Country: United States
December 06, 2018
08/12/2019 07:19 PM
This place smells like sh*t. It’s not that glaringly obvious sh*t-stink that you get from a public restroom. It’s like the aftertaste of a terrible blend of cleaning products and baby lotion, with notes of ass and decay all mixed together. Decay. Because people come here to eventually die. They don’t leave this place.
Starling Manor. It’s not my favorite place. Not even in my top ten. The hedges out front are unkempt and the circle drive is cracked, well used by transport dropping off medical patients and families leaving behind loved ones. They’ll mostly be forgotten, unfortunately. Only the nurses keep them company afterward, anticipating their needs long after their ability to voice them has fled.
I’m here for the West End of Starling. The place where you can hear wailing and unintelligible babbling before you get to the locked double doors. A special pass is required to get to the nurse’s station where you’ll be escorted by a guard during visitation. Dementia and Alzheimer's patients make up most of the West End, but there are others who are mentally ill and unable to care for themselves. People like my mom.
Fingering the plastic bracelet around my wrist as I flex my fist is my typical form of fidgeting for these visits. It’s common for me to squeeze my fingers so tightly that my nails leave half-moon marks in my palms. The nurse at the desk looks up at me and smiles with such charm. She’s new. How someone can deal with being physically assaulted while administering medications while also smiling eludes me.
“She seems to be in a good mood this morning. Enjoy your visit,” she says, and I look at her name tag. After a brief moment, I try a smile.
I let the guard walk me down the hall to the door that reads 2214. He’s quiet, but he seems to go on alert when the door opens and I walk inside. I’m pulsing my hands into fists over and over, nervous. I see her sitting at the window. They like to put her in a chair when they know I’m coming. The light through the yellowed lace curtains makes my mom look sallow, her dark blonde hair has been combed and she’s wearing a floral pajama set I bought. Her brown eyes don’t even flicker a look my way, just stare out the window.
I feel the presence of someone else before I see them. The guard hasn’t moved from the open doorway. That’s not right. Just in my peripheral, I see a man. Well, I don’t see him, but his aura. It’s so familiar, violet and gold, twisting energies like snakes in a pit writhing around him. I freeze when I see it, and he takes two steps from the corner, hidden by the open door from anyone in the hall. But I can see him. His inky hair wreathes his head in shaggy waves, contrasting to the striking green eyes I’ve seen in the mirror countless times. He’s no more weathered than a man my age, but I know he’s older.
“That the way you greet your long lost Papa?” He asks, and his fingers drum along his own thigh, brushing the dark wool coat back to reveal he’s wearing a gun in a belt holster.
“I don’t give a damn who you are. You ain’t welcome here.” I mean it, too.
“Eve,” his voice takes on a placating tone. “Let’s not fight in front of Mama. It’s been so long since I visited.”
I’m already reaching for my weapon on instinct, but it’s not there. Hospital rules. How he got in with one beats me, but I stand steady between him and my mother.
“What made you decide to now?”
“You did, darling.” He says, and without looking away from me, “You can close the door now, Pete.”
And the guard closes the door...
Visitation IIStarling Manor
While the guard is closing the door, I’m getting increasingly angry. I’ve never been one to temper my attitude, and even when I’m not saying anything, my face speaks for me. If I hadn’t seen the sinister aura around him that seemed to be burgeoning with aggression, I’d be speaking my mind. It didn’t seem to matter, because that aura seemed to pulse in time with my rapid fire thoughts.
The f*** does this guy think he is? Go near her and I’ll kill you. How’d you get in here? Pete’s a d*ck.
“Gimme one reason why I shouldn’t just give a shout for the nurses’ station,” I say, spreading my feet. I don’t care that I look wiry. I’m stronger than I look. He just smiles, giving me a scoffing laugh that gives the same impression as an amused adult explaining a simple fact to a child.
“If I have Pete covered, don’t you think I’d have the nurses, as well?” His dark brows, his thick lashes framing eyes nearly identical to mine. I’m not often afraid, but the ideas swimming through my head are scaring me.
“Covered, as in?”
“Evie, let’s not fight,” he redirects in that plactating, sing-song way. “I just want us to have a talk. Catch up. Besides, do you think Alice would want us to fight?” He actually has the gall to sweep a hand toward my mom.
“I dunno. Maybe if she spoke sometime, I’d have an idea,” I reply venomously. I don’t care if it hurts the woman at the window. I’m pissed off. Some people explode irrationally even when they know they are standing against an enemy they can’t hope to win, but I tend to hold my ground.
He lifts up a hand, weathered and scarred along the knuckles, his fingers giving the slightest flick toward Alice Hawthorne. A glow rises in his eyes, followed by a stream of smoky blue that curls through the air from the tips of his fingers. It bypasses me and strikes my mother in the chest. The blue light absorbs into her body. Right away, she inhales deeply and blinks repeatedly, turning her head toward me for the first time. There’s pain in her brown eyes when she meets my gaze, and then abject fear at the sight of the other visitor.
“Kal,” she whispers, putting her hands on the arms of her chair to help push herself to stand.
In the time it’s taken me to turn my head and look at Alice, the visitor is already behind me. His breath whispers over my ear before his lowered voice does. I tense.
“You were saying?” He murmurs, his hands encircling my biceps. “Alice, why don’t you tell Evie who I am.”
My mother spreads her hands in front of her in a gesture belying her desire to stop whatever she thinks may happen. “Evelyn, this is your father, Kaliel.”
I know it’s true, because I can feel his aura now. I can feel the snakelike tendrils of not one person’s energies, but multiple. Thousands of auras are licking at me, almost grabbing at me desperately to be set free. I know what it all means. He’s imbibed enough of each aura to have control over the person. Logic tells me he keeps so much of Alice with him that she’s in a catatonic state without him around. For the first time in a long time, I want to cry. My eye sockets throb, eyes swell, and I feel a sliver of heat pierce my vision. Instead, I suck up the tears. He’s a monster.
Am I a monster, too?
Visitation IIIStarling Manor[TRIGGER WARNING FOR MENTIONS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT]
“Good to hear ya talkin’, mom,” I say, trying to disguise the crackle in my voice with sarcasm.
I haven’t heard her speak in the eight years I’ve known her. When I could get her to look at me, her eyes would always look haunted. Now, I know why. I look just like this a**hole. Same a**hole that raped her. Same a**hole that stole her from me. Alice looks at me, and she sees him.
The hands that hold my arms by my sides tighten a bit. Not that I forgot he’s behind me. How can I? At least twenty different tendrils of aura are lashing at me, all from different people, all terrified.
“Now, don’t be cruel, Evie,” my father says. Kal. Kaliel. A**hole. Prick. Douche. “Your mother wanted to talk to you all this time. If there’s anyone you should be angry with. It’s me.”
Suddenly, I’m whirled around and pushed back several feet to sit in the other chair situated at the window, beside the one my mother was seated in when I arrived. The whole motion is like a backward carnival ride. No steps involved, only nauseating gliding. Then, I’m sitting, looking up at the man who sired me. Again, I’m unconsciously reaching for a weapon that still isn’t on my belt. He’s got one, though. Not that he needs it.
“Who says I ain’t angry at you? I’m plenty pissed,” I retort, no venom lost in my verdant gaze. The same one reflected back at me before he glances to Alice, who’s still standing, just at my right.
“Have a seat, Alice. You don’t want to overstimulate yourself.” Kaliel’s placating voice grates on my nerves more than I’d like to admit, but I’m just glad he’s not touching me anymore. My mother sits back down, her fingers gripping onto the armrests.
“Right, Evie. You and I need to have a talk, and I understand that you’ve grown attached to Alice, here.” Kal looks at me, running his tongue along his teeth and raising his brows.
“Guess a kid might ‘grow attached’ to their mom. Doncha think?”
“I suppose they would, but you’re not a regular ‘kid’, are you, Evie?” Kal comes closer, perusing, inspecting me, lifting his chin up appraisingly. Oh, yea. He’s expecting an answer…
“Nope. Not regular.” Flat. Monotone. I don’t like him calling me ‘Evie’. If I thought I could get away with it, I’d have kicked him in the teeth already.
“Right, and you hate that,” he offers. To which I say nothing. What’s he getting at? “Evie, do you realize what a gift you’ve been given? The power you could hold?” He’s coming closer again, gesticulating with his hands, opening them and looking at me as if I’m crazy.
“Kal, I get it. You got control over people. Okay—a lot of people, but what about them? You just plan to use them up like batteries until—what, they’re all used up? Then, what?”
He frowns, and I finally see lines on his face when he comes closer. His approach is quicker than I anticipate, already in my face before I can blink. I still do, but my heart is pounding. He’s gripping the armrests of the chair I’m sitting in. I feel the terror of the auras he sipped from. I’ve gone too far. I f***ed up. I’m sorry, mom.
“You still don’t understand what it is you have. Limitless possibilities. Yet, you only see the negative.” Kal shakes his head, his hands tighten on the chair until I hear the wood creaking. “You could have so much more, Evie. If you’d stop being afraid of the possibilities.”
“Killing people? That possibility?” I ask softly, but my eyes hold firm.
He scoffs. “You think that’s the worst thing you could do to them? Death?” Now, he stands up again, looking down on me with a cruel smile. “You could make them wish they were dead. You could make them do the most horrific things. Or, you could make them see Heaven. Make them believe the best. You could light a fire or the sky. You’re thinking too small…” His hands rake through his hair as he turns away from Alice and I. Only for a minute, and he’s focused again. “That’s my fault, though. I should have been here all along, stepping in to show you the way.”
I’m trying hard to understand what he’s alluding to, especially what he means by lighting a fire. Is it a metaphor? Don’t get me started on what he means by ‘light the sky’. Look, I’m lost. I don’t understand. Not until he says he should have been ‘stepping in’ do I get what he’s saying.
“Nah. I think it’s past time for you to be ‘stepping in’ anywhere in my life,” I say. “You’re a rapist. Not a dad. You don’t get any privileges.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Evie.”
“STOP CALLING ME THAT.”
“You’re connected to me, whether you like it or not. Even more than your mother, I’m always going to be a part of you. Our auras are linked. You’ll see that, one day.” Kaliel is so calm it makes my heart stutter, like a mouse under the stare of a viper. “One day, you’re going to have to choose. A war is coming. Which side do you think you’re going to be on, good or evil?”
I blink, furrowing my brows. If I had to answer, I don’t think the good side would take me.
“Think about that, Evie. I’ll be in touch.”
My father turns away from my mother and I and strolls toward the door, where Pete opens it for him. Kal pauses in the doorway, glancing at me and then Alice. He flicks his wrist, a bright white flash consuming his eyes. My mom convulses in her seat, her chest thrusting out as blue light bulges from it. A stream of blue pours from her breast and soars to my father’s hand, lighting his eyes the same azure for a moment before Alice slumps in her chair.
“Mom!” I shout, jumping up from my seat to crouch at her side, my hands cupping her cheeks to lift her head.
The door clicks shut again behind Pete and my dad, and I stare at my mother’s face.
It’s the same face she’s maintained for the past eight years. Blank. Her brown eyes stare past me. My pulse pounds, and I feel that pressure in my eyes again. My eye sockets ache, vision burns.
This time, I let the tears come.
03/18/2019 09:54 PM
Goddess Garden Part 2
.GODDESS GARDEN: II
A momentary lapse of judgement is all it takes
for someone to die.
Just one slip of her consciousness.
The fact this girl was spared fascinated Eve,
and when she found something interesting,
she never stopped questioning.
She’d never felt better. Regardless of clearly frightening Willow, Eve felt as though she’d had the first good night’s sleep in a ten year stretch. The best part of that fact was that she felt very little guilt—at least not by comparison. There was no corpse, devoid of life, lying before her. She could almost appreciate and even smile at the little scowl Willow gave her as she began to stand up with the aid of the outstretched hand of the male that stood only two feet from where Eve sat.
He was well-dressed, whoever he was. Tendrils of warmth were still embedded in the detective’s core, pulsing with life force. Yes, it felt erotic in a way. Likely, because Willow had somehow put those images into Eve’s head. Bewildered by the very idea she’d let someone take her gloves off, much less kiss her, Eve was brimming with questions for Willow, but the little dancer was in no mood. A stare of piercing azure said as much. Swallowing down the shame of her position in the moment, she looked steadily into the man’s eyes.
“When is the last time you saw Ashley Benton?”
Umber irises, shot through with green, gave a calculating pass between her own two emerald eyes, likely deciding what to tell her. Didn’t he know? She was used to that type of reaction.
“Around ten o'clock, Thursday night,” he answered, and almost instantly, she felt he was lying.
“Really? Five days? What’s that schedule lookin’ like? You only show up here when your employees are having a hard time hypnotizing your customers?” Hypnotized was the closest word for what she’d felt when she entered this room. Something was missing now, though. The barest vibration of the floor brought the realization that it was the music she’d heard.
“I show up when my employees are about to be harmed by one of my customers,” he growled threateningly, and Eve thought she saw the green in his irises spread like vines.
“Harmed? Let me tell you somethin’, your employee touched me. I did not initiate contact. If anyone can cry foul here, it’s me,” she asserted. He furrowed his brows. His eyes were all over her. Sizing her up? There was that shock in his expression again. What the hell was he lookin' at?
“I’ll ask again,” she grated. “When was the last time you saw Miss Benton?”
“I already told you.”
“Was that Friday night?” Eve kept her features even, viridescent hues carefully watching him as his brows twitched down and together.
“Thursday,” he replied in a lower tone, to which Eve lifted her chin. The feet of the chair she sat in scraped against the floor as she bent to scoop her gloves up from where they lay, standing from her seat to look back at the man.
“So, you own the place or just manage the girls?” Conversational tone had taken over as fingers deftly slipped into buttery leather confinement.
“It’s my place,” he replied in a more relaxed tone. Maybe he understood the gravity of hypnotizing a detective?
“Right. What’s your name?” Her other glove was being pulled on now.
“Peter Shepherd,” he informed, and she mentally locked that name in with his slightly dusky features, framed in lush curly hair and that well-kept beard he wore. For a man, he had alarmingly long lashes. There was something very mischievous and wild about his aura. It seemed to work well with the club. Eve outstretched a gloved hand to him in a formal greeting gesture.
“Detective Evelyn Hawthorne, NYPD. Good meetin’ ya Mr. Shepherd. Real interestin’ setup you got goin’ here. What exactly is Miss. Benton’s position? What did that entail?” Her title flowed out as his hand warily reached and shook her own in a resigned manner, but as soon as he let go, she resumed her questioning.
“She is a waitress. She serves the customers and keeps track of their tabs for them, it makes things easy for the bartender.” Reasonable answer, Eve thought. At least he was speaking of Ash in the present tense. Maybe he wasn’t involved in her death.
“So this bit Willow used on me. That only used by the dancers? Certain dancers? Am I some kind of special case?” She pressed, her eyes falling back on the waifish dancer that had just used some sort of musical magic on her to subdue and hypnotize her. Eve remembered tell her not to remove the gloves, warning her, but of course, Willow had not listened. She clearly didn’t see what her boss saw in Eve. That was a mistake she paid for with a healthy amount of her energy. She’d fallen to the ground, wheezed and coughed a bit, but she survived kissing Eve. That was enough to give the detective hope that control over this addiction might be possible.
He narrowed his eyes, as if she were joking. She waited.
“The dancers play music to relax the customers in these private rooms. It’s very lucrative, and usually very safe,” he carefully answered, and Eve’s brows rose up in surprise.
“So..what? Ya get a john in here and play the tune that hypnotizes them, make em think they’re havin’ the time of their life, and they fork over all their cash?” Incredulous, Eve was shaking her head slowly at Shepherd like he had lost it.
“Essentially. The girls cannot account for individuals like you,” he crossed his arms over his chest, and gave a glance to Willow. “You’re dismissed,” he said, and she switched right out of the room like she hadn’t been used like a Capri Sun. Eve scoffed.
“I can see how customers might get a little attached after an experience like that. I bet it costs ‘em a pretty penny.” One dark brow arched at Shepherd—a question. She then wondered if there were records of these customers, so that she could cross-check the names for stalking reports or anything, really.
“For you? On the house, if you’ll keep that experience to yourself,” he was deliberately attempting amicability, and he damn well better, because Eve knew hypnotizing your customers without their consent to take the heavy funds wasn’t exactly legal.
“If you’ll be open to answering some more questions later, cooperating with my investigation, I’ll forget all about it,” she lied. Although she might not tell the chief, she’d never forget the feeling of life energy like that. It occurred to Eve that Willow must not be human. Something else, like her. There was a distinct woodsy 'flavor’ to her, very fitting for the name ‘Willow’.
“But of course, Detective. My door is always open to you.”
Evelyn got the idea he was hiding so much from her. She couldn’t get the image she’d seen when the spell was broken out of her head. The cloven hooves, the wooly brown legs. Legs of a goat. That strange flute music that still tingled in her extremities. Where had that gone?
While she exited the private room, making her way toward the exit, her eyes were paying even more attention to the dancers this time. As a nubile brunette with nothing but a tiny g string on swirled upside down around a pole, Eve noticed her skin was glowing like Willow’s had, and it only left her with even more questions about this place. For now, she felt more alive and in control than she ever had, and there were other cases she had to check on. Therefore, she’d utilize the newfound control to her advantage and get some work done.
[ This blog post is private ]
03/07/2019 09:05 PM
Goddess Garden [Drabble]
[Possible Trigger Warning]
GODDESS GARDEN I
In a dark room once again, Eve followed the sounds of footsteps drawing her away from her familiar corner. She shivered at the pause in the steps, a primordial fear of the unknown gripping her as music began to play from an unknown source. Rising incrementally into a crescendo, the music made her blink in confusion before it started over.
A raspy groan emitted her vocals as she lifted her head, eyes opened to slits to see the screen of her phone glowing brightly in her room. Fingers of sunlight played over the dark wood floor of the room where her rumpled bed stood centered. She picked up the cellular device and swiped her thumb across the screen to answer the call.
“We need you at Betsy Head ASAP.”
Eyes clenched shut as brows knitted in a pained expression.
“Yea, be there in ten.”
Trudging through the late February cold with her eyes still squinted and barely awake, Eve arrived at the crime scene. Betsy Head Park, overrun with children in the Spring and Summer, but left to brown and wither with the colder weather. A dark-haired female lay beneath the monkey bars of the playground, her clothing dotted with blood and fingers grimy with dirt. Her face was stained with earth, tears, and blood, the latter aligned with the corners of her lips. Her neck was sliced horizontally just above her collarbones, the source of the blood covering the front of her t-shirt. There was no blood along the concrete.
“Not the murder site, then,” Eve murmured, not even glancing over as Nick handed her a hot coffee in a covered paper cup.
“What makes you think that? Could have happened nearby,” Nick replied with a charming tilt of his head, glancing at her as they both lifted the steaming beverages to their lips nearly in unison.
“It may have. Won’t know until I take a good look around,” she answered vaguely, moving closer to the body to get a better look. Her skin was a soft caramel color, and her clothing was casual, though there looked to be glitter flecked on her skin in some places. A slight bulge in the left jean pocket drew the detective’s eye, making dark brows knit as she reached up and back to snap her fingers for Nick’s attention.
“Hey, Nick, could you grab me some tweezers?” Again, she didn’t even look at him. She heard him scoff, muttering as he walked back toward the cars to retrieve what she asked for. Leaning closer, there was an odor Eve could place right away. Beer. Likely spilled on the clothing, Eve surmised as she gave a pursed-lipped frown at the myriad stains along the weathered t-shirt and denim jacket.
Eve finally turned her head as she heard steps approaching. Nick, with the tweezers brandished like a knife, smiled like a praised puppy when she looked at him, his palm opened as he held it out in offer to her. She shook her head, grabbing the tweezers with a wry smile. “Thanks, Nick. Now, back up, would you?” Not waiting for an answer, she eased the tweezers into the pocket and pinched them together, pulling back gently until she saw something. Paper.
A thin receipt paper slid from the victim’s pocket, and Eve carefully unfolded it. A quick scan over the small typed text and she raised her brows. It was a tip out receipt. The victim was a waitress. The place she worked had a local address, too. A soft sigh as Eve looked down at the woman.
“Her name is Ashley Benton,” she said, looking over at Nick with a raised brow.
“I’ll go tell the Chief. You got a lead?”
“Yea. Looks like I’ll be visiting the, ah...Goddess Garden..tonight.”
Now Nick raised his brows in a shocked expression that bled into wry amusement. “Oh, yea? Can I come?”
“Not with me!”
“You know what they’re gonna think, Hawthorne,” he warned.
She just shook her head. ___________________
The Goddess Garden was a themed strip club in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, locally known for its realistic scenery without and within. The facade was reminiscent of Greek architecture with columns and arches, and you could see that it must have been a pristine white—underneath a verdant blanket of winding vines and glossy heart-shaped leaves. There were flowers breaking the monotony of green. Wisteria and Clematis that perked up the color, hanging down just over the arching doors that were unhindered by any vines at all.
The music that floated out onto the streets thumped the foundations on which Eve stood, making her swallow her anxiety before her boots trod over asphalt and onto the sidewalk. Fingers curled around the door handle and pulled, making warm red lights pour onto the ground where she stood before she slipped inside, swallowing up the red glow as the door closed behind her. A curved stage stood before the far wall, lit with brighter lights that cast striking shadows onto the many chairs of onlookers that focused solely on the dancers spiraling and gyrating around glinting stainless steel.
At first glance, Eve didn’t notice the bouncer at the door, but in her peripheral he seemed to grow in size until he loomed over her when he stopped his approach. Eve raised her brows at him, her expression askance while emerald eyes scanned over him once or twice as if to say, What are you looking at? A little huff of air left him. He was at least six inches taller than her with an abundance of curly dark hair cropped above his ears and cheeks that protruded on each side, making her imagine an orangutan was standing near her. Undaunted, she continued toward the stage, peering around the inside as she went.
Trees stood within, appearing to have sprouted from the floor. Branches reached out along the walls at each corner, vines connecting each one to adorn with lavender wisteria that draped in lush bouquets. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to make sure that these plants all seemed real and alive with vibrancy. Eve could appreciate the attention to detail—even if it was a themed strip club.
“How about a dance, Green Eyes?” A lilting voice cooed from Eve’s left, stopping her in her tracks as she turned her head to lay eyes on a blonde dressed in floral attire. No—her clothing really was adorned with plants! Petals layered upon yet more petals graced the paleness of her skin in a small strip over her breasts, while a very short skirt of green fabric covered her hips. Her skin...it seemed to emit an unearthly glow.
So, it wasn’t just the lights.
“I came to ask a couple questions, actually. When was the last time you saw Ashley Benton?”
“Ash. Such a pretty flower. I’m Willow. I’m sure I’ll be a lot more fun.”
“So, you know Miss Benton?”
Such piercing blue eyes met Eve’s, turning such petite, sharp features harsh as Willow lifted her pointed chin and her eyes crawled down Eve’s frame before they looked toward a door to the side of the stage Eve hadn’t noticed until now.
“Buy a dance. I’ll make sure those pretty eyes see what they want to see,” Willow said, and prowled a bit closer, placing a small hand with sharp little nails on Eve’s hip as she looked up from her shorter height. “Those ears might hear what they want to hear, too,” she added, curling soft digits around Eve’s fingers to tug her toward the door she’d looked toward.
And Eve followed.
Willow opened the door, allowing Eve through before shutting it behind them. Immediately, there was a shift in the atmosphere. The music from the main stage was muted as the door sealed shut like some soundproof Tupperware, though the odd vibration from the bass still eased up Eve’s legs when she stood still in a musical caress. Willow lead her down a dimly lit hallway lined with small recessed lights along the walls that cast a blue glow. She began to hear music coming from somewhere close. Something woodwind. Possibly a flute? Before she knew it, Willow was pulling her through one of the doors along the hall and into a room.
Gauzy fabric draped down the walls over copious vines heavy with glossy leaves and vibrant trumpet flowers. A heaviness was in the room. A deep warmth that eased into Eve from her feet upward. The flute music was coming closer now, and so was Willow. Her delicate fingers trailed up Eve’s arm and made the detective’s chest squeeze in worry.
“Hey. You don’t want to do that, Willow.”
“Tell me about Ashley..Ash.”
“Shh..don’t speak. Just listen.”
The woodwind notes were stronger, though filtering in through some speaker system, Eve guessed. Otherwise, it sounded like it was floating through the walls. Eve started to feel like she was floating, too. Her brows twitched together as she looked at Willow’s face that had eased closer, that unearthly glow emanating from her skin now more apparent in the lower lighting. She had a dewy sheen about her, the blonde curls drifting around her shoulders like spun gold. Those dagger-tipped fingers teased Eve’s cheek, and the touch was like electric velvet. Her eyes slid shut.
Soft lips like warm silk touched Eve’s throat and she swallowed, brows pulled together momentarily as she felt the leather gloves being tugged from her hands.
“Shhh, pretty. Let’s make you more comfortable.”
Warm breath touched Eve’s fingers, and they twitched, curling toward damp palms. She felt between sleep and waking, her eyes unable to open. The flowing woodwind music lulled her, and she knew she must be asleep when her hands touched hot flesh. If she were awake, she’d be worried she’d hurt Willow. That skin was oh-so-soft. Since she was dreaming, she let her fingers slide down the bare abdomen of the glowing dancer to her hips and hold on. Eve’s cheeks were enveloped in warmth, sharp little scrapes teased her hairline above her ears. Moist, petal-like lips brushed her own. God—when was the last time she was kissed?
Hours seemed to pass—minutes? It was a blur, as dreamscapes often are. All she knew was the pressure of a lithe body above her, the silken skin she grazed her fingers along, the undulation of two bodies in unison, heat, heavy breaths culminating to soft whimpering cries as Willow lay over her. It was incredible. Almost transcendent. Something...was wrong.
Very wrong. The flute music had drained away, and someone was approaching. The feeling of being underwater dissipated, uncorking Eve’s ears so slowly she felt as if there were truly water in them. Footsteps clacked on the floor, coming toward her. She still felt groggy, but her lids fought themselves open a crack.
Cloven hooves clip-clopped toward her in the room, attached to the wooly brown legs of a ram. She felt her eyes widen at the sight, but when she blinked, a bearded man with dark curly hair was standing before her. His own expression looked stricken, like he had seen a ghost, and Eve cleared her throat before she sat up. In a chair. Fully clothed. Her head tipped down as her expression screwed up in confusion, and that’s when she saw Willow. Willow, whose glow had dimmed. She was lying on the floor, panting, nearly wheezing when she looked up fearfully at Eve. Even more confusion exuded from the detective. She was certain they were both naked only a moment ago. Or, at least, that’s what she dreamed.
“What do you think you’re doing?” The man standing in front of her asked. Eve cleared her throat, licking suddenly dry lips and glancing around for her gloves. There they were. On the floor by Willow.
Refusing to be cowed, Eve straightened in her seat."
“I came for information regarding a waitress that worked here, Ashley Benton.”
“What about her?” He asked flippantly, glancing down at Willow, who was regaining her composure.
That’s when the realization hit her. Willow had touched her. Actually touched her, kissed her, and she was alive.
12/24/2018 04:35 PM
Lowbred (Pt 2 of Blood Scent)
The girl’s body was as pristine as it had appeared on the asphalt of the steel mill’s parking lot. No signs of sexual assault or even the dark smudge of a bruise on her body. Still, the toxicologist report was due to come back any time now to give insight on whether a poison or drug was the cause of death. Eve had never seen a death like it in the ten years she’d worked for the NYPD.
They’d made a positive ID based off of missing person reports filed nearly six weeks prior to the time of death. Nicole Hightower, the nineteen year old aspiring ballerina daughter to James and Renee Hightower, owners of the most successful security business in Manhattan. It was a bit ironic that they trained and specialized in offering bodyguards for the rich and affluent, but couldn’t protect their own daughter.
She was a fresh nineteen, too. Just into college with aspirations to move on to the Russian ballet, but of course Mom and Dad wanted to keep her home. Nicole had the same cornflower blonde hair as her mother, waifish and doll like in the way that most renowned dancers were. The soot black lashes, however, came from her father, surprisingly. He somehow managed to look ruggedly masculine while having thick lashes over hazel eyes that silently judged the wrinkled t shirt Eve wore under her leather jacket. Why do wealthy people always look at me like that?
No dirt under my nails. No stains on my clothes.
Can they just sense my ‘low breeding’?
This was going to be an uncomfortable conversation.--Thirteen years ago--
“Tell me, Evelyn, are you of the Westchester Hawthornes?”
The smooth and sophisticated tone of Mrs. McConnell’s voice flowed over Eve like silk, but it was just as cool. One glance at the woman’s pale blue eyes as she poured lemonade into the glass settled before her guest subtly screamed her distaste. Eve was as welcome in Mrs. McConnell’s house as a flying cockroach. Seated on the bench seat of the wicker furniture situated underneath the veranda conveniently located off of the back of the spacious home’s kitchen, Eve stared back. She didn’t cower down as the older woman surely expected. This earned a slight shift of the woman’s manicured brows upward. Excellent, she probably felt challenged.
“No, ma’am, I’m not. At least I don’t think I am,” Eve replied evenly, lifting the glass of iced lemonade she’d just been offered and taking a sip. “Thank you, Mrs. McConnell, this lemonade is perfect.”
“Isn’t it?” Chimed in Alex who’d just looked up from their homework assignment, completely oblivious to the hostility emanating from his own mother. Of course, you always saw the best in those you loved.
“Mom makes everything from scratch! You should try her spinach mini quiche, it’s amazing!” A short sip of his own lemonade and he continued, “you’ll want us to adopt you!” He chuckled afterward while Eve chanced a glance over at her friend’s mother and she hadn’t cracked a smile. Oh, boy. --Present--
The Hightowers seemed ambivalent about the idea that their only child could have gotten caught up with the wrong crowd. Of course, if you ask most parents if their child may have joined a ritualistic cult in the past few months, they might react indignantly. After they’d gone, Evelyn convinced her partner to drive her back to the crime scene. Not that the parents had prompted any pity from her, no. If anything, they would have discouraged a petty person from doing their best work.
“You know..you’ve been out here every day this week.” Matt Rogers was probably the closest person to her, and somehow he’d gotten away with touching her bare skin more than once without any ill effect. At least, as far as Eve knew he wasn’t pining for her. Maybe because he knew her well enough to know she wasn’t a catch. He looked over from the driver’s seat at her as they parked against the curb just in front of the old steel mill. "How many times you gonna go to that crime scene?” His brows raised expectantly as a small smile edged his mouth.
Clenching her jaw shut against her instinctual acerbic reply, verdant hues shifted toward her partner with a pointed look. "As many times as it takes." Eve’s stiff words were uttered before she opened the door to step onto the cracked sidewalk in front of the old steel mill that was now surrounded by yellow tape and had been for the past four days. She heard Rogers drive off as she slipped under the crime scene markers and made her way down the alley that was now strewn with the crushed foliage of multiple pairs of feet and even vehicles turning the fallen leaves once littering the ground to dust.
The parking lot was just the way it had been when Eve first saw it, excluding the body, of course. Not that she couldn’t remember just how Nicole had been laying when she approached for the first time. That serene doll like figure laid neatly on the dirty ground, her pristine pale skin standing out against the grimy asphalt. CSI had long since come out to take samples of the blood painted symbols on the ground and examine every pile of scrap for what might turn out to be a clue. There was just something bothering Eve about the crime scene she’d noticed the first time she was here.
Black leather boots softly thudded on the asphalt, slowing their progress as they closed in on the circle of blood with the symbols. They’d all been photographed many times, collectively and individually by CSI to help with determining what kind of murder this was. Although there was still no concrete proof it had been a murder, they were treating it as such until there was proof against it. Eve had taken photos of her own as well, fueling her urges to study these symbols, though she’d not found much luck deciphering what language they originated from.
Deep green eyes scanned over the ground, moving outward in a sweeping gaze as she brought to mind the exact position the girl was lying in. Her hands were folded on her stomach. Soft boot thuds moved around the circle, pausing where she remembered Nicole’s feet had been resting. Her legs together, bent at the knees slightly. Her head was turned, lids closed, but she was definitely purposefully positioned.
Eve slowly lowered to a crouch, her thick overcoat and leather jacket keeping her torso warm as she moved to lie down in the circle and mimic the position Nicole’s corpse had been in. It probably seemed very morbid, Eve’s particular interest in this case, but it wasn’t just about the condition of the body. It was the complete picture. Eve’s head rested against the ground, and though she was cringing inwardly, she turned her head to the side, trying to mirror the exact way Nicole was looking toward the alley.
That’s when she saw it. There, among the graffiti on the bricks of the steel mill, just before you reach the opening to the alley to exit onto the street. A perfectly stamped outline of what looked like the face of a fox.
12/13/2018 06:21 PM
Thirteen years ago--
“I don’t like ‘im,” Mama Bea said from her spot leaning against the cheap green formica countertop of the small kitchen. She was giving one of those signature quelling stares that was meant to intimidate. She used it with all her foster kids and Evelyn was no different. The chipped white cabinets below creaked as she removed the pressure of her very sizeable forearms from the surface to cross her arms over her round belly. Eve merely stared back at her with slightly raised brows. What was she supposed to say to that?
Mama Bea was a large southern woman in her mid fifties who smoked Virginia Slim cigarettes and made her sweet tea like syrup. Her shoulder length dishwater blonde hair was greasy around her head but her fringe was always sprayed with enough Aqua Net to keep it in a perfect crunchy curl over her protruding brow. She kept a partial shadow of moustache on her upper lip and she was probably the only person in the tristate area that would take in teenage fosters. It was the only home that Eve remembered living in longer than a year.
Alex was probably the only reason Eve had made it through the past year since Becca’s unexplained death. He lived a very different life from her, but that didn’t stop them from connecting. “It’s because he’s a boy,” Evelyn finally replied in an amused tone and a slight smile. It was so strange how Mama Bea’s whole demeanor toward her had shifted since Becca passed. She seemed almost...loving. Protective. Like she actually cared about the teenager beyond the checks being doled out for her care. It wasn’t like the woman didn’t have four other kids living with her.
“Not just cause he’s a boy, nah. He’s wantin’ somethin’ from you, girl. That ain’t no secret. You keep hangin’ round him...that type only knows how to use.” There was a pause at the end. Evelyn got the feeling she meant to say “people like you” behind it. Eve shook her head as her eyes lifted skyward and her head tilted back and to the side in exasperation. “You don’t even know him!” Evelyn remarked, pushing her chair back from the scuffed wooden dining table where she’d been sitting. The chair screeched across the linoleum when she pushed it back in, her hand resting on the top of the backrest while she narrowed green eyes at her guardian. “I’ll prove you wrong. He’s not like you think.”
It was no secret that Alexander McConnell came from an affluent family. He came from generational wealth and good breeding. The only surprise came from the fact that he was attending public school with the riff raff. Maybe that’s why Eve had never heard of him until this past year. He’d always gone to private school or had tutors. He didn’t act like someone who had been catered to his whole life and didn’t appreciate it, though. That’s what really got to Evelyn about the way other people thought about him.
“I been around a long time Evie. Believe me or don’t. That boy’s trouble for you. All you got’s your reputation. If you spoil that--” Mama Bea spread her hands and tipped her head to the side as if she were saying ‘you got nothing’. Was that true?--Now--Ksh ksh ksh
Fallen leaves crunched beneath her boots as she walked the short distance from the grimy street to the old steel mill she was called to. Two squad cars parked along the curb out front, but eerie silence made her want to draw her sidearm as she approached cautiously to the front door. Verdant hues scanned the front once more before she leaned her back against the wall and eased the door open a crack to peek inside.
"Hawthorne!" Her spine stiffened at the furtive whisper from a male deputy peeking around the far corner of the building's facade. "Don't f***ing scare me like that." She whispered venomously as the door slowly shut with a quiet snick. It was Joe, and he was known for playing pranks. So, when she saw him, she immediately went into defensive mode. She didn’t have time to screw around at a fake crime scene.
"Oh, but you'll want to see this." He replied, a grin on his stubbled cheeks worn rosy from the cold.
“Yeah, yeah, Joe. Let’s get this over with. I got sh*t to do,” she said with irritation as she approached him, all attempts at stealth forgotten now that she knew at least one officer was alive on scene.
“What you gotta do that’s so important, eh? Boyfriend waitin’ at home?” He knew better, he knew. She glared at him while they walked around the side of the building toward what she assumed was a parking area. Joe’s round face and faintly ginger stubble were all she could see between his thick navy knit hat and the scarf he wore tucked into his jacket beneath. The guy was definitely not made for New England winters.
Changing the subject to the task at hand, Eve gestured in front of them with a gloved hand as they came closer to the back of the building. Boots were once again crunching on decrepit foliage that had gathered over time with no one to keep the grounds cleared. Nature had begun to take back the property, weeds growing rampant through the asphalt, vines wrapping around the chain link fence and creating a natural barrier from onlookers. When they arrived in the open area behind the building that would have once held about two hundred cars, there were only piles of discarded scraps. Fenders, bumpers, random sheet metal that was warped.
Something doesn't smell right, Eve thought. It didn’t smell like oil or gas as she expected, or garbage, or unwashed vagrants..that might be what you’d expect to smell from a place that was prime squatting territory. No, it smelled like death. It smelled like blood. She knew this from multiple homicide investigations she’d worked on. All pretense of annoyance dropped from her demeanor as she moved a bit more quickly with Joe toward the far end of the parking lot where three other uniformed deputies stood. The closer she got, her senses were invaded with that rank scent of death. “So, you know we got an anonymous call over here this evening. Thought it was--”
They’d approached closer now. Close enough that the stench permeated the air and Eve knew she’d have to shower when she got home to wash it out of her hair.“A joke. Right.”“Yea, but we answered it. What do you make of this, Hawthorne?”
Silence answered Joe as they stood only a few feet from a naked female, pristine as a doll. There looked to be no wounds, defensive or otherwise. Her cornflower blonde hair was spread out as if she’d been posed, hands demurely folded over her stomach. The face of a porcelain doll with bow like lips and the body of a ballet dancer. Her hands were elegant, perfectly manicured. At first glance, the soot-black lashes fanned over her cheeks looked as if she were peacefully sleeping and might wake at any moment.
The strange thing was where she was lying. A perfect circle had been drawn around her, deep brown standing out over the dirty asphalt in thick, bold strokes of precision. Just outside that ring were symbols, some that Evelyn thought she recognized, but many were obscure. Another, final ring encased the symbols in a strip around the body, and Eve observed it attentively. This was the blood. Wherever it had come from..that was another mystery. The position of the girls head, though, something wasn’t right about how it was turned, like she was meant to be facing the alley. “I think you should get CSI out here..now.”
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