“What do you mean they’re on to me,” Kat waved her cigarette in the air. “How the fuck would you know.”
“Shh,” I leaned forward and stared into my beer. Trying to keep a low profile wasn’t working.
She kept going. “Derik, you gotta be kidding – this is total bullshit.”
I kept my voice real quiet, and mentally implored her to do the same. “Think they got something on you.”
She just stared at me.
“Look, just some of the guys were talking –”
“Fuck that shit already.”
I glanced up at her. Her face was white with fury, she’s clearly pissed off. Not a good sign. Then she exploded.
“So they’re talking about me now, are they? Goddamned fat bastards on desk detail don’t have enough to do – always talking about something or other. Can’t keep their noses outta my business,” her voice rising, Kat stubbed out her cigarette in the overflowing ashtray. “So, my fucking Hero, what the hell are they saying this time?”
“Maybe we should go someplace else,” I looked up and caught the bartender’s eye as he approached, and held out my now empty glass. “Just the bill, please.”
The bartender nodded. Picking up the overflowing ashtray, he turned away.
“Are you gonna tell me?”
I held my finger to my lips. The place was starting to fill in, packed with the after-dinner crowd. So much for a quiet chat.
Kat sighed dramatically and shifted in her seat. She started drumming her fingers along the top of the bar. “Well?”
“Give me a minute.” I dropped a twenty onto the bar, and nodded at the bartender on his way back. “Keep the change.”
I stood up and held out my arm. “Ready?”
Rolling her eyes, Kat flounced past, and pulled on her leather jacket, then stormed out the door.
I heard her before I saw her, laughing too loud in that crazy way of hers and tossing her hair. Kat was on the edge of the parking lot, she had another cigarette going and was busy checking out a couple of bikers. They reciprocated her attention, and as I approached, the short one already walked over and was standing beside her, their words too low to hear.
A folded scrap of paper passed between them. She laughed again, loudly, and touched his arm. The tall one stood nearby.
“Hey, babe, ready to go?” I walked up to her and ignored the bikers. It was an old trick of ours, I guess. Kat gets herself into trouble, and I get her out.
She turned spat, “You’re talking to me now.”
“Look, babe, let’s settle this elsewhere, right?”
She pulled out her cellphone and whispered something to the short dude. Probably getting his number.
“C’mon, babe, let’s get going.”
Kat smiled at the bikers. “Looks like I gotta run now, but I’ll see you guys later.”
As I slid my arm into hers, she hissed. “Since when do you call me babe.”
“Since I try to get your ass outta trouble.”
“Well,” she huffed, “You never called me babe before.” Standing in the parking lot, she glanced back at the bikers, and then shot me a look. “OK, Hero, where to now?”
“I’ll give you a lift home.”
“Yep. I gotta get back. Lane’s waiting for me.”
“Oh, is she?” Kat simpered. “What a good girl –”
“Knock it off.”
“Knock what off?” she turned and glared at me. “You already did, when you shacked up with that –”
“Kat, enough already.” I held open the car door. “C’mon, let’s go.”
I’ll give Kat this much, she can be a hard-headed bitch when she wants to be. She’s not letting this thing with Lane go, or listening to what I’m trying to tell her. Driving along to her place isn’t much better.
“The boys are talking about me – goddamnit, Derik, they’re always talking. About you. Me. Whatever.” Kat sat slouched in the passenger seat, her arms folded across her chest.
“But this is for real, you know –”
“Goddamned nosey motherfuckers think they’re so high and mighty,” she exploded. “Think their blue shirts and badges will save their asses, well, they got another thing coming. You know what Rodrigues did to the last hooker he busted, and McGuire, looks so square, but he’s been –”
“Kat, it’s all over the station. They know.”
“Of course they know. And if they don’t know, they make it up, right?”
“Look Kat,” I said slowly. “I’m telling you for your own good.”
“Because you love me.”
I kept my mouth shut, and my eyes on traffic.
“Admit it. You still love me. Even with that little bitch in your bed –”
“Kat –” it was a warning.
“Fine. I can take a hint.” She leaned across the car seat, smelling of booze and cigarettes. “So you’re coming back to my place?”
“I’m dropping you off.” I kept driving, eyes straight ahead.
“Are you coming in?”
“You want to, right?”
“I want to make sure you’re safe.”
“So you’re checking up on me.”
I exhaled loudly, and didn’t look at her. “I might need to help you clear out your place.”
Kat shifted on the seat, and turned, staring out the window. A long while passed before she said softly, “What’d they say they got on me?”
“Everything. You gotta clean house.”
“Crap.” She was silent for a while longer, and then turned in her seat. “You’ll help me, right?” She forced a small smile, “You always did before – right, Hero?”
“You got it Kat.”
As we approached her apartment, I looked up in the rearview mirror. Single dark sedan followed discretely at a distance; when I rolled my car to a stop, the sedan also stopped about a block away.
“Never mind,” I muttered.
“What?” Kat looked over at me.
I felt my shoulders drop. “May as well go back to my place. You’ll be safe there.”
“But what about Lane?” she smirked.
I shrugged. “She’s out with the girls.”
“Not really, she’ll be back tonight.”
“And then what?”
I turned to look at her. She looked scared and worn out. “I don’t know.”
Kat leaned against the car door, and started talking, her voice now real quiet. “Those guys – they have it in for me. They always did. Even when it was just you and I –” She broke off and stared out the window.
I watched her out of the corner of my eye, and then said slowly, “I don’t think so, Kat. You seem to have brought it on yourself.”
“But you know –”
“Look, I know. I know, Kat. That’s all I’ve done – I just fucking know – and never stopped you.” I took a deep breath, “You’ve been skimming during the busts. Evidence just seems to keep going missing when you’re around. The boys are all saying it.”
“Heard you had a nice Jag for a while, ‘til you totaled it around a lamp post.”
“I was tired.”
“You expect me to believe that?”
“What – it’s the truth.”
“Stop lying, Kat, you were stoned outta your mind.”
“No – I was –”
“Goddamned high as a kite, and lucky you didn’t kill anyone.” I shot her a look, “Or end up in jail.”
“Look, one little accident –”
“It wasn’t little. And, babe, you’re making the same money as I am, so god knows how you managed to buy a car like that.”
“It was a gift.”
I snorted, and stared straight ahead. Sure, let her tell me that. One more goddamned lie from Kat.
I kept driving. Kat sat watching storefronts and buildings pass by in silence; crumbling shitholes – the land of pawnshops and payday loan places – that soon changed to shopping malls and suburban lawns.
A neatly trimmed lawn and a ranch bungalow came into view. Home it is. I pulled into the driveway and eased the car into park.
“Well, it’s been a while since I’ve been here, but I love what you’ve done with the place,” Kat smirked. “Especially the curtains and flower garden. I always said your place needed a woman’s touch.”
“Or what? I’ll hurt your feelings? Or you’re gonna run and tell Laney-waney.”
Wheeling, I turned toward her. “Look, I’m trying to help you here. The least you could do is shut up about Lane.”
“Oooh, someone’s touchy.” She folded her arms across her chest.
I got out of the car and slammed the door. Goddamit Kat. Why’s she giving me such a hard time? I took a couple deep breaths and stood, staring up at the house.
Stepping out of the vehicle, Kat walked around the car and stood beside me, her voice softened. “So what’d you bring me here for anyway?”
“You don’t know – great, Hero. Is this part of the rescue plan, or –”
I caught a movement down the street, a dark car cruising along and hissed at her, “Shut up.”
“No, I don’t think –”
Reaching out fast, I grabbed her arm, and started pulling her toward the house.
She recoiled. “Ow, you’re hurting –”
“Shh…” I jerked my head down the street as a black sedan approached, still nearly a block away. “Get inside. Now.” I shoved her toward the front door.
“Fine,” she huffed, and stepped inside.
The door now closed behind us, I twisted the deadbolt and slid the chain lock into place.
“Great security,” Kat rolled her eyes. “I still don’t see what all the fuss is about.”
I pointed at the window in the door, and she peered out. As she watched, a black sedan slowed slightly, and then continued cruising past the house.
“That’s not for me – c’mon, for real?”
“Sure as hell isn’t for me.” I shrugged. “Think they want to make an example of you, Kat. Something to hit the papers with, show the clean up of corruption in the force.”
She sagged against the doorframe. “Jesus Christ.”
I cracked a grin. “Not exactly what I’d call you, but, yeah.”
“So now what?”
“Come inside, we figure it out,” I shrugged again, and then stared at her. “You better not be carrying anything on you.”
“In case those bozos come busting in through your front door?”
“I am worried, Kat.”
She looked up at me, and a slow smile played on her lips, “You are, aren’t you?”
I felt my face get hot, and stared at the floor. I muttered, “Anyway, come in.”
“Can you get a lady a drink?”
“Yeah, sure.” Relieved for a distraction, I headed into the living room, and bent over the small bar, opening cupboards and shuffling past bottles; soft clinking filled the air. “I know I still got it somewhere.”
Kat followed at a distance, studying the room. Lost in thought.
“Aha – got it,” standing up, I smiled at her. “Scotch OK?”
Half empty bottle and two glasses in hand, I turned and headed toward the kitchen.
“Where you going?”
I looked down at the bottle. “Thought you’d want ice.”
She smiled, her eyes hooking into me. “You know, Hero, I really do.”
I felt my face get hotter and headed into the kitchen, glad to shove my head inside the ice box and cool down a bit. What the hell am I thinking? Somehow or other I fumbled ice cubes into the glasses and doused the works with scotch. Kat’s drink of choice.
Seated on the sofa, Kat called from the living room. “Still a nice place you got here.”
“Yeah, thanks.” I didn’t make eye contact as I walked over to the sofa and sat down. Held out the glass to her.
A smile played on her lips. “Cheers.”
“I think hell just officially froze over.”
Kat sipped the drink, and then looked over at me. “So, now what?”
“I dunno.” I drained half the glass, and waited for the booze to kick in. Something to give clarity to this whole situation.
“You don’t know,” she smiled, “What kind of Hero are you?”
I shook my head. “Gotta give it good think, figure out what you need out of your place.”
“What I need – you mean leave it?”
I shrugged. “Might have to.”
“Walk away from all my stuff –” she stared, incredulous. “But all my things – where am I gonna live?”
I turned toward her, and rested my arm along the back of the sofa. “Kat, I was thinking, I don’t know if we can get your place cleared.”
“Look, they got a couple cars out looking for you already. The boys said –”
“You knew they were going to do this.”
“No, I didn’t, just hear the talk, that’s all.” I took another gulp, and polished off the rest of the scotch. “But it looks like they’re gonna try to go big with this.”
“Full trial, media circus.” My eyes met hers, “Probably jail time. They’re not gonna make it easy on you, that’s for sure.”
She sat staring down at her drink for a long while, and then looked up at me. “What do I do?”
“You got cash?”
“Get outta here. Fast.”
“But I only have like five hundred on me. I can take the greyhound across the country, and that’s it.”
I snorted. “Most people don’t carry that kind of money.”
“Look, tell me where your cash is, I’ll drop by, pick it up, and get it to you.”
Kat took another drink and sat quiet for a long while, then looked up at me. “Bathroom vanity.”
“Under the bathroom sink.” She swallowed hard. “There’s a lot of it. All in maxipad packages.”
“Figures.” I cracked a smile. Leave it to Kat.
“You’re gonna need a suitcase or something. But how –”
I shook my head. “Dunno. I’ll figure it out. Maybe when you don’t show up for work, I’ll go check on you.” My eyes met hers. “I still got a spare key.”
“You’d do that?”
“Yeah, I would.”
Kat smiled, and reached out, patting my hand. “I knew you’d come through for me, Hero.”
“Yeah, well,” I stared down at my empty glass. “You’re still screwed.”
A smile played on her lips. “Am I?”
I felt my face get red again. “You know what I mean. Career, everything – gone.”
Kat shrugged. “Have to start over, that’s all.”
“You’ll be lucky to get a job as a waitress.”
“But that’s what fresh starts are all about.” She shifted beside me on the sofa, and leaned against my arm. She sat for a long while, thinking. The scent of her hair – shampoo, or perfume – drifted toward me. I inhaled, and hoped she wouldn’t notice.
Finally she turned, and smiled up at me. “You know Derik, you’re still a decent guy.”
“Yeah, well,” I glanced down at my empty glass, and then moved to stand up. “You want another –”
Suddenly, her lips were on mine, and her arms wrapped around my shoulders. Pulling me in. Goddamnit, Kat.
We just sat there, kissing, as though lost in time. My arms eased around her and she fell back on the sofa, my body on top of hers. Her legs slid around my waist, and I hardened against her.
The empty glasses fell onto the living room rug.
Neither of us was thinking, I started to shove aside her clothes, exposing soft skin and full breasts. I heard the pop, pop of my fly unbuttoning.
Suddenly Kat broke free, and smiling, twisted away. I lay there panting.
“Hang on, lemme get something,” she reached over, rifling through her purse, then pulled out a foil square. Tearing it open, she reached for my jeans, and tugged them down.
I met her, fully erect.
“Looks like some things never change,” she smiled.
Suddenly I thought of Lane. Goddamit, Kat. Arms braced against the sofa, I pulled back, and shook my head. “I can’t.”
Her fingers trailing over my cock, and I stiffened further. She smiled, “That’s not what I see.”
“No, Kat.” I shuffled down on the sofa, now laying alongside her. Clothing still shoved aside, I wrapped my arms wrapped around her. I wasn’t ready for this. Might not ever be. She buried her face against my chest; and I stroked her hair, my fingers lost in wild tangles.
“Why are you doing this?” her voice sounded muffled.
I thought a long while. “You get to be too much – I’m not going through that again.”
“But you’re helping me,” she framed it as a question.
“I kinda like you, don’t want to see you go down.”
Looking up at me, she grinned, “I thought you liked me going down. You used to say –”
“You know what I mean.”
“Why don’t you come with me?”
I just stared at her.
“I know you want to – fresh start. For both of us.”
“Kat –” I breathed. Suddenly, her lips were on mine again, her hands shoving aside my jeans, and pulling me in. I lost it.
My mouth glided down her neck, the smell of her hair filled my mind. Fucking hell, Kat. Her shirt twisted aside, her breasts offered themselves up. My lips covered her body, exploring rising curves and hollows. She tasted like home.
From the front of the house, the door rattled. Goddamnit. I sat up real fast, and hissed at her, “Kat – you gotta go. Get out.”
“Don’t want your girlfriend to know,” Kat smirked.
“Just get out.” I grabbed her hand, tugging her toward the kitchen. Kat bent, picking up her purse and jacket, and followed behind.
“Go through the backyards, grab a cab and get to a hotel.”
The door rattled again, followed by the soft click as it opened, and the clatter of the chain lock. A woman’s voice called out.
Standing in the kitchen, Kat looked up at me, and a smile played on her lips. “So, my Hero, when do I see you again?”
“Cut the crap, Kat,” I grabbed the empty glasses and carried them into the kitchen. “What’s the last one we were in?”
“The Hilton on main.”
“’K, I’ll see you there, noon tomorrow.” I held open the patio door. “Now get the hell out.”
Reaching up, her lips brushed mine. “I’ll say this for you, Hero. You always knew how to treat a lady.”
I spent the day thinking about Kat, all the big what-ifs going through my head. What if we both started again, fresh. She’d take off now of course, and that’d give me time to close up shop with Lane, and get some things together. Put the house on the market and take an indefinite absence from work. Stress leave, or a faked-out heart condition.
And just fade away.
We could start again, just Kat and I. New town, and leave the bullshit of city life behind. Find a small town in the middle of nowhere, not too small, but big enough for us to both hide in the background. She’d be a waitress, I’d get a job fixing cars or in local law enforcement.
Spend my days handing out parking tickets and warnings to speeders.
It’d be safe for both of us.
Nothing for her to get into, no bikers to hang out with, no drugs to skim and sell.
And maybe, with the money she had, we could take a little vacation, travel around a bit. It’d be almost like a honeymoon.
As I drove to her apartment, I kept my eye in the rearview mirror, and cut through the midday traffic of senior citizens and soccer moms. Nobody seemed interested in me at all.
Getting into her place was easy, my key still fit her lock and everything was right where she said it was. All wrapped up in a bunch of maxipad packages. Each pad was removed, and the plastic wrapper stuffed with cash, then shoved back inside a Kotex box. Leave it to Kat.
I opened a couple wrappers, and peeked inside, counting out ten grand in cash before I stopped. Hefting the Kotex box, I knew there was over a hundred grand in there, maybe close to two, and there were a few more boxes just like that one.
As I stuffed the boxes inside my duffle bag, I figured she could have a cool million all hidden away. If she and I left together, we’d both be set for a very long time.
And, as I eyed the cash, if I left alone, no one would be the wiser. Sure, Kat’d be pissed off, but I was certain she’d catch up with me. Or maybe not, and I’d start over by myself. She’d be up on charges of some kind or another.
It’d be years before she’d get out of jail. I’d be long gone by then.
I shook my head. I couldn’t do that to Kat, screw her over. Not that she’s ever done much for me other than cause me grief, but still. She was Kat. And a big part of me still loved her. That was good enough.
Driving to the Hilton, I kept an eye on the rearview mirror. Caught in the crush of lunchtime traffic, I thought I saw a dark sedan, following behind and keeping a safe distance, but when I tried to turn off, it was gone.
Must be my mind, playing tricks or something.
Parking my car in the hotel lot, I had a moment of indecision. Leave the duffle bag inside the car, or bring it in. Leaving a piece of luggage in the car in this neighbourhood meant it’d be stolen as soon as my back was turned. Stupid punks, out for a smash and grab and looking for an easy laptop or tablet to sell, would get far more than they bargained for.
And yet, I felt a twinge of unease at bringing it in. Incriminating myself somehow. I shook my head, knowing this was stupid. The most normal thing in the world was to bring your luggage inside a hotel.
But as I carried the bag across the parking lot, I still had a bad feeling.
As soon as I entered the hotel lobby, I saw Kat seated at the bar. Guess check-out was a while ago, and she wasn’t going to be sticking around. I stood there watching for a couple moments, and she laughed, a little too loudly, and tossed her hair.
So much for keeping things low key.
Looking up, she caught my eye in the mirror and shook her head, and then laughed again, turning toward the man beside her.
Freaking hell, leave it to Kat to be playing games at a time like this.
Hoisting the duffle bag over my shoulder, I headed over to the bar. She glanced at me in the mirror, and then looked away. Tossed her hair.
Fine, games it is. You never know with Kat.
I walked up beside her, and trailed my fingers over her shoulder. “So, lady, can I buy you a drink?”
“Uh, not right now honey, you see I’m kinda busy.” She laughed again, and caught my eye in the mirror. She was pale, her eyes wide. Oh crap.
Suddenly a firm hand closed on my elbow, a voice low in my ear said, “Sir, if you’ll come with me.”
Kat laughed again, in that crazy way of hers. “Oh, Hero, honey, they got you too.”
Liz McAdams is a short, sharp writer living in the wilds of Canada with a tendency to go way too far over word counts. When she’s not blurring boundaries between genres (sexy bad cop noir romance – hello? what — no aliens?) her work appears in places like Spelk, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle and Yellow Mama, and is soon to appear in the classic horror zine, Black Petals. You can reach Liz at https://lizmcadams.wordpress.com/