Lola Fenwick ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
(This is a slightly expanded version of a story I posted in January 2013.)
A woman in a trench coat and a stylish hat ran down a city street in the rain, ably but not fast in high-heeled shoes. When she came to a certain apartment building, she ducked inside, stopping just inside the door to shake the water off her coat.
“Elevator’s busted, Miss Fenwick,” the clerk said from behind the desk. “I’m afraid it’s the stairs tonight.”
She gave the man a tense smile and hesitated for only a moment before crossing the lobby to the stairs. She nearly fell on the first step but caught hold of the railing and righted herself. The clerk turned around and watched her until she was out of sight up the stairs. He smiled but there was no telling what the smile meant. It could have meant that he knew something she didn’t know but was about to find out.
When she came to the sixth floor, she wasn’t out of breath from running up the stairs, but she had an anxious look on her face. She went along the deserted hallway to the door she wanted and inserted the key into the lock and opened the door. She stepped into the darkened room and turned on a lamp.
“Hello, Lola,” a man’s voice said.
She whirled around, drawing in a sharp breath, and faced the man. “Oh!” she said. “It’s you!”
“Glad to see me?” he asked with a devilish grin.
“I thought you were…” Everybody thought you were…”
“Dead?” he asked. “No, I’m not dead. I’m very much alive and I’ve come back to pick up where we left off.”
Music began faintly in the background and swelled dramatically. With the two of them standing there looking at each other, not speaking and not moving, the picture slowly faded to black.
Dorothy switched off the TV before the commercials began and turned to Jasper. “I knew something like that was going to happen,” she said.
“How did you know?” Jasper asked.
“Oh, the signs were all there,” she said. “The mysterious phone calls. The anonymous letter. I knew Palmer was alive all the time.”
“You did not! You couldn’t have known!”
“Well, anyway, our Lola is certainly in a fix now!”
“He’s going to take that money she has saved for her nephew’s eye operation, I just know it.”
“Maybe he doesn’t know about the money.”
“Of course, he knows! Why else would he come back from the dead?”
“Maybe he really loves her.”
“Bah! He doesn’t know the meaning of the word. He’ll only use her to get what he wants and then run out on her.”
“Just when she was all ready to marry Dr. Blake.”
“Well, she can’t marry Dr. Blake now unless she wants to commit bigamy.”
“I shudder to think what Dr. Blake will do when he finds out that Palmer isn’t really dead and has come back to torment poor Lola again. You know what a temper he has!”
“I hope he kills the son of a bitch,” Jasper said.
“Oh, I don’t think I can wait until tomorrow to see what’s going to happen,” Dorothy said.
“Today is Friday. You’ll have to wait until Monday.”
“Oh, dear! I wish I could just snap my fingers and make it one o’clock Monday afternoon.”
“Wishing your life away, you cluck.” he said.
Dorothy had to go downtown to do some shopping, so Jasper went upstairs to his bedroom and closed the door. He took off his shoes and lay down on the bed and covered up with an afghan. In a few minutes he was asleep.
He slept much longer than he intended and when he awoke it was early evening. He wondered if Dorothy was back from shopping yet. As he yawned and started to get up from the bed, he realized there was somebody else in the room with him.
“Hello, darling,” a woman’s voice said.
He turned sharply toward the voice and saw Lola Fenwick from To Live, To Love stand up from the chair in the corner and walk toward him in her stiletto heels.
“How did you get in here?” he asked. He knew it was a stupid thing to say but it was the first thing that came into his head.
“I’ve been here all along,” she said.
She smiled indulgently with those ruby lips of hers. She was dressed in a stunning wool dress of a tawny color, showing her trim waist and large breasts. He could smell her perfume that smelled like the lilac bush his mother had in the yard when he was a boy.
“Has Dorothy come home yet?” he asked. “She’s got to see this!”
“Now don’t worry about her. She and I had a long talk while you were asleep. I gave her a nice drink and a pill and she’s sound asleep in her bedroom.”
“I’ve been watching you on To Live, To Love for eight years. You’re more real to me than anybody I know.” He realized as he spoke these words that he had been in love with her almost from the first moment he saw her.
“I know, darling. That’s why I’m here.”
“Darling,” he said. “I’ve imagined many times, by some sort of magic, being able to hear you call me that.”
“Now, I don’t want to rush you, but there isn’t much time and we’re going to have to get a move on. They’ll be here any minute.”
“Who will be? Is it that son of a bitch Palmer Belvedere?”
“Yes, him, and all my other past husbands, the good and the bad.”
“But what can we do?”
“I want you to take me away from here before something terrible happens.”
“All right, but where to?”
“I’m thinking Mexico.”
“Mexico! But what about Dorothy?”
“She’ll be fine without you. She has often wished that you would go away and leave her in peace.”
“I’ve always wanted to see Mexico, and with you! I must be dreaming!”
“Now, please hurry and get dressed! You don’t need to worry about packing a bag. We’ll buy what we need when we get to where we’re going. I’ll call a taxi and will be waiting for you downstairs.”
“All right, dearest,” he said.
When he went downstairs, she was waiting for him by the front door in her mink coat. She was more lovely than Kim Novak and Rhonda Fleming put together. He felt a thrill that he hadn’t felt in at least twenty years. She took him by the arm and they went out and got into the back seat of the waiting taxicab.
“Bus station,” she said to the driver, “and please hurry!”
“I figured we would go to the airport and fly down in a plane,” Jasper said.
“No, that’s just what they’ll be expecting us to do. They would never think I’d go on a bus. It’s the perfect dodge.”
“But isn’t it an awfully long way to go on the bus?”
“Several hundred miles. We’ll be there in no time.”
“Well, I’m sure you know best,” he said.
When they got to the bus station, they had to wait for over an hour for the southbound bus they wanted, so they went into the diner and sat at a secluded booth in the back and had a bite to eat.
“Oh, I do hope we can get on that bus before anybody tries to stop us,” she said.
“I think we’re fairly safe here,” he said, looking over his shoulder. “Nobody’s paying any attention to us.”
“There are spies everywhere!” she said.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll protect you.”
“Oh, I just knew you would.” She reached across the table and put her hand over his.
“Maybe I should call Dorothy and tell her where I am,” he said.
“Now, don’t you worry about a thing,” she said. “I took care of all that while you were asleep.”
“You didn’t kill her, did you?”
She laughed the tinkling little laugh that he loved so well. “I can tell when you’re not being serious,” she said. “No, I didn’t kill her. I have some scruples, you know.”
“But what about Dr. Blake? He’s expecting you to marry him. He needs your help with the life-saving serum he’s working on.”
“The marriage to Dr. Blake is off, I’m afraid. When I told him last night that we were finished, he threatened to kill me.”
“He’ll never find you, dearest.”
“You’re sweet,” she cooed.
“I’ve seen you through all your marriages, your miscarriages, your near-drowning, your trial for murder, your brain operation, your kidnapping, your amnesia, your car going over the cliff, your alien abduction and your stint in women’s prison. You always look stunning, no matter what terrible thing you’re going through, but I have to tell you that you have never looked any lovelier than you do right now.”
She looked across the table at him and there were tears in her eyes. There was nothing she could say that was equal to the moment. He thought he might be able to lean across the table and manage a little kiss, but the departure of their bus was announced over the loud speaker.
He took her by the hand and led her to the last seat in the back of the bus where nobody would look at them. She slipped off her mink coat and he put it on the overhead rack for her and sat down beside her. She slipped her arm through his and put her head on his shoulder.
They rode all night without getting out of their seats, talking little and sleeping fitfully. When he awoke and felt the warmth of her body against his, he knew he was as happy as he had ever been in his life. This was, perhaps, his last chance at happiness and he intended to take it.
He thought about their coming life in Mexico spread out before them like a sun-drenched dream. They would lie in the sun to the accompaniment of the splashing surf, drinking exotic fruity drinks out of coconut shells. He would rub suntan oil on her shoulders, and everywhere they went people would admire her beauty and envy him for being her man.
Just as the sun was coming up, the bus stopped for a fifteen-minute rest stop. Lola was still sleeping, using her mink coat as a pillow. Jasper stood up so as not to disturb her and tiptoed away to the front of the bus. Most of the other passengers were sleeping, unaware that there was a celebrated international beauty in their midst, slipping away to Mexico with her man.
He stepped off the bus and was making his way to the little building that served as gas station, restaurant and bus stop, when two men came from around the front end of the bus and stopped in front of him.
“Are you Jasper Dill?” the larger of the two asked.
“Who wants to know?”
He pulled a badge from his pocket and flashed it in Jasper’s face. “I’m Officer Harry Holt and this is Officer Tom Green.”
“Very impressive, I’m sure,” Jasper said.
“We have to take you in, sir.”
“In where? For what?”
“I’m not an information bureau. We’re just supposed to take you in.”
“If you don’t tell me, I’m not going anywhere.”
“Well, completely off the record, now. When your wife ends up poisoned to death and you take it on the lam, it looks like you might have had something to do with it.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. My wife is perfectly fine.”
“That’s a good one! It’s a little stale, though. You need some fresh material.”
“What if I refuse to go?”
“We’ll take you anyway. We’ll hurt you if we have to but we’d rather not.”
“There’s been some terrible mistake.”
“Well, if that’s the case, you can get it all straightened out when you get to police headquarters and then you can go on your pathetic little way.”
“Wait a minute,” Jasper said. “I have a traveling companion, asleep on the bus. I can’t just go off and leave her without telling her what’s happened!”
Officer Harry Holt considered for a moment. “All right,” he said, “you can go tell her, but I’ll have to come with you.”
Feeling as if his heart and lungs had been pulled from his body, Jasper stepped up the three little steps onto the bus and walked down the aisle with the officer close behind him. When he came to the back of the bus, Lola wasn’t there. No one was there. He looked for the mink coat but it wasn’t there, either.
The nearest person was a Mexican, asleep several seats away. Jasper grabbed him by the shoulder and shook him roughly awake.
“Where is the lovely young woman that was sitting with me in the back of the bus?” he said. “She was wearing a mink coat! You couldn’t miss her!”
The Mexican sat up straight, alarmed. “I see no one,” he said, holding up his hands as though he would be struck. “No one there. Seats empty. My eyes they are not so good.”
His legs failing him, Jasper sat down heavily on the nearest seat. Officer Holt pulled him to his feet and led him off the bus to the back seat of the patrol car. As they sped away, Jasper craned his neck around to get a last glimpse of the bus. He began to cry, not for himself, but for the lovely Lola. He was leaving her and he didn’t even have a chance to tell her goodbye.
Copyright © 2013 by Allen Kopp