Artwork: Original painting by Roxanne Patruznick*
Click the “play arrow” on the audio bar below to listen to the track.
featuring Meg Opperman **
I walk on the path, away from my car and the man who’s locked in my trunk.
It’s quiet here, midnight and miles outside the city. Cold now in November. But I don’t feel it, not really. I’ve been too excited, ever since his wife said she’d meet me. Can’t stop thinking about how much his wife’s going to pay. I want her money.
‘Cause there are men out there who want my money.
Her headlights hit me and my heart beats fast. She pulls in and parks at the end of the path.
I stare, still like a deer, then hurry back to my car. Open the trunk. He reaches out, lunges, punches my neck.
I stumble back, holding my throat, wondering how he got free from the rope. Can’t think about it. I shove him back down as he tries to rise. Pull out my gun and he grabs my wrist, points it away. My gun falls in the trunk. But he takes it too late. My knife’s in his gut.
I take back my gun, slam the trunk shut.
Leave him to die, carried away by the blade.
And realize now I’ve got nothing to trade.
And she’s walking toward me.
I walk away from my car. Toward the path and the man who has taken my husband.
Don’t call the police the man said. He’ll be dead. You’ll be dead. His voice slurred from drugs or alcohol or both. Don’t call the police. So I don’t.
Moving onto the path, my breath steaming in the cool night air, I shiver. My hand clasps the old handbag filled with $100 bills. Straight from a bad B movie, the darkness, the trees, the quiet. My other hand stuffed into my coat pocket, balled up in a fist. He’ll pay. I’ll pay.
I can do this. I must do this. Face this man. Look into the abyss and hope it doesn’t look back.
And I could use a fix fast cause his face is fixed in my mind.
And I’ve run out of time.
She’s walking toward me there’s nowhere to go, all I can think about are my hands squeezing her throat.
Like they’re reaching for hope.
Stealing her money, fleeing somewhere remote.
My coat a thin layer of protection,
Against the man – no, the monster – walking toward me.
Unsteady, wild, angry,
I know the look well.
Nothing like voluntarily walking into hell.
We meet in the middle but my mind’s at the end,
Like every choice I made’s been a step to this woman.
Deals lacking trust, friends left in the dust,
I hear a noise, turn, learn her husband’s out of the trunk.
And he’s pulled out that knife I left in his gut.
The man’s back turned, I pull the gun. Fire. He falls.
My husband then sinks to his knees.
“Baby,” he pleads, reaching.
The bloody knife clatters to the pavement.
Stepping over the dead man, I rush to his side.
Swipe a tear from my cheek, the makeup spread thick to cover the bruises…
Then sink the blade deep.
* Roxanne Patruznick studied at the Santa Monica School of Design, the Art Center College of Design, and earned a BFA in Character Animation from the California Institute of the Arts. Her award-winning work has been featured in over thirty shows and exhibitions. For more information about her work, visit her web site HERE or her Etsy page HERE.
** Meg Opperman’s previous life—as an anthropologist and researcher—has not only informed elements of her short stories, but also has strongly influenced her sense of humor. (Sorry). She’s had short stories published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, Weird Tales, and various mystery anthologies. Her story, “Twilight Ladies,” won the 2015 Best Short Story Derringer and she received another Derringer nomination in 2016 for “Murder Under the Baobab.” She also writes a monthly column (Write Side Up) for the Washington Independent Review of Books.