Flash Fiction: A Strange Hustle

The moment I took a closer look at Janet McGuire-Corrido inside her car, it was easier to understand why I was blackmailing her. She looked like the goddesses from my TV set. She smelled of cinnamon, excitement and greed. The way she dressed wasn’t in any way oversexed or calling attention to her obvious appeal. Her red loose top and low-cut jeans matched her dark hair and conjured images of the devil in disguise. The parking garage around us was hell.

Meanwhile, I only hoped the black clothes I was wearing would make me look professional, like a threat to her.

I looked at my reflection on the rear view mirror and went to work.

“Did you check the glove box like I told you to? There’s something you need to see, Janet. Something juicy.”

But Janet didn’t chirp a single word. She drummed her fingers on the steering wheel and looked at me like I was selling her mouthwash. It was hard to figure out if she was playing the bitch or if she was dense.

“You know what you saw,” I continued, “Are you going to keep playing the mute? Want me to draw you a picture? Huh?”

The score was pretty simple. Janet was married to a big shot in one of the local companies, a schnook called Norbert McGuire. He worked for a factory in charge of building mass-production stuff to the army, mostly simple aircraft and ship stuff. As one might expect, a belle such as Janet wasn’t particularly thrilled to play trophy wife to a boring, straight guy like this. She was after his money, cleaning him while she enjoyed a good, unsupervised life. She had done pretty well until a source of mine caught her walking into a hotel with someone other than her husband.

Let me rephrase that. I had her tailed. I had this lead cooking for at least a month.

From here on out the plan was simple: ask her for money to keep the photos away from her husband and walk out of this with my pockets full by tomorrow morning. That’s why I wait for targets to find the pictures. It gives them chance to freak out, calm down, take in the entire situation and get this silly idea that they can negotiate with me. Please. I got them by the balls from the beginning. They know that when they concede.

Janet picked up the pictures from her lap, squinted and then looked back at me.

“Yeah. So?”

“So. Keeping these away from your husband is going to cost you,” I shifted in the passenger’s seat and glared at her. I didn’t like her tone. “How’s that for so, smartass?”

She didn’t flinch, but she wasn’t even being ice-cold. Janet looked too dumb to keep that charade and too intelligent to think it might charm me. It was her answer and not her attitude that made me raise my eyebrows so hard they almost dug into my scalp.

“What is it then? Do you want to go to bed with me? Just say so.”

“–What?”

“Do you want to fuck me?”

I’ve hustled people out of their money so many times. I’ve seen them break and I’ve seen them blame everyone from themselves to their dog, but this was the first time one of my marks literally offered herself to me in such a flagrant way. And she knew it might work. Somewhere deep inside, she convinced herself I had an eye on her for a whole month just to get a quick one night stand. This wasn’t some desperate bid for salvation at the cost of her dignity; the way she said it, it was empowering to her.

She laughed the sweetest giggle I’ve ever heard and rolled her head back.

Maybe in all this time I was rehearsing my big bad wolf act, she was the one who had me ensnared from the beginning. But I’m smarter than this, I thought.

“Why would I do that? What if you give me lice or something? I don’t know where you’ve been, lady! You better stop kidding around.”

Janet patted the air with one hand and grinned.

“Oh. I’m clean.”

“–That’s not the point!”

“Oh. So you don’t like women? That’s okay.”

Ask anybody. People lose teeth when they talk that way about Eddie Bates. That was probably the first and only time I let it pass. The shock was that big, and it was so funny to her that she guffawed like a teenage girl gossiping during lunch.

I remember I frantically waved my hands in front of me like I was in a cartoon.

“Jesus Christ! Look, just get me my fucking money and you can forget about me, Janet,” I slammed my hand on the dash and looked at her right in the eye. She only blinked. “Don’t be an idiot, lady. Don’t mess this up. We both know you’re the one who comes out losing if you get busted, so you better smarten up. Everything’s in the envelope. You have until tomorrow morning, you understand? Tomorrow.”

I tripped over the rocker panels when I got out of the car. Then I slammed the door shut so hard, like I was going to smash her head. Janet didn’t start the engine until I was about fifteen yards away. I think she was laughing again. Crazy broad.

Have you ever been inspired by the unexpected to write a story? How often have you defied genre conventions to write something entirely different?

-JP

8 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: A Strange Hustle

  1. Unconventional writing!! It is my favorite, what inspired you to write this? I can tell you I have been inspired at the most awkward and random moments. It leads to good writing though. :D

    • All my stories usually start as questions. In this case, the question was what would happen if an attempt at blackmail took a turn for the strange. That lead me to building Janet and Eddie’s personality. I actually have a sequel prepared for next week, in case you’d like to know what happens next.

  2. =O never expected this…I expected it to be the sort of…first-time-I’ve-read-anything-from-the-blackmailer’s-point-of-view kind of unexpected…but wow. =O I didn’t expect her to seriously make him doubt the “Please. I got them by the balls from the beginning” statement. (Which btw, was epic)

    I like it…and I’d like to read more, since you obviously have more written up *referring to reply to the previous comment*. Though I would have thought it would be gorgeous to just leave it at that, but I am waiting for your amazing talent at writing to prove me wrong.

    I love this. <3

  3. Just read “A Strange Hustler,” and had to jump over here to read the beginning. Eddie’s voice is great – his dialogue really helps define his personality for the reader. That first line is great, too; the whole first paragraph is stunning. A question: do I understand correctly that English isn’t your first language? It’s practically impossible to tell. The only reason I ask is because a phrase stuck out at me, but perhaps it was a stylistic choice: “Her red loose top…” I would have expected to read “Her loose red top.”

    • Haha. Thank you for noticing that. I thought it was already edited. My first language is Spanish, yes.

      I’m glad the dialogue had that impact. Since this is a first person narrative, you can’t really see Eddie do much of anything, outside of what he tells the reader. He had to come through in the way he talked.

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