How to Make a Marriage Work by Jake Hinkson

When I saw my husband cross the street outside the restaurant where I was having lunch with my sister, I nearly stood up and waved at him. Then I caught myself. Wait, why is he in this part of town?

Looking for me? Couldn’t be; he didn’t know Sandy and I were going to be here.

“But what?” Sandy said.

“Huh?”

“You said, ‘I want kids but—’ and then you just stopped. But what?”

“Oh, nothing.” I whisked the napkin off my lap, wiped my mouth, and dropped it on the plate. “Look, I need to step outside and make a call real quick.”

“Maggie, you okay?”

I nodded and hurried through the restaurant, and then pushed my way through some people coming in. Outside, traffic was heavy, but I saw the back of Henry’s head as he moved up Turner Avenue.

I followed after him, but I didn’t try to catch him. People passed by me like flickers of light. I thought you had business out of town today.

I’d been married nine months. It was a whirlwind relationship, but almost since the day we got married, Henry had been acting odd. He went for walks at odd hours of the night. When he went out of town on business, he wouldn’t call. “I got busy,” he’d say. I couldn’t tell if I was being too sensitive. Mostly things were good. Mostly we were happy. Mostly.

But I had been about to tell Sandy that I wasn’t ready for kids because he was acting too weird. Our mother—ever the free spirit—had always told us to live with a man before we married him. “Marriage is an investment, not a gamble,” she said. “You should know what you’re getting before you pay for it.”

I’d broken that rule. Maybe I was paying for it now.

Henry moved a leisurely pace, so I had to creep along to keep some distance between us. He slowed near a brownstone apartment building across the street from a café. I stopped at a small grocery and stepped inside. I could see him through the window. He stopped, looked around, and ducked down an alley next to the apartment.

I ran out and dashed across the street, but I eased down the alley.

A screen door groaned open somewhere ahead of me.

Peeking around the corner, I saw him slip in the back door of an apartment.

My eyes went blurry before I realized they’d welled up. I smeared the tears away, and ran up the steps.

I didn’t want to see him in the arms of another woman, but I had to. I needed to know what she looked like. Seeing this would burn him out of my life. I took a breath, opened the back door and went inside

I passed through a humid little washroom and into a kitchen.

There was no woman.

There was a man sitting in a chair. My husband stood across the table, held up a gun with a silencer and shot the man in the head and heart.

Henry turned to me and his face was barely his own. It was like someone else was wearing his face as a mask.

“Oh, god,” he said.

Floors creaked in the next room and another man came though the hallway door with a shotgun.

I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out. Henry dropped to a knee and shot the man twice in the solar plexus and once in the face. The man’s head snapped back and erupted like a volcano as he crashed into the hallway.

Henry was on his feet. The gun had disappeared into his jacket, and he took me by the arm and ushered me outside.

I snapped my arm back.


“Don’t.”

“You really want to talk about this here?” he said.

“How…” I fumbled for words, but they came out in a mush of sound.

He grabbed me, and in a moment we were on the street.

“Where…where are we going?”

“Home”.

“Who were those men?”

Holding my arm, he slowed us to a stroll in front of some shops like we were window shopping.

“Just some guys,” he said.

“How could you do that? They’re human beings.”

“Deeply flawed human beings, honey. Deeply, deeply flawed.”

“Why? What’d they do?”

He shrugged. “Drug dealers? White slavers? Whatever. Who cares?”

“But how do you know…how do you know they were bed men?”

“The one guy had a shotgun in his hands, honey. I’m guessing they weren’t Mormon missionaries.”

“Are you going to kill me?”

“Course not, baby. I love you.”

“You killed those two men.”

“Well, I didn’t love them.”

“This is what you do…what you do for a living?”

He didn’t answer. We drifted past the restaurant where my sister was still waiting on me. I’d left my purse there with my cell phone and my wallet. She’d be worried sick. I’d have to tell her something.

“I can’t…”

“You can,” he said. “Just take a deep breath. Relax. Everything is going to be okay.”

***

“Remember that time you and I were having lunch here and you got up and ran out?”

I smiled. “That was a while ago, right? Before the kids were born.”

“Mm hmm,” Sandy said. “We were talking about having kids in fact. Then you jumped up like a crazy woman and ran out because you thought you saw Henry with another woman!”

“Turned out not to be him.”

Sandy laughed and said, “In some ways, it seems like you two were better after that.”

I nodded and sipped some wine.

“We have been.”

She waved her empty wine glass at a waiter passing by. He changed course to go get her some more.

“Well, you have to have those moments,” she said. “You don’t know someone until you’ve been together a while.”

I adjusted my Rolex and stared down at my manicure. “You don’t really know yourself, either,” I said.


Jake Hinkson spends his days hatching schemes and plotting murders. His
fiction has appeared at Beat to a Pulp, A Twist of Noir, and previously at The
Flash Fiction Offensive. He blogs about film at The Night Editor.

15 comments:

Jimmy Callaway said...

Beauty. Excellent POV voice. Twist ending out of nowhere. Classic fuckin' Hinkson.

Pela Via said...

I enjoyed this story. Very nice.

Keith Rawson said...

Always a pleasure to read your stories, Mr. Hinkson, always a pleasure.

Eric Beetner said...

Nice 'tip of the iceberg' story Jake. Great as always.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Fantastic, Jake.

Felicia Aguilar said...

Fast-paced and gripping. Loved it!

Bill said...

very nice, great ending-loved the whole thing!!

Bill Baber said...

clever, great ending-loved every word!

M C Funk said...

Quite clever and enjoyable.

Drew said...

This was great.

Bruce Harris said...

I'll give you a virtual high-five for this one. Excellent story.

Anonymous said...

Nice noir love story---hey! I didn't know you could do that.

Kevin

Jake Hinkson said...

Thanks to everyone for the comments! It's so wonderful that we can all have a place to meet and celebrate the worst that humanity has to offer. Rock on, people.

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