It’s not wise to mess with Claudia Barry.

More chapters from A Year Without Killing

A VG Serial: A Year Without Killing

Chapter 1

Claudia Barry owned Manhattan’s West 33rd Street.

She stayed close to the buildings, away from the crowds, aware of every face. Every movement got her attention. It was an old habit and hard to break. It had kept her alive. She took deliberate strides toward 8th Street.

The drizzle had stopped, the skies were still overcast, and the sidewalk wet. It would have been impossible for her to miss the action fifty feet ahead of her.

An African-American woman who appeared to be in her late sixties stepped onto the sidewalk and headed towards Claudia. The woman needed a cane to keep her balance. Her body rocked from side to side like the wand on a metronome. A built-up shoe compensated for a short leg. Every step required extra effort. That woman’s about my age, Claudia thought.

Then it happened.

A tall, skinny, male Goth stepped in front of the black woman. He grabbed the strap on her purse and jerked it from her grasp. His next decision was one of the worst of his life. He ran right into the path of a semi-retired assassin with a sense of justice.

As the mugger passed, Claudia Barry moved her five-foot-five medium-built frame into his path and delivered a forearm that would make NFL legend, Anthony Munoz, proud. The Goth surprised her. He bounced off, continued down the sidewalk, and disappeared into an alley. He won’t get away so easy. She stepped out of her heels and gave chase. He’s no match for my aerobic endurance.

He collapsed behind a dumpster and complained out loud, “Fuck! I’m too damned out of shape. Bitch thought she would be a fuckin’ hero. Guess I showed her.” He opened the purse and began to toss the contents off to his side. “Not much in here. Done better many times. Ain’t enough for a decent fix.” He put his hand onto the pavement to stand and it touched a stocking-covered foot. He raised his head and made eye contact with Claudia, “Where the hell did you come from?”

Their eyes met and she held him motionless in her concentrated gaze.

Her dark brown eyes dared him to move.

“I’ve been here all along. And I’ll never leave you.” While she spoke, she produced a tactical switchblade. In the blink of an eye, the blade sprang from the front of the handle and removed a button from his shirt with a quick, precise flick of the attacker’s wrist.

He bowed his head and looked down at his chest.

His heart pounded.

He felt it in his ears.

He gasped and couldn’t breathe as she continued.

A second button fell to the ground, then a third.

“Oh my god, what do you want?”

He looked back up at her malevolent expression and pleaded, “Oh god! Don’t kill me, please!”

Sweat covered his forehead and top lip. He couldn’t keep his hands still.

He bent double, convulsed, and endured several dry heaves.

The attacker allowed her victim to scramble to his hands and knees.

He was able to breathe after a few seconds.

Then he felt the knife blade under his chin. It forced his head up and the two made eye contact. The woman terror spoke again, “Put everything back into the purse and then grab your ankles.”

He tried to answer but couldn’t speak.

His sweat-covered hands trembled.

After several futile attempts, he managed to replace the contents of the woman’s handbag, change purse, keys, checkbook, photos and a Vicks inhaler. He sat on his knees, grabbed his ankles, and looked up.

Claudia Barry frowned and grabbed a handful of his hair with her left hand. Her right hand guided the knife blade to the left corner of his mouth.

“If you ever think I’m not around, just look over your shoulder. I’ll be there. You may not recognize me, but I’ll be there, always on the watch. I’ll recognize you because you won’t have a lower lip.” The blade penetrated his lip until it reached the gums of his lower jaw. A quick wave across his chin and the Goth purse snatcher had no bottom lip. He passed out. She wiped the blade on his shirt and removed most of the blood. I’ll clean this better later.

Claudia’s rapid steps had her back at the sidewalk in seconds. She looked both ways in hopes the woman was still within eyesight. The victim was gone, but a street vendor handed the impromptu vigilante her shoes and a hot dog. “I see you got the purse back. Nice job, Lady.”

“Thanks. I don’t suppose there’s any chance you know her…”

“Don’t know her name, but she’s one of my regular customers. Does domestic work around here somewheres.”

“Her address is in her purse, I want to return it.”

“Can’t help you there. You got one of them gadgets on yer phone?”

“GPS, yes. I’ll find her. How much for the hot dog?”

“On the house, Lady. Enjoy it.”

As she turned to leave he said, “Oh, one question if you don’t mind.”

Claudia turned back and faced him, “Go ahead.”

“You really put a move on that kid. I’m impressed. Would you mind, ah, I’m forty-nine and…”

“I’m a baby boomer. Do the math.”

She smiled, winked, and left with the hot dog. She looked at her wristwatch, I’d better hurry or I’ll be late to meet Mr. Debert.

She had parked her car at One Penn Plaza and now focused on her rendezvous with her mentor/muse and father figure. The poise and demeanor of her gait exuded confidence. As she approached others on the sidewalk from behind, they seemed to sense her presence and stepped aside. She was one of only a few people who had earned a master’s degree in group dynamics and her skills had become an important part of who she was.

Less than two minutes later, she entered the Tir Na Nog restaurant on 7th Street and said to the hostess, “I’m here to meet a tall gentleman for lunch. He’s a little on the thin side and wears wire-rimmed glasses.”

“He hasn’t come in yet, would you like to wait?”

“No thanks, I’ll go ahead and get a table.”

“Right this way; would you like a window seat so you can watch for him?”

“No, a table in the back, please. We’d like a bit of privacy if possible.”

“No problem. I’ll bring him back here when he arrives.”

She was on her second vodka/cran when she noticed movement towards her table. Her guest had arrived. His six-foot-seven frame towered over her. He looks much older than when I saw him last October. The lines on his face could have been those acquired from experience, thought, and stress, rather than age-related. They were deeper than she remembered. His hair was combed straight back with no part as usual, and he wore his trademark wire-rimmed glasses. The frames reminded her of those she had seen in photos of men from the 1940s. The face reminded her of veterans from World War II. The nose, eyes, chin, jaw, and cheeks were proportioned like God’s architectural prototype for man. His lips seemed a bit too thin, but his smile brought her a sense of calm and a reassurance of safety, as it always had.

She leaned forward to push her chair back and stand to greet him.

He waved it off, “Keep your seat. You look so comfortable, Claudia, the epitome of self confidence and bliss. Your smile is radiant.”

“Am I smiling? It must be because I did a good deed today.”

Debert nodded understanding, and returned the smile.

 

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    A great way to kick off a good read.

  • Thank you for knocking me off my pins again. This is a Romance novel, yes? Just kidding.

    • Claudia is in love, for sure. Don’t miss a chapter!

  • I won’t miss a chapter. Having fun writing a new book-River’s Edge series about an elderly Granny being interviewed by her six year old granddaughter. The first question sends her spinning back in time. Not for long because fun stuff ahead. Best to you from me

  • marthaorlando

    Full-throttle and full-tilt! What a great way to start the novel!

  • E.E. Giorgi

    Wow, great introduction to Claudia, have to have more of such an awesome character! 🙂