Frank always packed a duffle.
It was a small black bag with a shoulder strap and a few pockets. He kept a couple hand guns loaded with the safety on at the bottom, and packed a change of clothes on top. It felt odd to travel anywhere without being strapped to the nines with guns and ammunition. It felt odder still to travel anywhere without his trademark: the skull he wore proudly on his chest. This was how he was expected to show up though, dressed in black and relatively weapon free.
Marc had different properties all over the city. He had hideouts, mansions, abandoned factories, businesses, homes, buildings. He was rich enough that if Frank took one step in any direction, he would be one step closer to a place Marc owned. They always met at the same spot, though. The repetition of it combined with the familiarity was good for Frank.
He could probably take a taxi or a bus, but Frank always walked. He put one foot in front of the other, always fully aware of each step. It helped to ground him. He would reach a point on the outskirts of town where he saw the mansion over the crest of a small slope in the ground and an anxious feeling would grow in his stomach. From that point up until he reached the front door was always the toughest because of how easy it would be to turn back. Frank never did turn back, though.
He always took a deep breath after he reached the door and before he knocked. Marc was always there waiting on the other side. The mansion had enough square footage that the sound of knocking could easily get lost, but Frank was never left waiting on the front step. Not ever.
"Frank," Marc greeted him, opening the door for him to enter further.
“One hundred and sixty.” Frank said suddenly, blurting the number out. Usually he waited until he was inside to report the total, but it just came tumbling out of his mouth.
Marc had a soft, calm expression on his face. He reached out to take Frank’s duffle bag and usher him in, but did not speak to reply.
They always went to the same room. Frank knew the way, but it was Marc who led them.
From the outside, the mansion looked like it had fallen into disuse, but inside, it was the opposite. The floors were carpeted, bright in color and always freshly vacuumed. The wooden railings on the staircases were always polished and dusted. Every room Frank had the opportunity to enter or see into looked inviting, like a place he could easily spend the night should he have to. Some rooms had a rather unfortunate scent of potpourri but he supposed that was better than mold or dust.
The room Marc brought him to was large. They had learned over time that they needed space and lots of it. Upon immediately entering, the room looked as if it was some sort of parlor. There was an ornate love seat of finely-carved brown wood and striped pink fabric cushioning sitting in the middle of the room. A mismatching wooden coffee table sat in front of it, both facing away from the door.
A glance to the right, and one would see the open entryway that lead into a separate, equally large section of the room. The two areas were split down the middle by a thin wall. The other section of the room had been empty the first time they’d used this space, but Marc had since brought in a bed for them to utilize. It was queen-sized but it looked small in comparison to such a large room.
The room was on the first floor so the carpet was solid under their feet. This was different than walking around upstairs where the floors creaked in places. There were windows hidden behind heavy maroon curtains. The floors were plush beige, and the bedspread on the queen bed was a dark navy blue. The walls were covered in intricate wallpaper, ornate designs of gold and tan. The color scheme in either side of the room didn't quite fit together but it wasn't jarring or abrasive, either. Frank had grown quite fond of the place, really, and even the mismatched colors and furniture felt welcoming to him.
There were a few things in either side of the room that stood out garishly, though. There were eye bolts that had been screwed in curious places along the walls and baseboards. In the bedroom portion of the room, there was a curved metal hook that descended from the ceiling; the type of hook one might hang meat from. It certainly did not belong here. Frank had been there to watch Marc install it, and it looked so obvious and odd and honestly quite ugly. They used it enough that it was necessary but Frank never looked directly at it if he could help it.
They always started in the bedroom. Always. Frank had asked, once, if it would be easier to start in the bathroom, but Marc simply told him no. They started in the bedroom, and that was that.
The very first thing Frank did was take off his clothes. He didn't strip naked. He went methodically. He untied his boots and slid them off his feet, and then he tied the laces together and placed them at Marc's feet; an offering. Frank took off his socks next. His bare skin on the carpet grounded him in the same way the steps he took to get to the mansion grounded him. He always took a second and drew in deep breath, feeling the way the carpet felt on his toes and the soles of his feet. It was important to be here and in the moment, because in the next few articles of clothing he would be surrendering himself completely.
Frank never wore a belt, so he simply undid his black jeans and pushed them to his ankles. After he stepped out of them, he folded them neatly and offered them to Marc. Marc took them graciously. Frank removed his shirt next, sliding it over his shoulders. He folded it and placed it gently on top of the pants in Marc's awaiting hands.
Last but not least Frank would remove his boxers, revealing his complete nudity to Marc. It was an incredibly vulnerable position to be in. It always made his stomach knot up to be bare and naked while Marc was still clothed. Frank did it anyway. He knew the feeling wouldn't last. He slid off his boxers, folded them, and gave them over. In this, he gave Marc all that he had.
"Well done," Marc complimented him, because that's what he always said. “Kneel."
Frank went to his knees in an instant.
Marc took Frank's clothes and his shoes and he took them to the foot of the bed. He got down on one knee and gently placed them under the bed skirt, putting Frank's things out of sight and out of mind.
Frank stared straight ahead. He wasn't allowed to look under the bed. It was more than just his clothes under there, Marc kept everything they might need under there. Frank had made the mistake of looking once. Not getting up and lifting the bedding aside and peering underneath, but glancing curiously as Marc went to pull something out. Frank had been punished severely for it and he had yet to make that mistake again. Whatever was under there was for Marc to know about, and Frank trusted Marc with this knowledge.
"How would you like to go out?" Marc asked him, returning to stand directly in front of Frank.
"Pills," Frank whispered in reply. "Please."
Marc nodded. He produced a foil and plastic packet from his pocket and pushed a short blue pill through the foil packaging. "This is half a dose; four hours."
Frank nodded in understanding, though his heart leapt to his throat. He opened his mouth, offering it to Marc. Marc placed the blue pill on his tongue and it began to melt.
It took a few minutes to work; it always did. Frank refused to acknowledge the effects, forcing his eyes to stay open even when they couldn't focus. His brain slowed to a slur. His chin kept meeting his chest again and again as he tried to keep his head up.
Marc got down to one knee before him and pulled Frank in to lean against his body. He gently rubbed Frank's back with a hand. "Shh," he whispered. "Let go."
Frank closed his eyes, and breathed in the soft, barely-there scent of Marc's aftershave. The world went black all around him, and Frank slept.