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Authors: iancrooks

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Easter City

BOOK: Easter City
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CHAPTER 1

The wealthy made and lost all their money on
Main Street.

I always watched them from the gutter. Men
had sideburns with bald heads or baby faces and slicked back hair,
black and greasy like pitch. Women had candy hair and tight butts
and wore tight dresses and fur collars.

The wealthy came down from the Hills to
escape their picket-fence-lives. They frequented casinos and blew
their winnings on one of the hundred fancy restaurants and a few
more escorts. I saw one come out of a casino one time, drunk out of
his skull—his entourage cheering his big win—and march up to Avaris
Airstrip. He came back, chest stuck out past his flopping belly,
waving a fistful of paper and a few keys; the bastard had bought a
jet in cash.

You’d think all that money would make me
crave wealth. But I’d seen what money does to men. It turns them
bad so they’re not men anymore. They become devils. Laughing devils
won craps and bought jets and carried escorts on their arms like
accessories. Angry, dead-eyed devils lost their fortune at
roulette. They lost their cars and throttled their friends in
alleyways, stripped the valuables and left the bodies naked in the
sleet.

In the jungle of casinos and fancy hotels and
plump-bowtie wearing devils, there’s no room for people like me—no
room for starved, smelly twelve year old brats.

I’d seen how Wealthy Devils dealt with beggar
kids. For starts, we were called Cochon. If a Cochon crossed the
street, chances were, a car would speed up and mow it down. If a
Cochon was spotted on a sidewalk, it’d be beaten for fun by wealthy
men, and even the escorts jabbed the heels of their stilettos into
eye or ear to see which bled better.

My earliest memory is learning to avoid the
wealthy. Some years back I ran into a Wealthy Devil after stealing
takeout. The guy who caught me sent his buddy to get some pliers. I
don’t like to think about it, so I’ll say this: thank God baby
teeth are supposed to go.

Don’t think Wealthy Devils are above
torturing little girls either. Last week they bludgeoned one for
walking on the sidewalk. No matter how often I see that type of
sick shit, my stomach turns.

“Got it started!” a Wealthy Devil cried,
smacking the brat’s knees with a cane until she fell, sobbing.

“Me next!” a man grabbed the kid by the neck
and bashed her head against a wall.

“Here!” shrieked a harpy escort, and rammed a
heel the kid’s eye. Squelch.

Whoever evoked the most screams and blood
from the kid won ‘the game’ and they all went on drinking and
walked over the body and joined their friends for good times at a
Big Win Casino.

A car crunched around the corner. I blinked.
My feet were numb; I’d been daydreaming again.

I shivered and swept my tangled hair out of
my eyes. My curses frosted in the air. Cars continued to crunch by
and, occasionally, a pair of well booted feet and stilettos clapped
past on the frozen asphalt.

Main Street was a perpetual ice storm. It was
hard for a pile of bones in a wife beater and shredded boots to
maintain its heat. But I steeled myself. My belly was empty. It was
time to eat.

Just above the gutter, on the sidewalk, there
were hoots of delight.

“What do we have here, eh?”

“Cochon, seems like. A Cochon, mucking the
sidewalk.”

“Let’s kill it!”

“It’d get our blood pumping in this
cold.”

“Yes… would do just that. But Julia’s waiting
for me back at La Rouge… I’m her carnal fascination.”

There was a murmur of praise and scattered
sniggering.

Now. It was now or not at all for the rest of
that day. I gritted my teeth and gripped the already-loose grate.
The freezing iron caught me through the threadbare mitts. I bit my
lip and pushed. The grate clanged onto the street. I kicked off,
out of the waste deep gutter water, tumbled onto the street, and
hopped back on the sidewalk, barely dodging unforgiving black
wheels.

Even in the day, Main Street was a hub.
Across the street Big Win Casino loomed like a gold monolith, and
cars lined up out front, waiting for the valet to scramble to their
aid. Flyers depicting a shadowy woman plastered the gutter grates
and filled waste bins and were stuck up on restaurant windows.
JULIA’S SWORD. 11 FRIDAY ONE NIGHT ONLY.

Next door was a sprawling hotel with a sign
studded in flashing lights: La Rouge. There was the same amount of
congestion and people guffawing and wolf whistling and dashing into
the warm, lavish interior for a long awaited mug of coffee or glass
of pinot from the wine fountain. Next to La Rouge was another
hotel, Le Vert, with more people, and next to Le Vert, a packed
steakhouse and another casino and, further up the road, Avaris
Airstrip. Nearly every establishment played “Luck be a Lady”.

“Hey! What’s he doing there?

I spun round to see a red-faced man wearing
red-tint shades in a tux accompanied by a burly fellow with
splotchy skin and three slim women in violent-red dresses and long
hoop earrings, pointing a gloved finger at me. Beneath the man’s
boot was a kid who looked my age. He had a black eye and a busted
lip. Snot and blood congealed and froze down his nose. His eyes
were brown and frozen like his tangled blonde roots. He didn’t look
up.

In an instant the devil crew lusted for
me—another body, ripe for ravaging.

“Two in one day!” screeched one woman.

“Oh… this is too good.” Sighed the pointing
man. “Julia will have to wait!”

The burly man cupped his hands and shouted
down the street to another group that was approaching the
scene.

“Cochon! Hurry u—!”

I backed up, rounded the corner and pelted
down the street, trying to ignore the crowing and heavy footfalls
as the group tailed me.

I squinted through falling snow, and after
few minutes of slide-running, found my hideout, a space beneath a
short flight of wood stairs, and my food source—a packed steakhouse
to which the stairs led. The sign out front read Bones.

I ducked behind a waste bin near the side of
a hotel and waited for the flow of stuffed rich people to ebb
before crawling in the thick snow, and, when all was clear and the
street was void of cars and the sidewalk of people, dove under the
staircase.

The door banged open at that instant and
warmth and the smell of steak and the sound of a murmuring violin
and chatter wafted out.

“Come again!”

“We sure will!” came a cartoonish voice. I
couldn’t tell if the voice belonged to a man or a woman but it
tickled my ears in an annoying way.

The patio creaked, then the stairs. I peered
through the space between the stairs. A man. And he wasn’t alone.
Only…on each arm, instead of women in lurid dresses, he held
giggling men with hoop earrings and black suits and black
shoes.

“—Cranston’s mistress, they say.”

“I’d swallow a sword for a piece of that
chiseled beauty.”

I blinked, shook my head and scanned their
hands; no bags. A car pulled up to the curb. Doors shut and the men
were gone.

The next party to descend the stairs was
rowdier—if less colorful—than the last, though all they had to
offer were a few dirty toothpicks, which they dropped through the
space between the stairs.

My stomach grumbled and I shivered violently
and wrapped my arms around my prominent rib cage. I never got used
to the cold—not even after freezing for as long as I can remember.
The gutter was freezing and you got wet but at least the wind
couldn’t rattle your bones and blow away dreams of warmer days.

I brushed ice crystals from my lashes and
looked up at the sound of the door moaning wide. Chatter. Violins.
“Take care now! Come again!”

Someone creaked out onto the patio. A pair of
feet and a dull clunk; a man, alone. A man with a cane, alone. And
better still, the silver bottom of a paper bag glinted as he made
his steady way down the stairs.

I tensed, ready to spring out but froze at
the crunch of road-ice. I squinted through the stairs. A small
limousine had pulled up alongside the curb. The driver’s door
opened and a tall man with a buzz cut and a black suit and a solid
black tie and sunglasses stepped out.

Now or not at all. I popped out around the
staircase. Hesitated. The man before me was not elderly—somewhere
in his late thirties maybe. He had broad shoulders, good color in
his lips and his blonde hair had a healthy sheen and hung unruly
over his eyes. His eyes were blue like mine but vibrant—electric
even. They were shocked at the sight of me. When he saw me, the
man’s mouth neither wrinkled in disgust nor smiled with intent of
sadism. Instead he frowned, and a curious look flashed across his
face and his eyes blaze with recognition.

I gaped, rooted to the spot. There was
something about him. I’d seen him before, somewhere, many times
before, but I couldn’t place his face.

The man scratched his stubble-dotted jaw.
“Say…” he began.

“Hey! Cochon!”

I whirled around to see the driver charging
across the street. I swallowed and blinked rapid fire and turned
back to the man. I reached out, tore the bag from his loose grip
and dashed back up toward Main Street.

My breath was ragged and spit flew from my
mouth. I glanced back, sure I would find the driver on my heel.
Down the street, the man with the cane was waving at the driver,
calling him off.

My heart steadied for a moment but kicked
back up instantly when I saw that the same group from before—the
one whose leader was in a relationship with someone called
Julia—was standing on the sidewalk near my gutter. What was more,
they were accompanied another other group—two men and a young,
richly dressed woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 2

 

“No big deal that they got
away…
really
.
Besides, even camel hair doesn’t stave off this cold.” The burly
man plucked at his coat, shivering violently. Snot trickled into
his mustache and crusted.

       
The man who had spotted me hopping out of my grate, the one with
greasy brown hair and the red shades shivered, his back pressed to
an ATM.

        “I’m with Spot.
I’ve been keeping Julia waiting too long. You know how she
hates
being cheated of
her—”

       
“You know how I despise that name, Cranston!” Spot protested,
dragging the back of his hand across his nose. His voice was high
pitched and whiny like a toddler’s and it clashed with his
stature.

       
“—
me
time…”
finished Cranston, glaring daggers at his cronie.

        “We let the
Cochon
escape!” wailed a
green haired woman. “Julia’s ‘me time’ can wait! Our
us
time can
wait!”

        Cranston
lunged.
Smack.
The
escort staggered.
Smack.
She landed hard on the curb.

        “Shut your mouth,
whore! I don’t
pay
you to gab.”

       
The sniveling splotchy man and the other two escorts flinched.
Cranston sighed and gestured to Spot and the escorts.

        “Come. This hunt is
over. We’ll get our blood pumping another
way
…”

        He
and Spot walked to the cross walk. I was in sight now. I flattened
myself to the side of the building. But Cranston and Spot were
caught up discussing a certain long awaited magic show at La Rouge
and they didn’t notice me.

       
The escorts consoled their sobbing comrade whose cheek was swollen
and red. When the walking man flashed on the opposite sidewalk they
hoisted her and walk-dragged her across the street behind Spot and
Cranston.  

Still pressed to the bricks
I looked behind and around the corner of the restaurant, then
across the street. Cars skidded down the side street; their drivers
wouldn’t notice me unless I crossed the street. There weren’t many
people across the street; the casinos and hotels were packed this
dismal day. I squinted. Cranston was tipping the doormen at La
Rouge.
Now
.

        I
dashed up to the crosswalk and, when the light had turned red,
opened the grate, dropped the bag and hopped down.

       
Splash
.
Thunk!
“Ow!”

       
Pain lanced up my legs as I collided with a hard, fleshy
something.

       
“Owie!” it echoed dully underneath me.

BOOK: Easter City
7.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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