Carys Weldon Blog
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
As promised New Story
Okay, yesterday, between dealing with my little publisher woes, I created the beginning to a new story. This one doesn't have a lot of sexual heat in the first ten-fifteen pages, which I'm posting. But, I hope it'll have enough other stuff going on to spark your interest. As always, I wanna know...would you want to read on? Or would you toss it at the wall? Because, you know, if you are honest, it helps me to know which projects to apply myself to.
Again, I'm gonna blog on this to show you my progress. So, yesterday, technically, I came up with fourteen pages. And here they are IN TOTAL ROUGH DRAFT:
Twenty-nine months after the trial, seven relocations with the secret witness program later, and four days into her latest low-end apartment, Magdalena sat alone on a ratty tweed sofa, staring at her new passport, driver’s license, social security card, birth certificate and ATM card. They were laid out on a chipped laminate coffee table.
“Aggie Lakin,” she read. “Who comes up with these names?”
Nothing but her picture resembled who she’d been…before her brother was killed, and she’d been dragged into a Mafioso nightmare. She tried not to think about it. That was another life.
But he’d been her twin, and ever since, she’d felt lost, and alone in the world. She couldn’t look at her own picture or in a mirror without thinking of him. And, try as she might to make it go away, the vision of Tony being gunned down in the Italian deli wouldn’t leave her head.
“You worry too much, Mag,” he’d said, unwrapping his sandwich, checking under the hoagie bun. “I can handle these guys. They aren’t as bad as you think.” He licked mayo from his thumb. “I’m just moving a little money for them.” He’d laughed at the face she made, and bit into his salami hero. And, as he always had, he talked while chewing. “You dated Jimmy before I ever—”
“Before I knew what he did for a living or anything about him and his connections.” She’d had her soda in hand, holding the straw, sipping, shaking her head. “Be smart, Tony. Get out while you can. Those people scare me.”
“He’s still got a thing for you.”
Goosebumps ran down her spine. “Stalking me, you mean.” She glanced around. “I half expect to run into him at every corner.”
Tony’s favorite lunch spot had a ninety year old décor with pictures of Coney Island the way it was in the early years, and a man behind the counter that had been waiting on them since they were little. They often conjectured that he was as old as the building itself. While they sat there, Al shuffled out and wiped down the table closest to them, said something to people in the far corner, then caught Magdalena’s eye and winked. She smiled back.
“He’s not used to being ignored.” Tony reached out and tugged a lock of her unruly red hair, forcing her to give him her full attention. “Look at it this way…I’m trying to keep him happy and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping him out of your hair.”
She pushed his hand away. “You are not working for him because of me. Tell me you aren’t.”
Tony met her gaze and she knew the awful truth. “Oh, Tony.”
“Don’t worry. I got it handled.” He took another bite of his sandwich.
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing.” He swallowed and reached for his drink, took a gulp. “I’m just workin’ a deal, that’s all.”
“What kind of a deal?” She watched him wolf another huge bite down.
The cow bell on the door behind her rang as it opened. Tony’s eyes went wide, and he spit through the food he hadn’t quite swallowed, “Get down!”
Because they were in Hell’s Kitchen, and sadly enough, drive-bys and murders happened way too often in broad daylight, she hadn’t hesitated. Slinging her soda to the left, she dove to the right, and crawled as fast as she could as a pinging rat-a-tat-zing-zing-zing rang out. The quick burst of gunshot was followed by another couple rounds. One took Al down. Another hit the glass counter splinter-popping it. Magdalena ducked and covered her head. Natural instinct had her turning to see who the shooters were.
Seconds later, the two men she recognized instantly as friends of Jimmy’s—Paul Gianotti and Louie DiBiase—were gone, and Tony was bleeding to death with five slugs in his chest.
She scrambled to him, screaming, “Someone call 9-1-1!” afraid to touch him, rambling, “Oh, God. Oh, God, Tony. Oh, God, don’t die on me.”
His bloody fingers reached, and clutched hold of hers as reddened saliva gurgled up his throat, out the corners of his mouth. “Love you, Sssis. So sssorry.”
“Hang on…” Wildly, she looked around. “Will somebody call?!?”
The people in the far corner. They’d been stricken with fear.
“You!” She pointed. “NINE ONE ONE!”
The man blinked, and dug in his pocket for his cell, and dialed.
Tony coughed on blood, and rolled to his side. She tried to help him, supporting his upper body with her thighs, petting at him in horror, running her fingers through his hair.
“What can I do? Tell me what to do! Tony—don’t you die on me!”
Tony fell back against her. His face had already paled, and a puddle of crimson thickened around them. “Keys, Mag.”
“My keys. Take ‘em.” His fingers crawled over his torso, feeling blindly.
Her head petting slid lower, and pre-occupied with covering the blood-flow on his chest by spreading her hands over the bubbling holes, Maggie ignored him until he arched in another coughing fit, grunting, “Make the deal.”
She had no idea what he was talking about. Somehow, he managed to drag his keys from his pants and press them into her hands. Her sticky, bloody hands.
A siren in the distance, too far, echoed behind his last words. “Trade my car…to Frigetto.”
Tears filled her eyes.
Time hadn’t made that horror go away. She trembled every time she thought of it.
The car never went to Frigetto. She’d given her father the keys, and he’d put it in storage somewhere. After Tony’d died, she hadn’t cared about a thing.
And when her parents’ home exploded only a week later in a freak gas line accident—that was no accident—she’d gone running, against all advice, and testified. Tony’s killers had gone to jail…but not for long. Not that it mattered. Jimmy and the whole Stavros family had killed her parents, and hunted her down, repeatedly. She knew they wouldn’t stop until she was dead.
Whatever deal Tony had been working on had gone wrong. That’s all she knew.
Now, she was in hole-in-the-wall Missouri. The classifieds were beside her, a few piddly jobs circled. They wouldn’t look for me in Sprinfield, Missouri, at a Wal-mart, she thought.
Before, she’d been a pastry chef, an artist with cake and torte, working at one of the best bakeries in Manhattan. She couldn’t remember how long it had been since she’d had the pleasure of doing that, getting lost in frosting.
The government issue cell phone in her front pocket vibrated, scaring her half out of her wits. It took her a minute to pry it from the tight jeans. As she did so, she considered the fact that others might have lost weight with all the stress, but no, she’d just ballooned up sixty pounds. So, on top of everything else, she had moved into stretch jeans that were stretched to the max and long, loose, bargain priced t-shirts, and a personal hate for herself. The secret witness budget hadn’t provided a replacement anything near the life she’d left behind. A decent wardrobe was the last thing she cared about. Surviving each day—that was all she thought about. It was a stupor, really, where she asked herself why she bothered.
Light blinking, vibrating again. She frowned at the face of the cheap Nokia. Unknown caller. She assumed it had to be a government agent, her latest re-locater checking on her. As far as she knew, only that one man had her number. Hadn’t it said something else when he’d double-checked it with her? Sanders?
Getting up, moving to the window, she pushed the answer button as she peeked out the thick “seventies orange” curtains and felt comfort at the sight of his car, an unmarked tan sedan of early nineties vintage, in the apartment parking lot across the street.
Putting the phone to her ear, she said, “Hello?”
Silence stretched for a few seconds.
It was just one word, but fear zipped from her ear, through her brain, and right down into the core of her soul. She knew that voice. He’d called her a hundred times and started the conversation every time like that.
“You were expecting somebody else, maybe?”
In a panic, she stared aghast at the phone, clicked it off, then back on, and hit the pre-keyed button that dialed her straight to the FBI secret witness hotline. Moving as fast as she could, she went to the bedroom, grabbed her already packed “panic bag” and bit her lip. Out the door? Through the sliding glass and out the patio?
Jimmy Stavros wouldn’t have called if he didn’t have her dead to rights.
“Hello?” A female voice, finally, came on the line.
“Safe word: Mag-Spring.” Aggie’s whole body shook.
"Compromised. Advise.” The process was quick, but to her, it felt like an endless moment.
Grunting, she looked up at the ceiling. “He called on this phone!!”
She didn’t have time for this. Any minute, he’d come through the door, shooting. Or worse. How many times had she envisioned the ways he’d enjoy killing her? Jimmy always loved his knife, and that had been his nickname. Jimmy “the knife.” Twisting it, jabbing it in again and again, carving designs sometimes—had earned him a reputation. And he strangled his lovers for fun. She knew that for a fact. Putting one hand to the front of her throat, remembering what he’d done to her, she repeated in high-pitch, “Compromised. Advise!”
“Calm down. Verify. Who called?”
“God!” Aggie ran to the living room, scooped up her identification, shoved it into her pants pockets, while cradling the phone against her shoulder. “I’m out of here. If he doesn’t kill me, I’ll call in from a public phone.”
"This line is secure.”
“No. I’m telling you…” Aggie considered going out the bedroom window, then decided that he’d probably expect that. She moved to the front door, took a breath, and unlocked three newly installed bolts.
“I’m trying to get your security detail on the other line.”
With a grunt of disgust, Aggie tossed the phone, yanked the door open, and carefully peeked up and down the hall. No one was in sight. Tugging the door-to behind her, she closed her eyes for the briefest of seconds, did an eeny-meany, miney-mo, and picked the exit that led toward the center of the apartment complex. People, kids, the pool…maybe she could slip through unnoticed, maybe Jimmy wouldn’t take a pot shot in front of…no, that was too much to hope for. He might expect her to think like that—and she didn’t want to endanger anyone else. She turned and jogged down the hall, going toward the front street exit. If her security was still alive, maybe she could leap in his car and be driven to safety.
It was hot and muggy outside. The light made her squint. She hadn’t been out in days and that had been in a hooded jacket, under heavy escort when she was moved from Cleveland—where her last safe house had been. Peering around corners like a thief, she saw no one. No one suspicious, anyway. No one that looked like a thug from New York.
She high-tailed it across the street to the unmarked car Agent Sanders usually occupied. It was empty. There was a bullet hole in the back window and a little blood on the interior. Someone had shot from behind, and grazed him, she surmised, glancing around quickly. The driver door was open. He must’ve gone in pursuit or run for his own cover.
The keys were in the ignition! Aggie threw her bag in the passenger seat, hopped in, slammed the door shut, and started it up. She felt bad about taking off without knowing what had happened to Sanders, but she didn’t have any way to protect herself except flight. Driving directly to the Branson-Springfield Regional Airport, a route she’d memorized, eyes to the rear view mirror the whole time, she parked the car and hustled inside.
A quick check of flights told her the next one out of town was on Allegiant Air. It had a flight to Las Vegas leaving in twenty minutes. She hit the ATM, got the maximum amount of cash, five hundred dollars, and went to the counter.
“Do you have any seats left on that flight to Vegas?”
A man in a suit moved into the line behind her. Aggie glanced out of the corner of her eye, noted the man’s shoes, a brief-laptop case dangling from his fingers, and two rolling suitcases. She never looked up from there. Breathing a sigh of relief that it was “just a regular businessman,” she smiled at the airport attendant. “I need to be on the one leaving now.”
“Let me check. Ah. You’re in luck. Those flights are always crowded, but I have two seats left, believe it or not. Ooh. Back row. Sorry.”
“I don’t mind.” Aggie paid for the ticket with cash. She handed her new license over, biting her bottom lip while her face was compared to the picture.
“Looks like it’s you, all right.” The procedure went quick. “Here you go.” The boarding pass and her identification were returned.
She didn’t check the bag. As she walked away, she heard the man say, “I’ll take that last seat to Vegas. And you can put these in the belly.”
It actually made her feel a sense of relief. No way could Jimmy or any of his men get on, if the plane was already sold out.
The first check-point passed her through pretty fast. All the way through the process, though, she felt the dark hovering presence of the businessman, and the hair on the back of her neck prickled repeatedly as he moved closer, crowding her at the identification check-in, and then as she put her bag on the conveyor, his briefcase went right beside hers. His elbow brushed hers. She nearly jumped out of her skin.
They opened her duffle, of course, and rifled through her things—lifting her spare bra and panties—red satin—in one gloved hand, using a baton to move the rest around. She might have been embarrassed if those hadn’t been about the only thing that she owned that she actually liked. The woman doing the search put everything back in with pursed lips.
“Go ahead and step through the metal detector.”
“Slip your shoes off, and hold your arms up.” She complied, and an old security guard passed a wand over her.
Aggie forced herself to keep her head down, not making eye contact with anyone. That way, only the ones that looked at her license picture could say she’d gotten on the plane. Leave as few witnesses as possible.
It occurred to her that the FBI’s training was remarkably like Jimmy’s.
“This case is code-locked. You’ll have to open it, sir.”
Behind her, she heard the man’s voice, in a low timbre, say, “Sure.”
It went right through her in a jolt of pleasure. He sounded confident and unconcerned. Her back to him, she made a conscious effort at stretching her neck, trying to relax. This was middle America. She was behind security gates. There was no way Jimmy was ahead of her on that plane. There were no other planes out of Springfield for three more hours. Even if he followed her there, she was as good as safe for the next few hours, anyway. She stepped back into her shoes.
“We check all laptops and briefcases these days,” the woman said.
“I know. Let me walk through first.” The man stepped into the metal detector and the apparatus beeped.
Aggie resisted the urge to look but her curiosity had her wondering where he had metal. Maybe he was a veteran? Had pins somewhere or a plate in his head…? Before, she would have looked him in the eye, and complained about the treatment, maybe asked him about…whatever made him beep.
What had happened to the girl she’d been? For a second, Aggie longed for her.
“You’re all-clear, miss,” the older guard said.
“Great.” Snagging her bag in one hand, she took off at a fast hike, realizing that she had to hit the bathroom before getting on the plane. She hated tight spaces like toilet facilities on planes or buses, more so since she’d gained the extra weight.
“Final boarding,” the speaker system announced, “for Allegiant Air flight number 7246.”
That was her flight. She spared a glance toward the pay phones, but decided she couldn’t do that and go to the pot; there wasn’t enough time.
By the time she relieved herself and climbed on the MD-83 aircraft, she felt like she was racing against time, like any minute something monumental could happen. She couldn’t shake the feeling.
It didn’t help that she had a fear of flying. She hoped her sense of impending disaster had nothing to do with the vessel’s air worthiness.
The plane was a tight little thing. Seats were small. The rows were crowded. She hated it, but she eyed the group—hoping that no one had the earmarking look of a gangsta. Midwesterners all, from the looks of it. People smiling and chatting excitedly over their proposed trip to Vegas.
“You need to find a seat,” the flight attendant urged from behind, forcing Aggie to move forward.
She ended up walking sideways through the aisle, doing her best not to bang someone in the head with her bag, watching the floor mostly, all the way to the last seat open on the back row. The whole time, she hated her body all over again, cussed it inside her head.
Once, she bumped someone with her hip, and had to say, “Oh. Oh. I’m so sorry.” It didn’t appear that she was forgiven, and that made her feel worse, but she kept moving.
To her consternation, the minute she got to the end of the aisle, she recognized the shoes of the businessman that had come through security behind her. And they were blocking her entry into the two-seat back row. Big feet clad in high quality, sturdy Florsheims. Since she hadn’t had sex in nearly three years, the euphemism about big feet and other appendages matching the size, hit her brain. She blushed, and reached up to open the compartment above their seat, letting her arm block his view of her face.
It took some shoving and re-arranging to make room. Aggie stole a sneaky peek as she pushed her carry-on into the overhead. Her heart stopped for a brief second, tripping over its normally steady beat. The very handsome man in the seat beside hers spared a contemplative and reserved smile, watching her without abash.
At a glance, she noted the near black hair at his collar—looking like it was trimmed tight to keep it from curling. His neck was tanned, the muscles cording up thickly, telling that he worked out to the extreme. She squeaked. What was her thing about necks?
Tony had always laughed at her over that sort of thing. “Thug necks,” that’s what he’d called them. Whatever. This one made her lips itch…with the urge to plant a kiss on the guy’s carotid.
As if he read her mind, he readjusted in his seat, reaching up to rub the side and back of his neck. That forced her out of her moment of throat-lust. Another shove at the bag above her head, and her knee bumped his as she maneuvered, thumping on the duffle, trying to get it in. He shifted again as if to give her more room—to keep from touching her. He wasn’t small either, and so it was uncomfortable before she even sat down. Aggie ducked her head, surprised at the sudden lack of air in the passenger compartment. She sucked in deep.
If she hadn’t been running for her life, on a mafia hit list, and absolutely beyond trusting any man, she thought, she might have had to fake a fall into Mr. Universe’s ample arms. Could a man have bigger biceps in a tight, black business suit? Or more aquiline features, and darker brown eyes?
Was he Italian? Yes. Undoubtedly.
That bothered her. Could he…could he be…somehow connected to Jimmy?
A flight attendant took up the microphone and announced, “Please take your seats. Fasten your seatbelts. We will be taking off shortly.”
The seatbelt and no smoking signs blinked.
Aggie felt stupid. She was the only one standing at that time. Everyone swiveled in their seats and looked at her. Abruptly, she gave up on the bag, and pushed past the man, landing in the window seat, feeling immediately boxed in.
If he was one of Jimmy’s relatives, or henchmen, she was as good as dead. Closing her eyes, Aggie crossed herself, and sent up a small prayer.
“Don’t like flying, eh?”
She didn’t open her eyes. There had been amusement in his tone.
“No. I love it,” she lied and forced herself to turn and look at him fully. If she was going to die at his hands, by a knife to the ribs or something, she wanted to imprint him on her soul somehow—so she could come back in the next life and hunt him down.
His lips twisted. His eyes lit up, and he said, “I love it, too.”
Aggie didn’t know what to make of him…except, maybe, that he was as hot, hot, hot, as a man ever had been. Serious machismo oozed from his every pore. And now that she was giving him her full attention, and vice versa, there was no mistaking his to-die-for spice cologne, or the sheer, hulking manliness that he exuded from his too-thick neck, super broad shoulders, down to the prickly looking hair on the back of his hands. He propped his elbow on the aisle arm rest, small as it was, and had his chin on his hand, eyeing her with some sort of pleasure.
She wondered if it was the look of a man, a cold blooded killer toying with his prey. His gaze wandered over her face, up at her hair—which she knew was a mess. She’d tugged the dyed dark mass into a high ponytail that morning—missing her natural dark red. And she hadn’t bothered with make-up. So, his perusal quickly made her even more uncomfortable. The hair on the back of her neck stood up. Her heart pounded. She wasn’t sure what she expected out of him, but his sudden movement surprised her.
“Here.” He leaned toward her.
She flinched, drawing back like she’d been hit, until she realized that he’d grabbed hold of the dangling seatbelt and was passing it to her. “Oh,” she said lamely, “Thanks.”
A murderer that buckled her in first? Maybe it was to keep her dying dead corpse from flopping around noticeably in flight.
She managed to get the seatbelt on without asking for an extension, but it was tight. A girl who runs for her life as often as she did shouldn’t be so fat, she thought, promising herself at once that she’d go on the Atkins diet soon as she got settled in somewhere. Living off pizza delivery had not helped her in the slightest.
“This is a pretty quick flight,” he said conversationally.
“Good,” she monotoned, turning her shoulder to him, staring out the window onto the tarmac.
I hate flying. I hate flying. I hate flying.
That didn’t help, but her obvious nervousness, she felt sure, would give him the message that she didn’t want to talk. What she wanted to do, she realized, was watch his reflection in the window. He didn’t take his eye off of her, or shift at all, through take-off and most of the flight. Not until the flight attendant came through.
As air travel goes, he was right, the flight was relatively short and uneventful. She was grateful for the free soda offered half way through it, and pocketed the pretzel pack they offered her.
He watched her the whole time, and that made Aggie more and more uncomfortable as time dragged on. Once in the air, she tapped repeatedly on the arm rest, and her left leg bounced faster than a musician keeping a fast beat. She considered getting her anxiety pills out of her bag, but hated the idea of getting into it with the man watching her with what she perceived to be an irritated frown. So, she endured.
When they landed safely, she couldn’t have been more relieved.
Posted by CarysWeldonblog ::
8:12 AM ::
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I read this while doing my nightly routine the other day. I logged off before I commented. Yikes!! I was working with Mom in Muskogee today and kept thinking about books I'd like to read. This one kept coming to mind
It seems like I've been doing that a lot lately, wanting to read the finished product of a friend's unfinished/unpubbed work.
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