Velvet Roses Ch. 09byvirgofemme©
*I know I probably sound like a broken record, but once again, I would like to thank you all for your continuing support. This chapter, like the last, was sort of a bitch to write, but I finally managed to get it completed, so here it is! I do hope you'll enjoy it.*
Situated directly across from a medium sized lot with patchy grass known as Needle Park, the East Oakland Greyhound bus station seemed to be a hangout for lost souls, degenerates, and those who were down on their luck.
Sauntering casually through the depot, Dane surveyed his surroundings, not allowing his eyes to linger on any particular person for more than a few seconds. He wasn't exactly certain who he should be looking for, nor did he even know if the person he was seeking was present, but the address on the pad of paper had compelled him to check this place out, so here he was.
Give me what's mine, and I won't go after her
Ever since he'd read the note, he hadn't been able to get those words out of his head, and found himself perplexed as to just what exactly the anonymous note-writer was so desperate to get back. Cash, drugs, jewelry? He was at a complete loss, but he knew he had to figure it out quick, because Jeneda's life depended on it.
Continuing to scan the room, he allowed his eyes to rove over the various people who were situated uncomfortably in the hard plastic seats-a worn out looking mother holding a bawling toddler, an androgynous, pierced teenager with a studded black leather jacket, a long haired man wearing a T-shirt with the words "Native Pride" printed across the front of it-none of them looked suspicious in any way, so he directed his eyes elsewhere.
Wanting to blend in, he glanced at the timetable board behind the check-in counter, then in a false show of impatience, he looked at his watch.
He took a seat in one of the chairs, and after removing the mysterious note from his blazer pocket, he took out his cell phone and dialed in the phone number that was printed on the piece of paper. Then keeping the phone concealed in his hand, he pinned his eyes on the rows of seats located directly across from him.
Almost instantaneously, he heard a shrill ringing come from somewhere on the other side of the waiting room, and realizing that it was emitting from a payphone next to the bathrooms, Dane focused his gaze upon it.
A few moments passed before he noticed a bald headed man with a gold hoop in his left ear walk up to the public payphone, and after lifting the receiver from the hook, he pressed it against his ear.
Just to confirm, Dane glanced down at the mobile in his hand, and seeing that the outbound call he'd made had indeed been picked up, he pressed the end call button, then slipped the phone back into the pocket of his blazer.
Keeping his eyes keenly fixed on the bald man, Dane watched as he removed the phone from his ear, gave it a suspicious look, and then slammed it back into its cradle. He then darted his eyes around the room, and after quickly glancing at his watch, he made a beeline for the door.
Dane inconspicuously watched from his seat in the corner of the room as the man exited the bus depot, then he rose to his feet and followed him out the door.
He got outside just in time to see the man disappear around the side of the Greyhound station, and with hasty steps, Dane trailed behind him.
He'd just barely rounded the corner of the building when something inside of him told him to brace himself, but by that time, it was already too late.
A flash of silver was the only warning Dane had before a blade was jabbed towards his stomach, but before it could embed itself in his flesh, he grabbed hold of the other man's wrist, giving it a sharp twist so that the knife fell from his hands.
A grunt of anguish emitted from his opponent's mouth, and wasting not a second, Dane smashed his fist into the other man's nose.
The force of it temporarily stunned the bald man, causing him to stumble backwards, and as a thin stream of blood trickled out, he wiped it away with the back of his hand. Clearly infuriated, he narrowed his eyes, then like a bull in a blind rage, he charged Dane.
Having been trained from a young age in the art of sword fighting, Dane had always been taught to anticipate his opponent's next move, and noticing that his adversary was balling his left hand into a fist, Dane readied himself to block the punch.
Just as Dane had predicted, his opponent threw a left hook, but before it could connect with his chin, Dane dodged it, then threw a punch of his own, landing it on the underside of the man's chin.
Rather than deter, this only seemed to spur Dane's adversary on, and with lightning speed, the bald man counterpunched, landing it square against Dane's jaw.
The devastating force of it caused Dane's head to snap backwards, and before he could recover from the hit, his adversary delivered a swift, forceful kick to the midsection.
This knocked the wind right out of Dane, causing him to fall to the ground, and no sooner had his body met concrete, was the bald man upon him, straddling Dane so that he was pinned to the ground.
Upon realizing that Dane had a gun tucked into the waistband of his pants, the man quickly disarmed him and slipped the handgun into the pocket of his bomber jacket. Then he roughly grasped a handful of Dane's hair and pressed a razor sharp knife against his throat.
"Who sent you?" He asked through clenched teeth, a faint Irish accent lacing his words.
"Tell me the truth, or I'll cut your throat."
The bald man increased the pressure of the blade against Dane's windpipe, and as it bit into his skin, he forced back a hiss of pain.
"I am telling the truth. Nobody sent me," Dane spat out.
"Then why are you following me?"
"Why are *you* following me?"
The man glared at him for a long moment before saying, "You've got a debt to settle, and I suggest you pay up soon. Slade doesn't take kindly to people who cheat him."
"I've cheated nobody."
His lips peeled back into a crooked smile, revealing the glint of a gold tooth. "Yeah, that's what they all say."
"Tell me where to find him."
A humorless chuckle escaped the Irishman's lips. "You're kidding, right? You think I got a death wish?"
"It wasn't a request." Dane stared hard into the other man's eyes.
"For a guy with a knife against his throat, you sure do make a lot of demands. You got balls, kid. I'll give you that."
"What is it you people want? Why are you after me?"
"You know why. You and that little friend of yours stole something that belongs to Slade. He didn't appreciate that very much, and now he wants it back. If you're smart, you'll return it quick."
"Those stereo's I fenced were only worth six hundred. If you want me to pay you back, I will."
"It's not the stereos we're after, It's the four pounds of cocaine that was stashed inside."
"I don't know anything about that."
"Of course not."
"I'm telling the truth."
"Marla told us she split the bags of coke with you. We already found out where she stashed hers, so where are you keeping your half hidden?"
"Marla told you I was in on this?"
"Yeah. She squealed just before Slade gutted her."
"She was lying. I had nothing to do with it."
The Irishman heaved an exasperated sigh, then said, "Looks like we'll have to do you the same way we did Marla." His lips peeled back into a devilish grin as he added, "Torture you nice and slow until you finally give in and confess."
"Marla took those drugs on her own. Kill me if you want, but that still won't help you find what you're looking for."
"You're right, it won't." He shifted the knife so that the point of it was pressing against Dane's Adam's apple, then with a gleam in his eyes, he asked, "Have you ever watched someone you love die?"
He said nothing in return, only glowered up at his adversary.
"I'm willing to bet you haven't, but with the way things are going, it looks like you'll get the chance."
Dane's gut knotted at the prospect, and as he gave a nervous swallow, the tip of his adversary's knife knicked his throat.
"That girlfriend of yours...Jeneda."
As her name passed the bald man's lips, Dane felt his stomach churn, and his body grew rigid.
"Do you really wanna call Slade's bluff and see if he'll go after her? Because I can assure you, he's definitely got some plans for her."
Dane could feel the anger building inside of him, his chest rising and falling rapidly as his lips formed into a fierce scowl.
"Come to think of it, I've got a few plans for her, myself." He flashed a wolfish grin before saying, "I think I'll pay her another visit, except this time, I'll make sure and stop by when she's at home."
"You lay a hand on her..." He said through gritted teeth.
"And what? You gonna play hero and come to her rescue, pretty boy?" A maniacal giggle escaped his lips. "How about I give you a makeover? Carve your face up like a Halloween pumpkin? I bet that little girlfriend of yours would get a real kick out it."
He removed the knife from Dane's throat, then placing it against his face, he slid the edge of it along his jaw, drawing blood in the process. Not wanting to give his rival the satisfaction of hearing him cry out in pain, Dane clenched his teeth, squirming underneath the other man as he tried to buck his hips upward and throw him off.
His opponent, however, wasn't to be budged, and as he lifted the knife from Dane's face, he cocked his head slightly, admiring his handiwork.
"Not bad, for a warm up." He then twirled the knife in his hands, and with macabre eagerness, he said, "I'm really gonna enjoy this."
Dane could tell from the look in the Irishman's eyes that this time he would do a lot more damage, and realizing he was on the verge of being tortured, Dane knew he had to quickly put his adversary out of commission.
His hands clawed at the ground, searching desperately for a weapon of any kind, and as his fingers found purchase against a syringe, he tightly gripped it in his hand. Then in one swift, fluid moment, he brought his arm up, and channeling every bit of his strength, he stabbed it into the arm of his rival.
A pained grunt tore from the bald man's lips, and as he directed his gaze to the filthy syringe sticking out of his bicep, his eyes bugged and his face contorted in sheer horror.
"Son of a bitch, you stuck me!" He grabbed at the syringe, frantically trying to pull it out of his bicep.
Taking advantage of the Irishman's distraction, Dane knocked the knife out of his hand, then retrieved the gun that was in the pocket of his bomber jacket. He then shoved his adversary off him and quickly rose to his feet.
With a rageful scowl marring his handsome features, Dane aimed the gun at the man on the ground. Matching his rival's expression of blind fury, the Irishman yelled, spittle flying from his mouth in a rabid craze.
"Your days are fucking numbered, shitbag! When Slade finds out what you've done, he'll butcher your ass!"
"I think you overestimate the value of your life." Staring down at the Irishman in revulsion, he added, "You're nothing more than a thug, a useless goon." With the flick of his thumb, Dane turned the safety off, then aiming down the barrel of his gun, he said, "Tell me where to find Slade."
"Go fuck yourself!" His lips curled into a sneer, eyes burning with hate.
Shifting the muzzle of the gun so that it was no longer pointing at the Irishman's head, Dane directed it at one of his kneecaps, then pulled the trigger. A gunshot broke the silence, and as the bullet sunk into flesh, the bald headed man howled, his face twisting into a pained grimace.
"Tell me where to find him, and I'll let you keep the left one," Dane said.
"Fuck you, shitbag!" Pain laced his voice as he snarled through clenched teeth. "You're dead, and so is that little bitch! Slade's gonna torch her ass!"
Dane couldn't pull the trigger fast enough, and as a second bullet was discharged, it imbedded itself into the bald man's left kneecap. He bellowed, squirming on the ground in pain, and as a stream of obscenities tore from his mouth, Dane turned on his heel and quickly walked away. Yet upon noticing that a small group of unsavory looking people had gathered around to watch, he halted.
As they stared at him, he stared right back, then fixing them with a hard, unwavering gaze, he made his way forward. As their eyes fell on the gun he was holding, they parted, making space for him to walk through unimpeded.
Even once his back was to them, he could tell that they were still watching him, but he didn't care, only rounded the corner of the building, then briskly strode down the sidewalk.
Blood seeped from the cut on his jaw, the crimson color providing a vivid contrast against his pale skin, and as he passed a woman with a young boy in tow, he noticed her pull the kid tightly against her.
Suddenly feeling as if he were a fugitive on the loose, Dane walked even quicker, and upon reaching his car, he quickly got inside and turned the key in the ignition. Then he slammed on the gas, tires squealing as he sped off down the street.
* * * *
The neon sign of 'The Clover Room' bar reflected off of Dane's windshield, and as he took another drag of his cigarette, he shifted his gaze to the dashboard clock and saw that it was nearly eleven p.m.
For the past two hours he'd been staking the place out, observing each and every person that walked in and out of the dive bar. His eyes had roved across countless faces, hoping to catch sight of the one that he was searching for, yet to his disappointment, he still had yet to spot the man that he was seeking. Dane reached into his pocket, and upon retrieval of a mermaid cameo bracelet, he offered it a lingering gaze.
The bracelet had once been Marla's, but now, almost two weeks after her death, it had somehow found its way into the hands of a stranger.
That said stranger was a waitress named Vada who worked at The Clover Room, and during a conversation with her, Dane had been informed that this very same bracelet he was now holding had been gifted to Vada by a regular- someone who patronized The Clover Room on a weekly basis.
He had a description and a name, now all he needed was to talk to this guy in person, and as he saw a man with stringy brown hair and a lean frame enter the bar, Dane knew he'd found the guy he was looking for.
After getting out of his car, Dane tossed his cigarette on the ground, then made his way towards the drinking establishment. Once inside, he quickly scanned the room, and as he spotted the tall, spindly man, he made a beeline for the area where he was seated.
Dane slid into the booth casually, as if they were old friends, rather than perfect strangers, and as the limp haired man set eyes on him, a look of puzzlement crossed his pockmarked face.
"Who the fuck are you?" He asked Dane.
Offering no response, Dane simply set the cameo bracelet down on the table between them. As the man looked at the bracelet, he nervously swallowed, then lifting his gaze to meet Dane's, he cleared his throat.
"If this is about me talking to Vada, I didn't know she had a boyfriend. I only gave that bracelet to her, because I thought she was single."
"This isn't about Vada, it's about Marla."
"Marla, the dead woman." He briefly paused before asking, "So who killed her? Was it you, or Slade?"
"Hey, you got the wrong man. I didn't kill anybody. And I don't know who the hell Slade is."
"Then how'd you get the bracelet?"
"I bought it at a pawn shop."
"A place called Jake's. It's not too far from here, right off of Ellis and Market."
"How long ago did you buy it?"
"Six, maybe seven days ago. Why?"
Dane remained silent, and after slipping the bracelet into the pocket of his blazer, he scooted out of the booth and rose to his feet. Then, without another word, he headed for the door.
* * * *
Located on a grimy block which was home to a number of seedy establishments, Jake's Pawn Shop was housed in a brick building with a flashing red neon sign which read, 'Buy, sell, pawn.' An accordion security gate was pulled across the frosted glass of the front door, and the store hours window decal proclaimed that the shop had closed fifteen minutes ago, but Dane could tell from the light shining within that somebody was still inside.
Determined to speak to the owner of the pawn shop, Dane rapped on the gate, causing it to rattle in the process, and as he heard the sound of footsteps approaching the door, he drew himself up to his full height.
"Get lost, we're closed," a male voice called from within.
Unwilling to accept this statement, Dane knocked on the gate again. A few seconds passed before Dane heard the sound of a lock being unengaged, and as the front door pulled open an inch, the barrel of a gun peeked out to greet Dane.
"I said we're closed. Now piss off."
"I need to speak to you about an item that was bought from here. It's very important."
"No returns. You buy it, you keep it," he gruffly said. "Now get outta here before I put a hole in your head."
The barrel of the gun disappeared and the door slammed shut. Dane stood there for a moment, watching through the glass display window as a short, portly man walked behind the counter and over to a cash register.
The man didn't seem to notice that Dane was still there, or if he did, he certainly didn't give any indication, so Dane headed to the rear of the pawn shop. He took his gun out of the waistband of his pants, then allowing his back to rest against the brick alley wall, he waited.
Half an hour passed before he heard the pawn shop owner approach the back door, and no sooner had the husky man stepped outside, did Dane press a gun against the side of his head.
A hurried nod served as validation.
"All I ask for is a minute of your time. Surely you can spare me that."
"Fine, whatever. Come in."
Jake led the way with Dane tagging behind, and keeping the gun aimed at Jake's head, Dane watched him closely. As they reached the counter, Jake took his place behind it, and as Dane set Marla's bracelet on the countertop, Jake gazed down at it.
"So what's the deal, you wanna return this?"
"I wanna know who brought it here."
"I don't remember."
Dane couldn't help noticing how quickly Jake had responded, and casting a suspicious eye on him, Dane posed a question.
"You sure about that?"
"Yes I'm sure, why wouldn't I be?"
The nervous lilt to Jake's voice told Dane that he was definitely lying.
"You're covering up for someone. Who is it?"
Now visibly nervous, he briefly averted his eyes before saying, "I have a responsibility to my customers. I can't just give out that kinda information."
"Can't or won't?" Still pointing the gun at the pawn shop owner's head, Dane said, "You either live or die, It's your choice."
"Gage. That's the guy you want."
"What's he look like?"
"Medium height, dark hair, brown eyes. Has a face like a rat."
Dane lifted an eyebrow. "A rat?"
"Yeah. Big ears, huge teeth, beady eyes..."
"Where can I find him?"
"No fucking way. I tell you where he hangs out, and he'll kill me."
"Clearly I pose the bigger threat right now." Dane pressed the barrel more firmly against Jake's head, then cocked the gun, causing him to visibly tense in the process.
"He hangs out at this club called The Asylum, spends a lot of time with this guy named Mick. A.J.'s another one of his pals, they all practically live there."
"Where's this place located?" Dane asked.
"It's right off of Jones Street."
Dane stared him down for a few more minutes, searching his eyes for any signs of lying, then pulled the gun away from his head and slipped Marla's bracelet into his blazer pocket.