DreadNot (dreadnot) wrote in sinful_fics,
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My introductory scribbles for this comm.

Title: The Bad Old Days
Author: DreadNot
Fandom: Sin City
Rating: R (There is also an NC-17 version at aff.net
Genre: Drama
Pairing(s): Marv/ -- (het pairing, not revealed for spoiler)
Warning(s): Profanity, sexual content, violence
Word Count: 8,749
Type of Feedback: Anything you want to throw at me.
Notes: Written for fictionhaven's June quote challenge. My first Sin City fic. Uses quotes from Army of Darkness in each chapter. Includes one character seen in the comic, but not in the movie, as well as several OCs. I swear on my mother's heart that I do not pair Marv with a Sue. Each chapter starts with an exactly 100 word drabble to set a bit of tone. On the timeline, it takes place during “A Dame To Kill For” after Dwight’s injuries and before his convalescence. I started this fic for vampirehunter85. Hopefully this was an okay birthday gift. ^^
More notes, but they contain spoilers for the fic.
Delia is an assassin who appears in the Sin City comic canon. Her standard operating procedure includes weaseling her way into her target’s affections, screwing his brains out, and then killing him. When asked if she intends to make love to all of her targets, she responds, “Only the ones I like.”

If she weren’t a canon character, she’d probably be a Sue. She puts on an excellent ‘helpless woman’ act and falls all over a guy to get him to do what she wants.

Also, because the Sin City comic is almost entirely black and white, the inclusion of color is always done to highlight something. In Delia’s case, she’s one of the few characters with color, always blue. To try to convey that sort of feel, I kept my descriptions of color limited strictly to her.

Sorry, she gets away because this fic falls in a period of comic canon chronologically before another storyline in which she is one of the main characters.

The only other thing I wanted to clarify was regarding Marv. While ostensibly all Sin City characters are human, Marv takes staggering amounts of damage without stopping. Upon waking in the hospital after being shot numerous times by police with automatic weapons, Marv thinks, “Jerks! They should have shot me in the head – and enough times to make sure.” Since he takes head shots in the comic more than once, it’s clear that he’d need his head blown off before he’d stop going. He is the chivalrous Energizer psycho.

Summary: An Old Town girl gets herself into trouble she can't get herself out of.


Chapter One
Skeleton: [dragging topless wench] We got plans for you, Girlie-girl!
----------
Ash: Don't touch that please, your primitive intellect wouldn't understand things with alloys and compositions and things with... molecular structures.

Chapter Two
Sheila: [Being handled by Evil Ash] Don't touch me! You foul thing!
Evil Ash: Your gonna learn to love me, missy.
Sheila: The Promised one will come for you.
Evil Ash: Darlin' I'm gonna save him the trouble.
----------------------------------
Ash: Maybe. Just maybe my boys can protect the book. Yeah, and maybe I'm a Chinese jet pilot.
----------------------------------
Ash: Now I swear the next one of you primates even *touches* me...

Chapter Three
Evil Ash: [Admiring Sheila] Well aren’t you just the sweetest little thing?
----------------------------------
Skeleton: Let’s get the hell out of here!

Chapter Four
Ash: First you wanna kill me, now you wanna kiss me. Blow.
----------------------------------
Sheila: You found me beautiful once.
Ash: Honey, you got reeeal ugly!

Epilogue
Sheila: I may be bad, but I feel gooood.


Chapter One

Basin City might be in the desert, but even deserts get rain, and even deserts get cold. Basin City – Sin City to those who love it and who hate it – doesn’t usually get both at the same time. Rain or shine, the Old Town girls do their business. Only in this place can the prostitutes police themselves with such deadly efficiency. Being a hooker in Old Town is a less dangerous occupation than taxi driver or convenience store clerk anywhere else in Sin City. The girls deserve it. They earn it every night and they will kill to keep it.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!

Floyd Carson, Cricket to anyone who knew him, ran his hand through his lank black hair and pounded his fist against the steering wheel of the stolen t-bird. Robson was going to make Cricket take the dead skank’s place if he didn’t find a replacement and Cricket did not want to be the special guest star in one of his boss’s cinematic productions.

He’d checked on his passenger when he stopped for gas and nearly pissed himself when he saw that the girl tied and gagged in the trunk wasn’t breathing. When he pulled the gag out of her mouth, he realized she’d vomited and must have aspirated it. Probably so scared, she puked.

Fuck!

Robson was expecting Cricket in twenty minutes. Cricket was going to die, very slowly and have every last scream and gasp recorded for posterity.

Fuck no!

He didn’t have time to turn around and head back into the city to the area around the bus station where the runaways were easy pickings. His only chance was Old Town and that was risky. Better the girls than Robson; if the Old Town girls got hold of him, at least he’d die fast. He’d seen what their Miho had done to a couple of his buddies who’d thought that working for the mob meant they could get some free lovin’.

“You can do this. You don’t have to die tonight.” Cricket was talking to himself, a nervous habit that nobody knew about because he only did it when he was alone. “You’ll just drive on in to Old Town, flash some green at a pretty hooker, let her hop in your car and floor this stolen monster on out of Old Town before anyone’s the wiser.”

Floyd “Cricket” Carson was a two-bit minion with a record of grand theft auto and assault and battery. He’d gotten the name Cricket because of his penchant for wearing corduroy pants. His buddies said he made noise when he rubbed his legs together, like a cricket. Cricket said that nobody expected a guy wearing clothes this noisy to be dangerous.

It worked for him most of the time. Cricket looked like a college professor in his corduroys, turtleneck sweaters and tweedy jacket. Runaways thought he was the daddy they hadn’t had at home and got into his succession of stolen Thunderbirds without looking back. They never looked back at anything after Cricket delivered them to his boss, Byron Robson.

Cricket rolled through the alley, eyes flicking between the roads under the wheels and the rooftops where Old Town’s guardian angel was most likely watching over her friends. What he needed was a break. Something good. He was due for another streak of good luck after things had gone to shit on him tonight. He turned on the radio and grinned, “Stray Cat Strut” drifted out of the speakers. His favorite tune, maybe things were looking up.

“Hey.” Rose turned smiled at the geek in the t-bird and strutted over to the open window of his car.

“Hey baby. Looking for some company tonight?” Guy inside the car looked okay. Some geek from the university out to blow off a little steam. Sometimes they tipped well and they knew better than to get rough.

Cricket grinned and looked the whore over. Dark curly hair, gorgeous eyes, nice tits, good cheekbones that came from some ambiguously mixed ancestry. She was just what Robson liked. Another good sign. “Yeah gorgeous, my girl dumped me and I want to forget the pain. Can you do an all nighter?”

“How much you got, sugar?” Rose leaned in to his window and gave him a close up view of the breasts threatening to spill out of the top of the corset she wore. She wore a coat in concession to the weather, but what was under the open coat was barely concealed.

Both of them were distracted from their negotiations when the sound of shouts and gunfire came from a few blocks over. Cricket’s heart pounded. There was the distraction he needed to keep from having Miho cut his heart out before he had a chance to even feel it. Good luck comes in threes, after all.

Cricket swallowed, reminding himself she wasn’t for him, but for Robson, and opened a wallet filled with crisp green bills. “You think this will buy me a little forgetfulness?”

Rose smiled, “Looks like you got enough for a whole night of forgetting.” Her smile broadened when Cricket pulled a hundred dollar bill out of his wallet and tucked it in the valley created by her cleavage.

“Well come on, beautiful, I want to get started forgetting as soon as I can.”

Rose ran around to the other side of the car and slid in on the passenger side. “Nice car.”

Cricket’s genial, collegial smile didn’t falter for an instant as he hit Rose with a balled fist right on the tip of her delicately pointed chin and watched her slump. “I only steal the best, only t-birds.” He pushed her down into the roomy footwell and tossed his jacket over her face before driving unhurriedly out of Old Town. “We got plans for you, girly-girl.”

•••


“Not bad at all, Cricket. Nice recovery.”

Rose heard the rumbling voice, heard the words coming from somewhere behind her, but what she really heard was the pounding in her head. It seemed to spread out from the joints of her jaw, next to both ears. It dug into her skull like skewers being sadistically shoved through the bone. What had happened? Some John had roughed her up?

She kept her eyes closed and took inventory of aches, pains and what she heard going on around her. Rose realized that she was held upright in a straight-backed wooden chair by the tension from her arms, which were restrained behind her. She twisted her wrists slightly. Handcuffs wrapped through the slats on the back of the chair.

Handcuffs were actually good news. Rose had recently spent some time with Gail learning how to get out of these things. Survival skills were freely shared among Old Town girls and if you wanted to know about handcuffs, ropes or just about any other kind of restraint, Gail was your woman.

“Oh look, our star is awake.” A rough hand pulled her head up from its slumped position by her hair. Rose opened her eyes and looked into the muddy brown eyes of one of the uglier men she’d seen in her life. It wasn’t that his face was exactly ugly, but the features all seemed mismatched. Nothing went together, nose, cheekbones, eyes, mouth – they all seemed to come from different people. He was a Frankenstein’s monster without the stitches.

“Don't touch that please, your primitive intellect wouldn't understand things with alloys and compositions and things with... molecular structures.” Rose didn’t recognize that voice, either. She looked up over the shoulder of the man in front of her and goggled at the scarecrow of a man who had spoken.

Cricket looked up from the loose-leaf binder filled with DVD storage sleeves he’d been flipping through and snorted. “They’re just DVDs, Zeke. I think I know what they’re for.”

The man addressed as Zeke strode past Rose and the man who was scrutinizing her and snatched the book out of Cricket’s hands. “No, you don’t. These are special. These are what this,” he waved at the studio “pays for.”

Zeke Fellowes worked for Byron Robson on his special projects because it was the only way he could get the money it took to do his solo research on replacing the DVD medium with one of his own devising. He could go to a big corporation like Sony and they’d give him the funding, but then they’d own most of his soul and all of the profits. Zeke was going to be the sole benefactor when his LDs took over the market. Limitless Discs. He was going to make worrying about megabytes and gigabytes a thing of the past.

“Cricket, leave Zeke’s shit alone before I tear your legs off.” Rose’s attention was forcibly brought back to the monster in front of her when he used his grip on her hair to turn her face back to him. He grinned, showing perfectly straight, perfectly white teeth, “Zeke, get ready to roll.”

“You got it, boss.” Zeke began running through a check of his camera equipment and the lighting on their little stage. “Oh hey, the DVD from the last session is waiting by the door with your coat.”

“Good job. You got the edits the way I told you?”

“Yeah. The cuts are Oscar quality.” Zeke’s voice moved around behind Rose and she wanted to see what it was that he was doing, but the man in front of her had a grip on her hair that didn’t let her move at all now. Rose shivered at his next words, “The ones in the film and the ones on the girl. You surpassed yourself with her. What are you going to do with this one?”

Byron Robson, second in command of Sin City’s mafia, smiled down at the girl who was really nothing more than another easily replaceable whore. “I’m going to go back to basics with this one.” He reached behind himself and pulled out a gleaming bowie knife and held it where Rose could see it. “There’s nothing quite like the way skin parts for a well-sharpened bowie.”

Rose was shaking when Robson opened her cuffs and pulled her off the chair and over to the stage. She barely registered the low platform bed covered in a single gleaming white sheet. “You can scream and try to get away, if you want to,” he told her in an intimate bass rumble.

Chapter Two

It takes a special kind of bastard to hurt a woman. Old Town girls get good at reading a guy and knowing whether he’s that special kind of bastard. They teach each other what to look for and they watch out for each other, noticing little things like the description of the driver and the license plate of the car when a sister goes for a ride. And when a sister gets hurt, they don’t just write it off as the cost of doing business. They don’t just let it rest. Every single offender must be made an example of.

“Hold on.”

Rose didn’t open her eyes until she was sure that Robson was actually gone – off of the bed and walking toward the cameraman, Zeke. She hadn’t heard anything, but she’d been more than a little occupied with not screaming. Opening her eyes now, she saw that Zeke was handing Robson a phone and he was talking very seriously into it. In her muddled condition one of the things she noticed was how Robson’s crisp white buttondown shirt and neatly pressed trousers had come through the past eternity still looking pristine.

Not so Rose. But she was still alive and other than a bit bruised and bloody, not too badly hurt. She let her hopes rise when Robson growled something at Cricket, who was hovering nearby. Cricket pulled Rose off of the bed and cuffed her back on the chair where she’d woken up.

Cricket went back to Robson, who was pacing and growling into the phone. Zeke had returned to his workbench, where the DVDs he said were so special were spread out and he was dropping them one at a time into a machine that certainly looked like a DVD player. The entire time he sang along to the music in his headphones in a surprisingly pleasing tenor. Rose would never hear the song, “Desert Rose” the same way again, though.

Everyone casually ignored the naked, bloodied hooker handcuffed to a chair.

Please God, please let them leave me like this for a few minutes.

According to Gail, the best way to get out of a pair of handcuffs was to have the key. “All handcuffs have a universal lock. That means that all you need is one key and you can get out of any pair of cuffs you want.” Gail had spoken derisively of the laziness of cops that they gave people such an easy way out of restraint just because they didn’t feel like keeping up with different keys.

But it worked in the girls’ favor. Old Town girls wore a lot of jewelry. It was expected. Eight out of ten Old Town girls had a handcuff key secreted in among all that jewelry. In Rose’s case, the key was dangling on the charm bracelet she was walking her fingers through while Robson shouted increasingly profane threats into his phone and Cricket watched his boss with a worried expression.

Rose glanced over her shoulder at Zeke, but Zeke the geek was completely absorbed in his work. She opened one cuff, but left it loosely clasped around her wrist to avoid attracting attention. Her heart pounded in her chest. All she needed was a break. Just a quick break and she’d live to see the next night.

She didn’t have to fake her fear or tears when Robson clicked the phone off and threw it against the wall. She was so damned close!

“Get my car pulled around,” Robson ordered Cricket, and Rose’s hopes rose again. “I gotta take a leak, then I’ve got some business to attend to.” He patted Rose on the head as he walked by, “Don’t worry, I won’t forget about your film debut.”

She stayed silent and watched while both men disappeared; one into what she supposed was the toilet and the other out a door she assumed led outside. I swear, the next one of you primates even touches me…I’m going to cut you so bad your mothers will wish you’d been born girls to save the trouble.

It was making her ready to scream to sit in that chair when escape seemed so close, but she made herself stay silent and stay still. Robson was leaving. Zeke was easily distracted with his toys. She was better off getting out of there while the only one likely to go after her was Cricket.

Rose waited. She waited while Robson took the car keys from Cricket and promised to return in two hours. She waited while Cricket harassed Zeke. She waited while Zeke lectured the turtlenecked thug about the wonders his LDs would bring to the computer and entertainment worlds. She waited until Zeke was again absorbed in his world of shining discs and future wealth. She waited until Cricket finally gave in to the call of nature and disappeared into the bathroom.

Now! She didn’t hesitate. The moment the bathroom door clicked shut behind her kidnapper, she slipped the loosened handcuff off and ran on bare feet across the floor to the door. She snatched up Robson’s coat where he’d left it by the door and almost as an afterthought, grabbed the DVD that Zeke had mentioned an eternity ago. I’ll take you down, motherfucker. Even your rank in the mob won’t protect you from evidence like this.

•••


Old Town had its own hierarchy. The Twins had taken over a few months before, but they were more the administration. For law enforcement, you turned to Gail. For an enforcer, you turned to Miho.

Old Town’s “sheriff” got a phone call that one of the girls had just returned from outside and looked like she’d been roughed up. Gail snarled and clicked her phone closed and wasn’t surprised to see Miho waiting silently behind her when she turned around. She didn’t know how Miho did it, but nine times out of ten, the tiny assassin knew exactly when she was needed.

Looks like Rose had been that one time out of ten when Miho didn’t do her magic.

•••


The doorbell rang and Rose jumped, shoving her hand in her mouth to keep from letting out a little scream. When a quick peek through the peephole told her who was there, she opened the door, relieved to see Gail and Miho outside.

Gail gave the girl a quick once over. She wasn’t in bad shape, all things considered – a bit bruised, a few superficial cuts, but Rose wouldn’t even need stitches. She listened to the girl’s story with a growing rage. She hated men who preyed on women, but men who preyed on one of her girls earned a special kind of pain.

“And I grabbed this.” Rose handed the DVD case over to Gail. The DVD was labeled simply, “Jenny.”

Gail held it up questioningly and Rose pointed to the DVD player on the shelf while she returned to packing her clothes. Rose was getting out of Old Town and she was getting out of Sin City. No waiting around to get picked off. Out. Done. No more. She’d live in Bumfuck, Idaho and peel potatoes for a stinking farm hand rather than stay here and face the sort of death that Byron Robson had promised her.

Gail had recognized the name, and as she watched the DVD that Rose had stolen, she recognized the face: Byron Robson, Wallenquist’s right hand man. Fuck. She used a remote to fast forward through the majority of the “movie,” and ignored the smears of high speed red that appeared on the screen the farther along it went. She stopped and watched impassively while Sin City’s number two mobster cut a young woman’s throat after he had carved up the rest of her.

He was going to pay for Jenny. And for Rose. And for every other nameless girl who had died for Robson’s little “hobby.” She didn’t need to look at Miho to know that the girl was ready to take care of this matter.

•••


Rose sat and watched the Basin City train station fall behind her. Miho and Gail had escorted her to the station and ensured that she’d gotten on the train without being hurt. God bless them both.

She had written out a detailed account of the incident in her diary. They had then put the DVD inside the diary and locked it closed. She left the evidence in Gail’s care with the promise that if anything happened to Rose, Gail would make sure that Robson’s crimes would be splashed on TV screens and newspapers around the country, not just in Sin City.

No more prostitution. Being a hooker in Sin City was one thing; Rose wasn’t going to try it anywhere else. At least in Sin City a whore could have some pride.

Rose leaned her head against the window and closed her eyes. It had been a very long night and she had earned some rest.

•••


“Wake up, babydoll.”

No. She was not going to open her eyes. She was asleep on the train and she was not going to wake up in the middle of the nightmare she’d escaped the night before.

A stinging slap changed her mind. Rose opened her eyes and looked into the grinning, mismatched face of Byron Robson.

“Surprise.” She shivered. His grin looked like he was going to just take a bite out of her at any moment. She’d seen the DVD. She definitely would not put it past him. “I bet you didn’t even feel the needle, did you? Damn, but that Delia is good.”


Rose flinched back from his hand when he caressed her cheek. “Don’t touch me! You foul thing! You fucking piece of shit bastard.”

“You’re gonna learn to love me, missy. They all learn to love me.”

He’s out of his goddamned mind! “Miho will come for you.”

“Darlin’, I’m gonna save her the trouble.” She bit back a whimper when he pulled out the knife again. “I’m gonna send someone to her. Right after you and me have a little talk.”

•••


And that’s where I came in.

Just another night at Kadie’s. Another night spent packed in with the other losers watching Nancy like she was the last woman we’d ever see.

If the last woman I ever saw was Nancy, I’d be a lucky guy.

The air reeked of cigarettes and spilled beer with a bit of piss and vomit thrown in just for the hell of it. Just another night.

Until things went quiet. The quiet spread out from the rock tossed in our bit of murky pond. The rock’s name was Miho.

Even if I hadn’t been there, no man in Kadie’s would have laid a hand on Miho. Not without leaving it on the trashed out floor.

I looked down at that tiny girl standing next to me. Her waist wasn’t as big around as my arm, but if I fought girls, she’d wipe the floor with me. I like that about her.


“Huh. I guess you want me to come with you?”

Miho nodded and the giant most of Sin City knew as Marv followed her docilely out of Kadie’s.

•••


“It’s about time.” Gail opened the door and stood aside for Miho and the ugly, scarred up giant of a man who followed her. “I have to get you two taken care of and go check on Dwight. I got a call that his surgery’s done and he’s waking up.”

“Tell him hi for me,” Marv rumbled. “Tell him I’m glad he didn’t die.”

“I’ll tell him, but I’m not leaving yet. First, let me introduce you to Carmel.” Gail stood aside and pointed to the woman sitting – no, huddling – on the couch. She had a blue blanket wrapped around herself.

Marv looked her over. Like every girl he’d ever seen in Old Town, Carmel was drop dead gorgeous. Great figure, hair he just wanted to run his fingers through, her skin tone and pouting lips proclaimed one racial background, but the vivid blue of her eyes hinted that her background was more varied than first glance might tell.

Marv stared, transfixed before remembering himself and swallowing harshly. “Nice to meet you, Carmel. Name’s Marv.” For a second those eyes seemed like the only color in the room.

Gail looked past Marv to Carmel. “This is the guy I told you about. He’ll help you.”

“I will?” Marv looked down at Gail. “What am I helping her with?”

“Tell him.”

Carmel looked from Gail to Miho and up to Marv. She looked terrified and Marv felt a pang; he knew he was ugly. He hated making a woman like this afraid. He wasn’t a bad guy; he just had a condition. He was okay as long as he had his medication.

“Tell me. I won’t hurt you.” Marv looked around for a place to sit and settled for sitting on the floor instead of crushing the rather dainty wicker furniture.

“My sister, Sharon, works here in Old Town. This is her apartment.” Carmel pulled the blanket around her and looked up when a hard rattle of rain hit the windows. The weather still hadn’t broken. Days of rain in a desert city was wearing on everyone.

“Sharon went out two nights ago and was snatched by a guy who works for Byron Robson. They were going to make a snuff film with her as the star.” Carmel looked ill at the thought and her eyes brimmed with tears.

“She got away and came here.” She nodded toward the two women standing behind him. “Miho and Gail helped her out, got her on the train out of Sin City and those bastards got her. They had to have taken her right off the train.” She held up a CD sleeve between shaking fingers. “This was delivered to me this morning.”

Miho plucked the CD out of the woman’s fingers and put the disc inside in the DVD player built into the small TV sitting on a stand across from the couch. Marv leaned over for a clear view and watched as a frightened young woman’s face filled the screen.


“Carmel, show this to Gail and Miho in Old Town. Anyone can show you how to find them. Just tell them you’re Rose’s sister.” Sharon’s skin was a similar shade to Carmel’s, but she didn’t have those amazing blue eyes, although hers were luminous through the sheen of tears. “Just do it or the people who have me are going to hurt me.” Tears spilled town her cheeks. “They’re going to hurt me real bad.”

Sharon’s lip quivered, but she took a deep breath and looked somewhere to the left of the camera. “Gail, Miho, you two have to give Carmel the disc I gave you. And the diary. If you do, they’ll let me go. If you don’t…” Her face crumpled and she began to sob, “They do to me what they did to Jenny. God, please don’t let them!”

The image jumped and Sharon was calmer, or at least she wasn’t sobbing. She looked down at something out of the camera’s range and began to read in a dull monotone: “Carmel will wait at Rose’s apartment until she is contacted. She will be given directions then. When Carmel receives her instructions, Miho is to go to the roof of the building that overlooks Bleaker and Browning and stay in plain sight. If Miho leaves view at any point before I am released, they will kill me,” she paused and bit back a sob, “and Carmel if she is with me.

“Carmel will deliver the diary and disc to the location she will be given. They will release me and this will all be over.” She closed her eyes and pressed her lips together before continuing, “If you don’t do what they say, he says that what happened to Jenny will look easy compared to what he’ll do to me.”

The scene froze on the woman’ terrified face just as she dissolved into tears again.

Marv looked up at Carmel to see her huddled under the blanket with her hands over her face, silently sobbing. Glancing back at Gail and Miho, he asked, “Which dame am I here for? Sharon or Rose?”

“They’re the same person, Marv.” Gail rolled her eyes at him. “Rose is her working name.” She sighed irritably. “Now you see why we wanted you. Carmel needs some muscle to keep from getting screwed over, roughed up, or worse. I can’t send Miho, and you owe us a favor, so I’m calling it in.”

Marv knew nothing of the sort. If anything, Gail owed him for getting Dwight to Old Town before he died. It didn’t matter what the reason was, a woman was going to be hurt if he didn’t help and that was all the reason he needed. Marv might be a guy who was prone to confusion because of his condition, but he wasn’t the sort of guy who’d let a woman get hurt if he could help it.

“Any chance we can leave the book here and just try to get Sharon out?”

Gail snorted and shook her head. “And if they use the threat about Rose and Carmel to keep Miho from dealing with any attack they might bring into Old Town? Byron’s got the mob on his side! Maybe. Just maybe my girls can protect the book. Yeah, and maybe I'm a Chinese jet pilot.”

Chapter Three

Sex is complicated. It can be loving, friendly, or angry. It can be bored and boring. Willing or not willing. It can be just bad or a chance to reach out and touch God. But sex is not meaningless. There is no such thing as meaningless sex. Whether they’re making love, having sex, or fucking, people have come together for a moment in time. How can that be meaningless, even if the whole meaning is that someone had an itch to scratch? In a perfect world, both people get off. Too bad there’s no such thing as a perfect world.

Gail had left after writing her cell number on Rose’s whiteboard. It hung on the refrigerator surrounded by an extensive refrigerator magnet collection. The whiteboard had previously hosted only a scrawled message which said, “Impotence: Nature’s way of saying ‘no hard feelings.’” Miho left with her. The next time they saw the little assassin, she’d be sitting on the roof of the building at the corner of Bleaker and Browning watching them leave Old Town, but she’d be watching over the apartment until then even if they didn’t see her.

Carmel noticed Marv reading the message and spoke up from the couch, “Sharon loves bumper stickers.” She smiled a little. “She’ll see one she likes and when she comes home, she writes it down until she sees a new one that makes her laugh. She’s been doing it for years.”

“Sharon?” Marv grunted, “Why does she call herself Rose?”

Carmel joined him in front of the refrigerator. At first he thought she had come to read the bumper sticker wit, but with a soft hand on his arm, she moved him aside to open the refrigerator and pull out a beer. There was a bottle opener refrigerator magnet next to the whiteboard, which she used to open her drink.

After a pull on the bottle, Carmel answered, “Rose is a play on her name, you know, Rose of Sharon? From the Bible?” Marv could almost see her thinking that there was no way this big lug knew anything about the Bible. “Nevermind.”

“Song of Solomon. I remember.” Marv’s face, which could charitably be described as resembling a pile of gravel, split in a broad and surprisingly white smile. “I was a Catholic school boy.” He glanced down at the cross he habitually wore around his neck. “A long time ago.”

“You’re a man of many surprises, Mister…?”

“Just Marv.”

“Well, Just Marv, you’re quite a guy. Not everyone would drop everything he was doing just to help a prostitute he didn’t even know.” She took another swallow of her beer and noticed the way his eyes had followed the bottle up to her lips, “Do you want some?”

Marv snapped out of the almost hypnotic effect of her lips and eyes, “Huh?” Carmel was holding the bottle out to him. “Beer. Yeah, a beer would be good.” He took the bottle from her and raised it to his lips. For a moment, he could smell her lipstick, and for another moment, it was her taste in his mouth before the flavor of the beer overrode it.

Carmel smiled, “It’s the least I can do.” But her eyes clouded quickly as her mood shifted. “She’s with them right now. I can’t stand it.” Her shoulders shook until she gave into her tears.

Marv held his hands away from his body when she leaned into him and began to sob against his chest. The giant man looked down at the woman clinging to him and patted her shoulder awkwardly before tentatively putting his arms around her.

“You have to help her, Marv. Don’t let them hurt my sister.”

“I won’t, Carmel. I’ll take care of you and Sharon.” He promised it and he meant it. Always was a sucker for the dames.

•••


I don’t know how it happened. One minute she was crying in my arms about ‘help her’ and ‘don’t let them hurt her,’ and the next she was all over me. I’ve been with a couple of dames. It’s never been anything special, mainly just two really drunk people and the woman’s so looped she doesn’t care about my ugly mug. This was something else.

It was the kind of sex people have when they hate each other and can’t help fucking anyway. The kisses were one step away from drawing blood; when she pushed her body down against mine, it felt like she was trying to push me right through the mattress; when I put my hands on her breasts, I left bruises.

I don’t hurt women, and I don’t leave marks on dames. This was something crazy. By the time we were done, she was bruised, I was bruised, the sheets were spotted with blood from where her nails had raked my back and shoulders. I ached as bad as I have after some brawls.

Yeah, it felt good. She got off. I got off.

It still felt wrong. Dirty. Angry sex is too much like hitting a woman for me to feel good about what we’d done. I got a condition. I’m not a bastard. And I should be grateful, not angry when a woman lets me near her with the kind of guy I am. Maybe she was just angry about what her sister was going through and taking it out on me. I shoulda known better.


•••



The phone finally rang. Marv and Carmel had been sitting silently on opposite sides of the living room. They hadn’t spoken since Marv had gotten out of bed and showered and put band-aids on some of the deeper scratches Carmel had left on his shoulders. Marv couldn’t read Carmel, but he felt like a heel and he wouldn’t blame her at all for hating him after he’d been such an ass.

Both of them were grateful for the break in the silence and the end of the waiting. Carmel gingerly picked up the phone and said, “Hello?” She glanced at Marv before looking at the floor. “Yes. Yes.” She looked around for a piece of paper and a pen and found both in a drawer of the table where the telephone receiver sat. “I’m ready.” She began writing quickly, then hung up.

She handed Marv a set of car keys, “Mine. My car’s parked in the apartment building’s garage downstairs.” Her hands were shaking and the keys jingled as she handed them over. “I’m too nervous to drive.”

She stopped at the TV to pop out the DVD that had Sharon’s plea for her sister’s help. With Sharon’s diary and the incriminating DVDs tucked into her purse, Carmel was ready to go.

The drive was uneventful despite the pouring rain. He leaned his head out of the car’s window as they passed Bleaker and Browning and saw the pale oval of Miho’s face watching them. He waved, but she didn’t acknowledge him, sitting quietly in the downpour as though it bothered her not at all.

He was drenched when he pulled his head back inside the car and the windows steamed up when he rolled his back up. Rain was so damned unnatural here. Miho looked to be the only one in Sin City who wasn’t bothered by all this wet at this point.

The directions were easy enough to follow and brought them to the warehouse studio that Sharon/Rose had escaped from and later described to Gail and Miho.

Marv went in first, with Carmel following close behind him. At the end of a short hallway was a single closed door that opened for Marv right away. Inside was the studio where Robson’s little horror movies were created and recorded.

Sharon was seated facing the door when they entered. It looked like Robson had learned from Sharon’s last disappearing act. This time she was duct taped to the chair. Her arms and torso were practically mummified in the silver tape. Marv groaned inwardly. That was going to be a bitch to get off and he didn’t want to spend any more time here than he had to. He was more worried though that he didn’t see anyone else. Were he and Carmel walking into a trap? He had assumed so since the beginning, but his adrenaline was really going now that they were there.

Sharon was conscious and her eyes widened when Marv came through the door. He saw her looking behind him for someone and hurried to reassure her. “I got your sister here safe and sound. Let’s give your guys the book and discs and then let’s get the hell out of here.”

Sharon still looked past him and her brow furrowed, “Where is she?”

Marv glanced over his shoulder at Carmel in time to see her gun pointed straight at his head. “He thinks he means me.”

Life got very loud for a gunshot moment. Then it was over.

Chapter Four

Getting shot in the head is a once in a lifetime experience for most people. What happens first? Do you hear the shot or feel the bullet? Do you feel the impact and then the pain? Survivors don’t always agree – some say they heard the shot first, others felt it first. Some people claim to have felt no pain, just the force of the bullet hitting. The pain comes eventually. No matter what, Old Man Pain always comes to collect his due. Are the people who feel the searing heat immediately luckier because they don’t fool themselves about the condition?

Marv had a headache.

He had one bigass piledriver of a headache and opening his eyes didn’t help at all. He took everything in around him. They’d left him alive, and that was their biggest mistake. Carmel – or whatever her name was – had made a good start on killing him, a few more of those and maybe he’d stayed down. Now he was going to have to get loose and kill a bunch of people. See what happened when you left a job half done?

Carmel was sitting on a table about ten feet away, dangling her feet nonchalantly. “Sorry about this, Marv. It’s nothing personal.” She didn’t look happy, but she didn’t she look upset, either. More than anything, Marv thought she looked bored. She watched him incuriously while he looked himself over to see that he had been duct taped in place as well. Versatile stuff, duct tape. A real pain the ass to get out of, too.

The pain in his head seemed to recede a little bit when he started to grin, so he grinned more, letting his lips draw back from his teeth in a smile that was millimeters away from being a snarl. “It’s gonna be personal, Carmel,” he promised, while he looked around for Sharon. His head exploded with pain when he turned it, but he saw Sharon over his shoulder, still taped to her chair.

“My name is Delia, not Carmel.” She hopped down off the table and walked around Marv. She touched his head with gentle fingers and the big man jerked his head away from her only to be rewarded with another fireworks display inside his skull. “It’s just business.”

Marv pulled away when she leaned down and brushed her lips over his temple. “First you wanna kill me. Now you wanna kiss me.” He pursed his lips and blew a waft of breath at her that smelled of a man who’d been drinking, fucking, and then asleep or unconscious; all without brushing his teeth. “Blow. Get away from me.”

•••


Just once I want a dame to want to go to bed with me and not turn out to be a psycho who wants to kill me. Just once I want a dame to want me to be her protector and still want to go to bed with me.

The crazy dames seem to know that I won’t hurt them if I can help it.

She caught me off guard. Blindsided me like nobody’s business and she really pissed me off, too. I felt bad for Carmel – a nice woman whose sister was in trouble. She seemed so scared for her sister. She was a damned good actress.

If there was an prize for best liar, she’d have it. If there was a prize for biggest patsy, they can pin it to my chest before they put my coffin in the ground.

I wasn’t going to let her get away with it. She’d screwed me, the Old Town girls, and Sharon. She and Robson and his men were going to have to pay for this.


•••


Delia walked away. Marv was completely unaware of the way she swayed her hips to try to catch his attention when she left. He was already testing the strength of the tape that was keeping him in the chair and stretching it with flexes of his arms.

Sharon spoke up for the first time, now that Delia had left the two of them alone. “They’re going to kill both of us.”

“Nah,” Marv said with assurance he didn’t feel while he kept working his bonds. “They woulda killed us already if they was going to.”

“No, they’re going to kill us on video,” Sharon said dully. She already sounded completely hopeless. She’d escaped once, nearly escaped Sin City, been forced to make her own ransom video, and now her rescuer needed as much rescuing as she did. They were going to die. “What did they do to my sister? What did they do to Carmel? He kept asking questions about her. The things he did to me… I had to tell.”

Marv looked up to see Delia returning to with three men. He recognized Robson from the video, the man in the noisy pants must be Cricket, which meant that the last guy was Zeke. Sharon had done a good job of describing everyone in her diary. Too bad these guys had her and the diary now.

He had an idea, but he didn’t like it. It was going to hurt Sharon, but it was better than the kind of hurt Robson was going to put on her real soon.

Speaking of Robson…

Robson stopped in front of Marv and looked him over. “You’re the best those bitches could send? I think they’re slipping.” He looked at Delia and made a face, “You fucked this thing? The Colonel told me that you did that, but I thought you’d draw the line at something like this.”

Delia shrugged, “I like him. He’s not a bad guy. Just ugly.” She regarded Marv without expression. “It’s just business, Marv.”

Yeah, just business. So’s this. “Delia, what happened to Carmel?”

Delia shook her head at him. He knew what she was saying, but he needed her to say it out loud. “She’s okay, right?”

Delia shook her head again. “No, she’s not okay,” Robson cut in. “She’s dead. Couldn’t have her show up and fuck things up for Delia. Is that what you wanted to hear?”

Yes and no. Sharon began to sob and then to wail. It was a dirty trick to play on the woman, using her like that, but Marv would rather have her alive and hating him than dead. While attention was focused on her, Marv rocked and twisted violently in his seat, breaking the wooden back of the chair, which let him stand and bought him a little wiggle room to raise his arms.

He used that moment to kick Robson hard in the side while he raised his arms, bunching the tape more around his shoulders. Robson staggered back with the breath knocked out of him and Marv picked up the backless bottom of the chair he’d just broken and swung wildly. He caught the skinny man who’d been with Robson on the side of the head and watched him fall, blood fanning out across the floor where the man’s head struck with a sickening hollow noise.

The others began to react to the sudden eruption of violence. Cricket lunged forward and grabbed Sharon’s chair, putting her between him and Marv. Marv started after the weasely man, but spun around when bullets slammed into his back and shoulder. That was going to hurt like hell when the adrenaline wore off.

The big man lunged at Delia and knocked the gun out of her hands before practically throwing her at Robson, who had caught his breath and was just clicking the safety off of his gun. The two went sprawling and Robson’s gun clattered across the floor.

Cricket had gotten his own gun out, but instead of shooting the guy who acted like he ate bullets for breakfast, he put the gun to Sharon’s head. “Don’t make me do it, big guy. Just let me get on outta here and I’ll leave her outside when I get to my car.”

Sharon tried to pull her head away from the muzzle of the gun but the man rapped her hard with the butt of gun. She stopped struggling and tried not to vomit from the sudden wave of nausea that somehow started in her head and spread out to her stomach in a sickening wave.

Marv wasn’t the only one who could take advantage of a distraction. He was blindsided by Robson, who had drawn his bowie knife and shoved it easily into Marv’s stomach while the big man was watching Cricket threaten Sharon. He grunted and grappled the other man, fighting for control of the knife.

While Marv and Robson struggled, Cricket went back to dragging Sharon’s chair across the floor toward the exit. He winced when Robson scored a gash on Marv that sent blood flying in a wide arc across the room. It wasn’t his problem. He cursed under his breath. Should have taped her to a chair with wheels, dammit.

Robson had worked his way up through the ranks of Sin City’s organized crime. He knew how to fight dirty and neither he nor Marv were pulling any punches. They grunted and cursed while both fought to keep the other man from gaining the upper hand with the weapon.

Marv was grateful that he hadn’t had a chance to get the duct tape off yet when the knife tangled in it. The added distraction helped Marv sweep Robson’s feet out from under him. Robson clawed at Marv’s face, sinking fingers into the meat of his cheek as he started to fall; he used his grips on the knife and the other man’s flesh to pull the man down with him.

Cricket tilted Sharon’s chair against the wall. She could struggle if she wanted to, but she’d just end up smacking her head on the wall or the floor when her chair fell. “I’m letting you go without hurting you. You tell the Hulk over there that I could have hurt you and I didn’t.”

With one last look at the two combatants, Cricket ducked out the door and ran for his life.

The two men rolled across the floor until they fetched up against the wall. With the hand not contesting for the knife, Marv grabbed Robson by the hair. He began to bash the man’s head against the wall where he was pinned by Marv’s body weight, and finally took full control of the contested bowie knife when Robson went limp. He turned it and rapped the hilt firmly between Robson’s eyes, hitting the nerve bundle there and making the man jerk.

Couldn’t get started with the fun yet. He had other business to take care of.

Where was Delia?

“Delia!” Marv shouted while he stood with his foot on Robson’s neck. Every time the man struggled, Marv pushed down a little harder. He figured he’d break Robson’s neck in about two more pushes. “I’m not done with you.”

“You wouldn’t hurt me, would you, Marv? You wouldn’t hurt a ‘dame’ would you?” Delia’s voice floated through the open door leading outside. “You found me beautiful, just this evening.”

Marv looked down at Robson and let up when he saw the man was turning blue. Couldn’t let him die that easy. “Honey, you got reeeal ugly when you shot me in the head.”

“You’ve got Byron. Keep him. My contract wasn’t to protect him.” Marv grabbed Robson’s hair and began to drag his unresisting body across the floor to the stage. He was just chaining the man to the bed where so many girls had died when her last words to him came through the door, “It wasn’t personal, Marv. You’re not a bad guy.”

“Yes I am,” Marv muttered while he finished manacling Robson’s hands and feet. “And he’s gonna find out just how bad a man I am.”

He took Robson’s bowie knife and used it to cut Sharon free. After fishing the mobster’s keys out of his pocket, Marv gave them to the shivering and traumatized woman. “He’s not going to be needing his car where he’s going. You go home and tell Gail and Miho that I took care of things.”

He began examining the video camera on its tripod, smiling when he made the red record light come on. “Tell them I’ll send them a movie when I’m through.”

Sharon leaned up and kissed Marv’s scarred and bloodied cheek. “Send me a copy, too.” She turned away to leave but turned back to give him a smile that wavered along the edges, “And thank you.”

Epilogue

How many people believe that luck is what you make of it? Sometimes it probably is. But how does that explain people who have nothing going for them but their luck? Everyone knows someone like that – the hapless fool who moves through his life with nothing but luck standing between him and falling over the edge of the abyss and into oblivion. Maybe luck is just another kind of karma and Mr. Hapless has earned a lifetime of blissfully repercussion-free wandering through the world. What does that say about people whose luck turns sour? Maybe the universe just hates them.

Cricket had laid low for two days after the disaster that had ended in Byron Robson’s gruesome death. He’d heard whispers of what the cops who’d found what remained of his body had done. There was disagreement on how many cops left the force after seeing the crime scene, but no argument that some officers had turned in their badges without bothering to give notice.

Sin City was too hot for Floyd “Cricket” Carson. He had snuck home, packed a case and started trudging to the train station. It was still raining and he was miserable, but at least it kept most people inside. The fewer people who saw him, the better.

A block from his house, Cricket’s steps slowed until he was at a stop, staring at the gorgeous, cherry red 1956 Thunderbird parked at the curb. Why take the train when he could travel in style? Things were looking up.

Twenty minutes later, Cricket was cruising. The rain was finally letting up and he was feeling better than he’d felt since he’d found out that the girl he’d gotten for Robson had died in the trunk of his stolen t-bird. “I may be bad, but I feel gooood,” he crowed. He’d gotten out of Sin City with his life.

Whistling, he turned on the radio and grinned to hear Brian Setzer singing about being a feline Casanova. Good things came in threes – a cherry ride, the beginning of the first sunny day in what felt like forever, and his favorite song on the radio. He saw a billboard for the Santa Yolanda Tar Pits and gave the picture of the gaping Tyrannosaurus the one finger salute.

He froze with his hand extended when he felt something extremely sharp push out of his seat and into his back over his left kidney. He was pretty sure it was going to hurt when his body caught on to what had just happened. A glance in the rear view mirror told him more than he wanted to know when he met Miho’s eyes.

Her eyes flicked toward the sign for the Pits. Cricket hesitated and Miho twisted the blade she’d shoved through the back of his seat and into Cricket. It hurt. “Okay!” he yelped. “Okay, okay. I got it.”

Cricket took the turn that would take him off the road and up to the Pits.

Fuck.

Why couldn’t his third piece of good luck have been a blowjob from Angelina Jolie instead of fucking Stray Cat Strut?
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