Woman Into Wolf

Chapter Eleven – Rage Theory

She was almost glad the house was such a mess. Housework can be a sacred place to think. The game room was the only space they hadn’t vandalized. Probably because last night she had been the game. I got “ganked”, thought Persey. She tried not thinking about it. Pretend the house was attacked by a hurricane.

First she scrubbed the hot tub hairy Jarod had polluted. She would need it later for her water healing, when at last she was the final filthy thing left beneath this roof. She dismissed Roy’s story about Bruce’s death. Bruce was too real now and Roy had lied too many times. She had to reject it; after all, he blamed her for his brother’s death; it’s always the women’s fault when the monsters venture near. He was using an old trick, but in a new application. He learned the technique from Babe when questioners come close.

“Ask me more, and you’ll find out something terrible about yourself.”

But Bruce had risen from the grave and wouldn’t be put back in. Roy once told Persey he could feel his brother’s approaching “aura”; even when hidden he could feel his brother coming, feel the ripples of his brother’s power scissor space like a snake, sniffing him out with a darting tongue. Both gift and curse were transferred with the marriage vow; now Persey could feel Bruce coming. The migraine was already here. She took a pill and kept on working.
Once clean and dressed she laid out a cheese watercress sandwich and a cup of espresso and brought up the storage locker file from the basement.

The second key was gone. Whoever had it, Bruce or Jarod, she should have thought of this. Didn’t matter. She refused defeat.
If she armed herself with one of Roy’s bolt cutters, she could peel off the old padlock and provide a substitute. She could insert the new key on Roy’s chain while he steamed or scourged or slept off a drunk or even –- here was the best case scenario — the police would get there first and blow off the doors.

Jarod might not be Ned’s serial killer but she felt certain he had something to do with his own wife’s timely demise, and she had a sickening feeling her husband knew all about it. Quid pro quo. She would show them how they had underestimated her.

It was stepping back in time to turn off at the Lake Warner by-pass. The town had been passed by and was now a pathetic shell where every business – except nightcrawlers, beer and diesel — appeared imploded. No wonder Roy kept this place private. It was an old-boy party town for increasingly decrepit “old boys” whose rheumy eyes would never notice the rickety docks, the algae-throttled lake, the growing dumps of fishing line, rusting beer cans and half-empty nightcrawler jars.

But if you had anything to hide, it was perfect. The U-Stackem didn’t even have a security camera that Persey could see. She used her code card at the razor- wire encrusted gate and was admitted to an attendant-free collection of box-like cement structures. Not a soul in sight.

This was something she hadn’t thought of. It was full daylight and she hadn’t expected the place to be so totally deserted. What would she do if she opened the door and was face to face with Savage Bruce? She almost wished she had brought Digger, but acknowledged he would be no help. More to the point was her shotgun, but could she shoot anyone who looked like Roy?
Roy’s unit was one of the biggest, #233, located, according to the peeling wall map, somewhere at the back. Well out of sight of the entrance road.

A combination padlock was another thing she hadn’t expected. This wasn’t the original lock. Now she was encountering locks within locks, secrets within secrets, hiding places within hiding places. It like the Matrushka doll the Bird Lady had given her. She always wondered, if her fingers had been small enough to take apart the final doll, would she have found another one inside, a speck of a doll, an idea of a doll, gathering strength in the final doll’s womb?

Actually, this might work out better than the bolt cutters; puzzles were feminine and she was good at them. She shared much of Roy and Bruce’s history, and some of Jarod’s too. Unlike an unforgiving ATM, she could try a million permutations. Roy and Bruce’s birthday first. Nothing. Then she tried her own. Nothing. Her wedding date? It was inscribed inside Roy’s wedding ring just so he could never forget to provide her with the opals she desired and the diamonds he valued. Her luck – the transformation of misfortune — held. The lock opened.

She banged bravely on the aluminum to alert whoever sheltered inside, just in case her scrabbling hadn’t already warned him, but the place felt dead to her. Bruce had fled. It was easy to appear brave in a place so dead.

It smelled dead. She was completely unprepared for the stench. It smelled like blood and feces, bleach and sickness. A slaughterhouse smell. There was no way she could go in there, could not even to cross the threshold. “Jeopardy surface” was nothing but a windy euphemism; she had found the witch’s kitchen where the bodies were disassembled.

The sudden rattle of the aerator overhead made her jump; it sounded like vultures readying for flight. She rushed back to the safety of the car, locked all the doors, backed out and turned it the vehicle so the headlights shown directly into the unit. No way was she going in there. She might be the sissy or the scaredy-cat the boys teased, but they would never know. There was no one to see or expose her.

Towards the front of the unit her eyes singled out wheelbarrows, shovels, picks; innocent objects with vicious reputations. This was like a game of “what doesn’t belong?” Tarps. Rolls of plastic sheeting. The ATV beneath its paint- spattered cover. A lump that might have been a mattress before gutting. And something else.

A little red suitcase. And not too far inside. She could get to that.

She made a dash for it, covering her face with her scarf to protect against the smell, bringing the suitcase back to the safety of the car, re-locking the doors, turning out the headlights and studying her find.

The handle fell away at a touch; it was only brittle plastic. There was no lock, just the feeblest of snaps. Barbie’s cheery face stared up at her. Barbie, the girlhood role model who said you could do anything, be anything from a supermodel to an astronaut. Had Barbie ever played detective? Persey couldn’t recall precisely, but she felt sure Barbie would have mastered that, too. According to Barbie all you needed to succeed was a red plastic suitcase packed with sportswear, cocktail dresses and evening gowns. Wake up and make your dreams come true.

As soon as she opened the lid, clothing, shoes, cheap jewelry and a blonde glitter-wig spilled out. Looked like Barbie had been shopping at Frederick’s of Hollywood. Persey began stuffing items frantically back in. Already she had broken the handle; now the items wouldn’t fit and were out of order; some detective she was turning out to be. It was no part of her plan they would guess that she had been here. A tiny plastic scrap salvaged from the flooring caught her eye. It was a pastel barrette, a winged pig. She recognized it immediately. Wasn’t Cookie the one with the flying pig barrette? Pink and blue? She stuffed it in her pocket. She’d had all she could handle. She could feel Bruce alerting, swiveling his murderous senses in her direction. Time to get the hell out. The dead lake laughed at her as she drove away; the whole town exulted from its peeling billboards: Miss Ya Already! Come Back and See Us Soon!

Roy still wasn’t home. The house, now cloister-clean, was also as quiet. He hadn’t left a message, either. Takes two to play a game of war, thought Persey. Let him come home for dinner and find the kitchen a frozen, unblessed chamber.

She called Ned. Savage-like, she felt continually amazed by her ability to seize his gravelly voice right out of the air, as if he was a genie she could summon.

“I’ve got something for you. Can we meet?”
“I can be there in an hour,” he said.
Was he crazy? Hadn’t he been the one who warned her what a dangerous
place home could be?

“How about dinner… out?” She inquired boldly. First time for everything,
and she was a slow study, admittedly, at thirty-three. It was the first time in her life she had ever asked a man out for a date.

It took him aback. Had she misjudged him? For a single scary moment she almost thought he would refuse. She bargained wildly with whatever god might be listening.
“There’s a great Mexican restaurant near my house,” he said. “I go there a lot. The food is fabulous. Corner of Essex and Montrose. In Burleigh.”

She could find it. She’d been there before. By herself. Burleigh was famed for its antique stores. Roy despised antiques, as he despised all used goods. Roy liked gifts pristine and shiny in a wrapper labeled “untouched by human hands.” But this was still a daring move. Who knew what Bruce was doing? And one of Jarod’s innumerable weasels might be ready to see and squeal.
“Is it …big? Noisy? I don’t like crowds.” Subtext, Ned. Pick up on the subtext. How’s the privacy?
“Oh, it’s small. Just a few tables. Is seven too early?”

Nothing could be too early, now that it was too late.
She blessed herself with the water ritual, soaking for almost a whole half hour, drinking a glass of wine and listening to George Michael warning that love was sometimes could be mistaken for a crime.

She almost wished Roy would come home and ask where she thought she was going; let him ask. She would face him down. But Roy didn’t come home.

She entered her closet reluctantly, almost prayerfully, feeling feverish, as if these clothes belonged to someone else. Could she still summon the necessary magic? It used to be so easy to put a spell on any man she chose, but she was out of practice now. What if the power had forsaken her? She whimpered like an animal as she rooted through her treasures.

New clothes would best disguise her recent branding, anything to keep him from closing his ears in disgust. The moon’s colors, pink and silver, had always been her best colors; so she chose unfinished-looking pale-pink rawhide jeans, low-riders with inside-out seams; what Cinda called the “unmade bed” look. Roy referred to them as “pussy-riders” and disapproved. Fuck him. She topped them off with a gauzy blouse decorated with just enough embroidery so that you can’t see what you think you can.

Most men relished the sweat of blondes; she dabbed Bal a Versailles on her armpits for timed release. For luck she must have opals, so draped a necklace of the moony stones around her waist as a belly chain.

She was shivering almost too much to successfully darken lashes and eyebrows; but she couldn’t risk being mistaken for a ghost. Life was real, she was real, this was still a world where choice brought consequence. She brushed and brushed her long, pale straight hair; then looked over her shoulder to criticize herself in the cheval glass. She could see the dimples anchoring her buttocks and her lower back; these jeans did ride low. Roy would be so angry.

Roy had the pleasure of leaving in a suit of armor, but a woman achieves invulnerability only when half-naked. Call it unfair, call it scary; one of life’s mysterious injustices. Tell it to the judge. One weapon she allowed herself; or rather two; break-your-ankle ostrich-skin boots with tall stiletto heels and ornamental spurs. Cropped jacket to match the pants, opal and diamond earrings – not gifted – because nothing was a gift if you had to earn it — and she kissed at her reflection, “I’m out of here.” The reflection smiled back at her. She had pulled it off again. She was born a princess in the aristocracy of the beautiful. Make sure he knew it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: