Mirabelle Climbs The Ladder

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She sat straight in the cold metal chair and waited patiently, her back straight and her eyes sharp. Her hands were folded neatly in her lap, resting against her soft pink Ralph Lauren dress as to not betray her nerves. She’d learned long ago not to wring them and reveal her worry. Beside her, an older woman was having a hushed conversation with her middle-aged daughter across the plexiglass barrier, donned in the same orange jumpsuit every prisoner wore. She must have visited often, because her hands weren’t wrung either.

A buzz sounded in the distance, and her head snapped up as two people entered the door on the other side of booths arranged for visitation. A young woman came first, with dark skin and tight curls of hair pulled back into a bun. An officer followed her with a guiding hand on her arm — her own hands were cuffed behind her back. They came over to her little visitor’s area and sat her down, uncuffed her, then the officer took a few steps back but stayed hovering. Upon closer inspection the girl looked very young, but worn down, with a pallor on her skin, dark circles beneath her eyes, and a lifelessness to her expression. Likely that was due to the bandages that lined her neck. She only studied for a moment, and when it seemed she wasn’t being studied in return she pulled a clean tissue from her pocket, folded it neatly, and picked up the phone beside her. It was old fashioned, black with a chrome chord, and she held it as close to her mouth as she dared. After a long moment, the girl on the other side picked up hers and held it to her ear.

“Inez Germain.” Mirabelle said warmly. “Look at you.”

Inez Germain only stared at her, though her expression wasn’t hard. Mirabelle was unfazed.

“My name is Mirabelle Bravo.” Her eyes flicked over to the officer behind her. “I’m a waitress.”

Inez was obviously skeptical about that. The pricey dress betrayed her, but of course she had no intent on doing something as important as this without dressing for the occasion.

“I’ve been reading about you. Following your case on the news.” She saw a slight furrow of her brow, maybe in the form of agitation. “I’m so sorry for what’s happened to you. No one deserves a betrayal like that. They were cowards for leaving you there.”

Annoyance played on her face now, but it didn’t seem aimed at her. It seemed like agreement. Encouraged, Mirabelle pressed onwards.

“And the surgeries and all that — well, that must be expensive. That and the speech therapy—” Inez physically recoiled, and Mirabelle’s thoughts were scrambled for a moment. “I — I thought you were working with a speech therapist? Or a vocal coach?”

Inez looked a little green as she shook her head, and Mirabelle reddened as she realized her mistake.

“Sign language?” She asked meekly, and Inez nodded. She seemed unwilling to show her emotions, but beneath the purposefully blank look on her face her grief was clear. Mirabelle gulped and twisted the fingers that remained in her lap. “Well, you’ll figure it out. You’re a smart girl. They all say that about you.”

Inez only stared at her once more. Mirabelle figured she should just get to her point.

“Did you know civilians can sponsor people in jail? We can send you guys letters and spot you a little cash every month for those so called luxury items. Deodorant, extra tampons, that sort of thing.” She said, and Inez gave her a half nod in understanding. “That’s the sort of thing I would work with the correctional facility for. But then, outside that, I know you’ve been doing trips to the hospital for awhile. You must be up to your neck in medical bills.”

Inez gave her a look, and Mirabelle winced.

“I just mean that you probably have quite a bit of debt. Right?” Inez stared at her. “Or do your parents pay for it? You’re young enough to still be on their insurance.”

Inez blinked, then looked uncomfortable for a moment. In all her investigating, Mirabelle had learned nothing about Inez’ family, where they were, or even if they still existed. She had hoped to get a sliver of information out of her, but she was steadfast in a silence she had little choice of. She resisted a sigh and pressed on.

“Just because you’re done with the necessary surgeries doesn’t mean you’re completely finished.” Mirabelle said. “There’s plastic surgery to consider, laser therapy, more grafts. And creams and gels and moisturizers after that.”

With that she’d hooked her. Inez leaned forward, her eyes bright with intrigue for the first time all day, and Mirabelle felt some hope rise up in her chest. The only operations she’d gotten were the big ones — the ones that saved her life, then the ones that kept her in one piece. But Mirabelle knew she likely looked a mess beneath those bandages, and was probably uncomfortable, red and itchy as well. This was one hell of an opportunity for her.

“I want to work with you to pay off some of those old debts and get you some better treatment.” Mirabelle said kindly. “I want you to do better and feel better in any way I can help. I’ll even help with the sign language teacher if you want. You can spend your time in here recuperating, like people are supposed to do after an accident. And you can grow as a person like you’re meant to in prison. And maybe in a year or so — or less, it all depends — you can come and work with me.”

Whatever ounce of hope was on her face vanished, and she leaned back away from the plexiglass. Mirabelle knew at once where she had went wrong: as soon as she offered a job Inez hesitated, if only for a moment. She didn’t want to be an investment, and she probably wasn’t too eager to trust a criminal again after what her last team put her through. She might even leave prison in a year to return to a life of normalcy. What a shame that would be. Mirabelle opened her mouth to say something else — though what she wasn’t certain — but Inez hung up the phone and lifted one finger in Mirabelle’s direction, the only sign language she knew.

“Inez, please.” She said, but the guard had come back over to cuff her hands again. So she hung up her phone, stood as Inez did, and watched her go. Then she smoothed out her dress, finger-combed her neat bob, and walked back to the front desk, where she gave a woman a check for Inez’ commissary items. She gave her her name and address as well, and told her that whenever Inez wanted to write her to just hand it over. With that she stepped out, back into the clear Miami heat.

When she got back to her sparse little apartment in the business sector, she went to her computer, pulled up her banking website, and checked the account. She didn’t necessarily have the cash to cover all of Inez’ medical bills: she had a desk littered with papers, a couple semi-automatics under her bed, and a brick of heroin in her trunk that she didn’t want to deal with, but not the funds she needed. She sighed, shut down the computer, and went to her modest kitchen to make a cup of coffee with her janky old Keurig. All the saving she was doing didn’t mean squat if she wasn’t out there pushing product she didn’t want to push, flooding the state with whatever fake prescriptions she’d get through the airport for whatever suspicious cartels and Chinese companies with forged paperwork. Not that she wanted to, but she was hoping a short time of sloughing through the mud would allow her the financial security to make better choices.

She had to get back to work: she had scores to do. She’d been asking around as gently as she could for a new hire, and she had letters on her desk both offering up gang members and threatening her life if she dared take one. There were dozens of emails as well, people offering up their services without asking what she wanted. If she was building herself a gang she wanted women only, younger and brighter than herself, dangerous with their wits and weapons. That was why she wanted Inez so badly, after all.

A week of work came and went with its typical degree of exhaustion. She dropped drugs off to contacts or distributed them to dealers; she snuck on barges to grab crates of guns before captains could spot them; she read and filed paperwork with proficiency and read and responded to emails with less. There was a lot of coffee and foot-dragging involved behind closed doors (she was too professional to show her difficulties to the clientele, after all) but she trooped through her week until one of her letters finally showed some promise. The return address was the women’s detention center, so she knew who it was from and ripped it open. Inside were several sheets of paper all printed in wavy black and grey ink that must have come from the prison’s library printer. There was a written note on the top of the first page that gave the name of a bank, a routing number, and an account number, followed by:

Mirabelle — don’t consider this a formal acceptance. I’m not too keen on waitressing — Inez Germain

She looked through all the papers; most of them were hospital bills, all of which she winced at, then the sign language teacher’s bills, then statements to overdrawn credit cards with usernames and passwords scrawled across the tops. She went online and signed into the bank account and found it too was overdrawn. Then she googled the nearest bank’s address and checked her wallet — the money she’d made off that massive brick of heroin was still sitting pretty.

“I guess this is gone.” She griped to herself, but in reality she was grateful for any attention from Inez. There was a chance she could acquire some of that hard-earned trust of hers yet.

And so began the arduous process of befriending Inez. She began to pay her debts, called some plastic surgeons and the warden a couple of times to arrange a consultation at the prison clinic, and waited patiently for another time to visit. In the meantime she continued to work, one night down at the marina where she was supervising the loading of a massive yacht with a great deal of illegal substances. It was almost three in the morning when she showed up with a very large rifle and ushered a group of men in ski masks over to the Serenity, an entirely overused boat name. As she waited patiently for them to load the crates she kept a weather eye out for any police, though she believed this particular operation was low-key and not on their radar.

Shouting and shuffling sounded out on the yacht, and Mirabelle tensed. With her knees set and her shoulders squared, she squinted and looked around — if there was a DEA agent or something on the boat they would likely have back up. No one crept out of the shadows, not that she saw, but after a moment one of the men scrambled out the door and ran her way. She imagined that beneath his ski mask his face was dead white.

“We have a situation.” He whisper-shouted. “There’s something in there.”

“Something?” Mirabelle asked quietly, and he nodded fervently. “An animal?”

“I don’t know. I’m not going back in there.” He said, clearly shaken, and she wasn’t sure if she ought to be rolling her eyes or running for the hills.

“Okay. Wait out here and watch for problems.” She said, and marched onto the yacht with a purposefully steady gait in order to appear calmer than she felt. As soon as she stepped aboard the fine hairs on her neck went up, and when she opened the door to the cabin saw most of the half dozen men gathered towards the bow, with the one closest to her drawing his gun.

“Don’t fire!” She hissed a warning, and he lowered it meekly. “No noise!”

“There’s something down there.” He said, and tilted his head towards the narrow stairs that lead down into the hull.

“A ghost!” Another man said, and now that Mirabelle looked it seemed they weren’t so much gathering as they were cowering. A few others murmured, and one nodded.

“Ay dios mio.” She shook her head. “One of you back me up. Someone who isn’t trigger happy. The rest of you wait here, there may be a shootout yet.”

After some mumbling amongst themselves one of them stepped forward, and Mirabelle pointed her rifle as she slowly descended the stairs. The man behind her drew his gun but kept it low, and though he probably had half a foot and a hundred pounds on her Mirabelle could feel him close to her, and hunched over so she acted as a human shield. She was fairly certain they were about to get to the bottom of these stairs and find a rat scurrying around, or maybe a particularly large spider, but she wasn’t letting her guard down in case there was something larger, like a stray cat or a federal agent. 

At the end of the stairs there was a dark hallway with three doors, and as soon as Mirabelle set her foot on the bottom stair the temperature went down ten degrees. She strained her ears a moment and heard something odd, something other than the water ever so gently lapping the boat: a whisper, maybe, or the movement of fabric. It was so distant it could’ve been imagined, but she had to admit her breath was short as she approached the first door. She swung it open quickly and squinted into the darkness — it was a bedroom, and it appeared to be empty. When she stepped in she pulled out her flashlight and gave the room a quick scan, but saw nothing still.

“The closet.” The man behind her whispered, and she glanced over just in time to see the door move by millimeters. Her gun was drawn, and she was more tense than scared, so she walked over and threw the door open to find absolutely nothing. But all the coat hangers were swaying. She checked under the bed as well, just to cover her bases, but when she saw nothing out of the ordinary went to the next door across the hall. It was still cold, colder than she thought it should have been, and she shivered when she opened this door. Another bedroom, empty again, but she heard an odd creak that made the man behind her jump. She shined the flashlight all around, then stepped in. There was that noise again, that sort-of whisper, though it was louder now so she felt it more resembled leaves against the pavement, or maybe someone running their hands through their hair. She couldn’t immediately find a source: it sounded like it was coming from the wall beside her.

She took a tentative step in, and a creak coincided with it, but it wasn’t from the floor beneath her. Something like annoyance stirred in her gut as she realized she was getting psyched out by nothing. Waves and the ship settling. The wind. Other such hogwash. She again went to the closet and threw the door open, and the man behind her screamed.

“¡Cállate!” She whisper-yelled, but she was sure they’d seen the same thing. A light form, almost that of a woman’s silhouette. The man who’d yelled about a ghost looked a little less idiotic now. A cold wind rustled her hair, and she trained her flashlight on the source, a little vent in the corner. Maybe her light had caused the metal grate to flash when she opened the door, but when she tried to bob the light around she couldn’t reproduce the effect. There was nothing more to do than close the door and check beneath the bed again — still nothing, but when she stood she thought that the whispering sound got louder.

They retreated to the hallway, the masked man trembling behind her all the while. There was only one door left, and as she advanced her heart pounded, though there was something defiant in her hardened brow. She opened the final door: it lead to a bathroom. The shower door was transparent glass. There was nothing to see, the room was simply empty. Her eyes wandered to the corner nearest her, a cupboard that typically held life jackets, flares, and other safety equipment. She opened this as she’d opened every other door, but there was nothing out of the ordinary there. Only a whispering that sharply grew to something else, like a scribbling pen or a dozen rats’ little paws. The man behind her heard it and clearly decided it was his time to go, as he turned around and ran off with leaden footsteps.

Mirabelle couldn’t help her sigh. It sounded like rats, didn’t it? So why didn’t she think it was? She glanced around the bathroom again, but the gold hued tile revealed nothing new. The shower was empty, not even dripping, and the sink and toilet were plain. The little vent in the corner could have housed the rats, not that she wanted to explore that. Then again, when she held her light on it, there was something small poking out of the grate, and thin like hair. She froze, and another odd creak sounded out. Her stomach lurched as she realized it was directly above her head. Something clicked.

She jumped, her arm up, her hand in a fist, and smashed the bathroom fan. Whatever sound came from it she didn’t have time to focus on, too busy grabbing hold of what she believed to be up there and hauling it down. And with her hand wrapped around someone’s wrist she brought down the exhaust fan and an abundance of drywall with it. They both tumbled to the ground, and both got back to their feet quickly. In a tight space Mirabelle was at a disadvantage with a rifle, and she pointed it only for it to be shoved out of the way as the other person delivered a sound blow to her face. She reeled back and saw the glint of a knife, then managed to fire off a shot.

The girl — she saw clearly now, it was a young girl — dodged it and bits of tile flew everywhere. She lunged with the knife and Mirabelle shoved the gun against her, and her against the wall. The girl kicked her shin and held the knife aloft, and Mirabelle pulled away. For a long moment, they circled each other, neither struggling for breath. The young woman was intensely beautiful, with long chestnut hair and a pleasant fullness to her cheeks, though at the moment she looked a bit feral. Her eyes flicked towards the door, and both of them ran to it. Mirabelle grabbed a fistful of hair and the stranger yelped, then brought her knife down near Mirabelle’s thigh. Instinct kicked in and she pulled the trigger, and a quick succession of shots rang out, each bullet sinking into the floor below them. Mirabelle stopped as soon as she realized what she was doing — they were on a boat, after all — but used the distraction as an opportunity and slammed the girl’s head against the door frame. She went slack in Mirabelle’s grip, so she threw her on the floor and got between her and the exit, her gun drawn.

“Who do you work for?” She demanded, her tone deadly.

“Who do you work for?” The girl asked in pantomime. Mirabelle held back a scowl.

“Who are you?”

“Who are you?”

“Stop that.”

“Stop that.”

“Jesucristo.” Mirabelle pinched the bridge of her nose and thought a moment. “You’re staging a haunting of this boat. Why?”

The girl paused for a long moment. “I could’ve been a real ghost.”

“Ghosts aren’t real.” Mirabelle said firmly, and the girl looked torn between dejection and annoyance. “So what’s the haunting about? Is it for fun?”

“Yeah, basically.” The girl said, and Mirabelle stared at her for a very long time. She guessed you couldn’t always spot a loon at first glance, because this girl looked totally normal to her, but haunting a yacht just for fun was odd, especially when the consequences involved getting shot at.

“You knew we would be working on this boat tonight.” Mirabelle said, not a question. “So you’re with a gang or an arms dealer or someone who could get the intel. And you’re going to tell me who that is.”

She stepped forward and let the end of her gun prod the girl’s neck, and she was sane enough to show some alarm in her eyes.

“I don’t work for anyone. I just did this myself.” She said, and Mirabelle drew the gun closer to her neck. “Really, I’m alone.”

“You had to find out about this whole operation.” Mirabelle snapped. “You had to set up this whole haunting—”

“You don’t know that I set anything—”

“Palm fronds.” Mirabelle cut her off. “The whispering noise was palm fronds. You crawled through the central air vents and shook them. You shined a light through a grate in the closet to make a woman’s silhouette. You dragged your nails against the metal like rat’s claws. You put this together and you thought it through.”

“Yes! As I put you being here together. As I peeked and spied on the gang you’re consulting for. I’ve been following this for two weeks, chasing rumor and threatening smaller guys until I could learn about this evening.” The girl said boldly, proudly. “I don’t need a fucking gang or a fed or jack shit. I’m alone.”

Mirabelle couldn’t be convinced by those words alone, but something about her pride made her believe it. That and the fact that she was trying to scare off half a dozen grown men with some leaves and a flashlight, armed only with a knife, when no other gang or cop alive was half that creative. Or foolish. If she was going through this much effort she had to have known that one of these crates was stacked high with hundred dollar bills, which would be difficult for any gang to track. Maybe a fed could, but no one was exactly going to report a theft here. It was a surprisingly smart play somehow.

“What’s your name?” Mirabelle asked after a moment’s thought.

“Drew.”

“You want to work for me, Drew?” She asked. Drew looked thrown by the question. “I’m serious. I’m starting my own gang, and I only want the best.”

“And here the best sits.” Drew mused. Mirabelle smiled. “Are we going to deal with this?”

One of the men descended the stairs and called out to her quietly. They must have been really scared of this ghost if they heard multiple gunshots and hadn’t come running.

“In here.” Mirabelle called to him as he walked down the hall. Then, to Drew, she said: “I’m going to deal with it.”

She turned and shot the man in the chest. He went down hard, and with his eyes glazed over on the floor Mirabelle was secretly quite glad it was the trigger happy one who’d come down — she liked some of the others. She lowered the gun, and Drew stood, seemingly understanding. 

“Here.” Mirabelle found a few sticky notes and a pen in her back pocket, scrawled an address, and handed it to her. “That’s my apartment. Meet me if I get out of this alive.”

Drew nodded with some admiration in her eyes, and with some pride Mirabelle set her weapon down, kneeled, and held out her hands. Drew grabbed her shoulder, stood on them, and crawled back into the vent in the ceiling. In a moment it was like she was never there, save for the bullet holes in the floor and the shattered tile everywhere. Mirabelle stepped over the man’s body and went back upstairs, where everyone was huddled in one end of the cabin.

“If you don’t want to be called crazy, and you don’t want to get killed,” she said squarely, “then your friend down there is going to be our patsy.”

She didn’t go home for a full two days afterwards. Everyone from the yacht owner to the gang leaders to the guys she convinced to lie was furious, and she had to do a lot of calming down and reorganizing. In order to save her hide she paid the yacht owner out of pocket for the damages to be repaired by a look-the-other-way contractor, and with the bullets that needed to be extracted from all the machinery (she was lucky they hadn’t punctured the hull) it amounted to a small fortune. She’d fallen asleep standing in the lavish foyer of one gang leader’s home at one point, though when she woke up to him screaming at her she managed to get some sympathy saying a pale figure visited her in her dreams every time she tried to rest.

Yes, she sold them on the ghost story. Probably rats, she told them, though she did get very distant and aloof when she brought up ‘a glowing silhouette of a whispering woman.’ One of the men went berserk, and she took him down as fast as she could, but what could you do? All the others, including the one that had seen Drew’s little lighting trick in the closet with her, backed her up, and the bosses jotted it down to idiots sampling the goods. When everything was finally sorted and she was able to return to her little apartment she found Drew on the couch laughing at an old Whose Line episode.

“I don’t own a TV.” Mirabelle said, and Drew beamed.

“I brought it from my place. This one needed some livening up.” She said, and Mirabelle figured with her around it was mission accomplished.

.  .  .

“Now this is so much better. No need for a glass barrier.” Mirabelle said warmly as Inez sat at the little plastic table with her and Drew. This time around she wasn’t hand cuffed for the walk over either, though there were still several guards in the room watching over everyone’s weekly visit. Inez looked better too — there was a brightness in her cheeks despite the continued exhaustion on her face, and she smiled in greeting instead of just staring. The bandage on her neck remained, though Mirabelle knew what was beneath it was likely more comfortable and looked a little more tame than it had been. Her weekly letters had progressed over the months from quick updates on her surgeries, medications and signing lessons to earnest conversation about her day-to-day, as well as questions on Mirabelle’s life that could only be loosely answered, given their supervision.

“It’s good to finally meet you.” Drew absolutely beamed, her cheeks pink like her breezy little top and out of place in the dreary gray prison. “The little genius I’ve heard so much about.”

And you the waitress, Inez signed, and though she seemed wary she smiled.

“There is no way you organically learned that. You clearly studied that on purpose to make fun of me.” Mirabelle sniffed, and Inez nodded unabashedly. “See if we visit you again.”

“We will!” Drew rushed to say — Mirabelle had told her there were trust issues, and Drew seemed to have a golden retriever personality that demanded a friendship out of both of them. “I just started studying, so I’m not too great right now, but I’ll get better and we’ll all be able to talk on your terms. You don’t have to write letters and stuff.”

Inez brought a hand to her chin and held it out in the form of an open palm.

“You’re welcome.” Drew said, then waved her off. “But don’t. I should understand you, shouldn’t I? If we’re going to be waiting tables together.”

“Drew’s been helping me a lot lately. We’ve been working overtime as of late.” Mirabelle said, and rushed to continue after Inez frowned. “After that one night where I expected such a big tip. Instead Drew spilled wine all over that rich guy’s expensive shirt and I had to pay for a replacement.”

“I seem to recall that you spilled the wine.” Drew said, and Mirabelle smiled thinly.

“No no, you spilled the wine, it was your fault.” She said, her tone falsely polite, and Drew shook her head.

“No no no, Mira, if you recall, you spilled the wine. You were the one who started shooting—”

“Well let’s not get into it.” Mirabelle spoke quickly before the guard could catch on. “It doesn’t really matter. We’re working hard and you can work hard with us in a few months when you’re out on probation.”

Inez thought a moment before she signed: I am being good.

“I got ‘me.’” Drew said, and Inez gave her a dry look. “Annoyed that easily, huh? We’re gonna be good friends.”

She poked Inez’ side several times in quick succession, and Inez swatted her away.

“No touching!” A guard yelled, and Drew made a face like a teenager would behind the teacher’s back. Mirabelle laughed in earnest, a feeling she could get used to.

This will be bad, Inez signed basically with a petulant look on her face, but Mirabelle knew only good things were coming.

When they got out for the day and hopped into Mirabelle’s old Audi (used, but very clean, but it was only going to last another year or so) Drew dramatically sprawled herself out in the passenger seat, feet on the dash and everything. Mirabelle tried to psychically make her set her heels down for several minutes until reaching a red light and pushing her legs.

“No!” Drew whined, and covered her face with her hands. “I’m tired. I’m relaxing. We need a break today.”

“Visiting our friend was our break.” Mirabelle said, and Drew groaned. “I know. But we have assloads of work to do, our schedule’s full. It needs to be, too, if I’m going to help out Inez. And help out myself for that matter, and the criminal empire I’m trying to build.”

“Is that the plan? Climb to the top like that New Orleans lady? Or those other ones in those other towns?” Drew laughed lightly, but Mirabelle only kept her eyes on the road.

“I’m serious, Drew. We’re going to be bigger and better than all those other gangs, all the idiots I’ve had to bow to for so many years trying to up my career. Eventually you, me, Inez, maybe some other girls will rule Miami with an iron fist.” She said, then sighed. “But for now, we need cash. Bad.”

“It’ll get better when Inez is out, right? And she’ll be feeling better, eventually the skin grafts and stuff you bought her won’t be so frequent.” Drew said optimistically, and Mirabelle nodded. Skin grafts, laser therapy, regular therapy — it was a hell of a bill, but she was getting Inez well. Even if she didn’t join up when she got out of prison, though Mirabelle was certain she would, she couldn’t help but want the best for her. But of course, if/when she did join, imagine all the power that would earn them. “Do we know when she gets out?”

“That’s what she said earlier — ‘I’m being good.’ She can get out early on good behavior, be done with this in two, three months.” Mirabelle said, and Drew gaped. “Yes, that quickly. So we need to work. Earn some dough. Empty out my trunk.”

“Empty out — mierda, Mirabelle, you brought it to jail?” Drew cried, and Mirabelle rolled her eyes.

“It was just the parking lot, it’s fine.” She said, and Drew brought a hand to her face. “We’re dropping it off right now, up in Bal Harbour.”

“So it’s those kinds of drugs, huh?” Drew said, and propped her feet back on the dash. Mirabelle fumed silently. “Then this ought to be a treat.”

Bal Harbour was one of the more affluent neighborhoods of Miami; it was all beaches, luxury condos, and expensive shopping centers, and it was so fancy the occupants purposefully shoved that u in the name of it. They were meeting up with several dealers to distribute on behalf of their boss — dealers that, in this part of town, referred to themselves as business men and entrepreneurs and made home visits to soccer moms on their way to pilates. They weren’t selling weed, rather fake prescription opioids that more often than not were laced with narcotics like fentanyl. Mirabelle had thousands of little white pills in her trunk claiming to be Vicodin that she knew would be pure evil to give anyone, but she was trying to build up her criminal empire and for now had to look the other way on the more grisly business.

The drive over was longer than Mirabelle would’ve liked, but finally they arrived and found a parking spot in the busy Bal Harbour Shops, an upscale outlet center that Mirabelle was quite bitter about seeing as she could only afford to shop there infrequently, and not at all since she began really saving up. They approached the usual meeting spot, one of the many fountains in the mall, and found most of their contacts already waiting, lounging around outside Roberto Cavalli. Mirabelle looked wistfully into the lavishly decorated windows as she brought her handbag closer to her. She was well used to the charade of the usual routine: prove she had the shipment with what she held now, then distribute it from the trunk of her car as each nonchalantly passed by every five or so minutes. It was easy, and having Drew around was a bonus, considering the last time they’d done this she broke both a man’s pinky fingers for placing his hand on the small of Mirabelle’s back.

“Good afternoon everyone.” She greeted in a low tone. The men gathered around her in rather blatant fashion, though she wasn’t too concerned: people generally didn’t think crime was happening in such a luxury area and if anything would assume she was a prostitute. “I guess we’ll have to wait a moment for our final arrival—”

“There they are!” Someone yelled, and she turned to see it was said final arrival. She could tell immediately what had happened, same old boring story that it was: he got busted for something else, likely something at his upscale job involving cash or women, and the cops had caught on to this as well. He was snitching on them in exchange for a lighter sentence, but Mirabelle could already see this was poorly done. As the cops rushed them it was easy to see there weren’t enough, and with none of their weapons out she and Drew had been underestimated.

“Scatter!” One of the men yelled lamely, and Mirabelle observed them with no great urgency.

“Do we have to scatter?” Drew asked, and Mirabelle turned to give her her best evil grin. Instead someone yanked at her arm, and when Mirabelle snapped her neck around she saw one man in a fine Brioni suit running off with a fair share of the ‘Vicodin.’ She yelled something indiscernible to even herself just as she saw Drew’s fist collide with some cop’s fat nose, then took off running after him.

He’d hauled ass down the hallway and dodged and weaved around several wealthy shoppers, but he could only get so far in those stiff Mezlan loafers and when Mirabelle kicked off her own Aquazzura heels she caught up quickly. It seemed to her there was only one course of action that she executed immediately by punching him in the back of the head and sending him tumbling to the ground. While he lay there groaning she grabbed her handbag and some woman with a little dog in her handbag shrieked. She stood and spotted Drew out of the corner of her eye: in a flash she grabbed her by the arm and pulled her behind a massive potted palm tree, one of many that lined the hall.

“Take this back to the car, I’ll meet you there!” Mirabelle threw the bag at her distractedly and scanned the hallway for more officers. “I have to get my shoes back, they were seven hundred dollars!”

Before Drew could say a word she rushed, gun drawn, back towards the meet-up spot. Along the way she spotted a man with a splint on either pinky and a fresh gash across his forehead, then a cop running along behind him, yelling. She threw herself into a doorway, then rushed ahead once he cleared it. Her shoes were where she left them, and she scooped them up quickly.

“Mira!” Drew appeared out of nowhere, breathing like she’d just run a marathon and poised with a gun in her hand like she was ready to use it.

“Drew! I told you to wait by the car.” She said, already stepping away from the scene.

“No you didn’t.” Drew said, and Mirabelle paused and looked her over — she wasn’t holding her handbag.

“Then who did I give all the shit to?” Mirabelle asked breathlessly, then turned and ran. She heard Drew yell her name, then heard her steps behind her as Mirabelle ran back to the potted plant. People were fleeing now, and she tucked her gun away in hopes that she could blend in with the panicked crowd. She saw an officer holding down the man she’d punched in the head and bowed her head in hopes he wouldn’t squeal, then rushed to where she’d last seen Drew, behind that massive palm tree.

No one was there. Mirabelle almost had a heart attack. She absolutely could not afford to replace the cost of those drugs right now and quite frankly had no idea who she’d just handed them to. She felt Drew’s presence just over her shoulder, the clear expectancy, but she only turned and very stiffly walked straight for the door. No officer stopped them, and she saw zero squad cars in the parking lot, which is what she expected given the already poor performance. Her legs felt like lead as she walked across the sidewalk and back to her car. She wasn’t giving up, per say, but her brain had hit the panic alarm and she was slightly on autopilot.

“Hey.” Someone called in a light, feminine voice, and Mirabelle turned to see half a clone of her dear Drew. The girl was a similar height and weight, with a similar skin tone as well, but after first glance Mirabelle noted her hair was a few shades lighter and her face thinner. Her mannerisms, too, didn’t have the same beautiful meanness Drew could display: she had more of a calmness, likely a degree of patience neither Mirabelle nor Drew possessed. “What the hell, lady?”

“Oh, this is destiny.” Mirabelle gushed, realizing it as she was saying it. “Do you do crimes?”

“Do I — do I do crimes?”

“¿Que demonios?” Drew yelled with a suspicious squint. “You’re a fucking clone!”

“Wha— oh, wow.” The girl inspected her for a moment. “Yeah, you do look like a slightly hotter me. Freaky.”

“Are you gonna answer my question?” Mirabelle asked prudently, and the young woman sighed and tossed her the handbag. She caught it and checked inside to find everything intact.

“I was trying to just now, actually. Then some barefoot looney handed me a ton of narcotics and told me to find her car like I’m a valet.” She said, then put a hand to her chin. “But I guess with hot-me around that does explain things.”

“God, what are we gonna do?” Drew groaned, then rubbed her eyes. “They all got caught!”

“Doesn’t matter.” Mirabelle said. “They can’t name their manufacturer, that’s why we were hired. This is worst-case scenario, but it’s why we’re on the payroll.”

“And you got into the country, too?” The other girl asked studiously, and Mirabelle raised her chin. “Interesting. But are you responsible for getting it sold?”

“Sometimes. We have to ask our contact what they want done.” Mirabelle said, and this girl tilted her head.

“Why not find dealers for them and sell it marked up? If you pocket the extra cash they’d never know the difference.” She said, and Mirabelle raised a brow.

“Do you want to join my gang?” She asked, not beating around the bush, and both the girls hesitated.

“Shouldn’t there be an interview? Don’t you want to know my skills?” The girl asked cautiously. “Or my name? It’s Shay.”

“Drew.” She said with equal caution. And then, slightly more directed at Mirabelle: “And I think we already have a genius on the payroll.”

“I’m no genius. I just like to be practical.” Shay said, and Mirabelle knew the instant liking she took to her was just her superior way of thinking. “Don’t tell me you’re the great thinker.”

“No, we have another girl. She’s in jail right now.” Drew said without huge insult.

“Is she hot?”

“Oh God, no, I will not have fraternizing going on in this team.” Mirabelle said, and Drew laughed. “Are you in or are you not?”

“I guess in. This looks too weird to turn down.” Shay said, and with the non-momentous shrug she gave Mirabelle knew the criminal world of Miami had just been changed forever. “What’s your name again?”

“Mirabelle Bravo. You’ll hear about me.” She said with a toothy grin. “C’mon, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”


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