Lylie

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To A Fallen Soldier

Eight

To A Fallen Soldier

I stormed into my house and marched over to Gaelan’s office. Mud tracks guided James’ way as he followed me down the bright hallway. The door was closed but I knew he was in there.

“Lylie, think about what you’re doing,” James said and took my hand.

“I have. I’m done with him toying with me. It’s either I’m in or I fight to get in,” I swung the door open. Gaelan was sitting at the desk with Andy and Christof in front of it. They turned and gazed at me as though I was out of place, the ugly ducking.

“And to what do I owe this pleasure?” Gaelan asked without getting up.

I walked in, trailing more mud onto the Indonesian rug. I did not say anything for a moment and just thought of everything that has happened lately, how I decided I wanted to be God instead of letting that man be. How I wanted to make the rules around there. But as I came face to face with my demon, in hopes of winning the final battle, I caved. My mouth was open, but no words escaped it.

“Lylie my dear, why don’t you and James go upstairs and clean up a little. We have a very big day ahead of us tomorrow and I want both of you to be prepared,” Gaelan said, standing and walking toward me. I did not know what to say, I completely froze in place. As he walked up to me and placed his hand on my back to turn me away from his office, he placed his other hand on my shoulder. “I’m proud of you kiddo. You really stepped up today,” he shut the door behind me. James and I were left in the hallway.

“You all right?” James asked putting his hand on my shoulder.

“I froze.”

“It’s all right,” James said and put his arm around me leading us down the hall and to the stairs. I was shocked at how determined I was to stand up to Gaelan, how much initiative I showed, how ballsy I was, yet something inside me screamed, and the sounds wouldn’t come out.

We walked up the stairs, maids and butlers were already cleaning the mess I created. James closed the door behind me and locked it as we entered my bedroom. Everything had been cleaned and put into its rightful place. I hated it when the help came into my room. Nothing was ever where it had been before. That frustrated me beyond belief. Though that was not the issue at that moment, what happened to be the issue, was that I couldn’t stand up to that man, that pigheaded grotesque man.

“Hey come on, I’ll start a shower, let’s get cleaned up and relax hm?” James said as he was undressing, dropping his dirty clothes on the floor. I stood there watching him as a tear rolled down my cheek. I wiped it away before James could notice and walked behind him to the washroom where I took a glance at myself in the mirror. I gasped as I walked closer to it. I touched my face and blood smeared onto my fingers. It had splattered onto my face without me realizing, down my neck, and in my hair. I leaned in closer to look at myself, but instead of crying, I started laughing, laughing hysterically. James turned around and watched me from the doorway. The expression on his face was one of confusion.

I stopped laughing and bit my lip still looking at myself in the mirror. I ran my fingers through my hair and smiled. I knew what I wanted. I enjoyed what I wanted. All I had to do, was fight for what I wanted. No more fear.

I continued getting undressed and stepped into the shower, James followed, though I could tell it was not because he wanted to, but because he needed to wash his sins away. I, on the other hand, was perfectly happy with the sins I had, the ones I made, and the ones to come.

The next week was the deal. We were all to meet at an abandoned warehouse, of Gaelan’s choosing of course. I woke up that morning, with James next to me, in a cold sweat and frightened.

I knew it was a dream but it felt so real. We were walking along the beach, James and I, not a care in the world. The warm breeze blowing my hair in my face, the cool water touching my feet as they sunk into the sand. Though as the water continued to come in, the water turned red and there were bodies, all cup up into different parts, guts and feces added to the mix; all coming in and consuming me. James was no longer beside me, but falling apart piece by piece. I tried to run but my feet were sinking into the sand. Body parts hitting my legs, people screaming, crying, wailing. I tried to swim out of it, but the arms kept grabbing me, pulling me under until I was one with them.

I leaned up on my forearms, sheets covering half of my body, and look over at James. His back was facing me, though I still smiled. I had nearly everything I wanted. It was a very important day, the sun shined bright in the sky. It was nice to wake up to something other than rain.

I stood and walked over to the window, where I delicately put on my silk robe. I sat and watched the water as the wind blew. Every ripple different from the last. The willow tree danced, as I watched it thinking about if everything that I was doing, was right. I knew I’d be able to lead these men and show them mutilation was not the way to get your word across, it was not the way to get the other man to look at you as though you’re the greatest. It was disgusting, ruthless, and utterly pathetic. Gaelan, to me at the time, seemed scared, frightened at the fact that he had gotten himself into something deeper than ever before. Although, I was not allowed to say anything, not allowed to stand up. I tried, but something in me stopped. I tried and failed. I tried, just not hard enough.

“Hey,” James said as I was still looking out the window. He sat up and rubbed his eyes.

“What would you like me to call you?” I asked, still keeping my gaze out the window.

“What’s that now?” he asked, stretching.

“I mean, shall I call you James the name you gave me when we met. Or shall I call you Chris, your real name, the name you’ve hidden from me,” I finally turned my head. “Who did I fall in love with anyhow? James or Chris?”

“Does it matter what you call me? You fell in love with me, not my name, me. And that’s all that matters,” James said, then stood putting on his boxers. I turned back to my willow tree, a place of relaxation, a place where everything had been shut off; my paradise.

“The real question is, who are you?” The willow tree danced in the wind as I pondered my next move.

We’ve been driving for a while, not really sure how long. I sat in the back of the van next to James, and Gaelan next to him. Nothing but water, buildings, abandoned cars, and trash cans on fire, were what flashed by the window. I knew that we were meeting at an abandoned warehouse, though I had no idea it would be this far. Then again, Gaelan was smart not to use his own parking garage or pub. My only guess was, Gaelan wanted to be off the radar and away from any cop trying to find him.

We pulled into a parking lot. The ground marked with natures scars as weeds and grass grow through it. The van stopped and Gaelan got out. I turned to look at James who caught my gaze. I smiled and opened the door as well. Two other cars pulled up behind us with the rest of my father’s men. The area was silent, it looked as though it were a painting, lost in translation. A painting disguising the artist’s feelings. Silence spread over us, nothing but the sound of the train echoed, as we walked across the parking lot to the warehouse. All it’s windows were broken or cracked, doors had also been taken back by mother nature. Vines climbed high and decorated nearly the entire building itself. Even though mother nature clearly had taken back the pollution that man had created, that did not trouble people from decorating the building with their own graffiti.

As we approached an opening, I felt nervous and scared that something bad was awaiting us in that cesspool of a building. We had to step over broken glass, wood, and vines, in order to enter the building. It stank of stagnant water, stagnant air, and other substances. Disgust filled my lungs the second we walked in. The floors were covered in dirt, dust, and whatever remains that were left from the homeless who used the place as their home once. My father walked proudly thorough the remnants on the ground and led us to the grand hall. There was nothing but a single table and a large container in the centre of the hall. Andy and Christof remained at the opening, guns in hand, I followed Gaelan as close as possible. James had stayed behind for a second due to a phone call. Another thing he refused to tell me about. As his phone rang, I turned to look at him, he looked down at the phone and then to me and answered. I shook my head and couldn’t believe he was still acting like the rat motherfucker he was. I tried to forgive him, but how could I when he still acted like a cop? However, I was frightened that something terrible was about to happen when I saw the Japanese dealer walk in. He looked like a tiny Asian version of Gaelan, except with worse taste in clothing. He wore a bright yellow blazer, a leopard print dress shirt, and black pants. He didn’t come off as psycho or scary like we were told, he came off more like someone who just walked out of a Psy music video. He had two larger Asian men standing behind him and a tiny little man standing near the container.

“Mr. Yokatomi, always a pleasure,” Gaelan said and put out his hand. James came jogging in as Gaelan was saying this, nodding at Mr. Yokatomi.

“Always an adventure with you Gaelan,” Mr. Yokatomi said and placed a briefcase on the table. Alexi and Liam had been standing behind me, with James to my right, Francois in front of James, and Gaelan in front of me.

“Hey, what’s with the container?” I whispered to Liam.

“Beats me,” he said and continued to act as though he were Mr. Tough Guy. God, he annoyed me. He always thought he was the toughest guy in the crew, we all knew it was Andy, but for some reason, Liam always tried to show he had bigger balls. Kid couldn’t throw a punch for the life of him, yet my father trusted him more that he did his own daughter.

I turned back to the action and spaced out as Mr. Yokatomi and Gaelan continued to talk. I could not careless about what they were saying, that container intrigued me and I wanted to know what was inside. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it neither. James tapped my arm to try and get me to listen, though I tried. That container meant something was up, something that we had no idea about. Another trick up my father’s sleeve.

“You know that killing my brother wasn’t going to solve anything?” Mr. Yokatomi said. “I only said no to your original offer because I did not want to mix business with pleasure. They can be separate, in most cases that is.” He smiled at me. A sour look spread on my face as I looked over at James.

“You wanted to back out on this deal when I have a lot of clients and potential clients waiting for the shipment to come in,” Gaelan began. I knew that we had a couple biker gangs waiting for weapons shipments, Francois’ brother in California was also waiting for shipments for his guys. Francois’ brother had Gaelan’s position in California, and was a lot better at running it than Gaelan was, even though Gaelan had more heart and passion for what he did, he was always a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off; and that deal was surely making the ticking count down to zero. Francois never wanted to join his brother’s crew because his brother, so to speak, played by the rules, unlike Gaelan who let his men, more or less, create their own. However, there was a mutual agreement between Gaelan and Francois’ brother. He stay in California and Gaelan would stay in New York. The two of them had their dealings in their towns and that was about it. I had asked Gaelan once if I could work with Francois’ brother, but as per the usual, I wasn’t allowed, only because I would not have been doing the same job as I had done. I would have been, if you want to call it, ‘promoted’ to something better than the person I was.

“I only wanted to back out of this deal because of all the sniffing around!” Mr. Yokatomi yelled. “My niece now resides without a father, without a mother, nightmares, cold sweats. She suffers because of you.” Welcome to the club.

“What would you have done if you knew this much money and investment went into a deal? You wanted the numbers, I got you the numbers. You wanted more money, I got you more money. Now, look at it by my stand point,” Gaelan said fixing the collar on his blazer. “All I asked for was eight of them, no more, no less. Just eight, and was that so tough to get me?”

“No, but my nice is—”

“Your niece will now know not to fuck with people or break promises!” my father yelled. Mr. Yokatomi kept his gaze on Gaelan, even though we were warned that he was a psychopath, watching my father, I had to think otherwise. “Now that we’ve gotten the sob story out of the way, how about we get down to business,” Gaelan stated and put his hand out to Alexi. Alexi stepped forward and handed my father a rather large and heavy duffle bag. Gaelan took it and dropped it on the table. He then put his hand out to Francois, who handed him a blue folder. My father snatched the folder and handed it to Mr. Yokatomi. In that folder were the numbers I killed for, twice. The numbers that kept the rats from sniffing down our necks. What Mr. Yokatomi wanted them for, we’d never know

“Seems like everything we agreed on is here, now feast your eyes on these beauties,” Mr. Yokatomi said and put his arm out as would a show girl who was showing off a prize. Mr. Yokatomi’s henchman walked over to the container and opened it. My heart raced out of anxiousness as I stood taller to see what was there. Eight girls walked out, all in scandalous red dresses. They must have been no older than fifteen, if that. I was confused for a moment and looked over at James. It was supposed to be a weapons deal, not trafficking young girls.

“Ah-ha-ha,” Gaelan said. “They’re perfect Mr. Yokatomi. Just perfect.”

“Great doing business with you,” Mr. Yokatomi said and took the folder. He turned to walk away as his henchman grabbed the duffle bag and followed. My father walked over to the girls, whose faces were painted in the most scandalous and outrageous of ways, in order for them to look older than they were.

“What the fuck is this?” I asked and stepped toward Gaelan. “This is what we’re doing now? Are you insane?” I couldn’t believe everything Marshall said was actually true.

“Like a fox!” Gaelan said and took one of the girls and danced around with her as though there was music playing.

“What do we do?” I whispered as I turned to James.

“I don’t know Lylie, this was supposed to be an easy gun deal,” James shrugged.

“Who were you on the phone with before?” I asked. My father humming Beethoven’s ‘Ode To Joy,’ as he danced around the area with the girls. Their giggles echoed throughout the hall. “Hm?”

“I’m sorry Lylie,” James said, sirens blared in the distance. “I couldn’t let him do this.”

I turned to face my father, who had stopped in his tracks at the sound of the cops. He quickly grabbed one of the girls and ran toward the exit. The rest of the girls followed, though I remained still. My heart raced as I realized the man I loved was nothing but a two faced bastard and I fell for it, over and over again.

“Lylie let’s go, we gotta get outta here,” Francois yelled as he followed everyone else to the exit. James was about to start running as well when I grabbed his arm.

“Why are you doing this? Did you know about the girls?” I asked.

“Lylie we don’t have time for this. We have to go before the cops get here and Gaelan realizes who I am,” James said pulling my arm.

“That’s all you care about isn’t it? Yourself. You never gave a shit about me it was all about you and your stupid job,” I yanked my arm out of his grip. Anger burned inside me as the sirens continued to become closer and clearer.

“Lylie, please you have to trust me on this one. Let’s go, please!” James pleaded.

I had too much to say and not enough time to say it in before the cops arrived. I moved toward the exit and nearly tripped on pieces of wire that stuck out the bottom of the wall. I ran through the dirty hallway in hopes of catching up with my father and the rest of the crew out near the cars, though they decided to leave without us. James and I were standing in the vast andabandoned parking lot with nowhere to go. I turned to him.

“Come on this way,” he said quietly, he was already prepared as though he had a plan B. I followed him to the back of the abandoned building where there was an opening in a rusted fence that led to a watery ditch. I climbed through the opening, trying not to touch the fence and get cut by a piece of rust. James held his hand out for me, I looked up at it and helped myself up. I was mad at him for not telling me about Gaelan trafficking young women! Marshall had said something but he was a cop and they’d say anything to get you to fold. Why didn’t James warn me? How could he not tell me about any of the shit that was going on? Trying to keep me ‘safe’ or keep me ‘protected’ from the madness was not an excuse and was not going to cut it any more. That’s not something any of us signed up for, and I knew I had to help those girls in any way I possibly could. That was not what we were about, the business was supposed to be solely drug deals and the odd gun deal here and there, not mutilation and trafficking. I knew that day, I had no idea who my father truly was.

We made our way to the opposite end of the ditch and headed for a parked car in the lot next to the abandoned building. The car looked as though it had not been there for long, not like the other cars surrounding it. They showed signs of age, weathered and worn out. Though this car, as dark as the night sky, stuck out like a sore thumb. James walked up to the back of the car and put his hand near the tire. Keys giggled and fell to the ground.

“So you knew that all of this was happening and that we’d need a getaway,” I started. “What aren’t you telling me James?”

’There’s no time, please Lylie, just get in the car.”

“And go where exactly?” I walked closer to the car. “They probably have Gaelan now, that’s all I need is to be in the middle of something I didn’t even know about.”

“Just trust me okay?” James said and entered the car. I stood there for a moment and looked around. How the day met the night and it looked as though it were hazy outside, but it wasn’t, it was the time that moon and the sun met during the day. A time where even a photograph wouldn’t be able to capture the beauty. James’ phone rang; I opened the door and decided to get in. I knew it was not the right thing to do but it seemed right at the time. As much as I lost all trust for James, I knew that somewhere deep down, he wouldn’t let anything happen to me. How stupid in love could I have been?

“Yeah, where are you guys?”James asked. I couldn’t hear the other end of the conversation, nor did I know who it was.

“Stay there or hide I’ll figure something out,” James continued, a moment of silence. “Kill, what?…You know I can’t do…Just stay there Francois and what for my call.”

“What did he want?” I asked in the most stern voice possible.

“Nothing. Nothing important. He says that the cops caught up to them and have Alexi and Liam in custody. I don’t know where Gaelan and the girls are, Francois, Andy, and Christof are fine. They’re hiding out in some building nearby,” James said, without even looking at me once.

“What else?”

“It’s…nothing, all right.”

“It doesn’t seem like nothing James. Who can’t you—”

“You. All right. Francois said that your father wanted you dead because he thinks you’re the rat. That’s what he said. And no matter how much I don’t want to do it…I have to get you away. Somewhere safe until all of this blows over. Lylie, I can’t do it.”

I was in utter shock by what he said. Francois has been like a father to me all my life, why on earth would he want to kill me? I understood Gaelan, because of his hatred for my mother and how much I reminded him of her, but Francois knew me and knew I would never do that. Or to even think that I was the one who ratted the deal out. If only he knew as much as I knew about Gaelan and his secrecies. I wished Gaelan had the balls to tell me to my face that he thought I was the rat. Instead of being the cowardly, selfish, bastard who cared for nothing but himself and his priorities. Then again, it was not like he cared enough for me like daughter in the first place. He treated me like scum and used me like I was his personal rag doll he could pawn off to whomever he wanted.

“Why didn’t you’ll me about all of this?” I started. “Why wouldn’t you fucking tell me innocent girls, not women, girls were being pulled from their country and handed to Gaelan? What are you getting a pay raise is that why?”

“No! I had no idea about those—Gaelan just said something that this wasn’t going to be a gun deal anymore but something more his style. That’s all I knew Lylie, I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want you to be more involved in the bullshit. I honestly want you to stop.”

“How can I believe you when you told Marshall about Gaelan’s new thing with chopping people up? I’m done with the fucking lying and all of your bullshit. Fuck, I fell in love with you because you cared for me and I thought you opened up to me about who you truly were, but clearly you’re nothing but a two-timing fucking asshole who lies every chance he gets—” my voice cracked.

“I only lie to keep you safe!” he screamed, his face turned red. That was the first time true anger rose, I could see it in his eye as he turned to look at me. Even though it was a split second, I felt like I was two feet tall. I didn’t know who to trust, nor who to believe anymore. Francois wanting to kill me, James lying to me, my father becoming a psychotic sociopath, there was nothing left for me to hold onto.

We sat in silence for a while. James thought it’d be best to take the longest possible route ever home, that being said, if I even knew what home was anymore, or where rather. The streets were dirty and dingy. I had no idea what part of town we were in but just looking at the garbage, dirt, and how the people who walked around acted, made me feel dirty myself, like I didn’t belong. We passed a gang of black people who were huddled in a circle in an alley rapping and bobbing to the beat of the music. I smiled, though suddenly, a wave of nausea came over me. I sat up right in my seat and it got worse. I gagged, and James looked over.

“You all right?” he asked.

“Pull over!”

James pulled the car over quickly and I opened the door before the car even stopped and practically puked my guts out. James had his hand on my back, moving it up and down trying to relax me. I spit the remains that were in my mouth onto the pile that just spilt their way out of it.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Just peachy.”

“What did you eat?”

“Nothing, must be my nerves or something. I’ll be fine don’t worry,” I said and smiled, it must have been either my worry or my fear about what was going to happen next. James put the car in drive and took off. I leaned my head on the window trying to relax, though I still felt a little woozy. Though I figured if I kept up a conversation, or kept my mind off of things, maybe the nausea would dumb down and slowly go away. My phone rang as I was about to say something to James. I looked at the phone for a second as it continued to ring in the silent car.

“Who is it?” James asked.

“It says Evan. Hello?” I answered it without thinking on what would come next. The other end was silent, solely the sound of breathing and gasping. “Hello?”

“Lylie? I’m doing all of this for you, Lylie. Everything has always been for you,” Gaelan’s voiced echoed through my ear. A shot was fired and the sound of the phone hitting the ground was the last thing I heard before the line cut out. I remained motionless as tear fell from my eyes. He was killed. It all happened so fast. It wasn’t supposed to end like that. My father, the one man I hated my entire life, was dead.

Yet, there I was crying, shedding tears for him. Crying like I lost someone I love, like I lost a father.

I decided to stay at James’ that night and figure out what my next move was going to be. I couldn’t go home because those fuckers wanted me dead. I didn’t even know if I could trust Evan seeing as how he called me and let me listen to someone shoot Gaelan. The shooter, little did I know, could have been Evan. I was scared. I wasn’t even sure I could trust James after everything that had happened. I also didn’t think about the fact that they could come looking here at any time knowing that James and I were close. If they wanted too, they could find me and kill me in my sleep and I wouldn’t even know about it. I think that would be the best way to go, not knowing about it. Just letting it happen. Not standing, fearful, in front of someone with a gun to your head. Just going at random. That was what made death so scary, there was no way of knowing when it would all happen. Could be this day or that day, tomorrow, a month from now, years from now. There was always no way of knowing. If I was to go, I didn’t want to know.

That morning, I woke up alone in his bed, his side as cold as ice. I wasn’t sure he even came to bed last night. Maybe he thought sleeping on the couch would solve the issue of dishonesty. I could hear him talking in the other room as I got up and tip toed to the kitchen.

“You sure it’s safe?” James said, back facing the opening to the kitchen, as he situated himself in front of the stove making some breakfast. “All right I’ll be there soon.”

“Who was that?” I asked, James turned around quickly.

“Shit, I didn’t know you were awake. I didn’t wake you up or anything?”

“No, no,” I said and sat down at the table, putting my feet up on the chair in front of me. “So, are you going to tell me or should I keep guessing who holds my life in their hands?”

“That was Marshall. He says that he wants to meet this afternoon,” James said and flipped a pancake.

“You? Me? Us?”

“Us. Some cafe in Central Park, he thinks someone on the inside tipped Gaelan off and that’s why he changed the date for the deal and—”

“Evan.”

“What?” James asked.

“Evan. It makes perfect sense. Evan is my father’s only son, who happens to be in the FBI. Evan always tipped my father when he knew something was up. I just don’t understand why he would kill him? If he killed him. I mean, Gaelan had nothing on Evan. He loved him so much it was scary. I really don’t understand why he would do it. Evan always hated this business, that’s why he became a cop and married the most perfect woman,” I said. Though it was true, Evan really did marry the most beautiful and perfect woman. She slaved through school before her and Evan met, though when they did, she was still in school trying to get her degree to become a doctor as she worked many shifts as a nurse. Evan was always so proud of her and her accomplishments. Even with all her schooling and working, she always managed to keep their condo clean, keep their sex life active, and keep Evan happy in any way he saw fit. In spite of that, Gaelan never liked her. He always looked at her like she was just using Evan so he could pay for her schooling and buy her the most expensive condo in Manhattan, just using Evan for his money. There was no telling if that were true or not, seeing that Evan never complained about her because of the fact that she always kept him happy. Little did she know, my father was the one giving Evan all the money and giving her all their luxurious things. Even though Evan hated the business, he sure took advantage of the money. “God, this has gone way too far.”

“You really think it’s Evan whose been changing up all the shit? Making your father go crazy, and chopping up people and getting into trafficking?” James added more batter to the skillet.

“I think Evan knows a lot more than we do and I think Evan is the reasoning behind a lot of things,” I said and lit a cigarette. “That or my father is testing us to see who the new leader will be.”

“What do you think we should do then?”

“In all honesty, I think we should get on everyone’s good side, show them that we want in on whatever the fucking bullshit that’s going on is. Even though I don’t want to traffic girls, I just think we should just keep our mouthes shut,” I said smoke escaped my nostrils.

“Lylie, they want you dead. You can’t just go and show them you mean no harm. I think you know them as well as I do and they’ll just kill you the second you pull the car up.”

“It’s the only thing I could think of without getting ourselves killed. I just have to save those girls and this is the only way I think I can,” I said. There was probably other ways of saving them, but I wanted to show I wasn’t scared of them, that I too had the balls it took to run the business. All I had to do was get them on my side again, get them to trust that I wasn’t some rat.

“Call Francois and talk it out, I don’t want you driving over there.”

“I guess now’s the best time as any,” I said and stood. I left James in the kitchen as I walked into the bedroom to grab my phone. I sat there on his bed staring at the screen, letting the cigarette burn down slowly to my finger. I took one last puff and put it out before I hit dial. The long dial tones making the call more nerve wrecking. I still couldn’t believe that my father figure wanted me dead because he thought I was a rat.

Bonjour,” he said.

“Hey, I think we need to talk,” I started.

So, he didn’t do it,” Francois said. “Listen Lylie—

“I’m not a rat okay? I didn’t fucking call anyone or tell anyone our whereabouts for the deal. Fuck, I didn’t even know the deal was girls for fucks sake.”

I never thought it was. I got away with Andy and Christof in one of the car, and we wait for you before we took off, Liam and Alexi headed straight for the cops, and Gaelan took the van with the girls. Galen called me and told me to kill you because he said you were the rat. I didn’t know what to believe in the heat of the moment, so, when we got to a clearing, I called James and told him to kill you. Smart boy not to do it.

“‘Smart boy not to do it?’ Are you joking? How could you not trust me? Even in his moment of death, he wanted to kill me,” I said shaking my head.

What?” he sounded confused.

“Gaelan got caught,” I said. “You didn’t know?”

No, how could I. I’ve been at the safe house all night.” The safe house was a condo in Jersey that Stacy used when she needed a weekend or two away, or when she fucked someone other than my father.

“Someone got him, I don’t want to explain it all now, but I do have an idea. I’m not the rat, so you have to trust me. But I know who called it in last night,” I explained everything to Francois, all my accusations, everything that was going on. I didn’t hold back, I told him that James was a cop. I told him that one of Gaelan’s inner guys was a fed, excluding Evan, and that his partner wanted to meet James today and figure out the next move for the deal. “So, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

Let’s show the rats who’s boss,” Francois hung up. I wasn’t sure if what I was about to do was right, but I knew I had to do something.

James and I sat in the crowed coffee shop waiting for Marshall to walk in the door. I played around with the string attached to my tea bag and watched as the tea bag came in and out of the coloured water. How much it looked like a fish who had given up. As though it had been fighting for hours and hours to get free, forcing its way through the water as the hook dug deeper and deeper with every pull. The sense of it being someone’s time, someone’s due date, someone’s expiration. How it danced in the water as I let it loose once more.

There were people of all kinds in the coffee shop. Many of them were students, most likely on their break or typing aimlessly away on their laptop in hopes of becoming the next big writer the world would know to love. The conversations mixing in with one another forming a large cloud of judgement. Every person so easily told apart from the other by the way they acted. The person next to us, blond hair, tight shirt, drinking some form of cold coffee slush with whipped cream on it, typing away on her cell phone with nails long enough to be annoying. A typical L.A. girl lost in the hopes of being a famous actress, so she probably came here, in hopes of making it big on broadway. How’d that work out for you? There was the cute couple, holding hands, kissing, sharing a muffin with one another, and telling each other how much they loved them. Oh young love, how fake you’ll always be.

Marshall walked in as James was sipping his coffee. Marshall stopped and looked around the shop before he spotted us, then came walking over with a very concerned look on his face.

“James, things have gone very wrongly. It’s time for plan C. Get out while you can. They’ve already got Deagan, I can’t let that happen to you,” Marshall said and sat down, looking around all paranoid, hands shaking at the thought of being caught.

“I can’t just leave now. What’s going to happen to all the shit that Gaelan has planned? All those girls? That was only the first shipment, the next one is in two weeks and you expect me to just up and leave. No,” James said, running his fingers over his mouth.

“All I’m saying is you have to get away, just for a little while. Let things cool down with us. Then I’ll call you and get you back—”

“You can’t expect us to just leave then come back and have the men expect nothing happened. Expect that James and I aren’t fucking rats. You have no idea who these men are do you?” I said, shaking my head.

“You can make something up Lylie, you’ve know these men since you were a teenager, they trust you. Right?” Marshall said, leaning in.

“Not so much anymore,” James started as he looked at me. “Francois asked me to kill her.”

“Fuck,” Marshall said loudly.

“They think she’s the rat because of all the shit she’s been pulling with Gaelan, trying to get out of the business—” James said.

“I’m not trying to get out per se, I just want it to be what it used to be, before Gaelan went and lost his mind somehow. I don’t know why or what happened. We were never this violent, this disturbing, this cruel. I want to take over and make this business what it should have been all along,” I interrupted James, though I felt like I needed to. I made decisions for the business that I knew would pay off in the end, in which I hoped. “I want people to fear us, and not look at us like were this corrupt, idiot business that sells coke to minors, chops up those who’ve wronged us, and sells young girls to wealthy men. That’s not who we are.”

“You can’t lead this on your own Lylie,” Marshall said.

“Well, I just hope you’re around long enough for me to prove you wrong,” I said and sat back in my chair. The stream from the tea moved quickly in the air as though reaching out for something. I looked over at James who had his head down. I didn’t know what to do, the fear and anger inside me were ready to erupt all over the place. I knew I could do this, but I was so scared. I was on the verge of breaking down, but I knew I couldn’t. Leaders don’t crack.

“James, you’re not going to join her are you? You’re not seriously going to throw all of your hard work away for some chick because the sex is good are you?” Marshall said. “James?”

James looked over at me. I was smiling and shaking my head. Marshall had no idea what he got himself into.

“I love her. To me, that’s all that matters. I do what she does,” James said and placed his hand on mine. “You shouldn’t of come here.”

“What are you talking about?” Marshall asked. James nodded and both Andy and Francois stood and walked over to our table. “What are you doing?”

“Tying up loose ends,” I said.

“You killed Deagan?” Marshall said, as Francois took his arm to stand.

“He was wasting my time, so yes I did. I’m erasing everything my father built and I’m starting from scratch. You may not live to tell the tale, but I promise to morn your death.”

“You’re just like your father, a backstabbing betrayer. No wonder Gaelan wanted you in on the business—” Francois slapped Marshall, trying to get him to shut up.

Andy and Francois walked out of the coffee shop with Marshall in tow, his pleading and sobbing were heard until the car drove off. I looked over at James who took the last sip of his coffee and smiled at me.

“You think that was the right thing to do?” I asked.

“Well, if I had to choose between him or you, I’d choose you, always,” James leaned forward and kissed my forehead. “They understood and preferred it that way. Now, it looks like your father was the rat, not me. So what d’you say we get out of here?”

I smiled and gulped down my cold tea. Marshall never did anything to us, he was always nice, even when he knew who I was, and I let him die. I chose the selfish way out, and yet, I didn’t feel any remorse about it. I felt empowered, like a God. I felt like I finally could do things my own way, no more Gaelan to tell me otherwise. However, James and I talked about us leaving together, and forgetting the whole world we lived in. I never knew love or experienced love like I did with James. He may have been a job the first time around, though I refused to sleep with him because of that. I grew to love him and he grew to love me and we chose on our own accord to express our love in the bedroom.

With all those men and all those nights of crying myself to sleep because of letting some pig of a man inside me, the first night James and I were together, I woke up and felt like I didn’t need any more of that job. As though I could end it there, rich, poor, whatever, as long as I felt that way every time I opened my eyes, I would be fine with that. We understood one another, although he understood me the most, I knew him for who he truly was, not that fake persona he was going for in the business.

He knew the pain and heartache I experienced for years. How my life wasn’t all peaches and cream. James, though he lied to me about who he was, told me that no matter what I read or what people told me, he was never fake with me. He kept things in, in order to trust me of course, but he also showed me his real self. Even when he was acting, he never acted with me. Yes, I did love him for that, but in the end, we came to the realization that sometimes love wasn’t enough to keep two people together and get them to live their lives happily. Sometimes their love was brought on in an awkward situation where

if they chose to live happily ever after,

the evil would follow no matter what.

Four days later; The Funeral

I hated wearing black. So depressing, though it looked amazing, it was always so depressing. You either wear black when you’re trying to cover up flaws, or when you’re headed to a funeral, and that I was; my father’s. I never thought I’d ever see the day that Gaelan would be put in the ground. I so desperately wished and wanted that to happen, yet now that it was, I couldn’t help but feel as though I were in a dream. Like all those nights of crying and praying in acts of desperation for it to all end, it finally came true.

After days and days of sun shine, the rain begun again, without hopes of it letting up. A slight fog spread across the cemetery as a small gathering of people surrounded a dark wooden casket. Gaelan always said he wanted to go out on a bed of roses on the water. Once he was far enough from everyone, we’d light him up and watch as he slowly burned to ashes. As my own way of paying him back for all the bullshit he ever made me go through, I gave him a funeral, one in which I knew he’d hate. He always said: “funerals were for the weak.” The last thing he’d want was to be buried in the dirt like some useless, forgotten, human being who wasted his life up until his dying day, to be buried in muck known as horse shit. To me, that’s exactly what he was, horse shit.

As he was slowly lowered into the ground, Stacy’s wailing grew louder to the point of embarrassment. Francois placed his arm around her and tried to get her to calm down. I stood there away from everyone as the rain drops fell from the tree and hit my face. I asked James not to come to the funeral. I felt as though I needed to get through this ‘tragedy’ on my own. I smiled and nodded my head as the casket was one with the ground, slowly backed off and walked myself to the car. It has been fun old man.

“Lylie? Lylie?” Evan’s voice quietly crept up behind me sending shivers down my spine. I continued to walk, ignoring him. “Lylie,” he grabbed my arm.

“Don’t you fucking—”

“Lylie, I’m sorry okay. I understand this is a hard time for you but you gotta understand from my point on why I did this.”

“You killed him, you’re own fucking father,” I pulled my arm back and continued walking toward my car.

“You gotta understand, I didn’t—” he ran in front of me. “It was either going to me who did it or some lousy cop. Which would you prefer?”

“I’d rather it have been you,” I said and walked off, leaving him there. I don’t know why I said it, or if I even meant it. Maybe I did want Evan dead? I didn’t even know if he was the one who killed Gaelan or not. The call came from his phone yes, but did he really do it? I know Evan hated our father, he hated the business, the drugs, the guns, maybe the trafficking was one step too far for Evan and he just wanted all of it to stop. I knew I’d have to figure all of it out sooner or later, but I did not want to be around anyone today.

I didn’t want Gaelan around, he made my life a mess and worse than it was. Yet, I suddenly felt empty without him in it, as though I was lost without him. The only thing that came running into my head was, how was I to run this business without him?

I got into my car and drove home, to James’. That was the only place I felt safe, the only place I knew I wouldn’t be judged nor would I need to discuss how I felt about that day or about everything in general. If I wanted to talk about the things buzzing around in my mind, I could, but it wouldn’t be pulled out of me. James knew me and knew that a conversation like that, could be saved for another day. There was no use wasting it on Gaelan. He ruined our lives enough. He’s gone and will surely be forgotten.

I pulled up and sat in the car for a moment, watching as the rain fell on the windshield. The sound was so relaxing. Every rain drop different, every sound unique. I watched them as I cried.

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