“That mouth’s gonna get you killed someday.”
—Ricky ‘Cash Money’ Mouton
Thursday night, 27 September 2007, PM
Emmett: “Just so you know,” he says a little later, as their tires eat up road. “We’re even now. I figure.”
GM: Sami just stares.
Emmett: “I mean, you raped me, then I got you gangraped, which was kind of more than I planned going in, but you know, they weren’t exactly asking my opinion. Then, you know. You pulled the gun. Nearly shit myself, actually. That was crazy. And I trusted my cuz, but he did the one thing I asked him not to. So then I killed him so the lady could bring you back. Then we killed Dino, which neither of us really needs to feel bad about. Then I set up that place nice for the cops, and then you shot me in the foot, and by the way, this is a borrowed car, so that’s going to be a bitch and a half to clean. Also, and I really hope this makes you happy, it hurts. Good job.”
He hisses his teeth and squints at a traffic light. “Look, where did you want to go? I’ll take you there, but you should know, as long as Cash Money’s out there, there’s still a way for the mob to figure out what really happened. And I know you’re scared of him ‘cuz he’s a cop, but that’s nothing to who his other friends are. I’m not trying to scare you, just telling you that unless we cover our asses, tonight, all we’ve done is buy ourselves a day or two. And fuck, my foot hurts. Goddammit.”
He honks at the Mazda that cuts in front of them narrowly.
“Jermaine shot you. Mangled the hole real bad, too. Is it still there? I know a doctor.”
Not that he’s looking forward to explaining this to Lena.
GM: Sami looks confused.
Emmett: “What bit do I need to say again?”
GM: “Talk slower than you drive,” she growls.
Emmett: “Okay,” he acknowledges. “What do you remember after he cut your throat?”
GM: Sami blinks slowly.
“It… was dark.”
Emmett: “Yeah. You remember the woman, though? The creepy bitch with the eyes that just didn’t stop? Do you remember what she did?”
GM: Sami looks confused.
“I was… in my house.”
Emmett: His turn to look confused.
“And… and what happened?”
GM: Sami motions with the gun.
Her eyes narrow. “What happened?”
Emmett: “In… in the house. And when you woke up.”
His voice is shaking a little, and not because of the gun. He turns.
GM: Sami frowns confusedly.
“I said, what happened to me?”
Emmett: “Oh. Um.”
He keeps his eyes on the road when he tells the story.
How she stopped breathing, or was about to. How he couldn’t believe what he had done.
He never wanted to kill her.
How the woman asked what he would do to save her, and how he couldn’t let himself say anything except for anything.
The things she asked him to do.
What he took from Dino. Fed to the freak in the leather.
How she… chanted.
How she brought Sami back, in exchange for his cousin.
It was Jermaine’s fault for killing her. That’s what he told himself. He knew he was lying then. He doesn’t know why he’s telling her all this.
It seems so pointless to lie anymore.
GM: Sami listens, quietly. Her face looks hard at first, and utterly without sympathy for Em’s regrets. Her finger seems to all but itch against the gun’s trigger.
Then, mid-way through, she looks baffled.
“You expect me to believe that shit?” Sami growls when he’s done. “What the fuck do you mean, killed me? Brought me back?”
Emmett: “Doesn’t matter if you believe it. It happened. You think I opened a vein for shits and giggles? Cut off Dino’s testicle because I thought the geometry was off? Killed my cuz because he farted loudly? Nah, Sami. Believe what you want. I’m too tired to dress it up nice for you.”
He drives. “For what it’s worth, you and I are both going to be dead inside of three days if nothing changes, so if you’re going to keep waving that thing in my face, you can pull the trigger, too. If I wanted to fuck you up, you don’t think I would have done when I was still strapped?”
GM: “Why the fuck am I here if your piece of shit cousin fucking killed me!?” Sami snaps. The gun doesn’t move.
Emmett: “I don’t know. How come you seem to have forgotten he shot you before he cut your fucking throat? How come that lady had some kind of sex slave from a leather daddy’s nightmare? Why are you so insecure you had to roofie Cécilia’s boyfriend to feel like you had a shot against her? Why is every rocket NASA makes shaped like a cock? I’m your driver, not a magic eight-ball. You want the truth, Sami? The only things I give two shits about right now are making sure my family doesn’t get dragged into this and you living. I’m not sure if you’ve picked up on this, but the fact that I’m still talking probably means I have some kind of death wish, or maybe just that I figured out if you shoot me while we’re in traffic, you’re going to have some very cranky lawmen to talk to very quickly, so make a fucking decision already and kill me or don’t. This on the edge shit is getting old, and when I get bored I get juvenile.” He turns his head from the road to glare at her, cocks his head so that she has a clear shot.
“Go ahead. Do it. I got you raped and killed and since apparently there’s no coming back from that, you may as well get it over with. Do it. Do it!”
His eyes are burning. Not with glee, not with malice. Just exhaustion. Frustration.
GM: There’s silence in the car for several moments as traffic blares past. Sami’s brown eyes are burning too. There’s some frustration there, as well as exhaustion, and a toxic emotional brew of god knows what else that it took four live rapists turned into two dead rapists to ferment.
“I’m not fucking over my life too,” Sami finally snarls, lowering the gun. “You’ve already done a good enough job at that. You have a death wish, fine. Take the freeway exit. Go drive outside the city. I’ll blow out your brains somewhere people won’t see.”
Emmett: “Sounds like a plan. What’s yours after that?”
He switches lanes before they miss the exit, eliciting honks he barely registers.
GM: “Not your problem then, is it?”
Emmett: “It’s my problem now. You think I want you dead? I just committed a few lifetime’s worth of Emmett so I didn’t have to look at your stupid corpse, so yeah, if you’re about to do something retarded like head back home, at least I’ll know to tell you where to find Cash Money so you can deal with him before you try pretending this is over.”
He eyes the duffel bag in the back. “You skipping town? That’s a good plan. You don’t care about your parents, right? The ones who pay a boatfuck of cash so they can tel themselves you’re getting treated nice at McGehee?”
He slaps the radio on.
GM: “WHY THE FUCK, IF YOU CARE SO FUCKING MUCH ABOUT ME, DID YOU GET US INTO THIS!?” Sami suddenly screams at him, her eyes wide and furious.
Emmett: “BECAUSE OF YOU!”
A stretch of open road yawns before him. His foot falls to the pedal like eleven gallons of bullshit sinking a ten-gallon drum, and the engine roars to match his voice.
“YOU! BECAUSE OF WHAT YOU DID! TO ME!”
Trees whip by. A rest stop sign telling him it’s only five miles from the nearest O’Tolley’s.
40. 45. 50.
“Forgotten that, have we?” he snarls. “Forgotten you drugged me and sat on my cock like it was a merry go-round and got all up in my shit?! You seemed to remember it pretty fucking vividly when I was treating you to dinner. YOU. CUNT!”
60. 65. 70. The cars on the other side of the road become chromatic smudges melting into the night he can’t drive away from.
“WHY I GOT US INTO THIS?! Because Cécilia’s a tease and her precious fucking Maman’s a monster. Because I have nothing, nothing but myself, and you TOOK THAT FROM ME! Did you ever get that? Ever even THINK about it? I did, which is why Cécilia still has whatever the fuck it is she keeps between her legs! Because I did one half-good thing, stopped myself from being the worst person I could be, and you showed me it didn’t matter a shit!”
85. 90. 95… was that a speed limit sign?
“WHY I GOT US INTO THIS? BECAUSE I NEEDED YOU, and you BEAT ME! GODDAMMIT!”
120, and the brakes scream as he sees headlights like devil’s eyes flickering up ahead.
He doesn’t crash, somehow, and cuts around the blaring driver—"YEAH, FUCK YOU TOO!"—at a mere 80. The radio sings through it all in voices he barely cares to listen to.
“That,” he says through gritted teeth, “is why. Because I needed you. And the only way I could get you to take me seriously was to break you like you broke me.” He lets out a harsh, mean little laugh. “Fuck, think I might’ve overdone it?”
GM: “SLOW THE FUCKING CAR!” Sami yells in his aching ear. Maybe she’s been yelling for a while past Em. It’s hard to say. Maybe long enough that she thinks yelling isn’t too useful at this point, as she’s got the gun out again. She’s holding it by the barrel as if to pistol-whip him.
Emmett: He slows it.
“Make him the cutest, I’ve ever seen,” women’s voices sing through radio speakers.
GM: Sami’s heaving chest is rising and falling in tune with her labored breaths. She looks awful still. She hasn’t even rinsed off. Em might absently wonder why.
“You are SO FUCKED UP!” she yells over the Chordettes’ 1950s-pleasant voices.
“Sandman… I’m so alone… " goes the radio.
Emmett: “Thank fuck! Thank fuck somebody else thinks so, I’ve been thinking that for a while. But then again, it’s not like you’d have much perspective. Little miss-back-from the-dead. Little miss murderer. Little miss I-need-to-be-popular. The next time you think about why this happened, at least remember you started it.”
He takes a deep breath. “I know I’m fucked up,” he snarls. “I have to live with myself every second of every day. Knowing exactly what a bastard I am. So you’ll be doing me a favor when you end it. You want to know why I care about you? It’s because you’re a fucking awful person, and that reminds me of myself. I bet you learned how to lie to your mom pat before you got your first period. Bet daddy would buy you almost anything if you asked nicely enough, but it’s more fun to take it from some mope with more head in their pants than on their shoulders. How’s all that mystery working out for you? Think I don’t know who you are? Sami, you vicious bitch, you showed me exactly who you are in less than ten minutes.”
“Send me a dream… "
GM: The handgun’s butt smashes across Em’s face. It hurts. He tastes blood.
“My dad WOULDN’T buy me SHIT, asshole! I had to beg! I had to whine! I had to say ‘please, Daddy’ in that stupid voice! I get SHIT! Girls like Cécilia get everything and I—get—SHIT!”
She whips him again on the other side of his face. It hurts, too.
Emmett: “Theigh you go,” he laughs, even as he groans through the pain. “You’re ‘ight, they do.” He coughs out the blood. “It’s her fault we’re here, you know. I mean, ours, obviously—but hers, too. With her stupid fucking smile.”
GM: Sami doesn’t slow down.
“I had to BEG to get into McGehee! Just for a SHOT at what she has! I BEGGED! They said sure, they’d use my COLLEGE FUND! NOW I had my shot, and YOU fucked up that, and the only reason I’m not putting a bullet in your fucking head is you’ll FUCK UP MY LIFE EVEN MORE THAT WAY, SO I CAN GO TO JAIL FOR TWO FUCKING MURDERS!”
Sami gives a mangled, inarticulate cry and smashes the pistol into his face again, where she did the first time. It really hurts. Em tastes more blood.
“I DESERVE BETTER!” Sami shrieks with bloodshot eyes, her chest madly heaving.
Emmett: “Theigh you go,” he half-groans, half-chortles. “You’re ‘ight, you do.” He coughs out the blood. “You’re ‘ight. You think I didn’t say the same exact thing? ‘S why I tried to fuck Cici in the first place.”
His chest rises and falls, too. “‘Cilia. It’s her fault we’re here, you know. I mean, ours, obviously—but hers, too. With her stupid fucking smile. Stupid fucking family. Fucking mom.”
“Let him know his lonesome nights are over…"
GM: “Pretty sure she wasn’t the whiny bitch butthurt over getting lucky,” Sami glares.
At least she isn’t hitting him again. Yet.
“And who fucking cares about her mom?”
Emmett: He laughs, even as his eyes flare at the derision. “Butthurt. Interesting choice of words. But yeah, her fault. You wouldn’t have done what you did if she wasn’t so fucking untouchable. I wouldn’t have tried to fuck her so hard if she was less perfect. Her mother wouldn’t have shown me what she is if I hadn’t tried to fuck her daughter. I wouldn’t be making the movie if I thought I wasn’t worse than dead otherwise, because that lady ain’t what she looks like. Yeah, I get it, I’m an asshole, but you know you are too. But we deserve better. And because she lives better than both of us, she’s never going to hurt like we do.”
He rolls down the window and spits blood. “Unless she’s made to hurt.”
GM: Sami just stares venom. Right now it looks more at him than Cécilia.
“What the fuck do you mean, ‘shown you what she is’?”
Emmett: “If I tell you, you won’t believe me. But if I don’t tell you, you’ll kill me. But if I tell you, you’ll kill me anyway. This is what my mama likes to call ‘a conundrum.’ But since it’s just me here, I’ll tell you. You remember how all the girls who tried to knock down Cici got really unlucky? I’m going to guess maybe a few of them ended up with problems nobody saw coming on their doorstep and came off the worse for even looking at her wrong. Maybe even a few of them don’t go to McGehee anymore. Stop me if I’m wrong. And I bet, if you’re clever, and you are, you’ll have noticed anybody who tries to touch her sisters ends up the same way. What happened to her brat sister after Wesley stripped her at the dance? I’m guessing anybody who tried to tease her got real unlucky, real fast. They’re a real unlucky family to fuck with, ain’t they?”
He still drives, albeit slowly. Bitch to focus while she’s hitting him, but then if they crash, she can live with that. He won’t need to.
“Have you ever met Abélia?”
GM: If he’s wrong, Sami doesn’t stop him.
She just listens, then finally hmphs, “No, why would I?”
Emmett: “Ah, you don’t know much about Cici if you think she doesn’t matter. She doesn’t love anybody more than her Maman, I learned that quick enough. It’s all Maman this, Maman that. Maman killed a girl who gave her brat sister cheese and sent her to the hospital.”
“Let me ask you—I’m kidding, I’m going to ask you anyway—do you remember anything at all before Jermaine opened up your neck? Anything after your little escape attempt? You remember getting shot?”
GM: “Pull over somewhere,” Sami says tightly.
Emmett: “Sure, but if you don’t answer the question, I can’t tell you what you need to know to take everything from her. Let’s do that first, shall we?”
GM: “Pull over somewhere or I’ll shoot you again once we do,” Sami snarls.
Emmett: He starts to pull over, shrugging. “Your funeral. Well, it would have been. Before I brought you back to life. Not that I need thanks. I’m a very selfless man, everybody says so.”
He pulls into the shoulder.
“Your parking space, madame.”
GM: Sami smashes the gun into his groin, across his already struck face, and then his groin again. Then his mouth, too. There’s more blood. More pain. More hurt.
Emmett: He takes it. “You… done?”
GM: “You done being a piece of shit? Because if not, blowing out your brains was already real fucking tempting.”
Emmett: “Probably… not… but I can ease up. Look. The point is Abélia isn’t… wait, fuck.”
He rolls down the window, spits more blood.
“Not human. That’s the big secret. Big thing. She’s… something else. If I had a lie that made sense, I’d say that instead. But I don’t. She’s some kind of thing. And so is Cici.”
GM: Sami stares.
“What the fuck do you mean, not human?”
Emmett: He stares at her back. “What it sounds like. Her breast milk is black. Saw her feeding the little one. She let me see. Makeup can’t do that. And she… she told me. She knows who I am. Doesn’t care. Thinks it’s funny, or something. She’s some kind of thing. Like a vampire or alien or whatever. Like the lady who bought you back was. Not. Normal.”
He spits more blood out the side.
“You know… I deserve this… but you’re making it hard for me to talk to Cash Money, later. He’ll set the mob on us. On you. If I’m dead. Not sure you care.”
GM: Sami’s confounded expression swiftly gives way to one of pure hate.
“Guess we’d better stop him then.”
“No. Fuck. He’s a cop.”
Emmett: “Yeah… but you whack him, the cops come after us. Right. You wanna hear my… plan, or just cap me now?”
GM: “Oh, I wanna do the second.” The hate in Sami’s eyes doesn’t dim. “For now I’ll settle for the first.”
Emmett: He laughs. “W-witty. Ah, excuse me, I think you knocked—” He leans over and spits again. When he turns back to her she might notice the missing molar.
“We can blackmail him. Obviously, don’t wanna phrase it like that, but we have the tape still. You do. You can do whatever you want with it, but if he thinks it might end up with the police, well, even this police department might not be able to st-stomach him.”
He can’t feel his foot.
That’s okay. He doesn’t need it to drive.
“S-so, tonight, we go to his club. And I thought—I thought, I’d go in, tell him how things ended up, tell him we had the tape and if shit went down wrong and the police got to us or the mob did — the pigs would get it. That’s… that’s the stick. The carrot is what I took from the house.”
He pats with one weak-feeling hand his breast pocket. Draws out the hard drive. Shows her.
“All kinds of… dirt on that. Scary shit. Shit the mob’ll probably… kill for. Lady said it was the underboss’ house. That means real shit. We give this to him, maybe some of the cash you lifted—we get him to sing the song we want to the mob. How we left and all the shit that went down happened after and had jack to do with us. And then… then you can kill me. And I’ll even shut up on the way so you can make it quick. Just… put me in the Bayou. That’s the safe thing. You’ll need to get rid of the car, too, but that’s, you know, easy. Leave it someplace it’ll get stolen with the key in the door. That’s not the hard… hard part—fuck.” He starts coughing. The phlegm comes out all red. He tries to smile. He’s sure it looks gruesome.
“I deserve it. We both know that. Just… lemme go missing. So my family thinks I ran, or something. Don’t want my sis to think I could hurt somebody like I hurt you.”
Em sighs. “Don’t think she could believe I did, though. I’m a special kind of b-bastard.”
He doesn’t sound proud. Just sick.
GM: “I’m not stepping foot inside his club,” Sami reflexively says, then seems to think.
“Yeah. You’ll do that. Tape stays with me, hard drive, whatever, goes with you. So he can’t just grab and torture us both to get out of this. Because fuck trusting anyone. And fuck your stupid family.”
Emmett: “Ah, they’re stupid, but they’re s-sweet,” he mutters. He is, in fact, full of goodwill he didn’t think he had for the Delacroix clan. They really raised him right, so that he would know how wrong he is.
“Good call with staying in the car. But’s one problem. I’m not really in tip-top shape. I go in… as is… I don’t think I’m coming out. I mean, no fault of yours, I had all this shit coming, but I’m in a bad place to negotiate. So way I see it, we have two… options.”
GM: “Oh what, because you were gonna he-man fight your way out anyway if that piece of shit double-crossed us?”
Emmett: “Nah… ‘cuz dirty cops smell weakness, and I reek of it. I go in… not sure I can convince him to let me suck his dick, let alone blackmail him. I mean, come on. If I walked up to you tryin’ to parley and shit, how’d you play it?”
“Limped up, more like. Because, you know. The foot.”
GM: “I’d care more about the tape with me on it.” Sami’s eyes look like brittle glass for a moment. “Whatever. What brilliant options do you have?”
Emmett: He winces, then, and even he doesn’t quite know why. “I guess… I guess you would. The first option is the stupid one that gets us both killed. We get back to the Quarter. We find a dealer. Get some heroin. Oxi. Whatever. Painkillers. And I take however much I need to stand up straight, and I go in pretending I’m all strong and shit and I just… bullshit. Maybe I can do it. Maybe I can’t. I really don’t know. Like I said, it’s stupid, but it’s the only way I can think of that I might come back out.”
He takes a deep breath. “That option sound good to you? Because you aren’t going to like the second.”
GM: “Well I won’t fucking know until I hear it, will I?”
Emmett: “Okay. I don’t do it at all. You do.” He holds up a hand at the protest he knows is coming. “Look. You’re scared right now. Of course you are. You’re hurting. And Sami, not that it matters a shit, but I’m sorry. God, I’m sorry for how I did you. I’ve known I deserve whatever’s coming to me for a while, but I only felt it after tonight, so… I’m sorry. That was evil. I know it was.”
“But in case you didn’t notice… you’re strong. You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met. I don’t even think I’m exaggerating. I mean, you pulled a gun out of fucking nowhere while getting gangraped and made every man who wronged you piss themselves. Did you see Mouton’s face? Like he’d accidentally drank from a fuckin’ porta potty. Fuck, he was so scared of you he ran. You get that? Look, you hate me, I hate me, everybody with half a fucking brain would—but give yourself some credit. I had you dead to fucking rights, and you turned all that shit around. Because you’re stronger than me. You’re stronger than him. And if you walk in there knowing that, you can walk back out with his balls in your purse. I shit you not. I wouldn’t be suggesting it if I didn’t think you had a better shot than me.”
He’s out of breath from so many words arranged so neatly. “I know you’re scared. I know you’re angry. But god fucking dammit: you’re also a force of fuckin’ nature, and it’s him who needs to be scared of you. Not no other way around.”
“But… if… if you can’t, because it’s too much right now… I get it. And I’ll do it. It’ll be riskier, and fuck if it’s not the dumbest shit I’ve ever tried to do, but I’ll do it. Because I owe you at least that much. It’s your choice.”
GM: Sami blinks slowly at Em’s words. Her eyes get that glassy look again at the mention of ‘gang-rape,’ and it doesn’t escape Em that she hasn’t used the word ‘rape’ at any point. Perhaps to use the word herself would be to make it real.
Still, the apology and uplifting if not effusive tenor of Em’s praise shifts Sami’s look from one of unconcealed hate to… simply blank.
“That’s… nice,” she says slowly, and more than a little lamely.
She shakes her head as if to dispel a fog.
“But if I ever see that guy again, I’m going to shoot his cock. Then I’m going to kill him.”
The words aren’t even hateful. Just empty.
“Don’t trust myself not to do that now. Don’t need a dealer to get you painkillers either. Can just buy them over the counter.”
She looks at the hole in his foot.
“And I guess shoes.”
Emmett: He nods. It makes sense.
“Okay. Then. W-when I go in, you’re going to want to be ready to go quick—if I’m not out in f-fifteen minutes, and if anybody w-walks out to, towards the car, g-gun it.”
He had a stutter when he was a kid. He hated talking, which was awful because he loved seeing people listen to him. The speech therapists were almost useless. It was the practice that fixed him, the endless hours in the mirror watching his mouth, his tongue. His teeth. When he learned how to speak, nobody could shut him up. He doesn’t like to think about the days before.
This woman has made him forget to speak again.
He’ll need to fix that before the walks in.
“Ok-kay, t-then. Let’s find some paink, k… killers. I d-don’t fink I’m gonna be able to st-stay awake, without… fuck.”
He opens the door, and this time he’s vomiting instead of spitting. Red, gooey flecks he’s careful to keep out of Chuck Pavaghi’s precious ride.
Well. Better he get it out now than inside the club. He has a feeling that vomiting all over the filthy cop won’t make Mouton more amenable to his suggestions.
GM: Sami doesn’t say anything more. Em backs up and drives. Road rolls past.
“I told you I was in my house,” she says after a little. “My parents’ house. After it went black.”
Sami stares blankly ahead into the onrushing night.
“I hate my house.”
He idly recognizes that it’s a good sign she’s telling him, but he’s pretty focused on not getting too light-headed. At least when he listens to her he doesn’t need to worry about losing consciousness.
“What a, about it? Th-that you h-hate.”
GM: “Everything,” she says flatly.
“I saw my parents. I hate them too.”
Emmett: “Yeah. Me t-too. What are t-they? What k-k-kind of a-assholes?”
GM: Sami stares into the night.
“I didn’t do it. With the gun. The woman looked at me. Then it was there.”
Emmett: “I believe you. She isn’t n-normal.”
GM: “I don’t know. I don’t know why she helped.”
“I don’t know why that doesn’t feel lucky.”
Emmett: “Doesn’t mean you w-weren’t st-strong. As a-anybody could be, with w-what we put you thr-through. You st-still went for the g-gun after. Still sh-shot me. Like a b-badass.” He laughs, and it hurts to listen. “L-like a… T-Tarantino movie… c-coolest shit I ever s-saw.”
“St-still hurts, mind. But that’s… okay. ‘S okay.”
GM: “You sound like a retard.” There’s not even scorn in the words.
Emmett: “I k-kn-know. Old st-stutter. It’ll g-get better when I… when I do.”
GM: “Should be grateful to her. Dunno why I’m not.”
Emmett: “B-because she knew what was g-gonna happen and l-let it so she c-could exploit it.”
GM: “She feels like poison.”
Emmett: “S-she feels… like Abélia d-does.”
GM: “What is she,” Sami says tonelessly. “They.”
Emmett: “D-dunno. B-but. They’re not people.”
Emmett: “S-she seems normal, I g-guess,” he admits. “B-but if that thing’s her mother… I d-don’t k-know.”
“The one th-thing about her th-that’s not normal… is how p-perfect she is. N-never been hurt. N-no self-esteem sh-shit. She’s happier th-than anybody I’ve met. B-but you already know that.” He half-laughs, half-sighs. “Th-that was the first… clue. She isn’t broken a-at all. But everybody human is.”
GM: “Everyone’s broken,” Sami repeats hollowly.
Emmett: He doesn’t have anything to say to that, so he doesn’t.
After a little he says, “M-my p-parents—they hate me. I m-mean, th-they’d never s-say th-that, but I can t-tell. Th-think I’m st-stupid. Delinquent, my d-dad says. G-guess they have a p-point. B-but fuck them. S-seriously. F-for pr-pretending… to care.”
GM: Sami doesn’t seem to have anything to say to that either.
So she doesn’t.
Friday night, 28 September 2007, AM
GM: Em drives a while. No one talks. They pull in at the nearest 24/7 grocery store with a pharmacy. Sami takes the bag with her, and wordlessly holds out a hand for some of Em’s cash, to go in for some ibuprofen. The pain goes away, mostly. Sami isn’t sure what place is open that sells shoes at this hour.
They pull in near the Barely Legal.
There are few places in the world that can walk the line between “grimy disgusting shithole” and “mecca of rambunctiousness.” New Orleans, Louisiana straddles that divide with unparalleled grace.
The Barely Legal drunkenly stumbles after it.
It’s a hole in the wall strip club on Bourbon Street, stuck in between the plethora of restaurants and shops that line the partygoer-filled street. Unlike many of the topless establishments of the French Quarter, Barely Legal asks for no cover charge, ushering patrons straight into a neon-red world of scintillating lights, thumping music, and pole-dancing, ample-breasted women in various states of undress. Frat boys, dirty old men, sleazebag cops, and washed-up losers variously cheer, gawk, and leer at the strippers as they stick dollar bills between g-strings. An omnipresent musk of cheap perfume, sweat, pre-cum, dollar bills, and cigarette smoke suffuses the dimly-lit place. A fully-stocked bar lurks in the corner, offering a “wacky” party menu that lets patrons do everything from having the staff refer to them as “Master” for $100 to managing the club for a day for $20,000.
Walking hurts. Some people look at Em like he’s a bum. He doesn’t see Cash Money anywhere inside, but several strippers offer to make him “feel better.”
Emmett: It takes a while for the pills to kick in. When they do, things blur and sharpen by turn. He floats from transitional, dreamlike moments, to episodes of cool, yet detached, lucidity. His world blurs. Now he’s in the car while Sami drives, fingers probing the cool, inaccessible maw of the hard drive.
Then he’s outside Chuck’s car. He’s looking through the window at Sami’s face, still flecked with blood and grime where he looks closely. She’s prettier than he remembers, and he doesn’t know why. “I’ll be out in twenty minutes. If I’m not, hoof it. Same if anybody looks at this car funny. You can make it out if you’re smart. You are. Now.” His voice is cool and withdrawn as he holds out a hand. “Give me however much money you feel like paying for this to work.”
Then, he’s gliding across the street, only dimly aware of the winking green lights that let him move without being crushed. His bad foot, wrapped in gas station wrapping paper and cloth to hide the bleeding, drags, but the pain doesn’t seem to be talking to the part of him that cares. Neon thighs flash and kick from the clubfront. Blink, and they might crush you with glowing love.
Then he’s at the doors, and he hears his heart in his ears. It isn’t hammering, or thudding in his chest, or any of what they say it should be. It’s just a tap, tap, tap on the inside of his head, a thin percussion, a meter for the scene.
Is this what it feels like to be in a movie? Not acting, not pretending, but living a life you might lose, will lose? He imagines so. Its about time he got to know what it feels like to really be alive.
The lights of the French Quarter are beautiful. The set twinkles and screams and demands his attention.
Now he’s inside.
Sweat, semen, shit. The smells would bother him more than the sights, dreamlike and lurid, of flesh pressed against flesh and whispered promises he has no time to even long for.
“Bring me to the manager,” he says. “Now.”
He answers their confusion with an impatient, disapproving portrait of Benjamin Franklin. Maybe they see the cheap bracelets covering the slit on his wrist, the one still bleeding intermittently. Maybe not. It doesn’t really matter. Green is still green, even with a few spots of red.
Tap, tap, tap, his heart goes. Al.Most. Dead.
GM: The $100 gets Em a meeting with the manager, a mostly bald and overweight black man wearing jeans, a leather jacket, and an unsmiling expression. For someone whose job is to run a strip club, he looks distinctly unglamorous and undesirable. One of the bouncers is with him.
“Yeah, what?” the guy asks once Em’s in his office. He looks the teenager over critically.
Emmett: “Get Mouton on the phone. I’m not waiting.” He pulls out the wad of mobster-lifted cash and counts out another two hundred bucks.
“And if you make me wait, he ain’t gonna be happy. Start dialing.”
GM: The manager looks at Em, then slugs him across the jaw. He tastes blood. It hurts. Not as bad as when Sami hit him with the gun, but bad after how many times she hit him with the gun.
“Watch your mouth, kid,” he grunts.
He takes the money and counts it. He seems to weigh whether it’s enough for a moment, then picks up his phone and dials a number.
Emmett: He spits on the floor and waits.
GM: “Kid here asking for you. Looks like shit.”
GM: A pause.
“Deeyuh-croy? He’s slurring pretty bad.”
Emmett: “Delacroix. About Dino.”
GM: A pause.
“Says it’s about Dino.”
Emmett: Em holds out his hand.
GM: The manager hangs up. He looks at the bouncer.
“Don’t let him leave.”
Emmett: “Tell him the Green-Eyed Lady sent me. Tell him she’s not very happy.”
GM: The large-armed, scraggly-bearded man gives the manager an affirmatory grunt.
Emmett: “And then, you ask yourself something.”
GM: “How much more money you got?” asks the manager.
Emmett: Em steps close to the asshole.
His eyes look into his.
Em isn’t strong.
Em isn’t tough.
But those are the eyes of a rapist and murderer, and one who doesn’t particularly like waiting.
“I’m going to say this once, and I don’t care if you listen. You can beat the shit out of me, won’t change anything. Can smack me ‘til I bleed out the ass. And none of that’ll save your own ass once he gets here and hears what I have to say, who I work for, and what she wants.”
Em isn’t tall.
But tonight he has killed and bled and wept, and he is taller than this man.
“So ask yourself: how much does Cash Money like you? Are you his brother? Cousin? Shit, maybe his best man?”
He spits again on the floor, brings himself closer to the prick, lets him see the monster in his eyes.
“Ask yourself. Because when a fucker like me shows up on his door, tells him he has a problem, he can’t take it out on me. I matter to somebody. Somebody who matters to him. But I put him in a bad mood? He fires your replaceable ass for making me wait and putting me in a bad mood. So I’m going to ask you to call him one last time, and if you don’t, when he gets here he’s going to be very, very mad you didn’t. And because you’re nothing, and nobody, he’ll do whatever the fuck he wants to do to you. I’m sure he’s not the kind of guy who abuses his employees in the least when they drop the ball. So. Do yourself a favor, call him again, give me the phone, and I won’t ask for your balls when I leave.”
He spits on the ground, again.
“Or you could beat the shit out of me. Doesn’t change a damn thing. I been through worse tonight anyway. I matter. You don’t.”
He still holds out his hand.
He’s so fragile, so breakable.
But his eyes promise murder.
“What’s it gonna be, bitch? You feel like making the boss mad today? I hear you can make good money at the other clubs. Dancing.”
GM: The man stares at Em, then throws a fist into his gut.
Emmett: He’s laughing as he falls.
GM: The man kicks him in the chest several times. Stomps on his legs. It hurts.
Emmett: So fucking what?
So has everything else.
GM: He bends down and starts rummaging through Em’s pockets. Takes out the rest of the money. Holds up the hard drive.
Emmett: He snorts, and says, “Something he’ll kill you for knowing about.”
He seems content to lay on the floor. Wait.
“Man, this is going to be fun.”
GM: “Bet on it.” The manager tucks the hard drive into his jacket pocket, then walks out.
The door closes. The bouncer stares down at Em.
He doesn’t talk.
Em can smell the musk of hair tonic, tabasco sauce, and contagious sleaze before the door even opens. Then it does, and Cash Money walks in. His puffy lips part into a very ugly and very nasty smile.
“Well, well, well.”
He pulls up a chair and sits down. Em stays on the floor.
“Just the guy I was looking for.”
Emmett: Em’s still on the floor. He smiles back. “That’s what the Green-Eyed Lady told me before she sent me. She isn’t very happy with how you handled things back there.”
Em seems comfortable on the floor. Lounging, even.
GM: The self-content, sleaze-dripping, puffy-lipped smile doesn’t go away.
But it stops spreading.
Emmett: “Yeah, she… she put a lot of work into me after everything went to shit. See, I stayed. Followed her instructions. You ran when things got rough. Me, I don’t blame you. Her? She seemed pretty… well. A lady like that, we know what she does when she’s pissed. I’d call her… peeved. But I tell her, I know Cash Money by rep. He’s a stand-up motherfucker, and he’s a redbone besides. So I say, let’s give him a shot to help us out. Let’s do him a solid so he can do us one.”
He chuckles. “Then your manager got his cardio in on me. Not such a tight ship you’re running here. They didn’t seem to think you needed to know what she wanted you to know. Maybe that’s because you don’t really care about what she has to say. Is that what it is, detective? She’ll want to know.”
He stretches on the floor, leans his back against the desk.
“And she put so much effort into me… into you, even. She doesn’t want you to lose your job. I said it’d be a waste, a stand-up motherfucker like you getting outed as a child rapist, and she… I mean, she didn’t agree, you know what she’s like, but she agreed to let me talk things over with you.”
GM: Cash Money grabs the collar of Em’s shirt with a long peanpole arm and yanks the teenager’s face to close to level with his crotch. The tabasco-tonic smell gets stronger.
Emmett: Em looks him dead in the eyes, and smiles a bloody smile.
“Yeah. It is. You want to send your boy out before I start talking real shit?”
“I’m sorry. Real shit, sir?”
I will never be able to eat hot sauce again.
If this were a movie, this would be the moment he said something along the lines if, “I bet you’re wondering how I ended up here,” and then cut away to the twinkling nights of a dance he no linger remembers fondly.
Instead he just stares up at those filthy, sleaze-leaking eyes, and smiles like he’s about to get jerked off.
This is not the staring contest to lose.
GM: That puffy-lipped, nasty smile starts to spread again.
“Give us some privacy.”
Cash Money’s other hand strokes a growing bulge in his pants as the bouncer backs out.
“If I don’t like what comes out of your mouth we’ll see how much I like what goes in.”
“Damn, I’m surprised you still got love to give. Thought you’d have been pretty tired out after all the shit went down back at the fat man’s house.”
He doesn’t know the underboss’ name. But the fucker was fat. Feels like a safe bet.
“But I’m glad that you got out okay. Thing is, I even bought you a gift. Something a man like you, a man of the badge, and an entrepreneur, can appreciate.”
He pauses for a moment.
“Hard drive from the house. Your idiot manager stole it after I didn’t tell him what it was. Thought he could make some money off it, I guess. He doesn’t seem to think much of you, anyway. Man called you a bitch, said you didn’t really run this place anyway. Bouncer thought that was funny. You let your people talk about you like that?”
“Don’t take my word for it. Bet the sticky-fingered shit still has it on him, or stashed it somewhere he can tell us.”
GM: Cash Money stares down at Em.
The bulge in his crotch doesn’t sink.
“TYLLEEEERRRR!” he bellows.
The bouncer quickly ducks his head in.
“Get Josh up here.”
The bouncer’s head disappears.
Cash Money doesn’t let go of Em.
The bulge in his crotch still doesn’t sink.
Emmett: Em just nods. “Your people crawling over that place yet? I bey they’re wondering how the fuck it went down, in that NOPD, no-complicated-answers kinda way.”
GM: Cash Money doesn’t answer Em. Just smirks that same puffy-lipped smile and runs a hand along Em’s mouth. His fingers are long, and Em once heard or read somewhere that long fingers (somehow) convey intelligence, but on Cash Money they just seem… like too-long dicks straining into too-tight condoms. He can feel an almost slime-like sleaze secreting through them. Like holes in those same condoms.
It’s not too much longer before Josh comes in.
Emmett: Em smiles at him.
GM: Cash Money lets go of Em and stands up from his chair.
“Who runs this place?” he asks.
“You,” says Josh.
“What’s that in your jacket?”
“Take off your jacket.”
Josh looks confused. “What’s what in my jacket?”
Cash Money pulls out a handgun from a shoulder holster.
Josh looks at him, then takes off the jacket.
“What’s that in it?” Cash Money asks.
Josh reaches into one of the pockets and holds up a wad of bills.
“You fucking deaf? What is that?”
“Money,” says Josh.
“Money? Where’d you get it?”
Emmett: Em’s got his hands behind his head.
GM: Josh looks at the gun and gives a slow, almost half-hearted shrug.
“Don’t know where it’s from?” asks Cash Money.
“Could be a lotta places.”
“It from me?”
Em thought it hurt when Sami hit him with the gun. It did hurt.
But when Cash Money does it, there’s an awful crunch and thick spray of blood. Josh howls and falls to his knees.
“You’re a fucking liar, Josh.”
The man’s voice is getting high as he backs away. “Said I d-”
Cash Money grabs the scruff of his shirt.
“You said it wasn’t from me. So you did know where it’s from. You fucking liar.”
“M-meant I d-”
“What else’s in the jacket?”
Cash Money grabs the hard drive out of it. Looks it over.
“The fuck is this?”
Cash Money smashes the gun over his already broken nose. The crunch is fainter this time, but there’s a harder crack. There’s more blood.
“You fucking liar.”
“I WAS GONNA T-”
There’s another crack from Josh’s nose. Another from his head, hitting the wall. His face is soaked in red.
“You’re a fucking liar.”
Cash Money drops the hard drive into one of the pockets of his ballooning coat.
“Who runs this place?”
Josh holds up his hands placatingly. “Y-you, d-”
Bloody teeth fly, hitting the now-wet carpet with light red little tinkles as Cash Money smashes the gun across his mouth.
“You fucking liar.”
Josh hacks up blood as he slurs.
Emmett: He should feel bad. He knows he should feel bad. Not even morally. There should be a part of his brain that responds with sorrow and empathy for this fucking wretch. Biologically. He thinks he saw a documentary about that once. Maybe not. He hates documentaries.
He knows he should feel bad. And maybe he would have yesterday.
But it’s tonight, and all he feels as he watches the bully turned victim is a vicious, vindictive satisfaction.
He take advantage of Cash Money’s preoocupation to rise slowly to his feet.
It hurts, and the chemical wall isolating him from his agony is barely enough. But it does not crack. He leans, bruised and cut and shot and bleeding but unbroken, goddammit, unfuckingbroken, against Cash Money’s desk like he belongs there and he looks down at Josh, and he winks.
I warned you. Bitch.
GM: The older man stares at him with a look of pure hate before Cash Money interrupts, “Who runs this place?”
When the glaring man is slow to respond, Cash Money smashes the gun over his mouth again. There’s more red and white little tinkles against the dirty carpet as the dirtier cop crabs Josh by his shirt.
“I said, who the fuck runs this place?”
“Y-thou d-” Josh starts to answer, before there’s another sharp, wet crack. His face is almost completely red.
“You’re a fucking liar. Hear you said I was a bitch.”
Mouton un-buckles his belt.
“You’re my bitch.”
Emmett: “Stole from you, too,” Em says helpfully.
“That’s your gift he took.”
GM: He unzips his fly.
Emmett: This part, he doesn’t feel the need to watch.
He studies his nails.
GM: With his gaze averted, all Em hears is, “Start sucking.”
GM: Em can’t see the man’s just face. Just hears the slurred, wet, half-coherent sounds of panicked objection and instinctive revulsion.
There’s another painfully wet crack.
“Start sucking or I’ll blow your fucking brains out.”
Emmett: Can I stop this? Even if I cared enough to? Maybe. Or maybe I just get myself raped for the trouble. Nothing for it, now. Congratulations, Josh, you weren’t even that fun to ruin. I guess that’s what being nobody gets you.
He lets Cash Money do what he’s going to do, and absentmindedly keeps his eyes on his watch.
GM: Em can’t see it. But he hears it. The sounds of sucking. Labored nasal breathing. Wet, blocked-off coughs and sputters.
Emmett: His nails are really out of control.
GM: It goes on for a while. The guttural sounds get increasingly loud and choked. At one point, the sounds of labored nasal breathing suddenly cut off, and the muffled vocal sounds become downright panicked. He hears sounds of motion cut off by another sharp, wet crack. He remembers the way Cash Money pinched Sami’s nose shut and laughed as she struggled to breathe past his cock.
He laughs again here, too.
It goes on a while longer. Cash Money makes conversation a few times.
“Move your tongue more, Josh.”
“I feel like you aren’t enjoying this.”
“Yeah, that’s it. Good boy.”
“Done this before?”
“You have done this before. You’re a fucking natural, you fat little faggot.”
“No wonder only a couple girls said you fucked them.”
“Yeah. You were born for this.”
“Take my balls, Josh.”
“Yeah. That’s good.”
“Let’s see how much I can fit in.”
“Damn. You got a real a big mouth, Josh.”
“Real big mouth. Not many girls who can handle all of me.”
“Lick my balls, Josh.”
“Oh, you’re good.”
Emmett: He’s seen this episode before.
GM: The ‘episode’ plays.
“Good boy, Josh. Swallow. Swallow for daddy.”
The gun’s safety clicks.
“I said swallow, you sick little faggot. Swallow for daddy.”
There’s a gulp.
There’s the sound of a fly zipping.
“Get the fuck out of my club, you cocksucker.”
Emmett: Em just watches him go.
“That,” he says when the door closes, “was metal. You don’t fuck around, detective. That’s what I thought about you, and I’m glad I was right, because men like you, hard men, they make good business decisions. You ready to talk business? Because I think you and I, we can do a lot for each other.”
GM: Josh looks like he’s been fed poison as he staggers out of the room, rasping laboriously for breath as one hand clutches his shattered nose.
Cash Money smirks that same puffy-lipped smirk after Josh, as if he’s read the next few lines of a joke he alone gets, and closes the door. Then he whirls and pain explodes through Em’s belly as the dirty cop drives a fist into it. He hits a lot harder than Josh did. There’s a second, duller impact as the floor hits his ass.
Cash Money pulls up a chair, sits down, and then stares down.
“You’re gonna tell me everything that happened after the bitch started shooting.”
Emmett: He takes the hit, and he stays down, but he’s perched on his elbows and he’s laughing.
“Oh, it’s like that? Okay. First, you ran. Then the rest of us muscled in, got the gun from her. My cousin, he made a decision. He killed her.” Em makes a face. “I didn’t like that. Neither did the Green-Eyed Lady. So she made Jermaine stay still and we had a nice, long talk.”
“Made them all stand still. You know how she does.”
GM: Cash Money just stares down at Em. There’s a dangerous look in his mud-colored eyes.
Emmett: He keeps his eyes on Cash Money. He rises to his feet, his weak foot starting first, letting the petty fucker see how easy he is to kick over. As if daring him to try.
It doesn’t matter how often he’s knocked down. It doesn’t matter how scary this fuming man-baby throws a fit. As long as he has legs to stand on, he’ll stand.
“She told me she has plans for me. Plans for my girl. And she wasn’t about to throw it all away because of my gangbanger cousin wanted to tie up loose ends. So you know what we did? We opened up my cousin’s throat. We cut off one of Dino’s nuts. I even got to feed it to her cute little fuck-pet. And then she did a dance and she bought my girl back to life.”
He doesn’t have to fake the profane wonder, the awe in his voice. “What a lady, huh? Strange times we’re living in, that’s for sure. You ever seen somebody dead come back to life? It’s a hell of a thing. So, my girl came back to us, all screaming and shit, and then our new sugar mama told us the score. How she’ll be keeping an eye on us, how we owe her big—and yes we do— and how it was never too soon to start working that debt off. And we chatted. About all kinds of things.”
“Rick—can I call you Rick? I have to admit, she was really disappointed by how you handled things. I mean, you being a cop and all. I mean, you didn’t see her running. She was always in control. She always is. I asked her about you, you wanna know what she said? She said you were smart, when you wanted to be, but you have a hard time following orders. Hey, we’ve all been there, right? She wanted to cut you out of the picture for running. Those were her words, not mine. Not sure what she meant. But I says to her, ‘hey, with who he knows, he’s a good guy to keep around, that Cash Money Mouton. And she admitted I had a point, and she says, ‘He owes me for rabbiting, be a dear and let him know,’ and I say, sure thing ma’am. I mean, I’m just a good foot soldier, you know? Doing my part.” He chuckles darkly.
It’s him looking down at Cash Money, now. He feels the same way he did when he chased Sami from the restaurant, when he drove her to a nightmare for both of them.
Emmett hates losing. He will not lose tonight. He will cheat and steal and rape a kill a thousand times to never lose again.
Not to some tabasco-stinking, greasy-haired beanpole badge-wearing face-fucking not-worth-the-shit-off-his-boot excuse for a redbone like Mouton.
GM: Cash Money’s hand shoots out to clamp around Em’s throat. He could swear there’s an almost slimy texture to the dirty cop’s skin. He already feels filthier.
There’s a dangerous glint in the redbone’s muddy eyes, like a prison shiv hidden in shit. Because that is where they hide those things. Somewhere too repulsive to ever search.
“We thought the niggers did for Dino.”
Emmett: “Y… eah,” Em chokes past the man’s grip. “‘Cause I… did it up nice… for y’all. How’d you… like the… tagging? Nice… touch… right?”
GM: The beanpole-framed man rises from his seat, towering over Em.
“It was nice. Real nice. Open and shut, we thought. Maneater’s already gone hunting for the BloodHounds.”
“Well, well, well.”
Emmett: “Yeah… you… have one problem, though.”
GM: The puffy-lipped smirk returns as thin but strong fingers tighten around Em’s windpipe.
“You have more. You stupid fuck. You stupid little boy. She won’t protect you. Not from Maneater once Fat Benny and The Croc hear you touched a made man.”
The smirk gives way to a real smile. A nasty, dirty smile. It spreads over his face like a urine stain over too-small paper towel.
“But don’t worry, kid. This’ll be our little secret.”
“I think you’re right. I think there is a lot we can do for each other.”
Em can feel a renewed bulge from the man’s crotch pressing against his face.
Emmett: Em just raises an eyebrow. “Yeah… like I can stop the tape of what happened getting… sent… to the Times-Picayune.”
He blows a raspberry.
“Your uncle… loves press, don’t he?”
GM: The smile halts its spread as shivs stab out from Cash Money’s eyes. Em’s throat burns as too-hard fingers tighten.
“Where. Is it.”
Emmett: He winks. “Harder… daddy.”
GM: Em gets his wish.
The cop’s next backhand sends him reeling, blood flying from Cash Money’s newly-reddened knuckles.
Long peanbole arms grab his shoulders and slam him chest-first against the desk. Papers fly as his chin painfully cracks.
Emmett: It’s his floor Em’s spitting blood on.
GM: There’s a rip as Cash Money pulls down Em’s pants, then the sound of a fly unzipping.
Emmett: Okay. Time for plan B.
He waits until he feels the tumescent flesh against his buttock to pull the knife.
It goes into Cash Money’s thigh.
Not between them.
He does need the fucker at least somewhat amenable.
Next, he’s turning and spitting in the horny fucker’s eyes.
Then he’s taking his good foot and planting it in his balls.
“You’re real bad at taking a hint, ain’t ya?”
He takes advantage of the moment and tries to shove the filthy cop onto his ass.
“Get that gun out. Get it out.”
His spindly arms aren’t good for much. But this idiot isn’t heavy when he’s screaming.
“Kill me, and you’re done. Do you get that? Can you add, motherfucker? You seem to have trouble adding two and two together.”
GM: The switchblade sinks into one of Cash Money’s hairy legs with a satisfying gout of red. The dirty cop howls with pain. He might be beanpole-thin, but as the ‘girls could beat you up’ half-unconscious teenager can attest, the redbone cop is strong too as he smashes his fist across Em’s face with another savage backhand. Em tastes hot blood as he crashes against the wall.
Cash Money draws the gun.
Emmett: Em meets his eyes.
“Do it, and your world is over.”
“Your club. Your job. All the free pussy. Over.”
GM: Cash Money pulls the trigger just as the door slams open. Em sees wood, then a hole to his side as another ear-rending explosion splits the air.
There’s another voice. Deep and rough like grinding rocks.
The door swings back away.
A giant strides through. It’s almost comical how large he is. He’s like something out of a cartoon. The black hair atop his cabbage-shaped head brushes against the doorway’s top, and he’s so wide he has to enter sideways. His shirt barely seems to contain his barrel-like chest, and his meaty fists are the size of garden spades—and look scarcely less hard. His arms are as thick as young trees. He seems almost wider than he does tall. He has to be out of a cartoon.
But he’s there.
Dressed in a tent-sized black suit, black tie, and white dress shirt.
“Maneater!?” gawks Cash Money.
“Where,” the giant repeats in a grinding voice. “Is it.”
Emmett: He holds up his hands. “Cooperating, uh, Maneater, sir, but, um. What?”
He thinks he knows, but it’s a sinking kind of knowing. And if he lets him know he knows, he’s definitely fucked instead of mostly.
GM: The giant’s head turns towards Em as he fully enters the room, his wide frame actually blocking the door behind him. One of his ham-like hands casually drags the now-motionless bouncer by the scruff of his shirt.
Emmett: “Oh! That hard dri—fuck!” He looks Cash Money dead in the eyes.
You rapist, cro-magnon shit-eating prick. I don’t like you, and you don’t like me, but if you fuck this up, we’re both dead. So don’t. Fuck this. Up.
Thinking about it later, he’ll realize he was thinking to himself as much as Mouton.
“Ok, just give it to him! It was all that nigger Josh’s fault! We should have killed him ‘stead of just beating him to shit. I mean, it’s like you said, you were gonna hand it right over anyway. Imagine if we listened to a goddamn word that cocksucker said.”
Man, Josh really chose the wrong place to work.
GM: A ham-sized hand clamps around Em’s throat. A wall slams into his back, and then he’s actually staring down at the giant as he feels air beneath his feet.
“Give it,” Maneater grinds.
Emmett: He feebly gestures at Mouton, miming opening a jacket.
Then he looks at Cash Money’s shit-colored eyes, internally screams, and mouths, uncle.
GM: Cash Money’s puffy-lipped smirk returns like a spreading cumstain as he sees Maneater grab Em.
When the giant’s eyes turn on him, he all but throws the hard drive at the pair.
“It was the fucking niggers, Maneater! They took it! I stole it off!”
Emmett: "Fucking… niggers… " Em agrees.
GM: Em hits the floor with a crash as Maneater’s fist unclenches.
A single massive hand closes fully over the hard drive and tucks it into a breast pocket.
Emmett: “This nigger Josh, Mouton just threw him out. He had it. Has friends in-in some stupid g-gang. Said w-we should sell it. But Mouton wasn’t about it. Because he has enough money, and ain’t nothing less worth b-buying than enemies who you r-respect so much. That’s… that’s what you said, right C-cash Money?”
GM: Cash Money nods quickly.
“We got a good thing, Maneater. Nigger wanted to keep it. I beat the shit out of him. You can see it.”
Maneater looks between the two.
“Why shouldn’t I eat you?”
His face is serious.
Emmett: Of course. Of course this is the situation I’m in. Of course. The worst part about shit like this is nobody’ll believe me if I try to bitch about it.
“Because Cash Money, he’s a good friend,” he says weakly. “Best cop in town. Nephew of an even bigger cop.”
GM: “I got a badge, Maneater,” Cash Money quickly adds. “The Croc doesn’t want that heat. Not after tonight.”
Cash Money doesn’t volunteer a reason for Em.
Emmett: "And me because I’m… I’m… "
“… because I’m Cajun,” he says. “You ever had Cajun food? Man, you’ll be shitting for… for fucking weeks. I mean, real shits, shits with gator scales. You’ll be flushing fucking gumbo down the pipes, you know, and I feel like you have enough problems with toilets already. Also, I’m funny. I think. I mean, c-can you put a price on entertainment? Plus, I think I have HIV. That’s a problem, right?”
GM: Maneater stares at him. Em’s been looked at in his share of uncomfortable ways before, but never any like this. The hunger in the giant’s eyes feels uncomfortably nonsexual.
Then he laughs. It’s a deep, rumbling sound like an old truck engine.
“He’s getting away,” Cash Money adds. “You know how niggers run.”
Emmett: “Yeah, but we slowed him down for you.”
GM: “I kicked the shit out of him. He’ll be slow.”
Maneater looks between them.
“Stay here. Or I’ll crush your fucking heads in.”
He turns sideways to fit his suited bulk through the door. Em can hear the stairs groaning beneath his weight.
Cash Money un-holsters his gun and carefully checks the ammo.
Emmett: “Um. Sorry I stabbed you. Things got kinda heated. But if I die, there’s nobody to stop that tape hitting fucking Isaiah White’s desk, and if you die, I don’t have anybody to help keep up the shit about the Bloodhounds. I meed you, you need me. And I’ll even throw in an apology for all the stupid shit I said. Truce?”
GM: An ugly, piss-swallowing scowl returns to Cash Money’s face.
“The fuck did you do with that tape?”
Emmett: “Gave it to a friend we both know I’m not gonna tell you. He’ll mail it in if he doesn’t hear from me in a month. Look, I don’t wanna see you get fucked over. Not when I’m on it too. It’s a nuke. Only makes sense to use it if I’m gonna die anyway. I won’t try twist your arm around it or any of that shit. It’s just a reason for you not to kill me. You’re a businessman. You can appreciate that shit.”
He scratches his nose. “You ever want to fuck more high school girls, ones that aren’t fucking crazy, I can get them to you, too. I can play nice. Shit, I’ll owe you, too. Bet that. You’d be doing me a favor, and one for her, too, our mutual lady friend. I didn’t mean to piss you off so bad, but you know, I’ve kinda had a long night. But you run this place. Wasn’t right of me to come in here all demanding and shit. I see that now.”
Motherfuck, I just want to go to a hospital. Sweet, sweet morphine. Fuck me.
“Think of me as an investment, too. I mean, this is the kind if shit I get up to in high school, imagine in a few years when I’m ripping off old ladies for their pensions. We can make a lot of money together, you see your way to doing me a little good now. Why would I wanna fuck that up by fucking you up?”
GM: Cash Money points the gun at Em.
“You’re gonna tell me who this friend is.”
“Maybe then I’ll forgive you.”
Emmett: “Look, we both know if I do you’ll kill me. I mean, I’m stupid, but I’m not that kind of stupid. Come on, I’m trying to make things right. Plus, if I’m dead when he gets back with Josh’s poor fucking ass, who’s gonna back up your story? He might fuck you up before Maneater gobbles him down. Dying nigger might say all kinds if crazy lies to fuck you up.”
He shrugs. “Look, you don’t have to like me, or forgive me. Not asking you to. I sure as fuck ain’t forgivin’ you. But can’t you let me make you some money, scratch your back? The tape stays out there, but as long as I’m breathin’, it also stays quiet. My face is in there, too. Why would I release that shit?”
“And if you’re thinking, ‘Oh, I’ll just hurt this punk ‘till he squeals,’ that’s cool, but I’m not gonna break easily, and even if I did you’ll have to go looking for this guy out of town and out of your jurisdiction. It’ll be a pain in the ass for all involved. Or. I can owe you, big time. I can put in a word for you with the green-eyed gal, tell her how you came through for us. But you just hurt me, rape me, whatever, I’m just gonna go quiet until you have to kill me. Same as my girl did earlier tonight. I seem like a motherfucker who wimps out easy? I walked in here already shot. If I was gonna be easy to break, bet it would have happened by now. But I can’t afford to, so I won’t. Come on. Let me be your friend. I’ll even throw in a few secrets about where the Bloodhounds like to hang so you can play hero.”
GM: The gun’s safety clicks off.
“Everyone breaks if you hurt them long enough, little boy.”
Cash Money smirks like he’s just told the punchline to life’s funniest joke, but there’s a sharper, even uglier and sneer-like cast to it as red continues to ooze from his stabbed leg.
Cash Money aims the gun at Em’s already sore, hurting leg.
“You’re gonna tell the truth. About how this went down. About how you fucked a made man.”
“And the second she says you’re not worth shit, or that tape gets out, I’m not gonna fuck you with my tape. I’m gonna fuck you with my cock. I’m gonna do you over my desk until your ass bleeds black. Then, I’m gonna sell you to some people who’ll have you begging for another round on my desk, and a gun to stick in your mouth, after what they put you through.”
Emmett: “That’s a hell of a threat. Great threat. Terrifying. There’s only one problem with it.”
“My plan to fuck up the Bloodhounds isn’t mine. What, you think I’m that quick in my feet? I’m following orders, and she sent me here expecting you to cooperate. She’s blackmailing you. Not me. You think it was my call to come here? She sent me, and if I’m not around to tell her how you did me, she’s going to wonder what exactly got so fucked up. You wanna take it out on me, fine. She’s still going to see to it you’re fucked three ways from Tuesday. Unless I can tell her what a good boy you’ve been. How you’re able to give her what she wants, which is the mob and cops chomping at the Bloodhounds. How clever you were, coming up with framing Josh for lifting the hard drive and spinning Maneater around like that. How good a friend you are to have. But that offer only stays on the table if I’m not obviously worse off from coming here than I was coming in.”
GM: “Fuck your bullshit.”
The gun explodes.
Em hits the ground with a thud. His leg feels like it’s on fire.
“I think I don’t need to hurt you after all. Your girl, huh.”
“I wondered where the bitch went.”
Cash Money picks up a phone from the desk.
“Derrick. Send someone out. No. Make it one of the girls. Taking a smoke break. She’s looking for a white girl. Young. Black hair.”
Emmett: The way his voice sounds is nothing he can be proud of. It’s weak and raw and broken in two, more yelp than could ever be a bark.
Emmett hates losing. Goddammit, but he hates losing. He hates feeling the same way he’s felt his entire life, wretched and helpless and in the hands of others who get to be right because they have more. More money. More experience. More leverage. More everything. He hates losing, and he hates himself for being a loser.
He hates it like a cigarette burn. Like a knife sawing at his balls. He hates it like he hated being raped.
Were it just him, just now, he might spit one last time. Let them hurt him. Let them murder him. He will not lose. He will not break.
But she has suffered too much, and too much because of him.
He will not see her brought in here. He will die first, be raped first, throw himself into the darkest of dungeons and sing for his captors before he sees Sami’s eyes confronted with pain again.
He will never, ever break. That is what he has told himself this whole night, this long nightmare. It is the lie that lets him walk on a shot foot.
But he will break for her. Not will. Must. He will shatter and scar and bleed to never see her hurt like he hurt her.
“You win,” he says. “You win. I’ll confess. I’ll do what you want. I can’t get you the tape back, but I’ll give you what you need to fuck me. Uncle. You’re Cash Money, and I’m just some fuck the green-eyed lady chose. Please. You win. I’ll do it your way. I’ll tell the green-eyed lady whatever you want, too. Just… please. Keep it between us, sir.”
He isn’t sure it’s the neatest groveling he can do. But it’s all he has to give.
GM: Cash Money’s puffy-lipped, spreading-cumstain smirk returns as swiftly and messily as a blown load.
“Now. Where’s the tape?”
He listens as Em tells him the Green-Eyed Lady told him to give it to a friend of hers, whose name he didn’t get, who showed up after the cleanup op. Cheap suit. Bad hair. Gatorskin shoes. Hispanic. Said he was going out of town for a while but the lady would be in touch with him. Didn’t tell him shit else.
By the time Em is done spinning the falsehood, Cash Money looks like someone has pissed in his mouth again.
Another employee, perhaps hearing the gunshot, ventures upstairs. Cash Money snarls and pistol-whips him across the face with another messy red crack.
“Get the fuck out! Get the fuck out! And tell that whore she’s in for the longest night of her life if she takes a fucking smoke break!”
The act of petty violence, however, is interrupted by a series of approaching and unmistakable heavy thumps.
Maneater turns sideways again to fit his bulk through the door. He’s pulling Josh after him, who’s babbling, begging, and wheezing through his shattered face.
“Please… I got… a kid… "
Emmett: Em just stares blankly. All the satisfaction of his petty vengeance has already faded, leaving nothing behind.
Josh truly is dying for nothing. That kid, if he exists, and if he gives half a shit for his bullying father, orphaned for nothing. But not for nobody. For him.
He feels cold, but mostly he thinks of a hospital bed and sweet, true painkillers.
GM: There’s a while to go yet before those.
There’s a terrific crash as Maneater throws Josh onto Cash Money’s desk like a rag doll, then grinds out, “You fucked us.”
With those words, he pulls a carving knife out from his jacket and swiftly saws open Josh’s belly with a too practiced-feeling air. Blood messily gushes everywhere. The stench that wafts up Em’s bloody-crusted nose is beyond foul as the man loses control of his bowels. Piss and shit gets everywhere as he writhes, flops, and screams raggedly like a gutted fish. There’s a hideous scrape-crunch as Maneater messily saws, pries, and punches his way through Josh’s gorily exposed ribcage, then rips out the man’s still-beating heart with his bare hands. Even Cash Money stares dumbfoundedly as the the giant roars like a gorilla, thrusts it into his mouth, and then messily gnashes, chews, and swallows. Blood freely runs down his meaty chins like wet drool as he licks his lips.
He sniffs the air for a moment, then seizes Em and Cash Money by their throats in each of his hands and grinds out, “Guns don’t stop me. Walls don’t stop me. Cops don’t stop me. God don’t stop me.”
Blood and chewed-up pieces of heart fleck from the giant’s mouth as he raves,
“You fuck us. I come for you. I find you. Anywhere. I kill you. I kill your family. I kill your dog. I kill your dog’s family. I eat them all. Slow. You watch. Then I eat you. Slow. Then you die. Slow. That’s how I fuck you. How I fucked God.”
“No more God. I killed Him. I ate Him. Angels. Peter. Jesus. Mary. Screamed. I ate them too. I fucked Him. I am now God. I am God.”
“Say.” Maneater’s mud-colored eyes burn madly in their sockets. “Say you understand. Say I am God.”
Emmett: “You’re God!” he croaks. “You’re God and church and the president!”
He believes it, too.
GM: Maneater roars in Em’s face, his breath foul as he spits shredded bits of flesh, but his belly shakes and rumbles too.
“You’re right. You’re funny.”
“You don’t like somebody. Call Maneater. I kill them. Eat them. For you.”
His hands don’t unclench from either man’s throat.
Emmett: “Th… thank… you,” Em gasps. He isn’t sure how the giant cannibal expects him to call, but he also suspects now isn’t the time to ask.
His eyes slide over to Cash Money’s. Linger for a moment.
Not a threat.
He just wants those shit-colored eyes to see that he knows what that means, and that Mouton’s smart enough to know it too.
Whoever else Em might be, he’s the guy who Maneater owes.
GM: Cash Money’s eyes meet Em’s for a moment before he emphatically repeats, “Yer Gawd, Maneatuh, yer Gawd!” in a suddenly gumbo-thick accent as the mafioso’s crazed eyes turn to his.
Both men crash to the ground as Maneater un-clenches his fists. Josh’s heartless, torn-open corpse blankly stares up at them with empty eyes and a gaping mouth.
Maneater adjusts his tie and gives Cash Money an address in Slidell where he can send the corpse to get rid of it, adding, “Mom’s hungry too.”
With those final words, he turns his suited bulk sideways to fit through the door again. Stairs groan in the wake of his descent.
Cash Money watches him go, then picks up the phone. Some people come up. They take away the corpse. They resist throwing up after the dirty cop snarls he’ll shoot anyone who does.
Emmett: That’s the second time that’s worked tonight. Maybe a new bulimia treatment.
GM: Cash Money watches them go, sneers, and then kicks Em in the leg. His wounded leg. It hurts only a little less than getting shot. There’s already a pool of blood spreading underneath it.
“Careful, kid. You’ll have to get that thing amputated if you don’t take better care of it. Life as an amputee sucks like a crack whore, I hear.”
“Here’s how this is gonna go.”
Cash Money takes out a tape recorder, then tells Em to confess everything that happened into it. Starting with how he brought Sami to Giacona Manse. Ending before he walked into the Barely Legal. Leaving Cash Money out.
He waits until Em is done, then says, “This’ll be a little insurance on my part,” as he tucks it back away. “That tape she has fucks me. You’re fucked too. Your girlfriend’s fucked too. By the mob and the cops. In fact, I think I’ll take a leaf out of your book and send this somewhere that you’re fucked even if I don’t ever bend the two of you over my desk.”
“Pretty face like yours could make a lot of friends up at the Farm. You know they make punks in prisons wear makeup? Sometimes wigs and dresses, too. They’re real popular.”
“Not as busy as your girlfriend, though. That tape fucks me, that little film shoot we did will be just the warm-up act.”
Once that business is out of the way. Cash Money smirks that, “You said you wanted to work for me. Okay,” reaches into a desk cabinet, and tosses him a bag of weed.
“Sell that at your high school.”
Cash Money tells him how much money Em is to pass on to him, exactly. He keeps whatever else he makes.
“Come back with less than that, and I’ll take what you owe me out of your hide. Or maybe your girlfriend’s gash. Maybe both. You two’d look real cute bent over my desk next to each other.”
He plucks out Em’s wallet and tucks the cash into his jacket pocket.
“Sell that and we’ll see what else you can do for me.”
“And so you don’t get any funny ideas, kid, this isn’t a partnership. You work for me. Forget that, stiff me, give me lip, and I’ll fuck you.”
As Em agonizingly ambles to his feet, a puffy-lipped smirks spreads across Cash Money’s face.
“That mouth’s gonna get you killed someday.”
Friday night, 28 September 2007, AM
Emmett: He doesn’t sit down in the passenger side of the car so much as he falls.
“I did it,” he tries to say.
Instead it sounds like “Ah did id.”
He doesn’t bother to point out the new gunshot wound or bruises. He’s sure they’re plenty obvious.
“Weah, we’re gwine wahna go.”
Knew I should have gone for heroin.
GM: Sami blinks slowly. She doesn’t look as shit-kicked as Em. She also doesn’t look like sitting alone in a dark car with nothing to do but think has done her any favors.
Emmett: “Drive, please,” he says, enunciating.
GM: Sami doesn’t look glad, but she doesn’t hesitate for a second. She drives.
Emmett: “You’re safe,” is the next thing he says. “I got shot again. D-do you still wanna kill me?”
He doesn’t sound like he’s complaining, or bitter. Just done with everything.
“If not… gonna need. Hospital. Story.”
GM: “I’m not going to the hospital,” Sami immediately says.
He thinks. “Where do you wanna do this?”
GM: “Do what?”
Emmett: “Kill me. Still think Bayou’s the… bet. Gators. Chompy chompy. No evidence.”
GM: “I’m not fucking up my life worse killing you.”
Emmett: “Okay. I’m gonna bleed out.”
His breathing feels labored.
“What scares you about the hosp-hospital? I m-might c-come up with something. To help. I don’t know.”
How much blood has he lost already? More than he has left to lose, he suspects.
GM: “It’s not my fucking problem,” Sami answers. “I’m not answering any doctors’ questions. I’m not getting sucked into this.”
Emmett: “It’s my problem,” he agrees, speaking slowly to stop himself tripping over his kwn. “But I’m bleeding out. You might be able to drop me at TMC. But they’ll have questions. Questions I can’t answer.”
GM: Sami doesn’t say anything again for a while.
She looks at the bag of weed.
Emmett: “I’m selling it for him.”
GM: Sami drives for a bit. Then she parks the car. They’re in the CBD. Just a little ways off from the Quarter. She stuffs a good hit’s worth of weed into her coat pocket, shoulders the bag of pilfered stuff from the mobster’s house, and opens the door to get out.
Emmett: “You… staying… in town?”
GM: “I guess.”
Emmett: “Okay.” He looks like a trainwreck survivor got mugged, beaten, raped and shot, so he has a feeling smiling won’t work. “If I can’t turn the weed over, he… promised things. He’ll come after me. Maybe after you, too.I won’t be able to sell from the hospital with police up my ass.” He lays out the problems without whining.
“Few ways we could do things. One is you leave me here, somewhere, wherever. They find me in a few days and there’s no explanation. Kind of solves my problems. But it makes yours worse, because now he needs me around, too. Kind of… fucking blows, but I need to live a little longer. Which means.”
“It’s another game of… t-two options. First is the hospital. You don’t want to go there, but I bet, we do it right… you’ll get some of what you’ve been looking for. All this time. Popularity. Cécilia looking bad. All of it. But we need the hospital. I’m sorry.”
“Unless… you wanna do a little, more driving. To the Garden District. M-might be able to fix things with Abelia. Might get her to help you.”
“Or, I guess, you can leave me here, take the weed, call 911. I’ll keep your name out of it from the cops, but then there’s nobody to deal with Mouton. But m-maybe not. You’re… fucking scary when you want to be.”
“It’s your choice, Sami. Couldn’t do shit to change your mind now if I wanted to. If I were you, I’d probably leave my ass no matter what I said. Can’t trust a bastard like me. But you aren’t me. If you stay strong by me now… I’ll never stop ‘til you have everything you ever wanted. Never.”
When he’s done, he slumps in his seat, spent by the precious breath expended into words.
There’s so little time left.
GM: Sami looks at him for a while. There’s an emptiness to her gaze and Em wonders how much his words are getting through. She doesn’t look like she’s been shot after a trainwreck, but the rest of his descriptor seems to fit her aptly enough still.
She finally picks up the bag of weed, stuffs it into the larger bag, and walks away from the car.
Em’s still-bleeding leg throbs.
Tough to argue with that.
He considers his own options for a moment.
GM: Sami disappears into the crowds. They’re thick enough on a Friday night. Cars honk and drive past. His leg burns.
Emmett: Nothing for it. Nothing good.
He stumbles from the car. The night is hot and gives him no life, no freedom.
His blood runs down his legs and hand and face and there is no baptism in the stains it leaves.
He screams. He might be shouting for help, or his father, or maybe even a Maman.
When he wakes, there will be questions, and anger, and maybe even handcuffs.
But for now, there is only blackness. He savors it while it lasts.