Chapter 29: A Last Attempt
The cashier looked up from the Playboy magazine he was reading and watched Rock and Alesha go between the aisles. Usually, with their dirty clothing, he should have perked up, pulled his legs down from the counter, and groped for his pistol in the cash drawer, but the beautiful appearance of the two only told that Rock and Alesha was a rich couple roughed up on the street by typical crackheads who needed a sniff or two. Relieved of his first concern over customers, he shifted his attention on Alesha. He wished one of these days that the girl got broke, became desperate, and be forced to pose for Playboy for a few bucks. He would definitely treasure a copy. He glared at Rock, but he could only sigh. Soft Asian features, hard chest, a flat stomach, and a straight back good enough for modeling. Their children would surely be cherubic.
As Alesha inspected cartons of oatmeal, the light reflected off of something in her hair. Rock caught the glint and suspicion gripped him. He had been curious how Clintflaire had known that they would be using the back door. Now he knew. Whether Alesha was aware or not, he would find out later. Right now, he got a bad feeling about it. He went to the vice section and picked out three packs of Rhino. Rock went to the cashier and paid for it with his credit card.
"Take your time. I'll be waiting outside. My card's with the cashier," he said. "There is a no smoking sign at the door."
"Okay," Alesha said.
Rock became wary of the surrounding. It was too late now. If he had pulled out the device in Alesha's hair and Alesha was with the enemy, it would just create problems. He lit a cigarette and blew some smoke, his eyes shooting at every direction. The place was quiet for a while until he heard the groans of engines.
"Shit," he muttered. He entered in with the cigarette still in his mouth.
The cashier saw this. "Sir, please no smoking inside." Rock glared at him and he fell off his chair. "Jesus Christ." He looked down to look for his pistol, but it was a bad decision. Rock was instantly in front of him.
"Any weapons you can lend me?"
The cashier yelped and tossed the 9MM he had been keeping inside the drawer.
"And please turn off the lights."
"Rock, what is happening?" Alesha approached with two boxes of milk and seven chocolate bars in her arms. When Rock looked at her, she made an involuntary step back.
"We got company."
"Turn off the lights, please," he told the cashier again. The cashier rushed for the switch and pulled the breaker down. Darkness engulfed the convenient store. "Now, listen to me, wait at the back or anywhere where you can be safe. I'll pay for the damage that's gonna happen to your store."
"What are you talking about, sir?"
"Did you see someone from the brotherhood?" Alesha asked. "We should have brought our guns. Shit, they sure are annoying. I thought that Clintflaire would leave us alone."
"Here," Rock said, giving the 9MM to Alesha. "I have my daggers." That said, Rock crouched down and pulled the daggers out from the sheaths on his legs. "I think the doctor is just repaying the brotherhood some of his debts."
"What? What are you saying?"
Rock smiled and messed her hair. "I'm relieved you don't know anything about it."
Alesha drew back. "I don't understand you."
"You stay here. I'll handle this."
Alesha wanted to say that she would go with him, but this was a rare chance for her to see for herself how strong Rock was. "Okay." She was red with excitement and thankful that there was no light to show it.
Rock stood up and walked to the door. He lit another cigarette. As one of the cars pulled up a few meters from the store, the moon peeked behind the clouds and illuminated his face. Goosebumps grew on Alesha's skin when she saw the infamous countenance of Cold Knife: a face devoid of life, a mask of death, more terrible than the grinning devil.
Other lights in the neighborhood were switched off, too. Yeah. People in Miriam Ville could sniff trouble.
Stewart Johnson, a short black man, hauled his big butt out of his Jaguar. Twenty five men from five other cars were already out in the cold. All of them, including him, had submachine guns with ammos in plates, supply of bullets enough to last a minute of nonstop shooting. He was the boss of the Clair Branch. Now, he was just an ordinary street gangster, stripped of the gold and glamour he had once possessed. There was only one thing in his mind: destroy the intruders.
"If you want to go back, kill them," Clintflaire had instructed him. "If you can't, or won't, I'll kill you myself. This is business. Don't think badly of me."
"Fucking bastard," Johnson muttered. He looked at the convenience store in front of him. There was no light. "Hey, Ed, are you sure the signal is coming from there?"
"Yeah. It's not moving," Edward said.
"Damn. The bitch might have noticed the bug."
"Boss, look. There is someone over there. Let's go ask."
Johnson looked up and saw the silhouette of a man. The man was smoking a cigarette. In the thickening mist, breath and smoke looked the same.
Ed started for the man. "I'll go."
"Switch your radio on."
"Okay." And he went on. "Hey, mind if I…?" Ed wiggled a stick of cigarette in front of Rock.
Johnson heard Ed's hideous scream both from his earpiece and from where he had gone. He grew nervous. "Hello? Ed? Ed? Hello! Shit!"
Static from Johnson's radio. "Hello?" The voice was cold, but ripples of enjoyment could be discerned if the ears were careful, only it was so subtle that Johnson missed it.
"What did you do to Ed, you motherfucker?"
"Same as what I'll do to you."
"Fucking bastard! Shoot! Shoot!" Johnson made the first squeeze on his gun, and bullets rained at the convenient store. His men, out of surprise, did what their boss was doing. The glass erupted into shards. The wall and the pavement were as if pecked by hundreds of miniature meteorites.
Alesha ran behind the farthest corner of the room, excited by the prospect of being shot at and escaping the bullets like a hero in a graphic novel. Only that it was possible in her situation. The shelves were made of steel and long. She would only be hit by a lucky bullet or its ricochet. While she was enjoying it, the cashier had already pissed his pants and was crying silly inside the mops' closet.
The shooting stopped. Johnson was sure that anyone fooling around the convenient store would be dead by now. He signaled his men to approach.
The screams came one by one like notes off a piano hit by quivering fingers. Johnson involuntarily stopped. "Guys?" The screams went on. The fog and the darkness cooperated with each other to hide what was happening, visually. Johnson didn't notice it, but he had been stepping back and now the cold metal skin of his car was nudging his big butt. Before going inside, he squeezed the trigger and sprayed around rounds, hoping for a lucky hit. He was unaware of it, but he did the opposite of what he had intended to do. He killed his own man. He closed the passenger door of his car. "Frank, let's get out of here."
It wasn't Frank and as he was turning around to look, a knife impaled his hand and stuck it on the dashboard. Johnson screamed and it was the scream of someone who had known pain for the first time. The submachine gun clattered on the floor.
"How does it feel? A lot of girls have told me that they'd rather be stabbed by a knife than to repeat the pain of losing their virginity. Well?"
"W-what do you want? Do you want money? Oh, I know. I have a private collection of beautiful whores in my house. They're first class. I know that every man has his fantasy of fucking a pretty young girl. I got a ten-year old if you like. Oh, I know. My daughter is pretty, she's fourteen. Just let me live, please, I'll give them to you, and I'll never bother you again."
"What's your address?"
Johnson felt some kind of relief on hearing that, and he happily told his assailant his address. "Yes, they are good children. They will obey your every command. You will not regret this."
"I'm a pretty cautious guy when it comes to these things so I want to close the deal someplace I know."
"I'll do everything for my life."
His assailant brought Johnson on top of the highest building in Miriam Ville. Johnson shivered when the wind blew past him.
"What are we doing here?" Johnson asked.
"Closing our deal."
A knife clattered at Johnson's feet. "What is this?"
"In exchange for your life, I want you to cut your genitals and eat them."
Johnson was horrified. "What? Are you crazy?"
"The blade is at your feet. Feel free."
What the man was asking him was just the craziest request he had ever heard in his life. Cut his genitals and eat them? Not only was that the greatest humiliation a man could experience, it was also the most painful wound a man would have to endure. Johnson picked the knife up with a trembling hand. "Why are you doing this?"
"You're asking me why? It's not even enough as vengeance for what you did to those innocent children. I don't understand. Why does God permit people like you to live? Why does it have to be a demon doing the clean-up?" Rock approached and circled Johnson. "Why do people like you act as if you are God Himself, capable of doing anything?"
Desperate now and too afraid to make a move, Johnson laughed. "What's wrong with enjoying your life? What is a little greed for flesh? I gave those children food, shelter, everything they needed. I've not been a good man, I can admit to that. I needed compensation, and what compensation was more suitable than something I would enjoy." He laughed again and its sound was hideous. "This world is give and take. That is a universal law to us humans. As long as you're not the only one living on earth, you need to abide that law. It's always give and take. I did no wrong—" He shrieked as pain seared through his body. Rock had just stabbed his back.
"I promise not to be a professional this time. I was trained to suppress emotion, but now I can't suppress the anger I feel. You will have a slow and painful death."
Johnson screamed as Rock cut his hand off.
Johnson suddenly sprawled on the cold floor, a bullet hole on his forehead. Then the phone in his pocket rang.
Rock picked it up. "Hello?"
"I'll take care of it, Cold Knife."
"Well, they won't listen to me. Serves them right. Take a rest and thank you."
"I want to ask you if you used Alesha to track us down."
"She is now officially denounced as a member of the brotherhood. She didn't know anything about the bug. Take care, now." The line was cut.
Rock stared at the cellphone for a long time before crushing it and walking back to the convenient store. He stopped by a payphone on his way back and told the police the address of Stewart Johnson and the details about his violation.
Back at Granny's house, Roberta was talking to someone on the phone. "Yes. He's with me. I'll call back after two days, enough for us to recuperate…I'm sorry. I'll call back after two days, goodbye."
To be continued…