“We got Little Miss Goody Two Shoes now,” Shannon said.
Tara’s distinctive Irish brogue shrieked in response.
“Where’d you hide our wannabe Clearwater Beach realtor of the year?”
Shannon’s equally shrill voice sounded like an empty whisky bottle smashing against moss-covered rocks along a litter-strewn shore.
“Like I’m gonna tell you, you floppy old floozy.”
“I thought we were working as partners like those cute twin wrestlers who moved into the Paradise,” Tara said.
“You actually thought a real thought, Tara?” Shannon said. “One syllable or two?”
Billionaire oligarch and Russian Mafia boss Borys Popov marveled at the argument between these two otherworldly voices as he watched Clearwater Beach realtor Kim Phillips’ mouth move and her eyes bug out as she waved her arms above her head pacing the room and shouting to herself.
“What is wrong with you, Kim?” he asked. “Why talk to yourself in third person?
“You ever been kidnapped, caviar breath?” Shannon asked.
“Yeah, you ever been snatched and held for ruble ransom?” Tara asked.
Of course Borys couldn’t see the two women speaking to him because they didn’t exist – at least in body. In spirit these demented manifestations of Kim Phillips’ battered mind bantered and battled back and forth, fighting to incite Kim’s final breakdown. Sensing potential victory, Shannon and Tara had agreed to pool their insanity as Kim’s split personalities and tried their best to work together to hold her prisoner within her own sense of self. Kidnapping Kim and Borys at the same time would take some serious cooperation. Deciding what to eventually do with them would be equally challenging.
Pointing a silver .44 Magnum at Borys, Shannon barked a single sharp command.
“Sit,” she said.
Borys Popov eased his behind on the soft black leather couch.
“Good dog,” Tara said.
“Now listen closely,” Shannon said as she held the back of Borys’ head with one hand and with the other jammed three inches of the six-inch barrel into his nostril so the cold metal fit nice and snug. Counting silently to three for effect she slowly removed the gun barrel from the Russian’s broken beak. In an almost flirtatious tone Shannon politely asked if Borys had any cash laying around the house in case they needed to check into a motel while on the run and waiting for the ransom money, figuring Kremlin bosses would pay for their puppet’s silence and RayRay would cough up cash for his friend Kim.
“Money is in cheap suitcase in master bedroom beside red velvet-covered water bed,” Borys said.
The decision to take this lunatic Kim Phillips and her trash-talking split personalities with him into oblivion came easy. When Kim opened the suitcase Mr. Big gave Borys in exchange for the pee pee tapes the powerful nuclear device would set off the little dirty bomb big enough to level Clearwater Beach and some of the surrounding area all the way to Tarpon Springs to the north and Sarasota to the south.
So long grouper burgers with hot sauce.
So long stone crabs dripping with melted butter.
So long Borys Popov.
After wallowing in an adult life of luxury and political power, he finally had his fill of American exceptionalism. Freedom offered nothing more than free market folly marketed as an illusion by capitalist robber barons. Countless peasants overextended credit cards they didn’t deserve to possess. These self-absorbed buffoons lacked the basic common sense necessary to keep from going into crippling debt as they reached for a shred of the so-called American Dream.
To make matters worse, now Borys had to put up with liberal environmental protesters led by a senile old bird named Sam Bennett, an unkempt nobody who threatened his empire with gull shit. Was it really too much to ask for a luxurious condo tower on the beach, for people to just do what he told them to do or to let him run the Russian mob in Miami from a distance? Was it too much to want to spend his ill-gotten gains on a female companion – not some diseased stripper or gold digger beach hustler – but a nice girl like Kim Phillips? So what if Kim seemed more than a little spacy? So was Sputnik, the Soviet satellite that circled the Earth in 1957, promising new horizons for the future. Kim symbolized a similar promise of tomorrow’s new vistas for Borys.
But the crazy birdman destroyed his plans to retire in a penthouse where he could watch tangerine sunsets with his new czarina and live happily ever after. Now he wondered if Kim might not have been setting him up all along. Maybe she was CIA, FBI, DEA or some other governmental alphabet soup mix that controlled the American people through democracy’s own insidious brand of police state oppression, corruption and brutality. No difference existed between the KGB and the CIA except the lie that American agents worked on behalf of liberty. For that matter, no difference existed between Russian assassinations and gulags and the American prison system and robotic cops run amok with their fingers on the triggers.
Borys never liked Putin. He never liked Mr. Big. Russian spies and Cossack Mafia killers like him don’t like anybody. Kim Phillips might have changed his life, but no more. He’d be better off driving a tank in Ukraine.
Going up in a mushroom cloud suddenly appealed to him. In his one act of goodness in an otherwise merciless life, he envisioned provoking a detonation that would at least give humanity a chance to start again – to realize life’s fragility and how the human race can vaporize in an instant. Borys figured he could save the world by destroying one little piece of paradise. See what happens when those wannabe Manson girls open that cheap brown suitcase.
“I have big money,” Borys said. “Stacks of thousand dollar bills packed in suitcase beside water bed just like the one Burt Reynolds had in movie Boogie Nights.”
Shannon growled. She wailed. She performed a clumsy pirouette, imitating a prima ballerina on the Bolshoi stage.
“Show me the money, honey!” she said.
Tara brayed. She howled. She thrust her pelvis in an obscene hip hop dance move she saw during the Super Bowl halftime show on TV.
“Show me the money, honey!”
Kim Phillips sleepwalked into the bedroom. The second she found the suitcase, sprang the latch and popped open the lid, red, white and blue colors of the North Korean flag detonated in her face, discharging a massive burst of gold glitter and confetti. White and yellow fireworks’ sparks shot in all directions, filling the air with the high potency Chinese itching powder the Little Rocket Man dictator had given Mr. Big as a joke. Tingling and scratching even before the powder had settled, Kim clawed at her arms, shoulders, legs and other body parts she couldn’t reach. At least she seemed lucid. Shannon yowled. She howled. She whimpered. She scratched. Tara howled. She yowled. She hiccoughed. She scratched. Like mad dogs trapped in a room full of killer mosquitos, all three personalities scratched and scratched and scratched. Then they scratched some more.
Rushing into the room stunned by Mr. Big’s nuclear deception and actually happy to be alive, Borys Popov moved toward the gun on the floor that had slipped from Kim’s hand. One bullet would do it for Kim and these Irish basket cases that lived in her head. One bullet would take care of all three. As Borys bent to retrieve the gun, Kim beat him to it. Rising to full height she looked dignified, in control, steady and stable. She had also stopped scratching.
“OK, lover boy,” she said. “Put your hands in the air. Act like you just don’t care.”
Borys did as he was told. Something in her eyes looked peculiar, different, a focus he had only seen in the eyes of Russia’s most vicious elite assassins. The look in Kim’s eyes was worse, scarier, haunting.
“We can work something out, Kim,” he said.
“No, we can’t,” she said, pointing the gun at his chest. “And stop calling me Kim. My name is Becky.”