Magna Mater

by lingonberryjelly

Magna Mater


The Killer had taken a few bullets. According to Cook, the street-doctor he’d paid to patch him up, it seemed to be twenty-three.

He felt surprisingly good. The small bed in the trailer he shared with Jane felt softer than usual and the world felt atypically right.

The five o’ clock news on their portable TV was talking about a fire at the docks a few days before and another fire in Chinatown. They seemed to think there was a connection, and they were making statements phrased as questions suggesting the fires were the work of the Midtown Torch.

He glanced through the open shutter-door to the kitchen and saw Jane sitting at the table, staring at him.

You okay?” she asked for at least the twentieth time in the last twelve hours.

He hadn’t asked her how she was doing, because he didn’t want to hear the answer. She’d lost a finger, the index finger from her right hand, taken by the same men who’d shot him. Their fight had been with him.

The Killer had a feeling in his stomach; he was pretty sure it wasn’t just the three bullet holes. It felt like he knew tomorrow was Jane’s birthday, and he’d neither bought her a gift nor knew what she wanted. That might have been what guilt felt like, he thought. Maybe he was supposed to say he was sorry, but it would probably just piss her off.

She was so beautiful. Even having spent the whole day sharing the same air with her, looking at her now, he still felt like they hadn’t seen each other in weeks. It could have been the new perspective he found himself with.

One of those twenty-three GSWs had been a straight shot to the forehead, exiting at the back of his skull. At first he’d felt dizzy, but that was the loss of depth perception.

He wasn’t just blind in his right eye, as he’d initially thought. The vision in that eye was mostly black but with the occasional splotch of avocado.

Still staring at Jane, gray-green was splashed across the crotch of her black jeans, the underarms of her black t-shirt, radiating from her soft lips and her usually-pink nostrils. He was pretty sure he could see infrared.

I asked, are you okay?” Jane said, tensing like she was ready to get up and run to him.

I’m fine, Baby.”

She smiled, probably from the pet-name, but then she looked confused. He usually called her Jane, but Baby had come out of his mouth unbidden.

Surprise-affectionate-pleasantries and heat-vision weren’t the only strange features of his newly scrambled brain. He seemed to have lost the capacity for basic math. He’d tried adding two plus two and come up with And on the seventh day; he knew that wasn’t right. He found he could derive the sum through multiplication, but that trick wouldn’t work for many number combinations.

Are you hungry,” she asked. “We’ve got Kraft singles and mustard….” She sounded like she was trying to tempt him.

I’m fine. I feel pretty good,” he said, and added, “considering,” because telling her how good he actually felt would probably worry her.

There was a knock at the door of their trailer, and Jane drew a chrome 45 from the holster he’d taped under the table.

She put her shoulder to the side of the door and peered out the porthole window, but then she stepped back. There was terror on her pale face, something he’d never seen before.

The Killer struggled up and switched off the TV, fumbling for the AK tucked under their bed.

Don’t,” Jane said, holding up her hand as she shook her head. “…I’m really sorry.”

What is it?”

…Could you put on a shirt?”

Yeah,” he said, reaching for the T-shirt he’d worn the previous night.

A different shirt,” she said, rushing over and handing him a button-up from the less-dirty pile. She held it out to him with her right hand, the one with a bandaged stump in place of a finger; Cook, their doctor, had told him the finger had been off too long to reattach.

I’m sorry-” the Killer said.


For your finger- I mean for you losing your finger. They were after me-”

Stop it!” she said. She looked really pissed, and like she might cry.

He probably shouldn’t have apologized.

Are you gonna button your shirt, or should I do it for you?” she asked.

I’ll do it,” he said. “Who’s at the door.”

…I’ll let her in.” Jane walked the few steps back to the door like she was walking the plank, stopping to place the pistol back in its holster under the table.

She pulled the latch and the door swung out.

Jane! What happened?” It was a woman’s voice, dignified, but slightly shrill.

…Hi,” Jane said, and stepped back from the door.

The trailer rocked as the woman stepped in. She was middle-aged, but well preserved, wearing white capris with a pink sweater. Her hair was bleach-blond in a Diana bouffant.

She surveyed the trailer’s interior like she was taking in the havoc wreaked by a lonely dog. Her eyes stopped on the Killer as he sat on the edge of the bed wearing a miss-buttoned mustard stained white dress shirt and the blood stained jeans from the previous night.

Hey,” he said, and the woman took a step back.

This is my mother,” Jane said.

Margaret,” the woman said. Her dialect was classy enough to make the name three syllables.

Hey,” the Killer said again, and started to rebutton his shirt.

Is this Jack?” Margaret asked.

Ah!” Jane said.

Jack wasn’t the Killer’s name, though Jane had tried using it for him once, soon after they’d first met. She’d seemingly been hunting for an easy name. He understood, in the abstract; it might be hard talking to someone who didn’t have one. But Jack was the name of a dead friend, and, of any name she could have snatched out of the air, alliterative or otherwise, it wasn’t one he preferred.

Yeah,” the Killer said.

Jane looked like she was going to cry again. “…Yeah, this is Jack Dempsey,” she said.

The Killer’s dead friend hadn’t been a boxer or had the last name Dempsey as far as he knew; there seemed to be some tightly woven web about which the Killer had been kept in the dark.

This is my mother,” Jane said.

You already said that, Jane,” Margaret said.

It’s nice to meet you, Margaret,” the Killer said. He found it easier to stand than he’d expected, but as he approached her she took another step back.

He held out his hand and waited. The strategy usually worked with stray dogs, and Margaret eventually folded, shaking his hand.

Do you need a doctor?” Margaret asked, and he noticed the bloody spots, growing in a number of places on his white shirt.

Already seen one.”

We were in a car crash,” Jane said, hiding her right hand behind her back.

Are you alright!” Margaret shrieked, turning back to her. “Why are you hiding your hand?”

I’m not,” Jane said.

So,” the Killer said, “You like a beer?”

No?” Margaret said, temporarily distracted from Jane’s missing finger, though it was clearly a losing battle. “Jane hasn’t told me what you do,” she said, looking around the trailer again.

Jane was about to open her mouth, but the Killer spoke first, not wanting to let her write his cover. “Security,” he said. “I work the back for Central Armored Transport.”

…The back.”

Of the truck.”

In an armored car?”

Yeah,” he said. It was a cover he’d come up with in a hurry, but it was as good as any. If Jane hadn’t said they’d been in a car crash, it would have explained the gunshot wounds.

…Isn’t that dangerous?”

Not as much as you might think- Not nearly a snapped break-line in an El Camino,” he said, chuckling at his quick wits.

Why are you here, Mother?” Jane asked, sounding very tired.

They usually went to sleep in the morning. It was some kind of gunshot-wound-buzz keeping the Killer awake, and Jane had stayed up with him.

…You never call,” Margaret said, “and the last time you came home- I thought you could come by for dinner, and bring Jack with you, of course.”

Fine. I’ll call you tomorrow,” Jane said, and started ushering her mother out, her left hand on her mother’s shoulder with her right hand still hidden behind her back.

It was nice meeting you,” the Killer said, and Jane slammed the door.

I’m really sorry,” she said, slowly turning to him with tears in her eyes.

…What about?” he asked.

My mother showing up-”

She seems nice.”

And… I told her you were called Jack,” she said, sniffling as the tears broke the banks of her eyelids. “She asked, and I couldn’t think of anything….”

Fifty-one by KO,” he said.


Dempsey. Don’t worry Honey, I’m too mean to die.”

I don’t understand,” she said, and started crying harder.

He just died, a few months ago. Those were his last words. Neat, right?”

Yeah,” she said, but she didn’t seem to appreciate it.

He reached past her to the gas lamp mounted on the wood-laminant wall, and turned the little brass knob. It popped and the fire went out.

What’re you doing?”

I wanna go to bed,” he said. “This’s when I woke up yesterday, you must’ve been awake longer.”

They gave me something that made me sleep,” she said. Her lip started to quiver, and her arms made a strange twitch.

His first thought was, she’d meant to slap him but hesitated because of his injuries, but she looked more broken than he’d ever seen her, and not particularly angry. He slowly wrapped his arms around her, and felt her relax against his chest.

Should I sleep in the kitchen?” she asked. “So I don’t roll over and hurt you-”

The bed’s fine, but I might get blood on you.”

I’ll shower in the morning,” she said, slipping past him and tottering towards the bedroom.

He watched as she slipped off her jeans and closed his left eye as her panties dropped to the floor. She tossed her t-shirt onto the definitely-dirty pile, and stretched over to the bedroom lamp, turning it off with another pop.

Her muscles stretched, and the skin slid over her ribs, all outlined in a faint gray-green.

I think I can see infrared.”

…What d’you mean?” she asked as she climbed under the covers and he started unbuttoning his shirt.

Like, heat…. But it’s kinda green. You’d think it’d be red, or orange at least,” he said, tossing the shirt back on the less-dirty pile.

Is that like how dogs see?”

I think dogs see black and white,” he said, lying beside her and pulling her close. “You know jellyfish can see gravity?”

…I hadn’t heard that,” she said.