The Price

SPOILER ALERT: This is a continuation of Where there’s smoke. You might want to read that first, or this won’t really make sense.


He pulled up to the curb outside of her apartment and blew the horn. He wondered briefly if he should have gone up and rang the bell. Dismissing this thought, he checked his reflection in the rearview mirror. He heard a door close and looked over to see Lela skipping lightly down the front steps, her shoulder length blonde hair and her breasts bouncing in time. She looked good.

She motioned for him to lower the passenger side window. He pushed the button, and it slid down noiselessly. “Hi,” he said. “Ready to go?” She was leaning down on the door. She looked flushed, excited. Good.

“Actually, I feel I’m at a disadvantage here. You know my name. I still don’t know yours.”

He smiled. “Call me Guy.”

“Guy, huh? Is that your real name, or are you just being cute? If you’re just being cute, then you should know that he had a change of heart regarding his activities.”

She was smart, too. He liked that. He hadn’t been sure. She was just a cashier, after all.

“Not being cute. You can call me Monday, though, if you like.”

She laughed. It was bright and cheery and not in the least bit fake. Unlike Montag, he was more and more happy he had set that place alight. He’d enjoyed it, all right, but he’d never expected this.

“Tell you what,” she said. “Let’s not go out for coffee. Turn off your car, and come inside instead.”

This was getting better by the minute. He felt himself stiffen but willed it to stop. He didn’t want to appear too eager.

“Sounds good. Let me close her up first.”

Lela stepped back from the car. He slid the window closed, turned off the ignition, and got out. He followed her up the stairs and detected a slight aroma of perfume. “Is that Jasmine you’re wearing?”

“Yes. Do you like it?” She looked back at him with a smile in her eyes, and he felt like a million bucks. He smiled back at her. “Yeah, I do. It’s great.”

She laughed lightly and lead him through the foyer and up the stairs to her apartment. Once inside, she told him to make himself at home and headed toward the kitchen. “How do you like your coffee?” she called.

“Black. Two sugars.”

“Coming right up.”

He looked around the room. It was sparse, but comfortable. The aging taupe-colored sofa was clean, if a little frayed. It was joined by a purple chair and a small, wooden coffee table that glowed softly in the evening light. There were paintings on the walls, but no photographs.

“Great paintings,” he called. “Did you make them yourself or buy them?”

“I made them,” she responded. “All except the one above the chair. My mother did that one.”

He moved to the chair to take a closer look. The painting was dark. It appeared to contain a woman sitting in a shadowy corner. The cigarette in her mouth glowed and lit the top half of her face. It was eery. He turned away from the painting and seated himself on the couch just as Lela reappeared bearing two cups. She placed one in front of him and walked around the table to take up the empty place beside him.

“I really like your paintings.” He gestured at the canvases on the walls. “Your mom’s is a little spooky, though.”

“That’s Mom in a nutshell,” she laughed, “Spooky.”

He reached down for the coffee cup. “Be careful,” she warned, “It’s still piping. I wouldn’t want you to burn yourself.”

He smiled, holding the cup by the handle and leaned back. “Thanks,” he said. “I’ll be careful.”

“But not too careful, right?”

Now he laughed. He really liked this girl.

“Of course not.”

“Well, why don’t we go into the other room. There are some paintings in there you might like, too.”

He set the cup back down and followed her to the bedroom. It didn’t matter. He didn’t really like coffee, anyway. He only drank it because it seemed to put other people at ease.

He walked into the room and glanced quickly around. Again, it was sparsely furnished, but nice. There was queen-sized bed with iron head and foot boards pushed up against the back wall and dressed in clean, white sheets and a flowered comforter. A chair stood in the corner, and, as promised, there were more paintings on the walls.

He was about to ask about the artwork when he heard the door click behind him, and as he turned, Lela stepped up to him and went up on her tiptoes to kiss him. Boy, she was small, but she had nice curves. He placed his hands on her hips and lifted her to receive her kiss. She tasted like strawberries and smoke. It was wonderful. He set her back down again, and she said throatily, “I’m going to change. I hope to find you naked when I return.”

She left him and went into the bathroom, closing the door softly. Immediately, he began stripping down. He folded his pants and laid them neatly on the chair. His shoes went underneath; he hung his shirt on the back. He was always careful with his clothes. The right clothes made for a good impression, and it was important to make a good impression. He pulled the comforter off the bed and threw it on the floor before lying back on the pillows.

The bathroom door opened, but she’d already turned off the light. She stepped out into the room wearing a black bustier, thigh-high stockings, and three-inch heels with studs on them. He didn’t bother to stop himself from getting hard this time.

He whistled through his teeth and said, “Wow.” She smiled and raised her right hand. The dim light glowed dully on the edge of the handcuffs.

“Want to have some fun?”


He thought he was going to chain her up, but she moved quickly and had both of his wrists cuffed to the headboard before he could fully process the situation. She leaned down and bit his nipple, hard. He sucked in his breath noisily. When he looked down, he saw that she had drawn blood.

“Hey!” he gasped. “I like it rough, but not that rough, OK?”

She slid away from him and stood, smiling down at him. Looking around, she spotted his clothing on the chair and walked over to it. She picked up his pants, knocking his underclothes to the floor as she did so, and walked out of the room.

“Hey! Lela? Come back!”

She didn’t answer. He told himself to stay calm, that she was just playing games with him, and promised himself that after tonight he would never see this girl again. Then he heard the front door open and close.

At first he just lay there, naked and stunned. Surely she hadn’t just left him here. She couldn’t have. He tried calling to her again. “Lela? Come back here! This really isn’t funny!” No one answered. The apartment was quiet as a tomb.

He struggled against the cuffs to no avail. He told himself to calm down. He was not going to give in to panic. He looked carefully around the dimly lit room. Maybe she’d left the key lying somewhere. He didn’t know how he would reach it even if she did, but he would cross that bridge when he came to it. It was nowhere in sight. He twisted as far as he could and looked over the sides of the bed. It wasn’t on the floor, either. Irritated, he wondered what she had done with his pants. They were nice pants, his favorite pair, actually. She better not have wrinkled them. He struggled against his restraints once more.

Finally he heard the front door open and close again. “Lela? Lela! What the fuck is going on?”

“Shhh, everyone will hear you.”

“I don’t give a fuck! Let me out of these things! I’m leaving.”

“Hold on.” She came into the room. She was no longer wearing the bustier and heels. She was dressed in a long-sleeved black tee-shirt and black sweats. She was carrying something white in her hand and what looked like another pair of cuffs. She moved to the end of the bed and grabbed him by the ankle. Panic did take him then. He started kicking wildly with both legs, trying to stop her from getting a hold on him. She was quick, though, and stronger than she looked. After a brief struggle she sat on his legs, pinning him and cuffed both ankles to the foot board.

“I don’t know what you’re playing at, Lela, but I don’t like it! Let me go!”

“Shhh. Don’t worry. Just relax. Everything is all right,” she crooned.

She moved quickly to the head of the bed and pressed a gag into his mouth. He tried to stop her, shaking his head to and fro like a trapped bear, but he had no more success in this than he had in preventing her from restraining his legs. She tied the gag tightly, painfully, and stepped back from the bed. “I really should have done that before I left. It would have smarter… and easier.” He looked at her now, eyes blazing, and he hated everything about her.

She left the room once gain and came back with a newspaper and a pack of cigarettes. She held the newspaper up in front of him so he could read it. He squinted at it in the darkened bedroom. Below the fold there was a small article:



JEFFERSON HEIGHTS — The smell of smoke lingered in the air Thursday afternoon as area firefighters and the state fire marshal picked through the burnt hollows of a Jefferson Heights grocery store.

The blaze burned for approximately six hours Thursday morning and gutted the structure at 419 W. Madison Street.

The fire department received the call about the fire at 4:37 AM, Jefferson Heights Fire Chief Paul Chancey said. About 30 to 35 rescue squad members battled the blaze, which had already fully engulfed the location when they reached the scene.

The 79-year-old owner who resided in an apartment above the store, Mahomed Gupti, perished in the blaze. He was found near the door of his home, presumably trying to escape the fire when he was overcome by smoke.

The home was completely destroyed, according to fire officials.

Gupti lived alone, according to residents who had gathered at the scene. He was a long-time and respected resident of the city.

Thursday’s blaze was one of a rash of fires that has plagued the city over the past 18 months.

Andrew Schneider, the state fire marshal, was at the home Thursday. He and fire department members took pictures and will review them and other information to determine the cause and origin of the fire, a spokesman explained.

Long-time resident Jill Henry was saddened by the loss of Gupti.

“He was a sweet old man. Always had a smile and a kind word for everybody. I don’t know anyone who didn’t love him,” Henry said tearfully of Gupti. “We’ll miss him terribly. This neighborhood will never be the same.”


When she was certain he had finished reading, she threw the paper in his face and turned her back on him. Warily, he watched as she sat in the corner chair and lit a cigarette. She leaned back and took a long drag. The glowing tip of the cigarette illuminated the top half of her face only, and he shivered. Exhaling a long plume of smoke in his direction, she addressed him.

“Mr. Gupti was my friend, ” she said shortly. “After my mother died, he looked out for me. He made sure I was OK, that I had food to eat and a roof over my head. He didn’t have to. I wasn’t his problem. But he was like that, and I loved him like a father. I never had a father before.” She took another long drag from the cigarette. He wished she would stop. It gave him the creeps, and he needed to keep his wits about him.

“I drove your car over to the docks and left it there, John. Oh, yeah. I looked at your driver’s license, too, so I know your real name. Do you mind if I call you Jack, though? I like Jack better than John.”

He nodded his assent. She could call him whatever she wanted so long as he got out of here.

“Good. So, Jack, have you ever seen that movie, The Princess Bride?” He shook his head. “Oh. That’s a shame. It’s a cute movie. It’s old, but its good. Anyway, there’s a character in it called Inigo, and through the whole movie he keeps talking about how he’s going to get vengeance on the guy who killed his father. He tells everyone that when he meets this guy he’s going to say, ‘Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.'”

She tilted her head and looked at him. Cold sweat was beading on his forehead and running down into his eye. He blinked, trying to clear it. Was she threatening him? Was she trying to tell him she was going to kill him? How the fuck was he going to get out of here? He began to struggle again while she watched. She waited until he stopped, then walked over to the bathroom and threw the cigarette into the toilet. She walked back, sat on the edge of the bed, and shakily lit another. She blew the smoke out and turned to look him full in the face.

“Mr. Gupti burned today, Jack. Mr. Gupti was my friend. He was a father to me. You killed my father, Jack.”

No one heard his muffled scream as she pressed the first cigarette into his thigh.


17 thoughts on “The Price

  1. Yeah! I was avidly reading, hoping the whole time that she was playing him 🙂 I like how you switched to his point of view.
    I don’t know where you might take it from here but I’m hoping there will be a part three, or failing that, more fiction. It could be a whole novel, even, with this one event setting her on a life of vigilantism.
    Really good, I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying your stories 🙂


    • Hey, she *told* him he was going to pay, right?

      There might be something I could do with Mr. Gupti if I wanted to go back in time. The name “Gupti” could refer to several things. It could refer to a traditional Indian dagger, a precept of Jainism, or even a group of Ismailis in Punjab (the meaning of “gupti” here being “secret ones”). In Hindi, the word means “safety”. Food for thought, eh? 🙂


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