BLOOD & SWINE: A Comedy of Terrors
(2009, unpublished) - a novel by A.R.Yngve - Sample Chapters
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CHAPTER 9: The Clothes Make the Man
After Carl had bought himself a new (cheap) Nokia, he went to buy a new suit and shirts.
At first he headed for the discount chain store where he usually bought his clothes. Martina saw the shop sign and sneered. "Let me take you somewhere you get stuff to look good in. Come on, don't be cheap. I know you can afford better. You want to go around like this all your life?"
Carl couldn't resist her and followed along.
Martina took him to a small tailor's shop. The moment she stepped inside, two tailors were immediately entranced by her slightly gaunt beauty. She told them to dress Carl so well that next to him, she'd look ugly. The tailors went to work at once.
After only half an hour they had picked a set of black silk shirts, dark purple ties and matching black shoes. They helped Carl into a perfect fit of shirt, jacket, pants and a belt.
Carl dared not think of what it all might cost... and he too was entranced by Martina, by her determination to change him from a dork into something else.
He felt very comfortable in the new clothes, all black except the tie, and admired himself in the mirror. "How do I look?"
"You're so thin!" Martina said and grinned. "So different."
The word "thin" triggered a hunger pang in his stomach. Normally on a working day, Carl's lunch would have consisted of a box of sandwiches and apples. He had been living like a poor student for such a long time that he took the penny-pinching lifestyle for granted.
So he turned to Martina and said: "Let's have lunch. How about McDonald's?"
She shook her head. "Wow, are you the party animal. Carl, I'll follow you to a good restaurant with good food. I'm starved."
He paid the tailor shop with his credit card and left. He wondered how much money he had spent. It comforted him that Martina now clung to his arm and leaned a little closer.
She pointed across the street and said gaily: "That one!" Martina had picked an establishment named Big Batty Bronco Steak House.
He slowed down and looked for a parking space. "I thought you environmentalists were all vegetarians."
That stung. Martina frowned at Carl, released her hold of his arm, then looked away and sulked. He felt an unfamiliar surge of aggression. Perhaps it was his empty stomach or the new suit, but suddenly he grabbed her by the arm and practically dragged her inside the restaurant.
He noticed the admiring looks he got from other people - solid proof that a fancy sports car and an attractive woman by one's side gave you power.
I could get used to this!
The steakhouse had Polish waiters dressed up in Stetson hats, cowboy boots and checkered shirts. They gave Carl and Martina the best table in the restaurant. Martina ordered not one, but two bloody 2-inch steaks. Carl ordered pork chops, fries and salad.
He reminded her: "Your sunglasses are still on."
She reluctantly took them off and rubbed her eyes.
When the waiter came back with their plates of meat, Carl thought he saw Martina lick her lips - very briefly. It seemed so... animalistic. The waiter had scarcely left when Martina stabbed one steak with her fork, lifted it to her lips and sucked out the blood that was oozing from the steaming slab. Then she bit into the steak and devoured it in a few minutes. She burped, and went to work on the second steak; it vanished in ten minutes.
"Don't you want fries or salad?" Carl asked, and she shook her head. "Martina, I'd like to ask you where you were last night..."
She froze and looked at him with wary eyes. He didn't want her to think he had been spying on him, so he lied a little.
"You see, a friend of mine said he saw you at some rave party in the docklands... I think your friends at the UGG arranged it, but I could be wrong."
She shrugged. "Yeah, so I was invited to their party, what about it?"
"Were you celebrating?"
"Yeah. Vlad and Boris wrapped up the protest action, because the UGG was running out of money. So we had a big wrap-up party. It was fun, I suppose, but I got sick and left early."
"Are you going to stay with the UGG?"
Martina blinked and shook her head in a jerky, confused manner; her gaze was vacant. "Nah. I don't like'em. I'll find another group."
Carl ate of his food, as he found it incredibly awkward to ask Martina more questions.
Suddenly she stood up, holding her mouth, and rushed for the bathroom. While she was away, it became easier for Carl to think clearly. And he thought about the first time he had met her, when she had been an optimistic and educated young idealist. He had recognized something of himself in her. And now, overnight, she didn't make sense anymore. Perhaps she had a blackout during the party and couldn't - or wouldn't - recall what had really happened.
Martina returned, looking like she had been sick, and sat down. "The steaks were spoiled. I couldn't keep them down."
"Maybe you ate too fast?" he suggested with a boyish smile.
She sulked for a minute.
"Do you have a boyfriend?" Carl asked as he poured mustard over his fries, and immediately wondered why he had asked. "Sorry. Forget I asked..."
Martina's eyes focused. "Yes. Yes, I do. He... we have an agreement. In the daytime, I can do pretty much what I want, and he'll provide for me. He told me I could have fun with you."
Carl didn't understand in what sense she meant "have fun."
"Have I met this guy?"
Martina laughed. It wasn't a sane laugh. She leaned over the table and looked into Carl's eyes.
"He sees you."
She laughed. "That would be telling!"
Carl gathered all his nerve and asked: "Martina... are you on something?"
"Yeah. I'm having an all-time high. My shares are soaring."
He glanced at her arms, but couldn't spot needle marks. Then he noticed something odd on the left side of her neck. The ribbon had slipped a bit... exposing a ruddy, raw spot on the skin.
On an impulse, he reached out for the spot - and she slapped his hand so fast, it stung like a needle.
Martina squirmed. "What are you doing?"
"I didn't mean to..." Carl rubbed his smarting hand. "Do you want me to drive you home?" He swallowed. "And nothing else."
"You can't come in," Martina said. "The place is a mess. Where do you live now?"
"I..." He paused, his mind racing with paranoid speculation: Maybe there's a rational, but sinister explanation to all this. What if Vlad and Boris got into a fight with some rival gang, and they were attacked during the party... by the scary stranger. What if he's some kind of gangster. And Martina danced with him... because she knew him. She was in on it. An informer.
And now the gangster is using his girlfriend to get to me, the only witness. Shit! I shouldn't have told her I knew about the party!
He rose from his chair, so abruptly the legs scraped against the floor tile with a terrible squeal. "I must be going... to the bathroom. Wait here! Be right back."
He sneaked off to the counter, paid the bill and asked if there was a back entrance he could use. They wouldn't let him use it. Carl hid behind a column and spied on Martina. When he thought she was looking away from the entrance doors, he snuck out as fast as he could without running.
He could always seek out that cop who had questioned him before, ask for protection... but they didn't believe him then, so why should they believe him now? Tell the cops he felt threatened by a sexy young girl? That would sound pretty stupid.
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