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a Night Shots short story (Suspense)

by John Argo


The Flower Baron by John ArgoWhen the leggy young brunette strode past, Bill Winters made a fateful decision to follow.

Bill had injured his hip in the army years ago, and carried a fancy cane to make something graceful of his slight limp.

There were three doors out of the bank. Bill followed Miss Magnetic through the one she chose. That would give him a minute to bathe her in his gaze before she went her way and he went his.

If he felt a little weird or guilty, he told himself: Tell me women don't make such a little detour just as well— if some Casanova comes stalking past, looking like he just escaped from an ad for toothpaste, hair gel, or sports sunglasses.

As it was, every passing man turned his head for a sharp look, an intake of breath, perhaps a wistful frown.

Bill made a series of whirring mental snapshots. What was her secret? If he could figure that out, perhaps he could understand himself better; banish that hormonal nineteen year old from his medieval body; and be at peace with his wife and his marriage and his middle age.

She was tall, but not too tall.

She was slim, but not skinny.

She wore medium heels, black hose, a subdued charcoal suit with tasteful mid-thigh skirt, a pearly blouse with tulip shaped collar smothering a pale neck under a perfect chin. Her mahogany hair was gathered in a black velvet bow at the base of her neck.

Lines, Bill thought, curves; she had perfect lines, good structure, everything in the right place and just the right amount. Men sneaked peeks. Some women threw envious looks, others daggers.

Miss Magnetic bobbed on, serious of mien, oblivious to the stares. She carried documents under one arm, a lavender purse under the other, all very businesslike.

A white envelope slipped from among the papers under her arm, made an S-shaped arc, and landed sliding at Bill's feet.

He bent down to pick it up. Three or four men shouted from various places in the bank: "Oh Miss, Miss, You dropped, Miss, You dropped..." as they pointed, like dancers in an icecapade, as if they were about to figure skate across the gleaming floor to help her. For a moment, the entire bank became a circus on shiny floors. If it were a game show, Bill would be the lucky winner of the random toss.

Bill picked the envelope up as gracefully as he could. He made a tripod of his legs and the cane. His bad hip gave a twinge, and for a moment he thought he would have to use the hand holding the envelope to push himself erect. However, surge of pride gave him strength, and he popped up like a porpoise.

She galloped toward the envelope in his hand. She was a hundred pounds and some change of young, fresh-muscled female. "Oh thank you, thank you," she said. Long red fingernails curled around the envelope. "You have no idea," she said. "Oh thank you."

Bill did have some idea. He had glimpsed part of a serious looking address: something about a Living Trust in the name of blah blah.

Her eyes radiated a mixture of embarrassment and instant affection. Just what color her eyes were, Bill failed to notice. Each time he blinked, his mental video screen painted a refreshed image of her. She had a plain fresh face one might overlook at first glance, but once his gaze was captured, it refreshed over and over again the same perfect contours.

"It's nothing," Bill said.

She touched his arm. "If I had lost that, my brother's father in law might have faced financial disaster. Oh my God, when I just think of it." Her laugh had a harsh edge.

Bill and the woman walked out of the bank into mild sunshine. Pennants snapped in a slight breeze.

"I'm parked way out there," she said pointing.

Bill gallantly offered: "Here, let me give you a ride."

His car, with the disabled sticker, sat by the curb directly in front of them.

"This is very good of you," she said.

He could think of nothing to say. He tried not to stare. Having her beside him somehow made him feel younger, a whole man without the damn neoprene hip joint. The whiteness of her scissor legs shone through the black mesh like a light.

"There you go."

She grasped his hand with both of hers and shook. "Thank you, thank you." Then she was gone, the door slammed, her space filled with whirling dust motes in cold empty sunlight. He didn't even know her name.

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Copyright © 2018 by Jean-Thomas Cullen, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.