I was standing in the small rental that was in an even worse state than my apartment, once again corporeal and dressed in that silly sparkling top and my worn jeans. A cockroach skittled across O’Sullivan’s body. He had dropped the cellphone when I disemsouled him, and it was blinking and playing one of those annoying tunes over and over. I ignored it in favor of the thick wad of cash that lay next to it.
It looked like Ryan had told Tommy the truth, he did have money. I flipped through the bills. It was close to 3000 dollars. I stuffed them into the pocket of my black jeans and headed for the door, not wanting to go through the mirror in the bathroom and have to deal with Ryan’s whimpering, deranged spirit.
“Doing some extracurricular work I see.”
“Jesus, Lou!” I exclaimed, pivoting around. “You scared the crap out of me!”
The fallen angel pushed away from the wall and came towards me with the elegance of a professional model. Not that it was hard for him to look like he’d just stepped out of an Armani ad. He was tall and slender with a stylish mop of honey blond hair and perfect features. He gestured towards the bulky body. “Who’s this?”
“No one”, I muttered, still angry with myself for not having noticed Lou sneaking up on me. The former archangel gave me a look and knelt, placing a hand on the body.
“A murderer…” He murmured in that well-bred British accent of his. “A killer of mothers… Well, you do know how to pick them.”
“Isn’t that why you chose me to do your dirty work?” I replied, watching as he rose, brushing his hand off on the pinstripe slacks that cost more than I earned in a month.
He gave me a thin smile. “Point.” Then the smile dropped from his face and he took a step towards me, inhaling deeply. I frowned. This was odd even for him.
“Do I smell or something?”
“Yes”, he said, his dual-colored eyes suddenly intense. “And it’s a scent I thought was lost forever.” He put his hands on my shoulders and leaned in as if he was going to kiss me. “Who have you been with tonight, Mary?”
I took a step back, annoyed at his behavior. “No one. Besides, it’s none of your business whom I’m ‘with’.”
He rolled his eyes at me. “It wasn’t a euphemism for sex. Who have you been spending time with?”
“No one.” I glared at the fallen angel. “I’ve been working.” I sighed when he gave me one of those pointed looks. I started to count off the people I had seen during the course of the night: “Choco, Georgie, Nina, Kiffany, about a hundred or so intoxicated customers. Oh, and a cop who came in to get a sandwich and ask if we’ve seen this piece of shit.” I jerked my thumb in Dead O’Sullivan’s direction.
“Hmm…” Lou tapped a finger against his chin. Then he leaned towards me, sniffing as if I was a flower or something. His shoulders slumped slightly. “Perhaps I was mistaken.”
I crossed my arms in front of my skimpy top and met his now sad gaze. “Now, will you tell me what it was about?”
He shook his head. “An old dream, nothing more. Come see me at the library tomorrow.” he said, heading for the door. I watched the fallen angel leave the dingy apartment, the ugly electric chandelier swinging, the light flickering as he passed under it.
I RETURNED TO MY APARTMENT VIA the front door, carrying a paper bag containing a couple of cans of tuna for Islington and a tub of Haagen-daz’s dark chocolate gelato for me, as well as an assortment of beverages and other treats. With the welcomed addition of the 3000 dollars to my normally meager founds, I had decided to spoil myself a little.
For once, I wasn’t met by a catastrophe of biblical proportions when I stepped through the front door. Islington lay on the couch and could almost be mistaken for an ordinary cat and not the hellspawn that he was.
To tell you the truth, I have no idea who, or what, that cat is. He had just been there one day, as impossible to get rid of as a bad odor, or syphilis. And believe me, I have tried. I even moved away from Chicago because of him. Only to discover him already waiting for me in Anchorage. At least he keeps the mice and cockroach population down.
I kicked off my trainers then flopped down on the worn couch, putting the bag of goodies between myself and the softly growling cat. “Now, now, don’t be a sourpuss.” I resisted the urge to try to tickle him under his chin. I heal almost instantly but as far as I know I can’t grow back limbs. I used the handy multi-functional tool I kept attached to my key-chain to open one of the cans of tuna and placed it in front of Islington. “There you go, kitty”, I chimed, ignoring the look of loathing he gave me. “I bought the fancy expensive kind just for you. Enjoy.”
Having done my duty as a responsible pet owner, I tucked into my gelato. There’s a lot of things I don’t like about the 21th century, and some things that I simply don’t get, but easy access to ice cream wasn’t one of them. As far as I’m concerned, Haagen-daz and Ben & Jerry’s are one of the best things about modern society. Forget penicillin, flatscreen TV’s and smart-phones, mankind’s best invention is the freezer if you ask me, and grocery shops that’s open around the clock.
“So, how was your day, Izzy… or night, I mean?” I asked the cat.
Islington raised his nose out of the tin long enough to glare at me before going back to the serious business of inhaling tuna.
“Me?” I asked, keeping up the one-sided conversation. “Oh, I’ve had a lovely night, thanks for asking. I spent hours serving beers to drunk jerks and even drunker bridesmaids. Then I killed a guy, stole his money and bought you this delicious tuna that you no doubt will throw up in my shoes.” I took another spork full of creamy dark chocolate gelato, slowly letting it melt on my tongue, enjoying the rich sweetness. I swallowed. “That cop came in looking for O’Sullivan.” Detective Michael Malak had been the topic of more than one nightly conversation. What can I tell you, he was a very handsome man, and he came in once or twice a week to grab something to eat, and to keep tabs on the local unsavory elements.
I usually watched him out of the corner of my eye. Tonight was the first time we’ve actually had a conversation, and unsettling as that conversation might have been, I still couldn’t resist reliving it over and over in my mind…
Warm hands covering mine, gently squeezing my fingers. Amber-colored eyes filled with concern, then with something so close to suspicion that I instinctively pulled back from the memory. Even inside my own head I was running from him, running from that purity and goodness he radiated.
The sweet dark chocolate turned bitter and I put the tub of ice cream on the coffee table and leaned back against the couch, resting my head on the wall behind it. “Maybe we should get a TV”, I mumbled, letting my gaze sweep across my barren living room. The wallpaper was a dark bottle-green with an ugly splotchy pattern. With the dark brown wooden paneling and big Gothic windows, it could have actually looked nice, but since the middle window was boarded up and a piece of cardboard covered the broken half of the second window, it just looked depressing.
When I moved in, I hadn’t expected I would still be here three years later. The truth was that I was tired of roaming, tired of never having a home. Tired of being alone…
I sighed and stared up at the ceiling where the paint was peacefully flaking and the corners had been claimed by generations of spiders, their webs hanging like dusty, bedraggled drapes decorated with empty husks of flies and moths, and of the arachnids themselves.
“I’m going to bed.” I climbed to my feet, grabbing the bag and the tub of melting gelato, and headed for the kitchen. Like the living room its decor was dark and murky, but the stove and oven worked. Not that I used either much. I put the cans of tuna in one of the cupboards, stacking them up neatly next to my stash of Campbell’s soups and bags of Walkers’ potato chips. The soda found a new home in my fridge among half-eaten boxes of takeaway and a moldy wedge of cheese, and the gelato got the freezer all to itself.
“Maybe I’ll pick up some proper groceries tomorrow”, I called to my uncaring cat before heading to the bathroom. “Cook us a real dinner.” This suggestion was met by a loud meow. “Yeah, you’re right, Izzy. I’ll stop by the Golden Garden and pick up some egg rolls and Qi-pork instead.” My last attempt to make dinner had ended with a fire, a screeching fire alarm, and a pissed off landlord.
The bathroom was the nicest room in the apartment. The tiles were white with a black rim that went along all sides of the room, and the bathtub was one of those old fashioned things with lion’s paws. A previous tenant had installed new lamps and they flooded the bathroom in light. I pulled off the ridiculous sparkly top, tossing it into the laundry basket. Despite the stifling weather, I found myself longing for a warm bath to try and soak out the chill that had settled in my bones, and I turned the tap on to fill the tub.