No matter how far or wide you run, if you are a bad man, trouble will find you.
Will Viharo is a bad man. A very, very bad man. Open the door, Mr. Viharo. She’s back.
Will Viharo is a bad man. A very, very bad man. Open the door, Mr. Viharo. She’s back.
Stick-Up Artist by Will Viharo
Tim kept driving around in the Seattle mist, looking for Laura, but she had vanished on her way home from class. Probably into her apartment. That meant she lived somewhere around the University of Washington, which made sense, since she was a full time student, a senior studying some kind of useless bullshit. He’d find her again. Meantime, he had to eat. And for food, he needed money. He didn’t have any money. He hadn’t sold a painting or any photographs in months. The market for his retro-themed work had all but dried up. Vintage was no longer in vogue. The distant past was no longer “cool.” He needed to find a new subject. Or just quit altogether and reboot with a different career. Like, a real one.
That option suddenly presented itself just around the corner. There was Laura again, wearing a loose purple sweater that barely obscured her magnificent bust, tight, hip-hugging jeans and suede ankle high boots, now almost alone on 17th Avenue, covered by a spectacular canopy of autumnal tree branches. Her long brown hair was being whipped about by the wet, wild breeze.
He pulled up beside her again, this time with his gun drawn. “Get in the car,” he said. “Don’t run, or I’ll shoot.”
She reluctantly complied. But she didn’t seem remotely scared, just gave him an annoyed you again look.
“What do you want, creep?” she asked. “Are you going to rape me? If so, I’ll scream.”
“No,” he said. “I told you. I keep telling you. I just want you to pose for me.”
“How do you even know what I look like naked?”
“I’ve seen you. In my mind, I mean. You were … perfect.”
“Are you going to kill me when it’s over?”
“No. I’m not a killer.”
“What are you?”
“I told you. I’m an artist. But a desperate one. This is my last chance. Your last chance, too. Thank you for cooperating. I promise you won’t regret it.”
She nodded and stared silently out the window, a surprisingly passive captive.
He kept driving toward his dump on Capitol Hill. He lived alone in a shabby one-room tenement located over Bimbo’s Cantina on Pike Street. It was basically his live-in art studio. He slept there, ate there, and sometimes fucked there. But not recently. He was merely an aging piece-of-irrelevant flab, fading fast.
“I’m not afraid of you,” Laura said as they stopped.
“I can tell. Why not?”
“Because you’re just an old, washed-up loser, and you knew you wouldn’t have a chance with some hot young thing like me unless you pulled a fake gun on me and kidnapped me.”
“You could tell the gun was fake?” It was actually a prop for his film noir-style shoots.
She laughed. “Yea. Just like you. A phony.” Suddenly he felt like he had lost control of the situation. Of course, he never had control of any situation. But nonetheless, she dutifully got out of the car with him after he’d parked and followed him up to his studio apartment, like a zombie slave.
“You hungry?” he asked her as he unlocked the front security door. “There’s New York Pizza just next door, or burritos downstairs.”
“I’d rather just fuck first and get it over with,” she said. “Life is too short to waste time with formalities. We can eat after we work up an appetite, anyway.”
This is way too easy, he thought. He was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Instead, he removed her boots and began feverishly licking cute little red-painted toes.
After they fucked and Tim came several times while Laura faked it twice, and she was lying sweaty but still strangely sweet smelling in his hairy arms on his creepy old cot, surrounded by neurotically blemished canvases, he said, “So now can we eat?”
“Sure,” she said, wiping some of his dirty old semen off her fresh, fleshy right thigh, then licking it off her long, thin fingers. “I could eat again.”
“I have no food here, and I’m broke,” he confessed bluntly.
“No problem, I have a credit card with a five-thousand-dollar limit. Let’s go. It’s on me.”
Since she was buying, he took her around the corner to the Twin Peaks-style Lost Lake Cafe on 19th Avenue, next to The Elliot Bay Book Company, where he ordered all his favorite items on the menu, including dessert. She just ate a salad because, as she put it, she was watching her figure even closer than he was.
Tim was in love. Laura wasn’t, or maybe she was, whatever. But this sure beat doing homework.
As they ate, he stared at her smooth, alabaster skin, unblemished by sunlight, like so much Pacific Northwestern-bred flesh. He couldn’t believe his pathetic mortal semen was sloshing around inside of this angelic creature, like the salmon swimming obliviously in Puget Sound. She seemed so far beyond his station only hours before, when they were total strangers. Now they’d already been as intimate as two people can be. It was simply too good to be true. And things that were too good to be true either weren’t really good, or weren’t really true.
After the meal and polite conversation wherein Tim discovered Laura had been raised down in Tacoma by married law partners and was majoring in English at UDub just for the hell of it since she knew she’d never have to actually work for a living, given her stunning natural beauty, she reached for her purse, but he stopped her and said, “I have an idea. Instead of paying, why don’t we just rob the place?” He was on a roll, he figured. Might as well maintain the momentum.
She shrugged nonchalantly. “Sure, why not? That’s real world experience you can’t get in a classroom. I’m so beyond bored. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here. This was my choice. Just remember that. I’m no victim or hostage. Fake gun boy.”
Then Tim reached across the table and tired to kiss her, but she shunned him since she was putting on lipstick. Dejected, he sat back in his seat, but then she finished and said, “So are we doing this or what?”
Shaking, Tim removed the rubber .45 from within his coat pocket and stood up on the table Pulp Fiction-style. Everyone in the place froze, including all ten customers, the waitress, the busboy, the counter clerk, the manager, the cooks, and the dishwasher. Laura laughed as she went around filling up her purse with cash from the customers as well as the cash register. Then they fled outside into the rainy Seattle night.
“We better leave town,” Tim said. “We’re fugitives from justice now. You can pose for me later.”
“Okay,” Laura said.
“Don’t you have class tomorrow?”
“I can always drop out, no big deal,” she said. “There’s no future in higher education for someone as pretty as me. It’s not my fault. I don’t want to be an actress, either. That’s way too much work. Why don’t we get married and live on the road instead? I’ve always wanted to travel. I mean, here in America. I’ve already done most of Europe and Asia and even Africa and Australia, so that would be fun. You take opportunities as they come, right?”
So she was wise and world-weary, too, on top of being impossibly beautiful. Tim simply could not believe his sudden streak of impossibly good fortune. “Okay, sure,” he said. Instead of doubting it, he just went with it. Wherever this road led was better than where he’d been, he figured.
They junked his old ’70s car and stole a brand new Cadillac from a nearby parking lot and headed down to Portland. Laura counted the cash. They scored over seven hundred dollars. She held onto her credit card anyway, since they’d burn through that loot soon enough.
“How old are you, anyway?” Tim asked her as they sped down the 5.
“Twenty,” she said. Better than nineteen, he thought. “You?”
“Forty ... five?”
“Is that a question or an answer?”
“I just hope it’s not a deal breaker.”
She put her hand in his crotch as she said, “I’ve always liked men older than my father. I have major daddy issues.”
They stayed at the Hotel Deluxe in downtown Portland, drank fancy cocktails in the swanky on-site bar called The Driftwood Room, ate a grand dinner at Gracie’s next door in the lobby, drank more in The Driftwood till they got kicked out, then they went upstairs to their cozy suite and fucked till dawn, while watching an all-night marathon of The Walking Dead on AMC.
The next morning they got up and went outside to see six police cars with silently swirling sirens surrounding the hotel. A cop with a bullhorn told them to give up. Laura screamed she’d been kidnapped. Shocked and scared, Tim reflexively pulled out his fake “lucky” gun, and his briefly charmed life suddenly ended in a bloody barrage of bullets.
But it wasn’t all bad. The international notoriety of his brief crime spree made his work posthumously valuable beyond his wildest dreams. His paintings sold for millions and popular magazines published featured glossy spreads of his photographs. The Seattle Art Museum hosted a major exhibition of all his work. He was the Emerald City’s most infamous dead native celebrity next to Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, and Bruce Lee. And he owed it all to that fake gun—now forever on display under glass at SAM.
The cops bought Laura’s story of being abducted against her will mostly because she was so hypnotically gorgeous. She quietly resumed her life as originally scheduled. So young, and yet she felt her life had already peaked. Every night, alone in her new studio apartment on 15th Avenue, she sat wondering what to do with herself and contemplated the framed, original painting of herself, sad and nude. The signed piece was simply titled “Posterity.”