His avian companions picked spiders from between the facia stone and stooped to sip from the bowl of water he had furnished. On his back, he was reminded of the decrepit building's lean toward the adjacent seaboard on the rotten sandstone of its foundations. It was this failure that had kept his landlord, and others of its antique fraternity, from the benefit of the development conflated from their colonial redoubt, the ramshackle dockside precinct half-crushed by piers of soaring pharonic stone, grandiose setbacks and Futurist friezes before the City had condemned it. Sylph-like liability had left the neighbourhood in stasis, its decrepitude quickly girded by a dark and half-fabled repute. The original speculators drew a desultory return from those preferring or requiring civil abandon and the convenience of its primitive via subterraneus, hollowed through the fateful strata.
Just as he was tiring of his own phonic demonstration, it died in mid-break with the power shorted at some distant juncture, throwing the apartment into shadow and prompting him to roll from the sofa and retrieve a bottle of vodka from the freezer box. He had drifted into a doze by the time the short clip of stiletto heels began to trouble the hall outside, the intruder inspecting the plethora of notices taped to the dislocated door, then squeezing in sideways past the speakers.
Two garbage bags lay slackly, like excised organs on the atrium floor, stuffed with clothing and personal effects; clutching her phone, the intruder loosed another message at the number she had solicited all day, using the recipient's irritant ringtone to locate the appliance where it lay face-down on the parquet. Having snatched it up, she divided her attention between scrolling through its messages and deeply suspicious incursions into neighbouring rooms. The bedroom still wore a dusting of finely-milled silver on its undisturbed surfaces; she marched her scowl out to the balcony, standing before its occupant in flame-red knit and ankle-boots, statuesque and amber blonde and stripped of body hair. William's silence pursed her plenteous lips beneath their gleaming slick of raspberry gloss.
"You're moving out of here? Don't try and lie to me!" she shouted suddenly.
As Opal La Rue’s sole extant relation, Rachel Whateley had been taken in hand by that maternal ancestor, the latter desirous of refining her appeal as an heiress into that of a fully furnished debutante with a view to securing a particular strain of suitor. This had proved fruitless upon Opal's discovery that her own acuity had been granted without heritors, but Rachel's beauty, so comprehensive and expertly nuanced, still struck William as something almost mythic, in its perfection and in its almost poignant irony. He lay in apathetic silence and watched her rummage through her bag, muttering to herself as though he had interjected.
"I said she's a hooker." she hissed.
"Where?" he murmured.
"That bitch... you know who I'm talking about..."
"Frost?" She bristled at the name.
"Forget all about moving in with her... I don't care how hard she tries. If I find out you've stayed over one more time, I'll have Opal go to the police about her. And I know all about Megan." He frowned and propped his head on the Biedermeier sweep behind him. “You know... May-gan? Five-six, ghetto implants, heavy, bad weave... the girl you had sex with last night at that disgusting bar..." One of his eyebrows ascended as he scratched the side of his neck, expression expanding into an artless, remontant delight. “Harvey warned me you'd use other women to control me, and guess what? Exactly what you're fucking doing right now.” she proclaimed, sinking down on the end of the couch and forcing him to withdraw his bare feet. Rachel's eyes were a brightly-rayed cerulean, though their tinted lenses tipped them toward violet. Her hair slid from the silken polish of her shoulder, the day beaming through its Isabella gold as she gazed up into the sun.
“Who’s Harvey?” he inquired unwillingly.
“Who’s Harvey? He’s my therapist, you fucking asshole!” Without taking his unblinking eyes from her, William reached down for the little silver pipe that had rolled into a crease beneath him and put it to his lips, bringing his lighter to its furthest end and flicking the flint wheel. Rachel gasped. "You're using, you pig? You know I'm in recovery!" The burnt scent of the amphetamines she had ingested with her breakfast melon rode her breath into his face as she snatched the pipe and tossed it over the railing. He drew his knees up to his chest.
“Rachel... I don't know what you want... honestly, I don't... you only fucked me to fuck with Opal... you thought my name was Aaron til a month ago. You don’t like me, you don't like my birds...” He nodded at the avian contingent regarding her from the railing like clockwork follies. The sun disappeared behind a cloud. “Just... give me the flick. Go hard after that hedge fund guy... the one with the duck face, you know, smells like... what is it? Compulsion... obsession? Calvin Klein Repulsion? And he probably doesn't have herpes, don't listen to me. I want you to be happy..." She hated the polymathic complexity of his voice, his English subverted by French vowels, Arabic hiatus and other, stranger anomalies. The neck of her knit dress had fallen open over the tanned and sun-warmed volume of her cleavage as he struggled to conclude his failing admonition. "I know what I'm doing wrong... I'm standing in your way. I'm suffocating you, and you should just... wipe me out of the way like an angry blesbok."
“You expect me to sit here and listen to your shit when you're high?” she snarled. "You're in a fucking spiral... a circle only goes in one direction. You don't even know what normalcy is any more!"
“Rachel... think back and pick out all the good times, please... just for my benefit. All those sober occasions when I was happy and shitting normality, sorry, normalcy out of every orifice...” She looked up again at the sky.
“That picnic in the rain... you threw the turkeydogs in the river and tried to tell me you were vegan... that time we made love on the roof of the Peninsula... and Vegas...”
William nodded as she related each circumstance.
“Baked... fan-baked... out of my fucking mind on peyote... and Vegas? Bordel... no files exist. Pour l'amour de Dieu, you have a doctor and he's costing Opal lots of money... talk to him instead of showing him your knickers."
She stared, then swung a fist, striking him with all the impulsive wrath that rose in answer to the suggestion. William closed his eyes, let it land and kick his head sideways in an expression of defeat he knew would satisfy her, his ascent from the couch and escape into the lounge timed to those aspects of her response that he knew better than she did. He secured the bedroom door behind himself but she was not long deterred; on finding herself debarred Rachel began a stream of personalized invective, twisting the handle and kicking at the intervening panel. A phone on the tansu behind him began to vibrate as though in sympathy and he reached for it with a foot, squinting at the unfamiliar number while he kept hold of the door, then pressing it to his ear.
"Ouais?" William received no reply though the line hung open, the hum of faintly oscillating static a product of the topography. He smiled to himself, recognizing the silence and addressing its palpable sentiment as Rachel's demonstration waxed almost satanic. "I do know this is completely fucked." he admitted. "But she's got me clocked, mahatma. I try to tell her it’s over but she starts screaming and fucking my earholes and taking her clothes off and I try to get away... I'm sweating and crying but I can't move, then I wake up and I've lost an hour and I feel so empty inside." An automated voice advised that the line had been temporarily assigned, and he waited with his back to the door, flicking his teeth with a fingernail until it returned.
"Get in the car." his brother's voice pronounced coldly. William reached forward and dragged the tansu against the partition, edging around it to lean out the window and gaze down at the German sedan idling on the street below. His gaze narrowed.
“You just flipped a fucking coin, didn’t you?" Another grainy silence ensued and he smiled to himself. "What were you going to do if it came up heads?" He received no reply. "Well... that beats the shit out of what you're doing now." The vehicle was placed in gear as its driver's patience ended but William whistled down at it, stowing the curtain and climbing out over the sill. He hung for a moment in the arms of the breeze before letting himself drop onto the balcony below, repeating the process five times until he gained a section of fire escape and whistled back up toward the apartment. One by one the pheasants coasted down to the street from the balcony on their short, fanned wings, clucking as they alighted.
The sedan's interior was as exclusively redolent of leather and high grade plastics as it had been on the day of its issue. William sat down in the passenger seat after settling the birds in the rear and glanced up through the window at the building from which he had absconded.
"Fifteen floors of vampyres and not one is that fucking hungry." he sighed.
"Darknet, no landlines, no mail to the address. Nai i'rani, nai i'ssi'tan." Edward decreed, his yellow gaze returning to the road like that of some effigy that had discharged its oracular obligations. William took a while to respond, sitting with an expression that darkened with the fitful percussive blows transmitted to his seat through the chassis beneath them.
"I'd have a look at that if I were you." he muttered.
Edward slid a hand into the depths of his jacket as he stood out of the driver's seat, surveilling the empty street with automatic deliberation before attending to the restive contents of the trunk.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce