The following is from the WIP “Lady Killer” by me, Lisa Beth Darling. It is presented here as-is, warts, moles, grammatical errors and other Earth Shattering mistakes. ALL RIGHTS ARE RESERVED including the right to reproduce this work, in whole or in part, in any manner whatsoever.
by Lisa Beth Darling
The driver of the BMW who was going too fast on the slick road as he chatted away on his cellphone through the lighted dashboard which drew his eyes to it, “I’m on my way there now, I’ll be there soon, ok?” Looking up, he had just enough time to cry out, “Jesus Christ!”, before stomping on the clutch to rapidly downshift as his other foot slammed the power brakes with expertise he yanked the wheel hard toward the curb. The tires squealed with protest as they skidded to a stop. Shaking with fear so intense he’d never known its’ like, Dante Scott threw the car into PARK, grabbed his taut chest to feel the rumble of his swiftly beating heart. Breathlessly he asked himself, “Where the fuck did she come from?” The sound of the question sent him searching for the answer and his dark head turned toward the rear window hoping he didn’t see a body lying in the road. His heart started to slow its pace when he saw her still standing there. “Ok, I didn’t kill her, that’s good.”
“Kill who? Hey! Dante!”
The alarmed voice was coming through the dash and he realized his call was still connected. “Nothing, don’t worry about it, but I’m going to be a little late, start without me.” Pushing the touchscreen he ended the call before tossing open the driver’s door he jumped out of the car and went to her expecting her to curse him out but she just stood there with her eyes closed and her body hunched over so tightly she looked like she was wrestling with a rather difficult Number 2. His hand landed on her shoulder. “HOLY SHIT! Oh my God! Are you alright?” There was no answer from the woman who just stood there as if she were frozen in time. “Lady! C’mon,” he snapped his still shaking fingers in front of her face, “Hey! Wake up. Talk to me! Are you ok?”
Opening her blue eyes, Dizzy looked around and then down and waited a few more moments for agony to strike but it didn’t. She looked into the kindest brown eyes she’d ever seen but she was too caught in the grip of panic to answer. She only stood there quaking in the middle of the road as she stared at the silver hood of the BMW that screeched to a halt on the icy road not a quarter of inch away from her. “Yes?”
At long last letting go of the single breath he’d held in his lungs since getting out of the car, Dante hung his head, “You scared the shit out of me.”
“Hell yeah,” as he realized she was fine he realized something else; they had to get off the road before some other driving-too-fast asshole like himself rounded the corner, rear ended his BMW and sent both of them flying. “C’mon, come with me, Miss, please, it’s ok. Come with me.” He wrapped one strong arm around her slender shoulder only to find her shaking out of control. “Please? We have to get off the road.”
He was right, she knew whoever he was he was right. Yes, of course, they had to get off the road. Sure they did. The hill with its blind corner behind them made it very dangerous to stand here even with the traffic light because no one ever paid attention to it but Dizzy’s frozen feet wouldn’t comply, “I can’t move,” she whispered still focused on those wild brown eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry.” Dante ran a hand over the side of his head through his dark wavy hair as he down at the unbelievably tiny space between the woman and his rear bumper. His head raced even as it tried to comprehend the fact that he hadn’t hit her then his mouth uttered something any attorney would give him hell for, “It’s all my fault, I’m so sorry.” She gave him a weak smile but she didn’t move. Realizing that she must be in shock he picked her up, carried her to the still running BMW, and put her on the fine leather of passenger seat even though she was soaking wet before climbing in behind the wheel again to take off at a much slower more deliberate speed. “Miss, look at me. I’m Dante. What’s your name?”
“Dizzy,” she stuttered as her eyes rolled toward him then widened as she realized she was in a car with a man she didn’t know. Every episode of every crime drama that she loved began running wildly through her head. “Where are we going?”
“It’s ok, Dizzy. We’re going to pull over right here.” He turned the wheel hard to turn into the parking lot of Paddy’s Package Store and into an empty space at the front of the store under the bright white and green sign that illuminated the car. That was when he recognized her; she worked at Sentinel Bank and Trust and had waited on him often over the last few months. She always had a sweet smile and a kind ‘How are you today, Mister Russo?’ for him. The name on the placard next to her Teller’s window wasn’t Dizzy it was, “Desiree, right? You’re Desiree Martin. It’s me, Dante Russo from the bank, remember?”
Clarity began dawning as the frightful fog in her head began to lift so that her eyes could focus on his face. Dante Russo was a faithful and well-liked customer of Sentinel Bank and Trust who came in every Friday, just as he’d done today, to withdraw two thousand dollars from his account. He was nice. He was polite. He never talked down to her like some of the other customers. He was, of course, very rich. While his two construction companies were not enough to get him in the Billionaire Boys Club but it was more than enough to buy him this million dollar car, keep up his ‘family home’ on Long Point and never want for anything. He was handsome and, at thirty-eight years of age with having never been married, in his high-class social circles he was considered quite the catch. One that was impossible to land. Among all of those things, first and foremost for Dizzy, Mr. Russo was a very valued customer of the bank one that they would hate to see upset by one of their lowly employees should she say something ungracious to him after he nearly killed her. She couldn’t afford to lose either of her jobs. Dizzy went into her best Desiree Martin The Helpful Teller mindset which was always accompanied by the same voice; low, sweet, and unassuming. “Yes, Mr. Russo, I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you. How are you?”
“Better than you,” he whispered still concerned for her even though his own heart was still thumping inside his big chest. The haze in her blue eyes was starting to clear and that made his brain start to slow as he looked her over head to toe to be sure he hadn’t actually hit her. “What the hell were you doing in the middle of the road?”
For a moment his accusation angered her and the real Desiree Martin came out, “I wasn’t,” Dizzy proclaimed as she reached into her purse for her pack of Newports, “I had the WALK light. YOU had the RED light.”
He watched her light the cigarette and draw deeply from it wishing she’d give him one even though he quit three years ago. Her slender fingers fumbled on the armrest next to her and heard the door locks open and lock again. With the understanding that she was trying to roll down the window to let out the smoke he lowered her window from the main console under his left arm. “You’re right, you did have the light and it was my fault, still, what are you doing out here in the cold and the dark? Why are you soaking wet?”
Sitting in the warm luxury of the heated leather seat, Dizzy recounted the story of her car breaking down in the parking lot and the two hour wait for a tow which led her to walk home and then to this moment in time. That included the gold Maserati that screamed past her, through the puddle she was trying to avoid, and got her clothes all sopping wet. She stopped short at telling him that she knew the driver was Michael Romano, another good customer of the bank and, undoubtedly, an acquaintance of Mr. Russo. He was also a dick who never had a kind word for anyone he considered beneath him. “Now, I’m going to go in there,” she pointed to the front door of the Package Store as smoke from her cigarette wafted through the open window, “get a bottle of wine, probably a large one, and money for a cab then I’m going home.”
Dante didn’t have to be told who was driving the Maserati, he already knew it was Michael Romano. The guy was a business associate and they traveled in the same social circles but still, Michael was fucktard who’d run over his mother for a buck. Now that the world was coming back into focus it was also easy to see that the shaken woman next to him was trying to be ‘professional’ rather than going off on him for nearly running her down as she should rightly do. Killing the engine on the BMW and opening the door he got out. He waited for her to join him and when she didn’t he offered, “You’re not the only one who needs a drink.” That was true but he was going to stop here anyway just as he did every Friday night. “Are you coming, Dizzy-girl?”
Dizzy-girl, at that she smiled without meaning to. No one had called her that since Robert Martin, her husband, had died. His genuine tone and the call of wine were too strong for her to resist. Climbing out of the car, together they walked into the brightly lit five aisle package store then they parted ways. Dante walked straight up to the register where the pockmark faced cashier took a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue from beneath the counter.
“Your standing order, Mr. Russo, can I get you anything else?”
Dante held up a single finger, “Hold on a second.” He waited until he saw Dizzy heading in his direction with a bottle of Barefoot Merlot. As she walked toward them he noticed she was limping. “Put it here, the least I can do is pay for your wine.”
Although, somewhere in the finest of print it was probably against Sentinel Bank and Trust Personnel Policy to do so, Dizzy pushed the $12.00 bottle of wine closer to the $170.00 bottle of Scotch. It seemed after nearly running her down buying her a bottle of Barefoot was the least he could do, “Sure, thank you, Mr. Russo.”
Knowing it nixed her idea of getting money for a cab, Dante swiped his credit card paying for both bottles and they walked out the same way they walked in; together. “Now, let me give you a ride home.”
“I can make it from here, Mr. Russo.”
“I’d prefer it if you didn’t. It’s dark. It’s cold. Hell, it’s snowing and you’re drenched.” He gave her a winning smile as he persisted. “You’re not on Sentinel’s time now, ok? We’re just Dante and Dizzy. So, please, get in the car and let me drive you home.” Still she just stood there clearly mulling it over until he finally offered, “Look, I won’t be able to sleep tonight if I just leave you here, so please let me do this for you.”
Clutching her purse and her bottle of Merlot closely she walked up to the passenger door of the gleaming BMW Hurricane. “Ok, thank you, Mr.—Dante, I appreciate it and it’s not far just a few miles down the road in the Centerville Condo Complex.” She climbed into the car and strapped on her seatbelt.
“I know right where that is, I’ll have there in a jiffy,” he promised as he turned the key and the engine cranked to life. They pulled out of the parking lot and headed towards Dizzy’s little condo.
They pulled into the Condo Complex and up to Dizzy’s front door which was only a left off the main drag of the hideous housing complex with its rows of uniform gray facades. “Here we are. Thanks for the rah–” Dizzy’s voice trailed off as she looked toward her front door and the windows in her living room which were brightly lit.
Clutching the bottle of Merlot a little closer she whispered to him, “That light shouldn’t be on.”
Killing the engine, Danny didn’t hesitate, “Do you want me to go in with you?”
“Who are you? Rambo?” There was a fine pickle to end her evening; let some strange man into her house or risk going in alone and finding another strange man lying in wait for her. “Just what are you going to do if there’s someone in there?”
“Why don’t you give me the key and I’ll check it out,” he held out his hand but when she didn’t comply he added, “Look, I don’t know if you’ve heard the news or not but…”
“There’s a killer in town,” Dizzy finished in a distant voice while those unpleasant thoughts ran wild through her head. “But he’s over in West Lyme, your neck of the woods, not here in Centerville.” The local newspaper reported the murders of two women over the last ten days and the police were furiously working to bring the killer to justice but there were few leads.
The highly popular but completely unofficial rumor was both women had ties to Anthony Ramella a/k/a “Fat Tony”; one was his secretary/mistress and the other his off-the-books accountant. Fat Tony was West Lyme’s version of John Gotti the ‘Teflon Don’ in that nothing ever stuck to him. While it was well known that Ramella had his chubby little fingers in everything from non-taxable cigarettes to numbers-running to prostitution and to more legitimate businesses here on Little Gull Island and points up and down the east coast, proving his involvement wasn’t easy. “There’s no one in there, it’s dark in the mornings I probably just forgot to turn the light off before I left for work this morning.” She opened the car door to let herself out. “Good night, Mr. Russo, thank you for the ride and the wine.”
“Bravado will get you killed!” Dante called after her, “I’m going to wait right here for a while so if you need me just scream.”
Dizzy turned back with a look of disgust that soon turned into a warm smile when she saw the genuine concern in his dark eyes. She gave in, “Fine, you can come in and check it out if it makes, well both of us, feel better. Yes, Dante, I’d appreciate it if you would come in with me. Thank you.”
At the two-stair cement stoop she took her keys from her pocket and unlocked the door happy when she realized it actually was still locked. “Welcome, to my humble abode,” she stepped aside to allow him entry taking note of the brown paper bag in his hand. If he grabbed his expensive bottle of Scotch before exiting the even more expensive car then he was either hoping to use it as a weapon or he was hoping to stay for a few moments if not longer. “Not the Ritz but its home. Please, don’t mind the mess.” Closing the door behind him, she looked around the living room and didn’t see anything out of place; the old newspapers and empty fast-food containers were still lying about waiting for someone to throw them away. Putting the bottle of wine down on the coffee table she walked to the middle of the condo where the semi-open kitchen looked out into the living room and fetched two glasses from the cabinet. “Feel free to roam around.”
Dante, whose company built these condos, knew the layout by heart. On the first floor, he walked down the small hall past the open kitchen to the half-bath directly across from which was a large utility closet. He found nothing out of the ordinary. Walking back past the kitchen, he crossed the living room and to the stairs by the front door. Carefully looking in the full-bath, the master bedroom, and the smaller room at the end of the hall that was easily turned into a nursery, a room for a single child, or a home office he noted she’d opted for the latter. There was a desk, a laptop, a lamp and not much else in that room. In each room that he entered, he turned on the lights and tested the windows to be sure they were secure. In each room he couldn’t help but notice the sparseness that surrounded her. There were no photographs or artwork of any kind of the barren walls. No vases of fresh flowers. No plants at all. Each room held only what it needed to and nothing more. Shutting out the light in the bedroom and making his way back toward the living room he announced “The place is empty, there’s no one here. Did you just move in?”
Dizzy put the glasses on the coffee table before stripping off her wet coat and then her soaked shoes as she collapsed onto her overstuffed sofa. “I’ve been here about four months now. Share a glass before you go?”
“I’d love to,” Dante took a seat next to her. In reaching for the bottle of expensive Scotch he looked down to see her bare feet, “Did I do that? Did I run over your foot?”
Cork screw in hand, Dizzy laughed, “No, that was all me, I kicked the tire when the car wouldn’t start. It does look a little nasty though, doesn’t it?” Now that her foot was out of the high heel the swelling began and the bruising turned darker. “It’s been a heck of a night,” she raised her glass to him in a toast before taking down the first swallow of the evening. When he came into the bank late this afternoon he was dressed in blue jeans and a flannel shirt but now sitting here on her couch he looked very sharp in his deep gray linen suit with matching tie. “I’m sure it’s not what you had planned.”
Dante had been on his way to Bella Fiore for his customary Friday night dinner and business meeting when he nearly ran her down. His associates were probably wondering where he was and why he was so late. Soon they’d be calling his cellphone. “Not exactly no and, I think that’s broken.” He pointed to her toe before letting the warm amber liquid slid down his throat warming his body and calming his nerves. “Do you want me to bandage it up for you?”
“What? First you’re Rambo and now you’re a doctor?”
“No, but when you’ve been in the construction business as long as I have you realize things like that are why we wear steel-toed boots,” he chuckled and shook his head as his eyes smiled at her. “I’ll fix it up, good thing it’s the weekend, you can stay off of it until Monday.” Getting up from the couch and skirting around empty fast-food containers he sauntered down the small hallway to the bathroom where he was able to find everything he needed for the small patch job.
“I’m afraid to have to go to work tomorrow.”
Putting his small load of gauze, tape, medical scissors, alcohol pads, and anti-biotic ointment down on the coffee table, Dante looked down at her with a puzzled expression, “Sentinel is closed on Saturdays except by appointment.”
Dizzy poured another glass of wine, “Yep, but Wally’s World of Goods opens at eight and that’s where I’ll be until two in the afternoon. I’ll be there on Sunday right through until Thursday.” With a slightly embarrassed shrug of her shoulders she offered, “That’s why the place looks like this; I don’t have time to cook and I hardly ever get time to clean. I still have stuff in a storage locker not that it would matter if I put out some old photographs and hung some paintings since I hardly get to spend any time here anyway.” She sighed and rolled her eyes knowing she was talking too much but was unable to stop herself. “I just shower, sleep, and sometimes eat here. Other than that, I’m working just to pay the bills.”
That didn’t sound like a satisfying life to him and he was dismayed to hear that the prestigious bank to which he paid so many monthly fees didn’t treat its employees better. Being a businessman he understood the need to make a profit but both of his construction companies were Union. He paid a good wage along with benefits and in return he received highly skilled labor for his projects that were built on-time and on-budget. The Union Workers were all local so whatever money they made was put right back into the Little Gull Island economy helping to keep their small isle thriving. If she worked two jobs just to keep this place—which, by his calculations, shouldn’t cost her more than a thousand dollars a month in mortgage payments—then she must always be on the verge of financial collapse. At her level, a single paycheck was the difference between eating and not eating, having a roof over her head or living in her car. But she seemed like a proud woman who was uninterested in sympathy so he let her comments pass. Propping her barefoot up on his lap Dante began gently cleaning the wound and let out a little whistle as the blood was cleaned and her toenail dangled by a thin thread of wounded flesh, “Good job, Dizzy. Really that’s spectacular.”
“Yeah, well, no one can say I do anything half-assed,” she laughed and then winced as he snipped the tiny strand of skin. “Ow,” she watched him toss her toenail into the ashtray. After that, glass of wine in hand yet seemingly permanently attached to her lips, she lay still while he continued to patch her up. She took note of the warmth of his hands and the nimbleness with which they moved so gently as they carefully added a big glop of ointment to the raw gaping place where her nail had been an hour before. With deftness those hands wrapped a thick band of gauze around the broken toe before binding it to the next one in a buddy-bandage. Turning her ankle for a better view she smiled, “Now it’s my turn; Nice job, Mr. Russo, very good.”
“I told you I’ve done this before but you should get that looked at tomorrow when you have the time.” Pouring his second glass of Johnny Walker Blue the phone in his pocket began ringing. Taking down a large swallow he fished it out, got up, excused himself, and wandered into the kitchen to take the call. Into the transmitter he muttered that, yes, he was fine but he’d had an accident and it was holding him up but he’d be there soon. Coming back into the living room with his head hung low he looked at his hostess with disappointed eyes, “I have to go. I have a prior engagement that I have to attend.”
Dizzy pushed her body off the couch, “I understand.” She began walking her guest to the door, “Don’t forget your Scotch.”
“Yeah, right,” Dante capped the bottle and then cradled it in his arm, “This probably sounds incredibly stupid but, in spite of how it started, I think this night was headed in a good direction.”
“Yes, perhaps it was,” Dizzy opened the front door to let in the cold air and the blowing snow, “Good night, Mr. Russo.”
Pursing his lips and giving a slight nod he thought to himself: There it is. The Signal. It wasn’t ‘Go’. If it had been ‘Go’ he’d immediately ask to see her again but, instead, he took the cue with grace, “Good night, Dizzy.” Not wanting to leave, he looked down at her foot, “Stay off that tonight, ok? Put it up on a pillow with an ice pack, drink your wine, watch TV, and relax.”
That sounded like a fine plan, just what the doctor ordered, “Sure. Thanks again.” Closing the door behind him she peeked through the front window to watch him climb into the shiny BMW and drive away.