This is the beginning of a story and a universe that’s been quite dear to me. I don’t feel like penning down an entire novel right away as I am busy with Stranders, but maybe further down the line.
It was the third time Mara saw the girl, and she liked her less each time.
Opening the door (just a crack) showed a dash of blonde hair and large blue eyes, looking straight at her.
“Please.” It was always the same request. “Please, miss. You’re the only one I can ask for help.”
Mara shifted her weight on her other leg. The other reason she did not fully open the door was her state as more of less naked, wearing just a dirty pair of shorts and a bra.
But a girl on the run cannot be a chooser.
She passed a hand through her sticky brown hair. Maybe if she accepted she’d go away.
Also, the blonde wore a black Prada dress and golden earrings – and was that a necklace?
Mara clicked her tongue. There were many ways a girl like her could use to avoid draining her wallet, but for some stuff you still needed cash.
She had burned through her last bills last week and was running on fumes.
She did not like this pestering customer.
Something inside her squirmed at the sight.
But a girl has to eat. Especially a girl on the run.
“I am a bit…” she said. Coughed. Her voice was cracking from lack of use. “I am a bit out of practice. No guarantees.”
“Yes. I understand!” She clasped her hands. “Please, just come and see! If there’s anything that can be done, it’s thanks to you!”
Mara passed her tongue on dry lips. Fuck it, she’ll bite.
“I charge upfront. One million, cash.”
“Whatever you want!” The girl’s voice turned into a shrill as she eagerly opened her – leather – wallet and took out a few bills, placing them in the cracks. Mara counted. Five hundred thousand liras. “I have only these on me for now. I can give you the rest when we meet or…”
“Yeah, let me put on something.”
Mara fit the wad of bills on the band of her shorts and shut the door. She dressed quickly, taking out the money and putting in on a secret pocket she sewed on the inside.
So, what could all this fuss be about? It was probably nothing.
The girl must have heard about her line of work from her family’s friends, and only about the good parts, or she would have never come for her.
She took a quick look at herself on the mirror (was she decent?), a deep pale line cutting her figure in two at the height of her belly.
She was not a pretty sight with her oily brown hair, deep dark circles surrounding her olive eyes and the gaunt appearance of her arms.
She had always been thin, and ever more so, even if these days she did not deal in blood that much.
Her gaze wandered towards the thick pale line that cut through her stomach from side to side, just above her pubes.
A mouthless grin.
Her fingers trembled on the edge of the scar.
“Coming,” she shouted at the door, clasping the belt with her tools of the trade. Funny how, now that she had accepted the job, a creeping fear of the girl disappearing opened up in her heart. She better keep a level head. It had saved her, so far.
The girl was still waiting for her. Tears shone in her large blue eyes and she bit her lips as Mara closed the door behind her.
“T-Thank you,” she said. “I really did not dare to hope… you’re the only one…”
Mara rolled her eyes.
“Just show me the place, alright? After you.”
It was a little silly to show the battered flight of stairs to the blonde as if it was some sort of red carpet but Mara had to admit she did not seem too scandalized at entering such an old, dirty building.
The car awaited them outside. A Porsche, which was not a surprise, and an empty driver’s seat – which was.
Usually this kind of people always had someone moving them around.
The girl stepped on the wheel with uncertainty. She probably had to remind herself how to gas. Mara put her hands in her lap and watched the girl lurching the car out of the parking spot.
They got out of the dark alleys and up towards the light. She did not talk during the drive, just looked at the blonde, tapping on the slight pressure of the bills against her pocket and feeling the rusted edges of her tools and vials.
“My name is Caterina, by the way,” her customer said once they had reached the hills, surrounded by tall villas and taller trees. A bubbly laughter escaped her lips. “I thought I’d never find you.”
“Don’t split your head smiling,” she retorted. “As I said, no guarantees. This is bloody matter. And I do mean that.”
Caterina nodded, but did not stop smiling at all.
If experience had taught her anything, it was that that smile would not last.
Mara’s hands brushed against her scar.
What a messed-up situation, really.
A few minutes later they drove through a tall gate and up a pathway. The villa was like a slab of marble in the midst of a vast garden, full of trees and hedges.
Caterina did not park the car together with the others waiting under a gazebo, just put it in front of the entrance.
Mara stepped out. There was nobody else in sight. No house-servants, no relatives. Or maybe they were all inside. Caterina caught her gaze and fumbled with the keys.
“I told everyone to get a day off,” she explained opening the door. “I thought you might need more space for this kind of job.”
“Smart,” Mara replied.
Now that she was standing next to her, it was impressive how attuned to her environment this girl was. The perfect skin, light makeup and expensive clothes blended in to the environment of polished marble, shiny wood, paintings and statues and balconies and excessive topiaries. And yet there was something…
“I can give you the whole payment, just a minute.” Caterina said in a whine. “Can I dash to my room?”
She sauntered off to the stairs and the echo of her steps faded.
Mara stood alone – or so she hoped – amidst the corridors. She caught a few figures moving between the doors, but it was always just her shadow.
One day she’d invest in a firearm of some kind. It would protect her from human threats, at the very least.
Turning towards a dim-lit hallway made her heart beat a little faster. It felt like an eel just crawled under her skin.
Inside her, her heartbeat picked up. Something inside her bloodstream attuned to the mute wailing that ran through the house.
She shivered. Damn. The girl was right. There was something here.
Author’s Notes: thanks for reading. I must say I was blown away by the response I got from the last short story about the three robot dolls. I am glad you liked it. We are going to take a last dance through horror and fantasy with this short story, and then we are going back to science-fiction. For a long while, I think. I hope you’ll have fun.