I’d been plagued by dreams of flying in the arms of a certain tall blond who would put Superman to shame in his spandex tights when I began to wake up. The first sense to return with my consciousness was taste.
It tasted like I’d slept with a mouth full of vomit soaked cotton balls.
Smell was next. Even though he’d cleaned me up I could still smell the lingering aroma of those cotton balls, but more like they were wafting at me from a distance than like it was coming from me. I figured my dress from the night before was likely in another ball, percolating on the floor beside the bed, and decided it was time for me to face the hangover music and get it over with.
I forced my crust covered eyes open expecting the room to spin. Anticipating the invisible hot poker to ram its way into my eye socket and lodge in my brain. My punishment for tying one on with Dr. Seuss the night before and I knew I had a debt to settle with the Pied Piper.
But it didn’t happen. There was no Pied Piper poker. No spin cycle. Nothing. If anything, I felt great. Rejuvenated even. My mind reasoned I must still be dreaming so my tongue rooted around my mouth searching through the vomitritus for the evidence of when I’d bit down on it the night before and found nothing. Not even from where I thought I’d cut my tongue on his teeth during our game of tonsil hockey. There was no discomfort whatsoever.
Also weird was finding my dress rinsed puke free and hanging over my shower door. It looked clean as a whistle and yet smelled to me like it had been soaking in a barf bucket all night long.
I shoved it into a plastic shopping bag and tied the handles shut before going to the sink so I could brush my oral wasteland back to being minty fresh. The tingle had just hit my taste buds when my eyes glanced at my reflection in the mirror and I stalled.
My hair looked fuller and shiny. My skin was blemish free. I always looked a little young for my age, but even the tiny telltale signs of laugh lines that had begun to form around my eyes and mouth thanks to my tanning vice had disappeared.
Weirdest of all.
I only gawked for a moment before I got back to brushing my teeth, figuring I must still be a little drunk confident and once I sobered up completely I’d see I was just seeing things. My mind wandered back to the night before as I brushed and wondered for a moment how he’d found me the when I noticed my purse sitting on the vanity. Remembering I now carried his cell phone, I’d been warned by the Bureau he could use it to track my location and it seemed they were right. There was no other logical way he could’ve found me in the dive bar I’d ended up at.
And while I should’ve felt apprehensive that he used it to track me down, the fact he did it at all only warmed my insides. Seeing him with that woman had solidified my erroneous belief that I was nothing more than just another blond to him.
But I’d been wrong.
I was more.
He proved that by coming after me which meant he’d left her to go looking for me to begin with.
With my ego firmly buoyed by that knowledge, I showered and changed. When I checked the time, I was surprised to see it was still early. I couldn’t have slept but a couple of hours and yet I felt like I’d had a full eight. I tried to remember what time we’d gotten back the night before, but most of it was fuzzy.
At least the parts that happened before I woke up to find him putting me in my pj’s and then telling me his secret.
And it was a really well kept secret. His FBI profile said nothing about him having any sort of medical condition, but a lot about him had left them in the dark. It explained why he was never seen during the daytime. If only any of the victims had disappeared during the daylight hours then I would know for a fact he couldn’t be the killer.
But they’d all gone missing at night.
Coincidental or circumstantial evidence?
I hadn’t thought to question his cool touch. I’d been too busy being thankful for it cooling my flushed skin to wonder why, but now I felt sorry for him. Empathy for the hardships he faced. Sympathy for being different his whole life. Admiration for making something of himself despite his limitations.
Was that why I couldn’t hear him?
He’d said his condition was so rare it had no name, so it was possible I’d just never crossed paths with anyone like him to know the difference. Considering I couldn’t find any cuts, maybe I’d imagined some parts of our kiss-a-thon, but it would explain his sharp teeth I knew I’d at least felt with my tongue. If he couldn’t eat a normal meal, his canines wouldn’t be worn down from chewing.
Fearless Betty woke up remembering that kiss and blared Eminem, beating her chest and belting out the lyrics to ‘I’m Not Afraid’.
As great as I felt now, I wouldn’t be tying one on again anytime soon after his parting words to me the night before.
Alcohol loosened lips sunk Betty Battleships.
I hadn’t bothered to look inside of the folder he’d given me the night before, but figuring I’d better get a move on I went out into the living room to grab it from the coffee table I’d thrown it down on. And it was there. Right where I’d left it. Only now it was accompanied by a few extra items.
A football helmet.
And a cell phone.
Alongside them was a handwritten note which I picked up and read.
I was remiss to have not included the items you’ll require for your tasks today. Please deliver the cell phone along with the paperwork from my security firm to the residence of Mickey Callaghan. He won’t be available, but is expecting the delivery so you may leave them in the mail slot of the front door at his home.
The other items are to meet the requirements you stated you needed in order for there to be additional scrimmages. I took the liberty of replacing the shoulder pads with knee pads as I have a feeling they’ll be more beneficial to you. Inside of your folder, I also saw fit to add some additional homework for you.
Study hard, Miss Stackhouse.
Long and hard.
There will be a pop quiz later on.
I opened the folder and stared at the top page, feeling the blush creep up my face while other things dripped down into my panties.
It was a hand drawn sketch of a female body with a bunch of x’s, o’s, and arrows pointing to the path I could already imagine his tongue taking.
Or his cum if we had to resort to the pull-out method of birth control.
Maybe I should’ve asked for pads for Betty. At this rate she’d need to be suited up like an obsessed astronaut about to embark on a cross country road trip.
Thinking back on my possible overreaction to his silence last night made me feel bad. Especially now that he’d explained it all to me.
I sloughed some of the blame for my immature and irrational reaction onto Betty’s shoulders. He’d made her feel like diabetic kid about to go trick or treating for the first time, so it was only logical she’d revolt and spew hatred being told, ‘It’s June you dumb bitch. Get outta that costume and back in the house.’
It was a trick. There would be no treat.
But the trick was on me. He was notoriously mysterious. Tight-lipped and iron-fisted in every facet of his life, personal and professional. He had a way of keeping everything about himself private in a way celebrities couldn’t. It seemed nothing about him or his life that he didn’t want to be known was shared. By the media or his own employees. And the fact he’d practically been forced to share something so personal – so private – with me made me feel like a heel.
A dirty, calloused, and blister covered heel that didn’t know the meaning of the word pedicure.
I was Frodo’s foot walking into Mordor.
That little tidbit of newly gleaned knowledge of Mr. Mysterious would make the profilers at the Bureau salivate, but even just considering it left me feeling apprehensive over sharing it with them. On one hand I knew it was my job – my duty – to report anything I learned about him. But at the same time it felt like I would be betraying him. I reasoned the fact sunlight burned his skin and he slept all day long had nothing to do with the murders. Neither that nor his cold skin and strict diet factored into the dead bodies that were found.
Unless his strict diet consisted of human blood.
Between the FBI case files and the media, I’d obviously heard one too many ‘Vampire’ references.
So, unless something else happened – unless something else pointed to his condition being a deciding factor into solving the murders, I decided I would keep his secret. It was the least I could do after subjecting him to my impersonation of the Toss Your Cookies Monster the night before.
‘C’ is for ‘conciliatory’ and that’s good enough for me.
I quickly glanced at the rest of the papers in the file. There was a list of businesses where he had accounts set up to deal with his personal chores, like his laundry, vehicle maintenance, and shops for his clothing and bathing supplies. The next page was another note telling me I needed to login to the email account that had been setup for me and choose a password, so I could access the company’s mainframe. But I would need to do it from a computer already hooked up to his LAN. He suggested using the one in his office and told me to bring along my company laptop to our meeting that evening and he’d make sure it was added onto his network.
Deciding I should get a move on, I loaded everything into my bag and headed out. I passed by Mr. Fuckity Fuck’s desk, ignoring him completely and strode into Northman’s office planning to just drop off my laptop, so I could see to everything else when I noticed another handwritten note placed front and center along with a key.
To appease your anger, your company car has been replaced with another from my fleet.
I’d forgotten about the car, but seeing he’d replaced it left me feeling both relieved and disappointed. It had pissed me off seeing it, but that didn’t mean a part of me hadn’t been looking forward to driving it.
Yes, I wanted my cake and to eat it too.
My name is Sookie Stackhouse and I’m a righteous hypocrite.
I grabbed the key fob without looking and figured I’d head up to his penthouse to grab his ruined leather pants so I could drop them off to be cleaned while I was out. It took me standing in the elevator, fruitlessly pushing the ‘PH’ button before I figured out I needed my key card to get it to work. It finally took me one floor up to his penthouse and I hesitantly reached out and put my finger on the sensor pad, hoping I didn’t need to enter in a pin number since I couldn’t remember him telling me one.
But Betty’s voice had been louder than his at the time.
A moment later I heard the beep and soft click telling me the door was unlocked, so I walked in. I didn’t have the brainpower to look around the night before, but I was gawking now. Beyond the foyer, the main living area was light and airy. Like my suite below it had a full wall of southern facing windows with a view of the Gulf of Mexico. Instead of finding the landscape spectacular, my first thought was worry. He’d said even indirect sunlight could burn his skin and yet he put himself in a place where he’d be the ant under a magnifying glass.
I liked that he was hot, but I didn’t want him to be crispy.
My mind was already measuring the windows for heavy drapes when I realized what I was doing.
Stop it Sookie! He’s a grown ass man.
Instead of picturing curtains I could Scarlett into a dress, what I should have been doing was going through his things to look for evidence he was the killer.
So my mind went into overdrive trying to minimalize my subterfuge by saying, ‘We could find evidence he isn’t the killer, too.’
Despite the enormous space, there weren’t very many places to look. His décor was very minimalist. Like Ikea and ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ got together and shit out his living room.
It was some nice shit.
There was a library with even more books. It made me want to call in sick and recuperate in his comfy looking arm chair next to the fireplace, but I forced my feet to carry me towards the desk instead. The desktop was bare. No lists of victims. No map with pushpins marking the locations the bodies were found. No trophy display filled with grotesque souvenirs made up of teeth, fingers, or locks of hair.
I was more relieved than disappointed.
The rest of the place was just as empty. Devoid of anything that would make one think he was a secret serial blood drainer. No syringes. No carving knives. No chainsaws, axes, or Edward Scissorhands.
Not even a box of Count Chocula.
But then he didn’t even have a kitchen.
It made me wonder what his ‘strict diet’ consisted of, but I knew I wouldn’t ask. He’d already shared something immensely personal with me and considering how he’d balked at my dinner invitation the night before – and how he later called it his weakness – I didn’t want to twist the knife. So to speak.
His media room had no flashing ‘Serial Killer Watches Buffy Here’ neon signs and it looked too high tech for me to want to mess with it. Everything appeared to be digital, so I left it alone and made my way to the Textile Forrest he called his closet.
And feeling more like a Nosey Nelly than an undercover FBI agent, I snooped.
He had clothing for every conceivable occasion. Formal wear. Business suits. Jeans and tees. Silk, cotton, linen, wool. More leather than a dairy farm. He had it all. He even had a top hat stored on a shelf next to a plethora of baseball caps. Biker boots. Cowboy boots. Shoes made of the finest Italian leather. They all resided in rows alongside row upon row of Nikes, Chuck Taylor’s, and flip flops.
Who was this man?
His drawers were filled with socks, scarves, hankies and ties. Every style, fabric, and color of the rainbow. I blushed finding his boxers and briefs. I was sure I turned the same shade of red as the tiny pair of bikini style briefs I pulled out and held up, shaking my head at no one over the OMG factor.
OMG – his Oversized Male Genitalia would not fit in those.
‘Let’s make a bet with him!’ Betty chanted. ‘There won’t be any losers!’ she cheered and then pictured him placing his wager into her slot machine.
Bells, whistles, and flashing lights filled my ears while her cup overflowed.
I quickly shoved them back into the drawer while I ordered Betty to attend a Gambler’s Anonymous meeting and walked towards where his hamper was stashed. I held my breath in preparation for the scent of sour Jose Cuervo to greet me, but when I peered inside I found it empty.
Did he throw out his throw up outfit?
If my couch had been made of cash fed cows, then his pants had to have been made by gold bullion fed bovines. I’d felt them. With my hands. My ass. My own cow covered cooch. I was sure they were expensive and I felt bad thinking I’d so thoroughly ruined them he felt the need to toss them like I’d tossed the contents of my stomach onto them.
I could replace them!
He’d pointed out where he’d gotten my leather outfit the night before, so maybe they would have something in his size?
OMG? Perhaps located next to LG and XLG?
And if they happened to have Velcro seams, then…well…
Super glue. I needed to pick up Super Glue.
I took another peek at his pants and jotted down his size before heading out when I noticed a second door within his closet. I hadn’t seen it earlier, but that could be because there was only the outline of it. No doorknob. No sensor pad.
Based on the location of it, I exited the closet and turned the corner of the hallway where I confirmed it must lead to his bedroom. It was the only room left I hadn’t been in and seeing that door did in fact have a sensor pad substantiated my suspicions.
He was in there right now.
I hadn’t seen any pajamas in his closet, so did that mean he slept naked?
Betty yelled out, ‘The first step is admitting you have a problem and there’s nothing wrong with me!’
She had my finger hovering over the sensor pad before I knew what she was doing.
Maybe he’d left his vomit outfit in his room, I reasoned. I would only be doing my job by retrieving it for him.
Or maybe I’d burn him to a crisp just by opening the door.
That thought was enough to get my finger away from the trigger. I was dying to see if he did in fact trust me enough to have given me access to his bedroom, but he obviously took his security seriously if I was the only one other than him who had access to his home.
I was already betraying him enough. I wouldn’t potentially hurt him just to settle my curiosity and get a gander at what was lurking inside.
I forced my feet to do an about-face and walked out. I didn’t even blink until I hit the ground floor and made my way towards the parking garage when something caught my eye.
Or rather, someone.
The blond from the nightclub was hootin’ and hollerin’ in front of a bank of slot machines. She seemed to be losing on the three separate machines she was playing, so I didn’t understand why she seemed so happy. Or why she was wearing a turtleneck.
Maybe she had whatever affliction Northman had that made him cold and couldn’t let daylight hit his skin?
But I could hear her. Both with my ears and my telepathy, so I shrugged it off and kept walking while Betty childishly taunted, ‘Nanny nanny boo boo. He left you because he wants MY hoo hoo!’
I could admit I had a problem.
Betty just stripped off her bikini top and sunned herself as she floated down the river of denial.
I entered the parking garage and walked around the corner where I expected the sedan to be.
My expectations were met with my slack jaw.
Instead of a sedan – fancy or otherwise – in place of my dream car was the car I didn’t dare to dream of even seeing in person, much less ever driving.
The Aston Martin One-77.
And not just any run of the mill Aston Martin One-77 that went for a paltry $1.4 million. The market was flooded with a whole seventy-seven of those bad boys. No. This was the Q-Series. Only seven of them were made and they cost a cool $3 million. This was the car oil-rich Arab sheiks drove while topless bitches fanned them with palm fronds and hand fed them grapes from the passenger’s seat. This was the car motorheads got boners for and jacked off to onto their computer screens.
This was the car he expected me to take to the dry cleaners and Walgreens to buy his Irish Spring.
This was the car I’d very likely give him a blow job for in thanks if he were here right now.
I half thought about running back up to his room and doing just that, but the key fob in my pocket made the door unlock as my inner car whore was forced closer by gravitational pull and I was helpless to stop myself. Like a black hole it sucked me in.
Just like I might be sucking him in later.
It was pretty. The interior was made from the hides of unicorns and the engine purred like a baby dragon dining on a bowlful of pixies. I gripped the steering wheel with one hand while the other stroked the shifter like I was coaxing it to spit out car cum.
Even Astronaut Betty was on board when she donned a Depends and yelled, ‘Road trip!’
I took the folder from my bag and put it under my ass so I didn’t ruin the seat with the differential fluid gushing out of my rear axle and punched Callaghan’s home address into the in-dash GPS. Seeing he lived just outside of New Orleans made both sets of lips frown. It would take less than thirty minutes roundtrip to get there and back.
That wasn’t nearly enough time for me to sex up my new boyfriend.
I threw that puppy into first and floated on a cloud out onto the city streets. I may have shed a tear or two.
I quickly wiped them away before the salty fluid could sully the pristine interior.
Instead of turning right like my British accented buzz kill was telling me to, I flipped her off and turned left. I then proceeded to make her earn her daily wage by ‘recalculating’ for the next twenty minutes. Thoroughly sick of her polite berating, I fiddled with the buttons and the car filled with the sound of a pleasant sounding Arabic speaking woman. She could’ve been trying to send me to the nearest fruit stand for grapes or calling me a filthy infidel. I couldn’t tell the difference, but I didn’t really care.
Fuck it. Sheik Sookie was in the driver’s seat.
After dicking around for an hour, I finally made my way to Callaghan’s. It was a standard ranch style home in a nondescript middle class neighborhood. I pulled into the driveway and seeing the Buick already parked there had me reaching out with my mind to see if he was home. Northman said he wouldn’t be, but I didn’t want to be caught off guard.
But I was caught off guard anyway.
I had already pulled the paperwork out of the folder and was rooting around in my purse in search of the phone that went with it, while my mind rooted around inside the interior of the house when I heard a voice.
A mental voice.
One I was familiar with.
And she was terrified.
I dropped everything and bolted out of the car and up to the front door, banging on it with my fists as I yelled out, “TARA?”