Everyone knows about the seven deadly sins, from wrath to pride, but there are just as dark virtues, too. Temperance, humility, forgiveness, and even kindness—to name a few—can be dangerous and destructive. In the short story collection, Witching Hour: Vices and Virtues, people are confronted with their worst nightmares, but how they react will expose their true nature. From the horrifying to the downright gruesome, these vices and virtues have never been more deadly.
In the short story “One Forgives as One Loves,” by Trinity Hanrahan, twin sisters Chloe and Clarissa are horrified to learn that Roger Clemmons is being released from prison. Clarissa made the mistake of dating Roger years ago, and as for Chloe...well, something terrible happened—something so terrible that she’ll never be able to get over it. The theme of Hanrahan’s story is forgiveness, and as Chloe spirals further and further out of control—desperately seeking revenge—we learn that forgiveness is complicated.
I let out the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding as he walked away. My muscles released and I slumped into my seat. With a glare, I raised a hand and flipped him off behind his back. I saw how bad my nerves had been rattled in the trembling of my hand. I finally admitted to myself I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing. Maybe it was time to go home. Just as I reached forward to turn the key in the ignition, movement along the street caught my eye. I squinted to see better in the dark and felt a jolt of adrenaline when I saw my patience had paid off. There, strolling along the fence line of the parking lot under the El, was Roger Clemmons. It seemed luck had decided to shine down upon me; he was in a section with no lights and he had earbuds in.
A sweep of my eyes revealed everyone had disappeared down around the corner to see the fight. A deep breath in to steady myself and I reached into the console to grab my gloves and mask. It was now or never.
Gloves on, I picked up the small canvas case I'd prepared earlier and had sitting next to me all night. With surprisingly steady hands, I unzipped it and pulled out the pre-filled syringe. My eyes never left the man walking along the cracked, uneven concrete in the dark.
Quietly, I opened my door and slipped out. With delib‐ erate, precise movements I started across the street toward him. Time slowed, my focus sharp and clear. This time, he was the prey and I embraced my role of predator. Feet moving silent and swift, I was on him before he realized it. Stretching up, my hand closed over his mouth while I shoved the needle into his neck, depressing the plunger as I did so.
He struggled, breaking free and spinning around to confront his unseen attacker. "What the fuck?" he demanded, his voice cracking in a panic. When his eyes fell on me, they widened in shock and he stumbled back. He held out a hand and I cocked my head, smiling.
"Hey there, Roger!"
"What the—?" he broke off and looked around wildly. "Where the fuck did you come from?" He staggered and waved his arms before he managed to fumble a hand to his neck. His eyes began to lose focus and he dropped clumsily to his knees.
"You fucking cunt," he slurred. "What'd you give me?" He slumped forward and braced himself with a hand to keep from landing face first on the ground. I eyed him dispassionately, feeling nothing for the man before me. I waited for the Ketamine to finish taking full effect.
"It's different, isn't it?" I crouched down beside him watching him struggle. "Being on this side of it. Kind of blows being the helpless one, huh?" I reached out and pinched his cheek before I gave it a pat. "You'll be fine, Roger. Trust me." The sinister grin told my story.
"Go to hell," His sloppy hoarse whisper spit out before he passed out, collapsing in a heap on his side. A feeling of jubilant triumph made me want to do a fist pump. But a sudden thought stopped me and had me frowning.
Well, shit. I didn't plan this part very well. How was I supposed to get him from the ground into my car and then into the building I’d prepared for him? Maybe Clarissa was right. Next time I needed to plot out my kidnapping plans a little better. With a sigh I jogged back to the car to move it to the alley Roger was laying in.
I was definitely getting a workout tonight.
Muffled sounds came from the room next to us and Clarissa swiveled her head to look at me. Her expression was one of alarm. “Jesus Christ, Chloe! What did you do?”
My hands on my hips, I threw my head back with a groan. “Really? You’re going to ask that after everything we’ve been doing the past two days?” I dropped my head forward and rubbed my brow. “God, how are we related?”
“I…I didn’t think you were actually…” she waved her hands helplessly. “I honestly didn’t think you’d actually go through with it,” she admitted with a sigh.
I could only blink at her in silence. I had no idea what to say to her in that moment. I shook my head slightly and rolled my eyes, before I moved over to the case sitting on the table. My hand swiped over the outside in a slow stroke as I contemplated my next move. There would be no coming back from this once I started.
Was I ready?
Clarissa stepped up beside me and laid her hand over mine. “You don’t have to do this, Chloe,” she murmured.
“We can leave now. No one will ever know. No one would ever believe him if he talked!”
I shook my head, lips drawn tight. “No. This is how it has to be. He needs to pay. He hasn’t paid enough, Clarissa!” I cried. I thrust my arms out. “Look at this!”
She gazed at me sadly, mouth pulled in over her teeth. She slowly nodded. “I understand.” She touched the case next to where I was gripping it with white knuckles. “Are you ready for the consequences? Are you sure you can take this?”
I shrugged. “Kind of have no choice now.” I jerked my head toward the sound still leaking in from the other room. “Sort of committed to the path now,” I joked.
“You’ve always been the strong one,” Her hands twisted together with uncertainty. “So determined.”
I glanced away and fiddled with the clasp on the case. “Not always.” I swallowed my throat thick. “Not always.” The muscles tightened around my windpipe and tried to clear it. “But this time, I will be,” I promised as I caught and held her eyes. We stared at each other, communicating in the way only two people who shared exact DNA could. Finally, she shook her head slow and took a deep breath.
“Okay.” She reached past me and wrapped her hand around the handle of the case and took it from me. “Are we going to do this?”
I walked to the door and stood beside it. “By all means.” I gestured to it. “Lead the way.”
She flashed me a tight smile and opened the door, then stepped through. I followed close on her heels, practically her shadow.
I blinked in the dim light of the room. Clarissa set the case on the ancient desk original to the building. With an eye on Roger, I moved past her to the lamp I’d installed earlier. I stood beside the lab table he was strapped to and reached over his body, switching on the bright overhead surgical lamp. When the light came on, I saw his eyes focus on me. I flashed him a smirk that widened when he tried to curse at me but only succeeded in making muffled noises around the gag in his mouth.
“I see you’re finally bright-eyed and bushy tailed for us, Roger!” I leaned down next to him, resting my arms on the table he was strapped to. “You took forever to wake up. I was starting to worry, believe it or not.”
He narrowed his eyes and muttered something in response. I shook my head, a sad frown in place. “Sorry. Couldn’t understand you.” I pushed myself back up and breathed out. “So…you’re probably wondering why we’re here, huh?”
Once upright, I went back to the large metal desk where my case sat. “I just couldn’t believe it when Mr. Hofmann told me you were being released. It was almost surreal.” I opened the case and looked inside for a moment then turned around. I leaned back against the table, bracing my arms behind me.
I saw he was glaring at me and I grinned. I pointed at the restraints holding him in place. “Impressive, huh? I’m pretty proud of myself.” I leaned forward like I was sharing a secret and whispered, “Bet you can’t get out of these.”
He growled and I chuckled then sobered. “Did you know I sat outside that fucking prison at least twice a week, every week, while you were in there?” I shook my head. “Yup. I made over a thousand trips, sat there for hours, just to make sure you were where you belonged.”
I stood up from the desk and went back to where he lay helpless. “But you didn’t stay there, did you?”
I saw the cold look of triumph in his eyes and something snapped in me. I whirled and strode to the case, grabbed the first thing my hand closed around. My frown turned to an evil grin when I saw it was a pair of surgical scissors. I held them up for him to see as I turned back around, eyebrows raised. I stepped to him and relished the way he eyed me, barely breathing. I grabbed his hand and fought a finger free, wrestling him until I defeated the fist he’d made.
“Do you know anything about twins, Roger?” My casual approach not flustering him like I’d hoped. I frowned when his response was mumbled. I waggled my finger at him and hummed, disappointed. “That won’t do.” I ripped the tape off his mouth and snatched the cloth out. “Now then, I’ll ask again, do you know anything about twins?”
“Where the fuck am I, you crazy bitch?”
I rolled my eyes and a quick tsk clicked from my tongue. “One would think you’d have better manners, given you’re the one tied up,” I observed drily. I watched in amusement as he tried once more in vain to get free of the restraints. I ignored him as he started yelling at me, threatening things should he ever get free…
He wasn’t ever getting free.
Finally, he settled down and panted, “Someone had to have heard that. Someone’s going to come, you stupid bitch.”
I started laughing. “These are my father’s warehouses. This property hasn’t been used in over fifteen years.” I patted him on the chest. “Scream all you want. No one is going to come for you.”
“What the hell do you want?” he demanded. “Revenge?”
I tilted my head and hummed. “No. Not revenge. Again, I’ll ask: what do you know about twins?”
“Why the fuck do you keep asking me that?” he snarled. “Because,” I said as I leaned forward, grabbed his pinky finger and quickly snipped it off with the scissors at the proximal phalanx, right where it emerged from his hand.
His shocked scream rang through the room. “What the fuck?” he shrieked in pain. “What the fuck!”
I rested my palm against his forehead and pushed until he lay back against the table again and I had his attention. He breathed through his nose heavy, trying to control the pain. “See… you have identical and fraternal twins. Fraternal twins come from two different eggs.” I explained. “Identical ones from one egg. Identical in every way…and they share a bond.”
Without warning, I grabbed another finger and snipped. His body appeared to go into convulsions, he struggled so hard to escape. His screams rent the air as I watched impassively.
“You fucking cunt! I’m going to fucking kill you when I get out of this!” he growled loudly, face flushed and sweat‐ ing. Red blood dripped down the side of the table and onto the floor.
“That bond?” I continued, picking up where I left off. “It’s special. Practically psychic. They know when the other is in trouble, not feeling well, upset…” I leveled him with a look, “and sometimes, in rare cases, can feel what the other experiences.”
Roger stilled and turned toward me. An odd look entered in his eyes. I leaned close and whispered to him, “Everything you did to one, was felt by the other.”
He shook his head in denial.
I nodded. “Oh yes, it was.”
“No—no—no,” The shrieks intensified from him now as he pleaded or begged, I’m not sure which.
I turned back to the case and peered in and saw what I wanted and grabbed it. When I turned back around, Roger went pale. “I see you recognize this.” I held up a tactical knife in the light, admiring the serrated edge. “It’s not the exact same one you used, of course. That one’s still in evidence,” I clarified. “But it’s just like it.”
He began to struggle in earnest. “Jesus, Clarissa! Please, stop!” he pleaded.
I laughed. “You want me to stop?” I didn’t want an answer. “I fucking begged you to stop and you wouldn’t.” I flipped the knife in my hand and eyed him, a vicious look on my face. “Chloe felt every cut you gave me, you sick son of a bitch.” I thrust the knife at him. “Every time you raped me, she felt it!” I cried, my voice rising almost hysterical.
He shook his head frantically. “I’m sorry,” he whimpered. Tears ran down his face.
“When I came home, she’d cut herself to have scars to match mine,” I told him as I looked down at the lines on my arms. I shook my head and licked my suddenly dry lips. “What you did? It broke her. You might have taken me, but what you did broke her, the strong one.”
I walked up and lay the knife edge against his ear. “She felt so guilty for not saying anything about us dating, not doing more to stop it…She blamed herself for all of it happening.” I moved my hand with a quick motion, slicing through the flesh and separating the ear from the scalp smoothly. I held it up for him to see before tossing it to the side.
“Eventually, she couldn’t take it anymore. No matter what I said or did, the guilt ate her alive,” I said over his cries. “Four months after your trial, she killed herself.”
Again, my hand moved with brutal efficiency. This time it sliced down his forearm, sliding through the skin and muscle like a hot knife through butter. I stared at the tissue pulling apart as it showed me the bone underneath and I felt nothing. No emotion. “Do you know what it’s like to lose the other half of your soul, Roger?”
He shook his head, tears running down his face.
“I can still feel her, you know?” I told him. “In here.” I pointed to my head with the tip of the knife. “She helps me do things. Stuff I normally couldn’t…” I gave him a wicked grin. “Like taking you for instance.”
I slowly slid the tip of the knife through the skin of his chest, tracing a long line down his ribs. “She talks to me, guides me, takes me over…and I do the same for her. We’re the same but not.” I flicked my gaze up to Roger and saw I had his undivided attention. “But it’s not the same as having her here with me.” I moved the knife along his groin.
“God, Clarissa! Please, forgive me! I’m sorry!” he begged with a sob.
I sighed with a shake of my head. “Oh, Roger…I forgave you years ago for what you did to me.”
He stared at me, eyes wide with confusion and half- crazed with pain. “But then, why–?”
“Now, what happened to Chloe?” I interrupted. “That’s different.” I shook a finger at him. “That’s a forgive‐ ness you and me have to earn.” I heaved a breath and moved back to the case and started unpacking it, pulling all of my surgical tools from the animal hospital out and setting them up. “So…let’s get started on it, shall we?”
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