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True Love

True Love is a funny thing. It sounds good on paper, two becoming one and all that. Only one problem....

Dogs eat dogs in this world, and in the Gutter, them dogs can get mighty hungry.

True Love by Nikki Palomino




I sat in the Ford, time snipped in two, the windshield wipers clicking rain drops into arcs. Bobby Lee told me to wait for him here on the narrow road against the river. I did what he’d said, cut the headlights, the heater, and formed minutes idling while he drove the guy’s car into the woods, where exactly he wouldn’t say.

“Better that way.” He’d come back running. I had to be ready.

This murder wasn’t his first.

I sucked the cold air down my drain-pipe throat. I glanced down at the seat, my blue eyes adjusting to the lack of light, stared at the .38, the guy’s wallet, the bag stuffed with the plant’s earnings. I wanted to study the guy’s picture on his driver’s license, see the face before Bobby Lee had shot him in the head.

Worked every time. Put the woman along the side of the road. Have her flag down the mark. He wouldn’t resist; I’m pretty, blonde, size 36D. So I did exactly what he’d said, the taillights flashing red, my dress wet and formed along my curves, my long hair plastered to my head, lips pouting.

Bobby Lee had said the guy drove the same way home each night at six, winter-dark, as predictable as the plant owner. He carried the wallet, the paper bag and coins jingling like bells. Ashamed, I wanted the score between my fingers, our dreams, a bouquet of roses and marriage.

“True love is sharing in a murder.” Bobby Lee was right.

No more groping drunks in the bar I worked. I’d wear that diamond ring as proud as a mother cat. Envy would streak red down the faces of other barmaids, just like it had when Bobby Lee, strong and handsome, walked up to me and placed a gardenia on my tray. Took three months before he’d kissed me. Had told me he believed in freedom without strings that bogged other men down. He was just the right combination to set off my heart’s fireworks. Until Bobby Lee, I had not perfected make-up, read love poems or cared if I lived or died. With Bobby Lee, I could smile. Only in his arms did I feel the warm, large wind blowing beneath the scudding stars.

I didn’t know if I heard the siren first or saw the flashing reds and blues. I froze. The car pulled behind me to a stop. I glanced into the rearview mirror, hoped the sheriff with the big gut straining the yellow raincoat wouldn’t step out. As if suddenly, he tapped a flashlight to the passenger-side window. I startled.

His voice muffled, he asked me to open the window. I hesitated, shooting a quick glance at the wood bridge ahead in the hopes Bobby Lee might be running through the darkened rain. With the next tap, I rolled the window a couple inches down.

“Ma’am, may I see your license and registration?” His voice slipped between the slit I had made for him. My eyes dropped to the large purse as I slid it over the .38. I’d helped Bobby Lee lift the guy into the front seat. Bobby Lee had then driven off. It was to look like an accident, car rolling off the mercenary-slick road into the river. Seemed plausible.

“Ma’am?”

I fumbled with my purse, my memory spiraling downward with inner doubt. What if Bobby Lee’s promise to honeymoon where jagged green fronds of palms line the streets was just a lie? What if true love was really the draft of a bad poem?

A less gentle tap against the window.

In one quick move, I slipped out of park and floored the pedal, gunning the Ford’s engine. The car jolted forward to leave a shocked sheriff behind.

“Surprise, remember that one word, girl,” Bobby Lee once said.

Bobby Lee was right. I glanced behind me to see the Sheriff trip and fall on his way back to his car. I could get away. I slid across the wood bridge, the headlights guiding my path between the dark shapes along the road.

I couldn’t stop. There was no time. Bobby Lee ran out from the woods onto the road and I slammed into him. His body flipped up the front of the hood, and my arms flew away from the steering wheel. 

The last two things I remembered hit me at once. His words true love is sharing in a murder, and my long legs tangled and twined like two slippery worms.


Nikki Palomino is the author of the Dazed series (The Story of a Grunge Rocker). Her writing has been featured in L.A. Examiner, Houston Chronicle, and more. Named Best Genre Short Story Writer of 2003 by Writer's Digest, Palomino is also a rock journalist for Punk Globe Magazine and the host of Nikki Palomino's DAZED on irockradio103.com.