Disclaimer: Mine, mine, mine: except for the song lyrics they belong to Etheridge, Mclachlan, DMX, and Myles

Violence/foul language/hurt/comfort/sex/illegal narcotics: Yes, hell yes, yes sorry, yes, oh ye gods yes, yes huh?

Thanks to Dawn my beta reader, who has gone as far as editing line for line on an IM window. To my soul mate, Dee, who put up with me, and the laptop in bed before it broke! Now we just haggle for time on the PC.

Any feedback and/or suggestions is really appreciated. Feed me at Bohemia125@aol.com


Part 5

The twentieth floor of Columbia-Presbyterian hospital was more like a first rate hotel than a health center. Upon leaving the elevator the visitor was confronted with a high ceiling atrium, graced in the center by an immense marble fountain. Just beyond the cascading water, a semi-circular desk perched against the wall, served as a reception area. Two women in black and burgundy suits worked on computers, and politely answered questions. Orderlies walked the hallways in bellhop uniforms that matched the décor, pushing bright aluminum carts. Plush wall to wall carpeting silenced footsteps in the soft glow of brass lanterns. The doors to each room were numbered in gold, and the doors themselves were of a thick dark wood. Save for the nurses in their immaculate white, it was easy to forget where one was standing.

Magali had wasted no time in requesting a transfer from the ICU unit, and had argued past her reserves getting her doctor to sign the needed paper work. As a compromise, a permanent nurse was stationed along with her, however much she had tried to persuade the doctor otherwise the nurse had been assigned. The absence of a police presence had confused her at first, she had a vague recollection of a handcuff tightening around her wrist. A visit late in the night had answered all her questions, and she worked over the details in her yet foggy mind.

John Daly had marched into her room shortly after a sudden shortage of nurses in the emergency room had called her attendant away. Instinctively she reached for a weapon under her pillow, but found none. He pulled up a chair next her, reached inside his brown leather jacket, and pointed an all too familiar nozzle at her. He smiled, turned the weapon in his hand, and offered it to her handle first. "Were you looking for this", he asked raising a dark blonde eyebrow.

Magali took the offered weapon, discharged the clip, and was surprised to find it completely loaded. "Who the fuck are you?" Her hand shook with the weight of the weapon as she pointed it back at him, but the man did not flinch away.

"Forty Five right? That’s your caliber of preference if I’m not mistaken…I thought you would feel…safer with it. I know I do, well, I’m kinda naked without one myself." Daly leaned back in his chair, satisfied with the reaction he received.

Magali glanced at the weapon, then back at the unknown man, who seemed to know her well enough to bring her a weapon. Do I know this guy? "I said, who the fuck are you?"

"John Daly’s the name." He stretched his hand out, hoping it would be taken before his head was.

Magali shook the hand, keeping the weapon in the other raised. "Nice to meet you, but your name doesn’t mean a thing to me."

"Well, it shouldn’t I would hope. But now your name…means a great deal to me, Magali Guerrerro."

"Alright, spill it. What do you want?" She put the weapon under the sheet by her side, confident her reflexes were fast enough to retrieve it if need be.

"For starters let me explain, why I’m here. Have you ever heard of the Blue Gauntlet?"

Magali settled into her pillow, a smoldering headache had been waiting on the borders, and the conversation was giving it life. The Blue Gauntlet was a tightly organized group of law enforcement officers who took huge amounts of pay-off money from everyone in the trafficking business. Their main sources of finance were those in the upper echelons, the ones who moved the product in and around the country. She had thought the members used the money for personal gratification, but whispers in the wind had brought about another picture.

A dark brow raised in response to his question. "I’ll take that as a yes. My organization has been trying to get a foothold in it for years, when it was just a rumor. You my dear Ms. Guerrerro, are as close to an outsider as anyone has come."

"Ever wonder how the force went from protect and serve to control and demand? Something is happening, Ms. Guerrero, and we have no idea what it is. While the rest of the country is worried about gays in the military and what the President does in his office, our basic premise of democracy is being threatened. How and exactly who…is beyond our reach."

Magali sighed, a thrumming in her head becoming unbearable. "I’m no informant Daly, and I’m small time compared to what you need. So, don’t waste your time trying to save me."

"Oh no on the contrary Guerrerro, you control the East Coast, I wouldn’t call that small time, and I only want New York…for now."

"So why me? And what makes you think I’ll help?"

Daly stretched, rose from his seat and meandered over to the door. He rested a hand on the doorknob, and turned to face her, his expression stone cold. "You’re intelligent, respected and feared…and I like your politics. You’re not exactly happy with the state of the state are you?" He paused, a gleam in his eye. "You are the wrench I’m throwing into the machine Guerrerro. Oh…and congratulations, Internal Affairs has the Ryan case, so it seems you’re off the hook…for now. You know how those boys are. I’ll give you a call when you’re better…Get well soon and…say hello to Casey for me alright?" He shrugged, gave her a broad smile and closed the door behind him. The pounding in her head took the form of a sledgehammer.

Casey took a second glance at the illuminated number twenty carved into the metal bar as the elevator doors opened. The marble fountain centered in the airy atrium bubbled with glowing streams of water. She walked around its sculptured surface to the reception desk, where a pretty, young brunette greeted her. "Good morning, how may I help you?"

Uncertain she leaned slightly over the counter, and whispered to the receptionist, "I’m looking for Magali Guerrerro?"

The brunette smiled, leafed through a file box and produced a small green slip. "Here you go miss, room forty down the left hallway, and it will be on your right."

The room’s lighting was dim and soft, a small monitor over the bed displaying vital signs silently. Under a bright spotlight sat a plump nurse reading from an obvious romance novel. She looked up as Casey tiptoed into the room. Mahogany furniture set an elegant tone, subtle green patterned wallpaper blended with the colors of a hanging frame of abstract art. A tiffany styled lamp near a sleeping Magali bathed her in warm light. Casey grinned at the nurse, mouthing a quiet "hello."

A raspy voice interrupted her stealthy approach. "Stop trying to sneak up on me Casey, I could hear you coming down the hall."

"I thought you were asleep…you should be," she said condescendingly.

Magali smirked, chewed on her lip and patted a space next to her on the bed. "C’mere."

Apprehensively Casey sat by her, careful not to create much movement. Magali reached for her, pressing a hand behind the blonde’s neck she pulled her down for a lustful kiss. Lips met in a dance, parting with a deliberate reluctance that left both women breathless.

"I don’t think you should be doing that either" Casey breathed, touching the tip of an index finger to Magali’s lips.

"I thought kissing was good for the healing process?"

"That’s laughter Gali…but we could work on a new theory." The blonde said leaning in for another taste.

A pleased expression flashed across bronze features, cerulean eye’s gleaming in response. "Gali huh? I like the way that sounds in your voice."

"You do? I…I’m glad you like it, cause I plan to use it a lot."

A sudden somber expression crossed Magali’s features, bringing Casey’s sunny mood to an abrupt end. A deep-seeded dread settled in Casey at the foreshadowing look of melancholy. Magali pressed a square button on a near panel, twirling sounds of working machinery brought the head of the bed to an inclined position. "Nurse, could you excuse us for a minute…I promise I won’t go into convulsions without you." Wordlessly the white clad nurse closed her book and exited the room, closing the door behind her.

"Casey…I saw the news release earlier, you were in the background."

"I was?" she asked, eyebrows rising in amused surprise.

"Yeah, you were. Are there any reporters still out there?"

Casey thought about her arrival at the hospital entrance. How early the hour had been. How some reporters milled about the lobby sipping on steaming cups of coffee. "A few why?"

"It has meant a lot to me to have you near, no one has ever done anything like that for…me." She hesitated, measuring her words in a mind that reasoned for logic, and a soul that screamed in protest. "But it’s not safe for you here Casey…should someone connect you to me right now…"

Hurriedly Casey stood, pacing the room in barely disguised distress, " Gali…it’s…it’s too late for that."

Magali’s brows crossed, crinkling the skin of her forehead and setting her mouth in a tight-lipped scowl. "What’s happened?" Magali swallowed hard, forcing down the regret at having the blonde in the middle of a virtual storm.

"This cop…Webster…he…visited me before you…" She averted her eyes, unsure what the reaction would be, certain only that it would be explosive. Her suspicions confirmed when Magali struggled under the sheets covering her.

"God damn it, fuckin’ bastard…" Her words were loud enough to warrant a curious head to enter the room. With a concerned expression, and a sharp look at Casey the nurse retreated, once again closing the door and leaving them in private.

Casey placed a gentle hand on the squirming woman, who was painfully pulling covers off, and stretching towards the phone. "Gali, it’s okay. He didn’t do anything…and I haven’t seen him since you were in emergency."

"You don’t understand Casey…" She said dejectedly.

"No I don’t, and I don’t want to. You’re driving me nuts, and I’m not absolutely sure…other than this feeling that I belong with you…why."

"I want you to stay at my place, at least until I get out of here. I know the place is a mess, I’ll send a cleaning service over…have them remove the furniture…Eddie will give you any money you need to restock the place, just don’t get anything with print please…leather is perfect…"

Casey gawked at the ramblings, shaking her head and rubbing the back of her neck. "I can’t do that Gali."

Open mouthed and confused, Magali put down the phone she had picked up. "Why not?"

"I just can’t put my life on hold, and I won’t hide."

"You wouldn’t be…look, I have people in my building who can look out and make sure you are safe. You’ll never know they’re there…please Casey. If anything were to happen to you, I…" It was as close to a plead as Casey had ever heard from the dark woman.

"Okay…compromise here. I’ll stay at your place when I come up here to visit you…but I have papers due soon, so I won’t be able to come by every day. Besides, I think Devi could use some company at night."

At the mention of the dog’s name Magali’s face lit up in hope. "Devi? She’s alright", she exclaimed with a brilliant smile.

"Jesse told me to tell you she would be taking her home tomorrow. She’s wearing a cast on her back leg, but I think only her haunch was hurt in the…accident. She’ll be fine in a few weeks, that’s one strong dog…like her mistress." Casey relaxed in the gleam radiating from Magali, a weight lifted from the taller woman who feared the loss of a friend.

"Stay here for awhile…right here next to me?"

Casey laid gently next to her, laying a careful arm over Magali’s midsection. "I’ve never seen a full sized hospital bed! Am I squishing you?"

In response Magali cuddled closer, mindful to keep her flinch well hidden from the smaller woman, she pulled her into a soft embrace.

Morning claimed the day, shooting the city with brilliant light, and the sidewalks came to life with vendors and open shops. One quiet hospital room overlooking the river remained still. Two figures slept soundlessly, warm in a locked embrace, supervised by a sleeping nurse. A shrill beeping sound from the monitor woke them, a flat line extended it’s way across the screen, terrorizing the nurse awake and sending her flying to the dark woman who complained softly from the noise. A small, circular, white pad had detached itself from the patient. Impatiently the nurse pressed it back on. As her wrist was seized by a vise-like grip, one cerulean eye peered at her sleepily. "Don’t you ever make sudden moves around me, got that?" The nurse nodded fearfully at the dark woman, smiling cautiously she slipped away. Nestling back into the comfort of the body next to her, and the softness of the mattress, Magali closed her eyes and calmed.

Content to lay by her side through the night as she slept, Casey groaned at the sound of Magali’s husky voice. For hours she had watched Magali’s chest rise and fall to an even rhythm, torturing herself with the thought of that chest ceasing its movement. The protectiveness of the arm around her back and draped over her shoulder lulled her to sleep, exhaustion playing it’s own small role. Casey allowed one eye to open and peer at the sleeping woman she nearly lay over. Unsure as to whether the position was comfortable, she inched herself away only to be pulled back in.

"Please don’t move, this feels too good." A low voice requested in her ear, nuzzling into the side of her neck.

"I don’t want to hurt you baby." Casey whispered back, conscious of the judging eyes pointed at her from the cornered armchair.

Magali caught the hesitation in Casey’s movements, felt the awkwardness caused by the scrutiny of the disapproving nurse fall upon them. Unthinking she lifted her arm, a shimmering weapon bathed in the new light of day in her grasp. "Out," she said gruffly, the customary tone of demand in her voice. Stifling a scream the nurse scurried away, leaving behind her romance novel, she nearly crashed into the door exiting the room.

Exasperated at the turn of events Casey sat up slowly, pointing at the gun floating in the air. "Gali…where did that come from?" Casey what have you gotten yourself into huh?

Wearily Magali hid the weapon back under the sheets, she turned her head away from the green eye’s that threatened to turn her resolve. "I had a visit as well…but it wasn’t Webster. Some guy named Daly…"Why the hell are you telling her this. You’re supposed to keep her out stupid.

"Daly? I met him too, in the waiting room when you were in ICU. I thought he was investigating the shooting, I had an alibi for you, but he didn’t take a statement from me or anything. He was really strange. Is everything all right? I figured since you weren’t handcuffed he…"

So I was handcuffed. "I shouldn’t be telling you this Casey, you’re in deeper than what I ever intended. But that explains how he knew you…he mentioned you when we spoke."

Casey leaned in and planted tender lips on Magali’s cheek, visibly crumbling the woman’s façade of secrecy. "Don’t keep me out Gali, I need to understand you."

My Saint, I could dirty you sooo easily. Did my heart love till now? "I can’t tell you everything Casey, I don’t know if I will ever be able to. You’ll have to trust me, and there’s nothing that says you should. I’ll understand if you walk away."

"I’m not going anywhere Magali Guerrerro. Nice try."

"Why do you stay around me Casey?" Ineffectually Magali attempted to hide her apprehension behind a stone expression. Casey recognized the effort, saw through the endeavor and caught the profound sadness swimming in the deep blue of her eyes.

"I can see through you Gali, I want to know the person behind all that cold you show everyone else. You do things because you have to, because you play with the cards life has dealt you the best way you can. I don’t agree with what you do, but I know there are two sides to every coin, and no one ever sees the other side of you do they?"

"There’s nothing but what you see right now Casey."

"You’re wrong, you may not want to hear this but you have never cared for yourself have you? Always doing something for someone else no matter how rotten that makes you look, or…the price you have to pay for it. Let me be the one to care Gali." Casey leaned once more, grazing the skin of Magali’s neck, before strong hands held her back at bay.

"And what do I do for you Casey? Put you in danger, or …"

Casey bolted upright, crossing her arms before her chest and pointing a finger at Magali. "Don’t you start that now. You show me what true strength is, you show me the world through your eyes, things I never noticed before."

"That’s an ugly place I’m giving you." She replied dejectedly.

"It’s a part of you I can’t ignore, and I chose to go there." And maybe, just maybe, I can get you to see the otherside.


The covers were cold, the ache in her chest a dull, pulsating annoyance after weeks of healing. I didn’t use to mind waking up alone. Casey had visited every chance she had, mostly every other day, and would manage to sometimes spend the night. For the amount of money spent on the room not a soul bothered to complain about the visitor. Eventually the nurse had been retired as well, leaving for company only the .45 caliber weapon tucked by her side. There had been no sign of trouble, and besides the day Eddie had snuck in a limping Devi, the hospital was quiet. The deep gash along her temple had scabbed over surrounded by a deep purple. Stitches had been removed from some of the chest wound, the rest would remain for a return visit. An immense man in a white coat had brought her a transparent bag, filled with her torn clothing and a manila envelope with her jewelry and other possessions. Casey had managed to bring her a pair of jeans and a green knit sweater the day before. Magali donned the jewelry, the cold of the metal a welcome familiarity against her skin. The rest of the bag she threw away, mourning over the torn trench coat she had favored. Oh well, I’ll just get another.

Eddie had told her everything was going well, nothing unusual, although some wondered if she was coming back as strong as she had left. Fuckin’ parasites, always ready to take your throne. In her world any sign of weakness meant an instant challenge, some didn’t wait for any signs. I’ll just put on a show for them bastards, and we’ll see who’s in charge then. Her spy in her building kept a diligent watch over Casey, staying up the entire night while the woman slept. Visions of Casey in her bed, snuggled between silken sheets gave her some comfort on lonely mornings, then there were the thoughts of Daly. What the hell does that man want from me? Turn in cops? Turn in dealers? Play with fire? Shit, what the fuck am I gonna do now, business as usual? Casey…run baby, run as fast as you can. But I’ll die without you. She brushed back her hair, washed some dried blood off her Ray-Bans, and called security to escort her out. Policy dictated she be wheeled out to the entrance in a wheel chair, but she had insisted on being brought out through the back, where a limousine waited for her. Its tinted windows provided some security, the customary driver drove silently in his enclosed section.

Magali dialed her own number on her new cellular, the other had disappeared somewhere into the mysterious black hole some things wandered into. It rang a few times, and then a well-known recording picked up, she disconnected the call. I thought she would be there. Subconsciously she fingered the handle of the .45 at her side, a bit uncomfortable without a holster. The ride was short, a mere two miles from point "A" to point "B". She watched the rear window, calculating the movement of the cars behind them, watchful for anyone following or obvious switches.

Fort Washington Avenue was a quiet, tree-lined street. Tall condominium buildings on both sides, small squares of parks with benches dotting it’s path, ending in the 100 acre park of Fort Tryon. Nestled within its hills, a tall tower marked the location of the "Cloisters", an imported monastery from Europe housing medieval pieces from the Museum of Art. The limousine stopped in front of her building, she nodded at the driver, pulled a bill from a bundle in her pocket and handed it over to him as the glass separating passenger and driver slid downward. Walking still proved painful, breathing while walking a chore.

She found her keys in a pocket, the cold late December air whipped through her open parka. Wreaths and lights decorated the lobby of the building, and the street lamps along the avenue. The sidewalk was clean, no evidence of the blood she had spilled visable. Four weeks had passed, and her speedy recovery had allowed for her early release, just in time for the holidays. Magali filled her lungs with the chill air, smelling on it the scent of the city mingled with the crisp feel of ice. Snow’s coming. Wonder if it will be a white Christmas this year? Thankfully no one saw her enter, most of the residents away at work or asleep. It felt strange to push the elevator button. Not for a minute did I think I would be here again.

A smile formed when she noticed the wreath hanging on her door, a small brass bell hanging from a red bow at its lowest point. The neighbors must think I’m dead and someone else moved in. Through the crack of the door she could hear the grunt of a homecoming Devi style. This is going to hurt. The door was barely open when the dog bumped into her legs, pushing aside the wooden obstacle between her and her mistress. The cast had been removed, but the animal showed a slight limp to her walk. Fortunately she did not attempt to jump up for a lick, and slowly Magali bent to give the dog a hardy rub on the neck. "Did ya miss me girl?" Happily Devi wagged her tail, limping back into the apartment ahead of her human. Everything had been replaced right down to the altar and the furniture. The place was spotless, and other than a few scattered vases displaying colorful flower arrangements nothing had changed. It’s as if nothing ever happened, good job Casey, but I know what you’re trying to do.

Magali ambled over into the kitchen, Devi close behind her, she opened the window and gave a shrill whistle. A young, long-haired man opened an adjacent window and stuck his head out, craning his neck to get a view at the higher floor. "Where is she Ruben?"

The man grinned, obviously pleased with her return. "I think she went to the supermarket, she took the shopping cart with her. Nelson’s got her shadow."

"Bring my baby up will ya…a shopping cart? I don’t have a fuckin’ shopping cart." Magali replied indignantly. Rubbing his arms for warmth, the young man shrugged and closed the window.

Casey heard the last words uttered in exasperation as she turned the key to the door, a happy Devi greeting her. A flurry of curses emanated from the kitchen following the crashing sound of breaking glass. Casey padded to the doorway, finding a frustrated Magali standing over a broken bottle of scotch, green shards of glass close to her feet. The blonde placed her hands on her hips and smirked. "And what exactly do you think you were doing Magali Guerrerro?" Looking like a child caught watching an adult film Magali shrugged. "I was…I…"

"Aha…go sit down before you wreck the place I just cleaned up after that one", she said pointing at a guilty Devi, who tucked tail and limped away.

With a sheepish expression the tall woman sidestepped the glass and ambled into the living room, gently stretching herself out on the new couch. From her angle she could watch Casey picking up the glass from the floor, wickedly grinning as the blonde bent repeatedly in her efforts. Green eyes caught her in her admiration, and a blonde head shook in amused disapproval. "You are terrible Gali, just incorrigible, God…" A dark brow raised in acknowledgement, accompanied by a pursed set of crimson lips and bright blue eyes.

"Are you going to take your coat off and stay a while?"

Magali had not noticed she wore the parka still, and began to shrug it off. "Sorry, I’m not used to being here for long…usually in and out, unless I’m sleeping." As if on cue the phone rang, causing Casey to scowl somewhat. Lazily Magali reached for the cellular in the pocket of the discarded parka at her feet.

"Yeah?" Her head nodded and she frowned as she listened intently, a pair of emerald eyes watching her reactions. Fuck, it begins, here’s the test Casey. Can you live with this? "I’ll be there as soon as I can, just hang around until I get there Eddie." Startled at the knock on the door Casey dropped the dustpan she was holding and cursed.

"Come in Ruben," she shouted pulling the gun from her waist and resting it on her outstretched leg.

Ruben was a short man in his early twenties. He wore his dark hair long and loose around his shoulders, a definite limp in his walk. He pulled a gleaming weapon from his belt and handed it over to Magali. "Here you go Zee, I even cleaned her for you." She inspected the weapon, opening the chamber and peering in, giving Ruben a nod of approval.

"Thought it was going to be yours didn’t you?" Her eyes met his, emotionless and cold. The young man swallowed hard enough for her to hear. "That’s all right Ruben, it almost was…but it takes more than that to get rid of me. Go on, get outta here." Without another word the man left, a frozen atmosphere captured the room, a still Casey in silent trepidation. She changes so quickly.

The chill melted as Magali’s eyes focused on Casey, warmth crept into the ice present there, heated by a small smile. "C’mere Casey," she said placing both guns next to the cellular on the coffee table. Casey roamed over, her pulse quickening at the suggestion of the invitation, a seductive timber in Magali’s voice. She found a small spot on the edge of the couch next to the darker woman, a sudden bout of timidity taking over her. Other than the cuddling in the hospital, the deep kisses that would stop before they turned to outright passion, they had not touched. The low note in Magali’s voice betrayed a raw need, filled with the promise of crossing thresholds and boundaries.

A tremor ran through Casey at the light touch to the nape of her neck, warm lips burning her skin leaving fiery traces in their path. Magali pulled her sweater off and pressed her chest to Casey’s clothed back. The heat of the smaller woman seeped through the cloth and onto her bared skin. Her hands roamed to unbutton an old shirt of hers the blonde wore, exposing shoulders she devoured with bites and soft sucking. A moan escaped from Magali, soaked in by flushed skin covered by hungry lips. Casey’s shirt fell open, strong hands roamed down her abdomen, caressed the heated spot between her legs, squeezed her thighs. Agile fingers undid the latch of her brassiere each strap tenderly tugged away, the garment hastily discarded. Magali wrapped her hand in the blonde tresses, firmly yanking back, she lay Casey supine across her lap, one hand rubbing Casey below the end of her jean’s zipper. She captured an aroused nipple in her teeth, alternating between gentle and harsh sucking, Casey’s breathing grew rapid. Magali paused long enough to undo the button and zipper of Casey’s jeans, the blonde protested the cessation of motion, a throbbing building agonizingly slow. Lips touched in a bruising embrace, tongues danced teasingly, heightening the hunger of the moment. As Magali slipped her hand under the denim she lost herself in an ocean of emerald green, the slender body over her lap surrendering to submission. Casey’s back arched at the sensation of a hard palm against her center, two fingers aggressively sought entry. Passage was granted easily by the natural slickness soaking hand and denim alike.

Magali greedily consumed waiting breasts and lips, starved for contact, she worshipped the body of her Saint. The trembling warned her and she slowed. "Please…don’t…", breathlessly Casey begged.

"What will you give me Casey," she asked raggedly.

"Anything." Came the pleading reply.

"In time baby, we will see what ‘anything’ means."

Magali smiled, her eyes narrowed as she pushed the shaking woman upwards. Sitting on the edge of the couch she positioned Casey to stand before her. Tumultuously Magali removed the rest of Casey’s clothing, ripping away undergarments and nipping at an exposed navel ring. Gripping onto her buttocks with both hands and drawing her closer, she trailed a hand down the back of Casey’s thigh, red streaks marked the passing of her fingertips. Holding onto the back of the blonde’s knee, she lifted, and brought the leg to rest high on her shoulder. Casey took in a sharp breath as lips found her, a tantalizing tongue explored her, its focus on her engorged nub. The pulsing at her core increased, fingers found her wetness and intruded unceremoniously, sending an explosive spasm coursing through her senses. A smooth metal stud created jolts of intense sensations, she tangled her hand in the black mass of hair, while the other clawed at a strong shoulder for balance. The raking issued a groan from her Black Velvet. Her spine straightened sending her head back and she bit down on her lip as she cried out in release. Bolts of ecstasy affected the strength in her legs, and Magali had to catch her as she crumpled against her.

Casey found herself on her knees, her head resting on a strong thigh, the scent of Magali near and intoxicating. She crawled towards a bare midsection, the lines of muscles there softened but clear. Blue eyes closed as warm lips touched skin, an aching filled her, and Magali undid the buttons of her own jeans and removed them. Leaning back into the couch and moving her pelvis forward, she pulled the smaller woman over her, a slender thigh between her legs rubbed against her own silky wetness.

"Move with me Casey," she said with demand in her sultry voice.

A slow dance began, and Magali seized Casey’s firm globes, pressing the woman closer into her. A searing bite at her shoulder sent tingles down her spine, and she arched under her Saint. When the world began to lift and disappear, she lifted the blonde by the waist. Again she used the long golden hair to roughly move the woman away, pressing down on her shoulders and forcing her to her knees. Thrusting her hips towards a welcoming mouth, Black Velvet growled in delight. She watched the movement of Casey’s head as she drank her in, the sight and sounds of the act propelling her skyward. A skilled tongue darted around her aroused clit, pressing its full length and flicking with a daring tip. Lips surrounded the bud, sucking it into a warm heaven, calming it with soft cool blows of breath. With one strong hand Magali drew her closer, crushing herself into her tormentor. A guttural moan erupted from her throat at her climax, and she ground against the ravenous mouth of her lover. Casey was lifted from the floor violently, and trapped by two strong arms that rocked her gently as aftershocks claimed the taller woman. Magali lay back onto the couch, letting one leg dangle over the edge, while her length stretched along the leather. Casey found a comfortable spot to rest her head just above her Black Velvet’s navel, her legs tangled with the one long limb laid down the couch. Respiration slowed, heartbeats normalized, peace settled around them.

Hey you, watching as this light bleeds all over me

Shadows rise and fall, listen as I call

is this reality

I will be with you tonight

And tomorrow be a 1,000 miles away

I will be with you tonight

I will be with you as long as you say stay

One little piece of my soul

One little piece of my whole life

I give to you

Take it now

Hey you looking through a mirror to a cage

I’ll take you away, this miracle you pray for on the stage

I will be with you tonight

I will be with you a 1,000 miles away

I will never leave

Inside of you a piece of me will stay

Supine against the leather of the couch Magali stared at the white ceiling, a sleeping Casey lay face down on her belly, arms wrapped around Magali’s waist. It reminded her of a blank canvass waiting for an artist. She listened to Casey’s soft breathing, watched the first flurries of the day float past the windowpane and out of sight. Snow. The phone rang and Casey shifted while Magali reached for the device. "Yeah Eddie I’ll be right there," she said and hung up. Reluctantly squirming her way out from under the sleeping woman, she rummaged for her clothes and ambled off into the bathroom.

Casey was alone when she woke under a quilted blanket, a slope of crystal white painting the window. The guns on the table were gone, nothing of Magali remained except for the scent on her skin. I can’t believe she just left! I’m never here she said, guess she wasn’t kidding. Got a good fuck and then she’s gone huh? Fuck this, two can play that game. I’m out of here. Better yet, I think I know exactly where she went.

At first glance 164th Street between Broadway and Saint Nicholas Avenue was just another ordinary, city block among many others. Closer inspection of the short street brought out chilling nuances written subtly in the archives of the sin trade. Each corner rooftop was manned by an armed adolescent sitting on a five story ledge, possibly smoking a cigarette or talking on a cellular. Shaded eyes watched the city unfold twenty-four hours a day. The rooftop soldiers roamed the connected buildings, taking in all the angles, watching for the blue uniforms and unmarked cars that spelled trouble. Residing in the majority of the apartments were poor immigrant families, willing to do anything for survival. Scattered among the families, two room suites served as ‘spots,’ each specializing in it’s own specific brand of narcotics. Young men and women waited on stoops for customers to come by, lead them up the stairs and make the deal. Fights broke out constantly as to whose customer was whose, they worked on commission, like sharks in a tank.

Magali turned the corner, double-parking in the middle of the block, one of her many small kingdoms. The base from her sound system vibrated the windows of the Jeep and every eye focused on the vehicle in recognition. She drew the mother of pearl handled weapon from her shoulder holster, released the clip and checked the number of bullets in it. Snapping the clip back in place, she reached under her seat to check the position of the second .45 given to her by Daly. She opened the door leaving the Jeep running, the lyrics of the CD she played spilled out into the street.

Remind me of myself when I was younger

But it was hunger that stopped a nigga from going under

And you wonder why I pat you on your head and smile

I look in your eyes and thank the Lord for my child

Meanwhile there’s something I gotta show ya, and I hope you can take it

I gotta leave you in the desert, and I hope you can make it

I gotta put you on your ass to see what it does to you

When you stand up, you’ll see I’m just showing love to you…

Some of us do the winning, but we all do the losing

The intensity in the air rose a few notches as she stepped out onto the partially ice covered asphalt. Eyes averted her, some grinned cautiously, nodding their heads and whispering a greeting. "Wassup Zero?"

She passed them silently, briskly pumping a hand with two fingers held open as she did. The lobby stunk of urine and bleach, some of the lights had been knocked out to create shadows. She walked up the five flights to an apartment they had dubbed ‘the office.’ It was a one-room suite, with a ragged sofa, a big screen TV connected to a Playstation, and a long plain table holding a triple beam scale. Pounding on the door, she heard the peephole latch squeak open, then the lock turn. Covering her bare chest with an old sweater, a young bleached blonde woman opened the door.

"Get out of here…now," Magali barked at her, sending her running down the hall and into another apartment.

Eddie lounged on the sofa, playing a video game intently. He dropped the control and stood to embrace her, she patted his head and pushed him away scowling.

"What the fuck is the problem Eddie?"

He scratched his bare scalp, rubbing his neck as he paced back to the sofa. "That kid, Nelson’s brother, he got caught fuckin’ this girl on the roof."

"So what? That’s nothing new…was he supposed to be watching?"

Eddie shook his head, an expression of apprehension gracing his features. "Nope he was off, but…she’s twelve Zee, and her parents are screaming rape."

Magali’s indifference turned to ice, there were few acts she considered intolerable, and the appearance of one made her nauseous. "Where is he?"

"He went to the store just before you got here, I put him on door duty."

"Let’s go. I want to see this girl." The tone of her voice told him there was going to be a performance, grabbing an aluminum bat he kept behind the sofa he followed her out.

Magali ran down stairs the same manner she ran up, two at a time, not really looking where her feet fell but at the next turn or landing. Eddie had grown accustomed to her constant vigilance, there was an edge about her that was tangible, it radiated off her body the way a panther exuded grace and danger. The girl and her family lived in a building across the street on the second floor, in a one-room apartment. Two adults shared their space with five children, who made the small living room into a makeshift bedroom. She knocked on the door with her fist, the peephole clicked, then a squeal from the old lock and the door opened exposing a small dark man with weary dark eyes. Magali stepped in wordlessly, taking command of the space as if she owned it.

Two full sized beds were pushed against the walls, forming an L-shaped ad hoc sofa for visitors. A cracked bureau leaned against a far wall supporting a large TV screen blaring the sounds of holiday commercials, the newest toy, a must have, no child could do without. Two small boys wrestled on the floor, their ribs clear through their skin, spinal vertebrae protruded from their backs as they twisted in a rough dance against each other. They stopped frozen in time, gawking at the intimidating Magali who narrowed her fiercely blue eyes at them and smiled. Eddie ambled over to the boys in his best gorilla imitation, letting out a mighty roar he tackled them both, sending them into fits of giggles. Magali grasped the small man’s hand in a firm handshake, tilting her head towards the crowded table in the kitchen.

Face to face, in silence, she waited for the plump woman scurrying around the kitchen to pour two steaming cups of coffee and place one before her. "Gracias," she nodded at the woman who smiled back and left the room. Taking a deep breath Magali began the uncomfortable business of her reign.

"Señor Vasquez, I’ve been told you had a…problem. If I can straighten it out I will, but I need to see your daughter first." Vasquez sipped at his cup, his eyes downcast, shoulders slumped. "I don’t want to make problems for you Bajo Zero, you do what you think is right." He wanted to say more, to spill every ounce of despair he had at her feet. To thank her for paying the medical bills workers comp had refused to pay when he injured his back. For the mysterious toys that appeared at the door when he was out of work last Christmas. For the time she spoke to the corner grocery-store owner about his son’s fascination with stealing packets of cookies. He choked on the words, biting back his gratitude with the force of centuries of pride.

The steaming liquid was welcome in her empty stomach, and she swallowed half of the cup’s contents before pushing herself away from the table. She strolled through the living room, where Eddie was currently being tackled by the two boys and an infant girl clad only in diapers. Pushing the bedroom door open she entered into an artificial night created by dark curtains making her wince inwardly. She could make out a slender form curled in a fetal position in the middle of a sagging bed. Deliberately she approached the girl, sitting on a corner of the bed she placed her hands on her thighs, planted her feet firmly on the ground. "You know who I am?" The bed shook slightly as the girl turned to face Magali’s back. In a small airy voice the girl replied, "yeah."

"Tell me what happened."

Magali bit down on the inside of her cheek, the rusty taste of blood appearing in her mouth, as she listened to the story. They had been flirting for weeks, she thought he had been cute. He’s too old for you kid, what the fuck were you thinking. He had bought her a pair of sneakers last week, kissed her gently on the cheek. Always money, that’s what it comes down to isn’t it?

"Yesterday, I saw him on the corner and he said he had something for me, and to meet him on the roof later." And you did. "He started to kiss me, and I didn’t mind but then he put his hands in…" Magali tensed, shutting out the words, catching brief syllables of the speech. "When he was done, he just left me there, I couldn’t move for a long time.."

"That’s enough." Shaking she stood up from the bed, holding the beast precariously in control, Magali turned to face the girl. Her features were small and mouse-like, her brown hair fell in curls around her tan face, emphasizing the natural deep red of her mouth. A purple smudge surrounded the girls lower lip, stark against her skin. Magali reached towards her chin and watched the girl recoil away. Oh how I know that cringe too well. Magali stomped out of the bedroom, through the living-room, and out of the apartment. Eddie barely caught up to her on the stairs.

Large flakes of snow had begun to fall, covering the few standing on the stoop with specks of white, their breaths visible in the air. Magali closed the collar of her waist length sheepskin jacket, the black of the leather blended with her loose hair and black jeans. She enjoyed wearing black, it was nondescript and didn’t show dirt or stains. A broad shouldered, tan skinned man trudged down the street. Catching site of Magali standing on the stoop he bolted, dropping the paper bag covered beer he was drinking. Two figures caught him before he could turn the corner, and dragged him backwards towards the dark woman, his heels leaving tracks in the accumulating snow. They brought him face to face with her, and she pulled her shades down on her nose to glare at him, his breath caught.

Opening her jacket she glowered, one dark eyebrow rising. "You making trouble for me…Ricky?"

In a panic the man began to whimper, tears staining his reddened cheeks. "I…I…no Zero, I swear…"

The smack to his face silenced him and Magali pressed the nozzle of the .45 to his temple, clenching her jaw. "You are soooo lucky I know your brother you fuckin’ idiot. Stop cryin’ bitch I’m not gonna kill ya’…Let him go."

The men holding the man released him immediately, but he could not move as he watched with relief the return of the gun to it’s holster. Magali straightened her back, popping some of the vertebrae in her spine, a sharp throbbing beginning in her chest.

There were stairs, they were steep

I was falling, falling deep

You were there, you were small

There was screaming down the hall

I’ve been here

Sleeping all these years

There comes a time, we all know

There’s a place that we must go

Into the soul

Into the heart

Into the dark


Casey dressed quickly, dialed the number of the livery service she had memorized, and locked the door of the apartment. Devi whined as she turned the key. What was that street number? Think Casey, think. You picked up the Jeep from Eddie there that night, shit what was it? The interior of the cab was warm, a flowery scent permeating the space. The driver coolly looked through his rearview at her in question. "One hundred sixty fourth street please." The dark-skinned man’s eyebrows rose at the mention of the street, quietly he stepped on the gas. "You sure you want to go there?"

Casey eyed him suspiciously, "yes".


She shrugged off her jacket, exposing the holster and the black mock turtleneck she wore to the icy wind. Her powerful hand grabbed the man’s jaw, the other she held out towards Eddie, who placed the bat he carried smoothly on her open palm. Ricky’s eyes widened and he turned to run. The first hit caught him flat across his back and he was thrown into the street. An oncoming gypsy cab slammed on its breaks, narrowly missing the fumbling man who crashed into a parked car across the street.

Magali ran after him, bat in hand, she skidded over the hood of the cab landing over the fallen man. Picking him up by the nape of his neck, she shoved his head through a parked car’s window, felt the warm stream of blood curl around her fingers. His gurgled pleas reached her ears, fanning the anger that already soared out of control. "Please Zee, stop…please." Blood spattered on the white of the street with each stroke of the bat in her hand.

"That what she told you? Come on Ricky you know you want it! Twelve years old, you sonofabitch!"

She heard the breaking of bone as his legs shattered under her force, arms snapping as she deliberately aimed for his limbs. Behind her Eddie’s voice echoed through the haze of her rage.

"You see something asshole?! You see something?!" He yelled at the cab driver.

Magali turned, her hands stained, scarlet droplets dotting her face. Across the street an older couple watched her, a small girl tucked under the arm of a pleased looking man. The small man nodded at her and returned to the confines of the building, his salvaged honor intact, justice served.

"Nothing…nothing, I didn’t see…" The cab driver’s voice was filled with horror as he defended himself against Eddie’s shouts. The screaming caught her attention.

Her heart crept up into her throat, the pain in her chest intense, blood rushed into her face. A familiar countenance stared back at her in terror from the backseat of the gypsy cab, a trembling hand covering her mouth. Shit. "Casey, what…"

"I changed my mind, driver…take me to one-oh-six and Manhattan." Casey requested quickly, hiding herself away from the vision of Magali wet and blood stained. The cab took off, speeding down the street, taking the red light at the end.


There was fire, there was death

There was lying on your breath

I turned away

I would pretend

But the burning never ends

I’ve been here, sleeping all these years

There comes a time, we all know

There’s a place that we must go

Into the soul

Into the heart

Into the dark

The smoldering fire flared within her, and she kicked the semi-conscious man bleeding on the ground. A warning shout from a rooftop reverberated through the street, and Eddie snatched the bat away from Magali. "Zee, it’s five-o…snap out of it." She stared down the street blankly, the look of fear on Casey’s face an indelible image in her minds eye. She gathered a fistful of snow and scrubbed her face with it, rubbed her hands against the slick body of the jeep effectively erasing the stains there. With her sheepskin back on and zippered she melded into the gathered crowd. A police car stopped behind the Jeep, two officers ran out and stood before the fallen man. Fuck, if I leave now they’re going to chase me. Can’t afford that.

"What the hell happened here," one of them shouted, but his question was met with silence. He pointed a pale finger at Magali, who leaned casually on the side of her jeep. "You…I know you…you have anything to do with this?"

Magali shrugged, "I have one of those faces, and I just got here see…my engine is running. Ya’ think I would leave my car with the keys in it on a block like this? Go ahead ask anyone, they’ll tell ya’." Her hands moved to indicate the crowd, and she shrugged once more, crossing her arms before her chest.

The screaming sirens of the ambulance reminded her of Casey’s expression watching her through the cab’s window. How am I going to explain this? Fuck, why couldn’t she have just stayed home? Home? It’s your home Stupid not hers. Paramedics rushed in and carried the broken man away, his screams ringing in her ears.

Inflamed, Magali slammed the door of the Jeep she retreated into, the sound of music swallowing her grief and distress. Bet I can still catch her. The gear shift stick vibrated under her touch as her hand came in contact with the cold metal of the skull shaped knob. Kicking the Jeep quickly into second she beat the ambulance to the corner, using its lights and screaming sirens to justify her speeding through the red light. Knowing the cab would have taken the long way down Broadway, she turned onto Riverside drive, hoping to intercept it somewhere along the line. Two red lights later and a few angry New York drivers she pulled up onto Broadway, double parked under the overpass of the elevated train on 125th street and waited. Traffic trickled past her, most were sports cars, a few she recognized, and they honked as they drove by. Okay I know she lives somewhere near Columbia University, I think. Oh wait, there it is…

Bouncing over the potholes, a dark blue Lincoln made it’s way down the hill and under the overpass. She knew the livery company well, had used it on occasion to dismiss more than a few used women. It passed her by and she pulled in to the traffic behind it, following its progress down the rugged street, pass the tunnel where the train disappeared underground. Emerging over the top of the hill the scenery suddenly changed, the street smoothed out, buildings were clean and well taken care of, the gentrified neighborhood of Morningside Heights, home of Columbia University. Magali expected the cab to pull in somewhere close, but it proceeded down Broadway towards the lower end of the neighborhood. Magali drummed on the dashboard at every red light, contemplated getting out and causing a traffic jam, opening the door slightly then shutting it again.

Finally the cab made a left off the broad avenue and turned onto 106th Street, a long street that ended at Central Park. It sported a comfortable mixture of the downtrodden and the artistic, university students taking advantage of the cheap rents. Magali parked a car length away from the cab, watched as Casey paid the driver and leaned out head first to exit. What do I say. What do I say? Emerald eyes focused in on her as she jumped out of the Jeep half running.

"Case wait, it’s not what you think," she pleaded, surprised at herself. She grabbed on to the smaller woman from behind, wrapping her long arms around her in an unmovable embrace.

"Let me go Zee," Casey whispered aware of the eyes that watched from blinded windows. Let’s not struggle here Casey, make it look casual.

Zee, the name hit her in the chest with a ferocious blow that knocked the wind out of her, and crumbled at the frayed ends of her soul. Tenderly she turned the woman in her arms to face her.

"We’re back to that now are we?" The somber note in her voice low and piercing.

"That's who you are to me right now." Casey found it hard to look into the blue eyes, clouded in pain.

"The other side of the coin…Casey, that guy raped a kid." Sounds seemed far away, she expected the next hit of the anvil to knock her away completely.

"Did you have to beat him like that? Why didn’t you just get the police?"

"The police? Why…so they can put all the blame on the kid? You know how those Hispanic women are…" She imitated the male posture. "Treat her like a criminal, or better yet take her away from her parents because they didn’t keep an eye on her?"

"It doesn’t have to be this way." Casey placed a warm hand on the taller woman cheek.

"But it is…I can’t walk away."

"Why not? Why can’t you?" Her voice raised slightly in agitation, but her questions were met with stone silence. I can’t tell you Casey, please don’t ask me anymore. "You’re just going to shut me out aren’t you…leave me alone Zee. Tell me when Magali comes back." The strong arms that had held her fell away. The cold biting at her face, she turned away and climbed the steps to her apartment. The last tendrils of sunlight hid themselves away for another night, a screeching Jeep pulled away with the heavy vibrations of bass following it.

It had been a pretty scene, one that had given rise to the hope of killing two birds with one stone. He had picked the lock to the apartment easily, rummaged through some personal belongings to make it look like a break in. In the middle of his task he heard the Jeep pull up, the sound of the music rattling the window, he peered through it furtively. On the sidewalk he watched them embrace, leered as Casey caressed a bronze cheek in tenderness. It was enough to make his stomach turn, and he decided his best move would be to hide in the closet. Surprised to see Casey enter alone, he continued with plan A.

Casey found the door to her apartment ajar, and through the crack she could see her belongings strewn about. It was reminiscent of Magali’s place when she had first seen it after the shooting. In comparison her place was small and plain, it had the look of a dorm room. The bare windows allowed the streetlight to throw a yellow glow into the room. Still in shock from the image of Magali battering the helpless broken man, she registered the danger too late. The well-known voice sent a chill down her spine.

"Well, Ms. Bridges, we meet again."

Shit. "What do you want Webster?"

"You." He said creeping closer, the silhouette of a gun raised in his hand.

Continued in Part 6

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