Note: Check out the first six parts of the story here before reading the newest installment!
As night falls more men line up outside The Mansion, but Father waits until nightfall to allow them all in. The main area looks much the Arabian Nights my father wanted. He took plants from the Star Room and spread them out to camouflage the red velvet walls and placed some on tabletops as centerpieces. Purple, red, and blue lights spotlight the stages and move around the entire room. Each girl wears a different colored costume except the Elite. All of the Elite girls have yet to enter the main room after my father dismissed them earlier. I hope Callista found time to give Luna her dosage of emotion from Castor. We make our final visit tonight before leaving.
“Welcome to the 25th annual Halloween Night at The Mansion. I am Marcus Crawford, your wonderful host for the night.” Father pauses for the applause from the audience, ever the performer. I stand behind the bar, pouring drinks, while he gives his speech. The last of my tips land in my hand tonight, and I will accept every last cent I deserve. When his speech ends, he comes over to the bar and drags me over to the VIP section. The night flies past as Father introduces me to potential business partners and sponsors from all over the world. Girls dance around us, music blares from the speakers, and drinks flow from the tap.
My eyes rarely leave Luna’s face. Her eyes rarely meet mine. I catch Callista’s glance, once, and she simply nods a silent answer to my silent question. Finally able to breathe, I focus in on the men in suits. Conversations continue through the night until Father announces the final dance, offering up all the girls to the customers. Even the Elite. When Father returns to my side, I whisper in his ear, “I want the blue-haired girl for the night.” He simply nods and laughs at my request.
“You finally came around, didn’t you?” Father walks over to the glass cage and removes Luna. Walking back over to me, he places my hand on her arm. “Here you go, son.” His smile makes my skin crawl at his suggested ownership of her. You will never own her, Father. You don’t own any of these girls.
I simply stride past him into the Star Room keeping my hand on Luna until the door closes behind me. As soon as I hear the click, Luna wraps her arms around me. “Oh, Theo.” I run my hands up and down her shoulders and back, reassuring her.
“I’m here. I’m here.” I repeat the two words.
“Let’s leave. Let’s go. Right now,” Luna says, looking up at me. “Why do we need to wait until the morning? It’s not like Marcus will notice. Leaving now will give us a… a headstart before he does.” She waits for my nod before rushing up the staircase to the roof. I follow a few footsteps behind her. Luna grabs the duffel bags under the tarp near the edge and tosses one to me. Before I can loop the straps over my shoulders, she begins to jump over the buildings towards the Black Market.
When we reach the marketplace, Castor waits in front of his counter with his arms crossed. A small stack of bags sit atop the counter, and Luna rushes over to check inside them. “Are you sure this will last until the end of the month?” Luna’s worry masks her excitement before Castor gives a single nod, arms still crossed. Her hug catches him off guard before he finally wraps his arms around her as well. Jealousy flashes through my body until Luna releases him and stands beside me.
“Theo,” Castor begins and stops. His eyes convey all the threats and hopes he can’t say. They begin to water until he turns around and motions towards the five or six bags behind him. “I gave you a few extra needles and bottles in case you lose any, but I think you’ll be okay. If you need anything, I have a few buddies in towns along your route you could contact. There’s a paper in one of these bags.” His voice catches.
“Castor, thank you,” I say. “Truly. For everything.” Castor simply nods in recognition of my words.
“Can we use the back entrance,” Luna asks Castor. He heads to the back of the marketplace and opens a rickety wooden door revealing an alleyway.
“Good luck,” he says. We head out into the night without looking behind.
When we reach the end of the alleyway, however, Luna abruptly stops. “What’s wrong,” I inquire, pushing her behind me in case of danger. I look across the street and see the problem. One of my father’s bodyguards, Colin, stands with his arms crossed and legs apart in a power stance in front of a boarded up old grocery store. He looks up and down the street as if scanning for something, for us. I back up into the alleyway and pull Luna next to a garbage can against a wall before Colin can see us on his scan back.
“What are we going to do,” Luna asks. Her voice shakes from worry. “We obviously can’t stay in this alley all night, and we can’t go in from the front entrance.” My mind races through all the possible routes and decide on the only decision.
“Just stay here,” I say before pushing up against the wall and walking towards the street. I hear Luna’s quiet protests but don’t look back. “Hey, Colin!” My father’s bodyguard places his hand on his gun holster before registering my face. “What’s up?” I act as if I belong here, on the deserted street, as I walk up to him and give him a handshake.
“I’m here on orders from Marcus. Girl got loose and ran away.”
“Seriously? Man, that’s crazy. You know, I was bartending for half the night. I could have sworn all the girls were there.” I hope my voice doesn’t betray the nervous feeling in my stomach. My eyes keep looking everywhere but the alley where Luna hides.
“Yup. One of the girls with colored hair. Blue, I believe Marcus said. You ever seen her? Crazy sexy.” Colin grins as his imagination runs wild, I’m sure.
“Yeah, I remember her. Haven’t seen her around here at all.”
“What you doin’ around here anyways, Crawford?” Colin suddenly seems to realize I’m not where I should be.
“Uh…” My cover story flees from my brain. “I like to… uh… I go on runs for my father sometimes. For… the emotions.”
“Here?” Colin’s eyebrows drawn down over his eyes as he tries to piece together the story.
“Yeah. On the weekly.” My Adam’s apple moves up and down my neck as my eyes dart over to the alleyway. Colin notices and begins to move across the street.
“Marcus gets the bottles delivered every week,” Colin says.
Crap, crap, crap. I follow behind Colin, trying to think of another excuse. I notice glass bottles on the side of the building. Glancing at Colin’s back, I pick one up with my right hand without breaking stride. Before he can pass by the garbage can, my body acts before my mind catches up. The bottle breaks into brilliant fractures against the back of his head. Nothing happens like the movies after that.
Colin whirls around with his gun in hand, and Luna bursts out from behind the garbage can shouting at him to stop. “I don’t want to do this, but I have orders.” Before I can blink, he shoots me in the foot, then my thigh. A burning sensation fills my lower body quickly rushing to my head. I fall down onto the cement and feel a warm liquid flowing around my head. My hands brush against the back of my head and come back a deep red. Luna’s screams fill my ears. I hear another gunshot ring between the alley’s walls. A deep voice comes from above. My eyes flutter shut before calloused fingers push them open. Blue eyes and a scruffy beard loom above me. Soft hands pull my head up off the warm liquid. Two voices mingle together in my ears. Luna’s golden eyes fill with tears in my eyesight. What’s wrong? My mouth doesn’t bother to open despite my brain screaming at it. Finally, a few words come out, “Stay wild, my moon child.” I feel tear drops from Luna fall onto my face, then I hear her voice.
I don’t want to live without you
I’m not read to live without you
So let’s dance a little, laugh a little, hope a little more
‘Cause I don’t want to leave without you, without you
She moans when Castor mumbles indecipherable words before beginning again.
I heard a voice from the other side singing
Hold fast, love lasts
As winter turns into summertime singing
Hold fast, love lasts
As winter turns into summertime singing
The last words I hear before the world disappears are from Luna, my moon child. “Don’t leave me, Theo. Don’t leave me.”
Don’t worry! There is still one installment left in the story! What do you think of this installment? I cried profusely while writing this section and editing it. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Much love, XOXO,
~A Writer Named Charley~