Ishkin’s lungs were still congested today. I think the doctor doesn’t care. Either they don’t have the right medicine to cure him, or they know I can’t pay for it. His other symptoms are a lot better, though. He can eat regular food now, as long as it's soft. His teeth are a little loose from all the grinding during the worst of his illness, but the nurses say that the problem will go away in a week or two.
I wanted to check if I had a message from Robert today, but the lady at the hospital was slow with Ishkin’s breakfast, and then Ishkin wanted to talk for awhile. He’s lonely and I can’t say I blame him. By the time I got out of there, I had to go straight back to our little hole-in-the-wall headquarters. Finally we had a daytime assignment. Not only that, but we would be using my horses and I was going to have an important role. The promise of being able to earn more than just enough to pay for a meal or two had me pretty excited.
Gitana was not at all happy, though. “Why do I have to be the distraction?” she asked. “Have la Rústica do it. Those country costumes she has will be perfect.”
“I make the decisions,” Vince reminded her. “We’re short on marksmen, la Rústica has proven herself in a fight, and we need her horses.” Seeing that she was still annoyed, he added, “You're a good distraction. You've got the right kind of sex appeal.”
This seemed to make Gitana happy, because when Vince turned to give Speedball his instructions, she gave me a little smirk.
The mission went off without a hitch. Our job was to intercept a wagon underneath one of the elevated roads.
Me and a guy named Xerox were stationed on opposite sides of the road, behind big blocks of concrete rubble. Vince and Speedball were a little farther away, and Ozone and the others were posted as lookouts and backup for those of us who would be taking out the wagon guards.
Gitana had the most interesting role. She was fixed up in a flouncy dress, cut low in front and pinned up at one side to show some leg. Sparkly earrings in her ears and rows of bangles on her arms jingled as she walked into the road leading a little burro pulling a wagon that appeared to be piled high with goods, but really only contained our blankets and bedrolls, all bundled up to look like they covered something important. The burro was one the group had used before, and it knew a few tricks, the most important one being to lay down and stay still. Huddled in a heavy wool shawl to keep warm, Gitana knelt by the animal and waited.
She played her role to perfection. As soon as we got the signal that the wagon was approaching, Gitana adjusted the shawl in a deliberately careless way, to reveal as much skin as she figured she could get away with in this weather. Then she knelt over the burro and began crying in such a convincing way I know I would’ve believed it if I hadn’t seen for myself it was all an act.
The mule drivers pulled up as Gitana got to her feet and went toward them, begging for help. As soon as the guards turned their attention on her, me and Xerox picked off two of them, and I nicked a third before he could draw his weapon. Speedball rushed the wagon, crazy as always, and got the fourth guard, and I took aim at the wounded guy and killed him on the second try. By now Gitana had pulled a gun out of someplace under all those flounces and had taken aim at the drivers, and Vince helped her dispatch them while Ozone grabbed the lead mule’s bridle and the rest of us secured the dead guards’ horses. With Flecha and Ishkin’s horse, and now the four guards’ animals and the wagon, we were all able to ride, and we headed in style toward the place where we would meet our contact and turn over the goods.
The job had gone so easily that I was nervous and could hardly sit my horse on the way to the dropoff point. Flecha wasn’t much help, tossing her head, tugging at the bit and skittering sideways, she was so happy to be out and about again. We handed off the wagon and there were no tricks, just a quick counting of coins. Vince's contact placed a couple of small bundles from the wagon in Gitana's cart, shook a few hands, and we were done. Vince joined Gitana in her donkey cart, which made her happy, and we all split up to meet back at headquarters later.
My pay for this job was generous. It didn’t do much for my unease at having committed a robbery, but when Vince produced some good Scotch whiskey, cigarettes and marijuana as part of the group’s pay, I didn’t feel so bad. Stealing from drug and whiskey-runners isn’t something to feel too guilty about. I accepted some of the Scotch, but declined the other stuff being passed around, and went to my pallet in the corner to try and write to Auntie. It had been awhile, and I owed her a letter, but for some reason, words wouldn’t come. What could I say about the kind of life I was living here in the city? She raised me to be better than this.
So while the others drank and smoked, and Gitana hung on Vince, giggling, I tried to read a little, until finally everyone grew sleepy and made their way to bed.
Come to think of it, I’m kind of tired, too.
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