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“You said you were going to kill me” – a Pointless rendezvous –

“You said you were going to kill me,” she says, her voice gone soft and thin.

“I might,” he says.

“What is this,” she says. “What are we doing.”

“Magic,” he says. “Take up the blade.” Closing one eye, the other hidden beneath an eyepatch cupped there beside his sharply angular nose, naked on his back on the floor, his wrists bound up over his head with a sheer black stocking, tied to a pole that braces a little yellow table above them both. His long black hair spread over the grimy linoleum like a fan. In the aisle between two lines of those little yellow tables, orange plastic chairs bolted to the poles to either side, she’s kneeling over him, one leg stockinged, one leg bare, black lace stretched taut about her wide round hips. Her long black hair threaded with white ribbons and silvery spangles that sweep over his narrow chest, his belly, her breasts brushing against him as her hand still in a black and white striped arm sock closes about the hilt of the long knife beside him, a slight curl to it, and no point but a sudden wedge of a tip. “It, it feels real,” she says.

“Of course it does,” he says, opening his eye.

“I mean, it doesn’t, it isn’t – ”

“Don’t touch the blade,” he says. “Not with your hand.”

“I’m sorry,” she says, “I didn’t mean to do anything – ”

“Hush,” he says, sharply. “By the hilt. Both hands. Firmly.”

“It’s real, isn’t it,” she says, the blade upright before her face. “I mean, it’s sharp.” The metal of it dark in the dim light, whorled with black streaks, a rainbowed shimmer floating along it like oil on water. On the wall behind her an enormous close-up photo of a hamburger, gone brown and yellowed with grime. “The wakizashi,” he’s saying. “The companion blade. Go on.” It trembles in her hands, her fingers opening and closing about the hilt. Her face lost in the shadows thrown by the harsh light of the desk lamp on the floor away over there, plugged into an orange extension cord that snakes off into the darkness. Plywood nailed above it, a window boarded up. “Gloria,” he says. “Go on.”

The long knife turns over in her hands until the tip of it points at his flat stomach, at the thin dark line of hair drawn from his navel to the sudden thicket of it nestling his limply sidelong cock, that thin dark line of hair interrupted just beneath the tip of the blade by something pale, dead skin tight and shining, a ripple, a knot, scars hunched across his belly from hip to hip.

“No fear,” he says, gently now. “No anger.”

“No fear,” she says, flatly.

“The blade comes down.”

“No anger,” she says.

“Empty,” he says.

She swallows and clamps her hand more tightly about the hilt. “What if –”

“Empty,” he says. “Those are not your hands. Those are not your eyes. Those are not your ears hearing these word I do not speak. That is not your breath, no,” he says, closing his eye. “No.”

The blade comes down. He grunts, head jerking wrists straining the sheer stocking toes curling spreading wide and clenching again his breath gone shallow and quick. His cock stirs, a shadow pulsing at the base of it in the dim light.

“Oh my fucking God,” says Gloria.

“Pull it,” he says through his teeth. He opens his eye. “Out. Now!”

She yanks the long knife up and out, a neat wet yellow cut left in its wake. “There’s no,” she says. “There no. Blood, there’s no blood.”

“Kiss it,” he says, and then “No! Not the blade. No.”

“Oh,” she says, and “oh.” Laying the long knife gingerly aside. The wedge-shaped tip of it wet with something thickly colorless.

“Go on,” he says, and he closes his eye again, and her hair clatters as she stoops over him, one black and white striped hand on his chest, one on his knee, her nose brushing that thin dark line of hair, her lips on the cut. “Sweet,” she says. “Like honey.” She kisses it again, licks it, and he growls and yanks roughly at the stocking about his wrists. She lifts her head. “No!” he cries. “Do not. Stop.” She kisses the cut once more, and opens her mouth to dig into it with her tongue. He howls.

“It’s too cold,” says Ysabel, wobbling along in her white heeled boots.

“Well if we’re lucky then they’ll have the heater turned up way too high and you can complain about how it’s too hot instead,” says Jo, trudging ahead of her along the side of the road. Grey-green trees over across the way and a tangle of brown and black along the ground. A demurely pocketed lot mostly full of cars and the low warrens of an anonymous office park, all brick and blank black glass.

“It is too cold,” says Ysabel, “to be walking for miles through the middle of nowhere to a pointless rendezvous – ”

“Half a mile,” says Jo, rounding on her, “to the bus stop, and it wasn’t fucking pointless until you made it pointless, okay?” A white panel truck that says FedEx in blue and green letters rolls past.

“He wanted us to lie,” says Ysabel.

“It’s sales,” says Jo, snapping the sentence in half, the smoke of her breath swirling in the weak sunlight. “Lying’s part of the gig.”

“What I say,” says Ysabel, “whatever else it might be, is true.”

“Well you don’t,” says Jo, looking away, looking back at her, “you didn’t have to, you didn’t have to tell him that. You know?” Looking away again. “I mean, you could have.”

“What, Jo?” says Ysabel. Head tilted back a little, the hood of her short white parka settling about her shoulders. “I could have what.”

“Asked your question,” says Jo. Shrugging, shivering in her black leather reefer jacket. “I mean you wouldn’t have had to duck the thing about the extra monthly cost on the power bill or the,” and as Ysabel stony-faced pushes past her, “that was how you got all those surveys, wasn’t it? Wasn’t it?”

“I should make people fall,” says Ysabel, rounding on Jo, “for me, so I can sell them – what was it again?” And Jo looks down, scuffing the pavement with a big black boot, muttering something. “What?” says Ysabel, and Jo snaps “Yeah okay, appliance insurance, Christ. I got it.”

“Appliance insurance. What on earth is that.”

“Something you don’t know you want till you need it,” says Jo, pushing past Ysabel. “Weren’t you paying any attention to the pitch?”

The bus stop a blue pole planted by the entrance to a sprawling apartment complex. The wooden sign in a stone-walled flowerbed by the driveway says Brookside Estates. Jo’s sitting in the brown grass at the side of the road, her back against the pole. “Five more minutes,” she says, stuffing her phone back in her jacket.

“I’d say it’s cold,” says Ysabel, “but you’d just get annoyed again.” Arms folded hands tucked away she’s leaning against the other side of the pole.

“Yeah, well,” says Jo, looking up and back, “I’d say you shoulda put on pants, but, yeah. Let’s run the list.”

“The list,” says Ysabel.

“Our enemies list?” says Jo. “Starting with bullet number one, Leo the fucking Duke?”

“You’re wrong.”

“So for weeks you’re all he’s bad, he’s terrible, stay away from the Duke,” and “I wasn’t,” says Ysabel as Jo’s saying, “and now that I’ve finally come around you’re all give him a break?” Ysabel shrugs. “So who’s your number one?”

“Must I?” says Ysabel, sighing, and then, “Linesse, the former Helm. She’s been torqued, the Dagger’s destroyed, she blames us for that. And that thing, that Billy thing, that’s just the sort of thing my mother’s sister traffics in.”

“Her with the iron nails and the nineteen names,” says Jo. “Okay. So. How about the Axe?”

“Marfisa?” says Ysabel. “No.”

“What if she, hear me out. What if she’s miseading the situation? What if she sees me as a rival, or – ”

“You aren’t rivals,” says Ysabel.

“What if, I mean what if. She throws away her sword, she walks away from, from you, from all this, she’s pissed, so maybe she goes to your, ah, your mother’s sister – ”

“She isn’t dead, Jo,” says Ysabel, and Jo says, “I didn’t say she was,” as Ysabel’s saying, “Those with the torc are dead. She isn’t. I’d know.”

“Oh,” says Jo. “Okay. Okay. So who’s your number two?”

“If I must,” says Ysabel, “Agravante.”

“Her brother,” says Jo. Ysabel nods. “Okay,” says Jo, “all right, I mean, we’ve got the mystery men to account for, and the Duke says they work for a guy who works for him – ”

“So now you trust the Duke?”

“I’m gonna pretend,” says Jo, “you didn’t say that.” Ysabel squats by Jo, rubbing her thighs, shivering, hugging her knees. Jo says, “If he’s maybe linked to the guy in the skull mask?” and Ysabel shrugs. “Because,” says Jo, “that would make everything awful tidy.”

“We should probably put the Mooncalfe’s name on the list,” says Ysabel.

“You think?” says Jo. “I mean, that attack in the Safeway was completely random and spontaneous.”

“He is the Duke’s ex.”

“He what?”

“I thought you knew,” says Ysabel. She stands. “Here comes the bus.”

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M.E. Traylor    27 July 2011    #

Kick. In. The gut. I keep feeling like the momentum of the story is peaking, and I keep waiting for the catalyst and it doesn’t come, and it’s niiiice.

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