By Rebop


 We headed for a place called Atlanta, Georgia. It turned out to be a big, very modern city. This time we did not check into a Motel Six, but a very fancy, beautiful hotel. The downstairs lobby looked like a palace, with marble floors, pillars and potted plants everywhere. The room that Remy asked for was enormous, high on the top floor. The bathroom alone could hold an entire Egyptian family! The carpets were so soft, and my bed was like a fluffy cloud.

 The first night we were there, we took turns soaking in the giant tub-I took a bubble bath!-and then ordered food from the hotel kitchen. Remy told me two of his most favorite words were ‘room service’. We watched television, and Gambit drove me completely crazy with the remote, because he changed the channels every five seconds! I finally had to flush the stupid batteries down the toilet.

 The next day, we got busy. After breakfast, Remy called his fence, Mr. Delacroix from a payphone. Mr. D is an excellent fence, very much on the ‘up and up’, as Remy says. He has a lot of Guild connections, but he does not mind working with freelancers like us. Gambit asked him if he would be interested in doing a little business, and Mr. Delacroix said that he would be delighted to work with Remy.

 “Gotta new partner, Mr. D,” Remy said into the phone as he smiled at me, “ Wanna break her in big time.” I smiled back, getting excited. Remy told Mr. Delacroix he would call back with the details soon.

 Our next stop, much to my surprise, was a public library. We went to the periodical room, where Remy read newspapers on the microfiche and I looked through local Atlanta magazines. At first I was puzzled by this, and asked Remy why, but before he answered, I realized I was being stupid. Gambit wanted to read all the social news to find out what all the rich people in Atlanta were doing. And who would be the best to steal from.

 I must say, it was pretty boring. Rich people in Atlanta go to a lot of balls, dinners and charity auctions, even foxhunts! (How horrible!) The articles talked about what everyone was wearing and who was related to whom. As I was trying not to fall asleep and wondering just what a debutant was, Remy came over to my table with a wide Gambity grin all over his face. He showed me a newspaper page with pictures from what looked like a big party. He pointed to a photo with a fat, pink-faced man and a pretty blond lady, who I thought at first was his daughter. At first, I was shocked when I read the blond woman was actually his wife, and that her name was Muffin, of all things! Then I noticed the necklace she was wearing. It was really beautiful, lots of diamonds and a gorgeous, fat ruby in the center. I read more of the picture’s caption, and found out that Mr. Pomeroy, the pink-faced man, had given Muffin the necklace as a wedding present. The ruby was a famous one; it was called the Compass Rose.

 With another smile, Remy handed me a copy of ‘Atlanta’ magazine. Mr. Pomeroy was on the cover, stuffed into a suit like a sausage. He had mean, piggy eyes. The magazine article basically talked about all the money he had, and all the buildings he owned in the city. Mr. Pomeroy had just built a gigantic house in a neighborhood called Buckhead. The writer talked about how important Mr. Pomeroy was, and how he had helped the city. There was another photo of Muffin, wearing the Compass Rose, and also showing a lot of her bosoms.

 Remy had one more thing to show me. This was a newspaper article that was not very nice to Mr. Pomeroy or Muffin. They owned a lot of buildings in a poor section of town, there were pictures showing how sad and rundown they were. A Neighborhood Association kept trying to get Mr. Pomeroy to do something about the buildings, but Mr. Pomeroy said it was not his fault. He could not find good people to live in his buildings. I think he was really lying!

Remy looked at me, and I doubted the Gambit grin could get any bigger.

“So Stormy, what you say we take dis fatcat slumlord down a peg or two?”

I grinned back. “I think he is a chicken, waiting to be plucked!”

Remy gave a very low chuckle. “ I like de way y’ mind works, Stormy.”

 It took us two weeks to get ready for the job. Remy believes there is no such thing as being over-prepared. We were very, very busy and I could tell this made Remy happy. It was interesting to me that he did not have any nightmares, either.

 We found out who the architects were that worked on the Pomeroy’s house, and one night we broke into their office to make copies of the blueprints. We studied them until I could probably walk around their home with a blindfold on.

 We spent almost a whole week watching the Pomeroy house. We parked in a series of vans that Remy “borrowed”. One day we were plumbers, another day, a landscaping service, then television repair.

 The Pomeroys lived in a huge house; I could not quite get over the fact that it was just for two people. They had a big green lawn that looked like a carpet of emeralds, and so many flowers! I never saw them walking in their yard once. I would have been playing in it all the time.

 We watched all the comings and goings through a pair of binoculars. We saw what time Mr. Pomeroy hurried to work, what time he came home. Muffin also came and went a lot; usually with two little fat dogs that Remy told me were pugs. When I said I thought they looked a bit like Mr. Pomeroy, Remy laughed and laughed.

 The Pomeroys had a full time housekeeper, a nice looking gray haired woman who lived in the carriage house in the back. They also had a maid, who worked from 9 to 5, as well as a yard service that came every day.

 Even though they had such a beautiful place to live, the Pomeroys did not stay there much. They always went out to dinner or a party, and never got back until late. We were happy to see that Muffin did not wear the Compass Rose once. I guess she only saved it for special occasions, and Remy said that she showed at least some kind of class. It was also good for us.

 We had to figure out what would be the perfect night for our hit. Remy did it by reading the Atlanta Constitution newspaper, mostly the society pages. One day he saw there was going to be a big charity party for one of the local hospitals, and since it was going to be “casual”, he was sure Muffin would leave the Compass Rose in the safe. To make absolutely sure that the Pomeroys were going to attend, Remy called the party’s coordinator, pretending to be someone who worked for a man named Ted Turner. I was so impressed, he was very smooth and cool, and it was a bit strange to hear him talk without any accent. The party coordinator was also most impressed, she would have probably would have given him the entire guest list if he had asked. The Pomeroys were definitely going.

“Dis is it, petite! Your debut is Saturday night!” He rubbed his hands together. “ Compass Rose, she gonna be ours.”

 We called Mr. Delecroix from another pay phone, he had heard of the Compass Rose. He was very happy about possibly getting his hands on it, he was sure he could get a private buyer. He and Remy made final arrangements.

 I must admit that I was both excited and terribly nervous. Remy was just excited, I was afraid he was going to start bouncing off the walls of the hotel. We checked and rechecked our equipment dozens of times, rehearsed every move. Then, Saturday afternoon, when my stomach was really churning, Gambit surprised me by taking me to the movies. He said we both needed to stop thinking about the job for a while. We saw a film starring a man named Jackie Chan, it was exciting and very funny, and we both laughed a lot. The way that Mr. Chan moved reminded me of Remy. I could tell that Gambit was pretty impressed too, he almost managed to sit still for the whole thing, although he did throw some popcorn at me a few times. I got a little sick on some candy called Whoppers.

 Then, all of a sudden it was time to go. We got our gear together and headed out to Buckhead. This time our stolen van belonged to a catering company. This turned out to be a good choice. A house down the street was having a big party, there were cars everywhere. No one would notice the van.

  We waited and watched. About eight o’clock, Mr. Pomeroy and Muffin left the house, arguing about something. We also saw through the binoculars that Muffin was definitely not wearing the necklace. At eight-thirty, the housekeeper also left. This was a definite stroke of luck!

  We had to wait until it got completely dark. Then we dressed in our uniforms, head to toe in black, stocking caps over our heads. Remy gave me a pair of night goggles to wear. He does not need them, he can see very, very well in the dark.

 We did one more equipment check, then it was really the time! My heart was beating like a drum. Before we left the van, Remy whispered, “Dismas be with you.” which is a Guild saying. I replied, “And also with you, Master.” We would not talk again until the job was over.

 We slunk like two night shadows across the street and over to the front gate. There was a video camera there, Remy put a jammer on the ground and started it. A jammer makes a camera cloud up and see just snow. If you check on the camera afterwards, it is hard to see how it has been tampered with.

  Remy very quickly climbed over the gate, I followed a lot more slowly. There were no electronic eyes to trip us; we had made sure while watching the house. There was, however, another camera in one of the oaks out on the front lawn. We crept across the grounds a ways, then Remy used another jammer. Then we slipped through the dark to the side of the house.

 This was one of the most critical parts of the operation. Remy had spotted a security alarm box during our surveillance; it was mounted on a wall, way up near the second floor. Gambit took a small crossbow from out of his pack; he aimed it up at the eaves. The arrow/hook shot up and made a solid thunk in the wood. He gave the nylon cord attached to it a couple of yanks; it looked like it would hold us both. He knelt down, and I climbed on his back, my arms around his shoulders. Then, with me holding on tightly, Gambit scaled the wall.

 When we reached the alarm box, I had to keep just my legs wrapped around Remy, one hand in his harness. With my other hand, I found the screwdriver in my tool belt and got the alarm box opened.

 I was sweating a little during the next part. I had to get the screwdriver back in my belt, and then I pushed up my goggles so I could see the color of the wires. Remy stayed completely motionless as I studied them. He was not going to help me with this; it was part of my training. I finally found what I hoped was the correct wire and snipped it with my little clippers. Remy looked back at me for a second with a proud flicker of approval.

 The alarm disabled, we climbed on the roof and padded across on cat feet. We walked to the back of the house where we knew there was a balcony. Remy lowered me down there, and then he swung down himself.

 Gambit then carefully used a glasscutter to cut a neat little hole in a pane of the double glass doors. He reached in and unlocked them, and we crept inside the master bedroom.

 This is where we thought the safe was, Remy was pretty sure from the blueprints. We crept around the room, feeling and tapping on the walls. Both of the pug dogs stared at us from the bed, too lazy to even bark, the silly things. We had brought along dog biscuits with a harmless sleeping tablet in them just in case; we obviously did not need them.
 While Remy was looking behind the pictures, I went into a huge walk-in closet. I felt the walls behind all the clothes, one of them sounded a bit funny. Then I found a tiny switch hidden near the door jamb. I clicked it, and a panel slid open. I had found the safe!

  I signaled to Remy in Guild-sign, he came over and patted my shoulder. Then he pulled UMA from his pack and handed her to me.

 UMA stands for Unlocking Mechanical Apparatus, she is the most valuable thing that Remy owns, it is standard Guild equipment. Remy could have easily blown open the safe with his kinetic charge, but Gambit hardly ever uses his mutant powers on a job. He does not want to leave any evidence or suspicion that a mutant was responsible; we get enough blame as it is. Besides, there is really no finesse involved, or so Remy says.

 I attached UMA to the electronic safe lock-it was a bit tricky-and started her up. As she was sifting through the codes, I could feel butterflies zooming around in my stomach and my hands trembled. I glanced up at Remy, and saw that his eyes were happily glowing in the dark.

 Suddenly there was a soft ‘tic’ sound; dear UMA had done her job. We both peered into the safe; I pulled out a blue velvet box. I opened it, and there was the Compass Rose. It was the most beautiful thing; the stones sparkled even in the dark of the closet. I sighed for a moment, and put it carefully in my pack. Gambit rummaged around in the safe some more. He discarded a bunch of papers, but he kept a big stack of cash. He also found a small bag, when he opened it, he signaled “Jackpot!” to me in Sign. He showed me it was full of what looked like uncut diamonds. It was an even better pinch than we had hoped!

 We closed the safe, returned UMA to Remy’s pack, and made a very careful sweep around the room to make sure we did not leave anything behind. A sloppy thief is a caught thief, another Guild motto. Before we left, I patted the pugs; they both gave me a lick. They seemed rather nice, but obviously dreadful watchdogs.

 We left the house the same way we came in, retracing our steps, and again making sure we left no evidence behind. When we reached the gate, Gambit held up a small device from his tool belt, and pressed a button. The remote commanded both of the jammers to self-destruct; if anyone found them, all they would see would be a little pile of melted plastic and metal. We then walked back quickly to the van, no one spotted us.

  We stayed silent as we drove away. When we were finally out of the Buckhead neighborhood, Remy let out a loud Cajun yell that both startled me and made me laugh.

 “Aiiiyeee!!! Stormy, dat was like silk!” He looked so proud of me, my heart started to swell. “ You a world class thief, lil  girl, total pro! Best partner I could ever wish for!”

“ Thank you, Remy. You are a wonderful partner too.” I thought I might never stop smiling.

Remy winked at me. “ Everybody gon’ have to watch out, Gambit and Stormy on de job now, de Dream Team!”

 We took the van to a deserted warehouse area. We got into our regular street clothes, then took a little time to take one last look at the Compass Rose.

 “ It is such a gorgeous necklace, Remy. The ruby is the same color as your eyes.”

“Yeah, she a pretty t’ing alright. But if you ax me, I t’ink de real gem in here is you, petite.” Then he kissed me very softly on the top of my head. I felt warm and happy all over.

  We put the Compass Rose and all the diamonds ( Remy figured they were worth a couple million at least, Mr. Pomeroy’s secret emergency fund.) into a special Federal Express box we had ready. The cash we kept. Then we walked to a more populated area and hailed a cab. We had the driver take us to an all night shipping place that we had scouted out earlier. We sent the box to a special address that Mr. Delacroix had given us. I was nervous about doing this, but Remy said that this was the way Mr. Delacroix worked; he never did face-to face meetings. Plus, it is incredibly amateur to keep stolen goods on you; you dump them as soon as possible.

 We got back to our hotel in a pretty wild and crazy mood. Remy ordered us a late supper, since we both had been to keyed up to eat anything during the day.( I should have never had those Whoppers.) Remy requested champagne with our meal, he poured out a big glass for him, a tiny one for me. He gave a toast.

“ To you Stormy, a job well done. May St. Dismas be wit’ you always. “ He clinked my glass. “ You one of the best thieves in de world.”

“ ONE of the best, Remy LeBeau?” I teased. “ Surely, I AM the best!”

A big, wide Gambit grin. “ Sorry Miss T’ing, but Remy, he got dat title. You got lot more work ahead of you.”

 Then he took the bottle of champagne, and poured some right on my head! I was so mad; I chased him around the room. Then we got into a pillow fight, and I whacked him hard a few times. Then I managed to get ahold of one of his bare feet and began to tickle him. The World’s Greatest Thief is horribly ticklish, and I showed no mercy. I got completely even by pouring the rest of the champagne on his head.

 Remy actually got up early the next morning (I was amazed!) to get the local papers. We made the front page! We were also on the television news. We laughed and laughed at an interview with Mr. Pomeroy. He was spitting into a microphone about how ‘people aren’t safe in their homes anymore’ and  ‘what is the world coming to?” Remy nudged me while we watched him rant. “Bet de fat cat slumlord ain’t gon’ mention anyt’ing about de diamonds we boosted. He probably REAL mad ‘bout dat.”

 I must admit, I felt a little sorry for Muffin. She was also interviewed, she had a little baby voice, and her mascara ran as she talked about losing her beautiful necklace. Remy told me not to feel too bad, Muffin’s mood would most likely improve once she got her insurance check. Plus everyone in Atlanta was going to feel bad for her.

 We liked the interview with the Chief of the Atlanta Police the best. He called us, ‘sophisticated jewel thieves of the highest caliber’. Remy gave another Cajun yell, and we did something called a high five when we heard that.

 Around noon, we called Mr. Delacroix from another payphone. He had just received our package, and was very, very pleased. The diamonds were an especially nice bonus. He was going to transfer our cut to Remy’s Swiss bank account immediately. While Remy was still talking to Mr. D, he wrote down for me what our take was. Even after Mr. Delacroix took his forty percent, it was still enormous. So many zeroes! I wished I could have told Achmed, he would have been incredibly proud, as well as amazed.

 Mr. Delacroix also asked Remy to do a big favor for him. He had a client that needed the services of a top and very trustworthy thief. Mr. D said that Mr. Barretti (his client) was old school and honorable; he would also pay top dollar. Remy agreed and got a contact phone number. Mr. Barretti lived in Miami, Florida. Remy was happy to go there, he said we could also look up an old friend of his. And we were both getting pretty tired of Atlanta anyway.

 Remy spent the rest of the day on the phone at our hotel. First he talked for a long time to his bankers in Switzerland (in both French and German!) He spent the rest of the time yelling at his lawyers in New York. He got pretty rude a time our two, I must say. They really didn’t understand our plans for the Compass Rose money, but they finally agreed to do everything we asked.

 When Remy was finished, and muttering something bad in French, I tried to remind him just how wonderful our plan was, and that it was worth all his lawyer headaches. In a month our so, Remy had instructed his lawyers to buy all the run down buildings that the Pomeroys owned and fix them up. Remy’s lawyers thought it was a terrible investment, but we just wanted those people to have plumbing that worked and no rats in the walls, playgrounds for their children. That it was all going to be paid for with Mr. Pomeroy’s money, so much the better! It was a beautiful plan, and I loved Gambit for thinking of it.

  Gambit cheered up a bit, and I made him take some aspirin and lie down for a while. He took a long nap, and when he woke up, he was in a much better mood. He decided that our last night in Atlanta should be special. So we got dressed up in our best clothes and went to this fancy restaurant that was on top of a building. We sat outside on the patio and we could see all the city lights shining and twinkling.

  After we ordered our dinner, Remy gave me this big, sweet smile. “ Gotcha somet’in’ Stormy.” Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a little black box.

 “ You did not have to get me a present, Remy.”

“ Well, I know, but I wen’ and did it anyways.” The Gambit grin got bigger. “ G’wan, open it.”

 I picked up the little black box and looked inside. For a moment, I could not breathe. It was a tiny silver bracelet, with a beautiful little sapphire on it. The inside of the bracelet was engraved. It said “ Partners”.

I felt some tears sting my eyes. “ Remy, I love it, it is so beautiful, thank you!”

“ Sapphire reminded me of your eyes, petite. And you deserve somet’in’ special after all de hard work you been doin’.”

I smiled very hard at him. “ You are too good to me, Remy.”

He laughed. “ Don’ have tell me dat! Almost had de jeweler put “Miss Bossypants” on de bracelet instead.”

“Oh poop, Remy LeBeau! “ Then I gave him a quick kick under the table. I have gotten extremely good at connecting with his shins.

 Before we left for Miami, Remy called Mr. Barretti to arrange a time for a meeting. He was an apparently a very busy man, and our appointment was for much later in the week. That was okay, as we didn’t really want to hurry anyway.

 We took the back roads again, and stopped when we found something interesting. We ended up in Orlando for a while, and, on an impulse, we went to a place called Disney World. What a mistake that was!  I am afraid we were both totally bored in about an hour. To amuse himself, Remy started to pick pockets, but I made him stop. I did not think it was a very nice to ruin a families’ vacation, even though Remy targeted obnoxious people with bratty children. Remy went all stubborn camel for a while, but then I threatened to make him go on a ride called Small World. “ You really gotta cruel streak, doncha Stormy?” He quickly returned all the wallets.

  We had a lot more fun at a place called “Uncle Bud’s Gator World”.  Uncle Bud had a bunch of just enormous alligators that lay around looking like big, overfed logs. We got to watch them at feeding time; it was nasty and fascinating all at once. They have so many teeth! Remy, of course, could not resist pretending to throw me in the pond with them. He can be so predictable sometimes.

 We got into Miami in the late afternoon. Remy made a phone call at a restaurant where we had stopped to get something to drink. When he came back to the table, he was all smiles. His friend, Carmen Vega was home and she definitely wanted to see us. Carmen was ex-Guild also; he told me he had known her when they were teenagers. Carmen had been exiled from the Havana Guild because she refused to enter an arranged marriage. “Carmen, she a lot like you, Stormy, don’t wan’ nobody telling her what to do.”

  Carmen lived in an area of Miami called South Beach; it was an incredibly crazy place. I liked all the pretty, light colored buildings, they looked liked they were made out of candy. Remy told me they were built in an old style called Art Deco. There were many people walking around, wearing nothing but the teeniest of bathing suits. I was a little shocked.

 Carmen lived in a very nice house, all pink and white. She met us at the door, and she started screaming when she saw Remy. She was very tiny, not that much bigger than me, and she leapt right into Remy’s arms. He held her and laughed, as her feet dangled off the ground. Then she gave him the biggest, wettest kiss, leaving bright red lipstick all over his face.

 While they were both talking very fast in Spanish, I got a very hot, hard ugly feeling deep in my chest. I decided that I might not want to like Carmen. She was very pretty, with long black hair like ink and light brown coffee colored skin. She was a little plump and had big bosoms, which she obviously liked to show off.

 All of a sudden, Carmen gave Remy a punch on his chest and asked to be introduced to me. Remy looked a little guilty about not saying anything sooner. “Dis is my partner, Stormy, Carmen. Stormy, Dis is Carmen.”

“ I like to be called Storm, actually.” I said, giving Remy a glare. Remy just stuck his tongue out at me.

Carmen reached out her hand and I shook it. She had very long red nails and wore lots of rings and jewelry. She gave me a big, very warm smile. “ Pleased to meet you Storm.” I gave Remy a look, but he ignored me. “ Welcome. Anyone who is a friend of this loco hombre is a friend of mine.” She seemed so friendly and nice, that I started feeling bad about not wanting to like her.

 Carmen pulled us both into her house, which was just gorgeous on the inside, all warm pretty colors and lots of plants. “Mi casa su casa, amigos.” she said cheerfully. We went out on the patio by her pool. Carmen introduced me to her wonderful pet parrot named Tito Puentes, and then she gave us some big, cold fruit drinks.

 Remy and Carmen talked in English so I would understand them. I asked how they had met, and Carmen told me she had apprenticed for a while under Remy’s father, Jean Luc and she had lived with them as a teenager. Carmen is a bit older then Remy, and she told me some very funny and pretty embarrassing stories about him that actually made him turn a little red. I laughed some big belly laughs. Remy, of course, had some pretty funny stories about her too.

Carmen shocked Remy when she told him she was not a thief anymore, she had gone legit. “ But chere, you so good!”

 She patted his hand. “ Si, Remito, but my heart was never really in it. I have been having a lot more fun with my interior design business. I love my life now.” Remy kept shaking his head, like she was crazy.

 Carmen then asked how Remy and I got together. We took turns telling the whole, huge story. Remy really bragged about me when he told her about the Compass Rose caper, so much that I felt my face get a little warm. Carmen seemed most impressed, she kept grinning at me.

 When it got close to suppertime, Remy asked Carmen if we could take her out to eat. Carmen said she wouldn’t dream of it, she wanted to cook for us herself.

 “ And of course, you and Storm will be staying with me while you are in Miami.” She said with a wide smile.

 Remy started to protest, saying that we didn’t want to put her out, but Carmen ignored him. Then Remy caught my eye, and I could tell that he was really hoping to be invited all along. And a little later, Carmen winked at me. I think she knew what Remy was up to.

  Carmen was a wonderful cook, and she made a number of Cuban dishes that were absolutely delicious. Remy and I almost ate ourselves into a stupor. After dinner we played cards, while Tito the parrot made little comments. It was really enjoyable watching someone really beat Remy at poker. He was a little bit of a sore loser, and Carmen teased him mercilessly.

 Around ten o’clock, I started to get very sleepy. Carmen showed me to this wonderful guest room where she said her little girl cousins stayed when they visited. It was very pretty and the bed was like something a princess would sleep on. Both Remy and Carmen gave me a kiss goodnight.

  Maybe it was all the Cuban food that I had eaten, I did not sleep very well. I woke up after an hour or so. My window was open, and it looked out on the patio. I heard Remy and Carmen talking in Spanish and the sound of water splashing. I probably should not have spied on them, but I did.

 They were both in the pool, near the deep end and they still had all their clothes on. While I was wondering how that had happened, Carmen said something in Spanish to Remy. He gave a low, deep laugh, then grabbed her and kissed her. It was not a friendly kiss either; it was a movie star kiss. My mouth hung open, and I did not want to see any more.

 I sat on the bed, and I had that really ugly, hateful feeling in my chest. Fortunately, the Goddess spoke to me, and she told me how very selfish I was being. I realized that Remy had been so good to me and that he loved me. But he was also a lot older than I was and must have needed to be with people his own age. But what had happened with Carmen really confused me. Was she his girlfriend? If that were true, and they were in love, why had he never talked about her before?

 I lay on the bed for a long time trying to puzzle it out. I finally decided that adults were just too mysterious. I also thanked the Goddess for coming to me, as it would have been very unfair to be angry at Remy or hate Carmen. I fell asleep and I think both the Goddess and Dumballah sent me some nice dreams.

 I woke up around seven o’clock, washed and got dressed. Then I went downstairs. As I was talking to Tito, Carmen came in. She looked very lovely in a red silk robe with white flowers on it.

“ Buenos dias, Chiquita.” She had such a nice cheerful voice. “ I see you are an early riser too. That must drive Remito completely crazy.”

I had to laugh. “Yes, it does.”

 Carmen made us breakfast, fruit and cereal and coffee in tiny, very elegant cups. We took our food out on the patio; Tito sat on the table with us.

“ So Storm, “ Carmen said after awhile, “ Perhaps we could have a little girl to girl chat.”

“ All right.” I was not sure how I felt about this.

“ I just wanted to say…well, I could tell that your feelings were a little hurt last night.” I felt my cheeks get all warm. I had not realized that I was so transparent.

“ I am sorry, Carmen.”

“ Oh, there is nothing to apologize for, Chiquita. I can tell that you and Remito have become very close friends, and that it must be hard to share him.’

“ Well, that was very selfish of me.” I sighed, and decided to ask what had been bothering me. “ Are you his girlfriend, then?”

 Carmen burst out with an enormous laugh, which made Tito squawk. “ No, no Storm. Remito is not my…boyfriend.” She giggled again.

 I was terribly baffled. “But-I saw you both kissing last night and- “ I suddenly realized I should not have said this, Carmen turned all red.

 She stirred her coffee for a moment. “ I know that adults can be confusing creatures at times, Chiquita. Remito and I are just good friends, that is all. I care for him and like him very much, but we aren’t in love. When I was younger, I was just crazy about him, and I had hoped…” Carmen looked very sad all of a sudden. “Bu I learned that trying to hold on to Remy was like trying to catch hold of the wind. You understand?”

 I nodded, understanding a little too well.

 Carmen put her chin in her hand. “ It is not his fault, either. Jean-Luc told me that he found Remy living on the streets; he was like a little wild animal. It took him a very long time to get used to people and to trust them. That poor little boy must have been hurt so very badly, I can’t imagine what he went through.”

 I could imagine it. I had lived on the streets too, and I knew what could happen to children. I was very lucky. Although my life had been hard, Achmed was a good person, and he protected me. Remy had no one. It made my whole heart ache.

 Carmen took a sip of her coffee. “ I have been very worried about Remito. Being exiled from the New Orleans Guild must be absolute torture for him, because he did learn to love Jean-Luc, Tante and his brother Henri. They were his whole life. I’m sure it tore his heart out.”

I was terribly afraid to ask, but I had to know. “ Why was Remy exiled?”

 Carmen looked very angry. “ Jean-Luc pushed him into an arranged marriage, it’s a Guild custom. I told my family to go to hell, but Remy will do anything for his father. It was a very important alliance too; Belladonna was from the Assassin’s Guild. I understood, in a way, why Jean-Luc wanted it so much. And I think Remy cared a lot for her, although I thought she was a cold-hearted bitch. Sorry Chiquita, I should use language like that around you…but it’s true. Anyway, on their wedding day, Belle’s crazy brother Julian tried to murder Remy since he did not want the alliance to happen. I saw the whole thing, it was self-defense. But the damn Guild and their damn ancient rules! He got exiled also because he was a mutant too, and a lot of the Guild members hated him because of that. “ She shook her head. “ Perhaps I should not have told you all this, Chiquita. Remy will probably be furious. But that loco boy keeps way too many secrets locked up inside him. Not a good thing.”

“Thank you for telling me, Carmen.” I was deeply shocked by all this. It was hard to think of my dear friend going through so much pain. “ It helps me to understand him a little better.”

 Carmen smiled very hard at me, and her brown eyes crinkled. “ I like you Storm. You are a very wise little girl and very kind. I understand why Remito is so crazy about you. You are very good for him. You are all he talks about; I think you have completely won his heart. Not an easy thing to do. I am sure you will keep an eye on him.”

“ I will try Carmen, but it certainly is not easy. He can be such a pain.”

 Carmen chuckled, and this then, Remy walked out on to the patio. He looked a little silly in one of Carmen’s robes, squinting in the sunlight. He had his usual morning grumpy look on, and his hair was a mess.

“ You femmes talkin’ ‘bout me, no doubt.”

Carmen snorted. “ You should be so lucky, hombre. Storm and I had far more important and pleasant things to discuss.’ She winked at me. “ Is he still an awful bear in he mornings?”

I grinned at her. “ Oh, he is just terrible.”

 Remy just glared at the both of us, his eyes even squintier. “ Great. Now I got two women on my ass.” He sighed and scratched his morning beard. “ Any damn coffee around dis place? ”

 Carmen looked at him calmly. “Si, but you can go get it your damn self.” She stood up. “Since you are being such a royal putz, I think Storm and I should do something fun, like shopping. What do you think, Chiquita?”

“ I would love to Carmen!”

 Remy continued to look cranky, but I caught his eye, and he gave me a little smile. I think he was very pleased that Carmen and I were becoming friends.

 Carmen and I had a lovely time that day. I did not really feel bad about leaving Remy behind, as he had his appointment with Mr. Barretti anyway. We first went to a beauty salon, and we both had our hair and nails done! I loved the nail polish, it was a pretty pinky blue color, and I got it put on my fingers AND my toes. Carmen got a very dark red.

  We both felt very glamorous afterwards. We had lunch at this very cute restaurant, with lots of plants and flowers everywhere, and paintings of animals on the walls. Carmen told me funny stories about some of her interior design clients, the things people put in their houses! I laughed and laughed.

 We finally got around to shopping, and tried on many, many clothes. Carmen found this silky white dress that twirled beautifully. Then she picked out this pretty blue sundress for me. In the mirror, we both looked quite stunning, I must say. We smiled and smiled at ourselves.

 It was really nice to do girl things with someone, I guess. Remy is the most wonderful company, but he is still, well, a boy. I enjoyed Carmen very much, and I had this sad thought that if my mother had been alive, we might have had an afternoon like this. But that really hurt, so I had to push it away.

 We got home with many, many bags. Before we started to look at everything again, I gave Carmen a nice hug and thanked her for a wonderful time. She hugged me back, and gave me a big lipstick kiss on the cheek. “You are so welcome, Chiquita.” she said.

 Remy returned from his appointment with Mr. Barretti, he was in a very good mood. Mr. Barretti wanted him to steal back some photo negatives from an enemy of his. Remy said the job seemed fairly simple and Mr. Barretti was going to pay a lot of money to get those negatives returned. Then Remy and I got into this big argument, because he said he did not want me working on this job. He said it was too dangerous, because Mr. Barretti’s enemy was a man that used guns. I got very angry, because I thought we were partners, and partners go on real risky jobs together too.

 Finally Carmen had enough of our fighting. “ I am sick of listening to you two!” she yelled. We both stared at her in surprise, because no one had ever interrupted one of our arguments before.

 She patted my shoulder. “ Listen Chiquita, for once, Remito might be right. Boom Boom Barretti has a lot of serious enemies, very bad people. If it will make you feel any better I will help Remy on this job, since I know you will worry.”  She smiled at me. “ Don’t pout, Storm. “  I’m afraid I was. “ You are very precious to both of us, and I would not want anything to happen to you.”

 I sighed, deciding that I had better give in. Besides, Carmen’s words made me feel all warm inside. “ All right, Carmen. No more arguing.”

 Remy chuckled. “ Well, dat’s a miracle! “ I glared at him, but he just smirked at me. Then he gave Carmen a very nice kiss on the cheek. “ Merci, chere, I owe you one.”

 Carmen smiled. “ You most certainly do. And what I would like in return is for you two bratty ninos to come to a party with me.”

We, of course, had to agree.

 Carmen and I got dressed up in our new clothes, and I must say, we looked very, very good. When Remy first saw us, he pretended to have a heart attack, and then he kissed both our hands. “ Can’t believe I get to escort two of the most beautiful Mademoiselles in de world.”

“You are so full of shit, Remito.” Carmen was right, he is. But I could tell his words pleased her anyway.

 Carmen took us to a cousin’s house in Little Havana. (I think she has a million cousins, she said she is related to half of Miami.)  There were many, many people crammed into a little back yard, paper lanterns hanging from trees, and TONS of very good food. There was an excellent band there, performing on a little platform. I had never heard Cuban music before, I loved it. It was happy and wild; it made you want to move your feet. It reminded me somehow of African music, it may have been all the drums.

  Carmen immediately pulled Remy out into the dance area. I was not sure they would be able to dance very well together, Carmen is so short, and Remy is pretty tall. But they looked very good together, both marvelous dancers, everyone started to watch them. And I thought that it really was too bad they did not love each other, a real change from how I first felt. But I knew Carmen might have been right about Remy being like the wind and hard to catch.

 I ate a lot of food-fried bananas are the best! I also got my cheeks pinched and my head patted by about every grandmother that was at the party. And let me tell you, there were ALOT of grandmothers! I caught Remy laughing at me once as two very old women fussed over me. Brat.

 Later on, when Carmen was talking to some of her friends, Remy came over to me and bowed. “ May I have dis next dance, petite?” I had no idea on how to do Cuban dancing, but it seemed like such fun, I wanted to try. Remy taught me the mambo steps and I guess I was okay- I only stepped on his feet twice. But I was certainly nothing like Carmen.

“ I am sorry that I am not a very good dance partner, Remy.”

Remy gave me a very loving smile. “ Nah, Stormy. You de best partner anybody could wish for.”

 The next day, Carmen had to go to work for a while at her studio. Remy and I took the Harley over to Mr. Barretti’s office. And that was where the most terrible, most awful awful thing happened.
 Mr. Barretti wanted to see Remy for a few minutes to go over some final details. Remy thought it would be okay if I tagged along. We were going to the beach later, and then meet Carmen for lunch.

  We went into Mr. Barretti’s office, and Mr. Barretti himself met us in his waiting room. He was a small, neat looking man with iron gray hair and an expensive suit. He even had a flower in his buttonhole. I tried not to laugh when I remembered his nickname was ‘Boom Boom’. It did not seem to fit. He had a soft voice, and he treated Remy with great respect. I cold also tell Gambit made him more than a little nervous.  Remy introduced me as his sister, and Mr. Barretti gave me a curious, polite look.

“ Well, what a lovely young lady you are.” He said, shaking my hand. “ I have two beautiful granddaughters just your age. “

 Then Mr. Barretti asked if I would excuse both himself and Remy for a while, he wanted to talk to Gambit in private. I frowned a little; this was not how partnership was supposed to work. But I told Mr. Barretti very nicely that I would not mind waiting at all. Remy gave me a grateful smile.

“Won’t be but a minute, petite.”

They both left, and I sat on a sofa, and started to look at a magazine. Then another man walked into the room. I do not know why, but a chill went down my spine when I saw him. He was tall and handsome, with dark hair, and another expensive suit. It was his eyes that scared me, I think, there was something in them very cold and flat, like a dead fish.

“ So, you’re with the Cajun, huh?” His voice was like his eyes. I looked surprised, and he smiled. “ I work for Mr. Barretti. I watch everything that goes on in this office.,” He pointed to a video camera mounted on the wall. “ I think that Gambit and Mr. B. are going to be awhile. Mr. B talks a lot. Didn’t want you to be sitting by yourself, all lonesome.” He sat down next to me.” So let’s have a little visit, Stormy. My name is Frankie.”

“Hello.” I said, wishing he would just go away.

“ I don’t think you’re really the Cajun’s sister. Not much of a family resemblance.”

My mouth was dry. “ Remy and I are friends and we are partners.”

Frankie laughed and I got another chill. “ I’m sure you’re both good buddies. You like playing together?”

I was not sure at all what he was talking about. “ We play sometimes, yes.”

Frankie put his face very near mine. “ Would you play with me, Stormy?” Then he put his hand on my bare leg.

 I know that I should have screamed or hit him or tried to run. But I just could not move, or make a sound. I kept thinking back to this time in Africa, when a man gave me a ride in his truck. He started to touch me in a scary way, and I stabbed him with my knife. I still have nightmares about it.

 And now Frankie was doing the same thing, he had the same look on his face as that other man. And I stupidly did not have my knife on me; I just could not seem to do anything. All I knew was fear as Frankie’s hand began to slide under my dress.

“ My, what a nice, sweet little girl you are, Stormy.” he whispered. I closed my eyes.

 Then all of a sudden Frankie’s hand was snatched away. I opened my eyes and saw Remy picking him up and grabbing him by the neck. Then he slammed Frankie’s head hard into the wall. I heard bone cracking, and there was a big splatter of blood.
Remy’s dark glasses were off and his red eyes were glowing. He was unbelievably angry; he looked like some terrible demon.

“ You touched dat little girl, you sick, fuckin’ piece of trash! I’m gonna fuckin’ kill ya!”

 Frankie tried to say something, but he did not hav a chance. Remy picked him up again and smashed him down on a desk. The desk actually broke, Frankie going through it, Remy on top of him. Remy was in some kind of frenzy, he kept hitting and hitting, turning Frankie into a bloody mess. Frankie could not fight back, and all of a sudden I was afraid that Remy was really going to kill him. I saw Mr. Barretti standing by the doorway of his office. His face was very red and angry, but he did not seem like he was going to stop Gambit. I realized that Mr. Baretti was angry with Frankie.

 I hated Frankie; he was a very bad person. But I was afraid that if he died, it would do something terrible to Remy. I had to stop it. I went over to Remy and began to hit him on the back.

 “Remy! No! Stop it! Don’t kill him, please!  Stop it Remy! Stop it!”

 Gambit finally heard me, and he stopped pounding on Frankie. I pulled on his arm, got him up to his feet. He was as white as a stick of chalk; blood was spattered all over his clothing. He looked at me for a long moment, it was almost if he did not recognize me.

“ Stormy…?”  His voice sounded very strange and far away. “ You okay?”

“ Yes Remy, I am fine. That man did not have a chance to hurt me.” Actually, I was terrified, but I did not want Remy to know this.

 Mr. Barretti came over; he approached Remy like you would a very angry cobra. “ Gambit, you have my most sincere apologies. This bastard has brought shame and disgrace to my entire organization.”

 Frankie groaned and he tried to talk with a mouth full of broken teeth. “Boss, I din’ do nuttin...”

 Mr Barretti stood over Frankie and gave him an ice-cold stare. “ I saw you Frankie, messing with that little girl. I saw you, you piece of shit! If Gambit wants to still kill you, I’m going to let him.”

“ Fuck you Barretti! And fuck you, you mutant bastard!” I screamed as Frankie suddenly pulled a gun from out of his jacket.

  Remy moved so fast, I didn’t see exactly what happened. He shoved both Mr. Barretti and me down and kicked the gun from Frankie’s hand. It went off and a bullet made a hole in the ceiling. Remy caught it before it hit the ground, and then pointed it right at Frankie’s head.

  Frankie stared up at Gambit with one good eye. “ Go ahead you freak! You’re just pissed that I tried to get at your private piece of tail.”

 Remy hissed, and he was about to squeeze the trigger. “ Remy! Don’t! “ I cried out.

He turned and looked at me very hard, gun still pointed at Frankie. His hand was shaking “ Why not, Stormy?”

I took a deep breath. “ Because you are not a murderer. Because you are a good person. Because I love you and know that this will only hurt you.”

 I felt a huge relief as Remy finally lowered the gun. He charged it up, so fast that the entire room went red for a moment, and the gun dissolved into powder in his hand.

“ Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” said Mr. Barretti. He looked a little scared now.

 Gambit looked at Mr. Barretti. “De deals off, Barretti.”

 Mr. Barretti nodded slowly. “ I don’t blame you. I just hope that I have not made an enemy of you, Gambit. And if there is anything I can do to make up for this dishonor, you only have to name it.”

 Remy found his sunglasses. Before he put them on, he gave Frankie, who was no wheezing, one last deadly look. Then he said to Mr. Barrett, “ We not enemies. But y’ jus better pray dat dis employee of yours never got too close to y’ granddaughters.” He took my hand and we walked out the office. His skin was like ice.

 I looked back once, and I saw Mr. Barretti just staring down at Frankie. I did not want to know what was going to happen next.

 Remy did not say a word to me as we left the office and got on the bike. As we drove off, I hugged him tight. I could feel his heart beating very fast under his shirt. We drove along for a long time. I did not know where we were going, I don’t think Remy did. Finally we came to this very big public beach. Remy parked the Harley, and then we got off. We walked in the sand for a while, then Remy just plopped down, like a puppet who had it’s strings cut. I sat next to him; my legs were pretty rubbery too.

  We stared out at the ocean for a while. Then Remy finally turned to me, looking me right in the eyes. His face was still paper white.

“ I am so sorry, Stormy.” He finally said, his voice almost a whisper. “ Dat whole awful mess should have never happened. I’m supposed to be protectin’ y’, takin care of y’ and dat man, he almost- Mon Dieu! “ Remy put his face in his hands, started rocking back and forth.

I rubbed his shoulder. “ Remy, you did protect me. And he did not hurt me, he only scared me.”

  I do not think he really heard me. He suddenly grabbed me and hugged me incredibly hard. “ If anyt’ing had happened to y’, I would have never forgiven myself.” He buried his head in my shoulder. “ Why is dis fucking world so sick? Why do little girls have to worry about bastards like Frankie? I hate it, I fucking hate it all! Fuck, fuck, Fuck!”

 I hugged him back, just as hard. “ Don’t hate it Remy. I know there are some bad things in this world, but the Goddess gives us good things too. The Goddess gave me you for my friend, and that was the best gift of all.”

 Remy stared at me, almost angry. “ Y’ don’ know what y’ saying lil girl! I ain’t worth shit! Y’ got no business hangin’ around with a rotten, fucked up, worthless piece of trash like me. I should take y’ back to Achmed, or maybe Carmen would-“

 I suddenly got furious.” Don’t you dare Remy LeBeau, don’t you dare! I am your friend and your partner, you cannot just desert me! And I also want to tell you that you are not a fucked up piece of worthless trash! I would not give my friendship and love to someone like that, so stop saying it!” Then all at once, I just burst into tears.

  Remy pulled me in his lap and held me. I cried and cried. I think it was because of what had just happened, and the idea of not being with Remy any more just terrified me. Remy rocked me back and forth, I soaked his shirt. When I finally stopped, I looked at him. He wiped my eyes with his rough hand.

 “You ok, now padnat?”

“ No!” I was still pretty upset. “ Are you going to take me back to Egypt?”

 He sighed. “ Non, petite. I t’ink maybe it be best if we stay partners after all. T’ink y’ might be stuck wit’ me for the duration.” He gently kissed my forehead. “ Sorry I upset y’ so, honey. Didn’t want to make y’ cry. I was just all upset myself. Y’ forgive me?”

“ Of course Remy. You might have noticed that I cannot stay mad at you for too long.” I sniffed real loud.

Remy nodded. “ Dat’s a lucky t’ing.”

I rested my head on his shoulder.” So you promise not to talk about not being partners ever again?”

“I promise, padnat. For better or worse, we together. I jus’ gotta start learning to watch my mout’ around y’. Carmen hears y’ sayin’ de f word, she gonna string me up by de ankles.”

I laughed. “I would like to see that.” I gave him a big smile. “ I love you, Remy.”

He smiled back, and it was the best smile in the world. “ And I love you, Stormy.”

 I decided to play our old game. “ Do not call me that.”  And Remy suddenly laughed, and without warning, he picked me up and ran into the ocean. I screamed and laughed, and pounded on his back, and I got dunked anyway. At least the water was nice and warm.

 We both splashed around in the waves, chasing each other. And as I looked at my dear thief, playing like a little boy in the water, I knew that we were going to be partners forever and ever.


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