Genre: Contemporary, Dark
Summary: This city is not without its secrets, from the sordid and personal to the sort of thing that would call down the wrath of God. Everyone's connected, whether they know it or not, and whether they like it or not. Where does the shiny surface end and the underbelly begin? Where do the respectable become the deplorable? Where is that place in between, where murderers, prostitutes, and drug dealers dictate their own class system, their own law? Well, that might just be here.
Warnings: Murder, dub con, allusions to underage sex, desecration of-- okay you know what just put "yeah a lot" here
A/N: I'd be lying to say I'm not giddy about posting Julian's chapter, finally. Julian was based on my favorite character from the original fandom, which will be super obvious if you know the fandom. Julian disturbs me, but at the same time my psychological interest in him knows no bounds (looks ahead to sequel). Basically I've taken innocent canon personalities and said "what if I made these character flaws extremely sinister?" and let me tell you, it's unsettling how easy an analogue "murder" is for "middle school tennis" (to quote Tumblr: "how can you call something so dramatic tennis."). ANYWAY...
Another unifying theme of Empire City seems to be that so many main characters have a thing for younger guys. Yeah we haven't even gotten to Evan yet.
Anyone who's reading - thank you!!! This story is so exciting for me to rediscover and rework.
( 03 - Julian )
03 – Julian
"He had a beautiful neck". If there ever comes a time that I'm careless enough to make a mistake (which there will not), or if I am ever smote by some ungrateful former compatriot (which is far more likely a scenario), I can imagine facing any executioner with those words at my disposal.
That's it, my future, my fate if it spirals so. And I will not regret a moment. "Any last words?" "Yes. He had a beautiful neck."
And so it's been this way for months now. He's fast asleep on my bed again and this time it's not just the halcion. I don't need it anymore – I've come to find that he's quite malleable, and he, like most, is easily seduced by glamour and decadence. He doesn't ask for payment anymore, and I'm stingy enough to withhold it, even when he does clean the pool. Once a week, occasionally twice if either of us devises an excuse that's good enough. Parties are a wonderful excuse, but I don't throw many of those anymore. Too risky. People tend to wonder, though, and so appearances are important to keep up. I guest star at galas, lie and say I'm doing some work on the house. What a trite ruse. He's breathing slowly, steadily, dreaming maybe, his head nestled back into the almost-curls of auburn hair, and I can't stop staring at that neck—
It was 3:00a.m. on a Sunday morning. I snapped back into some semblance of logic and rational thought. They were more like useful companions than necessary things. I tended to rely more on instinct and perception. In the three years, five months and three weeks (exactly) since I'd taken my first victim, I'd never found myself at such a loss. This boy was not even remotely what anyone would call "trouble," but after months of frequenting my big, empty house and inexplicably falling asleep whenever he made an attempt to get to know me, he'd probably begin to grow suspicious. That's what I'd kept telling myself. Here it was, September, and Skip fell asleep on his own, had stopped asking questions, and even asked me to kiss his neck, to put my fingers around it. I'd asked him, was he into that sort of thing? And he'd answered "not until I met you."
Not until he met me. Part of me had always been greedy for someone who would conform to my peculiarities and treat my whims as law. "Julian," he'd said, "do it now." So I had, wondering with completely steady hands just what would happen. Four times now, I pressed hard but not hard enough. Not distracted, not even by his perfect neck, the way his face flushed differently from everyone else's – not terror, but pleasure. A little fear. My thumbs bore down on his windpipe, my fingers gripping the tendons like mercurial handles that were tightening and hardening just as responsively as any cock. But four times, now, I'd let go. He never nettled me with confessions or exultations; he just fell asleep, pleased and naked and moaning a little into his slumber. The first time, long before my hands had gone for his neck, while I was still simply keeping him around for fun, considering a collar with a little bell on it, I'd been disgusted with myself that I'd not done away with him. I'd let him wake up filthy as a whore, let him remember, and hadn't said a word. I wondered if he'd come back.
He did. He came, and came, and came back. Something bizarre was happening. "Skip." "Julian." We'd greet and dismiss each other easily, almost professionally, if it weren't for that wisp of worship in his voice that left me so painfully beside myself. I'd pick up a working boy from the east side, where the pimps didn't tend to keep very good tabs, and I'd crush that throat instead. Sometimes I liked to snap necks, just to feel the give, the unnatural feeling of the flesh and other soft things left to keep their place where the spine no longer did its work. I was searching, and my peculiarities were evolving again. I was getting better, but I was also getting more unpredictable. Which may or may not have been a good thing. Passion and intensity, instinct and perception. I used to be cold and calculating, with no regard. Bodies were disposable things, and they were never as enjoyable as they should have been.
Murder had even been too easy for a long time. Then I joined The Empire, and added a few new tricks to my repertoire. Things I learned, things I improved upon and brought back to the table with even more relish. It wasn't really that murder was too easy; I was simply too good at it. The Empire brought a sense of competition to the sport which had been somewhat of a leisure activity until that point. But there was now something possessing me, it seemed, and it was something about this boy's neck.
Four times I'd held him down and strangled him while I fucked him, felt his limit and stopped just there, holding just there, waiting until he came to let go, to actually… preserve him. While he slept, four times now, I'd actually toweled him off with ludicrous care, even salving his neck, never wanting to see the bruises I always left behind. But it was more than just how it looked – it was how it felt, too. Smooth, and slender, but not too slender. Long, but not too long. He slept, and I ran my fingers over it lovingly, wondering how incredible a rush it would be to actually crush it, to gently squeeze – gently, gently, gently, because he deserved nothing less. He would trust me completely to kill him and to love him at the same time. I would keep pressing until the tendons went lax and the pulse gave out beneath my fingers. Such a beautiful death, but it would never be perfect enough. So I kept waiting, kept him in my bed, for my consumption and my viewing.
Besides, he had a family, and that family would wonder. I used these excuses for my own indoctrination and conviction, but it wasn't like the Empire had a confessional I could visit to say things like "forgive me, father, for I have sinned – I have found the perfect victim and cannot bring myself to kill him."
But was it really that? Was it so simple as not wanting to kill Skip, or was it just relying on instinct and perception until the moment struck? The perfect moment. I was beginning to think it never would arrive. But, then, I'd also thought I'd never see a neck so beautiful, and there it was.
I placed a sweet kiss with a fine port balm on his Adam's apple and finally rose from the bed with a sigh.
That particular port was for exceptionally special occasions, and the fact that I'd pulled it out was indicative enough of my well-concealed anxiety. A couple of pungent maroon inches swirled in the glass as I moved off the mattress and stood up again. Something about having a big house had made it disconcerting, the first few times I'd dared walk around naked, just sipping a glass of wine and breezing through the different rooms, admiring the fruits of my family's fortune. A part of my mind – the same part that was causing me any anxiety in the first place (I wondered if I could kill it) – expected to see my father around any corner, my mother perhaps, even though I hardly remembered what she looked like.
They made you talk about your first time at The Empire, as sort of an initiation. "First times are boring, aren't they?" I'd said with no small amount of arrogant ennui, and Noel had to explain away my reluctance to share as part of my mystique. But it was true. With the exception of Noel, who actually had quite the story to tell, I'd yet to meet another killer with anything interesting to say about that first kill. Parallels could be drawn forever between murder and sex, but it was apples and oranges.
I had to think about boring things like my first time as I walked around the house, which was illuminated only by sepia-shaded lamps and the one crystal chandelier in the antechamber. I had to pass under it to get to the ballroom, which is where I liked to spend a lot of quiet time. Gazing out at the water where I'd drowned her – my first. I'd drowned two others there, too. The lake was owned by my family, and I'd be caught dead swimming or fishing in it anyway. Noel said I should buy an alligator on the black market, but I didn't want the risk of that thing growing to my size and turning on the house in due time. Still, the lake made for a lovely view in the moonlight.
First times are boring, and the details are unimportant. The girl was a disposable leftover from high school who came back into my life on the verge of my well-arranged marriage in an attempt to extort money and ruin my name. So many other ways to kill her would have done, really – we had guns in the house. We had knives. I could have bludgeoned her with any number of useless decorative things left scattered about by my then- fiancée. But, no, my hands went for her neck, and it was perfect. I fell out of love with my fiancée immediately, though I'll be the first to contend that I never loved her in the first place. We were financially and genetically compatible to carry on our respective lineages, and I could scarcely roll my eyes harder at the concept.
I fell out of love with my betrothed, and I fell in love with the challenge of death-dealing. It had been some time since anything had been a challenge for me. I was too adept at everything else. But I stood over the lifeless body of my first victim in the foyer of my home, staring at my own hands, my heart racing, my body on fire. I was frightened, and it was a thrill. I was never frightened, I was never unsure. Even as I paddled out into the middle of the lake and sloppily pushed her body overboard, struggling a little from the weights I'd tied to her feet, I didn't know if I was doing anything right. I was just going on instinct, on adrenaline. It was almost sad to part with her, with that trophy, but what else could be done?
The engagement was canceled on the basis of irreconcilable differences, which to my family meant a sudden change of a wanton young heart, and to my fiancée meant walking in to find me in bed with another man. Not that I'd planned it, mind you – some things just worked out that perfectly. In the interest of keeping things discreet, I was given the house, and she was given a similarly hand-me-down estate from her own family. Last I heard, she'd become an entertainment lawyer in Santa Cruz.
Noel and I had known each other since junior high, being of similar affluent background and having a similar penchant for outclassing one another whenever we could. One-upmanship was our favorite pastime, until we fell into bed together in our mid-twenties and realized that we could take our passions out on each other in much more direct ways. It didn't last very long – we weren't what you would call a compatible match. But the brief affair did get a few important things accomplished. He helped to waylay a marriage I never wanted in the first place, and in return I'd helped him out of what could have been a much more severe jail sentence. But that all comes later. He was a late bloomer in the sport, but he'd come out in such a tremendous way that I couldn't slight him in the least for having waited. Again, that all comes later.
He'd taught me the virtue of waiting, and so I thought of him as I helped myself to another sip of port and considered the beautiful young boy on my bed. I didn't much care for marring my victims, which limited my choices as far as fooling around went. Dr. Calohan had been the one to offer me some helpful alternatives which still left a relatively beautiful corpse. I'd drowned a boy in the sink, which provided the same struggle, tension, and eventual calm of death to my fingers. The vacuum-locked trapdoor in my basement which led to my freezer was a nice alternative, on occasion. I just had little fondness for the length of time it took.
I walked to my study and eased into the soft wingback chair. The laptop I pulled forward on the desk seemed a gauche contrast to the Gilded Age décor of the place, but I assumed then, so did a slaughterhouse-sized freezer buried beneath the foundation. I could see the bedroom from my seat, and watched Skip's chest rising and falling in pleasant, peaceful slumber while I waited for everything to boot up.
Noel was logged on, though that said nothing of whether he was actually in front of his computer. I took another sip of port and, then, my chances.
Tannhauser: We need to talk.
Actually, we didn't. "Need" was too decisive a word, but it implied an immediacy that would no doubt have Noel drop whatever (or whomever) he was doing and refocus his attention. I made no apologies for being manipulative.
It took five full minutes, but I received my response.
PokerFace24: And you might be…?
Tannhauser: Nude, restless, and drinking at 3 a.m. Glad you're up.
PokerFace24: Hang on.
PokerFace24: Why the name change, Julian?
Tannhauser: Because I want someone's papal staff to bloom with flowers at my despair.
PokerFace24: That wasn't vaguely sexual or anything. Since when do you have despair?
Tannhauser: Since when are you surprised that anything I do or say is vaguely sexual? I have despair. I've got more of a problem right now, though.
PokerFace24: I can only guess.
Tannhauser: You can? Really? Please do.
PokerFace24: You still can't kill him.
Tannhauser: I sometimes wonder why I ever told you in the first place.
PokerFace24: Everyone needs a shoulder to cry on, I suppose. Is he becoming your Venus, oh Prince Tannhauser?
Tannhauser: It would be helpful if you actually boosted my confidence, here, instead of mocking me.
PokerFace24: Your confidence, Julian? I hardly think so.
He had a point. It was always clicking at a natural '10'. I decided to jump that train of thought.
Tannhauser: Have you ever had doubts? I mean, besides with Christian.
Christian. Now there was a story worthy of Wagnerian opera, if Wagnerian opera could possibly incorporate the modern day, United States law, and a composer who wasn't long dead. Noel had been searching himself, searching for a way to break into the pastime I'd come to love so dearly. He spent a good two years searching, and at 24 (hence his screen-name; I found it a sweet commemoration) he finally found what he was looking for. It wasn't the urge, or the ability, or the nerve; he had all of those things well in hand. No, what he found was an excuse – a nubile, delicious, and dangerously underage excuse who dared his way into Noel's life with a fake ID at his disposal and a few tequila shots in his belly. There was instant attraction, although Noel had sworn he would never fall for anyone he met in a club (though he'd also sworn he would never be taken in by jailbait, either). Of course, I knew if anything was going to win Noel over, it would be someone to appeal to his romantic side, which hid itself far too well. Therefore, I warned him off the skinny sixteen-year-old with the 1000-watt smile and the tendency to do all the silly, saccharine things Noel would never do and spout all the treacle Noel would never say. He assured me they were only friends, and I never once believed it would end well.
Four months in, he was at my house, we split a bottle of Carmenere, and he said "I have to kill him soon."
I was overjoyed, to be perfectly honest. Happy that I'd finally have a friend in my endeavors, offering him all the tips I could, helping to plot the scenario. He was not as enthused, to be honest, as I was. Killing Christian was a means to an end, not a means to a beginning. Although that is exactly what it would have been, one way or the other. I'd tease him about the emotional torment it caused him, but sometimes his silences were barbed with an electric defensiveness, and they staid any further testing of my limits.
He was falling for Christian, as if that were any shock to my system. Turns out they'd even gone so far as to discuss a shared fascination with serial killers. One thing was bound to lead to the inevitable other. Of all the options, a broken heart over killing Christian seemed a small price to pay versus having to register as a sex offender the rest of his days before he even had the satisfaction of taking his first life. A perfect excuse. I prodded him into it. He made a date, although Christian had been under strict watch by his parents, who would be far less happy to learn that their son was consorting with someone like Noel (the Internet is a beautiful thing) than they had been to find out about his other delinquent behavior.
After leaving the club where they'd first met, that fateful night four months later, they hailed a taxi and Noel told the driver to take them to the docks. The docks were right out of a Martin Scorsese film, the leftovers of a once-thriving fishing community that had shriveled up and died when the city's focus turned more to finance and technology. It was a great choice for a spooky romantic stroll, an intimate homicide, or both.
It still would have been a means to a beginning, but sometimes destiny likes to make a web of your aspirations, your goals. Christian stared up at Noel in the backseat of the cab, and they looked at each other for a long, silent while, until Christian ushered him down, kissed him lightly, and whispered in his ear as quiet as a mouse: "I think we should kill him."
Less than an hour later, they had. It was a messy kill, but it was winter, which provided enough incriminating clothing to dispose of. The cooperation was second nature, the thrill was invigorating, and they were full of enough adrenaline to take off running for Christian's home, several miles away. His parents were at the symphony. He knew how to work the gas fireplace.
They were breathless and sweating, and no less inclined to tear into each other as they tore out of their clothes. "Right in the living room?" I'd asked him after the trial. "How could you have been so stupid?"
"Easy," he answered, and I felt an icy knife of jealousy stab me in the heart. "I knew I was in love."
Of course, no one would suspect them of the cabbie's murder if the very same night turned out to be the night Noel was accused of and jailed for statutory rape. The defense team – my defense team, out of my pocket (as opposed to the judge, who happened to be in it) – called Christian himself to the stand to attest to the consensual nature of their relationship, and specifically that night. I sat in the courtroom, biting my cheek to keep from snickering. It was all so very melodramatic.
With my behind-the-scenes sway, and Christian's heartfelt testimony, the judge was inclined to give Noel a startlingly minimal sentence. He was out on good behavior before Christian turned 18, but the boy had been moved far, far away by his parents, who would take no chances. Of course, the two star-crossed lovers found a way around it (again, the Internet is a beautiful thing), and Noel's 18th birthday present to Christian was a one-way ticket back home (his home, precisely).
I found the overly-excitable youngster to be tiring, and I found the murder tactics they'd hatched together to be a bit beyond the scope of my own style. That didn't stop me from being intrigued. Half the reason I asked Noel to regale me with some conversation that night was simply to stave off the gnawing anxiety that I might find myself ensnared in the same young, beautiful sort of trap.
As long as it's taken to relate the tale is about how long it took Noel to respond.
PokerFace24: Not since him, no. It might help you to become attached.
Tannhauser: *retch* Why does everyone in a relationship have to try and foist that way of thinking off on someone else? It's like a cult. And what took you so long?
PokerFace24: You're practically in a relationship, asshole. You've been fucking him for…what now…four months?
It seemed too snide that he would pull out such an auspicious anniversary, and have it be right.
Tannhauser: I don't even know his last name.
Tannhauser: Excuse me?
PokerFace24: I did a little looking up on your pool boy for you. He's a good student. Just about to graduate, too. It would be a shame if he didn't…
Tannhauser: I feel more than slightly violated.
PokerFace24: It wouldn't be the first time.
Tannhauser: How would your precious other half feel to know that you're talking to me like this? Bringing up old times?
PokerFace24: Good point. Maybe we should change the topic.
I'd chugged through the last of my port in the throes of sudden, understandable indignation. Noel's conceding to stop the banter was another stab at me. I wondered just how well he knew the affect he had on me.
Tannhauser: Fine. How would you kill him, then, if you had to do it?
PokerFace24: Your pool boy?
Tannhauser: No, Christian… Of course I mean Skip.
I could almost see him smirking, the tall, dark, handsome lecher.
PokerFace24: Depends. What's pretty about him? And don't say his neck. I know about his neck.
Tannhauser: There's just something about it.
PokerFace24: What else is there?
Tannhauser: Great thighs. Shapely, actually.
PokerFace24: Is he shapely, in general?
Tannhauser: Not especially, but there are exceptions. He's skinny through the arms, the chest, the ankles…but his stomach has this taut bulge to it – probably because he back is so curved. And his ass.
What I had for necks, Noel had for asses. I knew this first-hand. Mine wasn't anything to sneeze at, apparently. What I wanted to say in response was far less visceral than what came out. Talking to Noel always upped my provocative side.
Tannhauser: It's something you can certainly sink your teeth into.
PokerFace24: Bleed him out.
My hands lingered over the keyboard for a moment, and my reaction was far too personal to be good for business, as it were. Still, I found the courage to type again, after a cursory glance at the bedroom.
Tannhauser: Go on.
I went to the kitchen and retrieved a glass of water, mindful to keep enough of that port on hand for the next time I had an attack of conscience. I ambled around the kitchen, then, walking off a bit of a rush, knowing that it would take Noel some time to respond. When I returned to the study and turned the laptop towards me, sure enough, I found quite a bit to scroll through. I unhooked the machine, it switched to battery power with a familiar 'whirr', and I walked it into the bedroom. I sat on the bed with it, next to Skip, going about a murderer's closest approximation of masturbation.
PokerFace24: You'd want to do this on a disposable surface, or else you'll have too much to clean up. I'd actually suggest you making an investment in an entirely new bed, once it's done, but I just prefer the floor of the lab.
"The lab" is what Noel called their base of operations – the sterile, blindingly white room with tiled floors and a drain in the center. I'd been invited to watch the two of them working a victim over, last Spring, and while it hadn't turned my stomach, it had been enough to convince me that I had nothing on the methodical carnality of my childhood friend and his live-in minion.
PokerFace24: A test cut is always great, just to give them the feeling of what's to come. To see them squirm, maybe try to struggle. I suggest the stomach, then – just above the navel. Not too deep, but enough to bleed. It's a beautiful place to cut a boy, especially a pale one. You can take this time to be as gentle and caressing as you want – now, I know you don't have a taste for blood, but…never mind, you don't have a taste for blood.
I reached out as I read, and touched the spot above Skip's navel, feeling the flesh lurch under my touch as he murmured in his sleep. He shifted a little, throwing one arm over his head. I dragged my finger across the pale, slightly plump spot, and he made another little noise, something between a coo and a giggle. My fingers danced in the air over the spot as I imagined a dark red line forming there, beading and overflowing into his bellybutton and then down between his legs. That's where my fingers wanted to go, to follow the diaphanous trail of auburn hair, imagining what it would look like, clung with red, standing out from his skin. But I still had some reading to do.
PokerFace24: You've never cut an Achilles' tendon before, and I hardly expect you to, so I won't go into specifics. You'd need a bigger knife, and a good, firm slice. You can't botch this, or else it just looks messy and all the grace is gone. But that's what you do next. Cut his Achilles' tendons – both of them. You say he's skinny through the ankles – makes it easier. If he passes out from pain, you'll want to wait until he wakes up again, maybe even force him to before he bleeds too much. I can get you some epinephrine, if you want. Another cut is always good, though, to try and wake him without chemicals. Untie him, unchain him, un-whatever-it-is-you-need-to-do. He's not going anywhere now. Now, where to make the next cut is crucial. But I suggest those thighs of his you went on about. The inside, near the groin, where the flesh is most tender.
PokerFace24: Julian, are you even there?
I'd parted Skip's legs gently, and I had stopped tracing with my fingers and had started tracing with my tongue. There was no way Noel's slice-and-dice strategy of terror could be as nice as this. Screams weren't appealing to me, and he had been right about the blood, about the Achilles' tendons. I wouldn't go so far as to call him unrefined – he was very refined, actually – but our tastes, literally and figuratively, simply ran different courses.
Skip was practically talking and moving in his sleep as he reacted to me, mumbling my name and something about the time, something about how he should be home by now. Then a drowsy laugh that made my head spin just as dangerously as the indignation had. His thighs still tasted very faintly like the soap and water I'd washed him with, and even though I called him a pet in my mind I knew I'd never taken care of a pet this lovingly, this thoroughly.
I fondled his cock and kissed it, opening one eye to glance over at the computer screen.
PokerFace24: You just don't want me to say a damned thing about cutting his throat, do you?
Indeed, I didn't. I snapped the laptop shut and shoved it aside, focusing on my boy. My hands held onto the flesh of his thighs protectively, even as he squeezed them in on my head a little, even as he spread them wide and drew sharper, louder gasps.
I had to kill him. But it had to be perfect.
The boy doesn't have a life to speak of that hasn't been drawn in or torn asunder by me. If those good grades continue I'll be astonished and impressed. He fights with his parents, now, but they're largely ambivalent, convinced they've lost control at the cusp of his manhood. He tells them he's staying with friends and they think he's a deviant, or a drug addict, or both. The truth is, he couldn't be sweeter. He couldn't be more careful. He couldn't be more naïve and suggestible, and I'm only lucky that I got to him first. He pulls me up to kiss him after he comes and I latch onto his neck, feeling the vibration of his post-orgasmic moans under my lips. What a shame it would be, to lose that feeling. A lifeless neck is so boring compared to this. But not every neck is like this, and it's not just the neck. I finally realize this.
Noel's boy was looking for trouble. Noel's boy was and is trouble. But mine is finer, mine is more delicate, mine is a rose. I'll beat Noel. I'll finally beat him in this.
The phone rang while I was fucking him with a slow, gentle rhythm, and though my head snapped toward the parlor and I blurted out "goddamnit!", he turned my face back to his, and kissed me as he pulled one of my hands up to touch his throat. I was about to dig my thumbs in when I heard Noel's silky bass voice on the answering machine.
"Calohan was murdered. I have every reason to think Evan is behind this, and Cory agrees with me. I can't get a hold of the others, but we can't risk a meeting right now. We're going dark. You be the most careful." My entire body went cold when he mentioned Evan, and I froze. Skip looked entirely too uncomfortable, but I didn't want to lose him. I mouthed some random soothing remark down at him along with an apology, as I waited. It took Noel a few seconds to clear his throat and end his message. "I hope I'm not… interrupting anything."
"It's nothing, don't worry about it."
"Can I stay the rest of the night, anyway?"
My boy was a rose, and even if he suspected anything, he wasn't afraid. Maybe he would have been, until he met me. "Be my guest."
I turned away from him to feign sleep, but he chanced the proximity and held me from behind in an intense embrace. "You fascinate me," he said, so softly that I might have missed it if I hadn't been listening to the rhythm of his every breath.
"You have no idea," I replied, not sure what to think, and in fact quite convinced that thinking was the last thing I should have been doing.