Footsteps In the Dark
Short Story by: C. Avina
“You’re not hungry are you?” Sasha asks me.
“Not very,” I answer, “Why, are you?”
“No...But it seems like you never eat anything, and when you do it isn’t very much.”
“I am thirsty though.”
“That isn’t food, that’s poison.”
“It fills me up though,” I joke, Sasha looks at me with concern. I get serious and rub her thigh assuring that I was simply joking. Our attention toward one another is disturbed when my phone suddenly rings and vibrates from the center consul. I press the green telephone button on my steering wheel.
“Take me off speaker,” Damien says. I do and plug my earphones into the phone. I grab my cell and switch the call to private mode and shove an earphone bud into my ear.
“Where are you?”
“Leaving the lighthouse.”
“What are you doing in Paradise? Switching sides?”
“Huh, right, because I don’t remember any details about an assignment near the strip…”
“This is a favor for someone.”
“Beneficial to the Family?”
“In the long run.”
“This wouldn’t have anything to do with those dead hookers would it?” After he says this I stay quite for about two seconds, but before I can say anything Damien lets out a sigh. “What is Rubio asking of you?”
“To investigate,” I stand up for my actions.
“Investigate? Are you kidding me, Furio?! Hookers get roughed up, they die. They’re dispensable, regardless of how hard you fall in love with them, kiddo.” I look over at Sasha and she does the same, only, with a smile on her face. “Just get to The Portsmouth. There’s an ASSIGNMENT here for you. Very delicate.”
“I’m there.” The call ends, and soon enough I notice two little white dots in my rearview. The white dots sparkle and twinkle in the distance. They’re headlights, and they’re irritatingly bright from a distance. I stop because of a stop sign. I proceed. I can only imagine how distracting they are up close, so I gain speed. The outskirt of Paradise is littered with shanty hamlets, projects, drug dens, and much more. Places all to familiar. I want out.
I’m about three stoplights from the freeway when I notice the car from behind seems to get closer. My light turns green so I go. I look in my rearview again and I notice that the car behind us runs the stop sign. Passing Bemis Street there’s only one more stoplight before the freeway. Approaching it slowly, I look behind us once again. The car is now one stoplight behind us.
“How the fuck did it get there so fast?” I murmur to myself.
“Huh?” Sasha seems startled. She looks back at the car’s bright, light baby blue headlights. “Gosh, are those their high beams?”
Both of the lights turn green and I again resume toward the freeway. I get smart and signal left but merge right. I look back and notice the car merges left, I’m confused by this and decrease my speed. Suddenly, the car merges right, passing the center lanes and cutting into the right lane. Our lane. I speed up to see the freeway entrance and do 65 the second I turn the corner onto the ramp leading into the freeway. I merge left and pick up speed, whizzing through the light traffic of cars. I don’t look in my rearview, not even to change lanes. We get to The Portsmouth in about 20 minutes from when we left Paradise.
I pull into the parking lot, park and shut the lights off, but not the engine.
“What is it?” Sasha seems a little frightened.
“Remember that car back on Bemis, before the freeway?” I ask.
“Not re...With those high beams?”
“I think it was followed us out of the strip and onto the freeway.”
“You must’ve lost them with the way you were driving.”
“That’s what I’m waiting to find out...”
Suddenly, from the darkness, a sedan pulls into the lot about two spaces from us on Sasha’s side. The windows are tinted, and so are mine.
“Open the glove compartment and give me what’s on top.” Sasha opens it and hands me what I’ve asked her to. In my palm I feel the cold metal handle of my sidearm. I pull the hammer back.
“Put your hand on the recliner lever and slowly dip backward,” I tell her. Then, “Stop!” I whisper. She’s behind the passenger window. We sit, she looking up at the ceiling, me with my eyes on that car. Finally, two men step out of the car and into the light. They’re members of our crew. My heart sinks and I rig the hammer down. “Let’s go.”
The lounge isn’t very full. But the one thing that stands out to me is this strange looking kid in one of the booths near the back offices. This little boy has blue hoodie with a baseball on it, some khaki pants, and a cool pair of Sambas on his feet. He’s maybe 10 or 11 from the looks of it. The boy seems tired and irritated rather than nervous or scared. All of a sudden, the door to the back offices opens and Damien emerges. He looks at the boy and signals for him to follow. The two make their way toward me. I can’t help but notice that the boys squints his eyes at me, as if he doesn’t trust me.
“Furio, this is my nephew, Kikeh.” The boy with the dark eyes looks up at me and offers a half smile and then looks at Sasha and blushes. I smile at the boy.
“Do you have the dossier?”
“Here he is,” Damien says as he steps aside and give Kikeh center stage.
“Take care of my nephew, Furio.”
“This is not an assignment for a captain!” I whisper into his ear. He smiles and moves his ear away from my lips.
“Hm, well, Captains are not to accept independent contracts without informing the Family,” He smirks at me. “We’re trying to bind the four families, not arouse suspicion between them. You’re a big thinker, bambino, you’ve just got to pace yourself.” I glance down, look back up again and nod in acknowledgement. “Besides, I don’t trust anyone else with him. Just take him to your condo, play a few movies,” Damien looks down at the boy, “He loves movies.”
“This’ll be fun,” Sasha says, interlocking our fingers as she places her head on my shoulder.
“See?! Fun!” Damien reassures his nephew, or tries to. The boy just smiles, but his eyes don’t change emotion. Blank. “Eat first though, then you go.” I don’t argue with that and order a vodka collins with fries. Sasha orders chicken soup. The boy orders a burger with chips. The three of us sit in the booth enjoying our meals.
“Kikeh, how’s your burger?” Sasha asks.
“Delicious,” the boy seems flustered.
“Can I try it?” She says. Kikeh seems surprised by this and smiles a little in embarrassment. He enjoys her company. Kikeh nods yes and Sasha picks up the burger and chomps it. The boy laughs at how funny Sasha looks. I smile too, relaxed. We finish our meals soon after.
“All ready?” I ask the table.
“Yup!”Sasha blurts out.
“Yup!” The boy says, following close to Sasha all the way to the car. When everyone is in, I start up and pull us out of the lot and onto the street to head back to my apartment.
Once there, I open the door and let the guests in. The kid B-lines it to my sofa and takes a seat.
“Looks like someone’s waiting for you,” I say in her ear. She smiles big and looks at the boy.
“I think I’m going to turn it,” She tells me.
“It’s only 10:43,” The boy pleads.
“There’s a love-sack in the room. You can sleep on that kid,” I nod my head for him to follow Sasha. He gets up and does that. She cuts the light to the hallway as they make their way to the room. She leaves the door open. I throw myself onto the couch and think about turning the television on. I don’t. As I look out the window onto the patio 3 stories up, I notice the screen door pushed open. ‘Man, how fucked was I last night?’ I think to myself. My eyes get heavier as I stare outside...It’s useless...I…
I’m wake to blackness and a hand pushing at my bicep. I rub my eyes a couple times to see what this is. It’s the kid, and he has this very lost look on his face. I look over at the clock: 2:34 A.M.
“What’s wrong kid?”
“Are you serious?”
“I am. I’m hungry, Furio.”
“There’s food in the kitchen. It’s all you kid.”
“No. No I want something from the 24hr place down the street.”
“Not at 3 A.M. Gimme’ a break kid.”
“Please, Furio. Please, I really want a cheeseburger.”
“Another?” I look at the little boy. His uncle is my boss, so I’m bound to give this kid what he wants. Plus, he’s a good kid. Has been up until now at least. I’m just being grumpy I suppose.
“Yeah. Please!” He whispers.
“Ok, but be quiet, I don’t want to wake up Sasha.”
“No, no. We should. You should. She should come with us.”
“I’m sure she’s not hungry.”
“That won’t matter. We shouldn’t leave her alone here. What if she wakes up?”
“She’ll call me, or text.”
“What if she can’t find her phone?”
“Alright, kid. Wait here.” I go into the room and wake Sasha. She wakes up and rubs her eyes a bit. “The kid’s hungry. He wants you to come with us to go get food.”
“Alright,” She tells me with no hesitation. This is a good woman. As soon as she’s fully dressed we head out of the apartment, down the elevator, into the lobby and out onto the sidewalk. We’re walking outside now and I can’t help but notice that Kikeh keeps looking up at my building. At my room specifically.
“This place has some good burgers for a 24Hr place, Kikeh.”
“Huh?” He looks back me, startled. Scared
“Cheeseburgers, Kikeh,” I say, but Sasha is onto something with the boy. She notices his hands shaking and quivering just a little bit. The boy shoves his hands into his pocket. She knows something is wrong.
“Kikeh?” She asks. The boy now knows he is on the spot.
“I’m not hungry,” He says. I’m confused, not mad, but confused.
“You seemed pretty hungry a little while ago.”
“I wasn’t then either…” The boy stops walking and then so do we. “There’s somebody underneath the bed, Furio.”
My heart sinks and I can’t help but feel sick. My knees buckle and I grab onto some railing to stand up. Sasha’s turns pale, she looks back up to the building.
“I just saw a person there. I could only see the shape of their body, but there’s someone there!”
“Calma, calma, Kikeh,” I can’t let him see me all weak. The only thing I can do now is get us as far away from the apartment. How far is far enough...HQ, maybe. “I’m taking you home, Kikeh.”
“Kikeh, hold my hand,” Sasha comforts him. We make off to my car parked off on the sidewalk across the street. The click clack of our footwear amplifies through the street and off the buildings. I hit the unlock button on the key and we enter. I look up for the first and only time. There, in my bedroom window, is a dark figure looking down on us. I start up the car and head off.
“What’d you see?” Kikeh asks me.
“Try to get some rest. You’ll be home when you wake up.”
© Copyright 2017 C. Avina. All rights reserved.