Author's Note: This is a work of fiction. None of the people portrayed in this work, to the best of the author's knowledge, have (now or ever) existed.
Author's Note 2: To skip to the sex, go to chapter III.
Part I. Quid Pro Quo.
Friday, 1837 Hours
Jack Northcutt closed his car door and engaged the vehicle's security system (He wondered: "When did manufacturers stop building in that satisfying "chirp CHIRP-chip" sound car alarm systems used to make?") and walked to the elevator in his building's underground parking lot. He moved quickly across the concrete floor, not at all caring about the loud report his black, $180 wingtips made with each of his steps. He rode the elevator to the 14th floor (but really, it was the 13th floor; "Superstitious bastards..." he thought), opened his front door and let it close, locking behind him. He strode purposefully through the dark two-bedroom condo, leaving the lights off and thinking only of how badly he wanted to kill his walrus-like boss.
He flipped on the light in his room, roughly slipped off his still-tied shoes, stripped out of his work clothes, threw his under garments and socks in his hamper. Though he was seething with residual anger, he made it a point to hang up his suit and tie, as he was only a few years removed from a time when he could neither afford nor appreciate a tailored suit and quality tie. Now naked and in somewhat better control of his temper, he headed to the shower. He'd had a lousy Friday and more than work was weighing on his mind as he turned on the shower and stepped in to clean off, not bothering to close the door connecting his bedroom to the master bath in which he was showering. "Fuck the steam on the walls." He thought darkly.
The work stateside while he waited for another contract deployment sucked; his boss was an ass who'd just moved up Jack's due date for his end-of-the-calendar-year reports (aka, billable hour summaries), and forecasted hours for the next fiscal quarter to next week, rather than the 60+ days left in the calendar year. Jack kept good records and had been a contractor for two years, during which he'd learned very quickly to keep his records in order, and updated at least each fiscal quarter. He'd have the busy-work finished by close of business (COB) Tuesday, but it was the principal at issue that bothered him. His boss, "Gill," ("God, what a perfect name for washed-out, fat fuck of an old has-been." Jack observed to himself) had been a dick to Jack from the day he'd returned from his last tour, and Jack could think of no reason other than (relative to Gill), his youth, his good looks and his having earned a performance bonus (based on client feedback) for each of his last three tours. Gill, even when he'd still been deployable, had only ever earned the privilege to finish out his tour(s) still in country, but in the rear, as each client had consistently fired him from direct fieldwork on their contract within 60 days of Gill's arrival in theater. Were it not for Gill's accounting and logistics acumen (and willingness to work for relatively little pay), he'd have been left with his medical retirement checks from the Navy, years ago. Gill was a douche bag, had fucked up Jack's weekend, and was probably slow-rolling Jack's next tour. They'd settle up soon, Jack promised himself. A few more deployments and he'd have his financial goal set for the next stage, at which time he planned to burn a few walruses as he crossed his professional bridges.
But that wasn't all that bothered Jack at the moment. He had slowly come to the conscious realization that for some time now, things in his condo felt out of place, like some naughty goblin had moved some of his things around each day, and never in the same way. Several times over the last week he'd look in his refrigerator only to notice that some food that he'd sworn was there the day before, was missing. And once or twice during the week, he got a sense that the toilet paper seemed to be going faster than normal. And there were a few other little things that tweaked at his sense of awareness too, finding the edges of what seemed like fingerprints in the corner of the mirror on the medicine cabinet in his bathroom (and which he fastidiously wiped off each time he opened or closed the cabinet), or when he came home, noticing that his closet sliding door was sometimes not quite closed, despite his similar obsession with leaving it firmly shut. Something was definitely off, he thought, reaching for his institutional, hard, rectangular yellow bar of Dial soap (because body wash was for wussies and effeminate big-city "cake eaters" who used loofas, got vasectomies, and drove priuses...es ("priu-i"?)). He quickly and roughly lathered up with soap, the force of his movements and the speed at which he carried them out were a product of his anger as much as they were a holdover of military necessity from his previous life, to quickly shower and get out while there was still hot water left for other soldiers. Completing his scouring lather, Jack rinsed off the soap just as forcefully, but then leaned forward with both of his hands braced against the cool, smooth tile wall of the shower. Still holding the bar of soap in his right hand (but up and out of the shower's stream of hot water), he spent some time lingering in the almost too hot water of the shower, holding his head in the downpour and breathing slowly and deeply, trying to relax his mind and soothe the tension from his neck muscles.
But as he felt some degree of calm enter his mind and was putting the soap back in its dish, he noticed that the soap dish was not only demonstrably foamy, as if from recent use, (Jack never put soap back on the dish, foamy) it also had a long, wavy black hair on it (though seemingly too long for a pubic hair...). Jack had short, clipper-shaved, dirty-blond hair, and at 25, was edging toward an early gray. (One of the chief reasons he routinely used clippers to closely cut his hair). There was just no way in hell it was his hair, and it had been two weeks since he broke up with Ashley, his last girlfriend ("What a bitch..." he thought, still remembering all of her "Why can't you grow up and find a real job?!" complaining about how he made his living when she'd ended things), and even so, she was a redhead, so it wasn't possible it was her hair. Besides, he had never given Ashley a key to his place, and this bar of soap was only two days old... "What the fuck?!" He sarcastically and rhetorically asked himself as he examined the soap dish and then the rest of the shower for signs of an intruder. "A shower intruder?" he thought to himself sarcastically. "That like a turd burglar?" He wondered aloud, smiling crookedly as he did.
Jack shook his head in disgust and then quickly washed his hair with a handful of soap lather. He was starting to get pissed off; someone, probably that other asshole-fat-fuck he knew, who worked as the building superintendent, had been in or allowed someone else to enter his apartment without telling him. "But why would he or someone else come here to use the shower?" He wondered, realizing it made no sense.
Having to pay $280,000 for this fourteenth floor condo, and then another $500 a month for the Condo Owner's Association dues, utilities, parking space and trash pickup left enough of a bad taste in Jack's mouth, but the idea of someone, a mother fucking free-loading intruder, using his apartment without his permission or even knowledge, lit a fuse that started a slow burning rage inside Jack's mind. He turned off the shower, stepped out of the water and slowly dried himself off; his arms and legs were clenched and he wanted so badly to punch holes in the walls around him. Remembering how much one such patch job cost him the previous year, he mastered his temper, but adrenaline had already flooded the muscles in his torso and legs. Jack had a problem with his anger, and with each deployment it only seemed to get worse, and he knew if he didn't find a different profession or seek help, someday soon he'd lose his temper and go too far to avoid confrontation with law enforcement. But, this was his home, and someone had invaded it; this couldn't wait one God-damned minute longer, Ed the fat-as-shit-super was going to explain this, now!
Throwing his towel on the floor, Jack took one step toward the bathroom doorway and froze when he noticed movement in his peripheral vision; turning his head slightly to his right, reflecting off the dresser-mounted mirror outside the bathroom doorway and to his left, Jack saw reflected again in the medicine cabinet mirror inside the bathroom and on his right, the sliding closet door in his room shift slowly and soundlessly close.
"Fuck!" He thought. "Some mother fucker is in there, now!" Jack's heart hammered blood through his veins, and he felt as though he could hear a dull roar in his ears. He forced himself to focus, and calm down. He locked his eyes on the image of the closet door, reflected in the mirror of the medicine cabinet, and his fingers slowly curled into fists. He was going to fuck that bastard up; no one breaks into his apartment, uses his shit, eats his food and leaves a fucking hair on his God-damned soap! He'd made it through two deployments (one to Iraq and one to Afghanistan) in only four years of active duty with the US Army, and then three more tours, each six months long, for his current work as a contractor (of sorts). He'd be fucking God-damned if he'd put up with shit like this now, back in the real world.
He carefully and quietly retrieved his towel, dried his feet thoroughly and moved silently and with his eyes focused on that closet door, out of the bathroom. Once back in his bedroom, he quietly pulled the short-barreled, Smith & Wesson, model 29 stainless steel revolver (chambered in .44 Remington Magnum), out of his sock drawer, which he routinely oiled to ensure it would open silently. Taking his eyes off the closet door for just a moment, he slowly and quietly popped open the cylinder, verified all six chambers were loaded with Fiocchi brand, 240 grain semi-jacketed hollow points, then just as slowly and quietly put the cylinder securely back into the frame, gently rotating the cylinder clockwise roughly a quarter inch until it locked into place with each of the chambers aligned to rotate into position with the hammer through each trigger pull. He inhaled deeply and slowly, accepting as he exhaled just as slowly that he was going to kill whomever was hiding in his closet, and began to think about how he'd handle the body; Report the break-in and threat to his life? Clean the room and dump the carcass, but not report it? He'd see how much of a mess it was, first.
Jack walked slowly to the closet, not excited, nervous or scared; he'd approached similar hide spots, as part of a fire team or squad sized breaching element more times than he could remember, he knew to stop a meter away and off-center from the door so that if/when he shot the fucker in the head, most of the door fragments, brain matter and other tissue wouldn't blow back in his face due to spall. He raised the revolver, extending his arms but pointing the weapon at a downward angle toward the closet door, so that the bullet would contact the door at the level of his waist and continue to travel down into the tile and concrete floor. He considered this the most reliable height and angle at which to aim, as he was not sure if the bastard was prone, sitting or standing. Finally, taking a moment to ensure there were no competing noises from the air vents or passing aircraft outside, he cocked back the hammer slowly and carefully, and the distinct and menacing, mechanical sound of the hammer and rotating cylinder rang out ominously in the bedroom.
The S&W did its job Hollywood-flawlessly, the sound of the hammer cocking was unmistakable. Though he couldn't see the fucker hiding on the other side of the sliding door, he felt that same sense of recognition of someone else's palpable fear. He'd known that feeling before, whether via pheromones, psychic screams or just a gut feeling, he knew the shitbird on the other side of the door recognized his plight.
"Open the door, fucktard, or I'll just shoot you through it." He said, projecting his voice like the Infantry Staff Sergeant and Squad Leader he'd once been. His pulse was steady and strong, his pupils were wide and the veins in his pecks and biceps throbbed with adrenaline. After a three second count, he continued. "Last chance, asshole; this is the United States of America, we're in a 'Stand Your Ground' state, and this is my home. When I count "three," I'm going to kill you."
"One," he calmly said, and the door slowly slid open. As the door slid three inches to the right and he could see the outline of a human torso begin to emerge, Jack raised the revolver and squatted slightly, keeping his weight on his feet spread shoulder width apart, and assumed a good, solid (Isosceles) shooting stance, front sight aimed at what he projected would be the fucker's center mass. He squared himself in front of his opponent and peered down the barrel with both eyes open, his left hand cupping his right as he firmly gripped his revolver. What, or rather who, he saw astonished him, but his finger never tightened or in any way pulled the trigger out of surprise when the door cleared the intruder. As she revealed herself, he calmly slid his index finger off the trigger to rest alongside the frame.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor of his closet (the opposite side from where he hung his suit that evening), between his tuxedo on her left and his tailored-in-Kabul, gray suit on her right, was a very dark complected black woman, somewhere between 25 and he guessed 40 years old. She wore her hair in shoulder length, pencil-width, raven colored braids, parted in the middle of her scalp, hanging down evenly on either side of her head, but pushed back over her tall, thin ears. Her nose was short, flat and wide; her eyes were as big and round as saucers, and were framed by long black lashes, her irises were dark brown, if not black. She looked at Jack with her face a mask of total fear, her nostrils flared rhythmically with her accelerated breathing, and her forehead shiny and beaded with sweat. Her hands shook slightly as she held them up like kids do when playing cops and robbers. Jack noticed her palms were much lighter in color than the skin along her arms and the backs of her hands, a phenomenon he noticed was also repeated with the bottoms of her feet. Her full, brown lips were pressed together tightly and quivered until she started chewing roughly on her lower lip and began to nervously swallow. She was wearing one of his tee shirts and what looked like a pair of his cheap, formerly-white-but-now-washed-out-gray boxer shorts. Her toes on her bare feet were clenched like his fingers were upon his revolver's grip.
"Oh, God, please don't let him shoot me!" She thought, but was too afraid to voice anything, even after she opened the door and he didn't shoot her. His expression seemed to freeze in a look of bewilderment, and then to soften, and she thought she might just have a chance to survive his finding her. In that possibility to survive, she vowed to herself that she would do whatever it took to go on living.
The fear and vulnerability she radiated touched at something deep in Jack's memory. Despite his hair-trigger anger and its accompanying, well-honed distrust of others and instinct to view her to the contrary, he felt his mood shift and for reasons he could not fully understand, he began to think of and see her as a helpless woman, rather than an intruding thief or a burglar. In fact, something tugged at the back of his mind that he'd read an absurd news story about a similar situation, several years before, in which a woman in Japan, or Korea (or somewhere in East Asia) had similarly gained access to and had lived in a man's apartment for some time, eating his food and using his home, before he became aware of her presence. But just as quickly the connection passed from his thoughts, as despite the awkwardness of such a situation, here he was, and he needed to focus on what was happening rather than how it might seem to an outside observer.
She looked up at him, still terrified of the gun he held and the way he'd yelled at and threatened her, and as she focused on getting through this confrontation, she noticed and then acknowledged the surreal timing of her realization, that this young white man who stood before her naked, holding a gun, had a face that looked like a mix of Sam Worthington and Paul Walker. "Why the fuck does that thought occur to me at a time like this?!" she screamed inwardly. She noticed that his dirty-blond hair was cut uniformly short on top and shaved to the skin on the sides. His eyes were squinty, his jaw was square, and he had several tattoos on his well-developed pecs and his muscular arms. But most of all, she immediately noticed and came back to the fact that he stood naked in front of her, holding a gun in front of him, his circumcised penis dangling conspicuously over his large scrotum. She saw that his legs and arms had little hair, and that his legs (like his arms) were strong and had well-defined muscles. "Is he military?" She wondered, concluding that if he was, and if he was possessed of the discipline and code(s) of honor for which the US military is traditionally inclined to adhere, she felt her chances of surviving, were good; so long as she did all she could to not seem threatening.
"Ah, shit, what the fuck?!" Jack said quietly, lowering the hammer carefully on his revolver and letting his right hand drop, bringing his revolver down to his side, though he kept his finger straight and outside the trigger guard, close enough to shoot if he had to. He stood up from his shooting stance, straightening his legs and back, and ran his left hand over his closely shaved hair, and let out a deep breath...
She involuntarily shuddered, her eye lids fluttered and she let out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding in, as he spoke and then lowered his revolver. "I might just get out of this!" She thrilled, focusing solely on each moment, and as each moment passed, felt almost imperceptibly more confident she'd make it out of this situation alive.
"Who...," he began, confused and exasperated,"...who the hell are you, lady?" He asked her after a 30 second pause, as his mind reeled with confusion and his readiness to kill evaporated. Jack tried to absorb the comical situation in which he now found himself, standing naked in front of a woman he'd never seen (or at least, never remembered seeing) before, a woman who was sitting on the floor of his closet wearing his under garments and whom he most certainly had not invited into his home...
"Please..., just, please don't shoot, sir!" She pleaded meekly, looking down at the floor as she spoke, committed to not in any way present herself as a threat. Her voice was tight and quavered as she spoke. "I swear, I didn't steal nothing, I just-" She stammered, pronouncing 'didn't' as 'dint.' She swallowed several times and kept her hands raised but now looked up, keeping her eyes locked on his, even as she blinked rapidly. She made her eyes open wide, and did everything she could think of to convey to him that she was not a threat.
"Who are you, and why are you in my fucking apartment?" Jack asked her harshly, momentarily giving into the frustration, confusion and pent-up anger that roiled within him. He immediately regretted his tone, noticing that he'd made her jump and flinch from the severity of his words. Jack hated causing fear in a woman and felt that men who did so were usually cowards. He inhaled and exhaled deeply again, forcing his emotions to settle and his actions to fall firmly in line with his desire to not lose control. He paused a moment more before adding: "Look, I'm not going to shoot you. Here," he said in an even and measured tone, walking over to his dresser and placing the revolver on the surface, just two quick steps away. "I'm not going to shoot you, just tell me what you're doing here and who you are."