THE SKIN ROOM - RICHARD GODWIN
Part One Of A Four-Part Saga
She only wore high heels on Sundays. She would stand tall in them and put on the red dress she called The Cut. The rest of the time she dressed down and remained as anonymous as a nail hidden in a cake.
She bought the dresses from designer shops in areas her friends never visited and she would try them out in front of the mirror.
Maxy was six foot and buxom and she knew what men wanted.
And that was the trouble.
One evening in The Cellar, she sat drinking Tequila while a dying sun punctured the skyline into which a distant moon struggled. As if the order of the day was fading at the edges.
A small fat man was eyeing her and she knew what was on his mind. She also knew what was in her heart.
When he approached and offered to buy her a drink, she said, ‘Nother shot,’ and pulled over a stool for him.
He clambered up and sat sipping his cocktail and she reached out a hand and laid it on his crotch.
‘Got something to show me?’ she said.
She leaned forward showing ample cleavage.
He looked around nervously.
‘Shall we go somewhere more private?’
‘Sure, big boy, you ready for me?’
She slid off the stool and walked him round the block to the small flat she rented for a few dollars, less than the cost of one of her business lunches.
She opened the door and fixed them drinks and proceeded to undress.
He stood there transfixed.
She approached him and he ran his eyes down her body.
‘How much?’ he said.
‘What you got?’
He reached for his jacket and, as he turned to stare at her breasts, she withdrew the knife from her purse.
It looked like a surgical instrument.
She seemed to flick it in a gesture that was almost playful.
Only the jet of blood that showered her naked body showed what had happened.
The man clutched at his neck, blood pumping from the wound, and she watched him drop to the floor.
Then she peeled his skin away and laid it in the room at the back.
It looked like a dark room and held preserving fluids and what looked like parchment hanging from racks.
But on closer inspection, the parchment revealed itself to be yards of human skin laid out to dry.
Maxy walked to the shower and stood under the hot water, washing his blood from her, watching it run from her nipples, fade to pink, and vanish at the plug hole.
Then she applied oils to her body, rubbing them into her generous curves.
She looked at herself in the mirror.
‘Pity I have to strip and show them my assets but I don’t want their blood on my clothes. Time to change bags.’
She went back to the dark room. On the floor were two handbags. She picked one, took it out to the living room, placed it on the table and filled it with the contents of her other bag.
She looked down at the skinless corpse on the floor.
‘You’ll make a fine bag, too.’
She laughed all the way to the front door where she stopped and, walking out into the street, hailed a taxi.
The next day, she left her house in her usual business clothes and Gucci bag and went to the catering business she ran.
She passed the kitchen and, inhaling the odours of the food, greeted the women who were leaning over the hot stoves.
She only employed women.
At around the time Maxy proceeded to make some calls, Mick Fancy walked out into the fresh air.
He looked up at the clear blue sky, admired the birds that wheeled there and said, ‘Now I’m going to get that fucking bitch.’
The prison looked small behind him as he walked on down the road.
It didn’t take him long to find her.
From a hotel room, he made a few calls.
He’d had his people keep an eye on her while he was inside and now he felt hungry for her.
The next Sunday, Maxy donned The Cut and admired herself in the mirror.
‘I look so good in this no wonder they’re ready to be sliced and peeled.’
She picked up the plate on the side table and licked the seeded flesh from the last of the open figs that lay there, sucking the meat from them and running her tongue along the empty skin. She checked her teeth in the mirror.
The phone rang as she left the house. She never answered it when she went on her killing expeditions, choosing to separate that part of her life from the other.
She had effectively managed to lead two lives for a year until that night.
She went to another downtown bar and spotted him.
He looked at her as soon as she walked through the door.
And she wanted to see him bleed.
He had a beard, something she hated, and he walked right up to her and said, ‘Can I get you one?’
She looked at him. He was sweating and she felt the faint stirrings of arousal.
‘Are you up to it?’ she said.
‘Woman like you, no problem.’
And she thought of him lying on top of her and hatred overwhelmed her desire.
She took him to the flat and stood in the semi-darkness as he undressed.
Then she removed her clothes and stood watching him.
‘You want me to suck you dry?’ she said.
‘You sure is a fine woman.’
‘You like these big tits and my fine cunt?’
As he walked towards her, he did not see the flash of steel and made no noise as he fell.
She peeled him with expertise and took his skin to the dark room. Then she proceeded to shower.
As she was drying herself, she heard a noise.
She wrapped a towel round herself and edged into the corridor.
A hand grabbed her and threw her on the bed.
Then rough hands removed the towel and someone lay on top of her.
She reached out a hand and put on the small lamp.
‘The very same.’
‘Get off me.’
‘Still got a good snatch, you always did have a fine pair of tits.’
He proceeded to grope her and she grappled with him until he stood up and turned on the main light.
He looked around the room and shook his head at the corpse. Then he scraped the edge of his shoe on the floor, trailing a filament of skin and some tangled vein on the carpet.
‘Whoo-ee. Missed a bit. Now, what you been up to, Maxy? Old tricks?’
‘What do you want Mick?’
‘I want what’s mine.’
‘I spent it.’
‘Bullshit. Big business you got.’
She stood up and reached for the towel, then placed it on a chair, knowing the way to get Mick’s attention.
She could see his eyes on her.
‘OK. I’ll pay you, how much?’
‘It’s more than that.’
‘You wanna screw me?’
‘What I want is for us to team up and make money, real money. In the meantime, you can give me enough to tide me over. I’m gonna move into that fine house of yours and you can tell everyone I’m your new fella. I don’t go down for you for nothing.’
She lay back on the bed and said, ‘Let’s see if it’s like it used to be.’
Mick entered her without ceremony and, afterwards, she watched him smoke.
‘I never did mind your prick,’ she said.
‘Those other men, I need to do it.’
‘Don’t bother me. I know whatever happened to you to make you feel that way ain’t gonna go away and I don’t give a shit.’
‘What happened to me is another story.’
‘Now, I been doing some thinking and what I say is you get your kicks, Maxy. I’m the only one who knows, but we pick wealthy guys and we take their money. I wanna get wealthy.’
‘You an’ me live together?’ she said.
‘Who’s fooling who?’
She reached down and touched his crotch and said, ‘I love the way you stir and stiffen, baby. Fancy sliding it in me?’
She did not shower when they were finished. She sat there looking at Mick.
‘OK,’ she said, ‘let’s do it.’
‘I’m the only one who knows your secret.’
‘An’ if any guy gives you trouble, I can take care of ’em.’
‘They never were any trouble.’
‘You may be good with a knife, but I’m good with other things, Maxy.’
‘You sure are.’
‘Still got them bags?’
‘I need money.’
‘Come on, Maxy. Let’s go home.’
‘I’ll just check the dark room.’
‘Why don’t you call it by its proper name? Why don’t you reconnect with who you were when I went away?’
‘I ain’t disconnected.’
‘Then be her, be her like steel, baby. Say it, say the words that’ll make us rich from the bloodbath you got raging inside you.’
‘I’ll just check the skin room.’
She went in and made sure everything was in order and then came out and dressed.
Then she and Mick went to her house and settled in for what remained of the night.
She lay there eyeing him, and he knew he was being watched. She felt he had opened her soul and was holding her secrets in his clenched fist and the old memories flooded in.
BIO: Richard Godwin lives and writes in London, where his dark satire ‘The Cure-All’, about a group of confidence tricksters, has been produced on the stage. He has just finished writing a crime novel. His writing appears regularly at Disenthralled and Gloom Cupboard, among many other magazines. He has a Twitter account and can be found there under the User Name Stanzazone. You can check out his portfolio here. His first crime novel will be published later this year.
His blog, RICHARD GODWIN, is the home of the Chin Wag At The Slaughterhouse Interviews (which, in this editor’s opinion, deserve as many awards as can be heaped upon them).