Plates and silverware clinked onto stainless steel. Cold. Steam floated out into the space. Hot.
The smell bothered me, but I toughed it out. It wouldn’t be fair to present company to sit this one out. To run away.
D started poking and spinning the noodles around her fork.
“Darn, you should have told me you went to Tita’s. I would have came straight home instead of going over to Casa Martinez. Now we have too much.”
“I just got back home. My hands were full.”
“But I can’t eat all of this by myself! I really thought I hit the jackpot over at Casa’s. Mrs. Martinez had just made this super duper fresh chili con carne sauce and she had saved some for me because she wanted to hook me up with some extra so I can put more on my enchiladas and she seemed really really proud about this new batch and it sucks that it’s going to go cold because I can’t finish it in time. It sucks!”
“Then just start with your enchiladas first.”
D popped the fork into her mouth, then licked the utensil clean.
“But Tita Lorene’s cooking is soooo good.”
A small bit of laughter escaped my lips. A low hum.
D was digging deeper into the food. My palm was digging more into my cheek, my elbow propped on the kitchen counter.
We were back at my place. Outside, the sun was just about to give way to the moon, but with the clouds as low and grey as they were, a black of a certain pitch colored the atmosphere in here as well. The lights were kept low, most of it coming from the TV, and even then it wasn’t that much. A game D had put on pause for dinner, to be returned to after. My game system, though I never used it. I only bought it so D would have something to do whenever she came over. Which was often.
The rain kept falling.
I watched D as she ate, helping herself to mouthfuls upon mouthfuls of food. Wolfing them down, giving each noodle and vegetable and piece of meat a real bite. Scraps were stuck or were hanging from the corners of her lips, with little thin lines of spittle threatening to dribble down her chin. She was going to tear her meal apart, leaving it to nothing but bits and shreds.
And I thought I was the monster.
D stopped, her chin raised, mouth open, full with food. Her fork was halfway to its destination, hovering above her lips. From the way she angled her head, it was like she was looking down at me.
“What?” she asked, sounding stuffed.
“Do I even have to say it?”
D took time to swallow her food, and clear her throat. It came with a small, almost juvenile sound. A squeak.
She pointed with her fork.
“You have your elbow on the counter, how’s that for being rude?”
“My house, or, my apartment. My rules.”
“Yeah, but manners are universal. Doesn’t matter whose roof you’re under. Those are the rules that bind us all as a people. As the human race.”
My palm dug more into my face. It slurred my words somewhat.
“Then, is it supposed to say something that we’re both blatantly avoiding those rules?”
More squeaks, but they were more like laughter.
“Duh, we both dropped out of that race a long time ago. Now we’re going after something else.”
A race to the bottom?
I had the urge to say that, but I kept it to myself.
In holding my tongue back, the only sounds that followed were the clinking of metal on ceramic, D being obnoxious on how much she liked the food, and the continued dampened thuds of the rain outside, hitting the windows and the roof above us. It didn’t let up, and it was as though the rain was telling us that it would never let up. It kept falling around us, everywhere. It would never go away.
I would always feel like this.
My fingers slid across the countertop, lazy, until it bumped up against something. Wasn’t cold like stainless steel, wasn’t hot like food that had just been microwaved for thirty seconds. My finger traced upward, gliding across the smooth surface of it.
A ceramic mug.
My eyes fell downward. My dinner.
D talked with her mouth full. “Yeah you better drink up or it’s going to get all lukewarm, and I didn’t go through the trouble to find a gang doc and bring you some if you weren’t going to finish it all quickly.”
With a finger, I pulled the mug closer to me. Friction tried to work against me in keeping the mug in place, but gave way after I had to force more effort into the individual muscles and joints. The minimum amount of work I was willing to put forth.
Juice swished around inside.
Enough to fill the mug to the brim. I could have spilled it if I wasn’t being careful. It was chilled, I could feel the residual cold just from holding the handle, my fingers away from the mug itself. Red, a bright and vibrant shade, which gave the impression that it was bursting with flavor. And it definitely was, I could pick up a faint, sweet trace of its aroma, despite the overpowering stench from D’s dinner. It cut through, like light piercing clouds.
Strawberries, cherries, pomegranate. Juice squeezed from fruit, mixed into a drink that had the consistency of syrup, with the sweetness of it, too.
I could admit that I wasn’t in a particularly good mood, but with my eyes on my drink, the appealing color, the aroma beckoning for my lips, it offered to lift my spirits in a way that was appetizing.
My grip tightened around the handle of the mug, and I lifted it off the countertop.
The mug found their way to my lips like an instinct, tipping over until the juices spilled forth, and I did my best to capture and savor every little drop. I caught as much as I could while still being modest, and I swallowed.
It was an experience.
Refreshing, being able to drink blood without having to take it from someone by force, and being able to take my time with it. I didn’t get very many chances to sit down and drink, most of the time I was under extreme duress and stress, taking only quick sips to recharge to get back into the fray. In very few circumstances, was I able to stop and take a moment and actually take that moment.
The mug left my lips, and returned to the countertop. I wasn’t smiling, even though the taste was so good that I couldn’t be blamed if I was. But, even now, I was filled with something other than satisfaction. A feeling I couldn’t quite place.
“That good?” D asked. Clinking of silverware and ceramic peppered her words.
“Yeah,” I said, “It’s good.”
“Doesn’t sound like it’s good.”
D sat up to straighten her back, moving some of the take out boxes around. Her plate was empty, and she was going to get more.
“This is probably weird to say, I’m not really sure, but I’ve always been curious about what it tastes like. For you, anyways, metallic isn’t really a good descriptor to have when it comes to flavor, and I’m not about to go through that again.”
Descriptor? I’d never had to describe the taste of this before.
I opened my mouth, breathing out, feeling how heavy it dragged. It didn’t smell bad, but there was a weight to it, that only another kind of substance could provide.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever had alcohol, but it’s kind of like that, maybe,” I said. I wasn’t exactly sure if the comparison was accurate, I had some faint recollections on what alcohol was like, but they weren’t my recollections, but they were points of references that I could make leaps or inferences from. “It’s sweet, very sweet.”
“Like wine,” D asked.
I gave her a glare. Not that intense, but I wanted to give her some heat.
“I’m hoping you don’t actually know what I’m trying to get at.”
“Don’t worry, I do, but like I said, don’t worry.”
“How about this, is it like coffee? Where just a single sip can wake you up or make it feel like someone’s massaging your brain?”
I considered that. It didn’t sound so off the mark.
“That’s seems more accurate. I haven’t had coffee myself, though, so I can’t say for sure. This is it’s own kind of drink, so it comes with its own unique effects. It’s hard to pin down unless you’ve tried it and can feel it yourself.”
“Uh, no thanks then.”
D popped open another box and started to pile more food onto her plate. This time, it was Mrs. Martinez’s cooking.
“Hey, is that your way of telling me you’ve had coffee before?” I asked.
D continued to eat. She didn’t answer or acknowledge me at all.
I took that as an opportunity to take another sip of my drink, instead. It was light, but my head started to feel like it was pounding, massaged with slow but firm movements. Energy that was being replenished, but had nowhere to burn. Pent up potential.
I set the mug back down, my eyes closed. I had to try, in order to sit still now.
Screaming, crying for help. Fathers. Daughters. Animals howling to tear them into bits.
White walls, cold tiles–
“You got a little, um, Wendy?”
I cranked my eyes open. Those sounds all faded away, but their echoes still haunted.
D was touching a spot on her face, by her lower lip.
“You’ve made a mess of yourself.”
“What else is new?” I asked. “Pass me a napkin.”
D reached over the countertop, finding some in one of the plastic bags we had used to carry the food in. Pushing her plate aside, then leaning over the counter, reaching, she handed me some.
I wiped the part where D indicated, dabbing it for good measure. I looked at the napkin, and saw streaks of red. It looked more like I was trying to clean up a minor nosebleed than a meal.
But, it wasn’t my blood. Someone else’s. Blood I had taken and consumed.
I crumbled up the paper, wrapping it in another, and left my seat to toss the whole thing in a bin by the trash. The biohazard symbol was taped to the front.
“Looks like it might be time to start burning some trash again,” D said when I returned to my seat.
“Yeah. Can’t just throw it out wherever.”
“We can move stuff up to the roof later, after the rain goes away.”
“If it ever does,’” I said.
D slid back into her seat, setting her plate back in front of her. She scarfed down several more bites in a row.
Knowing D for long enough, she’d want to say more, even if she was chewing down large chunks of food. I spoke before she could.
“I ran into Nathan, earlier today.”
D didn’t bother to swallow, responding with, “Oh cool, how’s he been?”
“Not so great, apparently, since I literally caught him trying to rob a bank.”
“Oof, that’s a big no-no.”
Sounds exactly like something you’d get yourself into, though.
I kept that point to myself.
“Seems like his friends weren’t keen on the idea of helping him spreading an image around, which, by the way, I got to see it. The tag.”
“Cool cool, you did?”
“Nathan showed me.”
“What’d you think?”
I took some seconds to gather my thoughts. What did I think about it?
Without a clear idea in my head, I tried parsing those fleeting drafts into words, forming them fully as I’d talk.
“It was a good design, one might even say it’s amazing, but…”
The design flickered in my mind once again. The eyes, the overall expression. The curled, open smile, the fangs. All the blood.
“But,” I reiterated, “It kind of makes me wonder how you look at me.”
“How I look at you?”
“Is that really the image you have of me in your head?”
D looked to the ceiling to finish a bite she had been working on, then reached for a cup to wash it down. Not mine, that much was obvious, but her own, a carton of apple juice placed right next to it.
She let out a satisfied exhale before speaking again.
“Of course not. I mean, yeah I used V as some inspiration, but not entirely. That just happens to be the one face I wanted to present as one part of the gang.”
“I thought Lawrence had that part covered.”
“He covers the business side. That other face hits the streets more directly, though I guess they fall under public relations. But what do I know, I literally didn’t go to school for this.”
She giggled at her joke, like this was some laughing matter.
Rain swelled up against the window on the far wall, prodding.
“Why that image, though? Why did you come up with that design?”
Filling up her cup with more juice, D replied, “I figured we needed something striking, something different from everything else we or anyone else has seen before. I was thinking of some other designs, maybe like an ouroboros or even an orphic egg, but I didn’t want to come off as derivative. There’s already another gang that has the whole Greek mythology thing on lock.”
“So you opted to go with something more… visceral.”
D frowned, leaning against the countertop. “Now I’m confused. I thought you’d really like what I came up with.”
I frowned as well, not because I was disappointed in her confusion, not because my point wasn’t getting across, but because I wasn’t even sure what my point was. I still hadn’t parsed it through my words, not completely. I was trying to finish a puzzle without all of the pieces.
But, I kept going.
“I like it, D, that’s not what I’m getting at.”
“What are you getting at, then?”
I closed my eyes. Those sounds came back and I used them to guide my focus. At least they drowned out the rain.
“That… that you, I don’t freaking know, I don’t know why I’m so worked up over freaking graffitti.”
I lowered my head, my fingers running through my hair. Keeping that position, I opened my eyes again, lifting my gaze at D, mulling on how pathetic I had to be in order to fail at explaining my thoughts and feelings to a girl her age.
D had raised a brow, fixing her hair as well.
“Maybe I can venture a guess,” she said. “Let’s see, uh, I will admit that the tag does have a wild… energy to it, possibly even borderline manic, and since I will also admit that I used V as a base for the design, you feel that somehow says something about you as a person.”
“That’s… I think that’s the closest anyone’s ever going to get. That’s almost scary.”
“Yeah, I get that a lot.”
“Nah, I’ve gotten used to it. You could even say I’ve learned how to make my own fun with it!”
A wide grin. A small gap.
“I’d be disappointed if you didn’t,” I said.
D then placed her elbows on the table, copying my position from before. Her hands pressed against her cheeks.
“But something tells me you’re not having as much fun.”
Fun. At least that was an angle I could approach whatever this was, whatever I was feeling, inside.
Again, I tried, but I had a clearer idea of the space my head was in, now. A way forward.
“Not fun, no. It’s just, it’s just that I saw that tag, that face, and it was as if every failure and dark moment in recent times came flooding back to me. Every time I gave in, lost myself, let something else take over. But, the thing is, they aren’t exact details or scenes. Just gaps, blanks, but I recognize them for what they are. Recently, on the way to El Paso, and especially at the Lunar Tower. It’s been too easy for me to slip, and I’m afraid of it getting harder and harder to regain a hold of myself. What happens if I slip away completely?”
Who takes over, then?
“I was going to ask, why you hid the fact that you were taking pictures at the barn, but maybe it’s because you were working around my… um…”
“Stubbornness?” D offered, her grin lessened, dropping to a slight, sympathetic smile instead.
I returned a similar expression, maybe a little weaker.
“Exactly. I hate that I’m been my own obstacle, and that I keep getting in my own way. It just keeps happening. I feel like I’ve just been holding everyone back, and on a less important level, I’ve been holding myself back. If I want this group to succeed, to build it all up and knock it and everything down with me, I can’t afford to be so easily pushed over in these early stages.”
“I think you’re just setting impossibly high standards for yourself, Wendy,” D said. “Sure, you fudged up sometimes, and in reality who hasn’t, but your version of fudging up is on a different level from, how do I put it?”
“People?” I offered.
D’s slight smile stayed there.
I sat there, my fingers back around my mug, tracing a circle around the lid. Bringing my hand up to my lips, I licked the bit of blood that I had collected, there.
Something inside you… And if you don’t get a grip… the last enemy you want to make right now is yourself.
The face I saw, on that wall, the image I projected, it wasn’t me or her, it was nothing. The real monster. The one I, and maybe Alexis too, had tried to avoid staring at head on. And I would have to be the one to fill that blank. Somehow.
I heard clinking, and it took me out of my spinning, spiraling thoughts. D was filling her plate with more food, yet again.
“If it means anything by this point,” D said, “I am sorry that I went behind your back and let Lawrence chew you out. I probably could have handled that better. And it’s not like we’re in a mad rush or anything, and doing it that way might make everything worse, so let’s not do that. For now, we stay on our current course, and we keep you in mind, okay? How does that sound?”
“I don’t hate the sound of that.”
I saw that gap again.
“Then it’s settled. You stop worrying about it, and we’ll look into it whenever we get the chance. I’m assuming L-Boy showed you the pics?”
“He did,” I said, a touch quiet.
“Then there, something to consider. A clue. We didn’t find anything else at the barn? That’s fine, we at least have that to work off of. Easy and peasy.”
“When you put it that way, it doesn’t seem as heavy on my mind.”
“Exactly! This isn’t some responsibility you have to handle all by yourself. You’re not alone, in this. Heck, it’s not just you as a leader, too. I’m here, and there’s Lawrence, even if he acts all aloof about it.”
“You don’t have to tell me about it.”
Sarah, D, and even Lawrence. I had to be beaten over the head with it, over and over and over and over again, but it was finally starting to sink in that I didn’t have to shoulder everything. An insane concept. Maybe I’d even let it anchor me.
It was hard, trying to talk about it, harder still to give up some of that control. But, it was comforting, to know that, to be reassured.
To talk about my thoughts, like this, Alexis never really had that. What would have happened if she did? How different would have things turned out?
It was a train of thought that I let pass me by. Too many other tracks to stay on.
“We can be like a happy family,” D said, but it sounded like she was talking more to herself.
I replied, anyways.
“Okay,” I said, finally. “We can give that a shot.”
D gave me a victory sign, and then pushed her plate away.
“Awesome! And man, I’m saving the rest for later. Any more and I’m gonna want to sleep, and I still want to get back to the game.”
“Any more and you’ll explode,” I commented.
“That too, now come on!”
D hopped out of her seat and went around the kitchen counter. Even though she claimed she was full, she still ran over to the living room, kicked off her slippers, and threw herself onto the couch.
I followed, but with much less pep. I went to the couch and joined her, sitting, then pulling my legs up on the couch. I turned to make sure everyone was comfortable.
D had already unpaused her game, fully engrossed in another world. I wasn’t familiar with it at all, but from what parts I had seen her playthrough, with the heavy shadows and heavier ambience, it was some kind of horror game. Lights flickered down a long dark, empty hallway, but I could have sworn I saw the image of a little girl on the other side, but it went away too fast to know for sure.
Not really my thing, and I didn’t really see how it was D’s. But, to each their own.
I turned to check on Isabella.
Sitting on the couch, legs apart, hugging the backpack she had in the space between. She was watching the screen, too, but she looked disinterested, judging from her lowered gaze.
She didn’t want to eat, electing to stay on the couch instead, not really waiting for us to finish dinner, but rather preferring to spend time alone. I wouldn’t blame her if she wanted to keep her distance from D. The girl said it herself. She could be scary.
Isabella spoke, eyes glued to the screen.
“So you’re okay with the tag?”
I nodded, then looked over to D.
“Yeah, I can live with the design.”
“Neat…” D said, eyes still forward, controller clicking away. No use, her attention was somewhere else, now.
“Don’t forget, there’s more important stuff to focus on, don’t get caught up chasing ghosts.”
Isabella made a passing glance to me as she realigned my priorities.
“I’m aware,” I said, leaning back, looking at the screen, now. The character D was playing had gotten a hold of a flashlight, pushing back a shadow devil-thing. The details were murky. But she was winning out, pushing ahead as more light filled the screen. Probably wouldn’t be long until the devil was banished.
“Aware of what?” D asked, sounding distant. “Oh shoot, back up back up!”
“In a few days’ time, the real game starts.”
And now, for something much more proactive. Fucking finally.
D and Isabella stalked down the hallway, brisk. They moved with intent, there was no guesswork to be done here, that part was over. We had set things up, now it was time to start knocking them down.
Head down, yards behind, I followed.
The girls got into position, then I did, too. A door, not at the end of the hall, but close. There was a corner that lead down another, but that had no relevance to us. D and Isabella stood right in front, and I stood on the wall beside it, out of the line of sight from the peephole.
“Testing, testing, two two one-two. Y’all hear me fine?” D.
“All good.” Lawrence.
“Sweet, just wanted to check before I press play.”
“Ugh, just get on with it already.”
Isabella wasn’t wired up, but I was with her on being antsy. Everything considered, I didn’t have a lot of opportunities where I had the drop on a target. I couldn’t even be certain if it ever happened.
With a group, though, with others I could rely on, that opportunity was present, now. I’d play my part, and I wouldn’t fuck it up. Not this time. Hopefully not ever again.
“Waiting for your signal. Good luck, ladies.”
“Aw, I’m a lady now, that is so sweet of you.”
“Fuck off. Never mind, just get this shit over with.”
A mechanical giggle filtered directly into my ears. A more natural tone sounded off a little farther away.
“Okay okay. I’m pressing play… now!”
The hall was quiet, still. On the other side of the door, a bell rang.
Muddled footsteps approached the door. The building was old, not very well kept. It creaked with every bit of weight that pressed down on it.
It stopped right at the door. No answer.
An answer. Finally. But the door remained closed.
I focused on D’s natural tone, instead.
“Hi, I live in the building, down the hall here, and I got locked out. My father doesn’t come back from work for a super long time and I was wondering if I could come and stay inside until he gets back?”
“I’ve never seen you on this floor before.”
“Please sir? My father said it was okay to come here in case something like this happened.”
“I never agreed to anything like that, and I don’t know you or your father.”
“Please? It’s just me out here, and it’s cold.”
“Like I said, there’s nothing I can do for you, girl, go somewhere else.”
Stuck, preoccupied, distracted. He was close to the door, and he wasn’t sure where this was going.
But we did.
D was clearly enjoying this. I could hear it in her voice, see it in her stance. Higher pitched than usual, hurried near the ends of her sentences. Standing on her balls of her feet, leaning, inching forward. Her face could barely contain her gapped grin.
She took a moment, mostly for herself. To savor the anticipation.
I wouldn’t fault her for that.
“Please, Mr. Onmon, could you let me in?”
There was no answer coming from the door, this time.
A step, then another. The second fainter than the first.
He wouldn’t take another step away from the door.
I spun, getting in front of D and Isabella, winding myself up.
With every ounce of strength I had available, I thrusted a foot into the door made of solid wood.
The thing broke and splintered, dust kicking up from the sudden and heavy impact. Wood was torn from metal hinges, and pieces flew in different directions.
Split into pieces, the door giving way to my foot, bursting open into the apartment. It wasn’t unlike a shotgun blast, except the ammunition here was wood.
I was given a brief glimpse into the apartment before more damage could be done. Another hallway, a foyer, but it wasn’t spacious in the slightest. The whole building was dingy, seedy, in a more decrepit part of town. The lowest of the low. Made me wonder if our intel was good.
But I knew to trust D, now. Trust in her enough to kick this door down.
I saw the man on the other side, falling on his ass, more terrified than startled. He had made himself comfortable in his shitty apartment, wearing only boxers and a dark bathrobe. Maybe if he was legitimately handsome, he would have gotten away with the look, but he was anything but. Middle-aged, balding, looking like he hadn’t seen a gym in well over several decades. His stomach protruded out, ungainly. A stout nose.
He looked like a pig.
Screaming as he scrambled back to his feet, flailing as he escaped, he went down the foyer, retreating down a corner of his apartment.
With a quiet calm, I stepped over the debris and let myself in.
I heard banging and crashing of metal and glass, panicked sounds. Other voices, too. Women.
Following the path the man had taken, I turned the corner and-
Turned back. Wood blasted back at me. Wood and metal.
An actual shotgun blast.
I had gotten back to cover before my head was taken clean off. For me, and even for Alexis, I’d rather have that not happen.
The man yelled something at us, but it was buried under the high ringing noise. The blast was loud, and I hated the loud more than I hated the rain.
It would have been easy for me to lapse into panic, to freak out and lose myself, like I always did. I could even feel the early symptoms. A cold shiver, sweat breaking out, the scenery changing to red-on-white tiles of a classroom floor.
The symptoms subsided as I felt a tiny push in the small of my back. I didn’t have to turn to know it was D.
It had to have been one of the most simple – perhaps even insignificant – gestures a person could do for another, but in my case, it was enough to keep me standing and present.
And it allowed for so much.
The ringing was still there and high, the panic creeping at the edge of my consciousness, but in this one instance, I had help, and I was able to keep it at bay.
The tiny push then turned into a stronger shove, and D got the ball rolling. I went out first, rushing.
He couldn’t shoot again, not so soon after the initial blast, reloading would take too much time.
I took in the surroundings of the room, discarded it. I only saw the target and the path to get to it. A straight line.
Everything and everyone had to catch up to me. Sound and sight. The ringing fell back in the mix for other voices to be heard, and dust settled again around messied cupboards and drawers.
We were in this man’s bedroom. The mattress didn’t have any sheets covering it, sitting on the floor, with brown spots everywhere, not just the bed itself. The walls were yellowed, not because of the paint job, but for some other gross reason that I didn’t want to consider. Plastic and glass littered the floor, trash. The owners of the other voices, women, not much older than Sarah, were either naked or almost, shaking and whimpering in fear.
No, not just women. There was another man here, too. Huddled in the corner. He didn’t seem as important as the pig I had skewered under my knife.
I had moved on instinct, and my hands had found my knife on their own, stabbing the man in the shoulder, the blade staying there. For added measure, I had a foot pressing into his stomach. He was on his back, on his mattress, I was standing over him.
“We appreciate the hospitality, Mr. Onmon,” I said.
When Mr. Onmon spoke, I could hear him okay.
“Who the shit are all of you?”
“It doesn’t matter who we are, which is kind of the problem.” D walked around from my back to the side of the mattress. There was the gun, knocked to the side. D kicked it farther away. Isabella took the other side. Little girls looking down on a grown man. “We’re in the middle of an identity crisis, and we were hoping you could help us… find ourselves, if you will.”
Isabella commented, “Ew, his stomach looks like the moon. Gross.”
“The shit does that mean?”
“It means you have something that can be of use to us,” another voice offered, entering the room for the first time. Lawrence. He was dressed in a casual fashion, a baggy sweater and jeans, a hat on his head, pale in their shading. Not his usual set whenever doing work outside as part of a gang, but in this apartment, it was comfort over class, clearly. “And we’d like to have it, please.”
“The Cobras, their buffer zones,” D said, “You maintain them, and don’t even pretend that you don’t because you do, I know. So just tell me where each and every one of them are, and maybe you get to have at least one hand to have fun with.”
Mr. Onmon tried to fight back, but a push from my foot deflated him fast. His stomach still stuck out, though.
“You’re going after the Cobras? You must be idiots, so stupid that you shit yourselves every night because you don’t know how to use the bathroom. I’m not telling you shit.”
Lawrence spoke, “Loyalty isn’t going to help you, Mr. Onmon. You’re not high enough on the totem pole that anyone on the top will miss you. Maintenance and designations of those zones are a necessity, but they aren’t so crucial that they won’t outsource that particular job to swine. We take a few zones, we play it quiet, and they won’t notice for a time. And when they do, it’ll be too late, and for them, the cost of taking it back is going to be higher than just going somewhere else and making a new one.”
“You’re taking the buffer zones as territory? Like shit you are. Styx won’t have any of that, it’s his rules.”
“If there’s anything that Styx loves to break, it’s his own rules,” D said. “Or rather, the version of him that made those rules. As long as it doesn’t upset the spirit of the law too much, he’ll bend the letter if he finds it entertaining. That’s where he finds his solace.”
Mr. Onmon’s eyes went in every direction, searching. There was no help for him here. Not even the women and the one man he had in here with him.
Lawrence gestured at the aforementioned man and women.
“Leave, this part doesn’t concern you. You can still get fucked up, but do it somewhere else.”
One by one, they did, leaving the bedroom and abandoning Mr. Onmon.
“If I help you, will you let me live?” he asked.
“We just want info,” I said, “It’s up to you whether you live or die.”
I removed the knife from his shoulder. He grunted.
“We can’t have him slithering back to his superiors, either,” Lawrence said.
“Good point,” D said.
“There is that conceit,” I said. I watched the fear in Mr. Onmon’s eyes grow to the size of saucers. In a similar vein, I felt the same inside.
The next part came with some hesitation. Not even a week ago, I had been pushed to do this, and now I was pushed to do it again. Before, it was against my will, an order from the enemy, but now, it was to assist the people who had my back. Was this part of the job, now, being the teeth of Los Colmillos? That I’d have to bite?
I could feel myself falling, a different sensation from slipping. Falling backwards, and the only form of comfort I had was the hope that D and Sarah and even Lawrence and Isabella were there to catch me.
Cracking a knuckle, I moved the knife to Mr. Onmon’s stomach. It was so engorged. Eating himself fat from the spoils of his degeneracy. Large, white. Like a moon.
“So talk, or I’ll make you squeal.”
Mr. Onmon talked, and then I made him squeal.