Miranda's Dance

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Chapter Twenty-Four

Thank God Carl was there! A major part of my plan is taken care of. OK, time to focus. Maybe God is actually cutting me some slack for a change? I’ve got my mailman lined up. Now all I have to do is take care of the mail. I need to find a roach coach. It’s after midnight. A lot of them probably packed up for the night. But there’s always a few that stay out all night long. I really don’t want to go near the Big Lot if I can avoid it. I don’t like getting within two blocks of Ricky, and I know he’ll be there. He’s always there. He deals dope until four in the morning, and sometimes later. So where else? I’m pretty sure there’s one at the north end, but that’s a hell of a walk. I want to take it easy on my ankle if I can. This shit is really starting to hurt again. And there’s still the little problem of the cops looking for me. So where’s the closest one? There’s one over on 9th Street, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be gone by the time I can walk over there. What about the one over on Meridian? They stay out late, but a lot of cops eat there. No way. I’m not going anywhere near a cop hangout. I guess it’s the Big Lot. God, what if I run into Ricky? Shit! Think positive, Miranda! What are the odds I’ll run into him? Pretty slim. I won’t be in the lot itself. Still Ricky sometimes eats at that roach coach. He could be there. Oh, so what? If he’s there, I’ll just wait until he’s gone. He never stays there longer than it takes for him to get his food. He doesn’t want to lose any sales. Perfect! It’ll work. And I’m running low on time, so I can’t put it off any longer. Time to get moving!


OK, there it is: the roach coach. Right at the far edge of the alley where the junkies go to slam after they score at the Big Lot. Like I said, it’s there rain or shine. It’s kind of ridiculous when you think about it. By that, I mean I can’t imagine they make enough money out here at night to make it worthwhile. They’re probably dealing dope on the side? I wouldn’t be a bit surprised. As long as they’re not slinging heroin, Ricky probably wouldn’t fuck with them. Hell, he’d kill them if they were. He’s not exactly fond of competition. Speaking of Ricky, he’s not there. Even better! God, it’s a good thing I didn’t try walking up to the north end. My ankle’s really fucking with me now. If this works out, I’ll take a rest for a bit. OK, let’s do this. Make it quick. In and out. I need a pen and a couple of sheets of paper. In and out, fast. God, I hope the guy working there tonight speaks English! I don’t know how to say pen and paper in Spanish. All right…here we go, Lord! Please let this work. I’m running out of time. Please let it work without a hitch.

“Hey, sir? Excuse me?”

“What the hell do you want?”

Well, at least he speaks English. Thank God for that. As for the attitude, that’s to be expected. These guys who work the roach coaches aren’t what you’d call a cheery bunch.

“Can I borrow a pen and some paper?”

“Say again?”

“I said, can I borrow a pen and some paper from you? Please? It’s really important.”

“Are you out of your fucking mind?”

“Yeah, but that’s not important right now.”

“This is a lunch truck! If you ain’t buying shit, then get the fuck out of here!”

Yeah, this is what I was afraid of. These guys aren’t exactly known for their generosity. It’s all about the money with them. Just like a fucking dope dealer.

“Please? I really need to write someone a note. I don’t have anything to write with.”

“That ain’t my problem, honey. Go to a fucking store and buy it yourself.”

“I can’t. They’re all closed. Besides, I don’t have any money.”

“If you ain’t got no money, then what the fuck are you doing wasting my time?”

“Can’t you just help me out with a pen and some paper? Please?”

“Get lost, bitch!”

OK, it’s not working out the way I’d hoped. But I can’t give up now. This asshole’s still my best bet. I’d better make sure there’s no way he’s going to help me out before I take off.

“OK, how about this: Can I work for it?”

“Work for it?”

“Yeah. I’ll scrub the grill for you if you give me something to write with.”

“Why don’t you scrub your ass instead? You look like shit!”

“Come on! It’s just a fucking pen and paper!”

“This is a business, honey. Money talks. Bullshit walks. So start walking.”

“OK, how about this: If I had some money, would you have a pen and paper?”

“You mean would I sell you a pen and paper?”

“Yeah. Strictly business; not a favor.”

“OK, yeah. That’ll work. You come up with some money and I’ll sell you a pen and some paper.”

“You’ve got the pen and paper?”

“Do I got a pen and paper? What? You don’t believe me?”

“Hey, I need to be sure. You wouldn’t be the first person out here who tried to fuck me over. Do you have it?”

“I got this fucking notebook. Is that enough paper for you? Yeah, I got the paper. And I got plenty of pens.”

“And they work?”

“You’re a paranoid little bitch, ain’t you? What? You don’t trust me?”

Is he kidding? I wouldn’t trust this asshole to make me a decent sandwich! The meat’s probably from a fucking alley cat!

“Trust you? Now who’s out of their fucking mind?”

“Fair enough. Can’t be too careful, huh? All right, look: see? It writes. Satisfied?”

“How much do you want for it?”

“Shit, I don’t know. How much is it worth to you?”

“Two bucks?”

“Five.”

“All I’ve got is three.”

“Come back when you get two more.”

“Where am I supposed to get two bucks at this hour?”

“Find some dude and blow him.”

I guess I should’ve seen that one coming. Oh, this guy’s a real fucking prince! Maybe I should slash his fucking tires when I’m done?

“I’ll give you three bucks and my watch.”

“This ain’t a pawn shop, honey. I don’t need your two-dollar watch.”

“Come on, it’s all I’ve got! Give me a break, OK?”

“I ain’t here to give you a break, bitch! What do I look like? Besides, that piece of shit don’t look like it’s even worth two bucks. Where’d you get it? A fucking bubblegum machine?”

Clearly, there’s no way I’m going to talk him down. And if I keep it up, he might insist that I fuck him for it. I definitely don’t want to do that.

“OK. I hear you. If I can get five bucks, you’ll give me the pen and the notebook?”

“Isn’t that what I just said? What are you? Fucking brain-damaged?”

“Pretty much. So we’ve got a deal. How long are you going to be here?”

“I’m closing up early tonight. I’ll be here until two.”

“Two o’clock?”

“Yeah, two o’clock. So you’d better go blow some guy fast.”

“I’ll be back before then.”

“Gee, I can hardly fucking wait.”

I think I’m definitely slashing his fucking tires just as soon as I get what I need out of him! God, what a fucking asshole!


So how am I going to get two bucks before he takes off? Without blowing some guy, that is. Normally, I’d panhandle for the money. I can’t do that now, though. No one out here at this hour would give me a fucking cent. What I can do is wander around here and hit a few people up that I know. It’s only two bucks. I should be able to find enough people to get two bucks, right? That’s only a quarter from eight people. There have to be eight junkies out here who’ll front me a fucking quarter apiece. God, I hope so! Because I don’t know what the fuck I’ll do if this doesn’t work! I’m really cutting it close. I don’t have much time left. And I sure as hell don’t want to try writing my goodbye letter to Charlie on the back of a trash bag – which I can’t do anyway because I don’t even have a fucking pen!

Fortunately, this is a pretty good spot to hit some people up for a few bucks. One block up and I’m in the Big Lot. The Dope Central of skid row. There ought to be a lot of people there at this hour, looking for dope. The junkies buy from Ricky and the crackheads buy from Delacruz, and there are at least two guys across the street selling reefer and PCP. It all makes for one hell of a crowd, and chances are I know a lot of them. I should be able to hit a few of them up. They might even be more willing to give me a few bucks after they slam, but then again, they might be out of money. As soon as a junkie gets exactly enough for a taste, they head straight to the dealer. God knows I always did. So while they’ll be all generous and shit, they won’t have any money to be generous with. It’s easy to be generous when you’re fucking broke, isn’t it? It doesn’t cost you a damned thing. There’s a lot of that kind of generosity out here. Not much of the other kind, though.

The problem with this plan is that I run the chance of running into Ricky. God, I hate him almost as much as I’m afraid of him! He’s the last motherfucker I want to see tonight. That’s because if he sees me, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll fuck with me. He’s kicked my ass before more times than I can remember. I only ever dealt with him because I had to. There are times when he’s the only dealer we’ve got. No matter how dry the dope situation gets out here, Ricky’s always got something. His pipeline must be unbelievable. But just getting near him is enough to make me shit my pants. I swear, he’s worse than the fucking devil. How the hell does anybody turn out like that? Jesus, I’ve known guys who spent half their lives in prison and they aren’t anywhere near as fucked up as he is. He must have been fucked in the ass by Satan or something. Nothing else explains it. I’d say he’s possessed, but I’ve read that demons are really smart and Ricky definitely isn’t smart. Oh, he knows everything there is to know about dope and dope dealing, but that’s about it. I’ve often said he wears those ugly cowboy boots because he’s too stupid to tie his own shoes. And if he ever found out that I said that, he’d kill me stone dead. He wouldn’t think twice about it.

It’s not like being out here turned him into a fucking asshole. That never happened to him. He doesn’t live on the street. He never did. He’s got a place about two miles from here. No, I haven’t been over for cocktails; thank you very much. But I have seen the building. It isn’t great, but it’s nice enough. It’s a hell of a lot better than what we’ve got. So what the fuck happened to him? Was he raised by rattlesnakes? Did his parents torture him when he was a baby? I don’t know. Maybe? I guess he knows he’s going to burn in hell so he figures, “What the fuck? I might as well be a complete fuckhead, right? I’m going down anyway, so who the fuck cares?” I wish he’d just up and fucking die! I’ve wished for that almost every day since I got here. But no, he’s too fucking mean to die. Rotten assholes like him live forever, like fucking cockroaches. It’s not fair. Guys like Charlie get sick and die in a hospital all alone where you can’t say goodbye to them. Assholes like Ricky are fucking immortal. That’s no exaggeration. Since I’ve been out here, Ricky’s been shot twice, stabbed at least twice, and one time some drunken cab driver hit him with his car and knocked him a good thirty feet down the street. I don’t want to know what he did to the guy, but I’m sure he got his revenge. He always does. I even saw Ricky get shot by the cops. That was the second time he got shot. The cops came into the Big Lot one night, looking to round everybody up and Ricky took off down the alley with something in his hand. Stupid motherfucker! That’s how you get yourself shot around here! Count on it! In this sector, he could’ve been holding his fucking dick and the cops would’ve said it was a gun. It’s a free shot, and they’ll take it. They sure as hell took it that time. Hoekstra drove his car down the alley, leaned out the window and shot him in the ass. I’m sure he was aiming for his head, but the car was going too fast. I was maybe ten yards away. He lost a shitload of blood. God, I prayed for him to die. I prayed hard. But sometimes the answer is no, and this was one of those times. He was back on the street about two months later. No charges. He didn’t even have a limp. Go figure.

Ricky’s always been particularly evil to me. He’s kicked the living shit out of me more times than I care to remember – usually just for the hell of it. I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m a woman. He likes beating the shit out of women, and since I’m a junkie and I’m out here every night, I’m one of his favorite targets. Lucky fucking me, huh? I used to dream about killing him. I really did. I dreamed about beating him senseless while he screamed and begged me to stop; just like he did to me. Of course, that’s never going to happen. I’m too fucking scared to even lay a finger on him. Even the other dealers are terrified of him. The only ones with the balls to go after him are the cops, and for some reason, they’re not interested in doing that. He’s the king of our world. Yeah, right! Some king! Like I said, he’s a fucking cockroach and he’s going to live forever. There’s no fucking justice in the world. And he never passes up a chance to fuck with me. That’s why I stay the hell away from the Big Lot. That’s another good thing about being off of dope: now that I’m not slamming every day, there’s no reason to subject myself to that piece of shit. Not unless I absolutely have to.


And there it is: The Big Lot. 9th and Palomar. Nice and bright, huh? Well, compared to most places out here, it is. It’s one of the things that make it a prime junkie spot. As a junkie, you have to know the rules of the Big Lot. Rule number one: you never want to come in here through the main entrance. This place is dope central, so the cops are always watching it. If they see you come through the front on foot, then they know you’re here and they know you’re looking for dope. When they storm the place – which they do a lot – they know who’s in here and they don’t let up until they catch you. And they usually catch you. They storm the place in force and they throw a fucking net over the whole damn block. If you don’t get away in the first three seconds, you’re fucking toast. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any dope on you, you’re still getting locked up. If need be, they’ll gladly provide someone else’s dope so you can go to jail, too. Cops are generous that way. Somebody drops one fucking balloon and the cops hang it on ten different people. Think of it as their twisted take on the whole “loaves and fishes” thing. Anyway, the safest way to get in there is through the back entrance from the alley. The cops used to be able to drive through it, but after a few centuries of being the number one dope spot on skid row, the city put up concrete and steel barriers to separate the alley from the parking lot. They’re strong as hell. You couldn’t drive a tank through there now. The alley’s the only escape route. When the cops hit the place, they block the alley at both ends, but it’s a short dash to the street at the south end and if you see them in time, you can make it out of there. If it weren’t for that, I’d probably be doing fifty years by now.

You want to watch yourself right before you hit the back entrance. You never know who’s waiting in the shadows. It’s easy to get ambushed here. And it’s not just the cops you have to worry about. Not every junkie or crackhead who comes here has money, so they wait in the shadows for someone to come along and then they take him down. It happens every fucking night. Usually they’re just after money, but when you’re a woman, sometimes they don’t stop there. It damn near happened to me. Two guys slammed me against the wall before I knew what the fuck was happening. They grabbed my money and the next thing I knew, they were pulling my clothes off. They almost had me, but they were so busy pulling off my pants that they didn’t see I’d gotten my knife out. I cut one of them all the way down to the bone, from his shoulder to his elbow. I could feel the blade drag along the bone. I never saw him again, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he lost that arm. Yeah, I got that motherfucker good. I’m just sorry I didn’t get his friend.

So let’s see if there’s anyone in the alley I can hit up for a couple of bucks. God, please let someone be here who’s generous – or owes me a favor.

“Hey Miranda! Is that you?

Shit! Right behind the fucking alcove! What did I just say about people lurking in the shadows? This is exactly what I meant! Get my knife out and get ready to fight!

“Who’s there? Stay back!”

“It’s cool! It’s just me!”

I’ve got to keep my back to the wall in case there’s someone else. A lot of assholes out here work in teams. Watch the sides. Start moving back the way I came. Keep my knife ready. Just like Charlie taught me.

“Who the fuck is me?”

“It’s me! T.C.! Take it easy! Put the knife down!”

“Step out where I can see you!”

“No problem! Just take it easy, OK?”

Yeah, that’s T.C. all right! Now here’s another asshole I could’ve done without tonight! Did I tell you about him already? T.C. is a total fucking weasel. Everyone hates his guts, and it’s because he deserves it. Do you know how Will Rogers once said he never met a man he didn’t like? Well, he never met T.C. If he had, he’d have to change that sentiment. I swear, five minutes with T.C. would drive Mother Theresa to commit murder. He’s like the embodiment of everything that’s bad about junkies. Hell, he’d be a useless piece of shit even if he weren’t a fucking junkie!

“Damn it, T.C.! What the fuck are you doing, hiding back there?”

“It’s cool! Just take it easy! You alone?”

“What’s it to you?”

“It’s just…you ain’t with nobody right now, are you?”

Normally, a question like that would sound a red alert in my head. Guys asking me “Are you alone” is their way of asking “Is it OK to rape you?” But I’ve got nothing to worry about with this idiot. I could take him easily. Even Joel could kick his ass. I wouldn’t even need my knife; not that he’s got anything worthwhile to cut off. Someone must have chopped his balls off at birth. It’s amazing he’s lasted this long out here.

“No, I’m not with anyone. And I’m sure as hell not with you. So what the fuck do you want?”

“Can you help me out?”

Oh, here it comes! I can tell just by looking at him what his problem is. Yeah, he needs a fucking fix. He’s starting to get sick, all right. He wants me to give him some dope. Typical. T.C. is without a doubt one of the biggest fucking leeches out here. He’s always hitting people up for dope, even when he’s got money.

“Forget it. I don’t have any dope.”

“Oh, damn!”

“And I don’t have any money, either. So don’t bother asking.”

“No, it’s cool! I got money! I just need some dope!”

Jesus! He’s offering to pay? T.C. is offering to pay for dope? Did hell just freeze over? Has the fucking apocalypse started?

“If you’ve got money, then what’s your problem? You’re fifty feet away from the Big Lot. Get what you need.”

“No, you don’t understand! I can’t!”

“What? You can’t walk fifty feet? Do you have two broken legs or something?

“No, I can’t go in there!”

See? I was right! It’s fucking weasel time; plain and simple! He fucked someone over and now he can’t afford to let anyone see him!

“What did you do?”

“Nothing!”

“Bullshit! What the fuck did you do? You must have fucked up. What did you do? Who did you piss off?”

“Seriously, I didn’t do anything!”

Gee, why don’t I believe him?

“So why can’t you go over there if you didn’t do anything?”

“Come on! You know how it is! Ricky…he doesn’t like me.”

“Ricky doesn’t like anybody. Welcome to the club.”

“Yeah, but he really hates me. Every time I see him, he gets all pissed off at me.”

“Why? Have you been asking him to front you? You know how he feels about fucking leeches.”

“No, nothing like that! Come on, Miranda! I just need you to buy me some dope. If I go over there, he’s going to go off on me.”

“Uh huh.”

It’s obvious there’s something he’s not telling me. He’s too freaked out about going over there. That means he must have fucked up royally. With T.C., that’s par for the course.

“Come on, Miranda! You know him! You bought from him a thousand times! He won’t mess with you!”

“You mean unlike the five hundred times he kicked the shit out of me?”

“He won’t fuck with you! In and out! Get it and go! Just do this for me, OK?”

“Fuck this shit!”

“Look, I just…I just don’t want to go over there; that’s all. What’s the big deal? I’m trying to get some dope. Help me out, OK?”

“Why should I?”

“Just do this for me! Come on! Help me out!”

“You haven’t earned it.”

“Earned it?”

“Yeah! What the fuck did you ever do for me?”

“Oh, don’t be that way! Come on! Help me out here!”

I ought to just kill him and put him out of both of our miseries. No, I don’t want to show up at heaven’s door with blood on my hands. Not even his. God wouldn’t like that. Besides, the thought of T.C. waiting at the Pearly Gates for me is one seriously ugly thought. What was it I said about strangling a ghost up there? He’s the…wait a minute! He says he’s got money! That’s what I’m here for! This fucking weasel might be the answer to my prayers! Who would’ve thought it?

“OK, say I do it for you. What’s in it for me?”

“What do you want?”

“Five bucks.”

“Oh, come on, Miranda!”

“That’s the deal! Five bucks! Have you got it or not?”

“Don’t fucking do this to me! Please!”

“I’ll take that as a “No.” Too bad. See you later.”

Just watch. He’ll cave. He always does.

“OK! OK! Five bucks!”

And just like that, my problem is solved! I ought to have my head examined for doing this, but I need the money now. And I’ve had my head examined. Look what it got me.

“All right. Give me your money.”

Watch this: it’ll be crumpled up in a ball. I point that out because it’s something that’s weird about junkies: we’re physically incapable of folding money. We always crumple it up like a used tissue or something. Even if it’s just one bill, we crumple it up in a ball. Don’t ask me why. We just do.

“Here, take it!”

See what I mean? Crumpled up in a ball. Typical junkie.

“This is ten.”

“Yeah! That’s enough!”

“That’s for the dope. Where’s my five?”

“I got it.”

“Where?”

“I got it stashed down the alley.”

Uh-huh. That’s not surprising. Remember what I told you about stashing valuables in an alley? Here it is in the flesh. Of course, I’m not trusting this asshole for one fucking second.

“Go get it.”

“Come on, Miranda! Just do this first! I don’t want to be here! I swear! You get the dope and I’ll have it when you get back!”

I know this is a mistake, but I don’t want to waste any more time on this asshole. I need to get working on my letter. So I guess I’ll have to trust him. I’ll kill him if he fucks me over!

“You’d better not be fucking lying to me!”

“I’m not! I swear!”

“If get in any shit over this, I’ll cut your fucking ass! I swear to God, I’ll do it!”

“I’m not lying! I got your money! Come on, hurry up! I’m not feeling too good!”

“Yeah, I can see that. OK, stay the fuck out of sight. And make sure you’ve got my fucking money when I get back. I don’t want to hear any shit about how someone took it from you. Do you understand? You fuck me over and I’ll take it out of your fucking ass!”

“No problem! Just go, OK?”

“Yeah, I’m going. Fucking asshole!”

I’ve got a really bad feeling about this. He’s hiding something. But I’m desperate and I’m running out of time, so here’s hoping I can do this just like he said: in and out. God, please let it be that easy!


Now, this has got to be proof positive that I’m out of my goddamned mind! Going anywhere near Ricky for five fucking bucks is sheer insanity. Hell, doing it for five thousand bucks isn’t exactly a bargain. Why the fuck am I doing this? What? I can’t find a better way to get five bucks? Shit, I only need two. I should’ve told T.C. I wanted more in case that guy at the roach coach decides to up the price. Why didn’t I? I guess the thought of dealing with Ricky short-circuited my brain. Mother fuck! This is not how I intended to spend the last fucking night of my life! Here I am, worried about meeting God face to face, and now I’m going to go face to face with the fucking devil? How’s that for being crazy? Well, I’m suicidal, and this is about as suicidal as it gets. God, please just let this go quick and easy. No problems. Just quick and easy. Please!

How should I play this? I hate dealing with Ricky and he knows it. I learned a long time ago to buy from him only when I’m desperate, which is to say I can’t find anyone else who has anything. There are plenty of dealers out tonight, as you’ve already seen. They’re all holding, so I can’t very well tell him that nobody else has any and I really need a taste. He’ll know I’m lying, and with the way things have been going tonight, he’s probably going to ask me why I’m there. I haven’t bought from him in at least nine months. Suddenly I show up looking for dope? That could be a problem, and the last thing on earth I want is a problem with Ricky.

I guess I could just tell him the truth: I’m buying it for somebody else, and the guy promised me a few bucks if I’d do it. That might not create too much suspicion. Ricky’s a piece of shit, but he’s not an idiot. At least, not when it comes to dope and junkies. He knows everybody out here hates his guts. He also knows that we’re all terrified of him. He gets off on it. So if I tell him I’m buying for somebody else and I’m getting a few bucks out of it, he might just figure it’s for someone who’s terrified to face him. Yeah, like me! Still, I don’t want to tell him I’m buying it for T.C. We all know what a piece of shit T.C. is, and he’s even more afraid of Ricky than usual. He must’ve pissed him off somehow. Whatever I do, I can’t mention T.C.’s name. No fucking way. If he can’t make T.C. pay for whatever he did, he’ll make me pay for it. That’s how Ricky’s brain works. He doesn’t care who he tortures. He just cares that he gets to do it. How’s that for evil?

Fuck this shit! I’m stalling! I’m stalling because I’m afraid to get within fifty feet of that sick motherfucker! But I can’t. I’ve got to do this. I need that money and I need it now. I’m running out of time. If I had any sense, I would’ve beaten it out of T.C. as soon as he told me about it. That way I wouldn’t have to do this. But I’m not much for robbery. Not even from a little fuck like T.C. All right, just hold it together. Go there and tell Ricky I want a taste and stuff the fucking money in his hand. If he asks me any questions, I’ll say it’s for somebody who can’t get over to the Big Lot. I won’t say it’s for Charlie. Normally, that would be my best bet, but it seems like everybody but me already knew that Charlie’s in the hospital. Ricky probably knows it, too. Whatever I do, I can’t get caught lying to him. He won’t give a shit why I lied to him. He’ll just kill me for it. I want to die, but not like that. Not by Ricky’s hand. If that evil fuck kills me, I’ll go to hell for sure. I honestly believe that. That’s why I can’t risk it. Besides, he’d make it slow and painful like you wouldn’t believe. I don’t want to go out that way, either.


Well, there he is: Mister Evil Incarnate. The Lord and Master of the Big Lot and every fucking junkie on skid row. That’s him on the left, in the black jacket and the snakeskin cowboy boots. He likes to think he’s some sort of Mexican Vaquero or something. Ricky the skid row cowboy. Every real cowboy in the world should feel insulted by that. God, would you look at him? Those boots probably cost more than I’ve had in the last seven years. I’m almost surprised he’s not wearing spurs. Anyway, he’s definitely open for business. He wouldn’t be standing by the north wall if he wasn’t. That’s his dealing spot. See those holes in the cinder blocks in the wall? He uses those to stash his dope sometimes. He never keeps it on him. Not anymore. Not since he almost went down for possession for sale a few years ago. Like I said, he’s not an idiot. And he’s not alone, either. I don’t recognize the guy standing next to him. The skinny Hispanic guy in the gray silk shirt. He looks like trouble. You’d better believe he isn’t there to keep Ricky company. He’s probably the money man. He holds the money. Damn! Whoever he is, he really creeps me out. I don’t like the way he looks. There’s just something about him. He looks almost as evil as Ricky. I can feel it. Shit! This was a bad idea! I should’ve found another way! God, why am I such a stupid bitch? Oh, fuck it! It’s too late to walk away. I’ve got to get this done fast. All right, enough bullshit. Take a deep breath. In and out, as fast as I can. Just hold it together for a few seconds and I’m home free. I’ll have what I need. Let’s do this!

“Hey, Ricky.”

And there’s that evil smile, just like he always gets when he sees me. It’s usually the last thing I see before he punches me in the mouth – or worse.

“Hey, look who’s here! Where you been, Red? I ain’t seen you in a while.”

Jesus, he’s almost pleasant! Did I get lucky or something? Has he been dipping into his own stash? No, he’s just trying to get me to let my guard down. Around him? Never in a million years!

“I’ve been around. Same as always.”

“So, are you looking for something tonight?”

“That’s why I’m here. Just a taste.”

“Just one?”

“Yeah, just one.”

“You don’t usually buy from me unless you’re hard up. What’s the occasion?”

“I just need to get down and I don’t feel like looking around for anybody. I’m here and you’re here, so why not take care of business?”

Well, so much for my telling him it’s for someone else. Just give it to me, God damn it! Enough with the twenty questions routine!

“That makes sense. You were always the sensible one, Red. Talk to my man.”

I was right: he’s one of Ricky’s thugs. Jesus Christ! This guy looks even worse up close! And I don’t like the way he’s eye-fucking me. I think he’s imagining himself fucking me every which way he can. God, get me the fuck out of here! Make the deal and go!

“All right, so I talk to you? Ten?”

“You know it, chica.

I can already feel my fucking skin crawling! God, this was a huge fucking mistake! Why the fuck did I say I’d do this? OK, just hold it together. Don’t lose it now. Just give him the money, get the dope and get the fuck out of here. Ten bucks. Here, take it, motherfucker! And don’t fucking touch me while you do it! If I feel your fingers on my skin, I swear I’ll start screaming my goddamned head off!

“Ten. She’s good, boss.”

“She always is. That’s what I like about her. Wait here, Red.”

Normally, I wouldn’t give him the money before I saw the dope, but it’s different with Ricky. Like I said, he doesn’t keep it on his person anymore, and neither does anyone he lets get within a hundred feet of him. He learned his lesson the hard way. He’s got it stashed nearby; probably over in that wall socket where he’s headed. Besides the cinder blocks in the north wall, he’s got at least a dozen stash places around the Big Lot and they’re all where he can see them so he doesn’t get ripped off. They’re good ones, too. He may be a fucking asshole, but he’s the smartest dope dealer out here. Come on, Ricky! Hurry up! I don’t like standing next to this asshole any more than I like standing next to you! In another ten seconds, I’m going to start screaming!

All right, he’s got the dope. Finally! This is going to work! Thank you, God! Now just get me the fuck out of here fast!

“Here you go, Red. Enjoy.”

Finally! Quick and easy! Thank you, God!

“Thanks.”

“Where you headed off to, Red? Why don’t you slam here?”

Oh, shit! I didn’t think of that! I said it was for me! Now he wants to see me shoot it! Fuck! What the hell do I do now? If I shoot it, I’m fucked! T.C. won’t pay me and I won’t be in any condition to shake him down for it!

“No, that’s all right. I’ve got a spot picked out for the night. I’m going to hit there and just crash until morning.”

“What for? You got a room, don’t you? Why the hell are you crashing out on the street?”

Fuck! I’m not about to tell him I got kicked out. He’ll think I’m desperate and then God only knows what he’ll want! Think fast! Say something!

“I can’t be getting down in my room. You know how they are in the SROs. If they even think you’re using dope, you’re out. They’ll toss you in a heartbeat. And if I go in there high, they’ll know. They’re good at spotting that shit.”

And all of that is true, which is why I’m praying to God that he believes me! Come on, Ricky! Just let me go!

“That shit ain’t for you, is it, Red?”

Fuck! He knows I’m lying! He fucking knows it! What the fuck do I do now? Jesus fucking Christ! He’ll kill me if I don’t come up with a good story! Think! What can I tell him?

“You’re right. It’s not for me. I said I’d pick it up for someone else. He’s laying low. You know, he’s kind of in the jackpot right now. He can’t be seen on the street with all the cops out in force like they are.”

“Uh-huh. He’s got a case?”

“He’s got a parole warrant. He’s afraid they’ll jack him up and turn him over to his PO. He’s afraid of the guy, or so he tells me.”

Come on, Ricky! You know what I mean! That’s a perfectly reasonable story! Just let me get the fuck out of here! Please!

“I noticed you ain’t told me who it’s for, Red. Who’s the guy? What’s his name?”

Fuck! Now I’m fucked! Ricky knows every fucking junkie out here! What the fuck do I tell him? If I give him the wrong name, he’s going to know it! Who can I name?

“It’s for Kane. You know him?”

“Kane? That fucking puto? Since when is he a motherfucking junkie? He don’t even smoke crack! I ain’t never seen that motherfucker do nothing but pop a few pills! And you’re teling me he’s a fucking junkie all of a sudden?”

Oh, fuck! I knew Kane wasn’t a junkie, but I didn’t know who else to say! Tell him something! Anything!

“He is now. He started using a couple of days ago. Some guys kicked his ass really bad tonight over by the Shepherd. He can’t even walk. And his PO’s after him.”

Jesus, I just realized that I don’t even know if Kane’s on parole! I know he’s done time, but what if he’s not and Ricky knows it? Holy fuck!

“That motherfucker ain’t got no PO! He’s on probation! He busted into a warehouse and got six months for it! He got probation after that! You’re lying to me, Red!”

“No, I’m not!”

“Don’t fucking lie to me! Who’s it for?”

“I’m telling you! It’s for Kane!”

“Bullshit! Who’s it for? Tell me!”

Fuck! That other asshole’s moved behind me! He’s blocking me in! This is going to go to shit! I’ve got to tell Ricky the truth! But he’ll fucking kill me! He’ll kill me if I tell him it’s for T.C.! Shit! He’ll kill me if I don’t! I don’t have a choice! If I lie to him again, he’ll kill me for sure!

“All right! It’s for T.C.! I didn’t have a choice! He made me do it!”

“He made you? That little piece of shit fucking puto made you? You could kick his ass blindfolded, bitch! You’re lying to me! Why the fuck are you buying for T.C.? Didn’t he tell you?”

“I’m sorry, OK? It’s no big deal! He just asked me to…”

“He asked you? That fucking piece of shit asks you to fetch his fucking dope and you just do it? What are you? His fucking bitch?”

“No, it’s just that…It’s no big deal. He was…he was getting pretty sick, so he asked me to do it. That’s all. I was just helping him out. I swear!”

“You hear that, Javier? He just asked her to fetch his fucking dope for him, and she does it! Does that sound right?”

“Nah, that don’t sound right at all, boss.”

“It sounds like fucking bullshit; that’s what it sounds like! Did that little asshole tell you he’s on my goddamned shit list?

Oh, shit! I knew it! I fucking knew it! T.C., you son of a bitch!

“He didn’t tell me anything! I swear! Hey, you want to talk to him? Fine! I’ll tell him that you…”

“You think I want to talk to him? No, I don’t want to talk to him! I want to fucking kill his punk ass!”

Shit! What do I do? Run? Where? I could go for the…shit! Fucking Javier’s got me blocked! No way can I get past both of them! Fuck! What the fuck do I do now?

“Hey, you don’t want me to give it to him? Fine! I won’t! Here! Take it back! Keep his fucking money, too!”

“Oh, this ain’t about the dope! Fuck no! This is about showing me some goddamned respect! That fucking puto gave up one of my boys! He gave him up to the fucking cops! You understand? He fucking dimed him off! Now my boy’s caught a case and I got to wonder if he’s going to dime me off! That’s what this shit’s about, bitch!”

I knew it! I knew that little shit was lying to me! Christ! He fucking gave up one of Ricky’s dealers! Is he out of his goddamned mind? He’ll kill him for that! That fucking idiot!

“Look, I didn’t know! I swear! He didn’t tell me! He just asked me to…”

“Oh, you don’t know nothing about it? You hear that, Javier? She says she don’t know nothing about it! Does that sound right to you?”

“Sounds like bullshit, boss.”

“That motherfucker rats out one of my boys, costs me money, fucks with my business, and here you are fetching dope for his punk ass? What the fuck’s that about? What? Are you his fucking bitch now? What? Are you sucking his goddamned dick, too?”

“No, I swear! I…hey, fuck him! Let him get sick and fucking die! I don’t care! Fuck his worthless ass!”

“Fuck you, bitch!”

Oh, Jesus! He’s going to kill me!

“I swear! I didn’t…”

“Shut up!”

“Whoa! Damn, boss! Nice shot!”

Oh, Jesus! He hit me right in the face! I think he broke my nose!

“Does that hurt? You like that? You want some more? Come here, bitch!”

“No, Ricky! Please! I…”

“You want to be that fucking asshole’s whore? You want to score his shit so he don’t have to deal with me? I’m good with that! If I can’t give it to him, I’ll fucking give it to you!

Cover your face! Cover your face before he…oh, God!

“I got her fucking good, Javier! You like that?”

“Nice one, boss! Check it out! Now her eye matches her fucking nose!”

Oh, God! That hurt like shit! I can’t even see out of my eye! Fuck, he’s strong! I’ve got to get out of here! He’ll fucking kill me!

“Ricky, I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I…”

“Come here, bitch! I ain’t through with you!”

“Let me go! Please!”

Cover up! Cover up, goddamn it! Don’t let him hit you in the face! He’ll kill you if you don’t cover up! Cover your face!

“Let’s take this shit over here, bitch! Get over here!

“Ricky stop! Please!”

“Oh, I’m just getting started!”

If Javier starts hitting me too, I’m dead for sure! Cover your face! Don’t let him hit you in the face! Stay on your feet! Don’t go down on the ground!

“Damn, boss! You’re gonna rip the bitch’s hair out!”

“I’ll rip more than that out! You see what you get, bitch? You see what you get when you fuck with me?”

“No! Please stop! Please! I’ll tell you…I’ll tell you where he is! I swear! Just please stop! Please!”

“Did I say you could talk? Shut your fucking mouth!”

Fuck! He got me in the face again! Oh, God! I’m bleeding! I can taste it! I think he broke my jaw! Stay on your feet! Stay on your feet! He’ll kill you if you go down! Stay up!

“What the fuck are you doing, bitch? Are you raising your hands up to me? Are you fucking crazy? Are you out of your fucking mind, bitch? You don’t ever raise your hands at me!”

He hit me in the stomach! Fuck! He really nailed me! I can’t…I can’t breathe!

“Ooh! Gut shot! You’re gonna break this bitch, boss!”

“You better fucking believe I’m gonna break this bitch! First I fuck up her face; then it’s time for a little body work!”

He’s killing me! He’s beating me to death! I’m going to die right here! I can’t even see! I can’t even hit back! I’m going to puke! I can’t breathe! God, make it stop! Please! Oh, shit! I fell! I’m on the ground! Get up! Get up before he starts kicking you! He’ll kill you if he does!

“Oh, you’re gonna curl up down there? You think that’ll stop me from kicking your fucking ass?”

“Somebody help me! Please!”

“Ain’t nobody gonna help you, bitch! Your ass is mine!”

My knife! I have to get…get my knife! He’ll kill me if I don’t kill him first! I don’t…I can’t…where is it? Shit! Javier’s got my arm pinned! I’m fucking dead for sure! Fight back! Do something!

“I think you need to stomp her ass, boss!”

“You mean like this?”

Oh, Jesus! I think he broke a rib! God, please! Please make it stop! I can’t…I can’t…

“First you stomp on the gut…”

“Oh, God! Please! Please don’t! Ricky, please don’t…”

“And then you kick her in the fucking face a few times!”

“Damn! Right in the fucking eye, boss! I think you blinded the bitch!”

“No, I want her to see this shit! Open your eyes, Red! I want you to see me stomp your fucking ass!”

“Please don’t…”

“Shut the fuck up!”

I can’t take it! He’s killing me! Please, God! Make it stop! Make it stop!

“Boss, you keep stompin’ her face; she ain’t gonna see shit!”

“Then I’ll just have to stomp her in some other places!”

I can’t breathe! I have to…cover up! Cover up! Don’t let him kick you in the gut again! Oh, shit! Somebody make it stop!

“Stomp on her fuckin gut again!”

“First, you stomp the gut…”

God, please make it stop! Please!

“Then you stomp on the fucking legs…”

No! Please! No more! Please! God, please!

“And then you kick the bitch right in the goddamned cunt!”

“Whoa! That’s some nasty fucking shit, boss!”

“You like that, bitch? You like that? You want some more?”

“She ain’t movin’ anymore, boss!”

“Are you fucking passed out, bitch?”

“Passed out? Damn! I think you fucking killed her!”

“She ain’t dead! Not yet!”

“You hit her again and she will be! You fucked her up! She’s bleedin’ like a motherfucker!”

“Yeah, she’s had enough. I ain’t about to kill her. I need her to bring me that fucking snitch!”

“She’s movin’ again.”

“Ricky, no more…please!”

“What do you think, Javier? You want to do her? You want to fuck this bitch?”

“How the hell am I gonna fuck her, boss? You fucking kicked in her goddamned cunt!”

“Yeah, she won’t be using that for a while!”

“That’s too bad. I’d do her if she wasn’t all fucked up like that.”

“We ain’t done yet! Go get my gun!”

“Gun? You gonna blast her?”

“No, I got something better in mind! Here! Give it here!”

What’s he…what’s he doing? I can’t…I can’t…see. What…what is that?

“Open you fucking mouth!”

What? I don’t…I can’t see. It’s…it’s a….gun! It’s a…a fucking gun! He’s going to shoot me! He’s going to shoot me in the face! Please, God! Let it be quick! Don’t let it hurt! Let me die quick!

“Put this in your mouth and suck on it, bitch!”

“I…I…don’t…I don’t…”

“I didn’t tell you to talk! I told you to put this in your mouth and fucking suck it!”

I can’t…I…have to…have to…

“Suck it like a dick, bitch!”

I have to...have to do…do what…I can’t breathe! I can’t…just do it! Do what he says!

“Damn! Look at her go!”

“That’s right, Red! Suck it good!”

What am I…What’s…what’s going…going on? Have to…I have to…I can’t…

“All right, that’s enough! Get your fucking mouth off my gun! Now, you listen to me, bitch! You listen good! You see that fucking puto T.C.; you don’t say shit to him! You hear? Not a fucking word! You bring him here! You bring him to me! You got it, bitch?”

“Yes! Yes…I’ll…I’ll bring him…I swear!”

“You do that, Red!”

“I promise! I promise! Just please…”

“Shut up! Shut the fuck up! Get the fuck out of here, Red! I don’t want to see your ugly face again unless you got that motherfucker with you!”

“I don’t think she can walk, boss! She’s all fucked up!”

“If she can’t walk, she can fucking crawl! You hear me, Red? Get the fuck out of here! Start crawling! Move it, bitch!”

I can’t stand! I can’t stand up! Crawl! Don’t…don’t stop! Just crawl! Just crawl! Just keep moving! Hurry! I’ve got to get out of here! I can’t die like this! Not like this! No! I’ve got to…somebody…somebody, please help me! Please! I can’t…I can’t see! I can’t fucking see! There’s blood in…my eyes…oh, God! Oh, God, it hurts! It hurts! Crawl! Move! Get out of here! Hurry! Hurry, before he hits me again! Oh, God! It hurts! It hurts so much! Help me, please! Please! Somebody help me! Please!

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