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Auditions

Romanticize bad girls all you want; try to romance one, you'd better be sure of your methods.

Auditions by Nick Kolakowski
On the twentieth floor of the everything-glass skyscraper where my father and his partners do their best to bend the human race over a table and screw it without benefit of lubricant, I sit at the receptionist’s desk, tasked with directing calls. I hate every moment of it. Once an hour or so, just to break the monotony, I answer a new caller with something like:
“Joe’s Morgue. You stab ‘em, we slab ‘em.”
Or: “Jane’s Leather Shop. We do have that teddy you ordered.”
People always talk about how nice I have it, the child of a big-shot lawyer who owns a couple of awesome mansions.
“Acquittals ‘R Us, Mass Murder Our Specialty, how can I help you?”
The first day of my new job, most callers who heard my witticisms hung up on me. Then word leaked among the capitalist ball-breakers that Harold’s daughter had turned his firm’s main phone into her personal shock-jock channel, and now I’m fending off all these titanic perverts who call because they want to step out on their trophy wives. 
My shrink would describe my behavior as a cry for help.
As in, please, Jesus, get me out of here.
This morning, like every morning, the waiting room is filled with scumsuckers wealthy enough to pay my father’s massive per-hour. I recognize the reality television star sniffling in one of the front seats. Behind her sits the one and only Rick King, money launderer to the rich and powerful, looking too cool for school with his round Lennon glasses and gray goatee. None of them give me a second glance—except for Dan Keegan. Lord help me, except for Dan.
This runt in a red hoodie is an arms dealer—sorry, alleged arms dealer—who made quite the career of shipping assault rifles to various gangs around Los Angeles. One morning the universe aligned just so, and the cops arrested him with four AK-47s in his trunk. He thinks the small fortune he pays my father also entitles him to stare at my legs while he waits for his meeting.
“Dan.” I flip him the finger. “Stop groping me with your eyes.”
Not only does Dan keep staring, he rises from his seat and saunters over. “I wasn’t,” he says. “But don’t tell me this isn’t game recognizing game.”
I keep my middle digit in the upright and locked position. “Sit your ass down.”
“Saw you on the news, girl,” he says. “Deal went bad? You killed a couple dudes?”
“Nobody proved anything,” I say.
“But that’s why you’re here, right?” Looming too close, Dan leans a hip against the side of my desk. “So your Dad can keep his thumb down, make sure his bad girl doesn’t get mixed up with the wrong people again?” His lips slather ‘bad girl’ with an extra helping of slime. 
I almost say something. I want to shout that the deal was my idea, that it was my crew in the bank. That I’m more than a soft trust-fund baby who had life presented to her on a silver tray.
Instead I tilt back in my chair and pretend my glare is about to burn a hole through his skull.
“Aw, did I hurt your feelings?” Dan tips forward, really invading my airspace. “How about I make it up to you, girl? We grab a drink after this?”
I bring my left foot down as hard as I can on one of his vintage Reebok S. Carter sneakers. The four-inch heel punches through the thin fabric. Lots of women have dreamed of doing this, I’m sure. Dan’s mouth snaps open wide as an opera singer about to launch into a showstopper. Wiggling my shoe free of his foot (it takes effort, like pulling an axe out of a tree trunk), I stand, press my hands against his chest, and shove him.
Dan tumbles off my desk, squawking in pain and surprise, and as soon as he hits the ground I have my wet heel pressed against his throat. His hands grip my ankle, his muscles tensing as he readies to shove me away, so I press my shoe down until he relaxes.
The waiting room is stunned silent except for Rick King, who looks up from his magazine and offers me a slow clap. Excellent.
Dan tries to choke out a witty bon mot, but he only manages to get out “c—” before I push my heel hard enough to cut off his windpipe. The phone on my desk rings, and I pick it up.
“Is Dan out there?” 
“Hi, Daddy,” I chirp. “How’s it going?”
“Is Dan out there?” Mister Personality asks. “Could you send him back?”
“Sure thing,” I say, and disconnect the call before looking down at Dan. “If I let you up, you going to be a good boy?”
Dan blows a spit bubble and nods.
“Do something stupid, and I’ll make your scrotum into a change purse.” I lift my foot, and Dan sucks down a big gulp of air before rising on shaky knees. We stare at each other for a long moment, until I say: “You failed your audition.”
His face scrunches in confusion. “What?”
“No fighting skills, poor risk assessment,” I tell him. “Audition’s over. My Dad will see you.”
Dan’s clearly had enough crazy in his life today, because he turns and limps down the hallway toward my father’s office without so much as a look back. I take my seat again, glancing at Rick King, who exhibited real calm in the face of violence. Throw in his finance skills, and he’s just the kind of man I need for my next score. As much as I hate this job, it does bring some great candidates right to me.   

Nick Kolakowski is the author of the novella “A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps” (Shotgun Honey/Down & Out). His crime fiction has appeared in Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, Plots with Guns, and, of course, Out of the Gutter.