A Dish Served Cold

03/20/23

The breakfast rush was over, and I was taking a coffee break at an empty table. As I considered a change to the menu, I recognized the customer at the next table. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen Roger for over ten years. I would never forget the face of the man who had destroyed my family.

My sister Ashley was five years older than me, and at sixteen, she had fallen in love. She begged me to keep it a secret.

“He’s older than me.” She grabbed my hand. “You’re too young to understand. But momma’d pitch a fit if she knew.”

I only saw him once, when he picked her up after school. He looked a lot like the photos of our father, who walked out on us when I was starting kindergarten.

Returning home from school one day, I went into the bedroom Ashley and I shared. There was a note on the dresser. “He said he’d leave his wife, but he lied and broke my heart. Don’t open the closet.” I was eleven so of course I opened the door. The closet was big, so big it had enough room for Ashley to hang herself from a rod using a belt fastened around her neck.

Momma held on long enough to see me graduate high school, but Ashley’s death had broken her. I wasn’t surprised when I lost her to an overdose of sleeping pills.

The memories sickened me, but I forced myself to smile over at Roger and ask, “Can I help you?”

He was easy to seduce. After all, I was his type. Younger than him. A lot younger. He must’ve been past 40 now, so my 22 would be in his sights. His pretty boy looks had faded, and the paunch hanging over his waistband spoke of too many beers. He agreed to meet after I closed the café at the end of the day. Roger said his name was Brad. That was his first lie, followed by the second, that he was from out of town. The third was that he was single. He seemed to have forgotten he was still wearing a wedding ring.

“Brad” arrived right on time. From his eager smile, I guessed he wasn’t used to getting lucky anymore. He told me to follow him in my own car, which was perfect for my plan. After making sure I had everything in my purse I needed, I followed him to a rundown budget motel just outside town.

When we walked into the room, he grabbed me but I pushed him away. “Slow down, big boy. How about if you get ready for me while I get undressed?”

He wasn’t happy, but he let me disappear into the bathroom. I waited a few minutes. “Shut your eyes, darlin’ and get ready for a big surprise.”

When I walked into the dimly lit room, he was lying naked on his back on the bed, his eyes shut.

“Now no peeking.” I moved next to the bed. “You can open your eyes now.” He looked from my face to the barrel of the gun I pointed at him. “This is for my sister Ashley. Remember her?”

He held up his hands. Fool. Did he think they’d stop a bullet? I waited as he stared at me until I saw the moment of recognition I needed.

“Please don’t. It didn’t mean anything.”

“Maybe not to you. But it killed my sister.”

I pulled the trigger on the gun I had hidden in my purse when I took it from under the counter in the café. Watching the blood seep from the wound near his heart, I was grateful a gunshot wouldn’t attract attention in a dump like this.

You could say I got away with murder. I prefer to look at it as getting away with justice. I was just sorry it had taken so long for me to be able to do this for Ashley. What is it they say? Revenge is a dish best served cold? They’re right.

~ fin ~

Wendy Harrison author photo

Wendy Harrison is a retired prosecutor who turned to short mystery fiction during the pandemic. Her stories have been published in numerous anthologies including Peace, Love & Crime, Autumn Noir, CRIMEUCOPIA: Tales from the Back Porch, The Big Fang, Gargoylicon, and Death of a Bad Neighbour. She lives in Florida with her first-reader husband Brooks and their Shepherd mix, Cooper.