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.

     “What present?”

     “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.


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