Death in the Saddle, Ch 15

The chauffeur, walking behind Bruxton and Bonnie, carried a lap top computer and a clothes bag into the hotel lobby. A bellhop hurried to relieve him.

Bruxton looked at his watch. “6:15. Jim, be ready to pick us up at 8:00. I’ll phone you when we’re ready. Park the car and grab a bite in the coffee shop.” Bruxton, escorting Bonnie through the spacious lobby, was openly possessive. With his arm around her waist, he strutted for all to see. She was his trophy—a youthful beauty, arrayed in a couturier’s black silk skirt and white ruffled silk blouse made more striking by the contrasting tone of her café-au-lait skin.

Although pleased with the attention of turning heads, Bonnie felt a certain bit of unease—a wave of insecurity; not knowing precisely what was expected of her. She was hoping that this second out-of-office meeting would not presage another dreadful event. She began to soliloquize in her head: Was he sincere when he said he would divorce his wife, then marry me? Do I really even want that? He’s old enough to be my father! He’s not particularly good-looking, and certainly not well mannered, but he’s dreadfully wealthy. But I wonder…will I be able to live with myself if I….

Bruxton dropped his hand down to caress Bonnie’s well-rounded buttocks, oblivious to the scene he was causing in the lobby. Bonnie allowed it, despite her continued inner struggles with herself. Maybe I should resist him until he gives me an engagement ring, she thought. Dad says that if I marry him, I’ll be one of the wealthiest women in the country. That would please him. But, I must be honest; Bruxton is vulgar and shamefully coarse at times. I’ve seen the way he treats his wife. Would he ever treat me respectfully? Could I enter his complicated world of business, or would he shut me out? In the express elevator to the suite, Bruxton again placed his hand on Bonnie’s rounded derrière. This time, without expression, she removed his hand and placed it at his side. The door to the suite was already open, and the bellhop was inside putting things away. The computer was on the desk, and the clothes bag was hung in the hall closet.

“Will there be anything else, sir?” The bellhop asked.

Bruxton shook his head and reached into his pocket. He handed the bellhop a ten-dollar bill. Bruxton walked away, then glanced back in time to see the bellhop smile at Bonnie. He gave her a thumbs-up sign.

Bruxton reddened. “Who the hell’re you smiling at, buster? Huh? And what was that hand signal? Get your ass out of here, right now! Buddy, you just lost your job. I’ll see to that.”

Obsequious and apologetic, the bellhop walked backwards toward the door. “Sorry, Sir, I meant no disrespect.”

“Get the hell out of here!” The bellhop exited the room, and Bruxton slammed the door after him. “The nerve of that punk, giving you the eye. I should’ve punched his face.”

“I’m sure he meant no harm,” Bonnie said. Bruxton’s mercurial temper once again caused her concern, but his fiery outburst collapsed like his chameleon-like temperament, and he became immediately mellow again.

She sat at the desk and opened the computer. Bruxton approached from behind and placed his hands on her arms. She turned around and asked insouciantly, “Did you want to give me some dictation?”

“Yeah, yeah, sure. Well not at this very minute. Why don’t we put the business aside for a while? I’ll get us a couple drinks from the bar. What’ll you have? A martini, a screw driver, a glass of wine?”

“Some sparkling water or a Coke would be fine.”

“Well, I’m gonna have some bourbon and water, then I’m gonna shower.” With a smarmy smile, he asked, “Want to join me?”

“Mr. Bruxton, really!”

“Suit yourself,” he said, before heading in the direction of the bathroom.

That’s it, she thought to herself. Enough of this going back and forth. She decided, finally, that she was simply not going to respond to his sexual entreaties. He made her feel cheap—as though she were only good for his bed and nothing else. Sure, the gifts were fine, but the sweet and tender romances she had known with some young men were missing. Bruxton was callous, and physically repulsive. Besides, it was that time of the month and she couldn’t stand the embarrassment of being indelicate. If he forces himself on me, I’ll just make him take me home, she thought to herself.

Humming, Bruxton emerged from the shower, toweled himself off, and reached for a terry cloth robe. He stopped at the mini bar to refill his tumbler with bourbon and water, stirred it with his finger, then, once again approached Bonnie, who was still seated at the desk. “Come on, Baby, let’s enjoy a little smooch before we do any work.” Bruxton took her by the hands and brought her to a standing position, then pulled her toward him.

He forcefully embraced her, letting his robe fall open, and then he kissed her, pushing his tongue into her mouth. It was all to no avail, though. His brusqueness, the rigidity of his erection, the smell of liquor, and the cigar on his breath, simply served to strengthen her newfound resolve. The man repulsed her. She forcefully pushed him away.

“You need to stop, Mr. Bruxton.”

“Come on girlie. I already told you I wanna marry you. You can be a rich woman.”

Mr. Bruxton, I can’t….”

“Oh, you want to play rough? Okay, I like that game too.” He grabbed her arms and threw her onto the bed, lifted the hem of her skirt and started to pull down her panties. His bull-like strength and clawing terrified her. She beat on his chest and attempted to knee his groin.

“I said stop, you animal!” she shouted.

Bruxton’s red-faced smile turned to a seething leer. “Who the hell you calling ‘animal’? I just spent five grand on that necklace, paid for your damn clothes, and you haven’t even had a chance to see the big surprise that’s waiting in that envelope I gave you. Now come on. I’m gonna get some sweet payment.”

“Mr. Bruxton, You can take your damn gifts back as far as I’m concerned. Now get the hell off me!”

“Not until I get some pussy, girlie!”

“But I’m menstruating.”

“That’s okay, Baby, you can still satisfy me.”

Get off!” She screamed and scratched his face. He grabbed her arms and straddled her. His anger mounted, his eyes reddened and bulged, his nostrils flared. He held her face and neck in a vise-like grip and forced her to take his erection into her mouth. She responded by biting down, then gagged. He yelled, “Jeezuz Christ! You bitch! He pulled backward reflexively, then leaned forward to slap her face, first with his palm, and then with the back of his hand.

Still not satisfied, Bruxton grabbed her swan-like neck and squeezed. Unable to breathe, she pleaded desperately. Terror filled her eyes, but he pressed even harder. Her complexion turned blue and her body fell limp.

Two muffled shots rang out! Bruxton’s head jerked forward, then backwards. His hands fell to his sides. His upper body tilted forward and with increasing momentum his head struck the headboard with a thud. Bonnie’s eyelids fluttered, she coughed in spasms then took a raspy breath. The lifeless, dead weight of Bruxton’s body impaired her breathing. Mustering all her strength, she took a deep breath and heaved him off to the side. He tumbled to the floor. She lay motionless then, in shock, and in an incomprehensible fog. Touching her neck gingerly, she winced, reached down to pull up her panties and straighten her skirt. Rolling to the edge of the bed she opened and closed her eyes repeatedly until she could focus. Bruxton lay dead on the floor. His open eyes stared out of a stony-white face marred by two red scratches on his left cheek; his head lay in an expanding pool of blood, forming a crimson corona.

With heart thumping, she moved unsteadily off the bed, her rubbery legs barely supported her. She reached out for the phone on the dresser. The operator asked, “How may I help you? Hello? Hello?”

To add to her mounting fear and panic, Bonnie discovered she had no voice except for a guttural grunt, making her feel terribly isolated. She replaced the phone on the cradle quietly, then walked toward Bruxton’s lifeless body and bent over it to cover his groin with his robe. The dreadful reality of what had just occurred was becoming clearer. She looked around the room wondering who had fired the shots? She entered into an emotional yin-yang. Whoever it was had probably saved her life, and for that she was grateful, but was the murderer still there? Was Bruxton the only target or was she next? Stealthily, she crept from room to room hoping not to find anyone, but obeying a fierce compulsion to look for the intruder. The last place to look for the shooter was the hall closet. She held her breath and cautiously opened the closet door, her skin prickled with fear and dreadful anticipation. She hoped to God no one was there. To her relief, only darkness and the hanging clothes bag faced her. With relief she shut the door quickly. There simply was no one else in the suite. Whoever killed Bruxton had fled and closed the hall door behind them.

Glancing in the washroom mirror, Bonnie looked at her harried reflection—the disheveled hair, the smeared lipstick and the red irritation around her face and neck. Looking more closely, she discovered a spattering of blood on her left collar. She inverted the collar to conceal the spotting, and the altered appearance of the blouse seemed acceptable. She splashed water on her face and removed her smeared lipstick with a tissue and flushed it down the toilet. A grooming set consisting of a hairbrush, comb, and nail file placed on a hand towel was aligned next to the basin. She picked up the brush, ran it through her hair, then reapplied lipstick. Her thinking remained unsettled. Should she call the police and tell them what happened? No, she didn’t even have a voice. Besides, they would link her to the murder and there would be too many questions. It was all too frightening and confusing. Maybe she should just leave. Yes, that would be the best solution. She’d leave and go home. Her dad would know what to do.

With a moistened washcloth, Bonnie ran to wipe the computer keyboard; next she reached for her drinking glass and wiped that as well. Then came the doorknobs. Did she touch anything else? She surveyed the bedroom and washroom, then jammed the damp washcloth in her purse.

Bonnie walked to the entry door, opened it, got the washcloth out again, and wiped the inside doorknob. Stepping into the hallway, she looked in both directions then wiped the outer doorknob as well, before depositing the washcloth back into her purse. Walking briskly to the elevator, she pushed the button, waited for the door to open, and stepped inside. She was grateful that the elevator was unoccupied. She breathed a bit more slowly, then looked down. A glance at her shoes, revealed a spot of blood on the right shoe tip. Quickly, she pulled the washcloth from her purse and wiped it. As she was about to put the cloth back in her purse, the elevator stopped; the door opened onto the lobby, and two people entered. She exited with the washcloth still in her hand. Hurrying to the hotel entrance, she stuffed the washcloth back into her purse, approached the valet and whispered hoarsely into his ear, “Cab.”

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