Richard L. Becker
© Copyright 2015. Richard L. Becker
All Rights Reserved.
The eyewitnesses, dumb fucking bastards as most of them were, could not agree on the number of gunshots. Some heard five or six shots, others heard less. The forensic investigators insisted only three shots had been fired. One shot clearly struck a curb and sprayed concrete chips onto bystanders. Two other bullets accounted for all of the injuries to the victims. Three shots, three bullets. That’s all, the investigators said. Those who claimed to have heard more than three shots or who insisted that certain of the shots were fired from a location other than the sniper’s nest were told they were just plain wrong.
Or were they? How can we ever be sure? Let’s admit it. The only thing more unreliable than an eyewitness to a crime is an actor promoting his most recent movie in an interview. “The director was amazing. The script was a joy to read. I never felt more involved with a character.”
And when my mother’s breasts ran dry I found other places on her body to suck.
Which is the most likely of the lot?
As to the person identified as the lone gunman in The Clifton Heights Homeowners Association Final Explanatory Report, his testimony was not available.
Convenient, isn’t it?
The people of The Neighborhood reluctantly went on with their lives.
But to some, their innocence was lost forever.
“But they killed them!” Mirabel bitched.
She’ll never let up about those damn dogs, Lloyd Goldman thought. When they were alive her world – and thus his world – revolved around them: a day could be ruined if a problem arose concerning their feeding or grooming, their health, their training, even their happiness. Her dogs had to be happy and engaged all of the time. She would go to absurd lengths to keep them happy. Their moods affected her moods. Happy dogs meant an affectionate and playful Mirabel, willing to experiment, open to suggestions. A dog having a bad day translated into cold showers for him or worse, a Mirabel unable to find any satisfaction, transforming moment to moment from the passiveness of a blow-up sex doll to the ferocity of a rabid animal.
Why was she named Mirabel anyway? Lloyd sometimes wondered. The name never fit her. Maybe Angelina, or Jacqueline. Why didn’t she change it when she reached legal age? A real Mirabel should look older than her years and be more conservative than a nun. That was never his Mirabel. She was tall and lanky with blonde hair flowing more fluidly than oil from a gusher and eyes as blue as the Earth seen from space and an ass that was the object of desire of most of the world. Most of the men Lloyd knew wanted to fuck her while squeezing her ass. Even the few homosexual men in his social orbit expressed a desire to find a mate with a similar ass. As to the women who expressed such thoughts in his presence, most wanted to have Mirabel’s ass so they could admire it in a mirror and tickle with it a feather or slap it with a belt and feel it’s flesh and fat jiggle and compress when a man slapped his groin against it while trying to impregnate them from behind.
He wanted to tell them that after a while it all became old news. Desire always demanded something else. Something new. The world’s best ass became an afterthought after a few years.
They faced one another in the enormous kitchen of their enormous house, a man past fifty and on the verge of becoming elderly and a woman approaching her thirties and together they lived in the silence of a marriage devoid of sensitivity and compassion, if they had ever been there at all. He had proposed after their affair became common knowledge, when she was still exhibiting kindness and the promise of fun. Mirabel did not accept the proposal until he landed the job as Chief Financial Officer of InformaCorp. Now he was the Chief Executive Officer of the company. She had been the queen of her dog-driven world, a world paid for by him.
Lloyd sipped his coffee. He didn’t have any reason to continue talking to her, especially about those damn dogs, but he couldn’t resist.
“Really?” Lloyd asked. “They killed your dogs?”
Mirabel took a moment to steady herself. She received her conceal-and-carry permit shortly after the assassinations and kept the small automatic pistol in her purse, which currently lay on the kitchen counter, not a yard away from her trembling hands. Don’t pump him full of lead, she told herself. He could have changed the beneficiary designations on the life insurance policies, like he once threatened. He might be insensitive and cruel but until she divorced him her economic survival depended on the beating of his heart.
“The house is so empty,” Mirabel said.
“Buy another dog.”
She fought the tears. “I can’t. Not again.”
“They were just dogs,” Lloyd replied. “They used to run around the yard and eat each other’s feces.”
Mirabel picked up her purse and rummaged through it, debating options.
“We don’t have any kids of our own,” she said. “The servants all hate me, at least during the few months that they’re here before they quit and we have to hire new ones. This house is so quiet. I need a pet.”
“Like I said, get another dog.”
“No. I can’t lose another love. I can’t bear it.”
He figured she’d file for divorce once the next wave of company stock options were granted. He wasn’t sure if he cared.
“So what is it that you want?” he finally asked, desperate to escape the kitchen.
“A slave girl,” Mirabel replied. “Most of our neighbors have one. I want one, too.”
Lloyd worked seven days a week. Even on weekends when he tried to stay clear of the office he found himself bombarded by texts and emails and calls. As a gift to himself, he went in late on Thursdays, taking time for his cigar and a private lesson. The company could survive without him for a few hours each Thursday morning.
Although the calendar indicated it was February a never-ending heat wave soon would engulf the day. He stayed close to the garage, eyeing the newspaper wrapped in plastic at the driveway’s end. A newspaper also lay on the driveway across the street.
Come on, Lloyd thought. Send her to get the paper.
The homeowners across the street had acquired a beautiful slave of Jamaican descent whose body threatened to burst from her blouse and faded blue jeans. The jeans were so tight Lloyd could see the dimples on her thighs and the crack of her ass.
Unfortunately, these days it only would be his money that would attract a woman like that, a woman like Mirabel, to him. With each passing year he gained another ten pounds, lost more hair, needed stronger prescriptions for his glasses, and his joints ached a bit more. His lady-killing days, if he ever had them, were long over.
He paced in the driveway, smoking a Cuban cigar, so lost in thought that it took several minutes before he noticed the yellow bus stopped at the corner, its lights flashing and the driver waving at him. Lloyd ambled down the curved driveway, trailing smoke. The bus driver climbed down the steps and walked towards him.
“Morning,” Lloyd said.
“Mr. Goldman,” she replied, a worried expression on her face. She had been driving the route since he moved into The Neighborhood.
“Is everything all right?”
She gestured at the adjacent houses. “None of the children have come to the bus stop.”
Their next door neighbors had a sixteen year old daughter. “Maybe she’s sick.”
“This is my third stop. None of the children have been waiting for me.”
“A day off from school perhaps?”
“No,” she said.
“How many children?”
“Three stops in this neighborhood, five children in all. None showed up.”
Lloyd glanced at the house next door, fifteen thousand square feet of luxury. “Let’s see if anyone is home.” He pulled the smartphone from its holster and found the number. It rang to voicemail.
“None of the kids in The Neighborhood were at their bus stops?”
She shook her head.
Children living here knew the importance of school. It led to college and graduate school and long term employment at a prestigious company.
They walked into the street and the hundred yards to the neighboring driveway and walked up the pale concrete, clean and in perfect condition, and wandered up a path through a forest of shrubs and flowers and small trees to the twelve foot tall front door. Lloyd rang the bell, knocked, and rang the bell again.
Neighbors spoke to one another when they would be out-of-town to make sure eyes would be watching their homes, in addition to protection from their indoor and outdoor security systems and the armed guards employed by the Clifton Heights Homeowners Association.
Something was wrong.
Lloyd called the police.
From “Pages Of Life”
An Autobiography In Verse
Miles of fields
Some planted, some lying fallow
No different than the people
Populating this small farm town
A call for aid
A cry without sense
“The fields are on fire!”
On this warm summer day
No smoke in the sky
The farm animals gone missing
Old man Garner
Who loved his fields
Missing in same
A world on fire
But without any flames
Mirabel wandered the house, alone. In her bedroom closet, she gazed at the thousands of articles of clothing and couldn’t decide on anything to wear and went downstairs, still dressed in her pink nightgown and bathrobe. In the Great Room she flipped through the entertainment channels and found nothing that interested her. Sitting in a chair, gazing at a blank screen, skimming through her contacts on her information device and finding no one she wanted to call.
Before, her days had been filled.
Lloyd had stopped caring about her spending. As long as she didn’t drain the liquid accounts, he was fine. I could go shopping, she thought, but that would mean I would need to get dressed and I don’t have the energy.
Given the footprint of the mansion, the basement was huge. A small enclosure hid the furnace, water heater, and various control panels. As to the rest of the basement, each homeowner could generate his or her own floor plans.
The Goldman’s basement evolved into rooms for a wine cellar, exercise room, a home theater, storage and lastly, The Canine Beauty And Training Facility with its special room.
The facility contained a grooming room with a bathtub featuring a slide and water jets; an exercise room with a treadmill; a relaxation area of soft couches, bean bag chairs, pillows and numerous toys; and most importantly the Showing Arena, a small scale model of the venue for the Western Non-European Championship Pure Breed Annual Reichstag Medallion Show.
Except for the Showing Arena, each room included water and food dishes and an eclectic collection of tasty and colorful dog treats, and in a corner a potty area of real grass and smells of other dog’s leavings, purchased from a specialty dealers in Europe who collected such aromas and bottled them in jeweled glass figurines of dogs made by Tiffany’s.
Mirabel loved The Canine Beauty And Training Facility. It was her favorite part of the house.
And she especially loved the special room off the Showing Arena, its door locked, accessible via a keypad and only Mirabel knew the combination.
Inside, a long couch had its back to the wall. The rest of the room held the spoils of war. Trophies. Ribbons. Congratulatory communications from dogworld’s most famous people. And photographs. Over a hundred photographs of More Bitch’in, with and without Mirabel, and in the photos Mirabel was always smiling and happy. A huge photograph of More Bitch’in accepting Best In Show hung above one trophy cabinet, on another wall a commissioned painting of Mirabel and More Bitch’in as the judges held up the winning scores.
She remembered walking on the real arena floor, thousands of spectators watching, the broadcast cameras trained only on her, a few judges who couldn’t help but smile….
On most days after Lloyd went to work, she found herself in the basement, in the trophy room, laying on a couch, her hands beneath her chin, her breasts pressed into the cushions and her legs splayed out behind her, gazing at all of the trophies and photographs and memorabilia, a strap-on vibrator humming between her legs….
Lloyd entered the building thru a back entrance and walked down the hallway to Room 223. He shrugged out of his suit jacket and loosened his tie. She waited. He reached into his trousers for a small box and handed it to her.
“Just for me?” she asked.
She laughed and reached out with her hand and he gently took it.
“Are you ready?” she asked.
“Aren’t you going to open it?”
“You have marvelous patience.”
“That’s what everyone says about me.”
“Open it, please,” Lloyd said.
The box contained a USB flash drive.
“I had a tech guy at the office obtain the code for that multiplayer game you like so much. None of your competitors will have it.”
“Thank you,” Amanda said. “Thank you very much.”
“You’re very welcome.”
She wore a red dress that fell to just above her knees and she let her hair flow onto her shoulders. She always smelled so clean, Lloyd thought. So fresh and new.
He sat close beside her, their legs almost touching.
Amanda fiddled with the machine, grinning.
He always found himself nervous at this point, sometimes even sweating. He tried to never show it, to keep his hands steady and his body relaxed.
“I know just where to begin,” Amanda said.
The missing children attended a private school some fifteen miles from The Neighborhood, with tuition at thirty thousand per year, a dress code reminiscent of the uniforms of the British during the Boer War, and lunch served in a dining hall with waiters in tuxedos and menus featuring a special of the day, but one could always go for the old standbys of filet mignon or fresh crab legs.
Other children in The Neighborhood were transported to the public schools, sharing crowded halls and classrooms with students from less affluent parts of the area. They ate hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch and dressed in torn jeans and snug blouses and t-shirts with phrases that probably could not be said in public without causing an uproar.
Lloyd’s sons never set foot in those public schools and yet he donated considerable sums whenever any of them launched a fundraising drive. Every few years at a school board meeting he would be given one award or another for his charitable contributions.
He threw the awards into the trash as soon as he got home.
Mirabel never went with him to the meetings. She also didn’t know about Amanda. No one did, other than the limousine driver paid an exorbitant sum to ignore Lloyd’s apparent predilections.
Don’t kid yourself, he thought. People will do anything for the right price, even if they need to do it in a group rather than alone.
And the price didn’t always have to be in the form of monetary treasures….
Her fingers moved like magic and Lloyd watched, transfixed until she finally found the very program she was looking for and it was time for him to reveal the new passwords.
They sat in the computer room of the Challenger Public Middle School and Amanda was allowed to skip gym class to help him.
Using the new passwords, Amanda opened the spyware, made a slight modification to the code and penetrated the secret files of InformaCorp – files supposedly accessible to only the Board of Directors of the company, including emails exchanged between members kept on a secure server. But the Board didn’t realize that with a little new coding InformaCorp’s illegal spyware could be turned on them.
Lloyd has no idea how that software worked or how to use it.
A rotating hologram floated above the desk bearing the resemblance of an octopus with too many tentacles, comprised not of tissue but spinning digits, 1’s superimposed over 0’s, the animal serving as a representation of InformaCorp’s reach into the digital world.
“Okay,” Amanda said. “Let’s see what they’ve been up to this week.”
A truth. I like her. A feline hunter. Smart and playful yet hurt by a darkness inside. Treat her with kindness. She deserves it.
Believe what you will.
Heat reflected off the sidewalk in the bustling, crowded city. It’s mid-February and still the temperature refused to fall below ninety. Taylor waited at the corner at the light; beside her, a young woman and child. The boy was dressed for a day visiting the city, in tan shorts and a blue collared shirt. He looked to be five or younger. The woman, dressed in a skirt and white blouse, held his hand lightly.
Across the street, a man walked towards the corner in a gray suit and holding a briefcase.
“Daddy!” the boy cried.
He broke free, running forward into the street.
Taylor watched, slow to react. The woman began to scream. The taxi cab was a blur, screeching tires but too late.
Or was it?
The cries of the woman compelled action as she writhed over the body, howling as if someone carved into her torso with a white-hot rake, tearing open skin and pulling out bloody portions of organ and bone, her husband kneeling beside her, ashen faced, too stunned to even speak, not knowing anything he could do to console her or himself.
By now Taylor knew the trick, although the way it worked was beyond her.
She let the world lose its mass. Studying scenes, like turning pages in a book. So many pages, hundreds of millions of them, all slightly different on the page she viewed but because of that difference the endings wildly divergent. All of the pages end at the time the man and the woman knelt on the street beside the torn body of their son. If she looked hard enough at a page, the arrow of time reversed and she saw the last fifteen minutes that led up to the scene, as if she were watching a movie rewind.
There. This page.
“Daddy!” the boy cried. He tried to rush forward but his mother’s grip tightened, barely grasping onto the end of two fingers.
The boy whimpered, his hand hurting. The taxi cab hurtled past, hitting nothing.
The mother was on her knees hugging the boy and the father rushed across the street, kneeling down beside them. This will be the world where I will live, Taylor decided.
All of the other pages became meaningless. Only this page mattered.
The lights changed. The parents hugged their child.
I saved him, she thought, but who did I kill?
Taylor crossed the street.
Taylor was hungry. She had not eaten since breakfast that morning, almost ten hours ago. Six in the evening and the heat still radiated from asphalt streets and concrete sidewalks. She stopped in front of a store’s window, ignored the displays of diamonds, gold jewelry and luxury watches and studied her reflection. Frizzy reddish brown hair fell towards the middle of her back, rounded breasts pushed against a plain white t-shirt, strong legs jutted from yellow runner`s shorts. Five-foot six and built for sports. She had a narrow waist and broad shoulders and exotic features, cat-like with yellow sparkles in brown eyes and a tan face. She would turn twenty-six in a few months.
Her stomach growled. All right, she told herself.
She stood near a stone and glass skyscraper and waited. People of all types walked past, most ignoring her but she sensed the occasional eyes of a man surveying her form. It would not be difficult. It never was.
There. He walked out of the building in a blue suit and red tie, tall, in his late-fifties with a leather briefcase.
Melissa knew the man and his wife; had told Taylor the wife was a horror; the marriage mostly a farce; and the wife couldn’t care less if he made it home or not.
A limousine waited by the curb but she intercepted him and bumped into his side.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Sorry.”
Lloyd glanced at her.
“It’s okay,” he said. “No harm done.”
“I’m Taylor.” She gave him a small smile. Her fingers brushed against his arm and she took his hand. His wedding ring felt cold in her grip. “There’s a hotel a few buildings away.”
“I know,” Lloyd replied. “The Ambassador.”
Something hurt his head.
Sleep with her, he decided.
“The hotel,” she said, squeezing his hand. The limousine driver stepped into the street and called out but Lloyd ignored him.
They are all so easy, Taylor thought and she closed her eyes for a moment and forced the emerging feeling away. She didn’t want to be sad.
She let go of his hand as they passed the doormen and walked thru the revolving door. The lobby air was cool and smelled clean and fruity and her flip flops clapped loudly against the marble floor.
The clerks at the front desk recognized her from that afternoon when she killed an hour checking out the lobby stores. They also recognized Lloyd.
“My dad,” she told one of the clerks.
The clerk nodded with a look of relief while her ‘father’ paid for the room. Sweat dripped down Lloyd’s face. In the elevator her three middle fingers scrolled down his nose and slipped between dry lips. His tongue was moist and cracked.
“I’m supposed to be home in an hour. My wife.”
“You have to work late: a last minute screw-up on some important deal. You’ll probably stay overnight in the city.”
There was a look of confusion in his eyes.
Constantly flipping pages, never far at all from the current one, Taylor guided him, step-by-step.
“Okay,” he said.
Inside the room he reached for the hotel’s phone but she grasped the receiver and hung it up. “Use your cell phone,” she said.
While he spoke to his wife Taylor used the hotel phone and ordered herself a hamburger, fries and a soda. She had carefully perused the items in the lobby stores and knew what she wanted. She called, asking that the items be charged to the room. A sundress, matching purse and comfortable shoes.
The man put the cell phone in his pocket.
“Do you have any cash?” Taylor asked. From his wallet Lloyd gave her close to a thousand dollars.
“It’s all I have,” he said. “Will it be enough, for tonight?”
She laughed. The room had a king size bed, a recliner, desk and desk chair. She pointed to the recliner. “Sit down. We can start there.”
He took off his jacket and tie and sat down. “Should I take off my pants?”
She laughed again. “No.”
A concentrated burst of happiness and sadness and anger and despair flooded his mind, overloading his brain and shutting it down. His body went rigid then collapsed like a balloon losing air, his head falling to rest against the back of the chair.
Poor guy, she thought.
When room service arrived the hotel employee placed the tray on the bed. She pointed to the man. “He fell asleep,” she said. “I’ll sign.” She did and did so again for the items from the lobby stores.
She ate and showered and put on the complimentary robe. It took her several minutes to find something to watch on television. August Rush. She loved the movie, feeling sad as the boy and his parents searched for each other and joy when they finally met during the film’s climax at the concert in the park.
I can watch this forever, she thought.
The man slept in the chair. Taylor rifled through his pockets for his wallet and studied his driver’s license and other assorted cards.
She didn’t understand why she enjoyed playing this game, but she did it often.
Control maybe, she thought. Or maybe I’ve just grown bored.
Taylor slid beneath the bed’s covers. By the time he awoke she would be gone.
At dawn the media reported the incident. Taylor flew out of the bathroom naked but the people producing the news figured most people had already lost interest and the screen focused on a hit-and-run involving a motorcycle.
She quickly searched other news streams with her information device.
Had she heard right?
The time of the accident. She scrolled down a news feed until she found the story. It happened mid-day, at about the moment when she saved the little boy from the speeding taxi cab.
A coincidence, Taylor told herself. Noting more.
She knew better but wouldn’t let the words flow in her mind.
The world narrowed to a black pit buried deep in her guts.
Outside, the glow from street lights, building windows and signage faded with the flowering sunrise and she drank bottle after bottle from the hotel room’s refrigerated offerings, occasionally having to focus on Lloyd to keep him asleep.
She tried to find something worthwhile in the pit but there was nothing there and she let the sobs shake her body, her mind on fire, that pit sucking away her life.
I didn’t know that little boy in the street, she thought. He meant nothing to me.
I should have let him die.
 I normally use the term ‘bastards’ to refer to either sex. When I want to refer to a particular sex (male, female or otherwise) I’ll let you know. Please note that by using this term, I am implicitly admitting a certain disdain for people. Not all people, but most people. I just don’t trust them.
 Limousines were provided to InformaCorp executives after the Unacceptable Riots, in which lower class ‘citizens’ actually brought their looting and building burning out of the city’s tenements to the downtown business core. Although the tenements were razed and those ‘citizens’ relocated to Alaska, the fear of another such riot remained.