Tom

Chain Border

The world was filled with blood: roiling, boiling, unending sticky redness. Tom's knife was still clasped between my fingers. I could feel the sharp blade pressing into my palm. The metal burned my flesh; I couldn't tell whether it was hot or cold.

"Just let go," a voice behind me said.

The shock of the voice dropped me to my knees and I turned around.

"Let go," it said again.

"Tom?" The damp warmth was slowly making its way around my knees, slithering up to them on all sides.

"Give me the knife, okay?"

I obeyed, reaching out to him, but my hand wouldn't unfold itself. Tom took my fist and pried my fingers apart. They were brown with dried blood. He took the knife and wiped it off on a towel. I recognized the towel. It had been Brian's grandmother's. The blue roses along the border were unmistakable. My stomach twisted into a knot. Tom should have respected Brian's grandmother more. He never respected people's property. He was always like that.

"You didn't know. You didn't know what you were doing. It was an accident." He was mumbling to himself.

"What are you talking about Tom?" I asked. My knees were now completely saturated with the gluey, red liquid. I felt as if I were in a daze. Nothing seemed quite real.

"We'll just say it was the drugs," Tom continued. "She's not responsible. They were Brian's anyway." He was pacing through the room, stepping through pools of blood, tracking it everywhere. His sneakers squeaked on the hard floor.

"Tom, what are you saying?" Still on my knees, I started to crawl towards him. There was so much blood around me. Its stench was overwhelming. As I inched forward my hand hit something heavy in my path. A surge of panic rushed through my chest as I realized what it was. The white AC-DC t-shirt was now red – a dark, dirty red. Tom had bought Brian that t-shirt at the concert last month. They'd called it even for the gram of hash Tom had owed him.

Katie had been at the concert too. I noticed her now, lying beside Brian, her blonde hair streaked with scarlet, her face mangled and bloody. For the first time, she was not beautiful. I'd never seen Katie look so ugly. I couldn't take my eyes off her face. I was struck momentarily by amusement, but I forced the fledgling smile from my lips. Waves of calmness started to wash over me as I looked around the room for my last victim. I spotted him under the table.

DJ's clothes were relatively clean, but a pool of blood surrounded his head and shoulders. His eyes stared at me so intensely that I wondered if he were really dead. Tom was still muttering to himself.

"Holy crap, eh?" I said. "Hey Tom. Holy crap, eh? I did it. I really did it."

"Shut up!" Tom snapped. "Keep your mouth shut. Don't say anything!"

"But Tom, I did that."

He strode over to me and shook me by the shoulders. "How much did you do? Are you high?"

"Ow. Geez man, let go."

"Look at you. You can't go out like this. Come on." He pulled me over to the bathroom and started yanking at my clothes.

"Jesus Christ! Stop it!" I yelled. He was hostile. He was always hostile in a crisis. He was always like that.

"Keep your voice down." He turned on the shower and pushed me in. I was still wearing my shorts and bra. "Hurry up." He left for a moment or two and then came back into the bathroom with some clothes.

"I can't wear that. That's Katie's," I said, referring to the t-shirt he was carrying.

"You have to. It's all there is. Let's go," he ordered. "We have to go."

My hair was still dripping when we left the apartment. The stairs to the foyer creaked as we hurried down. Tom's car was waiting out front. It was still dark. "Get in," he ordered.

"Tom?" I said, when we were both in the car.

He was pumping the gas, trying to make the engine come alive. "Come on, come on!" he was saying.

Tom"Tom?"

"God-damned piece of shit car!" The motor sputtered to life. "There! What?"

"Tom, that lady's looking at me."

He looked toward the building. The old woman was still peaking through the curtains of her basement apartment. A light was on behind her. There was a moment of indecision before we drove away. Katie's mangled face flashed through my mind.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!" Tom was saying to himself.

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"We have to get on the highway. We have to get out of here. Nobody knows we were here. It's a drug house. Lots of people going in and out. Lots of people, fucked up people, going in and out. Nobody knows us. Nobody. That old lady doesn't know who we are. She's probably half blind anyway."

I looked over at him. He was biting his lip. I wondered if he was thinking about Katie. "Tom?"

He didn't answer.

"Tom?"

"What?" We were merging onto the highway.

"My hand is bleeding."

He reached around behind his seat and thrust a shirt at me. "Use that."

I wrapped it around the cut. My hand was starting to throb. We drove along in silence forever. When I finally noticed the clock on the dashboard it read 6:37. "Is it Sunday or something?" I asked. "Where are all the cars?"

"It's Sunday."

"Tom?"

Tom grunted.

"Do you love me?"

"Fuck off. Not now."

"Do you love me?"

He sighed. "You know I do."

I was silent for a few moments. "More than you love Katie?"

"Katie's dead."

I muffled a chuckle. He didn't notice. "Did you love Katie?"

"We've been over this. Now, stop it."

I bit my lip and looked out the window for a while. It was starting to get light. "How come you haven't asked me why I did it?"

"Do you want me to ask you?"

"Don't you want to know?"

"No."

I just looked at him.

"Okay," he said. "Why?"

I looked at my hand. It had stopped throbbing. There was a brown stain on the shirt. It was in the shape of a flower. I admired it for a few moments.

"Why?" he repeated.

I smiled at the flower. "I don't know," I lied.

"It doesn't matter."

"It should," I said.

"It doesn't."

"Why do you love me?"

Tom sighed. "Give it up."

"Would you take the blame for me?" I stared at him, waiting for his answer.

"I'd be a fucking retard."

"Would you?"

Tom looked over at me and nodded slowly. I stopped myself from smiling.

"It doesn't matter though," he said, "because no one's going to find us. No one. You can't call anyone, you know. Not even your sister."

"I have to call Jamie. She'll worry about me."

"No. No one, you hear?"

I stared out the window. I hated Tom when he acted like this. He always wanted to be in control. He was always like that. He thought he could control me. I smirked.

"Don't sulk," he said softly. "I hate it when you sulk."

"I'm not sulking."

"Whatever."

"Where are we going, Tom?"

He pulled off the highway onto a smaller road and brought the car to a stop on the shoulder. He shocked me by pulling me towards him and pressing my head to his chest. "Listen to me," he said. "I don't know why you did it. I don't know how you did it. I don't even know if you really did do it. Maybe you went into the apartment and found them all there, already dead. I don't care. But I love you and I'll take the fall for you if it comes to that, okay? Do you understand me?" His face was intense.

I swallowed and nodded.

"Don't say anything else about Katie, okay?" he said. "I made a mistake. I'm sorry. It didn't mean anything. I only love you."

We stayed like that for a few moments, pressed together. His chest was warm, comforting somehow. Finally he maneuvered the car back onto the highway. We drove along in silence for a few minutes.

"I didn't do it because of Katie, you know," I lied.

Tom didn't look at me. "Okay," he said.

"I didn't mean to hurt DJ," I said after a few moments, not sure why I needed to confess this to Tom.

Tom didn't say anything.

Tom"He was just there. He was all strung out on smack anyway. Probably didn't know what happened to him." I could tell Tom was upset, though he still wouldn't respond. "I didn't think you'd care too much about Brian, eh? You hated him anyway right?" Tom refused to answer. He avoided confrontation. He was always like that. I was determined to get a reaction from him. "I mean, he and Katie fucked like rabbits, eh? They were doing it when I came in, eh? He was going-"

"Shut up! Just shut up!"

I smiled. I couldn't help myself. Neither of us spoke for a few minutes. I glowed with the knowledge of Tom's discomfort. "Does that bother you?"

"What?" he snapped.

"Brian and Katie doing it."

Tom sighed. "You're fucking insane. I don't care about Katie. I never did. It happened once! Why do we have to keep going over this?"

I said no more. We drove on in virtual silence for hours upon hours, stopping only for gas and McDonald's. Finally, at about eight o'clock in the evening, we pulled into a motel. "Get down," Tom said. "You're not here."

"Why not?"

"Just do it." I ducked down and Tom went into the office. The motel looked as if it had been abandoned thirty years ago, yet Tom came back to the car holding a key to one of the rooms. "Stay down," he said.

I kept hidden until we were parked outside our room. Then Tom hurried me in. The room was small but clean. There was one double bed facing a small TV on a dresser that looked as if it had been pulled from the dump. Tom flicked it on. "We have to watch the news," he said.

"It won't be on until ten."

Tom started flipping through the stations, looking for any news bulletins. A wave of anger rushed through me. He was ignoring me. He always ignored me when he was upset. He was always like that. "Tom?" I said softly. He had completed the rotation of channels and was starting again from the bottom. "Tom?" I repeated more loudly. "Tom, I need you." I could tell he had heard but he refused to look at me. I kneeled beside him on the bed and rested my head on his shoulder. "Please Tom," I whispered. "Please."

He was on top of me before I knew it, holding my wrists above my head. His mouth was on me. His chest pressed heavily on my breasts. I could barely breathe. He had never been so forceful before. When he pushed into me I was still wearing Katie's t-shirt. I couldn't get the thought out of my mind. He wasn't making love to me; he was making love to Katie's t-shirt. Harder and harder he pounded into me. With each thrust, I saw a flash of Katie's blood-stained hair, her bulging eyes, her silent screams as I stabbed the knife into her throat, blood shooting out at me, slicing her veins, again and again, thrusting and thrusting to a climax, his release.

Her death.

I lay there on the bed, my eyes closed, still feeling him inside me as he walked to the bathroom, leaving me behind. He'd been thinking about her, I was sure, fucking her dead body through me. He was obsessed with her. He'd always been obsessed with her. No wonder he killed Brian and DJ. They had both been fucking her, the two of them together sometimes.

But no, it wasn't so. It was my own hand on that knife, pounding into Brian's face, into DJ's neck. I did it. Or did I? It was Tom's knife. His father had given it to him on his last birthday. Everyone knew it was Tom's knife. He had always been proud of that knife. And it was Tom's motive. Everyone knew he had been screwing Katie, and it wasn't just one time either. And it was Tom's footprints in the blood. Hadn't I been on my knees? And Tom had had that assault charge last year. Tom was violent, especially in a crisis. He was always like that. Everyone knew it. So it must have been Tom. It must have been.

I heard the shower running just as the news bulletin came on. "A gruesome triple homicide," they said. "Stabbings," they kept repeating. "Police have questioned all residents in the building," they reported. "No witnesses," they said. "No witnesses."

The shower was still running. I pulled on my shorts and shoes and grabbed Tom's wallet and keys. I'm sure I was almost a mile away before he even knew I was gone. I may have already made the call to the police before he was even dried off. He had always taken really long showers. I always used to nag him about that, but he never listened to me. He'd just tell me to shut up.

He was always like that.

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