An Excerpt from Myra
by Amaleka McCall



Myra was ecstatic as she descended from the high step of Milton’s SUV. For the first time in her life, she had had sex because she wanted to, not because she had to. It was hard for her to wipe the semi-permanent smile from her face.

She contemplated walking straight to Quanda’s building to share the news with her best friend, but instead she went upstairs to her house to check on Vidal.

Myra entered the building, speed walking and avoiding eye contact with the usual hustlers in the front playing dice. She never spoke to them, but their stares always unnerved her. She didn’t pay them any mind as she walked by, oblivious to several of the guys giving each other hand signals and motioning to someone sitting in a darkly tinted vehicle.

Myra pressed the button for the elevators and stood waiting. A Puerto-Rican lady named Ms. Madi who lived in the building entered the hallway. Ms. Madi was short and round with a head full of soft, thinning silver hair. She always wore slippers, no matter what the weather. She did so to combat the gout in her legs and ankles that she had acquired with old age. She was like everybody’s nana in the building, and she especially loved Myra. Ms. Madi had fed Myra on several occasions when she was younger.

“Aie mami, the elevators is broken since two days,” Ms. Madi complained in her thick Puerto Rican accent to Myra.

“Dag, they always broke,” Myra groaned, being careful not to curse. Ms. Madi was a devout Catholic, and everybody in Tompkins knew that she would preach an entire church sermon if she heard anyone swear.

“Yes mami, the kids, they so bad ‘round here,” Ms. Madi said rolling her r’s, as she dragged her swollen legs and slippers across the floor and prepared for her painful walk up the stairs to her second floor apartment.

Myra followed Ms. Madi into the stairwell. Myra hated walking up the stairs. So much shit went down in the stairwells in project buildings that there was no telling what she might find. People fucking, smoking crack, shooting up, or buying drugs; you name it, Myra had probably seen it. Not to mention the high smell of piss that burned her nostrils whenever she entered the stairwell.
As they made their slow climb up the stairs, Myra and Ms. Madi prattled on about this and that, with Myra right on Ms. Madi’s heels. Ms. Madi finally made it to the second floor. “Alright Ms. Madi, take care,” Myra said as she picked up her pace and continued to climb the stairs to her floor.

Myra looked up at the “5” painted in black on the beige cinder block wall, pulling open the graffiti-riddled metal door, stepping onto the fifth floor. As she moved down the hallway, Myra heard the squeak of the exit door opening behind her, and then footsteps. She turned to see who it was, but before she could turn fully around a sharp pain penetrated through her skull. “Aaaahhhhhhh!” her scream was short-lived, and then, utter blackness.

The person who Myra had never gotten a chance to see put what appeared to be a black pillowcase or some kind of bag over her head, and pulled it tightly around her neck and face, as if they were trying to smother her. The bag was pulled so tightly around her face that her profile was imprinted on it. Myra tried to scream again, but the sound wouldn’t come out. She began gasping for air, ferociously kicking and clawing at her assailant, trying to break free.

After a few seconds Myra was able to sense that she was in the presence of more than one person, although her vision was obstructed by the bag. She could feel someone behind her and in front of her body. The second person snatched her keys from her hand, as the first continued smothering her with the bag, dragging her along. Myra continued to struggle fiercely, now digging savagely at her neck, trying to get her fingers under the material to relieve some of the pressure around her neck. She felt as if her esophagus would crumble under the pressure of the perpetrator’s grip.

Myra finally managed a muffled scream, but it fell on deaf ears. The person holding the makeshift hood of death tightly around her head dragged her, kicking and screaming, into her apartment. She got a few good kicks in at the heavy metal door, causing it to make a loud BANG! as it hit up against the hallway wall. But to Myra’s dismay, her assailants managed to drag her inside. She was too afraid to think logically, so she continued to fight for her life. She figured that if they were going to kill her, at least she would go out with a fight. Myra continued to thrash about, still under the tight grasp of one of the attackers, trying to make out the muffled voices of her assailants as they conferred about her fate.

After a few seconds of unnerving silence, Myra heard faint ripping noises, like heavy duct tape coming away from the roll. The next thing she knew the material that covered her head was being tightened—around the top of her head and then around her eyes and neck. The goons had taped the black bag over her face and sealed it by placing the tape around her entire neck. She could barely breathe through the material, and she definitely could not see or speak. She was going to suffocate.

Manhandling her, one of the anonymous attackers grabbed her under her arms and lifted her up, placing her on one of the raggedy wooden kitchen chairs in the apartment. One of the few things that remained after Vidal’s numerous “yard sales” of their belongings. They held Myra’s arms behind her back, in the arrest position, causing her shoulders to bulge and lock. Her wrists were taped together to hug the back of the chair and each of her ankles were affixed to the front legs of the chair.

Myra made several futile attempts to scream. Suddenly, a sharp pain pervaded the side of her head. CRUNCH…Myra felt a fist connect with her right temple. She felt as if a piece of her skull had been knocked loose. Several punches followed the first.
“Where ya mother at bitch?!” one of the deep-voiced assailants boomed, sounding like Lou Rawls. Myra wasn’t given an opportunity to respond before the same deep-voiced attacker grabbed her head through the bag and repeatedly punched her on the other side of her face. Her head and face were wet and sticky with blood, which seeped the material that surrounded her head. Tears rolled down her face, further dampening the cloak of death around her head. Myra had no idea why they were assaulting her.

“TALK!” one of them yelled at her.

“I don’t know…” Myra mumbled through the bag, taking in mouths full of material and blood, making her response entirely inaudible. It was difficult for her to breathe, much less speak. Suddenly, Myra felt as if her chest was going to cave in. The beating had intensified and moved to the center of her body. Myra’s ribcage buckled under the potency of the closed fist punches. She’d had the wind knocked out of her. She moved her head wildly in circular motions, trying in vain to get her lungs to fill back up with air.

“I said where ya fuckin’ thievin’ ass dope fiend mother at?!?” the deep-voiced assailant barked.

Myra was drifting in and out of consciousness.

Crack...slap….punch…Myra felt a barrage of punches, kicks, and slaps raining down on her body.

“Look bitch you gon’ die for that fucked up mother of yours that be pimping you out?!? Just tell me where she at. That bitch robbed me…and either she gon’ die or you gon’ die. Ima let you live today, but if I don’t have five thousand dollars by Wednesday next week, to replace my product and my money, I’m coming back to finish this shit!” the deep voice threatened.
They left Myra’s unconscious body—still taped to the chair, bleeding from her face, head, and body—for dead.

“What’s all that slamming over there?” Bambi asked herself as she looked out of her peephole. She heard several doors slamming, followed by a torrent of thumps, and then some more slamming. The walls in the projects seemed thick, but you could hear everything that went on in your next door neighbor’s apartment if you listened carefully. Bambi watched as Knowledge and his worker Rayon left the apartment across the hall in a hurry. She could see that they left the door slightly ajar.

“That damn Vidal is a mess. Wait til I see Myra and tell her about her momma. Now she done added drug dealers to the mess of people she got in and outta there,” Bambi said to herself. She went back to her couch, feeling sorry for herself.

“Ma, did Myra call last night while I was out?” Quanda asked Ms. Brenda.

“No,” her mother answered.

“Anybody know if Myra called?” Quanda yelled out to her brothers and sisters.

“NO!” a few of them yelled back.

“Damn…that’s suspect. It’s not like her not to hit me for a whole twenty four,” Quanda said worriedly to her mother.

“Maybe she studying somewhere,” Ms. Brenda replied pointedly.

“Ho boyeee, here we go,” Quanda retorted. “Ima go to 220 and check for her,” Quanda continued.

“Alright, let me know,” her mother replied.

Quanda sped across the path to Myra’s building. None of the hustling guys who held down the front of the building were out there, so she couldn’t ask them if they’d seen Myra come in. She hated going to Myra’s apartment, because she hated running into Vidal. But Quanda was going to have to do it today because she was really worried about her friend.

Quanda pressed the elevator buttons frantically, getting nervous. “This bitch probably at her new man house laid the fuck up and I’m worrying for shit,” Quanda said out loud to herself. The elevator was taking too long. She didn’t have time for this shit, she was taking the stairs.

When Quanda arrived on the fifth floor, she noticed that one of Myra’s earrings was laid up against the wall just outside the stairwell door. Quanda picked up the mangled piece of gold, and her heart sank into the pit of her stomach. Quanda bolted down the hallway to her friend’s apartment door. She could see as she approached that the door was ajar. She broke into a run, pushing it wide open. Quanda’s jaws fell open at what she saw. Myra was tapped to the chair that had now fallen over. Blood had completely soaked the black material over Myra’s face, staining the floor and the front of Myra’s shirt.

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..OH MY GOD, HELP! HELP!” Quanda screamed at an ear-shattering pitch. There was no phone in the apartment. Quanda nervously fumbled with her jacket pockets, trying desperately to locate her cell phone. Shit! I must’ve dropped it! Quanda didn’t want to leave Myra in the condition that she was in to go look for her phone. So she continued to scream for help, all the while calling out to Myra.

“MyMy….come on MyMy. Can you hear me?!” Quanda cried, frantically tearing at the material around Myra’s damaged head.
“Please Myra, please. You can’t die…I need you…PLEASE HELLLLLP!” Quanda began screaming again, crying more hysterically. Quanda gently put Myra’s head down and ran to the kitchen to get a knife to free her friend from her duct tape captivity.

Finally, Bambi appeared in the doorway. Terrified by what she saw, she quickly turned and ran back into her apartment. “Bambi, wait!” Quanda screamed. But Bambi slammed her door; she couldn’t deal with any more pain…or death. And she damned sure wasn’t telling anybody who she had seen leaving from there. Bambi guiltily realized that she had heard the whole incident going down, but didn’t know that Myra was involved. As minutes ticked by, Bambi finally came to her senses though and dialed 911.

Quanda was in hysterics by the time the ambulance arrived, so much so that the EMTs had to give her an oxygen mask to regulate her breathing. The police asked Quanda several questions, none of which she had answers to. She had no idea what had happened to her friend, but she figured Vidal was involved, directly or indirectly. That day, as Quanda watched Myra cling helplessly to life, she vowed that she would find out who did this to her friend—they would have hell to pay.

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