General Fiction posted May 6, 2018

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Arly steps up for Evie

Fire Escape Part Two

by Sandollar

The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.


In Chapter one Arly Nathanson and Natalie Payne, two friends from high school, decide to open a beauty salon with a different concept: Customer service being the key. If you wanted a foot massage while getting your wig tightened, or wanted to hear hip hop or Mozart while getting spray tanned, Swizzle was the beauty salon/spa for you. The neighborhood was in transition and Arly and Natalie were able to take advantage and secure a great space within their tight budget. They settled in and steadily began to grow their business.

Six months in, a fire broke out across the street at the end of the block, and within minutes seemed to eat up the apartment building. While Nat called the police, Arly went over there to see if see if she could help. A blonde woman holding an infant was screaming.

“Help! Help me, please. Take the baby, please. I will throw her to you. Please!”

She threw the infant and Arly caught her. She left a note and some money and begged whoever got the infant to hold on to her until her return. Arly waited for the mother to come for the baby but she didn't, not until three years later...

Chapter Two

The shop continued on an upward trajectory and Arly expanded the concept of Swizzle into five beauty salons/ spas, three in Madison and the other two in nearby Culverton. They were the only beauty salon in the area to offer good champagne and decent wine. If you called ahead for an appointment, you could get a full body massage.

She was walking to the midtown salon when she spotted Natalie sitting in Mickey Dee's talking with a man and woman. Natalie saw her but before Arly could acknowledge her, she shook her head briefly, signaling Arly not to come in. The man in a rumpled black suit and the woman with a red cloche hat did not see her as she walked by.

When she got home she relieved Wendy who watched Evie on the weekdays, after school. Evie went to the Head Start Program where the school hours were from 8a.m. through 1p.m. Wendy took over from 1o'clock until whenever Arly got home. The latest she'd ever been was 9 o'clock because she had inventory for all five salons to do plus the payroll. She had since hired a senior inventory clerk and an accountant.

Arly spent her free time from work with Evie. Every time Evie said “Mommy” it took Arly totally by surprise. But her favorite time was while she was putting Evie's toys and clothes away she absently put her favorite doll in the toy box. Suddenly Evie said:

"Mommy, no. Trudy goes here.” She pointed to her bed. Arly was suddenly flooded with all the feelings she'd kept inside, had been afraid to feel, since she'd gotten Evie.

Okay, baby. Trudy can stay.” Arly laughed.

Not a baby, Mommy." But Evie stuck out her lip and held out her arms for Arly to pick her up which she did.

You're Mommy's baby.” Arly said as Evie laid her head on her shoulder and put her thumb in her mouth. Evie soon fell asleep and she put her and Tressy Trudy to bed.

Later, as Arly sat in the den putting a nice dent in a bottle of XO, Natalie slid her key into the lock and came in. She did not look happy.

“We've got problems, Arly.” She had barely gotten into the apartment, was out of breath, and started pacing up and down the living room.

"That she-devil of a mother is finally back. But she's not here to take Evie.”

“Slow down, Nat. Sit. What do you mean? What does she want then?”

“The lady, and I use the term loosely, wants money. Or, she will go to the authorities. The courts will give Evie back to her and throw us in jail to boot. You, for kidnapping and me, for accessory after the fact.”

“That's absurd. I didn't kidnap anyone. Hell, I could turn her ass in to the cops. She left three years ago and never looked back.”

“That's true but for X amount of dollars you could be rid of her.” Natalie rose from the sofa and went to the kitchen for a glass with ice. She held her glass out for Arly to share the bottle.

“I'm not paying her a dime. She doesn't love Evie; all she wants is a payday and I'm not doing that. She wants a fight, let's give her one!”


The woman put her red hat down on the scarred oak credenza and followed her husband into the living room. The man picked up two cigars from an ebony humidor. He cut off the end of one of the cigars and waited until his wife lit it. He offered her the other which she refused.

“Why do you do this? You know I don't smoke.”

“I like to keep you on your toes.” Niki laughed and blew dark smoke rings in her direction. “Katia, we can't continue with this. We've waited too long.”

“And whose fault is that? Who made me wait two years because he got himself arrested for some petty crime?” she said peevishly.

“You should be glad I'm here.” Niki retorted.

Oh, how I wish you were not here. You've been nothing but trouble from the start. I need to focus. These people have money and the woman who caught Evie that day is her mother now and she wants to keep it that way. She will pay. And pay and pay again. But I must think of a way to get rid of Niki. Now he is just dead weight. Poor Nikita, looking for a mother and ending up with someone like me. I hate the very thought of children! How ironic is that?

“What the hell are you smiling about?” Niki said. His days' old growth of blond beard was dirty and unappealing. He scratched at it like fleas were biting there.

“Nothing. I'm going to run your bath, then finish up with dinner. We have to come up with a plan for this situation.”

“Not plan!” He said, bringing his hand down hard on the arm of the floral patterned sofa. “Threaten to take the child and she will see reason!”

“Yes, Nikita, that will work for the short term but I am looking at the bigger picture."

“You always are.” He said, still scratching. Kalyna changed the subject.

“Your bath is ready; I put in the bath salts you like so much.”

Prissy ass! One of these days I-

“Katia, bring the radio! You know I must have music while I bathe. Are you so stupid I have to repeat it every day?”

“I'm coming, Niki. Be patient!” Kalyna swore under her breath. And my name is Kalyna, not Katia! Term of endearment, my ass. He thinks I don't know that's his mother's name. Pathetic!

She brought in the old radio and plugged it in. It was tuned to a station that played old Russian songs for two hours a day. Nikita listened faithfully every day from four o'clock until six.

“Katia, put down the radio and brush my hair. What is wrong with you today?”

Later on, when she thought about it, she knew she'd been possessed. Evil had taken over the decision to throw the radio into the tub out of her hands. He had looked perplexed and betrayed. The police were satisfied it was an accident. The coroner had not required an inquest, something about the way the cord had been underneath him and not on top of the water. Just a stroke of luck between her and the penitentiary.

The manner of Nikita Chernovsky's death had caused an electrical grid to blow out and the whole north side of town had been plunged into darkness. It had been all over the newspapers and television. The fame he'd desired in life, had been delivered to him, in death, with a big red bow.

Kalyna had a few places picked out if she needed to hide but she decided to stay put in favor of the long con. She planned to be the recipient of a perpetual payday. Shoving all of his belongings into a cloth duffel bag, she set it in the garbage, and swept, mopped, and dusted the whole apartment. Without him, she felt the place was larger, it suited her and she could breathe. Niki had been a slob, with putrid cigar breath and bad manners. An insurance policy of ten thousand dollars had been paid out to her as Nikita's beneficiary. She bought some furniture from Ikea, colorful curtains and bedding. Her home began to take shape. The phone rang suddenly and she jumped. Who knows this number, that I am here?

“H-Hello? Who is this?”

“This is Arly Nathanson. You know who I am. I understand you want to meet with me.”

Kalyna decided not to be coy and answered Arly's statement head on.

“Yes, I know who you are. You are the kidnapper.”

Kalyna nursed an iced espresso and absently wound a few strands of tangled blonde hair around her finger in between sips. Arly laughed and put the phone on speaker so Natalie could listen.

“You are mistaken. I haven't kidnapped any one.”

“Oh, so you don't have a daughter named Evie?”

“No I don't. I have a wonderful child who I have been raising for the past three years. Her mother just abandoned her, although I am in the process of adopting her. There was no kidnapping.”

“That is not what my lawyer tells me. He says he will block any attempt by you to adopt my daughter!"

Your daughter? So you're guilty of abandonment. I've not seen hide nor hair of you since the fire! Where the hell have you been, Ms. Touros?” Arly tried hard to hide the contempt in her voice but she was not successful.

“That's none of your concern!” Kalyna retorted. “How dare you? Have you spent all the money I left for Evie?”

A short beep alerted Arly that she had another call trying to get through. It was Seth Bauer, her attorney. Arly asked Kalyna to hold while she created a conference call. They'd decided not to inform her that Seth was on the line.

“I'm back. Thank you for waiting. Now you were asking about money?”

“Yes, I left a lot of- you know what? Never mind. You're going to want to meet, sooner or later.”

“Date, time, and place. And one more thing, Ms. Touros. Don't go near Evie again!”

Arly cut the connection with Kalyna. Seth, still on the other line, was definitely worried.

“She's not giving up and she hasn't really asked you for money.”

”Seth, she has a partner, some guy named... what was his name, Nat?” Natalie stood up.

“It was Nikita Chernovsky. He seemed to be the one in charge. I need another drink.”

“Why is that name familiar to me? Tell you what, I'll check in with you later. That name is gnawing at me. Ciao for now.”

Natalie handed Arly a gin and tonic. “Where's Evie, she sleeping?”

“Yeah, Wendy put her down a while ago. Let's take these outside.”

The wrap-around terrace had been decorated exclusively by Natalie. Arly wondered where she'd found the time and the palm trees. She had never seen a terrace as large as this one before let alone owned one. The color palette was light pink, rose, and coral with cooling silver accents. It was a creative, calming, and peaceful oasis where she could think and mull things over.

“Well, how do we handle this, Arly?” Natalie took a deep swallow of her drink.

“This is not a we situation, Nat.” Arly responded.

“What do you mean, Arly? I've been here right from the very beginning. Evie is my Goddaughter, I'll be damned if I stay out of it!”

“This could get pretty ugly, Nat. I just want you to have the opportunity to back out. This is a lot to ask, even if it is you. I didn't mean to upset you.”

“Well you did! I'm ride or die. I thought you knew that.”

Arly went over, hugged Natalie, and kissed her on the cheek. “I stand corrected.”


This is the second installment of Fire Escape. I'm going to keep writing installments until I run out of things to say. Thanks to tekayep for the artwork.
Thanks for reading.
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