An unexpected tax refund is put to good use. Written for the Cramp 4/15/15
|“How much do you think he would charge to kill someone?” I asked my brother. I spoke very slowly, enunciating carefully, as I sipped the bourbon. I enjoyed the warmth that streamed through my veins and up into my skull, where it bloomed like a dark red rose.
Tony tilted his head back and looked at me through half-closed eyes. Then he stubbed out his cigarette and leaned forward. Putting his hand on top of mine, he pushed down hard as he replied. “I don’t know if he does that kind of thing anymore, Gina. He was in prison for a long time. I doubt he wants to take a chance on going back. The guy’s legit now. He drives truck for Castles and he ain’t hurtin’ for money. You need to get that idea out of your head, NOW.”
I looked over at the bar, where the subject of our discussion sat on a stool watching TV. Thomas Galley was a short, beefy guy who wore his reddish gray hair in a braid. In his Cubs jacket, faded jeans and red high tops, he really didn’t look like a killer. But what did a killer look like anyway? Would I even know one if I saw one? Wouldn’t I BE one, technically, if I went through with what I was planning?I read somewhere that the average person walks by a killer 34 times during their entire life without even knowing it.
I jerked my hand away from Tony’s and downed the rest of my drink in one gulp. “I can’t take it anymore. I have to do something. He has a kid, too. He’ll understand.” I rose and walked toward the bar before I lost my courage. Tony shook his head before he walked out the back door.
“Hey, you’re Thomas Galley. We went to school together at Addison. You were a couple years behind me, right?” I slid onto the stool next to him and smiled brightly. The man’s eyes met mine briefly, then he returned his gaze to ESPN.
“I don’t remember you,” he said.
“Well, I remember you. You were always a bad ass, right? You never let anyone give you any shit. Can I buy you a beer?” Now I had his interest. He even smiled a little as he turned back toward me. He was missing a couple teeth so it wasn’t a great smile, but I didn’t care. He needed to hear me out and that was more likely if he had a reason to like me.
That was two weeks ago, and Thomas had listened to my story without much interest until I got to the part about Andrea returning from one of her weekend visits and telling me her daddy was making movies. What kind of movies, I had asked her. “Oh, you know… the kind where the girls take off their clothes. He always watches those and he wanted us to make one too.” Her little red lips had been pinched and her large golden eyes fierce as she colored one of her Barbies with a purple Sharpie. Barbie was naked, as usual, and her face was becoming a mass of horizontal blue and purple stripes. She looked quite unlike her normal self. I had sympathized with her because at that moment I had felt quite unlike my normal self too. In fact, I felt like a volcano that was ready to explode and spew lava over everything in sight.
That was the exact moment I had realized what I was going to do with the unexpected tax refund that arrived in March. I was going to hire someone to kill my estranged husband.
James and I had been separated for almost two years and our divorce proceedings were no closer to a resolution now than when I had filed. Thomas told me he had a real issue with people who abused children. “My sister’s kid committed suicide last year,” he said. “She was abused by her step-brother for years. I’ll help you.”
If you’re wondering why I didn’t go right to the police, I’ll tell you. It’s because my husband IS the police. He is a police officer and a decorated veteran of the Iraqi War. He is also one scary guy. He has threatened to kill me on more than one occasion. Last year I adopted a German Shepherd from the pound. We only had Max for a few months when someone shot the poor dog while he was chasing squirrels in our fenced yard. Who would DO that? I couldn’t prove it but I knew. It was my crazy husband who didn’t want me to have any protection or any feeling of security. Andrea loved that dog and so did I.
When the phone rang at work this morning I was expecting it, yet I wasn’t.
“Mrs. Santini, this is Sgt. Bartson, from the Ninth. I have some bad news.” My heart pounded and my mouth went dry. I curled my fingers tightly around the receiver.
“Your husband was killed this morning when he responded to a domestic violence call.” I gasped. That wasn’t what I was expecting to hear. The officer misunderstood, and he continued. “I’m sorry. I know you two were separated, but James always felt you would work it out.”
The guy sounded like he might cry as he continued. “Somehow the husband got hold of James’ service revolver. The perp shot James and then killed his wife before committing suicide.”
I thanked him before hanging up.
James was dead, but I wasn’t responsible. The husband who had physically and mentally abused me for three years was dead at the hands of another abuser. There was irony in this somewhere, but I was too relieved to feel it.
Would I ever get my tax refund back? I decided I didn’t care.