Read Armed and Dangerous (The IMA) Online
Authors: Nenia Campbell
I am your mother.”
In name only
I hadn't realized I'd said it aloud until my mother said, viciously, “What was that, Christina?”
It did not sound like nothing.”
,” I said, just as coldly.
Are you gonna take that lip, babe?” John butted in.
You keep out of this,” I snapped. “You're not even a part of this family — and you're only ten years older than me.” That was a not-so-subtle dig at my mother.
She set down her wineglass. “Go to your room.”
I said no. I'm not going to my room. I'm more adult than anyone sitting at this table, and I'm not going to be treated like a child. I'm going to Dad's.”
At this hour?” my mother squawked. “I forbid it!”
You can't forbid it. If you don't let me leave, that would be unlawful imprisonment.”
My mother's shoulders tensed. She had that wariness about law enforcement particular to immigrants, having grown up on such urban myths like, “Don't misbehave, or you'll get deported back to where you came from.” I heard her and John conversing worriedly as I stormed up the stairs. Potential criminality aside, we both knew the real reason she did not want me to go to my dad's. Being kidnapped had put things into a new perspective for my father, who had realized belatedly that the fantasy woman he had been married to for all these years had been exactly that — a fantasy.
Dad and I didn't have the perfect relationship, but we had far more in common with each other than either of us did with
. My mother knew this and despaired about being left out of the loop, convinced we spent every minute of our time together gossiping about her like schoolgirls.
Or, as she put it, “I do not like it when you and your father conspire against me. It hurts my feelings.”
I grabbed a light sweater from my closet and shrugged it on. “We have better things to talk about than you.”
You should talk to a therapist about this hatred you are harboring against your own mother!”
Why don't you do that for me? Go tattle to your precious Dr. Linden.”
Perhaps I should. While I am at it, perhaps I should also tell her how self-centered my foolish daughter is. How she thinks of no one but herself. That she is,
como se dice, una sociópata
,” I said. “Which, by the way, is heritable. I wonder which side of the family I got that from.” I stuffed more clothes in my bag. “Why don't you ask Dr. Linden how she feels about you making diagnoses on her behalf? See what she has to say about that.”
You know nothing about psychology,” she scoffed.
Neither do you. Go on — ask her. Call Dr. Linden right now. Better yet, put her on conference call. John can talk to her too, and tell her all about how he's going to star in the memoir you are writing about me without my permission.”
You are a horrible wretch!”
And you are a horrible mother,” I said quietly.
See if I help you move into your college apartment, if I am so horrible.” With a cry of theatrical anger, Mamá stormed down the stairs while muttering about ingrates and how children who spoke to their parents the way I did would have gotten the attitude beaten out of them back when she was a girl.
I did my best to ignore her, as usual. I was already keyed up, though, and felt the tingling flood warnings in my tear ducts: an emotional dam ready to burst. I threw the last of my things into my ratty old backpack and trudged out to the car, letting the front door slam behind me. Nobody came out to stop me. Nobody came out to say goodbye. I hadn't been expecting anyone to, not really, but still; I couldn't help feeling disappointed.
You will never learn, will you?
I turned on the radio. My Belanova CD was playing. The upbeat pop music was too happy for me to bear, and I switched it back off. Released the parking brake. Glanced back at my mother's house in the rear-view mirror. The warm glow of the lights grew blurry from my tears. No, I hadn't learned my lesson, and I suspected I never would. I thought I might understand how a kicked puppy feels.
The problem with being on the run? It forces you to hurry. When you hurry, you make mistakes. I made a mistake. I lingered for too long in Seattle. Maybe I was tired of running. Maybe I just didn't care. In any case, I'd led them on a merry chase across the western seaboard. Lots of time and resources wasted. Take that, cocksuckers.
I knew from the start that I couldn't run forever. When I started to get tired and they started to get too close, I bought myself a case of rum which I then proceeded to knock back deliberately and methodically while I waited for Callaghan's men to catch up. The burn felt good, seeping into my brain and body like liquid heat, relaxing me in a way I wasn't capable of sober. By the time they had broken down my door, I'd already finished off the better half of the carton. I had been drinking for about six hours.
There were five of them. They were spinning a little and one of them kept growing another head, but all were present and accounted for. I was surprised Callaghan had only sent five. There'd been a time when it would have taken at least ten. I guess the IMA had its respect for me.
I squinted. The leader was a man I'd seen around the base a handful of times. He'd never been important enough to bother learning his name, just a grunt, though if he was here now that must have meant he'd been promoted.
Jesus, what is this? The off-brand recovery team?
From the look on their faces, the disappointment was mutual. “Michael Boutilier?” From the look on his face, it looked like he kind of wanted me to say 'no.'
It's him,” the leader said. “Michael Boutilier, you are coming with us.”
That right?” I saluted with the tumbler. “At least tell me your name before we fuck.”
He pointed his pistol at me. I heard the safety click off. “Don't make me shoot you, Mr. Boutilier. I'd hate to have to explain to Mr. Callaghan why we brought you in dead.”
. He doesn't like failures.” I set down my glass. The liquid sloshed over the edge. “Why don't you
on the hell out of here, before I
you a goddamn ass-kicking?”
He's drunk,” the same grunt from before said.
You're drunk,” the leader said to me.
You don't say. They teach you to tell that in spy school?
. Sure is nice knowing the American tax dollar is being put to good use, eh?”
The guard set his teeth. “Boutilier, I'm warning you.”
. Kill me if you want. I don't care.”
We aren't going to kill you.”
Something smashed into my head. It took me a moment to realize it was the rum bottle. It took me another moment to realize that one of his men had crept around behind me to brain me with it. Glass shattered. Liquid splattered.
That was good rum
But by the time this is over,” the guard continued, “you might wish we had.” His voice was throwing off shimmery echoes. I had time to think,
And then everything went dark.
My father's house was only about fifty miles away from my mother's. It felt like a different country.
lived in one of those cottage homes from the 1920's. Small, cozy, not really room enough for three. The second being his new wife, Emily “just call me Aunt Em” Parker nee Rutherford.
Emily — sorry, Aunt
had a degree in Library Sciences and had first met my father when he had been returning some overdue programming manuals. He had argued with her about the due date. She couldn't locate him in the computer system when she attempted to double-check the library's records. My dad helped her update the backed-up files and she looked the other way while he quietly wiped his fines in lieu of payment. The two of them then went out to dinner, and the rest, as they say, was history. It was a cute enough story but one I'd heard far too many times. I didn't like the way Aunt Em told it, either, which was in a theatrical, overblown way far too reminiscent of my mother's.
Thankfully their shared penchant for drama was the only attribute they had in common. Apart from that one trait they had in common, Mamá and Em were different in both looks and personality. Mamá, in her cruel and cutting way, had even christened Aunt Em
because of her mousy looks and nervous gestures.
The one instance they had met was when my mother had come by to pick up some of her things from our old
house. The meeting had been catastrophic. Obviously. I hadn't been there since I'd been touring college campuses on-site, but from what I'd gleaned from the various sides to the story (and there were many), my mother had called Em a “dried up old hag,” and Em had retorted that at least
wasn't an “aging cougar who still thought herself a sex-kitten.”
I imagined the look on my mother's face was priceless.
It was only eight-thirty when I pulled up in their driveway and their lights were still on. They were probably awake then, but just in case I had brought the key my father had given me. As quietly as I could, I unlocked the front door and met the sound of a gravelly baritone in stereo that I recognized from the evening news. The two of them were sitting in his and hers matching armchairs, drinking tea.
Dad jumped when I closed the door, his bald head gleaming in the blue backdrop of the weather screen. “Sweet Pea?” he said, turning to look over his shoulder while Em fussed with the tea he'd spilled on his shirt. “Is that you?”
Em tossed her napkin — a cloth one, never paper — on the end table between their two chairs and said, “It's a little late.”
“Yes, weren't you staying at your mother's this week?”
Mamá was being horrid.”
When isn't she?” Em muttered.
Girls, please,” Dad interjected, looking a bit desperate. For obvious reasons, he tried to avoid talking about my mother as much as possible. Twenty-five years of marriage had left him paranoid.
She had John over.”
You might have called first,” Em said.
I didn't know! I just thought — I mean, since I have my own key — I figured it would be okay.”
You're always welcome here, Christina,” Dad said. “But it would be nice to get some advanced notice next time, if possible.”
I'm sorry. I would have, but I didn't even know I was going to leave until she — oh my
, Dad, she was planning the TV adaption of her
at the dinner table.”
I helped myself to some tea from the stove without asking because Em was an old fusspot, and because I knew it bothered her, and because I knew she was still too insecure about her relationship with my father to say so. “The memoir about her 'harrowing experiences.'”
Dad looked genuinely ill. “That woman. I swear — ” He shook her head. “What is she thinking? No publisher will be able to touch that. Not without heavy censoring.”
Dad swore, violently and explosively. “She's going to get us all killed.”
“That's exactly what I said. But no, she thinks she's Penelope Cruz.”
Maybe if Penelope Cruz had no taste,” Em said stiffly, taking a sip of tea. Pinky extended. Pointedly so, it seemed.
Does she have a sense of humor after all?
I'll have Mr. Rosenzweig call your mother's lawyer about that book. It's good she's keeping busy but she shouldn't be dragging you into this. I'm sure we can work out some kind of arrangement — ”
Fat chance of that. I don't understand why I have to see her at all. It's so blatantly obvious she doesn't want me there.”
You know how your mother is when she gets upset.”