Well I'm a single man, I really don't need a wife!
(Pick up, you gals!)
Yes, I'm a single man, I really don't need a wife!
Yes, I'm gonna stay this way, 'cause, ooh, what a wonderful life!
- Roy Brown, "Mighty Mighty Man"
In hindsight, Archer Greene should have known that sticking it to nearly every willing woman in town would have its consequences. Still, when you’re as pretty as he is—when the women are as attractive as they are plentiful—who can say the risks aren’t worth it? If anything, he provided a selfless service with the simplest of systems.
Repeat as necessary.
None of the women had any silly illusions, not even the married ones (maybe especially the married ones, with husbands so boring in the sack that silly, little lovesick ideas are sometimes inevitable). Archer always made it very clear up front that there were none to be had. It wasn’t to say that there wasn’t ever any romance. Shit, he can do romance! It’s just that anyone who ever got the idea that he might settle or stick just to one girl was quickly corrected.
But he should have known. He should have seen it coming.
Hindsight is fucking twenty-twenty, though, ain’t it? And one can never figure out all of the little variables that might lead one to get dragged to a warehouse for a gang beat-down by all the angry boyfriends, brothers, husbands, and fathers of the neighborhood. It’s not as if they had no idea what was going on—they did; most of them did, anyway—but they were more than willing to quietly let it go on because of his rules. Archer isn’t a homewrecker in any true sense of the word. He can have his pick of all the women in town, despite his rough-and-tumble upbringing, and he knows they know it. He just likes to have a good time. He just likes getting a taste of their good life, their good wives, good girlfriends, daughters, and sisters. A little taste and nothing more.
Well, maybe a few dollars more here and there.
But is it his fault if the women sometimes give him things? Little gifts here and there? He never sets a price. The women just give him things. Tokens of affection. Symbols of their thanks for giving them the best sex they’ve ever had. Items of appreciation for doing things their boyfriend or husband won’t, like spend time on his knees with his head between her thighs (a staple of his repertoire). So they give him things. Sometimes it’s money; sometimes little trinkets, things he can pawn if he needs to because sometimes he does. Eating, keeping a roof overhead, looking as good as he does… None of that is cheap! And what is he going to do? Refuse? Say no? Well, that’s simply rude!
So he takes their money, their gifts. He gives every woman the best few hours of her life, the ones her husband or boyfriend can’t or won’t give her. What’s the harm?
The harm is when one dumb bitch ruins it for everybody.
In this case, one dumb bitch had the poor sense to get knocked up. Not by him, of course; God knows he isn’t the only boy from the “wrong side of the tracks” sticking it to lonely ladies—just the best at it. He has the good sense to cover his tracks by covering himself. Last thing he needs is a fucking little ankle-biter tying him down. But this dumb bitch had the poor sense to get knocked up, lacked the poorer sense not to see a doctor about it, and lacked the poorest in trying to hide what she was carrying.
Her old man found out. Ranted. Raved. Demanded answers, names.
And this dumb bitch, rather than get her stupid asshole of a deadbeat boyfriend in trouble—she blurts out the wrong name. The name every father, brother, boyfriend, and husband’s been cursing for ages.
Maybe she figures nothing bad will happen. Maybe they’ll just talk to him. Rough him up a little. She likely figures that because she’s a dumb bitch with no sense.
The girl, her parents send her away to a special hospice to wait out the rest of the nine months.
Then they go after him.
They catch him drunk outside of a bar—a little shithole of a place called The Scorpion’s Den—and they drag him off to a warehouse down by the docks. That’s when they get to work. It only takes about an hour before they beat the alcohol clear out of his system. The more he denies knocking this girl up, denies even knowing her, the angrier they get. It doesn’t take long to realize this mob gathered around him doesn’t really care about whether he knows that girl; only that he has likely known their girls, and that no longer stands with them. They’re tired of being shown up, of no longer being the ones their women think of in the sack. You can hardly blame the poor bastards, really. So much time spent thinking about everything else they deem important…
One of his attackers rolls him over with a sharp kick. Archer feels the blood run down his throat. Somehow, he manages a chuckle despite the pain.
“Not so fuckin’ tough now, are ya, asshole?”
He chuckles again. Turns his head. Spits blood onto the kicker’s shoe.
It gets him another kick in the ribs, but as the pain blooms up his side, Archer decides it is worth it.
“We shouldn’t kill him,” says another. Who is he? A cuckolded lover or concerned relative? “We kill him, there’s gonna be loads of suspicion.”
“What’re you babblin’ about? Chief of police is right over there.”
Ah, yes. The chief’s daughter. Lovely girl. Quite the screamer. Her favorite thing was for him to trace out the letters of the alphabet against her clit with the tip of his tongue. Never did get past O…
“Still. He turns up dead; we’re all screwed. Think about it.”
The silence suggests that they are. Perhaps they are, for once, thinking about their women, about all the scorn and cuckolding they are likely to heap on them if their favorite Casanova ends up dead in a gutter somewhere. Or maybe it just means Archer is blacking out. Evidence for the latter hits him in the face around the same time a new fist does. They’ve put him in a chair; tied him into it by the wrists and ankles because he probably kept falling out. Archer spits blood, glares up at the owner of the fist.
“Still here,” he says, “and I know girls who punch harder than you do.”
Another fist. Stars sparkle before his vision. The ceiling above him spins. The sound of footsteps bounces painfully around in his head.
Right. Time to take stock. Everything hurts. His bottom lip feels split. There is a gash on the inside of his cheek. One of his back molars feels loose. One eye is threatening to swell shut on him. It hurts to breathe. His fingers are numb and he has trouble telling if it has something to do with being tied up or if they might be broken. There stands a good chance that he might have to be carried out.
Archer spits more blood. His attackers stand around in a small circle a few feet away, talking amongst themselves about what to do. He has a few ideas about what they can do. Mainly it involves getting fucked up the ass with something sharp. But first, they can at least do him the service of letting him go. Let him limp or crawl home. Someone will more than happily tend to his wounds. Possibly while dressed like a skimpy nurse…
He blacks out with a little smirk on his face, thinking about a cadre of beautiful nurses cooing over him as they tend to all of his wounds. And then someone dumps a bucket of cold water over his head. Archer twitches and gasps and then everything hurts all over again.
How long has it been? Minutes? Hours? He tries to blink, only to discover his right eye has completely swollen shut. Well, fuck. He coughs, realizes the mistake of doing so when his entire chest explodes in pain, and somehow finds the strength to talk.
“What? No coffee?”
The air is forced from his lungs. Archer wheezes, coughs, gags for breath. Somehow, he manages a breathless chuckle.
“Ah, c—c’mon, boys. You can’t be that mad, can ya? I ke—I kept ‘em happy for ya. Kept ‘em busy, kept ‘em from wandering away to find somebody better. Can’t say I didn’t help.”
Unfortunately, no one seems to appreciate the “help” he has given so many of them with their women. Ungrateful pricks. Someone in the group suggests that they shave his head. Nobody is quite sure who, but truth is, doesn’t matter whose idea it is. General consensus says it’s a damn good idea. A fitting humiliation for the little fucker. A way to rub his nose in all the shit he’s caused. Problem is that no one’s got a razor. No one’s got scissors.
What they do have, however, are knives.
They decide quickly enough that they should use the one Archer had on him, the one they were quick to remove from his possession to make the fight much more to their advantage. For as much of a lover he is, he did grow up on the rough-and-tumble side of things. Being handy with a knife is practically a required life skill where he comes from. So far as they have all heard, he is one of the best; his knife, one of the sharpest.
“So we’re in agreement, then?” someone asks. “We’ll cut his hair.”
The men all agree eagerly. Cut his hair! Cut it all off. Leave him embarrassingly bald. Something about the prospect sends a chill up Archer’s spine. Abuses of punches and kicks, he can handle. Knife fights, he has had more than his share. But something about this… They want to cut his hair. Why? And why does it make him so uncomfortable?
Man, your priorities are really fucked, some small voice whispers in his head.
“Gag him,” someone says. “Someone hold his head in place.”
“W-wait. Wait—” Archer coughs, spits blood. “We can’t work something out?”
Someone spits in his face. They laugh. No, they cannot work something out. They are going to take what they feel is their due.
That’s when the fear sets in hard.
He screams then. He screams and he swears and even when they tie the bandanna around his mouth (the taste of sweat and dried motor oil choking him) he still manages to make noise. Two big, burly hands hold his head so still and so tight, the threat of having his skull crushed need not even be spoken. One of the attackers settles heavily across his lap. See how the knife blade glints in the light! How it sparkles! And tonight, it’s not after his blood—not for now, anyway. No. Just his hair. His precious, beautiful black hair; the hair he got from his mother’s side; hair that he takes the utmost care of, keeps clean and styled.
Hair that the girls like to run their fingers through, to pull on, to tangle in the midst of passion.
He has never quite realized how much he loves his hair—really, how much he loves every part of himself—until now, until this moment right before the fucker straddling his legs brings the knife in close and starts to cut, cut, cut. It goes in tufts, in chunks, in clumps. The makeshift barber tosses each bit to the floor with little care of where it lands. The others laugh and encourage the work to continue. Shave it all off! Leave the son of a bitch bald as a cueball. The more he tries to struggle against it, the firmer those two hands hold his head in place. More hair goes. The knife is sharp enough that the work is simple.
Tug a fistful of hair up from the head, hard so it’ll hurt, then slash the knife through.
Yank after each pass; repeat until the fistful comes free.
Toss the hair to the floor
Grab another clump of hair.
Start all over again.
Repeat as necessary, with breaks to punch the squirming asshole in the face when needed.
At some point during Archer’s futile struggles, he causes the knife-wielder to slip. At least, that’s what it feels like to him. Maybe the asshole sitting on him meant it. Maybe someone told him to; it doesn’t matter. The idiot slips and slices the knife through skin instead of hair, just slightly behind where his unbroken hairline was only a few minutes ago. He feels the wound open, the sting of air brushing against it. Blood begins to trickle. Something about it makes the gang go quiet. They weren’t planning on this. None of them expected this to happen when they tied grabbed him from the bar.
They have no idea what to do now.
And then someone says, “Scalp the son of a bitch.”
It all becomes a blur after that. Loud hoots and hollers fill Archer’s ears, mixing with and almost drowning out his gagged screams. The feel of the knife sliding back and forth registers as a pain that wavers from searing hot to impossibly cold and back again. Occasionally, there comes a hard tug that makes him cry out even louder. Tears stream down his remaining unswollen eye, mingling with blood runing down his face. He is dimly aware of shaking. Is this what shock feels like? Archer clenches his hands into fists, unclenches them, only to tighten them again so hard he breaks the skin of his palms. His vision may as well be nonexistent, seeing as it only comes in colors and shapes.
He wants this to be over.
He wants this to be some horrid nightmare from which he will soon wake. Any minute now, some small part of him thinks, he’ll bolt straight up in bed—frightened, in a cold sweat, but otherwise unscathed—and whatever girl he’s with now will wake up to kiss and comfort him back to sleep. Any minute now.
Any minute now.
“Get his face next. Fuck him up. Put him out of business.”
And just like that, he knows, he knows…!
Of course, he does. What sort of miracle was a boy like him expecting? He’ll be lucky if he gets to keep his rotten life, one no longer fit for freely whoring about. Not without his pretty face, nor his pretty hair…
No, no, no!
He’ll be much luckier if they kill him after they have their fun.
Oh God. Oh God, please let them kill me. Please let them kill me. Just make this stop, please, please! Please let this be over. Please.
And then it feels as if a door has opened up beneath him. Archer feels like he’s falling…
…and then, quite suddenly, he feels as if he is drifting underwater. The pain has been replaced by the sort of coolness that comes with diving into water on hot summer days.
“Oh shit. Shit, stop! Stop! Wait a second—”
Who is saying that? Their voice sounds a million miles away, distorted by the ocean enveloping him. But this is impossible, isn’t it? Somewhat, anyway. Sure, there is an ocean underneath the warehouse—they are in the docks—but who would put a door underneath him?
Maybe you’re dead. Maybe they’re just dumping your body.
The thought jolts him. Dead? No, no, no, certainly not. Certainly not dead. Beaten, spit on, and mutilated, maybe…but dead? Dumped? Archer opens his eyes, barely registering that he can open both, and realizes he really is in underwater. He starts to kick and thrash; tries to remember how to swim. His lungs suddenly feel as if they might burst. Strange lights dance far above him. Lights from the town? From the docks? He tries to swim but finds that the more he thrashes, the deeper he sinks. The more he fights, the more everything starts to hurt again.
Relax, whispers an unfamiliar voice in his head. Let it go. Let it all go.
Archer doesn’t want to let it go. He doesn’t want to die! He wants to be at home in his bed. He wants to be out on the town with his friends. He wants to be alive, free to do whatever he wants with whomever he wants. He thrashes and kicks. The dancing lights grow smaller and smaller. The pain gets worse. He screams and the taste of blood and seawater rushes down his throat.
Relax, whispers the voice again. Release yourself from the pain, Archer Greene. Let it all go and the hurt will fade. Let yourself give in. Give up what isn’t yours anymore. (No, no, no, no, no, no, no I’m not dead yet. I’m not dead. I’m not. I can’t be dead.) Give in. (No, no, no, no!) Relax…
He chokes on a sob and seawater. The lights are little more than wobbling pinpricks now. What happens if he lets go? If he lets the feeling overtake him? Archer forces himself to stop struggling, even as his mind screams not to. Again, the pain fades out of his body, replaced by that comforting coolness. He feels himself floating up. The lights start to slowly get bigger.
That’s it. Give in. Let it go. Just rest.
He feels his eyes flutter closed. The pain is completely gone now. He drifts higher and higher, closer and closer to the open air…
By the time he breaks the surface, he has completely shut off from the world.