Feather in the Tar: One Hand Washes Another

           “Genie, come-in.” Seven says after quick knocks at the door and a wink through the peephole. He motions toward the couch, “have a seat.” She’s a friend and client. Once upon a time, Seven chased a college boy, a stalker, away from her.

          The studio apartment is 10 by 15 feet with a door to a bathroom in one corner, and a small kitchenette in the opposite. A work table/desk juts out about 3 feet from one wall with bookshelves on the 90-degree against the wall, covering it all the way to the front wall. The shelves are crammed with electronic detritus, magazines, a few books, and on the bottom shelve in the right corner is an upright 2’ by 2’ safe, and next to it, a large computer frame with wires, cards and who knows what, Heir Frankensmack. Red, green, and amber lights flicker on the inside and out. A hard drive array and tape machine sits on top of the safe. In the middle left bookshelf, across from the couch sits a 19” LCD TV with a bookshelf stereo. A thick layer of dust covers its case, but the screen has been wiped recently.

          Seven sits on a work stool in front of his desk, and Genie, erect and fidgety, sits across from him. She takes out a cigarette and puts it between her full red lips. Seven turns and picks up a Colt 45. Her eyes get as big as perfect over-easies when he points it at her. “Click,” Seven pulls the trigger, and she inhales sharply. A flame pops out of the barrel.

           “Funny,” she giggles, nervously. “Where’d you get that thing?”

          He hands it to her, “garage sale in the neighborhood, 5 bucks, cool or what?”

           “Yeah, real cool if you know before it points.” She says, “It feels like the real thing.” She exhales a fresh cloud and sighs.

           “So, what’s up?” He asks, “you seem nervous. Is everything OK?”

          Genie takes another deep toke and exhales, her shoulders shrink, she’s quiet, an uncomfortable quiet like when an IRS pencil doesn’t believe your deduction for iced coffee and cigarettes on a stake out with client de jour. “Something terrible happened to a friend. I was there.” Genie begins the story about Sal at the Lombard Bridge Motel. “I came out of the powder room, and his body was laying next to the bed.” She takes a deep puff and begins to shake. “His, his head,” she exhales and tears up. She whimpers and takes another drag.

           “His head?” Seven says, “His head had a hole in it? Genie squeaks, but Seven continues, “An axe? “Chainsaw?” Was blown apart?” Genie bursts out in a full on cry. He turns around and grabs a box of paper kerchiefs, generic with aloe and a John Bull engine in a modern pattern printed on the side; he hands the box to her. Seven moves to the couch and puts his arms around her. “It’s OK, cry if you need to, let it out, it’ll be OK.” He comforts her.

          Genie cries for half an hour. Seven stands up and walks over to the kitchenette. He opens the last top cabinet on the left and removes a bottle of Irish whisky. He picks up two Hanna-Barbera jelly glasses out of the sink, washes, dries them, and returns to Genie.

           “Here,” he hands her Penelope Pitstop and pours an ounce. “The first one’s quick,” he says. Genie shoots it down, and Seven fills it half full. “Take a small sip. Start over.” Seven pours himself half a glass, Hadji.

           “I met Sal at the Lombard Bridge Motel.” She says

           “Sal, Sal Klement?” Seven asks.

           “Yeah, he said he just got a bonus and wanted a little company.”

           “You met him at the bar?”

           “Yes, he called me, but I was already on my way for a final, final; and you know Sal, he’ll let you stay while he wipes out the toilets, and then maybe breakfast.” Genie says, and bursts out again. “Sal was a real gentleman.”

           “It’s OK. It’s OK,” He hugs her again. “Take another sip.” Seven lifts her hands to her mouth. “Sal was a real hero.”

          Genie sniffles, “well he said he got a big bonus, and wanted to hang out and watch late night TV.”

           “Yes, you checked into the L. Bridge?’

           “Uh huh, they’ve got free cable.” Genie says, “the whole package.”

           “Yes. I’ve worked it before, classy sheets.”

           “Well, I am in the bathroom, and the walls shake. I hear this strange sound in the room, and I call to Sal, but nothin’. There’s this loud thump.”

           “Yes,” Seven nods.

           “I open the door, and it’s foggy in the room, hot/sticky, the door slams shut, and, and,” her lips quiver, she begins to hyperventilate, she moans and sobs.

           “It’ll be OK, sweetness, take your time. Take another sip.” Seven reassures her.

           “His,” she sniffles, “his hea…, his eyes,” her lip quivers, “Sal’s head is starring at me from across the room.” She can’t hold it back. Tears flow again like sweat on a melting ice cube.

          Seven hugs her to his chest and pats her back. He gulps the whisky. “Sal stares at you?”

           “Yes,” she takes another kerchief, blows and wipes her nose and eyes. “I’ll never forget his eyes.” She wrings the kerchief in her hands.

           “Genie, I don’t understand? Sal is starring at you from across the room.”

           “No, no, no,” she whimpers for a few seconds, sniffles, “Sal’s head, it’s not on his body.” Genie chugs the remaining whisky, and Seven refills her Penelope.

           “Fuck, he’s been decapitated?”

           “Yes! And his eyes, his beautiful amber black eyes, it’s like he knows, but he’s scared as shit?”

           “He knew the killer?” Seven asks.

           “Yeah, I think?.” Genie chugs the whisky.

           “Funny sound? What kind of sound?” Seven asks and takes hold of her hand.

           “I don’t know, like whooshes, like a kettle with no whistle?”

           “Hum, did you talk to the cops?”

           “No, no, I got the hell out there.” She cries.

           “Ok, but your prints in the bathroom?”

           “Yes, and I left my Pinky heels.”

           “Damn woman. How can I help you?” Seven asks.

           “I dunno,” she begins to cry, “do you think they’re looking for me? I didn’t do anything.”

           “Yeah, but you left the scene. The stiff-ties will be suspicious.” Seven says.

           “Shit Seven. What should I do?” She pleads.

           “You are going to have to talk to them. I’ll sniff around, I have a few friends in vice; maybe they can tell me something?”

           “OK.” She says, and Seven fills her glass one last time.

           “Lay low, not your home, but a friends or family, and I’ll contact you. Are you still at the same cell?”

           “Yes.”

           “OK. Are you OK to go?” He stares in to her eyes.

           “Can I use your powder room?”

           “Sure, but it’s pure bachelor.” He answers.

          Washing her hands, Genie looks into the mirror and sighs. Her mascara is streaks down her checks, so she wipes her eyes clean with toilet paper, freshens her lipstick and walks to the table and picks up the glass. Seven is surfing the net for any reports on the homicide. Genie picks up Penelope and knocks back the remaining whisky. “Thank you Seven.” she grabs his neck and squeezes tight. “I don’t know how I’ll ever thank you.”

           “It’ll be fine Genie. It’ll work out.” He says, “ you didn’t do anything wrong, OK?” She releases him, spins his stool, and pecks his cheeks. Her blotchy rouge and lips color each, moist and warm.

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