Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Money Part 14

     I was awakened by light. I had been moved to a bedroom and the sun was shining outside. I tried to move but it hurt so I stopped. I heard the sounds of people working on what I figured could only be rebuilding the house. Saws screamed and hammers pounded. I listened to the noises for a while before I fell asleep again.
    When I woke back up Jimmy was changing my bandage and checking the wound. “It’s improving.” With that he left. My eyes closed again.
      I woke up feeling hungry and noticed it was night. I decided to move and I fought the pain as I sat up. I hoped no stitches tore as I pulled myself up. I moved slowly toward the door and down the stairs. The house looked like it had when I had last seen it. As if nothing had happened. I stopped at the bottom of the stairs and caught my breath. My side hurt pretty good from the wound but it wasn’t doing anything but slowing me down.
     “So you are up and at it.” I heard her voice before I saw here. She stood in the shadows. “Emily isn’t here. She left you with me. Does that frighten you Ray?”
       I looked at her for a moment and assess where I am and all that has happened since we last spoke. “No Ava. I am not afraid of you anymore. You will do what you need to do and as soon as that is done I will do what I need to do.”
    “What do you need to do Ray?”
     “Go home. Open that restaurant and forget the people I helped kill.” I looked at her silhouette. “Try to regain some normalcy and then return the money I still owe you.”
       She laughed. “Glad to see you hadn’t forgotten Ray.” She turned and disappeared down a darkened hallway.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Money Part 13

    When we arrived at the shed, I realized that it was bigger than I expected. I also realized it was more of a bunker. It had 2 stories, one was completely below ground. It had food, water, ammo, and several bed rolls. Near the ammo was a dumbwaiter which I assumed was used to supply the people up top. The second story was supported by metal girders and the base of that floor was metal. I walked up metal stairs to what was the ground floor and I looked around. The walls were adobe brick and they had little gun ports in various places. Including a few in the top where an attic might be. 
   “Ray, these walls are thick. They have a layer of the bricks you see, ¼ inch steel, and another layer of bricks before the metal siding. We built it for our last stand and hoped never to use it.” She looked at me in silence for a bit before pointing upstairs. “You claim you wanted high ground and there it is. Get situated fast. Take extra ammo up there as well. We will be in for quite a fire fight.”
    I did as I was told. Making several trips up the stairs as the pops of the guns outside grew in intensity. I looked down at the others below watching as they readied their stations. Emily got everyone’s attention. “We still have video down here so resist the urge to peek out. If we can keep them from discovering where we are we may turn that to our advantage. So far they have not breached our inner tunnel and we hope that stays secure but we are completely sealed in at this time. We will not open the door until all is clear, understood?” 
    Everyone, except me acknowledged the order. “Ray, are you going to be a problem?” All eyes turned to me and I heard several safeties click off.
   “No ma'am.”
   “Then let me hear that you understand that no one leaves this structure until we are clear.”
   “I understand ma'am. Now if you don’t mind I am going to recheck my weapon.”
   “Emily! They are heading our way!” Ava yelled as she ran up from below.
   “Get ready and wait for my order!” Emily hollered as she swapped places with Ava. Ava took the spot directly below me and began rechecking her weapon. She looked up at me and nodded. It was not a nod of solidarity more a nod of understanding. I returned the nod and knew that if things went wrong she was shooting me first.
   “Open the portals and take aim. Fire only if you have a clear shot.” 
    I opened the port and slid the gun in. Luckily it was Washington because no sun could make the barrel shine in someone’s eye; so far so good. I looked through the sights and slowly scanned the hill. I came across one of the guys who had delighted in torturing during that month of training. I breathed in and out very slowly and pulled the trigger. He went down and didn’t move. Bullets strafed my position and I closed the port and moved one to the right. I had 3 ports and I planned to make use of all of them. I opened the port and slid the barrel through and was rewarded with more bullets flying at me. I looked through the sites anyway and tracked down to the first armed idiot I saw and took him down.  I continued looking through the sights knowing I had one bullet left before I needed to reload. That was when I saw Wall and I hesitated. I knew he was there but had hoped not to find him in my sights. I stared at him for a while but did not fire. He left my line of vision, firing as he went and I scanned again. That was when I saw him and he seemed to be staring right at me. “Lupo” I muttered. A grin cracked his face and it made me look away. I looked down and saw everyone was busy fighting for their lives and I had let 2 targets pass. One was a friend of sorts and the other one scared me into inaction. I sat there looking for a second longer and turned around willing myself to take out Lupo but he was no longer there.
   I went back to work scanning the lawn before me and fired at a person, winging them. His gun arm flew back and his gun, still firing, shot a person behind him. I saw Lupo again and excitedly pulled the trigger to hear it ‘click’. I had dry fired at Lupo and he turned and looked at me with that same smile. Then he started laughing before shooting the guy I had winged.
   I pulled the rifle back and shook as I tried to reload. I dropped the bullet twice before I managed to load it in. and had a similarly hard time loading the next 2. I sat there shaking as the battle continued.
   “Ray, come down! I am sending someone else up. Go help Jimmy with the ammo reloads until you get control!” Ava barked and I did as I was told. I rushed down the stairs, passing Emily’s control station as I did. She and two others were hard at work mapping the fight and discussing the explosives and the appropriate time to use them.
    Jimmy was sweating as he loaded the dumbwaiter, closed the door and pulled the rope to raise it. “Let me help Jimmy. I started being more of a hindrance up there then a help and was told to come down until I got my shakes under control.”
    Jimmy turned his bandaged head at me with a scowl and said, “Sure thing.” Then walked past me and sat to watch me struggle to keep up with the orders from above. I lost myself in the work and was soon able to tune out the scowl directed at me by Jimmy. Emily tapped me on the shoulder and motioned for Jimmy to resume his duties. “We have an issue.”
   I nodded stupidly, still expecting to be shot.
  “We have explosives set around the yard that would help at this point but nobody remembered to arm it. I need you to prove yourself and go back and arm it. It’s back through the hall about halfway. You will find a door and this key opens it.” She pressed the key into my hands. “The panel is at the back of that room and is inside a red panel. Turn the key in that panel and hit the button there. Then come straight back. Knock quickly 7 times to be let back in. Anything else will be met with bullets” She handed me my pistol, opened the giant bank safe door, pushed me through backwards and then slammed the door in my face.
    I heard the locks being applied and I slowly turned to look down a mostly dark hall. The emergency lighting was still on and it flickered a lot. Most of the hall was barely luminated. I started walking down the hall but I felt uneasy and I kept looking into every nook and cranny. I made it to the door in question and opened the door. It was dark inside and my unease increased but I was determined to do my task. I entered the room and the door slammed shut behind me and a flashlight beam blinded me. “Ray…. so good of you to visit.” His voice was like giant scales scraping across concrete. I stopped breathing.
   “Breathe Ray.” I did. “I wondered when I would see you again.” My gun was tucked in my belt in the small of my back. I was not able to go for it. He switched his light beam to a lantern and I could see his smile. A whimper escaped my lips. “She sent you here to arm the explosives? How careless of her to forget to arm them. Do you like her Ray? Is that why you betrayed me? Was it a crush? She is quite stunning really, I can see the attraction. Ray you are not a smart man. If you had just walked away you would be halfway back to Portland and ready to start your little business. Instead you stayed and didn’t take the shot when you had it.” He noted my surprise. “Yes I knew it was you. Then you had it again but no shot was fired. What did you forget to load the weapon? I finished off that man you maimed. You are a better shot then that Ray. I should know I trained you myself.”
   “Enough!” I felt furious and incredibly unbelievably scared. “What is the point of this!? Why are you attacking? What do they mean to you? Did she spurn your advances you pathetic piece of….”
    He was on his feet and had his hands around my throat. “Careful Ray, you don’t want to finish that statement.” One of my hands grasped his and the other slowly moved to my gun. He tossed me by my neck into the wall with the red panel. I crumpled to the ground and finally grasped the gun.
   “You are the pathetic love sick pup, Ray. She took over part of my territory and it is past time to take it back. This would have been harder without your help; so I feel like I owe you something but I am not sure that extends to your insolence. You can use that on these women but not on Lupo.” He glared at me but the look had less power. I was past fear at this point. I was full into survival mode. He had pushed me far enough to make me dangerous. Blood started obscuring my vision I must have been cut when I hit the wall. I shifted the gun out of my belt and kept my thumb hovering above the safety.
    “You are not turning on the explosives Ray. Instead you will lead me back to that door and get me inside.” He said calmly as he reached down yanking me up by my shirt. I pulled the weapon and fired.
    He dropped me and my ears rang. I had left my ear protection by Jimmy and that shot had been ear splitting. I turned and saw Lupo was bleeding from the gut. He leaned against a wall and smiled at me, “This changes nothing Ray.”I read the words more then I heard them. He knocked the gun out of my hand and pushed me towards the door. I looked back and he was in fact bleeding but he only looked slightly irritated by it. He continued to push me back to the door that held everyone behind it. 
    “Knock Ray, get her to open it.”
    “She wanted 5 quick knocks” I lied.
    “Get to it then.”He pushed my gun into my back. So I knocked 5 times.
     A speaker by the door came on “Hold on Ray, I am still having trouble with the lock controls because of the backup power.” Lupo nudged me and I pushed the button to talk “No problem. I would like to get in soon though this hall is creepy.” I released the button.
    “Ray, it should open in 7 seconds.”  She said back and I instinctively dropped to the floor as the door swung open and a barrage of bullets was our greeting. Lupo was hit by a lot of them and a few grazed me but I stayed down as Lupo fell. When the firing stopped I stood up and ran back down the hallway and into the room to activate the explosives. Then I hustled back to where Emily waited for me with an open door. She ushered me in, I leapt over Lupo's body, and then she slammed the door and reengaged the locks before giving the order to arm and fire the explosives. I watched the screens as explosions took dozens down, including Wall. We waited impatiently for the smoke to clear and saw the few remaining retreat. “Let’s take back our home!” Emily yelled and her people rushed outside as she kept watch. I stayed there feeling exhausted and I went to lean back against the door and fell into it instead. I felt a little woozy and realized I was bleeding pretty good. One of those bullets meant for Lupo must have hit me instead. “Oh damn! Jimmy, Ray is down! I know he isn’t your favorite person right now but I want you to help him!”
    My eyes felt heavy and I found myself fighting to keep them open. “Ray!” Jimmy kept yelling at me. Why did he keep yelling? “Ray! Stay with me!” He slapped me when my eyes closed. “Ow, Jimmy, knock it off. I am tired. Why are you so orange Jimmy?” He slapped me again. “You are lucky Emily cares if you die or I would let you close your eyes. Hey! Em! I got the bullet out and the bleeding is slowing. I am going to need to sew him up. Nothing super important was hit. Once I patch him up I am putting him to sleep for a while.” He pulled out the needle and I squirmed in response. “Knock it off Ray.” After a few minutes he put a needle in my arm and finally let me close my eyes.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Money Part 12

    It seemed like forever had gone by and then I was having someone yelling my name in my ear. I jerked awake and felt my neck pop and slowly all kinds of aches and pains became apparent to me. I was still in the chair from the night before but the boss guy was no longer oozing evil at me. I looked toward the source of the noise and saw the walking wall and his expression was still severe. He waited for me to collect myself a bit and get moving but started talking when I just sat there instead. “Diamond did good last night.” 
   “So am I off the hook?” 
    “Not so fast Sunshine. She did good considering you goofed her up for part of the night. She came in about 230, about 70 less than a Sunshine free evening.”
     I realized Sunshine was my new name, I’d heard it before. A name like Ray can cause some folks to get creative. I was excited though because 70 didn’t sound so bad. “I think I have 80 in my pocket!” I said triumphantly. The Wall just laughed at me. I wasn’t in on the joke but my stomach rolled and I knew when he explained I wouldn’t like the answer. 
   “Add the word thousand to the end of those words.” I was officially screwed and Wall sat there chuckling about it.

   “Wait! Seventy thousand! You only borrowed fifteen thousand! How did you pay the rest!?”

   “Listen Oompah, I am telling you the details right now so how about you shut up and let me do it.” Jimmy’s face flashed anger, and Emily’s flashed 'Really Ray?', and then Jimmy lunged at me. I crashed the cup of sand into his face. He crumpled but I wasn’t done I started wailing on him with both hands and feet. That was when Ava came in and tried to kick me but I was ready and I yanked her leg up and she fell on her butt in front of Emily. I bolted out the door and locked it behind me.
    “We have the key Ray!” Emily called from inside. 
    “I know Emily.” And I ran out another door locking it as I went. I ran through several parts of the house, slowly going up, while closing and locking doors that were meant to keep people below trapped.  I found myself back at the ground floor and I ran toward the door and flung it open and then doubled back and went upstairs, grabbing a phone I saw on the way. I hid in a bathroom that faced out toward the road coming in and I punched in the number that I hated calling. His voice, gravelly in my ear, came leaking through the speaker. I began shivering again and then, shakily, I told him what I saw outside the window. “I know the place, Ray. Keep them all there and try not to die. Or do I don’t really care just keep them there.” He disconnected and I continued to shake. 
    I heard a commotion from downstairs and a growl of rage that I assumed was Ava. “You go look outside Ava. I need to stop Jimmy’s bleeding.” I was right about the growl. I felt bad suddenly knowing what I had just brought down on them. I felt bad about Jimmy, I hadn’t wanted him all bloody but of course Ava had given me glass and not plastic. For some reason I had always envisioned this going along with plastic disposable glasses. I mean who gives a captive guy actual glass? Ava does, probably because Ava wanted me to fight. She will get her fight: I was sure of that. 
    “Ray! You took my phone!” Emily yelled. “I can find you by simply calling myself with Jimmy’s phone. If you aren’t here I can use Ava’s to get a GPS on you.” 
     I smiled at her warning. I looked outside and saw Ava outside looking at all the cars, when she started running up the road I opened the window and looked outside. I looked up and cold see the roof was within reach. So I climbed out and up and lay down on the back side of the slope. I then silenced Emily’s phone. I was amazed she had not set a passkey on this device. I sat there and began playing angry birds when she finally called. “Damn it Ray” was how she started the call. “What did you do that for?”

   “I’m sorry Emily. I really am but Jimmy had a point; I never borrowed that much from you guys. I did actually spend the money on a business like I said originally. I have a little cart ready to find a new home and for me to start cooking.”

    “Then why did you tell this stupid story about an evil guy? Why didn’t you tell your actual business story?” Was the first story the truth?”

    “No, Emily it wasn’t. The second story is only halfway done. The rest of it is going to make you kill me.”

    “Tell me the rest Ray.”

    “After I found out how much I owed I was returned to my hotel room. The Wall had taken all my information down and had instructed me to call them even if I simply changed jobs within the same company. I owed them a big favor. I told my friends some stupid story about having to pay for Diamond’s time and about being at a strip club with Wall until the morning. They were glad I was alive and they decided to believe me. Even though I reeked of sweat and couldn’t stop shaking. When I got back home my life was pretty normal except for the occasional call or visit from Wall. He wasn’t too bad of a guy. I even started going out with him when he came around but we always knew why he was there. I owed that favor but the boss never seemed to be ready to collect. I started daydreaming about cooking around this time and Wall encouraged me. As did all those friends who I mentioned before. I began making plans and saving money, people did invest in my cart idea. Not a lot but enough money to get the cart and that was when I got a call from the boss.”

    “Ray, who is the boss? Doesn’t he have a name?” I could hear a sound of trepidation in the question.

    “Of course he has a name. Who doesn’t have a name but I did not know it at the time. Can I continue?”

    “Ray tell me his name.”

    “I can’t Emily, not yet. I can stop talking and you will never learn or you can let me continue." I waited for her acknowledgement and after a few seconds of silence I continued. "He called me on the phone and I started to shake and even whimper as I heard his gravelly voice. He knew what I could do to get my business going. He gave me Jimmy’s number and told me how to get the money. Then he reminded me that I still owed him a favor. I sat there for a long time shivering and laying in the fetal position. The thing about it is he had never done a damn thing to make me react that way. He hadn’t beaten me, he hadn’t really given me a spelled out threat and his thugs were nothing but courteous to me when we interacted. Except there I was nearly crying on the floor of my apartment. When I finally stopped shaking I made the call and I met up with Jimmy. A few days later I had your money in hand. I called the Wall and he said “Do the cart thing with it.” So I did, I was happily working away and doing it well within the time frame we had discussed I was about a week away from opening when I got another call that ended with me curled on the floor but this time I was crying. I was crying because I believed this time I would die. I was going back to Vegas. I cancelled the move to the cart spot I had rented and I got on a plane. I was greeted at an airport by Wall who took me to a giant patch of land outside of Vegas. We drove for a while along the dirt road of that land until we crested a small hill. On the other side of that land was a giant compound. It looked like a comfy compound with swimming pools and satellite dishes but those walls were made to keep people out and some people in. When we approached guards opened a metal white gate and then closed and locked it when we got through. Wall looked at me and said “Game face, Sunshine” and we got out of the car. I kept stride with him as my mind wandered through several scenarios and suddenly we were at the pool where a few beautiful women were swimming. Wall led me to a table and had me sit before he left. I stared at the girls swimming in the pool and felt confusion settle over me. That was when I felt it. A shiver ran up my spine and I looked around but until I looked up at the balcony I did not see him. When my eyes found his he motioned for me to come up and I did as I was told. He pointed at a chair and I sat down.

    “Ray, good to see you again.” His gravelly voice flowed through my head and I shivered again.

     “Thank you sir.” I said.

     “Ah, yes. I never gave you my name did I Ray. Since you are about to make good on that favor it seems only fitting to reveal it to you.  You can call me Lupo.”

     I heard Emily suck in a breath as I said his name and I felt tears come to my eyes.I knew that she finally knew what was coming and how badly I had betrayed he

    “Damn it Ray! Lupo!?” She cursed for a bit then yelled at Jimmy to get out the guns, get Ava back and call for backup. “What did he want Ray!? Finish you damn story!”

    “I’m sorry Emily. I am but what he wanted was you and your sister.”

     “I figured that part out Ray! Did you tell him where I lived?!”

     “No but I gave him a description of the area.”

     “Shit!” That was the first time Emily had cussed in my presence and its rarity hit me hard.
     “He told me to become delinquent and not pay until you had to send people for me. He then told me to escape every time I was caught so that you had them bring me here. That when I got there I had to make one call and my slate was clean. I had never met you before and until I did I figured you were like him and I rationalized it.”
    “You have a survival instinct Ray and I understand that but you should get off the damn roof and come down here and load up because he will kill you too.”

     “I know.”

     “Not surprised by me knowing where you are?” I heard the sounds of clips sliding into guns in the background.

     “No. You’re a smart woman. I’m coming down but listen to the rest as I do. Maybe if you hear the rest you won’t put a bullet in me when I come downstairs. Lupo had his guys train me for a month while Jimmy kept trying to track me down. I ignored his calls as I was instructed and made stupid sad little texts in reply. I ran, did pushups, fought, and practiced shooting all day every day for a month. I came back ready to do my part. Letting myself believe that eventually my cart would open for business and I would be cooking for happy customers. Even though I had rose colored glasses on I took some precautions when I got back. I learned a lot about them. I learned what they did in siege situations and while I was on the roof talking to you I scoped your land. I have a suggestion…” Cold steel at my temple stopped my words.

    “Continue talking Ray.” Emily said

    “Uh….. I always imagined Ava being the one with a gun to my head. Alas it could only be you. I suggest we, or you, go to the tree line, where the little shed is, at the back of the property. Then we, or you, dig in there and wait. There is only one way to get there and you will see them coming. You can take them down as they come. I am a decent shot and I could take the roof.” She cocks the gun. “If you recall, it was you who made the point that I will be killed by Lupo as well. I could have stayed upstairs on the roof letting you feel like you had me trapped. I could still be telling you the story and killing time. So either shoot me or give me a gun because we don’t have time for this crap!”

    She pulled the gun away and uncocked it. I turned and saw the revolver in her hand and let the breath out I had held involuntarily. She opened a door I had not seen before and led me into the room where 20 people were loading up and prepping for battle. Jimmy’s bandaged face scowled at me and Ava somehow looked even madder. She stomped toward me and thrust a rifle and a pistol in my hand; then slapped me hard across the face. I nodded then walked out heading to the spot I described before, while simultaneously checking the safety and the magazines on the gun. Emily grabbed my shoulder, “Hold it, the spot you describe can be reached by going back down stairs and you need to carry more weapons then that. Lupo is definitely coming prepared. I stepped back in and she shut the door and then slapped all the locks in place. A buzzer went off and the security screen I had failed to notice among the screens showed a few big vans at the gate. I looked at more screens and saw the rooftop and envisioned myself sitting there chatting while she watched me. “Yeah, you were actually better hidden before you climbed onto the roof.”

    I noticed that her people were carrying weapons through a door in the back and I grabbed some and followed along. As we walked I saw little hideout rooms where people sat waiting for the oncoming attack. I walked further to where a giant stockpile of weapons was being set up and handed my weapons over except for the rifle and pistol. I walked back upstairs and watched as people stopped everything when the phone rang. Emily picked up the phone, listened and then handed it to me. It was Wall “You told them didn’t you. Lupo knew you would. I was hoping he was wrong. It was nice knowing you. We are coming in now.” and the power went out. I dropped the phone and started to freak when the emergency lights went on. The room erupted in chaos and soon I found myself pushed along with people running down the stairs. We heard small explosions. “The gate is down!” someone yelled.
    I threw the rifle sling over my shoulder and grabbed another gun from the table I found myself standing at. It was a 45 and had a nice heft to it. Suddenly I found myself flung around by Ava. “We are going with your plan. Let’s get moving.” She ran off and I fell in behind her. As I ran I imagined Lupo beating us there. I shook nearly uncontrollably the entire way.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Money Part 11

   Ava came in and slammed the large glass of water on the table. A little bit of water sloshed out and she glared at me, daring me to make a comment. Luckily for me I was just happy to see the water so I greedily lapped away at it. I made myself stop before I wanted to and I set the glass down. I looked at Ava, “The sand?”

   She pulled her hand from behind her back and set that down on the table and glared at me. Remembering Emily’s words I looked into her eyes and calmly said “Thank you Ava.” She looked at me disappointedly, it was like she had needed me to be cocky so she could bash me and with a grimace she nodded and moved aside. It was amazing to me how such a slight girl could slowly become so much of a behemoth in my head. She moved like a lumbering oaf when she was angry and that helped sell it. As I watched her retreat I realigned my thoughts and once again saw the angrier twin of Emily. I felt like it was good to remember that before I began again. I turned my attention to Emily and then back to the cup of sand and my half glass of water. My throat felt parched as I looked at it, knowing that I would not be drinking it. The thought that it was my last drink in this life almost made me tear up but I had the rest of the tale to spin. I needed to make Emily understand.

   “Have you met evil before?”

    Emily looked at me curiously.

“I am not talking about regular people who do bad or evil things. I am not even talking about bad people who occasionally do evil things. I am talking about evil. The type of person that you know no matter what you do or say you will end up screwed? Have you met that kind of a person?”

“I sometimes wonder if Ava and I are that. A lot of our dealings end badly Ray.”

“You are not evil, Emily. Your angry sister is also not evil. That nasty scumbag you had working for you, the one I toasted, had a touch of evil, like the highlights in some douchey boy band’s hair. He wasn’t evil though, just bad and mean.”

“Your point!” Ava ordered.

“Yes, sorry. I met evil that night. That little “walk” I went on ended up being a ride out to the outskirts of Vegas. I was surrounded by hundreds of houses. They looked empty and I wondered about the economy for a moment as I looked out the window. That’s what I do when I am scared, I think about stuff that isn’t important. Anyway, the walking wall yanked me out of the car and hauled me into one of the vacant looking buildings. It was fully furnished and I was thinking about the countertops as I was dragged through the kitchen. They were white and I was relieved because they wouldn’t be chopping parts of me off in there. That was when I realized I had no idea what was happening…. No, I mean I had no idea what I did for this to be happening. I had stared and she had ignored. I did not talk to her or as far as I know stop any business transaction. I suddenly started to feel a little upset about how the night was going. That was about the time I met him.

I was suddenly in a room that was too dark and I desperately wanted to leave. This guy was just sitting there, in the dark, waiting for me. “Put him down in the chair and go” The walking wall hesitated for a second and the man let out a sound that made me nearly wet myself. It took me a second to realize he was laughing at his bouncer. “Go. He and I will both be fine.” The walking muscle looked worriedly down at me and patted my shoulder reassuringly and my bladder spasmed again. Was I seriously going to pee myself in this scary man’s house? “Um….. sir… uh… would it be… uh alright if I used the…. uh… restroom…. uh… before we begin? Um?” He leaned into a pocket of light and spoke ”Sure. It’s down the hall on the right.”His voice sounded like gravel being scraped along the road and my soul shivered at the sound of it. I hurried out holding onto myself hoping that I would make it. Luckily I did or this might be a different story…. probably there would be no story. But either way I made it to the restroom and reluctantly made it back without any problem. I was secretly hoping for a bear attack.”

“Can you cut the jokes and get to the point?” Ava sneered at me. I just looked at her for a second and nodded before continuing.

“I began this by asking of your knowledge of evil.” I picked the glass of sand up and held it in front of me. “This is an average human. There is a lot that makes up a human; some good parts and some not so good parts.” I avoid looking at Ava and continue to focus on the glass. “Most people grow up fine and usually avoid doing anything too terrible but sometimes that person doesn’t get a chance to develop into a normal human. Something comes along and changes who and what they are.” I pick up my lovely clear glistening glass of water and start to pour it in the glass. “Whatever it is, maybe it a bad person with streaks of evil or maybe it is something supernatural, but that thing invades that person. At first it doesn’t take, the evil sits on top like this water but slowly it seeps into every crevice and every tiny space despite the size. It fills this person up and it forms them into something that brings evil everywhere it goes. Most people are lucky enough to avoid it but the chosen few that feel its touch begin a string of bad luck. Which for me resulted in being here sitting in this chair trying to make you understand.”

“Seriously? You met Satan? You bullshitter!” Ava is back in my face again.

“I never said that. I just am telling you what I believe to be the truth of my predicament and if you are done spitting on me I would like to continue.” I say as calm as I can be but my curse is working on me a bit and my anger, the one that gets me in these messes, is flaring up.

Ava comes closer and I foolhardily stand up and she is on me like a wildcat. Not actually wanting to hit her, I grab her wrists as she flails at me. Unfortunately, I have ho hands left to avoid the knee. I curl up into a defensive position (AKA the fetal position) and she continues to wail on me until Emily and Jimmy can pull her off and calm her down. I stay there for a long time trying to stop the dry heaves. When the pain becomes a dull roar I slowly get up and resume my seat and see aspirin and water sitting there waiting for me. “Thank you. I am sorry for escalating that fight Ava.” I gingerly sit down to face bewildered stares. I know in their eyes I did not need to apologize but I am trying to control my stupider tendencies and that includes antagonizing a wildcat, when I don’t I apologize. At least when I feel stupid about it, I apologize. What was I going to do when I stood up? I might not think everything through but I don’t hit a woman. Of course I might when she came to kill me later.

I take the aspirin and the water down before I continue. “I sat back down in front of this man and realized my bladder was sending warning signals to me because I still wanted to pee myself. I just sat there and shivered instead. And before you ask, I wasn’t cold.” I look at Jimmy when I say it. “Anyway he just sat there and watched me shiver. He leaned from the shadows again into the lone spot of light and I began to shiver harder. His eyes scared me and I to this day can’t tell you what I saw in them but they scared me. “What’s your name kid?” The gravelly voice sent new shivers through my body. “Ray” “So Ray, you like Diamond?” I was so scared my brain failed to process that he had said a name. “No sir. I do not have any diamond and I guess I don’t think much about them.” This was greeted by silence. “You misunderstand me. I’m talking about the girl you was eye-humping out on the strip. Her name’s Diamond.” I nodded my understanding to him and stupidly said “Diamond is a nice name.” He laughed and the sound still gives me nightmares. “Are you slow, Ray?” “Slow?” “Yeah, you know. You a simple guy, Ray?” “If you mean how smart am, I then I would go probably average.” “I’m gonna have to call you a liar Ray. You sit on the strip eyeballing Diamond and you hurt my business. No one is coming near her with your simple ass sitting there staring at her. She’s my best girl. She knows how to conduct business but she can’t do that with you daydreaming about her. And before you make any assumptions she ain’t no hooker. If she were a hooker you wouldn’t have cost me nearly as much. Lucky for you the night is young and we will sit and wait for her to come and tell me how the rest of it goes. I sure hope you know where to get big money Ray.”

I started to stutter. “But.. but..” “Save it kid. You never mattered to me before today but now you’re mine. You will make my money back or you will never leave here alive” After he said that he sat back out of the light and I could feel him watching me as I sweated and shivered.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Money Part 10

I sat there staring at the ladies in front of me. I studied their intensity and tried not to study other more shapely aspects, as this was not the time. They stood there locked in poses until Ava finally drops the bat. I let the breath out that I had held in and a shiver runs up my spine. It is not every day that I almost die; it just feels like it recently. Emily puts the chair back down and resumes her seat. She then looks at me expectantly. That is when long forgotten Jimmy speaks again, “I think it is time for the real story.”

“That’s the thing Jimmy; every story has at least two sides. Who’s to say which the ‘real’ one is?” I do the air quotes on the word real and immediately feel like an ass.

Ava growls and Emily places a calming hand on her arm. Emily looks at me for a while, "Tell us your story Ray, the one that you believe to be true."

I look at her eyes and consciously keep my gaze there. Emily has gotten under my skin and I am fighting lots of wonderful daydreams about her. Some involve running towards each other on the beach but most fall into a more scintillating category. Sometimes I hate an overactive brain and sometimes I just try to keep it firmly in the background. The problem I was facing because of these daydreams was that I started to trust her, kind of. I mean she is definitely a manipulative dangerous person but she makes me feel comfortable. So I was about to open up to her, meanwhile the tiny guiding voice in my head (the one I tend to ignore) is screaming for me to stop.

“Have you ever looked at someone and saw that all they do is survive? That there hope for something better had been squashed?” I am looking into her eyes and as far as I am concerned it is only her and I having this discussion. My tale is for her alone. I see her nod at my question and I continue. “I was mesmerized by that once. I was in Vegas, for a bachelor party, and we were walking the strip. The friends I was with were a lot more intoxicated then I was and I found myself sitting down while they stood and argued about lofty and yet stupid things. You know the type of argument that seems so profound while your inebriation is kicking in but if it was ever filmed and showed to you the next day would make you feel stupid. I sat there a few feet away from them, just waiting for them to start walking again. In fact I was half hoping their stupid and slightly offensive conversation would get them knifed so that I could continue the adventure. Instead my friends blathering had the adventure firmly on pause. I began to look around me, noticing for the first time where we sat. I was looking into a souvenir shop for Las Vegas itself and of course the wonderful Grand Canyon Experience it was attached to.  That was when I noticed the girl leaning up against a wall of the experience. She looked ready to be anywhere but there. She was a beautiful black girl with her hair too short, like maybe she tended to wear a wig. Her makeup was done but the clothes did not seem to match the look her makeup strove for.”

“Just say she was a whore, Ray,” interrupted Jimmy. His interruption breaks the spell Emily’s eyes had over me and I remember where I am and who I have standing around listening to my tale. “I mean for God’s sake were you engaged to this woman? Had she bore your only child?”

I look at him for a second. “Jimmy…… this is my story. Can you shut your mouth or do you know how this story continues?”

He waves me off and walks out muttering.

“Anyway, this girl was pretty but had a hard edge to her. I could not take my eyes off of her. It wasn’t lust, like Jimmy implied. No, it was interest. I wanted to know how she got there. What took a pretty girl and turned her so far around that she became an escort in Vegas waiting for her next trick? I am not sure how long I watched her but it was at least long enough to see her light up and smoke two cigarettes. I was lost in my head when I heard a grizzled voice from behind say “Like the view?”  I dropped the drink I had in my hand, as it was a glass from one of the casinos it shattered and the noise got my friends’ attention. I turned around and saw a massive chest. The guy I was facing was a large, stocky guy. His hands were huge and were covered in rings. The jewelry on his hands was the only pimp like thing about this guy. He really looked like a bouncer at a strip club that would throw out a handsy customer after socking him a few times on the way out. He was built like an enforcer and I immediately realized that I had been daydreaming about the girl’s life for far too long. I was unsure of what to do so I mumbled something. I can’t remember what exactly but I can’t imagine it was very manly. I am sure I sounded like a small child who stole a cookie and was busted with crumbs on his face. The giant muscle grabbed me by the back of the neck and picked me up. I was on my tippy toes mewling like a stuck cow when my friends decided to take action. Other guys materialized between us as they prattled on about kicking butts and/or calling the cops. “Let’s you and I take a walk! Tell your friends, shit is cool!” “Shit is cool!” I exclaimed in a squeaky high pitched shrill. That didn’t really calm them but the other guys in the middle of us made it hard for them to do anything about it, as my new friend and I went for a walk.”

I paused debating my next statement and noticed Ava smirking at me. I honestly believed she would have liked to see me scared and in a little bit of pain. Meanwhile Emily continued to look at me with hose imploring beguiling eyes. I waited for what seemed like an eternity but was probably 3 and a half seconds. “Can I have some water? I am really thirsty.” Ava looked at Emily and then turned and went to get the water. I decided to go for the next statement with some props. “Make it a large cup of water! Oh, and a small cup of sand as well.” Emily’s eye brow shot up at this and Ava had stopped in front of the door waiting for something. Maybe she was deciding whether to kill me or not. Before her decision was made Emily said “Please”, and Ava left. “It is always good to remember your manners Ray.” I looked at her and almost spoke but chose to wait for my props.