30/30 – 9 | Challenge Pt. 2

If this is your first time visiting my blog, the following will make a little more sense to you if you read PART 1 of it first.

“And speak of the demoness and here she comes!” A familiar shape caught Marcus’ attention. I followed he ’ gaze to Delia and a couple of her friends as the passed by the store where we were.

When the hell did Delia get so fine!

She was always a cute if chunky girl. Even as a tomboy she was pretty and she always had that big ol’ butt! We used to ridicule her viciously as kids. It just seems like overnight the rest of her body caught up. Still, she was just Dee to me. The pigtails and barrettes that used to be all over her head were replaced with one curling pony tail, held in place with one of those stupid looking scrunchy things that the girls wear now. Her hair almost touched her shoulder blades with the scrunchie, it had close to mid back when set loose. I remember threatening to kick her ass a couple of years ago back when we were still speaking and she mentioned cutting it. I know I’m not the reason why she hasn’t done so yet, but I am glad she hadn’t.

I was joking earlier, but I realized now I was right. The rest of her body had caught up with, giving her a very, very curvy shape. Wearing a t-shirt under an over-sized shirt, bootcut jeans and some kind of biker looking boots she was the most casually dressed of the three of them. Hell, she had on the most clothes of the three of them and she was still the best looking of the three of them. Now, if she just had on Lisa’s mini skirt and Mercedes’ snug crop top . . . DAYUM! I caught myself in mid thought.

I never really thought of her as a woman before. But a woman was damn sure what I was looking at now! Which again was stupid, I know guys are always all over her. I also know she is still a virgin. Her reputation as a cock-blocker was well in place. Sometimes, I’d swear guys step up to her just to see how she’s going to shoot them down.

“I was thinking about hooking up with her, you know. The woman is cold! But I think I got what it takes to get in that!” Marcus smirked.

“Huh?” I snapped out of my trance, hoping Marcus didn’t notice.

“Damn man!” Marcus snapped fingers in front of my face as we were walking out. “If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn you were seeing Delia Larson for the first time in your life!”
So much for that thought, I shrugged more to myself than him.

“Come back to earth, yo. I was saying I was thinking ‘bout hittin’ on her.” He repeated, indicating Delia with a nod.

“I don’t think so!” I spun on Marcus so fast I surprised myself. What the fuck was wrong with me?

“Say what?” Marcus stopped in his tracks.

“You don’t touch her ever!” I stated slightly less vehemently than before.
Where the fuck was this coming from?

My sheer confusion of the moment was apparent. I rarely have to speak to my peeps in that tone of voice anymore to get my point across, least of Marcus. Especially not over some damn girl! I couldn’t decide if it was this edginess or something specific to Delia.

“Do I get to ask why?” Marcus asked, as curious by my sudden hostility as I.

“Fuck no.” I leaned against the railing looking down the center of the mall to the lower floors.

“You plan on hitting it?” I knew Marcus knew he was pushing his luck. I knew he knew he probably felt it his duty to force me to confront whatever this was that I was feeling. But the boy could not have know how close I to the edge I was – shit I didn’t know until someone does something to make me see it.

“Don’t say it again.” I warned and I didn’t bother to pretend it wasn’t a threat. Hittin’ it was what we did with the Morgue Mamas, our sister group. Hittin’ it was what we did with the girls in school. Hittin’ it was what we did with any stupid and not so stupid female we could bullshit into giving it up. “Hit it and forget it” as they say, she was just a fuck.
You “hit” what you don’t want or care about and…

Whoa!

I felt my head literally snap to attention as I stood up and realized Marcus was staring at me and smiling; easily following my train of thought. This was definitely about Delia. What the fuck was going on with me? I really didn’t know how I felt other than the extreme relief that I didn’t have to deal with her at this moment. And before Marcus could inquisition me further, the topic of the conversation walked out of a boutique a few doors down.

Lisa and Mercedes, Delia’s running buddies, definitely looked as though they wanted to come over and talk to us. Something Delia was saying was holding them back. Delia and I made eye contact just before I pulled out a pair of sunglasses and pretended not to watch the exchange. A literal split decision was made. Delia walked off on her own as Lisa and Mercedes came towards us. I leaned against the railing, watching Delia as she walked away. She had an edgy energy about her. I knew that walk. Something was on her mind as well.

Marcus and I flirted with Lisa and Mercedes, just killing time. I was just beginning to feel like I could relax when my edginess went up a tempo.

Fuuuuuuck!

I was glad I already had on the sunglasses and started to scan my perimeter. Marcus felt the change. Without missing a beat in the conversation, he casually leaned against the railing next to me and tapped out a code. I nodded in acknowledgement. Lisa, slightly more perceptive than her partner, noticed the silent exchange between Marcus and I and wisely decided it was time to go. Then again, her brother Ray is a Morguer. She may have recognized the code. Marcus turned to face opposite me. Between the two of us we now had a 360 degree view of our surroundings. Mercedes had started to protest about leaving until her cell went off.

Marcus tapped my elbow nodding to a spot over my shoulder. Delia was standing in front of Dushay’s Music store about half the mall length away from where we were standing holding her cell. I reached out and took the cell phone from Mercedes before she could answer and held up my other hand to cut off whatever stupid shit I knew was going to come out of her mouth.

“Talk to me.”

“’Raisers. Trendy’s at six down two. Bennett’s has a couple. Hank is with Jermaine Robles. Hank’s under – deep. Told them you’re running silent. Please, please tell me you’re not running silent.”

Marcus was just signaling to me about the two Hellraisers he spotted behind me and two levels down at Trendy’s while she spoke.

Fuck!

“Cool.” I spotted the reverse reflection of at least two more Hellraisers about three stores down from us – Bennett’s. I purposely didn’t answer her question. “Take your girls and go – now.”
“Brian Kendrick Palmera!” She hissed at me using my full formal name. She was not happy with me at the moment. She only used my name like that when she was pissed or scared! Unfortunately, I was a little too preoccupied at the moment to indulge her.

“Hey, looks like your girl wants to go, NOW!” I closed the cell and handed it back to Mercedes. Lisa pulled a protesting Mercedes and walked off.

They went off in one direction as Marcus and I walked off in the opposite. Lisa was already on her cell calling Ray. Marcus pulled out his to call in more reinforcements. If Marcus and I were lucky, some of our guys were already here just hanging as we were. If not, we were on our own.

“Are you silent?” I asked Marcus already knowing the answer.

“Yeah.” He nodded. “I knew we were coming here. I didn’t want the noise either.”

I couldn’t argue that. Normally our going in the mall without any heat wouldn’t be a problem. Carrying a piece is asking for trouble. You set off sensors like crazy. Even when you make a legal purchase you go off because you’re carrying. Depending on the store, that may actually get you busted for carrying as some cops work part-time as security and will call it in just to fuck with you. We either leave the gear in a vehicle, or as Marcus and I did, leave it with Ronny who was on door detail today, just for that reason. Unfortunately, Ronny was a good three levels down. Marcus started calling, but I knew we wouldn’t meet up in time.

All the local organizations, Morgue Makers, Hellraisers, Bloodworks etc., had an unofficial truce about malls; their parking lots and similar places were there was a lot of the public around. One group does something stupid in a place like this; we all catch fucking hell from bitch ass cops for weeks afterwards. Most of the time, the minor bullshit wasn’t worth the ensuing headache.

This was not minor.

A Morguer went under deep. He switched organizations, to our main rivals the Hellraisers.

This wasn’t even a challenge – this was an out-and-out fucking assassination attempt.

FUCK!

Henry Innis called Hank just like Aaron, was trying to make his mark within the Morgue Makers. He’s young and has a real mean streak in him. He likes to hurt people. This makes him useful as an enforcer, but he has little sense of self-control. I was hoping to hone his skills and his mind, but I knew he was going to be a problem after I had to take him down in front of the guys for jacking up some young girl because she pissed him off.

And he wants to be a power – bad. He beat the shit out of Frick – our former Arsenal. He beat the shit out of the guy in a challenge for his title. As thanks for the twenty-something stitches and the trouble of it all, Frick lost his job. If you can’t protect yourself you can’t protect our ammo, that’s law. Still, there was no way in hell I was letting Innis anywhere near our gear. I gave the title of Arsenal to Tagger instead, which pissed Hank off royally because even he knows he can’t beat Tagger. Point blank, every Warlord needs a killer and Tagger was mine. Tagger was short for Toe-Tagger. Even Hank didn’t need that shit explained to him. He had the chops to eventually equal if not replace Tagger someday, but not now. So, Morgue Makers and I weren’t giving him what he wanted fast enough and he thinks he’s going to get it from Hellraisers instead? The boy has a lot to learn, and I could not wait to begin class.

Hank was at the office when Marcus and I left. He knew we were going to the mall and we were running silent. Does that mean he also knows there are only a few other Morguers here? Or is he taking the chance that by the time they arrive the damage is done? Does he not realize that no matter what happens he’s a dead man? No one likes a turncoat. Your previous alliance will take you out because you turned on them. Your current alliance may take you out because if you turn once, you could turn again. You’ll be used for whatever info can be gathered and then you’re put down.

Almost always permanently.

Marcus and I heard yelling not too far behind us. The yelling did it; even Marcus had to grin under the circumstance. The woman was a royal pain in my fucking ass. What part of Take your girls and go – NOW was misunderstood? They were making such a commotion I had to look.
Somehow, Jermaine was on the floor tangled up in the bags Delia was carrying. He was cursing her out and she was cursing back. Hank was laughing at the both of them, which caused Jermaine to turn on him. Then they both saw Marcus and I and remembered why they were there. I didn’t see Digger at first. I just heard that heavy ass chain with all those keys he always carries with him and knew he was to my left. I signaled Marcus out of habit, but I could tell he already spotted the situation.

As Jermaine and Hank started to come toward us, Lisa and Mercedes accidentally into them. At least Lisa had – that was too bold a move for chicken shit Mercedes. But it worked out perfect, because in Mercedes’ haste to get the hell out of their way she wound up tripping Jermaine again, who fell into Hank, which caused Mercedes to fall on top of them. God, it was beautiful! I couldn’t have planned that if I wanted to. I swung around and sucker-punched Digger just as he was about to come down on me with brass knuckles. Marcus ducked as a guy the ‘Raisers call Jimmy swung.

Digger was strong but he was slow. The key with him was not to let any of his hits connect. At least not more than once! I heard a commotion below me, then a whistle and I smiled. Morguers were here! I didn’t know how many were in, but I knew by the whistle that at least one was Lisa’s brother Ray. Only he could whistle that damn loud and clear! The two Hellraisers at Trendy’s were now accounted for. That left it at a two to four ratio, between Marcus and I.

Easy.

I was still tangling with Digger when Jermaine jumped in. Marcus and Jimmy were at it. Hank was off to the side, just watching; the plan being to tire me out. Jermaine must have thought of it, because Hank has no head for that type of subtle strategy. Putting Digger and Jimmy on me was a pretty damn good plan. When Hank finally does make the challenge, I won’t be quite as up to par, while he’d be fresh.

Only thing, I just wasn’t having it.

Not only is Digger big and lumbering; he also doesn’t have a lot of endurance. He was already starting to slow down. Good. I circled around so that Jimmy was behind me, with Digger in front. Of course, Jimmy tried to jump me from behind. It was so easy it felt as if he had literally jumped into my throw. I simply turned around, picked him up as his feet left the floor, turned again and used his own momentum to throw him over Diggers head into the Crazy Comics window. The impact didn’t break the glass, but it cracked. Unfortunately, Digger started to charge at me just as I released Jimmy. A flying kick to his midsection sent him flying into the same window before Jimmy had a chance to move, the glass shattered all over them.

“STOP!” I yelled it at the top of my lungs.

The stupid motherfucker Jermaine actually stopped! Marcus sucker punched him and he dropped like a rock to the floor. It was so easy I couldn’t even enjoy it. Without missing a beat Marcus got behind me to cover Jimmy and Digger in case they actually had some fight left in them.

That just left Hank and I.

I held my arms out to Innis. He came off the wall and stood less than five feet in front of me, grinning, but not speaking. I’ve seen images of demons with less deadly grins. He lowered into a fighting stance, his hands up, but not completely closed into fists.

“You know the rules Innis, you gotta say it or it’s just Britch giving out another ass kicking.” Marcus reminded him.

“Shut the fuck up bitch!” Hank hissed, “First thing I’m gonna do is kick your ass, when I become the ‘lord.”

“When you become the Lord?” Marcus shook his head, inching over to a slowly recovering Digger. “Oh hell, Britch, you knew he got a Messiah complex too?”

“What?” Hank looked up confused; I smirked. I could just make out the butt of a gun tucked in the front of his jeans under a loose shirt. I knew he wouldn’t be silent, I just wondered how loud he was going to get. He could simply issue the challenge and shoot me. Technically, he would win, but he would never have either org’s respect, because I was unarmed. Not to mention the complications of going deep. Since he officially left the Morguers, Marcus automatically ascends to my title. And unless Innis shot Marcus immediately afterward, he would be a dead man within five minutes. I had no doubt Marcus would kill him. I know I would kill Innis over Marcus were the situation reversed. That means I had to keep him talking somehow and either mentally or physically out-maneuver Innis.

“Never mind.” Marcus threw up his hands and stomped Digger back into unconsciousness. “Do what you think you gotta do. Just don’t blow your balls off with that thing, or we’ll be calling you Henrietta.”

Marcus was purposely pissing Innis off; an angry fighter was a stupid fighter. Innis had great physical instinct, but he wasn’t exactly a brain trust. If he wasn’t smart enough to not let himself get goaded, who was I to stop him? He drew the gun on Marcus.

Okaaaay.

The .380 was not silent at all.

Marcus froze and I could literally hear the change in his breathing as he switched emotional gears. I liked the sound. The last time I heard Marcus breathe like that the result landed someone the other person in a coma. In this mode Innis was truly a dead man if Marcus got close enough to touch him. The only thing that could stop him would be a kill shot. Unfortunately, I also knew Hank would do nothing less.

I decided now might be a pretty good time to end this shit.

“So, are you issuing the challenge, or are you just going to keep primping bitch?” I still had not lowered my arms. He turned the gun on me. The muzzle was less than a foot from my face. I grinned. Innis glared at me totally baffled on why I suddenly smiled and then did exactly I expected of him – he got mad.
“You think I won’t bitch!” He yelled.

Our eyes never left each other as my smile broadened as I dropped kicked him.

As he fell, he cocked the gun, pulled the trigger…

…and nothing.

That’s why I grinned, in his anger the stupid little bitch forgot the safety was on!

He was totally confused for only a second before realizing his mistake, by then I had kicked the gun out of his hand. I could tell by the noise there was a little bit of a scramble as people got out of the way of the weapon. My eyes never left Innis, this was not Digger; he recovered quickly enough. I swung at him with the intention of giving up a left upper cut when he slashed my arm.

Where the fuck did the knife come from? This thing was no fucking joke!

The blade itself was about ten inches long. One side was razor sharp, the other side serrated. Not just serrated, but it edges curved inward like hooks. I glanced at my arm then returned my focus to him, he was grinning again.

Fuck, I knew that look.

I’ve seen it on Tagger enough. Hank was really ready to deal and finally issued the challenge for my title. My arm hurt like a motherfucker, but I could not afford to check it. I knew the moment I took my eyes from Innis I was dead and all Marcus would be able to do was avenge me.

All organizations respected the rules of a challenge. Once issued, you fought with what you had on you at the moment or whatever you could make do with. No one could assist you in any manner other than ensure that no one from opposing orgs number up on you or assist their member. I could feel the blood starting to run down my arm, but I opened them in challenge again. I heard Marcus curse under his breath, which meant the cut was worse than I thought and the true pain would kick in the moment my adrenalin faded.

“That’s cute, Hankie. So did your Mama buy that for you from the Star Trek store? You got the little communicator thingy too? Spock calling Hankie. Mr. Worf would like his apple corer back.” I don’t know what he expected me to do, but it damn sure wasn’t to mock him. Innis blinked rapidly. He was totally baffled by my behavior. There was a reason why I was Warlord and the little fuck still didn’t get it. Someone laughed hard at that corny ass shit I said, but it was enough to get further under Innis’ goat and that’s all I wanted.

“Bitch!” Innis charged at me.

I could tell he was expecting me to swing sideways so I dropped down to the floor. He was committed to his forward motion, and the blade went way over my head. I grabbed his blade hand on the way up twisting his wrist. He back flipped out of it. I front flipped back into it, and landed a solid punch in his gut. He bent over double. As I said, Hank was no Digger. The little motherfucker punched me in the balls. It hurt enough to stun me for a moment, but it wasn’t full contact, I came out of it faster than he expected and saw the blade coming.

The look of surprise on his face that he missed my throat was probably and the same look on my face.

I was losing blood from my arm and already felt it going numb. I didn’t think it would be in my best interest to give up anymore hemoglobin. Somewhere, behind me I heard a cop order Innis to drop the blade. Of course, being a dutiful citizen, he obeyed.

Riiiiight.

Hank came at me again and we both went over a bench. I landed on my back, with him on top of me. I quickly rolled over taking him with me and started beating the shit out of him. I was hitting him faster than he could get the knife to me, but I was still getting sliced like mad on my hands and lower arms. The cop attempted to pull me off of Innis, who used the distraction to bury the knife in my gut.

The pain stunned me so I could not yell out. Maybe I should have, because Hank apparently felt he hadn’t got me enough and twisted it.

Then I screamed.

The cop who had me, held on tighter. I was too stunned from the pain of the blade to break free. Hank stood up with that damn grin and yanked the blade out, with some help from me as I kicked him backwards and I regretfully found out what the serrated side was for the hard way.

Getting stabbed with the smooth edges blade going in was painful enough; to suddenly have it yanked out is worse. This damn thing had been twisted in me and then yanked. Only the cop holding me up as he was trying to pull me away from Hank kept me standing. I felt each and every one of those fucking hooks! I felt rather than saw Hank coming at me again. I knew I would not survive another gut slashing of that blade.

Using the cop as a brace I lunged up and used both feet to send Hank sailing away from me. Now, the damn cop lets go to try to catch his own balance and we both dropped to the floor. I screamed from the effort. I heard a lot of other people screaming, but I was in too much pain to respond. I was damn near blind with it. I rolled off the cop and tried to stand, looking for Hank, when I saw Delia running towards me.

What the fuck was she doing?? I reached out to stop her, but slipped on my own blood.

“Oh shit!” I fell into Delia’s arms and she lowered me to the floor. I was starting to feel dizzy. Shit was becoming this surreal blur of light and sound. Delia was saying something to the cops Marcus was yelling at someone about self-defense. Good, he was all right. Mercedes was carrying on about something else, when both Lisa and Delia turned and yelled “Shut! The! Fuck! Up! Now!” at her.

And all of it sounded like it was happening in a water tunnel, a block away.

I smelled honeysuckle.

Delia likes honeysuckle.

Delia.

Why was she here? I reached out to her.

“Keep still, dammit!” She admonished, “You’re losing a lot of blood. We’re waiting for paramedics.” She grabbed some kind of cloth out of a bag, placed it over what felt like an ever-growing fire in my gut and had me apply pressure. If the paramedics didn’t get here soon I knew I was going to pass out from shock. I had to stay conscious as long as possible. I was incapacitated and Marcus was definitely in cuffs, otherwise he would have been by my side. I didn’t know how many of my boys were, if they were clear of the cops and more important were there any other senior members present?

I saw one of my boys on the other side of the mall. He was leaning on the railing, just one of the many shoppers watching what was going on over here. But his fingers were moving. I was a slow pattern, because he had to keep casual in his moves. I realized he was actually signaling Marcus, correctly assuming I was out of it. I got the message. Three Morguers were down. I knew who two were who was the third? I tried to look around.

“Stop it!” Delia hissed at me. “You trained them; trust them to hold it down ‘till you get back!”
I was not even going to ask how she knew what I was doing. I simply nodded and succumbed to her administrations. She was ripping up a t-shirt and using the strips to replace the shirt barely stemming the flow of blood from me. The price tag scratched my skin as she removed it. Christ! She was using material from the stuff she just purchased.

She was staring down at me. It was more than clinical concern for my well being, but I wasn’t sure how to read it. I wasn’t sure I wanted to. I just knew I didn’t want her to leave, so I asked was what the return policy on all the stuff she was wasting on me.

“Absolutely nothing, which is a hell of a lot fucking more than what your punk ass is worth.” She grimaced, tossing aside more bloodied material. She looked toward the railing where more cops stood looking over the side.

“Innis?” I was starting to feel dizzy again.

She didn’t answer me, just slowly shook her head and looked at cops at the railing. I could hear a lot of noise from down below and it slowly sank in. My desperate Hail Mary kick had sent him over the railing to the main floor.

Four stories below us.

I won. Oddly enough, I didn’t feel particularly good about that and I guess it showed in my face.

“You did what you had to.” She shrugged reading my mind.
“But I’ve lost something important in you haven’t I?” I asked reading hers.
“Does it matter?” She asked her voice was very low, quiet.
“You know it does.” I answered honestly.
She was ripping up something else and had started a makeshift tourniquet on my arm. She looked at me, studying my face, not speaking.
“DiDa…?” I whispered after a while.

She blinked. I haven’t called her DiDa since middle school when her favorite saying was an exaggerated “La-Di-Da!” I wasn’t sure where that had come from, but it felt good, familiar and safe.
“Let’s just say I don’t think I could handle the alternative.” Her voice trailed off near end but I heard it.

“Don’t leave me.” I whispered.

I didn’t know what I was going to say, but I damn sure wasn’t expecting to say that! I knew she was speaking from the heart. I just didn’t know I was until the moment I said it. I think she was about to say something when a sharp pain went searing through me and my head started spinning.

“Oh shit!” I touched her face.

I started coughing. I tasted my own blood. Fucking great! I thought I hear Delia calling out my name, but I wasn’t sure, I was getting that far away feeling again.
“I’m glad you’re here, Dee.” I had left a bloodied handprint on her face.

She was saying something, but I couldn’t hear. I felt someone was pulling her away from me. No! I yell out. At least I thought I had, I. I couldn’t hear me, I wasn’t sure and it didn’t seem like anyone else heard either.

I felt someone grab my hand. Delia, Good.

That last thing I remembered was attempting to apologize for the handprint.

====================

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