Anthony Servante's Horror Story of the Month
SHE’S A WINNER
Billie Sue Mosiman
She could do all manner of things. Fix cars, swap hard drives and write code in computers, cook a perfect mousse, climb mountains, surf Hawaiian waves, and she could kill if she had to.
She rarely had to. She more often married them, siphoned off every penny they possessed, left them completely broke, and moved on.
Her given name was Maybelline Gottleib. Before she was seven she had people, even her parents, calling her Margaret. When she was of legal age she went to court and had her name changed to Margaret Channing. No way in this world was she a Gottleib. And she certainly was not a Maybelline. She laughed at the very thought. Needless to say her parents were stupid and poor. She left home when she turned sixteen.
Changing her name was a wasted tactic, however, because she picked up identities and names like some people collect silver spoons from every state in the
Today she was Margaret Benchly and she was in her wedding dress (her sixth) to be married to a man thirty years her senior called Charles Bomont. In an hour she would be Margaret Bomont. Another simply horrible name, she thought.
Not that she'd remain weighed down by that moniker one minute longer than she had to. Charles owned a gas company in
New Orleans and he had financed
the buy with his own money. The man was rolling in it. She'd get her hands on
the money fast as possible and get the hell out of Louisiana.
She hated anything Cajun, she hated swamps, and she hated the world, given
that. Right now she had to stand and bear it.
She walked down the aisle carrying a spray of white roses. She gave her virginal smile and people in the church pews oohed and ahhed behind their hands.
The wedding night was disappointing, at least for the groom. He couldn't stay hard long enough to consummate the marriage, his second. His first wife of many years had died five years before. Margaret patted her new husband's rotund belly and whispered, “It's all right, Charlie. These things happen. Too much champagne and excitement.” She then snuggled under his arm, wrinkling her nose at his sweat and tried to get some sleep.
The months in
Orleans dragged on like a snake through mud. For a
while Margaret cheered herself with buying sprees. A diamond necklace, new luggage
by Valextra, the leather supple and made in Milan,
six pair of Louis Vuitton shoes. Charlie didn't care. None of them ever cared
how much money she spent. Men like this were used to women with expensive
tastes. They expected it.
Charlie often couldn't make love to her, and that was fine. She always got up from bed and went to the kitchen to make him a fat sandwich. The man liked eating almost as much as he liked fondling her breasts.
She made a sight on Charlie's arm as he squired her to all the best parties in town. Privately she despised rich people. Truthfully, she didn't like poor or middle income people either; she didn't like anyone but herself and she didn't find that odd. She believed everyone was that way. Dog eat dog is how most of the wealthy got their wealth. And one dog doesn't eat another unless he doesn't give one damn for him in the first place.
Still, the days were beginning to lag and all the light had leeched out of her personal sky. She was trapped, essentially, and time was passing, her beauty fading increment by increment, and she couldn't spend forever and a day on one mark.
She began to pilfer his bank accounts. When he noticed, she told him, “But baby, I need my own account, don't I? You don't want me to feel obligated, do you?” She said this with her full, pouting lips and she sidled up to him and pressed herself close against his body. He could hardly catch his breath he was so aroused and he just nodded and said, “I'm not complaining, don't worry about it, Maggie.”
She hated when he called her Maggie. Magpie! She wasn't Maggie, Meg, or Mary Magdalene! She was Margaret, a classy name she'd chosen herself, and she ignored whatever he said when he called her Maggie.
She had no bank account. The money she withdrew from Charlie's accounts she tucked into her largest Coach bag and kept it on the top shelf in her closet. When it was full, she would decamp
Orleans and the fat Bomont gas company man for better,
That happened in July. The city was a hot, stinking whore and the gutters smelled of piss. Margaret walked as far from the street as possible swinging the electric blue Coach bag from one shoulder and a Hermes bag with her toiletries and IDs from her hand. She had a million dollars, give or take, and she didn't give a damn how much it hurt Charles when he found out his accounts were depleted. She was on her way to rent a car. Under an assumed name, of course, one Margaret Miles, for which she had a driver's license and a Social Security card, and a Discovery credit card.
Driving across the Old and
Margaret felt her stomach growl and decided to stop at the next restaurant she
saw for some food.
Not far from the river she saw Cato's Crab Shack and pulled into the gravel parking lot. She locked the car with the Coach bag of money in the trunk, and went inside to heavenly air conditioning. It was 101 degrees in
hot enough to fry eggs on car hoods.
She sat at a table in the center of the floor, always facing the door in case she ever needed a quick exit, and saw the drifter come in while she sipped a frosty glass of iced tea. He immediately snagged her attention. Tall, gangly, raw-boned, not much older than her, and sporting the bluest eyes West of the
Or the Old and ,
at least. Lost Rivers
She smiled when he caught her eye and he came toward her as if they were old friends meeting up. “Mind if I sit here?” he asked.
His smile was devilish. She was always attracted to this type of man—a little dangerous, a little unpredictable, and a whole lot gorgeous. She hadn't had a good lay since marrying Charlie and she was hot for a hay roll.
She nodded and he took the seat opposite her. He put out a rough, calloused hand. “Gene,” he said.
“Margaret.” She shook and let her hand linger in his a couple of seconds longer than expected. He smiled widely and his teeth were white as those of a crocodile.
They shared lunch and then sat longer having a cocktail. He drank whiskey and Margaret ordered a margarita.
“I'd invite you back to my place, but unfortunately I don't have one right now,” Gene said, his eyes twinkling.
“Me either,” she said. “I guess we're both traveling.”
“Well, I'm hitchhiking.”
She figured as much. She knew she'd be paying the tab for their food and drinks. “Want a ride? I'm headed west.”
“Don't mind if I do,” he said, lifting his second whiskey to down it in one gulp.
All the way across the more than eight hundred miles of Texas Margaret and Gene talked. Most of what she said to him was a pack of lies, stories she made up as she went along, but she suspected his stories were the same. They laughed, told one another jokes, and when the sun set she bought a motel room for them on the credit card.
“Got anything you need in the trunk?” Gene asked. “I can get it.”
“No, just a bag in the back seat with a few things.”
He reached in the back and brought forth the smallest piece of her Venextra luggage. They were barely through the door of room 143 when he took her into his arms, waltzed her to the bed with his lips firmly on hers, and fell with her onto the mattress. They laughed. They threw off their clothes like children at the side of a lake, and they dove in.
The next day, driving across
Mexico and into Arizona,
Margaret ran out of stories to tell and decided it was about time to drop Gene
off somewhere so he could pick up his next pretty woman.
She exited to a truck stop saying, “How about a burger for lunch?”
While he was eating, she excused herself for the ladies room and disappeared. She waited for a woman with her three girls to exit the ladies room and joined them as if one of their group. She walked behind the woman and girls as they headed for the front door. Margaret didn't look toward the table where she'd left Gene.
Outside, she broke away from the woman and kids and made for her rental. Standing next to it she saw Gene lounging, smoking a cigarette.
“Oh hi!” She didn't yet know what else to say.
“I figured you were so long in the ladies, maybe it was time we got back on the road. I brought your burger along for you.” He held out a white sack stained with grease and stinking of fried hamburger meat.
She smiled, took the bag, and unlocked the doors.
Inside the car she made an excuse for coming out of the cafe without him, a lame excuse, and one she knew he wasn't going to buy, but she owed him nothing.
she got another motel room. After showering, she came out fully dressed and
carrying her bag. “I'm sorry, Gene, this is the end of the road. I have someone
to meet outside of Phoenix and I
have to leave. It's been good traveling with you. Hail fellow, well met, and
He wasn't smiling. Her own smile faltered. A hardness came into her eyes. “I said I was sorry. I've already paid for the room so you're welcome to stay the night. I have to leave.”
“Without this?” Gene held up the blue Coach bag and Margaret's knees turned to butter. She sat down heavily in the easy chair near the bed, dropping her luggage bag to the floor.
“How'd you get hold of that?”
“While you were sleeping last night,” he said. “I stashed it in the back floor board out of sight.”
“That's my property.” Now she was outraged and her cheeks grew red, her eyes flinty. “You've no right snooping around in the trunk of my car.” She stood up. “Give that to me.”
Gene stood and went to the door. He opened it and Charles Bomont walked in frowning at her.
“Oh Jesus God,” she said, sagging back into the chair.
“Gene tailed you all the way to
Charles said. He made a tut-tut sound. “Didn't think you could get away with my
money that easy, did you, Maggie?”
“Don't call me Maggie! My name is Margaret.”
“I doubt that,” he said, taking the Coach bag from Gene. He unzipped it and looked inside at the cash. He whistled. “I couldn't get a handle on just how much you took, but this is more than I thought.”
He turned to the door and opened it, calling out, “She's in here.”
Two brutish looking men dressed in polyester slacks and short sleeved shirts crowded into the room. They looked at her as if she were a steak.
“Come on, Gene. We'll settle on the way back to
New Orleans.” Charlie
made for the door.
“Wait, Charlie! Don't leave me here with these goons, come on, I didn't mean anything by it, take the money back, I'm sorry, all right?”
Charles turned at the door, his hand on the knob. “No, it's not all right, Maggie. You're not all right. You've got the heart of a black devil. If you ever walk again I suggest you get into another line of work.”
The door closed with a solid snap and the two big men stood watching her with eyes as cold as the moon.
One of the men turned to the other and said, “We're gentlemen now, not goons. Raymond, are you a gentleman?”
Raymond advanced toward the woman in the chair and said, “No, I think I'm a goon. Charlie used to call me Jack of all trades back in
but tonight I'm a real goon. Come on, Maggie, we got business.”
Margaret looked into the man's dead eyes and began scheming how to pay her coming hospital bill, how to find enough for a plastic surgeon, and how to survive the next few hours so she could return to her game. She knew one thing only—everything was survivable. Sometimes you won, sometimes you lost, but a girl like her could get through just about anything.