*Continued from Killing Softly, Part I
"You need a woman," Donnie said, with that half-smile that made it hard to tell if he were joking. Donnie wanted to tell Gemma that she needed a man, but knew Gemma would react more than poorly to the suggestion. So Donnie figured to tell the man he had in mind for her instead.
Donnie knew people. And he knew that Jonathan and Gemma, despite having not yet met, were lost souls who could find themselves in each other. Donnie couldn't help it; the thought made him laugh. Still, there was no doubt in his mind that the cliché fit.
"I don't have time for a woman, Donnie." Jonathan's answer was blunt; emotionless. The sentiment behind the response was clear, even if the words were somewhat of a lie. When he wasn't working, Jonathan did little save read books and watch movies. In essence, he had all the time in the world. That it was painfully obvious Jonathan was depressingly lonely was what sprung Donnie into doing something about it.
Donnie knew people. And the subtle and devious machinations of his demented crime-boss of a mind would, Donnie was sure, eventually come to fruition. He thought briefly of some law of attraction or magnetism he once read about when he was a kid in high school. He didn't understand it then - doesn't understand it to this day - but he figured the principle had to work.
"You need a woman."
Gemma Bianci is intrigued. Jonathan's laughter means he's either sick and twisted like damn near every other man she's met, or that he gets it. It's against her nature, but she's leaning towards the latter. She thought she recognized something different when they met. Something in his posture, in his eyes. Part of her even knows that he thought the same of her.
"So, what about you?" she asks, uncharacteristically wanting to keep the silence broken, though she still does not look directly at him.
"How'd I get into killing?" Jonathan asks in return, flicking what's left of his cigarette out the car window.
"Yeah." She almost smiles. Almost.
He studies her for a moment. He knows he's older than she is, but she looks like she might be the older one. Rough lines from a rough life. He briefly wonders what gene determines how a person's appearance is aged by stress.
"It's kind of a boring story, compared to yours."
"Not sure there's such a thing as a boring how-I-got-into-killing story." Gemma senses Jonathan readying to recount his tale and she pulls another cigarette out of his pack. He stares at it, surprised at her intuition, and licks his bottom lip in burgeoning curiosity - he finds himself wanting to really know her. Noticing his hesitation, she places the cigarette in her mouth and lights it. Taking a drag - a false one, Jonathan guesses - she hands it to him. He can taste her lipstick.
The first time Jonathan ever killed somebody, he was only 16. It was a clear-cut case of self-defense... some gang-banging hoodies tried to rip off Jonathan's skateboard and when Jonathan put up a fight, one of the thugs whipped out a knife. In what Jonathan himself calls the quickest reaction of his life, he swung the skateboard into the knife, deflecting the weapon into the assailant's own ribcage. The knife pierced the heart. In shock, Jonathan couldn't do anything but stand there and watch him die.
When the cops showed up, they quickly realized what happened - plenty of witnesses confirmed Jonathan's story - and went easy on him. Though Jonathan was still taken into custody, the arresting officer put on the cuffs as loose as they could get without falling off. Jonathan spent less than two hours in the holding cell.
He, too, wound up with an abusive partner. Amanda Pratt. She had a scolding scream that still causes him nightmares.
Ostensibly abused herself by a high-school boyfriend, she became a self-professed defender of the abused. Amanda was overweight for most of her life and after leaving the abusive boyfriend she resolved to get into shape. Starting with Tae Bo, she engaged in a variety of physical exercise. Rock climbing, Kempo, scuba. There was no activity she wasn't willing to try. She never quite lost all of her weight - though much of it was replaced by muscle - but that didn't stop most men from finding her attractive, particularly Jonathan. Less for her appearance and more for her confidence, he was enamored.
A few months into their relationship, he was slowly exposed to her dogmatic view that men were essentially scum that needed to be cleansed and controlled. He also learned the details that constituted the abuse she endured. Speaking to her sister, he discovered that her "abuse" consisted of a boyfriend slapping her once - by all accounts, the only time this boyfriend ever struck Amanda - at a high school dance. Without excusing the slap, Jonathan realized that Amanda's outspoken defiance was misguided and due more to a public embarrassment, rather than any true sense of abuse.
Finding Jonathan mysteriously against her - so she perceived - she began a quick spiral into abusing him. At first the abuse was emotional, no physical contact at all. But one day she went too far and, in the heat of an argument, grabbed him by the throat. He broke. Feral instinct took over. An elbow to the neck and a violent yank of a pony tail - accompanied literally by a bone-chilling snap - resulted in Amanda's death.
Frightened - both by his own action and of its potential punishment - he fled overseas. He eventually joined the French Foreign Legion - at the time they still fostered changes of identity - and soon became a decorated soldier. Then a mercenary operating out of South Africa. Then a hit-man out of Austria. It was there he first worked for Donnie.
"So your name's not really Jonathan Pino Ferrari?" She takes notice that he's let the now-extinguished cigarette dry to his lower lip. It still has her lipstick on it.
"Nope." He spits the cigarette butt out. Point of fact is that he's not even Italian.
"I love horses."
"And fast cars, I'm guessing." She, too, loves horses, often finding long rides her only form of solace.
He laughs. "Yeah, but I prefer Jaguars."
She understand it's a joke, but doesn't quite find it funny. She's not a car person. Nevertheless, she accepts that he definitely intrigues her. It doesn't hurt that she finds him attractive.
"Huh," she says, finally looking at him. "That was kinda boring."
This time, she joins him in his laughter.
*Continued in Killing Softly, Part III