Ah, I got carried away. Story draft took longer than half an hour, interrupted by the cable man and time out for a cigarette. But the story works for me. 1,399 words.
Jake could see that Mila Surovic was a hot number. Totally wired as she danced with his brother at their wedding. Jake drank too much, as was expected, seeing his only brother married to the drop-dead beautiful Serbian girl he’d brought back to the States.
“Wish you every happiness, bro’,” he said, hugging Gregory. “You know how to pick ‘em.”
“Maybe she has a nice girlfriend, Jake,” Greg laughed. “Want me to ask if there’s more where she came from?”
Jake started to say something, but Greg rushed on. “We got a nice apartment in Cobble Hill, she’s going to find a job, she’ll get her green card and citizenship. We’re sitting on top of the world.”
“No regrets not marrying a good Irish chick from the Bronx?” Jake asked.
“None whatsoever, bro’.”
He’d seen the happy couple just one more time, a few months later, while passing through New York City.
“We’re going to have a family, Jake,” Greg announced. Mila just smiled. “I’m up for a promotion at Con Ed. Even took out a big life insurance policy. Have to, you know. Family coming.”
A month later Greg was dead. Jake had to read it in the papers, that Jake had gone over the edge of the platform, rolled once and hit the third rail. He was dead from a thousand volts before the Number 3 train hit him.
Just Jake and a few of Greg’s friends attended the funeral. Jake went up to Mila to give her a hug. She looked into his eyes and said, “And you are…?”
“Jake. Greg’s brother. We met at the wedding. And at that bar near Grand Central Terminal.”
“Ah,” she said. “Yes, I remember. “I am so sorry. I did not know where to call you. Or write to you.”
Bullshit, he thought. Greg and he had e-mailed each other at least once a week. Facebook. Phone calls. The whole thing brothers are supposed to do.
He walked out of Green-Wood Cemetery as soon as the little service was over and caught the next flight back to Chicago.
In contrast to Greg being on top of the world, regrets now filled Jake’s life the way rainwater fills a clogged catch basin in the street. There were no parents, no brother. Just friends and drinking buddies in Chicago—plus a former sister-in-law who still wrestled with the English language. Not to say Jake didn’t try to find the perfect woman to fill those cold Chicago nights. He would’ve even settled for an imperfect babe who liked kiss kiss bang bang movies and scotch on the rocks. Coming home from work as an insurance adjuster, he made lonely meals served up with regret and sorrow. And he Craigslisted, also hitting some other dating sites.
Staring at the computer screen now, his heart froze. Blindly, his hand reached for the almost empty glass of scotch. There was Mila Surovic searching for the man she saw on Atlantic Avenue. “You were Mr. Blue Eyes with the Royal Caribbean tote bag. I wanted to say hello but the light changed and you walked out of my life. Put me back in your life.”
A day later “Blue Eyes” wrote, “I saw you, Mila, but didn’t think you’d ever notice me. You were so all dressed up with those spike heel boots. Can we meet again at that bar on Seventh St. and Atlantic? Tuesday at 8 o’clock.”
sh!#, he thought. Greg just two months in his grave and she’s hooking men through paid advertising. And another thought raced in, like a dog chasing a cat. How much life insurance had Greg left her? Twenty-five thousand? Fifty? A hundred?
The Balkan Bitch was doing all right as a New American. He had some resources as an insurance adjuster, and began applying them the next morning. Blue Eyes worked at a brokerage house in the Financial District. The bar was Antigone’s, and Jake’s college pal agreed to drop in to see what happened.
“They had a drink and went out 20 minutes later. Arm in arm,” the pal telephoned. “Christ, Jake, your brother can really pick ‘em. That girl is to die for.”
“Could pick them,” Jake said. “I think she killed him. Literally.”
Jake found he could check on the couple every few days and see that the relationship was getting heavy. Less than a month passed before he Googled a marriage announcement between Blue Eyes and the Balkan Bitch. Spring was just passing out calling cards announcing warmer weather would make an appearance any day now. Jake had asked a friend in the IT department at the company to hitch up an alarm to a search engine for any mention of the couple. Bells went off soon after ass the Brooklyn Eagle announced the untimely death of Blue Eyes. Poor fellow had gone off the stern of a cruise ship, dropping faster than the Dow Jones on a bad day.
Jake gave the IT guy a case of Bordeaux.
“You didn’t need to give me a thank you present,” the kid protested.
“It’s not a thank you.” Jake said. “It’s a bribe. I want to know everything that woman does.”
“Whyn’t you hire a private detective if you’re so hot for her?”
“I’m keeping it friendly.” He smiled. “She’s my sister-in-law, and family’s got to stick together.”
Mila was now using the name Brokeheart in her Craigslist ads. The IT kid had matched Mila’s text algorithm to Brokeheart, including the same misplaced grammar. A joker in Cambridge answered her latest fishing hook. He was quoting poetry to her until they could meet up in Davis Square. Mila bounced out of Brooklyn like a rubber ball and landed in an apartment in Somerville with a grand view of Boston’s skyline.
Jake bounced too, booking a Continental flight to Logan. He didn’t know what he was going to do when he got there, but something had to be done in Greg’s memory. The IT guy was bewildered when Jake told him he’d be in Beantown for a few days.
“Jake, they got a helluva hurricane. Whyn’t you take the train?”
The plane landed just ahead of the killer winds, but not early enough to avoid the downpour. Jake cabbed out to Somerville to case the area where his Black-Widow-in-law had holed up. Wind tore at his light jacket and beat on his ears as he walked through a deserted Davis Square. He pushed on, head down, using the directions the cabbie had given him. And ran into someone soft—except for the shredded umbrella that struck him in the shoulder.
He looked down into Mila’s eyes.
“Excuse me, sir,” she said, turning to pass him.
“Mila?” he asked.
“I am sorry. Do I know you?”
“You should. I’m your brother-in-law. Or I was till you killed Greg.”
“I never killed Greg. The train killed him.”
“Maybe a little push to get him started? Like Blue Eyes the Broker who went off the Love Boat?”
Her eyes got cold as the rain streamed down her face. “You can't never….”
A sudden crash made them both look at the large tree that had fallen across Mass Avenue, pulling down a power line in a shower of sparks.
“I don’t need to prove anything. The cops will haul you in when I tell them. Then the DA will bring murder charges. I think a double homicide gets you the electric chair—or do they inject you to death nowadays?”
“You’ll never prove anything. And no stinking police will listen.”
“You know, Mila, I have one big regret. That I didn’t stop you sooner.”
“Go away, Jake. Go home.” She turned into the rain. “You can’t do anything.”
“You can’t run, Mila.”
“I have been running faster than anyone all this time. You can’t catch me.” She began to trot across the street.
“Mila,” Jake shouted over the wind to her back as she splashed ankle deep in the water. “I think I have at least a second regret.
The street lit up suddenly in an arc of blue fire that raced up her legs and encapsulated her body. Mila screamed and her arms stretched heavenward, as if seeking a Jesus peeking through the clouds.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that water conducts electricity from that downed line. Greg could have told you that.”
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