Sticky streamers of the stuff unrolled down a water-stained wall. The room buzzed, as if the static light rods were gossiping, catching up on the events that had just transpired in its bluish din.
Twenty-six, maybe 27, six-foot even, probably 190 to 200 pounds – it was his blood that ribboned so brightly, flowing effortlessly down and around the bits of brain matter, obliterated skull parts, and matted hair webbing that stuck to the lodge wall.
The Madame sat squatting on her heels next to his now stilled body. She wore a long, flowing skirt that spread out around her small frame like a pastel pink universe.
With delicate fingers, The Madame closed the man’s gray-green eyes, already glassy from death. Against pale, Caucasian cheeks, his thick, black lashes revealed their remarkable length. In this sleep-like state, he looked beautiful. Like a China doll. It was incongruous on a body that had built up a reputation for merciless violence. The discrepancy between his beauty and brutality made me wonder: Had he had to fight his whole life against those doll-like lashes? How many times did bullies bigger than him corner him, taunt him, tease him because of those lashes? How many times did those cornered confrontations lead to bloodied and broken noses? How many times were those lashes held under toilet water in the boy’s locker room? When he gasped for breath between plunges, did lemon-scented bleach water drip from those long lashes onto a fitted uniform? Or was it murky shit water that clung and coagulated on those lashes, dribbling onto a worn out GI-Joe T-shirt? Was that what drove him to build his body so big? To fight so meanly? A tortured temper that had but one probable path: Drugs, drug-dealing, gangs back in Ireland or England or wherever he was from, and finally an international promotion to run the drug trade, then the sex trade, on the Thai islands. A move that inevitably leads to The Madame. Was that what had happened to this beautiful boy?
A gecko purred in chirps, breaking my reverie. The gecko cries, they say, when truth has been revealed. I nodded in tacit acknowledgement.
The Madame rocked back and forth over the stiffening body. She hummed a meditative mantra, her licorice hair swung slowly to and fro, giving her the appearance of a mum lulling a child to sleep. When she turned her walnut eyes back at me, she wore a soft smile on her face. Her plump cherub lips were smeared a slick red. It never ceased to seize my insides at the sight of newly spilt blood glossed on her lips like lipstick. But The Madame and I have never seen eye to eye on death.
“Don’t be so soft, George,” The Madame purred through a kind-eyed smirk.
I unscrewed my tight expression and laughed through a closed mouth to break the tension.
She looked back at the body, wetting her fingers in his darkening blood, then rubbing her fingers together, as if testing a piece of silk.
“It is time,” she said quietly as she unfolded her body into a standing position. She rummaged through her shoulder bag, which was somehow still exactly where she left it on the bed, and handed me the cleaver.