© By Gary L Morton (1000 words)
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Billy Bob's eyes burned - dry
and bloodshot orbs. Spots floated, he thought he saw a skull-and-crossbones
symbol on the sign . . . but what was there was a bump warning.
The pick-up rocked with
gravel grinding into the fenders. He was headed for swamp soup, muck, ducks,
A patch of mud spun him back
onto the road and he began to think. “Gotta keep my mind off her. Tallulah
is dead because I had to get her out of my life. All she ever did was play
bingo then come home and bitch. Bingo! bingo! bingo! gets you bang! bang!
Blood thundered in his ears
as he pounded the dash, and to his dismay, he silenced the radio. Then when
he looked up, he saw that he was coming up fast on a police car. Of course
he was on the wrong side of the road and twenty over the limit, but he
didn't panic. He let the sheriff flag him down and slid to a stop.
“. . . I sure will get her in
for a safety. Don't you worry, Sheriff,” Billy Bob said. “Say, I gotta meet
a friend in town, so I better mosey along.”
Billy Bob's eyebrows were
sweat dams; he sloshed the hot liquid away as he drove off. A long chat with
the sheriff hadn't been in the plan, but now it was too late. If Tallulah's
body was discovered the lousy cop would remember seeing him. Checking the
rearview mirror, he saw the beefy sheriff crossing the road to a footbridge
that ran over a pond. Three shackled cons were doing work on the bridge.
Billy Bob wasn't a genius, but he knew the sheriff's brand of chain gang
labor was unduly cruel. The sad part was that he'd picked this area for a
dump because there were no cops, or there hadn't been in the past. Now that
funding for local police had been chopped, and money saving chain gangs were
back, small towns were hiring cheap-ass sheriffs. And if this guy was an
example - city accent, keeps men in heavy irons, gives tickets to motorists
passing the gang, and calls a bird pond an alligator hole - what a pain in
the butt these sheriffs were going to be.
Now that he thought back, the
men hadn't been your usual cons either. He remembered one guy screaming
about cannibals hiding in the swamp. The sheriff had shut him up by
rifle-butting him. “You killed your wife and boiled her, that's why you’re a
It was unsettling; he saw
will-o'-the-wisp mist and the endless reeds of the swamp clouding his alibi.
Tallulah's corpse rode to the surface of his mind. Finally he stopped on the
shoulder, his idea being to go back and clear-up the problem. The sheriff
had said they were camping out. If he could sneak back and set the cons
loose, the cops would do a search of the area and think they were Tallulah's
killers, when her body turned up.
The sun sank faster than a
swamp rat and it was dark by the time Billy Bob got back. Being wise, he
parked a ways back and approached on foot, finding the police car and the
sheriff's prison trailer gleaming with firelight. He could see the cons
sleeping by the fire. Only the cannibal con appeared to be awake; he was
looking at the night, his eyes like splotches of ink on dead yellow
The sheriff had obviously
shackled them and then nodded off in his trailer. It was time for Billy Bob
to move, creep up, loose the cons and shoot the sheriff with his own rifle.
Only the plan didn't go
smoothly. As he crept out of the shadows, he met a gun barrel. It was the
cannibal; he'd been loose all along. Knowing this guy would shoot, Billy Bob
put his hands up.
“Keep 'em high,” the cannibal
said, looking sober and mean. “I killed the sheriff, and I'll kill you too.”
“I'm no friend of the
sheriff. I was going to kill him and set you free.”