Robert Lankford stepped out of an old cab in Paris, his feet landed in a river of water that was gathering from the downpour that hadn't relented in two days. He promptly tossed some cash into the front seat through the passenger window, obstructing the view of his face with a fedora and his overcoat.
"Keep the change." He said gruffly, trying desperately to disguise his voice. No one could know he had come to the Red Light district. And no one could know what his business was in the adult district of Paris, which had grown by leaps in bounds in the past twenty years. The only industries that outranked the adult one were technology and government; and all three industries often intermingled.
Wednesday, January 21, 2043, was one of those occasions.
Lankford started off small in Sandstrom Technologies, but promptly rose to the top through cunning and sometimes brutal means. It was no secret that many of his predecessors had vanished, died, or accepted early retirements amid allegations of corruption and blackmail. He was shrewd, cold and not finished climbing to the top. Lankford had much bigger goals than CEO of Sandstrom Technologies, and globalization of the market was one of them and he knew this could only come if he picked up politics. He had to abuse his power in both worlds.
He quickly scooted down the alleyway lit in neon lights as the cab drove away. It was a familiar walk, one he'd taken many times and in similar weather conditions. There were prostitutes hanging off the walls, begging him for business as he passed by them. The farther he went into the old alley, the walls would close in and cramp you amongst the workers and customers. Eventually he'd be brushing shoulders, as was often the case. No one ever made a fuss if you bumped them during their transactions, because everyone understood that it was just the nature of things. It was a community of sin, and everyone was invited and no one was turned away. Windows began to spring up on each side of the street, where women, men and others would display themselves, taunting you to enter the establishment and request them by number like ordering your favorite meal in a fast food joint. And he could smell the familiar smell of sex, despite the rain. Just walking through this alley was an invitation to disease.
He couldn't help himself, and he stopped just outside before entering. It was likely going to be the last time he'd ever return. In red letters, flashing, the neon light simply said, SEX, in all capitalized letters. Straight to the point, no beating around the bush. It was a place of business that sold a product, and it just flat out told you what it was above the door. SEX, that's it. Nothing more, nothing less.
He opened the greasy handle and stepped inside. He could hear the sounds of sex, and the smell was stronger than before. He walked down the dark halls, each door had a number on it. The SEX store simply consisted of one hallway with doors on either side. Behind the doors were single-room apartments where the whores lived, and worked. Each door had a little sign that would read one of three labels: OPEN, CLOSED, or OCCUPIED. It was number 6 that he had grown accustomed to, and where he was headed to on this miserable night.
He found the door at the end of the hall on the left, where it always had been. Doors seldom move. To his frustration, he found the room was occupied. He leaned against the wall on the other side of the hall and lit up a cigarette, and hoped it wouldn't take long. He ran the options in his head, and determined kicking in the door and forcing out a customer would just draw too much attention and that it was safer to just wait his turn like a normal customer would that wanted to see Marlon.
Despite all the noise in the place, he was thankful Marlon's customer was more reserved as he was certain it would drive him over the edge. It always bothered him knowing that he couldn't have Marlon to himself, that others would come and go outside of his visits with her. He tried so hard to take her away from the SEX store and hide her away some where only he'd know. Then he could visit her alone, and know that no one had had her while he was out living his life. He tried to convince her to let him take her away some where private, but she would have none of it. She refused to sit around doing nothing all day, waiting for the eventual visit from him. She was always so temperamental, he thought, and wondered why he hadn't let her attitude drive him away years ago. Then, he smiled an evil sort of smirk, as he realized it was her self-sufficiency and rebellious streak that had drawn him to her.
He recalled the first time they met, he was so young at the time and had never paid for companionship or sex. He had been so focused on working his way up the latter, that he had not had time for a relationship or even to gratify himself physically. Finally, one night, he found himself completely frustrated sexually and unable to sleep. He hailed a cab and traveled into the red light district for the first time. It was much smaller then, he recalled, but it felt so huge to him at the time. He had felt so overwhelmed and had wondered around for two hours trying to find something that interested him. And just when he had about giving up hope, he came upon the SEX store just as Marlon was tossing out a customer who had no cash. She tossed him out and against the adjacent building. She cursed at him, and slashed at his crotch with a switchblade. The man fell to the ground, cupping his privates as they bled through the fingers. She hollered to the crowd in the alley, calling out the vamps to have their way with him. A small crowd quickly formed around him, but he was drawn to her. She looked at him, still mad from the event of giving out and getting nothing in return.
"What, you pup?!" She yelled at him.
Right then and there, he knew. He knew she was the one for him. All he could say to her was that he had money. She told him that was nice and they headed off down the hall together to room number six. With their adrenaline running on full octane from the violence, they barely got the door closed before they tackled each other and had wild, rough sex. Every night they had spent together from then on was of a similar fashion. They both found rapture in the thrill of the attack of their companionship.
The door opened. An old man stepped out, zipping his pants. He stumbled down the hall, mumbling to himself.
Lankford could see Marlon in the room, laying on the bed, flat on her back. She was looking at the ceiling and smoking a cigarette. This was her typical response after a lame shagging. He entered the room, and closed the door. He leaned against it and stared at her for a moment.
"You're on the clock, bub." She said, not looking up. "As soon as that door latched, you're on the clock, that's how I work." She sat up onto her elbows. "Oh. You." She puffed her cigarette. "For you, I charge extra." She blew the smoke out. "Child support."
"Why didn't you tell me you'd had the operation?" He asked.
"Because then you would have left me," she started, "And then I wouldn't have you here right now, begging for mercy."
"I had offered to take care of you before, why would you do it this way?"
She rolled her eyes. "I don't want to be taken care of, faggot. What I want is a little extra income, because I'm gonna be a mommy… or daddy… or something."
"You want this baby?" He asked, puzzled.
"You don't know me, Rob, you never knew me. You just came in here, we beat each other up and you went your way. I won't deny I didn't enjoy it, but you didn't know me. You never knew me."
She laughed, and her feminine voice cracked a little either from the cigarette or from the memory of being a boy, he couldn't tell which. "You're rich, man. You got money to toss around. Most of my customers are blowing their retirement or government aide. I can't raise a kid off that."
He took a puff of his cigarette, and spoke coldly. "If you can't afford something, you shouldn't have it. Basic economics."
"But you can."
"That's not my kid." He pointed at her. "That's your kid. If it was my kid, I'd nuke it. And seeing as it is I can't, then I don't consider it mine. I won't pay for it. Either nuke it, or live with it yourself. But not on my money."
"That's OK," she said lightly, "Because I have a Tuesday customer who works for the Paris International News. He'd kill for my headline."
"I had a feeling you'd say that." He said. "I've already spoke with Tom, and have him in a corner with the fact that I know he's seeing you and he's working for me now. So all that's left…" he dropped his remaining cigarette on the stained carpet and stepped it out. There were many burn marks from him and other customers through the years. As well as countless semen stains from all her customers through the years. Many of these stains were no doubt his own. He was glad, in a way, to be rid of her. She frustrated him. She frustrated him because he couldn't get enough of her, and wanted her all to himself. Countless times he could recall staring at the carpet after a session and noting all of the stains that weren't his own. It infuriated him, which drove him back to her even more. Part of the attraction and addiction was the violence and adrenaliane they sparked in one another. But now, that was all going to be put behind him and he could move on. He could forget about her, and never worry again about the possibility of someone finding out about their relationship. He stepped to the edge of her bed and looked down at her, a visual reminder of her place, forcing her to look up at him. He was above her, above this place. She had no more hold over him. "… is for you to die."
She raised an eyebrow in disbelief, making fun of him. "You don't have the guts," she said, "You're a coward, that will never change."
He struck her across the face with a stiff backhand. Pain shot through the back of his hand and up his arm to his elbow.
She breathed heavy and turned her head back to look at him. "Nothing new," she said, "Just a little rougher is all. And yet," she wiped a stream of blood from the corner of her lip, "I've had rougher." Even in death, she was going to mock him. He felt he was breathing harder now, his hatred boiling over inside him. He would kill her, and it would not be easy. It would not be quick. It would be hard, rough and dispassionate. He would make her regret all the jokes she'd made at his expense, all the looks and laughter. He hated when she laughed at him. "You can't stand it, can you?" She asked and began to laugh long and loud. It was the laugh he hated most. It was now or never.
He grabbed a fistful of her hair and pulled her to her feet, and tossed her across the room and into the wall. She fell to the floor and continued laughing. He picked up the lamp on her nightstand, he'd hated it all the years he'd known her. He had even bought her one to replace it, but she had mocked it and tossed it out by the next visit and put the old one back. It was so tacky, with a pair of woman's legs for the stand and cheetah shade on top. He picked it up and yanked it from the wall. As he came at her, she had her back turned. She stood up using the wall as a brace, still laughing. She turned around just as he reached her and the lamp crashed across her face. She fell immediately to the floor. She rolled over onto all fours and coughed up blood onto the carpet. Another stain, another customer.
He tossed what remained of the shattered lamp in his hand to the floor, and grabbed her dress and pulled her up. He spun her around and came face to face with her. He wrapped her completely tight in his arms, so that she couldn't move. He looked at her new face, a cut started at her left earlobe and extended to her chin. He reached up to the back of her head and grabbed her hair, and pulled it down. This brought her head jerking back and he looked at her neck, he'd always liked her neck. He'd have to change it drastically to forget it.
She laughed, "That's it? That's all you got?"
He bit hard on the skin between her neck and clavicle. He bit in deep until he could taste blood, and then he pulled back as hard as he could. She began to resist, trying to get her arms free, but he pulled tighter with his arm around her and the hand which gripped her hair. The more she fought it, the tighter he pulled and tightened down on her. Finally, a forced release and he spit what was in his mouth onto the floor. He pushed her head forward and met her eye to eye, he wanted to see if she was still laughing. He wanted to see the fear in her eyes. She winced in pain from the bite, but still had a smirk on her face.
"Stop laughing!" He screamed. He pushed her back onto the bed, and she bounced up and down. He lunged atop of her, straddled her with his legs and began landing blow after blow with his fists. "I'll take that grin off your face!"
All he could hear now were her moans and grunts, undiscernible pleads for mercy, but he kept on at it. He pounded and pounded, and watched as her face slowly began to bleed and swell up into something he didn't recognize. Her legs kicked beneath him and her arms flailed about blindly, trying to block the attack.
He kept at it. He kept at it until he realized he was the only one moving. Then, he paused, and listened. He could hear the other customers next door, and his own breathing and that was it. He couldn't hear anything or anyone else. He rolled off of her and slid onto the floor. He sat with his back against the bed and tried to catch his breath. He felt a warm rush across his body that started from his head and moved downward, behind it the pain and soreness began to set in. He knew he needed to leave before he felt like he couldn't walk anymore. He had exhausted himself. He'd need to rest and take something for the pain.
He forced himself up to his feet and stammered to the door. He leaned with his back against it and looked upon her one last time. She laid spread out on the bed, similarly as to when he had entered. But now she was clearly lifeless and broken. Her head seemed twice it's normal size and dripped of blood. He massaged his hands together, as they felt like they were going to scrunch up into balls. He needed them to open the door and hail a cab.
He stepped out into the hallway and he was alone. He closed the door and left the sign at OCCUPIED to buy himself some time to get away.
Back in the alley, Robert Lankford began to feel free. He felt like a burden had been lifted. That he didn't have to fear her anymore. He had removed the one thing in his life that left him feeling out of control and at the mercy of someone else. He wondered why he hadn't killed her earlier, but supposed it was the control she had over him. He just couldn't give her up and it took her pushing too hard for him to snap and say, Enough is enough.
He smiled to himself as he walked through the crowds of perverts that he would not be seeing ever again. He was done with the Red Light, and was ready to move on. He'd just have to take up pornography or something with a lower risk factor to satisfy his physical needs. He'd never allow himself to get into a real relationship or to commit the worst crime of all and get married. He was Robert Lankford, and he controlled his own destiny.
He felt a sharp pain in the lower of his back, and at first dismissed it as more side effects from the attack. But when a second pain triggered on the opposite side of his spine, he knew something was up. He reached back and felt the wet warmth of blood, he confirmed it by checking his hand. He turned around and standing behind him was a little Asian girl in a school uniform and red overcoat. Her blue-dyed hair moved back and forth on either side of her face, and her bangs shadowed her eyes. In her right hand was a knife dripping with blood.
"Who are you?" He asked. "What do you want?" The crowd was slowly turning in and watching them both now. This was unwanted attention, and was going to quickly get him in trouble if someone recognized him. "I asked you a question, girl."
"I don't answer to you, Mr. Lankford," she said and then came at him so fast he didn't have time to react. With her left hand she held his shoulder, pulling him towards her, and her right repeatedly made quick jabs with the knife in his abdomen until his knees finally caved and he collapsed backwards. She stayed on him and continued her assault, scraping and fracturing ribs as she did so.
She finished and lowered him to the cold cobblestone. She stood above him and took a step back. The crowd gathered around him, but didn't dare cross her plane. She looked down at him and said, "I'm Asuka, and I'm changing things. Your corpse is my messenger. Tell your friends I'm coming. Tell them I'm coming and I won't stop until they're all dead."
She spun around and exited through the crowd.
"Help…" he begged for mercy from the crowd and could barely hear the sound of his own voice. It was so hard to speak and he threw up blood from the act.
The crowd slowly came forward and hovered over him.
"It's been a while since I've had one warm," one person said.
"Me too," another agreed.