The fireworks sounded outside Quinn’s window. He’d only gone and missed the countdown. But he didn’t mind at all, for he was perfectly sure that 2017 could only bring profitable advancements in life, his investments, and – of course – science. However, in all his anticipation for the New Year, there was one oddity: he forecasted developments in love.
Ten minutes ago that he had been entirely unaware of this possibility. Sure, he might be married, but Melissa wanted him just for his money, as the formula went. Quinn didn’t mind that so much… but he still needed some kind of escape from her or he feared that he’d go insane if his mind didn’t receive some stimuli; this was his real concern. Perhaps he was doomed to be tied down by his work – as straining, trial-and-error based, and plain morally ambiguous as it might be. Regardless, he’d finished up his speech at the dining table.
“Here’s to another successful year.” Quinn held his wine glass up high while his voice sprang across the shining walls.
“To consumerism, for keeping our sacred laboratories alive and well,” added Melissa, lifting her glass a little lower than her partner so not to let her asymmetrical dress slip down – or up – either arm. Every one of her actions appeared stilted due only to her outfit. Doing the slightest thing out of line would devastate the intentions of the designer, Melissa herself, and anyone else the media considered ‘right-minded people’: this ensemble took care.
The next person along the under-populated banquet table, Katherine, gave a slight smile. She had a comparably mannered demeanour from the neck up in case the bun in her hair came looser than intended. She thought the paid effort looked more stylish than the position her locks fell into on most given working days, but she was a tad disappointed to find out it necessitated far more conscious attention. Her amalgamation of good fashion, while not as costly as Melissa’s, took a similar amount of time, effort, and hairspray. Fearful of offending her boss, she was unable to contribute to the Rays’ speech, but raised her glass regardless.
“To consumerism,” the twin girls repeated, each wearing gowns near identical to their mother’s, though their respective outfits were a bit less likely to go wrong with a slip or two (and it showed; they seemed like the only people who weren’t concerned about their clothes). Well, Katherine assumed Melissa was their mother, but wondered if such a skeletal frame had enough skin to stretch the width of one unborn child, let alone two.
Anyhow, the family (plus Katherine) made their toast and it all felt like it was over.
Having been Quinn’s assistant for half a decade, Katherine had formed something of a deep-rooted relationship with her boss, yet she could never quite fathom whether she was in love or not. As those years went on, this confusion continued. He often infuriated her with his schemes (as an example, his foray into politics was well-documented and oft-mocked by the opposition), but there was always a little voice assuring her that he couldn’t be blamed for his decisions. Perhaps she could kid herself that he was tired one day, sarcastic the next; on drugs a few nights later. But she knew there was no hidden irony. He did dream of ruling the country – constantly, in fact – and there was no code word involved when he told her that he wanted to do it from the cosy skyscrapers of the world’s largest record company.
So, yes, Katherine was aware that Quinn Ray was a disturbed human being. Did that stop her subtle advances and childlike fantasizing? No! If anything, it made her more determined to protect him at every cost on the cliché list… like at this very moment.
Now, she might not have had the best idea of ‘a convenient time’, but it was growing apparent to her that she may never get a second chance to make things right, and an extra sip from the over-sweetened drink made her realize she wouldn’t.
Something had to be done; before she had returned to being rational (e.g. sober) enough that she might think of actions to regret. So she waited a few minutes, filling the silence that followed, for it to be broken by the victim herself.
“Excuse me,” said Melissa, standing up and pushing the bubble-shaped chair back into its place. She gave a glance to Katherine, tilting her head, as if to say ‘please, come join me; I’m sure it’ll do no harm’. What the hell did she want? She hobbled through to the next hall down, the movement something Katherine didn’t quite understand. She’d have expected someone so used to the demands of life’s luxuries to be able to walk in high heels.
So Katherine parroted, “You’ll also have to excuse me, for a moment.” She slipped the remaining piece of clean cutlery into her jacket sleeve. At the cost of yet more artificial movements, it wouldn’t be clean for long.
Both pairs of heels echoed against the monochrome floors; Katherine feared realization just at the point she was grabbed by the shoulders. She made a wheezing gasp for air, anticipating attack. Melissa stared at her head-on. “I think you can help me.”
Katherine struggled free from her grip with little effort. It was difficult to hang on to someone when you were too worried about having a wardrobe malfunction yourself. “What do you want?”
Katherine mulled her whining over. If nothing else, the delay would make the upcoming cold shock more… well, shocking. “Figuratively or literally?”
“Both. He found me two weeks ago.” She leant in, her facial expression quivering. “He uses me for his… experiments.”
“That’s not all… I think you’re an experiment too.”
“What?” she repeated.
“He told me you were here to murder me. That he wouldn’t try to stop you… and that it was all down to him.”
“I don’t believe you.” She knew Quinn would never do such a thing. I mean, sure, he oversaw plenty of similarly dangerous tests on other people, but not to his personal assistant, or his wife! That’d just be damn immoral!
“I said: I don’t believe you.” She let the tables turn and grabbed the strap of Melissa’s dress. Her tone grew deeper, more serious, more pronounced. “I’m not sure what your intentions are, but I somehow doubt they can be anything innocent.”
“Now,” she interrupted once more. “You’re going to stop whimpering or I’ll have the uncontrollable urge to do this the hard way.” The blunt knife slithered into one hand, the other occupying itself with keeping the girl still… as if about to have a crack at making the murder automatically more horrendous than anticipated.
“What are you going to do… with that?”
“Oh… you’d be surprised what can pierce the skin so beautifully nowadays.” Katherine had always envisioned herself making the first wound with a grin on her face… however; her expectations had been once again confounded as she held a narrow-eyed, pokerfaced mug. But it was the thought that counted in the end: she knew this was going to be good.
Quinn had sent the girls to their rooms (they would have to witness the New Year by themselves) and now leant back in his dining chair, ignoring the pleas for help from his own ‘wife’. He could hear the countdown coming from outside.
The very last sentence from either of them, however, jolted his attention. It was from Katherine; Melissa’s cries were too throaty to manage the roar with which the speech was carried. But it was so unexpected, so… alarming. So flattering. He ran it over a few times in his mind, open-mouthed.
“Quinn Ray is sodding mine.”
Well, it was still Katherine underneath; the diction was all that needed to be heard to confirm that. But it was still an intriguing reaction… he’d have to test the drug combination through on someone else, see if it’d match.
Quinn spun his chair over to the window to watch the last of the fireworks. He expected nothing other than perfection this year.