I pulled my late seventies Ford behind a grey sedan. The street was dark, save the lights from the hotel. I killed the engine and watched as Billy climbed out of his jacked up monstrosity of a pickup. He adjusted his pants around his large belly. What my sister saw in this man was beyond me. He looked like a cross between Skipper from Gilligan’s Island and Gomer Pyle; fat and dumber than a box of rocks.
I didn’t plan to spend my weekend following him across three states, but when I came home with a fist full of cash from my last sale of hogs to find a hole in my floor where my safe used to be, I had no other choice but to track his thieving ass down. Billy made a lasting redneck. Casanova impression that made him easier to track down.
He glanced around the parking lot. I held my breath as if the slightest movement of my chest would give me away. Not finding anything, he lumbered his way into the hotel. Releasing the breath I was holding, I reached for the door handle. As soon as he crossed the threshold into the lobby, I popped open the door and hopped onto the wet pavement. The air smelled electric. It was fitting. I snatched the cattle prod off the bench seat and slipped my hand through the rope loop, securing it to my wrist. I wanted him to pay for taking everything I had worked for. The question was could I go through with it?
I didn’t have another choice. The safe not only contained deeds and titles but a pickle jar with my life savings. A year and a half ago, when the bank learned that my property was more valuable than first appraised, payments weren’t applied as they should have leading to numerous foreclosure proceedings. After tiring of the constant threat of losing my home, I made it my mission to pay the farm off. A year and a half of wheeling’ and dealin ‘ I saved enough only to come home and find the safe ripped out and my hopes of owning the farm along with it. Hitting him one or two times with the cattle prod would be cathartic. I spent several hundred miles rehearsing how it would go down. I couldn’t turn back now. I couldn’t afford to turn back.
I took a deep breath to calm myself. I didn’t need to get upset right now. I couldn’t lose my cool and fuck this up. Billy would pay. And I would enjoy every single moment.
My body hummed in anticipation. Soon those electrodes would be right next to his oh-so-delicate man parts. An evil grin spread across my face.
I need to get my head in the game and focus. Just because he’s a stupid redneck doesn’t mean he won’t use his size to gain the advantage.
I’ve watched him toss bales of hay, he would have no problem tossing me. I stepped through the revolving door and came to an abrupt halt. Amid the beauty and luxury of the hotel lobby; a goat and a rather handsome one at that, except that its horns were three times the size of any normal goat and chewed on a cigar. Surprisingly, no one seemed to notice the goat, especially the receptionist. A quirky looking red head typed on a keyboard. Not the pet I would expect Yankees to keep indoors. Different strokes for different folks, I guessed.
“He’s in the lounge,” the receptionist said, her nails clacking on the keyboard.
“Pardon me.” I winced at my thick accent.
“The man you are looking for is in the lounge.”
“How?” my voice trailed off.
The woman tapped her head with a sculpted nail. “Clair Buoyant.”
“Ok, Claire.” I realized this woman is what they call two -biscuits-shy-of-a-picnic. Not that it mattered. It was beyond my comprehension that this woman would help a total stranger but most people who are touched are too trusting. She was giving me vital information. Information that would speed up the recovery of my money. “You wouldn’t want to give me his room number?”
“That is against hotel policy.” she said, “I can get you a room.”
I shook my head. “Won’t be staying that long.”
For a split second she appeared to be lost in thought, then shook her head and continued like nothing ever happened. “Might want to hurry, he’s spiking drinks.” She slid a key onto the counter, shot me a pointed gaze and moved to another terminal, her nails clicking against the keyboard.
“Thank you.” I said as I palmed the key. The key felt heavy in my hands. “Where is,” I didn’t have time to finish my sentence. A familiar loud whoops erupted from down the hall followed by clapping. “Never mind, I think I got it.”
I pivoted and made my way to the lounge. “Oh by the way ,” I said, the receptionist looked up from her computer screen. “Your goat has a glandular problem. You might want to get that checked out?”
She shot me a conspiratorial grin and said, “ Give him hell.”
“I plan on it.”
It wasn’t hard to spot Billy. He was the idiot with his hat pushed back on his forehead, a long neck bottle dangling from his fingers, chatting up a cute blonde in a hot pink tank top. She didn’t look that impressed with his southern charm. But then again, Billy didn’t have much on southern charm. He was more like…. bacon. The underbelly. Only good when it’s dead.
My fingers wrapped around the metal wand of the prod. I wouldn’t have to be close to do it. All I would have to do is walk up, give a little ‘Hiya Billy’ and pull the trigger. Easy- peasey .
My heart thundered in my chest. Do I want to do this?
Yes, I want him to feel the fear, the same fear and desperation I felt when I discovered what he had done. The local cops; they were about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. Something about pursuing over state lines. I was going to get my money and to teach the fucker a lesson. But it wouldn’t put an end to Billy. He would come back to the farm, playing the humble card to my sister, who is pathetic enough to take him back. Now ending his existence, that would solve my problems. Now his absence from this world would be the first step in chlorinating the gene pool. It wouldn’t be that much different from slaughtering hogs. I cringed at the thought. I couldn’t do something like that. What I needed was for him to leave on his own accord and the only way to do that was to put the fear of god into him. Billy was about to have a come-to-Jesus-Meeting.
And I was Jesus.
Billy had his back to the room focused on a petite blonde who was eating up his redneck charms. I made my way around the tables careful to stay in his blind spot. It was too easy. I heard whispers when I opened my duster and pulled the prod out. I was close. I choked on the smell of Aqua Velva wafting off of him.
“Hiya, Billy.” I said trying to configure my face into a pleasing smile.
Drunk horney rednecks have great expressions. Every thought passed through that pea-sized brain lit up his face like a neon sign. His southern redneck charm faded when he saw I was too close and holding cattle prod. He tried to scramble backwards but my arm moved faster than his drunken feet. I jabbed the electrodes into his side and depressed the trigger.
The sound he made was very similar to that of a piglet: sharp and high pitched as he tried to evade the cattle prod. His heel caught on the stool as it scattered across the floor. He scrambled to find purchase on anything that could keep him upright but failed. His head bouncing off the bar sounded like two skillets being rung.
Joy and mirth bubbled from my soul. I clutched my stomach and howled with laughter. I remember onlookers clapping. His squeal played over and over in my head, bringing more gales of laughter. My stomach hurt, tears streamed down my face, I was gasping for breath and sounded like a deranged seal.
One woman shot me a dirty look as she assessed Billy’s vitals. I wiped my eyes and let out a contented sigh. Relief washed over me. The hard part was over.
“Well, he is alive.” She said as she released one of his eyelids.
” Of course he is.” I said I leaned over and slapped his face.
“Wakey wakey, fucker.” I had to stifle a laugh as he blinked.
“You crazy bitch.” he scrambled backwards knocking his head against the chair.
“Need help, Billy?” I took a step forward an extended my hand.
“Don’t touch me.” He swatted my hand away, His voice high with a feminine-like panic quality to it.
I stood back and let him right himself. “Let’s go have a chat Billy.”
“I am not going anywhere with you.” He rubbed the side of his head.
“Don’t be like that Billy.” I tilted my handy-dandy cattle prod up and examined the electrodes. “We really need to chat.” I didn’t let him get the next curse word out before I hit him again with the prod. His body jerked, and he scrambled backwards. Sweat beaded up on his forehead. “How about that chat, Billy ?” I took a step forward ready to juice him again.
“Ok, ok.” He said, his hands held up.
“Good boy, Billy.” I said. “Now, pay your tab and Let’s go chat.”
“We can charge it to his room.”
“Well,” I said turning back to Billy. “You see that. They can charge it to your room. Say thank you Billy.” I raised my cattle prod when he hesitated.
“Thank you, thank you,” he blurted.
“Lead the way.”
We were almost to the room when he decided that he would make a break for it. I jabbed the prod in the middle of his back and pressed the trigger. He squealed. His back arched and then he stumbled forward two steps, grunting through the pain. A third step and his knees wobbled. I pressed the trigger again. On his fourth step he panted. On his fifth he collapsed on the shaggy carpet.
“Dammit, Billy.” I had no way of knowing how long Billy would remain out. I didn’t want to wait for him to come to. I wanted my money, and I wanted to go home, pay the last payment on my place and be left alone. After my little side show in the lounge, it will look like murder when they see me standing over his body with a cattle prod. They would call Barney Fife in a heartbeat.
Kneeling down I placed my fingers along his neck and felt for pulse. “You need to quit drinking. Your gonna end up like your Pappaw,” I murmured after finding a strong pulse. I glanced down the hall. I need to get him into the room. But how?
Billy was six foot four and an easy two twenty. There was no way on God’s green earth I could lug his big ass up to the room. If a had a wheelbarrow then I could have a way. But I don’t think a swanky Yankee hotel has a wheelbarrow stashed somewhere.
The squeal of hinges echoed down the hallway. A heavy metal door swung open. A maid propped open the door and pushed a cart through. I eyed the cart with an idea forming. I could make that work.
“We might be in luck, Billy.” I said moving down the hall. The supply closet was empty. A large metal shelf on the wall filled with enough cleaning chemicals to make a clean freak orgasm. Next to it, a mop bucket nestled under a faucet, a garden hose attached to the spicket .Next to the mop bucket was an appliance cart. A plan formed in my head.
I pulled out the appliance cart and found a roll of duct tape on the top shelf. I took my finds back to Billy and set to work. It only took me thirty minutes to roll the large bastard onto it and tape his arms and legs to the cart.
We stepped out of the elevator on the second floor and was almost to my room when Billy stirred. “Hello Billy, how was your nap?”
He yelled through my homemade, duct tape ball gag. I might have gotten a little tape happy. He was panicking and pulling against the restraints. He tried to throw me off balance by shifting his weight to the side. “Knock it off.” I said as I slapped him upside the head.
Finding the room I tipped the cart upright, Billy squealed through his gag. I unlocked the door propped it open and then stepped out into the hall to retrieve Billy.
Suddenly my vision blurred and pain erupted from the back of my head. The last thing I remember was seeing Billy’s panic-stricken face as I lost consciousness.
I don’t know how much time had passed. My throat was raw and swollen. The room was darker than before and the curtains were drawn .I flexed my shoulders trying to rid them of the ache.
Without drawing attention to my movement I raised my head and peered through my lashes, scanning the room. Billy still bound to the utility cart, his head slumped over, drool accumulating in the corner of his mouth.
“Have a nice nap?” Two men in suits, one sat casually in the chair. Ice-blue eyes, chiseled features, dark hair tousled just enough to give him that sexy hands-through-hair look. He was your basic pretty boy with an arrogant glint to his eye. The other loomed in a tall back chair in the opposite corner. His broad shoulders seemed weighted down with a dark vibe that spoke of twisted evil and a way to make a body feel pain. Both wore suits that had a sheen to them giving the boys a cheap, sleazy appearance.
“Nice work.” Pretty boy nodding towards Billy. “Where did you find him?
“Considering he smells like a distillery, I’d say in a bar.” My smart ass knows that my mouth has gotten me into a mess load of trouble. I clenched my fists to hide how bad they shook.
“You don’t strike me as a woman that has to resort to such,” his voice trailed off as he surveyed my duct tape job. “Tactics to gain a man’s attention.” He chuckled and shot his friend a knowing glance.
“I hit a dry streak.” I said shrugging my shoulders. “But it appears my luck has changed. Three for the effort of one. Yay me,” I deadpanned. It was my go to, my modus operandi when scared shitless—act like a crazy bitch. I wish it were different but even with my life on the line I couldn’t seem to keep my mouth shut
Pretty boy quirked an eyebrow. His companion snorted and pushed off the wall pulling a small white vial out of his breast pocket. He snapped it in his fingers and waved it under Billy’s nose.
I was the first thing that Billy laid eyes on when he came to. Unadulterated rage painted his face in hues of puce and burgundy. He spat and puttered like one of them Pentecostal church goers speaking in tongues. He struggled against the duct tape, spittle dripping from his lower lip. I looked away; spit always made me gag.
At least the duct tape was holding. When Pretty Boy had enough of Billy’s lamenting he gave Lurch a short nod and Billy was silenced with a punch to the nose. The sickening sound of Billy’s nose breaking echoed around the hotel room. Blood poured from his nose and ran down his white shirt.
“You fucking bitch,” he squealed.
“This isn’t the situation you imagine there fuck face” I said as I held my zip tied hands up for Billy to see. Blood poured from his nose. “Shut up you.”
“William Robert Holten,” Pretty boy said, interrupting our banter. “I had some disturbing news today.” He pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his breast pocket and tapped one out. “Morton delivery was three cases shy.” He put the cigarette in his mouth. “You wouldn’t know anything about that would you?” He flicked his zippo and lit his cigarette.
My head snapped to Billy. Fear over took his expression “I know nothin’ about no missing cases,” he said.
“Oh, I think you do.” Pretty boy stabbed his cigarette into the clear glass ashtray. He rose from his chair. As he passed the end of the bed, his foot hit something solid. Curious, pretty boy pulled the bedspread up to reveal my two foot sealed safe. The fucker couldn’t break into it. “What is this William?”
“That’s mine.” The goons turned toward me. “That’s my safe. He stole it.”
Pretty boy’s eyes raised. “How do you two know each other?”
“She is my sister-in-law. It’s money she owed me.”
“Owed you?” I wanted to feel his testicles pop under my boot heel. “You are useless as tits on a bull. In what delusion do I owe you money? You live in my house, eat my food.”
“And fuck your sister.” He sneered.
“Do you mind shutting him up?” I snapped at pretty boy who gave Lurch a short nod. Lurch pulled out a pistol and jacked a shell into the chamber. I tried my best to keep the shock off my face as he pressed it to Billy’s temple. I turned my attention to pretty boy. “Look the safe is mine. I tracked him down.” I took a deep breath and plunged forward. “Give me my safe and you can keep shit for brains.”
“Please let me take my safe and go.” pretty boy mocked. “I do not understand the culture around here.” He cast a quick glance to his partner. “Where I come from we embrace family. Family sticks together.”
“That man is not my blood,” I seethed. ” He should have been swallowed .”
Pretty boy snickered as he stooped and pulled out the safe and placed it on the table. “I am assuming you know how to open this?”
What kind of bullshit question is that? No Mr. Thug man, I put my valuables in a safe but have no fucking idea how to operate it. Were all men this fucking stupid? I didn’t bother to answer his question. I believe the look on my face told him enough.
“Let see what’s in the safe, shall we?”
Without my money, I will be under the bank’s thumb. These men weren’t some redneck hicks upset over a payday loan. These were professionals, equipped with guns and a vast knowledge of how to end a human life. Right now the only thing that should concern me is shutting the hell up and getting out of this alive. But I needed that money.
“I am sorry for this turn of events.” Pretty boy said moving back to his perch. He lit another cigarette “While I sense an entertaining story, I am short on time and patience. If you please?” He gestured to the safe.
“Hold up there, pretty boy. I am a completely separate issue. I did not know, nor do I condone whatever the fuck this mother fucker has done. My life savings is in that safe.” My voice cracked.
“I understand your loss,” he mocked covering his heart with his hand.
Everything I’d worked for, all the blood, sweat, and tears, pinching pennies so much they screamed, all of it was gone with the wind. My ears felt hot as my blood roared in my veins. White hot vicious anger pulled in my chest. I channeled the woman I most admired. Scarlett O’Hara. She did anything and everything to protect Tara. In that moment, I was saving my Tara. I was about to give these motherfuckers good dose of southern redneck hospitality.
“Suellen, please.” Billy whimpered. “Let them take it. I’ll make it up to you.” Billy gave me the perfect out. I eyed the cattle prod forgotten on the bed. Thank you Billy .
I nodded, hoping that I was conveying the right amount of defeat.
I burst from the chair, my joined fists hitting Lurch under the chin, snapping his head back. I yanked my hands to my sides, the plastic ties dug into the tender flesh of my wrist before they snapped. With my hands free, I scrambled over the bed, grabbing the prod and thrust it into Lurches side. He fell back, knocking the lamp off the end stand.
I turned to pretty boy and jabbed the prod at him. He ducked to the side and pulled a gun from the small of his back. At the sight of the gun I dropped to the ground just as the gun went off. My ears rang. I took inventory of my body—no holes. My wrists were sore from breaking the zip ties but nothing else seemed wrong. I tilted my head to the side to see Billy’s head hanging to the side a large red stain spreading across his chest.
I don’t know what came over me in that moment. I hated this man for marrying my sister. I hated him for being a waste of human space. I hated that he was even part of the human gene pool. This man I have hated with such passion was dead. It was what I wanted. Him. Dead.
But I didn’t.
” You son-of a-” Like a demon possessed, I charged. he let out a surprised grunt as I tackled him to the floor. I flung the prod wildly ,zapping him in the side of the head and neck. His high-pitched screams fueled my rage as I plunged the prod into his sides repeatedly. My fun was cut short when large muscular arms encircled my waist and pulled me up.
“Put the lightning stick down, little girl.” Unable to give up, I pinwheeled my arms and legs catching a vital part of his anatomy. His grasp around my waist released, and I twisted as I fell, jabbing the prod into his groin. He growled as he flinched away from the prod. He scrambled backwards his foot catching on the crumpled bed spread. He fell like a sack of taters, a sickening crack filled the room as his head collided with the utility cart.
One down. One to go.
I spun around, my prod at the ready.
“It would be a shame for you to have to meet the same end.” Pretty boy leveled the gun on me. “Put the stick down and open the mother fucking safe.” He moved his arm to the side and shot the lamp in the corner. “Now.”
My ears rang. I dropped the prod. Tears welling in my eyes. I had failed. There was no way in hell he would let me keep the contents of my safe. And I would rather be dead than go back and be indebted to the Boomers for the rest of my life. He pointed the gun back at me.
A sob bubbled from my chest as I moved to the safe. My vision blurred as I spun the dial three times and landed on the first number. I failed. What did I do to deserve to lose everything I have ever worked for? The door was only a few feet to my left. I could give him my life savings and live or die trying.
Someone in the universe was looking out for me. It could have been my Great Aunt Edna for all I know. The latch clicked and as if the safe handle was the light switch, the room plunged into darkness.
It was Divine intervention.
“Don’t fucking move,” Pretty boy growled.
His uneven step brought me joy to know that I got my licks in where I could. He moved past me and opened the door. Emergency lights in the hallway shined dimly , Pretty boy’s silhouette outlined . He peered up and down the hallway.
I reached inside the safe. My heart thudded in my chest as my fingers contacted the cold glass of my pickle jar. I pulled it out of the safe and tucked it under my arm, my eyes not leaving Pretty boys figure.
Cradling my pickle jar like a football I sprinted down the hallway and threw my shoulder into Pretty boys back. He stumbled into the hall hitting the wall. I hooked the door frame, redirecting my momentum down the hallway. Gunshots rang out as I rounded the corner toward the exit sign. My legs ached, my breath came in gasps. I was almost there. I hit the metal door with a thunk and pushed it open. The stairwell only had a small light below marking my next exit. With a firm grip on the rail I made my way down the stairs, stumbled around the corner and down the next flight to another metal door.
I burst through the door to see the lobby was crowded with people. If pretty boy made it down the stairs, he would lose me in this crowd. I didn’t slow down. I wove in and out of the crowd until I made my way through the revolving door. The city streets were still wet, the smell of summer rain in the air. Clutching my pickle jar I raced across the street and down the block to my truck. I opened the door and climbed inside, relief prickling my spine.
My hands were shaking so hard I couldn’t put the key into the ignition. My truck roared to life. I did it. I fucking did it. I slipped it into gear and stomped on the gas. I rounded the corner and headed toward home, letting out a victory whoop as the hotel disappeared behind me.