Friday, July 26, 2013

Ground Control

Miami. South Beach. Back to the beginning.

She brought the car to a stop in front of an arrangement of square boxes with a red tile roofs called the Mallory Seaside Resort. She carefully applied the stage putty to her cheekbones, glued on a bulbous nose, and set a black curly wig on her head. Foundation and blush covered the latex seams, and Jackie Onassis sunglasses finished the ensemble. She looked at herself in the window’s reflection as she got out of the car. She was glamorously mysterious; no one would recognize her now. The image in the window smiled and patted a camel-colored pocket with a heavy bulge.

She threw her shoulders back and walked into the lobby. The mousy receptionist asked her a question, which was only responded to by a wave. Let the staccato of her heels tell everyone she was a woman of purpose. The receptionist reached for a phone, probably calling in a tip to the paparazzi that a celebrity had checked in. After all, what else could she be mistaken for?

She crossed the lobby into a corridor labeled “Pool/Beach access.” She couldn't make out any shapes in the hallway, only the sun’s glare from the glass door ahead. She pushed the portal open and willed two incoming kids out of her way. The parted before her like waves before an ocean liner. One kid shrieked, and they both slap-slapped with wet feet past her, lost to the hotel, and becoming someone else's problem.  

She strode through the pool area, straight to the bar. Stares followed her from the bloated and wrinkled bodies laid out around the pool. Her mouth turned up at the corners – even under the blazing sun, everyone felt her fire. She reached the bar and knocked on the countertop. The bartender glanced up, a perfectly-tanned man with gleaming white teeth dressed in a neon blue- and-white floral print shirt. His smile faded as he looked on her.

“Hello, Gloria,” he said

She laughed, and whipped off her glasses. “You like it, Trent? I got myself all dressed up for you.” It didn't surprise her that he recognized her. Meryl Steep had the same problems hiding her natural beauty too.

“You look like a jaundiced leper," Trent said. "Next time, just use sun block like the rest of us.” He turned around and started rummaging around under the bar.

Her hand dipped inside her coat pocket. “Oh, I’ll keep it in mind”

“Why are you here, Gloria?”

“Oh Baby, I came for you,” she said.

Trent shook his head. “Sorry, Gloria, that’s all over. I’m not interested.”

“Hey lady, you orderin’, or what?" A scratchy voice said. She turned around to see one of the bloated, crammed into his multicolored Speedo, holding the remains of a drink. He was picking his teeth with the end of a toothpick umbrella. He took the umbrella from his mouth and pointed it at her. “If not, some of us only have ten minutes left before daiquiri hour’s over.”

She stretched her face into a grin. “Ordering? Why yes, as a matter of fact I am ordering.” She drew the ebony gun in a single fluid motion and embraced the trigger. The umbrella fell to the ground with its owner. She noticed his hands were clamped just above his knee. The femur, not the kneecap? She would have to put some more time in at the range later. She turned back to the bar as the screams and panic bloomed around the pool. She sat and cradled her chin on her palm while tracing figure eight’s on the countertop with the pistol’s muzzle.

Trent was crouched, looking at her with rounded eyes and mouth, like a tanned bowling ball. She laughed.

“J-Jesus, Gloria!” He said

“Actually, a daiquiri does sound good right now,” She said. “Would you make one for me, Baby?”

Trent didn’t move. She slammed the butt of the pistol on the counter. “Daiquiri!”

Trent scrambled around the bar, fumbling for bottles and ice.

“It’s all your fault, you know,” She said. “that he found out about us. I know you were upset when I left, Baby, but why did you have to tip him off?”

Trent started the blender. “I didn’t say a thing, Gloria. I never even knew you were married until after I called it off! I don’t know what he said to you, but you’ve got to believe me, I-"

The blender exploded, showering Trent with plastic fragments and pink goo. She lowered the pistol, stroking the muzzle like a beloved pet. Her fingers burned on the hot barrel, but that was to be expected. Guns couldn't be expected to act like cats.

“Baby, it doesn’t matter. I want you to know I forgive you.” She sighed as the pistol went off. The bullet took him in the throat, and pushed him over. A crimson spray covered the bar, and she couldn’t taste the difference between Trent and the daiquiri when she licked her lips. She turned and walked back to the lobby entrance, leaving the gurgling and sucking sounds behind.  

She wiped her face with the back of her hand. What a gorgeous day! She was almost past the pool when something cold bit her shoulder. Two thumps in the back followed and she fell.

She rolled, her eyes following a red trail from the bar to the pool side where the man with the broken femur was lying next to a black nylon gym bag. The gun in his hand wavered back and forth, and his teeth clenched as he tried to steady his aim. She brought her gun around and her arm exploded at the elbow, sending the pistol clattering to the ground. The gun's pearlescent grip was now pink and no longer beautiful. She sighed and rolled to her back. Concrete shattered next to her ear. She tasted metal in her mouth. 

Had she fed the cats before she left? What a strange thought. She hoped they were all right. Everybody knew juries were sympathetic to cat people.

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