“You bitch.” Derek spat on the ground, aiming in her direction, but he didn’t come any closer.
Her hands tightened on the gun she held. They were sweating now, her palms damp, but the finger on the trigger was dry and that was all that mattered. As long as she didn’t drop it.
“Who knows you’re here?” she demanded.
He made a scoffing noise. “What, you think I advertise that I’m gonna come get my woman back?” He nodded toward the house. “She’s in there, isn’t she? Watching this shit?” He raised his voice. “Leonora! Get the hell out here! I’m taking you home where you belong.”
“You didn’t tell anyone?” Grace asked again. The moment felt seared in her brain. The night air, cool against her skin. The motion of the Spanish moss, drifting from the trees like frayed curtains, ghostly wisps in the breeze. The asphalt against her bare feet, still warm from the heat of the day. The smells of alcohol on her sister’s asshole boyfriend’s breath, exhaust from his clunker of a car.
She ought to be grateful to that clunker of a car. It rattled up her driveway advertising his presence in plenty of time for her to find and load her gun.
“Who’d you get drunk with?” she asked.
“What the hell is this? You want to play twenty questions?” He leered at her. Despite the darkness, she could see him clearly. The motion-sensitive outdoor lights shone mercilessly on his bloodshot eyes, stubble, lank hair. He hadn’t prettied up before coming. This was no romantic suitor, bringing flowers and contrition. He’d tried that before. The last time, it hadn’t worked. So this was Derek as he truly was.
Drunk, abusive, possessive, angry.
“Leo!” He bellowed again.
But tonight, maybe not as dangerous as she was.
“I need to know,” she told him. Somewhere, deep inside, a part of her was shaking, terrified by what she was about to do. A tiny internal voice was screaming, no, no, no. But she suppressed it, shoving it down and stomping it. A much larger part of her felt almost joyful.
“Know what? Get out of my way, bitch.” He took a staggering step toward her.
“Know how to get rid of your body.” She answered his question.
He paused. He blinked at her. She could see him trying to process the words.
“See, Derek, honey, the question isn’t whether I’m going to kill you. I am. Tonight. You’re not walking away from here.” Her laugh was breathless. Her hands were shaking, the sweat getting the grip slippery, but she kept both hands on the gun, the gun aimed straight at his belly. “I’m going to put every bullet in this gun into you. Not to make you suffer or anything, just so it’s fast. Lots of bullets mean lots of holes, lots of blood loss. My aim’s okay, I’ve been practicing. And it’s not like I can miss you at this distance.”
She was babbling now, the words coming freely. He was the only person in the world she could share her plan with and she’d been thinking about this plan for a while. It was a relief to be able to unload it, to say the words aloud.
“The gun’s a .45, so I don’t need to shoot more than once. Not like a .22, that’s got no stopping power. No, this gun—one bullet is probably all I’d really need, as long as I took my time about calling for help. Got to let you bleed out if I don’t hit something critical.”
His look was still one of confusion, but he seemed to have a dawning awareness of his danger. He took a step back, away from her
“Don’t move,” she snapped at him. The shaking was getting more intense. Every muscle in her body felt tight, the knots in her shoulders and neck starting to twinge with pain. She’d have a tension headache for sure. But that’d be okay. Even the world’s worst tension headache would end once the headache of Derek was finally gone.
“Don’t worry,” she went on, in a softer voice. “It won’t be that slow. I’m going to put all the bullets in you, just to be sure. It’ll be over quickly. But I need to know first. Who knows you’re here?”
“Why…” He was too drunk to be thinking quickly. Not that he ever was the quickest thinker on the block. “Why do you need to know that?”
“To decide what to do with your body, of course.” She tilted her head toward the back yard. The house, a rental, bordered on miles of Florida wilderness. She’d chosen it for just that reason. “I want to drag you out back and dump you in the woods. Let the vultures clean up the mess.”
“Vultures?” His tongue shot out of his mouth and wet his lips.
“I think that’s safest,” she continued.
“For me, of course. I’m pretty sure I’d get off on self-defense anyway. You’re at my house, late at night, with a history of violence. And I’m just a poor helpless girl. But I don’t want to go through a trial if I don’t have to.”
His hands lifted, palms out. “Look, Grace, I just… I just…”
“You just abuse my sister. Like the fact that she once thought you were cute means you own her.” Grace’s shaking had stilled. The tiny voice inside her, the one that had been protesting, seemed to heave a sigh of acquiescence. “Like you have a right to whatever you want just because you want it. News flash. Actions have consequences. And you’re gonna die tonight, Derek.”
For a moment, their eyes met. Hers were cold, she knew. Merciless. The eyes of the predator she had become. And his were full of fear.
And then the motion-sensitive lights went off.
In the darkness, she fired.
Once, twice, three times, four.