Grace Under Fire
Devereaux's men came at night. Grace was in the kitchen chopping vegetables when her husband, Phillip, went to answer the knock at the door. She had just finished the onions and was halfway through a bunch of carrots when she felt a presence behind her; an almost imperceptible displacement of air picked up by the hairs on the back of her neck that immediately sent her flesh crawling across her shoulders and down her arms.
Grace turned to find a man, wearing an ill fitting suit and a shark’s grin, eyeing her up and down the way one might admire a fine sports car they couldn’t afford. Covetous, the thought flashed across her mind, unbidden. That’s the perfect word to describe the look on his face, covetous. But as she turned, his expression changed into something more sinister and dangerous, deadly even.
“Now, now,” he said, opening the jacket of his suit to show the gun beneath. “I don’t think you’re gonna need that.”
Grace looked down and saw that she was still clutching the butcher knife, holding it out in an unconscious warding off gesture. She didn’t put it down.
“Put the knife down,” he said, drawing the gun and leveling it at her. “Or I’ll have to put a bullet in that sweet ass of yours.”
Grace met the killer’s gaze, and after a moment turned and set the knife on the counter next to the beginnings of the meal she now knew would never be eaten. He used his gun to motion toward the door and followed her into the living room.
Two other suited goons—one with dark hair and a goatee, the other his exact opposite; blond and baby-faced—were holding Phillip at gunpoint. He was sitting on the couch, his hands duct taped in front of him, eyes wide with terror.
“Grace,” he started to get up, but Baby-face backhanded him with his gun sending Phillip sprawling back onto the couch clutching his bleeding cheek.
Goatee pressed the muzzle of his gun to Phillip's head. “I told you not to fucking move. Next time, I empty this thing into your skull, understand?”
Phillip nodded his assent.
“Good,” Goatee said. “Now, let’s talk about where the money is.”
“I don’t know anything about any money,” Phillip said, still clutching his bleeding face. “I don’t even know who you people are!” He was practically sobbing.
Goatee slapped Phillip on the uninjured side of his face, hard. “Don’t fuck with me asshole! Four of Mr. Devereaux’s couriers have been hit in the past month, all dead, all missing their bags. After the second hit we started marking the bills, I’ll give you one guess where that lead us. Now tell me, where’s the fucking money!”
Phillip recoiled from that last outburst as if he had been slapped again. “I told you, I don’t know anything about any money,” he squealed, tears welling up and rolling down his cheeks. The sight of those tears seemed to increase goatee’s rage by an order of magnitude.
He leaned in, pressed the muzzle of his gun to Phillip’s head again, and said, “Listen to me you little shit, I don’t know how a sniveling worm like you offed one, much less four, of Mr. Deveraux’s couriers, but I’m going to give you to the count of three to tell me where the money is, or I’m going to make that hot little piece of ass over there a widow right before me and the boys run a train on her. I swear to fucking God. One!”
“I don’t know anything about your money!”
“Please, I’m not lying. I don’t even know who this Devereaux is!”
“No don’t! I’m telling you, you’ve got the wro—“
Goatee’s gun coughed once and the contents of Phillip’s head sprayed out, splatter-painting the couch and walls with brains and bits of skull.
Grace stood and watched this scene unfold, Shark-grin’s gun pressed into the small of her back, without moving or saying a word. Goatee turned to Baby-face, “Toss the house. Find out where he stashed the money.”
Baby-face nodded and walked out. A second later, Grace heard the crash of their—My, she thought, My is the right word now that Phillip is dead—possessions being tossed about as Baby-face began searching for his boss’ stolen money.
Goatee turned to Shark-grin, “Warm her up for us, I’m gonna go call Mr. Devereaux.” He produced a cell phone from one of his pockets and left the room.
Shark-grin shoved Grace face-first into the wall of the living room and pressed his gun to her temple. She could feel his erection as he rubbed against her. He reached around and squeezed her breast. “You’re a real sweet piece of meat,” he whispered in her ear. “I’m gonna make you bleed.” He started to take his pants off, and Grace sensed his attention waver while he fumbled with his belt.
She moved, fast.
Grace rammed her hips back at the same time she reached up and grabbed the gun against her head, twisting it out of his grasp. She spun around with the ease of a dancer, or expert martial-artist, used one hand to grab Shark-grin’s wrist, twisted it up behind his back, and slammed him up against the wall. Their positions reversed, she pressed the gun under the shelf of his jaw and said, “I think you’ll be the one bleeding today asshole,” and pulled the trigger. His brains erupted from the top of his head and fell in a warm rain.
Baby-face came running from the other room, gun in hand, and Grace put two into his heart. He was dead before he hit the ground. Grace crossed the room and pressed herself against the wall next to the living room doorway.
“What the fuck is going on in there!” Goatee ran into the room and stopped when he saw the bodies of his partners. Grace put a bullet into the back of his head.
Grace stood over Phillip’s body. She had given him the money, of course. A stupid mistake, it never occurred to her that the bills had been marked. He had wanted a new set of golf clubs, and she could never deny him anything. He was dead because of her.
She went to the kitchen and pulled up the floorboards in the pantry, removing the bags of money she had stashed there. Then she lit a candle, set it on the kitchen table, and turned all the knobs for the stove on high without lighting them.
She was half a mile away when the fireball lit up the night sky. She watched it in her rear-view mirror and said a soft prayer for Phillip. She drove into the night, her thoughts dominated by a single word.