Woman Into Wolf

Chapter Nineteen – Crimson Joy

What Bish called “the lachrymose moment” had passed. Why was it so difficult to convince Cinda that her companion of fifteen years was the last person on earth to take a shotgun and blast someone away with it? What was wrong with people? Persey wondered, driving home. Was this just the luck of Lucifer, or something Jarod and Roy had actually foreseen? Blitz attacks and
“easy” takedowns were their cherished specialty. Reserved energy for later, for stripping the game and playing with the meat.

The tragedy of it all was how Bish was the only person she could think of who would actually appreciate the crazy irony of his own demise. We make it too easy for them, thought Persey, maneuvering the truck over unpaved back roads. Our secret lives have made us victims. Predators just look for hunger and promise dinner.

The rage that swelled her now felt holy, a condition unknown to the Persey of ten days ago. With her gift of new vision it was obvious why she and Roy had been so perfect together: the doubleness in her called out to the doubleness in him. The dissociated meeting in midair; addicts recognizing one other. Roy had gambled on Persey’s addiction to peace and quiet and pretty things.

It was time to pick up Digger at the kennel; but she did not. There were too many animals already in the cannibalistic dance. For once the sight of the extra red truck parked in her driveway made her glad. There was so much to do.

As she pulled her own truck behind “The Most Toys Wins,” she gazed in wonderment at a truckbed filled with red rosebushes. What construction site had Jarod looted? Were these the very roses among which Bish awakened to his last days of life? She stood on the curb a moment, staring.
Jarod appeared in her doorway, sheltering beside the stained glass like a bum in church. He’d taken off his short, wore only wife-beater and shoulder holster, and assaulted Persey with his lubricious, wet-eyed glare. He’s a vampire, thought Persey. Once allowed in, he can never be kept out. Jarod gestured toward his offering.

“Those are for you, Persey. I know you like plants. I’ll plant them for you anywhere you say. Give me another chance to say I’m really sorry.”

What was he so sorry about? His sorrily rapacious body or his scurrilously rapacious soul? He hadn’t heard the Blake poem Bish quoted about the party and so could not partake of the second sight it granted. She alone was left to see the worm at the heart of every rose. It came in a flash what she had to do. She herself was Jarod’s emotional signature. He wanted to win her. Last dance was always lady’s choice, and the music was starting. Mustn’t be late.

She shouldered him aside, entering the house like a sleepwalker. He stank strongly, horsily, of sweat; of his recent labors killing living things. He gazed after her. His hunger made him clueless.
“Want me to bring them in?”

“You can leave them there.” She locked the front door behind her, then headed for the kitchen. “Where’s Roy?”

“He took your car.” Jarod laughed smugly, pulling his moustache. “Roy’s got a lot to do.”
I’ll bet, thought Persey. The countryside pullulated with corpses seeking shelter. Or was he purging the storage unit? If so, it was a wasted effort. Persey as an experienced cleaner knew there wasn’t enough bleach in the universe to cleanse that cave of death. But it didn’t matter now.

Jarod pursued her, like a jailer, into the kitchen, the hearth of her hive. To postpone the fateful moment she handed him a beer, something to set between them. It worked as it had worked with Roy so many times. There are some things a man must accept from a woman. In the refrigerator she saw champagne and her muscles convulsed. She recovered and filled a glass with ice and spring water.

He was watching her closely. He knew there was something different about her and he must be trying to think how it affected him. Would she go down without a struggle or would she fight back? Which would give him greater pleasure?

“Have a drink with me,” he said roughly. “We’ve got so much to celebrate.”
Here it was. This is the hardest part, but I can do it, thought Persey. I’m good for it. Consider the Bird Lady’s courage when the soldiers came for her; she lied so convincingly they accepted her as their only captive. She armed herself with Bish in his last moments. She had lied so much, sparing people’s feelings and freezing her own, she had always known how to play this. For the first time she faced him squarely, leaning against the sink, keeping her eyes soft and limpid, draping one hand across a stomach pushed deliberately convex.

“You can’t drink in the first trimester.”
His eyes swell dark with longing; she saw how much he wanted to believe. But he wouldn’t be convinced till he saw pain; he grabbed the hair on the back of her head and jerked her face upwards, backing her hard against the sink.
He choked, “Don’t lie to me now.”

He was gone. Easy takedown. She touched his neck and whispered, “I just got the results. It’s certain. But I’m so afraid of Roy.”
The pulse inside the best lies is truth, but how could even his monstrous ego swallow her monstrous turnaround?

“I’ve been out to the storage unit,” she said. “I know what Roy’s been up to.”
Jarod clutched her painfully. She saw him close his eyes and grimace. The prime danger she had feared, that he would never want anyone who wanted him, passed. When his eyes opened again she knew his ego was big enough for anything. She saw the little boy who wanted everything so badly but never received anything he hadn’t plotted, schemed and fought dirty for. He gambled and again he won, and she was the trophy to prove it.

“Sure took you long enough,” he agreed. “Roy is one sick pup. It’s time to take him down.”

“How can we be together til he’s gone?” Persey asked. “Last time the trial took forever.” She whispered so low only his ego could hear it, “I’m a one woman man.“
He lifted her off her feet in his excitement. She had to drop the water glass.

“Stop being a scaredy-cat,” he promised. “He can’t do nothing. He’s a dead man.”
He scoured her mouth with his, his tongue reaching down her throat. She tried not to care how much he hurt her. It was nothing compared to what had Bish suffered. As Babe had said, maybe she deserved it.

He held her face with both hands, the better to direct his ravening tongue. She thought she might drown. It was time for Roy to come home — where was he? How much of this could she stand? She sent out frantic signals to the man she had known as her rescuer since high school. Come, come, come.

Now Jarod was carrying her up the stairs.
She had hoped to be spared this. But even this, she thought, I can stand. She thought of the Bird Lady, alone and frightened with the soldiers. I can survive.

She begged him for a chance to visit the bathroom; so vital that he not encounter blood. Jealously, he loitered right outside as if she contemplated escape. Probably all his conquests suffered second thoughts. I can get through this, thought Persey. I matriculated at the school of cruelty, and now it ‘s time to graduate. Anyone can survive a few minutes of horror; it’s different if you chose it.
She stood in the doorway naked and let him take her.

She had to be careful not to say Roy’s name. Each time she used Jarod’s he shuddered with ecstasy, as if she was creating him. She survived by pretending she was one of Roy’s captive women; if she showed him a good time, maybe he would let her live. He was insatiable. She gave him her body and threw her soul toward the skylight with both of her bound hands. It flew and flew until it was free.

She had to pretend to climax in order to put a stop to it. Jarod was artless; he would have rocked around up there forever. He was surprisingly easy to fool; his own duplicity guaranteed he could not tell truth from fake. Instantly he flooded out, rolling back exhausted. After a lifetime in suspension long last, finally it was time for Persey to concentrate on her own desires.
She was in the bathroom when she heard the car drive up.

She opened the door. “He’s here.”

She was ashamed of her own nakedness but it was vital that Roy see how
things stood. She pulled on thong and camisole but left the laces hanging. No time, no time; she must not get trapped upstairs.

Jarod jumped out of bed and didn’t even stop to pull on boxers. He was jacked for sure, pumped to twice his usual size. He left behind the Glock, left behind the knife. He was crazy to go down there without a weapon, Persey thought fearfully. What was he thinking? One more demented peak of manhood left to summit? An unarmed, naked man taking down an armed serial killer; now there was a tale for Jarod to dine out on. But Roy was dangerous and Jarod only vain, what if he misjudged his strength? Every bully falls to a greater one eventually. Jarod must not lose this contest. She raced down the kitchen stairs. Roy had encountered the locked door; Persey had his keys. He was pounding, yelling. He would break that lady, smash that unicorn for good.

Her eyes met Jarod’s where he stood at the top of the stairs surveying what he thought was his new house. She saw his plan so plain; caught by a murderer in bed with his wife. His nakedness would be the final insult. Jarod nodded, so she opened the door and tucked herself behind it. Roy rushed past her, then stopped in the hallway, looking up the stairs at his friend.

“It’s over, buddy,” said Jarod, spreading his arms as if saying, “I’m unarmed.” “Persey’s with me now. You’re out of control. You’re going back to jail where you belong.”

Roy heard her close the door behind him, turned and incinerated her with filthy, crazy eyes. For a terrible moment she thought he would rip her head right off her body but Jarod distracted him, shouting and whacking his chest,

“It’s between you and me, buddy! Man up!”
Roy hammered up the staircase, a terrible animal roar boiling from the pit inside him. They grappled in the embrace they had practiced so many times, but this time Jarod pulled the Randall out of Roy’s belt and sank it into the middle of his lower back. Persey knew he was going for a kill shot to the spine, trying to drop him with a technique he’d described to entertain party guests, but this time at least it didn’t work. Roy whirled and grabbed Jarod’s arms instead. Jarod began stabbing at Roy’s face, right at his eyes, some blows audibly striking bone.

Still Roy did not go down, so they struggled for the knife, panting and grunting. Jarod tried to kick his legs out from under him and stabbed again and again until his own hands were cut. The stairs were slippery with blood. For a moment Roy seemed immortal, but in truth it had never been an even fight. Jarod was by far the dirtier, crueler fighter; Roy carefully chose victims to surprise; young, female, unprepared. He made sure he was the only one with a weapon but this time Jarod secured that advantage.

For one moment it looked like Roy had the knife by the blade and would be able to wrest it away. Persey had to face the possibility that he might win. She pulled from the umbrella stand the shotgun always intended for threatening rapists and rocked back the slide.

But no, the blade just sliced his fingers off. Jarod stabbed him directly in the neck, searching for an artery. The spurt blinded them both. Roy threw his arms around Jarod and pulled him off his feet. They slid together partway down the steps. Jarod fell heavily on Roy, cannonballing his whole body, a wrestling move that had felled a lighter opponent so many times before.

The knife stuck in Roy’s throat. His oxygenless chest crushed by his faithless friend, upward reaching arms fell back. His throat gurgled. The victor staggered to his feet, panting. He was covered with Roy’s blood; no, some of it was his. One eye bugged at Persey, dwarfing the other. He saw the gun and leaned against the banister, wiping his hands on his boxers.

“Persey, he’s gone,” he growled. “He won’t come back. We’re good.”
Good? He just didn’t get it. He took a step down, towards her. Blood squished between his toes. Persey wanted to shoot but worried that he wasn’t close enough. These shaking fingers could never reload.

“Persey, you’re a witness,” Jarod croaked. “Justified killing. I can prove what he did. Give me the gun.”

The moment his foot hit tile she blew him away. Power roared through her like the long-delayed orgasm. But the blast exploded them apart, like the opposite of sex. He flew backwards, midsection blossoming red, spatter misting the stairs, the hall, the ceiling. Persey thought, I gave him roses. I gave him worms.

The recoil threw her against the door and the stained glass finally shattered. She picked herself up with care, scrambling for the shotgun in case in case he kept coming. But he was the one who was gone for good; Roy still sputtered. She stood for a moment over Jarod’s pulsating wreck. She was the conqueror; he was fertilizer, compost for his roses. He had become the past, the fallen and the overly confident, those who, fancying themselves immortal, misjudged their enemy by ridiculing the power of fear and revenge.

She stepped over his smoking corpse and climbed the stairs to be with Roy. His blood was everywhere. It was still warm and stank like a sewer. To sit down, she would have to wallow in it. But she had accomplished harder things today. She tried to hold Roy’s head in her lap. His beauty was gone. He was all damage now. One of his eyes was stuck closed, but when she picked up his hand, his other eyelid fluttered and the lone blue orb seemed to stare unblinking up at her. Seeking forgiveness for all the lies she’d lived, she told one final lie.

“Roy, ” she whispered. “Forgive me. You were the one. You were always the one.” The ghost of Persey addressed the ghost of Roy, reassured him just as, had the tables been turned, he would have reassured her that all his victims meant nothing to him. To give him something to take to hell, or wherever he was going, she spared him the knowledge that men like Ned existed. Ned, the man who came back from the dead for her.

Roy convulsed as if trying to answer and his windpipe bubbled. She rocked him like a bloody, imperfectly delivered baby with no chance of life. Because he loved music, she sang their wedding song:

“And if this world runs out of lovers, we’ll still have each other…”
Like most songs it was untrue; but it was all that was left when the truth was so hard to tell. Holding his bloody hand she said goodbye to the little boy sentenced to play hide and seek with an imaginary friend, a friend who became a brother who grew to be an enemy, a vicious little doppelganger only his mother could see.

They held hands until consciousness evaporated from his eye. Now the night of two against one had transmuted to a tale the law could understand. She stepped high over Jarod’s splatter to get to the phone.

Trustworthy Ned. He always answered on the first ring. She hated to be the one telling him that once again it was time to take out the garbage.

“Ned?” Her voice was hushed, as if the dead might listen, girlish, as though the years had rolled away. “It’s Persey. Two more bodies for you. Come and get me, please?”

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