Saint Valentine's Day

By McCamy Taylor

The love of my life glides by me, unaware of my presence. I have watched her for three months, since the day I escaped from military prison. I killed two men that day. I will kill again. It is what I do, what I was born for.

Angelique is different. She was born for love.

She is wearing work clothes, pale green hospital scrubs which cling to her hips as she climbs the steps of her porch. Though her skin is pale caramel, she has the body of an African idol, full breasts, narrow waist, proud buttocks. She hates her ass. In high school she wore full skirts to hide her figure. One day, in chemistry, Raoul Mendez crept up behind her and pulled up her skirt, exposing white cotton panties to a group of giggling boys and disapproving girls. Two days later, Raoul was dead.

Angelique checks her mailbox. Two bills, a solicitation for a contribution to an abortion right's group, the rest junk. Tucking the letters under her arm, she searches her purse for her house key. To her surprise, she finds the front door unlocked. She enters her house, anyway. Angie was always too trusting.

I move from my hiding place behind the neighbor's junk car. Six yards to the side of her house. If anyone glances out the window, they will see nothing, except tall grass waving in the breeze. Her house has a crawl space underneath. I slither through a gap between two boards. Spiders scurry, as I brush past their webs. A triangle of light guides me to Angie's living room. Through a hole in the floor, I can hear everything.

Her scream dies. The two intruders must have shown her their badges.

"FBI, ma'am." The speaker is an elderly man, raised on the east coast, southern Maine most likely.

"We would like to ask you some questions." A younger man, Midwest accent, slight stutter which he has managed to overcome--almost. "Do you recognize the person in this photo?"

A brief pause. "Marina Dracas. Marnie, we called her. We went to high school together. Has something happened to her." My heart swells. There is real concern in her voice.

" Dracas is a military prisoner. Three months ago, she escaped from a maximum security facility. We have reason to believe that she will contact you."

A longer pause, as Angie tries to take it all in. "Marnie was in prison? What for?"


Angie gasps softly. " Wh--what makes you think she is going to contact me? I haven't done anything illegal."

"We know that," the older FBI agent reassures her. "If you will take a look at these documents, you will understand why we are here, today." I hear the sound of a zipper being opened. Papers rustle. A chair creaks as Angie sits down.

"What are these?"

"Love letters. Written to you by Dracas while she was in prison. We intercepted them."

"Love letters?" she echoes. She leafs through the papers. "There are twenty--no, twenty-one letters here. You are saying these are all love letters, written by Marnie to me?" Her voice is mildly incredulous. "We were friends in high school, that's all."

"Read the letters," the older agent prompts.

I wish I could see Angelique's face as she reads the words that spilled from my heart. She takes her time. Over an hour passes. At one point, she murmurs "She never told me." There is no disgust in her voice. No scorn. When she is finished reading, she asks "Can I keep these?" My spirit soars.

The agents pause before answering. They whisper to each other. Even with my enhanced hearing, I can not make out their words. Finally, the younger FBI agent replies. "If you wish. Those are photocopies. The originals are in Washington. Miss DuBois, we want you to help us capture Dracas. We are confident that she will try to contact you. When she does, we want you to notify us."

"You want me to wear a wire?" She sounds scared.

"Not a wire. We'll give you a personal alarm with a position tracking devise. All you have to do is push a button, and special forces will be there in five minutes It will look like an ordinary watch. Dracas will have no idea that you are working with us. After we capture her, we will say that we were tailing her."

Tailing me? What a joke. I am here, literally right beneath their noses, and they do not know it.

"I---I'll have to think about it," Angie says.

"We need your answer now." Someone should teach the younger agent that women do not like to be bullied.

"Then the answer is no. I won't help you. Not that way. If Marnie gets in touch with me, I will urge her to turn herself in. But I won't trick her. She was a good friend."

A good friend. The words are bittersweet. I want so much more from her than that.

"Dracas is a cold blooded killer."

"So you say."

"If you don't care about the safety of others, at least think about your mother. She was born in Haiti, right? Came over in a boat. Gave birth to you on a Florida beach. That makes you a US citizen, but she is still a resident alien. If you cooperate, we could talk to INS, make sure that she is never sent back home."

"Sent back to Haiti? Why would anyone send her back to Haiti after all these years?"

"There are a hundred and one reasons why aliens can be deported." His voice is nasty.

"Are you threatening my mother? If she goes back to Haiti, they'll kill her."

"I'm not threatening your mother. I am just asking you to help us capture a cold blooded murderer."

"Get out!" Angie shouts at them.

"There's no need to raise your voice---" the younger agent barks.

The older agent cuts off his partner. "You heard her. She has made her decision." His voice is calm, cool as ice. Chills run down my spine. The FBI never intended to give her a personal alarm. This is just a formality, a hurdle they have to jump in order to get permission for some other, more dangerous plan. More dangerous to Angie.

It takes all my self control, but I manage not to kick through the hardwood floor and attack the two men. I wait for them to leave. When they are gone, Angie locks and bolts the front door.Then, she checks all the windows. Finally, she returns to her chair in the living room. She picks up the photocopies of the letters I wrote to her during the long months of my incarceration and begins to read them aloud.

"Dear Angie, Do you remember me? So much has happened in the last ten years. I won't blame you if you have forgotten me. I have never forgotten you...."


In prison, I learned to wait. The lessons I learned there help keep me sane, as I wait to see how the FBI plans to capture me, using Angelique as the bait.

Agents follow her all the time, to her job at the county hospital where she works as a physical therapist, to the grocery store, to her sister's house, to the hair salon, to the YWCA where she swims four nights a week. I follow the FBI agents.

At night, I sleep under her bedroom. The spiders have grown used to me. In the mornings when I wake, I have to brush their webs from my hair. One night, I surprise a copperhead snake. He is too sleepy from the cold to do anything but stare at me. I pull him close and let him share my warmth.

She is just a few feet away from me. I imagine that I can smell her sweet scent. Angelique, love of my life. I wish it was you lying here beside me.

In the morning, I take the snake to an abandoned lot two blocks away. I do not want it to crawl into Angie's house and surprise her. She might scream, causing the snake to attack her. I will do anything to keep her from harm.


Angie was married briefly, ten years ago, just out of high school. The marriage did not last long. She divorced him within six months on the grounds of adultery. They had no children, though she got pregnant once and miscarried.

Her ex-husband telephones one night, around one in the morning. He wants money. From the way her voice trembles, I know that she still loves him, at least a little bit. She can not help loving him. It is her nature to love. However, she tells him "I'm not pouring good money after bad. If your girlfriend wants a diamond ring or a new car, get a job."

Imagine being married to Angelique and having a girlfriend on the side. It would be like bringing a tanning lamp to the beach on a sunny day. Like using a fan to keep cool in a blizzard. However, Angie's powers were weaker back then, as were my own.

Does Angie realize what she is? Is that why she chose to become a physical therapist, when everyone else in her family is an engineer? She spends her days using the power of touch to heal. Her hands radiate love, the way that the sun radiates warmth. I wish that I could feel her hands upon me. Maybe the cold, black wound within me would heal. One can not be a killer for hire without killing one's own soul, little by little. In the years I worked for the government as an assassin, the human part of me almost died.

I am still not sure what saved me. Perhaps it was the memory of her, of Angelique, my first and only love. Or maybe, it was the thought of the mother I never knew. The day I was born by c- section, my mother was caught in the crossfire during a convenience store robbery. She was shot in the head. The paramedics managed to keep her blood pumping long enough for her to reach the hospital where I was cut from her womb, life snatched from the jaws of death.

I grew up knowing that I was different but not why. I fought all the time. I delighted in making trouble. By the time I was nine, I had my own gang. I made my first kill on my thirteenth birthday, an uncle who tried to rape me. As his blood dripped from my hands, I felt exultant. This was what I was born for.

Later, when the government recruited me, I learned that I was not unique. There are many like me, babies born in moments of such crisis that something within us is triggered. The military scientists call it the "God gene." In most people, the God gene lies dormant, but in times of need, children are born with special powers, powers so amazing that people dub them godlike. My power is that of the warrior, the beserker, the assassin. I call my God gene Aries, since my family is Greek. Angelique, the child who was born on a Florida beach, after her pregnant mother barely escaped from Haiti with her life, has a different power, that of love. I call hers the Venus gene, though her mother's people would probably call it Erzulie Frida, after the voodoo goddess of love.

Was it love, Angie's love that saved me? On Valentine's Day, two years ago, I was scheduled to blow up a day care center full of the children of United Nation's workers. Foreign terrorists would have been blamed. My government would have been free to go to war. At the last moment, I hesitated. I was seized by an image so profound that it paralyzed me. What if every child within that day care center was a tiny Angie?

In the end, I dismantled the bomb and crept into the shadows. I hoped that the government would forget about me. I should have known better. I was captured and locked away in the most heavily guarded cell in the most secret military prison. My jailers did not kill me---I was too valuable a commodity to waste. Instead, they attempted to probe my mind, find out what went "wrong" so they could fix it.

I could have escaped any of a dozen times, but I was too shaken by the change which had come over me. I felt as if I were living within a new skin, one which burned and chafed. The only time I felt at peace was when I was thinking about Angie. I began to write her letters. Knowing that they would never be delivered, I poured my heart into them.

Finally, peace descended upon me. I understood. My country had attempted to use the power of my God gene for something which nature never intended. The warrior is not the same as the assassin. The warrior defends, protects.

Which is why I am sleeping under Angelique's house, among the spiders and scorpions. I know what the FBI plans to do. They want to twist my love for her into something dark and malevolent. They want me to watch her die, so that rage will overwhelm the love within me, and I will once again be their perfect killing machine.

I will not let it happen.


On Valentine's Day, they call off the FBI agents who have been following her. The bastards. They do not want to watch as she dies. One day I will make them pay. Right now, I have only one thing on my mind. Protecting Angelique from harm.

It is Tuesday, one of the days she swims after work. By now, I know all the best places to hide as I follow her from the bus stop to the YWCA building. I slip in the service door in the back. I grab a janitor's uniform and make my way downstairs to the pool.

She is alone tonight as she swims her laps. The light reflected from the water makes strange patterns upon the tile walls and ceiling. They remind me of shadow puppets, except these shadows glow.

After thirty laps, she climbs from the pool and dries herself with a white towel. Her skin gleams like polished bronze. Beads of moisture glisten on her braids. She is so close that I could reach out and touch her from my hiding place behind the laundry cart, however, it is too early. I must wait a little while longer.

She drops the damp towel into the laundry bin and heads towards the women's dressing room. I grab the towel and press it to my face, inhaling her sweet aroma. I take my time exiting the building. She is safe enough here, in this building where only women are allowed. The threat will come when she is outside, in the dark.

No one accosts her on the way to the bus stop. Now that the FBI tail is gone, I can board the same bus. I sit three rows behind her. When the bus stops at the corner of the street on which she lives, she and I are the only people who get off.

The street between the bus stop and Angelique's house is deserted. Have I misjudged the FBI? Perhaps they have given up their plan to use her as bait to capture me? I try to put myself in the minds of the military men who were once my masters. They need me. There is no one else within the organization who can do what I can do. They will leave no stone unturned, no option unexplored. Men who thought nothing of killing children in order to justify a war will not hesitate to have a woman killed, if there is the slimmest chance that her death will get them something they want. And they want me.

Angie steps onto the porch. Automatically, she checks the mailbox. Too late, it occurs to me that a bomb could have been set. But no, that kind of death would point straight to my former employers.

As she steps through the front door, I debate whether or not I should follow her. Is the danger waiting for her within her home? A broken gas line, perhaps? An exposed electric cord? No, an accidental death would not turn me back into their cold blooded killer. The threat must be something human, something that will make me despise humanity.

I circle the house twice before I notice that someone has left the bathroom window open a crack. Angie has been careful to keep her house locked and secure since the FBI visit two weeks ago. That means someone else has been inside her house. Perhaps that someone is there even now. Moving quickly, I pry the window open with the blade of my knife and crawl inside. The bathroom is dark. Through the open door, I can hear Angie hum as she moves from room to room. Stealthily, I follow her, sniffing the air. My olfactory senses are unusually acute, like those of a hunting dog. If an intruder were present, I would smell him.

Satisfied that the house is safe, I return to the bathroom, where I wait in the linen closet, with the door ajar and the lights off. I smell cooking odors from the kitchen. Angie is making a mushroom omelet. When she finishes, she leaves the plate in the sink, then she stops by her bedroom. I hear the sound of her shoes being kicked off. Her clothes make no noise as they fall to the floor. When she enters the bathroom, she is naked. Moonlights gleams on her skin. I think of jungles and magic rites.

The lights go on. Angie turns on the shower. When the water is warm, she steps inside the tub and pulls the shower curtain closed.

Slowly, the bathroom window slides open. Two hands appear on the window sill, followed by a head. He is a young man, african-american like Angie. Serial killers prey upon their own. The FBI knows that. They sent him here to kill her. One day, in the near future, they will pay.

As the killer hauls himself through the window, I emerge from the closet. He is startled. "Who---?"

The word dies on his lips. My God gene is now so powerful that all I have to do is touch the base of his throat with one finger, and he expires. I catch his body before it can slump to the floor. Angie is still singing in the shower, oblivious. Quickly, I dump the body back out the window.

When Angie emerges from the shower, she finds me sitting on the closed lid of the toilet. My hands are clutched between my knees, and my head is bowed. I am a short woman, and I make myself seem even smaller so as not to frighten her. Will she recognize me? It has been almost ten years.

Her eyes widen. "Marnie? You shouldn't be here. The police are looking for you. I think they've been following me."

I hand her a towel. "Not tonight. They called off their goons today."

"Oh." She dries herself, then wraps the towel around her hair. "That's why you came."

"Yes," I lie. "That's why I came."

She slips on a rose silk robe. Her dark, wide eyes are fixed on my face. Anyone else would be thinking about the accusations which the FBI made against me, that I am a cold blooded killer. However, Angie is not like anyone else. "I read the letters you wrote me. Why didn't you tell me?"

"I thought you would be disgusted if I told you I loved you."

"Disgusted?" One smooth, brown hand brushes my cheek. A feeling of happiness washes over me. "I could never be disgusted by love." She chuckles. "You know what day this is, right? It's Valentine's Day. I got seven Valentines today from people I work with and six more in the mail. But none of them is a nice as the letters you wrote. I wish I had a Valentine to give you. I guess this will have to do." She leans down. Her lips brush mine. "Happy Valentine's Day."

My heart soars. Later, I will tell her the whole story, about the God gene--hers and mine--and about the others like us who have banded together to use our powers for good. Later, I will try to persuade her to come with me. We need her, as much as we need killers and thinkers and clairvoyants.

For now, all I want is to bask in her love.

The End

Copyright © 2003 by McCamy Taylor

McCamy is a long time contributor to Aphelion as well as Assistant Short Story Editor. You can find out all about her and herwork by following the link below to her new and improved (Post) Millennium Fiction website.

URL:(Post) Millennium Fiction

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