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38. Train Derailed

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So here we are. Body count? Requiem, Vagrant, Grey and Mr. Draven Riddle, the legend himself, were dead. In a matter of mere days. Isn’t that something? How can your entire world take such a drastic shift in a matter of days…hours…mere minutes? Everything you ever knew is suddenly gone. Changed. Over. Half of our family was dead. And now we had a real family to tend to. Babies. The future. The new generation of dysfunction.

Requiem and Vagrant had proper funerals this time. The entire street extension of the gang knew what had happened. The cover story was that rivals in the business had committed the act. Sylum even managed to arrest someone to take the fall. Everything fell into place perfectly. We couldn’t have asked for better planning. Grey would have a proper service as well. Draven’s death was something we weren’t sure of. Pandora consented that he should have a proper burial. And due to conflicting interests, they were held in a row. Requiem and Vagrant together, Grey the next day, Draven the last. We all went to all four services. As a family.

The babies went with us. They tasted death from the moment they were born. Four funerals – they handled them perfectly. For children so young, it was definitely a shock. Everything was routine, the same people came to the first three services. It was the fourth’s, Draven’s, which brought out a different crowd.

Looking around, Saint was easy to spot, a hand holding on to Angyl’s smaller one tightly. She was looking around wide-eyed, typical of her childish nature. He bent down to explain things to her every time something changed. Next to them was Klyde, covered completely in black, as always. And next to him were two figures that matched, uniformly in black from head to two. Two pairs of eyes shone out from the depths – they mixed with the fog that had set in. But in the end, they were there, or so it seemed. I couldn’t be too sure. There were another group of faces I didn’t recognize – there seemed to be a small congregation of people that had come out to see Draven put to rest. Ironic – all those people showed up and nobody brought flowers.

I took my turn, passing the casket. A boy took a step next to me – the new street boss. This was Cassidy and Grey’s replacement. He was decked in black, as he usually was. He had a line of tattoos stretching his body, running down his arms. He had words, quotes, lyrics, in pivotal locations – his knuckles and the like. He had tattoos on his face, emphasizing his eyes, making him appear more sinister. He looked over at me and smiled. I bowed my head and edged off as quickly as I could manage, feeling Serkis and Layne step in behind me.

“Stay away from that one. He’s trouble,” Serkis whispered in my ear. I turned around to catch a departing look at him. Serkis caught me and elbowed me to keep going. “The bad kind of trouble. Trouble that takes years of practice to smile your way out of. And even then, it’s debatable.”

“Who is he?”

“Lucidius. He’s the new gang boss,” Layne whispered. The tension would be a problem, considering that Layne was the new drug lord of the area. He’d subconsciously taken Vagrant’s place. Him and Serkis would run the empire arm in arm.

“What’s with the warning?”

“His methods aren’t…” Serkis’ voice trailed off.

“Remember Cicero? Vince?” Layne whispered. I nodded. “He looks up to them. Put him in the mix and you’d lose him with them. We haven’t seen one that bad in ages.”                                    

“And the gang follows?”

Serkis moved to my side and caught me in the eye. “What other choice do they have? He’s already shot a handful of…disloyal followers.”

And we walked to the car in silence. Pandora was on her own end, silent throughout the whole ordeal. We didn’t really expect her to say anything. She had her baby in her arms and Serkis had the other one. I don’t know. It was tough. We did three days of services – they were all tough. But there was something…unsettling about Draven’s death and burial, something that sent chills down your spine.

She knew that we were there for her, but we didn’t push the issue more than we had to. She had enough on her mind. We understood that. And we’d be here for her if she needed us. We all vowed to keep a careful eye on her, just in case. She’s been known to have her episodes, but nothing severe. Pandora was usually calm and collected. She put most of her grudges behind her through the years – something her father could never do. She didn’t try to cover the bruises from the fiasco. And we didn’t push her to talk about that either. Whatever happened…happened. And it was as simple as that.

We went home and sat around in silence. The hours turned into days and we resumed our lives. We made the best of things. Layne took his place at the top of the ladder, monitoring the comings and goings of the business. Sylum stayed around to help. Serkis helped Layne stay on task. They, along with Pandora, took care of both children. Lucidius stopped by a few times, but they tried to keep him as far away as possible more often than not. I don’t know what it was about him, but it set their nerves on edge.

Lucidius was a study in himself and I spent a lot of time studying. He got a job at the bar with me. He was my age. I hadn’t seen him around sooner because he was just released from…wherever they’d kept him. Whether it be prison or an institution or whatever, he was elsewhere. Although the family didn’t approve of keeping him as close as they did, we didn’t have much choice. We were shorthanded; the recent losses had taken a great toll on our ranks. He was the best we had. Pandora was out of work for a while as well, leaving me in charge of the bar for the most part. She still interviewed the new workers, just in case, she told me. To ensure my safety. She didn’t want me there with people who posed a danger to my health. I was grateful to her for her concern, but I felt…childish. I was big and bad enough to run the bar without her, but I couldn’t make any sort of important decisions for myself. Ironic, huh?

Lucidius’ tattoos were all done at a nearby shop – the Black Dragon. It was where everyone went to get anything important done. The designs that spanned most of his body were related to one other of such intricate work – Harvey Hunter. Her tattoos are legend – her design gave the shop its name. There were connections, past and present, everywhere. The shop was run by Pike and Syn now, they’d run it for years. They were a bizarre pair, but they ran the place nonetheless. Some of the best artists could be found there.

The bar and the tattoo shop shared patrons for the most part. There was always a good close link between them. They brought us business and vice versa. Benefitted both sides. I thought I did a decent job, running a bar on my own, being young. I was still 18 when all of this happened. I wouldn’t see 19 for a while yet. It didn’t really bother me much. Getting older isn’t the greatest thing in the world. We had a family now. I had to be responsible and take control of my life. They wouldn’t lead things for me anymore. We had babies to tend to. I would have to do as they asked and do it better. I ran the bar. I checked in on the circus from time to time. They had elected new attractions, as expected, but when I came in, I was still the ringleader. And I always would be. I was handpicked by Serkis herself. I would always be as I was in their eyes. If only their eyes reflected the world.

They had their family, but I still felt left out. I couldn’t explain it – I couldn’t make them understand. I was the child, but I’d been replaced – with real children. I wasn’t jealous – I was more than happy for them. But there was just something…unnerving. For the first time in a long time, I found myself thinking of Art. And for the first time…I missed him.

Love’s a funny thing. There’s…how can I explain? You don’t understand what’s wrong until it’s tragically late. Not even when it’s a moment too late. When it’s days, months…years. When so much time has passed that all you can do is hate yourself more for it. There’s nothing to be done to remedy the past. He was dead. He’d been dead for some time now. I had killed him. And only now, when the smoke settled and the dust cleared, did I hurt. I hurt because I had been through Hell and back. I hurt because I never dealt with things right the first time. Instead of venting, I housed my emotions. And I killed the source. And this was the cost.

I killed him. Art. Gothik. My best friend. The talented artist that he was. And I destroyed him. Why?  Because he changed. Because he was turning into Doyle. Because he was power hungry. Because he didn’t care about me like he should have anymore. He treated me as a possession, as property. And I allowed it. I trusted him and would have done anything for him. But I was just one of a crowd. I did above and beyond for him, but nothing was good enough. And I mean nothing. I slept with him. He had other girls to sleep with. I trusted him. He had others. I became a face in the mob. Just another part of the show. Our relationship was an act. I took it too far – I reacted too harshly. I should have told someone. But I couldn’t bear it. I put up with him and all he did was drink more and remind me of the failure I’d be. He was killing me, slowly, torturously, from the inside out. So I killed him. It was just in my mind. At the time. But now? Was I truly justified?

I think that, above all, bothered me. I had killed a man. There was a difference in helping to distract while someone else pulled the trigger…and actually doing it yourself. I killed him to destroy the chains that bound me to my misery. But even without him, I was the same. If not worse. I kept these things to myself. I wrote them down to get them out. One way of another, I got things done. I got them out in the ways I saw fit.

And that’s how I got involved with Lucidius.

I didn’t do it intentionally or anything. I was as kind as I could be to him. He was always a bit too close or too friendly for me and I tried everything to warn him subtly to back off. He wouldn’t take my warnings into consideration. I was curled up in the back one day, writing idly, venting my frustrations. I don’t know how much time had passed – I didn’t even notice the shadow lingering over the page. I was mid-sentence, searching for a word when he spoke up to give me one. I nearly fell over.

“Sorry,” he whispered. He had a tone that said he didn’t care, he wasn’t truly sorry. But he smiled anyway and put a hand on my shoulder to steady me. I shook more. I closed my book abruptly and moved to sneak off.

“It’s fine.”

“I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said. I looked him over. He meant to scare everyone he came across. Everything he said I interpreted as something else. It was evident in his body language, his eyes and motions. He was well versed in his art. I nodded and moved to walk away. He took a few steps after me.

“Hey, come on, I’m sorry. Let me get you a drink or something, calm the nerves?”

I stopped walking and turned around, my book in my coat’s depths. He had a valid point, but…this was trouble. I shook my head and kept going.

“I can tend to myself.”

“Can you?”

I wheeled around and stormed back to him. “Who the hell do you think you are?”

He smiled and put a hand out to me. “Lucidius Mason. Charmed. I believe you’ve heard of my family?”

I shook his hand sheepishly. “No, actually…”

He pretended to be offended, but he was smiling too much. I was still apprehensive. He smiled wider. “Marcellus and Dev…”

“They’re your…?”

“Siblings. I’m the baby.”

“I see…”

I turned back around and walked away from him. He thought he knew so much and that he was special – he was just another street demon. He was just another name, another face; he’d be replaced by the latest, greatest model soon enough. He was just a trend, a fleeting moment. Blink and you’d miss him. He was still behind me as I walked away. I stopped short to catch him.

“Can I help you?”

“I’m making sure you get a drink to calm those nerves of yours.”

“I’m fine.”

He thought about it for a while, then reached out and tried to poke me. I jumped back as much as I could manage. He laughed. I glared at him. “Jumpy?”

I would have stayed to glare at him longer, but I decided to just walk away from it and let it go. I could hear Lucidius’ steps echo my own as I tried to walk away.

“Don’t you have a home?” I said. I refused to stop or turn around. I was locking up as I went, closing things here and there. There was nobody else in the place. The loneliness of it got to me. I locked everything up, checked the place was empty. He was still lurking around. He was wandering around idly. I heaved a sigh.

“Go home.”

“I am home,” he whispered. He had such a weird look on his face. I shook my head.

“No. Real home, you know, that place where you sleep?”

He wouldn’t move, so I pulled the chair out from underneath him. He got up with a start and watched me finish up.

“You’re the feisty one.”

I grabbed hold of him by the front of his coat and brought him down to my level. He looked shocked but not overly annoyed.

“Listen to me. You’re just the latest model of street demon. You’ll get too cocky one of these days and someone will come along and blow you away. Right now, you’re in the way of me going home. You’re beginning to bother me. Go home. Please? This is the last time I’ll ask.”

He smiled, and pulled my hands off of him. He gave me a kiss on the cheek and straightened up again. “So what happens if I don’t leave?”

“Do you want me to call Layne and tell him you’re being difficult?”

He let go of me and ran over to the bar and grabbed the phone, holding it out to me. “Would you like to dial or should I?”

I muttered a few things under my breath, slammed the phone back where it belonged, and glared at him. He was impossible. And he knew it. I had everything locked up, the key in hand. I was just waiting on him to get out. We stood there and kind of stared at each other for a while, but he finally consented and let me lock up. He stood on the street, arms folded, waiting for me.

“Lucidius, go home. I’m going now.”

He kind of smiled and I walked away. There was a tension that followed me all the way to my apartment. It stayed with me and was amplified by the fact that I lived alone. I shook it off and decided to deal, being as how I had very little choice. I changed and went to sleep, my mind wondering about the recent developments that we’d made. Time flies.

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