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They came a little past midnight. It seemed like such an ordinary night before hand. I sat in the purple bean bag chair beside the TV, watching old Hawaii Five O reruns from the seventies with Darlene. We drank black tea and ate homemade sugar cookies from little terra cotta plates. Darlene smoked her American Spirit cigarettes using that ridiculous opera length cigarette holder that my cousin, her husband, had gotten her from an antique shop. I rolled a joint and she insisted on putting it in the cigarette holder to. I have to admit, it made smoking more fun and elegant. One second, we were laughing at Danno and McGarrett’s crazy chase scenes, the next, the door was nearly taken off the wall. Darlene screamed, and I didn’t think until later that maybe she was expecting it. Two men with the biggest guns I had ever seen forced their way into our comfortable set up, and knocked the TV over.
“Where is he?” One of them shouted in Darlene’s face. She shook her head, tears streaming down her face. “Where is he?” He repeated, followed by some very grotesque phrases. When she wouldn’t talk, he slapped her across her face, and she fell from her chair. I was so angry, and when I get angry, I get foolish. It could be considered courage, but I like to think of it more as foolishness. I jumped up and told them to leave her alone, followed by my own grotesque phrases. And anyone who has ever been pistol whipped can confirm how much it hurts. I don’t why it hurts more then getting punched, it just does. When I fell to the ground, I thought about getting up, but I realized if these men had no problem hitting two defenseless girls, they would have no problem killing us either. It’s strange how fast my survival instincts kick in. I watched as they slapped her around, unaware of the fiery look in my eyes.
“I don’t know!” Darlene finally said. “I don’t, I swear! He left this morning, I was waiting for him now!” She was useless at this point, her sobs must have disgusted that man, because he left her alone. And he turned to me, I could see that stony expression, and I knew he wouldn’t stop until he got what he wanted. I saw that look often in the mafia guys down at the pub.
“You know.” He said to me. “Don’t even try to lie.” The truth was, I did know. He was at the hospital because his mother had another heart attack. It was a miracle she was still alive. What I portrayed to them, I had meant to show fear, but I guess I showed anger instead.
“I don’t.” I spat. “Get the f*** out.” The taller one grabbed me then. I fought back, but I only found the barrel of his gun in my face. He took me down the hall and into the bathroom, I heard Darlene in the living room, pleading with the other man. She sounded pitiful. He threw me down on the tiles, and I stared back up at him with venom in my eyes as he filled up the bath tub. He grabbed my hair roughly, and pulled me over to the edge.
“We just need to know where he is.” The man said, almost sweetly. “And we don’t want it to get messy.”
“I don’t know!” I screamed, but before I could even finish my sentence, my head was submerged. I choked as the air in my lungs was replaced with water. My body thrashed, trying to lift my head up. It was the first time I had actually been physically unable to do something. I had always been able to do anything I set my mind to, then again, I never really set my sights to high. But this man was stronger then me, and he was a better fighter then me, and I couldn’t fend him off. When he lifted my head, I felt dizzy, I happily gulped down as much air as I could.
“What were you saying?” He asked me. I was so light headed, I couldn’t even think of anything to say.
“That cowards go after helpless wives.” I coughed, and my head was under the water again. He must have held me there longer this time, because now I felt pain. My body was so starved of oxygen, that my head hurt, and I went limp. He lifted me up.
“Please.” He said. “I’m getting all wet.” I couldn’t say anything, so I spat in his face. And he pushed my head under with such force, that my head smacked into the ceramic bottom of the tub. Unable to think, all I did was repeat survive over and over in my head. And strangely, I remembered what my grandpa had told me all those years ago. I don’t specifically remember what he said, but it was about his imprisonment in Belfast. He was a member of the IRA, which was an army dedicated to freeing Northern Ireland from England’s rule. It made no sense, seeing as he was from Mayo, in Western Ireland. Why would he risk his life for a cause that didn’t even effect him? He said it was about the principal, and that he wouldn’t live on the same land mass as England, not after what he had seen them do. He never told me what he had seen them do, but I assumed it was really messed up judging by all those old revolution stories my dad told me. My grandpa had also said that the British army wasn’t very good with dealing with the “terrorists”. They rounded them up by the hundreds and gunned them down, in front of entire towns, and their families. He was brought in for questioning once, and that type of questioning is illegal now. They tortured him. They tortured him using the same methods the IRA used. If my grandpa could survive being drowned, so could I. I was fading now, I opened my eyes and they were filled with water, but I didn’t care. I saw the rubber ducky that Tyler loved to play with while he took a bath. He called it Squooshy, I don’t know how that would even be spelled. When my head was lifted up again, I was silent. He was to.
“Well?” He asked me after a minute of silence. I stared at him, and he stared back. Then I noticed the little blond head peeking out around the doorway. Tyler’s solemn eyes met mine, and I urged him with all my will to leave. “PLEASE!” I screamed in my head. “TYLER! GO TO BED!” But he stepped out into the bathroom and asked what I was doing. The man dropped me, and I rested my hands at the bottom of the tub to hold myself up.
“Who the f*** is he?” He asked me.
“Tyler.” I gasped. “Nobody.” The man picked him up and Tyler started to cry, I could hear Darlene screaming something, along with a gunshot, and I lost it. I tried to stand up, but only fell down again, soaking wet and disoriented. Then there was the familiar feeling of a hand entwined in my hair. I was dunked again. Don’t ask how long this whole ordeal was, it could’ve been ten minutes and it could have been ten hours. It was to long. I blacked out soon after he started to drown me the last time.
Darlene was screaming again, somewhere between a sob and a pissed off snarl. The men were yelling at each other, but I couldn’t hear Tyler, and I only thought of the gun shot. I have never felt dread as bad as when someone I am supposed to protect is in danger. The voices were distant at first, but they soon became as corporeal as the wooden floor beneath me. They were swearing a lot. “You killed her! You’re getting rid of her!” One of them shouted.
“I can’t do that alone…”
“I can’t get popped for dumping a body! Should’ve thought about that before you decided to go medieval on my ass.”
“What? This is medieval? It gets results!” I tuned them out and slowly turned my head to see Darlene. She didn’t notice me at first, but when she did, she shrieked and threw herself on me. She dragged me to the side and cradled my head in her arms desperately.
“There, problem solved.” The taller man said, shrugging his shoulders nonchalantly. That pissed me off, his reaction to finding out the person he had just killed turned out to be alive seemed to casual. This man was nothing but a sadistic gang banger, a dime a dozen, and incredibly dangerous. I didn’t want him near my cousin, I realized. I didn’t want them to find out where he was either. He was tough, but I didn’t know if he could take these two, especially if he wasn’t expecting it. Before the men could say anything else, Darlene was already screaming.
“He’s with that old guy! Leave us alone!” I didn’t know who the old guy was, but it seemed like enough for them, they walked to the door. It was all a blur to me, the door was opened, and two shots were fired before they could even aim their guns. Darlene stopped crying, and a look of relief swept over her face. My cousin stood in the door, holding out a five shooter with such an expression of hatred on his face that I had never seen in him. He was so mild mannered.
“Why didn’t you call me?” He demanded.
“They just came in here, I’m sorry. How did you know?” He hadn’t said anything, and now with the eminent danger out the way, I was freaking out about Tyler.
“Where’s Tyler?” I asked Darlene softly. “Did they kill him?” My cousin ran inside and down the hall to Tyler’s room. Darlene was sobbing and holding me so hard it hurt, but I let her. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost a child. My cousin emerged with a terrified Tyler in his arms and I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Patty Miller called me after a bullet went through her wall.” He said. The cops came in with their guns drawn and Tyler screamed and buried his head in his father’s shoulder.
“It’s unnecessary, I’m taking care of it.” My cousin said calmly. They took one look at the men on the floor and told him to drop his gun. It took nearly an hour to explain to them we had it covered, and they left with the intruders.
“It’s self defense.” My cousin told me, so he wouldn’t get in trouble, even if one of the men had died. It was the taller one, the one who had tortured me. And I couldn’t think of a better fate for a gang banger.
“You ok?” He asked me.
“Wonderful.” I said, and he smiled and shrugged his shoulders. He was only happy that he got out of explaining why these men had come looking for him in the first place. The one with the bullet in his gut wouldn’t talk, and whoever hired him definitely wouldn’t. So I guess things went back to normal in a way. Only thing is, Darlene sleeps with a pistol under her pillow and Tyler by her side. I don’t blame her.
Port Saint Lucie, Florida
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