Friday 13 October 2006

Sandy is a Spider, Part Eight

Sandy is a Spider is a novelette of eight chapters, posted over eight week days -- by me, your tardy host, Cheeseburger Brown.

...And that's all I have to say about that.

Finally, our conclusion:


In a small apartment in Montreal, Justine opened a package of Mexican newspapers and scanned the headlines, flipping through the pages impatiently: Excelsior, Epoca, Reforma.

At last she found it: a narrow column running down the left-hand side of El Heraldo. She strained her Spanish to get through it: three men arraigned on charges of fraud and theft after being collared by a foreign vigilante who anonymously provided the authorities with carefully detailed dossiers of evidence of their years of conning.

She tasted the word: "Vigilante!"

The article went on to mention how one of the men, Harold Nowalsky a.k.a. Wendell Nowers a.k.a. Winston Fetchings, was even connected to the suicide of a Quebecoise woman despondent after she lost everything to him. Justine put the newspaper aside and poured herself a glass of red wine.

She speculated about how fulfilled she would not feel to return to the office next week, swirling the wine in her glass and smelling it. "Vigilante," she said again, languorously.

Then she cried a bit. She cried because it was all over. For two years she had been bent upon this quest to right the wrong of her sister's death, and now she was thinking about whether she'd take the metro or a taxi to work. Now she was reduced to wondering how long her Mexican tan would last under the dull orb of Canada's winter sun.

She felt small and big, all at the same time -- destined and useless, driven and aimless, important and irrelevant. Incorrectly filed.

She was startled out of her reverie by the ringing telephone. "Hello-bonjour?"

"Justine Schalen, please."

"May I ask what it's regarding?"

"I'd like to talk to her about our mutual friend Sandy."

She held the phone away from her ear, startled. She licked her lips, slowly brought the phone back to her face. "I'm afraid I don't know anyone by that name."

A pause. "This is Ryan Billing."

Her breath caught. "What do you want?" she said at last.

"I just wanted to talk to you."

"Aren't you supposed to be in a Mexican prison?"

"No -- well, I'm here actually."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm in Montreal," said Ryan. "I'm at a payphone at, uh, Saint Laurent and Prince Albert. I was wondering...if you'd come meet me here. There's a bar. Do you know Chou-chou?"

"Why would I want to meet you?"

"I just want to talk. Can't we do that? I just want --"

"I don't have anything to say to you."

"Look, I came all this way. To find you. Please, Sandy, just hear me out."

"No. Goodbye, Mr. Llewelyn."

"Wait -- no, no. Please. Don't hang up on me. You changed my life, Sandy -- please!"

Justine sighed. She got halfway to replacing the phone on the cradle and then, with a sour swallow, brought it back to her mouth. "How did you find me?"

"Your bag. Crushed in the taxi. I found it. And I just had to see you again, if for nothing else than just to tell you what an impact you've made on me as a person. You've changed me, Sandy."

"There. You've told me. We have no further business."

"I wanted to say thank you."

"So say it."

"Thank you."

"Great. You're done. Never contact me again or so help me I'll have Surete Quebec on you so fast..." She trailed off, pushed her chestnut hair out of her face, glanced around for the cigarettes she'd already quit. "Are you still there?"

"I'm still here."

"So go already."

A pause. "I can't hang up without telling you that I love you, Sandy. I don't care if you never think of me again, but I want you to know for just a single second that I've totally fucking fallen in love with you. You're the most amazing thing that's ever hit me, and I don't want to let that go. I will if I have to, but I don't want to. So at least you know. Do you understand? You fucking rewrote me. Do with that whatever you will. I promise to leave you alone now."


"What, Sandy?"

She bit her lip and swore under her breath. "Listen, I'll meet you for a drink, okay? One drink. At Chou-chou. Around people. Okay? But that's it."

"Okay. Okay, great. Oh, thank you, Sandy. You won't regret it."

"Fifteen minutes," she said and hung up.

When she arrived at Chou-chou she stamped the snow off her boots and then took a tour around the place, pushing through the crowd, feeling unreal. Ryan was nowhere to be found. She sidled up to the bar and described him for the bartender, who shrugged and shook his head. She bummed a cigarette and smoked it while she stared at the door, then stepped out and wandered into the intersection of St. Laurent and Prince Albert. She looked around but could not see a payphone anywhere.

Justine couldn't make any sense of the situation until she got back home to find her apartment stripped bare. Every item: every scrap of clothing, furniture and electronic equipment was gone leaving nothing but dents in the carpet.

There was a note in the middle of the floor. It read: Fair is fair -- love, Ryan.

The vigilante sat down slowly, shook her head, and then laughed and laughed and laughed.


luke said...


Eric said...

If there's one thing you can say about a CBB story, it's that you never quite know where it's going to lead.

Great story once again, sir.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say I sort of saw that one coming.

I typed up a comment after part 7 wondering if Ryan had swiped her wallet when he saved her, but didn't post it cause I remembered he was cuffed, and didn't think he'd have been capable of it.

Looks like he still got her.

I guess she's laughing cause he ended up conning her after all, eh?


Moksha Gren said...

You almost did it, Cheeseburger. You almost wrote a happy ending with no wierd stings attached. Phew, glad we dodged that unpleasantness. Thanks to Ryan's last minute revenge, I now feel comfortably back in the Cheesiverse.

I really enjoyed this story. It had a more direct focus from the beginning which I know you were wanting. The only thing that felt odd about this story is that the twist at the end felt a little dimenished after the all out shock of Sandy's web. I heisitate to call this a problem, but I thought it was worth noting.

Overall, though...a very good story. Thanks again for sharing

Anonymous said...

Kind of sad she fell for such an obvious ploy. After all the works she went through finding out who they were, thier habits (in order to ensnare them), etc.. to fall for "you changed me!"... *sigh*

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear all,

Thanks for the notes about what worked for you, what didn't, what was surprising, what you saw coming, lines that caused a reading stumble, what strained credulity, etc.

This sort of feedback is invaluable to me, and you should never hesitate to offer it.

Please note: our vigilante will return. She has some unfinished business to attend to.

Cheeseburger Brown

Anonymous said...

I forsee an ass-kicking in Ryan's future.

Mark said...

Great read, CBB. And, like others before me, I must say thanks. There aren't many writers who make a living writing any better than you do (that goes for the stories and the wordsmithery).

Okay, now I'm waiting for Simon to pick that sentence apart.

Admittedly, I too stumbled over that sentence about the office.

I can kind of see "Sandy" falling for Ryan's trick. After all, birthmark or no, she was not a beauty queen, and maybe all her life she's wanted someone to show interest in her.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear all,

The next novelette will begin posting on Tuesday 17 October, entitled The Long Man.

Following that will be a Hallowe'en Special, as yet untitled, featuring some familiar characters.

Stay tuned.

Cheeseburger Brown

gl. said...

how long was she in the bar? it seems immensely implausible that ryan cleaned out her entire apartment in under an hour.