He had lost his green cap, so the edges of his red hair burned bright like a halo from the hallway lights. But not as red as the blood that smeared his arms and splashed his face. He looked coiled, ready to strike, and he peered at me from under a furrowed brow. He grinned at me. He looked a proper madman.
“I remember you,” he said, his voice deep but devoid of emotion. He had an accent, a southern twang. He wasn’t from Chicago. “You were the one that monster sucked up. I thought you were dead.”
“What have you done, Milo?” I managed to say.
His eyes roamed around the room as if looking for someone else. “What’s it to you?”
“If you hurt Corrie…”
“Of course I hurt Corrie. Don’t you see? I had to.” He was still grinning, as if not sure how else to arrange his face. The blood covering him was dark, like a shadow draped over his face and arms. “You know them, don’t you? You know what they do. They get in your head. They fuck with you.”
I swallowed a lump in my throat. “Tell me what happened.”
The grin slipped. He drew in breath sharply. “It was good, hurting her. It was right somehow. That guy got off on it. When I stabbed the knife into his eye? Goddamn how he moaned and writhed. He loved it. And I loved it, to hurt her. To get back at her. Because she needed to know she shouldn’t have left me. No one else could do what I did for her. No one else would love her enough to hurt her like I did.
“He told me I could kill her anytime I wanted, but I didn’t. I had considered it, but I held back. I knew she deserved it, but I didn’t have the courage. I dreamed of it, late at night whenever I was finally able to fall asleep, dreamed of ripping her heart to shreds, to bleed out her breast. But I didn’t do it. I only hoped… knew that if I broke her enough she would come back to me.
“I was going there again to see him, fantasizing about putting that knife through their chests, wondering whether I should really do it, forgetting that I couldn’t do it. And then you stepped in front of me, with that thing behind you opening up itself, bones going everywhere, fluttering at the edge of its bloody flesh. I thought it was going to swallow me whole. I thought that Corrie had sent it to fight back, that she had found monsters of her own, or that that guy had turned on me. But it swallowed you instead, and ran off jangling bones and flailing skin. I ran off too, terrified and wondering if others much the same were around.
“I went home, and it took me a long time to calm down. I felt the first twinge of remorse – maybe I had been going about this all wrong. Maybe this is what I get for hurting her. Maybe they would hurt me next. I told myself that if there were others, they would have followed me and gotten me by now. And I told myself that if you were there to stop me, that guy must have sent it to get rid of you. Maybe he was looking out for me after all. And I thought of the time I had seen her in the supermarket, all bandages around her throat and wrists and she had looked so beautiful, like a broken doll. And she had looked at me as if she knew, as if to beg me to stop.
“I knew then I couldn’t stop. Not for my sake, not for her sake. So I went back to see him.
“He wasn’t there. All his women were gone and the window was shattered. I stepped on the broken glass, noting how it cracked beneath my boot, and inspected the street below. I went into all of the rooms and found no one. I went back to the first room and looked it over again, wondering what to do. I could always come back to find him. There was no hurry. But what if he never came back? What would I do then?
“My back was to the window. A wind rushed past me and I heard a whipping like a great pair of wings and I turned. Another man was there, where no man had been previously. I had checked everywhere. I wondered briefly if he had come in the window, but before I could dismiss this he spoke and all thought was instantly gone from my mind.
“’One of Amnon’s customers, I take it?’ His voice was deep and languid. Right away I was drowning in it. It was also clearly dismissive, as if not really caring whether I was there, but this didn’t bother me. Instead I felt he had every right to look down on me. It was similar to how I had felt around Amnon, but more forceful, as if this new man’s mind radiated an energy.
“I was so overtaken I didn’t think to respond.
“’And now Amnon’s gone,’ he growled, angry. For a horrible moment I thought he might be angry at me, might have found me responsible for the broken glass and state of the apartment and so Amnon’s disappearance. And I wondered what form his vengeance would take.
“So I didn’t move as he came towards me, drifting to me like a shadow on water, coat rippling, dark hair swallowing the light from the street. ‘Who were you bleeding?’
“I didn’t understand the question, but I understood it perfectly. But either way, I couldn’t answer. My mouth had gone dry and hung open as if my jaw were broken.
“He raced towards me, striking like a snake, grabbing me by the collar and lifting me into the air. ‘ANSWER ME,’ he roared. His voice made the walls tremble, echoed back from the buildings outside the window, shook my eyeballs ’til I thought they would turn to jelly. The people on the street thought it thunder.
“’Corrie,’ I told him in a voice I didn’t recognize, it quavered and whined.