Open Windows-Chapters Six and Seven
 

Chapter Six

 

Never knock on Death's door: ring the bell and run away! Death really hates that!

Matt Frewer, as Dr. Mike Stratford in "Doctor, Doctor"

 

For the life of me I couldn’t remember how long I had been sitting there, I don’t remember sunsets or going to sleep, but it seemed as if I had been in there a long time, and maybe I was getting a bit panicky but I wondered about the time.

The only way I knew it had been a while was because my joints were all sore and I felt too stiff to move, yet I had to because my back was aching and I felt a cramp coming on in my lower back if I didn’t move fast enough.

Not that it mattered, or that I might be able to do something about it the way time passed here, but it was the first time it had occurred to me that I didn’t know how I was going to get back out, or how long I had been in there, if I would find the door that led back to what I could only think of as “my world” now, I still wasn’t sure where this world was.

I had looked at my watch once long ago, and was surprised to see it still running. But it began to run faster as I looked at it just then, and when it began to run backwards I threw it away, I was afraid to look at it again. But I nervously looked at my wrist then, forgetting it was no longer there, I absently rubbed at the white spot on my wrist where it used to be.

Then I lay back and gazed up at the stars. I remembered going camping with my brother and some others, and sitting on the folded down tailgate of a station wagon.

My brother had gotten the best of me by telling me that owl’s were known to scoop out the eyes of people sleeping on their backs.

“Just swoop and scoop!” he say and start to laugh at me, he knew he had me, and the others there were of no help, Mike and Danny knew the truth, but they both turned away conspiratorially when I looked to them for help.

I spent the rest of the night sleeping on my stomach, no matter how uncomfortable it became or much it hurt, and yet when I woke up I was horrified to find myself belly-up. I jumped up fast and turned over, checking my eyes as I did, and got a kink in my neck for my trouble.

They all three saw that and knew why I had jumped, so they all started laughing really hard until my father came out of his tent. He was obviously not happy they woke him so they found something else to do.

I vowed to pay him back for that but never did, besides, I could smell the food my mother was cooking then and that smell was what woke me in the first place so I got dressed and brushed in a hurry, both hungry and thankful the owl didn’t catch me asleep and easy prey.

As he droned on without stopping, I leaned back and again was amazed at how many bright stars there were out tonight, and seemed almost close enough to touch, when I looked up there were so many stars out, I felt it was more than twice the number that should be.

Then I noticed something else that made me stop and look closer than I had before.

At the edges of the darkness it seemed as though there was a mirror in the corners, reflecting the same stars back again as I looked.

Then I thought that maybe that was why there were more stars out than usual, but it made no sense to me. I wondered what would happen if I reached that point and tried to touch it, if it would hurt me or nothing at all would happen or change anything, or would my fingers poke thru to the other world? Would someone there go insane at the sudden appearance of those moving fingers and nothing else?

Then I looked around and found that there were two moons here, one that seemed close enough to touch, and the other seemed to have two people dancing on it to their own music and though it was farther than the first, it seemed brighter somehow, I felt sudden happiness upon seeing it, like an old friend that you missed terribly and thought you might never see again for some reason, most likely because you hadn’t seen them in years and somehow forgot about them until now.

I thought of a song and remembered the guy that sang it, but at first I couldn’t remember his name, but I remember it being really boring and slow moving.

Kevin Costner…something about a mailman. This guy goes walking thru it in one scene and someone asked him “hey! Aren’t you famous?” and he answers, “No, but I used to be.” Then moves on, dismissing it completely as the sensible thing to say.

As I thought about that, the song “Roll Another Joint” came to my mind, and the old man sat up for a moment and said “Tom Petty” and turned and went to sleep. I looked at him for a minute, thinking he was going to start laughing or something but then he started snoring.

After a smoke and some thought about how my day had gone, I drifted off to sleep too.

“Clarification is her name!” he shouted at no one in particular. That was what woke me. I jumped up and reached for my guns but once again, they were toys “Useless as an elevator in a shit house” as my Uncle Ray would say.

I learned the old man’s name was Samuel. He had been a prospector and had actually been the only one man to find gold in the area. He had been lucky and found a large vein of it, after 11 years of panning this area and finding nothing but fool‘s gold, he now had enough money for two or three lifetimes.

So he told his partner, thinking they would share it, but his partner had other ideas and that night had choked him to death so he could have it all to himself.

Samuel was going back there now to reclaim it, he told me, though his partner had been killed not long after he’d died, trying to sell the gold to someone else, but Samuel either didn’t know that, or hadn‘t accepted that yet either.

The wrong men had heard about his gold and had tried beating it out of him, trying to make him reveal where it was found but he never told them, he was stubborn and they were trying to think of something else to make him talk, they felt they had to find out quick or be discovered, though there was no one else around so it was probably just pure and simple greed they felt.

There was another reason why, but it made no sense unless you believe that the guilt we carry will eventually become our own “Tell Tale Heart” and reveal our crimes to the world.

He didn’t want to betray Samuel, though he had killed him already and knew that, his mind was going from too many years under the hot sun, and the guilt that was choking him over killing his only friend.

In their haste they had made the mistake of killing him before he told them where the gold came from. The result of a weak valve in his heart rupturing while they tortured him, though they couldn’t have known that but that didn’t matter anymore, he was long dead and no longer cared either.

Though others had heard the rumor of that strike and worked the same streams and caves over again and over again, some killing others because everyone knew there was a large vein of it in the area somewhere but none could ever find it again.

I had the oddest stinging sensation on my face, it was from the slugs, but I thought I was being eaten alive by invisible mosquitoes. I kept reaching up and tried slapping at them, but there was nothing there and Sam thought that was really funny.

He was now talking about a milking cow. From what he said, she was very precious to him, he had taken to talking to her and telling her his problems and he felt she had somehow empathized with him on more than one occasion, then he got wind of the Hindu belief and she became more that a soul mate to him.

That was when he started to eat the grass, “Good enough for her, good enough for me!” He said, though it tasted horrible he couldn’t stop once he’d started.

When she died he never got over it, but he felt he would see her again; it might have been the beginning of the end of his time. “Mother’s Milk!” Sam said as he bent down with an imaginary pail and began to squeeze.

It was this brushy weed, black and stringy that had taken over then, greasy and smelly, but after a while he smoked it sometimes and other times chewed it. He took a few stalks in his hand and as he chewed them they leaked some blood or liquid out that was thick and black, and as it dripped down the back of is hand he quickly licked at it, cleaning all of it off and swallowing it.

He knew it to be highly addictive though it smelled of old socks, yet he couldn‘t live without it, even though he knew it was killing him very slowly, eating away at what might be left of his mind as well as his insides, it was like a cancer that was known but not treated and was running rampant thru his body, and there was no cure for this one either, short of his death.

I guess it was one of those things you acquired a taste for, but I didn’t see how.

I had a vague memory of smoking a peace pipe with Samuel the night before. If memory serves me, I thought it was a form of peyote, but I knew it wasn’t the grass, he would never share that with anyone, no matter how social he was feeling.

That made me think he was some kind of medicine man. He wore a hat that somehow seemed to give him some kind of “bearing” but he was so old now even he didn’t remember, or pretended not to.

He could have been mayor of the town at one time for all he knew, because he did carry some kind of dignity about him, and it showed even out here in the desert.

He now wore a shirt that had at one time been white, having not been cleaned in ages, it was now ragged and filthy, worn at the edges, and he wore a brown vest over that.

He also wore some kind of jewelry that was hard to see. The harder you tried to focus on it, the more obscure it became, until you gave up.

As I watched, it coiled around his neck like a snake sleeping on a warm rock, still keeping an eye on you while it slept.

I could see that Sam had not been smoking for too long, and had been eating it, but he was smoking it more now, and he had started changing, I could see sure signs of that even though I didn‘t know him or how he had been before.

Some of his features were now distorted at the edges, and that’s where it was the most obvious.

He was also darker around the edges, that part of his “change” had been going on for a while, but now was dark enough that it appeared he was “traced” there by a number two pencil with a soft edge.

His skin was changing to something between black and green, and his lips were turning black too, as if he was wearing gothic lipstick and mascara, and though couldn’t swear to it, I know it wasn’t there last night and I didn’t think he had the control to be that neat with something like makeup, as his hands shook when ever he wasn’t using them for something specific, though I doubt it was suffering from rheumatism or anything like palsy.

We ate a quick breakfast, but I declined when he offered the smoke. Samuel was grateful, but still had not slipped far beyond his manners.

It wasn’t that the smoke was scarce, it grew wild here of course, but they got that way when it took hold. Like the worst junkie, he might offer to share it with you, while even sitting in a field of it, but if you took it, you never knew how he would react. He might even attack you for taking it, feeling that a smart man would have declined politely.

Or they might watch you take it into your lungs, as if anticipating the change they knew was coming, almost eagerly they would shift around and watch for it, their hands would twitch as if they knew it was the beginning of your end and wanted to watch as it happened.

I knew that its perfume was intoxicating and once it got a hold of you, it was over, and with the coming sun and the change of season that was imminent, it would be in full bloom soon, sending out its talons to hook other victims, because after all, that seemed to be it’s sole purpose, no good would ever come from this, ever.

I tried to talk to him about that as we parted, but he smiled at me sadly and said, “Everyone’s got a sad story to tell as he turned and left.

Then he stopped suddenly, and I could see he was struggling with something. He told me something in Erika’s voice then, and that was really scary, hearing Jessica Rabbit coming from that old man.

He told me that she was watching out for me in this world. That part of her knew I was there and what I was doing, and that another part of her didn’t. He said that if the two parts got together and found out what each other knew about me, they would kill me, her good side not able to fight off her evil side anymore.

I started to walk back to him, thinking he could explain things to me. But he turned me away with an impatient wave of his hand and said “Make sure you stay clear of those burning men!” which made no sense to me at the time.

“Did you hear me?” He shouted at me, “STAY CLEAR OF THAT!” and then turned and started to walk away.

Then he stopped again, he said that I should, “Listen to the skinny kid until the end, then you must do the opposite!”

I tried to ask what he meant but he dismissed me with a hiss and a shake of his hand in my direction, as if I should have known what he meant, what he was trying to tell me and he wasn’t going to go over it again.

  

Chapter Seven


If I could drop dead right now, I'd be the happiest man alive.
-Samuel Goldwin (1882 - 1974)

 

  

As I rode off into the sunset, I realized I was now back in the card game, and was again trying to peer down the front of her dress, and it was as if the time we’d spent apart and running from each other had never been, that all we had was now and this was what we could have been together.

I looked around quickly to see if anyone had noticed but it didn’t seem they had, and then I shook my head, this was insane.

I could still smell the desert air, dry and yet clear and clean for some reason, and I could hear Samuel as he laughed and tried to warn me simultaneously, but that was fading away too.

The card game was still going on at a lively pace but I sitting much closer to her now, in a chair on her right side, at her elbow.

She was facing away from me and yet I felt as though we were now intimate friends, as if I had known her in another lifetime or something. She reached over and gave my thigh a squeeze and winked all while she dealt the cards. She smiled at me and said “welcome back” and this time everyone heard it and reacted.

I could tell by their reactions that they were seeing me sitting there suddenly, as if they had either not noticed me or they realized I was gone and was now returned and they were not happy about it, they didn’t like that one bit.

I was the unwelcome guest now. I wondered about the good side/bad side Samuel told me about. I could see she didn’t know I had been there, but I also knew if she hadn’t helped me I would have never made it out, I would be lost and wandering for all of eternity in there, until I faded away like her some of bad memories.

I knew I didn’t look like much, to say I needed a shave and a shower was an understatement. What my clothes said about me wasn’t much either. I wore a white shirt with a black leather coat over it and jeans. Nothing too old but nothing new either, so as not to be too obvious, I was hoping the wrinkled look was in, but looking around me now I didn’t think it was.

I wore black shoes that were smooth and indistinctive, yet they had a good sole and even when I stepped into a spilled drink I knew they would not let me slip and fall.

I was wearing dark glasses inside and they thought I was trying to look the rock star and didn’t like that either, but I didn’t remember when I’d put them on, let alone why I hadn’t taken them off.

They hated me from the start and didn’t care that I knew it; if they did they were not very adept at hiding it, or maybe they just felt they were beyond caring what I thought. When they saw that I was I suddenly sitting there didn’t faze them a bit though, and I didn’t care either. I decided to test their tempers a bit and have some fun there too.

They tried to close ranks and keep me out of the game but she had dealt me a card already and then had started a wicked game of high card between us, they had to sit back and seethe while they waited it out.

She shut them out and brought me into the game with a wink of her eye and we were both having fun now.

It was clear to me she then that she had no idea where I had been that night, or she might have not been so kind to me. I knew now that it was her own personal garden and she didn’t share that with others. She had tried that a few times before and she never liked the results.

Some men saw it as a chance to get inside and then too close, some thought they could control her with that knowledge and that was never going to happen, she would not allow it. She thought I might be different but was not sure if she was ready to try again. That in itself was enough to make her feel vulnerable and that was uncomfortable to her.

She had distracted me from that when she started talking in my head instead of to my ears, another chance she took on me. She had left for the ladies room and a quick smoke of the same spice I liked, and had she known that, she would have taken me along.

When she got back I was gone. At first she was disappointed and then she thought I went for a drink, and she wondered if I would bring her one while I was at it. That would have been both good and bad for her.

On the plus side, it would have been thoughtful, but on the minus side from her point of view it would have been “controlling” and assuming as far as she saw it.

But she could figure out things from what a guy drank, and especially what he thought she would be drinking she had issues with that.

She felt she could read most men in five minutes and was almost never wrong. They had a language all there own, but she paid attention and had a talent for revealing it to him it if she wanted, or hiding it well if she didn’t, knowing when to play her hand had become second nature to her and had served her well over the years.

I had her attention all right, she liked that I was seeming so confident, that I didn’t seem care what the other guys thought, wasn’t too over bearing or pushy, and I seemed relaxed. I was not pretending to be something else and she liked that too, I presented a challenge to her and that was always fun.

From my viewpoint, I thought I was gone about a week and maybe even longer. But here, in this room, it was half an hour.

When I returned, as she knew I would, she decided I had gone for a smoke, but was genuinely happy to see me when I returned and I had to admit I liked that too.

Having seen her nightmares made me feel more of a friendship with her and that surprised me. I felt such compassion for her, and that smile was not faked, it was from deep inside and her honesty was refreshing.

Then it came to me, how this could happen I wasn’t sure, knowing what we had been thru was still in my mind, and knowing how it ended would never be far from my thoughts, and yet this was all new, as if this was the first time we had met and none of the “bad” had affected us, or had not even transpired yet.

As I was trying to figure this out, Some guy burst into the room just then and said they had cornered the “mystery man” and had it live on the news. Everyone crowded around the television to see, some shoving others out of the way to get to the front of the crowd around the television because everyone wanted to know what the hell was going on.

It seems they had found the man wandering in a neighborhood and someone had a video camera and so they even had a small clip of him as he walked down a street, presumably looking for his next kindling. But I was struck by the image on the screen before me.

Though it was shot from a fairly close range and should have been clear, it was fuzzy and indistinct. He was walking along the sidewalk and trying to blend in with everything else there, to seem as if he was just another pedestrian out for a walk.

What made him stand out was the hood, which he wore over his head, even though it was warm outside, the day bright and sunny and anyone else might have taken off the hood, and tried to cool off.

But it was enough, I could see it was the question man, Nemrul himself, without a doubt. No one else in the room seemed to know him though. I looked for Erika, but she had excused herself and was in the ladies room.

As I stood there watching, he seemed at first unaware that he was being followed, but he stopped suddenly and looked right into the screen.

You still could not see his face in any detail, but I had the feeling that he was looking right at me. Not at the camera, not at the man holding it and who was later found rambling and drooling as he had obviously gone insane, but right thru the television screen and right into my eyes.

I noticed that a few of the others thought the same thing and looked at me for a few moments, as if I could have answered some things for them, but I ignored them and they soon gave up, going back to what was going on in the screen.

He stared at me like that for what seemed like an eternity. I could not move nor speak until finally, he released me and left, going around the corner as the camera seemed to slip away and fall to the ground. The footage ended there, slanted towards the floor and nothing but the empty sidewalk in the frame as they got back to their story of the hour.

“That camera was found still recording on the floor, and the man who shot this video was found a few feet away, his back against the wall and drooling, his family has not been yet located but they have identified him…” the voice trailed off as they jumped from that story to a commercial break.

I turned in time to see Erika coming back from the restroom, she was staring at me and I was well aware that she was reading me because she was looking right at me, and I felt she was looking right thru me too. Nether of us moved for several moments.

I knew she had done that before, when we were sizing each other up as we first met, and now, but when she returned from the bathroom she was looking at me in a way that was somehow different. I wondered if she now knew where I had been, and what she might remember about what she had done to me, how we ended up back here at the beginning with some history between us, but she put on her poker face and I couldn’t tell.

I noticed that she was standing there with the most horrified expression on her face. I thought it was the story, but she was looking at me, not the television so I knew.

I tried to be a blank screen to most people, because most of the time they had their own agenda, but I wanted her to see me, to know me. I felt I could trust her. I rushed over to her but she snapped out of it and seemed to be all right.

Every time I thought I could trust her, or someone like her before, I ran for the nearest exit, like most people, not wanting to be a fool, but I would not do that this time, I wanted to know this woman and I didn’t care who knew it. I was caught in her web for the second time in my life.

We went back to the card game and I won three in a row before she broke my streak and won two. It went back and forth a few times just like that. Then I noticed again that she was dealing from the bottom of the deck.

She got away with things like that normally because she was wearing her lucky dress. It kept them looking elsewhere and they never saw her cheats because they weren‘t looking at her hands and she knew it.

But she knew I was different, she knew I knew what she was doing and two things about that bothered her.

The first thing being that I saw her, the other that she was drawn to me in spite of the fact that I needed a shave and a shower, and she had made up her mind that she was going to shave me herself.

She caught me looking at her dress again and laughed. She didn’t think I was the “gotta have her” type, but she knew I wouldn’t turn her down either.

She leaned over a little more and then smiled at me confidentially, I was “in on her plan” now.

Because she saw where my eyes were going, she didn’t think I saw the cards but she knew it was over soon anyway. These other guys were already grumbling about being left out, but they were mutts and could be found anywhere and she was done with them.

She decided it was time to end the game and she was going for the big money when I blew down her house of cards. She looked at me and in a flash saw it in my eyes. She knew I knew and wasn’t sure what I would do next, would I call her out? Would I play along? Inquiring minds DID want to know. I relieved her anxiety by smiling at her. She knew it was all for fun anyway. But now she had to win on her own, another challenge that came from the newcomer.

I was thinking how obvious this was, and yet she got away with it so easily. Men ARE mutts for the most part, and these drooling pups would have sold their cars to give her more, tripping over themselves and not seeing they had no chance.

I admired the simplicity of her plan. I nodded my head in her direction as a salute and she smiled back, knowing she had me.

Now they were really resenting my interference, others in the room began to converge now, circling like sharks to the smell of blood in the water.

I was almost gloating because the game had been fought to win, and I was clearly ahead of her and as I was giving her my goofy grin, when I got blind sided with a sucker punch to the right side of my head.

“Son of a bitch, your cheating and I know it!” The man said as he stood over me and the rest seemed to want to gets some hits in as well.

I fell hard and hit my chin on the way down, actually bouncing once when it hit and opened a nice gash on my chin in the process. It was both the worst and the best thing that could have happened to me at that moment.

As I struggled to clear my head again and tried to rise, the others closed around me, kicking me as they came. They hit me in the ribs trying to kick me over, but I curled up pretty tight and took most of that in the lower back while I waited for them to get tired so I could fight back.

They started to aim for my head, going up from my lower back and the closest one was winding up for a hard kick when he got hit on the side of his head with a chair, catching him off guard in mid air and taking him out of the fight.

The way he landed, he took most of the force of his fall on his right leg, breaking the bone just below the knee, and the bone sticking out thru his pants and the blood started flowing as he began screaming.

He also broke his right wrist but he didn’t mind that as much, at least that one wasn’t sticking out and the knee hurt much worse.

The others turned to face the new interloper but they couldn’t believe it was her, she showed them when she hit a second one with the same chair, then high kicked him under the chin, he flew back she said “ Come on fella’s, you ain’t playing fair!” as she did that and moved closer to where I was still laying on the floor and helped me up.

The others stopped because they didn’t know what to do. They just stood back with their mouths open, clenching and unclenching their hands and looking around, waiting for someone to tell them what to do since they didn’t want to hit a woman, especially this one. She had no problem with that though, and I had to marvel at her technique; she was ruthless and I vowed not to make her that mad at me, ever. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She reached down and helped me up with a smile for me as she did.

“But he was cheating! He owes us for that and I want my pound of flesh!” He shouted and then looked to the others for support, and the natives were getting restless.

The others still were not moving closer, but they were starting to look as if it wouldn’t be long before someone would throw something or want to start up again.

No one had ever fought for me before though, not until this beautiful bottom-card dealing woman. I had to laugh at the irony. Here I might be saving their marriages and the rest of their money, which she would have gladly taken one and not touched the other. Yet they wanted to kick MY ass?

“He wasn’t cheating you morons, I was!” She shouted at them, further confusing them and they were clearly confused now.

I was in love right then. She could have put her finger under my chin and I would have floated out that room had it not been for the rest of the guys in the room.

There were always people that thought they had a better plan. Sometimes it took a mob personality, as if they all had a whiff of the same gas at exactly the same moment and takes over, then there’s no telling what the crowd might do.

In this room there was now a new scent in the air. It was something no one there had ever smelled before in their lives, and some never would again, because now their time was over, though they didn’t know it and no longer cared.

The first one to smell it, a small but muscular man named Arthur, stopped as he was walking and sniffed at the air, like most with this silly trait that we can never help, though it offended him with its foulness, he sniffed again and again, as if to make sure that something could really smell that bad. The smell rose from the ground, and though it was the foulest smell they had ever encountered, before they knew it they could not help themselves from taking it deep into their lungs.

Arthur’s face, his entire countenance began to change almost immediately and though he had never been able to grow more than a wisp of a moustache his body was now overrun with course black hairs.

He turned towards the man nearest to his right, and the man screamed in terror before Arthur jumped him and ripped into him.

They couldn’t have know it, but it was from another world and created to incite madness. It was a gift from the Nemrul, and I didn’t know how, but I was sure of that much at least. Then I realized that he knew where I was right at that moment and that scared the hell out of me.

The gas he sent didn’t work on everyone, but the ones it did were beyond help, beyond madness. They lusted for blood now and turned on each other in a flash, some even growling and barking like mad dogs.

I stood up and would have kissed her but she had this look on her face that said “get the hell out of the way!” as she spun a kick backwards from where she was to where my head was a moment ago. She caught a woman that was running up behind me flush on the chin, casing a very audible “clack” as her teeth hit.

She fell and landed on a man who was not effected and trying to crawl away. She jumped on his back and bit into the fat of his neck, burrowing in as she chewed her way to his throat, while her eyes were on me.

I grabbed Erika by the hand and pulled her back from a man that was lunging at her with a knife. His arm already had someone’s blood all over it, and the front of his shirt was soaked in it.

He looked as if he had stabbed someone so hard and fast that his arm kept going thru the hole he created thru the bone and tissue in his way until his arm was halfway to the other side of his victim.

As his momentum carried him past, I hit his arm underneath and above his elbow, knocking the knife away from him and then followed thru by hooking my arm across his neck and throwing him to the ground, his feet came up high and his neck breaking as he landed on it.

We could have stayed there all night saving each other but it was getting pretty bad in there. I took her hand and led her thru to the window, most of the people going thru the other way were either dead and becoming part of the feast, or enjoying the feast so much that they didn’t care if you were there, just “leave my dinner alone” so we did, I didn’t think I would ever eat meat again.

We finally got out into the fresh air and turned up the street. There was only one moon again, thank God it was the “dancers” but it wasn’t too bright out. I didn’t know how long that gas would affect those people, but as we left they were turning on each other again so there would be very few survivors if any.

She reached for my hand, and I put it around her waist. At first, that made her stiffen. She didn’t like being controlled and I could sense that, but I didn’t grab and hold her, I put my around her because I trusted her, because it felt good.

I was happy to see that she wore little make up. She had that same perfume on as Mia, and for me it was very intoxicating.

I leaned in to kiss her and I was suddenly standing at the swinging doors of the saloon again. I was wrong when I said before that was the worst thing that could have happened. This was, so let’s call it something even worse than bad timing.

As I looked in, this time it was not a ghost town. At least this room was a thriving beehive of activity. The entire room was full. Everyone had to be there tonight except the kids of course. Can’t have them seeing this and ruining their dinner or giving them nightmares, imagine the cost of that much therapy?

I wondered then for the first time if the faceless man was once again trying to save me for himself or was that poison gas meant for me as well?

There were at least twice as many people in here as last time I was here, though I didn‘t know if that was moments ago or hours, but it was so much livelier than the first time, some of them seemed to be enjoying themselves for real and not under the gun as before.

There were card games going on all over the room. The town preacher was at the black jack table and winning, praising the Lord as his pile of chips grew rapidly.

The schoolmarm was playing the roulette table; last time I was here I didn’t even remember a schoolhouse. Every few moments she would shout, “Come on Daddy, Momma needs a new pair of shoes!” and then laughing heartily.

Other dignified ladies of the town that normally didn’t know what a jack was let alone a spade were smoking cigars and playing poker with the men as if it was always that way around here.

Others would just belly up to the bar or stood, listening to the piano player and the singer with passion but no voice. This time the piano player, though it was the same guy, “Ash Face” was actually playing music this time, and it was beautiful, though incredibly sad and lonely somehow.

I learned that the piano players name was Jonesy. He was in love with the singer, but he never had the nerve to tell her. He gave her enough clues as he tried to tell her, but she didn’t feel the same about him, thinking instead he was a nice boy and a good friend to have, and she thought of him in no other way.

She had no real idea how he felt and thought the good feelings she got from him were because they were both musicians.

He was the one that found her lifeless body in the alley when he had gone out to that same alley for a break, he thought she had left already and had no idea she was out there, and it hurt so badly he would have taken that needle and put it in his heart but there was no liquid left in it and he couldn‘t leave her lying out there in the dirt.

He found her fallen on her side with her eyes still open, knowing instantly that she had overdosed and died alone, and that saddened him beyond consolation.

He was so overcome with grief that he cried as he held her, hot tears running off him and over her body, he began shaking her and shouting “Why? How could you leave me behind this way?” Until he regained control and knew what he must do next.

He carried her body to her home and set fire to the house because he didn’t want anyone else to see how she’d died. As others from the town came and tried to put the fire out, he pulled a gun and held them back until it was too late to save it.

Then he sat and cried as it burned to the ground; his final monument to the love he had for her. He sat there while half the town stood back and watched, they must have known why, or at least what had happened to her because they never tried to ask him about it, and they knew he would never hurt her, she was the only one of them that didn‘t know how he felt because she was so innocent.

What bothered him the most was that he had seen the damage that guy did to her, he had seen the hurt she felt and how alone and abandoned she felt before that, even though he had always been there for her. Yet thru all of the love he felt for her, all the heartache he tried to soothe her thru, he had no idea she was an addict too, or he would have killed the salesman and found a way to help her. If only they’d had a chance.

As I walked in now, no one seemed to even notice the door had opened, but I felt a shift in the air. They were continuing on with no regard to anything beyond their own plate, paying me only the most casual of notice.

Except for one man, and he seemed to stop in mid air. He was yelling about something in one of the games and turned as if he felt something shift when I entered the room.

He was still yelling and had I then turned I would have seen him looking at me more than a passing interest, but I was too slow and he covered up and left quickly.

A woman I saw in there distracted me, I reached down and found that my guns were not real again, and I trusted that to mean I “safe for the moment but be alert anyway.” Because I could never tell when things were going to change for the worst and I would need them, it just made me pay more attention to everything around me.

“So many things you could get used to or understand if you just went with the flow!” I thought to myself.

Actually, she looked more of a child than a lady in that bar. She walked up to me and said, “Buy a lady a drink?” but it was not a question and she knew the answer as she took my arm and took control of the situation.

She led me to the bar, smiling and pretending we were old friends already. It was her business to be social and she liked her job, and she seemed a natural for it.

As I looked closer, I could see she was not as young as I first thought. She was bouncy though and quite proud of her figure, and she showed enough of it as she talked to me, leaning over and whispering into my ear as we talked.

My hand kept brushing her breast and she didn’t seem to mind so I didn’t either.

She acted as if we had been partners in this type of “arrangement” before, possibly many times before, but I would sure hope that I would have remembered it because I liked her humor, she was a nice respite, though temporary, against all the other things that had happened and that I had seen that day.

I kept looking around the room, but no one else seemed to notice us as we talked and laughed and drank our way around her business.

She was really good at making me feel like she really did care about me, but I knew she was a working girl. I had always wondered about that kind of woman and I always thought, that “If you didn’t earn it, you don’t deserve it” but this was different though I didn’t know how or why.

In truth, she really was pretty and had not been long in the business. She learned at an early age what men wanted and she had it so why not?

This was her job and I had not been with a woman in a long time. But she made it feel personal, as if all she cared about was my happiness, as if I was her first customer and she was a virgin.

Uh huh. And wooden puppets really DIDN’T have wooden balls. But it worked for both of us, at least that night it did.

Did it really matter what other people thought? Were they going to feed her? Pay her way? Nope. It was up to her she knew, because she wasn’t going to let anyone own her, and she sure as hell wasn’t going to be counting on anyone else to make her way, to care for her needs.

Her first customer was her first time though, and he was the proverbial son of a preacher man. He gave her five dollars and it hurt but she got a new dress and shoes from it, after that, she learned to save the money and charge more. She wasn’t going to stay in this town all her life; she had a dream about leaving there and going to San Francisco.

She had heard about the women there, how they met rich men from all over the world and then they never had to worry about working or anything else after that, they would be taken care of.

She still had that innocence about her, and that served her well, but would not last long in this business, and she knew that too.

She wore a long dress that gathered at her waist, which allowed her to show off her cleavage and figure to her advantage.

She didn’t understand men’s fascination with her breasts, but there were a lot of men that would give her ten dollars just to see them. Other men seemed to like her butt and she had plenty of that for them too.

“My name is Samantha,” she told me after a few drinks. That was when I noticed he was the same bartender I shot just outside that door earlier in the day.

He even had an angry red mark where I’d shot him. When he got there, he looked at me for a hard moment, as if he remembered me doing that but couldn’t do anything about it right now, then went about his business; I wanted to laugh but kept a straight face as if I didn’t know.

When she asked my name, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember, so I said “Danny” and she accepted that, so I didn’t give it much thought.

I was still looking about the room, using the mirror as my tool. My friend. As it was, it was my only partner in there. As I looked around, I felt I could relax as no one was paying me any attention.

But I somehow missed the three men in the crowd that HAD noticed me and were paying attention to everything I did.

They weren’t standing together, but maybe they were deputies or something like that, they stood out in the room because they just stood there watching the crowd, neither drinking nor talking to anyone.

I turned my attention back to her, and I knew my drink was much stronger than hers, I remembered that sometimes they rolled guys in places like this when they thought they were drunk enough, so I began to slowly pour some of mine into hers when she wasn’t looking, thinking that leveled the playing field a bit more in my favor.

As a result she was getting pretty drunk too before she knew it. I began to relax and started liking the way the night was going, she was getting really friendly and laughing too hard at the worst of my jokes, but that only added to her appeal.

After a while she asked, “Do you want to take me upstairs?” she smiled sweetly. Again, it was not meant as a question and she knew the answer before she asked it.

She leaned closer this time, actually placing my hand on her breast as she licked at my ear softly. I don’t know about most guys, but that always makes me shiver. Not that I don’t like it, but because I do, and now she knew that, but it’s either because it tickles or because I like it that much that I can’t help it.

She smiled and took my hand in hers, signaling to the bar that she going to be busy as she led me away. As she took my hand he sneered at me, and I thought he knew what was going to happen next and it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, then he looked angry because I was going to enjoy at least part of it.

It was that “enjoyable” part that I was thinking about when I’d looked into her eyes. She had a sweetness about her that made you want to hug her and tell her it would be all right.

But she also had a toughness underneath that let you know this was all business. She liked to think she could hide her soft side from most men, but I could see it clear as day, “As plain as the nose on your face” as my mother used to say.

I could also see that she hated this work and the men she had to deal with but felt there was no other way, and who was I to argue? I didn’t want to adopt her either, but I did like her. She made me feel like she hated the business but she liked being around me.

She knew men in this business that were men who would be regular customers, always coming around with lots of money in their pockets and cheap cologne on, and then most of the time with alcohol on their breaths as if that made it all right for them, and when she saw them on Sunday they would be cursing her name with the wife and kids at their side, as if she was the only immoral one in that equation, or the one that deserved their scorn.

Some of them wanted her to act younger than she was, some not even have sex but just to have her hold them while they talked about being bad and needing forgiveness, it was a strange and sad world she lived in.

She had even been beaten a few times but she stayed away from those as much as she could and learned how to recognize them right away, they had that same hollow look in their eyes as if they were dead inside, and always seemed impatient.

She was thinking that maybe I was different, and she had dreams of meeting a man that would take care of her, make her feel special and needed. Maybe I was the guy and maybe not, “may haps” as her Nana would have said.

I followed her up the stairs, admiring the view as we walked. A lot of women that worked in her business needed clothes that would hold them together right. She wasn’t there yet, and she was proud of that, so knowing where my eyes were, she exaggerated her walk a little for my benefit. As I said, she was good at her business.


Comments:
 
Bluez   Bluez wrote
on 2/17/2009 9:00:24 AM
I am sorry I didn't see this sooner and answer you, I didn't know there were comments here and started looking for them yesterday. I love writing and have three books available now, one that I just finished editing and one more that's just about done, so I guess I am trying to keep it going, none of them are the same, or part two, though I have thought about writing a "prequel" to one of them, (Servant of Evil) and I have about five more that are "in process" right now that I can finish and maybe have my own library shelf. I hope you enjoyed my work here though, Open Windows was my very first attempt at writing. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

rbouncha   rbouncha wrote
on 4/9/2008 1:41:21 PM
Sounds to me like you want to write a novel. Maybe you should try it. Anyways keep it going

Bluez
Graphic Novels
Other
writing Bluez
wanna be writer
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Rating: 10.0/10

Synopsis
I thought adding one chapter at a time was taking too long, and then I noticed that chapter six was real short anyway and added chapter seven, hope you don't mind and are having fun reading this.
A Word from the Writer
I sincerely thank you for taking the time to check out my work
Published Date
11/11/2007 12:00:00 AM
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