cherith: Cherith bellydancing (bellydance)
[personal profile] cherith
Title: Blind Denial the Long Way Down (or How a Demon nearly Killed the Band)
Author: [personal profile] cherith

Summary: Sorrow is an assassin, she’s a demon employed by other demons to take care of the dirtiest of business. Tinamou is an alternative band that’s just made their first record deal. They are small time, from a small town and yet somehow the band manages to cross paths with the dedicated contract killer known by the full name: "Sorrow and Grief Defeated in Lovers Tears" again and again.
Warnings: Violence/Death, Unrequited Love, Language
Author’s Note: Guys, I don’t even know. It just seemed like a good idea at the time.



Blind Denial the Long Way Down (or How a Demon nearly Killed the Band)

"It was just nerves, I'm sorry I fucked up but please, can we just change the subject?"

"Mark, this isn't the first time, we're just concerned."

"Look Cate, I already told you. I don't know what happened. Last time I was drunk...this time," he sighs and lets his sentence trail off with a shrug.

Tony puts a hand on his shoulder, "Hey man, we're not out to get you. We just want to know that things are okay with you. You say tonight was nerves, that's fine. It was nerves. But Cate's got a point you know."

Mark nods solemnly, his spiked dark hair bobbing with the motion. "I just thought I saw something...someone in the audience. I got flustered and..."

"Alright guys, just let him be." Christian steps past them so he can hoist the case for his stand-up bass into the back of the van.

Cate gives their bald bass player a glare but he's oblivious to it or at least he pretends to be. She sighs and nods. "Okay. Consider it dropped."

"Thanks guys," Mark says, his gaze glued to the pavement.

"But," Cate starts with a pointed finger at Mark, "it can't happen anymore. Seriously. I'm here if you need to talk -- whatever it is, we'll help you."

***

“Come on guys, it’ll be fun. We’ll play for an hour and then, we can actually go through a few times. I’ve never been to one and I want to see what it’s like!” Cate stamps a foot playfully, hoping to emphasize her words.

“I hate those things Cate,” Christian says shaking his head. He looks sincere but Cate isn’t sure and some of the other guys are eyeing him suspiciously.

“Really?” She scrunches up her nose. “Well, you just don’t have to go in then. I mean, it’s not like we’ll be playing inside or anything.”

“She’s right,” Liss chimes in. She tosses a long errant strand of hair over her shoulder and gives the group a serious look. “I know it’s not the best gig ever but it’s in the parking lot out front. You’ll have a captive audience, so it’s great exposure for you. The lines get stupidly long this close to the holiday.”

“That’s great, you two. But I still don’t like them.”

“Why not?” Mark taps a few low discordant keys and gives the group a grin.

“I just...look, I had a bad experience,” Christian says in slow staccato bursts. “Can we please just leave it at that?”

Cate shrugs. “It doesn’t stop us from playing outside. You don’t have to go in if you don’t want.” Everyone nods in agreement. “See?”

“Fine.”

“Any one else have a disagreement?” Liss glances around the room but the rest of the guys just shake their heads. “Great! I’ll get the contract drawn up and settle the final time and date.” She reaches down for her small briefcase and then adds, “Cate, should I call you...or your father when everything is settled?”

“Oh...uh,” Cate frowns. “Just call me please.”

“Alright,” Liss’ sharp heeled shoes clack on the basement’s cement floor as she heads for the door. “Call me if you have any questions...” She shoots a pointed glance at Christian who is hanging his head staring down at the strings on his bass. When he doesn’t look up, she shrugs and heads out with a wave at the rest of the group.

Cate jumps up and flails her arms around. “I’m so excited!” When she’s done, she flops down into a nearby beanbag chair and stretches her legs out.

“Should we get back to practicing?” Ray asks.

Cate closes her eyes and leans her head back. “We should practice ‘Grès’, we haven’t worked on that one for a while.” She folds her arms behind her head and closes her eyes.

“Could do that one,” Tony says. “Or we could you know...practice something that’s actually on the album we’re trying to sell.”

“He’s right. There’s a reason we haven’t been working on the new stuff.”

“Oh hush Ray, you’re just agreeing with Tony because,” she sighs. “Well, you know.” She lets one of her hands out from under her hand so she can wave a vague gesture at them. “I’m in a good mood, I want to do something new, something we haven’t done fourteen-thousand times already.”

“Fine,” Mark jumps in. “We’ll do ‘Grès’ but then we have to do two songs off the album before we’re done today.”

“I’m good with that.” She hops up from the beanbag and strides towards the microphone. She stops at Christian’s side, who is still looking forlornly at his upright. “Christian, it’ll be okay. I’m sorry you had a bad experience.” She gives him a pat on the shoulder.

He nods and runs a hand over his bald head as if to wipe away the unpleasant thoughts, whatever they might be. “It’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.”

“Good.”

They practice for another hour that afternoon and by the following morning, Liss calls early in to give Cate the time and date of the gig at the Haunted House. It’s called “Terror Tower” and Cate spends the rest of her morning Googling the place, the surrounding area, and a few of the other haunted houses on that block. The warehouse district downtown has a ton of old buildings that have been renovated in order so they can be used as Haunted Houses, but in all the years she’s lived nearby, she’s never been to one.

Mostly, they’re expensive and she nor any of them really has ever had the extra twenty-five dollars to stand in line to get scared by costumed strangers. But the idea most certainly intrigues her and she spends pretty much the rest of the following weeks talking to any one that will listen about how excited she is. She learns some of the story of the Tower or the story that the haunted house is supposed to follow: the characters, the history of the story they tell and the supposed real life history of the site.

When performance day arrives, she makes sure to get there earlier than anyone else. In fact, many of the workers and actors are still arriving when she pulls her car into the parking lot. She spends a few minutes watching people go in and out of the back entrance, some of whom are already costumed. She hums to herself a few bars of “People are Strange” while she waits and eventually she sees Liss’ sleek black Jaguar pull in nearby.

Liss doesn’t say a word to her about being early and the two of them head into the building to find the manager. Roger, the manager, takes them back outside and introduces them to a couple of the workers who can help them get situated with space and power so the band can play. By that time, the guys have arrived and backed the van up near the entrance where the first stream of excited attendees are patiently waiting.

Cate gives Christian a soothing pat on the arm when he finally gets out of the van right before show time. “It’s going to be fine. You’ll play, you’ll leave and you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”

He nods but keeps silent.

When they start playing the line to enter “Terror Tower” is down the block and around the corner, out of sight. Liss sets up a small table with their t-shirts, copies of their CD, and a small tip jar. During their first song, they don’t get much attention, people mostly seem to be annoyed by their presence more than anything else. Three songs into it, however, the lines moved enough there’s a new crowd and they’re much more receptive. People are asking others to hold their place so they can walk over and peruse the merch table.

Cate smiles at each person that leaves the line for a little moment to stand closer to the band. Sometimes, the person looks over the merch table and then heads back to the line but after the third song, a few people have left the line to stand in front of the band and actively listen to them play. It’s dark outside, save for the few low lights marking the entrance for the Tower by the time they start their fifth song. The people that have stayed to watch them have opened their cell phones or flicked open lighters and are swaying like the fall breeze.

“We want to thank everyone for staying to listen,” Cate says after their eighth, and almost last song. “Or for not throwing things at us for those of you still in line!” That gets her a few chuckles from both sets of listeners.

“We only have one song left,” she adds, which grants her a few ‘awws’ from the crowd. “Thanks again for listenting. We’re Tinamou!” She pumps her fist in the air and though they hadn’t planned it, behind her Mark plays the first few chords to ‘Grès’. Cate turns and gives him a knowing smile and when Christian hits his first bass note, the crowd goes silent.

It’s fall, it’s perfect autumn weather for the midwest and when the band comes together on ‘Grès’, it’s like they’re playing for themselves, back in the basement at Cate’s house. A breeze flows through the parking lot and Cate cannot keep the smile off her face as the gooseflesh rises on her arms, legs and neck. Christian’s fingers slip and there’s a single ‘off’ note in the mix. It’s harmless on the surface but if she didn’t already have goosebumps from the breeze, she would now.

“It’s a hotel stay, only for the moment, it will carry me away.” Cate sways as she sings and when she closes her eyes, it’s like she can feel everyone listening to their song and it’s hard to imagine a better feeling is possible.

When they’re done, a few listeners hang around hoping to talk to them for a few minutes. Tony and Ray love signing autographs and they take the few CDs people bought and Liss hands them a silver marker so they can sign the CDs. The tip jar is nearly full and Mark helps sell a few t-shirts while a few people interrupt him to talk about the songs. Cate, as much as she loves a good audience like this one, has only one thing on her mind now. She nods at Liss who gives her a nod in return, and then she’s off to the Tower.

She skips the line and heads right for the guy taking tickets at the door, “Is it okay for me to go in?”

He looks behind him at the couple that just entered and shrugs. “Yeah, now is good, looks like it’s moving along.” He waves her inside, she smiles and pats his arm in thanks as she passes him to get inside.

When the guys are done signing items, talking to people and packing their gear in the van, Ray, Tony and Mark make a bee-line for the Tower. Christian mumbles something about his bass and gets in the van.

“Alright, more for us!” Mark says to the van door as it slides shut.

Christian doesn’t even watch them go, he just turns to the the case of his upright and gives it a unhappy thump with his fingers and shakes his head. He sits in silence for a few moments, occasionally thinking a few bars of the rhythm for one of the songs they’ve just played. Cate’s particular about the songs they play but she’s always open to suggestions on how different parts can be changed up. Their bass rhythms were simple in the beginning and he’s enjoyed trying to find a way to make them more complex -- using free times like these to play through sections in his head.

He’s tapping out a bass line to their song ‘London Journal’ when there’s noise outside the van. It’s dark and without the lights set up near their performance space, he can’t see out the windows. There’s a clunk, followed by a long scraping noise against the van and carefully, Christian reaches for the van door, pulling his other hand into a fist. The door slides open and he is met with the long sharp steel of a sword...no, not a sword, a scythe. He flails to the right, just in time to watch it land inside the van. He lets go of the door and quickly struggles to gain his balance again so he can reach out and pull the door closed.

The scythe’s owner, a slim woman with long white hair, snatches the weapon back from the van and frowns. Her eyes are so dark that Christian cannot see the whites of them, and he hopes that it’s just a trick of the light as she creeps closer to the door.

His hand slides against the handle and he yanks on the door to pull it closed. The woman catches the door with her free and and pushes it open against his weight. Christian pushes himself backwards trying his best to avoid placing his weight on any of the instrument cases. She catches his ankle and even though he must be easily twice her weight, she pulls him with one hand, towards the door. He kicks out and his free leg connects with her arm but it doesn’t stop his momentum. She pulls him free of the van and out onto the hard gravel of the parking lot, his ass connects with the gravel and it feels like falling on glass.

“Oww! What the fuck lady?” He rolls onto his side as soon as she lets go of his leg. He can’t move right away, so he does his best to position his legs to strike out at her again if she reaches for him.

“Quiet!” She leans into the van and swipes a hand against one of the instrument cases.

“You’ve got to fucking be kidding me!” When he can feel his ass again, he pushes himself into a standing position, though he has to use the van for leverage and balance. The woman doesn’t make a move against him. “You can’t take our instruments!”

The woman gives him a look that says she’ll take them if she damn well pleases and turns back towards the van. He realizes that she looks like she’s straight out of a place like the Terror Tower. She’s not only carrying the scythe but she’s also dressed in a dark brown cloak, the type with the deep hood that hangs to the middle of her back, and underneath there’s a black dress or skirt he can’t quite make out.

She could work here, he thinks. The thought frightens him almost as much as what she’s already done to him. He looks around, for a weapon, for his band mates, for someone in line at the Tower -- anything that can help him get rid of the woman.

“Where is it?” She whips her head to look at him and her hair is so long that much of it tangles in her hood forcing her to spare a moment to pull it free.

Christian uses the moment she’s distracted to use both of his hands to push her back. She stumbles once but catches her balance quickly and not only regains her place but pushes forward into his personal space.

“Where is it?” Her breath is cool on his skin and as she leans into him, he realizes that she’s the same height as he is, rare for the majority of women he’s met. Her scythe has another two inches on them both. It clinks, metal-on-metal as she pushes him back against the passenger door of the van.

He shakes his head, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“The medallion. Give it to me and you live.”

His hands jitter as a wave of fear rolls through him. He opens his mouth but only stammers instead of answering her. He doesn’t know anything about a medallion but isn’t sure if telling her that is going to make any difference.

“P-p-please t-tell me this is a joke,” he manages.

Her eyes widen and he feels a chill on his skin that raises the hair all over his body. A part of him is convinced that this is all a poor joke on the part of his band mates but the extreme reaction he’s facing with his own body tells the rest of him it is indeed deadly serious. This woman and the cold steel hanging so near his head tell him whatever it is she’s looking for, she’ll find it no matter who she kills to get there.

“I will not ask again.” A spark flies from her free hand and Christian can sense the electricity in the air. She raises her hand up and places it against the van right next to his head. The spark travels through the van, a low level current and he jumps when it connects with the parts of his body that are touching the van. His vision blurs when it zaps the back of his head.

“Ouch! God-fucking-damnit lady, I don’t have your fucking medallion!”

The current stops and Christian closes his eyes to take a breath. A wind passes over him and when he opens his eyes, the woman is gone.

It takes him several minutes to convince himself that she’s really gone but by the time he’s certain she’s not coming back, he sees Cate striding gleefully towards him. Her smile vanishes as she approaches and she jogs the last few steps towards him.

“Christian, are you okay? You look awful!”

“I feel awful.” He runs a hand over the back of his smooth head to feel for any burn marks.

“What happened?” Cate’s gaze has fallen to the van and a large scratch mark in the side of the door left where the scythe grazed it.

He shakes his head. “Honestly? I don’t know.” He tells her the story, though he’s certain she thinks he’s crazy when he finishes. Instead, she just nods and pulls him into a hug. She smells warm and clean and faintly of roses. When she pulls back, she smiles and gives him a small shove towards the van.

They leave the door open to wait for the other guys and when they come out he relays the whole story again. His brother, Ray, gives him a troubled look but doesn’t say anything. Tony makes a crack about being scared by a girl. And Mark, he nods and looks thoughtfully at Cate.

“She sounds familiar...” Mark says.

Cate shrugs. “We can think about it later. For now, lets get home.”

***

Cate twirls a pink envelope in her hand. She walks to the practice area and without a word, throws the envelope into Tony’s lap. He’s sitting in one of her brightly colored bean bags, earbuds in and nodding his head to whatever he’s listening to.

The letter lands, with a small bounce off his knee, in between his crossed legs. “From ‘Tracy’?” He asks as he yanks the earbuds out.

Cate shrugs but says, “Most likely.”

“Should we wait for everyone?”

She shrugs again, “I’m not sure I even want to see another letter.”

“It is getting proportionally weirder when compared to the number of shows we play.” Tony picks up the envelope and turns it over in his hands several times. “You’re giving them to Liss?”

“Yes, but I don’t know what good that does for us if this person turns out to be a huge creeper.”

“What else would you do?”

“Find him or her. Maybe figure out who they are at a show. I don’t know. Maybe nothing.” Cate throws her hands into the air.

She badly wants to tell Tony about the time that she drove down to the address on the letters -- and that no one was there. Not a soul had been in that house in years and it was almost as creepy as the letters themselves. But, she knew that he’d tell Ray and that Ray would tell his brother and then it would all be down to why she hadn’t told Mark. She wasn’t even sure why she had done it. So, what was the point in trying to explain it.

“Has Liss done anything with them?”

“Not that I can tell. I don’t know what she’d do anyway, other than keep them on hand. It’s not like they’re threatening.”

Tony nods, “Well, now I want to see what’s in this one.”

“Be my guest,” Cate waves a hand at him. “Everyone’s almost here any how.”

Tony shakes his head and dives into the envelope. It’s greeting card shaped, but inside is a plain white sheet of paper folded in half and covered in writing and sketches. There’s a small cartoon sketch of the band with the Tower in the background. Tracy, even drew their van off to one side of the haunted house.

“Seriously, if this chick isn’t going to art school, she’s wasting herself on us,” Tony jokes.

All the writing is just lyrics to their songs, and a small message about how much “Tracy” enjoyed the show. It’s similar in style, writing and art to all the other letters they’ve gotten from their anonymous fan for the last year. Since the first gig they ever did down at Penny Lane Bar.

“Huh,” Tony says. “You would’ve thought with such a small place, she would’ve tried to come up to us.”

“Or he,” Cate says as she opens the door for Christian and Ray. At the same time Mark is clattering down the stairs into the basement.

“He? Did we get another letter?” Ray asks as he steps inside.

***

The RV clatters to a stop on the side of the highway. It’s mid-afternoon and the tar on the road is melted enough to squish slightly as Tony steps out first. Mark looks back from the driver’s seat and watches the rest of his band mates pile out behind Tony. He has to wait for a moment for traffic to clear before he can exit from the driver’s side and walk around to join them own the highway’s shoulder.

“Well, now what?” Mark asks when he reaches them.

“We’ll call Liss and tell her we’ll be late, first of all.” Cate reaches into the front pocket of her jumper to pull out a cell phone.

“Then?” Ray pulls his phone out of his jeans pocket. “Should we try and get someone out here?”

Tony shrugs and then nods. “I guess we’ll need a ride to wherever town is...”

Mark gestures down the highway they’ve just travelled. “There was a sign back there. I think it said that there’s town about 3 miles, that way.” He points the way they were headed before the RV stopped.

Cate steps away from the group to talk to Liss. Ever from a small distance they can hear Cate trying to calm their manager down. Liss got them the gig in Reno and they’re due at the hotel in less than an hour and then at the club two hours after that. If they can get the RV fixed in the next half-hour, they might make it but only barely.

Mark shakes his head as Cate hangs up the phone . “Not to pleased huh?”

“She is pretty angry. Of course, we’re not going to hear the end of it when she calms down.”

“Maybe we should’ve let her make the arrangements,” Christian says.

Cate gives him a look that says he needs to stop talking and Christian turns away. She knows about the crush he has on their manager, the whole band does...everyone but Liss of course. Thankfully, Cate thinks, everyone else is kind enough to leave Christian alone with his crush, and not to say anything about the RV Cate borrowed from her Dad for their trip.

Although, if they had listened to Liss and let the label pay for a bus, they all knew how much more money they would’ve ended up losing to pay for pretty much everything else. In the long run, provided the RV wasn’t a complete loss, they’d still be out ahead by the time the whole trip was over.

“Okay, I think I found a place we can call to come take a look at the RV, maybe tow it into town.” Tony says after hanging up his own phone.

“What not one of you strapping young lads knows how to look at a car -- not even if just to pretend you know what you’re looking at?” Cate puts her hands on her hips and gives them all a disappointed look. She sighs dramatically, “Fine.”

“So I’ll call them,” Tony asks with a waggle of the phone in his hand.

Cate nods, “Call them. See how long it’s going to take to get someone out here.”

Tony turns his back to the group and dials his phone. They can’t hear his conversation but he’s only gone a few minutes before he turns back to them. “Alright, someone will be here in ten or fifteen minutes.” He shoves his phone back into his pocket and leaves his hands there, looking somewhat forlorn. “Now what?”

“Well,” Christian begins, “If one or two of us stays with the RV, then the rest of us could go check in at the hotel?”

Mark nods. “Could do...”

“I can wait with the RV, it is my dad’s, probably would be good if I was here,” Cate says and then adds, “just in case.”

“I can wait with you then,” Mark says. “If that’s okay.”

Cate shrugs but doesn’t answer. Both Tony and Ray share a look and then they both turn to look at Christian. He runs hand thoughtfully across his scalp and takes a moment looking back and forth between his brother and Tony, and Cate and Mark.

“Hard decision, bro?”

“Something like that,” Christian answers. “It’s the bass man, I don’t want to leave it.”

“I’m sure we’ll be there before you know it,” Cate says soothingly. “And nothing is going to happen to your precious bass while you’re gone. We’ll keep a close eye on it.”

“Nah, I’ll just stay here with you two. It’s not like the two of them need me,” he says with a gesture towards his brother and Tony. “Nor is it likely that you need more than a person or two to check into the hotel, especially if all the gear is here.”

“You’re welcome to be hot and bored here with us,” Mark says. “That’s for sure.”

“I see how you are then.” Ray chucks a fist at his taller and broader brother’s shoulder. “We’ll be just fine without you...all of you.”

Tony gives him a playful looks, “Well you know...I think I might want to...”

“Don’t you even think it. You’re coming with me mister!”

They all laugh as Tony holds his hands up submissively. “Okay, okay. I didn’t mean it.”

Ray pushes Tony’s hands down and grabs one as they turn away from the group. “Call us if you need us. We’ll find a taxi or something...”

“Will do,” Cate says. “Now get going you two.” They smile and head away from the group, their shoes kicking up desert dust as they go.

Ray and Tony find a convenience station not too far down the road, from which they’re able to get a lift into town, and to the hotel. They check in with ease, and while Ray tries to figure out where the repair shop is from the hotel so they can meet up with everyone once the RV is back to working order, Tony is on the phone to Cate.

“We’re here, the hotel has all of our names down, and I got multiple keys so we can all get in and out whenever.” Tony jumps when Ray comes up from behind and grabs him around the waist. “Look Cate...” There is Ray’s warm breath on his neck as leans back into him. “Uh, we’ll meet you at the repair shop.” Another pause as Ray’s hands slid under his shirt and wrap around his stomach. “Let us know when you get there.”

He clicks the phone off and turns around, “That’s not fair. I was on the phone.”

“That was all part of the fun.”

Back at the RV, Mark, Christian and Cate have pulled folding chairs out from the back and are waiting on the side of the road for the RV to be towed into town. It’s dry and warm outside and each of them is nursing a bottle of water from the travel cooler. They’ve turned their chairs at an angle away from on coming traffic and are set up near the front of the RV hoping to keep the dust blown their way to a minimum. It doesn’t help much.

Cate hangs up the phone after Tony’s check-in and sighs. “They’re at the hotel, though we won’t be getting a rescue from them.” She gives a wink and elbows Christian playfully in the side.

Christian mimes blocking his ears, “I can’t hear you.”

“Oh no,” she chuckles.

There’s a rumbling sound and Mark jumps up from hischair expecting to see a tow truck pulling up. But, the road is empty and the rumbling noise continues. He whips around to look at Cate and Christian who have already risen from their own seats; both of them meet Mark with a confused look.

“I’m not the only one who hears that?” Both of the guys shake their heads. The rumbling gets louder and there’s a small tremor in the ground beneath them.

Mark scrambles closer to Cate as a larger tremor passes through the earth. “Is this an earthquake?”

Cate shakes her head, a movement that immediately makes her feel ill. “I don’t know.”

Christian pushes Mark and Cate together and starts slowly walking the three of them further away from the RV. When they’re far enough it won’t be able to tip or roll and crush them, he pulls the three of them into a crouch in the scrub brush. The whole sky shakes and rumbles and the ground rolls beneath them for another minute.

In the hotel, Ray and Tony are wrapped together, arms and legs tangled together in a large hotel bed sheet. When the rumbling starts, they ignore it, and the hotel’s emergency system doesn’t kick in until after the rumbling stops. The building is steady, but the the floor jitters enough to shake the furniture and the hotel glasses near the sink scoot off onto the floor.

“Shit!” Tony hops off the bed when the glass shatters and then watches as Ray works to extricate himself from the blanket to which Tony is still clinging.

“It’s alright, just some tremors, we’ll likely feel a few more aftershocks,” Ray says edging his way around some of the broken glass to join Tony. He wraps his arms around a warm, but tense Tony and tries to calm him with soothing noises.

As a second aftershock trembles through the building, there’s a loud thump against the wall behind the bed Ray and Tony were on moments before. They both turn instinctively towards the noise in time to see a large hole ripped into the wall. A pale almost luminous hand punches though the wall another time and then proceeds to rip back panelling, insulation and wiring from between the two rooms.

Ray pulls Tony away from the bed towards the bathroom but there’s the slam of a door behind them. Torn between the idea of tearing their eyes away from the growing hole in the wall over the bed or looking behind them to find out why the door closed on it’s own, both of them freeze in place. A second pale hand joins the first and pushes the rest of the panelling, that hasn’t already broken, into their side of the room.

A tall woman in a long dark dress slides easily through the hole and gracefully lands on the rumpled bed. Her hair is long and white and partially covered by the deep hood attached to her dress. Her dark eyes turn on Ray and Tony but quickly her gaze shifts to the rest of the room as if she’s looking for something else.

“C-c-can w-we help y-ou?” Ray manages to say, pushing Tony behind him. He soon realizes his undressed state and uses his free hand to cover himself as best he can.

The woman snaps her gaze back to the two of them and for a moment it looks like she might say something. Instead, she snaps two fingers and through the hole in the wall, a long, sharp weapon gets handed through. There’s a muffled question through the wall and the woman nods as she pulls the rest of the scythe’s shaft through from the other room.

Tony hands the long end of the sheet around to Ray, placing a corner near his hand so it can easily be grabbed. Thankfully, Ray takes the corner and pulls what he can around his waist. It might not matter to the woman but it certainly makes him feel better as they stand around waiting for what she’s going to do next.

She stalks forward a few steps, leaving several feet still between them. Tony whimpers and falls into the chair at the little office desk in the corner. The woman reaches into the folds of her dress and pulls out a small wad of cash. She points at the wall and then tosses it down onto the bed.

She starts to turn towards the door and then looks back at them, “Sorry for the... interruption.”

Tony lets out a half-chuckle somewhere behind him, but Ray just watches as the woman opens the door to their room and strides out into the hallway. She pulls the door closed behind her and then everything is quiet again. After a few moments, Tony gets up and carefully picks his way around the broken glass to peek out into the hallway. When he pulls his head back into the room he looks at Ray and shrugs.

“She must’ve been booking it. She’s gone.”

“A woman that can do that,” Ray says as he gestures to the wall, “I bet she moves pretty quick when she wants to.”

After they have dressed and straightened the room as best they can, including picking up the largest bits of glass, and checking the bathroom for other random psychopaths, Ray suggests checking on their neighbors in the other room. It’s been quiet in their neighbors room since the woman left and no amount of peering through the hole she left behind, turns anyone up.

“At least we can find out if they’re okay.”

Tony isn’t happy about the idea, but agrees to walk to the next door down the hall with Ray. No one answers, even after they knock several times.

“Maybe they’ve left already. Like we should be doing,” Tony says finally. “After all, we still have a gig tonight.”

“Oh shit!” Ray agrees. “We’ve still got to meet them down at the shop.”

They leave the cash with the manager, recounting a story of a drunken party in the room next to theirs. The hotel manager in the face of the cash, smiles and nods and lets them leave without another word.

“At least it wasn’t the adjoining room that Cate and Mark will be in,” Ray says as they head out the hotel’s main entrance.

“True.”

They’re down the street and in range of the service station when Tony stops on the sidewalk and turns to Ray. “Hey, maybe this is a weird question...”

Ray nods before Tony can even get the whole sentence out, something they’re all used to doing after so much time with Cate. “She did look familiar.”

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