True Love by Julia Madeleine

Margie’s stilettos echoed off the slick tiled floor like a meat cleaver on a chopping block. The smell of the morgue was still in her nostrils, a mixture of disinfectant and decay.

“Ms. Brannick?” A man’s voice called from behind her. Margie turned her kohl-rimmed eyes and looked into the stoic face of a grey-haired man, bearing down on her like a semi about to smoke her on the highway.

“I’m detective Whitehouse,” he said, approaching. “I’m sorry about Kelly. She was your best friend?”

Margie forced the blond bangs from her eyes with a flick of her head and pressed her lips together. She looked passed him at Kelly’s husband Carl, who had wandered down the hallway to pace. Carl didn’t seem to be doing so well. She watched the way his shoulders trembled under the denim jacket.

“Can I ask you a couple of questions?” The cop said.

“If you must.”

“I know the two of you worked together at the Sundowner. Can you tell me when was the last time you saw Kelly?”

“Last night at the club.”

“What time was that?”

“About o’clock. Kelly was going into the V.I.P with a customer.”

“Do you know who this customer was?”

Margie shook her head. “Just some dude.”

“Any idea what she could have been doing in that church parking lot she was found in?”

She motioned for them to walk in the opposite direction, away from Carl. “She took her customers there sometimes. That way the guy didn’t have to pay for a hotel room. Quick and easy, you know?”

“Customers? You mean for sex?”

“Well, it wasn’t for confession.” Margie sucked her teeth.

“She was a prostitute?”

“Sometimes, but that’s not public knowledge,” she said in a hushed voice, and peered down the hall at Carl.

“You have the names of the men she took there?”

“Names? How about John?” She gave him one of her most perfect one-eyebrow-raises.

“Any regular Friday night guys?”

“She had a few regulars. Check out a guy named Reese. Owns a cattle farm. Says he clips cattle for a living. Makes a shit load of money, flying around the states showing fucking cows. Said he clipped cows for Mel Gibson, who apparently has cows. Bet you didn’t know that? He was in to see her last night.”

“Did Kelly mention any problems with him?”

Margie shrugged. She stepped back to lean against the wall. She let her eyes slid up and down the length of him. He wore a suite the colour of mud, and a green paisley print tie that looked as if he’d dressed in the dark that morning. She pictured what his body might look like underneath the bad suite. Probably he was a quick draw as most men his age were. Sometimes she looked at her watch over their shoulders. One minute, thirty seconds was about average for his age.

“What about her marriage. Were there problems?”

“Sure. Lots. But I thought this was a trick gone bad. You don’t suspect her husband of killing her, do you?”

“Everyone is a suspect at this point.”

“I thought she’d been robbed.”

“It appears that way.”

“Well, her husband’s not going to rob her. My guess is she picked up some new guy. Obviously he was too cheap to pay for the sex as well as the room. What about hair and fibre, or DNA, you guys collect any of that shit?”

Whitehouse gave her a smug look. “You’ve been watching CSI.”

“Law & Order actually. CSI sucks now that Grissom’s gone.”

“Tell me about the problems in her marriage.”

“Typical domestic stuff. She was unhappy.”

“Was Carl having an affair?”

“Carl wasn’t the unfaithful one, Detective.”

Margie thought of Jarred. She thought of that horrible confrontation at that hotel room out in the Falls a few weeks ago where she’d surprised the two of them at the door. She’d suspected something was going on for a while. There were signs and she wasn’t the type of woman to overlook that kind of thing.

Margie’s heart accelerated. She clenched her jaw and smiled. As much as she wanted to see Jarred suffer for what he did to her, she still loved him. That was the hardest part of all of this.

“You have a name?”

“Jarred Miller. He was super jealous and he got rough with her sometimes.”

“Where can I find Jarred?”

“He’s a doorman at the Sundowner. Works nights.”

She felt a lump in her throat as she looked at her watch. “I have to go.”

It was raining when Margie slid behind the wheel of her Vet. She needed a drink. There was an unopened bottle of Jack Daniels in her cupboard. A few shots of that would do the trick. She lit a cigarette and thought of Jarred. A panicky feeling gripped her. It began in her hands, coursing through the muscles in her arms, creeping up her neck as if a giant pair of scissors was cutting her out of her surroundings like she was made of paper, leaving her exposed. Her heart picked up speed and she had to pull her car off the highway.

She wondered if there was such a thing as true love? Was it possible to live a life of joy and fulfilment with another person or was that only an illusion? She thought now of all that Jarred had put her through. She had been so close to happiness with him.

Her anger festered and grew, feeding on itself. Sometimes it felt like if she didn’t hang on tightly to something, she’d fly right out of this world into nothingness.

She reached under the seat for the plastic bag containing the bloody knife. She took it out of the bag, opened the passenger’s window, and hurled it into a field, the bag after it. The rain would wash it away. Her love for Jarred was stronger than her rage. Maybe this was true love after all.

Julia Madeleine is a tattoo artist on the outskirts of Toronto. When she's not busy hurting people, she enjoys writing nasty little tales of mayhem and suspense. Her fiction has appeared in A Twist of Noir, Pulp Metal Magazine, Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers and is scheduled for upcoming issues of Crime Factory and Powder Burn Flash.


Bruce Harris said...

This is what FFO is all about! Gritty, tough, and a helluva an ending.

Matt Arnold said...

Cool scene. Tells a solid, complete story in such a short read...m

Bill Baber said...

nicely done,lots to it for flash...

Brad Carroll said...

I agree with Bill, there's a lot packed in there. Plus a really nice ending. Gonna look for your fiction elsewhere.

Paul D Brazill said...

Punch, kick, punch. Fantastic!

David Cornwell said...

Very nice dialogue and I like the way it seems self-contained, even though it's short.

Good work.