Alice began an obsession with the letter M while she was in the mental institution. She thought of places and things that began with the letter M: mental, Morgan, minutes, merry, misrule, murder. It proved to be helpful when Alice found black holes tiring and slitting her wrists nearly impossible.
So when Alice promised John and Mark that Mexico would be her first stop in her trip around the world, it would be a trip to places beginning with M, in honour of her new favourite letter.
To prove it, she bought postcards wherever she went. She wrote every message in red ink, pretending every roll of the ballpoint pens she used were her own blood.
In Mexico City, Alice bought postcards of El Angel and wrote I'm free. Alice. on the back of them.
In Marfa, Texas, Alice sent John and Mark postcards of the town's main street. Milkshake. Alice, she wrote.
Her Miami postcards, views of the hotels on South Beach, were her most verbose postcards: No Morgans or Caines here, she wrote. But there are bounty hunters. I'd tell you her name, but we don't have the luck of the Irish. Alice.
Then, after her postcards from Montreal (the picture was of Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral; the message In Ville-Marie, on top of the world. Alice) she sent the two of them postcards of...London.
Her message, on the back, read Middlesex. Minories. Gone but not forgotten. Meet me at Fenchurch Street, Saturday, 20:00. Alice.
John and Mark stood at the Fenchurch Street station.
"Alice has been sending you postcards?" Mark asked John.
"Yeah, I've been collecting them on a pin board," John said. "She's been to Mexico City, some place called Marfa..."
"Miami, Montreal and now back to London."
"I get Middlesex. It used to be a county in England until about 1965 and then it was absorbed into Greater London. She's using Middlesex as an excuse to see us."
Mark shrugged. "There's no place like home."
Footsteps clacked against the railway station's floor. Mark and John froze: the footsteps were behind them. Then a voice: "Boo."
"Alice," John said, turning around and facing her. She grinned.
"You shouldn't be here."
"You shouldn't be here."
"I have a job to do, Alice. Mark has a job. We can't leave with you."
Alice booked a room for the night in a cheap hotel.
"Alice, you should've told us to pack some toiletries if you wanted us to stay the night," John said.
"I don't have to tell you anything."
Alice sat in the hotel room's only chair. "Sit."
John and Mark sat on the bed.
"Blood?" Mark repeated, confused.
"When I was institutionalized, I used to cut myself. It made me feel better."
"You were trying to kill yourself," John said. "You were trying to kill yourself because you don't like being locked up. You'd rather be free or die than spend the rest of your life in an institution."
"I know, John." There was anger in Alice's voice. She took a breath.
"They made me go to therapy. The therapists said I cut myself because I was too vain to slice anyone else with a knife."
"I haven't changed my mind, John. I don't want to kill you. I want to prove I can cut others. I'm going to cut you like I did myself."
"That doesn't sound like not murdering anyone, Alice."
"Just a tiny M, John, on your right shoulder blade. That's all."
"Alice doesn't sound like she means harm, John," Mark said.
John sighed. He took off his jacket. "It's only because you care about me, okay, Alice? If I didn't I would have you arrested."
Alice sat on John's back. She held a razorblade in her right hand. She knew the razorblade was sanitary and would give her a clean cut unlike anything else she could've used to cut John and Mark. And, as a bonus, she could throw out the razorblade and use a new one on Mark.
On John's right shoulder she made a two centimetre cut, moving from the southwest to the northeast. John groaned as the blade cut through his flesh and his blood broke out of his skin. She made another cut in the same length and in the opposite direction. She repeated the strokes again a final time.
"It's beautiful, John," Alice said, grazing her fingers on the cut. "You should see it. Your M."
"Uh, Alice? I'm on my back and you didn't bring a camera."
"You'll have to take Alice's word on it," Mark said. "It looks great on you."
After the cuts had healed on John's back, Mark laid down on the bed. She carved an M on his right shoulder with a new razorblade.
"Isn't this cut beautiful, John?" Alice said, her fingers tracing Mark's M.
"It's just an M, Alice."
Alice kissed them both on their lips when the room was quiet and still.
"Let's have sex," she said. "Together."
"How do we do that?" John said.
"I didn't think that was possible," Mark added.
"It's possible. Did you two forget you're not the first?"
Alice took Mark to the bed and licked him. John followed, licking Alice.
The three tired themselves out in the early hours of the morning. The men went to sleep after they couldn't fuck anymore.
When they woke up, there was yet another postcard where Alice had slept between them. It was of Westminster Abbey. The postcard read John and Mark: mine. Alice.
John and Mark drifted apart after the hotel visit. John went back to work at the Serious and Serial Crime Unit, and except for when Mark would help John out with the occasional scheme, Mark continued work as a lawyer.Alice sent them both postcards from Marbella (Gibraltar could've been my saving grace. Alice,) Manzanares (I'm not tilting at windmills. Alice,) Madrid (I'm the highest strawberry on the bear's tree. Alice) and Manacor (Four caves, one dragon. Alice). Then she sent another postcard of London: Middlesex. Minories. Gone but not forgotten. Meet me at Fenchurch Street, Saturday, 20:00. Alice.
"I missed you," Mark said when he met John at the railway station. "I didn't think I would, but I did."
John nodded. "I missed you too."
"We should hang out more when Alice is gone."
Alice snuck up on them and greeted them with a "boo." They left the station together, Alice leading them towards another leisurely Saturday night.