Cameron and The Black Bird

This short story was first published on FanFiction.net on January 6, 2016.

Disclaimer: Don’t own TSCC

Cameron and the Big Chill is set in the Cameron Grows Up TSCC Universe. Cameron and John are seniors in high school. John has replaced Cameron’s beloved purple leather jacket, stolen from the Connor family residence along with other family possessions. This story combines Cameron’s love for all things purple and watching late, late night television, especially Classic film noir from Hollywood staring her favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart. John is less than thrilled with Cameron’s new attitude. Apologies to Dashiell Hammett.

Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon

“It is not the same,” I said.

“Yes it is. I made sure I got the same one.”

John can be slow on the uptake sometimes, so I had to explain things again. “No, it is not possible for it to be the same one. The color is .02% more blue in the dye and there is not a scrape mark on the left elbow.”

“Cameron, what I meant is,” an exasperated John explained, “I bought the same style, size and color jacket as the one you had stolen.”

“I know,” I replied, sensing John was getting frustrated. “I was just remarking it was not the same identical jacket.”

“Do you like it or not?”

“I like it better because you gave it to me,” I told my John, slipping the jacket on to model it for him. “Do you like it?”

“What matters is whether or not you like it,” John replied. He seemed relieved I did in fact like his gift. “You like it, so I like it,” he told me, a big smile gracing his handsome face.

Summer Glau as Cameron

“Good, that’s settled,” Sarah announced entering the living room. “School tomorrow and some freakish cold weather is going to move in during the night. John, bed. Cameron, laundry, patrol and then whatever you want.”

Bristling at being sent to bed like a child, John glared at Sarah as he stomped up the stairs. I displayed my disgust at being assigned laundry duty by staring silently at Sarah, who ignored both of us.

Annoyed, I quickly sorted the family’s dirty clothes and started a load of whites. Arming myself with my beloved pair of Glock-17s, I slipped on my new favorite item of clothing, my new purple leather jacket, and slipped out into the night to patrol the neighborhood.

Sixty-three minutes elapsed while I was on patrol. Upon my return I tossed the whites in the dryer, threw in a load of darks, and settled down with the remote to watch Bogie solve the mystery of The Maltese Falcon. Later on The Big Chill followed by Casablanca would be on. Great night of television.

The Next Morning…

Sarah had been correct for once about the weather. A nasty cold front had blown in during the night. Perfect weather to wear my new jacket.

I drove that morning. John’s reaction times are a bit to slow for my taste when the roads are bad. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to keep her man safe and keeping my man safe was my purpose.

School went by quick enough, and then it was time to drive my John home. I had my private dance class that evening, so I dropped my John off. Watched him go inside where he’d be safe. Sarah was there.

Crazy dame, that Sarah, but good with a gun.

Class went by quick and I had time to stop by a new shop I’d seen. Specialized in women’s styles from the 40’s. Thought I’d try my luck.

Forty minutes later I was back on the road. It was raining again. Good news was I’d been able to pick up two slick skirts, nice like what Bacall wore. Coupla blouses too. The kicker was the black silk stockings with garter belt. The real deal, right down to the black seam up the back of the leg. Pair of black shoes and belt and I was set for threads.

It was raining when I patrolled that night. Nothing suspicious to report, just cold and wet, but then what would you expect when it’s raining.

Decided I’d wear one of my new outfits. Styled my hair nice like Bacall, even nailed the make up. Sarah, laughed when she saw me, but nodded her approval. Told me I looked classy for a change. Makes a dame feel good when people notice the effort.

John acted like a real heel. Told me to change clothes. Told him he could walk to school in the rain. John came around to my way of thinking.

That afternoon…

I was lookin’ forward to some alone time with my John. Sarah and Derek would be gone when we got home. My John had warmed up to my new look. Seems he kinda likes the black silk stockings with the seam up the back of my leg. Course, when a girl’s got great gams, she oughta show’em off right?

I knew right off somethin’ was wrong when we pulled up. Somethin’ in my gut told me. I pulled my gat from my purse and reached under the seat for one of my Glocks.

“John, stay here,” I told him. Girl’s gotta keep her man safe.

With more caution than normal, not wanting to get a bullet hole in my new duds, I entered the house and cleared it, looking to see what had been pinched, if anything. John came in and looked around.

“Anything gone this time?” he asked.

“Yes! Some mug stole my new purple jacket and the second stash of diamonds!”

“Crap!” John says, “Mom is gonna freak about the diamonds!”

“Forget the diamonds,” I tell him. “I’m gonna find who took my jacket and put’em under. Nobody steals my jacket twice and lives.”

“Uh, Cameron, are you okay,” John asks me as I lit up a Lucky Strike. “Since when did you start smoking?”

“Hey, a dame needs a smoke when she’s feelin’ stressed,” I tell him. “I’m feelin’ stressed.”

I took a drag on my smoke as I examined the room for clues as to who had pilfered my jacket. Oh, yeah, and the diamonds.

Sarah and Derek pulled up. Seeing the backdoor wide open, they come in with their gats drawn.

“How bad?” Sarah asks me.

“The second stash and my purple leather jacket my John gave me,” I tell her.

Sarah ignored my cigarette, which was just as well. I was in no mood to take guff of her or anybody else. Derek on the other hand could be a real heel and he wasted no time pointing out my new vice to the boss.

“Hey, Sarah, Tin Miss is smokin’?” the heel pointed out, real loud like. “You gonna let her get away with that? You’d skin John or me if either of us lit up in the house.”

Shut up, Derek,” the boss lady told him, shuttin’ him down real quick. “We got bigger problems.”

Yeah, like findin’ who pinched my purple leather jacket.

***

The boss lady gave the order to pull the surveillance film. I did. No faces, but there was a van. Made the plate and ran it down for an address. Two thugs did the job, one of ‘em dressed classy. Nice brown suit and a fedora. Old school. Wasn’t going to save him though, he had my jacket.

Turns out the address is for a warehouse. The muscle might be workin’ for Skynet. So the boss lady sends me and the muscle over to check it out. Why Derek needed to come along, I can’t figure. He’s just goin’ to get in the way of me gettin’ my jacket back. I might be a dame, but I don’t need help.

We pull up across from the warehouse and settle in to keep an eye on the place. Derek takes a nap, which is fine with me as I don’t want to talk to him anyway. After a bit the two mugs leave and get in the van. So, I wake the muscle up and we tail ‘em.

They head down to the wharf where a freighter has just docked. The classy gunsel and the other thug go right up the gangplank. I figure we’ll just wait for ‘em and see what happens. I hear a couple gunshots and the Skynet muscle comes runnin’ down the gangplank. The big ugly one is holding his shoulder and the short well-dressed one is carrying a package wrapped in brown paper.

There’s an explosion on the freighter and flames erupt everywhere. The blast knocks the wounded thug into the water. His partner doesn’t even look back. He might dress well, but no character. No loyalty. I’m going to enjoy putting him down.

Derek might be a heel at times, but he’s a good wheelman. We follow the gunsel with the package. He’s not much of a pro. Never even checks to see if he’s bein’ followed. Disloyal. Unprofessional. Stole my purple jacket. He needs to be terminated.

We follow him to a Hilton. Nice place. I tell Derek to wait. He’s not dressed for the joint. I check my face and hair and follow the thug into the place. I put a little more roll in my stroll to make sure the doorman and bellboys don’t remember my face, they remember, something else.

The thug heads into the restaurant and goes right to a table in a corner. Sits down with the package out in the open. Add stupid to the list. I can’t believe my eyes when I see who walks in and takes a seat with him. It’s her.

The blonde bitch whore. Riley.* I get the itch to do the job right there, finish both of ‘em. I have to pull down my HUD and select override on the terminate command. As much as these two need to end up as fish food, I gotta get the skinny on what’s goin’ on for the boss lady. Our mob needs our stake of diamonds back and I’m getting’ my jacket if it’s the last thing I do. (* – Cameron’s standard reference for Riley. Otherwise she has a clean mouth. If you watched the show, you’d understand Cameron’s hatred for Riley.)

I take a seat and cross my legs. I make sure the waiter can see my gams, again, so he won’t remember my face. I order, not that I’m gonna eat, I just need to not be noticed. I turn up my auditory sensor and listen in.

Turns out the gunsel’s name is Wilmer. Not a fan. Riley takes the package from him and gives him a kiss on the cheek. Glad I have that on video. Won’t hurt my John to see the no good bitch whore is a two-timer.

Wilmer

Wilmer gets up and leaves. Riley takes the package with her. I can’t follow them both so I decide to follow the blonde. She makes her way through the lobby and heads for the rear exit. I stay close behind, making sure my face is down and my stroll is noticeable. Don’t want the cameras to be able to give me away.

The tramp has tried to class up a bit. She’s wearin’ a skirt for a change. Looks like she’s tryin’ to go for the secretary look. Doesn’t change anything. Tramps like her have to stay away from my John.

I follow her out to the parking lot. She fiddles in her purse as she walks up to a nice sedan. I wonder where she got the dough to afford a set of wheels like that. Probably don’t want to know. Either the oldest profession or Skynet.

The blonde looks up and sees me, drops the keys to the car.

“Cameron. What are you doing here? Are you following me?” She looks surprised to see me. Not too happy I might add.

“Why would I want to follow you?” I tell her. I move close and get in her space to unnerve the dame. “What have you got there? Something for my John?”

“None of your business,” the blonde replies. It’s clear I’m makin’ her nervous, so I turn the heat up a little.

“What if I say it’s my business? See. Our house got robbed again. First time that happened it was your fault cuz you left the security system off. Second time? Nah. You got some explainin’ to do blondie. Now, what’s in the package?”

Just as I was makin’ some headway, gunshots interrupt our conversation. Blondie picks up her keys while I turn to scan for whose doing the shooting. I see Derek draw down on Wilmur. He’s bleeding from his left shoulder. Derek might be a heel at times, but he’s family. And I’m loyal to my family.

“This conversation isn’t over blondie,” I tell the tramp. I run over to check Derek and he motions he’s okay, for me to go after Wilbur. I take off but the amateur loses me. What can I say? It’s hard for a lady to run in four-inch heels.

Back at the house…

“See, I told you she was no good,” I tell my John. “Steppin’ out on you like you meant nothin’ to her. She’s trouble, John, I’m tellin’ you.”

“Okay, Cameron. I get your point,” he replies. Riley and me go back. There’s bad blood between that bitch whore and me. John came around to his senses and picked me though, but a girl’s gotta pay attention. Nobody’s takin’ whats mine, that includes my John and my purple leather jacket.

“What was in the package,” the boss lady asks.

“I didn’t get a chance to find out,” I reply. “Had to bail out the muscle. This Wilmur character is not a bad shot and he’s pretty fast. If I hadn’t been wearing my heels, he wouldn’t have gotten away.”

Sarah doesn’t care too much for my answer but doesn’t say anything. She pulls the last stitch tight in Derek’s wound, causing him to flinch. He flinches again when the boss lady pours the iodine over the stitches before she puts a bandage on.

“The ship that sank was a freighter from Africa. Last port of entry was Dar es Salaam. Probably had a load of Coltan steel,” John informs us.

“More importantly, what was in the package,” Sarah asks. “Why did they set the ship on fire? Skynet would not want to lose a shipment of Coltan.”

“Don’t know,” I tell the boss lady. “But blondie has the package. I’ll find her. Make her sing.”

I head out the door, stopping to check my hair and make-up. I look swell. I check my .22 in my purse. Sarah comes over to the gun cabinet and motions for me to hike my skirt up, so I do. The boss lady pulls out a little thigh holster and straps it onto my leg, gives me a snub nose .38. I pull my skirt down and thank her. A dame can never have too many irons.

I kiss my John goodbye, a good kiss, one that’ll make him think about me while I’m gone. Somethin’ for him to miss, you know.

As I go out the door, the boss lady calls out. “Do not terminate Riley! Do you understand Cameron? Just get the information.”

I nod my head yes. The boss lady can put a real damper on things sometimes.

***

Riley is not the smartest dame. Being blonde doesn’t help her much in the brains department. I pulled up my file on her sedan, did a search on the plate and tracked down the address the car was registered to. She shoulda skipped town. Made it a little harder for me to hunt her down.

Wouldna’ mattered any, I never quit, I can’t be reasoned with and I don’t give up. Ever. Especially if involved something that is mine. Like protecting my John and getting back my purple leather jacket. Those diamonds were our stake to fight Skynet. Terminating Skynet means my John is safe.

I parked down the way by an alley to keep an eye on blondie’s place. Nice apartment complex. Didn’t think blondie had enough class to scratch together the dough for a joint like that, but sometimes people can surprise you.

This short, odd looking little man walked by my car and crossed the street. Sharp dresser, right down to the spats on his shoes. Nice gold cigarette case too. My gut told me to keep an eye on him. My gut was right. He stopped outside the apartment Riley was holed up in. Knocks on the door and waits. She opens the door and he pushes her aside and goes.

I’m about to get out and go see what’s goin’ on when the door opens. Riley’s still dressed like a classy dame and has on a nice coat. The little man is carrying the package and poking blondie in the back. This ain’t good.

I wait till they pass by before starting my engine. Using my side mirror I see the little man walk Riley to the corner behind me and hail a cab. I make a u-turn and follow. This guy is no more professional than Wilmur, never once looked back to see if there was a tail. But the boss lady said no terminations this time out.

The cab pulls up at a nice Westin Hotel and the odd couple gets out. I park and toss a couple coins in the meter and make my way to the lobby. It doesn’t take much effort, but as I stroll by, all the valets and the doormen are looking where I want them, at my legs and moneymaker. Nobody will remember my face.

Shortie and Riley take the elevator up to the fourteenth floor. I catch the next one up. A quick glance when the doors open show me which room they visit. I went up a coupla floors and came back real quick like so they would be inside.

Standing in front of the door I could hear the nasally voice of the Little Man and Riley’s whine as she complained. There were at least two more people inside. Four against one. Seemed like fair odds to me. Reached up under my skirt and pulled out the snub nosed .38 Sarah had loaned me.

Stepped back and kicked the door of its hinges. Sometimes it’s to a girl’s advantage to be a machine and not human.

I stepped in and took a look around. Riley screamed. Little man stepped back with his hands held up by his hears shaking. Sitting in the corner was an elegantly dressed fat man, beautifully tailored suit with pocket watch, chain and fob, gold cuff links, the works. Wilmer was there. Went for his piece so I encouraged him to rethink his decision.

He didn’t change his mind.

That one bad choice cost him two fingers on his right hand. Hope he can shoot left handed but I doubt it.

I noticed the brown package sitting on the coffee table.

“Ah, the lovely Miss Cameron, I believe,” the fat man said, interspersing his words with a nasally sounding short laugh. I didn’t know who was creepier, Little Man or the Fat Man.

The Fat Man

“I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage,” I asked, pointing my .38 at Wilmer, motioning the disarmed gunsel to move over by the others before aiming at the Fat Man. “You know me, but I don’t know you.”

“Who I am is irrelevant,” the Fat Man told me. “I am glad you have joined us.”

“And why is that,” I asked. Something smelled fishy and I wanted to clear the air.

“Oh, now, now, Miss Cameron. You are such a lovely thing, would you mind pointing that gun somewhere else. Please. I would appreciate it a great deal,” the Fat Man asked. He asked nice so I pointed the gun at the Little Man.

“I know who Wilmer is,” I told the Fat Man. “You need to hire better help.”

“Yes, well sometimes good help is hard to find,” the Fat Man agreed. “But one does what one has to in order to get by.”

“Hey!” Wilmer objected. “I’m a pro!”

“Not without your trigger finger on your shooting hand you ain’t,” I reminded him.

I pointed the .38 at Riley. “Her I know. There’s bad blood between us, ain’t there blondie?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Riley replied, acting all helpless and innocent.

“Now, now,” the Fat Man said to Riley in an encouraging voice. “There is no need for us to be hostile towards one another. I am sure whatever it was that upset Miss Cameron is your fault Riley. You should apologize.”

If I didn’t know he was bent, I could have learned to like the Fat Man. He saw things my way.

“Who’s this guy?” I asked, pointing my .38 at the Little Man. “Never seen him before.”

“My name is Joe Cairo,” he tells me in his nasally voice, acting as if I had somehow had offended him. “I have my papers,” he adds. As if I care about papers.

Joel Cairo

I ask the Fat Man, “Who are you? I’m gettin’ tired of asking.”

“Who I am is not important. I believe we’ve already established that fact.”

We hadn’t, but I let it go for the moment.

“Who do you work for,” I ask, trying a different angle.

“Ah, now that’s a good question,” the Fat Man replies, laughing his hideous laugh in between words. The smile vanishes from his face. “I am afraid I cannot answer your question.”

“Where’s the diamonds,” I says, cocking my .38.

“Oh, my, I hate violence. I just hate it!” Cairo announces.

“Now Miss Cameron, let’s not get hasty. There is no reason to resort to violence. None of us want that,” the Fat Man reassures me. Like I would believe much of what comes out of his mouth.

“Tell that to Wilmer,” I reply, growing tired of the games. “He tried to draw down on me.”

“Yes, well, he’s young and prone to impulsiveness at times I am afraid,” the Fat Man explained.

“It’s going to get him terminated,” I reply. “Now look. I can overlook a lot of stuff. I know your boy Wilmer here was behind that freighter catching fire and sinking. He and the muscle that drowned hit our place. Took a stash of diamonds and my purple leather jacket. Riley probably tipped ‘em off. Cairo here brings blondie to you. So I gotta figure you’re all in this racket together, see?”

“Observant aren’t you,” the Fat Man tells me, as if I needed telling. “But, there are a few things you may not be aware of.”

“Doesn’t matter to me at all. See, I just want the diamonds and the jacket back. You hand them over and I’ll just walk away. Forget I ever saw any of you. Well, not you blondie. You and me still got a score to settle. But that can wait.”

“I’m afraid we don’t have your diamonds,” the Fat Man says sadly. I almost believed him. Almost. “Nor do we have your purple leather jacket, though I am sure it was lovely,” he adds.

“Fine.” I said. I stepped forward and grabbed the package off the coffee table. The panic in their eyes told me that package was valuable to them.

“You have something that belongs to me and my gang. If you don’t have it, I know you know where it is.” I pointed my gun from one of them to the next, just to remind them who was in charge. “Now I have something that belongs to you. Get me my jacket and the diamonds, and you can have this back.”

I started walking backwards to leave and the Fat Man wiped his face with his silk handkerchief. “Should we find these items you are looking for,” he asks, “How will we contact you?”

“You won’t,” I tell him. “You’ve got 24 hours and then I’ll be in touch with you.”

“Don’t let her go,” Cairo hisses. “She mustn’t leave with the package.”

“I am afraid Mr. Cairo, the lovely Miss Cameron has us all at a disadvantage. It is only momentary, I assure you.” The Fat Man looks at me and smiles. It’s not a friendly sort of smile. It’s the kind that promises something bad is going to happen to you in the future. His kind doesn’t worry me.

Riley, being the blonde dame that she is, can’t take the stress anymore and screams and then takes a powder. Faints just like that. What could my John have ever seen in a skirt like that?

Blondie gave me the cover I needed and I got out of Dodge but quick. I took the stairs. I jumped from one level down to the next. It was faster than taking the elevator but it was hard on my new heels.

I split the joint and jaywalked to my car. Hoped in and started the engine. In a few minutes the Westin was far in the distance. The package was riding in the passenger seat. I took a glance at it but decided not to open it until I got back to our hideout.

Turns out, I shoulda stopped and taken the time.

***

I shoulda known.

The boss lady and the muscle had to go to a meet. I had ballet class after school. I figured John would be safe, you know. I get back to the hideout and he’s gone.

They left a note. The package for my John.

I was lost. My John was gone. The love of my life, the man I wanted to be with more than anything, was gone. It was my fault.

John and I had our problems. What pair doesn’t? But I loved him, and he loved me. We fit together. Two pieces of the same puzzle. Without my John, I had no purpose.

I ain’t no pushover, but I sat down and had myself a good cry. Sometimes a girl just has to do that. I got it out of my system. I knew what I had to do.

They had messed with the wrong Terminator. Just cuz I’m a dame doesn’t mean I can be trifled with. The boss lady wasn’t here to set boundaries this time.

This was a job that had to be done right. I was only gonna get one shot at this. I showered. Put on my best underwear, classy stuff. Silk stockings, best skirt and blouse. Did my hair and make-up. Bacall would have been proud. Bogie would have loved it.

The .38 when in my thigh holster. I had a nice matching jacket for the skirt. Altered it so I could carry a lady’s shoulder holster. Stuck my .22 in my purse and took one last look in the mirror. Lit up a Lucky Strike and I was ready.

Took my time driving down to the Westin. Parked a block away and blended in with the crowds on the sidewalk. Checked with the desk clerk to use the house phone and I called up to the Fat Man’s room. Told’em I had the package and wanted to do a deal.

I went on up. If they’d known what I am, my John would already be dead.

I got off the elevator and walked down to the Fat Man’s room. Knocked real quick like on the door. Wilmer opens it up quick. I can see Riley in the background. She just ain’t too smart, showing up at times like this. I step in and I hear the Fat Man. Tells me to give Wilbur my purse, so I do while the Fat Man laughs his evil laugh.

Joe Cairo is there and some doll I don’t recognize. Unusual looking, has hair like Sarah’s, my boss lady, but longer. She’s a looker though, maybe from the Far East. She touches my John and I will terminate her that instant. I’ll say this, the doll has a little class. Dresses nice, like a lady with real class. I wonder to myself, how did a girl like that get mixed up with a mob like this?

“Who’s she?” I ask. Nobody answers my question.

The Fat Man tells me I have to let Wilmer pat me down. I give him a look so he knows not to get fresh. He’s already missing two fingers on his gun hand. John looks at me and tells me with his eyes to cooperate. Not to start anything just yet.

My John is not safe at the moment so I play a long.

I told the Fat Man he needed to get better help and Wilmer proves my point. Pats me down on my chest and cops a feel, right there in front of John. I watch my John’s face turn red and I tell him with my eyes it’s okay. Makes me feel good inside to know my man doesn’t want me bein’ touched like that.

When Wilmer moved down to my moneymaker and goosed me, that was too much. I took his hand off my bottom and broke his wrist. Bones cracked like kindling.

For some reason, the strange doll’s face clouds up like a hurricane. Somethin’ is wrong about her. I see Riley looking at the dame, like she wants the dame to tell her something, anything. Maybe tell her what to do.

“You should not have done that Miss Cameron,” the Fat Man tells me. He’s holding a gat and he’s pointing it at me. Better than pointing it at my John. Little Joe Cairo has a pistol, not too different from the little shooter I carry in my purse. He’s pointing it at me. That makes two guns being aimed at me.

Blondie turns around. Some nerve that bitch whore has. Her right hand is shaking, but she’s got a Glock in it. Sarah’s old Glock.

“You,” I say to her. “It was you!”

“I had to,” Riley tells me. “She made me. It’s not what you think.”

“You don’t know what I think,” I tell the bitch whore. She’s dressed nice too for some reason. She could button up her blouse a button or two, give the girls a little more cover. I know she’s still got the hots for my John. Showin’ him a glimpse of her girls like that.

Wilmer is making noises about his wrist. So I put him to sleep. One nice tap on the button and he goes down like a pretender in the first round.

“Now, Miss Cameron, what did I say about violence,” the Fat Man snickers. “It positively upsets Mr. Cairo.”

“Who’s she,” I ask again, pointing at the exotic looking dame. Riley moves aside and I see another gun pointed at me. “What’s with the gun?” I ask the black haired beauty.

“Where’s the package,” she asks.

“It’s someplace safe,” I tell her. “You think I was gonna just come up here and hand it over? I wasn’t born yesterday.”

I look at the Fat Man cuz I know he calls the shots. “My purse? Wilmer already took my shooter out.”

“Yes, yes, most certainly,” he tells me in between his sickening chuckles, motioning with his heater for me to pick it up.

I pick my purse up and tell my John with my eyes everything is going to be okay. I got things figured out.

I reach into my purse and pull out a key to a locker at a bus station and hold it up for everyone to see.

“I take it the key is for a locker where the package is stored,” Joe Cairo asks in his nasally voice.

“This key opens a locker in the Greyhound bus terminal two blocks from here,” I tell nobody in particular. “The package is there.”

“Well, then,” Cairo says, “you and I will go get it.”

“Not so fast,” the Fast Man says. “How do we know you can be trusted?”

“You don’t,” I tell the Fat Man. “But that’s not my problem. See, I kept my end of the deal.” I reached back in my purse and pulled out my Lucky Strikes. A quick shake of the pack and a cigarette comes out. I put it between my lips and fish for my lighter. I take a puff and shake my head.

“I thought at least one of you would be a gentleman and offer a lady a light,” I tell them.

“You,” Cairo whines, “are no lady.”

My John gets red in the face again and I scan him quickly. His blood pressure and heart rate have gone up. I have to get him out of here before he does somethin’ stupid defendin’ my honor and gets himself shot or worse, dead.

He glares at Cairo and finally tells the little man through his teeth that he’s no gentleman. Cairo just shrugs my John’s words off. My man loves me. Always makes a girl feel better when her man defends her, even though this girl doesn’t need defending.

I smile and blow smoke at Cairo. He waves his left hand to blow the smoke away so I take another drag and blow smoke at him again. This time he makes a face and steps out of the smoke.

Without taking my eyes off Cairo or the strange doll in the corner, I tell the Fat Man, “I came for my John. That’s all I want. So, I’m going to leave with my man. See the table by the door? I’m going to put the key on it. Then we’re going to go. Wait five minutes. Then do whatever you want. I don’t care,” I tell them all. “Follow us, and you’ll be sorry.”

“This is not quite what I had in mind,” the Fat Man tells me.

“This wasn’t the deal,” the dark haired dame snarls at the Fat Man. I’m liking her less and less.

“Well, it’s the deal now,” I say. “I just want my man back. Like I said, I don’t care about the package.” I motion for John to stand up and move towards the door. I reach under my skirt and pull my .38. I aim it at the strange broad. That gets her attention.

“John, would you be a dear and get my .22,” I ask. My John is a dear and gets it. I kiss him chastely on the cheek for being so thoughtful.

Holding the key up, I start making my way towards the door. My John opens the door and cautiously steps out into the hall. I set the key down on the table and glance at each of them.

“Five minutes,” I say and pull the door shut behind me.

My John and I run for the elevator. In less than five minutes we’re running down the sidewalk to the car.

We pile in and I start the engine and pull out into traffic, heading away from the bus terminal.

My John looks at me and says to me words I hadn’t expected to hear, “What were you thinking? We’ve got to get the package before they do.”

***

I let my John know in no uncertain terms he should said something while I still had the package. I coulda just terminated the lot of them and been done with it.

This led to us having words about how Sarah is right about me needin’ to work on controlling my impulse to terminate people. I love my John, but right now I don’t like him too much.

We made tracks to the bus terminal but the Fat Man’s mob beat us to the locker. I ask John why we have to get the package back. At first, he doesn’t say too much, but I kept after him till he spilled the beans. The package contains a black bird. A statue of a black bird. Nothing important like my jacket or Sarah’s diamond stash.

I point this fact out to my John. He tells me the Fat Man has a tattoo. A Skynet tattoo. Last name of Gutman. I laughed. I guess John didn’t see the humor. John said there was a lot of tension between the classy dame and the Fat Man. Riley, that bitch whore, knew the exotic doll, even seemed to show deference to her. Like the raven-haired woman was her boss.

This got my attention. I knew there was a reason I didn’t like that woman. I point out to John this woman, who he says is named Jesse, is proof Riley is no good. He doesn’t say anything about that, but I know he’s thinking about what I said.

Wilmer and Cairo are suspicious characters too, he says. Wilbur for sure works for the Fat Man but he couldn’t pick up what Cairo’s scam is. I tell him Wilmer took my jacket and I don’t care what his mom, the Boss Lady, says. When this is over and I get my jacket back, I’m terminating him. John just nods and doesn’t say anything. I know he agrees cuz Wilmer touched me in places no man has ever touched me. No man is ever gonna touch me there again either until my John makes me an honest woman.

John says he overheard them talking about some restaurant, a joint named Ricks. Serves Moroccan food. They got the jump on us so we figure, why not. Have to start the hunt somewhere.

Things don’t start out too good. We walk in and the maître de says John needs a coach. He insulted my John just like that, like my John wasn’t good enough for that dump. Smiles at me and checks me out, so I smiled back and made nice. He “loans” my John a coat and seats us.

I tell John I’ll eat a little of his and check the place out while he reads the menu. The Fat Man and his gang are sitting in the far back of the joint and don’t make us. I check the place out and I like the décor a little better. Lots of movie posters from the Golden Era of Hollywood. Some of my favorites like The Maltese Falcon and Africa Queen.

No sooner does our food arrive than the police come in. I take a sip of my water and eavesdrop on what the cops are asking the maître de. I notice the Fat Man getting nervous. Cairo and Wilmer get up and head towards the back. Riley excuses herself and goes to the lady’s room to powder her nose. Jesse and the Fat Man are arguing with each other. She slaps him and grabs the package and runs after Riley.

The cops take notice and take after this Jesse dame. She ducks into the little girls room and the cops follow right in. A minute later, they come out with the Jesse dame in cuffs but no package. I smell a rat and tell John to stay put.

I work my way to the powder room and check it out. Riley is nowhere to be seen but the window of the toilet is open. Out the window I go just in time to see Riley leaving in her sedan. With the package no doubt. I look down and see a snagged my nice silk stocking. It’s got a run in it. Riley is going to pay for this, amongst other things.

I walk around to the front of the restaurant to watch the cops put the black haired doll in the squad car. I don’t pick up any more intel, so I head inside to get my John.

“The bitch whore has the package.” I tell him how I know.

Wilmer and Cairo come running back and have a quick talk with Gutman. Seems they figured out Riley and the Jesse dame double-crossed them.

I tell John I know where Riley is going. I drive hard to make it to the apartment where I saw Cairo grab Riley earlier. We pull up across the street. The sedan is parked in front of the apartment.

“She’s gonna run,” I tell my John.

“Let’s see what she’s doing in there,” John replies.

We waste no time making it to the apartment. John makes like he’s gonna peek in the window and see what’s going on. I just take the bull by the horns and kick the door in. John just sighs and shakes his head.

I stroll in with my .22 in my hand. Riley takes one look and screams. At least she had the good graces not to faint this time.

“John,” Blondie pleads as he comes in behind me, “Cameron is scaring me. Make her quit following me.”

“Why? Have you done something to make Cameron want to hurt you?” John asks nicely.

“John, she scares me,” Riley whines.

“Where’s the package,” I ask. “You know, the one that Jesse dame tossed out the window to you.”

“John,” she pleads again.

“Where’s the package,” he asks her.

I walk right up to Riley and give her a Death Glare. She backs up in fear and I step even closer. Riley glances at John in hope he’ll call me off but John’s finally getting tired of this sorry excuse of a woman.

John frowns at Riley and asks her one more time where the package is. I take this as his patience is getting a little thin, so I encourage Riley to fess up with a little slap on the cheek.

The no good skirt falls right down and starts backing up on the floor like a crab. Tears start flooding down her cheeks. A nice red mark is forming where I slapped her. Nice. She’ll have a shiner in the morning.

I hand my .22 to my John so he can keep an eye on Dawson. I start tearing the place apart.

“Shame I have to do this,” I tell Dawson. “Nice place. Lot better than your foster parent’s home.”

“You leave them out of this,” she yells back. “They have nothing to do with this!”

“Fine,” I say. “Where’s the package.”

She decides to be stubborn about this. She gets up and sits on the couch and crosses her arms across her chest.

“I don’t have it,” she says.

I shrug and start throwing things off the bookshelves, making sure they break. I know the package isn’t in the living room, I just want to give her something to think about.

“Hurry up,” John says. “We don’t know how much time we have.”

I go into the bedroom and look in the closet. There’s no way this is Riley’s apartment. The clothes are too nice. I take out a blouse and check the size. Riley couldn’t button this up around the girls if she wanted to. I realize this must be the Jesse dame’s place.

“So,” I ask Dawson, “just how mad do you think Jesse is going to be when she gets home?”

“This is my place now,” Riley lies.

“Don’t lie,” John yells at Riley, scaring her.

I move a couple of boxes in the back of the closet and there it is. The package. I pull it out and return to the living room.

John nods and pulls out his pocketknife. I take my .22 from him and point it at Riley.

“John, please don’t. Jesse will kill me if something happens to that package.”

“I might kill you if you don’t shut up,” I tell her.

“John,” she pleads again. I almost feel bad for Riley. She can’t make up her mind who she’s more afraid of. Me or this Jesse dame. Then I feel a little insulted, so I slap her hard again, just to remind Blondie who is the more dangerous shark in the waters.

Carefully John cuts the package open and removes all the wrapping inside. He removes a black figurine, a little statue of a black falcon, just like the one Bogie found in The Maltese Falcon.

“New deal,” John tells Riley. “Diamonds and the purple jacket for the bird.”

***

The phone rings. I let my John answer it. He listens. Finally he tells whoever is on the phone we’ll be there in two hours and hangs up.

John tells me, “Cameron, we need to go now.”

I tell him I’m not ready, I have to change my stockings. He won that argument. Good thing I’m a Terminator. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to draw a perfect line up the back of my legs with my eyeliner so my legs at least look covered. It’s hard to do while the car bounces around.

We packed the black bird up and I held it in my lap. I don’t know why they wanted it so badly. It was cheap knockoff of the original from the classic movie, The Maltese Falcon. I scanned it and there was nothing inside of it.

The meet is going to go down at Ricks. We get there first. I go inside and find a seat where I can’t be seen but can see everyone. The maître de likes how I look so it’s no problem. This time, I dressed John before we left. He looks sharp in his suit and tie. He even agreed to wear the fedora I picked up for him.

The Fat Man walks in and is seated right away. Wilmer and Cairo take a look around but don’t spot me. So unprofessional. Jesse arrives a few minutes later with Dawson in tow. I grin when I see Riley’s face. Nice shiner she’s got. It’s pretty clear there is no love lost with that gang as they sit down and start bickering right away.

John comes in the joint with the package, lookin’ sharp if I say so myself. And I do. The maître de treats him with the respect he deserves this time and leads John back to the table where Gutman and his band of unprofessional thieves are waiting. I turn up my auditory sensors to listen in.

“I see you have the package,” Gutman snickers. He’s disgusting.

“I don’t see the diamonds or the jacket,” John tells the Fat Man.

“First, the bird,” Gutman says, all laughter gone.

“Where is the Cameron skirt,” Wilmer asks. So I’m a skirt now. No respect.

“None of your business,” my John says.

“What if I make it my business,” Wilbur snarls.

My John just laughed and pushed the little punk aside. Wilbur takes offense and grabs my John’s coat lapel. I think for a second I’m going to have to terminate the punk, but John’s cool. He looks down at Wilmer and removes his hand from his coat. I here him tell the punk, “You’ve touched my lady friend. Now you’ve touched me. Touch either one of us again, and I’ll let her terminate you.”

“Tough guy,” Wilmer says. “Letting the little woman do your dirty work, huh?”

I bristle at his words and have to use my HUD to override the command to terminate him. Let me do John’s dirty work. It’s going to be a pleasure to terminate the punk when the time comes. I light up a Lucky Strike to calm myself.

“Now, now,” the Fat Man interjects. “We are here for a business transaction, Wilmer. Control your impulses. Now, Mr. Connor, I wish to examine the bird if you please.”

John hands Gutman the package and everybody leans in except John to watch as the Fat Man begins tearing at the wrapping with his fat, greedy fingers. He finally gets the packaging off and pulls out the black bird. It’s a cute little knock off.

“There’s your bird. Now, let’s finish this transaction,” John tells the Fat Man. Gutman is turning the bird around and examining it. He looks up at Cairo and nods. The little man with the strange nasally speaking voice reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out the stash and tosses it on the table.

“The jacket,” John reminds them. “It’s in the car,” Wilmer says. Before they can stop him, John scoops up the diamonds and snatches the bird away from the Fat Man. Guns appear in everyone’s hands except my John’s.

“You asked where the lovely Miss Cameron is,” John says calmly. “She’s here and she’s watching. Now, that might not mean anything to you gentlemen.” John was being polite, I just love him. “But I have a feeling Jesse, you know how dangerous she is. Same with you Riley.”

Jesse looks around and Riley turns pale. “Why don’t all of you put your guns away before Cameron hurts somebody. You’ve seen the bird. I have the diamonds. I’m not going anywhere until I get the jacket. Wilmer, why don’t you be a good boy and give Miss Dawson the keys to the car. Riley, you go get the jacket.”

Wilmer takes offense at being called a boy, but the Fat Man calms him down quick with a glance. Wilmer does as he was told. Riley looks even paler than before it that’s possible and takes the keys. I woulda followed her to make sure the dame didn’t skip but I couldn’t leave my John alone with those thugs. Something tells me this Jesse dame has a tight hold over Riley so the odds are good she’ll be back with my jacket.

I finish my smoke and am about to light up another when Riley returns. Sure enough, she’s got my purple leather jacket. Time for me to make my play.

Riley hands John the jacket and he shoves her back into her seat. Slowly, my John places the black bird back on the table. I stroll over to join my man. All the men in the joint check me out as I stroll by. For their benefit, I slip my arm around John’s waist, just to let them know who the lucky man is who is the object of my affections.

“May I ask a question,” the Fat Man says.

“Sure. One question,” John replies.

“The diamonds I understand. But why are you so concerned about the jacket?”

John smiles as he hands me my jacket. “Wilmer here took something that belonged to my lady friend.”

I examine the jacket quickly. It is the jacket John gave me to replace the first one that was stolen. I smile at Wilmer as I slip it on. It doesn’t match my look, but I love the jacket just the same. My John gave it to me. How could I not love it?

Gutman laughs his disgusting laugh. “Yes. I see. A gentleman. And Miss Cameron is so lovely. It makes sense.”

John begins to back away slowly. “I wish I could say it was a pleasure doing business with you, but it hasn’t been,” he tells them.

In a flash, Wilmer draws with his left hand. Bad mistake. I take the gun from him and break his left wrist. Cairo manages to get a shot off but missed me. I dropped him with a clean shot between the eyes. Wilmer kicks me so I shoot him too. Not the way I wanted to terminate him, but sometimes a lady has to do what she has to do.

Jesse goes for her piece but I’ve got the drop on her and she freezes. In the distance the sound of a siren can be heard. John just shakes his head. Riley would vanish into thin air if she could. Jesse looks at me with unbridled hate. The Fat Man looks like he wants to leave as badly as we do.

“Roll you sleeve up,” John orders the Fat Man. He looks surprised for a moment but after looking at me decides to do as he’s told. Without getting up he struggles out of his silk coat and rolls up first one shirtsleeve and then the other. The second one does the trick. Exposed on his forearm is the Skynet barcode and tattoo.

“You’re a Grey,” John tells the Fat Man.

“Yes. And you are John Connor, future leader of the resistance.”

John looks at me and nods. I put three in the Fat Man’s heart. He stops breathing. I aim at Riley and am about to pull the trigger when John shakes his head no.

“I just can’t let you do it,” John tells me. “I know you hate Riley, and I’ve given you enough reasons to want to pull the trigger, but I think she’s telling the truth when she says they made her do it.”

“John, you know I would never,” Riley starts.

I cut her off quick, “shut up. You’ve caused enough trouble. I want to terminate you. Don’t give me a reason to disobey my John and pull the trigger,” I tell her.

I point at the dark haired skirt with my gat. “You want me to finish her off,” I ask my John.

“No. Leave them alone. We need to go before the cops get here,” John says with a smile as he picks up the black bird.

“Hey,” the black haired doll says with her strange accent, “what about the deal?”

“Deal changed as soon as Wilmer tried to shoot Cameron,” John says, backing away. “Be happy I didn’t change it even more.”

We turn and leave. I slip my arm through John’s and turn my head to glare at Riley and the Jesse dame, just to remind them who’s who and that John is all mine.

As we drive away I examine the diamonds.

“They’re real and they’re all here,” I tell my John.

“I wonder why they were willing to trade the statue for the diamonds. The statue isn’t worth anything.”

I shrug. John’s got a point. Lot of trouble for a copy of a prop from one of Bogie’s best films.

“Maybe,” I tell him, “it’s not the bird they were looking for. It’s a fake. They got double crossed.”

“Probably,” my John agrees. “But by whom?”

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The Thomas Sullivan Chronicles and Other Stories