Annie's 2nd Chance by Willee Amsden by Willee Amsden - Read Online

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Annie's 2nd Chance - Willee Amsden

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27

Chapter 1

My life, since I moved to New York to be a high fashion model, has been a series of new experiences. For instance, I just woke up in the dark and there’s a horrible odor. I seem to be lying on my side on top of squishy stuff. I should also probably mention that, since I am bound hand and foot, I can’t move. I’d yell for help, but someone seems to have taped my mouth shut, at least I hope it’s tape and not super glue. I recently had a bad experience with a toilet seat and super glue.

But there’s no time to go into that now because I’m in trouble. My head is throbbing, which probably means someone knocked me out. I’d vomit, but my mouth won’t open. I can’t move to find out where I am, but I’m beginning to think I’m inside a dumpster. That’s my life. One minute I’m getting ready to go to a corporate board meeting with the man of my dreams who may one day be the father of my children and the next I’m lying in a dumpster.

As bad as that may sound, there’s a more pressing problem. I hear a machine and some banging sounds and unless I’m mistaken that’s a trash truck and it’s working its way up a row of dumpsters toward the one I’m lying in. I try to yell, but it sounds like, hrmfma! hrmfma! I can’t get any volume with the tape over my mouth. In a few more minutes I’ll be dumped into a trash compactor on the back of the truck and squished into oblivion. I taste that metal taste like copper in my mouth that let’s me know I’m scared out of my wits... again.

Dang it! How do these things happen to me?

I think to myself that the only thing that could possibly make my life any worse would be a rat and then, as if on cue, something moves behind me. A very large something is crawling toward me through the garbage. Not that it makes any difference since the inside of the dumpster, as we used to say in Texas, is as black as the inside of a cow, but I still close my eyes and try to fade into the trash.

Light filters through my eyelids and I open my eyes to find myself looking into two beady red eyes. An incredibly filthy little man is holding a lighter and staring at me with his mouth open. He looks like something the dog has been keeping under the porch and smells like it, too.

Who are you? he asks.

Hurumf a hurmfa, I shout.

What are you doing here? he asks.

Hake tap hofff, I say.

He rips the tape off my mouth and I scream, Ouch!

Who the hell are you? he asks again.

Please, we have to get out of here or we’ll be compacted, I say. Please untie me.

You’re not tied, you’re taped, he says.

Well then, please un-tape me, I say, trying not to lose it.

I don’t know, he says and shakes his head.

What do you mean you don’t know?

Well, obviously someone wanted you taped up like that or they wouldn’t have done it. I don’t like to get involved in other people’s business.

The truck is now very close, perhaps at the dumpster beside the one I am lying in arguing with a human rat.

Maybe it was just a practical joke, I say and try to laugh lightheartedly, though it sounds a little forced, sort of a cackle. I don’t think someone actually wanted me dead, I say and cackle again, though I can think of one woman who would gladly dance on my grave.

I have to go, he says and gets up on his knees. He lifts the cover of the dumpster and a little light comes in. I can now see the stinking garbage I am lying on and also see the tape around my ankles.

Please. I’ll pay you. I have money, I say.

His eyes dart around the dumpster and then he reaches over me and lifts my purse from the garbage.

See, I have a purse with money, I say.

You had a purse with money, the little rat corrects me and grins.

Really? You’re going to rob me, but you won’t untie me? I ask. I’m trying to hold it together, but I start to cry.

Aw, gee... he says. Alright, turn off the waterworks. I’ll help you to get out, but it’s going to cost you a hundred bucks.

A hundred bucks! I shout. Back home I could get it done for a six pack and two Slim Jims.

Well, I work on the metropolitan scale. New York is an expensive place to live, he says wistfully.

Okay, just please hurry.

He works on the tape and soon has me free. I stand up and see the taillights of the truck disappearing up the alley.

He hands me my bag. I take out five twenties and pay him. He stuffs them into a coat pocket, crawls over the side of the dumpster, and scurries up the alley into the shadows.

Hey, did you know that truck wasn’t going to empty this dumpster? I angrily call after him. He ignores me and is gone, melting into the darkness.

Yeah, he knew, a voice says from the shadows along the wall. The first row of dumpsters is the Tip Top Trash Company. That dumpster you were in is Okay Trash, they haul tomorrow.

Who’s there? I call out.

An extremely tall, cadaverous man appears from the darkness and says, Me.

He reaches up to me and helps me out of the dumpster, swinging me to the ground like a five pound sack of sugar. He’s so far up there I feel like I must be standing in a ditch and my neck is getting a crick in it because I’m leaning so far back to see him.

I’ll take that, he says and points at my purse.

Like hell you will, I say. This would be a really good time to have a can of pepper spray or the thirty eight Smith and Wesson, but the pepper spray may be on my dresser at home. I didn’t think I’d need it at a Board of Directors meeting and I can’t remember if I brought it. As for that sweet little thirty eight, the police took the Smith and Wesson away when I shot Luther.

I fumble around in the purse while I try to keep the giant wraith busy with snappy patter.

‘Um... Gee... Uh..." I say as my hand feels the smooth sides of the pepper spray and my finger finds the button on top. Yes!

You wouldn’t be stalling while you look for your pepper spray, would you? he asks. Obviously a man of experience.

I whip it out and give him a blast directly in the face. Squirt, squirt, squirt.

Hey, that shit stings. Then he sniffs and says, That’s not pepper spray, that’s perfume.

Rats!  Oh, Yeah, well when you go home and your wife or girlfriend smells that on you, you’ll be in big trouble. How are you going to explain that? I ask.

For your information, I happen to be between women.

Gee, hard to imagine a stud like you isn’t in a relationship, I say and cluck my tongue.

Don’t make fun of me. I can’t help it if I have relationship problems. We aren’t all beautiful or handsome, you know. I suppose it’s easy for you. You probably clean up pretty nice when you’re not crawling around in a dumpster.

Huh! You think you have relationship problems. I have two men, but neither one is right. I like stuff about each one of them, but there’s other stuff that drives me crazy.

I know what you mean, he says.

Has this ever happened to you? You meet someone and think they’re the one, but the next thing you know they do something and then... I say.

Yup, it’s a big deal breaker. Then you meet someone else and think they’re the one and the same thing happens so you’re wondering which one should I choose? he says.

I wish I could take the things from one man and put them with the things from the other man.

I know what you mean. I have the same problem with women. It takes two women to make one good one, he says.

Or two men to make a good man, I say.

I hear ya’.

Look, you don’t seem like such a bad guy, I say. Can’t you just let me go? I can give you a few bucks if you need money.

It’s been a slow night, but okay. I guess you’ve been through enough. It would have been a lot easier if you’d been dead. I saw them throw you in the dumpster and was waiting for someone to come down the alley to mug, but things were slow so I decided to go over to the dumpster to see if you had any jewelry or a purse. I thought you were dead. I specialize in mugging, not robbing the dead.

Sorry to disappoint you, I say.

No problem. It’s not your fault.

You saw the people who did this to me? I ask.

Yeah, two big guys with no necks, wearing sport coats. When I saw Rudy the Rat jump out of the dumpster I realized he’d probably gotten anything valuable that you had. How did you manage to hang onto your purse?

I guess he felt bad for me, too, I say. His name is Rudy the Rat?

Yeah, he’s Rudy the Rat and I’m Zip or the Zipster, he explains.

I’m Annie McCauley, Zip, pleased to meet you.

That’s quite a drawl you’ve got there. You’re not from around here, are you? he asks.

You’re right. I’m from West Texas.

So, Tex, what are you doing in Manhattan? he asks.

I’m a model. I was on my way to a Board of Directors meeting at the Di Ponti Building. Tomi Di Ponti is my boss and he wanted me to help him hang onto the company. It’s been going through some tough times and he thought that having the new spokesmodel there would help.

Zip has been squinting and studying my face. Then he says, Hey, wait a minute. I thought you looked familiar. You’re that woman that does all the crazy stuff. I’ve seen you on the internet and on the news. They call you Revolving Door Lady because you got stuck in a revolving door with a toilet seat on your ass.

That wasn’t exactly something that I planned. It was actually a malicious prank that another model played on me. I was super glued to that toilet seat and trying to get out of the Di Ponti Building without being seen, I explain.

Wow, she must really hate you, Zip says.

Yeah, that ain’t the half of it, I say. Did you see me when I was hanging upside down from the balloon over Long Island?

Yeah, I saw that on the five o’clock news, Zip says.

Well, to tell truth, that wasn’t one of her pranks. That was done to me by a vicious mob known as the Rigatoni.

Like the pasta? he asks.

Yes, like the pasta. They’re old world and hate the Di Pontis, but she’s done some other nasty things to me like catching me in the nude with Luther Grolsch when I thought he was Tomi Di Ponti.

Is that on Youtube? he asks. "I’d like to see that.

No it’s not! I say.

Did you say, Luther Grolsch? I’ve heard of Luther Grolsch. He’s one bad dude.

Yes, he is one bad dude. I accidentally shot him.

Holy shit! What else has happened? he asks.

Raindrops start to fall on us and a shiver goes through me. I’m wearing a sheer shawl and a gown. Not exactly rain gear.

You know what, Zip, I’d like to stay and chat, but it’s very late and I was supposed to be at that meeting hours ago. I’d like to find out what happened and I need to try to explain to Tomi why I wasn’t there to help him. That’s going to be tough because I don’t remember exactly what happened and I’ve let him down a few times before. I have a lump on my head and a headache.

I saw the two dudes throw you in the dumpster, but I don’t know who they are, he says while I look through my purse.

Great! I say. My phone is gone.

He holds out a cell phone and says, Here, use mine.

I smile and say, You’re a life saver, Zip.

He smiles and shuffles uncomfortably.

I dial Tomi’s number and he answers. His voice doesn’t sound right. He’s slurring and sounds as though he’s exhausted.

Tomi, it’s me, darlin’, I say.

There’s a pause and then he says, Annie, where the hell are you?

Have you been drinking, Tomi? I ask.

No, drugged... before the meeting... someone slipped me something... disaster... Uncle Vito...

What are you talking about? I ask, my heart sinking.

Annie, why didn’t you come to the meeting? I needed you. he says.

Tomi, I don’t know what happened. I wound up unconscious in a dumpster and Rudy the Rat un-taped me just before the trash truck got to us, but as it turned out it wasn’t the day to empty that dumpster.

I can be a witness to that if you want me to talk to him, Zip says.

Who is that? Tomi asks. I don’t recognize this number.

It’s a long story, Tomi. I was trapped in a dumpster and now I’m with Zip.

Who is Zip? he asks.

Well, he started out mugging me, but that seems to be off and we’re kind of friends now. He let me borrow his phone because mine is missing...

There’s a long uncomfortable pause and I hear him sigh loudly.

I know. It doesn’t sound good, does it? I ask.

What do you think? Do you actually hear the things you say, Annie? A rat un-taped you? A mugger lends you his phone? What the hell are you talking about, Annie? I needed you here, he says. Why do you always do these crazy things, Annie? It’s all gone.

What’s all gone? I ask.

Uncle Vito set me up andgot enough votes to take away the company. I’m out and he’s in.

Tomi, I’m so sorry, I sob. I need a shower and then I’ll come to you, I say.

Don’t bother, he says and the line goes dead.

Shit! I shout. Shit! Shit! Shit! Brittany! I know she’s mixed up in this. I’m going to kill her!

Whoa, easy there, Tiger, Zip says and gingerly holds his hand out for his phone.

I’m sorry, I say and hand his phone to him. He’ll never believe me again. I’ve let him down so many times, only it wasn’t my fault, it never is, but it always looks like I’ve let him down. Now he’s lost his position as CEO of the family company and his uncle has taken over aided by that bitch Brittany Carstairs.

Sheesh, this really isn’t your night, is it? Zip says and shakes his head. Let’s get out of this rain.

We walk up the alley to the street. We’re in the fashion district, I say. I don’t believe it. We’re only minutes from the Di Ponti Building and the meeting that I was supposed to attend.

Well, I guess you’re okay now, Zip says. I should be getting back to work. I’m broke and the bars are emptying now so I should be able to make a few bucks.

Oh, no you don’t, I say and grab his sleeve. I’m five nine and he towers over me by a foot or more, but I’m not letting him get away. You’re my only witness, Zip. I need you to tell Tomi Di Ponti that you saw those men throw me in that dumpster, otherwise he’ll dump me and I’ll never know for sure if he’s the one. I’ll also lose my job as spokesmodel for the Czarina line of fashion and makeup.

Well, I don’t know, he says and shifts uncomfortably from one foot to the other. In my line of work I try to keep a low profile.

Do you have anywhere to stay tonight? I ask.

Not exactly, he says.

Well then, you can stay on my couch, I say. I’ll give you a hot meal and I’ve got some wine. What do you say? In the morning we’ll go to see Tomi and you can help me to explain to him that it wasn’t my fault that I wasn’t at the meeting. He might even give you a reward.

Hmmm, well I guess I could do it, he says and shrugs.

I live in Queens, I say. We can take the seven train and be there in no time.

Okay, but before you get on a train I think you need to get rid of some of the stuff from that dumpster that you’re wearing, he says and brushes off a few crumbs and a banana skin that was riding on my shoulder. There, except for smelling like a dumpster, I guess you’re good to go.

We take the seven to Queens and arrive at my apartment in the wee hours of the morning.

As I’m unlocking my door I say to Zip, My friend Luis lives across the hall. I’d knock on his door, but I don’t want to wake him up. He’s a makeup artist and he might have a gig in the morning. He works for Di Ponti, too, but I think he’s moonlighting. He also has a boyfriend and I don’t want to disturb them if he isn’t alone tonight.

You don’t have a dog, do you? Zip asks.

Nope, just Luther Junior, my air plant, I say.

I open the door and we enter the apartment. Zip looks the place over taking it all in and then says, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I thought you were a big time model.

I know, it isn’t much, I say. I was going to move into a better place closer to work, but it’s been such a rocky start to this job with Di Ponti that I never got a chance to look around and find a place. Besides, this is home and Luis lives across the hall. I just figured that I’d wind up with Tomi in his penthouse, but that seems pretty hopeless at the moment.

Zip sits on my couch and suspiciously eyes the afghan draped over the back. Are you sure you’re a big time model? he asks.

My mother made me that, I say. It kind of has sentimental value. It also matches the toaster cover she crocheted.

He shudders and manages to draw his eyes off it. Just how tight are you with Luther Grolsch? he asks. I mean, he ain’t gonna’ find out I’ve been here and like get all jealous or something is he?

Don’t worry about Luther, I say. He and I did have a thing, briefly, after I shot him, but he has this way of annoying the shit out of me.

Zip is nodding knowingly. So he’s one of the two guys, hunh? he asks.

Yup, Luther and Tomi, I say. They’re both hunks and both have really nice things about them, but things always seem to get screwed up between me and Tomi and Luther – well, don’t even get me going on him.

Yeah, well if you shot him, he must be pretty bad, Zip says.

Oh, no, I didn’t shoot him on purpose, I say. He just got in the way when I was trying to shoot someone else.

You do live an active life, don’t you? Zip says and shakes his head.

He’s the only man I’ve shot since I’ve been in New York, I say.

How long have you been here? Zip asks.

Well, I guess I haven’t been here very long.

Do you still have the gun? he asks and looks around the apartment nervously.

Nope, the police took it, I say.

Yeah, they’ve got no sense of humor when it comes to things like that, he says.

I do feel kind of naked without a gun. Where I come from everybody carries a gun. I can see why they frown on it in New York, however because the people are so rude here they’d be getting shot all the time. Back home they may have a shotgun under the seat of the pickup and a forty five in their purse, but they’re polite. Maybe that’s why. Hey, how about some wine while I get a shower? I ask.

I leave Zip on the couch with a large glass of merlot and head for the shower. There’s a big lump on the back of my head. I can’t for the life of me remember what happened. Maybe I should get it checked out. There are bruises on my legs and arms, probably from the two goons handling me while I was out. As far as I can tell they didn’t take any liberties with me.

I take a very long shower and slip into a large terry robe. By the time I make it back into the living room he has the television on and has slumped over to his side. I fill his glass and sit in the easy chair.

Tell me, Tex, Zip says, Who is this woman, Brittany?

She’s my arch enemy, I say. She’s evil and hates me and will do anything she can to screw up my life.

Really? Your arch enemy? Like Lex Luther?

Yes. We both grew up in Mesa View and something happened when we were kids that changed our lives and she’s never forgiven me.

It must have been pretty bad if she’s hated you all this time and has never forgotten, he says.

It was when we were twelve years old. We were best friends and grew up in the same trailer park. There was a talent show that came to town. They were giving away a trip to Vegas as first prize and a side of beef as second prize.

So who got the beef? he asks and chuckles.

Brittany did and I got to take Mama and Daddy to Vegas.

And just because she didn’t get to go to Vegas when she was a kid she’s hated you all these years? Sounds like a psycho to me.

No, there’s more to it than that, I say and take a long sip of wine. "Her mama, Evie Carstairs, went through men like some women go through chocolate. She was