Taken is a television series dedicated to telling the individual stories of the more than 1,000 indigenous women who have gone missing or have been murdered in Canada.
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Three years after the murder of her brother by a corrupt politician, Anastasia Sims is hellbent on revenge no matter what the costs. She sets out on a rash of petty crimes by herself until she is recruited by a group of black market arms dealers for the purpose of money laundering. At a crossroads she must choose whether or not she’s going to turn the other cheek and redeem herself or do the unthinkable, but when she encounters Connor Patterson and Damian Welker it seems like the choice has already been made for her.
Table of Contents
- The Distant Factory — Chapter One
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Two
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Three
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Four
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Five
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Six
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Seven
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Eight
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Nine
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Ten
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Eleven
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Twelve
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Thirteen
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Fourteen
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Fifteen
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Sixteen
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Seventeen
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Eighteen
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Nineteen
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Twenty
- The Distant Factory — Chapter Twenty One
Although this story is a work of fiction, it highlights very real and very important social issues that plague our society. I will not write an essay about all of it because the lessons are there, we only need to pay attention. The first (and quite putrid) version of this story was originally written in 2011 on the advice of my therapist at the time to hopefully help me process my feelings about growing up in poverty, mostly on the streets of run down neighborhoods ridden with crime and other greatly unfavorable conditions. In 2014 I then decided to revive this project after actually being homeless for a few weeks, and living in a friend’s disarranged hunting trailer and it ended up more or less like this story you’ve just read, minus a few new edits.
Thankfully I never had to witness a murder, and much less committed one, but I’ve seen many things that left a scar on me to this day. By being the “bad guy” and having control over all events from behind my computer screen I could regain that control I never felt I had. Before, I was vulnerable but now I am victorious. If you enjoyed this story I kindly ask you to please consider supporting my writing career by purchasing one of my paid books.
This afternoon there are new developments in the recent discovery of some gruesome crimes in recent weeks. Police have now released the names and pictures of four persons of interest. None of them are considered suspects just yet, but the police would like to question the following individuals regarding other crimes that may be linked to the murder of Washington Heights city councillor Dwayne Jackson and the now 52 identified teenage girls found in a mass grave last month. The first person of interest is a man known to police named Damian Welker, here is his mugshot onscreen right now, he is currently wanted for weapons trafficking and extortion. The second person of interest today is a man named Andrew Murdoch, the reason the police want to question him hasn’t been released to us but he has obviously been in trouble with the law before as we have a mugshot from 2002 on file. The two last persons of interest are nineteen-year-old Connor Peterson who is a known associate of Damian Welker and multiple area drug kingpins, and a teenage girl only known as Ana Sims seen on security footage breaking into stores with Peterson as well as dropping off a large sum of money on a doorstep in Croton-On-Hudson. The names of other persons of interest have been released during a press conference as well, however we have no photos of these people.
They had a very clear image of my face and what I was doing on Robin Crowley’s property. In the previous days I had also been wandering around town, somebody was going to track me down sooner or later, it was just a matter of time. The walls were closing in on me alone in my dark hotel room with nothing but the light from the TV screen illuminating the surroundings. I was running out of money to move around and hide in different places too. There was a part of me that so badly didn’t want to run anymore, but until I had found Damian and Connor, I had to keep looking and keep a low profile. The last I had heard of Byron, he had managed to contact his mother but he hadn’t told her who he was, so I imagined another reason why the authorities would be interested in me. Byron had lied for me and for all of us for so long and his time had come to tell the truth, there was no doubt in my mind that he was going to find a way to do just that without taking all of us down. But I was going down and I knew that very well. All I had do to was wait.
The following morning I got dressed in some new clothes that I had made Byron get for me. I put on some large sunglasses that were way too big for my face and covered my head with the hood of my new red hoodie. I only had a thousand bucks left in my pockets and no weapons, so unless somebody had been monitoring me, I was not Ana Sims and I had nothing to do with her. When I left the hotel room and made my way to Whitehaven, I had a pretty good idea that I would get caught because there was no doubt in my mind that the authorities were monitoring Damian Welker’s place and everybody that came and went. But I had to try anyway. My guys had skipped town and I never had the chance to give any of them a proper goodbye before the whole situation blew up. Damian was the only one left, but even before I set out part of me knew that he was already gone.
My entire life I had searched for things and people that were already gone. Part of me wondered if it wasn’t me that had always been gone. Nobody had any answers to my questions and none of them mattered anyway. I could only hold on to the faint hope that Damian was still somewhere out there and that I could get to him before anybody else did. On my way to Whitehaven I deliberately took the long way there so I could pass through Cobalt and get a glimpse of what was going on there. The police presence was huge, bigger than anything else I had ever seen in the history of living on the streets and seeing all sorts of things happen right in front of your eyes. News crews were reporting out of Cobalt day and night and finally the small town had been put on the map once and for all. I only prayed that my people had all gotten out of there.
The trip to Whitehaven had gone without a single hiccup. I got dropped off in the outskirts of the small community without incident. It didn’t seem like anyone had followed me but I’m sure somebody was watching somewhere. They had to be, the authorities weren’t complete idiots, they knew where Damian lived. It was just a matter of catching him in the act. The media presence in Whitehaven was enormous too. You could clearly see the factory off of Old Mill Road down by the river so of course if you had a shot of the crime scene in the background of your news report your ratings were much higher. It was just a ploy to get more viewers and make more money. Nothing in life was about the greater good of the people around you, and if it once was, it wasn’t anymore. There’s nothing good anymore when you’re on the run.
I walked over to Damian’s old moldy building and went up the stairs to his floor. As I went up I carefully examined every detail of the building out of paranoia that going over there would just sink the two of us. Nothing seemed to be different except that the place never got cleaner and new disgusting smells seem to come out of it every time I walked in there. As I neared the door of Damian’s apartment I became so increasingly nervous that I wanted to faint, throw up and die all at the same time. For a split second I almost turned around and when running back outside but I knew that I only had one chance so I decided to go ahead and take it. The worst thing that was going to happen was a police officer waiting to apprehend me inside. Whether it happened in the apartment building or somewhere down in the streets below, I was going to get caught one day or another. I had nothing to lose.
So I walked right up to the door and looked around me one last time before lifting up my hand to knock. It took me a few seconds but I did it. I knocked gently on the door to not make too much noise but nobody answered. I heard no footsteps coming to the door to open it. It was still just me in the hallway. Nothing had changed. So I knocked louder, knowing that Damian hated people pounding on his door. That would prompt him to open it, or at least that’s what I thought. Still nothing. I still stood alone in the hallway in front of a closed door. On a whim I tried the door handle just to see if it was unlocked by chance but I had no luck there either. It seemed like the man wasn’t home but I wanted him so badly to be home because I was in trouble and I needed some twisted sense of comfort and peace of mind that I knew he could give me so I pounded on his door with my fist like a person who had gone completely mad.
“Damian! Damian!” I shouted as I relentlessly pounded on the door, “Damian open the door, please!”
The neighbor that lived right across the hall came out of his apartment angrily when I simply wouldn’t stop making noise. He loudly let his door slam behind him as he looked at me menacingly.
“Damian obviously ain’t here kid! Did you know there’s a warrant for that guy’s arrest all over the news?” the bald man covered in piercings spoke to me apprehensively, seemingly very annoyed, “What do you want from a convict anyway? Why are you here?”
“Because I’m his daughter!” I choked up on a whim, not knowing what else to say and no longer being able to contain my panic.
The most horrified look I had ever seen with my own eyes swept across the man’s face. Behind him in the doorway a woman, probably his wife, holding a Siamese cat in her arms looked just as horrified as he did. I figured that it was common knowledge that he had buried his little girl and then having me show up at the door, resurrected from the grave, it was bound to raise questions somewhere. I ran off crying before the neighbors had the chance to do anything or say something else. I bolted out the door in the lobby faster than I had ever ran before. The worst part wasn’t that I was running from monsters, the Ku Klux Klan or Catholic nuns, the worst part was that I was running from myself and what I had done. There weren’t many places where I could go before the impending doom looming over my head caught up to me.
I ran a few miles to another small municipality by the side of the river and sat on one of their floating docks in the water. I took off my red hoodie and sat on it. I did all I could do, and that was wait for the police to come and get me. The people in the apartment across the hall from Damian’s were going to call the police, there was never any doubt about that, but once again it was a question of when. It was still early afternoon out in the land of the living but I felt as good as dead. I prayed that the authorities could just come and pick me up once and for all, but hours and hours went by and nobody came. Eventually the sun began to set in the distance and a cold wind started to blow. Nothing had happened. I was beginning to wonder if anybody was coming for me in the first place. I hadn’t dreamed of seeing myself on TV, wanted. So where was everyone? One thing I knew for sure, they weren’t here.
As the sunset was dissipating over the buildings, I heard a single set of footsteps coming from behind me. The pace wasn’t slow but it wasn’t in a hurry, it was casual, relaxed. I did not turn back to see who it was. It didn’t matter to me who it was. All the people I loved were already gone. I had nobody to look back for. The footsteps stopped just a few feet from me on the wooden dock but I still didn’t turn around for a single glance. All I could do was look at the waves of the water going back and forth. The person took another step towards me and stopped again, seemingly cautious, so I finally I tilted up my head and looked. The first thing I saw next to me was a dirty leather trench coat. I looked up at the man and saw that it was Damian!
“Oh my goodness!” I shouted as I literally jumped up, “How did you find me?”
I honestly couldn’t believe it. It was really him!
“Somebody told me that my daughter stopped by,” he spoke apprehensively, “I simply couldn’t ignore something like that.”
I broke down crying at the sight of him and in response he took me into his arms and held me tightly.
“I’m so sorry Damian,” I muttered, “but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t give you a proper goodbye.”
“I know baby,” his voice softened up, “I know what unfinished emotional business is all about.”
“Everyone in my life is gone and it’s my own fault!”
“Well I’m still here ain’t I?”
Damian loosened his tight hold on me and stroked my cheek with his rough hand. The look in his eyes was gentle and he seemed to be on the verge of tears.
“There’s nothing under the moon that I wouldn’t do for you baby,” Damian’s voice was nothing but a whisper, “what’s going on with you?”
“I am so sorry Damian,” I had a hard time containing my emotions, “but it’s all over. It’s just a matter of time before they find us and I am so sorry that I got you into this mess because I was angry and impulsive. I just need you to know that.”
“I was in trouble long before you ever came alone, it just a matter of time before they caught me anyway. Don’t hold this one against yourself. You’ve suffered enough. I still have some of the money you gave me, thank you for that sweetheart, so you can still get out of here.”
“There’s no running anymore. I want all of this to be over more than anything Damian. I’m just sorry that I had to drag you down with me, and I want you to know that.”
“I know, I always have.”
Damian leaned over and kissed me on the cheek.
“I think about all the days of my life when I could’ve done something more,” I muttered, “and I think about all the days of my life when I should’ve done things differently.”
“It ain’t too late honey,” Damian’s voice was shaking, “we can still make it through this I promise you that.”
“It’s too late to not drink the vodka after you swallowed it. Our pictures are all over the media Damian, I can’t understand why they haven’t picked us up by now!”
“They’ve got some of the biggest cases in centuries on their hands right now, we’re not wanted for murder either. There’s still time.”
“I just want it all to end! I really screwed things up for myself and I don’t want this life anymore!”
“Then go to the police. They aren’t very far. Tell them everything, and tell them that I’ve done some truly horrific things to you and that I made you do other things. That way the judge will have compassion on you and he’ll want to help you instead of condemning you.”
“You have so much faith in such a perverted system.”
“It’ll at least buy you a chance. Otherwise you’ll never see the light of day again. You’re still so damn young.”
“And what about you and Connor? I didn’t come back here to sink the Titanic!”
“Connor skipped town. When he left I already never expected to see him again so that’s irrelevant now. Right now the pigs want to talk to me about guns that I’ve sold but once they dig up some more dirt, I’m going away for a very long time.”
“Well I guess it’s the two of us now.”
“At least take twenty thousand bucks and give skipping town a shot. All that money won’t be of much good to me in prison.”
“No way in hell Damian. I’m staying right here with you.”
I put my disguise back on and Damian and I rode back to Bronx in his car to his hideout by the waterfront in the area Byron and I had been a few weeks earlier.
“I had no idea that you were this close all this time,” I spoke mostly to myself as Damian parked the car near the alley Byron had parked his in.
“What do you mean?” he asked as he overheard.
“A kid named Byron and I came here just a few days ago while we waited to be caught.”
“Well we’re both here now.”
Damian’s hideout was a small office near an old converted industrial compound. There was one large living area containing the living room, dining room, kitchen, everything. At one end there was a single bedroom and next to it was the bathroom. Huge metal bars covered the windows and there was a big stash of guns laying on the pool table in a dirty corner. The man was loaded to say the least. His hideout was about just as bad as his apartment back in Whitehaven but at least it didn’t smell like mold and urine. It only smelled like smoke from years of smoking in there. The windows didn’t open so there was no getting that nasty smell out of there.
“Until they come,” Damian spoke softly as he turned the light on, “this will have to do.”
“It’s perfect,” I smiled softly at him, “do you have cable on that TV?”
He didn’t. The two of us spent at least half an hour trying to arrange the rabbit ears in order to get some half-decent reception for the late night news. By the time we got some good reception the newscast had long since ended. On the other hand, we had ended up covering the rabbit ears with aluminum foil and taping them to the wall afterwards in an area where we had the clearest reception. It was still snowy in his old TV but at least you could see and hear everything onscreen.
“Guess we’ll have to wait until tomorrow eh,” I spoke in a mixture of satisfaction and disappointment, “to see if we’re in some more hot water.”
“Come to bed and I’ll rub your back,” Damian proposed as he fixed up his bedroom, “I’ll do my best to make this place as comfortable as I can while we’re in here.”
The following morning, even after a goodnight’s sleep in Damian’s strong arms, I was completely cracking up. It had gotten to the point that I threw up everything I ate not matter how small or insignificant. I wanted to go running outside with my arms up in air shouting that I had killed Dwayne Jackson and that I wanted God to forgive me. It became increasingly hard for me to focus on the words of encouragement that Byron and Esteban had blessed me with. The only thing looming over my head was what I had done and the unknown; what would be the result of it. At noon Damian and I tuned into the newscast for any updates on the case in order to determine what we were going to do next or if we were just to stay put until further notice. It wasn’t long before the two of us knew our fate.
We have some breaking news this hour regarding the Dwayne Jackson murder case. Police have just released some security footage from inside City Hall clearly showing Anastasia Sims making multiple visits in the days and weeks before the councillor was murdered. On another video, footage from the back parking lot where staff keep their vehicles, the teen girl is seen loitering around seemingly waiting for someone. Towards the end of the clip you clearly see her going to retrieve some paper and writing something before depositing on a car offscreen and leaving the way she came. Authorities now believe that she was either hired by the killer to blackmail the city councillor or she has some sort of other information regarding the crime.
“Well that didn’t take long,” Damian spoke with no emotion in his voice.
“Bunch of idiots!” I snapped back angrily, “I killed the jerk! But then again, I had very little motive to do so compared to some other people it seems.”
“This might sound crazy honey, but a lot of people out there will hail you as a hero. Sure they won’t say that killing the guy was the right way to get rid of him, but if what you say he did is true, the friends and family of all those people he hurt won’t be able to hate you.”
“You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind.”
“Seriously, if the person who killed my little girl was to be killed tomorrow, I’d get down on my knees and worship the person who did it.”
“So what happens now? They know they want me and after today I don’t have much time.”
“What happens now is up to you. The minute we’ll leave here they’ll find us.”
“Do you think that we’ll go down in history for this? Centuries from now do you think they’ll still have our faces and our names in books and movies?”
“Is that what you want to happen?”
“Is there anything else that can happen? People won’t give a crap if I go out there, but something will happen if I bring a gun to City Hall.”
“You’re on your own for a suicide mission though.”
“I’ve been a nobody my entire life. I don’t want to go out like a nobody.”
“Make sure they remember your name!”
My faith had been short lived. Forgiveness wasn’t going to work. At least not in the moment. All that stuff could wait for a later time. For the moment the only thing I wanted was for everything to end.
“I’m not bringing a gun to City Hall,” I spoke in a very serious tone of voice, “but I will be paying the place a visit. There is a time to plant and a time to uproot.”
Damian and I put on some disguises just so we could make it the short distance to Washington Heights before somebody spotted us. I wore my same hoodie and sunglasses while Damian actually put on some clean clothes and a ball cap before we jumped into the car and took a short drive.
“What are you doing to do?” Damian asked me seemingly afraid of what I was plotting, “I don’t want the security personnel to shoot you in there.”
“If they shoot me they shoot me,” I replied apprehensively, “but I’ll just be creating a scare in the people at the memorial in there. When the dynamite starts to sweat it becomes very unstable.”
“Just don’t lose it in there. I’m not going to be able to handle losing you too.”
“I love you Damian. Whatever happens from this moment on, I just want to make sure that you know that.”
“I love you too Ana. Now make sure that no matter what happens, this all ends with a bang!”
I grinned at him and got out of the vehicle right in front of City Hall as Damian was going around the block to find a parking space. I walked passed the crowds of people and the media into the buildings where a huge makeshift memorial had been erected for the corrupt councillor. It was growing more and more every day. What all of those people didn’t know were the things the city councillor had done when nobody was looking. I walked through the crowd and climbed up onto a table and accidentally knocked down some picture frames and made them come crashing to the floor, attracting the attention of everyone who was in there. In that moment I ripped off my hood and ditched my sunglasses, letting everyone know in complete shock and horror who I was.
“My name is revenge and I’m here to make my claim!”
Only a fraction of a second passed before the security guards drew their guns on me and everyone got up against the walls.
“Put your hands behind your head and get down on the ground right now!” an officer shouted at me as I grinned at the expressions on everyone’s faces, “Don’t make it say it twice!”
“Take it easy popo,” I chuckled, “by the way Damian Welker is behind you.”
That sure sent everyone into a frenzy. One office tackled unarmed Damian to the ground and arrested him. Another officer tackled me from behind only a few seconds later as I was watching the scene unfold in front of my face with great delight. Fast forward less than a minute and I was being read my rights while City Hall was being evacuated. Damian and I locked looks for one last time as the two of us were being escorted out and put into the back of two separate police cars.
“You’ll all thank me once you find out what Dwayne Jackson did!” I shouted as a media frenzy swarmed Damian Welker and I.
Back at the police station I was booked and put into an interrogation room where one staff member came in and told me a bunch of useless and irrelevant crap and finished with telling me that I could make one phone call before two homicide detectives were going to relentlessly question me, but I was ready to talk. I was ready to tell them everything.
Byron took me by the hand and the two of us checked out of the hotel room. Down in the streets below life went on as usual. People walked passed us with big smiles on their faces and went about their business without a worry in the world. The same couldn’t be said for Byron and I. He was about to walk into his father’s congregation after five years of seemingly having evaporated off the face of the earth. I was about to blow my cover and go to prison for the rest of my days. I took a deep breath and followed Byron’s lead.
“I haven’t been here in an eternity,” he spoke as he racked his brain, “I might have to ask for directions.”
“Damian Welker has a hideout somewhere around here apparently,” I spoke as I looked around the buildings myself, “it seems like both our lives begin and end here.”
“We can worry about him later, for now if I don’t find my folks in the very near future I might as well back out.”
“It’s a little too late for that Byron. It’s me who’s by your side now, don’t forget that.”
Byron flashed me a smile as he squeezed my hand. After about half an hour of walking or so, Byron spotted the church. It was just a little brown building like any other in the decor of the street. It wasn’t some fancy street with stained glass windows and statues of Jesus on the cross made out of pure gold. It was just across the street from where we were yet it seemed to be a world away. Nothing had registered in my mind by that point. I was about to turn myself in yet my mind still felt like it was running away.
“I don’t have a clue how I’m going to explain any of this to my folks,” Byron’s voice was cracking up, “talking to the police is one thing but telling your mom and your dad that you killed somebody is something else.”
The cars honked angrily as Byron and I ran across the street pretty much in the middle of the place but as I did so I felt like a burden was lifted off my shoulders. There was a certain aspect of comfort involved in reaching the end of the road.
“I never thought I’d see this day!” Byron exclaimed with a mixture of joy and longing.
“I never thought that this would be my life,” I whispered to myself in response.
The two of us barged into the building about an hour before the service was about to begin. A man in his sixties immediately rushed over to us and happily greeted us. The look on Byron’s face indicated that his entire world was falling apart. That man was not his father. The pastor had no idea who either one of us were. It wasn’t him. I felt like I was about to faint because I was so sure that everything was going to end the moment we walked into that church. But both our suffering was prolonged. Byron looked like he was about to cry. He had been so sure and so ready to see his parents again but he had been disappointed. The man presented himself as Esteban Ravenshaw and invited us to have a seat in the very small church and talk for a while before he was to hold the regular Sunday morning meeting.
“I’m looking for a man named Andrew Davis-Harris,” Byron did his best to prevent his voice from cracking as he spoke, “he used to be the leader of this church.”
“Sorry son,” Esteban replied in a neutral tone, “Andrew hasn’t worked here in some four plus years. I can give him a call for you and leave your number with him to call you back however.”
“I was hoping to speak to him in person, but that’s fine, I’ll catch up with him another time.”
“Since he lost his oldest son the man has been having some hard time coping but there is no doubt in my mind that he’ll be happy to reconnect with you if he used to be your spiritual leader.”
The three of us sat down in the chairs arranged in a circle in the small room while Esteban spoke about how he found the Lord some thirty years ago. The room smelled like old mold but it was probably just the dirty carpeting. Crosses and decorations and picture frames with Bible verses adorned the dark paneling walls everywhere. I couldn’t sit still so I went and took a look around the place hoping to find a distraction. In the pastor’s office there was a picture on the wall of a young Byron with his parents and younger siblings. Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning was written underneath the frame. It was such a shame that Byron’s father hadn’t been there because he would have definitely rejoiced at seeing his son again, especially if he had thought that his son was dead for five years.
“My daughter, your face is troubled,” I hadn’t noticed Esteban beside me, “is there anything I can help you with?”
“I don’t know,” I muttered softly under my breath.
I was at a complete crossroads in my mind. That little church wasn’t the end of the road, and I no longer knew what to do.
“Let’s take a look at a verse in Matthew,” the man went on, “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
“Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul,” I muttered out a verse from Job that I’d learned from Byron, “to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the gave?”
“Job makes some very valid points my dear, but don’t forget that although your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.”
“Is there really hope for the hopeless?”
“Jesus said that even the hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows. Tell me what’s going on with you and I promise to do everything in my power to help you.”
“I’ve done something so terrible, and it haunts me.”
“Good news! There is nothing too terrible or atrocious for God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness. Confess to Him your sins and you will be washed clean. How about you and your friend stay for the meeting and then all of us can finish this conversation?”
“What did you say your names were?”
“Ana and Byron.”
The man’s eyes lit up when he heard Byron’s name. It was unknown if he made the connection between Byron wanting to see Andrew Davis-Harris and that man having a missing, and presumed dead, son also named Byron. Either way, the man didn’t let that distract him from sharing the message Jesus shared to his people that morning.
“You seem to have impressed him with your Bible knowledge,” Byron tried to lighten the mood as the pastor was speaking with a group of other people.
“I think he was more impressed at meeting Andrew’s son than the few melancholic verses that I know,” I muttered in response, “so what are you going to do about this?”
“I don’t know. This wasn’t what I was expecting.”
“I think I’m going to get out of here because I simply can’t sit still anymore. I need some air.”
The two of us got up and left in a flash. We walked back to where we had parked the car the night before and we both sat in it without saying a single word for the longest time. Byron felt just as empty as I did and I didn’t have much more of a clue on what to do next any more than he did.
“Do you want to hide out in another hotel room until we figure out what to do next?” Byron asked me softly just to break the silence, “I’ll get us some more food for the rest of the day.”
I nodded my head but I didn’t speak.
“I’ll also make a point to get us a better room for tonight,” Byron joked as he started the car, “one with a TV at least. We should be prepared for whatever we’re going to see on the news tonight.”
What was going to be broadcasted on the news at six was exactly what I was afraid of. Were they onto me? What was the best thing to do? Run and hide or turn myself in? Both of those options had worked out awfully for me in the past. What about the people I cared about still out on the streets? What would happen to them if they caught me?
“I guess there is a time to tear and a time to mend,” I muttered to Byron, “but I don’t know what time it is now.”
“And a few verses after that,” Byron spoke gently, “God has made everything beautiful in its time. No one can fathom what he has done from beginning to end.”
“And you know Byron, that’s exactly what scares me. Some people are tempted to say that what you don’t know can’t hurt you but what you’re not prepared for is what can cut you the deepest.”
“In that case maybe the best thing to do at this point is to try and figure out what the authorities know and you can figure out your next move.”
Byron grabbed some drive-thru Wendy’s before checking into a much nicer hotel room. There were two large beds, a nice big couch, a microwave, a phone, a TV with some 500 channels, a small table with two chairs, room service available around the clock and a beautiful view of the city. I immediately dropped my bag next to the door when I came into the room and flopped down on one bed to tune into some local and national news channels. The navy blue bedsheets were soft and had a floral pattern with a vintage twist. The floorboards were made out of varnished natural wood and one wall made out of beautiful brown bricks. I felt like royalty for a moment even though the room was far from being the king’s palace. As I was laying on the bed next to the phone I contemplated prank calling somebody just for the hell of it but first I had to face what I was going to see on the news.
Just as I feared, the first thing I saw on the news was a special report about the gruesome discovery of a city councillor’s body on an abandoned factory lot in a little hick town called Cobalt. Byron and I were glued to the screen up to the very last second of that broadcast. The female reporter said that so far the authorities had no suspects but they were investigating the possible links to other recent crimes. The reporter did mention however that the city councillor had received a piece of blackmail telling him to bring a hundred thousand dollars to the factory in exchange for silence. What the TV didn’t tell Byron and I was that I was the one who had sent him that, but deep down, I knew that he knew. The broadcast finished with a showing of Damian Welker’s mugshot saying that he was wanted for weapon’s trafficking and that there might be a link between his weapons and the one used in the murder.
“I gave him ninety thousand dollars but it seems like I’ve only dug the trenches deeper down,” I muttered as that broadcast came to an end, “how long Byron?”
“A day or two,” his voice was broken, “somebody’s gonna talk and somebody’s gonna put you at the crime scene.”
“And if I kill myself am I going to hell?”
“Look, Ana, it’s not my place to tell you where you’ll go. All I can say is that if you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, all of your sins are forgotten.”
“Seriously? Even murder in cold blood?”
“Isn’t that what the pastor said? Yes, even murder in cold blood. I don’t recommend suicide though. There’s still a life out there for you.”
“There is no life behind bars Byron. There’s nothing behind bars.”
“God has a way of making things work out for the better you know. Sure I’ve been out here for five years having to make bad choices in order to live another night and to protect the guys but God has given me so much to look forward to. And even when I go to prison, I know that God will use my life to make a difference.”
I didn’t speak.
“If you’re such a righteous man,” I began apprehensively after a long moment of silent contemplation on my behalf, “why the hell haven’t you turned us in? All of us?”
“Because my work here wasn’t done,” Byron spoke gently, “my life still hadn’t served its purpose. But now I have a feeling that my time out here is done.”
“Go home to your family Byron, I’ll figure out what to do in the few days before the cops find me. I shouldn’t be that hard to hunt down.”
“I’m staying with you until the very end Drifter! You should know that by now! You saved my life! I know that God put the two of us in that alley that night for a very special purpose.”
I took an extended bubble bath and ended up making the bubbles flood the bathroom when I turned on the jacuzzi feature in the tub but I had a good time and a good laugh. I ate more food than I should have all at once and I watched a variety of things on TV. When it was time for the evening news to come on I changed the channel to see what kind of new dirty, if any, the authorities had on me, my people or Damian Welker.
Tonight we have an update on a story that we brought to you this afternoon. The local police department has established a possible link between the murder of city councillor Dwayne Jackson and the mass grave of bodies discovered over a week ago. Authorities now say that they have a few persons of interest, however, they aren’t releasing their identities or their pictures just yet. Now let’s go to Jeanine Carling who is in Cobalt tonight reporting on the police’s newest findings. Jeanine, it is to my understanding that this crime was premeditated and that the culprit didn’t act alone is that right?
Once again Byron and I stared at the TV screen with the blankest of blank expressions on our faces right to the very last moment of the broadcast.
“It sure looks like you’ve uncovered something absolutely horrific,” Byron’s voice was almost filled with fear, “and maybe you’ve started a chain reaction of events of record proportions.”
“I didn’t know about any of those things,” I choked out with a dry throat, “I only wanted to avenge my brother.”
“Do you really think he killed those girls?”
“I don’t know. But I do feel like he had something to do with Richard Parker’s murder. Just the look on his face before I shot him…”
“He was guilty.”
“Oh yeah, caught red-handed. But what disturbs me even more is the fact that he totally hadn’t been expecting me. He was prepared for somebody else.”
“I guess we’ll never know the truth now. I don’t think it’s okay to kill people but it seems like you did this town a solid.”
“Monsters getting rid of other monsters. Why does humanity only bring out the worst in each other?”
“That’s why we need God, and oh Lord I’ve got one heck of a guilty conscience myself. The end looming over your heard just makes it so much worst too.”
“At least our guilt lets us experience God’s forgiveness. I had the corruption and control people do in the name of God though.”
“Me too, and I don’t blame those who want nothing to do with God or spirituality because of that, but I say just talk to God, seek God, and God will guide you. Forget about organized religion and this and that faith. God is mighty enough to guide you to the truth if you only open your heart.”
Byron smiled softly at me. God was really the only hope in such a screwed up situation. What about the rest of my people though? What was going to happen to them? I was guilty for my own actions and I fully understood that but the rest of my people out there had no part in my recent actions. All they had ever wanted was to survive and I did not want to take them down with me. But then again, I should have known better than to think that anything is fair in life. It isn’t.
“Do you think that he would have gotten away with this?” I asked Byron after some more contemplation on my behalf, “I mean, they don’t even think it’s me at this point.”
“This is bigger that either one of us at this point,” Byron’s voice was low and pensive, “some crimes never get solved but one of this magnitude probably won’t be unsolved for long.”
“What if they frame Damian Welker for this?!”
“That’s going to be his mess. He’s already wanted for so many other things.”
“But I can’t just let them blame him for something he didn’t do or even know about! That’s just not right!”
“And where do you get your morals all of a sudden?”
“From up my ass Byron! That man looked out for me when I was with him! I can’t just not look out for him and Connor when they looked out for me in the past. Aren’t you paying me back for looking out for you?”
Byron’s face fell. He knew that I was right.
“I need to find Damian Welker.”
I took the first bus out of Dobbs Ferry at five in the morning. I looked like hell and I felt like the devil himself. The search for pleasure was overrated. There was absolutely nothing to be gained from life. Everything was utterly meaningless. I took public transit all the way down to Trent Woods, another small community near Queens. There was an old French man named Gerard Lacroix who had ties to one of the girls in the gang and who had a couple of properties in other states. I was going to give him my ten thousand dollars and ask him to let me live in one of them just for a little while until I figured out what I wanted to do next. My life’s mission had been accomplished. What else was there left to do in a pitiful young life? I had often contemplated suicide but that was not the answer. I felt like there was still something else I needed to do.
The bus dropped me off in the downtown of Trent Woods just as the sun was climbing up into the sky. I hopped off and went roaming around to see if I could, by any chance, find the old man’s house and try to explain to him who I was and why I needed his help. There was no going back to see Robin Crowley or Damian Welker. If Gerard Lacroix was of no help to me, I would just have to improvise and I wasn’t the best at doing that, especially when my only resource was ten thousand dollars and an illegally obtained handgun. Regardless of if Gerard Lacroix could help me or not, I was already on my own, and that was a choice I had made long ago. After walking a few blocks I thought I spotted the old man’s house so I went and pounded on the door. Worst case scenario, it wasn’t his house.
“Drifter?!” Shany was the person I saw on the other side of the door.
“Shannon?” I was just as surprised as she was.
“What are you doing here? You’re the last person I expected to show up for the funeral.”
“The funeral? What funeral? I’m looking for Gerard Lacroix and I know now that this is his house.”
“His funeral. He croaked four days ago. He left everything to me.”
“Son of a bitch! The last person who could’ve helped me just had to freaking die! Is it just me or all of my resources just get wiped right out from under my feet at the same time?!”
“What did you need him for?”
“I need to skip town. I wanted to know if I could kind of rent one of his properties in Utah or something for a little while until I figure out my own life.”
“What did you do this time?”
“You’ll see it on the news in the next couple of days.”
I thanked Shany for her time and the food she gave me before going on my way again. Just as I was walking down the street back to the downtown, I encountered Byron driving an old blue Pontiac.
“Byron!” I shouted in a mixture of shock and excitement.
“Drifter!” he shouted in response, “Get in the car!”
I quickly jumped in and buckled myself into the passenger’s seat as he made a U-turn in the middle of the quiet street and went back from where he came from. Byron looked shocked to see me. All of my people had been shocked to see me so far but I couldn’t really comprehend why. I looked much better with my new haircut and the mostly new clothes I had on. Some of the guys disappeared for weeks at a time but when they came back nobody was shocked. But then again, they weren’t Jeff’s little sister.
“My God,” Byron spoke after taking a deep breath, “we were all sure you were dead!”
“Why? Because I was gone for a while?” I chuckled under my breath, “It wouldn’t be the first time I ran. And for the record, I was on a brazen crime spree. I’m sure you’ve heard about it on TV. I was even caught on camera robbing a corner store!”
“Didn’t you hear what they found down by Bonnie Creek?”
“Nah, I wouldn’t even know where that is.”
“It’s east of Cobalt, another little wine village, but the police found a mass grave with the bodies of at least fifty teenage girls that about match your description.”
“That’s creepy. When did they discover that? I haven’t even heard of that!”
“Two days ago. They also found a few male bodies in another location but apparently the crimes don’t seem to be connected at this point.”
“Two days ago. That’s when I killed Dwayne Jackson. It must’ve been him!”
Byron looked at me in confusion and wonder. What was so shocking about me killing a dude?
“I blackmailed him, telling him that I knew what he had done,” I continued, “and he must’ve thought that I was a corrupt cop or some other person that had found the burial site and was willing to keep quiet. But he was so surprised when he saw me. He totally hadn’t been expecting me.”
“What did you blackmail him with?” I had Byron’s full and undivided attention.
“The murder of some dude named Richard Parker. But it probably wasn’t him after all.”
“What makes you so convinced that it was him?”
“The fact that he came to me and he did everything I told him to. Actions speak louder than words Byron. There was obviously something that guy didn’t want the world to know.”
Byron looked at the road ahead, completely puzzled. Obviously he had heard certain things that I didn’t know about yet. The guys had been agitated for a while long before I had left on my mission and it was apparent that that feeling had only grown stronger during my absence.
“Where’s Eddie and all the other guys?” I asked Byron after a long moment of silence on his part.
“Eddie’s gone,” Byron replied in a soft voice, “and Richard and Nick skipped town. We don’t know where they are.”
“What do you mean? Did you guys all of a sudden disband after I left?”
“Eddie was shot and killed down by the shipping docks south of here and we don’t know where Rich and Nick went. But I reckon that they suffered the same fate.”
“I saw Richard the night after I killed Dwayne. He saved me from falling to my death and then he ran away.”
“The cops must be onto them for some reason. They wouldn’t just ditch us. We have all been feeling kind of on edge lately just to put it mildly. It’s like there is a sense of impending doom looming over our heads.”
Eddie was dead. I hadn’t even gotten the chance to say goodbye. He was one of the last people I loved on earth and he too probably had gotten the burial of a dog just like Jeff. Part of me wanted to cry but my heart had been too hardened to do so. I was so done with crying over things that I couldn’t change.
“Was he with a guy named Ratablavasky?” I asked after another moment of silence.
“Who? I don’t know anyone named that.” Byron’s voice was even softer.
“Eddie, did he have any connections to a thug named Ratablavasky?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Me and a kid named Connor shot some people in the shipping docks near Queens a while ago.”
“It wasn’t you Ana. It hasn’t been that long.”
“How can you be so sure? I’ve left nothing but a path of destruction since I left. There’s no telling what happened in the wake of the havoc I’ve caused!”
“You didn’t kill Eddie! End of story! Where did you see Richard?”
“Any indication of where he was going?”
Byron exhaled loudly, obviously stressed and very tense because of something that he still wasn’t telling me.
“What about old man Crunch?” I asked before Byron could respond to my previous ramblings, “Richard could’ve easily gone to see him.”
“No, he couldn’t,” Byron’s voice hinted an unspoken uneasiness, “because the old man had been in the hospital undergoing cancer treatment.”
“And since when does that old dude have cancer? He was fine when I left!”
“He seemed fine, we all know that. But apparently he had an undiagnosed case of aggressive and terminal cancer. The doctors are trying to buy him some time but I’m giving him another couple of weeks and that’s it.”
“Can I go see him?”
“No way in hell! The authorities have somehow managed to find out about his criminal activities and if you show up there, they’ll be onto you.”
“Why would they be onto me? They know nothing of what I’ve done with the gang. I’ve been off the radar my entire life! That stuff’s got nothing to do with my recent crime spree.”
“It doesn’t matter. Sooner or later there’s gonna be a manhunt bigger than anything you could ever imaging for Dwayne Jackson’s killer.”
“Give it a day or two and the police will start connecting the dots.”
I took a deep breath myself and tilted my head back. I looked at the fluffy white clouds floating around the overcast sky completely without emotion. It was all over, it was really all over. It was nothing more than a matter of time.
“The police,” I spoke gently but seriously, “they are onto you. They are onto all of you, that’s why you are all scrambling to get your act together. That’s why you are all so darn agitated.”
“Yeah,” Byron admitted in shame, “Crunchy had known for a while that the heat was onto him for tax evasion but nobody had been expecting the recent blows we’ve all suffered.”
“A time to be born and a time to die.”
“Since when do you read the Bible?”
“I don’t. But I’ve listened to everything you’ve ever said. There is a time to be silent and a time to speak. What people seem to ignore is the fact that silent and listen are spelled with exactly the same letters.”
“This is your time.”
“You know Byron, I’ve spent most of my life up until now being angry. Harboring that angry and animosity prevented me from seeing clearly and accomplishing anything.”
“And when did this clarity strike you?”
“When I realized that killing Dwayne Jackson had been nothing more than a waste of my time and energy. It didn’t accomplish anything except make me overly paranoid.”
“Paranoid of what?”
“Everything! Everything had been falling apart, seemingly all at once, and my mind is constantly in a state of unrest now.”
I rambled a little bit to Byron about my bizarre mixture of feelings but he couldn’t help me. Nobody could. What was done had been done and the only person responsible for my actions and what resulted of them was me. My end was near.
“I’m gonna take you to Fred and Ebony’s,” Byron spoke after another eternity of silence, “there they will give you a bag of money and you’re gonna get out of here and whatever happens after that it’s up to you.”
“No,” I muttered in protest, “I am right where I want to be. And I’ve already got ten thousand dollars. I don’t need anything more from you.”
“Did you steal that?”
“Dammit you ask so many questions all of a sudden! No. I blackmailed Dwayne into giving me a hundred thousand.”
“Let me guess, you spent the rest! Come on Ana! I’m trying to give you a chance here! I’m trying to pay you back for saving my life!”
“Oh my God, that was such a long time ago Byron. It’s irrelevant now.”
“Don’t say it doesn’t matter to you because it matters to me! I was doomed but you save me.”
“I condemned you is what I did! I didn’t give you a life! I ripped you away from whatever life you might’ve had!”
“Well that’s just too bad my dear friend because this is my life now, it’s not what it was before.”
“Why did you stay? Isn’t it against what the Bible teaches to live this kind of street life?”
“Maybe it is, but there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. He was willing to give you a chance to leave all of this behind and I was willing to a sacrifice a part of myself and my life in order to do that.”
I shook it off as nonsense.
“God wouldn’t do something like that.” I muttered.
“Jesus gave himself for humanity’s sins,” Byron went on, “who says that I can’t sacrifice my teen years to make sure you got out of here? I believe without a doubt in my mind that God put me in that situation to make a difference!”
“Sorry man, but it’s too late for me.”
“It may be too late to undo the choices you’ve made, but it’s not too late for forgiveness and to be right with God.”
“I’ve done nothing that requires forgiveness. I’ve only done what I needed to do to survive.”
“No, Byron. I feel like I can face the day so just help me get out of this town.”
Byron didn’t have too much of a clue more than I did regarding what we were supposed to about what came to be known as the situation. I knew that he had wanted nothing more than to help me and to make me see the goodness in life. I felt guilty about having let him down the way I had. I had let myself down too. In all the mistakes that a single life could make, murder wasn’t one that would just go away.
“Is your dad still a a preacher?” I asked Byron, “Minister? Priest? Whatever the difference between all of those titles are.”
“Minister,” Byron replied softly as stopped the car on the side of a residential street, “yeah he’s still doing that.”
“So go home.”
“And go back to what? I haven’t seen any of my folks in over five years! In another two years they might as well declare me legally dead.”
“At least you have something to go back to Byron. Just go back and deal with whatever results of it. For the short time that I have left here, I’ll be okay on my own.”
“If I go back home, you’re coming with me. Whatever happens between now and the end of the road, I’m not letting you go.”
“You realize that doing that is as good as committing suicide.”
“I’m supposed to be dead Ana. I’m only alive because of you. The least I can do is hold your hand when it all goes down.”
And so Byron and I went on a suicide mission.
“I still have ten thousand dollars,” I spoke as Byron made the car engine roar back to life, “don’t you want a taste of the good life before our time is up?”
“Whatever you wanna do,” he replied with a smile on his face, “we’ve got nothing to lose now!”
“Why don’t we go down to Rhode Island and have a dip in some of that salt water?”
“It sounds good to me!”
“Summer is almost gone. And I’ll never swim in the ocean again.”
“Then what are we waiting for?!”
Byron flashed me a huge smile and I couldn’t help but duplicate it. Byron turned the car around and we headed the other way. The sky cleared and made way for beautiful sunshine, almost like it was a message from heaven telling us that it was going to be okay. We took our time on our way there, eating out and stopping by shops on the side of the road. Our lives were going to be all over soon, the least we could do was have fun until that day.
“So if you have ten thousand dollars,” Byron spoke as the two of us were waiting to pass through road construction, “and you said that Dwayne gave you a hundred thousand, what happened to the other ninety?”
“I gave it away,” I replied without emotion, “to Damian Welker.”
“The gun salesman?!”
“Yeah, that’s him. It is to my understanding that you two know each other?”
“I saw him on the news just the other day! There is a warrant for his arrest in like, a lot of cities. How’d you come to know him? And more importantly, why’d you give him money?”
“Uh, well, I guess you could say that he’s my former boss and that one of the jobs I was on was collecting half a million dollars.”
“In that case you might not just be wanted for murder.”
“I highly doubt that the police have much on him. That guy was a chameleon. He was hidden in plain sight in a small town and he didn’t have a worry in the world.”
“Since the discovery of the bodies the police have been cracking down on crime so much more. They’ve got law enforcement from municipalities, the state and even the Federal guys are lurking around just waiting for someone to be careless and slip up.”
“In that case it’s probably better we don’t leave the state.”
“We should still try to get to Rhode Island. If they catch us, then they catch us. But if they don’t, then the world belongs to us.”
I contemplated what Byron was saying for a moment. He was right. It was just a matter of time before we’d get caught. Whether it was in New York or in New Jersey or in Rhode Island or anywhere else, it was nothing more than a matter of time.
“What’s got you doubting?” Byron asked tenderly as he saw that I was obviously distraught.
“I’m not sure I’m ready to say goodbye, Byron,” I muttered as I struggled to keep my voice from cracking, “I still have so much unfinished business.”
“I’m afraid it’s a little too late for business Ana.”
“Turn the car around Byron. We’re going to see your parents. Just do it.”
“You know, I’ll see them when we get caught.”
“Going to Rhode Island on vacation was a dream that I’ve never lived before, but there are things so much more important than that. A time to search and a time to give up. Well it is to my understanding that this is my time to stop searching for something that I will not find because it isn’t out there.”
Byron looked at me with compassion in his eyes and turned the car around despite that we had almost made it to our destination. We had been on the road for some more than three hours before we turned around. I still had so much money to burn but before I went out with a bang, I wanted to make things right with someone that I had wronged.
“Let’s take a drive down to Pigeon Creek,” I told Byron “I’ve gotta make a cash deposit there.”
“There’s a bag under the seat,” Byron spoke as he made a sharp right turn, “I figure that you probably don’t want to see this person face to face.”
“No,” I laughed gently, “it’s probably better I don’t.”
I put five thousand dollars into the brown canvas bag under the seat and wrote a note apologizing for what I had done to him. Robin Crowley didn’t know about Connor so I didn’t mention him. I also knew that five thousand dollars was nothing more than a fraction of what I had cost the hard-working good man, but it was all I could give him. For the time that I had left I wanted to keep the just over four thousand I still had. I still needed to make it for a couple of days.
“Turn left here and it’s that house right over there,” I gave Byron directions to Robin’s place, “just park at the end of the street and I’ll drop the bag on his doorstep.”
It turned out to be much easier than I had originally thought. Robin Crowley was at work so he wasn’t anywhere on the property to surprise me like he had done when I attempted to take a sponge bath in his kitchen. I noticed a newly installed security camera surveying the property but I wasn’t breaking in. I was turning at least part of a wrong into a right and to some degree it actually made me feel better to know that when he got home he would see me dropping him his bag of money on his doorstep. When I got back to the car Byron had a big smile on his face.
“You’re really determined to make things right aren’t you?” Byron spoke almost joyfully.
“I acknowledge that I can’t get away with this,” I spoke softly, “so I might as well try to do some damage control before it’s all over.”
“I am very proud of you Anastasia. I always knew that you were golden.”
“I’m tarnished now, but I am laying down my life. I did what I came out here to do. Now let’s go see your folks.
By the time we reached Bronx it was nighttime. It was too late to do anything other than rent a cheap hotel room and have some fast food. Bronx wasn’t exactly our territory gang-wise so we weren’t going to roam that land at night. I made Byron rent a cheap hotel room and get us some McDonald’s downtown before calling it a day. We were both very tired from all the emotional stress and the tension so we didn’t go out looking for the church owned by Byron’s parents. It would still be there in the morning. It was Saturday night anyway, we were going to have some better luck in the morning if we were looking to talk to someone.
The hotel room was only forty bucks so we got what we paid for but it was one of the nicest places I had stayed in during the past five years. Our room was on the seventh floor, overlooking the city lights shining bright at night. It was nothing but a small room with two single beds side by side with a table with a lamp in the middle. It was by far one of the smallest rooms I’ve ever seen but it was better than the street. Byron slept on the bed against the bathroom wall and I slept on the one right underneath the window. There wasn’t even a cheap little TV in the room, and not even a Bible in the drawer of the end table. I laid down on my back and stared at the little holes in the ceiling for a while until I finally dozed off. Byron had fallen asleep a long time before I did and there is no doubt that he slept a lot better than I did.
In my sleep I was tormented by the things I had done. The police were running after me because Dwayne Jackson had some back to life and told the entire country that I had brutally murdered him. He knew where to find me and he sent the authorities there. I woke up in cold sweats in the middle of the night expecting to wake up in a jail cell or something similar. But the hotel room was still there. Byron was still sleeping soundly in the other bed next to me. Only the city light outside illuminated the bare grey walls of the place. Not a thing had changed. I thought about Richard. Where was he? I knew that he had never meant to hurt me or Jeff and even less have one of us killed but the whole scenario was still incomprehensible in my mind. The more I tried to figure everything out the less I was able to understand. Finally, I just gave up and drifted back to sleep for an hour or two before tormenting images invaded my dreams.
“Anastasia! Ana! Wake up!” Byron’s voice seemed to be coming from another world, “Ana! It’s just a dream! Wake up!”
And I woke up with a loud scream of fright. Byron’s face was only inches from mine in the tiny room and it had caught me off guard considering the things I had seen with my eyes closed.
“Hey! Calm down,” his voice was loving and gentle as it usually was, “it’s just me.”
“Byron,” my breathing was erratic, “they will be coming for me!”
“Just calm down please, Ana, nobody is coming for you. Not here, not yet.”
“I hate the way it is. And to tell you the truth Byron, it’s killing me and it’s killing you too.”
“We’re going to get through this, I promise.”
“This isn’t your battle Byron. Don’t go sticking your nose into places it doesn’t belong.”
Byron smiled softly at me the way only he could get away with.
“It’s a little too late for that, isn’t it?” his voice was completely fearless, “And you know Drifter, sometimes you should take your own advice and stop thinking that you’re all by yourself and on the hook for everything.”
“Well,” I began softly after catching my breath, “for the time that we have left we should go see your parents.”
I took a shower first while Byron went down in the streets below to grab some breakfast at McDonald’s for both of us. I took an exceptionally cold shower to try and get back in touch with myself but it didn’t exactly work. I previously had no idea that one’s conscious could feel so bad. A million and a half things were spinning around my brain but what really dawned on me the most was the fact that I had gotten absolutely no closure. Sure, it had felt good in the moment, but then you close your eyes and the moment is gone. I did my best to make myself believe that I had accomplished that I had set out to do and that I had gotten a sense of satisfaction out of it but in reality, I didn’t. In reality it was eating me up inside and in reality I had no idea how I was supposed to live with myself.
Byron then jumped in the shower while I force-fed myself the breakfast sandwich trying to get a grip on myself to face the outside world. I had no idea how I was going to do that but I told myself that I’d do it for Byron. I at least owed him that much after the countless times he had sacrificed himself for my sake. There was a part of me that felt guilty for not having gotten closer to him when I had the chance because once it became common knowledge that I had murdered a city councillor, the chances of bonding with Byron would be long gone. It was apparent that he felt the same way and that he always had but I had been too blind to see that all along. My anger had once consumed me and in my present crisis my guilt completely suffocated me. I wasn’t seeking forgiveness, I only wanted justice, but I knew too well that there was no justice in crime and certainly not in humanity.
“Are you ready?” Byron asked me cautiously, not knowing how I would react.
“It’s now or never,” I replied mostly to myself.
The sky was starting to turn a light blue outside. The stars were almost completely gone and the sunshine wasn’t too far behind. It was just me, Dwayne, a humongous pool of blood and the silence. He had been alone and there really had been an enormous amount of money in the duffel bag. I had stopped counting after I had reached five thousand. The rest of the night I had sat on the cold metal floor with my legs crossed a few feet from Dwayne’s body. I had been waiting for the police, or at least someone else to arrive, but nobody ever did. I automatically assumed that Dwayne had been guilty of the things I had accused him of, or at least he had some other skeletons in the closet that he didn’t want the coroner to find. All of his secrets were probably never going to be known but that didn’t matter, the corruption had died along with him. It was just a matter of time before people came to realize that something was horribly wrong.
I wanted to drag the body into the pit where Jeff’s body had been but the fat city councillor was too heavy. There was no way I would be able to do that by myself. At dawn I took out my machete and decapitated Dwayne Jackson. I threw his ugly head into the pit and threw the machete after it. The entire night I had felt nothing but blankness. There had been absolutely no emotion. No feeling of satisfaction. No feeling of shame. No feeling of remorse. No feeling of joy. I had finally killed the man who had taken the last person I loved away from me but it in no way made me feel better. Frankly, I was disappointed. It was all over. My life’s mission had been accomplished and I had gained absolutely nothing out of it. I had never felt so damn deflated in my entire life! Part of me just wanted to scream and ask out why but I would not have gotten more of an answer by doing that.
The sky was a fierce red when I grabbed the duffel bag and started walking to the storage containers the boys and I always hung around just praying that somebody would be there. But I was alone on the lot. Just me and a dead mutilated body. And then there was a bag with a huge sum of money that I was never going to be able to enjoy because sooner or later I was going to be arrested for murder, and most importantly, a hundred thousand dollars wasn’t going to bring my brother back. The money had merely been a tactic to blackmail Dwayne Jackson, I had to real interest in it. But Damian did. He still needed a large sum of money to pay back some dude he owed money to and since Connor was on his own, I decided to pay him a visit. I had left him high and dry and that wasn’t my style.
I walked back into the factory and took Dwayne’s car keys from inside his pocket before jumping into his campaign car and driving off the lot with my weapons and the bag of money. I drove without disturbance to Whitehaven where I parked behind Damian’s building and took a deep breath. There was no going back. It was done. I had finally killed a man and I was about to give a criminal a big bag of cash to pay a debt. I took ten thousand dollars out of the duffel bag and kept it for myself just in case I needed it to skip town or kill someone else or whatever the hell else and wrote Damian a note telling him that if he never saw me again I hoped that he’d understand. I knew that he’d understand why I was dropping off some money, but to some degree I had come to care about him and Connor and the two of them were always going to be somewhere in the back of my mind. While I was at it, I decided to go look for Eddie and Byron and maybe the other guys too. I owed them a proper goodbye.
After I dropped the bag in front of Damian’s door, I drove back to Cobalt to find my boys. There was another neighborhood on the other side of town that we often hung out in when being on the factory lot was unappealing. But that little neighborhood in the boondocks was also deserted. Not even a stray cat walked by. Since I was done looking around there, I headed down to straight to Yonkers to a few other places I knew my guys liked hanging around. Nobody was there. Almost like all of my gang members had just evaporated off the face of the earth. In a moment of madness I drove down to Old Sylva and parked the city car where Connor had parked his old time machine the first time I met him. I cleaned up in the water and took public transit back to some more familiar places. I took a snooze on the subway and ate in soup kitchens alongside people who told me that God was with me, completely unaware of what I had just done.
By nightfall, a deep sense of desolation had settled in. I was, for real, completely alone. I felt a deep void inside, like something was ripping me apart. I wanted Jeff to come and comfort me but it was useless to kid myself, I knew more than anything that he would never be coming back. I began feeling sick about what I had done to Dwayne Jackson but I kept on telling myself that if I hadn’t put an end to him, he would have put an end to a multitude of other people. After all, there was a reason why he complied with my blackmail and came down to the factory with a bag of money. There was something he didn’t want the world to find out. Too bad I didn’t know what that was myself. Finally I simply decided to walk in the boondocks of Dobbs Ferry by myself after nightfall in order to collect my thoughts in peace and solitude.
As I walked in a back alley near the old downtown area I spotted a cat in the shadows. I slowed down my pace so I wouldn’t frighten the animal as I approached it. In an adjacent alleyway there was light coming out of an open bedroom window and I clearly saw the cat when it walked into the light and looked up towards the roof of the tall building. It was a Siamese cat, just like Belle. Was it her? Could it really be her?! I squatted down near another building and watched the cat for a few minutes before it noticed me. It seemed to be curious about me and it approached me cautiously. When the cat got close enough I let it sniff my hand before I took it into my arms and held it close to me.
“We are finally together again Belle,” I whispered to the cat as I hugged it tightly.
The cat soon started to purr in my arms but our beautiful moment was disturbed when I heard some footsteps coming towards us from the other side of the alley. My cat got frightened and jumped out of my arms and climbed a semi-demolished wall on the right next to the building behind us. I soon pulled out my loaded handgun and got ready for another brutal encounter.
“Who’s there?” the familiar voice demanded.
“Stay back!” I shouted in response, “I’m armed!”
“Drifter?” the voice became soft, “Is that really you?”
“Ritchie?” I was completely taken aback.
Soon enough the voice in the shadows emerged into the light and sure enough it was Ricardo. I never thought I’d see him again but there he was right in front of my face. For a moment I thought I was hallucinating but I knew that whatever aspect of delusion there might have been, the moment wasn’t all up in my head when he touched my arm and I felt the cold hard squeeze of his long fingers.
“It’s really you!” Ritchie exclaimed with joy, “For God’s sake we all thought you were dead!”
“I’m not dead yet,” I spoke softly, “but Dwayne Jackson is.”
“He’s dead?! You honest to God killed him?!”
“Go to the factory and you’ll find his decapitated body. I left his car in Old Sylva.”
“Why in the world did you do that?!”
“I only did what I needed to do. Jeff was innocent and I am the only person who loved him enough to serve that bastard Dwayne with what he deserved! I’m not ashamed to be the person that I am today!”
Belle was meowing from the roof of the single storey building, unable to come down and too scared to jump. I shot a mean glance at Ritchie before starting to climb up that old partially-collapsed building to save my cat.
“Don’t climb up there!” Ritchie shouted anxiously, “The roof of the building is burned and you’ll fall through!”
I had almost reached the top when Ritchie started to climb up after me, which scared me cat. Belle was right at the edge of the building waiting for me but when she saw him, she began running towards the other end of the building. Once I reached the top I climbed onto the flat roof of the old brick building and sure enough I started to fall through the roof. Thankfully Ritchie was right behind me still scaling the wall and just in time he grabbed me by the ankle and propelled himself backwards. We hit a bunch of falling bricks on our way down but when it was all over the two of us were safely laying flat on our faces at the bottom of the building. My head was sore and pounding from the fall but I had no broken bones. It might have been a different story if I had fallen right down to the basement of that building.
“It’s just a freaking cat!” Ricardo muttered angrily, almost like Damian did in one of his belligerent moods, “Get over it!”
He obviously hadn’t fallen from as high as I had because he quickly got up from off the gravel as if nothing had ever happened. He then got on top of me and pinned me down to the ground.
“You really shouldn’t have killed the city councillor,” Ricardo’s voice was filled with diverse emotions.
“Why not?” I taunted, “He murdered my brother for no reason! I could not have known what the future would hold. I did Jeff a solid!”
“You don’t understand. Jeff is dead because of me!”
“Is that right? Oh big bad Ritchie feels guilty now!”
“No! Shut up you damn little snot! In a robbery over three years ago I murdered Dwayne Jackson’s niece!”
“And nobody in the gang knows about this?”
“No. I never told them. Everyone, including Dwayne, thought it was Jeff and I just went along with it.”
“That’s why he wanted to kill me. He wanted Jeff to know what it was like to live without the person he loved the most!”
“I’m so sorry Ana! I never wanted your brother to die!”
“You damn jerk! I should shoot you too! You deserve it just as much as Dwayne did!”
“It’s all over now. Just skip town and make a life for yourself somewhere else. I’ll never be anything more than a crook and a street thug. You can still get out of here alive.”
“Nobody gets out of here alive.”
Richard slapped me in the face with an open hand and ran off into the dark alleyways surrounding us and before I even had the chance to get up to pursue him he was already out of my sight. I didn’t know what to think or how to feel so I just sat on a stash of fallen bricks and cried. I never thought I would have been betrayed by one of my own like that. Never in a million years would I have fathomed that. I knew that he had done some horrible things in his life, but I never thought that he would have left my brother to be killed like that. But at least I had gotten the answer to my most burning question. I would at least be able to fill that void inside of my soul. Jeff was innocent. I was innocent. We were innocent. It wasn’t about us. It had never been about us. How Dwayne Jackson came to the conclusion that Jeff had done that, it was too late to get answers, but one question had at least been answered.
After what seemed like an eternity I finally collected myself and started walking again. The blankness inside of me was like a consuming fire, only that it didn’t burn. It swallowed me like an overpowering force of running water, yet I didn’t drown. If I had felt like crap before, it was noting compared to what I felt alone there in that back alley with nothing but a stash of bricks and some ashes. Even the cat never came back. I had never felt more alone in my entire life. If there was such a thing as utter and complete loneliness with nothing but your memories and your sins, that’s exactly what I felt inside. I longed for Eddie or for Byron. Ritchie hadn’t even given me the chance to ask where they were, or if they were even still alive. Life could be gone in the blink of an eye. Life was nothing but a vapor that stayed for a little while before vanishing like it never came.
“A time to kill and a time to heal,” I whispered to myself as I thought of Byron, “a time to weep and a time to laugh.”
Since it was too late to take public transit to another part of New York, I laid down underneath a bench at the bus stop and did my best to doze off because I knew that it would only be a matter of time before there was a statewide manhunt for the person who mercilessly murdered a well-respected city councillor.
“A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”
The crickets were singing their gloomy song and the stars were shining over a part of the roof that had collapsed. It was just me and my sorrows. I had been inside a freaking broken metal pillar for hours and hours and hours and hours and hours. It was freezing cold out there and I was exhausted. I was home yet I was alone there. All of my guys had long since gone from the factory lot. I didn’t know why I was still holding on to the false notion that there was hope for me out there. The fraudulent hope that Dwayne Jackson was going to show up and that I was going to kill him. I contemplated the reasons why he murdered my brother but just like the three previous years before that, I couldn’t come up with anything. Because there wasn’t anything to come up with. Maybe I should have just waited for Damian after all.
As I was about to bow my head down low, I heard a vehicle approaching in the distance. It was either Dwayne or the police. In that moment every sound around me dissipated never to return again, because I couldn’t focus on anything else. The water stopped flowing. The wind stopped blowing. It was nothing other than a vehicle approaching in the distance. As much as I would have loved to jump out of the shadows and engage in a full-fledged battle with whoever was coming my way, I gave it everything I had to stay in the shadows and wait. I gave it everything I had and everything I had was bad. Both my body and my mind were exhausted at at the end of the line but I gave it one last push to at least go out like a warrior if it was going to come down to that. There was really only one way to find out.
The tires came to a halt near the east side of the factory. I heard a door open, and then that same door shut a few seconds later. If there had been more that one person in the vehicle, only one of them came out. A sole set of footprints walked around in the dirt slowly, seemingly to survey the surroundings, before I heard those same footsteps step onto the metal flooring. I was no longer alone. I wanted to badly to jump out of the shadows and surprise that person but I stayed put for just a little while longer. Preferably, I could get that person from behind when they would least be expecting it. I bit my bottom lip and waited a few more seconds, listening to every single sound I could pick up the sound of my heartbeat sounded like an atomic bomb on top of all the gentle sounds of the night.
“I brought you your money!” Dwayne Jackson shouted in an annoyed tone of voice.
He had really come!
“Son of a bitch,” he rambled on angrily, “stood me up!”
“No, I didn’t,” I muttered as I stepped out of my hiding place to where he was standing.
I didn’t know who he been expecting to see, but he hadn’t been expecting me.
“Anastasia,” his voice was barely audible as the duffel bag he had been carrying dropped to the ground.
“There is a time to stay in the shadows,” I spoke in complete apprehension as I took out my handgun, “and a time to step out.”
And I pulled the trigger. The bang echoed everywhere to the point that my ears were ringing. After a few moments I had to remind myself to breathe because the mission was finally over.
“That was for Jeff you son of a bitch! He was innocent!”
After more than a few hours of aimlessly looking around, we finally found Richard Parker’s house. Finally the man who owed money had a name thanks to a reserve address lookup. Damian knew him simply as Park and considering the type of business deal the two were involved in, I probably wouldn’t have used my full name either. It was a little white house, the second from an intersection in an older neighborhood. The house was old, but it was in good condition. It badly needed a new roof but I would have gladly shacked up in the place any day. Being a homeless drifter, I had checked out my fair share of houses in hopes that one day I would wake up and it would be mine and life on the streets was nothing more than a distant nightmare. So much for that.
“You knock,” Connor ordered, “I’ll be right behind you with my gun in hand for when he opens the door.”
I knocked. And I knocked. And I knocked. And I knocked again. Richard Parker wasn’t home despite that both his vehicles were in the yard and through the basement window we could clearly see a light on. I rang the doorbell but nothing happened. I then saw that the wire connecting the bell to the rest of the house had been cut.
“You’re going to break in?”
It was more of a comment than a question.
Connor and I both went into the backyard of Richard Parker’s house and busted down the door. Just a few forceful kicks and the thing swung open. By the looks of the fruit on the counter it appeared that there hadn’t been anyone in the house for quite some time. There were no signs of life on the main floor so we went down to the basement in hopes of finding something. In the basement living room the TV was still on but the rabbit ears looked like they had been violently thrown to the ground. As we examined the place the signs of a struggle were apparent. Something had gone on down there and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the details.
“A deal gone bad?” I asked Connor.
“I don’t know man,” his voice was just a soft whisper, “but help me look around in case we can find at least part of the money he owes my uncle Damian.”
“By the looks of the place I don’t think we’ll find money here. This place looks like a crime scene.”
“Or at least let’s get back the guns he got from my uncle. Last month he requested an exorbitant amount of fully automatic rifles and ammunition for them.”
“And where does your uncle get his weapons?”
“Oh he’s got his connections from his time back in the slammer.”
I looked around in a small bedroom on the west side of the house while Connor checked out the other one next to the bathroom. I found nothing but blue cloths neatly vacuum packed into clear plastic bags in the closet and an industrial supply of stash cans. Most of them were empty but a few contained multiple sets of safety deposit box keys and 8mm tapes. I figured that they might have been porn shows but then again, I wasn’t really interested in knowing.
“Connor?” I called out, but there was no answer.
I walked out of the room and went looking for Connor. I found him across the hall standing in the doorway of the bedroom on the east side of the house seemingly frozen in time.
“Connor!” I shouted in frustration.
“Ana,” his voice was barely audible.
“What the hell do you see in there?” I demanded as I walked towards him.
He obstructed my view of what was inside the room but from just a few steps behind him I could clearly see a colossal blood splat on the bedroom wall. That would have explained why Damian hadn’t been able to reach Park for the past couple of days and the signs of a struggle in the living room.
“C’mon!” I urged Connor as I pulled him by the arm, “There’s nothing for us here.”
There was nothing but dead silence for most of the ride back to Whitehaven. Connor seemed overly nervous and that was highly unlike him. The thought of a predator looming around seemed to have got to him on a level far more profound than he was willing to admit to himself.
“Do you think,” I began, “that the man who did that to Richard Parker is the man your uncle owes money to?”
“I wouldn’t think so, they’ve been on good business terms for a long time,” Connor’s voice was shaky, “but then again, how the hell would I know anything? I’m just the delivery boy.”
Back at the apartment Damian greeted us with a big smile on his face. He was smiling even before I handed him the pillowcase full of stolen things. He seemed awfully joyous about something, unlike the two of us who were horrified.
“Guess who made it to the regional news at noon!” Damian exclaimed.
We waited for him to continue.
“Two teens are the suspects of a rash of break and enters near the New York-New Jersey border! At this point they only said that they believe that at least one of the suspects is female. They rambled on saying that the two were of small build, and were wearing dark clothes.”
I looked over at Connor and grinned at him but he wasn’t smiling.
“Could be anybody,” I smirked, “but we all know who it is!”
“Now what’s the problem?” Damian belligerently asked Connor, noticing the mediocre expression on his face.
The two of us then proceeded to tell him what we had seen in Richard Parker’s house.
“So you found him brutally murdered in his basement bedroom?” Damian questioned.
“Connor did,” I replied in a low voice, “he didn’t let me go in.”
Damian looked at Connor for further explanation.
“Only one of his arms was sticking out from under the sheets,” Connor’s voice was even lower than mine, “but all the sheets were soaked in blood and there were multiple splats on the wall and the floor. So the sheets were put over him after the job was done by the looks of it.”
“There were no signs of forced entry upstairs,” I continued, “but there were obvious signs of a struggle in the basement.”
“So it seems like the two were known to each other,” Damian observed.
“That’s what I’ve been thinking too,” I whispered back, “and there’s a sick part of me that thinks it’s your man who wants his half a million dollars.”
Damian contemplated the situation for a few minutes but he didn’t seem convinced.
“I don’t think it’s my guy,” he went on, “he’d clean up his messes if it was him.”
“Yeah,” I retorted, “the person who did that didn’t do a very good job at covering up.”
“And while you two were out I made a few phone calls and I didn’t find your man Greg but I did find some other connections that I’ll work on checking out.”
“Thanks man, I appreciate it.”
I flashed Damian a quick smile to say thank you before going to sit with a rather distraught Connor in the living room.
“You look awful bro,” I muttered as I flopped down on the couch next to him, “I would have taught that you’d been exposed to this kind of stuff before.”
“I have,” he replied apprehensively, “but not like that! None of my uncle’s longtime business partners were brutally murdered in cold blood like that. That’s what gets me on edge.”
“Yeah, I can understand that.”
“This business ain’t like it is in the movies. You don’t just randomly kill someone over a deal gone bad for no reason. You’ve gotta know what you’re doing and how to go about it. There’s a new player in town.”
“I’ve gotta talk about something with your uncle, but you hang in there buddy, Damian knows what he’s doing.”
I left the room and went to find Damian in his bedroom. He had a bunch of papers scattered all over the bed and he seemed to be searching for a particular piece of information.
“Do you think that Dwayne Jackson did this?” I asked him as I stood in the doorway.
“Why would be do that?” Damian raised an eyebrow at me.
“He left a similar mess behind when he murdered my brother.”
“But that was at an abandoned factory. This is in a heavily populated residential neighborhood!”
“Does it make a difference? He just killed my brother for no good reason and he seems to be at it again. Richard Parker didn’t even have a single weapon in his house!”
“What are you going to do about it?”
“We’re going to blackmail him and see what he does.”
Damian was still puzzled but he accepted my offer. Nobody had a better idea so we started brainstorming how we’d blackmail the murderous city councillor. I told Damian that we should start by using the Richard Parker crime scene against him, just to see what he’d do in response while some of Damian’s associates would be monitoring him. If we got the reaction we wanted, we’d move on to blackmailing him with the murder of my brother Jeff and finally we’d kill him, but not before he gave us a huge sum of money.
“Do you have records of the guns you sold to Richard Parker?” I asked Damian as I was cooking something up to frame Dwayne Jackson.
“Of course,” he replied still searching for something, “the records are written in codes so the popo can’t match them to the actual weapon, but I’ll write them in plain English for you if you think you’ve got a lead.”
“I reckon that you know which guns are yours, so if you can find out if Dwayne and the criminals who work for him have them, well that will be a bonus for us.”
“Not a lot of people work for me, but if you and Connor keep bringing in the extra money I’ll be able to pay some people do keep tabs on them.”
And that was that. We had a plan and Damian was about to execute it. It wasn’t long before Connor got over the fright that Park’s body had put into him and he cooperated nicely. He had some excellent ideas that we all put to good use in our progressive blackmail scheme. We were set to laugh our blackmail assault the day Damian was to meet up with the other man to give him a portion of the money he owed him.
“Are you ready for this?” Damian seemed worried about me, “This is no petty theft or hiding under beds during home invasions. There might as well be murder involved here.”
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life.” I boldly replied.
I went about my business undistracted on Jeff’s anniversary. I felt more sure than anything about my vengeance at the end of the line so I did everything in my power to make everything go smoothly until then. I knew without a single doubt in my mind that Jeff would have done the same for me. He had given his life to save mine, the least I owed him was to see justice through and we all knew that that meant taking matters into my own hands. I was more than ready and willing. The afternoon before Damian was set to meet up with the man whom he owed money to, we mailed out our first piece of blackmail to Dwayne Jackson so he would be receiving it at his office the following morning. Damian had hired two men to keep tabs on him and a couple more to investigate and dig up some dirt on his associates.
But we got nothing out of it. Dwayne Jackson wasn’t about to budge. If it was really him who had done that, he wasn’t about to give up his secrets. Over the weeks Damian had managed to pay back all the money he owed without any problems. We saw Richard Parker’s gruesome murder on the six o’clock news for a week straight but the police didn’t have any leads on who might have done it or why. The man hadn’t been known to police and no illegal substances or weapons had been found in his house. The rash of brazen break and enters had only escalated with a bunch of copycats going at it at the same time we were. Belligerence was still rampant in the Welker household and I was becoming impatient because the incomplete job had been dragging on for too long.
“Damian, help me lure Dwayne Jackson,” I spoke apprehensively, “and I’ll kill him because I’m seriously getting sick and tired of waiting.”
“Patience my dear,” he wasn’t completely belligerent with me, “I promised you that I’d take care of it for you.”
“A promise, is that all it’ll ever be?”
“I told you that I would do it! Learn to take my word for an answer!”
“On Tuesday evening, drive me to Cobalt. I’ll make sure the bastard is waiting for me.”
“No way in hell! That’s way too dangerous.”
“Fine, then I’ll do it myself.”
Damian didn’t seem to take me seriously. To him it seemed like I had never been serious about Dwayne Jackson. To him it looked like I had only wanted to put on a show and prove something to myself. But I wasn’t kidding myself, I was going to accomplish what I had set out to do. On Tuesday morning I took public transit down to Washington Heights and visited City Hall in person. I asked the lady at the front desk to squeeze me into an emergency meeting with Dwayne Jackson but she repeatedly refused. Eventually I just kicked her desk and walked outside into the back parking lot and waited for Dwayne Jackson there. After about an hour of being agitated and restless, I finally just found a piece of paper and a pen and wrote him instructions to bring me a hundred thousand dollars in a duffel bag right after the sun went down and the rest of the instructions in a charade poem.
In the distance there is a factory
From across the Hudson you can see it clearly
I know what you did down there
And what you’ve been up to elsewhere
You can try to run and hide
But on you I’ve got my eye
Meet me down there and be alone
I’ll also be unarmed and on my own
I only want a hundred thousand dollars, no harm done
And I’ll keep your secret safe from everyone
Meet me under the canopy by the riverside
I’ll be waiting for you inside
I left it tucked underneath the wiper of his SUV and went back to Whitehaven with nothing to show. Damian was somewhat surprised to see me again as I wasn’t covered in blood and I wasn’t in cuffs because I had murdered someone at City Hall. That seemed to reinforce his theory that I wasn’t serious about getting the job done, however.
“Get me a paddleboat Damian,” I demanded when I returned to the apartment.
“For what?” he seemed to find it funny, “What are you gonna do with a dinky boat?”
“I need to get across the Hudson tonight.”
“Well take public transit for God’s sake! Isn’t that what you took this morning?!”
“Nobody can see me.”
“And you just expect that paddling to the other side of the river will make that a reality for you?”
“I don’t give a hoot about what you think Damian! Just get me the boat!”
“I’ll get you the boat but for my sake and yours, after what you want to do is done, don’t show your face back here.”
“If I die tomorrow, promise me that you’ll get the job done in memory of me.”
It made no difference to me. I wanted the job done and whatever came next came next, that’s all. Damian sent Connor to get me the boat and when he came back I took it myself down to the river. I had packed a bag with two handguns, a machete and a bowie knife to bring with me to the meeting. In the poem I had written that I was going to be unarmed but that definitely wasn’t going to be the case. I knew that Dwayne Jackson wasn’t stupid enough to come alone either so I wanted to be prepared just in case I lost or dropped a weapon or one was taken from me during an altercation. Whatever the scenario, I wanted to get the job done no matter what the cost.
It’s now or never.
Once across the Hudson River after a very successful paddleboat ride, I got everything set up. I hid the boat in the vegetation near the river for the rare chance that I could get away and climbed up the bank to the factory lot. I knew that there was a hollow metal post in there near the back that was partially broken that was also big enough for me to fit in. That’s where I was going to hide while I waited for Dwayne Jackson. I didn’t expect him to come alone, and I certainly didn’t expect him to bring money. I didn’t expect him to show up at all, honestly. He really had no reason to show up if he did not commit the things I had accused him of. The plan was vain and it was futile, but I was right there. I hadn’t went through all that trouble for nothing.
He was either going to come to me, or I was going to go to him.
Part of me felt guilty to have scammed a good man like Robin, but I cared more about having Damian kill Dwayne than hurting Robin’s feelings. I didn’t care what I had to go through to get to where I wanted, I was going to do it no matter what the cost. Even if the police shot me after blowing out Dwayne’s brains, it didn’t matter. As long as I knew that he was long gone, I would be able to die satisfied with my life. The only thing that kept me going in the search for half a million dollars was believing that Damian Welker really was going to get the job done for me at the end of the line. I would not be swept aside. I was going to see the day Dwayne Jackson was going to be served with what he deserved. It was nothing more than a matter of time.
“You guys seemed to have brought back some interesting stuff,” Damian commented as he met up with us in the street below when we arrived just before four in the morning, “did anyone follow you here?”
“I wouldn’t have come back if we were being followed,” Connor commented in return.
“We’d be in cuffs if someone had been following us,” I muttered at my turn.
Damian grinned at me. He liked that mentality. And I hoped that he was going to like what we brought him. We popped the trunk so we could unload our stole property and bring it into the apartment for closer examination.
“Damn!” Damian was impressed at the safe, “You guys definitely scored big!”
“That was all Ana,” Connor grinned at me, “she was quite impressive tonight.”
Once we had unloaded everything and hid it inside the apartment, I jumped in the shower and cleaned up. I then walked into the first bedroom on the right and flopped down on the bed with nothing but the beach towel to keep me covered. I dozed off right then and there. I was exhausted. I had been up for nearly twenty-four hours and I had only slept some four or five hours the previous night. If I could get drunk and fall asleep by the dams in Old Sylva, I could easily fall asleep on a bare mattress lying on the floor with nothing but a cheap pillow and a ripped up grey sheet. I fell asleep as soon as my head his the mattress and I slept the entire rest of the night, not that there was much left because it was four in the morning, but I only woke up again during the noon hour. At least the clock on the wall indicated 11:58 and there was sunlight shining everywhere from a little window at the top of the south wall.
The window, like all the others in the apartment, was partially taped up but there was one little rectangle on top that was bare and could let in the sunlight. The room was tiny and dirty. It all reminded me so much of Eddie’s shack. I was okay with Eddie’s shack because I didn’t have to pay for it, but I would never have paid for an apartment like Damian’s in a million years. Next to me on the mattress Damian was laying face-down and snoring lightly. It seemed like I had camped in Damian’s bed after all. He was covered in a forest green blanket that looked like it was a piece of a sleeping bag and a patchwork quilt on top. Since the man was sleeping soundly, I decided to gently pull the patchwork quilt off of him and cover myself with it. It was warm and comfortable so I ditched the towel by throwing it on the floor. I cuddled up inside the blanket and rested some more until Damian finally woke up some twenty minutes later.
“You sure have a way of making yourself at home,” he commented, still half asleep, “just laying naked in my bed like that.”
“Sorry,” I tried unsuccessfully to refrain from laughing, “back at Cap’n Crunch’s loft there wasn’t enough beds for everyone, so you had to go to extremes to secure yours, and most of the time you had to share it.”
Damian was giggling uncontrollably next to me.
“Yeah, the old man’s last name is Crunch.”
I laughed too as I was thinking about it. I had nothing but good memories of the old man, and I missed him too.
“Well, a man’s not gonna complain when there’s a naked pretty girl in his bed.”
“I’ll leave, I’m just gonna find some clothes.”
“Take a moment to just relax and I’ll rub that shoulder of yours. I see that you’ve injured it somehow.”
“Yeah, it was when Connor pulled me up onto the railroad tracks, he kind of just dropped me and the whole being shot thing didn’t help with that bruise either.”
“I bet you ducked pretty quickly into that car. Did you piss your pants?”
I giggled and turned onto my back so Damian could rub my sore and injured shoulder. He pulled the patchwork quilt off the upper half of my body and let his rough hands create magic with my shoulder. The warm rays of sunlight shined on the two of us and for a moment I wasn’t so hot-wired, I was calm and relaxed and Damian wasn’t belligerent like he usually was. He was more like dad Damian than ex-con and criminal Damian for a moment. His hands were rough but his touch was soft. In just a few minutes my sore shoulder wasn’t so rusty anymore. The sun shining in my face like that reminded me that I had to do a job outside the walls of the moldy room and I felt incredibly deflated despite the perfect moment. At the same time it reminded me of those kinds of tender moments shared with my brother and I did something I lonesomely did; I started to cry.
“Oh baby don’t cry,” Damian spoke softly.
For a brief moment he got up and grabbed me a black long sleeve shirt and handed it over to me and I put it on. To me it was more like a dress, which was the whole point. Damian then put his arms around me and held me tightly against him, kind of like I had done when he broke down about his daughter’s death. He held me until I stopped crying and then brought me a clean change of clothes. They weren’t my clothes so I figured that the outfit once belonged to his daughter.
“We’ve got a big day ahead of us today,” Damian continued to speak softly to me, “you and Connor did great last night, keep up the work. Along with the money I’ve gathered we’ve got nearly sixty thousand dollars now!”
I got dressed and found Connor in the massage chair in the living room again. He looked pretty well rested and he grinned at me when I walked into the room.
“I reckon that you have some experience in pawn shops too,” Connor giggled as I noticed Robin’s laptop on his lap, “we’ve got more money to make!”
All I could do was grin. Yup, I had experience in that too.
“You look pretty good in that suit,” he went on, “now you’ll just need a haircut and we’ll blend in like anybody else.”
“Yeah, no kidding,” I replied, “those judgmental jerks tend to get suspicious when someone who looks poor comes in with plenty of gold jewelry and electronics.”
Connor and I both laughed at the memories of what we had done the previous night. It had worked out perfectly, almost like the script of a movie. But if there was one thing I had learned from the boys and what I had experienced living the life out on the streets, it was that you should never get too confident. It’s when you thought too highly of yourself that you made mistakes and things weren’t like they are in the movies anymore.
“Here,” Connor handed me a few dollars as he walked me out of the building, “take this, and hand over your weapons. There are more than a vast selection of hairstylists downtown. Pick one and let them work their magic.”
I grinned at him, handed over the gun and went on my way. Before Robin Crowley and I crossed path, I’d needed to look poor so people would have sympathy on me and give me a few dollars when the saw me on the streets. It wasn’t as effective as just stealing money, but it did keep me out of trouble for over five years so it was something I kept on doing. However, sitting in the stairway of the subway station and just loafing around sidewalks had lost its appeal in the past couple of years. I became too prideful to wait around for people to give me a few coins out of their pockets every once in a while and I decided to get it myself. Not everybody gave me cash, but I could easily rank in a few hundred dollars every week. The boys would have let me keep it for myself but I had little use for money so I gave it to them to use for the betterment of the few real places where we could sleep in at night. That is, not the factory and not Eddie’s shack.
“How much does a quick haircut cost?” I asked as I went in the first shop I saw.
“For kids it’s twenty dollars,” the woman replied in a distracted voice as she proceeded to shave some guy’s head.
“Good,” I replied in satisfaction, “because that’s all I’ve got.”
It wasn’t. But I kept the other twenty for myself, you know, just in case.
“Have a seat,” the woman finally took a quick look at me, “I’ll be with you shortly.”
I didn’t sit around doing nothing for very long. Soon it was my turn. I sat in the fancy chair and simply told the woman to make me look presentable. I told her that it was for a school picture and that she should just keep it simple because I knew that my twenty bucks wasn’t going to get me very far in a salon like that. A few chops of hair later, my look had been completely transformed. I wasn’t given any particular hairstyle, but my hair now came down to just passed my cheekbones. It was clean, simple, just what I was looking for. The top half was my natural hair color and the bottom half was what was left of the black dye and it looked kind of phony but it worked for me. I was very satisfied with the haircut and with the lifestyle. I no longer needed to look like the panhandler I previously was, because I made a living as a criminal.
I thanked the hairstylist, gave her her twenty bucks and went on my way. I knew that the afternoon wasn’t going to last forever so I quickly got back to Damian’s apartment. Connor had already loaded the car with some of our stolen items so when I got back we left immediately. Instead of going back into New York, we rode around the cities of New Jersey to sell our stuff. I put some jewelry in a bag and visited pawn shops and consignment stores on foot while Connor took the bigger items to other shops on the other side of town with the car. I had experience in the business, so things went smoothly on my end. Around the supper hour local boutiques started to close for the day so I walked back to our designated meeting area and waited for Connor to come back, just hoping that the police hadn’t picked him up or something. But after about twenty minutes, there he was.
“Excuse me sir,” I flirtatiously joked with him as I stuck my head into the car through the open window, “I don’t know where you’re going, but by any chance, would you have room for one more troubled soul?”
He blushed and cracked up laughing. He unlocked the door and I got in.
“Oh,” I continued as I showed him my bag of money, “and I have a couple of thousand in here.”
“No shit!” he exclaimed, “That electronic junk I got wasn’t worth very much.”
“Yeah, I’m pretty disappointed, but if we can score big tonight we’ll have over a hundred thousand.”
“Unfortunately we can’t scam Robin Crowley every day.”
“Shame mate, the majority of our money came from him! But stores are usually a pretty good opportunity. There are a bunch of little old laundromats in Whitehaven.”
“And you think that the coin machines in there contain hundreds of thousands of dollars?”
“No, but it would be easy.”
“Sorry to burst your bubble my friend, but I’m not in the easy business over here. I’m in the money business. So we’re going to have to come up with a plan to make a heck of a lot of money in the next three days.”
“Two and a half.”
“Whatever man. I want something to eat now.”
On our way back to Whitehaven we stopped by a local Mexican restaurant and I had some of the spiciest food I ever put in my mouth. I swore the people in there were laughing at us because of the faces we made upon swallowing our food and feeling the burn. But it was great. I enjoyed myself.
“I’ve got a random question,” I told Connor as I sipped on some cold water.
“Try me,” he replied, seemingly uninterested.
“How do you know I’m not a police informant?”
“How do you know I’m not a police informant?”
“I don’t. But I reckon that police informants generally don’t go on crime sprees like we did.”
“I reckon that you reckoned correctly. When I picked you up you didn’t strike me as the type of person who’d be working with the pigs.”
“You just had that edge to you. The kind that passionate thugs have. I’ve been at this my entire life, I know one of my own when I see them.”
The question was trivial. Police informants are informants, not criminals. They do nothing but pose. Infiltrate. They are hypocrites. Both Connor and Damian had proven their seriousness in the business. Why would the police be after someone like me anyway? With all the murderers and rapists roaming around, someone busting into a shitty corner was about the last thing on their radar. Whitehaven was a super quiet and laid-back town and the heat didn’t seem to be on Connor or Damian. They looked like a bunch of poor people trying to make it in life, not a group of high-ranking weapons dealers.
“Connor?” I began.
“Yeah?” he didn’t seem to be eager to listen to my ideas for the night.
“Do you think it would be possible to sell a few guns to pawn shops? I mean, a few here and a few there will bring us some extra dough.”
“It would be possible, but that’s not how my uncle Damian works.”
“I understand. I wouldn’t want to step on his territory.”
“You really wouldn’t want to do that.”
“Has he ever gotten physical with you? I mean, just violent in general.”
“Nah, not with me. He’s always been rather soft with me. Why?”
“My guys got physical a few times with me, but it was mostly to restrain me.”
Connor burst out laughing, almost choking on his food. I laughed too. The atmosphere was so lighthearted, like we weren’t going to go on another crime run after the sun went down. Part of me didn’t really want to go either. I simply wanted to have a normal night in good company. I missed movie night at Cap’n Crunch’s. He had nothing but a bunch of old VHS tapes that we watched over and over but I missed watching Valley Girl and Pretty In Pink over and over every couple of weeks.
“We should head back,” I spoke after an extended moment of silence.
“Yeah,” Connor’s voice was soft, “my uncle Damian tends to get uptight if we are gone for too long.”
Back at the apartment Damian had made a sale so he sent Connor and I to deliver it. I gave him the pouch of money without speaking but there was no doubt in my mind that he knew that I didn’t want to go out on another crime spree at night. Crime is always fun at first, but I got kinda bored of it after a couple of houses.
“Drifter,” Damian spoke only as I was walking out the door, “your haircut is phony.”
“Your beard is weird!” I retorted as I shut the door behind me.
The weapons delivery was successful. We delivered a bundle of guns wrapped inside a blanket in a guitar case and got another guitar case stuffed with over fifteen thousand dollars in cash. The three of us really were in the black market empire business! It was getting dark and the days were getting shorter. Summers were nice and long on the East Coast but that didn’t prevent me from noticing the change in the daylight hours. None of that made a difference to me, but I thought about my guys and the girls still out on the streets. I had smashed Eddie’s window so he couldn’t live in there anymore and I was worried about where he had ended up. I didn’t even know if he was alive or dead! But my mission was more important than any of those trivial things. I’d see Eddie again. I’d see Byron again. I’d see Ritchie again. Just not in the near future.
“How much money do we have now?” I asked Damian as Connor and I lugged in the case full of money.
“That would make a hundred thousand now,” he spoke apprehensively again, “you guys did good but we’ve only got two more days to gather four hundred thousand dollars. That’s just not feasible.”
“Can’t you like, give a portion of the money to the dude you owe it to and give him the rest later?”
“I’ve considered that, but maybe it’s just better we go off the radar. I’ll figure something out. For now you two just have a drink and enjoy yourself. Oh, and Drifter, if you’re going to sleep in my bed please put some clothes on!”
I bit my bottom lip and grinned at my total audacity for having done what I did. Connor handed me a bottle of organic beer and I challenged him to race me to the bottom. We were going to put on a show for Damian but he made it abundantly clear that we could not at all costs get drunk because he’d need us in the morning. By the end of the night I had only won one round against Connor when it came to drinking beer but we watched reruns of Jeopardy on TV and I got him almost every time even though I had a bunch of drinks. Damian was quite impressed that a street kid could be so smart despite having literally no education. At least not the kind that you get from going to school. When it came time to sleep again I totally crashed Damian’s bed. Not to make him upset and uptight I slept on top of the sheets with all of my clothes on. He couldn’t complain.
The following morning it’s Damian who woke up by rubbing my shoulder again. I rolled over closer to him so it would be easier for him to massage my shoulder even though it had considerably improved. With his other hand he ran his fingers through my hair and told me in a gentle voice that my new haircut looked good on me. In response to that I stroked his chin and told him that his beard wasn’t weird and we both cracked up laughing. The light was just starting to come into the room so it was still quite early in the morning. I had slept well and I was ready to seize the day. I didn’t know what would be required of me, but I was ready and willing to do it. I kept my eyes on the prize through whatever I had to do so it didn’t matter what it was.
“Have you decided?” I whispered to Damian.
“I’ll do my best to negotiate with him baby,” he whispered softly in return, “and by any chance, have you ever had any dealings with a man named Greg who was formerly associated with the city councillor?”
“No, I’ve never heard of him, do you think we can use him to get to Dwayne?”
“That’s what I was hoping you’d tell me.”
“Well we can blackmail him into doing what we want. Tell him that you know what Dwayne did at the factory.”
“First I want to know where things stand between them because I’ve still got a budding criminal empire to keep under the radar of the authorities over here.”
“I understand. But whatever you need, I’ll help you.”
“I know baby, you’ve shown a lot of promise in the short amount of time that you’ve been here. For now you and Connor just need to make a delivery before breakfast.”
We both got up and I cleaned myself up a little bit. Damian was becoming belligerent again as he handed Connor the weapons in a duffel bag. Just a few minutes earlier we had shared a series of such intimate and tender moments.
“Your uncle has some severe mood swings,” I commented as Connor and I got in the car.
“Did he kick you out of his bed or something?” Connor did nothing but laugh.
“No, actually he was very affectionate towards me before we got up. And then the belligerent switch turned on for no apparent reason.”
“I don’t think he understands himself what exactly goes on inside his brain.”
“Was he like that before his daughter died?”
“I don’t know. I was too young back then but I do know that he was always very sweet to her and he’s always been nice to me too.”
“Well I like the guy, when he’s on his best behavior.”
And it had been. The day I left I was angry and cracking up. I had absolutely no consideration for anything or anyone other than myself. All I wanted was to get even and along the way I forgot the real reasons why. It was all anger and no grief. When Connor and Damian came around they alleviated some of that anger by giving me understanding. It’s not that my guys never did, but they were unwilling when I was hellbent. It didn’t want to stay gold, I wanted to take back what was rightfully mine.
“We’re here,” Connor spoke after a long moment of silence as he parked the car on the side of the street, “stay in the car while I handle this. Afterwards we can go out and have a fancy breakfast somewhere.”
“Your uncle said that he’d try to make a deal with the guy he owes money to,” I spoke softly, “so he can give him the rest of the money later. And in the meantime, we can get the real money from that other jerk who owes him.”
“The other guys has always been going for paying back. I don’t know why this time is different. But he won’t screw around with my uncle Damian again.”
“Let’s fix the problem once and for all.”
Connor delivered the guns without incident and two of us had a fancy breakfast at a nearby McDonald’s. We basically ordered the entire restaurant to ourselves and pigged out simply because we could. When Connor’s cellphone rang while we were eating out by the picnic table I reached for it and answered it myself.
“Hello Mr. Welker!” I greeted Damian, “I have a proposition for you!”
I told him about my plan and he agreed to it. All he wanted was another fifty thousand dollars so he could make the first payment to the man who wanted his money while Connor and I went looking for the other man who owed him money.
“Don’t blow his brains out if you don’t absolutely have to,” Damian was belligerent, “he’s always been a good customer. A loyal one and an earner, but he owes me.”
Connor looked over at me as I was listening to his uncle berate the entire world in another one of his moments of madness, seemingly unsure of the man who raised him most of his life for the first time.
“Let’s go reclaim what’s rightfully ours!” I smiled at him as I hung up on Damian mid-sentence.
“You know he’s going to flip his lid about that,” Connor spoke cautiously, referring to me hanging up on the boss.
We had the home address of the man whom we needed to collect money from, all we needed to do was find it in a city and a neighborhood neither one of us had ever been in. Usually that guy arranged for exchanges in public places, I figured because he was afraid of Damian turning on him. Well that was his own fault because he didn’t give him the money that he owed him.
“Didn’t we drive down this street twice already?” Connor was irritated since we had no GPS whatsoever and we couldn’t seem to get anywhere.
“Connor, slow down,” I urged him, “that house right there. We saw the owners leave not too long ago. We should go in and swipe something!”
“No way in hell! It’s broad daylight!”
“Too late, because I’ve already made up my mind.”
Before he could say anything else I grabbed the crowbar from under the seat and got out of the moving vehicle. I hid the weapon inside of my jacket so nobody could see it and creeped into the backyard through the neighbor’s yard. I opened an unlocked window and went in. The place was just your average middle-class house. It was nice, newly renovated, beautiful furniture, and probably something valuable somewhere. We only needed another fifty thousand dollars by the late afternoon and I figured that I might as well do what I’m good at while I can because maybe we’d be faced with an aggressive opposition when we’d find the man who owed Damian money. I wanted to be prepared, just in case. Even if the man was spoken of as a good associate, if there was one thing I learned from life on the streets it was that nothing was ever really what it seemed.
The first thing I did inside the house was open the fridge and eat some cheese. That cheese was the first I had eaten in months, or maybe even years. At least it felt that way. I devoured a couple more pieces and then headed upstairs to look for some jewelry or electronics. Those were perennial bestsellers as far as trafficking stolen goods went. In the first bedroom I grabbed a pillowcase and I shoved whatever I thought was of value inside it. I emptied an entire jewelry box in it without looking at its contents, swiped a couple of statues that were either expensive or the knockoff from the dollar store and found a beige cat drinking from the toilet bowl in the bathroom. When it saw me it came over and sniffed my shoes, and then went right back to doing whatever it was doing long before I arrived.
In the second bedroom on the second floor I found a cellphone and a debit card on a night table so I put the items in the pillowcase and went looking around. I periodically peered out the windows just to make sure that Connor was still parked down the street and the police weren’t on our trail. In an upstairs storage room I found a gun cabinet but I wasn’t able to bust it open. However, I did manage to remove the lock from the ammunition container stored in a nearby closet and take the bullets for myself. As I was rummaging through some boxes in the storage room I heard the cat race downstairs and begin meowing. Shortly after I heard the front door open and people coming inside the house. Crap! I had completely neglected to watch out for the tenants of the house. And you’d figure that it would be the first thing on your mind.
As I heard footsteps coming up to the second floor I quickly ran into the second bedroom I had gone in and hid underneath the bed and prayed that the person coming upstairs had merely forgotten something and would leave soon. But just like a scene right out of a movie, a woman and the cat came into the exact room I was in. The cat came sniffing around under the bed and licked my nose a couple of times while the woman looked for something in her closet. I could also hear people talking downstairs so I figured that there were maybe three or four people in the house without counting me. Soon after I heard someone else come up the stairs but that person headed in another room because it was still just me and the woman and the cat in the bedroom.
“Wow!” a man’s voice exclaimed in a nearby room, “It looks like Anastasia went on a rampage while we were gone!”
“That cat requires more attention than a human baby,” the woman in the room with me muttered before she sat on her bed and spoke to the cat.
The two of us grinned at each other as we went on our way. I kept thinking back to the unknown man named Greg. I had no clue who he was supposed to be. I didn’t even know what Dwayne Jackson wanted either. Even after three years, I had no idea why he brutally murdered my brother one day. As much as that puzzled me, I really didn’t care what the answer was. All I cared about was getting even, regardless of whether or not I’d ever find out the why behind everything.
“Are you okay?” Connor asked me in a concerned tone of voice, “You seem to be awfully distracted. Did something happen back there with my uncle Damian?”
“A man named Greg,” I commented, “your uncle Damian told me that he had some sort of connection to Dwayne Jackson but I don’t know him.”
“I know you really want this, and my uncle wants it for you too, but don’t get hung up on this. We’ll get him regardless of when or how it happens.”
“Thanks for the encouragement buddy. The anniversary is tomorrow.”
“I’ve been hellbent on revenge for months and rarely ever gave a single thought to my brother. It’s just a few weeks ago that I visited his grave for the first time.”
“My uncle Damian and I care about you and we won’t let you not be okay.”
I smiled softly to myself. I loved Connor and Damian too.
“Back home,” my voice was beginning to crack, “I was always so angry and belligerent and holy smokes my behavior was just like your uncle’s.”
“You’re quite audacious,” Connor smiled at me, “but your apparent mood swings are nothing like what my uncle goes through in a day!”
“I forgot to appreciate my people back home. I was too busy with residual emotions and now I miss them.”
“Nobody says you can’t go back to see them.”
“I know. But I’ve really gotten my act together, if I ever had one in the first place, since I’ve been out here. It’s been something positive to just get away and think.”
Paranoia was setting in and I wasn’t feeling too confident anymore. My airways were tightening and I was having a hard time to breathe under the bed with my bag of stolen items. It was another of those get out of here right now situations but I was helpless to do anything until the people left the residence or at least the woman left the room. I desperately wanted to get out of there but it was impossible for me to rack my brain and come up with an escape plan. All I could do was wait it out. Finally, some twenty minutes later the woman went back downstairs but the man was still in the storage room because I could hear him muttering profanity to himself as he cleaned up the mess Anastasia made. After a while it became apparent to me that the tenants of the house wouldn’t be leaving again anytime soon so I just got out from under the bed and closed the bedroom door, leaving only a little crack so I could peer into the hallway.
I opened the window and looked down into the street below. It was way to high to jump. That would have been committing suicide even if I didn’t break my neck on impact. Connor had turned the car around and parked it on the other side of the street. I saw him lift an eyebrow at me from the driver’s seat and in response I flipped him the finger. As the minutes passed I finally became desperate enough to walk into the hallway and start slowly tiptoeing downstairs. Thankfully the main entrance was right in front of the staircase so I could just bolt outside and make a run for it. Once I reached the bottom of the staircase I looked around and noticed that there were three people making conversation in the living room right next to the staircase but they were all too distracted to notice me. I was trying to be as quiet as I could but in my state of paranoia I swore they could hear my heartbeat resonating through the atmosphere.
I slowly unlocked the front door with one hand while I held the heavy pillowcase full of stolen goods with the other. All of my fingers were trembling and my breathing was erratic but I did my best to keep it together. I opened the front door just wide enough for me to squeeze my little body through the opening. Once outside I made a run for it towards Connor’s car. He made the engine roar to life and he came speeding towards me. The passenger door was open so I threw my pillowcase of stolen goods inside the moving vehicle and jumped in behind it. Most of the contents of my makeshift bag spilled onto the floor of the car but I cheered and I laughed as the two of us made it out of there.
“That was pretty brazen,” Connor’s voice was both filled with frustration and joy, “but it looks like you got away!”