Once again, my post is too large, so I'll have to break it up into two. I hate doing that, but I think I've wasted enough time trying to fix it, and if I don't get this chapter up in the next fifteen minutes, my husband will come home wanting my time and energy, and I'll be delayed another four hours!
Yesterday I went to a specific supermarket that sells these very high-protein, high-fibre wraps I like, but unfortunately the shelf where I usually find them was almost empty. This, unfortunately necessitated that I wait at the bakery counter for my turn to ask the girl behind it when more wraps were coming in.
Now, I don't normally stand in front of bakery counters. That's a really good way to blow a whole pile of money and calories, especially if a person is rather hungry on account of not yet having had her dinner. But, there was nothing for it but to wait, and while I was waiting, those damn pastries talked to me.
I ended up going home, sans wraps, but with a box that contained a vanilla slice, a piece of chocolate mousse layer cake that was totally encased in dark chocolate, and a cream puff with a dark chocolate shell on it. The whole time I was riding home, I was debating whether to have a private pig-out the minute I got home, or share my bounty with my father and husband. I knew I would have at least half an hour alone with my little pastry collection.
What would you have done?
FAKE First Year Together: Justice (June)
by Brit Columbia
Pairing : Dee Laytner and Ryo MacLean
Spoilers: set after book 7, so please don't read this story if you haven't finished the original manga and don't want to be spoiled.
Rating: WORKSAFE :(
Timing: This story is the sequel to FAKE First Year Together: A New Day (May), which I wrote to be set directly after Volume 7 finished. It's basically a continuation of the manga. We are in the month of June, and Dee and Ryo have been a couple for about four weeks, although they had their first big sexual encounter (Volume 7) at Dee's place about seven weeks ago.
Author's notes: Eddie's aunt Rosa is mentioned in chapter 24 of A New Day, and Bikky met her son Robbie in chapter 18 of A New Day, but it's not essential that you re-read those chapters unless you really want to. Bikky's friend Kenny is from Sanami Matoh's Fake Second Season. By the way, regarding Thomas' online chat conversation, *tid means 'started'. I continue to struggle with text dialogue. Please read and review.
Thank you to the_ladyfeather, tripple_p and shelley6441 for all their awesome eagle-eyed catching of my mistakes!
So Far In Justice:
Bikky received a letter from Eddie Calvetti that was mailed before he was murdered. In the letter, Eddie bequeathed his laptop to Bikky. The laptop is in Queens, in the care of some distant relatives of Eddie's that very few people know about. Unfortunately, Bikky's friend Dave blabbed to Thomas Abernathy about the boys' plans to retrieve the laptop, and Thomas subsequently told his father, the evil Lieutenant Mike Abernathy. Lt. Abernathy has reason to believe that Eddie left evidence on that laptop that could incriminate him, so he wants very badly to get his hands on it. Bikky has been on his guard against Abernathy ever since he was set up last Thursday with a bag of Doritos that actually contained heroin. He and his friends Jill and Penny were roughed up by the police in Chinatown, and Dee and Ryo, as well as Bikky, think Abernathy was behind it.
Meanwhile, Thomas still has a stalker in a wheelchair. Alan Radley has not heard from his music partner Rick Romero (AKA Ja Romeo) since Dee and Ryo broke up Steelshot's concert last Thursday night. Alan still believes that it was Detective Randy MacLean who beat him up, since that was how Abernathy identified himself when he did it.
This story began on Tuesday of last week. It is now Monday afternoon, six days into the story. It is mid-June of Dee and Ryo's First Year Together.
FAKE First Year Together: Justice (June)
Chapter 12: Breaking Even
Eddie's aunt unlocked the front door of the small church that stood next to their house, and Robbie, Bikky, Dave and Kenny all followed her into the gloomy interior. It smelled like a church, all right: vaguely musty, like dust and old wood and furniture polish. The church had some colored glass windows that looked nice in the late afternoon light, but Bikky had no desire to hang around admiring them. He was relieved when Mrs. Santelli started going down some stairs immediately to the right of the foyer. He had been afraid that she might want to stop and kneel and say some prayers. Crazy Bo was always doing shit like that, and it was annoying. When a super-religious person felt a prayer coming on, they just stopped and did it wherever they were, and expected everyone to wait for them. Or join in! Fortunately, Mrs. Santelli didn't seem like the passionately religious type, in spite of the fact that she was married to a preacher.
"The basement is this way, boys," she called up to them. "Follow me, please." She led them down a short corridor at the bottom of the stairs, and then opened a door into a storage area. It was nice and cool down here after a humid day spent riding around on trains. There were crates, bookshelves and old pews stacked everywhere. A big old fridge that looked like a relic from a long ago decade hummed away in a corner. At the far end of the room, there was a narrow bed with an old mattress on it. Bikky figured Eddie had probably slept there more than once. Next to it stood an antiquey-looking trunk made of painted wood.
"His belongings are all in there," Mrs. Santelli said. "I don't know what you're going to find. He was always quite secretive about it. I told him as long as it didn't stink, leak, breed or explode, it was fine with me."
"It's gi-normous!" exclaimed Dave. "How are we gonna get that thing back to the city?"
"We can't," said Bikky. "We'll have to leave it here and just take what's inside it."
"I'm afraid the trunk is locked," Mrs. Santelli said apologetically. "No one had a key but Eddie."
Bikky pulled a large, old-fashioned key out of his shirt. It hung around his neck, still on the same coarse string that Eddie had tied to it. "Eddie sent this with that letter I showed you," he said to Mrs. Santelli. "I bet it opens the trunk."
"I bet it does," she said. "Come on Robbie, let's find the boys some boxes."
"But I wanna see what's in the trunk!" Robbie whined. "Maybe it's full of treasure!"
Bikky laughed. "I doubt it, kid," he said. "I mean, come on. You knew Eddie, right?"
Robbie blushed, and his lower lip pouted mutinously when he glanced at his mother. "I still wanna see what's inside the treasure chest."
She sighed and said, "Oh all right. But don't bother the boys and ask them for things. Eddie's letter said very clearly that he wanted his belongings to benefit the methadone clinic. Remember, those people have so much less than we do."
"Okay, Mom." Robbie looked genuinely cowed, then brightened as he had a thought. "In a little while, I'll go and get my felt pens and art stuff and I'll write that on the boxes. 'To the methadone clinic, donated by Eddie Carlo Calvetti'. Hey Bikky, which clinic did he go to?"
Thomas logged on, hoping his friend would be online. He was.
Ab_brat, missed u.
Excited, Thomas typed his reply. greenOJ!! Mist u 2!!!
Ya. U?" Thomas responded.
Yeah. Hows school?
Nrly dun, typed Thomas. Start H. Milk Sept!!! Thomas was generally a good speller, but if he was texting or chatting, he preferred to abbreviate whenever possible, in the interests of speed. The fact that greenOJ wandered in and out of abbreviations probably meant that he was older. Thomas didn't really give a shit about that. A lot of his online friends were older. He had long ago learned to stop mentioning this fact to his father.
Cheers! came back the reply from greenOJ. Then, What about exams?
Got a few, Thomas replied. No bg deal.
You back home or still at St. J?
Hom last nt, Thomas typed back. Sux.
Mom stil gon No calls. Dad upset acting Cra Z!!
Mad at you?
Ya! duno Y.
Did he hit U?
Ya. * tid agn. Las nt
Need any help?
Thomas sighed softly when he read that last line. He'd been asked that before and he knew from experience that very few people ever really meant it, and if they did mean it, they had no power to change anything. Besides, this guy was probably way the hell over in Timbuktu or Canada, for all he knew. He had been chatting with him for a few months, but had never asked.
No thx its OK. wht u doin?
For a while they chatted about inconsequential things like TV shows, then greenOJ brought the subject back around to Thomas' problem with his dad.
Im in NYC. I want 2 help u. Can we meet?
Thomas hesitated. He had met up with people from chat rooms before, and it usually had ended up not being such a good idea. I dunno, he typed, and temporarily abandoned abbreviations so as to give himself more time. Let me think about it.
OK. Let me know if u change yr mind. Abuse is wrong. U don't deserve it.
Those last words, for some reason, made Thomas' chest hurt and his eyes burn. Karl used to say that, too. Maybe greenOJ and Karl were right, despite the fact that his father said the direct opposite. His fingers hovered uncertainly over the keyboard.
Ab_brat? you there?
ya, sry! Gotta go. Thomas paused again, then typed thx 4 caring.
ur welcome. Catch u later.
Thomas quickly logged off. He had to start his homework. Maintaining good grades was part of the deal he had made with his dad in order to be permitted to attend Harvey Milk High School in September. He got called a fag or worse every day at Saint Patrick's, and the chance to attend a school where everyone was gay or bi, where no one would call him names or want to beat him up for his sexual orientation, was enough to make him hit the books with more dedication than he had ever shown before.
"Man, Concrete," Dee said. "What a dive."
"You know the place?" Ryo looked at him over the top of his sunglasses.
"I knew it when it was Sugar Jam," Dee replied. "And I think I may have gone there once or twice when it was Chu Zoo, but that was a long time ago. This location has always had problems with drugs and underage kids."
"Do you think Rick is in there?" Ryo asked.
"Nah. According to Eliza, Alan was only carrying a sax. That means Rick hasn't called him, at least not for a practice. If so, he woulda brought his synthesizer. If they meet at all today, I'd be surprised."
"Maybe you're wrong. What if Rick's already in there?"
"Betcha not. Him, arrive first? I get the impression that guy's probably fashionably late for all his appointments."
Ryo looked at him sidelong, his eyebrows raised. "Well, I guess you would know."
"Hey! What the hell's that supposed to mean? It's not like I'm late for everything."
"No, just almost everything."
"Dude! Name the last important thing I was late for."
"How about work, four days a week?"
"I said important." Dee scowled as he rolled down the driver's side window and chucked out his cardboard coffee cup.
Ryo's attention was back on the nightclub. In the late afternoon, it had a sleepy, almost derelict look. "Is there another entrance?"
"Yeah, the front door. But you'll notice he didn't go in that way."
"Any side entrances or windows?"
"Nope," said Dee.
"You sound pretty sure about that."
"I am. I spent a certain amount of time here, undercover, before I made detective. I needed to know all possible means of entry and exit."
"So there's no way in through the pizza place on the ground floor? Or the bodega?"
"Not anymore. You're not wanting to sneak in there are you?"
Ryo shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe."
"Bad idea, dude. I think that would mess up my budding friendly relationship with Alan. I kinda pushed my luck with him last night. It's too soon to push it again."
Ryo nodded. "Okay then. We won't go in. But let's watch at least another half hour in case Rick shows up."
Alan followed Sonny down a narrow corridor made even narrower by about a hundred crates of empties stacked against one of the walls. He figured that was against fire regulations, but it wasn't his place to open his mouth about it. Four years ago, when he had been younger and dumber, he might have presumed to tell Sonny his business. But a lot had happened since then which had taught him the value of keeping his thoughts to himself. Besides, what the fuck. For all he knew, Sonny was planning to move the crates out before the club opened for business tonight.
Just before Sonny pushed open the heavy double doors to the nightclub, he turned his head and said, "You got a visitor, kid."
"Really? Rick's here before me?" Alan wasn't sure if that was good or bad. He hadn't heard from his partner, so he hadn't brought any of his equipment or the tracks they had already laid down for the songs they were working on. This meant they couldn't really practice much. On the other hand, he welcomed the chance to straighten things out with Rick just in case the guy was thinking that Alan might have been behind the police showing up at Teddy's last week. Yeah, right. It was a crazy-stupid thought that no one who truly knew Alan would ever have considered, but he was used to Rick's paranoid streak by now, and he had learned never to underestimate Rick's capacity for crazy-stupid thoughts.
"Nope, not Rick." The doors clanked shut behind them and Alan saw a large guy sitting in the shadows near the shooter bar. Holy shit was that– ? No, it couldn't be. Ibo was in the hospital hooked up to all kinds of machines. This had to be Tyrone.
"Hey, man." Tyrone's greeting sounded kind of sleepy, like he had already downed a few shooters. Tyrone was famous for not being able to hold his liquor. When he wanted to party, he usually stuck to blow and Red Bull. Obviously, he didn't want to party today.
"Ty. How's your dad?" Alan joined him at his table.
"Fucking almost bought it on Saturday." Tyrone shook his head and seemed to wake up a little. "Vik Hogan showed up at the hospital and tried to blow a hole in him. The mothafucking pigs on the door was what saved his life, not that cocksucka Salba, who was asleep in his fuckin' chair." Tyrone signaled Sonny for another drink, pointing at both Alan and himself.
"Jeeeesus." Alan tried to make himself look sympathetic, but in reality, his opinion was that the world would have been better off if this Hogan guy, whoever the hell he was, had succeeded in his mission to assassinate the leader of the Stone Blood Boys. Tyrone's old man had always scared the hell out of him. It was a fact that he wouldn't have a criminal record today if it hadn't been for that bastard forcing him to take the rap for one of Tyrone's screw-ups a few years back. He had known better than to say no. He understood at the time that he wasn't being offered a choice. The only good thing about that whole situation was that Ibo and his son owed him one, and they periodically acknowledged it. Someday, he might want to call in that marker, but not just yet. On the whole, Alan preferred to have as little to do with gang members as possible.
Tyrone shook his head again and downed the rest of his drink. Alan sat there, trying to think of safe conversational topics, while wondering why Tyrone had come to see him. He knew the Stone Bloods were in trouble. They'd lost most of their members in that warehouse explosion, and Ibo wasn't around to rally the survivors. He hoped Tyrone didn't need another favor, particularly of the illegal variety.
"Uh, so...how's your mom takin' this?" he finally asked.
"Ugh. Whadda you expect?" Tyrone picked up his empty glass like he wanted to hurl it across the room, but Sonny reappeared at that moment and tugged it gently out of his hand.
Alan shrugged in reply and struggled to remember which, exactly, of the harpies surrounding Ibo four years ago, might have been the mother of Tyrone. He came up blank on that, but remembered to look up and nod at Sonny as he placed a tall glass of sparkling amber liquid in front of him.
"Mmm, well, can't be an easy sitch for anyone, I figure," he murmured noncommittally, as Tyrone tossed back pretty damn near half the contents of his new glass.
"My mama, well you know her, she got mixed feelings. Swingin' back and forth like a God damned wrecking ball. One day she say he shoulda died, next day she demandin' more free protection fo' her business. She don't seem to get the reality of what he was doin' fo' her."
"Yeah, I think a lot of people would have mixed feelings, especially... well, women." Alan took a sip of his drink and mentally begged his grandmother to forgive him.
This had the desired effect. Tyrone snorted and slammed down his glass. "Yo, brotha, you nailed it. Women!"
"Nothin' but trouble," echoed Sonny from behind the bar. "But they sure can sweeten the sheets."
"You a wise man, Sonny!" called Tyrone, his teeth showing in a grin for the first time, flashing gold in two places. "Ain't he, Al?"
"Sonny knows women," agreed Alan, clinking his glass against Tyrone's. He noticed that the big man's eyes were sleepier than ever... What the hell was Sonny putting in those drinks? He eyed his own glass dubiously and then glanced surreptitiously in Sonny's direction. Almost as if the club owner had been waiting for it, he caught Alan's eye and nodded his head subtly. Okay, so Ty's sobriety, such as it was, didn't stand a chance of making it through the next half hour. If he was going to find out what the Stone Bloods wanted, he'd better get his jaw in gear.
As the train approached Lexington and 53rd, Bikky felt himself getting more and more tense. The closer they got to home, the more he wanted to relax, but he didn't dare. Nothing had happened so far today, and maybe nothing would happen, but he still half-expected some kind of trouble with Tom's dad or his lackeys. He wasn't sure how much pull the guy had when it came to calling up troops for jobs like this, but even if old man Abernathy could get five or six guys together on short notice, which Bikky doubted, he was gonna have a helluva time figuring out which station they were going to wash up at. He, Kenny and Dave had changed trains at least five times on the way home. Four, on the way out, not including that stupid, rattly bus, where the driver had given them shit about being too loud. If Abernathy had flunkies on standby, he'd have to split them up. Bikky figured he and his friends could certainly handle one guy, maybe even two, as long as all they had to do was run. He wanted to avoid a confrontation, if possible. That would get him packed off to Philadelphia before the dust even settled.
The crowded rush hour train slowed as it approached the platform, and Bikky felt people around him lean against him during the deceleration. He strained to see out the window as the platform swept into view. Shit! Was that a uniform he had just caught a glimpse of?
"Hey, Bik, see the transit cop?" Dave muttered close to his ear.
"Yeah. Grab Kenny and stay low. We're not getting off here now."
"Sure-- whoa! What the fuck, man?"
It took Bikky a moment to realize that Dave's voice was suddenly moving away from him.
"Bikky!" he heard him cry from somewhere up ahead. All the bodies around Bikky were so much taller than he was; he stood on his toes trying to spot Dave. About a dozen feet in front of him, he caught a glimpse of Dave's shoulder and part of the cardboard box his friend was carrying. A big guy in a nylon skull cap had him by the shoulder and was crowding him slowly towards the doors. Dave twisted his head around and stared back at Bikky, his eyes large with fear.
Bikky immediately started yelling. "Hey pervert, get your child-molester hands off my friend!" Unfortunately at that moment, his voice was swallowed up by the long drawn out squeal of the train's brakes as it stopped at the platform. Everyone leaned back the other way and Bikky almost lost his balance. The doors opened with a whoosh, and the passengers started pushing their way out. Bikky considered standing his ground and staying on the train. After all he was the one holding the most important cargo, the laptop, which was stowed in his book bag. But Dave looked about ready to piss himself, and Bikky knew he couldn't leave his friend to deal with that big, scary guy all alone. What was worse, he couldn't see Kenny anywhere. Maybe they had him, too. He let the tide of humanity carry him toward the door and out onto the platform. The moment his feet touched the concrete, he saw the uniform making straight for him. It was all happening too fast, and there didn't seem to be a damn thing he could do to stop it. He braced himself for whatever was coming.
"Bikky MacLean?" The officer reached out to take him by the arm. Bikky immediately tried to shake him off, his eyes darting toward Dave, who was still firmly in the grip of skull cap guy.
"Don't touch me!" Bikky snarled, and again flung his desperate gaze in Dave's direction. "McDormand! Don't just stand there, man!" He needed Dave to fight and struggle. If he could get the big guy to loosen his grip a little, they could both run. But Dave remained still, shaking in his shoes, his knuckles white where they gripped his cardboard box. He looked ill.
"I want you to come with me," the transit cop said to Bikky. This time, he didn't go for Bikky's arm; he took a forceful hold of the strap of Bikky's book bag where it crossed his chest instead. Bikky was just about to kick him in the nads when he felt a large hand land heavily on his shoulder from behind. Crap! Another one had sneaked up on him. They had him covered front and back. Out of the corner of his eye he saw something light brown, and realized that the new guy was carrying Kenny's box in the crook of his other arm. But where the hell was Kenny?
Tyrone's face lit up with eerie colors as Sonny switched on the neon lights above the bar, as well as two of the spotlights for the stage.
"Just wanted to give you a friendly warning, man," said Tyrone. "About Rick."
Alan felt the muscles of his shoulders tense up. "What about Rick?"
"Ja Romeo been chasing business on Dyre Street recently." Tyrone tossed back his latest shooter and set the glass down clumsily before reaching for his chaser.
For a moment, Alan didn't get it. Then it abruptly sank in. "The Devils? Rick?"
"Yep. You notice anything different about him?"
Alan didn't answer right away because his mind was busy processing this new information. Yeah, Rick had been different the last month or two. Skipping practices, high all the time, more gold chains, more swagger. "Maybe," he finally said. "He's been... cockier. Seems to have extra money. But he didn't say shit to me."
"Well, he ain't in yet, from what I hear. Devils ain't satisfied he got enough heart." Tyrone snorted contemptuously. "Guy's just a busta, and I don't mean rhyme. All talk and no fight. Wouldn't want him at my back. He came to us first, but we laughed him right outta the room."
"What? He asked to join the Stone Bloods?"
"Yeah. Didn't wanna go through the initiation, though. On account of bein' a musician." Tyrone grinned at Alan. "I understand you guys gotta look after your hands."
Alan looked at his own hands. "Yeah we do. Hands are where the money is. Listen Ty, are you sure about Rick?"
Tyrone drew himself up stiffly. "What, you think I show up here on my own fucking time just to fucking play head games wit you? You think I got nothin' better to do?" he demanded. "It common knowledge out there, bro. The whole street know. But you ain't street so much no mo', so I thought someone oughta clue you in."
"Sorry, man," Alan said hastily, raising both hands in a pacifying gesture. "I believe you. And I appreciate the word. I'm just, like, what the fuck, you know? Rick ain't said jack to me about any of this."
"Prolly waiting 'til he get his colors. If he get 'em."
"How's he gonna go through the initiation with the Devils?" Alan couldn't imagine Rick coming out of a ritual group beating without a broken bone or three.
Tyrone grunted. "Says he whacked a guy in Queens. Devils accept that over a beat-in sometimes."
Alan stared at him. "Rick? Rick killed someone? Who?"
"Aw, just some junkie. Some strung out kid. Bet the guy wasn't even armed. That about your dawg's style."
Thomas sat at his desk in his room, anxiously trying to study for his math test. He reckoned he must have read the same two paragraphs on the same page about six times in the last half hour, and it just wasn't sinking in. Part of the reason was that he couldn't find a comfortable position to sit in. When his father 'whipped the shit out of him', as Bikky put it, it made it hard for him to sit in a chair for a few days after. It also made skipping out of gym class an absolute must. Why didn't his dad think of these things? How could a person study? And what if his gym teacher saw the thin reddish-purple lines on his legs and butt? Did Dad think he could talk his way out of that? Thomas sighed, and shifted in his seat yet again. Another reason why he couldn't relax was that he suspected that Bikky was out there somewhere trying to get Eddie's laptop home from Queens, and that Dad was sending people to catch him or stop him somehow. Dad's cell phone had rung a while back, and he had heard him talking to someone in his 'giving orders' voice. He had definitely caught the word 'laptop'. He hoped nobody got hurt.
All kinds of mysterious things had been happening around here in the short time since he had come home yesterday afternoon. Dad suddenly wasn't letting him answer the landline, for example. He wouldn't even give a decent reason, just yelled about expecting business calls. That was pretty weird in itself. In all the years Thomas could remember, his dad had never once used the landline for 'business' calls. Thomas sighed and closed his math book. What if Mom called? She would use the landline. What if she called because she wanted to speak to him, and not Dad? She might want to. At least he thought so. She had disappeared so suddenly and so completely, and she hadn't said good-bye or given any kind of explanation. At least not to him. Whatever problems were happening between his parents, Thomas couldn't believe that it really had anything to do with him, regardless of his dad's hurtful words to the contrary. A part of him was waiting for her call.
Then there was the strange visitor who had knocked on the door late last night. Thomas had come out of his room and asked what was going on. He ordinarily wouldn't have, except that he heard his name, so he had a reason to believe it might concern him. Naturally, Dad had bellowed at him to get back in his room. Not long after that, the apartment door slammed loud enough to shake the walls. Thomas had no idea who that could have been. Not one of his friends, certainly, since he didn't have that many, and practically none of them would have dared to argue with his dad the way he knew that person was arguing. Besides, it had been a man's voice, low and insistent. That was all he knew, because Dad, naturally, had told him the person was nobody he need concern himself with.
Well, he sure wasn't going to challenge Dad about it, not now when the asshole was so on edge. He didn't want to see that dreaded extendable radio antenna coming out of Dad's pocket again so soon. The sight of it always made his mouth go dry and his bowels loosen. It hurt so much, so fucking much. No matter how many times he told himself he was going to keep his dignity this time, he wasn't going to cry... he always did. Usually on the very first shocking, agonizing blow. And somehow the neighbors never heard him. No matter how many times he screamed for help, no one ever came to save him. This was his life, as he had once said to Bikky's kind dad, Ryo, outside the Karate dojo. This was his life, and it sucked lemons.
Which didn't change the fact that there was still a math test tomorrow. Reluctantly, he picked up the textbook again, and tried to resume studying.
The transit cop's eyes lifted well above Bikky's, obviously addressing the henchman behind him. "Where's the third kid?"
"Brat shoved the box at me and got away in the crowd," the guy answered in a low, rumbling, down-south accent. His voice came from a disconcertingly high point above Bikky's head.
"Whatever. As long as we got the box." The transit cop's voice sounded dismissive. "Come on, let's search this shit. Bring 'em."
The train took off noisily as he turned away, gesturing casually for his two big helpers to fetch the kids along behind him. Bikky stared balefully at the uniformed back of the cop as the guy led the way to a corner of the platform. You're gonna regret turning your back on me, dickhead, he thought, but the pounding of his heart told him that what he was feeling just might be empty bravado. Carol had taught him that expression when they had been talking about Aaron Brody, but he wasn't sure if it applied here. He could recall a number of times when his dad, his first dad that is, had pulled the old 'empty bravado' thing in a tight situation, and damn if it hadn't worked for him. Sometimes you really could bluff people. If there was one useful thing that Dick Goldman had taught him, it was how to play a mean game of poker. Since then, Bikky had observed that it was actually pretty freaky how often and how closely the events of his life seemed to turn out like poker hands he had played.
Jill let herself into her aunt's place with her secret key. She figured she would get caught one of these days, but it wouldn't be today. She knew Rianne was at work because she had taken the precaution of calling her there and then hanging up when she heard her voice. As long as she didn't move anything around, or take too much of any dope or cigarettes she found, she was sure her aunt would never figure out that she had been here. Locking the door behind her, she headed straight into the bedroom and pulled out the beige sunglasses case from the bottom drawer of the dresser. It contained marijuana and rolling papers. There were five joints already rolled, but Jill knew better than to take one of those. She quickly rolled her own, one normal sized one and one extra slim one, and stashed them in her cigarette box. Then she carefully put the sunglasses case back exactly the way it had been, and strolled into the bathroom to see if her aunt had acquired any new make-up recently.
She was just unscrewing the cap off a tube of Estee Lauder eyeliner, when she heard the unmistakable sound of a key in the lock. Voices, too. Men's voices. Oh, shit! Did her aunt have a boyfriend again, one with a key? Jill knew she had to hide, and fast.
She peeked out of the bathroom. Could she get across the hall to the bedroom? To the closet? She sure couldn't stay in the bathroom in case one of the men wanted to use it. Hopefully they wouldn't stay long. She did NOT want to spend the next few hours of her life hiding in Rianne's bedroom closet. But if she went out there and announced herself, her secret would no longer be a secret and she would lose her steady supply of free dope and other things. She listened carefully.
"Mike, look! She got Swiss cheese and pickles. You think it okay if I make a sandwich?"
"Andre, you can pick up a sub on your way to the Bronx. Leave the woman's fridge alone. We're just here for the paintings."
"Why I gotta take 'em to the Bronx? I don't like dat place. Gerry's boys--"
"That's where your customer is, man. And you're not gettin' a commission this time for losing my money last time."
"But Randy, he say--"
"Don't speak to me about that sneaking, thieving, travesty of a man! You'll not be talkin' to him again, if you know what's good for you."
"Okay, sheesh, okay! Hey, you mind if I take a piss before we go? I drink a lotta coffee today."
"Sure, but hurry up. And make sure you don't make a mess! That's a lady's personal bathroom you're using, not a urinal at the station."
Jill froze, thinking Oh my fucking God, he's coming in here! There was no way she could get to the bedroom closet now. Instinctively, she hopped into the shower stall and quietly pulled the curtain over. Maybe the man wouldn't look behind the curtain, although he seemed like the curious type. He hadn't hesitated to look in the fridge.
He came in, muttering to himself. "A lady's bathroom, huh! What you think, buddy, I never been inside a lady's bathroom before? Lotsa times, buddy, lotsa times."
There were only a few feet separating them, and the smell of him almost made Jill gag. Jesus, he smelled like a homeless person! Did this individual never take a shower? There was no way this could be Rianne's boyfriend. It must be the other guy, the one with the Irish accent. His voice sounded familiar, but she couldn't think straight right now.
"Huh," the homeless guy continued. "I guess I gotta lift the seat. I gotta aim pretty careful, too. Jeez, I guess I gotta wash my hands after. Wow. Lady's bathroom. Sheesh. Pretty fancy!"
Jill heard him unzip and relieve himself. It sounded like a gallon of pee was coming out of him. It stank, too. The smell of his piss seemed to fill the small, closed room and mixed disgustingly with the smell of his unwashed body. She didn't think she would ever be able to use her aunt's bathroom again, unless someone disinfected it first with a whole bottle of Lysol. Maybe two bottles.
Finally the long stream stopped splashing into the toilet quite so steadily. There was a short silence, then a few more drops fell, then a few more. Hurry up, God, hurry up! Jill thought silently. She heard him zip up and then step to the sink. There, he ran water and muttered and exclaimed about the soap. Jill noted that he hadn't flushed the toilet. She held her breath, waiting for him to finish up and leave.
She hoped he wouldn't touch the towels. She wished she could tell her aunt that a gross, dirty guy had been in her bathroom touching everything.
It was just when the water switched off that she suddenly remembered why that Irish guy's voice sounded familiar. A little gasp escaped her and as she quickly moved her hand up to cover her mouth, the strap of her purse chose that moment to jump off her shoulder and catch on her elbow. The purse struck the edge of the tub with a small thud.
"What the-- ?" came homeless guy's voice, and she knew he was on to her. Her eyes closed and her heart sank.
The transit cop and his two plainclothes helpers escorted Bikky and Dave to the twin escalators at the end of the platform. Both of them seemed to be going up. There was an ordinary set of concrete stairs to the left, just in case anyone felt like getting some real exercise. Bikky figured that he and Dave were being taken up to some quiet, empty office where a thorough search could be conducted in comfort and no one could hear them scream. There were obviously way too many witnesses down here on the platform. These guys wanted to avoid a repeat of Chinatown last Thursday, what with its eight zillion cell-phone armed bystanders who ensured that the whole sorry event made the six o'clock news. If only he could get away briefly, and stash the laptop somewhere, then he could come back to shake that dork McDormand out of his zombified state. Dammit, he wouldn't have ended up stuck like this if Dave hadn't let himself get nabbed, and then had gone and made things even worse by freezing like Frosty the fucking snowman. Maybe there would be a chance to run for it when they got up to street level. Unless even more cops were waiting for them. The very thought made him feel like barfing.
The cop went up first with Dave behind him, still dully carrying the box he had left Eddie's Aunt Rosa's place with. Skull cap guy went after Dave, then Bikky, and lastly, the biggest guy, who was still carrying Kenny's box. Bikky turned around on the escalator and looked at his rear guard. Even though he was a couple of steps higher, he still had to tilt his head back and look way up in order to meet the guy's cold and alert eyes. This guy was a lot more built than skull cap. He had a weird drooping mustache and major ink all over both bare, muscular arms. No way was this guy a cop, Bikky thought to himself. He initially had some vague idea of shoving his captor backwards down the up escalator, but changed his mind when he saw the people innocently standing behind them. If mustache dude landed on top of any of them, they'd be squished flat as pancakes.
"I'm watching you, kid. Just try me," said mustache, as though he had been able to read Bikky's thoughts.
"No thanks, man. I like girls. You're not my type."
"Oh we have a smartass, do w--"
He was interrupted by the sounds of hollering and cursing that seemed to be coming from a place higher up on the escalator.
Bikky turned back around to look, and that was when he saw Kenny slithering and sliding down the steep central divider between the two escalators, seemingly out of control. "I can't stop! Look out! Watch your hands!" he was shouting, as the people on the escalators jerked their hands off the handrail and protested in surprise and anger.
"Hey watch it!"
"Somebody catch him before he gets hurt!"
"Stop the escalator!"
Kenny kicked at the transit cop's hands and chest when he attempted to seize him. Then he snatched up Dave's box as he slid by, and hurled it violently onto the adjacent escalator. It promptly split open and its contents scattered over the surface of the moving stair. Some items rolled and bounced in a downward direction, the rest were carried on up. Various concerned people bent to retrieve things.
Skull cap grabbed at Kenny and briefly got hold of him, but lost his balance and staggered down a couple of steps to fall against Bikky. Dave tried to pull him back off Bikky, but wasn't strong enough. Fifty-Third and Lexington was the site of a whole lot of yelling and screaming.
Mustache reached out with one brawny arm and also got a grip on Kenny. His other arm was still occupied with holding the second box.
"Go man, go!" yelled Kenny, unnecessarily, as far as Bikky was concerned. He knew a diversion when he saw one. Unfortunately, there was a honking big bastard sort of half on top of him, and it didn't look like he was going anywhere until he was no longer being squished. He applied the heel of his free hand sharply to skull cap's nose, which caused a simultaneous roar and recoil, as skull cap relinquished all claim to Kenny. The recoil was enough to allow Bikky to wiggle out from under the guy and vault over the other handrail that divided the central escalator from the concrete steps. He flew down them four at a time, his book bag with its precious cargo still over his shoulder. If he could just make it to the platform, he knew he could run flat out, maybe even jump on a train, if he got lucky.
But a couple of steps from the bottom, he realized he wasn't going to make it. Someone was on his tail, heavy feet pounding right behind him. He knew he wouldn't even get past the pre-escalator railing. Like a cat he sprang back over the divider, making for the central escalator, hoping to buy a few extra seconds of time. Unfortunately, he had barely cleared it before a terrific jolt went through him, causing him to crash painfully against the banister. The asshole behind him had grabbed at the strap of his book bag! Bikky squirmed around, braced himself, and wrenched on it with all his might. Skull cap, looking all bloody-nosed and mad as hell, yanked back. The book bag quivered tautly in the air between them for a few moments until, with a tremendous ripping sound, the stitching on the strap failed– on Bikky's side. The book bag hurtled toward skull cap and the top popped open when it struck him in the chest. Textbooks, notebooks, pencils, pens and loose notepaper exploded everywhere.
Almost as though it were happening in slow motion, Bikky watched the laptop spinning through the air. Shit! That was the evidence he had most wanted to present to Ryo, and now it was about to get smashed to smithereens when it struck the hard concrete floor!
Except it didn't. At the last possible second, a dude in a wheelchair rolled out from between the end of the white tiled wall and the track railing and caught the damn thing in mid-air, about two feet from the floor. Bikky's mouth opened to holler something, but ended up yelling in pain instead as someone grabbed him by the neck and jerked him up off his feet.
"Filthy little punk, you wanna get rough, huh? You wanna get rough? I'm gonna take you apart, boy. Gonna make you cry for your mama."
Bikky couldn't see which of the guys had him, but it didn't sound like mustache, so it had to be skull cap guy. He twisted and struggled in the man's grip, yelling "Help! help!"
Somewhere up above him, Dave and Kenny took up the cry. "Help! Help! We didn't do anything wrong! Help!" One of them started blubbering loudly, most likely Dave.
Another train squealed into the station and drowned out their cries. A fresh batch of people exited the train and headed for the escalators, only to stop in confusion at the sight of the disorder. For the first time, Bikky realized that the escalators had stopped moving. Eddie's shit was everywhere, and what a weird collection it was. There were cell phones, chargers, fine china (some of it now busted), tea towels, packages of biscuits, shoes in different sizes and small household appliances strewn all over the escalators. A woman stood hesitantly nearby, holding a silk scarf in one hand and several comic books in the other. The shocked expression on her face must have caused skull cap to rein in his temper a little, because the almost asphyxiating tightness around Bikky's neck eased up, and then he felt his feet touch the escalator stairs once more.
He figured Mr. Transit Cop and his two definitely-not-cop buddies were going to confiscate all of Eddie's stuff, despite Robbie's helpful labeling of the boxes as destined for the methadone clinic. But what about the laptop? Where was the guy in the wheelchair? Bikky couldn't see him anywhere. How would he find him again in these crowds? He swore softly. Never mind the crowds– how would he find him again with skull cap guy's hand attached to his neck? Dammit, what a mess he was in. He sure hoped he could somehow get himself out of it without Ryo ever finding out that he'd briefly had Eddie's laptop in his possession... before losing it to the bad guys.
End of part one. Please go to part two! It's in the post immediately following this one.