Dawn came in muddy, like coffee that’s been in the pot too long. There was no traffic. Folks in Handsome didn’t rise to greet the morning unless they had to, and there was no reason to today. The weather was going to turn foul and there was nothing to do but wait it out. Waiting for something better wasn’t a new thing, except it never seemed to happen.

Jimmy Wheat drove slowly, not wanting any undue attention. But no one would be watching the traffic; all eyes would be skyward.

The street lights seemed unnaturally bright, whether because of his paranoia or the pockets of blackness overhead.

He parked at the side of the road when he reached Little Route. It was a gathering of the breath, a moment to steel himself for the work ahead. Regret was consuming him, and anticipation more so. Ronnie Salmon should be sharing in the workload, he thought. But Ronnie would be asleep in his chair, a warm glass of bourbon on the floor. And he wouldn’t appreciate the implications.

Jimmy took a deep breath and proceed down the road, determined and uncertain at the same time.

The rain was soft and distracting. He waited for it to pour out like tap water. He drove slowly. He thought no one else would be out, but he was wrong. Just as he approached The Curve, he saw another set of headlights shining on the trees. Someone was already there, probably already thinking about who to call.

Jimmy parked just before the curve and cut off his lights. It was dangerous to stop. He could back up, but the road wasn’t generous and the windows were smeared from the rain. He still had his gun, in the glove box, and he wondered if he’d have to use it.

The headlights didn’t move. Jimmy cut the engine and stepped out. He thought he could hear the low crunch of gravel. They were slow steps, slow and deliberate. Whoever it was, was in no hurry. They were… looking? Examining? Maybe Jimmy wasn’t the only one with a guilty conscience.

He walked closer to the other vehicle, keeping himself hidden by the pines. He gripped the snub-nose tightly. If the other man decided to approach him, there was no choice, none at all.

But the other man – he could see him now, just a silhouette among the shadows – only stood in the middle of the road, examining left and right, searching for something that wasn’t there.

The rain began to fall in earnest; buckets, a sink-full-of-dishes wetness, and the man walked back to his truck. And sat. He was in no hurry to leave.

Jimmy walked back to the Bel Air. He put it in reverse and drove, relying more on memory of the road than on sight.


Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome – available at:

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