The Queen

Contributor: Jeanelle Nicole Driver

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            She played the foil yet again, a damsel in distress, but in reality a capable villain. Of course the poor sap sitting across from her didn’t know it yet. His minutes were numbered. His gang was the last obstacle between her and this city.
“Take it or leave it,” he said throwing a wad of crumpled bills on the table.
Her blue eyes narrowed and she made no motion to pocket the cash.
“I’m not going to play your games, Zane. You can’t buy my silence,” she said. She blew a delicate smoke ring after taking a puff from her cigarette. “You’ve played me for the fool for the last time.”
Zane reached for the money but drew his hand back before his fingers brushed the worn, damp edges.
“It’s not hush money, Babe, think of it as a retainer.”
“Oh please, you’re too slimy to be suave, Zane,” Her blood red lips pursing to take another drag. “Stop calling me babe, it’s not going to work this time.”
Zane shrugged, swiped his hand across the table, and crammed the money back into his pocket. “It’s your loss,” he said. “Can’t blame a guy for trying to be decent.”
Sparks flared in the glass ashtray as Meg stubbed out her cigarette. She chuckled and set her chin in her hand. “Stop trying to pretend you care about my welfare, Zane,” she said. “You just want to save your own ass.”
“True, but I have my pride, Sweetheart.”
Meg laughed hard and long, the sound bubbling from her lips heavy with sarcasm. “Get out of here before you embarrass yourself again.” She picked up her wine and sipped it, turning attention to the ruby liquid and away from the greasy man before her.
Zane’s escape was not careful. He tripped over stools, and bumped into tables in the acrid light. He left a wake of spilled drinks, grumbling patrons, and wisps of his pride trailing behind in the chaos.
Meg raised her eyes to watch as he fled, a small smile curving over her painted lips. She took another sip of her wine, her smile growing sinister. “You better run, Zane. Danger didn’t follow me here tonight.”
Zane chose this place, The Diamond, for their meeting. Maybe twenty years ago it sparkled, but Meg doubted it.  Still, it suited Zane. Meg was content after tonight she wasn’t going to pry her stilettos from this floor ever again.
She slipped a revolver out of her handbag and moved through the chaos to the back alley. She didn’t stop to reproach Zane’s parking choices. Tonight it made her job easier.  She was ready. The night reverberated with two gunshots. Zane met her eyes with surprise as he slumped to the ground, blood blooming on his grimy shirt.
“I am the Recluse,” she said. “Tonight I can come out of hiding.”
With ease she put her gun away, and stepped back inside The Diamond to find her partner. Like Meg, he was from another world, and took pains to mop up the filth in the city. He was the one marked to kill Zane, but Meg took the lead before he got the chance. Still, she valued his opinion above anyone elses.
 “Silas, thank you for not making me stay a moment longer in this dismal place,” she said holding out a manicured hand.
Silas brought the proffered hand to his lips and kissed it. “My pleasure,” he said. “It went better than expected, Conrad and his vermin never saw this coming.”
Meg slipped her arm through his, a smile dancing on her lips. “Of course he didn’t. Conrad is just as dense as Zane the fool. Each time they fall into my trap quicker than the last,” she said. An excited cackle burst from her throat but she quelled it. “They drink my poison willingly and seal their fate.”
Silas squeezed her hand and escorted her out the door. “One person rules the city, “ he said. “With no one left to pick from the garbage your empire will flourish.”
Meg stepped into the sleek car idling at the curb, sped away with Silas at her side, back into the world of opulence where she belonged.

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Jeanelle Nicole Driver is majoring in Creative Writing. She likes to expand her writing horizons, and has been published in Linguistic Erosion.
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