The man thrust the writhing brunette through the threshold of his apartment. He twisted her hair within his pulsating fist; the dull quake of his hand mimicked the adrenaline that thumped against his heart. Muttering obscenities against the rim of her ear, he guided her past the wrought iron furniture in the center of the room.

"You won't do anything, you worthless snake-charmer," she said.

He avoided her flailing legs and hoisted her onto the bed that was braced in the corner of the apartment. Wrestling her into a manageable position, he pressed his weight against her body. Her arms and legs were subdued as he slid them into constraints of wire rope that curled around the bed in intricate weaves.

"You underestimate my cunning."

"Cunning isn't a factor in rape." Her mouth contorted into a savage frown as she spat in his face.

Angered, the man leapt from her strained body. He maneuvered to the cage at the bottom of his bed and knelt down onto the metallic tiled floor. The cage, emanating a deathly coldness, let out a hiss of anticipation. The man slid his thumb across the handle of the cage and paused. Lips twitching, he unlocked the restraint and opened the lid with an agonizing bout of sluggishness. He chuckled as the hinges squealed in preemptive elation.

"Soon it will be time for you to play with my new pet. Won't that be positively riveting?" His teeth glistened with a thick coat of saliva as his mouth formed a savage grin.

"W-what sort of pet?" The woman pulled at the chains on her wrists. Her breathing grew louder, more erratic.

"I thought it obvious."

He rose into a militant stance and marched to the side of the bed. Pulling a switchblade from his left boot, he bent over her strained body and produced the sharpened blade. Face twisted and eyes glinting, he slashed through her clothing and tore them from her quavering body, piece by piece.

"I think that I'm going to enjoy this," he said. "More than the last one, anyway."

He tossed the blade on top of the metal nightstand. It hit the empty picture frame on top of the stand, causing the tarnished structure to wobble back and forth. The woman's eyes watched as the frame fell off the table and onto the floor.

"The name's Sixty-Seven."

Her eyes traveled back to his face; she glared at him. "Why should I care?"

The snake-charmer's throat rumbled. "You will be screaming it in a few minutes, so why don't you test it out on your tongue? A rehearsal, if you will."

"I'd rather die," she said, pulling at the constraints.

"You're going to do that anyway, so why not enjoy it? You know, succumb to your rape fantasies and all," he suggested.

"I don't have fantasies about… about that!"

"Yeah, lovely, you do," he said. "Don't pretend otherwise. I know everything about you—more than you can imagine. Hell, I know that you and your boyfriend played rape last weekend. I know that you screamed so loud that the neighbors got spooked." He smirked and grated his teeth together. "I bet you were as wet as a—"

A loud knock echoed off the alloyed walls of the apartment.

"Open up! I know what's going on, and I won't stand for it this time. I won't let you take another innocent girl's life! I won't let you do this. Duty to the government, my ass."

Sixty-Seven growled. "Well, well, if it isn't the resident vigilante." He bent down and whispered against her ear, "You scream, and I'll sever your vocal cords."

He walked to his bedside table and opened the drawer, pulling out a handgun and a silencer.

"This'll take care of him." He attached the silencer to the nozzle of the gun and headed towards the door.

"He's got a gun." Voice waning, her throat curdled the sound, rendering it inaudible to the stranger that pounded at the door.

"S.O.L., darling."

Sixty-Seven opened the door and shoved the tip of the silencer to the man's protruding jugular vein. A whimper leapt from the man's throat, and the stench of urine filled Sixty-Seven's nostrils. Satisfaction curled his lips as he stared at the stranger's pale blue eyes and pulled the trigger.

The woman screamed.

---

Blood-soaked towels overflowed from the trashcan at the corner opposite the bed. The stench of death overpowered the scent of semen and sweat. Snakeskin marked a line across the apartment, separating death from torture.

Hisses scurried across the floors, imitating the bound woman's erratic thoughts.

"He said he would be back soon. What does soon really mean? I need to get out of here before—" She silenced her hoarse tirade. "Less talk, more action."

Alone and broken, the woman tried to muster the strength to pull from the restraints on the bed. Her body, however, still ached from Sixty-Seven's weight against her, and the fragments of her spirit pierced her hopes.

The split ends of the metal rope cut into her wrists. Blood stained the metal and flowed down her arm and onto the linen sheets. She cursed, bit down on her lip, and twisted her wrists vigorously, beckoning the blood flow. Warm blood coated her wrists, and she used the slick of her skin to wrench her hands through the rope. She wiped the blood from her hands against the bed sheets and bent down to free her feet. Prying the ropes open slightly, she managed to pull her feet out.

The woman slid to the edge of the bed and peered at the floor. No sign of snakes. She shivered, remembering the feeling of glossy scales against her thighs. She inhaled and placed her feet on the floor.

"Just a few more steps."