Devil’s Alley

A narrow alleyway, generally known as Devil’s Alley, separated the business block and housing development. On one end of the alley an artist had built a fancy arched entrance between the brick side of a store and a high wall around the housing area. It was called the Devil’s Doorway; not because it was particularly ugly, but because of the infamous reputation of the street it guarded. There were bright lights on either end of Devil’s Alley, but the narrow strip of paving stones was dark and dingy. It was a favorite spot of gangs, muggers, and murderers, and as soon as one group was cleared out a new band of rebels would take their place.

Residents of the area knew better than to enter Devil’s Alley, but luckily for the gangs that populated it, there were abundant tourists. A few blocks away from the Alley was a strip of bars, restaurants, and shops that were frequented by out of town guests, and a large parking lot at the other end of Devil’s Alley. Instead of walking an extra two blocks to go around the business sector many an unsuspecting (and often drunk) visitor would take the shortcut through the Alley to reach their car, and straight into the claws of the resident gang.

A gang called the Hangman’s Five was the current resident of Devil’s Alley. Leaning back against the stone wall of Devil’s Alley, Ricki, ringleader of the group, blew out a sigh. It was a warm night with a waxing moon overhead; the perfect night for a catch. The Hangman’s Five hadn’t been out for a while, keeping a low profile because of the police cruiser that had been parked near one end of the Alley for the last two weeks. Four nights ago the cop had finally given up, and Ricki had decided it was safe to haunt the Alley tonight.

Ricki hoped they’d get a good catch tonight. The last few times they’d operated in the area all they’d got were some underage boys sneaking home from a gay bar. They were such spineless weasels beating them up hadn’t even been that much fun, and they didn’t have a lot of money left on them.

A movement from across the Alley caught Ricki’s attention. Two of his cohorts were at either end of Devil’s Alley as lookouts to warn the others when likely prey was near. From the direction of Devil’s Doorway, Gage was ghosting down the Alley toward Ricki. A dim lantern hung above a recessed door in the business block. It cast more shadows than light, but the glow gave victims a sense of false security. Gage slipped into the deep shadows around the lantern opposite Ricki, his form swallowed up by darkness. Ricki tensed, glancing toward Devil’s Doorway, waiting for his prey to arrive.

A figure appeared at the end of the alley, casting a quick glance backward as it walked through the Doorway. As the figure came closer, Ricki could make it out clearly in the combined moon and lantern light. It was a girl, probably around eighteen, her blonde hair piled on her head with a few loose curls artistically framing her delicate face. She was wearing a cornflower blue dress that fit her slim figure like a glove down to her waist, then fell to the ground in a shimmering curtain. The skirt was split up the left side to just over her knee, giving Ricki a view of long pale legs and white kitten heel pumps. She wore matching white elbow length gloves and pale diamonds flashed in her necklace.

Ricki felt a smile curve up the corners of his mouth. She was the perfect catch; young, attractive, and obviously wealthy, assuming she hadn’t spent all her money at the fancy shops downtown. He stayed motionless, watching as she blinked rapidly in an attempt to adjust her eyes to the gloom. Behind her, he saw Ralphie turn into the alley, his footsteps loud against the paving stones. The girl whipped her head around to see her stalker approaching and hurriedly turned back, only to find Ricki and Gage closing in on her. She froze, eyes flickering between the boys.

“Hey, Princess, where you goin’?” Ralphie asked in a slow drawl.

The girl fumbled with her purse, her eyes wide and scared. Ricki could see the rapid rise and fall of her chest, the edges of her breasts exposed by the plunging V-neck of her dress. “Wh-what do you want?” Her voice faltered, though he could tell she was trying to act brave.

“Just a little chat.” Gage smiled as she twisted to face him. Ricki saw her hand drop to her side, her fingers tugging at the edge of her slit skirt. He lunged forward, grabbing her arm just as she brought the pistol up to aim. She twisted, lashing out with her other hand at Ricki. Before her hit could land, Gage caught her around the waist, pinning both arms to her sides. She shrieked and bucked, pistol and purse falling from her hands as she kicked wildly with her legs.

Ricki stepped forward and clamped a hand over her mouth. “Here now, there’s no need for that,” he soothed. Her blue eyes glared at him from under mascara black lashes, fear now warring with anger in her face.

“Little spitfire, aren’t you?” Gage panted, muscles bulging in his arms as he tried to hold her still.

“Decidedly,” Ricki agreed. He fingered her teardrop diamond earrings with his free hand, then let it skim down her neck and over her bosom. She growled behind his hand and tried to bite him, but he ignored her. “We better make sure you don’t have any more tricks up your sleeve, huh?” he said. He dropped his hand to the split in her skirt and slid his fingers over her thigh, easily finding the strap around her leg that had held the gun. Not that the holster was really what he was after.

“Oh!” Ricki heard a startled voice behind him. He turned to see another girl standing there, her face lit by the glow of a phone held in her hands. Ricki almost rolled his eyes. These idiot girls and their phones, they don’t even know where they’re going! Not that she was the only idiot. She stood only a few feet from Ralphie, yet he seemed surprised to see her, apparently not having heard her approach.

Ricki took a moment to appraise the new girl as she blinked at him, clearly blinded from staring at her phone. She had brown hair cut in a flapper bob at her chin and big chocolate eyes framed by black lashes and gold eye shadow. She was wearing black tights under a pair of stiletto heeled black leather boots that hugged her legs up to the knee. Her thighs were bared by a deliciously short black leather skirt below a red satin top with a more conservative V-neck than the blonde’s. Elbow length red leather gloves and a gold choker necklace with glittering black gemstones topped off her ensemble.

The girl tilted her head and peered past Ricki with a perplexed expression. “Jenny? Is that you?” she asked. Ricki realized she was talking to the blonde girl still in Gage’s grasp. Ricki’s body must have been blocking most of her view, because she wasn’t fleeing like any sane girl would.

The blonde’s eyes flicked between Ricki and the newcomer with something like panic in them. He took another look at the brunette, and saw the similarities; the slim build, delicate facial structure, and large almond shaped eyes were the same. There were some differences as well; the brunette was smaller in the hips and across the chest, her features slightly heavier, but it was clear the girls shared parentage.

“You sisters?” Ralphie asked, edging closer to the brunette. She nodded and started to say something, but her gaze caught on the discarded gun lying a few feet from her. With a shriek of terror, the girl dropped her phone and clamped both hands to her mouth, her eyes the size of saucers. After a few frozen seconds, she carefully crouched down and reached a trembling hand toward her phone, still staring at the gun nearby. Ralphie moved in behind her, ready to pounce as soon as she stood up again.

With a lightning movement her hand shot past her phone. Before Ralphie could move, she exploded to her feet and smashed a vicious right hook into his face. He staggered, tripped, and went over backward as blood streamed from his crushed nose. Ricki, Gage, and the blonde all froze as the girl spun back to face them. Moonlight glanced off the barrel of the pistol she held aimed at Ricki’s head.

“Get your filthy hands off my sister,” the girl snarled. “Now.” Ricki heard the click as she flicked the cocking lever on.

“Hey, now—” Gage started. The girl’s aim dropped and the report of the gun bounced off the alley walls. Pain seared up Ricki’s whole left side as his leg collapsed under him and he hit the ground. His head reeled and he had to blink dark spots out of his vision. He heard running feet from down the alley where Farley and Landon were, then another shot and a yelp of pain. He shifted his head and saw Gage clinging grimly to the thrashing blonde, using her as a shield between him and the brunette.

Ricki realized his mistake. He could still see the hellfire in the girl’s brown eyes as she’d stared down the pistol at him. She was no coward trying to act brave, but a wrathful angel that had played the shrinking violet. He cursed himself for his laxness in dealing with her.

There was a scuffing sound by Ricki’s head, and suddenly Landon materialized out of the shadows behind the brunette. His thick arms came around her, pinning her arms to her sides. She snarled and thrashed, twisting her head to bite at his shoulders and stamping her high heels onto his toes with bruising force. He swore and made a grab for the pistol she still held with one hand, the movement partially freeing her arm.

With a deft flick of her wrist she sent the gun spinning away into the darkness, then jammed her elbow into his stomach. He gasped and tried to get hold of her arm again. As she raised one leg to kick at Landon, Ricki saw her hand flash down and back up. He caught the gleam of silvery metal just as Landon howled, dark blood welling from a slash down his arm. With a final wrench of her shoulders the girl lunged out of his grip, then spun and crashed the hilt of the dagger into Landon’s temple. He dropped to the ground like a stone.

Gage was the only one still standing, hanging onto the blonde for what might very well have been his life. She was kicking and thrashing, but her long skirt hampered her movements and she was already panting from exertion. Ricki watched as the brunette stalked toward Gage, the bloodstained dagger held in one hand. Gage backed toward the alley wall with the blonde, her struggles weakening as she gasped in air.

Before Gage could make it to the wall, the blonde gave a final heave, throwing her whole body to one side. Gage staggered on the paving stones, her body dragging him around as he scrambled for balance. He got his feet squarely under him before he fell, but now his back was to the brunette, protected only by a thin t-shirt.

Ricki felt his mouth go dry as he watched the brunette raise her dagger. He could see it clearly now in the moonlight, a nine-inch long stiletto with a razor sharp tip. One jab between the ribs and Gage would be dead. Ricki tried to move, to form words, but the agony in his leg held him down, choked the words in his throat.

But the brunette didn’t stab Gage. Instead her hand slashed down, opening a gash in his back from shoulder to waist. He let out a strangled wail and let go of the blonde. She caught her balance, whirled, and belted him under the jaw. Gage fell in a heap between the gang’s two former victims. The blonde brushed loose hair out of her face with a trembling hand and let out a gusty breath. The brunette looked vindictively smug.

Ricki heard a wheezy breath beside him, and turned his head to see Ralphie struggle to his feet and lurch toward the brunette, blood still dripping from his nose. She spun to face him, but this time she was the one unprepared. Ralphie’s arm came up and he smashed a fist into the side of her jaw. He was still unsteady, but there was enough force behind the blow to rock her head back.

Before Ralphie could land another hit, the blonde lunged past her sister and scythed his legs out from under him with a sweeping kick. Ricki heard the muffled crunch as Ralphie hit the ground for the second time. He let out a weak moan and didn’t try to rise again. Ricki stayed motionless, deciding an attempt from him to get up would be a less than prudent move.

*                      *                      *

Jenny raised her head from the alley wall she’d been leaning against and pushed a few bedraggled strands of blonde hair behind her ear. Her breathing had finally slowed, and her hands no longer trembled. Glancing to the side she asked, “Are you sure you’re alright?” Her brother leaned against the alley wall next to her, holding a handful of metal coins against his face.

“I’ll live.” He winced and dropped the coins into her purse, then scooped up another bunch from the pile at his feet. “How considerate of that brute to stash his money in his jacket so it’s nice and cold.” Jimmy glared over at one of the prone figures in the middle of the alley.

Jimmy and Jenny had stripped the shirts off most of the gang to use as temporary bandages and restraints, and Jimmy had helped himself to whatever he could find of interest in their pockets. Only the two with bullet holes in their legs were still fully conscious, the others having been knocked out by the paving stones or a blow to the head. They were all breathing though, much to Jimmy’s obvious dismay.

“Are you alright?” Jimmy asked her, for at least the third time.

Jenny rolled her eyes but smiled weakly. “Yes, fine, I told you. Just a ripped hem.” She frowned down at the bottom of her evening dress, which was indeed torn.

Jimmy tossed the last handful of coins into her purse, then reached down and picked up his phone lying next to it. He gazed mournfully down at the spider web of cracks across the black screen. “The poor thing was only a year old.” He pushed a few of the buttons, but it stayed blank and dead. Defeated, he held the back of the phone against his jaw and sighed. “Ah, it’s cold.”

“How’d you find me?” Jenny asked abruptly. “I thought you said you were staying behind while I got my wallet.” She’d had to go back to the parking lot because she’d left her wallet in the car. She really hated having “dumb blonde” moments.

Jimmy shrugged. “After you left, I figured maybe I should have gone too. After all, young ladies shouldn’t be out at night on their own. You know how disrespectful some people are, especially considering that décolletage of yours.” He glanced over at her with a wicked gleam in his dark brown eyes.

“Oh, and I supposed that short ass skirt of yours just screams respect, doesn’t it?” She glared.

He snickered. “Well at least I wasn’t alone.”

She raised an eyebrow in question and looked pointedly around. “I don’t see anyone that came with you.”

Before Jimmy answered, she heard faint footsteps over the moans of the trussed gang. A couple of boys appeared near the mouth of the alley, moving cautiously in the relative darkness. For a moment Jenny thought more of the gang had showed up and her heartbeat skipped. Jimmy had retrieved her M1911 pistol earlier, and now she reached down and slid it from its holster. The fernlike patterning etched into the silver metal flashed in the moonlight, but it seemed menacing now that the gun had actually been used on humans and not targets.

Upon seeing the newcomers Jimmy bounded gleefully toward them, not seeming to care if he trod on a few gang members with his stiletto heels in the process. They were going to need serious medical help when the police arrived. As they came closer Jenny realized the newcomers were Clarence and Calix, and let herself relax. Cal stopped as Jimmy waylaid him, probably to preen over his fighting prowess, but Clarence barely paused.

Jenny re-holstered the gun as Clarence came over to her, worry etched across his narrow face. “Jenny, are you okay?” He pushed his slightly skewed glasses back up his nose in a quick, nervous gesture.

“I’m alright,” she promised, giving him a wan smile. “I do wish people would quit asking though.”

“I won’t ask again.” He smiled back, then tentatively brushed another strand of disheveled blonde hair away from her face. She caught his hand and wrapped her arm through his, feeling a little more of the tension drain away from her.

“Why didn’t you come earlier?” she asked. As soon as the words were out of her mouth she realized he might take it as an accusation.

“They wanted to take out your stalker right off, but I said I could handle it,” Jimmy answered, sauntering over with Calix in tow. A few of the gang flinched away when his boots came uncomfortably close to their bodies. “I also pointed out having back up was better than everyone going in blind.”

“I see,” Jenny said. “And how were they supposed to know if you needed help?”

“I gave him ten minutes before we came in,” Cal said.

“Clarence wanted to make it five.” Jimmy gave him a look of wounded dignity.

“And what if you got in trouble before the ten minutes?” Jenny demanded.

“Carpe diem,” Jimmy said.

She frowned. “What?”

“Carpe diem,” he repeated. “If I got in trouble, I would yell carpe diem.”

“And don’t you think they,” she nodded at the prone gang, “would realize it was a signal, genius?”

“I would have worked it into something else so they wouldn’t know.” Jimmy rolled his eyes.

There was a groan and a muffled curse from in the alley as the guy with the flattened nose tried feebly to rise. “Will that idiot ever give up?” Jimmy growled, stalking over to the struggling kid and shoving him back down with a foot in the middle of his chest.

“You know,” Clarence said to Jenny in a lowered voice, “I would have come and helped tie up those thugs.”

She looked over at him. “But you didn’t?”

He gave her a sheepish grin. “I’ve developed a healthy respect for your brother after watching him flatten four musclebound guys twice his size in less than five minutes.” She laughed and Clarence grinned at her. “Plus, we’d already disobeyed his orders to stay outside the alley where we couldn’t be seen,” he added. “Cal and I were just inside the Doorway which was why I didn’t come running when I heard that first shot, since we could see most of what happened.”

“What doorway?” Jenny asked, not certain she’d heard right.

“Ah, I see you don’t know the story of this alleyway,” Clarence said. He waved back at the archway at one end of the alley. “Behold, the Devil’s Doorway. And this,” he gestured at their surroundings, “is Devil’s Alley, named such for the gangs and mavericks that haunt it.”

“How do you know that?”

Clarence nodded at the residential area behind them. “That’s what the locals call this alleyway. Some of my relatives used to live here, and whenever I visited they’d always warn me about Devil’s Alley. I used to roll my eyes at them, but I think I believe it now.” He glanced over at where Jimmy was prowling through the ranks of fallen gang members, then let out a low chuckle.

“What’s funny?” Jenny asked.

He gave her a sideways smile. “I think that gang got a taste of its own medicine tonight. It looks like they’ve had a devil of a time.”

She laughed. “I’d have to agree.”

Isabel Nee loves reading, writing, science, birds, and mythology. She sporadically practices archery, and is known to research rare genetic disorders which she then inflicts on her characters. Isabel has had prose and poetry published in elementia magazine and Showcase Selections ~ 2016. She is currently writing a YA fantasy novel, and hopes to some day become a professional novelist. Isabel lives in Kansas where she hatches chickens and (she would like to think) great ideas.

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