Los Angeles, California, late 1970s. It was a good era for the Eurotrash. Serveta Skwigelf, former Miss Sweden from a year she had stopped mentioning a decade ago, blonde and perfectly-figured, had been a beloved fashion accessory on the arm of many a rising young star. Twinkling blue-shadowed eyelids had bowed before millionaires, long lashes had fluttered seductively over martini glasses at parties, silver high heels and painted-on miniskirts had been tossed under myriad beds in Beverly Hills, cigarettes had been lit between glossy red lips in dark, smoky corners of Hollywood’s most illustrious clubs, and there was nothing which her sex appeal could not afford her. Serveta became famous by her associations, rose to aristocracy through her glamourous personality, and was Tinsel Town’s favourite sex symbol.
The tabloids targeted her many affairs and scandals, most of which were true, yet this negative attention only made her more renowned. She married once, twice, thrice and more. Still currently divorced after #5. A reputed lush, her dirt was legendary, as were the rumours of her extraordinary sexual appetite and a penchant for pretty white lines. But none of that was equivalent to the shock received when her pregnancy first went public. The media hype was sensational, and speculation as to who was the father of the child went unresolved. Serveta herself never spoke of the baby’s paternity, and thus was her bastard son Skwisgaar born into a society of ill-gotten luxury—skin as white as cocaine, hair as yellow as gold, blood as red as sin.
Skwisgaar, alike in beauty as his infamous mother, was innocent and oblivious of the world that was now against him, and it was not unusual to find Serveta leading the attacks on her own son. Her beauty was ravaged by the strains of maternity; the weight never left her thighs and belly, her once-admirable bosom began to sag, she developed varicose veins and cellulite, her complexion became rough and dry, her hair dulled and lost its splendour, and she owed it all to her son, whom she in turn neglected and put in the care of a sitter whenever she could. He was excess baggage—nobody wanted a woman with a kid. Serveta underwent plastic surgery to undo gravity and time, and swallowed her pride with Vicodin chasers in order to maintain the standard of living to which she had become dependent. She went through rich, trashy boyfriends like underwear—not that she was ever particularly fond of wearing the latter—and Skwisgaar became accustomed to her many paramours and the nights when thumps and moans were his only lullaby.
Serveta was dating an alcoholic rock star when Skwisgaar turned 6. She’d been with him longer than any of the rest, mainly because of his constant supply of cocaine and a lack of good judgment, and was the closest thing to a father figure that Skwisgaar was ever going to get. His mom’s boyfriend gave him a guitar for his birthday—a shiny new Gibson X-plorer—and when the guy OD’d five months later, Skwisgaar focused his angst and frustration on the guitar and soon found a suitable outlet for the emotional pain that plagued him daily. Skwisgaar taught himself to play, and play well. He avoided his mother and the endless queue of men she continued to drag home, found no comfort or reward in his schooling (as his Swedish tutor was also banging his mom), and soon Skwisgaar had developed a dislike for all things female.
Serveta, her looks having already vanished by the time Skwisgaar was 13, fell into association with a high-profile trafficker from Columbia and formed “a business arrangement” that was to the benefit of both parties. Marketing a unique blend of coke dubbed “Snow White”, she became the queen of the Los Angeles night, earned a reputation for being a saucy bitch who flashed collagen smiles as she sold her poisoned apples, and was revered by dealers everywhere—the sweetheart of narcotics, the honey-mama of crime. Her rule was absolute and everyone in town bowed to her. The LAPD was bought and paid for, the CIA wouldn’t touch her—she was omnipotent.
Such as it was, money was no longer a concern and the Skwigelfs lived in excessive luxury, though Skwisgaar was not made any happier because of it. Alternately it made his life a living hell. “Snow White” haunted him, hunted him, prevented him from achieving any legitimacy and normalcy for himself; always would he be known as the bastard son of a drug dealing slut. He’d given up on goodness long ago, being damned before he had even been born. Music was now his only passion and he quickly became known for his legendary licks in the L.A. metal scene, an attachment that was perhaps as dark and brutal as that of the cocaine industry.
By his fifteenth year he’d been offered several contracts and labels, but being a minor, required his mother’s permission before any official action could be taken. Serveta, however, was far too busy entertaining clients by the poolside to sign her name to her son’s dream. Skwisgaar retaliated by taking his music even more seriously and haphazardly throwing his virginity to the wind. He was rich, talented, handsome and Swedish—getting girls was easy. And that was all they were to him. Easy.
Entering his 20s granted Skwisgaar certain freedoms, but he still remained wholly dominated by the Queen of Cocaine, trapped in her realm and rendered a helpless subject to her power, forced to witness her unyielding affection for Snow White, a love greater than a mother’s love for her son. But Skwisgaar was strong. He held out, hoping bitterly that someday this would end. Someday he would be free.
Someday his chance will come.
Skwisgaar was a few months short of 23 when from out of the blue his mother announced that she was getting married again. This would be Hubby #7. Skwisgaar was indignant about it all, but that was nothing compared to the shock he received when he discovered that his soon-to-be stepfather was as young as himself: he was a long-haired Norwegian guy with an impressive physique and a hulking, stupid-looking bodyguard named Big Nate who talked in growls and towered over peoples’ heads like a Gotham City skyscraper. His master, Toki Wartooth, was not a man to be fucked with. That was made clear the moment he and Skwisgaar were first alone, shortly after the wedding had taken place; the back of a hand went across the Swede’s face and a boot to the chest sent him slamming down into a chair. That same boot then rested itself on the crotch of his jeans as Toki leaned in close, smiling pleasantly.
“We gets one thing straight here,” he murmured, taking Skwisgaar by the chin, “don’t fuck with me, Pretty Eyes, or I fucks you up real good. You doesn’t even wants to know what’ll happens if I lets Big Nate has you.”
There came an answering growl from the shadows and Skwisgaar squeaked in humiliation as his balls were painfully pinned between a heavy boot and a chair.
“I runs this show now. Your mom don’t know what’s it is she got herself into, but I here to stays, understand? Your mom’s mine, and you mine too. Son.”
A thumb stroked Skwisgaar’s trembling, bleeding lower lip and Toki sneered at him lewdly. “Bloods as red as sin. You such a pretty thing, you knows. Lots prettier than your mom. Look likes I joins de right family.” With a wicked laugh he released Skwisgaar and then vanished with his henchman. The young Swede was strong, but not strong enough for this. He folded himself in two and wept, and never spoke of the incident for fear of his own life.
Six months later Serveta S. Wartooth “accidentally” shot herself while passed out drunk one evening, and everything—including Skwisgaar—passed into her husband’s possession. Toki was now the king of L.A., and his stepson was soon to become the focus of his most ardent attention…
Each day would start as the last: upon rising in the early afternoon, Toki would attend to his hangover, talk to clients over brunch, do a few lines, and then play his guitar in the plaza outside. He was fast, he was good, and he was metal. But he knew not of Skwisgaar’s similar talents, though when the knowledge was disclosed it did not make him any more affectionate towards his stepson. Instead he became jealous and paranoid—exceedingly so—and hired a manager who had beaucoup connections in the music industry and who knew all of the greatest guitarists in the world. He was instructed to stalk Skwisgaar and make note of his rapidly advancing abilities.
Every day Toki would ask the same thing, “Ofdensen, you knows everythings. Tells me, who is de fastest guitarists alive?”
“I’ve double-checked all my sources, Mr Wartooth,” Ofdensen would reply. “There is no guitarist alive who is faster than you.”
And this would satisfy Toki until he would hear Skwisgaar up in his room, composing new licks and shredding them with such a magnificent sound as to put the Norwegian’s playing to shame. Thus Toki spent his days beside himself with envy and fear of the Swede eclipsing his own talents.
And then, perhaps a year or so after the death of Serveta, when Skwisgaar was at his handsomest and most affluent point in life, Toki asked of Ofdensen the usual question, but this time the manager replied, “It distresses me, Toki, to tell you: there is one other now who is faster than you.”
“Who is he?” shouted Toki, slamming his fists on the table. “Gives me his name!”
Ofdensen sighed and said, “You know it well enough; he is your stepson, Skwisgaar Skwigelf. He is now the fastest guitarist alive, and is at this moment on the verge of forming his own band. If that happens…”
Toki frowned darkly and stroked his Fu Manchu. “Yes, he is havings such good lucks, so much to lives for. It would be so very unfortunates if somethings was to happens to him…Nathan!”
The monstrous man was at his master’s side momentarily. Toki turned to him with a deadly glare. “I thinks now would be a good time for you and Skwisgaar to gets to knows one anothers. Takes him to Mira-Mira, they hasing a rave there tonight. Waste him, load him, fucks him up.” He reached across the table and slid an ornate silver cigar box towards his henchman. “Cut out his heart and puts it in this. I wants it on my desk tomorrow mornings.”
Nathan picked up the box with a grunt of acknowledgement and disappeared.
Skwisgaar was surprised and suspicious when Big Nate came to him early that evening and suggested that they attend a rave at one of the underground hotspots; however, Skwisgaar was too intimidated by the dark haired man to say no, and so the Swede put on his leather and stainless steel, strapped his guitar to his back, and set off with his escort, unaware of the large knife hidden in Nate’s belt and the silver cigar box in the back seat that would be carrying his heart home in just a few short hours.
Everything went as planned at the rave. Skwisgaar was almost a little grateful to Nate for taking him out like this. Letting himself go wild and loose was a luxury his suffocating lifestyle rarely afforded him. After a couple blotters of LSD, several lines of Snow, and enough absinthe to impress even the most hardcore 19th century literary figure, Skwisgaar took to the stage with his X-plorer and added a little metal to the obnoxious techno beat.
Even wasted beyond comprehension, the Swede was still the fastest—if not the best—guitarist alive. Anyone who could turn electro-techno-geek-fag-music into brutal bone-crushing metal possessed a talent that few on this earth could claim to be blessed with. Nathan was witness to this, and deep down in his black heart he regretted that he would be forced to extinguish this prodigy, to savagely carve out its soul and deliver it to his cruel and hateful master like a prize. Surely, to own the heart of the handsomest, most gifted young man on earth was indeed a prize…but not like this. Not this way.
Four thirty in the morning saw Nathan dragging a barely-conscious Skwisgaar from the dwindling rave and into the backseat of the Caddy, where he gently lay the blond down on the black leather and crouched over him on his knees, staring down at him. Even in a drug-induced state of hazy delirium, Skwisgaar was beautiful: his hair, yellow as gold, spread about his head and cascading in winding tendrils off the seat; his skin, white as cocaine, soft and cool and hugged tightly by his dark clothes; his blood, trickling from his nose from too much blow, red as sin.
Nathan leaned down and peeled off Skwisgaar’s shirt, folding it carefully—as if it really mattered—and putting it in the front seat. The Swede, grateful for the cool air against his feverish flesh, slung his forearm over his eyes and sighed drowsily. The man drew his knife silently and stared down at the white chest beneath him, gently rising and falling, the shiny metal studs that pierced those rosy nipples gleaming in the faint light. Nathan placed his left hand over one, feeling the throb of the heart beneath it, the warmth of the skin, the softness.
The blade came down, its sharp point painlessly ghosting the area just to the right of Nathan’s hand. The man gulped, blinked, sweated, trembled unsteadily. One move. One quick downward thrust and it would be done. He could do it in maybe 5 or 6 slices, providing that the steel would go through the bone easily enough. If he had to carve, it would take longer for the kid to die, and he might fight back. Sling blood. Scream. Wouldn’t matter anyway. Nathan had towels in the back for the blood, could be useful for gags as well. Maybe he should gag him first, just in case…
A small bead of red-as-sin blood had formed where the tip of the blade was pressing into Skwisgaar’s chest, and the blond suddenly lowered his arm and blinked sleepily, gazing up at Nathan. The big man froze in pure horror when those pretty blue eyes fell upon him, and he immediately lifted the knife and tossed it down onto the floor.
“I can’t…I can’t do it-!” he choked gruffly, eyes stinging with tears. “Forgive me, Skwisgaar. Forgive me…”
Skwisgaar, alarmed by such odd behaviour, sat up and noticed the blood drop that ran down his chest. He touched it tentatively, then saw the shine of the knife on the floor of the car, and through his overdrugged mind he managed to put two and two together.
“He…sent yous to kills me, my stepfather dids,” he said, and Nathan nodded.
“He wanted to kill you. For being the fastest guitarist alive,” came the explanation. “Ordered me to bring your heart back. In that box.” He pointed to the silver cigar box nearby, then hung his head. “I’m loyal to Toki…but I can’t kill you, Skwisgaar. You’re…still innocent. Never hurt anyone. Talented. Beautiful.” He reached up and brushed his large hand against Skwisgaar’s pale cheek. “But you can’t go back home. Ever. Run away, Skwisgaar. Run away and never come back!”
Skwisgaar, fright magnified by the drugs coursing through his veins, somehow dragged himself over the side of the car and tumbled out into the alley.
“Leave L.A. right now,” Nathan told him. “Call a cab. Get the first flight outta here. Change your name. Do whatever it takes.”
“But…what’s about yous?” Skwisgaar cried. “What’s will you do ifs you goes back wisout my heart?”
“I’ll thinka something,” Nathan muttered, sliding in behind the wheel and shooting the Swede a glance. “Enjoy the rest of your life. It’s yours now.”
And just like that, he drove off and left Skwisgaar standing alone in the alley, shirtless and guitarless, in a part of town he was unfamiliar with, terrified and fucked up from all the drugs he’d taken. He staggered down the alley through the shadows, smashing into metal and wood and breaking glass, falling down and hardly being able to get himself back on his feet. His terror manifested hallucinations, and suddenly everything in the whole world was after his heart. They reached out with their claws, wanting to sink their daggers into his chest and rip the red jewel—drenched with blood and still thumping with fear—from his breast. Shadows closed in on him, cracked windows smiled down at him like glass devils, and the pounding of his heart did nothing but magnify their lust for his most vital of organs.
Trapped in this nightmarish wonderland, Skwisgaar began to run, fleeing from the horrors of an attempted murder, scratching his flesh on jagged ends of chain link and running into people who looked more like monsters than people: red-eyed, shadowed, beastly, grinning at him like Death. He saw a dead hooker in a dumpster who turned into his mother, the grey-skinned, rotting corpse of the Cocaine Queen who grinned maggots and reached out to grab her son and pull him into the garbage-coffin with her. Skwisgaar dodged with a scream and sobbed as he ran onward. The alleys were a giant maze and he was a small mouse, turning one corner and then another, not knowing if the next change in direction would lead him to salvation or to a hungry, coiled snake.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, Skwisgaar was too tired to take another step and collapsed where he stood, right into a stack of cardboard boxes that smelled like cat piss. A few moments later the battered back door of one of the buildings banged open and a cigarette-puffing redhead stepped out into the shadows.
“Ey! Who’s there? I swear t’ Gad if it’s one ‘a you damn cats again I’m gonna go down t’ Sancho’s TANIGHT n’ buy me a freakin’ SHOTGUN n’ start blowin’ buckshot in yer raggedy-”
A low moan in the nearby pile of cardboard halted his rant, and after moving a few boxes out of the way, he peered down in astonishment at a very attractive blonde chick who was passed out and…wait a sec. Was that a dude? It was. And he looked seriously messed up. The redhead crouched down to inspect the pretty boy and discovered that he had probably OD’d on cocaine, evident by the blood trickling from his nose. Looking closer he also saw the powdery white residue clinging to the long strands of blond hair. The stranger frowned, reaching out to collect a bit of the coke on his fingers, then gazed down at it meditatively for a few moments.
“I’ll be damned,” he muttered. “This’s the stuff.”
Wedging his cigarette between his lips, the redhead leaned down and grabbed Pretty Boy by the arms and dragged him inside the building. The door slammed shut and locked behind him.