Free Short Story: Paid In Full

PAID IN FULL

by Kevin Hurtack

Copyright 2014

I used to collect debts.  No, I wasn’t the jerk that called you during dinner because of a late credit card payment.  I was the kinda jerk that showed up with a pistol and a lead pipe in hand because you owed my boss.  I always made sure the boss got paid in full, cause unlike credit card companies, he didn’t take payment plans.

Debt collection was the only reason I set foot in Trompe Le Monde, a trendy downtown club for college kids.  A dozen LED TVs bigger then billboards, and god-awful music that boomed outta the speakers so loud I could feel my colon shake to the beat. Dudes that looked like clones of Buddy Holly and chicks that dressed like strippers filled the joint.

I preferred smoke filled establishments that had one TV above a well-stocked bar and had a juke box in the corner playing Johnny Cash or Frank Sinatra.  A well-worn pool table.  Patrons who’d paid their dues in life. That’s a bar. Trompe Le Monde was a daycare for trust fund brats.

Anyways, the boss told me to come down here cause the bartender was a lackey that had the information for me. The boss always used a lackey in order to distance himself from the seedy side of his business.  The whole system was outdated, but the boss was paranoid about technology.  Hell, he insisted on dictating everything to his secretary. He figured that someone could trace an email or text back to him, yet didn’t seem too concerned about a lackey squealing to the cops.  A flawed system for sure, but it worked so far.

The bartender glanced at me, a pierced eyebrow raised.  “What up, gramps?  You wander away from the home tonight, or what?”

I grabbed a handful of the bartender’s spiky blue hair and shoved his face down onto the bar.  “Don’t waste my time, Little Boy Blue.”

He squealed like a school girl.

I jerked his head up and shoved my platinum ring into his face.

“O-oh, shit!” he said as his eyes grew wide.  “I-I wasn’t expecting s-somebody so…so old.”

“Just tell me about the debtor.”

“Corry…something? Y-yeah her name’s Corry.”  His head nodding like a bobble head doll.  “Used to come in here a lot, always with a different dude.  Hadn’t seen her for like a month or so, but I think I saw her last night.”

“Here?”

“No, down on Colfax and Nelson around midnight,” the bartender said while sliding a manila envelope across the bar.  “She took off with some dude driving a Porsche.”

I stuffed the envelope into my coat pocket.  “Thanks for the info, boy.  Next time, don’t be a smart ass.  Not everyone’s as nice as me.”

The bartender gawked at me as I headed for the door.

I got into my BMW Z4 and opened the envelope. My heart skipped a beat when I saw the photograph.  The young woman in the photo had a body like Marilyn Monroe and a smile that stirred arousal in me that I hadn’t felt in years.  You don’t forget a face like that, or a body.  When I met Corry several years ago she was a sweet girl, innocent and naïve. Before her my only solace in this harsh life was a bottle of whiskey. But she tried to show me that there was more to life then working for the boss. I found comfort and joy with her I didn’t know was possible.  But I was a fool and lost her.  I had buried my memories of her and moved on. But I couldn’t shake the feelings the snapshot resurrected.

Besides the photograph the envelope contained a few papers. I skimmed over them and was shocked to learn that she’d become a working girl for the boss.  When things ended between us she was still singing at Leroy’s club. Why she was whoring herself made no sense, that wasn’t the girl I remembered. What could’ve happened in the past couple years to drive her to whoring?

According to what my boss said in the paperwork, Corry had become one of his top girls.  All the johns wanted her but only those with the dough got the pie.  I clenched the steering wheel with a white knuckle grip as I thought of the experiences she must’ve had at the hands of the various johns.

The boss’ notes mentioned that Corry had vanished little over a month ago, along with his money.  Then a week ago, rumors spread that she had returned to Denver.  But she’d never contacted the boss.  Around that same time a lot of the boss’ other girls claimed there was a drop off in the number of johns, even their repeat customers.  The boss speculated that Corry had taken his money and set up her own prostitution ring.  The boss had zero tolerance for anyone trying to undercut him, that’s why he contacted me.  He wanted me to retrieve the money and teach Corry a lesson.

I doubted he knew I had a connection to Corry.  He wouldn’t care even if he did know.  The boss only cared about money.  Refusing the job wasn’t an option.  Insubordination would be resolved with a bullet in my head.  But I couldn’t do what the boss wanted.  There had to be some way to help Corry and appease the boss, too.

I tossed the envelope onto the passenger’s seat and drove up to Colfax and Nelson.  Unlike downtown, with its trendy clubs and highbrow restaurants, Colfax was the bottom of the barrel.  Head shops, liquor stores, strip clubs and greasy spoon diners.

The bartender’s tip wasn’t much of a lead, but it was better nothing.  I set up shop at a Howard’s Donut shop on the corner.  Its fly speckled windows provided an unobstructed view and the coffee was strong.  A jelly-filled donut curbed my appetite while the Mexicans cruised by in their low-riders painted primer gray.  Occasionally a bum would stagger by, or a few drunk college kids.

Four donuts and two mugs of coffee later, I saw her. My heart pounded at the sight of her, a longing filled my mind that I hadn’t felt in years. Long legs and buxom cleavage barely wrapped up in a snug black dress, Corry was an oasis on the desolate street.  I tossed a five dollar bill on the table and headed out the door.  Before I got half way across the street, a Jaguar X type rolled up to the corner.  Corry got in.  I cursed my luck as they sped by me.

After blowing through a few red lights I managed to catch up to them.  I kept my distance and followed them for several more blocks.  I assumed they’d head back downtown. To my surprise they stayed on Colfax, and pulled down a rat infested alley between a porn shop and a place that sold burritos for a buck a piece.

I parked near the entrance to the alley, and crept down it.  The trash strewn lane led to an old factory.  Kids had covered the deserted building in graffiti.  The Jaguar sat in front of the loading docks, and I saw Corry and the john go into the shipping office.

Why in the hell were they going in there?  I could understand the john wanting some discretion, but in an abandoned factory?  I guess if you’re horny enough you’ll do it anywhere.  It wouldn’t be the first time lust made a man do dumb ass stuff.

Anyways, I waited until the door to the shipping office closed and then made my way forward while using the piles of trash as cover.  As I got closer I slipped my hand inside my pea-coat, and drew my .357 Magnum.  I doubted either one of them was packing, but better to be prepared.  Besides, the sight of the gun intimidated most folks.  Half the time I didn’t even have to use it, just wave it around and they’d tell me anything.

I pressed my ear against the shipping office door.  I couldn’t hear nothing from the other side, and when I peered through a window I saw nothing but the silhouette of crates and stacks of wood pallets.  I figured they had moved on so I slipped inside.  The pungent odor of cat piss permeated the air.  Occasionally, I heard the meowing of a cat.  I cringed at the thought that stray cats roamed the place.  I hated cats with a passion.  I never trusted something that sleeps most of the day and pisses in a box.

I ignored the wailing cats and peered around the room that was illuminated by the ambient streetlight that seeped through the grimy windows.  Water damaged boxes sat neatly stacked three high in precise rows as far as I could see. Cobwebs clogged every corner of the room. A few pallet jacks and dollies sat in the middle of the floor as if abandoned in the middle of a shift.  Dust covered the floor like a carpet. Amongst the countless tracks left behind by cats and rats were footprints.  One set appeared to have been made by a man’s dress shoes while the other looked like a pair of stiletto heels.

The tracks led me across the room to a metal door. I could hear muffled voices from the other side.  I nudged the door open and saw a warren of cubicles on the other side.  Flickering candles illuminated the office space.   The aroma of vanilla incense saturated the air and I could hear the faint strains of jazz.  Was the boss right about Corry?

As I crept through the maze of cubicles, I spotted an office door on the far side of the room.  It was closed and the windows alongside it had been covered with silk sheets.  As I considered my next move, I heard a man groaning in ecstasy along with the occasional gasps of a woman. The sounds of Corry being with another man caused jealousy and rage to sweep through my mind like a wildfire. My heart thumped and my jaw clenched. Did she enjoy it, being with strange men each night?   I closed my eyes and gulped down some air to calm my nerves.  I couldn’t let emotions cloud my mind.

When I approached the door, a shriek ripped through the air.  It was cut short by a snarl and a sound that I could only compare to a butcher hacking up a side of beef.  Thoughts of the john getting perverse delight out of butchering Corry while he fucked her filled me with blind rage.  My heart thundered in my ears and my body tensed.  I drew my gun and kicked the door open.

To my horror I saw the john lying on his back and his arms bound with zip ties to a futon.  Corry stood over him, her body slick with sweat.  She stared blankly at the corpse and didn’t seem to realize I had entered the room. She trembled, despite the warmth of the room.

What the hell happened?  The corpse looked like it had been gutted like a fish.  I couldn’t believe she’d done it.  The Corry I knew couldn’t stand the sight of raw meat let alone anything like this.

Corry glanced up at me. “M-Mack? Wh-what’re you do-doing here?”

“Me? I came here to help you outta some trouble with the boss,” I said while running a hand through my thin grey hair. “I sure as hell didn’t expect to find you butchering johns!”

Corry’s brow furrowed. “What? No, I didn’t do this-”

“Don’t bullshit me, girl.  No one else is here-”

“You don’t understand-”

“What’s to understand? I seen you and this john come in here together and now I see his corpse tied up and you standing over him.”

Corry started to speak, but a guttural growl cut her off.

“What the fuck was that?” I said while I glanced in the direction of the sound.

“Go on, get out of here!” Corry said while snatching her clothes from the back of the futon. “Now!”

I glared at her. “Why? What’s going on?”

Corrie’s words died in her throat, cut off by the shattering of glass.  I saw her eyes go wide.  Before I could turn around, someone tackled me from behind and we fell to the ground in tangled heap.  I tried to flip over, but my attacker was too fast and straddled me.  It felt like a ton of bricks pinning me down. My back ached and my lungs struggled for air. I attempted to look over my shoulder, but my attacker snatched a handful of my hair and slammed my face into the floor.  My head spun and felt like it had a thousand pins stuck in it.  The coppery tang of my own blood filled my mouth.  I could see nothing as my attacker kept hold of my head with a vice like grip.  I attempted to raise my arms in order to fend off my assailant while Corry’s screams filled my ears.

My attacker jerked my head up, his fingernails digging into my head like scalpels.  I saw Corry, her face flushed and tears streaming down her face.  Her lips moved, but the pounding of my heart filled my ears drowned out her voice.  A second later the assailant slammed my head back into the ground.  Splinters of agony pierced every fiber of my being.  Spots floated in my vision until they were blotted out by the darkness of unconsciousness.

When I woke up my head felt like it had been crushed in a vice.  Even blinking hurt.  I lay on the floor in my sweat soaked suit and took a few deep breathes through my clenched teeth to steady my nerves.  But I would’ve preferred a shot of whiskey instead.

Who the hell had jumped me?  Was my assailant also responsible for killing the john?  I remember the look of fear on Corry’s face. But why didn’t she run when I was attacked?  My fuzzy memory recalled her yelling at the attacker, as if pleading with him.  Did she know him?  Could Corry be aiding him? What would she be doing mixed up with someone like that? She wasn’t a killer.  She didn’t even like violence in movies or video games.  At least not when I knew her.

Regardless of all that, why didn’t he kill me like he did the john?  Corry knew I wouldn’t simply give up and go home.  The boss sure as hell wouldn’t want a killer going around butchering johns.  It was bad for business.

I closed my eyes and groaned. Too many questions, and they wouldn’t get resolved with me lying on my face.  So, I pulled myself to my feet, despite the pain and looked around the office.  At first glance nothing in the room had changed.  Then I noticed blood leading out of the busted window.  Did the splotches of blood belong to the assailant?  Made sense since he’d jumped through a plate glass window.  I figured whoever he was he must’ve been on some serious drugs.  PCP or bath salts or whatever the hell kids do these days.  When I was younger I smoked pot, the most it did was give me the munchies and kill my short term memory. It never made me do something as bat shit crazy as jumping through windows and tackling someone.

I started for the door when I remembered my gun.  When I found my shoulder holster to empty my heart skipped a beat. Where the hell did it go?  I hastily searched the room, but it didn’t turn up.  No doubt the assailant took it. Took my knife as well.  But I wasn’t gonna turn tail now.  I’d find him and Corry and put an end to this mess.

The trail of blood splatters led me back through the maze of cubicles.  But instead of taking me back down to the warehouse it led me to a pair of double doors on the other side of the room.  Smeared blood covered the door knob.  To my surprise it wasn’t locked.  Was this guy sloppy or was he trying to lure me into a trap?

On the other side of the door was a cluttered storage room.  Flickering street lights seeped through the busted windows and illuminated stacks of bankers boxes dated from the 1990’s and old office equipment.  The trail of blood meandered between the piles of junk and I followed it.

As I wove my way through the labyrinth, I heard a woman’s sobs in the distance.  My heart clenched, was that Corry? Sweat beaded on my brow. Would this mad man gut Corry like he did the john or was he using her as bait?  The thought of finding her corpse made my heart clench, but I quickly shoved the emotions aside.  I needed to remain sharp if I was gonna find him.

When I rounded a corner, I spotted a clearing amongst the junk.  My heat skipped a beat when I saw Corry lying in the middle of it.  A thick iron collar was around her neck. A chain ran from it to the floor where it was anchored.  She lay curled up amongst piles of yellowed newspapers and dented soup cans.

My soul quivered at the sight of her, but I swallowed hard and forced myself to be cold hearted.  I scanned the area for any sign of the mad man while exhaling through my clenched teeth.  I saw nothing amongst the clutter and inched my way over to Corry.

I kept my eyes peeled. “It’s gonna be alright.”

Corry jumped, a startled yelp escaped her lips at the sound of my voice.

I knelt down beside her. “Corry, relax, it’s me.”

Corry peered up at me through her tangled hair. “M-Mack? Wh-what’re you doing? You shouldn’t be here-”

“I’m gonna get you outta here.”

“N-no!” she said in a raspy tone, “I-I can’t leave!”

My brow furrowed. “Don’t be stupid, take my car and get outta town.  I’ll take care of this asshole.”

“No, y-you don’t understand,” she said, her eye brows arched. “S-slade’ll know I’ve left an-and kill Tommy!”

My brow furrowed. “What’re you talking about?”

“M-my…son.”

The shock of her revelation hit me like a blitzing linebacker. “Son? When the hell did that happen? You always said you d-”

“Please, just listen to me!,” Corry said while I dragged her alongside me.

“Make it quick,” I replied while pulling her up to her feet.

“Slade took my son as collateral,” Corry said. “If I ever tried to run for help I’d be forfeiting his life.  That’s why I can’t leave.”

I still couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of Corry having a kid.  She had always talked about waiting till she was older.  She had always said she wanted to pursue her singing career for a while. So what changed? Had one of her johns knocked her up?  The thought sickened me.  I plucked it from my mind like a thorn and cast it aside.

“Who’s this Slade and why’s he got your kid?”

“She, Slade’s a woman.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Okay, whatever.  Give me the short version.”

Corry ran a trembling hand through her hair. “Okay, look, the boss sent me down to the suburbs with a briefcase full of Benjamins.  Told me to take it to some of his men that were setting up shop down there.”

I nodded while peering around a corner. “Okay, I knew he was looking to expand his territory.”

“Yeah, so when I got down there I turned the cash over to them.  Then I got a call from the boss saying to turn some tricks for free, give the locals a sample of what his girls had to offer.”

I grimaced. “How’d you end up working for the boss? You were a singer down at Leroy’s Jazz Club when I first met you, not some whore.”

Corry diverted her eyes from mine. “Let’s just say I got in over my head out in Hollywood.”

“What?” I said. “What were you doing out there?”

“Why do you care now?” Corry said while glaring at me. “I headed out there after you made if perfectly clear your job came first.”

Her words stung like a slap to the face. “I’m s-”

“I don’t wanta hear it, besides we’re wasting time.”

I nodded and picked up my pace.  Having a heart to heart over a ruined love affair in this hell hole didn’t make any sense.  She knew it and so did I.  Maybe after this was over we could patch things up.  Maybe not.  But swooning like a love sick teenager would only serve to get us both killed.

“Anyways, things were going fine for a few nights, until the Cartel showed up.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Who?”

“There were a half dozen of them. They were Latino and they claimed we were trespassing on their turf that they’d been running since the 80’s. Anyways, they killed the boss’ men and snatched me.  Drove me out to the mountains and kept me in a cabin that smelled like a sewer.”

“What’d they want with you?” I said while pushing open a door.

Corry grimaced. “C’mon, what do you think they wanted with me?”

A sour taste filled my mouth at the thought of them having their way with her.  “So, why didn’t they kill you after they had their fun?”

Corry chewed on her lower lip. “Slade showed up.”

“One broad took outta half dozen men?” I said, my eyebrows raised. “What was she packing, a rocket launcher?”

Corry shook her head. “Not exactly.”

“Just give it to me straight, girl.”

“They were in the other room drinking and playing cards.  They’d talked about selling me as a sex slave in Mexico.”

I scowled.

“Anyways, I heard something outside, something on the roof.  They started screaming something about ‘malo gato’.  I don’t understand Spanish, but that’s what it sounded like.”

I nodded.

“Then I heard screams and gunshots.  I was tied to the bed and the door was shut so I couldn’t see anything but it sounded like the place was being torn apart.”

“You sure it wasn’t a bear?”

Corry shook her head. “No, because when it was over the door to my room opened. I saw the gang, they were all dead. Th-they were in pieces. Then I saw Slade standing in the doorway, I was scared to death of her.  But she freed me, nursed me back to health.”

“Why?”

Corry opened her mouth to speak, but the shrill cry of a child interrupted her.  Her eyes went wide and the color drained from her face.

“Puh-please, Mack,” Corry said, tears streaked her face, “you gotta help me.”

I glanced in the direction of the child’s cry. “Show me where she is.”

***

Corry led me to a room that contained several dumpsters.  A putrid stench filled the air, along with the buzzing of flies. The putrences was so intense that every breath nearly gagged me.  When I passed by a dumpster I spotted the corpses of several men inside.  They were stripped to the bone like Thanksgiving turkeys.  A couple of them had Rolex watches around their bloodied wrists.  Bile surged into my mouth and my stomach gurgled, but I managed to suppress my instinct to vomit.  I covered my mouth and nose with my handkerchief to filter the stench while I continued across the room.

I gestured to the dumpsters. “Why the hell’s Slade doing this?”

“I guess it’s payback,” Corry said with her head bowed, “for all the abuse her people have faced over the centuries at the hands of the white man…at least that’s what she told me.”

I grimaced. “Sounds like a complete nutjob.  Why’d you bring her back to the city?”

“You’re right, she is a nut.  The entire time I was with her she ranted against men.  How much she despised them, and wanted them to suffer.  Once I got my strength back I managed to escape and get back to Denver.”

“Then how’d she find you?”

Corry hung her head. “She must’ve taken my ID from my pants’ pocket.  I didn’t realize it was missing until after I got home.”

“So what, she just showed up at your door-”

“No, I think she was stalking me for a while cause she jumped me in the parking lot one evening when I was taking Tommy to his sitter.”

“Why’d she need you?”

“She knew I was a prostitute.  Her plan was to use me to lure men here so she could kill them. I was the bait in her trap. She’s been doing it for weeks now.”

“So why didn’t she kill me?” I said keeping an eye out for any signs of trouble.

“She’d overheard us talking. She knew you worked for the boss and figured you were a hitman or enforcer,” Corry said while avoiding my gaze. “She’s sick in the head, Mack.  She’s toying with you. She wants to test herself against a professional killer. She took your gun to even the odds, she never uses them.  Told me she hates guns, actually.”

“She’s gonna regret not killing me when she had the chance.”

“Please, Mack…be careful.  She’s not-”

I rolled my eyes. “She’s a punk, they’re all the same.  I dropped my guard but it won’t happen again.”

Corry looked up at me with watery eyes. “Th-thanks, for helping me get my boy back.”

“So where’s the father?”

Corry stared at me for a minute and then lowered her head. “C’mon, we’re wasting time.”

I grunted and followed her to a massive room. Derelict forklifts and pallet jacks were parked up against the far wall and some sorta machinery with conveyers sat in the middle.  A mezzanine spanned the entire length of the room.  I couldn’t see much up there other then stacks of empty pallets and clusters of fifty five gallon drums.

“She’s up there with Tommy,” Corry said.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, she brings me up there a few times a day to take care of him,” Corry said while clenching her trembling hands. “But she won’t let me stay.”

“Find some place safe to hide.”

Corry glanced at me with tears streaming down her face. “I-I should help-”

“You’ve helped enough already,” I said while I headed to the stairs at the base of the mezzanine. “So just stay here cause your kid’s gonna need you in one piece.”

I didn’t look back, seeing her so distraught tore at my heart enough.  By the time I reached the top of the mezzanine sweat dripped from my brow.  I took cover behind a stack of pallets, and gulped down some air. I could hear Tommy sniveling somewhere nearby.  I glanced around the corner, but all I saw was a jumble of trash and machinery. Massive pipes ran overhead, many of them were corroded from years of neglect.  Most of the pipes weren’t labeled in anyway but a few had faded warning labels for hazardous material.

“I smell death,” a voice grittier then sandpaper said, “on you.”

I looked around for anything I could use for a weapon.

“How many lives,” the voice said, “taken?”

“I don’t keep tabs on how many times I take out trash like you, Slade.”

“Such disregard for life, typical of your kind.”

I swept around the corner and maneuvered passed some pipes and barrels. “Seems we’re two of a kind.”

A hiss filled the air. “No. We not same,” Slade said.

“Really? Could’ve fooled me, I saw your handy work back there in the dumpsters,” I said while walking in the direction of Slade’s voice.

“No! I kill for retribution of sins against sisters and mothers.”

Despite the dismal lighting I could see Slade a few feet ahead of me. A ratty hoodie concealed her face and her baggy jeans were held on by an old extension cord for a belt.  Her sneakers had been white at one time but countless amounts of gore had strained them a sickly pink.  I got the impression from the way the clothes fit her so loosely that she’d pilfered them from her victims.

Tommy lay on the floor a few feet behind her.  Duct tape covered his mouth and he’d been hogtied with old extension cords.  His face and clothes were filthy and his hair a matted mess. Surrounding both of them were broken pallets and old tarps. Clothing was draped over the overhead pipes.  Soup cans and pudding cups laid scattered on the floor.

I glanced at the boy. Blonde hair and a chubby face. His ice blue eyes brimmed with tears. Maybe two years old by the looks of him. “Look, just let the kid go and let’s settle this,” I said.

“I give you boy, and what I get from you?” Slade said.

“What do you get? A twenty four hour head start. After that the boss’ men will be out in full force looking for you. Most scum like you don’t get that offer.”

“You bigger fool then I thinked,” Tarq said, “I enjoy tearing you to pieces!”

Before I could respond she charged me like a defensive lineman.  I tried to sidestep out of the way, but I was too slow. Her bony shoulders slammed into my gut and knocked me back into a pallet of fifty-five gallon drums.  The clang of metal and wood filled my ears as bolts of pain shot up my back and spots floated in my vision.

A feral roar ripped through the air and when I glanced up I saw her coming again.  This time she attempted to round house kick me, but I managed to raise an arm in time to block the blow.  But the kick felt like getting hit by a sledgehammer. I could feel my arm tingling and my hand began to swell.  A fracture to the forearm was my guess.

While Slade prepared for her next attack I noticed a crowbar bar sitting atop some drums near me.  I tried to snatch it with my good hand, but it fell out of my grasp when Slade slashed me across my back with something razor sharp. A blade? The same thing she used on her victims?  I howled in agony as blinding pain raced across my spine like a wildfire.

The sound of Slade running toward me filled my ears, and I instinctively lunged out of the way.  Luck proved to be on my side, for once, and I managed to dodge her.  She slammed into the barrels.

Her collision with the barrels didn’t faze her at all and she leapt at me again without missing a beat.  But this time I was ready for her.  I snatched the crowbar and swung it just in time to catch her squarely in the chest. The blow sent her reeling backwards into some old wood pallets and pipes. She howled in pain and collapsed to the floor.

I tried to ignore the fact that every breath or movement sent spikes of pain searing into my muscles. That the taste of my own blood flooded my mouth.  My breathing was shallow and laborious.  I knew she was stronger and faster than me.  I’d heard stories of punks on PCP that acted like her.  Was that what she was on?

Slade screeched more in frustration then pain and leapt to her feet.  She shook her hooded head at me and turned her attention to Tommy. I couldn’t let her harm the boy.  It would ruin Corry, and she’d been through enough.  I cursed my luck for losing my gun.  Just one bullet was all I wanted. I could’ve dropped Slade with a well-placed shot between the eyes and be done with this mess.

I staggered after her and swung the crowbar again. Slade ducked just in time to avoid it.  The crowbar slammed into an overhead pipe. A dull gong filled the air and the pipe shook from the blow.  The crowbar left a sizeable dent in its corroded surface.

I raised the crowbar overhead but Slade reached up and grabbed my wrist and twisted it.  A jolt of pain filled my wrist and the crowbar slipped out of my grip. Before I could recover she shoved me backwards.

Slade snatched the crowbar and smacked it against her open palm while strolling toward me.

“Nice try,asshole,” she said while peering at me from the depths of her hood, “but you swing like bitch.”

I glared at her.  Rather than just killing me she had to be a punk and talk trash.  Amateur and low class.  Whatever happened to the good old days when you put a bullet in someone and left it at that?  Now everyone’s gotta be a badass thanks to Hollywood.

“Maybe I make you watch me beat brat with this,” Slade said while glancing at Tommy, “then leave you to bleed out.  Know you no save boy.”

“You better make my blood flow like the Niagara, otherwise I’m coming after you.”

“Why he so important, killer?  You take many life, why now you want to save one?”

She was right, I’d taken more out of this world then put back into it.  A life of destruction and death, if you can call that a life at all. The only time I had a glimpse of something else, something better in this world was with Corry.  Seeing what she’d become, maybe because of me, caused something to boil up in me.  And this boy, and the look on Corry’s face when she said his name, was like a flicker of light after being locked up in the dark.

I spat at Slade.  My bloody spittle dripped from the edge of her hood and I smirked while imaging it striking her concealed face.

Slade wiped the spit from her hoodie while growling in disgust. She raised the crowbar overhead.  I lunged at her and punched her in the throat.  The blow sent her reeling backward.  She landed on the floor hacking and gasping for breath. The impact of the landing caused her to drop the crowbar.

She leapt back up and we both glared at one another like two punch drunk heavy weight fighters in the last round. I glanced at crowbar that sat just out of reach.  Slade bolted with her shoulders lowered and head down like a bull.  I tried to sidestep but my reaction time was too slow.  She drove her shoulder into my gut and wrapped her arms around my own.  The impact knocked us to the ground with a bone crunching impact that knocked the wind outta me.  Spots appeared in my vision like sadistic fireworks.  My head felt like it was being used as an anvil.

Slade laid atop me and for a moment didn’t move, either.  I could hear her shallow breathing and the raspy catch in her throat.  Her body felt hot and drenched with sweat. One of her hands lay on my chest and I saw her elongated nails had been filed into sharp points.  Her nails, or better yet claws, were stained with the blood of God only knows how many men.    From the corner of my eye I spotted the crowbar mere inches away.  Despite the screams of protest from my muscles and joints I stretched out my arm to grab it.  My movement roused Slade and she howled like a banshee while lunging for my throat with her claws.

I snatched the crowbar with my one good arm and swung it with primal violence.  The crowbar slammed into her arm with a bone shattering impact.  She howled as her arm snapped and hung awkwardly below her elbow.

Slade reeled back and pulled herself off me.  She shot a glance at the stairwell.  Was she thinking of making a break for it? To lick her wounds and nurse herself back to health?  To start her reign of terror again?  I couldn’t let her get away.  It wasn’t about protecting the boss’ johns and his prostitution business.  I didn’t give a damn about that.  I couldn’t let her go and give her a second chance of harming Corry or her boy.

I got to my feet and charged her.  I slammed her into the same pallets as before.  She screamed in my ear as my weight pressed her up against the pallets.   Charging her had taken nearly all I had left.  I could feel my heart sputtering and my lungs felt like they were on fire.

She swung at me with her good arm. Her fist slammed into the side of my head like a ballpein hammer. I struggled to stay upright.  The whole room spun like a merry-go-round.  Bile flooded my mouth.  I raised the crowbar and swung.  My arm seemed to move in slow motion as it descended.  Slade looked up and shielded herself with her one good arm.  The crowbar sliced through the air and smashed down with a thunderous impact…on the dented pipe above her head. The pipe ruptured from the blow and spewed out a vile yellow fluid that soaked Slade from head to toe.  I staggered backward to avoid it. It had a smelled like rotten meat and made my eyes burn and my nose run.

Slade howled with rage and her drenched clothes as her clothes began to smolder.  Plumes of foul steam rose up from them and I could see the liquid was eating away at the fabric.  She screeched while ripping her hoodie off.  But it was already too late.  Most of her long golden hair had fallen out in clumps and revealed an oozing scalp.

Despite the fact that her face hadn’t been exposed to the liquid, it was the most disturbing thing about her.  She had a pallid complexion and triangular shaped face.  Her dilated green eyes were too big for her face and set between them was a broad flat nose.  Below it grew a few long white hairs that stuck out in random directions. She had a cleft pallet and her thin black lips were curled back enough to reveal elongated canines.  Her triangular shaped ears were too large for her small head.

What the hell was she?  If I didn’t know better I’d say she looked like a cat.  But that’s ridiculous.  Stuff like that doesn’t exist.  Maybe she was some deformed freak, or had some sorta disease.  Either way it didn’t matter.

Slade screeched while glaring at me.  Her wide eyes blazed with fear and agony.  More animal then human.  She tried to lunge for me, but her legs slipped out from underneath her and she fell to the liquid covered floor.

I stumbled past her and ripped off my own jacket that had gotten a small amount of the liquid on it.  Fortunately, it wasn’t enough to do any real harm to me.  I grabbed the boy while Slade’s skin and fat dripped off her like melted mozzarella.  I untied Tommy and pressed him against my chest so he wouldn’t have to see the heinous remains of Slade. I managed to stay on my feet while going downstairs and found Corry.

Elation filled Corry’s face and the two embraced while sobbing.  The look in their eyes was something that could only exist between and mother and child.  It made my heart clench and a tingling sensation filled me.  Perhaps I wasn’t as jaded as I thought. Corry gazed at me, wordless gratitude expressed through her glistening eyes. Seeing her happy was worth more than anything to me.  It’s all I ever wanted for her.

We beat it out of there and I let her drive me to one of the boss’ private doctors.  The kind of guy that don’t ask too many questions.  He looked like he’d seen a ghost when Corry brought me in.  Somehow he managed to patch me up enough that after a few weeks I walked out of his clinic.  But I ain’t what I used to be.  My hands shake more than an Aspen tree in autumn. My lungs wheeze and my eyes get blurry at times.  Old age, maybe?  Or something to do with that crap that came out of the pipe? I didn’t get soaked but maybe the bit the little bit that hit my jacket did something to me. Maybe the fumes from it are to blame.

Corry didn’t wait around for me to get healed up. The doctor said she took off without a word shortly after she dropped me off.  Not a word from her since then, nor any sightings.  I realized after I got out of the doctor’s that money was missing from my wallet.  Couple credit cards too. She must’ve took it and went on the run.  We always talked about heading to Cancun someday back when we were together.  Back when everything looked promising.

I never reported the cards stolen.  Told the boss that the corpse recovered from the factory by his goons was Corry.  He seemed to believe me.  Decided to let me retire rather than putting a bullet in me when I told him about my medical condition.  I bought a villa down in Cancun.  The boss asked me if I could adjust to no more shootouts or hunting punks..  No late nights staking out a debtor’s hideout.

I told him, ‘Everything looked promising.’

 

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