Angelié was starting to think she’d made a terrible mistake. As charismatic and friendly as he’d seemed at the beginning, she wasn’t sure that Bill was as harmless as he’d led her to believe. Now that she was out in the middle of nowhere with him, though he was right about how pretty it was, she could tell that the mask was slipping a bit. The thing about Shooter is that he was exactly the person on the inside as he presented on the outside, no artifice, no hidden agenda. It was easy to forget sometimes that other men weren’t so simple. That they had hidden agendas rife with self-interest, that they were manipulative and downright Machiavellian sometimes. If they were clever enough to pull it off well, that is.

Angelié had seen it all. She was well versed in the ways and means of men who sought to take advantage of inexperience or naiveté. She’d even go so far as to say many weren’t doing it with malicious intent, or even much forethought. Princes of the universe never questioned why or how they were raised to such a level, it was second nature to expect fealty in the form of acquiescence.

Angelié shot Bill a sidelong glance from under her very long lashes. She enjoyed the idea that some people thought they were real, but knew better than to ask. A lot of what she did depended on perpetuation of fantasy, of believing what was presented as true. Or at least, factual, because facts no longer enjoyed the reputation of unassailable truth, thanks to the internet. But that was okay with her, because truth with a bit of wiggle room made her job that much easier. She noticed that Bill was giving her the same sort of sidelong look, but without the lashes to mask it, he came across as kind of leery.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to leer. ” Bill said suddenly, as he noticed she was looking at him. “But I’m just pleased as anything to be out here with such a beautiful lady after the day I’ve had.” Angelié preened a bit and stroked the edges of her hair, letting her hands flutter down to her shoulders, stopping just before her breasts, knowing that his eyes would be drawn there.

His eyes were drawn there. She noticed with no little satisfaction that his pupils expanded, making his eyes seem even darker. Indeed, he was nothing like Shooter. His look was more midwest vampire than muscular hero, and he was obviously lying to her about the car. She’d be surprised if he knew whose it was before he stole it.

“Are you in a hurry to deliver the car? I hope showing me the sights isn’t cutting into your schedule.”

Bill shook his head with a wolfish grin.
“Oh hell no. She’ll be fine without it for a couple of days longer. But aren’t you in a hurry to get back to your boyfriend?”

Angelié’s smile was not dissimilar from his.
“Have you ever considered becoming a camfluencer? I bet you’d be really popular if you found the right niche.”

“Oh yeah, and did you have a niche in mind, that,” he leaned closer, “I might fit into?”

Angelié channeled her groan into a coquettish giggle.
“I might,”she breathed, her lips close enough to his that he could feel the vibration of her words. She leaned back. “But I’m serious, so put your clothes back on and let’s talk.”

She stood and started to dress, the sweat on her body already dried from the early afternoon sun. She could hear him pulling on his jeans behind her, feel his eyes on her body and turned the act into something more performative than perfunctory, knowing the enticement would make him more amenable to her suggestion.

When fully dressed, she turned back to him, watching him do up the large silver buckle on his belt. He struggled with it just enough to tell her it was new. To him, at least. He looked up at her with a grin situated on one side of his face in an attempt to be cool, and not at all like a lovesick puppy. Oh god, she hoped he wasn’t the lovesick puppy type.

“So, I’ve told you that I’m a ghost hunter, and  we’ve embarked on this road trip to find the spookiest places around and interact with the ghosts who live there. I mentioned that I had a boyfriend, because, you know, a girl can’t be too careful with strangers, but honestly he’s more of an investor? Like, he had all this money and no real plans on what to do with it, and when I suggested that I had this entrepreneurial idea, he thought it was great and decided to back me. But I’m thinking that I might need a partner who is more…” she looked toward the forest, as though the word she sought was tied to one of the trees.



Bill nodded.
“Yeah, I like that. That makes sense. So, you got someone in mind?” She smiled in response and turned away to face the road running deeper into the forest.

“Since we’re out here, what do you say about filming some footage, see how it goes. Didn’t you say there were some murders near here?”

He moved closer, a familiar leer in his eye.
“What kind of filming are we talking about?”

Angelié tried not to look annoyed.
“Not that kind of film. I mean, I film you talking about the area, and the murders, and then we try and connect with the ghosts of the dead people.”

Bill laughed, and Angelié wondered if the unkindness she could hear within it was intentional.
“You don’t really believe in that stuff though, do you? I mean, it’s just a bit you’re doing for clicks and scripts, yeah? No one is that stupid.”

She decided it was.

She smiled, and wondered if he would notice the lack of mirth within it.
“Are you gonna show me or not?”

He did not notice.
“Sure, yeah, let’s go. It’s only about 5 or so minutes away. You seem so eager. Does murder turn you on?”

She giggled and climbed into the driver’s seat. He followed her in and they turned back onto the road.

When they reached the site of the resort, Angelié oohed with pleasure. He pointed out the lake and it’s dock, the small assembly of partly built cabins surrounding a larger house which had been unoccupied for some time. He noted where each of the bodies of the young people were rumored to have been found all those years ago.

“But the real tragedy, happened up there, in the forest.” He pointed to an area west of the resort where the trees grew thicker and the angle of the horizon sharpened. “Wanna go see? Or are you scared?”

She shivered a bit. “You’ll protect me, won’t you?”

Her voice was soft and Bill found himself almost feeling bad that he’d planned to ditch her out here after he stole the van. But what started as a frustrating morning had turned into a very interesting afternoon. He didn’t think it would be a good idea for his face to be plastered all over the internet, considering his past, but it might be fun to play camfluencer with this pretty piece of tail for a while. Maybe they could make some interesting movies that could make him a lot of money. His face didn’t even need to be in those ones. He’d have to find a way to convince her to say goodbye romeo and ditch her boyfriend along with the idea of being instafamous for ghost hunting. With an ass like that, there were way better niches for her to get noticed. He smiled, and reached out to place his hand gently on hers where it sat on the steering wheel.

“Of course.”

They had to walk for some distance before Angelié determined that the atmosphere was just right for the scene. Bill honestly couldn’t see any difference in this forested glen and the other several they’d walked through in the previous 25 minutes, but it was no real chore having that tiger striped backside undulate in front of him for all that time.
She unpacked her bag, pulling out a camera, a brown tarp and dark blue blanket, a bottle of water and some wet wipes, and a ring light. Followed by a handful of candles and holders, to which he looked at her, a question in his eyes.

“Are the candles for atmosphere? I’m not sure how effective they’ll be in the daylight.”

“Oh, they’re just a thing I do before I, um, film a segment. You know how some people do neck or speech exercises to warm up, or have a coffee and a cigarette. I like to light a candle and do a little mediation to inspire me, you know?”

“Whatever gets you off, sexy.” Angelié smiled at how familiar Bill had become with her in such a short time.

She laid out the tarp with the blanket rolled up next to it and set up the ring light, holding the camera in front of her face from a variety of angles until she found the one she liked.

“Why the tarp? I mean, I get the blanket, you don’t wanna get dirty when we..” he grinned. “But the tarp doesn’t make much sense.”

“It will if it rains.” There was nearly a note of impatience in her voice, and she gestured at the ring light. “A battery powered light of this quality is not cheap, and I’m messing around. This is really important.”

“Oh yeah, that makes sense. I mean, if it rains.” He looked up a the bright clear sky, still not quite the rich lustre of summer blue but on the way to it. She continued to fuss about the set, ignoring him. After a few minutes, she announced she was ready.

“Ok, you stand over here and I’m going to ask you some questions. You answer them as best you can, and then I’ll film an intro segment framed around the stories you’ve told so that I don’t influence what you decide to say. Sound good?”

“And then we fuck again? Or maybe we just have a quick one before. You know, like you said how some people do speech exercises or meditate or whatever? Well, I find getting off to be very inspiring.” He smirked in a way that Angelié found incredibly off-putting. Perhaps she hadn’t made a mistake after all. She smiled at him, her pupils dilating with the thought of the fun they were going to have.

“Okay, lover.” She reached down and slipped off her short boots, standing barefoot in the grass. She stepped to the bag and picked up the candles, setting them up in a circle around them. “I know it’s daytime, but I still like doing it by candlelight. It’s so much more romantic, don’t you think?”

“I like where this is going.” Bill started to unbutton his shirt. His boots came next, and he stood there looking pretty fine in just a pair of jeans. She stepped toward him, letting her jacket slide off her shoulders and drop to the ground. He reached for her, his hands sliding around her waist and pulling her tight for a kiss. Her arms lifted and wreathed his head, her nails trailing lightly on his shoulders. He liked the gentle sting as she scratched at him, his back already bearing the marks of their earlier interlude. She had expressed great satisfaction when he encouraged her to grab and hold tighter. He liked a girl with a bit of fight in her. Her nails played across his skin, and somehow it didn’t feel as sensual in the shady glen as it had in the bright sunshine. She giggled and cooed against his lips as her fingers worked back and forth across his shoulders, getting more and more frenzied until he jumped back with a shout, the sensation of sting having shifted to the burn of a bite.

“That really hurt!” He clapped a hand to the side of his neck, near his clavicle. “Easy with those nails.”

“What’s the matter, lover? I thought you liked playing it rough.”

He shook his head.
“Not when it’s me being roughed up. What the hell?” He pulled his hand away, marveling at the blood on his fingers. “How sharp are your nails?”

“Oh now, it’s just a little butterfly kiss.” With a metallic whisper, she let him see the blade she held in her right hand. With a couple of motions, it was closed and hidden in her palm once more. He flexed his fists and started to get angry. She looked at his fists and smirked.

“Are you gonna hit me? Did I play too rough?”

Bill was furious. “It’s not nice to do things to people without asking them first.”

Angelié laughed. “Oh, were you going to ask me before you stole the van and left me in the middle of nowhere to fend for myself?”

“I wasn’t gonna-” he was cut off as his left eye suddenly drooped a bit. His hand slid out of a fist and he shook his head, working his hand to reform the fist. He felt dizzy, and could feel the blood was still oozing out of the wound she’d created. ” Oh my god, did you drug me?”

She laughed again.
“No, where’s the fun in that? I like a boy with a bit of fight in him.” She smiled coyly, and now he did want to hit her, but he wasn’t sure he could lift his arm high enough to do so.

“What did you do to me”

“Well, I severed a very important vein. I learned, the hard way, that arteries are fast, but they’re also very, very messy, and this is a limited edition genuine La Vraie Arnaque.” She slid her hands down the sides of her silver blouse, posing prettily for him. He was unmoved. “La Vraie Arnaque? Maison d’Arnaque? Only one of the most exclusive designers in France. I’m going to partner with them when my career takes off. It’s important to consider these things. Just as important as considering where to stab someone so that they will lose a good deal of functionality without bleeding all over everything. Though that’s the other reason I brought the tarp.”

As she had been speaking, she had walked over to it and brought it to where he was standing, more unsteady by the moment. His chest and back were covered in blood now, the vein just below his clavicle doing it’s job. She laid the tarp down, judging by his sway that he would fall, yes! To the left. It made sense since that was the arm he couldn’t hold up any longer.He collapsed with a sound that was half sob, half yell, looking at her with such wrath that it might have been terrifying were his life blood not readily pooling on the surrounding tarp.

This was her favourite part.

“It’s amazing what a small slice can do, isn’t it? When it comes to veins and arteries, everyone talks about the jugular, the carotid, the femoral, but I like the subclavian vein. It’s right below a bone so it’s notoriously difficult to cover if someone gets in there, you can’t just clap a hand over it. And veins just bleed, they don’t pump the way arteries do. With every beat, there’s the possibility you’re going to end up in an awkward conversation with your drycleaner. Who needs that? Now, fun fact, the subclavian takes blood from everywhere in your upper body, including your head, and brings it to your heart for cleaning, so it can do it’s job. But if that’s interrupted, all those places will never function again.”

Bill’s eyes rolled back into his head and with a throaty shout he tried to sit up, but the slippery tarp made it even more difficult.

“I know, I know, what’s with all the exposition? I thought you might appreciate knowing what’s happening to you. I just naturally have a gift for explaining things in ways that people gravitate to. It’s what’s going to make me such a success as a camfluencer, I just know it.” She touched the fingers on his left hand, they were already cooler. She pulled her phone from the near invisible pocket on her leggings, the case was blue tiger striped, and nodded.

“Wow, I’m getting really good on time. It’s taken a while. It’s quite the learning curve. You know what’s funny? I thought I’d made a terrible mistake when I decided to pick you up hitchhiking and kill you out here. I thought, ooh, he’s dark and complex like me, it might be fun to embark on this with someone more like me. But then you turned out to be such a cornball with all the innuendos and ultimatums. So tiresome. Really, you only have yourself to blame. I’d let your friend know that you’re going to be late with the car, but we both know he doesn’t exist, so that’s one less thing to worry about.”

The edges of Bill’s vision grew darker as the trees moved in. It seemed the only thing he could see was a purple tiger sitting next to him talking about cars, but that didn’t make any sense, did it?

“Well, I can tell that you’re just about done. That’s the other thing about practice, you get pretty good at being able to tell. I must thank you for being so game and getting yourself so close to the drop zone. It’s not much further, and the fact that you’re already on the tarp makes it that much easier to drag you the rest of the way. It’s such a versatile tool isn’t it?”

Bill’s eyes fluttered closed for the last time.

“Well, I suppose that’s it then. Goodbye, Romeo.”

Photo by Tandem X Visuals on Unsplash