Chapter 2

We land the next morning around ten. Cayden waits beside my car and puts my bags in the back. Cayden is a few years older than myself and I have known him my whole life. He is on the lean side with long hair that falls into his hazel eyes. I have been asked before if he's my sibling, but we aren't related by blood. His father and mine were close friends. I have my own place in the city with my own cars. He decided to take the flashy red Mercedes that I had bought the previous year. I don't drive it much when I'm in town because of the bright noticeable color, but it was a spur of the moment purchase and I love the shade of red.

I speed onto the highway and head toward the Golden Gate. My house is near the bridge and I have an excellent view of the bay. When we pull up to the house I am greeted by two other me members of my gang. Lola and Steve wait for me by the door and help us with our bags. They are mostly in charge of my place and a few small venues that I own, but when I'm in town they are my wingmen. When I enter the house I inhale the fresh scent of my favorite flowers and recently baked cookies.

On the table at the entrance are flowers waiting for me and junk mail in a neat pile. A staircase is directly behind it which leads to the three bedrooms and two bathrooms. On the ground floor to the right is a dining room and beyond that a kitchen. To the left of the stairs is a living room. The place smells welcoming and clean and it feels nice to be back here, even if it is because of unpleasant business. I have other houses in the city for people who work for me, but they do not come here unless I request them. There will be people floating around my house as I stay because of the need for my security.

I walk into the kitchen and see the cookies that my nose had already found. I take a bite into one and the warm chocolate melts in my mouth. Lola is the worlds best baker. She's also the worlds best knife thrower. She walks into the room and gives me a hug.

"It's good to see you," she says.

"You to, how are things here?" I ask her. She lives here when I'm back in my other home down in Los Angeles. Lola is also in charge of how shipments are run in this area. She is my go-to woman who handles a lot of things I don't have all the time for.

"I've written it all down in my report. Everything is going fine. We received the shipment from Cuba last night and everything went smoothly. I checked the quality of the powder and it's the best I've seen in months."

I've always had a stick code in my business. Even though we sell drugs, we do not do drugs. If an employee, as I call them, decides to break the code of my business, they will be taken out immediately. A person under the influence is a liability to my business, and I will not have a loose end or someone blabbing to someone else about information that could be damaging to me. My father ran his business for years, and was able to keep under the radar because of his codes. I have managed as well as I have because I have taken in his footsteps.

"That's good. Arrange a meeting with our clients so I can talk with them about pricing and make sure everyone is still on the same page."

Lola takes out her phone and begins to make phone calls. Because of the business we are in, mostly everyone uses disposable phones. A few of us have special phones that are untraceable. We go by fake names and always change locations for business deals. Few people know my real name, only those of my inner circle, and not even they know my real last name. I've always heard that a woman should be full of mystery. I've taken that to heart. I decide to go upstairs and begin to unpack a few of my things. Lola has her own room because she stays here when I'm away. Walt and Cayden share the second bedroom and I have the master. I shut the door behind me as I enter it and feel at home at once.

Everything is as I left it last time I was here, which was a month ago. I try and get up here often, but my dealings in Los Angeles are more established and require more attention. I unpack some of my clothes and a couple books. I flop on the bed and rub my face, already feeling more tired than I thought possible. Working in my line of business puts a tole on your health, both mental and physical. Once you're in, you're in for life and there isn't backing out. Only way to get out of my line of business is in a body bag, if you're lucky, or a random hole in the ground, never to be heard or seen again.

My mind drifts back again to the picture I had seen of Jimmy Fletcher. Why was my mind bent on thinking about him? Why did I keep thinking about his brown eyes, his strawberry blonde hair, and how his lips would taste? Lola knocks on the door a few minutes later and informs me that I can meet with our clients tomorrow night. I thank her for setting up the meeting and she leaves as quickly as she came.

I decide to check out Jimmy Fletcher before I kill him. I know very little about him but I am aware of his address. I also know that he works at his brothers business, a bowling alley not far from where they both live in a nearby town called Vallejo. I call the bowling alley and ask when Jimmy is working next and I'm told that he works in the day. I'm almost surprised by the fact they would tell me, but from what I've heard of Jimmy, he isn't someone you should worry about if you're on his side. I had questioned Walt on the plane about Jimmy's background and found out that he had his share of blood on his own hands. He was known to be quick on the trigger. He was going to be a fun target to take out. I wonder to myself who could pull a gun out faster.

I end up taking a shower and then going into the kitchen and making dinner for everyone. It's an early dinner, but it was too late for lunch. I end up making sour cream enchiladas and a side salad and we all eat at the dinning table. Walt tells me that people are stationed around the house and that we are armed and ready for anything. I nod and he gives me the run down on who's protecting us this evening.

"Keaton and Trent will have the first shift and then Ron and Gina will have the second. Cayden and I will guard the house with Lola. I think we've got things handled. It's nice that no one knows you're back here. You weren't expected until a week from now."

I nod my head and clean up the dishes, telling a persistent Lola to go and relax for a bit. After I've cleaned up I go back to my room and check my supplies. I lay out my outside for the next night since I plan on following Jimmy after he leaves from work. I pull out a bullet proof vest, two hand guns and a knife. I'm well rounded in all of my weapons and know how each feels and handles. The bulletproof vest is a must in my kind of business. I would never go into unfamiliar territory without one.

I get into bed and watch some television before finally falling to sleep before midnight. I don't wake up until past ten the next morning and I'm awoken to the smell of pancakes and sausage. I pull on a fancy robe I got from China town and head down the stairs two at a time, my mouth watering. Lola loads up a plate as she sees me coming and piles maple syrup over everything, including the eggs and toast.

I say hello to Keaton and Trent who are sleepily eating their own food and downing large cups of sweet coffee.

"What are you doing today Missy?" Trent asks me. He's more than a couple years older than myself and someone my father had hired. Trent is a good body guard and I always request him when I'm in the area. Of all the men my father had hired, he was the most fun and the most loyal. I hired Keaton and he never even cracks a smile. All business with him. Trent is one of the very few people who knows my real name, but calls me Missy in the presence of others.

"Oh you know, the usual. Crack a couple skulls, get my nails done," I say half jokingly.

We all finish eating and I hang out around the house. Jimmy get's off work at eleven. The meeting that Lola arranged starts at three in the morning. My plan is to stalk Jimmy as he goes home, get a feel for him and his movements, and then take him out. He won't even know what hit him. I might as well just get this mission over with. Los Angeles calls for me, and I can only imagine how glad Deanthia will be to see me back and taking the weight off her shoulders.

I spend the rest of the day lounging around and doing a whole lot of nothing. I do go over some of Lola's reports and how our finances are doing. They are all in code of course, but I had created the codes so it takes me no time to come up to speed with how things are being handled here. The people I am meeting tonight get a monthly shipment of cocaine from us, and have recently asked to have more frequent shipments. My problem is that more frequent shipments might mean more frequent searches of our cargo. I have people paid in the police to ignore certain things coming into their harbors, but not everyone can be bought.

It's around ten when I get into my car and head to the bowling alley where Jimmy works. I go alone, much to the dismay of my people, because it is extremely dangerous for me to be caught in their territory, if I were somehow recognized. I refuse help however, and put my foot down. I tell them I will be in contact at all times and that this is a mission I must do alone. The least amount of people involved, the better. I call some of my people in the area and keep them on alert to be around, but not in a way that would be noticeable. I'm loaded with my two guns, knife and wearing my vest under my thick clothes. Lucky for me that the air is chilly and the night will only grow colder. My excess clothing will look normal.

I pull up to the bowling ally and cut my lights. It's around eleven ten when I finally see him exit the alley. He walks across the over pass but never once gets into a car. I decide to follow him on foot instead of by car because of the fact the car would draw more attention. At least no one know's me by face here, only my fake name. I am far more well known back home. Here I am just a ghost enemy, one to be feared but never actually seen.

I walk slowly behind him, a great distance away but still able to see him in the street lights that pass us over head. I see the light bounce off his strawberry blonde hair, his shoulders slumped and his posture is uptight. He doesn't look back once and I'm slightly surprised that he doesn't, if not just to look at the enemies that might be lurking in the shadows. I don't increase my pace but find myself gaining on him.

We are surrounded by broken homes and liter that fills the street. There isn't much noise aside from the highway behind us and the sound of a distant car alarm. No one else is even on the street. As Jimmy turns a corner I see him begin to pick up pace. I try not to worry and do the same, hoping that he couldn't hear me quicken my own steps. I'm pulling a rookie move, I realize, but there's something inside me that wants to see his face, that wants him to turn around. I throw all my experience and all of my rationality out the window and go after him. As he turns the corner I find myself almost right behind him and before I can even react, something hits me in the face.

I immediately grab my nose and can feel the blood pouring from it, and in that instant that I'm taken off guard, I try and regain myself. In a flash my hand is on my gun, ready to blow his brains out for attacking me, but the look of horror on his face makes me hesitate for a quick second. He tries to touch me and I move backward, hand still on my gun at my back while the other is on my nose.

"Oh my God, are you okay?" He asks me and tries to move my hand from my nose so he can look at it. Judging from the feeling in my stomach, I don't feel as though he wants to attack me, at least, not more than he already has.

"Do I look okay?" I ask him. I decide that I won't need my gun, not at this second, and put both hands to my nose. Jimmy shrugs out of the jacket he's wearing and hands it over to me. I look at him like he's gone crazy but take the jacket and press it onto my sore nose. The blood hasn't stopped yet. I put my head back, like you're supposed to, and wipe some of the blood away.

"Not really, but why were you following me?" He asks and tries to look away but fails. His eyes fall to my hair and then the rest of my body. He blushes in the dim light from the lamp post near by.

I think of a lie on the spot. "I wasn't following you. I walked out of my house and you attacked me!"

He looks confused and flustered for a minute and then sighs deeply. "How's your nose?" He asks as I pull the jacket away from it. The blood had finally stopped flowing but my nose hurts. I could smell at least and it doesn't feel broken, and for that, I'm thankful.

"It will be fine," I say and hand him back his jacket. The blood stains were all over it and I don't feel the least bit sorry. I look up at him through my abated anger and finally get to really see him up close. He looks better than he did in his picture. He gives me a half smile and runs his hand through his short hair making it stick up even more than it had before.

"Where were you going so late? This part of town is pretty sketch."

I think of another lie to tell him. "I was on my way to work."

"At this hour? Where the hell do you work?"

I begin to walk away and he follows quickly after me. I'm about just blow him away but he jogs in front of me and smiles. The smile almost makes me fall down, my knees weak. He's a lot taller than me than I would have thought and the smell from his cologne wraps me into a warm embrace. I want to fall into his arms and quickly shake my head at myself. What is wrong with me? He's lucky to still be alive! I need to remind myself that.

"Come on, please tell me?" He asks and I finally stop walking. He stands in front of me and keeps smiling and I can't help but smile back.

"I work over at the hospital," I say. I figure that it would be open at least.

"The big one? That's a long way to walk. Where's your car?"

"I don't have one. My brother usually takes me to work, but he couldn't tonight. It was either walk or miss out on a days pay and that wouldn't help me much. I guess staying home tonight would have been worth it though, at least I'd have saved myself the bruise." He gives me another half smile and I have to look away. Why did he have to be so cute?

"I'm really sorry about that. Can I walk you to work? You shouldn't be walking there alone."

I contemplate his offer and end up accepting it. I'll get to know him before I kill him, something I've never done before. I couldn't kill him yet, not when his smile made me feel like this.

"Fine, just keep your hands to yourself. I want to get to work in one piece."

We walk in silence for a while until he decides to fill it with questions. "Did you just move here or something?" He ask's with a weird tone, almost as if his question is a joke.

"Yes, actually. How did you know?"

"Well, most people around here know better than to walk on Magazine Street in the middle of the night."

"Sorry I didn't get the memo."

"Well, just make sure you don't do it again. If you really need to go out again at night, give me a call and I'll walk with you. I don't want a girl like you getting hurt out here."

I try not to blush at his words. We had just met and already he was ready to give me his number. My heart was pounding a mile a minute and my palms become sweaty. I try and stealthy wipe them on my pants and hope he doesn't notice.

"I don't even know your name," I tell him as we continue walking towards the hospital. I follow his lead more than anything. I know where it is roughly, but having someone guide me there is nice.

"Jimmy Fletcher," he says with his side smile.

Before I know what I'm doing I tell him my name in a rush, "Claire Rhodes."

I don't even have time to realize the damage I had just done. I gave him my real name, what the hell was wrong with me? I look at the man that makes my knees weak and I realize how far I was allowing myself to get into this. I was allowing this boy to control my emotions, I was allowing him to find a place in my heart even though there were no rooms vacant.

"Why did you move here?" He asks me. I can see the hospital in the distance by this point. I bet he's the type to walk me to the front door.

I just shrug. I couldn't tell him I made a special trip just to kill him. That would chill the air more than it already was.

"Come on, there has to be a reason," he says and I can't help the smile that creeps up to my lips.

"I guess I just needed a change."

"Well, you picked one hell of a place for a change."

We get to the entrance to the hospital and I tell him I work as a receptionist on the emergency room floor. I wave goodbye to him as I go to step into the revolving door and he grabs my arm gently before I take another step. My reflexes are to take his arm and slam him onto his back, but my mind is working fast tonight and I just turn back to him.

"What time are you out of work?"

"Around five," I tell him, wondering where this is going.

"I'll see you at five to take you home."

All I can do is stare at him. Was he serious? "You're kidding right?" I ask him to be sure.

"Do I look like the guy who would kid around?" He asks with a playful smile. I can't help but laugh and nod my head. He looks offended, but jokingly so. "I'll see you at five Claire," he says and leaves.

I go into the hospital and then quickly make a phone call. I call some of my people in the area to get my car and deliver it to me. During the same phone call I make them get me a house where I had first met Jimmy. I tell them that I don't care how they do this, but it must be done by five in the morning. No one complains at my orders or even gives me a huff about it. Sometimes it's nice being in charge. Within five minutes my car is delivered to me by an employee of mine known as Joan. She's a nice person, most days. Tonight she is dressed to kill and I can only imagine what she has planned. She watches one of the warehouses I own.

Joan gets into a car that pulls up behind her and she gives me a nod and a smile. After she leaves I call Lola and ask for her and Walt to accompany me to the site where I will meet with my clients. Lola makes arrangements so that the house is under watch while she is away from it. My crew members are extensive, even here in NorCal.

I meet Walt and Lola at the docks. We enter into one of my warehouses that is a fake. One that we try and lead the feds to. In here is more legitimate things that we sell. I won't go into detail on what, but it is lucrative, however, not as much as the drugs. By the time I get there I'm early, but so are my clients. I have camera's set up all around the warehouse and people watching it as well as the real one, at all times. I get a text before I pull my car into his usual spot that they are waiting for me in the back entrance.

The men we are meeting are twice my age. Both are in their late forties and used to have dealings with my father. To say that they did not want to do business with me at the beginning is an understatement. However, after my street credibility went up, they decided that I was my fathers daughter after all and came back to us because of our pricing and quality.

"Missy," one of them says as I approach. He goes by the name Tyler but looks more like a Bob in my opinion. He wears a fitted suit and carries a large brief case. His hair has abandoned him and his bald head gleams in the over head lighting. The second man who greets me in turn is named Frank. Both men smile at me but it is not genuine.

"Gentlemen," I say and we walk into the warehouse which has different sizes of grates and pods. It is dark in the warehouse, but I find that darkness is better in business dealings such as these.

"Are we still in agreement to 20 bags for this month?" I ask them. Each bag is about a pound of cocaine. It is a substantial amount, but they come to me because of my fair prices and the fact my cocaine is some of the best and the purity is high. I am able to import it from select countries and underground trade. One of my biggest suppliers is from Mexico. Most who do dealings from Mexico go through the underground trade. I've learned to do the unexpected and to do my work through the seas. We've had our close calls over the years, but I've picked up the best tricks from my father and know how to get what I want to my clients.

The man known as Tyler smiles at me as if I am a child. I want to shoot him in the foot to take the smile off his face but I restrain myself. "We would like forty and we would like to have the shipments come every two weeks."

I just laugh at him. He frowns at me and waits for me to speak. "That will not be possible. I am willing to do thirty bags but I will not ship sooner and have a reason for my shipments to be questioned because of their frequency."

"We thought you might say that. Your father valued our business, I would have thought you would have to."

I stare at the two men and don't let anything show on my face. "Thirty bags once a month, each pound is raised another ten grand. Take it our leave it."

"Let us talk it over," Frank says and they go into the corner of the warehouse where I can still see them. They know I'm being fair, even if I don't want to be. They know they couldn't get a better deal, even if they got another ten bags somewhere else. After a few minutes they come back and we shake on our new deal. They don't look thrilled but I don't care. I check my watch and realize that I need to be heading back to the hospital to see Jimmy. As I'm driving back to the hospital I receive a text letting me know what house I will be occupying for the time being. Lola comes with me and she will take the car from me when I leave. Cayden, who is the closest in appearance to me, both having dark hair and light eyes, is at the house ready to play my brother. Once at the hospital Lola goes back to my place in San Francisco with Walt. They let me know that our people will be around the perimeter of the new place until I tell them otherwise. Some will be staying with Cayden and me, but out of sight in case Jimmy wants to come inside.

I go into the hospital and go to the gift shop to kill a little time. I have less than an hour until Jimmy picks me up. The gift shop is closed, I find out, but I still look through the window at the things inside. There are stuffed animals and flowers and other nicknacks that would cheer a person up. A sudden sadness comes over me when I spot a small stuffed elephant in the corner. My father had given me one similar when I was a child. I still have it back in Los Angeles, but seeing it makes me think of him. I miss him terribly.

I just walk around the hospital for a bit and find myself in the children's ward. Most of the children are asleep, it is after all, almost five in the morning, but I see a child in one of the rooms reading a book under a soft light. The child appears to be a girl, though from where I'm standing, I cannot tell, and around the age of ten. I walk over to the girl and she looks up from her book. Her face breaks into a grin and I can't help but smile back.

"Hi, my name is Rose," she says. She sets down her book on her lap and I notice the title. It's much too advance reading for such a small child, but she's already part way through.

"Hello Rose, what are you reading?" I ask her even though I can see it.

"Fahrenheit 451, it's my favorite."

I find a seat and pull it up to the bed. "Oh yeah? It's one of my favorites to. How come you're reading it so early? You should be sleeping."

Under the soft light I can see the purple bags under her eyes. I can see the pale skin and the thin hair, but a warm smile still stays on her face.

"I don't like sleeping very much. I always have nightmares."

I place a hand on the bed and try and smile at her but it's hard to. I feel bad for her and wonder why she is in the hospital.

"I don't like sleeping either. Books are much better than sleep, don't you think?" I ask her and she gives a soft laugh that sounds like bells.

I ask her why she is in the hospital and her face becomes somber. "I don't know. I'm sick with something that doesn't have a name."

My heart goes out to her and I take her hand in mine, so frail and cold. "Can I get you another blanket?" I ask her and she nods. I get up and find a closet with extra blankets at the top and I place one on her. I tuck her in and she seems happy.

"Can you read to me?" She asks. How could I say no? I sit back down and gently take the book from her hands and begin to read where she tells me she left off. After a while she drifts off to sleep and I place the book on her bedside table. I promise myself that I will read to her again the next night, and I go and meet Jimmy at the front.

I don't have to wait outside because he's already waiting for me underneath a lamp past. He's wearing a baseball cap with a local team on the front and his expression tells me he's watching the whole area with all of his senses. The air is cold and he wears an over sized sweater and loose fitting jeans. He almost takes my breath away. He turns around and see me and his face breaks out into a grin.

"Hey," I say and walk over to him.

"Hey, how was work?" He asks. We begin to walk back in the direction of my new house.

"It was okay, you know, work." He gives me a funny look and I give a nervous laugh.

"You're surprised I came." He says. I wasn't very surprised he showed up, but mildly surprised. If he didn't show up then I'd just go and kill him on the spot, but he did show up so things have changed.

"Maybe a little bit," I tell him. We don't walk very fast as we go from street to street on our way back to my new house. I hope it's clean, but I won't be staying there long. I'll only be there if I have to be. I just want to know Jimmy. Something in me wants to know everything about him even though I'm here to ruin his life and the life of his brothers.

"Do I look like the kind of guy who would stand you up?"

I think about it for a second and realize he wasn't that kind of guy. "No, actually you look pretty reliable."

We don't talk for a little bit but it feels nice. We don't have the awkward silence that would normally come from people who don't know one another. I don't know him at all but I feel a connection to him somehow, as if I had known him my whole life. How was that possible?

"How long have you lived here?" I ask him.

He gives a kind of shrug but still answers me. "Yeah, I've lived here all my life."

"Must be nice being somewhere so long," I say and mean it. I used to move around a lot as a child because I lived with my mother, but once I lived with my dad I stayed in the Los Angeles region. I would come to San Francisco when I became older so I could learn about the tricks of the trade and who his clients were.

"Yeah I guess. I've wanted to move away for a while now, but never do it."

"Why is that?"

He just shrugs again but doesn't say anything. I don't press him. From what I know of him from my report from Walt, is that his brother is in control of most of his life. I wonder why he doesn't take over the family business on his own, but I don't know much about his brother aside from his business dealings.

"Would you like to go out sometime?" He asks me suddenly.

I can't help but laugh but nod. "Yeah, that would be nice."

"When are you off work?" He asks me as we get closer to my new home.

"I work again tonight, but off tomorrow," I say. I'm thinking of the girl Rose. I want to see her again and read to her. I walk us to my home. The windows have bars over them and the grass is less than green. There are a few potted plants on the steps but most of them are dead. I wonder who really lives her and wonder why they can't water their lawn or plants. I don't have a key but I know if I knock on the door that Cayden will answer it.

"I'll pick you up for work tonight, and I'll take you out to dinner on your day off," he says and already starts to leave.

"You really don't have to take me to work again," I say but can't help the huge smile on my face.

"I'll see you tonight!" He says and jogs off to wherever he had been going before he ran into me earlier in the night. I knock on the door and Cayden lets me into the house. It's very small and smells as if it hasn't been cleaned in a long time.

"He's still alive?" He asks me in surprise as he closes the door.

"Yes, and he will remain alive for the time being."

"But I thought you were going to kill him to get back at his brother?" He asks again as I go into the kitchen and check under the sink for some cleaning supplies. The house is a mess.

"Where are the people who live here?" I ask him as he takes a seat at the mismatched kitchen table. He just shrugs but I look at him and he squirms in his seat.

"They were put into some hotel. Don't worry, it's taken care of. Are you going to answer me?"

I just sigh and put on some cleaning gloves and begin to fill the sink with soap to wash the dirty dishes. I could get someone else to do this, but I'm not tired and I want to keep my hands busy.

"Things are changing. I want to get to know him, alright? How about you find a vacuum and start cleaning with me."

"You're crazy, you know that?" He asks.

I smile back at him. "Crazy like a fox."

He gives me an exasperated look but does as I ask. He find a vacuum and gets to work on the living room while I work on the kitchen. It takes me a while to clean all the dishes and then do the floor. By the time Cayden and I are done it's around eight in the morning and he yawns loudly. I tell him to get some sleep and he goes up stairs. I hear a door shut and then another one open.

A man who is one of my employees comes into the kitchen and makes some coffee. I decide it's time to get some sleep and find a vacant room. It's the master bedroom and looks to be in poor condition. I question if I should sleep here and end up calling for my car. It's out front in a matter of minutes and I head back to San Francisco to get some sleep and a hot shower in my own place. No one asks me how my night went and I don't bother giving any information. I go to sleep with Jimmy on my thoughts.