VICTIMS OF THE NIGHT - KATHLEEN A. RYAN
Previously a part of Dan O'Shea’s ‘Steve Weddle Memorial Airport’ Flash Fiction Challenge. It appeared on Kathleen’s blog Women Of Mystery in December 2009.
“Slice or be sliced,” the gang-banger ordered Justina. She only knew him by his street name, Wicked.
Wicked handed the razor blade to Justina as she climbed into the back seat of the silver Lexus that had been involved in at least three drive-by shootings in the past year. Justina noticed the ink on his upper left arm, the kind she had seen many times before: ‘Smile Now/Cry Later,’ the comedy and tragedy masks that represent Mi Vida Loca, or My Crazy Life.
Play now and pay later.
She smelled a familiar fragrance, a cologne her brother used to wear. She felt a heaviness in her chest and stared at her hands, avoiding the glare of the skank sitting next to her, whom Wicked calls ‘The Hood Rat.’
He lowered the volume on the CD player, just as ‘It Wasn’t Me,’ by Shaggy had started.
“You better watch your back before she turn into a killer...”
Justina liked the string arrangement in that song, and hoped that he would turn it back up when ‘Angel’ came on. Her mother used to talk about the original song, ‘Angel of the Morning,’ and how much she loved it.
Wicked sputtered his instructions. “When we cruise around, we’ll look for a rival gang-banger, but if we can’t find one, anyone wearin’ red will do. The Hood Rat will help you by holdin’ down the victim while you give her a buck fifty. But first, we have to pick up Flaco at the airport. His plane should be landin’ any minute.”
On this moonlit August night, Justina’s face glistened with a thin layer of sweat. The seventeen-year-old didn’t have much time to contemplate her choices, although the thought of being jumped-in or sexed-in certainly didn’t appeal to her.
She wanted to belong; to gain respect and power; to be part of a family that watches her back. She had just moved into the hood and wanted to fit in. After her mother died, she came to live with her father, but she still felt so lost.
They pulled into the cell phone waiting lot at the airport. The Hood Rat said, “If you are successful tonight, you’ll make it -- remember, ‘blood-in’ is the way to go.”
“And don’t forget -- ‘blood out,’” Wicked reminded Justina. “There’s only one way out -- and it ends with your blood if you are disloyal or try to leave.”
Wicked’s ringtone, ‘Ridin’ Dirty,’ interrupted the stimulating conversation. He spoke briefly with Flaco.
“Flaco says to hang in this lot while he goes to Baggage Claim. He’ll meet us here. He has a point; if I pull up to the curb and he’s not there, the airport cops will chase us away, and I don’t feel like seein’ no five-o right now. It’s best we wait here.”
Wicked kept the car running, and he turned up the sound on the CD player, just in time to hear ‘Angel.’ He rolled down the window and lit up a Newport.
“Now life is one big party when you’re still young, and who’s gonna have your back when it’s all done...”
Justina checked her cell phone for the time. One A.M. It’s almost time, she thought. Her palms were sweaty and her heart fluttered.
Flaco was listening to his iPod as he walked towards the car, with a couple of bags slung around his shoulder.
No one but Justina noticed the black Ford Explorer quietly enter the parking lot.
She sprang out and ran toward the rear of the car.
Gunfire erupted from the Explorer, with bullets striking Flaco, Wicked, and The Hood Rat.
Flaco lay crumpled on the ground, lifeless. Justina checked the occupants; The Hood Rat was dead, but Wicked was still alive. She leaned into the driver’s side window.
“‘Blood in’ -- right, Wicked?” She stared into his cold, dark eyes that looked like portals to Hell. “Oh, and this is for killing my brother and injuring my father in a drive-by last year, you piece of shit. My mother died of a broken heart after you shot her only son,” she said, slicing his throat with the razor blade. What was that you said? ‘Slice or be sliced’? I’d say that’s a buck fifty, easy. But you don’t have to worry about stitches, now do you?”
Justina jumped into the front seat of the waiting suburban. The male driver calmly drove away.
“I’d say you passed that initiation with flying colors, Angel.”
BIO: Kathleen A. Ryan is a retired 21 year veteran of the Suffolk County Police Department on Long Island. She blogs at Women Of Mystery and is working on a true crime memoir. Her story, ‘Playing with Matches’ will be published in W.W. Norton’s Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories 25 Words or Fewer, Edited by Robert Swartwood, this November.
Follow her on Twitter.
Irish Times Crime Fiction column, February 2018
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