Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Ch. 03byAdrian Leverkuhn©
My head hurt – as if from a series of violently spinning falls, and my gut burned like nothing I'd ever felt before. Everything was dark, pure unadulterated black, but I saw distant glowing flashes of light that were like a lightning – but not quite.
Then the thought hit me: these flashes were a sign or some sort. What were they trying to tell me? What had I missed?
Obviously I was dead... or maybe still dying. That was clear if only because nothing in my experience had ever felt even remotely this – like the way I felt now. The sensation of falling was so real, so vertiginous, it overwhelmed almost every other sense. But it was the supporting elements that were so disturbing.
I could feel my hair fluttering in the slipstream, hear vast oceans of wind howling as I fell downward, and that pulsing white glow... that sign? Photons would pass through me on their way to wherever they went, leaving just the faintest impression of their passage. What were they?
Then I could hear something like muffled surf, like wild breakers crashing on a distant shore. The sound would come upon me – then as suddenly fall away.
It went on like this for hours, days... the pulsing light and distant surf that defined this windward passage... yet from time to time I felt a jabbing in my arms, pressure in my chest... then:
An eye opened. No, not that. It was opened by someone. Someone was above me, holding my right eye open, shining a light in my eye. I tried to see beyond the woman, the woman holding the light, but she followed my eye, followed my movements and kept shining the light in.
Then I saw her hand. Fingernails. Sharp fingernails. She was pressing my forehead with her fingernails, right between my eyes. Son-of-a-bitch but that hurt!
I wanted to tell her to stop but couldn't.
Then she had an earlobe; she was pinching it with those fucking talons of hers and I found all I could sense or feel now was the pain she was inflicting. I struggled to tell her to stop. Stop it... stop...
"STOP! GODDAMN IT!"
And she did, too.
And it was like I heard people letting go after holding a deep breath... or was it me struggling to breathe?
Both my eyes were open now, but it was like someone had smeared Vaseline in my eyes... everything was a coarse blur, coarse and watery. I wanted to move my hands, rub my eyes – but I couldn't and I felt a familiar panic grab my chest...
"Mr Woodward... you're in the ER, the emergency room. You're alright now so try to relax."
Her words found me and I understood what she was saying but panic still held my chest... like a vice... gripping... darkness again, coming for me...
"Oh fuck!" I heard the woman say. "He's going into arrest again... get me a..."
Then darkness. Darkness and falling, all consuming darkness...
I knew I was awake. Knew something wasn't quite right, but I was awake. But what was with all the incessant beeping?
I heard beeping everywhere, just like I was on the set of some hokey medical show, and I remembered thinking I must have become an actor somewhere along the way because here I was, starring in a television show about a man dying in an unknown hospital.
I opened my eyes, looked at banks of streaming monitors in black and green and I tried to swallow but my throat was too goddamned dry. My tongue was stuck... to the roof of my mouth. I tried to raise my head, to say something... something, to somebody... but I couldn't see anyone...
"Hel..." I gasped. "Hello!"
Footsteps. I heard footsteps! Then a woman, huge and black. I remember thinking I was in Star Wars and someone had brought me before Jabba the Hut. Her eyes were round and huge too, and the room looked kind of like a cave.
I was an actor now. This was my big chance...
"Mista Woodward? Can you hear me?"
"My name is Luke," I said, proud I'd remembered the lines, "Luke Skywalker. If you let me have the Princess and Han, I'll let you live..."
And Jabba was laughing, right on cue: "Oh, Mista Woodward! You ain't no Luke Skywalker, and I sure ain't no Princess Leia. Now. You thirsty?"
"Not Leia?" I was – crushed.
"How about some ice?"
"Yes. If you'll tell me where I can find her?"
"Shit! Don't dat beat all..." I heard her say as she left the room, laughing as she went...
She came back a few minutes later, and an old man was with her:
"I'll be damned," my old friend said to Jabba. "You weren't shittin' me, were you?"
"Yeah, Luke, old buddy. It's me. Howya feelin'."
"Obi-Wan? The Princess... she... the Dark Side. Oh, I'm so tired..."
"Woody, come on... snap out of it. What are you saying, what are you trying to tell me?"
"Yeah, that's you. My name is Richard. Tate. Now come on, buddy. Concentrate."
"Yep. Now, what about this princess? Who are we talkin' about here, Woody?"
"Mullins? She did this? You sure?"
I nodded. "It was a warning. They told me it was a warning."
"They? You mean she wasn't alone?"
"A man. And Liza. 'This is a warning,' she told me. I have to stop. Stop, or they'll kill me."
"Obi-Wan? Got to find out what size shoe she wears?"
"What? Woody, what the fuck?"
"Woody. Jon's dead. Fire. In his apartment."
"Yeah, Woody. He's dead."
"When? When did..."
"It's been a few weeks now."
"Weeks? What do you mean, weeks?"
"You've been out a while, Woody. Almost a month."
"Yeah. Probably drug induced. You were high as a kite on morphine and LSD when I found you."
"You... found me?"
"Yeah. When you didn't call I went down to the boat."
"Yeah, Woody. She's alright. I've been taking care of her."
"Can somebody lift my head or something?"
The nurse hit a button and a motor under the bed whirred, my back inclined. "Dat better, Mista Woodward?"
"Yeah, thanks Princess." I winked at her and she laughed, put a cup full of ice on the table by the bed and left the room.
"I remember the ER. Did I have a heart attack?"
"Three? Heart attacks?"
"You'll be joining the ranks of the disabled and retired now, Woody. Sorry."
"Ain't it the truth."
"Harker took photographs, in infrared. Tottenham. Woman, small. Like size six shoes. High heels. Man. Size nine or ten."
"You want me to see what size shoes she wears?"
"No, wait. It was a warning, right?"
"I can't do it without you, Woody."
"Maybe we shouldn't do it, Richard."
He nodded. "I understand."
"Have there been any more? Murders?"
"No. Not a one."
"I wonder what the hell we were on-to?"
He shrugged. "No way to know now, is there?"
"The reporter. Liza. Tell her I want to talk to her."
"Are you out of your fucking head?"
"No. Now, do it now."
He looked at me – his eyes hard, then he nodded and left the room.
Everything was coming back to me now, like in a flood. Memories were flooding in, out of control, like water pushing through a dam and running unrestrained across a vast, empty plain.
Tate came back in a few minutes later.
"Did you get her?"
"Yeah, Woody. She's coming."
"Can you find out about the photographs? The infrared prints?"
"The only evidence. If they've penetrated the department, compromised us, then the photos will be gone. They've won if that's the case."
"If I ask around that might alert whoever, ya know?"
"Who said anything about asking?"
"Gotcha. Look, Woody, I don't wanna be anywhere near this place when that bitch gets here, ya know?"
"I understand. Not sure I want to, either."
"Something I gotta know."
"Dangerous, man. This is real fuckin' dangerous."
"I think I understand. Something I need to know before I take the next step."
"I sure hope you understand, man." He seemed reluctant to talk, like he was afraid of something else.
"What's bothering you, Richard?"
"Later. We'll talk later. I'm gonna split now. I'll come back tonight."
"Crushed ice! Man, I love it."
The nurse, another one, basically ignored me as she went about the little room scribbling down readings from various machines, then she injected something into my IV and started to leave the room.
"What is this time?" I asked. "Heroin? Potassium?"
She stopped, turned and looked at me and she smiled, then said: "Not this time, Woody." She looked at me for what felt like an hour, mouthed the words 'Love me' - then walked out of the room.
There are certain moments in your life that run up on you fast, like lightning out of a blue sky, and time stops because nothing makes sense anymore. I think dying must be like that.
This was one of those moments.
She came back in a little later, adjusted the drip on the IV. "Can I get you anything?" she asked.
"Think I could have some Coke?"
"Yeah, sure." She looked at me again, this time with real human kindness in her eyes, then leaned forward, ran her fingers through my hair. "Don't do anything stupid, Woody."
"I'm doing my best."
She lifted up her skirt and ran her hand inside her panties and rubbed herself, then she brought her hand to my face and wiped her juices under my nose. She smiled at me the whole time; her eyes were bright, almost feverishly bright, then she ran her fingers over my lips. "You know you want to, Woody. Go ahead."
I opened my mouth and she slipped her fingers in, I tasted her cunt on the soft skin of her fingers and sucked them for a moment, then she smiled, laughed a little before she turned and walked out of the room.
"What the fuck..." I think I said.
She came back some time later with a cup; she sat by my bedside and spooned ice into mouth, then opened a can and poured some Coke into the cup. She put a straw in and handed it to me. "Suck it, Woody."
I laughed, took a pull on it, then chewed on some ice.
"We're going to have fun, Woody. You and I."
"Oh, yes. Yes, very much."
"Who do you belong to?"
"My Master, you mean?"
She smiled. "It doesn't matter now, because he has given me to you."
"Oh yes. I am yours now. Your property."
"Indeed. And if I don't want you?"
"Then I have failed. I will die."
"I will be killed."
"Just like that?"
"Yes, like that. Just like that, Woody."
"And you must do whatever I ask of you? Is that it?"
"Yes. That is The Way."
"And if I commanded you to tell me who your master was?"
"I will tell you, but then I must kill you."
"I see. But then, you would have failed. Is that right?"
"Yes. And I would die."
"So, why have I been given... this honor?"
"You were marked. By my sister?"
"We are all sisters. Think of us as belonging to a religious order."
"You say she marked me?"
"When you opened your mouth to her, and took her inside."
"I see. Your sister; I am expecting her."
"Oh, she is here. She has been."
"Why didn't you... let..."
"Master, she can only come to you when commanded."
"I see. Well, I'd like to talk to her. Alone."
"Please don't call me that."
"Just... Woody, for now. Okay?"
"Okay, Woody." She stood by the bedside, waiting. I think she was waiting for me to dismiss her and the thought was mildly silly.
"Dismissed," I said... and she turned to leave the room. "Stop!"
She turned to face me again: "Yes, Master?"
"I don't know your name."
"My name? Master, that is yours to choose. Each master chooses."
She stood solidly still.
"Go on, then!"
This was exasperating. Stupid, silly – and totally exasperating. And not even mildly interesting, I told myself.
The door opened and Liza came in. She was dressed in black from head to toe, like she was in mourning, yet even so I looked down at her shoes. Her feet were small, very small, and she was wearing high heels.
"Hello." She said when she got to my bedside. "How are you?" Her voice seemed flat, almost forced.
"Not bad, considering."
"I'm sorry. We didn't know your heart was so weak."
"Neither did I."
"I feel very bad. For what happened."
"Was the man with you your master?"
"Do not ask me this. It is very dangerous."
"But if I ask, you must tell me."
She hesitated. "No, that is not so."
Why did she hesitate? Was it that simple?
"And if I command you?"
"Then I must tell you. But do not, please."
"Alright, I will not."
She looked at me and I saw a great weight fall from her; her eyes became kind and I wanted her so much it hurt inside. But I needed to know more, and fast. I couldn't fall under her spell again.
"You said something, before you left. You said you wished you'd met me long ago. What did you mean?"
She looked at me with those eyes and I struggled, simply because I was powerless before the weight of the lust I felt for her.
"It doesn't matter now, Woody. Truly."
"Did you kill Mark Tottenham?"
"Only a servant may kill a master. I will say no more."
"Can a master kill his servant?"
"If it is his pleasure, yes."
"And if I wanted to be your Master?"
She looked at me and beamed: "Would you?"
"If that was what I wanted, how would I make that happen?"
"If you pass the trials, if you are accepted, you have only to ask the council."
"I see. But in the meantime?"
"You have a servant now."
"I can have only one?"
"For now. Yes."
"Would you want to be with me?"
"What I want is of no importance. To be wanted is all."
"Yes, it is all to be worthy of a Master's desire. It is all one could ever ask for."
"I desire you. With all my heart."
That broke her. Clean through. She leaned over, put her hand on my cheek and rubbed my face.
"Then you forgive me?"
"You changed me."
"Will you join us?"
"If that is what I must do to possess you, then yes, I will join you."
She nodded. "I had hoped this would happen."
"Will you tell your Master?"
She clouded over. "No. I cannot."
I understood then. Tottenham had been her master.
"Then you will tell who you must of my decision."
"They know now."
"Can you come by from time to time? While I'm here?"
"If that is your wish, then yes. I will come."
"Well then, it is my wish that you visit me each evening until I leave this hellhole."
She smiled. "Then I will. Are you tired?"
"Yeah, think so."
"I will leave you now."
"I think you will be a good master."
"Fair. I think I meant to say fair, as in just."
I nodded. "Would you send my nurse in?"
"Yes. Good night."
"Good night, my love," I whispered.
I know she heard me, too. This was going to be a very dangerous game, indeed.
"I have decided on a name for you," I said to my nurse when she returned. "Persephone."
"Thank you, Master."
"I assume you heard our conversation?"
"Well, I accept you as my property so long as you accept me as your one master."
She hesitated, the conflict immediate.
"Then get out of my sight!"
"Now! Leave me!"
She fled in tears.
That was easy, I told myself.
I waited a few minutes then hit the call button. She came in; it was obvious she'd been crying, and was probably scared to death. What did she say? If she failed – she was toast?
"Master, no. You must never apologize."
"Of course. Nevertheless, I was careless. I should have understood the conflict I put you in."
She was looking at the floor but I could tell she didn't know what to say.
"Your friend has returned."
"Send him in." She left the room, came back in with him and lingered in the back of the room. I didn't send her away – probably no point. I had to assume audio and video surveillance.
"What did you find out?"
"No photographs, Woody. Sorry."
"Well, it probably doesn't matter anyway."
"It doesn't matter, Richard. If the department wants to continue the investigation, well, then, that's their business. Like you said, I'm retired."
His face creased as he scowled, and it looked like he was chewing the inside of his cheek as he turned my words over in his mind. "You feeling okay?"
"Yeah, fine. You say the boat's okay?"
"Yeah. There wasn't too much to clean up."
"Yeah, you know the score. It was a potential homicide scene."
"You had any new cases?"
"A couple new ones. Cheating husbands, angry wives."
"Have Nikon, Will Travel!"
"Paladin! Man, that was a great show!"
"You know it, amigo. You need anything? Hustler? Penthouse?"
"Nah, you know me... I was always a Leg Show kinda guy!"
He laughed, so did the nurse – Persephone.
"Well, I guess I can leave you now. Looks like you're in able hands."
"Yeah, she seems very dedicated to her profession. Right, nurse?"
"See? How 'bout that, Richard?"
Did he see? Could he make the leap? If he had, he didn't show it.
"Well Woody, I'll drop by the boat in the morning; maybe see you around lunch time."
I closed my eyes after he left, felt myself dozing, then 'Persephone' came in with "dinner".
"Sorry. Restricted diet for a while." She rolled the table over my lap and I looked at red Jell-O and green yogurt and felt very ill indeed.
"Sorry," she said again.
"All things being equal, I think I'd rather suck on your fingers again."
She smiled, came next to me and lifted her skirt.
"I'm glad I can please you, Master. Do you like the way I taste?"
As a matter of fact, I did. Many times, as a matter of fact.
End Chapter Three
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