She stood before me, battered, bruised, and broken. Bee stung lips! Wasn’t that what the new age divas were flaunting? However, the woman in front of me was in no condition to display anything. Her swollen lips struggled in vain to shield the gap where two incisors were missing. Her right eye, in a face beaten to a pulp, had turned purple, reminding me of an Easter egg I had once found, back when Easter eggs held their charm.
The fool was losing it. Never on the face. That was the rule.
‘He hits nowadays as if possessed by a demon. Send him away. Otherwise, he will kill one of us someday,’ she had pleaded.
I knew she was right. Alcohol did turn him into the devil. But I needed someone to keep the girls under a tight rein. Who better than that madman, Ronny? If a girl or two fell prey to his madness, who cared?
We had a sweet setup. Ronny looked after the girls and the business. I was the cop who ensured no untoward attention from the department. We weren’t rolling in dough like Uncle Scrooge, but it wasn’t negligible too. Some tears from a hussy weren’t going to deter the two of us.
“Stop being a drama queen. I’ll kill you myself if you open your mouth again,” I flung venom at her instead of the sympathy she expected. “Go, bring someone who doesn’t look like you.”
She stared at me for a few seconds. Was it a surprise or disappointment? It was hard to tell with all that swelling.
“You think death is the greatest punishment you can mete out? Death isn’t always an end.”
I should have heeded her words. But all I did was laugh in her face and send her to bring me another girl.
Two weeks later, I stood staring at her dead body. The bullet had taken away part of her skull, but the bee-stung lips mocked me in death. Ronny was nowhere to be seen. Uniforms found him the next day, hanging from the rafters of his house. He was always one for killing others, not himself.
That night as I lay in bed, a shadow fell across the door. I sat bolt upright. There she stood, her brains oozing from her exposed skull, blood mingling with the gore, turning her even more hideous and grotesque than my last glimpse of her.
“Why have you c..c..come here? It was not I who k…k…killed you. L…l…let me go.” All my bravado deserted me at one glance from her. I pleaded with her as she had once pleaded with me.
“It is not who fired the shot but who paid for the bullet, shoulders the greater burden. As you do with your greed and indifference,” a rasping voice answered. As she loomed nearer, I could see her full lips stretched over unnaturally sharp canines, and her words came back to me.
“Beware the dead. Sometimes, they come back.”