My mother loved me very much, even though I was a bastard and never did as I was told. She loved me so much, she was afraid I’d run away and get lost while she went to prison, so she chained me to a radiator. It took a while until my wrist was thin enough to fit through the big boy cuffs, but even though she loved me so much, I didn’t want to die waiting for her.
I did as I was told. It wasn’t a hard thing to do, since I had no need to see the face of my attacker. This, too, was a situation I had been in multiple times and I had always been able to handle them. People who told me to ‘put my goddamn hands up’ or ‘hold it right there’ usually were in the mood to talk or negotiate, or they would have simply shot me. Talking meant living, and living meant opportunities to turn the tables to my favor. I liked turning tables, it meant getting paid.
“Who sent you?” the voice behind me asked, reverberating through my bones like a cat’s purr. See? Talking, just as I had predicted.
I licked my icy lips, trying to stay upright even though I couldn’t feel my feet anymore. “A whore, awful heels, bad, evil eyes, cigarette. I could see her pubes, she wasn’t wearing a slip,” I answered, because that was exactly how I remembered her. That, and her “shrill voice. Very shrill voice. Piercing, grating.” My knees buckled slightly, but I caught myself before I fell.
The man behind me hesitated, I could hear it in his breath. In-in-out, in, like a sleeping dog. “What district?” he asked, like it would matter.
“Eastern Ghetto,” I replied obediently, mumbling like that one time I had been taken to the dentist and gotten some kind of numbing injection into my gums. As long as I had moved, the cold hadn’t been that bad, but now that I had to stand still, it crept up my limbs like the arms of those little cuttlefish the Triad people liked to fry for dinner. Maybe I would be fried, too? At least I’d be warm…
I fell like a puppet with cut strings, toppled over face-first into the nice, clean carpet, too cold to feel the fibers carpet-burn my cheek. This was not good, not a situation I had been in before, but I couldn’t think my way out of it. My brain was just as cold as my limbs, sluggish and snail-like, drooling its mucus out of my nose like tomato juice. At first, I suspected that guy had shot me because I had moved. Would be hard to feel pain when I couldn’t feel myself, right? But there was no gunpowder smell in the air, and he didn’t loom over me to finish me off, so I probably had just succumbed to the cold.
The man did in fact loom over me, but only to crouch down and fill my nose with the most exquisite cologne I had ever smelled. Spicy, musky, almost too male, but oh so befitting his giant, ripped body. And his long ponytail. And the two-piece suit he was wearing, and his bronze skin. “Adonis,” I gasped, unable to stop him from flipping me onto my back and working his way through my pockets. He found the gun and a piece of chewing gum paper I had kept because it was shiny, but not much else.
“Christ, did you swim here? You’re ice cold,” he observed with a slight accent, not much to go by, but audible. He also sounded more annoyed and gruff than worried, but why should he be worried? I was out cold, haha, pun intended, and he had the upper hand. Fortunately, we were moving back into safe territory: interrogation. He wouldn’t kill me before he knew who had sent me, and that meant more time for me to free myself and finish my part of the deal. I just needed to get warm again, soon, now, quickly.
That wonderful cologne flooded my every sense as he carefully picked me up and carried me out of the room. My body would leave dirt, river water and probably parasites on his expensive suit, but right now I didn’t care, because it meant I could be close to that burning hot, broad chest and not feel bad about it. I’d feel bad soon enough and he would be the one making sure of that, but not in this moment. Him carrying me into the other part of the house also meant I’d find out what lurked behind the doors I hadn’t opened yet, so there was that. Optimism, optimism, as my psychologist always told me.
We took the last door on the right and stepped right into a dream of a bathroom, all marble and chrome and glass. I was draped onto the floor, then the man flipped the light switch and stepped over to a big bath tub.
“I don’t care if you survive the night, but since I have to find out what you were sent to do here, and since you jolly well can’t talk while dying, I’ll warm you up before torturing you,” he explained as he leaned over the tub and got the water going, watching me out of the corners of his eyes.
Maybe he hoped to make me flinch with that threat, but hell, my life was torture, so what?
As the tub filled, he crouched down and peeled me out of my clothes. If he was disgusted by the not-so-faint smell of body odor and street stink, it didn’t show on his face, but he threw my crusty clothes towards the door where they piled against the wall. I, for my part, let him do what he wanted to do, because flopping around like a mackerel on dry land would only work against me and tire me out.
His muscles bulged when he picked me up and dropped me in the hot water. It should have helped, but it only made me shiver harder, rattling my teeth against each other and clouding my mind further. The water felt scaldingly hot on my freezing skin. I gasped and flailed a bit, coloring it brownish as the dirt peeled off my skin like a snake shedding. Adonis kept me in the tub with one hand on my chest, out of balance and out of my depth, calmly waiting for me to heat up and calm down.
He was in a good position to ram a hair pin into his eyes and the door behind him was unlocked, but that would have to wait. If he wanted to torture me by water, I was prepared; I had learned to swim because a few bums had tried to drown me for a few weeks, pushing me into dikes and the river repeatedly. I had learned to hold my breath. And to regurgitate water like an owl.
“So. Who sent you, really?”
And so it began. “A whore,” I repeated, trying for my honest voice and sounding too breathless.
He dunked me, if only for a few seconds. He didn’t need to pull me up, I surfaced by myself, spitting and coughing warm, dirty water.
He repeated the question, I repeated the answer, he dunked me. We played this game for a good ten times, at which point he held me down for half a minute and had to pull me forward so I could get all the water out of my lungs, then he gave up and went on.
“Whom were you supposed to kill?” he asked, grabbing my hair to get a better grip on my head. Dunking was hard work and I was getting clean and therefor slippery.
It was a good question. The shrieky whore hadn’t told me, so I had assumed that I’d leave the house filled with bodies and empty of heartbeat. “Everyone,” I huffed, shrugging to make a point. My throat felt funny, raspy and painful, but my voice sounded okay.
I didn’t get dunked this time, but he threw me a disgusted look. “Even the kids?” he asked, more nauseated than when he had had to touch my clothing, like this was somehow worse than bad hygiene. Maybe it was, I wouldn’t know.
“Didn’t know there were kids,” I answered, lifting a hand towards his fingers in my hair. They hurt, tight as he held me. “Don’t like killing kids, but there’s nothing one can do when they’re filled with the Dark.”
Adonis dunked me again, but only to get my hand away from his. As soon as I let it sink back into the water, he pulled my head back up and leaned forward, staring at my profile.
“What do you mean, filled with the Dark?”
Oops. If I hadn’t swallowed this much dirty water, if I hadn’t been cold and hot at the same time, if I hadn’t been dunked so many times, I wouldn’t have made this mistake. I wouldn’t have told him, just like I hadn’t told anyone else in the last years. Nobody understood and it made them look funny at me. I didn’t like those funny looks, they made me try to explain.
“The Dark is dirty. It sticks like tar, it makes you do things, think thoughts, bad thoughts. The Dark ones ooze it, it follows them like smog. Wherever they are, they stink up their surroundings, make everything worse, make you petty and mean and sad,” I said, finding his eyes and holding his gaze. This was serious business, a serious explanation, and I wanted him to know that. “I can see the Dark. I see the Dark ones. Some of them don’t know what they are, don’t see their own, ugly, messed up faces, they just spread and spread. Don’t you ever feel bad in this house? Don’t you ever get moody?”
I squeaked at his almost bored tone of voice. Where were the questions? The ‘freak’-calling? The actual calling the police? He didn’t even make a face, except for the wrinkling of his nose. I did smell like wet, geriatric dog, so he had a reason for that, but I had kind of expected him to react differently. Even the psych docs asked questions and tried to make me doubt myself, and they were the ones supposed to be understanding!
I was still opening and closing my mouth with the outrage of it all, when he shrugged and nodded his head towards the windows.
“But I do get the willies whenever I see the neighbors.”