The broken wreck named Gil followed Martha down the alley, like any old addict would, just with slower step. Martha leaned against the splintered door at the end of the alley and lit a cigarette. She didn’t smoke, but liked the effect of an old black and white movie dame. The gesture was useless on the broken wreck, but in jobs like this, you got to amuse yourself. “Gil, why you so far away?” This was difficult, wanting him and his stink near her.
“Alice,” he said, “I’d do anything for you.” He leaned into to her, pointed his lips at her, but missed. His mouth landed on Martha’s neck. His body surrendered into hers and she held him fast. Better that than him falling down on the alley floor.
“Sweetheart,” Martha said slowly. “You just have to do this one thing. Then we can get out of here. I can’t leave town without hurting my father.”
The broken wreck pushed back and attempted to focus. “Hurt your father.”
“My father. I told you about him. How he kept me away from my inheritance. How he hit me. I want to leave with you to Portland, but I can’t leave without getting at my father.”
“Getting at your father. How am I getting at your father here?” the broken wreck asked.
Martha reminded herself to remain professional and not roll her eyes. “He owns property that is leveraged. If something happens to the property in the next week, he’s sunk. Its this property. This old warehouse. You take care of this for me, baby, we are in my car to Portland and that’s just to start.”
“What do I have to do to the property?” the broken wreck asked while craning his head up to see as much of the warehouse as he could.
She leaned to the side, while still keeping the broken wreck standing, and picked up the bag. “Here. It’s everything you need. Go in the warehouse. Go to the third floor. It has to be the third floor. Get the gas from the bag. Pour it all over the floor. Then light the rag and and toss it. Run down here and I’ll be waiting for you.”
The broken wreck nodded. She had been telling him this for hours and now it was like liturgy. “Go to the third floor. Pour the gas. Light the rag. Toss and run down the steps.”
Martha smiled, “That’s right Gil. That’s right. Then you meet me and we leave for Portland.”
The broken wreck stood up cleanly, like he always had that ability. He took the bag filled with the gear and opened the door. “We ain’t going to Portland. Never was. I’m a waste, but I used to not be stupid. Your name isn’t Alice. But don’t worry. I’ll take care of this for you. You looked at me, you touched me. That was nice.” He went up the stairs and Martha lost sight of him.
Martha waited and called for Emily, her sister. Emily came down the alley with a small bag. Emily looked at her and laughed. “You’ll need a bath. Big time.” She opened up the bag and took out the hammer and the nails. She closed the warehouse door and hammered in two nails.
“You don’t need that this time, Em. He isn’t even going to come down.”
“Of course he is. He’ll do the gig, and run down to be in your pretty, young arms. How could he resist. Course you won’t be able to open the door, the poor fellow. What line you dangle him with?”
“My evil father beat and took my money. I want his warehouse burnt down.”
Emily hammered in a third nail into the door. “A classic. I like that one.”
“It didn’t matter to him. He didn’t care. He knew I was stringing him.”
“Better yet. You got to love broken junkies. You don’t have to give a good con. Look. Your boy was thorough.” She pointed to a window above them, smoke was coming out of it. “Where did you find him?”
Martha shrugged. “In a bar. On the street. By the harbor. In the library. Doesn’t matter. There are always marks to strike our matches for us. Then we get our payout from whoever paid us.”
Emily put the hammer away and took her sister by the hand. “I’m hungry. Let’s get eggs.”
Martha looked behind her at the smoke coming from the window. Not a scream, not a sound. Better that way. “No,” she said. “No, I want pancakes this time.”