She opened the door and the door hit the bell and the bell rang. She strolled inside.
Imported movies on a stand, a narrow row of imported snacks. She took a bag of fried shrimp crackers and proceeded to the restaurant farther back.
D said, “Morning!”
“I heard the bell, that’s shrill enough okay?”
D giggled and sat at a table closest to the kitchen. Open window for a peek through. Tita Lorene prepping food.
“How’s your Sunday treating you dear?”
D popped the bag open and munched on one cracker and then two and then said, “Better than Saturday.”
“I can see that. What in the world happened?”
D scratched at her eyebrow--at the edge of a cut that ran from her temple to her ear. A thin scab running down a cheek. Hair messy under her dry-muddied beret, bomber jacket torn.
“You super don’t want to know. I don’t even want to know.”
“What are you--is everything okay?”
“Is everything--what--is that what you’re asking me, is everything okay?”
“No. Course not. Why would it be? Why would everything--why would anything be okay?”
“I don’t know why. Just a question.”
“Yeah well it’s a terrible question. Everything’s too crazy in this world. It sucks.”
“Or it could mean that everything’s going great.”
D blinked and considered that for a moment.
“I already have a headache Tita Lorene.”
“No I’m sorry.”
“I said it’s--you want some halo-halo?”
Tita Lorene went to work prepping the dessert.
D popped another cracker into her mouth and fixed a loose strand of hair and breathed in and breathed out and said, “Tita Lorene.”
“It true your family used to call you Princess?”
“It’s not true that my family used to call me Princess. It’s true that they still do.”
“Because they’re family and that’s what families do.”
“That must be nice. I totally need a nickname.”
“Is D not a nickname?”
“It’s a letter, it’s less than a name.”
“Do you want to be called something?”
“I don’t know. No? Not really.”
“What do you want then?”
“Um. I don’t know. I don’t know anymore.”
“Then I can’t help you there.”
D propped an elbow and leaned.
Tita Lorene reached over and set a quick mix glass of sweetened red beans and canned fruit and gelatin and evaporated milk and ice cream--halo-halo.
“That I can help you with.”
D took the glass and a plastic spoon and went to snacking. She breathed.
Tita Lorene said, “Speaking of things I can help you with--you have the van?”
“Part of that long story I don’t want to get into. Parked out front.”
“Okay. I’ve got something for you then.”
“Something even tastier than your halo-halo?”
“A job. If you’re up for it.”
D took another bite.
“Sure. What you got for me Tita?”
“It’s more what I want you to get for me. The Sublime Object.”
“The Sublime what?”
“I know what you said, I’m just processing it. What the heck is the Sublime Object?”
Tita Lorene fumbled with some kitchen tools in the back then said, “I don’t know.”
“I mean I won’t know until you get it and bring it here.”
“Do you even know why you want whatever this thing is?”
TIta Lorene said, “Of course I do,” and offered nothing else.
D then said, “That doesn’t sound sketched out.”
“I wouldn’t send you if it did.”
“I was being facetious. Like when Marx said that capitalism is great actually and we should keep doing it until it melts the earth.”
D looked at Tita Lorene.
Tita Lorene said, “It’s a quick thing. Go over and pick it up and come right back. I’d go myself but I have to watch the shop. Plus you look like you need something to do.”
D straightened herself and grabbed the glass. She finished her halo-halo, glass pointing to the ceiling. The glass hit the table loud.
“I really look like that huh?”
“You look like that to me.”
D moved back to the shrimp crackers. She chewed and between bites said, “Okay. I’ll go get your Subliminal Whatever.”
“Thank you little one.”
“Yeah yeah. Where am I going?”
“Lunar Tower downtown. Before you ask who--a man named Santino.”
“You know him?”
“I was just at his club with--never mind. Continue?”
“Okay. He should be up on the tenth floor suite. Can’t miss it.
“I’ll try not to.”
“He’ll be expecting someone. Should be easy.”
Tita Lorene gave D a smile. D returned a smaller one.
Then D hopped out her seat and finished her bag of crackers. Tita Lorene took the glass.
D said, “Alright, guess I’m off to get this whatever. Whatever.”
“Not in this lifetime.”
D half-turned on her way out.
“You have plans tonight?”
“Yes! I plan to plan on how to trick the workers into running their own state!”
“I--um--if by plans you mean curling up in bed and doing nothing then yeah--I’ve got some.”
“Come over for dinner tonight. I’ll cook pancit.”
D pressed her lips slight. She shook her head.
“I think I like my plans better. Sorry.”
“I’d feel better if you didn’t think that. That way I’d know where you are. Wouldn’t have to worry about you hanging around that you-know-who.”
“You know who and don’t make me say it out loud.”
D pressed her lips tighter. She shook her head.
“Thanks but no thanks Tita Lorene. And you don’t have to worry about you-know-who anymore.”
D turned and crumpled the bag of crackers and tossed it in a nearby trashcan. The door hit the bell as she left.
There were several knocks before the door opened.
He fell into the apartment, into the arms of Amérique Nakamura.
She caught him and dragged him inside, past a large framed smiling portrait of Chairman Mao. She set him on the couch. He bled into the furniture and her sleeves. She said nothing.
Instead she said, “Talk to me Styx.”
Styx opened his leather jacket slow. Skin already exposed. Muscle and meat too.
“Could be worse. Could be dead.”
“Like hell. Here.”
She grabbed a cushion to prop him up some.
“I’m going to get what I need to patch you up. Keep talking to me Styx.”
Styx blinked and moved his eyes to the ceiling. The lights were low. His eyes fell upon the portrait of the chairman. Styx smiled back--more of a sneer.
He followed the source of the low lights. Lamps over an angled workstation--that of an artist. Hermes typewriter. Stacks of papers with lines across.
“I said talk to me Styx.”
“What’s on the desk? You working on something?”
“I was for the night. Manuscript. Cleaning it up for my editor on Monday.”
“Still got some time then. It’s only--only--”
Styx looked up and thought about that.
“That’s right. Yeah. It’s Saturday.”
Amérique reappeared with a first aid kit. She opened it and got the needed materials and went to work. Styx took it with a laugh.
“Stay with me Styx.”
“I’m not going fucking anywhere.”
“You sure aren’t. You want a smoke?”
“You have one?”
“It’s why I offered.”
Amérique sidetracked to her workstation. She took a box of Gauloises by the typewriter. She lit one and pressed them to light the other. She went back and handed the cigarette to Styx. They smoked with the coolness of reading a crime novel.
Styx inhaled and exhaled smoke and then asked, “What’s the manuscript about?”
“I’m much more interested in your story. Nine by nineteen?”
“The bullet still in you?”
“Like I’m pregnant.”
“You’re lucky your guts didn’t spill out on the way here.”
“Luck for shit. This is out of the pan and into the fire shit--and getting out of that too.”
Styx consulted his Gauloises. It glowed.
“Drug deal gone wrong. Gone wrong because I wasn’t there to deal it.”
“Someone tried to stiff you out of supervising?”
“They tried. They didn’t do a good job of it.”
“And what happened after that?”
“It’s not what happened after. It’s about what happened when we got there.”
“And what happened when you got there?”
Styx flinched as the needle passed through.
Amérique said, “Excuse me.”
Styx said, “What happened when we got there was bloody fucking chaos. Both gangs already dropped dead. Money and drugs--gone.”
“Did I get got? Easy. They hadn’t left.”
Styx sipped his cigarette. Then he said, “I don’t know who they were. They knew me. I didn’t know them.”
“You’re a hard man to catch as it is.”
“Supposed to be the idea.”
“Do you have any leads?”
“I’m working on it. Will be working on it. Just fix me up first.”
“You need more than just a fix up if you want to do what you want to do.”
“I don’t have time Amérique. I don’t know who these fuckheads are, outside of the fact that they’re pros. Fed-type assholes would be my guess.”
“Feds moving under our noses where we can’t smell them. That’s trouble.”
“That’s shit is what it is. And someone has to--”
Styx flinched and tensed and groaned between gritted teeth.
Amérique held the bullet between her thumb and forefinger and said, “Congratulations. A healthy baby boy. They’re expensive you know. You can’t afford another one.”
Styx said, “Someone has to clean that shit up.”
Amérique set the bullet aside and started working the stitches and said, “You’re ignoring me. You can’t do shit how you are now.”
Styx said, “How I am now is how I’ll have to be.”
“They got away with this. But only because I’m not there to remind them that they haven’t.”
“You don’t have any leads.”
“I’ll get a lead.”
Amérique gestured to the bullet and said, “You got lead is what you got. You want a lead? You stay and rest.”
Styx said, “I don’t have time to do either. Right now, all I know is that I don’t know. And that pisses me the fuck off. The old men voted me in--it’s my job to handle this. And I--”
He flinched as Amérique pulled a stitch.
“I am going to handle this.”
Amérique held the cigarette between her lips. Her words were muffled slightly as she said, “I don’t have to repeat myself.”
“I know you don’t.”
“To throw your analogy back at you, you’re jumping back into the fire.”
“You repeated yourself.”
“Blindly I might add.”
“Which is why I want to say--I need your help.”
“More than what I’m doing already?”
“Yes. You’ve been staying low, wanted by several foreign governments. I want what they want you for.”
Amérique looked at Styx and said, “No.”
“I need it Amérique. Consider it a manifesto.”
“Consider resting, which is a temporary thing. What you’re asking me is more--not temporary.”
“Can you do it by the end of the day today?”
Amérique blew smoke in his face. Styx held his breath.
“Screw you Styx. You know I can. But that’s not the question here.”
“It is and you know it.”
“It is because that’s what you want it to be. And I said no.”
Styx stubbed out his Gauloises against the wall above the couch. Amérique said nothing.
He said, “I need it because I’m not the one who doesn’t have time.”
“What do you--wait. You said when we got there.”
Amérique tugged hard at a stitch and Styx moved toward an absolute recoil.
“You are a bastard.”
“They took her.”
“They took D?”
Amérique leaned back and took a deep and then deeper breath. Smoke billowed from her nose.
“Just this once Styx.”
“Just this once.”
Styx leaned back into the cushion. Amérique finished off the rest of the stitch and patchwork. She gave him a bottle of pills from the kit. He popped them all.
She said, “I’ll do what I can. I’ll find you when I’m finished.”
He said, “I’ll expect nothing less.”
“I have to say--it’s been some time since I’ve seen this side of you. It’s almost a treat.”
“Don’t savor it too long.”
Styx looked once again at the chairman smiling back at him.
Styx said, “The world is yours, as well as ours.”
Amérique said, “But in the last analysis, it is yours. Styx--when you bring her back, I expect you too.”
Styx stood up and checked the stitches. It held well enough. He took another cigarette and went out the door.