She looked me in the eyes, "I'm glad you made it, I thought that you might think I meant 818 in the Ramada." Her voice was silky but kinda deep for a chick.
"Why would you think that?" I asked even though I pretty much knew the answer.
"The note I sent was on Ramada stationary."
"Oh. I didn't even notice."
"That doesn't matter." She said as she turned to the window and looked out onto the parking lot. Dropping her cigarette into the ashtray, where it continued to smolder. "Did you see me when my earring fell off?" Maggie asked without moving.
"Yeah, I saw you, everyone saw you, saw a lot of you." I said not trying to hold back a smirk.
"I mean, did you SEE me?" She repeated.
I knew damn well what she was talking about, but I also know that sometimes it better to play it safe. Sometimes it's better to play it dumb. "What? Did your panties fall off or something?"
She smiled and there was almost a minute of silence. In this time I could barely withstand the needle, the needle pusher, pressing the place in the back of my neck where the skull ends and the spinal column begins. I could see myself wrapping the curtain strings around her neck.
"No, my panties didn't fall off. If you know what I'm talking about, you should just tell me now. It will save us both a lot of trouble. Take your time to think about it, and don't lie. I'll know."
She still stared out the window, looking at god knows what. I wanted my damn fix, but what about Johnny? He'd tell the cops that I came up to see her. When they found the body, he'd rat. He's a good friend, but sometimes even good friends will turn you in once they think you've gone over the edge. Sometimes they'll even do it just to get their face on the news. And Johnny, no, he's not the type of guy that would take a bullet for anyone. He was one of those guys that went out with your girl friend a few days after she became your x-girlfriend. Selfish son-of-a-bitch.
I was drooling and empty eyed. I could hear my heart in my ears, throbbing, pushing, screaming. When she began to stretch and yawn, I couldn't resist. I played it cool, walked over slowly and swept the curtain cords into my hands. While she was lowering her arms, taking in the after-stretch-breath, I did it. I got the cord around her throat and tightened it hard as my muscles would let me. My breath was racing. "I'll just have to visit Johnny when I'm done with this bitch." I thought.
Then I caught a glance at the window. All I saw was _my_ silhouette, nothing else. I looked down onto the top of Maggie's head and she was there all right. Reflectively challenged, but she was there. Before I even knew what was going on, we were face to face. The bitch looked more disappointed then scared, if she looked scared at all.
"You simple shit." She said calmly while I tried to synch off her head with all the strength in my arms.
"HOLY MOTHER-" I started to say before she grabbed my neck and lifted me off the floor. I couldn't stop thinking of Darth Vader picking people up and snapping their necks the same way. I also couldn't help thinking that I was going to die, good as dead, buh-bye. It was the same feeling that I'd had when I was in a car that was about to crash. Kinda like, "Oh...shit...oh...shit...oh,shit,OhShitOOOHSHHHIT!" crash.
Then she dropped my on the bed.
"So you did -" She started and then was interrupted by the ringing of the good old, one buttoned hotel phone.
Maggie turned to the phone and looked back at me. "That's your friend, he couldn't get a ride home. Tell him to come up here, but don't mention anything else."
I guess she saw him walking around in the parking lot, because I still can't figure out how she knew.
The phone rang again. "PICK IT UP!" she said looking from me to the phone.
I reached over and answered the phone. "Hello?"
"Hahahaha, sorry brad, I can't find a ride home. When your done up there come down and get me. Don't leave me here all night." Johnny said through the lobby phone. His dopey giggling pissed me off. I imagined the idiotic gape that hung on his face at the thought of what was going on up here in room 818. Boy was he wrong.
"Come on up Johnny, room 818, we're just talking now." I said, trying to slow the pace of my breath. He would think that I was out of breath for other reasons. Other then trying to kill Mounds of trouble that is, but I thought it best to calm down anyway.
"Are you sure?" He asked.
"Yeah, come on up, she says that she'd really like to meet you."
With this Maggie smiled and I could almost hear her saying, "Good boy."
"What room again?" Johnny asked.
"818, hurry up."
"Ok, be right there." The phone clicked when he hung up, but I was in no hurry to talk to Maggie.
"YES Johnny, she said that she'd like to meet you." I continued a fake conversation and then paused. "Come on up." Pause. "Yeah, room 818 dipshit will you get your ass up here!" Pause "Yes, 818 is on the eighth floor." I held the phone out, looked at Maggie, raised one eyebrow, looked at the phone and then brought it back to my head. "Will you just -"
"That's about enough of that bullshit." Maggie said as she grabbed the phone from my hand and replaced it on the hook. "Go stand near the door."
I did what she said. I had noticed that I was in no position to argue.
"Now, it's obvious that you saw me. After what is about to happen, you will know what will happen to you if you ever mention this to anyone." As she spoke she untied her robe and let it slide off her arms to the floor. "Perhaps, we can actually become friends." With this she released the hook on the front of her bra, which then literally popped off her chest. "But one word..." She slid down her panties and wriggled them to the floor. Stepping out of the two fabric circles when they landed. "and your toast. Got it?" She caught me staring at her goods and laughed. I would have been stiff as a board if I didn't know it wasn't all a mask. "Oh." she smiled, "This isn't for you. At least for now. This is to make things easier on your friend. Or should I say, make your friend easier for things." Of course I had no idea what the hell she was talking about, until after the knock at the door.
Johnny's knuckles clacked against the door. I guess he hurt his hand because when I opened the door he had one hand curled in the other. The door swung all the way open and Johnny caught site of Maggie. His jaw dropped. She reached passed me and grabbed the collar of his "Boob Watch" t-shirt with the big picture of Pamela Anderson on it.
"Come here cutie." Maggie loudly whispered like she was Ginger on Gilligans Island. She pulled him through the door, without any hesitation on his part, and threw him on the bed.
"You're smarter then I thought, keep it that way." Maggie said into my ear before she threw me out of the room against the hallway wall. I slide down and landed hard on my ass. "See ya later, loser waiter." were last words I heard before the door slammed and I was left sitting in front of room 818.
"We meet again, sir. I'm glad you finally came to your senses."
"Came to my senses? Or lost them entirely?" The weather-beaten old man chuckled and Mac motioned for him to sit. Mac took a deep breath, trying to steel himself for what was to come. Here we go again...
Agent MacGregor was fairly new to the Bureau when Doc first called. He had been assigned to investigate a bizarre string of murders across three small towns in Iowa and Indiana. He had reluctantly put out the standard call in the papers - "Any person who has information regarding the incident should contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation." Mac hated to do that because most of the calls were ultimately from would-be heroes and loonies with conspiracy theories who didn't know a damn thing.
But the case was going nowhere, and Mac was getting desperate. He had to get a lead before any more children turned up dead. To him, it looked like a bunch of freaks who thought they were witches or something, performing some sick sacrificial rites.
Joe came into his office with a cup of coffee and a stack of papers to add to the growing pile on Mac's desk. "Hey, Mac, you got someone on line three, a Dr. Logan? Says its about the Clarksdale case."
"I'll take it," Mac had replied, swiveling around in his chair to pick up the extension. He took a sip of his coffee and immediately grimaced. "And, hey Joe, this coffee is mud. What'd ya do to it this morning?" Joe laughed and closed the door behind him. Mac cleared his throat and prepared for another crackpot call. "Agent MacGregor speaking."
An old man replied back in slow deliberate speech, "I have some information you may be interested in, Mr. MacGregor. About the murders you've been investigating."
"OK, shoot," Mac answered, with a sinking feeling in his gut. How many of these weirdo calls would he have to go through before he got some real information?
"You should meet me in person to discuss this. The 10th Street Diner at 2:00pm," the man commanded.
"Wait, wait a sec, mister. I can't just go meeting every loon...every person that says they got an idea about what happened out there. You know how many calls I get each day? Listen, you have to give me something now--"
"I know all about them, Mr. MacGregor. And you don't have much time. They will strike again, soon, they are gaining in power. I can feel them, Mr. MacGregor." The man's voice was eerily calm and Mac felt a strange tingling at the base of his spine.
"What did you say your name was?"
"My name is Dr. Logan, professor of medieval studies at Boston U. I know you are skeptical, but there are strange things afloat, Mr. MacGregor, strange things. And they are old as the dust... I will help you if you will meet me." The old man seemed to be enjoying this.
"Do you know the people who are behind this?"
"You might say that. I know their type. I have confronted them before."
Mac, who ordinarily would have written this man off as just another loony, made the decision to hear him out. Something in his voice. Maybe this old guy knew something.
"Alright, Dr. Logan, I'll meet you at 2:00pm. But this better be good."
"I am very pleased, Mr. MacGregor. I have much to tell you. It's time you knew what you're up against."
And so it began. After that first meeting with the old man, Mac did indeed learn what he was up against. The professor showed him what he knew, and Mac became a believer of strange things. They had worked together twice since then on similar cases, but it never became any easier for Mac. And now, after fifteen years, it was happening again.
Doc began calling him soon after the beheadings had begun, but Mac refused to believe that they were involved.
"Look, Doc," he had said, "this one has all the signs of a simple, run-of- the-mill psychotic, who is killing off old ladies and tourists who wouldn't really be missed. How do you know for sure?" As soon as this question was out of his mouth, he knew he should take it back. Of course he was sure, he was always sure.
And so far, he'd always been right.
"Are you ready, Mr. MacGregor?"
"No, Doc. Are you?"
"Of course. I am always ready. I have been feeling their presence here for a few months. But this time it is different. There is another involved, your simple psychotic fellow, I think. The old ones did not like that he was crowding in on their territory. They have come out to get rid of him."
"He was doing it too well, huh? Started to beat them at their own game."
"It is no game, Mr. MacGregor. They are angry, and they have gained power." The old man, with an unlikely swiftness, stood up from the booth. "Come, we must hurry. It is about to begin."
Mac stared at his reflection in the polished brass of the elevator doors as they made their way up to eighth floor of the Ramada Hotel. He wasn't happy about what he saw. He was haggard, all right, not to mention scared. He tried to wipe the fear out of his eyes, but he knew it didn't matter how he looked. They would know he was scared. They could see into his heart.
As the elevator slowed, a horror crept into Mac's gut that was all too familiar. He swayed a little and gripped the cold brass bar for stability. "Jesus, how did I get myself into this?"
The elevator doors slid open at last, and the old professor touched Mac's shoulder and whispered, "You did not get yourself into this, Mr. MacGregor. You are one of the few who are chosen to do it. Remember, it is not up to you."