Friday, November 15, 2013

The Man Inside

"He did not care if she was heartless,
vicious and vulgar, stupid and grasping,
he loved her.
He would rather have misery with one
than happiness with another."

~~W. Somerset Maugham~~
Of Human Bondage

“Jerry,” she whispered. “Wake up, Jerry.”


“There’s someone in the house.”

He sat up, listening. She rose up next to him, clutching him, her hands fluttering. “There—hear that?”

“Ssshhhhhhhhhh,” he murmured. “I can’t hear a damn thing but you.” He cocked his head, holding his breath, listening. The tree in Mrs. Goldsmith’s yard cast a wavery shadow on the bedroom wall; the curtains wafted in the breeze from the open window. Down the block, the Johnson’s Labrador barked once, twice.

He lay back down, flipping his pillow over to the cool side. “It’s nothing. I don’t hear anything. Go back to sleep.” But she hesitated, trembling, so he pulled her down into his embrace. “You smell good.” He skated his lips into the hollow of her throat and slipped his arms around her waist. Her nervous giggle turned into a warm moan against his neck. Her body, so familiar, undulated against his. Her tongue slipped out, trailing warmly against his ear.


He sat up, and heard it again.

Thump. It came from downstairs. The kitchen, maybe the den.


Next to him, she whimpered.

“Stay here,” he said, sliding his long legs out from under the sheet. He stood up and moved along the wall toward the bedroom door, stepping over the squeaky floorboard halfway around the room. He squatted next to the doorway, glancing back at her. Just as he figured, she was out of bed. He motioned for her to stay, but she shook her head and scampered around the room to squat next to him, clutching at his t-shirt.

“No way, Jerry. I’m not staying here alone,” she whispered, a plea in her voice.

Thump. Thumpthump.

Definitely the kitchen.

“All right. But no talking, and stay behind me.”

They hugged the wall out to the staircase, then stood in the darkness while he listened again, his respirations and heart rate ratcheting up. Sweat broke between his shoulder blades, trickling downward under his t-shirt.

Thumpthumpthump. Thump.

Slowly, he led the way down the stairs, along the wall through the front hall, where he stopped, squatting next to the coat tree. He could feel her against his spine and reached back, squeezing her thigh. He squinted into the darkness, wishing to hell he could just go back upstairs and lock the bedroom door.


In for a penny, in for a pound, he thought. It’s too late now. Hurriedly, before he chickened out, he stood and strode across the den, reaching around the wall to flip the light switch in the kitchen, which was suddenly filled with light.

A young woman in black slacks and a dark red jacket sat at the kitchen table. She held a pistol which she tapped once, briskly, on the table top.


Smiling grimly, she raised the gun, pointing it at him. “Wait a minute, lady. We don’t want any trouble here." He raised both hands, surprised at how calm he sounded.

She pulled the trigger. The bullet slammed into the meat across the top of his right shoulder. He spun away, clutching his arm as a white hot sizzle ran down it into his hand and spread upward, into his neck. His knees buckled. He had no idea a gunshot would hurt so bad. There was a second shot.

“Jerry…,” was the last thing his wife said.

Slowly, he struggled to reach the phone and dialed 911, his eyes never leaving the woman with the gun. “Send help,” he said. “My wife and I have been shot.” His voice grated, shook with the horror of it all. He gave the dispatcher the address and a sketchy description of the assailant. “It was a kid…a black male…grey stocking cap…ran out the side ….” He hung up and slumped against the wall, looking up into LeAnne’s smoky green eyes as blood pulsed out of his shoulder and ran steadily down his body. “You better go,” he said quietly. “I’ll meet you in Barbados as soon as I can.”

She nodded once, pocketed the pistol, went out the back door into the alley, and disappeared into the night.

Jerry slid down next to his wife’s cooling body, tears stinging his eyes. Damn, his arm hurt.