An Untimely Betrayal
A well-dressed man with a receding hairline crossed the polished wood floor of his spotless kitchen. The overpowering smell of Pine-Sol mingled with the remnants of a Cuban cigar still slightly smoking in the ashtray. Reaching the refrigerator, he began to scan the interior for the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc hidden in one of the vegetable drawers. It had vanished, but in its place he found a black envelope with gold calligraphy spelling out his name.
His brown eyes narrowed into slits as one hairy eyebrow lifted in disdain. What kind of madness was this? Obviously his wife of 12 years, Elena, was looking for ways to get his attention, and finishing off his wine was only the beginning. He took the envelope over to the fake marble bar on the terrace overlooking Dickerson Bay. The sun was setting over the mountains. Boats cruised back to the safety of the harbor, passing illegal houseboats that sat at anchor offshore from Soft City.
“Damn those anchor-outs,” he muttered. “Spoiling my view, creating havoc in the courtrooms—but they’ll pay, sooner than later, if I have anything to say about it...” For the past four years, Burrota had done everything in his power as a Maroon County Supervisor to rid the Bay of the illegal houseboats known as “anchor-outs.” Just thinking about the pleasure he was going to have as the Army Corp. of Engineers destroyed each and every one of those ramshackle garbage boats brought a smile to his lips. Seating himself on a fake red leather barstool, he ripped open the black envelope with a sardonic gleam of hate in his eyes. His large frame shook at the first sentence.
Our time together is over. I want nothing more from you but a simple divorce. If you dare to come after me, I will tell the press everything I know about your associates in Reno. My lawyer will be in touch. And Henry, don’t be a fool. You may think you’re omnipotent, but you’re not.
Enrique Gregorio Jose Burrota sat alone at the fake marble bar overlooking the Bay. For a moment, a feeling of great loss threatened to break through his impeccable surface, and a lone tear slid down his nose onto the back of his finely manicured hand. Then the moment was gone. Deep fire filled his lungs. His nostrils flared repeatedly. He gasped for air as if punched directly in the stomach with a quick left.
Gone? How dare she, the lying whore… He had found her in the streets of Reynosa, Mexico… a cheap whore with a poster of Farrah Fawcett on the wall of her one-room hovel. How dare she turn away from him now! He had given her everything… a home, a Mercedes, friends, prestige, and dignity. Yes, damnit, he had even given her dignity and now she threw it back in his face. Well, not for long. He would find a way to make her pay dearly for this humiliation. A divorce, in an election year? She must be out of her mind. Where the hell was she?
The fire exploded in his chest. He jumped off the bar stool and kicked it toward the terrace’s edge. Pouncing on an ornate whiskey bottle, he hurled it at the mirrored glass tile in the hallway. Bottle and mirror shattered into a million pieces as he hurled another bottle over the side of the balcony. He heard it crash on the roof of the house below. Crossing the room, he kicked the couch as if it were Elena before grabbing his keys off the kitchen counter.
Slamming the front door, Burrota lunged towards his silver Porsche, parked serenely in the driveway. Jamming the keys into the ignition, he shoved the gearshift into reverse and squealed into the street—just missing the mailbox—revved the engine, and peeled away like a bat out of hell, tires screaming, radio blaring an Italian sonata, teeth grinding, eyebrows low. He reached into the glove compartment, fingers deftly searching for the familiar shape of his convenient driver’s toot vial. Rescuing it from obscurity, he raised the device to his left nostril and snorted deeply. A rush of power surged through his brain and his foot cooperated by gunning the engine even more. One more blast of Peruvian flake spread a feeling of numbness through his gums, over his tongue and into his heart.
Minutes later, Burrota pulled into the parking lot of Mack’s, Soft City’s finest meat market and drinking establishment. He entered the swinging glass doors like a barracuda anticipating a feeding frenzy, swimming through the crowded tables to the bar.
“Gimme a double shot of Herradura Silver Tequila.”
The bartender moved with obvious speed at the demand. A good-looking man in his early twenties, Greg had worked the bar all summer long hoping to quit by fall. Unfortunately, a few mistakes had prolonged his employment and his dream of going back to school had been postponed one more time. He eyed Burrota congenially — a local politician and good tipper with more than his fair share of money and power. Greg set the double in front of him, adding an ingratiating smile guaranteed to excite the ladies and some of the men as well.
Burrota grabbed the glass, downing the double in one gulp. Wiping his lips with the back of his hand, he felt the tequila slowly soothe his parched throat and bruised ego. “Set me up again. But this time back it up with a Corona.”
“Yes sir. Nothing like tequila to soothe the savage beast, or to wake him up.” Greg shot Burrota another smile. Burrota looked on blankly, eyes focusing and refocusing on the lights twinkling and reflecting outside the waterfront bar. Greg poured the shot, popped the top off a Corona, and set them both in front of his grumpy customer. Burrota handed him a fifty. Greg headed for the cash register wondering why rich people were always so unhappy.
People moved in and out, lights flashed, laughter and voices blended together into an atmosphere so mesmerizing that it was impossible not to desire alcohol and cigarettes. A lively game of liar’s dice began to overtake the bar. Burrota looked on with numbness so deadly that no one approached him. He might as well have been completely alone, although the close proximity of fellow drinkers stopped him from smashing every bottle in the joint.
Suddenly he heard his name and looked up to see the bar’s sleazy, aging proprietor approaching him in a rumpled suit, cigar in hand.
“Thought that was you. What the hell ya doing here? Campaigning?” Rich Farber chuckled, patting Burrota haphazardly on the back. “Good to see you. You know you’re always welcome in my little watering hole. Hey Greg, set Mr. Burrota up with another round, on the house.”
Burrota buried his anger and managed a half-assed smile. “Thanks, you old goat. Just thought I’d drop by your little playpen before going home to see the little woman. A man needs to get away once in awhile.”
“Apparently, so does a woman. Yours was here just a few minutes ago.” Rich dropped the bomb nonchalantly, watching Burrota’s nerves painstakingly shift gears. “And she wasn’t alone, old man.”
Burrota’s jaw clenched. It took every fiber of strength at his command not to wrap his finely manicured fingers around Farber’s neck and wring it until it hung as limp as a priest’s dick. “If you’ve come here to gloat, Farber, I can assure you I have no idea what you’re talking about. I trust Elena completely. She’s her own woman. No harm in allowing her a little freedom once in a while.”
Farber was enjoying this. With a shrug, he looked Burrota straight in the eyes. “Look old man, I’m your friend. You don’t have to pretend with me. Everyone on the waterfront knows she’s shacking up with that Wagner fellow. It’s rumored they’re anchored out near Gate 3. Must be a helluva blow. But keep your chin up, old man—I’m sure it won’t hurt your reelection campaign all that much. Who knows, with the right spin, you could end up with the sympathy vote.” Farber patted Burrota on the back again, smiling, then moved off to find other prey.
Burrota sat stunned, his right hand twitching uncontrollably as his heart beat out of his chest. He gulped his third double, determined to keep his cool. He looked hungrily around the room. He needed to fuck something. He needed to come all over a woman’s face until she gagged for air.
A woman in her mid-30s caught his eye and held it for a moment. She was wearing a short red leather dress with large black buttons. They both looked away and then, as if on cue, looked back at each other. Burrota motioned to a cocktail waitress busily clearing tables and pocketing tips. She nodded at his command and took off to carry out his order. Moments later she placed a pink lady in front of the woman in red. Burrota watched as the woman took the glass and nodded in ritualistic gratitude. He slowly acknowledged her smile and patted the empty barstool next to him. She looked around the room, surveying other possibilities, then stood up and crossed the room, hips swinging like Marilyn Monroe.
“Hello,” he said hungrily.
“Thanks for the drink. What’s your name?” She slid onto the barstool and crossed her legs, revealing a smooth golden thigh. Burrota’s eyes registered excitement.
“My name is Henry. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m just in town for a convention and don’t really know many people in this area. Do you live in Maroon County?”
“Sure do, over in the foothills of San Miguel. But I like to visit Soft City; it’s got such a beautiful view of the Bay. What kind of convention are you attending?” She ran blood-red fingernails through almost-blonde hair, flipping it back with an air of sultry self-assurance. Her intuition told her that the man was lying, but the game demanded her complicity. Besides, he looked familiar.
Burrota eyed her like a dog in heat. He was a politician; lying was his first language. “Computers. Wonderful business, actually, just brimming with experimental technology. I can’t keep up with it no matter how many tech journals I read. But it’s a challenge and it seems to keep my bankbook in the black. What’s your name?”
“Felicia Towers.” Her green eyes sparked as she absentmindedly dropped her fingertips on top of his Rolex watch to caress the tiny hairs on the back of his wrist. Burrota felt his groin throb and suddenly envisioned this beautiful woman gagging for air underneath him. He took a deep breath and forced himself to relax.
“Well, Miss Towers, you certainly know how to make man’s heart beat faster. I wish I knew the area better. I’d love to take you somewhere a little quieter, perhaps find out what lurks behind those green eyes of yours. Are you hungry?”
“Starving. You’re in luck, Henry, I just happen to know the perfect place. Shall we?” She cast a glance toward the front door and Burrota nodded like a mystified actor in a sordid Fellini film.
As they left, Greg picked up the sizeable tip Burrota had left on the bar, grinning and shaking his head. Sarah usually had better taste. Maybe she really was hungry and just wanted a free meal. But this rationalization didn’t last very long and he found himself distracted by the thought of them together. He hoped she would be careful. Something in Burrota’s eyes had been bothering him all night. He reminded himself that that Sarah was nobody’s fool. She had brains, guts and beauty, a deadly combination for any man. But the feeling of apprehension remained persistent.
Greg lit a cigarette and poured himself a shot of Grand Marnier on the house. What the hell? Why should he waste time worrying? Sarah always did exactly what she wanted anyway. Hadn’t she made that clear to him over and over again? Besides, they’d only spent one night together. But no matter how many times he tried not to care, he still liked her a little too much.
He took a deep drag on his cigarette and looked out over the bar. Lights flashed, music pounded, customers either chatted loudly or stared dismally into their glasses, straining through double vision for a momentary glimpse of peace. Desolation knows no bounds in a crowded barroom of faceless strangers. The smell of money mingled with endless cigarette smoke created a liar’s paradise; honesty was easily abandoned, leaving nothing but shit so deep a man or a woman could drown, and often did. Greg took one last drag and tried to exhale his apprehension in exchange for lighter thoughts. It was just another night behind the bar at Mack’s and like everything else, this too would pass. No worries, as his old college roommate liked to say.
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