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Finale, Part I – 20 August 2014

This is it—the finale, part one. It’s the thrilling (I think) ending to “Matchstick.” It’s been complete for nearly three weeks now, but it’s been put through it’s paces and, for the foreseeable future, is done. I thought that I’d be able to mass the ending together in a final post but… that’s not going to happen. I’ll split it into three parts—the first half of the final chapter, the second half, and the epilogue. 

One note, though. I retconned into the plot that the apartment is the only one in a tenement under renovation. Thus screaming is of no consequence.

 

 

Ten minutes later Linwood stood gasping for breath in front of Arlotta’s door, sweaty and afraid. It was locked. He called out for her as he pounded on the door, alternating between shoulder and fist. He heard the building’s front door open and close, then footsteps, slow and heavy, coming up the empty staircase toward the apartment.

“Come on, kid,” the cop taunted from below. “You didn’t really think you’d be able to outrun me. Oh, you did? Well, you were wrong. I’ve invested far too much to let you escape now.”

“Fuck you, prick!” Linwood yelled down to the cop still climbing the stairs. “Where’s Arlotta? And Jamieson?”

“What did I say about asking stupid questions? A better one might be how do I get this door to open up? Or, can I kill this guy before he kills me? Or even, do I have any hope at all? Any of those would be of more use at the moment than where are they. You already know they’re in there. Go in and get them.”

Linwood heard the footsteps pause on the landing below, and desperately began ramming his shoulder into the door again. He cried out in pain as his left shoulder separated, and in despair as the door held fast. He slid to the floor, defeated.

The cop came to the door and towered over him, Linwood’s backpack in hand. “You tried, kid. I’ll give you that much.” The cop nudged Linwood’s dislocated shoulder with a foot, smiling as he grimaced in pain. Then he reached down and effortlessly yanked him to his feet, wrenching Linwood’s left arm against the small of his back and pinning his body against Arlotta’s door with his own.

“Hmmm,” the cop said, taking in the scent of Linwood’s sweaty hair. “You smell so good, you know that? Like fear and defeat. People think you can’t sense an emotion without seeing it on someone’s face or in their body language, but they’re dead wrong. The nose does a much better job of picking up on pheromones in body sweat than the eyes ever will in deciphering a glance or a gesture. And the nose never lies.” He tightened his grip on Linwood’s forearm and popped his shoulder back into place, making him gasp in pain. “Do you know why I didn’t take you that night?”

Linwood said nothing.

“It’s because of that hippie. The second I heard his voice, I knew. I knew you and he had made that kind of connection I was interested in, and I wanted to see how deep it went. So I left. But I didn’t let you go, not by a ling shot.”

He reached into his left pocket, and produced a key which he slid into the lock. He reached into the pocket again, and this time fished out a capped syringe. The cop pulled it off with his teeth and spat it onto the floor, and inserted the needle into a vein bulging out of Linwood’s neck. He fell against the closed door, and as he slid to the floor again the cop turned the key and opened it. Linwood’s unconscious body fell inside.

“It’s about time you got here.” Arlotta emerged from the apartment, barefoot and dressed in an oversized T-shirt.

 

5:10 a.m.

Linwood came to with a gasp, in a shower of ice water on the love seat in Arlotta’s apartment. He had been stripped to the waist and placed in handcuffs. He tried to sit up, but was unable to move.

The cop was standing there, holding a bucket, jamming his tongue in Arlotta’s mouth as far as it would go—so much so that, when they separated, she had to wipe her chin with the back of a hand. Linwood tried not to arouse himself in groggily trying to find Arlotta’s curves hidden beneath the shirt.

“You thought I’d killed you?” the cop asked. “No, not yet. I only gave you a bit of mivacurium, a quick-acting anesthetic. It knocks you out, it paralyzes you. Too much would kill you, for sure. But that would be too easy. I diluted it in saline solution, gave you fifteen milligrams at a concentration of point-two-five parts per million. Just enough so you’d feel it.” 

A thud came from the back of the apartment. “I guess the hippie’s awake. Arlotta, keep the kid comfortable.” He left the room with a chuckle.

Carefully Linwood scanned the apartment again, this time with benefit of light. Two of the picture frames on the wall held larger reproductions of illustrations from Gray’s Anatomy—the brain and the heart—and the third contained a degree. The overstuffed bookcase was full of medical textbooks and manuals. Piles of gauze and bandages, vials of drugs, several unopened bottles of water, and sterile syringes now covered the coffee table. The ceramic elephant that was on the table beside the door lay on the floor in no less than five pieces. Arlotta watched him ponder over it.

“You know there’s no running from us, don’t you,” she said. “You’ve come to the realization that my husband isn’t just talking to hear himself talk. This is the third time I’ve seen it and it’s always happened this way.” She moved to sit next to him on the wet loveseat.

“Karayan is an amazing being, so much more than a mere man,” she began. “He really knows everything. I gotta tell you, I believe him.” She turned to study Linwood like she’d done in the cab, and moved to pull a wet lock of hair from his face. Linwood gurgled in protest and pulled back from her, but the anesthetic’s dulling after-effects caught him. He swung like a pendulum and landed face-down in her lap.

Arlotta laughed. “I really do like you, Linwood. That’s why I’ll level with you. Everything we did to you today was planned. We watched you for weeks, learning your routine, and that’s how he came up with the plan to capture you.

“I was planted on that train. Really. I missed the Q train this morning and Karayan told me he paid a bunch of kids to keep you on the platform until the next train came. He said you’d be there, and you were. He told me to set up a phony business dinner, and you overheard it. Everything that he says will happen always happens.

“The only reason I exist is for him. As long as I do what he tells me to do, we’re golden.” She ran a hand through his hair, then sat him upright again.

“My husband does something to me, Linwood. I feel it burn within me every time he speaks. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. I’ve spent the last year and a half tryingto figure out what it was he saw in me. I still can’t find it, Linwood.” She began stroking his chest. Linwood could only roll his eyes in resisting the erection threatening to erupt from his pants.

“You know how I met him? As a client. The client. At first it was just business, but not long afterward it for to be pretty 9 1/2 Weeks-ish—you know that movie? That first time we fucked in the space between the last two cars of a 1 train. During rush hour. That’s how the lessons began.

“He told me what it was he did, taught me how to keep his secret safe. Three months after we met he gave me the keys to this place, with one caveat—that I assist him. My first was number thirty-four.” Her fingers steadily moved down Linwood’s torso, lingering at the button on the waistband of his jeans.

“When he told me to find you, I wasn’t expecting much. I mean, a cabbie… But you, you were everything Karayan said you would be.” She began unzipping his fly. Linwood stopped resisting and turned his clouded attention to her hand at his crotch. Another thud came from the recesses of the apartment. She snatched her hand away.

The cop came back, with Linwood’s backpack in one hand and Jamieson’s bloody collar in the other. His nose was broken, a gash on his head shined in the light overhead,and his shirt was splashed with blood and soaked with sweat. His glasses were missing and fresh rope burns wound around his wrists. The cop let go and his head hit the carpet.

Jamieson moaned softly in pain. Adrenaline surged through Linwood’s body at the sight.

“This one,” the cop said, pointing at the broken statuette. “He gave us some problems.”He gave us some problems.” Linwood tried to stand but both the injection and Arlotta had him dead to rights. She shoved him into the bookcase and he fell to the floor, along with a few upset books.

“Don’t do that, baby. It’s in bad taste.” The cop held out the handcuff keys to her. “In fact, apologize to the kid. Take his cuffs off.” He wore a smile as Arlotta straddled his back and did what she was told. As soon as she was free Linwood reached for the waistband at the small of his back.

“No, no, no.” The cop taunted him with the Saturday night special he had taken from the fare on the Williamsburg Bridge. He opened the cylinder and the bullets fell out onto the carpet. “It… What’s this, Arlotta?” He motioned at Linwood’s unzipped pants. “We were having a little too much fun with the kid, weren’t we?” He threw the backpack at her.

“Just givin’ him a little background, Karayan, that’s all. He should know why this is happening to him. Right, lover?” she added to Linwood. She began pulling items from the backpack—the match case, the notebook, the fare log. Before Arlotta set the bottle of rum on the table she shoved other items out of the way to make space, and accidentally knocked the matched to the floor next to Jamieson.

The cop put the empty revolver on the table and picked up the bottle. “Not a bad choice, kid,” he said after taking a long pull. He walked over to the bookcase. “So. You know my name now. You know what ‘Karayan’ means in Armenian? Dark. I suppose it fits.” He ran a hand over the volumes and, finding the appropriate place in the stacks, probed for something between two books with a thumb and forefinger.

Linwood watched the pair, Arlotta rifling his possessions and the calm cabbie-killer caressing his books. He tried moving again but when the cop came toward him with a scalpel in his hand he gave up.

The cop placed it on the table. “You keep trying to get up, kid. I’ve already told you, you aren’t running from this.” He stood over the hyperventilating Linwood, and struck him across the jaw without warning. “I… told you”—punctuating words with wallops—“I control this show. You… don’t get any say in this, get me?” The cop took a deep breath and shook the pain out of his hand. “Find anything, baby?” he asked Arlotta as he sat on the other side of Linwood. Blood dripped from his broken nose onto his chest as the cop put an arm around his shoulders.

“Nah, just stuff we knew already.” She dropped the empty backpack to the floor and reclined back onto the chair. Arlotta began stroking Linwood’s chest again, drawing her fingers through rivulets of his blood. Jamieson’s labored breathing rattled through the living room.

“Remember the lady boy I told you about?” the cop asked Linwood. “That’s the scalpel I killed him with. What do you think? It’s been a decade but I still keep it sharpened.” He moved the blade into Linwood’s face. The flash from it glinted into his eyes.

“This is going to hurt, and you’re going to bleed. A lot. But we can’t have you passing out from the pain, or blood loss.” he sat up again, and put the blade on the table. He picked up a vial and a syringe, and showed them to Linwood. “It’s time, Arlotta.” At the command she searched the table, and found surgical thread and a sterile needle.

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