Yellow Mama Archives

D.V.Bennett
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ym75bridgegame.jpg
Art by Darren Blanch 2019

Bridge Game

By

DV Bennett

 

Frankie shook his head, “I can’t believe this.”

Why not? Situation normal for you, kid.”

And there it was. Nothing shredded Frankie’s brain like the voice of his step-father in his head. The old man had taken the dirt nap three years earlier, but Frankie’s screw-ups were the topic for the evening, and he wouldn’t let it go.

Nice of your punk-ass friend to get himself killed when you need him most.

Mike’s corpse was on the bridge, fifteen feet to Frankie's left, on the traffic side of the railing. The shiny grill of a candy apple red ‘73 Cadillac had sent Mike skittering for a good fifty feet, tucking him into the guard railing like a puck into the net.

Everyone always said you’d die young and strung up.”

“The term is strung out, dumbass.”

It was a play on words, but whatever. You shouldn’t have tried dealing your drugs in someone else’s territory.

“What the hell do you care? You never did before, you old thief.”

You’d be the expert on B and E kid. Not me. Tell me, who did I ever steal from?

“You don’t sell used cars your whole life without ripping somebody off.”

Prove it, mouth.”

Frankie closed his eyes, trying to force the old man out of his head, but he could still see the stupid porkpie hat, pulled too low, the pencil mustache, flecked with gray over lips stretched out into his irritating, cocky grin.

After running Mike down, the guys in the Caddy had knocked Frankie around and joked while tossing a length of nylon rope over a girder. They laughed even harder when they strung him up by his wrists.

Dazed by the beating, the faint sound of a pin being pulled startled him into wakefulness in time to see a grenade shoved into his right palm. The men had bragged about stealing them, and how lucky it was for Frankie they had.

“Who carries grenades around? Such nice people you know.”

“I don’t know these guys, you idiot.”

The two men had stood looking at each other, wondering who Frankie was talking to. The larger one said, “You shouldn’t sample your own product, kid.”

Letting up on the spoon and letting their own grenade blast their grinning faces off was tempting, but not enough to die for. The squealing tires of the Caddy sounded like laughter when the two men had left him there, doing the tiptoe dance with death.

An attempt to jerk his hand hard enough to throw the grenade over the railing behind him filled him with doubt. He was afraid he might not be able to throw it with enough force and end up dropping it at his own feet, instead. He would only have four to five seconds before it exploded. If that happened, he knew he couldn’t extricate himself from the rope quickly enough to avoid blowing himself up.

He stalled the inevitable as long as he could, but with his arms sticking straight up in the air, he felt the burning pinprick sensation from the strain on his blood circulation. In a little while his hands would be completely numb, and he would lose his grip on the grenade and everything he had worked for would be gone.

He and Mike had expanded their operation, making their own stuff instead of cooking it for other dealers. He had used a loan from his mother to pay for their startup. He could always count on Mom.

Hey asshat. You need to do something.”

“I know that, old man. Don't you think I know that?” the sound of his anger merged with the sound of rushing water, and the hush of cool spring air through the trees.

Sweat beaded on his forehead and ran down into his eyes. The salt stung as he gripped the grenade, and he pulled his toes up from the walkway. Hanging there, he expected the pain in his wrists to be overwhelming, but he didn’t feel a thing.

He stuck his legs out and back, attempting to swing his body. He built a bit of momentum when the rope snapped under his weight, and he fell.

As if in slow motion, the grenade slipped from Frankie’s sweaty hand, and he could see snippets of his life passing before him. His beautiful mother patiently teaching him how to tie his shoes, baking him birthday cakes, helping him with his homework and combing his unruly hair. As his body neared the pavement, the remorse over what he would never be able to tell her overwhelmed him.

Slamming hard against the wet concrete, he heard the old man’s voice counting down, “two…one.”

Lying there, Frankie heard a loud boom, followed by the sound of metal fragments, tick-tacking against the structure of the bridge. He relaxed. The grenade must have bounced over the safety railing after all.

He finally stood and leaned over the rail to look downward into the black abyss. After shaking the feeling back into his arms, he pulled Mike’s corpse from the roadside. He hoisted it over the guardrail, across the walkway, and over the side of the pedestrian safety railing, letting the body drop into the frigid rush of water below. Better for the cops to find Mike downstream. Let them think he’d jumped or fallen into the water.

“Smart, kid. Best place for bowl-floater like him, anyway. Time to go now. Time to leave all this crap behind. Time to go home and talk to your mother.”

Frankie untied the rope from his wrists, limping away from the bridge, “You talk to her, old man. I’ve got a deal to do.”

 

-End-






Edit Text


ym_76_oct19_thebakerstreetmotel.jpg
Art by Darren Blanch 2019

“The Baker Street Motel”

By D.V. Bennett

 

 

Buddy Cross scrolled his phone while he played with the stout letter-opener on the counter. He didn’t need to look at it when he gave it a flick. A good spin lasted for twenty-five seconds. A great spin, forty. Sanity maintenance.

Working at the motel could be a butt-number, but for Buddy the positives outweighed the negatives. He worked alone and Baker Street was far enough away from his demanding, soon-to-be-ex-wife, Sandra.

She insisted he quit smoking. His favorite thing. He quit smoking. After he gave it up, he started eating a little more. She complained because he was gaining weight. He lost the extra pounds.

When she became pregnant, she informed him he would be quitting his job on the line to take care of the baby while she worked. She loved hairdressing. He gave notice at the mill and the spot he worked for eight years was immediately filled.

Their baby died in birth and the marriage died with her.

Buddy was thankful the commute was too long for Sandra to harass him in person about finalizing the divorce. He didn’t get too much shit from customers, either. They were regulars, and most of them were cool.

Above all, the motel was a quiet place to work.

When a woman’s screams met his ears, he slapped his palm across the letter opener to stop it mid-spin and left it in its place next to the call bell. From the sound of it, the woman was fighting for her life.

When the glass panel moved aside, he stepped through the automatic door to scan the complex, parking lot first. Rain soaked his hair as his eyes searched in the dusky light. There were cars, but no people. The sound was coming from several doors to his right.

Several guests poked heads out from their doorways along the walkway to the door of 8-D as the plaintive cries for help assumed a higher pitch.

A big man in jeans and a black leather vest was bouncing his bare, tattoo-covered shoulder off the metal door. Plenty of druggies tried to break them in before. The motel chain didn’t skimp on materials, and the man wasn’t likely to get through.

Buddy trotted toward him dialing 911 at the same time. Intimidation didn’t come naturally to him, but he gave it his best attempt, “I’m calling the cops right now, man. Back off.”

The man jerked his head toward Buddy for an instant and did something unexpected. He took two steps back, spun around on one leg and slammed a spinning rear kick against the door. The first one bounced the man backward, but he wound up and lashed out again. Buddy never saw anyone move so fast, and he couldn’t believe it when the door gave way.

Buddy sprinted for the room as the man disappeared inside, but bursts of light coupled with the sound of gunshots fastened an icy grip around Buddy’s legs. He lurched ahead, forcing himself to put one foot in front of the other.

 The room was silent when he tilted his head to see inside. To his left, a pair of legs were splayed on the red shag carpet, the rest of the big man’s body remaining in shadow. A small desk lamp knocked from a table lay beside the body.  

Across from the door on the other side of the king size bed, a woman in a pink silk nightgown sat on the floor in the darkness. With her knees drawn to her breasts and her back against the built-in faux mahogany chest of drawers, her hands were death-gripped around the butt of a .357 Magnum revolver aimed at his chest.

Buddy was mesmerized, not by the gun surprisingly, but by how beautiful the woman was. Her black hair managed to find enough light to shine like the feathers of a raven, even in a dark room. He didn’t realize he was staring.

As if waking from a dream, he could hear another woman’s voice and realized it was the police dispatcher, “Nine-one-one…what is the nature of your emergency?” Buddy raised a hand toward the young woman to reassure her as he put the phone to his ear.

Tears welled in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks, “Why can’t I find a nice man?”

“It’s going to be okay, miss. I swear.”

As her abdomen convulsed and she dropped the gun to the floor.  While she cried, Buddy sat next to her, put an arm around her and held her tightly as he spoke quietly into his phone, “My name is Buddy Cross. I work at the Baker Street Motel, corner of Southeast 234th and Baker. There’s been a shooting.”

***

In the office, giving his account of the incident to the third police officer in an hour, it was as though someone else was speaking now, as if he hadn’t seen a dead man face-down in a dark pool of blood, as if fingers other than his own pressed the man’s neck and wrist in a vain search for a pulse. Flashes of his reflection in the mirror, registering shock and fear returned to him. He blinked the images away.

A hand on his arm startled him, “Are you alright, Mr. Cross?”

“Yes Detective, thank you.” Buddy blew out some air, “Kind of an unsettling thing to see, you know? This isn’t how I expected my night to go.”

The corners of the detective’s mouth drooped, “Mine either.”

Blue and white lights strobed through the blinds of the office windows. A few of the motel’s guests milled together or talked with officers. Official vehicles and crime scene technicians were all over the place. It was the most chaotic night Buddy ever witnessed working at the motel, but through all the commotion he couldn’t take his eyes away from the beautiful woman with the glossy black hair.

“Sandra’s hair never shined.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Cross?” the detective stared at him, eyebrows raised. “What did you say?”

“Nothing officer. Just thinking out loud.”

The Detective gathered what information Buddy could provide about her, a copy of her driver’s license, her room agreement, a copy of her credit card receipt. He pointed out her car to them.

He watched her and he cringed as the handcuffs were placed around her wrists before she stepped gracefully into the back of a patrol car.

***

In the nights which followed, internet ghouls pulled into the parking lot to take selfies in front of the “Infamous 8-D,” but the amateur paparazzi dwindled as Gabriella’s story drifted from front page to fourth page in the daily papers.

Buddy was often mentioned as a witness or the night clerk, but never by name, and he read every report he came across. Some of them got things wrong. Some of them got it right in his view. Gabriella Sanchez was an abused and tortured woman whose life was threatened by an enraged ex-boyfriend.

At the end of the week the police announced the closure of their investigation, declaring the shooting to be a justifiable act of self-defense. A woman alone used deadly force to stop a much larger, powerful and dangerous person from killing her.

The authorities hadn’t called the motel about the crime scene, so he gave the letter opener a spin and called their number. After getting passed around a couple of times he was given permission to open the room for cleaning. It was too late in the evening to call their service, but he was curious enough to grab a flashlight and walk over to open the room himself.

Buddy scrolled through his memory as he approached 8-D. He remembered the man slamming his shoulder against the door and turning to him briefly. He saw Gabriella Sanchez staring at him along the barrel of her gun and shivered involuntarily.

He shined the flashlight on the door. The sagging barricade tape was ready to go, and he enjoyed ripping it away.

There was a good dent in the metal where the guy kicked it and the spring latch was toast. Only the deadbolt was functional, but he needed to pull outward on the doorknob while turning the key to get it to slide free.

Inside, the lamp was still on the floor a couple of feet from the reddish-brown stain. Amazed there were flies buzzing around the room in forty-five-degree weather, he left the door open, set the lamp on a small table and switched it on.

Coming from the direction of the office, he heard the gentle tap of hard soled shoes on the concrete walkway outside, moving closer with each step.

“Are you here to view the grisly details?”

In the doorway, a young woman stood wearing a black hoodie and dark sunglasses. She removed the shades and pulled back the hoodie. Her long shiny black hair ran over her shoulders like water.

Buddy gaped at her for a moment before turning off his flashlight, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize anyone would be here.”

“It isn’t enough for you that my name and picture are spread all over the news and across the internet? You need to come here and take pictures of where he died? Where I…where I…”

“Ms. Sanchez,” Buddy moved around the bed and she took a step back, “I’m the night clerk here at the Motel.”

“You’re the man who was here that night, with me. You’re…Benny?”

“Buddy. I’m Buddy Cross. I’m not a reporter. I only came in here to check the room out before the cleaning service comes.”

She covered her face with her hands and leaned back against the open door, which moved a few inches before thumping against the wall with her weight.

Buddy hesitated before placing a hand on her shoulder, “Ms. Sanchez, I’m so sorry. Is there something I can help you with? Would you like me to leave?”

“No, no…please don’t leave me alone.” A hesitant foot shot out before she thrust herself forward and put her arms around him, nestling her face beneath his chin, “I never thanked you for your kindness to me.”

The soft warmth of her chest heaved against him as she sobbed quietly. Slowly at first, he put his arms around her, and she tightened her hold upon him.

Gabriella’s gentle hands explored the contours of his back. She clung to him and leaned into his body and they sat together on the edge of the big bed. She pressed herself against him until he could no longer hold her up. He laid back until they reclined together.

They remained, embracing one another for thirty minutes until she stood from the bed to lean over him. Her hair caressed his skin as his eyes took her face in, the soft light falling across her olive skin. He knew he would never meet a more beautiful woman than Gabriella Sanchez.

She walked to the door and paused with her back to him, leaning against the door until she could fasten the deadbolt. Turning, she walked to the other side of the bed and stretched out in front of him, extending an arm to him. He scooted next to her and they embraced again.

Buddy couldn’t remember if he ever truly shared a moment of contentment like this with Sharon. It seemed from the beginning of their relationship she was full of…expectations. Was this what genuine contentment felt like?

A few minutes passed and her lips found his, and he returned her passion until she pushed him onto his back and swung a leg over his body. She sat up to straddle him, and something pricked his stomach, again and again.

Gabriella rose from him and stepped off the bed as Buddy tilted his head until he could see the hilt of his letter opener protruding from his abdomen. He tried to sit up, but she shoved him back down. He saw the thin black gloves on her hands. Nitrile gloves. The kind the maids at the motel wore to clean the rooms.

“I stopped by the front desk to speak with you. I rang the bell. You weren’t there, but your letter opener was.”

Buddy flashed back to the night of the shooting again, the big man bashing himself repeatedly against the door.

Blood pumped from his multiple stab wounds. He shivered, but he wasn’t cold and he couldn’t move his arms.

“You weren’t in danger.” She slowly shook her head as he spoke. “That guy wasn’t trying to hurt you.” Buddy coughed and a coppery taste filled his mouth, “You didn’t fasten the deadbolt, otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to kick the door in. You…you let him know you were here, and when he arrived you made him think you were being killed. You let him break in so it would look as though you were defending yourself. You…you murdered him.”

“Men are so predictable. They come at you like dogs sniffing after a conquest.”

“He…he was trying to help you, that big guy.”

“I’m sorry, Buddy, but you just don’t understand.” Gabriella moved to his side and gently placed his hands around the handle of the letter opener, “He was just like the coyotes my mother warned me about—only interested in one thing.”

Buddy wept.

“I wasn’t trying to... I was being…you’re so beautiful.” The warmth of his tears ran over the sides of his face, cooling as the salty liquid trailed into his ears, and Buddy closed his eyes for the last time.

“I saw your face when you entered this room, Buddy. You were so frightened. There’s no fear now. It’s better this way.”

Gabriella Sanchez slipped the gloves off, put her shades on and pulled her hood over her head before using the inverted gloves to open the door. She stashed them in her pocket and stepped outside to draw in the night air. She smiled to herself, happy in the knowledge that in Buddy Cross, she finally found herself a genuinely nice man.

--End--




D.V. Bennett lives in southern Washington State, enjoys spending time with his family and training in martial arts. He has a day job, but writing is what keeps him up nights. You can find out more about him and what he writes at https://www.dvbennett.com/

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