Fruits of Lunacy: PART FOUR, Stansted Airport, London, England


Sometime she driveth o’er a soldier’s neck,

And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,

Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,

Of healths five fathoms deep; and then anon

Drums in his ear at which he starts, 

And wakes, and being thus frightened swears a prayer or two 

And sleeps again. This is that very Maab 

That plats the manes of horses in the night and bakes

The elflocks into foul, sluttish hair

Which, once untangled, much misfortune bodes,

This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,

That presses them and learns them first to bear

Making them women of good carriage,

This is she—”

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

“Lili?” asked Abby, reaching into the briefcase and shuffling through papers she had withdrawn from a file folder, “Was that … was that Liliya Druzhinin?”

“I don’t know, Agent. Was it?” responded Joe, coldly. “She introduced herself to me as Lili. Later she told me her last name was Drew. Her close group of friends called her Li’l D. I thought her name was Lili Drew, like Nancy Drew, a fictional character with whom I’m sure you’re quite familiar given your career choice. But you’re the FBI Agent who’s spent the last six years investigating this case, right? So, you tell me, Nancy Drew, what was the actual name of the girl with whom I fell for and then watched die? You obviously know more about her than I do.”

“It’s not important right now, Joe. I’m sorry,” said Abby, realizing her mistake. “Let’s just continue with your story.” Joe took a deep breath and looked at the Agent. She was probably about the same age as him, with dark curly hair that spilled over her shoulders. Her white dress shirt was buttoned all the way to the top and tucked neatly into her black dress pants. She had a pretty face, but Joe thought she was wearing too much makeup. Then again, she wasn’t styling her appearance for him. And, frankly, what did it matter what the FBI Agent arresting him looked like. Her appearance was professional, and this was her job. Still, Joe thought, she inspired in him a willingness to confide; a familiar comfort that he could not explain. He felt regret at snapping at her. 

“No, I should apologize. I overreacted. Let’s just keep going,” said Joe, taking another, deeper breath. He exhaled slowly, through pursed lips, and continued recounting his memories from where he left off. 

Providence, Rhode Island, USA – 1997

The rest of the night felt like sleepwalking, as if I had succumbed to vasovagal syncope from the surreal and shocking events, yet remained walking and talking. Emergency vehicles showed up en masse, each filled with uniforms. White shirts loaded the injured into rescue vehicles. Blue shirts questioned people and asked for names, which none of us knew. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. I had quickly memorized the seven digits scrawled in red lipstick on my guitar, and then wiped it clean with a cocktail napkin that I carefully folded and slipped into the pocket of my jeans. Because there was nobody there to detain or arrest, they left after about ninety minutes. It was, after all, Saturday night in a city. This was only one of many stops they would make that night. And, probably, not the first or last time they would see blood. 

The bar had cleared of patrons when the lights came on. Anyone who has ever seen a nightclub when all the lights are on knows just how unpleasant an environment it is. And when there is a blood puddle garnished with broken glass on the floor, it doesn’t make it a more appealing environment. Most people seeking nightlife prefer their flashing lights inside the club, rather than on the curbside, connected to police cruisers. Even though it was only 11:30 p.m. by the time we had cleaned up, James decided to cut our losses and close for the night. 

Jenny had the idea of going to see a movie and, as we were all a bit shaken up, we thought a movie would be a good distraction. The Avon Cinema, less than a block away on Thayer Street, posted a midnight showing of Chasing Amy on the marquis. The Avon was an old movie house. Instead of the multiplex theaters showing a dozen films at a time, the Avon had its one screen on a stage, with a curtain, and even had balcony seating. It showed art films and independent films, and succeeded by being vintage and alternative, rather than catering to the masses. It also was simple to sneak in without buying a ticket. James paid his admission and then went upstairs to the men’s room where there was a small emergency door that opened onto a fire escape on the back of the building, between the theater and a Pizza Hut on Meeting Street. Meanwhile, the rest of us would climb up the metal ladder to the fire escape landing, where James was waiting to let us in. 

After the movie, the five of us exited through the emergency door, and climbed from the metal landing up to the roof to smoke a blunt and decompress after the night’s events. As bright as the road below was, lit by streetlights and illuminated signage, the roof of the Avon was dark. That allowed us to quietly watch the late-night passersby on Thayer Street and remain unobserved. It was only by the glow of my Zippo lighter that we were able to find our way to climb down. I was the last to leave our perch and amble from the front of the building’s roof to the back, and as I stood up from the flat, tar paper roof, I saw a familiar flash of rainbow hair dart from the narrow lane beyond Store24, a corner convenience mart, walking quickly across the street. Though she was some way off, it appeared that she disappeared into the entrance of the old trolley tunnel that traversed the East Side of the city. At that moment, my attention was pulled away by Dennis’s voice saying, “Jenny, Jenny, slow down. No, wait. Jenny, just hold onto the … shit!” Then I heard a clanging thud as Jenny hit the landing hard. The distance from the roof to the landing was only about ten feet. Jenny was about five feet two. However, in her cannabis-haze, she had misjudged the drop and had landed hard on her backside. James was already on the ground, and Mona was descending the ladder. Jenny let out a laugh that ended in a sound of pain. “Jenny are you alright?” asked Dennis. “Joey, help me out, would you?” 

We both dropped from the roof to the landing to assess the damage to Jenny’s posterior, which was superficial, but would certainly leave her sore in the morning. The five of us headed back in the direction of the Spiral, and then parted ways, Dennis and Jenny to make the short walk in the direction of RISD, and James, Mona, and I to our apartment. I kept on, however, saying I wanted to smoke another cigarette before turning in. Instead, on a hunch, I walked another block to the old trolley tunnel that passed beneath College Hill. It was a bus tunnel now, but no buses ran at this hour. I had never been down the tunnel on foot. I had seen a few nihilistic skaters roll into one of the two vast apertures carved through the brick retaining wall, but I always thought this was less daring than it was stupid, seeing as a game of chicken between a bus and a meatbag on wheels could only end one way. The sky was all violet as I walked through the archway. The dim, yellow glow of the few, sodium vapor lamps that hung from the vaulted ceiling cast a dreary wash of light on the gray asphalt and across the graffiti decorating the walls. I stayed on the thin strip of concrete that banked the right side of the road. 

The air smelled sour, like the water that collected at the bottom of trash barrels, and acrid with stale diesel fumes. My watch read 2:50am. I was tired and stoned and still shaken from the violent events from earlier and I wasn’t even certain Lili had gone this way. Just when I began to regret entering the tunnel enough to turn and leave, I noticed something. There was a metal double door across the road, set in the wall of the tunnel. It appeared to be an access door for maintenance. Light spilled from underneath and around the frame, illuminating the floor and the curve of the ceiling in a rayonnant splash. I crossed over to investigate more closely. As I approached, I could feel a distant, pulsing bass from somewhere beyond the doors. I tried the knob, but it didn’t budge. I heard muffled voices from closer to the other side of the door than the hypnotic beat. One of the voices laughed, but any spoken words remained indecipherable. 

Suddenly, from somewhere to my left, toward the Thayer Street entrance of the tunnel, I heard sharp, echoing voices along with footsteps approaching. Panicking, I tried the door again, but to no avail. I ran in the opposite direction of the voices, as quietly as I could, and at the last minute, found a pipe running up the side of the tunnel and flattened myself against the wall just behind it. 

Long shadows preceded the owners of the voices, and three figures came into view. Two of the figures, a taller person and a shorter person, wore dark hoodies, keeping their faces hidden. The third was a man who the first two held tightly from either side, propped up, and dragged down the tunnel, as he struggled limply. He was dressed in pleated chinos, tassel loafers, and a mustard colored, silk shirt stained down the front with blood from his badly beaten and lacerated face. His hair was coiffed and shiny with sweat and hair gel, and he wore a thick, gold chain bracelet, and a large, gold watch. The most distinctive accessory, however, was the blindfold. I couldn’t tell if he was intoxicated, concussed, or both – but he was barely moving on his own and his expensive looking shoes were scuffed from scraping the pavement as the other two ambulated him, Weekend and Bernie’s style. As they turned him to face the door, the blindfolded man exhibited a halfhearted burst of energy, attempting to elude the grasp of his captors. The hooded person to his left, the taller of the two, pulled him back and kicked him behind the left knee, forcing the man to fall forward and land hard on his knees. Then he grabbed the blindfolded man by the left ear, while reaching into his pocket and pulling a small object from it. I leaned toward the action as closely as I dared, but fear kept me from moving any nearer. The tall figure in the hoodie flicked his wrist and the object he held opened to reveal a shiny, old-fashioned straight razor. He spoke and his voice, a raspy whisper, echoed in the tunnel, “I fucking warned you, didn’t I?” In a swift, downward motion of his hand, he sliced off the left ear of the man in the blindfold. The shorter of the two, anticipating the reaction, immediately moved behind the victim and placed his hand over the man’s mouth, muffling the scream of pain. 

As blood flowed down the side of the man’s face, from the abscess where had once been his ear, the taller one slipped the blade and the ear into the right pocket of the hooded sweatshirt, and rapped a single, loud knock on the rusted door. A few seconds later, it opened with a metallic squawk, and techno music leaked loudly from the opening. The man in the blindfold was thrust inside, followed by the two hooded figures. But, before the door closed, the shorter of the two came back out with a dingy bath towel, and sopped up the blood on the pavement in front of the door. Then the door clanged shut once more.

I waited a good five minutes before I moved. Then, as slowly and quietly as I could, I crept away from the wall by the pipe, and slunk back in the direction from which I came. Although I tried not to, I could not help but steal a glance at the doorway as I passed. I noticed a detail I missed when I first examined them. Among the graffiti on and around the door – tags, curse words, the obligatory penis with a dashed line emitting from the tip – in the top right corner of the metal door, stenciled in red paint, were two cherries connected by a pair of connected stems. But the cherries weren’t cherries. They were red human brains. And, as exhausted, stoned, and out of shape as I was, I ran flat out all the way home.