SMOKE filled the room. It swirled and danced about, leaving its signature in the heavy air. A lone cigarette sat burning in a tin ashtray, the smoker having abandoned it. Drake trailed his finger along the condensation clinging to the side of his glass. In seconds, droplets of water edged down through the center of his creation: a heart.
“Looks like your heart is shedding a couple of tears.” The drunk at the next table pointed. True enough. His heart had endured some real pain over the years. He nodded at the withered old barnacle, avoiding engaging in conversation. He watched as the man tried to reach for the last bit of the cigarette, unable to comprehend that it was on another table. Drake found it miraculous the man could hold his head up and form words after the amount of alcohol he’d watched him consume.
The cold sensation from the glass felt good in a place where everything seemed to bleed out stale, smelly, and dank. Drake downed the last bit of the cheap whiskey. He held on to the glass for a couple of seconds, staring down into its now empty bottom as though expecting some genie to be there. He rose, the heavy wood chair scraping against the uneven planks of the tavern’s floor. Besides the drunk, he was the only other patron in the establishment.
“You’re not leaving so soon, are you, honey?” The waitress’s overly pink lips pouted, then as quickly melted into a smile. Drake squinted at her lacquered hair. How it held its shape was either a miracle or Harley was an alien.
“Sorry, Harley. I’ve got things to do and places to be.” He admired the older waitress. Harley was one of the reasons he drank here. She had real character. The watering hole had become a place of refuge for Drake. It was much easier to ponder matters while sipping something that had some heat to it. Being around people less concerned with intellectual matters and more with alcohol consumption was another plus.
“When you leave, the whole place loses some class.” She winked at him. Drake watched as her breasts strained against the fabric of the blouse. How those enormous tits of hers didn’t spill out each time she made a cheap attempt to wipe off the table left him confused and disappointed.
“This joint doesn’t have any class, Harley. It’s a dive.” Drake tossed a couple of bills onto the table and made his way to the door.
He watched her scramble to snatch up the money. Harley stood, saluting him. “God bless you, sir. I rarely see anything but coin these days.”
Outside, the sunlight slapped him hard. Drake patted down his pockets until he found what he was looking for. He slipped on the black sunglasses, getting immediate relief. The six blocks back to his apartment passed by quickly as he walked along. The old brick building with its crumbling masonry was as tired looking as he felt. Work had been slow lately. Lucky for him that didn’t mean much. He’d made his money, and considering how long he’d been on this planet, well, it wasn’t like he was going to be broke anytime soon. A demon hunter by trade, Drake liked to phrase what he did as a kind of specialty—helping damsels in distress. Being a spiritual gunslinger was not a choice: it was his destiny, and Drake had long ago accepted the lonely road. He’d rid the world of malice one demon at a time.
The apartment was small, with walls thin enough to let him know how many times a day his neighbors farted, fucked, and flushed. Drake tossed his jacket onto the back of the couch and was about to head straight for the fridge and crack a beer open when he noticed the light on his message machine blinking. The steady on/off of its red glow put a smile on his face. It was a welcome sight after a week of zero phone calls. The dry spell was unusual and had left him wondering what was going on. Demons rarely took time off and therefore, neither did he.
He listened carefully to the message on the machine. The sound of the woman’s voice immediately drew him in. Its sensual undertone wove a web of promise, calling out to his ever-present undercurrent of lust. Would the body match the voice? Sex constantly simmered on his backburner. Helping damsels in distress definitely had its benefits. Over the years, he’d learned to enjoy the side benefit to his occupation—sex.
The voice continued to purr along. She had a voice like a drug he could feed on. Little goose bumps erupted over his forearms. Now, that was interesting. Drake pressed Replay, quickly writing down the particulars.
“Darna Andress.” Drake rolled the name around his tongue, testing it. It was a good name—a name he’d instantly liked the sound of. He didn’t like the sound of her problem, though. She’d visited a psychic medium to get answers and found she’d left with more baggage than she’d gone with. At least that was how she described it. After so many years, his experience had taught him well, and the first rule was to investigate and find out what was going on. You never took a client’s word as gospel; you found out the truth by searching for it. Demons enjoyed keeping everyone confused. Messing with human lives was what they did best.
Drake stretched, unable to fight off a deep yawn. The day had been beyond dull, the doldrums taking their toll on his nervy nature. If there was one thing he hated, it was waiting for the next job. As time went by, he’d found his life had gotten much smaller in a world that never seemed to cease growing. He collected new clothes to wear after his shower. He stared at the dresser, noticing the empty space where his family clock ought to have been. Had he packed it away and forgot? Too absorbed into the notion of what might become his next case, he ignored it.
In the bathroom, he stripped his clothes off, then turned the faucet on high. Drake slipped into the shower, the hot streams of water cascading down his muscled body. His erection stood solid, proof of how much the woman’s voice on the answering machine had affected him. He lathered up the soap and stroked. What was it about the voice? It had sounded so rich, so open, and so sexual. Shutting his eyes, he leaned back against the wall, trying to make an image of the woman come to mind. Was she a brunette? A blonde? He cupped his balls, gently squeezing while his other hand stroked faster, milking his hardness. Finally, the release he’d been needing all day shot out into the raining water.
He braced his hands against the cool tiled wall, letting the water pelt his body. This world was so far removed from where he’d started. Something as simple as showering still amazed him. Imagine stepping into a cubicle and having water to wash with.
“And hot water at that.” He thought back to that time long ago, to those mornings where the mist had hung heavy in the air, leaving a chill in his bones. Mornings where the first rays of sunlight were a relief both for their warmth and the feeling of protection the light brought. It cut through the darkness, and what might be lurking in it, waiting to harm. Drake cringed against the memory of those early risings, long before the sun reached out to their small farm. Perhaps the ice-cold water he’d splashed his face with each day had helped to jar him awake.
“But there is no cure for stupid and gullible. You can’t wash that away.” He adjusted the temperature of the water, allowing the cool shock to bring him back into the present moment.
Drake ran his hand over his face, noting the stubble. He reached for the shaving cream, then propped the small mirror up on the ledge. One, then two swipes with the razor and he stopped. He wiped the steam on the mirror, staring at his reflection. The man staring back seemed unrecognizable. Lately, he’d been questioning his life, and what it all meant. Over the past few months, he’d had moments where he’d felt alone in this world. There was a hole in his life. A hole that he’d never been able to fill and it was right in the middle of his heart. What would it be like to have someone by his side?
“Don’t be an idiot. That isn’t for you.” Drake dragged the razor along his stubble, watching a tiny line of blood emerge along his jaw.