“I want to kill my sugar daddy,” the witch said to me.
We were in bed. Mellissa’s cheek was on my chest. Her unsmiling eyes were locked on my eyes. Her lethal pillow talk hadn’t surprised me. On our previous date, she had pressed her glistening lips against my ear and whispered, “I wish Angelo was dead.” Yet wishing her sugar daddy was dead was one desire. Killing him was another. I should have removed her cheek from my chest and rolled out of bed and walked out the door.
Instead, I asked, “Why?”
“Because he has five hundred thousand in cash at the house.”
I widened my eyes at the $500,000. But I didn’t ask any questions. At least that night. Curiosity and cats and all of that.
We met at a psychic fair the local casino was sponsoring in its lobby. I waited until she was done flipping Tarot cards for a slot-machine housewife who looked like she could use some future good news, then I stood in front of her table.
“How’s my future look?”
“Grim,” she said to the Tarot cards still spread in front of her.
“Maybe you are a psychic,” I said, then after a pause, after waiting for a response and realizing it wasn’t coming, I added, “I’ve seen you before.”
I had won five hundred playing blackjack the night I first saw Mellissa at the casino. I had cashed out and I was taking a victory lap around the casino floor. I skirted around the dinging slot machines then lingered at the roulette wheel then cruised over to the hold ’em tables.
My eyes locked onto Mellissa. Her hair was red, almost purple, and it cascaded to her shoulders in tight, shiny and stiff ringlets. Her hair didn’t move and neither did her face, or what could be seen of her face, because she covered her eyes with mirrored aviator sunglasses. I heard one of the other players call her Botox, but it wasn’t that. She just didn’t rattle.
“So you’ve seen me before,” she said as she raised her eyes, but only to my stomach. “Was it with or without my broom?”
“No broom, no black cat, no cauldron.”
I glanced at her crystal-laden name plate that read “Mellissa the Witch” then she stood up and swayed a bit as she locked her calculating eyes on my suddenly skittish eyes. She was doing the math on me; crunching some dark numbers, and if I had a lick of sense I would have wished her well and left it at that. A little harmless flirtation.
But I didn’t. I liked what I saw. She was in her mid-forties, ten years older than me, but built like a hard-bodied college cheerleader. Her pretty face, however, wasn’t cheerleader fresh and sweet. For one thing, she didn’t smile. I never saw anything more than a momentary smirk. As for her makeup, she was partial to Cleopatra eyes and foundation so thick on her cheeks and chin that it was almost a mask. Nor was she cheerleader subtle with her perfume. Her flowery perfume was as heavy-handed as her makeup. She smelled like the deodorizer above the casino’s urinals. She was, I suppose, trashy. And while I had never dated a trashy woman—and certainly never a trashy witch—something clicked with her. Sure, she was a knockout and the tight-fitting silky gypsy outfits she preferred turned me on. But the main attraction was that she was as alive inside as I was dead.
I hadn’t always been dead inside. I used to be full of peace, love and understanding. But an apathetic divorce from my formerly starry-eyed, save-the-whales college sweetheart—“I just can’t do this anymore”—and two teenage daughters who blow off even my text messages, combined with a mind-numbing job, had killed my heart. I manage a big box drugstore. The name doesn’t matter because the name always changes. And it gets worse every time it’s sold. “Do more with less,” I’ve been told by each regime. That means seventy-hour work weeks and less vacation time. More criticism from the corporate weasels and less pay. Not what I had in mind when I walked off stage with my PhD in history. The only thing that temporarily brings me back to life is a night at the blackjack table when the cards do as they’re told.
Yet those nights were rare and blackjack was getting to be a problem. I was behind on child support, behind on the rent, and I was parking my car three blocks from my apartment so the repo man wouldn’t hook it.