Chauncey motioned for Jenkins to get out his gun. A young man came out of the stairwell, saw their guns and ran back the way he came. Jenkins fidgeted. Chauncey said, “Focus. We are not here for him.”
Chauncey knocked at the door. He waited a couple seconds then he knocked a little harder. An old woman’s voice came through the door. Chauncey said, “Is Javier there? I’ve got a message for him from…” He looked at Jenkins and gave a wink. “Daniel Steel.” They heard whispering behind the door, creaking footsteps and a door closing.
The woman said, “I don’t think I know any Javier.” She unlocked the door and opened it just a crack to peek out. Chauncey kicked the door open. The woman fell to the floor. Chauncey walked through the door holding the shotgun at the woman’s face. Her nose trickled blood.
This woman had thin curly hair that had been dyed blond over and over. Telenovelas were playing quietly on the TV. It was a small studio apartment with no window. A sheet that was tacked to the ceiling separating two twin sized mattresses laying on the floor was pulled back. And there was only one door, the bathroom door. Jenkins was reminded of the evenings that he had spent with his own grandmother waiting for his mother to get off work.
Chauncey said, “Wake up Jenkins. Check the bathroom.
Jenkins opened the bathroom door and Javier was standing there in the dark. Jenkins said, “You missed your court date. You’re delinquent on your bond. I need you to come with us.”
Javier said, “Oh shit. Tia, are you OK?”
Chauncey said, “You know this is what happens when you run.”
That night Susan was back out under her streetlight and an old van pulled to the curb. She had been waiting there, but Maggie and Fran had not shown up. She could understand Maggie being so closely involved with suck a grisly murder she would need years to come back to herself, but living is expensive and she would be back soon. Probably much sooner than she can handle, but she’ll be there to help her along. Susan and how to live in it.
But mostly Susan hoped that Maggie would not come back. She hoped that she could find some help. She hoped that Maggie had some family that could take her in and get her back on her feet. But that couldn’t happen now. Maggie won’t leave, can’t leave. She had looked into the eyes of the city and the city had looked into her. She was part of the city, just like the old buildings and the light posts, just like the darkness that seeps into everything. The darkness is there in the buildings, in the alleys, in the traffic, in the streets, in the cracks in the sidewalk, in the weeds that grow up out of those cracks where there is no soil but the darkness.
But it’s Fran staying gone that bothers her. Fran has been around long enough that she shouldn’t be scared off by a little murder no matter how bloody. Susan couldn’t keep waiting forever though. She had bills too, and she had already waved off more customers than she could afford. She was probably just worrying about the girls but something about this van just didn’t feel right.
Susan walked up to the opened passenger side window. She said, “Where’s the party?”
The driver said, “It’s at Tony’s, Bitch.” The side doors came opened and two men jumped out. “Get in the car.”
Susan turned to run. And the men chased her. She ran up to the door to the tenement building behind her. She yanked at the handle and luckily someone had wedged a wad of paper in the door latch and it swung wide open. One of the men grabbed her but she slipped out of his grasp. She started yelling for help and dodging the men’s grasps. She beat on the first door she came to. The taller man with the hair bulging from the open lapels of his shirt grabbed her hard on the shoulder and wrapped his other arm around her neck. She couldn’t stand how familiar his smell was baby powder deodorant and cigarettes. The man pulled his arm tighter around her neck, and she started to get light he started to get lightheaded. The heavyset man came barreling through, and knocked into the one holding Susan. The man behind her lost his balance and his arm loosened. She was able to slip her chin between his arm and her neck. She bit down hard. Her mouth flooded with the sticky taste of blood. The man cussed loudly and she slipped free. But no one opened their door. Now both of the men were blocking the hall to the interior of the building.
The only means of escape was back out onto the street and the driver had gotten out of the van and he was running toward the building. She ran out the door and cut a hard right but he tackled her hard to the ground. The man she had bit ran out the door and over to the man that was on top of her holding her down. He kicked her in the head hitting the driver in the shoulder with his shin. The driver said, “Watch it, you asshole.” The man kicked her again and the driver rolled out of the way. He said, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” The tall man held his hand over his bleeding arm and kicked her two more times.
The heavyset man came from the building and grabbed the taller man by the shoulders and pulled. The man dropped his hips and slipped his grip. He kicked her again. This time he grabbed him around the waist. He said, “How’s she supposed to work if you kill her?”
The taller man said, “I don’t give a fuck if that smalltime never makes another dime. This bitch bit the fuck out of me.” But by this time he was able to control himself and they dragged her limp body to the van and rolled her onto the floor. They hopped they wouldn’t have to dump her body because they had not lined the van with plastic and her blood was soaking into the carpet.
She had seen these goons around the streets before. Kingston was the tall one, the one who dressed like a narcissist who was stuck in the nineteen-seventies with his butterfly collars and vintage bellbottoms, and Marv was the heavyset man in a t-shirt and jeans. She was not sure who the driver was but they were gang enforcers. Big Nose must have called in a few favors. He must have made some promises, gotten some loans.
Susan’s head was pounding, her right eye had swollen shut, and her lips were so fat that she couldn’t close them without pain. Her head was lying in a puddle of blood and drool. She looked up from the floorboard to see the shapes of two men sitting in the back of the van but she couldn’t get her eyes to focus and she couldn’t remember what had just happened. She tried to sit up but one of the men shoved her back down with his foot. They were talking about something but her head was ringing so bad that she couldn’t make any sense of the conversation.