Sitting across the Aces Apartments on Isah Mahmoud Street, her detailed assessment finally fell on the dark rosewood blinds behind Ali’s light blue window-panes. The two bedroom apartment at number 54 she surmised would still be relatively unfurnished occupied an Eastern corner on the rectangular block that towered for another four stories and had to have a fire escape straddling it’s rear wall in addition to the elevator and a stairwell which would likely be disused past the third floor. A neighborhood mostly shared among single young professionals, she’d arguably expect to disrupt a neighbourly tryst at any turn through the building, but she’d picked the first midday of his first week off for his conditioning and felt confident from the deserted streets she’d pull her mission off uninterrupted. Dropping her field glasses, she let herself out the Maybach, noting it didn’t make a marked distinction from the reasonably priced luxury cars littered along the street.
Once through the lobby, the Colonel lulled about a magazine stand graced by a cluster of brass button pots, letting a sniggering couple catch the elevator ahead of her. Certain she would be looking entirely different disembarking the elevators on the fifth floor, she flashed them a friendly smile and allowed the love struck teen girl catch a quick glimpse of her svelte frame, perky breasts and cascading strips of velvety dark hair. Not that she’d ever have to be identified on a line-up again; but if she had to pull this off, it had to go without a hitch and she’d use those tricks of her trade which come so easily to her to complete this mission with that much less encumbrance. Moments later with the elevator all to herself, she popped both balloons strapped beneath her blouse, unhitched the elastic band that held her frame to a more feminine profile and packed it all along with the insufferable wig into a slim waist pouch. Her boisterous afro would be sufficient to obscure the low resolution cameras along the fifth floor corridor if her scrambler failed for the two seconds she’d be within its line of sight and if all else failed, eight high-strung operatives of the Ghost squad were eight seconds away from her signal, and the fire escape would serve her retreat amidst the chaos they’d bring with them. Piece of cake!
A flicker through the eyehole told her she’d timed this perfectly. It would be four hours at the very least before Grace the Ijaw cashier from the fast-food down the next street would be over to pacify his androgens, leaving ample time for his breaking in and reformation. She extracted and donned a side of brass knuckles from her waist pouch unto her right hand, wrapping the lethal fist in a soft cotton handkerchief colored in the same dark hues as everything else on her. The overall effect of her formidable appearance always complemented how she felt, how she always felt; poor Grace, the twenty three year old single mother of two would meet a particularly heady reception when she came over tonight, but that outcome would punctuate the success of her efforts over the next few minutes. Behind the door, she knew her unwary pupil would be gradually and imperceptibly growing tense as he approached; the wood, barely thick enough to brace against a draft, could do little to mask the primitive faculty for impending hostility encoded into our mammalian brains. A few notches up the alarm scale and he’d be just impressionable enough. Feeling the moment was imminent; she steeled her free knuckle and rapped the door with a higher sense of urgency.
KNOCK! KNOCK!! KNOCK!!!
A slight delay, then “Yes… Who is it?”
A tell-tale shrillness to his tone informed her he was prime pickings and she half turned away so all he could see through the eyehole was the slightly subtle reference to the presence of extra subcutaneous tissue and an afro. Hopefully, he had enough testosterone not to baulk and he did indeed. Within a moment, she heard him turning the key and saw the door knob turning. Placing the flat of her palm against the door, she braced herself to assist the door on its inward swing. One last glance confirmed the corridor was still deserted except by her, and she couldn’t restrain the grin that slipped past her tight lips.
I left my washer to complete its spin cycle as I made a beeline for the fridge. A single month’s salary and I was already feeling like a relevant young man going places. The most remarkable change I’ve keenly observed myself undergo since my employment is an apparent predisposition to smile at every stimulus and despite my attempts to curb it at the risk of seeming unserious, I really can’t help myself. Well, as a recent optimist, I guess it’s important to keep track of my silver linings, my favorite of which is the ease with which I can saunter over to my well stocked fridge to compile a midday best selling cheese and turkey sandwich. As I hummed my way through the complex airway clearances I would be using on my next several flights, my mind wondered to Grace. She’d left me drained last night, and though I intended for her to be a temporary muse while I prepped myself to snag a top shelf slayer, her calm mature disposition, attention to detail and mind-blowing sex were fast becoming an addiction.
‘What are you doing Ali?’ Just yesterday I’d jumped at an opportunity to take a week off ahead of schedule just so I could drench myself in her erotic essence. Granted; Captain Sule had tossed the opportunity right into my laps with no apparent penalty, but with any thought I should have opted to spend the time shuttling jump-seats to hasten my route familiarization. Next time though, I could still smell her emissions from last night and that if I gave it a few seconds, I felt certain my choice would be justified. The scents were boring holes in my brain and piercing away every bit of restraint left in me. It felt like a psychoactive substance which made me crave a seat, but since I’d feel more pleasant losing my senses with a sandwich in one hand and a tall glass of orange juice in the other, that was exactly what I was going to do.
Just as I placed my condiments on the countertop, a firm rap jerked my thoughts free of its revelry. ‘Too early for Grace; probably a neighbor coming to establish their intolerance for moaning sounds in the dead of night, but hopefully not’ I thought… stepping out of the kitchen with the opened juice can in hand, I stopped briefly to steal a long swig and straighten out the few throw pillows and carpet that made up my parlor. Satisfied my earlier romps of the previous night were fairly well concealed, I collected the key ring from its hook next to door and heard a second more hurried rap that made my heart skip and sent my head banging from that pesky combination of a late night, bright lights and loud noises. I wondered who could possibly need me so hurriedly, what could be so urgent to a neighbor and who else beyond a small circle of friends whose exact locations I could dead-reckon had my new address. Subduing a welling monition, I yelled “Yes… Who is it?”
Well, I can’t say I sounded too flattering so I gently cleared my throat as I peeked through the peephole. With just a few lace strips over the windows till I got around to buying new curtains, my parlor was brighter than the corridor and besides a dark blur which could be the shroud of Turin for all I knew, my effort was a loss, so I straightened myself back up as I fingered the markings on the keys with a better outcome. Heart racing from what I assume was an irritation with the disturbance, I turned the key in the door and jerked down the door handle, ready to crack it open a notch.
As I shifted my weight off my forward foot to pull the door open, a massive arm extending out of an even more imposing tower of mangled black leather, hair and paper mask shoved the door right past me, half ripping my arm off its shoulder socket. I barely had time to formulate a powerful enough expletive to convey my displeasure while expressing a sufficient disinterest in an outright confrontation before a sharp pain to my diaphragm sent me hurtling back through the parlor, spoiling the good work I’d just done resetting the rug and cushions. As I gradually blacked out, I couldn’t help wondering what kind of sadist pays new neighbors a visit with Thor’s hammer in tow… one thing was certain though, I hoped with my last grasp to consciousness that the asshole would be long gone if I ever did find my way back to consciousness.