The motel’s feable forty-watt bulbs cast her flesh in an orange and ghostly light. Sam hadn’t been this close to a woman in a long time. His nervousness surprised him. The place smelled of mildew and lilac, an odd combination, but not wholly unappealing. His ballpoint pen wobbled against her stomach. Her black hair fanned out on the ivory pillows, while she sprawled on the bed and stared down her nose at his handiwork.
The woman, who told him to call her Annie, contacted him through Craigslist where he sold his “handyman” services, but she didn’t want those. She’d remembered him from his past life, from a news article, in fact, that she kept framed. Sam wrote it five years back, when in good standing with the Chronicle, on a local Italian gangster arrested for murder. A few murders actually. Lawyers cited the story, which covered the arrest, at the man’s trial. Sam couldn’t place the lady, however, but maybe she’d been involved. She looked familiar. Relative of one of his victims? A TV news reporter?
Sam got “Journalist of the Year” for his work on the Carmine Francesco case. What he didn’t get was a raise. And that damn award didn’t save him from the budget cuts.
Their emails were brief. Meet on Union Street at one of the seedy motels sprinkled about San Francisco, write that award-winning story in ballpoint on her golden body, and done. She wanted to see his words on her flesh. Annie agreed to his two-thousand-dollar price tag. Paid up front. No bodyguard duty, no assault-for-hire, nothing but an evening with a beautiful woman. Maybe he’d break into the escort business and leave the hired thug biz behind. Thought made him smirk. He’d kissed flying fists too often for that shit.
Sam admired her bare flesh, his pen pausing for the briefest of moments. He’d stripped off most of his own clothes and wore only a pair of black boxers. She smiled at him with her candy apple red lips, black eyes stormy with passion. Arms above her head. Hands beneath the downy white pillows.
“I can barely keep the pen straight. Fucking turned on, Annie.”
She purred. “Write on me, Sam. Reward after.”
Next line, he told himself, ignore the tits and ass. Earn the money.
Francesco, a married father of two, faces a life sentence if convicted.
He stopped. Married… Shit. The wife. Knew he’d seen her somewhere.
Sam felt her body tense a half second before her hands swung out from under the pillow. He pulled away and rolled off the bed. A blade sliced into his cheek. Got a glimpse of the thing as he bailed. Stiletto tactical knife. Fucking Mafia blade. Kept under the pillow. Oldest trick in the book.
Annie lunged after him, attempting to keep him off balance. Not Annie, he remembered now, Anna. Anna fucking Francesco.
Sam gripped the pen, easily dodging her next swipe, and plunged the ballpoint into her right shoulder. It went in halfway before she twisted sideways, screaming, and careened into a dresser. Her ribs banged against the wood, and she hit the floor. The stiletto flew from her hand under the bed, but the ballpoint stayed in the meat.
Sam knelt by her head. Anna’s eyes fluttered. Conscious, but not moving. The lady knew she’d been beat.
“A revenge kill? You even care that Carmine was fucking around on you? I got it from the detectives, saw the surveillance photos. Man had more lovers than Pepe Le Pew.”
Her eyes narrowed. Sam went on. “Be glad I chose not to include that in my stories, Annie.”
He plucked the pen from her shoulder with a slurping noise. The shock and pain caused her dark eyes to roll up inside her head. In blood and ink, he wrote a final inscription on her bare stomach. Blood trailed from the wound over her breasts and dribbled down her arm. He’d be long gone when she came to. With luck she’d pay attention to his parting words.
Come after me again and I’ll fucking kill everyone you love.
So much for romance.