Dealerv Ch. 02

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Brunette

Afternoon sunlight leaks through closed curtains. She fights to stay awake, sinking into the recliner’s supple leather, socked feet against the rug. Remote in hand snaps the widescreen television on. CNN’s prim-voiced newscasters are a welcome break in the apartment’s quiet. Luxurious and still, the empty rooms had been napping with her. In her state of exhaustion the veneered walls resemble the inside of a casket, the relaxed waking death far too pleasurable.

Her arrival in this chair marks the end of a two-hour crucible, which Ashley began in the master bedroom’s bed. She had been lying sideways, tangled with jersey sheets and wool blanket, head confused among broad pillows. She’d been sleeping, yes, but is such rest — the sort of rest we take in the middle of the day after complete exhaustion, the sort of rest in which our minds drink wetly inked dreams the way a man dying of thirst will drink water, the sort of rest where to move our bodies is akin to a move through thick syrup — is such rest simply sleep? This is the sort of rest Ashley had been having, in complete darkness cocooned within a four-poster Victorian bed and flannel pajamas.

While outside it has been at times near zero degrees, Ashley had been on the bed, cradled by the periodic hum of a fan blowing warm air into the room. The sound came from the depths of the building somewhere, the concept itself one of sublime calm: an unseen relay’s response to the change of a few hundred billion electrons, closing the circuit for the fan’s motor to spool up and scoop upon its blades warm, invisible air.

She would wake, look across the room at bright blue digital numbers, realize the entire morning slipped by her and promptly go back to sleep. This clock awareness ritual occurred many times. The last time, Ashley slunk out of the bed’s side and onto the floor, crawled into the living room where, squinting against shafts of light coming through the bay window’s blinds, she eventually crawled into this leather chair.

She now sits, legs slightly parted and hands wrapped about the remote control which is entirely too heavy. Ashley has no desire to open those blinds up to the late afternoon winter sunlight of Hoboken, New Jersey where she knows the air is frigid and restricting. Were it not for Stryker she would have taken herself immediately and without delay back to Tasmania a long time ago.

Electronica filled the darkness; laser-lit and tobacco-smoked with neon billiard balls on black felt. She played well and time marched on. She gambled her body against the male cash dressed in expensive colors, silver and tattoos. She won so much; she nearly always won after taking care of the details with a cue stick rocking in one hand and the other draped over a muscular shoulder as she whispered into an ear the prizes she’d forfeit if she lost. (She had lost, once, third shot with nothing but the eight left it dangling just a bit too close to a side-pocket and the man with the denim and giant muscles gently took her to one of the sofas and she wrapped her lips around him, not at all unpleasant, as people hid them). The music sounded to her a mix of natures both carnal and spiritual. Church music, if desire were God and made sense to worship at two and three in the morning while smoking tobacco and warring on pool tables. She did not need the money. Stryker questioned nothing and handed her stacks of green hundreds whenever she asked. She often gave away entire rolls to homeless people on her walk home. Last night, she hadn’t. Reeking of smoke, other women’s perfume and dry ice as the sun rose over Manhattan she went into an Alphabet City diner, wearing stiletto-heeled boots, leather pants, a shimmering blue top and a biker’s jacket. She ate slowly and to her fill. A cab ride back into Hoboken saw her home at close to seven in the morning. Immediately she stripped, showered and crawled into bed. Stryker wasn’t back yet. Stryker returned not long after, she knew she hadn’t been sleeping, exactly, but hadn’t been awake anymore either. She could hear the thunder of his boots in the living room and heard him cursing under his breath. “Wake up,” he said as he entered the room. “I’m awake,” Ashley answered. He’d sat in the chair in the corner of the room and started to unlace his boots. “Then sit on your knees, face away from me and pull your pants down.” Ashley’s heart pounded and her mouth went dry. Shaking, she sat up in the bed and as a wave of dizziness threatened to topple her, she pulled pajamas and panties down below her buttocks and fought not to shake. “That’s better.” Whisper of cloth sliding off him. “Your pussy had better be wet by the time I get there.” Ahsley tried to swallow; her vagina was as dry as her mouth. She heard him stand up and march to her; bare feet somehow more menacing as his weight fell onto the carpeted floor. Then his calloused fingers ran the length of her lips and his breathing turned deep, and desperate. Ümraniye Anal Escort And hungry. An arm surrounded her, its bicep thick and flexed. Smell of cigarettes and sweat and feel of his skin, hot against her own “Oh, that’s just wonderful”, he said, and Ashley knew, could feel the burn of his fingers against her dry flesh. But before his hand came down on her ass, stinging, her nether lips soaked the insides of her thighs and she cried. “I’m wet, Stryker…I’m wet now…” though she knew it to be too late. He smacked her buttocks over and over again and she clawed at his arm with her hands and couldn’t move the solid muscle there and the harder she got hit and the tighter he squeezed the more aroused she became. And the harder she cried. Her mind stopped gripping reality, somewhere, and came back just as the air against her buttocks stung and he swung her around and pointed at his hard, erect penis. “Suck it,” he said. Eager, tired, in need beyond anything she dared examine with intellect, she took the head of his penis into her mouth and caressed it, working at it slowly and wrapped her hand around the shaft. She tried (now as always) to pay attention to the moment, the sensation itself, of his penis entering her but lost track as she nearly always did and soon she laid on her back, wrists immobile above her head in his hands and orgasms simply a constant part of her innards. She’d slept, then, remembering Stryker’s muttering something about a meeting in less than an hour, much to his dislike.

“So who we waiting on, again?” Stryker asks, using his fingers to pop another piece of the smoked salmon into his mouth. The subterranean room is dark, with forest green walls and a shag black rug. There is every type of food available on a back table, from the smoked salmon Stryker is gorging on to pastries, egg and cheese vretád and benedict, sliced meets, and fresh fruit. The men sit on burgundy leather covered furniture, the lighting coming from green-shaded brass lamps. A monolithic desk of dark wood and recessed leather blotters is against the back wall, its high-backed leather chair empty.

Bill coughs, Mathew mutters and Rick adjusts in his char. Stryker shakes his head. “Yeah, whatever.” Another piece of salmon. “Anyone even know what this is about?” More coughing, muttering, and adjusting. Then it hits him. “We’re waiting on Dramius. He’s the only one not here.” Carlos Ignacius Dramius, second in command of the NYPD’s narcotics division and unofficial general of the BLOODS. Stryker likes Dramius, aside from the guy’s constant need to appear so god awful mysterious. Like now. It’s no mystery he’s the one who’s called this meeting, but Christ lease out his cross before Dramius admitted to it.

Luckily for Stryker, Dramius likes him back. Stryker is certain the other three men in this room live in constant fear of the big black man, and for good reason: Dramius has a habit of killing those from whom he feels even a minor threat. The thought leads Stryker to the nine millimeter Smith another bit of the excess characterizing his chosen profession, not dissimilar to the gigantic array of gourmet food on the back table which would in its overwhelming majority end up in the garbage.

Stryker is also the only one dressed as he is, in black cargo pants, black leather infantry combat boots, a long-sleeved black thermal stretch top, the nylon flight jacket and the logo-less black baseball hat. The other three clowns are in wool suits, each purchased at a cost near or equal to a brand new compact automobile. Stryker eats more salmon in an effort not to laugh.

“Good morning, gentleman,” Dramius says as he enters the room, filling it with both his presence and his bass voice. The three men stand. Stryker doesn’t need to; he hasn’t sat down yet. “I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays. Stryker. Glad you could make it.”

“Like I had a choice,” Stryker says, and smiles when Dramius laughs. None of the other three could have said it.

“Very well then,” Dramius says, sitting behind the desk, “let’s get down to it. A few loose ends to clean up and we’ll all be able to return to our loved ones for the holidays.” Dramius simply folds his giant hands, his wedding ring and NYPD ring glittering. There’s no paper for meetings like this. “Everything delivered?”

“Everything’s delivered,” Rick answers.

“The guy from the D.E.A,” Dramius says, staring at Mathew, “he bought yet?”

“We’re set up,” Mathew answers, “but we’re a day late. He couldn’t clear the last slip before the sixth. Is that acceptable?”

Dramius pauses. “Do we have a choice?”

Mathew shrugs, “Always,” he says, “but it’ll take a lot more money, and another week to set up.”

Dramius stares at his desk. After a moment, he starts nodding. “No, the sixth is acceptable.” Then, “Bill. What’s the current status with Alonzo shipping?”

“Mr. Alonzo cashed the check, Ümraniye Yaşlı Escort himself, this morning.”

Dramius nods again. “Then we’re finished.” He stands. “Gentlemen, have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year. Stryker, I’d like to see you before you leave. The rest of you, I appreciate your time and attention.”

Great, Stryker thinks as the other three leave the office as quickly as they dare, fucking great. Dramius comes out from behind the desk and sits on it. “How is everything, Stryker?”

“Everything’s fine, Sir,” he says, “except that my girlfriend is waiting for me in Hoboken and I’d really like to do something with her for Christmas this year.”

Dramius chuckles. “I understand. I haven’t seen my wife and daughters for a week. Listen, Stryker, I have a small favor to ask of you.”

“A favor?” Stryker asks, “that means I can say no?”

Laughter, this time, actual laughter with an accompanying smile. “Yes, Stryker, you can say no. My feelings won’t be hurt. It’s a simple thing.”

“What is it?”

“I’ve purchased a painting for my daughter. It’s in New Orleans. Cynthia is still in school, in Ohio State. I’d really appreciate it if you could deliver the painting to her and bring her back to New York for me. You’ll be home by tomorrow night.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it,” Dramius says. “Since you could have said no, I won’t pay for anything but your fuel and rental cars. Upside is, since it’s legit I can give you all the information now.” Dramius pauses, opens his hands. “Look, Stryker, I’d hire someone to do it-“

“No, no,” Stryker says, amazed, “I can do it. No problem.”

“Thanks,” Dramius says, clapping Stryker on the shoulder, “I really appreciate this.” Reaching into his jacket pocket, he pulls out a small leather book. “First page is the address of the gallery in New Orleans, the painting’s name and serial number. Second page is my daughter Eliza’s information. I’ll call her and let her know you’re coming.”

Stryker unzips the book. This again, is funny. The thing is a hard-backed journal; gold leafed, with a Mont Blonc pen ready to go. The two pages Dramius mentioned are the only two written on. Dramius is nearly out of the room when Stryker notices a check for three hundred thousand dollars, written out to him, towards the back. “Sir?” Dramius turns around. “I thought you said you weren’t going to pay me?”

“Merry Christmas, Stryker,” Dramius says with a huge grin.

“Merry Christmas, Sir. And thanks.”

“Thank you,” and he’s gone.”

Okay, Stryker thinks, all right. JFK to New Orleans International, then Dayton International, and then back to JFK. Twelve hours, max. Stryker looks at his watch. It isn’t nine yet. Home first.

Ashley is still asleep in the living room when Stryker gets home. Maybe, he thinks, the poor girl will just stay asleep- “Hey gorgeous,” she mumbles as he goes into the bedroom. Maybe not.

“Go back to sleep Baby Doll,” he whispers. He walks to the couch, cradles her head. She smells like bad breath and sleep. Stryker inhales deeply and kisses her.

“You don’t have to go back to work, do you?”

Stryker sighs as he walks into the bedroom and sits down to get undressed. She’s followed him and sits on the bed. “Yeah,” he says, “I do. But I’ll be back by nine tomorrow night.” He hopes he’s estimating on the late side. “It’s not a run, I’m just delivering a painting to Dramius’ daughter and her to him.”

She stretches out on the bed like a cat, and purrs. Stryker has a pair of thick wool slacks and a freshly ironed white broadcloth shirt on. “Thanks for this morning,” she says, “I needed that.”

Stryker can’t resist. He goes to the bed and kisses her again, deeply, hugging her to him. “So,” he says between lip smacks, “did I.” He stands up and is fumbling with a red silk tie when an idea hits him. “Baby Doll, I been thinking. Instead of eating dinner in the city and staring at that stupid fucking tree, why don’t we fly to Vermont tomorrow night?”

Ashley’s eyes light up. “You won’t be too tired?”

“Nah,” he says, knowing he’ll be exhausted, “and we’ll rent us one of those sleigh rides in the woods. At night it’ll be awesome.”

Ashley sits up. “I’d love that!”

“Yeah so would I. You make the reservations while I’m gone. I’ll call you and tell you when to meet me at Newark tomorrow night.”

“You sure you don’t want me to come with you?”

“I want you to,” he says, knowing having her there would help keep him awake, not to mention the fact that over the past two weeks they’ve probably spent a total of five hours together, “but it’s just a little trip. I can handle it. You call around, get us one of those bed and breakfast places.”

“All right,” she says, running to him and kissing him, I will. “Be careful, Stryker.”

“Always, Baby Doll,” he says.

Washington Street Ümraniye Zenci Escort is an explosion of red and green and gold, lamp posts and park benches alike neatly gift-wrapped, massive wreaths hanging from store windows. Stryker loves Christmas; the decorations and the music and the mood, but most of all the cold. For the first time since he can remember, he’s actually hoping it doesn’t snow. He’s got to remind himself to get Ashley something amazing before he sees her tomorrow night.

Stryker opens up the Hummer and turns the engine on. It’s still warm. This, he thinks as he heads towards the Holland Tunnel, is going to be the best Christmas ever.

The Hummer is emerging from the tunnel when Stryker’s cellphone rings. He looks at the number. Rick. Fucking Rick. Stryker hits the send button. “What.”

“I lied to Dramius, Stryker.”

“Your funeral man, not mine,” Stryker says. “I’m busy.”

“I didn’t finish the last delivery. Fucking pilot got caught in Miami, he’s in jail.”

“Why didn’t you tell Dramius?” Silence. Yeah. “Can’t help you, man, sorry.”

“Stryker! It’s a simple fucking run. Fifteen kilos, that’s it. You’d be coming back to New York, anyway. Newark International.”

Dragon, Stryker thinks. “You missed a delivery to Dragon?!”

“Yeah, man. Look, Stryker, I’ll pay you fifty thousand. That’s twice what I was going to pay my guy.”

Stryker sighs and misses his turn onto the East Side Highway. “Fuck! Rick!”

“Stryker, please? Fifty thousand dollars, man. Down and back.” No, down and back and down and back. He cannot, of course, tell Rick he’s doing a personal favor for Dramius.

“All right, Rick. I’ll be in my usual place in South Beach in three hours. You email me the info.”

“Thanks, Stryker, you don’t know much trouble you’re getting me out of.”

“Yes I do. And Rick?”

“Yeah?”

“If the fifty kay isn’t in my account when my wheels hit the ground in Miami? I cut and run, period.” Stryker presses the Off button and resists the urge to throw the phone into the back seat. Of course, the money will be there. It’ll probably be there before Stryker is finished pre-flighting his Lear and Stryker knows it.

“Fuck,” Stryker says to no one, “son of a fucking bitch.”

As he’s running a gloved hand over the seams of his white jet, Stryker is thinking. The safe thing to do would be to pick up the blow, run it back to New York and then go on to New Orleans. Of course, that will take a lot of time. What he’s thinking of doing is just keeping the crap in his jet. Through New Orleans, through Dayton until he gets back to Newark. Not only is this ridiculously dangerous in terms of law enforcement, but Dramius will kill him – literally – if he finds out Stryker had blow in his plane at the same time his daughter was in it.

“Shit,” Stryker says. The turbines cycle up as the cockpit lights flicker. He takes his gloves off and puts the thin, wireless head set on. Once he’s checked his flaps he toggles the radio on. “JFK tower this is Lima niner six eight three two five requesting take-off on runway zero four.”

“Good morning, Lima two five. Proceed to parallel four zero and follow Bravo four seven.”

“Good morning, thank you, Lima two five proceeding.” Once he’s got the Lear behind the jumbo jet Stryker picks up his phone. He checks first his bank statement and then his email inbox to discover that he has in fact been paid for a run about which he knows nothing. “This,” he says, “sucks.” It’s his turn to take off.

Stryker cranks the air conditioning inside the all-white hotel room and checks his inbox again. Nothing. “Fuck!” he screams, pounding on the desk. “God motherfucking damnit!” He’s pacing the room as he dials Rick’s cell phone, who doesn’t answer until the fifth ring. “Hey! Where the fuck is the info, Rick?”

“I don’t have it yet.”

“What do you mean, you don’t have it yet? This fucking run is already a week late! Where am I going?!”

“Calm down, Stryker.”

“Fuck you, calm down!” When Stryker realizes he’s screaming, he does calm down. “All right, Rick. What are you waiting on?”

“An email, Stryker, same as you. They had to move.”

Stryker sits down and opens the fridge. He looks at his choices before drinking off a quarter can of Coke and pouring an airplane bottle of Jack Daniels into it. “Rick do you have any remote clue where I’ll be going? Tell me it’s not the keys-“

“No, man, nothing like that. Probably a warehouse somewhere in Miami itself.”

“You pay already or you got these fuckers on credit?” This is a legitimate question; picking up narcotics for which the client has not paid often presents problems, and Stryker doesn’t need any more problems.

“Paid for in full, Stryker. Look, I’m getting off the phone. Sit tight. It shouldn’t be long.” And Rick is gone. Stryker takes another swallow of his drink, turns the television on, lights a Marlboro. He looks at his watch. Quarter past two. His mind wanders to Ashley, who he should be here. Especially given her talent at turning the male mind into oatmeal, if he should run into problems in New Orleans. Or Dayton. Or JFK, Jesus H. Christ what am I doing this for?

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