Something Stinks
Joanne Faries
Tom Cordona put the Cadillac in drive, wiped the steering wheel, then with a flourish placed the handkerchief neatly in his breast pocket. He stepped out of the car. I watched from the passenger seat, still strapped in, blood seeped from a bullet hole in my side. My eyes flickered, yearned to close, but I wouldn't give him that satisfaction. I struggled to sit up, maintain composure, and glare at him.
 
"Stella, you're a feisty one, but you got in too deep, sweetheart. Why did you come to the docks and open that door?"
 
"I figured you were two-timing me, Tom. I only followed you from the restaurant because I was sick of Chanel. As if I didn't smell it on your clothes?" I exhaled and pressed my hand to my side. The blood oozed, and my body ached.
 
He replied, sounded far away. I turned my head to see that he still stood at the car door, not touching anything, a slight frown on his face. "I never cheated on you, Stella. You classed me up - just look at you with that chestnut hair, va-va-voom body, and an education. I mean, half the time I had no idea what you were telling me, but it sounded so swell. All the guys were impressed, but they warned me." He waggled a finger at me. "Smart dames are trouble, Tommy."
 
At this I closed my eyes, giving in to the pain of his words and the gunshot. After a pause, I said, "So the Chanel was a cover for the fancy French wines you hustled. No laws on perfume, but the feds discouraged booze."
 
"Yeah, and you working for the mayor ... how'd that look? You had to nose around." Tom shrugged. "This ...this is business. Dominick said you gotta disappear."
 
Dark spots before my eyes and lightheadedness didn't bode well. I coughed and the metallic taste increased my nausea. My resolve to not cry wavered.
 
One final gamble. I had to keep my pride. No begging, no wailing. I whispered, "Tom, if I'm not at work tomorrow, the mayor will come after you. There's a letter in my desk drawer - gives him your name, address, Dom's info."
 
"You're bluffing, Stella," he said with bravado. Yet his eyelids fluttered. Betrayed doubt. I knew his tell and I had him questioning himself. He got back in the Cadillac and fired her up. "You got a key to your office?"
 
I nodded. Blood pooled at my feet. I was dying, but not headed into the ocean. I willed myself to hang on, for the satisfaction of pulling a gun from my office drawer - my farewell letter to Tom.



First published: August, 2013
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