The Devil Knows My Love
“Shot of whiskey,” I said, “with a beer back.”
Leroy didn’t move. “You think that’s a good idea, Sheriff?”
I was damn tired. But you go on.
“Pour the drinks, Leroy.”
“Pour the drinks, Leroy.”
As Leroy’s hands went to work in the well, the bar mirror reflected back my bloodshot eyes, the thinning white hair. Christ, I wasn’t even fifty. Setting the drinks by my hands, Leroy leaned back, folding his arms, his eyes darting behind me. The shot burned going down and I cooled the flames with the chilled brew.
“Like I told you over the phone,” Leroy said, “she got off the last bus.”
The station stood across from the bar. The ten o’clock usually rolled on through—no one stopped here anymore.
“I watched her stroll on over,” Leroy said. “She’s a fucking number.”
I finished my beer in a couple of messy swallows. “Stay here,” I said then headed to the back room where the raucous was coming from.There were a couple of pool tables set up and a young gal was standing on one. Leroy’s mathematics was right on—the dress was indecent and her assets were bopping around as she swung a pool stick through the air, fending off the three Cleburne brothers.
“Evening, boys,” I said.
Their heads turned in unison and Jake, the youngest, took the stick off the temple. He staggered back into the other pool table, his hands pressed to his head.
“Oh, damn,” the gal said.
“What’s got me out of bed at this hour?” I said.
Harry took a swig from his beer. He was the oldest and tallest of the three still alive. Sam Cleburne had disappeared hunting in the woods a year ago and we never found no trace of him.
“Well, Sheriff,” he said, “this whore here hustled us.”
“And we was just tryin’ to get our money back,” Abe, the middle brother, said.
“You playing these boys, miss?” I said to the gal.
She gave me a glimpse of a smile, pearly as the handle of my gun. “I won the money fairly,” she said.
“I don’t doubt it,” I said. “Boys ain’t much for playing pool when they’ve been drinking.”
“We can’t shoot sober, neither,” Harry said.
Abe bent over snickering and his older brother clapped him on the back.
“Screw this,” Jake said. “I’m bleeding.” He showed me the red on his hands and dove for the gal’s legs.
Almost got them, too, but he was drunk and I was far from it. I grabbed him by the shirt and tossed him to the floor. He hated me then, but it didn’t mean nothing.
“Remember our talk, Jacob?” I said.
Jake had been accused of rape a few months back, so I went and visited the girl and her parents. I got the charges dropped. And Jake promised me he wouldn’t punch no gal in the face if she didn’t put out.
I reached my hand up. “Miss, come on down from there.” Her hand was soft, too soft.
“Thank you, sheriff.”
“How much you take them for?” I said.
She let her chest heave with a sigh. “Not nearly enough.”
“Took us for a couple bills,” Abe said. “We work all week for that.”
“Give it on back,” I said.
She removed her grip from mine. “But, Sheriff, I…”
“Come on, now, girl,” I said. “It’s too late for this nonsense.”
Her hand went into a slit on the side of her dress and she tossed a wad of cash into the air.
I let her ride in front of my cruiser.
“You gonna arrest me?” she said.
“We do got a law on vagrancy.”
“You got a motel in town?”
“Then throw me in the clink, Sheriff.”
“The plumbing ain’t right in the jail,” I said, “and I don’t feel like sitting there all night anyways.”
“Then what are you going to do with me?”
Up ahead, the railroad gate swung down and the bells started clanging. I braked to a stop as the first of dozens of coal cars lumbered through.
I threw the shifter in park. “We got ourselves a wait.” I turned towards her, the red warning lights flashing across her face. “Why don’t you tell me your story?”
“What makes you think…?”
“Cut the bull.”
“Why should I tell you anything?”
“Cuz I’m planning on bringing you back to the bus station tomorrow morning. I’ll put you on the next coach outta here and we’ll wave goodbye to each other.”
“You’d do that for me?”
“It’s the easiest solution.”
“Where am I going to spend the night?”
“I got a spare room in my house.”
“Oh, I’m sure you do.”
“It’s not like that.”
“I’m married. With a sixteen-year old boy.”
Everybody’s hiding somethin’ and after a few more cars crept by, she started telling me her dirty tale. She was a stripteaser at a club…
“That’s where I learned how to shoot pool.”
…but the manager…
“An angry Russian ape.”
…wanted her to do more on her private lap dances…
“But nobody is touching me like that.”
…and so she had to run…
“And the bus ticket got me this far,” she said, as the railroad gates lifted up and we passed on through.
I lived in the boonies, far from the people I was sworn to protect. My house was a century older than me; termites festered in the joists and studs, water dripped through holes in the roof, and the porch had seceded from the foundation, setting off fissures throughout the walls.
My high beams caught a shadow by the front door, though my rider didn’t see it, too busy taking in the condition of my home.
“Not exactly what I expected,” she said.
“Didn’t promise you a four-star hotel,” I said.
“No, can’t say that you did.”
There was movement in the dark beyond the driveway. My head snapped that way. As the car door was thrust open, dirt stained hands reached in and grabbed my passenger by the waist and shoulder. She shrieked while being yanked out of the car. A fist collided with her cheek, quieting her, leaving behind grit and a bloody smear.
My boy was lean and quick—Sam Cleburne was one of his catches, too—and he dragged the gal along the gravel driveway. The blow had only stunned her and she was screaming again, squirming at the hips, trying to gouge her attacker. He dropped his load and his steel toed boot caught her in the face. When she didn’t move no more, he grabbed a handful of blonde hair and pulled her towards the side of the house, her feet leaving a trail in the stones. I got out the car, shutting both doors, eyeing my son pull her into the hatchway and down into the cellar.
I walked onto the porch, my wife stepping from her hiding spot. She had been waiting since I had told her about Leroy’s call. Her eyes gleamed in the dark. I unclipped my holster and her hand grabbed my gun. She walked over to the cellar, shutting the hatch.
This madness—no, it’s a disease—started within her and then our desire sired it again. The devil knows my love for this woman. I went inside and collapsed on the sofa and as the screams rose up, my hands shook and sweat broke out all over my body. This was the worst part, before they put the gag in.
And then it was quiet. You couldn’t hear what they were doing. Tomorrow I would tell Leroy and the Cleburne boys that I had driven the lady to the next town. My son would go to high school and act normal. My wife’s desires would be sated—if only for a little while.
Before dawn, from beneath me, a single gunshot.
Phil Beloin Jr. lives in Connecticut. His first novel, "The Big Bad", is published by Hilliard and Harris and can be found on Amazon.com.