Publisher’s note: Some people may take issue with the unorthodox spelling and punctuation in this story, but I found it novel and an integral part of the tale’s unorthodox style and charm. I hope you enjoy the story as much as I did. Please leave comments below. I would like to know what you think of this story.
Paris, France, December 1975
Petite, adorable, vivacious, Avione Manisur, her long, glistening black hair swishes as she scurries down Rue Montoruril, breathlessly bursting into her parent’s shop, Manisur’s-Fine Tailoring. Boutiqueshopping bag in hand. Her mother, Magda smiles, reflecting the young woman’s glee.
Avione flushed, “Momma, Momma, guess what!” She dances around the room. “Forneau Magnus’s Christmas gala at his Chateau. He has invited everyone. I need a dress. One that will make them gasp.”
Avione’s father, Poupau, enters the shop front through living quarter curtains, beams, “The Belle of the Ball, eh, Princess?”
She runs to him. A big hug. Kisses both cheeks. I hope so, Papa.
She turns to her mother, “Will you make me the dress, Momma? Black, short. The Chinese silk I love…please. A dress to go with these!” She pulls a shiny new pair of black stiletto heels from the bag.
Magda, “Mother of God…how much?”
Avione, cheeky, “No matter. My Christmas present to myself.”
Poupau, “Maybe, more sensible shoes?”
“Pish Tosh, Papa. It will be Christmas Eve. My first gala.”
A cab pulls up behind a line of black limousines fronting Magnus Chateau. Majestic. A liveried doorman opens the cab door. Out glides Avione, in her little black dress, stiletto heels, her mother’s mink boa. Exquisitely scintillating. Monsieur Forneau Magnus, on front steps, greeting guests. Spots Avione. He scrambles down to her, enraptured, “Avione, Avione. Your mere presence graces my gala.”
Avione blushes, “Thank you, Monsieur Magnus.”
Magnus, “Take my hand. I will escort you inside.” He places her hand atop his. Avione feels uncomfortable. Magnus holds tight, smiling a wide yellow-toothed grin. Quietly known for his lecherous ways.
The unlikely pair strolls through huge oaken doors to the ballroom, draped with fresh pine garlands. A mammoth spruce, lights reflecting off gold and silver ornaments, dominates. Waiters, trays of champagne and hors d’oeuvres, weave through the crowd.
Magnus, “Avione, you must excuse me for a brief moment. I must attend to Judge Lounard and his wife. I will keep my eyes on you.” A slight, unseemly pat on her bottom.
She feels another bit of discomfort. Magnus disappears into the festive throng.
Avione, instantly surrounded by office colleagues, both men and women, wide-eyed at her sight. She dances, dances, dances. A once in a lifetime night event, her smile never leaving. Magnus appears behind her, “Avione!”
She flitters, “Oh, Monsieur Magnus. You startled me.”
Magnus, oozing charm, “A dance to make an old man happy?”
“Of course, Monsieur Magnus.”
They dance. He holds her a bit too close. His hand slides down way too low as they swirl the perimeter of the gaping crowd.
The massive grandfather clock chimes twelve. Magnus, raises a glass, Avione firmly in hand. “Merry Christmas to all. A ten percent raise in your stockings.” His employees cheer, toasting back. Magnus finger snaps! Waiter appears. “A chilled bottle, two flutes, my library, tout de suite!” To Avione, “You will join me?”
Avione, apprehensive, “I believe I’ve had my….”
Magnus, “Nonsense. One more Christmas toast. My library, plus priv’e, s’il vous plait.”
Avione, “It’s very late…my parents…”
“My driver will take you home.”
Magnus furtively glances left and right. They slip into his library. Closes the door. Silently whispers, “Sit my dear, the red velvet chair. My dearly departed wife’s favorite.”
Avione nervously complies. Magnus, “You look regal. A princess”.
Avione, “So…so my papa calls…”
“Oh? Really? Whatever.” Magnus takes a silver foil box, replete with gold ribbon from his top desk drawer, strolls to Avione, holds it to her. “A cadeau…a gift.”
Avione, “I couldn’t Monsieur Magnus…”
Avione, stands, slight tremble. “Forneau, your, your raise was more than…”
“Just open it. I insist”.
Avione unwraps revealing a diamond necklace. Magnus, “My mother’s, my wife’s, now yours’s”.
Avione, frightful, eyes near tears, “No…no…I cannot. I cannot. I must leave. Please, Monsieur…Forneau, please.”
Magnus, insistent, “Let me put it around your elegant neck.”
She backs away. He advances. Again. Again. Relentless. He gruffly puts it on her. Spins her around facing a floor to ceiling mirror, holding her tightly by the shoulders. “See, what did I tell you. Perfect. Now a real princess.”
Avione tries to break away. Magnus pins her against the wall. “A Christmas kiss…your cadeau for me”.
He moves in. She ducks under his arm. He grabs her, pulls her to him. Forces a kiss. His hands, an octopus. Avione jerks away, lipstick smearing. “Stop! Stop! Please!”
Magnus in again…stops dead…wild-eyed. Screams, “AAAhhhhhh!!!! God….God…Ahhhh!…”
He weaves backward, releasing Avione. She steps away, revealing her stiletto heel buried deep in Magnus’s head, thin blood trickle drips his face. He slowly slides down the mirror to the floor. Reflected mirror image. Horrifying grim tableau—Magnus…Avione’s heel embedded in his skull. She stands paralyzed in disbelief, as Magnus’s staff breaks through the door.
Avione’s trial moves with dispatch. Magnus owned the town. His still loyal staff testify to the wanton behavior of this brazen hussy who forced herself on this honorable, old gentleman. The judgeis Monsieur Lounard, plus a bought and paid for jury. All men. The Forman hands Bailiff the verdict. Bailiff, “To a man, the jury finds the accused, Avione Manisur, guilty of the murder of Forneau Magnus. Judge Lounard stands pointing at Avione “Penalty execution. Guillotine.
Marseilles Prison. Grey stone, windows barred. Poupau and Magda beside Avione on a grimy, bug-infested bed in her airless cell. She gently strokes Magda’s teary cheek. “My dear ones. I will be fine. I will be with God. One request. I am to be buried in my black dress…please…no discussion.”
A loud clatter of metal keys. Two Black uniformed Matrons unlock her cell. “It is time. Stand!” One matron holds her, the other shears Avione’s glorious black mane. Magda and Poupau immobilized by the incredulous wide-awake nightmare. Matron, “Arms behind! Now!” Aggressively cuffs Avione’s wrists, pushes her out the cell door. Magda and Poupau shuffle behind.
Execution courtyard, a stone-cold moonless night. The grim party enters. Gallery, Magnus’s family, Magda and Poppau, far side facing a high platform. Atop the monstrous death machine, the six-teen-foot guillotine; its sharpened steel slanted blade embedded in a massive block of lead.
The two matrons half walk, half carry the suddenly unfocused Avione up the platform steps. Court Executioner, Forsange la Cour, three hundred beheadings, this no different, grabs her arm.
Official calls out, “Avione Manisur, do you have any last words of retribution?”
Avione, defiant, “Vous condamnez une jeune femme qui s’est veng’ee contre l’agression sexuelle besstiale d’un homme. These monsters will pay for my unjust sacrifice. Now as you steal my life, I will wreak my revenge”.
La Cour rips Avione’s prison smock down over her shoulders, forces her on the wooden guillotine platform. She instinctively struggles a small bird in a snare.
La Cour lifts her head, pushes her neck into bottom stock, slams down the top. Avione, no escape.Her tiny hair-cropped head, all that’s visible.
La Cour peers down at the court official. He nods. La Cour releases the blade. Clank! Swoosh! Slam!
Avione’s head…it’s here…it’s gone. Oval of her severed neck blood drips down guillotine blade. Magda faints. Poupau is too frozen to help.
Magda and Poupau at the state morgue, handkerchiefs to nose, scant protection, from the foul smelling preparation mortuary. In a far corner, roughhewn wooden coffin, the body of their beloved daughter, blood-stained paper bandage hiding her devastating wound. Magda gently pulls down Avione’s hiked-up black dress. The solemn pair wince as each hammer blow nails Avione in this box for eternity.
Magda buries her head in Poupau’s chest, “Take me from this place, Poupau. Maintenant!”
Magda and Poupau walk back to their shop. Magda’s face goes ashen. Her knees buckle. Poppau grabs her from falling. He sees, what she sees. “This cannot be…”
Avione’s black dress hangs in their shop window. Magda uncontrollably rushes in, rips the dress from the hanger. Runs to and descends rickety wooden steps to the dank, dark cellar. She pulls the string lighting a single hanging bulb. Opens the coal furnace door. Red heat blasts. She winces, then throws Avione’s dress onto the flaming coals. Poupau reaches her. They watch the black dress burn to ashes. Magda, shaking, “I…I cannot stay in this city any longer, Avione haunts my every thought. We must get away. Stay I will die. We must get away. Now!”
Houston, Texas 1976-Tavis Street
Rundown. Dangerous. A hand-painted sign, Manisur’s Tailoring-custom designs swings in the hot wind. Inside, Magda is in front of her new American sewing machine. “You know what today is?”
Poupau sipping coffee at a small table. “A year to the day.”
Magda, “We will go to the church, pray and light a candle.”
Poupau flips through the curtains to the shop front. He screams in terror, “Magda, Magda! Magda!”
She rushes through the curtains. Drops in a chair. “Dear God in heaven.” Avione’s black dress hangs in the shop window. “It has followed us.”
Two chicly dressed sisters, Ally and Serena MaGraff walk down Tavis Street, in Houston, Texas. A bad part of town. They huddle.
Serena, “I don’t know why I listen to you. Coming to this neighborhood. Even in the daytime, it gives me the Willys.”
Ally, “Hush up, Serena. I was drawn to the ad in the “Houston Local”. Couldn’t get it out of my mind, a new French shop, handmade clothes. I need something to wow the hell out of them at the Exchange’s New Year’s Eve party. Just keep walking, eyes straight ahead. We’re almost there.”
They stop in front of the tailor shop. “Here we be, “Manisur’s French Tailoring.” Ally, instantly spots the little black dress in the window. “Oh, my god. This could be my lucky day. I’d kill in that tiny thing.” Ally pushes ahead of Serena, rushing into the shop. A hanging doorbell tinkles…old world.
Serena, “Smells musty”.
“Don’t be such a prig”. Ally bee-lines to the black dress in the window. “That is a “fuck me” dress for sure. Wonder if it’s my size?”
Poupau, parting the backroom curtains, a strange glaze in his eyes. “It was made for another, but I know it will fit perfectly. You look petite, 7 maybe 6.”
Ally, “Hello sir. Good eye. Petite six.”
Poupau, “But a tiny bit larger, excuse me…bosom…35?”
Alley, “You know your stuff, Sir. 35 and a half, actually. I like to squeeze in a 35.”
Poupau, “Yes, yes of course. Low cut…de rigeur.”
Serena, “She likes her cleavage to…”
Poupau, “I understand. Please, try it on.” Poupau takes the dress slowly off the hanger.
Hands it gingerly to Ally.
Poupau, “Chinese. Custom-tailored by my wife. It was returned by the one who she made it for. Please, step into the dressing closet.”
Ally swishes in, burst out looking incredibly edible, caresses her curves, “No bra, no panties. Fits like my skin. Is this dress sizzlin’ or what?” She sashays around the three-sided mirror.
Poupau, “Like it was made for you.”
Ally, “I wonder why any woman in her right mind would ditch such a prize?” A brief flash of pain in Poupau’s eyes. He merely shrugs.
Ally, “Oh, well. What’s the damage?”
Poupau, “Pardon moi?”
Ally, “How much?’”
Magda quietly enters through the curtains. Stands behind Poupau.
Poupau, ever salesman, “Well…well, it is Chinese silk…so…”
Magda gives Poupau a slight foot tap, silencing him. “I made it long ago in Paris. It’s been hanging here forever.”
Ally, “You do incredible work. What are you asking?”
Magda, “For you, my dear…nothing.”
Ally, “Pardon me?”
Magda, “Free, for you, free.”
Ally, “Oh, my lord…I…I can’t.”
Magda, “Please. An anniversary. You are our first customer on this special day. A cadeau, a gift.”
Poupau, “Our daughter Avione’s …” Another Magda foot tap.
Magda, “…birthday. She lives in Paris.” Magda reaches behind the counter, swishes out Avione’s black shiny stilettoes. “And these. Also, free. Go with the dress.”
Ally, breathless, “Oh my. I must give you something.” She reaches into her purse.
Magda, “No, please, our pleasure.”
Serena, under breath, “Take it, and run girl.”
Ally, “I don’t know what to say…” She blanches. Eyes wide. Unmoving. Then, “Merci beaucoup pour votre amiable generosite.”
Magda, “N’ai pas peur. Elle te prot’egera.”
Ally, “Bonne chance avec votre magasin. Au revoir, Madame et Monsieur.”
Poupau, “Adieu”…Under breath…“Princesses.”
Ally, snaps back, “Ah, yes. Thank you so much. Definitely my, lucky, lucky day.” The sisters exit the shop girly giggling.
Magda, woodenly, “Lucky…yes…your lucky, lucky day”.
Outside the shop. Serena quizzically, “What in the world was that? You don’t speak French.”
Ally, quizzically back, “French? What are you talking about? I wished them good luck and goodbye.”
Serena, “What the hell did she say to you?”
Ally shrugs, “She said bless you my child, farewell.” She speedily walks ahead, nonplussed.
Serena stands gawking, “Bless you my child?”
Ally parks in her designated spot in The Stock Exchange underground garage. Instinctive frown as she hears a cat whistle, turns to see her boss, Preston Ward, tipsy, clearly started partying, walking to the elevator, a bunch of VPs in tow. Ward, “Hey, AllyCat!” Ally ignores. Preston’s not on her A list.
Ward, “Hot dress, sexy shoes. Looks feline ta me. Come on up with us…Allison.”
She speeds up, walks ahead, scoots into the elevator. She palm bangs the door close button. Doors start. Ward and his boys rush, him yelling, “For Christ’s sake Ally, hold the fuckin…” Doors closed. Ward slams his fist on the door. “Little bitch.”
The elevator opens on a huge loft, way over decorated. Ward’s grossly lavish style. Ally steps out. Male heads snap like heat-seeking radar, eyeing her décolletage, short, skin-tight dress…way high stilettos. They rush up, offering drinks. Ally sees Mark Linkletter, a pal. Waves. Mark, waves back. Hurries over. Mark to Ally, “You look astonishing! Need help fending off the herd”.
Alley, takes Mark’s arm, “Always to my rescue.”
At the bar. Mark, to tender, “Two frigid Sapphire martinis, no vermouth allowed. One olive. Let it sink.”
Ally, “You never forget a thing.”
Mark, “About certain friends…”
Ally cradles his face. Nails, polished black. “…with benefits.” Way long kiss.
Mark, recovering, “My good fortune.” Drinks arrive. Lift and toast.
Brash voice!, “Wasn’t very nice…Allison.” Ward barges bar. Gruffly wedges himself between Ally and Mark. Snaps fingers in the air. Twice. “Hey, bartender, gimme a double…triple, single malt, best ya got, pronto. And another whatever for the lady. Her boyfriend can fend for hisself.”
Turning to Mark, sneering, “Markster, me and your lady gonna talk private business here, get scarce.”
Ally, “Don’t be so rude, Ward.”
Ward, “He can have ya back when I’m done.”
Mark to Ally, “It’s ok. See you later for a dance.” Lip peck. Mark leaves.
Ward, “What da ya see in that guy? Got none of your class. Alley Cat.”
Ally, pissed, “You call me that again, I’ll…”
“Slap my face? I’d like that. Anyway, I got somethin’ in my office you might be interested in.”
Ally, “Whips and chains?”
”Ya know…Allison, there’s a reason why you flew through the ranks so fast.”
“My 24/7 blood, sweat, and tears paid for that.”
“And you had a guardian angel.”
Ally, “Let Me guess.”
“I’m serious…Allison. Five minutes in my office. You no likey, you flee.”
Ally, serious, “Just business.”
Ward, “My word of honor.”
Allison, leary, over-curious. Ward picks us her drink, “C’mon. Just business…Allison.”
Ally reticently follows Ward to his office. He opens the door. Hand gestures, come on in. Closes the door, walks to his desk, pulls out a sheaf of documents for the VP position.
Hands them to Ally. She scans, beams. “This is for real…no strings?”
“No strings. Welcome aboard.” Holds out his hand they shake.
Ally, “I’m stunned and appreciative. I won’t disappoint.”
Ward, coyly, “Maybe someday your name might make it on the wall beside mine. Preston/MaGraff, nice ring. Join me in a celebratory…toast.” He takes a mirror from his desk drawer, filled with a mound of cocaine, replete with razor blade and ubiquitous, rubber-banded “C note” straw. Four thick lines cut out. Hands it to Ally, “Ladies first.”
Ally holds out a quick palm up, “I Pass. Not my thing. Now if we’re finished with business I’d like to get back to…”
“Linkletter? That loser.” Snorts two lines, “Think you and me are a better pair.”
Ally, “If this is going where I think it is, I’ll pass on the VP.” She starts to leave.
Ward grabs her arm…hard.
Ally, “You’re hurting me, Ward.”
He spins her back for a rough kiss. She slaps his face hard! “Like it rough…AllyCat?” A jolt of extreme misogyny. Ward decks Alley. She falls back on his desk, semi-conscious.
He steps close. Looms large.
Ally, “You fucking touch me and I’ll…”
Ward harshly covers her mouth. Pins her down with his sheer mass.
“You’ll what, AlleyCat?” Ally bites his hand. Tastes blood. Ward jerks it off her mouth. feeling pain, “Jesus…Jesus fuckin Christ!”
Ally blows a chuck of his bloody hand in his face. Top of her lungs, “HELLLLLP MEEE!! HELP MEEEE!!!”
Ward, mindlessly enraged, ignores her screams. Ally struggles. Powerless. Ward’s knee spreads her legs. “I always win this game. Smart ta play along, AllyCat.” His hand creeps up her dress. She sees and grasps a desk pen. Jabs it full force into his arm. It only enrages him more.
“Motherfucker! You’re an animal!”
Mark and two other men, hearing Ally’s cry, bust through his office door, rush in. Start to run to help. Their legs weirdly frozen in place. Bam! The office door slams shut…by itself. Mark tries to speak. Can’t.
Ward out of his mind with rage, ignores the intruders. Pulls the pen from his arm, moves back…just enough.
Alley slides free. Backs away.
Ward, hand dripping blood, lunges. Can’t. Feet locked. “What the hell?”
Mark and the others can only stare in awe. Lips locked.
Ally, suddenly, entranced, blank-faced. A statue. No fear. She slowly glides to Ward, face to face. Raises her arm, clutching a stiletto shoe in her hand. Ward, smirks, “What the hell you gonna do with that, AllyCat?”
Ally, blanched, stoic, “Ne vous approchez pas d’un pas.Tu le fais a tes risqué et pe’rils’, sale bete!”
Ward, “What the hell you talkin’, bitch?” Ally slams her shoe heel into his eye, rips it out. Blood spurts from the socket. He screams, Ahhhhh!!” Instinctively slaps his hand over his wound. Mucous and blood ooze between his fingers. “Jesus Christ you little cunt, I’ll…”
Ally raises her arm…again. Then, slams the stiletto heel into the center of Ward’s head…leaving it there.
She commands, “Non! Vous ne ferez rien. Tu es de’ja mort!”. Ward drops like a sack of fat. Alley, “J’ai finis…pour le moment. Turns away. Turns back, “Je reviendrai jamais.” She blinks, blinks again, shakes her head to clear. Takes in the scene in disbelief. Ally, “What? What…?”
Mark, now free, runs to Ally, standing over a dead man, a shoe heel embedded in his blood-soaked head.
Street front, Ally’s apartment. A police car pulls up. The officer hops out, opens the back door. Ally jumps out, disheveled. Ward’s dried blood splatter on her face. She nods to the officer. Nods back. Police car departs. She feverishly double-steps up to the entrance, goes inside. Exits the elevator on her floor. Bursts into the apartment. Runs to the kitchen. Jerks off the dress, overhead. Opens the utility drawer. Takes out poultry shears. Obsessively cuts the little black dress to shreds. She grabs a long wooden spoon. Jams the black, silk fragments, piece by piece, down the snarling garbage disposal…until…it’s gone. Ally stands naked, shivering. Lowers her head, hands cover her face. Torrent of tears. Relief. Over.
A young well-dressed young woman, Sandy Foster, and her friend, Lois Freeport, hurry along Tavis Street , passing boarded, vacant tenements. Lois, “Why would anybody in their right mind open anything in the disgusting place?”
Sandy, excited, “There’s the sign, Furinur’s Tailor Shop.” She stops short…The little black dress hangs in the front window…again. Sandy squeals, “Oooh my, oh my. Looky that. Hot, hot, hot. Gotta nab that one”. She and Lois dash into the shop. Tingling bell. Sandy’s eyes focus on the dress. Flits over, feels. “Silk?”
Poupau passing through the curtains, “Chinese. Custom-tailored by my wife. It was returned by the one who had her make it.”
Sandy, “For sale?”
Poupau, “Of course.”
Lois, “Well, one gal’s mistake is another gal’s to take.”
Magda, slips from behind Poupau. “Oh, it will fit. Like it was made for you.”
Poupau lifts the dress off the hanger, hands it gingerly to Sandy. Magda, “Oh…and these.” She holds up the black stiletto heels. “They go with the dress. Tenue parfait. You will kill in it.”
Mick Benderoth was a Hollywood screenwriter now back home in New York City writing fiction prose.