Gladys Vandelay – A Daughter’s Rage
By Rock Kitaro
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 signed 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.
As Anna’s tormented screams echoed throughout the garage, Elliot called through my earpiece. Even he could hear the screams and badgered for an update. But I didn’t reply. Saying nothing, I promptly walked to the nearest pickup truck and retrieved my bag of ammunition.
Whipping off my overcoat, I put on a shoulder harness that could holster two pistols and six clips. I equipped myself with the following: 2 Walther P99 semi-automatic pistols, a lighter 2016 Uzi variant, three grenades, and a Beretta ARX 160 A3 assault rifle with laser scope sighting. And one more AK-47 that I brought over to Anna.
“Anna. We need to go. They’re coming.”
“Let them!” Anna snarled. Her back was turned to me as she stayed knelt over Marcus, but I felt the grumble in her voice, like the vibrating growl of a mastiff.
They did come. Three armored vehicles charged up the ramp and came to a screeching halt. It was a team of private contractors, ex-military, the likes of which I had to contend with in Canada. And leading them was a familiar face. I expected a least one Sword would show up. But here, there were two.
One was Mandee. I remembered she was always following Scarlet around as if the two were partners in crime. She was a fearsome little cunt who shattered a girl’s jaw with a single palm strike during our training at the chateau. Next to her was Jazmin, a Mexican senorita who was a little too top heavy for our line of work in my opinion. My guess was that she became a Sword more so for her talent of seduction.
Eight mercs in all, not including the Swords, and they all filed out with fully automatics trained on us. To flee or even attempt to dodge at this point would have been futile.
“Should have stayed in Canada, Gladys. Too fucking bad.” Mandee taunted.
“And who’s this?” Jazmin said, as she stood over Anna’s shoulder.
Anna said nothing. On her knees, she continued to embrace Marcus in arms. Her long dark hair covered her face.
Jazmin aimed at me. “Who is that man?”
“Anna…” I begged.
“You know what…” Anna said, sniffling hard as she popped up and flipped her hair. I saw it in her eyes, the raw emotion. It felt like the entire parking garage was shaking and it invigorated me, emboldening me the way I hoped it would.
“I don’t think I can be part of this society anymore.” Anna declared.
“What?” Jazmin asked.
Before Jazmin could follow up, Anna slapped Jazmin’s muzzle with one hand and slit her throat with the other. It all happened in a blinding flash and before anyone could figure out what happened, I dropped to my knees and opened fire with my Beretta ARX. A steady, horizontal spray cut through the knees of three before the rest ducked for cover.
Mandee charged at Anna, kicking her in the back. Anna hit the side of the van, bounced off and engaged Mandee in this fierce gun/knife battle. The likes of which I’d only seen in cage matches back in Syria. It didn’t last long. As fierce as Mandee was, Anna was a fucking lioness.
Mandee managed to disarm the gun, but Anna slashed at her thigh, drove an elbow up into her nose and slung Mandee over the concrete barrier of the parking garage. I caught the tail end of their brawl while skirting along the perimeter, keeping the soldiers contained with a steady barrage of 7.62 Soviet rounds.
Anna had lost it. I don’t think she feared anything. As the men shot at me from behind their black SUV’s, Anna charged from their blind side and just started whoopin ass. Her kicks dislodged knees and broke ribs. Her field knife sliced through arteries and exposed veins. And just when I was about to join her, two crisp knocks came from my side. I saw chunks of concrete pop up from the floor. The sniper had returned.
I stopped on a dime, dropped to me knees and spun to train my muzzle on the executive floor of my father’s corporation. Sure enough, there was my fucking sister trying to take me out. I unleashed what was left of my clip, blowing out three windows before I saw the silhouette of her body drop from sight. I knew she wasn’t dead. I heard the screams from pedestrians below and took off running for the stairwell, leaving Anna to vent her frustration on the soldiers.
In the intersection, people were already on their phones calling the police. The sight of me running across the street with a heavily modified assault rifle only added to their hysteria.
Elliot’s voice cut through the screams but I didn’t turn to look. My focus was such that I had tunnel vision on the doors of my father’s old building. The elderly receptionist recognized me. She was on the phone when she saw me sprinting through the lobby and her jaw almost fell to the floor. Two loud bangs came from my six. I spun around and shot the security guard. The receptionist screamed. Sorry she had to see that.
Alarms blared. The staff was alerted and a voice on the intercom said that the place was on lockdown. All elevators were shut down and access to the stairwell was restricted. Thankfully, I was already in the stairwell when lockdown protocols were initiated. So was Elliot. I could hear him calling my name from two floors down as he struggled to keep up.
Just as I passed the 7th floor, I heard the doors open behind me. Soldiers in black had entered the stairwell and opened fire. I got hit twice in the back, but it got the Kevlar. It wasn’t until I reached the platform halfway up to the 8th that I returned fire. Two headshots and I got a third soldier with four slugs to the chest. Grunting, I pulled myself up. My bangs were dripping with sweat and my quads were burning from the ascent. But still, the fuel tank of my determination could go for miles.
The building was seventy-stories tall but the executive floor was the 32nd. With just six steps away between me and the floor that I used to run around and play as a child, I paused and took a deep breath, exchanging my magazine for a fresh clip. I listened to discern how far behind Elliot was. I couldn’t hear him. He could have been dealing with his own ambush of soldiers. Or it could have been that he was nowhere near my level of conditioning, so he was probably still ten floors down. Either way, it was fine. It was better this way. This was my problem. This was my mission.
I aimed at the locks and destroyed it. Kicking the door open, I dashed out into the slick, wide open tile flooring and rolled as a hail of bullets came from what seemed like every direction. I knew it would. A private security detail of ex-military, all armed to the teeth with black-market weapons. Clarice wasn’t stupid. I’ll give her that.
But what the soldiers didn’t know, this was my personal Vietnam and they were unwelcomed intruders. I knew every office, corner, hallway, and elevation of the 32nd executive floor. I knew where the counters were, where the partitions were. I knew which walls were thick and which railings I could jump over. This was my playground and I’m the school bully. They fanned out and followed.
To be honest, it was kind of fun and I almost forgot that I could have very well died. Like a competitive gamer in a first-person shooter, I directed my muzzle with nerves of steel. I heard which shots came from where and it was a cinch picking these bastards off. All them were big, muscle bound and sturdy. They didn’t have my agility. They were too slow and they called themselves trying to hide behind partitions with the top of their heads, their foots, or their asses exposed. Any inch I got, I tore a new one.
Blood splattered and pooled everywhere. Men were screaming and some bumped into each other trying to get away from me. I must have killed at least twelve before I depleted the last of my ARX. Was a shame. I had grown fond of the weapon.
The Uzi had a pistol grip but no stock, so I used one hand to mow down two men who pursuing me, wasting a ton of ammunition. Another one came into view. I chased him, sprinting as I turned the corner, sliding on my knees as I shredded into his back while gliding into an adjacent office.
Idiots. Was nice of them to warn me. I launched my entire weight to break through a conference room window and took cover behind a table just in time to shield against the explosion. The overheads went out. Backup lights came on.
As the deafening blast fizzled out, I plopped out into the hallway and tossed two of my own grenades at a group of men with green laser scopes shining like a beacon. I pushed-up off the ground and took off running the other way. They started shooting at me but the explosions put an end to all that.
A severed hand flew by my shoulder. I aimed it, ready to fire. Then another hand gripped my shoulder. I swung my Uzi but it was palmed by Elliot just in time to stop me from clocking him one.
Elliot… I’m sure I looked possessed in his eyes. He pulled me away from a column and sat me down next to a copy machine.
I was about to unleash a fiery tirade to scold his interference, but he covered my mouth and tapped my shoulder straps to show I was bleeding. I was shot but I hardly felt the pain. He looked around as if he was searching for an exit, but I wasn’t going anywhere.
In pure fucking rage, I punched him in the throat and kicked him away. As soon as I stood up and peered down the hall, I locked eyes with her. She had the same blue eyes as me. However, in the peach colored emergency lights, Clarice looked like the devil the way she wore that malicious grin with a javelin mounted on her shoulders.
The javelin was an anti-tank missile used in war. She fired and I swear my entire life flashed before eyes. Like a deer caught in the headlights, I stood frozen in place almost as if I had accepted my death.
Elliot speared into me. We went crashing through the glass walls of a conference room as an explosion, the likes of which I never felt, ripped through the building. It wasn’t a direct impact on us but I felt the heat. It burned, searing my pants into my calves. We were thrown several meters across tables and chairs before rolling against a perimeter wall.
A section of the floor had collapsed. It was a fifteen-foot drop into the next floor. The building was on fire. Sparks flew from exposed wires. Debris, glass, and chunks of marble were scattered everywhere. And Elliot, Elliot had shielded me. His arms were wrapped around my head. The sprinkler system showered over us but I knew it wouldn’t stop the blaze.
“We can make it. It’ll hurt but we can make it.” Elliot said, almost out of breath. He was referring to the fifteen-foot drop into the 31st floor.
“Come on!” He said as he tried to lift me up. I wouldn’t let him. He grabbed my arm but I whipped it away.
“You should go, Ellie.”
“Gladys, this whole place is gonna come down!”
“Not without you!”
I drew one of my P99s and aimed it with two hands at his forehead. I was deadly serious. “I’m not leaving!”
A loud pop came from an electrical unit but Elliot didn’t flinch. He just stared at me with this growing fervor as if he was bout ready to lose his mind. Even with the gun aimed at him, he leaned over me and grabbed me by the straps of my vest.
“I’m not leaving without you, Gladys! I know you want to kill her! I understand. I really do. But you’re better than them. You’re better than you think are! That’s why I believe in the Paramours! Understand?! GET UP!” He shouted as he yanked me to a stand.
“I won’t let you go down that path. Now we’re gonna get the fuck out of here! And you and me, we’re going to have each other. I love you and I know you love me even though you’re too stupid to admit it. That’s what separates us from them. They live for a cause. We live for the sake of each other. For people. For life!”
And at that moment, I just grabbed this stupid, idealistic man and kissed him with all the passion and affection he showed me. I really did love Elliot Chan.
I just hated Clarice even more.
It was slow motion the way I shoved him back. He fell out into the 31st floor with his arms out spread like a sparrow trying to catch the wind. I wish I was as great as he seemed to think I was. But I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t forgive her.
With a pistol in both hands and tears stinging my eyes, I emerged into the hallway and sprinted as fast as I could for my father’s office. I was screaming some horrific war cry, fully aware that at any time I could drop dead from that TAC-50 I knew was in her possession.
Suddenly, something hard and solid belted the front of my shins. I tripped and hit the floor, knocking the wind out of me as I went sliding. Clarice had just thrown the javelin launcher at me and I didn’t see it.
“Shut the fuck up.” She said. “All that damn screaming and for what?”
I propped up to my knees and aimed one of my pistols. She kicked it out of my hand. I spun with the momentum of her kick and aimed a second. Before I knew it, she caught my arm and slammed me to the floor in a brutal hip toss with half her weight on me. She tried to break my wrist, but I let go of the pistol and wiggled free. Just as I got back up, she hit me with a spinning heel kick that sent me sprawling over a desk.
Clarice leaped over the toppled desk and whipped out a blade, the same short sword she used to kill my father, a wakizashi. All I had on me was a field knife. The exhaustion was setting in. My body was overheated and the flames had spread to the ceilings above. So what happened next made no sense to anyone with a tactical mind. Goes to show, I didn’t plan on surviving. But if I was going down, I was for damn sure gonna take this bitch down with me.
I flung my field knife. She deflected it with her sword. And in that split second, I did this crazy mad dash to jump on her back like a velociraptor. And like a velociraptor, I sank my teeth into her neck, biting as hard as I could. She screamed and flailed her sword. Finally, she had the wherewithal to back me into the wall, ramming me twice before I let go.
She turned and tried to drive to sword into my stomach. I sidestepped and the blade got stuck in the wall. I palmed at her wrist but she let go of the sword just in time to avoid the strike. From there, we went at it.
It wasn’t a catfight. It was an all-out, bare-knuckle brawl. She clobbered me with blows that might as well came from a bat. I used my tai chi to redirect her punches. And whenever I could, I’d grab the back of her head and send her face first into a desk or hard surface
This went on for what felt like half an hour but I’m sure it was less than that. Our fight spilled from conference rooms, to the bathroom, and back out into the hallways. The hatred was mutual. I saw it in her eyes and I know she saw it in mine. The scorching heat didn’t faze us for an instant. Every time we separated, we’d pounce at each other regardless of the crackling wires or collapsing walls. Hair was pulled. Ears were torn. Two of my molars were dislodged but I managed to dislocate her left elbow.
It wasn’t until I took her to the ground and held her in a triangle choke that the tide of the battle turned. She used her superior strength, shouting with all her might as she lifted my entire body up clear over her head. She meant to slam me back down, but before she could, I slipped out of the triangle choke, hooked my arm around her head and sent her face smashing down into the tile floor in a devastating DDT.
Clarice’s forehead was busted open and the blood poured like syrup. She started to stagger off, but I grabbed her ankle. She retaliated with a stomp to my face that ended up breaking my nose. I remember whimpering something fierce. The pain in my nose caused my eyes to swell.
I watched as she staggered towards the elevator doors and willed them open with her bare hands. The elevator lift wasn’t there, but she jumped onto the cable wires and slid down. I cracked my nose back into place and followed.
On the streets below, civilians had gathered behind the yellow tape in the intersection, watching as the fire had spread across six floors. Emergency services were already on the scene. Most of the first responders were in the parking garage investigating the initial calls of shots fired. That was before Clarice’s rocket blew a hole in a corporate building.
“HELP! HELP ME PLEASE!!!”
Clarice hobbled toward a pair of ambulances and a team of paramedics that were already tending to the wounded soldiers Anna beat the crap out of. I suppose the sight of this blonde corporate girl covered in blood made everyone feel a type of way. She was halfway across the intersection when paramedics stopped what they were doing to rush to help her.
TA-TAT. TA-TAT. TA-TAT.
That was the sound my gun made as I riddled Clarice’s back with five rounds and popped her skull open with a sixth. I remember the slapping sound of her face hitting the asphalt. Everyone screamed and the crowd dispersed like ants in a mound that was just stepped on.
Then…something happened to me.
I was standing on the sidewalk in front of the glass entrance to my father’s old building. How do I put it? This sick, nauseating feeling immediately churned in the pit of my stomach. The pistol slipped from my fingertips and I didn’t even hear it hit the ground.
I turned around and looked up at my father’s building. The amber flames waved to the velvet night. Windows were cracked and shattered. The structural integrity of the stone façade appeared as if it was just one explosion away from a total collapse.
Someone tackled me from behind and not a single inch of me resisted. A knee was planted in my back and my cheek was pressed against the grainy concrete. There were two, maybe three of them. I didn’t resist but they were furious. I could tell from the way they wrangled my limp wrists into the cuffs.
I stared at my sister’s body lying in the middle of the road. It was over. And I wept. It could have been due to the unbearable trauma throbbing through my nose but I think it was something else. I don’t know. I don’t know why I was crying but I was. I felt so sad, so empty, so wretched, so…horrible.
Faded in and out of consciousness. They kept me on the scene for a while. I saw a lot of angry men pointing at me, shouting at me, but I heard no words. Paramedics were reluctant to treat me. I was strapped to a stretcher by an abundance of belts. Blinding lights from a helicopter shined down on us. It shined down on me. And that was the last thing I remember from the crime scene.
I woke up two or three hours later in a hospital room. We were still on the Upper East Side because I could make out Park Avenue from my window so high up. The beep of a heart monitor was a good sign. At least my nose had stopped bleeding. It was taped and I couldn’t breathe from it, but still, it wasn’t bleeding.
I started to conduct my own diagnosis of how badly I was injured when I noticed I was cuffed to the bed railing. Two deputies were stationed outside my room. There was a commotion in the hallway. It sounded like reporters and some police rep giving a statement. The idea of escaping in my condition was futile. So I just laid there, replaying the events over and over in my head. The melancholy lingered, but not as badly as before.
Just as I contemplated sleeping off the rest of the night, a pair of your classic hard-nosed detectives walked in. The bald one closed the blinds while the shorter stout one with a three-day stubble just looked my body up and down and grunted with disgust.
“Well, I’ve heard of sibling rivalries but shiiiet.” said the stout one.
“Gladys Vandelay!” barked the bald one. “The same Gladys wanted in connection with the murder of Felix Vandelay of Vandelay Holdings United. You wanna talk about one fucked up family…”
I squinted my eyes. I knew these cocksuckers had no clue but still…talking down to me like that was enough to spark the ignition switch in me.
“Where’d you get your weapons? Better yet, where’d you learn to shoot like that? We got sixteen camera phones recording you tearing your sister to shreds right there in the middle of 67th.”
“SPEAK!” the stout one shouted.
“Don’t speak. Last I checked, she still has the right to remain silent.”
In walked a woman in office attire with her hair tied up in a bun. She was accompanied by two other women, smaller, younger, less impressive in stature.
“Detectives. I’m sure we don’t need to go through the usual routine.” She said.
“No! Not this time, counselor! This time we have the suspect dead to rights! Captured on film with dozens of eye witnesses.”
“No doubt factors leading to her arrest, sure,m but she still deserves her day in court.” Said the woman.
“Let us do our jobs! We’re investigating, goddamn it!”
“Then do your job, detectives. Collect evidence. Build your case. If my client wants to speak to you, she is well within her rights to do so. Ms. Vandelay. Do you wish to speak to the police? No? There you have it. You may leave now. Good evening, gentlemen.” The woman said.
“Yeah don’t get too comfortable counselor. The DA’s on his way.”
I watched the detectives storm out of the room. Upon closing the door, the lawyer and her two paralegals turned and looked at me with the same creepy expression.
“My oh my. We have been a busy girl. Haven’t we.”
“A thorn in our side.”
“A fly in our lashes.”
“Whatever are we to do with you?”
Each took turns saying their lines as if they were rehearsed. The attorney with the bun leaned over and whispered… “You should have stayed hidden like a bunny in the snow where no one could find you. As soon as these cameras are gone, you’re a dead wabbit. But first. Where is the Andalusian?”
So stupid. If I was already a dead “wabbit” then why in the fuck would I give her up? I deduced that these women weren’t full-fledged Swords, but probably pawns or protégés. Either way, they were wasting my time. I just wanted to sleep.
The lawyer put her hands on my neck and squeezed.
“Listen to me!” I whispered. “You really don’t want to be giving me a reason to…”
The door opened and someone else entered. It was Mandee. The last time I saw her, she was scrapping with Anna in the parking garage. Immediately, panic set in. Mandee was no joke. I struggled with my handcuffs as the attorney giggled.
“No, no. Please finish. What were you going to say?” the attorney taunted.
Mandee walked around to the other side of the bed. Her face was bruised and swollen with a patch over her left cheek. She was pissed, the kind of angry that didn’t care about logic or reason.
“What are you doing?” the attorney asked her. “We’re supposed to wait for Breanne to–”
“We can’t wait. We’re doing this now.” Mandee said.
With an air of desperation, Mandee took a syringe from a small case in her pocket and filled it with a clear, translucent substance. I saw her face light up with satisfaction as the fluids dripped from the needle. And just when her eyes focused on me.
A high-pressure crash came in through the window. I barely saw what happened as my bed went tipping over away from Mandee and rolled over the lawyer’s legs. She screamed in agony. It was Elliot. He repelled down the building and came bursting through the window. It was awesome!
Mandee was hunched over the railing with the syringe still in her hand. She saw my wrist still cuffed to the railing and grabbed it. Before she could stick me, Elliot kicked her away and shot her in her kneecap. The two paralegals had regained their bearings and drew their weapons, but Elliot shot them before they could fully extend. Another shot freed me from the railing.
He lent me his shoulder to help me up. The stout detective barged into the room and darted back out after a quick glance of Elliot’s black Model 22A.
“Hang on!” Elliot told.
I wrapped my arms around his neck, my legs around his waist. Then, after space for a running start, he jumped out of the window and latched onto his rappel line with one arm.
He grunted something fierce. I felt it. The same arm he used to latch on to the rappel line had just popped out place. We were forty floors up. A plummet from this height would have killed us both but somehow, he was still holding on, releasing his grip to slide down the cable a little bit at a time.
Elliot…I could see the torture from his grimace and sweat. So determined. His own weight on a dislocated arm would have been bad enough, but he was carrying both of us. I held tight and embraced him. I should have whispered thank you or kissed him or something. But I never got the chance.
Shots rang out and echoed off neighboring buildings. I looked up and saw Mandee glowering as she aimed at us. I saw the muzzle flashes and then she disappeared.
We reached the sidewalk. Elliot was still carrying me in his arms. But then, ever so slowly, he slumped over and laid on top of me. I felt the deflation in his chest. It was strained as if he was hiccupping, struggling to retain breath. My hands slid across his back, upward towards his shoulders and there it was. Two entry wounds, one on each of his shoulders.
“No! No, not you!” I whispered.
“My keys. Two blocks north.” He struggled to say.
“NO! I can’t lose you!” I shouted with hands on his beautiful face.
“Go. Get out of here.”
That was his last breath. Ellie…my Elliot.
“NOOOOO! OHH!!! ELLIOT NO!”
I squeezed him tight. I didn’t want to leave him. Not like that. Not in the middle of the sidewalk as people with their stupid, fuck ugly faces huddled around.
“Get back!” I shouted with his gun. “Get back or I’ll kill you! I’ll fucking kill you all.”
I shot the closest person in his chest. I honestly didn’t give a fuck. He staggered back as the rest fled like dogs. Sirens were closing in. We were on the hospital’s west façade. The entrance and emergency exits were on the other side. I had to leave him. As much as it pained my heart, I had to let go.
I took his keys and hobbled as hard I as I could, stopping for nothing, not street signs, not for anyone staring at the gun or my naked ass from flapping hospital robe. Nothing. North, he said. So north I went.
After crossing the two blocks, I started pressing the key fob and saw the flashing headlights coming from his silver sedan parked on the corner. Then, another shot rang out. It hit me in my back and I was thrown forward to the sidewalk.
The bullet passed cleanly through my lower back and it felt like molten lava pouring through my pelvis, spreading down my right hip into my thighs. Fucking Mandee. Even with a bullet in her knee, somehow this relentless bitch had been behind me the whole time.
Now, here she was stalking me, her wounded prey. I sat up and clawed myself closer to the car, but she was closing in. All seemed hopeless until I saw a blur of motion come out of nowhere. Anna Marie tackled Mandee and savaged her neck over and over again with a field knife.
Then she got up and stared at me with the same murderous intent she had for Mandee. I pointed and begged “The car! Hurry!”
Anna…I had no idea what was racing through her mind. She looked like she had every intention on killing me too and I wouldn’t have blamed her. But after looking around, she hurried over and helped me into the vehicle. Once she was in the driver seat and rolling down the street…alas, I let myself pass out. So much had happened. The overload, the processing, the pain, my bleeding, it was all too much.