Tales of the Storage Space, Part 38

Martin stood beside the front door he’d just opened, gazing at an undulating sea of blue uniforms.

Someone screamed, “Bloody!  Fucking!  Bitch!”

Ever so slowly, while this latest shock ate at him like a fast-acting acid, Martin realized he was the one who had screamed.

The closest cop said something just as Martin felt something in his mind so odd it felt physical.  It was as if a tectonic plate had shifted, slithering insidiously into some new position.  What had the cop said?  He couldn’t hear over the terrible ringing in his ears.  All he could do was seethe at the thought of that bloody, fucking Jennifer turning the tables on him and wonder what that grinding sound was…until he realized it was his teeth.

The closest cop said something Martin couldn’t understand again.  Could his terror and so much nightmare-interrupted sleep prevent him from understanding what was presumably English?

Another cop spoke loudly and very slowly.

“What?” Martin snapped.  ID.  They probably wanted his ID.  Martin looked down as he fished it out of his pocket and saw the floor beneath him was undulating just like all those blue uniforms.  Were those huge ants starting to crawl up his legs?  Or just shadows undulating like the cops and the floor?

Martin looked up and squinted, hoping it would help him to see straight, and for just a moment he was sure he detected something odd about their uniforms.  Meanwhile the cop who’d taken his ID shook his head and handed it back quickly.  Martin thought he heard someone laugh.  Then the first cop started in on what was obviously a canned speech of some sort, though Martin still couldn’t understand him.  Probably reading him his rights.

Suddenly the ringing in his ears climaxed and it wasn’t Jennifer he was seething over; it was himself.  How knackered was he to think for a moment that she wouldn’t obnoxious her way out of anything, including a murder rap?  Would picking up her dry cleaning and getting it up for her till he’d had the time to work out a viable way to get rid of her…or just discovered what was on her phone, damn it all to hell!…really have been so bad?

Gutted, he was completely bloody gutted!  The cop even said something Martin actually picked up vaguely about blessing his soul.  Then he shoved some papers in Martin’s face.

“It was self defense!  If I hadn’t killed him, Frank would have killed me!”  Martin wiped the foam from the corners of his mouth.

The undulating sea of blue uniforms undulated even faster, then seemed to get sparse and start to disappear.

And they were gone.  Martin glanced at the papers.  Subpoena?  Looked like bible quotes and a big-ass old cross at the top.

No matter.  Martin wasn’t taking any chances.  He grabbed a few things, tripped over the pink monster undulating its way across his vintage atomic-inspired rug, and ran out his back door.

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 37

Jennifer knew she should feel ecstatic.  She had been so, so lucky to get the address of the “homeless man.”  What could be more important than retrieving her phone from the homeless woman who had stolen it from Jennifer…before herself being stolen and carried off by the “homeless man” with a snazzy Brooklyn address that included no apartment number?

Instead, Jennifer felt hungry in some weird way she didn’t understand at all.  Also, she felt all fidgety.  She kept thinking about blonde hair, chiseled cheekbones, and piercing green eyes.  Instead of being ecstatic over getting the address she needed so, so badly from that weird man, all she could do was pointlessly think, over and over again, about that weird man. Ridiculous.  She was being so unreasonable.

She started off toward the address he’d given her again.  The birds overhead interrupted this time, singing more beautifully than they ever had in her whole life.  Next thing she knew, she was leaning her cheek up against a tree, oddly aware of how the sun warmed it.  Ridiculous.  Utterly ridiculous.

A small, laughing child ran down the sidewalk stepping on Jennifer’s toe and reminding her that she was now barefoot.  So unreasonable.  So why was she laughing along with the child?

Why wasn’t she crying instead for those expensive shoes she’d lost?

What was that…song of some kind?…going through her mind?

Whose laughter was that?

Jennifer spun around.  Behind her was a woman in a wheelchair.  What the hell did she have to laugh about?  But there she was, bent over her withered legs because she was laughing so hard.  Finally she looked up at Jennifer.  “Honey, you’ve got it baa-aad!”

Jennifer had no idea what she was talking about.

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?”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 31

The Storage Space was quite astonished to find itself pondering, of all things, the city of San Francisco.  The Storage Space knew it existed, of course, some rough space where an unemployed gold miner…so uncouth that he referred to himself as “Jack” instead of John…fancied himself literary because he told a story about a dog going wild.

Really it was too, too much!  All so tiresomely absurd.

But truly the question was, why was the Storage Space deigning to even think of such a muddy camp?

And why, pray tell, was the San Francisco the Storage Space envisioned no longer muddy?

And why, pray tell, did the Storage Space somehow find this new San Francisco, of all things…comforting?

Utterly perplexed, the Storage Space concentrated.  Windows.  Huge windows that covered entire walls.  The Storage Space was envisioning this New San Francisco through windows from across a bay.  A simile came to mind, something about the fog marching between its towering spires of glass like fuzzy giants on a really old projection TV.  But the Storage Space didn’t even know what a new, let-alone an old, projection TV was.

“Sorry, bad simile.”

The Storage Space would have leaped out of its skin, if only a building could leap.  If only a building had skin.  For those three words about the simile had not been spoken aloud.  Nor, as was all too tragically customary in this place, were they the thoughts of a…the Storage Space was loath to even think of such things…ghost.  Nor did they have anything to do with whatever Le Grand Rat was doing in the hall.

But they were from someone alive, alive but who must somehow be very sympathetic to the poor, long-suffering Storage Space, such a profoundly sympathetic soul that the Storage Space could actually hear…her.

It was that Karen.  Perhaps the Storage Space was hearing her thoughts because she’d been there for so long.  Perhaps the Storage Space was hearing her thoughts because she…unlike the others…had depth.

“Do I?”

Again the Storage Space would have leaped out of its skin, if only a building could leap.  If only a building had…  But, never mind.  What was this?  A horrible, sickening wave of self-recrimination was washing over the Storage Space, something about that horrid Martin…naked.  The Storage Space would have shuddered, if only a building could…  But, never mind.  Now there was piercing pain, something the Storage Space had never experienced like this, as if the Storage Space was some kind of animal with soft skin.  And now there were tears, as if the Storage Space was capable of producing fluid, and a whole torrent of soft, animal-based memories.

The Storage Space would have done its very, very best to think of something else…anything else…but those soft, animal-based memories were so deliciously, almost excruciatingly sweet.  Feeling the sun on one’s arm.  Running one’s fingers over thick velvet.  Giggling.  Then, suddenly, they were gone.

“How could I?  How could I have betrayed everything I am?  And caused someone’s death?”

The pain was excruciating this time.  If only a building could cry out, if only a building could say, “No, you didn’t.  Everything you are is still inside you.”

“Really?”

She heard?

“Really?”  She asked it aloud this time.

More soft memories.  Digging one’s toes into warm sand.  The sun setting in…was that the Pacific Ocean?

But suddenly all softness was gone as the door to her storage unit rattled open further.  Le Grand Rat!

“Who’s in there?”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 30

Alex planted a long, lingering, tender kiss on the forehead of the bloody old homeless woman he was carrying back to his place, where he had all the medical supplies needed to attend to her wounds properly.  He dropped his voice an octave, to the gentlest purr.  “You have nothing to fear from me.”  Then he pulled his head back slowly, not wanting to alarm her with any sudden motions…as if she were the bird with a broken wing Alex had rescued the week before.  Studying her, he looked deeply into her still beautiful eyes, hoping his words had had the desired effect.

They hadn’t.  She still looked at him warily.  It cut Alex to the quick, and he had to fight back a flash of his infamously uncontrollable anger.  Why didn’t any one understand him?  Why didn’t any one see the kind of person he really was?

But he caught himself this time, able to appreciate that with all this poor woman had undoubtedly suffered being homeless, it was understandable that it might take a while for her to believe in Alex.  Eventually, though, she would.  Alex would see to that.  “How could I?” he purred to her.  “How could I have failed to notice your need immediately?  I’ll take care of you, attend your wounds.  Don’t worry.”

He reached his trick corner, where he could always loose anyone following him…and he knew he was being followed.  That young woman with the twitchy lips and sharply straight, dark hair.  In shoes way too dressy for daytime but with heels that clattered over the sidewalk such that it was easy to gauge her distance and rate of approach.

Alex listened to those shoes, slowing slightly before turning the corner.  He didn’t want to allow enough distance between them that his follower would think he’d made it to the end of the next block and turned another corner.  On the other hand, he did want to maintain enough distance between them that she would think he’d had enough time to disappear into one of the buildings on that block.

Instead, as soon as he turned the corner, he ducked into the all-but-unnoticeable space between the first two buildings where he knew a hole in the back fence would allow him to escape to the block behind.  A little power walking and he’d backtracked to a completely different block.  Through all of this the homeless woman he carried wrinkled her brow, but Alex was gratified by her clearly visible wonder when he carried her inside the building that was his alone.

“All that stained glass…original Tiffany, is it not?”

Her voice was even more beautiful than all the sunlight streaming through his helter-skelter collection of stained glass that was, in fact, original Tiffany.  Alex beamed, his heart leaping when he saw her astonishment replaced by a huge smile of sheer delight.  “I’m a bit…Noveau Victorian,” he demurred, “as you’re about to see from my library.”

With a bit of flourish, he swept her into a dark-paneled room with a huge stone fireplace and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.  But the expected leather-bound books were not there.  Instead, his eclectic found-object sculpture dripped off the shelves, along with such an extensive collection of high-tech gadgetry that he liked to think he put Q in the latest James Bond movie to shame.

“You’ll be comfortable here,” he purred, laying her out gently on a huge, commodious, chase lounge.  “I’ll be right back.”

In moments he returned with water, a collection of delicacies for her to eat, and his medical supplies.

The homeless woman looked him up and down.  “Clearly, you’re not really homeless.”

“No,” he acknowledged with a laugh.

She looked puzzled again when he brushed some feathers aside from his medical supplies.

“A bird with a broken wing that I rescued last week.”

She smiled broadly.  “May I see it?”

“Sure.”  He retrieved the bird’s shoebox, meticulously lined with soft cloth.

“But…”  She seemed troubled.  “It’s dead.”

Now it was his turn to be puzzled.  “Of course it’s dead.  I had to kill it when it pecked me.”

Tales of the Storage Space, Part 29

Karen sat up with a jolt.  Frank was furious with her!  She could feel it in her bone marrow.  It reminded her of sitting on a hill above Sausalito at sunset and feeling the mist that seemed to swirl about not just around but inside her.

Frank inside her…

She blinked, trying to take in her surroundings.  They were at Frank’s place, weren’t they?  Hadn’t they just made love for the first time?  Hadn’t her climax been so thunderous that she both screamed and wept?  And even started to laugh, manic, until he pulled back and locked eyes.  Then, transfixed by his eyes, she imagined new dimensions opening before her, one after another, like flower pedals.  A fourth dimension.  A fifth dimension.  A sixth dimension.

Martin.  That shallow nobody.  No, that wasn’t fair.  Martin was her friend.  But Frank was furious at her because of Martin.  So furious that he must have killed Martin.

That thought was like a bucket of cold water dumped over her head.  Her eyes had been open already, but now she saw.  No, they weren’t together in Frank’s apartment in Sausalito, looking through his huge windows at San Francisco across the bay.  She was alone in a teeny storage unit in Brooklyn with no windows at all.

Karen whimpered feebly and started to sob as she looked down at herself then, insanely, started to laugh.

She was sitting up.

She was alive.

She laughed and laughed as a whole lifetime of memories washed over her.  She was alive.  Whatever her present circumstances, she would find beauty again.

She started to scramble out of her storage unit but almost fainted.

But not that alive, she amended to herself.  Not yet.

She sat back, surveying her surroundings.  Her stomach clenched when she remembered mistakenly dipping the French fries in Martin’s blood instead of the ketchup.

Poor, poor Martin.  Who was she to think him shallow or to use him for sex that would be free of emotional pain because, truth be told, she couldn’t love him.  Poor, dear Martin.  He had been her friend.  More importantly, he had been alive and was no longer.  Karen was so very sorry.