Authors: Season Vining
He needed answers. He remembered that she lived in the forty-one hundred block of
Iowa Street in an off-white stucco building with green awnings. If he wanted to, he
could bang down her door to confront her. But she seemed too skittish for that approach,
too scared of her own history.
Tristan sighed and scrubbed at his face with the palms of his hands. He decided not
to agonize anymore tonight, as if he could just release himself from her hold. He
felt that she would seek him out again, and he would give her anything she wanted.
* * *
Dean Moloney sat in the back of the parked car, running his index finger along the
stitched seam of the seat. The soft, cool leather slid beneath his touch until the
edge of the seat fell away. A teenager flew by on his skateboard, a punk with spiked
hair. He reminded Moloney of Terry Sanders in grade school. This kid would endlessly
tease him. He would chant “Moloney Boloney” and get all the kids to join. That was,
until Moloney smashed his face with a brick from the schoolyard. Blood ran into Terry’s
blond spiky hair. It was Moloney’s first taste of victory.
The skateboarder’s eyes tried to penetrate the dark tint of the car, and Moloney sneered
at him through the glass. He knew he couldn’t be seen, but it was instinctual. Hate
lived inside of him. It circulated through his body and infected every piece of his
being. His stare followed the boy as he jumped the loading dock ramp before disappearing
down Tchoupitoulas Street.
The building outside Moloney’s window looked harmless with its uneven patchwork of
new and old brick. Its cracked lines and rusted vents told nothing of its ominous
innards. This was one of many buildings used to house goods.
His offshore drilling venture was a great cover for importing and exporting through
the Gulf of Mexico. Half of his inventory consisted of illegal weapons and drugs,
while the other half represented a legit business. This building had been his first
acquisition when he took over the organization. It was special to him. Among the cargo
boxes and palettes inside sat the most important men of his enterprise. Having them
all in one place was risky but, under these circumstances, necessary.
His man, Frank, sat behind the wheel checking the status of employees in attendance.
“Sir, everyone is inside.”
Moloney nodded and exited the car alongside his driver. Frank walked two steps behind
him, always a villain’s shadow. They entered the warehouse and approached the group
of men. Moloney took his place at the head of the table and all conversation ceased.
He leaned back in his chair and scratched at his neatly trimmed beard. He soaked in
the blind admiration of his employees. The feeling of complete control over these
men’s lives pleased him. The thrill of power supplied the breath in his lungs and
the blood-metal taste in his mouth. Moloney would never give this up.
“The Italians are moving in on my ground.”
He was a man of short statements and simple ideas. He paused here to emphasize the
seriousness of this announcement, letting his glacier blue eyes rake over each man.
Since the beginning of his career, Dean Moloney had been considered small-time. Being
raised in an Irish, middle-class suburban home had certainly left him wanting. He
had always longed for bigger adventures, wealth and power. Greed had rooted itself
in his heart, and no matter how much he acquired, he always wanted more. In the last
decade, he’d been expanding his business and apparently gained the attention of larger
“Gino Gallo is enemy number one,” Moloney announced.
The men broke into murmured conversations, their words melded together into anxious
“They can’t come in here and take over!” one man shouted.
“The Italians? Over my dead body!”
“I believe that’s the point,” Barry said calmly. The older gentleman stood from his
seat next to Moloney and buttoned his suit jacket. “Hotheaded threats will not solve
anything. We’ve got to outsmart them and make sure all loose ends are tied up. Leave
nothing they could use against us.”
Moloney nodded, supporting the underboss’s instructions.
“Agreed,” he said. “See that all debts are collected, all inventory accounted for.”
“Keep an eye open for rats. Gallo will try to steal our business, recruit our men.
If you find anyone leaking information, he will be dealt with,” Barry said.
“In fact, we’ve already learned that someone has been feeding Gallo information,”
Moloney said. “Do any of you have anything to confess?” he asked.
The men looked at each other. Each innocent and accusatory glance between them fueled
Moloney’s rage. He would not tolerate treason.
“No?” he asked with a finality that felt like one foot in the grave.
In a flash, Barry raised his pistol and shot Kevin Landry in the forehead. The loud
bang bounced off the walls of the building and created a wild drumbeat to match every
man’s pulse. Kevin, though instantly dead, remained upright as if still in attendance.
Moloney sneered. He felt himself grow stronger from their fear. His muscles flexed,
pulling the fabric around his arms tighter as he adjusted his tented crotch. The power
of taking someone’s life was the strongest aphrodisiac he’d ever known. His girl was
in for it tonight.
With a flip of his hand, Moloney dismissed them. Only Barry and Frank remained. Moloney
knew he was lucky to have the allegiance of such men. Frank kept him safe. He had
been brought into the business as a teenager to repay a debt. He had stayed because
he loved the rewards of his position. Barry, however, was a lifer. He’d worked for
the previous boss, and when Moloney took over, Barry had pledged his loyalty. He was
Moloney’s right hand, his trigger finger, his voice of reason.
“Any news on the girl?” Moloney asked. “Do we know if she’s still alive?”
Barry tented his fingers on top of the wood table and squared his large shoulders.
Although he wasn’t responsible for the messy situation, he felt obligated to fix it.
“Mort is using his most persuasive techniques to retrieve information.”
Moloney nodded, satisfied for now. Gino Gallo would be able to use any neglected problems
against him, so it was imperative that the girl be eliminated. Finally, these aggravations
could be put to rest and he could move on with destroying the Italians.
* * *
Josie sat cross-legged on the floor of her apartment among the dust bunnies. Sheets
of paper pulled free from their binding lay scattered around her like fallen leaves.
She repeated Tristan’s name over and over, as if the sound of it would jar her memory
into revealing their past. He knew her. He knew her in her former life, the one that
had chewed her up and spit her out. She was conflicted as she recognized both the
urge to forget him completely and the one to reacquaint herself with everything he
A rhombus of light slanted across her floor from the window, blazing yellow-gold.
Dust particles floated in and out of the beam, and when Josie moved, they swirled
frantically, like a shaken snow globe. She found herself entranced by them, jealous
of their carefree and aimless existence.
her mind repeated again. She now had a name to go with the seraph’s face. She smirked,
realizing that the things she wanted to do to him were quite devilish. Josie wanted
to explore and conquer that man, like no one before him. She wanted to mark his skin
and exchange breaths while whispering sexual promises. Before letting the fantasy
run freely, she focused her attention back on her sketch.
There was more now, more than a carnal desire for the taste of his flesh. Josie wanted
to memorize him, inside and out. She wanted to dissect the memories he possessed and
reenact each one to make them concrete. She wanted to give herself over to Tristan
and ask him to mold her into something better than she was. But when had she ever
gotten what she wanted?
A pounding sounded against her door. She ignored it. Instead, Josie focused on recreating
the needle-made art of Tristan’s left shoulder. She glanced at the clear plastic grab
bag of pills sitting on her table. They seemed to be calling to her.
Eat me. Feel good. Forget everything.
She sketched the shapes of Tristan’s tattoo, filling them with gray. What a disservice
to the original art, she thought. They should be red and violet and deep-water blue.
She hadn’t used color on paper in years. She didn’t even own the tools to do so.
The pummeling sounded again, startling her from her drawing. Josie looked at her rattling
door, the secured chain swinging from the force. As much as she loved her isolation,
she knew she’d have to answer.
Freeing the chain and twisting two dead bolts, Josie swung the door open to find a
smiling Alex, dimples on display. His hulking form dwarfed her as he beamed his most
charming smile and waited to be invited in. She moved aside and secured the door behind
“You know you don’t have to lock that when I’m here, Jo. I got you.” He winked and
flexed his huge arms in her direction.
Josie was not impressed.
Alexander Hernandez was a beast of a man, a giant in reputation and size. He’d been
raised in the roughest part of the city, tainted with crime and violence, and he’d
never left. This metropolis and its pollutants flowed through his veins, more important
to survival than his Hispanic blood. He was a sinner and a mortal, and he knew in
the end that meant he’d smolder in the fiery pits of hell. He was okay with that.
Acceptance was apparently the key to inner peace.
Alex knew misdeeds and narcotics and only one way of life. He had been in and out
of juvenile detention as a teenager, eventually landing in jail for an eight-month
stint. There had been no deprogramming and no reform behind those bars. He’d emerged
ten times worse than when he’d went in, only his allegiances had changed.
As a young man, he’d held no authority there. However, his loyalty and willingness
to do dirty work quickly earned him respect in the ranks. His incarceration was more
of a training exercise than a punishment. Lessons that could be taught only by experience
were now ingrained. Never trust anyone, never turn your back on the enemy, and never
share personal information. One newbie had let his girl’s name slip from his lips
in casual conversation in the yard. Six weeks later, she was dead. That’s the thing
about jail, your enemies inside were your enemies outside. A security fence and state-mandated
freedom changed nothing.
When Josie moved into the dilapidated building, he’d been surprised that she lived
alone. He’d tried to hit on her when they passed in the hall, but his efforts always
You’re new so I’mma help you out. I’m Alex.”
“You need anything, come see me.”
He smiled and grabbed onto the doorframe above his head, flexing his biceps. His eyes
shined with victory.
“Nah. I’m good, thanks,” Josie had replied as she retreated to her apartment.
“I bet you are,” Alex answered.
Six weeks later, things changed. He’d come straight home after having to teach one
of his lackeys a lesson. The man’s blood stained his clothes in a speckled pattern
and Alex knew his message had been delivered. A few beers later, he’d come down from
his adrenaline high. While he was showering, the power had gone out. It wasn’t five
minutes later that Josie came knocking. Her face, while trying to portray sexual prowess,
showed nothing but fear.
“I knew you couldn’t resist.”
“Shut up,” she’d demanded before pushing him inside the apartment.
Shrouded in darkness, he took Josie bent over his kitchen table and again in his bed,
never questioning her sudden change of heart. He realized later that she’d done it
only to have company during the blackest of nights. She was a girl too afraid to admit
fear, opting for security in the arms of a stranger.
Since then, he kept an eye on her as best he could. He installed three locks on her
door and insisted that she use them. He brought her food a few times a week; otherwise
she’d forget to eat. Recognizing her need for companionship and protection, Alex began
to take a more platonic interest in Josie. All the other neighbors insisted that she
was bizarre, but he knew better. She was defensive and hurting and completely alone.
Perhaps Josie could be his one good deed. Not that she could ever redeem him from
a lifetime of wrongdoings. Alex was damned regardless.
Before taking a seat, Alex slid the pistol from his waistband and laid it on the table
in front of him. He tossed the paper bag to Josie and assumed his usual position on
the sofa, relaxed with legs splayed like a sexual lure. His large form took up her
entire couch, but she never minded, keeping to her favorite spot on the floor. He
brought her food and stayed until she ate. There was little dialogue, sometimes none
at all. It wasn’t because she was shy or rude, just uninterested in forced conversation.
Though, through all of their time spent together she had told him her story, shared
just enough pieces for Alex to fill in the gaps.
“Eat, Josie,” he demanded when she sat staring into the blinding light of the open
“I’ll eat if you bring me some more of that coke. The good stuff. Not the crap you
“I told you I’m not supplying you anymore. Eat. And stop buying this shit.”
He gave her a threatening look that said everything in the arch of his eyebrow and
purse of his lips. He held up the bag of pills that were so varied in color and shape
they looked like candy. She didn’t answer or acknowledge his request, insisting that
she was an adult and could take care of herself. She’d been doing it for so long now.
Josie knew she’d never win this contest of wills. He would stay until she ate, no
matter how long that took. She refocused her attention on the paper, shading the petals
of each flower just so.