Excerpt from “Hell is Where the Heart is” by Mitzi Szereto (published in the anthology Getting Even: Revenge Stories edited by Mitzi Szereto)
Is it possible to want someone so badly, love someone so strongly, so overwhelmingly, you’d be willing to sell your soul to the devil to have him?
Sure, it’s the stuff of literature, opera, film – that old pact with the devil scenario, works every time. It’s easy. Just say hey, I really want this and I’ll do anything to get it, then suddenly there’s the smell of fire and brimstone, and POOF. Guess who? Yeah, some hygienically challenged manifestation with horns, tail, and a pitchfork, with eyes so red he could’ve been the last one staggering out of the local boozer the night before. There he is, grinning at you like that queer old uncle you used to run a mile from as a kid, and he’s pushing this greasy piece of parchment at you, along with an old-fashioned quill pen – the kind people used to dip into ink jars. No ink jars here though. Nope. It’s sign in blood time. That’s the only way to be sure the terms of this contract will never be broken.
With me so far? Good.
Anyway, there I was in my flat, crying my heart and soul out – emphasis on soul here – over this bloke from Romford (it just gets better and better, dunnit?), sobbing and wailing like the best professional mourner money could buy when an unpleasant odour reached my nostrils. And no, it wasn’t the week-long accumulation of rubbish that, in my misery, I couldn’t be arsed to take downstairs to the bin. When I looked up from the darkness of my palms, I figured I was hallucinating. After all, my eyes were nearly swollen shut from grief, plus I’d been drinking every form of alcohol I could find in my cupboards, stopping just short of the bottle of nail varnish remover which, although technically acetone, smells strong enough to do some serious damage. I must admit that bleachy stuff I use to clean the toilet with was beginning to tempt me as well. Ah, but I digress….
The voice was sandpaper against my eardrums. I shook my head and blinked, but rather than fading, the vision got clearer. And honey, it wasn’t good! No one had a key to my flat except the landlord, and despite the amount of alcohol I’d been consuming, this character didn’t look one bit like diminutive Mr Singh with his nut-brown skin and sing-songy accent and penchant for employing various relatives to do repairs rather than paying a qualified repairman or technician to do them. I’m surprised I haven’t dropped dead from carbon monoxide poisoning after his brother-in-law fixed the boiler last time. Everyone told me I should’ve sued, but Mr Singh hasn’t raised my rent in the whole two years I’ve lived here. Oh, there I go, digressing again. Sorry. Anyway, this horned and tailed vision was one hell of an ugly bastard, I’ll grant you that.
“Why the long face, sweetheart? Book sales down?” Then he began to nod. “Oh, I know. A bloke. Tell me I’m wrong.”
I offered him a scowl. “Well, if you already know, why are you asking?” Not surprisingly, I wasn’t in the mood for small talk.
“Just making sure. No need to lose your temper, doll face.”
“So who are you anyway?”
“Don’t you know?”
“I have my suspicions, but humour me.”
He grinned. Well, I’ve seen some dodgy teeth in my day, but the ones displaying themselves in his manky maw were downright terrifying. Hello? Ever hear of a toothbrush? He offered me a courtly bow. “I am Lucifer. Beelzebub. Mephistopheles. The Prince of Darkness. Satan. Or the Devil, for short.” He gave me a saucy wink. “But you can call me Alf.”
The King of the Underworld and his name’s Alf? Had I drunk that nail varnish remover after all?
Excerpt from: “Letter to Valentino” by Mitzi Szereto (published in the anthology Wicked: Sexy Tales of Legendary Lovers edited by Mitzi Szereto)
August 23, 1926. Thirty-one years old. You drew your last breath at 12:10 pm. They say you died from peritonitis caused by a ruptured ulcer. I don’t believe that. The Chicago press killed you with their accusations of effeminacy. Pink Powder Puffs was the name of the article. Two weeks later you were dead.
For nearly six days I waited outside Polyclinic Hospital, praying you would get better. There were others there too, but they didn’t know you like I did. Their tears were not as real as mine. I remembered your smile, the way you held your cigarette. Most of all I remembered your eyes and how they pulled me in like magnets.
Did you know they rioted in New York City when you lay in state? Mourners tried to loot Frank E. Campbell’s funeral home at Broadway and 66th Street, smashing windows, fighting with police, taking anything they could get their hands on: a flower, a scrap of wallpaper, a shard of glass. I wonder if they would have taken a piece of you, if they could have. Everyone adored you; even Mussolini sent you a wreath. The police let nine thousand viewers per hour file past you. This went on ten hours a day for three days. I was there too – did you see me? I made up my face like Pola Negri, fluttering my eyelashes at you as I passed. Your face was set like stone, though still handsome. I wanted to touch your cheek, but was afraid I’d upset you.
Several women committed suicide. Or so people said. I thought about doing it myself, but knew you wouldn’t have wanted that. At St. Malachy’s Pola flung herself on your coffin, fainting over and over as photographers snapped her picture. Of course, Pola’s an actress, isn’t she? Rudy, I hope you won’t mind my saying this, but I’m glad the talkies came in and no one wanted her anymore. You didn’t really love her, did you? The thought of your tongues intertwined in a kiss, her painted lips wrapped around your cock, it thrusting deep inside her… it’s more than I can bear!
I was also one of the thousands of mourners at the Hollywood Park Memorial Cemetery. I know you probably didn’t see me that time because I was crushed by the heaving crowd as your casket was carried into the Cathedral Mausoleum. That was me standing by a palm tree, looking at the Hollywoodland sign up on the hill, thinking how much it must have meant to you when you first arrived. You surely heard the airplane flying overhead, showering us with rose petals. I thought it fitting that they should drop rose petals. Although I could barely breathe from the press of grieving bodies, I didn’t faint. I remained still as a statue, feeling my blood run cold in my veins as I realized that my Rudy was gone. Forever.
In my widow’s weeds I visited you every year on the day of your death, bringing you red roses and hiding my tears behind a heavy black veil. I wanted to thank you for coming to see me when I lay near death in a hospital bed, a fourteen-year-old girl with her whole life before her about to be cut short. You’d brought me a red rose, remember? The nurse wanted to put it in water, but I wouldn’t let her. Instead I held it to my heart, breathing in its fragrance. Whenever I saw you up there on the movie screen I smelled roses. I imagined that was how your skin must have smelled – like the dew-speckled petals of a rose on a spring morning. You told me I wouldn’t die. And you made me promise that in case you died before me I should come stay by you so you wouldn’t be alone. I’ve kept that promise. I kept it for nearly thirty years. I’m sorry I stopped coming to visit, but there were so many other women there that I felt my love for you had been tarnished. I hope you understand, Rudy.
They say a strong spirit never dies. Maybe that’s why so many people have seen you since your death – at Falcon Lair, the Oxnard beach house, Paramount…. You like the costume department, don’t you? Even the Santa Maria Inn. Room 210 it was. Guests say they feel you on the bed. Do you know I once stayed in that room? I kept hoping you might come to me. That you would lay your body down next to mine. We’d curl into each other like two cats, all slinky limbs and feline nips. I would purr as you stroked me, starting with my hair (I had it cut special at a fancy salon in Beverly Hills just for you), then down my neck, one ghostly finger tracing a line from chin to hollow. To my breasts – you’d tell me they were lovely and no, not too small at all! – drawing circles around the nipples until they stood out so sharply they could have cut flesh. Then lower to the little indentation on my belly. You’d dip your tongue in there to tease me as your finger moved still lower, finding that special spot which made me squeal and shudder. Oh, Rudy, how did you know what I wanted as you bowed your head and loved me with your mouth?