Beauty & Blood, continued...
“I never did find out what happened to that band of thieves. I’m guessing the funny man with the coin may have intercepted them and… I don’t know… eaten them or something? It took the Scarlet Rose a full three hours to drive him off when he was in monster mode. It took the town a full three months to repair all the damage. I hope I never come across the sandal man again.”
I pause from my writing for a moment to look out of the tiny window of the attic that I currently call home. The moon was still low on the horizon – I still have plenty of time for my nightly activity. It’s such a shame, but it seems the city of Springvale has had a sudden rash of burglaries. I catch the gleam of gold coins out of the corner of my eye. I can’t help but grin every time I look at the ever-growing pile of coin sacks in the corner of my room. My fencing network has been very, very busy.
A funny memory flashes through my mind and I return quill to ink.
“A few weeks ago, while I was stealthed in an apple tree, I saw stupid Marla addressing a large number of her stupid Scarlet Rose troops. I chucked an apple at her, just to mess with her, and I actually managed to knock her hat off! I swear, it was a one-in-a-million shot! Her unit all burst out laughing and Marla’s face turned bright red!”
I actually have to stop writing as I descend into a fit of giggles. The look on her face! It was priceless! I actually have to stand and get a cup of water before I can continue writing.
“I don’t think Marla and I are actually trying to murder each other any longer. Last week, I was piss-drunk at the bar and she came up to me. She was so smashed, she could hardly stand. I didn’t even recognize her at first given her kind of slutty attire. Apparently, even the captain of the Scarlet Rose likes to be a little knotty after hours.”
I sit and think about the memory for a few minutes. My cheeks start to flush a little when I remember what happened next.
“So she got right in my face and slurred something about us having unfinished business, then challenged me to a wrestling match. I slurred back that I was ready any time, so we rented one of the upstairs rooms and tossed each other around for a while. I remember a lot of giggling and whispering about how we were going to murder each other… but that’s about it. Everything else is a little fuzzy. I think I might have puked into her cleavage at some point – and based on the slimy mess we were when we woke up together the next morning, she probably did the same thing to me. We shared a bath but didn’t do much talking – and I think she took my bra by mistake. I certainly didn’t own a pink support garment before that.”
I look over to a pile of laundry in the far corner of the room, the bright pink object barely pokes out from under the other much darker clothing. I feel my cheeks flush a little again.
“I did ask her if she liked women as much as I did, but she said she preferred men. Regardless, since that day, we’ve kind of become friendly enemies. ‘Frienemies’ if you will.”
My hand absentmindedly brushes the scar on my cheek. I seem to be doing that a lot these days. Stupid redhead. Always distracting me when I need to be focused.
Tossing the quill to the side, I pull on my favorite inky-black outfit. It’s skin tight, but stretchy enough that it doesn’t impede my movements at all. I adjust the ladies a little; in the event that I’m discovered by a man, they always provide a moment’s distraction. Usually that’s all I need to stick him with my blades or make good on an escape.
Squeezing through my tiny attic window, I perch atop the old house that I hide out in. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. The sweet night air invigorates my senses and clears my head. It always helps to take a moment before I get down to business. I make a mental note of the noble homes that I want to visit that night, then open my eyes and skillfully leap to the rooftop beside me.
For several breathless minutes, I quietly speed across a few dozen rooftops. My special cotton shoes provide me with a descent grip while making almost no noise at all.
I’m almost to my first target home when some movement on a balcony below stops me dead in my tracks.
Lord Thomas Chadwick stretches out in a chair with his expensive boots casually propped atop the metal railing in front of him. Naked from the waist up, he sips a small glass of brandy. A writing quill and open notebook with a magical glowing sigil lies on a small table off to the side.
“Well, well…” I murmur to myself, “If it isn’t Mr. Rich-fancy-pants himself.”
Lord Thomas was well known for his wealth in Springvale. Handsome, fit, and the consummate socialite, he was always to be found attending the very finest of gatherings while wearing the very finest of apparel. If ever anyone could be described as a celebrity, Lord Thomas was it. The thing is though, no one actually knew where his wealth came from. Appearing from out of nowhere a few months ago, his vast riches had quickly catapulted him to the very top of the social ladder.
I smile to myself. Doubtless good Lord Thomas wouldn’t mind making a modest donation to the ‘Make Diana Rich’ fund tonight.
I watch as he makes a few more notations in the notebook. What could he be writing? Personal thoughts? A Diary perhaps? A ledger of some sort? My mind began to whirl with excitement.
“Thomas, stop ignoring me!”
A familiar female voice filled the night air. I bristled as soon as I heard it.
Marla steps out onto the balcony wearing nothing but his missing shirt. She’s too top heavy to do up the last few buttons and it gives me an amazing view from above.
“I didn’t come over to be by myself, you know?” she whispers into his ear.
The tall, handsome man stands and smiles down at the fabulous redhead. “OK, baby,” he purrs, “let’s go relax.”
I silently, mockingly, mouth his words and roll my eyes as the two of them disappear into the house. Stupid Marla. Everywhere I go, she pops up for some reason. It figures she’d be a bed warmer for the most popular guy in the city.
I gently lower myself down onto the balcony and immediately go for the notebook. A small candle beside it gives me just enough light to make out a few of the entries:
“Autumn Day 39 – Mr Chemicals reports that the new powder is showing promising results.”
“Autumn Day 53 – Test subjects display immediate dependence on powder.”
“Autumn Day 82 – Meeting with independent sellers goes well. Ramping up production.”
I scan several more pages and the question of where Lord Thomas gets his wealth from becomes clear. I had seen several bar patrons snorting some sort of powder at the private tables in the back, but never thought much of it. Some medications have to be taken that way, but the thought of taking something for recreational pleasure like that had never occurred to me.
A pair of hands suddenly yanks me off my feet and throws me against the side of the house. Marla presses her chest into mine - effectively pinning me to the wall.
“Somehow I knew you were behind the sudden rash of burglaries!” she hisses into my ear.
I struggle against her, but she’s got the leverage.
“No, baby, you’ve got it all wrong,” I say with a wry smile. “I was invited, same as you.”
“Don’t give me that!” she whispers through clenched teeth. “Lower your voice! If nothing else, you’re trespassing and I’m taking you to the prison!”
“I’d like to see you try!” I whisper back. “And why are you whispering anyway? You don’t want Tommy to know I’m here? Nice shirt, by the way.”
“Shut up!” she quietly commands and presses into me harder. “Maybe I’ll just strangle you right here and now and be done with it!”
Lord Thomas’ voice calls out from the darkness. “Marla? Where are you? What are you waiting for?”
“Just a second, honey. I’m almost ready for you,” she calls back in her sweetest voice.”
I take this moment of distraction and maximize it to my benefit. In one swift motion, I wrap my arms around the redhead and spin us a hundred and eighty degrees. Now it’s Marla that’s pinned to the wall.
“Get off of me, Diana!” she whispers as loud as she can.
“Do you know what’s written in that notebook?” I ask and motion to the little table off to the side.
“No, and I don’t care! Thomas’ business is his own!” she replies.
“You’re just his trampy little bed warmer then? Is that it?” I ask and press into her harder.
“Shut up!” she commands again, although this time there’s something behind it. Something in her eyes tells me I’ve hit a nerve.
I give my rival a cruel smile and press into her again. “What’s the more likely scenario here, Marla? That I climbed onto a balcony to read someone’s diary? Or that I was invited here, same as you? Tommy is the most popular socialite in the city. Do you really think he wouldn’t want to spend his nights with a pair of busty women? Or do you think you’re so special that you can appease all of his appetites all by yourself?”
Marla’s face becomes a mask of hatred. “I will destroy you,” she murmurs.
“Oh yeah?” I ask with a wild look in my eye. “Go ahead, hun. Let’s see what you’ve got!”
The redhead begins chanting a spell and her eyes begin to glow red.
I interrupt her by placing my lips over her mouth. I feel her stiffen as I continue to kiss her. Her lips are soft and supple. I take my time. When I finally finish, I lean back to enjoy the look on her face.
Instead of seeing what I thought would be a look of shock or (hopefully) lust, a see a look of profound sadness. She looks down at our pressed cleavage for a while, then back at me.
“I hope you enjoyed that,” she says quietly. A tear runs down her cheek. “I already told you. I prefer men.”
I suddenly feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. A deep feeling of shame washes over me. “I’m… I’m… sorry…” I stutter and take a step backward. It suddenly dawns on me what a terrible person I am. How dare I force myself on someone like that? Just what kind of monster am I?
Marla continues to lean against the wall, but won’t look at me.
“Marla? Are you alright?” Lord Thomas calls from deep inside the darkened house again.
“Yes,” she calls back with as much cheer as she can muster. “I’m almost done here.”
I can’t find any words as I watch her adjust his shirt a little. She wipes away another tear as she steps inside. She returns a moment later and looks me in the eye.
“I don’t want to see you again. Just leave us alone, alright? I’m trying to be happy.”
With that, she slides the balcony door closed.