Where the hell is Shay where the hell is Shay where the hell is Shay was running through her mind at a million miles a second. She’d heard something like a crash in the distance awhile ago, and she thought Mirabelle had heard it too but it seemed like they were the only ones. From the shots that disabled the car Candy could only assume Shay was high up and distant, likely in that beer depot she’d never seen open. Maybe she fell through the floor, which seemed idiotic, but she knew she wasn’t too badly hurt because her phone buzzed in her pocket at least a dozen times though she hadn’t had the chance to check it once. Or maybe she was really injured and calling for help, in which case she wasn’t getting much.
She hadn’t even seen Inez when the shot fired, but dear god was it painful. A hard slam against her leg that drew an unbidden scream, right to the bone. She could barely stand on it and knew it was shattered, but still she’d tried to continue on her path to Shay. Solana and Elvira had cover and she had faith in them: getting to Shay seemed like the smartest option, even though she wasn’t sure where they stood. Inez had found her home after Shay got Candy’s number, that didn’t feel like a coincidence. That felt like exactly what Candy thought would happen, and it made her heart ache like she never knew it could. Though she didn’t want to believe it, though she had no confirmation she’d likely been betrayed. And still, like an idiot, like a soft, lovesick little fool she was running to this girl with nothing but the hope that the obvious wasn’t real.
But then Mirabelle and Drew were on her in a heartbeat and she had a gun between her eyes and still Shay was nowhere in sight. She had one last ditch move and pulled it out quickly: the fed. Of course she was fibbing, she knew nothing about the woman save the fact that she existed, but Mirabelle bought it and that was enough. She had to think quickly, make up some fantastical story with enough dirt to save their lives, and she was just about to make up a crazy plot when a bang and a flash sounded out and Mirabelle paused in her words. Candy kept her head down – she knew not to look at a flashbang, as predictable as they were becoming – and Mirabelle fixed her suspicious gaze on her, but Drew turned around.
“Inez!” She cried out, and Mirabelle’s eyes went wide before she turned away. Even Candy looked up and found that Inez was no longer in the window, though at least she wasn’t on the street. “Shit!”
“Perfect timing!” Elvira yelled triumphantly, and Candy took that as a signal to run and run back to them where at least there was cover. She brushed past Drew, actually touched her shoulder, but she’d figured out awhile ago that she was high as a kite and not too huge a concern. Pretty good thing considering how slow she was going. She hoped Inez was alright, despite the massive hole she’d put in her leg – a flashbang to the face was probably nightmarish at best, lethal at worst. And with no way to call out to her team she could be lying dead in that apartment for all they knew.
A gunshot sounded out from the roof’s direction and Mirabelle screeched. From the corner of her eye she saw the spark of a bullet bounce off the asphalt, but Mirabelle didn’t shoot back. They all had extra clips, but were starting to run low, and when her enemies were at higher ground it was wise of her not to provoke them. But when she saw Candy getting away the rage in her expression was clearer than it had been all day, when it began as celebratory and moved to frustrated and desperate. There was a moment’s confusion as they all looked around, Drew obviously torn between running to where they’d last seen Inez and pointing her gun upwards to the opposing gang. She had no cover and was on the low ground, they all saw that, but she and Mirabelle were hungry for blood and missing two teammates. Candy looked longingly back to the beer depot, then gasped aloud.
Shay was visible in the distance, clambering up the bricks like she’d just squeezed out a second story window that, upon closer inspection, was now sans metal bars. She pulled herself onto the roof and wasted no time running to the edge, jumping to the next one, and rolling Spider-Man style. Candy felt her heart soar and her blood rush in her ears and cursed herself for it because surely Shay didn’t really love her, she totally betrayed her, but still she was stupidly into her.
“Grab her!” Mirabelle said suddenly, and Drew lunged her way but Candy scootched over. “We need a hostage!”
“We need cover.” Drew said, then dropped her gun and tried to tackle Candy. She pushed her lamely away and she stumbled and nearly lost her balance. This was a really bad fight – the highest girl in Miami (okay, on the block) and a woman hopping on one leg. “We need to see if Inez is okay.”
“Move!” Elvira yelled from the roof, with something that looked like another grenade in her hand, and Shay ran and jumped to the next building. Drew grabbed Candy by the arm and Candy started to realize how much blood she was losing. “Shit, they have her!”
Drew dragged her into the street, Mirabelle at her side, and Shay was already on to the next building. Candy wondered how this could end in a way that wouldn’t kill her. Maybe if Shay was running to save her instead of running to cover her team. She resolved to wait and break her own stupid heart to see if that were the case, and if not she would break from Drew’s grip and lift her fists, have some semblance of going out fighting. At this point she didn’t even want to lift her gun, not to hurt Shay’s team. All her texts had humanized them; she learned so much about Drew getting better, found out she was scared of ICE coming to see her in the hospital, heard that Mirabelle had cried like a baby when they had to leave her on the beach. Goddamn Shay, she’d made her sympathize with them, maybe even like them.
“Just throw a flashbang!” Solana yelled hysterically.
“I don’t have any more!” Elvira shouted, just as panicked.
“Of course not! You use them enough!” Solana yelled back. Candy rolled her eyes and Elvira fired a shot that made Drew jump it was so close. Suddenly she felt long, sharp nails wrap around her forearm and she looked up to see Mirabelle’s expression pained and her gun up.
“Enough of this.” She said, and Candy understood perfectly. She was done, too, and now she was going to die. In the corner of her eye Shay slid down a flagpole and ran over, and Candy could only hope she was shot before she got close enough to see. “Enough.”
“Candy!” Shay yelled breathlessly, and in the distance Solana and Elvira were cursing, and Candy heard Shay’s dirty sneakers hit the pavement like a heartbeat, and Mirabelle bent her head.
“How do you know her name?” She asked softly, and the footsteps died. Candy turned and looked right at Shay: she was all pink and sweaty, covered in dust and dirt from whatever had happened in that warehouse. She was in those pink shorts again and there were scratches on her arms and legs and there rested a forlorn expression on her face like loss was physical and it had slapped her, and even though she was looking right at her Candy had to remind herself that Inez was still missing and she shouldn’t get her hopes up especially when she was about to die anyway.
“Shay?” Drew released Candy’s other arm. “How do you know her name?”
“We’re dating.” She said simply, and didn’t take her eyes off Candy. Everyone went quiet. Then Elvira and Solana threw the door of the hardware store open and ran headlong at everyone.
“Charge!” Elvira yelled with a knife in her hand. Solana was holding a pry bar. Everyone stared at them, not even lifting their weapons, and Elvira paused and grabbed Solana’s arm. “Wait, what did we miss?”
“Candy and I are dating.” Shay said again, very flat. Solana and Elvira stared at her, then Candy, then back to her.
“Are we?” Candy found herself saying. Her voice was more hoarse than she’d expected. “How did Inez find me?”
“No – honey, no, it wasn’t me. I swear it wasn’t me.” She pleaded, and Mirabelle looked taken aback. “She tracked you down somehow, I couldn’t begin to explain it.”
“A Yelp review.” Drew mumbled, clearly floored. Shay pressed on before Mirabelle could let everything sink in and start flipping out.
“Yeah, Yelp! She got your IP address. There was a Facebook photo, I don’t know.” Shay said desperately. “I wouldn’t! I would never give her your number!”
“You – you had her number?” Mirabelle looked like she was just waking up. “You – holy crap, you’re dating our enemy?”
“Oh my god!” Drew yelled. “You’re gay?”
“Not the time, Drew.” Shay gave Candy an apologetic look. “She does this every time she sees me with a girl.”
“Usually we make it very theatrical.” She grinned, then looked ill. “I’m too high for this, I’m sitting down.”
“No, don’t sit down!” Mirabelle said, affronted, and Drew sat down on the ground. “We’re not sitting down, we’re fighting!”
“We’re taking five, read the room.” Elvira said flatly. Candy couldn’t help but notice the lack of expression in that – she was masking a lot of shock. Solana was actually gaping. She looked back to Shay, a little bit of hope making her feel floaty, though maybe that was the blood loss. Shay’s desperation was clear: she still wanted Candy.
“Why didn’t you tell me the plan was happening today? You couldn’t have warned me?” Candy asked meekly, though she already knew that no, she couldn’t have. Not without being a traitor.
“I’m sorry. I don’t want this to keep going.” She said. Mirabelle made a series of sputtering noises. “But I don’t know how to stop it.”
Candy took one hobbled step towards her but couldn’t do much more. She got the gist and ran the last few feet to her, then enveloped her in a much needed hug. Candy breathed her in: she mostly smelled like sawdust and mildew, but she hadn’t been with her for eight days and even with all their texting she missed her terribly. She leaned into her, then lost her footing, and Shay grabbed her around the middle and helped her sit down on hot asphalt. She sat next to her, and Candy was so stressed she didn’t even care if she looked like a wimp when she rested her head on Shay’s shoulder. Shay started to undo one shoelace as Mirabelle, for lack of anything else to do, began to pace fervently.
“I’m so confused and so mad right now. So mad. You two? You and the enemy, Shay? The girl who tried to kill Drew?”
“Yeah, what caused that?” Shay asked flatly as she pulled the lace from her sneaker and tied it around Candy’s leg. “Can you check on Inez please?”
“I’m still pissed. I’m pissed, Shay!” Mirabelle said, then turned to stomp off. “Oh!”
Candy looked up to see Inez in the doorway of the café, holding an espresso and looking terrible. There was blood running down her forehead and she was squinting, likely from how bright the flashbang was. She also looked angry beyond belief and, after a moment of looking around, settled her eyes on Elvira and performed the one bit of sign language they all understood perfectly.
“That’s fair.” Elvira said, and Inez took a swig of her coffee, then set the cup down inside and signed something very aggressive.
“I was just about to come get you!” Mirabelle said defensively, then went back to pacing. “And why the hell are you drinking coffee?”
“Elvira, could I have your flask please?” Shay asked. Elvira handed it to her blankly.
“Elvira? Your names are Solana and Elvira?” Drew said, astounded. Solana gave her a horrifically dirty look. “You knew she had a flask?”
“I’m sitting down now.” Elvira said, and sat. Solana joined her and only Inez and Mirabelle stood up, one staring at them all in quiet displeasure and the other pacing furiously. Shay dumped the contents on Candy’s leg and Candy anticipated a burn but was only splashed with something pink and creamy.
“Ew, what is this?” Shay turned up her nose.
“It’s warm.” Candy said. Solana’s nose wrinkled.
“Shut up, traitor.” Elvira responded smartly.
“I hate all of you right now.” Mirabelle paced. No one seemed certain where to go from there, so Candy just looked to Shay, who was ripping off a strip of her shirt. She looked down to a sliver of exposed tummy and realized how much she’d missed her.
“So where have you been?” She asked, and Shay’s expression went dark for the first time since she’d known her.
“Well, someone–” she threw an accusatory look Inez’ way, “–collapsed the floor I was standing on and trapped me in a freaking building!”
Inez did a lot of quick, sharp motions that her team watched attentively.
“Oh yeah? Then why was there a power drill in the rubble?” Shay shot back. “How do you think I got the bars off the window, dumbass?”
Inez looked affronted for a moment, because surely this was the first time any of her team had called her dumb, then did some rapid signing for a lengthy amount of time. When she was done Mirabelle gasped.
“You knew? You knew this whole time?” She asked, shocked, then looked even angrier. “Are you kidding me, Inez? You put our lives in danger! This girl almost killed Drew!”
“Uh, your girl almost killed me!” Solana butted in. “She was just saving my ass! Nothing personal, of course.”
“Completely.” Drew agreed. “Though the harpoon was a little insulting.”
“Yes, personal! Very personal! They’ve been tearing our business apart for half a year!” Mirabelle yelled. “They’ve been gunning for us for no good reason–”
“Stealing all your shit and taking your place in the criminal empire is a good enough reason for me.” Solana cut in. Mirabelle balled her fists and Inez aggressively signed something in her boss’ direction.
“Don’t start with me right now! Of course I’d flip out!” Mirabelle yelled. Candy was getting so interested she barely noticed Shay use her shirt to wipe blood and Nesquik off her leg. “You should’ve told us!”
“You would have killed me!” Shay said and threw the bit of shirt at her. It missed, but Candy had to hide a grin from Mirabelle’s disgust.
“Bet she still might.” Drew replied. “Seriously, Shay? I’m your best friend and you couldn’t tell me? Oh my god, wait, is this why you’ve been humming ‘I Want Candy’ for a week straight?”
Elvira erupted into laughter, then pulled a second flask out of her bra and tossed it to Drew. Solana crossed her arms.
“Really, El? Candy betrayed us.” She looked squarely at Candy. “You betrayed us! You put us at risk! You’re ruining all our world domination plans!”
“Actually, I agree with that.” Elvira sobered. “Not like we can talk, but–”
“Wait, what?” Candy asked.
“I’m so mad!” Mirabelle shouted again. “Shay, I’m gonna tell Drew to kick your ass.”
“Yeah, I’m gonna kick your ass.” Drew took a swig from the flask, then made a face. “It’s more Nesquik. Why did I think it wouldn’t be Nesquik?”
“We all almost died today! Including you, cabrón!” Solana continued. “This was such a stupid risk to take!”
“Yeah, but–” Candy gave Shay a fond look that was returned tenfold. “I really like her.”
At that the whole group made similar noises of disgust as Shay gave her a tiny kiss on the nose. Inez signed something with a rather flippant hand motion.
“There is no ‘now what.’” Mirabelle responded. “It’s over, we’re still killing them. Say goodbye, Shay.”
“Mira, I don’t think you’re gonna kill my girlfriend while I’m holding her in my arms.” Shay said pointedly, and Mirabelle’s face went all red.
“Should’ve thought of that before you started dating her.” She said, but didn’t lift her gun. That didn’t surprise Candy too much, though she recognized it was all for Shay, not her or her team. “Stop.”
“Stop what, dating?” Shay asked, then pulled Candy closer to her. “No.”
“Candy, you gonna stop dating her?” Solana asked, though she already sounded defeated.
“Okay well I tried.”
“Well now what the fuck do we do?” Drew asked, and Inez pointed at her in a motion that seemed to convey ‘my thoughts exactly.’
“Shay, you’re off the team.” Mirabelle said. “I’ll allow you to collect your things–”
“Mira, you can barely use your phone without me.” Shay said, matter-of-fact, and Candy snorted. Then her eyes grew cloudy. “Also, I don’t want to leave any of you. You’re my gang, I love you guys.”
“Aw, we love you too.” Drew cooed, then took another sip. “Ew, god, why did I do that? It’s so warm.”
“Am I out?” Candy tentatively asked her girls.
“Fuck you.” Elvira replied, the corner of her mouth twitching into a smile. “You can’t get rid of us that easily. And do you know how crazy Solana would go dealing with me all day?”
“Very.” She said, without the same level of enthusiasm.
“So we’re back to murder.” Mirabelle said, mostly to herself, and Inez tapped her shoulder. She turned away from Shay as best as she could and signed with her hands low and movements contained. Mirabelle looked like the Grinch about to steal Christmas: she clacked her nails together thoughtfully as a smile grew on her face. Finally she turned to the group and looked like a proper leader again, back straight and expression proud like the Mirabelle Candy had been so impressed by from a distance all those months ago.
“I’ve decided to be very generous and let you all live for today.” She announced.
“Yay.” Said Elvira.
“It’s clear to me that these little lovebirds aren’t going to leave each other alone.” She said, her tone strained. Shay bumped against Candy’s shoulder with a lovey little look. “But also we all hate each other and would rather blow each other up than see any form of compromise.”
“Here here.” Said Elvira. Mirabelle pointedly ignored her, but the effort to do so was clear.
“So I propose a challenge. Winners get to live.” She said, and Inez elbowed her. “Fine. Winners get to stay in Miami. Losers are banished, which I personally think is a fate worse than death.”
“You’re not kicking my girlfriend out of the city.” Shay said firmly, and Mirabelle shook her head.
“Everyone except Candy–” She looked down her nose in clear distaste “–or you, Shay, but of course it won’t be you.”
“What? We could kick your ass at anything, you name it.” Solana said.
“Could we maybe not kick each other’s asses?” Shay suggested to a crowd of silence. “Right. What was I thinking.”
“A competition to smuggle something in.” Mirabelle continued, and Solana frowned.
“Okay, don’t name it. That’s not fair, you have way more cash and resources than we do.” Solana said. “That’s a guaranteed win for you.”
“How about we smuggle something out?” Elvira asked, and Mirabelle quirked a brow.
“A good ol’ fashioned heist, huh? That could be interesting.” She hummed thoughtfully, and Candy couldn’t resist getting in on it.
“So we’re both trying to steal something and the gang who gets it first – and the girlfriend in the losing gang – gets to stay? What makes you think we’ll agree to this?” She asked, but already the answer gnawed at her insides.
“What makes you think you have any other options?” Mirabelle asked tightly. She clearly wasn’t thrilled with this situation, and would obviously be doing a lot of yelling at Shay later, but at least she had a competition to keep her hopes up. A competition she looked pretty confident about already, but Candy wasn’t so sure about that. Mirabelle had been busy with trafficking a lot longer than her team – six months ago Elvira was robbing houses and Solana banks, so they damn well knew how to heist. And if she thought about it, it was the best solution that wasn’t a mass murder. “You name the target.”
“That’s not good enough.” Solana sprang to her feet. “I want my car back.”
“Fuck you, that’s my car.” Drew vaguely pointed at her. “Wow, I do not feel so hot. How old was that Nesquik?”
“When were you shot?” Elvira asked as she too got to her feet. Drew went slightly green. “And I want payment for my destroyed car. So if someone gets me five hundred dollars we can deal.”
“Jesus Christ.” Mirabelle pinched the bridge of her nose. Solana said something under her breath that was no doubt desecrating the car’s memory.
“Text me her Venmo.” Shay mumbled to Candy and gave Elvira a cautious thumbs up, which was understandable given all Candy had told her: Elvira’s mother was a goth, her father a luchador, her namesake a TV hostess. Her dad named her for someone her mother was a huge fan of, and then, as Elvira The Younger liked to say, ‘lesbianism hit Mexico.’ After the divorce her father took her to America and here they all were today. Elvira responded with a lunge and hiss that had long stopped surprising Candy, but Shay jumped and curled into her.
“Pick.” Mirabelle said impatiently and looked between the three of them. Candy squirmed from both her gaze and the amount of pain she was just remembering she was in – the drama had been a great distraction, but wow did she need a hospital. Solana looked to be thinking hard, but after a moment Elvira only put on a crooked grin.
“A cruise ship.” She said confidently.
“A cruise ship?” Mirabelle asked skeptically. Candy was with her on that front.
“They are made to go out.” Elvira said. “First to international waters?”
“This sounds too fun to refuse. Deal.” Drew said, and pulled herself up to shake Elvira’s hand before anyone could get a word in edge-wise. Solana and Candy gave each other a look of concern, but there wasn’t much they could do now, save for fighting about it when they got home. Inez signed something, her whole team looked at her, then took off running.
“What did she say?” Candy asked as Shay sighed.
“‘One of them’s injured, race to the car.’” She kissed Candy’s forehead and got to her feet as Solana swore loudly. “Text me when you get to the hospital, okay? I’ll try to see you around.”
“Hopefully I won’t bleed to death before then.” Candy grumbled as Shay took off with an apologetic wave. “Bye, babe.”
“Bye, babe!” Shay called back with the slam of a car door, and Candy, Solana and Elvira were left alone with one busted leg, one burnt up car, and one puddle of strawberry Nesquik.