I said, “I’ll pay you for this security detail. But what I do, you’re not ready yet. To join this fraternity, you’re not ready yet.”
“I know. Just letting you know.”
We said our good-byes.
I felt better knowing he was going to watch over Catherine and the boys, but I didn’t feel one hundred percent secure. Mine was a rough business. Revenge and money. Alvin had captured two men for me before. Men who had been sent to kill the people I cared about. Men who would kill women and children, then stop at Baskin Robbins and get a vanilla ice cream. I didn’t want to admit it, but Alvin was already in this fraternity I belonged to. The two bodies I had buried near the Chattahoochee in Georgia red dirt verified that.
I took to the shower, had to scrub rage and the stench of burning flesh off my body. As soon as I was soaped up, there was a sharp knock at my door.
My jaw tightened. I was on a high floor. And naked.
I left the shower on. Pulled a towel around my body. Wished towels were bulletproof. My gun had been dumped, but I had a backup at my side. A .380. I stayed inside the bathroom, out of gunshot range, then called out to whoever was knocking and lurking outside my door.
They replied, “Room service.”
“I didn’t order room service.”
“Jean-Claude. It’s me. Open up the stupid door.”
That was when I recognized the voice. I came out of the bathroom, looked out the peephole, saw she was alone, then tucked the .380 underneath the mattress. I opened the door. She wore white pants and gold sandals. White wife beater over a brown bra. Keys in her right hand. She held a light green plate-shaped Tupperware container in the other hand, the hand with the engagement ring.
She gave me a wide smile and said, “Surprise.”
She kissed me as she came inside the room, rushed in like she didn’t want to be seen.
She said, “Nice towel.”
Her name was Miki Morioka. A tight-eyed waitress I’d met at a strip club called Tootsie’s Cabaret. I had met her a few months ago when I was down here doing a job for Konstantin. Miki Morioka had been my cover last night. I’d taken her to South Beach, used her to get close to my target, blended with the crowd, broke away from her long enough to attach the C-4 underneath his limousine, then brought her to the suite for an hour before she had to leave and go home.
She put the Tupperware down on the dresser. “I brought you some food.”
I grinned. Now I was Jean-Claude from Montreal, Canada. The world traveler who had called her as soon as he landed at Miami International and offered to take her out on the town.
I said, “Food?”
“It’s still hot. Said you hadn’t had Japanese food for a while. So I broke out my family’s recipe book, cooked for you, and brought you the real deal. Glad you were still here.”
I opened the bag and set free the scent of Japanese fried chicken, rice, cauliflower. Potato croquette dipped in Japanese sweet sauce and shredded cabbage.
She said, “Wasn’t sure what you might like.”
I thanked her. Thought she would leave, but she kicked off her sandals. Miki Morioka took off the rest of her clothing. She was naked before I could say another word.
She had a beautiful body. Breasts to kill for. Real breasts, not manufactured in a lab.
I was done with her. Had used her for what I needed her for and sent her on her way.
The look in her eyes told me she wasn’t done with me.
Miki Morioka moaned. “
Inside the shower, she took my heat and I handled her heat in return.
I held her up, my hands underneath her butt, her legs wrapped around my body. She strained, bounced up and down hard and fast, one arm around my neck, her other palm extended toward the wall. Water ran like a waterfall over her face, through her hair. Water as warm as fresh blood. We kissed and moved against each other. The phones I had were left in the suite on the desk. The phone from Arizona. My iPhone. And the phone from the Lebanese. One of the phones rang. Couldn’t tell which one, not with all the noises in the bathroom. Miki Morioka kept her legs wrapped around me while I stepped out of the shower. Kept her legs wrapped around me and moaned and moved while I walked her toward the dresser.
The phone stopped ringing.
Miki Morioka was intense. I sat down on an armless chair, had her straddling me. I slapped her petite ass over and over, battled with Miki Morioka, then hurried her to the bed, put my weight on her body and held down her hands, kept her nails away from my flesh, her engagement ring catching light the way I wanted my enemies to catch a bullet. Had to battle my way out of this room the same way I had fought my way out of Antigua.
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .
I rolled away,
left Miki Morioka on her back, talking in a mix of Japanese and English, smiling like crazy, her breathing deep and rapid as she cupped and rubbed her damp breasts.
Miki Morioka said, “Lightheaded. Seeing. Polka. Dots. Wicked. Penis. You. Have.”
She panted some more. My ears were on the door, thought I heard a sound.
Miki Morioka said, “Oh . . . remember that Hopkins we saw in South Beach last night?”
“The rich guy.”
“His limo blew up on I-95. Ain’t that something crazy? It happened a few hours ago. My first time ever seeing somebody rich like him, and the next day
, some terrorist shit.”
A cellular rang. I rushed to the dresser, but it wasn’t mine. It was Miki Morioka’s. She reached over to her clothes, pulled out a BlackBerry Bold, looked at the display, and groaned.
She said, “I have to go.”
I sat up. “Work?”
“Off tonight. Have to rush back over on Dixie Highway and get my kid from the sitter. She’s going out to dinner with some married guy. Could only watch my kid for a couple of hours.”
“I have to get to the airport.”
“Surprised you called me yesterday. Didn’t think you would. Took you months.”
“Was surprised you remembered me.”
“Told you back then, you have charisma, panache, this unbelievable sexual energy.”
She hopped off the bed and jogged to the bathroom. The shower was still running. She got back in. A minute passed. She ran back with a towel around her body, water draining from her skin while she used another towel to dry her hair. She dressed as fast as she had undressed.
I opened the Tupperware, went to her, fed her some of her home-cooked food. Miki Morioka moaned, thought I was being romantic. I was making sure she wasn’t sent here to poison me. She ate a little, licked my fingers, then I walked her to the door, kissed her good-bye. Her kiss was powerful. She sucked my tongue almost hard enough to rip it out of my mouth.
She kissed me the way Arizona had kissed me in North Carolina and New York.
She pulled her wet brown hair back from her face and said, “
Saikou ni yokatta
“What does that mean?”
“You’re good. That was so good.”
I told her. “You’re damn good yourself. Tens on all scorecards, even the East Germans.”
Miki Morioka smiled. “Anytime you’re in Miami, look me up and hook me up. If you lose the number, look up Miki Morioka. Dixie Highway. Had the same number the last ten years.”
“Maybe when I come back to town, I’ll buy you another drink.”
“Seriously, let me know if you’re going to be close to Miami anytime soon. Can’t find anyone who can make me come like you did. Get that crazy look off your face. I need a really good fix every now and then. And so far, you’re the only one that is hitting that spot right.”
“Why are you getting married?”
“To be married. To stop working as much. To stop sleeping alone.”
“So your kid will have a dad.”
“That too. Mainly for that. Not easy doing everything by myself.”
I nodded. She shrugged.
She asked, “Whatever happened with you and that Filipina girl you were crazy about?”
“Ran into her today. After about a year.”
“She’s pregnant. At least six months.”
“Ouch. Not cool.”
“Yeah. Ouch. Not cool.”
“Probably for the best.”
I wanted to ask her why she had a kid. What made her want to have a baby and bring it into a situation as complicated as hers. Wanted to ask her what I didn’t understand.
Wanted to ask her what I wished I could ask my mother.
Another unknown in my world.
Miki Morioka said, “Don’t forget to look me up so you can hook me up.”
She jogged down the hallway, sandals slapping against her petite feet as she went to chase her own problems.
I looked at the food she had brought.
That was her barter.
The money she had left on the table.
I rubbed my temples, went to the dresser, looked at the phones.
One missed called on the phone left by the mysterious Lebanese.
My headache returned.
So did my urge to kill every enemy I could find.
the devil inside
I connected to GOTOMYPC.COM.
That way I could connect to the cameras at the home in Powder Springs.
They knew there were security cameras outside, but they didn’t know I could tap into the twelve security cameras I had installed around the house, or that I could tap into them from anywhere I had Internet connection.
I saw Alvin’s car outside the house, two houses down. He was doing his job. I switched from the exterior to the interior cameras. Wanted to make sure Alvin didn’t show up after trouble. The cameras inside the house were disguised as smoke detectors and motion sensors. The house was quiet. Everyone was in the bedrooms, areas I didn’t have cameras.
I switched to a camera in the kitchen. Focused on a FedEx that was on the counter.
That was the box that had the DNA results.
That was the box that held the answers. That was my MacGuffin.
A while ago I had taken DNA samples from Catherine and the boy named Steven. Catherine had done it begrudgingly, but she had done it. The boy had no idea what I was doing. I had swabbed the inside of my mouth too and sent that package to DNA Solutions. I needed some answers. Had become obsessed with getting those answers.
Catherine had raised me. She was the French woman born in Yerres who had told me that my mother was murdered when I was too young to remember. She had told me my mother had been found dead in a Dumpster. Had said that my mother was a prostitute named Margaret. She made it sound like she was a savior whore, making sure the men who had abused and did her friends wrong were killed, taking in the children of dead whores to save them from the system. But then she changed that story, told me that my mother wasn’t the whore left in that Dumpster. She took Margaret away from me. She wouldn’t say anything after that. She had left me in limbo.
She had told me I had killed my father. She had told me so many things. Before she took the name Catherine she had been a whore named Thelma. That was who I saw whenever I looked at her. I saw Thelma. Thelma had been the one who had put a gun or knife in my hand and sent me to kill, did that before I had hair over my genitals, told me that some people deserved to die.
Back then I had backed down. I had come off a hard situation in Antigua, and the other boy who lived with Catherine, the African who now used the name Robert, his mother had been killed because of me. Everywhere I had stepped, I had left blood and heartache.
Back then, maybe I couldn’t handle any more bad news.
Back then I had needed some happiness, even if it was false.
I’d been on the run for more than a year and I was fucking tired.
I lived with a level of irritation I couldn’t get to subside, not for more than an hour.
Now I kept the camera focused on the FedEx box. I stared at that box as that box stared back at me. It taunted me. Had given me sleepless nights. Inside that FedEx box was what was important. Inside that box were the answers to X.Y.Z.
I should’ve opened it a long time ago. I should’ve put this mystery to bed.
X.Y.Z. represented the DNA swabs I had taken. One sample from Catherine. One sample from Steven. And one sample from me. I don’t know why I swabbed myself. I was old enough that things like this shouldn’t matter. But I knew why I swabbed Catherine and the boy. I did it mainly for the boy. No one had seen Catherine pregnant. She had lived among whores, and not one woman in the red-light district I found her in had seen her pregnant, not one had seen a photo of her with a swollen belly. I didn’t know any pregnant women who didn’t photograph their first pregnancy.
There were no pictures of her with the kid as a small child.
I think Steven was stolen.
I believed she was raising a child she had stolen from some woman. Or the child of another dead hooker. If that boy’s father was alive, that was where he was supposed to be. With his family. Not with Catherine. Not with the whore who had called herself Thelma and had stolen me from my dead mother. I believed that I had been stolen. And I knew that my father was killed by me, but he was dead because of her. And I didn’t know who I was.
On the computer, Catherine walked into frame. She headed into the kitchen. She had on a summer dress, a modest number that flowed over her figure and stopped below her knees. Catherine was a beautiful French woman. Her features and expression, maybe because of the makeup she used to wear when she was a sex worker, used to be sly and espiègle. But she looked different now, like a brand-new woman. Stunning and motherly.
I felt guilty for playing Big Brother, but I did what I felt I had to do. I spied. Everything looked copacetic.