First published in A Twist of Noir (2010) - read editor interview
I awoke and saw a guy squeezed into the recliner across the room, his feet up. His right eyeball was fake, like an agate. The gun looked real.
"You know my wife, Betty," he said.
Betty was blonde and petite. This guy wasn't either of those. His voice came out higher pitched than I expected, given his build.
"How did you get in my apartment?" I asked.
He held up the gun.
I nodded. "Super let you in?"
"Yep," he said. He waived the gun in anticipation of my next question. "Said he didn't think the cops needed to know anything."
"Well, I'm afraid you have the wrong--."
Before I could finish, he tossed four glossy pictures across the room. One of them made it to the bed. I turned it over and saw Betty and me kissing outside a Red Lobster. My hand rested on her ass. My groin twitched at the thought of Betty naked on her hands and knees. I pulled the sheet up and looked at the guy, Rick, I think she said his name was, and smiled. His expression didn't change. I reached for the pack of cigarettes on the nightstand and lit one. I inhaled and blew the smoke out my nose. He wasn't impressed.
"Want one?" I asked.
He shook his head.
"Hey, you a Raider fan?" I got up on one elbow. "I got a couple tickets you can have." I didn't lack for ideas on how to get out of this, but Rick's disinterest in my offer made me realize he wasn't the kind of guy who could be bribed. Or maybe he wasn't a Raider's fan.
We stared at each other for a while until he put his hand on the chair arm and pushed himself to a standing position. I opened my mouth, but decided to keep quiet. Not only did he have the gun, he outweighed me by at least one hundred and fifty pounds.
He took a step toward the bed.
"Okay, I'll stop seeing your wife. It was only six times."
He stopped. I could tell by the look on his face I'd told him more than he knew. He started toward the bed, again. I slid to the other side next to the wall. The only window in the room was at the bottom of the bed. I would've considered making a run for it, but my place was on the fourth floor of an old building with no fire escape.
He pointed the gun in my direction, stepped to the edge of the bed, and laid a hand on my shoulder.
I had to pee.
"Calm down. I ain't going to shoot you." His face tightened. "Unless you stop seeing Betty."
My mouth fell open.
"Hell, that woman's a pain in the ass." He stepped back. "You'll find out. The others did." He smiled for the first time. "Sneaking out with you has been the best thing happened this year."
"But what about the gun?"
"This thing?" He raised the gun in front of his face. "Last couple of guys I spoke to got scared and dumped my Betty. I figure if I tell you I'll shoot you if you stop seeing her, you won't." He lowered the gun. "Least when she's with you I can watch the ballgame in peace."
He walked to the door, turned back to me, and held the gun up once more. "If I have to come back, next time it'll be loaded." He tapped the barrel to his forehead in salute and left.
I slouched against the wall wondering what the hell I was going to do now. If I wanted to be with a nagging woman, I would have stayed married to Clarice.