Devlin didn’t know why he was letting this woman drive him anywhere, but as she drove like a bat out of hell he could sense her panic and wanted to quell this feeling in her somehow.
So why had he asked her to marry him? A moment of insanity? No, Devlin was a businessman. He had made powerful decisions based on millions of dollars and millions of lives since he was sixteen years old, so why did he abruptly ask a complete stranger to marry him? Not just a complete stranger, but he was very aware she was a prostitute, a streetwalker!
His whole life had felt he had been missing something and even after he had lost his
celibate state, he still found that inner satisfaction incomplete. Yet the more he was around her, the more he found himself needing her and feeling satisfied personally.
She stopped in front of a dilapidated home, which looked as if it were built in the worst part of Motown. Abandoned homes scattered the block in disrepair or which aluminum and metal had been stripped from the outside and inside of the home. The smell of garbage was very prevalent, but it was hard trying to figure out if it was coming from a specific area or it was just all around. On top of that there were vacant lots filled with illegal bulk dumped carelessly and garbage strewn all over these lots and the streets.
“Stay here!” she ordered.
“No!” he said. True, he may not be able to protect her from a bullet, but he didn’t want her out of his eyesight.
“Fine,” she said completely frustrated by his obstinacy. “But stay close and keep your mouth closed.”
He put his cap on low and followed her to the front door of the decrepit home. There was no doorbell and she hit the door hard several times with her fist as if there were a fire outside.
The smell of urine, human waste and maggots flooded his nostrils and he was almost inclined to throw up, but kept his eyes on her, glad that he had only eaten the sandwich. She didn’t look affected by the smell at all.
While they waited for the door to open, he asked, “Do you live over here?”
“Not too far,” she responded just as the door opened and a skinny woman answered the door.
Her hair was knotted and there was a white film around her cracked lips as if she had licked her lips a million times and just forgot to wipe the residue off. Dark skinned and medium height, she looked as if she had not eaten in days.
Cold brown eyes assessed him first, but then immediately warmed when they landed on the woman beside him. “Tanner!” she exclaimed. “Pari, just got here with your stuff.”
Devlin was still confused as to why people called her by that name, but she answered to it. Was it a nickname? He wondered briefly.
Tanner gasped. “ Pari’s here, Nina?” she asked, stepping in the house, as if she had heard wrong.
Devlin followed taken aback at how poor the home look. There was a smell of dead water, a low lit cheap lamp at the front room and everything looked old and dirty. Did Tanner’s home look like this too?
“She came from the ally,” the woman, Nina, said, occasionally looking over at Devlin as if he were not to be trusted.
“Take me to Jam,” Tanner ordered.
Nina led them through the house, which Devlin found himself ducking through doorways that seemed too low for his immense height. ‘People lived in this small ass place?’ He asked himself as they passed a kitchen and two bedrooms.
The skinny woman stopped at a door and looked warily at Devlin again. “Whose the cracker?”
Tanner glanced Devlin and then said in an amused voice, “Your Thursday night.”
This was enough to suffice and Nina looked appreciably over at Devlin combined with a look of jealousy. She opened the back bedroom door where a man was laying on the bed.
Another woman was over this man hunched over in an awkward position. She was about Tanner’s size, but with more height, caramel skinned with long natural waist length hair as if she had just stepped out a salon. Three burly men trying to hold the man on the bed down, while the woman was applying pressure to the man’s side, also surrounded her. She was dressed in beige pajamas with no shoes on and her feet were dirty.
Tanner threw her coat and hat off and went over to the bed, while putting on some latex gloves. She took instant charge of what seemed like chaos and Devlin was amazed how people jumped at her barking orders. He then realized she was peeling away the man’s clothing and blood began to spill out on the bed and floor.
“He’s bleeding,” Devlin said as if no one else knew what was going on.
Tanner looked at him sharply. “Come here,” she ordered Devlin and then looked at the exotic dark woman who had been on the bed. “Give him some gloves.”
Not use to a woman telling what to do, he hesitated, but she outstretched a blood soaked glove covered hand and he stepped closer to the bed.
“Put the gloves on,” she ordered. “I need your help hold him down.”
He obeyed and waited while she ordered everyone out of Devlin’s way, while still keeping pressure on the wound.
Devlin moved on the bed and took over holding the young man down. Upon closer look, he remembered this young man from the other night. Jamroque?
“Whose the big ass cracker?” one of the burly men asked in a off the wall comment. Someone hushed the man.
Tanner’s orders became quieter and if he had not been as close as he was, he would not have heard her, but she trusted he would speak for her. She was conserving her energy and concentration on the task at hand – removing the bullet and sparing this young man’s life.
The time it would have taken to gather Jamroque and drive to the hospital would have killed him.
Yet, Devlin knew all she had done was illegal and what she had administered as if she were a surgical doctor had been just incredible to watch, but she looked as if she knew what she was doing.
The other woman, who was assisting her and had a stethoscope at the young man’s chest, spoke when Tanner put in the last stitch. “His heart rate’s steady.”
Tanner cleaned her hands and listened in the stethoscope. “Good.” She gave him an injection and ordered the friend to clean up. “He’s going to be sleeping a while. Keep an eye on him, Pari.”
The friend nodded as Tanner told Devlin to release Jamroque.
“Are you sure you weren’t followed?” Tanner questioned Pari worried.
“I’m sure. When Nina called asking for you, I thought maybe her wound had opened and I knew you would come and would need your stuff.” The friend looked up at him at first awed at how really big he was and then frowning curiously.
“Thank you, Pari,” she said gratefully.
“Tanner,” the friend asked glancing distrustfully at Devlin. “He’s looking for you.”
“Tell me something I don’t know. He’s mad and I think he knows the whole truth.”
“What truth?” Devlin asked harshly, hearing enough without saying anything.
Tanner saw the displeasure in his face as she took off her gloves and then helped him take off his. “Let’s take this in another room.”
“No!” he said imperialistically.
That obstinate tone gyrated on her nerves like bad chalk on a board and Tanner was almost inclined to air everything there, but she gently took his hand and pressed up against him.
“Please,” she whispered not breaking eye contact.
He looked around the room and realized everyone was watching them. He allowed her to guide him into an even smaller room that couldn’t even house all the things he had in his closet.
“Someone lives here?” he asked incredulously when they ensconced in room alone.
Tanner chuckled at the innocence in his voice. “Yes, Devlin.”
“Tell me everything,” he ordered not wasting any more time. “Why did I have to leave the hotel room and why did you just do an illegal surgical procedure like you were born to do it.”
She blushed from the compliment and prepared to answer all his questions.
Tanner’s Devil 8.2 (c) 2006 Sylvia Hubbard