Queen Dairy
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  • 19

    Nowe and Vincent haul the wooden paddleboat, trudging along the shoreline to the waters. It gets easier when the boat finds traction with the ocean – Vincent calls out for Lil and Pino to hop on board.

    He's anxious about the boat's ability to stay afloat with all their weight; it felt like it was on the verge of sinking when Vincent once tried riding it with a pregnant Lil. He'd all but forgotten about it until Nowe suggested the idea of doubling back onto the waters.

    When he tries hopping on after lifting Pino up into Lil's arms, the boat almost tips over..

    "Aaghh!" Vincent fumes, holding onto the lip of the boat.

    At the same time, Nowe spots some headlights approaching, caressing the residence in an outline of harsh light.

    "You have to go - now!" he says.

    Lil clutches onto Vincent's hands, as if trying to cherish what could be their last moments together. In her adrenaline-filled thoughts, an idea hits her: "Vince.. are you fine holding onto the boat's edge?"

    "I am. It's just.. c-cold.."

    Lil puts Pino on the boat's opposite end, and the boat seems to hold its own. Then she grabs both of the paddles, and starts rowing.

    "Nowe," she says, "thank you.."

    "Just go!"

    She frowns, even knowing his curtness is justified. As the boat goes into the distance, Lil sees Nowe shrink back into the household – while she feels Pino's arms tugging at her, she makes a silent prayer for Nowe's well-being.


    In the house, it is stark without the warmth of family. Nowe pulls out his cerberus pistol, and dims the LED setting so the pistol doesn't give itself away. He stands by the wall by the television, his gun pointed out – and poses himself still like a statue, waiting to strike.

    Unless you were really listening for it, you'll never know that the house is surrounded by mafiosos. Their footsteps are dim, without so much a hushed whisper.

    Nowe spots the outlines of the men, just outside the kitchen window. They're cutting through the mesh, and are gently prying up the windowsill – he clutches his pistol, no doubt leaving so much sweat in his white satin gloves.

    When they clamber inside, Nowe controls his breathing. He lets them stalk past into the living room, where he can get clean shots on the both of them..

    After two flashes, he hears the collapse of a body, violently knocking over the glass table. It was then that all hope for total stealth is lost, as he hears the men outside agitated, expecting a shooter, their Sicilian tones crying for retaliation.

    Nowe strides over to the second floor, where he finds the bedroom of Lil and Vincent. He hides under the mattress, brushing aside Lil's makeup bags and hearing the clatter of her lipstick, rolling on the hardwood.

    His gun is held out. His thoughts race over where he'll move, as soon as he'll knock out the ones coming over.


    Nowe is met with a tense silence.

    Then he hears the march of heavy footsteps, up the stairs. His eyes wince, as a part of him senses it is Antonioni himself - no one else walks with such a pompous gait in a gunfight.

    ".. Nowe!" Antonioni says, remaining in the halls. "Something for your consideration.."

    The click of a radio.

    Nowe strains his ears – he hears what sounds like his own family, in whimpers, as Sicilian voices on the other end order the use of a scalpel on the girl's face, and then – screams.

    "Your heart yearns to protect others, but I fear you may be saving the wrong people -"

    "Stop!" Nowe shouts, recognizing his sister. "Antonioni! Tu bastardo!"

    "I can stop it," Antonioni goes, as if jeering. "And every fibre of me wants to, if only you'd be so kind to tell me where our dear Vincenzo has gone."

    The chills flood through Nowe's body: a guilt torn between two loves. He winces – imagining the joy of exploding Antonioni out of his old age, but as he remembers those years, growing up, knowing Eris's smiles and her laughter..

    Nowe tosses his pistol by the doorway, with a light clatter.

    "For the love of God, please – leave my family alone." He says this in heaving sobs.

    Antonioni's men raise their torches on Nowe, blinding him. To stare back at the mob boss is like staring at the sun. Nowe goes down on his knees, much to Antonioni's satisfaction.



    In any other night, the starlit peace would be the cherry-on-top of rowing along the coast. But here, Lil feels her arms burning – the paddles steadily weighing heavy as she feels her muscles tire from the exertion.

    "I- I can't hold on any longer.." Vincent whimpers.

    Lil snaps out of her melodic trance, and checks on Vincent. Poor thing, his face is so pale and she could make out he's on the verge of fainting. She shifts the boat towards the sandy coast, where she gets Pino's help in carrying him out.

    Vincent is soaked, bearing the reek of those moments before it rains.

    Lil takes off his clothes, stripping him down to his underwear. Then she lays herself atop of him – warming him up with her own body, as she holds and caresses his shivering arms.

    "L-Lil," he says, "this is where we first drove into town.."

    She looks around, seeing the same palm trees wavering in the night like those years ago. The spark of nostalgic rememberance leaves her feeling bittersweet – like it had been just yesterday when they sweetly made love after that escape.

    Lil sees Vincent, and finding him so vulnerable, she kisses him in one gentle nibble. Even in his numb state, it's still enough to really flood his skin with euphoria, and he holds her closer, wanting more of her kiss..

    He opens his eyes.

    "Hi," he goes.

    "Hello." Lil breaks a smile.

    Pino sees them – oh, they're having a grown-up moment.


    While Lil waits by the road, Pino recites the story of the three chipmunks back to Vincent – it's her turn now to read aloud to her dad. He's started a fire in the garbage can, just to keep them warm.

    "The three chipettes blew the stove-top off," Pino goes, "and my, it made a scene. All the kittens wandered in from the alley, their noses smelling the nice meatballs they were cooking. Brittany could hear them all mewling out the window – it was a horde of kittens, all of them hungry, awaiting with open eyes for some food."

    "Oooh," Vincent says.

    Pino grins, feeling proud of entertaining her daddy. "Brittany didn't know what to do. But Jeanette was smart enough to call the Milkman over, and when the truck drove by, full of milk, the kitties chased after it under the moonlit night.

    "Finally, they were able to cook spaghetti. Brittany was so hungry, she went through three plates – Eleanor had hers with a lot of cheese pieces, and Jeanette watched the TV as she ate. It was a lot of dishes they had to wash, but boy, were they full!"

    Vincent breaks into a chuckle, as he fetches his clothes which had dried over the improvised bonfire.

    By the roadside, Lil shouts for the attention of the oncoming truck driver -

    "Halp! Stop!"

    The truck is too busy carrying its load of steel slabs to notice. Lil sighs; they can't stay here for long. It might be possible that Nowe had fended them all off, but it's not an idea she wants to entertain – Antonioni isn't one to be deterred by that boy's plucky spirit alone.

    A car comes by. This time, pulling over for Lil.

    "You look lost, lady," the driver goes – his grizzly beard has some cracker pieces on it.

    "We need a lift outta town."


    "I have a family – it's a long story. We just need a ride out." Lil calls Vincent and Pino over. The driver studies them: they sure look harmless enough. With a willingness in his eyes:

    "Hop in."

    Vincent, still shirtless, falls asleep by the back, despite the abundance of disposed beer bottles. Pino stays wary, taking a dislike to the lingering stench of cheap alcohol. "Pee-yeu! It stinks!"

    "I know," the driver goes, "thanks for reminding me, I really ought to clean this up sometime.."

    "Pino!" Lil snaps. "Let's try to stay polite."

    "Okay, Lil-Lil.."

    Lil keeps herself awake chatting with the driver – it's nice to relieve pent-up stress in a conversation, though she is careful not to mention the danger of being under pursuit by Antonioni. Otherwise he'll have second thoughts about helping them, or worse, sell them out to the mob. If you've been alive long enough, you'll know how regular people, despite all apperances, can and will cave in towards acts of total pettiness, given enough pressure.

    "Is he your hubby?" the driver goes. "He looks wasted.."

    "He's been out swimming for a while. He's not the kind of guy who'd get drunk for fun, usually." Lil flashes a little blush, standing up for her sleeping husband.

    "What about you?" the driver asks. "Do you party? You look like you'd be kind of wild when you let yourself go.."

    "Ask me that again, I'll give your cheeks a party to remember."

    "Okay, okay, well! I totally respect that, dig!"

    The car veers by the hilly forest, when Pino calls out that she has to go pee. "Please, pretty please, I need to go.."

    It doesn't escape Lil how the driver flashes a brief look of exasperation. He pulls over to the side, and Lil wakes up Vincent-

    "Huh, are we here already?"

    "No, it's just a washroom break. I'm going with Pino.. I think you should come too, cause it doesn't seem like there'll be another chance."

    Lil follows Pino and Vincent down, climbing over the wildlife fence down the hill – where it's in total shadow. Her breaths shudder out in wispy vapours, while behind her, the driver is enjoying a cigar break near his car's high beams. For some reason, she feels elated just to be out of that musty car; the pine woods and shrubbery whisper unintelligible secrets that only the night comprehends.

    A thought crosses her mind. While she hears Vincent and Pino in the distance, she decides to clamber back up to see what the driver does, when he thinks no one is looking.

    She watches the driver pull out a walkie-talkie radio. He steps inside, shutting the door, and Lil strains herself to hear:

    "You were right. They were right near the beach when I found them. Listen, I'm doing a pit stop cause the girl had to go for a piss.. you promised me the ninety thousand on arrival, yeah? I want a raise, give me $120,000. Yeah? My fuckin' mother is undergoing chemo-therapy, and I'm struggling with the bills as-is man, now gimme the raise or you'll never get to see these people."

    Lil could not make out who was talking on the other end, but she's heard enough to know the driver means no good. As Vincent and Pino emerge from the bushes, Lil rushes down to them:

    "I've overheard him," she says. "He's delivering us to Antonioni."


    "Lil, is he a bad man?"

    She solemnly nods – in trepidation over what they'll have to do. "We need his car.."


    Lil escorts Vincent and Pino back into the headlights' visibility.

    "Took you folks long enough-" The driver snuffs his cigar on the asphalt, but not before exhaling one last, massive puff of vapourized tobacco. "I want to be in town by the break of dawn, yo."

    If the atmosphere in the car has changed, this time bearing a charged alertness, the driver doesn't appear to notice. Vincent is putting his shirt back on in the back seat, while Pino is kicking her legs in a sort of agitated rhythm.

    "You folks seem like you've seen a bear down there or somethin'," the driver goes, pulling the car ignition. "What you all acting up-tight for, all of a sudden." The tension is borne high, as the driver tries to get the engine to turn over – Lil recalls how driving the Jaeguar would purr up on demand; that's truly a luxury car.

    As soon as the car roars to life-


    Vincent reacts, grabbing the driver's neck from behind in a chokehold.

    Lil grabs one of the bottles and tries smacking the driver. Trying to knock the driver out isn't a pretty ordeal – amidst the driver's thrashing, Lil smacks the beer bottle's bottom upon the driver's face, expecting him to go out cold with each blow. She leaves bruises on his cheek, his brow, but even so, the driver is a rugged man, surprisingly deft; he latches onto her arms. "You naughty bitch!"

    "Get him, Vince!" Pino shouts. "He's hurting Lil!"

    The driver bites down hard on Vincent's wrists-


    It's up to Pino! She tries doing what Lil does, which is to grab another bottle, and swiping the poor driver directly on the skull. The driver breaks free from Vincent, and he whips out a switchblade - nicking Lil by the shoulder.

    But blood wells up in his eyes, crawling up to the irises like an infection.

    The driver hits the driving wheel in an unconscious thud, all his body weight slumping over, and for the few awkward minutes before Lil is able to push his body outside, the car's horn is the only noise the highway hears.

    "I'm hurt," Vincent goes, the teethmarks emitting gashes of blood through his sleeve. Thinking on her feet, Lil slices off a strip of her own dress using the driver's switchblade, and wraps that tightly over his wrist – adding a dainty knot at the end.


    While Vincent recouperates, Lil enlists Pino's help carrying the driver over to the trunk.

    "Is he dead, Lil?" Pino asks. "Did we kill him?"

    "I hope we didn't.."

    Lil lifts the trunk, where there's a bag of hunting gear. On the count of three, they roll his obese being into the compartment-

    An incoming truck.

    Lil struggles with packing the arms and legs, before she rushes to slam the trunk down. She hears the truck stopping; tensing, she turns around, facing the curious truck driver who's hopped out.

    "Do ya need help with anything?"

    "No.. no," Lil goes. "We just ran into some car trouble, that's all."

    "Oh, okay. Cause it looks like you were packin' something heavy into your trunk-"

    Her nerves are so shot – it's hard spinning a story when you've been battered by the night's ordeal. She looks over at Pino, who is fidgeting with her pockets.

    "I thought you might have blown your tires out," the truck driver goes. "Maybe you could use a hand?"

    "It's not the case at all," Lil says, nudging Pino to get back in the car. "Our luggage was wiggling around too much while driving. We're doing fine otherwise." She pulls off a smile, and the driver gives her a look, but he's convinced enough to head back and mind his own business.

    Phew.. crisis averted.

    Lil lets go of clenching up when she hops over by the driver's seat. She starts breaking down into tears..

    "This is just too much," she goes. "I can't.."

    Pino, who's by the passenger seat, goes over and hugs her.

    "Lil – please don't cry," Pino says. "You've been so strong for all of us."

    "It's just so much craziness over one night, and I- I can't believe we've reached this point where we had to beat that driver up.. Pino, please, I don't want you thinking that it's okay to do things like this to others. Okay? Promise me."

    Pino pulls her pinky out with Lil – pinky promise.

    "I can drive," Vincent goes.


    The highway rolls on – every second, Vincent is grateful for the improvised wrapping Lil's put over his wrist, the pain dying down as the dawn paints the night away. The back seat, Lil sleeps, her breathing serene (she'd personally cleared out all the stray beer bottles, eugh!).

    "I spy with my little eye.." Pino says, holding her head out the window for a cool feature in the desert. "Something green and spiky, and it has three prongs!"

    "Hmmph, the cacti?"

    "That's right!"

    Pino is too excited about what the new town holds in store to keep sleeping. "Hmm, I spy.. with my little eye, something which goes 'Moooo!'"

    Vincent is befuddled. There aren't any cows to be seen. "Cows?"

    "You!" Pino grins. "Moooo!"

    Vincent does his best impression of a cow, bellowing out his belly, and they both laugh.

    But something catches his eye in the rear-view mirror: it's the green and violet flashes of the incoming highway patrol.

    "Pino, look behind," Vincent goes. "It's the police." For a moment, Vincent half-wonders if the police are just merely passing by, before his question gets answered: the cruise blares its alarm, signaling to pull over.

    Shiittt.. maybe we're flashing a broken light?

    Vincent purrs the car aside, as Lil stirs.

    "¡Apague su automóvil y salga del vehículo!"

    Vincent has only the faintest inkling what the officer is saying out the cruiser's loudspeaker. He steps out, facing the cruiser and its blinding sirens.

    "What's going on?" Vincent says, his hands raised.

    The officer steps out: he's a bald, stocky fellow, with sweat gleaming off his head. He raises his pistol at Vincent. "¡Los otros pasajeros, sáquenlos!"

    Pino shakes Lil back to reality, where it dawns on her that they might be in serious trouble. "We have to get out of the car, Lil."

    So, when Pino and Lil hop out, a second officer corrals them, knocking Lil to the ground and thrusting handcuffs behind her back. Pino screams; though she tries fleeing, the second officer grabs her, lifting the girl onto his shoulders.

    They're put into the cruiser's back; Pino huddles close to Vincent: "I'm scared.."

    "Don't be - the police are supposed to be the good guys.. excuse me?" Vincent shouts past the grille. "What are we being arrested for?"

    The officers ignore him, as they turn to the car's trunk. One of them heads over to the driver's side, popping the trunk open, and the other officer lifts it up, revealing the haggard corpse of the driver.

    "Ayyy!" they shout, like they've found El Dorado.

    Lil shudders. Look what you've done..