Just before daylight, a knock rattles the front door like a branch slapping against her trailer’s tin roof. Lara’s expecting this, but when she opens the door she doesn’t expect Roger. One eye’s swollen shut. Blood oozes from gashes in multiple locations. The hilt of a knife protrudes from his back shoulder. He looks more zombie than human.
Lara knows her husband’s one tough dude. Everybody does. She couldn’t fathom how tough. Taking him down the hallway, he leans his body her, nearly toppling them both.
“What happened, babe?” she asks with genuine fear.
“Got jumped,” he croaks.
She sets him on the dilapidated couch. Both he and the springs groan.
“Want me to call an ambulance?” she asks.
“With what money?”
“Don’t you dare. Ain’t like we have enough problems already. Man, I’m thirsty.”
She comes back with a glass of water. Roger shotguns it like it’s beer. Blood slimes his favorite Dallas Cowboys tumbler.
“Who jumped you?” she asks while pulling a first aid kit and towels out of a nearby closet.
“Two dudes. One had a baseball bat. The other a knife.” He rubs his face, trying to remember details. “I was takin’ a leak outside of Pete’s in the woods like…”
He moans in pain. No need to say like I always do after the bar closes. Those routines and unchangeable habits Lara knows, having tried too many times to change him.
She takes scissors to his ripped FBI (Female Body Inspector) T-shirt. Easier to get to his wounds, plus she’s always hated that shirt.
“You know who they were?”
He shakes his head.
“It was dark and I was…half drunk. Got hit from behind.”
He massages the back of his head. The bat probably ended up with more damage. She counts five stab wounds, not including the knife still protruding out of his back. Could a normal man have endured this assault?
“This is going to sting.”
The antiseptic wipes cause him to yelp and curse, repeatedly. He pounds the stuffing out of a pillow with his fists.
She tapes gauze to some wounds on his ribs. Pulling out the knife, she sees the blade is not long enough to be fatal if used by an amateur.
“What happened next?” she asks.
“After I got walloped?”
“Yep.” She takes a needle and thread to the stabs. This ain’t her first rodeo.
“I run into the woods a bit. Dark in there. Couldn’t see shit. A skinny dude with a knife comes at me and I fended him off. Dude with the bat can’t take a good swing ‘cause of all them branches. I catch his bat. Yank it free and ram him in his throat. Then stomp his head. Knife dude stabs me a bunch of times in the back. So I go after him. An’ chase him down.”
“You kill him too?” Lara manages to ask as her breath escapes her lungs.
He nods. Exhausted more than upset.
After she patches him up and puts him in bed, Roger asks, “Why does bad shit keep happenin’ to me?”
Deer hunting, two months earlier, three shots rang out. Two flew past his head, but the last tore a crease through the top of his shoulder. Mistakes happen when hunting, but not three bullets.
“Don’t know, honey. You seem to be a bad luck magnet.” She squeezes his hand.
“Don’t know what I’d do without you, babe,” he says.
She kisses the top of his forehead. He drifts into sleep with wall-shaking snores.
Walking to the kitchen, Lara takes the deep breath she’s needed ever since she opened the door. She takes out a roll of cash from her robe pocket and stuffs it into the false bottom of a coffee can. Then she grabs a fifth of whisky.
“Fuck,” she whispers.
Two dead bodies in the woods. Calvin and Jeet Harris. Two knucklehead brothers who couldn’t pull off the job and deserved to die. At least she hadn’t paid them the full amount. Four hundred down on a thousand-dollar hit. Insurance pays fifty grand. The idiots were sworn to secrecy. She prays they honored their agreement all the way to their deaths.