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A Bird in the Hand

By Richard Thomas.

Suburbia beckoned.

“Piece of cake,” Jenny muttered to herself as she climbed out of her beige 4-door, chirping the alarm. “He’ll never see it coming.”

Running her hands through her long auburn tresses she patted her jeans pocket to make sure it was still there. Hot cocoa eyes blazed out of a china doll face. Her plump lips were slightly parted in a wry grin, outlined in Merlot – it was a very good year. Her curves strained at the edges like they were pumping iron. She took a quick glance at her carefully manicured nails as they flashed a coat of Tuscan Sun. A sterling silver clatter ring faced inward on her index finger. Her open-toed sandals wove tight leather up her calves. She glanced up at the three-story Colonial in robin’s egg blue, at the end of the cul-de-sac in this quiet neighborhood. And for a moment, it was hers.

Ding dong.

“I’ve got it honey,” Robert yelled popping up from his gently worn leather recliner. He set down the bottle of beer, and the stack of tightly bound hundred dollar bills. The platinum band on his ring finger bit into his flesh. Sage carpet relinquished ground to his Jesus sandals. His short dark hair hid the errant strand of grey, the wrinkles around his eyes the only sign of his age. The stone floor echoed clickity clack as his muscled calves propelled him down the foyer. He stretched his arms, polo shirt tight at the biceps, a leathery hand to his lower back as he grimaced slightly. He gripped the brass door handle and flung open the heavy oak door, his pearly whites ready for newspaper boy or roving evangelist.

“Don’t care. Get the fuck out of here, we’ll talk at the office.”

“Honey,” Melanie yelled from the kitchen, “Who is that?” Melanie was at the kitchen counter blending drinks and preparing dinner. The counter was covered in strawberries, raspberries, and kiwi. Next to the fruit was guacamole, freshly shucked corn, and porterhouse steaks marinating in extra virgin olive oil and freshly minced garlic. Her skin was the color of a mocha latté, and her long blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail. Melon colored capris clung to finely tuned legs, and her crisp white blouse looked as if it had been hand sewn that afternoon. “Is that Jenny’s voice I hear?”

Robert leaned forward, “You will make this fast. Papers, work, out.”

“Sure baby,” she purred, “Hey, Melanie. What’s up girlfriend?”

She sauntered in, poking Robert in the stomach with something. He took it as she breezed past him into the kitchen. A pregnancy test. Positive.

“Fuck me.”

“Robert don’t be rude,” Melanie shouted, “Come have a drink on the patio with us.”

He reached into the hall closet, past the box of ski masks, fake IDs and foreign currency, and shoved the death sentence into his coat pocket. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he passed the living room. Grabbing his Budweiser he finished it in three quick gulps and headed to the kitchen.

“You ladies need anything?” he asked, grabbing a fifth of Jim Beam out of a cabinet. Several more gulps followed by a beer chaser.

“We’re just fine, Robbie,” Jenny said.

“Robbie my ass,” he muttered and headed out.

“Hey, my two favorite ladies. Thanks Jen, but really, that paperwork could’ve waited until Monday, no big rush.” He poured himself into a wrought iron lawn chair, cushions ablaze in a green and white Hawaiian print. A large square deck made out of Brazilian Ipe lent the space an air of elegance. Bamboo tiki torches in the corners kept the bugs away, and a stone fountain in the corner offered hushed condolences to the trio. They glared each other like hungry tigers at a kill, teeth bared, eyes darting every which way.

“I just came by for the margaritas, Robbie. Your wife’s are the best I’ve ever tasted.”

“The secret is Damiana, a liqueur made from special Mexican herbs.”

“I never knew that was your secret.”

“You never asked, Robert,” she sipped.

“You look tan and fit, Mel, new regime?” Jenny asked.

“Lots and lots of sex. Or running. One of the two, I forget.”

“Fantastic. Doing wonders for you.”

“Thanks. Glad somebody noticed. I’m getting a refill. You OK?”

“Never been better, go ahead, I’ll just keep an eye on Rob here.”

Heels on wood, and a glare in Robert’s direction.

“You have a lot of nerve,” he whispered. Blender, ice cubes, and humming drifted out from the kitchen. Could’ve been the Beatles or Nirvana.

“You have no idea.”

“What do you want?”

“Not the baby. Unless that will make things even more difficult.”

“OK, what then. Money?”

“Warmer. Money and a letter of recommendation.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously.”

“How much money?”

“$50,000.”

“Fuck you.”

“Hey Mel, maybe I will take another. It’s Saturday right?” she shouted.

“Sure thing, Jen.”

“I could go all night Rob, this back and forth, this game we’re playing. You think I don’t know what goes on here? Maybe a quick phone call would get the authorities interested in what you have down in the basement. Or, maybe I’m starting to get horny? Who know where that could lead, right? Melanie and I have always been very close.”

“Great.”

“Maybe you should have thought about that before you started screwing your National Sales Manager and your wife’s best friend. Jerk.”

“20,000 cash. Now.”

“$30,000 and I won’t steal your wife. I know you have it handy.”

“Fine. I’ll go get it. You stay put, and keep that talented mouth shut for once.”

“Sure baby.”

Rob and Melanie passed each other. One out, one in. Cheshire grins.

“Here you go Jen. Everything OK? Rob’s not working you too hard is he? If you give that man an inch he’ll take a mile. You know him. All business, no pleasure.”

“No, it’s nothing. Just something he forgot to sign. I have to take care of it today or nobody gets paid. Don’t want anybody in the field to get their knickers in a twist.”

“Right.”

“So seriously, sex or running?”

“Jen. Must you know all of my secrets? You staying for dinner?”

“Can’t. Gotta run. I have to get to the bank before it closes.”

“What would we do without you?”

“I’m sure you’d find something to help pass the time.”

“Here you go Jen. It’s all there.” Robert handed her a black leather attaché case.“Signed, sealed and delivered. I can’t thank you enough. You’re much more then a friend to us, you know.”

“Oh Rob,” she says, standing up, taking the case. “Gotta run. Bank.”

“Right. Better hurry. Need anything else from me?”

“No. I’m all set.” Jen leaned over, and gave Robert a warm hug. A silent tear squeezed out, and she kissed him square on the mouth. “I’ll see you at the office.” She turned to Melanie, and they exchanged a lingering kiss as well.

“I’ll let myself out. Ciao” she said as she swished out the door.

Robert and Melanie sat down slowly, eyeing each other.

Out front Jen dialed her cell phone, speed dial 1.

“Done. Thanks. He bought it. Sure. Heading there now. It’ll be in our account tonight and available tomorrow. You’re the best, sis. And thanks for the pee.”

Back on the porch they sighed in unison.

“So, how much did the bitch want?” Melanie asked.

“$50,000.”

“And she doesn’t even do anal!”

“I know.”

“So what did you give her?”

“$30,000 in the new counterfeit bills we’ve been trying out, a letter of recommendation, and in return she promised she wouldn’t steal you away from me.”

“That tramp. She wasn’t even that good.”

“Oh, and herpes.”

“That’s new.”

“Something I just picked up.”

richardthomas

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Richard Thomas was the winner of the 2009 “Enter the World of Filaria” contest by ChiZine Publications. He has been published by Cemetery Dance, Colored Chalk, Cause & Effect, Gold Dust, Vain, Dogmatika, Nefarious Muse, Red Fez, New Voices in Fiction, and Opium. His work will also appear in two anthologies by NVF in 2009. He is currently pursuing a MFA at Murray State University while putting the final touches on his neo-noir thriller, Transubstantiate.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, May 18th, 2009.