Margo Rife ~ The Other Killer

A bell jin­gled as the door of Snackville Junction opened. The café sign with a fat chef hold­ing a spoon blinked on. A man came in and sat at the counter.

Little late for lunch, Mister,” said the waitress.

A pass­ing freight train with pig­gy­back cars cut the conversation.

Maybe I’m ear­ly for din­ner.” The man took off his navy-blue jack­et, tucked unwashed hair behind his ears, and read the menu.

Gimme the eggs with pep­pers and pota­toes O’Brien.”

That’s the break­fast menu, Hon.”

Pour me some cof­fee, then.”

Just decaf after 2 pm.”

What’s this town called–You’re Out of Luck?”


River’s all dried up. Everything in town’s dried up. You too, Ber…”

The wait­ress cov­ered her nametag and start­ed clear­ing his cut­lery. He grabbed her wrist.

Whoa, Bernice. I’m not in no hur­ry, Hon.”

Bernice brewed fresh cof­fee. She wrote an order from her wait­ress pad and clipped it to the rotat­ing wheel. She was about to give it a spin.

Hold on, Vanna. Who’s ordering?”

Bernice spun the wheel and turned to face the man.

Little League mom ordered take­out for her kids after the game.”

Let’s see.”

I can’t share that.”

Come on, Bernice. Be nice. What’d you think’s gonna happen?”

When Bernice went for her phone in her pock­et, the man stood and she saw a bulge in his jack­et. Her uncle who owned the Ammo Peddler shop down the block taught her to spot con­cealed weapons. Guns were as com­mon­place as stray dogs in this town. All of Riverside’s for­tunes were built on the muni­tions plant across the riv­er. The west wind brought the licorice smell of Ballistol oil into town as a reminder.

I’ll tell you what’s on that pinned order,” the man said. “You telling the kitchen guy you got a sit­u­a­tion. You’ll have a sit­u­a­tion if he comes through that door. Now, come here and tell me when Christine comes in.”


My wife. I’m going to kill her.”

Why? What’s she ever done to you?”

She keeps leav­ing me. But not this time. Riverside’s her last stop.”

What you going to do with us here?” asked Bernice.

The bell jan­gled and a mom with a back­wards base­ball cap bounced in.

Hi. My order ready?” asked the young mother.

No, sweet­ie. Manny went home. His mom’s sick.”

Oh. Sorry to hear that.’’ She hopped back into her pick­up truck with the droop­ing license plate.

The man looked approv­ing­ly at Bernice.

Good. You think on your feet. You know defeat too. I like that in a woman. Now give me your phone and tell me when’s Christine com­ing in?”

We nev­er know when she drops off the books.”


She does our accounting.”

Accounting? That bitch couldn’t keep our check book.”

The man read Bernice’s texts. He poured whiskey in his cof­fee from a flask and wait­ed until 7 pm then left with­out pay­ing. Bernice watched him through the win­dow as he crossed the tracks and head­ed toward the YMCA.

Bernice whis­tled an all-clear alert to Manny.

He gone?” asked Manny.

Yeah. Headed to the Y. You bet­ter go see Christine and call the police.”

I can’t get mixed up. I’ll get deport­ed,” said Manny. “How about I have my cousin Consuela check on her. She cleans the res­i­dent floors at the Y.”

Bless you, Manny. I feel guilty because I’m pret­ty sure that crumb ball bought that gun at my uncle’s shop. Uncle Al sells to any­one got cash. No back­ground checks even for a wife stalk­er. Listen, Manny. Me. Anti-guns. Have I ever talked like this?”


Over at the YMCA, Consuela fin­ished her last floor and wiped all the spi­der webs. With cold­er weath­er com­ing in those bugs want­ed to be snug. She need­ed to get home, but Manny nev­er asked her no favors. Up four flights at the end of the cor­ri­dor resided the woman, Christina. She’d seen her shad­ow­ing the halls. Plain scrawny woman with over­sized filmy eye­glass­es. Looked like a library ghost. Consuela knocked on the door.

Cleaning lady.”

I don’t need ser­vice today.”

My cousin, Manny, ask me to tell you a man came in Snackville Junction and said he going to kill you. Manny was in the kitchen,” Consuela went on. “The man was gonna shoot you when you drop off the books. Then he decide to head here. Bernice say I bet­ter come and tell you.”

There noth­ing I can do,” said Christine.

The man. He is your husband.”

Yes.” Christine said. “Thank you for telling me.”

Bernice think maybe you go see policia?”

That wouldn’t do any good.”

Manny can’t go to poli­cia. And Bernice, she don’t want to get her uncle in trou­ble as he sells guns to any­body come in his shop. Comprende?”

Tell Bernice I under­stand. Can you feed my cat?”

Si. What’s it name?”


Manny texted. He say get out of town.”

Too many towns. Nowhere left to go,” said Christine.

Could you patch things up with your hus­band? Maybe he’s not bad as you think?”

No. I’ve tried.”

I bet­ter get going home or my hus­band get mad. Take care. You seem like nice lady.”

Thank you for feed­ing the cat.”


Bernice peered out on the dark street. She turned the OPEN sign to CLOSED. Manny sat at the counter.

My cousin talked to Christina.”

What did she say?”

She’s stayin’ in her room. Nothin’ we can do about it,” said Manny.

He’ll kill her.”

Guess so.” Manny spun the order wheel.

It’s an awful thing.” Bernice wiped the coun­ter­top. She looked out the win­dow and thought she saw the man board the east­bound train.

I need to get out of this town,” said Bernice.

It’s the same everywhere.”

You speak the truth, Manny. Same thing in every town.”

There was noth­ing we could do. Best not to think about it,” said Manny.

Yeah.” Bernice emp­tied the burnt cof­fee from the met­al urn. “Let’s give the Little League moms free fries tomorrow.”


Margo Rife is a fic­tion writer and play­wright. Her flash fic­tion has been pub­lished in Reflex Fiction, New World Writing Quarterly, The Drabble, Horror Tree and oth­ers. She recent­ly fin­ished writ­ing Snowbirds, a novel­la-in-flash, The Weather Museum, a Young Adult fan­ta­sy nov­el, and a short play Ghost Mom.  Margo finds it impos­si­ble to turn down par­tic­i­pat­ing in Open Mic at her local library. Twitter: @rife_margo