Game in the Gift: Part Two

Introduce more characters! That'll make eventual resolve easier!


If I had taken that guy’s wallet I’d have known who he was. I might have had a clue as to where to go. I hadn’t. Now I was sitting in my living room, the only light coming from the intersection my apartment overlooked. Mac was also there but I hardly noticed him, deep in thought as I was. I knew Lucy had been involved in something shady, but she never spoke of it to anyone. If she spoke to people there we didn’t know about them. Often we’d asked her why she spent time to Carling – King Carling, his loyal subjects called him – and never would we get a response. It had started sometime during our first year studying together and had carried on after we left. She’d come into class battered and swollen: black eyes, bruises, hell, sometimes even scratches. We’d ask who’d given her The Broderick but she never told us. Eventually the name Carling just sort of appeared and it all started to make sense. Still we never knew why she was there.
   It struck me then and there, as I looked into the black mirror of a television screen in front of me. An old teacher we had – an ex-Peterman and but still a well-known grifter and persistent boozehound – was notorious for being rumoured to having had ties with Carling. He was our old acting coach, back when we all thought the dream was to work in front of cameras or in front of thousands, known for having extra-curricular lessons with the young ankles he thought of as having it, if ‘it’ was an inexplicable inability to decline. Some people thought Lucy had taken to accepting lifts home from him, and those were the days she’d come back with red marks around her wrists and ankles. In those days we stayed out of it. Maybe we shouldn’t have. Maybe if we hadn’t, Mac and me wouldn’t now be looking to jump right into the Lion’s den with not so much as a chair and a whip.
   I stood up. “Gold.”
   “Our old teacher?”
   “He’ll know where to find Carling. And if not, then he’ll know someone who does. We don’t have much of a choice.”
   “Yeah. Right.”

Gold accommodated us in the main room of his squalid quarters. God only knows how much money he was earning but almost none of it went into his lodging. On a shelf at the back, barely visible, were teaching textbooks he had never once bothered to bring to class. He seemed to live on very little light – his workshops were always lit very dimly, and similarly there was one small desk lamp burning that added an orange gloom over the entire room. It took me some time to realise, hidden in the darkness, a naked girl writhing on a couch, talking to no one in particular, scratching idly at her arm.
   “Care for something to drink?” he asked. His voice was gravelly and broken, more so than how it had been some years back. His face matched his voice. Wrinkles were drawn across it like a map of substance abuse. His eyes were tiny black dots, gazing way beyond where we were sitting. His hair was long, thin and unkempt. It stuck to his face.
   “No. Thanks. We’d like to know where can find Carling.” Best to jump in at the deep end and hope to not drown. Or get eaten by sharks.
   Gold’s face stayed motionless. He looked like an old stone carving, worn away by time and weather. Eventually he licked his lips and spoke.
   “What do you care about Carling?”
   “We think he might have hurt Lucy.”
   Gold’s laugh was heavy and horse. “What’s that dumb broad gone and done now, huh? Hurt, I bet King’s just cut her down, plain and simple. Hah!”
   My blood started to boil. My fists clenched.
   Gold wiped his nose with his hands, and his hands on the stained brown tshirt that was two sizes too small. “You know, in your time, she was my star pupil! Always keen to do her homework. Yeah, she was a great one that Lucy. Carling liked her more than the others, I heard. Probably why he kept her around for so long. Seems she outlived her purpose, huh? Ha-hahaha!” He stood up and saw a young woman walk out of one door. “Hey, you, love! You know Carling right?”
   I remembered her. She was called Alela and had signed up as a freshman to Gold’s classes when we were leaving. She had been one of the newbies we had shown the ropes to. She grabbed my attention then – a shy type who didn’t say anything. She hid behind large jumpers, hair and glasses. Well, shit. Not anymore.
   Walking dreamily, a smug look on her face and wearing the torn remains of a cocktail dress, though I say wearing like a slave wears rags. It covered her waist and part of a leg. She sat down where Gold had been sitting across from me and leaned in close to me. I felt incredibly uncomfortable. I could see her lips were stained with illness. Her arms were criss-crossed with red.
   “You want to find Carling,” she said. I stared into her eyes, and found they weren’t as vacant as I thought. Mac was finding something across the room terribly interesting. “You know, he’s been operating near the students for years now. Saves time. He’s not too keen on people stopping over unannounced. Suddenly her tune changed. She leaned in further and spoke low. “I know where he is. You and I, we got the same goals.”
   “Teresa. My sister. That asshole took her, but I don’t know where she is. But when I find her, and she’s away from Carling and Gold, I’m going to kill them both.”