Sonia Gets Hers
Maybe Ramon is the one. She always did go for that swarthy type. That lean, tightly packed frame and the narrowed eyes of a man who just killed his parents. And he's a drug dealer with the complicated life and plump salary to prove it. Drama, status, cash. Three ingredients that can snag Sonia into damn near anything the snagger desires.
So that settles it. Ramon is the one she's been meeting in her office on late nights and weekends when she's 'getting her nails done' at the salon that swears they've never seen her.
Ramon is the one who will die in her arms tomorrow night.
But then again it could be Streak. Fast-talking black dude with a shifty glance designed for survival in the shadows.
Or Bruckner, that cricket-thin hillbilly, all tattoo ink and overalls.
Or Rolondo the gun runner. Or Mickey the mafia capo's son and failed car thief.
Somebody's going down with her. Somebody's going to pay for those aches in my insides that keep my eyes stretched open while the rest of the world tumbles into slumber.
Somebody's going die with Sonia's taste in his mouth. And all I need right now is a name.
At breakfast we don't talk. We grunt. We mumble. We sigh. And today there's this:
"Got a fun day planned at work, Sonia?"
"Fun day? I'm a parole officer. I work with criminals. Guys who rob gas stations and beat the mothers of their children."
"Sorry. Just asking…"
Which urges me into this:
"I called the salon last Saturday…"
Her eyes widen into something that would be comical at any other breakfast table.
"Jesus, is it eight-thirty already!"
She races to the door, breakfast unfinished and hair swept into a messy mask, hiding her suddenly crimson face. And she forgot her cell phone.
But she didn't. While she slept I switched phones on her. Because I want to hear the voice of the man she's betraying me with. I want to hear his soft serenade into her voice mail, his bone-deep baritone lulling her into his arms and out of my life, wiping away any trace of guilt I might harbor for planning to put a bullet into both of their skulls.
Or maybe I just want to discover that I'm crazy, imagining everything. Maybe I want to discover that Sonia – damning evidence aside – is still my beloved, my heart. Eleven years older and too much mileage lost to a draining workplace, but beneath it all, still the feisty nineteen-year-old who made fun of my mustache and boring job at the bank.
I'm yanked out of my flashback and into the undertow of a parole officer's daily drama by the first message: Streak has been arrested for possession of cocaine, making it strike three. He flips on the waterworks like a toddler with a dirt-coated pacifier: swears he's innocent, nowhere else to turn, found Jesus.
Next message: city prosecutor needs some file for some convicted felon. No big urgency, just need it before lunch.
Next message: "How's the day treating you?"
Then in the hushed rumble of a predator closing in too quickly: "It's Ramon,"
Three more messages each more pressing than the last. But the words may as well be muttered out in Mandarin Chinese. I'm too distracted by an impossible image: a feisty nineteen-year-old racing away from me, scrambling into somebody's else's waiting embrace.
Another Message. Ramon again:
"I'll be there at seven, sweetcakes."
It's a date, Ramon.
The building Sonia works in is uncomfortably tucked in a neighborhood that looks and smells like a random homicide waiting to happen. Flooded dumpsters and capsized mailboxes decorate the street. Hustlers, muggers and soon-to-be victims strut past chalk outlines like they were faceless cartoon characters. A preschooler screeches into the night before his voice is swallowed up by the roar of a passing siren. And this horror show slowly fades into the backdrop. Because all I can see is the door I have to get through to carry out this grim mission.
My heart thumps in something like 7/8 time. Awkward, off-kilter, wrong. But I slip to the door anyway. With the blanket of darkness now descending nobody notices me striding up to the building with a bag. If the passersby had to take a stab at the contents it's unlikely they'd guess it contained a gun, a spade and a tarp large enough to wrap up two bodies. I guess I'm full of surprises tonight.
With my duplicated key, I dip inside, climb the stairs and prepare to dash past the security guard Rita, usually parked behind a People magazine. The plan is I'll blur past her too fast to be tagged with an ID. I'll be the 'the white guy dressed in black with the gym bag who came in sometime around seven or maybe it was eight but that's all I remember, officer.' Perfect.
Or maybe not. Rita's not in her usual place. A problem?
"How we doin' this evening, Mr. Chadwick?"
"I'm fine, Rita. Just dropping off Sonia's gym bag…"
This is a massive problem. As she walks me to the door and feeds me info about her troublesome twelve-year-old, the ugly thought swimming in my head is I really don't want to shoot her…
"… then come home, talkin' about 'Mama, that teacher crazy!"
But I'll do it. I swear.
A phone rings and she scrambles to her desk, leaving me alone with my shattered plans.
I can hear rustling in the room, a panic. I reach into my bag, wrestling with my ad-libbed plan B, ready to spring into motion.
But no gun. My snubbed-nose revolver is not in the bag.
From the room, a familiar sharp slap – my gun? – then the scattered clacks of high heels finding a way out too quickly to be discovered. I bolt inside, more a reflex than a phase in this busted scheme.
Slumped over Sonia's desk: Ramon, arms arched over his head like they could shield him from a bullet, empty wallet at his ankles, eyes still locked in disbelief.
Motionless, luckless, finished. Idiot actually thought he stood a chance against Sonia's blueprint, but he was as wrong as I was. My snub-nosed revolver is placed on his back like a danger-laced after-dinner mint. Just laying there, waiting to be a dilemma.
I pick up the gun – probably not a good idea, but truth be told, I ran out of good ideas seconds after stepping into the building. I suppose I should flee, but good luck with the building about to erupt into madness and Rita's testimony shackled to my alibi like a tree stump. No sirens yet, but they're coming soon enough. Nothing to do but raise the gun to my temple and finish this nightmare began by my beloved. Not so much a surrender as a salute to Sonia's gamesmanship, her virtuosity. Ramon and I were played by the master, the uncontested champion of this soul-shredding chess game.
As for the feeling racing through my spine right now, I wonder: is that a taste of defeat or a tinge of envy?
Bio: Copper Smith is a writer of tawdry crime fiction and the shadowy figure behind UppercutAvenue.com. He invites you to dial up something the kids call 'The Twitter,' so you can follow him home, or something like that. @UppercutAvenue.