Only Journeyman could make her feel this way.
How could she ever have allowed one man to have so much power over her? All that he had to do was show up and her life went into a spiral. She’d tried so hard to keep him away. She deleted his number, stopped going anywhere that she might bump into him out and stayed far away from his friends. But it wasn’t enough. He’d found her. In that alley in front of the mural. He just showed up and acted like everything was okay. And then he made her mad and took off when things got real. Just like he always did. As soon as he was gone, her blade stuck in his shoulder, she went to the bus station and took the first bus out of town. She fumed all of the way down to the Coast, and didn’t calm down until she was sat on a beach.
The waves out in the ocean crashed against each other, black curls turning white where they fell. The waves were like her soul, black and collapsing under their own weight. That was why she felt so calm in their presence, out there on the sand with only the crabs to keep her company. A particularly large was one getting close to her, emboldened by how still she sat. She stretched her hand out and picked the crab up between her thumb and forefinger and brought it up to her face. Little black beads on stalks attached to a shiny shell the colour of sand stared back at her. She wished that she had an exoskeleton like that. It probably kept all of the sand out. The lucky beast. A flash of jealous rage took her and she threw it as hard as she could out into the ocean. Somewhere out there it made a splash, too far for her to see in the dark, and she immediately felt guilty about throwing it. The crab hadn’t done anything to hurt her. Its only mistake was getting too close. Close enough for her to hurt it. The same way that she’d gotten too close to Journeyman. Close enough for him to hurt her.
She sighed and put her palms on the ground. Let her fingers dig into the fine sand. The way the sands spread out to make room for her fingers made her feel welcome. More welcome than she’d ever felt anywhere else. She wondered for a moment what it would be like to live there permanently. Just set up a little shack on the beach and call it home. Leave all of the bullshit of the city behind her.
But she knew she’d never do that. She’d be bored in weeks.
The shuffling of sand behind her ended her daydream but she ignored it, assuming that it was just another crab. Then it came again, a heavy weight dropping on the sand. Too heavy to be a crab.
“Madame,” said a voice behind her. “What are you doing out here at such a time. Don’t you know that it’s not safe?”
Crazy Daisy frowned and lifted her hand over her shoulder, her middle finger pointing to the sky.
“Fuck off,” she said.
The man behind her replied with the weapon in his hand. Daisy heard the unmistakable click of a firing pin pulling back and a fresh round entering the chamber, then the firing pin going back into position, a few centimeters away from the base of the bullet, ready to fire. Daisy sighed. Even here, on the most beautiful beach on the planet, she couldn’t get away from the stupidity of men. She pushed herself up to her feet and brushed the sand off her legs and arms and turned around.
Two men stood behind her, dressed in ragged shorts and t-shirts. The unofficial uniform of beach boys everywhere. Someday, some fashion gurus somewhere would adopt it for their runway, claiming it to be chique and mode. Someday. But for now it was just the dress of a couple of assholes who were ruining her night. One of the men, the one who’d spoken, held an assault rifle in his left hand. An AK-47, she thought. Maybe the more advanced AK-74 but it was too dark for her to know for sure. He held it pointing up to the sky with his fist clasped around the grip and a finger on the trigger. The stock rested on his bicep. It was very macho pose. Also a very stupid pose.
“Madame,” said the other man, the one closer to her. “Do you know that this beach is not safe at night?”
Daisy put her feet together and crossed her arms on her chest. She turned her head down and gazed at the ground.
“You’re lucky that we’re the ones who found you,” he continued. “Bad things happen on this beach at night. Bad things done by bad people. But like I said, you’re lucky that we’re the ones who found you.”
She certainly didn’t feel lucky.
“Are you the police?” she said.
The two men laughed. They turned their heads back and laughed with their mouths pointing up, loud enough for their laughter to carry all of the way down the beach. Their way of telling her that they could make as much noise as they wanted. Their way of telling her that even if she screamed, nobody would hear her.
“Police?” said the one with the gun, still pointing it to the sky. Still flexing his bicep as he held its weight. Daisy wondered how long he’d be able to keep it up there. She could tell that he was tiring. The joint on his elbow shook slightly but he refused to put the gun down. “Police haven’t walked on this beach in years. That’s why it’s not safe.”
The other guy snickered.
“That’s why we’re here,” he said. “To provide protection. For a price.”
A shakedown. Daisy wasn’t surprised. She patted her back pocket and shrugged with her palms pointing up.
“Bad luck, guys,” she said. “I’m sure that your services are stellar and I’d love to give you a tip but I don’t have any money on me.”
The man nearest her snickered again. He cast his eyes down towards her thighs and licked his lips.
“That’s okay,” he said, rubbing his hands. “There are many ways to pay us.”
He reached forward with his right hand and tried to grab her wrist. He almost got her. Almost. She was ready for his lunge. She knew that it would come. She knew what these two thugs wanted from the second they crept up behind her. A beach like this so far away from the leisure resorts wasn’t safe for women. She knew that. She knew that some roving band of idiots would come across her eventually. If anything, she’d been counting on it. A relaxed evening on the beach is very therapeutic. A great way to relieve stress. But not good enough. Not good enough to help her get through the shitstorm that Journeyman had kicked up. If only she’d managed to finish him off that night. She’d come so close. So close. But he’d gotten away, leaving her seeing nothing but red. The same shade of red that she was seeing now.
Daisy side-stepped to her right, and reached her left hand under the right arm of her hoodie. She wrapped her hand around the hilt of a blade and pulled it out, extending her arm in wide arc. The thug who’d tried to grab her saw the yellow moonlight reflect off of the cold steel and knew what was coming but he was too late. The momentum of his earlier lunge still pushed him forward. The weight from his centre of gravity had just transferred onto his front foot. He tried to counter by leaning back from the waist and his head tilted back, exposing his neck.
Perfect, thought Daisy. She adjusted the swing of the blade and pushed it wider to her left. The sharp blade cut through the air, parting the molecules with ease. She only felt resistance when the blade caught the thug’s throat. It went through the flesh of his neck, the momentum of her swing taking it all the way through, coming out of the swing with a spray of blood.
The thug with the gun tried to save his friend but he was too slow. He pulled the gun downwards, lining up a shot. Daisy saw it coming. She knew that was how he would react, finally taking her as a serious threat and giving her the respect that she deserved. But it was too late. The gun’s barrel came down as Daisy’s left hand finished its swing. She used the momentum to drop her right shoulder and push her right arm forward and out. Her forearm connected with the inside of the long barrel, and pushed it out, away from her. With her left hand she drove the blade into the gunman’s gut, all the way down to the hilt. He dropped the gun from his left hand and tried to pull the knife out but Daisy wouldn’t let him. She kept her hand firm on the knife and wrapped her free arm around his shoulder. She pulled him in close, close enough that her lips were right on his ear. Close enough for him to feel her breath on his earlobe. Close enough for her to smell the cheap vodka seeping out of his pores. The thug coughed and sputtered. Crimson liquid dripped from the corner of his mouth and onto Daisy’s shoulder.
“Your mistake,” said Daisy, whispering in his ear like a lover in his embrace. “Was not coming after a defenseless woman in the middle of the night or even extorting me for money. Your mistake-” She twisted the knife in his gut and his whole body started to shudder. “Your mistake, was coming after me with your gun pointed up. No serious gunman attacks with his gun facing to the sky. That’s a rookie move. And that-” She twisted the knife farther, 90 degrees to the angle that it had gone in at. The thug went limp and his head dropped onto her shoulder. “That is how I knew how easy it would be to take you.”
She pulled the knife out of his gut and let him fall to the ground. She crouched down and wiped the blade clean on his shorts. Then she turned around and sat back down on the sand facing the ocean. She licked her lips and tasted the salty spray on her face. The crashing of the waves held her attention again, along with the chocked gurgles of the first thug, slowly drowning in his own blood.