Disclaimer: Johnny and Sonya aren’t mine. (SOB!) But all the other characters are. Doesn’t that make me special?
“What is your opinion of the trial?”
“Was it true that you were friends with the assailant, and took credit for his crime so he could escape?”
“What do you plan to do now?”
Finally, he reached the car and was able to slip away from the press and their demanding questions. When the door closed, everything became muted save the soft hum of the air conditioner and the shuffling of bodies settling into seats.
“Mr. Patkins, your defensive skills were commendable. I thank you for helping to clear this whole matter so efficiently, and with no loose ends.”
The lawyer grinned. “I do my best, sir. Though after seeing how much you’ve cleaned up, it was no sweat to beat out the prosecution. As for loose ends, I’ll need you to sign a few papers to close up the last bits of paperwork, and then your free to go.”
“It’s already done.”
“Oh,” Mr. Patkins remarked in surprise. His smile widened. “Well, than everything’s complete… except for one thing.”
“And that is?”
“What are you going to do now?” The lawyer received only a slick grin in reply.
After being dropped off at the office, the car drove off toward a side alley that was darkened by the close cropped buildings with run down walls and garbage hanging from the steel balconies above. Headlights dimmed, car parked but revving, the rear passenger window rolled down with a soft whir, and a grim but handsome face peered into the darkness.
“Vacationing in Italy.”
A brown envelope was handed through the window, shuffled around. The passenger pulled out a marker and he drew a circle on one of the photos and made a note. He handed it back to the shadow at his window.
“Would you like me to bring him here?”
The passenger shook his head with a wry grin that was hidden in the dim car. “No. He’ll come on his own, I’m sure. Just follow through with that little assignment.”
The shadow nodded and slipped back into the ink darkness.
The bar was loud and crowded, but in those conditions Sonya always seemed to think best. And thinking was just what she needed at the moment. The last week ran across her mind yet again; memories flashed rapidly as she tried to search for anything she missed that may provide some light.
After storming around the city of Venice for an hour, fuming silently and knocking down every guy that attempted to say hello, she returned to the hotel in the hope of talking about this movie thing. Actually, beating was more what she had in mind, but details weren’t important as long as she got the truth out of him. Because something felt wrong. He felt wrong, like there was something missing from him, or something totally different; it was bothering the hell out of her.
She cringed unconsciously at the memory of his smile. It was cold, void of feeling. It scared her.
When she arrived at the hotel, they told her he had left. The counter was the only thing keeping her standing until the shock passed… again. He really had left her. He had been serious. She ended up spending half the night picturing different ways of killing him, and the other half crying in the bathtub.
It wasn’t until the next morning that she noticed the broken vase near the fireplace. Being thrown across the room was what she quickly deduced, and a spark of hope filled her. She called up the studio that day in an attempt to get in touch with Johnny, as both of his cells were shut off.
Sonya frowned. That was another odd thing. His regular cell was always on, unless it should go dead, and even then he had a replacement phone to get his calls.
When she got in touch with the studio, she used her military tone and title to pry information from the little twerp of a secretary on the end of the line. That was when she received the third blow.
There was no movie being filmed, and Johnny had not shown up in LA. He had lied to her twice, and to achieve what? To run away from her?
Or to keep her from running with him?
Answers. She needed them. Immediately Sonya set of to the airport and to getting information about his whereabouts, assuming he had flown back to the US. That was what brought Sonya here, to New York. A reservation had been made through the airline company to a local hotel in Manhattan.
In the glass her drink swirled. Yet another confusing question. Of all the top hotels in New York, what the hell possessed him to go to a causal, middle class type hotel that was nice but nothing like the exquisite rooms he was always renting when he traveled? It was out of character, most definitely. Normally he wanted people to know where he was, but at the moment, he seemed to be receding into the corners, like he was trying to disappear.
She had arrived at the hotel about a day after he did, in estimation. After talking with the clerk, she discovered he had checked in under his birth name, Carlton. She asked a few more questions to learn that Johnny rarely left the hotel during the day, instead remaining locked up in his room on the third floor. At night, however, he was seen leaving around 11 and returning around 5 in the morning. With a thank you to the clerk, she took a seat in the lobby and debated her ideas. Confront him now, or keep careful tabs on him until she learned more. As much as she wanted to go upstairs, kick his door in, and demand an explanation, she didn’t think she’d be getting one. Whatever he was battling at the moment, he didn’t want Sonya involved. This was personal.
She went back to the clerk, checked out a room, and waited.
Then she followed him. Every night he left the hotel and took the subway into Brooklyn. Kept carefully to himself, not talking with anyone past a simple greeting, Sonya observed. A different street every night, he’d exit the subway and walk the city, sticking mainly to dark side streets with no lights. He simply walked, but looked around constantly, as if thinking he was being followed, which made it harder for Sonya to stay close. A few times she lost him, and gave up her search so as not to be found. The next night her vigilance was assumed again.
So far, she’d learned nothing from their nightly excursions. It was irritating, so she made a decision. Tonight, when he went out, she would follow him one last time, and if nothing came out of their little trip, she was going to ram him into a wall with gun drawn and force the answers out of him.
With a flick of her wrist, she signaled the bartender for another khalua. At that moment, someone began shouting complaints about a spilled drink, and she looked down the bar to see two guys arguing. It ended when one of them threw a newspaper down and stormed out. Things returned to normal in the lounge.
But while most people went back to talking, Sonya’s eyes remained glued to the paper, and something flashed in her mind. Johnny and Sonya were in bed at the hotel, and they were playfully arguing about getting up. After giving in to a brief morning make out session, Sonya forced herself out of bed to get a quick shower, which she clearly stated Johnny was not invited to join. He had pouted and attempted to make a scene, but at her unforgiving glare, he relented. With a quick kiss, he let her shower while he ordered breakfast to be brought to the room. When Sonya came out twenty minutes later, the place had a different feel to it. Johnny stood against the doors leading to the balcony, his body rigid and closed in, his face expressionless. The paper was rolled up in his hand. She’d asked if he was all right, and his reply was in the affirmative, but something was out of place. For the rest of the day, he seemed distant, toned down. Again she asked about his well being and he merely replied that it was just an off day. Sonya thought nothing of it, as she’d had those days as well. But then his attitude that night…Was it something in the newspaper?
She glanced into the mirror to watch herself knock back the drink when she noticed a figure walk by. Black coat, black sweater, black sunglasses, blue jeans. Johnny was going for a new look tonight. Sonya threw a wad of bills on the bar and set off after him.
He didn’t wander aimlessly as usual, with the appearance of searching for something he didn’t know. This time he seemed to have a set destination. It was to an old building in the south end of Brooklyn. Broken glass sparkled on the streets. Dirty and torn clothes hung from limp lines connected to neighboring buildings. No street lights, no homes, garbage everywhere, a few homeless scrounging for something to tame their hunger. This was the place where Johnny specifically went. Where he stopped at a wall at the back end of the alley, he hesitated, looked furtively from side to side, and then to Sonya’s amazement, walked through. There was a soft creak.
Quietly Sonya followed.
The wall had a slit just wide enough for a person to get through. One wouldn’t see it in the dark unless he was looking for it. The gap widened and squared off to stop at a cellar. The door was open and there was a faint light inside. Sonya crept down. A dying light flickered from the ceiling, illuminating the room enough to see, if only dimly. The place could be likened to an underground bar. Some pool tables were off to the side, a poker table lay on its side near a smashed television, and crates lay in scattered heaps on the dirty floor. There were scorch marks along the walls and across the counter of the bar. In the back was a door, slightly ajar to another room. Forward she crept on the balls of her feet, and she pressed herself to the wall to listen. She heard nothing, so peered inside.
Blood. The walls were stained brown with dried blood. Frozen into the brick and cement were the small trails from the splattered substance that had leaked down the walls but were never cleaned. A mattress was on the floor, torn and stained in the corner. Sheets covered in brown and black spots covered part of the floor, and the rest of the room was bare save for two chairs against the far wall, one splintered and broken. Across from the mattress, Sonya could see a handcuff nailed drilled into the cement. At the center of the room, Johnny stood motionless, his eyes trained on a point Sonya couldn’t see. Her logic tried to conjure up a reason for him being here, in this depressing place where God knows what happened. But he had never told her anything about Brooklyn. As far as she could remember, he had never been in this city.
Johnny turned, causing Sonya to quickly duck out from the doorframe and crawl over to the toppled poker table. Breath held, she sat patiently and looked around the corner of the table. A moment later, Johnny walked out, head bowed, feet dragging. He stopped just outside the door, paused, and turned back to look inside again. In the moment his head lifted to turn, Sonya could practically see the memories flashing across his mind. Anguish filled but cold as ice, his eyes held something Sonya couldn’t distinguish. Whatever it was, though, it made her shiver.
“Thought you’d be by here.”
Shock coursed through her veins as she watched Johnny spin sharply, his left arm extended and his body tight.
‘A gun. He has a gun.’ He never carried a gun. Never. Even when Sonya asked him to hold hers for a moment while she was packing, he refused to touch it. Said he hated the things. Said they scared the hell out of him. But that wasn’t the only thing that was bothering her. If he didn’t have a gun while in Italy, and Sonya knew he didn’t, he must have bought it the night he arrived in New York, the one night Sonya wasn’t following him. And the way he was handling it, by his grip and his posture, she could tell this wasn’t his first time using one, which completely contradicted his dislike of the weapon.
Her eyes shifted to the new occupant. He was short, lanky, and dead in the eyes. Sonya could easily classify him as a druggie. There was a gun in his belt, close enough to his hand to be pulled in case the movie star tried anything. A sardonic smile crossed his lips as he spoke.
“Hey, man, no need for that. We’re all friends here.”
“Where is he?” Johnny demanded quietly.
“Around somewhere. You know it’s always so hard to keep track of his whereabouts.”
Johnny cocked the gun. “I’m not going to ask you again,” he responded, the menacing tone edging on deadly.
“Picking up Santa Clause,” the man answered, nonplussed. “He really missed that jolly ho ho ho.” The smile became a devilish grin. “Don’t you?”
Johnny’s eyes narrowed.
The man stepped forward with a quiet laugh. “Come and have a drink with us. It’s been so long, hasn’t it? I’m sure we’ll have a lot to talk about.” His sick smile and mocking friendliness made Sonya shudder.
“Somehow I get the feeling there won’t be as much talking as there will be screaming.”
“Somehow, I get the feeling you’re right.”
There was a soft whistle, like a burst of air through a small hole, and Johnny was knocked down to his left side, a small fountain of blood spraying the wall. Even as he hit the ground, a second gun was firing from his right hand, the bullet lodging itself into the chest of the second man who fired from the shadows. The perp fell with a loud grunt.
The first man had dived down when Johnny fired, pulled out his own gun, and aimed for the actor. From the stairs, two more men with long hair and ragged clothes pointed their own guns. Shots echoed in the room as Johnny shot off three well-aimed rounds that put the two at the stairs on the floor, dead. The first man sent off three shots of his own that gorged into the wall, with one bullet scathing Johnny’s calf as the actor rolled behind the bar. Sonya retaliated in his defense and put a bullet through the druggie’s hand. A scream echoed off the walls of the room as the man dropped the gun and held his bleeding limb. He looked up at Sonya, who stared coldly back, her weapon never wavering from its trained position on his head.
Slowly he stood, and then waited, fire flashing in his pale eyes.
Knowing he couldn’t do anything, Sonya slid her eyes to the bar. “Joh--”
The man’s leg kicked up, an object took flight, and then he was squeezing the trigger. The bullet exploded into the brick next to her head, she went to the floor, rolled out from behind the poker table, and fired at him. But he was gone, up the steps and away from the cellar.
Sonya swore under her breath as she stood. She walked over to the bar and looked behind it, to see a gun shoved in her face. “Johnny?”
“Sonya?!” Ooh, he was mad when he saw her. She almost cowered at the enraged look in his eyes.
“Let’s get you out of here,” Sonya said as she helped him up. Blood dripped from his shoulder, and he was having trouble supporting himself on his right leg.
“What the hell are you doing here?!” he hissed when his shoulder was agitated.
“Saving your dumb ass.” With an arm around his waist, she helped him around the three dead bodies and up the stairs. “Friends of yours?”
“You shouldn’t be here. You have to leave.”
“Not until we get you some medical attention.”
“No!” Johnny snapped. “No hospitals!”
He shook his head so viciously he nearly knocked them over. “I’m not going to any fucking hospital! I can’t.” He stopped walking and tried to shove her away. “And you can’t be here. So get the fuck lost!” His injured leg couldn’t support him, so he stumbled. The lieutenant quickly helped him again.
“Fuck you, I’m staying!” Sonya hailed a cab that was, miraculously, driving by. She helped the injured man into the back seat.
“Is your friend all right? The hospital’s right by here,” the driver offered in a thick northern accent.
“No! Goddamn it, no hospitals!”
“Shut up, Johnny!” she said with a smack to his chest. “He’s just had too much to drink. All he needs is a long night’s sleep,” Sonya answered. She gave the directions back to the hotel.
Johnny pinned her with a harsh glare. “You know where I’m staying?”
“Excuse me, sir? Can you turn up the volume a bit, I love this song.”
“Sure thing, ma’am.” And the steady techno beat filled the car.
Johnny repeated his question impatiently. Sonya’s arms wrapped around his body in response, and she pulled him closer.
“Yes, I know where we’re staying.”
“You bitch,” Johnny spat and squirmed to get out of her arms, but his wounded shoulder pressed into her fingers and he hissed again.
“Stop squirming, I don’t want you to get blood on the seats,” she whispered fiercely.
“I don’t want you touching me,” he retaliated just as harshly.
She kept her voice steady, and was glad he couldn’t see her flinch at his words. “You have no choice if you don’t want to go to a hospital. I’m the only person who will help you out.”
“They’re small wounds, I can take care of them myself. I don’t need you.”
“You’re starting to sound like me.”
“What does it take to get through your blonde head? I don’t want you here!”
Sonya glared at him, her teeth bared slightly and her eyes narrowed to slits. “You want to get rid of me? Tell me what you’re hiding,” she growled. “Tell me what the fuck is going on with you and your little trigger happy friends. Tell me why you’re carrying two guns around, and why you’ve completely hidden yourself from society, and why the fuck you lied to me.” She stared at him intently, waiting for him to crack.
He didn’t, so the two remained quiet all the way back to the hotel.