Crime Suspense Fiction

An explosion filled his ears. His chest burned as a dark shade began to fall over his blurring vision. He felt no surprise, only a curious confusion: this wasn’t meant to happen. It was all backwards.

“Sorry, Nate.” Karyn spoke the words as she pulled the trigger, and there might indeed have been sorrow in her voice. But for what? They had won, hadn’t they? Erik was dead, the money was theirs, happily ever after beckoned. Why had she turned the gun on him?

Somehow during his tumble into death, he had time to watch it all again: Erik clutching the bag of cash to his chest, flashing his maniac grin, speaking his final words. “Nate gave us a wedding gift, kitten. Now give him his reward so we can go.”

Damn him! He’d never meant to split the money. He’d promised Nate a third share of the take for a full share of the risk, but it had been a lie. That was Erik, all lie, all six-foot three of him, every sun-gold hair on that movie-star face of his, every gleam from his leering smile. Nate held his breath, his only hope that Karyn had broken free of her chains.

She opened her purse and brought out her thirty-eight, a weapon that looked too heavy for her delicate hands, too evil for her angelic smile. But she was a dark angel, her face framed in raven curls, her eyes calculating, her heart locked carefully away. When first they met, Nate thought her bound to Erik by love, but it wasn’t that. He never learned what, only that she hated him, hated his conceit and deceit, hated his gloating, hated his pet name for her. Most of all, she hated her enslavement to him. She saw in Nate her escape.

Or so he thought. Maybe in her mind, had he only offered a trade, one master for another.

“Nate’s reward,” she said and shot Erik through the heart, right through the bag of money, and as his grin morphed into befuddlement, her lover and tormentor hit the floor with a thud while flecks of green fluttered down like toxic snow.

The money wasn’t meant to get shot. Nate thought that only after she turned the gun on him. Both he and the money were meant for better things.

“We’ll have enough,” he’d told Karyn three days before. Erik was out casing their next target, their fifth and final bank, and they were alone on a ratty brown sofa in the trailer he was renting under a stolen identity. Halfway to nowhere, the trailer nestled beside a babbling stream in a small valley, hidden from view, neighborless, anonymous. Not even the post office could find it.

“Where do we go?” she asked. “What happens when they find him dead?”

“Nobody knows about us. We don’t exist in Erik’s world. Hell, Erik almost doesn’t exist.” He took her into his arms and kissed her forehead. “We’ll go west. Montana, Idaho, someplace isolated. For a year or two, at least. We’ll be safe. And happy.”

She nestled against him and said nothing, her smile signaling content, her eyes hiding turmoil.

Their treason had grown from a seed planted by Erik himself only a week before. “We can pull one more job,” he told them that night over soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. “But that’s it. Then it’s over. Descriptions of us are starting to circulate.”

“How?” Karyn asked.

How indeed? They’d been careful, hitting only small banks in scattered locations, wearing masks and hoods and nondescript clothing, speaking little, grabbing drawer cash and getting out with practiced efficiency. Four robberies in two months, nothing overwhelming, but they’d amassed a good haul.

Erik didn’t answer her. She might not have existed.

“So what do we do?” Nate asked.

“Split up. You your way, me and kitten ours.” He ran a finger over Karyn’s cheek. “You don’t see us again, we don’t see you again. And no more bank jobs by any of us, ever. Deal?”


They both looked at Karyn. “Sure,” she said without interest and slurped up a spoonful of soup.

In that moment, Nate determined to rid her of Erik.

Nate knew her mind, after all, or thought he did. Her feelings had betrayed her prior to their third job. Leaving for his recon, Erik pulled her into a kiss and stroked her cheek and said, “Don’t worry, kitten, I always come back.” Anger smoldered in her eyes as he left.  Once he was away, she said to the window, “Someday, I’ll be free of him.”

She might not have meant Nate to hear, but there it was, and he came to her side and watched the stream ripple and worked up the courage to ask, “Who will you be with then?” Say me, he pleaded in silence. Say me.

She didn’t say it, but she smiled at the trees, so he dared to put an arm around her, and she slowly leaned into him.

It was an answer too wonderful to be hoped for, although he had hoped for it from the day he met her. Erik had spotted Nate pilfering from a kiosk in a shopping mall, made contact, and proposed a partnership. “You, me, and my woman,” he had said with that grin of his. “I’ve always wanted to pull a bank job. Together, we can do it.”

Crazy talk, but Erik insisted, and he was infectious. Nate agreed to meet. When he got to their apartment, Karyn answered the door, and for a moment he stood gaping in her presence. He felt a fool, but she just smiled and ushered him in. They talked long into the night—Nate and Erik did; Karyn said nothing—and worked out Erik’s ideas. They agreed on methods and how to split the take, and Nate slept on the couch while Erik and Karyn retired to their bedroom and made noise. In the morning, Nate woke to find Karyn standing over him in a pale blue nightgown, bruises on her left calf and right forearm, holding out a cup of coffee.

“I’m glad you’re here,” she said quietly, and Nate knew his life was about to change, for he had already fallen for her and she needed help. But what manner of change? He sat and accepted the cup from her, hoping she wanted the same change as he. Her smile said she did. Her eyes . . . they must have meant otherwise.

April 15, 2021 17:09

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