Wilmington Woman's Club Ch. 56byParis Waterman©
February 2, 1990 - Asbury Park, New Jersey
Marty knew Conrad would have put a lot of money on his head and so he left the area and went into hiding in Trenton. But he had also put money out on Gentner; he had given them a number to call - a switchboard answering service that he had hired. A friend of a friend reached out to Tony, told him Gentner had been known to keep a low profile at a rundown duplex in Asbury Park. He even had an address to go with it. Tony called the number and simply left a time and a number for Marty to call. When Marty called him back Tony passed on what he had about Asbury Park. Marty used Western Union to wire $5000 to Tony to share with his informant as he wished.
Marty drove slowly into a biting wind coming in off the ocean, carefully counting house numbers. Conrad had lived on this street. It was a street lined with squat, redbrick apartments and two-family duplexes; it was far enough from the beach to have been in another town. Dirty children played on the sidewalk, and all the cars he saw were at least ten years old. Gentner's place was above a garage in a rear yard, at the end of a dirt driveway.
He parked his Grand Am on the street, walked back. He'd worn a leather jacket, but could already feel the cold penetrating any openings it could find. As he passed the front of the house, he caught movement from the corner of his eye. He turned to see a boy of about six watching him from behind a curtained window. Other than having his thumb in his mouth, the boy was expressionless.
The backyard was overgrown, strew with broken toys. A swing set sagged in one corner of the yard. He went up the white wooden steps to the apartment, knocked, and listened. He shaded his eyes and looked through a window, but the blinds were tightly closed. He knocked again. There was no sound from inside.
"Mr. Kenney ain't there, if that's who you're looking for."
He turned. A woman stood at the rear of the main house, holding open the screen door, the boy from the window at her side. Behind her, a dog that was at least half German Sheppard was trying to squeeze past her leg. She pushed it back.
He went down the stairs slowly, watching the dog. The woman stamped her foot, drove the dog back, then stepped outside with the boy and shut the screen door behind her. The boy glanced at Marty, then ran past him and clambered up the ladder of the swing set. Marty shivered. The boy wore only a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Inside the dog began to bark. It leaped against the screen door, shaking its frame.
"It's okay," the woman said. "He can't get out. He's just not used to strangers."
She was in her early twenties, a little over five feet tall, with light brown hair cut short, pale blue eyes. She wore jeans and a man's blue chambray work shirt with the sleeves rolled up. She folded her arms over her breasts and watched him.
"I'm sorry to bother you," he said. "My name's Marty Piatkowski, people call me Marty or Ski, and I'm a friend of Conrad Kenney's."
"You looking for him?" Her voice held the rhythms of Appalachia. Child bride transplanted to the Jersey shore.
"Do you know where he is?"
"He's not here. At least not now, I don't know where he went either."
"You own this property?"
She was watching him closely, suspicious, but maybe intrigued.
She met his gaze without looking away, and for the first time he saw the toughness there. This was a woman who would hit back if she had to, and would make it count.
"His sister asked me to look in on him," he said. "She lives up in Maine. She hasn't heard from him in a few weeks. He missed her birthday. He always calls her. She called him, got no answer and called me, asked if I'd stop by. We grew up together, the three of us. I haven't seen him in maybe eight years, but . . . well, you know."
"You live around here?"
He smiled at her, said, "No, not by a long shot."
"Live in Patterson, you must have some money."
"It's an old house. My parents left it to me."
"Paulie, get back inside. It's too cold out to be playing in a shirt," she said, and in the next breath asked, "What's Conrad's sister's name?"
"Martha," Marty knew that much about Conrad.
"And you two are friends?"
"I haven't seen Martha in twenty years, but yes, we're friends."
She scratched an elbow, looked past him at the garage, as if she were considering everything he'd said, trying to figure out if he were lying.
He waited while she held the door open for Paulie to scoot inside.
"Well, like I said, he's not here. And he hasn't been for quite a while. He may have moved out, for all I know."
"Why do you say that?"
"It's been at least a month since I saw him. The mail's been piling up. I've been taking it in. People, you know . . . they see you're away, they'll break in, rob you blind. It's bad around here. It's not like home."
"That's beautiful country."
"Yeah, but nowhere to spend the rest of you're life."
He smiled at that, liking her more now, sensing the intelligence beneath the pose.
"So, how long have you been here?"
She unfolded her arms; put her hands in her back pockets.
"About three years, now. But we've only been in this place" -- she nodded back at the house -- "for about nine months."
"You know Conrad well?"
"He was living here when we moved in. I know him to say hello to and all that but it's not like we socialized."
"Is your husband home?"
She brought her left hand around so he could see there was no ring.
"So you don't own the property?"
"No, I rent. We all rent around here."
The dog had stopped barking and was watching him intently through the screen door. He could hear a television on somewhere inside.
"Miss . . ."
"Miss Johnson, do you mind if I take a look in the garage?"
"Go ahead. It's unlocked. There are some things of ours in there, but it's mostly Conrad's stuff."
She looked back at the house.
"If there's something you need to do . . ." he said.
"It's the baby. I put her to bed just before you got here. I don't like to leave her alone for this long without looking in on her."
"Go on," he said. "Don't worry, I won't take anything."
She gave that a small smile, started back to the house. He watched her hips as she walked, knew she was aware of his eyes on her. He felt himself stir, and remembered except for the bicycle girl, it had been eight years.
He went over to the garage door, twisted the handle then heaved the door up. Inside and old washer and dryer, covered with rust were shoved against one cinder-blocked wall. A child's plastic wading pool, a gaping hole in its side, was propped against the other wall. He looked around and noticed half a dozen cartons sealed with masking tape. He took a pen knife, sliced through the tape on one box, and pulled the flaps back to reveal a set of cheap dishes packed in newspaper. The next box contained glasses, packed the same way. A third held clothes.
He heard the screen door shut as she came back out. He resealed the flaps as best he could, folded the knife, and put it away. When he turned she was standing at the entrance to the garage.
"Find anything?" She asked.
"Nothing that helps."
"She nodded at the washer and dryer. "I tried to haul them out myself once, but they were too heavy. And I just can't see paying someone to do it. Alvin -- that's my ex-husband now -- wanted to clean this junk out, build a workshop. He never got to it. Like most things in his life."
"He lived here with you?"
"For a while."
"He know Conrad?"
"Not hardly. I don't think they liked each other much."
"Alvin was the jealous type. Not that he had any reason to be."
"What do you mean?"
"Conrad's one of those guys who acts like they've got the world . . . wired, you know? Some girls go for that, I guess. I don't."
"So you last saw Conrad, when?"
"Must be three weeks ago at least." She scratched her collarbone beneath the shirt, "Yeah three weeks Tuesday."
"Well, Miss Johnson, I'll be honest."
"Queenie. Conrad's sister is worried about him. It isn't normal for her not to hear from him for this long."
"I can understand that. If it were my brother . . ."
"You wouldn't happen to have a key to his apartment, would you?"
She tilted her head.
"You know, for emergencies?"
"I can't do that. I mean, he's gone and all, but still, it wouldn't be right."
"I just need to take a quick look around. Come with me if you like; see if he left a clue to his whereabouts?"
"You think he might still be up there . . . sick or something?"
"I doubt it. But I'd like to be able to tell her that for sure."
"But I heard him leave that night, I'm certain it was him."
"Two AM, and in a hurry too. He hit the garage door, well the frame anyway."
He looked, and saw the scrape marks.
"Didn't even stop to look. Kept going."
"Could I have a look at the apartment?"
She folded her lower lip between her teeth.
"He shouldn't have left her worrying like that," she said, telling him she would allow him inside.
Hang on," she said, and went back into the house.
He heard chains squeak and turned to see her son, Paulie riding a small truck with the right real wheel coming off in what must have been her living room.
He smiled and the boy stared back at him, his expression unchanged.
When she came out of the house, there was another brief struggle with the dog. She pushed it back inside, shut the screen door. He met her at the bottom of the stairs, and she handed him a single key on a paper clip.
"You know, you're pretty good at this for someone just doing a favor for a friend."
"If you'd told me to leave, I would have," he said.
As they went up the stairs, their shoulders brushed. He caught a faint whiff of perfume.
"It works in both locks," she said.
He unlocked the doorknob, then the dead bolt.
"Let me go in first, and give me a minute," he told her.
He turned the knob, pushed the door open with his fingertips, he sniffed then stepped into the dimness of a kitchen.
Surprisingly, the air was hot and oppressive. All the blinds were closed, and dust moved in shafts of light around their edges. The sink was filled with dishes. There was a phone on the wall, but no answering machine. The small living room held a love seat, a recliner, a TV and a VCR on a stand. A battered air conditioner sat silent in one window. The thermostat was set at 83 degrees.
He heard her come into the kitchen.
"Well?" She said.
He walked past the bathroom and into a small bedroom with an unmade bed. There was no sign of a woman's touch anywhere in the room. He wondered if his own place would look the same to a stranger.
He looked in the bedroom closet. Work shirts, a belt and a leather jacket hung there. He examined the contents of the lone dresser. It was filled with underwear and other clothing.
"I guess he did leave after all," she said.
He squatted beside the bed, looked underneath it. There was a small suitcase there. He dragged it out. He popped the latches open, and found it empty.
"Maybe he had another one," she offered.
Marty shoved the suitcase under the bed, dusted himself off. Queenie unlocked one of the windows and pushed up on it until it opened. A cold breeze blew through the apartment. As soon as the temperature dropped, she closed the window.
Outside, seagulls were swooping along the street looking for something edible.
He went back into the living room and tried not to allow his disappointment show.
"Have you seen enough?" she said, not looking at him, but leaning in the opposite direction and listening for any sign of distress from her son. Marty came up behind her, saw the thin sheen of perspiration on the back of her neck, and smelled her perfume.
"Stay put," he said.
He reached above her, grabbed a box from a shelf that jutted out just over her head. His chest touched her shoulders. She didn't move away. He got a firm purchase on the box and slowly lowered it to chest level, then turned and placed it on the table.
"There," he said and stepped back. She turned to face him, only inches between them. The room felt tiny, airless.
Without thinking, he touched her forehead, push a lock of hair away from her eyes. She looked up at him and he leaned close, gently kissed the side of her neck. When he drew back, she caught his hand.
Next door her son was singing a nonsense song, accompanied by the squeaking of the truck's wheel.
"What about the baby?" Marty said.
"She's sleeping. She'll be all right."
She smiled; bit the edge of her lip. A silent agreement had been reached between them.
"Lock the door," he said.
Later, he went naked into the bathroom, urinated into the toilet, dropped the condom in, and flushed. He looked at himself in the mirror, turned on the faucet, and palmed cold water onto his face.
He wanted a drink. He wanted to be far away from there. Then his eye caught something white beneath the sink. He knelt down and found an envelope with a Fayetteville, North Carolina address. He permitted himself a satisfied smile and tucked the paper into his fist, then looked at it again, memorized the address and flushed it down the toilet.
When he went back in, she was still in bed. She stretched her arms above her head then sat up, the sheet slipping away from her. She got her panties and cutoffs from the floor, wriggled into them without leaving the bed.
"God knows what you must think of me," she said. "I'm not like this."
He pulled on his jeans, saw that she was looking at his penis, still formidable in its flaccid form.
"You're big," she said softly. "Biggest I've ever seen. Not that I've seen all that many," she added with a nervous smile.
"It is bigger than average," he said, hefting it in the palm of his hand.
"I bet some women would go crazy to have you inside them," she said, still regarding it carefully.
"I guess, but I haven't met them."
"There's some hoity -- toity women in this town, would pay good money to see this," she told him, taking him into her fist and stroking him. Soon she had massaged him back to full size. He moved to her breasts, had her moaning as he suckled them in turn.
"Wait! Wait!" she groaned and hopped from the bed. "Give me a second. I need to check on the kids."
True to her word, Queenie was back within the minute and wrapped her arms around Marty and kissing him hard. After the kiss, he worked his way down over her belly, onto her thighs, kissing, licking and caressing her more intimate parts.
He was working his way back up her calf when he saw that she had spread her labia open with her fingers, naughtily offering her most intimate parts for him. He found her incredibly wet, and fumbled with his trousers for a second rubber.
Pulling the condom onto his penis he watched as her finger sank into her cunt, kissed her and whispered that he wanted to watch her masturbate for him.
"I can do that," she said in a husky voice. And she dipped two fingers inside her wet love well, drew a translucent liquid out on the fingers and offered them to him.
"You first," he croaked.
There was no hesitation on her part. The fingers went into her ovaled mouth and he heard a slurpy sound as she sucked on them. His erection jerked in mid-air at the erotic act, and he quickly lowered himself to her center and placed his mouth on her sex.
"Oh, you lovely man ... fuck me with that tongue!"
"Mmmm," he groaned, "You taste so sweet!"
"I'm your sweet tasting baby?"
"Taste me baby! Please taste me!" Queenie moaned, arching her hips so that her cunt was all but riveted to his mouth.
After devouring her for a minute or two, he tore his mouth away and blew softly on her clit causing her to quiver in anticipation.
"You want my tongue on your beautiful little clit, Queenie?"
"That would probably get me off, honey," she gasped.
Marty gave her clit a worshipful kiss then licked it from bottom to top as she writhed below his mouth.
"Eat me!" she barked. "Just eat me!"
He brought a halt to teasing her clit and sent his tongue to circling and swirling around her labia and then past them and into her coral colored flesh. He fingers dug into his hair, pulled some out by the roots, but he didn't feel it.
His cock began to ache, and he knew he had to be inside her again, and soon.
He moved up over her, spread her legs apart, heard her gratified moan as he dragged his hardened cock along her thigh until it was centered on her waiting hole.
"Gonna fuck me with that big pole, honey?"
"I am gonna do that," he answered.
"Fuck me hard and long, baby!"
Rising slightly above her, Marty kissed her again, it was hungrier than the last, filled with their comingled hot breath and biting tongues. He slid easily into her and stayed that way while he tormented her stiffened nipples while she gasped with pleasure.
"Rub my dick over your pussy, baby," Marty breathed into her ear.
Queenie moaned into his mouth as her hand guided the head of his cock over and then between her pussy lips. Following his request, she rubbed the tip over her swollen clit, down to her hole, and back again. It was his turn to moan as he finally sank into her and began pumping away while her legs wrapped themselves around him.
"Yes, honey!" she groaned happily. "Slam that big cock into me!"
He did, only to hear her cry out, "Faster! Fuck me faster!"
Marty started ramming it into her at a furious pace. Her cunt clutched at him with each and every stroke making both of them delirious with lust.
It took all the will he possessed to suddenly stop, fully embedded in her while he waited for his heaving chest to come under control.
"Don't stop!" she bawled, and raked her fingernails over his shoulder blades.
She was panting as hard as he was, but had been on the cusp of her climax.
He resumed his fucking with short quick thrusts.
She moaned happily and laughed when he touched her face and breasts. In helpless surrender Queenie placed her arms above her head, spread her thighs and went with his motion, grunting each time he bottomed out.
"Oh.... oh... oh... oh..." is all that came out of her mouth. She arched her pelvis, lifting the both of them as they found a new form of desperate rhythm. His hands slid up her arms, found her hands, their fingers entwined and locked, frozen to the floor beside her head.
There was no stopping now.
"Oh, my God!" Marty roared.
"YES! YES! YES!" She shrieked happily. "I'm coming! I'm coming! I'm coming!"
She apologized for the red welts that covered his back, and applied a soothing ointment to them, relieving the pain.
Twenty minutes later he kissed her goodbye and closed the front door behind him, zipped up his jacket. The porch boards creaked under his feet as he made his way to the Grand Am. He still had the smell of her on him, her taste on his tongue. At the Grand Am, he stopped, looked back at the house. He could see the warm glow of candles in the bedroom window. Wished he were still up there with her; knowing in his heart he would probably never see her again.
Ten minutes later he was on the New Jersey Turnpike, headed south, toward Fayetteville, North Carolina.