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Soul Destruction: Unforgivable
By Ruth Jacobs
Caffeine Nights PublishingCopyright © 2013 Ruth Jacobs
All rights reserved.
The Dead John
"There's only one kind of dead, the not moving and the not breathing kind, and that's the kind of dead he is." Despite her hysteria, Shelley Hansard tried to whisper on the phone from The Lanesborough.
"Not necessarily." Marianne's voice squeaked down the line. "Just because things seem a certain way, it doesn't mean they are."
"Sometimes it does. Sometimes things are exactly as they seem – and right now, this is one of those fucking times." Shelley sat rocking on the edge of the bed in the Regency-styled suite. "I'm telling you, he fucking died on me."
"You're not a doctor. You can't go around pronouncing people dead."
"If you don't believe me, get off the line and I'll call someone else."
"Don't you dare. You don't tell anyone. Do you understand? You come straight here." Marianne grunted. "Have you got the money?"
"What the fuck does that matter now?" A hot tear landed on Shelley's thigh.
"Get a grip, Kiki. Start acting like a professional."
Fighting the urge to look at the motionless body spread-eagled next to her, Shelley pushed herself up from the bed. Her neatly folded suit lay by her feet. She stood, staring down, burrowing her toes into the plush carpet. She knew she should get dressed, but clean clothes didn't belong on skin that felt unclean.
Taking a step towards the bathroom, she felt unbalanced. Her legs shuddered and her backside hit the floor. Reunited with her brown, pinstripe suit, she reached for her skirt. With trembling hands, she dragged it towards her. Shuffling on her back, she shimmied into it. Her fingers grappled with the hook and eye. Making a hasty exit was important, but making an exception to her rule was impossible. She couldn't do it.
She managed to stand but, stepping out of her skirt, she collapsed again. Pressing down on the carpet with her palms, she tried to lever herself back up. Her jolting arms gave way. The last limbs to surrender to the convulsionary rhythm that had overtaken the rest of her.
She didn't have control over her body. Instead, she had a helpless feeling of being completely powerless. The rush to leave the hotel and the corpse was over. As a periodic convulsionist, she knew the beat could monopolise her for hours. She just had to wait. She knew what to expect. Soon she'd be gone.
* * *
On regaining consciousness, her shaking had reduced. She staggered to the walnut bureau where earlier she'd left her handbag, took out her mobile and checked the time: nearly midnight. Two hours lost to another world.
Slipping the mobile back inside her cream handbag, she shut her eyes, realising what she'd done. She'd called Marianne from the phone in the hotel suite. Under the circumstances, that wasn't the phone she should have used.
After a shower, with hair wet, she dripped a track back to the bed. She dressed, trying not to look to her right but as she buttoned her jacket, she couldn't help it. She breathed in deeply, as if inhalation through her nose would draw the tears back through her ducts from whence they'd sprung.
Quietly, she said aloud, "God bless you."
What was his name? She tried to remember. She couldn't. She didn't know him, not in a real sense, only biblically. The last few hours they'd spent fornicating, high on a combination of crack and GHB. In the midst of proceedings, he'd complained of a chest pain. So, when he asked her to make him another pipe, she refused. On gently reminding her who was paying for the evening, and whose desires were to be met, he took the crack pipe from her hands and on the ash-covered foil, prepared himself a rock. The rock that would emerge to be the last ever smoked by the late, greying-blond john.
"Come to me, you ... you ... you nymph," he said, beckoning to her as he exhaled his final pipe. "Come over here and pleasure me — my penis. I mean, pleasure my penis. Would you, with your mouth, please?" The client reclined on the bed, unaware that his last words had just been spent on a bungled request for fellation. And from a young woman whose name he didn't know – at least, not her real name.
Some time in, Shelley became aware that the penis in her mouth was lifeless. She stopped to look up and saw the fixed expression on his face. It wasn't changing. He wasn't moving. He looked like a waxwork from Madame Tussauds.
"What are you doing?" she asked, prodding his chest. "Stop fucking around," she shouted through the hairs in his ear.
After a vigorous shaking failed to extract even the slightest reaction, she put her fingers under his nostrils. He wasn't breathing. That was when she called Marianne.
* * *
From the console table, Shelley removed the remaining rocks. She wrapped them inside clingfilm then stashed them in her cigarette box. She dismantled the crack pipe. The smaller parts – elastic band, tin foil, broken biro – she put in her handbag. The abused mini Evian bottle, she put in her small suitcase.
Crouched down by the side of the mahogany bed, she methodically repacked her work paraphernalia. Two vibrators, one black strap-on dildo, handcuffs and another set of underwear were all she'd taken out her case.
Inside a crystal jar on the bathroom shelf, she found cotton wool. She wetted half a dozen pieces and, in the absence of eye makeup remover, added hand lotion. She scrubbed at the black around her eyes and the dark-grey lines that streaked her face. To stop her bloodshot eyeballs burning, she splashed them repeatedly with cold water.
Her face clean and dry, she evened the tone with powder foundation. On the blank canvas, she swirled pink blush on the cheeks, brushed black mascara through the blonde lashes and drew a line of black on the upper eyelids. To finish, she painted red on the lips, perfectly matching this week's manicure.
After drying her hair, she was ready to leave. She scanned the room, checking she hadn't left anything behind. Suddenly, she thought of fingerprints. She ran into the bathroom and grabbed a towel.
Keeping her head turned away from the dead john, she wiped down the telephone on the bedside table. Next to the phone stood a champagne flute – red lip prints on the rim – the one from which she'd drunk a Buck's Fizz. She picked it up inside the towel and polished it.
Flitting around the suite, she cleaned the bedside tables, the console table, the bureau, and everything else from the headboard to the ornaments in case she'd touched something unknowingly. In the bathroom, she wiped down the marble surfaces and glass shelves. Remembering the cotton wool in the bin, she fished out the blackened, wet balls and dropped them down the toilet. She flushed, watching them disappear. Then she flushed again to make certain they were gone. She wiped the cistern handle before throwing the towel in the bath.
Turning to leave, she looked in the mirror. The feeling that someone had put a stitch in her upper lip and was tugging at the thread looked as strange in her reflection as it felt on her face. This delayed aftereffect didn't always occur but when it did, it always outlasted the shakes – sometimes by a day or a few, other times by months. However, on judging the catalytic incident – and considering the tsunami convulsion was already a weak breaker – there was a chance she'd be restored to an untwitching state in time for tomorrow night's dinner.
* * *
Shelley stood in the hallway, closing the hotel room door behind her. Waiting for the lift, she brushed her fingers through her thick, blonde hair. Though freshly washed and dried, that didn't stop its tendency to knot. Also knotted was her stomach. She pulled it in with a deep breath and raised her shoulders, standing straight, and taller than her natural five-foot and six-inches in her high stilettos.
Chameleon-like, she was adept at entering and exiting hotels at all times of the day and night without drawing attention. To blend in, she gave the impression of a guest, wearing business attire and carrying a case. She appeared to know the way to the lifts, and when she didn't, she could feign it.
Indelibly stamped in her memory was the floor plan of her exit, even though this was only her third visit to The Lanesborough. She hadn't had to rely on it as often as The Hilton, The Dorchester or The Four Seasons – the Park Lane hotels to which she was most often called – but The Lanesborough was stored with The Ritz, The Savoy, Claridges and numerous other London hotels she worked in less frequently.
With the air of confidence she'd mastered in faking, she strutted across the main hall. Tunnel vision for the grand exit. Her heart pounding so hard in her chest, as if preparing for its own escape, was disregarded.
She'd just made it into the drizzle outside when a low voice called out from behind her, "Good night, madam."
The uniformed porter startled her, but her calm exterior remained intact and she replied, "Good night," without a backward glance.
* * *
Approaching her Mercedes on Grosvnor Crescent, Shelley muddled through her handbag to find the key. She heard a banging noise. In fright, she looked up and down the street. It was devoid of people.
She opened the driver side door of her vintage 350SL. Keeping both feet on the pavement, she sat down sideways on the low seat. Then, with knees together, she lifted her legs, rotated her body ninety degrees and slipped her feet into the footwell. She believed this was the proper way for a lady to enter a sports car. Although she didn't feel like a lady, she maintained an outward appearance that was contrary to her internal turmoil.
Locked in, with her case and handbag on the passenger seat, she leant across to open the glove box. She took out a tatty, pink sponge meant for cleaning the windscreen. From a cavity inside the sponge, she drew out a white envelope. Sliding her hand underneath her skirt, she reached for her earnings tucked safely under the elasticated rim of her hold-ups. She counted out two-hundred pounds and put that in her purse. The remainder, she put in the white envelope, shoved the envelope back inside the sponge, and returned the sponge to its home in the glove box.
She looked out of her window. No one was there. She checked her rear view mirror. There was no one behind. Where were the voices coming from? Sometimes she heard voices in her head, but not these ones. There was one low and one higher pitched voice. The conversation was unintelligible, but something was funny. They were laughing. Now the voices were getting louder, getting closer. A screech pierced through her. Her head twisted brusquely to the side. Her neck felt whiplashed.
In the middle of a terrace, a young couple were kissing. The man was positioning the woman against the white-stuccoed wall of a townhouse. They didn't seem to notice Shelley in her car. Their Friday night was happening somewhere else. Another world. A world that Shelley no longer lived in, nor did she want to. Her experience of that world had propelled her into the one she inhabited now, and though she didn't care for her new world, she'd acclimatised to it. The emotional shutdown she'd acquired had brought her there and it left her stranded.
Robotically, she turned the key in the ignition, switched on the headlights, put the car into drive, checked her mirrors and pulled out of the tight space. She drove towards Chelsea, where Marianne lived off the King's Road, not far from The Lanesborough at Hyde Park Corner.
At the first set of red traffic lights, she dipped her hand into the side pocket of the door and blindly selected a CD. The Hue and Cry - Bitter Suite album calmed her for a moment, until she began worrying about her earlier mistake. What would Marianne say if she found out Shelley called her from the hotel phone and not her mobile? At twenty-one years of age, and after nearly three years of working, she should have known better.CHAPTER 2
An Alternative Reality
In less than five minutes, Shelley arrived in Cadogan Gardens. As usual, it was hard to park. She drove alongside the gated garden in the centre of the square and past Marianne's building before finding a space around the corner, a short walk away.
Sitting on the low seat, she swung her legs out of the black 350SL in the same fashion she'd swung them in. With her suitcase and handbag hanging over one arm, she walked to the rear and hid the suitcase out of sight in the boot.
Using the key fob, she activated the central locking. She heard it click but, not trusting her ears alone, she circled the car, checking the doors, windows and boot were secure with her eyes and her hands. Once she felt ready, she broke the cycle and walked around the corner to where Marianne lived – a duplex apartment on the fourth and fifth floors of an Edwardian mansion block.
At the top of the steps of the red-bricked building, Shelley called flat six on the intercom. Marianne told her to wait outside. She thought after what happened, she would at least be invited in, but Marianne was unpredictable like that. Sometimes Shelley would be allowed inside and other times not. Marianne would say she wanted to keep her business separate from her adult son – Matt – though occasionally she'd instruct Shelley to deliver her cut directly to Matt, so the excuse didn't float.
After a few minutes, Marianne came out wearing a leopard-print nightdress that was too short for a woman in her fifties unless she was a dwarf, and Marianne wasn't. She was closer to six-foot.
"Have you got the money?" Marianne asked, propping the front door open with her backside. She stood directly in the glare of the security light. Her face was the sort best illuminated by candle, and not the floodlight, which was exposing every line denoting the permanent scowl Shelley suspected time had carved into her constantly sullen face.
"He must've had a heart attack or something." Shelley took four fifty-pound notes from her purse and placed them in the empty palm in front of her.
"I'm sure he's fine."
"Why do you do this? I'm not gonna believe you. You weren't there. You didn't see him."
Marianne sucked on what little remained of the super-thin cigarette she held to the centre of her mouth and the orifice morphed into an anus. "It was a crack job. What you saw wasn't what happened. It was what the drugs saw."
"Look at the state of you." Marianne tossed her cigarette into the garden below. "You're tweaking, and the amount of time it's taken you to get here, I expect you stayed around to finish the crack."
"I would not have smoked crack in that room with a dead body."
"Stop doing that thing with your lip, it's repulsive. You better not do that in the company of my clients."
Shelley walked down a step to leave then changed her mind and turned around. "I'm gonna call the hotel and report it."
"Don't you dare," Marianne said through clenched teeth. "These things happen. You were unlucky. Now you need to forget about it and move on. I don't want to hear about this again. Is that clear?"
"What's to forget?" Shelley threw her hands in the air, unsteadying her balance on the narrow step. "What does it matter if I call the hotel? According to you, he's fine."
"You know what I meant."
"Don't I just?" Shelley muttered.
"Call me if you're working tomorrow. You should. It'll get you nowhere fast making something of this, believe me." Marianne stepped back inside the building and the door closed behind her.
* * *
Shelley had felt a modicum of guilt for taking home two-thousand eight-hundred pounds – substantially more than the four-hundred pounds Marianne believed was her share. However, after that compassionless exchange, the guilt left her. Initially, she'd been booked for two hours at a cost of six-hundred pounds. But less than an hour into the job, the client asked if she could stay for the night and, on telling him the fee, he completed the transaction with fresh-from-the-bank fifty-pound notes. She was supposed to give the madam a third of what she earned, but there was no doubt Marianne was undeserving. The crisp fifties were in their rightful place – her sponge.
Under the light rain, Shelley skulked back to her car. Considering the consequences of maintaining a miserable expression, she exercised her facial muscles with repetitions of smiles. Though awkward with a twitching upper lip, she didn't want her sadness engraved on her face as Marianne's bitterness had been marked on hers.
Excerpted from Soul Destruction: Unforgivable by Ruth Jacobs. Copyright © 2013 Ruth Jacobs. Excerpted by permission of Caffeine Nights Publishing.
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