Christian Short Stories
Cupid's Double Duty
By Web Ruble
Web Ruble writes: I am a retired newspaper reporter of some 40 years, and a couple of those years I was religion writer at The Oregonian, Oregon's largest daily. Now I am a novelist and short story writer. My wife Norma and I live in Fairview, OR but split our time between there and Tucson, AZ where we are now until about April 15. We are lay leaders and deacons at Smith Memorial Presbyterian Church in Fairview, OR (near Portland). We also are volunteers on Thursdays about nine months out of the year in a soup kitchen in Gresham, OR.
Elizabeth sat in the coffee shop by the big window and was all semi-tropical and warm down in her core. It was Feb. 7 -- a week before Valentine's Day.
She looked out at the gray sky breaking up slightly. It was momentarily shining after a brief rain squall.
The last noon mill whistle had sounded. It was a comfortable sound -- like a clarion call. Yet she was slightly anxious.
Nevertheless, she determined that that was natural, given the circumstance. After all, her life was about to change. She was happy -- or at least thought she was -- for the first time in two years. Freedom was creeping on her. She could feel it. This was the day she had been waiting for. She spent the next 10-15 minutes contemplating long life without Walter.
In less than a half hour she would meet the man who would solve her "love situation." She had another in mind. Walter was in the way. After all, she mused, we are polarized. Why then did she feel this dark cloud overhead? Yet, she felt considerable relief. A decision had been made. Go with the big valentine. It was going to be delivered.
- - - - - - - - - - -
Grim, gray and dripping. The rain gutters on the rusty marquee were now overflowing. And the man with hard, darting eyes was standing on the sidewalk in front of the movie theater, scanning the pictures proffered by Elizabeth. Her friend Patsy, who had arrived moments earlier, stood by gaping and white-knuckled with folded hands.
Patsy looked apprehensive. She looked like she didn't want to be there. Elizabeth was expressionless.
The man -- thin with a hawk nose and sharp eyes -- was all business and looking at the pictures. He didn't take long. He looked back at Elizabeth, and then a sidelong glance at Patsy, and said, "You sure you want to do this? It's a lot of bucks for a valentine."
"Yes, of course. I wouldn't have called you if I didn't."
"Liz, there's still time . . ." said Patsy now wringing her hands.
"Where'd you get my name?" he asked.
"Well, we girls have an underground. Your name Cupid was mentioned."
"But I don't live here. People don't call me Cupid anymore. How'd you know?"
"We have friends in . . .well . . .places."
"Oh. Okay. Let's see. His name is Walter; lives at 2020 Jefferson St.; drives a blue Mercedes; works for Pacific Plywood, and stops after work at the Sleazy?"
"Yes, and the rest of the information is there on the other sheet."
"Hmmmm. So he's about 5-foot-10, 40 years old, and usually takes Broadway and Ankeny Street, and gets home about 6:30. . .. And this is what he looks like. Hmmmmmm. Delivery does look manageable."
"Yes, it's all there," Elizabeth said. "What's the problem? Can you bring it together next Thursday?"
"What do you mean perhaps? There's $10,000 waiting. If you bring the gift within a week's time, that figure goes up to $15,000 -- $5,000 now, and 10 afterwards."
"Well, cost effective as it seems and certainly needing the initial $5,000, I'm still going to wait. I want a few days to check this out. I need to be sure of things."
Well, okay," Elizabeth said. "It's your call. . . . $10,000 in cash when it's over. But it must be soon, preferably on Valentine's Day."
Patsy's face was now as dirty gray as the river.
The man stuffed the pictures and written sheets into a manila envelope, turned on his heel and strode around the corner, without saying anything more.
Elizabeth paused a moment or two then took the 10 steps to the corner and peered around it. Cupid had vanished.
Good. Even though she now had a few qualms, it was a said-and-done deal. The valentine would be delivered. She wondered how "thrilled" Walter would be. This thought upset her slightly. Patsy was even more upset and obviously was wanting to leave.
What the dickens. Is Patsy in love with Walter?
- - - - - - - - - -
The cue ball clicked with others and the eight dropped into the south corner pocket. The shooter put down his cue stick and said, "I lose. Let's talk over here."
He and Walter found a corner booth in the dimly lit, almost empty pool room -- Solbrig's Chalk and Cue. "Let's go over this stuff," the man said.
With a measure of uneasiness, Walter with his package went over to the corner booth and slid in. The man slipped in opposite him, with his back to the wall so he could watch the joint's entrance.
"So you want me to whack you wife . . . on Valentine's Day?"
"Yeah that's it. I told you."
"Man, that's ballsy . . .cruel and unusual."
"Well, I don't need your guff," said Walter for the first time feeling unsure of the task. "What do you care, anyway? To me, it'll be an appropriate . . . valentine. Therefore, Valentine's Day seems right. You've got to decide whether you want the job."
"Hey, bozo, they call me Cupid. I'll take it. But you want to quote that price again?"
"Yeah, $10,000. That's all I can put together. If you wish, we can call the whole thing off. Or, I could give you half now . . .."
"No need. I could take a lump sum at the end. Let's see the stuff."
Walter shrugged and produced a packet of pictures and papers. Cupid slipped out the material. There was Elizabeth, looking holiday attractive in her velvet blue dress, posing near a fireplace mantel -- probably last Christmas at home.
"Hmmm. Let's see, she's 5-foot-4, 38 years old, is home at 2020 Jefferson Street most of the day, and watches soaps. Eh?"
"That's right, except next Friday she may go out with her friend Patsy. They usually go to the arts-crafts show at the mall, and get back to my place about 4:30. Then they have a highball and once in a while they probably rooty toot. That's why Valentine's Day, next Thursday, would be best. She's always alone at home on Thursdays. The house is secluded. No children. Shouldn't be a big problem."
"Okay. It sounds workable. I can nudge her Thursday. But let me take this stuff with me. I want to check things out. I need to be sure. I have your phone number at work I'll let you know in a couple of days for sure. Okay?
"Well, can I trust you? And if you decide not to do the job then I may miss Valentine's Day. I want it done by then.
"Sorry. That's my deal. Take it or leave it."
Walter thought: who's in charge here, anyway? Oh, what the heck.
"Okay," finally said Walter, obviously uneasy and somewhat wanting to cancel the valentine. “Let me know as soon as you can so I can make other arrangements if I have to."
- - - - - - - - - - -
The phone on the stand near the stairway at 2020 Jefferson St. rang. Elizabeth picked it up. "Hello?"
"This is Cupid. All systems are go. Have Valentine meet me at the big table at the Big House Café, Thursday, precisely at 5. And I mean precisely. By God's witness, it'll be a delivered valentine by then. I'll have the evidence for you. Bring the money."
"Okay. Super," she said. Hanging up the phone, she was dizzy. It finally was going to happen. Why did she have these second thoughts?
Minutes later, the phone rang in the sales office at Pacific Plywood.
"Pacific sales. Crockett here. Today we have red cedar, too. Whatcha need?"
"Cupid here. It's a deal. Thursday, Valentine's Day. See you at 5:10 p.m. at Big House Cafe. I'll have the evidence then. Don't come early but be prompt and have the money."
"You heard me. Adios. See you then." (Click)
- - - - - - - - - - -
Big House Cafe was almost empty. It wasn't quite dinner time yet. The big table was pushed into a far corner. Sally, the waitress, had gotten a telephone call and knew she had a special group arriving at 5 and that the group wanted to be alone with a pot of coffee. She was ready. It was 10 till.
It wasn't a couple of minutes before two women came in -- Elizabeth and Patsy. They looked a little harried and anxious. They selected chairs and sat down at the big table. Moments later, Cupid came in with another man, who looked a little like him, and they both sat down. Elizabeth and Patsy looked as if they were about to bolt. "Don't be alarmed," said Cupid. "He's my assistant. We work together."
Elizabeth and Patsy looked nervous as two long-tailed cats in a room of rocking chairs. But they stayed put. Cupid then got up, went over to Sally who was at the coffee bar, and whispered something. He then showed her something. She nodded and Cupid returned.
"Let's have a coffee," Cupid said. "After today's events my pal here needs a cup or two. Then we'll get down to business."
About this time Sally came back with a coffee pot and cups. Then there was a noise. She whirled around and went immediately to the front door. She talked to someone outside. Moments later the side door opened, and Sally brought in -- Walter!
Hell has no awkwardness like what was experienced in Big House Cafe at that moment. Terror had two or three persons sick. Walter stopped abruptly when he saw Elizabeth, but Cupid pushed him into a chair.
"Awwk," shouted Elizabeth upon seeing Walter and looked like she was going to throw up or explode out of the room.
"What the . . .?" said one voice.
"Cupid, you double-crossing jerk, what the heck is goin' on?" said another.
Walter and Elizabeth were red-faced, sweating, and terrified. Patsy was gray as a seasick sailor.
"Before anybody says anything more," Cupid said loudly, raising his arms as if to stop freeway traffic or part the Red Sea. "I have to tell you all something. Listen up! No money will change hands here today. I'm no longer a hit man. Got it? Haven't been for two years. I'm a born-again Christian. This is my brother Bob. He's a minister at St. Luke's in Tacoma and a counselor. He and Jesus have worked miracles. He knows the whole Crockett story -- both ends. Amen. Patsy, you and I need to leave. It's Valentine's Day, and this is the big valentine. You see, Walter, Elizabeth and the reverend here have some serious talking to do. My brother with God's son is going to liberate both of them of their evil, murderous thoughts and he’s going to help them find a whole new life -- together."
(© 2010 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)
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