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.”
Episode 2: 1800SUICIDE
Missy wakes and spends a few moments staring at the ceiling, reflecting on her prospects for the day. She has a longer than usual shift, and she needs to check the news for last night’s proclivity. Aside from that, the day is open, just as she likes it. She doesn’t think anyone else will have to die.
Dragging herself from her bed, she makes her way to the bathroom, and to the kitchen. Her still fuzzy eyes see a note hanging on the fridge, secured by a rainbow magnet. A heart drawn in a pink marker. From Princess. Missy plucks the note from the fridge and wads it up, tossing it in the garbage before opening the cupboards to assemble the components for coffee.
As it brews, filling the room with a rich, dark scent, Missy retrieves a flask of whiskey from a smaller cupboard in the corner. She adds two fingers of liquor to her coffee cup, then fills it to the brim with coffee. Replacing the whiskey bottle after taking a quick swig, she glances at the clock. She has one hour to be at her desk.
Sipping at regular intervals from her Irish coffee, Missy checks the various news and police feeds online. The emergency call list, police social media bulletins and regular news outlets are all screaming about the savaged carcass Bitch Slap the pimp has discovered in his quest for cash. Missy’s eyes fly through the words and photos, sipping her coffee with greater frequency as her teeth grind together. That fucking Princess. There is only fractional comfort to be found in the bewildered tone of all statements by law enforcement; it is still early.
Finishing her coffee, Missy tosses the cup into the sink and returns to her room. She dresses, tying her hair back into a ponytail. Brushing her teeth and applying makeup is done without any conscious thought. She is thousands of miles away, traveling at speeds immeasurable by science. That damn Princess, she’s thinking, as she wonders not for the first time how to kill her.
As the thought turns itself over and over, she returns to reality with a snap as she realizes she isn’t looking at Missy anymore. The face in the mirror smiles at her.
“Hello, you bitch,” Missy said, her voice a monotone as she applied eyeliner. “Don’t move.”
“Bitch yourself,” said Princess, keeping her head still. “I told you I took care of it. They don’t know anything.”
“You don’t know anything,” Missy sighed. “You think they would be telling the press that they have this for evidence and that for a suspect? They would be acting just like they are now regardless of if they knew anything.”
“I took care of it,” said Princess, daubing lipstick on Missy’s lips. “So just quit worrying. It’s not like anything can be done right now anyway.” She blew a kiss at her reflection. Missy scowled.
“It’s not like you’ll have to deal with it,” she said, her voice indignant. “It’s always my fucking problem. That’s too much lipstick. I’ll look like a whore.”
“I like it that way.”
“Looking like a whore?”
“Shut up, bitch.”
Princess jerked her hand and the lipstick scrawled a jagged line across Missy’s cheek. Missy gasped in outrage as Princess smiled at her reflection. “You bitch!”
“Whatever,” Princess says, and then it’s only Missy, staring in silent rage at herself in the mirror.
When Missy walks into the office with a freshly made-up face, the others on her shift are all at their cubicles wearing headsets, and eyes flick to the clock to see how late she is: twenty minutes. She’s definitely going to get a scolding.
Going to her spot and sitting down, Missy groans inside as she sees the supervisor’s door open right on cue. She straightens up and looks with artificial crispness and respect at the woman striding in her direction. Missy’s supervisor is a large woman with iron gray hair and a fondness for tweed. She stops before Missy’s desk and speaks in a voice pitched low enough not to intrude upon the telephone conversations, but not pitched so low that those not on the phone cannot eavesdrop on their conversation.
“Missy, do you know what time it is?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Missy says, and no more. She has learned through experience and observation that extra words prolong the suffering.
“Twenty minutes past the time you were supposed to be here, am I wrong?”
“You’re not wrong, ma’am,” Missy says. “It won’t happen again.”
“See that it doesn’t. Just to be sure, I’ll be subtracting twenty minutes from your pay this week.” The woman’s face breaks into her first smile of the day, her teeth large and wide like a horse’s, reminding Missy of tombstones. “Now that’s enough chit-chat! Someone needs you!” She points to Missy’s phone, where a light blinks with the urgency which means incoming call.
“Yes ma’am,” Missy says, attempting not to clench her teeth as she thinks about last night when Princess had peeled the skin from the girl’s body as she screamed to die. Maybe something of it shows in Missy’s eyes, for her supervisor’s malevolent smile falters a little.
Before she can say anything, Missy dons her headset and says in a voice dripping with sympathy and understanding, “Thank you for calling the Suicide Hotline. I’m so glad you did. How can I help you?”
Her smile returning, the supervisor retreats to her office, closing her door softly. Missy’s eyes follow her all the way back. Only when the door clicks shut does her smile slip from her face. Taking a deep breath, Missy reaches for a pen and legal pad and begins to doodle as she listens to the tearful soliloquy pouring forth from the earpiece.
Debra lives in Maine, and is calling while her boyfriend is in the shower. She tells me she has her phone in one hand and her boyfriend’s gun in the other. She just found emails containing naked photos of another girl on her boyfriend’s laptop, going back months. They were talking about getting married. Debra’s voice breaks as she says this, and Missy can barely make out that Debra and Boyfriend were talking about getting married too, before Debra dissolves into hysterical sobs.
“Debra,” Missy says, raising her voice just a little and losing none of the honeyed tones of sympathy and understanding. She lowered the volume on her earpiece. “Debra?”
A snuffling, wailing affirmation. Debra is listening.
“I understand you don’t feel like living right now,” Missy says, her tone as comforting as a mother removing a bee sting. “I don’t blame you. This is the kind of suffering that leaves a scar and changes who you are, deep down, as a person.”
A cry leading into more tears and blubbering. Debra was happy the way things were, she doesn’t want things to change. She wants to be with Boyfriend the way they had planned and doesn’t want it to be any other way. She continues to repeat herself and Missy draws a cat on the legal pad clawing at the margin. She is adding whiskers and a spike on the tail when Debra finally runs out of steam and is nothing but noisy breathing in Missy’s ear.
“I know, honey, but that can’t happen. If you can’t stand to have anything change, you should probably kill yourself.” Missy adds a mouse under the cat’s claw, and elongates the claw so it pierces the mouse through the stomach.
Debra sounds shocked.
“There’s no other solution,” says Missy, and draws a large pair of jaws around the cat. “You don’t want it to change, but it’s going to whether you want it to or not. It’s going to hurt you forever, so why don’t you just do it already?” Debra is crying louder than ever. Missy draws large fangs from the disembodied jaws, stabbing through the cat and mouse alike. “Kill yourself now, while he’s in the shower, and leave the phone nearby so he knows why. You owe him that much at least.”
Debra’s crying stops abruptly as a loud BANG sounds in Missy’s ear, making her wince a little. She can hear, in some house somewhere, some guy shouting “Deb? You okay?” Then he begins to scream.
“Thank you for calling the Suicide Hotline, and I hope you have a wonderful day,” Missy says, and disconnects the call. She smiles, and looks at the clock. Nine more hours to go.
Episode 1: Jill the Ripper
The moon was a bright smear in the cloudy sky, casting a dim light on the city’s uneasy rest. In the lower east side, streetlights flickered and sirens wailed. Occasionally a shot rang out. Across the city, on the west hill, a gated community slumbered behind its fences, secure in the protection of a dozing rent-a-cop at a booth by the gate.
Under the irregular pulses of the streetlight came a figure, wrapped in a long brown coat, its collar turned up. Its face was shrouded by a scarf, and was cast in shadow by a black peaked cap with a wide brim. A police car sent it cringing into the darkness as it howled by in the opposite direction. The figure let out a breath, and hurried on.
Several blocks down, it stopped at an old beat-up town car with a cracked windshield and dented bumper. Fumbling in its pockets with slick fingers, it dropped a key chain on the ground with a muffled squeak and a jingle. Stooping to pick it up, a lock of long blond hair fell forward from the hat. The fingers that scrabbled for the key were red with blood. They finally managed to unlock the car and the figure hurtled itself inside, slamming the door behind it and banging down the lock.
Starting the engine, the figure guided the car down the street and turned right, heading west, toward the hills. Behind it, more police cars screamed through the night. Flashing red and blue lights lit the low-hanging fog that shrouded the east side. The figure cracked its window and lit a cigarette with its slick red fingers as the car made its way farther from the sounds of emergencies.
By the time the cigarette had burned down to its filter, the car was turning into the driveway which led to the gated community known as WestCrest Estates. As the car approached the gate, a sensor was triggered and the gate swung open with a tiny creak. The security guard noted the vehicle on his clipboard and waved. The vague figure inside the vehicle waved back as it passed. The gate swung shut, latching itself with a snap as the guard went back to his game of solitaire.
The town car made its way through the tidy streets, slipping past large multistory homes in the steady glow of the streetlights. Slowing before a large three story house, it turned into the driveway as one of three garage doors began to open, exposing an empty spot beside a shiny black Camaro. The beat-up town car slid into the empty slot and the garage door closed behind it, sealing it off from the world.
The figure killed the engine and for a moment just sat in the driver’s seat, staring at itself in the mirror. Its eyes were brown, its lashes accented by falsies applied with the same expert touch which had applied the eyeliner and eye shadow. This careful work had been splattered by a red mist and a splotch of red across the middle of one well-lined eyebrow.
Pulling off the hat let a cascade of blonde hair come tumbling down past the figure’s shoulders. The hair was also streaked and splattered with red, the tips appeared to be soaked with it. Unwrapping the scarf from its face revealed red painted lips and a complexion too smooth and flawless to be anything but high-powered cosmetics. It too had been splattered with red. The red lips turned down in a frown at the sight, but then curved up, remembering how it had come about. The lips parted in a giggle, and the figure opened the door and stepped out. The brown coat flapped around its feet, also stained with red in the dim garage light.
Kicking off its shoes, the figure mounted the stairs which led to the rest of the house, tossing the bloody coat in the direction of the washing machine in the corner of the garage. The coat missed, and slid to the floor.
It was dark in the kitchen, but the figure moved with surefooted ease. Making its way around the island and opening the refrigerator door, it selected a carton of juice, opened it and took a long drink. As it did so, the kitchen lights came on in a blazing display. The figure blinked, still holding the carton.
“Welcome back, Princess,” said a voice. It came from the tall girl with long dark hair in a black bathrobe who had turned the lights on, and was looking at the figure with an unmistakable but tired disdain.
Princess flashed the girl a smile. “Missy, you didn’t need to wait up for me. I’m fine.”
“I don’t have a choice,” Missy snapped, moving to the bar in the corner of the kitchen and dropping chunks of ice into a glass and splashing vodka over them. “I can’t sleep until you’re back here. You know that.”
Rolling her eyes, Princess swept across the kitchen and plucked the glass from Missy’s hand, draining it and handing it back to her. “That doesn’t sound like my problem. If you could just mind your own business you’d be a lot happier.”
Missy refilled the glass and swallowed half of it. “You silly bitch, if the police show up here looking for you, that is absolutely my business.”
Princess scoffed, pulling the scarf from around her neck and tossing it onto the counter. “The police don’t know anything. Quit being such a drama queen.”
“They will,” Missy snapped. “Look at your face. Covered in blood. You’re not being careful. Don’t be such a fucking idiot!”
“Missy,” Princess said with great delicacy. “Go to bed. We can talk about it tomorrow. I’m tired.”
Draining the rest of her glass and grabbing the bottle, Missy glared at Princess as she left the room. “Sleep well, Your Fucking Highness.”
“Good night, Missy,” Princess said, unruffled. Missy snarled something but Princess tuned her out. It was easy. Missy had been around all her life, and Princess was used to tuning her out.
Leaving the kitchen, Princess padded down the hallway and up the stairs to her master bedroom and bathroom. Shutting the door behind her, she crossed the room to the bathroom and its giant jacuzzi tub. Turning the water on full hot, she left the tub to fill as she took stock of herself in the mirror.
The black dress and long black gloves she had donned at the beginning of the night had mostly dried by now to a reddish crust that chafed her skin. Missy was right about the blood on her face. Peeling the stiff gloves from her arms, Princess went to work with makeup remover and soap.
Across town, in the east side, a pimp who had adopted the colorful moniker of Bitch Slap opened his car door and got out. Two hours ago, he had watched his bitch take a trick into her hotel room, and unless the bitch had found the next Dirk Diggler, everything should have been settled some time ago. Bitch Slap’s rings glittered as he pounded on his bitch’s door, employing his considerable vocabulary to suggest the young lady inside present herself immediately at the front door. When no answer from within was forthcoming, Bitch Slap grabbed the doorknob and turned. It was not locked.
The scene which greeted Bitch Slap upon opening the door was nothing he could have imagined in his nightmares. His bitch(he could vaguely recall her name being something like Macy) was leaning against the headboard, her legs, or what was left of them, splayed wide. One leg had been partially amputated, the other had been flayed down to the grisly white bone. Both of the girl’s breasts had been severed and were laying in her lap, along with several of her fingers. As Bitch Slap’s bulging eyes traveled up Macy’s body, they stopped at her face, which was laying on the side table.
In the house in WestCrest Estates, Princess stepped out of the jacuzzi, toweling her hair dry and wrapping another towel around herself. As Bitch Slap leaped into his Cadillac and sped away, Missy finished the bottle of vodka and lit another cigarette. She went to the window, cracked it a fraction and watched the smoke streaming out. Her eyes dropped to her reflection in the glass. The towel Princess had wrapped around herself was wrapped around Missy. The cigarette Missy had lit was in Princess’s hand. Princess’s face looked back at Missy in the window.
“I hate you,” Missy told the face.
“I know,” it replied, and smiled.