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Hallelujah!
weird, willy wonka
maccalla
It's back! After two days of hard work, and this morning off to do my drama exam (a breeze, by the way, they asked about Shakespeare, and I wrote three-mile answers) I'm back to where I was two days ago! I came by a slightly different route, better in some parts, worse in others, but the thirs section is finally done! I didn't cry when I killed him this time. Either I'm a bad person or I didn't kill him convincingly enough. Tell me if you cry. Or if you don't. Either way.

Oh yeah, the other part of my drama exam was a little harder - I was writing about Killer Joe, and they asked me about the importance of love in the story. Like, excuse me? It's a story about a family who decide to kill the ex-wife/mother for the insurance money. The brother rapes his mentally retarded sister, both paents are cheating, and the guy they get in to murder her can only think about the retarded sister's arse! That's as close as it gets to love. "Love was important in this story, as it was significant by it's absence." Hrumph. But you don't want to hear me complaining. Here's the latest lot of Bridge Kanulu, what's pushed me to 40,268 words. I'm trying to show that he loses more and more of his innocence as he gets deeper into the gang. But anyway, James just finished his first knife-throwing lesson.

“Watch your release time!” Julia giggles. Julius goes off to find a pole or something to knock the knife down with. I walk back to the bar and add another shot to my coffee, and grin at Julia. “Thou art greatly skilled, madam.”

“Thou art not, kind sir.”

“Too true, that.” She picks up her coffee as well, coughs, and sips some more. Maybe I made it too hot. She coughs again, and I look up. Her shoulders are shaking, trying to keep the coughs in.

“You alright?” She looks up from her coffee, and her face is evil again.

“Y’know.. you really suck at throwing knives.” I snort.

“Too true, that. But hey, it’s only my first time.”

“Yeah, I suppose.” She looks at her watch, and then looks over at Julius, who’s hunting through the tools for a long enough pole, then back at me. “Here.” She quickly chucks me one of those little guns, and I check it out. Six rounds. It’s loaded, too. “Slide it in your pocket!” She hisses at me, still watching Julius. I comply and she makes a show of lazily going over to put the other one in the container, and comes back.

“You didn’t need to do that, y’know.”

“I figure a gun’s a good thing to have.”

Well, yeah, but all the sneaking around was kinda unnecessary. I work here, remember? I can take guns home any time I like.” She goes a little red, and drains her coffee.

“Forgot. Guess there’s still alcohol in my system.”

“You want another one?” She checks her watch.

“Nah. Hey, you wanna head back or something?” Julius wanders over with a pole and starts batting at the knife. I wonder what he’ll do when he knocks it down?

“Sure. Wait a moment…” I drain my coffee as well, and feel it perking me up almost immediately.

“Hey Julius, we’re going back to the party, OK?”

“OK! I’ll be there a little after midnight. Remind Job it’s his shift then.”

“Will do. Seeya!” He wanders back to the pile of tools to find a longer pole. As we straddle the bike, Julia snorts.

“What?”

“I seriously don’t think he’s gonna get that knife down.” I look at it. It’s pretty high up. I snort.

“Neither. Ready?”

“Yep.” She flips her visor down and hugs me about the waist. We roar off.

We get to HQ at 11:20. Julia seems in a hurry to get back down, but I’ve got to lock the bike properly. She tugs at my arm, which is pretty useless of her, since no matter how strong she is – and she is – I’m a foot taller and way heavier. I walk slowly, ambling really, but when she looks at me, like I’m going to kill you, I speed up a bit. Just a bit.

We get down to the basement room at twenty-seven past. I spot Joan and we go over.

“How’s things back here?”

“Not as exciting as I hope they’re going to be soon. Probably not as exciting as where you just came from, eh, eh, eh.” I sigh.

“We just went to the warehouse for a coffee, Joan.”

“Oh yeah, that’s it.”

“That’s it.”

“Sure.” I realize he’s staring past my shoulder, not directly at me. What’s behind me? The door? Um, about twenty people, including Julia, and, I think, Job, I can see Jonathan by the stereo, so it’s not him. The toilets, the bedroom, the light switches… There’s an imperceptible twitch of Joan’s head.

The lights go out. The music stops. I spin around, and stare at where the door, and the light switches are. There’s silence, and then a kind of hum. One person starts it, then it catches on and I hear Joan humming, and Julia, who I can tell apart because her hum is coming from about a foot in front of me, and a foot down.

Hmmmmmm

I’m still staring at the door. I’ve just seen something, a little light. I can see the corner. Everyone around me’s humming, on one note. What the hell is happening?

The light’s warm yellow. It flickers. Fire! But everyone else is staring at it too, and no one’s raising any kind of alarm. Why the hell not? Surely we’re under attack, or something? There’s not much fire, though, and the people bringing it aren’t making any noise…

The fire turns the corner. It’s on top of a cake. It’s not candles, it’s little cakes, set on fire, thirteen of them, all over the cake, which is huge and square, and brown. Two Warriors are carrying it. The humming turns into song.

Happy Birthday to you…

Aw hell no…

Happy Birthday to you!

This is embarrassing.

Happy BIRTHday dear JA-AMES! As everyone who knows my name shouts as loud as they can, to drown out the mumbles of others who obviously weren’t listening to whatever briefing there was earlier. Surely all this can’t be for me?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOOOOUUU! The cake reaches me, and I try like hell to blow out all the flambé-ed cakes in one breath. It doesn’t work, so I do it in three.

HUFFFFFF!

Hang on, I’m supposed to make a wish. HUFFFFFFF!

Hmm, OK, so I wish… HU… I finish my thought quickly, off the top of my head that Julia and I will be together forever… FFFFFFF! The last cake-candle goes out and everyone cheers. The lights come back on, and someone passes me a machete.

Hang on, what the hell? The cake’s still there. Oh, right. I slice it up, nine one way, nine the other, a hundred slices. Everyone’s gonna have to have half of one. It’s a good thing there’s so much cake, I don’t know if it’s gonna stretch far enough as it is. I take a slice of cake and Joan grabs one of the candles, taking a huge bite and grinning. Julia takes some cake, and they move off. I’m a little shell-shocked. Julia grins at me.

“Surprised?” I nod. “Jezebel made the cake. And the candles. She’s a pretty good cook, I think she used to be a caterer.” I nod again, and take a bite of my cake.

Holy sh… oes, Jezebel’s a good cook.

“The candles are awesome,” says Joan, buzzing a little closer. “Muffins soaked in brandy. Brilliant.” He takes another bite of his, and I wonder if, big as he is, the booze is getting to him. He’s been drinking most of the night after all. Job comes over with a candle, and he’s definitely showing a few affects. He claps me on the back.

“Hey Joan, hey James. Hey… uh…”

“This is Julia James. We’ve been hanging out.”

“Julia James?” He giggles. I didn’t think it was possible for a man over twenty to actually giggle. “That’s brilliant.”

“Match made in heaven, I reckon,” adds Joan. “They’ve been ‘hanging out’ most of the night. Gone some very private places. Twice.” He’s even making the little punctuation mark signs with his fingers.

“C’mon, Joan, we went for a drive on my motorbike. Out in the country. Then we went for a coffee. And you kept bloody texting me. You rang, once. It takes ages for the ring tone to stop, you know that?” He looks kind of confused.

“I didn’t ring you.”

“You must’ve forgotten.”

“Hmm, maybe.”

“How much’ve you had?”

“I dunno. But I’m not so drunk that I’ll forget things, James. Just tipsy.”

“Whatever. Oh, hey, did you see the King Street Killer guy today?”

“Who? Oh, Judas. Yeah.”

Judas, eh? Judas Jones.

“Did you ask about that text?”

“Yeah. He said it wasn’t him; he left his phone at their HQ a few nights ago and forgot about it. Someone must’ve picked it up.” Joan’s such a good liar that I can’t tell if it’s the truth or not.

“What text?” asks Job. Julia looks like she wants to ask the same question.

“Oh, nothing really. Something about guns, but James didn’t know the number, so I figured out who it was and asked how he got the number.”

Definitely a good liar. The liar looks at his watch.

“Hey, it’s almost midnight, James. I’m getting a little tired. Wanna go home?” Oh yes. He needs to talk with Judas at midnight, and he wants me home first. I’m pretty sure he was lying now.

“Can I come back on my bike later?” I ask. I grab Julia’s hand, to make his mind drift in the right direction.

“’Course. Not too late, bro.”

“I’ll walk you to your car,” says Job. “I’ve got my shift coming up. At midnight.” The two move towards the door, chatting. I stare after them, and Julia excises her hand from mine.

“What’s happening?” I don’t answer. I’m staring at the door, turning things over in my mind. Judas Jones, brother of the murdered José… Even his name sounds traitorous, and let’s not forget he probably taught his little brother everything he knew. Meeting his brother’s murderer on the murdering bridge.

And Joan wanted me safely tucked up in bed, like I was meant to be when he went to meet José. I make a decision and start striding towards the doorway. Julia, worried now, runs after me. I’m walking too fast. I slow down for her.

“James, what the hell?” Her voice is behind me. She’s stopped. I turn around, and she looks worried and angry. For some reason, I hope I get to know that face real well. But then again, she doesn’t need to be involved in any of this. I go back to her.

“I’m sorry, Julia. You don’t have to be involved in this if you don’t want to be. Judas Jones sent me a text, which sounded pretty threatening. He’s set up a meeting with Joan on Bridge Kanulu, and I think they’re going to talk about it.”

“I don’t see the problem. It’s just a meeting.”

“Maybe not. See, Judas is José Jones’ brother. Joan killed José. I need to be there, at least to watch. You don’t have to come.” Her eyes go wide, and I repeat my final sentence. Her eyes go narrow, and I really hope I get to know that expression.

“Let’s go.”

“I don’t want Joan to see me, though. He can’t have me on his mind.”

“OK.”

We sneak up the stairs, and they’re already gone. I check through a window, quickly.

“They’re outside Joan’s car, chatting.” I take another quick look. “Oh, wait, Joan’s getting in his car. Job’s just helping him put the chair in. Yeah, there it goes.” I duck back under the window.

“What does Joan do when there’s no-one to put his chair in the back for him?” I think about it for a bit.

“I’ve no idea. Maybe he climbs over the back seats?” Outside, engines start. I wait ten seconds, and check out the window again. They’re driving off in opposite directions. “They’re gone. C’mon.” We go out the door, I unlock my bike and climb on. Julia puts a hand on my arm.

“We’re gonna have to be careful. They’ll already be there when we arrive.”

“No they won’t. I’m gonna take a shortcut.”

“OK.” She climbs on the bike behind me. “What’s the shortcut?” I grin, even though she can’t see it.

“You’ll see.”

I gun it and spin us out of the parking lot, following Joan’s taillights. My headlight’s not on until he goes ‘round the corner.

Thank God for that coffee.

My shortcut’s pretty simple. At the end of the road we’re on now, there’s a T-junction, and on the other side of that, there’s a park. Not a playground park, an old-person park, with long curving paths and trees and a huge fountain in the middle. I quite like it there, and so does Joan. We’ve spent ages in there. There’s heaps of birds and the fountain’s got fish in it. None of the paths are straightforward, but I’ve walked every one of them, and know the quickest way everywhere, which I normally avoid. On the other side of the park, there’s a short road, and then there’s Bridge Kanulu.

Joan can’t go through the park, he has to go around. It’s a detour of three kilometers, the park’s that big. My bike, though, is the perfect size for those curving paths.

I shoot through the junction without looking – I didn’t see headlights coming from either direction – and hit the first path. The council even put a little wheelchair ramp right there, which Joan likes. So do I, now.

I shoot along paths, banking heavily on the little curves, and they’re all little curves. I’d go across the grass, but I’m afraid my bike’s too heavy. I’m at the fountain in no time anyway, and we freak out a couple kissing on one of the benches. As we hurtle past, I swear I hear the guy shout encouragement.

And then we’re approaching the other side. This is the bit I’ve been dreading. One of the path’s – the one we’re on, since it’s the one that goes over the street – goes to street level down three steps.

Bikes don’t do steps. I speed up a bit more. We’re gonna have to go airborne.

“Hold tight!” I scream to Julia, and somehow she hears me. The edge, looking like a cliff, is rushing towards us, faster and faster. I hunker down low, and grip the bike with my knees. Julia’s helmeted head is in the small of my back and her arms are cutting off my air. Dead straight and even, that’s the way to do it, I’ve done jumps on my push-bike a thousand times…

We’re sailing. The world is in sync, everything co-existing with everything else, and it’s all part of the huge, perfect plan of nature that’s been working for millennia. The sound of the engine dies away, squirrels squeak and bird twitter, and that’s when I realize my brain’s filling in the gaps, because the only birds awake at the moment go HOOT…

There’s a jarring impact and the world comes back on-line. Adrenaline floods my body, and the motorbike feels twice as powerful between my legs. We go another three hundred metres, and I stop, perfectly. A textbook stop, only I’m on the footpath. I switch off the engine and kill the lights, and realize I’m giggling nervously.

Julia must’ve taken the helmet off, because she hits me on the head with it. “Idiot,” she mutters, but she’s grinning too. “That was so awesome, but let’s never do it again, OK?”

“Deal,” I grin back.

There’s an engine. I look behind, but it’s not coming from there, too quiet… Julia points to the other side of the bridge. There’s headlights, driving up onto it, too slow to have any intention of going over.

The car stops and Judas gets out. He goes round to the bonnet and sits on it. Without engines going, it’s perfectly quiet, and I can hear the fzzz of his lighter as he lights a cigarette. His gaze sweeps down the road. As it passes us I flinch, and he looks back. I immediately start kissing Julia as hard as I can. When I look up, he’s looking back at the corner.

“That was smart. He’s discounted us now, I think,” she says, so quietly I have to almost lip-read her words. I snort. Grinning. It wasn’t just smart.

“D’you think he’s coming? He hasn’t shown up yet, it can’t be that far around…”

“He’ll come. But would you hurry?”

“Guess not.” We’re whispering, with our arms around each other, so if he looks a us, he’ll discount us again. Making him discount us is fun.

There’s another engine, and all three of our gazes snap to the corner. Joan’s car comes around, ten K below the limit. Cruising. He drives right past a kissing couple and onto the bridge.

We’re the kissing couple, by the way. It’s a good disguise. But when Joan drives up onto the bridge, all eyes are on him. Neither of the two is looking at us, so we’re fairly safe to stare. Joan’s window winds down and he swings out of it, one handed, on to his bonnet then pulls his legs after him.

Judas offers him a cigarette, which he accepts. The old one, now a stub, is thrown to the ground, and two cigarette’s are lit, in the night air. It’s dead quiet, until, after a few puffs each, Joan plucks his cigarette from his mouth, and says in a puff of smoke “So?”

“So.”

“What’s the deal, Judas? Why the bridge?”

“I thought it appropriate.”

“Screw appropriate, this is just a meeting to talk about a text you sent my brother.” So it was Judas. Joan lied to me. Which means he felt he needed to lie, so he’s wary. Good.

“Language,” says Judas, voice soft, somehow. “All in good time. Enjoy your cigarette.”

Joan puffs, angrily. I picture him as a dragon.

“You know, Joan… I really hate you.”

“That’s understandable,” Joan replies, happier now that things are happening.

“No, you misunderstand me. I really, really hate you, Joan. With every fiber of my fibrous being, I hate you.”

Joan stubs his cigarette out on the bonnet.

“Why do you hate me so much, then? I know you want me to ask.”

“I’ll tell you, although you really should have guessed. You murdered my little brother, Joan.”

“It wasn’t murder, it was self-defense. And world-defense. He was a mad dog; he needed to be put down.” Judas flicks his cigarette off the bridge into the water, where it’ll probably be eaten by some fish or other. Who’ll die of poisoning. Bastard.

He stands up. Steely. He seems angrier, and now his voice has lost its softness – there’s an edge in there, hidden, but about to come out.

“My brother… was not a dog.”

“Isn’t it better if we pretend he was? If he wasn’t a dog, he was a human, correct?”

“Correct.”

“Which would then mean he was fully in control of himself, and able to stop when he did the things he did. But he didn’t.”

“I know this, Joan. But you killed him. Doesn’t that make you as bad?”

“It does, and I’ve had to live with his murder, and others, every day of my life. The only way I get through each day without killing myself is by telling myself they deserved. If a man holds a knife to my throat, he deserves to die. If a man holds a knife to my little brother’s throat, he deserves to die.” Joan looks Judas in the eye. “If a man breaks a truce, and another, and as a consequence I lose three of my limbs, that man deserves to die.”

“You broke truce first.”

“Is that what he told you? He lied. We had a truce, you Killers and us Warriors, then as now. Correct?”

“Correct.”

“We were even friends, of a sort, your brother and I.” Joan’s slipped into storyteller mode. He normally does that when making something up for me, but this is all cold, hard truth. His eyes are watching every move Judas makes, and his one hand is resting on the bonnet, just by his pocket, where I know he’ll have a gun. I know he’s safe, no matter what Judas does. He’s continuing, “But then, one day, I went to visit my mother’s grave. I’d taken José there once, you know.” Joan looks up to see what effect he’s having. Judas’ expression is unreadable. “I talked to mum for a bit, you know the kind of one-sided conversations you have at tombstones… And José stopped me. I think he was drunk. ‘What you talkin’ for, men?’ he asked me. ‘She can’t hear you, she’s gone.’

“‘I know,’ I said, ‘I do it for myself, not for her. It helps me go on.’ He went off for a bit, and I kept talking.” I’m intrigued, despite myself. I hadn’t known this. “And then I knelt down to put a couple flowers on my grave, and he came back, and hit me. I fell over, and he grabbed the flowers up to shake in my face. ‘It’s a waste! You’re pretending! There’s nothing but dirt underneath that stone!’ he shouted at me. He threw the flowers to the ground and stood on them.

“Then, he unzipped his pants and let loose a liter of recycled beer onto my dead mother.” Judas’ expression is of fixed horror. “I could take being knocked over. That’s an insult to me. I don’t really care about that. But insulting my mother, that’s taking it too far. You understand that, right? I had to fight him. We’re both pretty good fighters. I figured we’d scuffle for a bit, get a bloody lip each and go home and forget about it. I wasn’t about to fight in a cemetery though, so we scheduled it for that night. By the playground, each of us alone.

“José didn’t come alone. He brought his two favorite apes with him. They were always hanging around with him back then, I don’t know why. But he brought them that night, and I wasn’t prepared for it. They beat me up, slashed the tires on my bike and left me. I had to walk home. It was almost midnight by that time. I cleaned myself up and went to bed. I was actually ready to forgive and forget the entire incident. I’d got what I wanted, a good fight, even though it wasn’t clean or fair.

“So the next day I went back to the playground to pick up my bike. I took both my spare tires, and walked there. It took a while, and they were heavy, and I was tired by the time I got there.

“José was waiting for me. He had a knife with him, and he attacked me. I wasn’t ready for him, and he knocked me down pretty fast. He slashed me across the chest with his knife and while I was curled up around it, He bashed me in the face with the butt of his knife. When he figured my face was disfigured enough, he started jumping on my legs until they were broken beyond repair, as you can see.” He motions down his body.

“When that was done, he started jumping on my arm. He jumped on my arm, smashing the bones until I lost consciousness from the pain, and when I woke back up, he was still jumping on my arm. Can you imagine the pain? Having the bones in your arm slowly turned to fuckin’ powder? Your brother put me in hospital for a week, and destroyed every limb but this one, which he thought was a great joke. He asked me why I wasn’t punching him, the son of a bitch.

“When I got out, I had to fight him. Tit for Tat, and I knew, from his idea of a joke, that if no-one stopped him, he’d do this again and again. So I killed your brother, and Judas, I’m sorry. I wish I didn’t, but he had to be stopped.” Judas looks thoughtful.

“How do I know you’re not lying?”

“My legs. My arm. I didn’t do this to myself.”

“Yes, but that’s not proof that my brother did. Any actual proof that you can show me?”

Joan’s face is starting to look a bit scared. His story didn’t work. He pats his pocket, and only I see his face go a little empty. His gun must be in his car!

“Well, you can always ask the apes.”

“Apes. Again with the derogatory animals. And I believe you called my mother a bitch.”

“What? No, I didn’t. When did I say that?”

“Just now. You called my brother a ‘son of a bitch.’” Pardon me, but I believe that’s offensive to my mother. And isn’t that what started all this off?”

“I’m sorry, Judas. I really am.” Judas spits.

“Sorry! My little brother is dead. I’ve wanted to send you after him for years, but that won’t change the fact that my brother is dead. I hate you for that, Joan, I’ve hated you for years. Hate for you is what kept me together.”

“I don’t hate you, Judas.” Judas howls.

“I know, and that’s the problem! I want you to hate me, as much as I hate you, I want you to feel as much pain as I did. I actually came up with a plan.”

“Did it hurt?”

“SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Judas roars. Joan bows, as well as he can.

“I wanted you to share my pain. The pain you caused by killing my little brother. And how to cause you that much pain?” He grins, or at least shows his teeth. “I wanted to kill your little brother.” Joan goes stiff, and empty.

“James.” It’s just one word, but if he sounded like that talking to me, I’d run away.

“James. I texted him, and then I actually called him tonight.” So it was him! Julia hugs me a little tighter. “I still wanted to kill him, see. I didn’t want to kill you, that was always plan B. You don’t feel much pain when you die, see.” He pulls out a gun, and points it at Joan. I go stiff as a board, but he seems unconcerned. He actually leans back on the windscreen, arm dangling down by the open window. “Of course, this is all hypothesizing on my part. I don’t actually know. Would you like to find out, Joan?” Joan’s hand dips in through the window of his car, and suddenly there’s a rattle of gunfire, and Joan’s left arm ends at the elbow. He stares at his new stump in horror. No limbs left. “Can’t let you go for your gun, can I?” I recognize the gun now. It’s one of ours, a desert eagle. It’s got a clip of thirty rounds, and can fire short or long bursts, and easily take off an arm.

“Judas, your brother would have killed more and more people… he would have knifed anyone in that playground if they showed up while he was mutilating me, you know that. Don’t animals that kill need to be put down?”

“Shut up.”

“Judas…”

“I SAID SHUT UP!” Judas comes forwards fast, to the now defenseless Joan, shouting in his face, gun pressed against his forehead. His eyes close, and his lips move silently, and Judas moves away.

“I’m going to kill you, Joan.” Joan breathes heavily, then opens his eyes, and stares at Judas. They’re intense, as always, but he’s accepted defeat.

“I know.” I’m horrified. What can I do? Nothing, I have nothing and Judas has a desert eagle. Maybe I should charge him?

Before I can make up my mind, there’s another rattle of gunfire, and Joan curls up. He’s been shot in the stomach. I know he’s going to die, and there’s still nothing I can do. Look over here, Joan, look at me. See me before you die.

Either God doesn’t have a romantic soul, or I’m not telepathic enough, but Joan never looks. It wrenches at my chest how he doesn’t look. Judas raises the gun again. Good. Kill him quickly, Judas, please, and one day I might be able to forgive you. But for now, I hate this man.

There’s another long rattle of gunfire, as Judas pours round after round into the bonnet of the car. He empties a clip and starts putting in another, and the car explodes. He jumps backwards, and I see my chance. I gun the engine and shoot forward, towards the bridge. Judas looks up and recognizes me.

He grins. Julia’s screaming behind me, and one of her hands is in my pocket, then she’s hitting me.

What? What? Julia, he’s reloading, we’re about to die! Ow! Hell, what’re you hitting me with?

She’s hitting me with the little curved pistol. I silently bless her hand, and grab the little gun, firing at Judas twice. The arm that was about to shoot at me jerks, and the gun falls. I’m still accelerating, and getting closer and closer. I fire, once, twice more, and miss.

Judas looks at me, then his car. Both of us can do the mental equation, and there’s no way he can get away. I’ll be on him before he even turns the key.

He sprints for the guardrail.

I fire at him twice more as he goes over, but I don’t even care if I hit him or not. Joan’s car is a fireball, and somewhere in the middle of it, maybe he’s still alive. I don’t even let the bike stop before I jump onto what used to be the bonnet, face screwed up against the heat, grab what’s left of him and hurl us both off.

I beat the flames out with my hand, and try to remember how you can tell if someone’s alive. Heartbeat. I put my ear near his chest, but I can’t hear anything. That might be because I didn’t press my ear to his chest, but he’s still hot to the touch.

No. Joan can’t be dead. Joan doesn’t die. Where everyone else falls over Joan keeps going. Joan’s always there, and he can’t not be there, because he’s Joan. He’s my Joan. And if I don’t have Joan, I don’t have anything.

OK, let’s pretend he’s alive. Mouth-to-mouth, that’s it, c’mon. I place my lips to his, not even caring that they blister, and breathe. Air comes whistling out his nose. I pinch it, and try again. HUFFFF. He sounds like one of my candles.

Suddenly, Julia’s there. She puts an ear to his chest, one of her pretty ears touching that flesh so hot it’s still making parts of his shirt smolder.

Wordlessly, she hugs me. I feel her tears, and press my face into her hair. Julia. I still have Julia. I whisper her name, and sob into her shoulder, on my knees. She holds me and cries, her tears sliding down both our faces.

Ten minutes later, I raise my head from her sodden neck, and hold her close. I stare at what’s left of my big brother – limbless, huge, dead.

“We have to tell Job,” whispers Julia, into my neck. I nod. “Can you drive a car?” I shake my head. “We’ll… we’ll have to leave him here, then. Let’s go on the bike. C’mon. Movement.” She grabs my hand, assertive, and tugs me back to life. We walk back to the bike, and drive to the warehouse. I don’t remember anything about that ride, but later, Julia’ll tell me it’s the fastest she’s ever gone in her life. I guess I didn’t really care about the limit at that point.

Job looks up when we drive in, then jumps up when he sees our faces. The knife’s still in the wall. That ought to be funny, but it isn’t.

José attacked Joan with a knife.

“Hey, guys, what’s wrong? You’ve been crying.”

“Job, Joan is…” I can’t say it, and turn to Julia.

“Joan went to Bridge Kanulu tonight, and met with José’s older brother, Judas.”

“I take it nothing good happened?” She shakes her head. “Oh my God. Is he still there?” She nods. “C’mon then. We’ve got to go.” He strides past us, out the door, to his car. I stumble after him, holding Julia. We get in the back and Job blasts off. We reach the bridge in record time, and he’s talking on his phone before he’s out of the car. “I want three men here now. No, I mean now. Do it!”

He takes a blanket from the boot, and reverentially wraps Joan in it, then places him in the boot again. Warriors drive up. He organizes them to take care of the area, taking away both cars, blood, bullet casings. I sit in the back with Julia, and watch them clean up. Job puts his head in the window.

“Joan was one of my best friends.” I know. “James, this is going to be hard for you. And for us. But I promise you, we’ll get you through this, OK? We’ll get you through. We’ll take care of you, James.” He places a hand on my shoulder and then he’s gone. I stay there. It’s started to rain, heavy, dark and blatting. Maybe God has a romantic soul after all.

I sit there, as the bridge makes the jobs of the Warriors of Bridge Kanulu easier. I sit there, a Warrior of Bridge Kanulu, mourning another Warrior of Bridge Kanulu. I sit there, in the back of the car of the leader of the Warriors of Bridge Kanulu, holding tight to a Warrior of Bridge Kanulu.

Rain puts out the flames in Joan’s car. And rain washes Bridge Kanulu clean.

Rain, mixed with blood and gasoline and the occasional bullet casing, flows off the bridge into the river, swelling it. It sweeps away burnt pieces of clothing. It tries to sweep away the car. The one thing it can’t sweep away is my hate for the man who killed my brother.

Rain, blood and revenge, all flow under Bridge Kanulu in the end.

* * *

That was two years ago now. The King Street Killers, having broken allegiance twice now, came under the full weight of the Bridge Kanulu Warriors, and were pulverized. There’s just a scattered handful left, all in hiding. Every Warrior knows their faces, and we’re to kill on sight. Judas is still alive, though, and I consider this an oversight.

One day, I’ll find him.

* * *

Tchunk… tchunk… tchunk…

The rhythmic sound of knives thudding into painted wood is the only sound, as Julia and I both concentrate on our targets. Every ring on the target is worth a set amount of points, and we have a competition every time we come here. My target is twenty metres away, hers only fifteen, but our points are dead even, and we’ve both had three perfect bulls-eyes so far. She’s missed entirely more than me. Normally when I get ahead on points.

After Joan’s death two years ago, I turned to the gang for guidance and comfort, just like Joan had eight years before that, when Mum died. They made me feel more welcome, and I started spending more and more time among them. I knew that’s what they wanted, but I didn’t care. It worked for me. Job had lost his younger brother in a gang fight, and we kind of adopted each other to fill the gap. Julia stayed by my side the whole time.

The gang started giving me bigger and bigger jobs. First it was just more hours at the gun warehouse, and I still swipe in there, occasionally. Then I was going along with Job when he went selling, armed to the teeth with guns that were expensive, and impossible to find with just a routine frisk. Then I was selling on my own, only to men I already knew.

And they started giving me extensive combat training. I started with knives, to spend more time with Julia, but pretty soon I was better than her. I don’t really need this practice we’re doing now, and I’m only missing sometimes to keep Julia’s score even with mine. She insists on having the target at least fifteen metres away, even though her best range is something closer to ten. Mine could be another ten away and I’d still be able to carve a face in it with my knives. Next was guns, and I’m now able to fire every kind of gun, but more importantly I can load them, cock them, repair them, take them apart and put them back together again, and hit a target a hundred metres away, with or without a scope. Once, they put up a picture of Judas a hundred metres away and I put five bullets through its head and one through its chest in less than three seconds.

God, I want to kill the motherfucker so bad. He’s in hiding, still. From me. Those of his gang still able to monitor events here’ll be telling him how proficient at killing I’ve become.

After guns, they taught me close-quarter fighting, first with my hands, then with everything. I can kill in five ways with my hands, and there’s not an object in the world I can’t kill somebody with. I once picked up a playing card, and asked Julius how you could possibly kill somebody with it, and then listened interestedly as he outlined five vicious, quick ways to kill somebody with the three of clubs. One was to challenge them to a game of poker to the death, and give it to them. He’d said that was least likely to work. But he also showed me how to kill with a stud from his ear – a matter of finding the exact right spot, and only for use once they’re already incapable of movement.

I got my ear pierced after that. And, since I’m a millionaire, the stud is real gold, solid gold, and there’s a diamond in it. I gave Julia some, too, and she wears them most of the time now. She’s almost as deadly as I am. Maybe she can help me kill Judas.

Tchunk-unk-unk. A knife whirrs past each of my ears, and one over the top of my head straight into the wall, snapping me back to the present. Julia’s standing in front of me, a fresh knife in each hand, looking ready to give me a haircut at five paces.

“Time to go, motorbrain. C’mon, our time’s up.” She takes my hand and pulls me after her. I may be bigger by a foot and a half and almost fifty kilograms in muscle, but the girl’s still stronger than she should be.

“I can pay for another hour.” I can. Joan’s money came to me, and I don’t even bother thinking about how much I spend now. His estimate at ten million was about ten million off.

“There’s a queue, and you already paid for two extra hours. Anyway, I don’t want another hour, I want a coffee. C’mon, James, or do I have to seduce you away from your murderous weapons?”

“Well, I can’t really say I’d mind, but management might complain.”

“Hmm, I suppose so. Well, there’s always the back of the coffee shop toilets, I suppose, where I can seduce you away from your reflection. Honestly, you’re too handsome, someone’ll try to steal you from me and then I’ll have to kill them.”

“Now, now, you can’t do that. They’d be on their way to Timbuctoo about three minutes after their fist sight of you, anyway, you’re fierce.” I rustle her hair, and she snaps her teeth at my hand.

“Fierce? Boy, you ain’t seen nothin’,” she promises, darkly.

“I suppose I’m going to see it, then?”

“Oh yeah. Oh yeah.”

“Hope I see it at the back of the coffee shop toilets, then.

.

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