“Come on!” Gale whines. “Everybody’s got a secret that they’ve never told anyone before. What’s yours?”
As if he’s disinterested, Brad mumbles, “Ain’t got one.” He then digs deep inside his ear, examines his finger, and flicks something into space. The Noahide couch squeaks loudly as Gale throws herself back, her arms folded across her chest.
A few weeks ago, Brad and Gale met in Murphy’s bar. Brad played pool with friends while Gale enjoyed a girls’ night out. That’s when their glassy eyes met. After a couple more drinks and some small talk, they returned to his apartment for sex. The morning silence pushed down on them, and everything seemed deafly silent. They both woke up with hangovers and foul-tasting mouths. As Brad threw his legs over the edge of the bed, he had that awkward feeling of having had an intermate relationship with someone you don’t even know. He looked over his shoulder with cautious curiosity. He thought she seemed rather cute with her red hair all mussed up, her naked body half covered by the sheet, and that lost look on her face.
Leaning over her, he reintroduces himself. “Hi, I don’t know if you remember me, he jokes, but my name is Brad.”
With a playful smile, Gale stretches. “Hi, my name is….” A puzzled look swept crosses her face as she whispered, “Who am I again?”
“Wow!” Brad exclaims, “You must have had a lot to drink!”
Lightly striking Brad’s bare chest with her tiny fists, she whines, “Don’t tease! My head hurt, and I forgot what I was saying. Gale! My name is Gale!”
“Nice to make your acquaintance, Gale.” Brad slowly lowers himself down and starts kissing her. Another round of lovemaking occurs before Gale announces, “Where’s the bathroom? I gotta pee.”
Brad sits at the small apartment’s kitchen table. A red checker tablecloth covers it with a chianti wine bottle in the middle. Watching Gale make breakfast wearing one of his shirts makes him smile. It’s so large that it keeps slipping off her shoulders. Even though they’ve just met, Gale has started using intermate terms. “How do you like your eggs, Sweety?” Brad’s eyes narrow as he thinks about this. It’s Saturday, and neither of them has to go to work. After they finish their breakfast, they leave for Gale’s apartment so she can shower and change her clothes. Then, when she’s ready, they slip down to the local coffee shop to talk over coffee and pastries.
Watching Gale sipping her coffee, Brad is taken aback by how pretty she looks in the midday sun shining through the pastry shop window. Her freshly washed red hair is shiny and pulled back into a ponytail. He notices Gale’s eyes are an unusual shade, sort of a blue-green. He detects a few freckles racing across her nose. She’s wearing a pastel yellow blouse that complements her hair beautifully. Everything about her seems perfect.
“Hey, are you even listening to me?” Gale queries. I just asked you a question!”
Snapping out of his daze, Brad apologizes, “ Huh, oh, I’m sorry. I’m still a little fuzzy-headed from last night. What did you ask again?”
“I asked if you’ve always lived in Tucson or did you move here,” she said, pronouncing every word clearly and precisely as if speaking to someone who doesn’t understand English. Brad scrunches up his face at the intended insult.
“Oh yeah, no, I’m originally from Califonia. I recently moved here for a change of pace.” Then, before taking a sip of his coffee, Brad asks, “And you?”
Gale covers her mouth with her hand, as she has a cheek full of buttered croissant and muffles, “Virginia.”
Brad, being a bit baffled, repeats, “Virginia? Funny, I can’t detect a southern accent at all. You must have come here when you were very young.” Flapping her hands, Gale laughs.
“Did I say Virginia? Silly me, I meant Virginia City in Nevada! I guess I’m a little fuzzy-headed too! Umm, where do you work, Brad?”Gale asks to hide her embarrassment.
“I work stocking shelves at Frye’s. It pays okay, but I’d prefer to find a job as a mechanic. So, what do you do for work?” Brad is interested to see if she messes this up too.
Gale smiles demurely. “I work in an office building downtown Tucson for an insurance company. American Family, have you heard of it?”
“Oh, sure,” Brad replies, “I have my car insured with them.”
Brad is starting to think this girl is a little odd. First, she couldn’t remember her name, and now she messed up where she came from. “Oh, well, he thinks, maybe she’s one of those bubble-headed types.”
By the end of their coffees, they’ve agreed to meet the following weekend at the same bar for drinks.
They have been dating for a few weeks, and Brad is considering ending the relationship. He doesn’t feel they have much in common and is beginning to feel bored. Besides, all she ever does is ask stupid questions all the time. In his mind, Brad imagines Gales’s voice. “What’s LA like? Do you have any brothers or sisters? Are your parents alive? Do you miss your old friends? On and on! And now this grade school question about having secrets I don’t share. I mean, really!” Brad’s face shows an intense irritation.
Gale scooches to the edge of the coach, her knuckles buried in the cushions. “Come on, come on!” she begs. I know you have a secret, something you’re ashamed of or frightened to have someone else know. Come on, tell me I want to know!” She makes two fists and starts bouncing up and down like a small child having a tantrum.
There’s that whining voice again. Brad bends his head in a servile attitude at the sound., like nails on a chalkboard.
“Alright!” he shouts, pointing his finger. “But you’ll have to do the same. Agreed?” With an archaic air, Gale agrees, “Okay, but I’m sure you won’t like it.”
“I’m sure I won’t be surprised.” Brad acknowledges. “If you ready, here’s my big secret.” As Brad begins, Gale rearranges her position on the couch, leaning forward like a schoolgirl about to hear some juicy gossip on her arch-rival.
“I grew up on the back streets of Los Angeles. That old saying “Live or Die in LA” is true. I had to be on my guard every day. One day when I came home from school, I found the apartment where I lived with my mother was empty. She had moved out and left me behind. The only thing I found was an envelope on the sideboard of the sink. On the outside was written “Good Luck,” and I found a ten-dollar bill on the inside. I was twelve. I immediately went into survival mode, willing to do anything and everything to stay alive. I made friends with two pretty tough kids. We started stealing, but as I grew older, we would rob people too. When I was still young, I got caught a couple of times and was sent to juvey. After a few months, I’d be turned loose to do the same thing all over again. Finally, the day came when I got caught and charged with grand larceny. I was older now, and with my past record, I was sentenced to three years in jail. After serving my time, all I could see for my future was the same old same old. That’s when I decided to come to Tucson. No one here knows my past. No one but you and I would like to keep it that way. So there it is, my big shameful secret.”
As Brad looks up, he’s surprised to see Gale in tears. She leaves the couch and joins him on the loveseat, taking his face in her hands and kissing him while cooing, “Oh, you poor thing, what a horrible mother to just run off and leave her child behind! You must have been so frightened, alone with no place to go. I wish I could meet her so I could kill her!” Gale snuggled closer and continued kissing and petting. After a bit, Gale unbuttons Brad’s shirt and starts to rub her hand in the hair of his chest. Finally, she looks up at him with big doe eyes and says she’ll be right back. Gale disappears into the next room and almost immediately returns. She snuggles tightly back in place by Brad’s side and coos some more. Brad is enjoying the affection when he suddenly remembers.
“Hey, wait a minute. You were supposed to tell me your secret, remember?”
“Yeah, I remember,” Gale says, looking up into Brad’s face. “I don’t think you’re going to like it, though. She bites her bottom lip, her eyes twinkling. “Well, here it goes.”
“Brad, I, too, am having trouble with the law. As a matter of fact, four state law enforcement agencies are looking for me right now. Plus, I’m on the FBI’s most wanted list. Can you believe that!?” Brad looks at Gale with puzzled eyes and a slack jaw. “No. What did you do, embezzle from the insurance company?” Gale continues to make little circles in Brad’s chest hair.
“No, silly, it’s worst than that. But don’t worry she giggles. They’ll never catch me. I’m too smart for them. You should see the wanted poster. It looks nothing like me. The FBI doesn’t have a good description, has no idea where I’m from, and basically, they’re in the dark. So I ask you, how will they ever catch me?” Gale giggles again. All I have to do is change my hair color, put on a little weight, and wear some funky-looking glasses. Vala! I’m suddenly a different person altogether.
Beads of perspiration form on Brad’s brow. He suddenly feels he doesn’t know Gale, if that’s even her real name. He’d like to move away from her, but he’s wedged between her and the arm of the loveseat. Brad pauses nervously before asking his next question, afraid of the answer. “Gale, just what is it that you’ve done? Being on the most wanted list is very serious, you know?”
Gale giggles, “ Hmm, I know, right” She grips his arm a little tighter. “The truth is I’m a serial killer!” She sees the fear flash across Brad’s face. “What a surprise, uh? I find men like you and have them fall for me. Then when I have their trust or have lost it, I make my move. Like now! she says between clenched teeth.
Brad’s eyes grow wide with shock as he feels the searing pain of the six-inch bread knife as it’s pushed into his side. Gale nimbly passes it between his ribs to collapse his right lung. Brad has lost all his strength and is gasping for air as Gale yanks the knife out, using the serrated edge to rip away large amounts of flesh. Next, she plunges the knife deep into his abdomen and starts sawing her way up to his sternum. Brad’s head lolls back onto the couch cushions as the last of his life’s breath wheezes from his body. Covered in blood, Gale pouts, “Man! Dead already? I was just starting to have fun”. She leaves Brad where he is and goes into the kitchen. Gale pours vinegar all over the knife and wipes it clean. Next, she showers and changes into a jogging suit she had left earlier. Gale walks back to Brad and pushes him forward to take his wallet. She removes the small number of bills and takes his credit and debit cards. Tapping the debit card on her thumbnail, she thinks, “Brad doesn’t look smart enough to remember his access code. I bet he has it written down.” Rifling through his wallet, she finds a slip of paper with the code. “Bingo! Gale shouts. “It’s been fun knowing ya.” and slips out into the night.
In Boston’s Back Bay area, a dumpy platinum blond is sitting in a bar wearing horn-rimmed glasses. She’s staring at the middle age man drinking all alone at the other end. When he looks up, he sees her. He has a stupefied expression on his face. The blond raises her glass and smiles.