Yellow Mama Archives

Jim Wilsky
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cryingwolf.jpg
Art by Lee Kuruganti 210

 

Crying Wolf

 

Jim Wilsky

 

 

Larry Mulvihill sat at the long gray table looking at his hands. He was wearing his black Pizza Villa baseball hat that had a big flying tomato logo and the red letters “PV” stitched onto it. His jeans, one of the two pairs he owned, were faded almost white and frayed at the cuffs. He didn’t look thirty-six, but he didn’t look any age really. Not old, not young, no outstanding features good or bad.

 

Glancing at the big mirror on the wall directly across from him, he wondered how many of them were on the other side. Hopefully she was one of them. He remembered her from last time and wanted to see her again.

 

The room was spartan at best, the table and three plain chairs, with a small wastebasket in the corner. The walls were a light puke green and the floor was a cheap tile of some sort. There were two large fluorescent lights overhead and two doors, flanking both sides of the room. A large plain white clock ticked quietly above the one-way mirror. High up in the corner was the camera he knew was running.

 

He had been pretty damn cool up to this point, he thought, but the wait was finally starting to get to him. His right hand tremored slightly and he put it in his pocket casually, turning over some loose change. His left leg took over the duties though and he began a nervous tap with his foot under the table.

 

Reaching around, he pulled and straightened his graying ponytail with both hands. One of many little nervous ticks he had.

 

On the other side of the mirror, the two detectives stared at him.

 

“Do we really need to do this?” Vasquez said, with a sigh and a little bit of whine mixed in.

 

“Of course we do. Vasquez, he actually helped us a few years ago. Put a robbery suspect at the scene when the crime went down. ID’d him and actually testified. Trouble is, he got a taste then and it wasn’t enough. He needed more attention and he didn’t care how he got it.”

 

“It just seems like such a waste of time,” Vasquez said.

 

“We got nothing; we’re dead in the water. Can’t hurt.”

 

“He’s creepy, just getting his jollies.”

 

“Yeah, but one of these days he’s actually going to have some information again. In fact, it will be the one time we don’t talk to him, that he’ll have that little nugget that we’ve been looking for.”

 

Vasquez smiled. Detective Rich Harmon was a 14-year veteran with the San Angela P.D. and he had been a steadying, invaluable influence on her. He taught without teaching; working with him was like watching a good documentary. 

 

“So, partner, why don’t we get started? This shouldn’t take long.” He grinned broadly at her.

 

“After you, I’m right behind you. Really, I am.”

 

                                                          ***

 

Larry was just getting ready to stand up and stretch when the door swung open. It startled him and his heart had skipped a beat, but he felt like he hadn’t really showed any surprise on the outside. He wasn’t going to blow this.  

 

“Hey, Larry!” Harmon said pleasantly.  

 

Larry said nothing, just stared at him and then slid his gaze lazily over to Vasquez.

 

Harmon was still smiling as he circled the room slowly, slid out a chair but didn’t sit down. 

 

“Larry, I’m Detective Harmon and this is Detective Vasquez. We understand you called our station this morning and said you had some very important information for us on the recent string of Millard College murders.”

 

“Well, sure, sure I do, but don’t you remember me, Detectives? You know me and I sure as hell know you.”

 

“Oh right, Larry, Larry Mulholland. Of course, now I remember,” Harmon said, nodding at him and then to Vasquez. “Larry, yes of course, we’ve met before. How’re you doing?”

 

“Mulvihill. It’s Larry Mulvihill, Detective.”  His voice reflected the disappointment. “And I’m doing all right, I guess.”

 

Harmon opened a well-worn file and frowned.

 

“Pardon me, Larry . . . I’m getting old. Damn. Mulvihill, right, where in blue hammered hell did I come up with Mulholland, huh?” Harmon shook his head.

 

Vasquez clicked her pen twice and cleared her throat.

 

“I remember you,” she told Larry. “Please excuse my partner here. So tell us, what you have got?” She smiled warmly at him.

                                                        

Larry looked at his hands once more and his right hand was shaking again. Both detectives said nothing and a few seconds of tense silence ticked by. 

 

“Well, like I told the old gal on the phone that I talked to this mornin’, I have something on the College murders. I do, and it’s big, too. . . . I didn’t see who done them, or talk to someone who knows who did them. Nothing like that.” Larry’s voice was almost a whisper.

 

Again, the detectives simply looked at him, still hoping that by chance he might have something.

 

Larry blinked twice and looked up at the ceiling. This was it, but he was going to string it out as long as he could.

 

Impulsively he met Vasquez’s eyes, then his gaze slipped down to the V-neck of her white sweater. His eyes lingered on the smooth brown valley of skin there. She shifted slightly in her seat, and the view got even better.

 

“Okay!” Harmon’s voice was purposely loud and sharp. “So look, my man, we appreciate you coming in, but we’re kind of busy here, so what do you have for us?”

 

This was not going like Larry had thought it would. He felt unbalanced and off guard but he’d reel it back in.

 

“I, well, I need to make a statement.”

 

“What kind of statement, Larry?” Vasquez’s voice was smooth and relaxed.

 

Again Larry looked at her and then back at Harmon. The quiet was broken only by Harmon’s tapping pen.

 

“I did it. I killed them. All three girls. I’m the Millard College Killer.”  

 

He came back to Vasquez then, his head on a swivel now, looking for the reaction he wanted. He wanted her to be shocked but also wanting to hear more. Most of all, he wanted to see maybe a glint of excitement in her dark eyes.

 

“Whoa, now, Larry, you sure you know what you’re saying? I mean this is serious stuff here,” Harmon said.

 

“Yeah, I know. I know what I’m saying,” Larry said. “I did it, though. Raped them and then killed them.”

 

Harmon finally sat down. Staring hard at Larry, he said, “So this is uh, this is a lot like last fall.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I mean a year—well, okay, ten months ago—you confessed to the rape and murder of Linda Loman, night clerk at the Grab and Go over on Exchange Street. You said you took her in the backroom, raped her, and then stabbed her to death. Twenty some stab wounds. Floor was like a slaughterhouse. You were sliding all over the place. Remember?”

 

 “Yeah, I did that one, too. Just I like I told you, and you blew it, you let me keep going.”

 

“Problem was, you didn’t kill her,” Vasquez cut in, “Because, true enough, she was stabbed to death as reported on television but she had been beaten badly with a baseball bat before she was stabbed.” She held up two fingers. “Stabbed twice. Coroner said she had been struck multiple times in the head and upper torso with the bat.”

 

She let that sink in and then added, “We even asked you if you had used anything else besides a knife. You said no, slapped her once maybe, but that was it.”

 

Harmon leaned in close now. 

 

“Then there was 3 years ago, Larry, when you confessed to killing an elderly lady during a home invasion. Raped and stabbed her, too, stabbed her many times, you said. At least twenty times, you said, just like at the Grab and Go. Mrs. Aileen Coleman, remember?”

 

“She wouldn’t sit down and shut up. I warned her. I’m not really attracted to old ladies but hey . . .” Larry shrugged and looked away.

 

“Mrs. Coleman wasn’t raped,” Vasquez said flatly, “and only stabbed once.”

 

“I’m telling you though, I did it. I just get a little mixed up on the details, that’s all.”

 

“Tell us something else then, Larry. Do you know anything about the Millard murders that can help us?” Harmon asked. “If you do, tell us something quick because we’re getting tired of this game.”

 

“This ain’t no game. I did it. What do you want to know?” He needed to be sharp here and he sat up a little straighter.  

 

“Okay, the second college girl. What the hell happened? The apartment was a damn shambles, the place was flipped, drawers pulled out, shit all over the floor. Did she put up a good fight, or were you looking for cash, drugs, something else?” Harmon sighed. It was clear now that this was going nowhere. 

 

“Naw, she cooperated all the way to the end and I don’t remember tearing things up that bad. You’re trying to trick me again.” Larry stuttered on the word trick, but stayed focused.

 

“First girl, how come you didn’t stab her like the rest?

 

“She was too dang pretty to stab. Strangling her was the best way.”

 

“Right. That makes sense, what could we have been thinking?” muttered Vasquez. “Oh, by the way, she was stabbed. Got her throat slit too, ear to ear.” 

 

Harmon jumped in again, “Tell me how you got into their apartments, all three, without forcing your way in? Unlocked doors, open windows?”

 

Larry grinned at them sheepishly and straightened his Pizza Villa cap.

 

“I’m sorry, miss, are you sure you didn’t order this pizza?” he asked in a Boy Scout-innocent voice, with a convincing look of total confusion.

 

“Third Millard College girl, just two weeks ago, what was she wearing when you left her?” Vasquez asked quickly. “C’mon, that’s got to be fresh in your mind.”

 

“How could I forget, I dressed her back up afterwards. Underneath though, she had a tiny little red bra and red panties, just like the ones I bet you’re wearing, Detective Vasquez.”

 

Vasquez just stared at Larry, then glanced over at Harmon. 

 

Looking worried, Larry glanced at Harmon, searching for some kind of sign or reaction. Harmon simply raised his eyebrows and stared back at him.

 

“You want to guess again or stick with that?” Vasquez said. “I think you’re having trouble with those details again.”

 

“You know I’m right on that, though, I bet you have some that color.” Larry’s voice quivered.   

 

“Last chance, Larry. All three girls were found in the same room of each apartment. Yep, all three girls were found in the same area of their apartments and the bodies were placed in the exact same position. Isn’t that weird? Can you remind us which room and what position the bodies were in?” Harmon asked impatiently. 

 

Larry reached back and straightened his ponytail again. “You’re trying to trick me again, Detective Harmon.”

 

Vasquez glanced at Harmon and shrugged. Game over. 

 

“Look, Larry, we always need help from the public in solving cases, especially something so big as the Millard College murders. However, unless you really have something for us, like a tip or a witness or something halfway solid, then I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” Harmon said.

 

Larry didn’t answer. Eyes down, he began tapping his foot again. 

 

“We’ve been through this before with you. You didn’t do these things and you know it. We know it. You need help, you really do. I don’t want to arrest you, but I will, next time. I’ll arrest you for falsifying a police report or impeding an investigation ,or ten other charges I can cook up.” Harmon stood by the door.

 

“On the other hand, Larry, we know you ride your bike all over this town, day and night. You see a lot and know a lot of what goes down on the streets, so if you ever do have something that we really need to know, please call, all right?” Vasquez detected a touch of pity in her voice.

 

She realized that this guy had always just wanted to be somebody, to have everyone know who he was, and talk about him. He was a textbook study, full of emotional and psychological problems. 

 

Larry finally looked up at them and his eyes brimmed with desperation and grief. 

 

“I’m sorry, detectives, but I’m telling you I’m guilty of all of this, guilty of these crimes and so many other things in my life. I need to be held accountable . . . I want to pay for my sins. Can’t you understand that?”

 

By the time the detectives guided him out of the interview room, he was crying, quietly.

 

Back at his desk, Harmon looked at the file still in his hand. It wasn’t like he’d never been played before. He flipped it onto a pile of other folders but almost picked it back up.

 

“No way,” he said, out loud.

 

Vasquez looked up from typing and smiled. “What, no way?” 

 

“Oh, nothing, partner, nothing at all.” Harmon shook his head.

 

His cell phone chirped on his belt. He looked at the number and saw it was Stef, wanting Chinese for supper and he smiled at that. It was a Friday night tradition for them.

 

“No way,” Harmon said again, but Vasquez thought his smile looked stiff.

 

                                                         ***

 

By the time he walked out through the front doors of the station and headed down the steps, Larry’s tears had almost dried. He thought it had gone well. 

 

His father had been a criminal, too. Unlike his son, though, Eugene Mulvihill was never really more than a petty thief and about as clever as a hammer. At least Larry had learned something, growing up. He’d watched his father always trying so hard not to be caught and knew there had to be a better way.  

 

After years of honing his skills, sometimes Larry almost fooled himself.

 

He unlocked his bike from the stand, looked back at the station once more. It would be a long time before he would call or try to come back in. He couldn’t overdo things.

 

He pedaled off towards Pizza Villa with Vasquez again fresh in his mind. 

 

Watching him go from a third floor window was Harmon, frowning as he thought of that Boy Scout voice and the innocent look he’d been flashed.     

                                                    

 

 

marlboro.jpg
Art by Jeff Karnick 2011

The Marlboro Man

 

Jim Wilsky

 

 

He fish-tailed his rental up the steep dirt lane as he came off of the hard top road. The dust swirled around the Charger as he came skidding to a quick stop in front of the old house.

 

It had been some fifteen years but the place hadn’t really changed all that much. The rickety-ass fencing still ringed the property and the house up on the rise was still something right out of a movie. It had once been a grand Victorian home built back in the early 1900’s by a wealthy German aristocrat. Von Heidelberg or something like that. The poor bastard had wandered across Texas, until he had chosen this place to drive a stake in the ground. What the hell he could have been thinking, Ty didn’t know.

 

That was then though and this was now. The roof was swayed badly, all but collapsing. A front gutter hung from the roof at an angle and was speared into the ground. The place hadn’t seen a coat of paint since LBJ was President. Window screens were flapped down and flying like flags in the wind. Shutters were barely hanging on at all different angles. 

 

Ty Withers had rented this racy-ass black Charger because he hadn’t driven a car for those same fifteen years and it was the closest thing he could find to the old fixed up muscle cars of his youth. He had driven the living piss out of it for the last five hours or so, straight west towards Abilene, until he hit the old exit. It took another half hour barreling through hell’s half acre just to get here.

 

He took inventory of things around him; the rental car map, which he didn’t need, cell phone, gun, Doritos and a half bottle of Jack. After taking a long jerk, he capped it and threw it back on the seat. He had missed three things the most while at the big house in Huntsville and he had taken care of two so far. A fast car and hard liquor had been checked off the list. The quick thought of a woman came bubbling up, but he pushed that down and tried to focus. There would be time for that later tonight when he went to town. Right now, it was time to take care of business, time to settle up.

 

                                                          ***

 

When the door opened, Garret’s face hardened, his mouth becoming a tight line. He squinted into the daylight. 

 

“Ty? That you…what the?”

 

“Who’d you think it is? I called you yesterday, told you I was coming. Now, let me in, you rotten old bastard.”

 

“Well, I’ll be dipped in shit.” 

 

“It damn sure smells like you been.”

 

Ty opened the screen and the rusty spring screeched in protest. Garret Mann stood aside, bowed and waved him in as if accepting royalty. Stepping into the house, Ty’s eyes had to adjust to the darkness and he stood just inside the door for a moment until he could see. The windows all had covers and blankets over them and there were no lights on anywhere that he could see. 

 

“Lectricity is off and on, it’s sketchy”, sighed Garret as he scratched himself.

 

“Right, right. Damn it, Garret, its hotter than blue hammered hell in here.”

 

“I got fans and things, but like I said, power’s sketchy. This ain’t no solar power home you know. Let’s go to the back porch where we can catch us a breeze.”

 

With that he led the way, hobbling down a dark hallway that led to the back of the house. Ty could see the years had not been kind to Garret Mann. He looked like he was sixty-five instead of forty-five. He had gained a lot of weight and was limping bad. 

 

They walked through the old kitchen where they had had their last drink together as partners in crime, so many years ago. That night they had been admiring a small purple bag of diamonds in the center of the table and were holding a few of them. They were big, sparkling, reflecting perfection and just a small sampling of their take from McDermott’s safe.

 

Trouble had arrived unannounced, though, as they sat under that slowly twirling fan with a buzzing fluorescent light shining down on them. Two Texas Rangers had pulled quietly up the dirt lane with lights off. Ty stopped for a moment at the scarred old kitchen table and remembered it well. He looked around to the entryway into the living room where they had quietly walked through, appearing out of nowhere.  

 

Those old boys had just walked right into the kitchen like they owned the place. Guns drawn and smiling. The lawman cowboy hats they wore gave off a shadow over their brows in the overhead light and all you could see was noses and teeth for a second. And the guns of course, you could definitely see them.

 

“Look what we got here, Harlan. It’s Butch and Sundance,” the younger ranger was grinning big as he spoke and added quickly, “You two just sit there nice and easy now. In fact, hell, just go ahead and finish those drinks. You aren’t gonna be havin’ anymore liquor for a long while, so you might want to enjoy those.”

 

“Damn if those ain’t the most shiny little bastards I ever saw. Where’d you get ‘em?” the other one named Harlan chuckled and pointed at the purple bag.

 

“Only thing I can figure is that those are Hank McDermott’s or you boys have a diamond mine we didn’t know about.” He was a little older than the other ranger and a helluva lot meaner. You could see it in his eyes.

 

They both kept smiling and Harlan, the tall mean one, tipped his hat back a little. Ty remembered the face like it was yesterday. He had been a good lookin’ son of a bitch. The Marlboro Man, that’s what Garret had started calling him after awhile.

 

“You got a couple more glasses boys?” Harlan Murdock asked. “We been chasing you for a week straight and that’s thirsty work.”

 

All the while, that fan kept twirling and the light kept buzzing. The air in that kitchen was thick with tension and the chance of some killing going on. Ty came very close to saying fuck it and reaching for his gun on the table. It was probably not more than a foot from his hand. The one named Harlan though, he was smiling even bigger, reading his mind and wishing him to try it.

 

So, the four of them had a drink together.

                                                        

                                                          ***

 

The screened-in back porch was cooler and they sat in two worn out dining room chairs.

 

“I’ve come for what’s mine, Garret, and you’d best have it. You were a little scatter-minded yesterday on the phone.”

 

“Ty, I wrote you a bunch of times when they locked you up. Never got a single reply, not a one, didn’t you get them letters?  

 

“This ain’t gonna be twenty questions, where’s my half? Ty said flatly. He didn’t like where this was headed.

 

“I’d a served instead a you, you know that, right?”

 

“It’s alright Garret, you had a better lawyer than I did. All I want is my half of those rocks. We got nothin’ else to talk about.” 

 

“Damn, it seems like forever Ty, I can’t believe that you’re sittin’ here.”

 

“Well believe it. Now look Garret, I’m trying to be nice about this but we can work this the other way if you want.”

 

He reached around to the small of his back and pulled out a 9mm Berretta. Not his first choice, but he had gotten a good deal on it. Paroled ex cons couldn’t be too choosy about firearms, at least not right out of the gate.

 

He didn’t aim it at Garret, he just held it in his lap.

 

“I need those diamonds partner. Need them now.”

 

“There ain’t call for this kinda behavior Ty. Dammit, you know that.”

     

“What I know is that I don’t see my half of old Hank McDermott’s diamonds.”

 

“I swear I never touched ‘em, not even my half, they wasn’t nothin’ but trouble from the get-go anyway.”

 

Now Ty did bring the gun up and fired it just over the left shoulder of Mann. The bullet hit an old shovel leaning in the corner and the bullet clanged off of it, then shattered a dirty picture hanging on the back wall of the porch. There was an uneasy silence and then the shovel finally clattered to the floor too.

 

“It’s now or never Garret.” 

 

“Jesus Ty. All right, all right now. I, well, I ain’t got them. I got squeezed.”

 

“All the papers said the diamonds we were caught with that night was all that was ever found. They said that the majority of them were never found. We hid ‘em good, swore to each other not to tell. Now, how’d you get squeezed and who did the squeezin’? Ty raised the gun again slowly as he spoke.

 

Garrett looked down at his feet and shook his head back and forth slowly.

 

“Garrett, I don’t have much time and you don’t either, now talk and be quick about it.”

 

“He leaned on me hard Ty, real hard. Warned me he’d make sure there would be more evidence that would surface, they’d make me out as the ringleader and I’d end up servin’ 30. So, I made him a deal on the side.”

   

The next shot almost took his right ear completely off and it ended up hanging down on the side of his cheek. Garret’s eyes were like saucers as blood poured down the side of his face and neck, but he stayed frozen where he sat.   

 

“Dang Ty!” The high pitched wail sounded like a little boy. “I know where they are though and he don’t know you’re out. He’s still got a bunch of them rocks, has to. I only got a few, hell Ty, four or five! Just put the gun down. I’ll tell you everything.”

 

                                                        ***

 

When he drove on into Abilene later that night, it was like old times again. He headed south of town and pulled into the gravel parking lot of what used to be the Fallen Angels Bar. He and Garret used to come here all the time in the glory days, get drunker than skunks and chase women. That was a long time ago, though, and the name had changed, although he was sure the bar hadn’t. The lighted sign on the roof of the low cinder block building said The Tumble Inn.

 

Ty picked a stool on the far end where he had a wall behind him and he could see the room. He ordered a tall Crown with ice from a big bald guy behind the bar, who had to double as a bouncer. The bar was full of smoke, cowboy hats, big belt buckles and women of ill repute.

 

Before Ty had shot him in the forehead, Garret had told him all about the whole shakedown from start to finish. Harlan had owned this place and a few other businesses for quite awhile. He also had himself a fine piece of land too, with a fancy ranch house and champion quarter horses. He had retired early from the Rangers, citing poor health but everyone had always wondered how he had managed to save all that money.

 

Ty would wait, wait right here on this barstool. Garrett said he came in damn near every night but he had also lied to him about one thing.

 

The retired Texas Ranger did know Ty was out. This would end and it would end tonight, but not here, not right now. If everything went as planned, the two thieves would be found together at Garret’s farm, apparently having killed each other in a shootout. As Ty ordered his second drink, Harlan was a step ahead, watching the bar from across the road in the parking lot of a fleabag hotel called Stardust Lodge.

 

Smoking in the dark parking lot, Harlan spotted the black Charger he’d seen at Garrett’s place earlier in the day. It was wedged in amongst the dusty pickups and beat-to shit-cars. That had to be his boy. He would have to play this one by ear, take him down when he could and the opportunity presented itself. Harlan had always been a believer in letting things play out, not get too fancy and that’s what he was going to do.

 

Poor old Garrett had called him yesterday after Ty had phoned him. He told him that Ty had been released early and was coming back to get what was his. Harlan had promised he’d meet him there and take care of it, but he had just watched from a distance with binoculars to see what was going to happen.

 

He flipped the cigarette out the window, slid down in his seat a little more and kept his eyes on the front door of the Tumble Inn. He didn’t like getting involved in this kind of shit. Beating the livin’ shit out of somebody was fine, hell he enjoyed that and he was good at it too, but this was a whole different ballgame. He’d have to look into hiring some badass to help him next time.

 

George Strait started singing Amarillo by Mornin’ and he just couldn’t resist reaching over and turning up the radio just a tad. The volume was probably a little too loud, but he loved that damn song.

 

                                                          ***  

 

The burly bald-headed bartender kept serving, so Ty kept drinking and the women had gotten just damn near beautiful after awhile. He looked at his watch and saw that it was almost three in the morning. He wasn’t near as drunk as he should have been but wasn’t feeling any pain either. Still no Harlan Murdock.

 

He had decided about a half an hour ago that he had maybe passed the point of being able to kill again tonight. He realized he was in no shape for that and had moved on to another target. Something else had popped up as the evening had progressed. Turns out, he hadn’t lost his old charm, even after being locked up for years.   

 

“Sherri darlin’, when I pulled in here earlier tonight, I noticed a fine five-star hotel right across the road. What do you say we head on over there?” He stopped at that for a second to check the reaction but then charged ahead, “I know I’m bein’ blunt, but I just don’t believe in skitterin’ around things. I say what I mean.”

 

“Well hell then,” she giggled and her eyes rolled up a little, “Lets, let’s just go on then, cowboy.” Barely able to get the next words out, she smiled sweetly, nodded big and kept it short. “Yep, come on now.” Grabbing his arm, she yanked him stumbling off the stool and almost went down herself.

 

She wasn’t the belle of the ball for sure, but Ty had seen worse. She was young and slender, probably mid-twenties or so, but hard-edged and a little rough. She was wearing tight jeans, dusty boots and a blue western blouse with pearl buttons. Swaying slightly, she straightened her hat and tucked her thumbs in her belt, nodding towards the door. Yes, he thought, Sherri would work just fine for tonight.

 

“Well alright then, you first, punkin’, you just lead the way darlin’.” He paid the bartender with a hundred dollar bill and looked at him with exaggerated raised eyebrows.

 

Ty wasn’t a high tipper but Garrett had a little stash of about a thousand or so and he had helped himself to it.

 

                                                          ***    

 

They walked out with arms around each other’s waists, using the counterbalance like seasoned pros. Walking across the road, they made their way down a ditch and scrambled back up it, homing in on the blinking Stardust neon sign.

 

Harlan watched them come, and the couple was oblivious to anything and anyone that was around them. He realized soon enough that they were going to walk right between the driver side of his new Silverado pickup and the old Cadillac next to him. Pulling his hat down a little farther, he looked out from under the brim and saw him clearly. It was Ty Withers all right, he thought it might be when he first came out the door and now he was sure of it.

 

They brushed the side of the truck and then caromed softly off the Cadillac as they went by. Ty had not seen him, he was sure of that, too.

 

Watching them in his rear view mirror, he saw them go into the front office of the hotel. Harlan got out quickly, lit another cigarette and walked casually to the corner of the building, looking around the open court of the one-story lodge as he went. All the rooms faced the lot in a U-shape and he’d get a good look from where he was.

 

Two minutes later, the pair came back out and headed towards the rooms directly across the court from the office. They stopped at one room, then slid over one door to room 109 after she slapped him on the shoulder and laughed. He laughed too and threw his hands up in the air after he couldn’t seem to get the card to work. Still laughing, he turned around quickly and faced directly where Harlan was standing.

 

He had caught the ex-Ranger flatfooted and they looked at each other for a moment, but Harlan quickly realized that Ty was much drunker than he thought. It was dark and there was some distance between them too. Withers just kept belly laughing and showed no signs of even seeing him let alone any recognition. 

 

She finally got the door open and pushed him in. A light went on inside the room but the door stood open briefly and he heard more laughing and giggling. Finally the door was pushed or kicked shut with a bang. When he first saw them come out he didn’t give it a second thought, but the girl might be a problem for him after all. Hell, killing Ty was going to be a problem.

 

He had two choices, wait for the morning and get him wherever he went, or try to take him out tonight. There were not many rooms rented judging by only a few cars and trucks. The problem was that this late at night there were no lights on so he couldn’t really tell which rooms were vacant and which were not.

 

He walked casually over to 108 and the outside air-conditioning unit wasn’t running, neither was 110 as he walked by. It would help that there were empty rooms on each side. Glancing back at the office, he could see the clerk watching a small TV with his back to the front window.

 

Still, Harlan decided to go back to his truck and think about this a little. He really wanted this son-of-a-bitch dead as soon as possible and he was still leaning toward getting it done tonight. Something told him to slow down, though. Never pays to rush and he wanted to think this through a little more. Looking at his watch he saw it was only three thirty, so he still had time.

 

                                                          ***    

 

Sherri was snoring lightly, spread-eagled on the bed. She somehow still had one arm in her blue blouse, which was now missing all but two of those pearl buttons. She was only halfway out of her skin-tight jeans and the Resistol cowboy hat was lying next to her upside down, where it had rolled off.

 

The clock radio was now playing Alan Jackson though, her favorite, and she rolled over quickly. Never was a sound sleeper. Up on one arm, she looked around the room and saw a sliver of light under the bathroom door. She smiled at that and stretched.  

 

“Hey cowboy, y’all have got about one minute to come see me again. Otherwise, I’m coming in,” she giggled again and started pulling her jeans the rest of the way off.

 

Outside, Harlan finished another cigarette and threw it out the window. It was warm tonight but there was a nice breeze blowing. He had decided that he would wait until morning and follow Withers when he checked out, keeping the girl out of it. He looked at the black Charger still setting over at the Tumble Inn and he had a good view of it from here. When he looked back over his shoulder to check room 109 again, he stared straight into the face of Ty Withers and a Berretta.

 

“The Marlboro Man at last.” Ty looked at him and grinned. “You didn’t think I saw you standing over at the corner earlier? Hell, I saw you the first time when my new girlfriend and I walked by this fine spankin’ new truck. You probably get a new one or two of these every year, right?”

 

“Ty, don’t be a dumbass, put it down. We need to talk and this ain’t the place.”

 

“You’re right on two out of three there Harlan, we sure as hell do need to talk and surely not here. However, I won’t be putting this down and if I need to, I’ll just drop you right here and walk away happy.” Ty was still grinning but his eyes were not, “By the way, if you don’t show me your right hand on the steering wheel now – and I mean right the fuck now, this game will be over early.”

 

“Okay, what are we doing then?” Harlan asked him as he slid his right hand slowly onto the steering wheel. His left arm was still propped casually on the window of the Silverado.

 

“Take your keys out and throw them in the ditch. Then step out slowly. Hands interlocked on your head.” Ty took a few steps back keeping distance between them.

 

Harlan did as he was told for now and stood outside his truck with his hands on his head.

 

“Kick off your boots and get out of that shirt.”

 

Again Harlan did as he was told but all he could really think about was his Glock, still in the center console of the truck.

 

“Now turn around slow and then pull your pants up from the knees so I can see that ankle holster which a sneaky bastard like you might be wearing.”

 

After Ty was assured of no weaponry, they made their way across the side road which hadn’t seen a car for about an hour or more.

 

Harlan was walking a little gingerly without boots but they finally arrived at the Charger and Ty clicked the trunk button on the remote.

 

“Jump on in there Harlan, we’re going for a little ride. It’s a fine night for it don’t you think?”

 

“AND, just what in the cat hair do we have going on here?” Sherri asked out of nowhere.

 

                                                          ***

 

She stood about twenty feet behind them, barefoot and wild hair, the no button shirt was just barely covering her up. Sherri’s hands were on her hips. Her big belt buckle was undone but her pants were pulled up at least.

 

“If this ain’t a sight.” She laughed then, but it was tight and it held no humor.

 

“Go back to the room hon, I’ll be back before the sun’s up.” Ty was in no mood for this right now. “Get in the trunk, Harlan, and do it now.”

 

“Look Withers, this ain’t gonna work and you know it. Let’s get somewhere we can talk and work this out.”

 

“Oh, we’re gonna work this out all right, Garret told me where your place was. We’re going to your fine ranch house and you’re going to give me my diamonds or what’s left of them.” Ty leveled the gun at him and finished, “I swear I’ll shoot you right here, right now if I don’t see you getting in that trunk.”

 

Harlan did as he was told and clambered in, barely fitting into the space. Ty stepped forward and shut it quickly.

 

“Ty, I don’t know what’s going on here but I’m coming with you. I can help.” Sherri said walking up to him.

 

“You stay out of this, now. This is dangerous, nasty work. Stay here and I’ll be back.”

 

“No you won’t. I’m going, or I’m running down the road, half naked and screamin’ at the top of my lungs. So which will it be?”

 

He looked at her hard and realized she meant it.

 

“I don’t want you to leave me Ty, not yet anyway. I got nothing to leave behind here. My life ain’t worth a shit anyway. I want to live life a little bit. Just let me go along with you for awhile, I don’t need promises and I know nothing is forever. Please, just for awhile?” 

 

He looked at her for a moment longer, then gazed at the dark sky and sighed.

 

“Get your purse and boots from the room then. Go on now! Hurry it up.”

                                                        

                                                         ***

 

They were both still drunk but getting sober as time went by. She had gone in and gotten some big cups of coffee from a convenience store on the way out of town. They were slurping them down as fast as they could. Windows were wide open.  

 

As they went, he explained the story to her. He left some details out here and there.

 

 

A half hour later, it was four thirty in the morning and they had just entered the farthest reaches of Harlan Murdock’s ranchland. 

 

“So he’s got them in the house somewhere?” she asked him, her face lit softly by the green lights on the dash.  

 

“Garret said he let it slip one time, back when Harlan was promising to give him a few more diamonds to shut him up. Said something about the guesthouse.” 

 

“So why didn’t Murdock just kill off Garret?”

 

“I just don’t think Harlan’s a killer. He’s tough and mean as a snake. Threatened and scared hell out of Garret, but not a killer.”

 

“What do you mean to do with our boy back there?” She took a big sip of coffee.

 

“Not sure yet.” One of those minor details he was leaving out.

 

“Will you give Garret his share, or what’s left of it?”

 

“Yep.” Another small detail left out.

 

“Okay Ty, listen, I swear I’m gonna pee my pants. Real quick, we’re in the middle of nowhere, no cars. Quick as snot, I promise. Please!”

 

“Jesus, Sherri. You got twenty seconds. I’m leaving - with you chasing the taillights, if you don’t hurry.”

 

He pulled over quickly in a swirl of dust and she was out before they really stopped, purse flapping on her shoulder and running to a near bush.

 

He lit a cigarette and watched the horizons for headlights. It was flat out here and you could see miles in every direction.

 

There was more pounding from the trunk and he smiled at that. Diamonds glittered in his mind. This was all going to work and hell, who knows, it might take him awhile to get tired of Sherri. She was a hellcat in bed that’s for sure.

 

“Okay, I’m done” Her voice jerked him back from his thoughts, “but so are you cowboy.”

 

She appeared at the passenger side window in a flash and when he turned to look, she had a gun, the one that had been in her purse all night. It was pointed right at his head. The little Walther P22’s barrel looked very big close up like that.

 

“Whoa now, girl. Whoa, you don’t want to do this.” Ty said while quickly glancing down at his own gun in the console tray.

 

She had always wondered if she could do such a thing and she was about to find out. Ty stared at her but she wasn’t gonna play quick draw here. Not that big of a deal, just do it.

 

The gun cracked and she didn’t miss, knocking him against the driver side door but not killing him. He’d been hit in the throat somehow and the blood was jetting like a water fountain, but he still made for his gun. Her next shot was panicked but pure luck, hitting him just above the right eyebrow. The blood spray went everywhere, including Sherri.

 

It was absolute silence for a moment and she froze. With blood spattering her face and hair she stared at Ty. Her ears were ringing. She just kept staring at all that blood. Then the thumping came from the trunk again and she backed slowly away from the window.

 

She went to the driver’s side window and in a daze pulled the wet keys from the ignition.

 

The story of the diamonds that she’d just heard brought her back to her senses just as much as Harlan pounding on the trunk. She and Harlan occasionally saw each other and sure he used her, but hell, she’d been used all her life. She just knew he had money and bought her things. He had asked her to help him with something tonight, do what it takes, and just keep the man busy she’d been told. A thousand dollars is a thousand dollars. But now, with this little turn of events, Sherri had ended up winning the damn lottery.

 

Pounding came from the trunk again.

 

“I’m coming Harl-honey, hold on.”

 

She had to get her man out of there and fumbled the keys around a bit, hitting the door locks by mistake until she found the trunk button.

 

Dripping with sweat, he looked up at her wide-eyed when the trunk opened.

 

“Whoo-boy. Help me outta here Sherri, sounds like we got some cleaning up to do. And sweet Jesus, stop waving that gun around. Give me that pea shooter before you shoot me or yourself by accident.” He smiled that smile, and she knew now that she’d do anything for him. She just had.  

 

He unfolded himself and she got an arm under him to ease him out of the trunk. She hugged him when he straightened up and he kissed her hard. Locked tight, they rocked back and forth for a minute and then he kissed her again.

 

Ty had literally been dead wrong on two things tonight. Sherri was one, to be sure. Unfortunately for Sherri though, he’d misjudged the Marlboro Man too.

 

The third shot of the night echoed out across the ranch and only the coyotes took notice. 

 

 

pilots.jpg

Layover

 

by Jim Wilsky

 

 

To say that he enjoyed Rio was an understatement. In fact, it was a need and an absolute fix. It scratched his itch. He wasn’t sure he would, or could, ever give up this gig. Sure, there were other cities and there were other girls, plenty of them. He had enough seniority to pick his flights for the most part anymore. Occasionally he would change it up with places like Santiago and Buenos Aires, but Rio would always be his favorite.

 

It was perfect for him, wild, uninhibited and almost anything goes. Just enough sharp edge and thrill without having to fight your way back to the damn hotel at night. The women in Rio were simply the best and definitely pushed all the right buttons.

 

Captain Luis Garza had it made, really. Get in, get out. In town for one or two days, then leave. There simply wasn’t a better job in the world to do what he did best. Love them and leave them.     

 

He taxied the big triple seven up to the gate while his first officer gave the perfunctory announcements to the passengers. He slipped off his headset, worked his neck around and sighed. It had been an uneventful flight and they were even a little early. 

 

Moments later, Garza leaned casually at the cockpit door and thanked the passengers as they filed out. It was a sincere gesture that he had done and enjoyed since he started flying. True, he was always a little more charming to the girls and women as they filed past him. He couldn’t help it. It just came natural to him. Women were everything to him. He was tall, dark and kept himself in great shape but Garza also had that certain something that women liked.  

 

“Have a nice night.” That trademark smile would flash, then “Thanks for flying National” and another gleaming smile. On and on it went. He never got tired of it, although his mind was on later.

 

A half an hour later he stood with the crew at the curb waiting for the hotel shuttle to drop them at the Crowne Plaza. One of the best hotels in town and National crews had been staying there for years. It was just another bennie with Rio.

 

He would be lying if he said he didn’t enjoy this part, too. He knew it was vain as hell but he looked good and knew it. The uniforms they all wore, the mingling with the crew like this while waiting for the shuttle. It was all part of it. He liked how they looked and the attention they got.

 

Garza took note of the two younger female attendants in their group who were in South America for the first time. They had quickly freshened up a little in the restroom and even changed into high heels already. He and the co-pilot had their dark National suit jackets on with bars and wings, white shirts, ties and braided caps. An everyday sight at airports and no big deal, but he loved it anyway.

 

 

 

He didn’t take any of it for granted. For all the pain in the ass things you had to deal with these days with air travel, there were still a lot of things he really enjoyed about being a captain, flying the big jets on international flights.   

 

“Well, El Capitan, how about a few Coca-Colas before you head over to your mother’s?” his first officer drawled. Billy McCord was a native Texan and had flown with him before. He knew the routine, knew Garza’s mom actually did live here. But he also knew how much of a hunting dog Garza was and that tomorrow, not tonight, would be the time he would visit his mom. So he asked anyway, playing along. McCord smiled at him and then lit his first cigarette in over eleven hours, inhaling deeply.

 

“Can’t do it Billy-boy, wish I could. These layovers are just too damn short.”

 

“Luis, c’mon now, how long does one drink take?” Maria Novalles chimed in. She had fallen head over heels for Luis the first time they had ever flown together. That had been about six years ago. They had a brief but hot thing going for a month or so. Then the fire went out as quickly as it had started. Flight attendants had definitely changed from the glory days of the past, but Maria was a rarity. She was a natural beauty, still only twenty-eight and every male passenger’s dream girl.

 

“One drink? Impossible.” He looked at her and smiled, then scanned the rest of them with a mischievous look. “And besides, Maria, you know I can’t help myself around beautiful women.”

 

Garza put on an exaggerated look and cleared his throat. He stuck his chin out and straightened his tie and cap. She playfully shoved him and everyone laughed.

 

                                                   ***        

 

He had always been a lone hunter. Even when he was younger, he never went bar hopping with a group of guys. Your chances for success were just not as good. Besides, as he got older, this had become very serious business.      

 

He didn’t like upscale nightclubs or traditional hotel bars. Too clean and they didn’t have what he was looking for. Garza would have had luck there too of course, but he wanted the back alley bars and shanty cantinas. Right on the edge of the slums was the key. The Favella had its own special kind of hidden jewels and that’s where he always headed. There were plenty to pick from, on almost every corner. He tried to never go to the same places. That was one of the rules for whatever city he was in, but especially here.

 

Garza showered and changed, then caught a cab from the Crowne. The driver looked back at him twice when told of his destination but Garza smiled and nodded reassuringly, waving him to drive.

 

The streets started getting rougher and darker as the cab weaved slowly through traffic. They snaked farther into the slums. The bars became smoky caves and most were shotgun style, long and narrow. You definitely didn’t want to sit down and corner yourself at the far end in here. The Brazilian music blaring in the street got louder. Everything was a little more frenzied. It was wild and dirty.

 

As they drove, Garza’s eyes reflected his growing excitement as he watched everything going on around him. Finally he stopped the cab in front of a gaudy strip bar, lit with small strings of little Christmas lights. He hopped out and tipped the driver generously.

 

It didn’t take him long, only a few blocks. She had started following him at a corner fruit stand, drawn by his looks and casual clean clothes. She thought he walked with such purpose, a certain stride and carried himself much differently than the normal men of the Favella. He had spotted her too and kept reeling her in slowly, stopping casually then walking again, just to make sure.

 

Five minutes later, he approached her and asked for directions to a restaurant he knew of. She pointed and told him how to get there. He said thanks and handed her a twenty, American. She looked at it with big eyes. When he walked off, she followed again like he knew she would. A few steps respectfully behind him but she kept shadowing. At an outside cantina with old plastic chairs and wobbly tables he had motioned her over again.

 

She looked behind her to make sure he was looking at her. She stood still for another long pause and then tentatively walked towards him. He smiled that smile. She looked down embarrassed and nervous. Finally he got her seated next to him. Garza held her eyes and took her soft hand in his. He leaned in close, speaking fluently, low and sweet.

 

Tonight it would be her, it would be Yara. She told him shyly that her name meant Water Lady. Like so many others in this city, she was a young girl of the streets and entirely on her own. Plain and soft spoken. She was beautiful. Perfect. He didn’t want to guess how young she was.

 

He wasn’t sure what the attraction was, or ever was, on these nights. It wasn’t some dark lure to prostitution. It wasn’t just young girls, some of his conquests were in their late twenties or thirties. It certainly wasn’t the challenge, he could usually get who he wanted to get. It was probably just the fact that he shouldn’t be doing it at all, but he supposed it might also be how desperate they were.

 

                                                   ***  

 

They sat for a while in a dimly lit rundown plaza square and drank Brahma beers he had bought. After the second beer, he had casually patted his hand on her thigh, took it away and then rested it there again. He told her that he was new to town and lonely. He said he had plenty of money and wanted to spend it on her, buy her things. Garza leaned in again and kissed her slow. As they talked some more he inched his hand farther up her leg. He pressed on with patience and persuasion.

 

After some thirty minutes of this, he knew it was time. While they had been walking, he saw a dive hotel the next street over named the Promenade. He whispered to her that they should go there.

 

She said they charged very high room prices and he grinned at her, opening his wallet to show his money. When she smiled back at him her whole face lit up and maybe that was part of this too, he thought. Giving them false hope and dreams.

 

The clerk at the desk at the Promenade was muttering to himself and very drunk. He was stumbling around, weaving back and forth. The old man seemed to be confused and was looking through several drawers for something that he couldn’t find. He dropped their room keys twice, making several stabs at them on the floor and almost falling over the second time.

 

“Date Prisa! Date prisa el anciano! Barracho anciano” Another customer behind them shouted at the clerk impatiently. He was a young stud and angrily telling the clerk he was a drunk and to hurry. He yelled that he needed a room before morning. The clerk fumbled with Garza’s money but finally pointed Garza upstairs.

 

“Llave, dos….cien” he slurred to Garza and slid the key to room 200 across the counter. As Garza and Yara started up the steps, they could hear the clerk begin to complain to the young man about his wife, wailing of how badly she treated him. The other customer shouted at him again.

 

“Like a dog she treats me…”, the clerk sobbed behind them. “No, no, worse than a dog I tell you!”

 

At the top of the landing they walked down a short dim hallway and found the right room. There was a loud argument going in the room across from them but Garza told her not to worry. He opened the battered door and walked in first, always cautious in places like this. You never knew who or what you might walk into.

 

Garza looked around and liked what he saw; old and cheap. It always made the sex better for him. He peered out the single grimy streaked window and then raised it, letting in what little humid breeze there was. A dog barked somewhere down on the street.

 

Looking back at Yara now, he smiled and told her to lock the door with the key. She turned to shut it and Garza watched her move those hips, his eyes hungrily drifting over her. She was trembling and nervous, and tried several times to work the slide latch and key. He almost got up to help her, but finally she turned to face him again. Yara leaned against the door and Garza could see her trembling.

 

He was sitting at a small scarred table by the window and opened the last two warm beers. A single bare light bulb was hanging over him from a thick cord coming out of the ceiling. It was stifling in the room and they were both sweating. He softly asked her to come to him, to take her clothes off. He cooed to her that she was so beautiful, so beautiful, and she was.

 

 

Yara unbuttoned her simple white blouse and slipped out of her tight jean shorts. The girl was everything Garza had expected and more. She came to him slowly, modestly trying to cover herself.  

 

When they were finally done, she smiled up at him, even as his large hands slowly tightened around her neck. He never used anything else, only his hands and he knew how to control things. Make it last as long as possible. Yara wasn’t even struggling and she just kept that sweet smile on her face. Huge brown eyes stared up at him, with dark eyebrows raised in mistaken anticipation. She clearly didn’t understand what was happening.

 

It was interesting to him how differently they responded. Nineteen of them over the years, twenty including Yara, and he had experienced all sorts of reactions. Some were thrashers and kickers, some tried to scratch him or gouge out his eyes, while others just waited for the end. When he straddled them like this, his weight and strength was just too much so it didn’t really matter.   

 

There had only been a few like Yara here. Sweet and hopeful to the end, convincing themselves that being choked a little was just one more kinky thing to deal with, to get past. That maybe he would buy her something nice afterwards. That maybe he’ll make me feel special and treat me well or even help me escape all of this, if only for awhile.

 

As he stared down at her he realized the importance of innocence and his deception of that innocence. Most importantly though he thought, ohh yes his inner voice quivered with pleasure, it was their submission to him. That’s what it really was and he loosened his grip on her slightly. She still smiled up at him and blinked once, then again.

 

She would go down as one of the best ever, no doubt about it, he thought. He once again began to tighten his large hands around her neck and squeezed harder.

 

Yara’s eyes rolled up a little and her eyelids fluttered. He eased off the pressure once more because she was having trouble focusing and her eyes were off of his. He needed those eyes. Oh baby, yesss, his mind was swimming in excitement now. He was in a familiar vacuum, no sound, no real thought. Just the rush of it all and his pounding pulse. His mouth was open slightly, his breathing was rapid and on the verge of panting.

 

Finally he could wait no more for the release and his hands began their final work.

 

Something was wrong though. He was still excited but there was a deep, deep pain.

 

The blade was so sharp that it hadn’t even hurt at first but now Garza realized what was happening. He knew things were very wrong. He felt things inside give way, like something had burst.

 

Behind him the tall boy, who had quietly slipped in the unlocked door, pushed it in all the way up to the hilt. Then he withdrew the long blade from Garza’s punctured heart with a smooth and precise motion, the skill of a surgeon.

 

Garza made a hissing sound and gasped for air. He released his grip on Yara’s throat and started to turn but from behind the boy grabbed a handful of the pilot’s hair. Garza felt his hammering chest seize up and then his head was yanked back. He saw a gleaming knife flash under his chin.

 

For a long second, Garza gazed with confusion at the blood jetting out from his slit carotid artery. It slathered the scarred concrete wall above the headboard of the bed. He wanted to look down at her once more, see that sweet face, but just couldn’t take his eyes off that red dripping wall. Then the wall went from red to black and he flopped back down on top of Yara for the final time.

 

The boy breathed a sigh of relief behind him and shook his head slowly. He had almost been too late. The old fool downstairs had come close to ruining everything. Then he had to wait for the right moment to slip into the room and get in close. This man would have easily taken him in a real fight.

 

The same innocent smile that had so enchanted Garza was still on her face as she gently wedged herself out from under the dead weight. As she did, one of Garza’s legs slipped off the bed and she carefully lifted it back up.

 

She was a mess but it had happened like this before and she would get cleaned up somehow. Walking over to the man’s jeans on the chair, she fished out his wallet then used the pants as a towel to wipe off. Her brother got his watch and a ring. Yara got dressed quickly. A minute later, she and her older brother walked out of the room quietly.

 

Downstairs they passed by the snoring desk clerk behind the counter and stepped out into the warm night. It was very late and only a few street kids were hanging around. It started to rain and she smiled at this gift from God. Yara lifted her face and hands to the sky, spreading her arms to the cleansing shower.

 

As the rain soaked her thin top and water streamed down her sleek brown body, she thought about this man. He had been one of the very best.

 

She wasn’t sure what the attraction was, or ever was, on these nights. It wasn’t all about the money, although she and her brother always needed that. It wasn’t just the attraction to older men that she had always felt because there had been young rich men, too. It certainly wasn’t the challenge, she could get who she decided she wanted to get. It was probably just the fact that she shouldn’t be doing this at all, but she supposed it might also be how desperate they were.

 

 

blackvelvet.jpg

Black Velvet

By Jim Wilsky

 

It’s late and I’m a little in the tank when I slide the card down into the door lock. We had the retirement party for Tyler Drummond downstairs tonight. Tossed back drinks, shared some war stories, and then had a few more drinks. Steaks were excellent and the band they hired was damn good. When they played that one song, right out of the blue, the gal singing did it just right. It set me back some, though.

Ty put in twenty-five hard years. He’s a good man. Hell, they’re all good men. Solid boys. I don’t know if I’m gonna make it or not, though. I only got eleven years in. 

I’m standing here in this fancy hotel room in the San Antonio Adam’s Mark and everything should be good. But it ain’t good. It’ll never be good, I suspect. I take my hat off, walk over to the window, and slide it open as far as it will go. The River Walk below still has a few people meandering around down there. Turning from the window, I pause at the desk and start to unbutton my shirt.  

There’s a fresh pad of paper and pen by the phone and that crosses my mind, but I’m not much of a writer except incident reports, case notes, and such. But there is a voice in my head saying to write it down. Just try, write it down. So I sit down at the desk and stare at the blank paper. I don’t really know how to start this.

I figure almost every lawman has that one case or one day that has stayed with him, one that he never forgot. Something or someone he could never drink away or shower off. The best you’ll ever do is, over time, is just not think about it as much. You never get over it or have closure, a word I’ve come to hate. Well, I’m no different. I have one of those stories. So here you go.

                                                          #

It was a fine spring day, almost exactly one year ago. My shift was already over but I had gotten a good jump on tomorrow. I filed the last folder away that I had been working on and slugged down the rest of my warm Coke. I put my hat on and had one foot out of my office when the phone rang.

It had that bad ring to it, you know, you can just tell, sometimes. Angry ring almost. I looked at it long and hard, but on the fifth ring I went ahead and answered.

“Will Chapman here.”

“Will, this is Bryant over in Jackson. How you been, son?”

“Bryant Dendy, well I’ll be damned.” I tipped my hat back and grinned up at the ceiling. Bryant and I had been in the Marines together. He was now a Lieutenant with the Mississippi Highway Patrol. We’d kept in loose contact over the years.

“Been good Will, been real good . . . until a call I just got.”

“What’s goin’ on? Sheila okay, the kids?”

“No, no, nothin’ like that.”

“Well good. What then, Bryant? What can I do you for?”

“You got trouble headed your way. Almost sure of it.”

“Alrighty then. What’s trouble’s name?”

“Waylon Toler, he’s one of our own, a Mississippi boy. Born and bred.”

“Hold on now, Bryant.” I took my hat off and sat back down, pulling out a worn-out little spiral notepad from my shirt pocket. “Okay, go.”

“Y’all gonna have to move on this quick, now.” His voice was a little shaky.

“Understood.”

“I just got a call from Waylon’s momma about twenty minutes ago. They live down around Picayune. She’s all cryin’ and crazy. Says we got to stop her baby before he does something. She tells me that he’s gone chasin’ after his little girlfriend who’s done run off from him. Tells me that Waylon just loves her so much, he’s liable to do most anything.”

“Got anything on him?”

“White male, six foot, one eighty, twenty-four years old. Black hair, blue eyes. Done a little time here in Mississippi, Hattiesburg, and Forrest County. Drugs, couple of minors, assault, family disputes, nothing too bad.”

“Got you so far.”

He cleared his throat and sighed. “Well, it’s best to know he’s country Will, but he’s been around some cities too. He’s smooth and he’s a pretty boy. I swear he looks like a young Elvis. The kid is a real charmer with the ladies, a damn legend around Picayune, in fact.”

“Any distinguishing marks? Tats, scars . . . ?”

“No sir, nothing on that. He’s a damn good lookin’ kid but I always thought he was a little off. Something was missing with that boy—or maybe too much of something, never could figure out which.”

“Guns? Car?” I was jotting down everything, even Bryant’s off-the-cuff remarks.     

“Nothing on guns but he took off in a souped-up sixty-nine GTO, light blue. His Daddy’s classic car, but he’s a smart little shit, so who knows if he’ll change tags or not. In case he don’t, his daddy’s Mississippi plate is NSW 104. Again, 1969 GTO, light blue hardtop.”

“All right, well, that shouldn’t be hard to spot. I’ll put this out to the boys here. Oh, what’s the little gal’s name?”

“Need a favor on that Will, but first, her name is Callie. Callie Ann Mullins, white female, eighteen. One child, a boy, three. He’s with her. Boy’s name is Austin.”

“Jesus, eighteen and three?”

“Yessir. The child is not Waylon’s.”

“All right, what’s the favor?”

There was silence on his end. He cleared his throat again. “Don’t tell your people yet. Don’t put it out on the system yet.”

“I don’t follow you.”

“ . . . Waylon is, well, he’s my nephew. Can you just check it out for me first Will?”

“Uh-huh. So how do we know he’s coming to Texas, anyway?”

“Callie is a Texas girl through and through. She grabbed her kid and ran home to her momma right there in San Antonio. Waylon’s momma told me that’s where she was headed. I guess they live way the hell outside a town, off of, let’s see here . . .” There was some paper shuffling. “Off of Bandera Road.”

He gave me the Farm Road address and started giving me directions off the map he had pulled up, but I stopped him.

“I know the road, I know right where that is. You’re right, it’s out there a ways. You got a phone for them?”

“I got no phone number, tried that. I don’t think Callie comes from much, Will.” 

“All right, Bryant, listen now, I’ll go check it out for you. Sooner or later though, you and I got to put this out there if you think it could turn bad. You know that. At least we got some time. I understand you wanting to handle this quiet, though, and I don’t mind helping you on it.

“Will, we got no time.”

“Well, hell, Bryant, there’s another state in between us, you know, and Texas ain’t exactly the size of Vermont, either.”

“My sister only called me a half hour ago, but she thinks old Waylon left early last night and he couldn’t have been far behind the little gal. Hell, they’re both probably already there.”

                                                #

It took me just a little over forty minutes to get out there. I signed out a DPS cruiser and lit it up. One thing about being a Ranger, you are given a long leash in terms of procedure and jurisdiction—well, hell, that’s the whole state and beyond, if need be. Technically, you don’t answer to anyone but the damn Governor and you can be involved at any level of public safety.

All that is just fine and good but you had best not break that long leash or abuse those privileges. I was walking a very fine line on this one.

I pulled into the long dirt lane just past the thirty-two mile marker. I went up a slight rise. The lane leveled out but then dropped back down a little, curling left back around behind a big tree line. In a small clearing was an old, white double wide trailer. You couldn’t even see the road from where it sat.

Coming up even with the trailer, I paused and looked around, kind of took things in. One truck, a beat-to-shit Silverado, with an assortment of household things piled in there every which way. The whole load was still roped down. It looked like the girl hadn’t unloaded yet.   

I drove up a little further so I could just barely see behind the trailer. There was nothing back there either except an old rusty swing set with the swings hanging all crooked.

As soon as I got out of the car, I heard the music. Somebody had it turned all the way up in there. I recognized the song, just couldn’t put a name to it. Slow beat, heavy bass guitar.

The gal singing about Mississippi being in the middle of a dry spell seemed to be talking right to me. I don’t spook easy but something was telling me to get back in that cruiser and go. Just go. But I didn’t.

Sweet Jesus, that music was loud. I got up on the porch and knocked hard, three times. Nothing.

I looked at everything around me. Even though it was an old trailer, at least everything on the porch was clean and neat, flowers were watered, not a bunch of garbage and junk in the yard. Weeds were cut down. Momma was tryin’.

I pounded on the door, this time just to get over the noise.

No answer, which was no surprise, I’m sure they couldn’t hear a damn thing in there. I came down off the porch and tried to peek through some curtains.

The whole while, the music just keeps thumping, slow and deep. That girl’s slow, sultry voice with that heavy beat was now singing that some boy was in the heart of every schoolgirl.

I finally remembered the song; it had been big back in the eighties. Supposed to be about Elvis, I think, breaking all those young girls’ hearts.

Walking around the end of the trailer, I decided to try the back door. I went careful around the corner, taking a quick peek first, and then unsnapped my holster, just resting my hand there. No reason to be waving any guns around.

The day’s heat hadn’t given up yet and I was sweatin’ like I meant it.

I remember thinking, this is wrong, somehow. The loud music wasn’t helping any but there’s something else going on here, just under the surface. 

Now the girl singing that song is really belting it out. It’s the kind of song that will play in your head for awhile and it has that feeling of doom, a feeling that no, everything ain’t gonna be all right. Full of sad reality.

I tried the back door and it was locked, but wobbly as hell. It was time to do something here. At least tell them to turn the damn music down. I pressed my shoulder into it high while lifting up and in with doorknob. The door popped open pretty easy but I didn’t swing it open, just left a little crack.

At the same time, the singer’s mournful voice dies out on a high note. Heavy bass guitar thumps a few more times and the song was finally over.

I tried to listen for anything, voices, something. My hand was gripping the door handle so hard, my knuckles were white. My other hand was a little firmer on the butt of my pistol now, but I still didn’t draw it. Hell, for all I knew, they were in here on the living room couch, grinning at each other and eating peach pie.

“Miss Mullins!”

Silence inside and out. Not a spot of wind and it was getting a little darker. The sun had set.

“Miss Mullins . . . Callie? Callie Ann Mullins? Anyone in there?” I didn’t yell it but it was close to it and my voice was firm.

Somewhere inside, I heard a loud scratching sound but then that stopped. I’m starting to feel that certain something and any lawman, anywhere, knows what I’m talking about.

“Miss Mullins, Sergeant Will Chapman, Texas Rangers. I need to see you. See you right now.”

I did draw my weapon at this point but held it straight down along my leg. I backed off two steps sideways and toed the door open.

It creaked on old hinges and stopped when it hit a faded paneled wall. Then nothing. Quiet as a church on Monday.

MISSISSIPPI . . . The girl had started singing again and the loud music was starting over. Scared the living hell out of me. I crouched down out of pure reflex, coming in low and quick.

I scanned everything once, then again, my eyes looking for any kind of movement. I was looking straight into an open kitchen area. A small dinette table with a formica top had clean plates, silverware and glasses set out on it. I see a washer and dryer closet on my right, its doors were slightly open. Nothing there.

Nothing in the empty living room on my left either, but a narrow dark hallway is leading off the kitchen.

The pounding music was coming from the corner of the living room, an old style record turntable and on each side of the couch there were two old but big Yamaha speakers. Right out of the seventies.

I backed over to it, gun trained on the hallway. Reached around behind me and knocked the needle off with the back of my hand. It made a loud ripping noise as it scratched across the vinyl. The volume was so loud that the speakers were humming and it stood the hair up on my arms.

I leaned slow and easy to get a better look down the hallway. There was a light switch but I didn’t turn it on. It was getting darker but I could tell the first door down there was the bathroom. The two closed doors down on the very end had to be the bedrooms.

Slow and easy now, I remember telling myself. Bathroom, shower stall was empty. A few step down and I stopped at the first closed door. I stood there for a second, hoping maybe, just maybe, nobody was home.

Opening the door slow, the mother came into view. She was leaning up against the headboard of the bed. Head lolled over on her shoulder. Her arms were stretched straight out to either side of her, wrists tied to the bedposts with cord from the window blinds, She’d been cut bad, both shallow and deep, many times. A butcher knife, slathered in blood, was lying next to her.

I looked at her closer, leaning in from an angle and saw a small neat bullet hole in her forehead. Small caliber handgun, probably a .22. The headboard was splattered with gore. Sheets and pillows around her were drenched in her blood.  

The second bedroom was empty, luckily, and I turned around quickly to leave. Something out of the corner of my eye froze me, though. I saw the rounded edge of a dark pool that had come seeping out from under the closet door. I can tell you this for sure, that was a hard door to open.

They were both in there on the floor, jammed into the corner. All the hanging clothes had been shoved to the other side of the closet.

The little boy was halfway curled up in his momma’s arms. One arm was hanging down almost to the floor, the other still up by his momma’s shoulder. A momma that was so young she could have been his sister. Pretty little gal, too. As tore up as she was, you could still tell she was pretty. They both had been shot multiple times.

The pool of blood wasn’t even close to being congealed yet. I wasn’t any forensics man, then or now, but I knew I hadn’t missed the son of a bitch by much. 

No doubt, they had tried hiding in there. I didn’t want to think about them waiting in there, scared and holding their breath. Or the moment he had slowly opened that door and looked down at them.

I’m pretty good about a crime scene anyway, but on my way out, I checked my boots for any blood and wiped off the doorknobs that I had touched.

I went outside, got in the cruiser, and started it up. Then I just sat there and cried. Stared out that windshield and cried like a baby for the young girl and her little boy. Cried for the old lady. Cussed and pounded the steering wheel for not getting there a half hour earlier. I had seen dead before, plenty of times, but this one was different. It bit me, bit me bad.

It was dark when I finally got my act together. I knew I had to call this in, had no choice really, but I needed to think on this a little more. I’d have some explaining to do. So would Bryant.

I was still looking at the trailer when lights swept across the field on my right. There was a car coming up the lane but still on the other side of the rise. I put the cruiser in gear and pulled a few feet up, all the way around the back side of the trailer and shut her down. It was blacker than black out there, so I hustled out and eased the door shut. The interior lights blinked on and off quickly.

Pulling my gun again, I headed to the back corner of the trailer. The approaching car had a deep rumble and the sweeping headlights lit the front yard up as it got closer. Maybe it was my boy coming back for something he forgot, or it could be somebody else. I’d know soon enough.

The car stopped, but was still running and someone got out. That’s when the question got answered. I heard the same song from the trailer playing in that car.

I took my hat off and inched an eye around the corner. The trunk lid was up and there was somebody back there doing something. Didn’t take him long though. He walked quickly to the trailer porch, fumbling with keys and went inside. I made a run for his car, staying out of the headlights.

As I came up on it, sure as hell, it was a light blue goat. It idled with that low powerful gurgle big engines have. I got down behind it and saw that it had Louisiana plates but there was another plate under it. 

That damn song just kept playing in the car.  

Through the windows of the car, I caught movement up at the trailer front door. He was coming back out, and in a hurry. I remember wondering if he had noticed the record not playing in the house.

Coming around the back of the car, he never saw me hunkered down behind the raised trunk lid.

I stood to meet him.

“Waylon Toller?”

He was looking right into my Sig Sauer from about 4 feet away. His eyes did a lightning fast jig to the open trunk and back to me. You’d have missed it if you weren’t watching close. We stood in the red taillights and just looked at each other for a second more. 

“Just give me an excuse, boy. I will shoot you where you stand.”

And yes, I’ll be damned if he didn’t look like a young Elvis. Baby face, jet black hair, and what looked to be ice-blue eyes. Had a leather jacket on, jeans and boots. Nice boots. Bryant had said twenty-four and I’m sure he was, but he looked about eighteen to me. 

“No, sir. My name is John Tibbets, Officer. Honest, I can prove it, sir.” Relaxed as hell. He smiled, all soft and bashful. I could just imagine what that did to the girls.

“Get on the ground. Flat on your belly and arms outstretched. I won’t ask again.”

His hands were up where they should be, but he kept smiling at me like he’d just won the lottery. He had dimples, too.

I decided right then it was probably over for me. No more strictly by the rules and no more only going by the book. No, that wasn’t going to work here. I knew it had been over when I found her and her little boy in that closet. I had known that if I got the chance, this time, things would go a little different.

“Yessir, but y’all got the wrong boy, I . . .”

If you can, the best time is always when they’re talking, so I took one quick step in and kicked him square in the balls as hard as I could.   

For a quick second, he was still grinning that smooth smile but then he screamed and went down to his knees, hard. He held his privates, balled up and rolled over on his side. He was moaning low.

I leaned a knee into his back and cuffed him, but real light, like a loose bracelet. No marks on the wrist that way. Didn’t tighten them down at all really, he wasn’t going anywhere anyway.

I held the gun on him and glanced in the trunk where I thought it might be. And it was. An old Colt .22, under a dirty blanket and some rags.

I couldn’t stand the music anymore so I shut the car off, but I left the lights on so I could see. I was playing this all out on the run, off-the-cuff, but had a rough idea of where I was going.  

It took him a couple of minutes to stop rolling around but he was still hurtin’. I got him halfway stood up and backed him up against the driver’s side of the car.

“Don’t kick me again. Please don’t.” That pretty face was all scrunched up in pain now.

I had his gun in one hand and mine in the other.

“I found this little Colt in the trunk, Waylon. A gun, or drugs, is not good, son. Together, it’s really not good.” I shook my head back and forth. “You got drugs hidden in this car? We got a growin’ drug problem around here and I know you been into drugs before.”

I saw a glimmer of hope come creeping into those blue eyes of his. “I didn’t find any while you was rolling around cryin’ but I ought to run you in anyway, before shipping your ass back to Mississippi . . . I don’t give a shit who you’re related to, back there.”

I wanted his mind to chew on that, make him believe he might be the luckiest son of a bitch there ever was. Have him believing that I hadn’t seen what was in that trailer.

“I’m sorry I said I wasn’t Waylon Toller, Officer. I truly am. I am Waylon. Yessir, I am.” A small curl of an innocent smile appeared. “I shouldn’t have lied like that and I swear I’m truly sorry.”

“You’re talking strange, boy. Sometimes drugs get hid in funny places. Open your mouth and stick your tongue out. You got drugs you’re hiding in there, son?”

With only the car lights, I couldn’t have seen in there very well, anyway, but he was all too willing to go down this new road to freedom. And I wanted him to think that, too.

“No, sir. No drugs anywhere. Here you go . . .” He straightened up a little more, opened his mouth wide, and said “Ahh.”

I had the barrel of his gun halfway in his mouth before he knew what was happening. This was the best way to do it. Temple shots always had gun angle problems, hand and wrist dexterity questions, spray and splatter issues.

His eyes were bugged and his nostrils were flaring in and out. He was staring a hole right through me and his eyebrows were straining up as high as they would go.

I didn’t say another word to him. Made him wait, made him huff through that nose for another full two minutes. His jeans had a dark stain by then and I could smell it. It was at that point, right then, that everything went to hell.

I looked at his face and froze. I realized that I couldn’t follow through on this and it was just flat wrong. I wasn’t built this way. Couldn’t do it. 

His eyes softened and he exhaled slowly. He had read that thought of mine, somehow. I kept looking into those damn blue eyes of his, though. Something dark and dead was in that boy, too. I saw it in there and it scared me.

I pushed the barrel in a little deeper, raised the angle up just right and pulled the trigger. Just like that.

                                                          #

I push back from the hotel room desk and realize that I have used all but one piece of paper, front and back, on that pad. My hand is all cramped up from writing so much.

I’m hotter than hell and get up to kick on the air-conditioning. The open window ain’t getting it done. Writing it all down like that didn’t get it done, either. I suspect it wouldn’t help if I could rent a damn billboard out on the interstate and write it down on there, too.

I walk into the bathroom and get a drink of water. Glancing at myself in the mirror, I turn the light off quickly, not liking what I see.

I come out, sit on the edge of the bed, and stare at the floor as I think back again.  

There was no crime scene in the history of Texas criminal investigation that was any cleaner than when I left that night. I wiped off every possible print of mine, brushed out every possible track, laid him out just right and placed his prints on the weapon. Positioned that gun and everything else just where I knew it had to be. As a further blessing, it stormed later that night. Never hurts.

I ended up burning my clothes, my brand new Resistol hat, and my boots for any blood evidence. Just in case, I cleaned that cruiser like it was new before I checked it back in the next day.

None of it really mattered, though, because there was never a thought of it being anything more than what it was. A crazy-ass Elvis look-alike from Mississippi had come chasing his girlfriend. He had killed those poor souls in that trailer. Then he did the world a favor and blew his own brains out. I had only supplied the satisfying ending that everyone wanted and needed.

I haven’t talked to Bryant Dendy since and probably won’t, ever again. I was never really worried about that part though. Bryant is a smart boy. He sent me a Christmas card last year. At the bottom, he wrote in one line “Merry Christmas Will. Forever in your debt.” 

I look over at the dresser and stare at my holstered gun.

I’m a proud, third-generation Texas Ranger. I was raised right and try to do right. I believe in good and evil. Justice and honor.

I’m a good man, dammit. I nod to myself to confirm it. But over and over that slow beat drums on and that heavy bass guitar plays. I just can’t stop that song from playing in my head. 

Hell is calling me tonight. Calling me by name.

My eyes slide slowly back to the dresser.

 

 


kingstreasure.jpg
Art by K. Delany Bar Napkin Art 2016

A King’s Treasure

Jim Wilsky

                                                     

“You really don’t want to do this. I can tell. I know you too damn well.” Raymond King was holding his hands behind his head as he walked down the worn steps into the tiny basement. He stopped on the last step.

“Get away from the steps King. Keep walking to the wall.”

“Our time is almost up, but we can still do this.”

“No shit?”

“No shit.”

“Seems to me, you asshat, only one of us is outta time here.” Mitchell Free followed his partner down, holding the Mossberg on him and leaving some space between them. At the bottom of the stairway he leaned on the railing casually and grinned.

“I’m telling you man, she called and told me they found out. They’re coming. Promise you that. Coming fast and hard. That’s why I called and told you to get the fuck over here.”

“So, like, you’re going to save us now? Be the good guy and help me out too. I mean figurin’ how tight we are and everything?” He pointed at King and then himself. “You and me?” His hollow laugh echoed around the cinder block basement.

The grin was plastic, just a straight tight smile. Free’s eyes had changed too. Blank, dark and dead, like a shark’s.

King looked at the old wooden beams above him and shook his head. “We’re wasting our time here. Let’s split up the money and get the fuck out of here. You really wanna get caught by the Garza boys? I mean this is a serious load of drug money man. Their drug money. They will get it, and us, if we don’t move our ass.”

“Fuck you.”

“They’ll hurt you just for sport for a while, oh hell, a day or two at least. Then they’ll shove that pretty new Mossberg right up your ass and you’ll be glad when they pull the trigger.”

“Fuck you and Vincente Garza. If you haven’t put this together yet, things have changed. You got no fucking split. Winner takes all.”

“And you’re the winner?”

“Yup. I’m the winner muchacho.”

King looked around desperately for something, anything. An old tool, or a piece of wood even but he knew there was nothing down here. The cellar of the old ranch house was just wet, dark and empty.

The smell of an old sump pump in the corner was very strong.  A single bare light bulb hung at the bottom of the steps. An ancient furnace sat brooding along one wall. There were very small rectangular windows up high on the concrete walls and the cold wind outside was whistling through them like a tea kettle. He was fucked and knew it.

For a moment, the men stood and stared at each other but then came the click, a hiss and a loud boom.

They both crouched instinctively before realizing it was just the old oil furnace coming to life. The nights can get chilly in El Paso this time of year.

King had no choice but to just keep talking and it came rushing out, “Soon as she calls me - and that’ll be anytime now, we got no more than fifteen minutes. They’re picking her up to show them the way out here. C’mon man, I’m tryin’ to do you right.” He paused and looked hopefully at his old friend for a positive sign. “I mean I could have just taken off with all of it. Let’s split it and go our separate ways Mitchie.”

“Don’t Mitchie my ass, you motherfucker.” He pushed off the stair rail with his hip and took a step forward, leveling the shotgun on his old partner. His jaw was set and his knuckles were white from holding the shotgun’s pistol grip so tight. He was a blink away from shooting King. 

“You do this and she’ll roll you over to them for sure,” King blurted out. “Garza still thinks it’s just me.”

“Yeah, she’s a roller alright. Hope that slut was worth it to you. Worth this.” Free danced the barrel of the gun up and down.

“That’s what this is really about right?”

Free started to say something but stopped.

“You two were through, you told me that yourself.” King thought he was getting somewhere now.

“She’s a lyin’ little bitch and playing’ you like she played me. No doubt she’s already told them I’m in on this too. Playing both sides of the fence. Hell, she probably won’t even call you. Or, you're just lyin’ about this whole damn thing.”

“She might be playing me, she might just be, but that’s even more of a reason to not do this. We don’t have any more time though. I know you don’t want to do this, we been partners too long.”

“Get the money.”

“I’ll get us both out of here. I swear they still don’t know about you. There’s a way to slip out to the west, but it isn’t the ranch road. Garza’s boys will be coming that way.”

“Get it now. Get it right the fuck now.”

The furnace shut itself off with a deep thump and King kind of shut down with it. His body sagged and he just gave up. He dropped his hands.

“Fuck it then, just let me walk out of here. You can have it.”

“The money first, then who knows buck, I might just give your ass a chance to bolt. Although making a run might not be good, you might want to hunker down somewhere. Vincente’s bunch will usually run a man right the fuck into the ground if they have a mind to, huh?”

“The rafters, in the corner, where they come together.” King lifted his chin to the unfinished ceiling with rough cut beams, “The briefcase is back up in there behind the wood.”

With the low ceiling and Free being well over six foot, he had no problem. He reached up and into the dark void, blindly feeling around.

“Stay put now asshole, ‘because you were dead wrong earlier, I would love to fuckin’ kill you.”

His hand found purchase on something and his eyes got big. He pulled out a dusty aluminum briefcase. Free walked to an old scarred workbench and sat it down, scowled and said, “You best not be fuckin’ with me here.”

Still holding the shotgun steady with one hand, he flipped the latches one at a time and lifted the lid. Shrink wrapped bundles of Benjamins were stacked inside. Tall Money. Nothing missing from when he had seen it a week ago. Free wedged a finger down between the stacks and pulled out several just to make sure it wasn’t dummied up on the bottom.

He looked up smiling, “Seven Fifty large?”

“Seven Fifty large.”

King’s cell phone chirped once…twice and then stopped. They both waited but there was only silence.

“That’s her.”

“Just look at the number and see if it’s her. You answer, I’ll shoot you dead right here, right now.”

He got the phone off his belt and looked.

“It’s Corina. Two rings only. That’s our sign. Means she’s with them and they’re coming man.” He looked up from the phone and shook his head slowly. “Look, one more time, please listen to me. We got to go.”

“First off, WE ain’t going anywhere partner. You and her can just go down together, so to speak. Most likely though, she’s already turned on you.”

“Don’t leave me here. I can still get us out.”

“Gotta go.” He snapped the latches shut.

“I’m going to leave you here alive so they can fuck with you, if they catch you.”

“Wait man.”

“Stay against that wall now. You’re lucky I’m not going kill you but then again, good luck with the boys that want a piece of your ass.”

Mitch walked slowly backwards up the steps. Finally, only his knees and boots could be seen from where King stood. A sudden harsh light from the kitchen door being thrown open illuminated the stairwell. There was a surprised yelp and King saw the boots turn to face the door.

A pistol shot cracked and then another. The Mossberg finally answered with a late roar. Splintered wood and plaster rained down on the steps.

There was a deafening silence, followed by the thumping of the briefcase cart-wheeling down the steps, end over end. It finally bounced on the hard pack floor and slid to a stop.

Two more shots and these were much more measured, deliberate. King’s ears were ringing and the air was thick with the smell of gunfire.    

The top of the stairs were still lit up and he moved away from the wall to get a better look. He walked cautiously forward, peering up.

The scene slowly came into view and he saw Mitch was in a sitting position on the steps about four steps from the top. He was head down, bent over at the waist. One leg was straight out in front of him and the other was twisted underneath, propping him up. Blood was splashed everywhere on the wall behind him.

The shotgun was still in his left hand. A gaping hole in the stairwell wall showed his wild shot had missed.

And there, smiling that special smile of hers, Corina Salazar stood at the top of the stairs. She still had her pistol leveled on the dead man. Corina’s eyes glowed with excitement as she now slid her look to King. 

“Ah mi King, mi amor”, she purred to him and he felt that familiar heat growing in him. She was twenty six years old and looked nineteen or twenty. Had a body that was almost impossible and about as close to perfect as they come. Just flat out hotter than the four walls of hell itself.   

“I was beginning to wonder where the fuck you were baby. He came ready to rock and roll with that shotgun. Took me by surprise and I was stalling like a bastard. I didn’t expect him to pull that shit.”

It had all worked though. They’d laid the trap, gotten Mitch out here and now out of the way. It was done. None of Fuentes men were coming of course, they knew nothing. They were convinced that the rival Zetas had done the deal and hit their two money couriers a week ago.

Now, he and Corina could melt away. Head west, or east maybe. Go all the way to the warm sands of southern California, or hell, even down to the Florida Keys. She wanted the sea and he would give it to her. The Pacific or Atlantic, didn’t matter to him. 

“I was not late my Raymond, just waiting. Yes, as always he was disappointing for me tonight, eh? He could never finish the job with anything. In crime, or in love.”

Corina smiled at him on that last part, all coy and full of sex. She held onto the rail and gingerly stepped over the body. Her hips swayed like a jungle cat as she came the rest of the way down. She stopped about five from him and he took his time looking up and down that body.

King hadn’t even listened to what she’d just said. A ton of money and a woman like Corina can make you blind and deaf that way.

“Well, it’s a good thing he wanted me to get tracked down by the Garza’s boys or he’d a just capped my ass. But hey, fuck all that…come here darlin’.” He could feel that satin skin already.

“Yes, as I say, Mitchell has always caused me problems.” Corina’s dark eyebrows bunched together for a moment and there was a quick pout. Then her eyes got big and innocent. “I was listening and hoping he would do it, do the right thing. It would have saved me from this part.” 

Her expression never changed right up to the end. King just walked right into those big dark eyes as the shots rang out.

 

 

Jim Wilsky is a crime fiction writer. He is the co-author of a three book series; Blood on Blood, Queen of Diamonds and Closing the Circle. He’s finishing up a new novel that will hopefully |pnte coming out soon, as well as searching for a publisher to take  a collection of his short stories. His short story work has appeared in some of the most respected online magazines such as Shotgun Honey, Beat To A Pulp, All Due Respect, Yellow Mama, The Big Adios, A Twist of Noir, Rose & Thorn Journal, Pulp Metal, Plots With Guns, and others. He has contributed stories in several published anthologies including; All Due Respect, Kwik Krimes and Both Barrels. He is supported and strengthened by a wonderful wife and two beautiful daughters.

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