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High Cotton
About the Author: Although he is the author of several books, including the private eye novel All White Girls, two-time Derringer Award-winning writer Michael Bracken is better known as the author of more than 1,100 short stories. His crime fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Crime Square, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Espionage Magazine, 50 Shades of Grey Fedora, Flesh & Blood: Guilty as Sin, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 4, and Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.


The blonde stepped out of Tony’s bedroom wearing nothing but her wedding rings and the white cotton dress shirt he had worn the previous day. She had the long sleeves rolled halfway up her arms, but had not buttoned the front.

“I’ve forgotten your name,” she said as she crossed the living room to the bar-height counter that separated it from the kitchenette where Tony stood wearing only the black silk boxers in which he had slept.

“Tony,” he said. “Tony Calvino.”

He knew Missy Richardson’s name. He had known it long before he ever saw her sitting alone at the bar, and her wedding ring had not prevented him from sending her a drink. That she had come home with him two hours later was a surprise, though—a rather pleasant surprise.

“Pour me one of those, Tony.” She pointed to the bottle of Jack Daniel’s Black Label on the counter.

He splashed three fingers into a clean water glass he retrieved from the drainboard and then pushed the glass to her.

Missy knocked the whiskey back in one long swallow and returned the empty glass to the counter. “Hit me again.”

Tony poured another three fingers of Jack into the glass. This time Missy carried it to the couch, where she sat, leaned back, and crossed her legs. She said, “You knew who I was before you bought me that first drink, didn’t you?”

Tony admitted as much as he moved to join her, the last of the Jack in a water glass he clutched in one thick fist.

“So you know who my husband is and what he’ll do to you when he finds out what we’ve done.”

“I have a pretty good idea,” he said as he sat.

“But that didn’t stop you, did it?”

Tony smiled. “No.”

“Why?”

He shrugged. He’d been drinking, not thinking.

“That’s not a good answer, Tony.” Missy finished her drink and pulled his shirt closed over her breasts. “I’m going to get dressed now and you’re going to take me back to my car.”

Tony thought she might shower before dressing, but she didn’t, and he was surprised by the speed with which she returned from the bedroom wearing the curve-hugging crimson dress she’d worn the previous evening. He scrambled to pull on jeans, T-shirt, and loafers before they walked downstairs to his white Ford Taurus.

He drove several miles into downtown to The Dry Martini where they’d met the previous evening. Her metallic blue Mercedes with the Richardson Title Loan sticker on the rear bumper was the only car remaining in the lot behind the bar. Tony stopped his Taurus beside it and Missy let herself out. Then she leaned back in through the open door. “Don’t call me, Tony, and I won’t call you.”

She closed the door, climbed into her Mercedes, and a moment later drove away. Tony waited until Missy’s car was out of sight before heading home. He stopped only once, to replace the bottle of Jack Daniel’s Black Label they had drained that morning.

Tony saw Missy again at a museum gala a week later, her arm hooked in her husband’s. He circumnavigated the room with a tray of hors d’oeuvres, serving people whose patronage kept the museum doors open. Eventually, he presented his tray of bacon-wrapped shrimp to a knot of people that included Missy, and their gazes met. Her eyes widened when she recognized him and she quickly turned away, a move that did not pass unnoticed by her husband.

Tony moved on to the next knot of people. He recognized many of the gala attendees because he made a point of following the local social news, from newspaper articles with accompanying photos, to non-profit and arts organization websites, to various Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. The true movers and shakers had no need for publicity, but all the wannabes and suck-ups made it a point to be photographed with or near the city’s most important people, and they perpetuated the mythology that the wealthy were somehow superior.

Ben Richardson, Missy’s husband, was one of the people to whom the wannabes and suck-ups gravitated. He had been raised with family money previous generations of Richardsons had earned from the sweat of slaves picking Texas cotton, from running alcohol up from the Gulf during prohibition, and more recently from a string of payday and car-title loan companies that often served as gateways to his loan-sharking operation. He served on the boards of several local non-profits, much like previous generations of Richardsons, giving back to the community far less than his family took from it.



This story appears in our SEP 2015 Issue
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Reader Discussion

31
Mar
Tight. And congratulations on your Golden Derringer Lifetime Achievement award!
By Susan Rickard

29
Oct
Nicely written.
By James


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