The street corners of the Ninth Ward and the bordello backrooms of Metairie knew her as the Red Queen. She went by the name Deja, and the way she looked right through those she gave that name to always had the feeling they had seen her before.
Nobody stayed on their feet long enough to learn his name.
They met in the hot, hot summer of ’06, when the city was still more a corpse than a civilized place for civilized people. They only looked civilized, and after one look at each other, they both knew no good would come of it. After an afternoon of Seven Card Stud and a night that wouldn’t end, they got to business.
Theirs was the kind of business that wouldn’t quit and wouldn’t be stopped. They worked after hours. She led him with whispers and he led with his bullets.
They led the crest of a crime wave, and New Orleans didn’t even see the flood coming before that wave crashed over it.
The Eagle Street Boys were first to fall under his guns. He picked their roosts clean of crack rock while the bones were still wet.
The Dirty 30 were next on the list. Their district, Desire, split its sidewalks with his and her ambition, and its projects sang with midnight gunfire.
And New Orleans roared with that voice. It screamed with sirens and headlines and it declared war. And below that roar, she whispered on.
“The Rejects sleep during the day after ruling the nights on Florida Street,” she whispered. And he did his killing during the day.
“Big Jake Deane closes the Saturn Bar every Saturday,” she whispered. And that was a Saturday to remember in how many lives were lost.
“Abby over at the Blue Kitty has a thing for Ace Calhern,” she whispered. And soon the elusive Ace’s wife had him out on the streets, where gunsights could see him.
And she whispered of back-alley lovers. And she whispered of board-room deals. And she whispered jazz joints and lakeside shacks and Mississippi meth labs.
And the hundred dollar bills whispered into their stacks and the drugs into the shaking hands of skels. And the bodies in the morgue made no sound.
Soon he heard her whispers coming back at him. He began to hear the Red Queen was getting too powerful. Worse yet, he began to hear she was getting restless with him.
“You are my right hand,” she would purr with his hands on her body.
“You are my dog,” she would call with her finger like a leash on his chin.
“You are mine,” she would say as he slept. And it was good enough for him—it was better than a soul could ever be. But it did not keep him from sleeping with the safety off and a hand on the steel under his pillow.
It was enough to just see her seated on a stack of Colombian cocaine, like a queen on a cloud. “You are mine.”
It was enough that when the gangs banded together and came to reclaim their drugs and their women and their hot stacks of cash, he met them with death in his fists and without fear. “You are mine.”
It was enough—more than a soul, more than a life sentence, more than lead could kill or a razor could cut into neat lines. It was messy and theirs and they made a mess of New Orleans with it.
It was undone with a whisper. A single whisper to three fatal digits: 911.
The police found him where she slept, but he was sleeping alone when they found him. He did not go quietly but he went to Angola. She went to wherever that numbered bank account took her.
He waits for the poison of lethal injection now. He waits and does not dream, because his dreams are all of her, and she is gone.
He waits in hope that he will look into the gallery on the night the judge set for his life to end, and will see her red, red lips form those hot words that make it all mean something.
The only words his name ever needed. Words the shape of fate. Words he felt he had always known, even before he heard them, and ever after.
“You are mine.”
Matthew C. Funk is a professional writer in marketing for corporate
America, a writing mentor and the author of several manuscripts that illuminate
the beauty of human extremes. A graduate of the Professional Writing MFA at USC,
his online work is featured at sites such as Powder Burn Flash; Thrillers,
Killers and Chillers; Twist of Noir; Six Sentences and his Web