love is like clocklaw

Tick.†

It's a slow warm summer evening, the sun submerging below the horizon, draining the light from the sky in its wake. Diamond pinpoints pierce the overturned purple bowl above. Itís the only way I care to see the stars nowadays. Thereís a suspended quality to the silent air - as if the world is holding its breath, teetering on the edge of a precipice, waiting for the gradual blossoming of darkness. Nothing stirs in the fields. Iím all alone. Sometimes, I think these quiet nights are slowly killing me.†

Tock.†

I have to leave in half an hour. I probably should be making final preparations but I go back inside, slouch in an armchair and distract myself with the Ėflick- -flick- -flick- of channel surfing with the sound off. Only the ticking of the grandfather clock disturbs the stillness. Once I would have been nervous, excited, worried. All I feel tonight is quiet anticipation and a distant thrumming eagerness. Soon, soon.†

Tick. Tock.†

There's a black and white movie playing on the station I stop at. A blonde woman is drinking cocktails with some square-jawed 30's hero. The actress doesn't look like her facially, but possesses the same regal manner. It reminds me of the only photograph Iíve kept Ė a foolish but irresistible weakness. Itís of some diplomatic party, years and lifetimes ago. She looks like the queen of the world; her black dress enfolding her body in an elegant fall of cloth, pale hair smooth and glossy, gems sparkling at her ears and throat, the cool clear gaze of a high priestess. Itís a picture that haunts me.†

Tick. Tock.†

I wonder for the thousandth time if she keeps a photograph of me. Maybe. Maybe not. Mementos have a tendency to be carved in flesh in our line of work. The line of work we were in, that is. Not that any of us expected to get out alive, but we did. Erased now from the system, unimportant foot soldiers forgotten by our masters and the authorities. It means thereís nothing left of us but barely heard echoes, dissolving through time. Our pasts are wiped clean, our futures are empty. Like my heart. This heart is empty, and I need to fill it up.†

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.†

I switch to another station. More trial reruns. I wasnít sorry when the old men fell. They executed the last of them eight months ago here in the US. Most of the other countries took a lot less time. The American justice system at its best. Humph. Justice, like religion, is a concept Iíve never really believed in. And life has reinforced that lack of belief. The numbness that started in my face spread to my mind and then seeped into my emotions. Itís still there, a thick grey sludge resting heavy. Am I happy? Am I sad? I no longer know. Iím a clown who's forgotten how to laugh.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.†

She was my light. The perfect woman Ė beautiful, strong, intelligent, pure. She was so much better than they were. Something clean and uncontaminated that repelled the darkness. She made me believe, made me worship, made me feel. Brought illumination back into the temple where love doesnít come. †

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.†

I wonder, does she think of me? Iím not a stupid man - I was one of the rising young stars in the Company before the old men found me. I know I originally meant nothing to her. I was a passion that passed her spare time. A small piece of insurance. A mole amongst the pawns. But she grew to love me. Just as I grew to understand her, to comprehend what she needed.†

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.†

I cried. I cried at what they did to her. The others, I didnít care, they were just merchandise for the labs. But what they did to herÖ for that, I would have killed them all if I could have. My beautiful shining star sullied and ruined. Her strength broken. Her cool dignity cracked and soiled with fear and desperation. But it made her realise. She came to realise she was mine. I remember what she said,

ďDon't leave me, don't leave me here.Ē

It was the only time I ever heard her beg. It was the only time I ever refused her anything.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.†

They let her go. But she wasnít the same. They didnít return her to what she was. The light had gone from her and she couldnít remove the stains. If sheíd let me, I could have rebuilt her. I would have turned back the clock, made her new.†

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.†

DONG. DONG. DONG. DONG. DONG. DONG. DONG. DONG.†

The chimes ring eight. I have to go now, have to try again. And this time, I wonít ever leave her.†
.

.

NEW YORK TIMES
Nordic Princess Killer Strikes Again 
Police confirmed today the serial killer dubbed the ĎNordic Princess Killerí has claimed another victim, bringing the number of murdered women to seven. The body of Amanda Jansen (32), an insurance broker from Boulder, Colorado, was found last Friday in Highgate Park, 20 km outside Boulder, by a local man walking his dog. 
Miss Jansen was abducted from her home three weeks ago. Like previous victims, Amy Blair (28), Christiana Stendahl (32), Diane Gilby (29), Maria Sjoquist (34), Bridget Cole (24), and Nena Rohrer (33), Miss Jansen was sexually assaulted and tortured before being killed, and her body dumped in a wildlife reserve wearing only a broken wristwatch. 
All the Nordic Princess Killerís victims have been blonde, blue-eyed, professional women, described by their families and friends as having had reserved personalities. All had successful business careers and social lives. Several of the women were (cont. on page 3.)


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