I killed a man once, up in Reno. I did it just so I could watch him die. I was seventeen years old and now, twenty years on, I can still see the look on his face as his life ebbed away into the carpet of that cheap motel room.
He opened the door in his underwear. The child like scrawls of bad prison ink that covered his arms and chest told me I had found the right man. A $20 hooker sat naked on his bed, shooting the trick into her sewer vein. The defense said it made her an unreliable witness; the judge thought different.
“Who the fuck are you?” he said
I wanted to tell him, to scream I’m Pete Jones, motherfucker in his face, making sure it was the last thing he heard before his organs shut down and he shit his designer jockeys. But my name wouldn’t mean a damn thing to him and neither would hers. He didn’t stop to ask it when he dragged her off the street and into the backseat of his beat-up Pinto. The names didn’t matter. Names were for toe tags and arrest warrants, not for revenge.
I pulled out my old man’s service revolver, and when he’d finished begging, I put all six in him without saying a word.
I don’t regret what I did and if I had my time over, I’d still do things the same. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not proud of it and, even after all this time, I still get nights when it plays out in my dreams and I wake up shaking like a dog shitting razor blades.
That’s when I’ll get up and go out on the back porch to smoke a cigarette or two. I just lean on the rail for a while and listen to the trucks rumbling by on the Interstate and the coyotes yelling back and forth up in the hills. It sort of helps me take the edge off things.
Mary knows what I did, but she has never once asked me why, and I never told her. I’d like to believe I did it for her, but if I’m honest it was all about me and the hate the chewed me up until I couldn’t think of anything else. I think maybe Mary and me will go the distance this time. Sure we fucked it up before, but we’re not young like we were back then. These days who is right and who is wrong doesn’t matter half as much as it used to. Hell, I know I’m nobody’s bargain and Mary might not make the cover of Cosmo, but she’s got this smile that just sort of lights her up. I guess I love her, but I haven’t told her that either.
The coyotes had gone quiet and it was getting late. The moon had long since dipped behind the old copper works and it was turning cold, it always did out in the desert right before dawn. I heard soft footsteps padding across the boards. I looked around and saw Mary, her face all puffy from sleep.
“Come back to bed, Pete,” she said slipping her arms around my neck.
She looked tired; kind of used up. I suppose I did too. I pitched my cigarette over the rail and gave her a hug. Her hair smelt of orange blossom, just like it had on that day twenty years ago when the cops came for me.
We stood there for a time just holding on to each other, Mary in her nightdress me in nothing but my shorts, bad prison ink on my arms and my chest. When you got down to it, each other is all we’ve ever had.
“The man I killed in Reno, he was the one that raped you,” I said.
She pulled back, just a little, and looked at me, brushing the hair back from my face.
“I know,” she said and kissed me.
“I love you Mary,” I said, trying it on for size.
She just smiled her pretty smile, took my hand and led me back in the house.
Bio: Chris Leek is an editor at the western fiction magazine, The Big Adios, and part of the team behind the genre fiction imprint, Zelmer Pulp. He also writes for the crime fiction website, Out Of The Gutter. His novella “Nevada Thunder” is forthcoming from Snubnose Press. You can find out more at his blog: www.nevadaroadkill.blogspot.co.uk