Disclaimer: Mine, mine, mine: except for the song lyrics they belong to Etheridge, Mclachlan, DMX, and Myles. Original Poetry by Dee.

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 6

The crowd dissipated once the police and ambulance were gone, it shrank back into the obscure recesses and hideaways of the street. A few of the neighborhood kids skidded on the icy asphalt, shoving each other into parked cars, and scraping elbows against red brick walls. Falling snow effected the streets with a juvenile mood, both jovial and carefree. Some forgot who they were, what they did, where they lived in a pure unadulterated moment of nothing. One tall dark boy, his hooded sweatshirt soaked and hanging damply along his thin frame, chased a screaming girl in innocent playfulness.

"Hey Raphaelito!" Shouted an older woman, rollers in her hair, from an open window. She wrapped her shoulders in a frail looking pink shawl, and frowned upon the chilly climate. "Stop playing in the street like a fuckin’ baby, your son is up here crying. He needs more diapers!"

He nearly fell trying to stop in the accumulating slush, and slid into the rusty metal of the banister by the stoop. "I can’t now ma! I got customers out here! Send Ophelia, shit! She gave birth to him!"

Frustrated the woman slammed the window closed, a dull yelling began behind the pane. Raphael shivered in his wet sweatshirt, leaned against the doorframe and eyed the street. A young pale man ambled in his direction, various piercings dangling from his ears. Raphael ran up to meet him, and shook his hand. "Hey, whats up? I got some good shit for you today man."

Eddie searched under an abandoned car for the bat he had discarded at the arrival of the blue uniforms. It was barely a shell of metal and wires, the tires gone, the hood open exposing the gaping wound where the engine should have been. The aluminum surface of the bat was smudged in crimson, and Eddie shook his head at it. At least she didn’t dent this one. Police never bothered looking in any case having to do with 164th street. A procedure set in place by generations of inner city crime and corruption had become routine; so much so, that anything beyond it aroused suspicion and reprimand. Vague information was asked for, vague answers given, if any at all. Bodies were dragged away if need be, tow trucks called to haul away a vehicle or two. It was clean and easy, although every once in awhile some rookie decided he would do what he had been trained to do, and the place would shut down, causing more problems than necessary. Tension would grab hold of the residents, fights among neighbors increased. Mouths would have to be kept shut, and a terror seized the street. Kill or be killed. Eventually some high-ranking officer would step in, and the ordeal would be swept away like so much trash.

After all, money made the world go round, and Magali kept a long list of high officials on a payroll for just these types of occasions. Eddie thought about the countless deaths witnessed by the silent asphalt, caused by an enraged Magali, or some violation of "the rules" of the game as she put it. Often the outbursts were quick and ended in gunfire or at the end of an antler handled knife. At times the street would run red, fueled by maliciousness few could muster. Bajo Zero made special appearances. It was hard to tell whether or not she enjoyed the ruthlessness. At times an almost animal look would cross her face, followed by an air of release. However, there were times when the blue eyes went cold and emotionless, as if she weren’t there at all. This time had been somewhat different, the rage was there, the cold was there, but something else had glinted across her face.

Never had he seen a grim veil pass over his friend at the completion of one of her displays, but now she sat brooding in the darkness of her chariot. Scarcely an hour had gone by when the black Jeep reappeared careening around the corner, startling the workers on the stoop. Better leave her alone, she looks like she’d shoot my head off. The tinted window slid open and Magali crooked a finger at a young woman standing on the stoop, calling her over wordlessly. Eddie patted the shoulder of the young woman, took a look up to the rooftops, and entered the murky lobby. The smell of urine and bleach accosted him, one quick breath and the smell was gone. It was a trick every ghetto lurker knew, something smells rotten, take a big swallow of it and you’ll forget it, adapt to it.

He heard footsteps following him up the stairs, running the flights the young woman emerged breathless. She opened her mouth to speak, but a raised hand from Eddie stalled her. "Come on," he said waving for her to follow. He entered the office, pulled a small package off the long table and handed it to her. She was small and pretty, light brown hair cascaded around her face, accenting her greenish hazel eyes. Puberty had treated her well, and she had grown in all the right places. "Here, take this with you. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you get paid for the day. And Callie…Just do what she tells you." She smiled broadly, signaling that she was more than willing to leave with the infamous Zero. With a wave of his hand he dismissed her, a minute later he heard the Jeep screech away. Three brisk knocks on the door were no surprise. He opened it and let in a lanky shivering boy who led a shaking thin figure behind him. "How much?" Business as usual.

The streets were slippery and she drove recklessly. She was confident in the stability of the Jeep but wanted more than ever to ride on the edge and drive the thoughts of a wounded and terrified expression from her mind. With an emptiness that engulfed her, she forced away the memory of Casey’s words to her, leave me alone Zee. She turned the volume up on the stereo, the speakers hummed, the windows shook, and the thrum of the drums beat against her back and chest. A warm hand settled on her lap and strayed towards her center purposefully. She allowed it to linger before grasping it and pulling it to her lips. She bit down on the palm and smirked as her actions extracted a squeal of delight from the young woman.

"What’s your name?" Like I care. She thought sucking on the end of an index finger.

"Ahh…Callie…hmmph," she replied squirming to further the contact she was having with the mysterious woman.

Magali parked the Jeep in the underground garage, and turned the engine off. Reaching over she gripped the arms of the petite woman, pressed her lips onto her neck, grazing the tender skin with her teeth. Callie writhed, arching her neck to give the voracious mouth attacking her better access. With a passion nearing violence Magali attacked the offered flesh, turning her attentions lower as her hands explored the slender young body of her willing captive. Abruptly the assault came to an end, and Callie protested with a whimper. "Upstairs…now," Magali growled under her breath.

Hands groped and explored while the elevator ascended, lips pressed against each other with a brutal force. Strong arms pinned Callie to the polished wood surface of the enclosed space, a fluid thigh pushed against her and with an undisguised lust she drew the taller woman in by the waist. Yes. Make me forget. When the doors slid open Magali pushed herself away, dragging the smaller woman by the hand behind her. They fumbled through the front door of the apartment, tangled in each other. A sheepskin fell to the floor, and was kicked away. Magali tore at Callie’s North Face jacket, nearly ripping the zipper, and thrust her hands onto the small woman. Wild in anticipation Magali impelled her hand into the waist of Callie’s jeans, seizing upon the silky wetness of the woman’s secret folds. Give me. Pushing her towards the bedroom she devoured the small lips, tasting every crevice of Callie’s mouth with her tongue. Tumbling to the bed Magali removed her hand, and fell to her knees before the trembling supine figure. A resonant groan floated as Magali lifted the woman’s shirt, replacing the cloth with hungry lips, biting and licking her way upwards. Oh Zee, you were kidding yourself, she was too good for you…you knew that. Callie wrapped her legs around Magali’s waist, grinding into her, clawing at her back. A low groan hummed deep in the dark woman’s throat. This is what you are, accept it. Tenderly Callie captured her lower lip between her teeth and suggestively she bit down, inviting Magali in. Cerulean eyes met hazel, the green specks in the honey colored orbs gathered. Magali felt an ocean of green swallow her whole, the universe crashed into a heap at her feet. I can’t do this…Casey. I can’t…I need you…my Saint. Forgive me. Unexpectedly Magali pushed herself away from the panting woman, surprising them both.

"You have to go," she said catching her own breath.


"Get out!" The demand was punctuated by a flung, twenty dollar bill landing squarely on Callie’s exposed abdomen. "I’ll call you a cab…go wait for it in the lobby," she said gruffly, stomping out of the bedroom. Callie straightened her shirt and ran her fingers through her disheveled hair. Taking advantage of the solitary moment she scanned the room, rubbing her hand across the satin sheets in disarray on the bed. So this is where she sleeps.

"Another time Zero." She said to no one in particular, a steady grin across her face as she strolled into the hallway to pick up her discarded jacket.

Magali faced the large bay windows in the living room, her hands on her hips, her breathing ragged. She watched the small crystalline flakes become larger as they fell steadily on the city. Some swirled and floated in mid-air before melting on the warm pane or disappearing into the white of the sidewalk. Soft footsteps behind her sent a chill up her spine. If only you were her. The altar shook as Callie slammed the door on her way out, and a dark head hung low on broad shoulders.

"Next time Zee," Callie whispered under her breath with a sly grin while she waited for the elevator to arrive.

There was a wave over the house, there was fear choked in my mouth

You were there

You left your mark

As I stumbled in the dark

There comes a time, we all know

There’s a place that we must go

Into the soul

Into the heart

Into the dark

By midnight the city was covered in a blanket of white. Magali stood naked on the balcony to her bedroom wrapped only in a black satin sheet. Frigid gusts moved over the river’s water, penetrated the satin, chilling her skin and whipping back raven hair. Her heart drummed rapidly in her chest; lips, numbed by the amount of cocaine she had ingested, turned blue in the stinging wind. She inhaled the scent of the river, attempting to erase Casey’s fragrance painfully etched into her memory. She closed the glass door and ambled off into the kitchen. A half-empty bottle of scotch she had been nursing through out the day waited for her patiently. Not bothering with a glass, she tipped her head back and swallowed a good portion of the liquor. Her pulse quickened, she swayed in a dizzy spell, the alcohol and narcotics mixing in her blood stream effectively. Better take a shower. She stumbled into the living room, knocking over a lamp as she reached for the .45 and the cellular resting on the coffee table. A fine line of white on the table’s surface beckoned and she exchanged the gun for a rolled hundred-dollar bill. Inhaling the powder with a massive effort the numbness hit the back of her throat, forcing her to cough and nearly lose her balance. She retrieved the gun and felt her way to the bathroom, not bothering to illuminate her way.

The white lights reflecting off the tiles gave her a headache and she turned them off. Waves of black satin fell to the floor, and she opened the cold water of the shower, pulling herself into the tub she slumped back onto the frigid porcelain. The icy jet hit her skin with stinging needles, and she held her breath against the shock. The ache caused by the temperature of the water momentarily distracted her thoughts of emerald eyes, and the soft scent of Casey’s skin. She closed her eyes allowing the torrent to wash over her in the dark, the hard metal of the .45 clanged to the floor. The cessation of existence finally took hold, her familiar nightmares taking its place.

A putrid smell, exhaust fumes she guessed, invaded her sense of smell making her choke. Where the hell am I? It was dark and she was freezing, a throbbing over her temple reminded her of the strike she had seen and felt before darkness settled around her. Straining to move she found her hands tied behind her back, a pain in her shoulder explained the length of time she had been in the same position. Casey could tell her eyes were open, her eyelashes brushed against rough cloth. Great I’m blindfolded and tied up. I’m guessing here…but I bet I’m in a car trunk…God it stinks. A jolt of movement caused her head to jerk hitting the hard surface beneath her, a confirming testimony to the moving vehicle. Darkness resumed.

Her next conscious moment left her with a sinking feeling in her gut. Ropes around her waist and chest fastened her onto a hard wooden chair, and she could hear the trickle of water and the rumbling of a train. Still blind folded she let her sense of hearing search the area, Webster’s agitated voice not far away. It was damp and cold where she was, the musty odor of wet soil and rotting driftwood inescapable. A familiar squeak made her cringe and abruptly swing her head to the side to catch the proximity of the animal. Shit, rats. The sudden movement sent a sore ache through her arms, a burning on her wrists from the ropes stinging bitterly she groaned. Wood creaked above her from the strain of heavy steps as something scurried over her foot and she let out a frightened scream. The steps became hurried and she heard the slam of a door, heavy footfalls on the steps, a sharp sting across her face.

"Shut up you stupid bitch." It was Webster’s voice, bitter and angry. "Glad you’re awake. Now where the fuck is your low life dyke friend hmm?"

Casey swallowed the puddle of blood forming in her mouth. Forcing her intonation into fearlessness she spat back. "She’s going to kill you…you know that don’t you?" I can’t believe I just said that, was that my voice? The sentence earned her another smack against the other side of her face, making her wince from the sting.

"Not if I find her first."

Violently the blind fold was pulled away from her eyes, and she blinked at the harsh light coming from a bare light bulb. The smells and sounds she had put together to make an image of her captivity began to make sense. She was in an old cobblestone basement, most likely somewhere in Far Rockaway, which explained the smell of the ocean. What she had thought a rumbling train was clearly the slap of the surf near the house. Slowly her sight focused, and she could see the form of Webster, thin and in shadows, standing before her. Something black and sinister held firmly in his grasp inches from her face.

"Do you know what this is Ms. Bridges? Your friend does…she never gave me the satisfaction of screaming…will you?"

A bright blue current ran along the top of the small black box, and a high pitched buzzing from the light set her heart racing. "What are you talking about?" The next sting was unfeeling, her face numbing to the strikes.

"When I want an answer I’ll ask you for it! You mean…you don’t know everything…about the woman who fucks you?" His tone took on the melody of feigned surprise. "You think she earned her power just through slinging some dope around? You really don’t know her do you?" His anger showed in the volume of his voice, lifting slightly and trapped within the walls.

Don’t know her? I’ll be lucky if she comes for me at all.

"But you do know where she is…" The first jolt was the hardest. It hit every nerve in her body, constricting her breathing for a milli-second, her muscles involuntarily contracting. Gali! Her stomach turned.

"Tell me…" he croaked in her ear.

Her body bolted and strained against the ropes, jaw clenched tight by the current flowing through her shoulder. God please hear me baby. Millions of torturing fingers clawed through her skin, barbed pincers tearing her muscles from their bones. I won’t betray you…I will not be added to that list. Pain is a fickle friend; it consumes down to the deepest recesses, lingers and fades. Please find me. Its gift is oblivion, and that phantom swung in enfolding her endearingly with ghostly abandon. I need you.

Webster frowned down at the slumped physique of the agonized woman on the chair, a dark blue blemish forming on her forehead where he had struck her. The skin had broken under the force, and a trail of red marked the ordinarily pretty face. He would have to wait for consciousness to return. It annoyed him. I could just throw water on her, but…she’ll last longer later, if I let her rest now. With his thinking in order, he walked the steps up into his kitchen, a fresh pot of coffee scenting the night air.

The phone was ringing, she could hear the tone miles away, forcing her insensate limbs to move, Magali strained towards the noise. It slipped from her wet hands and in the dark she searched the floor for it, leaning awkwardly over the side of the tub. Out of memory she pressed the on button, her voice painfully hoarse. "Yeah?"

"Zee, have you seen Casey? She hasn’t shown up for work and she won’t pick up the phone."

Fear struck her hard in the chest. "I saw her earlier…she went home…I thought…" She crashed to the floor trying to stand.

"Zee…Zee…" Jesse’s voice was frantic.

She turned the phone off, pulled a towel off its rack and wrapped it around her shivering. The living room was miles away, gathering reserves of strength she dragged herself towards the coffee table, where an open package oozed powder over the table. Using a matchbook she scooped some of the stuff and inhaled. A little more and I’ll be up. The poison was quick, a jittery sense of life spread through her, and she was able to stand and focus. Just don’t throw up Zero, keep it in.

Jesse found her dressing, a wild tempered look in her blue eyes. "Zee? What the fuck…didn’t you hear me knocking? I had to use my key." Pristine in her white uniform, Jesse contrasted with her dark cousin.

"I heard you…why’d you bother to knock?" Her hands were shaking as she buttoned her black jeans and tucked in the dark blue shirt she wore over a black T-shirt.

"You’re fucking stoned aren’t you? Aren’t you on painkillers Zee…what the fuck? You want to die or something?"

Magali fastened the holster around her shoulders and stretched, settling the leather and heavy weapon at her side. "Yes, yes, and yes…I was working on that." Sitting on the edge of her bed she tugged on her boots, placing a long knife into one she looked up at Jesse. "Casey saw something she wasn’t supposed to Jesse…I’m just going to check…see if she’s alright."

Jesse shot her a skeptical look. "What do you mean something she wasn’t suppose to? Is she in trouble or something Zee? What the fuck did you do?" The last sentence was meant to hurt, and Magali was grateful she was next to anesthetized.

"What I always do Jesse." Fuck everything up. "I promise…she won’t even know I’m there."

Piled snow on the rooftop crunched under her feet as she made her way over to the ledge. The metal rungs leading down to the first landing of the fire escape system were ice covered and slick. Slowly she lowered herself down the ladder, her knuckles white with the pressure she exerted. On the second landing she crouched low, peering in through the window of Casey’s apartment. Her heart leapt at the unexpected site of the scattered clothing and broken shards of glass dispersed at the center of the room. Looking around for any passersby, she turned the .45 in her hand and used the handle to break the glass of the pane. It crumbled easily, and she hooked an arm through the opening to unlock the frame. A pointed edge caught at her hand, a fine line of blood appeared, she didn’t notice. Holy Virgin just let her be a messy person. The wish vanished at the sight of a note pinned to a pillow, a bloody finger print on it’s edge. She moved over to the window, and used the dim light of the street to read the scratchy words penned on the paper.

It’s a gamble but I’m betting you’ll find this Zero. I hope for your friend it’s soon. You don’t need my name, I’m sure you know who’s words you are reading. Feel like trading your miserable self for someone who was stupid enough to get involved with your sorry ass? If you do, come to the place where you got your name. Tomorrow night, ten o’clock. I’ll be waiting, so will she.

Magali crushed the paper and stuck it in her pocket, trotting out through the front door. A raging in her ears blocked out her usual caution, and the inferno she had held back while reading the note threatened to devour her. She jumped over the side of each banister, taking her down the four flights of stairs in quick succession. Heading blindly for the Jeep she missed the lights of a speeding car, and jumped back away from it in pure reflex honed by years of reacting to the unexpected.

Webster was smart enough not to touch her skin with the stun gun much more, the burn on the woman’s shoulder more evidence than he had intended to leave. He used a small basin of water to put her feet in, dipping the stun gun far enough into the water to keep his fingers away from the current. Occasionally he would make the trek up into the kitchen to refill the basin, the violent effects of the stun gun often causing the water to spill out. How much more can I take? Gali. She was close, so close to speaking, giving in, answering the questions that battered against her relentlessly. The refilling of the basin gave her a brief reprieve, and she collected her thoughts. In his fervor and hate for the dark woman Webster had said more than he needed, relaying a story of corruption and sin between demands for Magali’s whereabouts. Casey figured he was painting a lurid picture in the hopes she would turn over the information he needed. Playing on my innocence, but I know her enough to understand that there are other motives behind her actions. There have to be.

"Do you know what your friend is?" Casey clenched her teeth against the current. "She smuggles Ms. Bridges, brings dope into the country, sells it on corners. Know where that money goes, hmm?" Blue streaks of light crossed her vision as the next jolt hit her. "She pays cops with it, not all just a particular few, until it snakes it’s way into the hands of greedy politicians. Ever notice a tiny blue tattoo on the inside of her wrist, or does she still wear her watch over it?" She nearly lurched when the burning hit her, and was thankful for an empty stomach. "It’s an exclusive club Ms. Bridges, they own this city, among others. I was there when she was brought in. I tested her loyalty, much the same way I’m testing you now." She had begun to lose count, and tried to focus on the image of a pier, and the sweet sounds of Flamenco. "You’re just another good fuck in a string of many Ms. Bridges. Tell me where to find her…tell me and I’ll stop!" She heaved a sigh of relief when she heard the phone, the aching settling around her like a security blanket. Tears filling her eyes. "Cry me a river." He whispered near her ear.

Footsteps in the dark warned her of his return, and she braced herself against the wood and the ropes. Sweat dampened her shirt and forehead, and she swallowed past a sandpaper throat. Dimly she could feel the welts developing on her wrists and ankles. Closing her eyes against the next barrage of pain and shouts, she didn’t see the lifted club deal a blow to the back of her head. Darkness.

Magali paced the floor of her apartment, between the stress and the drugs she couldn’t sit still. Flipping through channels on the TV she didn’t recognize any of the programs. You never watch this shit. She thought tossing away the remote control, and lit the fourth cigarette of the hour. Devi sat on her haunches in the middle of the floor, her head tilted as she watched her anxious mistress. She pressed a cushioned button on her computer and watched the screen come to life. Hastily she clicked on icons, connecting her to the net and her mail. Where the fuck are you Daly, I know you’re in here. She found an entry marked Guerrerro and opened it. Typing furiously she typed in the abduction of Casey and what she planned to do, clicked on the send image and sat back. Her cellular rang, and she stumbled across the floor to get it before the second ring, Devi ran out of her way.

"Zero, you need to see me?" The voice of Jaime Moreno was smooth and ebony, a voice used to demanding politely.

"About fuckin’ time you called. Meet me on one seven seven, in the bus terminal by Greyhound."

"It’s broad daylight Zee," he protested.

"I don’t give a fuck. Either you meet me, or I meet you…understand?"

"Twenty minutes." The phone went dead.

The screen saver flicked across the monitor, a black background surrounded a spinning, laughing skull. Come on Daly. She ambled over to the coffee table, its surface speckled with white powder, and ingested more of the lethal stuff. Got to keep moving.

The bus terminal was a huge grey and blue tiled building, a monster of late sixties architecture teetering off a cliff. It connected the George Washington Bridge to the island with a series of ramps and steel beams. Magali walked into the lobby, eyeing the corners and shops under blue shades. A series of blue plastic seats in the center served as a waiting area for Greyhound. Sitting crossed legged on a corner of one of the rows in a navy suit waited Jaime Moreno. His short black hair was slicked back, his face clean-shaven and tan. He held a Styrofoam cup of coffee, and stared blankly at an overhead screen showing a football game. Magali sat a seat away from him and looked up at the screen feigning interest.

"You look like crap Zero." He said sharply.

"Thanks for the compliment, I seem to be getting a lot of those lately."

"What’s up?"

"It’s Webster."

"He’s after that money you got away from him."

"Yeah well, that 250,000 is mine. The idiot thought he could steal it from Wu and never get caught. He wasn’t going to give it over to the gauntlet Moreno…I’m sure you know that."

"Yes, we do…stupid Ryan actually thought Webster would share, they got greedy."

"You could use it though can’t ya? What with that special-forces program you guys are pushing in Brooklyn…the legislature could sure use some convincing to allocate those funds huh?"

"What we could use is a reason to put that squad in there…too bad that neighborhood is so damn quiet."

"Yeah that’s a pity…it doesn’t have to be." She said tilting her head.

"Why now Zero? We’ve been asking for months."

"I want Webster, and Brooklyn…I’ll make the streets run red for you … and you stay away from my business."

"You can have Webster, he’s a dead man anyway. No one likes a cop killer Zero. As for Brooklyn…250,000 could sure ease the mind of the senator blocking the allotment."

"Fine…you get your squad, I get Brooklyn, then you can pad the payroll all you fuckin’ want. That’s 1,000 more uniforms on the street." Fake uniforms, fake names, just make it look like they’re there, have their checks go into your account.

"They won’t bother you. About that 250…"

"I know they won’t…250, you need it for a palm…I’ll get you your fuckin’ grease." She pushed back her loose hair and began to stand.

"One more thing Zero…You can’t take Webster that easy, you know you’ll have to pay something…or it could look real bad."

"How long?"

"Two months at least, say…unlicensed weapon?"

"I’ll do that standing on my head…serve it up. Tomorrow, ten o’clock, give me some slack before you come in." Magali pushed back her hair habitually with spread fingers, and rose, casually leaving the depot without a backward glance.

Moreno’s eyes never strayed from the game, he waited ten minutes after the dark woman left the building, rubbed at the small blue hand tattooed into his wrist and left. Outside the air had turned damp, a dark stormy sky threatened to pour down on the city. The exit he had chosen opened onto a side street, where the traffic of the bridge filed into the city, leaving the strangling smell of exhaust to hang in the trapped air. An old phone booth, circa 1960, with colored panes of glass cracked and dull was strangely placed under a ramp leading into the terminal. With darting eyes Moreno entered the small, rectangular enclosure, and with a high pitched squeal closed the folding doors firmly behind him. In the silence of the booth he dialed a number, amused at the old rotary dial, and waited patiently while the phone rang. A woman’s voice greeted him. "Mr. Guerrerro please." A few seconds later a tired masculine voice murmured a ‘hello’.

"Tony…she’s gonna do it."

Casey felt the arctic breeze through her T-shirt, but thankfully she breathed in the fresh air. The denim of her pants was wet, and she dug through ice with her fingers down to a pebbled surface. Alarmed she struggled against her bonds, the ropes around her wrist digging into her skin, the blind fold tight around her temples. Shit, shit, he just left me somewhere to freeze to death! Her joints screamed in agony, her muscles betrayed her every motion with sharp protest. She was unsure how much time had passed, between the sessions with a raving Webster and the darkness of the basement the meaning of time had disappeared. Her bladder told her it had been way too long.

Webster leaned over the side of the roof peering down to the sidewalk. A black starless canopy hung over the skyline, a baleful wind roamed the streets sending papers and trash flying. He heard the crunch of ice, and a small scraping indicating his captive had awakened. The sound of base and heavy music arrived before the black vehicle did, resonating against the high walls of the red brick buildings.

"Don’t worry Ms. Bridges, she’ll be here soon. If I’m not mistaken that’s her Jeep down there right now."

Gali? She came? Quietly her heart leapt in her chest, fear suddenly taking hold.

Now or never Zero. Bile crept into her throat, the well known street never failed to effect her. She scrutinized the entrance to the building she had not returned to since her brother’s death. At your hands Zero. Trembling she held the bottle to her nostril, in a rapid breath she inhaled its contents and hurled it out into the street. Strong steps took her through the doorway and up the stairs to the rooftop. Each step sung a different memory, a deal on this one, a fight on this, first kiss, first fuck. Casey, please don’t hate me. Fuck it…if you live through this and still hate me I won’t care. You’ll be alive, somewhere.

Allowing the beast within her to stir, she placed a hand on the cold metal of the roof door and shoved it open. Gun in her hand she laid frigid eyes on the form of Webster standing over a curled Casey quivering on the ground. A spark of light made Magali aware of the revolver pointed at the hindered woman. The sight of the bound and blindfolded blonde enraged the flames licking at her soul. My Saint.

"Here I am asshole, let her go...she’s got nothing to do with this." At the sound of Magali’s voice Casey felt a rush of relief. It is her.

"Drop the gun and we’ll talk," he leered.

"Spare me the bullshit Webster, you don’t want to talk. Untie her and let her go, or we’ll all be sitting in Hell…supper with the devil…you up for it?" The smirk on her face bespoke of negligent self-preservation.

"Drop the gun!" He yelled, the weapon in his hand closing in on Casey. A small whimper reached Magali’s ears, and she grimaced as she lowered her hand to place the gun on the snow covered ground.

"That’s better Guerrerro. Come over here where I can see you…right here on the ledge."

Deliberately Magali measured her steps, coming as close to Casey as she dared she sat on the ledge of the roof and glanced over the side.

"Untie her Webster...this is between us," she drew an imaginary line in the air connecting herself with the hair-triggered man.

Webster gave her a crooked grin and produced a small pocketknife. Leisurely he lowered himself, and with one neat slice the rope binding Casey’s hands fell curled to the ground. Automatically she rubbed at the sore wrists, and pulled the fold away from her eyes, wincing in pain as she did. Magali treasured every gut wrenching move from the blonde, her anger broiling under the surface.

Casey watched raven hair cover some of the dark woman’s face, swept there by the wind. In a gesture of surrender Magali stretched her arms away from her body, and Webster crept closer, pointing the gun just under her jaw. The cold metal rubbed against her skin, and she glared into the eyes of a familiar tormentor.

"I want my money Guerrerro." His breath sour in the air whispered to her.

"Not in front of the girl Webster." She said laying her sight on the shuddering woman near her feet. Casey melted into the colorless orbs, in the darkness of the night they bore through her, sending her a plea for forgiveness that burned in the short distance between them. A harsh hand at her shoulder pushed her up and away, and Casey stood on shaky legs.

"Move away from us...but not too far understand?" He growled.

She attempted a step and nearly fell, her weakened body refusing to react to the commands of her mind. Glancing back at Magali she held her breath, noticing a stealthy hand wandering steadily towards a black boot. Deep blue eyes scanned her body, scrutinized the shaking of her hands, the pale color of her lips. That’s more than just the cold.

"What did you do to her Webster?" She spoke from deep within, a rumbling in her voice like distant thunder before a storm.

His face widened in a sickening grin, and he gazed in her eyes as the words formed on his lips. "She screamed for me."

The features on Magali’s face turned brutal, "The other side of the coin Casey," she said through a leer.

"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" He yelled.

Pressing into Magali, irritated at the uncommon phrase he failed to recognize her intentions. Giving in to the force exerted by the older man, her long form dropped back. His hawk-like profile twisted in fear and he pushed away from her trying to get away. But her hands held on to him as both figures dipped and toppled over the side. "No!" Casey screamed, her throat on fire, her lungs in flames she ran with every ounce of strength she had left to the ledge. A shot rang out into the night. Anxiety turned to solace when the expected sight of the plunging forms was transformed by a rusty metal fire-escape nearly invisible in the dark.

Magali was over him, straddling his torso and pinning his armed hand to the grate of the fire-escape, her face contorted into a feral grimace. Webster fought to gain control, bending his wrist within Magali’s grasp to aim the gun back at the looming figure over him. Suddenly her head snapped back, and with lightning speed came crashing down on him, effectively snapping the bridge of his nose. A warm spurt of blood flowed from one nostril, across his lips and down his cheek. Without much effort Magali wrested the gun from his hand, released the clip and let it fall clattering onto the street below. In one quick motion her knife was in her other hand, her blue eyes gleaming in the dim square of light shining on them. She pressed the curved blade of the knife cruelly against his throat, a thin red line appeared on the wrinkled skin.

"Gali…no." She whispered gently.

"He hurt you Casey…he…" Leaning in for the kill as she spoke through clenched teeth. The heat of knowing what Casey had been through chilled her. Her nostrils flaring with the knowledge, she moved deliberately, slicing through the ear of the horrified man under her who screamed in pain.

"Please," Casey gasped. One word, in its simplicity, soothed the beast, and Magali pushed the blooded blade back into its sheath. Briskly she searched the frightened man, a smile of satisfaction gracing her lips when she found what she looked for. Lifting the small black box over the his face she pressed the small button on it’s side, a crystal blue light sang between them. "Will you scream for me," she asked in his ear. Standing over him, careful not to have any contact with him, she pressed the light into Webster’s chest, the smell of burning flesh wavering in the air. He screamed, and with one small shudder passed out. Magali rose, climbing over the side of the metal box and swinging herself over the ledge she wrapped her arms around the shuddering blonde. "I’m sorry Casey, I’m so sorry." The need for contact was overwhelming and it shook her to the core, dispelling the anger ravaging her spirit. Casey grabbed onto the back of her neck and pulled her down for a lingering kiss, recognizing at once the meaning of ‘a necessary evil’. A bitter taste passed to her and she sensed the scent of scotch, but the warmth and security of the arms that held her up cancelled the world around them and she became weightless in the embrace.

Falling to her knees Magali hung onto Casey’s legs, burying her face in cold thighs. Casey joined her, lifting the strong chin up to meet cerulean eyes filled with sorrow. Magali pulled away from her, avoiding her eyes and removing her jacket she wrapped the shivering blonde in it.

"I’m sorry Casey, I didn’t want you to see me this way, not before, and not now…"

"Shhh, it’s alright I shouldn’t have followed you, it was stupid…baby you’re sweating?" Casey felt the moisture on her cold hands, noticed the strands of hair that stuck to Magali’s skin. "You’re stoned?" Sirens screamed, red and yellow lights flashed in all directions, and cars could be heard screeching to a halt.

"I…I…uhm…I thought I’d lost you for good and…"

Casey kissed her gently, smoothing away some black wisps of hair from her damp forehead. "Gali, I don’t completely understand what’s going on…but nothing…nothing makes sense without you. I won’t leave you…not now…not ever." How can I when you need me so much, and I you? A whisper of a grin crossed Magali’s features, as she removed her jacket and draped it around the smaller woman’s shoulders.

Dark uniforms surrounded them, pulling them apart, pushing Magali to the ground. She winced at the pull from the stitches still in her chest. Great time to come down. "No, no…she didn’t do anything, he did…he did." She heard Casey screaming at the officers, and allowed herself to be dragged to her feet and shoved to the roof door. "You have the right to remain silent, anything you say or do can be used………."

She shot Casey a look over her shoulder, a familiar shape next to the small woman winked at her. Daly.

"Not to worry Ms. Bridges…two months…tops. I’m sorry to have to do this to you, but could you give that nice officer over there a statement." Casey nodded and headed off in the direction Daly had pointed to. He ambled over to the slumped body of Webster and whispered in his ear. "You’re one dumb bastard Webster. Hmmm…you know, it would be really funny if you ended up in the same holding cell as our tall and lovely friend…mistakes happen you know." He said shrugging his shoulders. "I could make sure everything went smoothly for you, one man of the law for another? If only I knew who killed Ryan." Daly’s dark blonde eyebrows lifted in a hopeful expression. Tugging the older man’s watch off he gazed at the fragile swollen wrist, leering as he noticed the faded blue hand inked into the delicate skin. One down, a few hundred to go.

With her apartment a mess and her spirit dragging she climbed into Magali’s Jeep, the buzz of one hundred and one questions ringing in her ears. Some police cars remained haphazardly parked along the street, their lights casting weird shadows along the pavement, adding to the surrealism of the scene. The scent of leather and scotch clung to the seats, mingled with the fragrance that was unique to the dark woman. Mercifully, in her stupor, Magali had carelessly left the keys in the ignition. Her heart wrenched at their feel, knowing her hand had last touched them. It was a long and arduous drive to the Hudson Heights section of Manhattan, where a lonely apartment and an abandoned dog waited for a delayed procurator. Streetlights passed by in a blur and she drove through pure intuition. Please let this be a stupid nightmare, please.

Devi waited by the door, tail wagging wildly as she spotted Casey wearing her mistress’s jacket. The dog searched for the taller woman, and as if knowing what had happened dropped her tail and rubbed her head against Casey’s calf. In anguish she dropped herself onto the couch, hiding her face with her hands she began to weep into the warmth of the jacket she wore. The turmoil and fear of the day finally taking it’s toll. Wiping her face she caught sight of an unusual object on the coffee table obscured by the tears in her eyes. She dipped a finger into the bag, and tasted the powdery substance it contained. It’s that taste, it was on her lips when I… Casey scrutinized the area taking in the fallen lamp, the empty bottle of scotch discarded in the kitchen. She sighed, shaking her head and swallowing her grief. This just gets worse doesn’t it? Devi jumped up to the spot next to her and gave her a sloppy lick, coaxing the woman to pay her attention. Casey invited her up to sit next to her on the couch, and the animal snuggled into her. Finding some comfort in Devi’s unconditional care, Casey fell into a light slumber.

The tombs of New York City, as they were affectionately referred to by its residents, were a series of large barred cells built a few stories underground. Each square held a minimum of ten people, but was usually inhabited by twenty. A public phone at its center had seen its share of tears and curses, its black handset showed the scars left by angry callers. One aluminum toilet in a corner serviced the population, lidless, out in the open, no shred of it ever being cleaned evident. Narrow wooden benches lined the walls, every inch occupied by a restless human form. The absence of windows trapped the various scents of human bodies, the clean and not so clean of the city. An officer held on to the small chain between Magali’s wrists to guide her through the labyrinth of the tombs. Her notoriety allowed for a speedy booking, as none of the officers wanted to wait with her out in the hallway, and she had been skipped to the front of the line. Once outside the cell she would call home until her arraignment, the officer unbound her wrists, and holding a gun to her back instructed her to step inside. The door was quickly shut behind her with an immense clang of metal.

Magali scanned the room, taking in all the faces, and deciding which were harmless and which would get her into deeper trouble. Finding the ugliest among the visitors was easy, and steadily Magali ambled over to the menacing woman. Her face told her story, a bubbled scar stretching it’s way from chin to ear. Grabbing a firm hold of the dark skinned woman’s shirt, she pulled her up to her feet and threw her on the ground. Expressionless she took the woman’s place on the bench. For a moment it looked as if the woman would fight back, but the cold look in the ice blue eyes warned her to go quietly. Magali crossed her arms over her chest, extended her long legs, crossed them at the ankles, and leaned into the wall behind her. It’s gonna be a long fuckin’ night.

To her surprise she was headed for the courtrooms above the tombs within an hour, the justice system of the city that never slept followed in step with the adage. Handcuffed she was led through a narrow brown hallway, and in through an old wooden door. Sleeping citizens waited for the arraignments of their friends or family members on the benches reserved for the public. Somber in his black robes, a graying man sat as judge on the high pockmarked bench. His chin resting sternly on praying hands, which subtly opened revealing a small indecipherable blue spot on the man’s wrist. Magali caught the signal easily, and directed her step towards her designated table, where she would stand next to an extremely familiar figure. Daly?

The tall man leaned close to her, whispering in her ear. "I’m Mr. Harlan got it? We’ll get you out on bail for now, that little woman of yours need to see you…what can I say, I’m a sucker for romance." The proceeding went as she expected, her date for a court appearance set, bail pronounced. She muted out the words, knowing her voice would not be called upon in this proceeding. Instead she kept her minds eye focused on the image of Casey and her smile.

Casey shirked away from the cold nose pressed into her neck, but it was persistent. She opened her eyes to stare into the close brown orbs of a panting Devi. "I guess you could use a walk huh girl? Maybe it will help me loosen up some." She had fallen asleep fully dressed, and it was just a matter of finding Devi’s leash, and collaring the fidgeting animal.

Outside a bitter blast of night air slapped against her, Devi shook herself in the chill. Despondently the two walked away from the building, trudging slowly towards the park. Without warning Casey felt a tug on the leash connecting her to Devi, the dog had halted her walk and stubbornly sat, facing the opposite direction. In the distance Casey could see a blue and white police car making it’s way towards the front of Magali’s building. What now damn it? I just fixed that place up, bet they’re going to fucking rip it apart again. As she anticipated the car pulled in at the front, idling ominously on the dawn-mantled street. Devi let out a high pitched yelp and strained against the leash, dragging a recalcitrant Casey behind her. The front door opened and an exhausted looking Daly stepped out onto the sidewalk, smiling knowingly at her he opened the back door. A pang of joy bounded within her as a dark-haired head leaned out, pale blue eyes glimmering in the fresh light. Magali wore a haggard but exultant expression. She opened her arms, calling Casey wordlessly. If you reject me now…God.

The leash fell from her hand, and Casey threw herself into the compact body standing before her. A tide of emotions swept over her as she fell against a powerful chest. Listening to the sporadic rhythm of Magali’s racing heart, and knowing why it was like that she shook with a mixture of rapture and anger. Devi limped around the embraced couple, occasionally bumping them with her hindquarters. Clearing his throat Daly stated an unheard farewell and took refuge in the police car. They never noticed it drive away, Magali intent on wiping the tears from Casey’s face with a tender touch.

"I’m sorry baby, it was all a rouse. Daly knew where I was going…we had to play it out that way. I wish I could explain." Her voice was husky and low, the effects of her self-destructiveness.

"You don’t have to, I know there are things you won’t be able to say to me…but we have to talk." Devi heard the word walk, and leaned her two front paws on Casey’s thigh. "As soon as I take this trouble maker for a little walk that is."

Upon their return Devi pounced into the bedroom, and up onto the bed, where a half-lucid Magali lay spread-eagle. A growl from Magali sent her jumping with a thud onto the floor, curling into a ball at the foot of the bed. Casey quickly took her place, nudging Magali awake with her elbow.


"Why do you do that?"

"I can’t…the less you know…."

"Not that Magali Guerrerro, I found your…the drugs, I could taste it on your lips when I kissed you last night."

Magali turned onto her side, throwing an arm over Casey’s legs. "Do we have to talk about that now?"

"Yes," she replied adamantly. "I don’t like it…god damn it…every time you walk out the door I’m scared you won’t come back…you risk death everyday. My soul aches with it…must you help the world take you away from me?!"

She sighed, "I didn’t think you would…"

"I can’t watch you kill yourself Gali…if that’s what you want…I won’t be here to…" Her words trailed off, leaving behind a bleak silence.

"No…I…I would…without you..." Magali sat up, fully awake at the prospects she faced.

"Promise me Gali…promise you won’t do that anymore."

"For you…anything and everything." She said the words leaning towards her, yearning to feel the warmth of her Saint.

"Ah ah, out of those clothes." Casey warned wagging a finger at the taller woman. Magali complied, and Casey followed her own advice. The skin on her shoulder smarted, a small dark line marking the spot Webster had first chosen to use the stun gun. She heard the angry intake of breath behind her as strong hands circled her waist. "That sonofabitch, I shoulda…"

"Gali, it’s okay really. I feel much better…now that you’re here."

Magali frowned and walked into the bathroom, where Casey could hear her rummaging through the medicine cabinet. She returned holding a small container filled with a pearly cream Casey recognized.

"That’s for burn victims…how’d you get that?"

"Don’t ask, just turn and let me put some of this on you."

Gently Magali applied the cool cream to the small burn, doggedly chasing away the memories of how she had come to own the prescribed cream; her induction into the hall of shame.

She thought, as the soothing strokes applied to her shoulder calmed the throbbing. When was the last time someone did anything for you, without any other intent but to take care of you? Casey caught the strained expression in the cerulean eyes. "Baby, really, I’m okay."

‘I’m…not worth…this Case." Her shoulders slumped and she swallowed hard, backing away from the bewildered smaller woman.

"Why? Why do you say that?"

You can’t even say it to her can you Zee? "I’m not good for you…you deserve someone who can make you happy, someone who isn’t surrounded by…"

"Don’t you dare Gali…don’t you dare make decisions for me. Now, we’re both really tired, and you don’t look so hot yourself, so let’s just take this one day at a time."

What if tomorrow never comes? Exhausted and defeated Magali embraced her stalwart lover, gaining strength from her care, and amused by her audacity.

They settled in under the sheets, skin to skin, reveling in the natural heat of their bodies. Magali spooned Casey tightly, kissing the back of her neck. A timid sun rising over the river, dawn, threw light onto a hopeful day. A smoldering desire burned in them, the moment too raw and rare, the comfort of their touch enough to melt away the turbulence of long dismal hours.



"There’s something you should know."

"What’s that?"

"I’ll be going away for a little while."

"Should I even ask?"

"I think you should know…Daly got me out tonight, but I have to go back. Just two months."

"Just two months!" Strong limbs surrounded her, providing an aching comfort. Black Velvet.

"I have to…part of the deal...I promise I’ll explain when I can." She snuggled into the smaller woman, delighting in the closeness and the presence of her Saint.



"We’re not done with this."

"I know."



"You are…worth it."

"I want to be."

Should they mention your name,
I will not deny that I have known you
Should they offer me clothes,
I will deny them for I have worn you
Should they offer me a hand,
I will refuse it for I shall never let you go
Should they offer me rest.
I will deny it for my bed has been you
Should they offer me food,
I will refuse it for I have tasted you
Should they offer me water,
That too, I shall refuse, for I have drank your nectar in
Should they offer me sanctuary,
I will deny them for you are my temple
If they offer me a god,
I will deny it for I have worshipped at your feet
When they offer me pain,
I shall not submit, for no one can match what you have brought
And when they offer me salvation
I will refuse it, for nothing may equal the absolution you bring

To be continued in The Sacrament series….

So this was my first attempt at an über, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. None of this would have been possible without the support of my better half, Dee, and my beta reader Dawn. I would especially like to thank all the pups and non-pups who sent me feedback as the story progressed, you guys kept me moving. To Melissa Good, who inspired me to start writing, my deepest thanks, always. The original poem at the end, also titled Absolution, was written specifically for this story by my soulmate Dee (aka Bo on ATX). And yes Virginia, there is a sequel…. AAAAAARRRRRRRROOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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