Editor’s Note: This fiction story contains adult content and is rated “for adults only”. It contains strong adult language and violence that may be unacceptable to some sensibilities and especially those under 18 years of age.
Synopsis: A pleasant neighbourly visit turns into a horrible living nightmare for a couple yet to discover the nature of crime and criminals.
About the Author: Nicomedes Austin Suarez is a writer spending time in the Third World. He lives with his peach of a wife, Erica, and their magical infant son, Bjorn.
In this psychological thriller, an ordinary sin turns into a terrible horror of violence, vengeance and lust.
* * * * * * * * * *
When they moved in we thought they were a more or less normal couple, a little unusual maybe because she was a black chick and he was a white guy, but they were young, and that was cool. I remember we felt good about having a mixed couple as neighbors. We were just a couple of working class white kids scraping our way up, getting into open-mindedness and all that shit, and it made us feel good. My dad, he died years ago, he used to say, people should stick to their own kind, and I always hated him for saying shit like that, so I guess when the mixed couple moved in I thought, well all right, here’s my chance to prove I’m nothing like the old man, good riddance to the son of a bitch.
And it wasn’t hard to like the two of them, not at first. The black chick, Siena, was really pretty, cut-angled face, great hair, a million of those tight little braids that look like beads, a flat belly, slender hips, and she moved fast and slow like a housecat. And the guy, Frank, he had a good look too, kind of rednecky, but in a tasteful, country way.
The house Maura and me were living in back then was one of those old New England farmhouse things, with the uneven wooden floors, but not in bad shape. At some point someone had cut it in half to make two, independent, two-story apartments with a shared wall and a shared front porch. The other thing the two houses shared, for sure, was noise. From our bedroom upstairs we could hear most of what was going on in the upstairs bedroom of the other place, and vice-verca, I guess.
One night a few days after the couple moved in someone knocked on our door. It was kind of late, maybe around eleven, but we were still in school back then, and I was working the bar at the Mexican place, so we were still up, but not dressed, and Maura said she’d go downstairs and and see who it was. I was sitting up, reading, and I listened to the voices, Maura’s, nasal, pinched, Jewish — I could picture my girlfriend, the prominent nose, in the black pants and shirt I knew she wore because it made her feel less bad about her straight-up-and-down figure — and the other voice, smooth, easy, almost like a person singing, and I sat up more because I knew the voice, it would come to me, and it did. It was the voice of the black chick, the pretty one. Earlier in the day, coming back from class, I’d met her.
She was waiting on the porch for her boyfriend to come back with the truck, she said, there was still another load. And I asked her if it was far away they were moving from, and she said, sort of, about an hour away, and I thought to ask why they didn’t rent a bigger truck, but didn’t. Afterwards, through the door, I cursed myself for not asking her that simple question. The reason I’d stopped short, I thought, was because of something else my old man used to say about minding your own business so other people won’t mind yours. So I went back out on the porch and the black chick, Siena, was still there, still pretty in cutoff jean shorts, frayed and short enough to show the curve of her ass if you had a mind to look, and I asked her the question and all at once I wished I hadn’t. There was this weird look in her eyes, a startled look, a quick hard squint that almost pushed me back through the door. But then she smiled easily and said, in her nice smooth voice, yeah, we’ve been having some money troubles so we couldn’t afford to rent a truck, but it’s cool because we borrowed Frank’s brother’s pickup, just going to take a little longer, that’s all. I knew I was sweating like an idiot and blushing probably too when I said, well, if there’s anything we can do to help, and the chick said, “Would you mind lending me ten bucks? I saw this cool looking pizza joint on the corner and Frank, he was all hurried and shit, he forgot to leave me money.” I was so relieved, basically, I said, “I’ll do you one better, I haven’t eaten lunch either so what if the two of us walk over and it’s my treat. Would that be cool?” And she put her thin, smooth, brown arm through mine and smiled and said, “Well aren’t you a sweet thing?” And right then, heading off for the place on the corner, I started thinking to ask her why Frank had left her if he had to be gone for that long. But I didn’t. I don’t know if it would have made any difference, but it might have.
The funny thing was, the thing that made me sit up real straight in bed when I heard Siena at the door, was that somehow it had escaped my mind to tell Maura about my lunch. I kept meaning to, you know, but then something else would come up and I would forget about it, and that happened long enough that I ended up feeling that too much time had gone by for me to bring it up without it seeming like a big deal, like I had some reason for not mentioning it, which of course totally wasn’t true. Have you ever had that happen? Sure, who hasn’t?
So there I was, kind of holding my breath, pretending to read, when Maura came back in and said, hey, the neighbors want to know if we’d like to come over for a drink.
I put the book down, real calm, real patiently, like I was being interrupted in a really good part, and said, “What? Now?”
Maura looked at me funny and said, “Yeah, now. Jesus, John, it’s eleven-thirty, not three in the morning. You want me to get you a pair of white shoes and a little golf cap?”
I can’t stand it when someone calls me out — another thing my old man always said would get me in trouble — so I got out of bed and started dressing before she could say anything else. Dressed now, I said: “You know I’m a white man.” This was an ongoing joke we had. I’d read this book that took place in America in the 60s and in the book everybody in the world could be divided up into two kinds of people.
Still looking at me funny, Maura said, “Oh, good, because I was starting to think you were a weak sister.”
“Jesus, John. What’s the matter with you?”
It had come out harsher than I meant. Then again, I didn’t even really mean to say it. I don’t know why I was mad at her, or if I was mad at her, but I was. I felt like breaking something, nothing big, just a picture frame or something, like in the movies. But then I thought, this is stupid, calm down, so I kissed her and said:
“Jesus, hon. I’m sorry. I’m just a cranky old man.”
She smiled and put her arms around me, her sharp hips jabbing me in the pelvis. “But you’re my cranky old man, and I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“Now let’s go be nice and neighborly for a change.”
“Yeah, sure, why not.”
Heading downstairs, I thought again of mentioning my lunch with Siena, but didn’t. We were just out the door so fast, you know? But man, if I could do it again.
We’d never been next door since we started living there. The neighbors before had been really weird. I think they were goth, or whatever. But they were fine and never had parties or made any real noise. You know how it is when you’ve got a dividing wall between you and somebody else’s life. There’s overlap, right?
It was the guy, Frank, who opened the door. He was a big guy, I can’t remember if I mentioned that, but he was. Not just tall, but thick, the kind of guy you see at the supermarket holding a twelve-pack in one hand like it’s a bag of popcorn. He had these big, thick forearms, like you get from working construction — that’s what he did — but also the kind you’ve got to be born with. I remember watching him make drinks and feeling mild awe. He just squeezed the limes one at a time in his hands like it was nothing, like they were cooked plums. When he was done, they were nothing but limp peels, little bits of dry pulp sticking to his hands. And he had this tattoo from time in the Navy.
But I’m kind of jumping around. What was I saying? Right, so he opened the door, there was music on behind him — some kind of rap, real aggressive, pretty loud — and he was smiling. He shook my hand, kind of crushing it, his eyes never leaving Maura, and then, instead of shaking her hand like I thought he would, he just leaned in and kissed her, not on the mouth, but close — that place right between your cheek and your lips where your grandmother kisses you and it makes you kind of squirm? — and she laughed and took a little step back and I laughed too not knowing what else to do but having a warm, not pleasant feeling spreading up from my stomach to my head. And he was looking at me now, laughing real easy, a baseball hat on backwards and to one side a little, and I couldn’t be sure, maybe I didn’t want to be, but I know now, with no doubt that what he meant was, watcha’ gonna do about it, bitch? But what he said was:
“Shit, I’m sorry. We been having a couple drinks. Don’t know what I was thinking,” he said, and stood aside, unblocking the doorway, letting us know we should come in, and we did. He took us into the living room that looked just like our living room in reverse, and we sat down on a big, black leather couch, the kind that’s got like a thousand rivets in the cushions? The place was actually pretty nicely decorated. I remember thinking, you’ve got to be a pretty alright kind of guy to live in a place that’s this nice. Of course now I know why it was they had a lot more nice shit than we did. But anyway, we sat down, Maura and me on the couch and him on a leather chair — I think you’d call it a wing chair. I remember he didn’t offer to give us the usual grand tour of his place, which seemed a little weird, but what are you going to say? We just sat there looking dumb, I guess. We could hear Siena moving around in the kitchen.
“Hey, hon,” Frank said, kind of pretending to shout it, “why don’t you come in here with Maura while me and Jim make some drinks?”
“It’s John,” I said.
“It’s John, not Jim.”
“What did I say?”
“You said Jim.”
“I don’t think I did.”
It was weird, that moment, because I remember feeling like I was watching myself, trying to stop, but not being able to. I thought of this time when I was eight. Our neighbor back then was one of those sweet guys who puts a chain link fence around his yard and lets a rottweiler run around all day, barking its damn head off. I was terrified of that stupid dog, so what I liked to do, when no one was watching, was go over to the gate on the street side and put my fingers up to that nasty snarling face, the dog frothing and throwing itself against the chainlink, being sure to keep just out of range. This one time, when I was doing that, I noticed that the gate’s hinges were coming off, the little screws slipping out. The weird thing was, I kept on fucking with the dog, watching the door coming off a little more every time he lunged. The gate didn’t pop, but I wonder what I would have done if it had.
Frank was looking at me now, his head cocked to one side, waiting for me to say something. I was relieved when Maura said:
“You did say Jim.”
Frank looked at her for a second, real still, and then smiled, shrugged it off. “Truth is, when I drink I actually have no idea what I’m doing.”
The three of us laughed and it felt like a charge went out of the air.
“I know what you mean, man,” I said.
He stopped laughing. “Do you?”
“I’m sorry?” I said.
“Why’re you sorry?”
“I meant I didn’t understand.”
He smiled, got up, put a big hand on my shoulder. “I’m just fucking with you. Let’s go make some drinks and let the ladies chat about lady shit.”
Siena walked in and said hi. She was wearing the same mini she had on when we went to lunch, and when she sat down on the wood floor and crossed her legs, Indian style, the little thing slid up her thighs and her panties flashed. They were lacy, pink, and I could make out the shape of her lips through the thin material. I tried to look away in time, but couldn’t. I had the feeling that Frank was noticing me seeing, and when I looked up, I saw I was right.
“Come on, Johnny,” he said, and I followed him through two doors and into the kitchen, not once seriously considering telling him I hated being called Johnny. It’s what my old man used to call me when he really wanted to piss me off.
“You dig on daiquiris?” Frank said, leaning over a marble counter now, cutting limes in half with a huge knife, the kind you see on Iron Chef that looks more like a damn samurai sword.
Their bar was really well stocked. While Frank made the drinks I leaned against a counter and admired the unbelievable tequilas. I knew from my years behind the bar at the Mexican joint that three of the ten or so tequilas went for over two hundred bucks a pop. Same for the scotches, though I’m not such an expert there. One bottle in particular, though, caught my attention.
“Holy shit,” I said, picking it up, turning it, checking out the way it glowed amber in the low light. “Is this what I think it is?”
Frank looked up. “You know it.”
“Man, I have never even seen this shit in person.”
He was squeezing the limes into a pitcher now. “Help yourself.”
The seal wasn’t broken. I put the bottle down. “No way. This bottle’s worth, like, four hundred bucks.” I did the math. A shot would run about seventy bucks anywhere that would actually stock it.
Frank reached over and took the bottle out of my hands, cut off the seal, popped the cork top, and poured a double into a highball. Then he handed it to me.
“Jesus, I don’t know what to say.”
He smiled, wiping sweat from his brow with his knife hand. “It’s all about being a good neighbor.”
“Go ahead and try it.”
I did. “Christ, Mary, Jesus, and Joseph.”
“That’s the real shit.” He was pouring rum onto the ice now, mixing it with a wooden dowel.
Something occurred to me, something I read, or maybe a friend told me about it, I can’t remember. “I thought you couldn’t even get this stuff in the States.”
“Normally, you can’t.”
Looking at the bar again, I did a rough calculation. I put the total worth between seven and ten grand. That sounds like bull, I know, but I’m serious. My old man was a betting junkie and I practically spent my childhood in an OTB. Seven to ten. It didn’t gel. I reckoned they were paying the same rent we were since the landlord owned the whole building. Who the hell lives in a $700 a month pad and stocks a ten grand bar?
“So, then how did you get it?”
Glasses and pitcher in hand, Frank said, “All about who you know.”
I started to follow him back into the living room when he turned to face me again. “Say, what do you reckon the value of a human being is?”
“I don’t know. Is this some kind of philosophical thing?”
“Not at all. Everything’s got financial worth, even people.”
He didn’t say anything else, just stood there, so I said, “You mean, how much to buy a person?”
“I guess it depends on what you want them for. Do you mean, like, a hooker?”
“That’s one way to buy a person.”
“But not all people are hookers.” This was, without any doubt, one of the weirdest fucking conversations I’ve ever had, in a hallway or anyplace else.
“Don’t be fucking naive, Johnny. Everyone has a price. But what I really meant was, what do you reckon is the value of a human life?”
“Jesus, Frank. Who can say?”
“Could you say it was more than the value of the scotch in your glass?”
“Well, of course.”
“See? Now you’re getting there.” He walked away and I was obliged to follow.
We found the girls having a nice time in the relaxed kind of way that’s typical of girls, the two of them sitting on the floor, at the coffee table. Maura was talking when we walked in, her hands coming out in the sharp little jabs she uses when she’s excited about something, and Siena was chilling, sitting back against the foot of the couch and looking at Maura calmly, one elbow propped up. The contrast between the two girls was more apparent than ever: Siena, calm, hard-bodied in a full way, and Maura, awkward, gangly, thin, but not trim. Despite my best efforts, I could feel a fresh wave of shame spreading over me, not for my own sake, this time, but for Maura. I was totally aware from the first second I met Frank of my inadequacy compared to him; how could Maura not be aware of her’s? Or maybe she was aware, and just over-acting to compensate.
I sat down and she looked at me, our eyes met, and I had the feeling it was the latter. And there was something else in her eyes, a kind of raw panic I’d never seen there before, or maybe it was just me putting my shit on her. Of course, I’ll never know the answer now.
Siena got up and moved to sit on the wing chair Maura was sitting in front of, her feet almost resting on Maura’s hips, straddling her from behind. “Maura was just telling me how much she likes my braids,” she said. “And I told her that if she wants, I’d be happy to do her hair the same way.”
“It would look silly,” Maura said. “I mean, it looks great on you, but I don’t think I could pull it off.”
Siena took hold of Maura’s hair, a little too hard I thought, and Maura must have too, because she flinched. “Let me show you.” To me, she said, “As long as you don’t mind, John.”
I started to say something, I don’t even know what it was going to be, but Frank cut me off.
“Go ahead,” he said, lying down on the couch, spreading out, leaving me nowhere to sit but the floor. “It’ll look hot.”
Siena took a hold of Maura’s lank, black hair.
Maura said, “John, do you mind?”
I could feel Frank looking at me. “He doesn’t mind, do you John?”
It was just like being a ventriloquist’s dummy. I said, “I don’t mind.”
Siena hummed a tune while she braided, something jazzy that I couldn’t quite place. Frank looked at the ceiling, sipped his drink, and pretty much acted like he was alone. Sitting on the floor now, my lips started to feel numb, which happens when I drink, and happens faster than it should, I guess. I’ve always been a cheap drunk.
Then, after a while, Frank was humming along with his girlfriend, the two of them harmonizing, and Maura just sat there, looking straight ahead, having her hair done, the roots straining, and it made her look surprised, like a kid who’s just touched a garden snake with her bare foot.
I bolted my drink, forgetting completely what it was. The whole scene was really freaking me out. I remember perfectly, I had this thought, an actual voice in my head talking. It said: Run. Just run like hell. Get up, run to the door, run out the door, and keep running. I didn’t, though, I just sat there.
So me and Siena walked to the place on the corner, the pizza joint that’s been there for, like, thirty years, or whatever. We walked there all arm in arm like we were old buddies, and I thought, man, this is weird, but I thought it was nice, too, this cool ass black chick with a killer body cozying up to me. I read once that if a girl initiates physical contact, it means she likes you, and I guess I liked the idea that maybe a chick like Siena might like me. Look, I’m not an idiot, I know girls do all kinds of shit just to get attention and it doesn’t really mean anything and you can’t read too much into it, or whatever. But still, it was cool to pretend for just a little bit that what I read in that article was gospel, that Siena dug me. What’s it like to be with a girl like that, you know?
So we got to the place and sat in a booth. The place is called Jim’s Pizza and it’s one of those places where the walls are so old you can’t tell if they’re dirty or not, and the booths are red and comfy, and the food’s not bad and not good, but it’s cheap and comes out hot.
Also, old Jim’s got a good bar for a divey place. Siena picked up on that right away. First thing she did when the hostess sat us was to order a daiquiri.
“Fresh, limes, none of that shitty mix stuff. You got Mount Gay?” she said. They did and she was pleased. “What are you having, John?”
“It’s a little early for me.”
She put a hand on my arm and got this real earnest look. “Gee, I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were gay. That must be hard.”
I laughed, looking at her hand on my arm. “All right, all right. I’ll have a Rusty Nail.” I knew that was an old man drink, not gay at all, and she seemed to know it too, because she sat back with her elbows on the booth, her tits pushed out — on purpose, it seemed to me — and nodded approvingly.
We chatted about bullshit for a while, you know, the usual stuff you use to fill in the gaps when you don’t know someone real well, where did you grow up, are you in school, and all that. I told her I grew up in New York State, in a little town nobody’s ever heard of, and she said she grew up in Detroit. I said I was finishing my degree at UMass in Hotel and Restaurant Management and she ordered another drink and made me feel like a total pussy again so I ordered a Jack on the rocks even though I was already really feeling kind of buzzed.
After the food arrived, we had our first really awkward moment. I asked her why she and her boyfriend decided to move from their last place and she shrugged and said: “Oh, the usual reasons.”
I used a paper napkin to mop some of the serious grease off a slice and she watched me with a little smirk that made me feel like a pussy all over again. What can I say? The men in my family have a problem with fucking cholesterol. My old man kicked it at fifty-seven, one more shitty move of his I’d sure as shit like to avoid. When I looked up she glanced away, like she was all of a sudden really interested in the retired jukebox in the corner. Some part of me knew I shouldn’t press her, everything about her body language was saying no, but I was a little buzzed, like I said, and I wanted to get back at her for making me feel like a little girl, so I said, all innocent: “No, I don’t know. What are the usual reasons for moving? I mean, it’s the middle of the month, so it’s kind of weird. Most people move on the first, unless they’ve got a good reason.”
She looked right at me and I was sorry for pushing. “Well, maybe we had a good fucking reason,” she said.
Just like that, emphasis on fucking, cold as ice. I didn’t know what to say, and she didn’t say anything either, she just sat there in the booth looking at me like she could rip my fucking head off and then have another drink, maybe order dessert. I got real interested in my food, you know? Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, her staring at me with that look on her pretty face, so I said, “Sorry, I guess I’m kind of buzzed. It’s not any of my business.” And right then I thought of my goddamn old man saying, mind your own business.
Siena smiled, relaxed again, like it had never happened. “Don’t worry about it. It’s no big thing, just kind of embarrassing.”
I downed the rest of my drink, not feeling even slightly buzzed anymore. “I’m really sorry. Let’s just start over, okay?”
She glanced around like she didn’t want anyone else to hear, then leaned forward on her elbows so her face was just about right up against mine — Jim’s got these small-ass, ghetto booths — and said, “Look, you just caught me off guard. I don’t mind telling you about it, I just don’t want to do it here where somebody could hear us.”
I looked around. We were the only people in the place. Our waiter had been MIA for about ten minutes, probably playing cards or Scrabble in back, a slow weekday lunch and all.
Still leaning forward, Siena said, “I can tell you, but I have to tell you in the bathroom.”
I was sure I hadn’t heard right. “In the bathroom?”
“Yeah,” she said, and she slid out of the booth, taking my hand as she rose.
Siena braided Maura’s hair while Frank chilled on the couch, looking at the ceiling, sipping his drink from time to time, setting it on a little silver coaster on the floor between pulls. At one point he went to the kitchen for a refill. He didn’t ask me if I wanted another drink and I didn’t ask for one. Siena went on humming the little jazzy tune I couldn’t place and I sat there, pretending there was a little scotch left in my glass.
“You’re really good at this,” Maura said. Siena was really quick, dexterous, her nice hands gliding through Maura’s hair, twisting, moving, folding. It was kind of hypnotizing.
She didn’t braid Maura’s whole head, but in a few minutes she had one side done. Frank sat up, put his hands on his knees, leaned forward.
“See, now that looks nice,” he said.
There was a full length mirror on the wall. Maura rose and walked over to it. She stood face on, then turned so she could see the side of her head with the rows of tight little braids.
“Wow. I didn’t think I’d like it. It actually looks totally cool.”
“I can do the rest if you want,” Siena said.
“I would,” Maura said.
Frank put a hand on his girlfriend’s shoulder. To Maura he said, “Now hang on a second. That seems like an awfully nice thing to do for a girl, braiding her hair and all.”
Maura sat down in front of Siena. Now she looked at Frank. “I don’t understand.”
“What I mean is,” he said, leaning back, putting his hands behind his head, his arms bulging, “what are you gonna do for us?”
Maura laughed. She was a little tipsy. “I can do a pretty good impression of Diane Keaton. Anyway, people say it’s pretty good.”
“Not what I had in mind,” Frank said.
Maura’s face changed. I felt frozen, unable to do a damn thing, like I was watching a horror flick, tied to a chair or something, like at the end of A Clockwork Orange. In a little voice Maura said, “What do you mean?”
Frank said, “Kind of thing you might see happen when a guy and a girl go to lunch all by their lonesome.”
I stumbled a little on the way to the bathroom. It felt like I was falling, like I had no choice. All I could do was take in the scenery during the plunge. And also, I was pretty drunk, you know? But that’s bullshit. There’s no point in lying anymore, if there ever was. I mean, look where lies get you, right? The truth is I wanted whatever it was that hot black chick was offering, and I didn’t give a shit what that might mean after.
The bathrooms at Jim’s are in a little hallway. I think the restaurant probably used to be a house, because the men’s room looks like the kind of bathroom you’d see in a house, a little room, just a toilet, a sink, no stalls, no urinal. And a lock on the door.
Siena pulled me by the hand into the men’s and locked the door behind her. She did it like people do it in the movies, with two hands behind her back, and a look on her face that was all innocent, like, oops.
“What did you want to tell me?” I said, feeling like an idiot.
“I didn’t really want to tell you anything,” she said, smiling.
Now she was taking off her shirt, her flat, brown belly flashing in the flickering fluorescent light. Her bra was purple, lacy. It pushed her breasts up and out. I felt dizzy, dry-mouthed. I had a flash of Maura undressing, the jutting little points of her lower ribs, her small, flat breasts. I pushed the image away.
“But, why me?” I said. My tongue felt thick.
She slipped off the bra, then the shorts, the purple lacey underwear. “I’m really horny,” she said. “I get really horny when I drink, especially during the day.”
I’d never seen a black pussy before, except in porn. It was shaved clean, the lips glistening with wetness. And the lips were thick, much thicker than Maura’s.
“Jesus H. Christ,” I said. I was having trouble focusing. “I hope you like chubby guys.”
She stood right in front of me now, her face tilted up, her dark nipples brushing the fabric of my shirt, and touched the front of my pants with one hand. “I’m sure you’re not all soft.”
Maura looked at me, her head cocked. “What’s he talking about?”
I stood up on wobbly legs. “Hon, I think we should go now. It’s late, and I’ve got class first thing.”
“No,” she said, “I want to know what’s going on.”
“Nothing’s going on just now,” Frank said. “It’s about what went on earlier on.”
“What is he talking about?”
Her voice broke, just a little, but I knew she knew. She’s always had this amazing intuition, it was practically fucking mystical, you know?
“We need to talk,” I said. “But let’s not do it here. Let’s go home.”
She shook her head. “Tell me right now.”
I tried to talk, but my mouth wouldn’t move.
Frank said, “I’ll tell you, girlie, if you really want to know.”
“Tell me, god damn it.”
Frank smiled, shrugged. “But there’s a price for knowing.”
“Don’t you wanna know the price?”
“Shut the fuck up. Just tell me what the fuck is going on.”
“Have it your way.” He pointed at me. “Your boy there went and had lunch with my girlfriend this afternoon.”
To me, Maura said, “You did? Why didn’t you tell me?”
I tried to speak, but again, no words came out.
Frank said, “He didn’t tell you because he fucked my girl in the bathroom.”
Maura just looked at me. “What is he saying?”
“Let’s just leave. We should leave right now. We can talk about this later.”
She stood up. She was yelling now. “No, damn you, John, you’re going to tell me right now if this is true.”
I could feel the sweat running down the back of my neck. I felt sick. “Let’s leave. I’ll tell you anything you want, but let’s go.”
I think the neighbors across the street must have heard her that time. If only somebody had called the cops, you know? I said, “It’s true.”
“Jesus Christ,” she said, and sat back down on the ground in front of Siena.
Frank stood up, his arms raised like a Baptist preacher or whatever, and yelled, “And the truth shall set you free!”
It was such a damn cliché it would have been funny if I could have laughed. But I knew right then that Maura wasn’t going to leave, not even if she wanted to. And then I remembered something else my old man used to say. He would say, when it comes down to it, you’ve gotta look out for number one. I always thought he was a selfish piece of shit, and he sure proved that a number of times, but maybe he was also right in a way, you know?
To Maura, Frank said. “You ready to pay up?”
Maura looked shocked, hunched down on the ground, her hands lying limp at her sides.
Finally, she said, “What?”
“It’s time to pay up, girlie.”
Still looking straight ahead, she said, “I think I just want to leave.”
Frank smiled at Siena. “I’m afraid that’s not going to happen.”
Now Maura looked at Frank, realizing the thing I’d known for a few minutes. “What do you mean?”
“Open your mouth,” Siena said, and Maura just about jumped out of her skin. It was the first time in minutes that Siena had said anything. Maura knew then that this wasn’t just some shit that a drunk redneck dude was trying to pull, but that both of them, Frank and Siena, were like a two-headed snake that had been coiling itself around us all night.
“Open your damn mouth,” Frank said, fidgeting with his belt.
“No,” Maura said, but only a whisper came out.
Siena took her by the hair with one hand. I moved forward to do something, I have no idea what, since Frank could have swatted me away like a fucking insect, but quick like a damn cat Siena had a gun in her free hand and she was pointing it at me. It must have been in the seat cushion. The things you wish you’d known, know what I mean? With the gun on me and a nasty little smile on her face, she said, “Bet you’re not too hard now, John.”
“Jesus, Frank, come on,” I said.
“Shut the fuck up,” Frank said. To Maura he said, “Open your mouth or I’ll have my girl shoot your boy in the nuts.”
Siena lowered her gun, pointing it at my crotch. She pulled Maura’s hair, hard this time. “Do it, you little bitch.”
Maura was crying. I’m pretty sure I was too. Frank reached into his zipper and pulled out his dick and stuck in Maura’s mouth. He fucked her face, hard. Her eyes bulged, looking at me, terrified, not understanding, while he blew his load.
“What the fuck,” I said. “What the fuck.” I sat down on the floor.
The next part I think I knew was coming, but until it did, I was trying to believe I was wrong. I’m sorry, it’s just really hard to talk about, you know? Jesus. You know what happens next, I’m sure you read it in the papers.
I thought Frank was putting his belt back on, but instead he pulled something off the belt. I saw the gleam of the steel and knew what it was. The police report says it was a four-inch buck knife. That sounds about right. Well, he took the knife and jammed it straight into Maura’s throat. It was horrible. I’ve only ever seen that kind of thing in the movies, and I always thought that the blood spray and all that shit was totally exaggerated, but that’s about what happens when you slice an artery, it just lets loose like water bursting through a dam. There was blood everywhere. I like to think that Maura was dead before she hit the ground, but I know better. You know, I can still hear her gasping for air, every fucking night, in my nightmares.
And in my nightmares I remember the look on their faces, Siena’s and Frank’s. Siena was totally covered in blood. Her teeth shone extra white in all the red. They just looked so fucking pleased with themselves, the sick motherfuckers. Frank was looking at me, and I don’t know if you can swagger when you’re just standing still, but if you can, then that’s what he was doing. I think I screamed something as I ran at him, but I’m not really sure, the screaming could have just been in my head.
I never got to him, never made it further than the coffee table, because Siena shot me, twice from where she was sitting. Once in the head, you can feel the scar where the bullet went in. The ER doc said it was a fucking miracle I lived. I’ll tell you what the damn miracle is: how much the headaches still hurt, two years later. The second bullet went right through me and stuck in my spine, and you know what? I’m glad. If I wasn’t at least stuck in this fucking chair the rest of my life, I’m pretty sure I would have killed myself.
The whole thing’s so fucked, right? You’ve got to be thankful for small things. I’ve always hated not knowing certain things, like the answer to a riddle, or whatever. I did find out where that son of a bitch got his liquor. According to the cops, and the stories that came out after, those fuckers used to live in the city and they were neighbors with this guy who imported rare liquors. The cops found the guy stabbed and shot in his apartment, his girlfriend too. It’s horrible, you know, but it feels kind of good to tie up the loose ends. It’s something, anyway.
Sometimes, at night, when I can’t sleep, I sit in bed and remember Maura. I don’t even know anymore if I was in love with her. I don’t really know what happened, or what it means. My shrink — boy, my old man would have a fit if he knew I was seeing a shrink — tells me that I shouldn’t look for meaning in it, that some stuff just happens. What’s the old bumper sticker say? Shit happens. Just don’t let it happen to you. What the fuck. But I’ll tell you one thing it all means, and it makes me sick to my stomach every time I think of it: my old man was right about just about every damn thing.
**** THE END ****
Copyright Nicomedes Austin Suárez 2012
Image Courtesy: Ebenezer