from under him and straddled the frightened man, images of what he had done to Casey vivid in her mind. She knew them well, had seen them done, had been on the other end of the blue current. She thought of how close she had come to slitting his throat before a soft voice had called to her and challenged her rage with calm. My Saint, pulling me away from Hells gate. Bile crept up her throat; a stabbing in her center made her buckle and the room spun. I hate this shit Fuck, when did I eat last?
It would be worse with an empty stomach, she knew. The drugs and the alcohol would be safely tucked away in her blood stream, and she would have to wait for them to run their course. It would take longer, and her head would ache from the force of her efforts to purge herself before her body realized there was nothing to expel. Gritting her teeth to keep silent, she curled into herself, holding her midsection while the spasms wracked her frame and her muscles contracted. One more heave, one more wrench, it echoed in the belly of the porcelain god, and she clutched its sides praying for a cease-fire from her body. The last stitches in her chest pulled achingly, and she fleetingly thought of cutting them away herself. Taking a deep breath to still her irregular panting, her face received a wet, hot lick. Devi had sauntered in, peered at her mistress then down into the bowl, gave a lions roar yawn and smacked her lips. "The breath, Devi its not helping," she said pathetically, rubbing the dogs head as she stood, glad the animal had survived the shooting that had threatened both their lives.
She opened the cold water tap and let the sink fill half way. Unceremoniously she dunked her head into the cool liquid, whipping back her wet hair as she straightened. Water dripped down her torso, and she shivered with another cramp. Mercifully they were winding down. A soft groan in a familiar voice drew her attention to the other room and, swallowing a mouthful of cold tap water, she meandered towards the sound.
Casey held her pillow in a death grip, her jaw clenched and her brow furrowed. Slowly Magali crept to the moaning woman, lying by her side and gathering her up in trembling arms. "Shhhh, Casey, its me. Wake up baby, youre dreaming," she whispered to the small blonde.
Casey abruptly clawed at the arms holding her, green eyes suddenly opening and taking in her surroundings. Pale blue eyes regarded her with trepidation, and she relaxed against the firm body that embraced her against an imagined threat.
"Gali I was so scared, I thought you werent coming and I "
Magali rocked her gently, soothing away the fear and the nights demons she felt more than responsible for. My fault. The smaller woman clung to her, returning the affection and giving Magali a squeeze. Nausea gripped her once again, and she held her breath to counter the feeling and need to bolt from the bed and away from Casey. Stay put, itll pass.
The blonde sat up, looking over the long torso half-naked by her side. She took in the pale lips, the absence of color, and the small beads of sweat clinging to the womans forehead. "Baby, whats wrong," she asked smoothing away some raven strands that fell across Magalis face. "Youre sick," she asserted to a silent head that shook in denial as the face betrayed the lie with a small wince.
"Have you eaten anything?" she continued, pulling the covers up and around the shivering form.
"Cant," Magali replied, curling herself into a ball.
The medic in Casey became concerned "Well, you have to at least drink something." Shit, is she going through withdrawal or something?
"Its not withdrawal, Casey." The blonde was surprised to hear her unvoiced question answered. "Just had a little too much," she croaked into the pillow.
"Define too much?" She stood barefoot on the floor, ignoring the chill of the wood beneath her feet, her hands were on her hips.
"A few grams, a bottle or two, Im not sure really. Wasnt keeping count. Must have been the pain killers," she half groaned.
"Pain killers! Please tell me you werent on medication as well, Magali Guerrerro!"
Okay, shes yelling at me. Who ever yells at me? Feels good kinda, if my head werent about to explode.
Magali dug herself into the pillow and rode the latest wave of pain and nausea. Every sound was in stereo, every move felt like a ride on the Mambo at Disney. The shorter womans steps, more like stomps, vibrated as she left the room in a huff. Magali lay on her back and draped an arm across her eyes; a quick slump of the mattress and a heavy thud on her thigh announced the presence of a sly Devi. Normally she would shoo the animal off the bed, but the energy necessary eluded her, and she felt some comfort in the warmth of the animal resting against her leg. I wonder whos been lettin you sleep with them, Devi? Casey you were suckered. Stone still she listened to the clatter from the kitchen.
Casey searched the kitchen looking for nothing in particular, but mentally taking note of what she would need to make something edible. So many things had happened within a few days, that she was having trouble coming to terms with something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich. She slammed drawers and cabinet doors, frowning at the shape the kitchen was in and at the empty bottle of Glenlivet in the trash. What am I so angry about? How reckless she is that shes going back to prison that she wont stop that shell be dead before shes thirty? Daly? Webster? That I dont know what the fuck is going on?! The sagging bag of cocaine on the coffee table leered at her, and she stomped towards it, trash can in tow. A low voice stopped her before she could dump it.
"Not in there. Gimme." Magali leaned against the arched doorframe of the living room, clad only in a T-shirt and high cut-off sweats. She held her hand out, palm up. Grudgingly Casey put the bag in her hand, and she paced away into the bathroom. A few seconds later Casey heard the toilet flush, and Magali walked in, dragging herself from one room to the other with little enthusiasm. She deposited the now empty, wet bag in the trash. Tenderly she took hold of Caseys wrists and pulled her close, wrapping her long arms around the smaller woman. "When you want to talk about it, or just yell at me some more let me know. You dont have to wreck the place to get my attention, okay?"
In truth, there had been little else that had held her attention for several days, beginning with Caseys witnessing Magali unmercifully beat a man in the street with a bat. She had taken off, and Magali had chased her, to explain that the man had raped a young girl. However, when she caught up to Casey at her apartment, their ensuing argument hadnt given her the chance. Instead of pleading her case, Magali had angrily left. With Casey left alone in her apartment, Webster took advantage of his opportunity. Webster, an officer whose plan to steal money from her had failed, had taken Casey. Subjected her to a night of terror. Magalis involvement in the drug trade and her dealings with corrupt police officers had made a hostage of her Saint; a situation she had remedied by effecting a rescue.
Casey snuggled into the strong chest before her and buried her face in the soft cloth of the T-shirt Magali wore. The dark womans scent gave her a sense of security, the steady beating under her ear providing some sort of peace. With her hands around the solid waist, she felt the back muscles go tense, as Black Velvets body reacted to a change in the sounds coming from the hallway outside the apartment. Magali put a finger to her lips, and darted off into the bedroom, returning with a gun in one hand and a clip in the other. Quickly she snapped the pieces together and waved a hand at Casey motioning for her to lie on the floor while she silently slid to the door. Her back against the wall, one hand resting on the door, and the gun pointed at chest level, she waited. The watch Casey wore ticked loudly, and she chanced a look up to see Devi waiting with her mistress, haunches ready to spring. Three deafening knocks and Magali called out nonchalantly over her shoulder. "Who?"
"Its me, Eddie," came the muffled reply.
Magali whipped the locks open and stormed into the kitchen. The pane shook as she slammed the lower window up and poked her head through the opening. "Nelson, you shit! Why the fuck didnt you tell me Eddie was on his way up?!"
"Its just Eddie I didnt think "
"Thats your fuckin problem, Nelson, you dont think! Get your ass up here!" The window clattered shut.
The anger on her face was plainer than mud on a white car in a desert, and as Eddie entered, he inched away from her and nearer to Casey. Eddie wore a large Jets football jersey over a black hooded sweatshirt, and he had recently shaved according to the red bumps on his face. He sat on the couch and put a thick, hard briefcase down on the surface of the coffee table. There was silence until a meek head appeared at the door, eyes downcast and ready to take a hit. Long forceful strides brought Magali the few feet from the kitchen door, where she had remained fuming, to inches away from a cowering Nelson. Unexpectedly a small body intercepted her path, and she stopped short.
"Nelson, hi. You remember me, right?" Nelson nodded, relieved to hear the sweet sound of Caseys voice, instead of the stinging slap he had expected.
"Now, you wouldnt let anyone sneak up here, would you?" Again Nelson nodded wholeheartedly. "So next time, anyone," she emphasized the word anyone, "comes here, you will let us know right?" Magali looked from Nelson to Casey, an expression of pure bewilderment on her face.
"I I swear, the fuckin Pope wont get here without you knowing, Zee. I swear to God."
Casey laid a hand on Magalis chest soothingly and maneuvered herself into a position where she couldnt help but look into her eyes. "He can go back downstairs now, right, Zee?"
Magali nodded, her soul swimming in emerald green depths and, with the flick of her wrist, dismissed the terrorized guard. The door shut quietly while both women silently regarded each other, unveiled passion gleaming from blue eyes. The smaller blonde leaned upwards, grazing her lips gently against heated crimson ones.
Eddie cleared his throat, disrupting the moment of calm. "Um Zee, I just need you to look at this and then Im out."
Regretfully, Magali tore herself away from Casey and flung her solid frame next to Eddie. "Could you excuse us, Casey?"
Casey crossed her arms and squared her shoulders in the best imitation of Magali she could muster. "No. I cant. You are stuck with me, so I may as well know what Im in for."
Magali frowned and patted the space next to her, then directed her attention to the briefcase and snapped it open. Casey was tucking her legs in underneath her when she caught sight of the cases contents. Stacked in neat bundles, a white band stamped with a blue hand securing each stack, were crisp one hundred-dollar bills. Atop it all, in a clear bag, shining flakes of crystal sparkled in a solid block of white. "This what you wanted to see, Casey?"
"Shit! Eddie, she just got out last night! Cant this wait!" Caseys explosion was aimed at the defenseless man and, without looking back, she sulked out of the room. Chewing on the inside of his lip and stifling a laugh, Eddie glanced at Magali.
"Lets make this quick okay," she said as she gave him a slap to the back of the head.
"Owww, fine. This is the new stuff that just came in, and Khamal said I should give you this money said you would know what to do with it? I counted it, Zee, its 250,000, man."
"Yeah? No duh idiot. Give me your pocket knife."
Eddie fished in his jeans pocket and produced a small Swiss Army knife, pried a blade open and handed it to Magali. With it she poked a hole in the bag and licked the dusted blade.
"Thats fine, pack it all up and move it out."
"Youre not going to try some?" The expression on his face was priceless; a customary routine had been broken.
"Nope. Oh, and save some for Brooklyn."
"You heard me. Now go about your business. Leave me with my raging little blonde, will ya? And take that bag with you."
It was all he could do to keep from laughing as he ducked a blow, which hit him regardless of his efforts, and trudged out of the living room and out the door.
The few steps down the hall to the bedroom seemed like an interminable distance, and Magali gathered her strength and her wits about her. How much do I tell her? Should I tell her? If I dont, what will happen? Shell leave? Casey sat defiantly in the middle of the bed, a pillow on her lap, glaring into space.
"Hi," Magali ventured cautiously. I make grown men shake, and this little woman scares the hell out of me. In return, she received an unwavering, icy green stare. "Want to yell some more?" Please say something, anything.
"Yes I want to yell! I dont want that stuff around." She came face to face with uncertain cerulean eyes.
"Okay. Ill make sure it isnt. When youre here, Ill just step out."
"No, I mean ever. Even when Im not here."
"Casey, I "
"But " It was the eyes, she had decided, that melted her reserves, and allowed the blonde to ask anything of her. "Alright, it wont come in the house, but I cant stay away from it, Casey. Thats impossible."
A tentative smile slowly worked its way across Caseys features and Magalis spirit soared in its warmth, satisfied with the temporary reprieve. The smaller woman knelt, bringing her level with a strong neck. She wrapped her hands in the dark tresses and pulled the woman down into a kiss; instantly Magalis tension disappeared. Casey buried her face in the bronze skin. Fighting back tears of fear and longing, she whispered, "Nothing is impossible. This stuff is going to kill you, one way or the other please, baby, I need you here. When, Gali, when will you be able to stay away?"
The words were soft-- barely audible; but they were thunderclaps in Magalis ears. Shit, shes not talking today or tomorrow. Shes talking longer way longer. Her heart raced with the implications of the plea.
"Youll have to trust me on this one, Case. Let me do what I have to, and I promise you will never live in fear again."
Casey was at a loss and unwilling to press the issue further. It was a small battle and she had won. "Honey, why dont you lay down, youre not looking very well. Let me get you a glass of juice, okay?" While Casey ambled off, Magali grimaced at the cramp she had been holding back and punched the pillow to release it. The sheets were cool, smelled of a certain blonde, and they lent her some solace in Caseys absence. Not much time passed, before Casey returned with a rather large glass of orange juice, and held it to Magalis lips. She drank eagerly and lay down once the glass was empty. Casey curled next to her and she pulled her closer, draping herself with the smaller womans body. Sleep came easily.
In the young hours of the night, the phone began to ring, breaking the silence and the serenity. Groggily Magali reached for the phone on the nightstand, but a slender arm gently pulled her away.
"Please dont pick that up," Casey murmured seductively in her ear. Gladly Magalis attention turned away from the irritating noise of the ringing, and she wrapped herself around the smaller woman.
"Good idea, Id rather pick you up instead." A wicked smile formed on her lips, and she nuzzled into the blondes neck nipping gently at the skin there. It was warm, a little too warm, and she withdrew, peering closely at green cloudy eyes. "Did any paramedics take a look at you last night?"
"I didnt feel like sticking around." She rolled over on her stomach and hid her face in the pillow, golden hair streaming down her back.
It was a definite pang of guilt that stabbed sharply in Magalis chest, and she turned on her side to spoon Casey with one long leg. The fine, golden hair slipped through her fingers as she stroked it. Tenderly she kissed Caseys shoulder where she knew the small burn from the stun gun would be. The smaller woman shivered slightly against her, and she pulled the covers further up to cover her, lovingly tucking them in around her neck. "Ill be right back," she whispered, and Casey moaned in protest of her leaving.
The kitchen was as foreign to her as Sunday Mass, or the Girl Scouts, and she stood for a minute in the middle of the floor looking around at the alien place. Okay, youre not that much of an idiot. You can figure this out, hell its just food, and youve cooked up worse things. Thankfully Casey had done some shopping a few days earlier, and had stocked the cabinets with easy cooking items Magali could handle. Up on one of the shelves was a neat row of soup cans, and she scanned them for one that looked healthy. Ooh, chicken soup, perfect. She found a small pot and dumped the contents of the can into it, reading the directions before tossing the can away in the trash. Her patience lasted all of ten seconds, and she scowled at the pot. How long does this take? The phone began to ring again, and she padded into the living room to pick it up. Too many damn phones in this fuckin place. "Yeah."
"Zero, dont you think its time you came out of there?"
"What the fuck, Moreno? I know you like watching, but come on now Im gonna have to start charging you a fee." With phone in hand, she strolled to the window and pushed the blinds open a crack to look out onto the street.
"Brooklyn, Zee you need to take care of that before your little holiday away."
"Yeah sure come get your money." She strolled back to the kitchen and raised an eyebrow at the slowly heating pot.
"You have it " he remarked with a degree of satisfaction, "the Senator will be very happy."
"Whatever go to the park, youll see this kid with a yellow Yankees cap on, hell put a briefcase under a bench, and its all yours from there. Now goodbye, Moreno, I have a pot of soup to take care of."
"Soup?" Click. She dialed Nelsons number and stared at the pot. Wonder what would happen if I threatened to shoot it? Little holiday he says fuck, two months away from Casey shit, two months locked up.. "Nelson, come upstairs. Im leaving a case out in the hallway for you. Go to the park, ya know those benches by the street? Put it under one of em and walk away. And wear that yellow Yankees cap. Got it?" Click. She placed a hand over the pot and scowled at the continuing lack of heat. What the? A knock on the door made her jump, her nerves on edge from the sound of Morenos voice. Hurriedly she grabbed the case and a gun off the table and headed for the door. Nelson opened his mouth to speak, but the case was shoved into his chest and the door slammed before he could get a word out. She stomped into the kitchen pulling back on the gun and loading it. Damn soup.
The sight of Magali in a T-shirt, scowling and pointing a gun at a defenseless pot, gave Casey an attack of the giggles. "Uhmm, what are you doing? Did the pot try to attack you?"
"Uhmm " She flipped the gun over in her hand and inspected it closely. "Just making sure this piece was clean thats all." Busted.
"Aha I see," Casey chuckled under her breath and stepped closer to the pot sitting on the stovetop. "Ooh, chicken soup." She eyed the board of knobs and smirked as she turned one of them on. "You might be able to clean that piece better over a flame."
"I knew that," she said, sitting on the windowsill and hanging her head. "I was just "
"Trying to be nice, I know." Casey stepped into her, using a thigh to part Magalis legs and occupy the space between, placing a soft kiss on her lips. "Honey?"
"Stay out of the kitchen."
"Deal," she said giving Casey a wicked smirk.
Magali shook her head at the bubbles rising on the yellow liquid, and ambled into the living room, Casey shooing her out of the kitchen She sat back in the leather armchair, stretched her back and heard it pop in a few places. Flicking on the computer she watched it boot up, her chin resting on her hand. With a few clicks of the mouse she was opening her electronic mail and sorting through the junk as the sounds of clinking glass filtered in from the kitchen. Sitting near the window she could hear the winter wind blowing outside, the faint crunching of cars passing by. A message on the screen was tagged Brooklyn, and she sighed as she clicked it open. The piece was encrypted, and it took a few seconds for the computer to decipher it all. That settles it, Daly you have me bugged, dont ya?.
Do what you have to do Guerrerro, it read simply. She hit delete and it disappeared just as Casey shuffled in with her bowl firmly in hand. Devi was seduced by the aroma and followed her closely, eyeing the bowl hungrily. Magali leaned out of the chair and tackled the dog to the ground, holding on to the sturdy, thick neck. Devi licked her wildly, her stubby tail flicking side to side and thumping on the floor. "Damn, Devi, you need breath mints, girl," she gasped, but continued to push and pull at the muscular dog.
The soup settled Casey somewhat, and she lounged drowsily on the long couch, an afghan of Native American design tucked around her. She flicked through the channels of the TV, occasionally flipping between MTV and VH-1, while Magali wrestled on the floor with a happy Devi. The tussling duo momentarily blocked her view of the screen, and she craned her neck to get a view of a trailer for Xena: Warrior Princess. "You make a better door than a window, Gali."
"Yeah? Well, I think I make a better blanket." The dark woman smirked as she crawled panther-like towards her, straddling her and making her statement truth. "Your fevers gone down. How do ya feel?"
Casey snuggled into the warmth surrounding her and smiled into the strong chest. "Much better now."
"Good," she said, mouthing the word against Caseys lips. "I better put some more of that cream on that burn you have."
"You know, dont you?" A flickering expression of worry crossed Caseys fair features, and she averted her eyes from the cerulean blue staring at her knowingly.
"Yes, I do Ive seen that type of burn before I know what makes it, and I know Webster." He tested my loyalty to the Gauntlet; I thought I was gonna die every time he put that damn stun gun in the water.
They had had to make sure the wild card they were drawing was safe enough to be trusted. On the pretense of a broken taillight, smashed as she watched, four police officers arrested her. They promptly deposited her into the clutches of Webster, who took his time, patiently administering electric shocks to her body for more days than she cared to count. When she hadnt offered the names of those she knew involved with the Gauntlet, they had tattooed her wrist and set her free.
Casey nodded her head and let it hang onto her chest; subtly her body began to shake with a silent sob. Magali could feel the heat in her own breast start to rise, a temptress rage that beckoned. When the first tears ran down Caseys cheeks, her hand was there to catch them, staining her skin with Caseys misery. Shit, what do I say? What do I do? I suck at this, I really, really suck at this. Youre dead, Webster you are so dead, I swear it. Magali held her, nearly crushing the woman against her as she felt Caseys release dampen her shirt. Time stood still and, as one woman relinquished a bit of heavy agony, another added the weight to her broad shoulders.
Magali laid on the edge of the couch next to Casey and wrapped her long frame protectively around her. The heat of the contact and the soft weave of the blanket enfolded the smaller woman in a cloak of safety. She drifted in a shallow twilight, where Magalis presence guarded her, undaunted. Breathing slowed and a semblance of serenity returned with Devi curling at their feet.
Patrick Ewing hobbled across the screen and Eddie wanted to scream from the boredom. The game sucked; the Knicks were losing badly, again. He sipped on a Heineken long gone flat, and pushed restlessly on the footrest of the open Lazy-boy. Sprawled out on the floor, still in his blue polyester uniform, was his dark-haired ten-year-old son. A book was open in front of him, and a large fan of papers surrounded his space on the throw rug. He chewed on the end of a pencil, his brows crossed over a problem he could not solve. It was rare for his father to be home at that time and relaxing in front of the TV. "Whats the matter, Enrique?" the smooth dark voice of Eddie questioned gently.
"I cant figure this out, Papi?" Oh yes! Hes going to help me.
"Well, whats the problem?"
"I forgot how many grams go into a kilogram."
Eddie smiled as he waved him over, and the tall boy scuttled over on his knees, placing the book in Eddies lap. "Thats easy, look Ill show you." He made a few marks and winked at the boy when a sudden look of amazement crossed his young features. Bet you thought this guy was a dummy, huh? Youre gonna have it better then I ever could, I promise. "Shouldnt you be in bed, little man?"
"Yes, he should." Marianas voice was made for angels, and he was sure she had stolen it on her way down from heaven. She was a small woman, with high cheekbones and dark skin; her black hair fell in long curling tresses. He had met her in high school; at least, she had been in school, while he was loitering outside of it. It had taken one look from her ebony eyes, and he had sworn off all others. She had been a bright student, he was told, with a secure future if only she stayed away from him. One night and one mistake burned her future down, and although she didnt agree, Eddie blamed himself. She could have done much better than me
The mistake turned into a delightful gift when nine months later Enrique was born screaming into the world, and at fifteen Eddie was a proud father and husband. He cooed over his son, coddled his new wife, and agonized over their future. Magali was in prison, newly sentenced to three years, and he was in charge. She would issue orders from prison in her daily calls limited to twelve minutes at a time, and he would follow through on them. Once a month he would make the trip to visit her and, separated by a thick pane of glass, they spoke in code over a one-way phone line. The visits left him in a melancholic mood, his the only signature on her visitors log under Jesses, and he watched helplessly as his friend became what they said she was. The steady, healthy growth of his son made his efforts worthwhile, and the small boy provided a spark of hope in an otherwise dark world.
"Go on, Enrique, or your mom is gonna punish both of us, arent you, babe?"
The boy reluctantly picked up his scattered books and received a pat on the butt from his smiling mom. Mariana joined Eddie on the Lazy-boy, his large body a perfect mattress. "Youre staying home tonight?"
"Yup, Im all yours so what ya gonna do with me, huh?" he leered.
"Make you take out the trash," she said poking him in the ribs.
Mariana rested her head on his shoulder, breathing him in and content. They had moved into the two-bedroom apartment shortly after the birth of Enrique. It was comfortable and cozy. Their furniture wasnt spectacular, kids did things to furniture that made them old quickly, but the place had its collection of luxuries. Eddie kept strange hours, and usually Mariana would be tackling her own books along with Enrique. Eventually she had returned to school, received her G.E.D and applied to a city college where she attended part-time. The couple rested, satisfied with the sounds of Enrique getting ready for bed, trying his best not to wake the three-year-old toddler with whom he shared his room. Alejandra was a handful of dark hair, plump flesh and pale blue eyes, who imitated her godmother with uncanny accuracy. Magali would crack her small smirk for the child, and in return would receive a mirror image as a reward, and sometimes, sometimes, the dangerous woman would smile for her in secret. Eddie closed his eyes and sighed deeply, peace was its own luxury.
Casey heard Magali shuffling about, pushing through the bedroom closet in a huff and stomping into the bathroom. The light filtering into the room through the blinds cast an orange glow across the room, and the rest had done her a world of good. Contrary to what she had expected, the stuffiness in her chest had dissipated slightly, leaving her nothing more than uncomfortable. Two days of hibernation with tall, dark and dangerous-- some kind of medicine. She stretched the stiffness out of her limbs, Devis heavy body weighing down her legs, and turned the TV on. A commercial for the newest toy fad flashed across the screen, the words five more days til X-Mas running across the pictures. Shit, I have to get to the stores. A hunting knife for Russell, a video game for Clifford, Becky would probably like make-up or something. Mom something expensive. Gali hmmm?
Magali stormed into the room wearing a tight pair of black jeans and sports bra but barefoot. Her hair was tied back and wet, and it shone in its sleekness. "Hey sleepy," she said playfully.
"Mmm, what time is it?" Casey groaned.
"Two in the afternoon I ordered a pie. Are you supposed to go to work tonight?" She continued to search the apartment, and let out a breath of exasperation when she spotted what she was looking for peeking out of Devis kennel. "Devi! My last fuckin pair of boots!" At the sound of the reprimand, Devi dug under the afghan and hid her head, half of her body sticking out from under the earth colors. Magali pulled the boots out from the crate and was relieved to see nothing more than a bit of slobber on the leg.
"Yeah I am, as a matter of fact. I need to be there by five. Did you say pie? As in pizza?" Magali nodded in response and padded into the bedroom.
Casey found the half-eaten pie on the kitchen counter, next to a half empty liter of soda. Some eating habits you have, Gali. She pulled off a piece and stuck it into the microwave, found a glass and poured what was left of the pop into it. "Where are you going?" she yelled over the beep of the microwave. The plate was hot and cheese dripped off the sides of the slice. She took a bite and swallowed some before she caught her breath and nearly choked. Magali entered the room in all of the splendor and treachery of Zero. She had pulled a taut black thermal shirt over her torso, showing off the curves in her shoulders, the menacing bulge of her biceps and triceps. A thick leather belt with a large, square, golden buckle circled her waist, and her eyes were once again hidden behind blue lenses. Strapped to her shoulders was the dark brown leather holster she favored, gun safely tucked between her arm and ribcage. Peeking out from her waist another brown holster held a firearm as well, and Casey was sure a knife was tucked unseen in one of her boots. "Uhm "
"Whats wrong?" Magali asked, her brows knitted above the mirrored lenses.
Casey held her breath; as much as the dark side of Magali was intimidating, it was just as sensual. Jesus I may not like what you do, but you look so fucking hot. Great, now Im thinking the way she talks. She forgot about the slice of pizza waiting, and her hands roamed up to Magalis shoulders and neck. It was all the invitation the taller woman needed, and she bent her head slightly to lick seductively at Caseys lips, the stud barely visible, letting her own hands run smoothly over tantalizing curves. Her heartbeat picked up steadily with the increasing contact, and with a deep sigh of heavy regret, she pulled herself away from her siren.
"Case, we cant do this right now, babe. Youll be late for work, and I have to go." Damn, what I wouldnt give to just stay here with you.
The blonde pressed her forehead to Magalis chest and inhaled her scent, a mixture of leather and soap. "Will you pass by the post tonight? We should be at the park, as usual."
After one last steamy kiss Magali went for her jacket, Devi close on her heels. "Not today, Devi, Nelson will come walk you, all right?" She patted the dogs head and closed the door gently behind her.
Dog and blonde stared at each other, and Casey broke the standoff by reaching for the pizza slice.
"She didnt take you, girl. That worries me."
She finished her slice, feeding some of it to Devi, and resolved to start her day. Magalis closet was a mess, clothes were scattered on the floor and shoes had been flung everywhere. A lot of black in here. She sifted through the clothing for something small enough to fit her. The clothes she had worn needed washing, and although she was planning on returning home, she refused to step out into the street looking like something the cat dragged around and left. Other than the obvious reasons, she was developing an affinity for the tall womans clothing, especially shirts that somehow maintained some of her fragrance in their weave.
The shower welcomed her, and she regretted leaving its warmth to get dressed. She called a cab, not wanting to face the train just yet, filled Devis bowl with food and another with water, and gave the animal a sturdy hug before leaving. "Later, Devi."
Security faded the minute Casey stepped out of the cab and went into her apartment. She wore a borrowed turtleneck and sheepskin loosely on her smaller frame. Large shards of glass, as well as tiny glittering specks, littered the floor beneath the window. The futon, from sheets down to the foam mattress, was soaked from the miniature avalanche of snow cascading through the shattered pane. Articles of clothing, books, and papers littered the floor, and her TV was conspicuous by its absence. Void of any enthusiasm, Casey began the arduous task of cleaning the apartment. Carefully she taped a black garbage bag over the jagged remains of the windowpane, and used a dustpan to shovel the snow away and into the tub. By the time she had arranged the scattered books, some semblance of warmth had returned to the room. Though the old-fashioned, iron steam radiator sputtered in a corner, her breath remained visible on the air. She blew into her cupped hands and briskly rubbed them together. I wont be able to stay here, will I?
It was as if Webster were a stalking phantom looking over her shoulder every second she was there. The feeling brought flashes of blue currents and splashing water, and the rotting smell of the New York coast. She searched for her uniform and changed quickly, leaving behind the apartment and its wisps of memory. The air was brisk and there was a slow wind that whipped her when she rounded the corner towards the train station. Down one flight of stairs into the underground station, she passed a man clothed in tatters, stinking of urine and bile, lying still on his cold concrete bed. She bought a token to put in the turnstile and walked out onto the platform. Grey tiles fell in some places, exposing the asphalt and steel of the tunnel walls. She was alone in the station, all alone, save for the booth attendant. She peered over her shoulder, checking the darkened ends of the platform, and watched the columns for some fictitious figure to emerge. A low rumbling preceded the silver bullet that rushed on thin rails of steel, and filled the station with its gush of air and noise. Casey stepped into the car hurriedly, inspecting the faces of the seated passengers who were oblivious to their surroundings, eyes staring at anything but each other. She opted to stare at the floor and buried her face in the collar of Magalis sheepskin jacket, finding comfort in the smell of leather.
The hospital was located on 168th street, over an underground labyrinth of train tunnels, stairways and lobbies that stretched for two blocks and across two avenues. She took the elevator up to a higher sub-level and then the stairs to the street. Broadway wound its way up through Harlem, past the hospital, and died at the northernmost tip of the island. Along its tar veins, cabs and buses floated by-- a cacophony of engines and brakes leaving behind the smell of burning rubber. The odor filled the air, and again Casey was reminded of her ordeal at Websters hand-- the burning, the aching, the screams ripped through her mind. She half trotted into the emergency room where the blue and white rig would be parked outside and where Jesse, and safety, would be waiting. In her stark white uniform, her gleaming silver badge pinned to her chest, Jesse leaned against a wall by the service entrance. Her brown eyes narrowed at the sight of Casey rushing up the ramp towards her. Her partner, Magalis cousin, was a source of relief with her perpetual jovial moods.
"Hey, Casey, I wasnt expecting you tonight." she blurted in mild surprise.
"Why not?" she asked, shaking off the cold.
"I ran into Eddie not too long ago by the bagel cart, and he told me what had happened. Come to think of it Im kinda mad at you."
"Me? What did I do?"
"Well, one of you could have called me and let me know you were alright. I should kick your butt."
Casey flung herself around Jesse, who chuckled and pushed the blonde away. "Im sorry, Jess, we sort of got caught up in recovering."
"Recovering? I was referring to Magali getting arrested," she replied, her eyebrows rising into her forehead.
"Lets get this shift started and well talk." Casey looped an arm around Jesses and began her long tale.
The holidays were always extra busy; everyone wanted to get high. Magali found Eddie cooking a concoction of water, bleach and cocaine over a small flame-- the newest batch of crack in the making. The office was closed, and two other apartments in the building were being used for the heavy nickel and dime jobs that went on throughout the day and night. The triple beam scale had been removed from the table and replaced by an oversized map of Brooklyn, as she had requested earlier. Four men sat on the beat-up couch; some sniffed their share of white crystal electricity or puffed on a cigar filled with weed. Their smoke and the pungent odors of the cooking cocaine filled the small space with an acrid aroma.
"Did you get the bags from Wu, Eddie?"
He nodded, intent on his project, and Magali gave one of the men an icy stare and a tilt of her chin. He sat up straight, recognizing the wordless command, and went into the adjacent room pulling another man behind him. They returned with four large duffel bags and laid them at her feet. She opened one and pulled out a heavy black vest with a high collar. She tried it on for size and smirked in approval. Bulletproof, and not bad looking either. With a quick motion, she opened a second bag and leered in satisfaction at its contents, her tongue flicking across her lips, the stud shining momentarily. One, long, wooden-handled and arched clip assault rifle slid out from the bag under her control. Oooh, Chinas AK 47-assault rifle; youre wonderful Wu, really. She counted ten of the rifles, five in each bag, with an equal number of vests for the small army she was mounting. The fourth bag was filled with extra magazines of ammunition, black masks, belts, a few bowie knives and ten black flight suits. Pleased with the equipment for the night, she strolled over to the table and leaned over the map.
The graph was littered with red dots, indicating where the drug distribution spots were and to whom they belonged. A thick black line showed the division of neighborhoods with Red Hook her intended target, highlighted. The scene would be crazy in a couple of hours, and the waves caused by her actions would be felt in the outlying neighborhoods of Cobble Hill and Caroll Gardens, where the majority of the population were of New Yorks landed middle class. It would make those taxpayers nervous, and they would request police support from the Mayor, who just happened to have recently had the money for a special task unit allocated recently to the city. It wouldnt take long for the semi-affluent communities to see their requested enforcement, but somehow the expenses wouldnt be consistent with the number of uniforms, and no one would notice. It was her deal with Moreno-- in exchange for taking an officers life, she would cause chaos to reign in Brooklyn. The officer, Webster, had gotten off easy, thanks to Caseys calming presence.
Eddie finished cooking the paste and stuck the whole mess into the oven to bake, then joined her at the table. "This what you wanted, right?" Eddie asked in a whisper.
Magali nodded, running through a million different schemes and scenarios in her mind all at once. There were angles and names, streets, and advantage points, strengths and weaknesses to consider.
"Did you get the truck?"
"Yeah, it should be here any minute."
She waved the lounging men over to where she stood. They gathered around her, outfitted in black, all dark-haired and tan, five oclock shadows on their faces. Her finger traced an area on the map and came to rest on a building surrounded by a network of alleys. The ring on her finger, with its crown of diamonds surrounding an onyx glimmered. "We hit here." She pointed at two of them and locked them in with her eyes. "You two come in this way; there should be a fire-escape in this alley. Go up to the second floor and in through the window, but not until you hear them firing. That means we made it up through the front. I cant have this mother-fucker running; he has to be there when I step in, got it?" The men nodded, while the remaining two waited, anticipation clear in their expressions. "You two come in through here. Go up in through the building, out to the roof, then cross over. Theres a landing right here. Throw down a cocktail, and its on. Once in, make your way down to the second floor. Careful you dont end up shooting me, eh." She left them to run over the plan with each other and become familiar with the layout, and with the possibility of dying.
"Are you sure you want to run the point with me, Eddie?" she asked putting an arm around his shoulders.
"I always run the point with you you know that."
"Yeah well man, you have a family and shit"
"So you sayin its all right if you get killed but not me. You have a family too."
"No I dont." she let out, one dark eyebrow raised.
"Whos Casey then?" he said smugly.
Although her expression did not change, a slow blush crept up her neck and into her cheeks. Eddie smiled at her, but she characteristically stuck her hands in her pockets and walked away towards the window without a word. She produced a pack of cigarettes from her back pocket and, leaning against the frame of the cardboard covered window, she lit one. Change the subject.
"Did you tell the guys to get the gas?"
"Yeah, twenty cans right?"
She nodded and pulled on the cigarette, inhaling the smooth smoke sharply. "Ill be right back," she said, stepping away from the window and moving out the door. She climbed the flight of stairs up to the roof and pushed the metal door open. A young guardfemale she ascertained by the shadow cast from her blowing hair-- stood rigid, then relaxed upon recognizing the tall, dark form. The citys outline glared at her with millions of bright eyes. Small blinking lights of a helicopter swam in a starless sky of endless black, scanning the city with a long bright beam of white. Someone was cooking, and the smell of rice and beans wafted through the dark air. She inhaled it-- the fragrance of a home, a family waiting, and someones care. Casey? My family? People like me dont have families, we have business partners, socios, homeboys. What the fuck do I have to offer her, huh? Nada, nothing man, nothing. And if you let her go Zee, then what? Shell make her own decision in time; shes too smart to stick around someone like you. A large, white delivery truck pulled up in front of the building, and she spat over the side. Show time.
Nine men waited for her, nervously hyped on drugs and anticipation, feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders. Soldiers waiting for a landing on a foreign beach, they fidgeted, worked their jaws and fingers, bit off nails and cursed.
"Relax, boys. Just another night out. You four, grab a bag and head downstairs." The men did as she asked, and she waited a minute or two before sending the rest. "Eddie, if it gets too hot, you break out of there as fast as you can.""
"No buts leave me if you have to tell Casey I loved her," she finished in a whisper, her eyes downcast.
His face was one of pure shock. The words, given life by a voice that had never before formed those requisite syllables, left him speechless.
"Pick up your jaw, Eddie, or youre gonna trip over your bottom lip. Now stop staring and lets get going." She pushed past him, and set herself on the task ahead.
The truck had no heating in the back but, wisely, all the members of the party had worn thermals and donned the flight suits ahead of schedule to fight the cold. Magali rubbed her hands together in the light provided by a few flashlights, occasionally looking at her watch, and rubbing the blue tattoo underneath it. The ride would take forty-five minutes, and each second had to be used to run over the plans once more, and make last minute preparations. Ammo clips and knives were placed on belts, vests secured under suits, masks and gloves fitted, bottles filled with gasoline and rags. Each man held a rifle, cocked and locked, eyes blank and cold. Screeching brakes, a jolt, and the truck stopped. Magali opened the side door and four men slipped out into the darkness and faded away. The truck rolled on, and Eddie smiled at her, only to receive the ice that was beginning to take a firm hold in cerulean eyes. Bajo Zero.
They waited, hours it seemed, after the truck came to a stop once more. The sound of labored breathing was heavy and echoing in the hold of the vehicle, mixing with the heady fumes of gas. Magali released the safety on the rifle and held her breath as mimicking clicks were heard around her. Thankfully, the winter cold would keep the innocents inside, making the job easier. Still, she issued her usual warning, "Careful who you shoot out there-- no kids, no women unless theyre holding a gun." Silently her entourage nodded, and one coughed. They were scared-- of dying and of failing. Each man was familiar with the prescence of death-- a killer virus running through his veins, put there by stupid decisions. She picked these men for that one reason, promising them large amounts of money for their families, when in any other case they would have been left destitute. The explosion rocked the truck, and Magalis hand was on the latch instantaneously. She opened the door, and was face to face with the heat of a fiery hunk of metal that was once a car.
Night was a Jekyll and Hyde potion with which time injected the city. It turned the buildings into blocks of black and gray; the people became stranger, and a general air of suspicion ran rampant. The Molotov cocktail broke against the car and set it aflame; a truck door slid open and five dark figures, blurred against the flames, brought chaos on the wind. Shots rang out, littered the street with bullets, and junkies and dealers became friends as they ran to cover themselves from the fury. Evenly, the figures crossed the street: no rush, their steps timed, bursts of light flaring from raised rifles. As if they were one body, they moved towards the two-story brownstone, hunters on the prey. Four wore masks and followed a tall, menacing figure, her raven hair unfurled on the wind, a stony expression on her sharp features.
Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, no matter where they squatted, these buildings all looked the same, smelled the same. Dark lobbies, urine and bleach, cracked and peeling paint, broken windows, discarded foil and needles in the corners. It was a classic drug den, where not one apartment was in use, except for an occasional junkie too stoned to leave the premises. Magali reached the steps and peered around the cornering landing, Eddie breathing down her neck; she gave him a shove backwards. The other men turned their backs to her, watching for anyone crazy enough to follow them. A whizzing passed her head and thumped into the wall behind her. She ran up two steps, aimed into the darkness and emptied a clip, released it as Eddie moved up ahead of her, and reloaded.
She scowled, "Sonofabitch."
Intent on getting to Eddie, she ran the last few steps up to the second floor. A barrage followed her, spraying the wall at her side with large flaking holes. She fired in return, the AK pulsating against her rib cage. A heavy door slammed open and a fresh round began, arching tracers of green light slamming their way towards Eddie. She lunged at him, taking them both to the ground. He curled in, grabbing for his thigh and a rip in his suit that spurted fresh blood. She felt a sting on her upper-arm, and then she was sitting up, firing at the open doorway, the vibrations sending sharp pains into her shoulder. Just a graze. Glass broke, running footfalls echoed down the stairs, a rain of metal shredded the door, and a silhouette shook and fell limp to the ground. Silence descended, and Eddie moaned. She reached for him and pulled him to his feet.
"Take him," she ordered to a masked form. "Bring him inside." Sweat trickled down the side of her face; she licked her lips, stepped cautiously to the door and kicked the new corpse lying across the threshold. She veered in, leaving a smear of red on the wall; her rifle pointed down the long dark hallway of the apartment. The wooden boards of the floor creaked under her, and she heard a shuffling a few feet ahead of her, then a light went on.
"Zee! Were in!"
"About fucking time! I told you to come in when the firing started!" she yelled back at the men.
The room could have been her office back in Manhattan. One long table was overturned, a triple beam scale was tipped over on the floor, and a raggedy couch leaned against a wall on three legs. The foul smell of human excrement reached her, further sickening the diseased air, and she kicked the table out of the way. Dressed completely in white-- almost completely-- a rather large man huddled where the table had been, his head tucked into his knees. His dark skin contrasted with his light attire, and short dred locks poked topsy-turvy from the top of his head. Magali grabbed him by the nape of his neck and flung him onto the couch, a disgusted sneer on her face. The third leg gave out and left the piece of furniture lying at an awkward slant. She handed off her rifle to one of the masked men and pulled her knife from her boot. Raising one dark eyebrow, she eyed the blade with a smirk and used the point to lift the mans chin, forcing him to look at her.
"Do you know me, Bati-boy," she asked in a low growl. Good Zee, call the man a faggot in his own slang, get a rise out of him maybe you wont feel bad for killing the poor bastard then, right?
"Me not know me not want to know," he replied in a heavy Jamaican accent.
"Thats good but I think you do now play nice and tell me where the money is."
Shakily he lifted a weary hand and pointed to a small closet at the far end of the room. Magali cocked her head, and one of the men rushed away to the appointed door and retrieved a large paper bag. She pressed the knife into the soft flesh, a small crimson drop immediately appeared, and the man flinched, swallowing hard. Her pulse quickened with the taste of power, and the darkness crept up, slowly burning and urging her on. She flattened the blade across his neck, watched as his eyes grew wide with fear, and her grip tightened. Im no better than Webster, I enjoy this too much that has to be wrong. What would you do if someone were holding a knife to Caseys throat?
"Youre out of business, little man this place belongs to me now, got it?"
Before he could answer, the wailing sound of a siren echoed in through the building, and booted steps ran up the stairs and into the apartment. "Cops! Four cars," came the shouts. Slit his throat now or never. Hes not fighting me, God, why wont he fight me? Magali grabbed him; choking him with one strong, angry hand, she lifted the man from his seat. She searched the room with frantic eyes and settled on a white gleaming Ziplock bag. Youre getting soft, Zee. Reaching for it, she dragged the frightened man with her. She picked up the sought after object and shoved it into the waistband of her captives pants, then gave him a shove through the doorway.
"Go on, get out of here! Run," she yelled after him; and he scampered down the stairs and into the darkness. The outside door slammed open and slammed closed. She waited and listened for the voices from the street that told her he had been spotted.
"Burn it down," she said with an icy ring in her voice, and four men lit rag tailed bottles. They disappeared down the long hallway, and glass popped as the cocktails were thrown about, the smell of burning paint quickly filling the air. "Everyone up to the roof, now!" One by one they exited out through the shattered window, ascended the fire escape, gathered on the roof and lay on their bellies. She crawled to the ledge and peered down, two blue and white cars, lights spinning, blocked each entrance to the street. Eddie cringed silently next to her, surveying the scene with a pallid expression, the strain of climbing the stairs taking its toll on his injured leg.
"You alright Eddie?"
He nodded, biting his lip. "Its no big deal, honest Zee."
"Think you can run on it?"
"Yeah no way theyre taking me down, not tonight," he replied with a grin.
"Give me a cocktail," she whispered roughly, and was handed a fiery bottle. This will look nice on the news. She flung the concoction with deadly accuracy towards the abandoned truck on the street, the explosion rocking the shaky surface of the brownstone roof where they lay. Uniforms scattered, and the street was bathed in light from the, now, two burning vehicles. "Lets go," she commanded and the team rose, jumped to the connecting landing and crossed to an adjacent building. They ran, wordlessly over the rooftops, jumping and flying over gaps left by alleyways, bats out of hell. The Olympic jumpers had little on them. They jumped weighted down, one wrong step threatening a free-fall down to the concrete. Magali ran last, remaining behind a slower moving Eddie, watching his steps grow weaker with each jump. It was the last roof, and she held her breath as he came up short and smacked into the side of the building, hanging from the ledge. Pushed by adrenaline, the asphalt a black blur several stories beneath her feet, she flew through the air and landed a few feet away from him.
"Dont look down give me your hand man. Mariana will kill me if you fall."
He grabbed for her, first with one hand and then the other. She strained against his weight, and her footing slipped on old ice; blood poured from her wound and her hands grew slick. Shit, shit pull, Zee, dont let him go. He kicked at the wall, using his good leg to give her some leverage, and she pulled back once more with all her strength. Her shoulders popped, joints ached and the bullets graze burned. She saw the flash of fear on his face followed by resignation.
"Come on, Eddie!"
"Let me go, Zee Im not worth it," he yelled back, a fatalistic toll in his voice.
"The hell you arent sonofabitch, pull. You quit now, and Enrique will have to make the same choices we made. You want that?!"
With new determination at the mention of his son, Eddie forced his limbs to work. They worked in unison, with the strength of friendship giving them renewed energy. In one glorious moment he was over, knocking them both to the ground; he landed on top of her and rolled over.
"I never thought Id be laying on top of Bajo Zero," he chuckled lightly.
"Very fucking funny, Eddie remind me to smack you later," she said getting to her feet and pulling him up.
Their flight had taken them to the furthest corner of the opposite street, to a building that connected with a gas station via a shared basement. They stumbled down the stairs into the stonewalled rooms of the subterranean labyrinth, and then into a storage room. The rest of the men were already there, stripping off their flight suits and shoving them into huge garbage bags, along with their weapons. Magali threw off her vest and unzipped her own suit, glad she had dressed in all black. The thermal she wore stuck to her skin in a mixture of sweat and blood. She inspected the rip on her arm, nothing but a deep gash, irritated by the force she had used to pull Eddies heavy body. He was being helped out of his vest and suit, and she knelt by his side to look at his injury. His blue jeans had turned crimson, and using her knife she ripped open the pants leg to stare at an ugly black hole oozing red.
"Damn, Zee. You had your guns on under that suit," he asked mockingly.
"Shut up Eddie looks like the bullet went in and out. Lucky you have a thick thigh, motherfucker; I dont think it hit your bone. Give me one of those flight suits!"
She ripped at the offered black cloth and tore off a few strips, pressing them into a makeshift bandage.
"That ought to slow down the bleeding we need to get out of here."
They collected the bags and surfaced out onto the sidewalk through a cargo elevator, where a city garbage truck waited. They flung the bags into the disposal area, and immense metal jaws clamped down, crushing and compacting the deadly debris. Magali gave the side of the truck a slap, and it took off rumbling down the street. She looked at her watch, then wiped the smear of blood off its face with her thumb. Small red specks littered the sidewalk; some were hers, but most were coming from Eddie. The cold night air chilled her lungs, but it tasted like life-- something suddenly important to her.
Two dark vans pulled into the station, and the group split, with each section entering one of the vehicles. Eddie limped, and Magali gave him a shoulder to lean on, furtively glancing around the area for anyone who may have been watching the strange parade. Not one pedestrian was out, all the neighborhood residents enjoying the fire show not far away. When the door slid shut, they all exhaled in relief, and Eddie finally moaned. A bulging paper bag made its way, hand by hand, to Magali and she opened it to look inside. This is going to be a fun Christmas.
"Back to the block, and dont speed."
Yellow streetlights covered the park with a soft glow, shadows moved with the wind, and a small Terrier lifted his leg while his master watched. The circular driveway, which served as the entrance to Fort Tryon Park, gave the mile long avenue a thermometer-like shape. In the middle of winter the childrens area was desolate; twisted metal shapes covered in ice made interesting sculptures of the playground. Old-fashioned street lamps lined the sidewalk, and cobblestone added to the illusion of days long gone. An iron-gate marked "Subway" was discreetly tucked away next to a stone L-shaped building. Idly sitting at the apex of the driveway, its engine humming with heat, a square vehicle sporting the word Emergency bided its time.
Casey listened to the ramblings from the CB radio and stared out the window wondering about what her dark lover could be doing. Jesses recent purchase of a small portable TV set was keeping her entertained and quiet. There were no words being spoken between the two EMTs; everything had already been said. Caseys retelling the story of her captivity with Webster to Jesse had lifted an unseen weight off her chest. She was unable to share the entire litany of horror with her lover, knowing that it would burden Magali with a need for vengeance that the woman could not yet control. Instead, she had shed tears of frustration and related her peaceful yearnings to her her ambulance partner and had watched her face grow ever more impassive. She suspected Jesse was flicking through past warnings she had issued about an involvement with her volatile cousin, but once the decision was made to disclose the events of the terror-filled night, Casey found it hard to stop the torrent of thoughts from flowing out of her. Sharing it with Jesse had been a tough choice; it had been the right choice to make, but it had also created the silence in which they sat.
"Damn, Brooklyns on fire," Jesse stated, almost to herself.
"What?" Casey leaned over to get a look at the small blue screen lying on Jesses lap.
"Yeah, look. Two cars are on fire wait one is a truck and looks like a brownstone too." Jesse pointed to the fiery spots being aired by the local news.
"Turn up the volume, Jesse."
The dark-haired woman rubbed at a corner of the small set, and the newscasters voice came out. It related the story of a fierce shootout, attributing the events to a gangland war that police had been predicting would explode in the neighborhood for some time. The camera panned the scene: the faces of the residents intent on the fires, the running police officers, and firemen braving the flames. With an air of elation and sincerity, the newscaster related the success of the fire department in controlling the inferno, but went on to reveal the discovery of at least four dead men within the building, apparently killed by gunfire.
"That neighborhood isnt all that great, but you usually dont hear anything about it on the news. Weird Wheres Zee tonight?"
Casey shrugged her shoulders. "I have no idea, she doesnt tell me where shes going. She did say she would pass by tonight. Why?"
"Just wondering thats all. And Im worried about you," she said keeping her eyes on the screen.
"Oh but, its strange Jesse-- when Im with her I feel safe"
"Safe? Are you nuts? Shes dangerous Casey, is she that good a lay?"
"Actually, yeah she is but, its more than that I think Im in love with her." Casey could hardly believe she was admitting it out loud, when she had scarcely acknowledged it herself.
"Youre what? Did I just hear you right, youre in love with her? Has she "
"No, she hasnt. So you can keep what I just said to yourself, please."
"Then how do you know if she feels the same way? Hell, does she feel at all?"
"She doesnt say much of anything; its just little things, like her trying to make me soup." Casey chuckled at the memory.
"She burn the house down?" Jesse couldnt forestall the smile on her face at the thought of her dark cousin doing anything remotely domestic. "When she was young her brother Jorge did all the cooking."
"No chance of her burning the house down she forgot to turn the burner on. Can I ask you something?"
"Has she ever been in a relationship with anyone?"
"Once, a few years ago, but the lady was deported back to China. Zee hasnt mentioned her since. I heard a rumor she was pregnant once, but I doubt it, although I couldnt begin to count the liaisons shes had. Careful you dont end up on that list, Casey."
"Somehow I dont think so."
Jesse reached for the vibrating beeper attached to her belt, and pressed the side button to light the screen. "Speak of the devil and she comes. I think this is for you," she said handing off the gadget to Casey. "Theres a phone inside the subway entrance. Better give her a call back, shes an impatient one."
"Tell me about it."
The frigid air contrasted with the heat of the ambulance cab, and she could see her breath on the wind as she crossed the street. The station was lined with white and turquoise tiles, and was well lit. She found the wall mounted phone and dialed the familiar number of Magalis cell phone. It rang twice before it was answered, and she could hear music and the murmuring of mens voices coming through the receiver.
"Hey, Honey, where are you?"
"Casey? Wheres Jesse?" She was rushing through her words without thinking, blood pouring through the bandage she had rigged to Eddies leg.
"She gave me the beeper to call you. Why? You didnt want to speak to me?" Casey was stunned at Magalis reaction to her voice, and she gripped the coiled wire of the phone.
"Uhmm yeah, I uh listen can you girls meet me on the block, 164th I need a suture kit."
"A suture kit? Magali Guerrerro, what have you been doing to yourself now?"
"Its not me, its for Eddie." The tone of her voice had turned to that of a child explaining some wrong doing.
"Take him to the hospital," she stated matter-of-factly.
"Okay were on our way then." Worry was easy; getting answers from Magali was not.
Traveling was slow through the ever-present Manhattan traffic without using the overhead lights, but a call from Magali asking for a suture kit seemed to be commonplace according to Jesse. Peculiar as it was for Casey to deliver medical supplies to a place exactly four blocks away from a hospital, she took the womans word for it. As always, there was a smattering of young men and women standing in front of the building where Magali held council, shivering and smoking in the cold of the night. The scene reminded her of the first time she had seen Magali as Bajo Zero, beating a man nearly to death as he ran from her. She shook off the image, replacing it with another memory of a much more tender Magali. Casey was about to step out of the ambulance when a young woman approached the door, something like a frown under her hazel green eyes.
"You have the kit?" She was out of breath as she spoke.
"Wheres Zee," Jesse questioned from the drivers seat.
"She said I should get the kit and take it upstairs, but she said she would need more than one...like three or four. So can I get it?"
"Not till I see Zee." Casey used her best no-nonsense voice, the one she utilized for scolding her siblings
"What do you want to do, get me in trouble? If she dont get this shit soon shes gonna blow her top. You ever see her do that?" The girl swung her head as she spoke, emphasizing her words with her eyes and lips.
Casey went in the back and retrieved three other kits and handed them over to her. "Here, tell her Casey wants to see her, and shes not leaving until she does." You better be all right, or Im gonna hurt you Gali.
"Ill tell her," the girl yelled over her shoulder as she faded away.
Minutes later she reappeared, as breathless as before, a cigarette hanging from her mouth. Casey lowered the window, letting in the cold. The girls expression had changed somewhat, and Casey was unsure whether she saw anger or discomfort on the young, pretty face.
"She said you should meet her home when you get off from work." So youre the bitch. She wouldnt fuck me cause shes fucking you. I bet Im better. Does she show you her dark side? The one that can eat you up and make you scream for more?
"What floor is she on?"
"Fuck that, think Im going to tell you? Im not stupid, lady."
Casey shoved the door open, pushing the girl out of the way with the same motion. "Out of my way, kid."
Callie had enjoyed playing messenger, Magali could tell by the appreciative look she received from the girl. She had stripped her with her eyes, bold she had thought, although she left little to the imagination clad only in her jeans and sports bra. She had given the girl a reply to carry, not one that had pleased her, and it offered a bit of information she had not been happy to give. Thats trouble in the making, I can feel it. It had been merely days since the girl had lain on her bed panting, willing to offer herself up for whatever Magali cared to dish out. Big mistake it shouldnt have been, you shouldnt care. What did Eddie say, family?
Eddie had been laid out on the table, bleeding all over everything, while the others counted and bundled the money. Some of the bills, stained with red, were being washed over the sink. Magli removed the bandage from around his leg and scrutinized the wounds closely. She had sprinkled some white powder over the gaping holes, and was waiting for the powder to do the work of one of its positive roles. She washed her hands under hot water and opened up one of the kits.
Meekly Eddie nodded, closing his eyes and taking a swig from the bottle of rum in his hand. A voice in the hallway, sharp and angry, caused the men to jump from their seats. "Zee!"
"Aww, fuck. That woman just doesnt listen, does she?" She had started the first stitch when she recognized the voice, and scowled. "Open the door fellas, and get that woman in here before she scares the whole building awake."
"Ooo Zeros in trouble," Eddie sang and chuckled between clenched teeth.
"Shut up, Eddie," she warned.
Casey entered the small apartment with suspicion, not knowing exactly what to expect, but with full confidence in her safety with the knowledge that she walked on Magalis turf. Half-naked, her skin streaked in crimson, a cigarette dangling from her lips, Magali leaned over an injured Eddie carefully sewing an ugly hole.
"Zee? What the hell happened?!"
"Hey, baby just a little fun thats all," she mocked, her eyes on her task.
"Fun, fun? You call this fun," she asked in exasperation, as she walked closer to the table.
"Eddie, give me that bottle." She took a hard swallow and gave the rum back, not once looking at the fuming woman by her side. "And they say I have a bad temper," she said with a smirk that got her a round of laughter from the unruly men busy counting.
"Let me see." Casey inspected the sewing job Magali was working on, it was satisfactory, the stitches straight and neat, tight enough to close the skin but not rip through. "Whered you never mind."
"Casey, go on and get out of here. Baby, this is not the place for you to be."
"Not until I get a look at you. Zee, some thats yours, isnt it," she directed her question to the brown stains drying on her arm and torso.
"Do you know where you are? Take a good look around." she hissed, not comfortable with Caseys prescence in her den of cutthroats.
Two men washed bloody bills over a kitchen sink, handing them off to a third who promptly took them into a bathroom, where a hair dryer was working at full speed. Three others counted bills and wrapped them, placing them carefully into a case. Three plastic bags rested in a corner, easily containing a 20 to life sentence, behind a triple beam scale. Magalis shoulder holster was at her feet, and a gun protruded from her waist just under the image of three men in a boat inked into the skin of her back. A compact stereo played gangsta hip hop under a cardboard covered window, its volume just loud enough to hear the bass. A hard knock on the door interrupted Caseys survey, and Eddie grimaced as Magali put in the last stitch and pushed him over on his back.
"Eddie? Are you in there?" came the voice from the other side of the door.
"Ooo Eddies in trouble," Magali mimicked as she strolled towards the door and opened it to face a hysterical Mariana. "Hello Mari, hes in here, relax."
Mariana started to say something, her jaw busily working silent words, but was stilled by the pale blue of the imposing womans eyes. She had known Zero for many years, trusted her with her children, but was as intimidated by her as anyone else. She dodged under Magalis arm and ran towards the table, where her husband was hiding his face in his hands.
"Eddie! I knew it when I saw the news, I just knew it."
"Honey, go home. Im all right."
"All right? Shes going to get you fucking killed one day, Eddie." She turned on Magali who was being inspected by a concerned Casey, love and worry devouring her fear. "It was you, wasnt it? That shit had your name all over it, Zee you were in Brooklyn, werent you? Werent you?"
Magali froze, the monster within stirring, caught between Casey and Mariana and other lookers on. "Out boys, go take your AZT or something" The men dropped their chores and rushed out the door as Magali stepped closer to Mariana. "Watch your mouth, Mari,"she growled. "Who are the kids with?"
"Enrique is old enough to look after himself and Alex, like you care anyway."
She bit her lip holding back her words. "Let me stitch finish stitching him up, and then he can go home with you."
"This time, right, Zee? What about next time, huh? Or what, you dont want your girlfriend to know the truth about you?
Caseys brow lifted, and a ghost of defensiveness took possession. "I know everything about her; all I need to know." Brooklyn? That mess was her doing?
"Im sorry, we havent met have we? Mariana, Eddies wife," she said offering her hand to Casey. "Take my advice, run, run as fast as you can before you start caring. This one," she pointed at Magali, "she doesnt give a fuck about anyone or anything."
Magali narrowed her eyes, and padded over to Eddie, resuming her work silently. Shes lucky she takes care of Alejandra.
"Casey, a pleasure. And thats not true," Casey shot back, surprised at Magalis passive demeanor.
"Dont let her fool you, Casey. Shes nothing but a cold blooded murderer who cant even love her own--"
"Mariana! Thats enough!" Eddie lifted half his body off the table, and nailed his wife with a stern look as a firm hand gently pushed him down.
Magali did not raise her eyes and continued to stitch the wound meticulously. "Lay still, Eddie, Im almost done. Mariana you know Im grateful for everything you and Eddie have done for me. But if youre going to air my dirty laundry, then I might as well "
"You cant have her back! You should have died in that hospital, Bajo Zero."
"Thats not what I was going to say. Get up, Eddie; its done. I was youre right, Im all those things. Happy? But, who are you hurting here? Me? You just said I dont give a fuck about anything, right? Go home, Mariana. Youre just shook up right now. Go cool off, before something happens that we will all regret."
Eddie limped towards his wife and put an arm around her waist, whispering in her ear. "Shes right, Mari. We go through this every time something bad comes down." He pushed her gently towards the door, while she cried into his shoulder. He turned to look at Magali who was visibly shaking with controlled rage, and mouthed an apology.
She raised a hand to wave him off and hung her head, taking deep breaths. Casey ambled over to her, kissing her cheek lightly. "Let me take care of that for you," she said, picking up the third suture kit. Magali sat on the table; her eyes to the ground she struggled between sadness and fury. She felt the first sting of a stitch on her arm, but the pain was far away, dreamlike.
"Shes right, Casey. You dont need this, you deserve better."
"Shes not right. She doesnt see the woman I do, capable of so much. And I do deserve you you dont ask me for anything you just besides its too late."
"Whats too late?" She knit her brows, feigning confusion.
"Im youre stuck with me, Magali Guerrerro, and thats that." Wordlessly, Casey continued sewing the deep, angry gash, and planted a soft kiss on her lips. It was returned with a long heated moment of playing tongues and hands. The little things. Magalis skin was fevered under her touch as she pinched the skin together and ran the hook-like needle through it.
"Gali? Doesnt this hurt," Casey asked frowning at the thought of doing the job without any Novocane.
"Nope. My minds elsewhere," she smirked, raising an eyebrow, and closing her eyes. Letting the deft fingers of her caretaker do more than close her physical wound.
"Yeah? Where is it," she persisted grinning.
"Its on how your hands feel on me." And melt everything away, how they wash me clean, make me human. She opened her eyes to gaze briefly upon the emerald ocean that swallowed her completely, then surrendered to the tender feel of Caseys touch sending warm tendrils of fire through her. Pain made it real; Casey turned the nightmare into a dream of security, a smoky peace. Her shoulders relaxed, her breathing slowed, and the apartment, the guns, the ringing in her ears slipped away into oblivion. There was only her Saint, and her caress turning fire into dust.
Casey felt the shift, could sense the distance Magali had thrown up like a wall, enclosing them in their own world. Her strokes, pulling the thread through the reddened skin, became an embrace transporting her into another world, where only she and her Black Velvet existed.
A horn from the street blared through the mists, pulled the curtain aside; Casey put in the last stitch. Magali turned her face up to look at her, the loss blatant in her eyes. She cupped Caseys chin, tenderly brushing her lips with her own; the blond stood between her legs and, leaning into her, put her hands on strong shoulders.
"You should go now, baby. I have stuff to finish here. Ill meet you back at my place if you want to go there."
"I do. And, Gali no more booboos tonight, okay?"
Magali rolled her eyes and smirked. "Promise."
After Casey left, she called the washers back, her usual icy expression plastered over a whirlwind of emotions, hiding them from the world.
Continued - Part 2
Return to The Bard's Corner