Slick comes around and gets behind the wheel.
I’m nervous. You’d have to be stupid not to be in this business. Men are dangerous as a rule. These men are more dangerous than most. He could still be planning to hurt me. I know whatever comes next is not going to be good.
We drive through the city, head out through Brooklyn and toward Coney Island. I haven’t been out this way in a while.
“Where are we going?”
“We’re going to Luna Park?”
“That’s a weird place to kill someone in the middle of the day.”
“It is,” he agrees.
It turns out he’s not lying. We actually go to Luna Park. I haven’t been here since my dad took me. Fifteen years ago, just after he got out of jail, and right before he went back.
The great white faced man absorbs us through the entrance. I feel myself slipping back into a more innocent, incredibly dated, much louder time.
“This is the weirdest thing,” I shout to be heard over the chaos of a gaggle of scrawny small people.
“Come on,” he says. “They have good ice cream.”
“We’re really getting ice cream?”
“Is it poisoned ice cream?”
“It’s just ice cream, little girl.”
“Don’t call me that.”
He looks down at me from his great height. “Why not? It seems apt.”
“Only because you’re a stupid tall giant.”
He ignores that remark as much as he resembles it. We get to the ice cream cart and it turns out he’s buying.
“What flavor do you want?”
“The only flavor there is. Chocolate.”
“Chocolate coming right up.”
He gets chocolate ice cream for me, and vanilla for himself. Seems like a waste of ice cream to me.
“So you just don’t like flavor?”
“Vanilla is a flavor.”
“Vanilla is the opposite of flavor.”
“Let’s sit down,” he says. He’s pretty good at selectively ignoring the things I say.
I can’t come up with an objection to that, so we sit down amid thousands of happy screaming people and we eat ice cream while I wonder what the hell is going on. I don’t know what they’re playing at with this whole “ice cream” angle. It’s a far cry from what Vicious did to me when we first met, and it doesn’t make sense.
“You’re being nice to me. Vicious said he’d kill me. He didn’t say anything about theme parks. Are we going to go on a ride next?”
“If you want,” he shrugs.
“Okay, what the hell is going on?” It’s hard to get aggressive over ice cream, but I do my best.
“You’re Kitty’s friend. She probably wouldn’t like it if Vicious hurt you, and she’s giving him enough trouble as it is. So I’ll babysit you. Make sure you don’t cause trouble. It’s what I do for Vicious. I make sure trouble doesn’t find him.”
So he’s only doing this because he has to. I push away the reluctant attraction I was starting to feel for him. These are Kitty’s boys. She seems to have both of them wrapped around her little finger. They might be holding her captive, sort of, but I can tell she’s having an effect on them.
“This assignment is much more pleasant than most,” he adds with a wink which makes butterflies suddenly erupt in my stomach. Okay, he’s handsome. He’s not scared to handle me, and of course I find that attractive. And he bought me ice cream, which is a win for basically any woman on the planet. He’s basically cheating at this point.
“That’s good, I guess. Ice cream is probably better than blood and guts. But it’s not going to be enough to get rid of me.”
“It’s pretty obvious we’re not getting rid of you,” he says. “What is it you want?”
“I want to see her. I want to know she’s okay. She is my girl. I’m serious about that. She doesn’t have anyone else.”
“And neither do you,” he says perceptively. “Is that why you’re hanging around?”
“No!” I deny indignantly. His brow rises just a fraction and his eyes stay locked on me. “Alright. Maybe yes.”
He nods. “Hey. I understand. It’s normal for people like us not to have close family ties. We have to choose our families. You and Kitty are obviously close. She called you first when things were going wrong. And you showed up. You were brave.”
I try not to be pleased about the compliment.
“I’m just me.”
“Mhm. I’ll make a deal with you though.”
“I’ll give you my number. Next time you feel the need to drop round, text or call me first. Make sure you’re not getting caught up in something that will put you in more danger than you intend to put yourself in. Fair?”
I take a long lick of my ice cream. “Fair.”
I get back to my apartment, and sigh as I step through the door. It’s not a big apartment. It’s not even a particularly nice apartment. But it is mine. My plants greet me silently, just as I like it.