I walked back by the front of the house. The porch was still unfinished-- the construction gnomes hadn't decided to finish it while I was gone or anything-- and I saw someone standing, trying to look in the window around the styrofoam. Looked like a woman. I walked up to her.
"Can I help you?"
She turned to look at me. Long dark coat, Russian fur hat, and sunglasses, which was weird because it was night.
"Your name Tom?", she asked.
"Depends. Who's asking?"
With a move that was faster than I thought possible, she was next to me holding a gun to my head.
"Is. Your. Name. Tom."
"uhh, no, no it's not." I could feel my bowels beginning to loosen.
She looked at me for a few seconds like she was trying to decide whether or not to shoot me, then apparently thought better of it and relaxed, slipping the gun into her pocket.
"Sorry about that then."
"Yeah. Uh, what the fuck are you doing here?"
She took out a cigarette and lit it up with a lighter that looked like something out of a 50's sci-fi movie.
"Looking for Tom."
"Okay, who the fuck is Tom, and why are you looking for him at my house?" The adrenaline of the moment was beginning to wear off, and I was starting to get angry. She looked at me with her head cocked to one side a bit, then smiled.
"You're cute when you get all puffed up like that."
Now I was pissed.
"Alright, fine. I'm calling the cops." I moved to unlock the door, but she was there with her hand on my arm before I could get the key in the lock.
"Probably not the best idea," she said, then softened. "Look, as pleasant as this little interlude is, would you mind if we went inside? I'm freezing my ass off here."
I stood there, incredulous. She looked at me, looked at her cigarette, then tossed it on the cement of the porch and stubbed it out with her boot.
"Vile things anyway. Why do they call them heaters? They sure don't keep you warm." She looked at me again and gestured toward the door. And against my better judgement, I unlocked the door and let her inside.
Sadie went appropriately nuts and started barking. The girl in black squatted down and started petting her vigorously, making vague noises and saying "who's a pretty girl" as Sadie made excited dog circles and promptly sat on her feet to get petted.
"Sweet dog. She ever bite anyone?"
"Only women," I said.
"They probably taste better than men." Sadie began groaning as the woman rubbed her ears. I still felt the need to pee something fierce.
"I'll be right back. I need to hit the bathroom."
The woman paid no attention to me, being absorbed in the dogness of Sadie. I walked back to the bathroom, took off my jacket and hung it on the clothes hook inside the door, then dropped my pants and sat down. Instantly I was shaking: what the hell was I thinking, letting this crazy woman into my house?
I finished up and proceeded to look around the bathroom for something that I could use as a weapon: a knife, a pair of scissors, anything. The only thing I could find was a brass candlestick that I had brought in to clean with polish and never got around to taking back out. I hefted in my hand-- it wasn't perfect, but it would have to do.
I left the bathroom with the candlestick behind my back and walked back out toward the living room. The woman was sprawled on the couch with Sadie laying on her back in ecstacy getting her belly rubbed. She had taken off the coat and hat, and was wearing a kind of leather jumpsuit, black with what looked like tracings of deep indigo running through it. I couldn't tell where her boots ended and the jumpsuit began. Her hair was dark, cut just above shoulder-length, and she still wore the sunglasses.
"So were you planning on hitting me with that?" she asked without even looking at me. Sheepishly, I put the candlestick on the half-wall dividing the living room from the dining room.
"Not... I dunno. I was scared, felt like I needed something to... protect myself."
"Scared of little old me?"
"Scared of the gun. I really don't want to get shot."
"Silly," she said laughing. "It's not even a real gun, see?" She pulled the gun out of her coat pocket and tossed it over to me. It looked like another '50s sci-fi toy, plastic shot through with delicate silver, but incredibly detailed and downright heavy.
"It's beautiful," I said.
"I thought you might appreciate it," she said, holding out her hand to get it back. "You seem to have a thing for nifty toys."
"Yeah, I suppose I do." I handed it back to her.
"Let me guess," she said, "You're not married."
"Not so much, no. How did you guess?"
"Because you don't even have curtains on the windows. Wives are all about window treatments, it gives them a sense of security and control over their surroundings."
I looked around the living room at the piles of boxes and bins and the lack of furniture and wall hangings, and it was pretty obvious that this was not a picture of domestic bliss. The mop and bucket were still against the wall from when I had mopped last week.
"Yeah, well, it's all in process right now anyway."
She just looked at me.
"I'll make a guess that you're not married either," I said.
"And what makes you say that?" she said, amused.
"The tone of contempt in your voice when you talk about wives and their need for security and control. Let me guess, there was a man once, the love of your life, but he turned out to be a controlling bastard and things finally broke apart badly."
She stiffened at that, and looked away. I felt like a jerk.
"Aw, hell. Look, you want something to drink? I've got some beer in the 'fridge."
"Water." Her voice was subdued, husky. I went to the kitchen, dropped a couple of ice cubes in a glass-- a real glass-- and poured some water from the tap. When I walked back into the living room, she had taken the sunglasses off. I handed her the glass, and she looked at me.
Her eyes were almost completely black, like she had no irises. They were all pupil, and were rimmed with red.
She must have noticed me staring, because she looked away.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to stare. It's just that your eyes are..."
"Ugly?" I could hear the hatred and loathing in her voice.
She looked back at me. I don't think she believed me at first.
"Botched surgery. Long story."
"Brain, actually. Optic nerve, amygdala-- I really can't talk about it." She put her sunglasses back on, and suddenly froze.
"Did you lock the door after you came in?"
"Uh, no, I don't think so." I headed over towards the door.
"Shit. Get down!"
The front door exploded inward, knocking me back against the wall. I got a glimpse of a huge shape in the doorway raising what looked like a shotgun towards my head, and everything became a kind of slow-motion blur. I saw the muzzle of the shotgun coming towards me, saw her pull the toy gun from her pocket, and heard the sound of the world ending as the shotgun went off at the same time that the chest of the thing in the doorway exploded. The thing flew backwards onto the porch, and the woman stepped into the doorway holding the toy gun on it.
I couldn't hear anything except the ringing in my ears, and felt some sort of goop falling into my eye. I think I may have screamed, but I'm not really sure, because everything kind of faded into white noise.
I woke up on the couch. She was sitting on the coffee table looking at me and doing something to my head. Sadie was laying between my legs and licking my hand.
"You're going to be okay," she said. "I took care of the bleeding."
"Your head. He mostly missed you. Sorry about your wall."
"He? Who? What the hell was that thing?"
I struggled to sit up, but my head suddenly had this sharp stabbing pain, and she pushed me back down with one hand.
"That was Tom."
"That thing had a name?"
"Afraid so. At least that's what his license says. Thomas Zygeski."
"Not even close. About as opposite as you can get."
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. "And what the hell was with that gun? You said it was a toy."
"I lied," she said.
I think I passed out again, and when I woke up she was gone. There was just this note:
I took care of the aftermath as much as I could. It's better that you don't know how, but you may want to get a new mop.
Sorry I had to leave, but I already got far more involved than I intended. I'll miss you more than you can possibly know. I'll just leave you with this one thought:
You are worth everything.