Saturday, November 15, 2014

Nature Abhors a Vacuum: A Murder Mystery, part 15

Warning: Strong Language, Mature Themes, Sexual Situations

A serialized science-fiction mystery created exclusively for this blog! When last we left our heroine, she had broken open a Kerry Vacuum to reveal the mysterious vortex inside--a black hole, a dimensional portal, or perhaps something else entirely. Now, she returns home and goes bananas with a hammer. WARNING: This installment contains elements of domestic and sexual abuse. It's nothing too gritty, but proceed with caution if such content might upset you.

Pip arrived home to find Adam and Josh sprawled on the living room floor, Nintendo controllers in hand. She sighed inwardly.

“Hi, guys,” she said.

“Hey,” Adam said without turning away from the television screen.

Josh failed even to acknowledge Pip's presence. “You incredible gaylord!” he shouted at Adam, wringing his controller in frustration. “Quit doing the same move over and over. You're so cheap.”

A strong set of fingers closed around Pip's wrist. Before she could protest, Ron had pulled her into the bedroom and pressed her against the wall. He placed a hand on either side of her head, effectively fencing her in with his arms.

“Welcome home,” he said, his voice thick with want. He lowered his head and began kissing her neck.

Pip squirmed. She'd had an exciting day, but that excitement had failed to translate into a desire for sexual gratification. Indeed, she felt more repulsed than usual. “Ron, knock it off,” she said.

“I'm not going to ask where you've been,” Ron murmured. “I'm not even going to yell at you about that stunt you and your brother pulled. We can put all that behind us and just love on each other. Sound like a fair deal?”

Pip groaned as he nibbled at her collar bone. Mistaking her sound of disgust for one of arousal, he redoubled his efforts, dragging his unbrushed teeth across her throat. Pip shuddered and pushed him away. “Knock it off, I said. Adam and Josh are in the next room.”

“They're in the middle of a Smash Brothers marathon,” said Ron. “They'll never notice.”

That was almost certainly true. Once, while high, Pete had gotten hold of a butterfly knife and tried to refashion his outie bellybutton into an innie. There had been blood, and screaming, and the smell of charred flesh as he attempted to cauterize the wound with a stick of patchouli incense. The entire time, Adam and Josh had been ten feet away, engrossed in a game of Tetris. Neither of them had looked up until the paramedics arrived, and even then, it was only to give the attractive female EMT a once-over.

“I'd still rather not,” Pip said, “if it's all the same to you.”

Ron raised a hand to cup her breast. “You say that because you think you have to play coy. You don't.” His chuckle was a burst of stale breath against her ear. “I'm your fiance. You can be as much of a slut as you need to be when it's just the two of us together.”

“I don't feel a pressing need to be any level of slut.” He squeezed her breast, pressing himself more firmly against her. Pip gave him a hard shove. “Stop it. We're not going to have sex.”

Ron was used to her reluctance. He was also used to powering through the no's with physical insistence and the tacit threat of an argument if he didn't get his way. It had been a long time since she'd last refused him like this. He drew back with a puzzled expression.

“What's your problem?” he asked.

“No problem,” she said, but that wasn't quite true. Someone had paid her a compliment, had called her intelligent and resourceful and brave. Someone outside her immediate family had expressed his esteem, and that had sparked a chain reaction inside her. A seed of doubt—dormant for most of her adolescence—had begun to release sneaky tendrils into the soil of her self-perception. Certain necessities no longer seemed necessary, certain hardships no longer deserved. She didn't feel like giving in anymore. That was the problem.

She managed to extricate herself from between Ron and the wall. As she turned to leave, he caught her by the wrist again.

“Are you kidding me?” he snarled. “You put me through hell today, and you can't even give me a few moments of happiness in compensation? How fucking heartless are you?”

Anger flared in Pip's gut. Ron could do his worst, she decided. She would not be cowed. “This fucking heartless,” she said, prying his fingers from her wrist. She shook her hand to restore the circulation. “I'm going to take a shower.”

Ron glowered like a child. “You're lucky I even want you like this,” he said. “You look awful today.”

Pip snorted. “A lucky, lucky girl, that's me.”

She turned once again to leave.

“You better get the blood off Pete's ceiling,” Ron said.

Pip stopped dead in her tracks. She grit her teeth. “Pete and I already discussed this.”

“No, Pete and I discussed it, when he called to complain about the way you were treating him. I told him you'd definitely take care of the cleaning. It's your job anyway.”

“How is it my job?”

“Well, Christ, something has to be your job. You don't bring in any money.”

Pip shook with rage. “I'm in school!” she cried. “And at least I pay my rent. Pete spends half his money on drugs and the other half on novelty T-shirts. He's a whiny, useless cretin.”

“See, Pip, this is what my co-workers were telling me after you left today. You're not a team player.” Ron sighed dramatically. “You're just not...positive.”

Something inside Pip snapped.

“Not positive,” she repeated. Her voice was level—too level, as Ron might have noticed had he been one to notice such things. “Not positive. Not. Positive.”

“That's what I said,” Ron spat. “Are you going to take care of that blood, or what?”

“Take care of the blood,” droned Pip. “Yes.”

She left the bedroom. Crossed the living room. Went into the kitchen. Opened a drawer.

Inside the drawer was a toolkit bestowed upon her by her uncle as an apartment-warming gift. She removed the lid of the kit and looked at the tools. Pliers. A wrench. A screwdriver. A hammer.

She picked up the hammer.

Adam and Josh took no notice as she crossed back through the living room, hammer in hand, and went into Pete's room.

There, above a bed strewn with clothes and reeking of feta, hung the blood stain. It looked bigger than she'd last seen it, and browner, and less likely to disappear with a thorough scrubbing. But Pip knew one way to get rid of it.

She stood on the bed. Raised and bent her right elbow, holding the hammer at her left shoulder. Took a deep breath. Unbent her arm and threw her weight upward.

BANG. The hammer set off a rain of drywall as it hit the ceiling. The entirety of Pete's room shuddered at the assault.

BANG. A crack appeared, spider-webbing out from the center of the stain.

BANG. BANG. BANG. Maybe it was the adrenaline, or maybe it was all the practice she'd gotten in with the axe, but Pip's blows seemed almost superhuman in their impact. She worked herself into a frenzy, pounding and thumping and letting loose a giddy peal of laughter.

BANG. One final strike, and a cooler-sized chunk of stained ceiling came crashing down onto the bed. Pip was smiling up at the exposed rafters when Ron barged in.

“What the hell are you doing?” he shrieked.

“Blood's gone,” Pip said, and giggled.

Before he respond, she leapt off the bed and darted past him. She was curious to see if the racket had roused Adam and Josh from their gaming stupor. Unsurprisingly, it had not.

“Stop edge-guarding, asshole,” Josh hollered at Adam as Pip approached them from behind.

A second later, she had ripped both controllers out of their hands. She hurled the controllers to the floor, fell down on her knees beside them, and hammered them to smithereens. WHACK WHACK WHACK WHACK WHACK.

“Jesus Christ!” Ron wailed.

When she had successfully reduced her targets to twin piles of wiring and broken plastic, Pip cast the hammer aside and stood. Adam and Josh were staring at her now.

She stared back at them and said: “Get out.”

Ron gaped. “You can't talk to our friends like that!”

“They're not my friends.” Pip pointed at Adam. “He's an opportunistic sex offender.” She pointed at Josh. “And he thinks the boot of Europe is France.” She pointed at the front door. “Go on. Leave.”

Adam and Josh looked at each other. In silence, they stood and left the apartment.

The next five minutes were an elated haze. Pip floated from room to room, stuffing things into a backpack while Ron screamed at her about psychosis and medication. She knew that she had gone overboard, knew that her actions had probably cost her a relationship and a steady source of income, knew that, to a casual onlooker who hadn't witnessed the daily drip-drip of indignities striking Pip's shoulders, she probably appeared insane. She knew all that, and she didn't care. She hadn't felt this energized in ages.

Only when she was sitting in her car did she stop to wonder where she was going to spend the night. Duncan's, probably. Or her mother's. She was debating between the two when her cell phone went off in her pocket.

“Hello?” she said, bringing the phone to her ear.

There was ragged breathing on the other end of the line.

“Is this a pervert?” Pip asked. “Could you perv on someone else? I'm a little busy right now.”

“Hey, Pip,” said a sickly voice. “This is Eddie.”

It didn't sound like Eddie. It sounded like an animated skeleton taking time out from earth-roaming and scimitar-wielding to chat up an old friend.

Shit, Pip thought. He's noticed the missing vacuum.

“Before you continue, Eddie,” she said, “I should tell you that I'm not feeling very positive this evening.”

“Nor am I,” Eddie said. His breath stuttered in his chest. He coughed and wheezed, and it was several moments before he could resume speaking. When he did, his words made no sense. “I want to help with your investigation.”