Richard shot Matthews once, in the neck, and stood and watched as he crumpled to the floor, his breath coming in gurgles as the blood leaked out of him at a frightening pace. The sound of the shot had startled him. It had been both louder and quieter than he had expected. He stayed watching as Matthews bled out, his eyes blinking rapidly while he tried to speak, thinking only that he had been aiming for the head, not the neck.
Finally he remembered himself and, dropping the gun beside the dying man, he turned on his heels and walked out of the room, down the hallway, to the stairs. He moved at a steady pace, as though he had a purpose and was on his way somewhere, but he encountered no one. It was two flights to the main floor where he exited the stairwell into the hotel lobby and calmly walked out past the bellhops, desk attendants and guests, drawing not a single glance, through the revolving door and out into the glare of the sun.
There were two cabs parked out front and he got into the first one, giving the man an address—the first one that came into his head, a restaurant he had looked up the night before. The cab pulled out into the flow of traffic and Richard sucked in a deep breath, what felt like his first in a long while. He looked down at his hands and saw that they were shaking, and then realized that no, that was an illusion. It was his vision itself that was unsteady. The whole world was vibrating.
“You visiting town?” the cab driver said, in a way that suggested it was not the first time he had asked Richard the question.
Richard met the driver’s eyes in the rearview mirror. Don’t say anything memorable. Say nothing. “Yeah. Just for a couple of days.”
“Business? Pleasure?” He had an accent Richard could not quite place.
“A little of both actually. I hope.”
“Ahh, yes,” the driver said with a vigorous nod. “I know, I know. Meetings all day and then party all night, right?”
“Something like that,” Richard said, growing uncomfortable.
He looked away from the mirror, out the window and then down at his shoes. To his horror he could see a drop of blood on the toe of one shoe, glaringly red against its blackness. He glanced up at the driver, but his eyes were on the road, apparently oblivious to Richard’s concern.
“You know,” the driver said, in an overly casual voice. “I know a guy got some girls and such. Whatever you want. Whatever you need for a party.”
Richard could not stop looking at his shoe. He desperately wanted to lean down and clean it off, but he didn’t know what to do with the blood once it was on his fingers.
“Sure,” he found himself saying. “Where are these girls at?”
He felt his orgasm building with each thrust and resultant moan from the girl beneath him. She was Puerto Rican-Chinese, according to her, lovely and thin and lithe, and she wriggled her body beneath him in a way that seemed exceptional to him, though he could not have said why exactly. Nothing seemed exact at the moment. There had been a number of shots of cheap whiskey and a bump of cocaine before he had started in on this girl.
Monique. Not her real name. Nothing was real, at least not that he could be sure. The blood on his shoe, for instance, had not been there when he at last worked up the courage to wipe it off on the cab ride over here. The driver had been even more gregarious by then, already counting his cut of Richard’s afternoon in his head. There had been a number of watchful eyes in the apartment, all waiting for some sign that he was not who he appeared to be. That much, at least, was true.
It did not matter. Matthews was gone. A debt repaid. He felt a bit of the blood go from his cock at that thought and tried to return his focus to Monique. She smiled at him, urging him on, but her eyes were empty. Dead. It was that thought that finally sent his orgasm spilling out and he collapsed on top of her, their sweat mingling.
“I’m missing my flight,” he said, for what seemed to be the hundredth time. It was true. Nothing else was. All other existence was fragments of pieces of things that might have once happened. No one could say for sure.
“You think I give a fuck,” the voice said. “Do you know how much that cost? Why would I care about you missing a goddamn flight? Now you are gonna fucking pay me.”
Richard blinked at the voice, but it refused to coalesce into a face. He was confused by what the voice had said. He had paid for the whore, that much he was certain of. And the cocaine. And the whiskey. Then what was this about? Matthews.
“How did you find me?” This point seemed very central to the entire matter. Richard needed it clarified.
The voice sighed. It sounded tired. “You spent two nights pussy deep instead of getting the fuck out of town. How do you think we found you?”
Richard nodded. It made sense.
“Why the fuck did you kill Matthews, you dumbshit?”
Matthews, yes. Why had he shot Matthews? It seemed very unimportant now, a distant concern. There was that flight he had to catch. That was paramount, though he could not remember where he was flying to.
“Listen to me fuckwit,” the voice said. It was a different voice actually. There were in fact two voices, he realized. “Why did you kill Matthews? Who hired you? Do you understand how important he is to certain people? You are royally fucked unless you talk to us.”
Richard did talk, though it all came out in a babble. Not even he understood it. He could feel his lips and tongue moving, but it was a distant sensation, separate from his thoughts. Nothing was real. Not this, not the whore, not Matthews. None of it. He was just drifting on a river further into the darkness. A ship awaited him there, to carry him across the sea.
“Jesus Christ. What did you do?”
“Nothing for fuck sakes. I didn’t touch him.”
Richard tried to blink, but the light was too dim. The sea was very cold.
“Check his pulse.”
“He doesn’t have one. Jesus, he’s cold.”
“We need him alive. We need to know who hired him.”
Richard smiled. There was a scent, the bare scent of Monique’s flesh as he had lain atop her. He could smell it now. She must have gone out for some more whiskey. He closed his eyes to wait for her to join him.
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