Six years ago…
There is blood on the furniture and smeared across the wall, a beautiful crimson color that only blood can be, stark against the bright white sheetrock even in the darkness of the room. This wasn’t done by a gun. The nearly-naked body of the woman lying on her back against the floor in a thick, dark pool of the crimson stickiness was dispatched by a knife. A very sharp one. Probably with a curved blade and an engraving down the length that reads: Taste the sugary thorns upon my lips. But this wound…I’m all too familiar with the handiwork. The gash in the lowest part of the neck, just above where the center of the collarbone meets. Seraphina, my wife, has been here. Just moments ago. I can still smell her perfume in the air.
I’ve been spying on her for months, since the day I allowed myself to believe she had been betraying me all the time she claimed to love me. But before that she had been betraying my employer, Vonnegut, and our Order by working for another employer and leaking information to our rival. I couldn’t let her die for what she had done. I wanted to help her, to change her, to make her choose a side, my side. So, I began working with her against Vonnegut. It was the ultimate disloyalty, an instant death sentence betraying the Order. But love came first.
Love always comes first.
Though I learned the hard way that love is cruel and dangerous and more fiendish than a man like me could ever be. Because Seraphina played me for a fool, after all. After everything we had been through together. She threw it all away.
Tonight I’ll find her. And tonight I’ll kill her.
I step over the body, remembering the little brown mole on the woman’s lower stomach, close to her hipbone. I remember the shape of her slender thighs, the way they felt in my hands while I was f**king her as Seraphina watched. It had always been our thing, something we thrived on. Dark, forbidden sex.
This dead woman is the second I’ve found in two days. Both of them women who Seraphina and I have shared. Both of them doomed to suffer this brutal fate the second Seraphina’s jealousy switch finally flipped. That, along with her needing a way to get back at me for figuring out her secrets and no longer falling for her lies. These dead women are messages. Come and find me, they say. I’m not hiding from you, my love, I’m just enjoying the game, she’s telling me.
She always did enjoy the game. So did I. Only now I know I have to end it. And I have to win.
I let the body go and it falls against the saturated carpet. As I rise back into a stand, headlights blink on across the street and shine blindingly into the large living room window, illuminating the sheer white curtains that dress it. An engine revs. Come and get me, she’s telling me. With my gun gripped in my hand, I walk, not run, briskly out the front door and into the frigid air. I raise the gun in front of me pointed at the car as I approach it brazenly from across the street. A dog barks vociferously in the backyard of the house on the corner, violently heaving itself against the chain-link fence that confines it. Teeth gnashing. Blood-thirsty. Like all animals, it knows evil when it sees it.
“What are you doing, Seraphina?” I ask in a low, threatening voice as I get closer to the car, my gun still pointed at her, my finger on the trigger. “This is beneath even you.”
Seraphina grins from the driver’s seat, her long, slender fingers draped over the top of the steering wheel. Her shiny jet-black hair, cut short to the bottom of her cheekbones is always in perfect order, not a strand out of place, even in times like this.
The echo of blaring sirens approaching from afar sounds in my ears and I snap my head around toward it. Then I hear a thumping. Thump, thump, thump, BANG! It’s coming from the trunk. My eyes dart to and from it and Seraphina and the south street from where I hear the sirens. I can’t decide which is more imperative.
“What are you going to do?” Seraphina taunts, grinning in such a wicked way it can only translate as complete confidence. She knows she has me in this moment. Even with a gun pointed at her beautiful head, she has me.
I take a deep breath and look behind me again, expecting the police cars to drive up any second. The sirens are getting closer, but I still don’t see the sporadic flashing of their lights reflecting in the darkness of the late hour, so I have a little time. But only seconds.
I look back at Seraphina in the car. My breath exhales visibly in the winter air.
“I’ll give you what you want,” she says, changing her tune to something more serious and less taunting. “But you have to hear me out. Do you f**king understand me, Fredrik?!”
I feel my teeth grinding behind my cheeks, my nostrils flaring, the bones in my hand aching as my grip tightens around the gun handle with crushing force.
We look into each other’s cold, dark eyes one last time and she presses her foot on the gas pedal and speeds away. Reluctantly, I drop the gun to my side and let my breath out in a long, deep sigh of defeat and enragement. Seraphina knows that I can’t kill her until I get information from her. Like an obsessive compulsive need, the information must come first or I’ll never be able to sleep again. No one knows but Seraphina, not even my employer, Vonnegut, that I’ve been torturing and interrogating criminals associated with The Order since I met Seraphina. She was the one who opened me up to it, who…gave me a release for my greatest imperfection as a member of the human race. Seraphina helped me and for that, though not that alone, she knows I can’t kill her. At least not yet.
With only seconds to spare, I tuck my gun into the back of my pants and walk briskly down the sidewalk, slipping into the shadows of the trees lining the street. Heading toward my car parked four blocks away, I leave the house with the dead woman behind me as well as the police who are coming from the opposite direction.
Seraphina wants to talk. After all this time she has eluded me, kept me in the dark about what she’s been doing behind my back, she finally wants to tell me. More lies? Is this her way of getting me off her back so that I’ll let her go and let her live? So she can be free of me? But it’s not her style. Seraphina, for all that I love about her, is as sadistic as I am. Begging for her life even in the most sardonic of ways, is very out of character for her.
There’s something more to it.
I’m back at our house in Boston in under thirty minutes and her car is parked in the driveway. How bold this woman is, how defiant and fearless. She knows what I’ll do to her. She knows how much I’ll enjoy it and that not even she is immune now that she has betrayed me so unforgivably.