by Larry W. Chavis
This story first appeared in Flash Bang Mysteries, B.J. Bourg, Ed., in the Fall, 2016 (October) issue.
“Think Hubby Dear would enjoy this? Let’s find out. Or–let’s talk. I’ll be in touch.”
How? We were careful, nobody could have seen us! That weekend, her husband, Greg, had flown from Mobile to Chicago on business, and Shelby had mentioned at work that she was driving up to visit a cousin in Mississippi. They took precautions; they avoided tourist spots, renting a room in a nondescript, independent motel on the backside of Biloxi, even renting a car, so no one could have recognized a vehicle.
All worthless, and here was proof. Shelby slid the photo and note into the envelope as the office door opened.
“Hi, Shelby!” Miriam Groves came bouncing in as usual, ignoring the gloom of a rainy Monday. “What’s that?” She laid her shoulder bag on her desk and headed for the coffee maker.
Shelby dropped the envelope into a drawer and closed it. “Nothing. Paperwork.”
Shelby’s throat tightened. “What about it? I saw my cousin. That’s it.”
Miriam eyes widened. “Oh, yeah, your cousin.” She sipped from the cup. “Sticking with that, huh?” She drank again. “Didn’t meet someone? Maybe where the rivers meet?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Shelby turned away, while Miriam’s eyes narrowed.
The morning was busy, almost banishing thoughts of the blackmail picture. At lunchtime, Shelby escaped the building without Miriam’s notice. Rushing to her car, she drove to a nearby mall, parking and punching in Marcus’s cell number.
“Yeah, Shelby. What’s up, babe?”
Wasting no words, Shelby told him about the picture and the note, and about Miriam.
“Think she knows something, really?” Marcus said. “What did she do, follow you?” He paused, then, “Yeah, maybe she did. Look, I never said, but I know her. We dated a few times.”
“What? When?” Shelby felt as if her head was whirling. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“No need to,” Marcus said. “It was a long time ago. I cut it off ’cause she’s crazy. She stalked me for a while.”
Shelby sucked in a breath. “It’s her.”
“I don’t know, maybe.” Marcus paused. “Wait. Just wait until the next contact.”
The afternoon dragged on. Nothing more was said, however, and Shelby felt her tension drain as five-thirty struck, and she walked to her car.
Her relief lasted only until she saw an envelope, white this time, lying on the passenger seat.
The note read, “Let’s talk about your ‘cousin.’ Memorial Park, Tuesday night at the soldier’s statue. 10:00.”
“Okay.” Marcus sounded so calm over the phone that Shelby wanted to scream.
“You don’t understand! You don’t know what Greg will do…”
“Settle down, now. Be cool. We’ll deal with this.” He paused. “Your husband isn’t coming home until Wednesday, right? Okay, so this is what we’ll do.” As he explained his plan, Shelby grew horrified.
“I can’t do that! Are you crazy? We can’t…”
“We can! Or you want to be on her hook from now on? You want Greg to find out? Sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do.”
After a long pause, Shelby whispered, “All right. Okay.”
The overcast night was warm and humid, but Shelby shivered as she waited by the statue, gripping the revolver Marcus had given her. Her heart began to flutter as she heard footsteps approaching. Marcus said make sure it’s her, then shoot, Shelby thought, lifting the gun. The figure came close enough to confirm it was Miriam. Just as Shelby squeezed the trigger, Miriam exclaimed, “Shelby, what are you doing he…” The crack of the gun cut her off.
Marcus was where he said he’d be waiting, and Shelby jumped into his car, dropping the revolver on the console between them, sobbing. Marcus drove for a time, and then parked near an empty warehouse. Wrapping the revolver in his handkerchief, and putting it in his pocket, Marcus turned to Shelby and said, “Now we got that crazy bitch out of the way, let’s talk about your cousin. How about ten thousand, for a start?”
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