By Derek Rutherford
Derek Rutherford's stories have appeared in The Horror Show, Fear, Back Street Heroes, and All Hallows. His Western VENGEANCE AT TYBURN RIDGE (Robert Hale) was published in January 2005. He lives in Gloucester, UK.
“Sleep with me.”
“Sleep with me.”
Rachel thought that’s what he’d said. No introduction, no small talk, not even an attempt at a witty chat-up line. Just: sleep with me.
“Excuse me,” she said, the anger on her cheeks neutralized by the flashing lights, and the indignation in her voice overpowered by the drums and bass thundering out of unseen speakers.
“Think about it, yes?”
“I don’t need to think about it.”
“I think you do,” he said, smiling, sure of himself, turning now, heading out onto the crowded dance floor.
Did that really happen? Did he really believe that she’d be considering his request?
“Consider on buddy,” she said aloud. “Creep.”
“Who was that?” Sara said, appearing alongside her, handing her a Bacardi Breezer. “He looked cute.”
“He was an asshole,” Rachel said.
The two girls looked at one another for a moment and then both laughed.
“This place is full of them,” Sara said.
“Tell me about it.”
“Next week we should try Liquid.”
“Tomorrow we should try Liquid,” Rachel said.
The two girls clinked bottles, Kylie Minogue erupted from the hidden speakers, and for a few minutes nothing else mattered.
Later she realised he must have been watching her. She and Sara were together every minute except for a brief moment when she pushed her way to the front of the bar for two more Bacardis, leaving Sara standing three or four people back.
“Two Lime Breezers,” she yelled to the overworked bar boy.
“On the house,” the creep said, standing right next to her.
She jumped, and for the briefest of moments there was a stab of fear in her heart.
“No thank you.”
“What have I done wrong?”
“Like you have to ask.”
“It was a serious proposition.”
“I don’t even know you.”
“Every relationship has to start somewhere.”
“This one isn’t going to start at all.” The bar boy was waiting for his money and as Rachel fumbled to open her purse the man beside her looked at the boy, shook his head, and the boy moved on to the next customer.
“There you go,” he said. “Cheers.”
“I don’t want your drinks!”
“Listen,” he said, his voice taking on a harder timbre. She felt his hand on her back, easing her away from the bar. Her muscles tensed and her fingers whitened around the bottles in her hands. “You are going to sleep with me. You just don’t realise it yet.”
Then he was gone again, leaving just the memory of his fingers in her flesh, the drinks he’d bought in her hands, and the knowledge that somehow in the midst of this heaving mass of clubbers he’d sought her out, whispered to her, smiled at her, even touched her, and every other person in the club - in the world, even - was oblivious to it. She felt as if they’d already shared an intimacy and it made her feel dirty and ashamed.
Sara hadn’t noticed his presence this time and Rachel never mentioned him. To mention him would make the moment even more real.
“Down in one,” Rachel said, forcing a smile. Alcohol might erase him.
“You kidding me?”
“Well, as quickly as possible then.” Rachel said, and took a long draw on the Breezer, Afterwards she asked Sara for a cigarette.
“Thought you were giving them up?”
Sara smiled and pulled out a pack. “Here’s to bad habits.”
“Definitely Liquid tomorrow night,” Rachel said.
He was there.
Standing against the bar looking handsome in a well tailored suit, his hair gelled just right, his shoes shining, his skin dark. He raised a glass of wine to toast her from a distance and she felt the fear again, a longer stab this time.
“It’s that guy,” Sara said. “He’s gorgeous.”
Every fibre screamed at Rachel to turn round and ask Sara if they could go somewhere else. But she didn’t. That would be giving form to the fear. She found herself saying that the man didn’t do anything for her and Sara was saying are you kidding? Then Rachel was reminding them both about how every Friday and Saturday night they had to fend off the drunken advances of all sorts of men and that this one was no different.
Except he was different.
He wasn’t drunk, for one thing. He’d had some authority at the club the previous night, certainly with the barman. He’d managed to seek her out twice last night - both times when she was alone. The only times she’d been alone. And somehow he’d known she would be here tonight.
“Let’s go upstairs,” she said.
“Sure,” Sara said, glancing once more at the man at the bar. “He’s still looking at you,” she said.
“Let him look.”
She stayed close to Sara all night long, although she was careful that her friend didn’t realise that anything was wrong. They went to the bar together and to the ladies room together. They danced together and they sat in the corner and smoked cigarettes and drank Vodka Ice together.
Then a slow song came on and a tall man in a charcoal suit and a silver shirt asked Sara to dance and Rachel found herself alone.
He appeared alongside her as if be magic.
“Piss off!” she said, the fear, anger and alcohol mixing roughly inside her.
“That’s not very ladylike.”
“Introducing yourself by saying ‘sleep with me’ isn’t very gentlemanly.”
“Touché.” Suddenly she was sure that the guy who’d asked Sara to dance had done so at the behest of this man.
“Look,” Rachel said, “You’re a good looking man. At least that’s what my friend thinks. You could probably find a hundred girls in here who will sleep with you.”
“Then why not go and find them?”
“Because I want you.”
“But I don’t want you!”
“You don’t know me.”
“No. And I don’t care to. You blew it with your first three words to me.”
He smiled, and despite everything she had to admit he was handsome. “I will sleep with you,” he said.
“No you won’t.”
His smile straightened and the twinkle in his eyes hardened. He nodded. “You don’t know who I am, do you?”
“I don’t care who you are.”
“Look, I know who you’re not, okay?”
His eyebrows arched in puzzlement and she felt a small rush of triumph.
“Who aren’t I?” he asked.
“You’re not the guy who’s going to be sleeping with me, okay?”
He laughed. “Spirit,” he said. “It makes me want you more. Can I get you and your friend a drink again?”
“Just leave us alone.”
“I run this town,” he said.
“What?” She screwed up her nose in unimpressed puzzlement. Who did he think he was? The Godfather? “We’ll talk again,” he said, and as the slow song faded away so did he.
The following weekend, for the first weekend in months, Rachel didn’t want to go out. She told Sara she wasn’t feeling up to it.
“We don’t have to go clubbing,” Sara said. “Why don’t we just go into town and have a drink? See how you feel later.”
Reluctantly she agreed and after a few drinks in the Union she felt herself relax. Maybe last weekend had simply been an aberration, a set of coincidences. Another drink, a few cigarettes, the week’s gossip from the salon where Sara worked and she was starting to feel normal again. Then Sara went to the bar and a girl slipped into the seat opposite Rachel.
“Hi,” she said. “Rachel?”
“I was asked to give you this,” the girl said, handing her a slim white envelope.
“What is it?”
“I don’t know,” the girl said.
“Who’s it from?”
“He said you’d know. Gotta go. Bye.” Then the girl left, her young legs and short skirt drawing the glances of the men in the bar, hardly anyone looking at her face - a pretty face, bleached blonde hair, bright lipstick. Probably just a schoolgirl.
He said you’d know.
Rachel looked across the room. Sara was still being served. Rachel dropped the envelope into her bag. When Sara came back with the drinks Rachel said nothing. She didn’t know why. She guessed it was because Sara would have thought her silly. She’d have said, “Just forget him. You said it yourself: the guy’s an asshole. A good looking one, though.”
Ten minutes later Rachel went to the ladies room alone. She opened the envelope. Inside was a neatly folded cutting from the local paper. A story that had shocked everyone that week. An eighteen year old student from the local college had been found battered to death. She’d been taking a short cut home across a park. The police had yet to turn up any clues, witnesses, or even a motive. All they’d established was that she’d been murdered with a hammer.
“Sleep with me,” he said.
She felt bile rising, and had to swallow before turning to face him.
“Who are you?” she said. This time the stab of fear was continuous, as if a hot poker had been laid across her chest.
“I didn’t think you cared who I was?”
She stared at him, alone in the middle of the club with five hundred people all around. “What was that thing you sent me?”
“You got it then?”
“You know I got it.”
He smiled and nodded.
“You did it?” she said, not meaning to whisper but barely able to say the words aloud.
He shook his head. “Not me.”
“Then why send me the cutting?”
“It was an awful thing wasn’t it?”
“What do you want?”
“You know what I want.”
Now the bile was in her throat again. “Just leave me alone!”
“You will sleep with me,” he said, and this time there was nothing handsome about the good bones and flawless tanned skin of the man’s perfect face. It was simply the face of a monster.
The next cutting came through the post. Or rather, it was there with the post on the Wednesday morning following the second hammer attack. There was no stamp on the envelope, just her name - first name and surname - printed out on a computer label. She knew what it would be even as she opened it. When news had broken about the second motiveless killing to hit the town she’d been physically sick.
She was sick again now.
He knew her name. He knew her address.
Her telephone started ringing.
And she knew that someone was watching her house and that they knew she’d opened the letter. She looked at the telephone and at the cutting once more. Then she went back to the bathroom and vomited again and again until her belly was empty and the phone was silent.
She had to tell the police. She had to. But tell them what? That a man had propositioned her and when she’d refused two girls had died? An imaginary conversation whistled through her mind.
What makes you think there’s a connection?
He sent me these!
He sent you them?
You have proof?
Yes. No. Well... I know it was him.
Who is this man?
I don’t know his name.
Where did you meet him?
At a club.
Did you dance with him?
Did he buy you a drink?
No! I mean, yes. But I didn’t want it.
Did you accept it?
I had no choice.
And you don’t know his name?
I told you, no.
And he asked you to sleep with him?
Do you go to clubs often?
Have you ever met a man there? Any man?
Look, what’s that got to do with it?
Answer the question please, Rachel.
Of course I have.
And have you ever slept with a man you’ve met at a club.
Yes, but this is different.
Why is this different, Rachel?
He’s killing people!
I think maybe you should just tell him that you don’t want to see him.
And he didn’t listen?
You’re not listening!
So he didn’t listen? And you thought you’d try us, instead?
It’s not like that. He’s killing people for God’s sake!
She was crying on the bed when the telephone rang again. She didn’t have the strength to ignore it this time.
“Sleep with me,” he said.
“Who are you?”
“I run this town,” he said.
“So you said.”
“Don’t you understand what I’m saying?”
She knew exactly what he was saying. “I sleep with you and the killing stops.”
“Hallelujah,” he said.
And hung up.
A car arrived for her that night, an innocuous looking black Ford. A man rang her doorbell and waited patiently but she couldn’t answer. She lay curled up on the bathroom floor, her eyes red and her stomach cramping.
Eventually the man got into his black car and drove away.
And in the morning the local radio reported a third hammer attack. This one even more frenzied than the others. There were no witnesses. There were no clues.
There appeared to be no motive.
“I’m sending the car again this evening,” he told her on the telephone. “Why don’t you accept my invitation? I’m not a bad man. I’m good-looking, aren’t I? You told me your friend Sara thinks so. I’m clean. I’m clean in all ways, Rachel. It won’t hurt, I promise.”
“I can’t,” she sobbed.
“I’m a patient man,” he said. “I promise you that I can out wait you. I’ll send the car, anyway. In case you change your mind.”
She wanted to cut her hair off, to make herself look ugly enough that he wouldn’t desire her anymore. She even found herself holding a pair of scissors that Sara had given her in one hand and long strands of her golden hair in the other. But she knew it wouldn’t matter. Things had gone beyond mere appearances. He wanted her because she had refused him. And he had demonstrated that he was prepared to do anything to get her. She suspected that afterwards he’d probably forget her, that once the challenge had been overcome he’d move on to the next one.
She, of course, would never forget him.
So she drank as much as she could and somewhere between the start of the drinking and the arrival of his car she found herself dropping the scissors into her handbag. She couldn’t sleep with him. She knew that. But she couldn’t not sleep with him either. It was a corner from which there seemed only one escape.
“I’m glad you finally agreed,” he told her, pouring two glasses of champagne, looking like a devil in his smart black suit, his eyes shining, pleased with himself.
“Can we just do it?” she said. The drinking hadn’t worked. She’d never felt so sober in all her life.
“Please,” he said, offering the champagne. “Let’s not rush. Let’s enjoy the moment.”
She wanted to spit on his soft cream carpet, to throw the wine in his face and to pull the cloth from the table on which three candles burned. But she was fearful another innocent girl would die if she did.
In his bedroom - all modern artwork, minimal furniture and low bed - he slipped his jacket off.
“Please,” he said, indicating the bed. “I won’t be a moment.”
He disappeared into the on-suite. She stared at the closed door for a moment then, breathing heavily, she opened her handbag, took the scissors and slipped them under the pillow on the left hand side of the bed. She unzipped her dress, kicked off her shoes, and lay trembling with her head on the guilty pillow.
“You’re beautiful,” he said when he returned. “Really beautiful.”
She forced a smile.
“I wish you hadn’t played so hard to get.”
There was nothing she could say to that. In the paper that morning there had been a photograph of one of the hammer victim’s parents.
He kissed her shoulder. He smelled nice, something expensive that she’d never smelled before. He was clean shaven. He’d bathed. His skin was tanned and he had good muscles. But none of this stopped her feeling sicker than she had ever felt before. But she knew she wouldn’t vomit. There was nothing left inside.
“It’s too light,” she said as his lips moved down her body.
“I want to look at you.”
She shook her head. “Please.” Their eyes met and she managed to force another smile. He nodded and reached across to the side of the bed, pressed a button, and the lights dimmed.
“Roll over,” she said.
He smiled, a triumphant smile from the man that ran the town, and turned face down. She sat across his lower back and ran her hands over his shoulders.
He murmured in pleasure.
“Close your eyes, sweetheart” she said, not sure until it came out that she’d be able to say the last word. He stretched and relaxed.
She pressed the fingers of her right hand into the muscles at the base of his neck. She massaged him for a few seconds and then she slipped her left hand under the pillow on her side of the bed. There was nothing there. She reached further under the pillow.
The scissors were gone.
There was a moment when she thought she’d simply pushed them too far under the pillow and maybe they’d slipped off the end of the bed and onto the floor. The nightmarish implications of that scenario flashed briefly across her mind, her heart swelling with fear. Then she realised it was worse. Much worse.
“Are you looking for these?” he said, twisting around, rolling from beneath her, somehow ending up sitting astride her frozen body, his strong legs gripping her, his naked body towering above her. The scissors in his hand.
“No,” she whispered, unsure of whether the words were in answer to his question or a refusal to accept the situation.
He smiled. “It’s a two way mirror.”
She couldn’t function, couldn’t think, couldn’t follow what he was saying. It seemed to take forever before it dawned on her that he’d seen her hide the scissors and had contrived to pick them up before she did, probably as he rolled over.
“I don’t take chances,” he said, still smiling. But smiling with the confidence of absolute victory now.
“What did you expect me to do?” she said, surprised at the strength in her own voice.
“I’d have been disappointed if you hadn’t tried something.”
She looked up at him, seeing nothing but evil in his features.
“Spirit,” he said. “It makes me want you more.”
She shook her head. She opened her mouth to speak. But now her voice had abandoned her. In her peripheral vision she could see exactly how much he wanted her and her brain refused to focus on anything but what the next few moments would bring. Everything beyond that seemed dark and empty.
He kissed her neck and she moaned in terror.
“I’m not going to rape you,” he said. “If you don’t want this just say.”
She looked up at him, seeing the darkness in his eyes, feeling the weight of his hardness on her stomach.
“But,” he said, with the merest of shrugs. “You know what’ll happen if that’s the case. Who knows, maybe next time it could be your friend - what’s her name, Sara? - who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Tears rolled from her eyes. He reached out and brushed them away.
“So, what do you say? Will you sleep with me?”
She closed her eyes. And nodded.
She saw it in his eyes the moment it was over, the moment she opened her own eyes. She saw it so clearly it was almost as if she was seeing straight into the blackness of his soul.
He’d lied to her.
“No,” she whispered, shaking her head but unable to tear her eyes off his. “Please no.”
He looked down at her and she saw despair, regret, and even confusion in his face. Disgust, too. She didn’t know if the latter was aimed at her or at himself, at what he’d done.
“Please,” she whispered again, feeling the start of scream building inside her, feeling her muscles coiling with terror.
“I’m sorry,” he said. And she could see that he meant it. But it was going to make no difference. The world had already changed for him. He lay between her legs in his own wetness, a completely different man.
Now she did scream. She kicked out, thrashing beneath him, reaching for his eyes with her fingers, slashing at his face with her nails. But he ignored all of her blows, squeezed his thighs tightly around her, and put his hands around her throat.
She twisted to the left, to the right, thrust out with her knees, connected with something but it seemed to make no difference to him. He was like a snake relentlessly squeezing the life from its prey.
She continued to struggle but it was becoming impossible to find the energy to fight back. He was pressing harder now. An immense pressure started building behind her eyes, another within her chest. Something popped inside her head, the pain scorching the inside of her skull.
She tried to pry his fingers loose, but she was too weak. And slowly, in this last dance, she grew still, no longer feeling his hands or aware of the pain. There were just lights dancing on her eyelids, lights like those in the clubs that she had loved so much.
Then even they went out.
Derek Rutherford ©2005
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