It was a goddamned one-armed alligator put me
over the line. After that I was looking for trouble. Carl and me
had been married for two years, second marriage for both, and the
situation was drastic—hateful most times—but I could tell he
didn't realize there was anything better in the world. It made me
feel bad that he never learned how to love—grew up with nothing
but cruelty. I kept trying way too long to show him there was
I was on my last straw when I suggested a road
trip for Labor Day weekend—stupidly thinking that I could amuse
him and wouldn't have to listen to his bitching about me and the
vile universe on all my days off work. I figured at a motel he'd
get that vacation feeling, lighten up, and stick me good, and I
could get by for the few waking hours I had to see him the rest of
We headed out to the Everglades for our little
trip. Being recent transplants from Texas, we hadn't seen the
natural wonders in Florida. Carl started griping by mid-afternoon
about how I told him there were so many alligators and we couldn't
find a fucking one. I didn't dare say that there would've been
plenty if he hadn't taken two hours to read the paper and sit on
the john. We could've made it before the usual thunderstorms and
had time to take a tour. As it was, he didn't want to pay the
bucks to ride the tram in the rain—even though the cars were
covered. We were pretty much stuck with what we could see driving,
billboards for Seminole gambling and airboats, and lots of soggy
grassland under heavy black and blue-layered skies. True, it had a
bleak, haunting kind of beauty.
Carl refused to put on the air conditioner
because he said it sapped the power of the engine, so all day we
suffocated. We could only crack the truck windows because of the
rain. By late afternoon my back was soaked with sweat and I could
smell my armpits. And, get this—he was smoking cigarettes. Like
I said, I was plain stupid coming up with the idea—or maybe
blinded by the fact that he had a nice piece of well-working
equipment that seemed worth saving.
At that point, I started to wonder if I could
make us swerve into a canal and end the suffering. I was studying
the landscape, looking ahead for deep water, when I spotted a
couple vehicles pulled off the road.
"Carl, look. I bet you they see
"Fuckin A," he bellowed.
He was driving twenty over the limit, as always—in
a hurry to get to hell—but he nailed the brakes and managed to
turn onto a gravel road that ran a few hundred yards off the side
of a small lake. One car pulled out past us, but a couple and a
little girl were still standing near the edge of the water.
It was only drizzling by then, and Carl pulled
next to their pickup and shut off the ignition. My side of the
truck was over a puddle about four inches deep. I opened the door
and plodded through in my sandals, while Carl stood grimacing at
the horizon, rubbing his dark unshaved chin.
We walked towards the people. The woman was
brown-haired, wearing a loose print dress—the kind my grandma
would've called a house-dress—and I felt how sweet and
old-fashioned she was next to me in short-shorts and halter top,
with my white blonde hair and black roots haystack style. The man
was a wiry, muscular type in tight jeans and a white t-shirt—tattoos
on both biceps, like Carl, but arms half the size. He was bending
down by some rocks a little farther along. The little girl, maybe
four years old, and her mother were holding hands by the edge.
"That guy reminds me of my asshole
brother-in-law," Carl said in a low tone, as we got closer. I
nodded, thinking how true it was—the guy reminded me of Carl
too, all the same kind of assholes. Carl boomed out "Hey,
there, " in his usual megaphone, overly-friendly voice. The
mother and child glanced up with a kind of mousy suspiciousness I
sometimes felt in my own face. It was almost like they had him
We stopped near them. The guy came walking over.
He had his hands cupped together in front of him and motioned with
his arms toward the water. I looked into the short water weeds and
sticks and saw two small eyes and nose holes rising above the
ripples a few yards out. It was a baby gator, maybe four feet
long, judging by the closeness of his parts.
"There he is!" Carl yelled.
"Just you watch this," the guy said.
He tossed something into the water in front of the nose and I
caught the scrambling of tiny legs just before the gator lurched
and snapped it up. "They just love them lizards," the
Carl started laughing "Ho, ho, ho,"
like it was the funniest thing he ever seen, and the guy joined in
because he'd made such a big hit.
Us women looked at each other and kind of smiled
with our lips tight. The mother had her arm around the little
girl's shoulder holding her against her hip. The girl squirmed
away. "Daddy, can I help you catch another one?"
"Sure, darlin, come right over here."
He led her towards the rocks and I saw the mother cast him a look
as he went by. He laughed and took his daughter's hand.
The whole thing was plenty creepy, but Carl was
still chuckling. It seemed like maybe he was having a good time
for a change.
"Reptiles eating reptiles," he said.
"Yup." He did that eh-eh-eh laugh in the back of his
throat. It made me wince. He took my hand and leered toward my
face. "It's a scrawny one, Virginia—not like a Texas gator—but
I guess I have to say you weren't lyin. Florida has one." He
put his arm across my shoulder and leaned on me, still laughing at
his own sense of humor. I widened my legs, to keep from falling
over, and chuckled so he wouldn't demand to know what was the
matter, then insist I spoiled the day by telling him.
We stood there watching the gator float in place
hoping for another snack, and in a few minutes, the squeals of the
little girl told us that it wouldn't be long. They came shuffling
over slowly, the father bent, cupping his hands over the girl's.
"This is the last one now, okay,
sweetheart?" the mother said as they stopped beside her. She
was talking to the little girl. "We need to get home in time
to make supper." From her voice it sounded like they'd been
sacrificing lizards for a while.
The two flung the prey into the water. It fell
short, but there was no place for the lizard to go. It floundered
in the direction it was pointed, the only high ground, the gator's
waiting snout. He snapped it up. This time he'd pushed farther out
of the water and I saw that he was missing one of his limbs.
"Look, Carl, the gator only has one arm. I
wonder what got him?"
"Probably a Texas gator, " he said.
"It figures, the one gator you find me is a cripple."
Carl had an answer for everything.
"No," I said. "Why would one gator tear off another
"Leg. One big chomp without thinkin.
Probably got his leg in between his mother and some tasty tidbit—a
small dog or kid. Life is cruel, babycakes—survival of the
fittest." He stopped talking to light a cigarette. He waved
it near my face to make his point. "You gotta protect
yourself—be cruel first. That's why you got me—to do it for
you." He gave me one of his grins with all the teeth showing.
"Oh, is that why?" I laughed, like it
was a joke. Yeah, Carl would take care of his own all right—it
was like having a mad dog at my side, never knowing when he might
turn. He wouldn't hesitate to rip anybody's arm off, mine
included, if it got in his way.
The mother called to her husband, "Can we
get going, honey? I have fish to clean."
The guy didn't look up. "Good job," he
said to his daughter. He reached down and gave her a pat on the
butt. "Let's get another one."
It started to rain a little harder, thank God,
and Carl motioned with his head towards the car and started
walking. I looked at the woman still standing there.
"Bye," I called.
She nodded at me, her face empty of life.
"Goodbye, honey." It was then she turned enough for me
to see that the sleeve on the far side of the dress was empty,
pinned up—her arm was gone. Jesus. I felt my eyes bulge. She
couldn't have missed what I said. I burned through ten shades of
red in a split second. I turned and sprinted to catch up with
He glanced at me. "What's your hurry,
sugar? You ain't gonna melt. Think I'd leave without ya?"
"Nope," I said. I swallowed and tried
to lighten up. I didn't want to share with him what I saw.
He looked at me odd and I knew he wasn't fooled.
"What's with you?"
"Hungry," I said.
"I told you you should've had a ham
sandwich before we left. You never listen to me. I won't be ready
to eat for a couple more hours."
"I have to pee too. We passed a restaurant
a quarter mile back."
He pointed to the other side of the road.
"There's the bushes. I'm not stopping anywhere else till the
We drove across the state and got a cheap room
in Naples for the night. Carl ordered a pepperoni pizza from
Domino's, no mushrooms for me. The room was clean and the air and
remote worked, but it was far from the beach. We sat in bed and
ate the pizza. I was trying to stick with the plan for having fun
and I suggested we could get up early and drive to the beach to
"To look for fucking seashells? No."
His volume warned me. I decided to drop it. I
gave him all my pepperonis and finished up my piece. I had a
murder book to curl up with. He found a football game on TV.
I was in the midst of a scene when Carl started
working his hands under the covers. It was half-time. He found my
thigh and stroked inward. I read fast to get to the end of the
chapter. He grabbed the book and flung it across the room onto the
"I'm tryin to make love to you, and you
have your nose stuck in a book. What's the problem? You gettin it
somewhere else and don't need it from me? Huh?"
I shook my head violently. His tone and volume
had me scared. "No, for Chrissakes." His face was an
inch from mine. Rather than say anything else, I took his
shoulders and pulled myself to him for a kiss. He was stiff, so I
started sucking his lower lip and moving my tongue around. His
Pretty soon he yanked down the covers, pulled up
my nighty and climbed on top. I couldn't feel him inside me—I
was numb. Nothing new. I smelled his breath.
I moaned like he expected, and after a few long
minutes of pumping and grabbing at my tits, he got that strained
look on his face. "I love you to death," he rasped.
"Love you to death." I felt him get rigid and come hard
inside me, and a chill ran all the way from his cock to my head.
He groaned deep and let himself down on my chest. "It's
supernatural what you do to me, dollface, supernatural."
He lit up a cigarette and puffed a few breaths
in my face. "I couldn't live without you. Know that? You know
that, don't you? You ever left me, I'd have to kill myself."
"No. Don't say that."
"Why? You thinking of leaving? I would kill
myself. I would. And knowin me, I'd take you along." He
rolled on his side laughing "eh-eh-eh" to himself. My
arm was pinned, and for a second I panicked. I yanked it out from
under him. He shifted and in seconds started snoring. Son of a
bitch. He had me afraid to speak.
The woman and the gator came into my head, and I
knew her life without having to live it, the casual cruelty and a
sudden swift slice that changed her whole future. I could land in
her place easy, trapped with a kid, no job, and a bastard of a
husband that thought he was God. Carl said he was God at least
three times a week. I shuddered—more like he was the devil.
First he'd take an arm, then go for my soul, just a matter of
time. He'd rather see me dead than gone.
There was no thought of a roadtrip the next
weekend, so we both slept late that Saturday. By then, the fear
and hatred in my heart had taken over my brain. I was frying eggs,
the bathroom door was open, and Carl was on the toilet—his place
of serious thinking—when he used the words that struck me with
the juicy, seedy, sweet fantasy of getting rid of him.
"I ought to kill my asshole brother-in-law,
" he yelled. The words were followed by grunts of pleasure
and plunking noises I could hear from the kitchen.
"Uh, huh," I said to myself. I
pretended to be half-hearing—as if that were possible—and
splashed the eggs with bacon grease like he wanted them. I didn't
say anything. He was building up rage on the sound of his own
"The fuck went out on Labor Day and left
Penny and the kids home. She didn't say anything about him drinkin,
but I could hear it in her voice when I called last night. I can't
keep ignoring this. I oughta get a flight over there and take ol'
"How's he doing from his knife wound?"
"Son of a bitch is finally back to work. I
should just take him out. Penny and the kids would be fine with
the insurance she'd get from G.M."
"Those slimy titty bars he hangs out in—like
Babydoe's—I could just fly into Dallas, do him, and fly back.
Nobody would think a thing unusual."
I heard the flush and then his continued pulling
of toilet paper. He always flushed before he wiped. I knew if I
went in there after him I would see streaky wads of paper still
floating. He came striding into the kitchen with a towel wrapped
around him, his gut hanging over. He seemed to rock back as he
walked to keep from falling forward. He turned and poured his
eighth cup of coffee, added milk, held it over the sink and
stirred wildly. Half of it slopped over the sides of the cup. His
face was mottled with red and he growled to himself.
I looked away. I remembered that at seventeen he
had thrown his father out of the house—for beating his mother.
He found out later they snuck around for years to see each other
behind his back—they were that scared of him.
I knew going opposite whatever he said would
push him. I could barely hold myself back. I pointed to the phone.
"Calm down and call your sister. Her and the kids might want
to keep Ray around."
"Yeah? Uh, uh. She's too nice. She'll give
that son of a bitch chance after chance while he spends all their
money on ass and booze. If anybody's gonna take advantage of
somebody, it's gonna be me."
I handed him his plate of eggs and went to take
my shower and let him spew. I heard him pick up the paper again
and start with how all the "assholes in the news" should
Before this, it didn't occur to me as an asset
that he was always a hair's breath from violence. I'd tried for
peace. I didn't want to know about the trouble he'd been in before
we met, his being in jail for violating a restraining order. He'd
broken down a door—I had that from his sister because she
thought I should know. I figured he deserved another chance in
life. He had a lousy childhood with the drunk old man and all. But
now I realized how foolish I was to think that if I treated him
nice enough—turned the other cheek—he would be nice back.
Thought that was human nature. Wrong. I was a goddamned angelic
savior for over a year and not a speck of it rubbed off. He took
me for a sucker to use and abuse. It was a lesson I'd never
forget, learned too late.
This sounds crazy—but something about the
alligator incident made me know Carl's true capabilities, and I
was fucking scared. That alligator told me that a ticket for Carl
to Dallas was my only ticket out. It was a harsh thought, but
Penny's husband wasn't God's gift either, and if Carl didn't get
him, it was just a matter of time till some other motherfucker
At first, I felt scared of the wicked thoughts
in my heart. But after a few days, each time Carl hawked up a big
gob and spit it out the car window or screamed at me because the
elevator at the apartment complex was too slow, the idea became
less sinful. He was always saying how he used to break guys' legs
for a living, collecting, and he might decide to find some
employment of that kind in Florida since the pay was so lousy for
construction. Besides that, there was his drunk driving—if I
could get him behind bars, it would be an asset to the whole
state. Or maybe I'd only have to threaten.
One morning he woke up and bit my nipple hard
before I was even awake. "Ouch," I yelled. It drew blood
and made my eyes fill up.
"The world's a hard place," he told
"You make it that way."
He laughed. "You lived your little pussy
life long enough. It's time you find out what it's all
about." He covered my mouth with his booze and cigarette
breath, and I knew that was the day I'd make a call to his sister.
He wasn't going to go away on his own.
Penny did mail-outs in the morning, so I called
her from work. I could hear her stuffing envelopes while we
talked. I asked about the kids and things. "So how's your
husband?" I added. "Carl said he went back to
"Yeah. We're getting along much better.
He's cut back on the drinking and brings home his paycheck.
Doesn't go to the bar half as much."
"He's still going to that bar where he got
"Oh, no, a new one, Cactus Jack's, a nicer
place—no nude dancers, and it's only a couple miles from here,
so he can take a cab if he needs to. He promised he wouldn't go
back over to Babydoe's."
Done. It was smooth. I didn't even have to ask
where he hung out. "Yeah," I said. "He gets to the
job in the morning. That's what I keep telling Carl."
"He goes out Fridays and maybe one or two
other days. I can handle that. I'm not complaining."
She was a good woman. I felt tears well in my
eyes. "You're a saint, honey. I have to get back to work now—the
truckers are coming in for their checks. Carl would like to hear
from you one night soon. He worries."
I had all I needed to know—likely she'd wanted
to tell somebody and didn't care to stir Carl up and listen to all
his godly orders. She wasn't complaining—goddamn. It was amazing
that her and my husband were of the same blood. And, yeah, she was
being taken advantage of—I could hear it. Now I had to tell Carl
when and where to go without him realizing it was my plan.
That night I started to move him along. "I
talked to your sister Penny this morning," I told him at the
"Oh, yeah?" He was shoveling in
chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes with sawmill gravy, and corn,
one of his favorite meals.
I ate with one hand behind my back, protecting
my arm from any quick snaps. "She's a trooper," I said.
"I never heard of anybody with such a big
heart. You told me she adopted Ray's son, right?
"Yeah. Unbelievable." He chewed a
mouthful. "Him and Penny already had one kid, and he was
fuckin around on her. I'd've killed the motherfucker, if I'd known
at the time. I was in Alaska—working the pipeline. Penny kept it
all from me till after the adoption." He shook his head and
wiped the last gravy from his plate with a roll. "Lumps in
the mashed potatoes, hun."
"She works hard too—all those jobs—and
doesn't say a thing about him having boys' night out at some new
bar whenever he wants. I couldn't handle it." I paused and
took a drink of my beer to let the thought sink in. "He's a
damn good-looking guy. Bet he has no trouble screwing around on
Carl looked up and wiped his mouth on his hand.
"You mean now? Where'd you get that idea?'
I shrugged. "Just her tone. Shit. If
anybody's going to heaven, she will."
"You think he's hot, don't ya? I'll kill
the son of a bitch. What new bar?"
"Cactus Jack's. I bet you he's doing it.
She'd be the last to say anything. Why else would he stay out half
Carl threw his silverware on the plate. "I
ought to kill the son of a bitch."
"I don't like to hear that stuff."
"It's the real world, and he's a fuckin
asshole. He needs to be fucked."
"I hate to hear a woman being beat down,
thinking she's doing the right thing for the kids. 'Course, you
never know what's the glue between two people."
"My sister's done the right thing all her
life, and it's never gotten her anywhere." He was seething.
"She's one of a kind, a saint really."
I tucked my hand under my leg— feeling protective of my arm—took
a bite of fried steak, and chewed.
Carl rocked back on the legs of the chair. His
eyes were focused up near the ceiling. "Hmm," he said.
"Don't think about getting involved. We
have enough problems."
"You don't have a thing to do with this.
I gathered up the dishes and went to the sink
feeling smug, though I was a little freaked by the feeling that
the plan might just work. I was wiping the stove when the phone
"Got it," Carl yelled.
It was Penny. She'd followed my suggestion to
call. I could hear him trying to draw her out. He went on and on,
and it didn't sound like he made any progress. By the time he
slammed down the receiver, he had himself more angry at her than
he was at her husband. He went raging into the bathroom and
slammed the door shut. It was so hard I was surprised the mirror
didn't fall off.
I finished up in the kitchen and was watching
"Wheel of Fortune" by the time he came out, their
special Labor Week show.
He sat down on the couch next to me and put his
hand on my thigh, squeezed it. "You got some room on your
Visa, don't you? How 'bout makin me a reservation to Dallas? I'll
pay you back. I need to talk to that asshole Raymond face to
I stared at the TV, trying to control my
breathing. "He's not going to listen to you. He thinks you're
"A moron, huh? I think not. Make a
reservation for me—"
I was shaking my head. "You can't go out
there. What about work?"
"Do it—get me a flight after work on
Friday, back home Saturday."
"Not much of a visit."
He squinted and ran his tongue from cheek to
cheek inside his mouth. "I'm just gonna talk to the
I'd never seen murder in anybody's eyes, but it
was hard to miss. I took a deep, rattling breath. It was too
goddamned easy—blood-curdling easy. I reminded myself it was for
my own survival. I needed both goddamned arms.
That night I called for a reservation. I had to
make it three weeks in advance to get a decent fare. I'd saved up
some Christmas money, so that way I didn't have to put the ticket
on my charge. I could only hope nobody ripped Raymond before Carl
got his chance. The guy that stuck Ray the first time was out on
probation. It would be just my luck.
The days dragged. The hope that I would soon be
free made Carl's behavior unbearable. I got myself a half-dozen
detective novels and kept my nose stuck inside one when I could. I
cooked the rest of the time, lots of his favorite foods, and pie,
trying to keep his mouth full so I wouldn't have to listen to it—and
throw him off if he was the least bit suspicious of what I had in
mind. It was tough to put on the act in bed, but he was in a hurry
most of the time, so he slathered on the aloe and poked me from
behind. Tight and fast was fine with him. His ego made him blind—thinking
he was smarter than everybody else, especially me, and that I
could possibly still love him.
Thursday morning, the day before Carl was
supposed to leave, he walked into the bedroom before work. I
smelled his coffee breath and kept my eyes shut. A tap came on my
shoulder. "I don't know where that new bar is, " he
said. "What was it? Cactus Bob's? Near their place?"
"Jack's. Cactus Jack's. I'll get directions
at work—off the computer. No problem—Mapquest."
"Get the shortest route from the airport to
Babydoe's, and from there to the cactus place. He's probably lying
to Penny, still goin back to Doe's for the tits and ass."
I printed out the route during lunch. It was a
little complicated. When I came in the door that evening, I handed
Carl three pages of directions and maps. He flipped through them.
"Write these on one sheet—bigger. I can't be shuffling this
shit in the dark while I'm driving a rental around
"Sure," I said. A pain in the ass to
the end, I thought. I reminded myself it was almost over. I copied
the directions on a legal sheet and added "Love ya, Your
babycakes." Between his ego and my eagerness to please, I
hoped he didn't suspect a thing. I couldn't wait to show him the
real world when I gave him my ultimatum.
I got up in the morning and packed him a few
clothes and set the bag by the door. I called to him in the
bathroom. "Your ticket receipt is in the side pocket. Don't
forget to give Penny my love." I knew he really hadn't told
her a thing.
He came out and took a hard look down my body.
His eyes glinted and I could see satisfaction in the upturn of his
lips, despite their being pressed together hard. I knew there was
some macho thing mixed in with the caretaking for his sister. In a
twisted way, he was doing this for me too, proving how he could
protect a poor, weak woman from men like himself.
I thought he was going to kiss me, so I brought
on a coughing fit and waved him away. He thumped me on the back a
few times, gave up, and went on out. He paused a second at the
bottom of the steps, turned back, and grinned, showing all those
white teeth. For a second, I thought he was reading my mind.
Instead he said softly, "You're my right arm,
doll-face." He went on.
I shivered. I watched his car all the way down
the street. I was scared, even though I was sure he had every
intention of doing the deed, and I was betting on success. He was
smarter and stronger than Ray, and had surprise on his side. Then
I would hold the cards—with his record, a simple tip to the cops
could put his ass in a sling.
I was tense all day at the office, wondering
what he was thinking with that grin. Too, I hoped he'd remembered
his knife. I went straight to his bureau when I got home and took
everything out of the sock drawer. The boot knife was gone. I
pictured him splashed with blood, standing over Ray's body in a
dark alley. I felt relieved. He was set up good.
I went to the grocery and got myself a six-pack,
a bag of mesquite-grilled potato chips, and a pint of fudge royale
ice cream. I rented three videos so I wouldn't have to think. I
started to crack up laughing in the car. I was between joy and
hysteria. I couldn't stop worrying, but the thought of peace to
come was delicious.
Carl was due home around noon on Saturday, and I
realized I didn't want to be there. I got a few hours sleep and
woke up early. I did his dirty laundry and packed all his clothes
and personal stuff into garbage bags and set them by the door. I
put his bicycle and tools there. I wrote a note on the legal pad
and propped it against one of the bags. Basically it said to leave
Fort Lauderdale that afternoon and never come back—if he did,
I'd turn him in. I wrote that I didn't care if we ever got a
divorce or not, and he could take the stereo and TV—everything.
I just wanted to be left alone.
I packed a bathing suit, a book, and my
overnight stuff and drove down to Key Largo. Carl was obsessed
with me in his lurid, controlling way. The farther away I was when
he read the note, the safer I'd feel.
I stayed at a little motel and read and swam
most of Saturday, got a pizza with mushrooms, like Carl hated. On
Sunday morning I went out by the pool and caught a few more rays
before heading home. I stopped for a grouper sandwich on the drive
back, to congratulate myself on how well I was doing, but I could
barely eat it. Jesus, was I nervous. I got home around four,
pulled into the parking lot and saw Carl's empty space. I sighed
with relief. I looked up at the apartment window. I'd move out
when the lease was up. I unlocked the door and stepped inside. The
clothes and tools were gone. I shut the door behind me, locked it,
and set down my bag.
The toilet flushed. "Eh-eh-eh-eh. "
I jumped. My chest turned to water.
The toilet paper rolled. Carl came swaggering
out of the bathroom. "Eh-eh-eh-eh," he laughed. The
sound was deafening.
"Where's your car?" I asked him.
"What are you doing here?"
"Car's around back. I wanted to surprise my babycakes."
I looked around wildly. "Didn't you get my
note? You're supposed to be gone—I'm calling—" I moved
towards the phone.
He stepped in front of me. "No. You don't
wanna make any calls—and I'm not going anywhere. I love you.
We're a team. Two of a kind."
"You didn't do it." I spat the words
in his face, " You chickened out."
He came closer, a cloud of alcohol seeping from
his skin and breath, a sick, fermented odor mixed with the bite of
cigarettes. "Oh, I did it, babe, right behind Doe's. Stuck
that seven-inch blade below his rib cage and gave it a mighty
twist. I left that bastard in a puddle of blood the size Texas
could be proud of." He winked. "I let Ol' Ray know why
he was gettin it too."
He took my hair and yanked me close against him.
He stuck his tongue in my mouth. I gagged but he kept forcing it
down my throat. Finally, he drew back and stared into my eyes.
"I did some thinkin on the flight over," he said,
"about you and me, and how your attitude isn't always the
best. I figured I could use some insurance on our marriage. You
know? Penny'll remember you asking her about the bars if she's
questioned, and she wouldn't lie to the cops. Also, the directions
are in your handwriting, hun. I rubbed the prints off against my
stomach, balled up the sheet, and dropped it right between his
legs. Cool, huh?" He licked his lower lip from one side to
the other. "Oh, yeah, I found one of your hairs on my T-shirt
and put that in for extra measure."
My skin went to ice and I froze clear through.
"A nice little threat in the works, if I
needed it to keep you around. Guess I saved myself a lot of
trouble at the same time." His eyebrows went up. " Where
I go, you go, baby-girl. Together forever, sweetheart."
He grabbed my t-shirt and twisted it tight
around the chest. All the air wheezed out of my lungs, and he
rubbed his palm across my nipples till they burned. He lifted my
hand to his mouth, kissed it, and grinned with all his teeth
showing. He slobbered kisses along my arm, while I stood limp.
Like the snap of a bone, his laugh shot chills
up my spine and the sorry truth to my brain. I was the same as
Carl, only he'd been desperate all his life. My damned arm would
be second to go—I'd already handed Satan my soul.
Vicki Hendricks is the author of Iguana Love,
published by Serpent's Tail, 1999, and Miami Purity, her
first novel, published by Pantheon in 1995, and now a Vintage
Black Lizard paperback. Her short story "ReBecca,"
originally published on Nerve.com, has been selected for Best
American Erotica 2000. Her novel Voluntary Madness will
be published by Serpent's Tail in November. Hendricks lives in
Hollywood, Florida, and teaches composition and creative writing
at Broward Community College. Skydiving has become her most recent
obsession, added to years of scuba diving and sailing, and she is
currently working on a noir novel of skydiving, with plans for a
non-fiction adventure book in the near future.