Sorry for the delay in presenting Part Two. Here is the end of the Story.
A third man rushed forward in the firelight, tackled them and threw them to the floor. "This here be Ruby, ya morons. Ya don't never touch her!"
They were younger men then she had thought. She switched the purse to her left hand, leaving her right hand freer for her boot stiletto. In her haste, she'd forgotten to be safe.
"How is Jazz?" she murmured to the giant who'd saved her.
"Not good. He's real sick, Ruby." The man's eyelids were heavily creased from too much booze and hard living. "I don't think he'll last out the week. He won't let us take him to one of them clinics."
Jazz was a tough, street-smart kid she'd met two years ago. She'd found him on Garland St. one summer dawn with the breeze blowing in off the harbor. He'd been counting his money after spending a night turning tricks for old men in luxury cars.
Now he was dying of AIDS and choking on his own mucus. Ruby held on to the arm of the man who'd saved her from the punks.
"Does he still know who you are?"
"Most times." He hesitated. "Not always, Ruby."
The man led the way through a maze of blankets, boxes, the side of an open van, fires in barrels, and coughing, fighting people.
The young teen lay in a cocoon of threadbare blankets near the north end of the warehouse. It was actually just two sides of a box, and the older man had tried to position it to keep out the wind. The boy's face was gray, a toque over his head, and he was wrapped in several layers of Salvation Army suit jackets. Ruby put down her purse and began chafing his hands.
"Jazz? Can you hear me?"
His eyelids flickered and a tiny bit of drool dripped out of his mouth.
"Could you leave us alone, Frank? Thank you for what you did back there."
"Sure, Ruby." Frank backed away and sauntered off towards a big barrel fire near the center of the warehouse.
"Jazz." She leaned near the boys' ear. "Jazz, wake up. I have fruitcake for you, and brandy."
There was a dirty mug with some water in it. She filled it with a finger full of brandy. Lifting Jazz's head, she poured the tiniest sip in and watched his throat convulse. She talked gently of what a wonderful Christmas they'd have when he woke up, the presents gaily wrapped under the tree, his warm bed upstairs in her house, and the perky dog that would greet him Christmas morning.
Suddenly, his eyes flew open and his hands grabbed her wrist.
"Ruby, is it really you?"
"Yes, Jazz. It's ok, hon, everythings ok."
He took a few more swallows of the brandy and water and then sank back on the backpack he was using as a pillow. He began a paroxysm of coughing and spat up bloody phlegm.
"I brought you a Christmas gift, just like you wanted, Jazz, but I don't know if you should have it."
"You know how much I want this, Ruby. Exactly how I want this."
Her hands shook a little as she took the cigar out of her purse. She unwrapped the fruitcake and broke off little pieces of it. Then she held up his head, cradling his lice-ridden hair to her chest, and hand fed him tiny pieces of Raoul's finest fruitcake. Once in awhile she'd give him a sip of brandy and water. It took him nearly an hour, but he finished all three pieces.
"Just like my gramma used to make." His voice was weak and tired. "I want my cigar now."
Ruby reached under his blankets until she found his lighter and a pack of cigarettes with only three smokes left. She sucked on the cigar until it lit, and watched the spirals of smoke float towards the high ceiling. Then she helped him sit up again, and held the cigar to his lips.
He puffed and the sweet, powerful cigar smoke filled the small space like incense.
"I'd like to go to Christmas Mass, wouldn't you, Ruby?"
"Been a long time since I was at Mass, Christmas or otherwise. Don't talk now."
Jazz reached for the cigar again, watched the red tip burning in the semi-darkness.
"I want you to hold my hand when you do it."
"You gotta do it, Ruby...its gotta be tonight." He stared upwards for a few minutes, as if listening.
"They say 'yes'." He turned to look at her. "Can I see your 'ruby'?"
"You can see anything, if you give up this fool plan!" She pulled up her red sweater and pulled down her skirt. The ruby was a quarter carat and winked from a 14k hoop through her navel. Jazz touched it with awe.
"You're the real thing, Ruby Westlake. I won't ever forget what you done for me these last few months."
"Now. I want you to do it now."
He took a long puff on the cigar, another one, and then another one before he started to gag and choke. He handed it off to Ruby, who ground it out on the concrete beside his nest of blankets. She poured another sip of brandy and water into him when he'd stopped coughing.
"Sure you don't want the rest of this mickey?"
"Naw, give it to Frank for Christmas. I want to do it now."
He fixed his murky blue-eyed gaze on her and held out his filthy hand.
"You're the real thing, Ruby. And I thank you."
She took his right hand with her left hand. Tears smeared her heavy mascara as she sat beside him and drew her boot stiletto out of its hidden sheath. Ruby leaned over his gaunt face - what was he - sixteen, seventeen? She bent closer and closer until their breath mingled together. Her tears wet his cheeks. His eyes were closed, his hand tight in hers. She could taste fruitcake and cigar smoke on his lips.
Gently, she kissed him with the soft whisper of a first lover. Her stiletto out now, she gathered all her strength and plunged it into the right side of his neck, hitting the carotid artery dead on. Jazz's body contorted and she felt hot spurts of blood hit her neck, hair, and chest. She held his hand and the kiss, until the bucking of his body stopped. When she sat up Jazz's eyes were staring at the ceiling with a rapturous look on his face. She reached over and closed them.
Ruby wiped the blade of her stiletto clean, then the handle, with the top blanket. She folded his hands together, and put the mickey beside his pallet. She wiped off the blood on her mouth with the napkin from the floor.
Strong arms jerked her upwards and her feet left the ground.
"Hey Al, isn't it nice when you catch'em in the act like this!"
The uniformed cop set her down with a bone-crunching thud and shook her by the shoulders so hard her wig nearly fell off.
"What are ya, Vampirilla, or are ya going to tell us you just like to steal from the dead?"
Ruby kneed him in the crotch as hard as she could, planted an elbow in his face, and gave his partner a roundhouse kick to the head. A crowd of derelicts and winos had gathered, armed with bricks and planks of wood. The partner was still face down on the concrete, and Ruby had her stilleto up against the first cop's neck, her lips to his ear.
"First of all, you morons, I'm on the job. Badge #501. Second of all, you're about to blow three years of cover. Now get out of here, rookie, before these people give you the beating you deserve."
"Where's your badge?" He squeaked out.
"You'll have to check my crotchless panties. Call Sargeant Hubbard."
She pricked his neck just a little with the stiletto. Al was starting to moan a little on the floor. "Get your partner out of here."
A monotone of "Ru-by, Ru-by, Ru-by" chanting was starting, as she let the cop stand up straight and then pick his cap up off the floor. He radioed for a Sargeant and an ambulance for the body lying in the blankets. Ruby began walking through the crowd.
"Hey, you..." The cop yelled after her.
She waved, but didn't turn around.
********Copyright Laurie J. Wood 2004************************************************
Someday soon, I'm going to write a prequel to this story about Cst. Ruby Westlake, about how she got so far off her moral compass as a cop. Hope you enjoyed it!