"It's too early... come closer." he sighed. She shuffled around the bed toward him, swearing when he belied his sloth by throwing her down onto the mattress and leaping upon her with active predacity; she squirmed and complained under the dark blue sheets that settled over them. “I said you’re sexy when you’re cranky, in Urdu.”
“Teach me something.” Susan insisted while he used his teeth to loose the buttons of her cardigan.
"Mai urdu nahi bolti.”
“Mai... ur... just tell me what it means.”
“I do not speak Urdu.” he smiled. "French is so much easier... say défonce-moi, bête de la montagne... doucement... profondément..." She cackled as he shucked her tights down, planting her feet, hauling them up then breaking free and scrambling to the foot of the bed, only to be dragged back under the quilt, her shrieks obscuring the sound of the tread approaching the door. Neither of them were prepared for the force with which it flew open, admitting Edward in a black temper.
“Get up.” he snapped. “Into town. Now.”
“What the fuck?" William complained, throwing down the counterpane. “Do you think you can walk your crazy white arse out of here?”
“Just go, it looks important.” Susan insisted, brushing down her skirt.
"Is it?” he demanded of his brother. Edward’s mood required no elucidation, and William reached across her for his trousers.
Lilian met them in the hallway in the midst of tying back her hair, scowling beside the phone held to her ear by her shoulder as she followed them down the stairs.
“Stay here.” Edward told her. She hung up and stuffed the appliance into her bag.
“I swear Lamb if you say that one more time I'm going to fucking stab you. Stay here shit... some cocksucker smashed up the store and sprayed my fucking name in dayglo over everything. Meredith just reamed me like a Dutch bitch.” They waited behind Edward while he unlocked the door into the garage.
“I want pictures.” he told her. “Send them to my phone.”
“Why’re you here?” she demanded of William, dropping down into the passenger side; he glanced up from lighting a joint on the back seat.
“He’s second key on my deposit boxes.” Edward informed her. William leant forward, trading looks with her. “Someone hacked my operating accounts.” he hissed.
“No fucking way... what did they get?” Lilian exclaimed. She glanced back to William for an interpretation of his brother’s mute demeanour; the latter sat back and sucked in his bottom lip.
Susan stood before the coffee machine as the front door slammed. Lilian stalked into the kitchen, slumping down into a chair beside the window before acknowledging her presence with a glance. The silence between them, loaded from the outset, became as contentious as any ill-chosen words and Susan turned toward the sink, casting about for something to say.
“William called a while ago... something garbled, about banks...” she offered. The blonde woman struck a light, sat back and smoked half her cigarette before responding.
“I feel like... you're looking at me a certain way." she asserted, lowering her chin and devoting her gaze to the ash she tapped into the china bowl before her. Unsure how to reply, Susan chose not to, and her companion let the challenge slide. "La Rue hacked Lamb's account, ripped off all the dry-cleaned cash. Then someone busted into the boutique, smashed it up and sprayed how they’re gonna do me all over the whole fucking thing. Whatever kind of shit went down between Lamb and Opal's gotta be bad, because no one goes this fugazi over losing a single fucking client.” Lilian's stare became bitter. “But you wouldn’t know about that, right?”
“I really don't." Susan sighed, shrugging at the suspicion that settled on her skin like soap scum. "Did you have money in the shop?”
“No... but no day job, no visible means of support. No visible means and every douche with a badge is on you like a fucking carcinoma, so no trade. No trade, no fucking money.” She delved into her handbag and a bottle of pills bounced from it onto the table, rolling and dropping at Susan’s feet; the latter could not help but glance at the label upon retrieving them but the discovery recoiled on her, souring the coffee in her mouth.
“This is..." She looked up incredulously. "You can't just take these... they're dangerous..."
“Too late. Who was that bitch last night, the Russian freak?” Lilian asked the question without looking at her.
“She's... a friend of William’s... but... you can't...”
Frowning again as Susan's reply tailed off into an incredulous stare, the blonde woman turned toward the window and the low chug of the large vehicle outside, perceiving the white bulk of a removal truck backing up to the gates. She took out her phone while the occupants jumped down and came for the chain impeding them with an enormous pair of bolt cutters. Susan left her talking to Edward and went to the porch, standing with hands on hips while the intruders guided the truck along the drive. It pulled up halfway, its three large, unshaven attendants sporting wife-beater shirts and sagging track pants.
“This is private property..." she exclaimed, walking around to address the driver, who rolled himself a cigarette behind the wheel. "What the bloody hell's going on?"
“This’s called seizing goods to the value of this right here, according to that right there.” he informed her, handing over a writ. Lilian addressed him as she descended the steps.
“Put it back in gear you greasy fuck or I go get the ten gauge.” she warned, staring up into the cab. The men glanced at each other and began to chuckle, shaking their heads and lowering the cleated ramp toward the cobblestones, the chain stays rattling as they paid out. She disappeared into the house while Susan attempted to decipher the smeary documentation, reappearing with the weapon she’d described in both hands, smiling like a sadist at an invalid. The packers fell back onto the lawn on either side of her while the driver exclaimed profanely into his mirror, struggling with the gearstick as she raised the heavy barrels.
Edward left his sedan in the midst of the road and strode down the drive even as the truck listed heavily toward him, the driver loath to concede precious velocity. The sun emerged briefly from behind cloud as he came toward the house through the exhaust smoke, pausing to confiscate his shotgun from Lilian's grasp and shucking the cartridges into his pockets.
"Find somewhere else." he told Susan, leaving her halting explanation on the doorstep.
In the drawing room Lilian watched him stand in tensile preoccupation; he studied her closely before walking to the kitchen and returning with her handbag, pouring its contents onto the kilim and inspected three vials of medication.
“Clozapine...” he related coldly.
“The really fucking hilarious thing about that is that it’s not working." she assured him. "And you don't get to stand there and judge my ass... this is all down to you anyway.”
“What is it about me that drives you to antipsychotics?”
“Everything. It’s everything. I can’t fucking sleep, I can’t work, I can’t stop fucking myself in the head... my mother died in secure care... she was as crazy as the fucking day is long and I can’t go that way...” She took an involuntary breath and lowered her voice, speaking with a brittle, deliberate restraint echoed in the fists into which both hands retreated. “I am... I'm having delusional thoughts. They're about you.”
He stood looking back at her but said nothing as he set the bottle on the mantle. She pressed the tips of her fingers to the crease between her brows, keeping her eyes closed.
“Okay, so... Meredith fired my ass for that shit at the store, so now I’m going back to work.”
“You can't with things as they are.” he told her. Lilian found it hard to look at him, even when he turned slightly toward the doorway. “Are you expecting anyone?”
Another vehicle had taken advantage of the unsecured gates to ease down the drive in low gear, a dark sedan with the dull orange globe of a magnetic beacon seated behind the windscreen. Edward left her in the drawing room to intercept its passengers. They rose slowly on either side of the car; two detectives, one in a hooded jacket and T-shirt, the other in a tight black pullover that displayed the outline of the holster strapped to his chest, approached the door, their posture weighted with an uneasy mix of caution and swagger. He let his anger bleed out while they looked him over and made some decisions of their own.
“We’re looking for a Lilian Frost... she’s here, right?” the hooded jacket proposed, flashing his credentials. He was broadly, indelicately handsome, his deeply-creased brow marked by a hybrid state of expectation and suspicion, his tan the product of time spent on other people’s yachts. Lilian usurped Edward’s reply, walking out into the hall to investigate the visitation and they trailed her back into the drawing room. “You know Mr Lamb, we’d really prefer to conduct this interview in private, so if you wouldn’t mind stepping out...” the hooded jacket suggested smoothly. He extinguished their expectations by staring back at them as he crossed the room and stood before the French doors. They looked down over the contents of her handbag where they still littered the ground beside the hearth. “Lilian Natalia Frost...” he smirked in her direction. “It’s just a small matter today. I’m sure we can settle this without any unpleasantness.”
“What the fuck do you want?” she snapped.
“That would be the drop you failed to make at the precinct a few months back. We’re aware you just lost your position down at your little porn store, what with all the felonious activity that’s occurred there overnight... but we’re going to be needing the sum owed before we can think about tolerating your primary operation.”
“Who told you I was here?”
“A concerned member of the public provided us with your details.” The detective smoothed a palm over his exuberant, toast-brown cowlick. “Cash or bank cheque, or you can come downtown and make it right in person... I’m all set for option two, but Noah here’s queerer than a three buck note and wants a payday. Maybe we can uh, split the difference, if it’s all the same to you.”
Lilian picked a thread from her sleeve, shaking her head.
“I’m tapped out, so you crazy clowns can go right ahead and fuck yourselves.” she advised. Glancing to Edward, she directed a small, sarcastic gesture of encouragement at him. “Bent vice cops. Throw them a coin, they'll do a little dance. Hell...” she added, nodding at the black sweater. “Look at those dick-sucking lips. He’s probably gonna do one anyway.”
“Ms Frost, you ah... you need to dial back that attitude. You and this here've pissed some upstanding, deep-pocket types off hard and you’re not in a position to yank our dicks... we did you a favour coming down here and playing nice... we don’t have to play that way. I prefer not to myself. Now... we started out at twenty K, I know that, but what you just said reminded me that we got Christmas coming and mouths to feed, so now it’s thirty.” the hooded jacket warned her, standing restlessly and looking to his companion, then to Edward, who seemed to have begun to exert a gravitational effect on his attention.
“Is there something you'd like to say to me specifically?” Edward asked.
“Would it kill you to step in and cut a cheque? Best money you ever spent, I can guarantee it.”
Lilian smoothed her hand against the side of her neck, watching them discuss her position without interjecting.
“She doesn’t want to pay.” Edward replied.
“Maybe I didn’t explain this right. She pays, or she comes downtown and works off every fucking dime in the ladycage while we lose her paperwork.”
The errant detectives looked from Edward to Lilian in an effort to discover the source of the strange reciprocation that had begun to prevail, of unintelligible exchange as the pair ignored the ultimatum in favour of each other. Against the dark wall the pale woman evinced so little interest in them that her disregard became a provocation in itself, and the hooded jacket shook his head, tugging handcuffs from his trousers.
“You don’t think we’re stupid, do you, because I could easily get offended.”
She smiled, but not at him.
“I guess cock doesn't take the edge off for you like it does for me.”
He pulled up short of her.
“Uh oh... look what you just did.” Snatching her wrist he turned her around, shaking out the silver cuffs with a dramatic flourish. She stood still at first, then yanked free, and he caught her arm again and sank a short punch into the back of her floating ribs. Her arms fell as though cut from her body and her mouth clenched, biting down on the small sound that almost escaped her.
“Dale...” the other detective murmured. “Don’t fuck her up. This asshole’s going for his lawyer as soon as we’re in the car.” Neither man enjoyed the expression on her face when she lifted it and looked to her companion; Edward’s golden eyes remained on hers while her escort shoved her forward, yanking her elbows back toward him in an attempt to correct her course against the slow pace she insisted on, her cryptic smile appalling the man beside the door. “Dale...”
“Pitch a fucking cork in it, would you Noah? No one knows shit about this... it’s a free ride.” He dragged her closer to the door. “Get this crazy bitch in the car before her head starts spinning round.”
Lilian slumped onto the thick plastic coating the rear of the sedan while her custodians took their own seats before her. In the warm confines the mens' conflicting colognes fought the smell of exhaled smoke and resident, endocrine masculinity. She coughed once and tasted copper. Edward filled the doorway as he paused and glanced in both directions across the garden; from watching him intently, the second detective turned to his companion.
“Dale... key.” he urged, looking down at the strip of chrome lining the door glass beneath his elbow, suddenly cold enough to bleed through his woollen sleeve.
“Jesus, will you fucking learn to front sometime? I’m not peeling outta here because this freak follows me into the friggin lot. He’s pissed... his piece is going and there’s not a damn thing he can do about it. I’d be pissed too.” the handsome man chuckled, turning with his arm over the back of his seat to smirk at Lilian while he fished the car key from his pocket. She sat with her cuffed hands at the small of her back, head laid against the rest and her gaze drifting to his own, growing slowly darker as though with cloud shadow as her lips parted. In doing so, he missed the sight of Edward’s face as the latter bent to stare in through the windscreen at them; as he turned back the detective found that he could neither instruct him to retreat, nor admonish the voice that slid over his shoulder. The keys in his fist became as cold as winter stone, sucking the heat from his hand.
“You can’t move.” she whispered, the sound of the breath drawn through her throat thickly loaded with impelling intonation. It bled into his skull and thickened his blood, backing it up behind the valves in his neck. The second detective glanced at his side window and snapped at his companion for the keys again. Though the latter heard him, he sat locked in immobility. Edward stepped back from the car door and Lilian curled against the seat, closing her eyes.
The window glass flew inward in a burst of icy fragments that struck both men and bounced back to land in her lap like uncut diamonds. The black pullover was sucked from his seat, his body scouring the glass that still sagged in the frame, dragged out into the open air, legs beating against the steering wheel. On the drive his hoarse cry was snapped short by the collapse of his face, his assailant crushing it into the cobblestones and cracking his neck into segments. Edward rose, crossing the windscreen like an eclipse toward the passenger side, terror tearing its occupant out of inertia and pushing his heavy, stubborn hands toward the shotgun between the front seats. The door beside him was wrenched open; in seizing and hauling him sideways Edward wrested the man’s grip from the weapon; his cry was punched into a higher key by his shoulders striking the grass, where he writhed like a fat snake as he was dragged from the drive by his ankle. While on his back he recalled the pistol secreted in his trousers, and with his stare still on his assailant he tore the gun free; Lilian flinched behind her window at the crack of the shot, watching Edward knock the weapon from his grasp, stamp his elbow to the ground and snap the detective's arm cleanly, leaving it to fall at a nauseous angle while he stoved a suite of prone ribs with the toe of his boot.
He took a moment to reach down and confiscate the keys from his victim’s belt before returning to the sedan. She knelt while he unlocked her cuffs, wiping her hair from her eyes as she climbed out and returned with him toward her tormentor, the man lying on the grass with his mouth moving to shape words that would not attend his summons. Bending slowly, Lilian retrieved the pistol from the ground and passed it to her companion, and Edward thanked her, trained it on the detective’s hip and pulled the trigger. They took an unhurried measure of his agony, but when the screams began to displease her, he aimed into the man's gaping face and fired again.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce