Delta Blues


Juliet chain-smoked by the open window, her naked body sheened with sweat and silhouetted by the red neon of the ‘No Vacancy’ sign on the wall outside, the cherry-colored light accentuating her curves, my memory filling in the details.

The coal of her cigarette flared as she inhaled. “Everybody dies,” she said, answering a question neither of us asked.

I turned my head. I knew if I stared at her any longer I would never be able to look away. I lay back on the bed and closed my eyes. It didn’t do any good. I could still see her in my mind; feel her pounding through me like a coke-high.

“But not like that,” I said and looked up at the celling fan, the slow chop of its blades struggling to stir the heavy air. Running had been my idea. Memphis had been hers. Paulie, for his part, never had an idea worth a damn.

Juliet sighed as if this life had been a big disappointment for her, the sound leaving her on a plume of dirty smoke. Cancer never looked so good.

“Mostly people get what they deserve,” she said, sending the ash from her cigarette tumbling to the floor with all the fucked up philosophy she could cram into a single tap of her finger. “You didn’t know him like I did.”

It sounded like she was trying to convince herself, not me. Paulie was her brother after all, not mine. I waited for her to continue, but she turned away, gazing out of the window and losing herself in the melancholy notes of a twelve-bar heartbreak drifting up from the honky-tonk across the street.

Paulie hadn’t been much of a brother. He had been two-bit grifter with a needle habit. I liked him well enough when he was alive, although I can’t say I cared much now that he was dead. It wasn’t like he was ever going to see thirty anyway. What troubled me was how he came to be dead in our hotel room; smeared over the bathroom tiles with all the enthusiasm of a second grade art project. We were 400 miles from KC. There was no way they could have found us, not without help.

“I can’t believe Paulie sold us out.”

“You didn’t know him like I did,” she repeated. “You run with a junkie and there’s no such thing as a clean get away.”

“You really think he gave us up for money, your own brother?”

“You still think it matters?”

Juliet crushed out her smoke on the window ledge, the smoldering butt joining half a dozen others there. All of them burnt to nothing by the soft caress of her lips. I had burned too, destroyed by the heat of her touch. She turned, her dark hair falling across her face the same way it did when we made love, only Juliet didn’t really make love; Juliet just made you hers.

Beyond her I heard the growl of a flat six turn to a contented idle in the street outside. Car doors slammed, boots scraped on the sidewalk.

“They’re here,” she said moving back into the shadows.

“How many?”


Juliet hurried over to the bed, bent down and kissed me, her mouth lingering on mine as she slipped her hand behind my head and pulled the.45 from under the pillow. The sharp tang of gun oil mixed with her perfume and I wondered if this was what love smelled like.

“We could still run,” I said, the bitter sweet taste of her on my tongue urging me to believe my own lie.

“We wouldn’t make it two blocks.”

She positioned herself facing the door, pistol in her hand and naked as the day she was born. I went and stood beside her, thumbing open the cut throat razor that I had found in the sink, along with some pieces of Paulie. Footsteps stole over the bare floor boards in the corridor, a shadow fell across the spill of light seeping under the door.

“So this is how it ends, huh?”

She smiled and worked the slide on the gun. “Everybody dies, baby.”

~ fin ~

Chris Leek is a contributing editor at western fiction site, The Big Adios and part of the team behind the genre fiction imprint, Zelmer Pulp.  His crime novella “Nevada Thunder” is forthcoming from Snubnose Press and his western novella "Gospel of the Bullet" will be out soon through Zelmer Pulp. He still has all his own teeth and will work for beer.