[ CW: Strong language, men being garbage ]
May learned a lot in the days following their arrival at Grant’s garage.
She found out the garage itself was named “The Crow’s Nest” but the crew preferred to call it the Rookery. This, Jun explained after he warmed up to her a little, was to help distinguish between those who knew what they really were from those who believed the front. May tried not to think about how this line of taxonomy collectively made the crew a murder.
She learned making herself useful was a better use of her time than skulking in corners, no matter what Grant said about laying low. At first, she hung around upstairs off the shop floor, tidying the command center. She won Jun’s favor by making him tea.
“I always get as far as steeping it before I completely forget about it,” he admitted, taking the steaming mug from her with grateful hands.
Jun was the team’s resident hacker and programmer. Between rounds of coding, he was happy to banter with May about most things – namely himself – so long as she didn’t ask questions about what he was working on or the Murder’s operation.
“Can you show me how it’s done?” May ventured one afternoon. She had just listened to a story about how Jun first taught himself hacking to change a couple abysmal grades on his transcript back in high school. It turns out he had a knack for it, unlike biology and phys ed. “Just the basics!”
His glare pierced her from over his monitors. “No.”
But he was willing to let her tinker with a few of his old machines. She did her best to recall the things she had learned from Marina’s reference book, but she wasn’t Jeremy; her memory was far from perfect, and soon enough she had gone as far as she could without Jun’s help.
When Jun eventually kicked her out so he could focus on some particularly tricky code he was writing, May wandered downstairs. She earned admission to the shop floor by offering to help, which relegated her to grunt work.
“What are you doing down there?” Em laughed softly one evening as they settled in for the night. Grant gave them the cluttered office May had woken up in as a private space, and their “bed” was nothing more than an wide bench seat from an old car that had been serving its second life as a couch, but it was better than nothing.
“I’m helping,” May balked, as though it should have been obvious. “Remember when we finally made it to that hostel in Sanatos only for the roof to cave in?”
Em smiled at the memory. “What a fucking mess that was.”
“Right. And what did we do?”
“We helped them fix it.” Em reached out to brush a lock of hair from May’s face, but stopped herself with the self-conscious uncertainty that plagued her since their first day at the garage. “But helping to repair a hostel isn’t quite the same thing as helping a criminal organization maintain their front. Are you sure it doesn’t bother you?”
May shrugged and laid down beside her. “I’ll draw the line at robbing banks and running drugs.”
For the most part, the crew ignored May as she ghosted her way around them, rolling tires and collecting grease-stained rags. She could feel lingering gazes and hear chuckles echo after her when she passed, but she had dealt with worse. The only person to address her directly was a woman named Lety.
“Hey, Tiny,” she called to May from underneath a raised sedan. “Can you grab me an oil pan?”
May did as she was asked, crouching next to the chassis and watching as Lety wrenched off the car’s filter with her bare hands, releasing a stream of filthy black oil that spilled into the pan.
Lety’s warm brown skin was always splotched with grease up to her elbows. She was a woman built strong and sturdy, rounded out with generous curves. May had never seen her without a full face of fierce make-up, which stood out against her shaved head. But nothing about her stood out quite like her ears, which rose into pointed tips. May did her best not to stare.
One morning, May was sweeping near Lety’s station, careful not to interrupt the work she was doing, when someone called from across the garage.
“Lety! We need a hand with this lift.”
“Cool story,” Lety shouted back, her head still buried under the hood of a slick refurbished roadster she had been babying for the better part of the past two hours. “I’m a little busy.”
“Business before pleasure,” the crew member retorted. “You can work on your own shit when the work is done.”
Lety lifted her head and snarled, the sharp fangs she had instead of eye teeth just visible beneath her sapphire-painted lips. May peeked around to see what she had been working on.
“I can help if you want,” she offered, motioning toward the exposed engine.
“You know how to change a timing belt?” Lety asked, raising a doubtful eyebrow.
“Done it a bunch of times,” May answered with only a touch of indignance.
Lety regarded her critically before handing over the socket wrench she was wielding. “Fuck up my ride and I’ll kick your scrawny ass, yeah?”
“Maybe when you’re finished over there you can crawl up into my cab and give me a hand,” joked Memphis, the guy at the next station over. He waggled his eyebrows suggestively, to the snickers of his pals.
“I like my men the way I like my coffee,” May replied, inspecting the wrench in her hands. Then, flicking her eyes to him, she finished, “And I hate coffee.”
The rest of the crew howled, Memphis included. “Fair enough, girl.” He gave her a nod. “Fair enough.”
“‘Atta girl, Tiny,” Lety said as she sauntered across the garage. “Take no shit. Kick him in the balls if you have to.”
Flushed with self-satisfaction, May got to work. But before ducking under the hood, she glanced up to the walkway where Em often sat watching, her feet swinging idly over the edge. She wondered if Em had caught her sassy come-back.
When May’s eyes found her, Em was in the doorway to their office-turned-bedroom.
She gave May a sad smile, and closed the door between them.
[ Next ]
Get early access to new chapters! Subscribe on Patreon
Enjoying the story? Want to help support my writing? Donate on Ko-Fi!