In The Midnight Of His Heart
By AL BRUNO III
September 9, 1993
It was starting.
At first there was just a minor throbbing in her gut and an unpleasant itch somewhere in the back of her skull, but as the hours wore on these symptoms evolved into full-fledged agony. Crack addiction was one of the many tools Violet used to keep her whores in line, was it how John was going to keep her in line too?
Angie called for him.
“Yes?” he was in the room almost immediately. Maybe he’d been standing out there all the while, waiting for her to call. She found herself wondering what had happened to all his hair.
“Look, you have to let me go.”
“I can’t.” he hooked his cane on the bedpost.
He shook his head, “She’s dead.”
“What?” Angie could scarcely believe it, how do you kill a monster?
“She died the night I rescued you.”
Rescued? She thought, This is rescued?
“John, what is this...” her voice became a frightened squeak as his timeworn hands began caressing the numbed flesh of her arms, “...what are you doing?”
He tried to sound matter-of-factly but there was a tremor in his voice, “Got to keep your circulation going.”
“If Violet’s dead then why are you keeping me here?”
“You’re addicted to drugs, if I let you go now you’ll just get in worse trouble than before.”
A warm tingle began working its way up and down her arm, she found she could flex her fingers without gritting her teeth, “You’re putting me though detox? What the hell do you know about detox?”
“I know that after a few days the physical need will be washed out of you.”
“You’re fuckin’ crazy!” she shouted, thoughts of withdrawal adding to her panic, “You can’t do this!”
“I am doing this.”
“People will be looking for me!”
“No, they won’t.”
“Someone will find out, people saw you there.”
“There are no witnesses.”
“You…” she struggled to grasp what he was saying, “You killed everyone?”
“Don’t think about it.”
“I’m not going to get into this now.”
“You’re insane, you’re fucking insane.”
A curious meow filled the room, a familiar wide-eyed bundle of gray fur hurtled onto the bed. “Maybe I am,” he began tenderly massaging her other arm, “and maybe I’m the best friend you’ve got.”
Angie couldn’t believe it, “Lucifer? How did you- How did he- “
“I’m going to try to explain to you. It may not make any sense at first, you may just think I’m some crazy old man but… but I’m going to try.”
“Once upon a time there was a great hunter, some said he was the greatest hunter in the world… ”
Angie shook her head with disbelief, “Stories? You’re telling me bedtime stories?”
John’s hand moved like lightening, grabbing her by the chin and scaring the cat off the bed. “I need to explain to you,” he released her with a final shake, “so you need to listen.”
As Lucifer cowered under the bed, John began to speak once more, “Once upon a time there was a great hunter, the greatest hunter in the world. His name was Phelan. He was mighty and he was swift. Alone, he tracked the greatest beasts across the frozen tundra armed with nothing more than a spear and an ivory knife. He traveled the world and wherever he went his legend grew.
“When he brought the thick white bear pelts to trade, people of the villages would say- Wherever Phelan hunts, he hunts alone.
“They would marvel at his great ivory blade and whisper, Phelan fashioned his knife from the tooth of the last of the great cats.
“Wise men spied him spearfishing and would remark, Phelan knows the secret lore of the great beasts that swim beneath the ice.
“Because he was the greatest hunter in the world, all the animals of the sky, sea and air feared him, but people feared him as well. Men spoke cautiously in his presence and women avoided his gaze. No matter where Phelan walked he walked alone.
“One night a terrible blizzard came upon the land, it swept down over the forests and villages like an all-devouring beast. Now Phelan had been known to cut holes in the ice and swim with the lords of the sea - he was not afraid of the cold, but this storm’s hungry winds ripped the clothes from his back and tore the forest down around him. Phelan knew he had to find shelter soon.
“So Phelan walked, snow-blinded towards the mountains hoping to find shelter. He couldn’t believe his luck when he came upon the cave.” John cleared his throat before continuing, “The cave was dark, deep and inviting. Drawing his knife Phelan entered to find the cave already occupied.
“A great She-Wolf growled, determined to defend her territory. Phelan eyed the beast’s dark pelt with envy. Outside the spirits howling in the blizzard grew quiet with fear, for they knew that in that dark cave were two creatures that lived only for the hunt, only for the heat of the kill.
“They dove at each other, tooth and knife flashing in the dark. The mountain shook, the terrible sounds of the battle filled the air. All the spirits of the world turned away with horror, all but one; only the barren moon-goddess watched and she watched them with great interest. These two are equals, she said to herself, why should they fight?
“And with that the Moon-goddess parted the clouds and sent a down a shaft of light. That moonbeam worked a great and terrible magic upon Phelan and the She-Wolf. In a heartbeat what was once hatred became love. Phelan and the She-Wolf mated in the cave they had fought over. They knew that what they were doing was wrong but they were powerless to stop themselves.
“When it was over they lay spent on the icy cave floor, too weakened to do anything more than breathe. Tentatively Phalen reached out an aching arm to caress her soft fur. The Moon-goddess called out to them, Hurry and be away! If the other spirits see they will strike you down!
“Phelan and the She-Wolf knew this was true, so they fled the cave without so much as a backward glance.”
Sweat beaded up on Angie’s lower lip, she wanted to throw up, she wanted to scream, she wanted to close her eyes and shut out the world. This was too much, not only was he holding her prisoner and forcing her to go through his own half-assed version of detox but now he going to regale her with a litany of bestiality fairy tales?
Apparently story-time was over. He was watching her with his peculiar hangdog expression and Angie had to wonder what it was he wanted for his trouble. Applause? Undying devotion? She had to think her way out of this, , once she was free she could kick her habit slowly, none of this cold turkey bullshit. Angie shifted uncertainly on the bed, “Did you make that up yourself?
“No! It’s the genesis of my people, the story of how we came to be.”
Angie groaned inwardly; she decided to change tactics “I need to go.”
“I told you to stay until-”
“No. I mean have to take a piss.”
Licking her lips in anticipation Angie watched him take his cane and pull himself to his feet. Of course once she was uncuffed and in the bathroom she would make a break for it, the police wouldn’t give her too much trouble. After all, she wasn’t the murderer here was she?
When he dropped to one knee she let loose a tiny squeal of horror. What if he dropped dead and she was left here like this? But no, he was alive and rooting around under the bed. Had he dropped the handcuff key? Lucifer meowed in protest and darted from hiding. Slowly John rose back, when Angie saw what he had in his hands she shook her head with disbelief. The metal of the bedpan glinted dully.