3834 words (15 minute read)

Trading Saints for Sinners: Capter 1

Frankfurt, Germany

May, 2007

The mattress was stiff. The sheets, dry and itchy, had only a cold feeling left from when it was damp. On a nightstand, next to a ball of thread, fifty-five of his Euros lay crumpled as a testimony to twenty minutes of sweat, fluids, and purchased love. Caden Conrad let out a heavy, post-coitus sigh. He wished he could change the color of the room. Even with curtains pulled shut and blinds lowered, the red glow of the city street still produced a soft Merlot hue in the small space, reflecting off the beads of sweat dripping down the caramel skin of Ariadne’s naked back.  A low-watt bulb over them gave a little light, but not enough to offset the burgundy aura of the room, nor form a proper reflection in the mirror Ariadne sat in front of, brushing her hair.

 “When does your next article come out?” He placed her voice as generally Middle Eastern, though she claimed to be from Sri Lanka. Caden stopped trying to figure out where Ariadne was from. He had listened to her talk to herself, recognizing a few Persian words, but also Romani and a little Italian and even a few languages he had never heard before. Her light brown skin—sure, that could pass for an Afghan or Iraqi girl, but the ringlets in her brown hair reminded him of the girls he had met in Sicily—and her nose had a slight crook that she could use to claim Italian heritage. Her eyes were the most misleading—one was chocolate brown, the other a sharp blue. Occasionally, Caden wondered how that was possible.

Ariadne turned toward the bed and stared at her client. “Caden? What’s your next Baghdad Chronicle about?”

Caden had his eyes on a white ceiling divided by a line of red—a sliver of the light from outside creeping through the gap between the window and the top of curtain. He was accustomed to her beauty, but by no means saw her as any less remarkable.

“I have to submit it tonight. I was able to get a good photo over at Ramstein—”

“That’s the American Army base, right?”

“No, you’re thinking of Landsthul. Ramstein is the air base.”

“Why do you have so many bases here?”

Caden shrugged. “Well, we can’t technically call ourselves an empire, can we?”

“Anyway, you were saying about the articles?”

“Right—the photo. I even paid off an airman, spread some fake blood on his shoulder—he even had a daughter with him, so he carried her like he was saving a little Iraqi girl, wrapped up in a blanket. A little photoshop of a building blowing up down the street from him…best hero shot I’ve ever taken. Still not sure which soldier is going to be killed off, though. I might make it his character, make it a bit tragic.”

Ariadne let out a shiver.

“What?” he asked. “You know it’s all fake.”

“I know, but I think of the millions of other readers who think they’re reading about real people. Don’t you ever feel guilty?”

He looked at her back as she continued to brush her hair. “With every damn word, Ari.”

“Why don’t you stop then? Write something real? This city has enough stories alone—there are areas besides the red light district, you know. Why don’t you write about Frankfurt?”

Caden shrugged and continued to keep his eyes on the ceiling, feeling almost intoxicated by the color. “Because I hate this city. This street reeks of regret and years pissed away.”

Ariadne gave him a scowl, her deep eyes morphing into a piercing glare. “I live in this city.”

Caden scoffed. “Right, because guys all over the world give their girlfriends sixty euro every time they have sex. This entire goddamn city is a whore.”

“I’m not your girlfriend,” Ariadne quietly reminded.

He sat up, leaning against the cold metal frame of the headboard, and shook his head. “I was being sarcastic, Ari—but the fact that I even have a pet name for my hooker is pretty pathetic.”

Ariadne turned and threw her hair brush, hitting him hard in the chest. It bounced off and fell beneath the nightstand.

“Hey!” Caden rubbed the spot, trying to make it sting less.

“I told you never to call me that!” she cried.

Caden picked up the brush and looked at it, then let his eyes wander to the crumpled Euros, the white nightstand with pain chipping away in small flakes. And the ball of thread—the reason he kept coming back here after their first time together. One of his favorite myths as a child was of Theseus in the labyrinth trying to escape the Minotaur. Yet Theseus escapes because of Ariadne’s love—because of a thread she gives him to guide him out and away from danger. Then comes this prostitute in his real life named Ariadne and she even comes complete with a little ball of thread. His sentimental side beat his cynical nature—this had to be a sign. That was four months ago. Part of him still hoped that she would lead him out of the labyrinth, whatever his labyrinth really was.


“I’m sorry.” He replied, standing up and reaching for his boxers, but only holding them by his side before lying back again. “I mean—hell, Ari—if you weren’t here and I wasn’t…I mean, we could be…”

“Hour is almost up, Caden.” Ariadne’s eyes pointed towards the digital timer planted firmly behind the Euros. Caden generally made it a habit to ignore the device.

“Yeah, I know Ari. It usually is. You working the night?”

She nodded in the red hue, grabbing a towel and looking back to Caden, who slumped with his head down. He could see out of the corner of his eyes the tilted solemn look to her face that made him feel pitied by her. It made him nauseated.

“I don’t work on Tuesday. We could get dinner again.”

Caden shrugged. “Sure. That’d be nice.”

Ariadne gave Caden a light punch, smiling at him. “What’s wrong, Caden? Prostitutes usually want to see their clients leave satisfied.”

“How do you speak English so well?”

Ariadne’s mouth slightly parted in surprise, but she just sighed and shrugged. “What, we can’t be that smart?”

“I didn’t think so, otherwise, why even be a prostitute? But you don’t seem necessarily dumb, so why are you here?”

“You’re a real gentleman, Caden.”

“Sorry, just not in a flirtatious mood.”

Ariadne wrinkled her nose a little. “I grew up learning English from all the men who came to me.”

“You’re—what? No more than 20? You’d have to be doing this for—six years?—to be that fluent. Were you doing this as a child?”

Ariadne stood up and walked to the door, hiding her face, but he could feel her eyes tighten to hold back tears.

“I’m sorry, Ari, all right? I didn’t mean—”

“You know Caden, why don’t you go to the beach or something, get out of this city. I can fuck you and suck your dick for five days straight and you’d still be just as miserable as before you ever got in my bed.”

He slipped his boxers on and stood up, noticing that Ariadne was crying by the door. “I never meant to say anything hurtful, Ari.”

Ariadne grabbed her bra and panties from the ground, the only clothing she was permitted to wear while working, and looked back to Caden. “Yes, you did, Caden. You’ve been paying me three times a week for the past few months. The reason why the closest thing you have to a girlfriend is a whore is because you want the control. It’s what every guy who sees a prostitute wants—because we really can’t say no, can we? You think I like the taste of piss?”

“I never made you—” Caden cut his own words, feeling a tremor in his veins. He shook his head and tried to calm down. “I’d take you with me, Ari.”

“You don’t need to make false promises to make me feel better. I’ve heard them before. Since I was a little girl, it was always: ‘take you back to America with me,’ ‘be my secret little play thing.’ I believed them when I was young, but I lost those—what do you Americans call it—Cinderella dreams?—a long time ago.”

“I didn’t say I will, I said I would. I can’t even go back yet.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

Caden shook his head, reaching for his pants as the timer neared to two minutes remaining. “Are you a psychologist or a hooker?”

Ariadne shook her head and smirked. He figured it was only a matter of time before his words no longer fazed her. She was strong—in a normal world, a normal place, normal situation, they might have made a wonderful couple.

“I need to shower, Caden. Will I see you soon?”

“You really need an answer?” Caden replaced the brush by the mirror on the dresser.

Ariadne sighed in disappointment. “Come on, really, leave Frankfurt; relax in some sand somewhere. I do like our time together—I mean, you are much better than all of the other men. And you weren’t always a jerk.”

She gave her smile, showing only a hint of teeth in the corner of her mouth, and coming off more cute and quirky than luscious and sexy. “Come on, Caden. Tell me why you left the states.”

“Ari, I’ve told you dozen times before: I can’t do that.”

“I just want to help you, Caden.”

Caden put his pants on and walked to her. One minute remained. He grabbed her around the waist and pulled her close, the towel rubbing against his bare, shapeless torso. He could feel her blood pulsing with panic and excitement, feel her breath quiver in hesitation of his act.

He felt the first tremor in his blood and couldn’t control it this time. “I love you, Ari.”

She looked into his eyes. “Caden—you can’t—you can’t say that.”

A surge went through his chest, shoulders, and down his arms until his fingers twitched, making her flinch. He wanted to hold back, wanted to subdue the beast, but it fought him. Caden ripped off her towel, dropped it to the ground, and grasped one of her breasts. She gasped and looked up at him. There was fear in her eyes—he had never seen her afraid. The beast inside of him grew excited and took over completely. “I own you for another forty-five seconds. Tell me that you love me!”


“Tell me!” he hollered at her.

“I love you!”

Caden let her go. Ariadne sank to the floor, her back against the doorframe. As she cried, Caden grabbed his wallet and pulled out a 10 Euro bill. He walked back to her, took her right hand, pried her fingers open, put the money in her palm, and closed her fingers around it.

He opened the door, just as the alarm went off to signify the end of their hour.

“Why are you trying to get me to hate you?” Ariadne asked him, still sitting on the floor.

He took a deep breath through his nostrils, shook his head, and walked away.

“Caden!” Ariadne called out.

He turned and waited for a response, instinctively reaching for his wallet. She stood up and stared at him. He stared back.

“Come back in.” She jerked her head towards the door.

 “My hour is up.” He narrowed his eyes and smiled, ready to turn back.

“I won’t charge you. I just want to talk.”

“I’m not telling you my story, Ari.”

Ariadne shook her head. “If you leave now, Caden, don’t bother ever coming back.”

Caden turned, but hesitated, looking down the hallway of closed doors. Muffled sounds of various music styles and sexual fulfillment suffocated the air.  Even here, away from the street, it was still red—every door a dark maroon, an exit sign glowing red while the other lights flickered dimly. “Fine.”

He walked into the bedroom again, briefly glaring at the ball of thread like it was all the thread’s fault. He heard the soft click of the doorknob close behind Ariadne and her moving back to the chair she used in front of the mirror.

Caden grabbed the ball of thread and began rolling it between his hands, sitting at the edge of the bed. “I suppose you’re after my money or my life?”

Ariadne looked at him oddly for a second.

“It’s a line from The Rise of Silas—never mind.”

Ariadne shrugged and put her bra back on, clasping the back before wrapping herself back in the towel. “Doesn’t matter—I already have your money. Give me your life.”

Caden smiled. “I’ll warn you; you may not like me after this.”

“There’s little ugliness I haven’t seen. Stop stalling. Besides, what makes you think I like you now?” Ariadne smiled at him. He marveled at her. Even after the way he treated her, she still played coy.

Caden took a deep breath and rubbed the thread between his fingers. “I went to grad school in Philadelphia. I’m not actually from there, I’m from Washington DC and the change was unbearable. The area of Philadelphia I lived in, the Main Line, is slow moving—well, in comparison to DC—and more relaxing than I was used to. But once I did get used to it, I began to like life there. I formed a nice group of friends, and more importantly, got a girl.”

Caden smiled and shook his head, thinking of Nadine, remembering the blonde as he first met her—sitting next to him in the lecture hall as the professor, a ninety-three year old man on a chair, gave a lesson on Christopher Marlowe. As the old man’s ancient voice described Marlowe’s end—something about being stabbed in the face—Caden and Nadine exchanged flirtatious glances, anxious to talk once the lecture ended.

“Nadine was basically everything a man could want. She was a cute little blonde and as smart as she was beautiful. I thought I loved her and all of our friends thought we loved each other and so did she. We had our own little world in Philly and no one could reach us. Philadelphia was Utopia. It was freedom.”

Caden took a heavy breath and pulled at the strand coming out of the ball of thread, unraveling it slightly.

“And then everything came apart?” Ariadne asked.

“No, we grew stronger. The entire group of us, seven or so, we lived like Beatles songs. Right when we were at our height, we invited in our own downfall.”


“His name was Reuel, and I could see that Nadine took a quick liking to him, but it didn’t bother me. It’s only human to feel drawn to people—”

“That sounds like bullshit, Caden.” Ariadne scoffed.

“It is. Thank you for pointing that out, Ariadne.”

Ariadne giggled at his frustrated sarcasm. “Sorry, go on.”

Anyway... we still believed we loved each other. Hell, I was the one who invited him to our next get-together.” Caden wrapped the thread around his finger and continued to pull at it. “Reuel and I became good friends. He wasn’t from our world—the literary world—but he wanted to be. He was the heir to a very large corporation, and ran one of his father’s offices in the city. He had more money in his pocket than I would see in my lifetime, but I wasn’t jealous. I didn’t need money. With my writing, teaching—with Nadine, I didn’t need anything. He…”

Caden stood up and tossed the ball of thread on the bed. He took a heavy breath and shook his head.

“Come on. It’ll help.”

“I can’t do this, Ari.”

Ari stood up and walked to him. “Look at where you are, Caden. Look at what you’ve become. Whatever you did, you’re reliving it every day.”

She rubbed his shoulder, but Caden didn’t want to feel the touch of another person. Recalling Nadine and Reuel made him feel like less of a human, and the touch from another was unbearable.

“Come on, continue.”

Caden nodded and sat back on the bed, the ball of thread rolled back to him and he snatched it up, immediately rolling it in his hands again.

“Nadine and I broke up when her desire for Reuel outgrew her fascination with me. I could say that I didn’t care, but I was furious. She realized we didn’t love each other, but I still believed it. But I had to act like I was okay. My friends all looked up to me and I didn’t want to be the reason the group split apart. So I feigned strength and continued. I guess I feigned too much or too well because she asked me if I would talk to Reuel for her.”

 “Oh, that’s wrong. Who would do that?”

Caden sighed. “Worse, I figured why not. Turned out that Reuel had interest in her too. I told him to talk to her, but instead, he wanted me to…but he was very odd about it. He didn’t want anyone knowing.”

“What?!” Ariadne’s response made Caden laugh. He wanted to stop the story and let her believe he was wronged, but he had to continue.

“I got angry with them and even more so with Reuel. I felt betrayed by him. But he acted just like her—they were both so cowardly. But before anything could happen, he had to go to Qatar for a business trip…for three months. I was doing some copy for his company—advertising—and offered to mind the shop while he was gone. Told him it would be good research for me, if I ever wanted to write something about a large corporation.  He trusted me. After that, I took some of the money I was making and paid one of his IT workers to get me his e-mail account access.”

“What would that do?”

“Well, I wanted to discover everything I could about him...I wanted to know why he wanted his potential relationship with Nadine to be a secret. First, I began to write to her as a lover would. I made her promises and told her how much I couldn’t wait to see her again. How I wished we got together before I left for Qatar. When I wrote these, I was Reuel. She showed her girlfriends the letters, and those who knew Reuel, even knew him well, never thought twice about it. They sounded like him. I, of course, told her I was happy for her. Encouraged her to respond. She didn’t know yet that she was responding to me. And then something really interesting happened.”

Ariadne leaned forward.

“Reuel’s wife e-mailed him, asking if he was doing okay.”

Ariadne’s mouth parted. She stared at Caden, trying to find words.

“That’s right, the prick was married. So I read the e-mail and then marked it as unread. Within an hour, he had read it and deleted it from his account entirely, but I already had her information. I printed out all of the fake e-mails I sent from his account to Nadine and mailed them to her. By the time he returned, she had moved out and had divorce papers drawn up.”

“But they eventually found out right? How did they find out?” Ariadne asked, leaning forward in her chair.

“They never did…until I told them. But we’ll get to that soon. First was the heartbreak. I had Reuel admit to Nadine that he was married before he returned, and that they could no longer carry on their affair. This enraged everyone in our circle. We waited for him like an angry mob and it was my idea to have her print out all of the e-mails he sent her and shove them back at him—e-mails are so impersonal and letters would have worked better, but who writes letters these days?”

“Wait, why would you—”

“I knew someone would find out eventually, but I was so proud of my work I wanted to hurry up and get my credit. She shoved the e-mails at him and he read through them. This was my moment of glory because he wasn’t sure if he wrote them or not. He couldn’t remember—he was wondering if he was losing his mind. It was beautiful. They tore into him. One of our guy friends actually punched him in the dick. I told them to stop—enough was enough. So they walked away, leaving just the three of us.

“He was still on the ground, squirming in pain. I got close to him and told him it was me. I told him what I found out, and I made sure that Nadine heard me—I told her to tell everyone.”

“I don’t get it, Caden. That’s pretty mean, but how does that land you here?”

“I was proud of what I did. And even more so, my friends, who of course acted like I was to be ostracized, stayed at my side. Sure, they told themselves they stayed my friends because they were better people, but the truth was that none of them knew what to do without me leading them. I may have done something bad, but it was forgivable. And for a few weeks I was given the third degree but eventually they acted like nothing had changed. Even Nadine, whom I destroyed, came back. We even dated again, though it was only because she was afraid of me.”

“When did you two finally break up?”

Caden went silent for a moment. “We never really got back together and we never really broke up either. It was Reuel who decided it in the end. When I was explaining to him what I accomplished, impersonating him so well in my writing that even he thought it was him, he broke. I even took over his mannerisms and personality. It was easy. It was so easy.”

Caden got up and walked towards the window, opening the blinds and letting the blood lights pour upon him, feeling their heat on his skin.

“Caden, close the blinds.”

He looked onto the street below, to a man in military dress giving money to a woman and not even waiting for her to get into the car before he spun her around, pulled up her skirt, undid his pants, and started fucking her.


“I can’t do this, Ari. I’m sorry, I just can’t keep telling you this.”

Ariadne rose again and again walked to him. “Yes, you can. You need to, Caden. Before you hurt yourself or—” She looked back and forth for a second, collecting her words. Caden watched her in the shadow of the crimson sun. “—before you fade to nothing.”

Caden shook his head and sighed. “It’s my sin, Ari. Without it, I have no soul.” He walked to the door and put his hand on the knob, turning it slightly before stopping and looking back to her. “Goodbye, Ari.”

He felt her eyes watch him leave.