Breaking the Chain

by Faith Currie

One spider can come from anywhere. It can blow in on a breeze, ride a robin or fall off a letter carrier’s cuff. 

They found him slumped in a chair with a purply-black hole in his forehead and a dead Fiddler smashed against his palm. A newspaper lay in sections around his feet. The coroner, landlord, and police wore surgical masks against the odor. 

I wasn’t susceptible to odor or venom. But I could guide myself a bit. Fit myself between things like a bridge or a lever. 

I slipped myself behind the hatband of a man who was grateful for that spider. Grateful that the only man who knew his dirty secret was dead. I just slipped myself in there and rode for a bit. Wanted to see where this sumbitch was going. Wanted to see what else he might feel lucky about while he was still breathing.

He stopped to tip his hat to a woman on a porch a few blocks down. The woman’s daughter pressed her teeth together and kept her eyes closed the whole time he stood there even though her face was pointed at the pages of her book. He wouldn’t be ignored though and tipped his hat toward her, too. He said her name. She went inside. Her mother said she didn’t know what could be bothering her. But I knew what could be bothering her. Knew right away. 

I slipped between some grains of sand when he passed a construction lot. I spun so they would cling and then I slipped into some of that red clay mud. I turned and I turned, back and forth from sand to mud. I moved on that man like a hawk on a rat. The headline said he was only the second man in nearly a hundred years to be killed by a dust devil. The story said his face had been abraded clean off. 

This kind always knows another just like himself and I sensed one at the visitation. I marked him as soon as I saw him get out of his car. They give it away. I slipped in between his insurance papers and the passenger side visor and waited for my ride. 

He drank from a bottle in the glovebox before he headed for the highway. It wasn’t three hours before he stopped at the Country Ham Motel. He got a cheap little phone out of the trunk and made a call to discuss an important package, and to negotiate its price and delivery. 

He checked in and knocked back a pint of bourbon whose provenance was commensurate with that of the glovebox liquor. It wasn’t thirty-five minutes before the package knocked. She couldn’t have been a day over seventeen and he called her “Sugar” when he opened the door. I wanted to do him in right then, but a measure of delicacy is called for in some situations. After he recapped what she’d been hired out to do, he tried to cut her short. Claimed he’d been told a lower price. I knew who could take care of this and maybe I could kill two birds with one stone. I slipped into the tumbler and unlocked the room door. Then I slipped into the blinds and rattled them something fierce. I knew it wouldn’t be long. 

The man who banged the door open put one hand on the girl’s back and kept the other one in his jacket pocket. He asked if there was a problem. The man on the bed lied and said she was refusing service. They’d both have to die soon. I’d probably only have to do one myself, though, if I played it right. I got between the girl’s blouse and the hand clutching it and whistle-sliced that thumb all the way down like a bad paper cut. He let go, cussing. I hated to do it but I had to whoosh into the girl’s throat and make her sick. I had the bathroom door locked before she had it shut. I had that lock jammed before her lunch hit the water. 

Our travelling man made a run for it but didn’t make it to the door. Mr. Isthere A. Problem slid his gun back into his jacket and yelled, “Ruby, get your ass out here.” I wrapped around his ankle the moment he took a step. I’m small but I have learned a lot about leverage and he was flat on the floor in two seconds. He didn’t fall at a natural angle, though. He hit his head across the corner of the bureau on his way down. I breezed a few hundred dollars from each man’s pants right under the bathroom door. Ruby was crying and struggling to get out and I felt about as bad for her as I’ve ever felt for anybody but I had to do what I had to do. 

When something like this happens, it’s better if the law arrives while the blood is still wet, still running, and I had learned long before portable phones to slip inside one of these old desk telephones and make that happen. Three cops showed up like clockwork and I stuck around to make sure Ruby wouldn’t need any help with them. For any reason. The female officer promised Ruby they’d get her back to Iowa safely. 

I knew I wasn’t done, though. The chain never ends. Not since it started with my Uncle Kevin ninety-two years ago. One of these men was the next link and would give it away soon. He stepped outside to make a call while the other one took pictures. The way he talked about Ruby to the man he called made me want to do him right there. There’s another link on the other end of the line, though, so I slipped behind his badge and waited for my ride. 

Faith Currie is a writer and artist who lives on a country road somewhere north of Nashville. Her writing table window overlooks a beautiful tree-bordered field with a big sinkhole. A red-bellied woodpecker named David Bowie visits her there.
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