By Gayle Carline
Skeon rolled out of bed and stood quietly, listening for a sound, any sound, but only his own breathing came to his ears. Very slowly he opened the desk drawer and felt inside. His gun was gone! Then he smelled something unfamiliar — lavender?
He looked around the studio apartment. It looked like his, yet not his. The stack of newspapers by his recliner was missing. And there was something wrong with his recliner. The duct tape that kept the stuffing from bulging out had been replaced with white, lacy things — doilies? Skeon backed up to the wall, to take in the entire view.
No dishes in the sink, no dust on the furniture, no clothes on the floor… why, this place had been cleaned!
He rubbed his eyes, stared again, then fumbled in the nightstand for his pack of cigarettes. As he tapped one out for the taking, he heard a key in the lock. Without his gun, too far from the small kitchenette to grab a knife, all Skeon could do was slip down behind the bed and hope for the element of surprise.
“Skeezy?” The voice sounded unnaturally high and sing-songy. “Skeezy? Are you up yet?”
It sounded like a six-year old girl. Or Minnie Mouse. Either way, he couldn’t place it. He heard the sharp clip of high heels, and paper rustling, bags being set down. The voice continued, too.
“I hope you like Jif, they were out of Peter Pan. You know, my mother always swore by Peter Pan peanut butter, but to tell you the truth, I can’t really tell the difference. I got some milk, too, two percent. Most men like whole milk better, but it’s just not healthy.”
Skeon wanted to see who was blathering on, but didn’t dare lift his head where she could see him. And, perhaps she wasn’t alone. At last, she took a breath, and he heard the high heels walking toward the bed.
“Skeezy, honey, where are you?”
He coiled, waiting for her to discover him. The sound of her movements came closer; just as he saw a flash of pink cotton, he launched, sending her against the wall, his body trapping hers.
She laughed. “Aren’t you as playful as a kitten? You must be feeling a lot better. I swear, I’ve never seen a man sleep so much in all my life.”
“Who the hell are you?” His voice sounded gravelly and harsh, next to her cartoonish pitch.
“Don’t be silly, Silly.” She pushed her face toward his, kissing his nose. The action shocked him, and he pulled back, allowing her to walk away.
Skeon looked at her for the first time. Petite, blonde and blue-eyed, she was the opposite of every dame he’d ever chased. He liked them tall and dark. She wore a pink cotton dress that managed to hug every curve on her frame, and she had quite a few, all in the right places. Her hair was long, and held off of her neck by some kind of sparkly clip. He couldn’t help thinking about Sandra Dee when he looked at her.
But he was no Bobby Darin. Dennis Farina was more like it, old and grizzled, not just rough around the edges but through the middle as well. His years spent as a hired gun for organized crime never put him into contact with anyone or anything as squeaky clean as this little coquette. He watched her walk to the sink and wash her hands, then wrap a white apron around her tiny waist.
“Look,” he said, following her to the kitchen. “I’m not being silly. I don’t know who you are, what you’re doing here, or what’s happened to my apartment.” He grabbed her arm and spun her toward him. “I want some answers.”
“Oh, dear,” she said, holding her hand to his forehead. “You don’t feel feverish. Perhaps you have amnesia.”
“I don’t have amnesia,” he told her, and yanked her hand away. “I know who I am. Who the hell are you?”
“Honey,” she replied. “Honey McGee.” She giggled. “Honey Lancaster now.”
She leaned her body into his, her hand caressing his face. “Skeezy, darling, you might have forgotten the wedding, but surely you remember the honeymoon.”
Skeon backed away, a low guttural scream escaping from his throat. The phone rang to distract him.
“Hello, Ski.” He recognized the voice immediately. Archie Waters, the man who still owed him six grand for his recent job.
“Waters, when are you going to pay up?”
“Why, Ski, I already did. Don’t you like my present?” Archie sounded gleeful, triumphant.
“Honey. Ain’t she sweet?”
“What do you mean, she’s my present? I don’t want no wife. And she’s not worth six grand — no woman is.”
He could almost hear Waters smile through the phone. Something didn’t add up.
“You’re right, Ski, she’s not worth six. She’s only costing me three.”
Skeon felt the cold metal against his head and had just enough time to kick himself before his world ended.