3 min read

No Serious Damage

Let’s learn more about the naked cannonball guy, and spicy crab cakes, and Batya’s not-terrific hair.

Previously: Batya awakens in some kind of undersea guest room? Then proceeds to assault a very handsome man, and learn who was behind her abduction: her big sister, Mina. Whom she also assaults.

— 03 —

Mina takes the punch like a champ. Certainly not the first time she’s been jabbed in the ear by her sister. She looks more disappointed than hurt. “This is how you thank me for getting you those pajamas?”

“We’re quits,” Batya says, fist still raised. “You did the worst thing I can think of, and that’s that, we’re quits.”

“Oh stop,” Mina says. “We’re never quits and you know it. Didn’t you miss me?”

“Uh, hell no?” Bat tries to remember how long it’s been since she’s seen her. A year, maybe? Before that, they’d never been apart, not for more than a day or two.

“I certainly missed you. I missed you so much it was embarrassing.”

Bat feels her body recoil, insisting on physical distance from this sentiment. She retreats to the far side of the room, there by the window overlooking the kelp forest—she loves a good corner—and slumps down into an ominous crouch.

She says, “That why you had a naked guy cannonball me in the tits?”

Look at Mina’s goddamn delighted face. “That’s Stevie! He said clothes hinder his accuracy, and I needed him to be very accurate. I said Stevie, I said listen, just knock the wind out of her, no serious damage—”

“Shut up,” Bat says. “What’d you tell the goons with the knives? No serious damage?”

Mina’s smile vanishes. She comes over, kneels down. “I said take her alive.”

Five goons to take me alive?”

“If I sent four you would’ve gotten away.”

Bat has to admit this is true. And, for a second, she’s overwhelmed by a hideously tender feeling: the joy of somebody knowing this about her, knowing anything about her. It’s been a very long stretch since she’s been with anyone but passing acquaintances, mostly of the unshowered thug persuasion.

“Maybe send a letter next time,” she says. “Dear sis, sorry I was such a foul b-hole, why don’t you drop by the…the whatever this is, the undersea lair.”

“You wouldn’t have come. You wouldn’t even have read it.”

“Well it’s just that you’re so boring.”

“And,” Mina says, “I needed to make sure you were still a real toughie.”

“What…the frig did you just say?”

“It’s been a while.” She gets back up, smooths the wrinkles from her slacks. Every motion is annoyingly precise. “Maybe you got soft.”

“I wish,” Bat says. “But ain’t happened yet.”

“Thank goodness.” She holds out a hand to hoist Bat to her feet.

Bat slaps her hand away, gets up with a grunt. She wants sympathy for her wrecked ribcage but is still steamed about the toughie comment. “So where are we? Bottom of the ocean? Is this where you work now?”

“That’s right. I live here, too. You know Sal’s Crab House? We run it, it’s our front. We’re right under it.”

Bat lights up. “What! That joint is so good! Have you had the spicy crab cakes?”

“Yes, Batya, about one million times. Anyway, the reason I brought you in is because I talked to my boss about you. About you and me teaming up again.”

Bat’s crab excitement fades. “Sounds bad, no thank you.” She gathers up her things and takes her suit off the hanger.

“It’s good money,” Mina says. “You can buy a better haircut.”

“My hair’s terrific,” Bat says half-heartedly, gently patting her weird bangs. God it just chafes her very soul when her sister is right about something.

“My boss would like to meet with you and your hair. Tonight. Now.”

Bat puts on her rings, one for each finger on her left hand. “Pass.”

“Come on, you’ll like it. You and me on the prowl again.”

“I said we’re quits.” She zips up her pants, shrugs into her coat.

Mina watches her, unmoving. Then, quietly: “Please, Batya.”

Bat stops mid-button, looks up. Can’t remember the last time her sister said please. “Or what.”

Mina laughs a little. “Or I’m dead.”

This has been Chapter 3 of Chokeville, a novel by Josh Fireland.

Next up: This Broad Does Her Thing First