Authors: Keisha Orphey
Backlit by cascading fireworks in the Las Vegas night sky, Nicoli gaped at his chest, staggering backward, and collapsed against the picturesque window where he slid to the floor in a pool of his own blood. Dripping with crimson and maneuvering against the slick surface, he managed to slide his body across the marble -- life draining from him like a faucet. The faint light beneath the entry door became his only glow of hope. His only chance to endure William’s wrath.
Nicoli wailed in pain as he snailed forward, struggled to pull himself toward the door. His pleading cries for help would go unanswered. His suite’s location in the hotel was at least one hundred feet away from the next room and the thick solid walls were built to mask sound, ensure the privacy of its guests who were oftentimes A-list celebrities seeking such discretion.
William placed his boot in Nicoli’s path, blocking his view of the exit. And with the little life he had left, Nicoli grabbed ahold of the leathery shoe and drew himself forward a mere inch … right into the plunge of William’s blade that dug into his skull.
Nicoli collapsed solemnly to his death. A ghastly exhale of defeat expelled his agape mouth.
William dug into Nicoli’s pockets and removed the wad of bills riffling through with a smirk, “This should last a while,” he flipped the corpse over with a loud thud and removed the wallet from a back pocket. More bills. “You’re just a little walking bank, aren’t you? Piece of bloody shit,” he scooped up Nicoli’s car fob, shoved it in his own pocket and dragged the corpse toward the bathroom. Charging across the room, he quickly grabbed his large satchel of tools perched beside the leather chair and returned to the bathroom shutting the door as he went.
“Dawn’s having an affair.”
Philip dropped a long brown envelope on the table, looked at the man seated across from him, and if he had to characterize Larry, he’d label him as a loyal friend – someone who stood beside him when their former employer accused him of taking a client’s bribe to milk its books for the Internal Revenue Service. And although he’d been proven not guilty, it was an incident that would remain with Philip for life. Larry wore a white polo, embroidered with the accounting firm’s logo.
“I hired an investigator and his girlfriend to follow her,” he pointed at the envelope. “These are the pictures they took.”
“Just some guy?” Larry asked.
Anger flared in his eyes as he sank in his chair. “Would you just look at the fucking pictures?”
Larry opened the envelope, removed a set of 8x10 glossy, black and white photographs and flipped through them one-by-one. A look of disbelief on his face. “Who’s the guy she’s with?”
“I have no idea. But he does look familiar. I’ve seen him somewhere before.”
Larry saw jealousy and envy beaming in Philip’s eyes. The man in the pictures appeared flawless and seamed to capture Dawn’s attention seamlessly. Just three flips into the set, he recognized the location and said, “That’s Joël Robuchon inside the MGM casino.”
“Yes, it is. And no, I didn’t foot the food bill for the investigators. Would’ve cost me a fortune. He made some big fiasco about hair in his food --” he stopped talking when Larry flipped to the next picture. Dawn’s head was resting in Nicoli’s neck and his arm was wrapped snug around her. The next shot made him cringe. Their lips were locked in a kiss so passionate, he found himself wanting to shred the photographs, but he’d already viewed them a dozen times. Larry sat in silence, gawking at the next photograph.
Philip didn’t look at him; he kept his eyes on the pictures as he spoke. “Five years of marriage and three fucking kids,” Philip gruffed. “And this is what the fuck I get.”
Larry’s gaze quickly shifted from one page to the next, pausing at the sixth, where the man was kneeling in front of her and spreading Dawn’s skirted legs apart. His lips were kissing her thighs and his hands were removing her undergarments.
His silence seemed to last forever as Philip sank deeper into his chair. With each flip of the evidence, Philip felt a deeper gash across his heart. The woman he loved was in love with another man. Lie after lie, night after night, she’d been sneaking into his arms like a snake. The certainty of it lying on the table in front of him, the photographs in black and white, their deep passionate kisses. Worse, Dawn had never kissed him like that. She hadn’t even looked at him the way she looked at that man. Not even when they were dating. Philip knew her eyes. Was in tune with her body and every bit of her. Or so he thought.
But who was that man in the pictures? Philip was sure that he’d seen the man before, but for the life of him, he just couldn’t remember when or where. And despite his heterosexual nature, Philip found the man captivating and could see how Dawn did too. But
was a different reason altogether. Their sex life was great. At least, he thought so. Their bodies melded together effortlessly when they made love. He thought how perfectly her walls fit around his sex when he’d enter her. The way she’d moan when he’d thrust himself inside, but now she sat in one of the most expensive restaurants in all of Las Vegas with a man who appeared to be worth millions. From the tailored suit to those black Feragamo boots … wait, he had a similar pair. His uncle had given them to him and had even said he’d paid nine hundred dollars for them. He was an ass that way. Always boasting about his ability to spend his lucrative retirement on pricey items.
Pissed, he couldn’t wait to confront Dawn about the affair and watch the color drain from her face as he told her all he knew. She’d approached him about a divorce a couple of times, he thought as old feelings of disgust and retaliation surfaced.
“What are you going to do?” Larry asked. “Do you plan to confront her?”
“Of course. Right after I hold her head under water. And just when it looks like she’s about to – “
serious. I want to kill that bitch.”
“Other than actions that will land you in prison for life …” Larry said, rising from his chair, grabbing two beers from the refrigerator and sauntering back to his dining room table. He handed Philip one of the beers. “How do you plan to handle this?” he shook a finger. “You have kids remember. You do something stupid, they’ll go to foster homes.”
“Thanks.” He thought a moment, then said, “You mean you wouldn’t take my kids?” he chuckled.
Larry didn’t laugh. Philip’s sarcasm was nothing to laugh at. He sat in his chair, holding his beer. “It’s obvious she’s been seeing this guy. First of all, you have proof she didn’t go to work that night. Second, the casino manager told you she was there when you called. Have you ever met DeConey?” he pointed at the photograph. “This guy looks nothing like DeConey. Couldn’t be a relative. Definitely not his son. Why would he cover for her?”
“Something just doesn’t add up…”
“Oh, shit,” Larry mumbled to himself, but loud enough for Philip to hear. “She might be a fucking call girl for the casino. Big casinos like the Ritz has those, you know. I know guys --”
“Never. Dawn would never do no shit like that. Fuck around? It’s obvious. But a prostitute? Never.” Philip was fired months ago. Dawn was covering all of their expenses. And at Christmas, the kids received two thousand dollars’ worth of toys. He hadn’t questioned any of it. Did he have reason to question her now?
she a call girl? Was Larry right?
Hell no. Dawn would never sell her body.
But he didn’t think she’d cheat either.
“Then why’s the casino manager covering for her? DeConey of all people. That square bastard so tight, he wouldn’t give me a damn comp to the buffet! The Ritz can afford a thirty-dollar comp for a single guy. I’m sure they shell out thousands of comps a week to old fuckers who play pennies in those slot machines. I played two hundred dollars!”
In the silence that followed, Philip’s face and the manner in which he rose out of his chair, told Larry that was furious. The clank of his beer bottle on the kitchen table made him flinch.
“What part does my wife’s boss play in her infidelity?” Philip barked at his friend. “If she is, which I highly doubt, but if she is doing the unthinkable for the casino, wouldn’t this guy, DeConey, wouldn’t he be in a shit load of trouble? Think we can shake him?”
Another stretch of silence. Larry stared at Philip, as if attempting to conclude the mystery, wondering what would make Dawn cheat on him. Until he viewed those photographs, he thought of her as a loyal wife and a wonderful mother to their kids. But not anymore. Her dishonesty to Philip astonished him, yet reassured him why he remained single all these years. Can’t trust a fucking woman. They’re all the same.
This can’t be happening to me, Philip thought.
The lady in those photographs is not my wife. She’s just some woman who happens to look just like my wife
. A spitting image of the woman he’d adored as a teenager and married twenty years later. The woman who carried his three children. The woman he loved more than life itself.
Dawn would never cheat on me.
But then reality struck. Of course that woman was Dawn.
Dawn. The necklace he’d given her last Christmas dangled around her neck and near the cleavage the mysterious man was kissing in one of the photographs. Philip could see the glistening wetness of the man’s mouth still lingering there. He could hear Dawn’s whimpers as the man kissed her thighs and made his way between her legs.
Furiously, Philip swiped the photos off the table and sent them flying about Larry’s dining room.
“Fucking bitch! How could she do this to me?”
Larry’s cigarette smoke swirled around the hanging light above the table, then danced a quick right at Philip’s fury. Larry’s eyes met Philip’s and instantly he could see his friend’s bewilderment, knew he had no idea she’d been cheating.
“Don’t let her get away with this shit, Philip. You better tell her what you know. And if I were you, I’d leave her ass. Any judge will give you custody of your kids.”
“I don’t want a divorce, Larry. I didn’t get married to get divorced. I love Dawn.”
“But are you happy? Were you happy with her before you saw these photos? Before you hired that guy and his girlfriend? Something caused you to suspect she was doing wrong. You’re not even working, yet you spent money to investigate your wife. Why?”
“I had a dream—“
“A dream? Dr. King had a dream, Phil. And he was killed for what he believed in. You, my friend, didn’t have a dream. You woke the fuck up. You told me yourself that you never thought Dawn really loved you. That she only married you because she was pregnant with Christopher,” he said pointing with a cigarette clenched between his fingers.
“No, I had a dream. I really had a dream about this shit. I was asleep one night when it hit me that she was having an affair. I even smelled another man’s cologne all over her that morning when she came home. I hired the guy that same day.” His eyes stung with tears. “I had to know if my hunch was right,” he whispered. “At least I know the truth.”
“How often did you two have sex?” he looked down as he flicked ashes in a tray, then up again as he took another drag of the cigarette.
“What does it matter? And I thought you quit smoking!”
“You’ve given me every reason to start again.” Larry blew a puff of smoke up in the air. “You haven’t answered my question.”
Philip hesitated and said, “Not often as we used to. She’s always so tired.”
“Yeah, I bet she is.”
Philip gave him a look, then picked the photographs up off of the floor, paying special attention to one of the man on his knees in front of Dawn. To the tattoo on his hand. If it weren’t for the shiny gold ring on the man’s pinky finger, he probably wouldn’t have noticed it at all. “Why didn’t I notice this before? “
“You’re gonna tell me what you’re talking about?”
“I met him in the park last week. He knows
who I am.”
¤ ¤ ¤
When Philip entered the master bedroom, he found Dawn sound asleep in bed with Sierra and Mason beside her. She was lying in a black tee shirt and bright yellow jogging pants, her face snug against the pillow, her arms protectively trailing above their kids’ heads. A book draped across her chest and her hand still held on to it as if she’d fallen asleep reading to the kids.
For a few moments, he stood beside the bed, looking down at her and the kids, taking in the sleeveless tee clinging to her nipples and the bright yellow SpongeBob jogging pants she wore. Mason was sucking at his gums in his sleep and Sierra slept with her bottom in the air. He could see that her diaper was soaked so he lifted her up and took her into her bedroom. From where he sat in Sierra’s room, he heard Dawn stirring in the bed, rise and go in to the bathroom. Now, Mason was up and fussy and walking across the loft toward him. Before the kids, Dawn could enter any room and demand all of the attention from men and women alike. Philip hated that and apparently she still had what it took to charm other men. He remembered arguing with her many times about the way she reveled in the coquettish glances other men gave her. He recalled feeling jealous when they spoke to her right in front of him. But she was beautiful. And still was. Dawn knew it and maybe that’s where the real problem lied. The woman in the photographs was nothing like the woman he loved. Dawn was a devoted mother. And she’d made him feel like she loved him just as much. The worst pain he ever felt was learning about her affair. He vowed not to let her get away with it.
Philip finished changing Sierra’s diaper, handed her and Mason a sippy cup and walked back toward his bedroom with both kids in tow. He found Dawn sound asleep in bed again, lain the kids between them and lay near the window with his eyes open. How can she just lie there like nothing’s wrong? He thought. And sleep so peacefully? Philip was too repulsed to even close his eyes and there his cheating wife lay with her eyes closed and resting like she didn’t have a care in the world. He kept thinking about the man kneeling before her as she sat comfortably on the ornate lounger and how happy she looked, how seductive and enthralled in what he was doing to her. Would do to her later. What a bitch. What a fucking bitch she is. Her actions revived a host of repressed feelings he’d forgotten.
And now, Larry’s pep talks about his kids in foster care didn’t sound so bad. At least they’d be safe.
The longer he lay there thinking about the affair, the angrier he became. He sat up on the edge of the bed, gripping the mattress and his hands wanted to grip Dawn’s throat just as tight. No, tighter. Much, much tighter.
When they got to Charleston Peak on horseback, he’d tell her what he knew. And if she tried to lie her way out of it, he’d get rid of her then. Everyone would believe his story. Even her parents. Edward and Sylvia knew she didn’t know how to ride a horse. The horse galloped. Ran into the trees. She let go. The horse trampled over her and broke her neck. How could anyone charge him with murder? It was the perfect alibi.
Would Larry tell the cops that he’d joked about killing Dawn because he found out she was having an affair?
Of course he would. And he’d tell them about the pictures. He’d find the investigators who took them and together they’d bury him for killing his wife. Not to mention the man in the pictures. He’d come forward, too.
Philip closed his eyes and a tear streamed onto his pillow.
Alisa appeared again in Philip’s dream. But the houses along the street were all abandoned and in ruins and desert wind whirled in funnels of dust. Philip and Dawn’s home was covered in police tape when Philip was running behind Alisa down the street as she flew a bright red kite. Then their positions changed. Alisa was chasing him. Her eyes were big black holes and her mouth became that of a beast’s. Long, razor sharp teeth chomped at his head. He could feel the sharpness against his skin.
A woman stood in the center of the street, her arm outstretched at least twenty feet. She grabbed a handful of his hair and lifted him up in midair like a toy doll.
His arms flailed helplessly as he fell back to the street ...
Philip startled awake, soaking wet in perspiration. The phone was ringing in the kitchen. He climbed out of bed and hurried down the stairs.
“Mr. Barron?” a lady’s voice called. “Is someone picking Christopher up today?”
“Oh shit! I’m on my way!” he slammed the receiver down and as he turned to run upstairs to dress, he found Dawn sitting on the stairs blocking his path. She didn’t have to say a word. And neither did he. The tears streaming down her face were apology enough.
But he still planned to leave her because he knew if he didn’t, he’d do something he’d regret for the rest of his life and their children would never forgive him.