Big Tits

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Of course, it’s best to read the previous chapters.

*****

A Little Side Business, Part Seven

It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over

Our hero takes resurrection road

Spinning. Spinning in the dark. Spinning on the playground merry-go-round when the big kids pushed it too fast, my balloon legs pulling me away into deep space, my face in the grass, my fingers digging into the loam, fingernails tearing. Pain like a needle up my nose. Breathing broken glass, swallowing razor blades. The tang of iron and salt on my tongue. Screaming. Someone screaming. Not me…probably. Other voices shouting. Heavy vibrations rising out of the ground, pulsing through my cracked head. The bones of the earth grinding together. Giants stumbling near!

I came back to the world in fragments.

I cracked one eye and the spinning slowed. A landscape of bloodied carpet tilted slowly down to horizontal. I let go, felt the earth pull me back to itself. Feet ran by. Another pair. The screaming faded, echoing in descending pitches. My breath tore in my throat. I swallowed blood. I reached for my face, came away red. Tried to focus. Too hard.

“NINEONEONE!” someone shouted. “NINEONEONE!”

A naked woman knelt beside me, cell phone to her face, a blur.

“Glasses,” I croaked, searing my throat. She vanished, reappeared, lifted my head. Pain circled me, striking from just out of reach, not fighting fair. Things went black again for a moment.

“What the fuck, man, what the fuck,” someone said. I turned to the sound and all the loose stones in my head ran crashing to one side. I saw Marcus hopping on one foot, struggling to put on his pants.

Tamika’s voice, cutting in and out, “I don’t…address. Between…bridges…Island…mond Causeway. On the right. There’s a…stone pillars. No…no sign…number.”

I tried to raise up and a wave of nausea hit me. I guessed my nose was broken. Eyes clenched, I sat up and fell back against the bed frame, remembered sex. I had been having sex. That burnt, hot empty feeling in my crotch. And I was naked. My penis looked so small from this distance. I held my head, tenderly ran a fingertip along my nose. Bad idea. Hard to catch my breath when every movement sliced at my throat. Slowly the world came into focus. There were a pair of black panties tied to my wrist.

Tamika appeared before me again. “Frank, you OK?” I had to think about that.

“No,” I groaned. One too many words for my throat. Swallowing helped, even when it hurt.

“You hit the floor pretty hard when Rita got the belt off your neck.” She looked concerned. I tried to look back with meaning, telepathically. *Get my pants* I beamed.

“Charlotte freaked out and ran away screaming. Rita followed her. I called 911.”

“Pants,” I croaked, sure my throat would tear. She disappeared and came back with my VoltT uniform. I reached and, with her help, stood up, reeling. The carpet threatened to fly up and hit me in the face again. I held tight to the bed frame until the spinning stopped. We got my pants on. The shirt was a whole other project, but after some time and some gingerly negotiation with the neck hole, we did it. Tamika got dressed while I caught my breath and tried to align my body at a perpendicular angle to the force of gravity. It’s harder than it looks.

Marcus said, “I’ve got to go. I don’t want to be here when the police come. I’ll just be the prime suspect.”

“Another sad but true fact,” sighed Tamika, “As far as we’re concerned you were never here, alright? I’ll call you and get on the same page later. You OK with that, Frank?”

I made a gesture that I hoped conveyed agreement.

Rita came back in, distressed, “Charlotte ran into the maze. I can’t find a way in there. She’s still screaming. Come help me find her, Frank!”

A jolt of adrenalin cleared my head some. “Coming,” I whispered, finding my shoes. Bending over to tie them was no fun.

Tamika left, saying, “I’ll drive out to the Causeway and flag down the EMS guys.”

Rita said, “There’s an electric chain saw in the shed by the pool. Bring the extension cords, will ya!” And she ran out with Marcus’s jacket and one of the light stands, trailing its cord. I followed, jerking a cord from one of the other lights, which went down with a crash as I stumbled out the door and down the stairs, skull still throbbing, but now in rescue mode.

The night air cleared my head a little more. Rita had pulled the chain saw out and was waiting for my cord to plug it in. She had a light trained on the hedge. We could hear Charlotte screaming, her cries growing more ragged and mournful by the moment. Clearly, Rita’s idea was to cut our way into the maze and find her. Clever girl. She’d wrapped herself in Marcus’s jacket.

“You cut, I’ll pull the crap out of your way, OK?” she shouted as I fingered the trigger and the chain saw whined. I stepped over the brick wall İstanbul Escort and began. The thorns were fierce, scratching my arms and face, the smell of wounded vegetation thick, sickening. I didn’t want to think about the snakes and spiders; I jumped every time something went down my neck. Using the jacket sleeves for gloves, Rita made a pile of debris behind us by the pool as we went deeper, our feet snarled in the jagged stumps and vines that lined the path I cut.

I paused to catch my breath and realized the screaming had stopped. Now I wasn’t sure where I was going, nor whether Charlotte was alive or dead. She couldn’t be much farther in, I thought.

“Bring the light closer,” I directed Rita. “Point it down low if you can.” Wielding the light stand like a pike, she shone the beam into the snaggle of trunks and shadow. I saw a foot. “There!” I shouted. And I cut a couple more limbs, but then I had to work my way in by hand, spreading the shrubbery and squeezing my body through. Rita’s light wavered, making the scene stroboscopic, hard to read. Casting a shadow ahead of me, I felt my way into my own darkness.

Finally, I broke into a bower where Charlotte lay naked on her side, curled and filthy, covered in scratches, tattooed with blood, clutching an ancient porcelain doll, it’s dress a gray rag. Charlotte’s eyes were open. She was breathing, zebra-striped by Rita’s light. At least I hadn’t killed her. This whole catastrophe was my fault. I was beginning to think that the signature feature of maturity was knowing when not to do something.

Kneeling over her I heard distant sirens growing louder. I touched her shoulder. “Charlotte!”

No response. Shit.

“Wait for the paramedics,” said Rita, sensibly, peering in from the hole we’d cut. So I just held Charlotte’s hand and felt the weight of my guilt until the uniformed men broke their way in and took over.

I heard Rita answer their questions with Tamika interjecting facts about Charlotte’s condition, as we understood it. And we probably didn’t understand it at all. Had Charlotte ever been truthful?

Rita told them we’d been having a dinner party and that Charlotte, who had told us she was taking medication, suddenly stripped off her clothes and ran screaming into the woods. Tamika produced Charlotte’s purse and a bottle of pills. They were thinking way ahead of me on this.

The paramedics got her in the ambulance and I waved off their offer of help to work on my nose. I’d almost forgotten about my nose. We’d told them I hit it on a branch as I cut my way in to Charlotte. And I had an instinct not to tell them about my throat and how it came to have contusions. Tamika gave Rita her car keys and jumped in the ambulance with Charlotte. “I’ll get her admitted and use the VoltT database for next-of-kin,” she said as the doors were shut and the ambulance ground away up the gravel drive.

The police seemed satisfied. “We’ve seen a lot of these drug incidents recently,” the young officer said. “She shouldn’t have been mixing that stuff with alcohol. It’s lucky you were here to rescue her.”

As the cruiser disappeared into the dark tunnel of trees I noticed a thread of smoke trailing out of a second floor window of the house. Flames flickered behind the glass, growing rapidly in brightness. Fuck. Now I’d burnt the house down.

*********************************************

Well, the firefighters were very professional. They kept the flames from spreading to the poolhouse or the woods, and pumped the pool dry, but Bateaux was quickly a pile of charred rubble fallen into a blackened foundation. We told the same credulous policeman we’d left candles burning when Charlotte ran out of the imaginary dinner party and he believed us. I hoped the place was too burned for the insurance company to find any evidence otherwise. No one ever suspects a clean-cut older white guy like me of anything. I think that wearing VoltT uniforms actually gave us some credibility. Marcus was right to leave before they arrived, though.

It was a long night. Rita and I stood by the pool in the 4AM darkness and watched the last of the fire equipment slowly pull up the drive. The whole place had the searing reek of housefire and so did we.

“I’m exhausted,” I admitted.

“And you look like shit,” Rita added. “I’m sure I do, too.” She could never look like shit. She’d been the clearest thinking one of all of us. Probably saved us from a booking. And saved Charlotte by remembering the chainsaw. I felt nothing but gratitude. That and exhaustion. And my nose throbbed, my throat was raw, my hands were cut, blood still crusted all over me.

“I just want to lie down now,” I said. Rita put her shoulder in my armpit and walked me into the outdoor shower. She put my hands on the slats so I could lean and, warm water streaming, let the shower rinse away my dirt as she stripped me bare again. I told her where the hidden key was and I hung there letting the water soothe my pains, on the cusp of sleep while she rinsed herself and went to find clothes. Where did she find the energy? Anadolu Yakası Escort

I gave a painful chuckle when she came back with the red beach robes that Charlotte and I had worn on the first night I came to Batteaux. Rita led me to one of the bedrooms and we fell there into an all too short, but deep sleep, spooning.

***************************************************

The sun woke me around seven and I nearly had to crawl to the bathroom. I pulled myself along on the furniture, anyway. In the mirror my nose looked different, swollen, purple and maybe a little less straight. While I was in the there finding painkillers, Rita found the coffee. And some frozen waffles. We hardly spoke as we negotiated the unfamiliar kitchen, making stolen breakfast. Twenty minutes later I almost felt like a human.

“Should we call out sick today?” Rita asked.

“Screw VoltT. I’m calling out dead.”

As I sat staring into my coffee cup, Rita set an iphone and a slip of paper on the table. “I found these with the key.”

The phone was Charlotte’s, in her distinctive Kate Spade case. On the paper were the words: ‘While you were sleeping – KB’.

“I tried to unlock it, but of course I don’t know the pin,” she said. “I guessed too many times. It says we have to wait to try again.”

I picked it up and held it, rubbed my thumb on the home button, wondering why Charlotte had thought she lost it, why it was in the secret place. It unlocked. How did it know my thumbprint?

Wait!” I said, “KB is Kathryn Bigelow. Kathryn left this for me.”

“While you were sleeping?” Rita asked, eyebrow raised. She stood up and went to the bedroom. “I’ll try to find us some clothes.”

“Well, I guess after we made love in Charlotte’s old room. I was asleep then. She must have entered my thumbprint before she ‘left’.”

I don’t think either of us wanted to talk about my having sex with ‘Kathryn’ just then. I was feeling guilty and inadequate. Rita I could only guess about. She must have thought I was an idiot. A monster, really. I raped Charlotte’s mouth… And drove her crazy. I wondered if I could make it up to any of them.

“Why did she leave it for you?” Rita asked from the bedroom, rummaging through closets.

“I’d guess that all of Charlotte’s personal stuff is on here. I suppose Kathryn was protecting her. She told me that Charlotte ruined everything eventually. I didn’t believe her.”

Rita returned with some shorts and a couple of Charlotte’s VoltT polos. “These are enough to get us home.”

I put down the phone and dressed stiffly. Rita’s clothes were two sizes too big, but she was particularly urchin-ish that way. She looked charming bent over her phone screen, brow wrinkled.

“Wow, Frank. This all begins to make sense.”

“What?”

“I googled Benjamin Franklin Grantwell. He died in Bateaux about eight years ago.” She looked up, eyes big. “Here’s the weird thing. Rumors at the time, according to this article, were that he died of autoerotic asphyxiation…”

I put my hand to my throat.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said, taking her hand and stepping out onto bright sun of the patio.

Two men were there, in suits, looking like serious business.

“Frank?!” one said, alarmed.

“Who are you?” he and I said together.

“Frank…Duke,” I said, making up a last name on the spot, extending my hand.

“You look just like…” he stood there, staring at me.

“Hold it, Jim,” said the other suit, reaching for my hand, shaking it overly firmly, giving me the appraising eye. “Mr. ‘Duke’.” He turned to Rita, “And you are?”

“Rita Reyes, sir. Charlotte’s our boss.”

“You were here last night?” he asked and confirmed my suspicion that he was a lawyer, beginning his interrogation. The other guy must be from Charlotte’s family, I thought. She had his jawline. He had my hairline, too.

The lawyer continued, “The family is very concerned for Charlotte’s safety and deeply troubled by the loss of this property.”

“How is she?” asked Rita, genuine concern clear in her voice.

“Ms Grantwell has been institutionalized and will be well taken care of.” The lawyer was matter-of-fact. The other guy looked devastated.

“When can we see her?” I asked, hoping to apologize, redeem myself.

“You may not see Ms. Grantwell. At any time,” stated the lawyer, firmly. “We will bring charges against you for endangering her life and destroying this property. Trespassing is only the simplest of those charges.”

Oh, shit, I thought. I had only wanted to retire early.

Rita looked at the other guy. “Are you Charlotte’s father?” she asked. “Was Frank your brother?”

He nodded, obviously torn by strong emotions. He let the lawyer do the talking.

But Rita touched his arm. “Mr Grantwell, we loved Charlotte, too. And we only want what’s best for her. Clearly she’s sick and needs the best care you can give her.”

The lawyer spoke, “You don’t know Ms. Grantwell and we have reason to believe you were taking advantage of her illness to your Üsküdar Escort financial advantage. The family will protect itself by any means necessary.” Clearly, he was a man used to threatening people, right or wrong.

But Rita was a savvy negotiator. You don’t separate people from their money all day long in a cell phone store without developing some serious skills.

She pulled my collar back to reveal the bruises. “I have Charlotte on video trying to strangle this man to death with a belt. She nearly succeeded. Again.” The cameras had gone up in the fire. Was she bluffing?

The father’s face fell and he began crying. The lawyer looked angry enough to break both our noses, but he put his arm around Grantwell and led him to sit on the ash-dusted brick wall. He said over his shoulder, “You won’t get a penny until I see that video.”

I waved my arms, exasperated, “We don’t want money. Just leave us alone and get Charlotte the care she needs. Don’t hide her away to prevent family scandal. Help her get better!”

Grantwell was sobbing into his hands. The lawyer looked daggers at us. “We know your addresses and other vital information, Mr. ‘Duke’. Don’t try anything.”

“We know your secret,” retorted Rita. “Leave us alone.”

With that we walked to ‘Mika’s MINI and left Bateaux for the last time. Rita took the wheel and whispered, “Mutually Assured Destruction. If we’re lucky, that’s the last we hear of that and Charlotte finally gets proper help.” It was a slow, sad drive down the shady, green allee, wondering if we would ever get all the pieces of the puzzle.

“Uhhhh, I’ve got to know,” I said, “did Marcus get his dick in my mouth sometime last night?”

“Nah,” Rita chuckled, “that’s when he realized he’d been played. When he refused is when Charlotte ran screaming from the house.”

“We all got played, didn’t we? Another question-who was that woman on the Chatterley intro page?”

“Oh, you’re not a film buff are you?” Rita laughed, “That was a scene lifted from an Almodovar short.”

“And Julie, who wrote the scores? Not a real person from SCAD?”

“She told you that? Just to make the business look more legit, I guess. Nope, that music was from a soundtrack to a Herzog film. I did a great job of editing the film to fit the music, don’t you think?” Rita asked, smiling.

“Was any of this real?” I was depressed now. Exhausted, disappointed, disillusioned, disgusted with myself for falling for it. “Why did she go to all the trouble?”

“I think part of her really wanted to kill you, Frank. I can’t imagine she expected to be working with someone who looked like her abuser. Her mental illness and the conditions precipitated her behavior last night. Like Kathryn predicted, she ruined it. And the real part is that you saved her.”

“We saved her. No, you saved her with your quick thinking.” I said forcefully, “I drove her to madness with my selfishness. I created the ‘conditions’. I’m no hero.”

“She was already sick, Frank. What I learned in the military is that heroes aren’t perfect, they just move forward anyway. They do what has to be done and don’t do a lot of second-guessing. They also learn from their mistakes.”

I looked sidelong at her as we pulled out onto the highway in the bright morning sun. “What did you do in the army anyway?”

“Educational films. Propaganda. Psy Ops.”

“Shit,” I spat, “you’re going to be a step ahead of me all the way, aren’t you?”

“I’m going to move in with you tonight.”

“See, I didn’t see that coming!” I was elated. Depressed and elated.

“Look on Charlotte’s phone at her Drive file,” Rita suggested.

I thumbed it and a couple of clicks in I hit the jackpot. “Good guess. All the videos are here. She streamed them to the cloud. You weren’t bluffing.”

“What do we do about them?” Rita asked. I guess it was a choice I could make, but should I? Is this what Kathryn had left me the phone for? It didn’t take a moment’s thought. It was the right thing to do.

“I’m deleting them,” I said, clicking.

“That’s why I’m moving in with you.” I was feeling less depressed by the minute.

“Rita, why did you believe in Chatterley?”

“Charlotte appealed to the frustrated filmmaker in me. And the frustrated nymphomaniac.”

“But you were a virgin the day before yesterday, right? That wasn’t a lie, was it?” I wouldn’t be surprised. Apparently, I would fall for anything involving sex. Foolish old man.

“No, I was a virgin. A nymphomaniac virgin who has ridiculously high standards in men.” Rita reached and took my hand and held it all the way home.

I’m a visual thinker. That’s why building things is my best creative outlet. Riding the last miles into town a model of my situation formed my mind. I pictured two large circles, side-by-side, overlapping about 10%. A classic simple Venn diagram. The left circle represented the emotional, the right represented the physical. I drew a line horizontally through the center of those circles and some distance beyond each side. I placed five dots along that line, left to right, one outside the circle on the left, one at the center of the “emotional” circle, one in the sweet spot where the two circles overlapped, one at the center of the “physical” circle and a fifth one outside to the right of that circle. This was my spectrum of choices.

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