There was only one tree on the hill, a Frangipani, and there was a dark cloud hanging over it. The tree leaned towards the city below, as if mistaking the glimmering lights for a body of water.Agent Furlong thought the tree’s gnarled branches looked old and tired, and that it probably wouldn’t see another summer, but the flowers were in bloom, and their sweet fragrance reminded him of innocent youth.
The wind picked up and there was a hissing noise under the woman’s feet. Agent Furlong watched the kikuyu grass move this way and that, like velvet. He looked up and looked into her pale blue eyes and watched her bleached hair dancing over her face. She had sharp features, and her lips were Valentine’s rose red.
“Here.” The woman handed him a package. It was wrapped in brown paper and Sellotape.
“You’d better not be fucking with me,” Furlong said, raising one eyebrow. He regretted his harsh tone when she turned her face away from him.
She’s barely twenty, for god’s sake, Furlong, he thought to himself. Watch your language.
“Open it, then,” she snapped and placed both hands over her belly.
This made him uncomfortable because his first thought was that she was pregnant. He looked at her breasts to see if they were swollen. They were, and she wasn’t wearing a bra. The cold wind caused her nipples to harden.
She caught him looking and gave him a shy smile.
Agent Furlong pretended to inspect the package’s wrapping while she straightened her miniskirt and folded her arms over her chest.
“Strange, isn’t it?” she said, staring down into the city streets, “It’s only four-thirty in the afternoon and all the street lights are already on.”
Furlong relaxed. His sigh was taken by the wind when he reached over and placed the package on his SUV passenger’s seat.
“Do you think there’s, like, a light meter that flips the switch?” the woman asked.
“I beg your pardon?” Furlong didn’t like small talk.
“I mean … do you reckon, like, the city council, or the municipality … or, or, like, whoever’s in charge—do you think they have a person in a small office somewhere who, like, presses a button to turn on the street lights when it gets dark? Or do you think there’s a … device that measures light in a box on a pole somewhere in the city that activates and deactivates the street lights?”
What Furlong liked was the idea of shooting this woman in the back of the head, pregnant or not, and splatter her brains over the street lights, the light meter boxes, and the windows of all the small offices below. “I don’t know,” he hissed. Calm down, Furlong. It’s her first delivery. She’s probably just nervous, he reminded himself and took a deep breath.
“No need to be rude. Just, like, say if you don’t care—you probably don’t. Sometimes they forget to turn off the lights, you know. I just thought, like, seeing as we are the only two who know about the package, we might as well try and hit it off.”
“Hit it what?” Furlong’s voice faded around the back of his vehicle. He put his hands in his coat pockets because he had thoughts of strangling the woman. He looked down at his orange Nikes.
“Hit it off. You know, like, get it on. Have a pow-wow, have a chin-wag and that. Maybe go for a drink?”
“You sure have a way with words, lady.” Furlong’s voice was thick with sarcasm. “Don’t ever contact me again.” His words bounced like rubber balls over the roof of the SUV. “Your money’s where we agreed it would be. There’s a little extra. I won’t require your services in the future, thank you very much.”
Furlong got in the SUV and slammed the door. He turned the key in the ignition, turned on his lights, and made a U-turn. Looking back in his rearview-mirror he saw the woman, one hand on her stomach, waving goodbye.
Did she just blow me a kiss? Jesus, some people just don’t get a hint.
The woman watched him snaking down the road. She covered her ears at the sound of those macho four-by-four tyres munching away at the gravel, and she closed her eyes each time the brake lights hiccoughed around hairpin bends. The last thing she wanted was for him to have an accident.
When Agent Furlong slowed down a few hundred meters before the yellow CITY LIMIT road sign at the first set of traffic lights, the woman raised her arms over her head and looked up at the sky. Her eyes were ice and blood oozed from her ears and the corners of her mouth.
Lightning struck and split the Frangipani in half. White flowers rained down on her, and the stench of death surfed over their petals.
Agent Furlong skipped the red light and made a left at the KFC on the corner of Oak and Maple.
Again, the grass hissed under the woman’s feet; a bubble of laughter popped over her lips each time a street lamp exploded over the roof of Agent Furlong’s SUV.
words by Ramon Ramirez
art by Craig Hopson