The Last Deep Breath

The Last Deep Breath by Tom Piccirilli

Book: The Last Deep Breath by Tom Piccirilli Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tom Piccirilli
1
     
    She turned over in bed, ran her fingers through the wet thatch of his chest hair, and said, “I want you to kill my husband.”
    Grey wasn’t surprised.  It seemed like every third woman he ran into wanted her husband dead.
    No divorce.  No let’s get him into AA or rehab.  No he’s the father of my children, sweet baby Jesus he deserves a second chance.  No smack him in the teeth and leave him bleeding in the gutter.
    No mercy at all.  These ladies played a serious game.  He’d thought things in New York were pretty bad, but out here in the desert all remnants of grace and pity evaporated like a mid-morning shower.  They wanted their old men dead.  The ring apparently made them homicidal.
    He knew he’d never get out the door without listening to the rest of it so he lit a cigarette, lay back against the pillows, and said, “Tell me your plan.”
    She did.  It was stupid.  They were all stupid.
    Sweet smell of desert sage drifted in on the hot breeze.  Grey looked into her face and saw what he always saw.  The seething desperation cresting in heavily shadowed eyes.  A hint of dust trapped in the crows’ feet and deep frown lines.  Thirty years of unanswered pleas and unresolved daddy issues.  A gutted rag doll forgotten in the corner.  Another delicate moaner in the sisterhood of pain.
    He said, “Let me think about it.”
    She got up, drew a slash of lipstick across her mouth, and started to get dressed for her shift at the Main Street diner.  No shower.  Christ, and he’d eaten there.  He tried not to pull a face.
    “Bo gets out next Wednesday,” she told him.  “Can we get everything ready by then?”
    “I think so.”
    She smiled in a way he hadn’t seen before.  It was girlish and almost cruel, but at least it was authentic.
    “Bo is mean.  Crazy mean.  He’ll kill us if we mess this up.”
    “We won’t mess up.”
    “If you get hungry there’s some leftover chicken in the fridge.”
    “Thanks.”
    “I’ll be home by ten, honey.”
    “I’ll be here.”
    She leaned over and kissed him, tried to put some real affection into it this time, but she just didn’t know how to do it anymore.  The attempt seemed to embarrass her and she practically cantered out the door.
    Grey took a shower, shaved, and got his clothes out of the drier.  He did about an hour’s worth of work on the Chevelle, tuning it with Bo’s tools, then topped off the fluids.  Bo hadn’t been much of a stickup man but he had a well-stocked garage.  Grey stole a few tools he might need on his ride and packed them in the trunk.
    A coyote barked in the distance.  He still hadn’t got used to the sound, it always made him jerk his head up.  Made him think of the wild dog packs that roamed Coney Island in the winter, eating what was left of the frozen homeless.
    A storm rumbled across the encroaching dusk.
    He got in the car and headed west.
    The world grew wide and burned with possibility and misgiving.  He looked in the rearview and watched as the east was swallowed by the thickening darkness of night rising up behind him.   He stood on the pedal and aimed for the plunging sun.

2
     
    The next one was different.  She found him in a bar outside of Reno.
    She was a little older but a lot prettier and much sharper.  She hadn’t yet had all the edges sanded off her yet.  Her eyes were clear and alive with intelligence and wit.  They still held out a touch of hope and they glittered with a kind of bemusement, like she knew this was only a pit stop on her way to the Gold Mile.
    Every guy in the place sat up a little straighter.  They got change and played tunes on the jukebox that they thought a woman would want to dance to.  She moved around the bar and settled in beside anyone who might buy her a drink.  She did it without the bullshit flirting that usually led to brawls or back alley rapes and cherry-topped prowl cars.  The men joked with her.  Nobody laid a hand on her.  She’d throw

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