She smelled pretty.
Mike lifted the pink motorbike jacket to his face and breathed in the floral perfume. A single cotton-candy-coloured hair slipped from the collar and floated to the office floor.
The air thickened with more of the jacket’s heady perfume. Mike felt a tap below his left shoulder blade. Jacket still pressed against his face, he turned.
Candie stood behind him, arms crossed against her petite frame. Today her cotton-candy-coloured hair was gathered in a ponytail at the nape of her neck.
Her bright pink lips twisted into a sneer. Before Mike could utter a word Candie slugged him. Her hot pink acrylic nails caught on his t-shirt and dug into his skin like needle-tipped hot irons. He doubled over on the floor and the precious jacket slipped from his fingers onto the concrete tiles. If not for the kick to his face he would have snatched it back. Instead, Mike held his stomach and watched the hot pink Manolo Blahnik, size seven, as it hovered over his face.
“I don’t pay you to creep around my office. Someone’s screwing with my Black Jack tables. Find out who,” Candie said.
Mike nodded, but made no move to uncurl. He knew when to stay still.
Candie switched the light off as she left and Mike lay in the dark until the click of her spiked stilettos was gone.
Two pigs rutting in a gunnysack. That’s what the potato sack hanging from the rafters reminded Mike of. Didn’t smell much better either. The man inside squealed as Mike tested how hard he could swing his worn, wooden baseball bat. Another chip of red paint flew off the bat as it connected again with the sack, floating to join the other flecks collecting like confetti on the floor. It occurred to Mike that, like the blackjack cheat inside the sack, the bat had seen better days. Then again it had seen a lot of use. Without the bat people lied. This way they told him what he wanted.
By the pitch and volume Mike guessed it was a long bone. The femur. He knew his bones.
Mike put the bat down and released the potato sack. It dropped to the ground with a soft thud. He poked it with the baseball bat and the man inside groaned. From experience Mike knew this was when he should start asking questions.
“I never understood why people try to cheat blackjack,” he said conversationally.
The man whimpered.
“Is the dealer in on it?” Maybe it was the goatee, or the royal flush tattoo on the dealer’s left hand but the man had always struck Mike as shifty. Or maybe it was just because the dealer was left handed. Mike noticed that sort of thing.
The cheat nodded through the bag.
Finished, Mike picked up the sack and dumped it in the walk in cooler. Less mess if the guy was frozen.
He stopped in his tracks. Candie’s heady perfume mixed with the smell of the scared cheat. He crossed the room in five steps and opened the office door where Candie stood, reaching for the handle.
“The dealer, Candie boss,” Mike said.
“Want me to bring him in?”
“No, I want you to watch cartoons. Of course I want you to bring him in!” She said, and spun on her heels. Size seven, metal studded Versace.
Mike was watching Bugs Bunny when his phone rang. “Hello?”
“Where are you?” Candie screamed. He could hear her heel tapping. Size seven, Betsy Johnson.
“The back room, Candie boss. I finished with the dealer.”
There was a pause on the other end. “Are you watching cartoons?”
“I finished, Candie boss.” He figured Candie couldn’t get mad if he watched them after work.
“Turn them off!” she said, and hung up.
Mike turned off the TV and picked up the dealer’s left hand, the one with the shifty tattoo, and placed it in the powder blue box he’d found in the dumpster out back. Someone once told him girls liked gifts, and everyone said Candie liked tattoos. He wondered if she had any.
Mike knew he was no prize. He had a bulbous nose, his eyes were a drab gray, and he tried not to count his teeth too often. He didn’t have many. He didn’t have freckles like Candie either. There was one right below her left eye that reminded him of a starfish. He called it Lady Chatterley. He figured that was a good name as any for lady parts.
He went to find a bow.
Mike liked dragon fruit; they were pink and prickly, like Candie. He peeled each piece of the white fruit off and laid the pink peels carefully on the stairs. When he was done, he stood at the top of the cellar flight of stairs, a pink heart made of dragon fruit peels and the powder blue box in the center.
Candie’s metal tipped heels clicked down the hall. Her left heel struck the first piece of dragon fruit, the tip of the heart. Candie didn’t scream so much as mew as she toppled down the flight of wooden stairs. The powder blue box crumpled underneath her as she fell. Mike counted off the bones as they broke; both femurs, collarbone, and the skull cap.
Mike headed down the stairs slowly, so as not to scare Candie. She opened and closed her mouth but no sound came out.
Mike knelt beside Candie as her eyelids fluttered shut for the last time, like the wings of a dying butterfly. He hadn’t planned for Candie to fall. He’d wanted to give her a gift. Mike removed her leather jacket, still soaked in the heady perfume, and tied her cotton-candy-colored hair back with the ribbon from the box.
He slid off her boots; size seven, Dolce and Gabbana, before placing her in the walk in cooler where all the dead bodies go. Less mess that way.
Kristi Charish is a Canadian author from the west coast who by day is a cell and molecular biologist.