The world of fast cars is a dangerous one because, as they say, speed kills. It might even be argued that those who own fast cars are themselves dangerous, the reason being that they obviously intend to go fast in them and do all sorts of dangerous and generally stupid things. The police definitely feel this way, judging by how much extra attention they pay to any car that even looks fast, and the general public aren't that much impressed with them, or the people like me who pilot them, either. After what I saw that late May evening, I have to say that I can understand their feelings.
It happened when I was finally leaving work for the night, having just walked out the front door as the last agent on site with the night shift Floor Manager, Dagmar Alejandro. I'd been working overtime with a few other sales reps, busily cold-calling Americans and trying to separate them from their hard earned money by tempting them with accidental death and dismemberment insurance at less than ten dollars per month, first ninety days free with no commitment whatsoever. (yeah, right, and my name isn't David Legassy, just try to cancel this shit, lady) I heard the car coming, knew it was a muscle car by its exhaust note and quickly building RPMs, and jerked my head to the right to check it out.
It was a red Mustang, really cranking nicely and sounding damned good at the top of its power band, flying up the recently widened and resurfaced Barling St.. I watched it with a growing smile, forgetting that the beautiful bitch from hell was there with me. With tunnel vision, I followed its path around the slight, blind, uphill bend in front of the call center. I figure its driver and I saw Kelly Preston, a fellow agent at the crosswalk, at about the same time. I don't think Kelly saw anything at all before the Mustang ran her down without stopping, or even slowing afterwards.
We both just stood for a moment as the red killer sped off in the distance, Dagmar probably wondering if that really happened like I was, whilst the petit Kelly's broken and inert form in the middle of the road constantly insisted it had. Somewhere inside I wanted to yell, cry and throw up all at the same time while I only stood, completely stunned.
Dagmar was the first one to move. She broke into a run and, despite her voluptuous build, sped across the front lawn while franticly digging out her cell phone. Then I moved. I walked down the driveway and towards the back parking lot where my car was parked. Why? I didn't want to be involved.
That's right. I'd made an entire life of being uninvolved up to that point, keeping to myself and making money, serving myself and hurting nobody and, furthermore, I knew there was nothing to be done. She was dead, anybody could tell that and I didn't want to see it up close. I didn't want to and I didn't need to. Besides, Dagmar was there with her cell phone and it's not as if I knew CPR or anything. It had nothing to do with me and I just wanted to go home. I know how that makes me sound but, I assure you, I'm not that cold and uncaring, at least I don't think so. It's just that, as I say, I was uninvolved and that's how I wanted to stay.
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"Dagmar would like to see you." Sally the Supervisor whispered with a smile as she looked down over the top of my cubicle at me.
Why she found it necessary to whisper, who could say? She was always whispering with that stupid smile. Nodding optimistically, as if there was anything to be optimistic about when talking to Dagmar, she was off, a little whirlwind of positive productivity. I glanced at her ass as she walked down the aisle, the only positive thing about her in my eyes, logged off, removed my headphones and stood. The sound of just over three hundred people doing their damndest to keep their jobs, maybe even earning some sales bonus Dollars in the process, inundated me without the semi-soundproofed cubicle and I began heading down the long aisle towards Dagmar's office.
Of course, I knew what this was about.
The first time I saw Dagmar Alejandro was during the third night of my week long training class, when I'd first secured the job just over a year previously. She walked in the room wearing a black business suit with a tight skirt that stopped just above her knees. A lot of men would have been put off by the height and size of the woman who, I guessed, was in her very early forties, if not the 'all business' expression that seemed to never leave her face, but she captured my attention right away. My impression of her was that of a goddess. Her complexion was dark and I guessed, judging by her last name, that her gene pool consisted of a mixture of African and Spanish, the latter being the dominant. Her hair, long and jet black, was put up in such a way as some could still hang down at her shoulders with one stray lock dangling at the side of her face, as if attracting attention to her eyes, not that they needed it. They were brilliant green and attracted me like I've been attracted to very few women, but it wasn't just the colour, it was also the way they scanned the room, coldly, harshly appraising everyone present, including the instructor.
It's hard to describe that first reaction. I mean, I can say she was a goddess in my eyes, but it was more than that, more than just her physical appearance. She had a sort of powerful strength of personality about her, intelligent and uncompromising. The very impression she made on me seemed like an invisible extension of herself.
Those eyes caught mine before I could stop staring at her, before I could get over the funny feeling that popped up behind my sternum at the sight of her and we regarded one another for a moment. Her expression unwavering, she held my eyes as if daring me not to look away while the instructor was introducing her to the class.
I looked down, pretending to study the material in front of me, putting on a small frown of concentration as I looked at the people around me peripherally. They all seemed to take her seriously enough, alright, but none of them seemed completely taken aback by her like I was.
She addressed the class and I watched her again, listening to a voice which matched her demeanor, as strong and powerful as she was beautiful. Her eyes kept returning to me and I had to look down every time. What was it about her, anyway? I'd never been especially great with people, but this was ridiculous. After all, I'd learned to be a decent actor by the age of thirty-one, and I wasn't often put off by anybody. People were just herd animals to me.
In time, I began hearing the stories of what she was like. ' Tough', 'mean', 'bitchy', 'cold', 'heartless' and 'domineering' were only some of the words I'd often heard used to describe her. I'd even watched her personally escort several 'non performers', as she would refer to them, right out the front door in the year and three months I worked there.
But, by that time, I'd learned my job well. Very well. And in the telemarketing game, the numbers that are generated from the bottom make everyone look good, right on up the ladder. Yeah, they liked me a whole lot, especially Sally, and this was what insulated me from Dagmar's teeth and claws. Good thing, too, because ever since that first day, we never got along. Not that anyone really got along with Dagmar, but she seemed to have some special dislike of me that I could never quite understand. By the time my sales record made it unnecessary to worry about her anymore, I'd decided that she was a lesbo and hated men, or she thought I was a lowlife, or whatever. In the end, I just decided to try to ignore her and her beautiful, larger than life presence.
One couldn't help but notice that she was the only one on the management team whose door bore a polished black nameplate with red letters, the rest having a plastic wood grain plate with white letters.
"Come in!" she commanded in her usual bitchy, uppity tone that everyone had come to just love her for.
I did as commanded, a little nervous about what she'd think of me after I just took off the night before. She sat behind her desk with a strangely blank expression and wore the usual business suit that she always looked great in, if a little pretentious and overdone.
"Have a seat." she said, gesturing to the chair opposite her desk.
I took it and said, "Look, I'm sorry I took off last night. I just didn't want to see,... that."
She only regarded me with the same unreadable expression. She was reading me, I suddenly realized, reminding myself to be careful here. She and her people had taught me half of what I knew about dealing with others. I waited for her to say something, but she didn't.
"Uhh, look, I said I was sorry. I didn't mean to stick you with that, but you had your phone and, even if I knew CPR, it wouldn't have done any,... any good, cause she,..."
Why wouldn't she say something? This was starting to freak me out more than a little when she finally decided to speak.
"David Legassy.", she said, stating my name as if for the record. "Whatever will you do?"
"What would they all think out there if they knew?" she asked.
I hesitated, mouth half open, and cocked my head curiously before replying with, "What are you talking about?"
"Your little accident last night?"
Now it was my turn to regard her in silence. What in hell was this?
She took a deep breath and let it out with a sigh, smiling ever so little as she began to explain.
They didn't catch the driver, as you obviously know. No leads, either. Of course, we know who it was.", she said, lifting the blotter on her desk and removing two Polaroid pictures from beneath it, tossing them across the desk to me. "The question is, should I tell anyone?"
They were pictures of the front of my Chevy Monza, complete with the license plate. Except the paint was cracked and broken on the flexible rubber front clip and one of the headlights was broken. There were blood smears there and on the dented hood and driver's side windshield. At the bottom of the pictures, on the wide paper strip, was printed in fine black marker, 'Kelly Preston', with yesterday's date.
"The ones the police will receive will come in an envelope that also includes a cloth soaked in Kelly's blood." she informed me, leaning back and casually crossing her legs.
"What?" I asked, looking from the pictures to her, back to the pictures and then to her again as I started to get her awful point.
"Nobody will be surprised, either. Not with how you peel out of that back lot every night. You're reckless. Something like this was bound to happen, sooner or later."
I couldn't say anything. I stared at her, totally speechless, trying to make sure this was actually real, that she was pinning this on me. It had to be some sort of twisted joke.
"This has to be some sorta twisted joke, right?"
"You honestly think I'd go to the trouble of vandalizing your car and planting evidence just for a joke?"
My mouth opened, but nothing came out. This couldn't be happening. Why would anyone do something like this? This just couldn't be.
"You can't do,... this! I didn't hit her! What are you trying to do to me!?"
"I'd keep your voice down if I were you." she said, green eyes flashing with dark humor. "Attention is the last thing you want right now. As for what I'm doing to you, quite simply, I'm putting you in your place."
I shook my head, sure this had to be some wacky dream.
"You should see the look on your face." she said conversationally, smiling a little wider as though we were two friends sharing a joke. "It looks good on you, too, after the way you've been strutting around like you own the place. Breaking dress code, deviating from script no matter how many times I'd tell you to stop doing that, taking twice the amount of sick days, taking your own little unscheduled breaks,... The list goes on and on, David. And you sail right through, don't you? You know how many people above you look good on account of the numbers you generate. You know everyone looks the other way for you and you don't stop to think for one second that I'm the one ultimately responsible for your behavior. You're nothing. Nothing but an opportunistic, cocky, arrogant little punk with a rotten attitude who thinks he can fly in the face of my authority. And now I'm going to very much enjoy putting an end to you.
I couldn't argue any of that, as it was essentially all true. She leaned back in her chair and went on speaking, looking up at the ceiling as if reminiscent.
"Yes, you're right. There was nothing to be done for poor Kelly. But you know, as good as she was on the phones, she was an even better blood donor. I'll have to send her family a little something special,..."
She suddenly leaned forward again, resting her forearms on her desk and fixing me with a predatorial smile, telling me in a reassuring tone, "I haven't called the police yet because I wanted the chance to let you know it was me who delivered you to the wolves."
"How nice for me.", I said in a hollow tone, trying to grapple with this, still unable to quite accept that she was really doing this to me.
"A lot better for me.", she replied with a small laugh. "Oh yes, very much so. Knowing I could ruin you,..."
(Could ruin me?)
A small hope bloomed inside me and I wondered if it wasn't merely a false hope that she seemed to dangle there for her amusement.
"I wonder,... Would you be willing to beg for my mercy? I mean, right down on the floor here, on your knees with your hands clasped- no, I think I'd rather you clutching at the hem of my skirt."
She laughed out loud at this, then asked, "So what about it?"
"You're crazy." I informed her, feeling anger finally rising to take over the vacant driver's seat.
"You'd be surprised at how many people have told me that. Especially men. I rather enjoy bringing men down, you know. I suppose, to your limited mentality, it would seem crazy, however, from my perspective, it's really just some light entertainment provided by people who should have been bright enough to respect me.
"But I never did anything to deserve this!" I grated. "How can you,...? No! No, you can't! I'll go to jail for something I didn't even fuckin' do, how can you do that to me!?"
"Hmm. A little late for that now, don't you think? I mean, after all this time disrespecting me? If you'd been my friend, if you'd respected me, this wouldn't be happening now."
She held my eyes fast while I tried to figure a way out of this mess. But how? She'd manufactured evidence and,... Oh God, the damned car had to be sitting in the back lot like that right then! She'd probably done it on the last break and I had to get the hell down there and- How many people had already seen it!?
"Ah, but you were too much of an arrogant little dog to be my friend, to pay me the respect I deserve and to cooperate with me, weren't you? And look what it got you. Again, I ask: Are you willing to beg me? Properly?"
I sensed she was standing at the head of some winding, twisted little garden path of her making while the deep blue sea awaited just beneath my heels.
"Would it do any good?" I asked her, glowering.
"You'll never know if you don't try, will you? But, if you use your head, you'll see it's a lot better to try and fail than to let your pride stop you. Just think how that will feel in the slammer. You'd never forgive yourself, would you? Especially not while your cellmate is forcing his cock up that cute little ass every night. I don't know, David, what do you think?" she asked me, facetiously thoughtful. "Do you have anything left to lose at this point?"
So, there it was. The invitation to step fully onto her garden path had been properly offered and she had every right to expect me to take it. I stared across the desk at her, desperately thinking, trying to see a way out of this, remembering those recent speeding and dangerous driving tickets that would be on my record. The longer the crime went unsolved, the more willing the police and everyone else on the planet would be to believe in Dagmar's little 'care package', and I simply had no hand that I could see at the present time.
I slumped forward, resting my elbows on the arms of the chair, face in my palms if only so that I could think without having to look at her triumphant smile as she reclined again, looking at me while tapping a pencil on her blotter.
I'd even subtly insulted a few cops when I knew I could get away with it. They hated me, they'd be so willing to crucify me. If I ran to them now and counted on them to straighten this out, they'd only help Alejendro to railroad me all the quicker. The game had started before I ever realized. Now it was over and I'd lost. Even if she yanked it away at the last minute, I had to make a grab for that life preserver she'd thrown. I had to try to save myself in this little room where my life had suddenly gone to hell in a handcart in a matter of minutes through absolutely no fault of my own. I tried to swallow my anger, washing it down with as much pride as I could.
I looked up at her as I dutifully rose from my chair. She was still smiling that damned smile while I went around to her side of the desk as she swiveled in her chair, her green eyes flashing in pleasure at the prospect of what she knew I was about to do. I looked down at the carpet as I fell to my knees before her, praying nobody would walk in on this degrading little scene. Closing my eyes, I began.
"Look at me when you beg like the little dog you are. And remember the hem."
It was a lot harder to ignore that comment than it would have been to kill her right then. I looked up, opened my eyes, took the hem of her skirt in my hand and began again in a wavery voice that I hoped sounded more sincere than hateful.
"Dagmar,... Please, please don't do this to me? I'm sorry I disrespected you. I,... I regret that totally and I see that you're nobody to fuck around with and-"
" ... And I'm so regretful that I didn't cooperate with you like I should have, I continued with more feeling. "I should have seen what side my bread was buttered on and did what a good dog should."
It killed me, but I knew it was my best shot.
She only stared at me with that smile before answering, "Very good. Yet, so predictable. I knew you'd do it, you know, just like I know that you only say it because you need me on your side now. And what am I supposed to think of that?"
She suddenly grabbed me by the shirt front and hauled me up and forward, closer to her until her face was inches away from mine and I could smell her perfume, actually a very nice fragrance that didn't really help me to feel better about the situation at all.
"Well? What am I supposed to think of that?"
"Well, I- uh, I guess it's pretty cheap of me now, but-"
"Cheap? You're not even getting in on the ground floor with me, boy! More like the wrong foot! If you want to be forgiven, if you want me to spare the next eight to ten years of your life, you'd better accept that you have a lot to make up for!"
"Yes, I'm willing to-!"
"Shut up, boy!"
As I shut up, constantly worrying about my car out in the lot and with a very great need to get out there, I was mortified to feel my manhood actually twitch. A small part of my mind uncertainly shrilled that it was nothing, but the rest of my mind was too busy to listen. Things got even worse as she went on like a nightmare that one can't wake oneself from.
"How many times have we passed one another out on the floor? Out in the hall, or in the parking lot? I'd look right at you, maybe thinking I'd be nice enough to say hello to you, but you just waltzed right on by as if I didn't even exist every time. As if I were invisible! Pretending not to notice me like I'm some pattern on the wallpaper and now you want my mercy!?"