aka. Footsteps in the snow
One last cigarette.
The warmth of the lighter's flame caressed Brianna's face while she lit up her cig. It was the only light source in the dark corner anyway. Chilly fall wind made her pull her trenchcoat tighter around her and its hood over her head. That's about all she had to do right now; inhale, exhale, shiver... and wait.
How much longer would she have to wait?
She watched people pour in and out the Cage. Lei's van was on the lookout near the front doors, and Lei himself was approaching her. ?Still nothing?? she asked when he got close enough.
"Nothing," Lei replied. "Target isn't even in yet... the boss surely makes us wait."
"There's a saying, 'hurry up and wait'," said Brianna while letting the cigarette fumes pour out of her. "It means you should prepare yourself quickly, so you'd be ready for whatever lies ahead."
Lei chuckled. "You're beginning to sound like Yoshimitsu. Are you sure you're alright? It's been only a few days since you fought him."
In complete silence, Brianna stole a fleeting glance at Lei before putting out her cigarette. Unbeknownst to Lei and even to Bryan, she had grown a great interest in Feodal Japan's culture and philosophy, so it wasn't a wonder she was influenced. She would find herself lying on her bed, reading the books of knowledge from hours to end.
The radio phone in Lei's pocket burst to talk. It's voice was silenced and muffed due to Lei's thick jacket, but it was clear enough to make up words.
"The target has entered the building. Sending out the surveillance team. ETA ten minutes."
"Well, at least we're getting somewhere soon," Lei remarked while pulling his jacket tighter around himself. "It's getting cold in here."
Brianna didn't reply. She kept leaning on the wall, knowing that getting impatient now would blow their covers for good. Yet suddenly, she gasped ? a face too familiar popped out from the crowd and headed straight into the Cage. Lei turned to look at the same direction.
"Oh no.. Bryan is here."
Lei was as shocked as Brianna. This would complicate matters; they all knew Bryan and Brianna shared the same temper, and should the situation grow tight, Bryan could easily do something drastic. To keep an eye on her brother would also mean extra burden for Brianna, who was already responsible for arresting the suspect they were after.
A few hollers of his nickname stopped Bryan on his tracks. "Yo Viper, wait up!" his whole posse except Delta gathered around him, greeting him the way the subculture required. "What up, man?"
"I'm cool," Bryan replied.
"Don Doe said you blew because you didn't get your demo ready in time," Edam said. "You sure you're cool? You look a bit busted."
"He also said some crazy shit about him and Caroline," Lun told.
"We gonna jump those guys again?"
Bryan shook his head. "Fuck that. I'm gonna battle them."
An astonished silence landed on the posse. They all looked at Bryan, who stole a fleeting glance at them while relishing his words. He was going to battle them in the Rap Olympics, even though he had choked a week ago. He felt he was ready. He needed this victory. And yes, he didn't get his demo ready in time, but he had another time reserved in the local radio station the next week. Should he now win the Olympics, the rocket launch into stardom would be complete, and then he would have all the money in the world to complete his dreams ? and not to forget about Sis, either. All of this was possible because of her support.
"For real?" DJ Jozz managed to stagger. Bryan gave him a determined nod. The posse still kept staring at him like they had just seen a ghost. They couldn't believe their ears ? this was the record time recovery from a defeat.
Ignoring their stares, Bryan turned on his heels and continued his walk towards the backstage. DJ Jozz, Edam and Lun were left standing stunned and motionless, staring at his back. Bryan stopped at the backstage door: "You guys comin' or what?"
Brianna watched the rest of the posse follow Bryan. So, he was here to fight for his honor... after letting out a long sigh, Brianna turned to Lei. "Change of plans," she declared. "We arrest our suspect after the Olympics."
"Huh, why?" Lei wondered. "Brianna, we can't change our schedule just because..."
"Do you have the faintest inkling as to whom we are busting in here, Wulong?" Brianna interrupted. Lei thought for a moment, but gave up, shaking his head. He knew nothing except for the name, appearance and the criminal record. In these circles, everybody knew at least that much of each other.
"As I thought," Brianna snickered. "His name is Clark Matthews, but in here, they all know him as Don Doe. He is the defending champion of the Rap Olympics. He won't be leaving before the battling is over, if we just lay low and stay put. If we start reaching him before the fights even start, he will surely notice us, but if we make a swift approaching during the battles, he won't ever realize what hit him. Understood?"
Show 'em a punchline or two, they can't do better
Rip 'em to shred-ah ? you think I'm a fool?
That's cool, but you're the only one lookin' like baboon
Climbin' the trees like an ape, tryin' to find a grape
Getting higher on the ranks than Don Doe's rate
Bryan was throwing his act into the hip hop beat that echoed from the Cage's hall into the backstage room. Edam was listening to his set, bursting in to laughter every now and then. Bryan was definitely one of the most talented rappers ever seen in the 8 Mile ghettos. But suddenly, Bryan laid a worried look at the other side of the backstage. Edam turned to look -
Don Doe. And his posse.
They let out the lamest fake laughter at Bryan and Edam, pointing at them while collapsing of laughter. Bryan sighed and lit up a cigarette. Don Doe had been a school bully as long as he was able to remember and apparently the ending of school couldn't bring him out of the bullying habit. Not that Bryan cared much nowadays.
Don Doe and his posse suddenly ceased laughing. In came Delta, the battle host, with a mean look on his face. "Let's get the fuck outta here..." Don Doe muttered and left with the posse. Even though Delta was part of Bryan's gang, people respected him in this arena, since he practically speaking owned some of it. Now, it was this gang's turn to burst out in laughter. Delta jokingly pulled Bryan's woolly hat on his eyes while they watched their rivals flee. "It's on tonight, Viper," he said. "Go blow their brains out."
"Aiight, aiight, aiight people, how you feelin' out there?"
Delta practically speaking screamed into his mic. The crowd, the whole hall of The Cage burst into cheers and whistles to accompany his enthusiasm. Brianna stole a glance around the hall; all the representatives of the hip hop culture were present, and 90% of them were black, as she well knew. She wasn't only worried about Bryan's success against these odds, but also of her success of busting ? these people hardly would just sit and watch a white cop arresting a black man. Racism was a bad problem in the neighborhood. Brianna found a good example only five minutes ago when she entered the building with Wulong and Jameson. She was Caucasian, Wulong was Chinese and Jameson was Afro-American. The bouncer had let him in after he had briefly explained he had left something inside The Cage, but Brianna had to near choke him before he believed hers and Wulong's badges were for real. To Brianna it had been a slightly amusing situation, since she could remember many times it had been vice versa; she got past white bouncers like nothing, and Wulong got past Asian bouncers. The problem didn't occur only in the 8 Mile area.
"Next up, Bass Boomer and Pit Viper. Come to the stage!"
Bryan's nickname caught Brianna's attention. A young, black man in an over-sized hoodie appeared on the stage, but Bryan was nowhere to be seen. "Pit Viper, where you at?" Delta announced. At once Brianna saw one member of Bryan's posse leaving for the men's room. "Come to the stage, Viper!"
Bryan leaned his forehead on the chilly concrete wall of the men's room. The room was murky green and dirty, its walls filled with graffitis and puke. Even that of Bryan's; he remembered full well the last time he had come here to calm down before the battles. He had been so anxious he ended up puking multiple times.
Tonight, there were no anxiety inside him. It had been replaced with a strange void. Inspirational void. He had heard all the battles into the room, and he had always come up with a counter to each verse he heard. All the counters had just appeared from this void. When Bryan would just shut up and listen, silence his thoughts completely, he was able to hear everything from the void.
It was not his first encounter with the feeling. It had popped up every now and then after his encounter with the Hero. As if the Hero had somehow spread his stillness into him, too. It was the only explanation he came up with, anyway.
A gentle knock came from the restroom's door. "Viper!" Edam's awkward voice echoed through the door. "Your turn now. You're battling against Boomer, you cool with that?"
Bryan just stood there, without opening his eyes, listening to the void. "Yeah," he replied to Edam. "I don't give a fuck who it is."
He walked straight through the crowd onto the stage. Brianna watched in awe ? the confidence Bryan displayed without even doing anything was something she had never seen. He was a completely different person in these circles. Naturally, as Brianna would quickly add ? she slapped herself mentally for even thinking that she would see her brother here. This wasn't detective Brianna Fury's little brother ? this was Pit Viper, one of the few white rappers that have been accepted into these circles.
Bryan stepped onto the stage, laying his eyes on his opponent, estimating him and his skills. Bass Boomer belonged the Don Doe's posse. They called themselves Fantasmic, and they were by far the loudest and most arrogant of all the posses in the area. Brianna had had to deal with them before. This would certainly be worth seeing.
Delta took a coin from the DJ's desk nearby and turned to Bass Boomer. "Heads or tails?"
A flip of a coin. "Heads. Decide," Delta said.
Bass Boomer grabbed the mic from Delta's hand. "I'll go first against this choke artist!"
The audience hooted, but Bryan didn't react to it. He stepped back a little to clear the stage for Boomer. "Alright then!" Delta announced. "45 seconds. DJ, spin that shit!"
The background beat began, the audience cheered already and Boomer cleared his throat loudly, but Bryan refused to hear that. All he concentrated on was what Boomer would say, and what would the void reply. Let it come.
Choking one the sight of us Fantasmic rap gun
Whiteys ain't welcome man, look what you've done
By the time I'm done, you'll be totally gone
Don't think it's fun ? you're a disgrace
Only your fuckin' cop sister could love your face
I don't even know if you have a sister or a brother
Whichever it is, it's an ugly mother fucker
Your dad should've worn a rubber
You little faggot, you think you could face da Bass Boomer?
It's a wonder no one has killed you sooner
You could never win, you don't belong, you're a loser
Take your faggot rap and shove 'em up your white ass
We don't listen anyone who ain't in a class.
The audience roared. Brianna felt a spike in her heart, not because of being mentioned in the battle, but she understood now what Bryan had to face every day he attended the rap olympics. Insults, racism, prejudices... Bryan had to be a lot stronger than he seemed.
The background beat began once more. Bryan held the mic in his hand, but his head was down and his eyes were closed. "Don't choke this time," Bass Boomer muttered, looking like he wasn't far from killing him right on the spot. Suddenly, Bryan looked at him, straight into his eyes, and lifted the mic up.
You didn't have the slightest class in it.
Keeping that bullshit up 'till the last minute -
You seem to me like some 2Pac mimic
So I have a brother, eh? That cool
You're the one to talk, she's got bigger balls than you do
Lookin' like a dump truck hit you
What's the matter dawg? Your pants filled with your doo-doo?
You're the Bass Boomer, but I'm the Pit Viper
I swallow you whole without even bitin'
Don't need a venom to serve you, so start hitchhickin'
If you wanna be home for tonight's tuck-in
Tell yo mom to save me a plate later tonight
I'll be at yours once your momma kisses you goodnight.
The audience hooted so loud Brianna's ears rang even hours afterwards. Like everyone else in the audience, she too was screaming and applauding. Bryan had wasted his opponent 900 ? 0. His posse was roaring and clapping, even the DJ paid his respects. Bryan handed the mic over to Delta who wasn't able to subdue his excitement either. "Oooh! Oooh! We don't need a re-count for that! Pit Viper is the winner! He will enter the next round! ... ok, ok, ok, the next up, we have... Tallboy and Hazard, come to the stage motherf*ckers..."
Bryan stepped off the stage with the people near him applauding and congratulating him. Brianna wanted to congratulate him, too, but knew she mustn't let him know she was there with Wulong and Jameson. That would be blowing their cover for good.
With the same talent and skill, Bryan defeated successfully every opponent he faced. His next and final opponent was none other than Don Doe himself. Bryan felt he needed a break before facing him in a battle. He headed outside the building to have a smoke and some fresh air, but just as he had lit his cigarette he heard his sister's voice coming from behind the corner. Indeed, Brianna stood there, speaking into her cell phone. "Affirmative," she said. "We have located our target. Clark 'Don Doe' Matthews, age 30. - No, I don't know how he manages to look that young. - ...was kicked out from a private school of Nicamine? Why? - Child molesting? Now that's something new. What else do you have on him? - Really? - Okay. What's his home address, in case he escapes? - What the heck's a penniless man like him doing on Parkway, that's snooty area! - Lives with his parents? Oh..."
Bryan listened further while exhaling the cigarette fumes.
"We'll launch the arrest after the final battle," Brianna said and dumped her cigarette. "We have one more battle to go. We need to get as close to the stage as we can without the target noticing us. - Whaa...? - Relax, chief. It's gonna be a piece of cake. - What's he gonna do, kill us?"
Bryan knew. He dumped his cigarette and returned swiftly indoors before Brianna would spot him. He had to hurry back onto the stage, where Don Doe was already waiting for him. He laid a murderous glance on Bryan ? many would've cringed at the sight, but Bryan didn't. He knew what to expect, he knew whom he was facing and he knew how he could defeat him. And he knew that if anything would go wrong, he had Brianna to back him up. He had nothing to be afraid of.
The crowd was practically speaking in ecstasy. They cheered and howled like a bunch of loud animals, some for Bryan, some for Don Doe. Even Delta wasn't able to contain his excitement, he yelled in his microphone. "Aiight, aiight, aiight! It's the championship round, and YES believe me it's for real! We've got my man Pit Viper and Don Doe. I ain't have to even stress how important this is! This is what we had come to see here tonight, 'coz we're the Cage, we represent!"
Bryan and Don Doe eyed each other. Don Doe was slightly taken aback my Bryan stillness, but decided to call it a bluff. "Don Doe, you're the defending champion, so you get to choose," Delta said, now more subdued. "Heads or tails?"
"Heads. You choose."
"Let that faggot go first."
The crowd howled in excitement, even Delta let his astonishment shine through. "Wooow, I can't believe my ears, a lot of hostility! Doe's pissed off!"
Bryan sighed. To go first would mean it would be very hard to impress the crowd well enough to defeat the defending. He took the mic from Delta and waited patiently 'till the background beat had begun and the void had finished speaking.
Party on with me if you're feeling alright
Every dawg in the Cage right now
Put your hands up if you belong in the crowd
Okay, look -
Now while Doe stands tough,
Notice that the dawg ain't got his hands up
You think I don't know what you gonna say?
You want to say it yourself but I'll tell them anyway
I am wrong-colored, I ain't got any money
I have a cop for a Sis and a whore for a honey
Know what's more funny? I work at Jimmy's for chickenfeed
I would've died without Sis, and I don't even pay for the upkeep
But I know lots and lots about you
You went to Nicamine; it's a private school
You were kicked out, busted for child abuse
You live with your parents, safe and sound, on Parkway
This is 8 Mile, snooty area's like that-a-way
You ain't a fucking Don Doe, you're a Clark Matthews
You're not even a crook, and that's all that matters
There, I've said it all, I'm outtie
Tell these people something they don't know about me
Bryan tossed the mic to Don Doe who looked a bit more than shaken already. When the background beat began on his turn, he didn't manage to get a word out of his mouth. He choked, in front of them all, causing the audience to cheer and scream louder than they ever had. Don Doe held the mic to Delta, his head down with shame. He was already leaving the stage when Bryan grabbed him by his sleeve. "You're not going anywhere," he said into the mic he took from Delta. "You're busted."
"You can't bust me, faggot, you ain't a cop," Don Doe growled, but suddenly the audience gasped and he heard a gun getting loaded right at his ear. Slowly, even scared he turned to look to meet the cold barrel of a Desert Eagle and even colder eyes of Brianna. "Freeze," Brianna said, loud enough for Bryan's mic to catch her voice. "You are under arrest for illegal drug dealing, blackmailing and murder. Anything you say can and will be used against you. Overstood?"
People watched as Don Doe was forced into a police car with his hands cuffed and reputation ruined. The Fury siblings stood near each other, watching the bad guy being taken away. It seemed like a happy fairytale ending, good guys winning, bad guys losing, and sibling love prevailing.
Snow rained silently on the streets, creating a dream-like atmosphere in the dark and restless ghetto. Brianna switched off her radio phone, calling it a day. Job well done; no casualties, no meaningless struggles. Just a clean sweep. She had no reason to feel bad about the operation. Neither had Bryan. He had had the chance to confront Don Doe and defeat him in a fair battle. Brianna had sneaked behind his back while Bryan had distracted him. Their teamwork had always been as silent and seamless.
"Hey Pit Viper!" it was someone from the Fantasmic. Bryan hardly had the interest to turn and look, but he did. Don Doe's right hand man Leechie ran to him and Brianna.
"What do you want?" Bryan growled.
"Hey, man, relax, we're cool," Leechie gasped. "I just thought you and your sis might want to know. We thinks Don Doe's might have been in deep. We hear he had some connections with greater circles."
"To whom?" Brianna asked sharp.
"Not know, but be careful, Viper, detective Fury, -" (Brianna laughed inwards at the sudden politeness towards her) "- if Don Doe was into something big, the kingpin could start looking for you."
Brianna thanked Leechie for the information. She turned to leave. "That was not wise, Bryan," she suddenly said. Bryan caught up with her. "What wasn't wise?" he asked, shoving his hands into his pockets. The air was getting very cold. Brianna breathed in and out before replying. "The cops around here have more enemies than allies, Bryan," she said. "And now you have been officially labelled as a cop's relative. This was not wise. You've been put into great danger now."
"I'll be alright, sis," Bryan replied. "I've got the reputation and the posse that will keep me safe in these circles."
"In these circles, yes, but in the circles beyond... who knows what the future will bring."
Two pairs of footsteps were left in snow. Small ones from army boots, big ones from sneakers.