Fury From Hell
Detective Jennifer Holden allowed her fingers to click the keys of her keyboard without aim, or guile. Having been off duty for the last 36 hours, she now knew that the silence was going to drive her mad. She longed for the incessant hum of life in the murder division’s bullpen. Thinking about her testosterone-filled colleagues, she realized immediately what she should do. With renewed vigor, she keyed in the one site that would give her millions of options complete with a reasonably trustworthy pool of critiques.
Staring at her monitor, Jennifer skimmed IMDb for user lists to get a feel for what she was in the mood to watch. She wasn’t sure if she was in a movie mode, or if she should binge watch a season, or two of some TV drama. No matter which she chose, she still had to figure out the genre: action, Sci-Fi, comedy, drama, fantasy, horror, documentary…
As she scrolled various lists, the opening bars of Mozart’s second Queen of the Night aria floated through her mind. She shook it off. She didn’t want to think about her.
The more she tried to avoid thinking about the hauntingly beautiful aria, the louder it became in her mind. Giving in, she opened a new tab and went to YouTube where she typed it in. As always, she chose the Diana Damrau version.
Dr. Rhimes would be laughing at me right now…
The music washed over her. As it did, the knots she didn’t realize she had eased out of her shoulders. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and let it out in easy slow measured exhalations. The usual calmness began to descend as each bar meandered through her mind. When the high notes came in, unbeknownst to her, Jennifer began to sway as she enjoyed the piece with all of her senses open, groping, devouring the magical sounds that tickled her ears while soothing her soul. Her whole being focused on the last few bars before the aria came to a crescendo and closed amid vigorous applause.
Jennifer opened her misty eyes and looked away from the monitor. She gazed at the drawer that held the photographs in their locked boxed. She wouldn’t get up and look at them. Why bother? What else would they show her? There was nothing else to be gleaned from her family photos that had not already been analyzed fifteen ways by the gaggle of psycho docs she had had to endure during that time. She sucked her teeth and pursed her full lips. Dr. Rhimes always wanted to know why such an emotionally ugly piece of music filled Jennifer with beautiful peace.
She snorted at herself as she shut down her computer purposefully not recalling the long explanation Dr. Rhimes provided on at least 50 different occasions. Jennifer got up and walked aimlessly around her apartment trailing her fingers along the spotless dining room table, the perfectly vacuumed sofa as her feet padded lightly against the high glossy hardwood floors that would arrest itself if a speck of dust dared to land upon it.
Jennifer knew she needed to get back to work. Too much downtime was never a good thing for her.
Things could happen that shouldn’t.
Mentally she kicked herself and went to step two of her failsafe relaxation techniques. She decided to take a long hot shower. Seventy-five minutes later, she emerged shimmering with heat pouring from her body in waves. Her fingers and toes were wrinkled. Her brown skin puckered into an alarming shade of mahogany with way too many high red undertones. But, she was finally completely calm. Shrugging on her thick white Egyptian cotton robe, she padded into her bedroom, down the hall. Jennifer fell onto the bed face down with strands of the aria still floating around her mind. Within seconds, she was in a deep slumber.
Kyma clipped his uneven bleached platinum ends. Pinching her mouth into a firm line, she glanced at him in the mirror. His perfect metrosexual eyebrows, recently manicured and buffed nails were not so much an affront to her, but to her gender. Even Kyma herself, the manager of The Heights Salon in Brooklyn Heights, was a bit taken aback by his extreme fastidiousness.
“You seem tense. Would you like to take a break before you give me my cut? I want it as perfect as you can make it…and, from your work on Tony – I know you have what it takes in your dainty little hands,” he stared deep into her light brown eyes in the mirror; the slight smile in his voice amplified by the smile in his eyes.
Kyma broke eye contact and stared down at the next section she was going to clip.
“No, no. I’m fine. Just a bit excited. Tonight, my boyfriend of three years says he has a surprise for me and wants me home early.”
Tension shifted to his face and upper body. “Really? Three years? Already? Tony hadn’t mentioned how long the two of you have been dating.”
She knitted her brows. Referrals were always a crapshoot but it was the lifeblood of her business.
“Why would he, Sean? I’m just the woman who cuts and colors his hair.”
He sputtered and jerked in the seat making the unlocked chair swivel.
“Whoa! Not cool. You’ve got to keep still. These are sharp and I need to make precision cuts. Or else, you won’t be happy with the final look.”
“I’ve got to use the little boys’ room. Can I take five?”
Stepping back with her scissors still in midair, she nodded. He scurried away. She smirked.
That’ll teach ‘em.
From the station to her left she heard Sandy snort. “Dat was not vely nice. Owa customers come first. You know dat, Kyma.”
Kyma turned to her second-in-command and gave her a megawatt smile. “Boy, do I ever!”
Even Sandy’s customer joined in on the merriment of the thwarted flirtation.
After Mr. Metrosexual left 75 minutes later, Kyma took a break in her small office in the rear of the salon. Behind her white glass and chrome desk, she swung her grey leather rolling chair this way, and that, as she punched number one on her speed dial. She smiled when he picked up and growled, “So, what time can I expect you? It’s already 7:18. You promised me you’d be home early.”
“You know very well early for me is anything before one in the morning. Why are you being so fussy and impatient?” She twirled a lock of her hair around her forefinger. Her dark raven naturally curly tresses were the envy of every single one of her customers.
“Kyma Barnes. You know good and well that I have a bottle of 2007 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru chilling in the cooler.”
“Ooo! Gerry, a hundred forty dollar bottle of wine? For moi? Sounds special.”
Realizing his gaffe, he quickly countered.
“You know that I have other more expensive ones. You’re not that special, nor intriguing. I’ve bought you off easy if you think this is for a momentous occasion.”
She heard his loving smile slide through her iPhone and into her ear erasing the last vestiges of tension caused by her last client. They spoke for a few more minutes before she clicked off and headed back into the main area so she could see if they could close the shop early.
Jennifer Holden smiled in her sleep.
Her little burnt orange peacoat with the festive pumpkin buttons would always be her favorite. Twelve-year-old Jennifer took it off the coat rack and shrugged it on.
In her bed, she rolled over hugging her pillow.
Little Jennifer buttoned up her coat and hopscotched out the back door. She wanted to get over to her friend’s house before the maple walnut chocolate cookies came out of the oven. She skipped down the back porch steps and headed towards the fields covered in dry beige tall fronds. The corn stalks were loud and brittle as she pushed through them.
She looked to her right and saw nothing but yellowy-beige stalks. The view was the same on her left and in front of her. She was midway to the delightful aroma of freshly baked cookies when she heard the first nondescript rustle.
Wrinkling her tiny brows, Jennifer paused and looked around herself. Nothing.
She shrugged and kept walking with a bit more briskness and purpose. Those cookies wouldn’t last very long with four older brothers as well as her friend. The sound came from behind her this time.
She froze not wanting to turn to see what surely was right behind her. She took a shallow breath and turned. Directly behind her, five feet away, was a Jack O’ Lantern with a leering striated pumpkin face. It had a slash for a mouth and the candle within it flickered like there were strong winds in the field. Except there was no breeze; not even a faint zephyr.
As little Jennifer stared, the Jack O’Lantern seemed to mutate and grow larger and more ugly, if that were possible. Next, the impossible happened. Spindly pumpkin arms reached out groping towards her. The mouth wet and circular now; the eyes hooded and overlarge. Before she could move, one of the arms yanked at her coat snatching off two of her favorite buttons.
That did it.
Jennifer turned and screamed as she raced towards the house that was only a few dozen yards away.
Bolting upright and panting, Detective Jennifer Holden woke up. When her breathing slowed to something close to normal, she peered at her nightstand clock and cursed softly. Covering her eyes for a moment, she sucked in oxygen noisily, flung back the sheets and stormed into the bathroom.
Jennifer knew she needed another very hot shower if she was going to make it through this day.
Thirty-five minutes later, when the blood was thumping and surging through her, she turned the hot water tap off. Her café au lait skin was flushed a deep rosy pink. Her fingers and toes were again pruned but she was breathing normally. She put the loofah back on its hook disregarding the flecks of red on it; she was used to the stinging after all of these years.
Jennifer pulled back the shower curtain and stepped out of the tub onto the navy blue cotton bath mat. She grabbed her white robe and shrugged it on. Pushing back her shoulder-length black permed hair, she refused to look in the mirror. Refused to acknowledge the saddlebags she could feel.
Coffee. A big cup of it. That would force the last vestiges of the annual dream to dissipate. She couldn’t believe it had been 14 years since it happened. She scrubbed her face with her hand as she padded barefoot into the galley kitchen. She refused to mourn and wouldn’t allow the guilt to creep in again. She. Just. Wouldn’t.
Jennifer opened the fridge and brooded over the limited choices willing a hot croissant to be in there somewhere with some boysenberry jam. No such luck.
That’s when she heard it. Her phone was ringing. She glanced at the wall mounted microwave. It was five twenty-seven in the morning. Jennifer stilled.
It can’t be.
She closed the fridge and went in search of her phone. She dug it out of her work messenger bag and saw that it was indeed her. She watched it ring out and felt oddly empty as her iPhone took a message. She threw the phone back into the depths of the bag, trudged back into her bedroom weakened somehow by the mental force of the unseen caller. The woman that had done nothing to help. The woman who allowed it all to happen. The woman that had given birth to her.
Throwing herself across the bed Jennifer willed herself not to cry. It had been years since that woman had called last. How had she gotten this number? She was a freakin’ cop now! How did this woman gain access to her no matter the distance Jennifer put between them not to mention the restraining orders?
Coffee forgotten, Jennifer began to ponder how she was going to get enough sleep to make it through her night shift beginning at 3:30 pm. This, of all days, was not the day for her to lose it. The last four, or five years, were pretty mild. The dream was not as intense as this morning’s. The blood not as red. The shuddering breath began to return. She curled into a ball as she stared dry-eyed at the sea-green accent wall willing it to bring her tranquility as Dr. Rhimes always promised.
Two hours later, she was still staring and still not tranquil. A thought occurred to her. Maybe this year, things would resolve themselves. She had heard from her many doctors that seven was a full cycle. Since she had gone through two of these cycles, maybe her time had come for real change; for breakthrough. For peace.
Jennifer uncurled and began to snicker.
Peace? For me? Impossible. That would mean they would have to forgive me.
As the images of what forgiveness would look like flashed across her mind’s eye, the snicker turned into a full belly laugh. Her mind was full of biblical justice; the ‘eye for an eye’ variety. Her mind pulled away from the dangerous subject. But, she was okay enough now to get up and start the day. It was still too early but there would be not an iota more of sleep for her now that she had opened that door on this particular day.
As she made her way back into the kitchen, she wished for the millionth time that she could simply disappear each and every Halloween.
Jennifer sighed and scrubbed her face with her hand, again. She hated that old feeling. Coupled with knowing that her personal Pandora’s Box would be difficult to close tonight, or for the next few nights, Jennifer sighed and massaged just above her eyes. Even the good doctor’s breathing exercises may not work; Jennifer was too wound up. This morning’s dream tipped her out of her manufactured, hard-won equilibrium. Entering the kitchen she headed for her Mr. Coffee machine first and woodenly began making a stronger than normal cup of Joe as she wished for her mind to stop spinning. She snorted at the thought.
Making wishes is great for other folks. Folks who believe in stuff. For me? There’s nothing.
She banged her fist against the counter as she fought to stop her mind’s movement. She began the breathing exercises as the coffee percolated. She held for five long breaths. She blew out for three and did the round again and again until her coffee was ready.
She grabbed her large dark blue NYPD mug, with an image of a badge etched in gold on the side, and filled it. While her mind was not clear, it was no longer in turmoil. She could deal with the world like this. She had no other choice. Did she?
Reaching the corner, Kyma checked traffic both ways before crossing Atlantic Avenue at the corner of Boerum Place, to head up towards Barclays Center. From the opposite direction, a man bumped into her as she stepped up onto the sidewalk on the other side.
“Watch it, Buddy!”
“No, maybe you should watch it, like I’ve been watching you. Why don’t you come with me over to this nice spot I know?” The big burly man gestured as if he knew Kyma. Then, with a firm grip, he steered her down Boerum Place which was unpleasantly dark.
“Look, I don’t know you. Let me go!” Kyma said in a loud escalating voice.
With a harsh laugh the man tightened his grip on her. “How can you forget me? I was your client last week. You gave me that great cut and I want to return the favor.” Kyma felt something blunt and cylindrical jab her in the ribs. Kyma gulped. A cold sweat broke out above her lip.
“Don’t you remember me?”
Kyma glanced at his five o’clock shadow. Noticed his split ends, the bad dye job and knew immediately that she had never seen him, nor had anyone from her shop ever worked on him. She nodded energetically as her instincts kicked in. Moving only her eyes, she searched both sides of the street for any other living soul. She saw a couple coming towards them. She was about to call out to them when the man pulled her close. He forced her head up with his paw of a hand and mashed his thin hard lips against hers grinding against her lewdly. Kyma tried to scream to get the couple’s attention.
“Dude! That’s how you do it! They like it rough!” The guy slapped Kyma’s attacker on the back. That’s when Kyma noticed the dilated pupils of both the male passerby and his girl; they bobbed and weaved as they walked. The girl was particularly unsteady on her six-inch stilettos.
“That’s right, Sweets. It’s just going to be you and me.”
He half-dragged her down the block and turned right onto State Street. They walked for a couple of blocks before he looked around and pushed her through a hole in the fence of a construction site. She fell roughly on her side. She tried to get up and run but he grabbed her too quickly. “Sorry Toots, you don’t get a pass outta here until I say so.”
He pushed her deeper towards the shadows at the back of the site. It was cluttered with a stationary bulldozer, a pile driver, a couple of prone jackhammers and a forklift scattered all around the site. With scaffolds hanging about in various stages of completion, the site was a veritable industrial graveyard. There were a couple of roped off areas and a few plastic tarps blew gently in the wind giving the place a haunted feel.
“Thanks for being early today. That’ll give us more…quality time together.” He threw her to the ground. That’s when it clicked. The horror dawned on her. She started to let loose a bellow that would bring the hounds of hell to her feet. It was cut short by a sharp slap that whipped her head to the left knocking one of her teeth loose.
“Scream again and see what happens to you, little Lady…go ahead.” He stared deep into her eyes. Kyma memorized the dark grey eyes and his oddly enlarged pupils. She didn’t rise to his bait. Maybe, if she kept quiet, he’d do his business and let her be. She noted his red-tipped aquiline nose and the pock marks on his slightly sunken pale cheeks while trying not to breathe in his smoke-and-whiskey infused breath. Turning her face she said, “I already went to the bank and I have no cash on me. What do you want?”
Already dreading his answer, she heard a zipper unfastening and closed her eyes, willing the tears to stop, knowing it was a sign of weakness. In fact, tears would probably enhance the beast’s pleasure. Kyma held her breath and tried to black out before the inevitable happened. He grabbed the front of her trench coat and pulled until the buttons popped open. The material gave way with a shrieking rent. A cry escaped her throat as she tried to dodge another hit, but she didn’t quite make it. The resounding punch rattled her brain clear through to the stem.
“I warned you. I wanted to keep you pretty looking but you asked for it.” He stood up, and with gleeful abandon, he began punching and kicking her. Focused on landing each punch, his .38 slid out of his pocket, unnoticed. On his next volley of kicks, he unwittingly kicked it a few feet away beside a square of drying glasphalt. The gun was obscured by a tarp billowing in the slight wind.