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TWOEat the part that hurts, said the voice of the flies.Eat the part that hurts.ONEOutside, fog yielded to the winter wind and moonlight beamed through. That same rush of air swept over the James Bridge Motor Motel to rattle its eaves, blowing dirt against its windows. The night’s breath, so very much like a sigh, eased the door on the second floor shut. Ungreased hinges creaked, creaked, and trapped the new fathers within.Somewhere out there, time moved on. But not here. Not inside room eleven.
THREEAiden came around to face his partner head on, Danny’s silhouette outlined in blue and pink. He could see every hair on his head, the fine peach fuzz along his arms, all of it highlighted in vibrant detail. Seeing him, Aiden thought, was to observe a painting, an oil on canvas titled ‘Man on Bed Holding Baby’.The itsy-bitsy-spider within Aiden’s throat bit down. Muscles tensed. Terror filled him and froze, painful cracks appearing in the ice as he brought his hands to his face. Things like this didn’t happen to people like him. This was something from a horror movie, or maybe, tomorrow’s headlines.I’m a good person, Aiden wanted to scream. I—we—don’t deserve this. It’s gone too far. Take it back.Take it back!Too late for that now. Aiden Bonner was in room eleven of the James Bridge Motor Motel, with the carpet beneath his feet and the stink of copper tainting the air. He was in room eleven with Danny as he brought the child to his face to plant a kiss on its cheek. Reali
FOURThe woman who’d made the emergency call had collapsed at the entrance to another room on Kaaron Brennan’s right. Long, red hand streaks also palmed the door there. Blood lathered the handle, grew fat at the bottom of the knob, dropped to the puddle by the woman’s severed ear.Ploink.Ploink.Ploink.Brennan wanted to cry. She didn’t, and kept her pain inside.Stenciled across the ajar door were two words. It must have taken a caring, steady hand to inscribe that lavender printing so well, even going to the effort to put a little heart above the ‘I’. A mother’s touch, if there ever was one.“Timmy’s room,” Kaaron, who had two kids of her own, read aloud.Later, there would be time for weeping. That time was not now.
FIVESneakers wisped over carpet. Aiden was tempted to reach into the dark, but he held off for the time being, letting his eyes adjust instead. The room sketched into form one shade of blue and pink at a time.Aiden found his partner sitting on the bed with his back to him, lit in neon glow.The quiet hotel room. Quiet, except for a curious suckling sound.“Danny?” Aiden said and took another step. His chest seized when he saw a shape on the far wall near the kitchenette, where the drawers had been opened.Just his shadow.You bloody fool, he could almost hear his mother say, leaning over to scold him as she did when he was a kid, bringing with her a wave of scented lady sweat and bush smoke. Pull your shit together.Aiden longed to have her here with him now, even if only to condemn him. That, at least, would be something. He felt so disconnected from his people, from his land. He couldn’t wait, one way or another, for this Hell to be over. Besides, he did need to pull his shi
SIXNull relented and nodded, stepping up to his partner’s side as they inched to that doorway. Brennan smelled blood in there, in the pit of nothingness.They forced themselves through the arch, the quaking beam of Null’s flashlight revealing an upended phone on the floor, and farther ahead, the soles of two pale bare feet.Brennan didn’t want to see. Yet it was her job to see.It wasn’t that the woman’s clothes had been torn away. The comfy looking Sunday garments had bloomed off the slippery corpse, shed like the scrim of a cocoon. There was no beautiful butterfly here, not here in this dark house on Queen Street. Only cuts on top of cuts.For all Brennan knew, she stared at eighty stab wounds. Or more.“Good God in Heaven,” whispered Null. These were the quivering tones of that boy in the third grade, the one who feared his teacher’s yells because he hadn’t done his homework again.If only there was a way to wind back the clock and erase this sight from her mind, to go back
SEVENBlue and pink neon light illuminated Aiden’s way.He listened to the buzz of electricity from the MOTEL sign at the carpark’s entrance; it sounded like a hive, bee stingers rasping together. Another gust of wind blew through town to rustle his fringe, to stir the foggy cauldron obscuring the sky, stretching it thin in places to reveal the quarter moon beneath. He sweated. And he was scared.Aiden stopped.He thought of his flight from Brisbane to Bangkok and the black-and-white movie he’d watched on the way. It’s A Wonderful Life, it had been called, and while it featured numerous set-pieces, one particular scene returned to him now. In it, Jimmy Stewart’s character said he would lasso the moon and gift it to his gal to win her affection.And earn her love.The fog rolled in. Everything turned blue and pink once more.To think that he—or any man—had ever set their sights on the moon and thought it a three-dimensional thing worth dragging to Earth for the sake of someone sp
EIGHTAn ambulance pulled up as Kaaron Brennan entered the house. Never once in her six years on the force had she ever drawn her gun with the intent to shoot; she was more terrified now than she’d ever been. Null was by her side, covering blind corners. Every door she kicked open revealed empty rooms, rooms of unfinished business. The paperback on the bedside table with the bookmark tucked within, the mobile phone blinking messages received, a scented candle that had never been lit.Death in the details.Blood caked thick where the hallway branched into a T intersection, kitchen on her left and living room on her right. There was no mistaking which way the action had progressed; gore led to weeping MasterChef contestants.The door hung off its hinges on the other side of the room. Darkness beyond. Null shone his flashlight to reveal handprints on the architraves, swipes of blood resembling red, drooling smiles.Footsteps and flashing beams outside the window, past the television.
NINEAiden thought he’d dreamed the coming and going of sirens. He lifted his head from the pillow, muscles giving a kick. The musty motel air made his eyes itch.The television was on, evening soap operas playing out their inevitable dramas.Those sirens sounded so real.He fumbled for the remote and switched the old unit off. Beautiful faces shrunk down to a dot, bleeping into oblivion.Aiden propped himself up with one arm and looked to the window across from him, brow furrowed with concerned tension lines. He strained his ears, blinked his quiet shock away, and registered the fading screech of police cars. Or maybe an ambulance.Legs swung around to touch the carpet.He licked his lips. Dry.Aiden was at the point of crawling off the mattress and taking himself over to the kitchenette to drink water straight from the tap like he used to when he was a kid, but he stopped in his tracks. And he stopped because of a fresh sound, one that couldn’t be confused with another.The
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