Short Story
                                           Bad For You
                                                                 By F. Francis Amanti


 “You’re a prick,” she said, crossing her arms.

 Dorran Blackmoor had been called worse.  Much worse actually, and by people who mattered, not just
skirt and heels.

 He had decided earlier she was boring.  Now, he was certain.  Couldn’t she bring him another drink?  
Then at least, she’d be useful.  Besides, for someone who wanted to be left alone, she sure wasn’t doing
much leaving.  Of the two of them, she was the one closest to the door.  He didn’t even have his shoes on
the floor.  He had them propped on an ottoman.

 Blackmoor leaned back into the leather sofa, let his head rest against the wall.  Here, the smell of
nightclub sweat was replaced by lavender, burlwood, bourbon.  From the doorway to his left, falling on
those toes of hers, crawling up her legs, a kaleidoscope of colored light slithered in.

 “If it wasn’t for your father being who he is,” she hissed, “you’d — you—”

 Typical.  Everyone’s a gangster, top down, slow riding the neighborhood, intimidating the elderly, until the
courage got caught half-way to their mouth.  Then look at them turn.  From lioness to declawed house cat.

 “Spit it out.” He flicked hair from his eyes.

 “Y-you’d be in prison.”

 If only she knew.  He had heard the rumors that floated around.  Hell, he had even started a few himself.  
Most weren’t half as bad as the memories he had forgotten.  The ones he remembered?  Those he kept to
himself.  Being a playboy?  That was something he could live with.  It made it so he never had to spend a
night alone unless by choice.  Only son of a CEO?  Certainly.  Who wouldn’t trade places with him for that
one?  Business boomed in troubled times, it did so even before the virus, before the lockdowns.  
Womanizer?  Guilty as charged.  Bastard?  It was part of the image.  Murderer?  That just wasn’t socially
acceptable.

 Still, he wasn’t convinced she was right.  Money went a long way.  If it didn’t, you just needed more.

 It had been a year ago.  It might have been a little longer, but it wouldn’t have been earlier than April,
because the heat of summer hadn’t yet settled in.  He made the newspaper for it, not that they knew his
name.  Page 6.  A short little piece, just a few column inches, about a local girl who had gone missing.  He
made the paper again two weeks later.  The cops had found another pretty young thing floating face down
in whatever passed for water in the Los Angeles River.  That second time, he made the front page.

 It had been an accident.  At least the first one.  Some men gamble.  They like the thrill of putting it all on
the line.  When your father has enough money to buy Rhode Island, losing money loses its charm.  Some
men jump out of airplanes.  Others dive caves, race cars at Monaco.  Blackmoor?  He chased women.  
That was his drug.  And when the thrill of broads and debutantes and climbing in and out of windows at
odd hours when a husband came home early from a business trip turned routine, he had stumbled on
something new.

 Risk.

 What happened to Michelle had been a mistake.  A game gone too far.

 The second one?  What happened to her was something else entirely.

 “I’ll make you a deal,” Blackmoor said.

 “What deal?” She lowered her glass, let it almost touch the table between them.  He watched as she
thought better of it, brought it close to her body.  Just in case.  It almost made him laugh.

 “Just because you gave me a j—”

 “Yeah, yeah.” He waved off her train of thought.  Leave me alone, but don’t leave me without your
attention.  It was so predictable.  Sing me a different song, Sinatra.

 He spoke something in a low voice.  The sound of thumping bass, excited chatter of the crowd, all of it
was deafening.  But Blackmoor’s whisper hit home like so much lightning.

 When she recovered at last, she had to steady her voice.  “What does that have to do with anything?”

 He swirled what was left of his drink in his glass.  “I’m willing to bet,” he smiled, “you haven’t.”  A look
crossed her face, as if she was deciding if she should be offended.  “You don’t seem the type.  You’re,
well, how can I put this?  Uptight.”

 Now she really looked offended.

 “You want me to stop treating you like some,” he paused, searched for the word, “some nun I like to make
tremble in front of your coworkers?”

 “It’s more than that.  You know it.”

 “Show me you aren’t one.”

 “No.”

 “Boy Scout’s honor.  I promise.” He raised his hand, the one with a glass of melting ice and finger of
undrunk gin.

 “No chance in Hell.”

 “Suit yourself. I’ll see you at work.” He swallowed the last of the alcohol. “Run along then, Sister
Margaretta.”

 The song coming in from the premier room shifted to something slower, something with more beat, a little
more salsa, a touch of trance.  With the booze simmering in him, it almost felt pleasant.  And he hadn’t
even touched what he had in his shirt pocket.  What he had there was for later.

 “Fuck you.”

 “You’re still here?” Blackmoor looked her over.  Maybe the evening wouldn’t be a waste after all.  Her
arms, once crossed across her body, had unwound.

 “I can’t believe I’m going to say this.”

 “Say it anyway.”

 “If I do this, what you want, what you’re asking—”

 He watched her, said nothing; wouldn’t give her the space she needed to wriggle off the barbed wire she
found herself snarled upon.

 “What do I get,” she asked. “In return?”

 “The utmost respect.” He practically bowed sitting on the sofa.

 She laughed, rolled her eyes.  “Respect.”

 “My admiration then.”

 “I want a raise.”

 “One.”

 “Three and a half.”

 Dorran grinned.  A cat stops playing with a mouse once it no longer moves. Once it’s dead.  But this
mouse fought back.

 “Fine.  One and a half.  Respect and a raise.”

 “Three.”

 So be it.  It wasn’t his money, anyway.  He imagined what she was going through.  The disbelief of what
she was about to say.  Did she feel like she was outside her body?  Did she feel insane?  What was she
thinking, making a deal with the Devil?  When the words eased their way past her lips, he was almost
holding his breath.

 “I’ll do it,” she said.

 “Atta girl.”

 “We’ll go to a corner. Some place discreet. Right?”

 “Oh, no.  That’s not the deal.  I’m paying for it, so you do it my way.”

 Her pout told him she wasn’t sure she wanted to know his way.

 “Middle of the dance floor.  Right next to me.  I want proof.”

 “You’re kidding?”

 “The customer is always right.”

 She didn’t like his line.  He didn’t care.

 “Normally I don’t do this, but I like you.  Here’s something you won’t learn in your MBA class.  A deal
between companies is just a suggestion.  A deal between people is bound in iron.  You struck it.  You die
on it.”

 “You’re a sick fuck.  Forget it.  I’m not doing it.”

 The coy grin disappeared. “You are the most repressed, uptight woman I’ve ever met; you know that?  
When you go to the beach and get sand in your suit, do you spend the next two days shitting glass?  I’m
trying to help you.”

 The music shifted again.  Train from Paris this time.

 “I am not uptight.  At all.  And you don’t know a damn thing.  About anything, much less me.”

 “Prove it.” He pointed to the dance floor.  The mass of people beyond the doorway, the play of colored
light from fixtures spinning in the rafters, light which fell upon dark, upon skin, upon silk, beads of sweat,
soft cotton was bewitching.

 A sound of glass hitting the table startled her, brought her back.  Blackmoor was setting three shot
glasses in a row next to her.  There were already three in front of him.  He must have caught a waiter while
her eyes were closed.  He was a quick little bastard; she had to give him that.

 He leaned on the table, locked eyes with her.  “Three shots apiece.  One for courage.  One for respect.  
One for letting go.”

 She grabbed a shot off the table, looked at it.  “Why is this so important to you?”

 “Because once, I was taught to let go.”

 “You had to be taught to be the way you are?  What did this miracle on legs and high heels do?  Drop
you?”

 “Best night of my life.” He drummed his fingers on the table, almost smiled.

 “I’ll remember that,” she said.

 “One for courage.”

 Ten minutes later, she was slipping her underwear off.

 Before this moment, he had felt nothing.  What was there to feel?  This was, after all, just another bar, just
another girl.  But then she started slipping out of her unmentionables.

 It was like opening the door to a smoldering room.

 Red lace.

 Crowded nightclub.

 Soft skin.

 Tanned thighs.

 What was once a mere smoke burst into flame.

 She stuck her finger in his pocket, pulled it open, shoved in the wisp of fabric.

 Don’t touch them. Don’t see if they are—

 Two centimeters to the left and her fingers in his pocket would have touched him.

 You know they are.

 “You ready,” she asked.  “Or did you change your mind?”

 He followed her through the crowd.  Women dancing, squirming in states of undress.  Men.  Sweat.  
Heat.  The way the light moved, the way it bounced around the crowd made the mass of people look
ethereal, like ghosts appearing and disappearing from existence in the corners of his vision.

 She stood on her toes, calves rounding; whispered in his ear: “Four and I make it good.”

 This kitten had claws.  He hadn’t expected it.  What he had expected was to cajole.  To flatter, lure.

 He didn’t move.  Even after she began.  Even as her dress swished against warm skin.  She lifted both
arms, trailed them back down.  Over her breasts, circling her stomach, letting her fingers, painted nails,
slide over her, stop an inch below her belly button.  Her eyes never left his.

 “Aren’t you going to dance?”

 Who was entrapping who?

 His mind was dancing already.  What happened to the prude who hid beneath heavy sweaters?  What
otherworldly black magic was this?  He had heard no recitation of charms, no hex spoken against him.  
Hadn’t she heard the rumors?  Wasn’t she the one frightened?  So why now was his the heart running
away?  She had heard the whispered names.  There had been so many.

 Her eyes glittered; said everything: I know.  I understand.

 “Show me.”

 What do you want to see?

 Something slow and sexy played.  He didn’t hear it.  He came as close as he could, almost to the point of
touching her.  He wanted to, if only to feel heat and burn.  Wasn’t that what it was about; the thrill of playing
with matches?

 She slipped her hand out of her skirt and reached for its hem.  The fingers of her other hand began
playing between her thighs.  Deftly at first, then as she closed her eyes, more ragged, furious.

 Happy now?

 Maybe it was the pulse of light, or maybe it was the thunder in his brain, but in that moment, she looked
wild, like an animal, a coyote or a wolf.

 If he had been sane, he would have noticed.

 He would have felt the chill.

 The crowd stilled, edged closer, formed a circle around the two of them.  It was impossible to hear what
they were saying.  Their murmurings rose, came together as a chant.

 As it was, there was only one thing in his vision.  Her.

 And so, he didn’t see.

 “Dorran.”

 “Dorran.”

 The sound of his name, of her voice speaking it, growling it, did things to him not even the touch of other
women ever had.  It moved him the way the scent of sex moved him, from the heat of night to the cold
damp of morning, where there was never sorrow, but the soft swish of wind on tall grass, the taste of acrid
displeasure, the smell of disturbed dirt and sod, drying blood.

 “Look at me.”

 He did.  The heat of him radiating into what space there was between them turned cold.  His eyes locked
on to her own.

 “Look at me.”

 He stepped back.

 It wasn’t possible.

 “Don’t you still love me?”

 Michelle.

 Only, her eyes no longer glistened.

 “Did you miss me?”

 Eyes dulled with the white of death.  Eyes that laughed and laughed and laughed.

 “Dorran.”

 “Dorran.”

 Her features were gone now, lower jaw hanging by a tendon.  He could still see the marks he left upon her
a year ago.  Around her neck, where the marks of his fingers had squeezed the soft flesh of her.  Where
the rush of fast ragged breathing had turned to a trickle.  Where he felt it shudder, stop.

 They were there, all of them.

 Amanda.

 Jessica.

 Pam.

 They crowded around him, a crush of arms and ribcages, and bones and intestines, decaying faces.  All
of them pushing.  Touching.  Grabbing.  All of them saying the same thing.

 “Dorran.”

 “We’ll be together, Dorran.”

 “Just like you said.”

 “Forever, Dorran.”

 “Like you promised.”

 He knew, right then, where he was going, where they would take him: To some place warm.  And dark.  
Alone.  To where he had taken them.

 “Dorran.”

 “Dorran.”

 Where they had waited.

 Where he would join them.
About F. Francis Amanti

F. Francis Amanti holds a
B.A. in English from
Williams College. His
stories have previously
appeared in “Under the
Bed”, “Storyteller,” and
“Five on the Fifth.” He
lives with his wife and
three children in Palm
Harbor, Florida and is
currently working on his
first novel. He is online at
ffamanti.com.
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