Chapter 6 Rescue him
I stepped over the doorman and through the door. The house was dark and smoky and smelled like weed and burning plastic. Don’t ask me how I know what they smell like.
Loud music playing, it sounded like a mix of salsa and dubstep. A mongrel jungle beat getting deep down into your veins and shaking them like a tensile rope bridge.
It was a relatively cramped house, a corridor connected a series of dimly lit rooms. Two bedrooms otherwise occupied by people in varying stages of undress and intoxication. Writhing like they were about to be turned into pillars of salt at any minute. The house was almost like a living thing, I felt like I was walking on a carpet of raw nerves. There were eyes everywhere in the dark watching and not watching. Peeling back to view the insides of their skulls. And there were literally just people lying on the floor in the hall and I may have stepped on a couple of them. Sorry.
People talking in varying dialects crossing English bad English and Spanish. None of which I could understand over the loud beat drowning out all my senses. It was so loud and thick it was like my head was in a box.
All the while it was building and building shaking the walls of my chest. My heart beating just out of time with the rhythm as we worked closer to the source of the sound. I clung close to Paul as he walked in front of me, my hand in his, my face at his back. I could feel the gun under his jacket, I could smell the strong scent of his cologne. A fresh musky smell like pine cones. It was oddly comforting, soothing as we waded through this den of iniquity together.
We reached an opening in the wall a light coming from it. We entered the living room which was uncharacteristically lavish and well lit. A large flat screen on the wall playing one of the fast and furious movies with no sound. God knows which one, they’re pretty much indistinguishable at this point.
A large leather couch pointed at it with a glass coffee table laden with a veritable banquet of Chinese takeout. The varying smells drifting and mingling into one greasy mass at the back of my sinus wall.
The room was decked out almost like a small nightclub. A disco ball on the ceiling spinning pointlessly as the light was on so there were just odd dots of dim sparkling orbs around the room. A small kitchenette in the corner had been converted into what looked like a real granite bar. Complete with a stalwart bartender in a santé muerte mask and bowtie standing with his hands behind his back. The smiling skull face staring out with empty black eyes a mid a red tribal pattern. Very scary.
Was it like this every night I wondered.
The music was coming from two huge speakers connected to an iPhone either side of a fake fireplace under the flat screen.
We entered softly trying not to draw too much attention almost tiptoeing on the hardwood floor. The safest thing to do seemed to be go to the bar at the back of the room. Get a drink and maybe try to gravitate to a dark corner and pretend to watch the movie.
We crossed the room completely oblivious to the other people in it. A certain shy sheepishness had come over me and I couldn’t raise my head for fear of it being bitten off by a bigger dog.
“Hey” A hoarse voice fought over the noise of the speakers.
‘Who me?’ I froze.
“Yeah you” I turned my head like a wooden figurine on a rusty cuckoo clock and looked over at the couch in the general direction of the voice.
A moment past, charging feet over my grave. Stomping down the dirt flat and dancing and laughing. The little hissing voice inside the dark well chuckling silently. Spitting into a crescendo of ever faster beating wings rising from the deep dark murk.
It was him.
No mistaking it, I can’t say I was too surprised, I was in his house after all.
He sat on the leather coach wearing a pair of baggy jeans and basketball jersey. Sandwiched in between two ethnic looking prostitutes. Large Hispanic men who were definitely carrying guns or machetes or both under their Hawaiian shirts stood like bookends on either side of the coach. His face was young and he looked very short sitting down, a wispy dark goatee on his chin, his hair slicked back on his head in a wavy pattern. Very thin with almost puppet like movements.
I looked around again feeling dumb and drowning in the spotlight pointing at myself literally like ‘who me?’. Paul was at the bar already ordering some drinks which seemed like an ocean away his back turned as I stared intently at Ruez’s sneakers.
“Yeah, you! Are you deaf or something?”
My eyes flashed up and caught his and he gave me an odd look, almost like he recognised me. I heard a catatonic purring noise inside. He didn’t stand, he just stared at me up and down, probing me. I felt naked and almost like I’d forgotten how to stand. Every gesture seeming practiced and awkward, how-to-human?
Did he know? Could he see it, could he hear it? Was this it? Was I about to have a cap popped into my ass and spend the last few minutes of sentience rolled up in a cheap rug?
“Yeah can you like get out of the way?” He said with his hands. “We’re trying to watch a movie here”.
“Err sorry” Said dumb dithering Diana smiling like an idiot.
I moved out of the way, my eyes beating up and down to his and then his shoes and then the floor as I watched him watch me go. He went back to cavorting with the pros. He wasn’t even watching that movie.
I almost bumped into Paul as he turned. Two glasses of some indeterminate golden liquid in two square tumblers in his hands. Wrapped in white napkins with little black straws sticking out of them. The bartender gave a little bow, I was impressed.
“Sex on the beach” He said smirking. “Don’t worry, mine is a virgin” His smirk increased.
“Uh huh” I took a sip from the black straw still looking at his smirk. “Let’s hope it stays that way”. That was dumb. But he laughed anyway. Who says women can’t be funny? I felt a little shaky, like I needed something to hold on to. He’d have to do.
We found our dark corner and sipped our drinks in comfortable silence. It was pretty good, I couldn’t even taste the booze. I wasn’t much of a drinker and my fast metabolism made it pretty hard for me to get stupid drunk. I wasn’t worried about vomiting on my potential victims Jordans. Or making an ass of myself generally.
Some time passed of standing and pretending we were having fun, well I was pretending, maybe he was too. He was a lot better at it than me. Here in the lion’s den, he didn’t seem to have a care in the world. But he caught me looking.
My eyes drifted over to the couch and my probably prey for a moment and Paul’s face dropped as he followed my quick glance over at Ruez. In an instant he was that person again, a quick flash of a harsh blank slate, a vicious mirror. A cold malevolence flowing over him and passing quickly, his smile rolling back over his face. “Just gimme a minute” He said as he put his drink down on the bar.
“Wait Paul, you can’t-” I started to feel heavy and dull like I wading through water. Like I was in a dream up to my knees in cotton candy. My head was swimming, a dim chuckle inside and a sudden mugginess. I felt light headed, the lights of the disco ball getting brighter.
I watched him walk over and stand in front of the TV, like I was watching one of the good Tarrantino movies. True romance, that was Tarrantino right? He stood in the way of the TV and said something like “Can you turn the music down, I wanna talk to you”.
Ruez was being obstinant and telling him to move. Pretending he couldn’t hear him and then turning and laughing with his paid cohorts at Paul’s expense. What was he doing, he wasn’t John Wayne or John Wicke, this wasn’t a movie, or was it?
My head was spinning, I put my hand on my head as the music rang in and out, I started to feel nauseous, how much booze was in this? I looked up and the movie got worse as the doorman limped in helped by some extras that looked a lot meaner. He was saying something in Spanish drowned out by the music and I just watched and sipped my drink waiting for the good bit.
Paul just stood there, waiting. Waiting for what, for them to make the first move.
My head was killing me and I could almost feel my fingers opening and closing and losing sensation. Slipping on the condensation from the glass. I looked for a place to put my glass down and looking down I noticed something strange.
Now that most of the golden liquid was gone I could see the napkin through the glass. There was something written in pen on the inside.
‘Do you see?’
The glass dropped out of my hand and like someone stole the bones from my legs I followed after down into the dark place.
Eyes open, my head was pounding, but not because of the music. I was drugged, duped. That was him, was that him? Mr Santé muerte, the saint of death.
Sensations started to return to me, hot cold, dry wet, up, down. I felt my limbs moving clumsily, aching with atrophy. I felt numb and weak and hollow. Don’t drink on an empty stomach right?
I felt dumber than ever and the pain in my head was like an alarm bell, smarten up Diana. You walked right into a trap, you played his game and now you’re lying face down on a drug dealers floor.
But I could move, my arms weren’t bound by anything but gravity and sweat. As far as I could tell they were still attached.
My eyes fluttered and consciousness came back soggy and aggrieved. My head felt two sizes too small and cold as the slab against the wood floor.
The jungle music had stopped. A small atonal twinkling twanging guitar and a woman’s melodic voice muted by layers of drywall coming from the other room took its place.
Stirred, I summoned my limbs to move and they did, however slowly and meekly, how long had I been lying dumb and detached on the floor?
I saw the disco ball and knew exactly where I was. It wasn’t spinning anymore and the room was empty. The smell of cold Chinese food grease hanging on the drapes, probably seeped deep into my pores and god knows what was on the floor.
I need a shower, maybe two, but showers can wait.
I must have been very dumb, the drug still working its way through my system, dirt and grime were the least of my worries. I scanned the room quickly, it was still lit up like Christmas but everyone was gone and taken the presents with them. Like I missed the rapture and all the good folks were scooped up by the man in the sky to live in his big fluffy beard. The iPhone was gone but the speakers still buzzed and hummed with white noise.
The music was coming from deeper in the house. I called upon my knees and they creaked in answer. I got up, steadying myself with the glass coffee table, careful not to spill cold foo young on Ruez’s floor.
Finding my feet. My knees buckled a little and I had to learn to walk like a new-born fowl for about three steps before I fell against the wall and the light switch. Accidentally turning off the lights and turning the disco ball back on. The room was finally a disco inferno, little beams of sparkling light spinning slowly.
Then under the sparkling beams of light I noticed the display. I’m not sure how I missed it or how it became clear to me under the light of the disco ball.
I guess I just didn’t want to see them until now, or maybe I was waiting for my mind to become un-fuzzy. It would take every ounce of my powerful brain to process and enjoy such a spectacle.
Some kind soul had carefully placed four headless corpses on the leather couch. They were posed as if watching television. One had the remote in his hand, the other with his arm on the arm rest. One with a drink in his cold dead hand, a TV guide on the lap of the last man. On closer inspection each had a neat single gunshot wound, centre mass right in the heart, instant kill shot at close range. From what I could remember and notice from the bodies, thankfully none were Paul or Ruez himself. It was the man from the door his bodyguards and the man who accompanied the door man. The TV was playing silent static.
Did Paul do this? He must know how to shoot but why would he cut off their heads? And why would he leave me passed out on the floor? No, that was a stupid notion I batted out of my head as soon as it entered.
There was a lot of blood this time, no time to prep, this was quick and neat work but it was done on the spot. He shoots them all and then with one or two quick cuts he takes the heads and does what with them? Put them in a bowling ball bag? A row of fish tanks maybe?
Oh there’s one.
A single blonde head sitting neatly on the granite bar top.
No that’s not right, it was a woman’s head and I scratched my own trying to place her. And then it clicked.
It was the blonde bar maid, her head looked more square and sad than when she was alive.
Fancy seeing you here. I remarked.
Her head of course was clean and doll-like, just like the ones before it. It even seemed like her hair had been trimmed to make up for the cut with the knife. She had colour to her cheeks and looked very out of place in the kitchenette. But there was something about it, something poetic, I was part of it, the tableau. Someone had set it up around me while I dozed. Or maybe I did it, ha fat chance. The first time I’d even seen a gun up close was about- what two hours ago when Paul pulled one out of his glove box.
Paul? Where are you?
I almost felt reassured by her, I had a complete set, a link, a timeline. It was starting to make some sense now, some sick sense to someone. She was a familiar face and that’s what I needed right now.
Half in and half out of the hall and I could hear the music more clearly now and the words sent little gleeful shivers down to the dark depths. Little ripples in the black water sending happy joy joy thoughts to the dark denizens at the bottom of the well.
“Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear?”
I breathed in deeply, feeling the waves beating, coming over me. Waves of dark thoughts crashing against a shore of vicious happy teeth. I could feel it, the moon pouring in through all the cracks, wanting to tear the roof off and beam down its manic toothy grin.
“Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear”
It carried me closer, the hall was clear, no one lying face down in their own vomit, no couples having sex loudly in the adjacent rooms. Just one empty hallway leading into the dark. The music getting louder with each foot step.
“A song, a song, high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea”
No thoughts, no fear, just a stirring feeling, like coming over a hill and you don’t know what’s going to be on the other side. But you have a crude idea. Wild dreams coming true, a gumdrop waterfall with a snozberry rainbow.
“Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
Do you know what I know
In your palace warm, mighty king,
Do you know what I know”
The buzzing in my ears and that tinny laughter coming from the deep dark pushing me forward. My heart beating against the bars of my ribs. My skin popping like bubble wrap as pleasant cold shivers shot up my back and through my arms making them feel straight and clean and sharp. Like I was floating down the hall carried by a happy slashing wind.
“A Child, a Child shivers in the cold
Let us bring Him silver and gold
Let us bring Him silver and gold”
My hands and feet moving on their own, transfixed by the song, a snake charmed. I walked zombielike, from foot to foot deliberate and slow as the feeling slowly came back. I saw the door, the source of the music and a tiny sliver of light from the crack in the doorjam.
“Said the king to the people everywhere,
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace, people everywhere!
Listen to what I say”
There was a cool breeze, the laughing inside getting louder. Whispering to me, pushing me on, telling me to open that door, fling it open and never let it close.
I stood in front of it and I felt so pure, no thoughts, no feelings, just a fullness, a bright light, a humming inside my chest, a want, a need, a thirst.
I pushed the door open and it rolled lazily out of the way with a creaking and a crinkling of dry plastic.
“The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light”
I was blinded by it at first, so bright, so clean, so perfect, so ready. It took my breath away in all the best ways. I could barely breath, the room was sealed, crisp and precise. It was a little girl’s room. Pink and pretty with stuffed animals on the shelves and a big Barbie dream house four poster bed in the centre covered with lots of useless pillows.
But that was what was underneath, what I saw when I looked through the plastic. The entire room was laminated for a lack of a better word. Plastic wrap covered every inch of the walls and all the surfaces running down from the ceiling. The main light was on but also heavy duty masonry lights pooled bright light on the floor.
The song ended but then looped again and I saw it was the iPhone from before. It was connected to a small portable speaker, there was a brief pause and the song started up again.
“Said the night wind to the little lamb,
Do you see what I see
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you see what I see”
I saw it.
Or I thought I did.
“A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite”
Was that me? Was I the star? Or was Ruez as he lay on what I could only assume was his Daughters bed tied down with layers and layers of tape and plastic wrap. A small plush child’s toy corking his mouth.
I can’t believe it took me this long to notice it. It took me a long time to process the room, to savour it, the amount of effort and time gone into it. I picked up the phone and disconnected the speaker and took a look through it. It was definitely Antoine’s, he was still logged in on twitter with it. No sense leaving it here now with my prints on it so I pocketed it.
I moved closer to him, he was unconscious and I got an odd feeling. A sickly gut-wrenching feeling wondering if I’d done this or this was a mistake. Maybe the real killer was taking a bathroom break and was about to come through the door and give me a good stern talking to. I hope he washed his hands.
But that voice whispered to me and told me everything was in its right place. Everything.
I looked at the room, there were pictures taped to the plastic, some of the pictures were the ones from the email. His house, him taking out the garbage and then there were more. Stock pictures of women, newspaper clipping. Prostitutes who had gone missing in the last year about a dozen of them, their mugshots evenly spaced on the wall.
All young girls with dark hair, some younger than others.
How had he done this? I mean I already knew, I assumed, after I passed out everyone else must have left and they weren’t the calling the cops type. No that wasn’t happening, cops wouldn’t be coming around any time soon, shots or no shots. So he waited for them to go and then what, bang. Or more appropriately bang, bang, bang, bang.
Paul what about Paul?
He’d vanished, poof, gone, like he was never there, no trace. Spirited away by my new friend. Would he give him back? I guess I’d have to wait and see, too much to process right now.
I looked at Ruez, he was waking up and I started to feel that rustling of dark wings, I was supposed to do something, to be something to feel something and I felt it. Power, I could feel his helplessness rising. I could taste his fear before he even felt it. I could see it all unravel before me but it felt stolen. Too weird. Was this for me?
I turned and I saw what I was trying not to look at. On the bedside table was a metal surgical tray full of goodies.
Knives and scalpels and saws all cleaned and polished like they just came out of the plastic wrap, like a meal on an airplane.
Dark lord, I am truly thankful for what I am about to receive.
It was for me, this wasn’t a dream or a mistake or a cruel joke, it was a gift.
Here laid out before me. A gift wrapped turkey ready to be plucked and deboned.
As soon as I came to this realisation my mouth filled with liquid and I heard angel horns and devil trumpets. It was the apocalypse the end of days. The end of Drab Diana’s sepia daydreams, a new age was screaming into bloody colour. I could feel it swelling to a dreadful cacophony. My new friend and the voice inside had conspired to throw me a surprise party, a coming of age, a birthing into a new world.
A new Diana darkly.
He was starting to wake up and I tapped his cheek with my finger to make sure he was real and not some elaborate pinnate. It was a birthday party after all.
He was real enough, his flesh gave way to a pallid cold prod and his eyes fluttered and opened wide and confused. He stared at the ceiling like a goldfish trying to remember how many times he’d been around his castle.
I rounded the bed, let him hear my steps, the creaking of my knees. Slowing my heartbeat was all I could to stop from skipping.
I stood in front of the selection of tools he’d picked out for me. So shiny, ever so shiny.
I picked one up and I looked at it, a scalpel. I don’t think I’d ever seen one before today. Today was a day of firsts. I was a robust girl and saw no need to go under the knife for cosmetic reasons, not yet anyway.
I turned it over in my hand, looking at the fine concave blade, as sharp as a razor. I held it up almost like a toy, here comes the aeroplane cutting effortless through the clouds.
He blinked and started to come back into his body, he looked over at me and seemed even more confused and I didn’t know what to do. My heart was pumping hard and hot and I wanted to feel his fear. I wanted it to rush over me, see his eyes widen and his pupils shrink.
I swallowed and the thing inside laughed at my weakness at my hesitation, what are you waiting for?
A sudden shiver and I felt eyes on me, was he watching me?
I leaned over Ruez, he was mumbling something. I put the blade to his face and languidly drew it across his cheek and as if by magic, blood.
Hot sticky blood, just a small trickle from a neat little cut.
He winced and cried out through the stuffed animal in his mouth and his eyes shook with pain and fear.
I felt huge and strong and clean like I was made of stainless steel standing ten foot high.
My breathing was a stolid heavy beat making a noise like a bird hovering over its prey.
I took hold of the little plushy in his mouth and started to pull the wet thing out. I needed more, there was something missing, some essential part I couldn’t put my finger on. There was something not quite right, like I was parking in someone else’s spot or chewing someone else’s second hand gum. I needed to know. I needed to see, to understand.
“Tell me about them” I asked softly.
The toy came all the way the out of his mouth and what flowed was an almost inaudible torrent of abuse in Spanish. I fumbled panic rising and I quickly shoved the toy back into his mouth and let him calm down.
I tried to steady my breathing but the room started to feel smaller and I started to get dizzy. My hands shook and I couldn’t get the knife to keep still. His eyes were wide and angry and he sputtered and foamed. Is this how I imagined it? So sterile, so perfect, all laid out for me. But there was something wrong, a thread of doubt. The thing in the darkness laughed at my doubt. It whispered to me that it didn’t matter, but it did, why?
Why did it matter, I started to feel hot and out of breath and the knife wanted to move and dance and swim and I was in two minds. The knife hovering over his face and I started to think about sex.
Why now? Why that? I thought about rushing it about getting it out of the way, but shouldn’t the first time be special? Is this special, is my partner the one for me? I looked down at him and before I could make up my mind I heard a loud car horn outside and blood froze in my veins.
Here I stood out of time and place in this plastic lined box floating through nothingness. Forgetting about the world outside constantly spinning. Oh shit and it was school night.
I felt a shock, a splash in the dark pool and a vicious cry from inside. The moon blotted out by a thick bank of clouds. The apocalypse music shrinking and disappearing without crescendo. I stumbled and dropped the knife feeling very small and clumsy. I slammed into the bedside table knocking over all the tools with a catastrophic cacophony of clanging stainless steel. Fight or flight had been and gone, my lizard brain opting for the latter. I bound out of the front door like I was being chased. I could almost feel the breath on my neck and the eyes watching. I stood alone on the dark foreign streets bathed in a small white pool of porch light. Cold, feeling a thick layer of sweat forming on the surface,
Paul’s car was still there, the same spot, it hadn’t moved.
I quickly darted across the street feeling my breath burning in my lungs now.
I opened the driver’s side door and climbed up.
To my relief Paul was splayed out in the backseat.
The keys were in the ignition.