Empty is Better than Half Full
This story is a follow up to Apiarist, though more of a prequel.
Empty is Better than Half Full
Jane stood in a warehouse by the docks. It smelled like a moldy truck-stop. The morning sunlight was coming in through rows and columns of little square windows dimmed by whatever that white stuff is that coats old windows.
Her boyfriend stood next to her as they stared at a man strapped to a steel chair in front of them, watching the urine pool at his feet.
“What now?” she asked.
Her boyfriend seemed to be in another place, as he often was. Under the veil he wore over his face, he had a springy wire in his ear like the president’s guards wear, a constant stream of police band. He probably resented the time she was wasting.
She wanted him to look at her, and she thought about touching his sleeve, but it would startle him, and he took hours to calm down after he was startled.
She’d tried calling him Jack once, explaining it was a name she’d made up so she wouldn’t have to call him hey-you. It was the one time he’d gotten mad at her.
It seemed Jack was the name of a friend of his, someone who’d died, but that wasn’t why he’d been angry. He’d explained, in a rambling diatribe, how priests sit in a box, and God isn’t supposed to have a name. He’d quickly backpedaled telling her he didn’t have a god complex, but he said anything perfect inside him would be soiled by people naming it. He said the soul is like a jellyfish on a beach, that it withers in sunlight. As far as she knew he didn’t believe in God, so she wasn’t sure what he’d meant by his soul, but he seemed to really like jellyfish.
“Sweety?” she said, and that got his attention. It was better than baby or cupcake, but she wasn’t sure she would ever call him that again.
“What is it, Jane?” he asked.
“What do we do now?”
He walked to the side of the room, and came back dragging a steel work table behind him. He set down the huge black duffel from his shoulder and started unloading. The man in the chair whimpered past duct-tape.
“If you cut him right he’ll die slow, but we’ll have to wait around until he dies,” he said.
The work table was laid out with options, straight razor, hunting knife, bigger hunting knife, hatchet, machete, fire-axe, and a maul she knew he’d welded together out of auto scrap. Then there were the guns, laid out in order of lethality rather than caliber.
Jane felt sick, cheap diner food creeping up her throat. It had taken a month to get here, mostly wasted effort. She’d been fed a story about the Phoenix Feathers, a gang on the south side, and some bad they’d been doing that her sister had witnessed.
Her boyfriend had given her pointers, but she’d done the killing. He’d guided her up the underground ladder, but the man strapped in that steel chair wasn’t a triad captain. His name was Thomas, a guy her sister had dated in college and never told her about.
The closest Thomas came to the triad was working in one of their laundries, but he’d been the one telling the story about a witnessed triad hit.
His apartment had one of those walls covered in secret photographs, photographs of Jane’s sister.
She’d stood there on Thomas’s filthy carpet just a few hours before, a thousand of her sister’s eyes staring back at her.
Jane didn’t feel guilty. The men she’d killed deserved it, probably. Maybe nobody deserved anything. They hadn’t deserved to live, anyway. But now she felt very tired.
“Are you going to kill him? Jane?”
“…I don’t feel like it,” she said.
“That’s good,” he said, picking up the bigger hunting knife from the table. “You’ve gotta be empty…. Revenge ruins it.”
He stabbed down, his blade sliding past Thomas’s collarbone and into his heart. “You wanna pack up?” he said, nodding to the tools and duffel on the table as he wiped the blade against Thomas’s shirt.
It was the first time he’d offered to let her touch his tools, which might have meant something.
“Your pancakes smelled good. Were they good?” he asked.
At the diner that morning, he’d eaten grits and gravy, staring over at her plate, in hind sight, but Jane had been thinking about Thomas tied up in their trunk.
“They were okay,” she said. Her stomach had settled again, but she didn’t want to think about food.
“…You look tired, Jane. There’s a motel a mile back.”
“Don’t you have work?”
“Sleep’s important too,” he said.