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Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Writer's Life 6/3 - Decisive

Here's a short story from the Billionths of a Lifetime collection. The title is Decisive. It's a less than ten-minute read:

  The buzzer sounded and she breezed into the jewelry shop. “Hello,” she said, smiling broadly, the sole customer. She browsed a while. Finally she summoned one of the two men at the counter and pointed out three expensive bracelets she wanted to examine closely.
  "Take your time," said the young man. "We don't get movie stars in here too often."
  "That's so sweet. Thank you." She wasn't about to say he was mistaken, especially since he may only have been flirting, softening a potential cash cow.
  She chose the most expensive, $25,000, and gave the guy a hang dog look. "Can you give me a break on it? How 'bout twenty?"
  He nodded. "Deal. Credit?"
  She dug her wallet out of her bag and handed him a card. Minutes later he returned, beaming, and set the paperwork before her.
  "Okay, Miss Smith. Would you like it gift-wrapped?"
  She shook her head and held the little box to her chest. "No. It's for me -- a gift to myself."
  She put the item in her bag, looked the man in the eye, and said: "Thank you. Bye."
  She paused at the door, as there was a dapper young man beyond it, waiting to be admitted. She stood aside for him, gazing up into his brown eyes.
  Wow, she thought -- hot, hot, hot.
  It was a beautiful Spring day. She crossed the street and focused on the entrance. There had been something about Mr. Handsome that raised her antenna. Suddenly two gunshots rang out. “Uh-oh.” She crouched behind an SUV. Moments later Mr. Handsome exited calmly, satchel in hand, and turned right.
  “Not cool.” She had committed many crimes but never killed anyone. She doubted she could.
  She hurried to a nearby subway station and went almost all the way to the front of the platform. She boarded the second car. Midday, it was empty when it crossed into Brooklyn. She removed the blonde wig and stuffed it into a black plastic bag. She put the blue contacts lenses into a little container. Her head was shaved to a dark nub. She cut the credit card in two and, once back on the street, deposited each half into a separate trash can.
  Soon she was in her rent-controlled apartment in Williamsburg. The window offered a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline. She put the wig on a white cast of a head, in line with four others, each a different color. She closed the blinds and flopped onto the bed, chuckling at having been taken for a movie star. She shuddered as she recalled the gunshots. Cold, she thought.
   After dinner she went online, searching for news of the robbery. The men at the counter, a father and son, were alive, having been shot in the leg, the dad‘s femur shattered.
  “Hmmm. Maybe he is cool.” Then again, why hadn't he simply tied them up or locked them in a closet?  He hadn't even bothered to disguise himself. If he was so willing to shoot, why had he left witnesses, given the security cameras? Strange, she thought.
  Late the next morning she went into a crowded fast food restaurant downtown, bought a cup of coffee, and asked for the key to the rest room. She poured the coffee into the bowl and flushed. She emerged in a red wig and green lenses.
  She entered a nearby pawn shop, where a man smiled and pressed a button that released a lock on a security door nearby. The room beyond was dark and creepy.
  “Hey, Charlie,” she said to a white-haired man inside a steel cage.
  He shook his head. “Again? You’re beggin to get busted at this pace, doll.”
  “Let me worry about that.” She handed him the bracelet.
  He whistled in admiration. “Nice score. Five?”
  She made a face. “No way. Eight or I go someplace else, and you lose a good customer.”
  “Okay, doll. Can’t blame a guy for tryin’.”
  The buzzer sounded. She looked over her shoulder, and her breath caught. Even if she hadn’t recognized the satchel, and despite the sunglasses, there was that same recognizable something about Mr.-Tall-Dark-and-Handsome, who was now sans mustache.
   “Do I know you?” he said, looking into her eyes.
  She was surprised the red wig made such a difference. “No, but that can be arranged. I’ll be waiting outside.” Provided there are no gun shots, she said to herself.
  Minutes later he exited grinning.
  “Nice payday?” she said.
  “Lunch is on me. I have to make a stop first. Got time?”
  “Sure. I’m self-employed. Didn't Charlie tell you? I’m Cindy, by the way.”
  His sports car was at the curb. It was what she’d expected. She experienced a thrill as he held the passenger door open and she seated herself. Very cool, she thought.
  Suddenly his mood changed, becoming serious, his replies short. He pulled into an underground parking lot and found a spot in a far corner. She wondered what he would be buying or selling here.
  “It was you at the jewelry shop yesterday, wasn't it?”
  She chuckled. “I knew you were too sharp not to figure it out. Two bump-intos in less than twenty-four hours -- can’t be a coincidence. We should think about a partnership.”
  “You move fast.”
  “I've always been decisive. It’s one of my strengths.”
  “Me too.”
  He leaned toward her. She welcomed the kiss. Soon his hands were around her throat, thumbs pressed to her windpipe. His grip was powerful.
  “Sorry, kid -- no witnesses.”
  The quarters were so cramped and he was so close that she had little room to fight. She had one chance, a long shot. She reached behind him and found it tucked into his pants at the small of his back. She pressed the gun against his abdomen and fired. The force catapulted him backward, his head striking the side window.
  She lay back, panting, gathering her senses, ears ringing. When she recovered she was startled by the hole the round had blown into him. Blood was pouring from it. She did not understand how she could have been so mistaken. What had happened to her radar? He’d remorselessly shot two people. What had she expected?
  She looked around before opening the door. No one was in sight. Cool, cool, cool, she repeated to herself, taking deep breaths. She realized the lenses, which had her fingerprints on them, had popped out of her eyes. She squatted at the foot of the seat and scanned the interior, finding one lens, then the other, breathing a sigh of relief. She pondered what to do with the gun. She considered a suicide set up, but was sure detectives would spot it. She wiped her prints away and left the .45 in the car. She was about to leave when she recalled the wig. She looked into the side view mirror and straightened it, then put the lenses over her eyes, with difficulty, her hands shaking. She took a step, stopped and looked down. She removed her blood-stained jacket, turned it inside out, and held it low enough so that it covered the blotches on her jeans. She found her way out of the lot, repeating her mantra: cool, cool, cool… Once she hit the street she remembered the satchel, which had to be filled with cash. She wasn't about to go back for it. She’d killed him. She couldn't believe it, although she’d had no choice. It had all happened so fast. It felt surreal.
  Within two hours she was at the Port Authority Terminal, boarding a bus, no wig or contacts, kerchief covering her neck. It was time to visit mom. She pondered how she would explain the bruises.

My thanks to the woman who purchased A Hitch in Twilight today, and to all the other kind folks who bought books, none of which were in Russian.

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