Falling Beneath the Magnolia

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First Contact.

Chapter 15: First Contact.

15A. Bruce Point of View.

Bruce and Gary wouldn’t be deterred from their plans tonight. Despite learning of a plot to kill him, Bruce is determined to get laid. Sammy had sent Mickey and Albert as backup. Both had volunteered, Mickey had come along for the chance that he would settle the score with the Deluca brothers. It is unusual for Albert to volunteer for anything, Bruce assumed Sammy motivated Albert with money.

Their seats were in a private box, Curtis, Albert and Lucifer stand guard outside the door, the woman are thankful for that. Mickey places a folding chair against the wall, he would watch the door from inside the box.

“I’ll be inside the box with you three, if those wops think that they can intimidate me into hiding, they picked the wrong guy to fuck with!” Says Mickey as he pulls back his suit jacket to reveal a long leather holster, contained inside the holster is a sawn-off shotgun. Mickey takes the weapon out and breaches the action to show two shells inside the chamber, closing the action, Mickey takes his seat facing the door with the weapon resting in his lap.

Lucifer pokes his head into the room, the girls back as far away as they can. Bruce walks over to listen to what he has to say.

“We will stay out here until the show is over, one of us will bring you drinks during the intermission.” Informs Lucifer, Bruce looks at his watch. The show would be starting soon.

Bruce walks over to his seat and sits down next to Marie. Marie’s fingers lace through his, the lights dim…

Bruce’s eyes are drawn to the center of the stage, the scene unfolds around them. A group of soldiers begin a song, they move around the center dancing, the male lead smokes a cigarette and dances around with them. A women enters the stage. The soldiers dance around the woman and the male lead in his military uniform hands the woman a flower.

The woman is beautiful, her hair is jet black, the light above shines off her hair, but from the best seat in the house, he can see her clearly. If he wasn’t already silent Bruce would be speechless he knew the woman on stage!

Her hair is curled to look wavy, her figure is flawless, the gypsy clothes she wore, clung to her body, her bosom appeared larger. Looking closely, he spies the signature high cheekbones. There is no doubt in his, mind. How could Bruce not see it before? Knowles was her mother’s maiden name; he had heard the name used before. Cali Knowles is Callie Bee Parker!

Callie Bee had been a theater major at Ole Miss. He had never taken much stock in her major, he figured she just did it because it occupied her time. Bruce truly never thought she would do anything with it.

He had never been happier to be proven the fool, she is magnificent, Bruce listens to the confidence in her voice, the conviction of her words she wasn’t the part, the part was her. Bruce quickly glanced around, everyone in the room leaned forward in their seats captivated.

Callie Bee’s posture makes her appear comforting and inviting. Watching her from the box Bruce sees the wonderful occupation she has made for herself. He proudly watches her from the rafters, she plays the lead Carmen, a gypsy girl. Bruce smiles as Callie Bee wrinkles the rose that the soldier gave her. She tosses the flower at the male lead’s feet and storms off the stage.

When he heard her angelic voice speaking, Bruce hadn’t realized how much he had longed for the sound. What he would do to have her sweet southern drawl whisper in his ear once more, that voice used to melt his icy heart.

Tonight, her southern twang had been replaced with an authentic French Accent. Even with the dialect change her voice still caused a few goosebumps to flare up during the act. Time went by so fast and he was so focused on her every move that he hardly noticed the first act ending. Suddenly he felt a set of fingers lace through his again, he glances at Marie.

Earlier he wonder if the two women were in the same room who would be more beautiful, well since seeing Bee on stage Bruce had forgotten that Marie even existed, he had even forgotten that the girl sat next to him.

Bruce stands up leaving Marie where she sat, he had to speak with Callie Bee even if it is just for a moment. Walking to the door he noticed that Chuck was behind him. Seeing Mickey stand up Bruce uses a hand motion to let Mickey know to stay seated.

Lucifer is in Bruce’s face as he closes the door to the box behind, Chuck and Bruce stand in the hall with Lucifer looking at them. Lucifer hisses to them.

“McKean, I thought I told you to stay put! If you want a drink I’ll have Albert fetch you one.”

“Lucifer it’s not that, I need to get backstage, I know the girl in the play” Lucifer shook his head and replies.

“That is an unnecessary risk.”

“Seeing as you are the help on this outing I am going…” Informs Bruce.

“Who is this person to you?”

“We used to go to college with her, she and Bruce at one time were a hot item” Pipes up Chuck.

Bruce expected Lucifer to put them in their place, yet Lucifer respected Bruce’s rank.

“Fine but I am going with you… Curtis, Albert you two are to guard this door, let no one into the room.”

Bruce is lost in his thoughts as they walk through the opera house. Bruce passes by the concession area and enters the hallway leading to the backstage. An usher nearby spots the trio and says.

“Excuse me sirs where do you think your going?”

Bruce pulls one fifty-dollar bill from his pocket and says.

“Why don’t you take a lap? We are just visiting an old friend…”

The usher snatches the cash out of his hand and walks away.

Leaving Lucifer at the entrance they enter the backstage area, all around them are the behind the scenes crew, they move about, then the cast begins to filter off the stage. At last he sees her coming off the stage…

Being this close to her after so long he tries to speak only to find that his voice is caught in his throat...

Thank the Lord for Chuck, because muteness is not something Chuck suffers from at this moment. “Bee!” shouts Chuck.

Hearing a familiar voice Bee looks in their direction. At first she smiles recognizing Chuck and then her eyes open wide with shock then they settle on Bruce.

Then she waves over to them, both she, Bruce and Chuck walk towards each other meeting in the center of the room. Bruce looks back, seeing the Pale Death fifteen feet away Bruce assumes that Lucifer is out of earshot.

“Bee you look great out there” Says Bruce, it was all he could mumble out of the corner of his mouth, due to what felt like a lump of clay that seemed to be stuck in his gut preventing from articulating something more substantial.

“Thanks, you don’t look that rough either” She replies. Her hand gently touches the lapel of his tux, he felt a warm tickle filtering down his neck through his shoulders, he hadn’t felt that feeling in several years. Her director calls to her from where the other members of the cast are standing.

“Cali, we need to get you into your next costume!”

“I am sorry Bruce I have to get ready; the next act is gonna be ready soon, would you like to get a drink tonight?”

“Sure, where are you staying?”

“I am at the Monteleone, what do you say we meet at the hotel bar at 11:30?”

“That’s only a few blocks from my apartment, I’ll meet you there.”

Her director calls to her again.

“I have to go Bruce I’ll see you later tonight”

She kisses him on the cheek and after her lips leave his face, her lips move an inch away from his ear.

“I am serious, this tux looks great on you”

She says goodbye to Bruce and Chuck and departs for her wardrobe change. Bruce is left with a feeling of warmth spreading through his shoulder, a feeling of affection and love he long had be denied.

Bruce and Chuck linger for a moment, Bruce looks towards the door where Lucifer stood.

“How do you plan to see her? I don’t think he is going to let you leave after the opera?” Asks Chuck.

“Look we will go back to the box after the next act ends. I will say I am not feeling well and then once we are back at the apartment I’ll just leave; the hotel isn’t far.”

They leave the backstage area; Lucifer flanks the pair as they move down the hallway back towards the concession area.

“Wow man, she has me almost speechless.” States Chuck.

“She looks good don’t she?” Remarks Bruce proudly.

The noise from the concession area becomes louder.

“Yeah she does, her being famous you don’t think she’s a little out of your league?” Jokes Chuck.

The trio walked through the crowded concession area, walking past the cue of people they head towards the stairs leading to the box. Once they reach the summit of the stairs they hear a voice.

“McKean” Calls a southern accent.

Bruce turns towards a corridor to see a man six inches taller than Bruce. With black hair and a firm jaw, his chin has indentation that in Bruce’s opinion looked like an ass crack. Bruce knew this man from the craps tables, Ted Deluca stares down at him.

With Ted are three flunkies.

“Ted you are looking well, be careful not to open fire in here, I would hate for you to hit any women by accident.”

“Make your jokes, Mickey pulled that woman in front as a human shield, trying to kill him wasn’t personal. It was just meant to show we mean business. The boss wants to speak with you, why don’t you make it easier and come with us?”

“Are you going to make me?”

Bruce squared up; his pistol is attached to his ankle there is no way he could draw it without leaving himself vulnerable, but they had no way of knowing where his gun was holstered.

Lucifer had just come up the staircase, he stood at eye level with Ted. Ted upon sight of Lucifer stepped back three steps, as did his companions.

“What’s going on here” Says the scratchy voice of Lucifer.

“This prick has it in his head that I will allow him to march me off to torture and death.”

Lucifer opens his trench coat; the entire night Lucifer’s right arm had looked stiff, Bruce sees why, hidden beneath his trench is a twelve-gauge pump shotgun, it hangs from a sling, the barrel of the gun gives them pause.

Ted looked like he wanted to be anywhere else but here in this hallway.

“Really, that’s interesting, well boys go ahead and try it.” Eggs on Lucifer.

The sounds of people leaving the concession area and coming towards them is heard on the staircase.

“Soon, McKean I would not count this as a victory you are just making it harder on yourself.”

Then men turn and walk from the room. Chuck whispers to Bruce as they head towards the box.

“You aren’t planning on visiting Bee still tonight are you?” Whispers Chuck.

“Yeah I am.”

They had rounded the corner and they find Curtis and Albert still guarding the door to the box. Bruce pulls on Chuck shirt.

“Lucifer I have to say something to Chuck I will be around the corner in a minute.”

Lucifer walks around the corner towards the Box. When Bruce is confident that Lucifer is out of earshot he turns to Chuck.

“At the close of the third act I am going to get sick on Marie, I’ll say I am not feeling well, I will have Curtis take the women home. When the rest of us return to Breeze Street, I am gonna slip away inside the Cat House, I’ll need you to cover for me.”

“I have your back, but you really think tonight is the night to be doing this. I mean if that Lucifer guy hadn’t had that scattergun, than I think you would have been dragged away.”

“Point taken but I might not get a third chance with Bee that makes it worth it. Let’s get back inside.”

As they begin to walk around the corner they bump into Albert.

“Lucifer sent me to get you, the shows going to start he wants you in the box.”

Bruce didn’t know how much of the conversation Albert heard; Bruce chooses not to put much stock into his concerns he was sure that Albert hadn’t been there long.

Bruce settles into the box not long after his discussion with Chuck. When Bruce takes his seat Marie laces her fingers through his again, the fingers no longer felt welcome just a nuisance. Bruce plays the part and gives her hand a squeeze. The lights dim and the next act begins, during the show Bruce feels anxious. He wanted nothing more than to be with the girl on stage, he needed to slip away.

Bruce looks to his left, he feels guilty looking at Gary, Gary and his date were kissing in the darkness. Even Chucks girl was attached to his arm. When the cast leaves the stage to begin the final act, Bruce decided to make his move.

He turns his head to the right and holds steady his index and middle finger. Bruce opens his mouth to pretend that he is coughing, then as if a button is pressed, Bruce feels the dinner from earlier come up his throat.

With his cheeks full of the foul mixture of food, wine, liquor and stomach bile, Bruce leans to his left trying to make the act of getting sick, look as real as possible.

Marie is caught off guard, her gorgeous dress is soaked in Bruce’s filth, when Bruce pulled the trigger he didn’t anticipate his entire contents to vacate his stomach.

“WHAT THE FUCK!” Shouts Marie. Her body is covered in vomit, food and liquid. After she and her two friends hurry Marie off to clean up Gary angrily turns to Bruce and begins to yell at him.

“Hey, Susan Weak- stomach what the fuck is your problem!?”

“I am not feeling well”

“No shit! Between you and the ghoul outside I am destined to have blue balls for the foreseeable future!! There is no way they stay; you fucked all three of us tonight and not in the way I had intended it!” continues to berate Gary. By the time the girls left to attempt to clean up, Curtis entered the room at Bruce’s request.

“Curtis, I am feeling like shit, I want you to take Marie and her friends to the cabstand. They are going to be at the bathroom, inform Marie that I went home.” Bruce hands Curtis cash for the cab. He felt guilty for shafting Marie, but he could not help himself the only thing that mattered to him was seeing Bee at any cost.

Lucy surprisingly agreed to come back, Curtis & Albert went to fetch the sedans, while the smaller group made their way through the Opera House. Mickey took point, while Lucifer walked a step behind Bruce and Chuck.

Walking near, Gary holds Lucy’s hand and she kisses his neck as she and Gary walk. Bruce’s face is still pale from his bout with himself, thankfully he would be able to milk his sickness in front of Marie’s friend.

They choose to leave from the front Lucifer didn’t want to risk an attempt, in the first car Bruce sits on the driver’s side. Chuck, Curtis ride in the front, Lucifer on his right.

In the second car Albert drives while Mickey rides shotgun, Lucy and Gary are in the back seat, they would be going back to the Cat House, Gary like Mickey had an apartment above the bar.

Curtis lifts his arm up and passes back a hand rolled cigarette.

“Thank you, but I think I cigarette might make me feel sicker.”

“That’s not tobacco” informs Curtis.

Bruce smells the rolled up slim and his nose picks up the familiar scent of thyme. Bruce removes his zippo from his pocket, he flicks the flint and lights the tip of the joint.

Instantly Bruce’s haze of nausea lifts, his head becomes clouded in the protective blanket.

As they drive Bruce notices the turn off to his apartment.

“Curtis you missed the turn for my apartment.”

Bruce’s foggy head made him linger on his words. He was so focused on the words he just spoke that he hardly heard Curtis’s reasoning. Bruce informed Curtis again.

“Curtis you missed the turn for my apartment?”

“Mr. McKean we are going back to the Cat House tonight, the boss ordered that y’all return there after the Opera.” Says Curtis repeating himself.

“Look take me home” Orders Bruce.

“Enough, you are being hunted, until this is settled Dellara wants to make sure nothing happens to you.”

Bruce didn’t argue Bruce thought that Dellara would order something like this he would need to figure out something else.

The two sedans pull in front of the Cat House, Vinny is standing outside with several men, he smokes a cigarette, when Bruce steps out of his car dateless, Vinny says something to him.

“McKean where is your date?”

Before Bruce answers Mickey walks over from the other car and claps Bruce on his shoulder.

“The boy wrenched his guts up all over the girl”

Lucy walks by the group clustered at the door. She gives Bruce a disapproving look as Gary leads her into the Cat House.

“Honey, I’ll meet you upstairs, room 11 last door on the right.”

Gary smacks her on the rear-end as she enters the room. Gary then joins the conversation at the door.

“Yeah golden boy here nearly made me pussyless” Vinny smiles at Bruce amused.

“He don’t look sick” says Vinny.

Lucifer spoke.

“He is stoned, rest assured the amount that he vomited onto that women pleaded his case. McKean they have prepared one of the spare studio apartments upstairs, you and your friend should go inside. If you need anything to settle your stomach find one of the girls tending the bar.”

Lucifer turns to Vinny.

“I will be around, I am going to take a lap, you have everything under control?”

“Yeah, we will be fine. I got men at both ends of Breeze Street and the alleys.”

Lucifer nods his head and walked around the side of the building.

Bruce enters the Cat House and finds that room is half full, men from his gang were at their posts around Breeze Street, Bruce walks towards the steps leading to the apartments upstairs. He would need to find a way to slip away. Even in his state of inebriation he felt giddy, he would see her tonight!

Bruce was in the room for about fifteen minutes, before he walked to the door. Chuck paced around the studio and watches as Bruce places his hand on the door knob.

“How are you going to get there?”

“There is a staircase that leads to the alleyway. I will need you to go down first, distract the guy guarding the door, here I got another joint from Curtis.”

Bruce hands Chuck the joint and holds the door open as Chuck walks out of the room first.

The hallway is empty, passing Gary’s apartment Bruce can hear the moans from Lucy and the smashing of a headboard on drywall. Chuck opens the door to the staircase; Bruce lingers inside the staircase and listens.

“Where are you going?” Says the guard at the backdoor.

Chuck answers.

“Just coming out for a toke”

The door is cracked an inch from Chuck closing the door slowly behind him. Bruce can smell the cannabis burning outside the staircase.

“You want a hit?” Asks Chuck.

Bruce hears the guard chuckle and mutter.

“Sure”

After a moment Chuck says.

“So, where are you from?”

Hearing his cue Bruce leaves the staircase, stepping outside he sees the guard moved four feet from the door he has his back turned to Bruce.

Bruce closes the door gently behind him, Bruce slips down the alleyway unnoticed. He makes his way through Breeze Street had uses Decatur Street to cut over to the hotel, it would only be ten blocks further before he turned onto Bienville Street, towards the hotel Callie Bee is staying at.

During the walk he keeps his eyes peeled for anything out of the ordinary, Bruce finds himself getting distracted. He wondered what he would say to her after so long.

Bruce turns right onto Bienville Street; he is a block away from the hotel. He looks down at his watch he had twenty minutes to spare. At the corner of the Bienville and Royal, Bruce is about to turn the corner when something out of the corner of his eye catches his attention.

“Mr. McKean I have been waiting to talk to you…”

Bruce stood with his feet shoulder width apart facing the speaker.

At first because of he was high he felt like he imagined the woman before him. She wore a knee length coat, jeans, leather boots and cotton top. His eyes were focused on her face. Flawless and pale, her long hair reached well below her waist. Her hair is silver, the silver hair took on the appearance of a glow.

“Who are you?” Demands Bruce.

“I have been watching you for some time. My name is Farrah”

“Right, well I haven’t seen you before… if you will excuse me, I have somewhere to be…”

“Yes, you have a date with your girlfriend. This won’t take long.”

Bruce looked at the woman and slides his hand into his back pocket. Drawing his switchblade, Bruce presses the button. The blade sticks out as he points it at her.

“I didn’t think that Marcello would send a woman after me…”

Farrah moves out of the way at the last minute.

Bruce is astonished by Farrah’s speed. He turns to plunge the blade into her torso, but his face meets the hard bone of her shin. Knocked onto his back, Bruce tries to sit up but the foot of the woman presses him to the ground of the alleyway. He outweighs the woman by more than a hundred pounds, why can’t he push her off.

“Don’t bother”

Her friendly tone has turned to a sound of disdain. Down but not out he tries move his knife hand to slice her ankle, but her other foot stomps down on his forearm knocking his weapon from his hand!

“Right now, you stand no chance against me mortal. Will you listen to me or will you keep fighting?”

“Fine I will listen will you get off of me.”

When she steps off his body for a moment Bruce considers drawing his revolver from his ankle but then decides he will hear her out.

“I do not work for Carlos Marcello, but the Witches have told me he has a part yet to play in your story. I am here on the behalf of my master.”

“So, this master does he keep you in chains and cages when your naughty?” Snipes Bruce scornfully.

He had only been bested physically by a few, but to be tossed around by a girl, his ego had taken a hit.

“I was told you would be a challenge, I work for” Bruce abruptly cuts Farrah off mid-sentence.

“I don’t give a fuck who you work for, I want nothing to do with Witchcraft.”

Bruce tries to dust off his tux from the dirt and grime that covered him.

“You really are as stubborn as was foretold. Out in the world a human has created something that could spread a sickness across your world. The lives of billions are at stake, one way or another you will be drawn into this conflict, your skills and ruthlessness are needed.”

“You seem strong enough to handle some mad scientist”

“You are stronger than I am, yet you still have your mark of sin upon your person, once I remove that, your access to the natural and spiritual world will give you strength I couldn’t hope to match”

Bruce had begun to tire of this woman’s lies and bullshit.

“If that’s all, I am going to get to my date.”

“That is one of the reasons that I decided to make contact tonight. If you go to your date tonight, things will not turn out well for you, the truth will cause the one you love to leave again and the result of truancy from Breeze Street will cost the life of someone you care about. If you are to be my charge please accept this warning”

“Listen cunt, I do not know you and you do not know me. I hate magic, witchcraft and heresy”

Bruce bent down and within a flash his revolver is out, and the hammer cocked back ready for her next move.

“Leave me alone”

Farrah looks down the barrel of the firearm with not a hint of fear, she exhales a breath.

“I had hope this meeting would have gone well, it seems like you are destined to walk in that hotel, know this, we will meet again in several years within the city divided by the west and east, but without my training your task will be made that much harder.”

Farrah lifted her fingers.

“I can’t let you go inside the hotel looking like that.”

Bruce looked down his tux had been stained by the grime of the street. Farrah snaps her fingers, Bruce felt like he just walked through a shower, the wet feeling went away quickly, looking down he is amazed!

The tux looked brand-new, his white livery is now stainless, his jacket feel pressed and his dirty palms of his hands clean. Bruce looks up, he looks around the alleyway and she is nowhere to be found, walking back out the into the street there is no sign of her, Bruce tucks his revolver back into his holster and walks towards the Hotel Monteleone.

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