Alice Parker, alias Dragon Lady, enters Salvatore’s Cabaret, strolling past the Spanish stucco in a nouveau, half-kimono, sheer blouse, red lipstick and matching heels. She flutters her lashes, mimicking a geisha, on the way into the ballroom. “Do you have fresh limes today?”
Sal’s in a summer tux sitting at a black Baby Grand. “The acerbic taste is not so popular these days.” Shaking his head, he taps a white fedora twice.
The Dragon Lady raises her eyebrows, whistles, and says, “Usual drinks. The officers are on the road.” Sweeping her cheek with an index finger, she rests a palm on the slight swell of her belly, a recent repetitive move, and stares into the unknown.
Louie the bartender brings an unopened box of Cuban Diplomatico no. 45 cigars and a Limited Edition Louis XIII Custom Cognac decanter from under the bar.
Three enemy colonels arrive in white slacks and polo shirts. They bow to kiss the Dragon Lady’s knuckles.
Looking up through her lashes, “Boys, nice and dark on the veranda.” The men gather round as the General enters wearing Bermuda shorts and a yellow aloha shirt. The officers shake hands with the rotund man, grab their drinks, and saunter across the dance floor towards the patio.
Another decanter and box of cigars sit on a wrought-iron coffee table. The Colonels relax in matching armchairs, backs to a row of bushes and a well-manicured lawn.
A brass band rehearses. Dragon Lady massages General Rossi’s shoulders before moving to the other men. She dances around the furniture. Rossi orders her to remove his shirt. Stretching over his back, hands brush his cheeks and slide to his throat. I’ve every secret we need, she thinks.
Could she turn into a stone-cold killer? She lives with this thought and other violent fantasies. Things got out of control when she was with this group. How many times can she scream no? She took a shower that night and lay on the couch, crying.
It should never happen to another agent. Dragon Lady follows the General’s directions, leans in, and undoes his shirt. “Take off that red dress.” In a few minutes, I’ll be giving the fuckin’ orders, Rossi. Stalling, she unbuttons her top button.
Lips wrapped around a Diplomatico no. 45, the General removes the cigar from his mouth, peels the cellophane, and waits for a colonel to rush over to light it—then blows three rings into her face.
After tossing her head back, she undoes her second. The colonels ignore her and continue to drink, smoke, and kiss the General’s butt.
Rossi pulls her downward. “Get everything off.” Dragon Lady cringes in disgust.
She steps behind the chairs and continues to dance. “You’ll love what I’ve got planned. Give me a chance, let me do my magic.” She raises her eyebrows. “Lean forward.” She massages a colonel’s shoulders. “Next.”
“A one and a two and a three.” Sal sings, “Some Enchanted Evening…”
No time to spare. Dragon Lady dances towards the bushes. She plucks a red rose for her blonde hair, matching her overall look.
Can the reluctant former librarian deliver her message with enough force? Hovering over the toilet every morning. I never signed up to be a secret agent. Duty called. I stepped up when needed. For crying out loud, I can’t help it if I’m strung out on vengeance. You had your claws on me. You won’t live to see the peace treaty confirmed tomorrow.
Men and women of the Bravo Unit have completed its overall mission. The outfit wants revenge. She often says to her team, ‘you want to do something? Get me out of here.’ The no mercy rule is in effect.
After she touches the flower in her hair, Sal taps his fedora twice. The band turns up the volume, and he sings louder.
The lovely Dragon Lady inhales, holds her breath, and exhales. She slides her palm between the slit in her kimono and pulls out a pistol from a holster around her thigh. Her eyes redden, her hand squeezes the trigger hard and angry.
Falling forward, and then sideways. Thump thump. The empty pearl handle gun slips to the grass.
The General twists and coughs and pushes off the lawn with his back toward her. Dragon Lady removes her high heels, grabs one shoe by the toe, and drives it into his neck and skull three times. Blood gushes as it breaks in her hand. Rossi falls, but rises again. She sweeps his leg and takes him to the ground for a third time. Wrapping her bloody fingers around his collar, she digs harder and deeper. Strength from milking cows on an Iowa farm has served her well. He tries to speak, but is incapable of breathing.
~ ~ ~
Sal, the Piano man, Louie the bartender, and one other enter the terrace through the glass doors in coveralls, hoods, and gloves. The officers lie in a messy heap. Cleaners are ready to work.
~ ~ ~
A white limo speeds off on a dark road, high on the western side of a neutral country. Dragon Lady sticks her head out the window. She welcomes the breeze on her face. She twists her neck to see Sal’s Cabaret smoldering. Goodbye cruel world. Skies grow dimmer as the storm clouds continue to drift over wind-blown palms.
~ ~ ~
Her file closed. Alice Parker retires with full honors and benefits and returns to her former position as a librarian twice a week.
Motherhood occupies most of her time. These days she meditates and stays in the present as much as possible. Occasionally, she’ll sweep her cheek with an index finger and rest her palm on her belly and stare into the unknown.
From their fiery red, her eyes have returned to a soft blue.