Cruel Beauty

I was sitting at the bar after a long day at work and I was on my second drink when she came in. As she stood in the doorway the neon light above the door made her outline glow as if she was some celestial being. I watched her out of the corner of my good eye as she cased the joint, dressed all prim and proper. I saw her look at me and smile before coming over. There was something about that smile, something almost evil and sinister, that put me on edge.

"I'll have what he's having," she told the bar tender and he handed her a whiskey sour. She tasted it. "Hmmmmm, must have been a hard day at work. Do you mind if I trouble you for a light?"

I had gone back to staring at my drink and when I looked up she had an unlit cigarette in her mouth, surrounded by her lush red lips. I took out my matches and gave them to her. She lit her cigarette and blew out the burning match.

"Name's Lena," she said.


"Well, Jack, let me buy you another drink. You look like you could use one."

I told her I was fine and that I was actually about to head home but she wouldn't hear any of it. Another whiskey sour was set in front of me. The way she leaned over the bar to look at me her blazer fell open a little and my eyes were drawn to her breasts. The thoughts of evil left me thinking she surely must have been celestial. But I didn't want to get involved with anyone right then. Too many bad experiences in the past kept me away from women, though never for too long. And the way Lena was looking at me like a hungry wolf ready to bite...

"What happened to your eye? It's black!"

So she'd finally noticed.

"Just got into a fight this morning with a couple of rough guys, that's all."

"What were you fighting over, if I may ask?"

"Nothing really. These guys thought they could get away with stealing stuff and I tried to stop them."

"Ooohhh, did you? Get them, I mean."

"Yeah, but it was one hell of a fight."

"I'll say. What line of work are you in anyway?"

God, she asked a lot of questions.

"I work the loading dock down at Sam's," I lied easily. I never told anyone my real line of work. It would only scare them off, and Sam was willing to tell anyone he was my boss.

"Mmmm, no wonder you're so tough looking."

She put her hands around my muscled arm and squeezed it, looking at me with imploring eyes. I finished my drink and she gulped hers down.

"Don't you have a man of your own? A beautiful woman like you ought to already have a man, so what are you doing here?"

"He's dead," she said. And then after taking a long breath, "So, what are you doing for the rest of the night, Jack?"

"Well, I..."

"You wanna leave this dive? Come on, let's go."

And before I could say anything else she'd paid the bar tender and we were out in the dark, rainy night, hailing a taxi to the upper east side towards her apartment.

"Make yourself at home," she said over her shoulder with that same sinister smile I'd seen before.

But then she was standing in the doorway to her bedroom taking her blouse off with her eyes on me. She reached back to unhook her bra and the next thing I knew I was laying beside her in bed trying to get my wits together. All I wanted to do was fall asleep. She fingered my black eye and told me to close my eyes. I felt her move and opened an eye to watch her get out of bed, put on a bathrobe and head to the bathroom. She sure was dreamy. My eye closed half way until I saw her come back holding something silver in her hands, almost secretively. She kept her eyes on me while she crossed the room, unaware that I was watching her. She went over to my jacket and slipped the silver thing into its pocket. Now my curiosity was up.

"What was that?" I sat up in bed and she jumped.

"What was what?"

"Oh, don't play dumb innocent on me. I saw you put something in my coat pocket. Now what was it?"

"I don't know what you're talking about, Jack."

I slapped her hard across the face, making her spin onto the bed. I got up and went to my jacket and pulled out the silver thing. It was a gun, if ever I'd seen one in a million of them.

"This wasn't there before. Why did you put it there?"

"I...I don't know...I didn't do anything..."

It was then that I remembered something from the bar. The way she'd answered my question about her husband, so mater-of-fact, like she wasn't grieving at all. Now maybe he'd been dead a few years, but I was going to take a chance and walk out on a limb here.

"You killed him!" I accused her.

"What? didn't...I swear! I didn't do any such thing!"

I had her right where I wanted her. And then I began to smell the air. Something didn't smell right to me. There was a stench that shouldn't have been there. From my other jacket pocket I pulled out a pair of handcuffs.

"You chose the wrong man to mess around with. I'm really a detective with the local police and you're under arrest."

"No! I didn't do it! I swear! You've got to believe me!"

"Then why hide the gun and try to pin it on me? Huh?"

I handcuffed her to the bed frame so she couldn't get away and opened the closet door where the strange stench had been coming from. A two-day-old dead man fell out, almost on top of me, had I not moved in time. She screamed. But it wasn't one of genuine fright. In my line of work, I learned to tell screams apart.

"So you killed him. Why'd you do it? For money? For fame?"

"He was cheating on me," she admitted, puffing out her chest to seem strong again.

"And where did you put her body?"

"What body?"

"Well, surely he was cheating with a woman so I'm assuming you dealt her a low blow too. Now, where's her body?"

"I never met the woman."

"Then how do you know he was cheating on you?"

"When a man comes home with a perfume on him that doesn't belong to you, you know he's cheating. What more proof do you need? I gave him justice, now let me go!"

"Sorry, honey, you're going downtown for this one. I didn't want to have to do this to you, but you asked for it."

"No I didn't." She wrapped her hands around my arm again when I uncuffed her from the bedframe to take her to the station. She looked up at me with those imploring eyes again. "No, I didn't. Don't do this, Jack. You know I can make you very happy. Don't you? Don't you want to be happy?"

This time, however, I saw through the guise. I was through playing with deadly woman like that. At least for now, until the next one came along.