Geneve nibbled on his ear as he fumbled with the room key. Fuck I am hungry! It was all she could do to keep from biting down hard and letting the sweet coppery blood fill her mouth. He winced slightly. Damn it. Grabbing his crotch, she nuzzled his neck, and giggled. He unlocked the door and opened it. Fucking finally! Any longer I'd've grabbed the damn key away from him.

"Here we are!" he announced, unnecessarily.

Geneve rushed in, kicking off her shoes as she went, and then stopped short, "Ooh a king size bed!" she squealed. Shimmying out of her skirt, she sat down on the bed. Letting the door close behind him, what's-his-face threw his jacket down on a chair then leaned over and kissed her deeply. Geneve returned it with equal fervor.

"Mmmm..." she moaned. What was his name again? Something biblical... Mark? Luke? "Oh yes, Matthew..." she said, breathlessly, dragging him down on top of her. Pushing up her skirt with one hand, he reached around behind her back with the other and awkwardly fumbled at her bra.

Geneve giggled and gently took his hand from behind her back. "It opens in front, see?" she said demonstrating.

He chuckled and took it off her, dropping it on the floor. Geneve laughed with him, reaching down to undo his belt. Letting his pants drop the the floor she shoved her hands in his boxers and fondled what she found there. His fingers grasped at the thin fabric around her hips and she lifted her hips to allow her panties to slip off.

"Ahh... Jenny." he moaned."You're so... God! I can't..."

Geneve stopped what she was doing and scooted back on the bed, spreading her legs as she smiled, "Come here, lover." His boxers dropped on the floor and he rushed forward eagerly.

Geneve stepped out of the shower and grabbed a towel from the rack. She dried herself off and opened her purse sitting on the counter, fishing around inside for a hairbrush. Turning away from the fog covered mirror she bent over and brushed her hair. Opening the bathroom door, she walked naked into the room, picking up her clothes from the floor and putting them on, making her way towards the other side of the room. As she slid her shoes on, she bent over and picked up Matthew's pants from the floor. Pulling out his wallet, she opened it and took the cash and credit cards, dropping the rest on the floor. Glancing over at Matthew, who was still lying in bed, she walked over to the window and pulled open the curtains. Hello Las Vegas, she thought, looking down at the lights of the Strip. So nice to see you this evening. Turning back to the bed, she looked at Matthew again. She frowned, he seemed rather... still.

"Did I...?" she muttered to herself. I was hungry... she thought. Leaning over she watched him closely and held a hand over his nose and mouth. Ah, there – his nostrils flared slightly and she felt a breath against her hand. Geneve made an exaggerated gesture of relief. Good. I don't need to attract any attention right now. On a whim, she pulled the blankets up over him and tucked them around his chin. As she stood up the clock on the nightstand caught her eye. 4:30?! Fuck! Sunrise is in two hours! "I gotta get home!" she yelled, rushing out of the room.

Matt woke up in an unfamiliar bed. Where am I? He thought, looking around and trying to shake the cobwebs from his mind. There was something attached to his arm. He looked over. A needle in his wrist with a tube attached to it, the tube led to a bag hanging from a pole. He stared at it, trying to make the pieces fit together, when someone walked into the room.

"Ah, Hello Mr. Hansen! How are you feeling?" The doctor didn't wait for an answer but pulled out his stethoscope and held it to his chest.

"Uh, fine. I guess. What happened?"

"You were found unconscious in your room. The hotel called an ambulance and brought you here to the hospital."

"Oh." What had happened? He'd given his presentation, gone down to the bar to kill a few hours... and then... It was a blank after that. Had he met someone? He had a vague feeling he'd met someone... He was exhausted. Just thinking seemed to wear him out. He realized the doctor was looking at him.

"Do you remember what happened?" the doctor asked.

"I-I'm not sure. I remember I had a drink at the bar in the hotel, but after that..." He let his voice trail off and shrugged.

"Well I am sure it will come back to you." The doctor said nodding, and he walked out. Matt could hear him talking in a low voice with the nurse outside the door. He thought he heard something like "knee mia" but he was too tired to listen. It faded away as he fell asleep.

"Hey, Matt!" Matthew started and looked up from his computer. It was Steve, the new guy from Accounting, leaning into his cubicle with one arm draped over the wall. "A bunch of us were going out to Jak's," he said. "Wanna come?"

Matt looked beyond him at the rest of the group gathered behind him, then looked back at Steve. "Uh, no thanks. I'm kinda behind here. I've really got to finish up."

Steve looked disappointed for a second. "You sure? It's Trivia Night. We could use another on our team."

Matt turned back to his computer. "No that's all right. I'll see you later." He watched Steve's reflection in the monitor as he turned back to the group, "I tried." He mouthed with a shrug. They all filed out.

Matt continued typing as the office door closed behind the last person. It had been six months since he'd woken up in the hospital and still he could only barely remember what had happened. He remembered the hotel bar and having a drink. Then...? There had been a girl. She'd flirted with him. He'd offered to buy her a drink but she'd declined. Then... then... what else? He racked his brain, grabbing his forehead with his hands as if he could physically pull the memory out. The doctor said he should see a psychiatrist, he'd even given him a referral, but there was nothing wrong with him. At least nothing time wouldn't take care of. He sighed and ran his hands through his hair. Turning off his computer he went to the bathroom, washed his hands, and splashed some water on his face. He looked at himself in the mirror: thinning hair, slight paunch. What had she seen in him? Would he ever see her again? He looked down at his watch, almost seven. Wonder how the trivia contest is going. Maybe I should go over there and join them? Nah. I'm no good at those things. Just go home.

The radio came on as he started the car. That radio psychic was talking. Lecturing. "...get into a rut. You go to work, come home, eat, maybe watch a little TV, and go to sleep. Then you wake up in the morning and do the whole thing over again. On the weekend you do your weekend things. How often do you get out and do something different? And I'm not talking about going to Burger King instead of McDonald's, I mean something really different. Take a different route home. Try a new restaurant. Meet someone new. Try it this week. I know you'll like it. And how do I know? Because I'm Joe, and Joe Knows. Let's go to our first caller."

Matt turned off the radio, thinking. He's right. I should try something new. The exit for the Strip was coming up and he switched lanes to get over.

Geneve walked into the dim bar and stood, looking around. A hand rose from a table at the back and lazily waved her over. She waved back and walked over.

"Hey," she said, pulling out a chair and sitting down.

"Hey, honey," Reg said, in his affected drawl. "How you doin' tonight?"

"Good. How are you doing?" He was dressed, as always, in a perfectly tailored three piece suit. His white blond hair was brushed back from his forehead.

"I'm still here. Still not thinking of sunbathing."

Geneve could never tell if he was joking or not, she smiled.

"Oh, by the way honey, do you have a job yet?"

"No. I've just been scavenging since the last one ended. Why?"

"I think I might have something you'd like."

"Oh? Where is it?"

"It's a little place near downtown. Manager's an old friend of mine. Needs someone willing to work nights and take in some shipments. He pays well."

"What are the hours?"

"Starts at 8. He promises nothing will come in after midnight."

Geneve thought about it. That wouldn't impact her time too much."Worth a shot." she said.

"Oh excellent!" Reaching into his pocket, Reg pulled out a piece of paper with an address written on it. "Just go here tomorrow night and ask to speak to John."

Geneve tucked the paper in her purse as Reg continued talking. "Oh! Honey, did I tell you what happened to me the other night?" he asked.


"So there I was at the Manhole, minding my own business, when this boy, and you he couldn't have been more than twenty at most, pops up and offers to buy me a drink..."

He had told her this story before. Many times. She smiled and laughed at the right points, but she knew how it would end.

"...So then I said, 'Well honey, If you'd told me that in the first place we could have avoided this whole mess!'" Geneve laughed. She could have said the punchline with him.

His smile faded. Leaning back in his chair, he crossed his arms and looked at her skeptically.

"What's wrong?" Geneve asked.

"You don't like my story." He said, pouting.

"No, no, It's very funny!" she protested.

"Please. I know a fake laugh when I hear it."

"No! Reg, please! It was very funny."

He looked away, not saying anything. She could see the set of his chin.

Geneve sighed inwardly, this again. "Now really Reg. I laughed, didn't I? That was not a fake laugh. Your stories are genuinely funny."

He stared at the wall a minute longer, then softened. "You think so?" he asked hopefully.

"Yes." She made a show of checking the time. "Oh it's late. I should get going." She stood up. "I'll see you again sometime, OK? Give me a call, we'll get together." She walked to the door and outside.

Why did she put up with his moods? She thought, starting the car, bad enough he always tells the same damn story, but if I don't treat it as a knee slapper every time he goes into a snit. But I owe him. He did help me find an apartment, and now he's found me a job. I suppose listening to his stories, again, are a small price to pay.

She needed to get her mind off this. She switched on the radio, "...Meet someone new. Try it this week. I know you'll like it. And how do I know? Because I'm Joe, and Joe Knows. Let's go to our first caller. Are you there caller?" Oh it was that psychic! Now he's entertaining! She turned the volume up as she turned on the highway, heading towards Tropicana Boulevard.

Matt did not care where he went. He picked a casino at random and sat down in front of a slot machine. Pulling out a handful of quarters he halfheartedly began to plug them into the machine. Soon enough a waitress came over and took his drink order. The machine lit up and chattered and a pile of quarters dropped into the metal bowl. He looked down at them, uninterested, and began to add them to the machine again. The waitress returned with his drink, set it down, and moved on. Matt sighed and looked up over the row of machines at the table games.


Over there, at the craps table.

That woman... laying her hand on that man's arm, her fingers lightly, ever so lightly, brushing against him, blowing on his dice with a mischievous gleam in her eye...

Matt felt his breath catch as the memories collapsed on him. He broke out into a cold sweat. Her! It was her! She'd been the one! At the bar! That night! Oh she'd been so... so... flirting! She'd made him feel like the king of the world, hanging on to his every word, laughing at all his jokes... Her hands had been all over him. He should have known she was too good to be true. Especially, when he'd suggested, almost laughing, that they should return to his room. Oh, she'd been so good, making it seem like his idea. And when they'd gotten back to the room...! He should go over there. Say something.

No, wait, a different part of his mind said. Think about this for a moment. Get to know her first. Yes. If he got to know her, then introduced himself. She'd come around.

He watched her lean in close to the man and whisper something in his ear. He laughed, and wrapped an arm around her waist, She laughed along with him and leaned into his shoulder. Matt almost couldn't stand to watch. Finally, it seemed like it hours, he said something to her and they left the table, his arm still wrapped possessively around her waist. Matt stood up and followed them, keeping his distance. They walked to the elevators and she continued to flirt with the man as they waited. Matt didn't listen to what she was saying. The bell rang and she leaned into the man giving him a deep kiss just as the doors opened. As Matt watched them enter, he made careful note of what she looked like: medium length blonde hair, dark blue dress, that hint of leg showing between her stockings and skirt, pink nails. He had to find out more about her. Watching the doors close, he turned around and found a chair in the lobby. He would wait for her to come out.

Geneve drove to the address on the slip of paper. It was in an industrial area, A small shop attached to a warehouse. Parking across the street, she looked at the store. A neon sign in a dusty window said "Open." It was hard to tell what the store sold. She shrugged, turned off the car and got out.

A bell rang somewhere as she opened the door. The store was empty of customers and no one was at the counter. She walked around and looked at the merchandise. There were a few racks of videos, handwritten signs on the racks identifying them by genre. Along another wall was a display of adult toys. Geneve noted a layer of dust on everything. A door opened behind the counter and a man came out.

"Sorry," he said. "Had some things to take care of in the back. Can I help you?"

He was a big, broad shouldered man, with salt and pepper hair tied back in a pony tail. "Are you John?" she asked.

"Yes, what can I do for you?"

Geneve held out her hand, "I'm Jenny. My friend Reg said you had an opening here?"

He looked at her for a long minute. "Right. Yeah I've got a position in the warehouse. We need someone to sign in some shipments."

"I can certainly do that."

"Hm. Well come in back with me." He opened the door for her as she stepped around the counter. He lead her through a small office, and through another door out into the warehouse. From there he lead the way past a maze of shelves and pallets to a loading dock at the back of the building. Geneve saw some men sitting around a small card table off to one side. They ignored her.

John picked up a clipboard and handed it to her. "Shipments come in between eight and twelve. The driver will give you a piece of paper. You sign it 'Pedro' and give it back to him. Those guys over there," he pointed at the group at the table. "Unload the truck."

"What then?" Geneve asked.

"Sit down and wait for the next one to come in. When you're done, come back to the office and I'll give you your pay. There's coffee over there." he said pointing to a small shelf against the wall where a stained coffeemaker sat, an open package of Styrofoam cups beside it. A half-full trash can sat underneath.

He paused and studied her. "You know, I've known Reg for years. He doesn't change." he said finally.

Geneve met his eyes but said nothing.

John studied her a minute longer, then turned around. "If you need anything I'll be in the office." He said walking back towards the store.

The next few months were uneventful. Geneve found herself settling into a routine of work and going out. Some nights she'd meet up with Reg and they'd go out together. Except for nights like tonight when Reg was in a Mood.

"What's wrong Reg? You said you wanted to go out to High Velocity."

Reg sighed heavily as he lay down on his couch. His robe fell open, revealing emerald green silk boxer shorts. Throwing one arm over his eyes, he sighed again. Geneve sat down on an ottoman and pulled it close to the couch.

"I don't know, honey. I just don't feel like going out tonight."

"Reg, you said last week you wanted to go. I even bought a new blouse for it."

"No, honey, I just can't. I don't feel well." Geneve sighed inwardly, he did not get sick.

"Well maybe we can do something else? What about Mike's?" They hadn't been to Mike's in a while, she supposed she could put up with it again. She glanced over at the clock: 11:17. Fuck, at this rate she was gonna spend half the night begging him.

"Oh honey, I just don't know." He turned over, away from her.

Fuck this. Geneve stood up. "Well, I'm sorry you're feeling badly. I'm going out tonight. If you want me, come find me." Picking up her purse, she walked out.

Closing her car door, Geneve leaned her forehead against the steering wheel. He's going to hate me, she thought. I should go back up and apologize. She didn't move. She looked up at Reg's window. The light was on but she couldn't see any movement inside. Sighing, she started the car and pulled out of the parking lot.

High Velocity was crowded and new. Geneve leaned over a tiny table and stared at the ice melting in her glass. Reg would have loved it here. Maybe if she'd stayed a while longer he might have come around. No, he wouldn't, she argued with herself, he would have moaned and whined until you suggested someplace he wanted. She frowned at her drink.

"Hey there, you want to dance?" a young man asked, coming up the the table and standing across from her. He paused as Geneve looked up."You all right? You look kind of upset."

Geneve looked up at him: neat white shirt, black pants, a brown cowlick threatening to fall into his blue eyes. "I'm fine. I just had an argument with a friend of mine."

He looked around, "Is he here?"

Geneve smiled. "No, it was before I got here."

"Oh," he relaxed slightly. "I'm Ben." He held out his hand.

Geneve took his hand and held it. "Gemma. Let's dance Ben."

Matthew lost sight of her briefly as she moved on to the dance floor. He walked over to the table where she'd been sitting. Her drink was still there, the last slivers of ice melting away. He put his hand around the glass, hoping to feel the warmth of her hands, but the glass was cold. He took a tissue from his pocket and carefully wiped around the rim. He looked at the tissue, it was clean. She had odd habits. She would buy a drink, or usually someone bought one for her, but she never actually seemed to drink it. He folded the tissue carefully and put it his pocket. Staring out at the dance floor, he searched the crowd for her. There she was, her arms around that man's neck. That was another thing: she was never with the same man twice. Well, he would stop that after he introduced himself.

Geneve put her arms around Ben's neck and pulled him close. Glancing over his shoulder she saw a man walk up to the table, pick up her glass, wipe down the rim, and put the tissue back in his pocket. That was strange. He then looked, searching, over the dance floor. She ducked her face into the hollow of Ben's shoulder and ran her hands through his hair. She could feel the man's eyes on her. After a minute she looked up again and saw him walk back to a corner. Very strange. Maybe she should cut this night short. She leaned in to Ben, "I'm hot. You want to go somewhere else?" she said. She felt him nod enthusiastically.

Matt saw her leave. He tried to follow her but a large group of giggling girls – all pointed heels and tiny skirts – came in the door and he was forced to step aside to let them pass. By the time he got outside, he had lost her. No matter. He'd long since found where she lived. He would go there and wait.

Geneve watched the bank clock turn from 4:00 to 4:01 as she waited for the light. Never did hear from Reg, she thought as the light changed and she drove on. I wonder how he's doing, should I call him? See if he's OK? No. She told herself firmly. He can take care of himself. Let him come to you. She pulled into the parking lot in front of her building and turned off the car. Something made her pause before she got out of the car. She looked around the tiny lot but could not see anything unusual. You're so paranoid. she told herself, as she picked up her purse from the floor and opened the car door. As she stood, she happened to glance across the street. Parked in a corner of the strip mall, under the shadow of a tree, was a little compact car. Dark green? she wondered. It was hard to tell. Geneve could see someone sitting in the car watching her apartment building. Who is that? She thought. Is that for me or one of the neighbors? She locked her car and began to walk towards her apartment, I should ask Reg just in case. He knows people. He can ask.

The nights lengthened as winter set in. After a few nights the car disappeared and Geneve forgot her concerns. Christmas had snuck up on her again. "Attention Shoppers," the friendly voice overhead broke into her thoughts, "La Cienega Mall will be closing in 30 minutes." Damn! She still had to find a gift for Mercy. Geneve stopped in front of a directory sign and stared at it. What would Mercy like? Shoes? Clothing? I bought slippers for her last year, should I try that again?

"You look like you need help." someone said behind her. Geneve turned, a man of middle height, with dark, thinning hair, stood next to her.

She smiled at him, "Maybe. I'm trying to think of a gift for my sister."

The man smiled at her in return, "Maybe I can help you, what does she like?"

"I don't know, um, she likes to go to the theater, she lives in Chicago and talks all the time about the weather there, umm... she was talking about expanding her garden this summer." Geneve paused trying to think.

"Gardening? Why don't you try Botanical down there." He pointed towards a shop, four storefronts down.

Geneve thought for a moment when the closing announcement came on again: 20 minutes. Well no time for deep thoughts, she smiled brightly at the man. "Thank you! I'll try that!" without waiting for a reply she turned and hurried off.

"No problem." Matthew called after her. She'd spoken to him. Smiled! She wanted him. He could see it in her body, it was an undercurrent in her words. But she was also saying he was taking too long. She was going to lose interest if he delayed any longer. He had to step up his plans.

Geneve knocked on Reg's door again and listened carefully for any sound inside. Finally she sighed and sat down on the floor. If only she hadn't blown up at him. But she couldn't help it, how could she have helped it? Again they had made plans, and again she'd come by his place to find him undressed and whining about being "sick."

"Fuck Reg!" she'd exploded, "Every goddamn time you pull this crap! I'm sick of it! I was really looking forward to going to Manny's tonight! We made plans! You said you'd be ready by 12! And it's nearly one! Look at you!" she waved her hand at his general state of undress.

Reg sat up straight, cold fury in his eyes. "Well, honey," he hissed, "maybe I just don't feel like going to Manny's tonight, huh? Maybe I don't feel like doing your thing every night."

"'My thing?' Reg everytime we go out it's to a gay bar! I'm sick of it! I can't pick up anyone there! I can't even flirt with the goddamn bartender! Fuck it Reg! I'm tired of this!"

"Well if you're so tired of it, then maybe you should leave." he said walking to the door.

"Oh for fuck's... Reg, can't we sit and talk about this?"

"If you're going to be unreasonable, I can't talk to you." He opened the door to the hall.

"Reg, please. Don't do this. We can go out anywhere you want to." Shit. Why had she said that?

"No. I can't talk to you when you're like this. When you're ready to listen to reason, give me a call." He had watched her carefully as she'd walked out in the hall and closed the door behind her. Fuck fuck fuckity... "Fuck it all!" she shouted. Stomping down the hall to the elevator she waited angrily for it to arrive.

That was three weeks ago. Now here she was again, begging and pleading with him to open the door. Why had she thought this time would be different? She put her head down between her knees. Every goddamn time she found a friend like herself. It was so fun at first, but then it all dissolved into screams. Geneve stared at the carpet. Then she stood up. I need to go home and think about this.

I won't go out tonight. She decided on her way home. It meant going to bed hungry but she could deal with it. She turned the corner on to her street and slowed as she approached her building. That car was there again: parked under the tree, in the dark. Slowing further, she turned into the lot and parked. Carefully, casually, she got out of her car and walked up to her apartment.

All the apartments had a back door. It opened into a concrete breezeway with stairs at the end leading down to the dumpsters in the back. Geneve unlocked her door and turned on the lights. She pulled the curtains closed on the front window and switched on the TV, turning the volume up, then she walked back into the bedroom and changed into a dark gray sweater and black jeans. Walking back into the living room, she fished her hairbrush from her purse and brushed her hair smooth. Pulling it back into a tight bun, she wished for a brief second that she had a hat of some kind. Sitting down on the couch, she watched TV. After an hour she switched it off and turned off the lights. Walking into the bedroom she looked at her bedside clock: 3:48. She sat down and waited. At 4:18 she stood up and left the apartment through the back door.

The alley behind the building did not empty on to the same street that ran in front of the building. Geneve would have to walk around the block to get back to the front of the building. Or she would if she stayed on the street. If she climbed the fence and cut through a parking lot then circled around the office park, she could approach the mini-mall across the street from behind. Staying in the shadows of the building, she watched the car for a moment. The man inside was not moving. Walking closer she could see he was asleep: head back and chin wet with drool. The windows were open and the fast food wrappers scattered on the floor stirred in the evening breeze. A spiral notebook with a pen tucked in the wire binding sat on the passenger seat. Geneve looked closer at the driver, he seemed kind of familiar. She walked around to the other side of the car to get a better look at his face. Ah, now she recognized him, it was that man from the mall. She looked across the street. He had a very good view of her building from here. Geneve walked back around to the passenger side and reached in. Carefully, she picked up the spiral notebook. Sitting down on the pavement, she leaned against the car, and opened it at random.

"April 25" it read, "Manny's. She arrives at 12:30 two men buy her drinks together, she leaves with both. Returns at 2:48. Dances. Chats with men but leaves alone at close." That seemed familiar, She read on.

"May 5, she does not live at Sunrise Towers like I thought. Just seems to have a friend there. She has left early again. Boyfriend trouble? Does he force her to bring back men?" A few lines below this he had written "Boss calling. Ignoring messages." Sunrise Towers? That was Reg's building. She turned a few more pages.

"September 4, High Velocity. Came in looking upset. Def. Boy troubles. Breaking up or about to. Left early with young man at 12:37. Did not return at all. She has strange habits and cold hands." That was just after High Velocity opened. This was all starting to seem horribly familiar. She turned a few more pages.

"Dec 15. followed her to La Cienega Mall. Risked saying hi. I am certain that she wants me, she is just waiting to break up with that boyfriend of hers. She gave me that look. Mentioned a sister in Chicago, must look that up." Geneve stopped reading, a cold chill going down her spine. She looked down again at the notebook and paged forward to the most recent date. Yes, there was no doubt now. He had written down exactly what she had done yesterday. Geneve closed the notebook. Standing up, she walked around the car, and back to her apartment. She needed some matches.

"Oh Matt, don't be silly. That Protection Order isn't for you. It's to protect me from bananas. You know I'm allergic." Mindy shook her head ruefully.

"Oh, of course, I understand." Matt said. He didn't. He was confused. Hadn't Mindy committed suicide four years ago?

"Here, just to prove what you mean to me, I'm going to take care of this right now." She pulled a lighter from her pocket and held it to the paper. "See darling?" she said.

Matt could smell the paper burning. He tried to smile. Mindy didn't drop it when the flames reached her fingers and kept climbing. She smiled when her sleeves and blouse caught and the flames licked higher. Stepping towards him, he could see the skin on her arms blistering and ashes flying away. With a whump, her skirt caught and sparks flew high into her hair. As the fire swelled up her neck, and the skin of her face charring and turning black she opened her arms to Matt, her eyes full of love. "I'm all yours now, darling." she said, "forever and ever."

Matt woke with a start. He looked through the windshield at the blaze on the hood. There's a fire on the car, he thought stupidly. Then the realization hit him. "Shit!" he yelled. He looked wildly around the inside of the car for something. There! He grabbed the Big Gulp from the cup holder and leaped out of the car. Pulling off the top he poured soda over the fire, extinguishing it. Awkwardly sweeping the remains off the hood and on to the ground, he stamped on the remaining embers.

The paint on the hood was blistered. That would probably an expensive fix. Looking down at the soggy ashes, he poked at it with the toe of his shoe. It looked like paper. Yes, there were a few corners of lined paper, and a long spiral piece of wire... Oh no. Turning he took a quick step back to the car, he had to be sure. The passenger seat was empty. Straightening up he felt something lightly scratching him inside his shirt. What the...? He felt around his stomach then, reaching inside his shirt, he pulled out a folded piece of paper. It had been torn from his diary. He unfolded it. "Leave me alone." was written on it. Matthew smiled to himself. He knew exactly who it was from. She was nervous. Scared. All he needed was just a little more time and she would come running to him.

Geneve changed her routine. She took different routes home, went different places at night, spread rumors of robberies in the area. She wished she could talk to Reg, but he had left town without any word. She wondered – hoped – he would write to her eventually. But, she told herself, above all, I am not scared. I am being cautious. Prudent. At the most, I am slightly nervous. But I am not scared.

Matt parked again in his usual spot under the tree. It had been a few weeks since he had been here and her car was not in the lot. He looked at her apartment window, but it was dark. She's probably out, he told himself. Pulling out his new diary, he settled in to wait. He was making notes when the police car pulled into the lot beside him and two cops got out. One walked over to his window and bent down.

"Excuse me sir, do you need any help?" he asked politely.

"Uh, no. Just waiting for someone." Matt said. He glanced at the rearview mirror, the other cop was walking around to the passenger side.

The cop nodded sagely. "Will they be arriving soon?" He asked.

"Umm, I don't know. Uh, she said to, uh, meet her here." Damn, he was always a terrible liar when the cops were involved.

The other one leaned into the passenger window and shined his flashlight at Matt's face. Matt squinted, blinded. The light moved off his face and slowly wandered around the inside of his car.

"Maybe you should call your friend sir. See if she's on her way." the first cop said. Matt quickly turned his attention back to him.

"Um, yeah! Good idea! I think I better go and find a phone."

"I believe there is one about two blocks over." The first cop said, and they both stood back. "Do you need directions?"

"No! No, I think I know the one." Matt started his car. Waving to the police, he pulled out of the lot. Damn, if the cops were the area that would put a definite crimp in his plans. He needed to reconsider his approach. He drove aimlessly along the side streets, pondering his dilemma. He turned into an alley at random, so lost in thought he almost didn't notice the man carrying a bag of trash suddenly step out in front of him. Matt braked hard and the car lurched. The man, unconcerned about his near brush with death, tossed the bag into a dumpster, turned around and walked back into his building. Matt watched him open a door and disappear inside an apartment. Matt stared after him for a long time, an idea forming in his head.

"Why didn't I think of that?" He suddenly shouted, slapping his forehead. "The back door!"

He drove back to her apartment. Sure enough, there was the parking lot (her car still wasn't there) but no trash cans or dumpsters in the front. He drove up to the end of the street and was about to turn the corner, when he saw the police car turn the corner ahead of him and start to drive down the street.

OK. This would have to wait.

Geneve parked her car at the end of the block, got out and started walking. Not one guy had been interested tonight! Not one! Same as last night! Fuck, if this keeps up I will be forced to take drastic measures. I shouldn't have stayed in Saturday. Suddenly she stopped walking and hunched over as the pain hit her. She wrapped her arms around her stomach. Fuck! It's like rats trying to claw their way out from inside! I'm not used to going this long without eating. The pain passed and she started walking again, turning to cut across a parking lot. Lost in thought, she didn't notice the familiar dark green compact parked in a corner.

Matthew pumped his fists triumphantly and grinned to himself. He'd been right! It had taken a long time, but there she was! He waited until she walked farther ahead, then quietly opened the door and got out of his car. He followed her as she reached the other end of the parking lot, where a chain link fence joined the concrete wall. As he watched, she pulled the fence open with one hand and slipped through, pulling it closed behind her. Matt reached the fence and pulled it open with an effort. Climbing through, he looked up the alley. Where...? Ah, there she was, still walking with her head down. He realized why he hadn't thought of this way before, the alley took a sharp right turn just before reaching the back of her building, from the street it looked like it a dead end. As he followed he saw her disappear behind a tall wooden fence. Stopping in the shadow of a wall, he watched her reappear on the back staircase, and walk up and into her apartment. Tomorrow, he decided. Tomorrow he would surprise her.

Geneve curled up under a blanket on her couch. She tried to watch TV but couldn't keep her mind on it. This is like when I was 10, she reflected, and home sick for a week with the stomach flu. Mr. Miggles used to curl up with me sleep next to me and purr. She smiled nostalgically for a moment. Whatever had happened to that fat old cat? She wondered. Oh yeah, Mom said he ran away. But that was after Mom started having her episodes. Geneve doubled over, biting her lip as the pain hit her again. Time stretched out forever as she waited for it to pass. When she could breathe again she looked back at the TV. A man was demonstrating some sort of vacuum cleaner for an overly enthusiastic audience. Geneve fumbled for the remote, flipping around a few channels before settling on a movie she had seen before. She watched the movie until the credits rolled and the station announced it was 4:58 and 42 degrees. Standing up with a sigh, she let the blanket drop behind her into a heap on the couch. Might as well go to bed, she thought, turning off the TV. She walked in to the bedroom and closed the door behind her.

The locks were cheap and easily jimmied. Matt opened the door slowly and looked inside. The late afternoon sun threw his shadow far inside. He looked around as he closed the door behind him: a large living room was in front of him, minimally furnished with a couch and TV. A tiny kitchen opened to his left and the half-opened bathroom door was next to it. Another, closed, door was directly across the living room. Matt assumed it lead to her bedroom. He checked his watch: 5:58. Crossing the room, he tried the bedroom door. It was locked. He pushed at the door, but it seemed like something was blocking it. Strange.

He decided he was thirsty. Walking back to the kitchen, he opened the refrigerator. An open package of batteries sat on the shelf. There was nothing else inside. Huh. Well she probably hasn't gone to the store, he told himself. Closing the fridge, he looked at the kitchen table. There was a scatter of bills and letters on top. He picked up a letter "Dear Gen," he read. "Thank you for the Christmas gift, it's been really useful. We've been digging up the back yard to start the garden and the kids are all helping out. Jason has been helping David dig, Meagan gets books from the library and gives me suggestions on what to grow. Daniel looks for worms in the dirt and puts them on the neighbor's lawn..." Matt stopped reading, bored. He looked at his watch again: 6:16. When would she come out? He walked back to the couch and sat down. A blanket was shoved into a corner of the couch and the remote stuck out from underneath it. Picking it up, he turned on the TV, he could wait.

Geneve could faintly hear the noise from the bedroom. Did I leave the TV on? She wondered, her thoughts still fuzzy from sleep. I don't remember leaving it on. Realization hit her and she sat up straight. Someone was in her apartment! Standing up she began to march towards the door, when the pain suddenly hit her. "Ow! Fuck!" she hissed, doubling over. The rats had graduated to trolls. Trolls with shards of glass and dull knives, chewing and carving her up from the inside. She fell back on the bed and curled up, waiting for the pain to pass. Finally she was able to look up, the clock said only a few minutes had passed. Sitting up slowly, she took a deep breath. OK, rushing out there isn't going to work if you're doubled over. Better find out who it is. She stood up again and walked towards the door, moving the chair that blocked it. She had learned long ago not to trust just a lock on her door. Pausing a minute, she pulled down her shirt to expose more cleavage and ran a hand through her hair. Then she opened the door.

Oh look it's the idiot from the mall. She thought. Sitting on my couch. Looking up at me like a hopeful cow.

"Oh!" She feigned surprise, "It's you!"

He stood up from the couch, "Yes, It's me. I've..."

"You've come!" she interrupted. "Finally! I've been waiting so long!"

"I – yes! I-"

"Oh, tell me you've come for me! I've waited forever! I mean, ever since I saw you that day, I've just wanted to tell you how much I love you! But you're so, so... and I just couldn't say..."

"I - of course you love me. I-"

"You love me too! You do! I'm so happy!" She leaped at him, throwing herself into his arms and knocking him back on the couch. She could feel the pain starting again. She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him close.

His neck was going to break. He could have sworn he felt bones crack when she pulled him close.

"Oh darling, darling." she murmured into the hollow of his neck. Wet? Was she crying? Tears for him? He put his arms around her and pulled her close.

"It's all right. I'm here for you now." He said, patting her back. He felt her tense up, her fingers digging into him painfully. He gasped and she loosened her grip. Then she hugged him harder. He tried to inhale again, he couldn't breathe. He felt her lips on his neck, and a sudden pain. He couldn't move, couldn't breathe and he could feel the world going black around him. This was all going wrong.

Geneve sat back and wiped a hand across her mouth. Then looked down at the smear of blood across the back of her hand. Messy. She thought. She looked at the idiot on her couch. A thin trickle of blood flowed down his neck and stained his shirt. So, he wasn't quite dead yet. Good. She stood up and across the room to the bathroom. She washed her face and brushed her hair, then walked back to the bedroom to get dressed. Picking up her car keys she walked out the back door and walked out to her car. Parking it behind the building, she walked back up to her apartment and stood in front of the couch. He looked up at her.

"Come on." She said, bending down and draping his arms over her shoulder. She lifted him up easily and dragged him out the door, down the stairs and shoved him into the backseat. Climbing into the front seat without a word she started the car and pulled out.

"You know what I like about Las Vegas?" She said, as she turned onto the highway. "It doesn't go on forever like some cities. You know what I mean? It just ends. I suppose it's because of geography or something." She mused. "But anyway." She shrugged as she came to an intersection and turned. He moaned softly from the back seat.

"Really? I totally agree!" She said and laughed. She turned onto another road, this one barely more than a dirt trail. She drove for a while then stopped and looked around, the lights of the city were little more than a smudge on the horizon. Geneve got out of the car and looked around. No lights, she thought. Not even a ranch. "This looks like a good spot." she said. She opened the back door and grabbed him under the shoulders, dragging him out of the car. She hauled him across her back and started walking into the desert.

"Hoo!" She stopped and panted. "You are not easy to carry! Still, I suppose this is as good a spot as any." He grunted as she dumped him on the ground.

Squatting down beside him, she looked him in the eyes. "I did give you a warning, you know. Not my fault you ignored it." She looked up at the sky a minute, then down at him again. "If you make it out, I hope you will reconsider following me. Next time I may be forced to call the cops." Smiling sweetly, she stood up and walked away.

The stars were bright and cold in the sky. Matt listened to her footsteps fade away. He couldn't move. He was too weak. He could feel the collar of his shirt, cold and clammy, pressing against his neck. All wrong, it all went wrong. He thought as the stars faded into black.

Geneve started the car and turned on the radio as she drove back to the main road. "You're listening to KPIX, and now it's time for Joe Knows. Have a question? Call Joe. He knows the answers to your problems."

"Cool!" Geneve said, turning up the volume.

"Hello everyone, I'm Joe. And I know things. I'm a certified psychic with a degree in counseling. Ever since I was a kid, I knew things other people didn't. But you know what? Besides all that, I'm feeling great today, really great. You know why? Because recently I was having some problems and now they're gone. Now, I won't bore you with the details, but sometimes your problems won't go away until you take action. And sometimes taking action means calling our hotline at..."

She switched it off with a frown. It was a repeat. Then she changed her mind and turned the radio on again, turning the knob to a music station. She was feeling good. Hell, more than good, she thought, I am fucking Fantastic! The music changed to her favorite song, and she sang at the top of her lungs all the way back into the city.