Xyla’s Good Girl

She always climbed the five flights of stairs to her apartment barefoot or in sneakers. Hard soles on the staircase of stone and tile would advertise her presence to whatever mercenary might be waiting. Silent climbing was her best bet.

She’d only lived in this apartment about two months. She doubted Fulvo or any of his guys had tracked her there yet. Still, her hand gripped the pistol in her purse, ready to fire a round through the pink patent leather. It felt warm in her hand, she imagined from earlier use, much more likely it was from her nervous palm sweating.

She scanned the landings above as she ascended. Her slender quads burned as she moved silently. Her perfectly built calves flexed as her bare feet extended, lifting her step by step.

There were twelve apartments per floor. Her destination was apartment 5F. She liked it because it was in the center of the floor, giving her multiple paths out.

Mr. Paulino stood at the end of the hall in his gray boxer shorts and white “ginny tee.” He introduced himself to Xyla when she moved in. He was classic old New York. He was the one who’d introduced her to the term “ginny tee.”

That night he was holding his folded over NY Post and yelling at his cat to get inside. Xyla was in no mood to make small talk. She gave him a cursory wave. She released the gun and went for her keys.

She heard him drop his newspaper, then a metallic click. She swung the heavy metal door open into the hall, just in time for it to absorb three silenced bullets. Using the door as cover she pulled the gun from her purse and returned fire. She silently cursed herself for not reloading earlier. Two useless rounds landed harmlessly in the concrete pillar between her and Paulino. She slammed the door shut but couldn’t lock it, no time to reseat the keys.

She scrambled backwards through the tiny apartment. Paulino threw the door open. Silence. Two massive paws pressed into his chest, the force slamming him through the doorway and flat on his back in the hallway. In the harsh fluorescent light, Paulino realized he wasn’t the only Italian in that hallway.

Tina, a nearly two hundred pound cane corso, stood on his chest. He tried to shove her off him, tried to free his arm to lodge a bullet in her body as her massive jaws snatched at his pock-marked face. Finally, he slid on the floor and raised his weapon.

He saw a flash of electric pink hair through the doorway and felt three stab wounds in his chest — rapid discharges from Xyla’s pistol. The not-so-old man collapsed.

Tina glanced up at Xyla. Xyla placed her index finger over her lips, the “silence” signal. She patted Tina’s head as she looked around.

Xyla’s only thought was that she’d been set up. Fulvo knew where she was headed as she moved in. He marked her, and he wouldn’t stop.

“Looks like we gotta go, T. Come on my good girl.”