Midnight Plum

by Olivia Yayla

There was something in the air that night at Casa Del Mar.

Something that told me that I was gonna score.

Maybe it was the steady, confident beach breeze that whipped the gasping curtains around the grand open floor pillars of the venue. Or the perfectly shaken cocktail the bartender slid my way. I don’t quite know what it was, but the air was right that night. And I was gonna be the one to get the job done. Lord knows I needed to be, especially with the stain my last failed mission left on my transcript.

I remember facing the bar, twirling my olive-less umbrella around my nearly finished vodka martini. I heard her footsteps from a radius of ten paces behind me, but only a fool would ignore those calculated clacks at a black-tie auction such as this. Like a frozen gazelle, I heard the lioness mid-prowl, and I wasn’t going to spoil this cliffhanger for myself. After all, I’ve always been one to mix work and play.

In moments, she was beside me. But her target was the bartender all along. She balanced slightly on one foot, raising the other elegantly, just enough for her foot to dangle out of her strapless heel. Her midnight plum hair was lifted at the roots, her dark chocolate eyes winged like the Sphinx, and her dress?

Corseted, black, and mid-calf length with sheer black stockings to showcase her muscular Barbie doll legs.

The cherry on top? Prada kitten heels. Finally, I remember thinking, a woman who’s confident in her height, as lacking as it may be. But that was when her smoky Arabian Oud perfume hit my nose. I sniffed once, twice to be sure.


My blood ran cold, yet my cheeks ran hot. I chose to believe it was out of the embarrassment of how long it took me to realize it was her. But deep down, I knew she would throw me off my game.

She knew what she was doing. Kora always knows what she’s doing. Every step of hers is ornately calculated and thought through, almost as if she’s sold her soul to see the future, to predict my moves before I even decide to make them.

“I’ll have uh,” she painted a puzzled face beautifully, parting her lips slightly, dragging her eyes upward enough to worry her brows. Only slightly, yet again, perfectly calculated. I simply swirled my drink, waiting for her to make the first move.

”What are you having?” She asked, her cat eyes set on my skeptical blue, maintaining the facade that we were complete strangers.

”Vodka martini. Shaken. Not stirred.”

Her head snapped back to the bartender, “I’ll have three,” she said, mocking me. “Shaken. Not stirred.”

One for me, one for her, but the third? Damn it, she’d done it again.

Enough games, I thought. Casually spinning around, resting my spine against the marble bar top, I did my best to remember my purpose here; spot the target, neutralize, then return to my hotel across town without a single scratch.

My eyes swept over the crowd, glazing over the gaggles of penguin impersonators and haughty aristocrats, yet still no emerald pocket-squared target in sight. I wondered if Kora, perfectly masked in her old money mirage and bachelorette heiress persona, had spotted him before I did. Probably not, I underestimated, but that was just my wishful thinking.

She spun around, copying my stance as we both scanned the crowd in opposite directions.

“We have to stop meeting like this,” she teased.

I took a sip, “Then stop taking on assignments you know I’ve been assigned to.”

“Ha. Please, Owen. You know my intentions are strictly financial,” it was almost painful how professional she was. “Besides, I like our rivalry. Keeps these tired events interesting, no?”

No. In truth, Kora brought out a side of me I never knew existed; insecurity. Jealousy, even.

“Have you found him yet?” I asked, itching to know how much time I had left to make my play before she did.

“You haven’t?”

Our eyes repelled each other, and yet I could almost feel her judgmental gaze. But the bartender was there to cut the tension with a dull knife, “3 vodka martinis. Shaken. Not Stirred.”

She twirled back around, tipping with her iconic smile, before reaching for her pinky ring. She flicked over the gemstone, revealing a compartment with a single pill. I assumed she was inviting me in on her secret habit, as that was the only conclusion I could come to as to why she would let me see it, but that was before she slyly flipped her hand over one of the glasses.

”Here,” she chirped, her black waist-length hair wafting the scent of cigars and roses all around, sliding the pill-less drink my way. She snagged a tray from behind the bar, but before she weaved through the crowd, her eyes finally found mine once again, and she said but four words, “Better luck next time.”

With confident strides, Kora’s heels clinked and clacked around huddles of millionaires and their mistresses, business moguls, and their mistresses, all the way to a cigar-smoking trio on the left terrace. She tapped a man on his shoulder and handed him the spiked drink from the tray before giggling and accepting his compliments. But that was when she pointed across the ballroom towards the bar, her cat claw directing the target’s gaze, and his associate’s, directly at me. The target stood, his emerald pocket square punching me in the face before toasting his drink to me from where he stood.

I knew she’d be the one. The one to both ruin my plans and blow my cover.

Kora tossed back her drink and slipped into oblivion from between the palm trees. But by the time I made it there myself, the only part of her I could find was her midnight plum wig poorly buried in the Bahamian sand.

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