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Nik Korpon
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polly2.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright

Polly

 

by Nik Korpon

 

 

 

 

Judging from the way the living room looked, Randall expected the woman who lived here to have LV printed on her toilet paper. The Persian carpets in the living room were thick enough to lie down and nap on and he considered stealing the silverware and having it melted into a necklace for Luisa. He wondered what she’d do for that.

Moving through the hallway upstairs, it seemed like she’d sunk all her money into a few accessory pieces, hoping to let the aura of wealth seep through the rest of the house. Randall found nothing in the drawers of the teak end-table beneath a gold-filigree frame housing a reproduction cafe painting. The frame might’ve been worth a couple thousand, though he wouldn’t be able to move it quick enough to matter. The painting itself might’ve been worth a few months’ pay, thick brushstrokes giving the cobblestones of van Gogh’s Paris a textured look, but whoever the woman had paid to paint this for her couldn’t match color for shit: The green leaves were far too bright and the man at the front table should’ve had a red shirt, not blue. Randall sat through Art History last semester hungover or stoned or hungover and stoned and even he knew that.

          “Focus, man,” he said. “Focus.”

          In his head, he saw the black hole dripping with deep red that Mr. Jones had promised to put in Luisa’s forehead if Randall didn’t get over to the car lot with a grip of bills in the next three hours. Randall popped an Adderall, chewed and got going with the task at hand. Namely, figuring out where the fuck one would keep their getaway money in such an obnoxiously ostentatious house.

          The pattern of the runner lying over the hardwood floor mimicked the larger one downstairs and gave the illusion that this hallway ran forever. It was straight Hitchcock. Only two more doors on the left side, one on the right.

          That one was a bathroom. The slate tile floor radiated cold money. He pocketed two orange bottles from the medicine cabinet and rifled the antique dresser in the closet. Still nothing.

          Across the hallway stood an office. On the desk, he found only two Montblanc pens and a few steno pads with some numbers, hash marks and scribbled addresses. A weird African-looking parrot sculpture. He wasn’t even sure there were parrots in Africa. Inside the drawer was an organizer with some sticky pads and $108.34 in random bills and coins. He pocketed that, too.

          Only $882 more and Luisa’s skull would remain intact.

 

His roommate Chud had told him that girl was no good at nothing. Randall had only shrugged, said, you’ve obviously never had a blowjob from her. He kissed his fingers like a French chef, as if that’d make it all worth it. That mouth’ll make your knees turn to smoke. You’ll be walking like a newborn foal for hours. As the only son of two cops, Randall understood the concept of acceptable risk and necessary concession, which he applied liberally to Luisa. So she liked a taste of glass every once in a while—at least, that’s what she’d told him the first night they fucked—but that meant they could talk about Godard’s films even longer and besides, heroin was totally passé. Junkies shot dope. People with discerning taste freebased or got spun.

 

Randall stood behind the desk, glancing around the disheveled office. Stacks of boxes hugged three of the four corners. The rest of the house was austere but fastidiously decorated and this caused him wonder about this woman.

          He peeled back the top flap of the box and found six packages of large floodlights. The box felt pretty light, so he set it aside and checked the next one. Four boxes of Ziplocs, gallon sized. Beneath that lay half-a-dozen packages of plastic vials, two with red tops, two yellow and two blue. His pulse quickened and he had to tell himself to calm the fuck down and check the next box as well. It was too heavy to move and before he even peeled it open he knew it would be baking soda, laxative and ephedrine.

          An immaculately appointed rowhouse in Federal Hill. A desk that had only numbers, amounts and addresses. An office that was unfurnished but for boxes of cure lights, red tops and steppers.

          This woman was not a lawyer or real estate agent.

          This woman had money in her house.

          The kitchen had been clean, the bathroom empty and no drawers with false bottoms. Nothing behind the pictures. He opened the closet in the office and was slightly surprised to find only a women’s lacrosse stick and a pair of skis, then thumped the walls with his knuckles checking for false fronts. He restacked the boxes and headed to the bedroom. There had to be a stash here and process of elimination said it had to be in the bedroom. For Luisa, it had to be.

 

He’d spent the rest of his money on dinner in Little Italy last night. It would’ve been manageable if he’d pointed at the right bottle of wine, but he wasn’t paying attention and when he realized the bottle was $150, he was too embarrassed to contest the charge.

They had to sober up, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to peel those stockings off her café com leite legs and the dinner would’ve been pretty much wasted, and they couldn’t just waste that dinner and her new wax job on regular-old glass. She’d sniffed out some of the real over by Somerset Homes within a half-hour, but Randall only had five and some change, not the hundred he needed, so when she started giving him those lips and those eyes, he pushed her back in the car, punched the guy in the mouth and snatched the bag. It wasn’t a good punch so much as unexpected, but the guy had a bad lisp and a thin jaw, and fuck it, it worked anyway. Pretty much.

 

In the hallway, he dialed her number to check in, see if there was anyone dodgy around. It went to voicemail, first in English then Portuguese. He hung up without leaving a message.

          He’d seen a bed like this woman’s in some medieval-themed porn. Henry the Eight-inches or something. A tall post at each corner and a cloth canopy covering the whole thing. It probably came with the dresser and vanity as a set. He dropped to his knees and searched under the bed, between the mattresses, under the clothes in each dresser drawer. Nothing but silky underwear and a few straps he wasn’t sure how to use. He checked his phone for a missed call but had nothing. Beside the dresser was a closet door, the kind with angled slats. He opened up and rifled through the woman’s shirts and jeans, dresses softer than the spot where Luisa began to breathe hard when he kissed it, the crease where thigh turned to pelvis. He pulled down some leather Coach bags but found them all empty.

          Randall slumped down against the wall. He started to thumb a smoke from his pack but realized that would be incredibly stupid. Where the hell could it be? No one had a trafficking way-station in their office without a stash hidden somewhere. It just wasn’t possible. He called Luisa again, got her voicemail again. It was only 4:30 and he was pretty damned sure she wasn’t in class. He texted her—Where the fuck are you?—then reared his hand back to throw his phone or smash it or do fucking something and saw four or five shoeboxes stacked in the foot of the closet.

          He peeked in the first one and coughed into his fist. The bills came nearly halfway up the side. A quick thumb showed mostly twenties with some fifties and tens mixed in. The second box held even more bills. When he checked the third box, he almost started hyperventilating. These couple boxes probably held his entire college tuition. His phone beeped and he said, “Luisa!” into the mouthpiece then realized it was only an alarm he’d set months ago, reminding him that the Painting 340 portfolio was due today. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d been in that studio.

          It wasn’t until he was pulling the shoeboxes out of the closet that he heard the woman’s voice. The front door closed, penning in another, deeper voice as well.

 

Of course, the guy had recognized Luisa. Randall just had that kind of luck. The kind that would give the son of two police a drug habit. The kind that would make his dick fall in love with a crazy nymphomaniac Brazilian girl who had an even bigger habit. The kind that would make that girl go to cop from a connected dealer the one time Randall tried to sack up and pull some shit. He got a knock on the door three hours later.

“Mister Jones been having a long week,” the kid said. “He say he don’t want to kill no one but will, he have to.”

Randall said he had no idea what the kid was talking about, but the kid just screwed up his lips and gave a look that went right through Randall.

“Mister Jones say you bring a G down where you hit that boy by seven tomorrow night, he don’t kill your girl. You don’t, he do.” The kid shrugged, then turned and walked away.

Randall went back to the bedroom to tell Luisa what happened and ask what she thought, but the way she stalked around the room, scraping her fingers against her scalp and pulling her hair said she heard, said she believed.

 

There was a bay window in the office. There was a small window in the bathroom. There was a reasonable chance he could make the jump without breaking his ankles. But what was he going to do with the money? He didn’t have anything to hold it in and couldn’t just throw it out the window and hope for the best. He stood and spun around. The Coach bags. Shove the money in there then throw them out the window, jump and hope his ankles held. He wished he had a gun and didn’t know where that thought had been lurking. He pulled a bag down and opened it up and his phone rang. The shot of Luisa’s cleavage that she’d taken popped up on his screen. He slapped the phone quiet and stood still in the room, closing his eyes to focus all his attention on hearing.

          He heard feet coming up the hardwood stairs. He heard the deep voice laugh and mutter something to the woman. He heard the sound of a bullet echo off Luisa’s skull.

          Randall glanced around the room and thought it looked untouched enough. He shoved the bag into the closet and closed the door, burrowing himself as far back as he could, then shifted more clothes in front of him and tried to stop breathing altogether.

          He didn’t even blink when their footsteps came into the room. He’d figured they were guided by Providence or Fate and whoever it was could suck his chafed cock. The woman laughed and plopped down on the bed, the mattress’ quiet whisper saying she was even more slight than her clothing suggested.

          “But I’ve been thinking about Thai all day since Maureen said something about the Mohicans movie,” she said.

          “How does Last of the Mohicans make you crave Thai?”

          “Because the lead Indian guy was tall and handsome, which made me think of thin, which made me think of the beach, and then Thai.”

          “You got some kind of free association.” The man let out a low whistle. “Wonder what you think of when I say ‘Polly wanna cracker.’” He said the a like ah.

          Randall leaned forward and lowered his head so he could see through the slats. Big didn’t begin to describe the guy. More like a collapsing dwarf star. The motherfucker had his own gravitational pull, one he seemed to be handily exerting on this woman at the moment.

          “Let me guess.” She laughed a little, then bit it back. “It’s going to make me think about your cock, right?”

          Randall moved his head up and down, trying to peer out and get a better read on the layout of the situation.

          “Well, hey girl, I was just talking about food.” The smile in the man’s voice was audible. “But if that’s what you’re looking for, you know, who am I to upset a lady?”

          A great wheeze came from the mattress, followed by the wet sound of their kisses and her little moans, smothered beneath him. Randall pushed himself into the back corner, searching for some quiet avenue out of this scene. He hoped to ever-loving god that she had no toys or lingerie in the closet. He might’ve been beaten senseless for breaking into this woman’s house, but interrupting this moment would’ve sealed his death.

          The phone vibrated in Randall’s pocket. At Cynthia’s in Butcher’s Hill. Onde você está?

          Are you alone?

          The woman groaned longer this time. Something hit the ground, shoes slipping off. She made a cooing noise and continued kissing him.

          Ur going to have to call me if u want phone sex.

          Stop fucking around.

          The phone in the room rang. The woman groaned, but it was not one of pleasure. The man cursed quietly. Randall heard clattering, probably her trying to grab the phone without shifting positions.

          “Hello?” She paused for a second. “Hold on.”

          Randall couldn’t see anything but could pretty much hear her holding out the phone like it was a dead rat she found in the basement.

          The bed creaked as he shifted off her. “Yeah?”

          I’m safe. They don’t know her.

          Good. Stay there.

          “Sweetheart, give me a minute will you,” he said.

          She let go a long sigh, one that said he would be taking care of himself this afternoon, then stalked out of the room. Randall heard the man pace around the room, pausing in front of the closet as he grunted and farted, then crossing back to the other side.

          “Then wait for her there. They’ve got until seven to bring it.”

          Randall’s hair stood up on his arms. No. No. Jesus shit, no.

          “It’s only another two hours,” the man said. “Read a book or something.”

          He smashed the keys so hard he thought he’d break his phone. He’d typed out Leave now. There’s someone before he heard the man say, “And if she tries to move, then yes, take care of her.”

          Randall sat still, not blinking, not breathing, not thinking. Even he didn’t think luck went like this.

          “Look, that fat motherfucker thinks he can impinge upon my neighborhoods, so we need to send a message to people.” The man let his voice rise and fall like a Baptist preacher’s before his congregation. “Don’t let no one think Harry Jones will tolerate snatch-and-grabs and other foolishness, no matter how small. And especially when he hits my nephew in the mouth.”

          Ran, where r u?????

          “Nah, give them until the time we said, then move. I got something keep me occupied for a couple hours.”

          Mr. Jones hung up the phone and Randall sunk back into the closet.

          “Come back in, Polly.”

          “That mean you’re done now?” she said. “You can see me now?”

          “I’m sorry, baby. Just no need to clutter your beautiful head with all that nonsense.”

          Polly must’ve given a sour look, because he said, “Look, you had a long day. Why don’t you put your feet up and I’ll rub them for a spell.”

          “You know I won’t turn that down.” She laughed and plopped down on the bed, her contented exhale gave Randall the insinuation that Harry Jones was not only big, but skilled. “You could do this for days.”

          “I’m not going anywhere for a while, baby,” he said. “I got nothing but time.”

          Randall’s phone buzzed and he let it.

 

 

Nik Korpon is the author of Old Ghosts, By the Nails of the Warpriest, Stay God and Bar Scars: Stories. His stories have blackened eyes at Needle, Shotgun Honey, Beat to a Pulp and a bunch more. He lives in Baltimore. Give him some danger, little stranger, at nikkorpon.com.

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