Rating: NC17 for violence, murder, gunplay, adult themes. For safety’s sake, this will apply to ALL chapters. There will be no smut in this fic. There will be references, but references only, to rape, murder, mutilation in places
Copyright © January 2007 xxxevilgrinxxx
Candice was quiet during our ride across the city. Paid attention to where we were going, but it was the action of a tourist. She didn’t know where we were going, and she didn’t ask; just looked at this street or that store and took it all in. It was gone again by the time she looked at something else. It would be a while before she really saw anything again.
The shadier side of El Paso had her frightened, and she turned away from the window to watch me carefully as we passed warehouses. I wondered about how much she knew about the other women, about where they had been found, or if she was just afraid. I wondered if I should ask her about it, if she would have any answers. One look at her wide innocent eyes and I knew that she didn’t, she was just afraid of things she didn’t know and wanted so badly to trust something. To not be hurt. I didn’t ask her.
I could tell her it was okay, but I settled for silence instead. I’m sure lots of people told her it was going to be okay. Probably before they did something awful to her. I made sure to park under the bright lights out front, rather than pull into the back, which is what I would have done any other day.
Under the light, Candice relaxed again, and looked at me sheepishly, as she fidgeted with her hair, pulling it back behind her ears again. We hadn’t spoken until that moment. “You’re safe, from now on; you’re safe, okay, Candice?” Her wide smile brightened the whole car, a bright fleeting smile that had nothing to do with seductiveness or anything else she might have been selected for. It was simple, pure, and gone all too soon.
I had watched the car that had followed us, across the city. Driving fast would have scared Candice out of her mind, and if I thought the car was a threat I would have driven straight to the cop station, instead of to Hernandez’ diner. He moved in especially close on one street before he slipped back again. He wasn’t tailing me; he was making sure I wasn’t tailed. Marcus.
He pulled his own car around back and walked out under the lights to watch me get out of the car. Emotionless, he watched as I went around to open the door for Candice. Her bare feet still pulled at my heart and there was no way I was going to let her walk across the puddles to the diner. I hadn’t asked the first time. “I’m gonna have to carry you, Candice, okay?”
Even if she had said no, I think I would have done it anyway, but she blinked slowly and then nodded. She trembled less this time. Marcus watched us carefully from the low front deck of the diner, looking out of place amidst the bright patio furniture. He eyed the girl carefully and took in her bare feet, before his dead eyes moved back up to my face. An imperceptible nod. “Mr Hernandez, he not here right now. He say to wait for him.”
I hadn’t let Candice down, and she clung to me a little tighter when she got a look at Marcus. Marcus raised a set of keys and opened the door to the diner, holding it open for me.
The diner was dark and quiet, serene, its stainless steel surfaces and red leather taking on a softer light. I set Candice down and guided her to a booth along the side. She was still nervous, but seemed less so as long as I was close.
Marcus had already moved silently across the diner after throwing the lock on the door, up to the coffee makers behind the counter. It was surreal, to watch someone like Marcus back there in the half-light, doing something as mundane as making coffee. I stood and just watched for a minute or two.
“Are you warm enough?” Candice looked startled when I spoke; she had also been watching Marcus. I guess that was understandable, he was a good-looking kid. A quick nod of her head, her knees drawn up and her bare toes peeking over the edge of the bench seat. “I’ll see about getting you something to eat.” I reassured her again that she was safe, and made a point to stay within sight of her, as her eyes tracked me wherever I went.
The grill wasn’t lit, and I had no idea how long it would take to heat something like that up. It seemed a bit much to turn it on for one anyway, so I looked underneath the counters, and found a waffle iron that I could plug in. Yeah, waffles, now there was something I knew I could do.
Down underneath again for some eggs out of a reach in fridge, look up to let Candice know I’m still here. She’s a little nervous when Marcus crossed the floor to leave the cup of coffee on the edge of the table for her, eying her feet again.
When I looked up again his elbows rested on the pass-through between us; he hadn’t made a sound. “Stores be open in a few hours.”
I knew he wasn’t talking about the diner itself, and he didn’t have a dire need for shopping. We were both on the same page; Candice at the very least needed something for her feet. At the least. She needed to get back home too. I finished the batter and pooled it into the waffle iron, closing it with a satisfying hiss.
“She’s going to need more than that, Marcus. I need to get her home, to Kansas.” I shook my head as I reached down for some preserves under the counter as the first waffle turned just the right color. “A ticket’s not the problem…”
“…Need to know she get there all right.” Marcus finished for me. “That she be okay when she get there.”
The kid scared the shit out of me when I first met him, and to be honest he still scared the shit out of me. I guess that wasn’t all there was to him though, or he wouldn’t have had my back the way he had so far. The first batch of waffles went on the plate and I watched Candice’s eyes light up when she saw them. Her head dropped back down though, as though she didn’t want to get her hopes up. It tore at me. I nodded at Marcus and slid the plate across the pass-through towards him, a silent agreement.
Marcus brought her the plate, grabbing utensils from a bin near the coffee cups, and I started making more. She was starved, and a full belly was a comfort I knew how to give. He sat down on the other side of the table from her, carefully so he wouldn’t scare her, with a cup of coffee of his own.
I finished up with the stack of waffles, and cleaned up a little. Candice had wolfed the first one, which made me smile, in a sad way. They were talking quietly when I brought over the rest of the stack. She looked at us both before looking at the stack of waffles; neither of us touched them. I pushed the plate over to her and we both sat to watch her eat. A strange sort of satisfaction, almost primal, to take care of her and make sure that she was fed. That we both watched her let me know I wasn’t alone in that thought.
She slowed, probably stuffed, and let out a big sigh as she looked at the rest of the waffles. Wanting them but not having the room for them. I came back to the table with a take out box and left it close to her, with a plastic fork in case she got hungry later.
We sat quietly for a while and drank coffee until her nerves kicked in and she thanked us both, and ended up in tears again. Marcus and I both reached across the table to comfort her, to touch her hand and let her know it was okay. I pulled mine back and let him take her hands in his. If I thought it was odd to watch him make coffee, watching as he comforted Candice was stranger.
She looked at me, her eyes holding mine and asking me silently if it was safe. She only returned Marcus’ touch when I nodded. A few minutes later I left to move my car around back, so that it wouldn’t stand out in the parking lot. Candice was laughing quietly at something Marcus had said when I got back. It was a beautiful sound. Her smile was back, a fleeting ghost.
Marcus made a quiet phone call, standing near the door to the diner, so he couldn’t be heard. Hernandez. No one else could inspire that sort of reverence in him, I think; it was always ‘Mr Hernandez’. He would be back in less than a half an hour.
Marcus would drive her back to Kansas. She had no ID, no way to buy her a ticket in her name, and there was no way to know if anyone would come after her or if she would be safe when she got there. So a flight, with all its paperwork, was out of the question. Candice cried again, quietly overwhelmed, when we talked about the arrangements to get her home. “I don’t know how to thank you, both of you, I…” We waited until she was okay again, a line of concentration between her brows. “In the alley, your name was…” She couldn’t remember in her terror, and I didn’t blame her, but she was terribly embarrassed.
I reached out to hug her one last time, her skinny arms around my neck. “You can call me ‘Danno’.”