Woman Into Wolf

Chapter Nine – Homicidal Triad

In this dream she was ravenously hungry. Four-footing the hills, chest to ground and sniffing, this was the elemental dream, where running becomes flying. But without fuel she could not take flight, and this forest was empty, not so much as a whitened bone to gnaw. Sentenced to starve, pelvic bone permanently glued to spine, was she running from an even darker dream, thankfully forgotten? Among a universe of killers she alone had lost her nerve.

Somewhere above, in heaven probably, was an appetizing smell of meat. Someone had made a kill at last. Could she climb the wall of sleep to catch it?

She fell upwards, seeing in the light falling through the open doorway that Roy had brought the flowers from her car and placed them around the room. Though she had intended them for the solarium and they were now spilling dirt across her perfect carpet she welcomed the gesture as a courtship initiative.

Jarod had been successful, as he always was. She would have her wheels back.
Even from the bathroom she could smell the marijuana floating through the vents. When Jarod agreed to destroy dope he intended it for his friends. They
must be smoking in the hot tub. He always said getting rid of it slower was just as good as getting rid of it faster. She tried eavesdropping on the undifferentiated murmur of voices.

Damn. Stuck with Jarod. Of course they were. His whole freakin’ house was a crime scene; yard, barn, everything. Even with all his clout he couldn’t stay there, and she could hardly consign him to a slummy motel room – possibly already occupied by Bruce and his latest doll. Not with wifey in the morgue. Dope made people mellow; it usually had that effect on Roy. Maybe Jarod would be less obnoxious.

Shadows of feet flickered underneath the bathroom door.
“Sleeping Beauty?” Roy called. “Dinner time.”
“Can I wear my jammies?” She wheedled.

“Not hardly,” he chastised her. “We’ve got company.” Of course he wanted
to show off his wife. Romper room was over. The bunnies, the lambs and the pink fleece were for Roy’s delectation alone. Outside the door Roy was waiting, steaming in his terry robe. He handed her a crystal tulip glass.

“Jarod brought back your car.” She recognized this as the opening bid in a “be nice to my friend” negotiation.

“He can stay one night. What’s this?” Bubbly. “Champagne.”

“Champagne?” Disbelieving, yet longing. Someone had died; hardly right to celebrate. Yet Persey loved champagne.

“Jarod had a lot left over from his party. It’s Spanish, but it’s damn good stuff.”
They let Jarod take liquor from the crime scene? They would let Jarod do anything. He was one of them.

Roy threw off his terry robe and, commando, pulled on a pair of jeans. He preened at the mirror, arranging his hair with his fingers. She was glad to see his beautiful shoulders bare. The sculpture of his ribs and abdomen were a glory to behold. Pity he had spoiled it with those childish tattoos, yet she welcomed those too, if they differentiated him from his dangerous brother. She sipped. Bubbles roared into her head. Her sinuses cleared.

“Told you. Wear something sexy.” He stepped into her closet and began throwing out wildly inappropriate clothes. A pink beaded Versace dress. A maribou teddy. A white silk jumpsuit.
“Stop that.” She pushed him out of the way. “I have the perfect thing.”

It was a nightgown but it looked like a medieval dress, high waisted, long sleeved, black lace. It did show a little bosom but there was lots of material. Persey congratulated herself that it concealed more than it revealed. Ha ha ha on Jarod and his googly eyes. She pulled it on and stood in front of the mirror, brushing her hair. Roy, seeming content with her choice, finished off his own look with a black tee. They went downstairs together. Metallica cranked up to greet them.

The kitchen was a terrible mess, bags, boxes, jars, cans, plates and casseroles everywhere, as if they’d cooked for a battalion. It would take at least a weekend to clean. Digger was eating what looked like a raw steak off the floor. Stormee’s steak, perhaps?
Jarod, hair slicked back, still wearing his robe, pushed her away.
“Out!” He ordered. “You’re not allowed in here.”

Roy led her to the dining room. It blazed with candles. The table glittered
with her wedding china, the maroon and gold stripe Mikasa. For a moment Persey imagined Stormee seated at the head of the table, but the table was only set for three. In the flickering light, through the veil of drugs and wine and hunger she could have imagined almost anything; Stormee seated in Bruce’s arms, giving him a lap dance. She blinked her eyes and they were gone.

When was the last time Stormee was actually in this room? Beginning of summer; a venison barbecue lasting til dawn. Stormee had worn a bandana print halter and refused to eat; she littered the table with half-smoked Newports, setting off the smoke detector. Sucking oxygen like a vampire. She was paying for it now. No more smoke, or oxygen, or even steak for Stormee. Not ever.

“Honey?” Roy’s arms propelled her forward. He treated her delicately, like an accident victim. She leaned against him, appreciating his care. He seated her in an armchair at the head of the table, set up the silver ice bucket, and topped off her glass so explosively the foam ran down her hand.
“Wow,” said Persey, inadequately, hoping they wouldn’t notice she was already drunk. “Look at all this.”

Jarod entered with a massive platter of sizzling steaks, each big enough to feed three people. He plopped a whole one onto her plate, where it hovered off the edge.
“Milady,” he said. “Oops. Forgot the garlic bread.”

The steaks were charred on the outside, blue inside, coated with pepper. To spite the rain they must have fired up the grill. The spread was complete with bagged salad, garlic bread, and plenty of Jarod’s beloved Gorgonzola, which he smeared enthusiastically over everything. That must be what accounted for his permanently rotten smell.

“Shit,” said Jarod, sliding into his seat. “I think I wrecked the potatoes.”
“Don’t worry,” Persey said, talking through a full mouth, “This is incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever been so hungry.” The steak was divine, flooding her sensation zones with flavor. She didn’t blame Digger. She would have eaten it off the floor. Carnivores at play.

“This is a wake,” said Jarod. “You gotta let loose. Gotta let go. Death is everywhere, man. Can’t avoid it. Go out swinging.” Or did he say, “sinning?” He couldn’t have. Jarod didn’t believe in sin.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil –“intoned Roy,
“Because I’m the biggest son of a bitch in the valley!” Jarod capped the phrase and they both laughed.

“Karma is a bitch,” Roy chimed. “Comes around — goes around. We’re all composed of atoms that used to be somebody else. I’m probably eating Einstein here.”
“Disgusting,” thought Persey, refusing to waste her lips on words. They wouldn’t listen to her anyway.

“Except Persey,” said Roy. “Persey’s atoms are unique.”
“I’ll drink to that.” said Jarod. “Hail, hail Persey!”

At least that’s what Persey thought he said, she had trouble hearing him
sitting way over there. And the rock music was deafening. She probably looked stupid, goggling at him with her mouth open. But who cared? Jarod wasn’t celebrated for his subtle conversation.
Roy sang along to the music, rocking his shoulders, “And the wrong antidote is like a bone in the throat,” while Jarod pounded his fist on the table.

A bone in the throat? Persey almost choked. Hadn’t Ned recently been telling her about a bone in the throat? She really should slow down or she would have a bone in her own throat.
“They don’t play it like that any more,” said Jarod. “Good times.”

In the candlelight Roy’s bare clavicle and Adam’s apple glowed with
unearthly beauty. Even Jarod’s hawkish face softened into a parody of warlock glamour. And what a host! He knew how to keep the champagne coming. Some spilled on the floor as Persey lost count of the bottles.

Jarod was talking now about Stormee, how maddening she was, how competitive, how she had to challenge every guy she met. Not just guys, thought Persey. Everyone threatened Stormee’s pinnacle.

“Bitch of a way for a bitch to go, though” said Roy. “Probably victim of that serial you guys are after? Right?”

“No,” said Persey. “Ned says not. He says this guy’s profile is the opposite.” They stared at her as though the centerpiece had spoken.
“What’s he doing talking about it with you?” Jarod snarled.

Persey’s heart fell through the floor. She had been holding her steak in her
hands to eat it but now made busy with fork and knife. “I overheard.” Jesus that was close! She shouldn’t speak at all, but emulate the girl with her tongue cut out. The headless “Silent Woman”. They hadn’t even commented on her using his first name! Drunken babblers could only hope their listeners were drunk too.

“Eavesdroppers hear no good,” said Jarod sententiously. “Better forget anything you heard.”
“Anything you heard is out of context,” said Roy. What context did he mean? Everything is context. In this light she could see white circles beneath her husband’s eyes, as if he had been sleepless while she dreamed. Maybe that was just his fine cheekbones, his beautiful skeleton pushing through the skin. Her sons looked just like their father, said Babe. The poisonous sperm bypassed her family tree completely, delivering two silver sons to the Dark Lady of the Sorrows.
“But their tails fell off,” said Persey. That was horrible; she said it right out loud and now they were staring.

“Persey’s upset,” said Roy.
“I’m upset,” echoed Persey.
Jarod reached out a clammy hand. “I’m so sorry you had to see that,

Liar! She knew he wanted her to be afraid. She spoke again in spite of her
perfect resolution. “Whose gun was that?”
“Mine,” said Jarod. “One of mine. Crime of opportunity.”

Couldn’t they see how different it was from the Trailside Killer? He was so
well armed. He was so well prepared. Roy used to say about Stormee, “I
wouldn’t touch her with a ten foot pole”. She had succumbed to an arm’s length transaction, a three-foot pole with a spray of bullets in it.

“Finding a corpse can really shake a person,” said Roy. “I had a grandmother who was in a car accident where the other people died, and after that, she never left the house again. My grandpa had to do all the shopping for her.”

Persey had heard about this grandmother. She died while Roy was still in Germany so he knew her only by reputation. Every time Roy told this story Persey had the sneaking sense that he wished she, Persey, would just stay home so he could stop worrying about her.
“First sludge is hard,” agreed Jarod.

Persey had forgotten Jarod called corpses “sludges.” Thanks for reminding me, she thought, but didn’t say. No talking. Drunk woman equals silent woman. I swear.

“Gotta man up.”
“Man up,” Roy echoed.

Nobody told Stormee to “woman up,” thought Persey. Or maybe they did.
And it had caused a riot.

“Wish I’d been there,” Jarod continued self-importantly. “But what can I tell
you? Bitch threw me out, threw me out of my own home. If I’d stayed, I’m telling you right now things would have gotten physical.”

“Righteously so,” said Roy. “Probably she was expecting somebody.”

“Yeah,” said Jarod, “and she played her game with him.” “Loser,” said Roy. “Lucky you had an alibi, man.”

Jarod laughed. “I was with a lady. Since she’s a cop, I’m assuming they’ll believe her. Hey, even her husband is a cop.”

“Fortune favors the brave,” said Roy. “You’re in the clear.”

Persey began to feel she was watching a stage show put on for her benefit. Had they rehearsed these numbers, using Digger as her stand-in?

Jarod sailed ahead. “Suspect pool’s large,” he said. “Pretty much the whole state, since everyone who ever met her wanted to murder her at one time or another. Friends. Enemies. Drivers. The paper boy.”

Roy laughed. “Cheaters never prosper.”

They looked at her expectantly as if gauging her reaction. Were they trying to make her throw up all over this table? Or was it her turn to sing? To dance? Instead she occupied herself scraping Gorgonzola off her garlic bread. That fatal moment that came in all Persey’s meals had suddenly arrived. The dinner looked unappetizing. Picked over. Carrion.

But the champagne was still delicious. God bless champagne, the nuptial drink, ambrosia of the gods. Persey sighed with pleasure, leaning back in her chair.

“Bring on the champagne!” Jarod uncorked another bottle. It foamed across the table. Jarod giggled. “Oops,” he said. “Guess I came too soon.”

Bile flooded the back of her throat. Persey rose abruptly, knocking over her glass. The two men looked at her. Why was she standing here, swaying at the head of the table? She should make a speech. Thank you all for the lovely dinner…no, that wasn’t right. She was not allowed to speak. Instead she said,

“I need to go back to bed.”
“What? No dessert?” Jarod teased. “There’s chee—ee–secake,’

Persey put a hand over her mouth. She said. “I’m going to lie down.”
It took her awhile to get up the stairs. In the music break she could hear them
arguing in intense whispers. It wasn’t a trouble-free paradise. They occasionally argued but their arguments were stupid; focused on one-upsmanship and hunting trivia. Bobcat urine versus lynx. What were they arguing about this time? And why should she care? She had removed her context. Taken it away.

She threw herself full length on the bed.

What does the murderer do with the souls he steals? She wondered as she drifted away. Don’t they realize if they rip enough holes in the universe it will fly apart? And why is it always women victims? What is it about men that makes them want to see living things de-animate? Little boys tear the wings off flies, making them crawl. Envying flight, breaking things down. Except Ned, Ned wasn’t like that, she thought. He breaks things down with his mind. She smiled as she remembered him standing up to Jarod, calling him “Mr. Gunver.”

She wished she could call Ned right now so she could ask him a question. She’d had something else to tell him, but she had forgotten what it was. Honestly, it was good to forget. Anyway he was busy, busy, busy, busy, chasing his man-monsters. If she was lucky – and didn’t everyone in the universe agree that was exactly what she had always been –- she’d be able to recapture that wonderful dream where running became flying and she was at last completely free? That would teach Ned; that would teach them all to restrict her freedom. She would fly above them while they hopped on the ground like wingless flies.

She didn’t know what time it was when Roy came to bed. He was taking off her nightgown. She felt his hand on her stomach. Pink Floyd drifted up the stairs, celebrating numbness. She reached up her arms for her husband, and then she saw Jarod standing in the doorway, his body blocking all the light.

“No,” She said it. She knew the Silent Woman spoke, she heard the word distinctly. It echoed from the walls. No stranger was allowed in here. She and Roy had made a deal when she allowed Roy the nude photos. This was just rude of Roy to desecrate their private place.
But Roy was already beginning effleurage, the rapid stroking motions of his foreplay.

“Honey. Jarod really needs you tonight.”
“No.” She tried putting a pillow over her face as if to block unwanted music, but for once he didn’t care about her face, it was her body he was after. Jarod

was sitting now, on the other side of the bed, a huge looming presence, a black hole sucking will, energy, life itself.

Someone rolled the covers down, leveling the playing field. It was too late – now she was a chip on their whirlwind. They were coming at her from both sides. She was a body on a slab, a body in the morgue. This was what those dead girls felt like, helpless to resist. Morgue attendants were taking turns to have their way with Stormee and it was Persey’s fault; Persey had wished terrible things for Stormee. The dead must have revenge.

Jarod’s body was all wrong; impossible to get used to; sour-smelling and fleshy; big and hairy; uncircumcised. A thing she had never known before.

Who’s the slab of meat now? They were taking her apart, dismantling her wings, separating her into components that could be tried on other girl’s bodies in pursuit of the perfect woman. If Persey was taller or had Stormee’s breasts, if Persey could have children or could stay out of the forest she would not be so humiliated evermore.

This obviously was a nightmare, and the Bird Lady taught her ways to take control. If only the other man was Bruce this would all make sense. Admit she had thought of the three of them together; titillated by the romantic doubling of Roy’s light-sprung, rock-hard body, split in half to delineate his light and darker selves. Then she would find out what those other women knew, the last thing before they knew no more. Bruce needed rag dolls for his anger.

They bore her hips up between them, passing her back and forth like a chalice. If Roy was right and we are all composed of pieces of each other, then anything we do is to ourselves, thought Persey. Is that what she wanted to tell Ned?

The music played to inevitability within her; she had become the animal bride. The point of no return was reached and passed; she achieved flight but climbed no further than the roof. She joined Bruce who lay, face pressed angrily against the skylight, looking vengefully down upon the children who dared to play his games without him.

He pushed her aside and she fell back, panting. Her body ached outside and in. They were finished with her. Now she could roll away and disappear into the ocean of sleep. Was it only in her imagination she saw them turning to each other?

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