Miranda's Dance

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Chapter Thirty-Eight

All right, this is it. There’s the steel gate. Tell me that gigantic motherfucker doesn’t look like the gates of hell! And there’s a reason for it. Ambush Alley: a one-of-a-kind death trap on the southeast end of skid row. A gated kill zone that even the cops avoid like the plague. This was one of the first places Charlie told me to avoid like the plague. He said it was the perfect place for a rape or a murder, and if anything happened to you in here, no one could get to you in time. Not even the cops. He took me through it once so I could see it; probably because he was afraid my curiosity would get the better of me and I’d come in here alone one night. No fucking way! Everything about this place screams ’keep the fuck out!” It’s as scary as hell just to look at. Jesus Christ! What the fuck were they thinking when they built this place? It’s not even really an alley. It’s kind of the giant concrete cluster fuck that resulted from some really strange building over the years. It’s a complete maze in there. There are a bunch of concrete enclosures and overhangs and God only knows what else in here. There’s damned little lighting, so just trying to navigate your way through it at night can kill you. There’s a bunch of twists and turns, and there’s a shitload of pits in there – I guess that’s what you’d have to call them – that you can easily fall into if you don’t know where they are. I mean, think about it: why else would they put a twelve-foot steel gate on either side of it if it weren’t a total fucking death trap? I’ve only ever seen it unlocked during the day, and most of the time, it’s not open even then. They really want to keep people out of here. Fortunately, the homeless pried the bars apart years ago, so unless you’re pretty huge, you can squeeze through. You just have to ask yourself what kind of a fucking idiot would deliberately squeeze their way in here? Me, that’s who! God, I am one stupid fucking bitch sometimes!

All right, I’m in. God, that fucking hurt! Crouching down to get in made me feel like my stomach was going to explode out of my mouth! I thought my spine was going to lock up, too! Now, it’s straight ahead to that huge concrete overhang, then left. Straight ahead, second right, second left, straight, right again, and straight to the gate on the other side. No problem, right? Yeah, famous last words! I’ve got to be damned careful in here. You never know what you’re going to run into. Or who. Or where. God, I wish I didn’t ache so much. I wish I could’ve just taken the long way around. Oh, quit whining, Miranda! Just think about what you need to do and get the fuck out of here! Take it slow and easy, and keep your eyes and ears open. The sound gets really distorted in here, so when you hear anything, you just shut down immediately. It might sound like it’s fifty feet to your right when it’s actually five feet in front of you. Just keep going. Don’t stop for anything. This straightaway has a slight downward slope, so I have to be careful. With my ankle all banged up, I could fall flat on my face real easy. And with my luck, I probably couldn’t stand up again. Take it nice and slow.

I’m trying to be quiet, but every fucking sound is like it’s being amplified! I can hear every step I take! And if I can hear them, then so can everyone else in here! This place is a goddamned maze! There could be twenty guys hiding in here and I wouldn’t know it until one of them grabs me and another one shoves a fucking knife in my gut! Nice and slow. Stay as quiet as I can. I don’t hear any voices. That’s a good thing. Then again, I’m in here and I’m not talking, so maybe someone else is in here and they’re keeping their mouth shut, too. Until they see me and decide I’m their next victim. That’s not going to happen. I’m not going to let that happen. I can’t. I’m too close. I’ve got to find Charlie. I can do this. Just take it nice and slow and be damned fucking careful. Just like Charlie taught me.

God, it’s fucking creepy in here! This place is evil; plain and simple. They should’ve bulldozed it years ago. Hang on! We’ve got something up ahead! I can’t see too well. The light’s for shit in this section, but it looks like someone’s asleep against the wall. Asleep my ass! Who the fuck would be stupid enough to sleep in here? This could be real trouble. Get my knife ready and check it out. Nice and slow…it’s definitely someone lying on the ground. Who the fuck would be lying out in the open like that? He’s not moving. I don’t hear any sounds. He’s just propped up against the wall. Is he…oh, fuck! I don’t fucking believe it! It’s fucking Danny! The kid from the shooting gallery! What the fuck is he doing in this fucking place? Is he out of his goddamned mind? I told him to get the fuck out of here! What’s he doing here? How the hell did he end up in here? What the fuck is going on? Of all the fucked-up places he could’ve found his way into, he found his way in here?

“Danny! Danny, get up! Get up! It’s me! Miranda!”

He must be completely zonked. I know he was going to slam, but that was hours ago. He shouldn’t be passed out like that. Not unless he OD’d. It might be worth having him in here with me. He can watch my back. All right, give him a kick! That’ll wake his stupid ass up!

“Danny! Get up! What the fuck are you doing in here? What did I tell you? Hey! Wake up! Wake up, you stupid motherfucker!”

He’s still not getting up! I need to see better! Light a match. That’ll work. What the fuck did he do? Did he OD? Did he drink himself unconscious? I wouldn’t be a bit surprised! I should kick him right in the fucking balls! Didn’t he listen to a word I said? All right, let’s see what the fuck’s going on, here.

“I said wake up, asshole! What the fuck are you doing in here? Do you have any idea what this place is? Wake up!”

Oh, Jesus! No! He’s not asleep! He’s fucking dead! He’s fucking dead! I don’t fucking believe it!

“Danny! Oh, my God! What the fuck? How…what happened to you?”

How did he die? I don’t see any blood. His face looks fine, except he looks really pale, even in this light. I don’t see any wounds. His face looks all right. Oh, fuck! There’s my answer: sticking out of his left arm! He’s still got the syringe in there. He OD’d. And if he never got a chance to pull the fucking spike out of his arm, then I’m guessing it was a hotshot. A deliberate overdose. Christ, he fucking killed himself! Why? Because of me? Because of what I said to him? I told him he could get out. I told him he could go home. Jesus, what the fuck was I thinking, saying that shit to him? Where the fuck did I get off saying he could still turn it around? I didn’t know shit about him! I didn’t know shit about his situation! But I made it sound like he could do it. What a fucking idiot! I probably pushed him over the edge with that shit! Christ, I fucking killed him! I did this to him! Miranda, you stupid fucking bitch! I made him realize he didn’t have a chance in hell out here, and he probably couldn’t go home any more than I could! And look what happened! He ended up just like me! Just like I’m going to end up in an hour! He’s fucking dead!

Yeah, I guess that explains why he’s here. He probably went over to the Brickline Alley to score some more dope. He already had some, so he probably bought a couple of balloons to double or triple the fucking dose. The Brickline’s one of the few places where he could’ve found anything so late. It’s not far from here. He probably came in here hoping that no one would ever find him. Just disappear from the face of the earth. He sure picked the right place for it.

Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions? I don’t really know if he did this because of me. Because of what I said to him. My gut tells me that’s exactly what happened, but I don’t know for sure. I don’t see anything that looks like a suicide note lying around. I wouldn’t expect to find one. I wasn’t going to leave one, so why would he? Why would any of us? Out here, you don’t usually have to explain why you want to die. It’s pretty much self-evident. Still, is this my fault? And if it is, should I be at all broken up about it? I mean, if he couldn’t go home, then isn’t this for the best? Maybe it’s just proof that he was a hell of a lot smarter than me? He didn’t need to go through seven fucking years of hell to realize that he was better off dead. I’d be a lot better off if I were like him. Still, I hope to God I didn’t push him over the edge. He wasn’t exactly rational when I met him. Suicide should be a rational decision. Dead solid cold rational. Even for us. You shouldn’t do it in haste. You shouldn’t do it when you’re a fucking emotional basket case. And if that’s my doing, then I’m sorry for it. I had no right to do that to him. No one does.

“I’m sorry, Danny. I’m sorry you didn’t get out. And if you couldn’t, then I’m sorry I was stupid enough to tell you that you could. And if it’s any consolation, you’ll probably be seeing me sooner than you think. You’re welcome to kick my ass when you do. God knows you’re entitled to. I hope you find peace. At least you’re out of this fucking place. That’s something.”

There’s nothing I can do for him now. I don’t know him. I don’t know his family. I don’t know how to get in touch with them, and I don’t think they’d like hearing from some psycho junkie that their son’s dead. That’s for the cops to handle. It’s part of their job. A really shitty part. Don’t ask me how they do it. If I had to do it, I’d probably put a gun in my mouth as soon as I delivered the bad news. Anyway, someone will find him here, eventually. The rats will probably get to him before they do, but that’s how it works out here. Die young and leave a beautiful corpse? Not on skid row. We don’t have a lot of open-casket funerals, as you can probably imagine.

“God, please give him a break. Let him into heaven. He wound up out here. That’s punishment enough for whatever he did in his life. I mean, he wasn’t a bad guy. Not like some of us out here. If he were, he wouldn’t be lying there dead. So give him a break and let him rest in peace. And if he kicks the shit out of me when I get up there, don’t hold it against him. I won’t.”

All right, keep going. There’s nothing I can do for him. There’s nothing anyone can do for him anymore. It’s over. He’s dead. Life out here goes on. Everything goes on. I’m sure I’d be more torn up about it if things were different, but I’ve got too much to do right now. I need to get the fuck out of here. I need to get to the Mayflower and find Charlie. I’m almost out of time. Just keep moving. Finish what you started. It’s almost over. All of it. Finally. Just find Charlie and finish it. Focus! Clear this fucking shithole and find Charlie!

Straight ahead. At least I can see a little better over here. I guess nobody broke out that floodlight over near the second overhang. Lucky me. I don’t hear anything. Just an occasional car going by a few blocks from here. It’s as quiet as a tomb. I want to get the fuck out of here before it becomes my tomb. I want to die, but not in here. I know how people die in here. No thank you.

“Is he a friend of yours?”

Who the fuck is that? What? Where…where did that come from?

“Who’s there?”

“I asked you a question. Is he a friend of yours?”

I still can’t see him, whoever it is! Shit! It’s a guy’s voice! It sounds familiar! Get ready! This could be a serious bitch!

“Show yourself!”

“Looks like he OD’d. That’s the problem with you junkies: you never know when to quit.”

Holy shit! It’s Cole! Fuck! He followed me!

“Get the fuck out of here before I cut you, motherfucker!”

“Now, why would you want to do that? I’ve been tryin’ to get you alone all night, honey. And here we are, just you and me!”

“You were the one following me all night!”

“That’s right. I figure it’s time you and I got to know each other, if you know what I mean.”

Yeah, I know exactly what you mean, asshole! You get any closer and I’ll fucking kill you! I swear to God, I’ll fucking kill you!

“Turn around and start walking, Cole! I mean it! I’ll gut you like a fucking pig!”

“I don’t think you will. I don’t think you’ve got it in you.”

“Take one more step and you’re going to find out how wrong you are!”

He’s trying to close the distance! I don’t see a weapon in his hand, but that doesn’t mean shit! He’s a lot bigger than me! Hand to hand, I don’t stand a chance! Don’t go for the cut! Go for the stab! Right in his fucking gut! Kill his ass!

“Looks like you got your ass kicked, honey. Too bad. You’re a lot better lookin’ when you’re not all messed up like that. But hey, it’s not your face I’m interested in.”

He’s getting closer! Shit! I can’t see a damned thing in here! I can’t tell what’s behind me! How close am I to the wall? He could pin me in here!

“You know, honey? You always go around with that goddamned coat on. I can never get a good look at your tits. I’ll bet you got a nice pair of tits under there. Why don’t you take that thing off and let me see ’em?”

Get ready! He’ll go for my knife! Sidestep him and stick his ass when he makes his move! Almost! Stay ready…he’s lunging! Now! Stick his ass! Move! Shit! I only cut him! I got his arm! God damn it!

“You fucking bitch!”

“Start running or I’ll fucking kill you! I mean it!”

“You know, I was just gonna fuck your brains out! But this? No, this changes things! You’re gonna have to pay for this, you little bitch!”

He’s hurt! I cut him deep! But he’s still on his feet! He can take a cut! Even a bad one! I’ve got to kill this son of a bitch! There’s no other way!

“Do you want me to kill you, asshole? Fine! I’d love it!”

“You’re gonna love it when I shove my fucking dick in your cunt, bitch! You’re gonna beg for it!”

Get ready! He’ll lunge again! There’s no way to put any distance between us in here! When he moves, don’t miss! Stick his ass! Kill him!

“Come and get it, motherfucker!”

Here he comes! Now! Shit! My ankle! Fuck! I think it broke! I’m down! I’m on the ground! No! He’s got me! My knife! I dropped my knife!

“Got you now, bitch! This is for slashing me!”

Fuck! He punched me right in the eye! The same one! I can’t see! God, it hurts! Fight back! Don’t think about the pain! Fight! Claw his eyes out! But I can’t see! He’s got me by the throat!

“Let’s see them tits, bitch!”

He’s tearing my shirt off! Hit him! Just keep swinging! Claw him! Anything! Fight! Kill him!

“Whoa! Not bad! I was right! You got a nice set of tits on you! Now, let’s see the rest!”

He’s trying to tear my pants off! But he’s only got one hand! He can’t let go of my throat! Fight! Fight, goddamn it! Fight! Kill him!

“You’re makin’ me do all the work! That’s OK! I like it when you fight back!”

He can’t get my pants off! He can’t tear them off! Fight! Do something! Fight back! Knee him! Knee him in the chest! Yes! Got him! Hit him! Hit him in the face! Hard! Again! Again! Yes! That got him! He’s hurt!

“You fucking bitch!”

Get up! Get up or he’ll kill you! Get up! Forget the pain! Get up! Oh, God! It hurts! It fucking hurts so much! Shut up! Get up, Miranda! Stand up! Forget the pain! Stand up! Fight! Kill this motherfucker! Kill him or you’re done for!

“Where do you think you’re goin’, bitch? We ain’t done yet! We’re just gettin’ started!”

Oh, God! I can barely stand! My ankle! It hurts! It’s on fire! Don’t think about it! Stay in the fucking fight! I’ve got to find my knife! Shit! He’s coming for me again! Move! Get out of the way! Yes! He missed me! He’s down! I think he’s hurt worse than I thought! Kick him! Kick him before he gets up! Got him! Stomp him! Stomp on his head! Again! Fuck! My ankle! I fell! Get up! Get up before he does! Hurry! Get up! Oh, Jesus! It hurts! I can barely stand up! Fuck it! Don’t think about it! Fight back! Kill this motherfucker!

“I’ll fucking kill you, Cole! You hear me? I’ll fucking kill your ass!”

He’s charging! God damn it! I can barely see him! I need to get over into the light! Shit! He’s got me! He’s got me in a fucking bear hug! He’s taking me to the ground! Hit him! Hit him in the face! Scratch out his fucking eyes! Anything! Fight! Don’t let him pin you! Fight! Kill him!

“You fucking bitch!”

Oh, Jesus! He bashed my fucking head against the ground! I can’t…he’s got my throat! I can’t see! My head! I think…I can’t…oh, fuck! He’s got me pinned! I can’t get up! I can’t get up!

“Now we can get down to it, bitch! Let’s see what you got in here!”

He’s got…he’s got my belt open! He’s yanking my pants down! I can’t stop him! I can’t breathe! He’s choking me! I can’t breathe! Hit him! Harder! Again! He’s not letting go!

“Stop strugglin’ honey! It’s just gonna make it worse! Why don’t you lay back and enjoy it?”

Oh, God! He tore off my underwear! Please, God! Don’t let this happen! Don’t let this happen! Please, God! Don’t let this happen!

“Spread your legs, bitch! You’re getting; this whether you like it or not! I know I’m gonna like it! I think you’re gonna like it, too! You like it, don’t you? Say you like it! Tell me you want it! You me to give it to you! Say it!”

This can’t be happening! This can’t be happening! Not now! Please! Don’t let this happen to me! Please! Somebody help me!

“I said get your damn legs apart! Are you cryin’? Are you cryin on me, bitch? Why are you cryin’? You need a good fucking! Yeah, that’s exactly what you need!”

I can’t fight him! I can’t breathe! Please, God! Don’t let him do this to me! Please! I can’t…there! My knife! I see it! I can get it! I can get it!

“What the fuck are you doin’ now?”

Got it! I got it! Kill him! Kill him! Stick him! Yes! I did it! I got him! I stuck him! I stuck him deep! Right in the side!

“Oh, fuck! You fucking bitch!

“You’re dead, motherfucker! You’re fucking dead!

Stick him again! Again! Again! Again! He’s still moving! Again! Again! Again! Kill him! Kill his motherfucking ass! Again! Again! Again! Die! Die, you piece of shit! Again! Again!

“Stop! Stop! Please! Please!”

“Stop? You want me to stop? Is that what you said?”

Fuck you! Stick him again! Right in the fucking gut! Right where it hurts the most!

“How about that, motherfucker? You like it? Do you fucking like it? Say you like it, motherfucker!”

Stick him again! Again! Again!

“Stop! Please! Don’t…don’t kill me! I’m…sorry!”

“Sorry? You’re fucking sorry? Sorry you’re about to fucking die! Fuck you! You’re dead! You’re fucking dead! Do you hear me? I’m going to fucking kill you!”

Stick him! Hit him hard! Stick him in his fucking face! Yes! Right there! Again! Listen to him scream! Just like I screamed! How does it feel, motherfucker? How does it feel to know you’re fucking dying? Stick him again! Again! Again!

“Die, you fucking pig! Fucking die!

Again! Stick him again! Again! Again! Again! Kill him! Fucking kill him!

“You fucking piece of shit! Fucking die!

He’s not moving! He’s not moving! I think he’s dead! I got him! I fucking got him! He’s fucking dead!

“Fuck you, motherfucker! Fuck you! Fuck you!”

He’s dead! I’m sure of it! He’s fucking dead! He’s not moving! Oh, God! There’s blood everywhere! It’s all over me! I can’t…I have to…oh, Jesus! I really did it! I killed him! I fucking killed him! He’s dead! I killed him! What have I done? I killed him! He’s dead! I killed him! I never…I never killed anyone before! Oh, God! What have I done? I killed him! I didn’t…I didn’t want to…oh, God! Help me! I killed him! I killed him! There’s blood everywhere! It’s all over me! It’s everywhere! My legs! My hands! My face! It’s all over me! Get it off me! Get it off me! Oh, God! Get it off me!

What have I done? I killed him! I murdered him! I didn’t mean to! I wasn’t…no! I had to! He did this! He made me do it! It’s his fault! He did this! Oh, God! I killed him! I’m a murderer! I fucking killed him!

Stop it! Stop screaming! I can’t! I can’t stop screaming! Stop! People will hear it! They’ll hear me and they’ll find me! Stop! Stop screaming! I have to…my clothes! He tore my…I have to…I have to pull my pants up! Oh, God! There’s blood all over me! All over my legs! So much blood! I can’t get it off of me! It’s everywhere! It won’t come off! It won’t come off! Get it off me! It won’t come off! There’s too much! Too much blood!

What do I do? What do I do now? Somebody help me! Please! Somebody! Somebody help me! I don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to do! I killed him! I fucking killed him! What do I do? Charlie! I need you! Charlie, help me! Please!

Stop it! Stop it! Think! He tried to rape me! I had to kill him! I had to do it! He made me do it! It’s not my fault! He did this! He did! Not me! It was him! His fault! Oh God! I think I’m going to be sick! I can’t…I’m going to…I’m going to puke! I’m going to…

“Oh, God!”

My head’s spinning! I can’t think! I can’t see! I can’t see straight! What do I do? What the fuck do I do? Charlie! Help me! I don’t know what to do! I need you! Tell me what to do! Please! I don’t know what to do!

“Charlie! Help me, please! Please! I don’t know what to do! I need you! Where are you? Charlie, help me!”

Stop it! Charlie’s not here! I need to find him! Stop it! Stop crying! I can’t! I can’t stop! I can’t stop crying! You have to! Stop it! Pull yourself together! I have to get out of here! Between me and Cole screaming, somebody heard it! They’ll call the cops! They’ll come get me! They won’t believe me! They’ll say I murdered him! They’ll lock me up! No! I can’t let them! No! I have to get out of here! Pull yourself together! No! It won’t work! Look at all that blood! It’s everywhere! It’s all over me! They’ll say I murdered him! They’ll see the blood! They’ll lock me up! My parents will find out! They’ll tell them I murdered him! No! I can’t let that happen! I can’t! I can’t! It’ll kill them! I can’t let that happen! I can’t!

I can’t let them catch me! I have to…I have to kill myself! Now! Right now! Slit my wrists! Bleed to death! Right now! I have to! God, I’m scared! I’m so fucking scared! I can’t stop shaking! Do it! Kill yourself! Right now! Right now! Do it! Just do it! Finish it! Slit your wrists! Slit your goddamned throat if you can! Do it! Hurry! Just fucking finish it! Now! OK! OK, I can do this! Just take it easy. Roll up my sleeve. My coat. My coat sleeve. I can do this. I’ve got little wrists. It’ll be easy. I won’t have to cut too deep. It’s going to hurt. Oh, God! It’s going to hurt so bad! I don’t want to do this! I don’t want to go out this way! Not like this! Not down here! Not next to him! Please, God! Not like this! But I have to! I can’t stand up! I can’t walk! I’ll never find Charlie now! Why? Why weren’t you here, Charlie? Why weren’t you here when I needed you? Everything’s ruined! It’s not supposed to be like this! Not like this, God! What are you going to do to me now? I killed him! I’m a murderer! Oh, God! I never killed anyone before! Never! I did horrible things, but I never killed anyone! Until now! Now look what I’ve done! I killed someone on the last fucking night of my life! Why? Why did you let this happen? Why did you let me kill him? Why did you let this happen? Why? I killed him! Look at me! I’ve got his fucking blood all over me! It isn’t fair! It’s isn’t fair!

Shut up! Stop crying! Stop whining! Come on! Get it over with! No more! No more of this shit! I can’t take it anymore! I’ve had it! I just want it over! Stop crying! Don’t think about it! Don’t think about the pain! Don’t think about it! It’s all right. It won’t hurt very long. Do the left one first. Roll up your sleeve. That’s it. Go on, cut it! The knife’s still sharp. It’s razor sharp. I can do it. I can do it! Wait! Not yet! Not like this! The blade’s all bloody. It’s his blood! I don’t want his blood getting in mine. I don’t want anything of that fucking pig touching me! Wipe it off! Wipe it on your sleeve. God! Look at my sleeve! Look at all of that blood! No! Don’t look! Don’t look at it! Just wipe it off! That’s it. Wipe it off. See? It’s clean. All of the blood’s gone. OK, that’s better. Now I can do it. I can do it! Come on, get it over with! Stop crying! You know what to do! You have to do it! Just push the blade against your wrist. That’s it! Push! Harder! Oh, God! It hurts! It hurts! Don’t think about it! Push harder! Ow! God, help me! OK, now cut! Drag the blade across and push down hard! You have to cut deep! Don’t think about the pain. It hurts! Oh, God! It hurts so much! It’s like fire! It burns! Don’t think about it! Calm down! Take a deep breath. That’s it! Take another one. See? It’s no big deal. OK, I’m ready! Try again! Push the blade against the skin. Push harder! Harder! Oh, God! It hurts so much! So much! Stop it! Stop crying! Hurry! Don’t think about it! Forget the pain! Do it! Do it now!

I can’t do it! I can’t! It hurts! It hurts too much! Oh, God! I can’t do it! Please help me, God! Please! I can’t do it! I can’t! I’m too scared! I’m too scared! I’ve got to get out of here! Please! Please get me out of here! Please, God! Please! I’ve got to get out of here! I’ve to get…I’ve got to run! I’ve got to… Oh, God! It hurts! It hurts so much! I can’t stand up! I can’t stand up! Please help me! God, please help me! I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! Please help me get up! Please, God!

That’s it! Get up! On your feet! Do it! Do it now! I’ve got to get up. I’ve got to get out of here. I can do it. Take a deep breath. That’s it. Now stand up. Stand up! God! God, it hurts! Shut up! Don’t think about it! Stand up! Lean against something if you have to! God damn it, Miranda! You have to get up! I have to. I have to get up! That’s it! Stand up! One leg at a time! One leg, then the other. That’s it. Oh, God! My ankle! It hurts so much! Don’t think about it! Stand on the other foot! That’s it! See? I’m up! I’m standing up! I did it! All right. Just hold on. Take a breath. Take a deep breath. That’s it. Now, take a step. Just one step. Fuck! Oh, God! It hurts so much! Don’t think about it! That’s it. Keep walking. God, I’m shaking! I feel like I’m going to shake myself apart! Stop it! Stop shaking! Stop shaking! I have to pull my ass together! I’ve got to get out of here! I can do it! Move! There’s so much blood! So much blood! It’s everywhere! Everywhere! So much blood! Don’t think about it! Forget it! Forget the fucking blood! That’s it. Keep moving. The gate’s up ahead. Not much further. Keep moving! Forward! Toward the gate! Lean on the wall! Don’t think about the pain! Forget the pain! Keep moving! One step at a time! Keep going! Don’t stop! I can do this! I can do it! I can get out. That’s it. Now, move! Get going! I’m wasting time. Move! Do it!

Oh, my God! Look at him! How many times did I stick him? A hundred? He’s covered in blood! It’s everywhere! His shirt’s completely soaked through! What have I done? Look at him! I gutted him! There’s stab wounds everywhere! His arms! His chest! His gut! Even his face! What did I do? How could I do that? Even to him! I fucking slaughtered him! I’m fucked! I’m so fucked! I’m a murderer! I’m going straight to hell for sure! How could I do that? I never…I never killed anyone before! Never! No matter what happened to me! But now? Look at him!

Shut up! Stop looking at him! He’s dead! He’s dead and there’s nothing I can do about it! He’s a fucking rapist! He tried to rape me! He would’ve killed me after he finished! He deserved it! Just stop thinking about it and keep moving! Turn here! It’s this way! There! I see the gate! Right up ahead! There’s no one there. It’s clear. No people. No cops. Thank God! I’ve got to get out of here before somebody sees this shit! Somebody’s got to be coming! With all of that screaming? Everybody in the fucking sector’s probably headed this way!

Squeeze through the gate. God, it hurts! I think he broke my rib! It hurts so much! Fuck it! Keep going! See? I’m out! I can do it. I can do this. Just keep walking. There’s nobody here. Nobody on the street. Listen. I don’t hear anything. Nothing at all. It’s so quiet. There’s nothing. Maybe nobody heard me? That figures. I screamed my goddamned head off and nobody heard it. I fucking killed a guy and he screamed his head off and nobody heard it. Nobody came to help me. Nobody came to stop it. Jesus Christ, do they ever? Just keep going! Don’t stop! Don’t think about the pain. Just fight through it! Keep moving!

Oh, my God! I think I’m going to puke again! I can’t believe I killed him! I killed him! I’m a murderer! I don’t care if he deserved it, I’m a goddamned murderer! He was begging me to stop and I just kept on sticking him! Over and over and over! I wanted to kill him! I wanted him dead, and I wouldn’t stop because I wanted him fucking dead! That’s murder! No way is than not murder! Oh, God! What have I done? I’m not…I never…oh, God! I murdered him! I’m a murder! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it! I swear, I didn’t mean it! God, please help me! Please!

Wait! I hear something! Oh, fuck! It’s a siren! A police siren! It’s headed this way! I need to get out of here! How? I can’t run! It hurts too much to run! What do I do? Hide! Find somewhere to hide! Where? Where am I? I can’t think! I can’t think straight! I don’t know what to do! Somebody help me! Charlie! Tell me what to do! Please! I don’t know what to do! I can’t think! I want to start screaming again! What do I do?

Just sit! Sit down! Right on the sidewalk! I’m homeless. I belong out here. If I just sit down and act like I’m asleep, they’ll just drive right past me. They won’t care. They won’t suspect anything. I’m just another homeless piece of shit, sleeping on the sidewalk like a fucking dog. No one cares. No one pays any attention. Do it! Sit down! Duck your head so they can’t see the blood on your face. It’s dark on this block. They probably won’t see the blood on my pants. That’s it…oh, fuck! It hurts! God, just sitting down fucking hurts! Everything hurts! Be quiet! Shut the fuck up, Miranda! Don’t attract any attention! If they light me up, they’ll see all of this fucking blood for sure! That’s it. You’re down. Now, lean against the wall like you’ve done ten thousand times before. Just duck your head down and don’t move. Don’t fucking move!

There they are! Red lights and sirens! Don’t look at them! Keep your head down! They’re going really fast. Too fast. I don’t think they’re going to stop at the gate of the alley. Good! Just keep going! Don’t stop here. There’s no way in hell I can run if they do. God, I’ve never been in so much pain in my life! Everything hurts! I think I’ve got a broken rib. My left side’s killing me. I think that piece of shit broke it when he hit me. Fuck him! He had it coming! I know it’s a sin and I know it’s wrong and I know I’m not supposed to feel that way, but I do. I’m glad he’s dead! I hope he burns in hell for a hundred billion years! Fucking rapist! I hope he goes to hell and gets raped every minute of every day for fucking eternity! I know it’s a horrible thing to think that way, but that’s how I feel. I’m sorry, God. You can take it out of my ass in a little bit. I know I’ve got it coming, but I hope you understand why I did what I did. I just…I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop myself. I hated him so much for what he did and I knew he’d kill me when he was done, and I couldn’t let him do that. I couldn’t let him rape me. And I couldn’t die like that. If I died like that, then there’s no way I’d ever rest in peace. I believe that. I really do. So why do I still feel like total fucking shit about it?

There they go! Right past me! Good! I guess they’ve got better things to do than to check out some people screaming. Hey, it’s not like they ever do, right? What’s one more homeless junkie woman getting raped out here? What’s one more piece of shit rapist getting stabbed to death? It’s just par for the course out here. Everybody knows it. If he’d raped me and they caught him, I’ll bet they wouldn’t even send him to prison for it. They’d say “NHI, honey.” No human involved. No crime here; just some whore on the street getting what she deserved. They’d probably say I was a whore and Cole just refused to pay for it afterward. He’d be out in a few days so he could rape me again. And he would. That’s par for the course out here, too.

All right, they’re gone. I have to get up. Fuck! I don’t know if I can! I don’t think I can do it! I hurt too much, and my brain’s all scrambled! I can’t think! I can barely breathe! God, please! Just kill me! Right here! Right now! Just strike me dead and take me away from this fucking place! Please! Please kill me! Please! I can’t do this! I’m all used up! I don’t have the strength anymore! Please, God! Please just kill me right here!

Shut up, Miranda! God’s not going to strike you dead. He knows I’ve asked him to do it ten thousand times, and he’s never done it before, so he’s not going to do it now. It’s up to me. I have to do it for myself. That’s the plan. That’s what I swore I was going to do tonight, and now there’s not a doubt in my mind that it’s the right thing to do. This night is all the proof I need that I’m not meant to live another fucking day on this earth. Not one more fucking day. So I have to get up and get to the Mayflower. I’ve got to find Charlie. And then I’ve got to finish it. I can do that. I’ve got enough left to do that. Just enough. Barely enough. But enough.

It’s not too far. Just down the street a ways, and then right. I can make it. Barely, but I can make it. God, it’s starting to drizzle. Why am I not surprised? Everything else has gone wrong tonight, so why not the weather? I prayed that it wouldn’t rain tonight. I didn’t want to die in the rain. I guess I should be lucky it held off this long. Well, it’s almost over. Just a little further. God, it hurts! It hurts so much! Why? Why does God hate me so much? He does, you know. He hates me. Why else would he let so much shit happen to me? Why else would he let my last night on earth go to shit? He hates me. It’s the only explanation. I guess the “why” doesn’t matter. He’s God. He gets to hate whoever he wants. He hated Esau, and he hates me. I just pray his hatred ends when I’m dead. I pray he decides that he’s fucked with me enough. He got his licks in, so that should be enough. Please, God! Please let it be enough! I can’t take any more! No one could!

All right, it’s just over there. Just down the street. There’s no one around. At least, I don’t see anyone hanging around. Please don’t let me run into anyone but Charlie. I couldn’t fight back if someone tried to rape me now. Or kill me. If someone just wants to stick a knife in my back and end it, that’s fine with me. But I’m not that lucky. I’ve never been that lucky. So please don’t let there be anyone here but Charlie. Maybe the rain’s a lucky break? It’s barely drizzling right now, but everyone out here knows it’s just the beginning. They’ll be looking for someplace to stay dry. Good. Let them find someplace. Let them do anything except fuck with me. I’ve been fucked with enough tonight for ten lifetimes.

There’s the Mayflower. Such a pretty name for such an ugly place. I know, I’m just rambling. Babbling. I have to. It’s all I can do to keep from screaming and never stopping. I can’t think straight. My brain’s completely shot. I can barely focus on finding Charlie. He’s a hundred feet away from me and I can barely concentrate on finding him. I’m so tired. I can barely stay awake. I can barely stay conscious. I feel like I’m going to die any minute, now. I honestly do. I feel like I’m just going to die, right here and right now. I wish I would. I wish I could. I wish I could just close my eyes and say “I’m finished” and bang! Instant death! No such luck. So I’ve got to keep going. God, what’s going to happen when the cops find Cole’s body? They’ll figure it out. They’ll figure out that I killed him. My blood’s back there in that alley. My hair. My fingerprints. Everything they need to ID me is back there. God, they’re going to tell my family! When they figure out that I killed him, they’ll track them down and tell them what happened! They’ll tell them that I murdered him! They’ll say Cole raped me and I killed him! Or they’ll say I was a whore and I let him fuck me and when he wouldn’t pay for it, I killed him! My parents are going to know I’m a murderer! And they’ll think I was a fucking whore! Please don’t let that happen, God! Please! Not that! It’ll kill them! It’ll kill them both! Don’t let that happen, God! Please!

Stop crying! Crying won’t help! Find Charlie! He’ll know what to do. Charlie always knows what to do. He’ll think of something. He’ll think of something that I never would’ve thought of on my own. He knows everything. He knows everything about living on the street. He’ll find a way. He will. He’ll find a way so that they never find out about this. I know he will. He’s never failed me. He won’t fail me now. Not mow. Not when I need him so much. More than I ever did before. Charlie will fix it. He’ll find a way to fix it. I just have to find him. That’s all. I just have to find him.

My hands are shaking. I can’t make it stop. I think my head’s bleeding again. And I feel dizzy. I think maybe I’ve got a concussion. Cole really bashed my head against the ground. He may have fractured my skull. It’s possible. I’m pretty sure Ricky softened it up for him. I have to be careful. If I have a concussion, I could pass out in a heartbeat. I could just take a step and fall on my face, unconscious. I have to be careful. Stay alert. Stay awake. Don’t pass out. Don’t stop. Keep going. Don’t think about the pain. Don’t think about what I just did. Don’t think about the blood. Don’t think about that fucking pig putting his hand between my legs and…stop it! Don’t think about it! Just keep going! Hurry! You’re running out of time! Move! Get over there! Find Charlie! Don’t think! Just move!

The lights are still on out front, but Charlie wouldn’t go through the front door. He may be skid row royalty to us, but to them, he’s just another homeless black junkie. They wouldn’t let him through the door. No, he’d either go for a side window into the basement, or for the back door in the alley behind the building. Jesus, could Charlie even fit through one of the windows? He’s definitely on the fat side for that, but I’ve seen him squeeze into places I never thought he’d fit. I’ll check the basement windows on the side. See if any of them are unlocked. Charlie knows better that to break the glass to get in. He’d get cut to shit by the broken glass, and even if he didn’t, the noise would probably alert somebody inside. He’s smarter than that. He’d shim the latch. This place is old. The windows are old. It wouldn’t be too hard.

OK, none of the windows is propped open. I’ll have to try them all. Just give each one a tug. Charlie wouldn’t shut the latch once he got inside. It would slow him down if he had to get out in a hurry. He taught me that. See? Charlie thinks of everything. He’ll know what to do about…about what happened. God, I can barely bring myself to say it! Why? Why did that have to happen to me? I guess I should just be thankful Cole didn’t rape me. If he had, that would’ve been it. I would’ve gone completely zombie. I’d be one of the tinfoil hat crowd for the rest of my life. I’d be out here for years. Maybe even decades. It would’ve been a fate worse than death. A million times worse. I couldn’t handle it. I know that. I’d never have been able to come back from it. No fucking way.

Fuck! These windows are latched! All of them! Some of them feel like they’re painted shut! How the fuck would he get inside? I guess that leaves the back door. Charlie’s no locksmith, but I’ve seen him shim a few doors open over the years. That must be what he did. Please, God! Please let him be here! I used up all of my strength getting here! I don’t have any left! And I don’t have time to go looking for him anywhere else. I don’t even know how the hell I’m going to make it back to Miranda’s Place before sunrise. It’s getting close. It’s still pitch dark, but I know it’s got to be getting close to sunrise. Jesus, I can’t even see my fucking watch! My eyes are too blurry. I don’t know if it’s from the concussion, or because I can’t stop crying. Just hurry up! Get into the alley and see if the door’s open! Hurry!

Christ, this alley’s fucking dark! There’s not a light in it! Just a little bit of light from the streetlight at the end of the block. Please don’t let me run into anyone back here except Charlie! They’ll think I’m trying to steal their dry spot and they’ll kick the living shit out of me. It’ll probably kill me, but with the way my luck’s been running tonight, I’ll probably just end up being paralyzed or something. I don’t hear anyone. I don’t hear anything. That’s a good sign. Just take it slow. Lean against the wall. God, I feel like I’m going to fucking keel over! Just lean against the wall so I don’t fall down. That’s it. Go slow. The door’s about halfway down. At least, I think it is. I’m trying to remember, but I can’t think straight. I don’t remember the last time I was back here. It’s been a while. Just keep going. It’s a little further. It’s…wait! There’s someone there! Right over there, in front of me! Fuck! What do I do? I can’t run! I can’t fight! What do I…oh, my God! I think that’s Charlie!

“Charlie? Is that you?”

“What? Oh, hey, girl! Yeah, it’s me. What the hell are you doing down this way?”

I don’t believe it! I found him! I found Charlie! Thank you, God! Thank you so much! I found him! He’s here!

“Charlie! I’ve been trying to find you…oh, Jesus! Charlie!”

Oh, my God! Oh, my God!

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