Catch Lili Too
Sophie Whittemore © 2020
All Rights Reserved
A Scandal in Gamin
The first killing had been easy. A little girl wandering the woods with a storybook under her arm. She hardly looked up; why would she? There were no tales of the killer in the wood.
Not unless you count fairy tales, that is. And who believes in those until it is too late?
She had books about fantastical heroes who go on quests to fight Evil that had a very purposeful capital E. She had colored in the pages of the black-and-white line drawings with pencils, with sweeping trains and glittering scales of armor. The pencils scattered on the ground, pages torn up and trampled underfoot. A halo around her perfect, little angelic head.
For that alone, the killer decided, she deserved to die. She was simply too good for this world. She would never have made it anyway. It was a mercy.
The second killing was more difficult. The killer, a little dirtier with a couple of claw marks on their face that would need to be fixed with a potion later, dragged their feet in the mud. The river was close; they could feel it. The sheer power emanating from it.
Their tongue darted out between their lips, tasting it. Death. Destruction.
Power. How long had it been since they’d felt it?
The killer scaled the little inn while everyone was sleeping. The owners had tried to modernize the inn to become an unremarkable hotel, the kind with a front desk and plastic keycards, and a swimming pool with far too much chlorine. Unremarkable except for one guest they had staying there. A guest who would check out and be replaced by someone far more powerful than he. Not that he knew it yet. Who would know if they were in the presence of a god, anyhow?
He wouldn’t, surely. He’d be dead before she arrived.
The killer knocked on the door of room 217. They hadn’t forgotten their manners in all their years of living. A curious figure came to the doorway, pressing their bespectacled face to it. They were a poet, fingers stained with ink and mind humming with words. Black hair swept through like a Romantic in the eye of the storm.
That’s the trouble with this town, the killer decided. Everyone believes in stories. That someone will try to save them.
“Are you all right?” the poet asked. “If you’re looking for the receptionist, everyone’s already gone home…”
The killer knocked the poet into the room and slammed the door shut behind them. A length of rope fell from their jacket.
“Come mierda, you’re crazy! What do you want with me? I don’t have any money. I’m a writer. I’m broke.”
The killer put their boot on the poet’s throat, uncoiling the length of rope. The poet choked and gargled and gasped in agony.
“I don’t want your money,” the killer cooed. “I want your room. At first, I thought I would just leave a note for the next guest. A little calling card to say I’m here. But I found something better than paper.” They leaned down and traced the poet’s jaw with a gloved finger. “Blood and flesh, for example.”
The poet died an unremarkable death for an unremarkable life. He’d most likely come back as a ghost, the killer decided. Violent deaths always got sentimental. But that would suit the killer just fine. He wouldn’t remember a thing, not in life or in death. The killer’s power made sure of that. Anonymity was annoying most of the time, but sometimes it was useful.
“A very powerful immortal will be the first to find you. You’re my welcome gift to her. No other will find you until then…” The killer pressed upon the body, sealing the contract in blood, flesh, and skin.
The killer yearned to look upon the immortal themselves, but that would ruin the ultimate plan. The immortal was so remarkable they might have been called a god if humans took kindly to that sort of thing. And nobody knew it yet, not even the immortal in question. That was why the killer did what they did. Killed anyone at all who might strike the immortal’s fancy. It was unusual, but that’s what the killer wanted.
The killer, strangely enough, wanted to get caught.
Just not yet.
The Sweeney Inn
“My name is Lili.”
“Patty,” she answers, pressing a lock of red hair behind her ear. Square-framed glasses slide down her freckled nose. Nervous, she takes my hand as I extend it over the front desk. The lobby door swings slowly shut. Yellow-white light spills out over us both as I take her in. The door slams when she finally ends the lingering handshake. “Patty Sweeney.”
I raise an eyebrow at the surname.
“Yes, Sweeney. Like the name of the hotel we’re staying at. The Sweeney Inn.”
“Ah,” I grin, taking my dear, sweet time since the place is fairly empty. “I didn’t realize I was speaking to a famous hotel heiress.”
“Coheir. But currently, I’m the concierge.” She replies with a purr, leaving me wondering if the aphrodisiac worked. It’s supposed to work right on contact with my skin, but I’m not certain if she’s fallen for me just yet. I hope so.
She smells delicious.
I wonder how long it would take for her to die.
“You’re going to have to wait to check in,” she continues, going back to sorting through envelopes on the tabletop. “Jason’s playing bartender. He has your room key on him, but he should be right back. You’ll know when you see him. He’s like me, but a guy. And unfairly buff.” She rolls her eyes at that. “We’re twins. Kind of like The Shining but without the bloody elevators bit. He’s the other coheir and concierge.”
“He can take his time.” I allow my eyes to linger on her lips and then flick my gaze back up to her face. She blushes, and that’s when I know I have her. “A long, long time.”
Gods, she almost makes me forget myself with this rush of power…
Patty has it all. Perfect smile. Cute eyes. Belly ring and septum piercing. With all the piercings, she probably isn’t afraid of needles (or unnaturally long incisors.) Lesbian flag pin on her vest, so I know she’s into women. The crop top she wears says FAT GIRLS RULE WORLDS. Exposing her skin and veins. And her heart. Her heart… I can hear her heart.
I haven’t had human heart in so long.
I think my stomach’s growling.
“What are your plans for the weekend, cutie?” I drawl, touching her hand a bit, fingertips against fingertips. My Siren powers call to her, that magic aphrodisiac.
She pauses, looks me dead (or rather, living) in the eye and says, “I have a girlfriend.” Even against my aphrodisiac, her willpower’s too strong. She must really love this girl.
Girlfriend 1. Lili 0.
I lean back, dropping the smirk set on my lips. “Ah. Lucky her.”
Fortunately, Jason finally arrives to hand me my key (and spare me any more awkwardness). I consider flirting with him, just for a nice appetizer. But then he moves closer to shake my hand. And the closer he gets, the more the distinct smell of potato chips envelops my senses.
Maybe I’ll try fasting.
Failing to corrupt and devour two siblings in a single day. I’ve hit a horrible low as a monster. I won’t last while I’m this hungry.
I might even do something I regret.
When Jason pulls away from our awkward handshake, his eyes still haven’t left my face. What’s he searching for?
“Sorry, you arrived a bit earlier than I expected. I’m going to need some coffee. Want me to grab you anything?”
“No.” I force an equally uncomfortable grin on my face. “I’m good.”
“How did you find travel to Gamin?”
“I forgot most of it.” Mercifully.
“Funny.” Jason turns to face me halfway. “Most people who arrive in Gamin never want to leave it. Who’d want to? Except for the…well, never mind that.”
With that cryptic remark, he leaves me alone with Patty (mercifully on her cell phone, ignoring me). If I were petty, I’d be on my cell phone, too, giving the service in this place a one-star review. But I’m not petty. I’m nosy. Blame it on the whole “is an immortal and nothing is new anymore so now I have to stir up trouble” instinct, but there’s something about Jason I don’t like.
All of him, for example.
And then there’s the way he keeps staring at me. Not a hint of fear in his eyes. Only curiosity. Only troublemakers have that much curiosity.
Troublemakers like me.
When Jason goes to fetch his coffee, I sneak a peek at his ledger. He’s left it at the hotel desk, expensive with a nice marble finish. I glance over at Patty, but she’s so absorbed texting (most likely her pesky girlfriend) she won’t be a problem. The Sweeneys’ hotel isn’t doing great if both its owners can be off duty at once. And the ease with which I acquired a room last second tells me it won’t be doing better anytime soon. So, I slide the ledger over to me in one sweep of my hand. I drag a box of tissues beside it as a cover.
Jason’s ledger, to say the least, is concerning. It features a full-page portrait sketch of me, for one thing. Something glowing in my eyes, something markedly monstrous.
Lili. Age: ??? Late teens or early twenties. Gray eyes. Brown skin. Dark hair in a tight braid. Cannot place the accent, but not from Minnesota. Definitely not Gamin.
Is she one of them?
Interesting. This Jason isn’t what he appeared to be. Them. Like he knew something he shouldn’t have. Or rather…
Jason isn’t human either. Not quite.
“Hey, Jason was it? I’m sure I can find my own room!” I shout toward the break room where he went to fetch coffee. “I’ll just go and let myself up.”
“Oh, your room hasn’t been cleaned yet. Nobody’s been up there since we left last night.” Here, he gets sheepish. “It’s just me and Patty. Sorry.”
“I don’t mind a messy room, really. I just need a place to sit for a while.”
He peeks around the corner, but I’m already heading for the stairs. “All right, enjoy your stay,” he concedes, a paper cup in hand. “Anything else I can help you with before you go?”
“Yeah, actually. How big is Gamin?”
“Well”—he scratches the back of his neck as he sets the cup down—“last I drove past the welcome sign, we were at 13,013 for population. But every person counts, you know.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
No hunting for me. Too small a town. They’ll remember faces.
I don’t want to be remembered as a monster. But it’s so hard to remember what I’d rather be. My memory, it’s been slipping the longer I stay in this small town. Trapped. Caged by some horrible fear.
But before any of that. Before I came to Gamin…
Why can’t I remember?
I go up the steps, swinging my old-fashioned silver key around its lanyard, and open the door to my Sweeney Inn room. (Room 217). The place reeks of loneliness, like too much bleach and fabric softener. Remnants of past guests stay in the corners of the room. A Bible with the pages hastily dog-eared. A child’s stuffed toy, most likely gotten with a fast-food order, tossed beneath the bed. Only its head remains in the plastic-wrap. Gray comforters (smarter to hide the stains) with the pillows pressed in the indentation of a human head. An unplugged alarm clock with the cord snaking back to a forgotten battery. A silver-backed TV still tuned onto a countdown show, icons of the past decade or something like that.
It’s a tidy room, for the most part, if unloved. Still, tidy as it is, there’s no worse feeling than feeling confined in here. A monster in a zoo. Like the time when I went to a freakshow at a fair a century ago. I paid to feel something, anything. Instead, I only felt that I should be the one in their places. I freed them, the “freaks,” and I ate the circus master. The one who had done the horrible deed to them. Made them feel like less than nothing.
Made me feel like less than even that.
But that’s another tale.
What else to say about this sad little room? A mug stained with coffee at the absolute bottom that just couldn’t get scrubbed out. I use the mug to store my medicine kit.
Or rather, my various tangerine bottles with the condescending childproof cap on them.
Or rather, just a singular tangerine bottle. The latest in a glorious lineage.
It’s a bottle of antidepressants. Antidepressant brand fifty-eight, to be exact, procured from a nice young man on a street corner in New York. Per usual, it didn’t work. Human medicine cannot suffice for Siren needs even if Sirens, like humans, might suffer from similar afflictions. I tried therapy, the kind where you text your therapist. But then the lies became too much, getting my story mixed up about what cities I lived in. How old I was. Also, I made a bad deal with a garuda, an anthropomorphic eagle warrior who flew over from Jakarta to party in Manhattan on a whim. Long story short, I lost my cellphone, my cellphone therapist, and a couple of teeth. I only replaced one of those things.
Vampires make great dentists, but horrible therapists.
We are immortal but not invincible.
As I walk further into the space, I see two young men are waiting for me in my room. One is transparent, and the other is a corpse with a rope around his neck, swinging from the rafters and smelling of rot and mildew.
“Hello there,” says the ghost. “My name is Byron López. I hate to be a bother, but could you cut my body down from there?”