Lucille can’t believe her eyes. She checks the balance for the 5th time. She is not sure if it’s the hangover, the sleep deprivation, or both. Again, the numbers show the exact same unbelievably large number. One hundred thousand euros. And the seven thousand two hundred eighty she had before but who would read after the first two commas anyway. Her heart is palpitating. “This changes everything” she mutters under her breath. “I can finally finish my studies, pay for mom’s hospital bills, get a pick-up truck for the business-“
“Hey lady, it doesn’t matter how much you beg it, it won’t give you money for free.” a bored voice quips from behind. Multiple muffled laughs can be heard, indicating that a line has been forming in the meantime.
Lucille gets her card from the ATM and turns sideways, covering her face and speed walking past the line. Normally she would respond in equal manner, in her prime she would have humiliated the jokester, but now there is no time for such petty undertakings.
She reaches a dark, abandoned alleyway. “Perfect. Since the day started like a cheap detective novel, let’s rush the story a bit and go where the first murder usually takes place.” She finds a thrown-out chair and takes a sit between two dumpsters. Her head is spinning, and she has a thousand questions, some of them regarding her own safety, so this improvised hiding/contemplating spot is perfect. A rat chews on the crust of a pizza just two meters away.
“Ok, so I just got one hundred thousand euros in my bank account. The transaction happened this morning at 6:00 AM. Now, I did go drinking last night and I did black out a bit (oh Lucille, you really need to stop), but I was with the usual squad the whole night. Unless Brian finally started winning from his online poker tournaments or Rhea found a sugar daddy and thought of sharing some of her “earnings”, this is a mistake. I came home around 7 so the transfer happened while I was still out. Shit, I really need a drink. Or at least some coke. Would it be too early?”
Lucille peeks down at her right wrist and notices an empty strip of untanned skin. Her Casio watch special edition is gone, misplaced for the first time since it was given to her by her father as a birthday gift more than 15 years ago. She shudders, making her headache pulsate. She looks back at her wrist dumbstruck, trying to understand what is happening with her life. She jumps for the second time as her phone starts vibrating.
(Rhea): “Hey! The new stuff got me really f’ed up last night. How is your head?”
Lucille grabs the phone maniacally and starts typing but stops shortly. She decides to play it safe. She still does not know what happened but is sure everything is connected somehow.
(Lucille): “Hey girl! Yeah, I feel like shit today so it must have been really good stuff. Actually, I think I lost it at some point. Did we meet anyone new last night? Like around 6?”
Rhea was by far the least trustworthy person when it came to names, faces, or anything in general as she was constantly high or drunk, but they were inseparable when going out. Unless she met someone she liked. Then she would disappear and show up the next day at her doorstep with her make-up and hair messed up, one missing shoe, and a crazy story. Thinking about it, who was she to judge, this passed year she had been the same, as much as she hates to admit it. That is also why they were such good friends. And why Brian constantly called them “Two crazy peas in one fucked up pod”. He would still constantly try to fuck them, so it wasn’t that bad…
(Rhea): “Oh my god, is he next to you and you don’t remember his name? JAJAJA Been there done that! I think his name was Greg, but I suspect Gregorovich (Russian?), definitely East Europe. Try not to keep him too late in bed. He kept talking about about that flight at 11. It almost felt like it was his first ever trip on a plane jajaj”
Lucille always cringes when Rhea uses “jajaja” to seem more “Latino” in her text messages, she is as white as they come, but this completely evades her this time. She reads the message multiple times. Gregorovich? Russian? PLANE? Could this Russian Greg have her watch and somehow also be connected to the hundred thousand?
(Lucille) “You know how much I love you. Please read this carefully and multiple times. It is very important. Give me as many details as possible. Do you know where this Greg guy could be? Do you know where I was around 6 or did I say anything about it?”
Lucille presses “Send” and holds her breath. Rhea is a perpetual daydreamer, to put it mildly, but she is not stupid. Is this guy a mobster? Did they make a deal while she was completely out of it? It wouldn’t be the first time a man took advantage of foreign substances in her body to push her to do things she wouldn’t normally agree to. Still, one hundred thousand is way too much, it must have alerted some authorities somewhere. Could they be waiting for her already? “I have to find this guy first and ask for an explanation, before I get in contact with any authorities”. Is it possible that she told him how important that watch is to her, and he tried to blackmail her? It seems to have worked so far. Although they didn’t anticipate how messed up she would be the next day. Or maybe that was the plan?
(Rhea): “It sounds serious. You probably remember we went bar-hopping. Around 3:30 we were already pretty drunk (and a little broke tbh) and you suggested to go to your place and smoke. Brian said he can get us into Eternal for free (he always knows someone). We get in and shortly after we get approached by this Russian group (around 4?). They seem rich and fine, so we join them. You and Greg hit it off. I was talking with these two businessmen that were trying to win me over. Every time I eavesdropped over to you, Russian Greg was asking you to join him on his private jet, today at 11. He would take you over the world and stuff (typical rich boi serenading crap). At some point he takes you by the hand and you guys disappear in the VIP lounge. One of my pet boys suggest we also do that, but I am not drunk enough for that (not that you did anything wrong!). You come back later and seem happy but say you want to go home so we leave. Brian can’t shut up about wars and politics all the way home.”
Lucille finishes the text message and her heart sinks. She cannot remember any of this. Was she really that high? Did they strike a deal in the VIP lounge? Her watch for one hundred thousand euros? Most probably not. Then it occurs to her. It has happened before that a night of heavy drinking and substance taking had been unshackled from the depth of memory oblivion by a mid-night fast-food joint receipt found in a dress pocket three days later. Another time she had woken up with an excruciating headache, not even remembering going out at all, everything coming back when checking the pockets of the pants and finding the phone number of a bartender. Although chances are slim, is it possible that her cloths could also hold such a token of their agreement, if any had occurred at all?
Lucille gets up. This newfound purpose and the excitement of the possible mystery ahead dissipate her migraine. She can be home in 5 minutes if she rushes, but this might attract unwanted attention. The thought makes her burst into laughter.
“Unwanted attention! HA! I guess it is true. Becoming so rich so fast does make you go crazy.”
“LUCITA!” a deep voice thunders from the far end of the alley.
Lucille freezes. She cannot place the voice, but it does seem familiar. She turns to face the person and gets the same feeling. Could it be?
“I have been looking everywhere for you! First you say you cannot make it at 11, then you are not at home when we come to pick you up. I almost thought you stood us up. That wouldn’t go well at all with my gang. Or your friends.”
He is real after all. She turns and sees a tall, yet muscular man with a jawline that could cut through stone. His eyes are outlined by dark, untrimmed eyebrows and a heavy, grizzled beard. His shirt is partially unbuttoned and manages to cover only part of what look like expensive golden chains. He is marching towards her at alarming speed, starring her down. “I can see why I found him attractive at some point. Or did I?”. And that is the question which might solve everything. Maybe even save her life. Was it a simple accord they reached? Did they hook up? He did use her nickname, Lucita, which is usually what her exes used to call her, so they must be on good terms. Or is it just a way to keep her from running? He did suggest there are other people involved in this, and her friends might get hurt, so it’s time to play the hero.
“Hey Greg! I was thinking about you!” Great start. “The thing is I was really hangover, and I needed a break, but I was just about to text you!”
“Text me? Don’t you remember what we said? No texts yet! You don’t even have my number! Are you on something again? You told me you have substance problems but you will stop. Come here.”
Russian Greg jumps the last few steps and tries to grab Lucille. Lucille anticipates this and screams from the bottom of her lungs “RAPE!”. Russian Greg stops in his tracks, dumbfounded.
“What are you doing?”
“What do you mean? You are trying to hurt me, right? Take me away or kill me? For the hundred thousand?”
Russian Greg keeps starring at her, with his mouth open. Lucille starts blushing. This reminds her of childhood, one of those moments when she would do something so stupid that her father would just stare at her incredulously instead of doing anything. It always made her feel stupid and small. She hates it.
“SAY SOMETHING! But don’t take another step, or I will scream again!”
“You really do have serious issues. You girls were joking about it last night but I thought it’s just another one of your basic white girl self-pity you always like to do on social media. Then you mentioned it again when we talked in the lounge, but I thought you were exaggerating. Shit, I should have listened. Dad is going to kill me.”
Russian Greg turns around, face in his palms and squats in a defeated position. A head pops out from a balcony above them:
“Hey lady! Do you need help?”
Lucille is still undecided.
“I am not sure. Can you wait a bit?”
“No, I can’t. You woke up my two-year-old so I either call the cops and tell them about the rape or I call the cops on you if you don’t shut up. Clear?”
The window slams shut.
“I am sorry Greg, but by the time we met I was already gone. I don’t remember much. Could you refresh my mind a bit? I promise that if I didn’t promise something too outrageous, I will try to keep my word.”
“What do you mean keep your word? You are my wife, Lucy! You were a bit drunk; I will give you that, but we hit it off fast. Then you kept saying about how much you want to get married, have kids, leave this godforsaken country, go somewhere nice, like Russia. I told you I know someone that can get us married within the hour. I said it jokingly, but you were so determined that we went ahead and did it, right there in the VIP lounge of the club! You said it would be romantic since that is where we met anyway. I called my parents, and my dad sent you some money, he didn’t tell me how much but damn, that is quite a lot! He never sent me that much, that bastard…”
He throws his head back in a full belly laughter. “I guess I have to start getting used to that laughter from now”.
“So are you still up for Russia? You said you couldn’t wait to meet my parents. They can’t wait to meet you too!”
Her head is spinning. There are so many questions. Could it be just a set-up? She has heard of various scams, some of them impressively creative. Still, sending one hundred thousand euros to someone’s bank account is excessive. No one, especially her, is worth that much. What about the threats?
“When we talked earlier, you said that things wouldn’t go well if I stood you up. With your gang or my friends. Wasn’t that a threat?”
This time the laughter is monstrous. Russian Greg is stomping the ground with his feet
asynchronously, holding his sides while tears fall down his beard. Lucille stares at him in disbelief. “Might be time to stop drinking. This marriage could prove a good thing. Maybe I could become a housewife. Although looking at him, I will still probably be the one wearing the pants with his dad being the bread winner.”
“You are amazing Lucy! I am already starting to love you. I think. My “gang” are my friends which would probably be disappointed if the wedding was off. I thought your friends would be too if you got cold feet or something. Is everything ok now? Do I still scare you? Your own husband?”
She looked at him, measuring him head to toe. He was a very attractive man. He was also very intimidating. His ridiculous and annoying laughter somehow made him more human. And the hundred thousand. It’s hard to believe she wouldn’t have been arrested without it being legal. I guess it’s time to end that somewhat short detective crime story. And either way, she always wanted a husband, but her job, and to be honest to herself, her lifestyle, never allowed it. Now exactly due to her lifestyle she got one. Her dad would have had only two words in this case: “How ironic!”. But he was gone. And so was his watch. THE WATCH!
“One last question: Did I, at any point, mention something about my watch?”
“After we got married and we went out of the club for a cigarette, you muttered something about your dad. It was still loud, and you were whispering so I couldn’t make everything out but I heard “dad”, and “proud”, and “finally”. Then you took off your watch and threw it in a trash nearby. You told me it had to be done.”
“Yeah, I guess it makes sense.”