Sunday, December 14, 2008

Plaid Cactus

My name is Miranda Magee. I’m a third year psychology major and tending bar seemed the perfect opportunity to hone my skills. My patrons openly describe me as well-endowed and wildly popular, I’m certain no correlation. Part of me should be offended by that, but emptying the tip jar at evening’s end has soothed my over-sensitive nature and eventually I accepted the concept that a plunging neck-line seems to prompt mutually beneficial results. However, in my presence, I do insist that customers refrain from the use of my nickname, “Miranda, double D, bit-tit, Magee”.

Tim Wyman is one of the regulars I’ve taken a special interest in. Certainly not in the way he would like, but I’m confident my repeated rejections have not dampened his highly regarded view of himself. Although I believe he has given up any chance of bagging me, he still insists on asking provocative questions. “How slim are the odds that a psychology major should be blessed with such marvelous breasts?” To which I responded, “No less likely that an otherwise attractive man would allow his abrasive comments to ruin any chance he might once have garnered.”

He strolled through the door of “The Plaid Cactus” as if it was any other Wednesday quarter beer night. It turned out to be anything but ordinary. He found his usual empty stool and perched himself there, but the uniqueness of the evening began by his constant scanning of the barroom, almost as if he was seeking someone he couldn’t find.

“Miller draught, Tim?”

Without a hint of hesitation in his voice he promptly ordered a double shot of whiskey. After placing the glass carefully in front of him I began probing. I truly did feel badly for his wife and wanted to see if I could inflict some guilt upon him.

“Your wife must have finally come to her senses and left you.”

Tim grinned nervously and I noticed a slight trembling in his hand as he reached for the drink.

“What—what make you say something crazy like that?”

“Simple—beer indicates you have no specific destination in mind and certainly are in no hurry to get there. Whiskey, on the other hand, tells me you’ve been there before and find the scenery a waste of time.”

Before he could consider my words an attractive blonde in her middle thirties chose the stool next to him. Many a young vixen had fallen victim to Tim’s charm while sitting on that very stool, but she looked capable of fending for herself. After a concerted effort the lighter produced flame and her cigarette began to glow. The smoky haze softened her bleached-blonde hair and hard blue eyes until they almost seemed attractive. Normally Tim would have pounced on her by now, but his mind was obviously elsewhere.

In a perky voice I took the stranger’s order.

“I’ll have a double shot of Crown—easy on the rocks.”

I shot a glance Tim’s way, “Well, there you go…you’ve got a passenger now.”

After retrieving her drink I tossed in a bit of advice.

“Better buckle-up, no time for foreplay, Tim’s in a hurry tonight.”

With a puzzled look on her face the stranger leaned close to him and whispered, “Tim Wyman?”

The smug expression that crossed his face was classic Tim. It didn’t take a roadmap to know he took great satisfaction in discovering a strange doable woman was already familiar with his name. I was certain the surly Tim I knew was on the verge of emerging.

She forced a smile, “I think I’m the one you’re waiting on.”

His furrowed brows indicated disbelief. With a devilish grin his eyes lingered on her sculpted calves and the dress that covered only a third of her upper thigh.

“Darling, on any other night you definitely would be the one I was waiting on, but tonight business comes first.”

It was very out of character for Tim to leave a warm carcass for the occasional scavenger to move in on, but even I could sense the heaviness in the air.

Insistent upon her previous assumption she attempted to convince him. Nodding at her sequin-covered hand bag she tried again.

“I have something for you and I believe you have something for me in return.”

Without saying a word Tim left the stool and made his way toward a vacant table. She gathering both of their drinks and followed him. The table he selected was near enough the hallway leading to the kitchen so without a pang of guilt I posted myself there.

“What is that you have for me?” Tim asked.

She produced a wallet, which he thumbed through quickly before continuing.

“So, you’re telling me she’s dead?”

“Four rounds in the head from a 9mm, just as you specifically requested and now you act surprised by the results.”

I covered my mouth in an effort to mute the gasp. I had long know Tim Wyman’s womanizing ways, but never figured him for murder.

“You watched someone do this, right?”

She smiled convincingly, “Yeah, I watched each of the bullets leave the gun as I looked down the barrel.”

While maintaining eye contact and with practiced precision her hand found his knee and inched upward along his inner thigh, massaging as she went. Her words took on a sultry tone.

“Does it surprise you a woman could be so cold and calculating?”

Tim did seem surprised by her aggression and recoiled until the back of chair abruptly ended his retreat. He reached for the inner pocket of his sport coat, but she placed her hand over his.

“You silly boy, let’s not do this here; someone might be watching, but before we go outside I’d like to know why you had your wife killed.”

Tim tossed a crumpled lottery ticket on the table.

“Over the years my wife and I have grown apart. I’ve recently come into to a large amount of cash and simply didn’t feel like spreading the wealth.”

She removed a pen from his pocket and scrawled something on a napkin before placing both in his hand. She leaned close and twirled his tie slowly with her index finger.

“Tim you are a very naughty boy. Give me a call sometime; I hear Cancun is wonderful this time of year and just in case you’re wondering, I do look smashing in a bikini.”

My eavesdropping had yielded far more than I bargained for. Realizing the urgency of the situation I dialed 911 immediately, but the couple was already headed for the door. The police did arrive in time to find Tim Wyman’s cold body lying just feet from the door of the bar, but it was months before the murderer could be apprehended and tried. Despite what I knew from the inside conversation, reading the details in the newspaper left me with chills.

Mrs. Wyman was not nearly as innocent and naïve as Tim or I believed. She had known about his extramarital follies, the lottery ticket, and the attempt on her life. In fact her murder had not taken place at all. Tim had placed the phone call to have her done in, but the blonde stranger had only used the story to bait her true victim, Tim. She poisoned him in the Plaid Cactus that very evening. Mrs. Wyman had orchestrated the entire thing. For years she questioned his integrity and suspected he was capable of murder. The ticket Tim had purchased was not worth the paper it was printed on, not until Mrs. Wyman replaced it with a forged ticket containing the winning numbers.


Jo Janoski said...

Wow! You've got enough good material here to turn into a novella. You could show the two sides at work and then coming together in the end. The characters could all be expanded on. But continue keeping the real killer obscured til the big finish.

cordieb said...

Great story! Women ALWAYS know. Many of us will try to convince ourselves otherwise, many of us will simply accept it. . . but then there are those who are just as calculating as the cheater himself . . . Men just NEVER know! ha ha. I suppose they deserved each other in the end. . . This one made my night! Thanks for writing and sharing!

paisley said...

excellent tale.. sounds like a perfect screen play....

Leon Basin said...

Great read:)

Jo A. T.B. said...

A tangled web we weave, an intriguing story Dan! Your desciptives are wonderful and humourous. I agree with Jo, and Paisley this would make a good novella or screen play!

Shirley said...

A tangled web indeed... I like the way you weave! Great story, Dan.

punatik said...

This would make a great entry in a crime/murder short story contest. Great ending Dan. Thanks for your visit and comment today.