Bonus Chapter [2.2]
PART TWO. don’t know if I should include a warning but smol Kayden gets uncomfortable :(
“Well, well. If it isn’t the right-hand’s little charity case.”
The woman that had been designated the leader of our group sneered the moment she saw me. Even if she hadn’t said a word, I would have been able to tell that she didn’t like me. People rarely did, and despite having been homeless for months they could still sniff out the fact I came from ‘money’.
It was unsettling, to say the least, and this designer sweater—no matter how fuzzy or faded it was—wasn’t helping.
I swallowed the greeting that was about to leave my lips, now understanding why Frank had warned me about being polite. A part of me wanted to say ‘hi’ but that would have definitely gotten me a beating. . . somehow.
I was sure of it. There was just something about this group—about today—that put me on edge. Everything felt so wrong. Well, more wrong than usual.
“Cat cut your tongue, Charity?” she asked and I shook my head.
“Good,” she said, to fill the silence. “I like my men that way.”
The girls in the group laughed. If a sound was piercing to the ear and stewing with danger, it could still be called a laugh, right?
When she stopped looking at me, I took a step back and tried the best I could to blend in.
She had already singled me out and that was a bad thing. If a fight started, she would have numbers on her side since there were only two other guys in our group of eight, and none of them looked in the mood to trade punches for someone they didn’t know.
As they all continued discussing the plan for our initiation mission, I felt my attention drift away. I wasn’t really part of the group anyway—I was more like a shadow and I liked it that way.
It was only three months ago that I realized that when I didn’t speak, I was very good at not existing. Like furniture in the background of a photo, people paid me no mind. And what people didn’t mind, they didn’t touch. . .or beat up.
I wished I discovered this back when I had to attend dinner parties every night, it would have made things more bearable then, being the sole shadow beneath a spotlight.
Would I have burned away and disappeared? Or melted into the floor and let people walk over me?
“Hey. You listening to me, punk?” Sabrina asked, and I knew she was speaking to me.
I hadn’t been listening, but for some reason I was good with names. I picked them up from conversations whether I cared to or not.
I nodded thrice without saying a word, and waited for her sharp gaze to shift to someone else before letting out a breath of relief.
It was times like these that made me wonder if coming to this half of the country had been the right decision.
Sure, it had been necessary, to avoid all the cities where my father’s influence could reach.
The treatment I faced in places where every tabloid, magazine, newspaper and blog was talking about the incident, was something I never wanted to relieve but I didn’t expect to still see inequality in a city that advertised itself as being the land of the free.
I suppose that if the city was filled with enough people like me—who came here from asylum—in the end it would be no different than the rest of the country.
It was Sabrina’s voice that snapped me back to reality. The meeting was over and now she was in front of me. “Do we have a problem?” she asked.
She took a step forward and draped an arm over my shoulder. I flinched, then felt my pulse quicken.
I shouldn’t have reacted at all.
I watched her face darken.
Her hand found its way up my sweater and I felt the air get knocked out of me. Not this again. Anything but this.
“Ah, Charity doesn’t like it when a woman touches him,” she said, but I couldn’t hear her. Not really.
I couldn’t even hear myself.
The sky was spinning.
“Or does he?” Her words rumbled deeply in her chest then exploded past her lips accompanied by a wicked grin. Her arm snaked around my waist and the group laughed. “Let’s check, shall we?”
She was halfway through undoing my belt buckle when I found the strength to push her away. With how much I was shaking, I didn’t think it would work.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing, punk?”
Before I could start thinking of an answer, she slapped me.
The throbbing in my cheek shook me awake. I hurried to fix my clothes and smoothen out my sweater. I thought about Frank’s knife, somehow it had stayed hidden and in place. I wondered if I would be able to use it if she came close to me again.
It’s okay. It’s okay, I told myself and focused on breathing instead. Sabrina was angry now and I’d take punches and kicks any day over her touching me again.
One of the two guys in the group stepped in front of me before she could close the gap between us. “Stop it, Sabrina. You know that isn’t allowed here. Do you want us to fail this mission before we even start it?”
Sabrina glanced around and took in the worried looks of the rest. I was glad that they cared about the mission enough to ignore me. It was the only reason I would get out of this unscathed.
It took a whole minute but she finally took a step back and shoved her hand into her pockets.
She rolled back her shoulders and spat in my direction. “I just hate all these pro Equality pieces of shit who walk around thinking they’re entitled to something.”
When the rest of the ‘team’ nodded in agreement, I felt my mouth go dry.
But I’m not. . . I wanted to say, but there was no point. If she already thought I was shit for wanting equal rights as women, saying that I came from the half of the world where I didn’t. . . would make her think I was her slave.
“Sorry, man,” the guy in front of me said after the rest of the group began to disperse. “She’s real touchy about this test thing. Really wants to be a runner for the Ciscos.”
I nodded and tried once again to see the appeal of gang life. I was only here because I didn’t have any other choice. This was my only path to survival, but these guys all seemed well off.
Why did they want to leave a normal life to join a gang?
“And what you’re doing is cool,” he added after a moment.
“Uh?” I let my eyes focus on him. “What?”
“Pro Equality. It’s really brave.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “It’s why I came here from the other side,” he glanced around nervously, “but you see how it is.”
I nodded, understanding. I didn’t know about the other parts of the city, but here in the Down District things were no different from how things were on the outside.
When women talked, men had no choice but to listen.
“You. Charity,” Sabrina called loudly, and I shuffled towards her from the back of the group.
I hadn’t said a word or interacted with anyone else all through our bus ride to get to the Warehouse Block.
If Sabrina wanted to call me Charity, she could. I just hoped that I wouldn’t have to see her ever again after this.
When I got to her side, she shoved a briefcase into my hands. “You’re holding this. If it gets lost. It’s on you. Think your prissy ass can handle it?”
I nodded and snickers erupted from all around me. By now, I was more than used to being laughed at but something about the way Sabrina handed me this briefcase made me feel uncomfortable.
I couldn’t help but feel like she was taking revenge.
“Fine,” she said then turned to the others. “Let’s do this.”
As they walked into one of the warehouses, I fell in step behind the last person.
I wasn’t eager to be here, not in the slightest, and my eyes couldn’t help but search the faces of the men guarding the entrances of our meeting place before the last of the sunlight could fade away.
They all looked like seasoned killers.
I swallowed my uneasiness and picked up the pace.
“P.E scum,” the guy in front of me hissed when I bumped into him then elbowed me in the gut.
I let out a slow breath, not willing to let the pain show on my face. When he started walking again, I rubbed my side and winced.
Up ahead, Sabrina and another man—who I assumed was the person in charge of this transaction on the other gang’s end—were discussing something but I was too far away to hear any details.
I hugged the briefcase to my chest and waited. The sooner this ended, the sooner I could go back to Frank’s apartment and sleep the night away.
“Hey! Let me go!”
I didn’t think it was possible for me to sleep while standing until I heard those words and forced my eyes open.
While I was dozing off, it seemed as though our transaction had taken a turn for the worst.
Sabrina had been forced to her knees by two men and their leader was now addressing us.
“Look here, brats,” he whipped a pistol out of his jacket and pointed it at Sabrina, “hand over the package and your friend here doesn’t get hurt.”
As if it had been planned, all of them turned to look at me, revealing my location to the man.
He grinned when our gazes met. “There you are.”
“Well, fork it over,” he said.
“What about the money?” I managed to ask him even though my throat felt like it was on fire. Who knew what Sabrina would do to me if I handed the briefcase over and we all lived to tell the tale?
“Oh, it’s over there,” he pointed to one of the armed men who had a bulky backpack strapped across his chest, “but you lot are lucky enough to be leaving with your lives.”
“Fine,” I said, trying to make the best out of the situation. “Let them leave first.”
“What? Think you can negotiate with me, brat?”
“This briefcase is bulletproof and I’m the only one who knows the combination,” I said, a plan already forming in my mind, “you can’t kill me, and if you waste time the Ciscos will be down here to see what happened to us.”
He laughed. “And why would the Ciscos care about you lot? I heard that their boss doesn’t care about anything.”
“We are new runners, we have potential and the gang wants to expand,” I said, not really sure of what I was saying. I injected as much confidence as I could into my next words. “You only need me, the rest are useless.”
“He’s P.E scum and the little apprentice of the boss’s right-hand,” Sabrina added spitefully, something dangerous about her smile. “You shouldn’t believe a thing he says.”
“Well, I believe him over you, bitch,” the man said and kicked her to the ground. “The boy with the case stays, the rest of you scram.”
They all hurried to file out of the warehouse but none of them said a word when they walked past me.
Sabrina was the only one who paused next to me, and for a moment I wondered if she was going to apologize.
“Think you can finish this mission on your own and hog the glory? Keep dreaming!” She shoved past me and I almost fell to the floor.
“You’ll be buried,” she added, “back where you belong.”
“Well, boy,” I was dragged by the arm back to my feet, “fork it over.”
I wanted nothing more than to do just that and wake up in my bed to realize that none of this ever happened, and this was all a dream. But I was more than certain that this briefcase was the only thing keeping me alive, and of all the potential runners out on a mission today, I was the least likely to know the password. “I…”
Before I could say another word, a man rushed towards us from the warehouse’s entrance. “Boss—”
He fell to the floor when a barrage of bullets pierced into his back.
“Shit,” the boss cursed.
The men around him pulled out their weapons and in a blink of an eye he was using me as a shield.
“Stay back, Ciscos,” he yelled, the barrel of his gun pressed against my temple.
I took a step back with him, my eyes fixed on the men pouring into the warehouse.
“You wish we were the Ciscos,” their leader said, and punctuated his sentence by hitting his baseball bat against his gloved hand. “You owe me a blood debt, Casper.”
Casper cursed again then growled. “McCoy.”
And then the warehouse descended into chaos.
I didn’t know who shot who first, but Casper had pushed me away to get a better aim at McCoy.
As I fell to the ground, shots were fired, and all around me men collapsed, either silent or screaming in pain.
I took cover almost immediately, crawling slowly with my body low against the ground. It was almost instinct now to find somewhere to hide the instant I found myself in a closed off space.
It was only when I was safe behind a pillar of concrete that I realized McCoy had shot first.
The gaping hole in the briefcase told me so.