Either Frank didn’t know the gutshot was a death sentence or he simply didn’t care. All I knew was he was the only one who could tell me where Marla was, so I was going to humor him until he gave it up.
“When you and me get this sorted out, me ’n Marla are gonna go to Florida,” he said weakly. “Maybe we’ll open a restaurant.”
I wanted to ask him if he was really that clueless, if he thought my sister would really have anything to do with the scum who had broken into her apartment and taken her by force. He’d already given me the tired line about how he’d always really been in love with Marla, not my mom, how he couldn’t hide his passion any more. Instead, I tried to draw him out.
“I’m sure the cops will be here soon, and we’ll just explain that it was a big misunderstanding,” I said, hoping he didn’t fixate too much on the gun I had leveled at his head to match the one he had pointed at mine. “We’ll clear things up and move on. You can go get Marla…” I let the sentence drag, hoping he’d finish with “at Duke’s pad” or “at the Super 8 on Rockland.”
Nope. He just nodded, as if responding to another conversation. Then, his eyes seemed to focus on me.
“Why’d you shoot me, Ricky?”
I had always hated that. I hadn’t been Ricky since I was 12 and he knew it, but he also knew he could use it like salt in a wound when he needed it. Good old Uncle Frank, who, thank God, was no blood relation He had been my father’s best friend, the guy who moved in on my mom when the old man kicked it four years ago.
“I told you, I didn’t realize it was you, Frank,” I lied again. “I thought maybe you were in trouble. I was looking for Marla and thought she might be here. When I came in all I saw was the gun and I panicked.” Really, rage pulled the trigger, overpowering my desire to learn where Marla was. I was glad rage had bad aim.
He was lying in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen of his little flop house. He’d kept it all these years even though he had pretty much lived at our place as a sort of fix-it guy/guardian until a couple of days ago when he revealed to everyone that he was in love with Marla. I had rushed around the dinner table to grab him by the collar and drag him out of the apartment. I gave him a kick in the ass as I shoved him out the door, hearing Marla and mom begin to scream at each other as I did. Marla ran off that night. I know she made it home because her neighbors said she had been there.
I was just inside Frank’s front door, sitting with my back against the wall. I’d kicked in the door, hoping to get the drop on him. He’d come out of the kitchen with the gun drawn and I’d fired, catching him in the stomach. He’d dropped to the floor, but tough bastard that he was, he never lowered his piece. We’d been at a stalemate for about 10 minutes, a pool of his blood seeping slowly across the floor.
“She loves me, you know,” Frank said. “Your sister, Ricky, she always did.”
I couldn’t contain myself. “What do you mean, ‘always’? She was 15 when you moved in! And what about now? Her place was a mess when I stopped by today. It looked like a crime scene. Her neighbors said they heard a bunch of banging around and then the two of you running to your car. How do you explain that?”
“Everything isn’t what it seems, Ricky,” he said, his gaze glazing over as he seemed to stare off into the distance again, distracted by the pain or something else. I saw it as my only opening and lunged across the room. He reacted too late, his shot sailing wide of me to hit the living room wall. I kicked at his hand, sending the gun clattering across the floor, and pushed him onto his back. I dropped one knee onto the wound in his stomach, causing him to cry out in pain, and pointed my gun at his forehead.
“Where is she you son of a bitch? Where is my sister?”
From behind me I heard the front door shut and a metallic scrape as Frank’s gun was picked up from off the hardwood.
“I’m right here, Ricky. Get off my man or I’ll blow your head off.”
BIO: John Kenyon is a newspaper editor in Iowa who keeps the blog Things I'd Rather Be Doing (www.tirbd.com) where he writes about music, books and movies, with a particular focus on crime fiction. He has published stories with Thuglit and Muzzle Flash, with a story forthcoming in Demolition.