“$12.50 a day. First day in advance.” His voice was thick, southern and coarse. He pushed a registration card across the counter with one puffy hand.
The girl from New York City signed the name, Marie Martin and reached in her purse for a twenty. She noticed the difference in her voice as she said, “I’ll be here for several days.” The fat Buddha grinned and returned the change.
“Room 18,” he grunted.
She took the key and headed upstairs. She had only seen the Buddha since stepping off the bus. Inside her room, she locked the door and drew the blinds. The small ceiling fan in her room only served to move the hot air back and forth. She removed her sweat-soaked blouse and lay down on the modest bed. The pressure of the last few days had shattered her emotions but finally she drifted off into a restless sleep.
When she awoke, it was nightfall and she heard the voices of two men talking below her window. She peered through the blinds and saw the fat man speaking to a bent, fragile, old gentleman. The old man looked towards the hotel, said a few words quickly and walked off into the night. The Buddha moved briskly back into the hotel.
Marie closed the blinds, not sure of what she had seen. She was hot and damp. The perspiration had vanished from her body, leaving her sticky and tired.
She moved towards the bathroom and started to run water in the rust stained tub. She walked back to her bedroom, slowly undressed and placed her clothes on the bed. The room now felt cooler as the fan blew gently across her naked body.
She returned to the bathroom and slightly closed the door. She eased her tired body into the water. The cold sensation awakened her emotions. Her eyes adjusted to the dark and she could see the humble surroundings of her accommodations. Only a sink and toilet were present in the small bathroom. One towel hung alone on the barren rack.
The room was quiet until she heard small footsteps approaching in the hallway. She heard the front door of her room open slightly as a tiny light filled the area. The light filtered through the small crack she left open on the bathroom door.
She reclined quietly in the tub, never moving a muscle. As quickly as the light appeared, it vanished. Her heart raced uncontrollably. She jumped from the water, dashed into her room, pulled a nightshirt from her suitcase, and quickly covered her body.
She stood in the middle of the darkness and listened to the silence. She moved slowly towards the door. It was still locked. She opened it slightly, peered into the dark hallway, and walked slowly into its emptiness, glancing nervously downstairs. No one was there except the Buddha, sitting like a mountain. His attention was fixed on the small black and white television. He laughed at the Gomer Pyle re-run. She left unnoticed and returned to her room, locking it behind her.
She climbed slowly into bed. Maybe she had been mistaken. The stress of the last few days could have finally taken its toll. She allowed her mind to fall back to the past.
She had always been on her own. Her mother had worked two jobs to make their meager life possible. She knew from her childhood that she would not continue her misery. As a young girl, she learned what made men act the way they do. She had learned how to control and manipulate, to use others for her own gain.
Men found her beautiful. Her dark eyes and hair were a draw and her sleek, hard body made them pay. She knew the rules of the street and understood them better than most. She worked the system and it had paid well.
She had so many men that they all ran together. That was until last year, when she had met a man named Raul. He was sexy, in control and domineering. He made the rules and set the norms. He was street rich. He had cash, cars and most importantly, drugs. Everywhere that Raul went, people stood in line. He was the new prince of the city, and the girl from New York City was his newly crowned princess. She saw his potential and lusted for his power.
Raul was hungry for more of everything. He craved the status of his newfound control. He had the dream. He knew that the right, unbelievable deal would set him up for the rest of his life. He also knew how to make that deal.
Raul had recruited his lieutenants over the years. His operation was strong and forceful and it had been years since anyone had tried to cheat him out of money. The beatings and killings he had arranged and participated in became legend. After the killing of Sam Gennico, it was obvious that fucking with Raul’s money would be certain death.
Raul reveled in his plan to work with the Reshanda Clan. They were small-timers but up-and-comers. The street buzzed about their strange rituals and bizarre practices. Raul blew it off as amateur voodoo, street myth to scare the locals.
Raul gathered his lieutenants in his stylish apartment. His large chest puffed with pride and disdain. Marie had watched and marveled at his plan. He was ruthless and cunning. He had the master deal. Raul had studied the Reshanda’s practice of having only two people arrive for the transaction. One was the orator. He did all the dealing. The other, the driver, often never left the car.
Raul was astonished by their ignorance. He advised his men that all fifteen would be there, five with him in his limo and the others distributed into two other cars. They would make contact by radio and when the shit hit the fan, they would devour the Reshandas, as lambs led to their slaughter. They would take the Reshanda’s millions and never deliver the drugs. Raul almost felt sorry for the naive bastards.
As the men left, Marie became uncomfortable. She had heard the strange tales of the Reshanda. She knew that they only sent two people because that was all they needed. She had heard the stories of the weird magic that followed them wherever they went.
She knew that the quiet myth prevailed. On the Reshanda’s first transaction in the city, local thugs had tried to rip them off. One of the Reshanda were killed. Over the next week, one by one the thugs turned up dead, necks broken and faces bitten and mangled beyond belief. The leader of the group, Jimmy B. had been decapitated in his room and his head never recovered. The urban myth said it sits at the Reshanda’s dwelling as a testament to their awesome powers.
When she told Raul of her concerns he laughed. “Bullshit. The undermanned bastards were just trying to scare people. Everyone knew that Jimmy B. was a pissed-on junkie. A mainliner out of his fucking mind.”
“And the deaths?” the girl had countered.
“They had fucked with so many people that it could have been anyone.” Raul had left the room and would not answer any more questions.
On the night of the deal, the girl joined Raul in the limo as she always had. He loved to impress her with his flash and power. As they drove to the Rolling Brothers’ Pier and Warehouse, the uneasiness had grown in her chest.
At the end of the alley stood the Reshanda’s limo, and true to form, only one man stood outside the car. He was tall and lanky, his thick hair styled in dreadlocks. Raul and his crew left their vehicle. From out of the tiny back windows, the girl from New York City believed she saw something small flying in the background.
As the men talked, the Reshanda’s turned over the money, 1.2 million, the fix of a lifetime. As the men walked to the warehouse, the girl from New York City saw one of Raul’s men talk into a small microphone. As the warehouse door opened, words exploded from the Reshanda’s’ mouth. The room was empty. The drugs, heroin and cocaine, were never there. As the Reshanda protested, one of Raul’s lieutenants put a bullet through the Reshanda’s head and his skull exploded. The driver appeared unaware until he heard the shooting. He jumped from his vehicle and was greeted with gunshots to his face and chest. One of Raul’s back-up vehicles arrived. One did not. The men ran toward the newly arrived vehicle. Over the radio, they heard the occupants of the missing vehicle screaming something about dark angels. The sound of a car exploding in the background ripped the silence of the night. The radio went silent.
Raul and the others left in their two cars and they split up into the night, terrified and headed in opposite directions. Each one pondered the words of terror they had heard; the words about Dark Angels. Raul was sweaty and cold as he headed back to his lair.
Once inside his apartment, he sat motionless as he stared out of the giant bay window. “It’s bullshit,” he muttered in a frantic voice. “Pure bullshit.” He started to laugh uneasily.
The phone rang. It was Paul, a central lieutenant in the operation, screaming that his apartment was surrounded by demons. The phone disconnected. Raul sat with sweat and tears rushing down his face. With the briefcase full of money sitting next to him, he stared blankly out the bay window.
“Bullshit,” he muttered repeatedly as he laughed uncontrollably.
And the girl from New York City moved slowly back to the bedroom and removed a .38 they kept in the nightstand. As Raul stammered in the night, she walked up behind him, placed the gun behind his right ear and fired. The girl from New York City was sure that when the angels came, they would be satisfied he was dead, maybe even thankful. Anyway, she was sure they would not need the money. She picked up the briefcase, packed her bags and dashed into the street. If anyone had heard the shot, they hadn’t called the police. She knew when they did, they would figure it was only Reshanda’s revenge.
The night was quiet and still, but she heard a soft fluttering in the distance. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw shadows moving above her. She wondered if they could be Dark Angels but no, she didn’t believe in Dark Angels anymore. She knew better than to believe.
She went to the bus terminal and told the old, bent over man she needed a ticket as far south as possible. She was astonished to find that a bus would be leaving south in 15 minutes. She stated so and the ticket man just grinned. “Your lucky day,” he said.
As she entered the bus, it was empty and did not pick up another traveler for hours. When the two day ride ended, she was the first to get off, leaving the other few passengers on the bus. No one had spoken the entire trip.
She was not proud of what she had done but she had no remorse for Raul. He was careless and had even murdered in front of her. He had made her an accessory. She had worked too hard to end up in jail. In the end, she knew that only the strong survive and that Raul’s greed had made him weak.
Now, as she lay in bed she heard talking in the downstairs lobby followed by strange laughter. The wind rattled the windows. She got up and removed the briefcase from her luggage. She checked the money and let her fingers feel its power.
The laughter grew louder from the lobby until it was deafening. The sound of the wind blowing against the window became louder. The girl from New York City could not shake the feeling. She put the money away and placed a robe around her. The laughter continued to grow louder and louder. She ran from her room and into the lobby. The Buddha and the bent man, the one who had sold her the bus ticket sat laughing, seated beside members of the Reshanda clan. On the ceiling fan, motionless sat a Dark Angel. He was quiet, his eyes yellow and hollow. His face was dark and menacing and his fangs glistened in the dim light. He leaped from the fan devouring the last of Raul’s gang. On the hotel mantel, Raul’s disfigured blood-soaked head sat next to Jimmy B’s.