As I laid before Stephen, in my knuckle-induced sensory deprivation, Stephen’s unconscionable thoughts were as vivid as ever. It case it isn’t clear, I could read thoughts. It is at this point that my story is filtered through his toxic gaze. Bear with me.
With every excruciating step towards the vault door, the word “cunt” came across his mind. The minor monolith of hinged steel meant to protect him from threats without could not protect him from the threat within. As proud as I am of having sentenced him to death, I’m not the threat I’m talking about. I’m speaking of his hubris. He posed as pathetic and harmless while being predatory in a way that was almost artful. Stephen in all his carefulness and planning was–much like the vault–conventionally impenetrable. And here he was, dying of a nicked artery. In all his planning, he’d never considered the unconventional. The profuse hemorrhaging from his thigh cared nothing of his privilege or self-awareness. His life would gush from him completely if he could not reach…
Delaney was Stephen’s most reliable lackey and, fortunately for Stephen, he was posted guard, right outside the vault door. If Stephen survived the day, he’d have Delaney to thank.
“Delaney, I need you!”
Stephen got no response from Delaney, so, he hobbled toward the vault door quickly, then slowly, then quickly, again. For the few feet he had to travel, Stephen was nagged incessantly by two conflicting thoughts: should he move quickly and risk bleeding out faster or sit tight and hope Delaney comes quickly? At the center of his conflict was indecision, so, logically, he kept on hobbling toward the door. From that decision, annoyance accompanied him, annoyance with Delaney for not being a mindreader–not a bit of irony was lost on me. Stephen was fully aware Delaney probably just didn’t hear his call through so much steel and concrete–again, the irony was not lost on me.
With every increment closer to help, Stephen became more susceptible to thoughts of his own mortality. Stephen was no fool. He knew death could claim him one day; no man could so forcibly determine every outcome in his life. He just never thought he’d address death’s avatar as “Baby Doll.”
Stephen came within reach of the door, placed his hand against its frigid surface and pushed. Just as space enough to peek through became possible, the door was slammed shut from the outside. The jarring clang resulted from it sent a surge of adrenaline through him. Instinctively, he drew his Glock 22, standard issue firearm of the…
“NOPD! Identify yourself!” Stephen trained his gun on the door, prepared to pop the first unfamiliar motherfucker to enter.
“Die, bitch!” Delaney screamed from the outside.
Stephen was horror stricken harder than struck me moments earlier. It left him paralyzed, the thought that Delaney, his faithful manservant, had the audacity to sabotage him and leave him to die, that his funhouse of perversion would become his final resting place. Stephen recalled the conversation they’d had before he entered the vault. It occurred to him that he may have taken his privilege too far with the man with whom he’d trusted his life.
The horror subsided when Stephen realized he was not the “bitch” Delaney sentenced to death, rather Delaney was dealing with an intruder. Relief was even briefer, as it was wedged tightly between his realization and six, single-round bursts followed by the empty clicking of spent chambers, and bookended by anguished screams from the man who so boldly told a bitch to die mere moments prior.
Then, without warning, the screaming stopped.
In a panic, Stephen fished through his pocket for his phone. Before he could find it, he heard the squeak of the vault doors hinges turn. He took aim at the entrance in a skillfully fluid motion. The vault door was open but no one stood in his sights. He waited for a target to step into his crosshairs and then he noticed…
There, within the vault, he saw from the corner of his eye, a dark-skinned woman. Panic does not accurately describe the level of anxiety this white man felt at that very moment. Stephen adjusted his aim and pointed his gun mere inches from her face. His hand subtly shook at a target with seemingly no interest in him. He could see in her gaze she was looking past him.
Her thoughts eluded me. I’d never encountered a human being I couldn’t read. She was a strange case, inhuman almost. I could only experience her from what Stephen could sense.
They appeared polar opposites. She was a she; he was a he. Her skin was like onyx; his skin like mashed potatoes. Even their choice of clothing was strangely at odds. She looked like she just rolled out of bed. Everything from her loosely laced, un-tied biker boots, to her thoroughly worn jeans, and the leather jacket, under which she wore with nothing at all screamed “don’t give a fuck.” Her steely calm demeanor with his wavering gun in her face certainly supported the theory she was utterly indifferent to any threat Stephen thought he posed.
“State your business,” Stephen said to her. “State it quickly.”
A blank glance she shot him, nothing more. One could assume she didn’t deem him worthy of her attention. Stephen thought so.
She shot another glance at his thigh. Stephen was clutching it tightly. Blood cascaded to his shoe, reddening nearly the whole pant leg. Still, she showed no sign of interest.
“Last chance,” he says and cocks his firearm.
She persisted in looking past him. He witnessed what appeared to be worry creep into her face. It was faint, but Stephen caught it. He’s finally put it together: she’d been staring at me.
She faced Stephen with unmistakable rage. In her rage, she advanced toward him. Stephen responded with a shot to her face. The blast whipped her head back and her body followed. She collapsed into a rag doll pile of limbs and torso.
Stephen hurried and shut the vault door and locked it from the inside before anyone else can sneak up on him. He made the call he intended before to a fellow officer by the name Nguyen.
“I need you at Miss Johnson’s house, ASAP!”
A floorboard creaked.
Stephen looked up and found himself face-to-face with the woman he just shot. Huge pulsating veins beckoned the blood from her wounds back into her face and sealed seamlessly. He thought he was dreaming until she smashed her forehead into his nose. The blow caused him to drop his phone and stumble until he caught himself against a wall.
“Stephen?” Officer Nguyen called out from the dropped phone.
Back against the wall, literally and figuratively, Stephen unloaded his Glock 22 into the onyx-colored woman. Bullets ripped through her denim and leather, ate through her flesh. Fourteen rounds into her and, not only did she not fall, she advanced toward him the whole time, her wounds healed faster than he could make them.
Once again, they stood face-to-face and he was holding a pistol with a spent clip. So, he did what any desperate fool holding a pistol after emptying his clip into a person impervious to bullets would do: he pistol whipped her. Her head barely budged and, of course, the gash healed right before his eyes. Never before has a cop acted on fear felt the regret Stephen did in that exact moment. In retrun, she smacked him with a clenched fist. Nothing fancy. Just a plain right hook. She didn’t even bother to turn her hip. It was pure power, power that caused his whole body to do a one-eighty, his face to plant into the wall behind him, and him to lose consciousness from the impact, thus, shutting my window to the world.
To Be Concluded…