Behind his tri-focals, Francis Durham's watery eyes were pale and malicious. "Snip-snip," he gloated, his arthritic fingers making scissor cuts in the air. Melissa glanced up from her book. What was the old goat babbling about now?

"You say something, dearest?" she asked.

"Snip-snip," said Francis again, coughing violently as the rasping chuckle got caught in his throat. Melissa moved behind the wheelchair and thumped her husband's twisted back. Tears flowed down his papery cheeks as he fought for breath.

"Enough," he gasped, swiping at her hand.

Slyly, he watched Melissa go back to her reading. He knew she'd married him solely for his money, which was fair enough. He was old and wanted a pretty, young wife to flaunt on the rare occasions he appeared in public but, more than that, he had loved her. He had asked only one thing: that she remain faithful until his death. It wasn't asking much since he was already living on borrowed time, but it was a promise she'd been all too impatient to break for Tony Galvez, her "personal trainer."

After three months of wedded bliss, Francis had discovered Tony's particular brand of "exercise" went above and beyond the call of duty. The handsome, virile Latino now lay in hospital with two broken legs and numerous cracked ribs. Melissa had begged forgiveness and Francis had excused first. He wasn't sure how the pair had contrived to keep the liaison going, since Melissa was under constant surveillance and Tony was incapacitated, but the relationship wasn't over. Francis knew that as sure as God made little green apples. That was why he had sent for Madame Rosa.

Francis had known Madame Rosa for over forty years and had often used the gypsy's exceptional talents. She was a skilled and artful woman who never seemed to age.

She listened, asked questions when necessary, and then not only provided Francis with information but a perfect solution. Later, that same day, she had returned and the deal had been finalized. Francis had wheezed with satisfaction.


Just before dawn, after disabling the cameras he'd installed since what he called "The Tony Incident," Francis rolled himself into Melissa's bedroom. She was asleep and her bright auburn hair fanned the black satin pillow. Now that he knew exactly what to look for, Francis realized how easy it would be.

He positioned the special scissors Madame Rosa had delivered around the slim, silver cord which floated upward and outward from Melissa's body. She didn't stir, just as Madame Rosa had predicted. It was hard to believe...a spirit, attached to a fragile lifeline, leaving the body during slumber, going wherever to meet whoever and do whatever.

Francis stared. She really was extraordinarily beautiful. She rekindled in the diseased shell that he inhabited, emotions he had refused to allow himself to experience in a very, very long time. Love, however, was not one of them.

The slender band quivered as Melissa's essence materialized. Horrified, her mouth opened in a silent scream, mouthing ""Francis, no!"

He grinned, baring yellowed and decaying stumps.


Melissa reached out with a wordless plea. Considering the proposition, Francis placed the scissors on the nightstand. He dragged himself onto the bed and propped his contorted spine against a pillow. He had never made demands before, but that was because he'd been an infatuated old fool who was in love. Such was no longer the case.

"Going to cost you," he snickered. Seizing her sleeping form by the hair, he situated her face down in his lap. His mouth slackened as saliva dribbled onto his grizzled chin. Melissa was hesitant...until he retrieved the scissors.

Smiling, she drifted toward the bed, but nothing could disguise the revulsion in her eyes. He no longer cared about that, or the fact this was probably going to kill him. His palsied hands trembled as he fumbled with the scissors.

"Snip-snip," he tittered, severing the drawstring of his pajamas.

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