Friday, April 17, 2009

Welcome to my world

She smelled like bubblegum. She had dark hair, cut in a bob that would have been all the rage eighty years ago, and still looked pretty good. It was almost black, and naturally that way, not dyed. Her eyes were the same, with hints of hazel around the edges. She looked sweet and innocent, and ready to pluck, almost popping out of her low-slung tank top. She might have made some teenage boy very happy.

For a few minutes. And then he would have been very afraid, and then he would have been very dead.

"What's your name?" she asked me.

"Does it matter?" I asked back. "You can call me Hunter."

"Okay, Hunter, I'm Roxi. Come on, I gotta place near here."

We walked. It was one of those nights when a velvety rain hissed down on the city, blanketing the chaos of a city night with soft silence and the kind of slight chill that made you glad you wore a trench coat. It was the kind of night you see in movies, a saxophone wailing somewhere in the distance, golden notes echoing from the buildings, wrapping around your head with the promise of mystery and excitement, illegal pleasures and possibly even sex. But this was no movie, and there was no saxophone. Only the hiss of the cold rain and cars flashing past, and occasional eyes staring from windows, half in disgust and half in envy at the sight of a dark man in a trench coat following a hot young thing into a dilapidated flop house.

Her room was bare, nothing but a bed and a floor lamp, a few extra clothes piled in the corner. A rectangle of plywood had been nailed over the single window. No boy band posters, no stuffed animals, not even a TV or a radio. I expected as much. Her kind didn't have much use for such trivialities. She peeled out of her shirt and tossed it at me. I dropped the trench coat and came at her fast. I wouldn't have a second chance, and hesitation was out of the question if I wanted to see sunrise.

She fought, hard, and she was strong. But she was still young, she hadn't been expecting it, and I had had a lot of practice. I choked down the nausea as the knife slid into her chest just inside of her left breast. It was a special knife--created by modern technology and far superior to wood. She shuddered a few times as blood welled out around the blade and immediately congealed. The knife had found her heart, a heart that was now choked with congealed blood. She stopped moving.

It didn't kill her. The best that knife could do was immobilize her for a while. I pried the plywood away from the window with a multi-tool, dragged her closer to it, and waited. I had a bone saw hooked under the coat but I didn't want to use it because it was messy and using it was a lot of hard work. So I waited and prayed for sunrise. I prayed for forgiveness, I prayed for wisdom, I prayed for a new fish hook and a piece of licorice and I didn't expect to receive any of it.

The night seemed to last forever. I realize that sounds like a cliché, but try staying all night in an empty room with a girl you had just killed, nothing to do but count your own sins, and see if it isn't true. Worst of all, her eyes stayed open. She wasn't dead yet, but she couldn't do anything about it but stare at the ceiling with her beautiful, dark eyes. Eyes that should have been studying homework. Eyes that should have been teasing a boy, snapping in laughter or crying from heartache--all the things she should have been doing but couldn't and never would.

A small eternity of hours plodded past and finally a weak excuse of a sunbeam leaked through what was left of the window. I moved her a little more, so the sunlight would touch her. It usually didn't take much for the young ones.

She began to fall apart. This was the part that I just couldn't watch. I turned away as she gave one last weak, futile lurch and I waited as the sunlight crawled inexorably up her arm and at last touched her chest.

No, she didn't burst into flame and vanish. They never do. That's a movie trick that saves the hero the trouble of thinking about what he had just done. A puff of flame, and you move on. No blood, no body, no sorrow, no beautiful flashing eyes going dim as death finally claimed its long-overdue debt. No nausea, no remorse, no conscience. When the sunlight had done its job, there was only a vague mound of syrupy, sticky ash left that didn't look anything like a pretty young girl.

I slipped on a latex glove, fished the knife out of the muck, peeled the glove inside out over the knife and sealed them both in a plastic bag. I would clean the knife later. I sprinkled the pile of black mucus with silver chloride and turned off the lamp. The door closed softly behind me as I left the steaming pile of rapidly disappearing muck and walked out into the morning sunlight. The city was winding up with traffic and the noise of a busy morning while I was going home to get some sleep. That was the theory, anyway. I doubted if I could swing it.

Roxi was gone. She had died a long time ago, and now she was gone. Somewhere, I hoped, there would be a mom and a dad who would finally realize their baby was gone, and mourn for her. She deserved that much. Somewhere in another time she should have been making her parents proud by making all the grades, or disappointing them for running around with the wrong crowd. She should have been doing lots of things, but she wouldn't. Because now there was no trace that she had ever been.

And she didn't smell like bubblegum anymore.


  1. I like it. Your character has a Chandleresque disposition that seems to be a good fit, and you have an excellent description of the scene – I think you could have done even more to expand this into a full chapter. I look forward to future installments. Good work.

  2. I'm detecting a hint of Jim Butcher and possibly some Simon R. Green in there...but then, I could be wrong.

    Looking good, though. I like it.