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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2206921-Murphys-Loss
Rated: GC · Short Story · Paranormal · #2206921
SCREAMS!!! Contest WINNER!!! Be careful about choosing to be the bait...
12/2/19 SCREAMS!!! Contest WINNER!!!
Prompt: Bait
1,301 words

"You're high again aren't you?" I asked Louise.

"Fuck you, Murphy!" Louise replied in a shout. "Just because I'm offering to help, you think I'm high?"

"Well, that's pretty much the way it works, isn't it?" I pressed. "You get high--you do stupid shit!"

Louise paused, staring at me, her pretty, angular features bunched in furious intensity. You know that expression--"if looks could kill?" Well, whoever came up with that was probably looking at a very angry lady. Like I was. Right now.

See? I can pick up on things. And Louise always says that I don't pick up on subtleties...

She stormed out of my office, slamming the door behind her hard enough that the smudged glass in the door rattled. The black and white picture of the two of us in a happier time fell from my desk to the creaky hardwood floor with a clatter. I looked at the picture. My arm was around hers, and I was kissing her temple.

Damn it!

Somehow Louise could always manage to get under my skin--in both a good way and a bad way. We were either head over heels in passionate love or ass over tea kettle after furious bickering. There wasn't much in between.

I was a difficult guy to be with. I knew it. And she was not the easiest girl to be around, even before the drug habit.

But it had worked for us for a year and a half. Oh, we'd broken up a dozen times--okay, maybe two dozen-- but we had always managed to get past it. It had happened enough that I wasn't overly concerned about this little dust-up. I was actually looking forward to the makeup sex.

I sighed.

Even if she wanted to go, I wasn't going to take her, though. Drugs and money made people do fucked-up things. And Louise, fiery as she was, was liable to make things go south in a hurry.

No, I had to do this on my own. I would walk up to her dealer, and I would tell him I was good for the money she owed. I wasn't, of course, but it might buy some time.

They had started in on the threats already. Louise hadn't told me, I had found them in the texts on her phone. It was what had started this whole thing. She had let their deadline come and go, and they had offered to take the debt out on her flesh. I was going to object to that mode of repayment and offer an alternative.

***

I pulled my 1989 Chevy Malibu into the driveway across the street and hopped out, waving my hand to clear the black cloud of burning oil. I really needed to get a new car. Right after taking care of Louise's debt. The amount of which I was about to find out, as I was sure she had lied to me about the amount. My usual rule was to multiply whatever she told me by 2.5. If that was correct in this case, the debt was upwards of ten grand.

I really needed to get Louise some help. Put her into rehab or something. I mentally slotted that expense after priority one--paying off these fuckwads that I was on my way to see--and priority three--buying a new car. Maybe something from the nineties, I mused, something that wasn't older than I was.

I opened the front door, barely hanging on by one screw on the lower hinge. I propped the door back up behind me, then turned and ascended the rotting wooden stairs, ready to hop quickly to the next step if one of them gave out from under me.

At the top of the stairs were a couple of doors. I wasn't sure which one it was, but Louise said they were always upstairs. One of the doors was slightly ajar, so I tried that one first. I pushed it, and it slowly swung open with a perfect haunted-house creak. I walked in, half-expecting to be facing a gun on the other side as I did. I steeled my nerves, just in case. I would need all of my wits in this situation regardless.

I walked in to see a tattooed, shirtless man holding a gun to Louise's temple. Her head was tilted to the side, as if she had attempted to move it away from the gun. But the man had kept it there, his arm raised directly out, rotated at an angle, wrist bent at nearly ninety degrees, to keep the gun, pointing down and to the left, against her temple.

"...you don't have the money, then you're a problem, bitch. And I like to solve my problems," the tattooed man was telling her.

Fuck! I should have known Louise would come here anyway. When she was high, she was stupid. When she was angry, she was stupid. When she had left my office, she had been doubly stupid. She had wanted to use herself as bait for my trap. I hadn't wanted to risk that. Instead, she had decided to be bait with no trap. Smart.

"Okay, man, no need to get crazy here. I've got the money," I lied.

"Who are you, holmes?" he asked, nonplussed as Louise whimpered under the barrel.

"I'm with Louise here. And I'm taking care of things for her."

"You mean you got the money?"

"I do."

"If you got the money, then drop it right where your standing. Slow."

I reached slowly into my wrinkled trench coat, brushing past my crinkled tie. I had packed an envelope full of sliced bill-sized white paper with a twenty on either side, in case I needed it for a ruse like this. It would have been better to pack a few more twenties around the paper, but I only had two of them, so I hoped it would fool him on a cursory glance.

I slowly pulled the bulging envelope out of my pocket, held it up between my thumb and pointer finger, then let drop to the floor. I watched the man's eyes widen as he looked down at it. Then, his features crunched in anger.

"So you think you can fuck with me? You think I'm stupid? You gonna die, holmes. Right after her!"

Blood and brains splattered all over him the moment he pulled the trigger.

I tried to dive for him as horror filled me to bursting, but I was far too slow. He wiped the chunks of Louise from his eyes as he brought the gun around, firing three times as soon as it was aimed roughly my way.

The first two tore chunks into the wall behind me. The third did too--after a quick detour into and out of my chest.

I dropped face-first to the floor, my vision landing on a fan of white papers spilling out of an envelope as I heard footsteps thudding behind me, leaving the room.

I turned my head the other way to see Louise's headless corpse squirting blood on the floor next to me. Her misty form, head and all, rose from the body, dragging a ball and chain from her right leg.

I probably should have been thinking about a lot of things right about then. I should have been wondering why I could see Louise's ghost. I should have wondered if there was any way to get rid of that chain and send her to a better place. I should have wondered if I was going to live.

But the thought that actually came to mind as the world went black was: Shoulda closed the fuckin' envelope.

You know how I said I was a difficult guy to be with before? Well, now you have an idea why.

1,301 words
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