31 | The Scare Tactic
I was not ready for Terrence and Lawrence to leave.
I sit on the bed, facing the door, greeted by silence yet unable to anticipate how long it will last. I’m not ready to see Spencer. Last night had been a disaster—an unraveling of threads woven everywhere. The revelation of what the Bishop brothers do for a living is bothersome but Spencer’s involvement bothers me the most. I already hated Terrence before knowing what he does for a living; learning he is a hitman does not make me hate him any more than I already had. Lawrence’s role, identical to Terrence’s from what I’ve gathered, does not take me out at the knees since he does not reside under the same roof as I do.
But it is not an easy pill to swallow and digest, realizing that at all times a killer is only feet away from me no matter where I am in this house. I may not be on their list of targets but the fact that they can kill without conscience is unsettling. I wonder how they can sleep so peacefully at night.
I have to use the washroom but I don’t want to leave the spare room. Chances are Spencer is crashing from staying awake all night but I’m afraid if the sound of my footsteps don’t wake him then the sound of the toilet flushing will. I’m also beyond parched. I wish everything I needed was at the tips of my fingers. When I leave the comfort of the bed I am going to have a difficult time returning to it.
I lay still for what feels like forever. About three hours have passed since Lawrence and Terrence left. I don’t know when they will be back. I want to wait until they are back to escape to the washroom but I don’t think it’s viable. I’m as scared to exit the spare room as I am to enter it. Nothing comes naturally anymore. I’m so aware of everything I do as if it was my lack of awareness that led to the invasion in the first place.
I cannot hold it off anymore. My legs are clenched as tightly as I can manage. The sound of water dripping echoes in my ears. Dang you, bladder, dang you.
I lower myself onto the floor as quietly as possible, wincing, feeling lucky if I’ll be able to make it to the bathroom on time. I tip-toe as fast but nimbly as I can, opening the door a sliver as I peak out into the house. Sure enough it is empty and I am alone up here. But I don’t feel alone. I press my back to the wall, investigating all angles around me as I sneak into the bathroom. I shut the door carefully, barely enough time to turn the light on.
I shudder as the toilet flushes, washing my hands before splashing my face. I meet my reflection in the mirror. I look like a mess. I feel like I’ve aged ten years in the past few hours. This only makes me want to run into Spencer less for some reason. I feel ashamed, like there is no reason to allow recent events to interfere with me the way that they are. I should be stronger, angrier, less afraid. I should only want out of here more. But I am afraid of what could happen without the protection of the Bishops. The outsiders in their inner circle have caught a whiff of me.
I wait a few minutes before leaving the bathroom, only stepping out when I am convinced Spencer is still downstairs. I tip-toe to the kitchen, observing my surroundings, the hair on the back of my neck standing up. I fill a glass of water and chug it. The leaves are starting to brown. I don’t mind. I love autumn. What I don’t love is that it marks my soon-to-be second season here.
By the time I hear footsteps coming up from the basement stairs it’s too late to make it back into the spare room. I spin, back pressed to the counter, setting the empty glass in the sink. Despite not feeling ready to see Spencer I feel ready to confront him. He doesn’t know that I know what him and his brothers do. I’m not sure how civil this conversation will be. I had allowed myself to be transparent with Spencer, willingly nonetheless, and I can’t take those moments back.
I’m waiting intently for him as he peeks around the corner. I grant him two steps and then I tell him to stop which he does. He’s tired, eyes bloodshot and hair ruffled. You’d think it was him who had a bad night.
“Blythe,” he begins.
“I know what you do for a living. I know you’re all hitmen,” I assert. Once I say the last word I can’t look at him anymore, turning my attention to the floor. “What’s it like killing people as a profession? You said you consider it to be sport, right? I remember you saying you enjoy doing what you do as well, right? Although...”
I tap a finger to my chin, eyes to the ceiling in mock thought.
“If I recall correctly you do a slightly different job from your brothers,” I hum to myself. “What was it you were explaining to me that one time? Ah, yes! That’s right. They do quick and easy, you do slow and steady, yadda yadda you get the picture. I find that a bit interesting. You serve a special purpose but what is this special purpose you serve...”
Spencer is speechless, doesn’t know how to respond. He didn’t predict one day I’d use his own words against him, probably never humored the idea that I’d find out one day what him and his brothers do for a living. I feel so angry with him. My mettle is not resolute, far from bulletproof. I do not know how to bounce back from all that’s been discovered.
“Slow and steady...” I pounder aloud, eyes all over the ceiling, until it hits me. “I bet you’re the guy that asks questions, aren’t you? You’re the guy that gets the call when answers are needed. You get the answers.”
I meet his grey, grey irises. They’re alive as ever, quivering like thunder.
“You,” I remove the finger from my chin and point it at him instead. “Are the scare tactic.”
“And what does this mean for us now?” he asks. “You scared of me too, now?”
“Us?” I smile then laugh. “There is no ‘us’. There is you and me but there is no us. There has never been an us. You—"
“But are you scared of me?”
“No,” I shake my head. “I’m not scared of you. I’m not scared of any of you. I can’t say I’m happy to hear what you guys do but I’m not scared. I’m scared of the lifestyle, one-hundred percent I am. But you? Terrence? Lawrence? No. I feel sorry for all of you.”
“Why do you feel sorry for us?”
“Because none of you know any different,” I shake my head solemnly. “Your professions are the only thing going for any of you. But there are so many different things all of you could have become. You’re all incredibly gifted and intelligent. You could have enhanced society; instead you guys are one of its many stains and I think that’s unfortunate. And I think it’s a waste. If you guys had better influences growing up you all could have led safe, fulfilling lives. Instead you make enemies at every corner—but I’m certain that’s what you all intend on since it gives you more people to kill and more money in your pockets.”
“Did you give Terrence the third degree as well?” he narrows his eyes.
“He did not get past me unscathed,” I purse my lips, taking a step towards him. My hands converse with me. “Why? Is it hard to be confronted by me? Did you like it better when I was oblivious? Is it not so much fun anymore now that I’m in on your dirty little secret?”
“I did not want you to find out the way that you did,” I can tell he wants to come near me but he refrains. He’ll let me do all the walking for now. “I know it is going to change things between us and yes, there is an us. Even though you want to toss me to the curb I have no intentions of doing the same to you. I am sorry for what happened to you last night, Blythe, and I know you are thinking that we are no better than those two men but you are wrong—"
“Oh, let me guess. You and your brothers don’t kill women and children, right, so that makes you upstanding citizens. How could I be so blind?” I scratch my head, shaking it. I take another step toward him. “Man, I’m surprised none of you have been given keys to the city yet. That just absolutely blows my mind. That’s the real crime here!”
“Okay, you’ve made your point,” Spencer holds his hands up in surrender, licking his lips. “What can I do to fix this?”
“You need to stay away from me. We are not friends, we are not acquaintances, we are not anything. We are strangers,” My fingers graze one of my wrists. I furrow my brows. “Terrence knows, by the way. But that has no impact on my decision to end this ridiculous tryst between us.”
“Did you tell him?” he fires at me.
“No,” it comes out aggressive. I take a breath. “Late last night before everything happened I came out for food because Terrence went outside. I was going to take the plate he set aside for me to the spare room but he came in and bombarded me. Then he made me wash the dishes after. He found it suspicious that I wasn’t rolling up my sleeves. Made me show him my wrists. Knew right away why I was trying to hide them.”
Spencer clenches his jaw, taking a step toward me. Before I know what I’m doing I’m pressed against the counter again.
“What did he do afterwards?” his eyes narrow. He’s upset.
“He advised me against doing it again,” I can’t bring myself to give him any details. I’m not sure he’d want to hear them anyway. He’d probably feel as dirty as I do. “A warning is all I need. It’s all you should need, too.”
“You spent the night with Terrence,” Spencer says. I flinch as he says it. “You must have been in bad shape to have asked him to hold you. I heard you got decked. They were going to slit your throat. All of this happened after Terrence cornered you, which is what I’m assuming he did otherwise I know you would have taken what was going on between us to your grave. And now you look at me like you wish I was dead. You cannot stand there and tell me Terrence has nothing to do with this.”
“He is only one small part of the whole issue here,” my bottom lip wobbles. “And either way I don’t need to explain myself to you. Killing men is sport to you. You enjoy it. You find it fun. I bet you love the blood, and the gore, and the sound of men begging you to spare their lives. Terrence was right about you. You put on a front and I allowed myself to be deceived by you. You’re an absolute psychopath, textbook case almost. Terrence isn’t right about a lot of things but he hit the nail on the head when it comes to you.”
“What did Terrence do to you?” Spencer asks, taking another step. And then another. And then another.
“Don’t,” I cry out, hands in front of me. He listens, halting. “He didn’t...he didn’t do anything. He let me off with a warning. I don’t want to test him. You and I can’t continue sneaking around. I don’t want any more trouble.”
“I’m supposed to believe that he didn’t do anything?” If the topic wasn’t so deep Spencer would almost seem amused by it all. “What did he do to you?”
“He didn’t do anything,” my voice is pleading, eyes watering. I’m ready to go back to the spare room without any hesitations or pause. “It’s you. It’s what you do. I don’t know how you can be proud of it. I don’t know how you enjoy doing it. I don’t know how you can stand there and look at me like I’m crazy for being appalled by this—"
“I don’t think you’re crazy. I just know you wouldn’t be getting emotional over it the way you are. It’s Terrence that’s making you want to cry. Go ahead. Try telling me otherwise.”
“I—I,” I purse my lips. If I blink tears are going to roll with impeccable timing down my cheeks and I don’t want that. I widen my eyes, dropping them to the floor. “Don’t want anything to do with you.”
I step away from the counter, preparing to go around Spencer and back into the spare room but just as I try to pass him he reaches out and grabs my bicep. I gasp and out of sheer impulse I raise my free hand and slap him square across the face. I hit him hard enough that it hurts my palm. He lets me go and I stagger back, guilt setting in right away at what I have done. Hot rheum rolls down my cheeks. I can’t believe I’ve just hit him. I’m reminded of getting struck last night and it makes me feel like the villain.
Spencer cups his cheek not out of pain but out of shock. He can’t believe that I have hit him. I can’t believe it either. I should be fleeing but I can’t move. He doesn’t look angry. He wants answers. He knows that he doesn’t know everything. All he wants is my candor. I feel that I’ve told him too much already. He blurs from all the tears in my eyes. I don’t know what I’m expecting to happen. My feet are like cinder blocks weighing me down.
He releases his cheek and pivots to me. I feel like a big baby, crying incessantly, not even sure what it is that makes me as emotional as I am. Probably a little dash of everything. I think this is the first time I’ve cried in front of Spencer and it’s a whole new type of vulnerable I’m not ready to be around him. All I feel is shame. My palm stings and pulsates. I place my hand over my mouth and clench my eyes shut. I hear his footsteps.
His arms are around me and, in spite of myself, I relax. I cling onto him, Terrence’s threat from last night tossed out the window. I forget Spencer is the sadistic Bishop. He holds me like a friend; someone safe, someone honest. I wish I could unlearn all the bad things I know about him—some bold things he admitted of himself, especially. Ignorance is bliss. But he is already tainted. But for now I am colorblind.
“I’m not letting Terrence come between us,” Spencer says.
“You—we have no choice.”
“Yes we do,” his voice is firm. “You’re going to tell me what he did to you then we will go from there.”
“Go from where? To where?”
“We’ll figure it out, Blythe,” he reassures, smoothing my hair.