Part 2: “The Banquet Chef”
Adoncia bagged Cinda’s head to keep from being bathed in the blood. Head wounds bleed a lot, she knew from past experience at hitting her head on the sharp corners of vent hoods. She wrapped the cellophane so tight that the girl’s facial features were distorted as if she’d posed for a funhouse mirror.
Her contribution to the night’s menu took longer than her brother’s.
Time was pressing Adoncia now. Julio had a late afternoon routine he wouldn’t budge from once he planted himself in her La-Z-Boy in front of the plasma TV with a cold beer in his hand. But she’d given more thought to his Achilles’-heel, however.
“The game’s about to start, God damn it,” he blurted. He tried to mollify her with a whiny apology.
“The insurance guy I told you about . . .”
“What insurance guy you talkin’ about, Adoncia?”
“You know, babe,” she said, sickened by the endearment she’d once used and meant. “The man said I had to get your signature today. It’s a law or something. Beneficiaries have to know how much insurance is on the policy holder.”
“You could have said something before you left—what beneficious are we talking about here?’
“You, cariño,” Adoncia said. “You get money if anything should happen to me and the policy won’t go into effect for another six months, like. But you gotta sign the form.” She hoped that sounded right, honied words to catch a fly. The situation had reversed completely, she thought. I’m the spider now, he’s the fly . . .
“I asked you how much?”
“A quarter-million dollars.”
Silence. A rapt silence. If Julio had done his homework on her, he would know her spousal insurance from the job was only five thousand. The number she just gave him should launch him from the chair.
“I’ll be right down.”
True to his word, Julio showed up at the back door at three-seventeen with a single flower in his hand. She glimpsed the limp-petaled, black-eyed Susan wrapped in green tissue—a discounted grocery-store bargain. She fortified herself with the instant knowledge that Julio was already concocting a plot for her own demise with that pathetic-looking object in his hands.
“How sweet,” Adoncia said and took the flower in her left hand.
She tossed the flower aside. Julio’s mouth opened and his eyes tracked the flower to the floor. She lunged forward with the kebab skewer in her right hand and rammed it into a spot just below his Adam’s-apple.
Julio roared, flung himself backward, slamming into the wall, hands flailing at the skewer.
She plunged her right hand into her apron pocket for the heavy-duty meat claw. Julio gurgled, a red geyser shot out from his throat and spattered the front of her. He jerked the skewer free and scrambled to get to his feet, slipping on blood, and banging his head into the door. She couldn’t let him get into the alley where a passerby might hear or see him. She could deal with another mess, not a witness.
She tugged at his belt from behind. Julio whirled around, a gored but now savage bull. He threw punches at her, which she took high on her shoulders. He sailed another punch over her head while she gripped his belt tighter to pull him into the kitchen. He was a dog tugging at a chew toy in his master’s hand but this was no play. When she felt she had room behind her, she aimed a punch at his jaw but only clipped the underside of it. More blood flowed from the wound and from his mouth. He thrashed with his arms, desperate to flee and kill her at the same time. Adrenalin flooded his system, giving him a crazy strength. If he didn’t choke on the blood, he’d get free.
Calmly, with her own tunnel vision taking over, she stepped inside Julio’s legs and launched another fist at his head. A clumsy uppercut but it did the trick. Like a grain silo toppling over, Julio did a half-turn like a drunken ballet dancer, and dropped straight to the floor.
She fell back against a table panting. Julio lay a few feet from her.
Long minutes passed before she could recover, more valuable time wasted.
She undressed him on the floor and tossed his clothes into another garbage bag. She sobbed, almost hysterical but knew what she had to do next. She dragged and rolled him onto the plastic tarp. With the other two, she’d started with the head. This kitchen came equipped with a 12-amp Sawzall with a six-tooth-per-inch, rotating blade.
With her sharpest filleting knife in hand, she approached his corpse. “A fish rots from the head down,” she said, “but with you I’m going for the other head, pendejo.”
Afterward, she carefully packed dry ice around the head, testing all sides to make sure there were no leaks. Then she arranged the orchids skillfully around the center of gravity by pressing their stems into Styrofoam packing. These would go into her trunk at the end of the night. Twice during the business, Adoncia had to slip off to the staff lavatory to vomit from tension.