“Will there be anything else ladies?”
Taffeta stirred awake from a light nap, as the waiter, whose name tag identified him as Damerae, placed their drinks on the small table next to their lounge chairs.
“Oh, no thank you,” Taffeta said. “This is fine.”
“Not right now Damerae,” Myrna said. “But don’t go too far. I never know when I might just feel like dancing.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Damerae said with a wink.
“Myrna?” Taffeta said, as the waiter moved on. “You are a shameless flirt.”
“I am,” Myrna said, settling deeper into her chair and her sense of self-satisfaction. “I don’t see any reason to change at this point.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Taffeta said, lifting her glass.
She let the cool, fruity concoction work it’s magic and closed her eyes again behind her large sunglasses.
In the dark, the shadows of the past rose up as they always do now. The imprinted residue of resilient memories that can’t be erased, but instead, must be endured until they fade away of their own volition.
A shadowy room materializes, strewn with the bodies of those unfortunates who lurked in alleyways and around corners waiting for a crack at an easier life, but always at the expense of another.
Bright spatters and dark puddles of blood broke up the monotonous, dusty grays and dingy browns. The smells of dirt, mold, decay and gunpowder mixed in a choking, nauseating haze.
Once again Myrna stands with her outstretched arm holding a smoking, hot Cora covered by a patent leather purse now with a sizable hole in the side. The long and broken couch. The money.
Yes. Even in the midst of chaos and fear and death, the siren call of money is strong and clear and seductive.
Once Taffeta and Myrna calmed themselves, Myrna was ready to go, to cut bait and run and just clear out and start the work of forgetting. But how does that happen? For all that went on in that room. The screaming, the fighting, the gunfire, they were still alone. They were in a place that nobody on the outside must have cared much about. When it was over, it was quiet. More than quiet. Silent. No sirens. No men with megaphones shouting “Come out with your hands up.”
It was just the two of them, the bodies and the money.
“Myrna, wait,” Taffeta remembered.
“Wait? Wait for what?” Myrna asked.
“Let’s…just see how much.”
“How much what? How much more mayhem we can get into? No thank you!” Myrna turned again to leave, but Taffeta held strong.
“The boxes. All those boxes must be filled with money. I mean, look at how much it is on the floor.”
“You’re kidding right? It’s bad money, Taffy. Blood money. Money from drugs and crimes and…”
Taffeta looked back at her friend. “And what if we call they police? What if they come and see what went on here. What do you think happens?”
“I’m sure I don’t know.”
“You do,” Taffeta said. “You know they will come and clean up the mess and lock everything up and that’s the end of it.”
“You want to take the money?” Myrna asked. “Really?!”
“Let’s see how much.”
“No. It’s blood money.”
“It’s lost money Myrna. It’s not like this is from a bank or something. I mean sure, some of it’s stolen, but you heard them, a lot of this money people gave willingly – stupidly, sure, but willingly. Just to get high or whatever.”
“It belongs to somebody,” Myrna said. “It always does.”
“Why not us?”
“Sure, why not us?” Taffeta said. “We were kidnapped, victimized, harassed, tied up, probably traumatized for the rest of our lives and they were going to kill us. Can we just walk away from that? Can you just, forget all that? Forget it all and just move on?”
Myrna took another step toward the door and stopped. “I killed a man, Taffy.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sad about it. He was certainly going to kill you and if it happened all over, I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
“I don’t know. It feels wrong. The killing feels wrong even though it was the only thing I knew to do. Taking the money, just feels wrong.”
“I know. You’re right,” Taffeta said. “And we can leave right now and go home and call the police and let them deal with it all. And we will get on with the rest of our lives, however long that is, and try to forget it all and hope that we are stronger than our nightmares, because I don’t think this is going away any time soon. I mean, just look! I’m just not sure that’s how I want my ending to be.”
“Alone in an empty house, making sure I’m up by a certain time so that I can take my medicine before my nap and be awake for my afternoon doses of whatever so I can do it all again tomorrow and the next day!”
“Myrna, we almost died here today. Right here in this horrible, disgusting, vermin-infested wreck of a place. Right here where we would be forgotten as soon as the next news story came along to replace the one that tells the tale of two stupid old women who got themselves killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time!”
Taffeta spun away from Myrna and stared into the shadows, at the bodies and the ocean of bills that poured from the boxes Petey tipped over.
It was some time before she felt Myrna’s hand on her shoulder. “Let’s just see how much.”
It took them a while, but they loaded quite a few boxes into the car that waited for them outside. There was too much to count right there. It was all sort of thrown together. And there was the matter of the three dead bodies. Once they decided to move on their idea, the ladies moved effectively.
For as troubled as he was, Danny Mackenoy, the New Capone, did a fair job of gathering up quite a lot of money. Who knows? If he stayed away from the drugs himself, it might have dawned on him that he was close to getting exactly what he wanted.
They took what felt right. Nothing more. It came as a silent decision between them after loading one of the boxes into the car. At one point or another, it just seemed like enough.
Once they were loaded, they made certain they had all their belongings, and they crawled into the car and headed home – at last.
About halfway home, they found a payphone and called the police. They didn’t know that address specifically, but they gave the general area and expressed concern over what they were certain was gunfire before hanging up.
Once at Taffeta’s house, they ate and had a good sleep before they started rooting through the boxes of money in the front room. With few expectations, it just became clear that it was a lot. Anytime they came across a random pill or other chemical, they promptly flushed it down the toilet.
They split the money into two piles then sat down looking at them for the longest time wondering what next.
They watched television news for any information on their story from the other perspective and it was as it was expected, “Three unknown victims were found dead in quarantined building, two from blunt force trauma and one from multiple gunshot wounds. Along with the bodies, police found a variety of prescription drugs and a large amount of money, possibly related to a recent string of thefts from several local pharmacies. Police suspect gang and, or drug related violence as the cause, but continue to investigate.”
Two days later, the story all but evaporated from the headlines, due to a warehouse explosion on the other side of town with the potential of releasing toxic smoke that posed a danger to the local population.
Then things got quiet.
Taffeta called Angela Deffert of Deffert, Smith and Deffert, blah, blah as her brother did some time ago. Proper and professional, Miss Deffert acknowledged the memory of working with Taffeta’s brother and the firm’s handling of his affairs, including the distribution of the various crates that he left in his will.
Miss Deffert confirmed that Taffeta’s brother had indeed secured their services, not only because they were a top ranking firm, but for their reputation for being discreet.
In short order, Taffeta and Myrna had set up the money in a living trust with conditions suitable to their liking. They arranged for the pick up, delivery and possible long-term storage of a certain crate, which now contained a well cleaned, well oiled and well packed Cora along with the remaining ammunition.
They each sold their houses and pretty much everything else they had short of their most prized possessions and made the plan to head some place, “South. Tropical. Caribbean.”
“Well, I do declare,” Myrna said, in what was the very passable, if not stereotypical accent of a Southern belle. “Why, with all this heat I fear that I am fixin’ to perspire!” She leaned over and tapped Taffeta on the shoulder stirring her again, from her visit to the past.
“I’m heading inside to take a shower before we go to dinner,” she said. “Don’t stay out here too long now, ya hear? Why, you’ll just bake!”
“Go!” said Taffeta, laughing lightly. “Get out of here, you loon!”
“Seriously, you don’t want to burn.”
“I’ll be along,” Taffeta said, downing the very last of her cocktail. “I don’t want to miss the sunset.”
Taffeta shifted in her chair and draped a towel across her legs. Her gaze moved along the beach and out across the water. She squinted and pushed herself to see as far as she could, far beyond the horizon and up into the sky until the very essence of her soul seemed to melt into the churning warm hues of the evening sun, set to drop away to mark the end of another day.