Chapter Twenty-Six: Never-ending Night
nobis, cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dormienda.
For us when once sets the brief light,
one perpetual night must be slept.
The incident at Baydacious was all over the news. An armed intruder had been killed as well as an employee of that establishment. Tons of police and emergency crews and at least one helicopter were at the scene. Damage control for Alan would be keeping him busy. He would at the very least have to find a replacement for Rudi. Sari and I agreed that his reprieve wasn’t a ruse to catch us off guard and that it would be safe to stay at my place one night instead of at a hotel.
But I was having second thoughts if I was going to join them or not in their run from Alan, their retreat to this Airbnb. As far as Rayne went I seemed to be persona non grata. Everything seemed to have fallen apart between us. Would they even want me with them?
Alan had sworn he’d go after them though and he must have some kind of tracking device on Sari’s car. I didn’t doubt he’d find them one way or another. I felt protective of them and if they wanted me with them I felt I should go.
I also considered that staying behind, alone at my place, might be dangerous. Alan might try to use me as leverage against them if they disappeared, might hold me captive, torture me, or just have me shot on my way to get bagels or run off the rode while biking just as a warning to them. It might be preferable to go with the girls. By morning I’d have my answer.
We pulled up to my place around ten o’clock. When we got out of the car we watched a group of loud laughing couples walking up the street, probably to the Hairpin. My neighbors’ houses were closed up and sedate as usual. You only knew anybody inhabited them because of the humming air conditioner units. Inside my house, it was as we left it, and a quick check confirmed no hidden assassins or other nuts pointing guns at us. Sari did her thing with the chairs leaned against the doors as alarms.
The girls went upstairs and I heard one of the showers start running. I poked around the kitchen, looked for something to chew on from the fridge, found a cold bottle of water to drink. The shower turned off and footsteps went into a bedroom. I headed upstairs, found my bedroom door shut and locked, so I headed into the shower without a change of clothes. I winced getting undressed because the shirt clung to my wound where the girl had bitten me. I examined the injury. It was a walnut sized perforation, purplish red, a viable imprint of her teeth. She’d broken the skin and where her lower teeth had chomped in, there was a slight incision where the skin flapped. I got into the shower and gritted my teeth as the hot stream beat upon the wound. It stung like hell. I soaped it, oversoaped it, made sure suds got in the wound. Messing around with it made it start bleeding again so I pressed a washcloth against it. What kind of diseases could I get from a bite? Were human bites like dog bites? It pissed me off that she did that and made me glad I punched her in the head. I finished showering, got out and poured some searing alcohol on the wound and taped a wad of gauze over it.
Wearing only a towel I stood at my bedroom door. It was locked from the inside with a simple push button. In case the door got locked accidentally I’d always kept a nail on the trim above the door which could be inserted in the hole on the door knob to unlock it. When I opened the door the room was dark. Light from the hallway revealed the curves of Rayne under the sheets in bed. She was sound asleep. I got some clothes and left the room to get dressed. I knew Sari was in her room and considered going to her, wondered if she expected me to, but that was insane, I had to have some self control.
No, I was going to amp up the cerebral side of my brain, put to use the supposed cognitive enhancing properties of this drug. I went downstairs and schlepped into my study, the threshold of which I had barely breached that summer. It was a place of work and so far I hadn’t had the time or summoned the energy to do more than stare at some Melville on the couch. My Leuschner research waited for me in there as did any school work I told myself I should do but never did. Normally to enter the room and face these things was to pass through a membrane of demotivation, but to hide in there that night might be a solace, an escape from the two sisters I both yearned after but from whose wrath and scheming I needed a break. At the same time the Craving was becoming more pronounced and my dick started to take over where my brain should have been. Their presence up there was sirenic, I couldn’t stop thinking about having sex with them. I had to summon every bit of moral sense that remained to remember how fucked up the whole situation was, how they were sisters, the one betrayed by the other and by me.
I sat at my desk, actually just a folding table I bought years ago at Kmart, and looked for something that could keep me occupied and my mind off sex. There were books sprouting bookmarks and Post-it notes of various colors, the titles mostly by or on Nietzsche and nineteenth-century German poets and philosophers. Yes, I’d go over my notes on Leuschner, confirm some dates, test my hypothesis. I’d have an intellectually fulfilling night probing the subtleties of nineteenth-century poets and philosophers, surmise connections between them.
The smoothness of Sari’s hips when I held them. The way Rayne’s hair fell in my face while making love. When Sari became aroused and her upper lip tightened and her mouth went askew, her voice deepened. Rayne’s legs, her feet in the air, bouncing slightly as we screwed. That time in Sari’s room at the Hairpin, those feminine bathing scents like greenhouse flowers, her bodily heat the first time we kissed.
The books weren’t working. How the hell was I going to make it through the night? I wasn’t tired, had increased energy in fact. I should go out, walk around town. Didn’t have a light for my bike so I couldn’t ride around. Yes, town perambulation, some fresh air would do me good.
I dismantled Sari’s leaning chair alarm, went out the front door as quietly as possible and locked up behind me. I scanned the area for any lurking people or suspicious cars but there was nothing. I walked down my sidewalk without making a sound, stopped and checked the street both ways again. Not even the sound of a car. It was dead. What day was it? I had no idea and hadn’t the patience to work through a mental calendar to figure it out. I’d lost all track of days; all normal rhythms were off.
I stood there facing the street, the blackened moonless bay across from it. It was humid outside, a thickness to the fishy bay air. So keyed up was my body that I got a peculiar sensual pleasure relishing the scents around my head, the temperatures moving across my skin, the lapping of lazy waves down at the water, the ubiquitous insect hum. A big wide world went on around me and it was mine to enjoy. Pangs of the Ubermensch were coming back as if he had been merely forgotten and needed to be jump-started by the right atmosphere. I realized I was standing where so many days ago, after I had first taken the drug, visions of Zarathustra enthralled me and the girls found me in that same spot having some kind of communion with the Eternally Recurring evening sky. I wasn’t lost in that sense of universality, but anxieties were evaporating, the Baydacious mayhem somehow out of mind. I was feeling good. Maybe the Craving, the horniness could be transferred. I was still horny, but felt I could easily be distracted by a brisk walk.
I took off toward the Hairpin, slowed by a bit of a limp because of my tender balls and some other bruises. I worked the discomfort into a relaxed swagger, swatted at a gnat or mosquito and emerged into the brighter lights that illuminated the Hairpin and its eponymous curve. A film of sweat had formed at my hairline. More humid than I thought.
Not many people were coming and going at the restaurant. The front door was propped open and that might have been Jerry I saw inside. I wasn’t afraid of him--after what I had been through I wasn’t scared of his kind--but wasn’t going to push my luck by going in for a beer. I decided to explore the little park area across the street where poles held torpid flags of military branches.
I went to where a plaque limned the veterans honored there as well the local benefactors that made this shrine possible. I stood watching the activity of Fowl’s Point Proper across the canal when I sensed a figure approach to my rear. I had a moment of instinctive panic, but turned casually to find a woman pretending to check out the same scenery l was. She had her armed folded in front of her, didn’t seemed like she had weapons or was otherwise a threat. I thought she might have come from exercising because she wore a tank top and some dark tights that blurred her lower half in the shadows where we stood. Her hair was dark too, and so were her eyes, which were close together and had a thoughtful crinkling where her brows met. Her nose had a bit of a hook to it, and her lips were tightened slightly, like they were formed into a permanent smirk, holding back her disdain for the world--or was it directed toward me?
I said to her, “Pretty humid out tonight.”
I returned my gaze to the other side of town.
She said, “Were you ever in the service?”
Did she think I was standing there as a kind of reverence?
“No, I’m a teacher.” As if that explained anything.
“Oh really, what do you teach?”
She was silent. That’s usually how that conversation goes. It’s as if my interloculator suddenly realizes that what had seemed an avenue of discourse, was in fact not. What’s more boring than a history teacher?
She stepped forward next to me. Maybe I caught a scent, a subconscious signal, but the primate in me was sizing her up as a sexual partner, a female available for mating. The Craving had been lurking, only temporarily distracted and now came out dick first. I could feel my blood flow, my breath slightly labored. Not the worst looking woman, something tough about her, not dykey, but more like she was raised in a tough neighborhood. Maybe a South Philly girl, of similar origin as Jerry.
She was looking forward at the lights and people across the water, “Was it you that made the call?”
“About my husband, Jerry.”
It was Jerry’s wife, the one I called when I dropped the dime on his infidelities. Recalling it, I couldn't believe I actually did that. How bizarre. It was coming back to me: she had some kind of position up at the army base? Air force?
“No, it wasn't me.”
She didn't believe me, “It wasn't like I didn't know. He's always chased blondes. Don't know why he married me.” She laughed a little, “I must remind him of his mom or something.”
I looked back at The Hairpin and there was Jerry at the door, watching us. He must have pointed me out to her. This was getting weird. Seriously awkward. What did she want? I stayed silent, but felt an eruption of sweat at my hairline and running down my side from my armpits.
She shook her head at what was going through it, stepped closer to me to confront me, to speak without being overheard, “Did you really think you had to call me to get blondie? Is that what it’s about?” Now those round dark eyes of hers looked into mine, filled with tears, a stream broke out and ran down her left cheek, her mouth went tighter. The words were hard to get out, “Humiliate me?”
She cried, “Are you happy now? Are you going to tell her? Laugh about Jerry’s dumb wife?”
She wiped the tears from her face and turned and walked quickly back to the Hairpin. Jerry was there on its little front porch watching us. When she got to him, he put a hand on her shoulder, but she just kept walking. Jerry turned to look at me but I couldn’t see his face clearly enough to know what he was thinking. He went in and I turned to walk home. All energy had drained out of me. I didn’t like one thing about myself or what I’d done. I didn’t like my mind, what the drug made me like. All the illusions it filled me with.
I got home, entered like a mouse, and fell onto the couch. I thought I might turn on the TV, open Melville, keep myself busy, but the day was done. I’d been up for days it seemed, certainly longer than I’d ever been awake in my entire life. I conked out with my shoes on.
Loneliness and abandonment were twin demons that haunted me, the curses against which I fought. Ride alone, never with a crew, don’t go to the holiday teacher parties, decline wedding invitations so you don’t have to show without a date. You can’t be abandoned if you’re already alone.
Cliff, you’re a good guy, my foster dad used to say. Were they just words? What did he mean?
In my dream I left that house I grew up in to ride far away, spent hours propelling myself forward, leaving it all behind. I found myself winding through a town like Fowl’s Point but it was unrecognizable and I took comfort in the fact that everything was strange, all the people were unfriendly and ignoring me. I had fun negotiating its hills that always came back to the water. Across the water an island was visible and I thought maybe that would be a place to go someday.
I ended up at a building next to a graveyard, conscious that I must avert my eyes from the names on its tombstones. Standing at the door there, straddling my bike, I’m trying to get the door to open using my fob--like the one I use to get into the high school every morning. It’s not working. But wait, I tell myself, it’s summer, you don’t have to go in there. What am I thinking? But still I try, I back away from the door and look at a thin dark window floors up, look around for a small stone or anything I could throw up to the window and get somebody’s attention. Let me in! It’s imperative I get in. The sense is that I am escaping things worse than the first day back to school. The voice of reason tells me to enjoy my summer, ride some more, explore the town. I look around and see the island. Yes, I’ll go to the island, the island where nobody will find me, where this nightmare can end.
A sound upstairs woke me. Bright morning light coming in around the edges of the shades. At some point I had taken my shoes off and found a blanket to pull over me. I saw the chair leaning against the door and remembered last night. Jerry’s wife. Then the whole living nightmare that was my life rushed over me. What has happened to me? We are criminals and they’re going to catch us. Sari is a mad woman. Rayne hates me and has had her life ruined. People are dead.
I couldn’t even move, I just wanted to melt away into nothingness there on the couch. Have to get out of here, ride somewhere far like in my dream, maybe never come back. Yes, that’s what I’ll do: get the fuck out of here for good. I managed to sit up, pressed my forehead into the palms of my hands. Stand up Cliff, put on your bike shoes and get out of here. But first I had to piss.
I crept up the stairs in my socks taking the steps two at a time. All the doors were shut again. I opened the bathroom door and stepped in, stood at the toilet and peed. I flushed, turned to the sink and saw a figure behind the textured glass of the shower door. Was Rayne hiding in the shower again? I opened the door and it was Rayne, but a malformed and miscolored version because she had hanged herself from the shower pipe with a rope, her face a swollen purple mass with broken blood vessels around her eyes, tongue bulging out like she was making a gag me face. Her horrified eyes stared off to the side as if even in death she could not face me.
The bathroom reverberated with my screaming, “Sari! Sari!”
Sari came bursting out of her room like she knew what had happened. She pushed past me and was all over Rayne. She yelled to me, “Pick her up!”
It hadn’t occurred to me that she might not be dead. I got in the shower, bent and put an arm around her torso and lifted her dead weight. Her hands made fists, her arms were cold, stiff. One of them banged against the side of the shower. Sari was working on getting the rope untied from her neck. The rope. It was the same clothesline we had used to tie up Kyle. Where had it gone since then?
Sari was saying her name quietly, “Rayne, Rayne, Rayne…” Then she said something about getting a knife to cut the rope.
Sari ran out and it got absolutely silent. Alone I held the cold lifeless body of Rayne. My mind went blank. I stared at the mold forming in the caulk at the shower seam. Hadn’t cleaned that shower in a year.
Sari was back and sliced the rope. “Bring her out here.” I put Rayne down in the hall and rested her head back gently on the wooden floor and our eyes met briefly. I felt faint and stood against the wall telling myself I would never look at a face like that again.
I didn’t watch as Sari tried to revive her. I stood near the top of the stairs as Sari cried more when she saw there was no hope. Out of the corner of my eye I saw she had collapsed over the body of her sister. She started wailing, screaming, until she was breathless and choking. I stepped down one step, then another. Staggered down a few more. Sari’s howl filled the hallway behind me. Rayne was dead.
Next Chapter: Departures