For complete disclaimers see part 1.
If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com
Julie was startled by the question. She scanned the darkness, sensing Pamela’s presence across the scant space. “What?”
“Remmy. You said that name. Who is that?”
Julie thought for a moment, trying to clear her head, which was pounding. She cringed at the feel of dried blood on her forehead and temple. She thought about the question, then the name, barely remembering having spoken it. “I don’t know. I think I was dreaming.”
“I can’t wait till I die,” Pamela murmured with a heavy sigh. “Then I can actually sleep in a goddamn comfortable bed.” She snorted derisively. “But then, that bastard will probably put me in a pine box and I’ll have an eternal headache from the hard wood under my head.”
Julie didn’t respond for a moment, not sure what to make of Pamela’s morbid attempt at humor. “You shouldn’t say things like that, Pam,” she said, her voice soft in the darkness. “Bad karma.”
Pamela snorted again. “Honey, I apparently already royally pissed someone off in this life. Or the last.”
Julie was quiet, wondering the same, herself. “Tell me about your son,” she finally said, needing to get focused on something positive before she allowed the dark fingers of despair and depression to truly wrap around her throat, constricting it to cause a sting behind her eyes.
Pamela sighed. “Not much to tell. Patrick was going to school in Austin, Texas. He wanted to be a teacher and a coach. He was in his third year last I talked to him, so,” she shrugged the best she could, anchored to the wall. “I hope he finished.” She was silent for a moment, picturing her handsome son in her mind. Her smile was small and bitter. “He looked so much like his dad. Always hated that fact. Has his dad’s brains, too. Good kid.”
“Were you close?” Julie asked, feeling wistful as she thought of Skylar.
“Sometimes. Again, he is his father’s son.”
Julie could hear the sadness in Pamela’s voice, no matter how much she tried to hide it. “Do you miss him?” The silence spanned so long, Julie thought Pamela wasn’t going to answer. Finally, barely audible, her response.
“Are you okay, Pam?”
A long, drawn-out sigh. “Peachy keen.”
“When he dumped you back in here, he swapped.”
Julie squeezed her eyes tightly shut, remembering what she’d been forced to endure over the past two days, picturing their frail cell-mate going through the same thing. She took mental inventory of her body, noting that her sex was still burning, a slight pulse clenching and unclenching. She wasn’t as uncomfortable as she had been, but still wasn’t ready to go out dancing any time soon. “How often does he do that?”
“What? Wine and dine?” Pamela said with a snort. “Let me put it to you this way — if I ever get out of here, I won’t be eating omelets ever again. Truly, after two years…” she sighed. “Not sure which I hate more — the omelets or the Alpo.”
After a moment Julie asked the question that had been picking at her brain since she’d first gained consciousness. “What does he want from us?”
“Wives,” Pamela said, her voice quiet and void of any expression.
“Wouldn’t it be easier and less painful if he just became a Mormon?” the blonde asked, serious. She was surprised by the hearty laughter that bubbled up from her companion’s throat. She couldn’t help but grin slightly herself, finally giving in to the contagious laughter, laughing more for the sake of laughing than because what she had said struck her so funny.
“Oh, kiddo,” Pamela said, cursing the fact that she couldn’t wipe away the tears that streamed down her cheeks and ticked the sides of her nose. “That was good.”
“Judging by your cackle, I’m guessing it was.”
“You’d be fun to go have a beer with,” Pamela said, staring off into the darkness, where she knew her companion was. “Man, I miss a good, cold one. Me and the girls from work used to hit Saucy’s Pub after work sometimes. Had the best tap there.”
Julie was amused and slightly disturbed. “Out of all the things you could miss from the real world, and you think of beer?”
Pamela grinned. “Shit, I’ve had two years to think of the important stuff. Now, I’m down to my vices.”
This brought Julie to giggles again. “I just want a long, nice hot bubble bath.” She closed her eyes at the thought.
“Yeah. I hear ya.”
More silence. Then, “Pam?”
“Is he crazy?’
“I don’t know. Wish I did.”
Sergio tugged open the sliding door of his van, the privacy of his garage allowing him to make any changes that may need to be made without the prying eyes of the neighbors. Old Man Jones liked to come over too often to chat, surprising the building inspector. Not today — he couldn’t have any distractions, or interruptions from nosy neighbors.
He stood just outside the van, looking inside. He quickly realized the overhead light in the garage wasn’t going to be very helpful, as he needed to see the itty bitty details. Walking over to his impressive work bench, Sergio grabbed a halogen lantern he’d used during camping trips, and brought it back to the van. Crawling in on his hands and knees, the man searched every crevice of the back of the van, looking for anything at all that the painters might think suspicious.
The van had been a deep, blue color for the better part of six months, ever since he’d changed it after his second prize. Now, after the third, he figured it was time to change it again. He’d have to search through the phone book, too, try and find a place that was local, but not too local. Too bad he couldn’t go back to the last place — Color Expressions — he thought it was called. They’d done a great job, and the cost had been reasonable. But, alas, he had to move on.
Sergio focused all his attention on what he was doing, fingers carefully parting the fibers of the light gray carpeting that covered the open space in the back of the van. He was always careful, never knowing what to expect when he made contact with a prize, never sure what would be necessary. Unfortunately with the last one, it had been in a public enough place that he had to use serious action. Right as that thought crossed his mind, Sergio gasped. He noticed something over by the edge of the vehicle, near the track where the door slid shut. Crawling over to it, he shone his light. How had he not noticed it before? A dark stain, very small, but there, was spread across the track. Shining his light on it, it was more than apparent it was dried blood.
Hopping out of the van, Sergio squatted down, bringing his lantern up to inspect the outside, focusing his attention near the opening of the van. There was the tiniest residue against the paint. He brought a finger to it, rubbing it over the small spot. The dried blood easily flaked off, falling to the spotless cement floor of the garage.
Sergio rubbed his fingers together, sighing heavily, heavy brows drawn in thought. Pushing to his full height, he crawled back into the van, searching even harder, combing every square inch of the carpet in the van. He used tarps, but still… If that bit of blood had managed to escape his attention, what else had?
Remmy honesty wasn’t sure what to think as she sat across the table from Roman. She had made it clear the night of the invite that they were going as friends, but from the looks the redhead was shooting her way, she thought she might just have to reiterate that fact.
They sat in a burger join, where nothing under a pound of beef could be ordered. She waited for her lunch, hands cupped around her cup of hot chocolate. She grabbed her spoon from its napkin cocoon, and scooped some of the whipped cream off the top.
“So, where are you from?” Roman asked, playing with the straw in his coke. “I mean, you’re not from here…”
I’m aware of that, Roman, but thank you for the bulletin. “Well, I was born in the backseat of a VW van, my parents on their way from Boise to Seattle. So, not sure exactly what town they were in when my dad had to pull to the side of the road—“
“Your father delivered you? Not in a hospital?” Roman asked, stunned.
“Yep. ‘Bout the only thing he did for me.” Remmy grinned, sipping from her hot cocoa. “He disappeared not long after that.”
“And your mom? Where did you grow up?”
“Wherever. She wasn’t around all that much, either. Me and my cousin, Monica, used to troll whatever streets we could find. See, Monica’s mom, my Aunt Stacy, lived with us on and off, leaving Monica with us during the ‘off’. We were close.”
Remmy shook her head. “Not sure where she’s at. We… lost touch.”
Roman got the hint that the particular topic was closed, so he decided to move on to a new one. “What brought you here, to Woodland of all places.”
Remmy shrugged. “Dunno. I had been in Albany, New York for awhile, and decided to hop a Greyhound west. I rode as far as my money would take me, which was to Topeka, Kansas, and then just began to walk or hitch rides.” She looked around the small restaurant, with its movie memorabilia and bright, neon signs. “It brought me here.”
Roman smiled, big and goofy. “I’m glad you’re here.”
The brunette sighed, setting her cup down. “Look, Roman, we need to talk about something.” She looked across the table at her companion, hoping to find the right words — get her point across, but not hurt his feelings. “You seem like a truly nice guy, and honestly, I think it would be nice to get some friends. After all,” she grinned, “can’t have too many of those, right?” Roman nodded, studying her intently as he listened. “I’m getting the feeling here that you’re looking for something from me that frankly, you’re not going to get.”
Roman blinked several times, hands nervously playing with the discarded paper from his straw. “What do you mean?”
“Let’s put it this way — you’re not my type, big guy.”
“Well, I mean, we can be friends, right? And who knows —“ he shrugged.
“What I know is that I’m not into guys, Roman. At least not like that.”
Roman’s eyes widened in surprise and scandal. “You mean, you’re… gay?” he whispered.
“Yes,” Remmy whispered back, blue eyes twinkling.
Roman sat back against the booth hard, hope knocked out of him. He tossed the crumpled paper to the table, watching his hands as they grasped the cold, sweating glass that held his soda. “Oh.”
Remmy could see the disappointment written all over his face, and she felt bad. “I’m sorry, Roman. I never lied to you. I told you we were going out tonight as friends, and as friends only.”
“I know,” Roman sighed with a small smile. “Guess I just hoped, ya know?”
Remmy nodded. “Yeah, I know. I’m sorry. Just wanted to be honest with you.”
Their dinners were delivered, both sitting quietly until the waitress left them in peace once more. “Yeah. I appreciate that.”
The silence between them was more than awkward for the rest of the meal, but as they were offered a dessert menu, Roman seemed to come out of his funk. To Remmy’s delight, he was playful, smart, and really just a genuinely nice guy. She hoped they could be friends, as she wasn’t kidding: she craved friends, something, or someone to help lighten the burden she had on her shoulders with Julie Wilson. There wasn’t a moment that went by where she wasn’t reminded, or her thoughts were invaded with images, whether visions or those of her own making, sometimes she wasn’t completely sure.
Perhaps Roman’s friendship — light, fun and seemingly carefree — would be just the thing to help ease the rising tension.
Sergio was pleased with the new color he’d chosen. He’d always loved the color red. Stopped at the traffic light, he glanced in his side mirror, noting the way the falling sun shone against the new paint, no logo this time. It made the van look like a brand new vehicle. From the driver’s seat, he could smell the new carpet he’d installed himself, proud of just how handy he was. Now, he just needed to wait for the new plates to arrive, since the van, after all, was “sold” to a Mr. Rick Avales. He snickered at his own cleverness.
The light turned green, sending Sergio on his way. He’d had a busy day at work, which kept him late. He’d had just enough time to run home, shower and change, then jump into the newly painted van, leaving his Volvo behind, after its duty of getting him back and forth from work, as well as to the work sites he had visited over the long day.
As he trolled along the streets of the small town of Burrow Key, he studied his surroundings, taking in every street, every route, every home and business. Finally, after taking his time, winding his way through the town, population 12,000, he made his way to Burke Street. The uneven sidewalks and weed-riddled yards spoke of the lack of care and love to the old neighborhood. The houses were small, and placed extremely close together. Sergio wondered how anyone felt they had any privacy at all.
The van slowed in front of a small, tan-colored house with brick-red trim. The house had a front porch, cement painted green, a spider web of cracks making their way across it. Sergio studied the windows, curtains open, but saw no movement. Checking the clock on the dash, he knew it was coming close to time, so he gave the van some gas and headed toward the end of the block, where he pulled into the drive of a house he knew was empty.
Sergio pulled the van’s sliding door open, his dog, Romper whimpering excitedly as the leach was attached to his collar. “You ready for a walk, boy?” Sergio asked, giving his dog some physical attention after a long day stuck in the backyard. The dog jumped around, trying to lick his master’s face, but only succeeding to get a taste of his shirt. Amused, Sergio locked up the van, and they were on their way.
The man looked around, checking out who might be around, who might be paying attention to him. His smile made his handsome face even more handsome, he knew. He and Romper were alone, and hadn’t been spotted. He kept it at a slow, leisurely pace, watching as hid dog navigated the horribly buckled and crumbling sidewalks. Anyone on a bike or roller skates would kill themselves.
As they picked their way toward the tan house, Sergio began to scan the neighborhood with hawk’s eyes behind the protection and privacy of his sunglasses. To his left, across the street, he heard children’s voices, and noted two boys, maybe 12, coming out of one of the houses, neither giving Sergio the time of day. They grabbed their bikes from where they had been thrown on the front lawns, and peeled off down the street, shirttails flapping out behind them. He felt his heart beat a little harder as the boys disappeared down the street. To his right, a dog ran up to the chain link fence, barking loudly at Sergio and Romper. Startled, Sergio pulled Romper’s leash to his other hand, forcing the dog to walk on the other side of him.
Eyeing his surroundings a little more carefully, Sergio continued on until finally he reached the house he had come to see. It was a small house, which Sergio could picture only had one or two bedrooms, both probably tiny. Sergio stopped in front of the house, grabbing a pack of cigarettes from the pocket of his shirt and tugging one free. He did not smoke, but it gave him an excuse to stop. It took him a couple tries to get the new lighter lit, bringing the flame to the tip of the smoke, sucking in a mouthful of smoke and holding it before slowly blowing it between his lips. He tried not to grimace at the god-awful taste.
He flicked the cigarette between inexperienced fingers, nearly flicking the cherry free from the end. He glanced over his shoulder, looking back at the small house behind him. A quick look at his watch told him she would be home in three minutes. Unable to stand on the sidewalk for three minutes without calling unwanted attention, Sergio clicked his tongue, letting Romper know that the break was over, his attention grabbed from the grass he’d been smelling by a gentle tug to his leash.
As master and dog continued on past the tan house, a small, blue Honda pulled into the short driveway, which they’d just crossed. The engine was turned off, and a door squeaked open, a female voice suddenly heard.
“Oh, I know. Yeah. I think so, too.” The woman paused, climbing out of her car, setting her backpack on top of the small car, balancing the cell phone held to her ear with trying to get her belongings settled on her shoulder.
Sergio stopped, allowing Romper to find a place to pee on the neighbor’s yard, at the corner, near the sidewalk. While he waited, Sergio glanced over at the girl, watching as she dug the right key from her key ring, as she trotted up the stairs to the green, cement porch. A burst of laughter filled the early autumn air as the girl reacted to something her caller said on the other end of the line. Within moments, the flimsy screen door had closed behind the young woman, her voice no longer heard.
Sergio blew out the latest mouthful of smoke, throwing the cigarette down to the sidewalk and crushing underneath his boot with obvious distaste.
“Come on, Romper. Let’s get some dinner,” he said, urging his dog away from where he sniffed his own urine.
Julie’s head was bobbing, sleep fitful as her body tried to find a comfortable position, but every time she began to sink down, it put painful strain on her wrists, waking her up, only to start all over again. She didn’t know if she’d ever get used to it. It was a particularly cold night, too, and her naked flesh was covered in goosebumps. She’d do anything to be able to just curl up — alone — and get a good nights sleep. She hadn’t had one since the night before she’d been brought to her make-shift hell.
She tried again, this time trying to allow her mind to relax, trying to think of something that would occupy her brain enough to send her off to a relaxing slumber. She thought of her home, picturing the hours it had taken to pick out just the right colors for her bedroom and living room, the only two rooms in the house that were finished in their decorating.
Drip… drip… drip…
Julie’s eyes flew open, though they stung from lack of sleep. She silently cursed the leaking, from wherever the hell it was, and tried again. Taking several deep breaths, she evened out her breathing and closed her eyes. Once again she imagined her beloved home, then threw her two dogs into the mix — Bonnie and Clyde romping through the rooms of the house, chasing each other and growling as they play tug-of-war over one of Julie’s socks.
A sob. “I don’t want to die here.”
“Shut it, Roxie!” Pamela growled.
Julie sighed heavily, near tears with her frustration. “Damn it!” She yelled out, startling her two companions. “I’m trying to get some fucking sleep! Is that so goddamn hard?!”
Pamela snorted. “Here? You bet’cha.”
“Well, fine, whatever. Both of you just shut the hell up so I can try!” The blonde immediately felt bad for her outburst, but only getting an hour here, two hours there, was slowly driving her crazy. For a third time, she closed her eyes, trying to bring back the picture she’d begun to paint in her mind’s eye. It proved to be elusive, almost tugging a sob from her throat. She calmed herself, sucking in more lungfulls of cold, stinking air and let her mind drift.
She couldn’t see the face of the woman standing before her, her image fuzzy, almost as though she were looking at her through gauze. Even so, Julie could see a smile, whiteness against the skin —color of her face. She smiled in turn, feeling as though a weight were being lifted from her shoulders, her heart rate slowing.
As green eyes studied the field around her, she could see the sun above her, even feel its warmth against her face, evoking a sigh of contented relief from her. She was startled to feel a soft touch to her hand, glancing over to see her companion beginning to walk. Julie walks alongside her. Who is this person? Remmy. The name seems to float along the breeze, entering Julie’s brain and bringing a smile to her face.
Remmy forced her mind to produce a lake, water calm and inviting. She turned the focus of the dream in that direction, leading the way for her dream companion.
Julie walked along side her, a soft smile on her lips, much like the one from Julie’s professional photo. It wasn’t a smile of true, full happiness, but it would do.
“It looks so inviting,” Julie said, her voice wistful.
“So enjoy it, Julie. Enjoy this.”
Julie turned to her unfocused companion. “I think I will.”
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