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An Idolwood story
Start at the beginning of the Idolwood series
The plate shattered into scores of tiny pieces against the concrete wall, porcelain projectiles flying back toward her gaunt and tear-streaked face. Blotches of red were seared against her cheekbones, like the slashes of some unseen blade peeling back the papery, jaundiced skin.
"I had him." Her voice was choked.
There were roses and daisies painted along the rim. The Hanged Man sat in the queer, metallic throne of the basement, watching as the furious tears ran across her countenance, a fury thwarted in her pursuit.
"All right," Alex nodded, "It's okay. Come on out."
The shaken teens remained beneath their car a few further seconds before the girl peered out. Dark ringlets framed the pale heart-shape of her face, and there was a thin line of blood along her lower lip where she had been biting herself in fear.
"Where'd he go?"
Alex shrugged, lowering the tire iron. "Who knows? She's gone."
He shrugged again, nostrils flaring as he took deep breaths of the cool air. There was a spice from the row of pines, underlaid by the sweet rotting scent of early spring, the heavy smell of loam's renewal. "Don't know."
Her face pinched and twisted itself. "You didn't see her?"
"In the forest, you know? She was back there. She's gone." He listened to the beat of a bird's wings to his right, the intent skittering of a chipmunk after some hidden morsel among the brown and fallen needles.
"How do you know if you didn't see her leaving?"
Alex blinked. "It's... she's gone, that's all. I don't feel her any more."
"He doesn't feel her," she rolled her eyes. "Jesus Christ. Was this funny or something? Because the police are on their way and if it's a big fucking joke..."
"No." Alex blinked again, shaking his head. The strange energy that had flooded him while being chased was ebbing away. He felt the world shrinking, lost the strength of those scents. Sounds faded into the familiar background blur of suburban life, traffic and distant sirens drawing ever closer.
She considered him a further second before frog-crawling from under the Toyota. "C'mon, Matthew. He says it's safe."
The boy followed her, less certain, his dark eyes sweeping the parking lot as he brushed the dirt from his cargo pants. They rode low on his skinny hips, and Alex wondered for a moment how he'd kept from losing them while crawling to safety.
"Dude," he repeated. "Thanks and stuff."
"Why'd you stick around, if you knew there was a woman with a gun out there?"
Alex shrugged, handed the tire iron back to the boy. "I couldn't leave you here. What if she was crazy? Not after me but just looking to... hurt someone?"
"Why would a woman be gunning for you?"
"Chicks," nodded Matthew.
Alex spread his broad hands. "I'm still trying to find that out."
She had removed her sweatshirt on entering, sweating despite the chill in the air, face bruised with her frustration. The hints of her breasts rose and fell as she hurled another thrift-store platter against the wall.
"I had him." She heaved another garden of flowers into the air, shattering and sparkling beneath the Hanged Man's level gaze. The white powder hung in the air like snowdrops, bright in the naked glare of the bulbs which lit the basement.
"And he should be dead, and his blood on the ground. And his hair all tangled and wet. Because I had him, love. He was in my sights, just where the jawbone splinters just right. Maybe his eye gets caught, and, and he sinks, and it's quiet. It's so quiet." A small gleam appeared beneath her nose, running in her frustration. When Gamine was angry, her nose wept. Her eyes no longer could.
The Hanged Man remained silent himself, savoring both the slow unraveling of Gamine's control and memory of the fear in the Straw Man's face. He had seen it through the windshield of the Lincoln, had masked his own expression with mock panic and fear as he hurtled forward, a careless and innocent visitor to the park.
Pajari was an idiot; standing in his way with a tire iron to face a huntress like Gamine for the sake of strangers. He was an idiot. He would die like an idiot. It didn't matter when.
It only mattered that he dies.
She'd had him, the Hanged Man did not doubt. She'd been ready to pull the trigger and that fierce and breathless joy had been stolen away.
Another plate rang out, then another, then another. Her skin was blotched with strawberry patches across shoulders and back now, the fury working its way toward her core, no longer restricted to her mind. Her body was reacting to the rage and anger, her breath choking and stuttering as she fought to express what she had caged all of her life.
Watching, he loosened his belt and slipped it from around his waist.
He leveraged his bulk upright as she hurled another saucer after the last, another, another, furious and voiceless now, close to losing herself in a hurricane of her own making, until the leather belt cracked through the still air and drew an entirely different scream as it lashed across the skin and bones just above her right hip.
The room became very quiet.
A crimson welt rose against her skin, revealing itself as a grub crawls forth from a garden, twice as thick as her emaciated wrists, half as thick as his sweaty palm.
"You found nobody worth your wrath," he said, voice pitched at the deepest edge of hearing.
"No." A trace of blood welled along the top of the bruise, a single drop trailing to a bead at the waistband of her black tights.
Her breath came deep and measured, slow and steady, ribs expanding and contracting like carrion wings from her hollowed belly. Her nipples rose at the depth of his voice, at the promise in his tone.
He coiled the leather around his fist again. "Your control," he whispered, "is too beautiful, Gamine. It is... precious in this wild age. You are a relic of some earlier time. Tell me where you were born."
"I was born in blood." Her voice was not quite clear, muddled by the thickness of unshed tears, mucous, and anticipation. "And cut with blades."
"Where," he repeated. "Were you borne on some Grecian hillside, thick with rough chervil? Some Baltic field, soaked in the sins of antiquity? Did your mother haunt the street-side clinics of a devilish white city? Tell me, my beautiful, dangerous, starveling child. Where were you born?"
"In blood," she repeated through clenched teeth, and the belt whistled and fell a finger's breadth from the first stroke. It came away dark and damp along its heavy edges, peeling itself through the thick tension of the air.
"I will know."
"Yes, you will... my love." She kept her own eyes on the wall, marked and dusty with the white scars of her fury. "One day, you will know."
"This day." The belt coiled again and struck, biting deep into the porcelain skin, the terrible polish of its edge running now dark with the blood it drew with each passing strike.
"This day I was born in blood," she said, repeating the charm thrice. He coiled the belt and stepped forward, placed one heavy hand upon the triple bruise.
With his other hand he caressed her cheek, the breadth of his hand encompassing half her face. The blotches had left her skin, the angry rash replaced by an even flush which pulsed along with her heartbeat.
"You will bleed this day, my Gamine."
"I had him," she whispered, eyes shutting. "I was quick. I was professional. I wasn't seen. I had him, love, for your sake."
"Sssh. These days are nothing of yours or mine alone." He stroked a heavy finger along the severe curve of her neck, his great stomach pushing against her spine, nudging her toward the chill, marked wall. "I brought you to me for a reason, love; formed your effigy and bore it beneath my heart. Do you recall?"
"Five months," she nodded. "You carried my doll beneath your heart; you slept with my doll beneath your bed..."
"And you came, my love." He brought his face to her cheek, his breath spearmint-sweet over the sour smell of his body, "hitchhiking like a vision of the past."
"No bus, no train," she whispered. The damp, rough coolness of the wall pressed against her nipples now. If she wished, her tongue could touch the porcelain trails. "No tickets. No trace, no sign. I was trackless then, invisible."
"A ghost queen," he nodded. "My heart's ease lay then in your dead and empty eyes."
She whipped around and seized his jowls, pressed the heat of her lips against the slickness of his own. Her tongue pried apart his lips, not teasing, but forcing him to accept her, to welcome her presence as one leg swung around the enormity of his waist.
There was no sound but their labored breath, one against the other, eyes squeezed shut against anything save the feelings which encompassed them. Using the wall as leverage against her back, she clambered upon him, feet scuttling along the breadth of his ass, her left hand mauling the folds of flesh between spine and shoulder, her right slapping against his cheek and curling to draw herself higher, lifting herself bodily above the towering hulk of his frame, the crown of her head brushing against the acoustic tiles.
The hand at his cheek reached up to pinch shut his nostrils, and she sucked through her mouth in desperation, seeking to draw all the breath from his lungs, drinking in his life as he brought his massive arms around her skeletal frame.
He clenched his hands in the middle of her back and began to squeeze.
Her lungs fought his, nostrils dilating as she sucked in breath, seeking to drink his lungs clear of oxygen before she would be forced to fall to his brutal grip. His only breath would come from her, his lifeline to the outside world, his safety and protection, the best and brightest part of him, the sole thing on which he could depend.
Their eyes were open now—his cold and grey, with the yellowed whites of a debauched and inconsistent life, hers cat-brown and burning with ambition and hate—both piercing one another, probing after any sign of weakness.
He turned himself, still clutching her to his mass, placed his own broad back against the cinderblock walls, reveled in the cool roughness against his skin. His arms clenched more tightly as her suction became more frantic, her slender nails clawing at his face with a wild urgency.
Her feet were crushed between flesh and stone, twisting and grating against the wall. His lips curled into a half-snarling smile as they stared into the depths of one another's eyes, mocking her, daring her to move further, to take the game beyond.
Her nails raked across his chest as his grasp tightened, choking the life's breath from her as blood trickled down his enormous breast, pressed against the insignificance of her own. Her other hand was crushed between heavy rolls of fat and cold stone, bones grinding against one another, shifting under the flesh she despised.
She threw her head back, bared her teeth as her jaws opened as those of a rattlesnake, gaping toward the acoustic tiles of the mundane basement, gasping after breath as the control left her, as pleasure racked the wire and bone of her emaciated form, shock-blonde locks plastered to forehead, nape, sculpted cheekbones in the breathless, drowning rush.
One of his broad hands came up to catch that hair, seized it, drew down upon it and exposed her throat. He watched the pulse of her throat, watched as it rose and fell, one dark vein against the expanse of pale flesh surrounding it, focused on it as a drowning man on the promise of salvation.
He watched the crest and ebb of blood in her veins, of breath in her body, and he thrilled in the knowledge that it flowed at his leisure and permission—that he might have stopped it at any time. All control lay in his hands, which destroyed and created alike. He bore children from his own broad palms and took life with his thick and powerful fingers. The Hanged Man was a conductor of life, a conduit, and his own breath came ragged with the slick movement of Gamine's skeletal frame writhing and sinuous upon him.
One calloused thumb closed at the base of her windpipe. Gamine threw her head further back, lay open her throat, allowed her last recourse for breath to be stopped even as her hands came involuntarily to claw at his forearm, to seek freedom and oxygen, to live and breathe.
She marked his arm fierce as a cornered animal, legs thrashing now around his body as he pinned her to the wall, gyrating in a dance which brought him closer, closer...
He released her in his own release, thrusting himself forward in a savage rush which threatened to crack one of her birdlike ribs, pressing her immobile against the wall for a final, desperate moment.
Breathless, they forgot the world, forgot their vengeance, and forgot their pride, his children, her control, the vast chasm between their hurts and the pain of the world at large. Stripped and bloody, they clung to one another as child to parent—each tearing at the other with careless ferocity, as only child to parent can.
Officer Porter was wrapping up his questioning in the Morgan Glen parking lot as the sounds of screaming guitars began to fill the parking lot. An ancient Mustang swung into view, with two boys lolling in the front seat like dogs in summer. Their skinny arms hung from the window, the passenger's careless and boneless, and the driver's beating time frantically against the door in keeping with the noise of his music.
The passenger sat up straighter on seeing the two men, reaching quickly to turn down the music. Officer Porter shook his head, turned back to Alex as the boy parked his car.
"So anyway, if you see this woman again, call us. I'll keep my eyes open, but skinny blondes aren't exactly rare. Hell, lipo these days, you see more than ever. My sister-in-law runs of those clinics in Barrington."
Alex nodded, watching Isaac get out of the Mustang. With him was a taller-gap toothed boy with a mop of unruly curls dreading down toward his shoulders. "Thanks, officer. Do you have any word on the break-in?"
"At the Jordan home, 52 Calla Lane, over in Idyllwood."
"Oh. Oh, right. No suspects." Porter scratched at his forearm, flakes of skin fluttering to the stones of the parking lot. "Thought I recognized you. You run out here a lot, right?"
Porter laughed a small snort through the nose. "Sure. I don't blame you, if she did have a gun."
"You don't believe me?" Alex looked curiously at the little man, his bright blue eyes widening. "Why would I lie to the police?"
"Brother, work on the force a month. You'll find out."
"But I called it in. I don't..."
"Not calling you a liar, Mr. Pajari." Porter held up his right hand. "I'm saying you might have been mistaken, that's all. Domestics are usually in the home, or late at night. You say you haven't been in a relationship in how long?"
"Three years. She's in California now."
"So it's not that. We haven't had a random shooting in a year." He shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe we're due."
Alex cocked his head. "But you don't believe me."
"I believe you, Mr. Pajari." The emphasis was subtle. "We've got the notes. We'll send a cruiser in every day for a week or two. I'll let the Parks and Rec people know to keep their eyes open for a blonde suspect. Okay?"
"Okay," said Alex, his shoulders relaxing slightly. "Is that all, then?"
"That's all. You have a nice day now."
"Thank you, sir. You too."
As Porter returned to his car, Alex watched Isaac kicking stones across the lot. The boy he was with, driving the Mustang, must be Brandon. Too young to be driving, he thought, and then hitched up one shoulder. He'd had enough of looking out for people for one day.
Walking back to the Jeep, he reasoned that school was over for the day, that Grey must know where Isaac was. He was the kind to keep a tight leash. Alex unlocked the door, looked back at the boys now throwing stones at each other, and sighed.
He started the Jeep and swung slowly around, then leaned out the window. "Isaac!"
Isaac turned; worry pulling at his wide, thin lips. "Hey, Mr. Pajari... what are you doing here?"
"Come here a minute."
Brandon made quiet kissing noises behind Isaac's back as he came reluctantly forward, thrusting his hands into the pockets of his jeans. He'd untucked the button-down shirt and unbuttoned the first two buttons, making a joke of the pseudo-dressiness Grey tried to enforce.
"How are you?" Alex asked.
"Are you all right with this friend?"
"Yeah." Isaac nodded.
"He threw the first rock."
"Do you want a lift home? I can tell your friend Grey sent me."
Isaac looked up, surprised. "Why?"
"Something happened in the woods. You saw the policeman?"
"Yeah," Isaac laughed nervously.
"There was a woman. She's dangerous. I think you'd better come home."
Isaac considered the broad, open face. "Why do you care?"
"Well, after the break-in..."
"Your father didn't tell you?" Isaac shook his head, and Alex sighed. He couldn't back out of it now. "Someone tried to break into his house... your house."
"It was about a week ago, yeah? Between that and... what just happened, you better come home."
Isaac shifted his weight from one leg to the other. "Um... see, the thing is, Mr. Pajari... I kind of snuck out. Dad doesn't actually know I'm here."
"Oh." Alex considered this, recalled his phone conversation with Grey, the furious stomps of a young boy heading up the stairs. He'd been sent to his room, no doubt, and called his friend to get him after ducking out the window. "Yeah, I see."
"Don't tell him, please. Please."
"I won't," Alex promised, "but now I mean it. Sorry. You're going to have to come back with me. Sneak back in." He considered. "I'll distract Grey at the door. You can climb back in."
Relief flooded Isaac's face. "Okay. Thanks. Thank you, Mr. Pajari. Thanks."
"Okay. Tell your friend we're going."
"Okay. Thanks again," Isaac said, turning back to Brandon. "Hey! Dad found me. I've gotta go."
"What?" Brandon feigned inability to hear.
"I've gotta go!"
"You've got your CDs in the car!" Brandon motioned him over. "Come get 'em."
Isaac dragged his feet toward the Mustang, dreading the confrontation. "Going home with gaybait, huh?"
"He's my neighbor."
"Easy access, then." Brandon punched his shoulder. "Doesn't daddy have rules about getting into cars?"
"Fuck you, Brandon."
"He'll loosen you up first, faggot."
"Don't call me that!"
"Whatevs. You wanna prove it? I'm gonna bring Jenny Malloy out here tonight. Midnight." He smirked. "Come down and maybe you can get sloppy seconds."
"Yeah, right. She's going to come here with you?"
"She's going to come, all right." Brandon reached in through the window and took out a CD. "Here, take this. Midnight. Tonight."
"How am I supposed to get here at midnight?"
"Ask your boyfriend for a ride."
"Fuck you, Brandon," Isaac repeated. "You're not going to get Jenny out here."
"Well, you won't know unless you show up, will you? Tell your dad I said hi."
Isaac walked back to the Jeep and got in, lips shut tight. Alex pulled away onto the road, glancing at the boy once or twice.
"I promise, Grey won't know."
Isaac's thin lips twitched. "I believe you."
Finding that he did.
Story by Ivan Ewert, Copyright 2011
Image by Amber Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2011