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weird, willy wonka
maccalla
I've won! 50, 333 words!
And I've discovered a kind of cheating way to get an LJ-cut, which involves copy-pasting, HTML code, and three half-hours spent staring at my old computer's screen watching it try to hack into microsoft without even an internet connection. It didn't work. So I decided to get past my writer's block and get writing a little more.
I've also reformatted the whole thing so that it's like an actual book. No double-spacing and indents for new paragraphs. Dunno if it'll show up on LJ.

OK, my cheating cut didn't work. I'll have to email LJ about that.
But still. Here's the final bit, and I'm going to keep posting, more slowly now that the deadline is April 1 (When Script Frenzy starts!) but still going. And nothing before my final exam, French, on Wednesday.
Bye for now!

“Judas?”

“Yeah, Judas.”

He mutters to his mate briefly, and I catch the words “Judas,” “new” and “shit.” I grin. I’m getting closer.

“We know a Judas. A pretty-boy.” I nod, even though it wasn’t a question. “Just joined up. But like I said, you got no chance in hell of getting in to see him. You set foot in Onda territory and you’re dead.” I raise my hands in a conciliatory gesture.

“It’s cool, I’ll find somewhere else. But d’you guys know where I can get hold of him? I haven’t seen him in years.” I’m just beginning to realize, that if they call him “pretty-boy” and “shit”, they’re tougher than hell, and saying I was his friend wouldn’t have been a good move. I hear a knuckle crack, and promise myself I’ll get out of there in the next three minutes, information or no.

“We don’t know where he lives.”

“Anywhere you know he hangs out?” About half the bar is watching me now, talking to these tough Onda guys, trying to pump them for information. I wonder if they’re all Onda… Now that I look around, I’m the only white person in the bar.

“I don’t know his habits outside the gang, and Onda territory is Onda territory. You’re not Onda and you never will be.” Another knuckle cracks. Someone coughs, and my trained ears catch a soft chk-chk. It suddenly got too dangerous for me in here.

“Ok, guys, take it easy. I’m gonna leave now.” They let me stand up, and even let me get to the door, but I know I’m gonna have to get outta there fast before they come out after me. I kick my bike into life right there in the alley.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see someone come out of the bar, as I fly around the corner.

Five blocks later I come to a stop. I haven’t seen any bikes coming after me. They must have thought I wasn’t worth the bother. For the first time in my life, I’m happy to be discounted. If it keeps me alive, I’m happy.

But I’ve got information now. Judas is here, and he’s joined this gang, Onda, or some longer version of it, I doubt that’s the full name, just like I call myself a Warrior when I don’t want to impress the fullness of Bridge Kanulu on people. There’s no KSK here, but that doesn’t mean anything. He’s hated, and judging by those Onda guys, that might mean he’s going to die soon. I don’t want them to kill him. I want to do it myself.

I can’t let them kill him. Which means I’ve got to find him fast. The only lead to him I have is Onda, and the only lead I have to Onda is those two guys.

Scared stiff, I start wheeling my bike back to the alley bar. What I wouldn’t give for back-up, ten Warriors of Bridge Kanulu by my side.

* * *

I don’t actually go into the bar. I’m not suicidal, I think it’s too close to being Onda territory for the casual drinker. Instead, I sit five shops down, on the other side of the street, in a bookshop, pretending to read in one of the comfy chairs they have there. I’m watching for the two bearded Mexicans, but they don’t come out. Heavy drinkers.

I stay there for an hour and they don’t come out. I move to another shop, for a better view of the alley, and pull out my phone to act as if I’m connecting to a network. I actually do connect, by mistake, and decide to check out Onda. I tap it into Google.

Their full name is La Onda, which is Spanish for “the wave,” and it turns out they’re another gang run out of an American Prison, but it’s the biggest. I think, because I can’t quite remember the name, that it’s the same prison as the Aryan Vanguard of Bridge Kanulu. I’ll have to ask them about that. It doesn’t really matter. A more interesting fact is their motto, Blood in, blood out. There’s an explanation. You can only get into Onda by killing an enemy, the victim’s status depending on your status, and what you want to be in the gang. And the only way out is to die.

I just got out of a bar full of murderers. I thank God for my size. It’s working for me again.

I sit there, surrounded by wool, watching the alley. Other people on bikes come in and go out, but I don’t see either of the bearded ones. Maybe I should follow one of the others. Just as I think that, though, they come out.

Hah. Murphy’s second law.

They’re just idling their bikes really, not going anywhere fast. I have plenty of time to get to my bike and fire it up.

I’m more careful following them than I ever have been. I make a mental note to tell Julius that sneaking and following should be in my training. It’d be more useful than killing with frisbees anyway. I stay as afar back as I can, and race to each corner as they turn it, trying to get a glimpse of them before they turn the next one. I don’t think they see me.

They stop outside a building that looks like a cut-rate motel. There’s more cars outside than there should be, and bikes too. I’m guessing this is HQ. I’ve struck gold.

I’m not going in. My luck for the day’s completely used up. It’s time to go back to the hotel, to Julia. I wonder if she’ll still be in the pool. And I wonder, I think, as I sped away from the cheap dive, if it’d be better if she is or isn’t.

It turns out he is, and getting very wrinkled around fingers and toes. I change into my togs, and sneak up on her underwater, grabbing her hips. She screams, and kicks me before turning around, and punching me in the stomach. Lucky I knew it’d be coming. My abs are already clenched hard, and all she hurts is her fist. I’m quite proud of my abs. They’re hard as a wall. Julia hates them.

“Bastard.”

“Nah. Have fun here while I was out risking life and limb in order to take both from someone else?”

“And limb, huh? I thought you just had life in mind.”

“Well, I could just do life, but slicing off his arm first would be closer to tit-for-tat.”

“Both arms and legs?”

“Nope. José already paid that debt.”

“True.” She puts her arms around me and leans against my stomach. Her head’s only at the very bottom of my chest.

“How’d it go, anyway?” I tell her about the hobo, and the bar. She slaps me around the face when I tell her I kept talking after I’d heard the first knuckle clicked. Ow. There’s no protective layer of muscle in my face, and she’s got a lot on her arms.

“Idiot! What would’ve happened if they’d gotten angry faster?”

“I would have killed them all. But they didn’t.” I say it calmly, matter-of-factly. I would have killed them. She knows it’s true.

“What better way to leave a calling card on Onda?”

“Can’t think of any way. Anyway, I didn’t get any more useful information before I got out of there…” I finish my story, and she looks thoughtful.

“So we’re gonna have to watch HQ. How are we gonna do that? Get a room at the motel?” She looks around herself, at all the things our five-star hotel has to offer, imprinting them in her memory.

“Only as a last resort. I don’t want to. We can probably find some place with a view of the front, and sit there for ages. The canoodling couple routine might work again.”

“You like that routine, don’t you?”

“I love that routine.”

“You suggest it so often. I think we must be getting good at it.” I like this. Banter is fun.

“Always room for more improvement.”

“If you say so. Maybe we should practice then, before tomorrow?” Which means, among other things, that she doesn’t want me to do anything until tomorrow. Fine by me.

We’re standing close together in the middle of the pool., There’s others in the pool, but we’re not bothered for not moving, my musculature makes people respect me, and if that doesn’t, Julia’s strong-looking make them pause. For now though, we just look like an ordinary couple, albeit an ordinary couple who pulled both ends of the height straw, sweet-talking in the pool, along with at least four others.

We leave the pool in exchange for our room, public for private. There’s a Jacuzzi there, but we don’t have to wear togs inside. So we don’t.

Afterwards we stay in the room, talking, thinking. We order room service for dinner, I call Job, report what’s happening, and we go to sleep tangled in each other’s arms in the king-sized bed.

Next day I sit my girlfriend on my bike and take her to the most dangerous place in the entire city. We find a nice little coffee shop down the street from the motel, and the staff don’t mind us staying all day so long as we keep buying coffee. By noon I’m jittery from the caffeine, and Julia’s had to go to the bathroom three times. My bike’s around the back, and my “kit” – ten throwing knives, two guns and a computer mouse, which should be fun finding a way to kill with – is under the seat, so I don’t have it on me when we get our first sight of Judas. He’s walking down the street with a bunch of other people. I’ve got my phone out, trying to find him online, so I take the opportunity to snap a few photos, without actually changing the angle at which I’m holding my phone. That would be suspicious.

Yeah, more suspicious than staying in the same coffee shop for an entire day. The staff had better be good at keeping secrets. It’s not exactly something I can ask about without arousing even more suspicion. All I can do is look menacing.

At four-thirty, we still haven’t seen him. The two bearded guys went in and came back after five minutes about one, and there was some excitement at three, when Julia spotted another of the King Street Killers coming out, which might mean he lives there, or is renting out a room. But it proves there’s other KSK here, and they’re definitely Onda. Not Judas though, not yet. The coffee shop staff are looking at us weird. One of them tried to come over and talk a couple of times, but each time he got nervous at my size and left without saying much. Mostly we just drink, even though the coffee isn’t as good as back home.

Another five minutes pass, and chairs start going up on tables. They want us gone. I nudge Julia and we stand up, acquiescing. We’ll probably take our time going to the bike and then spend the rest of the day either in the pool or in our room.

I reach the coffee shop door about two steps in front of Julia and Judas walks past it.

I freeze and Julia bangs into my back, then she freezes too. He seems not to have seen me. I hope so. My eyes follow him down the street, into the motel, and then I leave the coffee shop. They lock the door behind us and I get the feeling I won’t be welcome there again, although it’s hard to imagine how they could keep me out if I really wanted in. I start strolling, casually, along the street, eyes watching the building.

Judas is going for the stairs. He hasn’t stopped at the registration desk, and I can see him going up. He turns a corner in the stairs and is out of sight, but I spot him again on the next level. Still going up. I don’t see him on the next lot of stairs, so he’s somewhere on the third floor. I watch the windows, but no lights turn on, even though it’s starting to get dark.

Third floor, other side of the hallway. Sweet. Day well spent. We head for the bike.

Time for a working dinner, Bridge Kanulu style.

* * *

“So, well, we could try and find out what room he’s in, set up in a building with a view of his window and shoot him through that?”

“That’s a bit touch-and-go…”

“True. Well then, we could string up an anvil over the door and wait for him to walk underneath? Or get a few sticks of dynamite underneath the doormat…”

“Be realistic, James, please. We’re talking about killing him, here. It’s no little thing.”

“You’re right. Sorry.” This is just another one of those moments when I’m reminded she’s a year older than me.“So, how are we really gonna do it?” She stabs a slice of ham, and waits for my answer. I think about it, determined to find a good plan.

“I hate grotty buildings like that. It’s got no handy places. I mean, if we were the targets, here, we could find out what room we’re in within seconds, then masquerade as staff and hide in the room ‘til we get there. And kill ourselves with anything we wanted. But in there, people’ll get suspicious if I ask after him, and the staff probably clean about once a month, after guests leave.” She shudders. “What?”

“I just don’t like thinking about possible plans people could have to kill us.”

“Sorry. I’m just thinking of plans and discarding them.”

“OK. Just don’t phrase them like that.”

“Fair enough. Well, there’s always the hard-and-fast style. We somehow discover what room he’s in and then get there by killing everything in the way.”

“That’d probably end up with us shot.”

“Yeah, but it’s the best plan I’ve got so far. Is there any stealthy option?”

“I can’t think of one. Take out a room?” I shake my head.

“We’re white.” I state, simply. There’s no getting around that. The only people getting into that building are brown. She nods, gloomily.

“True. Right then, so hard and fast. Oh God, I hope we survive this.” I reach over the little table to touch her arm.

“We’ll survive it, Julia. I promise. I won’t let anyone touch you.” She smiles at me, but her eyes are still worried.

I have to admit, she’s got reason to be.

That night, I lay out what I plan to use. Loose-fitting pants for quick movement. A desert eagle in my left pocket, and another stuffed in my waistband. Ten weighted knives with marked hilts in sheaths sewn to the inside of my right pocket. That’s what I hope to use, but I’m also going to have a little rope coiled around my waist. Kevlar body armour underneath my hoodie, but none on my legs, because I’ll be wanting to run. I’ll wear my motorbike helmet..

Julia wanted to come, but I insisted she stay outside the building. She’ll be on my bike, scanning the area, keeping me in the loop by use of a mic in her helmet plugged into her phone, a slightly newer model than mine, and an earphone plugged into mine. She’ll have a gun and a few knives too.

We’re ready. I lie in bed and listen to my beautiful, dangerous girlfriend breathing softly beside me. The stars are visible outside my window, struggling to be seen through the lights of others not yet asleep, and the cloud of pollution. They’re being choked by humanity. That’s a bit of a depressing metaphor, but it’s true. Damn, it’s true. Humanity’s so good at choking we’re even doing it to the stars. We’re managing to kill off the most massive energy sources of the universe.

Almost makes what I plan to do seem a little better. Not that I’m actually looking for justification for what I consider to be, not as Joan would put it, the putting to sleep of a dangerous dog, but a fair trial, sentence and execution. His fair trial was life, and he failed. Sentence was passed when he killed Joan. Execution’s been delayed.

But not for much longer, I think, and smile grimly at the choking, coughing stars. Roll over and put an arm over Julia’s little body. Lie with lips against the top of her bare back, eyes closed, breathing her neck. Sleep, with the sleep of the innocent.

There’s nothing I feel ashamed of. I can sleep easy. It’s not a murder I’m planning, it’s an execution.

I wake next morning with my lips still against Julia’s back. We must both have slept so deeply we didn’t even roll. I roll now, out of the side of the bed, naked, arranging the covers around her. She huddles at the sudden cold where I’d slept. I go the bathroom for a shower, not making any noise I don’t have to. The water against my chest is the only noise. You’d think, wouldn’t you, for the amount of money I’m spending for this room per night, they’d have a shower head higher than mine? At least it’s relatively quiet. Maybe Julia’ll sleep all the way through the job, and not risk herself at all An idle hope. I can hear her stirring now. Ah well, I think. A creak of bedsprings tells me she’s rolled off the bed, and I turn slowly around to let the water rush over every part of me. At the end of my rotation, as I thought, Julia’s standing at the door. Naked.

She’s so damned sexy. Like, wow. I smile at her, and pretend not to notice what my nether regions are doing.

She smiles and joins me in the shower. I put my arms under hers and kiss her hungrily, while hers go around my neck. It might be the last chance we get.

Later, when we’ve both expressed ourselves, and got clean, we go down to the hotel dining room for breakfast. It’s actually our first time there. There’s a buffet table along one wall, and it’ll apparently just go on my bill at the end. The prices are horrible, but it doesn’t really matter. We get a massive stack of pancakes, with chocolate sauce poured liberally over the lot. Energy food. We plan to be quite active later. I’m worried about Julia, still. I don’t like her going anywhere near danger, and strong as she is, she’s still a girl, and still only five foot tall and light. It’s so easy to hurl her around.

At least she’s not going in the motel with you, I think, without checking for possible Murphy’s law repercussions first.

“I don’t see why I can’t go in the motel too.”

Damn you, Murphy, “Honey, I need a lookout. I’d love to have you with me, by my side,” Like hell, “but I do need you to watch. Please, we argued this already. There needs to be a lookout and a killer, and I’m better suited to storming a gang’s headquarters.” Ánd the only reason I’d want you by my side in that place is so I could keep you from being anywhere else. Or if I’d already killed everyone. What’s wrong with wanting to protect her?

“You just want to protect me. Admit it.”

Fuck off, Murphy!

“Yeah, I admit it. I don’t want you going into that hell-hole, because if you go in there without being thoroughly encased by a tank, I don’t think you’d be coming out. You’re strong, babe, stronger than most guys any age, but these are all murderers. They had to kill someone just to get into the gang. They’re all tough as hell, and throwing you into the mix would be a bad idea.”

“I can look after myself.”

“I know you can, but I’d be worried about you the whole time, and frankly, I’d rather have my mind on the task at hand.”

“James…”

“No. Please, Julia? I don’t want you in there except in the most extreme of circumstances.” The most extreme of circumstances being aliens lasering every part of the planet but that motel. You’re not going in there if I can help it. She gives in. I hate having to defeat her, but I’d hate it more if I didn’t. Her chin drops, and I want to hug her. “I love you too much to let you go in there.” A snort ripples through her body and she looks back at her pancakes.

“I know,” she whispers to them. I don’t know if she wanted me to hear it. We finish eating in silence, then head up to our room to change into killing clothes. Knives are tucked into sheaths, guns are holstered and pocketed. The rope is wrapped loosely, and Julia insists on having another coil hidden underneath her own shirt. I’ve got no qualms about that. Before I’m really ready, we’re on the bike, Julia driving. She’s gonna drop me off and zoom off, and I’m gonna walk in and avoid killing anyone until I have to. Hopefully it’ll explain my helmet sufficiently. Hopefully.

The plan works, for a while at least. I walk through reception, garnering a few weird looks, but no actual hostility. My brain’s working overtime, and I’m wondering about every aspect of the plan. I don’t really care about the weird looks, it’s not like I need to make a good impression on these people, I’ll hopefully be leaving Ardougne this afternoon. I’m also pointing out to myself all the problems. I still don’t know which room he’s in. I start up the stairs, taking them five at a time. There’s a door to what I assume is a broom cupboard at the bend, and then the stairs and at another door, which I go through. It leads to the corridor, and there’s another door, labeled “Stairs – up” I look at the door I’d just come through, and discover a label proclaiming it “Stairs – down” I keep going up. The flights seem too long, but that’s probably just my imagination working overtime. Since when have I taken notice of the length of flights of stairs? Oh holy hell, what if he’s not in his room? I think about this for about a second, then decide I’ll pretend I’m his friend again, and ask someone else on his level. Suddenly I hear Julia’s voice in my ear. “It’s pretty calm out here. I just saw you go past the second floor.” What’s she doing watching windows? I pound past another broom cupboard and reach the third floor. I don’t hear Julia’s voice, so she must have just seen me on her way around the block or something. Right, well, gotta knock on a door. I shove my left hand in my pocket and knock on the nearest door on the side facing the windows. Wait up, facing the windows. There’s all windows on the side of the hall. What the hell? I don’t have time to puzzle it out any further, though, as the door creaks open to the length of a chain and I grab my helmet off with one hand, right before a face appears in the gap.

The face is Mexican, with a weedy beard, and startled eyes. I know that face.

“You!” He doesn’t say anymore, because I jam my helmet back on my head and shoot him through my pocket. I kick the door in and his friend’s there. I’ve only got a couple of seconds, so I shoot him in the arm by way of hello.

“Where is Judas? Tell me, right now.” I have a knife out by now, hovering just above his eye. I can hear shouts, and running feet. A gun fires and a hole appears in the wall. They’re shooting through the goddamned walls! I grab Mr. Man by his neck and shove him up against the wall. “Tell me!” He whimpers a little.

“Not on this floor. He lives on the next floor down. I don’t know if he’s in. Please don’t kill me…” His eye strays over my shoulder and I drop him and spin around just in time to see the first member come in the door and see me with a gun in one hand and a knife in the other. He draws a gun and my knife slides into his left eye, and then I shoot the next guy as my hand strokes the knife hilts, searching for the next one. Two dashes on the hilt, chest knife One dash would mean head, three would be a stomach knife and five is for limbs. The chest knives are easiest to throw fast. No larger target that kills. I whip it out and throw it underhand at the next gang member to enter the room.

I can’t stay here, they’ll get me eventually. I kill another Mexican with my gun, and think of ways out. There’s a movement behind me and I kick Mr. Man in the nose as he reaches for something. He goes over backwards, howling. There’s a gunshot, and another hole opens up in the wall. The walls! The walls are weak. I throw another knife, then spin and charge at the wall, smashing through, a bullet grazing my side. I keep charging, into the gunman on the other side, and smash him into the opposite wall, which has support struts in it, as I discover when his arm breaks against one. A bullet from someone in the room behind me hits my kevlar vest and forces me onto him, smashing him further into the wall. I’ve got no time for anything else, and bash my way out his door.

The hallway’s not as full as I thought it would be, but there’s still enough gang members to, not exactly make me pause, because pausing will kill me, but to make me think harder, even while both my hands are dealing out death, and one foot as well, if they get close enough. The next floor down? No, because I saw him going up the stairs. And he wasn’t lying, because nobody has the presence of mind to lie when they’re that scared, and he was so scared I could literally smell it. I could too. He’d wet his pants. So what, then? I can’t think about it with my whole mind, but I’m slowly moving back towards the stairs. Wherever he is, it’s down. I kick a gang member with a gun, and shoot another one behind him, and scoop up his gun. Mine’s empty. I chuck my second-to last knife and dart down the stairs, a bullet pinging off my helmet as I turn. There’s a few people in the stairway, but I just run through them, and turn the corner, then, while no-one’s watching me, I grab the door to the broom cupboard and hurl myself in backwards, expecting to hit broom handles, maybe heads, a vacuum cleaner, and then the wall.

What I didn’t expect to hit was another person, pushing us both backwards several feet and then hitting the floor hard. Something cracks, and it’s not me, so it must be him. I keep moving, doing an awkward backward roll. There’s enough space to do so, and that actually does make me pause. This isn’t a broom cupboard. And since I doubt I’ve landed in Narnia…

This is the floor below. Well, it explains the extra-long stairways. I’m on my feet, looking around. There isn’t as much ruckus here, but there will be soon. I grab the guy I’ve landed on and throw him at the door to close it. He’s not Judas, so I grab him again, and press the gun into his chest, hissing “Judas?” He wets himself, too. I seem to be having that effect on people recently. He points at a door and I kick it down, disregarding him. As I enter Judas’ room, the door to the stairs is flung open and the crowd from the floor above pours in.

Judas’ room is empty. The window’s open and there’s a roof just below.

A roof with a hole in it about the size of a foot, right below the window. Bastard! He must have somehow seen me. I jump down, landing on the row of nails that implies a strut, and give chase. He can’t be too far ahead. I suddenly think of Julia and fumble for the button on my phone that activates my mic.

“Julia! It’s bad in the building, but I’m on the roof just north, running. Go around there, Judas is somewhere just ahead of me!” There’s a sharp intake of breath in my ear, and I switch my mic back off. She doesn’t have to hear my heavy breathing. I hear her without it, roaring the bike up past me, on ground level. I pound along, seeking out the nails with every step. I’d go right through the rusty corrugated iron.

The roof ends, and I jump without looking. Judas came this way. There must be something below.

I look down, and there’s not. Shit. It’s a storey and a half to the ground.

I land heavily, bend my knees hard, roll about five times. When I try to get back to my feet, a shooting pain sears up my leg, but I can stand, so it’s not broken. And If I can stand, I can run and chase. I turn and look at the building I just jumped off. There’s a fire escape, and Judas is just jumping off it. I’d had no idea I was so close.

He’s staring at me, and I pull out the gun and fire through the windows of the car between us. He ducks below the window line, and I see the door on the other side open. I hobble as fast as I can, grimacing with each step, firing into the car door.

The bullets don’t puncture the door, and he roars off, unscathed. I call Julia, and within a minute I’m on the back of the bike and we’re giving chase. I’ve got no idea where he went, but the car’s distinctive enough, with no windows and dents in the door. Julia’s driving almost as dangerously as I do, which makes sense, considering I taught her everything she knows.

She’s flying down the centre line of a main street when I spot the car again, red, no windows, and a scared-looking Mexican behind the wheel. I want to whip out the gun in my pocket and open fire, but that would be suicide in a city with this many gangs. I tap Julia on the shoulder and point to it. She starts following, much better at it than I am. No-one would suspect us. She’s even managing to stay third-party aware, which I remember from a hasty lesson means not letting the general public know you’re not one of them. I never manage to do that.

The car leads us, unaware, to another ratty-looking motel. Judas gets out of the car and goes in, scurrying. The driver races off, driving badly, meant to make us follow it.

Julia pulls into an alley around the back of the building, and watches the fire escape. I squeeze her quickly and walk in the front, strolling – limping – right up to the receptionist. Judas is nowhere in sight.

“Hey, I’m Judas Jones. Is there a room free?” She looks at me weird.

“You’re the second Judas Jones in two minutes.”

“Shit, really? Wow, that’s a first. What’s his room?” I think it seems innocent enough, but she obviously doesn’t.

“Why?”

“Well, so I can say hi. I wanna meet this other Judas.”

“Why?”

“Well, I’m curious, aren’t I?”

“I’m afraid I’m unable to give you his room number.” I flap a hand, like it’s nothing.

“Alright, I suppose. Is there a room free?” She turns around to check the computer behind her, speaking. I take a quick look around, then vault the counter, landing on my left leg to spare my sore one.

“You’ll need to prove you’re a member of course, this is an exclusive place…” then she doesn’t say anything more, because a knife has just tickled her throat. From most views, it would look like I’m just hugging her from behind. I growl in her ear, trying to keep my head where it might look like I’m kissing her neck.

“Now, we’re just having a nice cuddle behind your counter, because you’re a slut and I’ve paid you, alright? Play along, slut.” I trickle the knife lower, between her breasts to rest on a point just below her bellybutton. She sighs and places her hands on mine, obviously trying to appease me. Only I can feel her shaking. I only just thought of this, but it seems to be working so far. “Good, slut. Now, you’re going to tell me Judas’ room key. Giggle while you tell me.”

“Heehee, second floor, room two-nine-eight” Not bad. I hear someone come in the door.

“Amp up the acting, we’ve got an audience.” She twists in my arms and presses her body to mine, hugging me, I stand with my arms around her and my back to the desk.

Whoever just came in tells us to get a room, and then asks for one himself. She gives him the key and takes his money from my arms, because I won’t let go for fear she’ll get away.

“I think we should follow his advice, don’t you? Put up an away sign, and you can take me to a room.” Her shaking stops for a moment, and I realise she’s misunderstood me. She thinks I want… “Judas’ room.” I dig the knife into her back, her spine, and the shivering starts again.

An “away” sign is produced from beneath the desk, and she leads me, by the hand, up the stairs then along the corridor to room number two-hundred and ninety-eight, where she knocks. I grab her and put my knife across her throat. There’s a growling inside, and the door opens, on a chain.

Judas’ face – that hated face – appears in the gap, and I grin at him. The door slams, and I throw the receptionist to the floor. Anyone else I would have stuck so they couldn’t do anything to me, but I can’t do that to a woman in cold blood. I kick at the door, but it’s stronger than the ones in the other motel, and doesn’t smash down immediately. Anyway, I can’t kick too hard because all my weight is resting on an injured ankle, and I don’t want to stress it too much. The growling intensifies, and I hear a slamming of doors. He’s got more than one room in there. I kick the door again and my right ankle twists painfully. I fall to the floor, and the receptionist, who hasn’t moved, stares at me in alarm. I jump back to my foot again, without even putting my right one on the floor.

I slam my shoulder into the door twice and it pops open. The source of the growling, an enormous German Shepherd attacks me, bowling me back over. I like dogs, but I stab it in the heart, and it slumps. The receptionist gives a little scream, but I’m in Judas’ room already.

He’s gone. I look out the window, and there’s the fire escape.

Good, Julia’s guarding the fire escape. I look down, expecting to see Judas on the ground, and Julia looking up at me, smiling her gorgeous smile.

I don’t see anything. NO! Pain forgotten, I slide down the fire escape. There’s a little kicked up dirt, but nothing in the immediate vicinity but a huge bin. I look behind it, and there’s nothing.

I look in it and there’s Julia, tossed untidily. Unconscious. I lift her out gently, swearing to myself that I will kill Judas slowly, and begin the hunt for my bike. He can’t have stolen it, Julia still has her key in her pocket, and anyway, I didn’t hear it fire. It’s just around the corner. I place Julia in front of me and try to locate Judas, but there’s no point. I don’t know what his vehicle looks like, and he’ll still be running by now. I check every Mexican face we go past, but none are his, although several look at me strangely. I park and lock the bike at our five-star hotel. It’s not even noon.

I limp through the kitchen, carrying Julia, who still hasn’t woken up, and straight to the freezer, where I grab a bag of ice, which I place on her head before carrying her all the way to our room.

I do everything I can think of and worry that he’s killed her. I run my hands over her head, gently, trying to see if he’s fractured her skull. He must have hit her pretty hard. There’s a massive lump on her head. But he didn’t want to kill her, because she wakes up after an hour and looks at me. She must read what’s in my face.

Her hand goes to her head, and comes away again quickly.

“He got away then?” I nod. “You came back to look after me instead of going after him again?” I nod. “You’re sweet, but you’re stupid too.” She tries to sit up, but falls back immediately. “C’mere.”

I obey, hobbling now. My ankle feels worse than before. She notices.

“Haven’t you put ice on that?” I shake my head. “Idiot! My head’s better now, I’ve only got an ache.” She takes the mostly melted icebag from her head and hands it to me. I sit on the bed beside her, and stretch my leg out to put the ice on it, grateful.

“Thanks.”

“Idiot.” I snort, and hold her to my side. She puts her arm across my body and stares into the distance.

“What now?”

“I don’t know. Judas’ll be harder to find now, he knows I’m after him, so he’ll go underground. We look for him a little, then go home to lick our wounds.”

“I’m sorry, baby. You should’ve got him.”

“I’ll survive. And I will get him in the end.”

“If you say so.” She kisses my palm. “Are you tired?”

“No.” I’m puzzled by that, it’s not even noon yet. “Good. Neither am I.”

We stay in our room the rest of the day, and the next day is spent on the bike, watching for any sign of Judas, but I actually hope we don’t finish him. I’m in no condition to kill him right now. We don’t find him, and at noon, we begin going home.

We pull into a motel at about ten, which I’m wary of, but nothing happens. It’s not Onda-owned. We get home at about noon the next day, and I go straight to the warehouse, which is where I’ll find Job. He’s making something difficult, as there’s no rattle when we get there, just a slow grinding. His gaze takes in our bandages, around Julia’s head and my ankle, and asks what went wrong. I tell him about Onda and the two motels. I leave nothing out, and he just listens.

“I want to go back.”

“Not yet, James. We might be able to cut a deal with this gang, whereby we’ll finish off the entire lot of the KSK.”

“If we try that, Judas’ll scarper again.”

“James, I have to think of the Warriors, not just you.”

“Then I’ll go back on my own.”

“James.”

“Yes?”

“I am your leader. I order you not to go back to Ardougne or in any other way hysically hunt Judas Jones until I tell you to.”

For a second I hate him, then I salute, sarcastically.

“Yes, sir.” He sighs.

“You’re too much like Joan. Goodbye, James.”

“Bye, Job.” I get back on the bike, and Julia climbs on behind me, hugging my waist. I at her hand and take us to the park.

I want time to think, and I want to stare at the fountain.

We stay there for two and a half hours, Julia first holding my hand, beside me on the banch, and then falling asleep on my shoulder. Should I go on my own, as soon as I can? Go against Job? The internal debate goes back and forth the whole time, undisturbed in the silence. No-one comes by us, and the fountain stares at the sky.

I decide to obey Job. Judas won’t go anywhere, and I am a loyal member of the Warriors – when I think that I raise my fist, the same gesture Joan made all those years ago – I am a loyal member of the Warriors of Bridge Kanulu.

I kiss the bandaged side of Julia’s face and she murmurs.

A loyal member of the Warriors of Bridge Kanulu.



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