sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Please Don't Tell People that I Drink

A non-sequential series of fictional shorts.
This entry is a bit quirky, but again, I'm trying to mix it up.

Please Don’t Tell People that I Drink

She called a meeting at dusk in the burnt out Sir Francis Drake Hotel. That’s why I’m here but I wasn’t surprised to see you skulking in the shadows. After all, there will be a full moon.

The downtown hotel is in the process of reconstruction having been gutted by fire, but progress to date could be measured by inches. It’s a union job in a union town. 

Her hook was the deal of a lifetime. The building is worthless but the land is not. The owner is willing to discount – a fire sale if you will. She is willing to broker a deal but swift action is called for.

I watch as a red Cadillac croons to the curb and a florid faced man emerges wearing a rumpled beige suit. He’s early. He’s anxious to take the deal and make himself a tidy sum. It’s not hot, but he’s perspiring. Weight and normal exertion combine with the anticipated profits to produce a glandular reaction.

Perhaps he’s trying to get the lay of the land. Not many people visit the charred husk of the Sir Francis Drake and I’d never seen him here before. Severe comb-over, cheap black frame glasses and wide jowls that meld softly into two chins. He has the soft, shifty countenance of a bean counter who made his fortune on embezzled funds from the elderly. As he walks, it’s like two swine coupling in his trousers. Making his way over the rubble isn’t easy for this one but he moves with an anxious deliberation, his mind an abacus of profit, beads clicking in his skull.

I see by the expression on his face as he passes through the lobby and can almost read his mind. His head swivels alertly as he shuffles his way through a pile of trash. 

This festering sewer even has been rejected as temporary lodging by the homeless. Considering the throng of wandering vagabonds in the inner city, it’s noteworthy. Maybe they were more in tune to danger than the stumbling fool who hopes to turn a quick buck. 

The former roach motel smells of damp extinguished fire and it’s as dark and as forlorn as a crypt. The fire licked its way across the polyester carpeting, destroying the lobby, greasy spoon restaurant and rooms above. The blaze spooled soot up the walls and ceiling, leaving patterns of permanent shadow. It is a place of putrefying shoddy construction, now made bare from the fire. Even seemingly useless items have been looted from the inside, leaving it barren, raped and dead. Most of the tiles in the terrazzo floor have long since been pried from their base in an effort to salvage everything of value from the corpse-like building. 

His face pales as the sunlight fades and his exploration continues. I know what he is feeling. The hotel has that effect on people. It’s like walking through a morgue. He looks up at the only item of elegance, a caged skylight above the lobby where the last ebbing red rays of dusk filter in through glassless window frames.

His disquiet increases, a cellular phone in one hand now and a business card in the other. I know it’s her card.

Ah, he still thinks she’s coming. 

Squinting in the twilight at the card, he pounds the numbers earnestly with fat, manicured nails. 

By now you’re guessing that she won’t answer. Real estate might be her business but she loves me even more than a quick commission, which is quite something these days.

The bean counter slides a cigar from an interior coat pocket, pulls it from the cellophane tube. Now chewing the end instead of clipping it, spitting the nub to the floor, bravado to quell the panic. The lighter appears in perfect working order but he can’t operate it, so he throws it to the floor and grinds the cigar between his molars without a light.

Another glance at his watch, a look through the skylight to the darkening world outside, and a silk scarf appears in his hand to mop his brow.

He wants to believe that the deal can be concluded tonight, his soft, sweaty palm pressed against hers in an earnest show of faith. The funds would transfer the following day.

I spoke quietly, as you know I do at times like these, “Celui qui vit mal, meurt ├Ęgalement mal.” Then I cursed myself for there’s absolutely no way this guy could understand Corsican. Once again, this time in English, “He who leads an immoral life dies an immoral death.”

Sweat rings appear in his jacket. No matter the ambient light, I can see very well. But I know what you’re thinking and you’re quite right. I don’t need to see the sweat rings because I smell the fear. It’s an aphrodisiac that intoxicates every bit as much as the blood satiates. 

“Who’s there?” He backs toward a soot-stained wall and then brushes back into it. The beige suit has a large smudge on it now, but he doesn’t care. He’s not at the top of the food chain anymore than the chicken he had for lunch had been. 

I move closer for an even better look, keeping to the shadows. You heard me chuckle inwardly didn’t you – he’s trying the cell phone again. Only greed keeps him here.

He’s had a lot of healthy meals in his life. I’m happy that I’m not paying by the pound. She has me pay, but it’s nothing like your wicked mind is conjuring up. Nothing so vulgar as that. It’s all about love.

Greed keeps you here too doesn’t it? I take the blood and you can savage what’s left. I know you’re capable of finding your own meals but for some strange reason you tag along with me. Maybe it’s because we’re friends, it’s your full moon and we’re both on days off from our straight jobs where we work the graveyard shift at the hospital.