"Meanwhile I'm honing the edge on my pinky slicer."
- XX -
Robert was watching the front door of the hotel like a hawk ever since he woke up this morning. He slept in his car, not wanting to take an unnecessary risk of running into Stratos or Leon just so he could sleep in bed for one lousy night. He woke up at eight in the morning and was watching the front door of the hotel ever since, knowing that sooner or later, the musician would have to leave.
He was right – exactly at 13:15, there was a very gloomy Leon emerging from the building with a slightly guilty looking Stratos following him. Robert immediately knew that Leon just found out who exactly was in Stratos’ bed (he was sure of it) right now, and he was far from happy about it.
He watched both men walk away, figuring that they were probably heading towards wherever-the-hell Stratos was supposed to perform on Saturday night, so they could try out the stage or the instrument or whatever-the-hell musicians usually tried out before big performances. Then again, he reasoned silently. They could be simply going for coffee, since Robert was positive that Leon would much rather drink cyanide than spend even one minute at the same table with Stratos’ kelari.
He stayed in the car for the next hour or so, waiting patiently, and finally, at 14:20, he let out a small smile and reached for his phone that was lying on the seat next to him. He called the information service, asking to be connected to the hotel, and then waited for a few seconds, listening to long, bored ‘beeps’ and waiting for someone to answer.
“You have reached The Royal Continental Suites hotel,” he finally heard on the other end of the line. “How may I help you?”
“Yes,” he said in a quick, busy, and professional manner. “I have a delivery for Stratos Gregorio. I have been told he is staying in your hotel. What is his room number, please?”
“You could leave the delivery at the front desk...” the person on the other end of the line started saying, but Robert interrupted him.
“No can do!” he said in a cheerful, ‘I-am-just-a-delivery-guy’ manner. “I’ve been told to give it to him personally... Plus...” He sighed. “I need his signature anyway,” he finished in the same cheerful voice.
“Oh, I see...” the person said. “Just a minute, please...”
He was probably going to call for a manager, Robert thought. Some crap about privacy and other garbage like...
“Room three-eleven,” the person said suddenly, interrupting Robert’s thoughts.
He wasn’t calling for a manager, Robert realized with mild disbelief. He was simply looking up the room number... Well, that was easy!
“Thanks!” he said brightly without faking this time. “You have a great day now!”
“Same to you...” the person started saying, but Robert clicked the phone off and threw it in the passenger’s seat.
Holy hell, that was easy...! He sat still for several more minutes, smiling widely to himself, and slightly regretting the fact that by now, he was completely out of coffee. Finally, he shrugged and pulled the keys out of the ignition, knowing that very soon he would not need any coffee. He got out of the car and looked both ways before crossing the street – getting hit by a bus right now would be ironic, to say the least.
The road seemed clear, and he quickly crossed it, murmuring some mindless tune under his breath. He was close to the front door of the hotel, when suddenly, he heard the voice that he hadn’t heard in a while – it was his inner voice, reasonable, rational, and sane. He didn’t like that voice. He shut it up almost a year ago, thanks to liquor and some very exciting activities, and he thought that he shut it up for good. Yet, here it was again, droning in its familiar reasonable manner.
“What are you doing?” the voice asked in a dark hurry. “Robert, this is going too far... No, forget that. It already went too far! Killing hookers is one thing – even though you should stop that! – but this...? This is Stratos Gregorio’s obsession...”
“Property...” Robert hissed through his clenched teeth.
“Property, whatever,” he could almost see an indifferent shrug that came after those words as the voice continued talking. “Do you have any idea how big of a deal this is going to be? Never mind that he is just a kelari; he belongs to Stratos, and we both know that the militia will turn this entire city upside down for him! You are not that good at hiding all the evidence, and after they get you – which they will – they will inevitably find out about that other hobby of yours... I am not even going to mention how disturbing this is...”
“Yet, here you are,” Robert muttered very softly, making sure he didn’t draw any attention to himself. “Here you are, doing exactly that.”
“You are beyond obsessed by now,” the voice ignored his murmur. “This is not just unhealthy – this is downright insane! Robert, we both know that you have to talk to someone about this... Not confessing, of course, but at least describing the urges... Pills exist for a reason! Also, you have to stop boozing! I mean...”
“Shut up,” Robert said softly but very firmly.
“...you are drinking even in the morning now,” the voice continued, but now, it was slightly softer, as if it moved farther away. “And you know how wrong everything you are doing is!”
“I am not you imaginary foe, Robert... I am the last sane part of you... I am whatever left from your common sense! I am...”
“Shut. The fuck. Up.” Robert said with cold firmness. “Get out of my goddamn head, and God help you if you ever decide to come back...!”
He briefly thought that threatening imaginary voices with real violence did qualify for a need of professional help, but he shook that thought away almost instantly.
“Get. Out.” he said one last time, and smiled when there was no answer this time. “Good,” he murmured and got off the bench on which he sat a minute ago, not wanting for someone in the hotel to overhear him talking to himself.
He finally walked into the front lobby of the big hotel, and nodded at the guy behind the front desk, as if he had seen him countless times before. The guy blinked at that and looked like he was about to ask Robert if he might possibly help him, but Robert pulled a key out of his pocket and walked towards the elevator in a ‘I-have-stayed-here-for-too-long’ manner without hurrying too much. Unlike most of the hotels, this one had never switched to key-cards. They stuck with old-fashioned-looking keys, figuring it was one of those details that would make them stand out even more in the hotel-business. The guy behind the front desk blinked again, slightly narrowed his eyes, and finally, looked away, probably figuring that Robert was one of those clients whose face he failed to remember.
That was exactly what Robert was hoping for, and he let out another small smile and pushed a large silver button encircled in a glowing red ring, calling for an elevator. The doors smoothly rolled open almost immediately, and Robert walked into the cabin and put the key he was still holding into his pocket – it was his house key. He pushed the button with the number 3 on it and politely smiled at the woman who walked into the elevator. She returned the smile and pushed the button that said 7 on its silver surface in a black paint.
After doing that, she turned towards the elevator door and they didn’t exchange another glance until the cabin came to a smooth stop on the third floor. The woman stepped aside, letting Robert through, and he smiled politely once again.
“Have a nice day,” he said, slightly bowing his head.
“You too,” the woman returned the smile as she did a minute ago and pushed Close Doors button as soon as Robert left the cabin. That was just fine with Robert and he slowly walked down the dimly lit corridor, looking at the numbers on the doors of the rooms. Finally, he found 311, and this time, his smile wasn’t small at all – it was wide, predatory, and very dark. He walked closer to the door and lightly knocked on it with his knuckles, exhaling with satisfaction when he heard light steps on the other side.
Gemini woke up at 1:30 in the afternoon and stretched sweetly without opening his eyes. Then he dropped one of his arms onto the other side of the bed, expecting to find a warm body next to him, and opened his eyes when he found nothing but sheets and blanket. He looked at the empty bed for a few seconds, and then sighed, correctly figuring that Stratos had to go rehearse, and that he probably didn’t want to wake him up.
He slid onto the pillow next to him and closed his eyes, inhaling Stratos’ scent from the pillowcase. Finally, he let out another sigh, opened his eyes, and slid out of the bed, heading towards the bathroom. He took a semi-long shower – not as long as his usual, habitual one, but not too short either – brushed his teeth and hair, and left the bathroom.
He picked up his clothes from the floor and slowly got dressed, thinking that he should’ve grabbed something casual with him as well – he realized that he was stuck with wearing the same black outfit for the next three days. He winced at the thought, and suddenly, his stomach growled. He sighed yet again and went into the kitchen, his feet bare.
He looked around the kitchen when he got there, still not quite believing that such a big kitchen would be in a hotel room, and then smiled and walked to the large fridge that purred quietly next to the wall. He pulled open the door and thoughtfully stared inside. He saw a loaf of bread that ended up being refrigerated for some inexplicable reason, and a couple of bottles of water. He shrugged and grabbed the bread.
He hemmed with appreciation when he found a toaster and a coffeemaker that were sitting not too far apart from each other, and nodded with satisfaction when he saw several small, sample-sized bags of coffee on top of the machine.
Fifteen minutes later, he was absent-mindedly munching on his toast and drinking coffee while looking around the kitchen again. He looked around, wondering what time Stratos would come back from his rehearsal, and all of a sudden, there was a quick knock on the door, as if answering his silent question. He looked at the clock and smiled – it was 2:35 already. He put his toast on the plate and set his coffee cup next to it before getting up.
He quickly walked towards the door, absent-mindedly wiping bread crumbs off his hands on his pants, and unlocked the door.
“I was hoping you’d come back for lunch,” he said with a satisfied smile. “I made coffee a couple of minutes...”
He didn’t finish his sentence when he saw the person behind the door and realized that it was not Stratos at all. He recognized him immediately and his eyes grew wide. He tried pushing the door shut, but the person behind it laughed at that and kicked it open, knocking Gemini a couple of steps back.
“What are you doing here?” Gemini asked sharply, feeling panicky fear tightening his throat. “Stratos isn’t back yet... Come back later...”
“Ohh,” the person sighed and kicked the door closed. “I know that,” he nodded after turning around and facing the huge golden eyes. “I am not here to see Stratos... I am here to see you,” he finished, and suddenly, he stepped towards Gemini with unexpected speed.
Gemini jerked backwards, but he was too late. The same familiar grip locked around his arm just like that night, several weeks ago, and his fear started to come to full bloom. He jerked backwards, harder than before, and almost succeeded pulling his arm free, since the man (“Robert...” he remembered suddenly. “His name is Robert...”) did not expect him do that, and just when he was about to slip out of the harsh grip and flee into the bedroom, slamming the door shut, the grip tightened significantly, forcing him to stay put.
“Mm-mm,” the man (Robert) said quickly with a devious, dark expression in his slightly slanted eyes. “If I am the first in line, then it’s going to stay that way...!”
He laughed after he said that, as if it was the funniest thing he ever heard himself say. Gemini gritted his teeth and tried pushing him away, but the man didn’t even budge.
“Let go of me...” Gemini muttered. “Let go of me...! Get out of here...”
The man tutted with mild reproach.
“Rude little monkey, aren’t you?” he asked, and then sighed. “Stratos is a great musician but not a very good trainer... I guess he didn’t rub your nose on the floor often enough if ever...” he laughed again in the same carefree manner as he did a minute ago.
“Don’t touch me...” Gemini’s voice became a little louder. “Don’t touch me...! Let go!”
“Now, now,” the man said in a patient, teaching manner. “Try to behave... Your master sent me,” he nodded, and Gemini stopped struggling for a few seconds, staring at him with an incredulous expression in his eyes.
The man smiled at that.
“Uh huh,” he nodded again without looking away. “He said something about the beauty of sharing, and how he felt guilty about humiliating me a couple of weeks ago... Told me to help myself,” he shrugged lightly, and Gemini tried pushing him away again.
“You are lying...!” he hissed. “You are goddamn lying...! Let me... Go...!”
“Huh,” the man said with mild amusement. “Am I that bad of a liar? Or is Stratos that predictable? Maybe both, hmmm?” He slightly raised his eyebrows. “Doesn’t matter,” he shrugged again. “And yes, I was lying,” he smiled. “He didn’t betray his pet; he’s loyal enough I guess...”
Gemini growled something through his clenched teeth and kicked the man hard, aiming for his groin, but he missed and the kick landed on the upper thigh instead. The smile was gone in less than a second. Now there was nothing but murderous insanity in the man’s eyes.
“You little bitch...” he said slowly, and suddenly, his free hand flew up and slapped Gemini’s face so hard that his head flew sideways.
Gemini screamed out involuntarily before he was able to lock his throat into the old, painfully familiar ring of dead silence. Without looking or even thinking, his knee jerked forward all on its own, driven by pure panic, aiming for the same target he just missed, and the man hissed something unintelligible when this particular shove landed a little too close for comfort.
“You little bitch,” he said again, and this time, he didn’t slap his face – he swung his leg and brought the heavy boot that he was wearing right into the middle of Gemini’s knee, making the golden-haired kelari see a short explosion of white stars for a few seconds.
The kick felt like a bomb loaded with sharp glass just went off in his leg and immediately shot through the rest of his body. The pain was so great that he couldn’t even move his leg, realizing that he wouldn’t be able to stand upright either. Apparently, that was exactly what the man was planning, because suddenly, he let go of Gemini’s arm, and then shoved the blond kelari in the chest, hard, making him collapse on the floor.
Gemini’s hands slapped into the wooden floor, creating a sharp, wet-sounding clap, and he tried scooting backwards, but it didn’t work, as another kick landed in the middle of the same knee. He had no idea how he managed not to make a single sound, getting lost in another brilliant explosion, and then he felt a heavy weight press down on his stomach. He opened his eyes and realized that the man was mounting him now. The world seemed very hazy and out of focus.
He jerked again, trying to throw the man off him, fear booming into an overgrown hell of panic, and the man slapped him again, making his ears ring with a nauseating loud drumming.
“See,” the man said in a strangely casual manner, as if he was discussing some latest fashion trend. “I realized that I didn’t apologize to you enough...”
This time, he didn’t slap him – he brought his fist onto the side of his face instead, and Gemini let out a loud, shaky exhale, unable to move or even shake his head.
“Therefore...” the man continued meanwhile. “You have my...” Another fist collided with the other side of his face now. “Deepest...” The next hit landed on his chin, and he was positive that he would lose several teeth. “Sincerest...” The fist was replaced with a tight, harsh grasp on his hair, raising his head off the floor just a little. “Apologies...” The grasp tightened and slammed his head into the floor with a loud, dull ‘Thud!’ “Gemini...”
The man smiled, and suddenly, Gemini knew that he would kill him eventually. Not right now, no, but hopefully before the end of the day – this was nothing but an overture, Gemini realized with horrifying clarity; whatever promised to come later would be a hell of a lot worse. Even thinking of that made him hyperventilate.
“Let go... of me...” he muttered, and somehow, managed to jerk weakly underneath the man’s weight.
The man hemmed in a slightly amused manner when he felt that.
“A resilient little monkey...” he murmured and tightened his grip on the silky hair. “Now...” He smiled almost intimately. “Let me tell you what I am going to do to you...”
“Behave,” the man grimaced and slammed his head into the floor again after grabbing more of the silky hair. “Don’t interrupt me, I hate that!”
He rolled his eyes at yet another jerk and brought down a heavy fist without letting go of the golden hair. Gemini blinked several times when he felt several trickles of warm blood roll down his face, landing in his left eye.
“So,” the man continued, satisfied with Gemini’s stillness for now. “This is what I am going to do... First, I am going to rip out one of your eyes,” he said in the same casual manner. “Then I am going to fuck the hell out of that hole in your skull... You’ll keep your other eye for a while,” he nodded. “Because I want you to be able to see everything. After that, I am going to pull your teeth out, one by one...” He let out a sly smile that made him look even crazier. “Don’t want you to bite my most sensitive body part, do I...?” He smiled again. “And after that...” He looked thoughtful for a second or two. “Say,” he looked into the bloody, dark from pain golden eyes. “Have you ever been fucked with a knife?”
Hearing that gave Gemini some shreds of his strength back and he thrashed underneath the man’s pinning weight, trying to push him off, even though he was perfectly aware of the fact that his efforts would be absolutely futile. His panic exploded into pure animal fear, making him to stop understanding the meaning of words, and he thrashed harder, only half-noticing another heavy fist landing on the side of his face. Suddenly, there was some strange, extremely loud sound that came from somewhere on his right, he half-heard it through the roaring, nauseating silent screaming in his ears.
The man jerked when he heard the sound, and quickly turned his head, his face twisted with a puzzled frown.
“What the fuck was that...?” he muttered, and then shrugged. “Doesn’t matter,” he said and returned his attention to Gemini’s face. “So,” he smiled again, and somehow, Gemini felt that smile. He didn’t see it – he couldn’t see much from behind the curtain of blood and tears that covered his eyes right now – but somehow, he felt it, and that feeling almost made him vomit.
He gasped for air, feeling his throat gurgle, and then gagged when he felt a thick fist trying to slide into his mouth.
“Don’t you dare puking,” the man said in a low voice. “Don’t you fucking dare...!”
Gemini managed to sink his teeth into the knuckles that were trying to push themselves down his throat, and his head exploded with another detonation of pain. The fist left his mouth, letting him breathe again.
“Bitch...” he heard through the roaring in his ears. “Anyway, let’s recap... This is what we are going to do...”