monkey insurance


Samson told her about it when she came on shift in the morning. Showed her the tip to prove it too. Said that halfway through the graveyard shift two men slipped him a ten-ski to help them schlep a coupla crates onto the elevator and run them up to six. The second ten on the way down was to keep his mouth shut. Sammy said, real quiet and serious-like, “That kind of money hadda be mob or movies. Maybe both.”

Naomi Lawless (which was the name she was using for when she got discovered) was pretty sure she didn’t believe him. After all, what were the chances of real movie people turning up? The Excelsior was about as backwater as things got: a fleabag snoozing on the corner of Bumfuck and Boredom.

By mid-afternoon though, she figured he might be right. A fleet of battle-wagons, the kind with drivers in uniforms, were docking at the curb.

Naomi watched couples alight, the women sagging a bit, making the last stop of the Friday night party circuit on Sunday afternoon. Exotic birds bundled in furs, in the mid-May heat. Faces hidden by hats with veils. The men dressed in rumpled dinner jackets and sunglasses, hurrying the women into the shadows of the foyer and onto the elevator.

She ferried them up to six all afternoon. Whispers and giggles, winks and blushes. More than once the door to 6B swung open long enough for her to taste a thick curry of smoke, sweat, and scotch.

Finally, near the end of her shift she got bold enough to wedge the door on her elevator and follow a couple into the room.

Standing on tiptoes behind the circle of watchers, peering over the shoulder of a fat man with a Brownie she saw a hazy circle of light on the bed. Peaches and cream entwined and moving. Unfamiliar bodies. Familiar faces.

Actually, very familiar faces. Naomi Lawless knew them all. In fact, a bunch of those faces were the same as those she’d snipped out of magazines and taped to her bedroom wall. All glossy and fine. The women mysterious. The men with their pants on.

She slumped against the wall in her elevator after the last of the furs were escorted out. She collected her thoughts while she counted the rumpled money in her jacket. On the way down they’d all pressed ten-spots into her sweaty hand. “Monkey Insurance,” one face said. She knew what that meant—Speak no evil.