By 12:30 am, the light in the hotel room had still not gone out. Wayne Thorton had never been a patient man, and the revolver in his coat pocket had turned into a ticking bomb. He should have been drunk for this. Oh well. Time to shit or get off the pot. He exited the truck, bracing himself against the swirling January cold, and tramped through the snow-filled parking lot to the door of room 109.

His hand hovered over the knob. Inside, he could hear a man and a woman talking, but the howling wind turned their conversation into murmurs.

“Fuck it.”

He gripped the knob. It was a hot coal in his bare hand. Some of his lost composure was restored upon finding the door to be unlocked.

At least it was the right room.

Laura and Mr. Darby were in bed. Mr. Darby was on his side, shirtless, the blanket pulled up to his waist, and his hairy back to the door. Laura was sitting against the headboard, her pudgy arms crossed over her enormous black bra. They both recoiled from the cold air that blew in. Wayne judged there would be problems by the fact that she was crying.

Closing the door, Wayne pointed the revolver at Mr. Darby. His eyes darted between Laura and her husband. Not knowing what to say, he said, “What’s going on?”

Mr. Darby got out of bed and stood there naked. His cock looked small and incapable, but the body that owned it was stocky and muscular, despite a sagging belly.

When he found his words, he said, “What the fuck?” His bewilderment eclipsed the anger underneath. “Who the fuck are you?”

Wayne’s heart was dancing the conga. His eyes settled on Laura. “So . . . do I shoot him now?”

“What the fuck?” Mr. Darby repeated, savoring each syllable.

Bewilderment gave way to recognition, and Mr. Darby looked at his wife. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. ‘Let’s get a hotel room, let’s spice things up.’ Whole thing was a plan to have me whacked. You fucking bitch.”

The revolver shook in Wayne’s hand. All his mental preparation had gone out the door with the warmth in the room, and the prospect of what lay before him towered like a monolith.

“Shut the fuck up, ok, will you? Laura?” Wayne’s voice went up and down like a skiff in a storm.

Laura looked as prepared as Wayne felt. “I . . . Don’t kill him,” she said finally, her teary face making that monolith grow ever higher.

Fucking women, Wayne thought, changing their minds last minute. “But you said—”

Mr. Darby charged into him.

Wayne lost his balance, stumbled, and fell against the wall. The revolver went off. Mr. Darby was on top of him, trying for the gun. When Wayne’s grip proved resolute, Mr. Darby reconsidered, regained his feet and escaped through the door. Apparently big men could have small courage.

The next thing Wayne saw was Laura inspecting the smoking hole in her neck with tepid fingers. Blood began to pour out of the hole and her hand clasped the wound, her mouth frozen in a gape.

“Oh Jesus Christ,” Wayne said. “Oh Jesus, oh Jesus, oh Jesus.”

He rushed over to the woman he’d been fucking for the past six months. Her face looked anemic in the lamplight. She was breathing rapidly, and shivering.

He had visions of prison, of a life in shambles. The floor dropped out from under him, and he sat down. He felt lightheaded and the world spun. Whatever rationality he had been clinging to abandoned him.

He put the revolver in his mouth.

The next day, Sheriff Bouffant told his deputy about Wayne Thorton while trying not to spit his coffee.

“So, the fellow that the gal convinced to kill her man, he ends up shooting her. It’s a glance shot off the radiator. The guilt proves too much, so this fellow shoots himself. The man, who’d run outside naked, he hears the second shot. Comes back in. He gets the gal to the hospital. She lives. He forgives her. God only knows why.

“Turns out, their marriage just needed a magic bullet.”

~ fin ~


Ambrose McJunkin lived the first four years of his life on the Big Island of Hawaii before being extradited to the Pacific Northwest, for what could only have been a grave past-life injustice. Though not historically as attracted to words as he has been to numbers, being alone with his thoughts has been a life staple, and the prospect of legitimizing that activity by channeling it into creating surprising, genre-confusing stories excites him. Despite the fact that he’s an ex-member of many online writing forums and that the left side of his brain keeps pulling him in other directions, he cannot give up his nostalgia for that nine-year-old boy who used to write Mortal Kombat stories. He now lives in Bozeman, Montana, with his wife, Jill, and dreads shoveling snow every winter.