Hunger As Spice (Prologue/Chapter One)Posted by omnipredation on 2008.06.12 at 22:08
Current Location: home, office, desktop
Current Mood: discontent
Current Music: ALANIS MORISSETTE - Versions of Violence
Started this at work, determined to do bad writing (and stay awake). I'm not responsible for what this turned into. It's so... I dunno. But hey, it's an imbrications post. Woo hoo?
Not much longer now, Alec thought wistfully. Soon she would exit the building’s back door like she had the past three nights, and he would be ready for her. He checked his watch: it was fifty-three minutes past three. She usually clocked out five minutes early and shuffled to her Volkswagen Golf, checking messages on her cell phone as she went. Alec snuffled and wished he hadn’t; it was cold and his nose was running unstoppably, but the sharp inhalation brought with it the stink of the dumpster against which he had been huddled for the better part of the last hour. A new wave of nausea stabbed him in the large intestine and his hands squeezed the black garbage bag he held. It rustled softly. Alec took a shallow breath through his mouth, partly so that the cold air wouldn’t sear his lungs and part to avoid inviting the garbage stench onto his tongue. Any minute now, his thoughts pleaded miserably. His watch said 0355. The metal door creaked open and a few faint strains of classical music floated out. “Hah! Whatever you say. You’re a bunch of assholes,” she shouted over her shoulder as she emerged – alone. No one ever walked her to her car. The door fell shut with a bang. “Really. Assholes,” she murmured to herself, pulling out her mobile phone and flipping it open as she began her careless and automatic stroll down the alley toward her car. Closer. Closer and closer to Alec. Oh my God. I can’t do this. I really can’t do this, he thought in a panic. The soft pad of her shoes came nearer and nearer still to his malodorous hidey-hole.I can’t. I can’t. I can’t! She drew even with him. Alec held his breath, said a short prayer in his head to whoever might be listening, and sprang. “Hey, what the hell are you – ! Stop! Help!” she shrieked. Alec jammed the bag over her head and lashed it there with a loop of yellow nylon cord. She clawed at the bag, gouging his wrists where his black gloves left them vulnerable, but her nails failed to tear the double-layer of plastic. Her cell phone fell to the pavement and smashed, its screen going dark. Her cries were muffled, her struggles weakening as Alec drew the cord tight and further diminished her air supply. “It’s okay,” he whispered. “It’ll all be over soon, I promise…” Bold as brass, she hiked a leg, aiming for his groin. Alec twisted himself sideways and took the kick above his knee, grateful he had been expecting the move. “Please,” came the hoarse plea from inside the trash bag. “Just close your eyes,” he said gently, and pulled the cord a little tighter. Finally she was just dead weight in his arms and he let her sag partway to the ground, aware that he should hold on a bit longer to ensure she was truly unconscious; with this woman, there was always the possibility that any sudden cessation of struggling was a feint, meant to lull him into carelessness, assuming she would soon be moved elsewhere. Alec held on, then after counting quickly to thirty-three, he released the cord and drew the bag off her head. Her breath came in ragged little pants, but she was alive and definitely unconscious. She had an ugly raw red ring scored round her slender throat where the pressure applied by the nylon cord had bruised her through the plastic bags. “Alright then,” Alec said to himself. He secured a ball gag in her pretty mouth and bound her hands with thin metal wire, then did the same to her feet. With his gloved hands he collected her purse, which got stuffed into the abused garbage bags. Alec thought about leaving a few bits of the phone behind as an obvious gesture, but he concluded it was safest to sweep them up. He scattered the fragments among the contents of his late friend, the dumpster. The reality of GPS or GSM being used to track the phone was too great to risk bringing that bit of evidence along. To provide a clue for those who would come looking later, Alec slipped one of her dark green suede loafers off and left it lying on the ground on its side at a nice and arbitrary angle, its single buckle flying slightly askew, looking for all the world as though it had fallen off during the brief struggle. It would be enough. Heaving a sigh, Alec helped himself to her purse, peeling back the edges of the garbage bag and fishing out her car keys. It was save to assume that the large one with the Volkswagen insignia on it would be the one to open the car. He tried it on the driver’s door and found the hatch release in after only a moment of searching. He was perspiring under his heavy and shapeless overcoat; now that he was up and moving about, the freezing cold was barely noticeable. Sweating and grunting, he hoisted her body from the pavement and slung her over his shoulder and staggered over to her tiny car, where he deposited her limp and hogtied frame with great reverence in the cargo area. He covered her up with a tattered down comforter that had been left there, seemingly just for that purpose. He got in the driver’s seat and acquainted himself with the vehicle’s controls before starting the car. It was a manual, and he was glad to find he wasn’t the only one left in the world who drove a stick shift. While his body cooled slightly, he drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, finding the headlights, the heat switch, defroster, and radio knobs. Finally the thought of turning on the car and the heat no longer made him nauseous. He turned the key in the ignition and the Golf twittered to life and chimed softly, reminding him that he had not yet fastened his safety belt. Obeying the chiding tone of the chime, he buckled his seatbelt. I can’t believe I did it. Can’t believe I’m doing this! He gripped his gloved hands into fists on the steering wheel, too tight, much too tight; they ached as they regained feeling. He tried to remember the directions without taking out the printed maps, and failed. He was too damn nervous. “Damn it!” Alec swore. He ripped off his ski mask and his goggles, turning on the defroster full-blast to de-fog the windscreen as he eased off the clutch and the brake and cruised casually out of the tiny parking lot. When he came to the first red light, he unbuckled himself long enough to shuck his coat off and rifle the pockets in a frantic race against the glowering traffic signal, terrified that his maps may at some point have fallen out of the coat at the scene of the crime. That’s why you put them in your inner pocket. Moron. The light changed to green and Alec gunned it through the intersection while reaching unerringly into the inner left pocket of his bulky coat and withdrawing the folded packet of maps and directions. He shifted from second to third with his right hand, coasted, and shook the papers out and smoothed them against the hub of the steering wheel to make them readable. Giving them a glance or two under the glow of streetlights he happened to pass beneath, he memorized the first four steps, then began looking for signs pointing to the highway. These he followed while checking the rearview mirror for any signs of life from his captive. Alec checked the gas gauge as he cruised down an entrance ramp: a quarter of a tank. Damn her eyes, he thought dispassionately, and he planned an unscheduled stop to refuel and get himself a coffee. If she was awake by that point, maybe he’d get Stephanie a coffee, too – Wow. See, you can think her name. It’s totally safe to think her name. you can even say it out loud if you want to. Go on, Alec. Say it. “I’ll get gas and some coffee at exit 121. For me and Stephanie. Nobody will have anything to say about the unconscious woman named Stephanie in my car. Well, Stephanie’s car,” Alec amended, alone in the car – for all intensive purposes – and definitely talking to himself. “Quit it,” he said, and focused on the road ahead. The Golf heated up quickly. It was too hot. Alec lowered the heat and aimed all the vents aftward so Stephanie could benefit from the warmth. It was hard not to think of her in a possessive way, even knowing what he knew. He watched odometer and reckoned that the little car got better gas mileage than his cheap Hyundai. Alec’s stomach began to rumble persistently as the Golf’s tires devoured mile after mile of macadam. Exit 121 felt a long way off. He chose 99 instead and eased the car up the ramp, turning right and parking well away from any voyeuristic lights. He shut off the car and pulled a multitool from his coat pocket before clambering over the seats and fairly falling on Stephanie. He carefully snipped the ties on her hands and feet and pulled the ball gag from her mouth, lobbing it aside. She wouldn’t like coming to in the back of her own car, bound and helpless… Alec arranged the blanket around her, making it look as much like sleep as possible in case anyone happened by and glanced in. he borrowed a credit card from Stephanie’s purse and collected his coat and walked to the service station, stretching his legs, rolling his shoulders, and doing all he could to relieve the enormous amount of tension keeping his body rigid. It didn’t work. Alec sighed and admitted himself to the service station and thence into the men’s room to relieve the only pressure he could… that of his bladder. He pissed, and thought exhausted and vague thoughts, most of them somewhat swirly with sleep deprivation. At least he made a point not to talk to himself. He removed his gloves at long last and scrubbed his hands at the sink until they were red and raw, washing the dried blood from the half dozen gouges on his wrists and reopening the wounds to bleed in the process. He kept his hands under the lukewarm water until said water ran clear, then he held them under the drier for three full cycles until they were evenly toasted on both sides. Retreating from the bathroom, he wandered to the first aid section, where he collected antibiotic cream and band-aids for the wounds on his wrists. His hands themselves still looked fine, and the long sleeves of his black sweater hid any traces of the slashes beneath, though he worried they might be collecting stray fuzz from the sweater itself. It took an alarming amount of willpower not to keep looking over his shoulder; it was too early for pursuit, he knew that, but Alec still felt like there were a hundred hostile eyes boring into the back of his skull. He hurriedly filled two of the largest coffee cups he could find, grabbed a bag of nacho cheese tortilla chips and a Lunchable from the cooler, and surreptitiously filled his pockets with little cups of flavoured creamers. Stephanie loved them. Juggling all his items, Alec backtracked to the first aid aisle and picked up a self-heating compress meant for the back of the neck. She’d appreciate it when she felt (or saw) the bruises ringing her throat. For a moment Alec considered getting something similar for himself; in the end he couldn’t justify the comfort. He’d earned his pain, and he meant to live with it. “Alright, Alec, can the strong-man act and buy a tube of aspirin,” he said out loud – thankfully the only other person in the service station at 4:45 am was the attendant, hunched yawning beside his cash register. Alec assumed, from the bored-stupid look on the kid’s face, that either a lot of people passing through at this hour were in the habit of talking to themselves, or the pimply punk simply didn’t give a shit. He slipped a tube of Excedrin into his coat pocket because he had no place else to put it, then approached the register. “That all?” the surly cash register kid asked. “Yup. I’ll pay at the pump for the gas.” Alec gestured out the window vaguely and the kid stared at him with round eyes like a jaundiced fish. “Yes,” Alec repeated slowly. “That… is… all.” “Uh. Okay.” The kid rang up the goods without further comment and bagged the items without asking or being asked to do so. “Mother’ll be so proud of you.” “Huh?” Alec took the bag and his change. He’d paid with a twenty from his own wallet rather than using Stephanie’s credit card. “I said ‘mañana, proboscis’ and ‘thank you.’” “Oh. Uh. You’re welcome. Have a nice night,” replied the boy, looking baffled. Alec shook his head and took his leave. “Really now,” he scolded himself as he walked back to the Golf and threw the bag into the passenger seat. “And you’ve actually had the gall to ask yourself why you don’t have any friends?” He turned the car on after checking on Stephanie, who was still out cold. He began to wonder if it was alright that she hadn’t woken yet, though he doubted she’d like it if he forced her awake; he resolved to let things run their course. After driving up to pump eleven, Alec found the gas cap release and sated himself with a long chug of coffee, which burnt his mouth and caused him to bang his elbow against the side of the car repeatedly whilst holding a protective hand over his steaming mouth and squinting at the world through streaming eyes. When he had managed to recover the tattered scraps of his dignity, he got out of the car, slammed the door, and used Stephanie’s credit card to fill up her little buggy. Alec had his equilibrium back by the time the gas tank was full. Just to be courteous, he printed a receipt, wrapped it round the credit card, and stowed it in his pocket for safekeeping. It was time to move on, and so he ran a mental checklist: Check directions. Look at map. Orient self. Double-check directions. Curse internet map services for all their stupid misinformation. He got back on the highway without mishap and drove in silence for the better part of an hour while one hand occasionally dipped into the bag of corn chips or poured coffee down his parched throat. Using the cruise control, Alec found a flat and straight stretch of highway where he could steer with his knees while unwrapping his stolen tube of painkillers in order to pop a pair of tablets into his mouth. He felt better already as he washed them down with the last of his black coffee. Keeping the cruise on, he let the car breeze along at seventy miles per hour and thought about the myrid thousands of tiny things that could have gone wrong with The Plan to Abduct Stephanie, and how they hadn’t gone wrong. Nothing had gone wrong at all. Amazing, really. A groan came from the back, startling Alec from his reverie. He tapped the brake and took control of the car, scanning the medians, both inner and outer, for traffic patrols. He reset the cruise control at 66mph. “You awake?” he asked. “No thanks to you. Jerk. Any rest stops coming up? I really have to pee.” “You don’t want to use a rest stop. How does McDonald’s sound to you?” “Breakfast? Like heaven. I’m all for it, after I go pee.” “I get it, I get it,” Alec put on the turn signal and followed the exit signs to the nearest McDonald’s, the bright golden arches beckoning. It was the Classic version, glowing like a forgotten fast-food fable amidst a deserted field of decorative paving and metallic picnic tables with shiny metallic umbrellas shielding them from the dew and moonlight. “Not exactly how I envisioned our first date, Alec,” Stephanie said, scolding but teasing at the same time. “Sorry, but this was your idea, dear,” Alec reminded her. He slid the Golf into the nearest parking space and got out in a hurry, opening the hatch and offering Stephanie his hand. She took it and pulled herself out, wincing as her stockinged foot met the winter-cold pavement. “Where, oh where, is my left loafer? Or do I not want to know…?” “Don’t ask if you don’t want to know. Here… not elegant, but better than nothing,” Alec said, leaning against the car and pulling off the knee-high rubber waders he’d donned over his hiking boots before going garbage-wading a few short hours ago. “Better than nothing,” agreed Stephanie. She took off her second green loafer and flung it into the nearest trash can; she did not complain about the galoshes, but peered up at Alec with intense interest. “You’re way cuter in person, Alec Warden,” she posited. “And you’re just beautiful, Stephanie Hughes,” he replied, smiling and wishing he didn’t have the incurable habit of blushing bright red under praise and suspicion alike. “Oh, um – your neck,” he remembered, shrugging off his coat while Stephanie prodded the tender bruises with her fingertips. “Ouchie,” she sighed. “It looked real, then, didn’t it?” “Very real. I had to choke you half to death to get you to stop squirming. Here, take this,” Alec demanded, holding out the furry black sweater he’d just removed. He shivered in his tee shirt and hurriedly yanked his coat back on. “Thanks. And they say chivalry’s dead,” Stephanie said, smiling as she accepted the sweatshirt gratefully and pulled it on over her white blouse. She replaced her corduroy coat over it and examined herself and the new ensemble. “The same people probably wouldn’t have imagined us taking off our clothes on the first date,” Alec replied. “Do I detect sarcasm?” “Oh yes. And just so you know, you look utterly adorable.” “Utterly ridiculous, you mean,” she said, tucking the legs of her pants into the rubber galoshes. “Nope. Not even,” said Alec honestly. “Oh, now you want me to blush, is that it?” She eyed him with false fury. “Got it in one. Yup,” Alec confirmed, grinning. “I shall not oblige, sir; you may buy me breakfast,” she said, bobbing in the galoshes like a drowning swan. Alec offered his arm. Stephanie took it. The partners in crime descended on the doomed fast-food restaurant.