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RB – The crowd bustled as it stood in the long formation of a line up just outside the Hub night club. Saturday nights were always best and the cold eyed looks from the Tongan bouncers gave those that lined up hopefully a sense of impatience. Tapping his foot, Rory looked down at his watch. Jacinta was late….again. It was her idea to meet the gang at the club, and the young office clerk wondered if she had been kept back again by her power driven boss – Mister Hinkley. Reaching into his jean pocket, Rory fished out his cell and checked the messages again. Still – nothing from her. ~Dammit, where could she be?~ he thought to himself. There was still about ten people in front of him, and at least fifty in behind. Cursing softly, he tapped in a message on his key pad and then hit send. At this rate, he wouldn’t get in till well after midnight.
“Will that be all now, Mister Hinkley?”
Jacinta was standing in the door way of her boss’s office, chewing her bottom lip and hopeful that the presentations she had prepared were enough to suffice. She had spent a good four hours on them, but she knew that there was no way that Hinkley would give her any credit. The bespectacled manager scanned the series of documents from the brown folder, and finally gave a slow nod. At least he wasn’t yelling.
“I think that should do it, Miss Lloyd. You are free to go.”
If Jacinta could have she would have done a fist pump, but she knew that would be totally out of order. Instead she offered a weak smile and turned on the ball of her right foot to scoot back down to her cubicle and grab her things. ~I am so late.~ Her mind was racing, wondering if Rory was still down at the club waiting. It was his birthday after all. There was a brightly wrapped box on the desk that was in between two piles of papers and Jacinta haphazardly reached for it, stuffing it into her attaché case. Rory was a sci-fi nut, and she had gotten him a special edition copy of some old Star Trek movie. It was not her scene at all, but he went on endlessly about his love of Kirk.
The sound of the cleaners moving their floor sweepers through the building signaled just how late she was. Cursing under her breath, Jacinta switched off her computer and snatched up her bag. The sound of her heels, clacking quickly down the corridor to the lift would barely be heard over the steady hum of the carpet cleaners. The last anyone would have seen was the sight of Jacinta hurrying for the lift, as though her life depended on it.
Down on the street outside, there were few people about the foyer of Macquarie building. Jacinta stepped out onto the pavement and looked up and down the street for a cab. They didn’t often come down the business end of town this late at night. ~Christ~ Jacinta was going to have to leg it.
LP – Rory’s head turned back, checking behind him with more of a frequency now that the line in front of him had diminished from the ten people who used to be in front of him to the two or three (two) that stood there now. The attendant doling out tickets had clocked out and someone new had stepped in for her about five customers ago. The replacement seemed to be a bit more experienced, on the ball, organzied, and overall better equipped to handle the job than the previous person. It was better for business, thought Rory, more economical. It was probably more efficient – again, better for business, he thought as he kept looking around (Where was Jacinta?). But, at this very moment, he wished that the other person was sitting behind the window – the more inept, less efficient, person. The dolt. The person who would give him just that much more time to wait for her.
“You too, huh?”
Rory’s head completed the half circle this time upon hearing the voice. The short girl behind him in line stared up at him for a reaction. At the quick glance at her he noticed only the smooth pale of her face’s white skin, several freckles, and the wry curve of her peach lips. From what his periphery gave him, she wore black. Had she been there the whole time?
“Sorry?” he said.
“I said, ‘you too,’ as in ‘did you also get stood up too?’ I figured the abbreviated version would be enough. Not that I want to pry or anything,” she said. Her voice, as he heard it, was somehow as smooth as her skin. She looked back at her toes as she finished.
Rory glanced down as well, hoping to bounce down to where she was looking and back in the time that her eyes came back up to his. Black. Boots, leggings, skirt – all black.
“And there’s no need to be sorry, either. We’re both here waiting for someone else, aren’t we? Someone who, let’s face it, probably isn’t going to show up.” She snorted in a chuckle. She looked back at him, a pearly smile widening. “Ironic isn’t it? At least it’s not your birthday.”
The comment itself was innocent enough. But how beautifully it matched her. Could the purity of her sarcasm have been better on anyone else at any other moment?
“Umm,” he began. She turned to him. Those eyes again. What was going on with those things? They had him. But his mind snapped back to Jacinta, and how she wasn’t there. He looked at the girl with complete focus. “Actually, it is my birthday.”
“Really?” She said, the hook of her wry smile snapping to its zenith. “Mine too.
RB – The sounds of police sirens filled the night air. Jacinta was practically jogging, which in her heels wasn’t such a good idea. Hell, if only she’d worn her pumps. Her brunette hair bounced upon her shoulders, her eyes widening as a car sped past her and happened to drive right through a puddle. The oncoming wave was unavoidable. ~Kasplash~ Jacinta threw up her hands and let out a growl of indignation. This just wasn’t her night. The young secretary rolled her eyes, and gave her left foot a wiggle to shake off the excess water. She’d been planning this night for weeks and had made arrangements for their friends to meet them inside. Her silk stockings now clung to her legs like a second skin, and the cold air nipped at her. At this rate she was going to catch a cold.
Jacinta pursed her lips and then with a renewed sense of determination, she started off again. The club must have been six blocks away, so if she picked up her pace, she should make it in twenty minutes. Give or take.
As Jacinta crossed the next street when the walk sign turned green, a dark shadow came out from one of the adjoining streets. The glow of a cigarette the only visible sign of light other than the street lamps. Smoke wafted lazily about the man’s head; as unseen eyes followed the trail of the young woman. It wasn’t safe to be out alone on a night like this. High above the clouds parted to reveal a full moon. Slowly, the man reached up for the cigarette that was clenched between his teeth and withdrew it slowly. His fingers parted slightly, to allow the cigarette to fall to the ground where he simply left it. Not even bothering to stamp it out. Head bowed, the man pulled his hoody up over his head and started off after Jacinta – at a slower pace.
One says that we all have a sixth sense. Intuition for when things aren’t quite right. This would be the case with Jacinta. Though the noises of the city streets were now a meld of cars, sirens and exhaust vents, she managed to hear the sound of foot falls coming in from behind her. Ashen faced, Jacinta had to stop herself from looking back. Surely it was just another late office worker, like her. But curiosity got the better, and when she glanced back over her shoulder, she could just make out the outline of a tall man, wearing hoody and torn jeans. She couldn’t see his face, but there was something in his left hand. The flash of a silver blade.
~FUCK!~ Her mind screamed, yet no words escaped her lips. Survival instincts kicked in, and Jacinta broke into a run.
LP – The bass from the inside of the club massaged both Rory and his new friend as they dipped past the ticket window and the statued muscles of the Tongan night guard and approached the main floor. He had put to the back of his mind the thought that he had bought her ticket and offered her the first drink of the night. It was a friendly gesture, the thought. Besides, his real date had stood him up, at least that’s what made the most sense. The more he talked to the girl who was in line with him, the more he wanted to feel like having a date for the night. It was a chilly evening after all..
“And it is our birthday.” Perhaps it was the way she said it. The way her her cinnamon eyebrows hovered playfully over the green opals of her skin. There was something about her. Why not? He thought. It was just one drink. When Jacinta shows up, he would just tell her that he was making small talk with someone while he was waiting. Could she really be that upset?
Duster was the featured band of the night and it explained why the Hub was as packed as it was.
As they entered, a spot opened up at the small silver corner table right by the entrance. The girl stepped right in and pulled Rory’s arm over as if to show she was marking their territory.
“How’s this?” she asked.
“Great” he said, feeling a comforting jolt of the sudden grasp of her hand on his. “Okay, I’ll head over to the bar. What’s it gonna – “
“What?” She yelled up at him, cupping her ears. The booming numbness of the band on stage, some no-name cover for the main event, scratched at the audible ambiance. It grated on the ears and it was natural that she couldn’t hear him.
Rory started over, decibels louder, with gestures. “I said, I’m going to the bar. What’s it going to be?” He made tilting wrist motion – the universal sign for alcohol, or ‘I need to drink.’
“Vodka,” she mouthed with a wide grin, mimicking his tilted wrist gesture.
Rory smiled back, comfortable, and turned to wedge his way through the crowd of dark-colored tops, tinted shades, gelled hair, and bling. He waited behind a couple of bodies for a few minutes before moving into ordering position.
“Vodka and a Long Island,” he told the bartender, a veteran with a tone build and clothing with tones low enough to match the club walls and the night beyond.
“You with her?” the bartender’s voice coughed as he readied two glasses with several crushes of ice.
Rory tapped a bit on the wood of the bar top and looked around. The bartender couldn’t have been talking with him. With all they have to keep track of, he was probably answering a question from –
Rory looked back to an icy bold look from the bartender. The man’s strong peppered beard more prominent than Rory had noticed.
Rory leaned in, giving focus now to the man behind the bar.
“I said, are you with her?” He made a quick point of his finger and then picked up a white rag and washed his work area.
Rory followed the quick gesture of the bar man back to the girl he came in with. Her head was cocked to the side, and her smile was locked on him. She brought a hand up and made a tilting motion.
‘How ‘bout that drink?’ she motioned.
RB – These heels were not meant for running in with the pavement doing untold damage. But what was a pair of heels worth, when you were being chased? Terror gripped Jacinta’s heart as she tried to weave her way down the pavement. Arms pumping violently as she surged forward with her hair flying about her face. Jacinta had never run this fast in her life, not even in middle school. What would her gym teacher say? It was amazing however the affect of adrenalin, when you thought your life was in danger. The hooded man was closing in on her. Why her? Why tonight? Where were the damn cops when you needed them? Sure, she could hear the sirens, but they could have been a thousand miles from where she was running. Without stopping, she bolted across a busy intersection. A car horn blared while the screeching sounds of tyres breaking would give others in the vicinity cause to look. One midnight blue sedan barely missed her – swerving just shy of her. Jacinta turned her head back to see if the man was still on her tail, and this is when she got the shock of her life. This man….this hooded assailant, leapt over the car bonnet. Like something out of a movie. Springing forward; with all the agility of a wolf.
A scream of terror tore from her lips as she snapped her head back around and continued on running. She had to lose him, but how? As the terrified young woman passed another street, she saw the entrance to an alley. Darting down and across the street, she hurried in to a place where the street lights had little effect. The darkness would be her camouflage. A large industrial bin was to the right side and Jacinta ducked in behind it. Her heart was beating so fast that she thought she might have a heart attack. She placed her hand up on it, whilst gasping for air. Her lungs felt like they were set to explode.
~Please, please go away~ Jacinta rocked back and forth, listening out for the sound of his oncoming footsteps. Her lips parted with a single line of saliva hanging from her bottom lip. This was not the way the night was supposed to have been. Had it not been for her boss insisting she stay back to finish those damned presentations, she would be at the Hub – probably on her third drink. Jacinta squinted her eyes tightly, bowing her head. A single tear escaping from between her eyelashes and trickling down her cheek.
It was at this very moment that her cell phone buzzed.
Jacinta froze – her bag vibrating with the annoying tune of Gangnam style amplified on the small speaker. Jacinta dug about in her bag to try and make it stop, with her fingers fumbling about inside it. Jacinta carried so much junk about in her bag, things that she hardly ever used. It was hard to find her phone through it all.
Out of the corner of her eye however, she could see the shadow….approaching her. A cold shiver ran down her back. Was this it? Her fingers curled around a small tin of deodorant, and she slowly withdrew her hand.
LP – After the standard seven rings, Jacinta’s voicemail picked up. He sighed. “C’mon, c’mon. Where the fuck are you?” he muttered to himself while the robot recording played through. They had only been together for coming up on a month and he still hadn’t told her how much it pissed him off when people couldn’t take the easy three mintues to change their voicemail.
“Hey, J, it’s me,” Rory began, chuckling, “like you expected anyone else, right? Look, I’m already inside. I mean, I know you probably got held up by the Hink or whatever. Whatever. He’s a dick. Anyway, call me when you’re close, or…whatever, just come inside. We’re right by the…I’m inside by the door.” He clicked the phone off and dropped it back in his pocket. He almost let it out – his co-birthday, his order of Vodka, his cinnamon. The way it was looking, Jacinta wasn’t coming anyway. If she did, he would figure it out; ‘this is my friend’ he would say, someone who was there letting him share the table, ‘But moving on, where the hell were you?!’
Yeah, that would work.
He headed back toward the entrance way of the Hub, flashing the blur of blue ink on his wrist to the Tongans as he did. ‘Three fucking minutes,’ he thought.
There was a minor fear that she wouldn’t be there when he walked in. But that fear dissipated as soon as he popped his head around the corner. Her small form still sat there at the silver table, fingers interlaced around the clear and plain tumbler and her drink. Her eyes grabbed him in the dimness and the vibrant sounds from the stage. They were a hideous pounding, but he was too drunk to care, and not from the alcohol.
Kim was her name, or as she liked it, Kimmie. God, did that fit perfectly.
“Still cold outside?” she asked taking another sip of the vodka. She had made some progress since he had been away from the table.
“Not too bad,” Rory responded, taking his seat. Was his chair a bit closer to her?
She looked at him with a mild squint, almost trying to see behind his eyes. “Really?” she said.
“‘Cold outside?’ You’ve never heard that one?” She scanned his face before shrugging it off and going back to her tumbler. “It means ‘did your date come?’ But I guess if I have time enough to explain it and you’re sitting here alone listening to me give you the explanation, then I guess it means that yeah, it’s still pretty cold outside.”
“Oh, right. Well, she probably got stuck at the office or something.”
She shook her head and mumbled something before knocking her head back and downing the last of her drink. “AAhhhh.” She let out a refreshing release from her drink and slammed the tumbler on the hard surface.
“Did you say something?
She smirked looking at her glass and then turned to him. “Yes, actually, I did. I said that I was probably going to be stuck here again on my birthday with another boring life sob story about whatever blah blah excuse why people can’t be happy or why the other person in their lives isn’t better in this way, that way, or the other.”
Rory’s glass was at his lips when he heard this. He lowered his glass to give him space to explain himself. “Whoa, wait, I wasn’t -”
“Just hang on a bit,” she started. “Happened on my birthday last year too; met some good-lookin’ guy, went to a bar, got drinks, and he bored the fuck out me and ended up talking with the bartender the whole night. I walked home,” she said. “Ha! The shit I get myself into.”
“No no, hang on a second,” Rory started. Where it would go, he didn’t know, but he had to figure something out. Jacinta wasn’t there, and if it wasn’t going to be her, he might as well enjoy his birthday. “I don’t even like the bartender,” he closed. It was the best he could do. He actually thought it was pretty good. He had only talked to the bartender once that night, and after the guy told Rory to watch out for this girl, he didn’t care if he talked to him again.
She snorted and looked over at him. She nodded in small bobs. “Good one,” she said. “Well, then how about another drink?”
“Haven’t even touched mine yet,” he said bringing his Long Island to his lips. “As soon as J gets here though, I think you might like her.” It was more of a hope and he knew it. No, the truth was it was bullshit. He wasn’t sure how he would get out of it now. But with Cinnamon Kim at his side, he was starting to feel pretty good.
He took a long sip and set the drink down. “Let me just get this in me and we can go from there.”
“Alrighty,” she said, blurring in front of him. The vision of the inside of the Hub zoomed in and out. The walls changed faded and grew into new colors. He looked at her again. Her form was fully blurred and, with a crash, Rory’s eyes somehow found the ceiling.
From the floor, a tall form filled his blurred vision and stood above him. The figure crouched and Rory’s eyes closed.
“I thought I told you about her,” said the bartender.
RB – A slurred voice came out of the darkness, one that made absolutely no sense. It was enough for Jacinta however to act. She pointed the small aerosol can of deodorant towards the approaching man and pressed the nozzle down hard. “Arrrrggh…what are you…doing?” The man stumbled backwards awkwardly, his hands up to his face as the deodorant stung his eyes. “Trying to blind me!?” Seeing the man now, Jacinta realized it was not the same man that had been chasing her, but some homeless man wearing a torn coat and worn out shoes. His hair was matted and sticking out like straw from beneath a fishing hat. Feeling a surge of courage that came from God knows where, Jacinta launched herself at the stunned and blinded drunk – knocking him back so he would fall hard onto his ass.
“Bitch…I was trying to help!” The gurgled reply came up from the man who was now down on the ground and reaching up for her. The poor girl was so frightened that she refused to take his hand, but instead gave him a hefty kick in the side, enough to have him howl in protest. The homeless drunk curled up in pain and groaned loudly, with Jacinta leaping over him and then taking off back to the main street. By the time she reached the first lamp post, she was breathing raggedly, her eyes darting up and down the street. The man she attacked was not the same one that had chased her down. Surely he had to still be in the area. Not willing to chance another encounter, Jacinta took flight in the direction of the Hub. It was only two blocks away and at the speed she was going, Jacinta would be there in a matter of minutes.
But what had happened to the hooded man?
The homeless man rolled over till he was on all fours, blooded drool dripping on to the pavement. He coughed loudly, swearing and cursing at the girl’s antics. His eyes were stinging from the deodorant and he blinked rapidly – causing his eyes to water. With a gloved hand he wiped one of his eyes. “Damn bitch…” he croaked, trying to get up to standing. Suddenly, he felt the grip of a man’s hand upon his head. Gasping the drunk floundered as a silver blade was brought to his throat.
He’d been pulled back up onto his knees by his assailant. The drunk couldn’t see behind him to recognize what was to be his killer. Helpless eyes stared forward in horror while the blade was slashed across his throat. Blood spewing out and down over his already stained shirt. The drunk clawed out at the air in front of him, but already his lungs were filling with blood. Drowning; on dry land.
The hooded man released his hold on his victim, who crashed forward into a puddle of his own blood. The body twitched violently like a flailing fish on land before succumbing finally to death. What a horrible way to die. Alone…His body would of course be found later. Probably by the city council refuse service, or perhaps some down and out prostitute.
The killer brought the blade up to his lips and licked at the blood as it dripped from the silver edge; a grin spreading across his face. The drunk was not his target. She had managed to get away…..this time.
Trevor the Tongan bouncer was standing with arms folded at the front entrance of the Hub, when a disheveled looking Jacinta raced up and reached for one of his arms.
“Trev…let me in. Please. I’ve been chased…six blocks and was almost mugged by a drunk.”
The bouncer sneered down at Jacinta, not recognizing her at first – mainly cause she looked terrible. “What chu talkin’ about, J? You late. Your boy is inside.” Trevor jerked his thumb towards the entrance of the Hub, then squinted at her, before wrinkling up his nose. “What’s that smell?” He sniffed.
Jacinta slapped both her hands to his chest and gripped his lapel. “Garbage.” She huffed. “Now let…me…in!”
Trevor shrugged and lifted the rope. Jacinta didn’t even thank him, but instead hurrying inside and running straight to the rest room. She almost knocked over a few of the girls in her rush. On getting inside, she slammed her bag on the wash counter and stared at her reflection. The girl staring back at her was barely recognizable. It would take another ten minutes of preening and cleaning herself up before she was presentable enough to face Rory. That was…if he was even still in the club.
Emerging from the girl’s room, Jacinta scanned the room for any sign of Rory. The place was packed, but she did happen to notice the barman crouching over someone. Curiosity got the better of her and she pushed her way through for a peek. When she got alongside the barman and looked down, she was shocked to see who it was.
“Rory?! What happened to you?”