Turning on her heel, Melissa headed out of the club through the back entrance. The alley she stepped into was darker than she anticipated, and she was surprised to find herself shiver in the heat of the Houston August night. Hugging her arms to herself, she vowed to stand there for just a moment, grab a few breaths of fresh air, and head back inside. She’d had enough unwanted moments in dark places to last her a lifetime and she certainly did not desire another.
However, as she began to turn around, Melissa heard the unmistakable whimper of a young woman. Torn between the safety of the club and the unknown of the dark alley, Melissa headed towards the sound. She certainly refused to help someone if they were in need.
Cautiously, she approached the sound, noting as she did that the whimper was getting louder, as were other voices that surrounded it.
“This is the best there is, sir. I assure you.” She heard a voice laced with a thick Spanish accent.
“It better be,” a second voice chimed in. This voice, she noted, sounded American, possibly Texan. “If I’m going to be working with your boss, he’d better understand that I want the best, only the best, and that I always get what I want.”
“Si, senor. He knows. I assure you.”
Stepping lightly, Melissa placed her back against a wall so she could inch closer and get a better look. She knew it was stupid; but she believed she didn’t have a choice. She could still hear the small, choked out mysterious sounds and felt a pull to help the woman making them.
Peering around the corner suddenly brought the scene into full view. A black Chevy Suburban with deeply tinted windows was backed into the alley, blocking the entrance, its back doors open and a case of money resting in plain view in the back. An intimidating, large man stood to the left of the vehicle, arms folded across his chest, eyes scanning the alley. The moment Melissa saw him, she forced herself even closer to the wall, if that were even possible.
“What the hell is that sound?” the man with the Texas accent demanded. As the men surrounding him drew their guns and prepared to search the alley, Melissa stifled an intake of breath as she took in his appearance. Dark, chin length hair framed his face and in the moonlight she could see the outline of a tattoo climbing his neck, drawing even more attention to the scar running from his left eye to his chin.
“You assured me this was a safe location!” Instantly, he pulled out what Melissa could only surmise was a handgun, and forced it to the trembling man’s temple. She shut her eyes in haste wanting to block out every possible image of what she feared was coming.
“Si, senor. It is. We meet…” but the sentence was never finished as the sound of a silenced shot rang through the alley, followed by thud of what she could only assume was of the man falling to the ground; the entire incident seeming to take only seconds and at the same time, seeming to last forever.
Immediately, weapons were drawn from all men in the alley, no one knowing quite where to point.
“Man, what the hell is your problem?” Another Hispanic man screamed as he looked at the conniving white man in front of him. “There was no sound and there was no need to kill him.”
“I told you before,” he replied. “I am not a man who enjoys being made a fool of. You mess with my business, or with me, and I guarantee you will not live to tell about it.”
Guns still drawn, the white man stepped menacingly closer to the one who dared to question him. “What do you think you are going to do to me, ese?” he asked, purposely mispronouncing the Spanish word. “Are you going to shoot me? Do you think your friend here would do that for you if he were in your place?”
He glanced down the alley, satisfied for the moment. “Put your guns away and let’s leave,” he ordered the men around him.
At that very moment, the woman whom Melissa had initially been drawn to help whimpered once again. Quickly, Melissa reached her, crouched behind the dumpster and slammed her hand over the woman’s mouth, forcing her to be quiet. “That’s got to be Karen,” one of the other men whispered to the scarred man.
“She shouldn't be alive and she shouldn't be here! Do I need to finish your job before I finish you?”
“No sir.” He turned in the direction of Melissa and the woman but didn't make it two steps before all hell broke loose. Melissa wasn't sure where the shooting started, she only knew the chaos in the alley allowed her to stand and pull the woman with her back towards the club.
Immediately though, her green eyes met the coldest black eyes she had ever seen. For a moment, they stared at each other, memorizing the other’s face and in that brief second, Melissa felt her efforts were to be in vain. ‘Part of me died in the darkness before,’ she thought to herself, ‘and the rest of me is about to die now.’ But instantly, a glorious sound edged into her mind as she heard sirens in the distance.
“I will find you, I promise you that!” He shouted, pointing at Melissa before grabbing the bag of money. “Grab the stuff,” he yelled to his men, getting in the backseat of the suburban. Staring at the other men in the alley, he continued. “Tell Montez he will get no money from me until he can find healthier places to conduct business.”
The sirens grew louder as the unmarked vehicles drove away and Melissa turned her attention to the woman she joined on the ground.