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She twisted the ring around her middle finger. It was one of her nicer ones; a thick gold plating with a large brass letter at the forefront. She admired it on her hand, the strange juxtaposition of soft gold on her tanned, hardened skin. A moan escaped from somewhere behind her. She turned to a face a figure on a chair, a skinny wisp of a man with hands bound behind his back and a kerchief round his thin-lipped mouth. His eyes, misty from droplets of sweat, were desperate, pleading. The chair trembled slightly from the shaking of his bony legs, rattling with nervous energy. The girl clenched her fist beside her, taking a deep breath. In one swift movement, she swiped the kerchief away from his face, tossing it aside brusquely. The man licked his lips, long dry from hours bound.
“I’ll do it by next week!”
His voice was high, a legitimate falsetto. He was panting as if he’d just come up air, the words pushed from his throat by shrivelled lungs. The girl remained stony face, clenching and unclenching her sizeable hands. She tilted her head away from the flickering lamplight, bringing the landscape of her face into sharp, almost satanic relief. Without changing her expression, she slowly parted her lips.
“That’s what you said seven days ago.”
Her voice was raspy, the words sharp-edged but the tone gentle. The man began trembling in earnest, and the chair’s metal legs rattled on the floor, the clitter-clack resounding in the vast emptiness.
“I-I-I’m s-sorry...I j-just...”
He stopped, squeezing his eyes shut. A sob escaped his lips, and tiny drops were making their way in rivulets down his cheeks. The girl looked away, disgusted. Gasps and badly stifled cries erupted at the man worked himself into an emotional frenzy, shoulders bobbing the head up and down over his thin, hair-speckled chest. She stood still, tolerating his outburst for a few moments. A few seconds passed, and the man showed no signs of stopping; his hysteria mounted with each passing beat. She had to act. Pulling her first back, she hit his cheek on the sweet stop right below the bone, enough to hurt but not fracture. The man stopped crying immediately, gazing up steadily. His cheek was visibly throbbing from the impact the brass “M” of her ring carved into the skin.
“We made a deal. I give you the opportunity to get revenge, and you take it. That’s how it works. But you broke the deal. As a rat wriggles through the drainpipe, you wriggled your way into my trust. But the pipe wasn’t enough. You had to bite your way through the metal, creating a hole to supposed freedom. And just as the rat which runs from the sewers gets hit by a car, so you, rat, will be punished for breaking the delicate boundaries that I have so generously set.”
The man’s gaze was unwavering. The girl looked back at him, but she was frightened by what she saw in those eyes. She had seen many a rogue, had looked death in its vacuous black sockets and snickered, but this...this was new. The desperation had deepened, so much that he was no longer pleading with her but with the echoes in his mind, the voices that foretold his death. She watched, unable to tear herself away, as scenes played across the bloodshot whites, the horrors reflected in the pupils. Dutifully trekking through the dim streets after dark, she saw the insides of bar after bar, her vision sharp with intent and red from bloodlust. The masses wandering the streets parted like the Red Sea as she put one foot in front of the other in a swift cadence, rubber soles soundless on the cool pavement. People faded in and out of vision, their faces blurred, cut clean of all features. They were not the one she was looking for.
After cruising the main streets for hours (or minutes...the concentrated mind does not keep track of time) she turned onto an alleyway, the brick walls narrow, brushing against her shoulders as she briskly made her way through. A rank smell invaded her senses, clouding her eyes with a greenish tinge before receding immediately after she passed a dumpster. Her impatience was at the brink her eyes darted from place to place like a child with ADD, her hands trembled as if she had just smoked a dozen cigarettes. Suddenly, as if what she was thinking affected the movie of the man’s life, she saw herself extracting a crumpled Marlboro box from a side pocket, shoving one between her dry lips as she patted herself down in search for a lighter.
The night had been exhaustive, and black ink pooled around her eyes as she looked around for something to hit, something on which she could impress her anger. A rusted tin trashcan stood in the shadows of the alley. She saw herself sprinting to it, rearing her leg back and giving it a swift kick, enough to send it flying down the stretch of darkness. To her surprise, the can maintained its position; a groan emitted from somewhere inside the receptacle, human sounding. She tore off the lid, almost panting with excitement. Surely enough, she was able to make out the slim figure of a man, his face hidden in his sleeve. Grabbing the body of the can, she tossed it on its side, as the man slumped gracelessly out. He looked up. She felt her face fall, the blood drain from her veins. A homeless man stared back at her, yellow and gaunt. His clothes were in rags, hanging off of his non-figure. He was pathetic. She turned, about to begin her quest for a lighter, when he coughed lightly, a polite ‘ahem’. She turned. He locked her gaze and shakily licked his lips.
“Would you mind telling me what the hell you want?”
The voice was strong, a man’s. She felt the corners of her mouth tilt upwards, the sides of her eyes crinkling into a big-toothed smile. Her heart was beating fast, and colour was quick returning to her visage.
“I want you.”
The eyes cut to black. She stared into them nonetheless, dumbfounded.
“But...but if you found him, how did I not hear? We searched everywhere. He...he’d disappeared. I thought you’d let him get away.”
The man’s face held still as his eyes flickered on again.
She saw a man on his knees, a familiar fellow, begging for mercy as a ghostly hand (the man’s, and now hers) clutched at his neck. She felt the soft weight of a dead man’s body in her arms as she (he) carried it to the dumpster, tossing it in unceremoniously and carefully wiping her hands with a Kleenex.
The girl began to tear, willing herself to un-see.
“I...I said a week in the hospital, maybe two. Just...just rough him up a bit. I didn’t...I didn’t want...”
For the first time in a long time, the man grinned. His eyes had gone completely dark, the movie of his life recording. His teeth had a wolf-like quality to them. He was a cannibal, vicious. He licked his lips.
“Well, I did.”