Charlie overheard nurses chattering in the doorway. Only fifty-six … still seems alert … atrial fibrillation and arrhythmia. Talking like squirrels rustling in the leaves. Ignoring him as though he were already gone.
He continued clicking through blue, green and black screens on the laptop. Screw the ladies in white. They did what they had to do; he had his own imperatives. His lifeline was the dozen Twitter feeds and chat rooms where he was Coyote, the insider and tipster. His barbs and quick wit, references to arcane economic patterns, and a deep well of obscure knowledge secured him respect, even fear.
Charlie’s roommate — a colorectal cancer patient anticipating death — turned on the TV. Charlie considered hurling insults as a frantic game show blasted off the walls of the room. Stifling the urge to throw something or call a nurse, he returned to his laptop.
His computer’s in box chirped, “We’ve found the friend you’ve been looking for! Click here for more information.” He muttered Jesus Christ, clicked the link, and Myra’s name and photo appeared. Trust a search engine to find someone who had run from the fray.
All derision and irony drained as he stared at her picture. In his mind’s eye, she was the opponent he’d never captured. They would slip apart after brutal acquisition battles, only to run afoul of each other in board rooms and airports. At different times, she was with Silicon Valley startups while he managed an array of money management firms selling them short. In iteration, she directed a billion-dollar foundation while he was in the Caribbean using her money to bankroll treasure seekers.
“Myra,” he sighed. “Are you still pissed at me always getting the best of you? Don’t be such a pussy.”
“You okay, Charlie?” Nurse stuck her head in the door,
He didn’t look up. “That’s Mister Charlie to you.” He clicked through to Facebook, punched in a “friend” request and was rewarded with Myra’s instant acceptance.
“Hey, Chaz,” Myra texted. “My fatwa still stands. You’re going to be dead meat.”
“Forgive me, old girl. If I’m not near the girl that I hate, I hate the girl that I’m near.”
“Same aggressive jerk. Still calling yourself Coyote? Get real. You’re not the trickster. Just another three card monte dealer trolling Wall Street.”
Time was suspended as they pushed and pulled at each others’ memories the way dogs rip at a rubber bone. This was a woman he could have married, or ruined her for the thrill. He ignored Nurse when she accosted him for another test.
“Will you put down that computer long enough for me to do this EKG?”
“Piss off,” he muttered. “Feel free to use my water bottle for a rectal thermometer.”
A lunch tray came and was removed an hour later, untouched.
Returning, Myra wrote, “Ciao, Charlie. Got to go. I’ll be waiting to see you in hell.”
Two wives had come and gone, bitch goddesses both of them. But Myra was his forever nemesis. Hate and love were two sides of the same coin. Nurse came in and asked why he was chuckling.
“I was remembering the time a lovely lady and I were caught hiring the same law firm to destroy each other. What a glorious ending then when the Feds went after her!” More laughter came to his gut recalling the time Myra saw him at DeGaulle Airport Duty-Free Shop and threw a hundred dollar bottle of Scotch at him. Why was love — love of battle — so exhilarating?
“You’re weird,” Nurse said, stalking out. He overheard her talking in the hall: Gotta have a heart to have a heart attack. She was back an hour later. “You got a visitor.”
“Charlie, how’re you feeling?”
He looked up at the only person who had remained constant over the years. Bergerson was friend, neighbor, confidant and lawyer. “What’ve you got today?”
“Mail. Some bills. No problem. I got you covered.”
“Bergy, I’d like Stella to make sure my house plants are watered when she comes in to clean,” he said. “And while I think of it, if something should happen — you know, something — see that she gets a nice gift from my estate. Five figures at least. Use your judgment.”
“Reminds me,” Bergerson said, sitting down at the end of the bed. “I had a call from a lawyer in Costa Rica. He was trying to find you. Remember Myra Kostyrka? You and her in those epic battles?”
Charlie pushed the laptop to the side and stared hard. “Yes.”
“Her lawyer said she passed away yesterday.
Yesterday? Then who…? Aloud, he said, “I’ll miss that harpy. It wasn’t about the money. Just the chase.”
“Before she died she told the lawyer to get a message to you. Said she doesn’t forgive a day of memories. She’ll see you soon for payback. What’s that mean? She’s dead.”
Charlie managed a crooked smile. “Guess she wants a rematch. For old times’ sake.” Hell was going to be entertaining, he thought, closing his eyes.
# # #
Bio: Walt Giersbach’s fiction has appeared in a score of print and online magazines, including Short-Story.Me. Two volumes of short stories, Cruising the Green of Second Avenue, are available at Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers. He moderates a writing group in New Jersey and blogs at http://allotropiclucubrations.blogspot.com/