Lady Smith, fiction by Jim Wilsky

The third day on the run, they ditched a stolen pick­up truck in the sprawl­ing park­ing lot and then wait­ed out­side the doors of Nordstrom’s. Less than an hour lat­er, they were turn­ing out of Spring­town Mall in a black Escalade.

He had picked out a well-dressed woman that was alone and it had paid off in spades. Mid-thir­ties at the most, looked twen­ty five, and she was from mon­ey.

It was a clear blue sky, sun­ny day but Mered­ith Brown­ing turned on the wind­shield wipers when she used her turn sig­nal.

What’re you doin’ woman?” Arlen Wat­son was hold­ing the gun low, rest­ing it on the con­sole between them. “Easy.”

Sorry…I — I’m scared.” She fum­bled with the con­trol. The wipers went faster and the wash­er flu­id mist­ed before she final­ly got every­thing stopped.

In the back­seat, Geor­gia was paw­ing through two shop­ping bags. “Oh, baby,” she said soft­ly pulling out a scarf.

Arlen looked back at her, caught a look down Georgia’s loose fit­ting top and then drug his eyes back over to the dri­ver. “There ain’t noth­in’ to be scared about ma’am. Just need the car. We get out of town a ways and we’ll drop you off. Do what I tell you and everything’ll be fine.”

Okay. Okay. Don’t hurt me.”

Get over. Left lane, jump onto 20 west.” He looked into the side rear view, then straight ahead. “It’s comin’ up here now, 20 west.”

Please. I’ll do what­ev­er you say, take what­ev­er you want,” Meredith’s voice was shak­ing as she took the inter­state ramp. She start­ed to cry. “Just let me go.”

I will, I swear. Just keep dri­ving.”

Arlen, how far we goin’ before we drop her whiny ass off?” Geor­gia asked as she pulled out a sweater next and held it up. “Oh my, I do love this col­or.”

Hush up back there girl” Arlen said while look­ing at the woman dri­ving. His eyes trav­eled slow. Up and down, then up again. The sun dress, which was short to begin and had got­ten his atten­tion in the park­ing lot, was rid­ing even high­er now. A lot to look at there. Long, tanned legs.

Feel­ing his stare, Mered­ith glanced across the con­sole to him. “She’s so young. What­ev­er has hap­pened, or what­ev­er you two have done, it's not too late.”

You’re doing like eighty. Take her down a notch.” Arlen's look was straight ahead now.

Oh, I’m old enough dar­lin’ and lis­ten up, don’t you go talkin’ about me like I’m not even here.” Georgia’s voice from the back was now close, almost in Meredith’s ear.

Let me help you both. I’ve been in trou­ble before myself.” Meredith's eyes in the rear view mir­ror went cold and blank, but for only a moment.

Trou­ble?” A wild lit­tle gig­gle came from the rear as Geor­gia leaned back and shoved her feet into the dri­ver seat. “Real­ly? Like what hon’, stay­ing up past your bed­time? Drank too much beer on prom night?” Anoth­er laugh. “You’re just a lit­tle princess. Have been all your life.”

Hush girl.”

Don’t you go hush­ing me again Arlen Wat­son. Fair warnin’.”

He turned in his seat again and stared at his girl­friend. His jaw mus­cles were work­ing over­time now. He'd had just about enough of this mouthy lit­tle whore.

Geor­gia went right back at it though, meet­ing Meredith’s eyes that were now big and soft again, in the mir­ror. “I bet your dad­dy had mon­ey and then you mar­ried into even more. Bet your hus­band is twen­ty years older’n you too. Ain’t that right, princess?”

Geor­gia got no answer, so she began to rifle through the expen­sive purse lying next to the shop­ping bags.

Hey now…I just found cash mon­ey Arlen. Cou­ple two, three hundred…wait now. Shit, close to four.”

And then, just like some­body threw a switch, the car fell into silence. Like it does some­times when the mind takes over and the words stop com­ing. It was like that until for about forty five min­utes.

After pass­ing an old Dodge Ram pulling a flatbed full of every­thing that fam­i­ly owned, Arlen final­ly broke that silence. He point­ed up ahead, “Comin' up here, about two miles more or so, take exit 18. There’s a closed Denny’s but pull in the lot any­way.”

Mered­ith did as she was told and start­ed slow­ing to a stop in front of the desert­ed restau­rant. Across the way, on the east­bound side, there was only a gas sta­tion and rest area. Noth­ing else.

No, no, go on around back.”

Please…don’t.”

It’s gonna be fine ma’am. Pull around back, I just can’t let you out right here. Go on now.”

She cir­cled around the build­ing. Her hand was shak­ing as she put the car in park. “I have two young daugh­ters.”

Arlen leaned over and pulled the keys out of the igni­tion. His hand brushed Meredith’s leg and stopped. He rubbed her knee and then slid slow­ly upward. “It's gonna be okay.” There was no time and he knew it, but damn.

Instead of giv­ing in to it, he reached in his jack­et pock­et and pulled out a roll of gray tape. Same tape he’d used on the stolen truck’s own­er, but it was all for show this time. “Now, all I’m gonna do is tape you up.” He held the tape up to her as proof. “So, get out real slow and walk to the load­ing door over there.”

Arlen, let me do her up. Nice and tight.” Georgia’s voice had gone hard and wicked. “Let me cinch that princess up good.”

Hush, dammit. Stay put back there.”

Mered­ith got out slow, walked to the build­ing and turned. Arlen had already stopped, about ten feet away with the gun raised.

On your knees dar­lin'.” He motioned at the ground with the bar­rel.

She melt­ed down, cov­ered her mouth with one hand, the oth­er held out to him.

Please,” She said. “Oh please…don’t.” Her voice was just a whis­per now.

Two quick shots cracked. Then a third. First one hit him square in the back and he barked a yell out. The next, hit him in the side as he turned. He stag­gered a step, his open mouth show­ing sur­prise. The gun slipped out of his hand and he went down hard. His body only jerked after the third shot hit him.

I told that son of a bitch not to hush me again. Gave him fair warn­ing.” Geor­gia said, walk­ing past the body.

Mered­ith looked at the motion­less Arlen and couldn't believe she was still alive. The shock was short lived though, her eyes that had been big and round with pan­ic, nar­rowed. A hard look. She didn’t speak.

Sides, he was fix­in’ to kill you, not tape you. I ain’t no mur­der­er like him. Least not some dang exe­cu­tion like that.” Geor­gia looked at the Lady Smith .38 spe­cial in her hand. “Lucky for you, I found this pret­ty lit­tle gun in your purse. Didn't even know they made a girls gun like this. My last name is Smith too. Guess it was just meant to be.”

Behind Geor­gia, the sky in the west had start­ed to dark­en up and a low, far off rum­ble of thun­der rolled over them. Not a spit of wind. Calm. She turned and then looked back at Mered­ith. “I do like a good storm. I like that tense kin­da feel­ing you know. Some­thing badass com­ing. All that.”

They stared at each oth­er for a moment more and then Geor­gia Smith put her hands on her hips. She grinned big and said, “Well hell, ain’t you gonna thank me or noth­in’?”

Mered­ith stood up slow, her eyes clicked over to where Arlen was lay­ing in a small but grow­ing pool of dark blood. She still didn’t speak but her mind was work­ing.

Cat got your tongue, sug­ar? I'll admit, that was a close call.”

I…thank…” The words just weren't com­ing out right and all Mered­ith could do was shake her head. Her eyes teared up.

All right then, its okay. Let’s go sis, we got­ta put some miles in between us and ol’ Arlen here. We’ll head south now instead of west. Hell, maybe even Mex­i­co huh? You and me. We can have us some girl talk as we go, plus I can’t dri­ve with­out insur­ance right?” Georgia's smile looked forced now and her eyes were just a lit­tle too bright, too jumpy.

Mered­ith stared at that young face and saw mad­ness. She grinned weak­ly and nod­ded back at the girl.

Geor­gia motioned to fol­low and turned. “C’mon now, we’ll be like Tam­my and Louise…or what­ev­er the fuck that movie was called.”

Light­ning zigzagged in the dis­tance. A breeze picked up out of nowhere with the scent of rain strong. Much cool­er air, cold almost, sig­naled the oncom­ing storm. Mered­ith hadn’t felt like this for a long time. Not since Riley Lloyd, not since that moon­less night, on a bank of the Big Sandy. It seemed a long, long time ago but it real­ly wasn't. Not long at all.

As they walked back to the car with Geor­gia lead­ing the way, Mered­ith smooth­ly reached down and swept up Arlen's gun with a prac­ticed hand. She closed the space between them and two steps from the car she stopped and aimed.

Geor­gia sensed some­thing then, firm­ing her grip on the Lady Smith. She start­ed to turn but it was far too late. There was only a split sec­ond to real­ize her final and fatal mis­take, in a short bit­ter life that had been full of them.

Mered­ith Brown­ing was no princess.

 

wilskypicJim 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 book that will be com­ing out soon, as well as search­ing for a pub­lish­er for 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 Adiós, A Twist of Noir, Rose & Thorn Jour­nal, Pulp Met­al, Thrillers Killers & Chillers, Plots With Guns, Flash Bang Mys­ter­ies, A Twist of Noir and oth­ers. He has con­tributed sto­ries in sev­er­al pub­lished antholo­gies, includ­ing All Due Respect, Kwik Krimes and Both Bar­rels. He resides in Texas, sup­port­ed and strength­ened by a won­der­ful wife and two beau­ti­ful daugh­ters.

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