He didn’t bother closing the shabby motel room door quietly. Or placing the food from the convenience store around the corner on the table gently.
The night outside was cold, cold as it should be in the middle of september. He’d never liked it when the weather turned, it always made everything worse. Acceptable quarters were scarce and harder to find then, and the kind of people they liked preying on left the streets early in the evening. Which made more filthy rats crawl out of their holes. Dirtbags looking for a quick deal. Every time they ran into one of these dicks his fingers started itching. Most of the times, Ray stopped him, those stupid eyes on him, shaking her head and her fingers wrapping around his sleeve.
Zack puffed out some air.
Too much attention, she explained, and he obeyed her words like some damn mutt. Of course he tagged along like a good boy.
Then again, she’d been keeping the cops off their trail for five years now. That brat chose their victims, staged murders, and constantly sent those idiotic officers on a search for an imaginary murderer. And damn, she did a good job. He was stupid, though not that stupid, so he usually listened to what she said. Even when the urge to gut those fuckers put him off.
He stopped by the bed and eyed the sleeping woman. Her hair was tousled, her arms wrapped around a pillow.
“Oi, Ray!“ She didn't move. He clicked his tongue impatiently, used his foot to nudge her awake, his shoe leaving dirt marks on the washed-out fabric.
“Hm?“ she gave, murmuring more to the pillow than him, “Is it time already?“
He turned away, sinking onto an armchair in irritation. “What d’you think? Get up off your ass.“
Unless she was tormented by nightmares, that damn woman slept like a log. And she was clingy. Somewhere in her bloodline there had to be a psychopathic monkey, he was sure of it. The force that brat managed to constantly claw into his t-shirt with was beyond his grasp.
Zack braced his head on his hand, watching her doings. Not much more time would have to pass until he’d cut her out of that cheap comforter with a scythe. Her half-assed attempts gnawed hard at his patience.
“How long have you been up?“ she mumbled, finally free of the sheets. Her hair reminded him of a crow’s nest someone stepped on, or roadkill a truck ran over.
“The sun set.“ His eyes followed her figure as she sat down at the table, lazily rummaging in the bag of food. She made that joyful sound of hers which always caused an acrid jump in his stomach.
“How can you eat that crap?“ His face twisted as she unwrapped a chili bagel.
Ray paused. “I like spicy food.“
He rolled his eyes. “I know you like spicy food! I was asking how you can eat that shit.“
“Mmh.“ Her head tilted in thought, then she threw him a blank look. “It just tastes good.“
Rachel took a bite. He turned his head away in disgust, fixing the wall and covering his mouth. He’d tried the garbage she called food one single time. Even alone the memory of it made all the hair in the back of his neck stand on end. His tongue had felt numb for hours after that.
“We should get a car.“
“Huh?!“ His chin slipped off his palm, staring at her in confusion. “Why?“
She rose, throwing the wrapping into the bag and lifting her arms. “It’s getting cold and the next town’s 50 miles away.“
“So?“ He didn’t get her point. They mostly travelled by foot, even in winter. Even he knew the dangers of stealing a car, so he could count on one hand how many times they’d been in a car. And each of those times they’d had the cops hot on their heels.
The brat gathered her scattered clothes from the floor, subtly biting her cheek. Ray always did that whenever she didn't want to answer. Those were the moments Zack knew he only needed to ask the right question. She might dodge it, or only tell him half of it, but she never lied to him. One of the few principles they had between each other was the truth.
“What’s the other reason for getting a car?“ If he saw it right her cheeks turned red. Moments she showed emotions that way were rare. For him, they were like some sort of catnip. He couldn't help but grin. Surely an unsettling view, Rachel, though, seemed unmoved.
“Bears,“ she murmured, turning away.
Zack’s smile fell and he blinked in disbelief. “Bears.“
His laughter could probably be heard by everyone in a hundred mile radius. The chair creaked under him as he bent over, gasping for air. “You’re scared of damn bears?“
She puffed out her cheeks, offended. “I’m not scared. It’s just that…“ Rachel exhaled and waited. The soft color around her nose faded and as he calmed down she stared at him blank-faced.
“Zack, there’s grizzly bears around here, the woman at the reception warned us about them.“
He touched his forehead, ran a hand through his hair, swallowing down his chuckle. “You sleep in the same room as a serial killer, sewed together your own parents, and you’re seriously telling me you shit yourself because of some damn teddybears?“
“I’m not scared!“ she growled. “But I don’t wanna run into one of them, either. Besides, we’d get around faster.“
He sighed, leaning back and eying her. Ah, he knew that face. Her lips drawn in a thin line, that tense bend of her neck, and the unyielding glow in her eyes. Now he could as well talk to a brick wall.
“You’re serious, huh?“
Ray nodded. “Yes.“
“Tsk…“ His eyes flit away, his arms crossing behind his head. “Do whatever you want.“
Rachel disappeared in the bathroom, soon after he heard the old water pipes rumble.
“Stubborn skirt,“ he said, closing his eyes.
He didn’t dislike the idea per se. With a car they’d actually get to their destination faster. Also, he’d overheard a shop assistant saying something about a storm. He’d rather do without being stuck in some dirty forest during rain and frost. What made him sick, though, was Ray’s way of getting what she wanted, her scam. She did it the same way she lured their victims to him into dark alleys. At first, he had scoffed at it. Rolled his eyes every time she’d unzipped her hoodie enough to make parts of her underwear visible. Of course it worked perfectly. A little bare skin and those sons of bitches ran after her with drool dropping from their mouths. It majorly pissed him off. So he rarely ever stuck to his rule of waiting three seconds, even when those assholes all had excellent expressions on their faces. Instantly chopping off all of their limbs satisfied him more than a good hunt.
The shower fell silent, and as soon as Ray reentered the room, he cracked open his eyes. Now she looked like a drowned poodle. Water gathered at the tips of her hair, and his pupils followed the trace of a droplet. It moved across her cheekbones, ran down the crook of her neck, finding its destination in her cleavage. Rosy skin opened out into the seam of baby blue lace. He averted his eyes.
“Can’t you dry off like a normal person?“ he snapped. For a moment, she stopped in the motion of picking up her bag and looked at him.
He exhaled his breath peevishly. “I’m gonna let you die, if you get sick again!“
Ray blinked, her head tilted in confusion. “You in a bad mood?“
“Just hurry up!“ He saw her nod in the corners of his eyes as she turned back to her stuff. Shit like that just irritated him and it pissed him off just as much as her scam.
Ray walked over to the door with her bag. “You got any preferences?“
Her fingers lingered on the doorknob as she peered back over her shoulder. “The car. Got any preferences?“
“… No… You need any help?“
She seemed to consider it for a moment before she shook her head. “Uh-uh.“
Zack breathed out noisily. “Watch your ass.“
The door clunked shut behind her, and he focussed on the sound of her steps. Many of the cheap motels they checked into had paper-thin walls they often heard all kinds of crap through. His breathing turned shallow as she stopped outside the room next door. Zack vaguely remembered a scrawny guy bellowing out his complaints about the hard beds.
“Tsk…,“ he gave in disdain. Ray wouldn't have to work too hard with that fucker. She knocked. Softly and without any force. Silence. Then the bed creaked and the sound heavy, scuffling steps reached his ears.
“Could you — help me? I’m lost. Please — I don’t know how to get home.“
Hysteric laughter rose in Zack’s throat. Bloody hell, even her damn voice was trembling. The door’s lock clicked.
“Girl, where…“ Zack started grinning. People all gasped in the same way when a blade pierced through their stomach.
“What…“ He heard him trip and the sound of his body crashing hard into the floor. “Please — I…“
“Shh — please die quietly.“ He shuddered. The knife cut through the air. A choked death rattle, then dead silence. Holy shit, that woman could be scary.
Rachel stayed next door for a little while longer, probably searching the dead guy’s luggage, and he would be proved correct. She came back with a suitcase.
Zack scanned her body. Apart from a trail of blood in her face she seemed unharmed. His eyes fell to the ballast in her hands.
“Anything useful?“ He rose, stretching his back and yawning. Now, after the murder, they should get going immediately. Ray seemed to think so, too. She rushed past him, washed her cheek clean, calling excitedly, “400 Dollars, two credit cards, and a laptop.“
“Huh…“ Perhaps they should kill some dipshit in a motel more often.
“Yeah, he was very profitable! Also, we can keep the car for a while.“ More spirited than usual she hurried over to him, as he took the scythe from the corner and threw it over his shoulder casually.
He fixed Ray with his eyes. “What are you talking about?“
Her smile was still a joke, though some of the joy reached her eyes. “It’ll sure take a while until police will manage to identify him. I made him irrecognizable.“
Zack stared until the words reached his brain, almost dropping the scythe. “You — What?!“
Rachel frowned in confusion. “I cut off his fingers and removed his teeth. That way police won’t track us down too soon.“
The hair in the back of his neck stood on end. Alarmingly bloody woman. “You’re truly screwed-up, Ray. You do know that, right?“
She tilted her head. “Yeah, but you are, too.“
Zack puffed out his breath, tousled her damp hair and turned away. “Ah, let’s finally get out of here! This dump’s a pain in my ass.“
Cold wind hit him, gravel grating under his shoes, a precursor of the storm bending the trees in the nearby forest in all directions. The air smelled like rain. Her idea of a car appeared much more inviting with the weather this bad. But no way in hell would he say so. The only car on the parking lot made that typical signal tone.
“You want me to drive?“ Ray opened the trunk.
He took her luggage, throwing it inside next to his scythe.
“Hell no! You drive like a granny.“
“I only mind the speed limit.“ She handed him the keys, hesitating. “I don’t want the police to pull us over. And…“
“Get in, Ray.“ He sank into the seat, slightly adjusted it and ripped the little tree air freshener from the rearview mirror. “I hate that crap!“
Rachel slipped in on the passenger’s seat, while he started the engine and went into reverse. “Zack, please dr…“
The wheels spinning made gravel whirl up and in all directions. The station wagon shot backwards and he spun the wheel around. A sharp step on the brakes and he shifted gears into the first, then stepped on the gas.
Rachel clung to the passenger door. The motel’s exit came closer rapidly, and he heard her breath catch. He couldn't help the smirk building on his face.
“Zack! Push the br…“ Ignoring her choked exclamation, he crashed onto the road and into the next turn with squealing tires.
“This car isn't half bad!“ He didn't really care about these tin cans, but he liked the feeling of barreling ass down the roads. Ray exhaled deeply and fastened her seatbelt.
“Don’t break it and — don’t get us killed.“
He laughed in a good temper. “You’ve been begging me to gut you for five years.“
“Yeah, but apart from the fact that you still haven't done it, I don’t wanna be crushed in a car.“ She opened the glove box and rummaged through it.
“Don’t be a killjoy. And when you finally fix your fucking boring visage, I will kill you.“ Leaning back, he braced one arm on the window frame, rushing down the highway through the boulevard of trees. The first drops of rain hit the windshield, they were driving right into the storm. He could feel the wind getting stronger and pushing against the car’s sides.
“I’m working on it.“ In the corners of his eyes he watched her draw out an old CD collection.
“What’re you doing?“
“Looking for the right music.“ Lost in though, she thumbed through the case.
Zack slowed down. One, because the rain turned into downpour, and two, because he was opening the window. He grabbed the bundle in her lap and threw it out into the dark.
Exhaling noisily, Ray crossed her arms. “You could’ve just said something.“
He clicked his tongue. “I don’t wanna listen to that crap. Better?“
After that, silence fell over them, the rain pounding against the windows mercilessly. Heavily enough to make the wipers unable to get rid of all the water on the windshield. He clenched his jaw as he reluctantly readjusted the speed anew. Despite Ray’s long-practiced bad opinion on his driving skills he did possess a good understanding of the right pace.
With a soft turn of the steering wheel he avoided an oncoming branch. With all those branches and leaves on the highway the road turned into an unpredictably slippery pile of crap. Moreover, he would let her drive into a storm only over his dead cold body. She hated storms, she hated lightning storms even more, which was what started to build near the horizon. Even though Ray liked to paper over that problem, they made her uneasy and nervous. She was already shrinking into her seat. Letting Rachel take over the wheel would now border on sheer suicidal. Especially after thunder came to it half-way through and soon after the first lightning bolts filled the sky. In his peripheral vision he saw her body flinch and her fingers intertwining restlessly. Usually she’d hide in such situations, like a damn toddler crawling under a blanket. He’d never looked into the cause of her fear. He assumed it was about some experience during her miserable childhood.
“We should’ve stayed at the motel one more night.“ He barely even heard her through the noise. Lightning flashed down to earth in one hell of a shit show and the fucking bad view he had slowly started going on his nerves.
“Don’t be stupid.“ His fingers were drumming on the wheel impatiently as they passed the town sign. “They’ll find that fucker at the latest tomorrow morning.“
Ray sighed, sinking down in her seat even lower. “Yeah, right.“
He puffed out his breath in annoyance. Provided that she opened her damn eyes at some point, she’d see the town he was driving the car through.
The place itself radiated that typical flair of a large city. Tall buildings and dark alleys next to small parks. Ray had a good knack for the right towns, he had to give her that. Here, nobody cared about whether their neighbors had been on vacation for a week or died in their own apartment. Ideal hunting ground for him.
Behind a Walmart, he took a turn into a wide dead end street and stopped the car with a harsh step on the brakes. The tall buildings gave him a perfect cover and to some degree shielded them from that damn storm.
“Zack?“ Ray blinked in surprise and looked at him. “Why are we stopping?“
“You wanna go and look for the right motel in this crappy weather?“ He harshly set the backrest of his seat backwards, banging down onto the back bench and crossing his arms behind his head with closed eyes.
He heard her seatbelt click and her seat being adjusted. After that, there was silence between them, only the drumming of the rain that made him sleepy. At least until she started tossing and turning. Like a fish on dry land. Over and over again. The whole car was moving, and he felt his patience die down.
She sighed miserably, making him shoot up abruptly. “What?!“
“It’s cold,“ she mumbled, turning to him.
“Then get the damn blanket from the trunk!“ Irritated, he fell back down and into the same lying position, ignoring the look he felt on himself. Of course she stayed in the car.
Some minutes of silence passed, him relaxing with exhaling a breath, before she moved once more.
“Ray, I swear…“ He snapped his eyes open as her fingers landed on his chest. “What d’you think you’re doing?!“
She climbed over the center console and half on top of him.
“It’s raining.“ His hands grabbed her shoulders, holding her in the air. Away from him.
“I don’t fucking care! Stay on your…“ Her hair smacked into his face and she lost any kind of body tension, his bent arms shaking under her weight. Damn woman, she made use of the tight space. His last remaining energy took a death blow as she pushed herself off with one foot. She landed on him hard, driving his breath out his lungs. Ray’s fingers clawed into his hoodie like a damn spider monkey. Her head buried into the crook of his neck, her hot breath chased an unpleasant shiver down his spine.
“Ray!? You damn — Instead of getting that fucking blanket you just gotta get your will, huh?“
He exhaled a heavy puff of air and covered his eyes with his arm, feeling his cheeks heat up. “No, you’re not.“
“You’re warm.“ She tried to get into a more comfortable position for her legs and eventually folded in on herself on his lap. He could feel her cold nose through is bandages, just like the way her limbs were shaking.
“No shit…“ His other arm wrapped around her waist, harshly pulling her closer. “If you move, I’ll kick you out.“