Halfway up the block, Kelly stopped dead. "Ah, shit!"
She was out of Tic Tacs. All the drunks at Farley's had bled her dry: beers, cigarettes, mints. After searching her purse, she couldn't find even an old stick of gum.
"Fuck," she said, out loud, smelling Jager. She shouldn't've had that shot, but couldn't pass up a freebie.
"Rent me," the ad had said. "First floor rear, with four big closets." Of all days to be looking at an apartment. They'd know she was a drunk, right off.
"Stop by today," Alonzo, the super, had told her. Too loudly, like he'd had a few, himself. "Any time, baby." Kelly pictured black curls. A lean, hairy-chested body.
Up ahead, the building loomed. Pink brick, but mostly stucco, in this buttered popcorn hue. Nice, she thought. A pretty good neighborhood with benefits: a deli that made the rarest roast beef sandwiches, and of course, a new bar.
She smiled. New faces, new guys, and she'd be the "new kid on the block." All the guys would come on to her, and their girlfriends would get nervous.
Yeah, right. Kelly was thirty-six, a redhead with big tits, but her craziness scared most guys off.
From across the street, she saw the lawn was only half-mowed. Like Alonzo was off on a beer break.
Like she cared. She just wanted out: of the fourth-floor walkup, with the leaky roof. And the schoolteacher with the broomstick, banging on the ceiling all night. 'Cos she didn't like Metallica. But mostly...
Frankie, Kelly thought, her eyes swelling with tears. Six weeks he'd been gone, but she couldn't face it. Frankie's favorite beersLand Sharktook up most of her fridge. She couldn't drink them, in case he came back. Tried to will him back, by not drinking them. Lucky pennies she found in the street meant he had to be close. Or was thinking of her...
She dreaded coming home nights. Why else would she hit Farley's every night after work and Saturday afternoons, like today?
Maybe he's dead, she thought, as she crossed the street. Nah, she'd've heard something. You couldn't shit in Oz without Farley's drunks smelling it.
Outside the apartment building sat a chick, about Kelly's age. Kelly had to look twice, to believe her eyes.
In that movie, The Fly, the guy was half-human, half-fly. This chick looked half-spider, with the wildest black hair and this maliciousbut unseeingstare. Her mismatched clothes looked spattered with red paint, mostly the top. The pants were childish pajama bottoms, and she had on clown-like men's slippers.
Kelly was half-afraid to pass her. On the top step were a cell phone and a pack of Newports. Not Kelly's brand, but she was all out and would kill for one.
Her heart raced. "You mind?" she asked, pointing to the Newports.
As she handed them to Kelly, the chick said, "They're nine bucks a pack."
"Oh." Kelly hesitated. "You want money for one?" Mentally, she calculated how much cash she had left.
"They're not even mine." Still, the chick held out the pack.
As Kelly took the cigarette, she felt creeped-out. Drunk, or not. At nine bucks a pack, nobody left their smokes behind.
"Light?" Kelly asked the chick, whose smile was even creepier.
"I don't smoke."
Where, Kelly wondered, have I seen that smile? Not on anyone she knew, not recently.
But here she was, with a Newport she couldn't light, waiting to see rooms that she hoped were nowhere near this nut's.
Forcing a smile, Kelly pulled out her cell. "'Scuse me," she said, walking away. She dialed Alonzo's number.
As his phone rang, so did the chick's. A salsa ring tone. Both phones rang and rang, but neither Alonzo nor the chick answered them. "Hey!" Alonzo's voice mail said. "You got the right number. Leave your..."
But Kelly didn't leave a message. Slowly, she turned back around.
The chick was still smiling. "You're his new bitch."
"N-no!" Kelly said. "I..." She was getting pissed. "I was supposed to see an apartment, but..."
I won't live near a sick fuck like you.
Still smiling, the chick grabbed the cell and smokes and got up.
"I've never even seen him," Kelly said.
"You will," the chick said. "It's my apartment you're here for." She opened the door. "I'm outta here tonight," she said, over her shoulder.
Fuckin'-A, Kelly thought. The smell of grass reminded her Alonzo hadn't finished the lawn.
Inside, the foyer was a glossy mustard yellow. The mailboxes looked ancient. "I'm Lucia," the chick said.
"Kel...Kathy." Lucia didn't see Kelly's smile.
But as she followed Lucia to the rear apartment, Kelly felt doomed. Like she might never leave here. Booze, she thought. Paranoia. Maybe it was time for A.A.
Lucia's door wasn't locked. Inside, the instant mess didn't shock Kelly; she was a slob, herself. But how Lucia crept down her long hallway was unnerving.
Even for a back apartment, it was dark. Except for the sounds of kids playing next door, it might've been 4 A.M. The only light came in flashes, from a distance, like from a TV. Lucia switched on no other lights.
Like a mole, Kelly thought. Some people, mostly drunks, liked the dark.
To the right was the kitchen, but Lucia didn't stop there. One glance showed a pile of dirty dishes. "Wait!" she said, but Lucia kept going.
They passed two closed doors. Four big closets, the ad had said. On one doorknob hung a red bandanna. Like Frankie's, Kelly thought. But what didn't remind her of Frankie?
In the living room, the muted TV explained the light flashes. Some true crime show: police photos of a murder, with the goriest parts blocked.
But in the bedroom, the guy's throat looked like chopped meat.
Alonzo, she guessed, lay on the floor. Blood was everywhere: in his sticky dark curls, on his tee. His hands, which had tried to stop the bleeding. All over, blood had sprayed: on the sheets he might've clutched, on the pillow beside him. The opposite wall, even the ceiling, were splattered with gore. Kelly's liquid lunch almost came back up.
It didn't seem real. How Lucia picked up and fluffed the gory pillow was like a sick joke.
Kelly's heart raced. Sure, she told herself, a sick joke.
Hey, Lu, let's ride the new tenant.
Soon Alonzo would lose it and howl with laughter. Giggling herself, Lucia would hurl the pillow at Kelly. Alonzo would jump up and go finish mowing the lawn.
This was no joke.
Still, Lucia was smiling. "You can't fool me," she said.
What had splattered her jammies wasn't red paint. The box cutter she was holding must've slashed Alonzo's jugular.
As Lucia came closer, Kelly finally recognized that smile: on the Bride of Chucky. On all dolls that killed.
Eyes on Lucia, she backed into a door.
Frankie, she thought, as Lucia lunged.
Somebody just shit in Oz.
Copyright © 2011 by Cindy Rosmus