Ezra had gone to the gorge. He took a deep breath and looked out over the two plus kilometers of his secret space. There was his history just a few meters under the top layer of earth. Ezra pulled the tightly sealed jars from his bag. He released the dermestid beetles and walked away. He had laid a thick line of acid and pesticide in a deep crevice to keep them inside the area that was to be destroyed. Ezra placed the jars inside the space and jumped back over to the clean side. Ezra left them to do their job.
Ezra gave the gorge one last look and got in his car. He went to the car wash then headed to the restaurant. Ezra checked himself over one last time before he got out of the car. It was their standard lunch once a week. Ezra spotted them right away. Ardyn had placed his order as always. She had known that he had business at the gorge. Ezra kissed Ardyn on the cheek and gave Dadrian a brief kiss on the lips. Ezra sat down and his drink was brought to him.
“Sorry I’m late. Traffic was horrible out there.”
“No problem,” Dadrian smiled.
“I have enjoyed conversation with the gorgeous Dadrian,” Ardyn winked.
“Let’s jump into the plan for the vacation,” Ezra suggested as he pulled out his notepad.
“I’m thinking Canada. It’s a quick easy trip and we haven’t been there for years,” Ardyn brightened.
“That’s a great idea. Toronto is lovely this time of year,” Dadrian agreed as he ate his lunch.
“Fantastic! I think that is perfect,” Ezra was glad they could agree.
They discussed their vacation plans. Ezra had invited Ardyn to make sure that he did not go to bed with Dadrian. Ezra knew she would be a good third wheel. While they talked someone caught his eye. At the same time Ezra caught the man’s eyes and he walked away from the conversation that he had been carrying on over to their table. Their smiles matched as they greeted each other.
They embraced. The attraction was obvious. Dadrian took a deep breath and fiddled with the napkin. They talked for a few minutes before Ezra remembered to introduce them. Ezra blushed and turned to the table.
“Sorry. I’m so bad at that. Lance you remember Ardyn,” Ezra gestured to her.
“How could I forget such a beauty?” Lance kissed her hand.
“Great seeing you again,” Ardyn responded with genuine surprise.
“And this,” Ezra felt his face warm, “is Dadrian my partner.”
“Lucky man. Nice to meet you,” Lance gave him a toothy grin.
“You as well,” Dadrian stood and shook his hand.
“This is Lance an old partner.”
They talked for a few minutes then separated. Ardyn had a few questions that she would have to wait until they were alone to ask. They finished lunch and Dadrian had to return to the showcase for his new line. Ardyn followed Ezra to his place where they took the disposable jeep. It was not registered and had phony plates so it was an easy to replace the plates instead of the vehicle. Ezra drove to the warehouse. They had business to finish. They undressed and put on scrubs then tied their hair back. Ezra handed her a cap and shoe covers. Ardyn was glad for the time away from others so she could raise the questions that had jumped to mind at lunch.
“Lance huh?” Ardyn brought up as she tied the apron around her.
“Yeah. You remember him right? The Wall Street guy,” Ezra pulled on his gloves.
“I do remember him but I assumed that when I stopped seeing him around he was in the gorge with the others. I thought all of your exes were there.”
“No, not all of them. Gosh you make me seem like a monster. Only those that do wrong by me are out there. Jeez. Lance and I mutually split,” Ezra assured her and pulled the key from his neck.
“Wow. So I feel good now. I always worried if there wasn’t a man alive that you had been with,” Ardyn laughed.
“Really? I’m shocked that you would think something like that,” Ezra unlocked the door and put the key back.
“I’m just saying that besides Cary and Nathaniel I don’t know anyone you’ve dated that is still among us,” she replied honestly as she pulled down her face shield.
“Not everyone has done me wrong. Let’s see there’s Marshall, Keith, Dre, Charles, Peter, Matt, Mathew, Gabriel and Trey that are still alive. I do break off relationships you know. Not everyone breaks up with me. Damn. I’m not some sort of maniac.”
Ardyn did not respond.
They entered the dimly lit room. The screams were audible and the temperature had dropped significantly once they entered the room. Ezra had never turned on the heater. It was not intentional but it satisfied him the same. The sound proofing was only the room itself. Anything within the walls was at full volume. Ardyn adjusted her mask as they made their way to the man in the chair. Ardyn pulled the cart over beside the man.
“I-I promise I won’t t-tell anyone. P-p-please let me go. I-I-I’m sorry. I SWEAR!” the man pleaded.
“You should have thought about that before you stole from us. Then you had the nerve to cheat on me. I didn’t care if you saw someone else but you ran around behind my back. You FUCKED someone else in my bed. You stole two thousand dollars worth of items from my apartment and you stole three thousand worth of supplies from Ardyn’s place. You’re lucky this is all I’m doing,” Ezra spat at him.
“He’s right. He’s very much into torturing you for days then ending it. You’re getting off light,” Ardyn agreed as she filled the syringes.
“B-b-but I told you where to get e-ev-everything from. Y-you collected it all!”
“Not everything,” Ardyn growled as she jabbed the syringe into his arm and pushed the plunger, “my grams earrings were heirlooms! The pawn shop had already sold them ya cunt.”
“What…what did you just do?” the man asked as he tried to keep his mouth from drying out.
“She just administered a drug that will paralyze you. I want you to be alive but I don’t want you to pass out from the pain. This will keep you conscious so that I can enjoy it. It would be temporary if you were still alive when it wears off,” Ezra answered as he hooked the hose to the needle.
“Waaz dat?” he slurred as the drug began to take effect.
“This is to make sure the job is done. Your tongue and vocal chords will soon follow the rest of your body,” Ardyn replied as she moved the large tub to the stall where the man would spend his last minutes.
Ezra and Ardyn lifted the man and moved him into the large plexi-stall. It resembled a large shower stall only it would seal air tight once properly closed. Ardyn handed Ezra the needle with the hose. Ezra placed the end of the hose into the tub to drain. His lips turned up as he jabbed the needle into the man’s neck. The man’s eye widened but he felt nothing. The drug had worked. Ezra stepped out and shut the door. The hiss whispered through the air as the door rested in place.
Ardyn and Ezra made sure that they had the bleach and other cleaning supplies. They had perfected their methods and could finish the job in half the time it had taken all those years ago. Since his nightmares Ezra had stepped up their clean up routine. He had also installed security equipment in all of his locations. Ezra rarely used some of the locations but he wanted to make sure he was safe. Ezra excluded Ardyn from most of the kills in the recent past. She was involved in the current situation so Ezra had included her. Ezra figured if he was captured at any time Ardyn would not get apprehended along side him.
“What do you think will happen first?” Ardyn asked as she sat down in the folding chair.
“He’s panicking so his air will run out first. With his position and only the one drain going it will take about 30 minutes to complete. With the lack of air his heart will stop before the blood is finished draining. He’ll definitely suffocate first there’s less than ten minutes of air in there.”
“Have you tested this?” Ardyn’s eyes narrowed as she looked to Ezra.
“I have,” Ezra replied matter-of-factly.
They stayed outside the stall and watched the man that had betrayed them both suffer. He struggled against his bonds automatically even though he felt no discomfort. The man could feel his lungs tightening but that was the only sensation he was aware of. His skin began to pale and his mouth opened as he gasped. Ardyn turned away. Ezra watched the man’s eyes. The panic and worry slowly slipped. His look turned peaceful. Ezra smiled as the man’s skin went ashen and the clouds rolled into his eyes. Ezra knew he couldn’t actually hear it but the phantom sound of the man’s last breath sent a chill of excitement through him. The man’s eye dulled as the last of the light slipped away and Ezra sighed with satisfaction. Ardyn shook her head. The experience was one of delight for Ezra but for her it was just a necessity. The police would never convict the man so they had. They had become his executioner. Ezra enjoyed every second that it took for that man to die.
Ardyn gave him another ten minutes before she opened the door. She punctured the femoral artery with another needle and placed the hose in another container. Ezra pushed another cart over to the side of the stall. Ardyn checked the man’s pulse to make sure that he was dead.
“Should only take another ten to fifteen minutes,” Ezra stated as he pulled a couple of jars from the cabinet.
“What the hell are those?” Ardyn made a face as she sealed the first tub of blood.
“Come again laddie?”
“Flesh eating beetles. They eat any organic material such as leather, cotton, or flesh you name it. Once we’re done I’ll pour them in and they’ll make our job easier,” Ezra answered as he placed them on the cart.
“Where the bloody hell did you pick up that idea?”
“Jeffery is a taxidermist,” Ezra smiled.
“Of course one of your boyfriends helped you out. I hope he isn’t going to regret it,” Ardyn chuckled.
“Probably not. I’m breaking up with him next week. He’s too into me. I’m not looking for anything serious and he is.”
“Alrighty sure,” Ardyn rolled her eyes.
They finished their routine and packed everything into the jeep. Ezra stepped on the step ladder and opened the top of the stall. He poured the beetles in and closed the mesh. He wanted to keep the beetles in but not be dead when he returned.
“By time we come back they’ll be done.”
“Is that what you did this morning in the gorge? I thought you just went to put someone in,” Ardyn questioned as she put the last tub of blood in the back of the jeep.
“Since your psychic friend I have been thinking a lot about our disposal process. In her vision they unearthed bodies not skeletons. As much as I don’t believe in that crap it rattled me. A wake up call really. It takes more to identify bones than it does to run DNA off of soft tissue. They’ll destroy anything that we may miss. Food in between their teeth, wallets, socks, skin under their nails and anything else,” Ezra explained.
“You perfect your art form. Get in and let’s get this done,” Ardyn got into the driver’s seat.
“If it was perfect then I wouldn’t find little flaws. There is still room for improvement,” Ezra responded with a shrug.
Ardyn drove in silence downtown. Ezra was in the mood and she never talked when he was in his mood. Ardyn glanced at him. It had been a few guys too many for her taste. Ezra had also called it off more in the last several months than adding them to the gorge. She saw the changes in him since he had started his relationship with Dadrian.
They reached the butchers and Ezra pulled on the white coat. Ardyn followed as she made sure her hair net was in place. They picked up the tubs of blood and walked in to the building. They put on the confidence and went into the slaughter room. They opened the tubs and poured the blood into the drain. Ezra whistled as rinsed the tubs out and Ardyn went to the assembly line and prepared a few slabs before they made their way out. They took their empty tubs and got back in their jeep. No one paid attention as they left. They came and went and no one was the wiser.
Ezra took the wheel and headed back to the warehouse. While the beetles finished their job they made sure that everything was placed where it needed to be and cleaned. Ezra pulled out the sledge hammer and laid out the body bag. Ardyn watched the bugs as they continued to work and shook her head. It disturbed her on some level. She sat aside and watched Ezra in his zone. It was like he was in another place where he was the emperor. Ardyn looked on as Ezra performed his art. He was an artist in his own right. A dark art but art none the less.
Ardyn assisted Ezra once the process was over. With the body wrapped in the body bag they took the sledge hammers to the bones. Ardyn had gotten accustom to the new behaviors. She followed his lead. Ezra had helped her when she had needed him the most. Ardyn had taken the life of her abusive stepfather after he had nearly killed her sister. Ezra had been there with her to make it easier. She had been his friend back then. They had become brother and sister of the blood. There wasn’t anything that Ardyn wouldn’t do for Ezra.
Ezra showered and ordered dinner once they were back at his place. It had been a long day and they both needed to relax. Ezra talked to Dadrian and promised to set up a date for them when he returned to the city. Ardyn hung up with Jacob and settled in beside Ezra.
“This feels wonderful. I love you and I cannot live without you in my life,” Ezra snuggled into her.
“I love you too. You know that your life would be so much easier if you liked the vagina. You and I would be married with some little ones running around,” Ardyn laughed at the idea of being shacked up with Ezra.
“Yeah I tried once,” Ezra smiled fondly at the memory and its ridiculousness.
“What?!” Ardyn sat up and turned to him.
“Yeah,” Ezra sat up, “I spent a weekend filling all of my surroundings with you and imagining the future with you. I thought about how beautiful you are and our bond. I even planned it out. However my penis was not having any of it,” he smiled softly at her.
“You never told me that,” Ardyn chuckled.
“It wasn’t something I would have you know. It was not a proud moment for me. I questioned who I was. No one is proud of an identity crisis. Plus you’re happily married now. You could not be my beard for the rest of your life. Freshman and sophomore year was enough.”
“You’ll find the one,” she hugged him.
The doorbell sounded.
“Saved by the bell from an emotional moment,” Ezra smiled as he wiggled out of her grasp.