Doll, stars, blind
Carmine was casing the house he planned to hit next. It might sound cliché but it was necessary if you intended to do a job and get away clean. So far everything he had seen pointed to an incredibly easy robbery. The woman who lived here (alone no less) was blind. Cut the phone lines and it couldn’t get any easier than this. She would have no way to call for help. This was going to be obnoxiously easy and if there’s anything Carmine liked, it was a smooth job. He had done his homework.
Last week he had passed through a little town in Vermont. He had stopped to get a prescription for antibiotics refilled. The doll had bought some cough medicine. He noticed the expensive leather bag she carried, the high-class clothes she wore. He watched her make her way around the drugstore, and later the bank. She got into a little van run by a small church, so far so good. Easy mark.
The next day he followed the van out-of-town on a two-lane black top, noting where it turned off the highway. He went a few miles further then doubled back and found himself behind the van all the way back into town. She didn’t live too far up the side road, but she was almost 5 miles out-of-town. Homes of the Hollywood stars this wasn’t.
Carmine bought the newspaper every morning for a week and circled land and houses for sale while he ate his breakfast. If he got stopped he could say he was looking for land to buy. The waitress at the diner would remember him asking about property. The problem was that Carmine looked like a thug. Short black hair, his head was kind of square and he had no neck to speak of. His body was like a fireplug. Short and stocky. Usually he just tried to stay in the background. There weren’t too many cops that were going to want him looking for land in their backyard.
The Church of God bus was right on time. Marion stepped off. She unfolded her walking stick as the bus backed up and drove away. She went up the walk, using it to feel her way. Nearly to the door, she hesitated.
“Who‘s there?” She asked, smiling pleasantly. When no one answered the smile started to waver. “I can smell your cologne.” She said. When he stepped on the walk she jumped. That made Carmine smile.
“Good morning ma’am.”
“Good morning. Why didn’t you answer me?”
“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to startle you.” The man replied.
“That’s alright,” she said, smiling. “What can I do for you?”
“I was hoping to talk to the man of the house.” Carmine said, “it looks like you have some roof tiles missing on the left over there, and that’s what I do, fix roofs, see?” He wasn’t pointing.
“Well no,” she said, shaking her head. “I have friends that take care of that stuff for me.” She lifted her cane and shrugged. “I’m blind.”
“Oh yea, right. Sorry.” He replied.
“If you want to leave your card or something, I can give it to my pastor and he can look into it,” she said.
“I’ll do that,” Carmine said, “say you live pretty far out here. How come you don’t stay in town?”
“This is the house I was raised in, Mr.….Mr.”
“Smith. John. Smith.” Carmine was playing with her.
“Why don’t you come back tomorrow? I’m sorry but I actually have to go now.” Marion was getting a little nervous. He wasn’t acting like any kind of roofing contractor she’d ever heard of. The encounter was beginning to feel odd to her. She dug her keys out of her purse and continued toward the front door. “I have to go.”
“Oh well, sorry to bother you then. I’ll come back another time.”
“Yes, you do that Mr. Smith. Bye!” She turned back to the door and put her key in. All the way in she kept waiting for an ax to fall in her back or something and she released a big sigh when she got inside and nothing happened. By the time she realized that he wasn’t gone he had his foot in the door and she could not close it.
“Hey!” She cried out, but he forced his way in. He put his hand to her chest and pushed her backwards to the wall.
“It’s like this doll,” he said, “when I ask a question you answer it. When I don’t ask you questions you don’t talk at all.” He grabbed her chin. It startled her badly since she didn’t see it coming. “So start talking. Is anyone else in the house?”
“N-No,” she said. Her wraparound sunglasses were askew and she straightened them quickly.
“Do you have a cell phone?” He asked. She shook her head no.
“Marion, Marion. Now we got a problem.” He took her by the arm and shoved her toward the couch in the living room, pushing her into it. “I saw you using one in town, so I know you have a cell. Now we can do this the easy way and you give it to me. We can do it the hard way and I will take a finger when I find the phone. I will find it.”
“H-How do you know my name?” She managed to ask.
“Oh I know a lot about you. I know you’re wearing Pravda and your boots are Gucci. I’ll be taking those items with me when I leave, by the way. I saw you at the drugstore.” He looked at her smiling. “I heard the girl after you saying how “artistic” you are and I thought hey, I’m an equal opportunity thief.” His voice was nasal; he had a New York accent.
“You can’t just come in here…” she didn’t get to finish the sentence. Carmine was on her fast. He didn’t want her angry; he wanted her scared and shaky. In no time at all he was behind her, holding her around the neck. He switched his grip and the next thing she knew he was holding her arms and asking her which one he should start on.
“W-what?” She stammered. Everything was happening so quickly.
“Which finger, Marion? Which finger should I take the next time you mouth off?” Marion finally began to cry in earnest. “N-no! Okay!” She stammered, shaking her head.
“That’s better. I’m going to let you go now and you are going to calm down. If not it will piss me off, you know what I mean?” Marion nodded frantically.
“I will not hurt you if you do what I say. “ He let go and Marion stood slowly. She pulled a cell phone out of her pocket and held it out. “Now that wasn’t so hard. We could have avoided all that unpleasantness.” He said.
Marion waited. What was he going to do next?
“Now you’re going to get up from the couch and show me where you keep the good stuff. Oh and Marion, be careful – I know how attached you are to your fingers.” Carmine laughed out loud at his joke as he followed her from the room.
“Are you going to kill me?” She asked.
“I got no reason to kill you Marion, unless I run out of fingers I guess. It’s not like you could identify me, right?” He laughed again at his wit.
Marion led him through the house, pulling her jewelry out of the bedroom, the cash out of her wallet and a few decent paintings that she had. Carmine couldn’t figure what a blind woman wanted with paintings. She couldn’t see them. They were big splotches of paint, like that guy did, what’s his name, Pollack or something. Carmine unplugged the few phones he saw.
“Where’s the rest? You got a safe Marion? You holding out?” He grabbed her arm again and she struggled briefly. He chuckled as he allowed her to snatch her arm back. Just then Carmine’s stomach rumbled. Marion heard and stopped.
“I could fix you something to eat.” She said.
“Oh sure,” Carmine replied. “You want to delay until someone comes. No thanks, I think I’ll pass.”
“No one is coming.” Marion said, head down and subdued.
“Fix me some breakfast. Anybody shows up I‘ll just kill them anyways.”
They went out of the bedroom and down to the kitchen.
“You like breakfast food?” She asked, “How about an omelet with herbed butter?”
“Yea that sounds good.” Carmine replied.
Marion moved around the kitchen efficiently and in no time at all a large omelet was sliding out of the frying pan and on to a plate. A few pieces of toast later she brought the food to him. Carmine grumbled. He made her take the first mouthful.
“You get to try it first.” He said, “So I know you aren’t trying to poison me.” She chewed and swallowed and when no ill effects were observed, he dug in.
So what art do you do?” He asked.
“I’m a storyteller,” she said. “Not really an artist. Maybe the girl in the drugstore liked something I said.”
“So tell me a story while I eat.” He picked up his fork again but then hesitated. “Hey! What about the herbed butter?”
Marion went to the fridge and removed a small glass butter dish from the back.
“I use butter and I mix some dried parsley and tarragon flakes in. Not too much,” she warned. “A little dried herbs go a long way. Too much will overpower the eggs.”
Carmine smeared a big glob of the butter on to his omelet. While he ate Marion told him a story. It was a tale about how a girl alone in the woods poisoned her house guests and then cut their eyes out. How she saved her victim’s eyes in her refrigerator.
“Gross, I like that.” Carmine said as he pushed back from the table. Marion smiled.
He put his hand to his mouth and spat on to his fingers. “What the hell? My tongue is tingling.”
“Oh that’s just the herbs.” Said Marion.
“I never heard of nothing like that.” Carmine answered. Marion waited.
Carmine belched and she flinched, which caused him to laugh. He began to cough. His arms felt weak and his skin was burning too. Soon his eyes rolled up in his head and he twitched, falling off of his chair.
When he opened his eyes a minute later he saw Marion calmly getting a mayonnaise jar out of the fridge. She set it down by his head then rummaged around in a drawer, coming back with a small sharp knife. He hadn’t checked the drawers.
She turned his head to the right so that he was looking at the jar – only it wasn’t mayonnaise. It was full of a cloudy fluid, and something was floating around in it. A lot of “things” actually.
“That’s right Carmine, it’s eyeballs.” Marion giggled madly.
“What..you..do?” He croaked.
“Why I poisoned you, silly. What did you think? I put Delphinium and Foxglove in the herbed butter. Both highly toxic.” Marion smiled and patted his head gently. “Don’t worry it will only hurt for a minute,” she turned his head so that he faced her. “Poor little blind girl all alone in the woods. My Mama taught me all about herbs before she died.” Marion removed her sunglasses and he screamed. Even as the paralysis set in and he struggled to breathe he kept trying to scream.
The last thing Carmine ever saw was two jagged and scarred holes where Marion‘s eyes were supposed to be.