By Ernie Sadashige
“I thought you said you loved me.”
Won Ton’s words cut deep, deeper than the katana sword which he aimed at my heart. Red reflections pulsed along shimmering steel, mirroring blood on water whenever the neon sign on the window blinked: Eat in. Take out. Won Ton and I were holed up inside A-1 Palace. Along the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. The only promises here arrived on paper slips tucked inside stale fortune cookies.
Time ticked slow. Skewered shrimp sizzled on the pu pu platter. Steam wafted from a cast iron pot of Dragon tea. Fleeting, like my fidelity.
“You’re aiming at my least vulnerable spot,” I said.
“Don’t misquote Casablanca, jefe.” Won Ton’s sword point tickled my Hermès tie into a hangman’s jig. A tear trickled down his white oshiroi face paint, tracking black mascara onto his blue silk kimono. I counted my breaths—three, four, five—until the droplet met his heart. I had broken many hearts, but never my partner’s. Or my own. Until now.
“I thought you said you loved me,” he repeated.
One bullet. One chance. I watched the sword point while my left hand crept towards the .38 Special on the table. My fingers slithered spider-like, but stopped when they touched the blue Willow pattern on my dinner plate. I wiggled my fingers. Sparkles. Diamonds are a boy’s best friend. The bling caught Won Ton’s eye. The ring. His gift to me. He nodded. The acknowledgement, almost imperceptible.
I cracked open a fortune cookie: “Heartbreaker.”
“You don’t get it,” he said. “I know about the tattoo.” Won Ton reached into his kinchaku bag. A blurry 8×10 blowup of my keister rose like the moon over Miami and fluttered onto the table.
My Kodachrome nightmare. Frankie Bananas had exposed me more thoroughly than a naked selfie in an iCloud leak. Revenge porn for ending our affair. Now Won Ton knew I had cheated—with the company’s nemesis. And that my butt sagged without shapewear. Soon everyone else would know. I’d be ruined. Unless—
Two shots. Drop Won Ton before his blade pierced my heart. Then fry Frankie Bananas. I liked my odds. Six big boy bullets waited inside my snub nose revolver. Carnal red tips. I painted them myself. Must two die for my infidelity? Maybe one would forgive me and keep my secret. Won Ton or Frankie Bananas?
Won Ton’s tears, colder than raindrops on a coffin lid, stopped my musing. I had broken the poor man’s heart. He would live—for now. Maybe I wasn’t a Tin Man. Or maybe I was just selfish. I needed my Scarecrow. And six bullets. Until I decided how to deal with Frankie.
“Don’t blow a gasket,” I said. “Frankie’s is coming.”
“Your beef, jefe,” Won Ton spat, lowering his sword. A coconut shrimp tail flew from his mouth. “Bananas wants you dead.”
“But you might get in the way. Accidentally.” I opened another fortune cookie: “Hit me with your best shot.”
The front door flew open. Hanging lanterns fluttered. The stone Buddha wobbled. It wasn’t the mail. The postman always rings twice. Four palookas came in from the cold, wearing cheap black suits, the kind they bury you in when your Sunday best is shot full of holes. The noise distracted Won Ton. I grabbed my gun, targeting his unfaithful heart. The palookas weren’t packing. Except brief cases. Lawyers.
Snap. Another fortune cookie: “You better run.”
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Enough bullets to bury the palookas. And Won Ton or Frankie Bananas.
Then my world imploded.
Hubba hubba walked in, a platinum blonde with Bette Davis eyes and bazookas big enough to stop Nazi tanks. My breath caught. The doll kept coming like gangbusters, her gams spewing more heat from beneath her scarlet dress than twin tailpipes on a deuce coupe. We locked eyes. And kept them locked until she sat down. She pressed my short-barreled revolver onto the table with her boom booms and dipped a French nail into my egg drop soup. I blinked.
“Some like it hot,” she said in a throaty voice.
“About last night—”
She opened a fortune cookie. “Promises in the dark,” she read. Out came a ciggy. Blue smoke drifted from ruby lips. “Do you know who I am?”
“Last night I was thinking Mae West. Now I’m thinking Wicked Witch of the West.”
“Human Resources.” The skirt slapped a gold shield onto the table so fast I got vertigo. Society of Human Resource Management.
I wailed at Won Ton. “You slept with H.R.?”
“Nobody got lucky last night,” the dolly interjected. “You, least of all. Won Ton and I had a conversation about you, something you should have ascertained before threatening to ‘whack’ me when you found me in a room with your partner. Or is it ex-partner?”
My eyes grew moist. “You sold me out, Won Ton?”
“You cheated on me. And what was I supposed to do? She has the dish on Frankie Bananas.”
“H.R. always gets its person.” The dolly smirked. She spied my photo. “What do we have here? Wardrobe malfunction?” Flashbulbs popped in her eyes. “You’re so desperate you’re posing for pictures?” The doll’s green eyes looked jaded. “You’re not the beefcake type.” She blew a smoke ring. “More of a plant-based substitute.”
“That photo was hush hush.” I reached for the picture. My knuckles got slapped by a gold cigarette case.
“Now I own your ass, literally.” Her fingers snapped. A submissive suit placed a thick binder on the table. She held it up: Employee Handbook.
“I watch MythBusters,” I said, my trigger finger twitched. “That book won’t save you from a shot through the heart.”
“There are better ways to manage conflict. Your letter of termination—”
Frankie Bananas burst in. His slick-backed hair and silver pistole glinted in the twilight. My knees grew weak. My Rudy Valentino! Was he my salvation or damnation? “Was that gunfire or my heart beating?” I said, flubbing an Ingrid Bergman line. I was dying to see Frankie’s sad, soulful eyes, but his face remained in shadow. Did he still hate me? Then he walked beneath a paper lantern. Our eyes met. The look of love. I made up my mind.
One. Two. Three. Four.
Four lawyers dropped like summary judgments. Blondie was next. Then Frankie or Won Ton. I would finally have to choose. Column A or column B. Soup or egg roll. Life or death.
Won Ton unleashed a blood-curdling scream. Frankie Bananas lay skewered on the floor, the katana rising from his back.
My eyes teared up. “Why?”
Won Ton walked to our table, getas clicking like ruby slippers along the wooden floor. He grabbed the doll’s platinum tresses, lifting her head. A bullet had passed through her back, clean through her cleavage and flattened against page 867 of the 900-page employee manual.
“That binder saved your life, jefe. Frankie Bananas came within 33 pages of killing you with a bullet meant for two.” Won Ton lifted the tome, exposing my picture. We both reached. He had the drop. “Show me,” he commanded, waving Frankie’s pistole.
Reluctantly, I took off my Hickey Freeman suit jacket, lifted my shirt and dropped my trousers, exposing my heart-shaped tramp stamp. I bit my lip. “It’s not how it looks. It was a mistake.”
“I bet,” Won Ton laughed. “Frankie’s initials are ass backwards—B.F. Couldn’t be sure from the photo, but there it is, big as life. Frankie punked you, jefe.”
I blushed. “Hooking up with Frankie was wrong. That’s why I asked him to come here tonight. To break up.” I lied. I didn’t know what I had wanted.“
The cheeky bastard wasn’t worth it.” Won Ton pocketed my photo and termination letter. “We’ll keep this on the QT, but I’m tired of playing second banana. I’m in charge now.” He walked behind the counter. “I’m dialing M for murder.”
“Don’t call the police. We knocked off H.R. and half of Legal. Your prints are on the pistole.”
Won Ton stared at the dead dame. “Are we still getting paid on Friday? She approves our time sheets.”
I shrugged. “Let’s lay low. When the heat cools, we’ll head north by northwest. I know a place east of Eden. We can get new jobs. False identities. And lose the blue silk kimono. You’re too conspicuous.”
Won Ton opened our last fortune cookie: “Treat me right.” He waved the pistole in my face. “One chance, ex-jefe.”
I put my snub nose in Frankie’s hand. His touch was still warm. I removed an old fortune from my breast pocket and gently placed it beside his heart. “Love is a battlefield,” I whispered.
Won Ton and I walked out like strangers in the night. Rain fell upon the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Bogie held an umbrella for Marilyn. Neither noticed my bloodstained blue kimono or Won Ton’s ill-fitting Hickey Freeman suit. Or the katana he kept close to my heart.
The nail on my trigger finger was chipped. Better get a bottle of gloss. Parisian pink? Six bullets needed painting for my new silver pistole.
(Bio: Ernie Sadashige, CPA, is a Philadelphia-based writer and old movie buff. He received a flash fiction honorable mention from Gemini Magazine and was a Tucson Festival of Books fiction finalist.)