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A Stitch In Time (2/2)

 

The mop makes a surprisingly hollow note as it bounces off the back of the new chief's skull, reminding Taddy of hitting the marimba blocks in music class at school. He folds up, missing cracking his head open on the corner of the desk by a matter of inches, and lands in a huddle on the perfectly hoovered carpet. Taddy drops the mop and stands back, her hands all bunched up in their sleeves and held tightly to her mouth.



“I'm sorry,” she tells him, around her sleeves. “I tried to tell you. It's my job.”

His body lies in an upturned 'u' shape, just like the hose of her Henry hoover. He won't answer her, so Taddy does the only thing she can. She tidies him up.

She drags him out of his office. Through the last door on the right she can see the upper body of a Turner- the nice one- sitting at the front desk, but he's deep in one of his great big long books and his back is turned to the door. He doesn't see her as she tugs and pulls and somehow manages to get the unconscious body of the new chief down the corridor and up to the right doorway.

She takes a quick rest. The body is astonishingly heavy. The new chief is much shorter than the old one, which is a mercy, but she is not very strong and her anxiety makes her slip and struggle to get a grip on his arms, her palms slick with sweat.

The keypad mip-mip-mips and buzzes its friendly green light at her. They never would let her get into the evidence room to clean, true, but that doesn't mean that Taddy doesn't know how to do it if she has to. She drags him inside, heaving his legs over the threshold one at a time, and closes the door.

She is as busy as a bee over the next ten minutes. She leaves the room twice, once for supplies, and once to clean up his office, pick up the chair she knocked over hauling him out, and put cold water and salt on the tiny spot of blood he'd left on the carpet under his head. Once it's all done to her satisfaction, she lets herself back into the evidence room, and gets to work.

Taddy is very thorough. She can't find any rope or even string or twine anywhere in the station, nothing she thinks will hold him still for very long, but in the bag she brings in with her every day there's a big long needle and a spool of strong thread. She uses it for fixing rips in the curtains and upholstery and sometimes, when she thinks no-one will notice, in their uniforms. Her stitching is usually perfect, invisible, so it is painful for her to have to do such a slovenly job now, but she can't have him waking up before she's finished, so she hurries as best she can. Big, tight stitches soon hold his clothes to the cloth of the chair, sunk deep through the foam stuffing inside. From the neck of his short-sleeved shirt to the sides of his trousers where they meet with the edge of the chair, he is stitched neatly and firmly in place.

She doesn't like doing his forearms, though, not a bit. It's his silly short-sleeved shirt that causes the problem. Taddy might like cleaning up mess, but she doesn't at all enjoy directly causing it, and skin is a downright mischief to sew through, too, not like cloth at all, as anyone who has ever caught their hand in a sewing machine will know. After a couple of false starts, she settles for just five big economical stitches along the sides of each bare forearm, and down in to the arms of the chair, which are helpfully covered in the same resilient fabric. As an afterthought, she adds a careful stitch in the fleshy pads between his thumbs and his index fingers, fixing his hands splayed to the edges of the armrests. It bleeds surprisingly little, and seems to hold firm.

Just in case it isn't enough, she has brought the mop in with her. Taddy has great faith in the mop, now.

He takes a little while longer to wake up. His head rolls back against the headrest of the big deluxe office chair she has fixed him to, and he groans. Then he tries to sit up, a sleepy reflex action, and when he finds that he can't, his eyes open wide and he yanks at his arms. Then he screams.

Her work seems to be doing the job just fine so far. The new chief looks down at his arms and pulls at them and then screams again. He doesn't even seem to have seen her yet.

“Don't pull,” she tells him, anxiously. If he keeps pulling like that, he might ruin her handiwork.

He stops, but she doesn't think it's in response to her. His eyes are running and he's making strange weepy 'gah-ah-ah' noises instead of breathing properly, twisting his head to try and see the outsides of his arms. It reminds her a bit of when her mum's poor old cat got half its ear torn off by the moggy next door, the way it kept shaking its head, trying to see.

“Whathefuck?” he gasps, finally, his words oddly slurred. It sounds like he is drunk. Drunk people talk like that, sometimes, the words all running together. His arms seem to hold an almost magnetic fascination for him. “Oh... shiihiit... fucking- Godit hurrts!!”

“Don't you swear!” she cries, with an unexpected sense of daring. The mop handle is in her hands again, although she isn't quite sure how it got there. Her fingers clamp around it, painfully tight. She doesn't want to have to touch him.

“Wha'-” Finally, he sees her. His mouth is hanging open, dopily, his face is fishbelly white. He seems to have bitten his tongue somehow, maybe when he fell, and a little slug of blood threads from the corner of his mouth.

“T-Taddy...? Taddy- ahshiit-. what, what're you doing?”

“You didn't listen to me!” His fingers are twitching, clenching, trying to clamp down on the arms of the chair without moving his pinioned thumb-pads. She keeps a wary eye on them, and when she sees the right one try to lift above the level of the arm-rest, she gives it a hard crack across the knuckles with the mop.

“Gaaah!”

“I told you! It's my job- mine. What does it matter if nobody asked me to do it? You got no right, pokin' and pryin' around!”

“OWEN!” he screams, suddenly, and she's so close to him that it's terrifying and it's all she can do not to drive the handle back into his face, anything to stop that awful noise. “OWEN, HELP!”

She hooks the mop handle under his chin, instead, pressing it in hard against his Adam's apple. The screaming stops, as if switched off.

“Evan,” she tells him, reproachfully, over the noise of him struggling for breath. “It's Evan. See, I know 'em, Mister Angel. I care about 'em. More'n you do, snoopin' around and trying to stop me makin' sure they're taken care of.”

She takes the mop away and he goes slack, wheezing, hanging forwards in his immovable clothes.

“Taddy- please- my arms...”

“Oh, don't be such a big girl,” Taddy snaps, and holds up her poor hands in front of his face, letting him see the scabs, the deep nail marks in her knuckles, in her palms. “That's you, see? Upsetting me. That's you.”

He stares at them. His eyes are no longer muzzy. They're bright with pain, focused and frightened.

“I, I'm sorry-”

“At first I thought I could just tell you to leave me alone,” she says, as if he hadn't spoken. “Cept that's not going to work, is it? I'm not stupid, Mister Angel. If I just let you go you'll have 'em arrest me, an' then where would we be? So I've just got to make sure you can't say it was me. I know what happens in a court, y'see. You'd stand up, an' they'd say, can you identify the person who did it? An' then you'd see me and you'd say, yes, it was her.” She pressed her palms against her chest, martyr-like. “She did it. That's what's called a positive identication, isn't it?” When there is no reply, she clocks him, hard, in the side of the face. His head snaps back, but he doesn't scream, this time. Gratifyingly enough, he seems to be paying attention at last. “Isn't it?”

“A-a-a-a-actually it's positive identification,” he manages. He's starting to struggle again, making the stitches bleed. She can't imagine why- she thought he already understood that it isn't going to do any good.

He seems to be telling the truth, at least. She nods, satisfied. “So I've just got to make sure you won't be able to. See me, I mean.”

She means it, too. The reason she has just told him is silly, a fairy story. The real reason has more to do with the way his eyes had felt on her back as she walked away from him that afternoon, with the way he'd looked at her in the kitchen that first week when she'd tried explain, with the bright, judgemental, horribly intelligent way his eyes are fixed on her now, following her every move.

She picks up the bottle. When he sees it he really starts to struggle, head strained back against the headrest, trying to yank his clothes free at the shoulders and hips without pulling on his arms. He's not successful. One of the stitches on his left arm rips, opening a nasty gash in his skin that immediately wells up with blood. He screams, his voice cracking, but doesn't stop pulling, and eventually she has to put down the bottle and press the mop handle into his throat again, at arm's length. By the time she lets go he's gasping for breath, retching. Taddy's aware that there is starting to be some extraneous noise somewhere a long way off, but as it is outside the room, it doesn't seem very important right now.

The new chief is trying to speak. “Taddy- f'God'sake listen- y'know they ah-ahhh-appreciate y-”

“I don't WANT to be appreciated!” screams Taddy, in a voice that doesn't sound like hers at all, and suddenly the bottle is in her hands again in the same magical way the mop handle was earlier. “They need me! Need me! I'm NEEDED!”

She grabs at his face, but she has stepped too close and he swings his lower legs up together and trips her. She goes down heavily and scrapes her knees on the floor at the foot of his chair and the bottle of oven cleaner rolls out of her hands, and something a very long way away, maybe even as far as Schenectady, New York, goes mip-mip-mip BUZZ.

*

 

“Nic'las! Ohmyfuckin' Christ!!”

*

 

By the time he finally comes out of the station, nearly a whole hour has gone by. The paramedics lead him out through the front door, just as the others are putting her in the van. He is leaning heavily on Constable- Sergeant Butterman's shoulder, limping, his arms wrapped in bandages, bruises rising on his face.

Taddy, watching him through the thick window, feels her heart lighten within her. All to herself in the empty, echoing, perfectly clean back of the Quegley police van, she laughs, and it is a strikingly pretty sound, full of understanding.

She doesn't hate him any more. The nasty, worrying, unworthy feeling that has been nagging at her ever since she first met him face to face in the kitchen is all over now, lanced like a blister, popped and gone forever. She finds it incredible that she could ever have been so silly in the first place. How could she ever have hated him?

There's iodine smeared on his black-and-blue knuckles and on his cheek, a rising black eye making his face look uneven and hollow. Blood is crusted at the corner of his mouth. He's as pale as a ghost, and his clothes look tattered and motheaten around the edges where they had to cut through her handiwork to cut him out of the chair. In places, blood is already spotting through the hotchpotch of dressings on his arms, and she can see smears and spatters of it on his clothes and streaked dark and grimy in his pale hair. He's silent, shaking, shellshocked, and he grips the Constable- Sergeant's shoulder as if he's never going to be able to let go of it again.

He is a beautiful mess.

 

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
leaper182
Jul. 8th, 2009 02:14 am (UTC)
WTF. O_O

OMG, that was fucked up.

SCHENECTADY. I WAS READY TO BE ON YOUR SIDE. WHY DID YOU HAVE TO GO AND BE PSYCHO.

*flail*

Omg, that was fucking creepy.

That said, good fic. Gaaaaaaaah.
waffleguppies
Jul. 8th, 2009 07:07 am (UTC)
'SCHENECTADY. I WAS READY TO BE ON YOUR SIDE. WHY DID YOU HAVE TO GO AND BE PSYCHO.'

Sounds slightly daft, since I wrote it, but I ended up thinking pretty much the same thing after it was done. D:

Sorry. I liked her too.
quoshara
Jul. 8th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)
My goodness. That was just chilling and spooky and disturbing in all the right ways.

*shivers*

Lovely...
waffleguppies
Jul. 8th, 2009 07:29 am (UTC)
Thanks a lot :D I was aiming for chilling and spooky and disturbing, so I do a happy dance.

...You know, in an appropriately sombre manner.
bakaknight
Jul. 8th, 2009 04:02 am (UTC)
That was fsking brilliant.
You're off the fsking CHAIN, man!
waffleguppies
Jul. 8th, 2009 07:29 am (UTC)
Wheee!

Thank you! *pumps shotgun*
kindkit
Jul. 8th, 2009 04:50 am (UTC)
Jesus. I really liked her at first, too! *shudders*

Brilliant story.
waffleguppies
Jul. 8th, 2009 07:26 am (UTC)
Yeah, it makes me sad in a way that I can't keep her around, in my own personal HF canon. When I first thought her up I didn't think she'd go and jump the shark in terms of what is an acceptable way of showing dissatisfaction with your employer quiiite so much. D:

eeee thanks. <3
greek_jester
Jul. 8th, 2009 08:38 am (UTC)
Needles. Why did it have to be needles? *whimpers* You have a great career as a horror writer ahead of you.
waffleguppies
Jul. 8th, 2009 09:39 am (UTC)
But, but...

I like writing about warm fuzzlies and hugs... honest...
greek_jester
Jul. 8th, 2009 09:53 am (UTC)
Then how the heck did you manage to make me go so cold...
miss_dearheart
Jul. 8th, 2009 11:37 am (UTC)
That...was brilliantly written. And made my stomach turn, as was, no doubt, intended.
random_nexus
Jul. 8th, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC)
Ohmyfuckin' CHRIST, indeed! *shriek face, hands to cheeks*
Holy Craptarts, Taddy, WTF?
It's the water in Sandford, isn't it? I sure hope Nicholas and Danny will be drinking the bottled water. 0o

You. Um. Dang. This is creepily well done. Seriously good psycho portrayal here. *eyes you suspiciously* Almost TOO good.
Remind me to stay on your good side.
;p

No, seriously, you rock hard. This was awesome!
DAMNED AWESOME!

waffleguppies
Jul. 8th, 2009 04:21 pm (UTC)
I think it's that, for years and years, the NWA picked off the obviously disruptive and unpleasant members of the community, rather than looking a bit harder and maybe noticing people who were just... a little off.

Especially if someone was always quiet and never did anything to attract attention, there's no reason anyone would have noticed they weren't right. In a community that really did care someone would have noticed her and hopefully got her some help long ago. In a comminity obsessed with being perfect so their sisters/mothers/fathers/selves wouldn't wake up dead in the morning, though, someone like Taddy would just slip under the radar. Makes you wonder how many other damaged-but-oh-so-quiet people might pop out of the woodwork now the NWA are gone...

Having said that, yeah, I wouldn't visit Sandford without bringing my own stocks of Evian.

^_______________________^
haliyah
Jul. 9th, 2009 03:33 am (UTC)
Oh, the poor girl. :( At least now she'll get the help she desperately needs. OCD that bad renders you pretty much nonfunctional...as this story demonstrates very well.

Christ, that was chilling. You should definitely write more horror.
big_twinkie
Jul. 10th, 2009 02:32 am (UTC)
forgive my late reply, i've been too busy with school work to give your story the attention it deserved.

shit, this is creepy. that whole sewing him into the chair was all, gah! while he was screaming for help, i thought you might do him in. you certainly have a talent for suspense.

poor nicholas. why can't he get along with the locals? :)
alpha_orionis_v
Jul. 10th, 2009 05:06 am (UTC)
OMGWTF!? NICHOLAS!

I knew this was going nowhere good when she started being all "everything must be clean," and I thought she and Nicholas were gonna have some epic, obsessive-compulsive stand off or something.

The bit with the needle made me squirm. D:
dark_samu
Jul. 10th, 2009 02:08 pm (UTC)
Holy needle-toting crazy cleaning ladies! Seriously, this was an interesting and awesome fic. Just the right amount of suspense and build up, and then you hit us over the face with the crazy (mop). The ending was eerily perfect as well. I would love to see a sequel to this to see how everyone deals.
pegasus_01
Oct. 10th, 2009 04:21 am (UTC)
OMG that was FUCKED UP in all the best ways!! Wow! That was incredible character development! Just... wow! Fantastic job!
waffleguppies
Oct. 10th, 2009 06:59 am (UTC)
Thanks! :D Your creepily appropriate icon is creepy.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )