Three: Group Therapy
Missy steps back onto the street and as she does after every shift of convincing the desolate there is hope, she lights a cigarette. Inhaling deep, she closes her eyes, savoring the burn in her lungs and the rush to her head. She opens her eyes, and exhales. It is beginning to be cold at night and the warmth of her breath mixes with the smoke.
She savors her cigarette, relishing its toxic taste more than the air she breathes as she walks the two blocks to the bus stop. Several of the city’s homeless population inquire as to whether or not she possesses any money she is not currently using, or any cigarettes she does not intend to smoke. She remains deaf to their inquiries, and finds an unoccupied corner of the bus shelter. Checking her phone, she sees from a local news outlet that Debra, the unfortunate damsel from Maine, has been found with some of her head intact.
Missy is still smiling as the bus pulls up and offers her passage. Stowing her phone, she deposits her fare in the slotted box and finds an empty seat beside an elderly gentleman who seems to be asleep. Placing headphones in her ears, she loses herself in music as she says a fervent prayer that the man will not awaken until she has left the bus. This prayer will be granted.
Stepping off the bus and removing the headphones, Missy strides down the chipped sidewalk, stepping around piles of dog refuse and broken glass. She hears whistles from across the road and rolls her eyes as the catcalls start. It never lasts longer than a few seconds, for here is the double door at the base of a short, squat apartment building coated in peeling beige paint. Once through the door, the oafish shouts are cut off.
The metallic smell of burning methamphetamine no longer register as anything but a fact of life as Missy bypasses the elevator she knows to be broken and makes for the stairway. After three flights of dirty stairs, all of which reek of outhouse, Missy opens the door to a dim hallway stretching in both directions, in which rats scurry from the sound of her heels in the flickering florescent light. She raps upon the door nearest the elevator while fumbling in her purse, and within a few seconds the pinprick of light at the door’s peephole vanishes, before reappearing as the bolt shoots back.
Thick glasses are framed by thicker blonde hair as the door opens first a crack, then swings open to reveal a skinny young man, headphones draped around his neck. Silver athletic shorts glimmer in the surreal light from a large aquarium as he leads her into the living room where she flops onto the couch as he takes a seat in the computer chair installed before the four glowing monitors. Electronic music plays from speakers flanking the computer desk as the young man swivels, spinning the chair and looking at Missy.
Missy looked away. “Just one.” She lit a cigarette. “Where’s a drink?”
The young man looked on with disapproval.
“You said you wouldn’t-”
“I know!” She took a mighty drag. “I was stressed. Where’s a drink?”
“Why were you so stressed?”
“Because I need a fucking drink!” Missy snapped. The young man leaned forward and opened a small refrigerator, extracting a small carton of wine. He tossed it to Missy, who butted her cigarette in the handy ashtray before uncapping the carton and draining it. Slumping back into the couch, she sighed, and lit another cigarette.
The young man’s face showed resigned disgust. “Princess?”
“She doesn’t fucking get it!” Missy exploded, rising to her feet in agitation and striding back and forth, waving her arms. “It’s all just a dream to her! She just wakes up, ready to go and there’s nothing I can do to stop her.” She stopped before a large mirror and stared at herself.
“She’s in there, now. Watching.” Missy glowered at her reflection. “I can feel her.”
Daniel came up behind her. “Calm down,” he said, catching her by the shoulders. “You’re not doing anybody any good.”
Missy drew on her cigarette, averting her eyes from those of his reflection. “Nobody is doing anybody any good.”
Daniel drew back, frowning. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“You promised me you could control her!” Missy yelled. “You told me, when this all got started! You told me… you told me…” Her voice cracked. “You don’t have any fucking idea… what it’s like…”
“I’ll talk to her,” said Daniel. “She’ll listen. She has to. She has to realize this can’t go on.”
“Good fucking luck!” Missy said with a shrill laugh which reeked more of hysteria than humor. “She’s never had to deal with anything her whole fucking life! She’s-”
With no warning, Daniel recoiled in surprise as the glowing tip of Missy’s cigarette was extinguished in the smooth palm. The smell of charring flesh filled his nostrils. His eyes were huge.
“If you would both like to cease your moaning and crying over what the naughty girl has done,” came the mocking tones of Princess, “I would like to remind you of a few facts.” She flexed her hand, relishing the sting of the cigarette burn.
“Nobody cares what you think you know,” sneered Missy. Daniel was taken aback by the loathing in Missy’s eyes as she looked at her reflection which no longer belonged to her. “You’re just a stupid spoiled whore and that’s all you’re ever going to be.”
“Thanks to Missy,” Princess said loudly, “all of my clothing from that night has been destroyed, and any forensic evidence has been washed from the shower. With bleach,” she added almost as an afterthought. “Nothing was left at the crime scene, and there is nothing to see in such a shithole.”
“You’re sure?” Daniel asked.
“Cross my heart and hope to die,” Princess said, shooting him her prettiest smile.
“I should be so lucky,” Missy snarled.
“Please, Missy. I very much doubt if anybody will even bother filing a report.” Princess smirked. “Nothing of value was lost.”
These words had barely finished coming from Missy’s mouth when a loud knocking, punctuated by the crackle of radio static cut through the apartment’s gloom.
“Police! Daniel Dasham, we have some questions for you. Please open the door.”