Authors: Annette Brownlee
Tags: #Adventure, #Paranormal
Chaos swiped the blood out of her eyes with the back of her hand. The grip on her throat relaxed. With the exception of the gurgle as the blood drained from his throat, Bill made no sound. Her heart pounded in her ears. Oxygen filled her lungs and rushed her head. Bill stared at her in disbelief. Chaos realized she must have sliced his jugular. There was too much blood. It coated her, soaked through her shirt and dripped down her temples.
“Bitch,” he muttered. The slash on his neck moved with the effort of speech. He swung, trying to punch her. His arm moved in slow motion like a puppet on a string. With a final gasp, Bill fell forward on top of her. Chaos felt bile fill her mouth. She swallowed. Fighting panic, she used every last ounce of energy she had to shove his dead weight off her. Naked from the waist down, Chaos quickly moved away from the horror.
Dripping and bloody, she sat on her couch and stared at the dead body at her feet
. This is going to be a mess to clean up
. The reaction confused her. He was dead. She’d killed him. She should be feeling something other than disdain about the mess on her floor.
It wasn't the first time she'd seen a dead body nor was it the first time she'd killed someone. The first time she'd been at a party with friends. A classmate had found a gun and was playing Russian roulette. She’d watched as he'd accidentally blown his head off. She’d been dripping and bloody then, too. If she'd stopped him from playing that foolish game he'd still be alive. His death was her fault. No, she hadn't pulled the trigger, but she hadn't stopped him either.
The second time had been a car accident. Not her fault either, but the police, lawyers and the victim’s family didn’t believe it. Course, it had been the police chief’s wife so she understood his reaction. Yes, she’d had a light beer and a giant burger. No, she hadn’t been drunk and no, she hadn’t been able to stop or swerve when the car had turned in front of her. If she hadn’t been changing the radio station she may have been able to react more quickly. She may have been able to avoid killing her. Instead, she’d held the woman’s hand and watched her die. There were other deaths in her life too. Deaths she struggled to forget.
Staring at Dead Bill, Chaos expected to feel the same numb feeling she'd felt before. Instead all she felt was a deep and concentrated fury. It buzzed low in her stomach like an angry hornet. A rumble of rage began to build. It filled her up like a mighty explosion. Chaos raised her head to the ceiling, opened her mouth and let it out. The rage erupted from her in a furious roar.
Depleted for the moment, Chaos stood. She cast a cursory glance at him. Resisting the urge to kick him, she instead pulled a wool blanket from the back of her couch, wrapped it around her shoulders and headed into her kitchen. She felt glass slice into her heel. Looking down at her feet, Chaos realized she had one boot on and one boot off. Bill only needed to get one off to remove her shorts. Standing on one foot, she plucked the glass out of her foot. She dropped it back on the floor and continued into the kitchen. Opening the refrigerator, Chaos grabbed the Dos Lunas from the bottom shelf, unscrewed the cap, and put the chilled bottle to her mouth. The cold fluid burned as it slid smoothly down her throat. The sweet peppery taste filled her mouth. Her pulse slowed but the anger remained vibrant and steady.
Raising the bottle back to her lips, she heard the deep rumble of Paolo's Harley pull into her driveway. She looked at the clock in the microwave. Eleven thirty. "You're early," she muttered. Leaving the Tequila on the counter, she wrapped the blanket around her waist. Using her uninjured hand, she held the blanket closed as she walked to the door. Chaos opened the door to see Paolo climbing the steps. He looked at up her in surprise.
"Que paso? What happened?"
Chaos realized she probably had a black eye and she was undoubtedly covered in Bill’s blood. She could feel it drying on her skin and smell it in her hair. She’d intended on sending Paolo away but now she realized he might be the only person who could help her. She had no one else to turn to.
“Before I let you in or tell you anything, you need to know that I'm in a bit of trouble. If you walk through this door you'll be involved.” Paolo was an ex-con and the best damned crew leader she'd ever worked with. She needed his help but would completely understand if he avoided the trouble she’d be laying on him tonight. Paolo looked at her for what seemed like a long time before he answered. When he did, he put his hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eye.
“Señorita, you gave me a chance when no one else would. You make it possible for me to be the man I want to be. I feed my children with the money I earn working for you. I owe you my life. If you hadn't hired me I’d be back on the streets stealing cars.”
“This is bad,” Chaos said.
Paolo nodded. His dark eyes showed nothing but compassion. “Then why don't you come out here on the porch and tell me a story.”
Paolo stepped back and gave her some space. He smelled like fresh air, the scent of the bar had all but left his clothes. The benefit of riding a motorcycle, she thought. Pulling the blanket tight around her body, Chaos tugged the door closed behind her and sat beside Paolo on her front porch. The night was crisp and cool, like a good fall night in New Mexico. The stars twinkled in the sky overhead despite the competition from Santa Fe's urban illumination. Crickets chirped, and a cool breeze rustled the few leaves still remaining on the trees in her yard. She stared at her feet. She still had one work boot on and one bare foot. Rust colored blood caked between her bare toes. She turned to Paolo who waited patiently for her to share her story. “Hypothetically?”
“Si,” he nodded.
“Hypothetically a man showed up at my door tonight, pushed his way in and attacked me. I killed him. I didn’t mean to.”
He didn’t shake his head. She didn’t see any judgment in his eyes so she continued. “I smashed a lamp over his head while he was on top of me. It didn't stun him much but it shattered. I used the glass to slit his neck.”
“That would explain all the blood. You’re covered in it.”
“I think I hit his jugular. There was lots of it.”
“I think he broke my wrist. It hurts.” Chaos knew he meant emotionally but she wasn’t ready to go there yet. She couldn’t even think rape, let alone say the word. She held up her arm for him to see. Even in the dim porch light she could see it was red and swollen to three times its normal size.
“Looks like it. You need someone to set it?”
She did but Dead Bill seemed like a bigger problem than her broken wrist. “I need to get rid of the dead asshole on my floor. Hypothetically.”
“No. I have a reputation with the police force here. They don’t like me and I don't trust them. I will not risk my freedom for that prick.” The last time she’d been at the police station they’d called her “Black Annie.” Trouble and death followed her. She wouldn’t get any help from them.
“You killed him in self-defense, no?”
“Yes, but I'd have to prove it. I know how the system works around here. I have a shitty track record. The chief still blames me for his wife’s death.”
“Trouble follows you,” Paolo agreed.
Chaos sighed. “It knocks on my freakin’ door daily. I can't afford to defend myself in the court system. Not financially. I’d have to sell my business and it’s the only thing I have. It’s my life.” She stopped and took a deep breath. She wouldn’t cry. Not in front of Paolo. Not now. “Honestly, I just don't want to do it. He attacked me and I'd have to spend the next year forking over my life savings to lawyers to defend me. I understand if you don't want to help me. I really do. It’s probably better if you just walk away. People who get close to me have a habit of regretting it. I can figure it out for myself.” Though she honestly had no idea how to get rid of a dead body. She put her hands on her knees and prepared to stand up.
Paolo put his hand on her shoulder. “I’ll take care of it for you.”
“You sure?” Relief filled her from head to toe.
“Yes. It’d be my honor. As for getting close to you, we’ve worked together for three years now and I’m still here. No harm has come to me.” He showed her a bracelet on his wrist. A small charm hung from the bracelet.
“Yes. For protection. My grandmother practices Santeria. She gave it to me.” He slapped his knees signaling his readiness to get to work. “You know where his car is?”
“Bill’s?” Chaos realized that there was no other car parked in her driveway. “I don't. He lives...well, he lived next to Smithy. You remember what kind of car is usually parked there?”
“Yes. A black Monte Carlo. He lives alone. That’s good. No one will look for him. I'll be back. You shower and get dressed. I'll make some calls.”
Trusting her situation to Paolo, Chaos gladly left the task to him. She’d have to give him a huge bonus for the holidays. Like mega huge.
On her way to the shower, Chaos opened her medicine cabinet. She'd torn cartilage in her knee last year trying to remove a tree stump and still had some Hydrocodone. Actually, she had a full bottle since she'd never taken it for her knee. Despite the Tequila, the pain in her wrist was dreadful. Getting the bottle open with one hand was impossible. Dropping to the bathroom floor, Chaos held the bottle between her knees and used her good hand to try and open the bottle. It didn’t work. She couldn’t get it open.
Frustrated, Chaos set the bottle back into her cabinet. Standing up, she caught her reflection in the mirror. Her eye was swollen and purple and her throat was red. Why did bad things always happen to her? Why did so many people die because of her? It’s not like she asked for this or anything else for that matter. Bill had said she asked for it. “Asked for it my ass,” she grumbled.
Unable to use her left hand due to her broken and now completely swollen wrist, it took Chaos a bit of wriggling to get out of her bloody t-shirt. She climbed in the shower and turned on the faucet, not caring that the water was freezing cold. It warmed up quickly and she let the water clean the cretin's blood off of her. As the water at her feet turned red, then pink, and then ran clear, she felt the emotions begin to sneak in. Anger slid away and fear surfaced. Building up during her attack it had to get out. She knew that and yet she didn't want to experience it. She didn't want to feel anything except the anger. It was easier that way.
Her emotions paid her no mind. Sobs of fear, grief, and guilt erupted involuntarily from her. “Damn him,” she cried, not knowing if she meant God, Bill, or someone else. Chaos sank to the bottom of the tub and stayed there until the water turned cold.
Wearing navy sweats and a man’s white under-shirt, that were a real challenge to put on one handed, Chaos found Paolo sitting at her dining room table. There were two other men with him. She stopped short and sent him a questioning look. More people involved meant more risk to her. Nodding, Paolo poured her a shot of the Tequila now sitting on the table in front of him and handed it to her.
“You take something for that wrist?” he asked as she took the shot.
“No. Couldn’t get the bottle open.”
“My friend here is a doctor, a real doctor at St. Vincent Regional. He can set your wrist for you.” Chaos stepped back a few feet and peered over her shoulder into the living room. The body was gone. A puddle of blood was all that remained on her oak floor.
“You can set it without X-rays?” She asked, stepping back into the dining room.
“Yes,” he said. “It might not be perfect, but I understand you don't want to raise suspicion.”
“It was self-defense.” The doctor, if he was a doctor, shrugged like he didn't care. “Fine.” She sat down at the table and held her left arm out for the doctor.
“What did he do? How did he break it?” the doctor asked, cradling her wrist in his hands.
“Two hands,” Chaos said. “Like he was wringing out a dishrag. I had a hold of his testicles.”
The doc frowned. Two caterpillar eyebrows met in the middle of his face. “Messy. You might have more than one break.”
This time it was her turn to shrug. Messy was an apt description of her life.
“Give her the bottle,” the doctor said, not really looking at anyone. He was busy studying and manipulating her wrist.
Paolo handed Chaos the bottle of Tequila. “Thankfully, I’m right handed.” She took two long gulps and then set the bottle down on the table beside her.
“You still have blood in your braids,” Paolo said.
“I couldn't undo them with only one hand.”
“I can undo them for you if you want. You can wash it again.”
Chaos nodded. Paolo stood, came around behind her chair, and began removing the rubber bands from her two braids. She was drunk now and the feel of Paolo's hands in her hair made her feel cared for in a way that she hadn't felt in a long time. For the second time that night she missed her dad. He’d been a police officer before he died and she’d learned to rely on him when trouble came knocking. “Your wife is a lucky woman,” Chaos mumbled. The doctor pushed on a bone in her wrist with his thumbs. She felt a snap and yelped.
“Broken radius,” he said as if that explained the horrendous pain in her arm.
A tear escaped from her eye. She swiped it away. “You fixed it? I can't feel my fingers.” Chaos wiggled her fingers trying to feel something. They were numb.
He shrugged again. “Swelling. You have pain pills?”
She nodded. “Hydrocodone.” Paolo had finished undoing her braids and moved over to stand by her kitchen counter. She was getting sleepy. She didn't want to fall asleep with three men in her home, even if they were risking their freedom to help her.
“Ice. Pills. I did what I could. Don’t move it or use your hand for a few weeks. No cast unless you go to the hospital, but I will wrap it. Don’t drink anymore if you take the pills. You won’t wake up.”
Chaos was aware of him setting a large black bag on the table. The last things she remembered were an ice pack being placed on her wrist, the cold table on her cheek, her wet hair hanging in her face, and the fading thought that she needed to clean up the blood on her floor before it stained.