NVDT Random – Scene Edits 3

Since no one is paying attention I’m gonna pull random scenes out and sharpen my editorial scythe for a diegesis rework of The Great Kerrigan Bank Robbery – This one is out of sync with Jackson going to the airport, but I’ll get back to that. That whole episode was in draft mode word overkill and the scenes are coming out whittled one by one. It’s still rough, but it’s lost some weight…

I Like You and I Don’t

OR – How the Charity Softball Team Came to Be (Warning – 2k+ read)

Saturday, April 25, 1981, Los Angeles, CA.

Jackson wheeled the mismatched two-tone Gremlin into the Chasewoods Sports Complex parking area, located diamond 5 and parked by a new, metallic pearl white Corvette with #1 AM vanity plates. Hollywood. He shook his head, pulled on his Peaches Garage ball cap, climbed out, careful to avoid the ‘Vette. The Gremlin’s door squeaked, groaned, produced two loud, dull thunks on the way to closed. He covered the twenty yards of parking lot concrete to a sidewalk that split a path between artificially green grass and a patch of dirt and gravel Xeriscape where embedded in the middle like a headstone stood a four-foot-tall welded 5.

“A Gremlin?” Trace said with mock sincerity. “Thought those things lived under bridges.”

“Those are trolls. You plan on tellin’ me why I’m here, or is it like a forever surprise?”

“Obvious, even to a blind man.” Trace waved a slow arc around the diamonds. “Softball is why you’re here. You’re now part of Give Some Back.”

“Give some what back?”

“They’re a non-profit that uses an auditor to make sure the money raised for charities gets where it’s supposed to go. Something that doesn’t happen like it should all the time. Lori over there in the bleachers can explain all that later.”

“Yeah?” Jackson shot a glance at the bleachers. “That Lori? As in Lori Sorens, from the sitcom, uh, um—”

“House on Fire. I don’t watch it, either, but it’s a hit, and that’s her. Bottom line, bro. Hollywood types play civilians for serious donations, auditors handle the money. This team needed another warm body with modest athletic ability. Here you are. Don’t sweat it, J. Unlike your last exercise gig, no ballet tights or talent required.”

“Everybody loves a clown.”

“Careful. Heard that’s how the clown caught the clap.” Trace bumped Jackson’s glove with his own. “Showtime, bro. This is a tough room for anybody with external plumbing, so put your just-happy-to-be-an-idiot-man face on.”

“Been told that comes stock with the plumbing.”

Trace nodded agreement, ushered him in front of the bench at the empty diamond five where they faced seven females spread out in the bleachers.

“I said I’d find you a new guy.” Trace announced to the disinterested bleacher crew. “My brother from another mother, Jackson.” Silence. Not even seat shuffling.

“Told you it was a tough room. Jax, clockwise from the left, the ladies are Lori Sorens from House on Fire and the actual Treasurer of Give Some Back. Next over and up a row, if you watch television in your underwear in the morning, you’ve seen Randi Navarro. Channel Seven and El Lay’s Number One in the morning. Right next to her is another watch in your underwear lady, Weather Seven Cicily Warren.” They acknowledged with barely perceptible nods. Jackson’s gaze shifted next to a tall girl with the most not huge but amazingly perfect set of t-shirt boobs he had ever seen.

“Jackson, meet Zane Rialta. From somewhere women are all tall and in your shit about a lie somebody told them about you.”

 “Don’t start him out by fucking with me, Trace. I’m from—”

Hollywood In Sight Tonight,” Jackson said. “You could dial it back once in a while, see if anybody besides you might have something to say. The girl from Pine Nuts has a ranch in Tennessee where she takes in retired and abused racehorses and show dogs, finds homes for ‘em, and you fucking blew her out. You could have hit the boyfriend hard for being a first-class dipshit and wrapped it with her being humane, made everybody love her, donate food or cash and help her out, but no. You had to go all into some animal hoarding thing you got all wrong.”

It got even quieter on diamond five. Zane Rialta was self-made, syndicated in all fifty states, half a dozen foreign countries and had her own cable channel in development. She was smart and nosey and dangerous if you had anything to hide. Most of Hollywood gave her a wide berth, not a raft of shit.

“You bring him along to help you tell me how to do my job? If you did, that’s bullshit and I’m out.”

“If you’re going to talk about me, talk to me,” Jackson climbed to the second row.

“Okay, I’m done.” Zane stood, all five-eleven of her, a row up and now eighteen inches taller than Jackson.

He looked up at her, wished he could part the boobs. “Sit down. You know we can’t play if you leave. We’ll work this out between us, okay? But right now? Sit. Down.” He tacked on “Please?” before the timing betrayed him.

She sat, steaming. It was uncomfortably quiet again. Trace continued. “Right there, um, to the right? That’s Tina Bowen. Seven in the Morning traffic control. ‘Keep it Flowin’ with Bowen.’ She has a baby named Owen, poor kid.” She was the only one to lift a hand off her thigh in a small wave.

“Last but not least, and the only woman on the team who can play this or any other sport, Seven Sports in the A-M with Ray-Gun Vaughn.” Reagan smiled, reached down, shook his hand. She was a ball of lean muscle like the weightlifter girls on the beach, only black and not as bulky. She walked through locker rooms full of naked, sweaty jocks asking pointed questions about the quality of their performances and got answers, not sex loaded bullshit. Jackson was known to watch a bad game just for Reagan’s commentary.

“Hey.” Jackson took in the women he saw every morning on Channel Seven and the prime timers. “Nice to meet all of you.” He looked back up at Zane Rialta. “What’s your real name?”

“What?”

“Your real name. What your mom called you when she was mad. Come on.”

“Suzanne. If it’s—”

“All of it.”

“Florentina,” her eyes flashed through a squint. “Suzanne. Florentina. Rialta. My married name is Shively. You’re about to really piss—”

“What do your friends call you?”

“It’s not something you’ll ever need, so—”

“We don’t know that.”

“God…” Her exasperation became tactile. “Zanie. From my little sister.”

“That’s where Zane came from? Not Zane Grey westerns your dad left around the house?”

“Fuck you, Trace’s friend. He didn’t read westerns, he read John D. MacDonald until he caught me with one. Then he hid them in an old suitcase in his closet.”

“You get busted again when you found them ‘cause you couldn’t resist all that sex, violence and moralizing?”

“I skipped the moralizing, and I’m out of—”

He leaned in, whispered the quick story of how he got busted checking out Mimi Van Doren in one of the old Playboys that his dad kept in a closet suitcase. She laughed out loud and took the hand he held out.

“Jackson? That’s it, either way? Now I remember.” She squeezed the shit out of his hand, leaned back a little then leaned in. “I didn’t recognize you without the I’m-so-sexy beard. Kaitlin Everson sued you for sticking your middle finger up her nose at the Globe Press Party. You had that pretty French lawyer who sued half of L.A. to shut Everson up, all over a no-money Kleenex movie from nowhere full of nobodies that blew up. For the middle finger and suing that bitch, you are my newest best friend. Who do you know that’s done something stupid lately?”

“That list is too long, and I’m on it. Tell me who the coach or manager is, since we’re friends?”

“Excuse me,” Randi interjected. “Mr. one finger and it’s the middle one? If you can pull yourself away from Zanie’s T-shirt stuffing qualifications for a sec, I’ll tell you.” Randi Navarro was as perfectly turned out in a softball uniform as she was the day Jackson had seen her in Dwight’s studio. She leaned forward, waited until she had his full attention.

“I’m Randi. Navarro? We were introduced? I’m the manager. We don’t have a coach. We could use one because the other teams just laugh at us. We get a lot of requests as the pretty girls who can’t play, and to raise money we play against whoever rents us. Except we don’t have a sponsor or a designated charity so we’re dumping buckets of money into a holding account waiting for someone to say ‘yes’ and give us a reason to be here.” She studied him for a moment. “We need a sponsor, and what really pisses all of us off more than being the softball laughingstock of L.A. is that we’ve been asking for a sponsor for over a year. It’s like we’re lepers because we’re women, right?” There were murmurs of agreement, but she held Jackson’s eyes as long as he kept them on her.

“We play as the Seven In the Morning coed team.” It was Lori, the one from the sitcom. “But Seven won’t pick a charity and we’re really not endorsed by Seven—”

“Fuck no we aren’t,” Randi trolled her coworkers with her eyes. “We’re making them a fortune in ad revenue by being all women and owning the morning market share, right? But will they back us as a softball team? Even as a promo op? No. Rodney Sheridan writes off a Corvette I don’t give a shit about,” she sidearm waved at the parking lot. “But Seven says it’s in my contract to drive it, smile and say, ‘Drop by Sheridan for a deal that’ll make you wanna dance,’ twenty times a morning. Sheridan won’t sign off on underwriting a women’s charity softball team, but he’ll hand off a Corvette?” She fumed for a few beats. “Sorry. Not your problem. So it’s Jackson? Got anything shorter?” She saw it coming. “Don’t you say that shit to me.”

“Don’t say, ‘That’s what she said?’’’

“I told you don’t.” She leaned further, smacked his shoulder, glared him out.

“Jax, Jay. Hey, you. Your call.” He smiled so hard his face hurt. “Sorry.”

“You’re forgiven. For now.” She gave him a lady handshake, waited a little long to let go, followed it with a big, expensive TV anchor smile. “I like you and I don’t, Jacksass Jackson. So as of now, you are the new manager of whoever the hell we are.” She handed Jackson a brown manila envelope she’d been sitting on. “I kept it warm with my best ass-et, just for you. Ladies?” She found everyone else with her gaze. “I’ve captained this ship of fools for a year and we’re still where we started. So this is my last roundup as manager, phone girl, booking queen and sponsor hunter. After today, our new middle-finger-forward cowboy is up. We play Country Safe Insurance in twenty minutes, right here.”

Jackson and Trace watched the parade of broadcast butts in tight baseball pants while they all rattled their way out of the aluminum bleachers and headed for the parking lot to open doors and trunks on clean, new, expensive cars where they pulled out gloves, bats and promo for Hollywood In Sight, Seven in the Morning and House on Fire. Randi reached in the white Corvette, handed a box of Sheridan Chevy promo to one of the other girls before she wrestled a team duffel bag out of the passenger seat. He considered offering to help, but they all looked to be working a decent case of pissed off. Jesus. Too much camera candy, too much unfocused promo paper, no team identity.

 “Trace, my brother,” he dumped a frustrated through-the-nose sigh. “You fucked me right into the dirt on this one.”

“Man, a year ago you couldn’t wait to meet Randi Navarro. Here you are. I knew she’d like you.” He picked a couple of bats out of the dirt, leaned them against the fence behind the bench, tossed a baby pop fly for Jackson.

“Randi…” he caught the fly, tossed on back. “I said I wanted to meet her, yeah. And now a shit-load of excellent dreams and wasted morning wood are out the window and right on down the road ‘cause she’s on my softball team. Mine. It’s against all the fucking rules to go butt sniffing my own softball team. How the hell did that happen?”

“ ‘How’ never matters in Hollywood. Take what comes your way and run with it. Besides, your ‘tell a painful truth’ turd polishing skills are exactly what this team needs. Even if they don’t know it yet.”

Trace pulled his glove, popped Jackson on the shoulder with it. “You don’t have to play it straight on the no in-team sex, but know this as fact. These chicks compete about everything, not just ratings points. So you’ll start an extra-large avalanche of pain for yourself if you get wet and wild with anything female connected to this. Add a hundred times more grief than that from your new best friend, Zanie. This gig is high profile with her name attached, so she’s like your personal moral compass. The woman’s got a camera, a crew, a mouth, a syndicated outlet for all of it, a million places to hide and twice that many snitches. Fuck around or fuck up in Hollywood after today and you’ll find out the hard way it’ll be out on the wire before your zipper’s up, your mouth’s shut or your middle finger’s back in your pocket.”

NVDT Random – Winners Get Shafted!

Politicians, God love ‘em, have done it again. The poor, the marginalized, the illegal, the forgotten, the hand to mouth service industry people kicked hardest by Covid – the people who just voted in the Obiden Administration, are the first ones to get the shaft!

In the current debate for a relief package Republicans want money for small businesses. Democrats say no. But they want to bail out state and local governments. Democrats are now pro big business/government? Pelosi and the Hair Farmer’s latest sticking point for the new free money bail out is that they want funds direct deposited. Only. Well, let’s take the poor, the marginalized, the illegal, the forgotten and the Covid fucked right out of that equation because 6.5% of Americans have no bank account.

That’s over 14,000,000 people.

Way more than the difference of the vote tally between “choices” that were piss poor to start with. How would the vote have gone if 14,000,000 had known they would be disenfranchised by the new regime before it got started? Who cares, Pelosi has plenty of designer ice cream in a $30k fridge. Fuck the poor, disenfranchised, marginalized… But thanks for the votes. Not.

The good news is that when asked what he plans to do about anything, instead of tweeting something childish, inflammatory, arrogant and sometimes decisive, Obiden keeps saying “We’ll get everyone together at the table and have a meeting.”

Meetings? WTF? Nobody in Washington can decide whether they need to take a shit or wind their watch!

Get the man violin lessons and a match. Because if I was one of the 14,000,000 Americans the New Regime just shit on I’d be raising all sorts of hell.

NVDT Random – Scene Edits 2

Since no one is paying attention I’m gonna pull random scenes out and sharpen my editorial scythe for a diegesis rework of The Great Kerrigan Bank Robbery – This one is out of sync with Jackson going to the airport, but I’ll get back to that. That whole episode was in draft mode word overkill and the scenes are coming out whittled one by one. Yesterday this one sat at 1006. It’s still rough, but it’s lost some weight…

Cow’s Asses and Banjos

Jackson looked around his first pre-game huddle as coach, tossed his canned speech. “I’ve talked to all of you since last week’s game. About what you’d like to see change, what you expect. What you want. If you missed the big hint in those conversations, here it is. You’re a team. I know y’all think you suck so bad no one would come out to help. Well, last week between lunches I made a couple of calls, and a couple of mistakes, so… Meet the newest misery loves company members of Team Sucks. Logan Burns is a –“

Bevan-Burns. With the hyphen thing? I am like so totally mega stoked –”

“Thank you Logan. Ms. Bevan-Burns is a ballerina, off tour for the summer. Taisia whose last name is nothing but consonants is a FedEx driver, reserve EMT and ex-professional Russian hockey player who can roller skate faster than most people drive. Cynthia is a psychologist finishing her Masters. And was, uh,” he rushed “foldout of the year in seventy-nine and is fully clothed in her current publicity shot.” He put his arm around the shoulder of a petite girl with shiny, jet black hair saying “For all of you who’re pissed off about how shitty it is to be women sometimes? Out of the wig and jumpsuit after almost a year on the road with her shred rockin’, man-ass-kickin’ band Skanque, give it up for Hon-eee Muffin.”

“My CaliMex ass, Cowboy.” Randi punched Jackson’s shoulder, her eyes bounced between him and her lone modern heroine. “You’re Honey Muffin? And you know this guy?”

“My real name’s Melika.” She reached out, accepted all the hands and compliments she was offered. “Jax and I sat on a beach once, traded shit ticket stories. I decided to take him home for Christmas dinner. We even lived together for a few months.” She returned his one-armed hug. “Platonically.

“I… Damn. When you said you’d find us some more girls, I didn’t —”

“Don’t grovel, Navarro,” Zanie elbowed her. “It doesn’t matter who you’ve brought with you Cowboy, we’ll still suck. We’ll never win and you can’t fix that.”

“Zanie, I promise you we will never win.” His eyes wandered the huddle again. “Never. We win when the check clears, got it? We aren’t here to win charity softball, we’re here to have fun, bank some money for a good cause. Listen,” he caught eyes this trip around. “This is amateur… slow pitch… coed… softball. The people we play are paying real money to play a stupid game with you so they can hang with a team full of celebrities, go back to work Monday morning, and show everybody in the office their pictures and autographs and tell them all how much fun they had. That’s all they’re paying for and y’all bitches are doin’ your best to screw that up trying to make it —”

“Bitches!? Goddammit, don’t you even.” Randi pointed at his two male teammates. “What about you guys? It’s still all our fault? Even though we’re the reason all those people are here?”

“Randi, we’re all bitches. All of us. And it stops now. Nobody has any fun playin’ softball with a bunch of whiny, bummed out, I wish it was different or better some kind of way bitches. Don’t you get it? Winning or losing doesn’t matter. Nobody’ll care because while nine of us are on the field the rest are gonna be workin’ the crowd. So right now, today? I don’t care if any of you can hit a cow’s ass with a fuckin’ banjo. Today I need you to whack each other on the butt, get sweaty and dusty and scream ‘till you’re hoarse. Rock this softball diamond and show the…” he checked the clipboard, “Combine Bank Tellers more G-rated fun than they thought was possible.”

Silence.

“Well, ladies? Let’s go play softball. Like we can’t get out of our own way and it’s a beautiful thing. And do it so well when we’re done all those people over there will tell everybody how much fun they had because y’all weren’t a bunch of snotty, bummed out, no-playin’ whiny assed… ”

“BITCHES!”

“There it is.” He resisted the urge to smack any butts with the clipboard when his team scattered to welcome the bank tellers, their vocational and familial entourages filling the bleachers.

Zane stayed behind, lifted her chin slightly. “You actually believe you’re going to make this work, don’t you.”

“Yeah… ”

“Somehow, I do too.” That hung between them in the diamond’s dust for a few. “I feel like I just found something I didn’t even know I was looking for… Dressed up like a pathetic, lost, heartbroken little softball team.” She watched while her teammates turned a set of bleachers loaded with anxious, uncertain citizens into happy. “I think we all have.”

NVDT Random – Scene Edits

Since no one is paying attention I’m gonna pull random scenes out and sharpen my editorial scythe for a diegesis rework of The Great Kerrigan Bank Robbery

Not a Full English

Cathedral bells tripped, stumbled, bounced off the walls of the narrow alley. Globular pieces found their way through the open-an-inch-at-the-bottom window, hit the floor and rolled into the back of Meyers’ head where they exploded like steel bubbles. The grimy, threadbare oriental rug felt like part of his cheek. He wanted to spit out the cotton balls and lick his lips, didn’t want to risk finding the rug with his tongue. After what seemed like days, the last cathedral bell bubble shattered, echoed away. He opened his left eye enough to see through his lashes. From an iron bed frame a filthy, once pale blue chenille bedspread draped off a filthier sock-covered foot onto the floor. He listened, the only sounds a light snore from the bed and rats on the windowsill. He reached up, felt the burn in his left shoulder blade, tugged on the sock. The girl wearing it shot upright, peered over the edge of the bed.

 “I expected a rat.” She tilted her head. “You were supposed to be dead, but I guess he messed it up. You messed it all up.”

“Granted. What happened?”

“You walked in, that one on the floor jumped out from behind the door and tried to give you a ginormous shot of something… ” Her gaze shifted beyond him. “You broke his neck when he tried to stick you. The needle must’ve broken when–”

“Can you see it?”

“Yeah,” she tilted her head as far to the left as it would go, stuck her tongue out. “Doing the blue face would be a stretch.”

“The bloody needle, girl, not him.”

“Oh. There is some blood on your jacket where he poked you… ” She slid off the bed and next to him, ran her finger over the small circle of blood.

“Ow! Shit!”

“Shhh. Found it.”

“So you have. Pull it out.”

“I can’t.”

Can’t? Goddammit –”

“No… It’s only sticking out a little. I can’t…”

“Don’t you have fingernails?

“I keep them short, now. I… ”

“Teeth?”

“What? That’s way too gross. Wait… ” She pulled the shoulder of his jacket down. “Don’t make any noise.” She pushed down with her thumb and forefinger on either side of the broken needle. Meyers held his breath. An extreme burning sensation flashed through his left side, faded.

“Jesus, Mister…” The girl held up a bent two-inch-long hypo needle so thick he could see the fluting on the business end. He rotated his shoulder. Not much residual pain, free range of motion. He came up to all fours, nodded at the body.

“They know he’s dead?”

“Nope.” She sat back on the bed, cross-legged.

“When do they come back?”

“They go home at night to argue or screw or something. They’ll bring breakfast when they get around to it.”

He sat back on his heels, shook his head like a wet dog, rubbed both eyes with his thumbs.

“The window. Nailed in?”

“Nails. Screws. Won’t go up or down.”

He reached out, tried to lift the bed.

“Do you honestly think I wouldn’t have thrown it through the window by now if it wasn’t bolted to the floor? What is it with England? All the fucking furniture is bolted down.”

“Oxford. Students. Lease agents don’t want it stolen.”

“That some thousand-year-old rule? You can’t steal what you can’t use, or don’t want?”

“You’d be surprised. My last secretary stole cheap toilet paper from the office.”

“The really cheap stuff?”

“Cheapest.”

“God. Tight ass. You fire her?”

“She quit.”

“Looking for a raise and better toilet paper, I bet.”

“Didn’t ask.” He pulled her off the bed, raised the thin, stained beyond rusty brown mattress to find welded slats, no springs. “Damn.”

“I told you.”

“Yeah, you did.” He looked around. Nothing else in the room except the nasty rug and the dead man.

“He’s wearing high top Connies. I checked that, too. Nothing useful in his pockets, either.”

The door downstairs opened and closed. Two muffled voices.

“That’s probably breakfast. Now what, hero?”

Meyers weighed the percentages in breaking two more necks, or using the dead man to create an electrical loop from the light switch to the doorknob. Instead he drug the dead man to the window. The flat was a walk down, the street only six feet below.

“Give me a hand.”

“Doing?”

“Grab him on the other side there, by his jacket. Up. Backward and forward.” They swung the corpse head-first toward the window, then back. “Got it. On three. One, the glass breaks, two, you get the hell out, three…” They launched the body at the thick, ancient glass. It cracked, didn’t break, the body thumped to the floor. Footsteps pounded up the stairs. “Move,” Meyers shoved the girl against the wall.

The door banged open, Meyers grabbed the first person inside, spun him in a wild series of fancy footwork Fandango pirouettes, threw him at the window that shattered this time. He turned, the girl had her shirt wrapped around a short, fat woman’s head. He yanked the shirt like a top string, spinning the woman to the window where she screamed. He slugged her, she followed her partner into the street. He looked down. Bent galvanized trash bins rolled side to side, their contents scattered. Rats scampered away like wind-blown leaves, dogs barked. The man was another broken neck. The woman tried to stand. One leg wouldn’t work.

“Who hired them?”

“Dunno.” She shrugged into her flannel shirt. “My money’s on the old lady.”

“Doesn’t want you to be a Duchess?”

“With her son his Royal Gayness in their high-dollar six-hundred-year-old rooms-by-the-hour fuck shack? No way.”

“She’s doesn’t know you’re not much for Duchessing over a knocking shop?”

“Must not or we wouldn’t be here.” She tossed him a croissan’wich from the Burger King bag the fat woman dropped. “Where I’m from? Nobody’ll ever believe this shit.”

Meyers opened the sandwich wrapper, knitted his brows. “Where I’m from, no one will believe I threw two people out a window for calling this shit breakfast.”

Meyers – Like a Violinist

She pulled the curtain back, watched him as he walked away. Slowly. So slowly in the fog. What a wonderful man.

The fog. Everywhere. Always. She’d given up blaming the staff for smearing her glasses. That was the look of it. Vaseline. On the lens of her life. He’d said it was the medication. That was when his sadness came. Kind. Sad. Strong. Enough to carry the sadness. And so kind. Had she said that? They said he’d visited before, but…The fog…

She glimpsed her finger. The curtain. How the white bloomed in the fog when the lights were up. He’d held her fingers. Four. Her thumb dropped away. The dead sister she’d joked. He hadn’t laughed. Why not? What did he know the fog kept away? He knew her fingers…

Fine fingers. Long. He’d known a violinist with fine, long fingers. She had the fingers of an artist, he’d said. A neurosurgeon. Harpsichordist. Potter. He checked her nails. Another one obsessed with her nails…

***

Fine, long fingers, he’d said. Like a violinist. Daddy wouldn’t hear of it. NO! Sausage is a living, Daddy said. Sausage is my life! Sausage is the life for you!

Life? For me? No! I could be…Her fine, long fingers. Daddy! There is no music in kneading fresh, ground death…Fresh. Ground. Daddy? Death had to be fresh for sausage. No violin. No potter’s wheel. Fresh death. Sausage…

Fresh. When the ‘fridge died, the sausage died, and everyone knew her sausage had gone off. My sausage! Daddy!

Sausage is death, Daddy…Death is sausage.

***

Uniforms and labcoats. Not my nails! Her hands. Plastic bags. Tape. NO! Her nails. Her lovely, long, blood red…NO!

They’d scattered for him then. And he sat with her. Calm. He seemed. Sad. Kind. Meyers, is it? He’d nodded. Waited.

Please, Meyers? He’d held her hands. Firm. Warm. Kind. She remembered that about him always. Kindness. Firm. Warm. While the labcoats and their scissors….Lovely, long fingers don’t need long red nails. Like a violinist, he’d said…

***

Detective Myers? Describe as best you can within the boundaries of good taste –

Good taste? They were fresh! Until –

Madam, please

Victims. Disemboweled.

By these?

Oh God…Her lovely, long, red, nails…They had them. Bagged like Cheetos bound for a lunch box.

Sharp as scalpels, he’d told them.

How could they be otherwise? Daddy preached. Dull is Dangerous. Daddy. Sharp. Piercing the thin, abdominal wall. Intestines. Fresh. Intestines were the key.

How long?

Her nails or the intestines?

Laughter and the gavel.

Long enough, he’d said.

He understood. Little ones were useless. Nails. And intestines. But to hold them? Let them drape through her fingers while they pulsed? The smell. Tasting the air, what they’d become…Fresh was the magic of good sausage.

Wine. Spices. Onions…an exquisite composition…almost orchestral in design

How delightful it sounded when he said it! What a wonderful man…

Detective Myers this is a court of law. We’ve no need of culinary instruction –

Human Andouillette? Detective Myers – You find the ‘sausage of death’ appropriate? Judge would you instruct –

Leave him, fool! He knows sausage. It’s all in the intestine. The big one. Where the shit lives. Like the French, not bastardized –

Madam! No more!

Victim’s DNA was found among this ‘orchestrally exquisite’ assortment of spice and vegetables that you were led to by a strong fecal – Yes, ‘fecal’, please, Detective Meyers, not –

Say shit, you worm! Go on. Say it! Shit! The best bags of doom reek of it! Shit! And death! He knows. Tell them, Myers! How fabulously pungent it was! Organic. Single sourced! Tell them, Meyers! Tell. Them!

Remove her…

her…

her…

her…

***

He was gone. Slipped too far into the fog. She smiled, released the curtain, slowly gyrated her hands. Fine, long fingers. Proper clipped nails. Befitting a lady, she’d said. He’d smiled then, held them. Cold against his warmth until she felt them glow. Like a violinist, he’d said. Not a butcher. Meyers understood.

She spread her fingers. Long, wide. Like a violinist. What a wonderful man.

Forty Pounds, Naked

Cambridge U.K., Wednesday, June 13, 1979

“What the fuck?” Deanna shook the satiny bathrobe Michael handed her after she’d set her purse down and taken off her jacket.

“Can’t have you spoil the illusion by ‘in off the street to nude’ in front of everyone.” He put a hand between her shoulder blades and gave her a gentle shove toward a DIY four-panel room divider made of old doors. “Did you get my message about loose clothes, no underthings?”

“Yes, but…” She turned around and had to walk backwards because he was right there and kept coming. “But I hate braless, all bouncing around and cold and everything. Unless I’m just home or something. And no panties? I mean how gross is that? I mean it, what the fuck, Michael?”

“Tight clothes and elastic leave lines where a discerning eye would rather none.”

“So? I’m not a nude model.”

He pulled one of the end screen panels almost to the wall in front of himself to enclose her, stuck his head in. “You are tonight.”

“I am not! I don’t do the nudist thing. I did that once on accident water skiing and lost a sixty-dollar bikini. And six weeks of a summer with someone I was in…who was important.”

He pulled the screen panel open, stepped right into her face. “Shut it. Now. You took the forty. To model. What did you think they wanted to see? A skinny yank in out-sized clothes? You’ve nothing special to keep hidden away. On a right day you’re no more than a knackered mop stood on end.” His scowl intensified for a few seconds before it vanished when he glanced at the clock on the far wall. “They’re setting their places. Clothes or no clothes, on the stand or down the stairs, as you will. Six minutes.”

At seven-thirty she stepped around the edge of the screen of doors in the satiny robe, scared, timid, shaking and determined. Knackered mop? Insulting her pride to get her naked? Another gamey asshole trick. Mother fuc— she flashed the Miss Popularity smile that she had resurrected by necessity, stepped up onto a homemade riser covered in a worn-out oriental rug and topped with a faded Victorian bench. She slid out of the robe in a move she’d seen in some old black and white movie. Godammit, she couldn’t smile like this all night, and big-bottom Michael needed to turn the heater up. Way up. “Summer” in England was a lie.

Cambridge U.K. 9:30 PM Wednesday, June 20, 1979

A room full of male and female pensioners, the mildly sadistic pervert professor Dr, David Childs and Michael had enjoyed spending three hours spread over two ninety-minute sessions with a bit too thin, starkly attractive, non-speaking naked young girl so frightened that you could see it in her eyes. She’d presented them with a vulnerability rarely seen in nude models, something Michael had captured with a camera so that he could paint her himself when he had time, and sell the snaps around a small network of dirty old men, other painters and a few women who were into that sort of thing. The perv professor had logged that child-like fear as well.

While easels were cleared, paintings stored in racks, brushes set in jars of water or solvent Michael caught Dr. Childs attempting to slip away.

“No, David. Not yet” Michael shook his head slowly and spoke like he was dealing with a four year-old. “You knew the deal. The Fifty is for the ring to come and have a look, the forty covers what I’m out for getting her here and I’ll have it now.”

“You are aware of my delicate financial situation, Michael. Couldn’t we —”

“Ninety, David. Or I call Lady Childs for it and your financial situation will indelicately vaporize.”

David counted out the ninety, slapped it into Michael’s outstretched hand. “Beastly excuse for a man you are.”

“Comes with the under compensated instructor’s crown, you know that well enough.” Michael folded the bills and shoved them in his front pocket.

“She’s a bit of Bohemian, that’s something different. But I have several on my list ahead of her. You will keep her just between us?”

“Our own private Bohemian rhapsody, David. I’ll let you know how she goes.”

Michael put his hand on David’s shoulder and ushered him out of the doorway he’d blocked with his lingering, said “Good Night” to his last pensioner and locked the door from the inside. Unlike Dr. Childs, he didn’t have a rich wife, a title, or a list of girls to work his way through before he got to this one.

***

“Michael?” Deanna tossed the robe over the top of the screen in another old movie move. “Are we going to talk about the cross curriculum symbolism? I made some time for us, and a list.”

He unzipped his baggy cords, shoved the room divider open. “Knob bob time best served before wordplay, Miss Collings. I’d ask to have at down below but that’s a right lion’s head you’ve got between your legs.” He reached for her, the cords hit his ankles. Her jeans were only halfway up when she let go of them to slide out the backside of the screen. She shuffled to grab her purse, book bag and coat. Michael almost tripped backing out of the screen. He grabbed the back of a chair, hop danced his feet out of captivity, lunged and caught her. She spun away from him but her feet, still bound by her jeans, didn’t follow. He caught her by the upper arm, dragged her to the riser and tossed her like a rag doll onto the ratty upholstered Victorian bench she’d modeled on. She bounced off the bench onto the riser, rolled to its back edge feet first then off. She tried to stay up but her momentum, balance and sock feet were at cross purposes. She clutched at an easel for balance. When she knew it was hopeless and she was on the way down, with or without it, she heaved it at one of the tall glass windows in the second story studio. The sound of the window shattering seemed to last for hours.

Michael picked her up, propped her on the riser. “Are you done?”

“Yes. No! I’m finished, not done. I’m not a fucking cake. Are you?”

“A cake? No, I’m not a bloody cake. Well done I am, thanks to you.” He looked through the hole where the window, they both heard the approaching doo-dah doo-dah of British sirens. He pulled on his baggy cords and reloaded his shirt tail. Maybe it was an artist thing., but Deanna had never heard so many different emotions in the word “shit” before.

She looked around the room while she pulled on her jeans. The glass shards, the mess of spilled brush cleaning jars, the collapsed room divider, the satin robe. Her lack of undies. She knew from her studies and old presentations how this sort of thing, tagged to nude modeling, usually ended up being the woman’s fault.

“‘Shit’ is no shit right.”

***

“No ma’am. Really. I mean it, I didn’t ‘fancy’ him. At all.” Deanna had been through the interview six times and wanted to go home. She leaned her head next to the police woman’s and lowered her voice. “He’s got a big butt, for a guy, you know? I don’t know about you, but my dream guy isn’t shaped like a pear.”

The WPC taking Deanna’s statement snorted into the back of her hand so hard she dropped her pen. “Very well. You’re not being formally charged with anything, Miss Collings. If you change your mind about him,” she tilted her head slightly in Michael the horny goateed art teacher’s direction, “give us a ring.”

“I’ll change my mind if we can lock him in a room with ten or twelve other girls he’s pulled this on.”

“Arrange it, I’ll stand watch on the door to see you’re not disturbed.” She handed Deanna her business card, checked in by eye contact with the Officer in Charge who nodded. “Pick up your things, Miss Collings. You may go. Mind you, quietly.

Deanna draped her red London Fog over one arm, glared out the crazy assed vagina pelt hunting art pig before she shouldered her way around the swearing, red-faced and demonstrative arm waving lorry driver whose windscreen had gotten smashed by the easel she’d sent through the second story art class window. She turned and slid sideways between two bored uniformed policemen talking soccer, slowed a beat as she passed a no-nonsense looking man in a lightweight tan jacket leaning the door jamb. He reminded her of someone, vaguely.

***

Michael said “Good night” again, this time to the police contingent, found himself alone with the no-nonsense man who had volunteered to help tape cardboard over the broken window.

No-nonsense used his teeth to tear a piece of duct tape from the roll he was holding, held it up to the wall while Michael pushed the cardboard into place. “Busy night for an art teacher.”

“Bloody stupid, skinny fucking cow. Forty pounds to stand about naked, not a thank you of any kind. And I’m done for the window.”

“Insurance will have the lorry’s windscreen, Cambridge city fathers will have this all under the rug to keep you from being the big bad wolf on their payroll, and unless there’s a copper with their hand out to the morning press you’re off light I’d say. For chasing a lass about, trousers around your ankles and all, who wasn’t up for being your Wednesday’s casual. I’ll have the film roll, if you don’t mind.”

“You’ll be?”

“Meyers.” He ran the strip of tape down the side of the cardboard in a quick, smooth motion.

“Well, Meyers,” Michael held the right side of the cardboard up, watched his helper eyeball and tear the tape a perfect length and swipe it across the top in the same smooth motion. “I do mind. I shot it, it’s mine and I’ll have my forty again and more out of her, one way or another.”

“Or…One way or another I’ll have the film. Day’s end, Michael? This window of yours was all needed breaking on a Cambridge summer’s eve.”

Michael took in Meyers out the corner of an artist’s eye. A deceptively offhand, nonchalant, Marlboro man sort. Sandy hair, hard, gray eyes that could have come from Michelangelo’s David set in an outdoorsy tanned face and whose deft economies of movement snapped Michael to the fact that nude photos of the girl, and possible extra income from them, weren’t worth a trip to the emergency room. Michael patted down the dozen or more pockets of the paint splattered hunting vest he wore in place of a smock. Nothing. They swapped out holding the cardboard and Michael took a couple of steps to a cluttered desk where he rummaged around, located his camera, popped the film and tossed it to Meyers.

“She was just another nude model who turned out to be a bit of bad idea. Who is she to you?”

“I’m told someone across the pond has concerns. Wasn’t sure I wanted the job at first, seemed like babysitting.” The film disappeared into Meyers’ pocket. “That said,” he tore another piece of tape with his teeth, offered it with a mildly amused expression. “So far she seems a girl who can turn a bit of bad idea into a right shit grenade, eh? Tape?”

Edited to remove references to people and events not in evidence