As usual, here is your warning that this story has cursing, sex (not graphic), innuendo, and violence. It’s my Rated-R action adventure called Derailing Bedlam. This is the fourth outing (third official) for Cassidy and Lloyd, so feel free to click on one of the two covers to see how it started. Each one is 99 cents!
Pulling at his shirt collar, Lloyd follows Katie down the hallway and does his best not to step on her flowing dress. Still sore from his fight with Erik, he wishes he could stay in the room, but knows pushing for that option could earn him worse than a few bruises. Having promised at the beginning of their trip that he would escort the warlord to every fancy dinner, the serial killer is determined to be a man of his word. Lloyd wishes that his romantic actions did not require wearing a suit, which includes a tie that he swears is attempting to strangle him. Needing to take his mind off his discomfort, he focuses on admiring Katie’s emerald dress and the large peacock feather sticking out of her bowler. Ivory satin gloves run up to her elbows and a matching choker is on her neck to hide the faded fingerprints that linger on her skin. Diamond earrings and a golden bracelet sparkle in the light, the jewelry a recent purchase from Alexandria. The longer Lloyd looks at the warlord, the more he wonders if he is dating out of his league.
Before he can foolishly ask the question, they come to the roped off dining car and are permitted to enter after a brief search. His nerves on edge, the serial killer cannot bring himself to crack a joke and maturely lets the guard check him. Gently hooking Katie by the arm, he lets her take the first step and immediately winces at the wall of noise that meets them. Lloyd has no idea who any of the well-dressed people are and does his best to smile when the entire crowd turns to see the new arrivals. In the back of his mind, he knows that they examine him for only a second, but it feels like hours of scrutiny. Heading further into the car, the serial killer’s fingers twitch and he finds himself sizing up the wealthy guests. By the time they reach an empty table, he has figured out a way to kill nearly everybody in the room with something they are wearing. It does very little to put him at ease. For the first time in his life, Lloyd feels exposed and defenseless, which is a sensation that brings him to the edge of a panic attack.
“You’re not looking very good,” Katie whispers, touching his hand. Concerned with how tense he feels, she strokes his knuckles while waving a waiter over. “I’ll have a glass of white wine and he will have a glass of ice water. Figure it’s best to keep him away from the alcohol for now. Thank you, dear.”
“Not sure what’s gotten into me,” Lloyd admits with a crooked smile. Checking his reflection in the bar mirror, he messes up his hair in order to feel somewhat normal. “Feels like something is crushing my chest and closing my throat. There’s a nasty burning in the back of my brain too. Almost like my instincts are telling me that this is wrong. I can’t even think of anything funny or random to say. Every part of me is screaming to run.”
“That’s a bloody shame because I was hoping we could have a romantic time for once in our relationship,” the warlord says, a hint of disappointment in her eyes. Accepting her drink, she holds it up to clink glasses with her boyfriend. “Who am I kidding? This is like taking a tiger and putting it in an aquarium. Betting the crowd, noise, and close quarters reminds you of being in prison.”
Mulling over her suggestion, Lloyd fishes an ice cube out of his drink and stares at the glassy facets. “Actually, I was in solitary for most of my jail time. Never got to hang with my fellow miscreants since I killed a few people on my first day. In my defense, three of them were rapists and the fourth one did some nightmarish things to dogs. No, I think it’s more that these are normal people. I’d be more comfortable surrounded by criminals since I know what to expect from them. Aside from you, I don’t know how I’m being judged, what I can do, or what will happen if I’m myself. It’s like high school, but without the acne and a math test I forgot to study for.”
“Well, if we’re going to be together then you’ll have to get used to this,” she bluntly states after finishing her drink. Holding up her glass, she waits for a waiter to come by with a chilled bottle that she can keep at the table. “Not that I do things like this very often, but they come up from time to time. You need to learn to adapt to more than combat situations, lover. What kind of future can we have if all you do is look for a fight? I admire your aggression and beautiful killing style, but I do worry that you will continue battling until you’re too old. Then, you’ll challenge the wrong youngster and give the cheeky bastard a boost in his reputation.”
“You sure gave this a lot of thought.”
“Only recently when you took an unnecessary risk with Erik.”
“You could have set him on fire before taking the beating.”
“I needed it to look good and . . . would you have still worn the nurse outfit if I was only scratched?”
With a scowl, Katie gets up and heads into the crowd to mingle with the other guests. Left alone at the table, Lloyd loosens his tie and moves closer to the window. He stares out at the wilderness, which is going by too quickly for him to focus on anything. Things slow down when the train takes a long turn and the forest opens to show a lake that is dotted with fishermen. For a brief moment, he spots a bird that dives towards the water and disappears behind a boat. The train heads into a tunnel before the animal comes back into view and the other side shows nothing more than trees. Feeling overheated in the sunlight, Lloyd takes off his jacket and drapes it over the back of his chair. A sip of water helps to clear his head and it makes him wonder if he is starting to get sick. Touching his ribs causes a twinge of pain, so the serial killer chalks everything up to his lingering injuries. Looking around to see if anybody is paying attention, he grabs a napkin and coughs to check for any signs of internal bleeding. Relieved to see nothing more than spit, he switches it with a clean one from the nearest table.
Deciding to search for Katie and see if he is in trouble, Lloyd finishes his drink before slipping into the crowd. Moving silently and carefully out of habit, he weaves among the tightly-packed guests like a serpent tracking its favorite prey. Whenever he comes near one of the wait staff, he steals a drink and drains it before flipping the empty glass back onto the platter. The few people who spot him are startled because his movements give the illusion of appearing out of nowhere. Hearing the muffled yelps and shifting feet brings a smile to his face, but his expression fades when he reaches the far side of the room.
Lloyd finds Katie laughing and sharing drinks with a young man, who looks no older than twenty-one. The handsome youth has his blonde hair in a ponytail and his sapphire eyes sparkle like gems. His dress shirt is open at the top to reveal a necklace with a charm that resembles parents hugging a child. With a flick of his wrist, he pulls a blue rose out of his sleeve and hands it to Katie. Lloyd sneaks up on the young man, who takes out a flask from his back pocket and takes a long drink. The serial killer stops in his tracks when his target abruptly stretches back and points a long needle at his eye.
“I really hope you weren’t going to hurt him,” Katie says as she puts the rose in her hair. She is about to sit down, but stops when the young man moves to pull out her chair. “Thank you for being such a gentleman, Amarillo. It’s a delicious change of pace to be treated so nicely. Not that Lloyd doesn’t try, but he’s more into surprises than manners. Don’t worry, dear. I love that you keep me on my toes.”
“I’ve got no comeback for that,” Lloyd replies, his eyes narrowing into predatory slits. He licks his lips at the way the other man stands, a faint glint revealing the needles clenched in his fist. “Don’t worry, little guy. I’m sure starting a fight would be a faux pas or however you spell that. So, what puts you on this train and in my path?”
“First, it’s truly an honor to meet someone with your reputation, Mr. Tenay,” Amarillo claims while he puts his needles away. Holding out his hand, he patiently waits for the shake to be accepted. “I deal in alcohol since my family revived a distillery ten years ago. My parents can’t run things anymore, so my sister and I switch off making the product and traveling to drum up sales. I got lucky and made a deal with Mr. McHale, which got me on the train. No idea what you mean by being in your path. I was merely talking to the Duchess about the human circus in Peru carrying some of our spirits.”
“Oh, if it’s business then I’ll leave you to it,” the black-haired man responds with a shrug. A shattering glass brings his attention back to Katie, the warlord removing her torn glove and turning it into a bandage for her hand. “On second thought, I should stay and observe or do something that will prevent further complications. Apparently, I’m in trouble and just made it worse. So, does your stuff come in bottles, boxes, or reinforced garbage bags?”
“Please stop trying, Lloyd,” the warlord groans even though Amarillo chuckles at the question. Claiming an abandoned drink, she sniffs at it before taking a sip. “Ugh, not a fan of watermelon-flavored liquor. I believe we’ve already made a potential deal for your services. Let me know when you’re ready to begin.”
“Please give me an hour to get things prepared in the next car,” Amarillo requests before taking Katie’s hand. He gives it a kiss, which causes her to blush as she leaves the two men alone. “To answer your question, we sell our spirits in bottles. Now, you and I have some things to discuss. Seems you have angered the Duchess and she wishes for you to woo her. Success means I get a contract and you don’t get dumped like old garbage. Those are her words, which were said in anger and a touch of tipsiness. I apologize since the whiskey I’m carrying might be stronger than I realized. Do you know anything about romance?”
“The French invented it?”
“No, but that’s a better answer than I was led to expect from you.”
“Then, I shouldn’t tell you that the only other thing I know is that tongue is a bad idea on the first date.”
“You’re lucky that I’ve been promised a big contract and enjoy helping couples.”
“Are we talking therapy or giving people one last fling?”
“Please sit down and take this seriously.”
Fighting the urge to crack another joke, Lloyd takes a seat at the table and is about to ask a question. He is silenced when Amarillo hands him a notepad and pencil, the latter of which has been mercilessly chewed by someone with blue lipstick. With a glass of bourbon for each of them, they go over the intricacies of romance and what not to do when trying to be a proper gentleman. It only takes five minutes for Amarillo to drain his drink due to the ridiculous ideas that come out of Lloyd’s mouth.