Bye, Bye Birdie
John A. Broussard
She had given serious thought to killing her husband. That she didn't
kill him wasn't for lack of means. For one thing, there were a half
dozen guns in the house, and he'd taught her how to use them back in the
early days of their marriage. But she was also certain she could never
get away it. She didn't know how to kill him and at the same time be
sure she wouldn't have to go to prison for it. She watched the news,
and she'd heard reports of more than one wife who'd killed an abusive
husband and had then been punished for it. She just couldn't risk
losing the twins, leaving them without a mother, especially since they
really didn't have a father.
Divorce? Completely out of the question. She didn't even know how to
approach an attorney, never mind pay for one. Her husband would bring a
bunch of lawyers to court and hammer her to extinction. The twins would
lose their mother and certainly not gain a father.
Her other plan had been to simply get up and leave. It all sounded so
easy -- and it was impossible. She had never worked, had never even
graduated from high school. She had no money and no one to turn to.
Besides, Jay would find her for sure, no matter where she went, and she
would pay the price of her desertion.
He had struck her that evening. There was nothing unusual about that.
She never knew when he would lash out at her, since the blows could come
anytime for no reason at all. Recently the beatings had become worse --
much worse. And now he had started to hit the children as well. Where
before she had been living on the borders of hell, her world had now
become a raging inferno. All she could see ahead of her was the briefest
of reprieves. His company was opening a new Laundromat in Tijuana.
He'd be away for at least a couple of days. After backhanding her a
half-dozen times that evening, he'd gone to bed and left her with her
bruised body on the living room couch. First thing in the morning, he'd
be off on his trip and might just possibly not beat her again before he
It had all seemed so different eight years before. Just sixteen, she'd
met Jay Longworth who was then an impressive twenty-two and already a
partner in a very successful San Diego laundry and dry-cleaning
business. It was no contest at all. He called her his little princess.
Within months they'd married, and she found herself in a beautiful home
on the hills looking out on the Pacific.
Her world began to unravel long before she became aware of the
unraveling. Jay was not only jealous and possessive but had gradually
woven a net around her, isolating her from her friends and what little
family she possessed - an alcoholic mother living three thousand miles
away. And the lengths he had gone to in order to produce the isolation
were all too effective. The home was itself secluded on an acre of land
in the wild land-urban fringe, with the nearest neighbor a quarter of a
mile away. She really had no one to turn to.
Tonight she was lying paralyzed in fear and pain before the TV. The
evening news barely penetrated. In so far as it did, she derived no
benefit from hearing and seeing so much other misery in the world. "Los
Angeles man kills self, wife and four of his children . . . AIDS
decimates Central African villages. . .Two Americans held hostage by
South American guerrillas. . .Typhoon kills over two hundred in the
Philippines, thousands left homeless." And then, a different item, and
a flash of hope.
Jay overslept and got around neither to eating breakfast nor to adding
to her pain. Instead, he threw on his clothes, ignored her completely,
roared out of the driveway and headed south.
His partner drove up to the house the following evening. " I've got bad
news," he told her. "The Mexican authorities found two guns in Jay's
car. Someone called the border guards and told them Jay was smuggling
guns into Mexico. How he could have been fool enough to take them with
him, is beyond me. The papers and TV have been full of how paranoid the
Mexican government has become over gun runners."
She said nothing.
Lionel went on. "Somehow he managed to get word to me, and even that
took a lot of doing and all the cash he had on him. Fortunately, I know
a businessman in Tijuana, and he cleared the way for me. I got to talk
to Jay for a few minutes. He insists he doesn't know how the guns got
into his car, but that doesn't impress the police. Anyhow, he needs
money to defend himself, and the Mexican authorities aren't about to
accept checks. I got his power of attorney for you, so you'll have
access to his assets and can then do what you think best about defending
She looked puzzled when Lionel handed her the documents. Seeing her
expression, he went on to explain. "As long as he's in a Mexican
prison, you'll be in charge."
"But what can I do?"
"Well, if you're willing to bribe the right officials, and that could
cost a fortune these days since the Mexican government has been cracking
down on corruption, he might be released in a few months. If you hire a
good lawyer to defend him -- which would also cost plenty, but wouldn't
impoverish you -- he might get off maybe with a year or two, depending
on the judge. With two handguns in the car, there's a possible ten
years for each one, but I think a lawyer could at least get the
sentences to run concurrently."
"That means he would serve both sentences at the same time, so he'd be
out in ten years."
"So if he didn't have an attorney, the sentences would follow each
other. Is that right?"
Lionel nodded. "Instead of concurrently, the sentences would run
She looked thoughtful. "Con-sec-u-tive-ly." What a nice sounding
© John Broussard
John Broussard has published about two hundred short stories. He is
the author of four books: Mana (Pulsar Books), Death of the Tin Man's
Wife (Coffee Cup Press), The Left Hand of Death (Coffee Cup Press),
Death of a Developer (HandHeld Crime), and two that are forthcoming: A
Method to Murder (HandHeld Crime), and "Fifty-Minutes" Flaherty & Murder
at Milltown Junior College (Boson Books). He is also the author of "Play
Ball," which appears in Moxie's Family, Friends & Lovers section.
Descriptions of his work can be found at www.fictionwritings.com.
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