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 left.

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 him."

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."

"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 consecutively."

She looked thoughtful. "Con-sec-u-tive-ly." What a nice sounding word.


© 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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