Who will betray Bruce ? Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash
Sue looked at the three gardeners with a circumspect look on her face. Her gaze shifted from one to the other, trying to find out which of the three had done any more damage. Her mouth was pinched, her eyes were full of hatred and annoyance.
“So I wait, nobody has anything to say to me?”. She turned towards Melanie, straight as an i, and displaying a guilty look. Melanie flinched, lowered her head, then raised it, and finally confessed in a thin voice, to having cut off a sprinkler with the lawn mower last week.
Sue shook her head, no, no and no, it wasn’t that confession she wanted. “Anything else?” Melanie lowered her head again, looking sorry.
Sue brushed aside the answer, and focused on Benjamin, the second gardener. With his hands in his pockets, he looked nonchalant, extremely annoying to Sue. But his beautiful face, and his inability to understand English properly, still prevented Sue from being able to get her nerves on him.
Faced with Sue’s inquisitive gaze, he nodded his shoulders and smiled. He smiled a charming and mischievous smile. Argh, this young man knew how to do it. Without even realizing it, she smiled back at him and his eyes shifted from anger to benevolence. He had won.
“You can both come out, Franck, can I talk to you for a moment?”. She had avoided looking at him since they had entered his office. Just seeing him gesticulating around nervously put her in a state of nerves.
The two gardeners left the room in a hurry. She followed them through the window as they walked along her office. Benjamin laughed out loud, imitating Frank, and Melanie smiled relaxed at having missed the catastrophe. She would have to get those two back on the straight and narrow, and she would pay them a little visit again in the afternoon. But for the time being, she had to talk to Franck.
Reluctantly, she turned her attention back to him. He had taken off his cap and turned it between his fingers. His hair was greasy and fell onto his face. He was shaken with tics, his eyes blinking frantically. She clenched her fists, she just wanted to hit him when he was like that.
In a firm voice, she summoned him to sit down. He nodded and clumsily grabbed a chair that fell to the floor. He apologized, put it back in place and sat down.
Sue turned her back and rifled through her desk drawer. She pulled out Frank’s orange noise-cancelling headphones.
In an almost theatrical gesture, she placed it violently on the table.
Frank’s eyes rounded with surprise, he had been looking for it everywhere. He looked affectionately at the object. Sue became furious, no, but he must have suspected that she was not summoning the three gardeners just because he forgot his helmet in a garden, come on !
Franck was again shaken by a wave of tics, he was running away from Sue’s gaze, and began to get more and more agitated in his chair.
She took the helmet in her hands and started to turn it around, handling it with agility. Franck’s eyes fixed on the movement of the old witch’s phalanges. The manicured fingers made an almost natural movement, and Franck fascinated by this dance began to relax.
“Mr. Grant found this in his garden. However, Mr. Grant lives at 52, 52 which is not on the pruning program at all. I could ask myself what you were doing there, but considering the state of the garden”. She put the helmet down, grabbed her phone on the table, and after a few seconds showed the pictures of the carnage to Franck.
A tiny smile appeared in the corner of Franck’s mouth. He reprimanded it, yet thinking back to that feeling of total freedom, to that joyful destruction, put him in a good mood.
Sue realized that Franck was elsewhere. She banged her fist on the table. Now he had to be very attentive.
He was lucky to work here, few companies would have kept him without a driver’s license and after finding out he had served two years in prison. This job, did he care about it? Franck nodded his head in panic. All right, so if he wanted to keep it, we would have to tell her why he did it.
Franck’s eyes were like those of a rabbit in front of a fox, his pupils dancing in their sockets in search of a suitable answer.
He began to swing back and forth. What to do, save his skin or remain silent. His brain didn’t have time to make up its mind, his lips let out a shy “Bruce”.
Sue froze. Bruce. Rita’s husband. Andrews’ friend. Bruce, who was twice as likely to know the truth about her schemes.
She stood behind Frank and took his shoulders. Swallowing her disgust at the contact of her fingers with the gardener’s wet shirt, she stuck her nails through the fabric. Franck shrivelled on his chair.
He had to tell her everything he knew about Bruce, and from now on, he had to tell her everything the old man did. Franck nodded, eager to escape the witch’s clutches. But her hold was strong and she didn’t seem to want to let go.
“Now you’ll have to explain to me why you ransacked this garden for Bruce?”.
Franck walked up the aisle to the workshop with a satisfied smile on his face. He had managed to lie, he couldn’t believe it. His own aplomb had surprised him. “For Rita.” But what a stroke of genius he had had. Oh he had to tell the other gardeners. Oh no, they weren’t to know.
Too bad, he was going to have to tell Bruce. No, no, he wouldn’t betray Bruce, never!
The old witch had not given up so easily, she had insisted, why for Rita. And he had succeeded, his imagination had been set in motion and his tongue had been loosened. Mr. Grant was turning around Rita, Bruce had wanted to warn him. But what a genius! Franck almost wanted to hug and kiss himself. When he would tell Vicky tonight, she would be proud!
Arriving at the workshop, the two gardeners were slumped in the sun, offering their faces to a little morning tan. He waved at them and ran off to Bruce’s van.
His shoulders were still sore from the witch’s claws. He gently massaged himself through the cloth. The wild cat! Yes, he would not be surprised if Sue was the wildcat. Oh yes, maybe she transforms at night, and becomes a ferocious cat. Now that he was thinking about it, her eyes, her claws… But why had she stopped? Maybe she too was taking Andrews’ pills, and maybe… oh the pills were turning her into a feral cat ?
No no, he was rambling. And then, he liked feral cats, while Sue…
He was finally in front of Bruce’s van. He knocked with a sharp jerk and then two small jerky knocks. The door opened. Bruce was fidgeting around the kitchen. He shook his head when he saw Franck enter with a hesitant step.
“It was 25, Frank, not 52, 25. It’s not that complicated.” He made him sit down on the bench. “This being the case, you took your mission so much to heart that all those who owed me money gave it within the minute!”.
Franck stammered an apology and began a confused declamation of his convocation this morning. Bruce paled with each new sentence that came out of Franck’s throat.
“That doesn’t sound good to me… “Bruce shouted. The big man was starting to pace around in the van. The van was almost pitching. Franck felt seasick, he needed a pill, just one, a very small one. But Bruce didn’t seem able to give him that gift. Franck reached out his hand to a bag that was sitting on the counter. His fingers grabbed the plastic and pulled it, the bag slipped off the counter, Frank grabbed the smooth surface as hard as he could with his fingers. Unfortunately, the plastic slipped from his sweaty hands, and the bag fell off. While the bag made little or no sound when it crashed, the sound of the pills rolling on the floor took Bruce’s thoughts away.
“Frank!”. Like a father rebuffing his son, he pushed Franck back with a firm hand on the bench, and hastily picked up the pink beads that were spreading out on the floor. Boy, what a clumsy kid that kid could be. They had to find a strategy to save time.
Franck, who had managed to steal three of the candies that were still rolling around on the floor, took advantage of a moment of inattention on the part of the old man to gobble them up. This time he didn’t choke. The pills tumbled down his throat with disconcerting ease. The effect would soon be there, it was going to be wonderful.
“Okay, Frank, what are you going to make up for Sue next time? She has to believe you’re spying on me, you have to give her something if you want to make sure she continues to trust you”.
Franck thinks about it, he was going to be a double agent, yes a double agent, a real one. He couldn’t believe it. Maybe Bruce would give him some gadgets. Oh Vicky wasn’t going to believe it. He, Franck Stick, a spy! Oh yes, he was going to watch ninja videos tonight, a ninja spy. He was going to save Bruce, and then he was going to save the world!
Bruce’s throat clearing took him out of his daydreams. Ah yes, what to tell Sue. He could improvise. It worked the first time after all. Bruce grunted in his moustache, no, it was too risky. He knelt down and took Frank by the shoulders.
Franck would have to repeat exactly what Bruce was going to tell him.
Susan gently closed her door and lowered her fibula. She had to tell Paula about Bruce and Andrews. She needed help investigating Bruce. Rita had been appearing elsewhere lately, and before accusing her husband, it was best that she investigate with Paula.
The wind was blowing hard this morning, and she almost felt like she could fly away. She tightened her jacket over her frail shoulders and felt a shiver. The image of John’s arms tightening around her bust made her shiver.
For several days she had been dreaming, at night, but also during the day, John haunted her thoughts, he lit a fire that she didn’t recognize in her. Obviously, she rejected his carnal visions, his vain temptations. No, she couldn’t do it again. No, she couldn’t. She wanted to, but the image of an angry Rick sitting on her cloud prevented her from doing so.
And then when it wasn’t Rick bursting her fantasy bubble, it was the image of Paula straddling John, with her mermaid hair, her perfect rump and her machiavellian look. She wouldn’t be up to the task, she hadn’t been up to it. He was going to compare her to Paula, and they were so different.
Her stomach tightened, and a bit of sadness was born in her heart at the thought that she would never experience anything again with John. What had he done to make her feel something again? She, so apathetic, whose life was nothing but the lives of others, felt the thrill of egocentricity again, she wanted to talk, to let herself go to confidences, to pour herself out on that exciting feeling that was born in the hollow of her pelvis, when she thought or saw John.
No, no, she couldn’t. She shook her head, trying to chase away the smile that was born when she thought of the man in the hat.
She walked briskly to Paula’s house. On the way, she came across an overexcited Frank who was jumping from sidewalk to sidewalk making strange movements with his arms. He was a strange character, but he was innocent and helpful. She nodded hello to him, but he didn’t even notice her presence, absorbed in the imaginary story he was playing.
She repressed a laugh as she watched the vulva-shaped bushes in Paula’s garden. Oh, she didn’t miss one, sacred Paula. Since the nymph had opened up to her, Susan had become more and more fond of her. Her biting humor, the audacity that the beautiful one had, and the crack that she was so good at hiding.
Three four steps and she knocked. Was she going to find Paula in the arms of a lover again this morning?
The door opened on a disheveled Paula, still in her nightgown. Oh not that cotton nightgown with floral patterns that all the ladies of the village wore, no, no a beautiful purple lace and satin nightgown. Yet this morning, Paula was not as dressed as she was used to, and the dark circles that stretched before her eyes were not in her habit either.
The nymph summoned her to come in. She went on to apologize for her outfit; she had just woken up. “Don’t you go to the pool anymore?” Susan asked, but it was well known that Paula didn’t miss an opportunity to show off her toned body every morning at the pool.
“Not since…” Paula left her sentence hanging and turned her head.
Ouch, Susan didn’t expect that reaction. At least she was going to be able to quickly follow up on why she had come.
“Yes, I understand, by the way, I wanted to talk to you about that.
– Don’t you want to wait for the progress meeting with Rita tomorrow? Personally, I haven’t made much progress… Paula’s face turned frowning.
– That is to say, I’d rather keep it between us, for the time being…”
Paula looked at Susan more intensely and then invited her to sit at the kitchen table. She mechanically took two cups from the cupboard and gently placed them under the coffee machine. For the first time, Susan realized that Paula was an old lady, too. Her gestures were sensual and graceful, but she felt slight tremors in her movements, she observed her wrinkled and spotted hands. No one was spared from old age. All of Paula’s folklore, her self-confidence, her body that she tried to model over and over again despite her age, all of this was a cover, a subterfuge to conceal her old age. Most of the people here didn’t see through the finery and for them Paula was twenty years younger. But Susan was no longer fooled; at that moment, Paula seemed to be carrying her eighty long years with her.
Susan’s thoughts vanished when Paula finally put the cups on the table. With a nod of her head, she invited her to take the plunge.
Then Susan explained, she told Paula that she had seen Bruce and Andrews enter the pool the day before Andrews’ death. She also explained to Paula that Andrews was involved in some not-so-legal business. And she added in a small voice that she knew that, because she, too, had been involved. Paula looked at her with big eyes. She seemed both surprised and fascinated.
“Holy Andrews! And you! You little sneak!”. Paula scratched her chin, and then she understood why Susan didn’t want to tell Rita about it. But Bruce? Did he? If he had something to do with it, it was an accident, that was for sure.
Susan nodded, but they had to make sure. But how? Paula, with her legendary sweetness, violently put the cup on the table. Benjamin! The gardener could keep an eye on Bruce! And if he finds something, hop, Paula would go to confront the old handyman!
Susan looked Paula straight in the eyes, she saw her determination there. It was almost frightening. She trusted her, the nymph wouldn’t let Bruce’s secret slip away.
Susan was about to leave, but the urge to share her dreams about John with Paula was too strong. Paula sensed the hesitation in Susan’s eyes and questioned her. Susan emptied her bag, the dreams, the reborn desire, even the dreams haunted by the nymph. Paula laughed and encouraged her. Susan had much more to offer than Paula had ever given John, and Rick would be happy to see her happy. Come on Susan, don’t make excuses and let him come back.
Paula chased her away, claiming she had work to do with little Benjamin. Susan found herself on her front door, confused. What was she supposed to do?
On the way home, she realized that John hadn’t tried to contact her again, so maybe she just had to forget about him after all. Why make films when the story hadn’t even begun?
When she arrived in front of her house, she saw the hat. Her heart started beating wildly. When he turned around, a large bouquet of roses in his arms, she thought her heart would stop.
The door closed behind Franck. Bruce sighed, how was he going to get out of this quagmire? He knew Frank, and even if he knew him with the best of intentions, let’s just say that Frank was… unstable. Oh yes, he was going to have to finish his van and get ready to leave.
He put the bag of pink candies back in the closet, and was about to take his drill back, when he reopened the closet. There were two bags missing, he was sure of it. He counted them again. Ten, there should be ten. He only counted eight.
Oh no, not again ! He whimpered, if those bags were in the wrong hands, he would be done with his dream of a big space, hello, the prison cell. Oh no, he, who hated being locked up… He grabbed his drill and stared frantically at each plank of the floor.
Who could have? No one but him had the key to the van. Franck? No impossible, he would have seen it? Of course, he would have seen him burying the bags in his pockets. And then Franck was faithful, he would have asked him.
Bruce looked out the window in search of a clue, he saw the young Benjamin, smoking a cigarette while observing the van from the corner of his eye. What was wrong with this little wanker? Could he be the thief after all?
Furious, Bruce stormed out of the van. The groundhog didn’t have time to throw away his cigarette as the old man was already grabbing his t-shirt collar and lifting him up in the air. “You’re the one who stole them, aren’t you? No wonder for a Frenchman! You’re going to give them back to me immediately! You understand me?”. He didn’t have time to finish his sentence when a Paula, dressed all in red, came out of nowhere and stuck her claws in his forearm, shouting “You’re going to let him go, yes!! You’re going to ruin him for us!!”.
Bruce’s hands let go of the young man’s shirt. He fell heavily on the ground, yet he got up immediately and stride off to the gardeners’ workshop. It wouldn’t be surprising if he ran to tell little Melanie about his adventure.
Paula’s fingers came off Bruce’s arm, leaving four beautiful red marks on his tanned skin. How was he going to explain this to Rita? He swore in his moustache and faced Paula. “We need to talk together,” she said in a firm voice. He nodded his head and showed her his van.
She followed him, and when she entered, she made a small sound of surprise. “Wow, that’s nice!”. Bruce bulged his chest, yes, he was almost done, a few touch-ups and they would be ready to go. Paula went around the van looking inquisitive. It’s true that he had done a very good job, the van was beautiful. Even she, who was used to luxurious settings, could imagine herself living there. Well, she wouldn’t have chosen those curtains and these pillows, but it was changing after all. She came to her senses.
“What would he have stolen, little Benjamin?” she asked in a firm voice. He stammered, grunted, sat down, stood up again, and finally faced Paula. “That’s none of your business.” Unfortunately Bruce’s voice wasn’t as frank and clear as he would have liked. Paula’s eyes were plunged into his own, it was impossible to look away. This woman had incredible power over him.
He felt a bump forming in his pants, no, but it was not possible, I mean, it was really not the right time. He tried to hide his budding erection by grabbing a shopping bag that was lying around. The bag slipped out of his hands and a white powder fell to the ground with a thud.
Paula looked away and stared in amazement at the powder on the floor and at her own shoes. She knelt down, moistened her finger, dipped it in the powder and held it to her tongue. “Don’t you dare tell me it’s flour, or aspirin,” she said as she got up.
“It’s time to make a confession, I think. Bruce scowled. She had won. Before he told her the whole truth, he had to make sure she wouldn’t turn him in. She promised. They sat down and Bruce confessed.
Yes, he made “magic” pills out of different chemical ingredients. No, it wasn’t cocaine, but it had similar effects. It was Andrews who put him up to it. They were partners. But the last tablet had obviously been fatal to Andrews. They just wanted to have fun at the pool. When he left, he was fine, swimming and laughing at Bruce. No, he would never have left him alone, if he had known.
Paula listened to him looking absent. She thought about Andrews, his schemes, his childish spirit, them… She focused on Bruce. He had sat down to dinner alone, she hadn’t even had to push him to the wall. She had barely used her charms. She sat down next to him and stroked his back.
“Susan, saw you the day before Andrews died. We wanted to know the story before we told Rita.”she sighed, “We’re not going to tell him, Bruce, but I think it’s time to go.” He nodded. She stood up, took the big man’s head in her hands, and shyly kissed him on the lips. “I’m going to miss you… a little,” she said, disappearing.
Bruce, stunned, let her go, his pants inflated again.
Rita would come back from the board, she was no longer the president and it was so good to be able to criticize and question the president’s decisions. She had had her moment, and she had hated it, she had lost almost everything because of that presidency. In fact, she didn’t run again last year. Ciao politics.
She liked to give her opinion, she liked to surround herself with people, and to know the decisions of the board before everyone else, yes, to be in control of the information, that’s what made her happy.
However, this board had been a total bore, and then she had her mind elsewhere. Impossible to respect the 8 km per hour regulations, she had to come back and examine her findings. Bruce shouldn’t be back for a few hours.
Arrived in front of the small house, no car of Bruce, she blew. Precipitately, she climbed the few steps, missing falling down. The lock was still acting up, but she didn’t get angry and methodically turned it several times before getting there.
She couldn’t believe how brave she had been. A smile appeared on her face, she thought back to last night. Yes, she had the makings of a spy, a real one. First, she had managed to keep a low profile and leave the room quietly. She had found the keys to Bruce’s van on the kitchen table. The hardest part was getting out of the house without making any noise. Bruce was a light sleeper.
He hadn’t woken up. It hadn’t been easy, she had walked all the way. The night made her shiver, so she didn’t stop, despite her shortness of breath, despite her feet hurting her terribly, she kept going. When she arrived at the wasteland, she had entered through the small gate and got into the van. My God, she had been captivated, the van was simply magnificent, a real jewel. She was stunned.
She had stayed a long time in the van, stroking the wood, admiring the work of her man. Yes, she had almost forgotten why she was there. Why she was on her way here in the middle of the night. What was Bruce doing besides tinkering? His gaze had fallen on the cupboards. She hesitated for a second, then put her fingers on the doorknob.
She hadn’t been surprised to see ten big bags of pink pills piled up in that closet. They were the twins of the one Bruce had handed to Frank, the perfect twins. She had grabbed one of them, then retraced her steps and took two. Why two? She didn’t know, she had slipped them into her bra. Here are two, it was symmetrical at least.
Then, with difficulty, she had returned home. She had put the bags back in their own kitchen cupboard, then slipped back into bed. Bruce didn’t even notice she was gone.
Now it was time to examine the contents of these bags. She took one out of the closet. With an expert gesture, she weighed the bag. There must have been about five hundred grams of pills inside the bag. She touched the packet, the pills were firm and smooth, and of a beautiful fluorescent pink color.
With a careful hand she opened the plastic bag. Her fingers plunged into these small chemical beads. She grabbed two of them, looked at them for a long time and made them dance on her knuckles. Then with a sharp blow, she brought them to her mouth and swallowed them.
She screamed, but why in the name of the great god, did she do this? She didn’t even know what those pills could do to her. What if she died right now. Panicked, she tried to spit them out, but it was impossible. It would have come out, if she had known how to make herself vomit.
Okay, stay calm. Don’t give in to panic, listen to your own body. For the moment there were no signs of change. That was it. Yes, she was going to sit quietly on the couch and wait. Maybe it wouldn’t matter anyway.
She sat down on the couch. Ah, the laundry, she hadn’t hung the laundry, she walked in a hurry to the machine. It’s crazy, she was feeling one of those energies. If it was due to the pills, her Bruce had done a good job.
It was crazy, she couldn’t feel her feet, she was almost flying. Hop, hop, hop, all the laundry is spread out. Oh, she was going to make a cake, oh yes, and maybe even pancakes. Then she would take care of the garden. Or she would go to the pool. Oh yes, the pool seemed like a good idea to her.
She was opening the cupboard looking for the flour, when the front door opened.
That was an advancement. Bruce had just served her the truth on a silver platter. She couldn’t believe it, Bruce and Andrews were the dealers. Andrews, she wasn’t so surprised, it was his mysterious side that had charmed her… But Bruce… Well, little Benjamin had been efficient, bravo.
Here’s a mystery solved ! But they weren’t sure that Andrews had died of a heart attack because of drugs. Okay, it was a bad idea to defend Bruce in front of a judge. For her friend Rita, Paula would have to protect her former lover. Susan would surely agree, neither of the two friends wanted Bruce behind bars.
The mission now was to hide the truth from Rita, but especially from Sue. If the witch were to find out, she would surely do everything she could to put Bruce behind bars and ruin the life of her lifelong enemy: Rita.
Mission set, protect Bruce. Suddenly, Paula’s heart was uplifted. It meant that… She didn’t need to watch the neighbor in 87 anymore… She had failed. Tired, she felt so tired, she had spent the last five nights spying on the bellhop’s house. If the first night she had given up at midnight, last night she had stayed until almost 5 o’clock, and nothing, no trace. Maybe he too was dead?
The deep desire she had for the sexagenarian was now turning into sickly curiosity. Where was he? What was he up to? She had to find out, no matter if she risked her life. Tonight she would try to break into the house. It was the only solution.
It would be her little secret. She hurried home from the vacant lot to get ready. A spy worthy of the name had to be properly dressed.
When she got home, she jumped in the shower. She wasn’t going to play Mata Hari dirty as a slut. The water was running down her wrinkled skin, she was reveling in the warm water that enveloped her, the liquid reminded her of the warm arms of a man. She had been so focused on this investigation that she hadn’t had a lover in over a week. She needed to get back on track. The image of Andrews came to her mind as she started to soap herself up, her hands became more naughty, and she let herself be caressed. What a lover he had been.
When she came out of the shower, the water was still running, but this time it was on her cheeks.
She dried herself, dried her tears and walked naked to her dressing room. In front of the hallway mirror, she crossed her reflection. Her body was beginning to lose its strength. The gym sessions, the drastic dieting, none of it was enough anymore. Old age had almost won. No, she wouldn’t give up, she would fight to the end, to keep up appearances, to keep the lovers warm in her bed. Even if she had to die alone, she would celebrate her celibacy to the end.
Chasing her dark thoughts from her mind, she searched in vain for the ideal outfit. She set her heart on tight leather pants and a black satin top that perfectly highlighted her breasts. Black boots. Black Perfecto. Perfect.
She pulled up her white hair in a studied bun, put on her sunglasses, and walked towards the door. Oops, she had forgotten to put on her makeup again. A bit of lip gloss, some mascara and she was finally ready. She smiled at herself in the mirror, yet her eyes were blurred and she felt the sadness in her throat again. Don’t cry, don’t cry. What was her problem today, she was even more on edge than usual.
It was barely 10 pm, she decided to wait until midnight to take action. The minutes were slowly slipping away, she felt the tiredness that was overwhelming her. She made herself a coffee, then a second one. By the fifth coffee, she felt her heart beating abnormally fast. Soon it would be 11 p.m., too bad, she would leave later. Patience had never been her strength.
After making sure to leave her bedside lamp on, she left her house by the back door. She walked with a feline pace until 87. Every time she had to cross the street, she made sure no one was around. When she reached the back of 87, she tried to open the back door. Um, closed, of course.
All the little houses looked alike, the back door was simply fitted with a latch. She had to break the glass. Yes, yes, but it had to be done without making too much noise. A stone, she needed a stone. In the darkness, it was impossible for her to distinguish anything. She took a few steps and stumbled on a metal object. The object was a hideous metal frog.
Come on, that would do the trick. She threw it with all her might against the glass door. The noise broke through at night, but the glass remained intact. Don’t give up. She started a second time, then a third time. It was as if she was possessed.
The door would not give way, in a last desperate impulse, she threw the metal frog, closing her eyes. No sound, no clatter, when she opened her eyes again, James Court held the frog in his hands.
The frog was stunned and stunned. The gaze of the handsome man was of an unfathomable darkness. He pulled her by the arm and escorted her inside.