ADVENTURE, THE 2ND: MEETING MARYSOL
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Therefore, if you scroll down or visit the archives in future months, you will be able to read this continuing drama in the manner and order it was intended to be read. For this reason and purpose, each subsequent adventure in the ‘Eddie Mars’ serial will be marked by a number. If you follow these numbers marked at the top of each chapter in their numeric order - eg ‘Adventure the 1st’, 2nd and so on - you will be able to follow this continuing saga.
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Adventure the 2nd: Meeting Marysol
Funny how your life catches up to you when you least expect it. I was nursing the tail of a cold with some day-old fish and chips that tasted like sandpaper, when I decided to refresh my cooler with some liquid protein. It had been one of those lazy afternoons, hot and with the distemper of gritty sweat pasting my cotton undershirt like cellophane. The room seemed smaller, the heat filling up and pressing down like a thumb tack. I had to get out of that crumby apartment, at least for an hour or two and get me a drink. That was where the trouble started.
I went to Sam’s. Everybody does. Every guy living on Mark Street who wants to get away from his wife or that clingy bit of leftover he picked out of the gutter last night but hopes to hell no one saw him with…or maybe just to escape the oppression of that heat…whew, like an anvil. Sam’s is a place where forgetting life at large is a blessing, the miserable smallness of it all; where nobody wants to know your name because the empathy to cast off yesterday and tomorrow and just exist in a vacuum is the mantra equally and liberally applied to all who enter Shangri-La at the bottom of a whiskey sour. Sam’s.
A quarter to five – rush hour for the afternoon lush. I find a careworn booth in the corner that I’ve never sat in before and after ordering my pleasure, I slump back in my seat to let the cool blast of window air conditioner tickle.
“Hello,” she said, handing me my drink and sitting across the table before I can tell her to beat it.
I take a look – a good one.
“Uh…” I muse sardonically, “Either Sam’s made some changes or the trade’s definitely improving.”
She looked familiar in an unfamiliar sort of way, her wavy brown bob teasing like her collar, the top button undone, making the rest of her blouse stand away just enough to draw attention to those two hidden talents underneath.
“Have we met?” I ask.
She nods with a smile.
Curious, because I feel we have too.
“I could write your biography,” she tells me.
“Well I wouldn’t advise it,” I add playfully, “You see my only curiosity in life is how I’ll be viewed ten years after my death in a book written by somebody who never met me.”
“Drink your drink,” she says, tipping her glass in my honor before taking a few light sips from the rim.
Class all the way.
“I’ll drink when I’m ready,” I reply, leaning into the table and unbuttoning the top button on my shirt to show I approve.
“I’d like to see more,” she coos.
“I’ll bet you would.”
She smiles again, only this time it’s as though she knows more than I do. I hate smart ass broads. They’re never as intelligent as they think.
“I meant the view,” she explains, “You’re blocking it.”
I lean back in my seat.
“You don’t remember me,” she says with a hint of disappointment.
“I suppose not. Only I remember you.”
“448 Laurel Terrace.”
And suddenly, she connects - like the impact of a semi on black ice – the sultry babe with the cigarette. She looked different in the daylight somehow - less willing.
“This isn’t coincidence,” I suggest.
“Let’s just say, it’s kismet.”
With that teaser, she takes hers straight without even a flutter of eyelash.
“What’s your story?”
“No, Mr. Mars,” her tone growing more mature than her years, “That’s my question. You see when someone pretends to be on the side of justice and then goes to great lengths to cover up a crime I have to question where his loyalties lie. That is, unless you killed Tony.”
“He was dead when I found him.”
“Will that be all, sir,” a waiter interrupts.
“Go away,” I snap.
“My,” the gal with all the answers replies, “we are in a mood.”
“If I was in a mood you’d know it,” I explain.
She looks at me as though she were studying a text book. But I’m a speed reader too and this one reads like a cheap novella. There isn’t one thing about her that’s genuine, not one gesture unrehearsed or that didn’t have at least a hundred ulterior motives.
“I believe you would,” she softly coos, then with the stinging command of a whip, “Waiter. Another.”
He comes back, but with apprehension attached this time, taking her glass away and reappearing only moments later with another. When I was sure he’s out of earshot I lean into the table again.
“Who are you really?”
“Writing a bio too?”
“No, just curious.”
“How nice for you,” she teases cynically, “Where should I start?”
“Skip the baby pictures and the story about how your great grandmother stepped off the Mayflower with a cob of corn. What’s your name?”
She stops just short of giving out with the rest, reaching into her purse for her cigarette case and lighter instead. Poor kid, I suppose she can’t walk and chew gum at the same time either.
“Does it come with a chaser?” I prod.
“Menendez,” she states.
So there it was. Marysol Menendez. The pieces in place, like a jigsaw for preschoolers – all except one.
“Maybe I should ask the questions from this point on,” I say.
“Maybe you should,” she insolently replies, “What do you want to know?”
The book’s still open, only now I’m the one leafing through the chapters.
“You kill Tony?” I ask.
Marysol let out a tiny gurgle of a laugh.
“What’s so funny?”
“You are. You think I’d go through all the trouble of having you see me on that street corner? That’s a motive hand delivered.”
“You’re a woman scorned.” I offer to another tight laugh.
She shakes her head with emphatic disappointment for what she thinks is short-sightedness. I haven’t seen a look like that since my mother caught me with my first pack of Lucky’s.
“Put away your Shakespeare, Mr. Mars. I’m a 20th century gal.”
“So enlighten me,” I suggest.
And so she does.
“Tony and I were a couple on paper only. He admired my figure. I liked his wallet.”
“And the big goomba was alright with that?”
“There isn’t much that money can’t buy,” Marysol explains, “I met him at one of those places where everybody meets someone they’d later like to forget. We had some fun. I thought I’d never see him again.”
“So what happened?”
“Six months later he proposed.”
“Just like that?”
“No, Mr. Mars. With a knife in his back and a baby on the way.”
“What happened to the kid?”
She draws in a deep cloud of gray into those buxom lungs, holding it in until her eyes haze over like a veneer of frosted glass.
“What happens when the mother to be decides she’d rather keep her figure than her child.”
Oh, she was hard for sure, if not hard to get. Killing herself with the weed was one thing. Killing something that didn’t ask to be spawned is another.
“Then what?” I push on.
After all, there’s gotta be a point to why she’s telling me this – even a misguided one.
“I made sure it could never happen again,” Marysol explains, “Tony figured it wasn’t meant to be. But after a while he wasn’t coming home at nights. I’m not simple. I could figure out why. It didn’t bore me none either. Girls came and went. But I stuck it out. I figured eventually syphilis or sentiment would catch up to him and that’d be it.”
“Why follow him to the beach house.”
“Curiosity,” she mused, “What were you doing there?”
“I have my reasons.”
“I’ll bet you have. Does she have a name?”
“You ought’a know.”
But Marysol just shakes her head. She does it so well. She ought’a get plenty of mileage out’a that one gesture. It says come here and get lost all at once.
“There are some things I’d rather not,” she says, sort of quiet and with great sadness attached, “As long as I can’t place the name to the face, it doesn’t seem to matter. She’s Jane Doe – every girl - and I’m able to hate them all.”
“Instead of hating just one?”
“Nobody could stand it.”
I give my sloped shoulders a relaxed shrug.
“I’m holding out alright.”
The Cheshire grin returns to her cheeks.
“I don’t hate you, Eddie.”
“Then why go to all the trouble of following your husband?”
“Confirmation, I suppose,” she said somewhat wearily, “See, it’s one thing to suspect what everyone else is whispering in your ear. Oh, maybe a hooker. A dancer. Some tart who makes a career out of bouncing on a man’s knee. But a steady? I had to know.”
“Then you already do.”
“It isn’t easy to give up, Mr. Mars.”
She leans in and for the first time I can read into those tracks of tragic careworn reflection that only a woman in love leaves herself open to.
“Is it?” she asks.
“Let’s get the check and find out,” I say.
. . .
She wasn’t much in the sack and probably knew it, but that didn’t stop her from making every attempt at being eager to please. By late evening the heat had dissipated in my apartment and without much effort or regret after the fact, Marysol rolled over and went to sleep.
It had been some time since I let myself get taken advantage of, and that’s exactly what I had done. She wasn’t interested in me or even sex. I wasn’t even the temporary diversion – just a quick fix to prove to herself that someone still found her desirable, even at the most basic level. Maybe I had helped there, but I doubted it. Those kind are always needy.
Having no further need to mull over the afternoon’s events, I turned my back to shut out her immediate memory and closed my eyes.
. . .
I slept longer than I wanted to, longer than I should have. The clock on the desk glowed dingy green - nearly eleven-thirty. I stretched a cautious foot across the other side of the crumpled bed covers. But Marysol wasn’t there. In fact, she wasn’t in the apartment. Thank God.
My desk drawer was open. My cabinets had the once over. The game worked. Get to me to get to my files…or so she thought. I hope she found what she was looking for. I certainly had no intention of getting back to basics with her again.
THE END…not for long…
Eddie Mars will return JAN. 27, 2006 in Adventure the 3rd: Bate and Switch.
@Nick Zegarac 2006 (all rights reserved).