This is the 4th installment of the Tobit series. Please start at The Demon Tobit of Delphia to enjoy the entire series in order.
For Hate and Black Coffee
The morning in New Orleans was pleasant. The air was warm but hardly the usual humid misery that the locals had become accustomed to. The sky was a clear and lovely blue, casting shimmering sunlight on the glass-walled skyscrapers. The streets of the French Quarter were even lovelier. The old historic buildings cast perfect avenues of shade, dropping the warm air even a bit lower, the perfect temperature to sit outside and enjoy a cup of coffee at a street cafe.
A young woman of perhaps her late 20s was doing just that. She had arrived in New Orleans two days prior in search of a young man named Derrick Reynolds. She was in no particular hurry to find him though, and since this was her first time visiting New Orleans, she decided to enjoy the ambiance as she conducted her search. This morning she had been strolling down Esplanade, a tree-lined street that bordered the French Quarter. Esplanade was lined with large oaks and mostly pedestrian traffic traveled it this time of morning, with the occasional bicyclist. Cars were few and far between this morning.
She had begun her day in her normal fashion. Wake up, do a few stretches, watch the national news and then go out for a stroll. New Orleans certainly offered much for the eye to take in. From the street kids with their creative signs asking for money, to the street musicians who were essentially asking for money but with a slight talent, to the young and attractive yuppies that visited, she had thoroughly enjoyed the sights of the city. So many people to watch, so many little lives to observe.
This morning she had stumbled upon this lovely little street cafe, though. She thought a hot cup of coffee would go down a treat and help jump start her tasks. After all, she would need to find Derrick soon; it was very important that she did, but she needed her caffeine to get the process going.
That is when the annoyance started. To begin with, the cafe's door announced that it opened at seven o'clock in the morning. Now, here she was, at 7:15 and the doors were still locked. She was a girl on the go and didn't have time to wait around for some coffee jockey to wake up and do his job.
Next was the actual coffee jockey himself, or barista, as she was sure he considered himself. He saw her waiting, he had to be aware of the time, but instead of opening the door, he just gave her an arrogant look and kept on going about his routine as though the entire world was on his schedule.
Finally, the guy opens the door. He's a young man, probably in his early 20s. Sloppy dresser, a beard that looked as though it never saw a day of grooming, and an attitude that matched his appearance. He looked at her as though he was doing her some sort of favor by opening the door. She felt her temper start to rise, but tried her very best to contain it. He was testing her, though.
So, she orders her coffee. No thank you, no apologies from the clerk for wasting her time at the door. He even went as far as to ask for her name, even though she was the only customer. Perhaps he was interested in making small talk, but she doubted it. Socializing was clearly not his strong point. He was just some low level worker that, for some strange reason, felt entitled.
The next hurdle came with her cup. She had given him her name, as requested. She had a simple name, a name that had no real alternate spellings. She had read that some baristas enjoyed finding silly ways to spell their customers' names. She for one did not find this little tradition to be cute or endearing. She in fact found it to be a bit disrespectful. She pushed on though, still doing her best to keep her cool.
The final straw came at the end, though, when he gestured towards the tip jar. Yes, as if this situation could not have become more ridiculous, this idiot actually had the nerve to demand a tip. She had tipped him nothing, and the dirty look he gave her cemented in her need to rectify the situation as soon as possible.
“Ever hear of karma?” he mumbled as she walked away. As though the cosmos would waste their time on the likes of him.
She sat outside at a table near enough to the door to ensure he could look up and see her. She was on "dirty look" patrol and wanted to make sure she locked eyes with him each and every time he gazed out towards her with contempt. Once she finished her cup of coffee, she leaned back, placed her feet on the table and lit a cigarette. Of course this caught the young coffee jockey's attention right away.
Staring at him, she could read him like a book. He had been upset that she showed up for coffee before he was ready to open the door. He had been upset that she stared and glared at him until he finally did open the door. He had been upset that she intentionally ordered the most complicated item on the menu, and, of course, he was beyond upset that she did not tip him. He wanted so badly to say something to her. Now she was giving him that chance. With her Doc Martin boots kicked firmly up to the table and a lit cigarette billowing smoke directly into his shop, she knew he was fully baited into a confrontation now.
"Sometimes they are just too easy," she whispered to herself as he approached, chest puffed, prepared to lay down the coffee shop law.
"Hey, you can't put your feet on the table, and you can't smoke here," the young man announced.
The young woman scanned the young man from head to toe. "Well, Mr. Coffee, last I heard, the customer is always right, so why don't you go back into your little store there and comb that beard?"
The young man, whose name was Perry Johnson, was not used to having much authority in life. He was a college dropout who lived with four other roommates in a tiny French Quarter apartment. He had come to New Orleans from Ohio to really take in what he considered to be the last bastion of romantic culture in the United States. Instead, he had come down to find himself still single, still broke and stuck living with roommates who drove him crazy. The fact that they were all enjoying active sex lives and he still went home to the internet and his hand, did not help his disposition towards them, but he would never admit that. To him, he was just smarter than them and every woman in the city was just too stupid to see that.
And now, he had to deal with this one, a real cutie she is, so of course to Perry, that translates to "she's every girl that's ever rejected me," and as Perry could tell you, there were a lot of them. So when this little petite whisper of a woman with her long, red hair and gripping, emerald eyes has the nerve to come to his job and disrespect him, well, that's the final straw.
"Look, lady, you finished your coffee, so that means you're not a customer anymore, so leave," Perry demanded.
Those green eyes fixed on him as she took in another deep drag of her cigarette and blew smoke directly into his face.
"Oh, I am still a customer. I would actually very much like a refill," she announced, and batted the empty coffee cup to the ground. "Go ahead and pick that up and go refill it. Oh, and while you’re at it, give me a new cup with my fucking name spelled right. Geez, it’s a simple name and you managed to fuck it up. Are you a retard or something?”
The look that took over Perry's face was almost too hilarious, and the young woman had to struggle not to burst into laughter. However, she wasn't quite done yet, and didn't want to spoil the show. Instead, she applied her most impish smile and began to speak to him in an even far more condescending tone than before.
"Go ahead, pick it up, Mr. Coffee; pick it up and go refill it. Or did they not teach you refills when you went to Barista University?"
"My name is not Mr. Coffee, my name is Perry!" he responded in anger.
That did it for her, his name was simply too comical to ignore. She could no longer hold in the laughter. "Perry? Your name is Perry? Oh my God! I wish I had been recording this on my phone! Fucking Perry the coffee man laying down the law! Oh, Perry, you are just too much. Now, last time, please pick up my cup and go refill it!"
Perry could take no more. He had grown up being ridiculed about his name. All of middle school he was known as "Scary Perry." Not really too terrible. High school though, well, that was a whole different ball game. In high school he had been known as "Perry the Fairy." He had barely gone a day without hearing some sort of insult about his first name. And now, for this woman to come here, refuse to tip, refuse to listen and finally to laugh at his name, that was all he could take.
Perry moved forward, intending to knock her feet off of the table. He was determined to show her just who was boss around here. He stepped towards her but never had a chance of touching her. As soon as his arm gave the slightest twitch in her direction, Perry suddenly felt his entire right side of his body explode in agony.
Somehow, in what could not have been a fraction of a micro-second, this adorable, little redhead had reached up and grasped a very obscure nerve cluster on Perry's lower torso. She applied enough force to essentially paralyze that side of his body. In doing so, he hunched over the table for support as she continued to grasp and twist, sending wave after wave of pain beyond description racing through his body.
She took a quick glance up and down the street, and was beyond pleased to see that she and Perry still pretty much had the morning to themselves. From a distance, she imagined that his pose over the table would just appear to be a waiter taking an order from a customer. This made her happy. This meant that she could take her time with Perry here, really enjoy their moments together.
"Now Perry, you were very, very rude to me. I tried so hard to be sweet too. But you just had to come out here and ruin our time. So mean. Now, I do believe that you owe someone an apology, don't you agree?"
Perry was grunting heavily as sweat poured down his face. He was in a state of shock that this situation had developed into madness so suddenly. He could barely process the physical pain he was in, and the sense of confusion and panic was only making things worse.
"I... I'm sorry... I'm sorry... please let me go... please let me go," was all he could muster.
The woman smiled and laughed again. "Oh, don't apologize to me, Perry. You could never insult me. You are far too insignificant to even warrant an apology. You aren't even an insect in my world." As she scolded she applied more force to the nerves, causing Perry to jerk and go into muscle spasms in his legs.
"I... I... sorry..." he managed again, clearly in too much pain and fear to really follow with her logic.
"Perry, you don't owe me an apology; you owe my boots an apology. I mean, they have served me so well for so many years, always keeping my feet nice and dry, always lacing up just right, and you have the nerve to tell me I shouldn't display them on your table. Very rude."
Perry gasped again but produced no words. His face was becoming a bright red. She released a bit of pressure. She didn't need him passing out before she was done with him after all.
With the reduction in pressure, Perry was able to speak again. "I am sorry that I insulted your boots... please let me go... please..."
She smiled, "Well, Perry, you are in luck, my boots want to be your friend. In fact, they want to commemorate this new era of peace with a kiss. Go ahead Perry, kiss them. Kiss them and tell them you accept their friendship."
Perry hesitated for just a moment. He reviled germs, and even through all of this pain and agony, the thought of being humiliated in this way was almost too much. Then she applied another sharp grasp of pressure.
"I said to kiss my boots, Perry."
He complied. She laughed and pointed. Finally it was over.
"Good boy, Perry. Now, before I let you go, I just need to dispose of my cigarette. I would hate to litter your lovely little sidewalk, so you're going to open your mouth and eat it for me, okay?"
Without waiting, she applied the harshest level of pressure yet, bringing him all the way down to his knees. His mouth was hanging agape from the pain, and she took the opportunity to dispose of her still lit cigarette into his mouth. He gagged and attempted to spit it back, but she clasped her other hand over his mouth.
"Swallow," she ordered in a voice that contained no humor or sarcasm. Perry followed the command. "Now, Perry, I do hope that you learned something about customer service today," she cooed, releasing her grip on Perry.
Slowly Perry backed away, back towards his store. He couldn’t walk with his right leg, but was doing a fairly admirable job of limping backwards using the tables for support. "I'm calling the cops... fucking psycho bitch..."
"Oh, Perry, you learned nothing," she responded, and with a speed that defied all logic, was suddenly standing behind him. Perry could feel a very sharp blade pushing into his back.
She drove the knife in deep, two times. Once through his back and into his kidneys. That one was just to hurt, to ensure that his last moments of life were in agony. The second stab went through his back and into his heart. She maintained control of his body, and sat him down in the chair that she had been occupying. She removed the knife and sheathed it. She propped a menu into Perry's dead hands and pushed him downward, giving the appearance that he was just a man studying the menu closely. The guise would work for a while.
"I'll get that refill myself, Perry," she announced.
Coffee in hand, she turned the OPEN sign around in the shop door to the CLOSED position, and then shut the door. She walked past Perry's corpse and dropped a dollar on the table in front of him.
"See, Perry, you were worth a tip after all."
This was how Lacy Suzino, Sister of Tobit and agent of Tabitha Shaw, spent her third morning in New Orleans. All in all, she was really enjoying her first trip to the Big Easy.
As Lacy turned the corner from Esplanade on to Royal Street, she felt her cell phone buzz. Viewing the screen, she read the following text:
FEM TAR ARR TOM, FIND MAL TAR TOD!
Lacy had to chuckle at that. Her associate was so serious when it came to being cryptic. Even though these were just burner phones that couldn't be traced, she still felt the need to send messages in code. At least the code was rather simple.
"Female target arrives tomorrow, find male target today," she whispered to herself. Female target was of course Clair Nobles, and the male target, as she well knew, was Derrick Reynolds. "An easy task if ever there were one, but leave it to Lena to make things more complicated than they needed to be."
Lacy replied, knowing that if she took too long, Lena would just send some other silly text written in her ever so silly code.
"Already tracking Derrick, intend to make contact today, so chill."
Lacy and Lena were both stellar at their jobs. Where they differed was in how they accomplished them. Lena was all business. Targets were just that, something to accomplish and move on. Lena didn't have the slightest idea how much joy was to be found in toying with your target first. Make him scared, make him desperate, give him an ounce of hope and then bring it all crashing down at the end. Lacy wished Lena would learn to relax; she really could benefit from the advice to just chill.
Lacy loved being a Sister of Tobit. She felt as though it was home for her. When she was on a mission it just felt as natural and safe as one might feel in their own living room. She was talented at it, and most of all, she loved every second of it.
Lacy found this calling early. When she was a small girl living in Nebraska she would go out and catch frogs. This started out as innocent child's play of course. She would catch them and release them, easy enough. What she found that she really enjoyed, though, was catching them as they would try and hop away. She liked the idea that she was depriving them of the escape that they desired. She found a dark pleasure in forcing her will on them. She would catch them by the dozens, holding them tightly in her hands until their eyes would bulge from their heads. She would pretend that they were begging for their lives. She would even do their voices for them.
"Please, Miss Lacy, release us, we beg you," she would say in an artificial, croaky voice.
"Will you really beg me, Mr. Frog? Okay, beg me," she would reply in her own voice.
She would eventually let them go, and return home feeling somehow liberated and refreshed.
This behavior would slowly evolve in a much darker direction, though. She would play out the begging for mercy longer, inflicting more pain on the small creatures. She actually began to find herself annoyed at their begging, regardless of the fact that she was the one producing it.
Then one day she crossed the line and killed one. She was only nine years old at this time, and her eyes went wide when the frog smashed into the ground. She let out a small gasp and felt tears forming in the corner of her eyes. In that moment she almost gave up on torturing small animals. She almost quit the idea that it was fun to force her will on the weak. Perhaps she almost saved herself. The shock in actually seeing one die, that was almost a game changer.
But then she started to laugh. Looking down at the frog's bloated body, how its legs kicked up at strange angles, it was, well, to Lacy Suzino, it was hilarious. The frog was at her mercy, and she decided its fate with the flick of her wrist. So much power. She spent the rest of the day killing frogs.
The next summer she graduated to bigger targets. Frogs had become boring. She felt as though doing their voices in her head, pretending that they were begging, well, that just wasn't cutting it anymore. She wanted to actually hear something suffer. So, she moved on to dogs and cats. They were her favorite that summer. The way the dogs would whine, and stare up at her with so much lost fear and pain in their eyes. She particularly liked it when they tried to run. Sometimes she would break their legs and watch them crawl, giggling all the while. After she felt that they begged enough, she would finish the job and then go home feeling like she was reborn.
For a while this worked well for her. Lacy's parents thought she was a well-adjusted and happy kid. After all, she was always so joyous and smiling. She would go out and play and come home just full of glee. As far as the world could tell, Lacy Suzino was just another well-adjusted child from the suburbs who liked to play outside and loved animals.
The problems began for her when she started high school. Cats and dogs no longer satisfied her. She had more defined tastes now. She wanted to actually hear articulated, verbal begging. Animal whines and whimpers actually began to annoy her. She wanted the real thing, and she was determined to get it.
The problem was, she knew she couldn’t just go out and kill someone. People asked questions, people ran for their lives and told on you. It was just too much of a risk to go after another kid at her school or even some of the younger kids around the neighborhood. She was psychotic indeed, but her psychosis did not rob her of her intellect. She knew that she had to be careful with these sorts of things.
Then one day it dawned on her. Perhaps she wasn’t thinking of the consequences, perhaps she wasn’t playing the long game as far as decision making went, but one day, as she lay in her bed, she had a realization. No, more of an epiphany really. She knew what she wanted to kill next.
The opportunity came the following summer. Lacy was now 15 and her parents wanted her to get some sort of job. This was easy enough. They lived in a small town, and local parents were always looking for kids to do odd jobs. Rake leaves or mow lawns or babysit, easy stuff for sure. Lacy chose babysitting.
Babysitting, it was the obvious choice. Why, the parents just invite you on in and leave you alone with their little bundle of joy. She would have hours to hear it beg and cry. Lacy was damn near squealing from excitement. Her parents even set it all up, a friend of a friend or some such thing. Either way, she was taken right over to the child’s home, let right in the front door by the parents and had her victim presented right to her, like she won a trophy or something.
The child was a toddler, just starting to form words. His name was Robert Mayo, a terrible last name to be stuck with, at least in Lacy's opinion. She could already imagine him growing up being called Bobby Mayonnaise or some such other insult. Poor kid, she thought, not really his fault that his parents have goofy last names.
Little Robert's parents gave her a list of instructions, simple stuff really. Feed the kid, put on some ridiculous kid's show for him to gawk at and then put him to bed. They would pay her $20.00 at the end of the night, a price that they felt was fair.
“Now, little Robert might get a little fussy when we leave, but he will usually calm down,” the mother explained to Lacy.
“No worries, Mrs. Mayo, I’ll make sure he has fun tonight,” Lacy replied.
The parents left, leaving Lacy alone with Robert. As soon as his parents walked out the door, Robert began to scream his lungs out. He ran over to the door, making a grasping motion with his hand, as though he could somehow pull his parents back. This disgusted Lacy. To see such a screaming, weak little creature, bawling and crying and flinging snot and spit from his face, it was too much. Lacy decided that he was rather pathetic right away; however, she did like the way he begged. After all, he was begging right now, begging for his parents. He could even form simple words, and the way a human child would be able to not only feel but also comprehend pain, well, to Lacy Suzino, that was the total package.
Lacy smiled and took a step towards the bawling child. He backed away from her and continued to cry. It was a harsh, ear bursting sound.
“Aww, are you scared of me, Robert?” Lacy asked him. Robert responded by backing up against the wall. “Perfect,” she answered, intentionally taking two large, over dramatic steps towards him. His fear was almost palatable, and she liked the way it tasted.
She made another exaggerated face at the child, narrowing her eyes. She screamed back at him once, shrill and harsh. This made Robert Mayo fall over, which of course caused more screaming. Lacy cracked her knuckles and began to smile as she closed in on the child. She would not have been surprised to learn she had been drooling from anticipation.
An hour later it was done. The living room was a gore scene. Lacy had found creative ways to carry out her task, and during the entire event she was locked in a euphoric trance. It wasn’t until the job was done that she began to realize just what position she had put herself in.
It was as if the she had been on some fast and cheap drug, one with a great high but a terrible come down. While she had been working on Robert, she had felt nothing but unadulterated bliss. She had only seen colors in reds and blacks. But once the task was complete and her world began to settle back into the harsh and unforgiving realm of reality, she began to understand. She hadn’t just killed a frog or a dog. This wasn’t something that could be buried out in the woods. This couldn’t be explained as an accident. She had murdered a baby. The realization came slow at first, like water dripping through a crack in a dam. However, the crack broke quickly, and Lacy was flooded all at once with the truth of what she did, and the price she would no doubt pay for it.
“Fuck… oh fuck me,” she whispered to herself. Blood was everywhere. Handprints stamped in gore lined the walls of the Mayo living room. Bloody footprints traced back and forth from the kitchen to the living room and to the bathroom.
Lacy looked at herself in the mirror and barely recognized her own reflection. Apparently she had smeared Robert’s blood over her face at some point. This was almost like the day with the frog so many years ago, when she almost broke down into tears but instead began to laugh. Only this time, the laughter didn’t come.
As psychotic as Lacy Suzino may be, she wasn’t a stupid girl. Her blood-lust did not overwrite the fact that she just killed a baby. His parents would come home soon enough, and there would be no mystery. They knew her, they knew her parents, and that would be the first place they would start. Lacy would end up in prison for the rest of her life.
Her mind began to race. She was 15 after all, and not prepared to deal with a crisis of this magnitude.
“Oh God, please, I’m sorry, please God just bring him back to life, please God, just make this go away, please God, I am sorry...” she was chanting this plea as she paced from room to room.
Her mind began to flood with images and ideas. She could run, but where, and for how long? She had no money. She couldn’t tell her parents. They would hate her for this. The one common denominator in all of her years of killing weak and helpless creatures was that she could always wash off the blood and go home. She could go home where her parents thought she was just a normal young woman. This, however... there was no going home from this.
She continued to run back and forth from room to room, chanting her prayers to a God that was not listening. She killed a child; no god in heaven would forgive that. No man on earth would forgive that either. She wasn’t sure if her state had a death penalty, but either way, life in prison or on death row, it was still over.
“I’ll never get to go to college, I’ll never get to have a job or drive a car or own a house.” Her chanting was turning into tears and crying.
Every time she would complete a lap around the interior of the house, she would catch a glimpse of Robert’s little corpse, balled up in the corner of the living room. Her world began to spin, her panic becoming waves against the shore. She felt herself starting to break.
She ran into the back of the house, towards the utility closet. She would clean it up, sure, that sounded like a great idea. She could clean it all up and then claim that Robert was kidnapped or something. They might not believe her, but if she could just hide the evidence long enough, maybe she could get away.
When she entered the back of the house, where the utility room was located, she realized that she really did mentally snap. She saw snow. Snow inside the house. Snow inside the house in the summer time. It seemed to be falling from the ceiling.
Lacy ran from this new level of psychosis. Her overtaxed mind simply couldn’t cope. As she ran back towards the living room she saw that she was no longer alone in the house.
“Wow, girly, you’re really fucked, aren’t you?” asked the figure sitting on the couch in the Mayo living room.
“Who… who are you?” Lacy asked.
The intruder was a woman. She was thin with very short brown hair. She was sitting on the couch with Robert’s corpse in her lap. She was holding the dead child as though he was just sleeping.
“My name is Tabitha Shaw, and you are Lacy Suzino, former high school student and current psychotic killer who just ruined her entire life in one night. This must be a very intense moment for you,” the woman replied.
“I… I messed it all up… I am so sorry… I don’t know why,” Lacy stuttered in response.
“Shut up with that shit, girly - you’re not sorry and you know it. What you are currently feeling is sorrow that you are going to be caught, but you have no remorse for little Bobby Mayonnaise here, now do you?” Tabitha asked, continuing to stroke the dead toddler’s blood matted hair.
“No, I shouldn’t have done that, he was just a baby, please believe me,” Lacy begged.
“Lacy, don’t apologize; the kid was annoying. His parents are probably boring yuppie pigs who would just have raised little Robert here to be a boring yuppie piglet. Don’t be sorry for killing him; it’s who you are, after all. But what you said about messing up, that, girly, that is very true.”
“Why are you fucking telling me this?” Lacy screamed through her own tears and panic.
“I’ve been watching you for some time now, girly. The way you used to torture and kill frogs, that was cute. I mean, most kids do fucked up shit like that, but when you would pretend they were begging you, well that, Lacy, that sort of set you apart. At least enough to keep my attention. I really wanted to see what you were going to do as you grew up. I was far more interested in making contact with you once you were an adult. Adults are much easier to recruit. I mean, it’s not like you have to explain why an adult suddenly disappears into a new life; it’s their choice. Plus, you moody ass kids annoy the shit out of me. But your little move tonight sort of pressed the fast forward button on this, now didn’t it?”
“What do you want from me?” Lacy asked softly. She was terrified of this woman; she was terrified of her situation. The very thought that only a few hours ago she was sitting in her room listening to music while her mom was cooking dinner seemed insane.
“One question, answer it honestly, Lacy. Do not give me any bullshit moral platitudes, do not try and exploit pity from me. Answer this question honestly and perhaps we can repair this situation. Bullshit me and I will leave. Once I leave, Robert’s parents will come home, find all of this and you will spend the rest of your life in a cage. And believe me, when the other inmates learn that you killed a baby, well, you will experience pain and torment that will rival anything you’ve forced upon a frog, a dog or this little shit in my arms right here. Do you understand?”
Lacy sniffled and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. She gave Tabitha a feeble nod, indicating to ask her question.
“Why did you kill this child tonight?” Tabitha asked, still holding the baby.
Lacy almost began stuttering out another flood of apologies and excuses. It was right there on her lips. However, Tabitha Shaw’s gaze kept her grounded. Her mind, a cluttered mess of thoughts and terror, was able to focus.
“I wanted to hear him beg, I wanted to control his fear and panic, I wanted to bend him to my whims and at the end, I wanted to watch him die,” Lacy answered. There was no hint of apology in her voice, no hint of remorse. She gave the most honest response she could, and waited to see what this bizarre woman would do.
“Good fucking girl,” Tabitha replied with a laugh. “Good fucking girl, indeed. You do understand how all of this works after all. Perhaps you weren’t a waste of my time.”
Tabitha made a funny, crossed eyed face at the baby’s unseeing face, and Lacy was shocked to find herself laughing.
“Okay, Lacy, now that we are done having a teenage mental breakdown, let’s talk. Normally I do a few tests with potential recruits. Most of them realize they can’t make it, and I kill them and move on. However, this situation is unique for both of us. For one thing, you have no choice here. Either come with me or go to prison. Easy as that really. This also works out well for me. I mean, you just slaughtered a fucking baby and you’re laughing about it. Sometimes it takes me months to get one of my potential girls to even kill a fucking homeless bum, but you Lacy, you just went to the head of the class in one night. You should feel proud.”
Lacy Suzino considered all of this. She realized that in the very short time that she had spoken with Tabitha Shaw, Tabitha actually seemed to understand her. There was no guilt, no pressure. Tabitha took her for what she was. No after school special bullshit, no pandering to society’s morals, just acceptance. Lacy also realized now, now that she had calmed down, that she did feel proud. The little fucker was annoying. He was screaming, weak, a tiny little creature that only knew to eat, sleep and shit.
Lacy laughed again, this time harder.
“Share the funny, girly,” Tabitha inquired.
“Fuck, I just realized that I hate babies,” she answered, and began to laugh even harder.
“Okay, Lacy, time to get down to business. I can fix all of this. But if I do, you come with me. I will take you to a new life, where killing is quite socially acceptable, and you’ll get to fill your life with hearing the weak beg. However, you will have to walk away from everything you’ve ever known. You don’t get to go back home again. You don’t get to back out; you’ll never have that normal life that you see on television. Can you do that for me, Lacy? Can you take this pledge?”
Faced with the actual hard facts, the contract laid out in front of her, Lacy realized that she could in fact go with this woman. Sure, Lacy loved her parents, but in a way that she only partially understood, she knew her parents were really just outsiders in the grand scheme that was Lacy Suzino. Her parents would always be tourists in Lacy’s world, just another pair of gawking, wall-eyed nobodies who would never grasp the full joy that came with ending the life of a weakling. Lacy even feared that in time, she might turn on her own parents and end them. So really, she was doing them a favor by leaving. She was saving their lives.
“I can, yes. I can and will,” Lacy replied.
“Good, it’s a deal. Now, let’s fix this. Let me show you a cool trick,” Tabitha said.
Tabitha Shaw placed her hand over Robert Mayo’s face, and began to chant.
“Breathe again for Tobit; see again for Tobit, live again for Tobit. I give to you the fire of the Red Star. Awaken your soul, Robert Mayo, and walk once more. In the Name of Hyraaq Tobit, He of the Red Star, He of the Void, He of the Goat Head, I say live once more!”
Lacy was almost hypnotized by this. Tabitha looked over at Lacy. “Help a girl out here, Lacy. Repeat with me, live once more!”
“Live once more!” Lacy demanded, and she and Tabitha repeated this litany until a small, weak crying could be heard underneath Tabitha’s hand.
Robert Mayo returned to life.
“How did you do that?” Lacy gasped.
“Through Hyraaq Tobit all things are possible. You will learn that as we go. As for right now, I need you to go and clean up this fucking blood, but do save some for yourself. Baby blood is a delicacy where we are going, so you may as well develop a taste for it now.”
Lacy retrieved some rags and cleaning supplies and began to do a quick yet efficient job. As she did this, Tabitha continued to rock Robert back and forth. The child had stopped crying almost at once, and was now laughing happily in Tabitha’s arms.
“Why did you save him anyway?” Lacy asked, feeling much more comfortable now. Seeing the child alive brought her back to reality in a quick, brilliant way. She felt the way a cancer patient must feel when they realize their disease has gone into remission. She loved this sense of relief.
“Two reasons. One, this will make your transition much easier. I am not exactly concerned about local authorities, but the graphic butchering of a child tends to attract much more attention than I prefer. Plus you would have been on the front page of every newspaper in the country. We don’t really need that either. You’re essentially going to be kidnapped tonight, and that will get a lot of attention; we don’t need to tack on a dead baby as well. It’s much easier this way. The second reason, well, I just breathed the essence of Tobit into little Robert here. I have a feeling that his life is going to be much more exciting now. His parents are in for some fun times down the road. But really, in all honesty, it’s because you kill for me now, Lacy. Trust me, you will still get to leave your trail of corpses, but this sort of impulsive behavior won’t fit well into your new life, so it’s best we fix this now and move forward.”
Lacy finished cleaning her mess. She took a shower as well and cleaned herself. Tabitha produced for her a new set of clothing to replace her bloodied shirt and jeans. That night, Robert Mayo’s parents returned home. Lacy presented them their child, who was very much alive and seemingly happy now. They paid her for her night and she left their home. She never returned to her house or her parents, though. Tabitha was waiting for her down the street, and together they walked off into Lacy’s new future.
Robert Mayo’s parents didn’t notice the change in their son at first. He no longer cried himself to sleep, though. He seemed to be entertained by invisible friends. One day he would go to school and draw his invisible friend for his art class. His friend had a goat’s head and lived in a floating castle.
“Good memories,” Lacy said out loud as she walked down Royal Street toward the New Orleans central business district. “I guess Lena is right, though; we do need to get down to business, so, Derrick Reynolds, here I come.”
Lacy had no problem talking to herself in public, in fact, she rather enjoyed it. Perhaps though she was having too much fun down here in the Big Easy; after all, they had a very important job to do down here.
“Okay, no more thrill kills, time to find Derrick!” she announced once more, this time attracting the attention of a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk with a cardboard flap in his lap that he’d converted into a sign.
Lacy paused a moment to read the sign:
FISHING FOR KINDNESS was written in black marker.
“Can I get a dollar from you, lady?” the homeless man asked. He was a filthy looking creature. Dirty clothes, matted hair and the smell, wow, this guy was a winner. To top it off, he had a pitiful looking mutt with him.
“Nope!” Lacy announced, locking eyes with the bum.
“How about a cigarette then?” the man asked.
Lacy removed her pack of smokes and lit one in front of the man, “Sorry, I don’t smoke,” she replied with a smile and began to walk away.
“Fucking bitch!” the bum shouted behind her.
Lacy stopped. Her hand dropped down to the hilt of her knife.
“Perhaps I do have time for one more small distraction,” she said to herself, and turned to face the homeless man, smiling wide.
Setting the Trap
Lena Vazquez was having a different sort of day. While Lacy was out having fun, Lena was saddled with the duty of arranging the entire damn operation for the arrival of Clair Nobles.
Learning of her departure and arrival times was easy enough. Lena had contacts in the airlines. It was a rather simple job actually, but one she only trusted herself to accomplish. She had learned that Clair was leaving out of New York by plane and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans the following day. Clair had planned her entire trip through a bundle offer, like Expedia, so everything from her flight information, her hotel room and even her damned rental car was easy information to snag. Lena had simply booked a room for herself and Lacy in the same hotel.
“Honestly, Clair, it’s almost as though you want to get caught,” Lena mumbled to herself as she set her coffee to brew.
Clair was booked into the Marriott Hotel on Canal Street. That made things a bit difficult, as it was in a very high traffic area right in the center of the city. Things might have been easier for Lena had Clair booked a room further out from the hub of New Orleans. Either way, though, she would accomplish her goal, and make her superiors proud. After all, this was a delicate operation, and they had placed a lot of trust into Lena.
Of course, Lena had to work with Lacy. They were the two Sisters of Tobit assigned to this region, and Tabitha did not like her girls working solo jobs. This meant that Lacy had to come along. Lacy was a skilled operative, no doubt, but she was also a loose wire. She enjoyed killing too much in Lena’s opinion. She saw her targets as playthings, and this behavior had almost gotten her caught on a few occasions. Lucky for her, Lena had always been there to smooth things over. If you thought this made Lacy grateful, or if you would think she would learn from these experiences, though, Lena could have told you differently. Lacy saw it all as one big field trip, just a time to go out and have fun. She would never appreciate Lena’s almost surgeon-like work ethic. To Lacy, Lena Vazquez was the boring “older” sister of the group.
Of course, she was the older Sister. Lacy had been recruited as a teenager 12 years ago. Lacy was 27 years old now, but she basically grew into a woman in the service of Tobit. So, she only had whatever upbringing her parents gave her until the time she met Tabitha. After that, Lacy Suzino was essentially a child of Tobit as well as a Sister of Tobit.
Lena was a different case altogether. She was in her mid-30’s, though her strong Colombian heritage made her appear much younger. She was grown and had a successful career when she met Tabitha and been offered a place within the Sisters. She brought a wealth of knowledge and contacts with her, making her an obvious choice for Tabitha Shaw.
Lena had been a member of Interpol, working in South America to try and stop the flow of drugs. She was a powerful asset, both young and fierce, yet could also infiltrate any crime ring. She had played many roles during her time as an officer, pretending to be everything from a prostitute to a female pimp. She could manipulate her way into the center of any operation and take it down from the inside. She had become known in the drug circles as “amante secreto,” which meant secret mistress.
However, as technology evolved, so did her enemies. It didn’t take long for a particularly crafty cartel leader named Alonzo Ortiz to track her down using the services of black hat hackers. He was determined to present her head to his fellow cartel bosses as an example of his power.
Lena always knew the risks that came with her profession. Her commanders warned her time and time again to be careful. She always laughed and told them that it was all part of the job. She loved her work, and honestly never thought that it would cross into her personal life so quickly and so violently. Lena had always worked hard to keep her work life and home life separate. Little did she know all of that was going to change.
Ortiz’s men ambushed her as she was driving along a small road late one night outside the Columbia city limits. She had finished closing a case the day before and was granted a week of rest and relaxation by her command. She was intending to return home, pack a small bag and just go off the grid for a few days. Perhaps travel through some of the smaller villages.
The road that she was traveling was very remote. It was really just a dirt road with ambitions to be a real highway one day. There were no street lights out here at all, so Lena was driving essentially through darkness.
She noticed the headlights behind her almost right away. She knew this road was rarely traveled, and based on the speed that the car behind her was traveling, she went into high alert. It was all part of her years of training, especially when you routinely made enemies out of deadly men. She reached down and grasped her service pistol, and slowed her car down, intending to allow the driver to pass her.
Instead of passing though, the car to her rear began to tailgate her, flashing the high beams. Lena attempted to pull to the shoulder of the road, when the car suddenly slammed into her rear bumper. She struggled to regain control, but this road was slick from a recent rain, and she braced for impact as her vehicle began to spin off, meeting a tree head on. Before Lena was knocked out cold she had just enough time to realize that this had been an ambush. It all made perfect sense. For all of her successes on raids and covert stings, it was a fucking trip through the country that would do her in.
She awoke sometime later in a small room, tied to a chair, naked and cold.
“Wake up, you bitch,” a male voice announced from a dark corner.
“Where… where am I?” Lena asked, her voice weaker than she preferred.
“You’re in good hands, bitch, very good hands,” answered the voice.
“Then why don’t you show yourself?” she asked.
Lena began to remember now. The car accident that clearly wasn’t an accident after all; no, it was an ambush. Someone had taken her. She already had an idea of why, she had made enemies in her career, that much she knew and she had always known that this day might come. She thought how stupid she had been to believe that she could actually separate her personal life from her professional life. Had she not realized the kind of men she had been arresting over the years. These were deadly animals that liked to make examples of those that crossed them. No, the question here wasn’t why, it was who.
The male figure stepped forward. A slimy looking character if she ever saw one. Clearly a man who had watched Scarface one too many times. He was wearing a cheap suit that he no doubt believed set him apart from the rest of the low-lives that made up his world of narcotics and murder. She could smell cheap cologne and body odor radiating off of the man. She couldn’t see his hands, as they were in his pockets, but she would bet her bank account that he had tacky, cheap and overly jeweled rings on almost every finger. She scanned his face as he came into the light, and her spirits dropped as she began to realize just how dire these circumstances were.
“Ortiz,” she spat as he approached her.
“The one and only, and you must be the famous whore, the one they call amante secreto. Such a pleasure to meet you face to face.”
Now the fear began to evolve into dread. This was Alonzo Ortiz. He was indeed one of the deadliest cartel bosses in the region. He was known for doing horrible things to those that crossed him. Beheadings, mutilations, rapes, these were just a few of the gems that dotted Ortiz’s resume.
“You are aware that you just kidnapped an agent of Interpol. You realize that my superiors will come looking for me right?” she asked.
A hard slap across the face was Ortiz’s reaction. “Bitch, you do realize who the fuck we are, don’t you? We are far more powerful than your Interpol or any other organization. You fucked up bitch; you should have stayed the fuck at home and had babies. You decided to play in a world that you just weren’t ready for, and now, now you fucking whore, now you will die.”
Ortiz summoned two other men into the room.
“Is the grave dug?” he asked.
One of the men grunted in the affirmative.
“Excellent. Take the whore here outside. I want her head removed, and then you are to bury the body. And if either of you fine gentlemen want to have some fun with her first, why, be my guest. Be as rough as you want, no one will hear her scream out here.”
The two men laughed. Guns were pointed in Lena’s face as one of the men cut the ropes binding her to her chair and violently thrust her into a standing position.
“Move, bitch,” one of them ordered, shoving her towards the door of the shack.
“I’ll be outside in a moment amante secreto, before they cut off your fucking head, I intend to fuck you myself,” Ortiz stated.
Lena was forced out to a small yard. The men were shoving her and laughing. They were talking to each other in Spanish, discussing who was going to rape her first. Lena wanted to cry, but refused to give them the satisfaction. She decided that if they were going to rape her, she would spend her final moments informing them of how small and pathetic their dicks were.
They marched her over to the hole, which was shallow. One of the men kicked her to her knees. He walked in front of her and began to piss into her shallow grave.
“Just giving you something to remember us by,” he said laughing.
She could hear the other man behind her taking off his belt. She supposed he must have won the debate over who was going to get to do the fucking first. She glanced over and caught sight of a small saw. This was how they intended to behead her, slowly and very painfully.
Lena looked up at the stars. Under any other circumstance this would have been a beautiful night in her native land that she loved. Closing her eyes, she said a quick prayer. “If anyone is listening, please save me. I know that I have not been very faithful to my spirit, I know that I have not been inside of a church in years, I know that I have forgotten to believe in the unseen, but please, if anyone is listening, I will give anything, anything to be saved right now. I swear this on my soul!”
One of the men overheard this last ditch prayer, and approached her from behind. “Bitch, you are going to be calling out to God soon enough, but it won’t be a prayer; it’ll be from my cock in your…”
The man was suddenly silent. Lena felt a warm fluid running down her back, and wondered for just a moment if the piece of shit was masturbating on her. Then she heard the familiar thud of a body hitting the ground. It was blood that had dripped on her back.
The other man suddenly drew his pistol. “What the fuck,” he had time to whisper before something took him down. Something small and fast. He tumbled into the shadows and Lena could hear the sound of cutting and stabbing. The man didn’t return from the dark.
“Well, well you my dear are in a bad little way, now aren’t you?” a female voice asked from behind Lena.
“Hello… who is there?” Lena asked, trying to turn her head to see.
“Baby, I am the answer to your prayers. Literally. That little last ditch bid you just threw out to whoever and whatever was listening, well, consider me your guardian angel,” the voice replied.
“Thank you, oh thank you, whoever you are. These are very dangerous men, and one is still inside, he is a cartel leader and…”
The unseen woman cut her off. “These guys are not dangerous men. These guys are fucking easy pickings, that’s what these guys are. Sweetheart, there is only one dangerous killer in this little shit hole of a yard tonight, and trust me, it’s not a man.”
Lena felt the ropes being cut off, and she was assisted to her feet. She turned around to see her savior for the first time. A very pretty woman, she looked American, short brown hair, small yet deadly, like a dagger.
“I am Tabitha Shaw, leader of the Sisters of Tobit and your personal fucking angel. You’re just lucky we were listening when you called out. You’re also lucky that I might have a use for one of the world’s best little sneakers like you. Getting in and out of places unseen, well, that my dear is a talent that can’t be bought.”
Lena was awestruck for a moment, and then she remembered Ortiz. He was still in the house, armed and dangerous.
“There is a very deadly man in the house, we have to…” Lena was silenced when Tabitha placed her finger over her mouth.
“Like I said before, those guys are easy pickings. Your pal Ortiz was really just a big pussycat. Or maybe now he’s just a big pussy, since I went ahead and cut his dick off for you. I know, you probably wanted to do it yourself, but trust me, these kinds of men become much more manageable when you relieve them of that tiny little point of pride they carry around between their legs.”
“You cut off his penis?” Lena asked.
Tabitha chuckled, “What can I say; Lorena Bobbitt is my role model. Now follow me, I have him all tied up for you, and it’s time for you to show the bastard the business end of a blade.”
“Wait, Tabitha, I can’t kill him. I have to arrest him. I am an officer of the law,” Lena exclaimed.
“Not anymore, babe, not anymore. You prayed to me and I came. I saved you. As I recall you said you would give anything to be saved, and you swore that on your soul, am I correct?”
“Yes, but…” Lena attempted, but Tabitha cut her off.
“Lena, I saved you tonight because I saw something in you. Now, you swore your soul and I delivered. If you plan to go back on your deal right now, I promise you that a fate far worse than what these men had in mind will await you.”
“Are you crazy?” Lena asked, and started to back away.
Tabitha suddenly began to advance, her eyes fixing on Lena’s. “Normally this is a much more practiced greeting, Lena. Normally we sit down and talk and I ask you if you want to pledge your life to Hyraaq Tobit. Usually it’s very fun, very cathartic even. But tonight you reached out to me, and I delivered. You owe me now, and I plan to collect. No matter what you decide right now, with your little world view of right and wrong, crime and punishment, blah blah fucking blah, this is what is going to happen. Ortiz dies, he’s a scumbag anyway. You are coming with me. You will either come with me as a new recruit to the Sisters, a position much desired, or you will come with me to be food to Tobit. Either way, this story is already written. You just have to decide which page you’ll flip to in this little ‘choose your adventure’ novel that you’re suddenly starring in.”
Tabitha seemed to be changing almost. Her eyes were not quite glowing, but they took on such a level of intensity that they may as well have been. Her aura was practically glowing off of her body. She exuded so much power, so much force, that Lena almost found herself willing to commit to her just on that alone.
“So what’s it going to be, Lena? Do you flip to the page to where you spend the rest of your life kicking ass, making tons of cash and living as the goddess you are meant to be, or do you flip to the page to where I haul you back to Delphia to be eaten alive by fanatics?”
Lena had no idea what Tabitha was talking about. She didn’t know anything about being a goddess, and she knew even less about whatever Delphia was. However, she did know that this little woman was deadly, that she had no problem killing without remorse. She also knew that this little woman had appeared at the very moment she prayed for a savior. The woman had indeed saved her life. Perhaps Tabitha Shaw was an angel.
“I don’t want to die, I want to live. That is what I prayed for, and that is what I want,” Lena replied.
“Good girl,” Tabitha answered. “Smart and sexy, you are going to be a great addition, I can just feel it already. Now, let’s get in there and finish up, shall we? Ortiz has lost a lot of blood, and I want you to get some really great screams out of him before he dies.”
Lena went through with it. She killed Ortiz slowly, under the watchful eye of Tabitha. And as much as she would have hated to admit it at the time, she had enjoyed every second of it. When she was done, when Ortiz was laid out on the floor dead and in so many pieces, Lena Vazquez had felt a joy that she never experienced.
She went with Tabitha that night. She had to leave her entire life behind, starting new as a Sister of Tobit.
Lena was of course taken into Delphia and trained as all members of Tobit's cult are trained. Tabitha spent time forming her into a killer. It wasn't long after she arrived in Delphia, seeing the people and understanding the full depth of Hyraaq Tobit that Lena realized that she made the right choice to follow Tabitha. She found a calling there after all.
The beeping of the coffee maker brought Lena out of her reflection. She poured herself a cup and moved towards the hotel room's window. Looking down at the streets, bustling with people going about their lives, she wondered if any one of them would look up and see the dark haired Colombian woman looking down at them. She wondered what it would do to their minds to learn that this seemingly normal woman actually lived in a hidden city in the Antarctic, and worked for a woman who served an ageless demon from space. She almost had to laugh in spite of the situation.
She sat down with her coffee and went over her plans in her head for the millionth time since she and Lacy arrived in New Orleans. The plan was to gather Derrick Reynolds and Clair Nobles together. While Derrick was far less important, Lena was very interested in speaking with Clair. She had translated Dawning, which was a true feat in itself. Tabitha herself had even batted around the idea of extending membership to Clair, bringing her to Delphia and making her a Sister. Her brilliance alone was worth it.
Lena though rejected that idea. She would not allow Clair to become a Sister, that was simply out of the question. As far as Derrick was concerned, his capture was valuable. He had escaped from Delphia with the aid of Timothy VanBuren, who was the captured rebel. Tabitha believed that Derrick may have overheard Timothy mention the location of the other rebels within Delphia. Lena doubted that, as his escape had happened very quickly and she found it unlikely that Timothy had much time to impart that sort of information, but it would be foolish to rule that out.
Lance Madison also wanted Derrick back in Delphia. He intended to make an example of him, no doubt. Show the rebels that even escape from Delphia is impossible, that even if you make it out of the gate, they always get you back.
Lena smiled softly at that thought. Lance Madison was on his way out, at least according to Tabitha. He was old and had perhaps sat in his position a bit too long. Much could be forgiven, but allowing a rebellion to form within your own city and then allowing someone to escape was something that the higher powers within Tobit's world simply couldn't forgive.
The issue that currently concerned Lena was her associate, Lacy. It was Lacy's job to bring Derrick in, alive. Lacy finding and capturing Derrick wasn't Lena's concern; she was confident that the girl could do it, and without leaving a trace. Her concern was that Lacy wouldn’t actually bring him in alive.
If anyone has ever known someone with a short fuse, then they sort of know what Lacy is like. But to even say that Lacy has a short fuse is giving her credit. Honestly, there isn't any fuse there at all. Lacy is cold and calculating and has no sense of right and wrong, which of course is what makes her one of Tabitha's favorites. However, Lena also finds her impulsive and violent nature to be more of a liability than a quality.
Lacy is not the best person for a “capture alive” mission. Sure, send her to kill and you can count on it being done, but send her out to bring someone in alive and you may as well roll the dice.
"Derrick, just keep your mouth shut when she makes her move and you'll probably be okay," Lena whispered to her own reflection in the mirror.
Lena already knew that if he began to annoy Lacy, she would pull the car over and make some twisted sport of him, ending in blood.
"And Tabitha would forgive her, no questions asked," Lena said again to her mirror. "She took her in as a child and thinks she's the girl's unofficial mother or something."
The only reason Lena wasn't the one going out to capture Derrick was because she needed to be the first to make contact with Clair Nobles. Clair was far more important here than Derrick, and it would cost a lot less in the end if Derrick were the one to be killed. Sure, Lena wanted them both, but Clair was the greater prize. She just had to cross her fingers and hope that Lacy could control herself and remember her instructions.
As though on command, Lena's phone rang. It was Lacy.
"Lacy, where are you?"
"Relax, mom, I'm fine. I'm having a drink with a really cool guy!"
"What, you're out drinking?" Lena demanded.
"Don't mess yourself, Lena, I am sitting here with Derrick Reynolds, and he is such an interesting man. Did you know he went on a yacht ride and wound up stranded in Antarctica? How crazy is that shit?"
Lena held the phone away from her face for a moment. She felt the usual rage building within her, as she always did when Lacy was straying from the course. She knew what the girl was doing. Her job had been simple; just bring Derrick back to the hotel. But she knew Lacy, and knew how Lacy thought. Just capturing Derrick would have no doubt been a boring task for the likes of Lacy Suzino. So instead, she approached the guy in broad daylight and flirted him into a bar. Nothing in her instruction mentioned going out for drinks with their targets. Nothing at all. This was just adding more moving pieces to an already over-complicated machine. Lena wanted to say more, she wanted to verbally tear into Lacy. However, she was the older Sister for a reason. She was the calmer one, the one that brought rational thought to the table instead of impulsive nonsense. She calmed herself, remembering the end state here.
Lacy's chirpy voice was waiting for Lena when she returned the phone to her ear. "Lena, you worry too much. Listen, this guy is a total frat head. I caught him coming out of his office and just approached him like he was some cute guy and I was some ditsy out of town tourist. He plays as easy as any fiddle, and trust me when I say that I will have him back at our location by tonight, no worries. Oh wait, he's coming back from the rest room, gotta go!"
Lena went to say something else, but as usual, Lacy had already hung up.
"Okay, so Lacy has made contact with Derrick. Maybe not in the most tactical of ways, but whatever, I see what she's doing. Get him drunk, earn his trust and then bring him back here. Poor bastard will probably think he's going to get lucky. Tomorrow we get Clair and then we can begin. We'll deal with the Leary brothers when and if they even come into the picture."
Lena seemed to do a good job of convincing herself that the situation was still under her control. Lacy was such a loose wire that she was always nervous when they worked together, but perhaps, just maybe, all of this could come together the right way in the end.
Lena returned to the window, thinking that the near future was going to be a very exciting one indeed. She once again pictured all of the moving pieces in that big machine that was this operation. She could only close her eyes and hope that the machine remained well oiled, and none of the gears slipped.
Lena took a deep breath and began to prepare the hotel room for the arrival of Derrick Reynolds.
Written by K. Banning Kellum
Published April 14th, 2015