Aggie and I are hanging from this cliff. (How we got there I'll explain in a minute.) Aggie's got her two hands locked around my wrist and she's dangling in mid-air, a stony canyon a hundred feet below. I'm barely hanging on myself, my fingers curled around the base of this little shrub that's anchored in the rock. Thank God for rain and wind and bird droppings.
"Help me, Dennis. Please don't let go of me!"
Each time she screams and flails the shrub bends just a little bit more.
"Would you stop moving for Christ's sake!"
I'm lucky Aggie's only a hundred pounds and I'm two-fifty, but still she doesn't seem to understand the physics involved.
She's silent for a second. Then she looks at the jagged rocks below and begins swimming in air again.
The shrub bends. Dirt dislodges and tumbles into my face. I know as sure as shit if I don't drop this girl she'll be the death of us both.
"Aggie...Aggie! Remember that concert in Brussels? That night you were on fire. It was the first night you performed 'Baby, Baby, We're In Too Deep' live. And you just knocked it out of the stadium."
"Yeah, I remember."
I saw her eyes grow glassy, like they used to after she'd swallow a couple oxycodone with vodka chaser right before hitting the stage. As her one-time bodyguard I saw a lot of what went on behind the scenes. To be honest, she was way in over her head. But once a star machine gets rolling it's awful hard to stop it. It didn't stop me from loving her though. But even love can get steamrolled by money and greed.
My throat was dry but I was able to squeeze enough saliva into my mouth for what I had planned. I let a spit strand drop onto my bare arm below.
"Hey, remember the after party? It was the first time they started calling you the Pop Princess."
"Yeah, that was epic..."
As Aggie was reminiscing, the saliva slowly rolled down my arm until it reached Aggie's fingers, which were clamped as tight as a boa constrictor. She must have felt her grip begin to slip because she looked up at me. The spit strand, now hair thin but still stubbornly connected to my mouth, was visible in the late afternoon sun.
"What the fuck are you doing?"
"Sorry, babe, your daddy says a pop princess is worth a lot more dead than stumbling around in front of the paparazzi while her career goes down the tubes."
Her eyes widened as her hands slipped past my knuckles and thumb. I made my fingers as straight as possible. Good thing I wasn't wearing a ring. Between the spit and the sweat, at last I was free of her.
But wouldn't you know? The bitch was cat like, and a lot stronger than I gave her credit for. Like a teeter-totter, my body counter balanced when she slipped free, and she managed to grab hold of my leg. She slid all the way down to my ankle where my Armani loafer stopped her fall.
The shrub bent even more with the sudden jerk, its roots now exposed.
"Jesus Christ would you just let go!"
"Why, Dennis? Why? I love you. I thought you loved me. I even tried to save you when you fell. How could you do this to me?"
"I wouldn't have fallen if you hadn't stumbled into me. Who wears heels to see a fucking canyon anyways?"
Here is where I'll explain. Aggie's father wanted her dead, but he didn't want her to OD. He wanted something sympathetic, something tragic, something her fans would forgive her for. I'm the one who came up with the plan. A whirlwind romance. A private wedding. A honeymoon in the great outdoors. An accidental fall. Happens all the time. Stupid people doing stupid things. And I'd get a cool ten million for my trouble.
So, we drove to an isolated part of the Grand Canyon. "Pictures for our wedding album," I explained to Aggie. She was too afraid to stand near the cliff's edge by herself, so I let her click the shutter on the camera and join me at the ledge. Click. Shuffle. Trip. Couldn't even do that right. She barreled into me like bull taking out a street runner in Pamplona. I lost my balance. She grabbed my hand as I slowly backslid over the edge. Naturally, one hundred pounds is no match for two-fifty. I stopped my fall by grabbing the shrub and she just kept right on going. Nobody ever said she was the most graceful performer to hit the stage, or even the brightest. All she had was luck. But now her luck had run out.
"Dennis, please, I'll do anything. Whatever my father is paying you, I'll pay you double."
I laughed then. "Babe, after your fifth trip to rehab, the court placed all of your legal affairs back under your father's guardianship, don't you remember? Twenty-three years old and still your daddy's changing your diapers. It's pathetic really. You're a has-been pop star, you can't sing worth a damn, your body's a mess, and your looks are fading. What's it feel like to know young boys aren't beating off to you anymore? Why don't you just let go? Just end it here and now. For your own sake. For your fans' sake. Close the show, Aggie, let the lights go down permanently."
She stared at me for the longest time it seemed, her blue eyes as clear as I'd ever seen them. Believe me I was getting tired of supporting us both, and so was the root I was clinging to. She was very still. She looked down. There were tears in those blue eyes and I saw them fall like raindrops. She looked up at me one last time.
"Goodbye, Dennis." Then she let go.
I watched her plummet. She didn't flail. She didn't even try to fly. She embraced the ground as if rushed up to greet her. The sound of her body hitting the rocks was music to my ears. Ten million cha-chings going off all at once.
The root held as I dug the fingers of my other hand into a crevice and pulled myself back up onto the ledge. Unfortunately, when I did, I came face to face with the biggest, nastiest looking rattlesnake I'd ever seen. Damned if he didn’t get me twice right in the face, one for each cheek, before slithering off. If I didn't know any better I'd say I was kissed by fate.
I'm sitting in my car now, baking in the heat, waiting for the paramedics to arrive.
I turn on the radio. Wouldn't you know? "Baby, Baby, We're In Too Deep" comes pouring out of the speakers.
I find myself tapping my fingers as my heartbeat slows to a crawl in my chest.
I don't think they're going to get here in time.
Kurt's stories have appeared in Dark Discoveries, Shroud and Polluto. He lives in rural Connecticut where the only crime is how boring it is.
Kurt also has a novella out called Breaking Eggs that he co-wrote with L.L. Soares. It was published last October by Sideshow Press and is available to buy here.