Smoke Cig-nals

I took a long drag on the cigarette and shook my head. 


"You know, those things could kill you," Terry stood behind me, saying what I was thinking myself. 


I threw down the butt and stomped on it, while staring at her. "Just like Mason could kill you if you don't do like we talked about." 


She smiled that cocky smile I'd gotten used to since we first had dealings. This young girl was too foolish to know how much she was in over her head.


I'd seen firsthand how Yanni and her crew handled their business. I knew what made them tick. I wanted to share it with Terry, but she was too stubborn to listen. 


But this had to go right. It was the only bargaining chip I had. And I'd be damned if some prissy, little fake-ass nurse with a chip on her shoulder was going to get in my way. 


"You all set?" I asked. 


"I am," she responded, looking out the second-floor warehouse window. "He should be here any minute. And his ass better be ready to help me with what I need, or else he won't see Jean." 


I sighed, ready to tell her that there was a better way to handle things. In fact, I'd just spent the past hour explaining just that. As I walked toward her to reiterate how things would go down, my phone rang.


I stopped in my tracks. "This is Sheldon. It better be good." 


"It's me, Karla."   


All this commotion made me almost forget I'd called her earlier. I turned and walked away from Terry with a smile on my face. "Hey, KitKat, how're you doing?" 


She chuckled on the other end, no doubt recalling how she'd acquired that nickname. "For the first time in a while, I'm doing all right. No nausea today. Yet." 


"That's good. Have you been eating?" 


She laughed again. "I swear I've eaten everything they had in that refrigerator. And then threw it all back up." 


"Damn, K," I said, wincing. "Be easy on the food. We talked about that. Small portions. Have you been resting?" 


"That's really all I've been doing, when not throwing up. There's not much else to do in this house. What are you doing?" 


"You know me, K. Handling shit." 


"Yes, I do know you," she snapped. "I hope you're not stirring up any trouble." 


"Come on, now," I said smoothly, rubbing the back of my neck, the tell-tale sign I was lying. "Is that even in my nature?"


We both laughed as I headed back toward the window. I looked outside to see Jackson and Alex heading toward the warehouse door. I told Karla to hold on.


"You see that?" I looked over at Terry, while pointing outside. "I told you he wouldn't come alone." 


"As long as they don't start no shit, it shouldn't matter," Terry shot back. She spun and ran to meet them at the first-floor entrance.  


I grabbed her by the arm. "Just make sure everything's set up before you let them in." She tried to jerk away, but I wouldn't let her. "And do like we said. No surprises."


I released her arm and placed the phone back to my ear. "K?" 


"I'm here. Who are you talking to?" 


"An associate," I replied, the phone resting between my shoulder and ear as I lit up another cigarette. "Why, you worried about me?" 


"Sheldon, you know I always worry about you. And my son. I have no idea where Jackson is." 


"I do," I said tauntingly, blowing out smoke. "In fact, if you stay on the line, I'll let you talk to him in a minute." 


"Sheldon, don't you dare—”  


"Don't I dare what, K? Tell Jackson the real deal? You know I'd never do that. I promised. But you gotta admit, it's funny that I've seen your son more than you have lately." 


"Don't hurt him." 


"I wouldn't dream of it. He's like kin to me." I roared with laughter as Terry entered the room with Alex and Jackson trailing closely behind. "Karla, hold on," I said loud enough for Jackson to hear. 


"Karla?" he grunted. "You're on the phone with my mother?" 


"Hello to you, too, young man." I took another drag. "And, yes, I am. Somebody needs to keep an eye on her."


Fuck a cigarette. With the way Jackson was looking at me, if looks could kill, I'd be a dead man.