“Look Frank, I don’t like this at all,” Joey said. “I mean, what the hell did she do anyway?”
Frank was so tall and gangly he had to bend over to wrap his hand around the girl’s neck. His fingers hugged her like a noose, but the girl didn’t seem to care. She stared off toward the trees on the other side of the field. Her eyes followed the limbs as they swayed in the breeze.
“It doesn’t matter. Sallie says the girl has to die. He says, take her out here and put a bullet in her head. Do you see me asking why? No. Let’s just put a bullet in her head and go get a steak sandwich or something.”
“Frank, I can’t do this. Let the girl go.” Joey pulled his Glock and leveled it at Frank’s head.
“What the hell is this? Five years we’ve worked together and you all the sudden realize you’re on the wrong team.”
Joey took a step toward Frank. His right hand locked the sights of the Glock on Frank’s head, and his left slowly extended out to the girl. He was steady. He had the situation in hand. He was done following twisted orders. Running drugs and roughing up marks was one thing, but killing little girls was so far over the line.
“Okay Frank. Let her go, and we’ll just drive away.”
“Hey, hey, alright,” said Frank. He waved his hand in a grand motion over at the SUV as he tightened his grip on the girl’s neck. “Look, you just sit in the car. Relax. Listen to some talk radio or something. I’ll take blondie here out behind that barn and do the deed. Next time we gotta take out some fat old bastard, you can have the honors. Just put the gun down and let me handle this.”
“Nope. Can’t do it,” Joey said. “Give me the girl. There is a line in the sand Frank. You’re on the wrong side of it.”
“Ah, Jesus Joey. Ok. You win. Take the little bitch.”
Frank threw the girl to the ground at Joey’s feet. The bullet slammed into Joey’s chest before he even realized that Frank had drawn his gun. As the girl hit the ground, Joey’s knees gave out, and he tumbled back onto the dirt road.
Frank kneeled down next to his ex-partner and shoved his index finger into the nine millimeter hole in Joey’s chest. He tapped the barrel of his gun against Joey’s head to get his attention. “Joey, you’re gonna want to stick your finger in here and stop your lung from collapsing. It might get you a few more minutes before you drown in your own blood. I’m thinking the bullet is probably just nestled in there next to all the tar from those cigarettes you smoke.”
Frank pulled his finger out of the wound. It made a noticeable popping sound. He pulled the Glock out of Joey’s hand and tossed it aside.
“Joey, ya dumb prick. When you want to stop somebody you gotta pull the damn trigger. Waving a gun around while making demands and such, just don’t cut it. You want to put a stop to something, you pull the trigger. Did you see how I pulled the trigger before I even showed you the gun? That’s how it’s done.”
Frank turned his head to the left, and saw the girl had taken off for the woods. The top of her hair could be seen bobbing along in the tall grass as she made a break for the tree line.
“Hey Joey, I always liked you, you know. But, hey, Sallie says kill the girl, I kill the girl. I gotta go out of my way to kill the girl, I go outta my way. I gotta shoot you to kill the girl, I shoot you. That’s how it works. So, you know, no hard feelings.”
Frank noticed that Joey was covering up the wound with his hand. “Joey, it doesn’t help to just sort of hold your hand there. You gotta jamb a finger in the hole. Here, let me do it for you.” Frank grabbed Joey’s index finger and shoved it into the hole in his chest.
“Hey, if you haven’t died already when I get back from this girl, I’m gonna pop you one in the head. Do yourself a favor and think of the Holy Mother Mary. You’re Catholic like me right? Yeah, you are. You think of the Holy Virgin Mother of the Baby Jesus when I pop you in the head, and it’s straight to heaven. It’s a sure thing. You remember that from Catechism class? I paid attention to the short cuts.”
Frank stood up and looked out over the field. The girl had almost reached the tree line. He began to walk after her at a pace that would let his long legs catch up to her in no time. “Hey Blondie! Sal says you gotta die!”
* * *
She got a blue ribbon in second grade. That meant she was fast. None of the other girls got a blue ribbon. Nicky got a red ribbon for second place, but that didn’t mean nothing, cause second place was way back with all the other girls. She got a blue ribbon because she was fast.
The grass was wet and way taller than the grass in her yard or on the playground at school. It kept slapping her in the face, and sometimes it hurt really bad. It ripped at her dress and tore at her arms as she ran through the grass. But she had to run because the man with the smelly hands was coming after her.
The trees were right in front of her, and they looked just like the trees that were behind her house. She just knew that if she could make it through those trees, she could run up her back porch, open the door to the kitchen and her Mom would be there making dinner. It had to be dinner time, cause the man with the smelly hands made her miss lunch at school. It was pizza day too.
Her foot went deep into the mud and her good white sock with the lace got all brown, and her shoe disappeared into the muck. She kept running. She didn’t like wearing shoes anyway, and the ground was squishy, and there weren’t any rocks anyway.
She slapped away the limbs of the shrubby bushes that were thick where the trees started. She slipped down under them, and crawled through like a rabbit. The tall man had caught up by then, but he couldn’t get through the thicket of vines. When she looked back she could see him pulling at the vines and trying to get through, but she was all the way through now, and the vines didn’t grow as thick under the trees, so she started to run again. Run as fast as you can and don’t look back. That’s how she won her blue ribbon. That’s what Mom told her. Run as fast as you can, and don’t look back.
* * *
Frank pushed his way through the briars. He wasn’t dressed for going off trail in the woods, and his linen jacket was ripped clean through along both sleeves. Drops of blood seeped through the jacket. It would definitely need to be replaced.
He entered the shade of the pine trees. It was obviously a planted pine orchard. Straight trunks stretched off in rows as far as the eye could see, all of them destined to fill the rows of treated lumber at some big box hardware store. The canopy didn’t let in enough light for underbrush to survive.
Frank saw the girl a little ways ahead of where he stood. Her white dress was streaked with grass stains, and she’d lost a shoe. She was running fast. She probably had a future in the Olympics in some other parallel universe where she didn’t end up flopping face forward into the pine needles after Frank put two bullets in her back.
His gun lined up neatly between his eye and the girl’s back.
Twin gunshots rang out amongst the pines.
Frank slowly lowered his gun to his side, and let it slip through his fingers. It fell to the ground with a dull thud. He reached up and slipped his hand over his chest. It came away covered in blood. He went down on one knee, and then rolled down into the pine needles. He could see rays of light piercing the pine boughs over him.
Joey stumbled close and leaned over Frank. Then he knelt down beside him and examined his shot placement. Two holes. Center mass. Frank was trying desperately to cover the wounds, but his hands shook badly, and it was obvious Frank was losing motor control due to shock.
“Frank,” Joey said. “You may have paid attention in Sunday school, but you should have done a little more research into anatomy. I let the lung collapse. That way I didn’t drown on my own blood. Luckily for me, you only put a hole though one of my lungs. Unfortunately for you, I put a bullet in each of yours. Looks like they went clean through too.”
“I can probably go another hour or so before finding a doctor willing to fix this on the sly. You’ve got about another minute before you face your maker Frank. By the way, you’re wrong about Mary too. There are no shortcuts.”
Frank’s body shook for a few moments then stopped all together. Joey reached down and closed his eyes. He looked up and saw the girl running away through the woods. Straight as an arrow, she flew through the pines and didn’t look back. Joey knew the far side of this property butted up against a local Elementary School. She was sure to find help there.
Matt Broadway is the staff writer and web marketing guru for Stag’s Head Brewing in Western North Carolina. BLUE RIBBONS AND TWIN GUNSHOTS is his debut in the world of published fiction. A recently completed crime fiction novel is currently in the editing process.