can have my isolation
A few weeks later I got a call a little different from the others. Instead of someone hissing an address into the phone before hanging up, I got the instructions to look outside. I did so, and saw a Chrysler LeBaron sitting in front of the stoop. "Is that my car?" I asked the phone.
"Get in it. We're waiting for you."
As if to accentuate that point, I saw a pale hand wave cheerily from the interior of the car. Frat Boy Spike. It had to be. He was the only one who would possibly wave. I sighed, a little wary of the situation, and sidled into the back seat of the car uneasily. There was someone I had never seen before at the wheel, Vicious sitting shotgun.
"You still have your gun?" he asked me.
"Don't leave home without it," I shrugged. That was true, nowadays.
Vicious nodded. "Good. You wanted action, Little Girl. You should be careful what you wish for."
I gulped a bit. Frat Boy Spike just yawned. "Over dramatic much?" he kicked the back of Vicious' seat.
"I hardly think so," Vicious did something that vaguely resembled a shrug. "It's a rather big deal, you know. A milestone, really. I remember your first."
Spike groaned. "That's good because I have suppressed the memory back somewhere with that clown Annie hired for my 10th birthday. God, that was a fucking horror."
"The hit or the clown?" Vicious asked, his eyes smiling in the rearview mirror.
"Both," Spike lit up a cigarette and then offered one to Vicious, who politely declined. He then thrust the pack under my own nose.
"Uh...no thanks," I mumbled.
"You better take it," Vicious advised me from the front seat. "Normally you would have to pry one from his cold dead hand. He's only offering one now because this is an occasion of sorts."
"He speaks truth," Spike admitted.
I glared at Vicious for being so damn cryptic and then snatched a butt from the pack. "So, are you two going to tell me what you're prattling on about or what?" I asked as I took the first comforting drag. I hadn't had a cigarette since my sophomore year of high school. I never liked it much then, but now it provided a mild distraction from the goings on that I could appreciate. That's probably why most people smoke, when you get down to it.
"You're going to kill someone tonight."
I started immediately choking on a muddy combination of tobacco and my own spit. Spike chuckled slightly. "I think you're supposed to ease into that there, Vicious."
"We don't have time for easing into anything. We need you because you are far less conspicuous then either of us could ever be for this particular assignment."
"Which is?" I asked through a wheeze.
"Our target this evening frequently patrons a gentleman's club," Vicious said flatly.
"AKA, a Titty Bar," Spike translated. "You'll have to excuse my partner. He thinks speaking like it's the 18th century make things sound more important."
"So where do I come in?" I asked, already knowing the answer but dreading to hear it actually spoken out loud.
"Well, my dear, you are the Titty," Vicious smirked slightly. "Was that in layman's terms enough for you, Spike?"
Spike just gave him a thumbs up as he leaned his head out the window to exhale a large puff of smoke.
"We've already arranged everything for you. We have a uniform and the whole bit. This is essentially what you are going to do..."
* * *
I rolled my eyes at my own reflection as I struggled to balance about ten pounds of wings on a tray that was about half the size required to do so. That and the business of hiding the gun under my serving napkin was a little cumbersome.
It wasn't guaranteed that I would have to kill anyone. I was to simply watch and wait at this point. Vicious and Spike were meeting with a...client, as Vicious so devilishly put it. If the meeting wasn't to go their way, they would give me a signal. Spike explained to me that the guy they were meeting wasn't exactly upright. He also explained that he would be told in advance, and has been warned several times, that if he refuses to comply with their terms that he will be shot. The only thing he wasn't aware of is that the ditzy looking blond who was supposed to be bringing him an extra side of blue cheese would be the one to shoot him.
I knew Spike was trying to rationalize this out so that I wouldn't feel so bad. It was obvious how nervous I was about this. I was scared that when the time came I wouldn't be able to do it, and even more frightened that I would. But Vicious was right. I had asked for this. And I didn't regret it, really. What was the point of being a crook if I was just going to be a small time one?
I awkwardly adjusted my push up bra as I served a bunch of college kids their 6th serving of mozzarella sticks, all the while keeping my eyes on the men in the corner. I tried to gauge how the conversation was going and was finding it close to impossible. Both Vicious and Spike had uncanny poker faces. If they didn't want you to know something, then you had no clue. Then, I saw it. The signal. Fuck, fuckity, fuck.
"Can we get some more blue cheese over here?" Vicious asked loudly as he waved his hand in the air. Can we get some more blue cheese. That was the signal. I swear, I almost started laughing in my nervousness but managed to contain myself just enough to make it over there. They were both looking at me so expectantly I didn't see how it was possible that my target didn't know. He had to know. He was probably watching me this whole damn time. He was probably going for his gun right now. It would take him two seconds and then I would die on the dirty floor in a Hooters T-shirt covered in blue cheese dressing, which is exactly the way everyone had expected me to go. Well no way. I wasn't going out like that. Fuck him. Fuck all of them!
It took me a couple seconds to even realize that I was the one who had shot the gun. In fact, I actually ducked. I hid behind my tray for a second, inspecting my body for open wounds. It was in that moment I realized my gun was smoking. My eyes got huge as I felt someone grabbing me practically by the scruff of my neck and yanking me out into the street. The second I was out of there, however, I snapped out of my semi-daze and began bolting towards our getaway car. I leapt in through the window just as the car peeled out, Spike's body still hanging half way out of the car. I gave him a quick yank inside just as we hit the parkway.
No one said a word until we were safe in the limo, and even then, I wasn't feeling very talkative. I just sat looking straight ahead, thumping my foot frantically against the door in a nervous tick. Vicious was the first one to speak. "It was easy, wasn't it?" he asked me.
I made a small huffing sound as I directed my gaze out the window, my foot thumping even faster than before, which I would have thought was physically impossible.
"It's OK if it was, Julia," he said, his voice quite possibly the gentlest I had ever heard it. "Everyone kills for a living, you know. We're just up front about it."
I rolled my eyes. "Please," I muttered. "I suppose next you'll be telling me that after we ran out of the bar some nice people came and took that guy to live on a farm and chase rabbits all day."
Vicious laughed slightly as he shook his head. "Death is a natural side effect of good business," he said seriously. "Politicians sentence people to death everyday, in their own more palatable, socially accepted way, of course. Doctors decide who will live and die, lawyers send people to death row, and cops look the other way if the pay is good. At least we don't shoot people in the back."
I looked briefly into his eyes, trying to read if he believed what he was saying. I couldn't tell. But the fact remained that I had done it. When push came to shove I pulled the trigger. And so I suppose I did believe it. I suddenly felt Spike nudge me gently with his boot. "You did good in there," he smiled reassuringly. "My first one was a disaster."
I half listened to them while they reminisced about the mobster equivalent of the good old days. It was so odd, the way the spoke. I had heard about your gang being your family mostly from TV. But the way they talked it seemed to be true. I couldn't really understand how these two people could kill so easily, or how I so readily became one of them. I felt guilty, not so much because I pulled the trigger but because I didn't feel that guilty about it. All I could think was what the hell was wrong with me? Was this in me all along? Was this why I never seemed to fit anywhere else?
"Are you all right?" Vicious asked me again. The limo had already dropped Spike off, and Vicious seemed compelled to walk me to my door. He didn't normally do so, but I think he could tell I was still a little messed up about the whole thing.
"Yeah, fine," I brushed him off.
"Because if you want out it has to be now," he said flatly.
I froze at the door, key already inside of it. And so there was the reason he was walking to me to my door. To give me an ultimatum. Typical.
"Tomorrow you are going to get a call," he continued. "And if you answer it, then that's it. You're in for life. Any leaving you do after that will be in a casket."
"Jesus, Vicious," I grumbled. He really was over dramatic.
"You and Spike can mock me all you want. I'm honest. This isn't some Boys Club that we run. It's a business. Lesson the Third, Julia. Always separate the business from the man. You did it tonight without thinking about it. The key is to keep them separate outside the heat of the moment."
Something about his tone pissed me off. I whirled around on my toes. "And what about you, Vicious? If that's even your real name," I said hyper-sarcastically. "You and the business are one entity. If I hadn't happen to have been blond and had decent tits then I still would be chauffeuring you and Tweedle Dee around Mars in a GMC Pacer. I've been trucking you two around for half a year and you still wouldn't trust me half as far as you could throw me. It would be bad for business," I said mockingly as I jammed my key back into the door. I didn't know why he was suddenly pissing me off so much. I guess it was mostly because the last thing I needed at that moment was someone telling me about the hard facts of the killing trade. I just needed something human, god dammit. Something clumsy and awkward and imperfect. I never thought I'd long for the days of the back seat but at least there was some sincerity behind those misguided gropes.
I scrunched my face up at the sound of his voice. "What?" I snapped.
"My name is Eric," he repeated. I shook my head and turned to face him. "Eric?" I asked, not quite comprehending what was going on.
"Yes," he said simply.
I stared at him as if he had just sprouted a second head, and in some weird metaphorical way, he sorta did. There was some strange subtext to his real name. His eyes looked different when he said it. His body language seemed different somehow. Actually...it was more familiar than it was different. I had seen this look before. "I would like to fuck you," I blurted out, giving the look a name.
I laughed harshly as I tried Julia Enters Her Apartment, Take 5. "Nothing," I sighed as I opened the door.
"Did you just say you would like to fuck me?"
"Yes, Eric. I did," I said from the foyer.
"Well, that would be unacceptable," Vicious smirked, his old demeanor instantaneously returning. "Bad business, you know."
"God forbid," I replied in an overly husky voice. And then we paused. We paused because it occurred to us that yes, we would like very much to have sex now. We also paused because it became obvious the other was thinking the same thing. And we paused because never in the history of our lives had the transaction gone so smoothly. We only paused for a moment though, before I grabbed Vicious Eric by the button of his fly and slammed the front door shut.
You get me closer to God