A dead silence serenaded Carla’s nerves, under the streetlights.
That had never happened before during one of their backseat romps. Arron laughed at her jumpiness, playfully teasing her insecurities to being afraid of the black snake between his legs that couldn’t wait to ravage her.
His mischievous smile gave her little comfort.
Carla knew the dank Chicago streets well enough to instinctually sense danger lurking in the shadows. The asphalt and grime were quiet enough to notice; her intuition wouldn’t let go the ominous warnings waiting to make their acquaintance without a proper invitation. Ignoring her survival instincts, she compromised the gnawing feeling in her stomach to flee; instead she indulged Arron’s insatiable desires.
She knew better than to ignore the voices in her head, but it was a small price to pay for ensuring Arron would spring for the Coach purse she had her eye on at Marshall Fields. Ordinarily, quick blow-jobs spread over a couple of weeks would be all the inspiration he needed for a shopping trip. But Carla wanted it tomorrow, before any other boss bitch on the block could get their boosters to lift it for them when it debuted the next day.
He had to pay to play; she’d have to indulge his fantasies to get him to ante up.
As Carla allowed him to twist her limbs into pretzel positions and hump away, she reveled in the satisfaction of earning the man despite the odds. They’d grown up together, surviving a gang war that robbed them both of their siblings. Hustling was second nature where they were from; the boxing career Arron stumbled upon was supposed to be his ticket out but he never made enough to keep him out of the street life.
Juggling the two kept her man in the spotlight, for better or worse. Carla had no qualms about being his trophy piece, enjoying the spoils of his wars. They both played their position well; marrying his high school sweetheart on her was a shock but not a big deal in her long-term plans. His wife could keep the papers on him as long as she got all the extra cash and incentives of having the man.
Arron aggressively took her, grunting in carnal pleasures as he punished every available hole at his mercy. Silently, she took the punishment being at his complete disposal, knowing she had to do what the other women in his life would not. Fabricated lust coming from her lips resided in the comforting thought of enjoying his paycheck while his wife was left behind to cope with their trough of kids.
With each rough stroke she imagined the travels he afforded her. Arron flew her into every city he fought in, relishing their open secret within the confines of his coach and trainers on the road. Only girlfriends were allowed in the gym during training, and Carla whispered all the things in his ear he might have wanted to hear as his personal cheerleader. Their understanding became a thing that went beyond even their comprehension, and she went along eager for the ride.
Thinking about the pill breaking on her last month threw her concentration off.
Arron was thrilled like a kid in a candy store at the news of having a baby. Carla didn’t want the crumb-snatcher cramping her style, but Arron could afford to make the experience lucrative. The thought of permanent paychecks covering child support and living expenses for the next twenty years helped her regain the swing in her hips he barely noticed had left.
Carla took a breath when Arron’s body finally shook on top of hers and collapsed in defeat. Try as she might to get him up off of her, Arron took his time getting out of her honey-pot. He wriggled in subjugated bliss against her while she adjusted to the creeping feeling in her gut she had before lust sidetracked her. She felt vulnerable in the chaos of his playfulness, and her attention focused to the nickel-plated pistol tucked between the seat.
Streets were talking. Rumor mills gossiped about Arron’s vices. Everybody on the block knew cats were looking for him over unpaid debts. Gambling with high rollers in back alley establishments had caught up to him. The arrogance flaunting his purse money around in the faces of people that could barely hold water to snitch on his good fortune was careless to her. The stone cold killers around the way were nothing to take lightly.
Playing the tough guy role, Arron laughed in the face of danger like the king of cool. Carla fed into his ego, telling him he was invincible even though she could see the hint of worry in his eyes he refused to admit to. Nor did she want him to; they would both have targets on their backs if he showed any weakness like that in the street. For both their sakes she fed into the lie to get her through the insecure seconds.
Much to Carla’s relief, Arron got it together before the relaxation he felt from his release left him succumbing to a cat-nap. She hated being in the open with eyes watching in normal circumstances for this very reason, but Arron didn’t believe in paying for motels. Backseats or the bathroom at hole-in-the-wall they frequently partied in were their only two options for their encounters, and neither afforded her the privacy she liked.
Her worrying eased as he hurried to get dressed and back to their reality. They were behind schedule consummating their sin; his wife would be on the prowl for his whereabouts if he ran late far beyond a reasonable hour after the gym closed. Arron was in good spirits. He joked about baby names; Carla dropped hints on the colors for the purse. Like he always did after he got a piece he put some bread in her hand.
She counted it as he grinned; everything was everything.
Neither of them saw the old school roller with no lights on creeping up the block. Or the staccato fire bursts coming from its shadowed interior once it symmetrically aligned next to theirs. Carla heard sporadic shots shattering their windows before the pain registered she’d been hit. Joints between her shoulder blade ached something terrible within the seconds the roller screeched down the block and out of her focal point. But she was alive.
It never dawned on her, calling out to Arron, that he wouldn’t be.
She spoke his name softly; he didn’t respond, slumped over the steering wheel. Panic set in her spirit; ferociously, she shook him thinking he’d fainted. Sticky, wet liquids gushing from his wounds coated her hands like honey, dripping from her fingertips. A mass of splintered muscle, bone fragments, and clotting blood bubbled from the remnants of his face and neck. Carla checked his heartbeat; a shallow thump abruptly ceased.
Just like that, Carla knew Arron was gone.
For a brief moment she was paralyzed in shock at his passing; she’d seen dead bodies before in worse shape than his, just not as intimately. Deep breaths did little to calm her adrenaline but did control the hyperventilating. Nervously grabbing her phone, her first mind led her to call for help as if he could be saved. However, the consequences of being found in his company as a witness to murder in his wife’s car kept her from connecting the call.
Instead, she called Merc, a trained field medic in Vietnam known for patching up the gunshot victims around the way who didn’t have the luxury of hospital visits. He was quick and didn’t ask any questions but was expensive and sewed up wounds without the benefit of anesthesia. Carla knew her pain tolerance was low, but a bottle of vodka and a blunt would be all she needed to cope with the pain when he stitched her up in the kitchen.
And it would cost Arron dearly as a parting gift for leaving her behind.
Carla picked through Arron’s pockets like a common criminal, retrieving whatever remaining cash he had on him. The two grand she retrieved plus what he had already given her would be enough for her to make major moves later. Sirens began echoing from a couple blocks away, and Carla ditched her dead lover before she could be identified at the scene of the crime. Keeping off the sidewalks she detoured down uninviting alleys, forging through what lay ahead.
Calmly, she told herself she’d be cool; the unfortunate hard luck was just a temporary setback. All she needed to do was fight the feeling of passing out from blood loss and get home. Everything would be right as rain once she got the bullet out of her shoulder and figured out what her next move should be. Calls would have to be made to make sure she wasn’t on anyone’s list; once she was in the clear she could resume her hustle anew. The cash would last long enough to get a come up with heavy pockets. But first she had to make it to the sunrise.
And if she hurried in the morning, she could make it to Marshall Fields and get her purse with enough time and cash left over for an abortion.