Today’s Lunch Break Crime Read: Watching the Cards



hand-998957_1280 Watching the Cards

First you have to find her.

A yoga class is a good place to look. Or maybe the gym or the vitamin section of the supermarket. She’ll be the bottled blonde with the eyes that silently cry for attention. She’ll be the just-divorced forty-one-year-old that spills every secret into your lap before she learns your last name. She will do this because she trusts you. She will do this because she can’t see the blueprint behind that boyish grin.

And she will unfold in your arms at a pace that will test your patience. She’s been singed before by love’s white-hot pokers and she will have to distinguish you from those previous offenders. But through all the seduction and plotting and backpedaling is that smile, a guiding light into her heart. And that’s what you’re after, right?

One night, after dancing and drinking, you show her a card trick. You get her to think she’s ahead of the game, like you’re a novice, fumbling around with the cards for fun. She picks the seven of diamonds and the first card you raise is the five of spades.

“Is that it?”

“No.” She chuckles.

“Nine of hearts—that’s got to be your card!”

She shakes her head. This is kind of embarrassing.

“Queen of spades?” She touches your face, taunts you with another head shake.

“Let’s try it again. Pick another card.”

She complies, takes a card from the pack. It’s the seven of diamonds.

“How did you—?”

“You were watching the cards when you should have been watching me.”

She splatters your face with the the kiss of a reckless adolescent with vacationing parents. She melts into your arms without knowing what a lesson that card trick really was. She purrs, she giggles, she blushes, she coos. And she invites you back into her heart every night.

It’s all very fun. Until you have to kill her.

You have to kill her because she has started asking questions. She wants to know more about that real estate deal you talked about briefly before you had to shuffle off to “work.”

She asks, “And why did you need my checking account number again?”

“Honey, I’ve told you—I need quick access to the account in case these people change their minds on the deal. You know how commercial real estate people are.”

“Actually, I don’t know how they are. I don’t even know who they are.”

“Look, I don’t blame you for not trusting them. But hey, I’ve got eleven thousand riding on this as well.”

“Yes, but—”

“Jesus, is it nine already? I’m off to the bank, honey!”

That’ll hold her for now. But what happens when she wakes up tomorrow morning to find an empty space where you once slept? What happens when she walks into the police station to describe that fast-talking stranger who slipped into the shadows with every penny she ever had?

You have to kill her before you find out. It’s all a part of the game.

So you will stop back at her place before your trip to the ATM and do what needs to be done. You will load your gun and hide it at your hip as she cooks the last meal you will share as a couple. She has never looked prettier, more matronly.  But if you stare too long, you will lose your nerve, you will scurry away from the plan’s final step. So you slump into the dining room, studying the carpet’s pattern and pretending she doesn’t have the sweetest alignment of incisors you’ve ever seen.

At dinner you talk about everything except real estate. She is radiant, erupting with sensual energy. Every laugh, every hair toss, every anecdote about her pain-in-the-ass kids seemingly offer redemption. She skips from the table, into the kitchen with dirty dishes.

“Did you take care of everything with the deal?”

Now is the time to strike. She is asking for a bullet to the back of her skull. She is taunting you with questions that you cannot answer. Do it.

“I’m working on it,” is the best you can do.

“Because I was thinking. The whole thing sounds so risky, so murky. Maybe I don’t want to be involved in something like that, after all.”

She is crawling towards the truth. Giving her another day to sniff out the plan would be a mistake. The time to strike is now.

“I even went to the bank yesterday . . .”

“Did you, honey?” you ask, gun drawn, easing past your doubts and into the kitchen.


She’s a stationary target now, crouched before a trash can.

But a kind of paralysis sets in—a yank at your conscience? You cannot act, and soon you cannot move. Her head whips around as she hears the plunk of your gun hitting the floor. She should be stunned into silence, not glowing like this. Not putting every tooth in her mouth on vivid display.

You follow your gun to the floor, clutching your rib cage and belly as it tries to expel the demons inside. She steps over you, keeps talking:

“And I withdrew all of our money. Mine and yours. Honey.”

You reply in a staccato series of groans.

“That’s right. I bought a few things, too. A new coat. Some lipstick. Rat poison.”

You push out one final groan that sounds kind of like:

“How did you—?”

She stoops to your face as it stretches into a jack-o’-lantern’s grimace. She whispers:

“You were watching the cards when you should have been watching me.”

One final tug from the deepest region of your belly and you are gone, floating away to someplace softer. Unfinished life and all.

But somehow it all seems fair. It’s all a part of the game.


I originally had Watching the Cards published on Yellow Mama. 

Tomorrow’s Lunch Break Crime Read: Old Times There are Not Forgotten.

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