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Michelle Ann King
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Art by Lee Kuruganti, 2012



Michelle Ann King



I sat down at the desk, moved the bottle of Jack to the left hand side and the phone to the right, then leaned back in the chair.  It already felt like home.

But I couldn't even think about relaxing, not yet.  I had work to do.

We were in the middle of putting together a critical deal, a sensitive negotiation, and Desi had to go and drop dead.  A massive heart attack and that was it, the show was over before his ass hit the floor. On the plus side, it left yours truly stepping up to the plate.  On the minus, nobody seemed to know what the hell they were supposed to be doing and nothing was where it ought to be. Not the ledgers, not the guns, not the money. The office safe was empty except for a folded bundle of notes that might just about have paid for a couple rounds of beers; his home safe had some fake ID and a rumpled picture of ex-wife number three, the one who disappeared with the alligator wrestler down in Florida. And that was all.  So where in hell was the rest of the stuff? 

It was a mystery.  One I had to solve pretty damn quick, considering we had a sit down with Big Mo on Friday night and he'd be expecting the balance of what he was owed.  If I couldn't come up with it in green, he'd be taking it out of my hide.

Goddamn Desi.  I told him about all that shit he used to shovel down his neck.  Would it have killed him to eat some goddamn fruit?  Climb a couple flights of stairs once in a while?

There was a sharp rap on the door and Shawn appeared in the doorway.  “Hey, Boss?” 

Boss.  Had to be said, that was sweet to hear. I nodded for him to go on. 

“Eden's here.  She wants to talk to you.”

I thought about it.  Eden was the best dancer at the Pussycat Palace—hell, the best dancer for three states in any direction—and she was Desi's number one girl. I didn't really have time for this, but the Palace was a steady income stream and I needed to keep all our assets running smooth.  Plus, what was Desi's was mine now, right?

“Bring her in,” I said.

I'd only ever seen Eden in vertigo heels and skimpies, so the jeans, man's work shirt and flat boots were a bit of a shock.  Not that she didn't make it work, though.  I indicated the chair opposite me.  “Sit down, sweetheart.  Good to see you.  How are you holding up?”

She sat, but she didn't answer.  She didn't smile, either.  In fact, she looked positively flinty.

“Listen, honey,” I said, “I know you're probably thinking, what does it mean, now that Desi's gone?  But trust me, you got no need to worry.  It's all business as usual.  Nothing's going to change, believe me.”

Now she smiled.  Or at least, she showed me her teeth.  “In one sense, Jay, that's exactly right. But from your point of view, a lot of things are going to change.”

I leaned back in my chair and looked her over. She was going to hustle me for more cash, with Desi not even planted yet?  That was pretty cold. 

I had to say, I was impressed.  “Go on, babe.  I'm listening.”

She slid her right hand into the red leather purse on her lap.  “Just so you know, there's a Browning Hi-Power in here.  And in various safety deposit boxes and warehouses and storage facilities in locations that only I know, opened with keys that only I have, are all the things that you've been looking for and probably a lot more that you haven't even realized are missing yet. Oh, and in the parking lot outside is my good friend Kathleen—you probably know her better as Bunny—with a Heckler & Koch sniper rifle trained on the back of your head.  Kath, move the sight just a little to your left, so that Jay ca—yeah, okay, that's perfect.”

As I watched, the red dot of a laser sight flashed onto the middle of the bourbon bottle a few inches away from my hand. It stayed there for a few seconds then disappeared from my view again.  

Eden inclined her head.  “And your office is fully wired, as I'm sure you now understand.  So is every other establishment, including your apartment.  Including the bathroom, so try not to be too gross too often.”

“Well,” I said.  I'd be the first to admit it wasn't exactly an adequate response, but it was all I had.

Goddamn Desi.  Goddamn that son of a bitch to hell.

“So now we know where we are,” she said.

We did?

I waited, hoping she was going to expand on that point.

“I'm happy to give you the same deal I gave Desi,” she said.  “You get to front, so you get the respect and the kudos. You also get 30% of the net profits, as long as you do exactly what you're told to do when you're told to do it, and don't try anything dangerous like thinking.”  She bared her teeth again.  They were very white.  “You also get to tell people I'm your girl, and about all the wonderful, filthy things I do to you.”

“Hang on,” I said.  “Hang on just a minute.  You mean... you and Desi weren't... that time, in the jacuzzi on Big Mo's yacht, you didn't really—“

“Jesus,” she said. She closed her eyes briefly, then took a cell phone out of the purse and slid it across the desk.  “That's programmed with my private number.  If you get in trouble call me, and I'll have one of the girls with you in five. We can dig you out of pretty much any hole, as long as you don't panic. Now, the deal with Mo Keelan is in hand, we'll be done with the due diligence in time for the meeting on Friday.  I'll be in touch with your instructions in the next 48 hours. In the meantime you can take it easy—kick back, have some fun.  Enjoy your promotion.”

She stood up and swung her purse over her shoulder.  “Oh, and Jay? One instruction to be going on with: in public you act normally but when we're alone, don't call me honey, or doll, or sweetcheeks, or any of the other demeaning, sexist nicknames in your admittedly impressive repertoire.  Okay?”

I turned my head a little and the red laser hit me square in the eye.  I faced front again and swallowed hard.  “You got it, sweet—I mean, Eden.  Or... I guess that's your, uh, working name, huh? Like Bunny. I mean, Kathleen.  So what you want I should call you?”

She smiled, and this time it looked real.  “Boss,” she said, and slipped out the door.



Michelle Ann King was born in East London and now lives in Essex. She writes mainly SF, dark fantasy, horror and crime fiction--probably as a result of reading Stephen King and watching Zombie Flesh Eaters at way too young an age. Her stories have appeared in various venues, including Daily Science Fiction, Penumbra eMag, Wily Writers Speculative Fiction, and others. Links can be found at

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