Fatigue slowed Lilian’s arm when she lifted the bottle from the table, spilt liquor pooling around the foot of the glass from which she drank as though to slake a thirst. The alcohol did not immediately medicate the heavy disarticulation that had overtaken her, but burned on the way down; laughter from an adjacent chamber drew the eyes around them into its throbbing, red-flushed darkness. When she looked down she saw thin, dull lines of the same colours jammed under her fingernails. She tugged her dress shirt free from the waist of her skirt and felt for the bruise that had risen beneath it, pressing down into her ribs to feel an echo of the impact that had marked them. In recalling the assault she almost did not perceive the body that sat down on her right side, spreading arms across the seat behind her. The intruder was tall and powerfully made, his sharply-cut features punctuated with an array of stainless piercings, snakebites and labrets dressing his lips like drops of mercury. Edward knew him for the alujha assassin that he was, recalling his name and affiliations from those in which he maintained an interest.
“I know who you are, so... I’ll tell you this, as good manners.” the man began, his Berlin accent flattening his English. He paused to light himself a long cigar, looking back to Lilian with an undisguised and almost wistful appreciation. “There is one hundred U.S on the table for her. Opal La Rue, and Prague.”
One half of a song passed before Edward replied, having consulted his companion silently.
“I will ligate and section whoever takes the contract.”
The killer considered his response and nodded in wordless accord, looking up into the blue strobe passing overhead, then down to count the fingers around Edward’s glass.
“I'm thinking I don’t need this procedure. Good luck to you both.” He eased his large form from the chair, aware he had outstayed his welcome.
A line of narrow booths, like the domestic architecture of some giant communal insect formed one wall of the passage beyond the apparatus room, each outfitted with a padded black ottoman and a soundproof door. Lilian pushed the one behind her closed, excluding the murmuring traffic of the corridor and returning the booth to its seclusion. Over their heads a beaded lantern cast brazier red and violet blue in carnal semitones against their skin, the sombre points of colour swimming like cells in plasma, black lying like a wolf's mouth in the shadows to devour all remaining hues. Edward watched her sit down on the ottoman from the back wall. She leant forward to pull off her jacket and shirt, the sleeves of which were dressed with mouse-grey mud.
“You can’t go back to work.” he told her, unbuttoning his own shirt and wiping it from his arms, the skin from his wrists to his elbows streaked with a far darker colour where the fabric had dried against it.
“I can't not go back. I got notes all over town.” she replied, lifting the vodka bottle to her lips. Her fatalistic logic was at once familiar and exhausting.
“I will pay them out.”
A frown developed as she examined the statement.
“They didn’t get it all, did they?”
He shook his dark head slowly. The sight of his body dappled in sullen ordinal colours merged with the memory of its horrific aptitude, its effect on bone and flesh and glass, his great shape's containment of a void so easily mistaken for the strictures of inhibition. She lifted her hair from the back of her neck, looking from his stare toward the floor in an effort to arrest the adulterant influence of lust, fed by all that she had seen of him, black flames rolling away from their buried source. Her eyes rose to the cinder-coloured depression punched into the skin of his left flank.
“How can you stand there with a round in you, like someone cut you off a fucking cross?” she murmured, her grasp sliding on the bottle. “Same way you put two cops in a fucking hole like you were flushing goldfish, you... fucking psychopath.”she whispered, bringing a hand to her face as though the light damaged her eyes. “Think I can come to you for an allowance? You don’t have dependents. I’ll end up face down in the fucking woods like everyone else.” The blue light on his skin began to fail and lose itself until all around became cold-blooded red, their pale stares soaked through with it, their shapes drawn with strokes of that perfected darkness worn by long-expired stars. She rose and came to him, turning her hand against his wound as she opened her lips on his neck, exchanging the smell and taste of his skin for the heat of her own. “What I need to do is just... I just need to leave you alone.”
In doing so she took up her jacket and walked to the door, but he pushed it shut from behind her, shifting his weight to pin her with his shoulder and reaching down with both hands, fingers leaving white trails in her flesh where they dragged over the silk of her stockings toward the warm, bare skin where they concluded. She stood with her cheek to the wood while he kicked her feet apart and lifted her skirt, drawing her back against him with an arm pulled tight around her waist. His body beside her own and the proficiency of his hands together wrested her whispered permission, and she closed her eyes and caught the door frame, letting her weight drag through her arms. Her feet slid down into the toes of her shoes, heels lifted free by the first shock of pleasure as it struck her hard, sucking the tension from her legs.
“You can't fuck me and say nothing." she breathed.
“I kill people for money.” he told her, pushing one hand down the front of her skirt, the other reaching around between her breasts to grasp her shoulder so that she could evade nothing of what he did to her. "I enjoy it more than I should. There is something badly wrong with me." Her forehead slid against the door as she bowed her head and bared her teeth, rolling her hips to allow him the full measure of her body in which he moved with ruthless resolution. “I should walk into the sea, but the more I have of you, the more I need. Don't ask me to let you go. I have never known how." he promised, the words cool on the back of her neck, releasing his pinioning grip and turning her against him. He grasped the soft reverse of her thighs, sweeping her clear of the ground and setting her back against the door where she pushed out from it, meeting his mouth with her own and receiving him there as she did everywhere else, heels biting into the small of his back. Her hands still clutched the framing overhead but the crippling intensity of his method brought her so close that she lost her grip and writhed between him and the wood until constraint was torn away, ripping free like thorns through flesh.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce