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This day’s haul of random stolen goods included a fresh cigarette, a tag that had been ripped off a mattress, a pen cap, an elastic band for long hair, and a scrap of torn fabric. The fabric was what bothered Arthur. It reeked of cigarettes, so he didn’t understand why Benny had taken it. It felt like cotton, maybe from a T-shirt. Benny watched as Arthur threw all these things in a trash can in a kitchen, but he didn’t seem upset. He was probably happy that he had more room for more junk.
Vince came into the kitchen soon after the trash was disposed of, and he put an arm around Arthur’s waist. “You’ve been cooped up for a long time.” A kiss on Arthur’s forehead. “You want to go out?”
“You already have a reservation at some fancy rich people’s restaurant, don’t you?”
Proudly, Vince puffed out his chest and said, “I most certainly do.”
“You really should give me a heads up before doing that.”
Dressed up in fancy clothes, even a little bit of jewelry, Arthur was taken to a restaurant with a variety of seating. A very clean, round booth was what they chose. They held hands and whispered into each other ears. They even shared a few short kisses. If anyone in the restaurant noticed, they likely didn’t care.
When they got home, they had a romp in Arthur’s room. Then Arthur thought to change his underwear. He checked his drawer and froze.
“What’s the problem?” Vince’s feet gently padded over to him.
“I … I might be having a stupid moment.” Arthur’s hand was stiff on the drawer’s handle.
Vince peeked over his shoulder. “Hm? What do you mean?”
“This morning, the laundry was pretty much all done, right?”
Vince touched his arm. “I think so.”
“So all my underwear’s clean.”
“Uhm … yeah?”
Arthur turned back to look at him. His knew his eyes looked hollow because they felt hollow. “I have three red pairs of red underwear, boxer briefs.” He looked back to the drawer and lifted up the small stack of undies. “This morning, I put on a gray pair. I remember I thought of wearing red, but I chose gray.” He showed Vince that there were only two copies of the specific red underwear. “I have three pairs, and I saw these three pairs this morning, but now there are only two.”
Mystified, but still very calm, Vince stepped back and narrowed his eyes at Benny, who was playfully kicking a toy. “Did the cat figure out how to open and close drawers?”
“If you want to check him for underwear, be my guest,” Arthur said as he got a white pair of undies, “but I don’t think he’s reached that level of determination yet.”
Just to be sure, Arthur checked the other drawers. Then he walked off to the nearest laundry room, the one that all his clothes were cycled through. He couldn’t find anything even resembling his lost red underwear.
It was so weird.
The wedding was quiet, discreet, nothing more than a trip to a courthouse with two of Vince’s employees as witnesses. Vince even paid them extra for their time. The new husbands dressed like they were at the most stylish wedding in the world. They had a new pair of golden wedding bands to put on their fingers.
As for the possibility of a honeymoon, that wasn’t really figured out yet. They stayed home and looked at all sorts of options on the Internet. From tropical beaches to ski resorts. Countries like Japan, Scotland, Russia, Romania, South Korea, Mongolia, and Croatia. They also considered places in U.S.A. Myrtle Beach, Yellowstone National Park, Maui, the Grand Canyon, and New Orleans. This was the most first world of first world problems. They had no idea what to choose, so they waited until they had at least an idea.
But the main thing on Arthur’s mind was What’s-Her-Name, the cleaning woman who often to worked in a room Arthur was using and chatted on as if she had the right to his attention. Arthur felt bad for her. She might have been lonely, or bored, and maybe she wanted a friend, but in all honesty he didn’t want to be her friend. He just wanted to be left alone.
When What’s-Her-Name started talking about her dating life, and then even her god damn sex life, Arthur was appalled. This woman had to be stupid, had to be.
Arthur suspected she was purposely trying to pick rooms that he was in, even if it meant ignoring rooms she’d been assigned. One morning, Arthur was in his bedroom (he really didn’t want to move to a different room), playing a version of keep away with Benny, when What’s-Her-Name was rubbing some Pledge on something. Arthur had been trying to ignore her, but his heart froze when she got close to his back and oh so casually yet oh so loudly asked, “Do you have any good videos of guy-on-guy stuff? You can message me.”
Arthur dropped the cat toy and nudged Benny away. Then, his teeth tight and his breath hot, he got to his feet.
He’d never shared any contact information with this crazy woman! Why was she acting like he had?!
Fists at his sides, Arthur started down at the perky woman illegal bahis and let it out.
“What the fuck’s wrong with you?! Get the hell out of my room and don’t ever come back!! If I see you here again I’ll drag you out by your hair!!” He pointed at the exit doors. “Get your shit and go!! Out!! Now!!”
What’s-Her-Name’s face turned almost the color of a pomegranate. Then she did the weirdest combination of fake crying and shrieking. If the rooms weren’t basically sound proof, a crowd of people might’ve shown up right then. Arthur wasn’t having any of this shit. Grabbing her basket of cleaning supplies, he marched on to the exit doors and literally tossed it into the hallway, uncaring of all the spilled bottles, rags, scrubbers, and other things.
Then he went up to What’s-Her-Name and seized her hair’s little bun. Of course the wild bitch screamed, kicked, and clawed at him, but she wasn’t scary. Even Arthur could deal with her. She probably weighed ninety-five pounds after a good meal.
With even less care than the basket, Arthur threw this woman out of his room and slammed the doors back in place. Then he locked them. He expected her to bang on the doors like the idiot she was but to his surprise all he heard was her exaggerated whimpers. Arthur chose to ignore her and check on Benny. That cat was hiding in his bed then, peeking out from behind the curtains. He’d never seen his favorite human in such a violent mood before. No wonder it was so frightening to him!
Arthur sighed and returned to his normal, tame nature. It didn’t take long for Benny to go into his arms. They cuddled on his bed for a while.
In all honesty, Arthur didn’t think there was anything wrong with women being interested in some good old fashioned guy-on-guy porn, or even watching a live performance assuming all parties consented. However, he wasn’t even What’s-Her-Name’s friend, and he thought it was highly inappropriate for her to just ask him about porn while she was on the job.
And he was married to her boss, for fuck’s sake!!
What a lunatic!!
But should he tell Vince?
Arthur very lightly scratched under Benny’s chin. That cat’s purring sounded like an engine.
But Arthur didn’t like messing with other people’s money. He didn’t want her to lose her job.
As long as What’s-Her-Name kept her distance and left him alone, Arthur didn’t mind pretending to forget about it.
The week after incident with What’s-Her-Name was uneventful. Arthur enjoyed domestic and marital bliss, cooking food, playing games, working out, soaking in hot tubs, watching stuff, and having lots of sex.
But one day, something happened that shook Arthur’s point of view.
Arthur had slept in Vince’s bedroom the night before, but he woke up alone. Assuming Vince was off doing important business stuff, stuff that was beyond his uncultured understanding, Arthur got up and thought to take a shower. But he paused, because there was a folded note on Vince’s pillow. He pinched it up read it while ruffling his own hair.
“A butler will come to you after you finish breakfast. Please follow him.”
Did Vince have some silly romantic thing set up? Rose petals leading to a bathtub and all that?
Arthur freshened up and went off to the closest kitchen. He made chocolate chip waffles with sausage and hash browns. When he was full and putting the dishes in the sink, a butler tapped on the door frame and said, “Excuse me, Sir.”
“Oh, hello.” Arthur smiled at him. “Did Vince send you?”
“Yes, Sir. Would you please follow me?”
Dream-like, this sort of thing was always dream-like.
Arthur followed the butler out of the kitchen and to an elevator. To his concern, the butler chose the lowest level. Arthur hadn’t ever been in the basement levels before. He wanted to ask about this, but it he assumed the butler was only doing as he was told and he might not know what was going on anyway.
When the elevator doors opened in the basement, a tall and burly man in something like a security uniform greeted them. “Hey,” he said to Arthur, “mind coming with me?”
Nervous, but as docile as ever, Arthur left the elevator, where the butler remained. “Uhm, hi. Did Vince send you?”
“Yeah.” He gestured behind himself. “I’ll take you to him.”
“Uhm … okay?” As they walked, Arthur noticed a few more security guards were quietly walking around, as if they were on patrol … inside a house …? “What’s with all these guys?” Arthur asked. “I’ve never seen them before.”
“Just security, that’s all,” the burly man said. He stopped at a sliding door at the end of the hallway. He pushed it into its hidden pocket and said, “Okay, go on in.”
Arthur stepped into the room and frizzled up like a pissed off bird as the door was closed behind him.
A boardroom, a table with a mirror panel in the center and sleek black chairs. There were eight more security guys, four on each illegal bahis siteleri side, standing at attention. At the farthest end of the table, Vince was slouching on the biggest, widest, fanciest chair. His feet were on the table, and one arm was hanging on the chair’s back.
A gun was in his hand.
He was grinning.
At the closest end was What’s-Her-Name.
In a chair.
Her arms behind her back, her head lowered, sobbing and sniffling.
“Vince?” Arthur tightly held his fingers together as he walked forward, dread chilling his stomach. “What’s going on?” His shoes stopped, sliding and grinding against the hardwood floor.
Plastic handcuffs were on What’s-Her-Name’s wrists. Similar restraints were on her ankles. One of her cheeks looked amazingly pink, as if someone had slapped her.
“What the hell?!” Arthur moved to assist her, but one of the security guards took his arm and held him back.
“Sorry, Sir,” the guard said, “Boss’ orders. Please come with me.”
Arthur looked at the stern guard’s face, then off to Vince’s happy face, then back to the guard. “What the hell’s going on here?!”
“Don’t make his job any more difficult,” Vince said with his smooth, deep words. “Get over here, where you belong.”
Where … what?!
Arthur gaped at Vince, but he let the guard lead him over there. His arm was released, and Arthur sat down in a chair next to Vince, on the side that didn’t have the gun.
Why the fuck was there a gun?!
“Well,” Vince said as he reached into a pocket under his jacket, “this is an interesting situation.” He pulled out some kind of iPhone with a bedazzled case. “Hacking this thing wasn’t difficult. I mean,” Vince said as his thumb slid across the screen, lightly snickering, “it’s Apple after all.” A few seconds later, he showed Arthur the screen.
The gallery was full of photos of Arthur!!
Obviously taken without him knowing …
Playing with Benny, gaming, eating, walking, lounging around.
A sickening, mucus-like feeling was in Arthur’s throat and belly as his hand went to his mouth.
Vince then showed Arthur some other photos in the gallery. What’s-Her-Name’s face was there very often, and many of them were selfies. “At least we know who took your red underwear,” Vince said as he put tossed the phone onto the table. It bounced and clattered in a way that made Arthur cringe. He was surprised that the mirror panel didn’t break.
A guard snatched the phone up and started doing something with it, possibly deleting the photos and any other creepy things. Hell, for all Arthur knew, he was could’ve been performing a factory reset.
With a wickedly merry voice, Vince rose his chin and said to What’s-Her-Name, “Did you forget the fact that he’s married to a man or were you just delusional?” His chest shook in another chuckle. “Yeah, I think you were just delusional.”
Arthur didn’t know what to think, but he was able to ask, “When did all this happen? Why did it happen?”
Vince shrugged and winked at him. “Don’t worry, Honey. She can’t do shit to you, but oh boy did she try.”
He lightly tapped his gun on the chair’s back. “She even went around telling the other cleaners you sexually harassed her.” That was when Vince put his free hand on his chest and let out a wheezing laugh. “I … hahhhh … I mean, what the fuck?! The audacity of this bitch! Does she need medicine or something?! I’m her fucking boss! Ha ha ha haaahhhhh!!” His head tilted back. “She’s just like my fucking mom!! She probably thinks air conditioning is sexist!!”
This … this was almost like some crazy anonymous story on the Internet. It didn’t feel real.
And just then … Vince took his arm off the chair’s back … outstretched it …
“No!!” Arthur reached out, hoping to grab him, but Vince nudged him back in his seat.
The guards did nothing.
The gunfire hurt Arthur’s ears. He cried out and recoiled so badly that his chair fell back onto the floor, and he had to struggle to get on his knees. There was a feminine scream.
A chemical, powdery smell reached his lungs. Arthur slapped the table as he pushed himself up and his worried eyes searched for What’s-Her-Name. She wasn’t in the chair. The chair was on the floor, and she was there too. Panic had likely flopped her out of her seat, as it had done to Arthur.
He looked under the table. The back of the chair seemed to have been what was shot. There was a bullet hole there. He couldn’t see any blood, but What’s-Her-Name was whimpering on the floor, tears shimmering on her pink face.
Just in case, Arthur asked, “Are you hurt?” Then, his voice lowered as he said, “Shit, oh my fucking shit.”
“She’s fine,” Vince said as if he was an annoyed older sibling dealing with a kid that was faking something. “I didn’t aim for her.” His chair made crumbling, stretching noises as he got up. Arthur was kneeling on the floor as he watched him. Vince’s shiny shoes almost looked like canlı bahis siteleri brown liquid as he walked around the table and towards him. He stopped very close to Arthur and grabbed his arm, pulling him to his feet.
His gun was pointed up to the ceiling.
That was enough to keep Arthur from resisting.
There was the strongest, fiercest, most possessive kiss Arthur could ever remember. It tasted like protein shakes and a hint of alcohol. Arthur was a frozen, yet still somehow shaking thing when their mouths separated. Vince looked like he’d just won something, so pleased and triumphant, and he said with a matching resonance, “That’s the most action you’ll see from him, you crazy bitch.” Huh? He was talking to What’s-Her-Name?
Arthur was able to take a step back, and he wiped his lips with his sleeve. “This … this isn’t real, right?”
But Vince went on as if Arthur hadn’t said anything, playfully bending down and grinning at What’s-Her-Name on the floor. “You’re fired, Bitch, and by the way … ” one of the security guards approached and handed Vince a black tablet with ear buds plugged in. Arthur didn’t see the screen, but Vince seemed to want What’s-Her-Name to see it, because he knelt down and held it before her face.
The woman’s eyes held pure horror as she recognized whatever was there. Vince harshly told her, “I keep my ear to the ground and my eyes on everything. If I hear or see anything from you I don’t like, then you’ll disappear. Nobody will find you.” Vince got up and gave the tablet back to a guard, and he said, “Get her out of here.”
As the guards roughly grabbed the woman, taking both her and her phone out of the room, Vince unloaded his gun and put the magazine on the table. Arthur didn’t know what to do, let alone what to say. Then Vince went to him and stroked his cheek with the backs of his fingers, putting on a gentle face. “A woman’s accusation can destroy a man, even a gay man, but you don’t have to worry about her.” He tapped the tip of Arthur’s nose. “Nobody’s allowed to hurt my Artie.”
Why did Vince even want Arthur to see this?!
Arthur’s arms folded against his chest as he looked away. “This is fucking crazy. You just … you just shot at someone.”
A short, throaty laugh.
Vince asked, “So? Are you going to call the cops?” More laughter.
Arthur closed his eyes and hissed as if he’d been injured.
He knew better.
Switching from a lover’s position to a target’s position was all too easy, and marriage doesn’t make a difference.
“I … I mean …?” One of Arthur’s eyelids uncomfortably twitched. “I guess I’m happy I won’t have to deal with her anymore.”
“Well aren’t you a nice thing?” Vince put a kiss on his cheek. “Come with me, Honey. You need a break.”
Arthur let him lead him out of the room and to the elevator.
He tried to live as if everything was normal and he didn’t care.
But he did care.
Ever since then, Arthur felt different whenever he looked at Vince.
Benny liked to gently swat at Arthur sometimes. He was even careful not to scratch. Arthur loved him so much.
He didn’t know how he felt about Vince, except for the fear. He knew that fear was always creeping around under his skin. The only time Arthur couldn’t feel the fear was maybe during sex, but even then there were moments when his body felt like lead.
One morning, while Arthur was playing a game in his room, with Benny wiggling around at his feet when he thought, “Can I run away again?” Then he thought, “Should I run away again?” It wasn’t like Arthur was actually getting hurt. But still … he couldn’t figure out what the solution was.
Then he thought, “Okay, let’s say I’ll run away. How am I going to do it?”
And he pondered, and pondered, and then terror boiled in his heart. He barely felt Benny tapping his socked toes with his paws.
Arthur had always left the house in a limousine with curtains on the windows. He didn’t know the directions to get to the nearest town.
He tried using a map app to figure out where he was, exactly, and then he realized he didn’t even fucking know what this address was. He didn’t know the address to the place he lived in!! Then he tried to have the program find his location. Nothing. The house might as well not even exist. It certainly must’ve had an address. Vince received mail all the time … although Arthur had never actually seen the mail. But this house just couldn’t be found on any map application Arthur used. GPS failed him.
And on top of all that, Vince had access to his fucking bank account.
Arthur decided right there to open a different bank account online and put some emergency money there, just in case.
But he hoped that he’d never need it, that everything was fine and he was overreacting, that he was safe and nothing bad was going to happen.
“Hey, why have you been so uptight lately?” Vince asked.
They were hanging around in sunken couches. Vince’s legs were open, and Arthur’s back was on his chest. Arthur had been playing on his handheld console and Vince had been looking at his phone. It was a hot morning, but the air conditioning was perfect.
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