I stood at my easel, dipping the brush in rich black paint. I began by forming the outline of a corpse. Lost in thought, I pondered over the victim’s death and what their facial expression should look like. Shock? Vacant eyes and parted lips? The door creaked open and Haylie entered the room, disturbing my focus. “What did I tell you about interrupting me while I’m working?” I snapped. She hung her pretty little head, brushed a stray strand of dark hair behind her ear and hesitated.
“I…just had a question to ask you about that new orchid you bought. I’m not sure exactly how much I should spray it.” Her small, delicate fingers grasped the bottle in her right hand. She had the most striking green eyes. I guess I could forgive her. This girl would do anything I wanted. I could have my choice of many girls on campus, but Haylie, with her low self-esteem, was so easy to manipulate. She just had a few things to learn.
“Give me the bottle.” I yanked it out of her hand. “Now come with me so I can show you, and next time you won’t ruin a potential painting.” She shuffled along behind me, nearly jogging to keep up.
Other than stupid shit like that, I really couldn’t complain about the way things were. Business flourished. The kids were popping pills like nobody’s business. Aside from all-nighter “study support” I provided for other college essentials such as the need to numb the pain caused by heartbreak, the need to let loose, to escape from all the academic bullshit. It was easy money if you were smart about it. I knew how to get inside people’s minds, find their weaknesses, and wring out every last penny. For that I had earned the nickname “Squeeze.”
I had lots of time to do whatever. I seemed to have a natural talent for drawing, so I spent a few years designing tattoos for both myself and others. Later I started painting. I began a series of paintings from imagined crime scenes. My goal was to see if I could display them in a gallery at some point in the future.
Once we reached the plant room, I gave her detailed instructions on the new orchid. “Don’t forget it, Haylie.” She looked anxious. “Hey.” I took her chin in my hand. “You’re so freaking beautiful. You know I love you, baby. Right?” She nodded and smiled a shy smile. “And by the way, Ashley Von Adelmann is going to be taking care of our place while we’re on vacation next week.” I noticed a sudden flicker in her eyes after I said Ashley’s name. I had no idea what it meant, I was just glad to find somebody boring enough to do the job. I fiddled with my nose piercing. It felt angry. The skin around the hole was red and puffy. “You know Ashley?” I asked. She shook her head no. “She better not fuck up my plants,” I muttered.