Let's Make a Deal
She had to pull the car over to throw up. Having borrowed it from her friend Mina, the only other female in the Chicago branch of the Soldiers of the Sun, Julianna didn't want to pay her back by getting puke all over the seats. So she pulled over to the side of the road, opened the door and leaned over, heaving onto the curb. After a few moments of this, the brunette sat up straight again and wiped her mouth with the sleeve of her black hooded sweatshirt. She grabbed a bottle of warm Coca-Cola that was sitting in the cup holder, took a swig of the soda and spit it out onto the sidewalk to rid her mouth of the vile, acidic taste.
She checked her face in the vanity mirror and frowned. This was no way to meet a dealer, when one was a young female and had very little cash. Julianna let her hair out of her ponytail, shook it out and unzipped her sweatshirt. She was wearing a red athletic tank top underneath. That would have to do. She wasn't going to slut herself out, no matter how desperate she was. And she was desperate. The Fellowship wouldn't give her another dose of V until her next patrol, and that wouldn't be for awhile. She had to have two more bullshit counseling sessions, a prayer circle and 'self-reflection' time before she was let back out on the street again. That fuckwit Craig had to go die on her.
No matter. She was resourceful, and she had found another way. She clicked the mirror back into place and pulled out the slip of crinkled paper from her pocket with the dealer's name and address. He called himself Fox, and he lived about three houses away from where she had pulled over, so she decided to get out there and walk. Julianna was never unarmed, and she had her trusty revolver tucked into the waistband of her jeans and a knife strapped under her tank top. Once she reached the dealer's door, she knocked twice quickly, then once more, the way she had been instructed to.
Even when he was home, Fox made a habit of parading around in a black leather trench coat. It was a bit showy, to be sure, but given the nature of his profession, Fox found himself leaving the house at a moment's notice quite often, and it helped to already have coat over shoulders. Every second he wasn't wasting getting his shit straight was another second he could push V on whatever desperate addict or self-righteous vamp fighter claimed to need it. Fox, with three days' worth of stubble and slicked-back black hair, actually looked far creepier than he actually was, though he knew to keep a low profile since his job was ... less than legal.
The Great Revelation, while seemingly inconvenient on the surface, actually helped business.
Hearing a double knock, followed by a single knock, Fox frowned. He wasn't expecting a customer until tomorrow; had he gotten the date wrong? He shrugged, approaching the wooden door frame, dimming the lone light in his sparse living room. This was exactly why he kept on the coat and made sure he was armed at all times. It never hurt to be prepared at all times.
Twisting the rusty knob, Fox grinned when he laid eyes on the dark-haired woman in the red tank top. "Well, good evening," he said, leaning against the door frame. "And here I thought tonight was going to be boring."
Julianna took a deep breath and looked up at the dealer appraisingly. He was bigger than her, but nothing she couldn't handle. She had four hundred dollars in cash, which she knew wasn't enough, but she was hoping with a little sweet talk she'd get her way. She didn't really want to resort to violence. "Hi," she said, putting on a sorority-girl smile and flipping her hair over her shoulder. "I was recommended to you by a very loyal customer. Can I, like, come in?"
She peered behind him, tilting her head innocently and hooking her thumbs through her belt loops. She scuffed her gym shoe against the concrete stoop and waited. Taking it slow and easy. Julianna was going to get what she came for, no matter what.
Squinting, Fox was initially skeptical. This girl certainly didn't seem like the kind who used what he was pushing. Maybe she was confused and looking for something else? Fox had his share of bums knocking on his door looking for a hit of weed or coke -- hell, one guy tried to buy heroin from him two weeks ago -- was this girl cut from the same cloth? Or was there more to this girl than met the eye?
Fox supposed it didn't really matter. A customer was a customer.
He stepped aside, extending his left arm. "Get in here," he said, peering out to the street before shutting and locking the door. The deadbolt always went in when it looked like he might be making a deal.
She entered the house, looking around in a mildly interested fashion. In reality, she was checking out the size of the room, different escape routes besides the front door. It looked like the living room led to the kitchen via a long hallway, with some closed doors along the side. Probably bathroom or bedroom. The windows on the outside of the house looked small, but she could squeeze through them if necessary, if things got ... messy. Julianna often found that since the age of sixteen, things never really went as planned for her.
Lowering her voice, she turned to Fox. "I need some V. Preferably a vial. I find it makes me ... sharper. Do you think you could help me?" She flashed him another smile.
Fox returned the smile, but it was largely empty. "Depends," he answered, flopping down into his dingy green couch. "You got the scratch?"
The dealer scratched the stubble just under his chin at that moment, an unintentional gesture -- though he supposed it was rather amusing, considering he'd just used the word scratch. Fox decided at that moment that if blood-dealing didn't work out, he might have a nice back-up career as a stand-up comic.
Then again, business was so lucrative of late, a career change probably wasn't necessary.
"I charge $700 a vial," he said. "It sounds like a lot, but this shit ain't easy to come by."
Julianna laughed, walking toward him but not sitting down. She slipped off her sweatshirt and set it down on his coffee table. "Your guy told me six hundred. I was hoping we could bargain with each other. Develop a solid salesman-customer relationship." She was about three feet away from him now, and she fought to keep the indignation out of her voice. The nerve of the guy, to up the price on her, thinking she was stupid and naive. She knew the street value. "I mean, you look like a really reasonable guy, with a good business going on here."
The soldier had taken care to load her gun with normal bullets, in lieu of the silver ones. Those could be traced back to the Fellowship, and she couldn't have that. They'd axe her so quickly if they knew she was an addict, despite the fact they had gotten her hooked on the shit. She was supposed to practice V 'responsibly' and 'in the name of the Lord'. Was it her fault she built up a monster tolerance?
"Six hundred, huh?" Fox repeated, scratching his chin. "Hm, looks like I've got a snitch. A lying one, at that."
He glanced up at the woman, who had since shucked her sweater. It gave him a pretty nice view, even if she seemed a little pale. Maybe it was just the lighting. Then again, if she was looking for V, maybe she was having withdrawals and needed a fix. Fox grinned. He was beginning to sense a little desperation. Sharks in the water, baby ... sharks in the motherfucking water.
"Tell you what," he added, sitting up. "I'm a fair guy, I don't like dicking people around. It's not my thing. You were told 600 bucks, we start at 600 bucks."
"Great! That's really awesome of you." Julianna patted her pockets, and then cringed. "Except, well ... I only have four hundred on me right now, in cash. But I get paid tomorrow, and I swear on my dad's grave I'll bring you the money, ASAP. Is there anything I can leave as collateral until then? I have this watch, it was my sweet sixteen present, it's platinum." She held up her wrist to display the shiny timepiece. "I'm good for it, I swear." Her green eyes were wide and innocent as she spoke. The kind of girl who would never even dream of ripping off a dealer.
The smile on Fox's face grew. He sat upright again, resting his arms on his knees. "Well, I don't take IOUs or collateral anymore," he offered. "Been dicked over too many times. Nothing personal against you, I just ... gotta look out for myself. Business stuff, you understand, right?"
He scratched an imaginary itch on his right forearm, chewing his lip in faux thought. This girl, for whatever reason, seemed really intent on getting her V fix. He figured that since he'd never seen her before, which told him she had another dealer. Fox didn't know why she was barking up his tree for the stuff, but he didn't really care; a sale was a sale.
He also knew that if someone was desperate enough, there was no telling what they would do to get what they wanted.
Leaning back in the couch again, Fox licked his lips. "There might be something you can offer me, though ... you know, if you want this stuff bad enough."
Her arm fell back against her side, and she stared at him. She wasn't stupid, and he knew what he was implying. Still, Julianna smiled back, taking another step toward the tattered sofa where Fox sat. "There is? Like ... what?"
Inside, her heart was thudding, skipping random beats and then jumping back into life. It was the side effects of coming off the V. The throwing up, the irritability that eventually spiraled into uncontrollable anger. The last thing she felt was sexy, and even if she did, it wouldn't be for this dirtbag. But she would pretend, at least for the time being.
Fox's smile didn't look condescending, but that's exactly what it was. He loved this position of power; having something someone wanted so badly and testing them to see just how far they were willing to go to get it. Though he fashioned himself a business man, Fox almost preferred it when a customer couldn't pay full price. Sure, getting 600 or 700 a pop was a good thing, but it was almost more fun testing someone.
He reached into the inside pocket of his leather coat, producing three small red vials and placing them on the scratched coffee table in front of him. He leveled another gaze the woman's way. "I usually charge 700 for one vial," he said. "But like we agreed, the price for you is 600. Now, depending on how far you're willing to go for me, I might reduce the price ... and give you all three.
"I just gotta know," he stood, approaching the woman and hovering over her, inches from her, "how bad you want it?"
She laughed, looking up at the dealer alluringly. "I want it pretty bad," Julianna said, her voice low. Her hands trailed down to her jeans, as if she were about to unbutton them. She felt as if she were moving in slow motion, and her pulse slowed a bit as she focused on what she was doing. Slow, deep breaths. There was a buzzing in her ears, and she had to fight to keep her eyes on him, instead of on the three vials that rested on the table. Three, all for her. They'd last her for months, she would use the aspirin trick Mina had showed her. If the blood starts to coagulate due to age, just put a few drops on a tab of aspirin, and it's good as new, if not better.
Without warning, Julianna whipped her knife out from under her shirt, pressing the sharp end of the blade against his throat and grabbing his arm with her other hand. "I want it pretty damn bad."
Fox was just about to grab the woman by her hip when he felt her grab his arm and place the cold blade against his throat. The shock was only momentary, replaced quickly by a fit of anger. Fox suddenly wished he hadn't dropped out of tae kwon do when he was 12; those skills would've definitely helped him right now.
"Yeah, I can see that," he managed, his eyeballs straining to see the blade resting against his neck. He kept as still as he could, not even shaking from nerves. This certainly wasn't the first time a potential customer got the jump on him, and if she didn't kill him tonight, Fox knew it wouldn't be the last.
"Question is, why?" He cocked his head to the side, his free arm grabbing her wrist and pulling the blade away. "You don't strike me as the throat-slitting type, so why act all serial killer on a complete stranger for some vamp blood?
"You got issues, baby."
Julianna put her arm down, clicking the blade closed and putting it in her pocket. Her eyes brimmed with fake tears. "Oh my God, you're right. I'm sorry, I ... I wasn't thinking. I've just never been so desperate for something and I panicked. I'm going to leave, and I'll never bother you again." She nodded, backing away slowly, her eyes still on him. When she was a few paces away from the door, she finally turned around. "I'm sorry," she said again.
Her hand reached out for the doorknob. She had a choice in this. She could run to the car, go back to the Fellowship and tough out the wait. Attend the sessions and take some anti-nausea medicine. But then the anger took hold again, and she realized Fox would have gladly exploited her, used her. Dealers always thought they were so superior to their customers.
She pulled out her gun and before he could move, she aimed for his shoulder, right above his bicep, and pulled the trigger.
Fox relaxed when the woman put away her blade and turned away. He sighed inwardly, glancing skyward when her back was to him. No matter how many times Fox was threatened or beat up, the reality of this possibly being his last deal never diminished. Fox wasn't necessarily scared for his life in these instances, but he'd be naive to think this line of work wouldn't be the death of him.
The sound of the gun going off snapped Fox out of his trance, just in time for him to feel the bullet tear through his shoulder. He grunted in pain, the force of the shot throwing his arm back until he lost his balance and fell to the floor in a heap. The tail of his trench coat wrapped around Fox's legs, making it hard for him to roll onto his back to face the woman again.
Once he did, his teeth were gritted, his forehead coated in sweat. His left hand braced his right shoulder, blood seeping through between his fingers. "What the fuck?! Crazy fucking bitch!"
She smirked at him, appearing to be strangely pleased by his reaction. Grabbing her sweatshirt off the table and putting it on, Julianna zipped it up and grabbed the vials, stuffing them into her pockets. "It's better than what a vampire would do to you if he caught you pushing this stuff. They don't need guns when they have fangs, and that supernatural strength. That really comes in handy." Pausing for a second, she leaned over and went through his pockets, relieving him of his weapons and a stray bundle of cash. She flipped through the thick stack of hundred dollar bills. "Nice. Looks like I'll be getting my own wheels soon."
Straightening, she drew her sleeves over her hands and wiped his gun off before emptying the cartridge and placing it on the table. "Well, this has been fun, but I have to get back to the Fe -- to home."
Fox laughed, shaking his head in spite of the mind-numbing pain in his shoulder. "So that's what this is ... you're one of those pious fuckers, aren't you? Pretty little God freak, doing your part to kill the vampires for a golden ticket to the pearly gates."
The dealer shook his head again, sitting up as much as he could with a bullet wound in his arm. "What, you can't get this shit from them? Or does God not deem you fit enough to have vampire blood pumping in your veins?"
Fox spat at the woman's feet, snarling. "Fucking God, ruins everything." He grinned. "Bet they'd love to know you're out here trying to buy the shit yourself. Something tells me they hate freelancers."
Julianna stared at him coldly, not flinching as he went on his tirade, nor when he spat at her. "I don't believe in God," she told him. "And even if I did, I wouldn't feel guilty about this." Who would believe a drug dealer over her, a Soldier of the Sun with an impeccable track record? Her friend was providing her with an alibi, and no one else knew she was coming there. She knew no 'loyal customer,' she had found Fox by interrogating a few fang-bangers outside one of the vamp bars downtown. Her tracks were covered. Criminals got shot all the time. That's just the way it was, and the cops wouldn't care.
"Bet they'd love knowing their soldiers were going out and about, though," he grinned, trying his best to ignore the pain shooting up his arm. It was powerful enough to make him wince, though. "Almost as much as the city would love to know their righteous, anti-vampire wannabe mayor was also peddling this shit."
Fox laughed, shaking his head again. "You're desperate cause you know you're in deep. You act all big and tough, tote around a big-ass gun. But you wouldn't have shot me if you didn't want to make sure the church boys didn't find out what you were doing.
"They'll fucking smite you, and you know it."
She didn't even realize she was pointing the gun at him again until she looked down. "Shut up! Just ... shut up. I can't think." Julianna closed her eyes, backing away from him. She opened them again, watching the blood drip down his arm. It was over if he went to the church. They weren't stupid, either, and they made sure to monitor their soldiers closely for signs of addiction. Going to Fox for extra V was a big, glaring fucking sign. It wasn't just herself she was worried about. Either they kicked her younger brother out, too, and they'd be homeless again, or they'd keep him and not let her ever see him again. And Julianna couldn't have either of those things.
"Should have just kept your mouth shut," she told him. She sighed and fired two more rounds into his chest. Thank God for silencers.
Fox was laughing again when he felt the bullets tear into his chest. A stunned grunt was really all the dealer could manage before he slumped back to the floor, eyes wide open and staring at the ceiling as blood continued to seep from his arm and began trickling out from the corner of his mouth.
He never really saw it coming, and as it turned out, this was his last customer. Ironic, really; all this time Fox spent trying to keep customers from fucking him over, one finally did. Not only did she swipe his stash without paying, but he made sure Fox could never make another deal again.