What To Do About Arthur?

It was a quiet tree lined street in an older part of a neighborhood just outside of the city. The houses for the most part were modest, and owned by upper middle class folks who commuted to the city to work in high-rise office buildings. On the right side of the street sat a house much like the others with one exception. The owner was a very wealthy man who easily could have bought every house on the street a hundred times over. He chose to live in the neighborhood for two reasons; he loved the privacy provided there that kept him out of the limelight. Secondly, if being frugal were a disorder of some kind, then Arthur Timmins would be certifiably insane with stinginess. At least that is what his young wife thought.

Margo Timmins did her best to hide the snarling look on her face as she poured her elderly husband his morning cup of coffee. Being a gold-digger she decided, turned out to be much harder work than she imagined. She softly cursed her luck at her choice. It seemed the old man's demeanor changed instantly, when he slipped the rings from Harry Winston's on her finger seven years ago. The expensive jewelry may as well been a diamond encrusted dog collar or nose ring to lead her around.

The tall leggy redhead faced the marble-topped counter wondering just when her life went wrong. She could have had it all if she would have opted to marry the rich sheik who frequently came to watch her dance, just a few short years ago before she joined the escort service. Leaving the country scared her though, and she knew she had to find someone closer, and when Arthur Timmins called the escort service, and they sent him to her, she knew she found her golden goose... even if it was wrinkled, pale, and in a constant state of molting. The best part of it for her though was the old man simply wanted her company. He had no desire for anything else from her. There were those few times when she let him slither his way on top of her in the dark, but most times, he derived his pleasure from watching his assets grow, rather than watching her ass, which was perfectly fine with Margo, who often told her girlfriends at the escort service that, "He makes my skin crawl."

Within weeks of marrying the old man, things changed and now, all she heard from him was, bring me this, bring me that, my eggs are cold, and there is not enough sugar in my coffee. If-- he would just die, she thought, I would inherit everything he owned. The ancient land developer was worth an estimated 400- million, she reminded herself. The thought of it all becoming hers one day, was the only thing keeping her sane.

At the counter, she stirred the coffee after adding just the right amount of sugar, or at least she hoped it was the right amount this time. One-quarter teaspoon exactly to the granule was his law...and not a grain more. The old man's gnarly fingers seemed equipped to detect milligrams and just may as well been a set of digital scales with yellowed fingernails. When she looked at him, she shuddered at the thought of his touch. There were nights, she could not sleep far enough away from him.

Margo turned from the long marble counter, wearing a mask of disgust. Today, she felt like a servant, and she seethed with hate. The bastard was too cheap to hire any hired help. Hell, why should he, she thought, he has me. She sighed and made her way across the polished floor toward the voice talking from behind the exposed front page of, "The Wall Street Journal." Pausing for a moment, she changed the look on her thin, lightly freckled face to erase her frowns of disdain for the man.

"Fetch, Margo," said the hidden man. God, she hated that command worst of all of them. She wanted to reach across and rip the paper from his hands, and strangle the bastard. Instead, she set the cup and saucer near him, and stood back watching, and waiting.

Arthur Timmins' fingers appeared from the left side of the newspaper and snagged the saucer and cup with the aged and shaking talons of a greed-filled curmudgeon. Margo clasped her hands behind her, stood at parade rest, and waited.

Her chocolate eyes darted to the corner of the newspaper, and grew wide; when she spied bold red letters, announcing the Mega Tri-State Lottery was now at a record high of 320-million dollars. Oh, the things I could do with that, Margo smiled. A girl can dream, she thought. Her dream ended quickly when the paper lowered and she found herself looking into the empty blue eyes of the multi-millionaire and now, disappointed coffee drinker. He sniffed with his hooked nose, and curled his cracked and colorless lips that soon pursed and sprayed a mouthful of the coffee across the mahogany table. He spoke with the accent of his native Austria, and his lifeless eyes speared her through his thick spectacles.

"Entirely too much sugar, Margo, certainly after seven years, you would think you would know how I like it. A dog is easier to train."

"I'll make another," she replied with a forced smile.

"Forget it. I'll get one at the office."

There was no sense in arguing the point. Arthur's words were like the slamming of a thick finished book. He rose slow from the heavy chair, and stood crook-backed staring at her as if he forgot something. She watched him shuffle from the kitchen to the foyer of the mansion. There were no words needed, the slamming of the front door was punctuation enough to end the conversation.

Moving toward the window, Margo watched him struggle to open the door of the ancient Buick. He could have a driver, hell; at least he could buy a car worthy of a multi-millionaire. Instead, he hung on to the ten-year old car with the dented fenders from his bad parking attempts, and told her many times, "As long as it's mechanically sound, I see no reason to part with it." She watched him leave and hoped to God someone would slam into him on the expressway. Margo watched him back down the driveway, and cringed when the bumper of the old car scraped pavement with a loud screech. He drove off as if nothing happened.

She slid the curtain back, smoothed the fabric down, and walked back to the kitchen table. Margo picked up the newspaper scattered about the table, and once again read about the lottery. She had bought a few tickets before, and managed to win a few bucks. She pulled out a chair and sat down daydreaming about all the things she would do with her winnings. Trips around the world, finest dining, winter homes, and summer homes, all those things she thought she would have when she married Arthur.

In fact, it was the only reason she married the old man. The first few years were filled with furs, magnums of champagne, jewelry, and stays in some of the finest hotels in the world. The old man in those days, never showed his greed. He showered her with gifts back then. However, it was all deception on both parts. He wanted a slave, and she wanted him dead. She thought by now he would be six feet under. Then, there was that god-awful prenuptial agreement she signed leaving her nothing if she left him before death. She shuddered, and slid the paper across the table.

Thank God though, there was Andre'. Arthur required his medications, and for Margo, Andre' was just what the doctor ordered to ease her pain.

Andre', the handsome and young pharmacist across town whom she met while having Arthur's medication prescriptions filled was her Camelot, and she was sure that one day, he'd rescue her.

She closed her eyes and smiled. Today, was the day to get the prescription filled, and that meant two hours of bliss in the back seat of Andre's vintage Bentley. She made a mental note to play the lottery, and as luck would have it, the pharmacy sold the tickets. She rose from the table, and decided to take a luxurious bath before running her errands. An hour and a half later, she was parking the Volvo, the only thing he bought her in two years in front of the pharmacy on the Upper Eastside.

The dark-haired pharmacist smiled upon seeing her walk in. He walked from behind the counter and met her halfway down the aisle.

"Well, hello darling," he said, kissing her on each cheek with a greeting often seen in Europe. She returned the same greeting to him, her lips brushing the well-groomed blackness of his beard perfectly manicured to look like it was three days old growth. They walked to the counter, and she handed him the prescription.

"I have to buy a lottery ticket," she said, adding, "I'll return afterward my dear, to get the prescription."

Andre' nodded, and as she turned, his eyes followed her every curvaceous move. He checked his Rolex, and smiled. They had plenty of time for the drive out of the city to the remote spot he affectionately called, "their playground."

She told him a few times of her unhappiness, and on occasion, they would meet at her house. It didn't take him long to realize who she was married to though, when he saw a picture of the two of them framed and hanging from the wall in Arthur's den. The man was famous in New York City for his property holdings, and his ability to invest. His picture plastered at least once a month on the pages of Baron's, or The Journal or peering out from the pages of the real estate section in the New York Times often advertised his importance in the world of finance.

Those facts alone were enough for Andre' to play the game. The pharmacy was in dire need of a cash injection. His habit was expensive, and cocaine was not about to go down in price anytime soon. The redhead standing by the lottery counter would be an easy target, and he watched Margo smile, kiss her ticket, and tuck it into the Gucci handbag dangling off her bejeweled wrist. She strolled up to him, and said, "This could be my lucky day."

"It certainly could be, darling. Shall we have lunch?"

Margo giggled, knowing that, "lunch," was their best-kept secret, and a password known only to the two of them. Their "lunch," lasted nearly two hours, and she let him enter the pharmacy first upon their return from the "playground." She strolled in to get the filled prescription five minutes after Andre' just to keep up the appearance of disassociation.

They both were experts in the art of deception, for Andre' knew full well, as she did, that word of an affair in the high society circles would mean the end of her dreams of claiming any of her dear Arthur's money. She paid for the prescription, and wished there could have been more from Andre' than, "Thank you, Mrs. Timmins." He was sure however, to gently brush the back of her soft hands when she reached for the white package containing the prescription.

Halfway across town, Margo dreaded another night with Arthur. She wished she would have asked Andre' for something to alleviate her growing anxiety, or at least to put her in a deep sleep for the night. Anything, to take her away from the old man's cold touch and constant snoring, and passing of gas. She was five minutes from pulling into the driveway, when she decided something had to be done about Arthur. Something...natural...and permanent, and she knew just who could help her. She sat in the Volvo as a light rain pattered on the metal roof, and thought. Her hand slapped the top of the steering wheel when it occurred to her how to do it. Her only concern was getting Andre' to go along with her plan.

That night Margo slid far away from Arthur who snored on the other side of the king-sized bed. She planned in the darkness to rid herself of the old man. She clenched her square jaw in thought. She formulated, calculated, and fought off the tinges of guilt that would surface like a bobbing piece of driftwood. Once a simple Mid-western corn farmer's daughter who could not wait to leave the farm for glamour, she never lost the ever-present conscience instilled by her upbringing. Peering across the bed, she could make out his emaciated figure, and her conscience died.

New York City was a tough place for a girl like her. Sure, she started out with all the right objectives. She worked as a waitress, took acting classes, danced at a gentleman's club, and then, she realized that working for an escort service would not only pay her more, but the opportunity to meet wealthy men was endless. It was on one cold January night, when she met Arthur. The other men before him hardened her, and when she hit thirty-five, her age was catching up to her. She feared being alone, but most of all she feared being without money.

It was a whirlwind romance, if she could call it that, and now seven years later, here she was laying in bed clutching a pillow, and wondering if she should plop it over his face. Instead, she fluffed it and rested her red locks on it. She knew from television that smothering someone always left the telltale signs of broken capillaries in the eyes. She was not about to make the same mistake the murderer made when she watched CSI Miami just the other night. She fluttered her eyelashes, and drifted off to sleep.

In the morning, she performed her routine. She made the coffee, served it, and waited for the command of, "Fetch." Once again, it was not good enough. However, this time, she smiled, and when Arthur slammed the door on his way out, she actually laughed. When he backed out from the driveway, and his taillights disappeared, Margo picked up the phone without hesitation. She dialed quickly, and when his deep voice answered sleepily, she asked him if he could meet her at the house. He would be there soon, he promised.

An hour later, she sat in the parlor sipping tea with Andre', and asking for his assistance in ridding her of Arthur. She explained it to the young pharmacist, and he listened carefully. It all was so simple; a change in medication and Arthur would be gone. The old man's ticker would just conk out. The plan she worked out was fool proof. Andre' would bring two pills to add to the new prescription Margo picked up yesterday. He would take two pills back with him, so the count would be correct. The old man's advanced age, his senility which was surfacing more these days, and being under a doctor's care already would make the job even simpler. They toasted with a soft clink of the tea glasses.

Andre' steered the Bentley out of the drive, and headed across town to the pharmacy. He stopped near a corner store, and quickly snorted a line of cocaine. It was calling him. He had to reply. He sniffed, and ran his index finger under his nose to hide any of the white powder. His nervous eyes checked the rear-view mirror, and he smiled as he guided the huge car back out onto the street.

"What a stupid bitch," he said aloud.

Her voice entered his coke-filled brain, and he played it back in silence. "I'll inherit 400-million with Arthur gone." Repeatedly it played again, right up until he parked in the pharmacy lot. He rolled his tongue over his numbed gums, and made his way inside. Behind the counter, he packaged a few prescriptions, sent his assistant off for lunch, and then found the pills to switch in Arthur's bottle. Margo agreed earlier to meet him in the lot later in the day to exchange the other pills.

Andre' did a little jiggling of numbers in his paperwork, and wrote the two killer pills off as damaged on his daily report. He crushed two capsules under his Italian loafer, and put them into a container marked, "Incinerate Only." He smiled, and picked up the phone. His assistant walked behind the counter, and glanced at him. He acknowledged him with a nod, and talked loud enough for the assistant to hear just in case there were any questions later.

"Hello, Mrs. Timmins. It's Andre', I have the medication you requested." He paused listening to her speak with unbridled excitement. His eyes opened wide, and a wide smile appeared on his face.

"You did what? You're kidding, that's wonderful news." Andre's hands shook, and he continued, "No, no...don't bother, I'll be glad to deliver them for you. Give me twenty-minutes." Andre' hung up the phone. He looked with bright happy eyes at his assistant.

"John, I need you to go to 52nd Street, and pick up the order from Merck."

"Yes sir," replied his assistant. Andre' watched the young man as he hung up his white lab coat, and strolled out of the pharmacy. He looked at the older woman at the cash register in the front of the store. She was busy stocking footpads on a wall display. Andre' made his way to the back of the pharmacy, and scanned the various small bottles on a shelf. He plucked one from the top shelf, and ripped open a pack of needles. He thrust it into the rubber at the top of the bottle, and loaded the syringe. He placed the cap on the tip of the needle and slid it into the pocket of his sports jacket.

"I'll be back in an hour, Thelma." Andre' hurried past the woman tending the register.

He sped off in the Bentley. He parked down the street in front of the Spanish market, and walked the short distance to Margo's home. He was about to knock, when the door suddenly flew open and a beaming Margo excitedly invited him inside the spacious home with a sweep of her arm saying, "It's true dear, it's true, just like I told you on the phone." He pulled the door shut behind him, and watched as Margo danced around waving a lottery ticket over her head.

"Darling, we don't have to do it. I won the lottery today, 320-million dollars! There was only one winning ticket sold. I won it all," she screamed in a girlish voice.

"Congratulations dear, that's the best news I've heard in a long time." Andre' grabbed her and pulled her close. His eyes met hers, and their lips met in a passionate kiss. He stepped back holding both of her wrists, and glanced down at the lottery ticket in her hand. Just as he thought, the dumb bitch never signed the ticket yet.

"Let's go into the bedroom," Andre said pulling her by the hand. There was playful resistance on Margo's part, but she soon followed him. She was more than ready to celebrate.

In the room, he pulled her close. "Hug me dear," Andre' said, as he released her wrists. She wrapped both hands around his neck, and buried her face in his chest. In her excitement, she never felt him reaching in his pocket, or his fingers when he uncapped the syringe. She was in heaven. In reality, she was seconds away from being in hell. She felt the sharp prick of the needle and the sting of liquid just under her armpit. She stepped back, gasped, and watched the lottery ticket float from her hand. There was an intense pressure on her eyeballs, and she felt the capillaries pop. In her head she could hear them snapping. To her, Andre' was now a blurry figure stooping down and picking up the ticket. There was a quivering of her heart muscles, and when that stopped, there was only darkness.

Andre' studied the ticket as Margo lay dead on the bedroom floor. He picked a pillow up from the bed, and placed it over her face. Quickly, he left the bedroom, and in the kitchen, he took the two pills from his other pocket, and placed them on the table, along with a glass of water. She told him many times how she had his medication waiting for him when he returned at the end of the day.

He set the glass on the table, and removed a handkerchief from his pocket carefully wiping down the glass. Satisfied, he slid out the front door. Outside, he sat in the Bentley, watching as Arthur pulled into the drive. The old man walked slow to the door, and disappeared inside. Andre studied the place. If he found her body in the bedroom, well things could change. He slid on a pair of black leather gloves just in case. A slow smile grew on his face when he saw the old man's shadow through the curtains.

The shadow silhouetted against the curtain moved slowly, and then Arthur's shaking hand popped the medicine into his mouth, and Andre' could see him clearly lift the glass to wash them down. He looked at his watch, for he knew it would only take minutes. He was only off by eleven-seconds, as he watched Arthur clutch his chest, and slump forward. The old man's shadow disappeared below the sill of the window.

Andre started the car, and drove slowly away. Glancing down, he checked his watch, and pulled off to the side of the road. Plucking the lottery ticket from his front shirt pocket, he set it on the leather console of the Bentley, and fished a pen from his other pocket. He pinned the ticket with one finger, scratched his name on the back of the ticket, and slid it into his pocket. He patted the pocket affectionately. He had more than an hour to make it to the lottery headquarters to claim his prize, and slid the Bentley back onto the road; he sat back in the comfortable seat, and steered with one hand. The trees whizzed by on the expressway, and their crowns bent with a growing wind as Andre' pressed down the accelerator.

Back at the house a stirring took place. "Margo?" a weak voiced pleaded from the floor of the Timmins' living room.

"Fetch," the voice said gathering strength. Arthur Timmins reached out, and his thin arm grasped for the edge of the chair near him. He swiped at it twice, and on the third managed to claw his fingers into the upholstery. He slowly pulled himself up on his knees.

"Where could that woman be?" he sputtered angrily. Groaning, with effort he hung on to the chair rising until he stood on his wobbly legs. Breathing deep, he wheezed in air, and his dizzy head cleared. He lowered his head to see the broken glass on the floor, and then remembered taking the medication. The doctor had warned him there could be some side effects from it. Where in the hell is that woman? He thought. I need to get to the hospital. He could call an ambulance. Then he remembered the private ambulances in this part of town charged an arm and a leg for a transport. He was not about to pay for that when his Buick was sitting in the drive. He made his way to the door, and struggled with the handle a few times, finally, he was able to muster up enough strength to turn the knob and the door opened. He staggered outside.

The wind pushed against his thin frame, and the hunch-backed old man bent his knees and fought against it until he reached the driver's door of the Buick. He placed his hand near the windshield, and searched his front pocket. His thin fingers wriggled and met the keychain, and he lifted them from his pocket. He focused on the lock, and stabbed at it. Three attempts later, the key slid into the keyhole and he turned it. He pulled on the heavy door, and managed to open it against the growing wind. When he slid into the worn seat indented with his impression from years of sitting in it, he felt a quick jolt of pain in his chest. Calm, he thought, stay calm, he winced hard fighting the pain, and when it subsided, he poked the key into the ignition and started the car.

He blew the horn loud, and long hoping that it might draw her attention from wherever she was in the house. When she did not appear, he backed slowly down the drive, and cut the wheels. It took great effort to straighten them out, but when he did, his foot pressed heavy on the worn gas pedal. He pointed the car in the direction of the expressway, and knew he was at least fifteen minutes from the emergency room of St. Ignatius, the finest and cheapest hospital near him. Clutching the wheel, his eagle like talons held on, and he swerved madly in and out of traffic.

Ahead of him, the ramp of the freeway appeared and he veered around a construction cone, and floored the old car. The old motor sputtered, and then it growled with power pushing Arthur back into the seat. The old man held the wheel tight, and his eyes looked just over the dash to watch the black road rushing toward him. Suddenly horns were blaring, and cars heading toward him veered off on both sides of the wide double lane road. He neglected to see that he had taken the off ramp of the expressway. In his desperation, and panic, he still failed to understand his mistake, and floored the old car. He cursed the honking horns, and screeching tires, and shook his small fist at some man who yelled something from his open window just before the man's car scraped the metal guide rails and showered sparks as bright as if it were a grinding wheel on steel.

Arthur pressed on the gas pedal until there was nothing left but floorboard. The speedometer crept up passing one-hundred and twelve miles per hour, and it stayed lodged there, for there was no more available power left.

Andre' in his Bentley, whizzed down the expressway, and glanced down at his shirt pockets. He pulled out the lottery ticket holding it with the fingers of his left hand. His elbow rested on the window rail, and he kissed the ticket. He would be at lottery headquarters in less than a half hour with time to spare before they closed for the weekend. He pinched the ticket between his thumb and forefinger, stomped on the gas, and grinned.

He broke over the top of a rise, and noticed cars pulling off on either side of the road. Horns blasted, and tires screeched ahead of him. A huge semi with its trailer rocking turned toward the railings, and a plume of blue smoke rolled from under its locked tires. Andre's face grew into puzzled wonderment at the scene, and he felt as if his Bentley was on the receiving team at a football game as the cars on the right and left seemed to spread out into a wedge to allow him through. His look suddenly changed.

His eyelids sprang upward, and in the instant that it took for them to roll up, it left him with his wide eyes trained on an old Buick barreling toward him. He screamed as the front of the Buick grew larger, and the driver stared hypnotically at him. He yanked one-handed on the wheel trying to turn toward the right, but in an instant, the Buick drove its bumper, grill, hood, and eight-cylinder engine directly into the center of the Bentley. Their rear wheels lifted into the air, and each car became the other's brick wall of death. Both men were dead before the back tires bounced back down to meet the road. Steam rose, and the smell of anti-freeze swept across the highway by the high cross wind blowing across it. The lottery ticket fluttered from Andre's dead fingers floated into the sky like an autumn leaf, and grew small as it danced on the wind. It soared beyond the railings and across an open patch of goldenrods where it finally came to rest in the center of a stagnant pond.

It took several hours to clear the accident scene of the mangled masses of metal, and for the police to investigate the crash scene. Two patrol officers sent to inform Mrs. Timmins that she was a widow pounded on the front door, and when they received no response, they tucked a card in the door with a number for her to call. It was the next day after a call from one of Arthur's concerned employees went unanswered, that the police returned to find Margo's body on the floor of the bedroom.

A detective assigned to investigate concluded from the broken glass on the floor that the married couple had an altercation of some sort. Their best guess was it was a murder/suicide, and that Arthur smothered her with a pillow. The broken capillaries were a sure sign. As for the poor sap on the expressway, they concluded simply, the wrong place at the wrong time. There was just one more thing left, what to do about Arthur? His will left specific instructions that Margo would be the one to take care of his remains, and she stood to inherit his fortune. Unfortunately, with her being deceased it was a moot point.