Authors: Logan Patricks
“I’ve known them since days back in the Academy. I don’t think they’d ever want to hurt me.”
“Didn’t you tell me that Cairo tried to punch off your head when he first saw you in Hong Kong?”
Shadow rubbed his chin. “It was a misunderstanding. We hugged it out.”
I smirked. “I guess that leaves Beau.”
“He’s an odd one.”
“Yeah, but the fact of the matter is, he physically saved my life. Why would he do that if he worked for Calisto?” I asked.
“To get close to me?”
“You think he has the capacity to be a spy?” I asked.
Shadow shrugged. “I don’t think so. He seems simple enough. The other day, I caught him scratching himself with a pair of salad tongs, and then putting them back in the kitchen drawer when he was done. Somehow, I don’t think he’s the brilliant double agent type of guy.”
“That’s just gross.”
“Don’t worry I moved the salad tongs into the dishwasher immediately after,” Shadow said.
“Even better idea.”
I rose from the lounge chair and rubbed my belly. “I’m starting to get hungry.”
“So I guess that settles it then? The Midnight Society, version two-point-oh, is a band of unruly, unstable head cases that are too fucked up to be in cahoots with your psychopath sister?”
“I’m half convinced,” Shadow said just as his phone suddenly buzzed, indicating an incoming text message.
“Come on, let’s go down to the kitchen and get a bite to eat,” I insisted.
Shadow glanced at the screen and suddenly the demeanor of his face completely changed. It was the same dumbfounded look he had when he realized that the person he’d been hunting for all these years—the person who murdered his parents—was his own sister.
“Shadow, what’s wrong?” I asked.
He didn’t reply. He continued to stare at his phone with wide eyes.
“Shadow? You’re scaring me,” I said. “What is it? You can tell me. I’m your girl, aren’t I?”
His eyes slowly turned to me, and then he slowly nodded.
“Yeah,” he said, rather listlessly. “Look, Aria, why don’t you go down to the kitchen and make something for yourself. I’m going to go out for a drive.”
“I just got some new…intel,” he said. “I just need time to process it. I’ll catch up with you later.”
He closed his phone and walked past me.
“Shadow?” I called out to him again. “Promise me that everything’s okay?”
He turned and looked at me with sad eyes.
“I’ll see you later…” he said, “…Aria.”
And then he disappeared into the hallway of his mansion.
The way he had said my name, it didn’t sound like it came from someone who loved me. It sounded like it came from a stranger, like someone who could care less what happened to me in this world.
I couldn’t go through this again.
In every player’s life, there was always that one girl you fucked, that one conquest, which you ended up regretting for the rest of your life. As to why, well, there’s a wide variety of reasons including and not limited to: venereal diseases, unexpected pregnancies, compulsive stalking afterwards, you’re married, they’re married, they’re underage, they used to be a man (be careful of escorts in Thailand), or worse, they’re of your own blood.
Calisto was my regret. The many reasons included: she’s a whore, a manipulative bitch, a sociopath, a murderer, a sadist, a degenerate, a compulsive liar (but then again so was I), a harpy, a snake, etcetera, etcetera, and etcetera.
I admit the sex between us was great. Probably the best I ever had but the price I paid for it was far too high.
And now that psychotic rotten scurvy skank held me as her prisoner.
The first day after those corrupt cops took me captive in New Orleans, they tossed me in some sort of dank cell. My wrists were bound together with iron shackles, bolted to the ground with chain links.
Periodically a man in a balaclava would come and beat me senseless just before dropping food and water. I recognized his voice, however. He was the bastard wielding the shotgun the night of Isadora’s wedding, the same shotgun that smacked me upside the head and drew blood. This man’s orders were responsible for the deaths of everyone at the wedding.
I prayed Aria made it out alive and found her way back to Shadow.
On the third day of captivity I decided to retaliate. They may have secured my arms with chains, but I still had a strong pair of legs.
“Give me your name,” I demanded from the asshole, just as he entered my cell. He had a plate of food in his hands and a hunger for violence in his eyes.
The man laughed. “Since when do the dead have a right to speak?”
“Hate to break it to you, but I still feel alive and well.”
The man delivered a hard punch into my gut that knocked the wind out of me. He leaned in and whispered into my ear, “That’s a minor technicality.”
The idiot got too close. I took the opportunity to square him in the nuts, taking immense satisfaction as I felt his testicles crunch against the bones of my knee. Immediately, he grabbed his groin and gasped for air.
He looked wobbly.
I followed up with a hard kick to the back of his legs and watched with satisfaction as he tumbled to the ground, falling with the grace of a large oak tree.
I walked over to him and wrapped the chains around his neck and began to pull—not enough strength to kill him, but just enough to make him feel very uncomfortable.
“Your name, asshole,” I demanded.
I knew he wasn’t able to speak with the thick chains crushing his larynx, but I enjoyed taunting him anyway.
“You look like a Dickface. Is your name, Dickface? Grunt once for yes, twice for no.” I tugged a little harder and listened to his gasping which played out in my ears like a sweet love song.
“How about Ichabod? I always enjoyed that story of the Headless Horsemen, scared the shit out of me as a kid. There’s something about not having a head that’s just damn creepy. Speaking of which, I think if I pull any tighter on the chains, yours just might go pop.”
Suddenly another masked man burst through the door and pointed a gun at me.
“Let him go,” the man said.
I feigned ignorance. “Let who go?”
“Him!” the guy shouted. “Let Buchanan go.”
So I had my name.
“Buchanan,” I said. “That’s a solid name. I was hoping for something a little more whimsical, but oh well.” Now it was time to see his face.
I released my grip on Buchanan, who immediately unraveled the chains from around his neck.
While he struggled to get away from me, I managed to hook my fingers underneath the back of his mask, and peel the whole thing off like the skin of an orange.
So this was what Buchanan looked like.
He had a hard-edged, weathered faced; a man who had downed his fair share of hard liquor over the years. His bald head and unkempt beard reminded me of a Viking, which I supposed suited his personality. The most distinguishing feature of his roughneck face, however, was the deep, cracking scar that started at the top of his left brow, and fell all the way down, past his cheekbone.
“I’ll fucking kill you,” Buchanan seethed, sucking in heavy breath as he struggled back to his feet. “I’ll rip out your heart with my bare hands.”
“I guess that’s a fair exchange seeing as how I just decimated your left nut with my right knee.” I taunted.
Call it a bad habit of mine, but I just couldn’t resist taking that quick jab whenever the opportunity presented itself. Buchanan wrenched the gun out of the other man’s hands, and pushed it up against my forehead, hard.
“Say that again, boy. I dare you to make another wisecrack,” Buchanan spat.
This time, I decided to stay silent.
“You gotta keep your calm,” the other man said. “You know her terms. We only get paid if this guy stays alive.”
I raised a brow. “Really? I wonder what the going rate for my life is these days. It better be in the seven-digit numerical range, otherwise I’d be highly disappointed.”
Again I decided to open my big mouth. Was it possible that I had given up on life? I really had nothing left to my name. My fortune was gone, flushed down the drain along with my freedom. With respects to the two women whom I had most recently loved, one ended being a deranged psychopath who dressed up in satan-inspired clothing and committed brutal acts of murder, while the other was my best and only friend’s, girl.
So really, Lincoln, what was there left for you to lose? What could Calisto and this Nimrod do to you that’s not been done already?
The iron door closed behind them and it was a good, long while before I saw anyone again.
She loves you not.
Being alone in my cell, surrounded by darkness, gave me plenty of time to reflect upon my life. I had a shadowy feeling that my end was coming soon and because of this fact, it got me thinking as to whether or not I had achieved all I’ve wished during this lifetime.
I went through my bucket list: Lived through a fairy-tale rags-to-riches story—check. Accrued immeasurable amounts of wealth and power—check. Had sex with an indecent number of gorgeous women—check. Had a threesome with two Valentine’s Secret models while they sported their infamous ‘angel wings’—check. Fallen in love—check. Had a loving, fulfilling relationship—shit.
Oh well, I guess I couldn’t win them all.
I began losing track of time and space, my only interaction outside of the darkness being the tiny slit at the bottom of the door opening which provided me stale food and water. The meals were always delivered in silence.
It was funny that while I was running my media and entertainment empire, I barely allocated myself five hours of sleep on any given day. Now, while locked away in the darkness, that’s all I did: sleep.
The dreams I had were nightmares, many of them involving the dead—James Takeshi, Brevin West, Abraham Constantine, Donald Huff. They were all great men; men who allowed a street rat like me into their ranks. Two of those men, I was forced to kill.
Sometimes, my subconscious drew me back to that dark place in my mind, a place where I relived that horrific night at the Inferno Hotel over and over again. I had played Calisto’s sadistic game of Russian Roulette with my friends, and despite surviving the ordeal, felt death’s grip nonetheless. Sometimes I dreamed of Hell, where Brevin, James, and Donald sat in cages made out of bone, whispering to me in a harsh, foreign language.
When my terror was at its absolute peak, I’d wake up immersed in the darkness. Being blind to my surroundings was equally as unpleasant as my vivid nightmares.
There were nice dreams as well. One, in particular, seemed so damn real.
Aria and I were sitting in a boat in the middle of a river of some exotic, tropical destination. Surrounding us were beautiful mangrove trees that provided us with cool shade while the intense sun burned above us.
She looked stunning in a white summer dress which moved fluidly amidst a gentle summer breeze.
I don’t recall exactly what Aria said to me, but it made me smile. She always had a special way with words; a cross between a princess and a drunken sailor. I’d have it no other way.
And then I woke up and felt the ache of loneliness course through my body like a spider’s venom. Aria belonged to Shadow and Shadow was my closest friend.
I didn’t know what was worse: the nice dreams or the nightmares.
She loves you not.
While awake, I tried keeping my mind active, thinking about everything I needed to do if I left this place. This included making amends with Shadow and getting as far away from Aria as possible.
I loved her and I just didn’t trust myself around her.
The countless hours spent in isolation and darkness finally got to me. I began having hallucinations.
The iron doors of the prison opened and in walked Shadow, a gun in his hand.
“I’m here to free you,” he said, just before aiming the gun at my head and pulling the trigger.
Another hallucination involved Calisto, sitting in the corner of the cell, taunting me.
“She loves you not, she loves you not, she loves you not,” the bitch droned on-and-on.
“I believe it goes ‘she loves you, she loves you not,’” I corrected her.
“Why that’s foolish. No one loves you Lincoln. No one ever has and no one ever will.”
That was a lie, someone did love me at one point—or was I confusing love for lust? We were both too young back then to tell the difference.
“She loves you not, she loves you not, she loves you not.”
“Twisted bitch,” I muttered.
My mind was at a breaking point and my dreams and reality became indistinguishable.
I was trapped in an endless cycle of surrealism and darkness.
“She loves you not, she loves you not.” I kept hearing that blasted phrase over and over again.
And then I realized it was my voice that was reciting those lonely words aloud, repeatedly.
I was stunned.