Grand Arcade of Mare Crisium
Grand Arcade of Mare Crisium
Becka had never been strong, even before she’d spent a year on a diet of potato-chips and heroin. But she’d put on a bit of muscle in her new line of work and the wind always seemed to be at her back.
The man she was after was big, muscle like suspension cable under a thick layer of fat, and near seven feet tall.
He turned off Seneca, walking down Ionia Street. Ionia was a narrow alley lined with little shops. It bustled every Tuesday at noon when the vendors set out carpets and tables and peddled bits and pieces of their homeland, but this was a Thursday evening.
Ionia was cast in stripes from the shop windows interleaved by inky black.
The man stepped into a restaurant, Filiki Eateria.
Becka smelled Tiropita, like Spanakopita without the spinach. It was mostly the pastry she smelled, but the soft cheese carried its own scent, gentle, like sleeping in on a Saturday, and who’d want a pastry without filling.
“He won’t be long,” Jack said, appearing next to her like a ghost. “And he’s making a pickup, so it’ll be nice for your wallet-”
“Poly saw me, when I was dropping the cash last time.”
“I meant you can get something to eat, you’re hungry, right?”
“Yeah,” she said, noticing shadows blending into the darkness between shop windows. “I guess half of something’s still something.”
“Did I ever tell you about the Cavite Mutiny?” Jack asked.
“I don’t think so,” Becka said. His history lectures tended to drone on, and the shadows were creeping closer.
She heard the big man yelling inside the restaurant. It was literally Greek, and she didn’t speak a word of it.
She glanced in the window, feeling for the handle of a claw-hammer in her purse. Filiki Eateria seemed like a nice place, checkered blue and white table clothes and a ceiling hung with plastic grapes and leaves.
The big man had a trembling waiter’s tie in his clenched fist while the owner stood behind a counter making excuses. The owner would soon find the money he owed, but had momentarily misplaced, and the giant would be satisfied.
“It was kind of like a slave revolt, but it was more like conscripted labor…. Anyway- Ah, this was in the Philippines, about a hundred and ten- a hundred and eleven years ago-”
“You alright?” a woman asked. She was black, wearing a shiny-red riding suit, even though she preferred Detroit muscle. Her face was painted in a strange pattern.
Jack had told Becka it was supposed to resemble stained glass, but it was more like a broken mirror reflecting a simple Gothic pallet.
Her name was Abernathy. Becka knew her a little, but from the look on Abi’s face, she didn’t remember her.
“I know a doctor that won’t ask questions,” Abi said. “If it was some fuck you don’t wanna get in trouble.”
Jack was in Becka’s peripheral vision, pointing at the front of her dress. Her eyes followed his finger.
It had been a nice dress, the perfect mix of matronly and fun-loving, lime-green and covered in oddly-orange corn-cob pipes. She’d found it in a donation box for the Salvation Army, and she’d loved it for the first few hours she’d worn it, but that was a week ago. Now it was mottled, brown and red, and stuck to her skin in places.
“I’m okay,” Becka said and gave Abi a smile.
Abi stepped back, her hand drifting toward the back of her belt.
The second shadowed figure stepped forward. She wore a black jumpsuit as if she meant to paint the interior of a punk club.
Becka hadn’t met her before, though she’d seen her in passing.
“So, the Cavite Mutiny,” Jack said, clearing his throat. “A man named Fernando, he led a little uprising-”
“My lady only meant to offer assistance,” the new woman said. She sounded Russian, and looked it too, with short black hair and a nose that could cut glass.
“The native Filipinos, and those of mixed heritage and lower cast, wanted liberation from Spanish rule-”
“I appreciate the thought,” Becka said.
“Fernando waited, doing his work as a sergeant in the navy- He was waiting for a signal from Manila, where the soldiers were meant to join in on the revolution. Their signal was supposed to be the firing of cannons from the city walls. Fernando heard the fireworks-”
“…Have you been injured, in some way?” the woman asked. She might not have noticed Becka’s bloody dress before, but now she was staring at it.
“I’m waiting for someone,” Becka said. “So, he heard firecrackers and thought volley-guns?”
“Is this a… saying?” the woman asked turning back to Abi.
“…Have we met before?” Abi asked, squinting her eyes.
The big man walked out of Filiki Eateria, his pockets heavier than when he’d entered. The glass door jingled behind him.
Becka faded into the dark brick as Abi and the other woman took to the wall beside her.
The man walked past, heavy steps; Becka felt the asphalt vibrate beneath her feet. She waited the space of three breaths, but Abi started off before her.
“What happened next?” Becka asked.
“Miss Abernathy will conclude this night’s business,” the Russian woman said. “Then, if you wish to consider her offer for medical assistance, she will, I’m sure, call Cook for you.”
“Well, it was just fireworks, for some kind of religious festival, so the revolution failed. Fernado’s men killed a few Spanish officers.”
“That’s something…” Becka said.
“We try to help people, while doing our work,” the woman said.
Abi followed the man into the alley where he’d parked his Toyota, and Becka started followed her but the Russian put up a hand.
“You’re asking me to wait,” Becka said.
“Yes. My Lady will finish soon.”
“Hey, you,” Abi said.
Becka peeked around the corner. The big man was standing next to his comically-undersized Japanese auto and staring down at Abi with a grin on his lips.
“You Lefterios?” Abi asked.
“Yeah…” the man said, his voice like a volcano rumbling. He seemed to grow taller as the smile spread on his fat lips. “I always wondered, Glass Virgin, is that just a name, or you never get with a man? ‘Cause I could help out with that.”
“I had a kid, you shit.”
Abi reached for the lead pipe in the back of her belt, but the man had her throat in his hand before she drew.
It looked for a moment like she was standing on tip-toes, but then her feet left the ground.
One second the Russian’s hands were empty but the next she was holding a small hook knife and something like a stiletto with a three sided blade.
“I got this,” Abi croaked.
She made a awkward twist in the air and grabbed the pipe from her belt. The man made a move to block but Abi swung, clipping his jaw with a crunch.
Abi dropped to the ground, flat on her feet, as the man took a stumbling step back, his jaw hanging from his face like a flesh-bag filled with bone shards and broken teeth.
He screamed something unintelligible and reached his right hand to the back of his belt.
Abi didn’t give him a chance. She made a big overhand swing, breaking his clavicle.
“Is this about the man he killed in June?” Becka asked as Abi went at his knees and the man toppled.
“He killed a man?” the Russian asked.
Abi started working on the rest of his joints as the man wailed.
“Last June,” Becka said. “So, why tell me about a failed revolution a hundred years ago?”
“I do not… understand,” the Russian said.
“I was just thinking about it,” Jack said. “It was another twenty years before they won freedom, but it started messy- and with fireworks…. It’s a good story.”
While Jack whispered in her ear, Becka wandered around the Russian’s back, slipping through her blind spot and getting a few paces down the alley before she started after her.
Abi was straddling the man, still working on his ribs with her pipe as Becka took a spot looking down at the man’s ruined, unconscious, face.
“This- I was gonna say isn’t what it looks like,” Abi said. “I forgot you were around. He’s a bad guy, though.”
“Really?” Becka said. “He looks pretty normal to me.”
“This the guy you were waiting for?- Is he the one that hurt you?” Abi asked, her professional fury becoming more personal.
“Yes, and no,” Becka said. She pulled the hammer from her purse and struck down, one clean hit to the middle of the man’s forehead.
Abi vaulted back, sliding on the toes of her boots and her finger tips. “Becka?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Becka said, delivering two more strikes to the man’s head. Definitely dead.
“What the fuck!?” Abi said. “…He probably wouldn’ta walked again, anyway….”
Becka never felt much, except hunger and slightly-happy when she was in Poly’s company, but Poly was bright enough she glowed in the dark.
Looking at the sadness and anger in Abi’s face, Becka remembered how it felt disappointing her dad every day of her old life.
Becka left the hammer where it was, stuck in the man’s skull, and started to rifle his pockets. She found the gold watch she was looking for and checked the fantastical piano wire that uncoiled from it.
“Should I cut her?” the Russian asked.
“…There’s no point,” Abi said.
She hadn’t lost her judgmental glare as she turned to leave.
“Money,” Becka said.
Abi turning back as Becka held up a wad of cash from Lefterios’ pocket.
“I was thinking, we could return it, to Filiki Eateria. In exchange for a meal.”
“…You inviting us?”
“Yes,” Becka said, pocketing her new weapon, and skipping back down the dark alley to Seneca.
“We are going to eat with this woman?” the Russian asked.
“Becka,” Becka said.
Filiki Eateria was empty when they walked in, except for the still-trembling-waiter who was weeping as he sat at a table near the back.
“I don’t think I’ve eaten Greek,” Abi said as they took a table. Becka pulled out an empty chair beside her so Jack could sit.
“Hello,” a man said, emerging from the back with menus in hand. He was Filiki Eateria’s owner, round and muscled, but not nearly the giant Lefterios had been.
The man froze, stopping stock-still in the middle of the restaurant, staring at Becka’s dress and Abi’s face-paint.
“…Rocky Horror,” Becka said.
The man crept forward, dropping the menus on their table. “I’ll get you water.”
“You think he’ll call the cops?” Abi asked.
“No,” Becka said.
“Isn’t it Wednesday?”
“They play Rocky Horror on Thursday night?”
“Somewhere,” Becka said as Olena’s eyes darted between them, probably lost in cultural context. “It always works, anyway.”
“I’ll remember that,” Abi said, scanning the menu.
“We should make an additional order, for Pashtana and the others,” Olena said.
Becka had already settled on a catering-scale order of Tiropita.
“Have you heard of the Cavite Mutiny?” she asked, and Abi shook her head.