Blood Hill Road
by F Michael Rodriguez
Published by F Michael Rodriguez at Shakespir
Copyright © 2017 F Michael Rodriguez
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Horror, with all its relentless terror, lived in Blood Hill Road. Its rumors crept deep. Choked by them, a cry in the street corners, apartments or rooftops, in the crowded prison of the hood, meant survival or terrible death. Its presence was thick with the taste of metal, and it carried the scent of gun powder.
Invisible as air, its streets trailed the scent of murder under a plump pale moon where the sidewalks crumbled into cracked stones like the aftermath of an earthquake.
Through the dark, moon-lit alleys, the quick staggering steps of a mugger rushed with barely the sound of his clothes flapping against the wind.
And the mugger vanished deep to the black corners with his victim.
Others had witnessed of the cruel, silent depths of those streets.
Buried with secrets, Blood Hill Road was never dead. In the night, under a high hunter’s moon, horror was busy. Rapists, the lowest of the low, arrested with a desperate snatch of perverted lust. Players of the street music, they blended with the moans, dripping and kicking’s that were punctuated by the shocked squeals of the taken.
In the high windows of a project building, shadowed by trees and a starless night sky, a boy whispered his lowly call. Alerted, a young man began to walk faster.
A fear stirred with a breeze, then was gone, like the single breath of a child.
The boy broke from the window with swift feet.
Near the alley, while the hooded boy pounced and the young man died, an old gray house with broken porch slept in the shadows. Miles away, rising over a dirt hill, a proud white house stood watchful day and night.
Between them, swarming with life, blunt with death, Blood Hill Road laid its line.
Many years later …
The baby was crying for her life. Maggy heard it in her sleep; the temperamental outburst, the kicking of little legs under soft fleece. She felt the ache in her stomach, a growling in the belly, almost as if she was pregnant all over again. Her breasts were ready to burst with milk upon awakening.
She jumped up without thought. It honored her—like full nutbags, the tenderness of her breasts. So much purpose in them. Her baby cried and she would satisfy.
She crossed to the couch, lifted the black robe draped over its back. She drew in the scent of French Lavender pods—her favorite—streaming out of a flameless diffusing candle that had been a wedding present.
Before Anthony, she’d been content to spray perfume onto to wild flowers.
If Anthony had been home, he would have jumped up as well. Though she would have insisted, have landed a hand on his chest as she told him to stay, to sleep, as well as to help herself get up, he would have wandered up to his adorable little girl before she’d finished Marie’s midnight feeding.
He was missing from her—an ache in her heart. She missed him, even if he would be back the next day. She would start watching for him in the morning, waiting to hear the sound of the key fob turning off the car.
With complete disregard to anyone’s opinions, she would run out madly in love to meet him. Her heart would melt, oh, and it always did, when he exited his Kia Niro and lifted her off her feet into his tight hug.
And at night, they would dance.
She hummed to herself as she turned on an LED lantern, shining the way as she moved to the bedroom door, out into the hallway of the house where she had once been servant and was now, well, if not daughter of the house at least the wife of its oldest son.
The nursery was upstairs. That was a battle she’d fought with Anthony’s mother, and lost. Mayra had definite rules about the way things work, home matters, traditions. Mayra, Maggy thought as she moved quickly and quietly past the other bedroom doors, had a command for everything. Certainly that a two-month-old baby belonged in the nursery, under her watchful care and not in a crib tucked into the corner of her son’s bedroom, disturbing his sleep.
Maggy suspected and was convinced that she had a another reason neatly tucked away behind her stern decisions and that was to keep her baby as far away from her mother as possible.
Lantern light flickered and flashed against the walls as Maggy climbed the flight of stairs. It pained her heart that after six weeks of keeping Marie she’d have to survive such as distance. But she’d make any sacrifice to honor her husband and respect his mother’s wishes, even if it contradicted her needs. She’d travel miles in a heartbeat to see her baby.
Marie had spent her first nights in a cradle carved by her grandfather, a tiny cherub with her doting and nervous parents close by.
Maggy knew Mayra would also demand her daughter’s respect for their ways. But she was determined that Marie would also respect her mother’s family, and learn their ways, however simple they were.
Mayra had complained about the baby, about the homemade cradle, about Maggy being a stay home mom now that she had Marie looked after, so constantly that she and Anthony had given in. It was, Anthony said, the way a woodpecker pecks at a tree. It won’t stop until it digs a hole into it.
The baby spent her nights in the nursery now, in the crib made in Spain, where Torres babies had slept for a century.
It didn’t sit well with Maggy, letting Mayra replace a heirloom for a proper arrangement. Her little Marie was a Torres. She would be wrapped in elegance.
And as Mayra had made it clear, time and time again, other members of the household were not to have their sleep disturbed by fretful cries. However such matters were done in the Blood Hill Road, here in the Torres house, children were tended where they belonged.
Her lips curled whenever she said Blood Hill Road, as if it were a word to be spoken only in whore houses and bars.
It didn’t matter that Mayra hated her, that her husband ignored her. It didn’t matter than Ralph looked at her the way no man should ever look at his brother’s wife.
Anthony loved her.
Nor did it matter anymore that Marie slept the nights away from her. Whether separated by a wall or a floor, she felt Marie’s needs close enough. They had a bond that could never be broken.
Mayra may win battles, but Maggy knew she herself had won the war. She had Anthony and Marie.
Night lights were glowing in the nursery. Jenny, the nursemaid, was already up. She was already warming up a warm bottle of infant formula for Marie, as the baby’s fists shook with rage.
“She’s not trying to wait.” Maggy set the lantern down and was baby talking as she crossed the room, her arms read to pick her up.
“Oh, I have a bottle ready.” Jenny, a pretty Mexican girl with a bright smile, gave the baby’s leg a soft caress. “She just started to cry. It’s amazing how you hear her from all the way downstairs.”
“I can feel her in my heart. It’s okay now, sweet muffin, Mama is here.”
“I’ll change her.” Maggy rubbed her cheek on the baby’s and smiled. Jenny was a friend, someone she trusted. Having her in the household gave Maggy the comfort and companionship she never received from Anthony’s family.
“Go back to bed, honey. Once she’s done she’ll sleep till morning.”
“She’s the sweetest thing.” Jenny brushed fingertips through Marie’s curly hair. “If you don’t need me, maybe I’ll take a walk up to the mountain. Ben, he’ll be there.” Her dark eyes lit. “We made plans, if I can get away, for us to spend some time together tonight.”
“You should marry him.”
“I’ll make him marry me. Can I go meet him, Maggy?”
“You go ahead sweetheart, but you be careful you don’t get bit by snakes, and watch them crows,” she said as she prepared to change Marie’s wet diaper.
“Thanks a million! I’ll be back before three.” Jenny started out through the door and glanced back. “Maggy? You ever thought that you’d be mistress of this house one day?”
“I’m no mistress.” She ticked Marie’s toes and had her gurgling. “But the one who is will probably live to a hundred and fifty just to make sure I never become one.”
“I can see that. But you will be, one day. You’re the lucky one, Maggy, and I’m glad I’m here to see it.”
Alone with the baby, Maggy tickled and cooed. She powdered and smoothed, then tidily fastened the new diaper. When Marie was tucked into a fresh gown and swaddled, Maggy settled in the rocker, bared her breast for that tiny, starving mouth. Those greedy tugs, the little tears that rolled off the side of her eyes, made her sigh. Yes, she’d fallen into good fortune. Anthony, a successful Author and the shining knight in her own personal fairy tale, had fallen in love with her.
She bent her head to her baby’s green eyes, wide open, fixed on her mother’s face. She could see the sense of relief on Marie’s face.
They were green just like Anthony’s. The baby’s hair was dark brown like her own. Dark brown and curling, but her skin was like sand—again like her papa rather than the milky white of her mama.
She would have the best of both of them, Maggy thought.
She would have the best of all they could offer.
But there was much more than being well off, a very comfortable house, living in a much safer environment. It was the acceptance, even if it didn’t come from everyone. Her daughter would grow up safe, healthy and looking forward to promising careers.
They’d be iconic social figures, worthy of being looked up upon.
“You’ll be a doctor, an actress or a lawyer,” Maggy murmured, stroking the baby’s soft cheek as Marie’s finger scratched at her mother’s lips. “Whatever you’d be, you will be a fine, educated woman, pretty, too. Daddy will be home tomorrow. He’s asleep now, miles and miles away, dreaming of you darling.”
Her voice was soft, with a lulling rhythm to inspire calmness on anyone.
“What do you think about living in Texas, Marie? Your daddy is looking for a new job over there? He’ll make a fine janitor. Should we throw him a welcome back home party?
She leaned back, rocking in the glow of the candles.
She thought of a welcome back home party the next evening, and how she would dance with Anthony, how her gown would sweep and swirl as he lifted up her in the air.
How she would make any troubles vanish into thin air.
And she remembered the first time he lifted her up high in the air.
In the summer, the chorus of birds filled the sky, and the house smelled of fresh paint. She’d sneaked into the pond out back, away from her prison in Blood Hill Road, because she found so much peace there. The way the stars clustered together in the clear night sky, and all around it, a circle of trees. It was the only time and the only place that she was able to dream.
She’d imagine herself inside that mansion of a house, whirling, dancing, to the music of her own mind. But lying on a fresh bed of grass and looking up at the starry sky was just as wonderful. And that how Anthony found her, asleep on the grass near the pond one early morning.
She was living her own fairy tale. The handsome prince who woke up the common girl was lost deep in the woods. She’d had no pretty dress, no jewelry to décor her hair, but the day would start full of magic and love.
Love had begun with her first glimpse of him, with his green eyes hovering over her. The way the morning glow had shone through the leaves and on his face, lighting him up like an angel. His cousin followed behind him — Robert — but her eyes could not leave Anthony’s face.
Ever since they’d go out together, just as friends first, but they knew it was love at first sight. But people living in New Haven kept a reputation about who they let into their community of high end achievers.
He’d treated her with respect and kindness, whenever they spent time together. But she knew there was an asking in his eyes about her. Not the way Robert spoke, with flirting and perverted remarks. But, she liked to think now, as if he had found his soul mate. And she definitely found hers.
In the months that went by she would visit him often. He’d always make himself available to her. She always knew that, in spite of his mother’s reservations, he never let that get in the way of them building a bond. Even building a relationship that would last forever.
But it had really begun the night of Valentine’s Day. After they movie at the theatre ended, he’d hold his gaze on her eyes, just a little longer. Then he looked away and smiled, as a show of friendship and respect. He kissed her cheek.
Then, just she thought that was it, that the night would dim, he cradled the cheek he’d kissed with his warm hand. Began to wine and dine her, to make her laugh. The streets, the places, even the stars paid tribute to the energy between them.
As if they were becoming more than friends, seamlessly, Maggy thought now with a smile. As if it were supposed to happen just the way it did, for Anthony to lose his heart to Maggy that morning in the woods.
They’d walked through the woods many nights after that. Inside the house, Mayra met Maggy with sternness and wanted to rid of her at every turn. But outside, whatever the seasons, whatever the weather, they enjoyed the woods and the city as young lovers, sharing their hopes, dreams, sorrows and joys.
On her eighteenth birthday he brought her a gift, secured around her neck as she closed her eyes. The pocket watch had an astronomical design and tiny planets marked the position of the planets on the day and time they first met.
Then he’d kneeled and asked her if she would want to be his wife.
How painful it was, to want him for a husband while knowing that his family disapproved of her upbringing, especially his mother. She wanted better for him, a career woman with a full family, an important family.
Hers was from the ghetto and fractured, with many parental roles missing.
She remembered now how he’d laughed at her every joke, how his face lifted with joy. How could he be too good for her when she brought out the best in him, something no other woman could? If there were any woman who deserved him, it’d be her.
“So now we have each other, and you,” Maggy whispered and shifted the drowsing baby to her shoulder. “And if this family can’t stand me, so what? We’re happy together.”
She turned her face into the soft curve of Marie’s neck. “I may not speak as well as they speak, or dress as well as they dress. I will never be as they are, but for Anthony, I have something they don’t have, a pure love he describes as warm honey.”
With a smile on her face, she softly padded the baby’s back and continued to rock. But when she heard the front door slam, the stumbling climb up the stairs, she rose quickly. She knew they were alone at the house that night. She searched her night gown pocket for her cell phone, but it wasn’t there. She’d left it on her bedside table. Her arms tightened around the baby as she stood up from the rocking chair.
Maggy heard Robert call out for anybody in his drunken voice. He was someone completely different when drunk. Someone who couldn’t be trusted.
Maggy didn’t answer. She laid the baby in the crib and hoped she wouldn’t get startled and start crying.
“Jenny!” he called, as he opened the door.
Maggy turned. “You need to leave. Jenny isn’t here and my baby is sleeping.”
“You telling me what to do in my own house?” His voice slurred, his balance impaired. But he knew what he was doing well enough. Beer, he’d always say, brought out the best in him.
He felt even better when it came to his cousin’s wife. Everything that Anthony had, he wanted it, too.
She was small, a thin waist but a round butt. He could see its curves through the nightgown wherever the glow of the candles shimmered through her thin night gown.
Her breasts were like balloons, full, fuller now since she’d been breastfeeding. Whenever Anthony wasn’t around, he’d looked at her, up and down, hoping to touch her.
He shut the door at his back. The whore he’d flirted with that night on Blood Hill Road had an obsessed ex. He was left with lust and the night wasn’t going to end until he got what he was looking for.
“You’re from Blood Hill Road, aren’t you?”
Maggy turned now, her finger pointed straight at him as she reminded him to leave. She hoped Anthony was there that moment and set him straight.
Robert was the black sheep of the family, more like a disgrace, but Mayra never said anything, no one else either, as if it were to be kept secret. But everyone knew he was dangerous when drunk. He’d break things, talk bluntly and abrasively and didn’t know his own strength. It was about time he learned she wasn’t anybody to mess with.
“Jenny is my friend and we’re not like your Blood Hill tramps. For the last time you need to leave or I’ll tell Anthony about this.”
She saw his lustful gaze slide down from her face, watched perversion fill his eyes. It was mixed with anger. He was envious of Anthony and all that he had. He was the handsome one. The one with the wife and child and good job. She quickly grabbed the throw that covered the rocking chair and wrapped herself. “You pig. How dare you come in a nursery and disrespect your cousin’s wife.”
“Slut.” He thought he could smell her intimidation and submission. An intoxicating scent. “You know you want to spread your legs for me now that no one is here.”
Her eyes emboldened. “You’re a loser! You have no friends, no future. You stink of booze and hoes.”
“He’s nobody here, and we all know I have more pull here and anywhere more than you two have.” He came closer, his steps impulsive, she could hear it in his impatient talk. “My aunt holds the power in this house and she favors me over her own son.”
“He’ll send you back the way you came, nowhere.” Her heart pounded of hurt because she knew Robert was right. Mayra was the queen of the house and it was obvious she used Robert as her personal pit bull.
“Anthony only married you because you’re just as easy to get and he can’t do any better.” His voice was agitated, it wasn’t clear if he wanted to have sex with her or hit her. “Once you both leave you’ll never come back. I’ll own this house one day.”
“You can swallow it whole, I don’t care.” She gently lifted Marie up from the crib, placing her sleepy head on her shoulder.”
“I was never really welcomed here anyway.”
“He’s soft. I should break him just so you could see it.”
“He’s stronger than you’ll ever be, where it matters most. Now I need you to step aside.”
She’d hoped to discourage any more belittling commentaries. Instead he laughed, low and quiet, and stood still before the door.
When she him compressing his lips she shouted. He stepped forward, gripped the throw over her down to her gown. She pulled back to loosen herself. He let go and circled her throat, squeezed.
“What I say goes around here.”
She beat at him, slapped, kicked. He tore her night gown and cupped her breasts as she lay Marie back in the crib as gently as possible. Marie began to wail.
Terrified by the sound of Marie’s distress, Maggy picked up a hair brush. She beat her way free. She wanted to head downstairs to her bedroom to get her cell phone and call for help. She knew Anthony would be dead asleep, being a few time zones ahead, but she could call the police. It was her only hope of protecting Marie and herself. She stumbled over his foot. Her hand closed over an umbrella. She swung wildly, ramming the metal tip against Robert’s face.
Howling in pain, he fell back against the couch, and she few back toward the crib.
She had to get Marie and run downstairs. Locking her bedroom door behind would give her enough time until the authorities arrived.
He caught her waist, and she screamed again as the night gown ripped more, revealing one of her thighs. He dragged her back before she could reach down and snatch Marie. He held her wrists down and placed his knee between her legs. In the kicking, a glass vase fell down, shattered, and water spread.
He was furious. She could see it now in the sinking of his teeth on his bottom lip, the red flush on his cheeks. Fear quickly turned to terror.
“Get off you bastard! Don’t touch me!” She tried to get up, but he smacked her face, using his fist.
He weighed heavy on her. The stench of alcohol was heavy, too. She called for help as she kicked and scratched at the carpet. Marie’s furious screams blended with hers.
“Stop! You can’t do this.” But as he ripped her panties, she knew there was no pleading or struggling that would stop him. He would take out all his frustrations against Anthony, against what she represented in the house.
“You know you want me.” He drove himself into her, as he sucked on her neck. She looked away as far as she could and kick as hard as she could, but she was tired. She was exhausted by her own anger and paralyzed by fear and shock. “This is what all you Blood Hill toads want.”
He raped her with violent thrusts. His anger against Anthony overpowered his lust so it was more hatred than sex.
She was weeping huge choking sobs. Her shock was too strong to allow for screaming. She tried to contain the sensation as he plunged his fury, his envy, his filth into her.
She was finally able to let out a scream.
He closed his hands around her throat. “Shut up!” She turned her head violently side to side. He covered her mouth with his hand, but she bit and screamed. It made him more furious. Especially Marie’s loud shrills.
Maggy heard it, too. The baby’s frantic cries made her nervous, afraid for her life. Her heart beat furiously. She slapped with weakness, all the strength she had left.
Please Lord Jesus. Help us. Save my baby.
Her breathes were shortened. Her heels and elbows drummed wildly on the floor as she fought for air.
In the midst of hearing her daughter’s cries, a clear image of Anthony filled her mind.
The door of the nursery opened quietly. Mayra stood between the door and the threshold. She must’ve been listening. She knew what was happening.
He released her throat and looked up. If his aunt saw fear and confusion in his eyes, she ignored it. He pulled his pants up, as she stepped over and stared down at Maggy.
Maggy’s eyes were open wide. There was a trickle of blood coming down her thigh and bruises blooming across her cheeks. Marie still crying.
Without any sense of compassion, she leaned down and pressed her fingers on the artery on Maggy’s neck.
“She’s dead,” Maggy announced and moved quickly to look out the window. She didn’t see Jenny’s car in the driveway.
She closed the curtains, her back against them, her hands covering her face as her eyes studied the room. She knew she had to make a decision and time was flying by faster than ever.
“I didn’t mean to.” His hands legs began to shake as he stood up to his feet, but he feel. The Bacardi with Pepsi was whirling in his head now, making him dizzy. “She tried to seduce me, then, she attacked …”
She crossed the room to Robert and grabbed his chin. “Shut up and do what I say. I won’t let this girl ruin our family. Take her outside into the woods behind the pond and take off her clothes.”
“It wasn’t my fault.”
“Stop talking and move her quickly!”
“I’m going to jail for life …” A tear gear gathered in the corner of his eye and spilled over. “I’ll die in prison.”
“Robert! Get up and go, now!”
“I don’t want to touch her.”
“You should never have touched her in the first place. And please tell me you didn’t spill your semen in her.”
“Now get up and carry her outside!”
She rose, walked over to the crib, where Marie’s cries had faded to miserable whimpers. She nourished the victory of having her grandbaby with her mother out of the way. It came to mind that her son could always find a woman better suited for his company and the family’s wealth.
“Go back to sleep, sweetheart,” she said. “Everything will be alright.”
As Robert carried Maggy, raped and murdered down the staircase, Mayra began to set the nursery back to how it was. She cleared up the broken pieces of glass from the carpet and made sure there were no signs of struggle anywhere.
She cleaned blood from the tip of the umbrella and blotted some off the carpet with club soda. She did it all quickly and thoroughly, giving her mind a break from the traumatic event. She planned her next move as she cleaned.
Marie had cried herself asleep, so when she was certain all was as it should be, she unlocked the door again and left Marie alone.
Starting that morning, she would have Jenny work full time round the clock, but eventually let her go and do away with anyone from Blood Hill Road. No one knew Mayra was mugged one night a long time ago in one of its strips late at night. She kept it to herself to avoid frightening her family, but never forgot and never forgave.
The girl should never had married her son, Mayra thought. People belonged in the position nature intended for them to be in life and trying to move above that led to consequences. If she hadn’t taken advantage of Anthony’s good heart, she would still be alive.
It was hard enough trying to conceal the marriage. It was a stain to her household. It was embarrassing trying to hold up the family integrity when your only son marries an orphan from the dead end roads of Blood Hill.
And to have to deal with it day by day and know that by getting pregnant she was there to stay. And still, with living in the house she wasn’t making any serious career moves for tending to Marie. She often wondered what Marie would grow up to be like. If she could strike her off of that worthless blood of her mother’s.
Forever 21, expensive purses, she thought. What good was dressing her up if her slanged accent shot out of her mouth every time she said spoke?
Now there was no time to lose. Maggy was a major problem that needed to be solved. As far as Anthony, she’ll convince him to stay working at the hotel where he was interviewing while she took care of Marie. He’d be states away for a long time, giving her time to efficiently dispose of her body.
Mayra hurried to find Robert, dragging Maggy’s dead body towards the end of the pond.
“Okay, here’s the story. You fought with your Marlene and she scratched your face.”
Marlene was one of his girls from Blood Hill Road. She might as well have been called a prostitute. Everyone knew she was violent.
She nodded briskly. “You were never saw Maggy tonight.” She held his chin with her hand as she spoke in low, clear tones. “You went out, for drink and Marlene and, came home and went to bed very late. Is that clear?”
“Now here, drink this.”
She handed him two anhydrous caffeine pills and a water bottle.
“Good.” She took back the water bottle. “Now you’re going to drive her to Blood Hill Road and throw her in one of those alleys. Afterwards, we’ll report her missing and say she left this evening to possibly visit an old friend and hasn’t returned since. You’ll take her naked and then burn lighter fluid on her body to get rid of DNA.”
“Never mind just go put her in your car.”
She had completely stripped her of her clothes.
His hands trembled as he pulled her towards his car and onto the passenger seat floor.
Blood Hill Road is notorious for strange random killings, she thought, the police will investigate them and blame one of them or never find the killer.
“That’s what people will believe if she’s found in that wretched place.”
The awareness of it all tested her wits, but she acted like a pro, so she believed.
There was a sudden chill in the air, filled with ghosts it seemed. But she wrestled anxiety away from her and returned to the house. The only thing bothering her was the strong possibility that Robert would mess up. But she couldn’t be witnessed out there and if Robert was caught then that would be his problem, either way, she was rid of that damn girl and of Robert’s stray living.
She felt a brush against her ankle, like the feel of a hand, as she walked back. It was probably her, Maggy, her spirit still fighting for her life. Fighting to avenge herself on Mayra.
But she thrived on any sense of fear. She mastered it.
Mayra gave the nursery one last examination and checked on Marie, who was sound asleep. She felt relieved that she had total control now over Marie’s life and she’ll make sure of it. She’ll encourage Anthony to move on and she’d rear for herself a strong witted woman out of her.
But tomorrow already started for Anthony.
Anthony Torres had a very important interview, but not nearly as important as what he thought about Ralph: fussy little bastard.
Ralph stood four-nine, and when he moved, it was with the strait-laced speed that is common among scurrying dwarfs. One could hold a ruler along the part in his hair, and his dark eyes were comforting only when he wanted them to be. To the paying customer his eyes would read, tell me your troubles you can trust me, but to staff it said: Either you do a good job or you’re fired. He fixed a white rose in the lapel, perhaps to make sure everyone he passed by would not mistake him for anyone else.
As he watched Ralph fuss with papers, Anthony admitted he wished he was anywhere else in the world except there.
Ralph had asked a question he hadn’t caught. That was bad; Ralph was the type of man who kept track of such inconsistencies.
“I’m sorry, what was that?”
“I asked if your wife was fully on board with you on this endeavor you’re taking. And then there’s your daughter.” He lifted the application up to his eyes. “Marie. Your wife doesn’t have any issues?”
“Maggy is fine.”
“And Marie is also okay?”
Anthony smiled, like he’d just won a lottery. He really wanted to say, what the hell are you asking for? But he opted for the more mature, “They’re troopers and I have their full cooperation and support.”
Ralph’s face didn’t hint a smile, not one bit. He slapped Anthony’s application between the file. The file went into a drawer. The desk top was now completely bare except for a cell phone and a wire mesh desk basket. He was clearly the paperless type.
Ralph stood up and went to a brown tube that stood in the corner. “Come around my desk, Mr. Torres. Let’s look at some floor plans.”
He pulled out five large sheets and set them down on the black marble plain of the desk. Anthony stood next to him, his nostrils overwhelmed by the strength of the scent of Ralph’s cologne. Keep things up to par or scram struck his mind about him, and he had to fight the strong urge to sneeze over his head. Beyond the wall, faintly, came the sounds of clashing plates and pots. It was the Majesty Hotel’s kitchen, gearing down from lunch.
“The attic,” Ralph said briskly. “Nothing up there now but junk. The Majesty has changed hands several times since World War II and has since become the catch-all space. I want roach poison everywhere and any holes on the walls patched up. Some of the top-floor chambermaids say they have heard rustling noises. I don’t believe it, I haven’t seen any, but there mustn’t even be a rumor that the Majesty Hotel is infested.”
Anthony, who believed every hotel in the world had a roach or two, kept his peace.
“And I won’t expect to find Jacob playing up there, right?”
“No, of course not,” Anthony said, and flashed the big smile again. Embarrassing. Did this fussy little bastard actually think he would allow his son to goof around in an infested attic full of junk and shit?
Ralph whisked away the attic floor plan and set it face down beside the pile.
“The Majesty has one hundred and thirty six luxury guest quarters,” he said in a scholarly voice. “Thirty of them, all suites, are here on the third floor. Ten in the west wing, ten in the center (with the Presidential Suite proudly between them), ten more in the east wing. They all command magnificent views.”
Dude, they’re just rooms.
But he just smiled and nodded. He needed the job.
Ralph put the third floor face down on top of the attic page and they studied the second floor.
“Sixty rooms,” Ralph said, “forty doubles and twenty singles. And on the first floor, all singles, smoking and non-smoking. Each floor has three linen closets, and a storeroom which is at the ends of the hotel on every floor. Questions?”
Anthony shook his head. Ralph whisked the second and first floors away.
“Now. The Lobby: The registration desk sits here in the center. Two offices are behind it. The lobby runs for a hundred feet in either direction from the desk. Over here in the east wing you’ll find the Majesty Dining Room and the Bar. The banquet and ballroom facilities are in the west wing. Questions?”
“Do you have the basement plan?” Anthony asked. “That’s where the winter caretaker would be, am I right?”
“Ed will show you. It’s on a wall in the boiler room.” He frowned with surprise, perhaps to show that as manager, boiler rooms were beneath him. “Might as well put some rat traps down there too, just in case. Hold on …”
He scrawled a note on the back side of a business card he pulled out from his fat wallet (each white card was embossed From the Office of Ralph Camaro in bold gold script), clicked his fancy pen, and dropped the card into the basket that hinted, here you’ll find my orders. The card sat there proud and expensive. The pen disappeared back into Ralph’s front pocket with ease. This guy is really up there.
Ralph returned behind the desk and Anthony to the front of it, interviewer and interviewee, hopeful and Mr. My way or the highway. Ralph lounged back on his chair and looked directly at Anthony, a small, balding man in a banker’s suit and a University Striped neck tie. Above the white rose on his lapel was a glossy black metal bar. It read simply MANAGEMENT in small gold letters.
“I’ll be straight with you, Mr. Torres. Ever since the Majesty started making money this year Tom Higgins has taken interest here. Mr. Higgins sits on the Board of Directors, and he has made his wishes in this caretaking matter very clear. He wants you hired. Though I can’t see why. If it were up to me, I’d send you home already.”
Anthony’s teeth were clenched tightly in his mouth while smiling, his fingers fidgeted on his lap, sweating. Who cares what you think Mr. Fussy, fuss, fuss.
“You probably don’t care much for me, Mr. Torres. I can care less. Certainly your feelings toward me are irrelevant to my thinking you are not right for the job. From May first to the end of September, the Majesty employs one hundred and thirty six people full-time; one for every room in the hotel. I don’t think many of them like me and I suspect that some of them think I’m a bit pushy. They would be correct in their judgment of my character. I have to be tough to run this hotel in the manner it deserves.”
He waited for Anthony to comment, and Anthony flashed a PR smile, large and insultingly toothy.
Ralph said: “The Majesty was built, well, probably while your great, great grandmother still wore diapers, 1905 to 1910. The closest town is Greenwood, forty miles east of here over roads that are closed from sometime in late October or November until sometime in April. A man named James Crowley built it, the grandfather of our present maintenance man. Celebrities have stayed here, and Rockefellers. Four Presidents have stayed in the Presidential Suite. Wilson, Harding, Roosevelt, and Bush.”
“I wouldn’t be too proud of Bush and Rockefellers,” Anthony murmured.
Ralph frowned but kept talking. “Mr. Crowley sold the hotel in 1915 for whatever his reason. It was sold again in 1925, in 1932, in 1935. It stood vacant until the end of World War II, when it was purchased and renovated by an Alex Maxwell, millionaire inventor, pilot, film producer, and entrepreneur.”
“I read his book,” Anthony said.
“Good for you. Never has he known failure until he got involved with the Majesty. He funneled over millions of dollars into it before the first postwar guest ever stepped through its doors, turning a decrepit relic into a showplace. It was Alex who added the tennis court I saw you admiring when you arrived.”
“I can’t wait to play.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Torres. The tennis court is for the pleasure of our very important guests. As it happened, Alex learned the game from his personal secretary and fell completely in love with it. Ours may be the finest tennis court in America.”
Anthony’s face sunk gravely.
Ralph examined the look on Anthony’s face. “Perhaps the best thing to do right now is wait until I’ve interviewed the other applicants. It’s only fair. You’re more than welcome to acquire one of our guest quarters in the meantime. That should help you become more familiar with the Majesty. Alright then. Good day.”
Anthony’s eyes shot wide open at the thought of $149.00 per night for God knows how long until Ralph decided it was fair to call.
He couldn’t wait to call Maggy, the love of his life, and tell her the ridiculous results from the interview. It was a dilemma, staying longer in the hotel with them. He was assured that he’d get the job that Friday and return over the weekend to bring Maggy and Marie with him to the hotel. He wasn’t fond of paying extra money for no good reason.
There was no answer. The call went into voice mail, but he hung up.
He dialed his mother instead.
There was no answer. The call went into voice mail, but he hung up.
Anthony found it odd.
He dialed Jenny.
There was no answer. The call went into voice mail, but he hung up.
He went to his car. In any case, he would sleep in his car. He was afraid of leaving and losing his position because Ralph decided to call it job abandonment. He was sure he would, too, as his last fussing act.
As he lay on his driver’s seat, he couldn’t help but to dream of his beautiful Maggy and his lovely Marie. How he loved them both. He had already scouted the area and planned to buy them a home somewhere nice. He’d have to leave his family behind, but his mother was as tough as nails. She’d survive.
A memory of Marie’s smile lit up his face.
And the way Maggy’s lips felt, soft and moist, made him miss her even more. Memory after memory lifted his spirits until he came floating down like a falling leaf in the air and down onto the ground, fast asleep.
Several hours passed.
Anthony’s cell phone sounded a calming melody.
“Hello? Mom? Hey, what’s going on I’ve been trying to—”
He heard his mother’s sniffles, along with some bad news.
He listened attentively as his mother explained her version of what happened.
“She was found murdered…I’m on my way!”
Anthony hung up, started his call and made straight for the highway as fast as he could.
It was lies. It had to be lies, but would his mother actually do that to him? Probably, knowing her. He could never believe that his sweet Maggy would be found murdered and burned, left for dead naked on Blood Hill Road. But if that were true, there will be hell to pay.
Anthony held Marie in his arms, trapped in the trauma that had gripped him since he’d returned home the day before to find the house shrouded in mystery, plagued by news of a terrible death that made no sense whatsoever.
What was she doing in Blood Hill Road? She was done with that place for years now. She had no one back there to go to.
Something was definitely out of place.
Maggy had all she ever wanted. A husband she loved with all her heart, a beautiful daughter and a home, a new family. Even if there were tensions among them, it was still better than living in that deathly place.
What could have compelled her to leave the house in the night and of all places go there?
He paced compulsively around his mother’s assumption that Maggy was cheating behind his back that he made Marie sick with rocking her up and down. She began to cry.
He rejected the assumption.
Law enforcement officials were still investigating Maggy’s murder. They said a medical examiner found semen indicating she was raped and she died of asphyxiated. All they needed was a suspect to match the DNA.
Idiot, thought Mayra. Her heart sunk at the news. And if they find that it was Robert, he’ll definitely squeal and take Mayra down with him. That would be the worse scandal her house could ever suffer. Her ruined name would stain her bloodline for centuries. The only thing that might work is to continue pointing fingers elsewhere, far away from her own household.
But she couldn’t put that in the report without any proof or else she might make herself appear suspicious to the two detectives on the case. Perhaps it was best for her to keep her mouth shut.
But Anthony made sure to end the rumors before they started. He warned his mother and his cousin against it. He would not have his wife, Marie’s doting mother, stigmatized as a Blood Hill tramp.
Mayra took Marie from Anthony’s arms and gave her to Jenny, who still had tear-moistened cheeks. She looked up to Maggy, loved her. Maggy was like a big sister to her. She felt a deep loss in her soul, but she would not desert Marie. The baby she’d nurture and raise as her own, no matter what Mayra says.
He exhaled deeply.
“I think it’s best for you to go back to the hotel and spend some time over there. Don’t worry. We’ll take care of Marie. At least to give you some time to yourself. There are many memories here and I don’t want to see you hurting anymore.”
“Nothing makes sense anymore, without her.”
“Maybe it’s best that we all moved. Leave this all behind and start fresh somewhere. I’ll sell the house and we’ll all leave. We’ll stay together.”
She led him to his bedroom. “Go to sleep. Let’s start fresh tomorrow.”
Alone, Anthony lay on the bed, when he felt the pocket watch he gave Maggy. He opened it and saw the little planets aligned to mark the moment they first met. He closed his eyes and wept bitterly.
Marie’s delicate cries woke Anthony up the next morning and he was convinced it wasn’t just milk she was asking for, but her momma. He knew, because he was, too.
He tried to inhale every last scent of her from the bed—the sheets, the pillows and he knew that with the passing of the days that bitter-sweet, nourishing smell of his wife would gradually fade with the passing of each dawn. But a simple handmade wooden photo frame captured a beautiful memory within its metal screen. It held the sweet moment Jenny snapped a photo of them cuddled on a sheet one happy, spring morning. It was a morning a few days after their honey moon in Cancun, Mexico. They’d returned home with the sun still shining through the smiles on their faces. Her smile was pure, her eyes full of grace and her love, the accent of a lush flowery garden.
Hours quickly became days, but Anthony believed that living in his bedroom would somehow bring his sweet Maggy closer to him. He could hear her soft whispers in the morning. Feel the breath of her soul in the night. And in the loneliest hours of the night, he could sense her gentle fingers caress his sadness away.
But during Marie’s waking hours, the reality that she might grow up without her sweet momma crushed his heart and strained an already aching throat every time. He’d run his hand through her clothes in the closet and be reminded of a time when they were together. The times they’d hiked Californian mountains or bathed under Niagara Falls and throughout all their travelling trying new foods. How delicious sushi rolls with special sauces melted in their mouths and she’d smile at children as they walked with their momma’s hand in hand.
But life has a way of changing in unexpected ways, for better or worse.
And time and time again, his mind wandered through the dark spaces of his memories to revisit the times when he’d found meaning for his life, strolling along the curves of times and places. The times she would smile at him, hold out her hand and everything would be as it always was.
But then the madness came shadowing his thoughts like the spreading veil of the night and reminded him of hurt and rage.
There was a need for vengeance. A raging vengeance, that would satisfy all of the questions that were left unanswered, unsatisfied. Above them all, how could anyone have the heart to kill someone as beautiful as Maggy. Eclipsing the pain behind this asking was the shade of mystery. How could Maggy ever betray their marriage? Leave her family? And Anthony, with all the frailty of his suffering, was caught between these two mountainous terrors. The only comfort was remembering the feel of her kisses and hugs and comforting words, as the sun rises upon the valleys.
They say love can’t ever die.
Anthony was beginning to think it was best for it to do just that. He was definitely on his way to dying, too. With every passing moment he was sinking deeper into the gravity of death, falling into the hands of the dark angel. It doesn’t take courage to commit suicide, but only the greatest surrender.
But then there was little Marie. She was all she had left of his own family. But how could he desert her? How could he be there for her?
All the future plans they’ve made had vanished in one moment, ruined by the horrible photographs of the crime scene. Smiling at her as she rested snuggled under white linen bed sheets were now interrupted by flashing images of blood-stained ambulance sheets that covered her from head to toe.
There was no funeral as far as his memory went. Too much pain, too much sorrow, too much anger hazing all the sobbing and the spoken tributes of that day. Anthony had muted all the expressions of condolences and sweet sayings. As far as he was concerned, there was nothing that could be said or done that could make it all go away. Memory loss of traumatic events would be the sweetest blessing in his life now. But nothing could blur the remains of their most tender moments. Love was gone, but not forgotten.
He saw the brightness of his hopes fade fast as it should be when a person dies slowly. There’s a steady drain followed by a dimming of the eyes, before the soul is felt being pulled away, in slow motion, like death scenes in movies. It was becoming clear this slow death wasn’t going to stop.
From his bedroom, he overheard officers whisper with his mother, about how crime rates in Blood Hill Road go unresolved 99 percent of the time. The chances that Maggy’s killer would be found was as dim as Anthony’s chances of ever holding her warm flesh in his arms, to kiss her neck in the mornings, and hear from her own voice that she loved him with all her heart.
She was gone and all hopes to continue after her would completely consume him. But his loyalty to her pulled him back. Could he simply accept he death and leave the crime in the hands of police officers who already had given up a week after the murder? How could he explain to his precious Marie that his mother’s killer was still at large? What kind of honor of a man would he have dusting that kind of awareness under the rug?
But what could Anthony do?
Though he went to Blood Hill Road in the middle of the night, to the place where his wife was found dead, to see if he had an investigative spirit in him, but he was no Dr. Spencer Reid. The streets were pure blackness, its people were zombies, distrustful of outsiders. It was a no man’s land. Whether it was true that she was having an affair was a secret that would die with her. She grew up there after all. But then he would strike those thoughts of his mind. He couldn’t believe it.
And that disbelief would start again a hunt in motion. A hunt for the truth. Why were all these terrible fates falling on his life? A man without a wife, with a daughter without a mother. As if the terrible crime wasn’t enough, he could almost hear the whispering rumors spread around him, behind him, about her alleged affair. The shame was unbearable, the rising anger consuming, the hope for a bright future dimming.
His distance towards Marie grew, with heartfelt pain. The possibility of her adultery, the questioning of paternity, the frequent replaying of her death in the news with its almost glorifying the victory of an uncaught murderer, all these things and more began to gnaw at his brain like a starving worm.
Nightfalls were dreadful, as if Anthony knew Maggy would haunt his sleep in the middle of the night, while everyone else slept. Sometimes whispering love talk, other times she’d be agonizing, then mourning, crying out for Justice. It was all becoming fearful. It would be better to not sleep at all.
He was living a real nightmare.
He reached over to a straight razor that waited patiently on the bathroom sink counter. His faithful relief and the highlight of his escape, his salvation, just shave away the layers of shame, thick as quilts fitted with cold coals.
He trembled, the sharp edge of the blade on his wrist.
His mother gripped the hand that held his death sentence. Fear made her nervous. She’d seen what she had done and wondered what the outcome would be should she had spoken the truth and done just-fully. She wanted to keep the blood family together, but she was about to lose her son, a good man, for the sake of protecting her nephew, a careless idiot.
“You can’t give up like this. Marie needs you. We need you. You need to find the strength to move on. You deserve better.”
“She’s gone forever.”
If Maggy had heard Mayra speak in such a disregard about her, after all her coldness, she’d lift that razor blade and send it spinning onto her neck, slicing it from ear to ear.
“Anthony. Take the job at the Majesty. It will help you move on. Give you a chance to heal. I’ll take care of Marie. Mr. Ralph called about the position. They’re ready for you to start right away. Then, after a while, when you’re ready, you’ll see Marie again. We’ll be here.”
The greatest pain of all, the sense of losing Marie, over all things, sunk his heart lower. Grave’s had no depth deeper than hole in his heart.
But he gave in to her and dragged what was left of soul away.
“I’m assuming this will be your first and last time being late”, Ralph had said.
“There’s the furnace,” Ed said, cracking his knuckles as he eye-balled Anthony out of the corner of his eye, suspiciously. He was an impulsive man with a short temper carved into his eyes, white beater, and black boots that appeared to have extra heels inside, to make him look taller. “You know how to work the pilot light?” He pointed at a small square on the furnace’s belly. “You’re supposed to turn on the heat every seven in the morning without missing.” He looked at the old dusty clock that hung titled on the wall. “That means you’re late.”
Late for his wife’s murder.
Too late for spending more time with her, if perhaps that was a reason that justified the suspicion of her creeping out late at night while he was away.
Too early to take a break from being a father to his beautiful princess, Marie.
Ed nudged Anthony’s elbow.
“Are you all right? You’re dosing off.”
The furnace filled the entire basement, as the look of disinterested filled his face.
He’d felt the social pressure, with all its harsh criticisms during the most vulnerable time of his life. He didn’t want to be there, but he needed to be. But wherever he’d go he’d carry the weight of death on him, its gloominess pulling down on his soul.
Anthony felt cursed.
Ed’s bluntness reminded him of Robert, who never spoke to him since he came back home the day he witnessed death stare at him in the face. The reaper smiled at him as he robbed him of his beloved. She was still his beloved, no matter what narratives people injected.
“You’ll have to check the furnace every once in a while yourself,” Ed told him. “The heat can’t fall below a certain point.”
The pilot had a fail-safe system that would have alerted Anthony’s room if the heat dropped below sixty degrees. And Anthony knew about it.
Anthony looked over at Ed and found him slightly smiling to himself away from him.
A surge of anger boiled in him, the heat of his blood shot up about forty degrees. The white jet filling the air from the furnace might as well have come from Anthony’s eyes.
Ed jingled his keys and whistled.
“Don’t wanna be late. Too early to lose your job.”
Anthony felt that as an extension of Ralph, a threat on a personal level.
A single heavy thump beat in his heart, as if a hand struck an hour.
As Anthony followed Ed out of the boiler room he noticed a large wrench slanted against an old cabinet.
Ed turned off the lights as he stood by the door, before Anthony made it behind him. If felt like another insult. Like salt pressed deep into a freshly open womb.
Ed sighed deeply as he waited for Anthony to keep up, with sarcasm exhausted all the way down to the very last breath.
He sucked his teeth and pulled out his cell phone and scrolled down on the screen.
Anthony grasped the wrench with only the thought that he reminded him of his cousin, Robert, the only person that for some forgotten reason was the closest person to being a suspect having something to do with Maggy’s death. He was the only person he knew closely that would be pigheaded enough, envious enough, to hurt his family. He always wanted to before.
The cold trembling in his hands, the slightly paralyzing fear in his heart was quickly settled by the unemotional cruelty that overshadowed his thoughts. And with a lack of restraint Anthony raised the large, heavy wrench and slammed it hard against the back of Ed’s skull that landed him motionless face down on the ground.
He didn’t feel satisfied with hitting Ed once. He’d just teased an appetite to vent his fury. So he decided to keep hitting Ed, from different angles, trying to catch the front of his face. Ed’s body jumped from the blows.
But somehow he wasn’t satisfying his urges. Just barely.
Anthony threw down the wrench and picked up Ed’s feet and dragged him to the bathroom. He thought it was only just to place Ed’s face in the toilette bowl, which was black with dirt, its water gray. The boiler room was off limits to everyone except for them, too, and of course by choice, Ralph, who was too pretty to get his suit dusted with soot.
Anthony picked up a box cutter from the floor nearby and put it inside his pocket and headed for Mr. Ralph’s office.
“Keep up with our pace?” said Ralph to Anthony. He looked from studying a document up at Anthony, eyebrows arched all the way up. “Well? Are you just going to stand there?”
There was rather long awkward pause and staring at each other’s eyes like two pit bulls begging to be unleashed.
“Well?!” Ralph’s volume rose to a stern.
The instant following that came with Anthony rushing against Ralph with the box cutter, blade stretched out, sharp, and ready to slice through fresh morning skin. And it made its sharp edge over Ralph’s desk and carved deeply across his neck. Only the sound of choking could be heard. Yet again, his urge wasn’t satisfied so he continued to gash open his face until blood covered it.
A young woman screamed from behind Anthony, she stood on the threshold, holding a baby in her arms. On her chest was a name tag with the initials B. H. R. Before he could stand up she ran away.
An alarm sounded in the hospital and a voice shouted through the loud speaker: A baby girl has been stolen from a room on the second floor nursery. I repeat, a baby girl has been stolen from a room on the second floor nursery.
The voice continued to speak through the loud speaker, but Anthony made it his business to find her. His intention wasn’t to hurt her, but to save her.
Anthony made it out to the hallway as guests frantically exited their quarters. Panic spread through the Majesty, threatening to tear down its peaceful walls. Its splendor was fast losing its brightness.
“There’s a killer on the loose.”
Then, the lights went out throughout the Majesty hotel; pure blackness with the cold, dense presence of death all around.
After bumps from people passing by him, Anthony was compelled to cut everyone within reach, to make it easier to find the young woman who had abducted the little girl.
She was a threat. She needed to die.
I think that was Marie.
Anthony focused as best he could as he stumbled over bodies, groping against the wall like a blind man. He followed the baby’s cries, it resounded from somewhere down the end of the hall amid all the terror. The body that came within reached met the fury of his blade. Those who were left dying cried of pain on the ground. By now, the red carpet felt more like blood drenched dirt.
“Where’s the baby?!” Anthony cried to a woman who bumped him.
“She’s in the room at the end of the hall!”
Anthony grabbed the back of her head, pushed it back and sliced her throat with the box cutter.
He hurried to her, to the baby girl, to his frightened Marie.
He caught a glimmer of the young woman peering over a threshold, he thought, from the glare that shone from a small candle light that hung on the wall. The figure went inside and shut the door.
“Get out now!” A man shouted.
A crowd of people were screaming, stampeding over each as they tried to escape the slashes in the dark.
“Marie!” Anthony called out as he tried to open the door. He banged and kicked. He searched his keys for the one that would open the door. As Caretaker it was his job to have all the door keys.
“No! Leave us alone!” said the voice of the woman, the baby crying alongside her.
“She belongs with me!” cried Anthony. “You can’t take her from me!”
“Freeze! Lower your weapon and put your hands up, now!”
Police officers arrived at the scene, weapons drawn.
Frozen is what Anthony felt like. Not because he was told to freeze, but because his Marie had vanished. He simply stared gazing into nothingness on the alley where his Maggy was killed.
“Wait! I’ll take him,” said a female detective. “I know this man.”
The detective carefully engaged Anthony, placing her hand softly on his shoulders and placed hand cuffs on his wrists.
“It’s okay,” said the detective, as she walked him through all the dead citizens of Blood Hill Road.
….Nightfalls were dreadful, as if Anthony knew Maggy would haunt his sleep in the middle of the night, while everyone else slept. Sometimes whispering love talk, other times she’d be agonizing, then mourning, crying out for Justice. It was all becoming fearful. It would be better to not sleep at all. In this psychological thriller, a man with hopes of starting a bright, independent future with his family returns home from a long distance job interview to find that his wife has been murdered and found dead in one of the dark corners of Blood Hill Road. After convinced by his mother that he should take the job and reside at the Majesty Hotel for a while to help mourn and heal, he goes, but only to find a very unexpected turn for the worse.