He was watching TV with Lucy when the news came on and told him that life as he knew it was about to end.
Somewhere in Yemen.
The words were spoken slowly, carefully, measured. It was an educated voice. It had probably lived in London somewhere, he thought. Ax knew the man had travelled. He knew that the man was unimaginably rich. “They” knew he had been born in Saudi Arabia, but nobody knew where he really called home these days. They had been searching for him for years, so they said.
“We are going to hurt you now. We are not going to ask any questions. The questions will come later.” The voice was soft, almost gentle. “We are going to hurt you because we can. Eventually we are going to kill you, but first we are going to torture you. You are going to be our little Jesus and you are going to beg for crucifixion. For we shall rain upon you the suffering of all our children, that you may be cleansed in the fire of repentance. “
“Your own people gave you up, you know? How do you think we found her, and then you, so quickly? Don’t you know that they have plans? And you, a mere soldier are just another tiny cog in a vast wheel you cannot even see far less comprehend. Their plans are much, much bigger than you. They are grand plans. They, however, are arrogant. As you are. Their plans are nothing compared to ours. No matter. Soon it will soon be time to begin your journey to salvation.
Allahu Akbar.”


----- jump to 2nd Act ---------

It was that night that Ax decided to go after the terrorists. If they were willing to kill Lucy? They would not stop. They had tried to kill his Lucy. Or she had been in the way.
Either way it was not safe anymore. Not for anyone.
He knew this cold. This freezing. He knew. How to die. Like when the bullet had entered his chest. He thought he would die. Then he knew he would not. He’d had work to do, to save Lucy, get her out of there. The shooter would die. He’d survive.
He rushed Lucy to the cottage, fixed her up and left her warm in her bed. He had to get out. He wanted a drink. The shooter was long gone - had to be, he would have shot then escaped. So Ax left. Walked. He went straight to the little village bar. He never went in there. This night Ax walked into the bar. Looked around. Chose a table. Sat down. Bikers laughed. One big guy, covered in tattoos, came over, sat down and asked him what the fuck he was doing here. Ax just laughed. “Hey” he said. “Leave it. Fuck off.” The big guy smashed a fist into the table as he sat forward. His beer bounced out of his glass. He probably thought it made him look tough, thought Ax.
And this was the trouble. Nobody tried to stop the inevitable. Not one of them. They all had that feeling. They had been around violence for ever. They knew trouble when they saw it and they all knew this guy was trouble. Some of them in there even recognized Ax.  So, instead of stopping it they moved together. Within the space of two seconds Ax was surrounded by sixteen hairy bikers. Sixteen victims. Big men. Men used to violence. They had no idea, thought Ax.
When the dance started it was terrible. They all moved together, and Ax put them down. All of them. Down. They obviously did not know how to move. Sixteen beer-bellies. They obviously did not know that sixteen bodies could not fit into the kill-zone at the same time. Ax picked them off like dust from his jacket. It was like he was not moving. He was stillness pure. Cold and hard and down they went. Ax ran his hand over his head. Looked at the ground, looked at the bodies, some breathing, some not. He breathed. Deep. Sighed.
“Barman. Whiskey. Now.” He did not look at the barman, knowing his order would be obeyed.
It was not a human voice. The barman had a glass of whiskey on the bar before Ax reached it. He picked up the glass, emptied it down his throat. “Another, bring me a bottle.” He walked over to a free table and sat down.
He did not understand why people did not get the message. To walk up to a stranger and threaten violence took a lot. It took a breaking of nearly all social barriers. It said “you are mine, and I will do whatever I want, because you, you are not only not going to, you are not capable of stopping me. It was a crossing of a line. It was, “ I can, and you won’t.” People like that were like sharks who had tasted human flesh. Ripe, rotting flesh. They always wanted more. But sharks did not want, did not need to conform. When they were hungry they eat. It was simple. A shark was scared of nothing. Why would it know fear? And here, right here, was the problem. People like that? They had no interest in conforming. Life was death. And in the moment of death you felt more alive than ever. They had all been there. Thought they were dead. Last minute saving. Realization hitting. And now, they had no fear. But they still did not get it. They were at the lowest level of the violence food-chain.
What could you do with two forces so sure of themselves that each was convinced he could win? Allua Akbar. God is with me. God is great. I will win because I have God on my side. But the other side? They said the same. So, where was this “God?”.
Every real fighter knew, it was in the eyes. The look. Because the look defined the movements. Intelligence.  An intelligent person who knew how to fight, and he who moved faster than a less intelligent person, would always win. Always. He would see faster, think faster, hit faster, hit harder and hit to hurt. It was very simple.
Ax got up and went back to the bar. He filled his glass from the bottle, picked it up and finished it. There would be no police. There were enough witnesses to testify that the bikers had attacked him. That he was lucky to be alive. And he had not used a weapon of any kind. The rest of the people in the bar also wanted to stay alive. Now even more recognized him, and just as quickly did not know him.  By the time the police arrived he would be long gone. He would be at the cottage and when he got back he would be another man. Ax poured and downed another whiskey, put the bottle in his pocket and walked out. He would drink in a different bar, or in a field.
He was drunk when he got back to the house. And Lucy was waiting for him. Outside. She came to him, half asleep. Hand on her bandage. Tired. Sad and cold. He picked her up and carried her into the house. The house they would soon leave. Have to leave. Somebody knew they were here. Somebody had shot Lucy. This was a bad day. Not for Ax. No. This was a bad day for the person who had shot Lucy. That person would die. Soon. He put her down and staggered as she caught him. She always caught him. He was drunk and he was bleeding but the hole in his shoulder meant nothing to him. God bless him, as he fell he thought of Cookie.
Lucy had been lucky. The bullet had entered her shoulder and gone straight through. Clean. Good. Ax had gone into automatic. He had not thought of his own wound. He had gone to the kitchen and found a bottle of Vodka. Went back and ripped open her shirt.
Poured the vodka on her shoulder as she screamed. Automatic. She wasn’t wearing a bra and the vodka ran down to her breast and over her nipple. He watched amazed as the nipple went from soft to hard, from pink to red. Ax shook his head as he wondered what that would taste like. He got up and went back to the kitchen. Got a shell from the drawer. Went back to Lucy. Used his knife to open the shell. Used the knife to open her shoulder. She screamed. He told her it would soon be over. He poured gunpowder in the wound,front and back. Lucy screamed again. “Ax, Ax, what are you doing?” she had begged. Ax took the lighter. Lit it and burned her. Lucy screamed long and hard. Ax held her, he was sorry, he said, so, so sorry, he said. But she was safe. This he knew. Now he would find who did this. They would not be safe. They were dead already. No way to explain this. This feeling of death. He wished he was not like this. He wished his life was not like this. But, it was, and he knew. Long after, as Lucy had slept, stuffed full of pills, he had burned himself the same way. He had not uttered a sound.
Later, as he sat alone, he started to plan. He would start with diversion. Someone was watching him. He would have that party.
He did not like being him.
Ax and Lucy had risen early. There were things to prepare. Lucy showed her pain but Ax had acted naturally all day. He’d been out chopping wood for the fire. He liked to chop wood with an axe. It reminded him of a more peaceful time in his childhood when he had helped an uncle as he worked on the large garden estate outside the village. There had been times when he would spend all day in the woodshed swinging a big axe, splitting large logs into smaller pieces for the fire in the house.  Like a premonition. The estate had burned down three years later.
He stopped at five o’clock when Cookie had arrived.
He had that funny feeling, stopped chopping and looked down the road. When he saw the taxi he knew it was Cookie. The taxi stopped in the driveway and Cookie got out. She still looked the same. Ax knew he shouldn’t look at her that way but he couldn’t help it. He could smell her heat as she got out of the taxi. She just stood there, looking at him. She stood for a good minute before she turned and slammed the taxi door. Cookie was wearing clothes that left nothing to the imagination. It was just how she dressed, he reminded himself, and not for him. She was wearing a transparent, black top and a tiny, green jacket. The top stopped just under her breasts, the jacket just under that, not long enough to hide her exposed, flat belly. She wore a tiny, yellow skirt wrapped around the bottom of her waist to the top of her long, bare legs. The legs that went on forever. Ax wished she would wear a different body. He still felt responsible for her even after all the years. He’d scraped her sister off the table. The sisters had been well known in Glasgow, the two beautiful Chinese girls, the sensible and the crazy one, the serious and the “cookie.” Cookie should be dead too, and if he had not turned up on time she would be. He knew it. She knew it. And when he saw her he finally let himself know what he had always known. He was not in love with Lucy. She was strong, yes. But Ax still remembered holding Cookie as she had cried into his shoulder that night. And, she had never asked him how he felt, losing Jade that way. At that moment he knew she had never needed to ask and so, she had never asked. Smart and beautiful, she needed him. Lucy did not need him.
The taxi made a full, slow circle before finally leaving.
Cookie looked at Ax and she felt her heart speed up, banging against her breasts. She could feel them reaching out to him under the sheer material of her top, her hard nipples, almost painfully hard, seeming to stretch out to touch him. She died a little every day but it was never as bad as when she saw Ax. There were too many memories. Mostly bad memories but these memories had somehow become mixed with want. She remembered how he had held her, after. Put his jacket around her, covering her nakedness. Part of her still wished that is was she who was dead. Wished that they had taken her first instead of Jade. Part of her wanted to be dead. She dressed the way she did to provoke it. Her death. But nobody wanted to kill her, anymore. But she knew in her heart she should be dead, too. And she felt guilty. Guilty as hell. Nobody wanted to love her anymore. But the truth was that she would not let them. Worst thing was, Ax didn’t want her. That is why she had done what she had done.
Cookie was beautiful. In every way. She had a body that dragged eyes after it and she knew it. Men would stop and stare, full of lust. Women hated her on sight. Cookie did not care. She was fucked-up from that night. She did not think she was fucked up, of course, but she couldn’t be “normal” around others. The really fucked up thing was that only Ax knew why she was like she was, she thought. He had long ago given up trying to change her, to make her see reason. There was no reason. She did what she did to feel safe, even if nobody could understand how running around half-naked, naked, even, could make a girl feel safe. She should be dead. Hell, she wanted to be dead. And now, after all those years? Let them try again. She was not the same girl. Her beauty was her power. But Ax did not find her attractive.
Still, this is how she, Cookie, stayed in control. She would never, ever again be under the control of others. She knew that Ax would always be there for her. Was it not so? She would never do as anyone told her. She was her own girl and as far as she was concerned they, everyone else, could go fuck themselves. She was Cookie. She did what she had to, to feel safe. Only Ax understood. She needed Ax. But she could not tell him. He was probably still in love with her sister. Jade. But she knew he would always be there to protect her. It had not stopped her from learning. She, too, had missing years.
Cookie came back to the present. She looked at Ax. He was pure danger. They way he was standing there, the axe hanging loosely from his right hand. He was totally still. She knew that she was in love with him. And it was when she was with him, alone with him, that she knew he could feel the longing in her body. When she stood next to him, completely naked, she knew he could feel how much she wanted him. He could smell her want. She knew it. That is who he was. Even if they never touched.
She knew that Ax could not go there. The memories of that day had stayed with him too, just in a different way. The memory hung down his arm, she could see it, feel it, all the way down to the ax in his fingers wrapped around the handle feeling every bump in the wood. It was a history they could never forget but would always share. She knew he could not, would not forget Jade. She knew he carried the memories of that day and that he, too, could not forget what had happened. She knew he remembered how they had hammered Jade, smashing her tiny body into the metal table. Ax and Jade were engaged to be married. There had been no marriage. He had seen them smash a hammer into her eye. Cookie had seen the blood and when Ax looked away Cookie had looked. This was part of the problem. Cookie knew only too well what would have happened to her if Ax had not turned up and saved her. She had been forced to see what they did to her sister. It had marked her for life. Ax had seen it too but Cookie had seen other stuff. She had seen what no one else had seen. She had seen what Ax had done to them. Nobody should see that. Nobody. She still had nightmares. She knew she was lucky. But she could not forget what she had seen. Ax knew she had seen. They never talked about it. Fuck. So, no more. Now, and forever more, it was she who was in control, was it not? Fuck them, all, leave me alone, please. Leave me alone.
She smiled and walked up to Ax. She looked like a cat stalking a bird. He looked like a cat watching a bird. She had seen what he had done to them.
“Hey,” he said.
“”Hey, you,” she said.
“Let’s go in.”
And she had followed him as if she were attached by invisible chains. His sheer presence dragging her in his wake.
An hour later Ax came down stairs and went into the kitchen. The rest would be arriving soon. Cookie was there already, washing plates and glasses. She was naked again, her little toes gripping the cold floor. Ax walked up to her and asked how she was. He stood just behind her. He could have reached out and put his hands on the curve of her hips. Cookie stopped washing the plate she had in her hands, the long fingers placing it on the side before she turned to him. She was standing only one foot away and he could feel the heat coming off her body.
“I’m fine, you know that.” she said, picking up a drying cloth and wiping her hands.
Again she wondered at his strength, that he had never, ever mentioned that night, never, ever tried to touch her.
“I know, just wanted to make sure.”
Cookie’s head fell to one side. Her hair followed. She smiled. “Still looking out for your little Chinese cookie, eh?” as she looked up. Dark, dark eyes. Hopeful.
It was not really a question. More a statement of fact. She knew. She believed, anyway, that Ax did not, could not think of her “that” way. But she still lived in hope. A girl could dream, couldn’t she? She had no idea.
She knew she was beautiful. She had everything in the right place, with the right proportions. Her breasts were perfect. Small rather than large, but not tiny. Just a proper handful, for the right hands she thought, Ax’s hands. Her nipples, too, were just right. Not tiny little dots, and not huge corks. Just right for sucking on, she thought. Just right for his mouth, for his tongue. Her nipples were hard now and she felt herself getting wet again as she imagined Ax sucking on her nipples, his tongue going round and round, finding the hard point. She could feel her shaved fanny throbbing and swelling with desire. It happened every time she got close to him. And he did not even fucking notice. Or did he? She knew he did. Didn’t he? Fuck him, oh, yes, fuck him. She wanted so badly to fuck him. She could smell her wetness. What the fuck was wrong with him? Why didn’t he take her? He didn’t want her, it was so, so clear.
There, she was wrong. Ax noticed, alright. How could he not. Cookie was every man’s dream. But he had chosen Jade, and now Jade was dead. He couldn’t chase Cookie. He had seen Jade’s body. Beaten with hammers. He had picked her up and held her lifeless body in his arms. And he had cried, tears falling on Jade’s bruised stomach. No, not allowed to lust after Cookie.
Cookie turned and put down the cloth. “Fix me a whiskey?”, she said.
“Coming up,” he said to her golden bottom as he went to the sitting room.

They had not talked much, and after the whiskey he’d left her to have a shower and get ready.
At 7pm the doorbell rang. It was Angus, an old friend of Ax’s from back in the day in Glasgow. Angus was not the brightest of guys, Ax knew, but you could trust him with your life. Then came Stewart. The had worked together as boys, many years ago, in the garden estate. “Snobbing it.” Before the fire. 
Helen was next and last. Helen was smart, a computer geek. Pretty, too. Ax had known her since school and they had always been friends. That made three guys and two gals.
And then there was Cookie. Extra.
There would be no attempt at pairing. They were all independent and wanted to stay that way. Especially Cookie
Lucy greeted them all warmly, happy at last to meet some of Ax’s old friends. She had begun to think he had none. But somehow she took exception to Cookie, the Chinese bitch. The pretty little bitch was competition, Lucy knew, just knew. Perhaps it was a female thing. Lucy had hated Cookie on sight, that beautiful, golden Chinese bitch.
Cookie had changed for dinner. Into something more comfortable for the others. She was still naked underneath and would remain that way until they had all seen her and she could be sure of being safe. She wore a long, yellow dress. Sheer and totally transparent depending on the light. Light loved it. Her nipples were dark points under the yellow, crowning her breasts. Cookie felt free. Now you see me, now you don’t. Her long, dark hair fell over her shoulders, gleaming in the light like her eyes.
Angus knew her, Stewart knew of her, as did Helen. Both were surprised but when Stewart looked like he would say something Angus, with a slight shake of his head put a stop to him.
“A toast,” said Ax, holding up his whiskey, “to old friends, may we always stay that way.” Cookie immediately though of her sister, Jade, on the table. No. She put her glass down.
The rest held up their glasses, looked each other in the eye, then drained their glasses. They had all done this before, but never together, never together with Ax. They could all feel the importance of the evening. They all felt like being at a last supper. Even Cookie seemed strangely distant. They all knew something was about to happen. Ax wasn’t a party person. He had invited them all here for a reason. “Guy’s, you know I didn’t invite you all here for nothing. I have something to say,” Cookie felt the tears rise in her eyes. She stood up and walked out of the room. She could feel him. Watching her bottom through the sheer material.
“Well, that was quick,” said Ax, grimacing, “be right back, guys,”
He went after her. She was standing in the kitchen, facing the sink, yellow evening light pouring in through the window. Her dress totally transparent. She turned and Ax could see the tears streaming down her face. “Ax, please, please, don’t?” she said. The others came into the kitchen. They were all very aware of Cookie, her nakedness and proximity. Ax seemed not to notice. Lucy looked like she needed another stiff drink in a hurry. Stewart was trying not to stare at Cookie. She had crossed her arms under her breasts, which were now resting on her arms, nipples erect again, breasts squeezed together, gathered up in her arms.
Ax turned, put his right hand on Cookies shoulder, pushing her slightly,turning her and said, so very gently, “Cookie, come on, let’s eat”. Cookie turned as he pushed and it looked as if she would fall into him. He sidestepped and guided her to the table with his left arm on her back. Her skin was warm under the thin material.
They walked to the table and Cookie sat down. They all followed and took up the same seats as before. Cookie looked up at Ax. Dark eyes burning into his. Stewart could not help himself from making a comment.
“Feeling a wee bit cold, are we?” he said.
Cookie looked down, closed her eyes, then looked at Stewart. “I don’t like hot food dripping on bare skin, unless there somebody to lick off,” she said. “You, motherfucker, will never know how that feels.“
Silence. Cookie looked away, licking salty tears from her lips, a cold smile on her pretty face.
“OK, come on, guys, let’s eat,” said Ax.

It was Angus who broached the subject. “OK, big man, what’s up, why are we all here? Want to start again?” he said, looking sideways at Cookie.
Ax took a moment, looking at each person one after the other. It was a circular table, Lucy to his right. Then came Angus, Cookie, Helen and Stewart to his left. Cookie was opposite, as if she were on a swing with him at the other end.