Time had not been kind to Lindsay. At her messy, tight apartment downtown, she paced and chewed her nails. Her apartment had a layer of her dust on top of the dust that had been there when she'd moved in. A sublet. A sweet sublet, rent-controlled. She was paying practically nothing for a one-bedroom. And treating it like her dorm room. Shit everywhere. Hadn't been cleaned, period. Like, since it had been built, first not cleaned by the Italian or Irish immigrants who packed into it, desperate and unwanted. Then not cleaned by generations of increasingly upscale slummers who could have afforded some shitbox studio in midtown but chose to beat the system and pay pennies on the dollar for a place with atmosphere. The place smelled, and felt tight and hot, like we were buried under ash. Her apartment made my skin crawl. I sat there with a theatrical smile on my face.
Lindsay had a small path to pace in. Eight feet, spin, eight feet. A canyon formed by piles of boxes and books, clothes and plump, swelling garbage bags I suspected should have been taken to the curb months ago. She smoked and chewed and spat little pieces of herself on the floor, telling me about it. Pills to wake up in the morning, pills to stay sharp during the day, pills to go to sleep at night. Dark bags under her eyes. Lindsay fucking up almost too much for even her fellow doctors to cover up. Dozens of people, now, she said. Dozens dead.
She kept telling me this as she paced, smoking a cigarette, hands shaking. Dozens. She'd killed dozens now. Nodding off during procedures, getting all blurry reading tests, writing out preposterous prescriptions that were filled without question, making hearts explode and livers fail.
Sure, sure, I kept saying. Soothing. I felt like I was back in school, trying to fuck a Sad Girl. You had to coax the Sad Girls. You had to listen and listen and listen and rub their backs and tell them they were special and beautiful and of course you understood and then you had to listen and listen and listen again, and rub their fucking backs and murmur kind words of support. And again and again, endlessly, your appetite for it directly proportional to how hot she was, how big her boobs were, how long her legs were. If you did it long enough, if you put in the time, the Sad Girls would lay down and spread their legs and you got in. And then you made them more sad, but that was the next asshole's problem.
Jeff Somers (www.jeffreysomers.com) was first sighted in Jersey City, New Jersey after the destruction of a classified government installation in the early 1970s; the area in question is still too radioactive to go near. When asked about this, he will only say that he regrets nothing. He is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, The Ustari Cycle from Pocket Books, and Chum, coming from Tyrus Books in Fall 2013. Jeff's published over thirty short stories as well; his story "Sift, Almost Invisible, Through" appeared in the anthology Crimes by Moonlight, published by Berkley Hardcover and edited by Charlaine Harris and his story "Ringing the Changes" was selected for Best American Mystery Stories 2006. He survives on the nickels and quarters he regularly finds behind his ears, his guitar playing is a plague upon his household, and his lovely wife The Duchess is convinced he would wither and die if left to his own devices, but this is only half true.