The pain was intense. As my driver pulled into the gravel driveway, I adjusted my position and winced.
"Is everything alright, Miss Daniels?" said my driver, Weston.
"Yes," I said. "I'm fine."
Weston sighed. "Very good, miss. What time shall I pick you up tomorrow?"
"I'll call you," I said, as I slammed the car door with my good arm.
As I carefully made my way up the drive, I saw a white farmhouse with black shutters. I heard the front door slam, and a woman in her sixties jogged up to me and pulled my overnight bag out of my good hand.
"Mercy!" she said, as she stopped for a moment and stared at the cloud of dust from the car. "Why did your man peel out of the drive like that? Did you two have a fight?"
Inwardly, I rolled my eyes. "That's just Weston, my driver. He forgets how to drive sometimes."
The woman's mouth hung open, just a little, and I saw that she had a cheap metal filling on the back of her right molar.
"Oh," she said. "Well, you know men. Most of them don't know their rear ends from a hole in the ground."
I laughed politely, and my new friend smiled.
"Welcome to Blue Bate's Bed and Breakfast," she said. "My name is Twila."
"Nice to meet you," I said, shaking her right hand with my left.
"Is somethin' wrong with your right shoulder?" said Twila.
"No, why do you ask?" I said.
"Nothin' she said, as she rested my bag on her shoulder. "It's just that my husband, Ralph, was a doctor and he always said that you could tell a shoulder injury, down to the side, by the angle of a person's walk."
"That's fascinating," I said. "Did Ralph pass away recently?"
Twila's eyelid twitched. "How did you know that?"
"Lucky guess," I said.
"Right," she said, narrowing her eyes. "I'll show you to your room, then."
I smiled. "That would be lovely," I said.
The door creaked open, and I smelled my new digs before I could see them. Mildew and rust, mixed with eau de manure. Great.
Twila laughed, a singularly displeasing sound.
"Is the room not to your likin'?" she said.
I looked around and took stock. A shabby but serviceable bed was in one side of the room, and a large fireplace was located on the opposite wall.
"It'll do," I said. "Does the fireplace work?"
My hostess smiled through gritted teeth. "I just cleaned it myself this morning," she said. "You won't have to worry about a smoke smell on those designer clothes of yours, if that's what you're thinkin' about," she said.
"Good," I said. "Great. As a matter of fact, I'd like to freshen up before dinner. Would you put my bag on the bed?"
Twila muttered something under her breath, but placed my Prada bag gently atop the bed pillows.
"Dinner's at 7 o'clock sharp," she said. "I hope you like cornbread."
I sighed, and lightly massaged the back of my neck. "It's my favorite," I said, "but like I said, I really want to take a shower before dinner."
Twila's face softened. "Awww, you must really be tired. You take a nice shower or bath, and I'll have some hot food ready for you when you come down."
I nodded eagerly, and closed the door behind the proprietor of the Blue Bates Bed and Breakfast. As I heard the sound of her steps fade away, I flung open the bathroom door and ripped the bandage off of my right shoulder.
In the mirror, I noticed that yellow fluid was leaking from the wound.
"Fuck," I said. I slowly opened my overnight bag with my left hand, and injected myself with enough cortisone to kill a horse. As the drug took effect, I took a hot shower (as hot as I could stand it) and laid down on the bed. As I fell asleep, I made a mental reminder to call Weston on my cell. I doubted the B and B had wifi.
"Hey," said a kind voice.
I coughed. "Is that you, God?" I said.
There was a soft chuckle in response.
"No, silly Billy, it's me," said Twila. "I brought your food upstairs on a t.v. tray that I used to use for Ralph, when he was sick. I hope you don't mind."
"What time is it?" I said.
"Never you mind," said Twila. "I can see you're sick and in pain, plain as day. Have somethin' to eat first, and then I'll be more than happy to tell you the time."
I started to protest, but my new caretaker interrupted.
"Eat first," she said, pointing to a dish of roast pork. "Talk later."
My stomach growled, and Twila smiled.
I reached for a spoon. "No, no, sweetie," she said. "You'll want the fork and knife for that pork."
I grabbed the spoon, and drove it into her eye.
"No, no," I said, gasping for breath. "I want the spoon. Easier to catch you off guard that way."
Twila fell to the floor, clawing at her face. Blood and viscous fluid ran onto the wood.
"That's going to be hard to clean up," I said, "but I am relieved that you don't have carpet." I grabbed the quilt from the bed--I believe in cleaning up as I go--and felt a white hot stab of pain in my right shoulder.
"Oww," I said, as I whirled back around, screaming. "That really hurts, Twila!"
"Goo!" she slurred. Then she fell to the ground and I heard the satisfying sound of a skull cracking. An empty vial of cortisone gently fell out of her hand, and I picked it up.
"I really wish you had put up more of a fight," I said, as I fished my phone out of my trusty black bag. "Makes me feel less guilty about killing you."
I called Weston.
"Hello," I said. "I need to change the pick-up time. Can you be here at 3 am? Also, please call our client and tell her that the work is finished."
"Excellent," said Weston. "She'll be very glad to know. How is your shoulder, and how did you get that injury? I am curious, you know."
"I accidentally shot myself in the shoulder," I said. "Are you happy? I fucking shot myself in the shoulder."
"That's what I thought," said my old friend, laughing. "I'll be there as soon as I can."
Weston and I watched the last of the blood swirl down the bathtub drain, and I gave the area one last swipe of bleach.
"I think we've got everything clean," I said. "I'll check the rest of the house, one last time, to make sure."
"Do you hear that?" said Weston.
"Hear what?" I said. "Would you help me carry these trash bags? They are heavy, and I can't carry them by myself right now."
"I know," said Weston. "If we had cut up the body like I said, instead of burning it in the fireplace, the bags would be lighter."
"No," I said, shaking my head. "You're mistaken. Ash is always lighter than the human body."
"Would you shut up for one second?" said Weston.
"I will not," I said.
In that moment, we both heard it--the faint but distinct sound of a human voice.
"Shit," I said. "It's coming from the basement."
"I still can't believe Ralph was chained up in the basement," said Weston.
"Really?" I said. "I can. Twila was a textbook sociopath. I'll bet she even tortured small animals as a child."
Weston rolled his eyes. "You didn't torture small animals as a child."
"Yes, but my father was a sociopath and taught me to be one. I am a different kind of creature, so to speak."
"Exactly, Miss Daniels."
"Are you being sarcastic, Wes?" I said.
"Don't call me Wes," he said.
Just then, there was a loud thump from the trunk.
"Don't you think our client will be a bit upset that her beloved grandfather is in the trunk of our car?" said Weston.
I thought for a moment. "No," I said. "She'll be happy that he's alive and well."
"Right," said Weston, the man that I love. "I certainly hope that you are correct."
"I am," I said. "I'm always right."
"And you always have to have the last word," smiled Weston.
"Yes," I said. "I do."