City of Roses
Gypsy Esmerelda Vedma
Darkly smouldering Gypsy beauty, gleaming obsidian eyes and raven cascades of hair draped over a lush, young body.
“Oh, these gorgeous eyes, dark and glorious eyes,
Burn-with-passion eyes, how you hypnotise!
How I adore you so, how I fear you though,
Since I saw you glow! Now my spirit’s low!
Darkness yours conceal mighty fires real;
They my fate will seal: burn my soul with zeal!
But my love for you, when the time is due,
Will refresh anew like the morning dew!
No, not sad am I, nor so mad am I;
All my comforts lie in my destiny.
Just to realise my life’s worthiest prize
Did I sacrifice for those ardent eyes!”
- Ochie Chorniye (Rus. raven eyes, ebony eyes, black eyes, dark eyes) Russo-Gypsy Folk song sang to a Gypsy violin.
You remember her—vividly, perfectly—in your dreams and desires: Darkly smouldering Gypsy beauty, gleaming obsidian eyes and raven cascades of hair draped over a lush, young body. Her stare reminds you that her kind trafficked with spirits and The Devil, ensorcelled men and hexed them. Doomed men and the burning stake were in those staring eyes . . .. You want to go to her.
- * *
But this was a place of straight lines and perfect corners, concrete, cement, a puny moon and faint stars, barely seen, never felt, through the dim orange-gold glow radiating from the city’s street lights, night life and skyscrapers. And the sky here was an angry glow reflecting from spontaneous, inartful clouds that wandered aimlessly over this city, Portland. Here he tread sidewalks and alleys, not deer paths and hunting trails. Here he hid in shadows cast by dumpsters and newspaper booths, not gargantuan twisted trees that canopied his Mistress’ forest. Here he was a barely tolerated lone wolf, on the hunting grounds marked by a pack not his own.p.
The latter hurt him to the core. Wolves were cunning creatures, brilliant hunters, cagey warriors and wise alphas. They assessed, considered, adjusted, acted. Terrence understood, but only belatedly admitted, that the Garou were powerful. Their gifts made them stronger than his — former — pack. His own gifts were wholly insufficient to challenge the Garou’s FEMALE alpha. He raged and seethed inside. He could not have imagined the pain of the hollowness from loosing his pack. Of loosing camaraderie. Respect. Awe. Leadership, and its joys and burdens. Family.p.
His Mistress was monstrous. Her will monstrous. Her commands monstrous. Her entertainments and needs monstrous. And his service to Her would have transformed him into Her monster, if not for his feelings for his pack.p.
These new people he was with. Faint echoes of his pack. He did feel something. . . . Involuntarily, his hand again closed around the medallion over his heart. It was beautiful and savage. He grinned grimly. But what he had lost — what the Hedge made him trade — for the medallion was so much more precious.p.
He was a hunter still; wherever he laired. A great enough hunter that his despised Mistress made him Her Eyes in Her forest demesne. And his skills were undiminished.p.
He had prowled around the city, extending his natural senses and tracking instincts. Hours of wandering, stopping, patiently watching, stealthily stalking. The Bratva. An underworld — Terrence actually smirked at the thought — organization. As if the Bratva really knew how far down the “underworld” descended. Terrence had followed the tattooed bully that had collected the drug money from the hippy scents-and-incense (and under-the-table drug) shop in a fashionable shopping neighborhood to a strip club palace in that corner of Downtown to a mid-level tough driving a new black Audi R8 to a rehabilitated commercial building-turned-lofts in a rapidly gentrifying slum.p.
It was obvious. The building’s “tenants” were a dozen and a half attractive, broken young women who never strayed beyond the porch and four heavily inked enforcers with dead eyes. And a fifth man. A mystery man. Terrence knew he was there. Felt him. Yet there was no trace. Never seen nor heard. No scent. No trash specific to him. Yet one area of the building — the basement was consciously avoided by both the girls and the bravos with equal studiousness and fear.p.
The girls were from everywhere and babbled in every language. White. Latina. Asian. Black. American. Mexican. Columbian. Korean. Japanese. Somali. And others besides. Their “vistors,” always male, drove expensive cars, sported Swiss and German watches, wore custom-made clothes, stayed for a few hours and left quietly, walking out with an easy, sometimes dreamy sometimes self-confident gait. But the enforcers were all Caucasian, inked in stars and other Eastern European prison-designed tattoos and spoke some Slavic language (though a few struggled with it haltingly). None carried their guns openly.p.
He waited. It was midnight by the time he found this place. By three o’clock, the flow of visitors disappeared. The girls — and their guards – grew sluggish, disinterested, barely awake. Terrence was ready to move, but decided that waiting another hour would be better for what he had in mind. So why was he already traversing a shadowy winding path, avoiding the pools of light blotting the street like a glowing rash, from his hiding place in the side-stairwell to the basement of a building diagonally facing his target?p.
Involuntarily, he was half way to the door of the building cum high class brothel, before he realized why. It was the sound of desperate weeping, and the staccato of “No! No! Don’t!” followed by the sound of heavy, dense meat hitting young, supple flesh.p.
This one, this female, wasn’t broken — yet. But in a few minutes she might be. Terrence did not like that. He struggled to find any other feeling, and failed. He rationalized his actions. She-wolves were always guarded and treated with respect, even when being forced to submit. Without them, a pack had no future. A pack might lose half its males and survive, but the loss of females meant sure oblivion. Terrence could accept that that was the impetus for his actions, nothing else. His lupine instincts demanded action, and he would not deny Wolf.p.
Freed from doubt, his feral savagery and other skills and gifts made walking through the door, and then breaking the arm and knocking out of the wife-beater wearing guard half-slumped in the armchair in the building’s lobby easy. Terrence took the heavy Colt Python .357 Magnum from the broken thug — and the pillows he was sitting on as a make-shift silencer (Terrence had seen that in several movies and TV shows).p.
The sounds that drew him had come from the second floor. He eschewed the heavy, old, tortuously slow and noisy elevator for the fire stairs. He emerged from the door to see two of the enforcers standing outside an apartment immediately across a wide hallway, leaning far in through an open door to witness a third tough cocking back his arm to punch out a naked, madly struggling Gypsy girl, sable hair flying, jet eyes flashing anger, balled up in torn rags, arms tightly clasped about locked knees.p.
He wanted as many of the prey — the Bratva — alive as possible, for questioning. And to recount his terrible prowess and easy dominance over them. He trusted himself to subdue two fit men, alert, or three groggy ones. But could not risk three men hyped full of pent up sexual urge and adrenaline. The shot through the pillows was like a peel of lightning. If the pillows quieted the shot, he could not tell. Hopefully, the explosion would blend in with the rest of the mayhem of shots and sirens issuing from the ungentrified part of the neighborhood.p.
As the lithe, muscular young thug slid down the wall, leaving a smeared crimson trail, Terrence streaked toward the other man, a barrel-built middle-aged enforcer, and slammed himself, shoulder first, full force into the man’s chest and face. The thug, thick as a dwarf, and a few inches shy of six feet, slammed back, cratering the wall behind him. Breath exploded from his lungs and blood from his nose. But he did not go down. Worse, the Bratva’s response was that of a veteran wrestler and boxer. Just as the street soldier bounced back off the wall, his fist shot out toward Terrence’s face in a streak. Terrence pivoted in time, but the punch still caught him squarely in the shoulder in an explosion of pain and body torque. The bravo immediately tried to grab at Terrence’s legs in order to trip and pin him. But the terrible sudden pain made Terrence even more savage and feral.p.
Terrence bit and chewed and clawed and struck with fist, elbows, shoulders, head, kicked with knees and feet, never bothering to defend against the repeated blows he received in return. The enforcer was experienced, trained and ferocious – for a man. But the Bratva was fighting a large, maddened predatory beast for survival. Eventually, simple fear was his undoing. The gangster shied from contact with this absolute maniac, this raging animal. Brutally punished, but enraged, Terrence’s next onslaught brought the man down in a bloody heap.p.
Terrence turned right into the barrel of a gun pointed at his head, but did not even slow as he fully pounced on this last man, the true target of his hatred. Part of the man’s bicep tore off in Terrence’s teeth, a moment later so did his left cheek. Terrence’s clawed hands raked the man’s chest, face, abdomen again and again and again. The bloody pile that was left was alive. Barely.p.
Terrence came through the apartment door as if expecting another predator, another combat. But he wanted to make sure the female — the girl — was alright, that the last thug had not hurt or killed her before turning on Terrence.p.
She was there. Wide-eyed. Stunned. No longer crying. Still balled up. Staring at him. He probably looked like a serial killer, he thought to himself. They just kept staring at each other. So long, that the tension changed from fear and shock to . . . . something else.p.
His bestial instincts screamed that a desirable submissive female was right before him. Even her eyes and body language seemed to give off signals: That she was grateful, but uncertain; that she was in awe of him, and scared of his ferocity; that the fact that he just stood there and made no move toward her was a relief; that a part of her imagined him as her new owner. . .. That a tiny part of her considered parting in gratitude with what she would not give up to force.p.That she understood her sex could control him.p.
The Beast receded a bit and the Man — still a kidnapped boy really — peeked out. He wanted her, but was intimidated, scared. Confused. Completely unsure what to do or how. He had never . . . . . not that he would ever tell anyone or admit it! He handled it as a wolf or a teenager would: He played it off, pretending cool indifference.p.
He simply huffed and puffed, tired, but not yet feeling his injuries. He would talk to her. And question the Bratva. Later. The fifth man. The dangerous one was still to be dealt with.
He tried to speak, but it came out more snarl, “You’re in charge here now. You protect the females . . . . and I protect you.” Then muttered to himself “If I live.”p.
Terrence started stalking the fifth man.p.