The writing has been a struggle of late and when that happens I must remember to go back to the basics. Read and listen to Mozart.
FICTION LAS VEGAS
The moment I shut the door, I hear Saul yell and it takes a moment to process his words. The blood pumps in my head, my heart speaking over him, and I laugh. I don't have to listen unless I want. And I want to enjoy the moment. I just sliced a man's throat in broad daylight, a man Saul handpicked. I am assured of his guilt.
Reaching for the bar lining the far door, I grab a rocks glass and a bottle of scotch. Pouring a triple serving, I take a long sip, enjoying the heat in my mouth. It calms me and it's not until that moment I decipher what he tries to say.
"What the fuck are you thinking?" he screams.
I fight an urge to yawn, the effort and alcohol giving me a sudden burst of exhaustion even through the viral adrenaline pumping in my veins. We lock eyes and I try to smile, but the energy escapes me.
"Do you have an aspirin, because you're fucking boring me."
He smiles and grabs my face, planting a kiss on my lips. "Wipe, then drop the fucking knife next time. That's why I gave you it. We don't want it in our possession."
"Oh, Saul." I laugh and push him away from me. Taking another sip of scotch, I lapse into silence while the limo turns onto the strip. I look at him, happy he remembers the things I say and content when George turns into the Bellagio. Can anything match watching the water show in early evening. Fall makes me think of home and I allow Saul to squeeze my hand.
"I haven't seen you in these spirits in a while. Good to be away from the teenager for a moment?" he asks, laughing.
I sigh and wait for George to open my door. When he does, I extend my hand and let him guide me from my seat. He plants a tiny kiss on my cheek and winks at me.
"Cocktails, Miss Ella?" he asks.
Without waiting for my answer, he leads me along the corridor, following the signs towards the poker room. I feel like a queen on his arm, George looking handsome and regal in a freshly pressed tuxedo. I hear the machines and bells and see the tourists in fine clothes. It's a Friday night in Vegas in Fall and the Bellagio brings out the richest from all over the world.
"Perhaps I might want to try a hand of poker or two," I ask while George secures us a VIP bartender for a private table.
Saul laughs and shakes a finger at me. "Don't tread too far into a man's world. Know your place."
The comment sticks in my stomach even though he spoke it in jest. He loves to tease me of late. Oh, men turn into babies if you cut off affections.
"I'll take care of you later, I promise. Only if you stop acting like a child," I say, approaching the glass of the poker room and peering inside. The faces blend together and it looks like a mass of men shuffling chips and tapping at cell phones. One man waves and I return the pleasantry. "Yes, after cocktails, it's time to gamble."
I'm going into the city, Sin City. My city. And I'm going to win at Bellagio. Follow me if you want to live.
INTERVIEW WITH A KILLER
I click the remote to change the music and wait for the song to start before standing. A smile rises on my lips when I hear the first chords of Nirvana playing and I approach the desk watching Mary reading my journal. I don't try to control her access to my inner thoughts, for she seems to be able to read my mind.
Pulling a chair next to the desk, I grab my brush from the table and begin running it through her hair without speaking, preferring to let her read in silence. Blue eyes lift to meet mine at random intervals as if she found an odd bit she doesn't understand, but I remain silent.
"What happened between you and my father?" she asks. The question digs into my stomach, but I keep brushing her pretty hair and try to pretend she didn't speak at all. Moments tick into a minute and then two, but I can't respond. I hear words in my head, but none can reach my lips.
Putting the brush on the desk, I tap the remote and put the song on loop. As the music plays again, I reach for my pipe and take a deep hit, trying to calm my nerves. Mary holds out her hand for me to pass it to her, but instead I put in next to the brush.
"You're too young for that," I say.
"I killed a man and now you wanna play mom? Don't be crazy, give me the damn pipe," she says, reaching for it. I do nothing to stop her and watch as she takes several hits, angry eyes getting red and glossy, staring at me.
"I won't pretend to be your mother, but I'm the one that is responsible for you," I say, taking the pipe and tapping the spent remains into an ashtray. Opening the top drawer of the desk, I remove a freshly packed bowl. I hit it and wait for the calm to descend. There are moments I don't know if I can deal with her.
"In all the stories, every time a man asks you about my father touching you, it ends with death."
I wait for her statement to morph into a question, closing my eyes and singing along with the music.
I'm so happy 'cause today
I've found my friends
They're in my head...
"Tell me," she says. I didn't hear her ask a question.
"What do you want to know, Mary?" I ask. Putting my hand on her arm, I attempt to bore my eyes into her brain as if trying to keep her from asking what she will.
"Did my father touch you?" she asks.
Closing my eyes once more, I let the music take me back in time until I can see Ray's face floating and smiling and peering at me from distant history. I can feel the tears and the anger and the madness rising in my blood.
I will sit in this cafe until the story is done. Writing of late has become a chore as I'm unable to find enough alone time, Mary crowding me at every moment. Teenagers suck the energy from you, the buzzing sound of constant questions spilling from her into my brain, choking thought. I escaped with help from George and Saul and I don't intend to waste this opportunity.
Sipping at my third coffee of the early evening, I scan the other customers in hope of finding inspiration. One man stares, the rest ignore my presence. He appears to be of college age, but not a student, wearing a leather jacket with thick, greased black hair.
"Hello," I say, smiling. No response, but he continues to stare. He looks out of place in the cafe and I wonder why he is here. Is he following me? I turn and feel a small flutter of panic in my stomach when I do not see Saul anywhere in sight. When I spin round again, the man slides into the seat opposite me and I grip the table, readying for what may come.
"Ella Thomas," he says, mouth twisting into a smile. So, either he is following me or in the very least knows who I am.
"Who wants to know?" I wink at him.
The smirk leaves his face and he pulls a photograph from inside a jacket pocket and slides it across the table towards me. It's the man I met at the bar a few weeks ago and lured to the mansion.
"Are you a cop?" I ask. I can't think of any other explanation even though he doesn't look anything like a cop.
"No, nothing like that. I need to find this man. Can you tell me where he is? My source tells me he was last seen leaving a bar with you."
Something tells me the man Mary killed must be important. Or rich. "I swear I didn't do anything to him."
Grabbing my phone, I send a text to Saul and gather my notebook and tablet. Without waiting for him to answer, I hurry towards the exit, knowing he will follow. Glancing over my shoulder, I see him a few steps behind me. I don't see Saul or the car waiting outside and run along the sidewalk, making no pretense of being casual in getting away from him.
Within moments I feel a hand grip my upper arm, stopping me and then pulling me into a dark spot against the building. The man pushes me into the wall and I can smell cheap after-shave and alcohol.
"Not such a threat outside your mansion, are you," he says.
One hand finds my phone and I dial Saul with a tap of a button while the other hand grips the knife in my purse. I make no effort to fight in his grasp and he eases his hold on me.
"Why are you looking for that man?" I ask, flicking the lever to release the switchblade.
"He was my boss. I heard he was killed by the butcher of Vegas and I had to find out for myself."
I can't help smiling that he knows me, though I'm still not sure how I feel about being called a butcher. "Would you care to join me at my mansion for a drink?"
"No, I'm not stupid like my boss. I've read about you. If I don't touch you, I'm safe." He smiles with satisfaction and takes a phone from his pocket. "I intend on having a different sort of fun with you."
"Mister, you have it all wrong," I say, giving him my best smile.
"How is that?" he asks.
"First, I didn't kill your boss. And second," I begin, taking the knife from my pocket. "Don't believe everything you read."
I swing my arm and bury the knife in his neck, stepping back to avoid the spray of blood, which spurts in thick streams onto the sidewalk. At that moment, a car screeches to a halt at the curb and I see Saul waving at me to get inside.