In The Midnight Of His Heart
By AL BRUNO III
September 11, 1993
In spite of the traumatic events of last night, John still decided it was time to try and get some solid food into Angie. It was nothing too fancy, just a bowl of macaroni and cheese, he’d even cut the macaroni into small bite-size pieces. He sat at her bedside and held the spoon close to her lips, “Just a few bites.”
Angie shook her head, mouth clamped shut.
“You have to eat something.”
She shook her head.
“Please. For me?”
The glare she was giving him doubled in intensity.
John considered what to do next, if he grabbed her jaw he could force it open and jam spoonful after spoonful into her mouth until she had to swallow.
Again? You’re no better than Victor with this! You want to live on your own terms? How about letting the woman you love have the same choice?
With a roar of frustration John threw the bowl against the dresser, shattering the mirror. Angie yelped with panic, Lucifer bolted from the bed and ran out the door. “Haven’t you heard anything I’ve said to you? “
“Just let me go.”, she said, trying to keep the edge of panic from her voice, “Please just let me go.”
“Why? So you can go back to being a whore? So you can go back to killing yourself?”
She shook her head, “No but I-”
He pummeled the mattress with his fists, “You’d still be there if it weren’t for me! Are so stupid that you can’t see that?”
Angie stared into his bleary eyes for a long time “If you really loved me you wouldn’t be doing this…”
“You don’t know! You don’t know anything! I save your life and you don’t care, I tell you the stories and you don’t listen!”
“You can’t make me better by tying me up and holding me prisoner. You can’t make me fall in love with you by telling me fairy tales.”
“They’re not fairy tales,” he growled, “they’re true. True stories have power, they can heal. They could heal you if you’d just-”
They stared at each other for a long time, and although she had said nothing, the look on Angie’s face spoke volumes. If she hadn’t thought he was a madman before, it was plain she did now.
John buried his face in his hands, he felt another dream falling apart around him. Phil, I should have listened to you.
A drab clarity settled into his mind, he stood and left the room, knowing he no longer had any other recourse of action. Somewhere downstairs, something shattered and Lucifer yowled with surprise. It didn’t matter to anymore, the damnable cat could destroy everything for all John cared. He could feel Angie watching him as he crossed the hall into the bathroom, the scent of her sweat was heavy with apprehension.
The anelace was in the medicine cabinet where he had left it, he lifted it up, marveling at how good it felt to hold. It was more than a six-inch silver blade with a bone handle; it was a promise of release. He mused to himself that he should have used this on himself, that he should have consigned both his master and himself to sweet oblivion.
When he returned to the room, the sight of the anelace set Angie screaming. John was numb to it. As he drew closer he tried to explain himself but her caterwauling drowned him out. She was more terrified of him than ever, but he didn’t blame her, this was all his fault. He’d made two very human mistakes.
The mattress creaked as he sat at her side. The blade flashed downwards, cutting quickly and cleanly though the ropes that bound her wrists to the bedposts. Angie’s screams reached a crescendo and then dwindled away to bewildered silence as she realized she’d been set free. Rubbing her wrists she asked warily, “What’s going on?”
“There are some clothes in the closet, they should all fit.” John set the anelace down between them, half hoping she’d snatch it up and use it on him, “Take what you want.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You were right, I can’t keep you like a pet. I love you… but that’s not enough is it?” he stood, seeing her flinch involuntarily.
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to go downstairs and get you some money,” he stared longingly at her, “I want you to be happy. The money can help.”
“I don’t want any- ”
“Don’t worry it’s not stolen or anything. It’s from my pension.” John walked out into the darkened hallway. He felt so damn empty, he couldn’t believe it was going to end this way. Pausing at the foot of the stairs, he listened to the sound of Angie’s bare feet on the floorboards and the creek of the closet door opening. It was just some jeans and some sweaters, but coupled with the money, it was enough to get her started. At the very least it would keep her off the streets.
When she was gone he would take the anelace and he would cut hit own throat in the way of his people. He would die with a vision of her in his mind. He descended the stairs and made his way into the recently furnished parlor, surprised by the cloying fetid scent in the air.
The front window was shattered, slivers of bloody glass peppered the carpet; the curtains undulated in the cold September wind. John stiffened, calling out, “Lucifer?”
A wisp of gray moved through the darkened kitchen. “Lucifer?” he drew closer, something was wrong here. Was it an intruder? The odors were too muddled, he couldn’t be sure, “Are you all right?”
A massive figure shambled out of the darkness behind John, a thick leg lashed out catching the old man in his bad knee. The joint gave way and he started to fall, only to be grabbed by the crotch and throat and hefted into the air. At first all he saw was a shape dressed in a too-small suit, then John caught a glimpse of his attacker’s face. Violet Mendoza’s glassy eyes were feverish with hate, and her neck was twisted at an impossible angle.
She held him over her head, ignoring his hands as they raked at her face and tore hair out by the handful. She gave the old man’s larynx and balls a hateful squeeze before throwing him down hard onto the kitchen table, reducing it to splinters.
John heard Angie calling his name, her voice full of alarm. Violet Mendoza looked to the stairs and laughed. Taking the opportunity John sprung at her.
She caught him easily, grasping him by the shoulder and elbow. With a single savage swing she drove his forehead into the Formica countertop. She held him there for a moment, letting him recover his senses, letting him feel the blood weep down his face. “You’re lucky,” she hissed.
With a grunt John tried to stand again but he was pinned, his right arm twisted behind his back. His free hand clawed at the air. Whenever he moved his head the room pitched to and fro. Taking his renewed struggles as a signal Violet Mendoza bent his captive arm and pressed her knee against his elbow until it snapped backwards. “He made me promise to let you live.”
The dusky shape was close now and with every moment it was becoming more and more defined.
Somehow Violet had gotten hold of his cane, she stood over him, poised. Angie was calling his name again “Don’t!” he begged.
She swung the cane, raining the brass handle down on him again and again. The gray shadow was no longer a shape, it had become an all-encompassing tide that washed over him in the spaces between his pulsebeats, and there in the midnight of his heart, he came to hear his master’s voice once more.
“Ah, there you are my prodigal one. I’ve waited so long for this moment, as have you I’m sure.”
Somewhere very far away Angie was screaming.