He had white hair, but he didn’t look like any other man she’d ever seen. Her grandfather stood with arrogance, the stance of a man beaten but not cowed. Her father stood with the posture of a man who is so big he rarely has to show his dominance. The man who took care of her father’s money was hunched, always looking as if he was asking someone to hit him.
The old man, Smith, he called himself, stood differently. He stood while they brought her into the meeting room. He stood like he was ready to run, jump, react, but he was also relaxed. The tension of being prepared should have made him look like a coiled spring, but it did not. Years later she would see video of Bruce Lee in interviews and recognize the same stance.
The Freak shuffled along in her shower slippers, her hands cuffed together. The cuffs were not removed, rather another set of cuffs was used to attach her hands to U-bolt on the table. Somewhere along the line she had created a shiv (no one could conceive who would have taught her how, and surely she couldn’t have figured it out by herself), sharpened one edge to a razor, and used it to shave her head. It was easier to occasionally crop her hair than let it grow out. In exchange, it gave the guards one less part of her to grab.
Smith did not sit, but took her in. The stubble on her skull was rough and uneven, patches of scalp showing through. She wore a shapeless grey tracksuit, but she still looked like a convict.
He had looked at her file before this meeting, in fact, had been following her activities for more than a year.
“I would like to talk to you,” he said, still standing. “Would that be alright?”
She tilted her head and regarded him. Her shorn head made her green eyes look like they took up half her head and her ears stuck out, in contrast to her small nose and mouth.
“Why?” Even so young she already had the economy of speech of a long-term prisoner.
“Several reasons,” he said. “One, I think you’re interesting. I might learn something. But reason two is I might like to take you out of here and offer you a job.”
“You want to fuck me?” she asked bluntly.
He did not react to the profanity. “No,” he said simply. “But if that is something you’re interested in, I can find someone for you to fuck or to fuck you.”
Her eyes were flat, like a snake’s. “I don’t care.”
“Then I don’t care either. So, we’re done talking about fucking,” he said briskly. “What’s your name?”
She told him.
“But the girls here call you Mama, is that right?”
“If you don’t want to talk to me, you can go back to your, uh, room.” His avoidance of saying “cell” was stronger than using the word.
“They used to. I haven’t seen another girl in a long time.”
“What do the...what’s the ridiculous word they have for guards here?”
“Supervisors,” she supplied.
“What do the supervisors call you?”
“Of course. And what do you call yourself?”
She frowned at that, squinting slightly in thought. “Do I have to tell you?”
“No,” he said, “But I need to call you something.”
She didn’t respond, just kept looking at him.
“How about I call you Alice,” he said, “just to call you something.”
She shrugged and he took that as a yes.
“So, Alice, I understand you’re quite dangerous.”
“Alice, I’m here to have a conversation with you, please don’t waste my time.”
She wasn’t used to being talked to like an adult. She sat up, considered him. “I’m a killer,” she said simply.
“Good,” he said. “That’s what I’m looking for.”
They talked for hours.