CODE BLOOD

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Chapter Seventeen

He swam upward to the surface. What day was it? Where was he? Who was he? A noise had summoned him back to the real world from a Vicodin induced sleep. His brain began to function—slowly. Markus remembered his own name. He recognized where he was. He looked at the clock—it was 11:30 p.m. The Vicodin had knocked him out. He had slept for almost six hours and missed work. He thought he heard someone at the front door. It was too early for Audra to be returning from the club.

GRISHA! The gorilla had come to beat him to a pulp. Why had Grisha come now?

Markus was confused; he couldn’t think straight. In a panic, he tried to get out of bed. Pain shot up his spine and he collapsed on the floor. He lay motionless until the agony died down and he regained his senses. The apartment was quiet. No one was at the door.

Markus stood up and walked unsteadily into the bathroom. He swallowed two more Vicodin and washed the pills down with tap water. He needed something stronger to kill the pain in his back. He also needed enough money to pay the Russians. Only one person could help him with both—Marty the medicine man.

During the 30-minute drive to Hollywood, he thought he might be driving too fast, or maybe too slow. Markus wasn’t sure which, but he didn’t want one of the cops who patrolled Sunset Boulevard to stop him. He took a left off Sunset, making certain he used the turn signal, went down Highland, then turned left again down a dark residential street. Tucked away in an alley, Club Cyanide, or C2, as the regulars called it, didn’t even register on a GPS. Markus drove slowly, looking for the entrance to the narrow cul-de-sac. He drove past it, hit the brakes, backed up and turned into the alley. At the far end, he could see the glow of the small blue bulb over an unmarked door. Markus parked in the darkness and slowly walked to the entrance.

At the door, the security guard was busy on his cell phone. He recognized Markus and motioned him inside. It was early and the action didn’t start until around 1:00 a.m. The club could be empty, but Markus didn’t care. He didn’t want to talk to anyone; he just wanted to find Marty.

Markus started up the steep stairs, grimacing as he climbed. From above, he heard the beat, beat, beat of industrial Goth music and it made him feel better. Halfway up, the vibrations from the bass speakers shook the stairs. At the top, Markus paused and looked at the scene. There was a bigger crowd than he expected. In the low light, he watched the Goth crowd dance. People floated around the room. Couples rubbed their bodies together. Several men danced behind their women with hairy hands cupping and squeezing their breasts.

Everyone wore black. The women had lace draped across their upper bodies. Some wore black feathers; others dressed in tight corsets and short black vinyl skirts. Mesh stockings and platform boots covered their legs. Black chokers, bondage belts, tattoos and piercings were standard. Their eyes were black holes surrounded by heavy eye shadow and white face powder. The men were more simply dressed in tight black stretch jeans, black undershirts and studded belts. In this group, Markus was an uber Goth. Even the most extreme makeup couldn’t match his red eyes and natural white skin, hair and eyelashes.

He moved slowly through the crowd and sucked in the atmosphere as an antidote to the noise of the Vicodin in his brain. He scanned the crowd for Marty, who always wore jeans, a black pullover and a sleeveless vest with dozens of pockets, each containing a different drug. Across the dance floor, Markus caught sight of a girl he thought he knew. Her real name was Alyssa or Alana; he couldn’t remember which, but she called herself Goth Girl and everyone else called her Gigi. When he first arrived in Los Angeles, she let him crash at her place in Venice for three days. She looked heavier now and her hair was metallic blue instead of red. It was too dim to see the scars on her shoulders, but he was certain they were there. She was his first introduction to real blood play. She told him she was a member of Cirque de Sade and he thought he had finally met the right girl when she said, “Blood is the most erotic thing I can think of.” On his first night with her, they stood naked in her bathroom and she cut tiny nicks on her shoulder with a razor. After the blood covered her skin, she pulled his face to her flesh and smeared the red liquid on his lips. The experience was new and exciting to Markus, something he had only dreamed about. After tasting her blood, he was in his own private ecstasy. He felt a rush he had never felt before, followed by an insane hard-on. They made love for the rest of the night. She threw him out two days later.

Markus wandered past the booths that lined the wall. In the shadows, he saw Marty, standing motionless, like a statue. Markus approached him. “Hey Marty,” he said.

The statue moved. “What’s up, Markus? How come you’re walking funny?”

“I hurt my back. Bad. I’m taking Vicodin, but it still hurts. I need something. Got any K?”

“Just picked up a batch from the vet in Tijuana.” Marty fished in his vest pockets and pulled out a tiny plastic envelope with white powder. He handed it to Markus. “This’ll help for a while.”

“Thanks, man.” Markus took the envelope and emptied the powder on the back of his hand. He closed one nostril with his finger and sucked the powder in through the other. “Ooh yeah,” he said, as the Ketamine flooded his body with a warm feeling and increased his heart rate and blood pressure. For the first time since Grisha kicked him, Markus felt some relief.

“It’ll only last a couple of hours. I haven’t got anything for long term.”

“How about some X?”

“That won’t do anything for pain.”

“I know, but it might help me get through the next couple of days. I got a lot going on. I’ll take a couple.”

“Suit yourself.” Marty fished out two Ecstasy capsules and handed them to Markus. “That do it?” he said, and scanned the crowd to determine if anyone was watching. “It’s a hundred fifty.”

“Listen Marty,” Markus said. “I have a problem. I need to borrow a grand.”

“What?”

“I need to borrow a thousand dollars. You know I’ll pay you back.”

Marty glared at Markus. “I’m not a bank, asshole. No way am I lending you a penny. You owe me one fifty.”

“Well, I haven’t got it.”

“Gimme back the X.” Marty moved toward Markus. Marty wasn’t much taller than Markus, but he was strong. When he wasn’t dealing drugs, he was lifting weights.

“No.” Markus stepped back and popped the two Ecstasy pills into his mouth.

“Damn you,” Marty said, and grabbed Markus by the throat. “Pay me.”

Markus shook loose and managed to swallow the pills. “Thanks for helping out a friend, Marty. I’ll pay you next week.”

“Friend? I’ll beat the crap out of you if I you don’t pay me.”

“Get in line.” Markus started toward the stairs leading up to the bondage play stations without looking back. He hoped Marty wasn’t following him. By the time he reached the top of the stairs, Markus was beginning to sweat from the effect of the drugs.

There wasn’t much bondage action going on. One girl was bent over, bound to the spanking station. Her skirt and black underwear were down around her knees. An older woman with fake dreadlocks of neon blue hair punished her with a short black leather riding crop. The concave-convex mirrors on the ceiling reflected back distorted images of the red welts on the slave’s bare buttocks, which looked like flesh colored beach balls.

The bare flesh reminded Markus of Audra. He imagined her at the Alley Kat. Some retard was caressing her elegant, long legs. She was bent over and the retard was doing her. She was enjoying it. She was crying out with pleasure. She was stuffing hundreds of dollars into her purse. Some of the bills were spilling out onto the floor but she didn’t bother to pick them up.

Markus tried to focus on the slave bound to the spanking station, but the China Doll bitch, Alexei and Grisha were standing nearby, laughing at him. Marty came up the stairs and joined them. He whispered “Snowflake” to the others, and they all looked at Markus and laughed again. It was a conspiracy to make his life unbearable.

Markus fled the club. It was almost 2:00 a.m. when he walked outside. The light over the door was out. His head was spinning and the Ecstasy was surging through his bloodstream as he searched for his car.

Lying in bed, Marcus heard Audra open the front door and walk into the kitchen. She was talking on her cell phone.

“Sorry, I had to cut it short, wasn’t feeling well. We’ll do it again another night.”

Markus tried to clear his head while he waited for Audra to come into the bedroom. The combined effects of the Ketamine and Ecstasy, added to the Vicodin, had driven his heart rate to an unbearable level. Each beat pulsed through his brain. He was drenched in sweat. His mouth overflowed with saliva.

“Ohh,” Audra sighed when she finally came in. “I really feel crappy.” She dropped her bag on the floor and collapsed on the bed next to Markus. “I feel like I could sleep for a week.”

“Hard night?” Markus said.

“Very.”

“Harder than other nights? Too much wear and tear on the body?” Markus’ brain was vibrating like a tuning fork.

“What’s that supposed to mean? Are you starting up again?” Audra sat up and looked at him. “What’s wrong with you? You look terrible.”

“Want to hear what kind of day I had?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“A terrible day. The worst. A total disaster.”

“Too bad.” She lay down again and closed her eyes.

“I said, I had a horrible day.”

“I heard you.”

“And I have an epic problem. I need some dinero.”

The bitch didn’t say anything.

“Hey, are you listening?” Markus shook her. “Did you hear me?”

Grisha was standing at the end of the bed, watching and smirking.

“Leave me alone,” Audra said.

“Where’s all the dough you’ve been collecting from turning tricks?”

Audra opened her eyes and looked at Markus. “Fuck off,” she said and pulled a pillow over her head.

“No, you fuck off.” Audra didn’t respond and Markus stared at her, feeling his fury build. Who was this hooker skank who entertained men all night and then came home to sleep in his apartment? It was time to throw her out. Too bad she wasn’t an online opponent. A few keystrokes and a flick of the delete button would put an end to her.

Fucking Grisha was still standing in the bedroom. Alexei had joined him.

Markus got up. His lower back throbbed and his mouth was sour. He went into the bathroom, closed the door and turned on the light. He looked at his lower back in the mirror. Now he had an enormous purple bruise and the area above his butt was swollen. He rinsed his mouth and looked at his face. Red irises stared back. Audra was right about one thing; he did look terrible.

Markus reached into the medicine chest and took out the ether. The China Doll stood next to him by the bathroom sink. He watched her reflection in the mirror as she stared back at him. He loosened the top of the bottle, took a green washcloth from the towel rack, turned off the light and opened the bathroom door. He heard the sound of Audra’s deep breathing under the pillow. Grisha and Alexei were gone, but hundred dollar bills covered the bedroom floor.

Markus came around to Audra’s side of the bed and poured some of the anesthetic on the washcloth. He held his breath, straddled her, lifted her pillow and placed the washcloth over her nose. Markus squeezed his eyes shut, trying to stop the throbbing in his head.

Audra went from sleep to sedation without moving. It was so easy—easier than fighting off a bunch of Anarchs online.

Markus eased himself off the bed. He turned on the small night table light and waited again for the pain in his back to subside. Audra’s breathing was slower now. He lit one of the black candles and kneeled on the floor by her side. The hundred dollar bills had disappeared. He held the candle close to her inert body and looked at her tattoos. His face was inches from her skin and he struggled to focus his weak eyes. He could see the black and red ink underneath the pores. Audra looked like an avatar, an online digital image with mega pixel resolution. Markus blew out the candle and tossed it on the bed. A small amount of molten wax ran off onto the sheet.

The drugs and Markus decided it was time to delete Audra and send her into cyberspace. Markus climbed back on the bed and straddled her again. As he held the pillow above her face, he saw Alexei standing next to the bed wearing his embalming clothes. A white surgical mask covered the lower part of his face. “Go ahead, Snowflake,” Alexei said. He spoke in Russian, but Markus understood him.

Markus felt drug fucked. Audra made no movement when he lowered the pillow and held it tight over her face. “Lights out,” he said. He turned to see if Alexei had anything else to say, but Alexei was gone. Markus had no idea how long it took to smother someone. He pressed the pillow against Audra’s face until the pain in his back became unbearable, then tossed the pillow onto the floor and leaned forward to check her breathing. Audra’s mouth was closed. No air came from her nose. He raised her arm and held his fingers against her wrist in search of a pulse. Nothing. He dropped her limp arm and it hung over the side of the bed. Audra looked so peaceful.

Markus went back into the bathroom. In the bottom of the cabinet, he found the razor he had used for their blood bonding ceremony. Blade in hand, he went into the bedroom and sat on the bed next to Audra. His hands shook as he cut the tip of her index finger and the blade went much deeper than he intended. When he squeezed, several drops of blood dripped out onto the bedsheet. Markus lifted her finger to his mouth and sucked at the cut. He let the blood lie on his tongue, then swirled it around and swallowed. It did nothing for him; it didn’t even taste good. His head throbbed.

He took her purse from the floor and dug through it. He found nine $20 bills and a handful of change. Where was the roll of hundreds? Audra had no wallet and no credit or debit cards. She had an expired Ohio driver’s license, several Alley Kat business cards imprinted with her name and a small address book. Markus opened it and saw the names and telephone numbers of men written in Audra’s childlike hand. He placed the money on the nightstand. He tore up her license, took it into the bathroom and flushed it down the toilet. He tossed the address book and business cards into the wastebasket.

Markus dragged himself back into the bedroom, seized Audra’s big canvas bag from the dresser and emptied it out on the floor. A tattoo magazine, hairbrush, three colors of lip gloss, breath spray, red high heel shoes, six one-dollar bills, another handful of change and one of her prepaid cell phones fell to the floor. He hadn’t realized how few possessions Audra had. She barely existed.

Markus started to go through the Victorian dresser. The first drawer held her dance costumes—brassieres, wide leather belts, stockings, thongs and see-through blouses. The second drawer contained shorts, jeans, T-shirts and socks. Markus looked through her pockets, inside her socks, anywhere he thought she might have hidden cash. He found nothing. The bottom drawer had sandals, an Italian cookbook and a book of tattoo designs. When he found the box of Real Feel Condoms, he flung it across the room, spreading the rubbers over the floor.

Markus went out to his desk. In the darkness, he shoved the chair aside and picked up the Coroner’s body bag from the floor. He took it into the bedroom, laid it out on the bed next to Audra and unzipped it. He looked at Audra for the last time. Her beautiful body was the same, but her life force was gone; whatever made her erotic and sexy had evaporated. She was a cadaver just like the body in Alexei’s basement, no longer human. He knew he was supposed to feel emotion, something more than the sizzle of the drug, but the Vicodin told him, “Not to worry, it doesn’t matter.”

When Markus rolled her into the body bag and zipped it up, he saw that Audra’s blood was already beginning to pool in her back, butt and the backsides of her legs. He lifted the bag from the bed and the pain in his body came alive, shooting up his back. Markus grunted and managed to get Audra over his shoulder. Her dead weight pressed down on him. He staggered and took small steps to the door, wondering if he could make it down to his car. Outside on the stairs, he descended with one hand on the handrail, struggling to bear the pain in his back and to keep his balance.

In the carport, he opened the door of the PT Cruiser, and somehow managed to place the body bag upright on the back seat, with Audra inside in the sitting position. The chemical change in Audra’s muscles had just begun the process of rigor mortis and she would soon be frozen in that position.

Markus returned to the bedroom and looked at the blood on his sheet. He’d removed bloodstains before, using cold water and powdered meat tenderizer, but not now. He ripped the sheet off the bed and left it on the floor. He lay down on the bare mattress for a few minutes and tried to doze off, but too much was going on in his head, and the China Doll, Grisha and Alexei kept appearing and disappearing. Sleep was not an option. He got up and wandered through the apartment.

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