In the dark quiet of the van, her thoughts drifted to the past. Rufus used to tell her stories about him and her dad, Jack Rose. Rufus loved Jack. He was the closest thing to a brother he ever had. He would say, “Your daddy done saved my ass just as many times as I saved his. Lightenin’, that’s what I called him. That’s how he did his thing. He’d strike like lightenin’. Them sucka’s would never see it comin’. That’s what we was, Thunder and Lightenin’. I’d be bringing the boom, boom, boom and he be bringing the flash, baby.”
Once Jack had passed away, Rufus told Stiletto all of the stories about her dad. He died when she was just twelve years old and Rufus promised him that he would finish raising her and take care of her. Jack didn't want her to know about his life style, but she wouldn't let Rufus get away with not telling her. She wanted to know it all. Jack Rose was a mystery to her. He was like two people. One was her father and the other was a cold-blooded killer. He was always distant, like part of him was somewhere else. She needed to know who that other man was. Rufus told her.
Jack Rose was a small time hustler that had been living on the streets of Chicago from his twelfth birthday on. That’s the day he ran away from home. He would never tell Rufus anything earlier than that. According to Jack, that was the day his life began. Nothing before that day mattered. He was hanging around alleys and keeping himself fed by snatching purses. One day a man approached him and offered him a place to stay. The fellow owned a restaurant, a Japanese steak house. He lived above it. Jack said the guy was Irish, but he was fascinated with Asia; the food, the cultures, everything. He was a real secretive guy. He had a manager for the restaurant named Kyoto who acted as the owner. It was a real weird situation. Jack did odd jobs for Miles to earn his keep. In turn, Miles gave Jack a place to stay, taught him all of the book stuff that he wasn't learning by not being in school, and taught him everything he could ever want to know about self-defense. Jack knew about five hundred different ways to kill a person with his bare hands.
Though Jack didn't want for anything while in the care of Miles Blaney, he couldn't stay away from the hustling. He started doing odd jobs for some of the local, small-time muscle. He kept his nose out of the big stuff, but he ran some drugs and broke a few noses. Jack kept all of that business away from Miles but Miles probably knew about it. Miles knew about everything.
When Jack was seventeen years old, he met Tasha. She blew his mind. Tasha had blonde hair, deep brown eyes, and a body that could stop a freight train dead in its tracks. Jack said that her pouty lips were always begging to be kissed and she always smelled like this tropical perfume. He didn't know the name of it, but it drove him nuts. The first time he met her, he was dropping off a package for her, heroin. She came to the door in nothing but a sheer robe and invited him in. He was hooked from the moment he saw her. He said that he never knew exactly how old she was, but she must have been around twenty-five. The age difference didn't bother him any. In fact, he thought it was kind of cool that an older woman showed an interest in him. She shot up and then she rocked his world. It was his first time and he fell hard. Jack was in love immediately. It was probably more lust than anything, but he knew it was love. Tasha fell too. They couldn't get enough of each other. Jack eventually moved in with her.
Miles was pretty upset when Jack told him he was moving in with an older woman. He didn't write him off though. A man has to go where his heart calls him and he has to make his own mistakes. He warned him that some of the best lessons are the hardest learned, and he told him that he’d always have a place to stay if he ended up falling on his face. Then he told him never to touch that crap she puts in her veins. Jack was pretty surprised that Miles knew about that, but then again, Miles knew just about everything. Jack never did touch any drugs. He smoked a little reefer now and then, but that doesn't count. That stuff shouldn't even be illegal.
Jack and Tasha spent most of their time loving each other. Jack kept up the hustling bit and did his best to get Tasha of the juice. She was hooked though. Before long, they found out she was pregnant. Jack didn't have to push anymore. She stopped shooting up on her own. Something about another life depending on her to survive made all the difference. She quit the stuff cold turkey. Jack tried to talk her into going to rehab to help with the withdrawals, but she wouldn't have it. She was sure that they would make her give up her baby. Nobody was going to do that.
Tasha’s withdrawals were tough on the both of them, but Jack stayed right by her side. He weathered the storm. After a month, she said she still craved it, but it didn't consume her thoughts anymore. Jack kept working. He was going to have a family to support. He was beginning to feel like he had a purpose. Life was going to be great.
On Jack’s eighteenth birthday, he had the biggest payday of his life, one thousand dollars, a grand, for an easy delivery. The job went off without a hitch. Things were getting good. He was getting regular work and his paydays were getting bigger. He was even toying with the idea of buying a house. It was time to celebrate. He stopped by the restaurant and had Kyoto cook him up some steaks to go. He even picked up some sparkling grape juice. He would have gotten the good stuff, but there would be no alcohol for the mother of his child. She was totally clean since giving up the heroin. This birthday would be the best day of his life up to that point.
He raced home. When he got to the apartment door, he heard a baby crying. He almost dropped dinner on the floor. The excitement swelling in his chest kept him from getting his key in the lock. His baby had been born. He was too excited to even be upset that he missed the birth. She must have had it right there in the apartment. Fumbling around with the key, he couldn’t even make his hand work. He just wanted to hold his child in his arms and kiss it and hug it and he couldn’t get in the damn room. Hysterical laughter began pouring out of him. It was like a dream. He just wanted to shout out at the top of his lungs, “Hey everybody, I’m somebody’s daddy!”
The key finally turned and he busted into the room. Immediately, the thrill was gone. He dropped dinner on the floor. He barely noticed the sound of the fake bubbly smashing as it crashed onto the tiles. Tasha was hanging from the ceiling by a belt. Her mouth was open and her tongue was hanging out. She was naked except for the robe that she had been wearing the first time Jack saw her. Her legs were covered in blood that still dripped from her toes. The puddle beneath her was huge, probably three feet in diameter. Instantly, Jack tasted bile in the back of his throat. He turned, put a hand on the wall to brace himself, and threw up. As his body convulsed, he began sobbing. He looked over at the table and saw all of Tasha’s gear. She shot up. Damn it Tasha! She had been clean for a little over six months. The baby was going to change her life. The baby!
As tears rained down his cheeks, his ears finally focused back on the screaming. His baby needed him. It was on the bed, wrapped in towels. He didn't even know if he had a son or a daughter yet. He ran to the bed and picked the baby up, doing his best to quiet it down. There was hunger in that cry though. How the hell was he going to feed this kid? He called Miles. Miles would know what to do. He knew everything.
While Jack waited for Miles, he did a little searching and found out that he had a daughter. He let her suck on his pinky and it calmed her down a little bit. Her face was beat red from crying for who knows how long, but she was beautiful. She was the most beautiful thing that he had ever seen. She looked just like her mother. That was the second time Jack fell in love. He looked in her eyes and said, “Welcome to the world Stiletto Rose. That’s what I’m gonna’ call you. You’re my Stiletto Rose.”
Shelia’s phone rang, abruptly waking her from her daydream. Vinny said that he’d be calling her again, but Vinny was dead. She looked at the display to catch the number. Nothing. She wasn't dealing with the amateurs anymore. Who was on the phone? Who’s got my kids? She took a deep breath and answered the call.
“Hello,” her voice totally sober, no emotion at all. Never let them know that they’re getting to you. Never lose control. Always be in charge. She did her best.
The response came in a thick German accent, “Stiletto Rose, my beautiful, deadly flower, I have something that you seek. I am not interested in a game of cat and mouse with you. You have seen my handiwork at the cottage. That should be indication enough that I am not playing games with you.”
Shelia didn't respond. She knew that she was speaking with the man they called The Blitzkrieg, and she knew that he had her children. She also knew that his pause was for effect. He wanted her to start sobbing and begging him not to hurt her babies. She would have done it if she thought it would help the kids, but it wouldn't. Keeping her cool was the only way to find out what the game was. What was this German freak looking for? What did he want?
After a long silence, the voice continued, “I can tell you that your children are safe with me and will remain so as long as you do exactly as you are told. No more investigations or they will be dead when you find them, and you will find them.”
Shelia kept control of her tone, “Okay, whatever you say. What’s the game? What do you want me to do?”
“You will meet with my associates. They will have further instructions for you. If you contact anyone or call the police or any such nonsense, I will kill your children. I know that I have a reputation for being swift and efficient when I work, but I promise you that I will kill them slowly. They will feel much pain and will be happy to die when I’m finished with them. I will videotape this for you and you will watch their suffering before you die. Do you understand me?”
It was a struggle to hold her tongue, but she did. Her reply was calm and polite, “I understand. Where will I meet your associates?”
“They will come to you. You are on Highway 41 correct. They will be with you within the hour.”
They were tracking her, but how? She hadn't been followed. They must have gotten to the van. He knew that she’d been at the cottage. They could be there right at that moment, watching her every move. A slight chill crawled down her spine. She wasn't use to being prey. She had always been the predator. Her eyes scanned the area surrounding her. Despite all of the lights, the rest area boasted many shadowy corners. On top of that, it was surrounded by trees. These weren’t just a few trees either. It was more like a forest.
“Good-bye Stiletto,” the German’s voice snapped Shelia back to the conversation.
She tried to keep it to good-bye, but she couldn't stop herself, “Wait. Can I talk to my children?” Damn! He would love that. That was the fear he wanted to hear. That’s what this freak got off on.
His tone become sharp and intense, “How dare you? Do you take me for some amateur holding a prize for ransom? I’m offended! Take care in our future conversations Stiletto. I am a man with very little patience and this project has already pushed me to my limit. Do not push me beyond that point.”
The phone went dead. Damn it! She knew better than to show emotion. She had to get her head on straight. At least the amateurs were out of the game. Professionals followed rules. They were somewhat predictable. The kids were just bait. The Blitzkrieg wanted her not them. As long as she could keep herself alive, he would need her kids. How was she going to find them? She couldn't call Rufus. The only thing that she was completely sure of was that she didn't want to be in the van when the “associates” arrived. They wouldn't have instructions for her. They would have bullets. The rules of the game changed when Vinny screwed up and shot Mark. That wasn't part of the plan. No, Vinny was supposed to get the kids without drawing a whole lot of attention. That would be why he’s dead now. Shelia knew that whomever the top dog on this hit was had originally wanted to make her suffer. That’s why they needed the kids as bait. With the cops obviously involved now, they wouldn't have time for that. Now they just wanted her dead. They’d keep the kids alive long enough to make sure that happened. Then they’d kill them too.
Shelia grabbed everything she could carry out of the van and then headed off into the woods. She had no idea what to expect, but she was pretty sure that they would strike fast. Stiletto Rose had quite a reputation, and they knew that she and Shelia Ramsey were one and the same. They wouldn't want to give her a chance to fight back. ‘I’ll show him a deadly flower,’ she thought, as she found a good spot to hide.