By Stuart Mckellar

He watched the gentle spiral of smoke as it wisped its way up to the nicotine stained ceiling. Guilt gave his skin an itch he couldn't scratch. He rolled onto his side and gazed toward the bathroom door. It stood ajar, tendrils of steam clawing their way round the jamb to join him in the room. He sighed. This couldn't carry on much longer. Sooner or later she would find out.

The cigarette burnt itself out on the filter. He dropped it to the floor and picked at his yellowed fingers. This year he would give up. This year would be a new start.

New Year had been a big loss. People who barely knew each other laughing, cajoling and bullshitting like lifelong friends. It made him sick. Then, come twelve o'clock, faux kisses all round. He'd escaped after downing the nearest bottle of champagne at about one am. And now, two days later, he was at it again.

He tried closing his eyes for a moment, but the soft whoosh of the shower kept him from dropping off. He might need one himself later on. He grunted irritably as the air conditioning unit gave one last asthmatic cough before clattering to a halt. Fucking great, he thought. Now I'll definitely need one.

The shower abruptly shut off, and he heard the screen clatter back. The last tendrils of steam made their escape and withered at the base of the bed. He focused his attention on the door. A sliver of the mirror was visible through the crack. Through the steam he saw a smudge of pink flesh and a flick of white. Tantalizing and taunting. He rubbed idly at his crotch.

A moment later the door creaked open and she sauntered out. The white towel she was clad in barely covered the tops of her thighs. She plopped herself on the bed and flashed a glance over her shoulder. A coy flash of baby-blue eyes under naked lashes. Her skin was pink and freshly scrubbed. He could smell the faint scent of lemon emanating from her, and he took a breath. She giggled and gave him a push.

“You stink. You should shower too.”

He bristled.

“You weren't complaining half an hour ago.”

The faintest blush.

“Half an hour ago I had other things on my mind.”

“Oh yeah? And what's on your mind now?”

She curled around and spread herself out like a cat. A finger stroked its way up his thigh and over his hip. He groaned and grinned a shark's grin. She purred deep in her throat and gazed at him with those deep, oceanic eyes.

He'd picked her up on the strip. He couldn't remember her name, but it didn't matter. They'd spent the night as nomads, drifting from casino to club to casino. Riding a euphoric wave of carefree abandon and wild, indulgent joy. The neon lights still flashed behind his eyes. Tempting beacons of hope and fulfillment. Each promising an impossible journey to riches and respect beyond their wildest dreams.

They were untouchable, immortal for one night. Living the highs of the American Dream in the desolation of the desert. High on each other's company, they swung arm in arm on a non-stop rollercoaster. One night only, ladies and gents.

Oh shit, he thought. She was working him expertly with her hand. Bringing him back to earth with a bump. He spread his arms out across the bed, martyring himself to the act. He felt a cold, hard surface under the pillow, and pulled it out.

Her face changed as he leveled the revolver at her face. She scuttled back on all fours, falling from the bed. He stood. The towel had fallen away, and she was left, naked, crouched at his feet. At his mercy.

The deafening bang echoed around the motel room. It never failed to make him jump. Her forehead imploded. Brain matter and skull fragments followed an arcing fountain of blood in decorating the back wall. A soft hiss as her bowels gave way.

He tutted to himself. Always the mess afterwards. It was a New Year. This year he had to give up.
My name is Stuart. I'm 26. I live in the UK. I have been writing and reading fiction since I was a child, poetry and stories mainly. I am currently a freelance writer slowly but surely carving a career for myself. My main draw has always been horror, thriller, and more recently noir. I don't remember how I got into it, but writers like Jeff Somers, Charlie Huston, James Ellroy and James M. Cain et al. opened up a whole new world for me. Then I found Out of the Gutter magazine and Flash Fiction Offensive. And thought I would give it a shot. That's about it for me; I hope my story speaks for itself.