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Paid Love

Dealing with assholes can be a cross to bear. In the Gutter, that cross gets doubled.

Paid Love by Mike Loniewski

Ellis climbs off me looking like he’s heartbroken. He throws his jeans back on with that obnoxious belt buckle- a golden ten point buck the size of a dinner plate jangling as he goes.
"Okay, cowboy," I say. “I have to head out.”
"To someone else," he says into his chest.
Ellis has grown some feelings. That’s never a healthy thing in my line of work.
“There won’t be another like you,” I tell him.
He gives a shy smile. It'd be cute if he wasn't so fucked up. "I promise," he says. "I ain't got much, but I could take care of you."
“You already do,” I say. I peck him on the cheek and take the money from his hand.
Out on the main floor the machines are jingling and flashing to get your attention. Kevin's at a bank of slot machines. His fat ass is all squished up in a tiny seat for a Michael Jackson-themed one. He gives me a double take as an electronic ditty of ‘Thriller’ chimes.
"You didn't shoot up, did you? Damn it, I told you you need to be straight tonight."
"Relax, big fella. I'm always clean."
Kevin tries to lean back in the chair. “Bo call you yet?”
“No,” I say, “But he will. Thursdays are his night.”
Kevin smiles. “I’m sure it is. You keep him in that car tonight,” he tells me. "If he's not in the car with his pants down, it's gonna be a lot harder to get this done.”
My phone buzzes and I see the text from Bo.
I start walking and I hear Kevin struggling out of the chair.
"Hold it, now," he snorts. "Where-"
“We’ll be in the parking deck,” I say.  “Just make sure you don’t screw me on this.”
***
I’m in Bo’s SUV leaning over his lap when a shadow falls across the driver's side. The gun taps the window and Bo glances over.
"Zip up, will ya," says Kevin. "Not everyone wants to see your dick."
Bo straps up and peeks out the window. "Kevin? Jesus Christ, what the hell are you doing?"
"Open the lock." It clicks and Kevin stuffs his fat ass into the back seat, huffing and puffing. Bo's seat keeps jolting forward, the truck rocking side to side from the struggle.
Bo gives a sigh. “What are you doing, Kevin? Goddamn it."
Kevin presses the gun to the back of his head. “I gave you the chance to do the right thing, to cut me in. But, you did what you always do.”
"Jesus Christ. This is about the contract?”
Kevin bursts. “You fuckin' know it is! Now drive.”
Bo looks over to me.
"Just let her go, Kev, huh? She won't say nothing about this."
Kevin snarls. “She's already in this.”
***
The drive takes us to some lousy brick building tucked between chop shops and liquor stores. The front door looks like it's been battered in a few times. Inside's an office with that shitty wood paneling and an old carpet that smells like it was flooded with cat piss.
“Come on,” Kevin says, choking on his own fat. “Move the goddamn cabinet.”
Bo rocks it back and forth away from the wall and peels back a strip of old carpet where a floor safe hides. He starts working the lock and I back against the wall praying for this shit show to end.
Stacks of cash start getting tossed out from the safe. Kevin moves in to grab it. There's a flash and a pop. Kevin grabs his throat. He gurgles and tries to plug the hole with his fat fingers. Another pop and red blooms from his chest. I look at Bo holding a smoking pistol that was buried inside the safe.
Kevin falls back. His gun barks at me and something breaks my hip.
Blood seeps into that awful carpet and I follow the trail up to the neat little hole torn through my dress, a dark red pool across my lap. Fuck.
Bo’s shouting as he lifts me up and I look over to the safe. It's still open and, goddamn, I can still see cash piled in neat stacks, even more than I imagined. Could have gotten a new start. Instead, I get a hole blown through my hip.
Bo lays me down in the back seat of his SUV and climbs in behind the wheel.        “Let’s get you outta here,” he says.
Something blasts through the glass and it shatters like diamonds. Everything rings inside my head. I look down at my lap and find an ear. I bat it off and see Bo’s head in a thousand pieces splattered on the windshield.
The back seat door opens and my white knight is standing there with a smoking double barrel sawed-off and an obnoxious ten point buck on his crotch."Are you hurt bad?" Ellis asks.
Nothing makes sense. I'm shaking.
"Followed you out of the Casino. I was mad at myself for doing it again. But, then I heard those gun shots and I knew I'd done the right thing."
I don't say a word. He moves me to his baby blue Chevy pick up. “I’m gonna take care of you,” he says. I grab for his arm.
"Wait," I say. "There's money. Inside.”
Ellis nods and runs, and a few minutes later he comes back out with a trash bag of cash over his shoulder like some redneck Santa Claus.
"I'm bleeding bad," I say.
"I know, Mel,” he says. “And I'm gonna fix that."
I take his hand, my blood smearing across it. "I believe you," I say. "But how you gonna fix this? We can't go to a hospital, Ellis. Not after this."
"My cousin. He'll help us."
"He's a doctor?"
"No," he says. "Horse vet."
"Oh," I say.
Hell, you can't have everything, can you?

Mike Loniewski is a writer from New Jersey. His prose work has been published by Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, One Eye Press, and Pro Se Press. His comics have been published by Image Comics, APE Entertainment, and Alterna Comics. You can find him on twitter at @redfox_write.