Madam of Mayhem

“A Lipitor for a Percocet?” Scoffing, I push the cards back to Barb. “Do I look like I care about how well-fucked my arteries look? Come back when you have something real to sling.”

Barb, this dirty old bitch from North Side, grumbles, “I guess you’d need a heart to have cholesterol problems, wouldn’t you, Delores?”

“Guess I fucking would.” 

It’s bridge night, and all of us withered old shits are sitting around a table with our pills out. Mr. Rosenstein has a pile of hydroponic pot that I could smell the second I walked into the room, and that’s what I’ve got my eye on tonight. 

I’m just eying it up, sipping on my gin and grapefruit juice, when the Three Fucksketeers roll up. 

“Delores Crane?” the big one asks, sending a shifty glance around the table. 

I dip my sunglasses down, assessing them. The big one is a King, not that I give a flying rat’s ass. The one to his left is his brother, all blue eyes and pretty face. I know Nick Bruin plenty well enough. The one to his right looks like he’s about to stain his shorts. 

“Is that Percocet?” he asks, all but drooling. 

I jerk my chin at Barb. “Fuck off, you dusty old cunt. I’ve got real business to do.” 

Snatching her Lipitor, she hisses, “I hope you forget your bank pin when you’re getting robbed.”

“Your grandkids’ nightly prayers are wasted on you,” I call to her back as she storms off. Slowly. Hunched over a walker. She peers up at the Dukes with a glare as she passes. “Well,” I say to them, shuffling the cards. “You three certainly look like you know which color crayon tastes best. Sit down and tell me about it.”

“Blue,” the white-haired says without missing a beat, dropping into Barb’s seat. “The grays are kind of chalky.”

“You know,” Nick says, “we usually like to conduct our illegal gun-running business somewhere a little more discreet than the Forsyth bridge club.”

“You’ll conduct my business where I fucking tell you,” I reply, kicking out a vacant chair. The boy glares, but does as he’s told, arms folded as he eye-fucks Janice’s bottle of blue pills. “They’re laxatives, not Viagra,” I tell him. “But since you just blew in from Stupid Town, I’m betting you’re plenty full of shit. She’ll probably let five go for a picture of your cock.”

He gives me a chilly grin. “No thanks.” 

The big one sits down last, heavy and glaring. “We’re doing this as a favor to Payne. You should show us some respect.”

Nick gives his brother a sly look. “This is Mrs. Crane. She only respects two people. Her pharmacist and the guy who invented the iron maiden.”

The white-haired one–Maddox’s boy–glances between us. “You know each other?”

I laugh, low and raspy. “Oh, this one and I go way back.”

Nick’s eyes narrow into slits. “She tried to turn me out once.” 

“What can I say?” Shrugging, I stab out my cigarette. “Nice ass is nice ass. What’s your story?” I point the dying ember of my cigarette at the Maddox kid. Green eyes. Covered head-to-toe in tattoos. I don’t know him half as well as I know his daddy.

“My ass is pretty nice, too,” he replies flippantly. “But it belongs to my girl back home. Has her name on it and everything.” 

I look between the brothers, Nicholas and Simon. I know their parents pretty well, too. “So here you are. Bruin and Perilini’s best swimmers, eh? The good sperm must have dribbled down your mother’s ass crack.” 

Simon’s teeth clench. “Do you want the gun or not?”

I nod. “Show me.” Maddox Junior is the one to pull it from his waistband, moving closer as he gives me a glimpse of the shiny silver. I blink at it, lips pulling back into a snarl. “What the blue-crayon-flavored fuck is this?”

“It’s easy to hide,” he says, turning it over in his palm. “Good grip for small, arthritic hands.” 

“It’s a bitch pistol,” I point out. “Do I look like a bitch to you?”

Simon leans back, expression deadpan. “That’s exactly what you look like. An emotionally fragile grandmother.”

“You look like a magician whose only trick is turning liquor into domestic violence.”  I gesture at the tiny pistol. “Who am I going to kill with this? A cricket?”

“It’s supposed to be for self-defense,” Nick points out.

“The next time you three pass around that withered brain cell you all share, you should use it to ask yourselves what I’m defending myself from.” Rooting around in my purse, I extract my small tub of Vaseline, slamming it on the table. “Here.” 

Maddox raises an eyebrow. “Lube?” 

“To ease the way when you shove that bitch pistol up your asses.” I raise my chin, swiping up my glass of gin. “Now show me the real stuff.” 

Nick nods at the gun. “That is real stuff. It’s small, but it packs plenty of punch.”

“I’m not as stupid as you look. You’re Dukes. You’re pulling more than one sale today. Show me what you’re slinging to whatever dimwitted turd of a frat boy you’re paying a visit to after me.” A glance passes between them. Some eyebrow wiggling. Some glaring. An eye roll. Finally Nick sighs, bending over to pull a gun from the small of his own back. “That’s more like it,” I say when he slides it over the table. Beside me, Francine pauses her game of rummy to ogle the glock.

It’s bigger than her shitty revolver.

Simon watches me handle it, his big eyebrows crouched low. “Killer said we shouldn’t let you bully us into–”

“This thing come with ammo, or does it shoot the blanks your daddies should have?” I look up at them, waiting.

The Maddox kid lets out a laugh, head shaking. “You’re a real bitch, you know that?”

I stare at him. “You look like a bored middle-schooler’s vandalized desk.” His jaw drops in silent outrage as Simon pushes a box of bullets toward me. I finish off my gin. “Tell me about the Lucia girl.”

“She’s not a part of this.” 

I laugh at Maddox. “Oh, kid, you’re not pretty enough to be that dumb. He is.” I nod at Nick. “But you’re not. She’ll always be a part of this. Rain or shine, duck or run.” I ask the next question to Simon, because he’s the King. “You treating her right?” 

He looks startled, but only briefly. “Trying to.” 

“You want to know the secret to loving a Royal woman?” I ask, tucking the pistol into my purse. “Give her one of these, teach her to use it, and pray to whatever god you believe in that she never turns it on you.”

The pity in Nick’s eyes almost makes me want to turn the gun on him. “Times change, Delores. Not all men are like Mr. Crane.”

I fix him with a stern look. “I’m willing to be proven wrong. Bring her with you next time, and maybe I will.” Before any of them can accuse me of being disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to reacquaint myself with the Lucia girl, I pluck my cards back up. “It was a business doing pleasure with you, boys.” 

They stand slowly, like they’re unsure if they’re being dismissed. But then Nick sighs. “Are you okay? Because if you need protection from someone in particular, then–”

“Don’t patronize me,” I snap. “I’ve had messier kills than you, Bruin.”

He glances at his brother, almost as if he wants to argue that fact. He doesn’t. “Stay safe out there, you wrinkled old cunt.”

I flip him off before calling out, “Rosenstein! Roll your decrepit ass over here and get me stoned.”

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