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Seven: Cradle-to-Grave Robbing!

2323 Skid Row. Bachelor Pad #15-A.

Lyric knew it wasn't much. But it would do.

She didn't plan on staying.

A charitable realtor might have called the place "lived-in," the same way they might have called a studio apartment built out of a toilet stall "cozy." Vomit and failure leave surprisingly similar odors in a room. They're both the same color, too: Gray. Well, vomit could be gray, anyway. If you were eating Cream of Wheat. Expired Cream of Wheat. The kind your miserable parents piled into the backseat of your rustbucket hatchback when you moved away from home just to be rid of it, because it was filled with little white bugs anyway and your mom JUST CAN'T STOP SQUATTING OUT THE KIDS LONG ENOUGH to give you anything to face the DIABOLICAL GODDAMN WORLD with other than a pat on the back and a kick out the door.

Not that Lyric cared. She'd have rented a shack with cats in the walls if it meant a single hour free from the perpetual stink of Eau de Hush Money and four generations of rancid baby shit.

She wasn't broke. Of course she wasn't. Lyric didn't do poverty, not even the genteel Bohemian variety they sold at Pottery Barn and uptown second-hand shops. She'd commandeered her college fund (AHAHAHA) to furnish this rathole, and she did it in her trademark style. A little more than she could afford, a little too ambitiously. Gold and hardwood and imported goods. She figured she could make the first six payments before the savings gave out, and they finally tracked her to this address.

The bedroom, by necessity, got the best of everything. The money was just about gone when it came time to furnish the breakfast nook, but that was fine. She couldn't remember the last time she'd humped anyone because she was impressed by their kitchen table.

Well, there was that one guy. In Birmingham. But that table was sort of part of the package. It used to be Stevie Ray Vaughn's table, the one reserved for coke mirrors and achewater shots and the preparation of his ridiculous Oriental aphrodisiacs.

God, what a table that was.

Lyric rung up the Goth girl when the last of the delivery trucks finally pulled away. No sense in delaying Phase One.

Cassandra squealed when she saw her. Literally squealed. She squeezed Lyric and bounced up and down and giggled like a child. Maybe she was being flirtatious? Ew. That was kind of like her haircut; a little absurd on a woman her age. It was off-putting. She was trying for cute, but detouring somewhere closer to arrested development. Lyric stifled a shudder.

Cassandra's engagement ring was the sort of rock that had to be smuggled out of a tropical war zone up an orphan's ass before it found its way to Munich. Lyric stared. She couldn't help it, the damn thing was the size of an eye tooth. Cassandra noticed her watching and went sort of coy. It was, ostensibly, from Don Lothario, although it seemed pretty obvious that Cassie had probably paid for it herself. Ha ha. Funny. In between all that giggling and blushing and breathy sighing she was doing, she hadn't found the time to mentioned she was engaged. Lyric knew that, but didn't see the sense in bringing it up. Who or what Cassandra finally tricked into some spike-lined tiger trap of a marriage was her own business.

Lyric admired the material in Cassandra's dress while she initiated Phase Two.

Silk. That's nice. Girl knows how to live, Lyric almost admired her for that. But to be fair, being born into money all but guarantees that you have absolutely no sense of its value. Nice things dropped out of the sky for Cassie. Lyric's own tastes were somewhat more cultured, with their roots in music videos and tabloid magazine style pages. See, she KNEW nice when she saw it. It was usually electroplated in imitation platinum.

Goth Mouth. Clove cigarettes, absinthe. Combine in mouth, let sit. When both tongue and throat carry a hint of root cellar chicken coop mixed with Albanian cesspit overflow, repeat until fresh-cut flowers wilt from across a parking lot.

Lyric held her breath.

In between kisses, she managed to purr something believable about wanting Cassandra to move in. Naturally, she nodded.

Phase Three. Thank God. Lyric took a shower.

And there he was.

Mortimer Goth was Cassandra's decrepit old father, a piss-stained, irritable old whoreson who'd already run off one wife and was fixing to poison the earth with his malodorous corpse sooner and sooner with each passing day. Stooped and only just slightly helpless, he'd have to join his daughter in her move to Lyric's cramped little duplex. And he wouldn't like it. He didn't like anything. He'd grumble and fuss and finally just give up and come along, and haul his giant unholy sacks of unbelievable cash with him.

Money. Now THAT was sexy.

Gracious, said Lyric. I don't seem to be wearing my panties.


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