One of Those Nights
by William Arthur "Bill" Holmes. © Copyright 1990
It was late. Claude couldn't sleep. He decided to walk to the corner liquor store for munchies and beer.
As he entered the store, he noticed a girl at the phone-booth by the door. She smiled a curious smile and Claude smiled back uncertainly, then proceeded into the store. Grabbing the things he needed, he brought them up to the man behind the counter. Out of the corner of his eye, Claude noticed the phone-booth girl hang up the phone with a crash and walk away. Claude dug into his pants pocket for his cash, paid the cashier and walked out of the store.
Once outside, Claude spotted the girl walking briskly ahead. His long legs brought him to within a few yards of the girl fairly quickly. At close range, he noticed she was staggering slightly from side to side. When he came up alongside her he asked if she was okay. She said yes, but thanks for asking.
"You're drunk, aren't you?" he persisted. She smiled sheepishly as if being found out and admitted she was "slightly" drunk.
"Do you need a ride home, or something?" Claude offered.
"A ride? You don't even have a car," the girl slurred. Then, quite unexpectedly, she put her arm under his and leaned her head against his shoulder. She was drunk, all right, he thought, and he smiled.
He escorted her the block and a half to his apartment, and together they made their way up the stairs to his door. Once inside, she wrapped her arms around him, kissed him on the lips, then collapsed, unconscious.
He checked her pulse to make sure she was still alive, and breathed a sigh of relief when he confirmed that she was. Claude, always the gentleman, then placed her delicately onto his bed to sleep it off.
"Not much of a date," he said to no one in particular. He turned on the television, lit a cigarette and made himself comfortable on the couch.
In the middle of the night, the girl awakened to the smell of smoke. She saw, through blurry eyes and a throbbing head, smoke coming off the carpet in the middle of the floor. She instantly sobered up. Claude was asleep on the couch with a lit cigarette just out of his unconscious grasp.
The girl jumped out of bed and began stamping the fire out with her foot. All that stamping woke up Claude, and he raised his head to see what was going on. His sudden movement frightened the girl and her reflexively kicked him in the throat. Without trying to or even realizing it, she had just killed him.
The girl decided to get out of his apartment before he, if he, woke up. Trying to think clearly through her mental fog, she found Claude's lighter, lit some newspaper and threw it onto the floor. She then rummaged through Claude's things and found his wallet and car keys. Removing the cash and major credit cards, she dropped the wallet into the fire and bolted out the door. The fire quickly spread and the entire apartment was soon engulfed. By the time dead Claude's smoke alarm went off, the girl was searching the parking lot for his car. The leather strap attached to Claude's key ring had the "Camaro" logo on it. There was only one Camaro in the lot, and the keys opened the door. Five seconds later, she was on her way out into the street.
One of Claude's neighbors heard the fire alarm and came out of his apartment. He smelled the smoke and followed it to Claude's door. Bursting into the smoke-infested room, he found Claude half on the couch, half on the floor. Leaving him there for the moment, he ran out to the hallway, grabbed the fire extinguisher and ran back into the apartment and doused the flames.
Then he noticed some of Claude's personal belongings - a personal computer, a large-screen TV, a VCR, and in the far corner of the one-room apartment stood a fairly expensive-looking piano.
The neighbor looked over his shoulder to see if anyone else was around. He was surprised and disappointed to find two young men smiling at him nervously just outside the doorway. The young men stopped smiling and ran straight for the television and VCR. They yanked the plugs out of the wall and disappearing out the door. The remaining neighbor hesitated a moment, then decided to follow their lead. He quickly unplugged the computer and carted it off to his apartment.
With the computer safely stashed in his closet, the neighbor couldn't help but watch through a crack in the door to see who else might loot Claude's apartment.
A small dog wandered up to Claude's door. It timidly sniffed at Claude's doorstep a moment or two while its owner called out its name. The dog heard the calls and raised its head in response. But, like most dogs, it chose to ignore its owner and continue sniffing. The dog then wandered over to Claude's dead body, sniffed a couple more times, then lifted its leg and peed on him.
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