I am through to round two of the NCY Midnight Short Story Challenge 2023.
This is such a fun competition. There are several round. Each round you are placed in a group and given three prompts. Then you have a limited number of days to write a short story.
Round one is eight days, round two is three days, down to 24 hours for the final round.
This is my winning entry for round one. My prompts were: Spy / Sleeping giant / An electrician
This became: The Village People Spy
Synopsis: A young spy infiltrates the home of a rich businessman. Her mission: seduce his wife, dressed as the Electrician from The Village People. But who is playing who?
The Village People Spy
“Government spies? The Village People? I don’t believe you.”
She slips an elegant hand into her purse and pulls out a small packet of cigarettes. Drawing one from the slimline case she rests the paper-wrapped tobacco against her blood red lips. Her eyebrow raises in question.
I fumble in my pockets. Shit, I always have a lighter. Spy kit 101. Essential to my cover. A Mark won’t always smoke, but when they do, it’s an easy in.
My fingers brush hard plastic. There.
“Allow me,” I say, stepping forward, clicking the little tab to fire the propane once, twice before it comes to life, a little blue flame igniting at the tip of my baby-pink lighter. It screams Barbie-core, not a great match for my workman shorts and opaque singlet, great for my audition as Katy Perry.
She smiles, her bloody lips curving seductively before she draws them together in a sucking motion to puff the cigarette to life, transforming her plump, kiss-ready lips into a tiny cat’s arse.
Breathing the smoke deep into her lungs she leans back against the marble kitchen top, exhaling a cloud of grey. It floats up to the small window behind her head, curling through the opening, out into the cold of London night, to mingle into nothing with the other mists of the city: petrol, woodsmoke, car fumes, clouds, fog. A painter’s palette of shadowy shades.
“It’s the perfect cover,” I say, returning to my topic. “An American Indian, a business man, an electrician....”
Her brow furrows. “There was an electrician in the Village People? I thought he was a builder?”
I tap the hard-hat that nestles on my head, finger pointing at the large black lightning bolt that cuts down its centre. My costume is accurate, if on a woman.
“Huh,” she grunts, sucking more death into her lungs. Her eyes, lids heavy from booze and the weight of enormous fake lashes, scan me up and down, savouring the shape of my hips, pausing on the peal of flesh that has squeezed out from behind my workman’s belt, perfectly tanned skin, tight and supple.
The brief was right it seems. The wife also likes to play.
“So he paid you to dress that way? As a group.”
The sounds of the party I should be attending drift down the hall to us. Laugher deep and masculine, the tittering giggles of young women, the strains of some 80s rock ballad or another.
“It’s one of the standard configurations,” I say. “The agency has an online catalogue. Clients can pick. You’d be surprised how often they choose The Village People.”
“Women in uniform,” she smirks derisively. “Don’t you find it all just so… demeaning?”
She gestures at the whole of me, my workman’s outfit with diamante trim, my peroxide curls, my heeled booties.
I shrug. “It’s good money.”
“It must be time consuming, keeping up that shape.”
This concern isn’t for me. But rather a reflection of her own insecurity. Subconsciously she braces her core, pulling her middle-aged belly tight. She’s pretty fit for her age, her limbs lean, her eyes clear. If anyone is putting time into their appearance, it’s her. But behind the perfectly tailored suit, the liberally applied foundation, the carefully dyed locks, it’s clear she’s past her prime. She knows it. And so does her husband.
It’s why I’m here.
“I like to work out,” I lie, the words smooth and natural. That’s one thing I have definitely improved over the last few months. My training at the Academy is working.
She gives a half-smile, reaches over to stub her cigarette out on the counter, the fall of her sleeve catching the ash and sweeping it onto the floor. She doesn’t seem to notice.
“Drink?” she asks, gesturing to a large glass-doored fridge. Behind the slightly frosted glass I spy a rack of bottles in various shades of yellow and pink, wines from all corners of the world.
“Or do you need to get back to my husband and his friends.”
I smile conspiratorially. “They won’t miss me,” I say. “Most men just want the Indian girl.”
It’s true. And not just because her costume looks like something from Carnivale, with its beaded bra-let, and g-string. The headdress is the only part that really matches the original Village People getup. The irony. A young girl paid to dress as a gay man, and strip. Rich white men and ‘coloured’ girls; a match made in whoring heaven. It’s an added bonus that Amelie got the gig.
She cocks an eyebrow. “That’s not very PC.”
I shrug. “I’m a stripper. That’s not very PC.”
A huffed laugh, a settling of her shoulders.
She’s starting to relax.
Her heels click on the polished white tiles as she moves to the fridge. Red lacquered nails tap over the bottles. Her golden bangles clacking. She is a walking percussion section.
She selects one from the middle row. A flash of soft, pale skin between shirt and trouser as she reaches above her head for two long stemmed vessels. A glass is pressed into my waiting hand, the liquid the colour of vitamin-rich piss, the glass bubbles with condensation.
She sips, tilts her head back, swallows. The creases of her neck smooth momentarily as the wine slips down. Her eyes close, exposing full smoky-eye powered lids. A secret smile plays at the corners of her mouth.
Quickly I gulp down a mouthful, eager to please. Viscous smoked-meat assails my tastebuds. God this is rank.
“Devine, isn’t it?” she croons, eying me over the rim of her glass.
I nod, forcing myself to swallow.
She throws back her head and finishes her glass, pours more, narrows her eyes at me.
“So who’s the spy?” she asks.
My gut turns to liquid, but my face is a mask of calm. I was a top drama student at school, comes in handy.
I cock my head, sip my foul wine, playing for time.
“The Indian?” she muses, tapping her glass on her bottom lip. A large red smear of lipstick is collecting on the rim. “No, he’d never have been invited to the important places. Racism was rife in the 80s. The business man? Too blue collar…”
I could faint with relief. She’s talking about my ruse: The Village People spy.
I laugh, a small release of tension, swallow more wine. It’s actually starting to grow on me.
She laughs too. A sudden, shaking sound. She leans forward, nail tip poking me right between my breasts. “It’s you! The electrician. Who else can get in anywhere?”
“Exactly,” I grin widely, arching my back slightly, pressing my boobs up as her hand hovers between them, the crystal stickers along their fleshy crest catching the LED downlights reflecting a prism of colour. She stares, eyes lingering.
Women really are just like men.
I release a slow, soft breath, aiming it just past her ear. The stray strands of her day bun float up then curl back against her skin. Perfect hit.
She blinks, steps back, pours more wine.
Too soon. She’s not ready, yet.
I settle back against my bench top. I’ve got all night. Down the hall her husband is distracted, likely up to his eyeballs in feathers and glitter paint. His colleagues equally catered for, champagne pouring down throats, eyes at crotch height while Amelie gyrates her ample hips, keeping them entertained, so I can do my work.
My task is simple. Bug the private study. Mr Antonev has been a person of interest for years; too rich, too quickly, and foreign. One to watch.
Amelie presented the original plan: infiltrate a stripper group, easy; seduce the host, simple; then as he sleeps off his sexual exploits, bug his private office, problematic. I saw the failing, clear as day. Men like that? They like an audience. He’d have me, sure. But in the lounge, while his friends cheered and drank and wanked.
The wife however…
Amelie really does think too small. Blinkered by her easy ride into the Academy. Classic nepo-baby. There are advantages to being unexpected.
I return to my ruse, “You never noticed how often the electrician changed? They travelled as a larger troop, crossing borders, invited to parties. And when the time was right, the electrician was replaced so the spy could do his work. Swapped out as easily as a brand of oat milk.”
“I’m rather fussy about my oat milk,” Mrs Antonev quips.
“What about your electricians?”
A deep, throaty laugh.
“I like this electrician,” she purrs, gesturing at my costume.
She pours the last of the wine into our glasses, discarding the bottle on the bench with the screw cap, a large slug of spilt wine glistens on the marble. It would take two seconds to wipe it up, bin the bottle. My fingers itch to clean. Order is drummed into us at the Academy. Order means control. Control means you live.
Mrs Antonev, it seems, could care less.
Fixing me with her eyes she slips her heels from her feet and starts walking from the room. At the door she turns, face lowered coyly.
I grin and follow.
She tastes of ash and acid, her mouth hungry. Her flesh soft, pliant and willing. As I strip her clothes from her body she shivers in delight.
A finger to my lips, “Wait.”
I roll back onto the softness of the mattress.
“Give me one moment.”
She slips into the dimness of the room. A door squeaks, then the whoosh of a running tap. Bathroom.
I don’t care. I am here, in her room, ready to complete my mission. All I have to do now is squeeze. Grip her neck at the back, render her unconscious, creep to the private office that opens on the left of the room, bug the desk, return below and get out. Victorious.
I’m ahead of schedule. No harm in taking my time now, enjoying the spoils of my success. I haven’t cum in weeks.
I didn’t see the gun; the light too dim, my mind too fuzzy from wine.
A single white feather floats to the floor.
Pauline stands in the bathroom doorway. Fishing within her grey silk bra she pulls out a lighter. Cigarette to her scarlet lips, she clicks twice, lighting up.
“You took your time. I thought I was going to have to actually undress.”
“Sorry Mrs Antonev. Your husband is, well, grabby.” Amelie reaches up, removing the Indian headdress from her crown, rolling her slender shoulders.
Pauline nods. She knows it’s true. Drawing the smoke deep into her lungs she crosses the room, presses two fingers to the electrician’s neck.
“Gun,” she says, holding out a hand. Dutifully Amelie hands over the revolver.
Footfall sounds down the hall, heavy tread, unsteady.
Amelie’s eyes go wide. Pauline smiles.
Mr Antonev stumbles into the gloom. “There you are,” he slurs at Amelie, voice thick with drink. He stumbles forward, eyes raking her exposed flesh, hands, fat bulging around golden rings, reaching for her.
Pauline flicks the light switch. The room is doused in light as the ceiling bulbs spring to life.
Mr Antonev sees the bloody horror of the electrician spread over his marriage bed. He freezes.
“What the fuck?”
Pauline draws the gun from behind her back, aims it at the swaying business man.
“Indeed,” she croons, and fires.
Amelie sits in the debriefing room, it’s hot and close, her collar tight. Fighting the urge to fidget, her legs uncross, then cross again.
Her father looks up from the dossier before him.
“And it is your belief that the clean up was effective, the police don’t suspect?”
Amelie takes a deep breath. “Yes, sir. Though the evening’s events didn’t go exactly to plan, it is my opinion that the situation was salvaged.”
“Well the official statement from the MET murder suicide. Jilted lover kills her sugar-daddy, then turns the gun on herself. Easy. Clean-cut.
Steepling his hands, he nods once. “Very good. Shame about Pip. I really thought the girl had potential. But to go off script like that, attack the target. What was she even doing in the room with him alone?” A sigh. “Still, you handled the situation well. Not easy to take out a colleague. But it had to be done. How was the wife?”
“Mrs Antonev was in shock sir, quite a thing to come home to.”
“Quite. Well, I think that’s it covered. Good work.”
“Sir,” Amelie nods.
She strides across the rain wet street, coat pulled tight against the misting damp. Sinking gratefully into the heated passenger seat of the dark green Mercedes she smiles at Pauline.
“Did they buy it?”
“Hook, line and sinker.”
“No suggestion I was present for the shooting?”
“Not a whisper.”
“Well look at you my little spy,” Pauline croons leaning forward to pat Amelie’s cheek, her touch is light, condescending. Amelie bristles.
“It was risky. Killing Mikal wasn’t part of the plan.”
“Bah,” Pauline waves her hand dismissively. “Mikal was a risk. Always too loud, too brash. He attracted attention. It had to end for him, one day.”
“Which is why you married him.”
“Yes, but he’d become a liability. Attracted the Academy’s attention.”
“And now the Academy thinks those contacts are neutralised.”
“And I am free to pursue them, unwatched.” Pauline boasts, proud.
“All handled by you my dear. Your manipulation of Pip to go off script… you put her right into my hands. It was perfection.”
“She was so jealous of me.”
“You cultivated that deliciously.”
“And no one suspects our connection”
“My brave, smart girl. You are much more than a ‘connection’. You are my double agent inside the Academy. My cover and my dear, dear friend.”
“And you hold the keys to the kingdom.”
Pauline’s lips purse, the red of her lipstick tracking up the wrinkles that surround her mouth. “After years in the shadows, now it’s my time to shake things up.”
Amelie watches as her mentor pulls out into traffic, her windscreen wipers squealing over the damp glass. Pulling out her mobile, she taps three times. Her lips curve in a slow smile as the tracking device beeps to life. Installed in Pauline’s business mobile, to monitor her every movement, her every word. Her target never suspecting.
They all underestimate her: The Academy, Pip, Pauline, her father. Daughter of the director. There because of privilege, not talent. She will show them.
But not yet. For now, this giant must slumber. Quiet, unseen, but there. Waiting for her moment to rise.
Placing her phone back in her pocket she strolls down the cobbled lane, returning to the Academy to play her part.
She pauses at the large double doors. The mist has lifted, the sky clearing to pale blue.
Her time will come, she knows.
Wish me luck for round two!