I was beaten, bloody, shoeless, and left for dead. My trusted Buick Skylark lay in smokey ruins along side a desolate stretch of highway and the Ice Queen was missing.
What had started as a simple babysitting gig had turned a very bad corner and was getting worse by the minute
Her real name was Mina, a bombshell bottle blonde, with large doe eyes and lashes for miles; the trophy wife of Zarko Pavlovic, more commonly referred to as the Abominable Showman.
She had a waning interest in me, but only in the “I’ll do you because it’ll really piss off my husband” kind of way, and I was alright with that.
I had been tasked with babysitting the woman until some unsavory business arrangements had been made and it was safe to return.
Sometimes it is the easy one that catches you off guard – that slow jab, more likely to slide off your cheek than do any harm, that instead catches your nose just right, leaving you teary eyed and vulnerable.
She hadn’t spoken since she led me on a merry chase across the lake; a childish game meant to demonstrate her independence that led to us both being submerged in the frigid water.
So after we had stripped off our frozen clothing and bundled up in dry blankets, I let her have it. “If I weren’t being paid for this, I would have left you in the water.”
Her reply was nothing more than a pouty lip and sly smile. It was all a game to this doll and I hated her for it.
The fire was doing very little to keep the frigid January air from penetrating the blankets that enveloped us, and underneath, I could feel every goose bump on her otherwise perfect flesh. Every move brought her closer to me and soon enough I found it impossible to conceal my growing attraction.
We were both cold, wet and starving for attention, so I gave in and with the desperation of two people about to make the biggest mistakes of their lives, we created body heat the way mother nature intended.
I’d like to say I felt bad doing it, but I didn’t. She was very much a woman and experienced beyond even my years.
After, while we lay in bed, intertwined, her head upon my shoulder, she whispered sweet nothings into my ear. “My husband thinks you’re a waste.” She cooed.
“You really know how to pump a guy up.” I continued staring at the ceiling.
“He’s itching to get rid of you.”
She rolled to face me, her head propped up by her delicate hand, but I didn’t reciprocate. “He’s going to have you killed.”
It hung there like a wet towel. There was nothing else to say. I began to roll it over in my head but abandoned the thought. I was tired, just had sex with a woman I was sure knew of my impending death, and was out of cigarettes. Nothing to do but close my eyes and wait it out.
Sleep found me quickly; the darkness of the room flooding my mind – not at all unlike the moment that brought about the end of my fighting career.
Bruce “Big Gunz” Billingsley was not your prototypical fighter. He was an ugly five feet, six inches; short and stocky with no reach. But when he could force his way in close, those short arms could deliver devastating kidney punches and a ridiculously strong uppercut.
I had been working on him through four rounds, slowly trying to wear the man down.
Despite his stature, he was a natural, with a strong jaw and a ribcage that wouldn’t budge. He was supposed to go down in the sixth, and I was making a show of it – or he was.
In the closing seconds of the fifth round, we latched together, trying to save up some energy; or at least I was. He was still trying to work on me when his monstrous head slammed into my nose. Nerve damage from repeated breaks had saved me from the pain, but no matter how little it hurts, the eyes still water and the blood still flows.
I tried to clinch him harder, but he forced himself back half a step, just far enough to bring his arm up between us, driving his fist into my down-turned jaw.
I didn’t feel it. Neither the punch nor the breaking of the jaw and I was on the mat for five minutes before they could finally get me up and to the hospital.
When you’re a small time fighter in Memphis, winnings don’t exactly pay the bills. A fighter needs a patron; someone who stands to make money from your wins and losses; and in return they foot your bill and keep you fed.
For me it was Zarko Pavlovic; more affectionately known as the Abominable Showman. He was small time, though you’d be hard pressed to make him admit it; and queer as a two dollar bill.
His expensive tastes and love of good food had taken it’s toll on his body. He had already accumulated a quadruple bypass and several congestive heart failures under his belt, and was working his way toward a full on heart attack.
The relationship between a boxer and his patron is a complicated one. As long as you perform as expected – that is; however he tells you to – he makes money and you, in return, are rewarded. Everyone’s happy. But if you happen to take a surprise shot, a lucky uppercut that sends you to the canvas like some no good sack of shit; no one’s happy.
Teddy lost a rather large sum of money due to my loss, and I felt a strong urge to pay him back. He treated his guys well, but had a mean streak in him capable of ruining anyone’s day if they crossed him.
After my injury, which accounted for a partial rebuild of lower jaw and a fusion of three vertebrae in my neck, Teddy moved me into his Bungalow to rest and recuperate, hoping I could make it back into the ring.
The tackily decorated bungalow looked like something pulled straight from the pages of a 1970’s playboy magazine; shag carpet, paneled walls and a bear rug in front of the large fireplace.
He hosted more lavish parties than the Governor’s mansion and knew how to put on a show. In the downstairs party room, strippers would entertain whoever had the most cash on hand or could provide them with a quick fix. Upstairs, it only got better. Drugs were passed out like candy on Halloween, and I was trick or treating with the rest of them.
I tried to fight after that, but could never again bring on the same killer instinct. I was gun shy – a wounded animal. Combined with a regular intake of pain killers and various other narcotics, I became a pit bull without teeth; practice fodder, taking beatings on a regular basis at the local club by young guns with little talent and less brains.
After a year of having good sense beaten into me, Zarko considered us square and set me to work, collecting interest from his considerable community investments. It was a depressing job that took me into the seediest of dives and required more angst than I could muster on most days, but it paid well enough and kept me in nice clothes. Occasionally, I would have the opportunity to take my frustration out on some low-life pervert, and that was reward enough.
Some days, however, were there just to fuck with me.
I woke up with a start, naked in the bed, empty of everything but me and a man waving a pistol in my face. He said his name was The Weasel and I took his word for it.
“Why did ya do it, man?” He was standing over me, a foot on either side of my body, bent over, with a pistol inches from my nose.
I was awake but groggy. I knew I wouldn’t be fast enough to get up without catching a bullet to the forehead.
Why was I so tired?
He popped me on the forehead with the barrel of the pistol. “Hello? I’m talking to you.”
“What do you want?” I asked.
He laughed. “I want to know why you killed that poor girl?”
“What girl?” Now I was confused as well, but I saw her as soon as I asked. She was across the room, tied up, her face in the corner – unmoving. “Let her go.” I looked back up at him.
“Nothing I can do about it.” he laughed again. He leapt off the bed in her direction and grabbed ahold of her, by her blonde hair. He spun her head around to me. “Seems to me you already did the honors.”
Hamburger was the first thing that came to mind and it made me sick. Her face had been decimated. “What the fuck!” I exclaimed and tried climbing out of bed. My body didn’t want to move. “What the Hell is going on?” I tried again and wound up on the floor.
“Don’t worry, Darling.”
The voice was hers, from the doorway, but I couldn’t see her from my position. “Mina?”
“Yeah.” She walked around the bed and placed a foot next to my face. “It’s me. I’m fine. But you…” I strained to look up at her as she shook her head. “You are going to die.”
“And who is that?”
“That’s me.” She said. “You did such maliciously horrible things to me. Beat me until not even dental records could determine my identity.”
“Nothing personal, Baby.” She answered. “You’re just the schmuck.” She crouched down and stuck me in the neck with a needle, far wider than it had to be. And again, I felt the blackness engulf me.
The next time I awoke, hot air was rushing at my face. I opened my eyes to find myself behind the controls of my Buick Skylark. The altimeter said I was at approximately one thousand feet, but descending – rapidly. Both engines one and two were aflame and the other two may or may not have been functioning.
I tried to trigger the extinguishers but the circuits seemed to have been cut or pulled. The radio was not functioning and there was a dead woman in the passenger seat.
Knowing that I had very little time, I went through her pockets as quickly as I could, producing only a few slips of paper. I hastily shoved them into my own pocket. Then I pulled the emergency lever.
As my ejection seat rocketed from the Skylark, I praised myself for having them installed the previous year.
Thirty minutes later, after a rough landing and a short trek through dense underbrush, I was standing alongside the highway, body battered and bloody, shoeless and not entirely pleased with my situation.