Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 292 - Albert Tucher


Originally published in Demolition Magazine in 2007

An hour was an hour.

Diana turned on her side to face the new man. She stroked his abdomen as she listened to him. It was her way of telling him that he could socialize for the next forty minutes, or he could do more than talk. It was up to him.

He had told her that his name was Jonathan, but now he changed his mind.

“Call me T-Rex. I’m used to it.”

“T-Rex,” she said. She studied his face and decided that he would tolerate a little teasing. “Sounds like something an ex-wife would come up with.”

He smiled tightly.

“Not exactly,” he said. “Where I got it, a don’t-mess-with-me nickname was a good thing to have. Like a first line of defense.”


She felt stupid. She had heard nicknames like that before, and she should have recognized it.

“You’re just out?”

“A week.”

“Oh,” she said again. It led to an awkward silence. “I’m sorry. That’s kind of a conversation killer.”

She sent her right hand lower.

“You’ve got some catching up to do, then. That’s what I’m here for.”

But her touch didn‘t have its usual effect. After a moment, he put his hand over hers, not to remove it, but to tell her that she could take it away.

“This is cool,” he said. “Just lying next to a woman. It’s been ten years.”

That meant he had been inside for something heavy.

“Rape,” he said, as if she had asked.

She lay still. Perfectly still.

“I was convicted of rape,” he said. “Doesn’t mean I did it.”

“Where? Rahway?”

“Where else? With the cream of the violent felony crop.”

She let him decide whether to continue.

“I have my sister to thank for it, believe it or not.”

“How’s that?”

“She introduced us. Said she had somebody for me to meet, living right there in her complex. She thought we’d have a lot to talk about. Like what, I said. Turns out we’re both ex-Marines.”

“You didn’t already know her?”

“The Marines aren’t exactly a small town,” he said, “I didn’t know her, but I knew plenty of female Marines. Most of them are better men than me. But what the hell, my sister went through the trouble, so I went for dinner and met her. Turns out she was three for three—smart, funny and attractive. And we got along really well. I couldn’t wait to call her.

“Which was when it started to get weird. We’re there on the phone, and she’s acting like, what ever gave me the idea she would go out with me?

“And I felt like dropping it right there. But, see, that was always my style. I would take no for an answer and women would be like, what is your problem? Don’t you know how to play the game? Maybe no means no, or maybe it means maybe.

“So I kept her on the phone for an hour, and I called her the next night, and the night after that, and finally I wore her down. We went out to dinner and it kept right on being weird.

“You’re easy to talk to,” he said suddenly. “Is that part of the job?”

“I give GFE.”

He gave her a blank look.

“Girlfriend Experience,” she said.

Wow, she thought. He really has been away.

“Sorry,” he said. “I guess I can’t believe you’re listening. Where I’ve been, everybody knows how to talk, but there‘s not a whole lot of listening going on.”

He paused, as if considering whether to stop there. Diana said nothing. It was still up to him.

“We’re sitting in the restaurant,” he said, “and it’s like she’s two different people. Nice Eleanor stays as long as she can stand it, and then Eleanor the bitch gives her a break. But somehow we get through dinner. I had ideas for where to go after that, but I was exhausted from trying to keep up with her moods. So I drive her home and walk her up to her door, and suddenly she grabs me and sticks her tongue down my throat. It wasn’t a kiss. It was a sexual assault. All of a sudden I’m choking.

“She unlocks her door and drags me in after her. And she starts ripping off my clothes. I start to get the idea, and I take over with my clothes so she can get rid of hers. I had condoms with me. It was a good thing I know my way around them, because I hardly had time to get one on.

“So we go at it for about a minute and a half. I’m grunting, she’s grunting, then I’m groaning and she’s squealing. We’re still in her living room, by the way. On the floor, which is not where most women want to be the first time with somebody. So I pull out of her, and the rubber is still on me with my little contribution dangling in front, and she’s looking at it like it’s the most disgusting thing she’s ever seen. And here’s the weirdest part of the whole evening. She grabs the condom and rips it off me. Then she gets up and screams at me to get out of her house, and then she runs into her bedroom, I guess, and slams the door.

“I get dressed and go. The next thing I know, the cops are at my door with a warrant, and that was the end of my life.”

It was strange. Diana knew she should be unhappy about being alone with him. But her hooker’s radar wasn’t warning her about him, and if she didn’t trust it, she should get out of the business and go work at Denny‘s.

“They convicted you,” she said. “They must have had some kind of evidence. Even if they got it wrong.”

“Well, you probably figured out that they had my semen. Somehow it got from the condom into her. They didn’t do DNA in 1984, but the blood type matched mine. And she identified me while they were taking her to the hospital.”

“So she testified against you?”

“No, and that’s probably the worst break I got. They released her from the hospital, and then she disappeared. She totally vanished. They figured she was dead. I did, too. But they thought I got somebody to kill her, and I know I didn’t.

“So anyway, the prosecutor decides he can’t make a murder case, but he’s got the semen and her statements and pictures of her all beaten up, and he figures he’s got enough to go ahead with the rape. And what do you know? He was right.

“My sister came to the trial every day, but after a while she stopped looking at me. So I had a pretty good idea where things were headed. You know what it was like? It was like when you knock something over—maybe a bottle of milk or something. It’s like the bottle has a mind of its own, and it knows you can’t do a thing about it. So it makes you watch while everything goes to hell in slow motion.”

As he brooded, Diana thought about what he had told her. She could see why the cops had problems with his story. She wasn’t a cop, though. When it came to the cops, she and T-Rex were on the same side. For that reason alone, she decided to play along with him. It was something to talk about.

“I guess you know you had a lesbian,” she said. “A lesbian who hated the idea.”

“I guess.”

“So why did she accuse you? Why didn’t she tell what really happened?”

Assuming you’re telling the truth, she thought.

“Who knows? If you’re right that she was a lesbian, it never came out. She didn’t have anybody—girlfriend or boyfriend.”

“Were there any other men around who got the same treatment from her as you?”

“My lawyer liked that idea, but his investigators couldn’t find anybody.”

“Could she have done it to herself? I mean, maybe she ran face first into a radiator or something. I’ve heard of things like that.”

“That came up at the trial,” said T-Rex. “They had experts on bruises and blood spatter and stuff like that. They all looked at the photos and said somebody did it to her. ”

“Any enemies?” said Diana. “Anybody who might have been looking for a chance to get back at you?”

“If somebody hates me that much, I sure don’t know about it.”

“Did meet any new people right about then?”

“Not really.”

“What does ‘not really’ mean?”

“Well, a hooker.”

“Thanks,” she said.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. I meant, we didn’t really meet.”

“So what happened?”

“I called somebody from the yellow pages. You know, a ‘masseuse’. I opened the door, and I didn’t like her. Just like that. I knew I couldn’t get it up for her.”

“That’s interesting.”


“Because you need to put somebody else on the scene. If there wasn’t another man, what about another woman? And if Eleanor didn’t have a lover, that’s what hookers are for.”

All he could do was gape at her.

“We know she got beaten up,” said Diana, “but the semen inside her was yours. You left it gift-wrapped in the condom, which means anybody could have put it in her. And I think she might have had experience with hookers, too.”

“New one on me,” he said.

“I don’t do women,” said Diana, “but some girls I know do. They even have women regulars.”

“No kidding. Why don’t you do women?”

“I just don’t. If somebody else wants to, I don’t care.”

“Women hiring women,” he said. “Damn.”

“Sometimes, it’s a female couple hiring somebody for a threesome. Sometimes it’s a one-on-one thing, like with any client.”

“How often does it happen?”

“More often than I know about, probably. I mean, Vince knows not to send me women. He wouldn’t even mention it to me if it came up.”

Vince was the local bartender who had sent T-Rex to Diana.

“Why do you think Eleanor hired a hooker?” said T-Rex.

“Just a guess, but what the hell. She was military. This business would be off by half without the military. And she was a lesbian who hated the idea. People in that kind of situation want somebody they don’t have to look at afterwards. And if you and Eleanor had a hooker in common, that might be the link you need. And what do you know—here’s this woman you just happened to piss off right then.”

He shook his head.

“I made up some story about a sudden change of plans. I didn’t have time—you know. I paid her just for coming out. She wouldn’t have been pissed.”

“I hate to break this to you,” said Diana, “but she didn’t buy it. You wouldn’t have fooled me, and you didn’t fool her. You were telling her she didn’t have anything to sell that was worth buying. I’d be pissed, too.

“Now suppose Eleanor was one of her regulars. The hooker finds out you screwed her. That’s twice you messed with her business. And suppose she’s a psycho to begin with.”

He smiled bitterly.

“It’s a good story,” he said. “But I’ve got a feeling that’s all it is.”

“Well, I tried,” said Diana.

“You tried,” he said. “Thanks for the effort.”

As he stared at the ceiling, Diana glanced at the clock-radio on the flimsy table. He still had five minutes. Someone knocked on the door and said something about the front desk. Diana recognized the voice.

“That’s Jerry, the clerk,” she said.

T-Rex sat up and reached for his boxer shorts on the chair next to the bed. He pulled the shorts on, stood up, and crossed the room.

But when he opened the door, three uniformed cops piled in on top of him. All four men landed on the bed next to Diana. For a moment, she thought she would stay where they could keep track of her. Making sudden moves was a bad idea when cops had their adrenaline going.

Then one of the men kicked her thigh and changed her mind for her. She got up and moved to the nearest wall.

Diana looked away while the cops handcuffed T-Rex. She noticed an older plainclothes cop standing in the doorway. He came halfway to her and stopped. He was careful to look only at her face, and she remembered that she was naked. It was his problem.

“You don’t look happy to see us,” he said. “Did you get paid up front?”

She shrugged. She wasn’t going to answer a question like that.

“Never mind,” said the detective. “I don’t care about that. I care about murder. He’s killed two women since he got out. You were about to be number three. Now are you glad to see us?”

She couldn’t make herself feel relief, because she had never felt threatened. Something wasn’t right here. The detective had already lost interest in her answer.

“Stick around,” he said. “We’ll need a statement from you.”

After she had dressed, they talked in an empty room next door. She repeated T-Rex’s story.

“Sounds like you believe him,” said the detective.

She shrugged again. It didn’t matter now. She would never have to risk an hour with T-Rex again. “How long have you been in the business?”

“Seven years,” she said.

“If you fall for stories like that, maybe you’re not cut out for this. You might consider getting out while you can.”

“Thanks for your concern,” she said.

The detective got into his car and drove away toward the late afternoon sun. There was nothing to keep Diana at the motel. She started to walk past the office and around to the side of the building, where she always backed into a space in case she needed to make a quick escape.

A woman loitered in front of the motel’s office. She was in her forties and attractively lean, but there was something forbidding about her. Her arms rested at her sides and her right hand was cupped. Diana told herself to pay attention to that hand.

That’s her, Diana thought. This is weird.

She had been making conversation with the client, and here were her words made flesh. Only God was supposed to do stuff like that.

Diana recognized the tingling in her chest and the lightness in her arms and legs. She was about to do something, but she didn’t know what.

Her feet knew. They propelled her forward. As she walked, Diana tried to look like someone who wanted directions to the Interstate. She hoped that even another hooker would underestimate a woman in a skirt and heels.

Diana had a secret. She could do just about anything in heels.

She knew she was taking a risk. This woman couldn’t afford to kill her now. The cops would know that T-Rex hadn’t done it. But the woman might enjoy killing too much to remember her priorities.

Walking toward the other woman’s glare felt like charging a machine gun. Diana kept going. When she was close enough, she drove her fist into the woman’s midsection. A knife fell from the woman’s right hand and clattered on the blacktop. Diana followed up with a left forearm smash to the woman’s nose. The woman sat down heavily on the ground. Diana kicked the knife away.

“That’s my way of saying thanks,” said Diana.

“For what?“ said the woman. Diana’s attack had taken her by surprise, but it hadn’t surprised her. She had already started to recover her breath. With the back of her hand, she wiped blood from her nose as if she had done it before. Diana told herself to stay alert.

“For bringing the cops here before you killed me,” said Diana.

“Don’t thank me,” said the woman. “They must have figured out he was here.”

“They found him,” said Diana. “And they’ll find you. Count on it.”

“Not a chance. They don’t even know I exist.”

“They will,” said Diana. “I assume Eleanor is dead.”

“Of course she’s dead,” said the woman, as if Diana had just embarrassed herself. “I scared her, but she wouldn’t have stayed scared long enough.”

“What’s your name?”

“Rebecca. I went by Nuage. It means cloud in French. ”

“Which means you had to explain it to everybody,” said Diana. “That must have been a pain.”

She shook her head.

“I can’t believe we’re talking about this. You must bring out the weirdness in everybody.”

“Don’t talk to me about weird,” said Rebecca. “You could have just driven away.”

She has a point, Diana thought.

“So you’ve been following him around and killing his hookers,” she said. “Why not just kill him?”

“I heard he was having so much fun in prison, I thought I’d help him go back.”

“And maybe have a little fun yourself?”

Rebecca shrugged.

It was fascinating in a queasy way. The psycho whore sometimes appeared in TV melodramas, but Diana had never met a real one until now. Rebecca’s obsession with T-Rex had survived ten years without him. It would survive whatever he got for the new murders.

Diana reached out to knock on the office door. Rebecca saw her opportunity. She pivoted on her hip and kicked Diana’s feet from under her. Diana didn’t mind falling. She led with her elbow as she landed on top of Rebecca. For the second time, Rebecca’s breath left her with an agonized grunt. This time, she was slower to recover.

“Jerry,” called Diana, “would you get those cops back here?”

“Why do you care about him?” said Rebecca hoarsely into Diana’s ear.

“I don’t. You messed with my business.”

“Well, he messed with mine,” said Rebecca.

“Then I guess I win.”

BIO: Albert Tucher is the author of over twenty published stories and four unpublished novels about prostitute Diana Andrews. Like most authors of hardboiled crime fiction, he is a librarian in his day job.


Joyce said...

Terrific story with extremely strong characters. Love this one!

Paul D Brazill said...

This shows what a great writer Al is. Didn't Elmore L say that everyting that needs to be said can be said with dialogue? This shows that he's near as dammit right.

David Cranmer said...

I ditto Paul's comments here on dialogue and Joyce in that Diana is one of the strongest characters in fiction today.

Al, how's the novel coming?

Al Tucher said...

Thanks, guys!

I'm reworking the novel with Elaine Ash, and I'm very pleased with how it's shaping up.