Colleen thought seriously about killing off the rest of the whiskey, and perhaps spending another night. This was as good a place as any to wait, to rest, to drink, and to listen to the couple next door. They seemed to have an endless amount of energy and time. The first night had been comical, and the next irritating, but now Colleen wondered what these two were like. They had to be young, very young, and they had to be either unemployed, or Colleen thought wryly, on the run. But their collective sex drives were insatiable and loud. The pounding of the headboard gave Colleen the image of the guy being big and burly, hammering away at his partner while she moaned, and sometimes screamed, with delight.
The knock on the door sent Colleen scrambling for her gun, cleared the alcohol away as the knocks faded, and sent Colleen’s heart racing. Was this it? But Demons wouldn’t knock. They wouldn’t have to knock.
“Colleen?” It was a woman’s voice. “I know you’re in there. Please open the door.”
Colleen froze. No one knew where she was. No one had any way to know her name. But maybe the front desk had given her name out. That seemed more likely than Demons, but Colleen felt it. She felt the fear in the woman’s voice and knew that level of fear came from few places.
Colleen stuffed the gun into her waistband and opened the door.
The smell hit her before anything else, the smell of an unwashed body, the smell of a human being who had not bathed on a regular basis in months, if not years. Colleen backed up, repulsed by the smell, and the woman walked into the room. She was fifty, maybe younger, but her face was a mess of regular sunburns and scars. He scraggly hair hung down and hadn’t seen a brush in forever. The woman wore a pair of pants that were far too large and an oversized shirt.
“My name is Kirstin Crump” the woman began simply, “and I’ve been sent to speak to you.”
“By whom?” Colleen asked.
“I think you know the answer to that question, Colleen.” Kirstin replied. “I don’t think I have to explain that, but they want me to explain me to you.” Kirstin looked down at the floor. “But please, first, they’re allowing me to bathe, and eat. Could you let me borrow your shower for a few minutes, and I’d like some food, real food. Something that isn’t fried or from a fast food joint. A salad, I haven’t had a salad in over three years. And some milk. Have you got any…” Kirstin stopped, “…this is only for one night so please help me, okay?” And Colleen saw the woman had begun to cry.
“Yeah, the shower is in there.” Colleen told her. “I’ll go get you some food.”
Colleen watched Kirstin eat silently and she realized Kirstin was a lot younger than she first appeared. But very clearly Kirstin had lived a very hard life.
“I’m thirty.” Kirstin said abruptly. “I’m married I have a son.” She looked up Colleen and then continued eating, then spoke again, “My husband is in the Air Force, and I was a stay at home mom. I did the stay at home mom damn well. I worked out a lot, I shopped for organic food, and I was the perfect wife. One day in Yoga class I met a woman named Elizabeth. She was a strange one. Some days we were friends and some days she acted like she didn’t know me, but no one was more focused on her health. No one I had ever met was smarter or funnier, when she was herself.”
“Elizabeth was possessed.” Colleen nodded.
“Yeah, and I’m glad you said that.” Kirstin said. “I was afraid you wouldn’t believe me. Or they were just toying with me again.”
“So Elizabeth and I started doing stuff together, and she was super generous to me, and to my family. I was slowly being groomed as a host. By the time she revealed to me what was going on, I already suspected something weird. So the day came that she asked me to submit to possession, and laid out how good life would be if I did, and how protected my son would be. But I said no. I didn’t trust Elizabeth with my son, and I certainly didn’t trust the Demon. So they punished me. The Demon possessed me. I tried to fight it but that lasted about five seconds. You’ve never been possessed, have you, Colleen?”
“No” Colleen whispered.
“It stayed inside of me for about a minute. Just a minute, really, just that long. It was like every terrible thing that I had ever felt at any time in my life had been poured into that minute, and I relived it all. I came to screaming on the floor. Then Elizabeth gave me a choice. My son and husband would be possessed, or I could walk out of the door right then and become a ten dollar whore. I wasn’t allowed to eat real food or sleep inside. I had to turn tricks at least once ever day and I wasn’t allowed to take money that I hadn’t worked for. If I killed myself they would go after my family, and they would have to do what I was doing. If I contacted anyone I ever knew they would go after my family. If I ever told anyone this…you get the picture.” Kirstin stopped speaking and Colleen saw tears falling from her eyes.
“So why are you telling me this?” Colleen asked.
“They said I had to do this for five years, as punishment, and then I could go back to my life.” Kirstin said. “I’m not sure I ever believed them, really, but I have no choices. Then a few days ago they came to me and made me an offer; if I could convince you to go back to him they would let me go home and never touch me or my family again. If you don’t then they are going to take my son and make me watch.”
“Oh God” whispered Colleen.
“There is no God, Colleen.” Kirstin laughed bitterly. “There is only them. They control everything and nothing stops them from doing what they want. I watched my son kill ants with a stick one day. We’re less to them than those ants were to me. I was an educated woman with a good family and a nice house and I have a son. But they that from me and the first night I spent sleeping under a bridge I was raped. The man was possessed and he told me if I fought back… well, you know by now anything that has happened to me, why it happened. I lived in Maine. In three years I’ve walked here. I’ve been beaten, abused, kicked, dragged around by my hair in the parking lot of a strip joint, and used in ways you cannot imagine, but I have never been arrested. They have that much control over our lives, Colleen. They can do what they want. And they want you back in Atlanta. If you aren’t going to go then you will have to kill me.”
“What makes you think they’ll honor their deal with you?” Colleen asked.
“You think I give a fuck?” Kirstin laughed. “I’ll believe anything. I’ll do anything they ask and they know it. I’ll grasp any straw. I’ll jump through any hoop. They’ve offered to give me my life back and I’ll obey and I will be grateful and I will do anything they ask, ever.”
Colleen took Kirstin out into the desert and beat the hell out of her. She then took her to a truck stop and handcuffed her before letting her out of the car.
“Are you sure this will work?” Colleen asked.
“Yes, I have to look like I escaped.” Kirstin replied. “I think you’ll hear about me on the news, damn, I think you broke my jaw.”
“It had to look real, I’m sorry.” Colleen said.
“Yeah, thanks for that.” Kirstin said. “I’ve got to go be rescued now.”
Colleen turned the car around and headed back to Atlanta.