Updated: Mar 8
Here we are again, on the first Sunday of the month with another free short story. I post one every month as a thank you to all of you wonderful readers. And as always a grateful thank you to my amazing editor Liane Larocque at Mystic Canyon Publishing. Hope you enjoy the stories as much as I do writing them.
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This month's story, Strings Attached is a reflection of the dark side of fame and fortune.
READER DISCRETION ADVISED, this may not be suitable for all audiences.
If you enjoy my short stories please consider trying my books, The Blood Prophecy series, and Inferno of Secrets.
Mark Ferrari, not his real name, a cohost on a 2:00 a.m. public TV talk show, was standing in front of the elevator where he worked when an attractive, white-haired elderly woman came to stand beside him. They eyed each other briefly before the elevator doors swished open. Once inside and the doors had closed, the woman turned to Mark, “Your suit, Sir, is very nice, but with all due respect, it does not sing.”
Mark was a bit startled, “Sing?” he asked.
“Yes, when a suit is made perfect for the wearer, the suit will sing and will bring power and riches beyond the owner’s wildest dreams.”
“That’s nonsense,” replied Mark as the elevator doors opened.
Just as Mark stepped out of the elevator, the woman handed him a card. “Anyone who wouldn’t want a suit that sings is cursed to failure. You’ll see. When you are ready for a singing suit, come and find me.”
Mark only allowed a moment to acknowledge the strange interaction by briefly reading the card.
He slid the card into his jacket pocket and went on his way. Mark had his entertainment career to focus on. This was his big break to get his foot in the door. He felt certain that a big producer would see his skills on his early morning show and want him to host his very own or maybe a cohost spot on Good Morning America. His girlfriend thought he was delusional but let him keep his little fantasy. No sooner had Mark arrived on the seventh floor where the studio was, than his cell phone rang. It was his agent.
“Sorry, kid. They just informed me that your show’s been canceled.”
“What! But why?”
“Ratings were down. They thought it might be that you’re a bit too bland for their target demographic.”
Devastated, Mark vacillated between an endless cycle of wallowing in his bed and dragging himself to every audition and open casting call he could manage. Yet, there were no callbacks, only constructive criticism.
“Sorry, you just don’t have that spark we’re looking for,” as the casting director put it.
Mark’s bad luck in finding a job persisted for eight long months, chipping away at his savings, which only made his anxiety worse, which, in turn, destroyed his relationship with his girlfriend. The day the eviction notice arrived, Mark’s worried state of mind shifted into full-blown desperation. He screamed at himself as he dressed for his audition, “I must get this job!” As he grabbed a jacket he hadn’t worn in a long time, he reached into one of the pockets to find the card the woman in the elevator had given him. He quickly dismissed the ridiculous card and stuffed it back into his pocket before racing out the door.
Several hours later, defeated, Mark slowly removed his jacket. The audition had gone as all the rest. As he hung the jacket in the closet, the card from his pocket fell gently to the floor. Mark scowled at it, “It was you, you old bitch, who cursed my life. Everything was fine until I met you!”
Mark’s thoughts only fueled his anger. “She’s responsible. I’m going to make her pay! No, I’m going to make her remove the curse first, and then I’ll make the bitch pay.” Mark angrily put his jacket back on and rushed out the door to find the corner of Sunrise and Sunset Blvds.
Mark had never been to this part of the city. His GPS had guided him there, as he hadn’t even heard of Sunrise and Sunset Blvd before. Mark had been a native New Yorker since birth, and he thought for sure he had been to every crevice of all five boroughs. He couldn’t understand why he had never been to this street, let alone heard of its existence. Nonetheless, as if by magic, Mark’s GPS had found the corner where Sunset and Sunrise Blvd intersected. There, on the corner, was a small shop with a large window made up of a dozen small blocks of glass. A warm greenish-yellow light emanated from inside, leaving a strange foggy haze outside its door.
Six small, tinkling bells rang softly as Mark pushed open the door to Perfection Tailoring. The shop was void of people. There was only a room filled with shelves with bolts of fabric, a large cutting table with a pure white cat resting in the center, who stared at Mark as if he were food. Mark approached the cat with caution, determined to win over the giant ball of angry-looking fluff. He held his hand out for the cat to sniff, which he instantly regretted as the cat’s claws dug into the side of his hand. The cat let out a loud hiss before jumping off the table and running through a swinging door into another room. Mark followed the cat into a larger room filled to the ceiling with more bolts of fabric and a forklift. The cat saw Mark following and dashed to another side room. Mark followed, and as he entered this room, he saw the white-haired woman standing over a suit covered in reddish slime, sticking to the floor in a large puddle of black liquid.
The surprise to see Mark showed on Victoria’s face as she looked up at him, but only for a moment before she smiled wide.
“I’ve been expecting you, Mr. Ferrari.”
Mark stared at the gooey suit on the floor.
“If that’s a suit that sings, then I don’t think I’m interested. And, hey, how did you know my name? I don’t recall ever telling you that day in the elevator.”
“I research all my prospective clients before considering who will get the suit that sings, Mr. Ferrari. I am an extremely specialized tailor, and I picked you for all the potential I see in you.”
Mark’s pride soaked up Victoria’s words like a sponge, which diverted his attention away from asking what horror had become of the suit on the floor. Victoria slowly moved toward Mark, creating a visual barrier between Mark and the suit on the floor.
“I’ve seen your show, Mr. Ferrari. And from what I saw, you were the only one worth watching. That host, Marjorie Baccas, isn’t anything more than a whore who can read off a teleprompter. It is you, Mr. Ferrari, who should be in the host seat. It should be you.”
“I couldn’t agree with you more. But they didn’t pick me to host. Hell, I can’t seem to get any work these days. I appreciate your confidence in me, but I’m sorry to say you are mistaken.”
“Not to worry. Once you wear the suit that sings, that will all change.”
“That’s all well and good, but how much does a suit that sing’s cost? I’d imagine it’s not cheap, and I’m not a wealthy man.”
Victoria’s smile disappeared from her face, and she became extremely serious. “A suit that sings will be five hundred thousand dollars.”
Mark turned and began walking out of the room as he called out behind him, “Sorry, lady. There’s no way in hell I could afford a suit that expensive. Hell, I’ve only got about a hundred bucks in my account that’s got to last me until next month. Thanks anyways,” he said as he began to walk away.
“If you’re willing to give up that easily, perhaps I was wrong in thinking you were worthy of a singing suit.”
Mark turned back toward her. “If you don’t have a two-hundred-year payment plan, then there’s just no way in hell I can afford this suit.”
Victoria’s eyes lit up, and a sly smile crossed her attractive face. “I’ll make a deal with you. I’ve never been wrong about who the next wearer of the suit will be. And knowing this, I will make you an offer like I’ve given no other before you. I’ll give you the suit for free for now. All you must do is return on the one-year anniversary of tonight and pay me for the suit.”
“You really think I’ll have that kind of cash in a year?”
“You just wear the suit. I’ll guarantee in a year, the cost will be nothing more to you than pocket change. A suit that sings brings power and riches beyond the owner’s wildest dreams. All you need to do is agree that you will return and pay me in one year.”
Mark thought about her offer for a moment. Perhaps he could take the suit and never return to pay for it. A year from now, he felt sure he’d be back on his feet and would have no need for a stupid suit that sings anyway.
“I’d reconsider ripping me off, Mr. Ferrari. For if you choose not to pay, all the glory, money, and fame that’s gained by wearing the suit will instantly disappear. Everything will be lost to you,” she said as if she could read his thoughts.
‘What can the old bitch do to me if I don’t have her five-hundred thousand dollars next year? Anyway, can’t get blood from a stone if I don’t have it, and I’ll at least have had a nice suit to go to auditions in.’ Mark agreed without hesitation.
Victoria fitted Mark for the suit right there and then, which he picked up the following night. Mark stood in front of the full-length mirror, admiring the suit. It was dark gray in color and, for the most part, didn’t look any different than any other well-made suit, but somehow it had a strange power that couldn’t be seen with the naked eye but could be felt emanating from it even from twenty feet away. Mark may not have believed in the suit’s power, but he had to admit as he peered at himself in the mirror that it made him look finer than he ever had before.
The following day, Mark had an audition for a small walk-on part with one line in a long-running soap opera, to which he wore the suit and was hired as the leading heartthrob before the audition was even over. The day after, he was called to host an award show. Then came the calls for interviews on every talk and entertainment news show across the country. Before long, Mark landed the lead in an action-adventure series that would pay him millions of dollars a film, with a guarantee of three films, each earning him even higher pay than the one before. Mark was given endorsement deals for every product, from sneakers to cologne and breakfast cereal. Mark’s career rose like a rocket leaving the launch pad. Within six months, he was wealthier and more famous beyond his wildest dreams. But the next six months proved to be even more prosperous.
Mark reveled in his new fame. He dated every beautiful starlet and supermodel he could find the time for. He had become a daily mention in every tabloid, his picture with the actress du jour splattered across their pages. He had procured the best agent in the industry, hired a publicist, and had a hair and makeup artist on standby. Mark had dinners with the most influential people of his day, all of who found Mark to be charming, talented, and extraordinarily handsome. With as many people as Mark had impressed, he had just as many haters who called him a no-talent hack who rose to fame by doing nothing. It was these people who put him over the top in making him uber-famous.
The months passed, and with each day came a new accolade to add to Mark’s resume. Mark’s fear of losing his new fortune made him wear the suit every time he left his many mansions. He wore nothing else in his personal or professional life. He’d wear a different color shirt and tie each time to make the suit seem different, and for some magical reason, no one ever noticed it was always the same suit. At eleven months old, the suit started to look a bit worn, small strings began to appear all over and no sooner had Mark trimmed them off, more would appear. He still had a month before he needed to pay Victoria, but he went to see her early with the suit in need of some repair. Mark decided he might as well pay the woman early and get her to make the repairs to the suit since she had been right, and five-hundred thousand dollars was truly nothing but pocket change to Mark by this time.
The limousine circled the block four times, but for some reason, the driver could not find the corner of Sunrise and Sunset.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Ferrari. There isn’t anything coming up on GPS. These streets simply don’t exist. At first, a strange fear filled Mark. If he couldn’t find Victoria’s shop, how would he ever get her to repair his suit? Surely, no other tailer could do justice to a suit that sang. Mark was convinced that no one had the same magical power as she did. When the fourth round the block that should have found the shop yielded nothing, it occurred to him that if her shop was closed, he wouldn’t need to pay her anything. A greedy smile crossed his face. He still had the suit that sang, and his career would continue to grow. This was the best news ever, he thought. I’m rich beyond my wildest dreams, and it cost me absolutely nothing. Mark couldn’t stop himself from letting out a hideous laugh. ‘Stupid bitch,” he thought between his laughter.
Mark went on with his illustrious career, and a month later, when his debt for the suit was due, he had long forgotten about Victoria and her Perfection Tailoring shop. But Victoria had not forgotten about him.
On the morning of the one-year anniversary of getting the suit, Mark’s cell phone began to ring. It was his private number that only a few trusted people had. He thought it strange when a number appeared that he didn’t recognize. At first, he ignored it and let it go to voicemail, figuring some spam caller had somehow gotten his unlisted number. But the calls didn’t stop. They continued every hour for the entire day. Annoyed, Mark finally listened to the voicemail message.
“Your payment has come due. I will be expecting you at my shop this evening at eight sharp, or all you have gained will disappear and you will become even more destitute than you were when you received the suit. You have been warned. To pull the tail of the devil is ill-advised.”
Fear was Mark’s first sensation. He had forgotten about Victoria, and now she and his debt were back in full force. Even though Mark had more than enough money to pay Victoria, he somehow felt as if he was being blackmailed and didn’t want to pay. ‘She has no proof that the suit was responsible for my success.’ He felt it was his talent that was responsible, not some stupid bewitched silk. How dare she claim his hard work was due to her magical suit? Although this revelation didn’t cause him to stop wearing the suit just in case he was wrong in his thinking. Part of him knew that there was something magical about the suit, even though he would never admit it out loud.
Mark’s fear of losing everything he had worked for grew throughout the day until he finally relented and had his limo driver once again try to find the corner of Sunrise and Sunset Blvd. The limo circled twice with no sign of either the street corner or the shop sign. Just as Mark was ready to give up, on the third pass, the road and shop sign appeared out of nowhere. The limo pulled up in front of the shop, and Mark, with check in hand, entered the building. The white cat he had encountered on his first visit greeted him at the door, sashaying off toward the back room, always looking back as if to get Mark to follow as the cat guided him to the back of the shop where Victoria was at the cutting table, cutting and pinning a black garment.
Victoria didn’t acknowledge Mark at first, she simply kept working away on the fabric before her. Mark cleared his throat to get her attention. When she didn’t look up, the white cat jumped on the garment she was working on and let out a loud meow. Victoria finally looked up.
“I feared you may have forgotten me and the debt you owe me.”
“No, I have your check for the five-hundred thousand dollars we agreed on.”
“Have you forgotten something?” she asked.
Mark was confused. He didn’t understand what she was talking about. “I don’t think so,” he replied.
She took the check from his hand. “Yes, you have paid the agreed amount, but now you must return the suit.”
“What? No, I’m buying the suit. You have the check in your hand.”
“No, the agreement was you would use the suit for one year. This check is simply the rental fee for the year. If you wish to buy the suit, it will cost you fifteen million.”
“No, that wasn’t the agreement. You said it would cost five-hundred thousand!”
“That was before you rented it for a year. Now there is interest that comes due.”
Mark’s face turned as red as a fire engine as the anger inside him rose like a wild forest fire.
“Fine, then take the stupid suit back.” Mark began to pull the suit jacket off when Victoria raised her open hand above her head, squeezing her hand into a tight fist and pointing it at Mark. As Mark pulled at the suit jacket, it began to feel as if it were shrinking. He tugged franticly to remove the pants, but they too began to shrink. No matter how hard he tried, the suit slowly became tighter and tighter. As the waist of the pants began to chafe at his belly, and the silk grew smaller and smaller, Mark could not get the buttons undone. As he struggled, the suit began to melt into a reddish slime. Hot steam rose from the suit as the silk slowly turned to a slimy black liquid, ever-tightening around Mark’s chest and waist, slowly cutting off his breathing. Within a few minutes, the suit shrank to a quarter of its original size, slowly squeezing every breath from Mark’s body. Then the melting goo left behind by the melting suit covered Mark’s face until he, too, began to melt away.
The sound of Victoria’s laughter could be heard over Mark’s fading screams as the suit slowly melted, becoming smaller and smaller until it suffocated the last breath from Mark’s body, and there was nothing left of him or the suit but a slimy puddle of reddish black liquid on the floor.
Victoria smiled an evil grin as she stood over the goo that was left of Mark, waving his check over the ugly mess. “When will men learn to listen? I told you, whoever owns the suit will have riches beyond their wildest dreams. Stupid men, I own the suit and always will.” Victoria waved her hands over the pile of goo and all the energy the suit had absorbed from Mark began to move as a heavy fog into her mouth. The last of Mark’s energy was absorbed into Victoria, instantly making her appear twenty-five years younger.
The small bells from the front door could be heard ringing. She no sooner stepped away from the gooey remains when a handsome young man entered the room.
“I’ve been expecting you, Mr. Bond,” she said with a smile. The young man looked at the melted suit on the floor.
“If that’s a suit that sings, then I don’t think I’m interested. And, hey, how did you know my name? I don’t recall ever telling you that day at the studio?”
“I research all my prospective clients before considering who will get the suit that sings, Mr. Bond. I am an extremely specialized tailor, and I picked you for all the potential I see in you.”