The Destroyer of Innocence

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Stephanie woke up to small streams of sun coming through the blinds. This room at the Inn was currently her home. She wouldn’t stay here long though, she never stayed anywhere for very long. Stephanie sat up her head pounding and pain wracked through her body. Holy crap she felt like she had been hit by a Mack truck, but she guess she kind of did. Maybe a hot shower would help. The hot water felt so delightful but painful as it cascaded down her body. She was so sore and honestly couldn’t remember the last time she felt this way. Stephanie finished with her shower and wrapped her dark brown hair in the towel provided, the ones that never seem big enough. But what do you expect from a cheap rinky dink Inn in a tiny town like Lionel in the middle of God forsaken nowhere.

The hot shower had definitely helped relieve some of the soreness in her body. Stephanie stood in front of the full length mirror and looked at her body. The bruising on her body was prominent that was for sure. It even hurt to breathe right now, much less move. She pulled her duffel bag onto the bed and opened the side pouch. Ace bandages, soothing aloe lotion, her make up kit and some pain medicine. She doctored herself up and popped a couple pain pills. Stephanie then slipped on her clothes some faded ripped jeans, a Nirvana vintage tee and an over sized hoodie. She glanced at herself in the mirror as she ran a brush through her dark brown shoulder length hair pulling it back in a high ponytail. Applied a little make up to make her not look half dead (even though she felt that way) “Not to bad,” she thought to herself with a shrug of her shoulders. Slipped on her socks and black combat boots before grabbing her wallet off of the table by the door along with her watch and hunting knife. Which she slipped the knife in her right boot making sure that it was covered by her jeans. Then pulling on her shades she stepped out the door making sure to put the Do Not Disturb sign on the handle. She didn't like the idea of a stranger being in her personal space.

Paula’s Place that’s what the sign on the diner said. It was completely dark when she had arrived at 3 am to the Inn that morning. She didn’t even know it was there. Couldn’t see it at all. That was until the pervy looking clerk at the check in desk informed her of its existence. He let her know that it opened at 5 a.m. and closed at 10 p.m. sharp everyday. So there was no room service only the diner and a few vending machines. Which she was doubly reassured that they stayed stocked. Good thing the diner was right next door though cause she really was in need of a cup of coffee. As Stephanie walked in she looked around. Seven people at the most as she glanced down at her watch 8:30... Wonder if this is the morning rush? She thought to herself as she took a seat in the closest open booth available. The booth had faded red seats and faded baby blue tables. They had a few menus stacked neatly on each table.

The 50′s music that came through the speakers in the roof wasn’t too bad. Definitely better than a lot of the “New Age” crap that younger people her age called music. It wasn’t music it was brain rot. Stephanie had just picked up the menu that was on the table when a friendly female voice with a thick Southern accent said, “Morning Darlin’. Ya’ look like you could use some coffee. M’ I right?” Stephanie looked up to see a plump middle aged woman with bright blue eyes and very clearly dyed fire engine red hair smiling down at her. The blue and white pin striped uniform accompanied by a red frilly mid waist apron. Order pad and pen in hand. Just looking at her made Stephanie want to giggle at how cliche’ she thought it was but she held it in. She glanced at her name tag and simply replied with a slight smile, ” Yes ma’am Miss Darcy I could definitely use some coffee.” Darcy nodded and walked away to grab the coffee. Within a couple minutes Stephanie sighed a happy sigh as she inhaled the aroma that wafted from the white ceramic mug in her hands. “Don’t worry ‘round here we serve real coffee not that brown water that alotta’ places try to pass off as coffee these days. And refills are free as well. I’ll give ya’ a few minutes to enjoy your coffee and let ya’ decide on what you’d like to eat.” Darcy commented smiling proudly and walked away coffee pot in hand to check on the other patrons.

Stephanie finally decided on buttered toast to go with her coffee. She wasn't very hungry this morning. She spent about half an hour in that little diner while she enjoyed a peacefulness that seemed to become almost non existent for her these past few years. She placed a 20 on the table and walked out. Stephanie scanned her surroundings as she often did. You have to always be aware of what is around you she reminds herself. The storm clouds are extremely visible and seem to be moving in rather quickly. She quickly walks back to her room and right as she closes the door behind her lightning illuminates the room.

8 years earlier: (Flashback)

The rain pounded against the window in her room. Stephanies’ parents had assured her that they were all safe and sound in their home. That the storm would be gone by morning. She was suppose to go to a sleepover that night, but Stephanie lied and said she didn’t feel well to get out of going. The lightning lit up her room and everything outside in the yard each time it crackled across the sky. Finally, tired of feeling like she should be at some Halloween party with spooky bright lights Stephanie got up out of bed to close her curtains. Right as she reached to pull her curtains closed the lightning flashed and that’s when she saw them outside approaching the house. They were seven men dressed in all black, and they had guns. For some reason she froze in place as she heard an explosion come from downstairs.

Present Day:

Another flash of lightning brought her back from her thoughts as it lit up the room yet again. Stephanie shakes her head. “Get a grip” she says frustrated with her constant bombarding memories. She walks over to her duffel bag and pulls out a little box and pours the five colorful pills in her hand. They go down easily when helped by the water in the white foam cup. Those memories still get to her. But Stephanie is mindful to make sure that what happened when she was only 12 years old would not effect her forever. Stephanie still shudders as she hears the storm picking up outside. Looks like vending machine for lunch and dinner she thinks to herself. With that she sat on the bed laptop and TV remote in hand, a cup of water on the bedside table. The TV flickered to life with the press of a button. The local news was on, she listened to it as she fired up her laptop. It was time to get to work so she could get paid. Stephanie walked over to her bag and pulled out her digital camera. She then attached it to her laptop and uploaded the pictures from her job the night before to a composed e-mail. This was proof that she had taken care of him. She never asked their name and she never cared. She was given a job which she always completed. The pictures she uploaded were of a severed finger with a specific ring and a picture of a tattoo which was unique to the group he was a part of. Right as she hit send, the news started talking about the brutal and sadistic murder of a wealthy business man and his personal security guard an hour and a half from here. They are unsure of who would do such a gruesome attack, but they have no suspects at the time.

Stephanie flipped through the channels as the sky came down outside. She finally landed on a movie that seemed somewhat interesting. Her laptop went off with a notification. She opened the e-mail to see that it was her boss. They verified the job had been done. The payment had already been wired to my bank. 100k not bad for such an easy job. Stephanie was sure that the amount she was paid was only a fraction of what the “Company” was paid for this job. With that Stephanie walked swiftly to the vending machines and got some snacks and a few drinks and retreated back to her room. She made sure her door was locked and the curtains and blinds drawn shut. Storms suck, she thought to herself as she dozed off while the couple on the TV confessed their undying love to each other.

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