by jake kilroy.
“Darling, this is too much red wine,” she said, holding out her glass.
“Is there such a thing?” he said with the sly raise of his brow and the twist of his mouth.
Her laughter fluttered like butterfly wings, and then she drank the maroon sea from her glass.
“How is it that we haven’t stayed in on a Saturday all year?” she asked, looking about the room of gold and white.
“The year is barely even a quarter of the way through.”
“Yes, yes, it’s the longest new year’s party we’ve ever attended, I’m sure.”
He stood at the window, warmly surveying the city, as his wife settled into her lounge chair with a silky exhale.
There was a polite knock at the sitting room door and their butler entered.
“Mr. Harrington has arrived,” the old servant said with a bow.
“Oh, good, good. Show him in,” the man said, waving his hand.
A young man entered with his right hand outstretched.
“Charles!” the woman said, gleefully pulling herself up.
“Hello, Uncle William,” the young man Charles said, shaking the man’s hand before moving towards the woman. “And, Charlotte, you dazzling spectacle, you look like fireworks as always.”
“Too much make-up?” Charlotte remarked lightly, as she and her fur coat swallowed Charles in an adoring hug.
“Don’t start her up and then leave her with me, you scoundrel,” William laughed, pulling a long sip at his wine glass.
“Sorry, uncle,” Charles said, pouring himself a brandy immediately. “The women I meet with are hourly, so I’m used to not wasting time.”
“Why, you delicious savage,” Charlotte crooned. “Where have you been hiding?”
“Somewhere between the lower east side avenues,” Charles said, sinking the dark liquor of his glass. “They have marvelous bars down there, complete with easy women and hard men.”
“My boy, it sounds like quite a life you lead in the slums,” William said.
“Oh, it’s something alright, but I’ve found myself somewhat intrigued by robbery these days,” Charles said, pouring himself a second helping of brandy. “By the way, this is a sensational decanter. Exquisite glass work.”
“Don’t bother stealing it. It’s yours if you want it,” William said, raising his glass as if it were a toast.
Charles grinned. “Thank you, dear uncle, but permission takes all the fun out of thievery.”
“So you’re a gentleman thief now?” William asked.
“Oh, no, no. Gentlemen play cards in the afternoon and enjoy polo,” Charles said, wandering the room, admiring the portraits and antique furniture. He swirled his drink thoughtfully, making sure not to spill any.
“So you’re just a thief then?” Charlotte asked, repositioning herself on her side.
“Hardly,” Charles said. “Thieves pick pockets and lift fruit from the local markets and stands. What fun is that? I’m a grown man, not some petty orphan child looking to live another day.”
“So what do you do then?” William asked suspiciously, almost as a purr.
“Why, I rob, dear uncle! I wear masks and break into houses. I tie up families and take their things,” the young man explained, grinning sharply and savoring his words like a meal.
“Oh, come now, Charles,” Charlotte cooed. “Your mother and father would just simply not allow such things.”
“How are they to stop me? Mother’s in the hospital and father’s in the basement.”
“Oh, dear heavens,” Charlotte gasped. “What has happened?”
“What do you mean, your father’s in the basement?” William asked in a low, gruff tone.
“Well, you see, after I hit father in the face with the rifle and mother with her favorite vase, I tied father up, so he didn’t crawl to the front door and bleed on the rug I was planning on taking.”
Charlotte mumbled incoherently, confused and shocked. William thinned his eyes.
“You did what?” William asked, a growing impatience rising in him.
“I robbed them, dear uncle!” Charles announced enthusiastically.
“You robbed your mother and father?” William growled, setting his wine glass down. “You tied up my own brother like some pathetic animal and sent his wife bloodied to the hospital?”
“Oh god,” Charlotte cried. Her hands covered her mouth as her eyes watered, leaving the wine glass to hit the rug beneath her.
“Don’t do that, Charlotte,” Charles said, tossing his glass across the room and into a plant’s pot. “I plan on taking that rug and I don’t want to use your arm to comb out the shards of glass.”
“You traitorous bastard of a nephew,” William calmly rumbled through gritted teeth.
Charlotte could only manage a scream. “James!”
“Is that the butler’s name? I never could remember it,” Charles admitted whimsically. “It doesn’t matter though. I imagine he’s being tied up and beaten by my associates right now."
“You goddamn fool!” William yelled over the sound of Charlotte's sorrowful wails.
“Listen, uncle, I don’t want to risk getting blood all over my new things, so I’d appreciate you not encouraging me to drag a blade across your face,” Charles said, lightly grazing the couch with his fingers. “I’m disappearing for a while. I was kind enough not to kill father and decent enough to drop mother off at the hospital on my way here. Their things are mine now. Their plush lifestyle is all bundled up, beautifully massacred by their beloved son. Tragic? Maybe. Depends on who’s writing history, don’t you think? Well, I’ll have you know that I stole all their pens. Ha. Bully for me.”
Charlotte wept, as William backed closer to the window.
“You maniac,” William said, raising his voice to a strange level of fear and fury.
“Perhaps,” Charles said indifferently, pulling the rope that had been tucked into the back of his pants. “But I’m about to get rich the old-fashioned way. Call me an industrialist if you must, but I simply won’t be part of this simpleton party announcing itself as the traditional upper class.”
Several men in black clothes and masks entered the room.
“Now, if you could both please step to your left and towards this charming rope I’m holding, I shouldn’t have to ask my friends to let loose in your very lovely sitting room. They can be such rude guests if you let them.”