Prequels:

I. Nowheresville

II. The Scarlet Letter

III. The Two Sides of the Coin

cross

IV. A Cross Drowned in Blood

By: Nate Susvilla

Hardly in awe, Marcus was sat with one elbow resting on the bar studying what for him was a frequent sight. Similar-looking polished men from head to toe peddling drinks; elaborate dresses hung onto well put together ladies; a man seated in a couch  surrounded by tall, lean, aesthetically-gifted bunch of women in their skimpy dresses; identical female dancers wrapped in body-hugging tights, gold-washed, hair igloo-ed, shrined in the hall’s corners making random bends, stretches, movements; intermittent lights generally red scattered everywhere; and the sole photographer allowed to document the event in pictures.

Marcus’ glances were cast into the platform—dark, save for the beamed “Berta Dimitri” in gold neon—and into the crowd scouring the superfluity of wild, flamboyant, refined and interesting assortment for a scrutiny target he could zero in on. He occasionally raked in stares from cougars and a hodgepodge of people who talked fashion likely hoping to prey on his good looks.

A girl—donning a glittery silver knee-high dress hardly resisting the pull of gravity actually complimenting her rather contrasting bone-glued flesh and uptight bumpy breasts hinted by the substantial opening under her neck—blocked Marcus’ view as she walked past him side eyeing him, dropping a wink. The bar lights reflected onto the girl’s rosy skin drew paint sprays onto her square jaw, pinnacling nose, protruding cheek, strong yet delicate lips and high forehead. Their eyes met and stayed locked until the girl had exploited her full head turn stretch. The girl aligned her head forward sashaying her way to the terrace. Her short dark lush hair, tossed wildly as a salad green, showed her long majestic neck.

From where he was seated, Marcus could see the girl clipping a lit cigarette with her two fingers gazing the distance. He banged his drink glass by the bar and made for the balcony. Just before he got to the door, he came back to leave his lighter by the bar.

He came out to a chilly blow of the wind stirring his hair that’s wild and unruly as the stormy waves. He buttoned his suit and stood by the banister, planting his feet a meter close to the girl. He took out a stick of cigarette, lipped it as he dug through his pockets for a lighter. The girl wheezed out a cloud of smoke and freed an amused quick sigh as her lips widened a bit. She slowly shook her head, growing a smile. ”Really? Weed?” she said having sniffed a hint of the grass, voice a little throaty. She offered him her lighter. An amused and mocking deep audible breath escaped her as Marcus sniffed hard reminiscent of a honking steam train.

“I’m not into the party, hardcore kind,” Marcus said as he disgorged a cloud of smoke. He slid the lighter back to her. “You’re not bothered by the cold, are you?”

“I am more bothered by the coldness of the human heart,” she said, tone serious, bowing down.

Marcus’ eyes widened and reverted back quickly as he faced her putting on a concerned face.

She flicked her cigarette into the air, turned around to lean by the balustrade with her arms embracing herself. “Let’s get out of here. C’mon!” she recommended.

“It won’t hurt to be a bit acquainted,” Marcus teased winking.

“C’mon, car keys,” Rebecca scoffed extending an open palm commencing steps forward.

“I’d love to give in to your abrupt proposal but I’m on official duty here,” Marcus quipped facing about holding up the dangling car keys and winked again. “I’m my boss’ ride.”

“Whoa, that’s a first. You’re always this debauchee, huh?” she jibed and took out another stick lighting it as she rejoined Marcus.

“C’mon, the party just started. And don’t get me wrong…believe me in my book, you’re beyond gorgeous,” Marcus said looking intent. “Duty first before pleasure, you know.”

“You remind me so much of my mate,” Rebecca said as she cut short her intent look of Marcus’ face. “…I lost to cancer, only he’s a riot in parties…and such a perv. You look so much alike. I just miss him.”

“I bet you do,” Marcus said as he spewed out smoke from the twitched side of his mouth avoiding Rebecca from inhaling the smoke.

“I was with a girl,” Rebecca confessed freely. “It didn’t last. You see with these bitches, it’s like you’re there to make them feel better about themselves. You tell them things to make them feel good. And on the process, you invest so much of your emotion until you see yourself way too much into her than she is to you. Then they bitch out on you. But I’m so over it.”

“I’m sure it was just a phase,” Marcus said trying to be engaged.

“But you know, for a chauffeur you have a million-dollar fashion taste,” Rebecca praised Marcus’ outward appearance on a sudden shift of topic as she scanned him from head to toe.

“I try,” Marcus snorted trying to be modest. “I was told…slim cut pretty much does it…regardless of the price. And a good pair of Italian shoes won’t hurt. Sure these hand-me-downs don’t come cheap…lucky to have my boss’ shoe size.”

“Hmmm well lemme see,” she started as she pulled down to straighten up his coat. “Lose the facial hair. Every hint of it…you’ve strong manly features. Ugh, your chin’s to die for,” she said as she held his jaw line moving it from side to side. “And stop hiding behind those hair,” she said as she combed Marcus’ hair back with her fingers. “A bit of grooming and I bet my money on you. Have you given modelling a go?”

“The last thing I’d prolly be interested in,” Marcus said and grew a genuine smile, fixing his coat. “I just am not that invested in my physicality. There’s more to life than looking your best on the outside.”

“Says the guy who’s dressed to impress,” Rebecca jested. She wheezed out a cloud of smoke and ashed her cigarette. “I’m just saying there are alternatives to chauffeuring. Might as well cash in on those good looks. Cha-ching!”

“I have the best job in the world,” Marcus assured Rebecca.

Says the guy who can’t even buy himself a lighter,” Rebecca quipped.

“You actually have a point there,” Marcus agreed, nodding, playful. “Anyway, what are you doing out here? You don’t strike me as a hermit.”

Rebecca looked at Marcus. Her stares, blank, glared past Marcus into the expanse of nighttime Ljubljana. Her eyes were dampened by the forming tears made obvious by the reflected night lights. She opened her eyes wide and blinked a few times trying to prevent a tear drop. She turned to rest her hand on to the balustrade and looked away anew.

Silence.

Marcus’ brows twitched upwards as if that of a dog’s trying to read his master’s behavior. As Marcus looked, Rebecca rested her head sidewards. Marcus noticed those soft little hair left out from her domed bushy brows, those little fur sprouting above and on the side of her forehead jumbling the hairline, her pearl-like rose-tinted skin radiating,  those long lashes tracing the shape of her strong huge blue-green eyes, her streamlined nose, those pouty shapely lips as if plucked out of her otherwise snug facial skin that’s revealing her protruding cheek bones and emphasizing her chiseled chin.

Her face was an oxymoron—an angelic little devil Marcus was so drawn to he wanted to sexually take advantage of her and protect, care for her at the same time.

Underneath his initial impression—straightforward and slutty—of Rebecca, Marcus could tell, she’s a girl with a delicate core, desolate and was going through something. “Whatever it is,” Marcus carefully started. “You know this Shakespeare guy once said, ‘This too shall pass.’ You know, we should get inside.”

“Ugh! Well c’mon in, grouch,” Rebecca said pulling Marcus’ tie walking him in. “It’s Rebecca, by the way.”

 

Marcus’ boss, Dimitri, stood next to Berta, the night’s celebrated designer. A show was held to showcase her designs, which one wrote were a re-imagination of the 60s—more figure complimenting, less psychedelic and less stiff fabric made from recycled trash.

Standing streamlined, average height, Dimitri’s a business mogul with investments in the hospitality industry in the UK, US, Europe and parts of Asia. Never married, Dimitri partnered with then unknown yet a talented Slovenian—Berta—to produce dresses that were high fashion and socially responsible.

The good press highlighting Berta’s taste and the social responsibility easily catapulted the brand to the status of their revered, long-established Italian and French counterparts. Proof to the brand’s growing following and recognition were the VIPs, celebrities in attendance.

The social responsibility aspect got the media hyping it up. The wearability proved their brand a hit amongst socialites and glam-hype slaves. Plus the free endorsements from celebrities donning the dresses quickly shot “Berta Dimitri” up to the level of the heavyweights.

 

From where he was standing, Dimitri could see Rebecca and Marcus entering from the porch. He excused himself to approach the two.

“Ahh I can see, there’s no need for an introduction,” he said as he stood right in the way of the approaching duo.

“Dimitri!” Rebecca exclaimed and pressed her cheeks next to Dimitri’s. Their hands clutched while their bodies repelled.

“Rebecca, you were great at the show,” Dimitri praised Rebecca. “Thanks for coming.”

“Who can resist your price, Dimitri?” Rebecca said, smiling to show her set of huge white teeth.

“Oh with the tide of press you drag along with you, you’re worth every penny, honey,” Dimitri said with a grin.

“I’m all for great, responsible talent,” Rebecca said striking a pose modelling a Berta Dimitri creation.

“Indeed,” Dimitri said in agreement, eyes opened wide, hands reaching out to hold Rebecca’s. “And look at you, a sight for sore eyes indeed.”

The forced smiles slowly died down leading to an awkward silence.

“Oh, I reckon, he works for you?” Rebecca said to confirm, referring to Marcus, filling the dead air. “Mind if I borrow him?”

“Not at all…he’s all yours,” Dimitri said growing a light on his face that dissipated as he darted Marcus a snarling stare. “But he’s not bothering you, is he?”

“Oh his smiles rather keep me entertained,” Rebecca said cuddling Marcus’ arm throwing Marcus faintly off balance.

The succeeding awkward silence was cut by Berta, clad in a tight-fitting knee-high black dress—a striking contrast to her creations—amp-ing her pale face, hands and legs. She was elevated by a pair of dark heels, stood up the platform tapping the mic, “Beautiful people, may I have your attention please,” she started enjoining everyone. “I’d like to propose a toast. Everyone, grab a glass of champagne. And oh please may we call in Dimitri, my business partner, where are you? C’mon up here, honey!”

Dimitri quickly bade the two goodbye to slice through the crowd to join Berta while Marcus led Rebecca to the bar. The barman smacked Marcus’ lighter in front of him as he and Rebecca got seated. An amused sneer grew on Rebecca’s face as her gazes quickly hopped from the lighter to the barman to ask for her vanilla vodka.

“Here’s to a future so bright, and a strong partnership,” Berta, standing by the platform said raising her glass as her fuzzy glance spanned through the crowd stopping at the sight of Dimitri who was standing to her right to later raise her glass higher and bow. “And to a beautiful night. Thank you all for taking the time out your busy schedule.”

Dimitri gulped his champagne while watching Rebecca and Marcus from afar. Marcus had both his elbows resting by the counter as he slouched by the stool, his almost tight-fitting suit revealed his wide frame, apparently dishing out anecdotes funny enough for Rebecca to burst in laughter who’d occasionally move to thud her toned fragile frame onto Marcus’ immovable burliness.

Rebecca’s slender arms and toned back emitted the youthful glow dimming her glittery dress. Her folded legs were radiant, they eclipsed the glimmer of her heels.

The merry-making just got wilder as the clock struck 12.

Dimitri struggled to escape the crowd as he got delayed by the constant chitchats his prominence would draw. By the time Dimitri reached the shoreline of the crowd, he saw Rebecca wailing on her feet, legs spread, hands thrown freely up in the air, hardly sober trying to align her awkward sloppy movements to the fast beat of some music playing.

Marcus shook his head in repulsion and on the process spotted a robust guy talking to the earpiece that seemed to have been disturbed by the lovely distraction.

Rebecca pulled Marcus toward her bidding him to join in. It was easy to convince Marcus, to Dimitri’s surprise. Marcus stood to make awkward movements himself while holding Rebecca’s back with his one hand. The other hand was flung in the air too that still held steadfast his drink.

As Rebecca’s yowling got louder, Marcus let a laugh loose and looked around starting to be slightly sentient about the audience they might have attracted. He spotted Dimitri, arms tangled, whizzing a menacing stare. To which he responded to so quickly that he loosened his hold of Rebecca’s back making Rebecca digress steps back as he made for his stool, his raucous disposition dying.

He held Rebecca by the hand towing her to her stool. He glanced back at Dimitri still in the same spot and position only now his fingers were pitter-pattering.

Dimitri closed in and bent to almost touch his cheek onto Marcus’ ear. “Get her ready,” he whispered. He backed out and leaned afresh. “And I need you back here right away.” Rebecca turned to notice Dimitri next to Marcus.

“Hey, he’s mine tonight,” Rebecca motioned pushing Dimitri away softly. Dimitri withdrew himself and turned about. Marcus lipped the tip of his glass, sipping a spit, looking back, past Rebecca’s arm clutching his neck, onto Dimitri who disappeared into the crowd.

Marcus slackened himself from Rebecca’s embrace, stood to reach for his wallet and slapped EUR50 onto the bar. He held Rebecca’s drink glued to her mouth, preventing her from gulping more, and spilled it in a struggle to pull it away from her.

As Marcus stepped away from the bar, Rebecca faced about suctioning Marcus’ arm pulling him toward her. She spread her legs to usher Marcus in looking up as she said, “Givin’ in to my indecent…proposal yet?”

“Let’s get you to your hotel,” Marcus said grabbing Rebecca by the arm.

“Ooh, you’re not playing hard-to-get after all,” Rebecca said as she submitted herself willingly allowing Marcus to sweep her away. The man with the earpiece across the bar got up to sneak himself behind them tailing them through to the exit.

Rebecca flung herself onto the front seat and snoozed almost instantaneously. Marcus secured her seatbelt while Rebecca wheezed as he manoeuvred his way out to the highway. Marcus’ phone rang. He picked up. His lips were together the whole time until he uttered “I got it.”

He hang up, leaned to the side to check on Rebecca and noticed a light tailing them. He slowed down allowing the vehicle to cut in. The vehicle slowed down too. Marcus swerved to the right. He glanced by the mirror to see the vehicle doing the same. He swerved to the right again and so did the vehicle. Another right to again see the vehicle also turning until he got back to the same road.

He sped forward in an effort to lose the tailing vehicle. He vroomed at max speed and slowed down upon seeing hardly any light likely following them. He swerved quickly to the left to detour his way to Rebecca’s hotel. He quickly swerved to the right as he changed his mind.

Rebecca awakened, reached for Marcus’ shoulder caressing it. “Are we there yet?” she asked nonchalantly. Marcus hardly engaged, uttered, “We’re fine.” “I’m asking…are we there yet or not?” Rebecca said straightening up seeming to have lost her bleariness and voice raised a notch.

“We’re being followed. But I think we lost them. I’m taking you to my place instead. You’re not safe in your hotel,” Marcus proposed as he gave a concerned stare.

“Of course we’re being followed. If not Daily Mail, Dimitri.” Rebecca asked, hardly perplexed.

“You’re not much of a frenzy-magnet here I’m sorry to disappoint you.”

“In the words of Dimitri, I tag along a tide of press. Let me just remind you.” A pause. “And why at your place again?”

“Well we can’t go to the hotel,” Marcus insisted. “Security is lax there.”

“I’m secure enough there,” Rebeca declared. “I see where this is going…I’m safe at your place. Puh-lease!” Another pause. “You know what, no booty call tonight…take me to my hotel. Imma doze off!” she said releasing a big yawn.

“You better not have drugged my drink back there!” Rebecca snapped pointing a finger at Marcus.

Marcus did not say a word. He drove till he slowed down as he got to narrow roads leading up to the little alley at the back of his apartment building. “We’re heading to my place. You’re safe there,” Marcus said as he continued driving.

“Safe from what? From whom? Last time I checked bitchiness won’t get one slain by some huntsman. And how d’you know it’s me they’re after? If I know it’s another Dimitri’s boy toy hired to spy on the other boy toy,” she said. “Let me out!” Rebecca shouted as she attempted to open the door, enveloped her breasts and retreated to her seat.

“Please you have to trust me on this,” Marcus insisted, looking at the mirror. “I guess we lost it.”

“Why don’t you just turn around and bring me back to the party.”

Marcus’ phone, now docked onto the car’s front, rang. Dimitri’s name appeared in the register, which Rebecca noticed. She gunned Marcus a stare. Marcus’ glances jumped from her to the phone anew and forward ignoring the call.

“Aren’t you gonna pick it up? It’s your boyfriend.”

Marcus switched off the phone. “We’ll swing by your hotel, grab your things fast. We’ll stop by my place to get me a bit of cash. You’re flying back to London.”

“Don’t you ever tell me what I need to do,” Rebecca declared. “Get me to my hotel.”

“Please, look up for a flight back to London,” Marcus almost begged. “First flight tomorrow. From Venice. Please, it’s for your own safety.”

“Stop! Just let me out. Let me out!” Rebecca went gung-ho and started hitting Marcus.

“I’ll get you to your hotel,” Marcus said as he drove past a parking space near his place.

“Why Venice?” Rebecca said as she calmed down. “Am I in serious trouble? Who’s after me?”

“I can only imagine,” Marcus said.

“Just get me to my hotel,” Rebecca evenly said and turned away.

 

Marcus sped thru to the hotel. He parked his car by the side of the road a hundred meters away from the hotel entrance. Rebecca got out quickly strutting her stuff to the hotel entrance. Marcus followed in quick, sped up to catch up with the rushing model.

Rebecca pushed heavily the entrance’s revolving door leaving Marcus to get in the next partition. Marcus was worried Rebecca would alert security and reception of some stranger following her but rather Rebecca swooshed through the lobby to get to the elevator ignoring stares of appreciation from the two people manning the hotel reception.

Marcus got inside the elevator just before the doors lipped together. Rebecca stood by her one leg with the other slightly put forward, bum pushed out, chin up, right brow arched higher than the other, lips slightly sucked out, arms angled hands resting on her hips. “Which floor?” Marcus asked. Rebecca pressed “6” without saying anything.

Rebecca emerged from the elevator making a runway out of the hotel corridor and stopped to face the door indicating 606. She slot in her key card, got in, opened the door wide enough for Marcus to pass through who double-locked it before him.

“It can’t get any safer than that. Dontcha think?” Rebecca said almost to herself.

She leaned on the table to take off her shoes whilst still holding on to her purse, which she brought to the bathroom with her. She closed the bathroom door while Marcus got himself settled sitting on the bed footing. Marcus turned on his phone. No call from Dimitri.

Rebecca later emerged from the bath fully naked. She put her purse away, and locked her ferocious gaze at Marcus as she came for him. She wrapped herself around Marcus who was seated at the end of the bed. Rebecca held Marcus’ head and guided it in-between her breasts. As Marcus played with her chest with his tongue, Rebecca moaned and arched her body backwards while clipping her legs around Marcus’ waist.

Marcus emerged from diving deep into Rebecca’s flesh gasping for air saying, “We don’t have time for this.” Rebecca, still arched backwards, her back supported by Marcus’ hands, didn’t move one bit except for turning her head forward, piercing an eager glance at Marcus. She held on to it until she broke free from the clam. She got to her knees pushing Marcus flat onto the bed and legged up to the bath anew.

She banged the door close and put down the toilet seat. From the inside, she yelled “You can go!”

“Rebecca please, they’re coming to get you,” Marcus said, almost begging, as he got up. Marcus knocked on the bathroom door. “I’m coming in,” he said as he turned the door knob and slowly pushing the door open. Rebecca didn’t oppose the intrusion. She sat there with her legs crossed welcoming Marcus with a blank stare.

“You’re not safe here. They’re coming to get you. I know I don’t make any sense but you have to trust me on this,” Marcus said as he knelt and held Rebecca’s hands paralleling his face against Rebecca’s.

Marcus reached for his pocket, and took out a small bottle. “This is supposed to get you ready…for them. You are marked for death. A blood sacrifice for them. I suggest you go back to London and trust no one. Hire a family as bodyguard or something.”

Only then did Rebecca blink. She swallowed her saliva and broke the detached stare. She whisked her head and broke loose of Marcus’ hands. She stood up to gently push Marcus to the side and got out to start gathering her stuff.

“B-but I guess there they won’t anymore go after you,” Marcus gave her the assurance.

Rebecca got up, made for the her things. Marcus flushed the john and followed Rebecca.

Marcus opened the closet to unhang Rebecca’s clothes while Rebecca arranged her belongings.

Marcus dragged her luggage for her and stood by the bathroom door as Rebecca swept clear the toilet cupboard of her beauty products and cosmetic paraphernalia, catching them all in her handbag.

They got to the hotel reception quick and Rebecca smacked her key card onto the desk. The reception was quick to take the card and run her fingers onto the keyboard. She paused to say “You’re booked till Tuesday night, Miss Green.”

“Just check me out,” Rebecca hurriedly and irritably replied. The reception resumed tinkering the computer when Rebecca motioned Marcus to follow her. “Hope you had a great time with us, Miss Green,” the receptionist said as she dropped everything she was doing, grabbed the phone and dialled a number as she looked at Rebecca gliding her way out.

– – – o – – –

“I’ll wait here,” Rebecca said as Marcus stopped to park the car behind a red car. “C’mon, I’ll fix you some caffeine,” Marcus invited her along. “Udine’s quite a drive.” Marcus stood in front of the car and tapped the hood beckoning Rebecca out. Rebecca slowly and grudgingly stepped out of the vehicle to follow Marcus slide through the little space the parked red car and the concrete fence provided. They sliced through the courtyard and legged up the wide steps that led to Marcus’ apartment.

Marcus let Rebecca in, locked the door and placed the security chain. “Make yourself comfortable,” as he made for his kitchen to make coffee. “I’ll just  grab a bit of clothes and a bit of cash then we’re ready to go. Your coffee will be ready soon. Sugar is there.”

Marcus went to fix him a weekender of clothing and came out to see Rebecca lobbed onto his sofa lifeless.  Marcus came to Rebecca’s aid in a jiffy budging to wake her up. The heartbeat he checked was slow so was the breathing. He raised her shaking her to no avail. His left hand sewed through Rebecca’s armpits passing through her back while his right arm slid down  to the back of her knees. It stopped at something his right hand felt on Rebecca’s bum. He put Rebecca down to look at what appeared to be a tranquilliser dart shot at animals. He pulled it out and sacked Rebecca onto his shoulder.

He grabbed his bag and went to unlock the door. Marcus pulled the door open and was startled by the sight of Dimitri blocking his way cocking a gun.

Dimitri twitched the gun forcing Marcus to step back in. Marcus did so and quickly dropped Rebecca to slam the door close. Dimitri released a silent shot through the door which Marcus ducked. Marcus dropped to his knee, his other knee pushed against the door. His hand pressed hard onto the door too while the other reached for the door lock trying to slot the key in.

The adrenaline rush and the constant push from the other side barred Marcus from fitting the key in. Another gunshot whisked the keys off Marcus’ hand. As Marcus crawled to reach for the keys, Dimitri shouldered the door open only to be resisted by the security chain.

Dimitri aimed at the chain and fired to swing open the door. Marcus got to his knees, arms raised, palms facing Dimitri. “Dimitri, I just couldn’t do it.”

“I knew that,” Dimitri said pulling out a tranquilliser gun giving Marcus two shots one on each of his thighs. “Now, the keys,” Dimitri said referring to Marcus’ apartment keys. Marcus slid the keys onto Dimitri. As Dimitri locked the door close, Marcus’ body finally yielded to the ample dose of tranquilliser and just dropped heavily on the floor.

– – – o – – –

 

At 3:00AM, Marcus woke up to the smell of caffeine emanating from the brewed coffee that was kept warm by the still lit brewing machine. He opened his eyes to see himself covered with blood and his hand loosely clenching a kitchen knife.

He got up to his rear, flung his arms over to his bent knees and dropped his head down making defeated slow turns. He caressed the back of his head as if tending a huge blow. He faced up, looked sour and finally let out a fumy scream that died down into a squeamish cry. He got up, struggling and reluctant.

He dragged himself to the bath dangling the knife. He was welcomed by a flood of blood soaking Rebecca—on her back flung flat legs together, arms spread in a 45-degree angle against her body. He looked on longer to discover Rebecca’s head chopped off, arms and legs dismembered.

He dropped the kitchen knife, slackened the hold of the door knob and decked to the floor. He threw himself to the resilient door and just looked at the cadaver, his gaze vacant.

It wasn’t long before sirens could be heard wailing.

 

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