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8. Torn – And on the Third Day…

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chap 8

He rose again. I think that only works for the Lord God. And in this case, it’s a she.

I spent my time at home that night. I spent the next few nights at home, actually. It was about three days after the incident with the pictures that it happened. I was sitting in my own room, writing idly. My mother had called me out of school due to a death in the family, but she only told me that it was someone I didn’t know. I was writing, sketching in the borders. I heard the door open, turning to see my mother leaning against the doorframe.

“We have a funeral to go to.”

I almost fell out of the chair. “Who?”

She shook her head. “Nobody you know. Her name was Syn.”

“She’s dead…?”

My mother looked at me with an inquisitive gaze. “You knew of her?”

“Her and Pike run the tattoo shop. Everyone knows who they are. What happened to her? Or was it accidental?” There was a tone of irony on the last word, and my mother knew it. She’d been in this game long before I was barely a dream to be joked about. She shrugged, walking away, leaving me to answer my own questions.

I finished whatever thought I’d left running on the page, and got up to start changing. I hadn’t been to a funeral before. But it felt very familiar. Maybe I had been to one before, and I just forgot. I put the thought out of my mind and continued changing into “respectable” attire.

I searched the entire room, closet, the works, before realizing I wasn’t in possession of respectable attire. Mom seemed to have enough on her mind, so I went for a quick walk. Down the hall, down a few flights, knock on the door firmly.

“Hi, is Gin around?”

The adult gave me a weary look, but stood aside nonetheless. I didn’t even realize it was the middle of the afternoon; she should have been in school. I wandered in, waiting to be directed to the right room. The one in the back – furthest from the living room. Figures. I marched up to it and knocked softly.

“Hey Gin, are you there? I wanted to ask you a favor.”

“Come in,” she muttered. I stepped through, carefully shutting the door behind me.

 

“Um, I don’t mean to bother you…see, I have a funeral to go to…now. And I don’t have anything…appropriate…”

She looked up at me. “To wear?” I nodded my head sheepishly. She got up, did a quick lap around the room, rounded up a bundle of black and cradled it in my arms. I looked at the fabric, back up at her, then to the floor. She put a hand on my shoulders, turned me around, led me out the door and to the bathroom. I was pushed in and told to change, which I did. Every so often I assume the mentality of a child.

She’d given me a plain black skirt and shirt, nothing too obvious, but respectable as well. I came out, a few inches of pale skin showing where my boots and the skirt didn’t meet. She looked me over, top to bottom, shaking her head.

“There’s nothing I can do with those boots, but everything else seems to fit alright.”

I nodded, agreeing with her, uncertain of what to say. She nodded to herself, then ushered me out the door.

“Go on, you’ll be late, your mother’s probably waiting on you.”

“Thanks a lot Gin, I owe you one,” I told her as I was being thrown out. She stopped pushing and smiled when I got to the door. I honestly meant it. I wasn’t being hostile or insincere or bitter. I was truly appreciative. And I repay my debts. She thought about it for a moment. Before I went, she reached out for my hand.

“I’ll keep that in mind. Give her my regards.”

I gave her a puzzled look. She smiled wider. “The departed.” And with that, she let go, and I was back on my way upstairs, trying not to trip. My mother was at the door when I opened it and tried to sneak back in. The look on her face was priceless.

“Are you…feeling okay?” she asked.

“Yeah…needed…clothes,” I coughed

My mother didn’t seem to want to believe me right away, I could see her going over facts and figures in her mind. Everything figured out. I didn’t do formal occasions, why would I have formal wear? She shook her head, handed me my coat, ushering me back out the door.

And we walked to the cemetery in silence. Whether there was a wake, or a service, I didn’t ask. But there sure as hell was a burial. Someone was paying the cost for the box and the hole in the ground. And the rock to mark it with. Someone was feeling charitable.

Syn was an old association of the neighborhood. Everyone knew her, young and old. She was meticulously careful, with more people in fear of her than could ever love her. That’s just how she was. Her significant other, Pike, stayed by her side through the years. I looked through the crowd for him eagerly. He was always kind to everyone he came across. I couldn’t find him though. And what’s more, I couldn’t figure out why. He loved her, or he claimed to. He belonged to her; he should have been at the front of the line. My mother and I lingered in the back somewhere, making our way forward as the ceremony progressed. We ended up just behind two looming figures in matching black coats, hats pulled down tight to hide any sort of distinguishable features. The streets told stories of the phantoms that haunted the alleys, dressed all in black with no physical feature to be seen. And now they stood before us. The ceremony waged on, routine as clockwork. Or so it felt.

As the coffin was lowered, my mother bid her farewells, saying a few words to the two forms at the head of the congregation. They didn’t talk long, but they embraced before departing. I waited until we were a safe distance away to ask anything. I follow my mother’s rules and respect her wishes when situations such as these arise.

 

“Who was that?”

“Who?”

“The pair in the coats that you were talking to.”

She heaved a sigh. “You’ll meet them formally later, it’s been a long day. Let’s go home. I promise.”

Promises are meant to be kept, cherished, adhered to. My mother is one of a very small number of people who still believes this principle. I trusted her. Yet, I thought her foolish. I thought that she was ignorant of the great family that I came from, the Merrick clan. I thought that it was presumptuous of her to pretend that they never existed. But she was my mother. And the only blood family I had left.

We got home. I changed back into my regular clothes, running back downstairs to return Gin’s things. She wasn’t home when I got there, so I left everything with her folks, trudging my way back up the stairs. I was halfway up the stairwell when I heard a whimper. I was going to keep going, pretend it never happened, but it got to me. I went back down and listened again.

“Who’s there?” I called. My voice echoed down the empty hall. I moved to call again when a hand reached out to grab me. I shook, nearly jumping out of my skin. It was Gin. But it wasn’t Gin. She was bruised and bleeding and crying. This wasn’t the typical Gin. Sure, normally she wasn’t in the best shape either, but this was different. I put a hand on the arm that held me, holding another under her chin to see her face. She tried to pull away but I dragged her out into the hall lights.

“Jesus Christ, what happened to you?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” She moved to walk away, I held on.

“You’re coming upstairs with me, we’ll clean you right up.”

“I have to go home,” she muttered. Her voice was a whisper, a silent confirmation of the continued torture she’d go through. I shook my head, ignoring her, and dragged her up the stairs. I heard my mother’s voice calling, questioning what took so long. I heard the plate she was drying shatter when she dropped it upon sight of Gin. She stepped over the shards, moving over to examine Gin herself.

“Who did this to you?”

Gin wouldn’t say a word. She just shook her head, her lips locked firmly. My mother shook her head.

“Kid, you can tell me, come on, I won’t get you into any trouble. I just want to help. Okay? We’ll clean you up and see if you want to talk.”

And my mother led her away, just like that, leaving me standing there, the forgotten fool. I paced around for a while, frustrated, confused. When my legs couldn’t carry me anymore, I collapsed in a chair and waited for my mother’s return. It was about twenty minutes.

“Maven, Gin’s going to live in the show, okay? And you’re going to go with me to the Black Dragon. I have respects to pay, and we’ll get her a steady job. Do me a favor and call someone to bring her to safety? This can’t wait until tomorrow.”

I nodded and darted off for the phone. The only person I could think to call was Jack. And I did. He was over in less than ten minutes, leading Gin out, an arm wrapped around her protectively. With them gone, I was left with my mother again. My mother, who ignored half of everything, who hated to interfere.

“She’ll stay in the show. This way they can’t get to her.”

“Who?”

 

“Her family.”

I should have known. My mother looked around, then back at me. “Call Rev.”

“Why?”

“Tell him that we need a group of his boys to go to her house and get some…clothes, belongings, you know, things to make that sewer homey. And tell him to meet us at the Dragon.”

Again I marched off to the phone. Rev was always cooperative, especially concerning a direct order from an adult in the family. With that, my mother looked at me, her coat already sliding up her back.

“Come on, we have work to do.”

I followed her; rain had started to fall by this point. We trudged with a determined stride to the Black Dragon, the neighborhood tattoo parlor. My mother stopped in the doorway, uncertain. I remembered the frame from the picture she gave me, but the name had been different back then. When she had summoned up her strength, we ducked in, listening to the bell jingle on our way.

The place had people all over, but not too busy. Mostly mourners for Syn. Two people were standing behind the counter, receiving most of the attention. Their eyes were hollow, as if they were trained to breathe but not feel. I watched them like a hawk, daring either of them to blink. I don’t think they ever did. My mother pushed through the people to them, keeping me a good distance in front of her.

The two focused their eyes on us, following our progress to the very point where we were directly in front of them.

“Payge. Set. This is my daughter, Maven.”

The two adults nodded at me, outstretching a hand each, both of which I shook. The girl had a smile to her that warmed me up, while the guy had this sort of overbearing contempt in his glare that made you want to curl up and die. They nodded in acknowledgment with the handshake.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Maven. Pandora’s told us about you, but we’ve been waiting anxiously to meet you for some time,” Payge responded.

I wheeled around to my mother. These were…the Drake kids. They were legends. Their parents were famous around here. They were also dead. My mother caught my expression and bent down to whisper in my ear.

“Yes, these are Raine and Darius Drake’s famous children.”

“You grew up with them.”

“Yes.”

“How come I haven’t met them until now?”

“Because we had important duties that required our complete attention, and seclusion from the social realm.” Set’s voice was harsh, bitter and cruel. I shot him a glare, which he returned without batting an eyelash. I backed up into my mother.

As we were making small talk and my mother was establishing Gin with a job, an older girl caught my eye. She was leaning against a wall in the back, smoking idly, watching the milling people. Nobody was here for business. Hence, nobody was working. She was smoking anyway, taking it all in. I locked eyes with her for half a second, and I watched a broad smile sneak across her face. I wheeled around and saw Rev come in the door, soaked to the skin. He was trying to see over the moving people, catching sight of us, he moved over.

 

Eventually, the three of us collided paths. The strange girl in the corner, Rev, and myself. And a friendship, no, an alliance was made. Introductions were made on all sides. We all shook hands and took in the scene. And then we started to compare notes. We didn’t compare notes intentionally; we were just sharing some useful information that was mostly common knowledge. The introductions around the circle were simple.

Maven Merrick. Myself.

Rev Ransom. The boy that I literally grew up with. He’s not related to me in any way, but I consider him a brother to me. He’s an orphan, with all the family on both sides deceased. I felt bad for him and did all that I could to help him. When he needed me to be, I was a street demon. And when I needed him to be, he was a performer.

And Angyl Hunter. The tattoo artist that worked the back of the shop, smoked idly, kept her thoughts to herself. Her eyes were always shining, showing that the wheels in her mind were always turning. Nothing got by her, and nothing that she was involved in happened without purpose. She wasn’t here to mourn Syn. So why was she here? To rejoice in her passing? Miss Hunter was the biggest mystery of all right now, and possibly the most…unsettling aspect of the entire fiasco. She had a smile that would make you want to trust her, right up to the moment she slit your throat. And even then, you’d still want to forgive her.

As such the team stood.

And that was how it started. The Trio of Treason reestablished. Reborn. I could feel eyes burning through me from all directions. But I couldn’t be certain if they were coming from the original Trio, comprised of the two newly claimed owners of the Black Dragon – Payge and Set, and my mother. Or if the glaring expressions were coming from my comrades themselves. I couldn’t be certain, but this was life, and I was going to have to take a gamble. It’s what a true Merrick would do.

Never show your weakness, keep all your cards face down at all times; sneak just a slight peek so you know what you’re carrying. But never give the game away. Don’t be too obvious.

Ever.

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