Friday, January 15, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 325 - Malachi Stone


When it was over, I escorted Monica across the parking lot to my car. She’d insisted upon leaving a half hour before last call. “Mook’d kill me if he knew what we did,” she whispered just as I shut the passenger side door for her. As I circled around the car and walked through the headlights, I weighed my response, but decided before putting the key in the ignition that it was better to say nothing at all. We had gone nearly five miles before I looked over at her and realized that she was crying.

As we neared the office, Monica asked, “What does a hangover feel like?”


“Because I think I may have one, that’s why.”

“After two drinks? I doubt that very much.”

“Do you think I should drive in my condition?”

“Up to you. Do you want me to drop you off at home instead? I’d be glad to.”

“If Mook sees you dropping me off, I’m dead.”

“I’ll be careful.” I made a U-turn on Main Street and drove in the direction of Monica’s place. She did not protest.

“Bosco, you don’t think I’d ever become a drunk, do you? Because there’s nothing I hate worse than drunks. And I have reason to. Good reason.”

“I know you do, Monica. Truthfully, I don’t know why you stay with the man. And no, I don’t think there’s any danger whatsoever of you becoming an alcoholic.”

“I hate that word.”

“What word, Monica?”

“Alcoholic,” she sneered, making a face. “It’s like it dignifies a drunk, gives him status. And makes it sound like he can’t help it, which is total bullshit. Yeah, maybe you’d better drop me off at my place. I’d practically die of shame if I ever got a DUI.”

“We’re already headed there.”

“Can I ask you something, Bosco?”

“Ask away. When have I ever denied you anything?”

She didn’t laugh. “How’s my credit with you?”

“Triple A-rated, I guess. Why?”

“How would you feel about handling my divorce for me on the cuff? You know, buy now, pay later?”

“Whoa! Thinks are moving kind of fast, aren’t they? Maybe you should think this through.”

“Yeah,” she said, nodding quickly as though angry with herself. “Yeah, right. That’s what I figured. You can drop me off anywhere. I get it.”

I stopped the car at a red light and took Monica’s hand before she could get the door open. “No, you don’t get it,” I said.

“So tell me. Where do I stand, Bosco? I have to admit, I’m feeling a little mixed-up and hideous right now. Maybe it’s hormones.”

“You really mean it? You’d be willing divorce Mook and get with me on the strength of our one and only night together?”

“You’re showing yourself to be a true romantic, Bosco. Yes, since you put it that way, I’d love nothing better than to divorce Mook and ‘get with you,’ as you so elegantly phrased it. I’m not ashamed of the fact that after tonight I’m willing to trust my feelings and act on my emotions. So now you know. I guess it’s your move, isn’t it?”

Some asshole leaned on his horn. I rolled down the window and beckoned him past. Turning to Monica, I asked, “Think you and I have time to pack your stuff before Mook gets home?”

She gave me a Christmas-morning look, sprang over and kissed me hard on the mouth, mushing our noses together. “I travel light,” she said.


Mook and Monica’s house—their former marital residence, as the saying goes—was a run-down farmhouse, with dilapidated farm implements stored in the yard and an abandoned hog shed fifty yards from the house. All the way back to her place from the motel, Monica had kept repeating, “I kissed the boss, I kissed the boss, I kissed the boss,” every few seconds.

“You did more than that for the boss.”

“I fucked the boss, I fucked the boss, I fucked the boss. Is that better, Bosco? Hey, how come I always got to call you by your nickname but you never once called me anything except my proper name? You’re a gentleman, you know that, Bosco? A gentleman and a sweetheart. My sweetheart now.”

“It’s why they pay me the big money. What time do you have? The clock in my car is busted.”

“We’ll have to do something about that. It’s ten to one.”

“Sounds like the odds on you and me.”

“I’ll take those odds,” she said.

“Me, too. Sounds like a sure bet between us.”

“Aw, Bosco, you say the sweetest things. That’s why you’re my sweetheart. God, I love saying sappy goopy things like that to you. Just coming out with them. It feels like running a red light with my emotions.”

“I love it when you speak your mind and reveal intimate things to me, Monica—”

“Call me Mons, remember? And when you call me that, always think what it means.”

“Mons, I liked what you first whispered to me, and then later in bed tonight when we were getting close. I hope you keep doing that. I don’t think I could ever get tired of it.”

“Better get used to it, Bosco. It’s gonna be happening all the time from now on. But hadn’t you better step on it? Bars’re going to be closing down soon.”

I goosed it up another ten miles an hour on the two-lane blacktop, then had to slam on the brakes right away when a stop sign popped up in front of me. “Where’d that come from?” I said, making a Hollywood stop when I saw no oncoming headlights from either side. For some reason I remembered Lyle’s fatal collision but tried to put it out of my mind. It was only my guilt starting to kick in.

Most bars in the local area had a one AM closing license. A few paid extra for the two AM, but the majority figured all they were buying with that final hour was trouble, the chance to serve guys like Mook. Still, it would take any tavern some time to eject a patron of his tenacity, particularly if we lucked out and Mook happened to be drinking at a bar unfamiliar with his pedigree, like a motel bar with a woman bartender working alone. The police would have to be called, and police were less than eager to respond to tavern distress calls at that hour. I reasoned with myself that we might have time to pack Monica’s essential belongings and avoid confrontation altogether tonight.

Monica said, “Slow down. There’s the lane up ahead.” I remember being glad she hadn’t said our lane.

It wasn’t easy staying in the tire ruts her Probe had traced in the frozen snow but we made it into the farmyard, which was a solid sheet of ice. A powerful gust of wind caught the car and we slid, narrowly missing the frame of a standing gas tank.

“C’mon, let’s hurry,” Monica said, stepping gingerly across the sheet of ice. “The first things I’m going to change into are my tennies. You can’t get any traction in these whore shoes.”

At first I thought she’d said horseshoes. I barely glanced at the hex sign over the door of the hog house. Those hex signs were a regular fixture on older farm buildings. The night wind whipped the utility line like a jump rope and cut through my coat sharp as a bowie knife. My knuckles were bleeding and cracked from the dry cold air.

Someone had turned the heat all the way down, or maybe the beat-up house never met a draft it couldn’t accommodate. It had to be less than fifty degrees inside. How broke were Monica and Mook? The drab interior, dingy wallpaper and sparse furnishings made me think of a movie about the Dust Bowl. Monica said, “I’ll run upstairs and cram all I can into my one suitcase. Make yourself comfortable. Want a drink or something?" Suddenly she didn’t seem to be in any particular hurry.

“I want to help. Remember, we don’t have much time.”

“Okay, then. Well, look around down here, I guess, and grab everything that isn’t nailed down.”

“Roger, Dodger, over and out.” I loved watching her cute ass on the way up.

A phone rang somewhere. Monica yelled from upstairs, “Can you get that?”

“Where’s the phone?”

“Kitchen wall by the stove.”

Not sure it was a good idea to answer a ringing phone under the circumstances, and at that time of night, nevertheless I did. It was Betsy.

“Bosco, where have you been? I’ve been frantically calling all over. Your folks haven’t heard from you in days and nobody answers at your office, so I thought of your secretary and luckily her number was listed. I’ve been worrying myself sick over you, darling.”

I stood there breathing into the phone like a pervert. The wind outside threatened to drown me out.


“Maybe Skip Hopp can ease your worried mind, Betsy.”

“Skip Hopp? What are you talking about?” It was such a good attempt at sincerity she almost had me believing her. Women.

“How’s your all-over suntan coming along, Bets?”

“Bosco, are you drunk? Because you aren’t making a whole lot of sense right now.”

“You might as well cut out the act, Bets. Jackie told me everything.”

“Jackie is the other reason I called. I can’t reach Jackie, either, and I’ve been trying all day and into the night. Bosco? Are you there, Bosco?”

Monica sure was a good housekeeper. She kept her kitchen sparkling clean, so clean I could see my own reflection in the refrigerator door, and Jackie’s reflection standing behind me ready to slip a cord around my neck.

The last thing I remember before I passed out was lying on the floor and seeing Monica enter the kitchen barefoot, wearing a full-length deerskin robe and hanging up the wall phone. Talking on her cell, she said, “We’ve got him.”

When I came to, I was sitting naked on a wooden kitchen chair. They had me hitched and trussed up Flo Timmi style again, of course, with knots that could have qualified for an Eagle Scout badge. Monica’s voice announced, “He’s back among the living.” She circled around so that I could see her in the deerskin and added, “I fucked the boss.”

“Can I still call you Mons?”

For an answer, she backhanded me across the mouth.

“You’ve been taking lessons from Jackie.”

“Jackie? I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

“Sure, you do, Mons. You know Jackie, big dykey woman with halitosis and back-to-nature armpits, calls herself a newspaperwoman but couldn’t spell cunt if you spotted her a c and a u? Where’s her car, parked in the shed out of sight? Jackie’s in the room with us, isn’t she, hiding behind me somewhere practicing her one-handed square knot?”

“I’ll make you wish I’d slit your throat back in my apartment when I had the chance,” Jackie snarled from a distance.

Monica leaned in as close as a dentist. With a contemptuous sneer she remarked, “You know what the hardest part was for me?”

“Not the part between my legs? The part with the cute leather bow tied around it?”

“Cut him,” Jackie ordered, “but first ditch the deerskin. Don’t want to get any telltale bloodstains on it.” Monica shrugged. The deerskin robe fell to her feet.

“Boo, Mons. Aren’t you cold?” I asked her. “It must be freezing in here. You can see your breaths. Notice I said breaths,” I added, exaggerating the pronunciation as I frankly admired her bare boobs.

“How about you, Bosco? Are you cold?”

“Now that you mention it I wouldn’t say no to an electric blanket right about now.”

“Us Viking women don’t feel the cold,” Monica said as if she hadn’t heard me. She walked three steps and selected a serrated chef’s knife that must have been a foot long, the biggest blade from a block set on the counter.

“The hardest part for me,” Monica said, “was pretending to like it.” Before I knew what was happening, she spun around with right arm extended, whipped the knife through the air and slit a five-inch-long horizontal slice in me an inch below my navel. A sheet of blood poured from the wound.

“Oops. Too high,” Monica said softly. “I won’t make that mistake again.”

“Serves you right,” I said, trying to stifle my terror. “Carving’s a man’s job.”

“Again,” Jackie ordered. “And this time remember what I told you: small cuts. Why do you think they call it the Death of a Thousand Cuts? Make it last. We’ve got all night.”

“Listen to Jackie, Mons,” I said. “She’ll teach you how to do stuff.”

Monica held the knife at arm’s length in what looked like a martial arts stance, one eye closed, thumb extended and bracing the dull edge of the blade as though sighting down a rifle at my left eye.

“And time. Jackie can teach you how to do time if you let her. Can’t you, Jackie? Tell Mons those years you spent in the women’s penitentiary down in Dwight weren’t wasted.”

Monica tried an underhand sweep, splitting open a gash perpendicular to the first but still missing my junk. What she didn’t miss was the leather cord that bound my hands. Pressing my wrists tightly against each other I didn’t dare move; maybe neither woman would notice. My feet, neck and cock were still lashed together. If I tried to run for it, I would have to shuffle head bowed like some kind of S & M geisha boy.

“Either of you girls in the mood for a game of tic tac toe?” I offered.

“I want a piece of this,” Jackie said. Seeing her again, for the first time I realized that she too was completely nude. She moved toward the knife set on the counter and picked out a steak knife, expertly and almost lovingly drawing its blade along the sharpening stick over and over again as she spoke. “Dull knives, like dull people, are dangerous. A few light strokes are all it takes.”

“You oughta know.”

“You know what the Vikings did when they ran into a wolf problem, Bosco?”

“Define ‘wolf problem.’”

“They’d take a sharp knife like this one here, smear some blood along the cutting edge and bury the hilt in the ground so only the bloody blade is left sticking up. The smell of blood draws the wolf. The wolf can’t resist the taste of blood, you see.”

“Next you’ll be telling me wolves are like people.”

“The wolf loves that blood. He licks and he licks and he licks, all the while slicing one cut after another into his tongue. He doesn’t even feel the sting because the knife is honed sharp as a razor. His own blood mixes with the blood on the knife, making him lap all the harder, maxing on the taste of blood. He can’t stop. Next morning, they’d find the wolf lying dead beside the knife, all bled out.”

“Sounds like a bullshit story to me. Where’d you hear it? From Mook? I bet he picked it up in a bar from some bullshitter.”

“Why don’t you stick your tongue out and we’ll see if it’s bullshit.”

“I don’t want to give you any ideas.”

Jackie stepped forward and took Monica’s place, standing over me face-to-face, knife in her hand. She whisked the steak knife in a steely blur diagonally across my chest. I heard a tic but felt nothing at first, then a sharp sting from my right nipple. I looked down to see a budding drop of my blood ooze out like witch’s milk.

“That’s three,” Jackie said with a self-satisfied grin. “Only nine hundred ninety-seven to go.”

The wall phone rang. A door opened, the wind howled and cold air rushed in, even colder than inside. A man’s voice behind me said, “What the shit?” Mook, home from the bars.

“Help me, man,” I cried out to Mook’s voice, all bravado lost. “Cut me loose, they’re trying to kill me.”

“What the shit?” Mook repeated as though befuddled by drink. Leering at the naked women, he said, “Looks like Santy Claus finally give me that x-ray vision I wanted for Christmas. X-ray and x-rated.” When nobody laughed, Mook apparently noticing the ringing for the first time, added, “Somebody gonna get that phone, or what?”

“Kinda busy right now, Mook,” Monica said impatiently.

“Fucker’s ringing off the wall.” Mook, barely glancing in my direction, strode to the wall phone and picked it up. “Yeah?” he said, too loud into the receiver. He listened for a few seconds and said, “Sorry, he’s kinda tied up at the moment.” He listened again for a moment or two, then added, “Well, fuck you if you can’t take a joke,” before slamming the phone back into its cradle.

“Who was it, Babe?” Monica asked.

“Some woman. Said she got cut off. Funny, ain’t it? Cut off.”

“You might help out a little, Mook.”

“After I spent damn near the whole night reconnoitering, ass-deep in pig shit? Dream on.”

“This here’s the hard job,” Monica retorted.

“Yeah? Well, next time, you can wear the skin. Try that on for size.” He opened the fridge. “We got us any beers in this house?”

“Not unless you brought some home with you we don’t.”

Mook cursed to himself and slammed the refrigerator door, spinning himself around in a half-turn with the follow-through. Something crashed inside the fridge.

“Easy with that door,” Monica scolded him. “You think money grows on trees? Especially after tonight. Legal secretary jobs’ll be hard to find what with two local lawyers dead.”

“What do you—oh. Oh, yeah,” Mook acknowledged, looking at me tied to the chair as though finally putting it together. I could smell the Old Number 7 on his breath as he bent over me, a leer on his face. “It don’t have to play out the way she says, dude. You know how to make this quick and easy on yourself?”

I shook my head.

“Tell us where the fucking stone is. That ain’t so goddamn hard, now is it? Just tell us where we can lay our hands on the stone and we let you go. No hard feelings.”

“Like Flo Timmi?”

“Who?” Mook waited a moment too long before asking.

“Flo Timmi. You met his secretary. You remember that lardass broad you struck out with the other night at the Korn Krib? The one with the big tits who shut you down when you were trying to pick her up? That was her. Later that same night, I took her back to her place and fucked the hell out of her. We made a joke out of you in bed. Laughed our asses off between fucks. Thought you might like to know.”

Mook shot me a look laced with drunkard’s craftiness. “You’ll hafta do better than that,” he said. So I tried.

“Hey, Mons? Mons? You there, Mons?”

“I thought I was the only one called you that,” Mook protested in a childish petulant tone to his wife standing behind me. “That’s what you said. That’s what we decided.”

“Are you shitting me?” I taunted him. “Around the office it’s always Mons this and Mons that. I know what it means, too: mons pubis. Pussy Mountain, right. And that’s about all I ever do at the office, right, Mons? Mount your pussy?”

Mook stared over my shoulder at Monica behind me. “What about this?” he demanded angrily. “I wanna know about this.”

“He’s lying, Mook,” Monica said frantically. “God, how drunk are you?”

“Not drunk enough to be made a fool out of.”

I went on. “You should hear how your wife and me carry on the times you’re not around, Mook. I’m all, ‘Hey Mons, whyn’tcha come on over here and rim my asshole for me,’ or, ‘I’m horny, Mons, how’s about a quick blow job before lunch?’”

“Why, you lying cunt!” Mook looked ready to give Monica the beating of her life.

“Don’t listen to him, Mook,” Jackie warned. “He’s full of shit like a Christmas goose.”

“Am I, Mook? Then how do you suppose I know about that weird hex sign tattoo Mons has nestled right above the crack of her ass like a second asshole? The hex sign that stretches and jiggles and winks at me all the times I’m giving it to her up the old dirt road.”

“Goddamn whore!” Mook’s fists were clenched, face even redder than when he’d come in from the cold.

“And Mons? Remember that thing you asked me about tonight, right after you and I had fucked and fucked and fucked in that tricked-out Stud Room there at the Farmstead? The answer is yes, I will handle your divorce for free.”

Words had failed Mook by this time. He plunged behind me; I heard the quick hard slap of fist against bone. Monica screamed. Someone fell to the floor.

Jackie sprang to break up the melee, dropping the steak knife inches from my bound ankles. I bent forward, fully expecting to feel the garrote-like jerk of leather cord against neck flesh from behind but nothing happened. Seizing the knife, I sawed away at the cords lashing my ankles together, until the leather bonds loosened and fell away. Once I freed my neck, I gathered up the lengths of cord at their open ends and ran for it, holding the reins on my still-tied cock, kind of like a kid playing horsie.

Mook tackled me three steps from the door. Both women piled on then, Monica lying prone perpendicular to my ass crack and Jackie pinning me across the upper back in a wrestling hold. When I struggled to roll over into a sit-up, Jackie spread her legs to make a V and stretched her left arm straight out, stiffening it against the floor for leverage. Her unshaven armpit clapped over my nose and mouth like a fetid, smothering face mask.

“Hang on! I can’t hold him much longer,” Jackie yelled. I fought for breath as long as I could. Mook let go of my legs and ran from the room, charging in moments later brandishing a broadaxe. I couldn’t be sure, but it looked a lot like one that had been stolen from Flo Timmi’s library wall. I remember hoping they hadn’t broken up the matched set.

Mook raised the broadaxe high above his shoulders and brought it down like a headsman in days of yore. The heavy blade split a gouge in the linoleum mere inches from my forehead. The sheer force of the blow bounced my head as though the floor had been struck full force by a maul.

“Watch my fucking arm!” Jackie wailed.

“He’s so drunk he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn,” Monica said disgustedly. “Here, Sweetie, give it to me.” She raised up and stood, taking the broadaxe from Mook like a toy from a child. Mook had given her a nasty shiner; her right eye was already swollen half-closed. There was blood plastered all over her midsection: my blood from the cuts. Addressing me, she said, “Are you going to be a good boy and let us tie you up again? Or do I have to use this?”

Jackie let up on the armpit nose cone enough for me to say, or rather gasp, “You use that thing on me and I’ll never tell you what you want to know.”

“People with no arms or legs talk just fine last time I checked,” Monica said. “You want I should test it out on you?”

Monica raised the broadaxe above her head, her eyes gleaming, drawing an invisible dotted line with a mental sliver of tailor’s chalk where my right sleeve attached. Jackie clamped down again with the underarm face mask, securely pinning the back of my head against the floor. Before I realized what she was doing, she snaked over and gripped my right wrist with her left hand, pulled it towards her and under her torso, pinning my right arm in place directly in line for the axe.

I bit down as hard as I could. Drew blood and a high-pitched animal scream. Jackie rose up abruptly into a crouch, bringing me along with her, my teeth still clamped like a pit bull’s onto the tender meat of her armpit. She struggled against the agony of it, falling backwards so that my head and jawbone struck the floor, making me momentarily relax my bite and release her from it.

All I could see were Monica’s bare feet in front of me. Counterintuitively, I rolled towards those feet rather than away from them. At that moment, the broadaxe came down again with a swish like a guillotine, cutting an unsightly nick in my coiffure but leaving my cranium intact and right arm still attached. I jumped to my feet. Rush a gun; flee from a knife, but what about a broadaxe? Instinctively, I stiff-armed Monica in both breasts, knocking it from her grip.

I tried a few practice swings to back the three of them off. The broadaxe was heavier than hell at first, like lifting a pig iron fencepost, but no sooner had I swung it, its heft was lighter than a Louisville Slugger.

“Must be some elfin magic in this axe, am I right, Jackie?” Then, seeing myself still wearing the impromptu blood apron the girls had given me, I ordered, “Throw me that scarf. You know the one I mean.”

Monica and Jackie met me with empty expressions at first, playing dumb, but after a couple more swings cut the air Monica ran to the closet where she’d had it stashed.

“Toss it over here, easy,” I told her. She did; I caught it in midair, supporting the axe effortlessly with the other hand. Taking the scarf, I wiped and dabbed at my abdomen and as I did, the cuts seemed to disappear, replaced by new skin. When I had finished cleaning up I draped the scarf around my neck like a priest’s stole.

“Now where’s my pants?” I demanded. Monica and Jackie tilted their heads back. Their eyes closed as though in some ecstatic trance. The wind picked up again, rising in intensity until it roared against the house loud as a passing freight train.

Mook said, “Here’s your goddamn pants. Now put ’em on and get your ass outta here before all hell breaks loose.” He threw them to me from where they had been tossed behind a ratty broken-down couch. I felt for my car keys, wallet and house keys. Check, check and check. It had finally gotten cold enough that the leather cords looped around my male member slipped off easily.

“Not so fast,” I said, balancing the axe handle upright and holding onto it while stepping into my pants like a reverse pole dancer. “Give me the rest of my clothes. Then the four of us’re going to sit down and have a little talk.” The wind howled like a mournful chorus of starving wolves outside. Both women, arms upraised and swaying, began a high-pitched wail that rode the crest of the wind. The lights flickered once, then twice.

“Cut it out!” I commanded, but I might as well have decreed that the wind itself be silent. All at once, the lights went out.

As my dad is fond of reminding me, out here in the country, once that power goes out, boy, it gets plumb dark. In the camera obscura blackness, I couldn’t see so much as a shadow or silhouette of Monica, Mook or Jackie. The wind roared so loud it was impossible to hear any of their movements inside the house. What were they up to? Where were they, anyway? What about that second broadaxe, the mate to the first? And, I told myself, shouldn’t I really be asking myself these questions in the relative safety and comfort of my car driving back to town, rather than standing and posing here in the dark, waiting for that final axe blow to come at me out of nowhere?

My eyes gaping wide open but seeing nothing, I walked out of the room backwards holding the broadaxe firmly in my right fist—my axe-wielding fist—while I felt for the door behind me with the extended fingertips of my left hand. I tried the knob gingerly, then threw the door open and ran for my car. The ice stung, then numbed my bare feet like walking over hot coals. I hated leaving behind a pair of Thom McCans that were scarcely broken in, but liked the idea of hand-to-hand combat by broadaxe in the dark even less.

The broadaxe handle was too long for the trunk. I barely fit it inside the car by wedging it in diagonally. As executor, it was my duty to assemble and collect all the personalty of the Flo Timmi estate. The way I figured, it was all in a day’s work. I could always bill the estate for the clothes and shoes. Don Bosco Hoël, attorney at law, executor of estates, fucker of secretaries, beater-upper and biter of wild women.

Monday, I’d run an ad in the classifieds for a new legal secretary. Then a thought occurred to me that made me shudder, or maybe it was only the bone-chilling cold.

Lorraine Gewbaugh, Flo Timmi’s secretary, needed a job.

BIO: Malachi Stone, hard-hitting attorney by day, prolific novelist by night. Check out his website INTERMINABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A SILENT MAN for other stories and more.

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