Red Or Blue


eugene_icon.gif ricky_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title Red or Blue
Synopsis Eugene has one question he needs Squeaks to answer.
Date August 19, 2018

“Kindness can be reciprocated by generosity, if you get my drift.”

At first, it's just pain.

“Exactly how much generosity are we talking?”

A throbbing, dull ache…

“Twenty seven thousand dollars per year should be sufficient.”

…rising to a prickling sense of stabbing, knife-like injury.

“That’s— wow. What’s her name?”

Darkness is more oppressive, though. It stays when the pain first arrives, lingers with a sense of weightlessness and disconnection.


As the floating subsides, there's a lingering sense of detachment and weariness. A heaviness as though the weight of the world were a thousand pounds more oppressive on small, already burdened shoulders.

“And who, exactly, are you? I don't think you really know Paul. Do you, Mr. Parkman?”

The world isn't fair. That’s what the pain says, in its own cruel voice. The world isn't fair, and bad things always happen to good people.

“I know of Paul. That's how I found you, Mr. Ford. We have mutual acquaintances…”

All the time.

“…similar company.”

As Squeaks eyes slowly open, she can see sunlight. Her body is a maze of pain, stemming from the center of her chest and radiating out along her extremities. Everything is blurry at first, eyes teary from the pain, soon blinked away to reveal a warm ray of yellow sunlight spilling through a round window in a white-painted wall with peeling paint. The world bobs, sways, and drifts in disorienting fashion, the salt smell of sea air is as strong as the stink of wet dog and sweat.

As she comes to, Squeaks finds herself in a space that once belonged to a dog, a modest sized metal cage with a chain around the door, locked by a padlock. The cage may have been meant for a German Shepard or other large breed. There's still a blanket on the floor, matted with light-colored fur and still stinking of canine. Beyond the narrow-barred cage is a curious room with many windows. It takes a moment for Squeaks to reconcile the bobbing with the aesthetic and recognize that…

… she's on a boat.

Across the way there is a man probably more than twice Squeaks’ age handcuffed to a pole in the middle of the room. More than twice her size too, heavy in the middle, with curly, dark hair. He has a blossoming bruise around his right eye, a split lip, and blood running down one side of his face. He seems asleep, maybe unconscious, but not dead judging from the slow rise and fall of his chest.

She doesn’t want to move. Moving hurts, and that sucks. The rocking of the boat sucks, it adds a faint queasiness to all the hurting. It’s too bright when her eyes open. But all these things happen anyway as Squeaks’ mind resurfaces from the depths of unconsciousness. Limbs shift and she tries to lift her head, but then decides against it as the room comes into focus.

“Oh no.” Her voice is small and terrified, eyes wide as they follow the bars that make up the cage. “No…” This can’t be real, can it? Not really real, not for reals. Squeaks’ eyes squeeze shut, pinching off renewed tears that make new tracks down her cheeks. She takes a couple of panicky breaths, and opens her eyes again. She’s still trapped, locked in a cage, on a boat… somewhere.

Bone-deep fear forms a lump that's hard to swallow around and fills her eyes with fresh tears. But the renewed look shows her the rest of her new surroundings. She might be able to get the lock off the chain — if she can find something to pick it with. The man might know something. She’s a more than just a little afraid of strangers now, but he looks like he’s in the same trouble she’s in. So, Squeaks tries moving intentionally, unsure of just how badly she’s hurt, but she wants to sit up so she can quietly call at the man.

Memory comes back as Squeaks moves, shifting on the blanket in the small cage. Her chest aches, and she recalls the flash of a shotgun firing and then— I’m not dead?

Fingers come up to where the pain is strongest, and just below her collar bones there's a swollen welt that has turned blue-black with a bruise and dappled red and yellow at its center like an angry bullseye. She must have been shot with a rubber slug or a beanbag round, something painful but less lethal. It's the only reason she isn't dead right now.

The man across the way doesn't stir when Squeaks moves, and as she takes in more of her surroundings she can see a set of old wooden stairs that lead up out of this room and down below. Daylight spills in from above while the lower staircase is dark. In the distance there's a cry of sea birds.

Finding the bruise adds to the queasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. The memory of the shotgun, of being shot, that’s enough to make her sick. Squeaks nearly retches, half gags, and finds herself trying to hold in a sob. She might have died. Tears fill her eyes again. The next breath she takes is unsteady, panicky fear threatening to spill out as she pushes herself up to sitting.

Shaking hands cover her mouth after she’s upright, fingers curled in to press knuckles against her mouth, and her knees draw up to her chest. Frantically she looks around again, eyes darting to the lock, the man, the lighted and dark stairs, the man again. “Hey,” Squeaks calls finally. He hasn’t moved, she realizes he might be almost dead, but she needs to try.

A look shoots for the stairs again, the girl listens to the birds and waits to hear anything else for a second or two. Then, “Hey. Wake up?”

The thump of footsteps approaching is the only response that Squeaks gets, and even that appears to be a coincidence. From the upper stairs, booted feet clomp down step by step, accompanied by a jaunty tune whistled loudly. As Eugene comes back into view since the last time Squeaks saw him, he offers her a wordless look. He’s carrying a red cooler, setting it atop her cage with a clang. He then turns to the man cuffed to the pole and gives him a swift kick in the side.

That wakes him up.

Good Mornin' sunshine,” Eugene says as he drops into a crouch, and the handcuffed prisoner jolts when he realizes where he is and whose company he keeps. “Ricky, boy, you've done gone and fucked up somethin’ fierce aint’cha?”

Ricky, as he appears to be known, splutters a half-formed answer back. “Eug— Eugene. I told you I— I don't know a fucking thing. I didn't tell anybody anything about John! I didn't even know you guys had him!” The answer doesn't satisfy Eugene, who grabs Ricky by the hair and then backhands him across the face, sending him collapsing to the floor.

“Well somebody squealed,” Eugene notes with a growl, “an’ now we got bigger problems. So if it ain't you what sold us out, I’m gonna need you t’tell me who did.” The whole time Eugene is talking, Ricky is rolling into his side so he can look at his captor.

I don't know!” Ricky shouts, “Ask the fucking Triad, they know everyone! I didn't even know John fucking Logan was still alive!” Eugene plants a boot on the side of Ricky’s head, then points down at him.

“You think about why you're here and who you's with.” Eugene’s warning comes before he gently lifts the boot off of Ricky’s face, then pats his non-bruised cheek lightly. With that, he turns toward Squeaks cage. Eugene settles down on one knee and grabs the cooler from the top of the cage, using his other hand to rattle the mesh.

Grinning, he sets the cooler down and opens the top, then pulls out a battered cardboard box and literally nothing that is refrigerated. There’s also a knife, a small folding knife with a blade about two inches long. “So you,” Eugene says matter-of-fairly. “Here,” he pushes the small knife through an opening in the cage, then picks at the corner of the small cardboard box and removes a plastic case from inside with a white blotter pad attached to it. Eugene rips off the cellophane seal, flexes the plastic to fold in half once, and pushes that through the thin bars too.

“Nah you can do this the easy way or the really fuckin’ painful way.” Eugene motions to the knife. “Cut yer little finger, and stick it on the wet, white pad. That's it. You don't? I'ma pull you outta that cage an’ cut you myself.” Both of Eugene’s brows pop up and he frowns visibly. All the while Ricky is watching the exchange, horrified.

“Your choice girl,” Eugene adds, motioning to the blotter pad and the knife again.

“Hey,” Squeaks calls again, a little more frantically at the sounds of footsteps coming. When they hit the stairs, she’s pushing herself into the corner of the cage furthest from them. Her knees stay drawn up and her body sinks down so that she might be a little protected from whatever happens next.

She flinches and brings her hands up to protect her head when her cage is rattled, but her eyes follow Eugene’s movements. Squeaks’ eyes squeeze shut when her kidnapper’s foot swings into the stranger, and her arms and hands stay covering her head. She doesn’t watch what’s happening, but she can still hear it. And none of it makes any sense.

Her eyes open, but she cringes when the cage is rattled again. There’s not room to get further away, but it doesn’t stop her from trying when she sees Eugene staring in at her. Squeaks stares right back at him, like he were a venomous snake. She watches the knife drop onto the floor near her feet, but she doesn’t reach for it until the man is preoccupied with the contents of the box.

Fingers wrap tightly around the handle of the knife and she holds it in close, protecting it without stabbing herself. Her eyes widen, if that’s possible, as the contents of the box are revealed. She knows what that is, there’s one on top of the refrigerator at home. Squeaks’ head shakes when the blotter is dropped through the bars and the no becomes more insistent when it hits the floor.

Eugene is silent for a moment, squinting as if looking into a bright light, mouth slightly agape. He rankles his nose and then looks back at Ricky, who is dead silent, then back to Squeaks as he smooths a hand over his nearly bald scalp. “A’ight, yeah tha’s fair, sweetheart.” Taking a knee beside the cage, Eugene reaches down to his right hip and pulls a larger folding knife off of the clip, snapping tie six inch long blade open with a noisy click.

“Nah, y’see, I like kids. An’ I don't want you t’make me have t’stick you with this while yer strugglin’.” Swallowing audibly, Eugene scratches at the side of his stubbled throat with the edge of the blade. “See, you all just gotta do a little stick in your thumb,” He pantomimes with his own knife, “an’ we figure out what you’re worth. Value-wise.”

Sliding his tongue over his teeth, Eugene motions to the blotter. “If you're like me, you'll probably wind up in… South America? Maybe up Russia way?” But then, Eugene frowns. “If you're one’a them I can prolly sell y’to the Chinese. Them Triads pay well. But, either way, it's better’n me sticking you with Gloria.” He named his knife. “Your choice, sweetheart.”

She’s still shaking her head while Eugene talks, and her eyes dart from him to the blotter. Squeaks even glances one time at Ricky, but she isn’t sure she’s going to find any help from there now. She tucks her feet in closer, arms tight against her middle, sandwiched between the corner of the cage and her knees.

“No.” Squeaks’ voice is still small and scared, and the single word has a pleading tone. She looks at Eugene, head shaking a tiny bit. “Just let me go. I won’t tell… I won’t remember you… I won’t, I swear it.” Her brows draw together, mouth working to find other words, but her mind is still reeling with her predicament. “Please, just let me go.”

Biting the side of her lower lip, the girl looks at the larger knife. The little one is still clutched tightly in her hand. She takes a shaking breath and her eyes squeeze shut. When they open again, it’s with a terrified, begging look. Please, let her leave. But her hands move, trembling as she presses the blade against the pad of her thumb.

Eugene laughs, and it’s a wheezy and somewhat cruel laugh as he slaps the top of the cage playfully. “Nah, girl, we’re way past that. Folks don’t take kindly t’being bought an’ sold or t’the people what do that, but a man’s gotta make ends meet in this world that values if a man can brew coffee with his mind more’n loyalty to the U S of A.” Standing up, Eugene looks over at Ricky for a moment.

“What’re you lookin’ at y’fat fuck?” Eugene snaps at the curly-haired man who flinches away, before Eugene turns back to the cage. When Eugene turns back to reconsider, Squeaks, its with a sharp breath and a slow shake of his head. Sliding the tip of his knife across the bars with a plink, plink, plink, sound, Eugene walks over to the front of the cage and takes a knee, fishing for a ring of many keys at his belt and unlocks the padlock, setting it aside as he starts to unwind the chain.

“You try’n stick me with that little knife I gave you, I swear in front’f God an’ that piece a’shit,” Eugene briefly points the tip of his knife at Ricky, “I’ll cut yer throat and throw you in’a river.” The chain is thrown aside, and Eugene rests his hand on the cage latch.

“Last chance lil’ girl. Stick y’finger and bleed on the test, or this’ gon’ get messy.” The eyes that stare back at Squeaks are dead inside, devoid of deeper emotion than whatever slack-jawed expression is being leveled at the girl right now.

Ricky looks at Squeaks, then looks at Eugene. “C’mon, man, she’s just a kid. Nobody’ll believe her.” That bit of back talk elicits Eugene to spring to his feet and stride over to Ricky, jabbing his knife at the bound man’s face. Ricke shrieks and recoils, shielding his face with one hand from the close proximity of the knife.

“That little girl is worth fifteen large if she’s one’a them Slice fucks!” Eugene’s beady black eyes stare at Ricky before swiftly delivering a kick to his side. “This is why yer bad at business, Ricky! This is why you’s a dead man!

A small flicker of defiance meets that ugly laugh, but there’s more than enough fright left in her to keep Squeaks from mouthing off. She pulls her hands back in and side-eyes Eugene, eyes following as he crosses to the front of the cage. Cornered as she is, she even believes that threat for reals, but it does little to smother the tiny desire to fight back anyway. She will, if she can find a way.

The knife goes to her thumb again and her jaw clenches until her teeth feel like they might break. Fingers tighten against the little handle and her eyes squeeze shut, new tears wet the corners of her eyes. She holds her breath and starts to brace, but then there’s sudden movement. Squeaks’ eyes pop open to find Eugene going after that Ricky guy.

And the cage is unlocked.

The girl watches long enough to see that knife flash then throws both legs into the cage door as hard as she can. It’s going to make a lot of noise, but maybe, possibly, it’ll slow Eugene down long enough for her to get out of the cage and run topside. If they’re on a river…

“You little sonofabitch!” Eugene howls as Squeaks kicks the cage door open. For as old as he is, Eugene is fast on his feet. He rises up to give chase, but finds himself stumbling forward as Ricky kicks him in the side and sends him crashing into a wall. As Eugene crashes into the wall, Ricky turns to Squeaks and screams.

Run!” As Eugene is pulling himself to his feet, Squeaks spies Ricky slipping the handcuff off of his wrist, dropping a piece of bent wire from his freed hand as he does. As Squeaks dashes for the stairs, her feet take her two steps at a time up to a landing, then up again above decks aboard a small tugboat plying what looks like the Hudson River. It’s sunny out, the clouds have parted, and the Safe Zone must be a good two miles away across the water. Closer is a jagged and broken shoreline of tumbledown buildings and thin plumes of smoke: Staten Island.

Squeaks might be able to swim for Staten Island’s shore, the alternative appears to be staying on the boat or — perhaps more likely now — dying. Curiously, the boat isn’t bound for Staten Island at all, but skimming its coast and continuing southward.

I’ll fuckin’ kill you!” Eugene screams from below decks, and Squeaks can hear his feet slamming on the steps not far behind her.

Flight mode hits full on when Squeaks finds herself free of the cage. Panic, however, holds her in place, she can’t process what to do until it’s Ricky who’s screaming at her to run. And that’s just what she does, without looking back and without asking questions. From the stairs straight to the railing, she doesn’t stop until that next step would take her over the edge and into the water.

Her eyes take in the water, the edge of the boat, the shoreline. Staying isn’t an option, especially when there’s more angry yelling and heavy feet coming after her. Squeaks runs, moving parallel to the shore along the boat until she’s reached the stern. It’s from there that she throws herself off, leaping as far as she can into the water and toward the shore.

Mid-leap Squeaks can tell something is wrong. She feels an impact in her leg, a sharp and intense pain and throws off her form as she crashes gracelessly into the water. The Hudson River’s tremendous current drags her like a paper airplane on the wind, pulls her under where she struggles against frigid water and undertow against a searing hot pain. Shock and the water temperature numbs it some, and she feels the knife wound in her thigh deep and open. The unclean waters of the Hudson burn in it, and as she struggles for the surface bubbles of air blossom from her mouth.

Squeaks sees no signs of Eugene, and in those murky depths she sees no sign of the boat’s hull either, just the muted shine of the sun on the rippling surface. She kicks her legs against the pain, tries to swim against the tide, but finds the deep stronger than the expected.

The cold, the pain, the blood loss.

Her head swims.

She sinks

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