I woke up in the dark. I couldn’t talk. I felt a hand pressed across the front of my throat and over my mouth. I writhed and my knee hit Brian who grunted. I drew in a shaky breath. So dark. I needed light.
Finding my voice I gasped, “Where’s the light?”
I felt Brian move and there was a click.
Light from a lamp on the bedside table illuminated the old man from the bus stop standing near the door. There was a purple hole in his face where the bullet had plunged through his skull. He was staring at me, his eyes huge. I was naked. He was staring at my breasts. His tongue protruded slightly from between his teeth. Then I heard distinctly his wolf whistle.
“Get out!” I screamed. I grabbed a glass sitting on the night table and hurled it. It exploded against the wall like a grenade.
“Laura.” Brian grabbed my arm. “What the hell? What’s wrong?”
The man said, “I shouldn’t have been so dumb. My own fault asking you. Just one damn thing I asked and you couldn’t even do that. My own fault. Now we got to rot with the worms. With the worms and the maggots hatching out of our bellies. It’s so cold. Cold in the ground. Ground is going to freeze in a month or two. Freeze solid. Imagine if all you’re finger bones were ice cubes. Your whole arm, your legs, your back and neck, your skull, just one big hunk of ice. That’s what you got to look forward too, eh? That’s what we all got to look forward to.”
“Get out,” I said again. “Get out get out get out!”
“You go ahead and fuck and drink and pretend like everything is happy doodle. You don’t give me a second thought. Don’t give Billy a second thought either. He don’t mind the excruciating torture of his balls caught for eternity in the teeth of a little mouse trap. No that doesn’t matter.”
“Please,” I wailed, “go away.”
There was a knocking on the door. Where had Brian gone? The door opened. Paramedics were in the room now. They were checking my pulse. Their hands were professional, firm, gentle.
“I thought you would help Billy,” the old man said. “I staked my life on it. But then I lost, didn’t I? My own fault.”
“What can I do?” I said frantically. The pressure on my neck was building again, on my neck and over my face. I was afraid I would pass out.
“Do?” he asked. “I guess you could get them back for doing that to the little boy. Get them back for destroying his home. What’d he ever do to anyone? Not a single fucking thing.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll do it. Tell me who. Just leave…me alone. Don’t…come back.”
He nodded. “That’s a deal then.” Then he was gone. My body went limp, the pressure gone from my neck.
“Is she all right?” Brian asked the paramedic.
“Pulse is dropping. Whatever break she had, I think she’s coming out. What were you two taking?”
“Nothing,” Brian said. “We had a couple of drinks. That’s it. Maybe she had something before we met. She was kind of tired and the booze hit her hard. But she seemed fine.”
“You sure now you weren’t taking anything else? I can’t charge you or anything. I just want to make sure you’re both safe. That’s my job.”
“Swear to God,” Brian said. “She had one shot and like two-and-a-half glasses of wine.”
I said, “I’m fine. I just kind of paniced. Sorry. Really, I’m okay.”
“We should take you in,” said the paramedic’s partner. “Do a blood panel.”
“I’ll come with you,” Brian said. “Can I drive her or will you take her in the ambulance.”
“We’ll take her,” said the other paramedic.
So that’s how my first date ended. In the goddamned hospital with everybody who looked at me suspecting drug overdose. But then they got hold of my records. They wanted me to see a psychiatrist. There wasn’t one there that night. I told them I wasn’t suicidal and that was good enough for them to send me home as long as there was someone who could be with me. They didn’t want me to be alone.
“I can,” Brian said. And my heart went out to him. He was a gentleman. He’d put up with me on a shitty date, then did way more for me in bed than I know I did for him, then was woken up by me screaming and carrying on and throwing water glasses around like a chimp with attitude.
But I didn’t want it to be Brian. I wanted Monster.