II Third Party; Fire and Theft

New client thought Monica, hopping off the train and descending down the stairs and entering the suburbs; business must be booming. Having searched the address Ricardo had given her at the local internet café, she produced the bit of paper with the hastily drawn map on and began following it.

The streets of Aldeney seemed greyer than the city she thought, weaving in between tramps and civilians as she ploughed her way across the battlefield. Monica was always at war, whether it was with the streets of the leafy suburbs or the rich upper class that ignored her, she hated the sort of people that left girls like her behind to battle it out on the streets.

Her eyes clapped on one house in particular as she made her way through the twisting streets. The white picket fence brought about butterflies and she remembered the small tree in the front yard as the one that she'd ran around when she was little, her younger brother often trying to catch her as her father egged her on, urging always to go harder, go faster. Now she boosted car to put food in her stomach, she certainly went as hard and as fast as she could. A couple of the guys in Dukes could testify to that too, but she didn't do those sorts of things anymore, certainly now she was without influence.

Her makeshift map led her past more of these small family homes before she noticed the houses getting bigger. Tracks started leading cars towards electric gates and she spied more than one white gravel driveway. Gates and gravel made stealing cars a whole different ball game. This wasn't just grand theft auto, this was breaking and entering.

Her map dropped off as she reached a longer track cut into a stone wall. The light was dimming which was nice she thought, but she could see a guy clearly standing by the electric gates, a black car sitting on the drive, headlights on. Tonight wasn't the night after all she said, her fears soon confirmed as the scream of engines blasted from down the road. Ducking away from the entranceway and behind some bushes, she noted the convoy of cars and off-roaders slowed up and proceeded down the track. She could see some suited men and more than one semi-automatic.

"I am so out my depth," she whispered.

The bark of a dog soon confirmed that.

X

The wind tore through Monica's hair as she sprinted back down the road to the shouts of the men. More than one engine had ignited and she knew the only escape was to keep running – there was no hiding in this city.

Her light frame spun around a corner as she tried to zig-zag her way back to the train station. Might give her more time she thought, not risking a look back. Headlights in the gloom up ahead didn't look good, and she could hear the shouting getting closer. Before she knew it, at the top of the pavement she was running up, a group of men were coming for her the other way.

"Shit!" she shouted, stopping.

She risked it – she looked back. Two sets of headlights, and a man with a big dog. She was trapped. Breathing heavily, she clapped her hands on her knees and leaned over, choosing to draw breath rather than run any more. There wasn't any point she told herself and, seeing their target immobile, the men chasing slowed down, pulling themselves to a fast walk.

A hand smacked down on Monica's shoulder from behind and she fell to her knees, the rancid smell of the dog's breath ever so close to her checks. The great beast's sharp fangs were only a hair's length away, and she didn't dare move, save for her rapid intake of air.

"Well well," started one of the men, "Street rat."

"Yeah, and not your typical type! What happened missy, wrong turn?"

"Yeah," replied Monica, "Wrong turn."

"Then why did you run? And why would Gonzo here raise the alarm?" the second man continued.

"Gonzo? You named your dog Gonzo?" replied Monica.

"I'm Gonzo you little slut!" shouted another of the men, pushing himself before the others, only to find an elbow wedged in his stomach.

"Don't shout in my ear," said the first man, turning back towards Monica, "Sammy, put her in the car."

X

"You aren't from Alderney, are you?" said the man, his voice gravely and cold.

Monica found herself in a large study-like room, curtains drawn and a raging fire blasting heat into her face. The room was very hot, and beads of sweat drained down the side of her face. She held onto the arm of the chair tightly as the older man knelt down on one knee gently beside her.

"No sir," she lied.

"And what is your name?" he continued.

"Sandy," Monica replied quickly.

"Sandy, my name is Liam and I'm not from Alderney either. What were you doing outside, Sandy?" Liam quizzed further.

"Taking a walk," Monica said, trying to keep her voice steady, "I… I took a wrong turn and…"

"And?" asked Liam.

"Got scared," she said.

"Hmm," said Liam, pulling himself off of the floor, "Scared? You were pretty evasive for someone who was scared. Tell me, what were you really doing? Is Dakota's crew really using little girls to spy on me?"

"I don't know who Dakota is I'm sorry sir, I told you, I just…"

"Took a wrong turn. I heard you, but I don't believe that any more than I believe your name is Sandy," said Liam, spitting the words out. "You lie just about as well as spy!"

"But I wasn't spying!" she shouted, her fingers digging into the arm.

Liam chuckled. "Now that's more like. Feisty little thing aren't you?"

"I'll show you how damn feisty I am," she said, rising from her seat and clenching her knuckles. Liam stared from her eyes to her hand.

"You aren't serious…" he muttered.

Her face turned into a scowl, her fear disturbed by determination. Pompous, arrogant, self-powerful; all the things she hated most. "Deadly," she replied.

"I thought you might say that," said Liam, breaking away from the relaxed figure he'd cut by the mantelpiece. He launched at Monica, his hand shooting up under her chin and wrapping around her neck, ramming her against a wall. She'd barely had time to blink.

"What were you doing outside," he whispered in her ear, keeping his grip level and resisting her flailing body. Monica's arms flapped madly at his hand, even thumping him in the face once or twice.

"Please… let… can't…" she squirmed, as the grip tightened. She thrust a hand again, taking a huge swipe at his face and knocking him back slightly. Liam's grip relaxed slightly and, taking a breath, she shot out with the other hand as well, landing square on his nose. The grip loose, she broke free, tearing under his arm and making a run for the door.

Wiping the blood from his chin, Liam was on her in seconds, wrapping his arms around her waist as she tried to work the door handle, heaving her away and down on to the floor.

"Come now, let's not make this difficult – what is it Dakota wanted you to do?" he shouted.

Monica backed up along the floor as he approached, the heat from the fire getting more intense. The blood on Liam's face glinted in the firelight.

"I told you," she screamed, "I don't know who this Dakota is!" She threw her hand into the fireplace and pulled out the poker that had been resting on the grill. With a red hot tip, she threw herself to her feet, swiping wildly with the weapon.

Liam managed to avoid the first swipe, but the second one hit him on the arm and he recoiled in pain as Monica him again with an over-arm swing, forcing him to one knee. The sensation in Liam burned but the girl wasn't strong enough to cause him any real damage and, when she went to swing again, he caught her wrist sending the red hot poker across the room. He pulled her, sending her crashing over the coffee table and to the floor, banging her head hard.

"Limp," said Liam, approaching her as she groaned.

Slowly, she touched her forehead and felt the tackiness of the scarlet liquid between her fingers but the encroaching shadow brought back her senses and she rolled onto her front, heaving herself off the floor. A boot in her back soon put her back down though and Liam kicked out, sending his boot into stomach. It was pain like Monica had never experienced and she screamed loudly, the sound shrill as if it could pierce.

Liam took a step back and took stock of the small girl lying curled up on the floor, her face a mix of hair, blood, sweat and tears.

"Definitely feisty, but you're a small girl in a man's world; you don't belong. I admire your courage, but your stupidity is overwhelming," he said, wiping blood from his face.

"The… cu…" Monica squeaked, her eyes wide with fear.

"I'm not interested any more," said Liam, "I'll find out what Dakota was up to without having to listen to any more of your lies."

"No," squealed Monica, "The… curtains… look!"

Liam followed her outstretched hand to see where her finger was pointing.

"Oh fuck!" he yelled before running for the door. The heat intensity in the room had more than doubled, and now he knew why; the flailing poker had set his room alight.

X

Monica breathed heavily, catching a glimpse of Liam bolting out of the door, hopefully in search of help or something, but she didn't want to wait around to find out. She could begin to hear the shouts of his men in the background and she took a deep breath, releasing her stomach and mustering all of her might to get back up. Hunched over and winded, she watched the flames spread across the wall – Escape! her mind cried.

Monica crossed over to the window, trying to shield her eyes from the bright light, and the stench of smoke filled her nostrils making it difficult for her to breath. Every step she took towards the glass exit was hampered by her stomach, and she spluttered as she approached, warm, sticky liquid coming up in her mouth. Wouldn't be the first time she'd thrown up blood she thought, wiping it from her lips.

Clawing at the glass, she found the latch as some of the furniture ignited, the flames licking the ceiling, roaring as the living room fuelled its anger. Ground floor she thought, tearing at the bolt and raising the window. A gust of wind blew through and smoke burst out into the night sky. Monica could hear shouting from all around the compound.

Monica practically fell out of the living room; the intake of air coupled with her almost half summersault meant that she practically crashed onto the gravel drive, her hands punctured by the little white stones. Smoke still billowed out of the open window and even on the ground Monica could feel the intensity. She didn't bear think about what would have happened if the fire hadn't started.

Pulling herself from the floor once more, she took a quick look around, resting her hands on her stomach before coughing up more blood. There was no-one to be seen and the gate was now left unattended. All of the men must be trying to contain the fire she thought, taking a few plodding steps across the gravel towards the exit before stopping. A glint of light in the corner of eye caught her attention and, knowing she couldn't make it all the way to the train station, the diamond coloured sports car suddenly looked very inviting…

Looks like tonight was the night after-all she thought, as she breezed past Middle Park, her mind wandering across to the raging inferno engulfing Liam Carson's suburban penthouse. Ricardo owed her big time.