Friending the Devil

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 11 (v.11) - channel your beast; uncage your impulses; set yourself free. —from the maxims of rupert p. lively

Submitted: August 14, 2019

Reads: 8

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Submitted: August 14, 2019

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Sean handed me a shopping bag. A short black cocktail dress, Louboutins, black lace panty hose, a push-up bra, and a blond wig were inside. I laid them out on the couch. The wig was long and beautifully styled. It felt like real hair. There was also a tiny package with a pair of fake eyelashes, blond false eyebrows, and a tube of blood red Chanel lipstick.

“Am I working for an escort service?”

“Nothing like that. I want you to look like someone else. Go ahead—get dressed. We don’t have much time. Mr. Sanborn is waiting downstairs. Don’t be subtle with the makeup.”

I took everything into the bathroom. After twenty minutes, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought I had it right.

“Perfect,” said Sean when I walked back into the living room.

An unknown woman stepped out of the kitchen; I stumbled and almost lost my balance on my mile-high shoes. A skinny black cigarette dangled from her hand. I realized I had been aware of the acrid smell for at least ten minutes. Like me, she was wearing Louboutins, a short skirt, and lacy stockings. She had curly black hair and stood a good head taller than I did. She had helped herself to a Coke from the fridge and was twirling the ice cubes with her index finger. I shook my head. After a few moments, in spite of the wig and the brown contact lenses, I realized it was Olivia. No matter how she disguised herself, those long, slender limbs and the China-doll skin were impossible to miss.

“What are you doing here?” The minute I spoke, I knew how rude I sounded, but I couldn’t help myself.

“Oh, I guess I forgot to tell you. Olivia’s coming with us. She got here while you were changing.” Sean had poured himself a Coke as well, and there was a dish of nuts on the coffee table next to an opened bag of chips. Apparently, since it was the company’s apartment, they thought they could make themselves at home.

“I remember you from Crimson Night—nice to see you again.” I extended my hand to Olivia in an effort to make up for my surly greeting.

“Really, were you there too?” She smiled and let me grip her hand without returning the squeeze.

“Of course Kelsey was there. The three of us had a toast together.”

“With so much going on and so many people there, it’s hard to recall. Did you enjoy it?”

“Sure, it was great.” I was annoyed that she was pretending not to have noticed me.

“Let’s sit for a minute. I want to go over some details about tonight,” said Sean. He sat on the couch. Olivia sat next to him. I was going to take a chair, but Sean patted the spot on his other side. “Come, Kelsey.”

“Where will we be going?” asked Olivia.

“NoMi,” Sean replied.

“Oh, I love the Sakitinis.” Olivia took a drag on her cigarette and exhaled a stream of smoke. A girl after Mr. Lively’s heart, I thought, and coughed.

“Well, you’ll get a chance to drink a few tonight,” said Sean. “All right, here’s the drill.” He picked up his iPad from the coffee table and held it so Olivia and I could see. The subject of the pictures was a good-looking guy of about forty-eight years old. He was built like an athlete, but he was dressed in an expensive business suit and had the look of a man who spent more than a little time thinking about his appearance. He clearly considered himself an alpha male. Two photos caught him walking down a crowded street carrying a briefcase. In the next picture, he was seated at a restaurant table, laughing with three other people. It looked like a business dinner.

“Get a good look. This guy is going to be at the bar. You two are going keep him drinking for at least an hour. Olivia knows what’s expected.”

“No problem.” I wanted to sound confident and put the shaky beginning to the evening behind me. “Hmm, he looks familiar.”

“Kelsey.” Olivia crushed her cigarette in a glass dish that was clearly not an ashtray. “You’ve probably seen him before. I suggest you try not to think about it. Things will go more smoothly.”

“It was just a comment, Olivia. Besides I would think you’d want me to be prepared.” I tried to sound casual, but after Spiaggia, my nerves were raw not knowing what to expect.

“No, preparations necessary. You’re just going have a couple of drinks. Mr. Sanborn will take care of the rest. Olivia, everything’s cool. Kelsey’s going to do just fine. It’s in her blood,” said Sean.

“Blood or not, I don’t want any problems,” said Olivia.

“Noted,” said Sean. “Come on—Mr. Sanborn’s been waiting for a while.”

“He hates to wait, doesn’t he?” said Olivia.

“He’s probably cursing us right now,” said Sean.

“Have you noticed how he pulls that cap down to his chin when he’s pissed?” Olivia laughed like it was the funniest thing she’d thought of all day.

“I’ve got something for you, Kelsey. Look in there.” Sean pointed to a garment bag that was draped over a chair.

I unzipped the bag and pulled out a black fur jacket. I ran my hands over it and held it next to my cheek, loving the luxurious, soft feel.

“Sheared mink,” said Sean.

“Is this part of the disguise? You might have trouble getting it back at the end of the night,” I joked.

“Give Lively Enterprises a little credit. It’s yours,” said Sean.

“Are we twins?” said Olivia. “Where did you put mine?”

“I hung it up.” Sean went to the hall closet and came back with the same jacket in white. He put it over Olivia’s shoulders. His hands rested on her a beat longer than was necessary.

“Let’s go,” he said.

As usual, Mr. Sanborn was standing next to the limo.

“Hey, Claudius. How’s it going?” said Olivia.

Mr. Sanborn did not reply. He extended an arm to help Olivia and then me into the car.

“Why did you do that? You know he hates to be called by his first name,” said Sean as we pulled away.

“He’s so easy to annoy. I can’t help myself,” said Olivia.

“I’d think twice, and maybe three times, about whose feathers you ruffle,” said Sean.

“Sean, you’re such a suck-up,” Olivia quipped.

“And, you’re way too cocky.” Sean laughed like this sparring between them was usual.

I wanted to ask more about what we would be doing, but there didn’t seem to be room for me to jump into the conversation. The wig was itchy and tight, and the false eyelashes were distracting. I gazed out the window at the river of traffic on Michigan and hoped the ride would be over soon.  

The limo pulled up outside the Park Hyatt.

“Later, Charlie.” Olivia laughed and tweaked the brim of Mr. Sanborn’s hat as he helped her out.

“Thanks, Mr. Sanborn,” said Sean. “Come back to pick up Kelsey at around eleven thirty.”

Mr. Sanborn nodded. My face flushed. Once again, I was being dismissed from the party early. But maybe that was a good thing. It didn’t sound as though they expected much from me.

Heads turned when we walked into the hotel lobby. I wasn’t sure about myself, but Sean and Olivia were an eyeful. Although both had looks that took your breath away, it was their confidence that made people stare.

The three of us rode the elevator to the bar. When the door opened, Olivia took my arm and pulled me close as if I were her best friend. She walked me to the coat check, where we left our jackets. The little closet was packed with more furry creatures than a zoo. Sean disappeared.

The music was loud, and the crowd was louder—upscale versions of the middle-age conventioneers who hung around bars in the Viagra Triangle with their underage Gold Coast call girls. These guys had the silver hair, but, like the man in the photo, they were fit and well dressed. They radiated that smug aura of success that came from knowing they could have whatever they wanted and that what they wanted was the best. The sleek girls clinging to them were the most expensive arm candy money could buy. There wasn’t a place to stand at the bar. We were pushing our way to the front of the room when I saw a couple abandon a banquette by the window.

“Look, Olivia. Over there.”

“Grab it,” she said.

I maneuvered through the bodies to claim the prized spot. As soon as I sat down, I realized that I was exhausted. We’d left the apartment at ten, after what had already been a long day. Through the bar’s huge, slanted windows, the Water Tower glowed like a fairytale castle. I wanted to shut out the pounding music and lose myself in the surreal view.

“Kelsey.” Olivia poked me with her fingernail. A server was waiting to take our order.

“I’ll have a mineral water,” I said, remembering Sean’s admonition about mixing drinks and work.

“No,” Olivia interrupted. “She wants a Belvedere Saketini, and so do I.”

“I thought we weren’t supposed to drink while we’re working,” I said.

“Normally, we’re not. But this job’s different. Sean already told you that.” She looked me over me as the waiter disappeared. “So, Kelsey, tell me about yourself.”

I knew she was making small talk so we would look like girlfriends, and I resented the fact that she had ordered a drink for me. “What’s to tell? You already seem to know a lot about me, including what I want to drink.”

Olivia snorted. It was an ugly little sound of annoyance. 

The server came back with two oversized cocktails. I took a sip of mine. The vodka went down cold and bright.

“Over there.” Olivia glanced sideways.

I looked in the direction of her gaze and saw him. He turned and stared straight at me. I flashed a smile. He smiled back. He said something to a short, stocky man who was standing next to him. They picked up their drinks and headed our way.

Olivia whispered, “Easy as pie, but we need to get rid of the roly-poly.”

As she said this, Sean appeared behind the two men. He clapped the short guy on the shoulder like a long-lost friend. They chatted for a moment and then Sean guided him back to the bar.

Our guy walked toward us like he had magnets on his shoes. Olivia sipped her drink and plastered a big smile on her face. “Hi there,” she said, gazing up at our new friend. She had a gap between her front teeth that I hadn’t noticed before. That tiny imperfection made her seem suddenly vulnerable.

“Hi there to you.” He was wearing too much cologne, and his cheeks were flushed as though he’d already had a few drinks. His forehead was moist with perspiration. “Joe Cannon. Didn’t we meet at the Green Tie Ball back in September?”

“Sure, I remember you,” said Olivia, playing along. “What a great event. I love Gateway Green. They’re doing so much for the city.”

“Can I buy you two a drink?”

“Of course,” said Olivia, even though our glasses were almost full. “Sit down.” She patted the space in between us.

Joe motioned for the server. Heat radiated off his body. “Give us another round. I’m having a Grey Goose martini.”

“I definitely remember your face, but I’m sorry—the name escapes me,” said Joe.

“Well, Joe Cannon, I’m Carrie,” said Olivia. “This is my friend Samantha.” She tilted her drink toward me.

“I thought I was more the Miranda type,” I said. Joe didn’t smile. He was obviously not into girl TV.

“You are definitely not Samantha.” Olivia fished the cucumber garnish out of her drink and sucked the alcohol off. She sat with her knees slightly apart. Her skirt was hiked up her thighs. Joe’s forehead was dripping. He took a cocktail napkin off the table, balled it up, and tried to wipe the sweat off. He caught me staring and frowned.

The server came back with another tray of mega drinks. Olivia picked up her glass. “Here’s to laughs,” she said.

“I’ll drink to that. You two seem like you know how to have a good time,” said Joe.

“That’s a sleazy line, Joe, but we’ll forgive you if you play a little game with us.” Olivia licked her already glossy lips.

“Hey, I’m all about games.”

Olivia opened her purse, took out a pair of dice, and dropped them on the table.

“So you like to gamble,” Joe said. “Do you ski too? I’ve got a condo in Tahoe. It’s amazing.”

“I don’t like to ski, and I don’t like to hang out in casinos,” said Olivia.

“Well, what do you like?” said Joe. He was jiggling his knee. I felt edgy watching him.

“I like that tie tack of yours. Can I have it?” Olivia laughed. Her own behavior seemed to be a source of constant amusement.

“Sure, I’m all about giving pretty ladies whatever they want.” He undid the tiny gold tie tack and handed it to her.

“Here, Miranda.” She handed it to me.

There was no way I wanted anything of his. Olivia glared back at me, and I let her drop the tack into my hand. When I closed my fist around it, my fingers went cold. I put it down on the table, hoping Olivia wouldn’t notice. But she shot me a look, picked it up, and dropped it in my purse. Just then, I was certain I had seen Joe’s picture in the paper, more than once. Although, I couldn’t drag his identity out of my memory banks.

“Wanna know what else I like, Joey?” Olivia leaned forward until her breasts were almost falling out of her top.

“I’m all ears,” he said.

“I love this game.” Olivia picked up the dice and shook them in her fist. “It’s going to make us all best friends in less than half an hour.”

“I can’t wait.” Joe laughed. “Roll the dice.” Then, he looked over at me. “Don’t talk much, do you Miranda? But you’ve got beautiful hair.” He reached to touch the wig. I drew back, imaging his shocked faced when a pile of blond hair landed in his lap.

“I’m more the listening type.” I was anxious to see where all this was leading, and nervous, wondering what would happen next. I hoped it was as Sean said, and I was just along for the ride, a prop in somebody else’s scary game.

Olivia shook the dice again. “You want me to roll before you even know the rules?”

“How complicated can they be?” said Joe.

“The game’s pretty simple. High roller finishes his drink and buys himself another one.”

Joe laughed. “You made that up.”

“What if I did?” Olivia shook the dice and rolled a six and one.

“Your turn, Miranda.” She handed me the dice. I shook, rolled a four and a two, and passed the dice to Joe. He rolled a pair of fives.

“Chugalug.” Olivia’s black curls shimmered.

Joe picked up his big-gulp martini and drained half the glass. Then he put it down.

“Joey, Joey,” said Olivia. “You’re not following the rules.” She made a face worthy of the Victoria Secret catalogue. “Come on now, drink up.” She reached over and rubbed his shaking knee. “I’m going to leave and take Miranda with me if you don’t play fair.”

“You’re tough. Give me a chance to take a breath.”

“Time’s up.” Olivia picked up her purse. “Come on, Miranda—Joey’s no fun. Let’s find someone else to play with.”

“Hold on a minute.” Joe downed the rest of his drink. “OK, my turn to roll.”

“Wait, you have to order another one,” said Olivia.

“I don’t think I’m going lose. But if I do, I’ll just drink one of yours. You each have two.”

“Fair enough, but Miranda rolls first this time. It goes to the right.” Olivia handed me the dice.

I shook them and rolled two ones and handed them to Joe. He shook and rolled two fives, and then Olivia rolled a pair of threes.

“You’re it again, Joey!” Olivia giggled as though she were the one who had just gulped ten ounces of vodka. “Here, I like you, so I’m going to help you out.” She picked up her glass and took a tiny sip, then handed it to him.

“You girls are strange.” Joe looked around the room like he was getting ready to leave.

“In a good way, right? Come on, Joey, don’t you want to see how really strange we can be?” Olivia moved closer to him so that her black-lace thigh was pressed against his leg. She gave the glass in his hand a nudge. I was falling off the banquette to keep from being bread in her Joe sandwich.

“What’s the matter, Miranda? I thought you liked Joe. Scooch up!” she said.

My throat tightened. How far were we were going to take this?  

Joe tossed down the rest of Olivia’s drink. He sat back in the couch. The smell of alcohol mixed with his overpowering aftershave. His eyes were spinning.

“Ladies, what a coincidence. When did you get here?” Sean smiled down at us. I wasn’t sure whether I was relieved to see him or frightened about what might come next. He had his arm around a gorgeous blonde, and she wasn’t leaning on Sean just because she liked him.

“Hey, Mark, it’s about time you showed up,” said Olivia.

“Everyone, this is Cynthia.” Sean nodded at the girl swaying in his arms.

“Hey.” Cynthia gave us a baby wave, flicking the fingers of her left hand in our direction.

“Cynthia, this is Joe. Cute, isn’t he?” Olivia ran her fingers through Joe’s hair.

“Cyn-theee-a.” Joe was staring at her overflowing top. “I love that name. Have a seat, Cyn-theee-a.” He reached across the table, picked up my drink, and held it out to her. “We’re playing a drinking game. Care to join us?”

Sean motioned with his free hand for us to get up. Olivia was out of her seat before I could blink. Cynthia flopped down on the banquette next to Joe. She rested her head on his shoulder.

“She’s right—you’re cute.” Cynthia imitated Olivia’s gesture, tousling his already messy hair.

“Cynthia needs a ride home. I thought I could take her, but some business has come up. Maybe you can give her a lift.” Sean nodded at Joe.

“Sure,” said Joe.

“Well, we have to be moving along.” Sean took me and Olivia each by the arm.

“Bye-bye, Mark,” Cynthia cooed. She gave the baby wave again and then draped her arms around Joe. As we turned away, I heard Cynthia say, “Why don’t you take me home?”

Sean walked us to the bar. The crowd made it almost impossible to move.

“Kelsey, you need to leave now. Get your stuff from the coat check. Mr. Sanborn will be waiting downstairs.” His face was hard, and he was holding Olivia’s arm so tightly that I thought his fingers might leave bruises.

I got my fur and walked to the elevator, followed by more than one pair of hungry eyes.

Outside, the wind threatened to rip the wig off my head. I let it whirl around my body and blow away the smoke, alcohol, and sleaze. I was savoring the moment, breathing a sigh of relief that Joe and Cynthia were out of my life when I felt a hand on my back. I whirled around and bumped heads with Mr. Sanborn.

“This way,” he said.

“You almost gave me a heart attack.”

He steered me toward a town car that was parked at the corner.

“Where’s the limo?” I asked. He opened the door without answering, and I got in. Then he went around to the driver’s seat but didn’t start the car. After ten minutes, I was fidgeting. I couldn’t guess what he was waiting for. Then I remembered what Sean had said about Mr. Sanborn taking care of the rest and my arms went to goose bumps and for a moment my heart seemed to stop.

Joe came out of the revolving doors with Cynthia leaning against him. He gave a ticket to the valet, and they swayed together under the heat lamps until an enormous silver SUV pulled up to the curb. Joe stuffed Cynthia into the car and walked unsteadily to the other side. When they were both safely in the car, I breathed a sigh of relief. Joe was drunk, but he was driving a tank. They’d be OK.

As soon as Joe’s car pulled away, Mr. Sanborn started driving, following closely behind them. After several blocks, he began edging up on the SUV’s bumper. Joe had to keep driving faster to put distance between them. It was late, and there wasn’t much traffic. By the time we got to the Michigan Avenue Bridge, we were going almost sixty.

“Slow down!” I screamed.

“Shut up.” Mr. Sanborn’s tone warned that there would be consequences for ignoring this command. He kept playing chicken with Joe, riding his tail and forcing him to drive more and more recklessly. In the middle of bridge, he accelerated hard, pulling out of the right lane and bringing the town car alongside the SUV. I saw Joe’s startled white face through the window. Cynthia threw her arms around him, and he tried to fend her off and yanked the steering wheel to the left to avoid a crash. After a second or two, we outran them and pulled back into the right lane. I turned and watched the SUV sail off the bridge. It looked like a toy falling end over end before disappearing into the black water.

I screamed, but no sound came. I was certain I must be dreaming. I buried my face in my hands and sat paralyzed until the car came to a stop.

“Get out,” said Mr. Sanborn.

When my feet hit the pavement, the town car sped off. I was left standing in front of the Pinnacle, speechless.

 

 


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Friending the Devil

Friending the Devil is the story of Kelsey James’ seduction into a world of magic, murder, and corruption. The novel unfolds in a dark urban forest—a place where evil hides in plain sight and a bite of chocolate gives the power to soar over skyscrapers or

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