His skin was smooth, the color of satin sand, another anonymous face in the crowd. He was disheveled in a tragically beautiful way. Strands of cocoa bean hair fell into his gunmetal blue eyes. It was love at first sight.
Dax was rushing from the coffee shop to work, late again. Today could very well be the day his boss fired him. He knew his performance was down, due to his sales. People were being smarter about their money these days and had a low tolerance for telemarketers, making it a rough business to be in. If it weren’t for the fact he was behind on his rent and had no impressive, marketable skills to find a better job, he would have quit long ago. He was stuck.
Keeping his head down, he traipsed to his cubicle amongst the endless chatter of industrialism and brash bargaining. He plopped down in the uncomfortable chair that was his work home, without even an impression of a window to help pass the time.
Welcome to the cube farm, he thought wryly, powering up his computer and donning his headset. The next few hours were spent reciting blind dialogue and staring drowsily at the partitions. Dax was startled out of his mindless reveries by a low whistle from the next stall. Popping his head up to peek over the low wall, he noticed several other male colleagues had done the same.
“Looks like Clinton has the day off. Damn! Check her out, dude. She is sizzling,” Harvey, Dax’s cube-neighbor whispered. “The things I could do to her!”
“Yeah, in your head, Harv. When’s the last time a real woman even looked at you, besides your mom,” Dax replied. Harvey turned his head and grinned shamelessly.
“Wouldn’t you like to know.” Shaking his head, Dax scanned the room for the subject of the conversation. His eyes landed on the food cart, his stomach reminding him painfully that he had skipped breakfast – again. No hot female in sight.
“Hey, the boys and I are headed out to Ninety-Nine after work. It’s dollar draft night. You in?” Harvey said, drawing attention away from thoughts of food. Dax raised an eyebrow at the request, then reached for Old Faithful.
“Geez, dude. I’d love to,” Dax said, then flashed Harvey the bronze chip he received for 2 years of sobriety. “But I’m tapped out. Like I’ve been the last few times you’ve asked. You got Alzheimer’s or what?”
“Shit, man. They serve more than alcohol there, you know,” said Harvey.
“And I’d rather not tempt myself,” Dax replied. “The courage to change the things I can, and all that.”
“Better you than me.” Harvey said. “Ooh, there she is. Ginger Snap in the house, yo.” At that, Dax snapped to attention. His eyes perused the room, looking for a flash of color. There she was, her copper curls barely contained at the nape of her neck by a small band. His breath quickened.
As her lithe body expertly maneuvered the cart through the trenches, his head began to swim. Her heart-shaped face seemed so familiar. He had seen her before, he was sure of it. The cart and its operator stopped one cubicle shy of his own and he inhaled a lavender scent with a hint of peppermint. He grabbed the top of the partition to steady himself as the room began to fade.
“Hey, Dax. You feeling okay?” Harvey’s voice muddled in the fog of his brain as he fell…
…straight into a memory.
It was two years earlier. Dax was sitting at the bar in Mosey and Lar’s tavern, drinking away his paycheck again, when he looked up and saw a flash of beautiful ginger curls that captured his full attention. She wasn’t the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, but seeing those freckled elven features crowned with a lion’s mane brought a smile to his face. He was enthralled by the way her tiny teeth bit coyly into the bottom of her full, cherry-colored lips as she contemplated her next shot at the pool tables.
As she’s finishing up the game, he downs a quick highball of liquid courage and approaches her. She smiles at him and leans in. He smelled the mild scent of lavender perfume and mint toothpaste, with a subtle hint of vodka underneath. He moved in closer to wrap himself in it.
She smiled. “I’m Ava. What’s your name?”
He managed to respond, “Dax”.
“Well, Dax, you look like a cool guy. Why don’t you buy me a drink and we’ll get to know each other.”
One drink turned into three or four and soon they found themselves entangled in the alley behind the bar, mouths open and curious about every inch of each other. He held her face with his hands and she clasped hers behind his head, pulling him closer. His finger trailed down her neck to her arm and back up until he cupped her breast in his hand. She sighed into his mouth, then pulled back.
“Dax, take me back to your place. In the alley isn’t really my style.”
He gave her breast a quick squeeze and she giggled, then he grabbed her hand and started toward his car. When they reached the parking lot, he blinked his eyes several times, trying to ascertain where his car was. Once he found it, the stumbled toward it. He opened the passenger door for her and made his way to the driver’s side. He fell expertly into the seat and slapped on his safety belt. Throwing the car in reverse, he made his way out of the stall, then floored it into drive. Ava’s body shook with buoyant laughter.
Once on the road, headed toward Dax’s apartment, she turned her body in the seat to face him. Dax smiled and glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. She was smiling back, carefree and beautiful. She reached over and gave his knee a squeeze. His smile broadened. Her fingers caressed his thigh, making their way north. Forgetting himself, Dax took his eyes off the road and got lost in her eyes.
Bright lights and a frantic horn blaring shocked him back to himself. Panicking, he jerked the wheel, shoving his foot down on the brake, trying to avoid the other car as they drifted into oncoming traffic. Their car took to the air, flipping once before slamming back into the ground, then continued to roll until it lost momentum. Dax heard screaming.
He heard a symphony of squealing brakes, then the pounding of shoes on the pavement. Amazingly, they had landed on the wheels instead of the roof. He tasted blood. Ava! He thought. It hurt to move, but he turned his head as best he could to look at her. Next to him was an empty seat.
Groaning, he reached down and unbuckled his seat belt and pushed his shoulder against the damaged door. It screeched as it tried to swing open. Tumbling out of the car, Dax attempted to stand. There were streaks of light in his vision and every noise was like a hammer to his head.
He managed a weak, gurgled call out to Ava before he stumbled and hit the ground. The starry sky blurred and he thought It’s just one thing after another before he passed out.
He could still smell lavender and peppermint.
“Dax!” Harvey was shaking him. “What the hell just happened?” Dax blinked, confused. He was sitting in his chair, at his desk. Harvey was standing next to him, a concerned look on his face.
“I’m not…” he started, when his eyes focused on who was in front of him. “I… Wha… Ava?”
“Who’s Ava? Are you okay?” the Ava clone asked.
Dax tried to shake the cobwebs out of his brain. Where’s Ava? He asked himself. Then he remembered. “I’m sorry. You just look like someone I knew, once,” he said.
Her plum-stained lips tuned up in a smile. “Well, I’m Kalin. And I assume you are Dax, as your friend here keeps calling you. You’re pupils are still dilated. Maybe I should get you to a doctor.” Dax shook his head, which sent it spinning. He closed his eyes, trying to make it stop. “Yeah, I’m taking you to a doctor. There’s a Doc-in-the Box just downtown. I won’t take no for an answer.”
Afraid to move his head again, he whispered, “Thanks.”
With Harvey’s help, Kalin guided him through the onlookers to the elevator and out to her car. Dax caught a fleeting glimpse of Harvey waving as they drove away, then closed his eyes.
Dax woke in a cool, dark room, the only light leaking out from a half-closed doorway on his right. He couldn’t move and his mouth tasted of cotton. Lifting his head, he tried to move his arm to shield his eyes from the piercing light. He couldn’t move his arm at all. Looking down, he found he was sitting in a simple wooden chair with his wrists, forearms, ankles and calves tied tightly to it. The fabric he tasted was a towel wrapped around his head and used as a gag.
What is happening he thought frantically. He tried to yell for help, but it sounded more like “hmm mph”. His brow started to sweat. He tried calling louder, but only managed a louder “hmm mph” than before.
There was movement in the doorway. Squinting his eyes to protect them from its overwhelming glare in the dim room, he saw a human shape. He thought to try saying help again, but realized that, whoever this was, was the reason he was in this predicament.
The figure moved from in front of the light and Dax saw it more clearly. Ava.
No, not Ava. Kalin.
“You’re awake at last,” Kalin said, elated. “I thought you’d be out forever. Now we can start the fun!” Dax didn’t know what kind of fun she had planned, but if it started like this, he wanted no part of it. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much choice in the matter.
From a table he hadn’t noticed earlier, Kalin picked up a small, square, mirror and looked in it lovingly. “I have waited a long time for this moment, Dax. I planned and I planned, then suddenly, it all came together!” She walked toward him with the looking glass, then stop an arms-length away, just slightly to his left. She gripped the sides of the glass and brought her arms up to batting position. “You have no idea how badly I’ve wanted to do this.”
There was a whoosh of displaced air, then pain erupted all over his face. Blood spurted from his face and tiny flecks of glass nicked his cheeks, ears, and throat. He took in an agonizing breath from his broken nose and let out a muffled scream. He looked up to see she had moved back to the table and picked up another mirror identical to the first.
Kalin smiled serenely. “Did that hurt? Good,” she said, not expecting an answer. He closed his eyes right before the second mirror hit his face. Blood was flowing more freely now, but he managed another stifled shout, this one weaker than the last.
She knelt down near him and looked in his eyes. “Poor baby. You’re bleeding.” She picked up a large intact piece of the shattered mirror and turned it over in her hands. “Funny thing, glass. So fragile, yet so… injurious. One wouldn’t think that something so benign could be so harmful.” She dragged the pointed end of the shard deep across the top of his thigh.
Dax tried feebly to move away. He was quickly losing what little strength he had.
“Oh, look at that. Big Bad Dax is trying to fight. Don’t you know it’s hopeless?” She laughed gleefully. “You should ask my first victim! He’s probably still locked up in the boiler room at your office. Guys are so predictable. Show a little skin, give them a wink – they’ll do whatever you want. Culinary Cart Clinton still thought I was just an innocent piece, right up until I slammed his head into a pipe valve.” She paused, then said, “I wonder if he’s dead yet. That really wasn’t part of the plan. But, hey. It got me to you, didn’t it.” She chuckled under her breath as she pointed the bloody shard at his neck.
Dax looked at her in confusion. She did all this, just to get to me?
Like she’d read his mind, Kalin continued. “All this for you and you probably haven’t guessed why. How Ava could have been attracted to a burnout like you is beyond me.”
His head snapped up. Ava? This was about Ava. He looked at Kalin again. Her mossy eyes stared right back at him. The same wild copper hair, same elven features…
“You see, now, don’t you? Ava is… was my twin. You killed her. And for what… sex? She was drunk, you asshole, just like you. You were so caught up in getting it on, you didn’t even realize she didn’t have her seat belt buckled. You drove off like a crazy person, mind in the gutter, and Ava paid the price by going through the windshield!” She punctuated the last sentence with a forceful slice across his chest and arm, then did it again, making an X on his torso.
Stepping back, Kalin looked at him, battered and bleeding. It wasn’t enough. She flew at him, helpless in the chair, and stabbed him repeatedly in a sudden fit of rage. She kept yelling, “You killed her. You killed her!”
Breathless, she slowly backed away, having spent the bulk of her energy.
Dax sat in the chair, which was now sitting in a growing puddle of blood. He struggled for breath, barely succeeding. His once lively eyes looked at Kalin dully.
“I’m sorry,” he tried to say through the gag. She shook her head.
“It’s too late for that now, Dax. Our time is up.”
Seeming to weigh the bloody mirror in her hand, Kalin looked at it, then at Dax. She walked up to him and shoved the fragment into his neck, nicking the carotid artery. She kicked the chair over and sat down next to him. The last thing he saw was her, placing her fingers in his blood. She rubbed the sticky liquid between her fingers and thumb and smiled, then started to write.
“Murder,” she wrote
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Short story “Murder, She Wrote” ©2014 by Robin Allen
All rights reserved. This story, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including recording, photocopying, offset, or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author, except by reviewers who may quote brief passages to be printed in a magazine or newspaper.