Black Puma



The limo sped away from the seedy apartment building, taking Lacey away to the safety of the mansion. Puma hoped they would not be followed. She should never have brought Lacey into this rat hole area. Lacey. Shit, the girl could be her Achilles.

In two days, Shawanda Johnson would turn thirty-one-years-old. She had been back in La La Land for eight months. The world of tennis was behind her. The world she now lived in was a violent battle for justice. Looking both directions, she hurried across the street, then entered the lobby of the Salacious Lady. The doorman looked at her.

“No cover for you ma’am,” he said. Visibly shaken at who had just entered, he moved back, crouching against the wall behind him.

With a sly wink, she spoke to him, “Run boy.” He jumped to his feet and fled through the front doors.

The bouncer sat playing solitaire, heard the door open and glanced up, then returned his attention to the cards. A split second later a cold shiver ran down his spine, as his eyes darted to the door again. Jumping to his feet, he rushed her, but ran straight into her gloved fist slamming into his face. The man toppled to the floor.

puma

Another man jumped up, looked at the woman and balled his fist. Thinking better of it, he bypassed her and walked to door, exiting into the night. The customers, the dancers, waitresses, and man behind the bar all stopped in their tracks as she strode into the room. The manager, an over the hill dancer, trembled and moved toward her.

“Welcome to the…”

“Cut the shit,” Puma said. “Where’s Griggs?”

The woman shuddered, nodded, and removed a keycard from her inside coat pocket before handing it to the Puma with trembling hands.

“Lower Level 10,” she said. “Elevator is at the end of the hall beyond that door. The key opens it, and the elevator needs it to work.” Her voice quivered. Puma eyed up the woman, then the patrons and other employees.

“Everyone, leave. Thank you miss. Now go away and find something different to do.”

Black Puma entered the darkened hall, while all her senses screamed danger abounds. A man stepped into the space between her and the elevator, pointed a gun at her, but Puma drew her gun and fired first, dropping him to the floor, dead.

Holstering the gun, she secured it and sauntered toward the elevator. A slight scratching on the back of her neck warned her of another danger. Spinning around a man threw a round-house kick at her. She caught his leg. With three quick kicks, she bashed his balls, reducing him to a curled-up blubbering mess on the floor. He tried to get up, but the pain flared at every movement.

“Please,” he said, “don’t cut them off.” He heard the ding of the elevator, glanced up in time to see the doors slide shut.

“She’s coming down,” he said into the mic on his radio.

****

The black limo sped toward its destination, and at last the gates slid open and the car made its way along the winding road. Collins looked at the girl in the rearview mirror. Her tangled blonde hair hung over her green eyes and she gnawed her thumbnail incessantly. The worry on her face touched his heart.

“Don’t worry, Miss Lacey, Shawanda can take care of herself, and the Black Puma can most assuredly take care of herself. She will be okay,” He wanted to reassure Lacey Barton.

“That’s the hope, isn’t it? Mine and yours, our hope for her. The truth is there’s always someone faster, tougher, meaner, or just luckier than you, or her. We don’t know she will be alright.” Lacey pulled her feet up on the seat. Hunching she turned and stared out the window at the woods, looking like a gargoyle protecting some gothic building.

“As clichéd and unscientific as it is, I believe good always wins … in the end.”

“We all die in the end, Collins, every friggin, last one of us.”

****

The door opened, and Raeann Blackthorn walked into the private rooms of Jason Griggs. He and Sheila were eating a late dinner, Sheila looked the woman up and down in her pale blue outfit.

“Shit,” Shelia said, “What are you supposed to be, The Blue Puma?”

Raeann ignored her and walked up to Griggs. “Sir,” she said.

“What, what’s going on?” he asked.

“The Black Puma has penetrated your defense perimeter. She is on her way to this lower level right now to kill you.”

“You’re supposed to kill her? Aren’t you?”

“Yes, and I will. But if I don’t, she will certainly kill you,” she told him. “It would be wise for you to stay in here. I’ll come and let you know when it is safe.”

“And,” Shelia asked, “what if you don’t succeed?”

“I suspect that Puma will kill you both. She may have mercy on you, though, you after all, are a woman.”

“He won’t,” Sheila said, indicating Griggs with her table knife.

“Not my problem,” Raeann said.

“You’re cold as ice,” Sheila replied.

“Yes, I am, and it’s kept me alive. Mr. Griggs, you may want to turn your music up loud, so you don’t have to hear what goes on out there.” Raeann walked back to the door. “One of you secure this when I leave.”

“We’ll watch on the monitors,” Griggs told her, paused, then asked, “did you use me as bait?”

“Now why would I do that?”

“Because … it just … did you?”

“Yes, I did,” Raeann Blackthorn turned to him. “Do we have a problem?” she asked, resting her hand on one of her side arms.

“Just kill the bitch,” he said. She left, and Griggs locked the door behind her, then turned back to Sheila. “I want a blowjob.”

“No,” she said. Standing, she walked away toward the bedroom. “I have a headache, I’m going to lay down, and I hope to God, Puma kills you.”

****

Puma pushed the button to the lowest level, then moved to a side wall and stood with her shoulder pressed against the front wall. Removing a canister with her left hand, she pulled the pin and held the lever tight as the elevator descended rapidly down the shaft. Counting each ding that sounded as it passed the first nine levels, she prepared herself as the last ding sounded. As the doors slid open, gunfire erupted, and a hail of bullets ripped into the back wall. The barrage deafened her, ringing, and reverberating in her ears.

Thick, acrid smoke filled the air and finally, the salvo stopped. Shawanda let the lever loose and tossed the canister into the room. A blinding flash and loud explosion followed, and smoke streamed from the canister. Puma moved quickly from the elevator into the outer chamber, identifying two gunmen in the smoke. She ran to the first, who fumbled trying to insert a new clip in the Tommy gun. She wasted no time and sent him crashing over the library table with a blow to his face.

The second gunman struggled to see, pushed the clip home, and Puma closed the gap grabbing his arm as he tried to raise the weapon. Bashing her elbow into the man’s temple, he stood his ground, momentarily dazed. From the corner of her eye, she saw the first man standing on the other side of the table.

Pulling the gun from the second man, she aimed and squeezed the trigger. Goon number one’s body jerked, twitched, and flew back as the bullets ripped through him. The second man’s lips moved but no sound emitted from his mouth. He reached up and touched the blood on his face, looking dumbly at his bloody hand. Falling to the ground, he attempted to stand as Puma fired a short burst into the man.

“I didn’t think these boys could do the job,” the icy-cold voice sent a shiver down Puma’s spine as she turned to face the woman. “So, you’re the Puma. Quite the mean little kitty cat, aren’t you?”

“And you’re the one they call Ice,” she said. “Not your thing to actually fight. I hear you more the poisoner than the fighter.”

“I can kick your sorry black ass, bitch,” Rae said.

****

“Why isn’t she home?” Lacey asked for about the tenth time.

“It’s only been thirty minutes,” Collins answered her. Patting the couch beside him, he invited her to sit. Turning, she bounded to the sofa and jumped beside the man, sitting close and playing with a strand of her hair.

“She needs to let us know she is okay,” she started to rise. Richard Collins put his hand on her wrist.

“Be still child. Don’t worry, she’ll be fine. If anything were wrong, Steven would call us.”

“How did all this start? Did Griggs really have her parents murdered?”

“I don’t think he had anyone else kill them. I believe he did it himself. Until recently, quite recently, he did much of his own dirty work.” He exhaled, breathed in deep and leaned back on the couch. “About six months ago, Ms. Jones advanced to the finals of the American Open. I have traveled with her since she went on the tour. We were there, and she advanced to the final round of the event.”

“I was there. I saw the win,” Lacey interrupted.

“Yes, I know,” he said, patting her arm, then continued. “Shawanda’s father never let anyone drive him but me. It was somewhat of a superstition really. He and Mrs. Jones were going to their cabin in the mountains for the weekend. His venture to have a private police force to destroy the organization would begin in mere days.

“Jackson and Mrs. Jones wanted a few days alone. No, press, no staff, no unwanted individuals taking them away from each other. So, he drove, and just the two of them were in the car. They rushed to get to their retreat before the finals. Driving there in the pre-dawn hours, Griggs had set a trap.” He paused, sighed at the memory, and continued as Lacey prompted him.

“And?”

“They turned the curve and pulled into their private road. Once Jackson got out of the car to open the gate, Griggs’s man, or more likely, Griggs himself opened fire with a Thompson submachine gun. Very much old school,” Collins stopped talking and twisted his head. Putting his hand to his forehead, he fought his emotions.

“Shawanda got the word just before the last set. She still played, and still won. She retired that day, after telling the world her father had just died in a car accident. That’s what Drake Urban told her. He waited until she was home to tell her the truth.

“Shawanda grew … angry, she decided then and there to take her father’s plans and made them her own. A few weeks after that, Black Puma made her first appearance in Shabby Heights. The rest, as they say, is history.” He stood, walked to a bookcase, and pulled a bottle of scotch from a secret compartment, pouring a generous amount into a glass. Lifting the glass, he drank it down, turned and smiled at Lacey.

“Care for a drink?”

“No,” she answered, “you’re worried.”

“Shawanda Jones can take care of herself. The Black Puma will be victorious. But, yes, I’m concerned. She’s … my little girl.” He fought the urge to cry.

****

“I told you we were going to fuck,” Griggs followed her. Grabbing her wrist, he spun her around to face him. Sheila backed away from him to the wall, pressed herself firmly against it. She scowled at him, putting her right hand behind her back.

“No, we aren’t,” she insisted. “I’m not scared of you anymore, and I’m not letting you touch me again.”

Jason Griggs reached down, unbuckled his belt, and pulled it through the loops. His expression grew dark as he furrowed his brow.

“Now, why would you say stupid shit like that?”