Thursday, July 24, 2003
Tonight, a snippet from Badlands. This is mostly for the people in chat who have been following the story.
... She saw the last of the people part from between them, and faced a half dozen Los Gentes Rojos standing in a line, blocking their way. Taja's warning had helped; she never broke stride until she stood only a single step from Enrique. For a moment, his eyes flickered and he must have wondered if she would try to push right past him.
Stupid child, she thought. He had that childish look -- short and stocky, shaggy chestnut hair, sullen gray eyes, and a perpetual pout. Today he also had a bright ugly cut across his right cheek. His finger touched the spot and the glare he gave Angel told Carmen all she needed to know about how he got that wound. This wasn't getting any better.
"I don't have time to stand here, Enrique," she said. Her voice stayed cool and even, but strangers backed away nonetheless, and members of both gangs dropped their hands to their belt knives.
"I don't like you, Carmen," Enrique said.
"Fine. You don't like me. Call your puppies back and I won't bother you any more tonight."
He suddenly smiled back at her. It gave him a vicious, calculating look, but didn't make him appear any less of a child. Carmen cautioned herself to not fall into that trap. He couldn't really be as stupid as she thought. He wouldn't have held on to the Rojos even this long.
"Carmen, everyone says you went soft. You're too old to hold the Calles. I think they're right." He looked away fromher to the other Calles who stood at her back. "Aren't you ninos tired of always backing away from a fight? She's an old woman. What does she know about gang honor any more?"
Carmen had at least six years of gang fighting experience over Enrique, no matter how high up the ladder this infant had climbed. She proved it now. She drew her belt knife and took that last step forward. Her left hand caught startled Enrique by the shoulder (fool to have looked away!) and spun him around until his back pressed against her chest, and her knife rested against his neck.
Everyone -- his gang, her gang, and the outsiders -- looked stunned. Enrique stood stiff with rage in her hold, but she finally learned he really wasn't as stupid as he looked. He refrained from fighting with certain death pressed at his neck.
"What do you think would happen if I slit your throat right now, General de Los Rojos? Do you think your gang would consider your death worth open warfare? Maybe they'd decide that they need someone with intelligence, maybe some experience, to lead them. Don't play these games with me, Enrique."
She pulled the knife aside without even scratching him, hard as that proved to be right then. She shoved the leader of the Rojos toward his people, and by the time Enrique had recovered, she and her Calles had gone past. She didn't look back.
Show no weakness.
"And you told me to stay out of trouble?" Angel said.
"You the one who cut his face?"
"You didn't mention that to me."
"I didn't think you'd really want to know."