Jane glanced down. Red dots from the laser sights of the automatic weapons peppered the shirt covering her heart. Her grip tightened on the machete in her hand. Dying hadn’t been in her plans for today. And yet, the scene was so fitting: the alley behind her drugs dispensary. The good citizens of Glendale would rejoice at the fitting extermination of filth like her.
And life would go on in the Valley of the Sun. Bitterness flooded her mouth.
An orange tabby cat loped from behind a dumpster to lap up the spilled liquid. The scent of spoiled Chinese food wafted from the dented green bin. Patches of different color paint covered up the gang tags on the restaurant’s kitchen door.
“Drop the weapon.” The shout tore out of the Humvee in front of her and rattled the second-story windows. A black helmet and mirrored riot shield shrouded the man’s face.
A trio of matrons frowned from the alley’s entrance. Nothing like an audience to her execution. Give the biddies a tidbit to pick over with their friends.
A wave of anger evaporated the calm cloaking Jane. No. No way would she give them or anyone else the satisfaction of her death. She’d survived worse. She’d survive this. So why didn’t her fingers release the machete?
“I will shoot.”
Jane didn’t doubt a bulletproof vest protected his torso. The uniform jangled a memory in her brain. Her fingers spasmed on the machete. She willed her fingers to open.
The machete clattered to the ground.
Close but so far away. Sweat misted her skin. A bead trickled down her temple. She hadn’t been this defenseless in ages. Not since the rape and murder of her mother when she’d been seven.
“Back up. Get against the wall.” The Humvee door opened. The early morning light sparked off the man’s mirrored riot gear. A machete hung off his narrow hip, and straps of armor-piercing bullets created an ‘x’ over his Kevlar vest.
Little dick pussies always overdressed for the occasion. Jane eased away from her discarded weapon. Shards of glass crunched under the thick soles of her black combat boots.
An armored vehicle lumbered around the corner and trundled up through the narrow alley, barely missing the dumpsters. A silver emblem of a mortar and pestle clung to the side.
Not an execution then but a drug delivery. And since she was the only dispensary on the block, it had to be for her. She released the air bottled in her lungs. Damn the Corporate Police. The CPs thought they were a law unto themselves.
The CP thug stomped across the distance. Blunt fingers escaped his black gloves. The spikes over his knuckles glinted in the sunshine.
She waited for him to stop.
Her body tensed. Damn, this was going to hurt.
He bodychecked her.
Her feet left the ground. Her left side slammed against the brick wall near her back door. Her head scraped the rough exterior, snagging blue hair from her wig. If this douchebag became a regular on her route, she might want to pad the thing. “I don’t have any other weapons.”
He ignored her, pinned her against the brick, stripped off her satchel, and flung it to the ground. Peppermint and coffee soured the stench of cigarettes on his breath. He groped her chest, squeezing her breasts before shoving his hands under her skirt, living proof officers like him deserved the nickname Cunt Patrol. Rough fingers prodded her sex through the thick material of her leggings. “Like that, don’t you?”
He tugged at the elastic waistband of her leggings.
Bastard probably thought she was like other ‘dicts who’d trade sex for drugs. She could use his stupidity to her advantage. “While you’re down there, can you check to see if my syphilis outbreak is under control?”
His body stiffened. “Syphilis?”
“Yeah, the resistant kind.” She smiled, eying her reflection in his visor. “The clinic is participating in some new study to see if they can get it cleared up. Burns like hell, but most of my boyfriends don’t mind. Hell, most of your kind have blisters on their dicks when they—”
“Dirty bitch.” He slammed her head against the brick.
Pain exploded across her skull. Blood flooded her mouth from where her teeth nicked her tongue. Not dropping her smile, she allowed the crimson to dribbled from her lips. Another ‘good’ citizen descended to the gutter thanks to her.
The CP in the Humvee banged on the side of the vehicle. “Hey Ranger. Stop playing with your new whore.”
Jane’s fingers curled into fists. She didn’t belong to anyone. And she liked it that way.
The back of the armored car opened. A CP with brass on his chest rolled out, assault rifle in hand. “Ranger, your wife won’t think your blue dick is a bonus, and our schedule can’t afford another thirty-second delay.”
Laughter burst past her lips.
Ranger slammed her head against the wall again. “Fucking bitch. Why don’t you all die faster?”
She swallowed the blood pooling in her mouth.
Ranger stormed to the end of the alley and adjusted himself then raised his rifle and scanned the street.
Jane rolled her eyes. No doubt the douchebag intended to terrorize some library patron or a kitten. Despite the media hype, the drugs war didn’t exist.
“Jane Doe?” The big brass CP raised his visor. Mirrored glasses covered his eyes, but she recognized the dimples in officer Potter’s smooth cheeks. After four years as part of her delivery team, her name still amused him, just as his exhausting adherence to protocol exhausted her. Potter probably thought her name was some lame pseudonym. His fantasy wasn’t her reality.
“I’m Jane Doe.” Playing along, she licked the blood weeping from her cracked lip and waited for him to complete the drill.
“Do you own the dispensary known as Life’s a Trip?”
“I own Life’s a Trip.”
“We have a delivery for you.” He shoved an eID chip toward her to officially confirm her identity.
Even the Corporate Police had layers upon layers of red tape. So much for business being more efficient than government agencies. She grunted and reached for the biometric reader in the ring-shaped box.
Potter manacled her wrist and twisted her arm so her forearm was exposed to the light. “Why is your Cain’s mark blue?”
Pain rocketed up her arm, but she didn’t struggle. Struggling always made things worse. She fell into the pain, allowing the familiar heat to envelop her. She made her home in the violence. And in lies. “Must be the syphilis drugs I’m taking.”
He dropped her hand then wiped his on his pants. “Thought that was a ruse to discourage Ranger.”
“Why would I lie?” She pressed her thumb to the biometric scanner. After it flashed green, she twisted her hand just a bit, smearing the print aided by the grease from the danish. Her blue hair shielded her face. Thank God, he didn’t eye the ‘Cain’s mark’ too closely to discover it was an old cigarette burn she’d colored in with food dye. Sometimes her scars proved useful.
His nostrils flared with disgust. “Clear!”
She winced at his shout.
A postman emerged from the back of the armored car. Middle-aged, with a strap of thin brown hair across his sweaty oval head, he juggled two brown boxes over his gelatinous gut. Creases marred his pale blue uniform not even the satchel at his side could cover. Hairy toothpick legs protruded from his shorts. The words ‘Uncontrolled Substances. User Beware’ were stamped in red on the sides and top of the boxes.
Jane swore under her breath. Merv the Perv. A face similar in dissipation lurked in the abyss of her memories. Clammy groping hands under her stained tee-shirt. A hard grip prying her legs apart. Bruised flesh and words that no soap could cleanse away.
“Problem?” Potter straightened and his grip tightened on his weapon.
She shoved her past back into the darkness and focused on the present.
“You’re early and my DOA clearance card is inside.” She jerked her chin at the steel roll-up door covered in patches of brown paint. Graffiti bled through the layers. Bending, she picked up her satchel.
Potter nodded once. “Deliveries are always better inside.”
For whom? Jane didn’t care. She paid a mint for that clearance card, no way would she let anyone get their grubby hands on it. She flicked the cover up on the black biometric box next to the door. The light on the bottom right-hand side blinked yellow. A spray of green light scanned her retina. Moments later, the door rattled as it retracted.
Gravel crunched behind her. Keeping the gun across his gut, Potter surveyed her doors, cameras, alarms, and biometric locks. “Don’t trust your customers?”
“They’re ‘dicts.” She stabbed her key in the generic lock, and metal blast bars withdrew into the brick wall. She stepped into the small office/receiving area. “If I were lying on the floor bleeding, they’d rob me blind then call the DOA for cheating them out of their drugs.”
“Sounds like you’re right at home among them.” He snapped his gum at her.
Asshole. Cream-colored paint bubbled from the interior walls. Three dents crushed half-moon shapes into the drywall. A rolling chair vomited foam from the split in the seat.
Potter crossed the room in two strides and checked the security door leading to a small hallway and her dispensary. He leaned against the bubble eye-piece in the center before retreating. “High-class place you have here. Dealing must pay really well.”
“It pays your salary, too.” She crowded into the corner. A box cutter was in the drawer. An antique ice pick stood in her pen cup. And a revolver inhabited the body cavity of a one-eyed teddy bear she’d rescued from the dumpster.
Merv the Perv waddled inside, invading her space. His flabby bicep brushed her chest.
She filtered air through clenched teeth.
He eyed her breasts and licked his lips. “Relax, sugar. I like my girls clean.”
That’s because men like him dirtied them.
“Only pedophiles like girls, sugar,” she snarled.
Purple flooded Merv the Perv’s face. His thin lips slashed his jaw and he dropped the boxes.
Jane caught them before they hit the ground.
In one smooth motion, the postman removed an epad from the satchel at his hip and slammed it against her temple.
She crashed into the corner. Her elbow hit the edge of her swivel chair, sending the seat spinning. The packages dropped onto the scarred desk. Bile rose in Jane’s throat and she gulped it down. Son of a bitch!
“Finish the delivery, Merv.” Potter barked.
Catching her eye, Merv licked the edge of the reader where he’d hit her then scanned the boxes’ UPCs before ripping a stylus out and thrusting it at her.
She grabbed the stylus.
Merv held on. “If you ever want to hold something thicker and warmer, I promise to treat you like the dirty girl you are.”
Jane jerked the stylus free and bared her teeth. “I don’t want anything you have, Perv.”
She scrolled her name across the screen then tapped the accept button. The stylus vibrated in her grip. Would stabbing him in the eyeball be a bad thing or a service to humanity?
Potter tugged it free, clamped a hand onto Merv’s shoulder and spun the postman about. “Have a good day, ma’am.”
He touched two fingers to the brim of his helmet before frog-marching Merv away.
Holding her breath, Jane keyed in the code to seal the back door. Tonight’s Jazz in the Park concert would bring her one day closer to retiring, to becoming normal.
The door clanged shut as the Humvee and an armored car rolled past.