Meet Leona, the women who's bite is worse than her bark.
| They keep telling me it isn’t natural for a woman to want to be in a gang, especially it being the beginning of the turn of the century. They say it isn’t natural for a woman to hold a shotgun either. I guess we’re all supposed to be prim and proper to the boys, all dolled up in those itchy looking things they call dresses, bowing to the men when spoken to, and having to clean up after them every time they put their dirty feet upon the table. I say the hell with all of the ones that think that. Look at Bonnie; she’s making it for herself. You don’t see her walking around town carrying groceries in her home. (Though you couldn’t be sure, Bonnie and Clyde were hiding out somewhere in town.) |
Unlike Bonnie though, I don’t go around in a dress. I’m smarter than that. I choose to wear what the big boys wear. A beautiful suit. Imagine, me, Leona, dressed in a black suit, slick black shoes to match, hair slicked back under a black hat, in what I would soon discover that the term of the hairstyle would be called “French braids.” That’s me; I always feel the need to show out when I show up, to prove to the men how these suits are really supposed to be worn.
A man dressed in a black suit like mine approached me. I recognized him as Willy Leason, a man who thought he was the gift to women, including me. I watched him as he shuffled towards me, his alligator shoes shining in the bright morning sun.
“So when you going to start your baby factory Leona?” he asked me, his one gold tooth gleaming as he smiled. I leaned back on my car. I knew this was going to come up. Just because I happen to be a woman, every man in town thought it funny to ask me that question. I wasn’t going to let it bother me though. I’d been asked enough of the question to where it seemed like he was just asking me about the weather.
Though I thought it was an inappropriate question to ask during a funeral service, I smiled at him anyhow.
“When one of you men can come up with enough equipment to get it started, then we can talk,”
I replied, staring directly into his brown eyes.
“I can arrange that,” Willy said, making a stabbing motion with his finger,
“I can make aannyyyy woman’s factory start right up. A creole woman like yourself and me put together could make some pretty babies. Your mama and pop would really have liked the idea of havin’ some grandchildren.”
Both my parents had been killed in a train wreck eight years ago. Both had supposedly died instantly. Every now and again, I’d remember them both. My mother had golden brown skin, her green eyes lit up as bright as a cat. My daddy was a fair-skinned man, with dark brown eyes and as much height to him, as his voice. He was full of authority when it came to running our home. Sometimes with that authority, came violence. His theory had always been hit first and asks questions later.
“Bitch, didn’t you hear me the first time? I told you that I wanted this house clean before I got home. That’s why no one wants you, you nasty ass whore.”
Then the slap would come, loud and echoing deeply throughout the hallways.
After they died, I can’t say I wasn’t at least a little relieved. One because my mother could finally find some sort of peace in knowing she wouldn’t ever be harmed by my father ever again and just the thought of him being dead in itself made me smile on the inside. I suppose he’s somewhere down in hell, stomping and cursing that it’s my mother’s fault he’s down there. That’s why I’m here now; carrying a shotgun and killing to keep myself from ending up like my mother. It’s a hard and sometimes emotional draining job having to see men, women, and even children crumple to the ground, having to see the life slowly drain from them as they slowly and, sometimes painfully died. I frowned as I tried clearing my mind. Willy was still smiling at me, waiting for an answer.
I looked Willy up and down critically.
“Willy,” I said, “you and every other man think so. That’s your whole problem; you guys are so hell bent on laying down with a woman, that you really don’t care what could possibly happen to you.”
Willy laughed, the booming sound carrying through the trees, scaring off a few birds close by.
“The only thing that could possibly happen to me is that I become a father for the eighth time, what’s the harm in that?”
I laughed at that statement, shaking my head slowly, sighing in disbelief.
“You’re no damn different than Bobby was when he was alive,” I said, as a laugh started to itch its way up out of my throat.
“He thought he could lay with any and every woman in town too, till one woman’s husband caught him in bed with her.” I laughed at that as I continued, “I heard he was popped with so many bullets that even after he was long gone, his body continued to shake.” I said as the image popped in my head, causing me to laugh harder. It was Willy’s turn to shake his head.
“You’re sick woman, just plain sick.” Willy said, stalking off in the direction of his drinking buddies.
I pushed myself off of my car with ease, looking in both directions as more cars started to arrive for Bobby’s funeral. They all drove slowly, as if going any faster than five miles an hour would be detrimental to their own health. I walked alongside the cars, hearing the crunch of gravel underneath my shoes. I walked over to where Bobby’s family sat in lined up chairs. I sat down in the back, folding my left leg over the other, staring out from under my hat at Bobby’s open gray casket.
Bobby wouldn’t have liked the color of that casket, it would have reminded him too much of dying. I guess it don’t matter anyway, he’s dead. Colors don’t matter to the dead. Nothing does.
Crying bubbled up from the front. I guessed it to be from his mother. The preacher then appeared, opened his bible and started reading from it.
“Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust,” he murmured, as he looked out onto the growing set of people that were coming in. I didn’t hear the rest of what the preacher was saying. I was too caught up in the fact of how many people had arrived. The thing of it was, it wasn’t like Bobby was a saint.
He had killed hundreds, maybe thousands of people, yet people were filing in by the droves, as if he had done a great service to the world.
Yeah, he’s done a great service alright. He died just like they wanted him to. I can bet even his mama is glad he’s gone. No more worries about where her son was.
As I stood up, the preacher’s eyes suddenly locked onto me, widening a bit as he took in what I was wearing. I could see the gears in his head start to spin as his thoughts came into place.
My goodness, a woman dressed in a man’s suit. If I weren’t looking at one right now, I wouldn’t have believed it.
From behind me, Frank Giovanni walked up beside me, seemingly unaware of the preacher’s reaction. Instead, he looked down at Bobby’s casket, as if he was trying to will his mind to get Bobby to sit up inside the casket. Bobby had a strange looking smile on his face, as if he held a secret that no one else knew about. I could just imagine what that secret was. It seemed to say, Hey guys, look at me. The motherfuckers didn’t kill me after all. See? I’m alright. In fact, look at how my bones can pop and crack at a moment’s notice.
“Hey, preacher man,” said Frank, trying yell over the wind that had suddenly started without warning, “can we have a moment alone?”
The preacher seemed to look at us with a bit of uncertainty. Even through the wind, I could hear Frank sigh.
I looked behind me, suddenly remembering other people were here to view Bobby also. I grabbed Frank’s shoulder, pulling him down to my height.
“Maybe we should view him when there are not so many people staring.”
Frank looked up over the crowd, his face creasing into a look of desperation. Deciding to ignore the crowd, he looked at the preacher, his hands shoved into the sides of his pockets.
“Look preacher man, we’re not going to steal the damn body, we just want a few minutes with our old buddy.” Finally, the preacher resigned, looking back every once in awhile to stare at me.
“That’s one weird fucker,” Frank said, adjusting his hat.
“I think he’s just skeptical about the people gathered . . . and oh yeah, and of a woman wearing a suit. He’s not used to it.” I grinned at him.
Frank grinned back. “I guess not.”
I looked down into Bobby’s casket, noticing the dents where the bullets had gotten to him. Two were in his head, and though he was dressed up, I could see where more had riddled his chest. His clothes seemed to fold up in an odd way.
“That man got him good didn’t he?” said Frank, reading my thoughts. I nodded.
I took one last look at Bobby, then turned, walking back the way I’d come, with Frank trailing right behind me. The crowd stood stock still, staring after us. I licked my lips, aware that most of them were fixed on Frank’s outburst. I bent my arm back, pulling Frank next to me. I pushed my hat a little closer over my eyes, staring down at the gravel.
“He’s dead Frank,” I said, “and whether you like it or not, he put himself in that situation. No one told him to go to bed with that woman, much less with another man’s wife.” I stared up at Frank, expecting some smart remark to follow, but none came. Instead, I noticed him looking up at the sky, as if he could picture some sort of animal in the clouds.
“That wasn’t the only reason why Bobby got shot Leona,” he replied, “he was a man trying to find solace in killing other people, to feel what it would be like to take control for the moment.”
Those words made me think about that for a second. Is that why I did it? To feel some sort of temporary high of a powerful gun in my hand, to see the fear in men and women’s eyes as I pointed it at them with little or no emotion in my own? I think I knew the real answer for that one, but I chose not to think about it too much.
“You ever get the feeling that you’re just here for no particular reason?” Frank asked me. I didn’t quite understand the question, but I nodded anyway, just to pretend I did, hoping that he wouldn’t decide to go into some religious speculation about death and what it really meant. He didn’t.
People passed us, quickening their steps to escape our presence. A man up ahead turned to look at me. Even from where I stood, I could see that his face was lined with wrinkles. In them, they displayed years of wisdom, but also lots of hardships. His eyes bore into mine, causing my heart to stop momentarily before he turned and began to walk up the road.
“Who was that?” I asked Frank, turning to look up at him.
“The guy that was staring at me.”
Frank gave me a quizzical look.
I pointed up the road, but no one was there. I looked down at the ground, expecting footprints to appear in front of me where the man had walked. Nothing but smooth gravel stared back at me. Pushing my hat up, my eyes scanned the area around us. People were still piling into their cars, some crying, some deadly serious as neighbors and friends helped them inside, but no old man.
“There was—,” I began, “Where did he go?”
Frank followed my gaze to the ground then back up to the road ahead.
“Leona, there isn’t anyone there. Are you feeling okay? You’re not getting some sort of heatstroke are you?” He stopped to look at me. “Look, if there was anyone, he probably climbed into one of the cars.”
I shook my head vigorously.
“Come on Frank, be sensible, you mean he could look at me, and then climb inside of a car in less than seven seconds? I don’t think so.”
Frank’s response was a simple “hmm”, as if it didn’t need further discussion.
“I guess no one really gave a shit about Bobby except his own mother, and I feel even she had a little bit of resentment towards him for the hell he put her through.” Frank said, changing the subject.
I noticed there was a bit of anger inside of Frank’s voice, as if he was trying to keep down some sort of invisible rage that was just above the surface. I was quiet, not that I didn’t have anything to say.
I knew what Frank meant though. Bobby had gotten into a lot of fights as a kid, and they had just evolved as he began using guns rather than his fists. I’m sure his mother was glad in some ways that he was no longer there to give her any grief.
“Give me ring when you get home okay?” Frank said, showing me his pearly whites.
I gave him a genuine smile.
“Only if you can make me a promise that I won’t hear anyone else on the other end.”
He laughed as he walked to his car.
Arriving home, I dropped into my chair. Reaching over, I turned the radio. Just as I was getting comfortable, the telephone rang, startling me fully awake. Jumping up from the chair, I lunged for the phone, as if the ringing would wake every tenant in the apartment complex.
“Leona? Its Frank.” I gave an exasperated sigh.
“Frank, I thought I was supposed to call you.” There was silence on the other end.
“Leona, one of the boys got into some trouble last night while we were at Bobby’s funeral. Seems like some out-of-towners decided to do more than ruff him up a bit. They hung him from a light pole on Creston Avenue.
Coldness swam through my entire body.
“Who was he?” I asked, gripping the phone tightly in my hands.
“Michael Davidson, the eighteen year old that came up here from Michigan.”
“Isn’t that Terry’s boy?” I asked, my voice rising with concern.
“Yup, that’s him.”
“How’d you want to go about taking care of it?”
“How else do we take care of our business?” Frank asked his voice as cold as ice.
I gripped the edge of the kitchen table, and sat down and slowly replied, “We go out like we always do, with guns drawn, suits flashing.”
Getting to Creston Avenue, had only taken a few minutes but the fear of finding Michael’s body was getting to me. Once we got to the correct street, the car skidded to a stop, forcing me and Charlie to topple forward. Banging the back of the seat with my fist as a warning to the driver, I slowly got out of the car. I peered down the street. From a distance I thought I saw something swinging from a light pole. Taking in a deep breath, I walked towards the object.
I heard the driver back up.
“Where are you going?” Charlie yelled out. “I think I spot Michael” I replied, never looking over my shoulder. Raising my arm, I lifted up the fedora and looked into the person’s eyes. Even under the faded yellow light, I could tell it was Michael. He had been tied with a thick rope around his waist. His hands were at his sides in a dejected way, as if fighting his attackers off had been too much. From what I could see, he was still pretty much intact except for his left eyeball.
It was missing. Fluid dripped down onto his clothes from where his eye had once been.
His cheeks were swollen; I guessed they had broken his jaw.
I stared into Michael’s one eye, wondering who would do such a thing to such a young kid.
I guess you were just at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Frank and Willy pulled Michael down, grunting heavily as they undid the ropes and lowered him to the ground. We all looked at each other, not sure what to do next. Then one by one, we walked back towards the car.
Frank, Willy, Charlie and I sat outside the hotel of “ The Garden ”, waiting for one of the men to show up. Frank informed us that he got a tip off that they’d be here.
Thoughts of Michael’s body appeared in and out of my mind.
The sound of a gun clicking off sounded next to me, causing me to slightly jump in my seat.
I looked over and saw Charlie give me a grin. With a grimace, I saw that half of his teeth were missing. Only a few hung on in the back; the ones that were still remaining in the front were rotted down to the gums. I looked back out the window. Another gun clicked.
In the dim light, I couldn’t see what kind it was, but from the sound of it, it sounded pretty damn big. After a few moments, something caught the corner of my eye. A brief light flashed as I turned to look across the street.
I saw a shadow stroll out of the hotel. A few seconds later, a small orange flame popped up, creating a small haze of smoke that floated up into the night air. I squinted, trying to see who had lit the cigarette. I turned around to look at the men.
“Is that one of them?” I asked, as I felt one of Charlie’s arms slide up my thigh. I pushed it away roughly, trying to avoid looking at him. Instead, I focused on looking at Frank.
“Is that one of the guys that killed Michael?” I asked again.
“Looks that way” said Willy, peering out the window. The man with the cigarette began walking down the street; I heard the door open on the other side of the car. By the time I was able to focus, I was left with nothing but a glimpse of his coattail as he climbed out of the car. I pressed my lips together as I saw Frank stroll casually across the street, not caring to look both ways for cars that might head his way. The sound of gunfire erupted, causing my body and the car itself to quiver slightly. Willy and Charlie jumped out of the car, their guns at their sides. I picked mine off the floorboard, feeling the weight of it in my hands. It suddenly felt very heavy tonight.
Pushing my hat down over my eyes, I opened the door and stepped out, both my shoes making a soft tapping sound as they landed on solid ground. I looked to my left and spotted Willy pressed up against one of the brick walls, his Walther PP held tightly against his chest as if it were some sort of ancient artifact.
I looked to my right and saw Charlie and Frank stepping inside of the hotel, their guns hidden behind their backs. I let out a breath of air and walked across the street towards Willy. As I got nearer to him, more gunfire bellowed from inside the hotel.
“Leona, let’s go!” he shouted, as he ran towards the building. Instead of following his orders, I looked down into the darkness of a nearby alley. Looking up, I saw a ladder leading up to the roof. Walking towards it, I gripped the ladder in one hand, while the Winchester 22 was held in the other. I started climbing up. Midway, I was finding it a bit difficult to continuously move up the ladder, at the same time keeping the gun from slipping out of my hands.
By the time I had reached the top, I was quite winded. After catching my breath, I walked to the edge of the building and leaned over. A shout came from below me. I guessed it to be Willy’s. Another shout followed, this one was a bit louder and more menacing, though the words were muffled. More shots ensued as the sound of glass shattering could clearly be heard, along with piercing screams that filled my eardrums.
With my heart thudding hard against my ribs, I ran to the roof’s door as I turned the knob slightly, hoping that someone had left it unlocked.
To my amazement, I found that they had. Deathly silence filled the stairwell as I tried to figure out exactly where I was. I sniffed the air. It smelled like old cigars and alcohol. As I descended down the steps slowly, I was careful not to trip. I tried to see into the oily blackness that greeted me, aiming my gun down into the abyss. As far as I could tell, all the lights had been shut off.
Or rather, shot out if I knew the boys as well as I thought I did. My breath became ragged gasps as my lungs tried to inhale air. It seemed like it had gotten harder to breath down here. My legs tensed up as I was nearing the end of the last step. Suddenly a shadow appeared, their gun drawn up at eye level with mine. My eyes widened as my finger held onto the trigger of my gun.
I squinted, trying to figure out who the man was as he ascended the steps.
“Dammit Leona, what are you doing up there?” came Frank’s deep voice.
I sighed in relief, lowering my gun.
“I thought I could help if at least one of us spread out.” I said hoarsely.
Frank grabbed my arm. “I could have blown your head off, you know that?”
I smiled at that. “You wouldn’t do that. You’ve got too big of a heart.”
A grunt was the only response I received.
Suddenly, Frank shoved me against the wall, pinning me to the wall.
“Now look, there’s more guys in here than I thought, probably hiding somewhere in this basement somewhere, so I can’t protect you if your ass decides to get smart on yourself and goes looking for trouble.”
I looked at him with half slits.
“Why do you think I was on the roof? I wasn’t up there to get a closer look at the stars.”
Frank sighed and put his hat back on his head which had somehow became crooked on his head. He stared at me as if for the first time.
“Leona,” he said ignoring my sarcastic comment, “if anything pops off, I want you to use your best judgment. If you see something strange, even if looks a little bit off, you start shooting like crazy, even if it brings out every bad guy that’s in this building, do you hear me?”
With one foot on the wall, I pushed myself off and looked up at Frank.
His eyes were emotionless.
“Fine Frank, and if that “strange” thing happens to be Willy or Charlie, I’ll just tell them that the reason why they got shot was because I was just testing my gun out.”
“I’m being serious here Leona,” he said flatly.
“Yeah? Well, so am I. Dead serious.”
With that said, I slid past him, pressing my back up against the opposite wall. I glanced over to where Frank had stood. He was walking in the opposite direction, his shoes sounding like a cannon going off against the quietness of the hotel.
After his steps had receded, I glanced inside the room. My eyes scanned the dark corners for any sudden movements. I clicked off my Winchester 22 gauge shotgun slowly, my hearing level going up as I took in the vastness of the room. It was as big as one of the rooms in my apartment.
Boxes littered the floors of the room. In one corner, photos of families lay in their frames, cracked beyond repair. In another, a single chair was turned upside down, one leg broken off at the tip. Suddenly, there came a sound of one of the boxes being pushed over.
I froze in the middle of the floor, raising my gun as sweat started to roll down my face, blurring my vision. I wiped it away with one hand as more sounds came from the far left corner. I shot off a bullet. The gun jerked violently in my hands as it exploded.
The bullet splintered the box nearby, the sound vibrating off the empty walls. I walked towards it, my gun still aimed carefully. I slid the box out of the way with my foot. I looked down in what was supposed to be an empty space but instead, slumped on the floor was an outline of a man.
As my eyes began to adjust to the darkness, I looked back at the box I had shot, and saw that the bullet had gone clean through, hitting the man square in the chest. His eyes had rolled back into his head; his mouth was open, frozen in surprise. His hand still clutched his gun. I pried it from his hands slowly; careful to part his fingers so as not to have it go off on accident. Sighing, I pocketed the gun into my jacket.
One down, who knows how many to go.
I looked up in time to see a faint outline of yet another gun being raised. My mind told me that whoever this was, they weren’t one of my boys. With a quick reflex, I raised mine. The sound of the gun going off vibrated loudly in my ears. This time, it struck the man between the eyes. He fell backward, his body making a dull thud as it hit the floor. Looking down at him, I contemplated whether I wanted to steal his gun—a nice derringer.
Ehh, what the hell, better safe than sorry right?
I snatched the guy’s weapon up just as I saw his fingers twitch slightly. I left the room, turning my head to where I had seen Frank walk. I tilted my head up at an angle, and saw there were stairs. Gripping the stair rail, I hurled myself over it, bounding up the steps. I heard the click before I saw the gun.
“Don’t you move or I’ll kill you right where you stand.”
Where the hell are all you guys coming from?
My eyes traveled slowly up to the man’s face. He was thick around the middle, adding to the odd fact that his face was incredibly thin. He had a scar running from his cheekbone, ending close to the edge of his mouth. As he smiled, it seemed to stretch farther, making his overall features seem grotesque.
I started up the steps, my hands touching the smooth surface of the staircase’s hand railing.
“Dammit, I said don’t move,” came the gruff voice. I stopped in my tracks.
For a moment I wondered if he knew I was a woman. With one eyebrow raised, I dropped my gun.
The man leaned over the banister, squinting hard at me.
He knows. I could have the words “I’m a man” tacked onto my forehead and he would still notice that something’s not quite right. He’s staring at me a little bit too long. Better do something quick before he decides to shoot.
His eyes widened as it slowly donned on him what I was. In a snap of a finger, I pulled out the derringer from my side pocket. With a smile, I said, “Yeah, that’s right, I’m a woman. But that still don’t mean I can’t fuck you up.” With that, the gun exploded in a ball of smoke.
The last thing he saw before plunging headfirst over the banister was me picking my gun up off the floor.
Getting to the top of the stairs, I saw there were lamps hanging off the walls, lighting up the narrow hallway. Taking in my surrounds, I tried to hear any sounds that might come from the adjoining rooms.
A barrage of bullets sounded below me. I could only hope that they were coming from Frank’s or Willy’s gun.
Continuing down the hallway, I momentarily ignored the blasts that rang out downstairs.
I opened a nearby door, only to find an empty room. The next two rooms were empty also except for a few pictures hanging on the wall and a barrel. Walking up to the barrel, I looked down inside. It was filled with explosives. Backing out of the room, I heard more gunfire explode, causing the floor beneath my feet to shake uncontrollably. Reaching the railing, I jumped over it and landed a few feet from the man’s body that I had shot.
With the Winchester raised, all I could see was thick heavy dust, so much of it that it seemed to envelope around me in a gray blanket.
“Frankie, are you there?” My voice came out barely audible against my own ears. Just then, I heard footsteps come slowly towards me. I couldn’t see anything so I approached the footsteps with caution.
“Frankie? If that’s you, say something.”
The footsteps came closer till I could have reached out and touched the person.
I clicked off my Winchester 22.
“Whoa, whoa girl, don’t shoot me now,” came the gruff unfamiliar voice, “I’m just as lost as you are.”
As the stranger stepped forward, I found myself staring up at a fairly tall man. He was at least a good five or six inches taller than I was.
“Didn’t anyone tell you to never sneak up on someone when guns are going off?” I said, as the dust gripped the inside of my throat. He looked down at my gun and smiled as if he was looking at a toy.
“You could start off by telling me who you are.” I said, not taking my eyes off of him.
The man laughed.
“Well, madam—,” he began.
I cut him off sharply. “Don’t call me madam, that’s not my name.”
“Sorry,” he apologized, “if you would kindly put that thing away, I’ll tell you all that you want to know.”
I was still skeptical. I didn’t know this man from Adam and yet he was speaking to me as if he and I were partners.
As the dust finally settled, there came the sound of a foot stepping on glass.
Another man walked forward. As he stepped closer, I could see that it was Charlie.
“Okay,” I said as I lowered my gun, “just what in hell is going on and where are the rest of the guys, and can you please tell me who this guy is?” I jabbed my gun in the stranger’s chest as I said the last two words.
“Don’t worry, he’s not a bad man,” said Charlie as he glanced over at the man.
“He’s a friend of mine. He was down in the lower part of the building.
He told me there are still men hanging about here, so I think its best we don’t stay.”
“You didn’t answer my first question, where is everyone?”
“Willy got shot in one of the back rooms, I haven’t found Frank yet.” I looked at Charlie in disbelief.
“Willy’s dead?” The question came out a squeak.
Charlie nodded slowly.
“We have to find Frank then, he might be hurt — or worse.”
Hurtling myself back over the staircase, I ran to each room, opening them slowly, hoping to spot Frank. After I had opened the last door and finding no one inside, I started to go back downstairs, when my foot caught onto something embedded in the floor. To not completely lose my balance, I stumbled into the door in front of me. Stabbing pain shot up my foot as I looked back at what caused my fall.
Looking closer, I saw that it was a latch to a trapdoor.
Charlie and the stranger followed.
“Looks like Leona found something” said Charlie, watching me as I crouched down. I felt the handle with my fingers. It felt solid enough. Laying my gun down on the floor, I braced my knees and back, pulling hard on the handle. It didn’t budge, not even an inch.
“Here, I got it,” said the stranger. “Nope, I got it,” I said, pulling with all my strength. After that feeble attempt, I placed my right hand flat on the floor, and the other on the handle, I tried once more. Finally, it creaked open. A foul odor floated up, causing my eyes to water.
“Well, well…looks like the lady got some muscles” the stranger said with a hint of laughter in his voice.
Coughing despite myself, I pushed the heavy door back all the way. Looking down into the cellar, the first thing I noticed was that there were stairs leading down. Grabbing my gun, I walked down slowly, my gun raised with the guys following close behind. Reaching the bottom step, I looked around, spotting several Coke bottles lined alongside the back wall. Various kinds of liquor lay on their sides, ranging from Brandy to Jack Daniels. Two poker tables sat in the middle of the floor, in which one still had chips stacked on them. Walking to one end of the corner, I spotted a box of explosives.
“Damn looks like someone was having one hell of a time down here” said the stranger walking over to one of the bottles and taking a long drink from it. I looked up at Charlie and shook my head as if to say, “Where the hell did you find this jerk at?”
Finding a switch on the wall close by, I flipped it on. The sound of gears turning ran somewhere inside the cellar. Trying to catch where the sound was coming from, I watched as the entire cellar changed. The back wall became a bar. Two spinning balls slid down from a hole in the ceiling.
Just then, slow music started to play, making it seem as if I was at some eerie homecoming for the dead. I looked just in time to see the poker tables’ flip over into pool tables; one was a bright green and the other a dark navy blue.
As the music continued to play I tried to get my mind to pull up who was singing.
Then it came to me.
Billy Dawson’s “Love Me More.” It was a song I seen my parents dance to a long time ago, before things had turned ugly between the two of them. I flipped the switch back off. The music . . . the bar . . . everything went back to the way it was. Getting back upstairs, I put the latch back in place, and walked out into the hallway.
“Okay, anybody want to tell me what exactly we’re looking for?” the stranger asked.
Willy ignored the question.
“Leona, you ready to get out of here? I don’t think Frank’s here. I’ve looked everywhere for him.”
Before we turned to leave, Charlie reached into his pocket and pulled something out.
Looking closer, I saw that it was a bomb. I pretended not to care.
“That’s it? Just one single bomb? What’s that going to do?”
Charlie gave an exasperated sigh. “If you had looked a little closer Lenny, you would have seen that there was whiskey in some barrels down the hallway. Those will ignite the others that are strewn around the place. It’ll be like a big domino effect.”
Charlie looked at me. “We have to do it Leona, you don’t want people knowing that we were here do you?”
“You’re going to blow this place up with the possibility that Frank might still be in here?”
Charlie stared at me as if he thought I was the stupidest person on earth.
“He’s not in there Leona, trust me. I’ve checked every place I could think of. He’s gone.”
I gave him a grim smile as I thought of Willy.
Going back downstairs, we heard voices. Glancing up at Charlie, he nodded slightly at Lenny.
Lenny then rushed past me, almost knocking me into the wall. Pretty soon the familiar sounds of gunfire were heard. “No I’m sorry man, I’m sorry – I . . .,” came the frightened voice. No sooner had I heard that, and then a single shot rang out, cutting the sentence off instantly.
“Are there anymore?” I asked, feeling stupid asking. As if on cue, what sounded like an army of heavy footsteps clamored near us.
“Oh shit . . .” mumbled Lenny. Charlie grabbed my hand and we ran back upstairs. As Lenny tried to hold them off, Charlie ran to one of the empty rooms, scanning it. I realized we were in the room I had just come from that held the barrel of explosives. Sprinting to the nearby window,
I grabbed it by its handle and lifted. Yet again, we had another stuck contraption.
“Oh the hell with it” I said as I took the end of my gun and smashed the glass. Turning around, I hung onto the edge of the building. Looking down, I saw that I wasn’t too far from the ground.
Letting go of the windowsill, I dropped. Looking up, I saw Charlie trying to squeeze his bulky frame through the narrow window. If this had been any other time, I would have burst out laughing at this. Finally he popped out and dropped next to me.
Charlie looked up at the building, as if he expected Lenny to suddenly appear in of one of the windows. Pulling on the pin, he threw it up into the adjacent room and grabbing my arm we fled.
“What about Lenny?”
“He can take care of himself” I looked at Charlie and said, “Willy always said he wanted to go out with a bang.” I said as we fled the scene.
“Well, it looks like he got his wish then.”
I looked over at the alarm clock beside my bed. Four o’clock in the morning and I still couldn’t sleep. Flashes of Willy’s face kept emerging in my mind. One image was of him alive, giving me his toothy grin, while the other was of him laying in a casket, his clothes still stained with blood; his face a dark gray, looking quite odd against the bronze box that he lay in. I flipped over onto my stomach, putting my head onto my overlapped arms. In my head, I saw the explosion as the hotel’s windows shattered. I saw bodies being burned, charring down the bone. I heard screams coming from somewhere within the walls of the hotel, both men and women. I shuddered.
I knew I would never be the same again after what had happened. Getting up from my bed, I walked over to my closet. Opening the door, I searched my many suits till I found what I wanted. Dropping the dress onto the bed, I took a shower.
After washing up, I stepped out of the bathtub. My feet slipped on the floor as I struggled to keep the towel wrapped around me. After getting myself together, I stepped out of the bathroom, stopping to stare at the dress that I had gotten out of the closet. Walking slowly upon it as if it were some sort of vicious animal ready to attack, I picked it up with my two index fingers, making an unpleasant face. Shaking my head, I threw it back into the closet. Without looking, I picked out a suit that was of close reach and laid it on the bed.
Drying off, I stared at myself in the mirror as I put the suit on, giving a tiny sigh of relief as I felt the familiar cotton hug my body. As I started to reach for my hat, a soft knock came at the door.
I turned to stare at the door; I frowned, knowing that neither Charlie nor Frank came around to my home late at night unless it was an emergency.
Maybe it is an emergency. Maybe they found Frankie hurt in a dark alley somewhere.
Walking up to the door, I looked out the peephole. I couldn’t see much except for a dark brown hat, the face was hidden. Another knock, this time, it was more persistent.
Remembering the gun from the previous night, I walked back in my room and pulled it out.
The knocking continued. Hiding the gun behind my back, I stared at the door, waiting for the person to come bursting inside the room. The knocking was getting louder. Whoever was on the other side was getting desperate.
“Who is it?” I asked, feeling the cold metal in my hands. The knocking stopped.
“Delivery,” replied the faceless man. I bit my bottom lip. I knew it was a setup.
“Man, do you think I’m stupid? The deliveryman doesn’t send packages out at no four in the morning, so keep on knocking; I’ll show you a delivery.”
Silence, then a bullet came sailing through the door. It hit the wall in back of me. Stunned, I looked at the door as another sound came. This time it was the pounding of shoes. With more confusion than fear, I realized that they were trying to kick in my door. Grabbing my Winchester from the bedroom, I waited. A shot went off. In what seemed like a split second, the door fell down with a hard thud as two men stepped in. Looking from one to another, I started backing up slowly.
With a low growl, the one on the left flung himself at me, knocking both guns out of my hands. Landing on the floor, I looked up into the eyes of a wild man. His eyes were full of rage; a vein bulged at the side of his head. The man grabbed me by the throat, cutting off my air.
His grip tightened. I grit my teeth as I continued to look into the man’s eyes. My hands searched frantically for my guns. A foot stepped hard on my wrist as my fingers started to wrap around what I thought to be my main weapon. I swallowed back the pain as I could distinctly hear the crack of bone. I looked to the side to see the other man smiling down evilly at me.
With my eyes trained on the one that had me in a choke hold, I lifted my leg straight up and kicked the man right in the privates. His face quickly contorted into agonizing pain as he let go of my throat. He fell over to the side, whimpering like a dog. Without hesitation, I flipped over, landing perfectly on my feet, grabbed one of the guns with a swipe of my right hand and fired.
The bullet missed, instead, hit the corner wall.
To Be Continued . . . .