Tales of the Storage Space, Part 36

The Storage Space would have wept copiously, if only a building could have shed as much as a single tear.  To see what was happening to the only human being with whom the poor, long-suffering Storage Space had ever been able to communicate!

It wasn’t just what was happening but how.  The Storage Space had witnessed people having carnal relations before, but this…  The Storage Space wasn’t at all sure Karen would even survive what Irwin was doing to her.

Of course the one the Storage Space didn’t like to think about was on hand…a swirling green mist of hysteria and Shakespearean profanities…but Irwin was far too intent on what he was doing to even notice when that mist managed to make his attack on Irwin physical.

Finally the screaming stopped when she passed out.

Of course that didn’t stop Le Grand Rat from continuing with his wretched business.

“Are you there?”

The Storage Space would have jumped, if only a building could…

“I know your talking to me is only in my imagination, but I’ve never needed anyone more…even if it isn’t real.”

The Storage Space could tell she wasn’t talking aloud.  Blood and other things were seeping out of her thankfully slack mouth.  Her eyes, thankfully, were still closed, her body limp.  That horrid, wretched Irwin was still having his way with her.

“Please, I’m begging you, describe something…anything…to me that’s…beautiful.”

The Storage Space was…for the first time in an existence that spanned centuries…speechless.  No one had ever before communicated, let alone made a request.  The Storage Space was so used to wandering at will through whatever thoughts came to mind that the idea of specifically directed thought was incomprehensible.

“Please…”

The Storage Space watched what Irwin was doing to her, then couldn’t bear to watch.  It would have cleared its throat if only a building could…  If only a building had a throat to…  “A long time ago when I was the grandest of theatres, there was a woman like you who felt deeply.  She was so beautiful that the sun…like a well-trained spotlight…came out from behind the darkest clouds to shine on her whenever she stepped outdoors.  She was so sweet the sweetest sweets were sour in comparison to a single word she spoke or her pure, radiant smile.  But I’m no good at this!  And Charlotte went abroad…Switzerland I gather…then made the mistake of returning only to be brutally…to be brutally…  Well, never mind!  Especially just now!  Let’s just leave it by saying that the poor, long-suffering Charlotte is long gone.”

“But she was, and she was beautiful.  Everything passes; the point is that it was.  Which is all we have to cling to.  You’re doing fine.”

The Storage Space could feel Karen’s anguish threatening to break through a wall she’d constructed, which consisted solely of her…not too inaccurately…imagining Charlotte.

She was begging now.  “Please, please, please, please continue.”

The Storage Space forced itself to remember fully now, images cascading through its consciousness:  Charlotte scampering about the stage in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Charlotte on that frighteningly fragile balcony as Juliet.  Until it finally saw Charlotte as the oh-so-tragically-lost Ophelia, and the cascade slowed abruptly to a slither of memories that crawled over every inch of its wood grain like rivulets of tears:  Charlotte in love.

A second Ophelia.

Why had the Storage Space started to describe her to Karen, when it could only lead, in time, to having to describe, and fully remember, him.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 35

Amelia’s eyes were closed, but flickerings of soft, warm light played across her eyelids.  Fragrant wood smoke wove its way through the scents of a deliciously savory stew and fresh-baked bread.  She could hear the fire crackling.

Something furry warmed her cheek.  Amelia nuzzled her face into it, and it started to purr.

Homeless Heaven.  She must be dreaming; she didn’t dare open her eyes.  Instead she listened to the fire crackle.

What had her mother told her about the nunnery she grew up in in Switzerland?  Always a crackling fire in her room, a huge “elderdown” on her bed.  Amelia felt the slight weight of something similar, which smelled faintly of clean, lemon-scented laundry.

Suddenly a soft strain of piano music.  Not a recording.  Debussy.  But even softer and dreamier than the original.  And just then, when Amelia was the surest that it must all be a delicious dream, and she was really dead, a huge tongue licked her face.

“Q!”

Amelia’s eyes snapped open.

A Rottweiler…so big it looked like it could have swallowed her in a single gulp…cowered in front of her, darting its nervous eyes between her and the man at the piano.  Vaguely it all came back to Amelia:  This man had carried her home.  And something about a bird…

“Q, I already tended all her wounds!”

Amelia took a peek under the duvet.  It was true.  Not only were all her injuries neatly dressed but she was cleaner than she’d been since she became homeless.  All of her.  And she was dressed in nothing but an immaculate, white terry cloth bathrobe.  She wasn’t sure what sent the slight shudder up her spine, the fact that she’d managed to sleep through all this or thankfulness that she was no longer young.

He left the piano, appearing at her side to offer a brandy snifter with what smelled like a first-rate cognac.  The Rottweiler Q, still seeking reassurance, whined and attempted to settle for licking a bandage covering an injury on her hand…until the man’s look sent the dog scurrying off to a corner near the fire.

The cognac slipped down Amelia’s throat like satin.  The man served her some stew from a silver food warmer.

Amelia found her voice.  “Thank you so very much.  For everything.  Your kindness…”  She couldn’t find adequate words to finish her sentence.

He silenced her with a gesture.  But even in a room only lit by firelight, she could see the flush of pleasure and suppressed smile in response to her few words.  He adjusted the pillows behind her, which set the cat to purring again, and then sat on the floor at her side.

Amelia tasted the stew.  “Delicious!”

Again, he failed to completely suppress a smile that bordered on the smug.  But then his expression turned quite serious and troubled.  “Oh Lady of the Melodious Voice, can I tell you something?”

“Of course!” she responded immediately, anxious to repay his kindness by listening to his woes if she could.

“At the same exact moment that I learned that my dearest friend is dead, I also learned that I betrayed him by believing he had betrayed me when, in fact, he hadn’t at all.”  He looked beseechingly at Amelia.

Amelia knew she must have looked confused.

“You need to understand that we’re in business together.  A…client…owes us a very large sum of money.  I thought my friend had gone to his garden apartment to collect it without telling me because he was going to keep all the money for himself.”  He choked up, burying his head in his hands.  “How could I?”

Amelia sat up and put a hand on his shoulder.

“How could I?” he repeated.  “How could I think such a thing?  You see I got worried that night, when I couldn’t reach him, and tracked him.  That’s how I found out he’d gone to the apartment of this guy who owes us a fortune.  That’s why I thought…”  He trailed off, in obvious agony.

Amelia squeezed his shoulder.

“How could I?  I even went to where this guy that owes us money works, gunning for my friend.  But when I finally found my friend dead, I knew the truth.”

Amelia put an arm around him.  “Which was?” she queried softly.

He took her hand, squeezing it feverishly, having apparently forgotten about her injuries.  “Which was that the reason my friend must have gone to collect that money alone was because he knew of the danger I did not…the danger that ended his life.”

Amelia squeezed his hand.

“But I found something else in the trash that night, too.”  His sudden grin was so remarkably evil that Amelia snatched her hand back with a shudder.  It was then that she spotted the little box he’d shown her, before she’d gone to sleep, and remembered about the dead bird.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 34

Karen literally quaked.  That rodent Irwin had discovered she was all but naked in her storage unit.  Her just deserts for wiling away the time till she was strong enough to leave by imagining a conversation with a building.

She’d spoken aloud.  To a building.  Idiot, she reprimanded herself… although she imagined the building unleashing a whole torrent of formal Edwardian English, protesting that she was still too weak to know what she was doing.

Irwin hadn’t yet spoken or moved or taken his eyes off her breasts.

San Francisco…  Again she imagined seeing it from Frank’s apartment across the bay in Sausalito.  But…where were the tall buildings?  Why was she thinking about mud and Jack London?

Karen tried to shake herself out of what must have been some kind of dream state, so she could deal with Irwin.

Irwin’s eyes, as they moved to compensate for the motion of her breasts, widened.  He took in a deep breath then exhaled, flooding the tiny storage unit with the stench of rancid oil and cheap cigars.

Karen imagined the building wanting to shudder.  She wanted to shudder.  After all she’d been through, all the sorrow and terror and pain?  She’d thought she’d never again have the energy for rage.  Yet…oddly…insanely…it was some sleaze staring at her breasts that finally brought a blind fury gushing up from she didn’t know where.  “Get away from me, you ugly rodent!”  Had she actually managed to scream?

Was she still imagining the building was sentient and that it was laughing at Irwin?

But the moment the words left her mouth, she regretted each and every one.  She needed Irwin’s help.  To survive!  Now it was too late.  She braced herself as best she could for all possible reactions except the one she got.

First he looked stunned, then fitful tears erupted, and then he pouted.  Finally…not in his usual slimy/oily voice but sounding like an irate toddler…he snapped, “I am not a rodent!”

Where did that come from?  Karen saw a ray of hope in the ancient hurt she must have channeled.  “No, no,” she crooned.  “How could I have even entertained such a thought?”

Too effective.  His leer was back.  “Way you shook them titties at me?  I know what you want.”  He grabbed her, clapping a hand over her mouth so roughly she bled.  “And screaming at me like that?  I know how you deserve to get it.”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 33

Martin woke up screaming from another bloody nightmare.  But then he spotted Jennifer’s phone and started to laugh.  Next he snatched her phone up frantically, typing his own name again when it asked for her password.  He wanted to be sure he hadn’t just dreamed what he was laughing about, too.

He hadn’t.  There it all was again in her phone’s notes.  If he made what he’d found public not only was it guaranteed to go viral, but he was quite sure the stupid bitch could actually be indicted for treason against the United States.  Still, the public exposure of the pictures referred to in Jennifer’s notes would undoubtedly concern her more.  Martin savored each shot in the album.  She thought she could blackmail the man with pictures of her naked body splattered with what looked quite literally like shit?  While this man did things to her not even the raunchiest porn site could have imagined?  Just who did she imagine was in a position to blackmail whom?

Giddy from nightmare-induced sleep deprivation, Martin laughed and laughed.  This time that greedy, manipulative bitch had really…as they used to say it…lost the plot.

Even if he hadn’t succeeded in framing Jennifer for a murder he’d committed, Martin was free.  Free from a lifetime of picking up her dry cleaning, paying off her collection-agency debts, and…by far the worst of it; he thought he’d actually chunder at the thought of it…getting it up for her.

Martin’s doorbell rang, persistently.  There was only one person that could be.  Okay, the bitch had somehow managed to talk her way out of the murder rap he’d tried to pin on her.  Probably all ready to scream at him because the box of her precious “stuff” he’d sent her back for wasn’t in the storage space after all.  Still, Martin carefully turned Jennifer’s phone off, stashed it in a place where he figured no one would ever find it, and literally danced his way to the door, struggling to suppress a Cheshire-cat grin.

This was going to be fun.

He swung the door open wide.

On the other side was what looked like a whole battalion of cops.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 32

Jennifer was so annoyed.  Worse, when she remembered what was on that phone that she just had to get back from that homeless bitch, Jennifer was terrified.  People were so unreasonable.  Why had that stupid homeless man made Jennifer’s life even more difficult by picking that homeless bitch/phone-stealer up out of the gutter?  What could he have been thinking?  And why had he then gone on to intentionally torture her even further by disappearing when she turned the corner?  Where on earth was he hiding her phone…and the homeless bitch?

Jennifer stood in the middle of the block, stamping her feet so hard, and for so long, that she finally broke off one of the heels of her expensive dress shoes.  She screamed aloud in frustration.  At first she stuffed the broken-off heel in her pocket, assuming she’d repair her shoe later.  But then she forgot all about it, tore both shoes off that she couldn’t walk on that way anyway, and, in a fit of frustration, threw them down in the gutter.

Of what importance were any shoes compared to what was on her phone?

Barefoot now, she looked all around her, up and down the block.  No one in sight.  How could a homeless man…carrying a homeless woman, no less…have disappeared so quickly?  There hadn’t been enough time between his turning into this block and Jennifer’s arrival there for him to have made it to the end of the block and turned a corner.  So, not so homeless after all, he must have gone into one of the buildings on this block.  But which one?

Jennifer looked again from building to building.

“Ah, the pain of love lost…”

Who the fuck?  Jennifer spun around.  She could have sworn she was alone on the block, had just checked.  But not three feet behind her was the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen.  Blonde.  Chiseled cheek bones.  Huge, piercing green eyes.  But how had he materialized out of nowhere?  Out of her fondest imagination?

“And to have lost out to…a homeless old hag?”

Jennifer snorted.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.  And I don’t know you, so why are you talking to me anyway?”

The man must have put a hand on her shoulder, but there was something really creepy about the way he moved.  Not only was he as silent as a cat, but he’d somehow managed to place a hand on her shoulder entirely out of her range of vision…like some fighter that never telegraphed a punch.  “Come, come.  We’re both old friends of Alex’.  Mad as a hatter.  You needn’t worry about his betraying you for that homeless old hag, though.  She’s just another damaged thing he’s picked up, supposedly to fix.  Like that bird with the broken wing last week.  If there’s any worrying to be done, it’s on behalf of the homeless old hag.”

Jennifer just looked at him.  Wall-to-wall shoulders.  Classic V-shape.  Magnificently muscled.  Bronzed from the sun.  And a hand on her shoulder.  Could he tell she was breathing heavily?

Yet…there was still something creepy about that hand on her shoulder…about him.  But then she remembered about her phone with a thud in her gut.  “Do you have Alex’ address?”