Segment 20: The Performance (1935)

written, edited, and produced by Viktor Devonne for 2 Night Stay
performed and recorded by Viktor Devonne

special thank you to Michael Stueber

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transcription:

THE PERFORMANCE. (July 1935)

She was less a model and more a frequently photographed woman, while he was less a comedian and more a gin drinker– they had convinced themselves and the tabloid-reading world that were in fact famous.  Indelicately shacked up during the dissolution of his third marriage, they had found each other in the same bed, undergarments askew.  The Pope was still weighing his options.

They were viciously decried by the all-consumable media and were too blue for the news reel in the movie theaters.  He had gone from wealthy gad-about to an out-and-out villain who was abandoning a solid home life; she flittered from utter obscurity to the exquisitely tailored uptown Whore of Babylon.

Invited to parties as the entertainment; they would get a bottle or two in, make a scene, and stagger out some four hours later.  Sometimes her hand was down his trousers signifying they were still in love, or he was bellowing his baritone threats after she ran into the streets, which provided pause to the notion all was fair in love.  It made for a delicious post-meal conversation amongst the ermine-clad circus-goers.

The invitations were beginning to be lost in the post, as dear friends they always could count on began to be bored with their antics, and the repaneling of their bathrooms.  The news out on page seventeen was Agnes DeWitt was back to living alone, comatose between sniffs, as Chester Dunning returned to the happy home with the second alternate in the countryside.

It can be procured even in the state of inebriation that they managed to gurgle out an “I Do,” along the way and were so married.  An annulment was anticipated, thusly the reason for Mrs. DeWitt-Dunning now seen with two suitcases outside a parked canary-colored taxicab.

First to emerge was a shapely, infamous stocking-clad leg, following one’s eye to the buxom frame, sunglassed and smoking, hissing at the afternoon sun. 

It was too hot for her rabbit fur stole, but she was worried if she left it in the townhouse, it would find its way back to Chester, or his mother, who was set on repossessing her son’s careless mistakes from the past 18 months.

Agnes was still a great beauty, hangover notwithstanding; her saffron hair bounced in preset curls, escaping a cherry-bark colored bonnet.  A Sunday church social it was not, one would gather from her body language, dramatically pressed against the taxi’s frame for Frank Lloyd’s absent lens.  Her hunter green coat was set to bake, as she extended a chipped mauve-painted nail to her tortoiseshell glasses, inhaling the last of a Luckie and tossing it to the sidewalk.

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The hotel’s name indeed corresponded with the pack of matches she had snagged from Chester’s jacket that evening—morning?—before.  If it was good enough for him, she saw no reason to not send him the bill of somewhere he was already familiar with.

She waved away non-existent autograph seekers and the sea of invisible cameras and walked towards the door, clutching her fur over sweating shoulders.  The driver tossed the overstuffed luggage to the doorman, who gave a discrete nod and gently stomped out the embers of Agnes’ careless fire risk.

 “Ma’am,” he offered, pulling the door open and providing her with the first glimpse of the lobby.  The copen blue rug (how au currant) was a tranquil ocean with chestnut chairs and loveseat island.  She observed the quietly crackling fire, while impractical for July, but was nestled inside an exquisite fireplace, etched with ornate carvings of wood nymphs gaily frolicking in the dark brown marble. 

While the light was significantly softer inside, Agnes kept her glasses on; one must never be unprepared to be recognized and mobbed on sight.  She caught the eye of at least one husband who would soon catch hell for it, so she considered her visit a success. 

The doorman, Horace or Harold or something like that, snapped his fingers and a squat, handsome bellman, suddenly full of purpose, reported for duty.  He collected the bags to bring to the next port: a registration desk some ten feet away, and kept a close watch nearby, taking notes in his head.

At the desk stood a man of about 25.  He was decked in a hazy gray Windsor jacket, white shirt, striped blue tie, and a pair of seersuckers so pressed, a wrinkle would feel intimidated to even make a try for it.  He smiled broadly, revealing a chorus line of ivory.

Beginning with a gentle stumble, Agnes lurched forward a few steps to lean on the edge of the desk.  “Good afternoon,” she spoke in a thick bourbon-laced fog, her neck gently wiggling with each syllable.  “I believe you have a room for me.” 

“Well, that’s great,” sang the chipper tone of the man behind the desk.  She shuddered as his tenor was just nearly as bright as the sunshine she had just escaped.  “I’ll be happy to set you right up, then.  What name is it under?”

Agnes hobbled slightly, searching her memory.  “Mrs. Samuel Goldwyn,” she tendered.

Managing to stem off even a momentary look of puzzlement as this did not look like the wife of a major motion picture studio head, the man still scanned the book before him, and indeed discovered the name next to the assignment Room 501. 

“Well, Mrs. Goldwyn, you sure do have you with us for the night,” the man smiled again and turned away to face the series of silver keys.  He selected one marked “501” on the attached tag, framed with the silhouette of a lion’s mane. 

Facing Mrs. Goldwyn again, he broke out into a tenderhearted smile, and put the key down on the desk, and knowingly asked, “If you would please sign the register, Mrs. Goldwyn?” 

She took the pen into her hand like some fussy snake, and provided a feasible interpretation of her signature, or Mrs. Goldwyn’s, on the line.

“Thank you, ma’am,” the man behind the desk again smiled, “Would you like to pay for the bill now or at the end of your visit?”

Agnes snorted, and fished inside her coat for a purse to find a small pouch of wrinkled, once-sweaty dollar bills wrapped around a business card.  She gave a defensive look to the man, her sunglasses slipping down her nose and revealing late-to-bed hazel eyes, a proper black and blue swelling encircling one of them. “Charge it to this gentleman?”

The young man took the card without looking at it, and attempted a sympathetic tone, “Th-thank you, ma’am.  If I may be of any…”  He hesitated to address the contused elephant in the room. 

Agnes, realizing he was staring at her shiner, pulled her mouth tightly into a forced smile, and pushed her glasses back up.  “Uh huh,” she managed, somewhere between shame, appreciation, and indignation.

Feeling a bit shy, he waived the request for deposit, despite this attractive woman clearly being in trouble, and not exactly using her real name.  He considered she may have been through enough without being questioned if her means of payment were suspect.

Quickly changing his timbre, he continued, “Martin, I mean, Mickey will bring your bags up, ma’am.  If you need anything, anything at all, phone the front desk. I’m here til midnight.”

“Thank you,” Agnes cleared her throat, and grandly turned to get her sense of direction.  “And who do I ask for?”

“Ma’am?” the young man murmured, trying not to look back up while be busied himself with the sign-in book.

“Your name, kid,” Agnes asked, clucking her tongue in her cheek and surveying the grounds, “I need to know your name if I plan to phone the desk, don’t I?”

He flushed.  “Wally,” he stammered. “Walter, ma’am”

“Well, Wally Walter Ma’am,” Agnes said, walking away, “You have a good night unless I need anything, anything at all.  If your staff is equipped for lunch, I’d appreciate some sent up.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Wally Walter Ma’am sheepishly smiled, “Today we have a terrific clam chowder-”

“Schlitz if you have it,” Agnes called, nearly out of view, not glancing back. 

Walter exhaled sharply, still collecting himself.  He looked back at the front door and got a nod of understanding from the doorman who couldn’t pull himself away from the spectacle.

A bellman, stifling a gee-whiz, exchanged a look of similar sentiment to Walter, and took the two bags with him, behind the sauntering Mrs. Samuel Goldwyn, who appeared to be in mid-conduction of an orchestra as she reached the stairwell.

~

Agnes pushed forward to her room via the stairs, and reached the curve of the fourth floor’s banister before she even realized there was an elevator all along.  When she got to her room, 501, the door swung open at her touch, and she shuddered as the knob on the other side, bounced off the wall.  She paused in the doorway just long enough to sigh before aimlessly strolling in.  As she steadied herself against one wall to kick off her shoes, she took in the sight of the somewhat cheap looking drawing room. 

So began the theatre of undressing; she slung her coat onto some hideous cactus rose paisley fainting couch and her coat to the accompanying chair.  She was soon dressed only in her short-sleeve cotton day dress, baby blue with the light yellow floral splotches that were just too trendy to pass up.  She dropped her purse on the dresser with the ash tray, and slid a long thin hat pin from her hair, to set beside it.  She looked positively innocent, except for the sunglasses which she did not remove. With a flick, she let her hat sputter into the cushion of one of the overstuffed sitting chairs, and she swung around to see the wide eyes of the bellhop, taking in the show.  She smiled weakly.  “Bedroom?”

He gestured, but she needn’t have asked; there was only one doorway and only one direction to go in.  It led to the large bed–covered in a peach-colored quilt– two end tables, another ghastly pink chair and hassock, and an enormous mirror that made up the vanity, constructed with deep-set drawers.

To her right, she saw the powder room; meager, but utilitarian and the bath tub even had feet.  She always thought bath tubs with feet were so posh.

“Thanks, kid,” she looked up at the bellhop.  “You can put the bags on that ottoman if you’d like.”

He stood the two leatherbound suitcases on said ottoman as directed, and hesitated just long enough for Agnes to recognize his awkwardness.  She searched herself for change, but gestured towards the other room.  “There’s a quarter in my purse, kid.  You can take it.”

The bellhop was startled to be entrusted to rummage through a lady’s purse, but took the opportunity quickly, and without betrayal.  “Thank you, ma’am,” he said in the doorway again, having returned to see Agnes examine her black eye in the mirror.  “And might I say?”

Agnes turned, pulling the sunglasses back up.

“I just want to say, I think its nuts that guy would leave you, ma’am,” the bellhop shyly took liberty, “I think you’re swell.”

Agnes sadly laughed, and finally pulled her sunglasses fully off, dangling them with her fingers.  Seeing her shiner, he did not shift an iota in dreamlike attraction for this voluptuous and bruised stunner before him.  Agnes looked down to his nametag, feeling less self conscious in the company of this youth. 

 “Thanks, Mickey,” she smirked and tossed the glasses on the counter, “Bring up my lunch order when it’s ready?”

Mickey brightly saluted, and nodded, “Yes, ma’am.” 

He was then off, and Agnes DeWitt, no longer Mrs. Samuel Goldwyn, was alone again.  She made her way to the window to more tightly close the curtains; she was roughly finished with the daylight.

Agnes stood near the window, closing her eyes and feeling the heat penetrate the drapes.  The dull sound of silence was replaced by the self awareness of her breathing and beating of her heart.  She lifted her hand to her chest and felt it rise and fall.  Her eyes shut, and a brief panic overcoming her, her heart rate began to quicken until she took several deep breaths until her pulse slowed to normal.

She inhaled deeply again and opened her eyes, only to nearly fell backward from the bright afternoon sun piercing her.  She blinked rapidly, confused as if the curtains had been suddenly wrenched open, and gave a quick once over of her surrounding while continuing to see spots in the empty room. 

Agnes groped for the sides of fabric and pulled them tightly together, soon doused again in shades of gray.  Curious if she would discover some faulty curtain rod, she soon forgot once her eyes adjusted again.  She turned away from the window and looked back at her soft orange sleeping quarters while considering her next series of events.

She hiked her skirt and crawled to the center of the mattress, where she yanked one of the suitcases towards her.  Resting on her knees, and testing the durability of her nylons, she heard the clank of the fasteners open and lifted the flap to unveil a collection of slips and lingerie she would no longer be able to afford without Chester.  It seemed a damn shame for her to peak in financial stability at the age of 27.

She pulled the slips out and onto the bed and a shock of metal caught a stray piece of light; Agnes nonchalantly pulled forth a pistol from betwixt her unmentionables.  While her experience with firearms was limited, her time with Chester had given her a vague understanding that he had gotten this one sometime in Argentina, called it Betsy, but it had a name like a horse… Clydesdale… or Cobb… or something. 

Additionally, he didn’t like policemen to know he had it, and there was the time it had scared the wits out of a would-be mugger when they were walking home late at night from The Thin Man last summer.

Leaving the gun in a nest of satin and silk underthings, she crawled out of the bed and rolled down her stockings.  She made her way to the front door, slipping out her dress on the way, and checked the lock.  Secure, she returned to her bedroom, eyed the gun for a few moments longer, and pulled herself out of her girdle until she was free from foundation.

Once she found a chain for the overhead light, Agnes took in view of the modest bathroom while the bulb swung back and forth.  It was strange, she considered; when everything else in the hotel was relatively presentable; this naked, stark light bulb was an unceremonious blight.  At least it wasn’t that sickly shade of pink like everything else was.

She pulled her hair back past her shoulders and reached for the faucets in the tub.  Lightly grazing the lever, she recoiled at a shrill, rusty squeak which signaled a rush of clean, clear water that was steaming in the time it took to her to gasp.

Feeling the hot water on her hand as it poured forth for a few moments and satisfied with the temperature, Agnes lifted her leg over the tub’s side and began to step into the water that was quickly collecting into several inches.  She swiftly shrieked and pulled her leg out, her body twisting and nearly cracking her skull on the tile floor.  Had she not made a great recovery, clawing at the rim of the tub with both hands, gravity would have spoiled the night. 

She looked down at the foot she had barely made contact with water and shivered as the ice cold chill reverberated up her limbs.  Knees bent, and barely holding her weight on one side of her body, she had just casually plunged her foot into what felt like a freezing, rushing river. Winded from jolt and somewhat pained from reacting so quickly, she straightened her body, still grasping the edge of the tub to lean towards the still flowing water.  The damp heat caressed her face and frizzed her hair as she panted. 

Agnes looked down at the water through the swirling wisps of fog as she continued to wiggle her toes to further feeling as they flexed on the porcelain bathroom tile. 

With one hand, Agnes darted her index and middle fingertips past the surface of the water, feeling the comforting immersion of the warm water, rather than the fright of subzero she could have sworn she felt a minute ago.  Her foot already felt no memory of such a thing, although she was still catching her breath.  What had happened?  A spasm?  Some sort of electrical spark?  She looked around for a sign of faulty, exposed wiring but saw only the shadows continue to dance from the quivering, solitary incandescent light bulb overhead, its chain limply swaying.

This time she stared at the water, as if challenging it, as she grazed her toes at the surface and quickly submerged without a shock to the senses.  She let herself gingerly sink her body beneath the soothing, pleasant water and then leaned forward to turn the faucets to off.  While they needed to be turned for three or four more cranks than she ever remembered initiating, the water eventually stopped with a soft metallic screech she was now prepared for. 

The room was now filled only with the sound of the splash of water hugging her flesh as she adjusted and tilted her body to rest her neck on the end of the tub, keeping her hair dry while she took the bar of soap from the cubby in the wall.  She shivered gently at the condensation sliding down the top of her body, in contrast to the heat of her lower body, which had quickly relaxed her restless legs and fidgeting toes.  Agnes would close her eyes, trying to shake off the unnerving seconds beforehand, but could not bring herself to more than seven or eight seconds of her eyelids closed before opening her eyes again to review her surroundings again.

Agnes had only managed to pull a panty set on when there was a tentative knock on her door. She tossed her slips on top of the pistol, and reached for a kimono, designed in splashes of black and red.  She pulled it tight and walked barefoot to the door in the shadows, “Yes?” she spoke to the closed door.

“I have your lunch, ma’am.” came the familiar voice of Mickey.

Agnes tossed back her hair    and adjusted her bosom before reaching to flip the lightswitch on, then unlock and open the door with a smile.  “Hi, Mickey,” her voice was soft and inviting.

Mickey appeared not quite prepared in even this, perhaps his nineteenth year, to see a lady in her robe, particularly at 1:15 in the afternoon.  He held back a choked laugh and grin, and presented an oversized serving tray.

Agnes was already turned and walking towards the sitting area, leaving Mickey testing his grip on language.  “Yes, ma’am.”  He used his left leg to shut the door behind him, as he walked nervously forward.

He put the thick silver salver down on a round table between the chair and the couch where Agnes positioned herself, legs crossed and shoulders back, a hand less than casually clutching at her clavicle. 

Standing at his full height of 5’6, Mickey pulled back the tray cover to reveal a sizeable bounty of clam chowder in a white porcelain bowl with gold trim; a matching plate with a salad of greens and chicken slivers sat beside it with a maroon cloth napkin and a set of sturdy silverware.  The centerpiece was a glistening brown bottle of beer, sweating from being removed recently from an ice box, and beside a 4 and a half inch orange glass.

“With Mr. Farrell’s compliments,” Mickey said, grasping the beer bottle like a fine French wine.  In response to Agnes’ bemused look, Mickey further explained, “Our front desk manager… He keeps these in the office.  I don’t think he’ll miss one.”  Mickey gave a coy wink that pushed Agnes further into stifled laughter, and in his debt.

“Thanks, Mickey,” she reached for the small glass on the tray, but as soon as she brushed a finger on it, a razor thin line appeared vertically in a nearly perfectly straight line, cracking the length of the glass.  “Oh!” she pulled her hand back quickly and examined her hands for blood, convinced she saw a flash of red when the glass split.

Mickey looked mortified, “Oh! Miss DeWitt, I’m so sorry…”  He snatched the glass up from the uncracked side, lifting it off the tray and holding it, still intact if utterly useless.  “Did you–did you hurt yourself?”

Shaken but unhurt, Agnes wiggled her fingers at Mickey, “I’m fine, honey.  I’ll just drink out of the bottle.”  Mickey insisted on examining the bottle for damage before handing it to Agnes, she took a healthy swig from the bottle once it was deemed safe.  “Thank you, Mickey.  You’re sweet.”

He beamed as though she’d declared him her hero on the tempest tossed seas.   As he stood there quietly, she continued to drink and lean back on the couch to watch him, as he watched her.  “Sit,” she said, her voice a cozy, cashmere blanket.

He nearly chose the floor by virtue of standing on it, but he got to the chair opposite this woman with the black eye in time, pushing her discarded fur stole to one side.  ‘Yes, ma’am,” he quipped, and sensing her next need, extended a small shiny cigarette case.  She accepted, he lit, and they continued to sit in silence as the smoke trailed upwards in the shape of thin, whimsical demons.

“So, you know me, Mickey,” she simmered, “Tell me about you.”

Mickey paused, momentarily considering a more interesting story, but settled on the unvarnished: Scranton, Pennsylvania.  The following minute and a half were a rushed delivery of memoir, from being the oldest of six, to being on the basketball team in high school, he as the son of a mailman and a schoolteacher, and some odds and ends about his traveling to the big city, but getting distracted by the wrong one and ending up here.  Most of it went swirling up there with the smoke, completely avoiding any of Agnes’ consciousness.

“And,” she said, shifting the topic to one she favored, “You’ve read about me.”

“Boy, have I,” Mickey offered, enthusiastically, gripping his grayish-green bellman’s hat in his hands.  “You’ve been all over the society pages.  I read ‘em all the time!”

Agnes took another puff and marveled his at references, “Most of my admirers from the papers are usually hairdressers and choreographers,” she clucked, “I assume you’re fan of Chester’s?” she challenged.

Mickey’s face went a shade pale, and he muttered, “Oh, gee, no.  I mean, I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but—” Mickey shut up as Agnes couldn’t help but touch the purple under her eye while he spoke.  “I mean, he’s a heel if that’s from him,” he favored a smooth recovery attempt, “I don’t approve of men hitting ladies.”  He paused again, and looked down, “Especially one as beautiful as you, ma’am.”  He looked up again.

Agnes pursed her lips, approvingly, and dropped her cigarette ash in the direction of the ash tray, a good four feet from her, “Well, he and I… have stopped seeing each other,” she offered.  An unforeseen breeze of opportunity took that millisecond to drop her kimono a few centimeters down her thigh, and Mickey dropped his hat lower to his lap in flustered arousal.  “You know he’s terribly jealous.  Just about kill a man who would look me with lust in his heart.”

Flailing against such bait, Mickey motioned to the tray, “If you would like to eat, I could leave you for now.”

Seizing the opportunity, Agnes arched an eyebrow, the one above her unblemished eye, “For now?  When did you plan on returning, Mickey?”

Mickey tittered, and hunched his shoulders, “I mean, of course, I mean when you’re done eating, I’d return for the tray and plates.”

“Oh, I see,” Agnes took a long drag, and started to stand before her seated companion.  “I’d appreciate it, of course, if you would check in on me later,” she purred, “It’s been such a long day, and I’ve been so very, very upset.” 

Mickey’s mouth was made of rubber as he extolled his virtues as a night watchman should she require it, perhaps to stand guard and protect her from any ex-lovers furthering their assaults–even if they were, she assumed, slightly older, rundown nightclub comics with at least four children.

Agnes left the plate of food untouched and bottle of beer conquered, and walked back towards the bedroom.  The kimono, an incorrigible silken scamp, teased the viewer with ever-repositioning coverage of her bountiful figure.  She stood in the walkway between her rooms, and took one more inhale before tossing her cigarette accurately to the receptacle.  “9:30, perhaps?”

“Well, I…” Mickey stumbled both verbally and as he rose from the chair.

“Please, Mickey,” Agnes cooed, mournfully as she defied Garbo, “I don’t want to be alone.”  The agreement between them was all but notarized and sealed, and Mickey edged his way awkwardly towards the door, attempting to will his libido downward, and smiling like a lovesick fool.

It was settled, and Agnes turned, her sad teary face instantly neutral—nearly bored-looking once she faced away from her audience—and continued to the bed, still awash in undergarments.  She heard Mickey mutter repeated assurance and wobble out of the door, closing with a clang.

The seduction on pause, Agnes pulled the pistol from its hideaway and slid a magazine she had snagged from Chester’s desk into the bottom of the handle, before she tucked it more safely into the bedside table drawer.  Pushing her unworn negligees to the other side of the bed, Agnes rolled restlessly onto the bed to a comfortable position on her side, one of the plush pillows at the headboard brought to under her chin.  She felt her body slowly give into delayed rest. 

Moments before she could enter deserved slumber, her eyes suddenly popped open at the feeling of a small tug of the bottom of her robe, like it had been snagged on a branch or tugged by an invisible hand.  She lurched up, seeing that her thigh was suddenly exposed to the still air, the fabric peeled off of her.   She quickly covered her body, and felt her back and shoulders stiffen in discomfort. 

An uneasy look around provided no clue to the imp that insisted on prodding her.  Sleep would insist to overtake her, and she would relent, beginning to dream nearly immediately for the first time in a day and a half.

The hours passed on, marked by the series of silhouettes that really should have been prevented by the curtains being so fastly closed.  Had Agnes been awake and been in the appropriate humor, she would potentially spent a moment contemplating the shapes like clouds in the sky, visions of wildlife, vehicles, and even shapes more easily assigned as unfriendly hotel inhabitants.

Agnes accomplished lifetimes of successes in her sleep, finally being recognized by her parents as a winning Hollywood starlet as she walked by them, as they ped  for her forgiveness, wallowing in the dustbin of the street while she glowed in marquee lights.  Further still, she was the mother of children she was not certain she could now ever have, then a pilot waving to fans, a guest on the new radio quiz show where she remembered the capital of Australia, and later, the recipient of at least four triumphant orgasms. 

While she would never be certain, whether it was earlier in the sequence of her dreams or the very thing that would nearly propel her out of bed, awake and gulping, she felt two heavy rough hands grasp at her throat.   In her dream, her only instinct in response was to struggle in laughter, which further enraged her attacker.

Now awake, Agnes didn’t know the time, but the sun had since set, leaving her in a murky twilight.  She felt her brow saturated in sweat, heart still racing, and she sighed when she saw her pillow smeared with heavy black eye makeup.  She shifted out of bed and staggered to the bathroom mirror, her mind quickly forgetting the pieces and eventually summation of all she experienced while sleeping.

She chuckled as she gazed at herself in the mirror.  No one would disagree she was in need of a touch-up.  Her black eye had come off almost completely during her fitful sleep.  She took time to carefully reapply the tones of black, gray, and blue creams to her eyelids and the patch under her eye so that it resembled the aftermath of a true, violent biff.

Agnes studied herself in the mirror.  She was beginning to see the wear in her face; not some fictitious tussle that she was improvising, but that of actual age.  As she bit at the inside of lips in quiet contemplation of her vices, she fumbled with her compact absentmindedly until carelessly letting it clatter into the empty porcelain sink, which reminded her to breathe.  “Don’t do this,” she said to her reflection, and she fluffed her hair, reviewed her jawline, and gave herself quiet congratulations for the height of her bust.

She heard a knock from the other room and she put her eyeshadow back in her bag to conceal her masquerade.  Agnes held her robe tightly closed as she maneuvered in the haze traversable from of the bathroom light, and fumbled again for the lightswitch, which she had no memory of turning off.  “Yes?” she hissed gently at the door.

“Hey, kitten,” It was a baritone voice, a soothing leather that tingled up one’s spine.

Agnes squealed in excitement, her face in tight, dimpled coquette as she let the door creak open to its full width.  “Hello, sugar man,” she moaned, wrapping her arms around the visitor, and grinding her soft midsection against the front of his black overcoat.

The sugar man was Mr. Chester Dunning of Darien, New York, and his hands were clumsily groping Agnes in return, as best he could with a bundle of daisies and mouth that wheezed “hello how are you it’s been too long,” into hers. 

She quickly pulled him inside and gave the empty hallway a stern look before indulging in one more peck before the privacy of a closed door.

Chester lifted Agnes up so her legs could playfully cling around his waist while they necked, and give her reassurance that if she was so interested in pulling him towards a couch or bed, he would be able to perform. 

However, she soon slid down and brought her hands to either side of his face.  “You’re a crumb,” she giggled, and poked the front of his tweed pants with false malice as he coughed in response.  “You were supposed to be here hours ago.”  She impishly pulled away from him, taking   the flowers into her fingers, and bit her lip like a scolding school sweetheart while lead him to the bedroom.

“It’s after 8, babe,” he protested as he hobbled forward with her, “You told me after dark.”

“Oh, gee, it’s that late?” she fussed childishly, “I been asleep almost seven hours.”  In hindsight, she should’ve considered the beer would have made her sleepy on an empty stomach, and the waning effects of the morning’s cocaine.   “Aw, honey, we don’t have time, then.  I gotta get dressed.”  Chester pouted and caressed Agnes’ nude shoulder, revealed by her slipping robe. 

“Ah, ah, ah,” she pointed an accusatory finger, “Cool down.”  When he pulled on her robe’s sleeve, she merely stepped entirely out of it, nearly skipping as she went towards the bathroom and winked at him, shaking her chest as a tease.  “I’ll be out in a minute.  Just make yourself at home.”

Once the bathroom door was shut, Chester chuckled and tossed his coat on a nearby chair, and pulled his tie loose.  He glanced down at the uneaten tray of food, and helped himself to a healthy slice of roasted chicken, which he ripped apart in his fingers and swallowed.  He was about to settle himself down on the couch when he heard a gentle tap on the hotel room’s door. 

He crooked his head towards the bedroom and waited to hear if Agnes would emerge, but she didn’t leave the bathroom after even another set of taps.

Chester stood and took another bite of chicken as he walked forward.  Cleaning off his fingers with his mouth and then the inside of his pockets, he turned the knob.

Before him was a young man, under 21 to be sure—likely under 18—and definitely shorter than his own 6’2.  Mousey brown hair was slicked back to reveal a freckled freshman of a lad, with a pronounced cupid’s bow of a mouth trapped in an uncertain smile.  His bright blue eyes flashed with recognition of this fullback before him, and his smile dropped slowly. 

The boy’s hands, clutching two bottles of Schlitz, raised up defensibly, as his fingers extended a sentiment of “Don’t shoot” as best they could while keeping the bottles from falling.

“Mr. Dunning,” he sputtered, and swallowed, wishing he could sink into the floor.

Mr. Dunning pursed his lips like he was keeping a canary inside.  He pointed a finger at the kid, and tilted his head inquisitively.  “Who’re you,” he said like Edward G. Robinson, and loud enough for Agnes to hear in the bathroom.

“I’m… I’m just checking in on… Miss… Miss DeWitt,” stammered the kid, his voice rising as he hid behind the beer, “I’m the, uh, the, uh, the, uh bellman.”

Mr. Dunning looked the stranger with the suds up and down, noting his first date attire.  “Looks like you’re off the clock.”

The bellman sputtered to come up with an explanation, but was silenced by Chester deftly seizing one of the bottles from his quivering digits.  “Cheers,” he said, cockily, and popped it open.

The bellman in off-duty dress appeared unable to move his feet from their fixed position until Chester took a sip and stepped back.  “Come in,” he whispered. 

Despite clear hesitation, Mickey didn’t decline the offer, and he shuffled into the room, past the hulking form of this surprise host.

Hearing the door click closed, Mickey turned around, as decisions he had made leading to this moment paraded in his mind.  The imposing gentleman, Mr. Chester Dunning, raised the beer bottle in a friendly gesture, and continued to speak, loudly and gruffly.  “Thanks.  Even on your night off, you’re still bringing room service.  Real friendly hotel policy they got here.  I can’t imagine what your turndown service must be like.”  Chester gave a threatening, patronizing look to Mickey, “I’m guessing you replace the sheets in the morning before you even go to work.”

When the bathroom door opened, both sets of eyes quickly took into focus the nearly naked Bad News Doll Baby of Midtown, Miss Agnes Dewitt, who squawked in displeasure and snatched for her robe.  “Oh!”

Chester smiled broadly, his eyes stone cold, “Darling!  Look who came by to serve up refreshments!”  He once again raised his beer bottle in celebration, and his bright face quickly turned into a sinister grey.  “Won’t you join us.”

Agnes’ mouth went to begin any number of phrases, as she kept an unsteady palm on her chest, keeping herself as decent as possible.  “Honey, I—I don’t know what he’s doin’ here.” Her wide eyes betrayed any notion of propriety.

“Oh, no?” Chester asked, grandly unbelieving, and once again adopting a false grin, “I thought it was a party about to happen.  You, me, and Junior here were gonna jolly up right here, and throw back some booze.  I figured we’d talk all night, toasting to the day his voice finally changes.”  Every sentence felt like he was inching a mousetrap closer to their fingers, egging them on to test it out.

When neither of the party responded except in quivering lips, Chester grunted despondently.  “Guess the party’s off.  Sorry kid.”  He took another swig of beer and flung the nearly empty bottle across the room, where it shattered against the radiator on the far wall.  Mickey let out a yelp, and Agnes stymied a scream with a hand over her own mouth.

Chester shrugged in incredulously as he moved closer to the front door, keeping them both in sight and fixed to their spots.  “I’m afraid we’re gonna need maid service, kid.” He sneered, “At least then we’ll have proper doubles.” 

Chester brought his mitten of a hand towards Mickey, who flinched and instinctively pulled back, but Chester was fast enough to grab the other beer bottle safely.  Popping it open, he again offered a mocking toast of good wishes, and laughed off Mickey’s discomfort.

“So, the two of you,” he carried on, “You had plans without me?” Leaving his eyes from Agnes, he positioned him before Mickey to provide maximum intimidation.  The ottoman between them, he leaned in to see the bellman’s sweat while trying to explain.  The bully routine was shortlived however, as the sound of a drawer opening and closing brought Chester’s attention back to Agnes.

“Oh, doll,” he muttered dispiritedly.

Standing there, poised and without a shred of the hesitation she displayed seconds earlier, an increasingly topless Agnes DeWitt had one arm extended, a semi-automatic Colt .45 pistol aimed for her husband.  “You stay right there,” she said, her voice a grave departure from the bubbles or bourbon she usually provided in sweetheart mode.

Mickey edged away from Chester and nearly tripped over a footstool. 

Agnes coolly addressed him, “Mickey.  You stay there, too.  Don’t be afraid of that brute.  He can’t keep us apart.”

Mickey tripped over the footstool.  “What?  I’m sorry, he can’t what?” he exclaimed, exasperatedly.

Agnes shook her head, “It’s ok, baby,” still looking at Chester point blank, “He won’t hurt me again, and you and I can finally run away together.  That’s why I invited him here.  So he’d know he and I are really finished.  And so he’d know that we’re really in love, you and me.”  Mickey blinked repeatedly, looking like a fish who had just spotted the pot.

Agnes took a few steps forward, weaving her body softly, defiantly at Chester, who squirmed contemptuously. “And we are, buddy boy.  Really finished.  I’m done chasing you around bars and parties hoping I get a kiss from you before midnight so you won’t run off with some waitress instead.”  She moved closer, “Or before you lose all your dough on a horse instead of meeting me for dinner.”  She went closer still, “Mickey knows how to treat me.  He’s known how to treat me for almost three months.  Sometimes twice a night.”

As Mickey hyperventilated, Chester fumed silently–his body reverberating, his fists shook by his side; staring bitterly at Agnes while she taunted him.  “You little bitch,” he seethed.

Agnes smiled and chuckled, “Aw, too bad, Chester.  We had a good run.”  A sharp, mechanical click was heard from the pistol, signifying Agnes was prepared to shoot and make it count.  A moment later, perhaps less or more—it was hard to tell in the shuffle of things—Chester lay face down on the hotel room floor, a crumpled mess.

“Jesus Christ,” Agnes whispered, as she backed up a few paces.

Mickey blinked and heaved, bent over like a lumberjack with the thick silver tray in his  hand.  It had seen better servings; now it was somewhat bent and smattered with blood and saliva.  Having hurled it to the side of Chester’s head with such a clang, he wasn’t sure if the emanating sound had been just the tray, or if it was Agnes firing the gun in tandem.

“What… was… that…” Mickey uttered, his breath nearing asthmatic as he stared, gobsmacked and bug-eyed at Agnes.  “Why did you… why did you tell him you and I were together…?”

Agnes, ran her tongue tentatively between her teeth, her own jaw somewhat astounded by the activity she’d witnessed.  She wasn’t even sure if she had misjudged or not.  Was this what she had planned for, or not?

“You know,” she bargained, pivoting her body to raise her other hand in expressive justification and her voice returning to its typical lilt, “He would’ve killed us both.  I thought… Well, I just thought he might as well have a good reason.”

Attempting to remove himself from his demi-permanent hunched position, Mickey shook his head and sighed, “I can’t believe this.  I just can’t…” he looked like he was seeing stars as he steadied himself in the air.  “I’ve… I’ve never hurt someone… not even Buddy Newton when he took my pocket money in 2nd grade and the teacher said I deserved it because I didn’t stand up for myself… and my dad, my dad told me to throw the punch next time but, but I couldn’t… and then when he was gonna hit me and take my money, I just backed away.  I just backed away.”

Agnes stood silently for this diatribe, waiting for Mickey to catch his breath and re-enter the present day and she could begin to care about anything happening again.

“I just backed away,” Mickey repeated, his eyes glazed, his heart heavy.  “I backed away and he got hit by a car.  I didn’t even get the chance to punch him.  But he was dead.”

Agnes impatiently huffed forward, the gun at her side, tapping her thigh, about done with Mickey’s one man performance, “Listen, kid.  You better check his pulse.”

It was enough to snap Mickey back into the moment, “I better what?  What? No, ma’am, I’m not touching that lummox… You, you do it!” he stepped backward, as if from a snake in the woods.

Agnes threw her head back, annoyed and gagging, “Yeah, tough guy.  Thanks.”  She hitched her robe up and crudely squatted over the recumbent body of her hot-headed lover.  “Well, here goes.”  She brought two fingers to Chester’s wrist and paused.  Emboldened, she went for her throat and tried there.  “Well, kid,” she said with the subtlety of a bowling ball, “You snuffed him out alright.”

Mickey just about fainted dead away, but Agnes quickly stood and yanked him by the collar of his jacket, “No, no, no, no, kid.  You’re not leaving me to deal with this.”

Her naked thigh was roughly supporting all 88 wet pounds of the kid, and her hand–the one without a gun in it–held him at the small of his back like a backwards Gone with the Wind poster. 

Cleaving to him, she was unprepared when his limp arms suddenly went rigid, his wrist twisting downward, and snatching the pistol from her hand.  “Hey, what gives,” she started to mumble, when he yanked her body upward and then pushed her down onto the carpet, having her barely miss the lummox.

“Hey!” she snapped in a great Judy Holiday impersonation, but Mickey was unswayed.  His eyes, formerly childish and winsome, went cold and bitter.  His smile was no longer that a school boy but now, a shark.  “Sorry, doll,” he said without pity and gave her a rough kick to the side.

In pain and in a daze of utter confusion, Agnes began to drag her body against the carpet, backwards, wincing as the fibers scraped her skin.  “Listen…” she said, her voice wavering and unable to complete the thought while she clutched her aching ribs with one hand, and pulled away from Mickey with the other.

Mickey’s smile stayed plastered like a ghoulish Halloween mask, his eyes increasing in intensity.  He pointed the .45 at her with the dexterity and confidence of a man who had been holding one for years.  “No, thanks,” he said, somewhat beyond her, into the ephemera. 

He slowly edged towards her, past the fallen man’s body, which he gave another sharp strike to the side with his wingtip.  He glanced down, and upon seeing no movement from the body, raised his eyebrows suggestively towards Agnes, “Not bad.  Not the plan, of course, but not bad at all  You surprised me with this,” he waved the gun slightly, “but I think I managed in spite of your going off script.”

“What are you talking about?” Agnes shouted, her mouth in a baffled grimace, “What plan?  What god damn plan?!”

Mickey shrugged, “Don’t worry about all that, babe.  Business between gentlemen.  You just needed to get the bag here.” His face softened in a facetious pout, “I hate to reduce you to a mere bag man, but,” he motioned for her suitcase, “I just needed you to bring them.  And if Chester’s dead, well, then, that means I don’t have to fight with him over what we’re gonna do with them.”  He got closer to Agnes, as she slammed her body into the end table, cursing that she wasn’t able to pass through it.

“So, that means, you don’t gotta do anything either,” his face returned to an impish violence, “Except, say good night.”

Agnes scrunched her face and she banged her fists on the ground, “No! That’s not fair!  I was going to kill him!”

Mickey laughed, realizing she was still catching up.  “Yeah, he knew that, honey.  You made such a big deal about making sure he knew where you were going, taking  matches.  You didn’t even think he’d want you come here.  That it was his idea.”  Mickey bent at the waist and brought his face close to Agnes, “After all, Chester and I had some of our best ideas in this bedroom.  Some of our best ideas in that bed, come to think of it.”

Agnes was quick enough to get a slap across Mickey’s cheek, but not fast enough to shield herself from retaliation.  She coughed and spat a gob of phlegm and blood on the carpet.  Mickey scowled, “Always a lady like the papers say,” he said distastefully, “But I guess I had that one coming.”

In that moment of tension where a fan of noir mystery movies would expect the fallen body of Chester D unning to suddenly rise up, shrieking and hurling his body into his assailant, Mickey instead stood back and checked his pretty face for marks.  It was an utterly uneventful series of seconds.

A gentle rapping at the door broke the silence, however, and as Mickey swung his body around, he neglected to guard his nether regions from a well-timed, well-aimed thrust from Agnes’ bare foot.  He gagged on his own scream, attempting to brace himself against the bed, and permitting a stray bullet fire from the gun, which had been practically itching for use during all this chatter.

While Mickey took the necessary moments to recapture his bearings, Agnes was already on her feet, the robe a mere suggestion for her arms as she flung her body towards the door leading to the doorway.  As she reached it, the sound the lock opened, and she was faced with the panicked face of Mr. Wally Walter Ma’am from the front desk.

“Miss DeWitt!” he exclaimed, both still in shock from hearing a gunshot a moment ago, and seeing the exposed bosom of lowbrow high society’s main squeeze.  Agnes turned her head back to the gun-toting runt of a bellhop who had made the last ten minutes impossible to deconstruct. 

Rearranging his pride and his testicles, Mickey shuddered towards the two of them, the gun raised.  “Stay out of this, Wall,” he murmured between groans.

Perhaps feeling left out, or bad for missing his cue, the slumped corpse of Chester sprung to life and snatched for Mickey’s available right ankle.  “Gah!” Mickey screamed and pointed the gun down, shooting his lover twice in the back so he would release him and again face-plant into the carpet.

Furious, Mickey looked back up at the door to next shoot his well-meaning manager in the face, but the doorway was empty, with only the sound of running footsteps down the hall and down the stairs to lobby.  A faint urging of “Call the police!” from below, prepared Mickey to note his time was limited, and he agitatedly turned on his heel to find Agnes’ open bag on the bed.  He tossed the lingerie in the air and scraped the empty bottom of the suitcase with his bare fingers and the tip of the gun.  Gritting his teeth, he pitched the bag into the far wall, knocking a vase of flowers in its wake, and growled.

He then clawed at the clasps of the second bag Agnes had brought, and found himself wrist-deep in sensible womens daywear.  “Where… is it…” he wailed.  His face was pink, his chest heaving, and his sweat collection considerable.  He lifted the bag into the air and slammed it down to the floor.  He looked at Chester’s bleeding body before him and he let out a guttural scream.  “Where did you put them?”

Failing to consider checking his dead lover’s coat pockets, Mickey gripped his chin and let his thoughts race.  Visions of the day’s activities spiraled around him, from the moments he ate oatmeal for breakfast, sent a telegram to mama to assure her it was all gonna change from here on out, to when he killed Martin and took his post for the day to ensure he would be the one to meet Agnes DeWitt, and that unpleasant matter of shoving Martin’s body into the walk-in freezer in the basement between boxes marked Birds Eye.

His eyes traced the room, looking for any sign that would provide him satisfaction, and caught movement by one side of the dressers, in the opposite corner.  If he had been the type, he would have assumed some ghostly visage had just waved at him to look inside.  He glanced at the open door to the hallway, and hearing the sounds of panic in the lobby below, leapt forward to the dresser and began searching the drawers. 

As he kneeled to open the lowest, he felt a sudden pressure on the base of his neck.  He tensed, his body reacting to the rush of a burning pain welling up at the top of his spine, he twisted his shoulders and brought his hand to the spot of pain. He felt sick.  His finger tips brushed an ornate, carved gemstone that gave way, he assumed, to a thick metal spike, now lodged into the top of his back.  He convulsed slightly, feeling blood in his mouth, as he turned.  Before him was Miss Agnes DeWitt, her face a medley of relief and rage.  She had managed to get behind him with a hat pin, and from the look of it, it was struggling to come out the other side.

Unable to properly speak, Mickey put a hand out to Agnes, vainly attempting to reason with her.  “The letters,” he tried for, making his wound worse, “The letters.”

Agnes stared at him.  Her face went from cool self assurance to puzzlement.  “Letters?” she said to him.  “What letters?”

Mickey stared helplessly at her, continuing to shake, and beginning to feel the nausea from blood loss.  He couldn’t continue to speak, and collapsed, falling forward to Agnes’ bare feet.  Her mind raced.  “What letters, Mickey?  What are you talking about?”  Her voice grew louder and more worried.  She looked back at her dead husband, “Chester, what letters?”  

Her mind raced with any number of incriminating possibilities and she watched his eyes look further and further past her, his body slumping to the floor, the weight too much for her to hold.

Despite her amateur attempts to revive Mickey, Agnes would not succeed.  The paramedics would arrive five minutes later to him already dead, and the police would not be particularly interested in Agnes’ insistence she was innocent.  They would instead bring her in, screaming hysterically for questioning, and have Chester’s and Mickey’s bodies hauled to the coroner.

It was anyone’s guess who in that office would even find the envelopes in Chester’s breast pocket, or what they would do when they opened them.

The end. 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Unless stated, all characters and material is the work and property of Viktor Devonne and White Elephant Burlesque Corp.  
Music: “News Theme 2” by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) Artist: http://audionautix.com/ • … theme: Cherry Blood by Miss Cherry Delight (used with permission)