Pedigree of War
Chapter 3: Love Me Twice Today
In winter, Portsmith South was covered with a blanket of white snow, hiding the dirty, broken sidewalks, the cigarette butts and empty beer cans no one bothered to pick up. In winter, even the scumbags that usually roamed around the neighborhood looking for a fight (or perhaps for something a little more illegal) preferred staying indoors, warming up in front of the cheap gas heater. In winter, the aroma of freshly cooked stew rose up in the air from local restaurants or whenever someone opened a window for a whiff of fresh air. In winter, even that neighborhood looked magical like fuckin' Narnia.
But this was summer and it hadn't rain in days so the filth from kicked trash bins hadn't washed away from the streets. The tree roots cracked the pavement, making the sidewalks a safety hazard. It was unbearably hot and humid (getting worse every year, it seemed) and the air was a stench of sweat and spoiled food, even of piss when going through the back alleys. The women hanging laundry outside turned the street to Gossip Central – they could tell anyone who asked which neighbors got divorced, whose son had been thrown in jail and generally how the heat drove people crazy.
Marco hated the heat waves that slammed the city in summer. He had a large body so he was sweltering. As he wiped the sweat from his weary face, he mused briefly that it might be possible to fill up a pool with the amount of sweat he was exuding.
He had just returned from Helena's Paradise. And what a paradise it was, with the air-conditioning working in full power. Of course the damn wolf pack had to ruin it. Marco was a Gull. Damn proud one, as his stained green shirt could testify. Lately, Faolan's boys had grown in numbers and strength and almost every encounter ended in blood. Soon the neighborhood wouldn't be able to sustain the two rivaling groups, he imagined.
As he walked away from the ocean and into the seaport, the nice sea breeze turned into a gust of warm air, disheveling his thinning hair and making him curse again and try to fan himself with his shirt to no avail.
The Gulls had set their main hangout place at a large deserted hangar. The industrial fans were still working so the air inside wasn't too stuffy. Marco had never loved the deafening noise the old fans were making as much as he did today. It was music to his ears and he couldn't wait to get inside and feel them on his sweaty skin. He made his way to the door, but was stopped by one of his fellow gang members who kept watch at the door. His name was Stone, a ruthless bastard who was notorious for his brutal strength. It was rumored that he had killed a man with his bare hands when he was only 16 years old. Marco only knew about that one guy who had gotten his head dashed against a wall after making a comment about Stone's sister. But that guy was still alive, in a vegetated state, but still breathing.
Stone had a green dragon tattoo running from his shaved scalp, coiling around the side of his neck. The talons over his jugular vein looked as though they were moving when he was aggravated.
"Wait," Stone said impatiently. "Hodge inside. Busy." He puffed hot cigarette smoke at Marco and the large man had to restrain himself from reaching out and crushing Stone's head with his bare hand – he was also quite skilled at the art of skull smashing. But, Marco already had enough fighting for the day.
Instead, he growled a tamed "Fuck off" and shoved Stone aside effortlessly, sliding the door open.
Hodge was inside all right. And he was busy. There were three beautiful, large busted women servicing him - two of them topless, the third with a red bra. He was groping the naked two and they in return had their arms all over his shoulders and naked chest. The bra chick's head was buried in his crotch, her arm wrapped around his folded knee, caressing the denim he was still wearing.
"I said I was busy," Hodge said quietly but the echo in the place made his voice thunder.
"Sorry." Marco sighed, but didn't move an inch. "We had a situation."
"What kind of situation?" Hodge asked, without taking his hands off either boob.
"Faolan situation, again," Marco replied.
"I'm listening." Hodge finally showed an interest.
The woman on his legs stopped bobbing her head and turned to look at Marco.
"Who gave you permission to stop?" Hodge took one hand from a plump breast just long enough to push the third girl's head down. "Always finish what you start, woman."
Marco shifted his weight to his other foot. "We were kicked out of Helena's. The Pack boys did us good." He lowered his head to look at his dirty shoes, before delivering the last piece of news. "Logan was with them."
"Logan?!" Hodge sounded surprised. "No way."
"He almost killed Vincent." Marco shrugged. "More and more unaffiliated bastards are joining the pack."
"That is…" Hodge winced and folded up his other knee before bringing his attention back to Marco. "Troublesome. Like a whore who gives lousy head." He pushed the girls away, stuffed back his package and jumped to his feet, walking towards Marco.
"Did you find out who's the biker Faolan took off with?" he asked when he stood in front of the taller man.
"Faolan wasn't there. He's probably still with that biker."
Hodge wrinkled his dark eyebrows and rubbed his scruffy chin. "Find out who that guy is," he ordered and mused to himself, "I let Faolan have his fun long enough. Time to show the kid who owns this town."
Helena put down her empty wineglass and looked around her bar. Logan was still having his afternoon coffee – the fourth one – and reading the sports section of the newspaper again, relaxing. The place had started to look like a restaurant again, as Faolan's boys continued to clean up. The bartender still hadn't returned – nor had the regular afternoon customers.
She started polishing the counter out of boredom when the door suddenly opened. She raised her eyes to see the young blond in an oversized gray tee pushing away the beaded curtain. He had that obnoxiously smug grin spread all over his pretty face, and before Logan had a chance to put down the paper or put away his coffee, and with agility of a cat, the boy jumped over the table – then the next one, and the next – crouching to grab a red flower from a vase and hold it between his lips before leaping to the next table and finally landing on the counter, crouching right in front of Helena.
She raised her eyes in surprise and he picked up the flower, holding it in front of her face. "Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world," he said with a sweet smile and she didn't bother correcting him about her name. Instead, she took the flower, sniffing it coyly. Oh well, she sighed inwardly, his smooth talk and pretty face had always made it harder for her to stay angry with him for long. Made it much easier to fear him though.
"FAOLAN!" Logan roared as he got up - almost overturning the table. The pack boys stopped sweeping the floor and hurried out of his way.
'Right', Helena sighed and dropped her head in frustration. Faolan's opening act only took about a minute.
The younger blond turned his head slowly, as if he could not be bothered. "Ladies first, Logan. Didn't your mother teach you any manners?" he drawled.
Turning around, Faolan sat down on the counter, resting his hands behind him calmly. Helena grabbed the glass she had left on the counter quickly, before he could knock it off.
Logan wasn't amused. He covered the distance between them in seconds and drew out his gun, shoving it at Faolan's face.
The boy clicked his tongue. "Guess not."
"I've had it up to here with your shit, Faolan," the hot-headed man growled, but didn't cock his gun. Instead he pushed it harder against Faolan's forehead.
Faolan chuckled and raised his eyes to the black muzzle. "It tickles."
"I really want to be the one to splash your fuckin' brain all over the floor," Logan hissed.
"But not on this floor!" Helena hurried to interject. "Just a friendly reminder," she mumbled when Logan raised his furious green eyes and quickly stepped back to her corner.
"It's bound to happen anyway," he continued talking, bringing his eyes back to the boy. "Why should I give someone else the pleasure?"
Faolan grinned again. "Go ahead and do it, big boy." He dropped the smirk and added, "Of course, I wonder what Conry would think about it."
"Guh," Logan winced audibly the mention of the name and lowered his gun, taking a breath.
"You're predictable, Logan," Faolan said with a huff and jumped from the counter. "It's boring."
Logan frowned and shoved his gun back in its holster, covering it with his jacket.
Helena glanced up at the tall man. For all the rabid fury he'd displayed over the past couple of hours, the mere mention of Conry's name quieted him down like a trained dog.
"Just stay the fuck out of my sight. You and your homeboys," he said quietly.
"Or what?" Faolan leaned back on the counter with his elbows. The smirk returned to his face, his tongue sticking out at the corner of his mouth as he watched Logan in derision. "You'll tell Conry what I'm doing?" He raised an eyebrow. "Haven't we been through this before, big guy? Kinda feels like déjà-vu." His expression turned even more amused. "Right, you tell Conry I'm running a street gang, I'll tell him his best friend got the hots for him. I promise not to leave the juicy parts out if you don't."
Logan grabbed him by the shirt. "Careful, midget," he hissed. "One day the gun could go off by accident."
Faolan laughed. "That's cute, Logan."
Helena could see a vein popping on Logan's forehead. Faolan had probably pushed every button the man had, testing to see how long Logan could control himself. Anyone else would probably be dead – not that anyone other than Faolan dared to piss off Logan.
Logan clenched his teeth and let go of Faolan almost violently. He let out a breath and then turned to look at the boys near the window. "You cunts, get the fuck out of here."
They rushed out without argument, and Logan turned back to Faolan, then took out his cigarette pack and shoved a smoke in his mouth. "Where'd ya get this shirt?" He finally noticed what Faolan was wearing. "Did you fuck that biker you ran off with?" He lit the cigarette.
"Ah, you already know about that?" Faolan grinned and touched his shirt. "I'm thinking of bringing him in, he has some fire in him."
"Don't get into more trouble than what your daddy can get you out of," Logan said and sucked on his cigarette, glaring down at the younger boy. "There are enough gangster kids running around, don't bring bikers to my town."
"Don't worry too much, big guy, it's giving you wrinkles." Faolan gave him a chuckle and turned around to face Helena again. He took out a fat money roll and put it on the counter, pushing it towards her. "Sorry for the mess, Helen, it won't happen again, probably."
"Whatever you say, Faolan." Helena wasn't convinced, considering it wasn't the first time the two rivaling gangs had turned her paradise into a battle field. She still took the money.
Faolan turned back to Logan. "I guess I'm done here. Or is there anything else you wanted to tell me?"
The tall blond stayed quiet, just looking at Faolan fiercely, jaw still clenched. He was seething with anger, but all three of them knew it was game over.
The moment the door closed behind Faolan and the beaded curtain stopped rustling, Logan kicked a bar stool in anger and slammed his fists on the counter. "DAMN IT."
"There, there, honey." Helena shook her head and grabbed a bottle of whiskey. "This one's on the house." She poured him a glass.
Hank continued to babble over Jay's head as he worked on the car. Jay listened. That was his usual role, but this time he was only paying half attention. He shook his head and rested his arms on the bumper, under the raised hood. He stared at the complex mechanical system and then at Hank's freckled arms. He worked without gloves and his hands were greasy, the fingers nearly completely black. Faolan would hate that, Jay thought and then shuddered. 'Just forget that little devil already!' he scolded himself voicelessly.
"Jay?" Hank's voice reached him. "Hello?"
"Hm?" Jay raised his blue eyes to his friend.
"The scraper?" Hank gestured with his black hand. "I asked you to hand me that."
"Right." Jay straightened and hit his head on the hood of the car. "Ow." He rubbed his head, ruffling his already messy hair.
"Are you okay?" Hank eyed him carefully. "You're acting strange this afternoon."
"I am?" Jay asked as he handed him the tool. Hank reached out to grab it, but halted and looked at Jay again.
"You're always working so hard, if you want to go home early—"
'Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!' A cheerful song suddenly interrupted him, it sounded dim at first but grew louder. 'zip-a-dee-ay!'
Hank and Jay both blinked and looked around.
'My, oh my, what a wonderful day!'
"The hell?" Jay muttered quietly, furrowing his brows.
"I think it's coming from you…" Hank said, confused.
"What?" Jay made a face. "Why…" He stopped mid-sentence as it dawned on him and he removed a glove, shoving a hand in his pocket.
' ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH, ZIP-A-DEE-AY!' The cell phone blared as Jay took it out.
"What, you have a phone?" Hank asked. "Since when?!" He then sniggered, "Nice ringtone."
"It's not mine," Jay hissed and clicked on the phone – it continued to zip-a-dee-doo-dah until he touched the green symbol on the left. He raised the phone hesitantly. Was it Faolan? Was it someone else who had the number? Maybe it was the original owner of the phone?
"Now that wasn't that hard, was it?" He heard the unmistakable amused voice on the other side. "Took you some time though."
"I was surprised," Jay said quietly, feeling his cheeks flush with embarrassment. Hank was watching him with curiosity. "Didn't expect to hear from you so soon."
'I had hoped not to hear from you at all', he wanted to add, but he wasn't sure it was completely true.
"I have something that belongs to you," Faolan said cheerfully. "When are you coming back?"
"Coming back?" Jay raised an eyebrow.
"…Where are you?" Jay asked though he already knew the answer.
"Your super let me in. Nice guy, that Gordon."
Jay closed his mouth before he said anything more suspicious under Hank's watchful eyes. "I'll be right there, don't touch anything."
"Like there's anything to touch…" He heard Faolan muttering and disconnected before he got to finish.
"What was that all about?" Hank asked as Jay finally handed him the gasket scraper.
"Uh." Jay licked his lips. He didn't want to divulge any further information to Hank. "I think I will take you up on your offer and leave early today," he said.
"That's weird," Hank hummed. "Give me your phone number if you got one, c'mon."
"It's not my phone. Some kid left it with me earlier. I'm going to give it back now, it's just a big misunderstanding," Jay uttered quickly, surprising both himself and his friend.
"Okay, that's even weirder," Hank started saying, but Jay just patted his shoulder and walked away.
As he mounted his bike, he noticed there were still traces of the bloodied handprint he had tried to hastily wipe away when he returned to work. He sighed and started the engine.
There was a kid playing at the desolated yard of the building. He was kicking the gravel against the moldy brick wall. It took Jay another glance to realize it was the blond devil himself – with a change of clothes, but still looking in his teens. Jay pulled to a stop next to him.
"What are you doing?" he asked as he removed his helmet and stared at the boy.
"I'm not used to waiting for so long," Faolan said darkly, turning to face Jay.
Jay felt his stomach squirm. All his senses were telling him this guy was bad news and he should keep as far away from him as humanly possible, but at the same time he couldn't help being drawn in.
Faolan's expression changed abruptly. "Why so serious, J. Sheridan?"
"I left work early to see what you're up to at my place," Jay noted, rubbing his gloved fingers on his helmet. "That should make you feel special enough."
"I'm touched." The little devil smiled a charming tight lips smile, with a gleam in his yellow eyes. Jay wasn't sure if he were mocking him or just being playful.
"I thought you'd be inside." Jay turned to look at the apartment building. Gordon was far from being a nice guy. He wondered how the brat had intimidated the grumpy old man into letting him inside. That would have been fun to see. The old fart would be sure to mention it though. It was a life goal for him to find something to accuse Jay of, and now Faolan had finally gave him a chance.
The boy shrugged. "I can only stare at the cracks on your walls for so long," he said. "Honestly, how can you live in that place?"
"I try not to stare at the walls." Jay felt his lips stretched to a smile despite himself.
"Well, I left your T-shirt there, washed and everything."
"Ah…" So that was the reason he had come back. Should he feel relieved? Instead of saying anything more, he took out the old cell phone. "Now you can have this thing back," he said.
"Keep it," Faolan said in a tone that didn't sound like a suggestion. "You'll get used to it."
'I don't want to get used to it…' Jay was about to open his mouth and verbalize his thought. That fucking cheerful ringtone was still zip-a-dee-doo-dah'ing in his brain.
"Do you have time now?" Faolan didn't wait for him to speak.
"I have work—"
"You said you left early for me," the boy interjected.
"I said—" Jay was about to correct him, then sighed. "What are you planning?"
"I want to take you to meet my boys." Faolan stepped closer, his amber eyes ablaze.
"I don't think so. I told you I'm too old for these games."
"Oh please, you sound like you're 50, you're what 25, 26?" Faolan smirked. "And besides, I know you love playing."
Instead of replying, Jay handed him the extra helmet. If they were playing a game, he was surely losing. "For the record," he said when Faolan picked up the helmet. "I'm 23."
"Really. Did you burn out too early?" Faolan put on the helmet and stared at Jay. Jay swallowed a lump in his throat as he looked at the fierce yellow eyes, he could almost see the flames dancing there. That devil child.
"Don't worry, J. Sheridan." He could hear the smile in the kid's voice. "I'll unburn you."