The "Daily Doodle" concept is intended to warm up my creative engines, and is essentially free writing, poetry or prose, usually accomplished in under an hour with a minimum of corrections. From time to time, I will post the results here.
In some cases, the piece will also be a special commission, prompted by a particular buyer. Readers can still custom order their own quick short-short stories: details here.
Today's piece continues two previous doodles. I did not really plan for this story to go in this direction, but I guess that's the mood I am in, and part of the free-flow process. Just follow the impulse. Read part 1 here, and part II here.
The subject seemed unavoidable. They talked about other things, the usual things: where they went to school, what music they liked, an odd conversation about allergies. Jeff had to watch out for basil. It was this that led them back to the idea of killing. If someone wanted to get rid of Jeff, they need only sprinkle some basil in his food when he wasn’t looking. “I’ll taste it immediately,” he said, “but my throat will swell up so fast, it’s lights out.”
“I know something about that,” Alicia replied. “My ex was allergic to peanuts.”
“That’s a bad one.”
“Yeah, his was severe. Even the smell of it in the air...flying with him was horrible. He’d keep the whole plane from being able to get their requisite snack.”
“What a bastard! The honey roasted peanuts are the best part.”
“I bet you if I just slipped one into his Pepsi....”
Alicia trailed off.
“So he’s the one you’d want to kill? This ex?”
“If I were the murdering, Double Indemnity type.”
“Noooo. I mean, I’ve never thought about it seriously....”
Except she had. If she was being honest. Truth was, a lot of her savings was tied up in an investment the ex had talked her into. He said it would give them the future together they wanted. Ignoring the money she had for her sabbatical--well, let’s say her break could have been more like an indefinite vacation if she had all the cash he had gotten her to sink into this solar panel start-up he swore would be the bleeding edge of clean energy. They were supposed to be putting in equal shares, but she found out after he ditched her that she had covered the whole nut. And that nut was rotting in its shell.
It really was her future that was in there, and she wasn’t sure she’d ever get it out. Yeah, sure, she’d survive, but how much easier it would be to have that money, and how much easier it would be to get at least some of it back if the ex were out of the way and not a co-signature on all transactions. He refused to sign off on any sale until the stock went up, which he was sure it would.
“Well, I suppose that’s good,” Jeff said, and he took the rest of his drink, including a whole ice cube, into his mouth. "A morbid nature is unbecoming of one so pleasantly disposed."
Jeff and Alicia left the bar. The night street was smartly lit, not too bright and not too dark. The city, at that moment, had ambiance. There were dark corners, alleys that went to anyone’s guess, but here on the sidewalk, the lamps gave them safety. Spotlit and secure.
Jeff pulled out a packet of cigarettes. “Do you mind?” he asked, motioning them toward his date.
“No,” she said. “My father smoked. I’m immune.”
“I mean to the smell.”
“Oh.” He lit his match, and the sulfur filled the air between them, replaced quickly by burning tobacco. “Sorry. It’s the job, I go right for the gruesome.”
“It’s all right. You wouldn’t happen to have any policies for childhood second-hand smoke, would you?”
“Just a personal policy not to blow my smoke into any kid’s face.”
He swept his hand in the direction ahead of them. “Shall we walk?” he asked.
The next two blocks were a parking lot, fenced off on three sides, flanked by a warehouse building on the fourth. Across from it, another warehouse of some kind. The facades were flat, unmarked. The kind of places that people who needed to know about knew about. If you had no idea what was inside any of the nearly identical structures, they weren’t for you.
Actually, more of them were empty than people probably thought. Alicia’s firm had shot a commercial in a disused space nearby. The outside of these places was like an optical illusion; when you peeked inside, it turned out the interior was much larger than it appeared. She thought it boiled down to the fact that she had never really seen an entire city block closed off like that, and empty to boot. But then, so many of life’s problems seemed so surmountable at first, only to reveal hidden complications the more you delved into the situation.
How often did people go in and out of those spaces? Realtors showing it to prospective tenants, maybe. But who was in the market for a warehouse?
What if it was already owned and vacant was how the owner wanted it? Like a mobster. Because where her brain was going was someplace dark. Could she and Jeff drag her ex here, tie him up, leave him for dead? She could exit and let Jeff do the dirty work while she wasn’t there. As cathartic as the end result might be, her stomach was weak. How long could the ex be left in that cavern without anyone stumbling across him?
When Alicia emerged from her fantasy, Jeff was eyeing her. “You keep drifting,” he said. “You get the same look in your eyes. Your pupils slant. Like a reptile.”
“Or a cat,” she offered, trying to soften the image.
“You ever see what a cat can do to a dead body?”
“You know how the little bastards will wake you up just to tell you they’re hungry, they can’t wait for you to get up at your normal time or whatever? Well, guess what happens when you don’t ever get out of bed.”
“They have to eat something. It’s a survival instinct.” Jeff stopped. “Speaking of, where are we going?”
There was an office building ahead, but then a dead end, as the freeway split the area. The windows in the building were all dark. Everyone had gone home.
“I wasn’t sure,” Alicia said. “I thought you were leading.”
He laughed out loud, his head thrown back, a smile making all of his teeth visible. “I thought we were following your direction. Isn’t your car down here?”
“No. And you’re the one who pointed the way!” She wasn’t mad. She thought it was funny, too.
“I know, but I thought...I don’t know what I thought. You sure you didn’t say you were parked here?”
“Nope. I don’t have a car. I took a cab.”
Jeff nodded. “Then this is awkward.”
Alicia pointed back in the direction of the bar. “It’s not too late to turn around,” she said.
“They say it’s never too late,” Jeff said. His face grew serious. “But that cliché is wrong. Because sometimes it is.”
Alicia was about too ask “What?” but she was cut off.
The knife was in her belly. It caused her to choke on her words. Blood clogged in her throat like congealed alphabet soup stuck in the can.
“You should have taken the questions of killing your ex seriously,” Jeff said. “Because he did.”
“I don’t...I don’t understand...” She managed to wheeze out these syllables, but she didn’t think she’d get much more.
“Something about solar energy, a breakthrough, all he needs is a bail-out. I guess without you, the penny is prettier, he doesn’t have to share. And, well, that bail-out is your company’s insurance policy on you. They have one on all the employees. Your fella and I have it all arranged. We play both sides, I divert the funds, and there’s enough for these solar panels and an extra pretty penny for me.” Jeff took her purse from her. “How dumb of you to wander off and get mugged like this, Alicia.”
He scattered the contents all around the ground. Her phone fell in the blood pooling beneath her. The screen lit up, triggered by the impact. Her greeting photo was the same picture as on her dating profile, just not cropped. There she was, laughing. There was her ex, cracking the joke.
“It was one hell of a punchline,” Alicia thought, and the screen went dim.
Current Soundtrack: Wreckx-n-Effect, Montell Jordan, that kind of thing. You know how we do.
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