battle lines being drawn
"Everything's going to be different now," Vicious spoke into the ceiling. He didn't sound like we were about to have a touching post-coital moment. He spoke like he always did. Like he was going over new business.
"I figured as much," I sighed, rolling so my back was to him. I didn't want to have to look at him in that moment. Somehow I knew it would piss me off.
"People are going to try to sugar coat all of this in the future. They are going to try to pretend like this is just some managerial dispute we're having. But I'm telling you the honest truth. We are on the brink of civil war."
I groaned and flipped over to face him, figuring it was no loss since he just managed to piss me off anyway. "You are not telling the honest truth. This is hyperbole. A civil war is a battle within a nation. We are not a nation. We are a gathering of punks. It is a managerial dispute."
"Fine. A dispute with a huge body count."
I closed my eyes at his harsh but sobering remark. Vicious paused a bit, I can only imagine it was for dramatic effect, before plowing ahead. "Again, I know you enjoy poking fun at my expense but my tendency for hyperbole is what has kept me alive all these years. These are the facts: Someone within the Dragons made a deal with a rival gang to take out who they consider their threats. In exchange for what, I don't know, but I am guessing a merge is in order."
"So they want to buy us out."
"Exactly," Vicious said with an endearing sense of pride at his quasi protˇgˇ. He really was a bit of a goof. "We obviously want to sniff this bastard out, destroy him and then pay the other gang a visit ourselves."
"And the Elders?"
"Not interested in revenge."
"Why?" I asked. I already knew the answer but I could tell he so wanted to say it that I threw him a bone.
"Because they were the ones who betrayed us."
I sighed. He was right. Dramatic as he was, he was right. This was going to be messy as hell. "How many others do you think knew about this?" I asked, already feeling my foot itching to shake.
"I don't know. Right now, the best thing to do would be assume everyone who survived is in on it. I know I'm not. And Spike couldn't be because as usual, he survived solely on dumb luck."
"How do you know I'm not in on it?" I asked seriously.
"I don't," he did something just shy of smiling. "I am allowing myself a 2% margin of error."
I stared at him for a second before turning back over, hiding the stupid grin that had just appeared on my face. I knew that was the closest Vicious would ever come to admitting he trusted me.
The next night they assigned me back on as wheelman. I was a little huffy about it at first, considering I thought of it as a demotion of sorts. "Bullshit," was Vicious' response. "You're a demon on wheels."
"She's a demon and she's gonna be chasin' after someone," Spike sang in agreement.
I shot him my patented Spike look, the one half way between irritation and amusement. "I just don't know why I'm being cut. I'm perfectly capable with a gun," I pouted. I was behaving like a five-year-old but I was past the point of caring.
"You're not being cut," Vicious explained. "You're being bumped."
"Oh, in that case," I rolled my eyes.
"Jules, you're a fucking animal behind the wheel," Spike smiled at me. "We need you tonight. Simple as that."
Vicious nodded in agreement. I sighed, which was the closest thing to verbal acceptance they were going to get from me. It wasn't so much that I was eager to kill. It's just the wheelman always had a certain detachment from the proceedings. I didn't want to feel detached now, not when such big things were on the horizon. It made me uneasy.
The job went...typically. By the time I screeched into our rendezvous point for the night, all anyone could think about was getting drunk off our asses. But it wouldn't have been wise for us to go out tonight, especially since the Red Dragons never partied without causing a scene. Reluctantly, the limo dropped us all off at our chosen points, my own a few blocks from my house. But as I approached my apartment, I could sense something was wrong. I pulled out my gun and jumped into the ally. It was quiet. Very quiet. I peaked around the wall and saw to my horror a body draped over the stoop. My landlord. I gasped and shot back around the corner. Shit. It wasn't necessarily anything work related. People got shot all the time on Mars. Still...there was no way in hell I was going to enter that apartment. I walked several blocks down, hand on my gun the whole time, until I was in a public enough place. I called Vicious up and told him.
"That was fast," was his response.
"We don't know that it was them," I pointed out.
"But we'd be assholes if we didn't assume it was. All right. We'll put you up in one of the safe houses. Stay where you are. I'll have someone come get you."
"Am I going to be there by myself?" Somehow that didn't seem very "safe."
"I'll be there in the morning. And Spike'll be there."
"Why would he be in a safe house?"
"Because he's a bum who can't afford his own place," Vicious sighed. "Don't worry, Julia. These sorts of things happen all the time. We'll handle it. We're professionals."
I had to laugh slightly at the fact the statement "these things happen all the time" was meant to be a comfort. We hung up and I waited around until Lin honked at me from yet another shit syndicate car. With all the money they had rolling in, you would think they'd splurge a bit on our getaway vehicles.
"You, Ok?" he asked me.
"Fine. Wish I can say the same for my landlord," I said sadly. She was a pain in the ass but I certainly never wished her dead. She was honestly one of those few stray innocents that get caught in our crossfire. I felt bad about that, despite everything.
Lin, as if he knew what I was thinking, said nothing. He just smiled and said good night as he dropped me off in front of a dilapidated old split-level. And so this was my life.