Curiosity (Excerpt from Dead Assets)



Curiosity left the cat drawn and quartered.  That wasn’t what Chet was thinking through his drunken haze as he wheeled his candy-painted muscle car into the lot on the other side of Ocean View Avenue.  He typically revved the engine before shutting it down, just so he could get the narcissistic satisfaction of eyes on him, green with envy.  It was a veiled threat and look down the nose, letting everyone else in his world know their proper place.  There was a pecking order to be maintained, damn it.

But this was not his world…yet. Norfolk may as well have been an entirely different planet, tucked away on the other side of the asteroid belt behind Mars.  Though not where the snobs of Virginia Beach lived, the city sat cozily next to that struggling, former tourist trap.  Nobody cared to venture the Oceanfront when the undead lumbered down the boardwalk in a loose parade… Norfolk was the center of the dung heap and, though he was from the other side of the tunnel, Chet sat atop the pile like King Shit.

He rocked a bit on his heel, his head feeling as if it was floating in a pressurized jar, levitating above his body, yet strangely still attached.  Everything his dark eyes surveyed was as if he was watching through a camera and couldn’t be touched.  Vodka had the weird effect of granting him temporary invincibility.  Though he’d promised Margeaux he’d stop drinking altogether, he’d only made the switch from gin, which seeped through his pores and could be smelled on his breath.  Shit, had she been putting out, he wouldn’t be imbibing or seeking out this hellish version of the No-Tell Motel. 

The night was cool, the dampness of winter not quite letting spring take hold yet, the chill in the breeze sobering him a bit.  He leaned against the door of his chariot, which he’d christened Babe Blue, on account of its color and the fact that, like Paul Bunyan, he was the biggest man in the forest of his mind.  The street was all but deserted, so he didn’t hesitate to unzip his fly and take to watering the gravel beneath his feet.  The hot piss steamed and came out completely clear, hitting the ground like funky raindrops.

His cell phone buzzed suddenly and his wife’s picture glowed on the screen.  It was nearing midnight and he hadn’t called after his shift.  She was used to his occasional late evening at JB’s but he was pretty good about calling to let her know.

No, to ask permission was more like it.  She didn’t want the courtesy of just knowing, Margeaux wanted him to ask if it was okay for him to stop by the watering hole for a couple of beers after work.  Then she would get the satisfaction of bitching and moaning about the meetings he used to attend that were supposed to curb his desire to drink altogether.

“My ass,” he said, spitting on the ground defiantly.

Chet was a grown man who didn’t need permission to hang out a bit late like some wayward teen.  He didn’t want to be nagged about missing dinner or hear her go on and on about what a good husband should be. 

Blah-blah-bla- fuckin’-blah—she could be such a killjoy at times! 

He’d call his bride on the way home, after he went to see a female doctor to relieve the chronic swelling in his nut sack.  Then he could think clearly and tell her what a good wife should be doing for her hardworking husband.  Of course, Margeaux wouldn’t want to hear that and there would be a difference of opinion.  The argument being inevitable, he pressed “Decline” on the screen, which sent her straight to voice mail.  That would get her spun up for sure.  He grinned coldly, tossed the phone on the passenger’s seat and put his dangling third leg back in its holster.

JB’s tavern was one that catered to blue collar types.  Being that it was just down the street from the shipyard, it was a particular favorite of the pipefitters, machinists, welders and grease monkeys—his kind of people.  Besides having a seemingly unending supply of beer and spirits, the bar was better than picking up the newspaper for the latest scoop.  That was where Chet first heard whisperings and rumors about a different type of bedroom sport being played.  It was what brought him through the tunnel: satisfaction of his curiosity.

Though the urban landscape took on the teetering pitch and roll of the sea, the inn loomed in Chet’s view with the stability of a far horizon.  Word was, inside the walls of that abandoned motel, he could buy a type of naughty thrill enjoyed by the rich, sick and twisted—and that was right up his alley.  The idea had been presented to him through a haze by that tall, skinny black dude who’d worked for him a while back…  He popped his fingers, thinking aloud, “What was his name again?”


Steed’s lanky frame sat bolt upright with recognition.  “Aww, SHIT!” he shouted suddenly, breaking the silence and stirring me from my review of the night’s figures.

“What,” I asked, irritated.  I knew it couldn’t have been the city’s finest—we’d already paid them for the month.  Funny how that never would’ve happened before the world went to hell in a hand basket…

“You’re not gonna believe this, mang,” he said, pointing.

Quiet as kept, there wasn’t much that surprised me anymore.  Depravity was a standard feature with our clients and, as long as they didn’t damage the merchandise, I didn’t judge.  They shelled out cash and business boomed.

“What,” I repeated, determined not to pause my counting of wrinkled bank notes.

Steed unglued himself from the chair and towered over the bank of monitors, giggling like a little kid.  Each screen displayed a different view from half a block up in all directions as well as inside the individual suites.  Though my partner had approached me about filming the antics and distributing them through a black market porn outfit, I’d vetoed the idea.  Chuck agreed with me too and, with us having two-thirds of the vote, the more degenerate citizens of Hampton Roads maintained a modicum of privacy.

“Didn’t think he’d come,” Steed exclaimed, rubbing his goateed chin with delight.

I exhaled, closing the distance to see what had gotten my partner so wound up.  The stack of bills fell from my hand when I realized who had made a guest appearance.  I was vehement in my decision to never to keep any of the camera footage but we should’ve recorded that moment.  It was when the fly’s inquisitiveness got the better of him and he went to inspect the sticky droplets glimmering from the spider’s web.

Steed was all but jumping up and down with excitement, pointing and pumping his fist.  His voice sounded muffled through my own static exuberance.  I heard him say something about running into Chet at JB’s a couple weeks before and that, over a drink, had casually extended an invitation to our former supervisor.  Assured him that the first go-round would be on the house.

I radioed Chuck and told him to report to the office.  Occasionally, the so-called “unbreakable” condoms we’d bought were defective.  I’d had Doc inspect them via X-ray to ensure quality control and had put the duds off to the side.  When our blond, boyish-faced junior partner came into the room, I handed him three condoms from that stash, told him Chet had a free hour and sent him on his way.

Steed’s burst of adrenaline waned and he fell back into the chair, still high off something that resembled post-orgasmic bliss.  He’d petered out just as my exhilaration was growing, the anticipation running through my veins and quickening my breathing.  I stared at the black-and-white image of our old boss being led past the crowd through the figurative velvet rope to meet his fate.  There were some people who wanted more bang for their buck in a masculine sense.  Without Chet being told what he was in for, he was going to be a trailblazer in that arena. 

And to that, I couldn’t help but smile.


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