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       Kiss Me, Judas, p.1

           Will Christopher Baer
 
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Kiss Me, Judas


  Kiss Me, Judas

  a novel by will christopher baer

  ebook ISBN: 978-1-59692-868-8

  M P Publishing Limited

  12 Strathallan Crescent

  Douglas

  Isle of Man

  IM2 4NR

  British Isles

  Telephone: +44 (0)1624 618672

  email: [email protected]

  Lawson Library

  A division of MacAdam/Cage Publishing

  155 Sansome Street, Suite 550

  San Francisco, CA 94104

  www.macadamcage.com

  Copyright © 2004

  All rights reserved.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Baer, Will Christopher.

  Kiss me, Judas / by Will Christopher Baer.

  39 chapters

  ISBN 1-931561-80-X (hardcover : alk. paper)

  1. Kidneys—Transplantation—Fiction. 2. Ex-mental patients—Fiction. 3. Ex-police officers—Fiction. 4. Loss (psychology)—Fiction. 5. Denver (Colo.)—Fiction. 6. Drug traffic—Fiction. 7. Prostitutes—Fiction. 8. Widowers—Fiction. I. Title: Kiss Me, Judas.

  Paperback edition: June, 2006

  ISBN 1-59692-186-2

  Book and cover design by Dorothy Carico Smith.

  Publisher’s note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  for Elias McCulloch Baer

  obscurely through my brain

  like shadows dim

  sweep awful thoughts, rapid and

  thick. I feel

  faint, like one mingled in entwining love;

  yet ’tis not pleasure.

  —Prometheus Unbound, Percy Bysshe Shelley

  kiss me, judas

  a novel by will christopher baer

  CONTENTS

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  one.

  I must be dead for there is nothing but blue snow and the furious silence of a gunshot. Two birds crash blindly against the glass surface of a lake. I’m cold, religiously cold. The birds burst from the water, their wings like silver. One has a fish twisting in its grip. The other dives again and now I hold my breath. Now the snow has stopped and the sky is endless and white and I’m so cold I must have left my body.

  I drift down an elevator shaft to the hotel lobby. I see myself walking across a gold carpet. Time is slowed to a crawl and I’m looking through a filter but it’s me. The familiar skull shaved to stubble and the eyes like shadows. The gray skin pulled tight on my face and my hands flashing white as if cut from paper. I wear a black suit and tie and a dirty white shirt. The clothes hang loose, as if borrowed. The truth is I am losing weight. I look like I’m dying of cancer. I stop and turn a slow circle. I think I’m looking for the bar. The prick of nausea. Someone else is watching me. A woman in a red dress. She sits in a leather armchair, long legs crossed and yellow. She has long black hair streaked with blond. Her lips part slightly and I can see her teeth. I pass behind a marble column and disappear. I slip inside myself again and I can hear the sound of a piano.

  I sit at the bar and order vodka.

  Vodka how? the man says.

  I don’t know. With a lemon and some ice.

  He brings me a glass. I sip it and feel better. The woman in red sits down beside me. She is younger than I thought. It’s been too long since I sat so close to a woman and my first impulse is to move away. I loosen my tie and look at her. She has a scar at the edge of her mouth and disturbing eyes. She doesn’t seem to blink. Her body is like a knife. A dull black stone, shaped like a teardrop, dangles from a string of silver in the cold hollow of flesh above her collarbone.

  Are you a tourist? she says.

  I’m not even sure what city this is.

  Denver.

  I’m a salesman.

  That’s funny. You look like a cop.

  I’ve just been released from a mental hospital.

  Perfect, she says.

  I finish my drink and push it aside. She dips two fingers into the glass and I see her nails are painted blue. She fishes out the twist of lemon and eats the pulp. I turn my head slightly and her face is two inches from mine. She takes a deep breath and exhales slowly. I breathe her dead air.

  You must be a terrible salesman, she says.

  I am.

  Do you want to buy me a drink?

  I’m not dead. Terribly cold but my eyes are open. I’m staring directly into a white overhead light and when I close my eyes I still see it, as if the white is burned into my brain. I try to take shallow breaths. I’m in a bathtub. I’m naked and the tub seems to be filled with glass. I don’t think I’m bleeding. I’m fine, really. The glass is smooth and somehow comforting. There’s a strange tickle down my left side, below the ribs. I want to scratch it but I can’t move my arms.

  She says her name is Jude.

  What are you drinking?

  Silly question. Tequila sunrise, she says.

  Why is it silly?

  Look around. It’s island night.

  I swivel on my stool. The waitresses are barefoot and wear plastic flowers in their hair. They serve multicolored drinks that sport happy little umbrellas like hats. On the dance floor are belly dancers cut from cardboard. Surf music drones in the distance.

  The dancers, I say.

  What about them?

  They’re not real.

  She laughs. You are clever.

  The bartender brings us a glowing pitcher of tequila sunrises and two tall glasses. I drink cautiously from mine. It tastes like children’s vitamins. Jude drinks hers with a straw.

  I used to be a dancer, she says. I was thirteen and I wanted to be famous.

  How sad.

  Don’t you want to be famous?

  No.

  She gazes at me, her mouth crooked.

  There’s something wrong with you, she says.

  I stare down at my limp body. Wet black hairs against the white skin of my torso. The genitals shrunken as those of a corpse. The scar of a bullet on my left thigh like the mouth of an unborn twin. My knees blue with cold. What I thought was glass is in fact ice, and it has a familiar smell. The trapped air of a hospital, a morgue. Disinfectant or formaldehyde. The ice is red but I don’t see a wound.

  The tequila is gone and by now I have one hand well up Jude’s dress. She has swimmer’s muscles and goose bumps along her thigh and she is so sweet and lovely I might weep.

  Do you want to go upstairs?

  Oh, yes. I pat my pockets but can’t find my key.

  Room 411, she says. A key dangles between her blue nails.

/>   That’s my key.

  Of course it is.

  I try to fondle her in the elevator but she isn’t having it.

  This is going to cost you two hundred, she says.

  The elevator stops at the second floor but no one gets on.

  Do you have two hundred?

  I’m sure I do.

  The elevator rises, groaning. She stares at the floor.

  What’s wrong with you? she says.

  My reflection in the mirrored doors is shadowy, grotesque. I must look like a corpse to her.

  Why don’t you want to be famous?

  I’m terrified of crowds.

  In the room she drops her purse on the bed. It’s square and black, oddly like a doctor’s bag. It looks heavy. Jude pulls her dress over her head. There is a strange tattoo between her shoulder blades: a third eye, staring at me. I fumble through my wallet and come up with a wad of bills I can’t bear to count and a decayed-looking condom. She takes the cash and puts it in her shoe. I try to tear open the condom and she takes it away.

  Don’t you worry about disease?

  I never worry, she says.

  A stranger’s blood can kill you.

  It’s okay, she says. I’m sure your blood is clean.

  She puts her arms around me and finds the gun clipped to my belt. She holds it up with a smile and I shrug. She already has my money. She tosses the gun aside and says, you don’t need it. I push her to the floor and she surprises me with a tender kiss on the mouth.

  I’m awake. Shivering so badly I have to lock my teeth to keep from biting off my tongue. The ice has melted and the water feels oily, like mucus. There’s a complimentary bathrobe hanging from a hook behind the door, less than three feet away. It looks warm and soft and I can’t move. I can’t move. I don’t think I can sleep anymore. I have been asleep in the ice for a day, for two days. In my left hand is a piece of paper. Black ink in round girlish script.

  If you want to live call 911.

  There’s a telephone between the tub and the toilet. I keep reading the note over and over and finally reach for the phone. It takes at least five minutes for me to dial.

  Emergency operator.

  I need some help.

  Please describe your situation.

  I’m in a bathtub.

  Are you injured, sir?

  I was with a woman, a prostitute. Now I’m in a bathtub full of ice and I might be dreaming.

  Are you injured?

  I’m cold. And there’s blood coming from somewhere.

  I’m sending an ambulance right away. You are at the Hotel Peacock, is that correct?

  Room 411.

  Can you determine the source of the blood? It will help the paramedics.

  It’s coming from my left side.

  Try to reach it. You may have been shot.

  I can feel thin pieces of metal, a half inch apart. Like staples.

  Did you say staples, sir?

  I’m pretty sure.

  Remain calm, sir. Help is coming.

  What did she do? What the fuck did she do?

  Silence.

  Remain calm, sir.

  Please tell me. I’ve got staples in me.

  The paramedics wear black rubber coats. They touch me so delicately, as if I’m a bomb. They strap an oxygen mask over my face and give me a shot. I wake up as they load me into a helicopter, the blades beating furiously. I hear someone whisper in a low sexless voice. Don’t worry, you really only need one kidney. I’m sure it is Jude’s voice. We lift off and for a moment the city lights glow like an overturned Christmas tree and I feel fine.

  two.

  I sleep forever. I drag up bits and pieces of memory and slowly reconstruct a bad dream. She must have put some kind of horse tranquilizer in my tequila because I was never really unconscious. I was brain dead and paralyzed but my eyes and ears were functioning. The flash of a scalpel. Gloved fingers against my skin. She said she was sorry and rolled me over. Funny that she wore latex gloves to cut me open and ten minutes earlier I was inside her without a condom. It’s a wonder I could even point my dick in the right direction but I have a feeling the sex was not bad.

  I remember two things: Jude talks to herself when she’s nervous and she kissed my eyelids before she left. I think she fell for me.

  A part of me still sleeps beside her, twitching and bloody in a cooler meant for soft drinks. I see her driving a stolen car with the windows down and country music on the radio. She sings softly to herself and I’m sure she has a lovely voice. She’s taking my kidney to Las Vegas. She’s going to trade it to the devil for a record contract. I will find her. I will come to her dressing room with champagne and chocolates and I will kill her.

  *

  This isn’t a dream. I’m alive and this is a hospital room like any other. I’m hooked up to an IV rig and a pale liquid drips into me. There’s a tube up my nose. It’s a rude feeling and I want to remove it. I flex my hands. They aren’t restrained and I tell myself it’s not that kind of hospital. I wonder if the tube is keeping me alive and then I pull it out. There’s a little blood but no immediate change in my condition. I try to sit up and the pain is so bad I think I pass out for a while. My belly is made of fire and I could use a morphine button. I have to pee badly and I’m aware that my dick is very sore. It feels like she fucked me to pieces. I tell myself it’s not funny. She ruined me. I must have heard the nurses talking while I was out because I know that my left kidney is gone and that it was crude but professional work. Or else I would be dead. I realize there’s another tube extending from my dick and I gratefully empty my bladder. I’m wearing a sexy little gown and I hope my clothes are here somewhere. It’s really time to go.

  I sleep some more. There’s a police guard outside my door. He’s a big boy, a chunk of meat in blue. He stands with his legs wide apart, like a tree. I can’t see his face and the back of his neck is less than comforting. I’m not sure if he’s meant to keep people out or keep me in.

  The next time I wake up I disconnect the catheter. It’s not so easy and it makes a terrible mess. Then I manage to stand up without screaming out loud. I want to wait a few minutes before I jerk the needle from my arm. The IV must be doing me some good. I drag it to the little bathroom and pee weakly into the toilet. I don’t want to but I take a peek in the mirror. I suppose I could look worse. I seem to be growing a beard. I tell myself it’s a disguise. The front of my gown is smeared with blood and snot and other uncertain fluids. There’s a small closet and I’m surprised to find my clothes inside. Everything is there. My shoes and my pitifully small suitcase. A plastic bag containing my personal items: keys and wallet with no money, pocketknife and wristwatch, silver cigarette lighter that my dead wife gave me but no cigarettes, hotel room key number 411, a broken silver chain with a black stone shaped like a tear. Jude might have left it for me; something of hers in exchange for something of mine. But the chain is broken and it must have happened while we were fucking. She just didn’t notice. The cops must have found it and thought it was mine. I look at it closely and it appears to be a locket, but I’m too stupid to open it. I slip it into my pocket and suddenly feel sick. I’ve lost my gun.

  The date on my watch is December 21, the first day of winter. It certainly feels like winter. I’m naked and cold and nearly dead and it hurts to laugh. I was out for a day and a half and I wonder if they call that a coma. I wasn’t planning anything special for Christmas. Maybe a nicer hotel room. A bottle of spiced rum and an expensive whore. That’s out of the question, of course. But the last place I want to be is the hospital. I pull the IV, trembling slightly. I don’t care for needles. I get dressed slowly, hoping no one comes in. I turn in the mirror to look at my wound. I have frantic black stitches halfway around my belly and back, like ants marching. I assume they yanked the staples and poked around in there, then sewed me up. The surrounding flesh is raw and puckered and I feel as if my head will float away.

  Slow hiss as the door swings open and I have p
lainclothes cops in my room. One of them is Detective Moon from the 9th. I’m glad to see that he hasn’t changed; he wears the same gray corduroy jacket and the same wide blue tie with a single yellow fish. He wears white pants that are too short for him and I can see his socks. He is short and heavy and wears glasses that make his eyes forever vague. I investigated Moon once, in connection with a case of prostitutes being

  executed by cops. His partner was a suspect, but Moon never was. He was curiously agreeable about the inquiry, as if he were bored and lonely and a little scandal might brighten his day. The other guy is a stranger. He has a massive fever blister on his upper lip and a white bandage over his right eye. His face is bruised and puffy as a toad. His face is wrecked. He has oily brown hair, hanging over his eyes and ears like a helmet. I had a haircut like that when I was six.

  Detective Moon sits down on my bed. He looks miserable.

  Hello.

  Moon doesn’t quite look at me. The Blister stands with his back to the door and his arms crossed and I can tell he’s going to be difficult. He wears white gloves and he wants to do all the talking.

  It hurts to smile, doesn’t it?

  He doesn’t seem to breathe. How do you mean?

  Your face is a disaster, I say.

  The Blister examines his tie and flicks a gloved finger at nothing, at an invisible soup stain, at the lost wing of a fly.

  I glance at Moon. Do you still bite your fingernails?

  He blinks and coughs. Sometimes, yeah.

  I toss my shoe at him. See what you can do with that knot.

  The Blister clears his throat.

  Can I help you? I say.

  Your name is Phineas Poe, is that correct?

  Yes, it is.

  What are you doing in Denver?

  Passing through.

  What did I tell you? says Moon. He doesn’t like strangers.

  The Blister licks his lip. You were a cop in this town for six years.

  Oh, well.

  There’s a fat file on you.

  I’m sure.

 
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