Shelia was on the other end. She didn’t bother with hello. “What have you got on a cat they call Wiggles and some German hit man they call The Blitzkrieg?”
Rufus waited a second to respond, she was getting too close. “Did you say Wiggles and the Blitzkrieg? What the hell kinda’ names are those? You’ve been hittin’ them comic books again?” As much as he attempted to feign confusion, his tone gave him away.
“Why are you messing with me?” Shelia’s tone dripped irritation, “I don’t have time for games Rufus. They have my kids and these guys are pros. The bums that did Mark were just patsies. All four of them are dead. Three were killed by whoever this Blitzkrieg is and the fourth bled out on the floor before I could finish questioning him. I almost feel bad about the fourth one. I might have let him go but he bled out before I could get back down to him. That kid took a bullet trying to protect my kids. Anyway, you gotta’ help me here Thunder. I know these guys are pros. They had a cleaner come in and everything.”
Rufus sounded distracted, “What happened to the cleaner?”
“I slit his fuckin’ throat! What difference does it make? What am I dealing with here?” Her voice took on a pleading tone, “Come on man. Where can I find these punks?”
He sighed, “Baby, you gotta’ come home. You can’t win this one. You’re right, they are pros and they will kill ya’. And if you get to the kids, they’ll kill them and make you watch before they kill you. You can’t save ‘em. Just come home. I warned you about baggage.”
“What?” She screamed into the phone, “Am I hearing you right? Are you telling me to forget my kids, just walk away and act like they never happened? Are you fucking kidding me? These are my kids we’re talking about, Rufus. And quit calling them baggage! They are my kids, not baggage! I’m not the same person I was fifteen years ago! I carried that baggage – both bags, fucker – for nine months. They’re part of me. I can’t believe you. What the hell happened to you? Are you that afraid of the bums that you won’t even help me? Do you want to know what I did after I killed that fuckin’ cleaner? I puked my guts out. This isn’t me anymore. That baggage, as you so eloquently call it, is my life now! They’ve already taken my husband. They can’t have my kids too, not without a fight.”
Rufus’s voice was somber and monotone, “I know you’re not the same person. That’s why you can’t win. I’m not the same person either. That’s why I can’t help you.”
Shelia couldn’t believe what she was hearing, “Fuck you Rufus! What would my Dad say if he were alive to hear you call his grandchildren baggage? What if it were him asking you for help because some slugs had kidnapped me? I’ll tell you what if. You would have stopped the earth from spinning if you had to. I don’t even know you anymore.”
Tears welled up in his eyes and a couple slipped over his quivering lids, “I’m sorry baby.” His words were barely a whisper, but she was gone anyway.
“Damn it man!” He slammed his fist down on the nightstand next to his bed. She was right. She didn’t know why and he couldn’t tell her, but she was right.
Rufus dropped his head into his hands and hated himself for while. He let the tears come as thoughts of Jack paraded around his head. “I let ya’ down brotha’,” he said out loud. Jack was the closest thing to a brother that he’d ever had and Stiletto was the closest thing to a daughter that he’d ever have. He was letting them both down. Stiletto’s problems were all his fault and he was too scared to help her.
He stayed like that for the better part of two hours, hating himself. Then he rose and walked to the bathroom. He took a good, long look at himself in the mirror, scowling at his reflection as it scowled back at him. The stare down with his reflection lasted a solid fifteen minutes. Then he balled his right hand up into a tight fist and pounded the mirror, smashing it into little sparkling bits. They seemed to hover, weightless, shining light all over the walls before falling in slow motion to the ground. As his knuckles connected with the mirror, he shouted with all of the might he had left, “Fuck you!”
He spent the next half of an hour picking tiny bits of glass out of his hand and then wrapping it with gauze. He ran both hands across the top of his head and clasped them behind it. Then he took a deep breath and held it for what seemed like eternity. “Don’t worry Jack. I ain’t goin’ out like no pussy. I made you a promise man, and I aim to keep it. Live or die baby, I’m gonna’ get those kids and I’m gonna’ keep our girl alive.”