Dysgenically Yours



Scene Title Dysgenically Yours
Synopsis Serial killers tend to be self-righteous, and the ghost is no exception.
Date May 19, 2009

Flushing, Queens — A Yellow House

Angharad is a pretty name for a pretty girl. She had come to the safehouse door with her bare hands in her damp black hair, wringing the fragrant tang of citrus and kiwis out of it, lacking the strength to actually empty out the last soupy dregs despite all of the weights she lifts every week and despite that she spends half her life running. Actually, the way she tries to twist her hair dry is a lot like the way she mourns, a fantastically, futilely excessive effort to deny limitations that she should embrace. Actually, the way she mourns is a lot like running, too. He's made a study of her at work, plus recent refresher course. At fifteen, she's fucking smart— Columbia-smart— and already works hard in a way that would grind her back to clicking mechanical agony and unbolt her knees by thirty-five, barring the benevolent intervention of a healer.

She wouldn't let a healer touch her, of course. It's the kind of oath that these people take. Fucking mutants have taken enough; the last thing to go will be the dignity of self-sufficiency and the cost of their sacrifice. She won't go like her mother did.

He had introduced himself as the roofer. Smiled with all of his teeth, and produced a business card that would have held up to Google, and a few more layers of discriminating inquest past that, but she asked more questions anyway. Intuitive children are so much trouble. Especially the ones who come armed.

Hours later.

Andrew is a commonplace name for an extraordinary man. His reaction, or initial lack of one thereof, disappoints. Ghost won't find out why until a little later.

"Hello!" The old man trods in, slinging shopping bags down from his arms, all creaking plastic and clammy smell of produce. Despite that he had probably emptied out a third of the succeeding forest of the grocery store shelves in addition to a whole cow or something, he carries all of this easily, and dwarfs his hoard by the massive bole of his torso. At fifty, he is still a handsome giant: heavy pepper hair, inexplicably straight nose, and grinning teeth that show glow like burning silver. His balance is perfect. "Dammit, girl. Angie?" Into the dining room, more recently repurposed to array guns and provide warren for incalculable colonies of dust bunnies. Master and apprentice had not originally anticipated staying here long. "Where—?"

In the kitchen, with the small, unmarked canister wired in underneath her chair, its wooden legs and her tawny legs duct-taped and spring-trapped with merry sprigs of wire and shiny copper connectors. Her head rolls under the touch of the old man's hand. The left side of her forehead is swollen out like a grapefruit skin padded out over the other. Half-wakened, she is mumbling recollections, of a toolkit, stale breath, the lewdly impersonal ply of cold hands pawing through her skirt and shirt for knives. And then Andrew gets his gun out and starts telling her it's okay while he makes a study of the device she's rigged to. He doesn't run.

He even picks up the landline when it rings in; on the second ring. Shipwrecks have more mellifluous voices than this: "Who the fuck are you?"

"What do you think you're you doing?"

There's a harsh intake of breath. Andrew is silent for a long few seconds. "Carlyle swore per contract—"

"I'm not with Carlyle. Or Cipher. Or Emile, or whatever the fuck his call sign is these days."

Andrew is furious. Silent, stiff as a man-made thing, but color changes his features, mottled, discontinuous purpling and sanguine; his breath comes out hackneyed, blocked by sentiments too raw for worded refinery. The cat has his tongue. The cat amputated it, cast off like the head of a severed dormouse. Angharad's breathing gets louder, but at fifteen, she already knows better than to give in to adrenaline. She doesn't get up. Underneath her lopsided clothes, she burns— with shame and with fear, but mostly, she does that because there's nothing else she can do. "I quit," Andrew says, finally, gruff with a selfless species of fear. "I don't do that anymore. I'm teaching my friend how to hunt. We're going to Canada in the winter."

Ghost gives a desultory murmur. "Even so."

"You filthy fucking freak— you're dead, you're dead— I'm going to hunt you down and feed you your scalloped ballsack of fucking mutant genes before you can bree—" Andrew swears impressively and stoops over the girl, his bulky shape buckling inward, constricting, shaking around the effort of close technical scrutiny. The phone's plastic carapace grinds dangerously in his clutch. Eventually, his voice goes weedy, crackling and blowing haphazardly in search of strength. If Ghost notices, and of course Ghost notices, he's kind enough to ignore that, tune out to the presiding quiet of where he is, outside, counting seconds by the intervals of a fingernail dragged across the uneven symmetry of his teeth. She's just a fucking kid, you— Yes, he knows. I'm the one you want. I'm the killer. Yes; thus far, Ghost will agree, this is true. "Please," Andrew says, ragged. "Please. Goddamn— please. She's my daughter."

"What? Seriously?"

Angharad's eyes are huge in her head, echoing the question.

"Yes. Yes. She's my fucking daughter. Have mercy. She's been an orphan for three fucking years."

That explains a lot. "Okay." Ghost's voice goes serrated from smiling. "Fuck her." He can see it, when understanding lands, craters, mushrooms on Andrew's lined face.

There's a sputtered snarl. "You fuck— you want me to—"

"You heard me. Fuck," Ghost says this with sententious ssslowness, articulating each syllable as if by a collapsible blade and slip joint. "Your. Daughter. "She'll hate you for it, but that's the way it should be, isn't it? I'll kill you, and leave her be.

"I only taped down her hands," Ghost adds, seized by an insolent sort of tone, "and you can use both of yours without moving the chair."

These new epithets carry a different moral overertone. Andrew's thinking about how she'd turn out, rape victim, her trauma inverted to force her back into a life more ordinary, how she'd flinch and shake amid the crush of twittering old ladies at the grocery store when she wheels her cart for turnips and baby spinach leaves and ground beef patties by herself; how she'll never kiss a boy, or do anything but with the wrong one. He's seriously considering it which is also ludicrous, also lunacy, but enough of his women have died. She is watching him with anxiety popping sweaty out of her pores, her tears held back behind her eyes. It takes him two or three minutes before he decides to bluff. "Okay, I'm doing it now."

Liar. "Come the fuck on."

Andrew's eyes make a hunt of the walls in paranoia. No cameras here, and the windows stay blinded. Even the undulation of curtain strings above the breathing heating vents becomes suspect, the newspapers and the shadows don't seem to fall right in the hallway.

Ghost waits for another five, six inscrutable minutes. "Actually, don't worry abou—"

It's then that the girl Angharad vaults out of her chair, hurls herself up in a bristling feline loop of spine and a shout, tearing gluey duct tape up and a panicky foxtrot clatter of furniture, and Ghost knows that this is because no one wants to die this way, alone (you know who you are; and for that he was, still is sorry) but after the canister twangs open, depressurizes on a hiss, nothing else happens— and Ghost had known about that beforehand, too. He'd found their C-4 earlier. Took some of it; rigged enough where it was, in the basement cache. So here it goes. The dropped phone whacks the floor before he can get the last word in. Something quip about hereditary monstrosity that probably would have fallen flat anyway. Stunned, father hugs daughter. Grips her tight, to run.

At least, they get started. Stands to reason, you spend so much of your life training to do it, that's the way you die.

A rip-roaring light fills up the house, and overflows it, pushing the windows out into the night, scorching the ceiling before that, too, bursts out above the iron plumbing, threshed curtains, floorboards, and pinwheeling furniture like the organelles of a lysed cell. Neighbors awaken in an uproar of fleeting cries and uncertain consciousness. Black smoke stains the stars out of sight. Ghost hangs up and shoulders out of the boothe. Looking across the block at the same time as the dozens of other nocturnal pedestrians, he has to bite his teeth against the strangest conviction that the sky is going to fall in.

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