Chapter Twenty-One continued
Cindy was afraid to touch her things, assuming Bill had already brought Laurie around, and she’d already contaminated everything with her cheap, nasty germs. She looked around her, wondering if they’d had sex on that table, that sink, the back of that couch. She went for the cleaners and the gloves.
Bill came in as she was emptying caustic chemicals down the drain. She could have flung them into his eyes, but that’s the kind of sweet person she was. She rinsed the container and put it back under the sink. “So, you’re seeing Gordon’s fiancee?”
Bill stared at her. “No, of course not.” Oh no.
“Oh? So, whose fur coat was that in Mom’s closet?”
“Don’t be stupid.” She read from the jewelry receipt she’d fished out of the trash. “Mrs. Kiepon. I don’t recall a new fur coat. Maybe I dreamed it?”
“Yes, that’s it,” he said, leaping at straws.
“”Who’s Roxy? This one’s made out to Roxy Kiepon.” Bill swallowed. “How charming. Laurie. Roxy. How many others have there been?” Bill backed away and raised his hands. “It didn’t even start with Judy, did it? You were cheating on me from the beginning.”
He tried to back out of the room. “I wouldn’t call it cheating. I never told you about the others because you never asked.”
“I wasn’t supposed to have to ask. And didn’t the marriage vows say before all others?”
“But you were before all others. You’ve gotten the lion’s share all these years, and you haven’t been half as good to me as they have.”
Amazing, his balls. “So why have you stayed around?”
“Because you’d fall apart without me.”
“That’s bullshit. You need me.”
“Maybe on a bad day,” he admitted.
* * *
Cindy slammed out of there and went to see Alice, making sure Rick was out. A nurse answered the door and acted vague, but wouldn’t let her in.
She stopped off at Mom’s to get her shoe. Mom was home, so she had to endure a blow by blow of Mom’s latest perceptions. Mom was always tediously willing to tell the minute truth about her revelation du jour. That was why Cindy hated repetition.
She left Mom standing in the doorway, waving like a robotic target. Cindy had the gun out before she opened the car door. She opened it, propped her body against the doorframe, rested her wrist on the door, and fired just as Mom turned to go inside.
The shot went wild. It ricocheted, like in the movies. And the cops must have been around the corner, because she had barely turned the corner and they were there. Cindy fled, and they chased her. It took all her skill to evade them, and she really loved the chase. Plus, it was still her neighborhood after all these years, and it took no time to lose them. Her thumb began to itch. She rolled the window down and let her hair flow. She felt like Cruella DeVille.
* * *
Laurie was driving along the same streets, on her way to Mom’s with a basket of goodies. Her stripper bag was on the seat beside her, and her poisoned packages lay where she could see them. She was entertaining herself with fantasies of forcing Mom to eat the chocolates, like in mud wrestling, stuffing it in her mouth. Tonight, for your entertainment, Foxy Roxy (Laurie in a sexy boxer costume, smoothing her hair with her gloves) versus Mom (old crazy woman with straggly white hair, dressed in ratty housecoat with carpet slippers, riding the pole like a broom, muttering curses.) It’s Snow White and the Wicked Witch.
“Have an apple, little girl.”
“Apple. I’ll show you an apple, old lady.”
Cindy pulled over to get a pill to calm her down. She saw Laurie cruising thru the neighborhood, coasting toward Mom’s house. She turned around and pulled up behind her just like she did with Alice that first time. It was so easy. This time she looked at the gun on her lap and thought of a very satisfying thing to do.
Laurie pulled over. Cindy walked up to the car, the gun in her pocket, a friendly smile smeared on her face. At least she’s got both shoes on, Laurie thought. Cindy loomed outside Laurie’s window. She made to open the door but Cindy leaned against it. So Laurie rolled down the window.
Cindy slumped inward suddenly, her hand stuck in her pocket. She caught herself and stuck her head inside. She didn’t smell of booze, because her unsteadiness was a side effect of the chemical medly that was just kicking in. Laurie wouldn’t have smelled booze on her, anyway.
Cindy saw the pretty package. “What are you doing here?” she asked suspiciously.
“I was going to give this to Mom,” Laurie said. “As a peace offering.”
Cindy laughed. “Like that’d work. Are you really going to marry my brother?”
Laurie shrugged. “He’s okay. He tries.” He’ll do for now.
Cindy eyed her and scratched her cheek. “Well, don’t think you’re getting the house. It’s mine.”
Laurie rolled her eyes. “I thought it was Rick’s.”
“As if. Speaking of Rick, you know you’re hurting Alice by taking him to the cleaners. He beats her up.”
Laurie disagreed. “I’m doing Alice a favor, diverting his attention. I’ve got bruises too, you know. But at least I’m getting paid for them.”
“That’s what I mean. He’s giving it all to you. Alice has nothing.”
“Nonsense. He’s giving it all to the bank. He’s in so deep it’s not funny. The house, the cars, the company, the kid’s trust, all mortgaged way beyond what they’re worth. And he’s behind on the payments. She’s got nothing no matter what.” She knew all about it. Far more than Alice knew.
“Rick wants to see Mom dead just for the insurance,” Cindy stated. “We talked about this years ago. He gets the money. I want all the stuff.”
Laurie crossed her arms. “We’ll see.”
Cindy walked back to her car. Laurie was still alive – Cindy was beginning to like her. She was holding Laurie’s bribe for Mom in her hand. Cindy loved chocolates. She threw them into the back seat and forgot all about them as she drove into town for her appointment at the hair dresser’s.
* * *
Laurie pulled up to Mom’s house and found Allen wandering around the front yard looking at the house. He was trying to find the bullet hole. Laurie called him over to the car and handed him the smaller box that she’d intended for Cindy. “For Mom,” she said. “As a gesture.”
“She loves chocolates,” he said, and eyed it greedily. It would end up in the trash if it got as far as Mom.
“Hey, have you seen my fur coat? I left it in the hall closet last night.”
“Nope. I looked around there this morning. Nobody left any coats.”
Laurie shrugged and scratched her arm. Another sugar daddy would replace it.
Cindy drove by Alice’s house on the way home. The nurse was out getting the kids, so Alice talked to her at the side door, glancing out into the street nervously. Cindy told her what Laurie knew about Rick. Alice told Cindy about Rick’s insurance policy on Mom. Mafia. FBI. Foreign spies.
They hugged and kissed. The laughed about having itchy arms. Then they got spooked, and Cindy fled.
* * *
Allen was on his way to the club. He arranged to meet his customers – Ben the security guy and Judy – at the cemetery, one of the nicest places he knew for hanging out in pubic smoking dope. They lounged on low walls and read inscriptions and talked at length about stealth smoking, about letting the sweet odor of pot fill the air so that regular people can smell it but don’t know where it is. Urban realism. Walking the walk for a free drug society. As opposed to a drug-free society. Allen and Judy scratched at poison ivy on their arms. They were just bullshitting. It didn’t matter what the conversation was about as long as there were drugs present.
They discussed Alice and Rick. Allen told them that Rick tried to force him to kill Mom with his bare hands. In the septic tank. He told them about two drive by shootings. He told them about Cindy paying him to run a relative off the road. He told them about Bill paying the Russian Mafia to kill Mom. He told them about the brakes failing.
Ben told them about the tight net of suspicion Alice was under. Child Protective Services investigated a complaint. (Laurie. After Rick bitched for two hours about those damned kids.) They found evidence of abuse, and took the kids. Alice was charged. Alice was undergoing treatment. Rick was orchestrating her defense. (There were cameras in Rick’s office and his phone was recorded.) Alice sat and cried all the time. She never saw her kids, only heard them, and that tortured her more than anything. They cried for her. They asked Why? They asked Where’s Mommy? Her door was locked from the outside.
Everybody agreed that if anyone was abusing the kids, it was Rick. Everybody agreed that Rick was laying the blame on Alice and punishing her so nobody would suspect it of him. Ever the righteous Rick.
Ben was upset because Alice was being imprisoned and tortured. He could see it all, but he couldn’t call the cops. They would just arrest him for violating his contract. He could only film it with a view toward releasing it on YouTube.
They all agreed that they had to do something, but what could they do? They didn’t want Mom dead. But they didn’t want to risk anything themselves. They decided that Ben should contact the FBI. Just call the hotline and the local agent would get back to him.
Talk like that made them uncomfortable, so they split up. It was getting dark. Judy took a few of Allen’s chocolates to give to Frank. But he was not up to it, so she put them in the box she took from Allen’s a few weeks ago. Surprisingly, they were just like the chocolates that came in the box originally. She licked her fingers. Cinnamon. Alcohol. Maybe later. Maybe she could resist. She left them on top of a stack in the kitchen and rolled a joint, and thought no more about them. Good girl.
* * *
Rick made his attempt to kill Mom. Paralyzed by the need to be superior, he couldn’t just drive by and shoot, as Cindy had done, even tho he knew nothing of her attempts, or anyone else’s – its vibe as an option was tainted. He couldn’t poison her, everyone was doing that. He couldn’t run her over, because Allen already tried that. He couldn’t get in the house to sabotage anything, or to throw Mom down the stairs or accidentally strangle her, because of that cretin Allen.
What was left? What was elegant? Burn the house down. Firebomb it. Explosives. Steal a truck and ram it into house with a short fuse. Call the police and tell them terrorists were inside. Watch them make short work of Mom and Allen. Rick wouldn’t have to lift a finger. He liked that. There was even a way to make a profit from it. He could taste it. He got out the gas can and started fiddling with it.
On the other side of the house, Bill made his attempt on Mom’s life. He’d tried to have her hit, only to fail by some miracle, so the Russian guy said. So there he was in front of her house doing it in person. He hated her house. It was so colonial, so ostentatious. He saw it in her eyes, the only time she’d seen his house, how much she detested the home he made for Cindy. He could tell that she thought everything in his house was cheap and second rate, a brand new Victorian with all the gingerbread the structure would hold. She thought her fucking daughter deserved better than Dollywood.
Well, he was just trying to please her fucking daughter. Cindy told him she wanted Mom dead. He figured he could help, even if he was in the middle of leaving her.
He ran into Rick, also attempting to burn down Mom’s house.
“It’s that synergy thing, isn’t it?” Bill wondered.
Rick confessed the deep financial hole he was in. Bill confessed to planning to leave Cindy. Rick liked Bill more all the time.
Bill felt sorry for Rick. In the middle of listening to what was wrong with his life, Rick gave Bill an idea for automation that opened up a whole new field. He interrupted Rick’s litany and explained his idea. Rick saw immediately how he could do it cheaply. They formed a partnership then and there, with warm mutual feelings. This was how family was supposed to work.
Together they made short work of setting Mom’s house on fire. They even left a calling card, written on the grass. They split up and headed for their cars, smelling of gas and feeling toasty warm with brotherly love. Rick planned to get the new idea to his lawyer in the morning, and fuck Bill.
Once he was back in the car, Bill called Cindy to give her the good news. Cindy was incoherent. “My blood pressure has changed. I can feel it.” Bill called down the phone at her. He’d caught her just as her drugs kicked in. “I’m only on for seven more minutes, because I am going back to sleep.” She mumbled a bunch of things, and then said goodbye and hung up.
Bill shrugged, and decided to go to the club and see if Roxy would talk to him. Cindy snored on, oblivious.
Allen was down in his nest, having a cigarette. Since he and Mom got engaged, she moved him into one of the kids’ rooms. It was now fitting that they sleep on the same floor. Allen shrugged. He wasn’t getting any no matter where he slept. And she was now forcing him to keep his room clean. He needed this refuge more than ever.
He smelled gasoline. He heard voices outside. He opened the sliding glass doors to see what was going on, and heard the whump of a fire starting. Racing outside, he saw shadowy figures escaping, but was in time to turn on the hose and put out the fire. He got to the little fires at the base of the yard last. Die die die. The gasoline words on the lawn were getting more original. Better spelled, anyway.
Mom came downstairs to greet him when he came back in, wet and smelling of smoke and gasoline. “My hero,” she cooed. “Gun fire, arson, you’re always there to protect me.” She snuggled in for a hug. “You’re my guardian angel.” Allen felt like a million dollars.
* * *
Bill crawled into bed at 3:30 in the morning, smelling of smoke, beer, and pussy. Cindy snored on. Forty-five minutes later, Ssyndee got out of bed, refreshed. And looked around. There was that troll Bill snoring away. She could see his horned feet his spiny backbone. He was never any help. The dragons were in the basement. She could hear them breathing. They had dark breath.
It was up her. She battled them downstairs and in the back yard. She chased them into he neighbor’s trees. They hid behind the neighbor’s car, and she shot them. Then she ran back and built a barricade so they couldn’t come up the stairs after her. Then she went back to bed.
* * *