This story…is perhaps one of the best I’ve ever written. It’s a culmination of everything I ever wanted to showcase: Revenge, Rivalry & Rebellion, the foolish unconditional love we have for women, as well as a demonstration of martial arts choreography illustrated through literature.
Gladys Vandelay – A Daughter’s Rage
My father’s company. It was just after closing time in the Upper Eastside when the city appeared made of pure electricity, all contained in tall spires of glossy stone and steel. We were on the 16th floor of a parking garage just across the intersection from the building that housed my father’s investment firm. Staring at it brought back memories. However, “fondness” no longer applied to such thoughts.
Every time I closed my eyes and tried to picture my father, it was of his death. Not his loving embrace, his kind smile or his gentle, disarming voice. No. What I’d see was him falling over me with the bloody slash across his stomach, a lethal laceration delivered by thy sister’s own hand, a sister who was now CEO of the company shining brightly in the velvet sky. So much, I wished an airplane would plow into the building. I’d relish the thought of it all tumbling down.
A thudding bump brought me back to reality. Marcus woke up. He was sleeping in the back of our unmarked van, rented by Elliot. Elliot himself was parallel parked in a black sedan a block away. I asked him to keep his distance just to be safe, among other reasons.
I entered the driver’s seat and asked, “Hey, you hungry?”
“No. Just more anxious than anything else.” Marcus said.
He was brushing his hair, primping himself using his phone as a mirror. He looked dapper in his black blazer and white collared shirt. I’d admit, there was something cute about him. The way there’s something cute in the bug eyes of a pug.
He caught me smirking and said, “Why are you wearing a bulletproof vest?”
“Well…I didn’t exactly tell her you’d be here. Only that I needed to talk to her. I trust she’ll come alone like she said she would, but you never know. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her. For all I know, that tough exterior had only hardened with time. Like cement.”
“Tough exterior…Heh.” He smirked. “You know when I first met her, she had a hard time making friends. Everyone thought she had this formidable wall around her, unapproachable. As if she was some goddess they weren’t fit to address.”
“But you didn’t see her that way?”
“Well, sure I did,” said Marcus. “But still…she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least try. Whether I failed or not, there’d be no shame in it. I’d merely point and say, see! And others would understand. Might even applaud me for so boldly reaching out of my league.
“I dunno, Gladys. I saw something in her that just… I knew she wasn’t all armor and spikes. I think she had to protect herself, her sister, her mother, to guard her heart. But deep down, she was looking for someone to simply put up with all of it and take a chance on her. To show a little backbone. Stamina beyond physical means, but more so the mental endurance to tolerate the idea that she would never be completely contained. Not to submit to her but at the same time never be conquered by her. I think…”
“Marcus…I think you are her equal. I mean, it’s all great, your little psychoanalysis of the dichotomy and what not. But plainly put, human beings are all different. Everyone cannot be equal in everything. I’m good with a gun, sure, but she can beat my ass and a room full of Marines all by herself. I don’t care for prognostications. But she does. Theories and conjectures…I see it in you.
“It’s like, if you crash-landed on an island with one other person you’d have to spend the rest of your life with, it’d be nice to be with someone who’s appeal came from within. That’s what she was looking for. Not the money, status, or material things. Not someone who’s constantly doubting themselves, full of insecurity about whether or not she likes him. She was looking for someone who respects themselves enough not to just say yes to everything out fear of losing her. Someone with principles, morality and convictions.”
His face was transparent, like dozens of tiny muscles reacting to each point I made. Marcus didn’t need to tell me whether or not he agreed, the tightening of his lips, the pull of his eyebrows spoke volumes. Marcus was indeed cute. And…perhaps too honest for his own good.
“I suppose.” He chuckled. “What about your man, Elliot? Do you see him as your equal?”
I slumped against the seat with my face pressed against the shoulder. “Elliot’s weird. In a good way, I guess. He’s overly cautious and thinks the worst is always gonna happen all the freakin’ time. He even made me bring that duffle bag full of ammunition just in case. Don’t know if I like that, someone constantly fretting and fearing for my safety. Feels like he’s the woman in our relationship. You know? It’s just weird.”
Marcus nodded, snickering with, “But you do like him, though.”
Just then, the squeal of grinding tires screeched from the winding turn of an approaching vehicle. I shushed him and told him to lay down flat. Then I exited the van and cocked the Beretta I had tucked along my waistband, straightening my coat, making sure I appeared as cordial and harmless as possible.
Anna drove up the ramp in a black luxury sedan, crossing over parking lines as if she had every intention of hitting me head on into the side of the van. She came to a smooth stop just ten feet away, blinding me with those glaring white high beams. I couldn’t tell if it was her until she turned them off.
After shutting off the engine, she just took a moment, sitting there staring at me like a disappointed parent who had arrived to pick up her child from detention. The last time I saw her was over a year ago. My heart rattled like a drum. For all I knew, her loyalty and commitment to the Society might have grown even stronger during my absence. My life was indeed in her hands.
She exited with an exasperated sigh, about a foot taller than me and impressive with that perfect posture and long raven hair. She had broad shoulders for a woman, but it fit her figure. Dressed like a corporate girl but probably hiding a pistol and blade underneath her coat, she had the signs of someone who had to manage an entire team all day, putting out fires, making things happen. Anna Marie, the feared Colombian more infamously known by her operative name, “the Andalusian”.
And suddenly I thought this was all a terrible idea.
“I know why you’re here, Gladys. Can’t let you do it. Clarice is too important.”
I sighed with relief. As intimidating as she was, there was always a twinkle in her eyes. I smiled, perhaps puzzling her further.
“What are you doing here, Gladys? Why’d you call me? If anyone else finds out about this, I’ll have no choice but to put you down.”
The van doors opened. “Crap!” I whispered. I wasn’t ready for him. The sound of grinding metal startled both of us and Anna instinctively whipped out her 9mm, aiming it at the now gaping abyss that gradually widened as the van doors opened.
I swear my heart was about to jump out of my chest. I had no idea which way this was gonna to go down, but out trudged Marcus Angel. He was using crutches to hold himself up but he managed to not make it look like a struggle.
When my sight returned to Anna…it was priceless.
The gun was down by her side, barely hanging from her fingertips. Her caramel complexion had turned pale, about to collapse as if she was witnessing a ghost. Her jaw slacked and the sheer…I wanna say horror that was written across her face, but it was more than that, like a painting of sorrow, a widow longing for her husband who was lost at sea. The sparkle in her eyes intensified just before the tears rolled down her cheeks. I heard whispers, perhaps in Spanish, but barely audible. Anna Marie stood frozen in time as she watched Marcus come closer, one metallic crutch at a time.
“Hey missy. Long time no see.”
Her gun fell to the pavement. It was so loud. It was so quiet.
“It’s okay.” He told her. “I know you did what you had to do. I know it sounds crazy, but in my heart of hearts, I think forgave you as soon as you pulled the trigger.”
“Oh my god!” she gushed with hands rushing to cover her mouth.
She turned and stormed towards a railing overlooking the city. She cried. Whimpered. Anna Marie broke down in a hard way, so much grief and possibly remorse. And Marcus…for some reason he kept laughing. Not a taunting, “ah-ha” laugh, but it was more like he just thought the whole scene was endearing. There were tears mixed in with his chuckles…men…
“Anna, honestly! You did what you had to do. Stop crying.” He said.
“Stop! Don’t come any closer. Just stay back!”
“You know I can’t do that.”
“WHY ARE YOU HERE?!” She screamed. “You shouldn’t be alive?!”
“Nevertheless, I am alive. And you’re right. I shouldn’t be here. Not after that shit you and your little clique put me through. But I survived. And even if I die tonight, even if your group hunts me down like a pack of wolves, just seeing you again, your eyes, your hair, your lips…It’s worth it. I told you a long time ago, I don’t mind dying if it’s in your arms. I wasn’t lying.”
With crossed arms, Anna did her level best not to look at him.
“I keep replaying that night. Over and over again. You were trying to save me, weren’t you?”
“Marcus stop. Please…” She whimpered.
Oh Anna. Seeing her puddle up in a ball of emotions gripped at my heart. Marcus approached and cautiously put a hand on her back. She shuddered at the touch just before he flattened his palm and massaged firmly. He was slightly taller than her. Seeing them together, I just thought that they were a perfect match. Anna Marie wasn’t in need of protection or some big brute shielding her from her enemies. She was in need of comfort, assurance, and stability. From the mere touch, I saw with my own eyes how much Anna had missed him. His voice. It was very pleasant, sincere, and soothing. To the both of us, I believe.
“It’s true, isn’t it? You were trying to save me, and like a cat afraid of water, I fought back. That’s why I almost died that night. It wasn’t your fault.”
“Marcus!” She wailed with tearful eyes looking up into his. “I’ve done all kinds of horrible, horrible shit! Like, bad. Just bad. All kinds of bad things. I’ve killed dozens! I’ve hundreds!”
“Anna! Ever since our early twenties, I knew you’d do whatever it took to accomplish your goals. I don’t judge you by the path you’ve taken. I can’t. I should but I don’t. You know who you are. You know what you’ve done. But it’s not the end of the world. As long as you’re alive, it’s not too late to redeem yourself. To repent.”
“I CAN’T!” She cried.
“Yes, you can! You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for. For fucks sake! Everyone can see that. Why can’t you?”
He wiped at her tears with the soft nudge of his thumb. It was heart-wrenching. Part of me was glad to unite her with her paramour. Another part was extremely jealous in the saddest kind of way. That kind of love…I’ve never experienced it. I’ve never felt that way about another man. They started kissing but I didn’t sense lust. It was genuine, natural affection. A nurturing kiss. Tender, the peak of compassion.
“You guys, I really think we should get going.” I told them. A little bit out of envy, but more so because we were there for too long. I felt like a wounded animal in the middle of the ocean; it was only a matter of time before the sharks come drawn by the scent.
“Go where, Gladys?” Anna said with reddish, almost scornful eyes.
“Anywhere!” Marcus said.
“It’s not that simple.” Anna complained. “Gladys is a marked woman but she was only a protégé. I’m a full-fledged Sword, they won’t stop until they’ve wiped us from the face of the earth and I won’t let that happen. Not again! NEVER AGAIN!”
“No, Marcus! You guys need to get out of here. I can’t be seen with you! Ever!”
“Marcus, you said you loved me. I confess, I love you too. I always have, which is exactly why I’m pushing you away. We can’t be together. I wish we could, but we can’t! Alright? It’s too dangerous.”
“I don’t give a shit!” Marcus barked. “Don’t you see? I really just don’t give a shit? If I can’t be with you, I’m dead already.”
Anna’s face cringed up something fierce. They embraced once more, but the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. I heard the faint sounds of screeching tires coming from the spiral ramp in the corner of the garage. Cars were approaching at an aggressive pace. We were found. We had to get out of there.
With haste, I stepped over and grabbed them by their shoulders. “Guys. Seriously. We really need to get out of here. They probably put a tracker in your car, Anna. They’re here. I hear them.”
Anna lent Marcus her shoulder to help him towards the van while I whipped up the crutches and threw them in. And then…
This is….this part is a bit difficult to write.
It was faint, but I heard the buzzing rip of a sniper’s bullet zip past my ear. It was unmistakable. The scream that followed haunts me to this day.
I turned around. Anna was struggling to hold Marcus up. She lost her grip on his jacket and he spilled down onto the pavement with a bloody gash where his heart used to be. His eyes were still open. His mouth was open with shock and horror but he was gone.
“NOOOO! NO GOD! NO!” Anna screamed.
I wrung my fingers through my hair. I knew right then and there that it was all my fault. I turned around and scanned for the sniper and it was just by some pure fucking instinct that I looked up to where my father’s executive office used to be. There was Clarice, my sister. I caught her as she was moving the TAC-50 she had propped up on a bipod away from the window.
The scathing heat came over me. Our eyes didn’t meet. I don’t think Clarice saw that I spotted her. But I knew that she knew I was there. And instead of killing me first, this bitch thought it’d be better to get rid of Marcus. So yeah, something came over me, boiling rage rushing through my veins.