Winner of 2017 Giller Prize

Winner of 2017 Giller Prize
Michael Redhill for his novel Bellevue Square

Monday, May 19, 2008

MINDY'S RETURN by GLEN PONKA

A fast moving thriller by Glen Ponka

The lamp cord cut circulation at Gayle’s wrists. Her bound hands were numb. She hesitated in the doorway, but Aleksey shoved her. She stumbled into the rainy morning. Her other kidnapper waited. The fat man named Spenser climbed into the back of a long SUV and left the door open.
“Get in,” Aleksey muttered in a Russian accent. Hands tied before her, Gayle clumsily climbed into the vehicle and sat in a backwards-facing seat, looking at Spenser and the large silver revolver resting on his knee. Aleksey’s pale blue eyes glanced at her as he shut the door and opened the driver’s door and got in. The SUV pulled onto the street and Gayle felt exposed without a seatbelt on.
“It’s in your safe deposit box?” Spenser asked.
“Yes,” Gayle said, blinking the rain from her eyes. “You gonna go in guns blazing?”
“I’m a drug dealer, not a bank robber. We’ll go make a withdrawal. How much do you have, exactly?”
“One-hundred-and-seventy thousand dollars,” Gayle said. “Cash.”

An hour before Gayle came home to a lean, blue-eyed stranger cutting up her couch with a knife. Then a fat man split open her temple with a whip of his pistol. Gayle woke sitting on her ruined couch, her head hurting and her face sticky with blood. On her television a younger, thinner, naked version of herself was paused in the throes of simulated passion.
“That is you,” the blue-eyed stranger stated, pointing his knife at the screen.
“Who are you?” Gayle asked.
“I know you remember me,” the fat man said.
Gayle couldn’t stand. Her wrists were bound with a cord from her lamp, and another length of lamp cord tied her hands to the foot of the couch between her feet. On the television the paused porn movie resumed and she watched herself having sex with a coked up asshole whose name she’d forgotten. But the fat man was right, she remembered him.
“Hello, Spenser,” she said.
“You’ve let yourself go, Mindy.”
“My name’s Gayle.”
“Back then you were Mindy.”
“Things change in seven years,” Gayle said. “But you’re still fat.”
“And you’re still making my life miserable,” Spenser said.
Aleksey grabbed Gayle’s hair and pulled her head back. He held his knife in front of her face.
“Where’s my two-fifty large,” Spenser asked.
“No idea.”
“You better get an idea.”
“I didn’t steal your money.”
“Yes, you did.”
“Says who?”
“Lots of people.”
“Bullshit,” Gayle said.
“Where is my money?”
Spenser sold drugs. Mindy took drugs and fucked in cheap porno movies. Then Mindy and a couple girls seduced Spenser’s courier and snatched his case. They hoped to steal some dope but found a quarter million dollars instead. Stunned and afraid, they split the cash and ran separate ways. Over seven years Mindy changed her name, got clean, gained weight, got a job and became content. Now she was Gayle, an overworked realtor.
“I don’t have your money,” Gayle said.
“Sure you do. We found your bills. Your rent is expensive, as are the lease payments on your Lexus. So are plasma TVs. Leather couches.”
“I’m a single woman with no dependants who earns good realtor commissions.”
“Yeah, Mindy, you earn it. Suck a guy’s cock and he buys a house. Nice.”
“I don’t do that anymore. And my name is Gayle.”
“Do you know where your fellow thieves are, Mindy?
“No.”
“Dead. They used their share of my money to kill themselves. Drug overdoses. You’re the only one alive, so it’s all on you.”
Aleksey dragged the cool knife tip along Gayle’s neck, to the open collar of her blouse. He sliced off a button.
“My share was eighty-three thousand.” Gayle knew Spenser cared more about business than revenge. “I can pay that back to you.”
“Not nearly enough,” Spenser looked around her nice apartment. “You owe me much more.”
“I have one-hundred-and-seventy thousand, in cash, at the bank. Untie me and we can go get it.”
“Good girl.”

It was a lie. Gayle had spent all the money buying her second life. Now her first life had caught up to her. There wasn’t one-hundred-and-seventy thousand in her safe deposit box. Gayle was amazed Spenser believed her. Criminals had no idea how hard it was to save money in the real world. They preferred self-delusion and violence.
The rain pounded the SUV as they crossed a long bridge. Spenser looked out at the gloomy river.
Gayle, not buckled in, dove at him. She threw her weight into his large stomach and he gasped. Her knee crushed his hand and the silver revolver fell to the floor. Then Gayle pushed the wire binding her wrists against his fleshy throat. Gagging, Spenser tried to sit up, to push her off, but his seat belt held him.
Aleksey slammed the brakes hard. Gayle flew off Spenser into her backwards-facing seat. The SUV swerved on wet pavement and a van rear-ended it. Gayle was thrown back at Spenser, her shoulder hitting him in the gut again. A car sideswiped the careening SUV. Side-curtain airbags deployed. Safety glass bits scattered. The SUV hit a guardrail and stopped hard. Gayle crashed to the floor.
Spenser’s flailing feet kicked, but it was a spasm, not an attack. Gayle rolled onto her side. Her wrist felt broken.
“Fuck!” Aleksey swore as he fought with his door and staggered out of the SUV.
Everything was quiet except for the rain pounding on SUV’s roof. Gayle saw a glint of silver under the seat.
“Fucking cunt!” Aleksey pulled hard on the back door and it gave and opened. He glared and lunged at her with his knife.
Shakily holding the silver revolver, Gayle shot one of his pale blue eyes.

Paramedics cut the lamp cord off and bandaged Gayle’s wrists. Spenser’s body remained in the SUV, heart attack. Aleksey’s body lay under a wet, white sheet. A police officer listened to her story and Gayle wondered if her second life would survive this collision with the first.

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