Table of Contents
Also by Eric Jerome Dickey
Waking with Enemies
Sleeping with Strangers
Drive Me Crazy
Naughty or Nice
The Other Woman
Milk in My Coffee
Friends and Lovers
Voices from the Other Side: Dark Dreams II
Got to Be Real
Mothers and Sons
River Crossings: Voices of the Diaspora
Griots Beneath the Baobab
Black Silk: A Collection of African American Erotica
Gumbo: A Celebration of African American Writing
(six-issue miniseries, Marvel Entertainment)
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Published by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First printing, November 2008
Copyright © 2008 by Eric Jerome Dickey
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eISBN : 978-1-440-64113-8
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In revenge and in love woman is more barbaric than man is.
FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE,Beyond Good and Evil
crime and punishment
I fought for my life.
The sounds from us trying to kill each other were trapped inside this concrete toilet. My side kick had caught him in the gut, staggered him before he could stab me, and I went after him. We fought for the knife in his hand, a blade that could cut through bones, the knife he had tried to bring down in my back, only I’d seen his reflection. I gripped the wrist he used to hold the blade, threw my knee into his gut, tried to make him bend, then tried to sweep his feet, but he didn’t give me space to maneuver. We slammed each other up against the concrete walls, walls built to withstand hurricanes, tussled and crashed into the metal bathroom door, collided with the sink and the unbreakable, reflective Plexiglas.
My elbows and knees gave him enough pain to make him loosen his grip on that razor-sharp blade, that moment enough for me to take control of the knife he was trying to put inside my throat, that moment good enough for me to send that sharp blade down across his arm, his DNA spilling in red.
Severe pain resided in his blue eyes.
We struggled, my jogging sandals slipping, his trainers squeaking, battled across the damp concrete floor, wrestled eye to eye, so close I inhaled his rancid breath, breath that stank like he drank nameless black coffee from a paper cup and smoked forty cigarettes a day. The killer’s blood dripped down across my arm, splattered my skin and everything in sight as I found leverage and shoved him hard and fast into the concrete wall, that knife still in my control as I threw an elbow into his nose, a good shot with momentum and gravity on my side, a blow hard enough to shatter his face. I expected him to go down, but he surprised me. Still, that blow had stunned him long enough for me to get firm footing. I pressed on, went after him, used my weight and leverage to push that blade toward the center of his soul, his frame muscular, taller than me by at least three inches, his weight mine plus at least forty pounds.
He was strong, swift, as determined to kill as I was determined to stay alive.
I gritted my teeth, grunted and shoved the blade toward the assassin’s chest, struggled with him, strength against strength, an arm wrestle that lasted for the better part of eternity, a battle that I refused to lose. I pushed the blade into his sweaty T-shirt, into his skin, inside his body, eased death his way a little at a time, fought and grunted with the killer as I pushed the blade a millimeter at a time, an inch at a time, then, with a rush, pushed it as the blade vanished, didn’t ease up as the look on his dank face changed from anger to desperation to surprise to fear, pushed the blade until it stilled his rapid-beating heart.
The Grim Reaper claimed him, pulled him from this tropical world to a hotter place.
He collapsed, eyes wide open, slid down the concrete wall, fell forward, let out his final breath.
His bladder emptied. His bowels would do the same.
Dying was never pretty. Death didn’t have the scent of fresh roses.
I went down on one knee, wounded from the fight, struggling to breathe, exhausted, bruised, fists and elbows aching. Midday. Sun at its peak. Sweat drained down my face and neck, the heat from the Cayman Islands now a sweltering oven. I stared at the dead man. A man I’d never seen before.
He was a messenger. And the message from his employer rang like a noontime church bell.
Death’s foot was on my shadow.
I took deep breaths, senses on fire, the bathroom hot, the stench of urine strong.
It had happened fast. Less than two minutes had passed since I walked into the bathroom.
Just like that my world would be different. Minutes ago I’d been scuba diving, thinking about the kid, my mind on the kid a lot lately. The kid had been on my mind when I had stepped inside the toilet, too preoccupied to realize I had been followed by an assassin with a blade. A man who, after our quick and deadly fight, I needed to drag inside the stall to hide his body, then let water run from the sink to the bathroom floor to wash away the blood on the tile. I stared at him, a blade in his chest, right in the heart of his University College of the Cayman Islands T-shirt. Once again a dead body was at my feet.
My heart raced. My mind moved faster than the speed of thought.
The peaceful part of my dark life was over, had ended almost as soon as it had begun.
I grimaced at the dead man. Blood dripped from his broken nose.
We’d shared no words, but he didn’t come inside this bathroom for conversation.
I went through his pockets, took everything I could find. Copper wire was inside his pocket. The kind made for strangling. Wire I recognized. Anger in my eyes, I pulled the blade from his chest. No choice. Had no weapon of my own. I hurried and rinsed it off, wrapped it in paper towels.
Near the back wall I found a sign that said the bathroom was closed for cleaning, put that on the door as I hurried outside, clear blue waters in front of me, couples and families playing and lounging in the sand, snorkeling, parasailing, Jet Skiing, all unaware of the violence that had happened yards away.
I had stepped inside that toilet less than two minutes ago.
I paused, searched to see if the killer had come alone.