by Anita Page
Don’t Be Afraid was first published on Women of Mystery in 2011.
“You don’t have to be afraid of me,” the man said. He had hold of the woman’s elbow as they worked their way west on 21st Street. A wet night, but it was mild. She didn’t seem to mind the rain. He didn’t either.
“What makes you think I’m afraid?” she said. She wasn’t looking at him. Had barely looked at him in the bar. Even when she’d said yes to the drink, yes to going back to his place. “And now you’re going to tell me you live in Brooklyn,” she’d said, and he’d laughed and said no. She was a pretty little thing, even with the scars.
“I’m just saying, there’s nothing to be afraid of,” he said. “I’m one of the good guys.” They were at the corner of Sixth, waiting to cross. She looked at him then for the first time, not a friendly look. “What?” he said.
“Never trust a guy who says he’s one of the good guys,” she said.
“Okay, then,” he said, taking her elbow as the light changed. “I’m a complete shit.”
They were approaching Eighth Avenue, when she said, “The price is $500, so if you need to stop at an ATM, now’s the time.”
Five hundred? Christ. “And for that I get…?”
“Whatever you want,” she said. “Don’t worry.”
He wasn’t worried, but he didn’t say that.
He lived in a high rise east of Ninth. No doorman, but a nice lobby. Usually people commented on the apartment—he went for the Zen look, sleek lines, no clutter—but she didn’t say anything. Used the bathroom, came back and walked around a bit, looking but not touching. Stopped when she got to the photo on the steel and glass end table.
“Pretty,” she said. “So what won’t she give you? Wait, let me guess. She doesn’t like the rough stuff.”
They were sitting on the butterscotch leather sofa; she was still in that damp coat.
Instead of answering, he said, “Do you have a name?”
“It’s Grace,” she said.
He said, “Grace, why don’t you take off your clothes. Let me see what I’m paying for.”
“There’s no rush,” she said. “You’ve got me for the whole night.” She picked up his hand and put it against her cheek, running his fingers over the two parallel scars that ran from her ear to her jaw. “You haven’t taken your eyes off them all night,” she said. “What would you like to know?”
“Who did that to you?” he said.
“The man I worked for wasn’t happy when I decided to go out on my own. This was his way of ending my career.”
She’d let go of his hand but he was still touching her face, again running a finger down the length of the scars. “Too bad,” he said. “A pretty girl like you.”
“I really don’t mind the scars,” she said. “The way it works, I’ve got myself a niche clientele. Guys who are turned on by the way I look, guys like you who want to play rough.”
“You think that’s what turns me on?” Still stroking her face.
“I can always tell,” she said. “You look at my face and think what it would be like to cut a woman. Maybe some day try it for yourself. It’s an exciting thought, isn’t it?” She touched him and squeezed and said, “See what I mean?”
He grabbed her face and breathed into her ear, whispering, “Is that what I have to do to shut you up, Grace? Cut you?”
She said, “What you have to do is get out of those wet clothes, run a nice hot bath, and I’ll come and scrub you down. You’ll take it from there, I promise.”
“Oh, I will,” he said, pressing his thumb into the ridge of flesh above her jaw. “I’ll definitely take it from there.”
He waited for her in the tub, eyes shut, head resting against the tile. Relaxed. The bath hadn’t been a bad idea. Then he heard her moving around and said, “If you’re not naked, you’re coming in with your clothes on.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” He opened his eyes, ready to reach for her before he saw what she was dangling above the water. A live wire, insulation peeled back, plugged into the outlet above the sink. “What the hell…?” His voice cracked.
“Tool of the trade,” she said. “My little scumbuster.”
“Is that supposed to be funny?” he screamed. Thinking about slamming his fist into her belly, but too terrified to make a move.
“Do you hear me laughing?” she asked.
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