THEIR BLOOD BE LAID: PART II

by - 4/21/2018



I MEANT to post something else between these two sections, but it never got completed, so here you go. More pain and misery. (If you're new to the party, go back a post! Part I is the place for you.)





II.
The shipment comes in tonight.
Cillian and his pistol left with the cousins in the late afternoon, sweating and pale-faced before he even stepped outside. He doesn’t talk about the work he does, but I know how he hates it, how he loathes dancing on a wire and not knowing if he’ll fall. Certain things don’t help tonight.
He didn’t give me the usual hug before he left.
I feel dirty. I feel like a bad omen. I feel sticky and hot and suffocated and I feel like a crime, I feel it every time someone looks at me and looks away. Aunt Eva is the only one who doesn’t unconsciously keep her distance.
“How’re you doing, doll?” she asks me, bending so close I can smell the liquor on her breath and the flowery perfume on her skin. “You’ve got a little something right there.”
She reaches forward and dabs some red off my hairline like it’s nothing at all, examining her stained finger with disgust before dismissing it. “Old fear tactics, Aine. Nothing that can hurt us anymore, you know? We aren’t trapped in some old country now, we aren’t under any kind of weight. We’re shaking it loose bit by bit.”
“I can’t do it,” I hear my mother whisper, from the other side of dad’s cracked office door. “I can’t do this again, I can’t. I can’t have someone not come back—”
“We can’t do anything about it,” dad mumbles, barely audible. I lean against the wall near the door and hold my breath. “You know we can’t do anything about it.”
Aunt Eva pours herself another glass of scotch and turns up the radio.
I smile at her and slip up the dark stairwell, down the hall, and into my room.
When people tell me I’m like my father, they usually don’t mean it well: what’s admirable in him is caustic and acidic in me. But when I’ve a mind to get something done I don’t bend from it, and blood and all, I have things to set to work tonight.
I turn the lock on my door and get to it.
Most things in my closet are pastel or thick-skirted or floating, just how I like it, but at the bottom of the last drawer, I dig out what I need. A few months ago the cousins wanted me at a party, and I don’t think Rian’s noticed yet that I haven’t returned his clothes. I wiggle into the soft, worn work clothes and drag the boots out from under my bed, stuffing socks in the toes to make them fit my much-smaller feet. By the time I get to braiding my hair back tight there’s blood on the shirt already.
I dab what I can off with some hot water and ignore the rest, ignore the uncomfortable oozing down my back. There’s no time to wait for it to stop.
The clock on the wall reminds me of that.

*****

Something rustles in the bushes.
I shut the kitchen door behind me with the softest of clicks that still seems too loud and freeze. Breathing. Waiting.
No more rustling.
The switchblade finds its way out of my pocket and into my hand. I breathe shallowly and ease around the side of the house, toward the cluster of neatly-trimmed bushes that hug the bricks there. Right above those bushes is the window in my father’s office, cracked just a little to let in some air.
I stare at the shadows under the window.
“I know you’re there,” I whisper.
The shadows don’t move.
“I know you’re there,” I repeat. As soon as anyone sees me they’ll also see that I’m small and non-threatening, but hopefully the surprise of it sends them running. And if not —
“Really?” says the shadows. “Really.”
I nearly throw the switchblade at him. “You came back. You’re actually back here. I’m calling the police.”
Laslo Hugh of the too-big coat shrugs and kicks at a leave on his shoe. “You’re not supposed to be out here either.”
“I live here!”
“And your dear old dad wants you out in the dark? You’re what, sixteen?”
“What, and your dear old dad wants you out past midnight? You’re what, sixteen?”
“Eighteen, and I’m calling the police. Or dear old dad. Whichever you’d like first.”
“Fine, so I’ll run.”
“I know your name,” I say. “I know you work for a paper. Go ahead and run.”
Laslo pauses.
“...fair point. That’s not ideal.”
I clench my fist around the switchblade. “You’re spying. For what?”
“I already told you what. I’m investigating your family. I want to know why you don’t talk to us. Or why I’m not supposed to talk to you. Whichever.”
“So you’re trespassing”
“Listen.” He moves away from the window again, closer to me, and this time, I take a step back. His voice is impossibly quiet as he leans forward. “Owen Tracey’s your uncle, right?”
Enough is enough.
I bite my lip instead of screaming for help and grab Laslo by the sleeve. He’s taller, and likely stronger, but I have the element of surprise on my side, so he stumbles after me, nearly careening into the tree by our wall once I let him go.
“What’re you doing?” I ask him. I cross my arms over my chest for lack of a better place to put them.
“Your uncle,” Laslo answers. “Owen Tracey. He was murdered last year—”
Died last year—”
“Come on.”
Just the name is enough to make my throat hurt. Makes me think of too many questions and my father’s pale face and the horrible quiet that sits on a place once all the funeral guests are gone and it’s just you and the people who grew up with him.
“There’s nothing to know about it,” I say. “And you need to get out of here. Now.”
“Listen, I wouldn’t be here if things weren't so hard to find. If people weren’t hiding things. That’s the whole problem.”
“My uncle died. He left behind a wife and baby. We all miss him very much. There’s nothing else to it, and you need to stop poking around in family business, especially like this.”
“Do you know that most of his money disappeared pretty suddenly right beforehand? Did you know that your dad made a personal visit to my boss’s office right after the funeral?” He holds up a hand and ticks items off on his fingers in the dark. “He works with several shipping companies at the harbor and they’re very particular about who they hire and when their product gets unloaded. There’s talk of war in the streets and do you know whose names get thrown around? Your uncle worked with your father—”
“Give it up,” I snap, cutting him off.
“No,” Laslo replies. “You can’t tell me anything?”
“There’s nothing to tell, and I need to go. Now. Get out of here and don’t come back. I’ll let you out.”
And I do, right out the back gate, with the key I wear on a string around my neck. He steps through with his hands in his pockets and his head still up, perfectly unashamed.
I don’t say a word to him. I can’t. My heart is still skipping beats and my throat’s still too dry. I’m not my dad, it turns out. I don’t know how to twist everything.
“So you’re just going to walk off,” he comments. “In the middle of the night, like it’s perfectly normal.”
“Yes I am,” I reply, like it is perfectly normal.
“Where?”
“Why would I tell you?”
“You just told me how dangerous things are and now you’re walking around in the dark by yourself.”
I stare at his figure in the darkness. “You’re concerned about my safety now.”
“A little, yes!”
I almost laugh before I catch myself. “That’s very polite of you, but I’m not alone out here. No one’s going to let me get hurt.”
“Because you’re Áine Tracey.”
“Because I’m Áine Tracey.”
Laslo hesitates before he speaks again. “You know I’m going with you.”
Every second I spent arguing with him is time people are dying. I wipe blood off my pants and shrug. “If you want to get shot you are. We’ve got people everywhere. They know me.”
“So I’ll… follow you from a safe and discreet distance.”
“If you want to get shot.”
“I’m not going to get shot.”
“Good for you.”
I round another corner and resolve not to look back at him. A strange man following me in the dark is not going to be looked on kindly by our family’s men, no matter what sort of excuses that strange man has. Laslo can take his life in his hands for this if he’d like. I have more than enough lives to concern myself with tonight.
I don’t take this way very often, and never in the dark. It’s shadowy, and tricky, but it’s better than the main streets, alive with drinking and laughing and strings of lights and stupid boys running after each other in dizzy circles. The first man I come across only nods at me comfortingly. I think he’s familiar — but a lot of men pass through our house at odd hours. He could be any one of them. I just have to trust that he won’t immediately tell my father where I am and what I’m doing. He should know better than to meddle with it.
And you shoudl know better than to be out here, without any kind of a plan, but here we are.

Deliveries come at unpredictable times, in unpredictable locations, but we’ve known about this one for a month or so beforehand. The particular delivery and this particular location requires crossing into rival territories and, as a result, careful watching and even more careful payouts. Cillian and the cousins will keep their guns close.
I hold tight to my switchblade as I get closer.
The docks are quiet. The docks are shadowy. The docks smell like fish and stale blood, and I have to dance carefully around dark puddles as I creep nearer. My pulse clicks in my ears as I navigate my way toward an old pile of crates and equipment between me and the dock, a makeshift wall blocking street view of the meeting spot.
I hesitate in the shadows for a few breaths, lungs pumping hard for air. No one shouts or shoots me from some corner. The low rise and fall of voices floats out from the other side of the crate stacks.
One step at a time, I clamber up onto one of those crates and inch my way toward a crack in the pile of supplies so I can look through some discarded netting. My boots squeak softly against wet wood. My breath comes out hot and fast. The blood oozes its way down the back of my neck, along my spine, down my hand, soaking through my shirt. I wince at the wetness of it and try to push it out of my mind.
There are a handful of figures clustered together in the velvet-dark warehouse, hands close to their sides, voices hushed. My brother and his pistol. The twins, indistinguishable in their matching caps and careful postures. Some of the others who go on these kinds of things, guarded and quiet in the background. Cillian has the lead — my stomach does a flip when I realize that. I don’t know when he started leading things. I don’t know when he got that grown-up, when he got the look on his face that he has now, when he started talking with the kind of confidence that Dad just oozes. But I don’t have to hear every word to know it’s there. His hands gesture lightly as he talks.
On the other side: more caps and shadowed faces I don’t recognize. I know the names we throw around at home, the ones my father writes down in his ledger after every drop like this, but I’ve never met any of them face to face, so it’s hard to put looks to names. There’s an entire side of things, an entire other family, and that’s strange to think about. I watch their guarded stance and hands close to their weapons.
My fingers curl around the edge of a crate until it hurts. I catch myself. One little fall, one little move, I’m going to ruin everything. The last thing I need is for someone to know I’m here.
Please. I don’t pray. Not to anything, at least. So I more mouth it out to the empty dark. Just let everyone here be safe.
“There you are—”
The man behind me makes a breathless sort of gasp when I turn around and smack him solidly below the throat. He ducks back —
Wait.
I grab the front of his jacket and drag him back upright before he slips on the salty, muddied ground. “What’s wrong with you?
Laslo shakes his head wordlessly.
“You aren’t supposed to be here.”
“You said I could follow you!”
“Shut up!”
He opens his mouth again. I smack my hand over it, cutting him off. “Someone’s going to hear you and they’re going to shoot us, so don’t be stupid, just shut up, just let me listen, won’t you?”
Laslo’s eyes widen.
I relax my grip on his jacket. “Okay?”
A small nod.
I release him and turn back to the deal.
I let go of him, shake my head, and turn back to the deal. The mystery leader of the Mullanes flips through a stack of money with quiet precision. My brother fidgets. I want to scream at him to take his hand off the gun, stop looking like a man trapped and ready to fight. You have to stand there, you can’t look scared, don’t you know how much that’s going to put them on edge? Cousin Finn leans forward anxiously, rocking back and forth on his heels. A loose bullet ready to fly off.
Cillian says something else.
The other man cocks his head to the side. Considers. Nods a little.
“Do you know them?” Laslo breathes. I nearly hit him again — he’s so close I can feel his breath on my neck, and it makes everything a little more uncomfortable.
I shake my head.
A simple deal. A simple payment, hand-off, and then everyone goes their separate ways, nothing else about it.
“You’re bleeding,” Laslo hisses.
Right. There’s that.
I wave him off. “Hush.”
“You’re bleeding,” Laslo says, a little louder.
“I’m not,” I whisper back. “I’m fine.”
“You must have scratched yourself or something, that’s a lot…let me look,” he says, voice laced with concern, and bends down.
I twist to slap his hand away. “Don’t touch my leg!
“You’re hurt—”
I hit his arm and he jerks it back, knocking straight into a crate behind him. THUMP. Flesh and bone on wet wood.
We both freeze.
No one speaks.
I look back up, through the little hole in the netting, and meet the curious eyes of the man talking with my brother.
I should move. I should duck my head down. I should do something. But in the moment all I can do is stare, just stare like an idiot, frozen in place, blood running down my leg.
“You brought more people,” the man snaps. Now it’s not just him looking at me, it’s the gun, too, a little dark eye of a barrel that looks so small and harmless from here. But I know it’s not. It’s not.
“What’s happening?” Laslo has his head ducked down, wisely. His arm is still awkwardly placed, like he never moved it. “You okay?”
I don’t respond. Everything is stuck in my throat.
Cillian looks up now, too. Cillian, and the cousins, and everyone there, and I catch the flicker of recognition in my brother’s eyes —
A deafening crack —
Something yanks me sideways, to the ground. The breath rushes out of me in a strangled gasp. My head catches the side of a wooden crate halfway down and there are white sparks in my vision, a thick taste in the back of my throat, no air to breathe, a heavy pressure over me pinning me to the ground.
“Come on,” Laslo says, miles away.
Someone shouts. Another crackcrackcrack and wood splintering. All of it far away.
I stare up at the wet sky and feel the blood seeping through my clothes and think that I should, maybe, be panicking. But I don’t know how I got here.
“Sorry, sorry,” Laslo’s saying, and the weight on me is him, shifting and trying to get off, scrambling to his feet, hat left behind. I want to laugh at the mess his hair becomes without it, falling over his face. He grabs my arm and tries to haul me up. “Come on!”
Another crack and that’s —
Gunfire. It’s gunfire.
“Come on!” Laslo shouts, and when I stare at him blankly, drags me to my feet hard enough to make my arm twinge in protest.
“What—”
“Over here!”
Move move move move
I wiggle out of his grip. I can stand, but the world is fuzzy and blurred at the edges, like looking into a smeared and fogged-up mirror. Black smudges of shadows move. Another splatter of gunshots echos in the back of my head.
They thought they were being jumped and they panicked.
Cillian and Rian and Finn and Casey, all of the boys, really, but the blood seeping from my forehead —
Laslo sees it. He reaches out and wipes some of it off with his sleeve. “Can you hear me?”
I nod my head and hold onto his arm when the world spins.
“I think you hit your head, hold on…” His fingers push my hair aside, search my forehead. I want to tell him that he’s looking for nothing — that I hit the side of my head and I can still feel it throbbing, but it’s not bleeding, that’s not it. I want to tell him that there are more important things than the blood on my skin.
I don’t know how, so I push him aside. Switchblade must have fallen out of my hand in the panic, as I fell — as Laslo pushed you out of the way, my brain reminds me — and I don’t see it, but that doesn’t matter.
“We need to go,” Laslo says. I move past him, swallowing down the sickness that wells up in my throat. Toward the sounds of the gunshots.
“We have to get over there,” I snap back.
“Did you miss the gunshots?”
I ignore him. I ignore all of it as I move toward the meeting-place.
I see them before they see me. Or, more truthfully, I see flashes of them — an unfriendly face peeking out from around a crate and ducking again. My brother and the nose of his pistol popping out from behind a plate of old scrap metal, squeezing the trigger, and ducking back again. The cousins in their hiding spots. Bullets ding off of metal and splinter into wood. Someone shouts to someone else. The air smells like smoke and there’s copper on my lips, red running down from my nose that I think is mine.
I wipe it away and duck behind a crate of my own, trying to pull in some air.
“We have to get out of here,” Laslo keeps saying, over and over, like he’s broken. “We need to go now.”
He starts to stand up and flinches back as a bullet snaps into the warehouse wall behind him. I clap a hand over my mouth so I don’t shout, like I so want to, but there’s no blood on Laslo as he ducks back down. His face has gone absolutely white.
“We need to go,” he says again.
I ignore him.
Don’t let anyone get hurt don’t let anyone get hurt
There’s a body sprawled out on the ground, half-hidden behind a makeshift shield of an old crate. My stomach turns again — but it’s not us, not any of us, just someone else leaking red onto the ground, just someone else dead, probably not the first or only one, but not one of us.
Cillian’s head pops up again. He shoots again, and I can see the steely panic across his face, a look I’ve never seen from him before. I should be afraid. All I can think is you look like dad, and it’s the worst possible thing I could think in the moment —
He’s not shooting. He’s waving. A simple gesture, and I follow his gaze to see Cousin Finn return it from a handful of feet away. After a moment Finn appears and slides out from behind his shelter, moving toward Cillian and some of the others.
I don’t hear the shot. I see Finn crumple to the ground like someone’s huge hand pushed him over, one second standing upright and the next second sprawled back.
I’m watching from a dream, all my blood-soaked nightmares come to reality, that’s what this is. And in a second I’m going to wake up.
Laslo has a steady stream of curses going under his breath, his shoulder brushing mine, so close I can feel the way he shakes.
Cousin Finn twitches.
He’s moving. Not just moving now, breathing, fingers clutching his leg just below the knee. Bloody. Shattered. I watch him try to stand twice before he gives up and settles for trying to make it to shelter. Cillian moving toward him and suddenly out of the corner of my eye Cousin Casey, his wide-eyed face the less pained match of Finn’s own, moving toward him, saying things I can’t hear over the pounding and ringing in my ears.
Someone has a gun.
Someone is pointing the gun.
The blood roars in my ears and drips off my fingers and Laslo tugs on my arm again, but I’m rooted in place, watching, seeing the panic in Finn’s eyes.
Casey moves like a whisper and darts in front of him.
I watch the blood spray across the crates behind them and something in me falls a thousand feet to hit rock bottom.
Cousin Finn cowers on the ground and keeps moving, keeps breathing, doesn’t end up with skin full of bullets. In one smooth movement Cillian lifts his own gun — poppoppop — and the enemy man falls to the ground too.
No one moves for a good two breaths. Breaths I can feel rattling in my chest.
“Shit,” Laslo says. “Ah, shit, I—”
I shove his chest hard enough for him to stumble back. I think if he had any less control of himself he would topple right over. “Get out of here!”
“I can’t leave you here!”
Something in my eyes feels fierce. Something in my throat feels hot and angry and boiling. “You’re going to die if you stay here.”
I shove him again, and he stumbles off — to where, I don’t know. I don’t care.
I rip the cap off my head, unpin my hair. Clamber over a crate. With shaky energy I didn’t know I had — Casey Casey Casey — I dash across the space between the two families.
Cillian, with a pained yelp like he’s been shot too — “Áine!”
Someone on the other side, head peeking up from the crates — “Who’s she?”
“Don’t shoot, hold on! Áine, get back, get out of here—”
I don’t need to look at Cousin Casey, at the darkness oozing across the ground and seeping into the grains of wood. I’m too close as it is, and I watch a thin trail of red wind its way toward me, pooling at the tip of my boot.
“Áine.” Cillian’s hands are shaking. “Áine, you can’t be here.”
“Cillian—”
“We need to get out of here.” He looks back toward Casey. I don’t follow his gaze. Cousin Finn is slurring something, something that sounds like a prayer, a plea. “We need to get Finn out of here.” He raises a hand to the rest of our boys, a short gesture that hides the trembling in his fingers. “Get them out of here! Áine.”
“Cillian,” I repeat lamely. I feel bloody. I feel fragile. I feel like a little slip of paper the wind could blow away, and I’m not sure my legs will hold me for much longer. “Cillian.”
“We’re leaving. We’re finished here. We’re done tonight.”


You May Also Like

11 Comments

  1. Ugh my hearttt I’m adopting Cillian as my own.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I CAN'T WITH HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS STORY. LITERALLY CAN'T. OH MY GRACIOUS <3 <3 <3. I haven't read anything this incredible for a long time. I CAN'T WAIT FOR NEXT WEEK. (also if you hurt Finn or Cillian BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN, AIMEE - BAD THINGS. DON'T YOU DARE.)

    ~ Savannah | Inspiring Writes

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was so frustrated that she followed them. I know why she did, but I figured someone was going to get shot. Cillian better be okay!

    ReplyDelete
  4. *dies* My heart, Aimee. How dare you! This literally made me start yelling and screaming things OUT LOUD in my house. (Reason #816382 Why My Family Thinks I'm Crazy)

    I swear, if you kill Cillian...*stares intensely off into the distance*...bad things will come for you, Aimee.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Whoa. *is even more nervous and worried for all the characters now*

    ReplyDelete
  6. AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

    ReplyDelete
  7. I DON'T KNOW WHAT THIS IS BUT I NEED MORE.

    ReplyDelete
  8. *SHRIIIIIIIEKS* I just can't even with your writing. The imagery when the gunfight was going on just!!!!!! WOW, AIMEE. WOW.

    And the FEELS. We're only two chapters in and I'm already SO NERVOUS for all the peoples.

    I have never read anything quite like this and I'M LOVING IT! I can't wait for the next installment!

    ReplyDelete
  9. HOW ARE YOU SO GOOD AT WRITING THIS ISN'T ACTUALLY FAIR

    ReplyDelete

tell me stuff!