Leftovers Ch. 02byLatrani©
Sleep was a long time coming, and I spent the following day in a haze. I needed to go shopping, but it was too cold and I was too tired. That's what I told myself anyway, when I wasn't looking at the gloves on top of the hamper. I didn't want to unlock my front door.
The blood wasn't mine; I didn't have a scratch on me.
I tried to forget that morning. I had woken up from a dream on my belly, both hands between my legs, using the same fingers that had been covered in rust-colored flakes seven hours earlier. At first, I thought my fingers were slick with blood, and had jumped up and slammed into the bedroom wall. Mattie had taken off running. My shoulder was bruised and aching.
There was a sense of waiting coming from outside my apartment, and it grew on me through the mid-morning and afternoon. I took a look out the window, enough to see that the sky was dark grey. No comforting sunlight there, just the threat of foul weather. I cleaned up the apartment a bit; general boredom and winter blues had made me too lazy to keep it up like I should, and it was as good an excuse as any to stay inside.
I came to my closet, though, and couldn't bring myself to open it. I found other things to do, but eventually came back to that tiny, dark space. I found myself watching the closet door while I picked up scattered clothes.
Finally I'd had enough. I pulled a few large books from a wall shelf and retrieved a steel box from behind them. Locked inside were a petite automatic pistol and an aged, well-kept .44 revolver, as well as extra rounds and cleaning kits. The revolver was a keepsake from my grandfather, but it was too massive a weapon for someone who only stood five-foot four in shoes. I checked the pistol, stalked across the room with it in hand, and threw open the closet door. I assumed a firing stance.
Nothing. Rain boots, clothes in numerous shades of dull, not enough shoes. I felt like a damn moron. But I also knew the feeling would come back as soon as I shut the door, so I propped it open and turned on the interior light. And made sure all the window drapes were pulled tight. And checked under my bed with the pistol.
The apartment secure, I sat down in front of the television again. I dozed for a few minutes, and when I awoke, realized I was holding my pistol in both hands. I looked to the table beside the TV, where sat pictures of my parents, and a small plaque where I had mounted their badges. They taught me better than to play with a loaded weapon like that. I emptied the pistol, set it aside, and fiddled absently with the clip for a few minutes.
Mattie hopped up beside me and shoved his head under my arm. I grew bored with the heavy clip and picked up the folded blade I had left on the coffee table, beside my black utility belt. That belt was an albatross. It might as well have been stenciled with the words 'Almost looks like a real cop's belt, doesn't it?'
Staring at it, I could almost imagine being six years old and playing 'dress up' with my mother's badge and a set of plastic cuffs instead of hats and makeup. There were photos of me doing that very thing high up in the closet somewhere, but I couldn't really remember any that. All I could remember was what real officers of the law did. They took desk jobs so that their families wouldn't worry about them at night. Then they smoked all the time to keep their hands busy, and ended up dead of lung cancer before their daughter turned twenty.
I turned the knife over and over, flicked it open one-handed. The blade was loose from wear, which was how I wanted it. That click as it locked into place was somehow satisfying. I'd bought that knife at least twelve years ago, and it had kept a fine edge. Fine enough to slice paper into neat strips (perfect for rolling up), fine enough to open some would-be rapist fuck's hand a week after I bought it, fine enough to cut coke when I didn't have a razor (can't join the Force if you can't pass along a clean pee cup, Jackie Dukes. This toilet seat's taken, by the way).
I tapped the blade on the coffee table, mocking that fine chopping motion that I had just been getting good at when I went clean. The fuzzy-jacketed mutt beside me was mildly alarmed by the sound, so instead I scratched his ears with one hand while flipping the knife into the air and catching it with the other. That flash of silver each time it spun and caught the light was magical, making the blade seem enchanted for a split-second with each toss.
As usual, I played the game a little too long. I only dwelled on knives when things around me were tired and worn, which meant that I was in no mood to concentrate on what I was doing. The blade landed point-first in my palm. Good thing I kept it so sharp, or it might have just stung. I yelped as the knife toppled onto the table, and instinctively put my mouth on the wound. The taste reassured me for a moment, some primal urge telling me that this was the proper thing to do when cut.
Then I remembered the gloves, and started gagging. Matador took off running again. I pictured him as Lassie, running to get help, or maybe a bucket in case I threw up. I giggled as the gag reflex passed, and went to clean up my hand.
On the way out of the bathroom, my eyes trailed down to the gloves again. I thought I could still smell them, but that was surely just the taste on my tongue. Where in the hell had that blood come from? The rest of my clothes were clean. There was no blood in the bus the previous night, no stabbing victims lying in the gum and cigarette butts. But I had been gone so long. Maybe there had been an accident and I blocked it out. Heaven knows I had seen that happen often enough, on television anyway, but I thought I was a bit tougher than a soap opera amnesiac.
A lot tougher, actually. Corpses didn't really scare me. I had seen four people dead outside of a funeral home in my life, but after the first two, people whose familiar faces had been transformed into unwrapped mummies by disease, the bodies of strangers had barely even made my eyes widen.
Something worse then, maybe someone still alive when I found them on the side of the road, or a nasty wreck, or maybe just a dog in the street who would have been better off dead. That last one seemed oddly appropriate.
The program on TV changed, from one syndicated crime drama straight into another one, and I jumped up and ran for the bathroom. In the Heat of the Night meant that my shift was only an hour off. I had just flashed the entire day away. In the shower, it occurred to me that a person in shock might do that. I washed faster.
* * *
My radio buzzed and screeched until I wanted to smash the damn thing. The weather was truly lousy, and it was letting perhaps every fifth word get through. There was no time to worry about the gloves; as I peered through the growing flurry of snow, avoiding an accident was the one and only reason for my existence. I had on a miserably thin pair of spare cloth gloves that had probably been in the small driver's locker since about 1986. Impulse had made me sneak my automatic pistol on board and hide it in the locker. I would become unemployable if that got out.
Snowflakes assaulted my windshield, and whipped my face every time the door opened. At least everyone boarded in a hurry. The bus was freezing again. The only blessing of my route was that almost no one liked to talk. Some drivers were plagued by vicious, whining dogs that masqueraded as passengers.
The hours faded from grey to black; the streetlights had been on since long before sunset. The road wasn't terrible, as snowplows were crisscrossing all over, running on time for once. I had only the other idiots on the road to watch out for. They all seemed to take bad weather as a personal challenge from God to prove how well they could drive. I really, truly hoped that it was a bad enough offense to land them in Purgatory. Not that I was in much danger, but watching some compact bounce off my fender would probably not be entertaining.
I levered the door open, and a couple more zombies milled up and into the aisle, showing their passes without a glance. The bus was almost empty, but that was kind of depressing. It just made the world seem like a colder place. Instead of a warm, damp place, someone hinted in my ear.
I blinked, and felt my stomach shrivel up. The Bastard was standing at the bottom of the bus steps, grinning like always. My eyes went to the lever, and I actually licked my lips. My fingers trembled, wanting to snatch it and lock the door down. As if sensing that desire, he quickly hopped up and inside, past my point of no return.
He was wearing boots, Doc Martens maybe, that might have been older than my car, but otherwise was dressed much the same. His nose was red, and his dark, oddly silky hair and coat were covered with white powder, but the Bastard still had no shirt on! I found myself staring in amazement. He had never ridden twice in two nights, he wasn't even dressed heavily enough to avoid hypothermia; surely he was not here. He was like a fucking nightmare.
He reached into his duster pocket, and my left hand went towards my stun gun, concealed by my coat. Only then did I realize that it wasn't in its plastic holster. It hadn't been there when I put on my belt this afternoon; it hadn't been there when I got home the night before. I swallowed.
The Bastard produced a bus pass. "Hey there, Jackie Dukes," he crooned. "I got this just for you." He held it out before my eyes. A name was printed on the card, but my brain refused to read it. I think I stammered a syllable as he returned the pass to his pocket, his duster jingling from the motion. He leaned over, not quite far enough to be seen as intruding on me, and whispered, "My friends just call me 'Black Dog'." He pronounced it Doog. "But you can call me anything you like."
I wanted to call him a bastard. "Please find a seat," was my response instead. It came out low and anxious, rather than my usual gritty work tone. I didn't know where my resolve to keep him off the bus had gone; perhaps it was cowering under a seat somewhere. His hands were in his jacket pockets, holding it just slightly open, apparently for my benefit. His tight pants were even tighter. The Bastard, whatever his name was, was sporting an erection, and I had an idea that was what I got this just for you really meant.
"Whatever you say, little Jackie Dukes," he answered, and began his ritual of backing down the aisle. The other passengers carefully ignored him. I pulled the door shut and straightened up. He was in my mirror, running his reflected eyes over me. "But it looks like the best seat's already taken."
I think I blacked out, though I was still staring into his eyes. They had the same delight, the same pleasure as before, when he was in the next-to-last seat. How did he make me forget that he was on the bus? It's so quiet and cold, especially now that the engine is shut off. The only sounds are hissing and clicking as the vehicle winds down and grows chill. The interior smells like fumes, sweat, and something else. I think that its sex at first. I continue forward to the back, already anticipating the discovery of a condom, or a fresh splotch to mark some pervert's territory.
Instead I find the Bastard, Black Dog his friends call him, and that's what I'm calling him in my mind even though I don't know his name yet. He's caught the weakest member of the herd, and I thank all holy things that he passed me by this time, that I get to run a little longer.
The girl, so much younger than me, is beside him, and she's alive, she might even stay that way if someone saves her. But if I try to help, he'll see me. And his fangs are so sharp.
I was tipped over, almost out of my seat when my vision came back, and I was staring at my hands. Or what I imagined was between them. Strong arms were lifting me up again, and I was pleasantly surprised that someone gave enough of a fuck to help.
It really should have been obvious that the Dog was the one with his hands under my armpits, but I screamed anyway. The bastard grinned as I jumped away from him and into my seat, falling against the driver's side window.
"You feeling all right, Jackie Dukes?" he asked amiably. "Feeling sick? Want me to check your temperature?" He wet a long finger in his mouth and held it up to me lewdly. I screamed again. Everyone was definitely paying attention now, but I didn't see their faces. Looking away from Black Dog was not a choice.
He wiggled the finger at me, and a second later the knife flew into my hand like magic. It clicked into place and flashed under the fluorescents. "Get out!" I yelled, throwing spittle at him, but he just kept grinning. "Get the fuck! Off my BUS!" My legs were curled up under me, feet on the seat, ready to pounce, or more likely, to just crash through the window and run off into the snow, glass cuts leaving a bloody trail for him to follow...
The Dog and his girl are low in the seat, but they're not trying to be quiet, and their feet stick out. I should have noticed them even from the front of the bus. Their coats are off, his pants are down, her dress is up. One of his hands is against her waist, kneading her flesh. The other holds her far wrist behind her, at the small of her back so she has no leverage. Her legs are trembling. There's a dark stain high up on her dull blouse. Black Dog made the stain, and the rip in her blouse, and the wound between the shoulder and neck.
He stops every few seconds as I watch, and rakes her wound with his fangs, bigger teeth than any I've ever seen. She squeals and struggles without trying to escape when he does that, even though her neck is raw and I'm certain I saw him swallow part of it. That can't be her heart that I hear pounding.
The Black Dog just smiled at me for what seemed like a very long time, then he shrugged. "Anything you like, Miss Jackie Dukes." He slid around the banister and to the lowest step, then looked back over his shoulder at me. "You gonna let me out? Or do you really want me to stay?"
I lunged forward and threw the lever back to unlock the folding door, and the Bastard was gone into the snow. I didn't feel the wind as it flew into the bus, filling the absence he had left. I relocked the door and stared at the windows, but I couldn't see which way he had gone.