he came with someone.”
“We have people in and out all day. I don’t remember their names. I don’t meet half of them.”
“You see what that scudder hit me with?”
It caught her by surprise. She said, “He didn’t hit you with anything, he put you down and sat on you,” and wanted to bite her tongue.
Seeing his expression again, the sheen of anger. She saw him draw his revolver and saw his knuckles and the round hole of the barrel come toward her face, close, almost touching her.
He said, “Open your mouth.”
“Why do you want to do that?”
He said, “Open your goddamn mouth!”
Hunched over her to grab a handful of hair as she tried to turn her face, yanked her up tight against the cushion. With the pain she gasped, wanting to cry out, and he slipped the tip of the revolver into her open mouth.
His expression changed, the grin coming back. He said, “Hey, puss, you give me an idea.”
THEY HAD DINNER AT PICCIOLO’S on South Collins, Maurice telling them what it used to be like before the lower end of Miami Beach went to hell; LaBrava watching Jean Shaw raise her fork, sip her wine, coming to believe she was more attractive now than she had been in black and white, on the screen.
Picciolo’s, Maurice said, height of the season you couldn’t get near the place, the cars lined up outside. Now you could shoot a cannon off in here, maybe hit a waiter. Notice they still wore black tie. LaBrava studying her profile as she looked off across empty tables, head held high, purity of line against the dark color of the booth done up as a gondola, head turning in time back to Maurice next to her; he would shoot her in profile, either side flawless in restaurant light, this lady who had played spider women, enticed second leads to their death and never got the star. Maurice saying Picciolo’s and Joe’s Stone Crab were the only places left on the south end, the neighborhood taken over by junkies, muggers, cutthroats, queers, you name it. Cubans off the boat-lift, Haitians who had swum ashore when their boats broke to pieces, old-time New York Jews once the backbone, eyeing each other with nothing remotely in common, not even the English language. The vampires came out at night and the old people triple-locked their doors and waited for morning. Ass-end of Miami Beach down here.
Remember the pier? Look at it. Used to be nice. They sell drugs out there now, any kind of pills you want, take you up or down. (The old man of the street speaking.) Bar around the corner there, guys dress up like girls. Lovely place. “I’m telling you,” Maurice said, telling them, giving his friend Jean Shaw a slow tour of the old neighborhood on the thirteen-block drive from the restaurant to the Della Robbia Hotel. The three of them in the front seat of the Mercedes. LaBrava inhaling without sound but deeply, his thigh touching hers, filling himself with her scent.
“You remember the kind of people use to come down for the season? Now we got three hundred bums, count ’em, three hundred, show up every winter. Look. Over there on the bench, look, the bag lady. That’s Marilyn. Says she used to be a movie star, a singer and a gourmet cook. Look at her. She’s got a shopping cart she pushes down Lincoln Road Mall, it’s fulla plastic bags, bottles, old copies of The Wall Street Journal . Marilyn. Maybe you knew her back when.”
“Go slower,” Jean Shaw said. “Where does she live?”
“You’re looking at it, on the bench. They live in alleys, the bums, they live in empty buildings. The respectable people, they work in a garment loft forty-five years, come down here, put their life savings in a co-op and have to triple-lock their doors. Afraid even to look out the window.
“They were suppose to start redeveloping the whole area ten years ago, put in canals, make it look like Venice. Nobody’s allowed to fix up their property, they got to wait for the big scheme. Only the big scheme
Leigh Ann Lunsford, Chelsea Kuhel