Chapter twenty one
“Bonjour sweet friends.” She greeted them in rare form. “What have you brought for me darling? More men. Joy.” Her new self odd, detached, almost cold. Clearly Ginette’s makeover was deeper than surface.
“Sorry we’re late. The game went into overtime. I brought the gang. You remember Skip.” He leaned in to kiss her cheek. “Fabuloso!” He whispered. “This is Donald, Tim and Scott.” Alex was chomping at the bit. Skip squeezed his hand tightly and gave a reassuring smile. Two of the five hadn’t a clue of what was to come. As they entered, each of the guests stopped to replicate the greeting before entering the seductress’ lair.
Funny the clutter was gone. The place seemed so disinfected. So not Olive. She must have had the fussy gays over, Alex thought. He had never seen her apartment so clean. Clearly she had something up her sleeve. He eyed the spread on the counter.
“Your hair…is beautiful, you’ve outdone yourself?” He knew he’d better make a fuss over her new look. “Just two days ago you were a brunette. Now look at you all sun kissed and blonde. Is that pink?” He turned. “Oh, don’t you remember what you told Donald about pink at the…”
She coldly cut him off. “But of course mon amie, do come in guys and make yourselves at home. I hope you like sea food. And you Mr. Gorgeous how have you been spending you time?” She leaned in towards Skip for a kiss as she pushed the door closed.
Obliging he returned the kiss, on both cheeks. “Oh Alex and I have been working it out.” He laughed. “ You look incredible, by the way. How is your knee? That was quite the gash.” Bringing up their initial meeting. Hoping she would take the bait.
“Yes mon cherie, Thank God I won’t have to cancel my shoot. They’re only interested in my face and hands.” She placed her hand palm down under her chin and posed petting his chest with the other polished paw, quickly changing the subject.
“Nice nail color girl.” Alex butted in. “Pink? You hate pink. Paws off, I saw him first. Where’s the carafe.” Placing the two bottles of Sangria on the counter, he reached up for the now missing decanter.
“Oh you bought wine… how lovely. Shall we save that for desert?” She took the two bottles and opened the fridge, placing them out of sight on the bottom shelf. “ I thought we’d keep it Mediterranean and make Blondies and Pink Salukis. In honor of our trip.” She placed the pitcher on the counter. “Why don’t you mix the first batch darling.”
“Oh, to go with your outfit.” He pulled the freezer door open. “Blended or on the rocks?” Pulling out the ice tray he noticed the four cans of frozen grapefruit concentrate, two were pink, next to a bottle of Smirnoff vodka. “Well in that case, let’s start with pink?” He teased and pulled out one of the cans of juice.
Donald and Scott bellied up to the bar and began nibbling from the tappas style plates of exotic olives and cheeses. A large bowl of Ceviche sat in the middle of the granite counter surrounded by other fishy delectables, chips, cheeses, pita wedges, fruit, and an odd assortment of colorful plates and glasses.
“Ooh, we’re trying a new Vodka.” Alex squealed pulling the upside down bottle of vodka out of the fridge and held it up. “It must be special. 100 proof, whoa. Is this your surprise?”
“Well, sort of, but really che'ri, it’s my new do.” She countered tossing back her hair. She gracefully unhanded the vodka from him and shook it for fun. He flexed the ice trays into the carafe, as she poured in the poison tincture. “I thought you had a surprise for…”
“Go easy with that stuff.” Skip interrupted, watching closely as the two mixologists danced around each other. They definitely were a pair, at least in the kitchen. “What a beautiful view you have of the pool and gardens.” He popped another piece of cheese into his mouth and surveyed the balcony. “Scotty, check this out.” Then remembering his manners, “May we?” He gestured towards the outdoor room. There were beauties poolside.
“Bien sur.” She nodded stirring the tincture, adding, “Pas de parler sale si.”
“Perfect. You don’t mind if I smoke out here, do you?” Scott noticed a large glass ashtray next to the bench over on the right. Not waiting for an answer the two made haste for the bench. It was the perfect spot to watch the action at the pool. “What did she say?” He lit his cigarette and eyed the ginger beauty in the green tankini taking advantage of the late summer sun. A treat for Scott’s ever roaming eye.
Skip laughed. “She said no dirty talk.”
“Ooh, I love a smart ass.” Scott smirked. “ As well as a man slayer. What’s next dick?”
“I’m not sure but I think the answer is in there somewhere. I need a diversion.”
“What are you two dandies up to?” The screen door burst open as the party moved out to join them.
“You’ve got to try one of those pink thingies.” Donald giggled innocently. “ Let’s toast to the survivors and our gracious hostess. Pretty in pink.” He raised his tumbler.
“That’s right, you were there Thursday evening with Don. Weren’t you all there?” Scott asked as he stretched to put out his cigarette.
“Yes quite a coincidence.” She set down the big bowl of Ceviche. Alex placed the stack of plates next to it on the table. “Tim, be a darling, you’ll try a Saluki won’t you?” She shot a wicked glance at Scott then reached for the carafe. “You look parched poupee , Tall with ice, oui.” She handed him death, gladly.
“I couldn’t believe it. Especially after I heard it might have been sabotage. I mean who would mess with the biggest gay bar in Chicago?” Oblivious Donald sipped from his pink poison quipping, “Yum these are purr-fect.”
“Didn’t two of your co-workers die in the blast?” Scott continued, setting down the glass to dip his wedge into a bowl filled with hummus. “I read that the authorities felt the bomb may have gone off accidentally. That perhaps the group of foreigners parting on the roof deck may have had something to do with it.”
Olive listened intently. “Who needs what?” She interrupted. “Skippy… you need a Saluki?” She laughed.
“Actually, Skippy…needs the restroom, if I may.” He used the insult to excused himself. Slipping down the hall past the partiers and into the master bath.
From what he could tell, everything appeared normal, spotless even.
Atop the vanity, off to the side, sat a sleek Ferragamo makeup bag. Apparently packed for a trip, everything in it new. Opening the empty vanity drawers he found nothing but a set of white hand towels. The same hung on the bar next to the shower. The waist basket clean. He flushed the toilet and opened the other door leading into the bedroom. Against the opposite wall sat a set of matching luggage in front of what appeared to be the closet door.
The closet completely empty save an older carry-on. He carefully unzipped the main compartment. The contents haphazardly packed. Tags, receipts, Olive’s old makeup, clothes, shoes. In the smaller compartment he found a solder set and odd miniature tools. Inside the opposite compartment a couple files revealed photo’s of Alex and his family. Some notes of family history and details of the Olde City Olive Oil Company. One file contained dating profiles of men, he recognized the tall blonde as the plant from Morpheus’ and some of the others from the roof deck. He quickly snapped a few shots with his cell. The evidence of deceit apparent.
Then he noticed an identical clam shell phone like the one that started this whole thing. It was tucked into a side pocket along side a pair of unconnected red wires. The feed coming from a slit in the bottom lining of the case. “Holy shit, what have we here.”
Back outside the boys were comparing notes while noshing on Olive’s feast. Clearly Donald was the most disturbed by the loss of his co-workers. Tim hovered close by stuffing his face, adding tidbits of sarcasm in between. Olive played the victim, telling of Skip’s rescue, lucky to have survived with only a minor scrape. Her epiphany resulting in this outward change.
Scott’s questions seemed to aggravate her every move. Alex watched her odd anxiety and noticed her persistence with libation too. He carefully waited not willing to give her requisite satisfaction. Skip had made it clear to let the hangdog cry. “Just let Scotty bait her. He’s the professional.” he had warned.
Quietly Skip cracked open the bedroom door to listen. His first instinct was to trace the wire and disconnect the internal mechanism. He needed more time. Or maybe not, he thought. Maybe he should wait to see where this piece of luggage was headed. Photo first he told himself. The angry sound of her stiletto heal caught him off guard.
“Find what you we’re looking for mon amour.” She hissed. “Because I haven’t got it voleur.” She stepped into the bedroom.
“What… oh I couldn’t help admiring your luggage. Mon amour.” Lying, he now stood next to the matching set. “ Ferragamo. Nice choice. I noticed the piece in the bathroom. Now where’s that drink you offered?”
Nothing seemed out of place. He hadn’t been gone that long. Still…he was looking in her bags or at least at them and what was he doing in her bedroom? What game was this Oneiros playing? Had he given Alex the scroll or not?
“There you are.” Alex stepped into the fray, interrupting the moment. “The guys want to hear your version of the evening. They’re dying to hear your tale.” He could feel the tension between the two as he slid his arm around Skip’s waist.
“Bien sur s’il vous plait ne dis Skippy. Yes, why don’t I fix you that drink and you can share your side of the tale. She followed the pair out to the kitchen. “Alex be a dear and fetch the carafe.”
Skip sat at the counter quietly, while Olive prepared a fresh batch of her deadly serum. “You found more than expected, ai-je raison?” Her playful tone gone.
“Right about what?” Alex returned with the empty decanter and slid it across the counter. “A bunch of thirsty guys out there.”
“Oh I just meant about you… darling. It seems the two of you are inseparable. Where’s your glass?”
“Oh, Lush Lips Donald snatched it. I’ll take a new one please.” They watched as she concocted the pitcher of pink brew, loosly measuring in the vodka. She carefully iced each glass with four cubes and poured generously. Then delicately she placed the bottle back in the beverage bin of the fridge, upside down. “Aren’t you joining us?” Alex insisted.
“Oui, I thought I’d try out the Blondies.” She opened the freezer and retrieved the grapefruit juice and the Smirnoff. She filled her glass with ice then turned to wash out the jigger. Skip reached for Alex’s arm to stop him from drinking the venom. At the same time holding up a finger to his lips, signaling not to speak.
“To go with my new hair.” Unaware Olive continued. “Didn’t I surprise you che’ri?” She laughed as she measured out an ounce and a half of clear liquid from the twin bottle of Smirnoff, before returning it to the freezer. She stirred in a large spoonful of juice and tossed in a lime wedge.
“What should we toast to? Survival…” She raised her glass and turned.
To be continued...
copyright 2011 tgwithin
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