Last Week’s FFF: Ashes
Ricky stared at the cards in his hands. He held a pair of twos, and nothing on the table could help him.
“Fold or raise?” Abbot asked, sitting across from him.
Ricky swirled his gin, thinking.
“You sir,” he paused to take a sip. “Are as impatient as a Moscow Mule.”
“As stubborn as one, as well. Now, make your move or I’ll make it for you.”
Ricky sighed and threw his cards face down on the table. The man across grinned and gathered the pot.
“Yeah, yeah,” Ricky said.
He brought his cups back up to his lips, but stopped when he heard a woman’s scream echo down the nearby stairwell.
“What was that?” Abbot asked.
“Don’t pay it any attention. That there is the sound of a screaming orgasm. The white lady thinks it’s what all the men want when they pay for her.”
“The white lady? Oh, you mean that younger girl, with the milky white skin.”
“That and a buttery nipple.”
The two laughed.
The shadow of a woman crossed over the table from behind Ricky.
“I know that this here is a brothel, fellas, but show a little respect,” she said.
“Well, if it isn’t Mary Pickford. Didn’t think I’d find you in a place like this,” Ricky said as he turned to meet her gaze.
“Not that you’d know, but I run the Bird of Paradise now.”
“That right?” he asked.
“Sure is. So, tell me, what brings a bouldevardier like yourself to our humble little whore house?”
“Just passing through Paloma. When I saw that old sign, the twelve-mile limit, I knew I had to stop in.”
“Well, isn’t that just the bee’s knees,” she said, sarcastically.
Another scream erupted from above.
“That doesn’t sound like ecstasy to me. But then, maybe I’ve been doing it wrong,” Abbot said.
“No. I’ve become very familiar with her sounds. Something’s wrong.”
They rushed up the wooden staircase with Mary leading the charge. She stopped at the second door on the right and threw it open.
In the room, they found the girl suspended from the bed frame, dead.
“Oh, god,” Mary said.
She ran to the girl. Not halting to try and get her down, Mary began mouth to mouth.
“You’re no corpse-reviver. She’s gone,” Abbot said.
Mary knew he was right. The body had already begun to cool. She held back her tears and stood from the bed.
“Who was with her last?” Ricky asked.
“There wasn’t anyone on the books,” Mary said.
“There’s something in her hand,” Abbot said.
“What? Where?” Ricky asked.
“Either you’re blind or I must be. Right there, middle of her hand.”
“You’re not blind, Abbot,” Mary said.
Slowly, she stepped towards the body.
“Ugh, it’s a rusty nail. That’s what’s holding her up,” Mary said.
“Could this have been something kinky gone wrong?” Ricky asked.
“She was about as dirty as a martini, but no, this would’ve been way too far.”
“We’ve got to lock this place down, now. We can’t let anyone out until we figure out who did this,” Ricky said.
“Honey, in case you didn’t notice, ain’t nobody here. Just you two, and I’ve been behind the bar doing inventory.”
“What about in the other rooms? Any other working girls or clients?”
“Genevieve is three doors down. She had an appointment this morning, but I think she left some time ago,” Mary said.
“Let’s check it out.”
She led the way to the other end of the hall. Halfway down the long corridor they were hit with a pungent smell.
“Smells like a monkey gland in here,” Abbot said.
Cautiously, the continued on. When they reached the door, Mary pushed it open slowly. The room was dark. They entered, looking for any sign of disturbance.
The door closed behind them. Mary scrambled for the light switch. Immediately she saw Genevieve’s body crumpled on the floor. She started down towards the ground, but Ricky grabbed her arm and redirected her attention to a man sitting in a chair.
“Bonjour,” he said.
The man was French, 75, a wore a tuxedo.
“Number two,” he said.
“Don’t call me that, Pisco. Sour or not, this is my business now.”
“You stole it,” he said.
“They knew you were stealing from the girls, hurting them. I never imagined that you’d come back and kill them.”
“I did. And now, I will finish the job, get my business back, and start over with a whole new staff.”
“Oh, you think this is humorous?” Pisco asked.
“How you killed two girls, I don’t know. But, come on, you’re old, and there’s three of us.”
With the lighting fast speed of a much younger man, Pisco was out of his seat and next to Ricky. He smelled like rum. Punch after punch struck Ricky in the torso.
Ricky coughed, reeling from the unexpected blows. The old man was spry, but his age caught up to him. Moments later, he was winded. He came at Ricky once more, but this time, Ricky was ready. He moved out of the way, and swatted Pisco to the ground like a fly. He tried to stand, but found he couldn’t.
The authorities took Pisco kicking and screaming, demanding the brothel back and insisting that he did no wrong. The coroner removed the bodies, but there was still a lot of clean-up left to do. Mary shuttered at the thought.
“Ricky, I’m glad that you were here. If you hadn’t been, I would have been next.”
“I’m sure you could’ve handled him. Guess you’ve got to find a few new girls, huh?”
“Maybe not. I don’t think I can go back in there.”
“You could come with me.”
“Where would we go?” she asked.
“The coast. Let’s leave this desert behind and go find some good sand, the kind with an ocean next to it.”
She grabbed his hand and smiled.
“Well, I have always wanted to try sex on the beach.”