JILLY: STEPPING STONES

by Joseph Anderson
JAnder65@hotmail.com

Xena, Gabrielle and Callisto are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. Jilly, Kimberly and Langland belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended with this fan fiction which may be copied for personal use only, may not be sold, and must contain all notices of copyright.

This is a series of vignettes about Jilly at different points in her life. Unless you know my Kimberly/Jilly storyline it won't make sense because it's full of reincarnations and time travel and all kinda stuff. Bare minimum background might be Callisto: Child's Play, Junior High, Dropout, Family Affair, and Good Prince Samuel. This story contains rough language. The violence is more implied or psychological than real.


PART 1: VOICES

In the cold early dawn there seemed to be a blue haze over everything. Two figures were huddling near the campfire in the forest and a big black stallion stamped nearby. One figure much smaller than the other made quick jerking hand signs. The other smiled and said, "Just like the old days isn't it, Jilly? I told you to be careful of screaming a warcry too loud. That's why I don't use one."

The small figure looked furious and croaked out, "Don't go!" then looked frustrated and made some more signs, slapping one hand into the other for emphasis.

Callisto stood up and stretched. "Jilly, what are you so worried about? I'll kill this piece of shit and be right back. It's no different than twenty other times."

The little blonde girl croaked out in a whisper so low it was barely audible. "This is different! Kimberly is DIFFERENT!"

The blonde woman picked her sword and sheath up, slinging it over her back, then drew the blade and began examining it. "You mean those stories about her? They aren't any more true than the stories that you're a demon or that Xena is good and not some hypocritical murdering slut. If you believed stories I'd be 12 feet tall and you would breath fire. But look at us; just a couple of dumb blondes."

Jilly was so angry she stamped away baring her teeth. The girl's head suddenly snapped up at a sound and her chakram flew out. The woman laughed and said, "That's one bird that's sung its last song. Get five more and you'll have enough for breakfast." The child shook the metal ring off as she walked to retrieve the small fast bird she'd picked out of the air.

She made more signs, this time calmly, attempting to be reasonable. Callisto said, "No thanks. Kimberly's hunting me alone and I'm gonna meet her alone. I'm looking forward to this." She giggled softly, her brown eyes wide.

The little girl grabbed her hand frantically, her face red. Callisto pulled herself free and said coldly, "What did I always tell you? Crying is dangerous; it's weak. Never cry, Jilly. Make your enemies cry. Make 'em wish they'd never been born!"

The blonde warlord saddled her horse and mounted. Callisto looked down at the little girl dressed in almost identical black fighting leathers. "I shouldn't be more than a few days at the most." The warrior wheeled the huge warhorse around and rode out, the child looking after her.

The funeral pyre was black and cold as the child walked the stallion into the little clearing. After three days she began trailing Callisto and a day later discovered the warhorse wandering free. The child had taken one look at the blood covered animal, leapt on it and begun riding as quickly as she could adequately follow the trail. It was dusk the following day as she reached the clearing and saw the blackened mound. The small brown-eyed girl slid off the animal and studied the ground as she approached the site of the pyre. She found a spot dark with blood, and examining it felt a small hole--like something a sword would make driven straight down. Jilly couldn't move for a moment, just keeping her fingers in the small hole. When she could finally get up she walked over to the burned mound and studied it. Just ashes.

Why'd you let me go off alone? Jilly whirled at Callisto's voice, but no one was there. Whatdya expect of the little cunt? Jilly's stomach knotted at the voice of her father, Detrius. She did her best. It just wasn't good enough. Her eyes teared up as she recognized her aunt's voice, the one who taught to read in secret before dying in a plague. Callisto's voice came back, I'll say it wasn't good enough! I save her and look at me now. If she'd come with me she coulda saved me. I only pretended to tell her no--to test her. I wanted her to follow me. She let me die after everything I did for her! Detrius's voice returned. That's why I cut her tongue out. She deserved it.

Jilly shook her head. This wasn't real. Callisto said she heard voices and that they weren't real. Help me! Help! Jilly began to weave as she recognized Sammi, the little boy who she had tried first to save and then killed to please Callisto. The rest of the children's voices came, begging her not to kill them as she went from one to another. Jilly croaked out, "I had to kill you for Callisto! She ordered it. I served Callisto!" She heard Sammi scream in her mind as she prepared to behead him, so she could prove her loyalty to Callisto. He was right there hugging her. She didn't even have to go get him. Loyalty! But you let Kimberly kill me! You knew she could. You heard the stories. Your father was right. I never should've saved you. He was right to cut your tongue out. You talked too much.

Jilly held her head. "No, no, no. You're not Callisto! She didn't feel like that! She loved me! Callisto loved me! She took me from my father. We killed him together!"

Her aunt's voice came back. Yes, she did, Jilly. Callisto loved you. Why did you let her face Kimberly alone? You heard the stories. Callisto did everything for you but you let Kimberly kill her. She loved you but you must not have loved her. The screaming voices of Sammi and the rest of the village children came back again, almost deafening her.

Jilly fell on her back beside Callisto's funeral pyre. "Stop talking! Stop talking!" she croaked as loudly as she could in her hoarse voice, hurting her throat. She heard a coarse laugh and her father's voice saying, That's what I used to say all the time. Remember how I nailed your tongue up on the door as a reminder? You were only good for one thing, Jilly. There was a wet slurping noise.

While the warhorse aimlessly began to wander, the small girl with her hands to her ears just writhed on the ground beside the blackened mound and ashes, as the dusk turned to night around her and eventually back to dawn.


PART 2: SMALL TALK

1.
As the two women entered the tavern Xena felt something. "Watch yourself, Gabrielle."

"What, Xena?" the smaller woman asked looking around.

"I'm not sure yet," Xena answered shortly. It looked pretty standard: a busy tavern in a moderately prosperous town.

While Xena got a table, Gabrielle walked up to the counter and was about to request a couple of meals when she heard a snatch of conversation.

A slurred voice said loudly, "That bitch wasn't so tough. She was a whore. I had her myself."

Gabrielle was just shaking her head in disgust when she heard a friendly girlish voice say, "Really? Tell me more. When she was being pimped as a girl, you mean?"

The bard froze at the voice. The man answered, "I dunno anything about Callisto as a kid."

The teenaged voice came back lightly, "That's the only time she was turning tricks. After she learned to kill, taking it up the ass from every dog with a dinar kinda lost its appeal. Boy, do I know that feeling!" The friendly voice continued, "She liked to always say hello to her old customers though. So do I. Both mine and hers. Lucky you're just making up stories."

Gabrielle stepped away from the counter so she could get a look at the speakers. One was a large soft looking man with graying hair in a merchant's clothes. He looked like he was drunk. Next to him was a slender blonde girl in a bulky cloak, who was looking at the middle aged man with wide brown eyes and an even wider smile.

The soft man slurred, "Eh? Callisto was an overrated whore...just like Xena. Another cheap harlot!"

The blonde teenager noticed Gabrielle was watching them. She winked at her. Gabrielle said anxiously, "Jilly..." wanting to head off whatever the girl planned for this imbecile.

The girl ignored her and said to the man, "What's your least favorite finger?"

The drunk raised his middle finger.

"Jilly, don't!" Gabrielle said urgently as she saw the knife flash in the girl's hand.

Suddenly Xena was there holding Jilly's wrist and pushing the drunk away who didn't even understand what was happening. "Get him out the door!" Xena ordered the bard, who bustled the stumbling man to the doors and gave him a shove. She turned and didn't like what she was seeing. Everyone in the room had backed away. Xena was no longer holding the girl's wrist. Jilly looked up at Xena's blue eyes with her own wide brown ones and sheathed her dagger.

The blonde said softly to the dark woman who practically dwarfed her, "Why did you do that?"

Xena was careful. "He had too much to drink and was making an ass of himself, Jilly. That doesn't deserve what you were going to do to him." The warrior didn't know if she could defeat the girl without having to wound or kill her. She would feel terrible if Jilly forced her to hurt her or even take her life.

"Talking that way about Callisto deserves it, Xena. As for you, I've heard how you controlled your men," Jilly said through gritted teeth.

The big woman clamped down on her rising temper and said, "Where's Kimberly?"

Jilly's demeanor suddenly altered and she said lightly and almost like a completely different person, "Oh, she went to Corinth again. Kimberly could give up drinking before she could give up new weapons from Euphemies." The girl chuckled affectionately then added, "She's the one who told me not to overreact. That's the reason I was just gonna cut a finger off. What's the big deal?" She looked at Gabrielle and shrugged her shoulders, rolling her eyes as if she couldn't understand why Xena was being such a pain.

The Warrior Princess was relieved Jilly seemed to be calming down and accepting her interference, although the instant mood change reminded her more than she liked of Callisto. "It just is, Jilly."

The blonde teenager scratched her head and said conversationally, "If I didn't know how ticked off Kimberly would be, I'd slit you open where you stand, Xena. She should let me kill you, anyway. Dunno how many times I've asked her. Gee, maybe she's saving it for me as a birthday present!"

Xena was ready for anything. Until now she hadn't realized just how like Callisto the girl was. "You can't beat me, Jilly. It'll be years yet if you ever can."

Gabrielle could barely see the girl move but suddenly she was holding Xena's own knife to her throat. "Never touch me like that again, Xena!" she said harshly and drove the dagger into the counter, turned and left, ignoring Gabrielle as she brushed past her. The bard could swear it had been Callisto talking.

Gabrielle approached her friend. "Xena, you handled that wonderfully! How did you know to let her take your knife?"

The Warrior Princess looked down at her empty sheath and the knife upright on the counter. Xena glanced ruefully at her friend as she pulled her dagger out of the wood. "Just one of those hero things, Gabrielle."

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Jilly was brushing her horse in the stable, trying to calm down, when she noticed a young man about Gabrielle's age approaching her. She turned and said rudely, "Yeah?"

He said, "I heard what happened in the tavern. I wanted to tell you something."

Jilly was attentive. She'd expected a stupid proposition but this was something else.

"That was my father, Jaxenor. My mother and brother and sister drowned six months ago. They were going to my sister's wedding. He hasn't stopped drinking since then. He was nothing like that before."

"What's your name?" Jilly asked.

"Tydeus."

Jilly looked away. "He shouldn't talk like that. Callisto was my friend."

The young man answered, "I know he shouldn't. But you know what Callisto did, don't you? My father talks about her and Xena when he's drunk because he knew people they killed. People who never hurt anyone."

"GET AWAY FROM ME!" Jilly suddenly screamed at him.

He carefully backed out of the stable. Jilly was vibrating uncontrollably and fell to her knees.

"Jilly," a soft voice said. "Jilly."

The girl looked up to see Gabrielle at the door of the stable. She didn't answer as the bard came over to her. Gabrielle tried to help her but Jilly shook her off and stood up. "Did you hear that?"

"Yeah, Jilly. I'm sorry."

"Maybe I killed those people and not Callisto, ya'know. It's possible."

"Come back and eat with Xena and me, Jilly," Gabrielle said compassionately.

The teenage girl threw her saddle on her black stallion. "Me eat with the butcher of Cirra? I don't think so!" She led the horse out of the stable and swung up on it. "Seeya bardy." She started her horse out of town at a fast trot.

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The next day Xena was eating when the older man from the bar and a young man who resembled him approached her table. "Excuse me," the gray haired man said.

Xena frowned but bit back what she felt like saying until she heard what he had to say.

"I just wanted to thank you for helping me yesterday. I don't remember it but my son has told me you saved me from getting badly hurt after I insulted someone's friend---and you, too, I understand. I apologize though that might not mean much."

Gabrielle who had come up and heard what was said answered, "It's all right. We know the story."

Xena looked with surprise at the bard and back at the men. "Yeah, what she said."

The older man said, "Thank you again." They walked off. Xena looked at the bard as she sat down.

"What didn't you tell me, Gabrielle?"

The bard looked uncomfortable. "I heard the son and Jilly talking. His father started drinking after a family tragedy...and he talks about you and Callisto because, well, because he knew people who you both...uh..killed, Xena. I didn't think there was any reason to bring it up."

Xena just said, "What did Jilly do?"

"She got upset and rode out," Gabrielle answered.

"Could've been her and not Callisto who killed 'em. Maybe I should leave you here, follow after and talk to her," Xena said.

Gabrielle quickly said, "Oh, I think she just wants to be alone, Xena. To think about stuff, you know."

The Warrior Pincess caught her tone and studied the bard, then just said, "Okay, you know her better'n me."

2.
Jilly didn't want to think about what had happened with that loudmouth and his son the previous day. She couldn't seem to let it go. She caught sight of the sun reflecting off of water, and almost immediately felt better and the voices quieted in her head as she headed her horse in that direction.

It was nearly noon and the blonde was standing on the lakeshore fishing. She was naked. Jilly liked the sun and the breeze on her skin. It also gave her a feeling of freedom--like she could just shed whom she was for a while anyway. It was something she had picked up from Callisto. Kimberly also did it occasionally but only at night, and even then it felt kind of forced. Being a rich WASP did that to you, she said. The girl had no idea what she was talking about, but was used to not knowing what Kimberly was talking about. Jilly assumed she'd gotten it from Callisto too.

The girl hoped no one saw her and attacked her; she just wasn't in the mood. If she was bored or frustrated sometimes she'd strip where she might be seen--hoping some asshole would try something so she could go off on 'em and not feel she was doing anything Kimberly would disapprove of. She and Callisto had done that to try out her weapons when she first got'em from Euphemies. Something told her not to share that strategy with Kimberly.

She heard a horse and glanced at her nearby weapons. Could just be another fisherman; it was a good spot.

The horse came into view and the rider stopped. He had a fishing pole. It was a boy. "Sorry!" he called and began to turn his horse.

Jilly said, "It's okay. There's plenty of fish here. I'll put something on if it's too hard for you." She giggled. "I didn't mean that exactly like it came out."

The boy smiled at her, dismounted and tied his horse next to Jilly's. He looked at the huge black stallion then back at her, quizzically. It made his horse almost seem like a pony. Jilly was keeping an eye on him, but he didn't say anything about the warhorse, or the weapons and fighting leathers, and just came near her and cast a line in the water. Jilly studied him sidewise. He was a few years younger than she was and about the same height. She liked his long brown hair. A lot of people would consider him too good looking, almost girlish, but she liked it. He was dressed like a peasant but one with a sense of style.

"You're gonna get awful hot in those clothes in this sun," she observed and wanted to gag herself.

He smiled and stripped, leaving his clothes in a pile next to hers. He had a loincloth but kept that on. He said, "It is sorta hard for me."

Jilly blushed and laughed, considered putting something on but didn't. She was enjoying this in an innocent teasing sort of way. After they caught several fish she said, "We can cook those up together. I love to cook."

The boy smiled and said, "Thanks Jilly."

She stopped smiling. "How do you know my name?"

Instead of being nervous, which he should've been considering whom she was, the boy said easily, "I'm an admirer. Can we still eat together."

Jilly frowned, not sure what to think. The only people who knew who she was and weren't afraid of her were Kimberly, Weldon, and Joxer; and Xena--who should be afraid of her but wasn't. "Sure," she said and turned to get the fish. He picked up a knife. Jilly smiled and looked at him and he handed it to her haft first. "Thanks," she said and began cleaning the fish. The boy shrugged.

"What's your name? And what kinda 'admirer' are you?" she said a little later as she was rubbing a combination of spices into the fish.

"I'm Langland," the boy said earnestly and looked in her eyes. "Someday you'll have an army. I wanna be in it as your lieutenant. Like you are now with the Sword of Ares."

"What's make you think I'd ever leave the Sword of Ares?" Jilly said. She was suspicious but interested. He treated her differently than anyone she'd ever met. Her eyes kept going to his long hair and lithe muscular body.

The boy poured a cup of wine for himself and sipped it. He looked enquiringly at Jilly. She shook her head. The 13 year old said, "The Sword of Ares will destroy herself and her men through hubris. If you survive and form your own army, I'd just like to be in it."

The girl said, "First, I don't believe that about the Sword of Ares. She's the greatest general alive. Second, are you good enough? Because Kimberly, Weldon and me fought for our positions. It's a good system and if I ever do get an army I'm gonna run it the same."

Langland said, "Shouldn't we put the fish on the fire?"

"Oh yeah! You're right, Langland." She put the spitted fish over the flames then said, "Well?"

"I'm a good fighter and I'll be better by the time you get an army. But I'll never be like you or the Sword of Ares. There's other things than just being able to swing a sword though. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."

"Kill him!" Jilly looked with shock at Ares sitting next to her.

Langland was confused but careful. The nude warrior girl had suddenly whipped her head around and was staring at empty space beside her.

"This is the most dangerous enemy you'll ever have! Kill him now, Jilly!" Ares snarled.

"I forbid it!" Jilly looked to her other side and saw an exquisite cold face deep inside a Corinthian helmet. "Harm my beautiful man and my enmity will haunt you the rest of your days. I'll destroy everyone and everything you care for before finally destroying you."

The gods stood up. "Stay out of this, Athena. This is none of your affair!"

"It most certainly is my affair, brother. Can you protect your precious little death dealer from my wrath? I think not. I will not interfere if she acts on her own, but I will not allow you to simply command Langland's death."

Ares was staring furiously at his sister. He waved a hand, erasing the memory of seeing the deities from Jilly's mind. The two war gods disappeared.

"Jilly...Jilly," she looked up at the voice, then glanced at the fish and they were more done than she'd have expected. She shook her head and looked again at the earnest smiling face. He was crafty and ambitious. She had a fleeting thought of killing him now as a precaution but then shrugged it off. Langland admitted he wasn't even a great warrior. She could squash him, or any other mortal for that matter including Xena, like a bug. She wanted to try Hercules some day. His being a demigod threw another bone in the soup.

The naked girl examined the cooking fish and said, "Okay, Langland. IF I ever get an army, and IF you can cut it, we'll see what happens."

The handsome boy nodded. "That's all I wanted, Jilly. Oh, four men have been following you. Thought you'd bring a good price as a slave, I guess, or to rape you."

She said absently as she was turning the fish, "Both probably. Thanks. I'll pay 'em a visit. Where are they now?"

"Southwest of us about an hour. I already took care of 'em though. I didn't want to come empty handed. They're tied up. You can do whatever you want with them."

Jilly grinned and looked over at the innocent handsome face. "Well, after we eat why don't the two us head over there. Teach 'em a lesson."

"Okay," Langland said. He looked deeply into Jilly's brown eyes. "That smells delicious."

The girl blushed with pleasure. "Thanks!"


PART 3: FAMILY

1.
"DADDY!" the voice was furious.

The lanky blonde man looked up from his meal, and jerked his head at the big scarred hood sitting across from him. Paulie stood up and said, "Okay, Cal. I'll just wait for Sam and pick him up when he gets out of school." He lumbered out of the restaurant to the limousine.

His daughter slid into the vacated seat. Her eyes were showing white all around the brown irises and her mouth was twitching. He saw she was wearing the little Beretta her mom gave her under her blazer. Cal idly wondered how long he'd last against Jilly. Fifteen minutes maybe? Nah, more like five minutes. Well, unless he tricked her before it came to that, which he probably could. No matter how great she was in action, she could be outsmarted. Thank God she had Langland. It took Cal a long time to feel like that. He still didn't trust himself around his son-in-law though. If anyone had a neck made for wringing it was Langland.

"What, honey?" he said and picked his glass of chianti up. Jilly reached over to take it from him and he just slapped her hand. Her eyes filled with tears.

"Daddy, please do what the doctors say!" She was looking with horror at the cheese laden fettucini and the plates from the previous courses. "Please, Daddy!" she said pathetically. "Oh, here...you forgot your medicine. You're supposed to keep this with you!" She put the nitroglycerin pills in the pocket of Cal's beautiful suit.

Cal smiled at her. He worshipped his daughter but she wasn't gonna tell him what to do. He took her hand and said in his deep southern accent, "Baby Doll, I grew up on pigs feet and greens. Drop it. Have a breadstick. Better yet, have a meal; you're too thin."

"Oh, Daddy...Daddy...please do what the doctors say!"

2.
"There's somebody to see you, Jilly," Paulie said.

Jilly swung around in her chair. She'd been looking at the photographs on the restaurant office wall. She shouldn't do that; it upset her but she couldn't stop herself. Uncle Jimmy's daughter, Vicky, told her she should take 'em down. Jilly couldn't. She just kept staring at them. Her dad and mom holding her as a baby; both of 'em looking like movie stars. Then a picture of them and with HER holding Sam when he was a few days old. She carried one of those with her all the time. There was Janice Covington mugging as Sam was lost in her big leather jacket, wide brimmed hat, and holding her whip. Another one was of her on Aunt Mel's lap; you could see the helmet of the Sword of Ares on a table beside them.

There were pictures of Cal and Kimberly with the consigliere Jimmy Falconi and with the old don. In a platinum frame there was a picture of her parents with her and Sam in their laps and Frank Sinatra, his hands around Cal and Kimberly's shoulders. It was inscribed "Cal, thanks for you know what. How'd you find Kimberly before me? You lucky dog! Love, Frank." Another picture showed her mom fanning herself as if she would faint from excitement as Sammy Davis, Jr., kissed her hand and Cal made a cartoon jealous face while Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra pretended to hold him back.

There was one picture that some asshole managed to get a copy of somehow and now it always showed up in magazine articles. The foreground was just Jilly and Sam on the laps of Jimmy Falconi's daughters, Vicky and Mary. It was yet another of his many daughters' marriages. But in the background Jimmy was frowning and talking to the old don whose back was to the camera. Her dad and Joe Adonis were eyeing each other. Kimberly with a beehive hairdo seemed to be talking to Carlo Gambino, whose head barely came to her shoulder. Jilly could see her mother's right hand was hidden, possibly holding something. If you knew what to look for, Albert Anastasia was blurry out the window in the background holding his hands out and Paulie could be made out right behind him.

Jilly looked at Paulie. "Who is it?"

"Cal's nigger." He froze.

A voice came from behind him. "You gotta big mouth for such a stupid motherfucker!" Paulie carefully came into the office. Behind him the shorter colored man was holding a gun to the back of his head.

Jilly came around her desk. "Paulie...Paulie...try to use your head from now on, okay. Why don't you take the car out and get it washed, Paulie."

The squat dapper negro reached around Paulie and took his gun from his shoulder holster. Then he poked Paulie in the back of the head with the automatic he had on him and stepped back. "You heard the boss lady, you half witted wop bastard. Go wash the car."

"Jilly..." Paulie said, sounding both hurt and angry.

"I'll talk to you later, Paulie. Go on," the blonde said. The big scarred man carefully left, glaring at the shorter black man, who handed his gun to Jilly. She put it in a drawer. Then she came over and hugged the dark man. "Don't hurt him, Robert. He's dumb as a rock but I've known Paulie as long as I've known you ...and he'd rip apart anybody who screwed with me or Sam."

"You don't have to tell me he's been around a long time, Jilly. When Cal first brought me in Paulie tried to tell me to shine his shoes. We had this same little scene only then it was Kimberly who saved his sorry guinae ass!" He caught himself and shook his head. "Not what I come here for, honey. I'm sorry about Cal. He really went to bat for me and warned me away when shit was coming down. Jimmy Falconi felt the same as Paulie. All the wiseguys did; still do."

The young woman's face had gotten red and teary. Robert looked in her eyes and said, "Cal was your pop wasn't he? That story about you being Kimberly's niece was just to cover skeletons in the closet."

Jilly nodded. "It's so complicated I can't even begin to explain it, Robert. Kimberly was my mother too."

The negro frowned, and took a Cuban cigar from a pocket and snipped the end off. Before he could light it, the girl had lit it for him. He asked, "What happened to little Jilly? I liked her an awful lot."

Jilly smiled nostalgically. "She liked you too. Robert, it's so turned around even I have a hard time following it. Nothing bad happened to her. Believe me, she's all right. Like you said, skeletons in the closet."

"Whatever. Just glad to hear she's okay," he said, giving up. Sick white shit, he thought to himself but didn't say it. It wasn't Jilly's fault Cal and Kimberly had been caught up in some sort of craziness. Probably Kimberly and Cal just had to deal with it. The last time he'd seen the big woman she really had been crazy: wearing Halloween makeup, drinking like a fish, and talking about skinning people alive. Then she'd disappeared. Sick white shit, he thought sadly. He'd liked Kimberly but she was still a crazy white woman. He supposed she was in a straightjacket somewhere. Or maybe she'd killed herself and they covered it up because suicide was a sin. Robert hoped the latter. He didn't want to think of Kimberly in a loony bin. She and Cal had treated him like family.

He said, "That's really all I came to tell you, Jilly. I'm sorry about your pop."

"Thanks, Robert. Can you come by the house for dinner? You can see Sam and meet my husband."

"I can't wait to see Sam. You're married, Jilly? That's great!"

Jilly said, "Well, we don't have the paper... but me and Langland are married."

"Who did you say?"

The girl looked at the dapper negro gangster. "Langland."

He glanced up at the pictures on the wall. There was one of himself and Cal and Kimberly on a fishing boat. He said, "Langland had Jimmy Falconi killed with an ice pick; your Uncle Jimmy. And you're married to him? I always wondered why Cal looked the way he did at Falconi's funeral--not that I was invited mind you but I saw the pictures--and why he didn't kill Langland."

Jilly frowned and went back behind her desk. "Yeah, that's the story. And it's ancient history now and has nothing to do with you anyway."

Robert smiled. She was Cal and Kimberly's kid. That was for sure. "Okay, Jilly. Am I still invited for dinner?"

"Of course," she smiled, and then added, "Robert, I know you're a competitor of Langland. You know how well Uncle Jimmy was protected but it didn't save him. Don't screw with Langland."

The black racketeer puffed on his cigar and said, "Sure, Jilly. Whatever you say."

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The 11 year old boy opened the door and went to his room and set his school books down, or tried rather, dropping them and then tripping as he picked them up. It didn't matter. Since his dad had died, falling on his face 20 times a day didn't seem worth feeling bad about anymore. Sam finally managed to get the books on his desk.

"Lordy, lordy, lordy...you still clumsy? What'll become of you, boy?"

The blue-eyed, dark haired boy turned and saw the fastidiously dressed squat black man. "Robert!" he said and in his excitement, tripped again. The negro kept him from falling with a laugh.

"What'll become of you, boy?" he said affectionately. Then he said, "Sam, I'm sorry about your pop. He had a lot of class. Cal had nothing to gain and plenty to lose standing by me...even coulda been dangerous. You're old enough to know that. Your pop was a real man."

Sam nodded, his eyes teary. "I know. Thanks, Robert."

"Well, okay then," the chocolate colored gangster said. "Your sister's cooking in the kitchen. Let's go see what smell so delicious, boy."

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Robert heard the car pull up and glanced out the window at the Corvette and then the slight figure emerging from it. Jilly came up beside him. "I hope you remember what I said, Robert. Don't cross him or you'll lose. Everybody does. Make a deal."

"Sure, Jilly," the black man shrugged. The blonde looked worriedly at him and went to open the door.

Langland came in the house. Since Cal had his heart attack he had moved in here. Before that he had an apartment across town and Jilly pretty much divided her time between the two places, since she wanted to take care of her father and brother.

"Sam, can you leave us alone a minute, please," Langland said and the boy glanced at his sister and left the room. The three adults winced as he cracked his forearm against the doorframe. The casually and expensively dressed man approached the bull-like gangster. "Robert Washington Mills! One of the rising stars; a harbinger of social change; a true role model demonstrating that the color of a man's skin shouldn't prevent him from being a criminal of the very first rank! Good to meet you, Mr. Mills!" He held his hand out and looked him in the eyes earnestly.

Robert studied him and took his hand. That was an awful smart assed thing to say. Maybe Langland was testing him, seeing how he'd react. Weasel, he thought. No wonder Cal looked like that at Falconi's funeral; the idea of his daughter with him would do that to him too. "Langland," he said noncommittally as he shook his hand. "Call me Robert." The racketeer had never seen a neck made more for wringing.

Jilly was watching the two men closely. Robert underestimated Langland like people always did, especially tough guys like Robert or herself. She could tell he had the same instant gut dislike for Langland her parents had. She'd made Langland promise not to hurt him even if there were good business reasons for it (that was why he ever did anything), but if Robert actually tried to take him out she couldn't expect Langland not to defend himself. Langland was moving out of obvious mob operations, saying they were inefficient and not worth the risk. There were still areas though, especially gambling which was a cash cow and importing heroin which was risky but worth it for the time being. Meanwhile, Robert was expanding, with operations throughout the south in addition to Chicago and other northern cities. He acted as his own enforcer though he was far beyond needing to do that now. Anywhere up and coming negro entrepreneurs needed help with money or protection from white hoodlums they'd call on Robert's people. Unfortunately once they'd helped they tended to remain as partners.

After the meal and Sam had been sent off again, the men settled into chairs in the living room. Jilly put a Billy Eckstein record on and asked, "Something to drink, Robert?"

"Yeah, Wild Turkey rocks...oooh...sorry baby!" Robert said with embarrassment as he thought of Kimberly's drinking.

Jilly came over smiling and patted his shoulder, just like her mother used to do Robert remembered, and said. "Don't worry. One Wild Turkey on the rocks coming up. Langland?"

"Chardonnay, please, Jilly."

Robert snorted at that. After Jilly brought their drinks and sat down, sipping ginger ale it looked like, Robert said, "We've got business to discuss, Langland. I didn't know you were married to Jilly. But now's as good a time as any."

"Ah," the slender man said and ran his hand through his long brown hair. Jilly looked apprehensive.

"I'm taking your numbers parlors in Atlanta and I want your overseas smack connection. Only reason I'm even talking to you is because of Jilly. Just so we understand each other, you little shit, Cal was my friend. I'd kill you for what you did to him alone."

Jilly leapt up and said, "That's enough! Get out, Robert! This evening is over!"

Neither of the men moved. Langland said easily, "Sit down, Jilly. We need to deal with this now. Well, Robert, I'm getting out of that side of things anyway. Your personal opinion of me is neither here nor there. But just handing my business interests over to you would mean a sizable monetary loss for me. I would be willing to part with them for a cash payment and use of your smuggling boats and contacts in Cuba and Jamaica. It would be profitable for us both."

"I'm not negotiating; I'm telling!" Robert said threateningly. Langland just reached over and tapped his arm. "What the fuck you doin?" Robert snarled, hitting his hand away. He saw Jilly was looking down, her eyes red. He tried to stand and discovered he couldn't.

"Paulie," Langland said. The big scarred man came in carrying a hatbox. He grinned down at Robert, set the box on the coffee table and took the top off. Then he handed a straight razor in a plastic bag to Langland. The innocent faced man said, "I believe Mr. Jackson, whose head is in front of you, was an associate of yours. Wait over there, Paulie."

Langland got up and sat down beside Robert. "Like you said, I'm only talking to you because of Jilly. Don't worry, you're not permanently paralyzed." He looked over at Jilly whose face was pale watching him. Langland smiled and patted the paralyzed gangster's knee. He took the razor, which had blood on it, out of the plastic bag and wiped the handle off, then took Robert's hand and carefully wrapped the fingers around the handle. Then he dropped the razor in the box with the dark head. He reached into the box then wiped his fingers off on Roberts suit. He repeated that a few times.

"Now, Robert, the police are going to find those, along with the rest of Mr. Jackson. There's also evidence that he was skimming and that you discovered that. You were so enraged that you lost control and did in your treacherous subordinate. Mr. Jackson met his fate in your home, then you transferred his remains in your car trunk to a swamp. As a matter of fact, he really was skimming and you probably would have killed him eventually. If you had been reasonable, this would have been a present for you. My guess is you'll end up in Sing Sing, Robert. I'll do what I can to keep you off Death Row or even Life Without Parole, for Jilly's and Sam's sake. If you object and talk about things you shouldn't, Paulie here might start paying visits. You can probably guess how much he'd like that. He'll start with your mother in that nice house you bought her in Macon."

Jilly came and sat on the other side of the dapper negro. "I warned you, Robert! Why didn't you listen to me? Oh, Robert!" She took his hand and squeezed it.

Langland stood up. "Paulie, take him back to his hotel and leave the stuff where I told you." He studied the big smiling thug. "Jilly, maybe you better go with them. You can say goodby to Robert and keep Paulie from getting carried away. I've gotta help Sam with his homework."

"Ah, Boss..." Paulie started to object but stopped at a look from both Langland and Jilly.

Four years later. Sing Sing Federal Penitentiary

"Fuck, Mills! Who keeps sending you this stuff? You're in prison and you eat better than I ever did in my life?"

Robert looked up at the white guard and said. "I get the hint, Dobbs. Don't worry. I'll save a plate for you."

He opened the package from Chicago up, the incredible smells filling the cellblock along with groans from other prisoners.

"Robert got another care package!"

"Jesus Christ!"

"Goddamn! How can I eat this prison swill after smelling that?"

"Daughter of a friend of mine," the burly black prisoner explained to the salivating guard. He noticed the bottle of Wild Turkey. That had to be against every fucking rule they had. Jilly was calling favors in and spreading money around; he doubted she'd involve Langland for something like this. Robert wasn't gonna blow it and make a weapon or allow anyone else too either, though he did barter some of the booze along with the cigarettes. He always kept the Cuban cigars for himself. When he finished a bottle he'd just send it back with the special hot food containers that were flown in from Chicago's Little Italy twice a week.


PART 4: SAM

1.
Jilly frowned at the huge crowd gathered outside the palace and extending into the distance. They'd begun coming a week before when it was announced Good Prince Samuel would be making a speech. Now there was a sea of people. The blonde shook her head. She was the queen but if it was her making a speech they'd probably head the other direction, afraid she planned a massacre or something. That was how they thought of her. Jilly the Butcher. Everyone wanted her to go off and die, she knew, so Prince Samuel could rule her kingdom like he did all of his other lands.

The queen glanced over at her consort Bancher, so different than Langland. The big athletic handsome man was also disturbed by the crowd, she could see. He probably didn't like it for some humanistic reason she was too brutal to understand, Jilly thought ironically. She tried to imagine what it would be. When people formed mobs they became less than human, and this particular mob's worship of Sam only intensified that. Bancher would disapprove of that, Jilly knew.

Jilly heard a rumbling begin in the crowd. She peered out and saw the reason. Angela and a squad of soldiers had appeared. The crowd understood the prince must be coming soon. The chanting began: "Samuel...Samuel...Samuel... Samuel." It was still low. At a sound Jilly turned and saw her longhaired brother come in. His address would be from her balcony. Sam did everything he could to bolster her position. She forbade him to punish anyone for preferring him to her; otherwise who knew what he'd do. No one would object. Whatever Good Prince Samuel did by definition was right as far as the people were concerned.

"Jilly," her brother said with a smile and stumbling slightly came over and took her hands. She smiled up at him a little sadly. He was in a white silk robe with his symbol of an impaled man embroidered in red on its front. Getting tattoos of it was all the rage now she heard. She wondered when he'd last drunk blood. Jilly couldn't look at him without thinking of that, much as she tried not to. The idea of him and Angela having a picnic and then sex out among the moaning impaled bodies of his enemies was also something she tried not to visualize. They did that often in springtime, cleaning out jails for the purpose if there were no enemy soldiers available. Never here, of course. Sam always obeyed her to the letter in Jilly's kingdom.

He had a new advisor with him, Gustavus of Gaul. He'd come to ask Samuel to unite his people against Rome. Sam said he'd think about it but he'd like Gustavus to remain with him whether he annexed Gaul or not. The blue-eyed blonde warrior had accepted.

Now Sam led her out on the balcony and ostentatiously knelt, kissing her hand. The huge crowd was deathly quiet. It makes them sick, Jilly thought. And it makes them love Sam even more since he is loyal to his terrible sister, Queen Jilly the Butcher. She stepped to one side, giving Sam room. Gustavus quietly slipped out onto the balcony, acting as a guard. Sam raised his right hand and the chanting started again, but far, far louder and with an hysterical edge. Jilly heard Gustavus say, "Prince, you can create a thousand year reich!"

Jilly hadn't had much education; not like her mom or Sam. She had always worked. She'd finally gotten a G.E.D. while Sam was in college. Even she knew how awful what Gustavus said was. Jilly looked at her brother to see his reaction. Prince Samuel lowered his hand and the sea of people silenced so you could hear a pin drop. The prince glanced at the Gaul with a smile and said, "My friend, you must learn to not think small."

2.

Sing Sing Federal Penitentiary.

Robert Washington Mills didn't see whom he expected when he came into the Visiting Area. He had plenty of visitors: Feds trying to get Langland, cops when somebody he knew was in trouble, his old boys probably wearing wires; not to mention reporters and writers who always seemed like child molesters. On his birthday his mother and aunt, and the nieces and nephews he'd put through medical school or whatever would show up en masse. Some Black Power types came once or twice but they didn't like his attitude. He told them he'd done what he'd done as a man. Most niggers were dumb marks just like most wops, kikes, spics, micks and everybody else. What mattered was the size of your balls, and niggers who blamed everything on their skin had nuts the size of peas if that. That didn't go over very well.

Robert sat down and picked up the phone. Across from him was a white man in a beautiful suit, with long dark hair and a long curling mustache. He looked just like Kimberly. The man picked the phone up and dropped it. He finally managed to get the phone up and smiled at Robert and caught his eyes with his flashing blue ones.

"Sam?" the prisoner asked. Sam would only be about 20 and this guy looked older. Who else could it be though?

"Hi Robert. Yeah, I'm Sam. I know I look too old. Just kinda happened. Some people look young; I look old."

Robert nodded unconvinced.

He said, "I never forgot what you told me the last time you saw me. About how my father stood by you when he had nothing to gain and that he was a real man."

Robert said, "No one else was there. It was just me and Cal's boy, Sam."

"I'm Sam. Accept it," the man said. "It was a long time before Jilly told me what happened, Robert. I didn't understand and I was mad at Langland. I get it now. You're lucky to be alive."

Robert looked at the man across from him and considered it. Calling it like he saw it. Seemed how Cal's boy might be after he grew up. He said, "Jilly warned me not to screw with Langland. He seemed like a pussy. It's just an act so he can shove a gun up the asses of people like me."

Sam nodded. "That's about the size of it, Robert. Listen, you want out of here? You have to promise not to go after Langland though. I like you but he helped raise me and is married to my sister."

Robert studied him. "Jilly send you?"

Sam shook his head and then caught the black prisoner's eyes through the glass. Robert felt like a deer in headlights. Sam said, "I don't need Langland or Jilly to get you out. I've got my own organization."

Robert said, "Sure I want out."

Sam released his eyes and said. "I hear Jilly's been feeding you. Man, I envy you! You wouldn't believe the long stretches I've had to go through with crummy food. No matter how rich you are if nobody knows how to cook, well nobody knows how to cook. Talk about a sponge of vinegar! Never mind, Robert. Just rambling."

Robert was mystified. Although Sam looked about ten years older than he should, he sounded more like 30 years older. He wondered what could've happened to him.

The longhaired man looked at him with Kimberly's sad smile. "I know you still aren't totally sure I'm Sam. Just go with it though and don't make waves. It's complicated. Sick white shit, you might say. I wanna get you out but, and I mean this, if you try to get even with Langland it'll be like I betrayed him. You won't have to worry about Langland because my people will get you first. I'm not fancy like Langland. I'll just kill you, Robert."

"Sounds like Cal," Robert said.

"Believe it," the tall longhaired man answered. "Oh, don't split hairs and try to kill Paulie either."

"Okay, Sam. I won't go after Langland. He'll find out though."

"Langland will be gone in a few years. Just keep a low profile until then. I can keep him off your back if you don't mess with him. You'll be out in a week, Robert." The longhaired man stood up and left, cracking his arm against the door so that the prisoner winced.


PART 5: CIRCLE

The old mare came walking into the village. One ex-soldier did a double take at the rider on the cheap cracked saddle but shook his head and walked on. This was just a blonde with a dirty face and dirty hair, in a big cloak that looked like it could walk away under its own power.

A small, thin, brown haired boy caught her eye and the blonde was getting her purse out when a well-dressed heavy man walked by. The little boy held his hands out pleadingly. The big man tried to ignore him but when the child was persistent pushed him aside and the child fell in the dirt. A few minutes later as he was nearing the stable to get his horse, a cloaked figure seemed to just materialize out of nowhere.

"That's no way to treat a hungry child," she said coldly.

"What? Who in Hades are you?" He was drunk and tried to push past her but found himself on his knees and retching as he held his stomach. Now he noticed the beggar boy standing not far away looking frightened.

The blonde said, "What do you know about him? Does he have a family?"

The man cursed and got to his feet, saying in a slurred voice, "We have laws. You can't act like that!"

"I'm the only law you have to worry about right now. Shut up and answer my question." A knife was suddenly at his throat.

The man said, now fearful, "I don't even live here. How do I know if he has a family."

"All right. Why'd you push him down when you could've just walked by."

The man was sweating. "I don't know. Things on my mind. I didn't hurt him!"

The cloaked figure said, "Look at him. LOOK AT HIM! You did hurt him! Even if you didn't do any more than ignore him you'd have hurt him, but instead you treated him like a dog or something! Does that mean anything to you? You think being a stinking drunk is an excuse?" The voice was quivering in anger.

"What do you want me to say?" the man said. He was trying to gather his thoughts. He'd been drinking all afternoon and it was difficult to focus.

"I want you to give him all your money and then apologize to him...on your belly with your face in the dirt and your ass in the air...I want you to tell him you're nothing but a piece of horse manure and he's worth a thousand of you."

The man looked at her with disbelief. "Who do you think you are, Captain Angela?"

She made a hissing sound then said, "No, I think I'm Jilly the Butcher, and you have three seconds before I start carving you into cutlets. One."

"You're crazy!"

"Two."

The man turned and ran crying, "Help! Murder! Help!"

The blonde looked over at the child who was fearfully watching her. She said, "Wait here."

The man had reached the outskirts of town and was looking around frantically. He was relieved he had escaped that mad woman though he felt bad about what she said he did. He didn't even remember. He heard a voice say, "Three."

She was in front of him again, this time with a crazy wide smile and eyes that were even worse. She just pushed him and he drunkenly fell. Out of the bulky old cloak her hand emerged with a large shining engraved ring.

"Please..." he said.

"What's your name, so I know what to label the cuts?" she said with a sneer.

He said weeping, "Tydeus. I didn't mean to hurt him!" as the chakram was about to slash down. It stopped.

"What was your father's name?"

"What? My...my father's name was Jaxenor. Why?"

After a moment the chakram disappeared back into the cloak. The figure was looking down at him. "What happened to you, Tydeus? God, look at you! Is your father still alive?"

Still drunk and not understanding really what was happening, Tydeus said, "My father? No. Hes dead."

"How? How did he die?"

Tydeus began weeping as the fear and relief he felt mixed with his drunken memories. "He hanged himself years ago. For his family that drowned."

"What about you? You were his family. If he lost a wife and two children, you lost a mother, a brother and sister. And then you lost your father, too. Didn't he care about you? At least he still had you, and you cared about him, I know. Jaxenor left you without anybody."

"I don't know how he felt! Why are you doing this?!" Tydeus said emotionally.

"You married, Tydeus? Have a family?"

"No, not anymore. She left me...ran off with a soldier. Why are you doing this to me?"

The woman helped him up though he shied away and said. "Everything was so clear with Callisto, Tydeus. No grays. I miss that as much as anything. You need a family and that little boy probably needs a family, but this isn't one of Gabrielle's solstice tales. You're a messed up drunk. Christ knows what would happen if I put you together. And you're not even a bad guy."

The man was looking at her. He half followed what she said and it made him want to cry. He didn't mean to hurt anyone. More than that it made him want a drink.

"Wipe your nose, Tydeus, and remember not to push around hungry beggars."

Tydeus staggered slightly. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt him!" he said drunkenly to the back of the cloaked figure walking away.

Jilly found the thin child, shivering with fear and perhaps sickness, and knelt down by him. "It's okay, honey, I won't hurt you. What's your name?" The child pointed to his mouth and shook his head. Jilly froze then said, "Open your mouth."

"Somebody cut your tongue out?"

The child nodded, his blue eyes huge. There was a roaring in her head and Jilly paused at the murmuring voices she hadn't heard in years. She stood up and took the little boy's hand, noticing welts and burns through his rags. "Come on, I'm gonna get you something to eat."

As they entered the tavern she commented, "You're too little for a sword yet. Lemme think about it."

THE END