Aside from a laptop computer mounted to the dashboard and a riot gun mounted where a console might have gone, the van was relatively standard up front. The computer didn’t provide anything useful. Apparently it was only used as an over-glorified navigation system. The glove box proved equally useless, except for two sticky notes stuck to the outside of it. Both had names and phone numbers written on them. The hand writing was pretty sloppy, but Shelia was able to discern names out of the chicken scratch. One read Blitz. She finally had a number for that snaky, German bastard. The other read, Wiggles. She tossed the name around in her head a few times. Wiggles, Wiggles, Wiggles… It was familiar, but from where?
Shelia’s form deflated as she slouched deeper into the high-backed, passenger seat of the van and closed her eyes. Exhaustion – like nothing she had felt since Matt was a baby with his days and nights mixed up – swept over her. Thankfully there were too many thoughts wrestling for her attention to allow sleep to get its hands on her. Just a little rest would be wonderful though, a few minutes maybe. Her body jolted as her eyes popped open. ‘No time for that,’ she thought, as she brushed her hair back from her face, forced the air out of her lungs, and shook her shoulders. ‘Have to stay awake.’
Her eyes moved back to the name on that little, yellow slip of paper. Why was Wiggles so familiar? She kept her eyes open while scanning her thoughts this time around. Wiggles, the name flipped slowly over in her head. “Wiggles,” she said it out loud. “Who the hell is Wiggles, and why do I know that name?”
As that name, Wiggles, continued to float around in her mind, Shelia started tallying the bits of information she had gathered up to that point. The Rosattis were behind everything. That was the biggest thing. They essentially had unlimited resources, and they didn’t have much competition left in the area. Why were they dedicating those resources toward her? She had never double-crossed them. She just stopped working for them when Danny made it completely clear that he didn’t want to have anything to do with his child. He would have paid for the abortion. What a sweetheart. There was no reason for them to come down on her so hard. They had all guns a blazing. Why? If the prick honestly had a change of heart, he could have called her. He obviously found her. The phone number would have been easy. Of course, she would have told him no. She never had the chance though.
The reason why was troubling, but not nearly as important as where she could find them. Whatever the reason was, Mark was dead, and they had her kids. That reason was enough that they recruited a small army of pros and a handful of amateurs to do the job. There had to more to the story. When Rufus helped her scrub her identity and relocate, it made sense. She had baggage. The family that she should have been a part of – the family that could have protected her from her past – didn’t want her. She could have protected herself. Having a baby on the way added a big enough wrinkle that hiding out was the right answer. Was that it? Was that the whole story, or was there something that Rufus hadn’t shared? Something had him scared enough to turn his back on her, there had to be more to it. Answering that question would have to wait. Her mind drifted back to that new name, Wiggles.
The Blitzkrieg – or Blitz as he was referred to on the sticky note – wasn’t familiar at all. When she spoke with him, he acted as if she should know of him. That was merely the bravado of a narcissist. Had she remained in the game, they probably would have crossed paths at one point or another. She hadn’t though, and he truly did not exist in her memory banks. Wiggles, on the other hand, that name was definitely there somewhere. It had to be from her time with the Rosattis.
“Wiggles, Wiggles, Wiggles,” she said the name again several times as she rubbed her forehead. “Who the hell are you, Wiggles?”
An image popped into her head. It was a young guy with bright eyes and a warm smile. He had slicked back hair that wouldn’t quite stay in place. Little bits of it would fall down onto his forehead here and there. He seemed to be constantly smoothing it back with both hands. That was him. That was Wiggles. Danny had introduced him to her as an old friend, Tony maybe. When that young man with the bright eyes, warm smile, and slicked back hair took her hand though, he said, “Call me Wiggles. All my friends do.”
“Son of a bitch,” Shelia sighed.
It all flooded back into her head. After meeting Wiggles, she checked up on him. “Know the punks you be fuckin’ with,” Rufus had started pounding the importance of that idea into her head at a very young age. By the time she met Wiggles, looking into the backgrounds of everybody she met had become part of the routine. He wasn’t an old friend of Danny Rosatti. He was a young punk working his way up the Rosatti ladder, an outsider trying to break in. Apparently he managed to accomplish that goal. If he were still working for them after all the time that had passed, he was probably pretty high up that ladder. Wiggles’ altitude on the Rosatti ladder wasn’t important. What was truly important to Shelia just then was another tidbit she had dug up on him all those years prior. The thing really troubling her at that moment was how he had earned his namesake. “The wiggles,” that was where it came from. That was how the sick bastard described the dance his victims did after he had tied them up and covered their heads with plastic bags.
There is no emotion that is helpful when doing a job, but fear is the worst. Anger and hate sit just behind it, jostling for the second spot. Both are a hair better than fear. They can at least make it a bit easier to pull a trigger or thrust a blade. The effects they have on the decision making process are far more detrimental than any benefits they offer though. Shelia had all three of them coursing through her as she sat in that van, thinking about what Wiggles might do to her kids, and contemplating her next move.
A slow sigh poured out of her mouth as she reached down to the floor in front of her and fished the two-way radio Rufus had given her out of her pack. The last time they spoke, he said that he couldn’t help her anymore. That answer wasn’t going to cut it. She had numbers and the names that belonged to them. That was all that she had to work with. Rufus could help her turn those numbers into locations. It didn’t matter if he wanted to or not, she needed him.
Shelia pulled in a deep breath and then released it. Then she depressed the lever on the side of her radio and said, “Rufus, this is Stiletto.” Her tone was as calm as the water of a small pond on a windless day.
Shelia listened to the silence for a few moments waiting for a voice on the other end. After a minute that felt more like ten, she pressed the lever again, “Rufus, this is Stiletto. I realize that you’re terrified right now, and I believe that there are lots of things that you haven’t told me. I don’t care about any of that at the moment. You don’t have to get any deeper into this, but I have a couple of numbers that I need locations on. Find me those and then you can scurry back to your hole to hide.”
A few more silent moments trudged passed. Shelia was just about to depress the lever again when Rufus’s voice poured out of it. “Hey baby girl. What’s up?”
“Gee, I don’t know, Rufus. What do you think is up?” Shelia’s monotonous tone didn’t match the sarcasm of her words. With all of the emotion swirling around in her, she still managed to keep control. The German had made her slip. That wouldn’t happen again. She had to keep control.
After another painfully long pause, Rufus replied in a tone that sounded more defeated than anything. “I know, baby girl. I know,” he paused again. “You said you’ve got numbers. Who are them numbers for?”
“Don’t worry about who they are for. You’ve already made it clear that you’re too chickenshit to get involved,” she paused. “And that’s fine. I’m on my own. I work best that way. I’ll give you these numbers and you give me locations. Then I can do what I have to do, and you can go back to hiding out. I’ll collect my baggage on my own.”
“I’m sorry,” Rufus replied somberly. “I know I let you down. I’ve always got your back though. Give me them numbers.”
“This one is for Wiggles,” her tone didn’t change as she rifled the number to him off the sticky note.
“Got it,” he replied. “Give me a minute.”
Shelia waited in silence. She didn’t have to wait long. Less than a minute passed before Rufus’s voice came over the radio again.
“That’s a dead end, baby girl,” he replied. “The service was cancelled on that one.” After a brief pause he added, “Looks like within the last day or so.”
“Are you sure?” Shelia allowed a hint of irritation into her voice, “Or are you just protecting me? I don’t need protection right now, Rufus. I need some fucking help. I need a fucking address. No matter what you think of baggage, I’m going to get my kids.”
“I ain’t fucking with you,” his tone was more pleading than angry. “That number is dead. They do that shit a lot. You know that. I’m sorry. Facts are facts. What’s the other number?”
“Fuck!” Shelia lost the control that she had been clinging so desperately to for just a moment. She composed herself and continued, “Okay, this one is for the Blitzkrieg.” She rattled off the number.
“One minute,” he replied. After a long pause he added, “Where you at now? That phone is just south of that place in Coleman. You still in the area?” just a hair of excitement had crept into his voice.
“What?” the same excitement was dancing around Shelia’s tone. “He must be at the rest area looking for my corpse. I hope he likes what he finds.”
“What rest area? What are you talking about?” Rufus asked.
“They sent a fucking hit team, six guys. They’re dead now. I took their van. That’s why you can’t see me anymore, unless you’re tracking my phone. They shot your van up, so I had to blow it.” Shelia’s calm had returned, back to business.
“I’m sorry, baby girl,” Rufus’s tone deflated back to something more depressing. “The next time you call, if I don’t have your kids I’ll at least have an address. I’m looking, baby girl.”
“Good,” her reply was curt. “You should be sorry.” She debated for a moment and then finally gave in. “Rufus, why are they coming so hard at me? Why didn’t Danny just call me? What don’t I know?”
“Danny’s dead, Stiletto. He has been for coming on fourteen years now.” The depressed quality of his tone remained, as he added, “This shit’s all my fault.”
“What? What do you mean he’s dead? You killed him? When? Why?”
“He hurt you. I made a promise to your dad that I would never let anybody hurt you. I kept my promise.”
Everything was beginning to make sense. “So you killed him? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Yeah, I killed him. I watched you mope around and cry for a week. He was dead two days later.” A bit of strength returned to his voice as he added, “You don’t want to know no more than that, so don’t ask.”
“No, you’re wrong,” the laughing quality that Shelia’s tone had earned was completely humorless. “I definitely want to know more, but I don’t have time for that right now. I want to catch that German freak before he dances off again.”
“Of course you do,” he sighed.
“You are in this Rufus. You got me into this, and you had better help me get out of it. When I call you again, I don’t want to hear any more of your bullshit. I want an address.”
She clicked the radio off before Rufus could respond. Her hands clenched up into fists immediately after tossing the radio down onto her pack. The son of a bitch knew all along, playing like he was helping her through some mystery. All the time he had been hoping that she would miss somehow. The Rosattis had been searching for her for fourteen years, and she had no idea. She shook her head. All of the anger she was feeling for Rufus just then wouldn’t help anything. That would have to wait.
Shelia picked up her cell phone and dialed the number on the sticky note that read, Blitz. There was a good chance that he wouldn’t answer. He would definitely recognize the number. Hopefully he was as cocky as she thought. He was, it only rang once.
“Stiletto, my beautiful, deadly flower, we speak again,” the thick, German accent was all too familiar. “I trust you have not called to cry to me about your children again.”
Shelia called on every ounce of self-control she could muster to keep her voice from breaking. “You’re good,” she said calmly. “You’re hiding the shock extremely well. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that you are surprised that I managed to get a hold of this number.”
“Meaningless,” he shot back. “You have passed my test. You have proven yourself worthy of my time. You will be dead before tomorrow.”
“Well, I’m exactly twenty five miles south of you right now, parked behind an abandoned, old barn,” she paused to let the info sink in. When he didn’t reply, she continued, “Yes, I know exactly where you are. I’ve seen your handiwork, and now you’ve seen mine. Do you want to keep playing games, or do you want to get this shit over with?”
The Blitzkrieg laughed. “You have proven resourceful, Stiletto Rose. You have grown soft though. I expect you to be dead within the hour.”
“Do I have to chase you?” she asked.
“You will never see me coming,” the reply was quick, like a gunshot.
Shelia forced a chuckle, “Come and get me then. There is a big Jesus billboard on the same property. You can’t miss it. I’ll be waiting.”
The line disconnected. Apparently he didn’t have anything else to say. That wasn’t terribly surprising. When he had control of the situation and was calling the shots, the game was fun for him. Now that he had no place to hide, it wasn’t fun anymore. The Blitzkrieg wasn’t an idiot. He knew exactly who he was dealing with. Had any more words dripped out of his mouth, his tone may have betrayed the fear that she knew was there. Luckily, it wouldn’t make him run. The game was over for him. He would come, and he would try to finish her quick. ‘Time to get ready,’ she thought, as she slipped toward the back of the van.