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The Bruja

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"I'm not going to give you the satisfaction," the wounded Riggs hissed, blood bubbling from his mouth.

About the Author

Gary Phillips
Gary Phillips's short stories have appeared, most recently, in Los Angeles Noir (Akashic) and in Full House (G.P....

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In this last episode we mostly wrap things up, but leave a few strange matters for earthly or cosmic interpretation.

Breakfast turns violent, more is revealed, and while a decent president gets elected, there's no rest for Congresswoman Kang.

"Now that's not being friendly, old hockey stick." Countryman's eyes glinted as he pressed his heel into Riggs's wound.

"Oh jeez," Cenine Gilmore said, watching the man who'd intended to kill her writhe and grit his teeth in pain.

"Fuck you, Dieter, I can take whatever you got."

Countryman stopped grinding his heel onto the top of the man's shoulder blade where his shot had bored in. The impact had driven Riggs off balance. At that same moment, Countryman had leaped into the room and smashed a lamp across his jaw to further stun him. This allowed him to relive their attacker of his Ingram assault weapon.

Now, pants on over his Woody Woodpecker boxers, he crouched down beside Riggs's sweating face. The other man was on his back, hogtied with linked lamp cord. "Who sent you? Mace?"

"I don't need him to give me the blueprint," Riggs seethed.

"You don't kill for free."

Riggs giggled. "You're out of step, pops."

"Meaning?"

"Meaning I answer to a higher power."

"What's he going on about?" Cenine Gilmore had stepped closer.

Countryman momentarily glanced back at her. "Who knows with this yahoo?"

"I know what the crow don't know," Riggs cackled.

"Moron."

Riggs said, "God is guiding my hand. I answer only to Him."

Countryman pursed his lips. "I knew you'd go off your nut one day, you squirrel-brained cheesehead."

"You're just jealous, as I no longer am concerned with earthly matters."

"Except putting a hole in me and Cenine," Countryman answered. He leaned in closer to Riggs's face. "You hearing the tiny voices in your head, Riggs, ready for the rapture, that it? He backhanded him contemptuously.

The younger woman asked, "What if he dies?"

Countryman huffed. "Nobody's going to miss him, Cenine. 'Sides, the shoulder is broken but no bone chips splintered into his neck--sadly, looks like he'll survive." He chuckled hollowly.

"Fucking right I will," Riggs said, suddenly hacking and coughing.

Countryman stood. He could work Riggs over thoroughly, there was a screwdriver in the cabin and some other useful tools. But he was sure he couldn't do it unfettered, given that his lover, the trophy wife of the dying billionaire, was present. She was nobody's butterfly, but he knew she wouldn't allow him to go full tilt on Riggs. And it was all or nothing with this trooper.

"We need to be going, don't we?" Cenine Gilmore observed.

"Pack light," Countryman answered.

"What about him?" she asked.

Countryman's white hair, which had turned this color in his mid-20s, was gray in the moonlight invading the room. "What about him?" He slowly looked from her down at his prisoner. The ashen cast of his features matched the color of his hair. "What do I do with you, Riggs?"

The prisoner appeared just as grim as his captor.

...

Cynthia Kang crossed the residential street up the block from the ranch-style house. Here in the City of North Las Vegas, miles from the Strip, you could be in any number of low-to-middle-income post-World War II neighborhoods. They reminded her of the way the houses looked in The Pajama Game. The tidy lawns were green and trimmed, and she could see a gardener in a straw hat at work on a modest-sized home fronted by a large set of poinsettia bushes.

The Congresswoman walked to the house and knocked on the unscreened front door. Up close she could see the house needed stuccoing and paint. A battered air-conditioner with a noisy fan was set in the window sill to her right. Water dripped from it and pooled on the concrete porch in a rust-brown splash pattern.

The door was opened by a tall woman in white jeans and a loose black silk top. Her grey and black hair was shoulder length and combed back from a high brow, a delicate necklace of polished stones about her neck.

"You're Lacy's friend."

"I am," Kang confirmed. She had specifically told Mills not to tell this woman she was an elected official. Outside of her district in Monterey Park, who the hell would know she was a representative anyway?

"Come on," the other woman offered, standing aside and letting Kang inside. The Congresswoman looked around the comfortably furnished front room . There was a plasma screen hoisted low on one wall. Beneath this was a tea cart with various plants and cacti on it. On an end table next to the couch was a take out box from KFC. On the other walls were framed prints, including a wheat field with workers in it by Thomas Hart Benton and, if Kang wasn't mistaken, a '70s one by Peter Max.

"Not what you expected a witch's house to look like?" The woman put her hands in her back pockets, a crooked smile in place.

"I suppose," Kang admitted. Maybe she kept her cauldron in the back, she mused.

"Like something to drink? I promise I won't slip you any powdered bat wing or John the Conqueror root, unless you want some." She didn't wait for an answer. "I'll get us some raspberry lemonade. Take a seat."

Kang did and accepted her glass when the woman returned. She sat opposite in a worn stuffed chair, a decorative Indian blanket draped over it. She set her glass aside on a coaster and crossed her lean legs. "I am correct, you're not a reporter?"

"I am not," Kang assured her. "Nonetheless, I do have an interest in your client, Mace Gilmore." She had some of her drink. "A keen interest, you might say."

"He's dying."

"I know. That's why I want to talk to him. That's why I want you to get a message to him."

"I may not see him again."

"But you might. And I'm willing to pay for your kindness."

Kang had heard different from Lacy Mills. Faced with what seemed an irrevocable date with the Grim Reaper, and having exhausted various avenues of traditional medicine, Gilmore had turned to alternative methods. Kang still wasn't clear what was the nature and character of Mills's relationship with Gilmore, and why she now was willing to open up to her about his secrets, but post their meeting, here she was in this so-called bruja's pleasant living room sipping juice and chatting.

"I see." The woman spread her arms wide, put her head back and as he body began to shake, she chanted.

To Be Continued...

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