A story about Francesca Vecchio.
Title: $49.95 + Tax
The cabby wrenched the wheel of his cab to the right. He drove expertly around the corner and grinned when the car's weight and momentum nearly turned the car over. A quick glance into his rearview mirror wiped the cocky grin from his face. His passenger was less than pleased with the ride. When he'd picked up his current fare, he'd been tired and about to call it a day. Driving cab for a living was tiring work, especially when you drove the mid-day to midnight shift. He had been just about to call in to the dispatcher and call it a day when he'd gotten the call to pick up a passenger over on Octavia. The dispatcher had pleaded with him for one more ride then he could sign out. Well, he owed the old man a favor, so there he was with one last fare for the night.
His first impression of the woman when he pulled up at the address on Octavia was that she was dressed to gain a guy's attention; that and the way she tossed her hair as she climbed into the cab made him hope he might get something more than a monetary tip out of this last fare for the day. He'd been sure he'd pegged her right. He'd listened to her snapping her gum and mumbling to herself for blocks after she'd requested to be driven and watched the way that tight and very short blue skirt clung to her very curvy thighs. He'd only driven one short block before he realized that she had her legs crossed, her overcoat draped snuggly over her arm and her eyes planted firmly out the side window of the cab. In her right hand she held a set of keys that she jangled nervously as she sat mumbling to herself. He couldn't quite make out what she was talking about, but she wasn't talking to him and that unnerved him. He wasn't used to being ignored, not by good-looking ladies.
Here he was, a quite decent looking kind of guy, even if he did say so himself and she was totally ignoring him. After three blocks of listening to the building tirade of whispering in the back seat, he settled on trying to ignore her. He soon found that impossible. Just as he was about to put her down as a kook and one that should, perhaps, be in one of those hospitals that catered to the straight jacket crowd, her perfume began to waft up to the front of the cab. The smell of the sweet and heady perfume she wore filled his nose. He mentally counted the blocks he would have to drive to take her to her destination and wondered if he would be able to get her attention. He decided to enjoy the view even if he didn't get her attention and discretely checked his rearview mirror often he drove. He soon became fascinated with her skirt. That skirt was short, tight and form fitting, but it never budged an inch though he watched her furiously swinging the very feminine legs she had crossed. The skirt neither inched or hitched up nor revealed any skin underneath it. He couldn't remember seeing such a severely cut item of feminine attire that defied all the laws of natural order. His eyes were drawn to the hem of that skirt. He did, however, remember to watch the traffic in front of him.
Francesca Vecchio twitched her neck and kept her eyes glued out the cab window. She knew she was working the keys she held in her hands like worry beads, but that didn't stop her fingers feeling, turning and swinging the keys from their key ring. She pulled on the collar of the small jacket she wore that matched her skirt and took a quick glance down at her feet. She sighed and gritted her teeth before counting to ten. A spate of harsh Italian flew out of her mouth as she thought of the lovely shoes that she could no longer wear with the outfit she wore. She'd searched for weeks for those shoes. She had nearly run her feet off the ends of her legs during her search for those shoes. The effort had been worth it. And now, they were ruined. Her beautiful shoes were a sodden mess lying in her room and she didn't even have the satisfaction of knowing her brother Ray's friend, Benton Fraser, had noticed them and her tiny feet. Her clothing budget was blown for the month too. And the only person she could blame for the entire situation was her brother, Ray Vecchio.
She did have to grin though. The day had started out perfect. Her brother had actually let her drive his beloved Buick Riviera. Of course, he was sitting in the passenger seat next to her and his arm was in a sling preventing him from actually steering the thing himself. And, best of all, Benton Fraser had been sitting in the back seat. Her grin widened as she recalled the grin on his face when she had complimented him on his blue uniform. He'd actually sat forward towards her and thanked her with a, "Why thank you Francesca." Her smile turned thoughtful as she contemplated his face as she had seen it in the Buick's rearview mirror. He'd been pleased with her comment. She just knew it. She'd even been aware that he had stared directly at her after the incident at the bank while she and her brother argued. She was well aware of the fact the word, 'kiss' had triggered that stare.
Unconsciously, her hand laid the keys down and she rubbed the skin on her left wrist. She could still feel the rope that one of the bank robbers had used to tie her to that chair in the bank. She gritted her teeth...it was all Ray's fault, every last bit of it. Oh yea, he'd tried to blame Benton for everything; for the water, the mess, the hold up they had just happened to come upon. Ray had ranted and raved for hours after the robbery attempt.
He'd ranted at Ben, at her and the bank manager. He'd glared at the bank robbers as the police had led them away. And when he realized that he had no hope of getting his sports tickets, he'd really blown up. Her brother had no idea how lucky he was that Benton had some idea of the Vecchio temperament. Ray had been really upset when he'd been made to make a trip via ambulance to the hospital to make sure he hadn't injured himself again. After all, he'd spent the better part of the last week trying to convince everyone that he was recovering from a very severe injury. Ray had had little choice but to agree to a trip to the emergency room. He'd been dripping wet and mad.
Francesca and Benton had spent the better part of the rest of the afternoon giving their statements to the police. It hadn't helped any that her brother was a cop himself or that Benton was an officer of the Royal Mounted Police. No, those factors had definitely not helped. If anything, it had made the investigating officers treat the both of them as old hands at debriefing and had them wait while every other person who had been in the bank had had their statement taken. So while Benton waited wrapped in a wool blanket someone had put around his totally wet person, and she had waited wrapped in one of the investigating officers overcoats Ray had taken a ride via ambulance to the nearest emergency room.
By the time Benton had explained how they had become involved in the bank robbery the investigating officers were tired. And when he finished explaining how and why the bank vault had been filled with water some of the officers were looking decidedly glassy eyed. When they were finally released, Benton had been given a ride home by one of the other officers. Another officer had escorted her right to her front door.
So, here she sat. She was well aware that the cab driver was ogling her legs and that she was sounding like an idiot because she was ranting under her breath about her brother. Sinking back against the seat, she vented a last sigh.
The cabby pulled up in front the building that had police yellow tape strung across the door and turned to the lady in the back of the cab. "I guess we're here lady. You sure this is where you want to go?" He swung his eyes up and down the deserted street.
Francesca sat forward and pulled open her purse while she glanced out the window. "How much?" She grinned when she spotted her brother's Buick right where she had parked it earlier in the day. She slid towards the passenger door and handed the cabby a couple of bills. "Keep the change." She climbed out of the cab and grinned. Ray would have to pay her back. The thought of Ray having to repay her made her smile grow larger.
"You sure you want to be here? I mean this isn't exactly broad daylight you know."
Francesca pointed to the Buick and shook out the keys in her hand. "I just came to pick up my brother's car. I'll be alright."
"Well, if you're sure."
"I'm sure." She grinned at the cabby and popped her chewing gum. She was beginning to feel decidedly more herself. She turned towards the curb and walked with a jaunty swinging gait to the Buick. The cab pulled away leaving her alone on the badly lighted street.
She unlocked the car with a sure turn of the key and quickly got inside behind the wheel. She locked the driver's door and turned the car on and then opened her purse and pulled out her cell phone. She dialed and waited. She grinned when someone on the other end answered the phone. She put her foot on the gas pedal and revved the engine loud enough for the person on the phone to hear. The sound of a man screaming into the phone made her put the phone away from her ear.
"Ray." She listened. "Ray." She made a face and removed the gum from her mouth. She waited patiently while her brother continued to vent at her. When he finally calmed down, she said, "Your baby is OK. She's in perfect shape."
She listened to her brother asking question after question then interrupted him. "You're gonna have to reimburse me Ray. I had to take a cab over here."
Ray's voice erupted in voluble Italian through the speaker of the small cell phone. Francesca grinned and answered him with a bright cheery lilt to her voice. "You owe me $49.95 plus tax."
Francesca listened for a second to the angry words coming out of the tiny speaker at her. She put the phone down, put the car in gear and drove away with lovely thoughts of Ray paying her back running through her head.