Her headache had swelled like a bee sting ever since lunchtime. When Ms. Maroni entered her luxurious apartment she didn't waste any time kicking her glossy white high heels in the corner after she aimlessly threw her keys somewhere, before instantly collapsing onto her wrapping angel-white couch that faced the balcony. Admiring her fur coat, she stroked the hairs with satisfaction. It was three o' clock in the afternoon and she dearly hoped to succumb to the three margaritas from lunch. Her fluffy, soft couch resembled the fur coat. While out shopping a year ago, the somnolent coach had almost caused her to fall asleep in the store. Now, it's where she laid when ill or distraught. If she were to be found dead from an overdose like famous celebrities, she imagined it would be on that couch.
Across the unhurried turquoise wakes of the canal, "Turchese" as they say in Italian, the lurid white image of the sun relaxed on the Jizuzolli's glass door to their private balcony. Annoyed with the pervading brightness, Ms. Maroni stomped over and extended the shades. Then she plopped down and closed her eyes.
With her eyes closed, a semi-dark living room, nothing happened. Poof, zero. Zilch! Her mind, drugged or numbed by all accounts, just wouldn't turn off. Notions crossed hermind like the news on the lower banners of a TV station. Yet, one specific thought kept arising. Something new in her life had jounced into priority. Ms. Maroni prided herself on the stability of her decisions: black or white, right or wrong, yes or no. At lunch, she'd been offered a highly sought after promotion, an illustrious position as Director of a New York Fashion brand, "Womanhatten," which she had only dreamed of.
She flipped over on her back and gazed up at the ceiling. The white fan was spinning slowly, casting a shady gray Ferris wheel on the white-paneled ceiling. Watching like a hypnotized volunteer, she was reminded of routine, of work cycles, of mundaneness. A sense of excitement snuck into her mood. It was a sign, to her. She'd lived in her upscale apartment on a Venetian Canal for five years. And, five years of small scale success had brought good fortune. New York City was paging her, begging for her assistance.
In the fashion world Ms. Maroni was an up and coming icon. Overnight, three years ago, she had virtually invented a trend by accidently producing a unique color, her heralded "Venice White." Venice White is renowned worldwide as a pure white fabric that is impenetrable to stains. "Like stainless steel fabric," Ms. Maroni had bragged to reporters.
Pictures of her, in Venice White, of course, had slobbered overtwo and three page articles in a slew of popular magazines. Billy Idol, singer of "White Wedding," offered to perform live for the first fashion show the color appeared at. Celebrities pledged to incorporate the color in wedding dresses. For one month, the press had exhausted every effort to delve inside the life and work of Ms. Maroni, the mother of Venice White.
Unable to sleep, still a lingering headache, she got up. On her way over to the phone, she found her keys. One message was left on her answering machine. It turned out to be Roderick, her boy-toy, her sexual pet. Although they had spent a great deal of time together-long nights, fancy dinners, romantic European getaways-their relationship had never ripened to anything serious-beyond pleasure that is. Roderick was much more attached to her than she to him. Telling him this was at the bottom of Ms. Maroni's to-do list, and, she wasn't even sure if she could disclose the harsh truth to him.
In the mood for fresh air, retreating to the balcony seemed to be attractive. Grey shadows of gondolas sailed around crow's feet gleams of wakes along the white apartments on the other side of the canal. Voices echoed in the narrow waterway. Golden domes shined overtop the rows of canals in the distance. The byzantine of colors warmed her eyes, inspired her, and elicited a profound moment of joy.
Directly across from Ms. Maroni's balcony, Ferogio Jizuzoilli hunched elegantly over the balcony to his apartment in a light blue dress shirt and stone gray pants. With the guise of mirrors, his aviator sunglasses were partially hid by his long black hair that had been slicked back with mousse for his job. He nonchalantly sipped on a red cocktail and looked at the source of the sunlight coating that side of the canal in soft tangerine tones. Natana, his wife, suddenly joined him. Stepping lightly, they combined for a "sunnyhug."
A beautiful couple wrapped around each other, admiring the charming view. It was a lovely scene that Ms. Maroni detested for that very reason, in a jealous way that explained her loose relationship with Roderick.
A little depressed and lonely, Ms. Maroni resorted to her trusted companion: white wine. It took a few seconds for her to walk to the kitchen, open the refrigerator, and pour a deep glass of white wine. She put the elegant hand she trusted with her jewels around the cold crystal, and took long sips as the liquid disappeared.
By the time she was done, three glasses of wine were inside her and she felt sleepy. Stumbling over to her couch, she tripped on a phone cord by a small table and cursed. Disliking any arising interruptions, Ms. Maroni whipped out her cell phone and turned it off before collapsing onto the soft white couch she loved once more. Within minutes she was asleep.
Red and purple swirls, luminous golden clouds, all as if deliberately painted on an easel by an artist, graced the horizon and fought to be the last colors in the Italian sunset as the fragile, century-old floating districts of Venice darkened and the hours passed. Black glimmers refused to settle in the canals between passing gondolas as the eerie pink moon, slowly rising, appeared to rest on the iron-black railing of an arching bridge and frame the few brave lovers who strolled through the city in the chilly air in a romantic silhouette.
* * *
Glass shattered somewhere out in the canal. The sound was jarring enough to wake Ms. Marioni. It was dark outside. Flipping around a clock, the time read 3:13 a.m. Seconds later, another glass item shattered outside, suggesting the first wasn't an accident. Barefoot, she tiptoed to the window and peeked downward. Tourists were throwing bottles from a gondola as the frustrated rower protested and yelled harsh insults in Italian.
"Good for nothing assholes! If I could get you drunk enough, I would push you overboard!" the rower exclaimed.
Returning to the couch, she plopped and closed her eyes. The uproar had floated farther along the canal, and peace seemed to reappear. Just the subtle whirl of the fan made a noise at all.
Almost asleep again, yelling came from outside. Ms. Marioni turned on her side and opened her eyes, sleepily stood, and flicked on the lamp. At least the headache that had plagued her earlier in the day was gone. A long yawn crinkled her eyes for a second. Glass broke again, slightly muffled by shouting. This time she peeked through the curtains, over at the Jizuzolli's apartment.
Blue glows noiselessly blared from the wide-screen TV. Two black figures appeared to be arguing side by side,(amidst the flickering TV program). One was Natana. Ms. Maroni could tell by her posture, the large boobs she lugged around in skimpy outfits, and the round ass that ought to emit a beep when in reverse- trademarks of the spoiled trophy wife Ms. Marioni suspected her to be. The other person, beside Natana, was a man. Obviously, it was Ferogio. He stood looking unpleased, arms crossed. Natana's arms were split to emphasize her disagreement and anger.
Ms. Marioni glared accusingly at Natana, condemning her part in the dispute in spite of her own ignorance. Ferogio had a nice body. He'd never knocked on her door, but truthfully, she'd answer in a heartbeat.
Wishing Roderick was Ferogio, she remembered her phone and scooted across the white carpet to locate it. Whipping out her reading classes, she scrolled down the five missed calls, two unread text messages. Roderick had tried to get ahold of her.
"Figures," Ms. Maroni thought.
A torturous scream dragged her concern to the window once more. Natana lay motionless as the blue glows wrestled her shadowy figure. Ferogio was nowhere to be seen. With her cellphone in hand, she tugged the curtains back and entered the balcony for a closer look. Natana was sprawled on the floor and hadn't moved.
Contours of a man paced stealthily around the furniture deep inside the apartment. Ms. Maroni took her eyes off the sight. God, please let this be a dream!
Next thing she knew, the man was at the window, crowding the glass. Blue glows flickered in the background, oozing around his entire body. Unfortunately, the lighting rendered the face unidentifiable. But there was no doubt that the man was staring back at her, realizing that she had seen something, a phone in her hand as if she had just dialed the police. Then a pair of arms savagely closed the curtains. Yellow illuminated the space between the curtains and floor; someone had turned on the lights.
That couldn't be Ferogio! No, they never fight! … Was I being a snoopy neighbor? … What do I do? … What if I'm wrong? … Did I really see that? … Am I just dreaming?
Autumn breezes swept along the canal, chilling the balcony. Ms. Maroni shivered. This is real. I saw it.
Ding-Dong! Ding-Dong, her doorbell resounded. Who in the hell is out at this time of night, Ms. Maroni thought.
In an instant the image of the man jolted into her mind. What if it was him? What if she saw something that he didn't want her to see, and he was coming to tie up the loose ends?
Quickly straightening her hair, checking her face, she crept to the door as to not make a sound, an indication that she was up and awake, and peeked through the hole. Roderick leaned against the outside of her door, glancing down at his watch as if he cared about the time.
"Let me in, Sylvia!" He insisted, knocking furiously.
How could he be so brash with me, and, in front of my apartment … God, if I don't let him in he'll wake the neighbors … what a belligerent idiot!
Filled with anger, she unlocked the door and arrived face to face with Roderick, to his own surprise it seemed. The shock was enough that she could slap him and get away with it.
"Hey … easy now … sweetheart. I've missed you. Where have you been? I tried to call you multiple times and you didn't answer."
Undoubtedly he was drunk, for his breath reeked of alcohol and his tie was loose; plus, cigarette smoke overpowered the Armani cologne he usually wore. By far, it was the maddest she'd been with him.
"Look, toots, let's talk about this, huh?" Roderick pleaded.
"Oh, really? And, what exactly is there to talk about? We're not together, Roderick. You know that!" Ms. Maroni inspected him, as if she needed another reason to turn him away.
Suddenly Ms. Maroni was peering at the black-red stainlessness of knife that had emerged from his chest; an abrupt mirror, with the bright red surprise of an unfazed blade. Roderick's eyes closed and he fell forward onto her floor, his body jamming the doorway. Ferogio stepped over Roderick and quickly pulled him inside, and dragged the oozing black-red stain across the white carpet, into the kitchen. The bloody trail drew a long, capital "J."
"Sylvia, listen carefully. Scream and I'll slit your throat! If you want to live, shut the hell up and sit on the couch. Give me your cell phone, too!"
Fear made it impossible to faint. Bright red on her virgin white carpet …a body in her kitchen. Roderick. So many time she had asked herself: am I in love? The answer was never yes. Now, it was over. Memory after memory sliced through her mind, provoking painful feelings.
Tears squeezed out of her eyes, screwing up her eyeliner and makeup. Ferogio returned and knelt before her.
"Sylvia, do you know who he was?
"What did he do for a living?"
"He … um, Roderick … was a lawyer here in Venice."
"No, Sylvia. I'm afraid you have been deceived." Ms. Maroni glared sharply at Ferogio's handsome face in hatred.
"What do you mean?"
"Roderick was a vampire!"
"Lies!" She passionately shouted, standing.
Ferogio shoved her backwards, "Listen," he aggressively mumbled.
But listening was tough for Sylvia. Her hands shook nervously. The bloody trail blurred in the corner of her eye, while the corner of her heart, full for so long, had just been emptied.
I've been tracking him for years, Sylvia … I will prove it to you!
The stone gray pants rubbed together as he scurried to the kitchen. His hands were bloody, carrying cut-out gums attached to fangs.
"Roderick was a vampire!" Her eyes widened in sickness.
"But you … I saw you kill your wife!" Ferogio slapped her across the face.
"That bastard killed my partner while I kept watch of his flat! … He snuck into my apartment and bit, sucked her blood!"
Ms. Maroni curled up on her couch. "I saw a man in your apartment," crying into her hands. "I saw the man arguing with Natana and then I saw her on the floor."
"I represent the European Paranormal Investigation Police (EPIC), a covert unit enacted by the Europeans Union to infiltrate and control the spread of paranormal crimes. In recent months, Europe has experienced an influx of violent crimes. Not your normal violent crimes. I've seen things that are inhuman, Sylvia. Murder rates have increased, and even more disconcerting, these crimes are going unsolved. These breeds of killers are elusive, swift, and have the ability to relocate shortly after committing a crime."
Ms. Maroni's eyes were red, drying around her runny eyeliner.
"Six months ago, I resided in Bucharest, Romania as part of an operation. There, we had the biggest break yet. One snowy night I followed a suspect back to his apartment. I paced fifty meters behind the individual in question as he moseyed about a park. Snow crunched under my feet as I trekked through a wintery park where the late evening light touched the enveloping snowfall with a hint of mauve in the rustic shadows. But the beauty would be ruined. The suspect met a woman in that serene winter-wonderland. I had to slow down in order not to blow my cover, when, I lost them in a white out … Later that night we found her lifeless body on an iced-over stream below a bridge in the park. She had been bitten on the neck."
Ms. Maroni sat upright, listening without reaction, eyes glued to the white floor. Noticing Ferogio was finished, she looked up. The knife was in his hand.
"Well it was a decent try, I guess … Tell a prospective victim an unbelievable story in a time of chaos and they are unusually susceptible to believing it … that's another check to my bucket list."
Ms. Maroni collapsed onto the floor, bleeding out her neck. Ferogio removed the blade.
"Venice White isn't stainless after all. Guess they'll have to honor her with a red color hereafter."
Once more Ferogio glanced back at the body, to be sure she was dead.
"How about 'Mur-Red?' No, no, that's weak… maybe 'Killer's Kolor'. Nah, too unrefined. Of course … 'Murderer's Red' … a simple but elegant shade," Ferogio mumbled, leaving the apartment, shutting the door behind him.