Otis Brinkley walked confidently in the offices of Cromwell Industries, a five story building on Pinkerton ave., demanding to see the head of operations.
The secretary looked at this old tramp with a beat up suitcase and stifled a laugh.
“He's not in Mr...?” Ms. Jeffers fiddled with her blouse lapel with a hand. She kept the other hand over her mouth as so Brinkley couldn't see her smiling at his presence.
The little old man beamed. He pushed the mismatched frame of glasses back on the brim of his nose. “Otis Brinkley,” He said proudly.
Ms. Jeffers cleared her throat. “You can only see Mr. Cromwell by appointment,” She crossed her legs, still fighting back her giggles at this ridiculous little old man.
Brinkley opened his suitcase. He smiled at her, pushed his glasses up on his nose. “I've been exchanging letters with Mr. Cromwell.” He tossed a small stack of envelopes on Ms. Jeffers desk. “We've discussed my new product at length.”
Ms. Jeffers rummaged through the dusty papers, mystified. She opened the first one, unwrinkled the yellow paper.
Brinkley stood briefly. “That one has told me to come to the office....” Ms. Jeffers threw him a look, Brinkley sat back down. He put up his hand apologetically.
“Well, the office is closing in a few minutes as you can see it's nearly five---”
“Mandy!” A man screamed from the adjoining office.
Brinkley looked toward the office, smiled. “He's in after all.”
A second later a man with a receding hairline, dark circles under his eyes and a girth hanging over top of his belt waddled in the lounge. Immediately Ms. Jeffers sprung from her chair and ran in her stockinged feet to Cromwell, still holding one of the letters in her hand.
“Mr. Cromwell, a Mr. Brinkley is here to see you.” She flashed an uneasy smile.
“I don't remember any Brinkley--” Cromwell looked at his digital watch that hung snugly to his wrist. “It's nearly five--”
Brinkley stood, rushed to insert himself between Cromwell and Ms. Jeffers. “We exchanged letters a few weeks ago. To discuss a new soap product?”
Cromwell looked at Ms. Jeffers. “Oh,” She shrugged. “It says it all here, Mr. Cromwell. Your signature is at the bottom and I suppose I forgot to schedule the meeting.”
Cromwell's upper lip curled up. “Oh, for cryin' out loud. Okay, okay.” Cromwell stormed off to his office. Brinkley smiled sheepishly at Ms. Jeffers. She resigned, her face fell.
She walked toward the adjoining office. “If you'll follow me.” She said.
After Brinkley went inside, Ms. Jeffers closed the door. She looked at the upper right hand corner of the letter. The date on the letter was March 15, 1985. She was taken aback.
Brinkley sat gingerly in a small plastic chair opposite Cromwell's desk. Cromwell sat there in silence, a finger on his lips, sizing Brinkley up. Cromwell swiveled his heavy set body in his leather chair. The chair squeaked in pain.
“So what is it your selling, Brinkley? Make it good, make it fast. I'm almost out of time.” Cromwell snorted.
Brinkley nodded, “Yes, yes.” he opened his battered briefcase and retrieved a a small square cake wrapped in green paper. “This,” He tossed it on Cromwell's desk. The hard shell of the square clanged on the desk, bounced a few times, slid toward Cromwell.
Cromwell picked up the square, turned it a couple of times in his hand. He then unwrapped the green paper to reveal a bar of soap. He looked at Brinkley, scouring. Cromwell laughed heartily. He balled up the paper and tossed it over his shoulder.
“Soap?” Cromwell lifted an eyebrow. “Your selling me soap, buddy? I already own Hand print who makes several scented soaps---”
“My soap is not scented, Mr. Cromwell.” Brinkley adjusted his glasses on the bridge of his nose.
“Then what can you possibly have to interest me, little man? The market in gutted with all kinds of soaps from body wash to your baby's ass-wash. Soap is nothing new.”
Brinkley waggled a finger. “Oh, my soap only clenses one thing.” Brinkley nodded his head. Cromwell started to get seasick from watching the old man's head bob up and down so much. “It cleans the soul. But only use it three times....or it will be too much.”
Cromwell glared at him for a few seconds, blinking rapidly. His disposition turned sour. He no longer thought the joke was funny.
“Get the fuck out of here!” He railed at Brinkley.
“Wait, hear me out,” the little man put his hands up.
“Don't come in here and tell me some bullshit to con me!” Cromwell tossed the soap at the little man.
“Look, I'm telling the truth. I stumbled on it. This soap---i swear to you, Mr. Cromwell. You have committed a discrepancy of some kind---”
“I did what?” The large man stood from his desk in a threatening manner.
“Only saying it as an example--- well...you bathe in my soap and all is not only forgiven, but forgotten. I call it SIN-AWAY.”
The color of Cromwell's face was a bright red. His eyes were strained, cataracts
and veins were definitely showing. “Get out of here,” He whispered at first.
“Get out of here!”
Brinkley hopped out of the chair and grabbed his briefcase. “I'll just leave you a sample,” Brinkley said as Cromwell rushed him out of the office. Brinkley scooted past Ms. Jeffers in the hallway. She sniggered and leaned against the wall, watching the little old man disappear around the corner.
Cromwell stood outside his office, wiping sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief. “Can you believe the nerve, tryin' to swindle me.”
“I take it the meeting didn't go so well,” Ms. Jeffers said.
“If I ever see that candy-ass again, I'll break both of his legs.”
Ms. Jeffers reached out, took hold of Cromwell's tie, pulled him toward her. “Shh...” She said. She touched his face with her fingers, touching his cheek and slid down to his chapped red lips. Ms. Jeffers felt Cromwell's hand steal up her skirt. She leaned in and kissed him soundly on the lips. She turned, still holding his tie, led him inside his office.
She was adjusting her skirt, re buttoning her blouse. Cromwell was trying to catch his breath and zipping up his fly. He'd backed away from her, when he realized the best way to have sex with a woman like Ms. Jeffers was to bend her over his desk just he'd done.
The theme to the GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY sounded off, Cromwell's
cell phone lit up.
“Who the hell could that be?” Cromwell tucked his shirt in.
“Maybe it's Don to tell you about Singapore,” Ms. Jeffers rescued the cell phone from under scattered papers and files. Her smile disappeared when she read the name to herself. She sighed, closed her eyes. She handed Cromwell his cell phone. “Delores,” She said solemnly. “A missed call from Delores...”
Immediately, Cromwell panicked. He ran to the window of his office, opened the blinds, looked out. Delores was standing at her BMW smoking a cigarette. She was a tall blonde, dressed to the nines, and although no one could see her eyes for the sunglasses, Cromwell could see she was furious from her body language.
“You have to get out of here,” He swallowed hard, closed the blinds again.
Ms. Jeffers was already playing back the message Delores left on his phone. “Oh, you snaky son of a bitch! I know you and that slut secretary are carrying on in there. You idiot. You didn't think I'd find out---Ms. Jeffers shut it off.
“You better go take a shower. Say your getting ready to come home to take her out,” Ms. Jeffers ushered Cromwell to the Men's room in his office.
Nervously, Cromwell did as he was told. Out of haste, she tossed him the open bar of soap.
Ms. Jeffers ran out of Cromwell's office only to meet Delores in the hallway. Delores back into the office, right into a chair, where she promptly sat.
“I know exactly what's going on, you slut.” Delores actually had forgotten, but ten years before, she was in Ms. Jeffers shoes. She'd been the other woman, working as Cromwell's secretary. She was being screamed at by his third wife. But that didn't mean she would cut the whore any slack, she knew for sure someone was gonna pay for her unhappiness.
“He's not all that,” Delores snarled. “He's a lousy father. All his kids hate him. He pays through the nose to three ex-wives, all of which he's cheated on. You wont be the last if you win him.”
Ms. Jeffers was unemotional. “I don't want to win him.”
“Don't try to sell me on a crap campaign, Missy. I know how good that fat man is in the bed. For what it's worth, he always said I was the best piece of ass---” Delores suddenly stopped speaking. She looked as if she was in a daze. Her thoughts were far off. Then she seemed to loose balance and Ms. Jeffers was quick to help, placing her in a chair.
Cromwell appeared, drying what was left of his hair. “Hello girls,” He said with a nervous giggle. “Talking about anything interesting.” He was ready to face the firing squad named Delores.
“I don't think she feels well,” Ms. Jeffers said, taking a few steps back.
“You okay, Delores? What happened?” Cromwell pretended to be concerned.
“I felt faint is all. I don't even remember why I came here.” Delores put hand to her forehead and massaged.
“You don't?” Cromwell and Ms. Jeffers said together.
Delores blinked a few times. “No...I don't. Someone called me and in no time I was in my car driving here...for what...I'm not sure of.”
Cromwell was confused for a minute. It dawned on him and a big ugly smile crawled on his face, the kind that frighten children. “Ms. Jeffers, tomorrow, get a hold of that nutcase I saw today. I think we can do business.”
“Are you sure?” She said.
Cromwell shrugged. “Yeah.. I'm sure. In the meantime, I'm taking my wife out to dinner.”
On the other side of town, through the heart of the city of iron and steel, high rises and subway system; was a broken down house with no windows and the top floor almost completely gone. Cromwell stood in the middle of the street staring at the weather beaten black house, avoiding a game of stick ball. He approached the house with much disparagement. His phone went off.
“Hey, sugarlips...what? Some men...police...oh. Yeah. They in the room with you...good....your in the toliet...oh, yeah, don't let them hear this. I did move some funds from the company bank account to my account. Yes, I know that's stealing from the company. It doesn't matter. Look, baby, with this soap all my sin's will be washed away. Yes. I do believe it. You saw what happened...Delores forgot about us...yesterday morning hit someones car and drove off. That afternoon I fired Benchley's son---yeah I know the twirp is on the board of directors....everything will be fine. In the morning we can hop a plane and off to the Carribean, baby! I gotta go.”
He stood on the porch, briefcase in hand, stepping in a black oil slick of some kind. Cromwell cursed under his breath. The door swung open. The little old man peeked out. He was delighted to see Cromwell.
“You came!” Brinkley stepped out on the porch. He pointed at the oil slick. “Watch your step. Another interested party tried to steal my soap and was caught in the rain.
“Did I have a choice?” Cromwell snarled. Brinkley ushered him inside the house, slammed the front door shut. Cromwell looked around the drafty house. Cobwebs at every corner, very dim lighting. Cromwell felt uneasy.
Brinkley locked the door. He smirked at a surprised Cromwell. “Can't take any chances.”
“Chances?” Cromwell looked around himself.
“Someone stealing my ingredients. No one can know the recipe...” Brinkley laughed. He took the stairs to the top floor, Cromwell following close behind.
“Where are we goin', pop's?”
“To my lab—where I make that wonderful soap.”
Cromwell stepped in the dank room. Half the floor was missing, one could see the downstairs. Ceiling was coming down, the beams were barely holding it up. Books littered the floor, several animal parts lay on a counter beside a knife stained with crimson. Jars on shelves lined the walls all around. He could only guess, but Cromwell wasn't sure, more animal parts. In the middle
of the room was a large black cauldron, steam rising from the top. A black book was next to the cauldron on a stand, opened to right page.
“You gotta be kiddin' me,” Cromwell said. “This is a joke.”
“No, Mr. Cromwell. This is serious business.” Brinkley looked into the cauldron,began stirring with a wooden plank as long as his arm. The water simmered, boiled to the top. It turned an orange- white when he popped in what looked like the foot of a dead dog.
“Oh, no,” Cromwell shook his head. “This is bullshit. You can't mass produce this soap this way.”
“I'm afraid this is the only way to make my soap. No other way, Mr. Cromwell.”
Cromwell rubbed his face with a hand. “I guess we can start slow. Go for the Organic market. Specialize in small shops first.” Cromwell opened his briefcase. “Get these signed. How much you want for this?”
“What?!” Cromwell screamed. “We're not that big of a company..” It wasn't true, he was just cheap.
“I guess I could take it somewhere else..” Brinkley was smirking at him. “For my troubles.”
“What troubles? Hey, you never said where you came up with this--”
“No, no, Mr. Cromwell. I didn't come up with anything. You see, this recipe is an old family recipe...thousands of years old...I believe Jesus knew one of one of my family members.”
“Your crazy...but I think I can make something of your product. I need to know what does the trick.....tell me the recipe.'
Brinkley laughed again. This time the sound cut right through Cromwell. His face grew even more red with the look Brinkley was giving him.
“Your small mind wouldn't even comprehend it's concoction.”
“Your gonna tell me, you little fart.” Cromwell grabbed Brinkley by the throat with both hands. He squeezed as the little old man struggled to finish the last of his merriment. He squeezed until Brinkley's lips had released his last sigh. Cromwell let go of the old man, his limp body hit the floor.
Cromwell stared at the cauldron. Then at the book. “Shit,” He rubbed his face with a hand. “He's right. I don't understand it. Should have let him finish more soap, then killed him. Oh, well. Just hire someone to finish it.”
Cromwell's phone went off, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly echoed throughout the house. It was Ms. Jeffers. He answered it quickly.”I'm comin',” He said.
Cromwell walked through the offices, through the lounge, past Ms. Jeffers and a plainclothes officer with two uniformed policemen. Ms. Jeffers tried to speak just as the all three policemen, all simultaneously. Cromwell put his hand up for quiet. He went into his office, smiling at them. They followed him in.
“Hey,” Cromwell said. “Can you give a guy a little time in the john?”
“Mr. Cromwell, I need to speak---”
Ms. Jeffers said, following him to the bathroom.
“Don't even think of any funny stuff--” The plainclothes officer said.
Cromwell slammed the door shut in every ones face. There was the sound of water running from the shower.
The plainclothes officer sighed and folded his arms.
“Mr. Cromwell needs several showers a day,” Ms. Jeffers flashed a smile.
“I'll bet he does,” One of the uniformed officers said sarcastically.
Cromwell screamed. They rushed to the door. Ms. Jeffers banged on the door, called out for him. The plainclothes officer nodded to the other two policemen. They brushed Ms. Jeffers aside. It took three tries, but the bathroom door was Jarred. The officers went inside, opened shower curtain, turned the shower off.
“What the hell?” One of them said.
Ms. Jeffers rushed in. Cromwell was no where in sight. Ms. Jeffers peered in the shower. All she could see was a large oil slick spread out on the shower mat.
Wide eyed, she threw both hands over her mouth to stifle a scream.