--- Warning: explicit rape, violence ---
The table in front of her is sleek, shining plastic, round edges. Gray floor, green walls. Four of them in the small cubic room, with the door in her back. The chains around her wrists rattle with every shift, when she crosses her legs, uncrosses them, leans forward, back, squeezes her hands around the seat.
The detective sits across from her, a blond woman, middle-aged, too much make-up, trying to stay composed but her agitation is palpable. Rachel can smell it, the boiling excitement underneath the plain façade, screaming. The detective is enjoying it.
The policemen in her back, one to the right, the other to the left of the door, change. The detective stays. Rachel does not know time although she counts the seconds in her head, seconds since she spoke to Noel.
“Let us start at the beginning again. You gained entrance to the area of the dam, why?”
She always makes sure that the ringtone is on its highest volume and the telephone is lying in the charge station next to the bed. Victoria should have woken up easily. Where is she, what happened to her? Did she get up to get a glass of water, tripped and fell? Did she even make it to bed at all? What if the night nurse was sick or late? What if Victoria went for a walk, or shopping, or whatever came to her mind and is wandering around now in the darkness, even her own name unknown to herself?
“You met the victim. Where? Inside the guardhouse? Did you know him? What did you want from him?”
Rachel rocks her upper body back and forth, counting. The handcuffs rattle against the plastic. How long?
“Was he your boyfriend? Pimp? Client? Did you have a row? Was he your drug dealer? Went something wrong? Could you not pay him? Did you try stealing from him?”
She squeezes her eyes shut and bites on her lips to refrain from screaming. Victoria’s image in front of her. How long until Noel gets there? Is she safe already, is she okay?
“What happened then? Did he get angry? Did you defend yourself? Or was he actually careless, just one second, and you took the scissors and-“
The policemen wrestle with her only shortly, forcing her back to the table, to face the dreadful woman again. Brutally squeeze her into the seat.
“Was it like that? Did you maybe plan all that, did you know you could not pay, did you bring the scissors yourself? And afterward: did you regret it? Did you try helping him…? I guess not. You left him to die, Rachel, while you watched! Was it like that? Was it?!”
Red. “Fuck yes, it was just like that! And I would do it again, you fucking cow. I would slice your stupid throat slowly, watching the blood seep out of you to the last drop, until you are nothing but an empty white shell!”
The small spark of fear flaring up in the woman’s eyes is all she remembers before she is yanked back and then there is the sharp pain of a needle injected into her thigh and nothing.
Gray. Four walls, no window. A dirty yellow door, heavy and solid. Her wrists are fixed to her sides. The blanket is scratchy, flimsy, rough on her skin. No sound. Her thoughts are walking through mud, every step takes her closer to exhaustion. She knows that feeling, tries to shake it off, to get away although she knows fighting is pointless – how long, how long? – But she gets pulled under by her own efforts.
She is woken again by a loud clanking sound, metal on metal, screeching against the inside of her skull, making her ears explode. She screws her eyes shut. Hands on her wrists, the restrains slide open. She is being led through that door, over a sleek endless corridor. Into another room.
“Your lawyer wants to meet with you.”
Since when does she have a-
There is a table in front of her, separated in two halves by a thick dirty vertical plane. On the other side there is another chair and behind it, on the other side of the room another door, it is opened by the man in a uniform guarding it – a different one, different from his – and through comes an elderly man she does not know, in a gray suit with a dark tie and a gray face and behind him--
“Noel…” she flinches at the sound of her own voice, dry and cracked from screaming.
He is leaning on his crutches but something is wrong. She can tell by his posture and how much he is relying on the metal rods, legs twisted, his steps slow and painful, and the fact that he is not looking at her, looking anywhere but at her.
The two men advance her, the gray one obviously making an effort to slow down for Noel, glancing at her all the time while Noel looks at the ground in front of the tips of his crutches, advancing with an unsteady click and swish, dragging his feet over the cement floor.
“Rachel Nottingham?” The voice of the elderly man is surprisingly soft and she digs her nails into her palm until they draw blood. The air smells of urine and alcohol.
The gray man stops in front of the table, pulls the single chair back and steps to the side to let Noel sit. Noel angles it towards himself with one crutch and lowers himself into the seat, slowly at first, then falling into it the rest of the way, a muscle in his jaw twitching at the impact. How come she never noticed how impaired he looks when he is outside of his home and standing, walking instead of hiding behind his desk, the towers of papers and binders, or switching between the walls and cupboards and familiar supports of his apartment? She watches as he untangles his underarms from the cuffs of the crutches, leans the metal rods against his side, one arm around them protectively, the other hand balling to a shivering fist in his lap.
“Noel!” she demands. Why does he not look at her? She wants to read in his face, dive into his eyes, wants to know about Victoria. What happened, where is she and how?
“Miss Nottingham, my name is Vincent Parker, and I offer to take your case without commission on request of my son.”
She blinks, stops to fray the hem of her lose shirt to pieces – not hers, undefined color, the threads thick between her fingers – and looks at the gray man.
“You are being charged with possession of illegal drugs, trespassing and attempted murder.”
He goes on but she does not hear anymore, only the sea in her ears, the surge of waves against her eardrums and she understands. Noel hates her. He hates her for what she is. Unpredictable. Dangerous.
Attempted, the gray man has said.
“If you agree, please sign here.”
She stares at Noel, at his bowed head, the half-closed eyelids fluttering behind his dark curly hair hanging over his forehead and into his face. Same color as his father’s only without the white streaks, and longer, unruly.
He hates her. But he is helping her (why?) and then… he is going to leave her. She knows he will.
She picks up the pen. The skin of her hand is gray and papery like someone else’s, the veins unnaturally blue and the outlines sharp under it.
She writes her name above the line.
“Thank you, Miss Nottingham. I will come back later and we will need to discuss details about the trial.” The gray man, Noel’s father, stops and goes on when she does not react. “I leave you two then.” He passes Noel who hunches even more. Vanishes through the door in long, elegant strides.
He does not move.
“Noel… please… tell me…”
Finally, after what seems like an eternity, he looks up, shifts, the crutches clicking as he sits more upright, the rubber tips scraping over the floor as he pulls them closer. His blue eyes blink rapidly. “I-I…. I’m sorry,” he whispers, barely audible.
Sorry for going to leave her or sorry for coming too late?
He shakes his head and something breaks. A dam, liquid flooding her lungs, her head and she cannot see anymore. She hears him say sorry again and leave, feet scrambling as he pushes upright, turns, the click of his crutches receding, the exhausted drag of his feet growing fainter until all is drowned out by the thundering roar of the water.
Karl’s voice outside. He is arguing with the policemen who have driven the car to the graveyard. The backdoor is flung open, light floods inside. The sun reflects on the snow outside in thousand glittering spotlights, too bright and painful in her eyes. The handcuffs come off but one of the policemen stays next to her during the walk along the snowed-over pathway, past graves and headstones, soft hills under the snow, to the only spot that is not white, the pit a festering wound in fair skin, with a brown coffin next to it, snowflakes already settling on its polished surface.
Rachel barely registers who else is there. Two older women standing with some distance to the open grave as if wondering if they belong here, probably Victoria’s neighbors. A middle-aged woman with short red hair who was one of the nurses, the only one crying. And Noel, of course, next to Karl, again not looking at her when she joins them, the policeman taking up position half a step behind her. So close she can feel the cloud of his breath hitting her neck.
Rachel does not hear what the pastor says. She does not see the graveyard, the bending trees around them, the sun bravely shining through the branches. Melting the top layer of snow. She sees only the plain wooden coffin next to the hole in the ground, unreal, a dream, a hallucination, drug-induced or maybe conjured up by the mess in her head, who knows. All this time when things had not been real this one should? What a nasty joke! No, surely not. Probably Victoria invented this, like she invented so much, people coming to visit her who only she could see and Reagan, her daughter, living with her still, returning from just a short time away, a short walk to clear the head, an overnight stay at a friend’s, to say sorry and to hug her mother and everything will be alright.
Karl nudges her and she steps forward, mechanically. She is still dreaming. Takes a white rose that is being offered to her and flings it down on the coffin that has been lowered into the grave.
The others follow after her, one by one.
Then Noel moves forward and she senses his left crutch slipping out from under him in the soft deep snow before it happens, wonders why no one else sees his right knee buckling under the sudden weight, the small bit of balance he has dissolving into mist and his body tilting to the left, and she surges forward instinctively, wrapping her arms around his chest before he can fall and steadies him until he has sorted out his crutches again, his boots firm on the ground once more.
This is when he looks up, eyes like ice shards.
She stumbles back, nearly toppling over the guard standing behind her. Turns away from that gaze, itched into her memory, making her shiver, and lets herself be escorted back to the car.
All the time she thinks about the snow that is going to settle on the grave after it is closed. The pile growing higher and higher with every hour.
The slapping of wet skin on wet skin is obscenely loud in the small cabin. He grunts with every thrust, his breath elaborate and she thinks he might die of a heart attack. Wishes it for a second even.
“Fucking whore… you were begging for that, weren’t you? How stupid are you even, coming back? Someone must have fucked your brain out thoroughly, indeed.”
She keeps silent, the edge of the table digging into her thighs, her cheek squishing some papers lying on the surface. Closes her eyes as he rams his dick into her even harder, thinking herself far away to some high place above the ground. All the people and cars and houses shrinking to tiny ants.
“Or did you come back for this, huh? Enjoyed last time, eh? Couldn’t stop thinking about me, slutty cunt?”
He flips her around and leans over her, the brown mole growing and a wave of his breath hits her square in the face, sweet and foul. He is drunk, she realizes and suddenly he slips out of her, swearing, fumbling with his member and she knows, he has gone partly soft again. She cannot control it, her lips quirk into a grin without her saying and his hand slaps across her face as he sees her smirking at him, rubbing furiously at his half-filled dick.
“Is that funny, whore? Is it? I tell you what, I won’t have anyone laughing at me…” and he removes the belt around his uniform pants that hang low down his fat ass and slide fully down to bunch around his fleshy ankles now, revealing his fat white thighs. “Kneel.”
When she does not react he buries his fist in her stomach and she yelps. A mistake because she cannot seem to inhale again, the air has stopped wanting to enter her lungs. He pushes her down on the dirty ground, her knees hitting the stone hard, wheezing, and the belt goes down on her back, the thin blouse no protection, once, twice, the pain white and sharp behind her closed eyelids. Then he grabs her again, slams her back on the table and is over her in an instant, his hand closing around her throat. Her back pulses with hot pain where the leather hit her.
“Who is laughing now? Who?!” He is sweating profusely and his spit splatters against her cheek but he is hard again. Enters her without preamble, holding her wrists down on the table over her head, the other squeezing her throat. She sees his eyes growing bigger and bigger, and the veins pulsing in his temple and his sick grin and suddenly she knows he will not stop before it is too late. She squirms against his grip, tries to scream but her airways are blocked and his fingers are closing tighter and tighter around her slim throat, the blood rushes loudly in her ears and white dots appear in her field of vision – silly, so silly that it is supposed to end like this – his grunts are starting to sound far away, her hands fly over the table, fingers opening and closing, dying for something…
The first gasp of air is like breathing liquid fire but it brings back the world, and the tiny cabin with the yellow light from the naked light-bulb and the man lying on the ground in front of her, wiggling in a sea of black, his stubby fingers desperately pawing at his throat, scraping at the gleaming blades of the scissors stuck there, something welling out of the other craters where she has rammed it in, dark rivers creeping over the floor toward her.
She takes two steps to the side and collapses to the ground. Heaves in air, more, more, greedy for it and watches him shudder, squirm, without a sound. She knows she is supposed to do something, but she cannot make herself go there, cannot make herself look at him anymore, instead she watches the bright screen of her phone, for some time, until she cannot hear him move anymore and then she dials.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
She keeps sitting there until heavy boots sound and the door gets flung open. Stares up at the desk, at his laptop opened on top of it, with some porn movie stopped in the middle, a grotesque scene frozen on the screen from when he had to leave for one of his inspection rounds, the built-in camera facing her and the motionless man on the ground, the lens watching them, black and innocent.
--> Part VI
--> Part VI