Scott Taylor

The two of them were sitting in the car, just outside the store.  The sun was lower in the sky now and the foot traffic had died down, although the vehicular kind in the street was still persisting.  Darla was sitting in the passenger seat, smoking a joint.  Arthur thought that she should put the damn thing out but he wasn’t about to say anything about it.  The ambient light faded further.  Street lights came on.  “Move your ass,” Darla said.  She lifted her foot up and Arthur kissed her shoe and got out of the car and went inside the store, and a few minutes later he was coming back out and they had money again.

    They’d been doing it for a few months now.  Find a place with a dingbat owner and lax security and some kid working the register for five bucks an hour, and all you had to do was show the kid the gun and he’d hand it right over.  It begged the question of why ever work for it in the first place.  Sometimes they cased the joint in advance and sometimes they didn’t, depended on the situation.  They’d sat around in front of this one for a few days before going in but Arthur hadn’t even been sure why.  It had been at Darla’s behest.

    He’d met Darla at a mutual friend’s apartment, at a party his friend had been giving.  She’d been drunk and high as hell and had barely even been able to return fire when he’d asked her for her name.  Eventually she came around.

    “Go get me a beer,” she said, all sprawled out and decadent on the couch like that.  Arthur’s ears had pricked up at the strangely commanding tone of her voice but he’d gotten up to get it for her anyway and they’d chatted for a while, and then Darla had announced to him that she wanted to get laid and he was to take her somewhere else.  They went around the corner to his apartment and she’d thrown him down on the couch and ripped his clothes off and proceeded to ravage him like a wild animal, teeth gnashing and talons rending and the flesh just being torn from his body like in some goddamn nature special on TV.  In the morning she was gone, and he didn’t hear from her for a week.  On Saturday she showed up again.

    “Your apartment is seriously shit,” she said, looking around.  She was right, of course, it was a boxy little thing with barely any room to move but what did she want, it was Brooklyn, the rents were getting expensive around here.  “C’mon, I want coffee,” Darla said.  Arthur couldn’t help but notice that she hadn’t looked at him once the entire time, he’d been like part of the furniture.

    They dated for a few months, if you could call it dating.  Darla would show up whenever the mood suited her and they would go out drinking.  Whenever she wanted a drink, she told Arthur to get it for her, even if the bartender was right there.

    “Look, why are you always ordering me around?” he finally asked.

    “Because I want to.”

    That was that.  Normally Arthur wouldn’t have put up with it but she was a damn fine-looking chick and he hadn’t really gotten any in months.  And besides, there was something about her, something dynamic and unpredictable and dangerous.  Gradually they got to know one another.  Darla told him all about her abusive mother, her drunk father.  She’d grown up somewhere out on the island.  She told him her ex-boyfriend was a con, that she’d gone with him for a few years before he’d gotten himself sent back upstate.  She still had the gun, he’d told her to keep it for him while he was away, that he’d need it again when he came back.

    The days drifted by and once a week Darla showed up and they got drunk and screwed.  When they were in the apartment together Darla would tell him to get this and that for him, ‘get me a beer’, ‘I need a tissue’, ‘I want ciggies, go get them for me.’

    “Listen, I’m not the help,” he protested one day.  “This is actually my place, you know.  I’m not here to just do whatever you want.”

    “Yes, you are,” she replied.

    “You’re a real bitch, Darla, you know that?”

    “Yes, I do.”  She was smiling.  “Ever hear of S&M?”

    “Sort of, yeah.  What, you’re into that?”

    “Yeah, I am.”

    “So what is it, like, you’re the master and I’m the slave?”

    “That’s exactly what it is.  And the term is ‘Mistress’.”  There was a long silence while Arthur was allowed to process the information.

    “What if I say no?” he finally asked.

    “Then I leave,” she replied.

    She watched his eyes drop with great satisfaction.  This was always her favorite part.

    From that point onward, Arthur put up no fight.  When Darla asked for something, he got it for her.  When she gave an order, he followed it.  When she required sex, he provided it.  Little by little he began to like it.  It was kinda fun letting the girl drive.  One night Darla came in with a set of ropes and tied him up with them, then left him there and went into the living room to watch TV.  This chick had a few screws loose for sure, but damn was she exciting, he had to give her that.

    The first time they did it was at a convenience store over in Bed-Stuy.  It had been Darla’s idea, she said she’d done it a few times with her ex-boyfriend and that it was easy as pie, nothing to it.  They got in the car and went over, it was a lazy Monday afternoon, no one else around.  Darla handed Arthur the gun and ordered him out of the car.  He hesitated somewhat.  It was to be his first time breaking the law, and he’d be doing it in a big way.

    “C’mon, we need the money,” Darla said.  “It’s easy, these assholes won’t put up a fight.  Just show him the gun and take what he gives you and get the hell out of there.”

    He went inside.  There was an old man puttering around in the back, but apart from that it was just him and the kid in front.  Arthur went right to the counter and pulled the gun halfway out of his belt.

    “I don’t want no trouble,” he said.  “Just hand me what you got in there.”

    The kid was all of about fifteen years old, skinny as a rail with a faceful of freckles.  With trembling hands he opened the drawer, gathered the bills together and handed them over.  The old man hadn’t noticed a thing; he was a doddering old fool, he probably didn’t know what planet he was on.  Arthur calmly walked out and got back in the car and drove away.  And that was it.  Like Darla said, easy as pie.  The take was about three hundred.  Nothing to write home about, but more than they’d had before.  Another two or three of these and they’d be able to cover the rent.

    They started going once a month or so.  Whenever they came across a place that looked ripe for the picking, they’d note the location and then start going back on a recurring basis, casing the joint, observing the behavioral patterns of the employees, looking for traffic patterns and such.  Then when the time was right, Arthur would pull up to the curb and he’d go in and get the money and come back out and drive off and they’d go and have brunch at the diner or something, and then the next day they’d start all over, looking for another score.  It really was that simple.  It was almost overwhelmingly simple, and rather addictive at that.  Why do one when you could do two or three, or five.  Why have less when you could have more.

    Meanwhile the relationship progressed.  Darla pushed Arthur around and he allowed her to do it.  It wasn’t exactly consensual but it wasn’t exactly forced either.  There were days when Arthur really didn’t want to do it anymore but then Darla would drag him into bed and the sex would be really good and he’d remember why he was sticking with it.  Darla was a unique chick; she was a real wild child, a harpy from hell, a sirine sent out to bedevil the hearts and minds of man, she didn’t give a shit about anything and didn’t care either way whether anyone knew it or not.  The stories she told about her childhood were enough to send shivers down your spine, all about the beatings her drunk Dad had given her Mom and the beatings her Mom had given the kids, about how they went hungry, how they never stayed in the same place for more than a month at a time.  Kitchen scenes resembling horror movies, bloodstained bedsheets, long nights spent wondering who’d still be alive in the morning.  Her big sister had long since moved away and her two brothers were both in jail.  The parents, she didn’t even know where they were anymore.  It made Arthur’s childhood look like a fuckin’ picnic, and it hadn’t been that at all.

    She didn’t give him his first whipping until about three months in.  It was a Saturday afternoon and Darla was as drunk and high as she usually was by that point in the day.  She had Arthur’s shirt off and was straddling him on the couch, playing around with his nipples, pinching and twisting.

    “Ouch,” he said, protesting.

    “Big baby.”

    With big saucer eyes she went down like she was going to give him a blowjob.  She pulled the belt from around his waist and went to unbutton his fly, then stopped, switching gears.

    “Stand up,” she said.

    “Why?”

    “Just do it.  Stand up.”

    Arthur did it, he stood up.  Darla was sitting there looking up at him appraisingly, admiring the view, long black fingernails drumming the couch.  With her other hand she was fingering the belt lying at her side.

    “I wanna whip you.”

    “What?”

    “You heard me.  Just stay where you are, don’t move.”

    She stood up and took a position behind him, and slightly to the side.

    “Darla, what the fuck?  What are you doing?”

    “My old man used to beat my Mom with a belt,” she said.

    “Good for your old man.”

    Darla drew the belt back and brought it down on his exposed back.

    “Shit Darla, that hurts,” he said.

    “Shut up.  Take it, you pussy.”

    A few more strokes fell, loud cracks ripping the airwaves to bits.  The belt was quite wide and was seriously having an impact.  Arthur was wincing in pain, trying not to cry out.

    “All right Darla, that’s enough.  Cut it out.”

    “It’s enough when I say so, boy.  Stand there and take it.”

    She gave him a few more shots just to show him who was boss, then stopped.  Arthur stood there trying to keep his lips from quivering and then Darla’s face was in his own and her lips were locked with his.  She ran her tongue along his cheek and down to his ear where she proceeded to suck on his earlobe, candy apple lips suckling and nibbling.

    “Now I’m in the mood.  Take me inside.”

    At the bar that night things were relatively cheerful.  A couple of the guys they knew had showed up and there was even a chick or two.  Arthur sat at the bar and imbibed and tried to look around the room but all he could do was look at Darla.  She was wearing a pair of black combat boots and fishnet stockings and a little black skirt, some kind of hipster getup, either that or she was joining the circus.  She looked good but she looked weird.  The outfit was winning her all sorts of attention, which was exactly what she wanted – the guys came and went, buzzing around like horny little bees, flies landing and being swatted or brushed away.  Then came the biggest coolest thug of the bunch, some gorilla in a leather jacket with a chin like granite and a pair of meathooks for hands.  He got Darla’s attention immediately, they were chatting away just to the side and Darla was making animated squealing noises that went floating just above the overall din and then before you knew it she was propelling herself forward and landing on top of him, wrapping her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist and shoving her tongue right down his throat.  She clung there for a few seconds longer before disengaging and then sending him on his way.

    Back at the apartment later that night, Arthur found issue with the performance.

    “Whaddaya think I am, some kind of schmuck?  You think I’m just gonna stand there and watch you stick your fuckin’ tongue down some other guy’s throat?”

    “Yes.  That’s exactly what you did, in fact.”

    “Darla, I’m not going to stand for it.  You can’t just do whatever the hell you please.”

    “Yes you are.  And yes I can.  And will.”

    She went to stand right in front of him, her little nose pointed up in the air.  She was about six inches shorter than he was but when she was vexed she swelled, seemed to fill up the entire room.  Arthur looked down into her pretty face, watching the angry contortions, the dark mascara flashing, the ruby lips curling.  He could smell the whiskey on her breath, it was all but suffocating him it was so strong.  She rose a hand up into the air to point a finger in his face.

    “You’re gonna take whatever I give you, you understand?” she seethed.  “I own you, you do whatever the fuck I say.  You’re my bitch.  Get down on your knees.”

    Arthur stood motionless, disbelieving.  Darla gave him a harsh slap across the face.  The force had been more than he’d thought her capable of producing.

    “I said on your knees.

    In a surreal alcohol-infused daze Arthur went down.  “Kiss my feet,” Darla said.  In advance of his noncompliance, she pushed his head down towards the floor and Arthur was compelled to give each boot a quick little peck.

    “That’s right, boy,” she said, spinning on her heel and going into the kitchen for a refill.  “We both know who’s the boss here.”

    Arthur got up to follow her into the living room then saw that she’d made an unexpected turn and headed for the bedroom instead.  He went to the door and found it locked.  Looked like it would be the couch tonight.  He crumpled in a heap and tried to get some sleep but couldn’t, his thoughts just wouldn’t sit still.  No chick was worth this, nothing was.  But when he turned the alternatives over in his brain he found no acceptable ones.  She was like heroin, she was horrifyingly and wondrously inescapable.  She was the most beautiful nightmare he’d ever had.

    They did another few scores before things went slightly wrong.  Arthur went in and showed the gun but the guy working the counter was older now, a grown adult, and a pissed off one at that.  Arthur told him not to try anything but the guy went reaching under the counter (weapon, alarm, who knew) and Arthur had to give him a healthy swat on the side of the head to get him back into line.  After that he handed the money over and things went better but as he left the store Arthur could see the guy getting on the phone and they had to really hightail it out of there to stay a few steps ahead of the wailing police cars.

    “This shit is getting old,” Arthur said back at the apartment.  “I don’t wanna do it no more, it’s too dangerous.  I ain’t goin’ to prison.”

    “Don’t be such a fuckin’ pussy,” Darla said, taking another drag of her joint.

    Time went flying by with little change in the program.  They drank and fucked and every so often they got in the car to knock over another store.  Darla insisted on keeping all the money and doled it out to Arthur in controlled bursts, rather begrudgingly.  The normalcy of their abnormal life had gradually equilibrated.  They’d had to quit their primary watering hole because Darla had gotten rip-roaring drunk one night and started yelling and screaming and tearing the place up.  She’d been flirting with every guy in the bar and then one of them had said something she didn’t care for and then suddenly she was screeching like an owl and throwing bottles around and grabbing tufts of hair from any heads that had the misfortune of coming within range.  So it was down the street to the other place, Murph’s it was called, the one with the brick front and the neon sign and the little horseshoe-shaped bar.  Not quite as big, but still low-key and working class and all, a perfectly fine substitute.  One joint was just as good as another, really.  The beer was all the same.

    Back at home, the sex was still really good.  Darla was insatiable, she was basically a nympho, she wanted it all the time and got it whenever she wanted.  She loved to throw Arthur down on the bed and scratch long claw marks down his chest and slap him across the face while they did it, it was pretty crazy stuff.  Oftentimes it got too rough and Arthur wanted to tell her to tone it down but there was no stopping her; he knew it was futile even to try.  She was like a wild animal, like a force of nature, some primal spirit to bedevil the hearts and loins of men.  Arthur would look up at her from the bottom and just gaze in wide wonder, dodging the blows as best he could, thinking to himself, ‘the world wasn’t built to handle a creature such as this.’  It was like trying to bottle a tornado.  There was no stopping it, you could only hope to contain it and even that wasn’t likely.

    Darla was spending more and more money.  It was getting to the point where they were running out between scores.  She’d buy rounds for the house, blow big wads of cash on clothes and jewelry and things, insist on going out to eat every night.  The dealer was coming to the door practically every few hours, it was like the bastard was living there.  She came to Arthur one day and told him she wanted to rob a bank.

    “No way,” Arthur said.  “Way too dangerous.”

    For once she backed off, but then a few days later she was back at it again, nagging at him, insisting it would be dead simple, no problem at all – it was a little teensy-weensy bank, there’d be one guard at most and he’d be some old fossil a year away from collecting social security.  They’d tried doing a convenience store that weekend and had been forced to bail; there were too many people in there and the guy at the counter looked particularly mean and nasty.  Darla was getting impatient.  Every few days she rekindled the argument and then one night when she was really drunk she let him have it.

    “You’re gonna do this for me, you little fucker.  I’m sick of this crap.  You do as you’re told, you don’t have a goddamn choice.”

    “Darla, you’re going to get us killed.  A bank is for guys who really know what they’re doing.  They have guns and vaults and alarms and all sorts of other shit.  I mean, gimme a break.  I’m not some criminal mastermind over here.”

    Darla’s eyes were glowing like embers.  She was standing with feet planted shoulder width apart, not moving a muscle.  From past experience he knew it was probably time to flee, but he wasn’t doing it.  As ever, he was under her spell.  He was caught in the undertow, moving with the current, flowing in and out with the tides.  Driftwood in his own life.

    “You’re gonna do this for me,” she repeated, more firmly this time.  “You’re going to do it, or I’m going to fucking kill you.”

    “Look, we’re both drunk, why don’t we just sleep it off and in the morning – ” but she was already gone, headed for the other room.  He went into the kitchen and poured himself a drink, a strong one.  When he turned around she was standing there with the gun in her hand.

    “Now… let’s try it this way.  Are you going to do it?”

    “What are you gonna do, shoot me?”

    “Answer the question.”

    There was a lengthy pause.  “No, I’m not,” he said.

    The gun went off with a loud bang.  The bullet lodged somewhere between his shoulder and his left pectoral muscle, with all the pain it was difficult to say exactly where.  Arthur lay there on the linoleum with the sound of clicking footsteps in his ear.  ‘I’m going to get myself a real man,’ were the last words he heard just before the door opened and the door shut.  He lay there looking up at the ceiling.  He didn’t appear to be dying.  The clock on the wall was ticking away, he noticed it said nine thirty.  Maybe if he went and got this bandaged up real quick, the bars would still be open when he got back.  She was probably down at Murph’s already.


Scott Taylor is 48 years old, and hails from Raleigh, North Carolina. He is a writer and a musician, and an avid world traveler.