She could remember it all so well. Yet, at the same time, it was all so fuzzy. A grand haze in her mind about how and when she ended up disappearing. The day had gone on as it usually had. It was sometime in 2015, and she had been working out of a coffee shop as was her typical wont. Though she couldn’t say, exactly, how she had ever gotten it in her mind that she should feel “okay” about being one of those types of douchebags who sat freely in a public space “working.” As though the entire “job” she was doing entailed parading to people that she had one. Of course, she and the other poseurs knew that if they actually had real jobs, they wouldn’t be at the coffee shop in question.
Like most, her major downfall was being a creature of habit. Constantly taking the same routes, going to the same places—even though the supposed benefit of “the big city” was all the variety that it was meant to offer. She stuck to that which she knew, and that was her fatal downfall. Looking back, she wondered how things might have been different if she “ventured out” to Manhattan or even Queens more often. The Bronx and Staten Island were obviously out of the question. Would his plan have been foiled, or was she always doomed to find herself within his clutches? If everything is written, then maybe no amount of “adventurousness” could have prevented what was in store for her.
Gustave had watched her for months from his own perch at a café across the street. One of the few that made him feel vaguely like he was still in Paris, but nothing could ever really compare and he daily wondered why he had ever bothered moving to New York other than the fact that every street in la capitale now reminded him of the woman who had broken his heart. The woman who he had to “expunge.” Not just from his memory, but also literally… by drowning her in the Seine. So yes, in another sense, it wasn’t just escaping the memories of her, but also any potential implications in her disappearance.
When he saw Lorena that day, several months later, walking into the coffee shop on Franklin Avenue, he thought it was no coincidence. As a Frenchman, he had long ago accepted that there were no coincidences. She was, in many ways, the spitting image of Céleste. But she was also too uniquely herself for Gustave to merely write off the attraction as him “having a type.” No, it was Lorena herself that he wanted. Needed. And he wasn’t the sort of man to go for very long without getting his needs met.
He set about observing her at the establishment across from her coffee shop the very next day. Knowing, intuitively, that she was “one of those Brooklyn people” who claimed to be some kind of artist but actually just sat around drinking americanos and cappuccinos all day (in this sense, his years of watching Friends had not wrongly prepared him for what New York was like). She would be there, the next day and the next. Forever and ever. And it was just a matter of him picking his moments, studying her habits for the perfect opportunity to pounce.
It took him about a month to become brazen enough to finally follow her back to her apartment. To ascertain what he knew would already be true: that she likely had a gaggle of roommates. And yet, to his surprise, as he mounted the fire escape several nights in a row, he found that his dream had come true. She lived alone. It was such an anomaly that it made him realize even more how destined to be this all was. How she had been just waiting for him to come and collect her.
A full six months from the moment he laid eyes on her, Gustave decided it was time to make his move. Like most women who lived in New York, none of Lorena’s friends were “real,” and he gathered that if she disappeared, they would chalk it up merely to yet another one “biting the dust.” Another one who was unable to “hack it” in NYC. Gustave liked that about the city, at least for his purposes. The disposability with which it treated people and their “aspirations.” The goldmine it offered to someone of his own particular predilections for making women evaporate. Right into his very soul, he believed. That was why he had to kill them, ultimately. Even if they ended up getting Stockholm Syndrome and reciprocating his love, which had happened on more than one occasion. Whenever such a thing occurred, it actually tended to take away from his enjoyment of the killing. But such was the price one had to pay for their specific propensities now and again.
On the day he decided Lorena was no longer any use to him merely chained to his radiator either screaming and wailing or staring at him in a disbelieving daze, he returned home with the necessary materials to drug and extinguish her. He always wanted them to be very comfortable when “it” happened. That is, when he invited the Reaper over for dinner. He didn’t get joy in their pain, only in the idea that he was in control of the instant life left their body. That was the one thing that could give him an erection anymore. Maybe it was the one thing that ever did. He couldn’t say, for he couldn’t really recall a time when he hadn’t been like this. Similarly, Lorena couldn’t really recall a time when she hadn’t been imprisoned against her will. Had it been months? Years? The concept of the clock was illusory to her now. The only thing she could focus on was the plan she had been hatching. A no frills strategy that involved her head-butting him at the exact right instant when he approached her to check on her chains or refill her water bowl.
She waited for so long, let many chances her pass by. Because she knew she would only get one. And she could see today would be her last chance regardless, so she finally took it. Knocked him so hard against the head with her own that she herself almost passed out. She had also been working for months on loosening the radiator from the floorboards and pretending it was perfectly intact. This, too, was a near impossible feat, for Gustave hardly ever left the apartment. So when he did, she had to work as quickly as possible, expending her scant energy. This was the only manner in which she could note she was grateful that he didn’t bathe her very often, as he might have noticed sooner that the radiator was becoming detached. With Gustave prostrate on the ground and the radiator loose, she stood up, feeling woozy as she did so. She couldn’t think too deeply about this taste of freedom; if she wanted to maintain it, she would need to run. And she did.
Out on the street, her disheveled, battered appearance didn’t register on anyone’s radar. Either they thought she was homeless, hungover or merely part of another day in New York. It didn’t take her long to fathom that no one had really noticed that she had disappeared. And, after about a week, she began to wonder why she had even bothered trying so desperately to reenter the world. No one cared whether she was in it or not. The only one who really did she had chosen to abandon.
In the end, she wasn’t surprised when she found herself trudging back with something like eagerness to her erstwhile dungeon. And neither was he, having already refastened the radiator even more tightly than before…in addition to preparing her a fresh bowl of water. They would start again.