At eleven o’clock at night, Room 103’s door opened. Paul entered. He was alone and drunk. He had been at conferences all day with a hangover and little sleep, so no doubt he had been at the bar drinking away his tension.
“Memory? Are you fucking here?” he called to the darkness. There was no answer. “Wherr’ th’ fuck is that bitch,” he slurred as he fumbled for the light. Her bags were still here so she hadn’t skipped town. She’d left no notes, no messages. She just wasn’t in the room.
But he was too drunk to care at this point. But not so much that he didn’t check that the door was secure. No repeats of last night.
He balanced on one foot, and kicked off a shiny, leather shoe. He did the same with the other. He continued stripping as he stumbled into the bathroom and took a five-minute piss. He groaned and sniffed as he tried to undo his shirt buttons with one hand. After a few farts and spitting into the bowl, he staggered out.
Mumbling words like ‘bitch’, and ‘slut’, he flopped onto the bed and dug under the covers, and turned out the light, dousing the room back into pitch darkness. In no time, he was snoring violently, likely having some intense dreams fueled by the alcohol.
“What the fuck…” Paul mumbled. The desk light was on. It was two in the morning. Cruel, blue eyes were staring him in the face.
“Let’s get something straight here,” Rion said. “I am now in charge. I am in control. I have all the power, all the authority. And you are in charge of exactly zero.”
Paul started forward to strangle him, but his arms snapped him back to the bed. His wrists were tied up by ripped bed sheets that disappeared over the headboard. His legs were tied too.
Rion held up four untied ends that snaked under two chairs on either side of the bed, through which the ropes snaked under. Paul wasn’t just tied down, he was snared in some kind of a medieval torture device. Rion could control it by simply tugging. The pulley-like system aggravated the tension.
“Punk, I thought I took care of you,” Paul said.
Rion shook his head. “Don’t you realize what I am? I am the heir to the right hand of destruction. I am the anger, I am the rage, and I shall strike the wicked down with my vengeance, until all that is vile and indecent is swept from the land.” He yanked the ropes and Paul’s limbs stretched taut.
Paul groaned as his joints pulsed.
Rion loosened the cords. “I am your fucking nightmare.”
“Get this shit off me,” Paul demanded.
“Fuck you,” Rion said coldly and yanked again. Paul cried out. “You listen now, got it? You’re mine. You do what I say, and I say you listen.”
“If I had my gun here, I’d-“
“You don’t,” Rion said. “You don’t have anything, so shut it. Don’t make me shut it for you. You’re a fuck-up, Paul. You fuck up and then wonder why there are consequences for your actions.”
Paul opened his mouth to shout again, but Rion held up the ropes. Paul shut his mouth.
Rion said, “Now you listen. Listen good. You no longer know anyone named Memory. You-“
“What did you do to her? Did you-“
“Nothing,” Rion said. “You shouldn’t even be asking that question. That person no longer exists to you. You’ve never heard of anyone with that name. You’ve never been with that person, you don’t know that person. The concept of her does not exist.”
Rion paced away from the bed, hands clasped behind his back and staring up at the ceiling like a lecturer. He continued, “The last day of the convention is tomorrow. You only have one seminar in the morning, so following this… discussion, you will trade in your tickets for an earlier flight. With only one seat. You’re going to go back home, and never look back. You will check out of the hotel by phone.”
“The company paid for the tickets. I can’t trade them in.”
Rion whipped his head toward him. “I don’t care how you get out of here. Take a train, a plane, a bus, or start running. But you will not be within a fifty mile radius of her, or I will be within a one-inch radius of you. You will never see her again. You will never contact her again. You will never contact her family. You will make no attempts to have friends contact her. You will live your life as if she never existed. And most of all, you will never speak her name again.”
Rion paused to let all that sink in. He leaned in close. “Do we have an accord?”
Paul glared at him. “I’ve got friends, you know. Friends that can find you and chew your ass up. They’ll kill you, for the right price. And I’ve got lots of money. I can find you. I will find you. I will hunt you down like a dog.”
Rion smiled like a cat. “You can hunt me all you want. But you’ll never find me, because I’ll always be right behind you. And you’ll never even know I’m there.”
Paul laughed, “But you’ve got to untie me sometime. And when you do, I’m gonna break your ass.”
Rion walked over to the table. “Exhibit A.” He picked up a waterman pen in one hand and held the ropes in the other. “You like this pen, don’t you? Good ink flow, fine tip. It’s served you on many a signature, hasn’t it?”
“What are you talking about? Who are you? Johnnie Cochran?”
“You sign a lot of things with this. Like checks?”
“Checks like what? Food? Bills? The bank? Something called the Boros Corporation?
Paul’s jaw dropped wide enough to catch horseflies. “How the fuck can you know about that?
“Real estate companies? A guy named Alan Smithee? There sure were a lot of checks to him.”
Paul’s astonished silence said it all, until, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“That’s right. Deny, deny, deny. They’ve got nothing unless you confess, right?”
“Seriously, how can you know about that? There’s nothing that could remotely lead you to-”
“What did I tell you? I’m your worst nightmare.”
Paul scoffed. “Whatever. That’s not evidence. I don’t know how you know, but all you’ve got is a pen. You can’t threaten me with that.”
“No, but I’m sure the bank has some of those checks. And I’m sure they could match the ink with that pen.”
It took only a half second, then Paul started convulsing like a tied animal. Rion snapped the ropes again to bring him back to focus.
Paul’s body stiffened. “Help! Help me!” he shouted. “There’s… there’s a psycho in here with a gun.
“Shut up!” Rion pulled so tight Paul could only grunt. He didn’t let go until he counted to thirty.
As Paul lay there gasping, Rion held up a letterhead. “Exhibit B,” Rion snapped. “This appears to be a… voucher, or a memo, or something. Says it’s to Mr. Reginald Warren of the Hillner Group. Not sure what they do, but there’s a big cross on the header, so it looks religious to me. Letter doesn’t say much that I understand–some contact information, something about a money market-“
“That was all legal,” Paul panted. “You can’t… you can’t do anything. That money-“
“Oh yes, I have no doubt that this was all legal. I didn’t see anything wrong with the letter. All you’ve done here is set up some money markets, donations, online accounts. It’s got a paper trail, I’m sure. Nope, nothing written here’s illegal.”
Rion said, “The coke residue, on the other hand, is not.”
Paul’s eyes opened wide.
“I don’t know what Mr. Warren looks like, so I’m not sure if he was the guy snorting up with you. I do know that he took quite a bit more than his fair share. I’d talk to him about that.”
“You… how… you… that was… that was five years ago.”
“Mmm, explains why you had better skin. Next time I’d use a mirror. More traditional.”
“This is impossible. You’re making all this up.”
“You know that I’m not.”
“There’s no way you can prove any of this. The police will never believe you.”
“I think I’ve just demonstrated how they will. Don’t you want to move onto the final exhibit?” Rion picked up a pack of cigarettes. “Now, this I didn’t quite understand. Who is Mistress Drago?”
Paul opened his eyes wide and dropped his jaw again.
“She’s a woman, and she seems to live far away from you. And the things you have her do-” he laughed, “I’m not sure if they’re illegal. And if they’re not, they should be. How can you even stand up after-“
“No way…” Paul gaped. “No way you could know about that. No way.”
“All those business trips to New York sure were convenient, weren’t they?”
“What the hell are you? Seriously. What… what are you?”
“You don’t need to know,” Rion answered.
“How? How could you know all this? You have to tell me.”
“I don’t have to tell you shit.” Rion gestured to the objects. “This is just the three best. There’s loads of stuff here that could put you in jail for years. Stuff that could put you on the streets.”
Paul paused, thinking. “What are you going to do? Drop the ropes and run? Just how are you planning to get away so I don’t wring your neck?”
Rion admitted he hadn’t thought about it. Maybe he could hold the ropes while Paul got his stuff. “With the way you’re tied, I’ll be out of the room before you can get to me.”
“You’re going to get caught. I’ll tell them it was you,” Paul said.
“What, some kid with no identity? I’m not on the grid. They can’t find me, they can’t touch me. Remember what I said? I will always be right behind you. Got it?”
Paul said nothing. Rion took his silence as consent.
“Now to reiterate. You will leave this hotel within one hour. You will take a taxi to the airport, and take the next flight home. You should have no trouble, with all the money you have. You will-“
Paul seized up, pulling his arms and legs together. The loose ends of the rigging slipped out of Rion’s hand and fell under the bed.
“Shit!” he uttered. Rion dove for the ropes, but they were dead center under the mattress.
The chairs legs rapped as Paul scrambled around to loosen himself. Rion couldn’t afford to get the rope–Paul was getting back on his feet and he was laying on the floor. He rolled out of the way and backed up against the window.
Paul ripped the shade off the desk lamp and held it up like a club. He got in-between Rion and the door and stared at him. Loose ropes trailed from his arms and legs.
Paul hefted the lamp. “All right, you little fucker. I’m going to finish what I started.”
Rion examined the little space around him. If he could get away, Paul would be doomed. But with all he’d just disclosed, there was no way Paul was letting him get away.
“If you’re so off the grid, no one’s going to miss you, right?” Paul said. “You got that, sucker?”
Rion glanced for something he could use as a weapon, but nothing was in reach. Fight or flight. Fight or flight. Rion couldn’t decide. There were no exits. But he’d already had a fight with him and lost.
In a fit of instinct, Rion rushed forward and tackled Paul in the stomach. The surprise worked, and they collapsed against the wall. Paul hammered the lampshade on Rion’s back, but being against the wall took away his leverage.
Rion struggled to get his arms free, fighting through Paul’s grip. Limbs flailed, elbows poked him, but he managed to get his hands on Paul’s head.
He couldn’t punch. He couldn’t kick. He couldn’t run. So he did the only thing he could.
He “focused” on Paul.
Paul grabbed his shoulders. “Get off me,” he yelled. Then his hands froze. “Get off- get out- get out- geeeeeaaaaah-” His face contorted like rubber. And he screamed. He screamed loud enough to wake the world.
Fire flashed through Rion’s head. It was like beating up someone from the inside. Rion clenched his teeth in a determined grin as he concentrated. The world flashed red.
Blood tricked from Paul’s nose. Then his ears. Then his eyes. Little rivulets of crimson drained into his mouth.
Rion was oblivious to this. All he could perceive was the raw emotion channeling out of his hands–all the hate, the rage, the frustration–amplifying his power like a loudspeaker.
Paul feebly raised his hand and dropped it. His body relaxed. Rion fell back, feeling like he had run ten miles.
Paul fell over like a piece of roadkill, curled and frozen. Blood covered his face. Breaths came out in shallow, rattling gasps.
Rion prodded him with his foot. “Hey,” he said. No answer.
Rion backed up, stumbling against the bed. He couldn’t leave him there. Memory would be back at some point. She couldn’t see this. She couldn’t be involved in this unclean task.
There was a phone on the nightstand. He grabbed it, and dialed 911.
“Hello. There’s a… there’s someone at the Super Motel. He’s hurt. Bring an ambulance. It’s in Room 103.” And he hung up.
No one was in the hallway when he crept back to his room.