Anyhow, this is the last 1/2 of the first chapter. I've used all nine prompts.
It's a first draft, 1877 words...and hopefully the cut works lol
Mery crushed the still flickering embers of the now wasted cigarette in crystal ashtray, watching the tiny gold sparks puff out into wisps of smoke which sifted into the stale penthouse air to join the ghosts of cigarettes long past that swirled about her head.
“At least you could open a window,” she drawled, her voice a purr as her long, languid bare legs stretched against the blood red velvet of the antique settee on which she lounged. A girl of modern sensibilities, she actually hated everything about this room, every hint of the old, the vintage, the decaying.
But not Lucki. He liked things this way, preferred holding on to the memories of days and moments past.
Mery tolerated it because it was his, though every so often she swore he would come home one night to find the entire penthouse redecorated to suit her tastes.
A hollow threat she would never carry through. He liked his history, yes…and Mery was a part of that…but shared history or not, he would not hesitate to snuff her out if she crossed him.
He did not cling to the past that tightly.
At the window, his white linen dress shirt unbuttoned to the waist so that the pale skin of his chest glistened beneath the neon strip signs that stretched in every direction beneath his gaze, the threat in question, a delicious sight to behold, set his half-empty glass of scotch on the sill, the light and shadow of it separating his hand and the glass from his arm. Mery liked this vision of him, brooding, intense, and dangerous in the angles of light thrown into the room, but she had not come here tonight to smoke and drink alone. She had come for his company…and she’d be damned if she was going let him sulk all night at the window.
He wouldn’t open that rain-splattered window…but with a little creative determination, she knew she could pry him away from it.
The black silk of her favorite dressing gown whispered against her flawless skin as she rose up from the settee like a panther. She paused there long enough to pull the pins in her chestnut hair free and a side to side shake loosened their hold and let the easy waves fall free against her shoulders. No longer flawless in presentation, but she knew he liked tousled, liked the allure of bedroom hair as she called it.
A twitch in his shoulders, the only movement he made, was the only indication he gave that he was aware of her movement.
“Who’s here?” she asked, toeing off her designer patent leather heels and sliding them beneath the glass-topped coffee table, noting as she did so the stained ringed evidence of an early evenings round of drinks. The sight made her scowl. Lucki was going to fly into a rage when he saw it…even though he had contributed to the making of those rings.
“Can’t you feel him?”
She slunk up behind him; he could feel her there before she pressed her curves against him and wrapped her arms low around his waist. And when her hands slipped beneath the elastic waistband of his lounge pants, he tensed with a needy growl.
“All I feel,” she purred, her hands closing around the treasures she found there, her manicured nails, like claws, digging into sensitive flesh just so, “is you.”
It was the perfect touch. The perfect tone. The right moment. In one movement he was turned in her embrace, heedless of the bloody scratches her nails left upon him, one hand tangling in her hair to yank her head back roughly, tipping her face up to his. Mery knew. She always knew. And when his mouth covered hers with a bruising, devouring kiss, it was a kiss meant to crush the first flowering seeds of worry.
For she felt it too.
But whatever that presence meant, it was not something to fear.
Lucki had the night to run, the world at his feet. And Mery was going to be right there with him.
That presence be damned.
Click blink. Click blink Click blink. Josie waited, as she always waited, for the three a.m. train to speed past, the growl of its iron wheels upon the worn tracks and the blurred reflection of its interior lighting joining the syncopated symphony of the bent metal railway crossing X that stood at the corner despite the efforts of numerous vandals to deface it. The lights should have been red, but those same vandals had broken away the colored plastic some time ago and no one had bothered yet to replace it.
She doubted they would. Why should they, when it would only be smashed again within a matter of days?
She glanced at her watch. Ella damn well better be home, she thought, impatient for the last car to pass she could cross. Instead of waiting as Josie instructed, Ella had left the relative security of Lucki’s before Josie’s shift was up, for what? Some guy? A little night out on the town?
Josie growled. At least it hadn’t been Ross. The night was full of dangers, it was true…but at least none of those dangers were Ross.
That thought, however, did little to make her feel better. Ross was…well…Ross…but the darkness was filled with so much worse. Much, much worse.
There. The familiar purple flicker of the Gideon Theater sign illuminated the street corner, a sure indicator that she was nearly at her destination. Further down the boulevard, where the street lamps struggled to stay lit, or had given up their struggle to broken bulbs and frayed wires, was the dilapidated cement and steel thirteen-level project she and several others called home. A dark car, battered, beaten, with a look of impending collapse sat running, one front tire upon the curb, the flashing blue and red teetering on its roof announcing its purpose without any other fanfare.
Not an uncommon sight in the projects, but one that made her heart skip nonetheless.
No, she reassured herself. Ella was safe. Whoever the coppers were here to collar, it had nothing to do with Ella…or Josie.
They were good girls. They kept their noses clean.
Or as clean as anything could be in this garishly shadowed corner of hell.
Revolver in hand, aimed against whatever threat lurked behind the half-open peeling-paint door, where pale white light spilled out across the floor of the central living area of this three-room flat, Percival North eased it open, not sure what he would find wheezing and snuffling behind it.
The flash of the camera bulb spun abruptly in his direction.
“Jesus, North…give a guy a warning next time,” swore the older fellow, the white of his hair and beard still seeming to give off a reflective glow caught from the camera’s blazing blink.
North lowered the revolver that had been pointed at the other man’s head, but his attention, however, was on the naked corpse of a girl sprawled in a claw-foot tub half filled with bubble bath and blood. One wrist hung limp over the age-stained edge of the tub, dripping red upon the cracked tile floor.
“Another one, Uriah?”
Uriah Young nodded and wiped the back of his arm across his mouth. From the stench in the toilet, Percival knew at once the cause of the earlier wheezing and snuffling. As old as Uriah was, Percival thought he would be used to this sort of sight by now.
Somehow, one never really got used to the death of the innocent.
Or maybe Percival had. Maybe that was why his eyes swept over the corpse without a hint of emotion, taking in the bruises around her wrists, her throat, the dark veining in her eyes that supported strangulation…not drowning…and the dark tracks up her arms that suggested a life of substance use he was not surprised to see.
On this side of town, he saw it all. On this side of town, there were no more surprises left to see.
“What do you think? Nineteen? Twenty?”
The water in the tub had washed away much of the evidence, Percival knew, but by swirling away the bubbles accumulated between the girl’s legs with the hand grip of his revolver, he could see the discoloration spreading over her thighs. He scowled.
Percival looked at Uriah with a raised brow, the man’s penchant for that one word an irritation despite years of hearing it. “Looks like another one…”
“Are we ever going to catch this madman?”
The bathroom window was closed, latched shut from the inside through the glass shattered with old cracks long ago sealed with heat-peeling yellow tape. There had been no hint of forced entry, and through the central room’s windows had been open, Percival had noted the absence of a fire escape as soon as he had arrived. No one could have scaled the outer wall. This hadn’t been a forced break-in. Either a professional, or the girl had known her assailant.
And unlike all the others, this girl had been murdered at home.
At least Percival assumed it was home, judging by the wilted flowers in a vase by the front door, by the perfume bottle and women’s’ toiletries lined haphazardly along the back lip of the sink, and a half-eaten bowl of cornflakes on the coffee table he had passed on the way to the bathroom.
And the tub water was still warm…the bubbles not yet dissipated.
He hadn’t seen anyone in the stairwell, in the corridor, in the street…but he and Uriah must have just missed the killer.
A neighbor must have called in the disturbance.
“Cleanup will be here soon. See what you can find…a name, a coat check stub, a receipt…anything that can I D her.”
After a fleeting look of panic, Uriah croaked, “Where are you going?”
Percival holstered the revolver and shrugged. “Talk to the neighbors. See what they know.”
Someone knew something. It was just a matter finding a bird who would sing.
Steam belched from the sidewalk grate, enveloping the dark coated figure as he placed several bills into the cabby’s hands and then watched the car hasten away, leaving him alone beneath the only lit lamp on this section of street. There was no one about, in the light or the shadow, but the driver still seemed afraid to stop here despite the stranger’s reassurance that everything would be alright.
Don’t you know where you are, the cabby had asked.
Should I, countered the stranger smoothing the worn tweed, thinking off all the things he had done. All of the things he had not.
You’re in hell.
He looked up and down the deserted street as a distant church bell tolled the day’s fourth hour. Soon the world would crawl to awakening. Soon the struggle for existence in the damp and cold would begin again.
Hat placed back on his head, a shield against the rain that seemed not to touch him, he crossed the pavement river, leaving the warmth of the light for the swallowing shadows.
And in the crumbling ninth floor before him, he wearily hoped he would begin again too.