Episode 3: After Work
Nine hours later, Missy steps back onto the street. As she does after every shift of convincing the desolate there is hope, she lights a cigarette. Inhaling deep, she closes her eyes, savoring the burn in her lungs and the rush to her head. She opens her eyes, and exhales. It is beginning to be cold at night, and the smoke billows from her mouth, combined, inexorable, with the warmed air from her lungs.
She savors her cigarette as she walks the two blocks to the bus stop. Several of the city’s homeless population inquire as to whether or not she possesses any money she is not currently using, or any cigarettes she does not intend to smoke on her own. She remains deaf to their inquiries, and finds an unoccupied corner of the bus shelter to establish a base camp. Checking her phone, she sees from a local news outlet that Debra, the unfortunate damsel from Maine, has been found with some of her head intact.
Missy is still smiling as the bus pulls up and offers her passage. Stowing her phone, she deposits her fare in the slotted box and finds an empty seat beside an elderly gentleman who seems to be asleep. Placing headphones in her ears, she loses herself in music as she says a fervent prayer that the man will not awaken until she has left the bus. This prayer will be granted.
Stepping off the bus and removing the headphones, Missy strides down the chipped sidewalk, stepping around piles of dog refuse and broken glass. She hears whistles from across the road and hastens her steps, rolling her eyes as the catcalls start. It never lasts longer than a few seconds, for here is the double door at the base of a short, squat apartment building coated in peeling beige paint. Once through the door, the oafish shouts are cut off.
The metallic smell of cooking methamphetamine no longer register as anything but a fact of life as Missy bypasses the elevator she knows to be broken and makes for the stairway. After three flights of dirty stairs, all of which reek of outhouse, Missy opens the door to a dim hallway stretching in both directions, in which rats scurry from the sound of her heels in the flickering florescent light. She raps upon the door nearest the elevator while fumbling in her purse, and within a few seconds the pinprick of light at the door’s peephole vanishes, before reappearing as the bolt shoots back.
Thick glasses are framed by thicker blonde hair as the door opens first a crack, then swings open to reveal a skinny young man, headphones draped around his neck. Silver athletic shorts glimmer in the surreal light from the aquarium as he leads her into the living room where she flops onto the couch as he takes a seat in the computer chair installed before the four glowing monitors. Electronic music plays from speakers flanking the computer desk as the young man swivels, spinning the chair and looking at Missy.
Missy looked away. “Just one.” She lit another cigarette. The young man looked on with disapproval.
“You said you wouldn’t-”
“I know!” she snapped, and took a mighty drag. “Do you think I mean to do this? I just get so stressed, and before you know it-”
“Why were you so stressed?”
Missy shifted on the couch and sighed. “Princess.”
The young man’s face showed resigned disgust. “Again?”
“She doesn’t fucking get it!” Missy exploded, rising to her feet in agitation and striding back and forth, waving her arms. “It’s all just a dream to her! She just wakes up fresh and raring to go and there’s nothing I can do to stop her.” She stopped before a large mirror.
Daniel came up behind her. “Calm down,” he said, rising and catching her by the shoulders. “You’re not doing anybody any good.”
Missy drew on her cigarette, averting her eyes from his reflection’s. “Nobody is doing anybody any good.”
Daniel drew back, frowning. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“You promised me you could control her!” Missy yelled. “You told me, when this all got started! You told me… you told me…” Her voice cracked. “You don’t have any fucking idea.. what it’s like.. “
“I’ll talk to her,” said Daniel. “She’ll listen. She has to. She has to realize this can’t go on.”
“Good fucking luck!” Missy said with more than a touch of hysteria. “She’s never had to deal with anything her whole fucking life!”
Without hesitation, Missy put the cigarette out on her hand. Daniel recoiled in surprise as the glowing tip was extinguished in the smooth palm.
“If you would both like to quit your whining,” came the mocking tones of Princess, “I would like to remind you of a few facts.” She flexed her hand, relishing the sting of the cigarette burn, as she addressed Daniel in the mirror. “Thanks to Missy, all of my clothing from that night has been destroyed, and all the forensic evidence has been washed from the shower. Nothing was left at the crime scene, and there is nothing to see in such a shithole. I very much doubt if anybody will even bother filing a report.”
Princess had no sooner finished uttering these words, than a stern knocking came at the door. Everybody froze.
“Police! Daniel Dasham, we have some questions for you, please open the door.”