Falling Beneath the Magnolia

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Behind Blue Eyes.

Chapter 16, Behind Blue Eyes…

16 A, Callie Bee Point of View:

Brushing her soft black hair, Callie Bee finally gets rid of her curls from earlier. She places the brush onto the counter top of the bathroom.

Callie Bee, glances down at her slender wrist, towards her gold watch. It was five minutes to 11:30, the butterflies in her stomach were acting up, they had gotten worse the closer it got to 11:30.

She took three deep breaths to settle her nerves. Anytime Callie Bee thinks of her last conversation with Bruce she feels sickened. In a way she could never shake the feeling that what happened to her was because of Bruce.

Callie Bee wasn’t naïve; she knew in college Bruce had done some sketchy things to make money. She knew he was the kind man to strong arm people, in some ways that had turned her on to Bruce. But despite all the things rough edges that seemed to unique to Bruce, she knew he was a good man and she was unfairly judging him.

Tonight, she is willing to start fresh, when she laid eyes on him earlier she could hardly articulate her words. Walking out into the main section of her suite, she crosses the room to the three decanters on the wall, one with wine, scotch and vodka. She picks the vodka, taking a ball glass next to the pouring station, Callie Bee splashes a small amount totaling one sip into the glass.

With the liquid courage she walks to the door not before glancing towards the mirror near the closet. Callie Bee does her best to straighten out her dress. She wore a light blue dress that hung onto her upper arms. The dress leaves her shoulders bare. On her neck she wore a pendant on a white gold chain. The pendant features two cute animals. Bruce gave her this one day while they were riding by the lake at college. She can remember the day clearly as if it were yesterday

“Can’t we get any closer?” Asks Callie Bee.

Bruce’s Red 150 coup struggles down open edge of the lake, they had barely gotten through a nasty patch of sugar sand, what worried him was the wet clay ahead. He looked around and they were a hundred yards from the tree line, if he got stuck than it would be a pain in the ass to get out.

The weight of the trailer with two horses makes their trip slow, Bruce had left the road and had been traveling along the lake bed. Lake Sardis is on his left, Bruce will to get as close to the red rocks as the car will allow. Then as Bruce accelerates down a four-foot dune of sugar sand, the Chevy’s chassis becomes lodged on a patch of clay. Bruce revs the engine, but the vehicle remains on the clay unmoving.

“What’s the matter? Asks Callie Bee.

Bruce sighs and shifts into neutral.

“We are stuck hold on, let me see how bad it is.”

Bruce unclips the red seat belt around his waist and steps out of the car. Today, Bruce wears a pair of riding pants and long black riding boots. His pants are tucked into the boots. He has a white button-down shirt, holding up the pants are a pair of suspenders. The sun beats down on his neck as he bends down to inspect the car.

Bruce slides his hand under the driver’s side tire, the back of his palm becomes stained from the red and sticky clay. The tires have at least and inch to touch the ground.

“Are we stuck?” Asks Callie Bee .

Bruce should have parked at the entrance of the lake, but he didn’t want to leave his car unattended, his car had been broken into once when he had left it there while attending a bonfire.

Bruce stood up and puts his hand on his hips, he looks over at Callie Bee, she wore a pair of cream-colored riding pants, they hug the curves of her waist. He nods his head.

“Yeah we are, we need to get something to stick under the tires for traction. I am going to go for that tree line for some wood.”

“Should we pull the horses out of the trailer, it will help to make the load lighter?” Asks Callie Bee in an attempt to help with the situation.

“Good idea Bee, but make sure you have them on leads, the engine could spook them, and I don’t feel like chasing the fucking things all over the park.”

Bruce begins walking towards the tree line, Callie Bee meanwhile grabs two leads from the floor of the passenger seat. Proceeding to the side door of the trailer, Callie Bee steps inside.

Her two quarter horses stare aimlessly forward, Callie Bee strokes the muzzle of her favorite black horse Fitz, then she strokes the muzzle of her chestnut mare, Tammy.

Callie Bee walks back out the side door and heads to the back of the trailer. She opens the double gates; the rears of the horses show.

Then with no bowel control, Tammy begins to drop a nasty and pungent load. Callie Bee escapes the fumes for a moment walking back to the side door. She unclips the horses from two leather straps, then attaches the leads to the horse’s halters.

Slipping under the barrier from the tack area into the small makeshift stable, Callie Bee puts her weight into the two ropes and begins backing the horses up. She has no choice but to step in Tammy’s shit, she had just bought these boots!

By the time the horses cleared the trailer, she saw Bruce approaching the car his arms full of sticks and wood. Bruce knelt down and begins shoving the pieces of wood under the gap between the tires, he made sure to lay the wood in a line at least three feet long. Bruce gets into his car, putting the vehicle in first gear, he is light on the pedal.

The tires move the three feet, Bruce cuts the wheel to the right hard and breaks free from the clay. Callie Bee observes Bruce driving towards the tree line, clicking her tongue Callie Bee pulls on the leads, the horses move and begin to follow their owner.

When she makes it to the tree line, Bruce had parked on a grassy area under the trees.

“I found this when I got to wood to get us unstuck, we can ride the tree line back to the path.”

Bruce uses his keys to open is red trunk, inside he pulls out two saddles, under blankets and two sets of bridles. Callie Bee hitches the horses to the trailer and the two of them begin to saddle their mounts.

He places the blanket on the back of the mare he intended to ride, Callie Bee works on saddling Fitz. Bruce drops the saddle onto Tammy’s back, he knees the horse in her side hard, as a reflex to the pressure of his knee the horse sucks in its gut. Bruce is able to buckle the straps to the saddle tighter by this maneuver.

Placing the bridle onto the horses face first, once the bit is firmly in place in the horse’s mouth, Bruce removes the halter.

“Bruce I am so glad you convinced me to do this, I was getting bored of all the trails near the stable.”

This is their first time going riding together, they had been dating for some time now and she loved how he wanted to take her places and do things with her.

Callie Bee walks to the left side of Fitz, he is tall at 17 hands, his long powerful black legs paw at the ground, Fitz often got antsy when waiting to be ridden. Bruce walks behind her, his lips nuzzle the side of her neck, she lifts her foot up at the pleasurable feeling. While she erupts into a fit of giggles, Bruce places his powerful but firm hands onto her slender waist, Bruce lifts her as if she weighs nothing, and gently places her in the saddle.

“Gosh you always pick the best moments to be smooth” Says Callie Bee.

She hungerly watches as Bruce effortlessly hoists himself into his saddle. Putting his heels into the mount he spurs forward; Callie Bee does the same. The pair trot under the shade of the tree line, they find a path between the thicket.

Callie Bee clicks her tongue and puts her heels into Fitz’s side, the animal bounds forward. She gives her horse another swift kick, the horse travels at a fast pace between the trees she soon outpaces Bruce. She hears Bruce behind her he trots up the path, thick trees are on either side of her, then after maybe a mile or so the path ends…

Before them is a sprawling meadow, the grass stands four feet high, bright purple flowers grow thick and the scent of their bloom fills the air, the smell of the fresh water from the lake and wild flowers hangs heavy in the atmosphere. Deer graze in the distance and a few jakes can be heard moving under the brush of the wild flowers. Massive dragonflies glide around them, Bee holds her breath with excitement and then leans forward.

Bee races across the field, Bruce chases after, Callie Bee wears a large smile as she beats Bruce across the meadow, still at full canter she sprints Fitz down the next path, Bruce follows but slows down his pace, this path is uphill, and has many sharp turns.

Callie Bee quickly glances behind her, she is surprised to see Bruce right on her heels, the smell of the lake becomes stronger, Callie Bee breaks her reins hard to the right as they emerge from the trail, the red clay from a place called “Red Rock” is kicked up into the air.

Red Rock is a large mount or dune of clay at Sardis Lake. The dune is close to the water’s edge and is nearly five miles from the front gate of the park. Only trucks with the largest tires can make it over here. Bruce and Callie Bee hitch the two horses to two nearby trees.

Bruce is first to fasten his reins to the tree, he then helps Callie Bee from her saddle, this allows him to naturally feel the curves of her body. She loves the feeling of his firm hands anywhere on her body. Bee feels her face become flush from being held in his arms like a child. As gracefully as Bruce lifted her into the saddle he is as gentle in his attempt to place her on the ground.

They walk hand in hand to the edge of the Red Rock dune, down below, half a dozen trucks are arranged in a semi-circle fifteen feet from the dune, and fifty feet from the edge of the lake. A group of college aged men stand around drinking bottles and cans of beer.

Bruce and she take a few steps back and take a seat on a large hickory log. Callie Bee leans on Bruce’s shoulder then she feels Bruce digging in the pockets of his riding pants for something. And then she sees it. The velvet box is too large for a ring or earrings. She holds the box in her hands.

“What is this?” Ask Callie Bee.

Her smile holds curiosity and her eyes wonder.

“Open it! I had to get the pendant made in Memphis, I got the chain on my trip to New York”

Callie Bee opens the box that has the word Cartier on the top. Inside there is a gold chain, the chain is held together by smooth gold links, her small nimble fingers hold the pendant. She smiles and erupts into a quick fit of happy giggles.

“This is so cute; this is a fox but what is this cute creature?”

She can tell by Bruce’s face that he is happy with her reaction.

“It is an otter, I don’t know if these animal ever interact with each other in real life, but they are cute, but I think it sums us up perfectly. The fox is pretty, graceful and smart just like you, and otter is mischievous, sly and affectionate.” Replies Bruce,

Her eyes light up at the explanation.

Callie Bee lays a deep passionate kiss onto his lips and then says,

“After a year you always kind find a way to take my breath away.”

Back to present day Callie Bee waits for the elevator to reach the bottom floor. Her heart seemed to be caught in her chest as she inches closer to the hotel bar. Then she sees him.

Standing by the bar as if he just arrived Bruce speaks to the bartender, as he does, the bar he is at slowly rotates towards Callie Bee, you see this is called the Carousel Bar and lounge, the carousel was added to the hotel in the late 1940s, the bar is a frequent stop for locals and visitors. Underneath the bar are a series of pulleys and levers that keep the bar platform moving.

Bruce sees Callie Bee walking over and Bee sees his Adam’s apple swallow, she knew then that she wasn’t the only one nervous. He is still dressed in his tux from the opera, the tux looks like it just came off the press and he himself looked crisp. Not a hair on his gorgeous mop is out of place, the line of his part shows a healthy white scalp, his hair his brushed to the left, if he hadn’t been so rough around the edges, Callie Bee thought he was easily good looking enough for the stage.

He flashes a brilliant smile at her when she is feet from him, his white teeth shine off the crystal chandeliers above.

“Bee! come here take a seat.”

Bruce holds her chair out for her. In her two years since their last meeting she had forgotten how men with manners conducted themselves.

Once they were seated Bruce pushes a glass towards her.

“What is this?” She asks.

“It is called a Vieux Carré, they actually invented it, it has bitters, Rye Whiskey, cognac and vermouth. There is other shit in it, but I can’t remember them.”

Bee takes a sip of the drink and her eyes light up at the smoothness, she could taste the liquor, but it felt so smooth on her tongue that she took a larger sip than usual, her nerves also probably contribute to her increased consumption.

Continuing the conversation Bruce adds.

“You were great on stage tonight, when did you start performing on that level?”

“Well… I went with Mamma & Daddy to Los Angeles, we had been there for three months, Daddy had me take up some acting classes to take my mind of Mamma’s condition. One day I heard of open additions for a production of South Pacific, an agent saw me perform, I had a small role and only had a two-minute part in a song. The agent loved me, he met with Daddy and I took lead in another local show.”

She took another sip of her drink, Bruce stares into her blue eyes. They were both becoming more comfortable with each other.

“The show did very well and before I knew it, I read for the part of Carmen and I was offered the roll just as Mamma went into remission. When they moved back to Nashville, I went to New York for three weeks on Broadway and then two weeks in DC, and a week here in New Orleans, we are gonna round off this tour with two weeks in Chicago. You look like you are doing well Bruce, how have you been keeping yourself?”

Bruce answers her question, he had to be vague he didn’t want her to know he was in a gang.

“I actually just got a promotion so I have taken on a lot more responsibility, but I think it is something I can handle.”

Callie Bee wanted to press Bruce on what he did for a living, she always had a feeling that his ‘‘work’’ was not conventional, she had an image of who Bruce McKean was and she didn’t want to ruin it.

“I knew you would land on your feet, after we broke- after how we left things I always hoped you would find your way.”

Bee places her hand on his knuckles, the gold necklace around her neck catches his eye, he lifts his hand for her chest, between his fingers he holds up the pendant with the fox and otter.

“You still have this?” Asks Bruce.

“I have always kept it with me, I never could just leave it in the jewelry box, it calms me when I see it…” Informs Callie Bee.

“To tell you the truth Bee, it took a long time to move on. I kind of spiraled out of control after the split. I left Oxford the night we got off the phone.”

“Bruce I wanted to come back, Mamma just, she said that you were a hood, and she blamed you for putting me in position to be in the car with, with”

Callie Bee could not bring herself to name Dean, or even to say ‘that Trooper’ instead all she could muster to say is…

“That man.”

Callie Bee continued.

“I told her that you were innocent. But she said there was darkness in you.”

Bruce didn’t know why but he said it. Bruce loved how she thought highly of him, but it was a lie, he could keep up this tough exterior with everyone else in this city, looking at the pendant he could not lie to her anymore which is way he said it before he could use his sense to bury the feelings.

“She was right”

Callie Bee looked at him expressionless. Bruce continued. “She is right I am a hood; I robbed the bank the day of your contest.” Bruce then told the entire story to her before she could interject.

“My bootlegging gig ran its course once the town became wet. I need to make money, Chuck and I spent six months planning the robbery. It’s my fault that Dean… did what he did to you. I am sorry! After you went home for Thanksgiving, I spent several days following Dean around town trying to dredge up any dirt on him. On Thanksgiving day I found out that he was going to be having dinner alone with only his brother. After I phoned you and we broke up I felt like I was in another body, I was full of rage, I sat on the edge of my bed holding that Tiffany’s engagement ring between my hands. The rage was too much suddenly I packed up my car. Then as I left I went to close the garage I spied a saw on the wall, I took it and drove to Deans house…. As he and his brother sat down for dinner I started to saw a Magnolia tree, the tree soon crashed into the dining room, killing him and his brother. I couldn’t think of the man’s name without feeling blinding rage.”

Callie Bee face no longer held a look of affection, her eyes flared, if pupils could change colors, hers would have been fire read from the anger that built in the pit of her stomach.

“I told you to leave him alone, and you killed him…”

“Bee please understand.”

“Don’t! how can you expect me to rationalize this! You robbed a bank, the police suspected you did it, it is your fault I was assaulted, Bruce, I think this is a mistake.”

“Bee please I couldn’t keep this to myself anymore, I was a wreck without you I spent a year buried deep in a bottle, I owe it to you to tell you the truth.”

Callie Bee stood up and looks around if it weren’t for two men in suits approaching the bar she would have smacked him.

The two men walk over and speak to Bruce.

“Bruce McKean, we have a few questions to ask you would you mind stepping outside with us?”

The men show Bruce a badge.

“I am in the middle of something here, give me your card and I’ll come down to the station with my lawyer first thing tomorrow morning.” Says Bruce.

Callie Bee interjects into conversation.

“No, he is not, our conversation is over.”

Callie Bee storms off leaving the bar, she runs to the women’s restroom her eyes full of tears. When she enters the room, she looks at her smeared makeup, looking down her eyes catch sight of the pendant. Angry Callie Bee rips it from her neck, pieces of the gold links fall to the floor. Callie Bee throws the pendant at the mirror, and steps three paces back and begins balling in her hands.

As she cries she looks at the mirror and sees the pendant still attached to a part of the gold chain. The piece of jewelry slides down the porcelain bowl of the sink, without thinking she charges forward. The chain has slipped down the drain her heart skips a beat as she sees the pendant lined up with the gap. Her hand smacks the pendant against the hard surface of the sink and then she cups her hand around it and pulls it away.

Her breathing is labored, if she hated him why did she care about this trinket? Then in her head something he said clicked, ’did he say he had an engagement ring” Then she looked at the otter on the pendant and realized. It was because she still loved him… she couldn’t leave things like this. Callie Bee storms out of the bathroom after only being in there for a few minutes.

She sees Bruce being led from the lounge by the police, she had to tell him she loved him and that she would get him a lawyer to meet him at the station, god knows what kind of trouble he had been in. Callie Bee follows behind she is fifty feet away. She sees them lead him to an exit.

Outside in the alleyway she expected to see a police car, but there is nothing but trash, she looks to her left and sees the traffic from royal street, then to the right, the alleyway leads to several other alleyways, there she sees the police with Bruce in between, she follows…

While she walked silently behind, Callie Bee could not help feeling like she is being watch by several pairs of eyes.

She walks for several hundred yards and then comes to a large concrete clearing between the buildings. There she sees a group of people, they are fifteen feet away, at first she is going to approach but then she hears the men speak.

“Thank you Detectives we can handle this piece of shit from here.”

The police walk back towards her, she hides in a doorway as they pass, once they do she listens as hearing Bruce’s voice.

“Well Ted, looks like you got me, is this were you shove your fingers in my ass and stuff some dead animal down my throat?”

“McKean you always seem to find a way to be smug.”

Callie Bee leans out slightly to get a view of what’s going on, her hand rests on the lid to a trash can, the lid is half on. Staring at the setting she sees there is a steep metal staircase with a catwalk that protrudes out of the hotel. There are no lights save for the few doorways, it is very dark. Bruce is so close to her she could touch him if there was not someone else standing behind him. While Ted spoke his four lackies surround Bruce.

“How did you find me, I understand that the Monteleone is the only claim of culture of you Guinea’s have in New Orleans, but even Marcello can’t have spies all over the city.”

“You are right McKean, we don’t have spies all over the city just within your crew, come on out!”

Callie Bee watches behind Ted, walking from behind a shadowy part of the clearing, a man Callie Bee didn’t recognized walks towards the group of men.

He wore a suit, but his was of a much lesser quality than any of the other men’s, he had a massive Adam’s Apple and was built like he should be injecting heroin.

“Well Albert, now I know you were listening tonight. Well go on then get it over with” Demands Bruce.

Callie Bee is amazed even against overwhelming odds he is so stubborn. Callie Bee is still leaning on the trash can lid; her weight causes the lid to fall to the ground in a loud clamor.

Before she can react she feels her hair being ripped from her scalp. Bruce reacts in an instant, he drops a man with a punch, before using his switchblade to free Bee, he only manages to stick the blade into the shoulder of her attacker.

Bruce pulls her away from the men and they are forced into a corner of the alleyway, he is trapped, his aggressors are in front of him, the only reason Bee suspects they are not opening fire is because they intend to take him alive for torture.

“Listen... Let her go and I will come quietly”

Albert is smiling and so is Ted.

Bruce’s voice, it had fear in his tone, that did not make Callie Bee feel safe. One of the men steps forward… Bruce tenses, Callie Bee wants to close her eyes but is too afraid to move, her hands rest on the shoulders of Bruce’s tux. Feeling Callie Bee tremble, Bruce grips tighter onto the blade of his switchblade.

“So, this is all it takes to make you submit, well I don’t think you are in any position to demand anything, my brother will be here soon, he will decide but he is not one to listen to reason.” Says Ted with a voice full of cockiness.

The men move forward fast, a loud bang occurs!

Callie Bee thinks it is Ted’s goons shooting, until she sees the man nearest to Bruce chest explode!

The second man lunges for Bruce, Bruce slides his knife under the man’s jaw and buries the seven-inch blade in his neck up to its hilt, leaving the weapon lodged in his opponent, Bruce pushes the man down, while dropping to his knee, he succeeds in drawing his revolver.

Bruce shields Callie Bee with his body, keeping his front to the attackers and backs up making for an open alleyway. Bruce fires a shot from his revolver, he clips Ted in the side of his abdomen, Bruce is still backing up when he sees a mop of curly hair and a large body moving towards him.

“Chuck you have some fucking timing”

Albert fires a shot at them, abandoning trying to escape behind the alley as they seek shelter behind a row of trash cans. Callie Bee ducks down, as Ted, still standing fires a shot at Bruce. The round pops Bruce in his shoulder blade, the force of the round causes him to fall onto his back. the pain is enough to make him vomit but the pain seems to pass.

Chuck grabs Bruce by the shoulder of his tux and drags Bruce behind the shelter of the cans. While gunshots strike the concrete around them. Bruce switches the gun to his right hand, it felt strange, but the adrenaline of a gunfight and gunshot wound drove the insecurity from his mind. Bruce fires a shot at a man next to Ted, the round travels the fifteen feet to bury itself into the heart of the goon. Chuck shouts to Bruce over the flight.

“Sorry I just had seen the cops lead you through the lobby, Lucifer was checking the front. He was going to drag you back to the Cat House, Somehow he already knew where you were, but still managed to make me talk you never told me how convincing he is.”

Bruce and Chuck fire another shot, Albert is nowhere to be found Bruce assumed he ran away.

“Yeah, Lucifer has that effect on people.” Says Bruce.

“Bruce we need to get out of here” Cries Bee.

He knew she was right they were going to be out of bullets in minutes, Bruce then panics when he looks at Chucks side, the white livery under his tux jacket is stained red. Just had been clipped while grabbing Bruce.

“Fuck” Bruce says out loud.

White fog builds in the alleyway, Callie Bee couldn’t tell where the fog was coming from.

The door to the hotel’s Cat Walk opens, looking down is the emotionless face of the scariest man Callie Bee ever laid eyes on, Ted and his one remain man are fired upon. Bruce doesn’t skip a beat, she hears him mutter “Lucifer” under his breath, Bruce knew that man.

The three of them slip down the alleyway, as they turn the corner Bruce spots headlights.

“Stay down Bee, don’t move.”

Bruce makes her kneel behind a doorway and trash cans. The headlights shine on both Bruce and Chuck. The door to the sedan is closed, three men approach.

“Bruce McKean this is a far cry from the craps tables, why don’t you two drop your heaters in the dirt. I’ll let your pal go and you can take a ride with us.”

The speaker has a southern accent but looks as Italian as the day is long. Wearing a black pinstripe suit like a typical Italian he comes dressed for a funeral.

“Sal I would believe you if your brother hadn’t informed me that you are planning to disembowel me, so I think i’ll keep this gun right here at my side where it belongs.”

All five men have their firearms drawn but they are all currently at their sides, the slightest twitch and they would be raised…

“He always did have a blabbermouth, seeing you here I take it he failed?” Asks Sal

“He did” replies Bruce

“That makes it easier for you, looks like it will end here. Go ahead and raise that gun kid, when you do I will put you down…”

“I will Sal, but before I do answer me something.”

“Ask your last words”

“How did you turn Albert?”

“We didn’t that little shit stain came to us not four days after your heist, he heard that he would only get five grand, you paid him $3,000.00 more than your throw away negros, he took it as in insult, he offered you up to us for fifty large, after a little talk he settled on eight grand and his life. You see kid scum like him, and you will always eat the leavings of men like Marcello. That answer everything?”

“I guess it does.”

An eerie silence sweeps the alleyway, the shots from earlier are gone, even the traffic noises have died away. Callie Bee becomes aware how loud her breathing is, she slows her breath and begins to prey.

She sees Bruce twitch, Bruce has his weapon raised first and squeezes off his three remaining shots, before he drew Callie Bee saw a person hurry past, she should stick her foot out to trip him but doesn’t. The man is Albert! He shoots Chuck in the back twice! And continues running…

Chasing after Albert is the one called Lucifer.

16B, Bruce Point of View.

He felt it hit him in the side, all the air in his lungs seemed to disappear, the pain is instantaneous! He is on his front, he fell the moments the rounds struck his skin, he felt two hits in the side, his arms are numb and won’t move. Bruce moves his head a little, his eyes glance towards his hand. Five inches from his hand is his revolver.

Smoke billows out of the barrel of the weapon, beyond the revolver is the corpse of Sal Deluca, Bruce had hit him in the heart and gotten his friend, Sal and one of the goons popped Bruce in the side, he felt the heaviness next to him meaning Chuck had been dropped too.

Bruce is flipped over, he is delirious he sees two pairs of eyes one scared, but a welcoming soft blue, the other the scariest of loathing. The eyes of loathing seemed to hold back the gates of hell, in life the hottest flames were blue, it made sense to him in death to be seeing them now. On death’s door, hell is where he was going, so much for that stupid blonde cunt from earlier. He peels his eyes from the gates of hell and settles on the sight of high cheekbones and ruby lips, then darkness…

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