I wrote this little story nearly four years ago for BLOOD LITE II: OVERBITE, the Horror Writers Association anthology. I was very pleased with the quality of all the stories, which are bite-sized tales perfect for when you only have 10-15 minutes to read. I’ll admit, I had a LOT of fun writing something dark and different with a (relatively) unhappy ending. The assignment was essentially to write a “light” horror story. At the time, I was writing the first of my seven deadly sins book and had been reading a lot about demons and possession, so the idea came to me pretty easy. I don’t know how “light” it is, though, so be warned. And enjoy!
Her Lucky Day
Vi stared at the man lying naked on the floor and knew she’d screwed up big time. What was his name? Justin. Justin no-last-name because either he didn’t tell her or she forgot. When you screwed a different man for money every night, who the hell cared about their names?
Just pay me in cash, baby, and I’ll call you whatever you want.
But Justin wasn’t breathing and she feared he was dead, and nothing about dead was good. Especially when the dead body was sprawled on the plush white carpet of a five-star-hotel room in Century City under the name of Jaysen Enterprises, a company she did business with on a regular basis at a thousand a pop.
She’d only been having fun with the bastard. He wanted kink, she gave him kink. He didn’t care about her, he only came to satisfy his own cravings. So what if she wanted a little fun at his expense? He was a jerk, he’d bruised her flawless skin. No one put marks on her, thank you very much, she’d had enough of that shit from her bitch of a mother.
All she did was drop a little pill in his scotch and take some pictures for her retirement fund. Heidi Fleiss had nothing on Vi.
Her real name was Stephanie Violet Browning, but she worked under Vi Brown. She’d forgotten what it was like to be Stephanie. It was the name her mother used to scream at her before slapping her around. But Mommy Dearest was dead. (Was it wrong to celebrate her mother’s death? She still popped a bottle of champagne on the anniversary of Candace Browning’s accident with a tall building. It wasn’t like she’d pushed her or anything; the woman was drunk.)
Stephanie was the name her teachers used when they sent her to the office for whatever stupid rule she’d broken that day. And it was the name the high school vice principal used when he offered her the ultimatum that indirectly changed her life: get down on her knees and suck his dick or be expelled.
She chose expulsion.
So it was perhaps ironic that ten years later, at the age of twenty-five—old for a call girl—she was working the streets. Or, rather, the executive boardrooms and corporate five-star hotel suites that rose high above the streetwalkers who got their meager hundred on a good night getting down on their knees and giving head to a half dozen drunk pricks.
Vi hooked in style. And she would not let the dead Justin No-Last-Name ruin her life.
She didn’t panic. She’d never panicked a day in her life, even when she was seventeen and one of her johns nearly strangled her while he screwed her. The damage to her throat had been permanent, and now she could only speak in a low voice that she’d trained to sound sultry and seductive. Vi didn’t hate men, even after that no-name john–who’d only gotten ten years for attempted murder. Ten years for nearly killing her so he could get off. Vi hoped some big burly felon choked him all the way while using him as a bitch.
Vi looked around the plush room. She couldn’t exactly toss his body off the balcony. She was strong, but she couldn’t lift the big guy. And she knew enough about cops that they’d probably be able to figure out that he’d been dead before he went splat.
Leave him here. Walk out. That was a plan. She dressed quickly, pulling the shimmering blue dress over her head. Sexy, but not slutty. She could party in night clubs and not have the bouncer toss her for solicitation.
She slid on her spike shoes and hesitated. There was the matter of her prints in the hotel room—which sucked because she was in the damn system–and probably a hundred security cameras that recorded their ascent to the fourteenth floor. She could bribe the night manager, but that only went so far—she doubted murder would be on the hotel staff bribe list. Vi’d been arrested twice, no more than a couple hours in the pen, but that was enough time, thank you very much. She wasn’t going to do ten to twenty for involuntary manslaughter. And what if some high-and-mighty hypocritical judge decided to go all moral on her and push for more time?
There were her pictures—insurance—but that was her retirement money. She didn’t want to use them to stay out of jail. And she needed time to set up blackmail, time which she didn’t have now with the dead prick on the floor. She mentally went through her clients—there was a prosecutor in her book, and a defense lawyer. Maybe she could call one of them, show him the photos, tell him to help her or his life was over as he knew it.
In the time it took for her to put it all together, the cops would find the body, pull her prints, see her pic, and she’d be in lock-up in twenty-four hours. She could run, but for how long? She had money, but not enough to keep under deep cover. She didn’t have an alternate identity to walk into right this minute.
The door opened and Vi jumped up, heart pounding, certain it was hotel security or the cops. Instinct had her glancing around for an escape route, but common sense told her there was nothing she could do. She backed into a table and knocked over a vase. It landed with a soft thud on the plush carpet.
A woman entered. Not just a woman, but the most gorgeous woman Vi had ever seen. Vi didn’t swing that way—unless her clients paid her enough—but if she were going to go lesbo she’d do it with this chick. Golden hair—not blonde, not brown, but gold. Sultry blue eyes—big and almond shaped and they just sucked you in, you couldn’t look away. This woman knew make-up like nobody’s business. Her perfect face—her flawless skin—had been carved by a god. Vi was hot, but this woman was steaming.
Vi had never seen her before in her life. She should tell her to get the hell out of her room, but she suddenly couldn’t say anything.
“Hello, Stephanie,” the woman said.
A chill ran down Vi’s spine. “I don’t know you.”
“I know you.”
The stranger walked over—glided over—to dead Justin.
“You’re not a cop.”
The woman laughed and smiled down at Justin’s body almost like she was about to seduce him. Vi took another step backwards, thoroughly confused and feeling trapped. “It seems like you have a little problem here.”
Vi attempted a feeble lie, knowing as she said it that it was stupid. “I found him like this. I—“
She laughed again. “Oh, Stephanie. I know what happened. You can’t lie to me, but it’s sweet that you tried.”
“Don’t call me Stephanie!”
“’Vi’ is so . . . common. But I’m willing to compromise, since we’ll be friends for a long time. Violet is nice.”
Friends? This woman was on crack. Vi just wanted to get out of this room and disappear. “Who are you? How do you know me?”
“We don’t have much time. He’s nearly dead.”
Vi did a double take and stared at Justin. She shook her head. “He’s pushing up the daisies. Gone. No pulse.”
“His heart is slowing down, but still pumping blood through his body. He has three minutes, twenty-eight seconds—or so–left. You have two choices.”
Vi opened her mouth to ask how the hell she knew all that, but didn’t.
The woman said, “You can call an ambulance. They won’t arrive in time, and honestly, there’s no saving him. Even if they did resuscitate him, he’d never recover. If you had tried to resuscitate him ten minutes ago when he first collapsed, he might have had a shot. But you panicked.”
I don’t panic.
But maybe she had. Just for a minute. His collapsed had stunned her.
“You’ll have to talk to the police, probably tell them you don’t know what happened, he just had a heart attack or something, right? You’ll be arrest for solicitation, probably would have gotten off, but when they find the drugs in his glass and his bloodstream, they’ll look at you hard for murder two. Might be able to plea to a lesser charge, but you’ll be in jail for years. By the time you get out, you’ll be too old to do your job. And those pictures you’ve been saving for a rainy day? No one will care about them in twenty years.”
The woman could read her mind. That was the only explanation for how she knew what she knew. Or, maybe it was a set-up. Blackmail. The bitch had a camera in the room, had seen her spike Justin’s drink.
“What’s my other choice?” Vi didn’t trust the woman. She didn’t trust anyone.
“I’ll take care of everything.”
Now it was Vi’s turn to laugh, but her low, scratchy chuckle sounded more scared than humored. “Right. You’ll take care of the whole thing. How much?”
The woman laughed again. “I don’t care about money.” She wiggled her fingers in disgust. “That’s my brother who’s greedy.”
“Then what do you want? Nothing’s for free.”
The woman was dead serious. “You’re absolutely right. Nothing is for free. I will take care of this thing,” she waved her hand dismissively over the dying man, “and in exchange, I get your body.”
Vi blinked several times. “You want to screw?” Okay, to keep her out of prison she’d do whatever this woman wanted her to do. It wasn’t going to kill her. But why? Why was she helping her? She didn’t have to commit a murder to get laid. Vi was certain that there were plenty of bi-hookers who’d happily give this chick everything she wanted without a felony in the mix.
The woman laughed again, amused. The back and forth from high humor to seriousness disturbed Vi more than anything they’d discussed. She was chilled to her bones, an icy cold that wasn’t going away.
“Violet, what I propose is far better than screwing. I will give you such power over men that they will pay you anything to have sex. They will drain their bank accounts. They will sign over their houses. They will get on their knees and beg for you.”
Vi wondered if this golden-haired woman was moving in on Rachelle’s territory. Rach would be pissed off, but Vi liked the woman’s style. Well, she would have liked it except that she was pretty certain that this gorgeous, bizarre lady could–and would—slit her throat without hesitation.
But did Vi really have a choice? Did she really think she could walk away or take her chances with the criminal justice system? Just the thought of being behind bars terrified her. A day she could live with. Years. . . her chest tightened as panic, full panic, hit her.
“You have less than a minute. If he dies, I can’t help you. The second his heart stops pumping, I’m powerless.”
Vi didn’t know how the woman was going to save him, or save her, but she had nothing to lose.
“All right,” Vi said. “If you can clean up this mess, then I’m yours. Tell me what your name is.”
“You won’t be able to pronounce it,” she said. “But you can call me Violet.”
Before the statement sunk in, the woman dissolved right in front of Vi. She turned to . . . smoke. Dark, foul-smelling gaseous smoke that made Vi gag. She stepped back, one, two steps, tripped over a chair, and kept going until her back was up against the wall. This was not happening. She was hallucinating. Justin had drugged her. Ha ha, joke’s on her. She was tripping on LSD. That was it. None of this was happening, it was just a big scary figment of her imagination.
The stinky smoke wrapped itself around Justin’s dying body and disappeared. Whoosh. Gone.
Justin sat up and smiled at her. “Hello, Stephanie.”
Vi wished she had fainted. Just drop to the floor and forget everything. Wake up tomorrow in her own bed and believe that this was a nightmare. Bad trip, this one. Yes sir, bad trip. Go away. Wake up. Do something.
She breathed deeply, the smell still making her gag, but she needed to clear her head.
I’m losing my mind.
Oh, that cleared it all right. Everything in the room sharpened focus. The messed up bed. The glasses they used. The bright lights of the City of Angels mocked her through the windows, twinkling in laughter, the joke’s on you, baby.
And Justin stood there and leered at her.
He’d been dead, dammit! Now he wasn’t. What was a dead guy who walked? A zombie? There was no fucking thing as zombies. Right? That was Hollywood and freaky sick writers who thought up that stuff. Not real.
Vi would check herself into rehab if she like drank or took drugs or anything. That was it, she’d shoot herself up with heroin and pretend she was strung out and check herself into a nice facility with padded white walls.
“I don’t like this vessel,” Justin said. It was Justin’s voice, but not his tone. “Do what I say and I’ll solve your problem.”
Vi could only nod. What else could she do? Justin was dead. Now he was alive. She was going insane.
“Get your things.”
Vi grabbed her purse and then her jacket.
“Wh-what about the cameras?” Vi asked. She couldn’t believe she was talking to Justin as if he was the golden-haired woman. That wasn’t possible.
And Justin rising from the near-dead was?
“I’ve already taken care of the cameras.”
Vi felt like she was in a trance. This just couldn’t be happening. Isn’t that what everyone thought when faced with the impossible? She never used drugs, but she was certain this was how she’d feel if she did. Unreal. Disconnected from her body.
Justin took her hand. It was cold. Vi looked into his face, still unbelieving. His eyes were the same blue as the golden-haired woman who turned to gas as Vi watched.
Had his eyes been blue before? Maybe . . . but not like this. Not this electric blue.
On the way out of the room, Justin took the glass she’d spiked and put it in Vi’s over-sized leather purse.
“Where are we going?” Vi asked, her voice deeper and more unnatural than usual.
“To get rid of the body.”
Vi realized then that she’d gotten in way over her head, but she followed. She didn’t really have a choice.
They left the hotel and walked along Wilshire Boulevard. Justin was talking.
“It feels so good to breathe real air.” He breathed deeply in and out, smiled. “I almost feel alive.”
Justin squeezed her hand, leaned over and said cheerily, “We’re going to have so much fun together! I’ll let you watch the whole time, you’ll get a kick out of it. Really. I’ve been bored for so long.”
“For how long?” Vi asked before she realized how stupid the question sounded.
Justin laughed. “Since I was banished. But I’m free now, and everything is as it should be.”
They walked together, hand-in-hand, like lovers. Vi caught their reflection, distorted, in a blackened office window.
Justin practically glowed. But he was no angel.
Vi didn’t know how long they walked, but they ended up at a reservoir. Miles from the hotel, but Vi didn’t feel tired or sore even in her shoes. Numb was more like it.
“Perfect,” Justin said. He smiled at Vi and kissed her full on, his cold tongue probing hers. He tasted like meat that had turned green. Vi grimaced and turned away.
He reached into her purse and took out her switchblade. She’d almost forgotten it was there—she honestly hadn’t been thinking about protecting herself from a dead man—but now Vi started to shake.
Justin was playing games with her. He’d faked his unconsciousness, hired the woman, drugged her so she saw the gas or used some Hollywood special effects in the hotel. He was now punishing her because she tried to drug him. He knew about the pictures she’d taken, and now he was going to blackmail her. Hell, he could take them and blackmail all the important people she’d screwed. It was just a scam, only this time she was the victim.
Life was so not fair.
She turned to run, but he grabbed her, his grip firm. Her wrist cracked and she yelped in pain.
The switchblade opened in a flash and she felt the tip of the knife pierce her stomach. She couldn’t fight back, stunned, the pain like a drug, freezing her. The steel sliced through her hard abs, ripping them open, and Justin pushed the edge of the blade up, up, up to her sternum. The only thing she could think of in that moment was that Justin was a modern day Jack the Ripper, cutting open prostitutes.
I’m going to die.
Justin pulled the knife out. “I’ll be right back,” he said. “You have at least five minutes before you bleed out.”
She fell to her knees, her hands on her stomach. She felt her intestines in her palm. In the dim streetlight, her blood glistened, nearly black as it seeped through her fingers and dripped onto the pathway. She wanted to run, but couldn’t. Her legs didn’t move. She couldn’t rise from her knees, but kept sinking lower until her head hit the ground. She was bleeding to death. There was no one to save her, no one at the reservoir in the middle of the night. She couldn’t scream if she wanted to.
“Help. Me.” She clutched her stomach.
“You’re fine,” Justin said as he ran away from her. Ran toward the flood control channel. Without any thought of the barbed wire that was supposed to prevent people from doing exactly what he was doing, he grabbed it, pushed it down, and leapt over. Into the water.
What was he doing?
Why did she care? She was dying.
Vi rolled over to her back so her face didn’t touch the dirty cement. Great, what did she care how she died? She looked up at the stars, her vision blurring. “This is punishment, right?” she whispered.
She was so cold, but sweating. How could she sweat when she was this cold?
Vi supposed this was justice. She’d been playing it fast and loose for years, living well, doing what she damn well pleased. And maybe she did help her drunk mother with her accident. And maybe she did enjoy drugging her johns and make them do things they’d never do without the right encouragement. And maybe she’d already started blackmailing some of them, the ones who’d pissed her off.
She’d been had. She deserved it. But damn if she was going to apologize for it.
She closed her eyes, numb. She didn’t feel anything, she was too cold. She’d just . . . go. It was over.
Violet . . .
Vi opened her eyes. The golden-haired woman stood above her. Where was Justin? Right, he’d jumped in the flood control channel. The woman—she made him do it.
“You—stabbed me.” Vi swallowed with difficulty.
“Insurance, sweetheart. Now you need me. Because if you do anything to get rid of me, you’ll die. But as long as I’m with you, you’ll live. Until I get bored again. But, you’ll help me so that doesn’t happen, right?”
Vi couldn’t think. The woman turned to gas and wrapped herself around Vi. So warm. So very warm.
Suddenly, her heart pounded uncontrollably. Her blood heated, raced, her brain was about to explode. She grabbed her head and screamed, but no sound came out.
Slowly, her heart returned to normal. Her head no longer ached. She was still hot—too hot—and feared she was sick.
You’re not sick, sweetheart, it’s just me.
Vi rose from the ground, looked at her torn, bloody dress. But her stomach—her intestines were back where they belonged. There was no mark from the knife. She’d believe it was a hallucination, except for the blood.
Let’s get you cleaned up and then we’ll have some fun.
And Vi knew that she’d better ensure that the golden-haired woman had fun, or she’d be dead.
“So when you said you wanted my body, you meant it . . . um, literally.”
“And what happened to Justin?” Did she really want to know?
He drowned. Fifty-fifty chance the police will think suicide . . . or an accident. He did have drugs in his system after all. No more questions. Questions aren’t fun.
“What do you think is fun?”
Getting what I want when I want it. I’m a lot like you that way. Which is why I picked you. Aren’t you lucky?
Lucky. Right. She’d avoided arrest for Justin’s death, in exchange for her life. An exchange . . . why did she feel she got the bad end of this deal?
“Because,” Violet said out loud, her voice sounding normal, like it used to before the guy strangled her, “with your body comes your soul. You people never think of that, which really helps keep me in nice bodies. Look, I’m not going to get bored if you keep it exciting. Let’s change and hit up a club I’ve heard about. Then we’ll really have fun.”
Vi started walking. She didn’t have a choice.
No, you don’t, not if you don’t want to bleed to death all over the street. But cheer up, sweetheart, you haven’t seen anything yet.