A knife, a gun and a smile

She held a knife and a gun. But assuredly, the most fearsome weapon she wielded was that minefield of a smile, glowing beneath her unruly ginger curls.

“Please . . . ” he pleaded; the pain etched in his bright green eyes could have melted even the coldest of hearts. He would have succumbed to tears and brazen begging, but terror had gripped him harder than any love he once felt for the girl standing over him. For he was a gambler, infatuated with winning, fame and fortune. And the girl—she was the reason for his latest venture. But she had played him like the fool he was, pulling his strings like he was no more than a puppet. And he was about to pay the ultimate price. He had gambled away his heart—and lost—and now he’s on the steel table, strapped down with faded leather in nothing but his briefs and shredded t-shirt.

“You knew the stakes,” was all she said, twirling the blade between her slender fingers. Her eyes consumed the tremble of his body; the lines of regret framing his distressed stare. So different to the man she had met on the gaming floor. Figures—it took only two months for him to fall in love with her, and one more for him to say the words that sealed the fateful deal.

“My heart is yours,” he whispered; close enough to feel the pulse of

her heart on his skin. “Always and forever, it will beat only for you.”

He kissed her softly, savouring the cinnamon lingering on her lips,

Letting her lift the covers above their heads as they descended into

a realm of pleasure he never wanted to end.                    

The memory lingered on the rim of his mind, fraying with rage and regret. He never could have foreseen that now—in the secluded basement beneath the gaming floor—she was about to cash in on her winnings, that she was literally about to take his beating heart from his chest. What kind of people did that? And the owners of this twisted casino—had they no compassion for human life?

He pulled against his restraints. It was useless, tiring. “You tricked me!” he retaliated through clenched teeth, “I told you I loved you, not that you could actually have my heart, to hold and keep as some kind of sick souvenir.” She laughed in his face, and a thick wad of saliva shot from his mouth, landing on her bare feet. Mixing with the dirt and dried blood congealed on her pale skin, she clicked her tongue disapprovingly. “I did no such thing,” she purred, dragging the blade over his exposed legs. Tickling, teasing, pushing him toward further retaliation. Fine—he’d give it to her.

He kicked against his ankle restraints, causing the blade to puncture his skin. Groaning, his lower limbs fell still and she breathed heavily at the crimson spots already clotting on the thin wound.

Her eyes found his. She peered into his soul with that maniacal gaze, sliding her slender frame close, her sickly breath warm on his neck. “Did that hurt?” she whispered, head cocking like a curious owl. The aroma of cinnamon and whisky danced from her lips. He took a deep breath and seized the opportunity. He lurched his neck forward and their foreheads collided with a painful thump. The woman stumbled backwards, matching purple bruises already forming on their stricken brows. She screamed, anger consuming her deranged heart. She threw her body against the bed, and it lurched across the concrete floor. Dust and mildew offered no friction as steel and wall collided.

The sudden impact loosened his leather binding. He wriggled his wrists, slightly lengthening each tight loop around his hands.

“Enough!” she screamed, cocking the gun; the click of metal echoed through the bare room. “Decide, now!” With the knife pressed against his chest and the gun at his temple, she had him right where she wanted him—at least she thought . . .

He made a show of painful consideration. After all, it’s not every day you get to choose how you die. Her eyes widened, lips pursed, pushing the knife deeper onto his glistening skin. His wrist squirmed silently and with lighting speed, his arm sprung free, ramming across the woman’s head. Stunned, she fell to the floor, unwittingly relinquishing her grip on the blade.

He pried open the remaining straps, pulling his body free of the leather prison. He slid off the table like silk on glass, landing shakily on his feet. His muffled footsteps were silenced by the woman’s groans, shaking off the haze of the unexpected blow. He reached for her, ready to destroy her limb from limb—although he’d settle to just slam her head into the cement and watch her pathetic insides turn to dust in this forsaken basement.

His gaze absorbed her, forgetting about the loaded firearm clutched in her demonic fingers. She raised it, aiming for his chest, and for a moment they both ceased breathing. The silence was deafening. The air turned to ice as she pulled the trigger. He shot sidewards, barely escaping the bullet. It slashed across his shoulder, forcing him to his knees with an agonizing shriek. He scurried backwards, picking up the lost blade on his way, and flipped the table on its side. He cowered behind it as three more bullets indented the thick steel, and then, silence . . .

Nothing but their heavy breaths penetrated the air. She followed the crimson trail that seeped from his wound. She was ready for the kill. With a single bullet left, she wanted nothing more than to deposit it between his eyes. Sliding her toes through the pathway of blood and sweat, she grinned from ear to ear, ready to pounce. He was nothing but a sitting duck, waiting for death—a respite she would happily deliver.

“Wait,” he choked from behind the table, desperately trying to stop the blood streaming from his shoulder with his other hand. “Please! I’ve made my decision.” A feral sneer of satisfaction lit up across her face. Lowering the gun, she asked, ‘Well? Blade or bullet?” Forgetting that she was no longer in possession of the gleaming bladed weapon.

His eyes breached the surface of the destroyed table, followed by pained, pursed lips. She couldn’t control the hammering of her heart as he struggled to pull himself to his feet. He opened his mouth to answer and—

The blade flew from his hand, tracing an arc of silver that blurred through the air before lodging deep in the chasm of her throat. Time stopped. Hearts hammered. She clawed at her neck, falling to her knees. Blood stained her white dress the colour of a ruby sea and her face paled as he shuffled toward her.

He leant over her, kicking the firearm out of arm’s reach. With a single finger, he tilted her chin and gazed into her eyes, watching the life drain from the hole in her windpipe. With a swift movement­, ploughed his knee into the bottom of her jaw and had turned his back before she hit the floor, running for the arched doorway that separated him from the fresh air of freedom.

It creaked loudly as he pushed it open with his uninjured shoulder and he stepped into the long corridor lined with dust and discarded cigarette butts. He loosed a deep sigh—not a person in sight. Wasting no time, he forced his body into the dimly illuminated hallway. Droplets of blood fell upon the grimy floor with every step towards freedom.

He bypassed the set of stairs leading up to the main gaming floor. Chatter and tinkering glasses sounded through the thin slit beneath the door. He had no intentions of using that exit—unless he had the sudden desire to be dragged back downstairs to another set of leather straps. No—there was another door, he was sure of it. He lumbered to the end of the passage and kicked open the final hurdle separating him from the pine-scented air beyond. He breathed it in, consuming the aroma of the dry, expansive forest on the border of town.

There were no paths on this side of the manor, which was favourable in his current circumstance. They were likely to be skittled with guards and unsuspecting patrons about to gamble their lives away. His bare feet crunched over fallen branches and pine needles, heading anywhere and nowhere. And as he streamlined through the desolate forest, he made a promise to himself never to step foot inside the Casino Vitae again.

© Angela. E. Mitchell

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