- Length about 3350 words. Written in June 2006. Rated MA.
I toss the paper away and Sol gives me a questioning glance from where he's sitting by the window.
"What is it?"
"I've had enough of the news," I tell him. "Or rather, I wish they had some real news to tell and not just that eternal yammering about the same old thing. I can't read about it any more or I'll puke for sure!"
"Too hot stuff for you? Burns the skin from your eyes?" he mocks as he goes to pick up the paper. "Are you now quite sure you don't want this back? Look, there's photos and all."
I flip him the finger.
"Bah. I'll do fine without it. As if I didn't know well enough what he looks like."
Sol arches a teasing eyebrow at me as he sits down with the paper.
"Besides, I know all the dirty details anyway."
He doesn't respond to that little prod, not that I really expected him to. He knows it all far better than I do, anyway. Of course he can't know exactly how much Rodion might've told me when he's not within hearing distance, but he knows it's not likely to be too much, never mind how much I like to taunt him with hints to the contrary. He's known Rodion far longer than I have.
I've sometimes wondered if Rodion didn't choose him as my bodyguard at least partly to bait me. Sol's nice, and quite the looker, too, the kind of guy that usually makes me go hard in my pants. Maybe Rodion wants to see if I'd sometimes try to get Sol in bed with me, when I'm bored and know he won't be around for a while? But Sol's probably straight as a rod, and even if he weren't, I'm no fool 每 here's one you don't compromise that easily, man! Wait for me to slip and you're gonna wait a long time.
Better not even think about that, though. Sol's damn observant and if he notices something, he might decide to test me. After all he's there at least as much to keep an eye on me as to look after me, and we both know that. Not that I mind too much, that's the way it goes with Rodion and I know well enough where I stand.
Besides, Rodion could've also picked someone ghastly, and I wouldn't like to have someone like that around practically 24/7. Naah, I've no reason to want to be rid of Sol. He sure is nice to look at, though. That blond hair on his tanned forearms looks like some glitter...
No, I won't look, though I'd need something to do to pass the time and I don't really feel like watching TV or movies right now. There's faint music from the speakers, 'lies come hard in disguise' someone sings and I don't know what that means but it keeps ringing in my ears.
Lies. I've done my fair share of lying, enough to know I'm not too good at it. I just can't seem to keep track of what I've told and to whom, and before very long it's all just a hopeless tangle. Whenever I feel like lying, it's better to just stay quiet, that's what I've learned.
Shit, I want to do something! This is getting old. And that goddamn Sol just insists on reading that fucking paper.
"Anything interesting in there?" I try. Sol looks at me over the pages.
"I thought you didn't want to hear another word of it."
"I'm bored. Talk to me."
"Hmm... It says that everybody's expecting trouble because of the takeover, and that the guys bought out of the company aren't likely to just sit back and let it slip out of their hands." He skims over a few more lines, lips pressing together. "They might prove difficult yet."
"Do you think Rodion's gonna be back soon?" I pick on the cushions of the sofa. "Will he have to stay in town for a long time to get everything settled?"
"Your guess is as good as mine," Sol says with a lazy shrug. He's probably lying but then he's in no way obliged to tell me. "Those guys, they need to fight it out between themselves, and that's what the boss is there for."
I sigh. Obviously he's not going to humor me.
"Hey, don't show that long face even if he didn't take you along to town."
"I don't mind," I say. "It's nicer here anyway. Though I'd like it even more if he were here as well."
"Oh?" Sol lowers the paper again and the expression on his face is somehow funny. "I thought you liked being in town?"
I snort. "Not wild about it. When we're there he's just busy all the time."
"Hey, pretty, if you're not careful I might even get the impression that you miss him."
What's that smug little smirk is supposed to mean? Sure I'm in it for the money, but who's to say I couldn't have fun as well? And if Rodion's not only the richest but also the best fuck I've ever had, so what?
Maybe I should just tell you to jerk off, Sol. But then, you can lay your seedy judgements for all you like and see if I care. I'm the one in Rodion's bed, I'm gonna stay there, and you might be around to keep watch on what I do but you're still my bodyguard too so in a way I have the upper hand here.
I grant him a withering glare and sigh. He goes on reading. The music plays on, lines from it flitting stubbornly through my bored mind. 'Who says they're part of our lives?' 每 who? No, what: 'feelings', offers my brain helpfully. They've got nothing to do with anything. I care about myself, and Rodion's well worth holding on to. I don't need feelings to mix things up.
Sol's looking a bit restless and that's funny. He sure isn't one to get fidgety, but I can see that his attention isn't really on the paper. I guess he just doesn't like to be indoors with me on a day like this. I'd much rather be outside on the patio, too, but we're not to go there today.
Come to think of it, that's what Rodion said this morning just before he walked out of the door. He told us to stay inside. What the fuck was that actually?
Today was supposed to be business as usual and Rodion was his own imperturbable self when he left. That's always so weird, I mean, how can he be so cool after he's just fucked me through the mattress? I watched him, still a bit woozy and feeling toe-curlingly well laid, while he just comes from the bath and gets dressed in that carefully tailored suit and diamond tie pin and cufflinks and hand-made shoes, then goes to have breakfast. Cool as a shark, and with that certain edge about him that's always there when he's going to get tough with someone.
That edge was there this morning, too. You own the money, Rodion. That means you control the witness, everything's under your thumb, the world is your oyster 每 right? Why the fuck do I feel this hollow all of a sudden?
Sol startles me out of my thoughts as he gets up and flexes his arms. Such a lazy movement but his eyes are sharp.
"I'll leave you lonely for a while, babe," he says. "Are you sure you'll manage ten minutes by yourself?"
"Where're you going?" I blurt before I have time to bite my tongue. Sol frowns at me.
"Just taking a look around," he says. "Hey, what's wrong with you?"
"You tell me." My heart's thumping so loud that my throat hurts. "Sol, something's not right. What the fuck is going on?"
"Nothing," he says in a tone he might use to a troublesome kid. "What bit you, pretty? I'll go check the mail, is all. E-mail, ever heard of that before? Might bring you a drink on my way back. What'd you like?"
The way he looks at me, it makes me feel real stupid, 'cause I am behaving like some silly kid, but right then his mobile rings and my breath catches at the way he reacts to it. It's Rodion, I know it from the ringtone, and Sol always answers quickly, but I've never seen him this jarred by the sound. He snatches the phone from his pocket and flips it open in one swift movement, opens his mouth to say something but there's a rushed flood of words before he has time to make a sound.
I watch as Sol's eyes go round.
"Krüger, what the hell?" he snarls, then listens again and swears heavily. I'd jump up from the sofa but my knees feel like they're filled with jelly. He nods, then his shoulders relax just a little bit. "Okay, okay, 's gut, alles klar. Pass auf 每 nein, du hörst jetzt zu! Also 每"
The rapid fire of German is too much, I just can't pick up anything that'd make any sense. I wish I knew what's going on. Has something happened to Rodion? Sol's turned his back to me, he's looking out of the window as he speaks, and finally he switches back to English.
"Maddox, you there? Right... Yes... Are you now clear about your instructions?" He takes a deep breath and cuts the other speaker off, his voice like glass. "Don't monkey with my business, man, don't even try! You've got your orders, you follow them, is that clear? See you in twenty. Over and out."
Sol turns around and there's this little smile on his face as he slips the mobile back into his pocket, the one right next to where I know he has his gun.
"Hey, pretty, don't you look like that," he drawls. "Are you afraid?"
"Yeah," I manage because it's the truth. "Sol, what is going on?"
"You know the boss is up to big things, babe," he says. "That means a plan with plenty of moving parts, and plenty of chances that one or more of those parts don't move quite as they were supposed to. Nothing massive, but something that requires some action at our end."
"Well, I hope there's nothing outside this room that you couldn't live without?" With deliberate movements Sol takes his gun from the holster and checks it, then glances at me sideways and smirks. "We're leaving in about twenty minutes. Maddox is on his way here, and until he arrives it's best if we don't move about in the house. Got it?"
"No buts, pretty. We stay put until that chopper is here." Sol sits down and places the gun on the low table in front of him. "Unless you want to get kidnapped?"
"Oh, by the boss' rivals of course. Or then the police might like to get their hands on you as well."
I don't understand. I just fucking don't understand what is going on here. Sure I know quite a chunk of Rodion's business is illegal, but that's basically all I know. No details, surely nothing of importance. Nobody could possibly be interested in me! Rodion's the one who needs to worry for himself, he's the important one. You pay the profits to justify your reasons, that's what he said once when I overheard him talking to someone about all those stipends and grants and donations. And he has friends in the police, too. He's made sure there won't be trouble. Why should anyone be after me? This makes no fucking sense.
Sol considers it for a moment, then chuckles. "Well, I don't really think that the police would really be that interested in you. There's the other folks, though, and it just might occur to them that hurting you would be a good idea. But don't you worry, I'll deliver you to the boss safe and sound."
"Didn't you hear me, pretty? I promise nothing'll happen to you."
Yeah, yeah, I heard your promise, but I don't believe it. Or rather, all of a sudden I wish I could be sure that you'll be able to keep it. I'm fucking scared. Why would anybody want to hurt me?
"You still don't understand?" Sol asks, and I shake my head. "It's simply because you're sleeping with the boss. You're his, and harming something that belongs to him is bound to piss him off. Which is exactly why someone might well get the bright idea in the first place. Nothing personal, pretty, that's just the way it goes."
He's about to say something else but his mobile phone rings again, a different tone this time. He frowns as he flips it open.
"Sol 每 yes... are you sure? All right, got it." The caller says something but Sol interrupts. "No, that's all right. Nothing I couldn't handle. Yes, that was me this time as well, I was sort of expecting something like this, that's why I've done it again. Just stick to the plan, everybody."
Notorious. That's a word that keeps coming up over and again whenever Rodion's mentioned in the papers. Never realized, though, that it could mean something like this, something that touches me directly. Such as sitting here scared out of my wits, looking at my bodyguard who has a gun in his hand and calmly tells me that the house I've been living in for about a year now is going to be under armed attack.
To think that I've always liked the fact that this house is here in the country, with nobody around for miles and miles, so different from the crammed and filthy city alleys where I grew up. Somehow I guess I'd feel much safer right now if there were a few million people around.
"We'll be getting away soon," he tells me. "Maddox will get here before those guys."
"What about the servants?"
"The girls will keep the secrets all right," Sol sneers. "They have too much to lose if they don't."
I don't know what he means by that and I'm not going to ask, either.
"So long as boys make a noise we're 每" He stops by the window, tilts his head, listens. I prick my ears and then I hear it too. The sound is distant but it's growing louder by the moment, and in a few moments I can make out the whopping of propellers. Sol whirls around.
"That's Maddox," he tells me. "Come, pretty, we're outta here."
"But what about Rodion? What's going on in town?"
He glances over his shoulder at me, I can see how the muscles in his back shift under the shirt and jacket. He flashes me a wolfish grin.
"Don't you worry about the boss," he says. "He's gonna join us pretty soon, after he's got everything taken care of."
"I told you not to worry," he repeats. "Those fools run rings to break up something they'll never destroy. They don't have any idea of what they're really up against. Let me tell you something, pretty: it's a real Grand Notorious Slam that's taking place there, right now. Just wait and you'll see. The boss has it all planned and ready."
I still don't have the faintest idea of what's going on, but I know it's got to be far bigger than I ever realized. I feel utterly stupid for being so clueless, but then, Rodion probably wouldn't even want his fucktoy to be too knowledgeable. Damn him.
But he's going to get that rubble sorted out all right. He knows how to deal with them, and who really gives a damn for a flaky bandit? No, nobody's going to miss those bastards, and right now Sol's going to keep me safe. He promised me. That's all I need to care about right now.
I can see the helicopter now. It's landing on the terrace outside and blasting fine sand around, wind beating all the plants flat against the paving and the edges of their pots. Sol doesn't turn his eyes from the thing as it descends, bumps a little, then touches down properly. Someone jumps out and waves at us, and he jerks the terrace door open and peers out.
The man by the chopper is shouting something at us but we can't hear anything over the roar of the propellers. Sol's hard fingers close around my forearm and then I'm running after him, nearly stumbling, the grip hurts but he won't let go. He runs a little hunched and automatically I imitate him under the deafening gust. Flying dust makes me squint, Sol shoves me towards the man waiting at the door and instinctively I flinch at the sharp popping sound as he stumbles and lets go of me. Surely the thing isn't gonna break down on us?
The man grabs me and drags me roughly inside. My leg hits against the edge so hard that tears of pain cloud my eyes but the floor beneath me lurches and I crawl forward. Maddox, yeah, I do recognize him at the pilot's seat. His mouth is a tight line beneath the goggles as he grabs the controls and - good God, we're taking off already?
I try to get further away from the still gaping door, turn around and nearly throw up. What's all that blood?
He's on his side, breathing hard, face twisted into a grimace of pain. The other man bangs the door shut but I hardly notice it as I crawl to Sol. His leg is all bloody and more blood is oozing from a spot between his fingers. So red. What's happened to him, and when?
"Tourniquet," Maddox barks to us over the engine noise as he turns the chopper and speeds away. "For fuck's sake, De Jong, act!"
"You shut the fuck up and fly," De Jong shouts back. "They're firing at us!"
"They don't want to hit the tank," Maddox growls, "they want us alive."
I can feel that we're rising higher by the moment, then the chopper spins around and speeds away. The movement makes me lean against the man lying on the floor and he moans. De Jong swears under his breath.
"Press it," he tells me. "Both hands, quick."
Press it? I stare at the torn cloth and the blood soaking through. De Jong tears Sol's hand away.
"Do it!" he yells at me and I obey.
Sol lets out a hoarse yell when I clamp both hands over the sticky mess and press as hard as I can. I feel the throb, the scream of crushed muscle, the squish of blood, the slickness that slithers between my fingers, and I close my eyes. Stop, it must stop. 'Please don't ask me to bleed about it' is what Sol often snorts when he means he couldn't care less about something, oh please God why did I have to remember that now? Tears are forcing their way out between my lids, I clamp teeth on my lip not to scream. It's useless, screaming doesn't help. I must stop the blood.
Someone crouches next to me and I look at De Jong, smelling of sweat and dust and fire. He slips a piece of hose around Sol's thigh and pulls it tight, then pushes me aside. The flow of blood slows visibly but my hands leave bloody marks on the floor. Maddox glances over his shoulder at us, eyes wide behind the goggles.
"Fly!" De Jong roars to him.
I can't turn my eyes from Sol's face. His eyes are half closed, skin ashen, his blood on my hands. His blood, but he needs this blood 每 and I, I need it too. I need this blood to survive. He's my bodyguard, Sol is, even though I never knew I'd really need one. He's there to keep me safe. I need him.