HONEYSUCKLE - MARK JOSEPH KIEWLAK
"What would you give to get them back?" she said.
"I don't want to talk about it."
She leaned her head against my shoulder. "I know," she said. "But what would you give?"
It was raining. I could hear the raindrops hitting the window but I couldn't open my eyes.
"I'm not trying to scare you," she said. "I'm just ... curious."
"Go fuck yourself," I said.
There was a dead silence.
"That wasn't very nice," she said. She lifted her head off my shoulder. "That wasn't very nice at all."
I couldn't remember what the hell had happened. I remembered coming to the address I'd been given, entering the house. The little girl had been tied to the leg of the pool table. I'd moved toward her. Then nothing.
I felt a sharp pain and tried to open my eyes again. She had me by the balls. "I wouldn't talk like that," she said. "If I were you." She smelled like honeysuckle.
"Where's the kid?" I said.
"The little girl who was tied up down here. What did you do with her?"
"I paid her what I promised and let her go home. She lives down the street."
Now it made sense. Sort of.
"And what about me?" I said. "What's the plan for me?"
She squeezed tighter. "Fun," she said. "Lots of fun."
That was the last I remembered for a while. She'd drugged me with something. My whole body felt heavy. When I woke up, I heard the rain again. There was a soft purring nearby. Then footsteps.
"In case you're wondering," she said, "I don't do this to every man I meet."
I still couldn't open my eyes.
"You're special," she said.
"Why is that?"
"Because of your children," she said.
I felt the bile rise in my throat.
She touched the side of my cheek with her fingertips. I pulled away. "Don't be like that," she said. "We talked about them before."
"All I remember," I said, "was telling you that I didn't want to talk about it."
She slapped me hard across the face. It made my teeth rattle. "We've all lost things," she said. "What makes you so fucking special?" I felt blood mixing with my spittle.
"Come closer," I said, "and I'll tell you."
I felt her lean in next to me. "Tell me," she said. I judged it the best I could and tried to spit in her face. I must have succeeded. She gasped and drew back. I heard her stand. Then a tissue being pulled from a box. She kicked me in the ribs. I sagged against the post and tried to cover up. She got me by the hair and yanked my head back. I felt the cuffs scraping on my wrists. Then I felt her tongue lapping my face. "You're a wild one," she said. "I'm having fun with you." The scent of honeysuckle was all over me. "We'll talk more later," she said. "When the time is right."
I heard her leave. Except for the rain it was quiet after that. I tested my bonds. I was chained with my back to a post in the center of the room. The post was probably an I-beam holding up the house. I wasn't going to break free from that. My ankles were handcuffed too. I was still wearing my clothes. I still couldn't open my eyes.
"A girl gets lonely," she said.
I didn't remember dozing off but the sound of the rain was gone.
"Do you know how many hours I spent in this basement?" she said. "How many lonely hours?"
Behind me my arms were going numb. I tried to move them but the cuffs were tight.
"I could be your daughter," she said. "I could be your missing daughter and you wouldn't even know it."
I banged the back of my head against the post.
"How many years," she said, "since you've seen her? How many years since she and your son vanished?"
I banged my head again. I wasn't trying to break free.
"Stop that," she said. She put a pillow behind my head. "You're not allowed to hurt yourself," she said. "Only I can hurt you."
"Lady, what the fuck is your problem?"
I felt her straddle my legs and sit down on top of me. "Someone took me away from my daddy," she said, "and he never came looking for me."
"You're not my fucking daughter," I said.
"But how do you know?" she said.
"My daughter wouldn't act like this. No matter what had happened to her."
I felt the tears coming as I said it. I knew it was a mistake. I tried not to think about it anymore. I'd already allowed too much.
"I am your daughter," she said. "And you, Daddy, have no idea all that's happened to me."
I tried not to think of anything. I yanked as hard as I could on the cuffs and concentrated on the pain. She was stroking my temples. I lifted my legs trying to throw her off. They'd gone numb too. I could barely lift them.
"Why can't I see anything?" I said. "What did you do to my eyes?"
"Nothing," she said. "Nothing at all, Daddy." She touched my eyelids. "I just didn't want you to see me until you were ready."
"Ready for what?"
She leaned in close and whispered in my ear. "Ready to admit who I really am," she said. "Ready to admit that you stopped loving me. That after Mommy took her bath you didn't want me anymore. That you got rid of me because you didn't care."
I thought about nothing. Waves and waves of nothing. An ocean of nothing gently lapping the shores of nothing. It calmed me a bit.
"Oh, Daddy, have I got stories for you."
And then she started to tell them. She'd been sold along with her brother when she was nine years old. She'd never even known the man's name. He'd raped her. Sodomized her brother. Forced the two of them to have sex while he watched. After a year, she was handed off to another man. She never saw her brother again. For years, she was passed around in this manner. Then one of the men adopted her. She grew up in this very house. He'd raped her repeatedly right over on the pool table. With the pool cue.
I switched it off. I'd heard it and imagined it a thousand times. I felt nothing anymore. My mind was as numb as the rest of me.
"Every night I waited for my Daddy to come and rescue me," she said. "But he never did. I couldn't wait any longer. So I started to bring them here. One after the other. I started with the man who adopted me. But he wasn't my Daddy. Then another one. Then another. I knew that once you saw me again, Daddy, you'd regret letting them take me. I knew you'd want me back."
The next time I awoke, I was more focused. The drugs were clearing my system. I vaguely remembered the sound of crying at some point during the night. At least I thought it was night. Without my eyes it was hard to tell.
The honeysuckle returned and I feigned grogginess. "We're going to play a game," she said.
"Like the one when you lured me here?"
"That was too easy," she said. "That man you work for, that millionaire -- he sends you out to help people. Especially children. So I sent him a message that a little girl was being held against her will in this house. It was the truth -- a long time ago. I told him the police weren't doing anything about it. I knew you'd come running. Trying to atone for your sins, Daddy?"
I let my head hang. I rocked back and forth slightly as if the drugs were still affecting me.
"This game is called 'love your daughter,'" she said. "The object is to make me believe that you still love me."
I shook my head as if a fly was circling. "My eyes," I said. "What did you do to my eyes?"
She slapped me across the face.
"I glued them shut," she said. "You can't see me until you love me again."
She slapped my face in the opposite direction. "Are you ready for the game?"
I started to piss my pants. On purpose. She made a disgusted sound and went away for a moment. She came back and pressed a towel into my lap. I kept right on pissing. "Stop that," she said. "If you love me you'll stop it."
I stopped. But I knew the smell would get to her. If she'd been through all that she said, then it would remind her of all the times she'd been scared and in the same situation.
"You've got to clean up," she said. "We've got to clean this up before anything else."
"I still have to go," I mumbled.
She paused for a moment. I'd overdone it. "This is a trick," she said. "This is a trick just like my trick. You just want me to unlock the handcuffs. Daddy, you tried to trick me."
"Only because you're such a bad daughter," I said.
Then, very softly, she said, "What do you mean?"
"What I mean is you're a fucking lousy daughter. The worst I could've had."
"Daddy, don't say that." Her voice was barely a whisper.
I bit down on my lip as hard as I could. I concentrated on the waves of nothing. "You're the fucking lousiest daughter imaginable," I said. "Look what you turned out to be -- a fucking whore. That's no daughter of mine."
"I am your daughter," she said. Her voice was cracking. I could tell she was in tears.
"And you know what the worst is," I said. "What you let happen to your brother. You're a lousy fucking daughter and a lousy fucking sister. I wish it was him who had found me instead of you."
For a moment, I listened to her crying. "How can you, Daddy? How can you hurt me like this?"
"Because," I said. "You're not my daughter."
"I'll prove it to you," she said.
I felt her climb on top of me. I tensed my body for whatever was coming. I felt her take hold of my eyelids and squeeze them between her fingertips. Then she yanked for all she was worth. The pain was white hot and everywhere at once. After several tries, the glue finally gave out and my eyelashes came unstuck from one another. The first thing I saw was blood. Both eyelids were bleeding like crazy. She dabbed them with a washcloth until the bleeding slowed enough for me to open them. The room was blurry.
"Now you'll see who I am," she said. "Now you'll know."
I began to focus on her face. After a moment, I confirmed what I already knew. She wasn't my daughter. This girl was black. My daughter wasn't.
"Now do you see, Daddy? Now do you see that it's really me?"
I looked her straight in the eye. "I'm sorry," I said. "I was wrong to doubt you. You are my daughter. You are my special little girl."
She threw her arms around me. "Oh, Daddy, that's all I wanted. That's all I wanted was for you to love me again." She held me in her arms a long time. Then she kissed me on the cheek and let go and stood up and walked away. She disappeared into the adjoining bathroom. I heard the water running in the tub. I knew I needed to say something but I was choking on the words. I'd said too much. My eyelids were bleeding again and the blood was running into my mouth. I heard her step into the tub. Splashing. Then silence. She'd left the door open. I strained my neck to see. There was a small trickle of blood pooling at the edge of the tile. There were no more splashing sounds.
I squeezed my eyes shut and let myself drift away.
The cat I'd heard purring earlier came and rubbed against me. There was a string around its neck with a key dangling from it. I maneuvered the cat around to the back of the post and reached up and snapped the key loose. I tried it on the handcuffs. They opened. I uncuffed my legs. I crawled on all fours with the cat beside me toward the bathroom. The girl had slit her wrists. I sat down alongside the tub and waited for my legs to work again. There was nothing else to do. I caught the scent of honeysuckle and thought that I should cry. I wanted to. But there were no tears left.
BIO: Since 2008, Mark Joseph Kiewlak's work has appeared in more than two dozen magazines, including Hardboiled, Plots With Guns, Pulp Pusher, Thug Lit, Muzzle Flash, Powder Burn Flash, Clean Sheets, and many others. He was privileged to have served as judge of the 2007 Wild Violet Fiction Contest. He has also written for DC Comics (FLASH 80-PAGE GIANT #2).