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by S.W. Lauden

I’m the guy in the other room. Shot before the opening scene. Writhing in a pool of my own slick blood. She’s standing just outside the bedroom door, having cocktails with the triggerman. Every giggle is another bullet to the gut.

It all started at the local watering hole. I spotted her from the moment she swished through the door, reeling me in with her deep blue eyes and plump red lips. Every wolf in the place sniffed the air as she pushed through the happy hour drunks. She stood beside me at the bar ten minutes later, looking lost and alone.

“Buy you a drink?”

She brushed auburn bangs from her face, giving me the once over.

“Why not? I’ll have a Manhattan.”

I waved the bartender over, a folded fifty-dollar bill between two fingers. We watched in silence as he mixed her drink, dropping a cherry in before setting it down.

“I’m Jack,” I’d said, turning to face her with all the grace of an amateur actor. “In town for the night on business.”

She took a sip and wrinkled her nose.

“My name’s Diane. I’m a flight attendant.”

I lifted my glass in a hopeful toast. She slid her hand up my thigh in response.

“Let’s skip the pleasantries, Jack. Are you lonely like me?”

“Not anymore.”

I polished off my bourbon and stood. The crush of the crowd pushed our bodies together. Her hands were on my chest as I gazed into her eyes.

“I’ve got a place up the street.”

“You better hurry, Jack, before I change my mind.”

We stumbled up the sidewalk together. My necktie was loose when we tumbled into the apartment. She pushed me down onto the couch, lifting her skirt to straddle me. I closed my eyes to enjoy the ride that I imagined so many pilots had taken before me.

He was standing there when I opened them again, a scowl on his drawn face. I smiled at the sight of his snub-nose revolver. She’d invited strangers into our little games before, but it was usually another woman — and this was our first weapon. I was so turned on that I just played along when he yanked me up, shoving me into our bedroom.

I heard the door slam shut as he shoved me onto the comforter. It was hard not to laugh at his commitment to the part. I rolled over and screamed for mercy, giving my wife the thrill she so clearly craved. I pictured her reclining on the couch, eagerly waiting for the two of us to emerge for the main act.

It was only the bullet that ripped me back to reality.

And now I’m in here dying alone, while she carries on with the rest of her life. Everybody’s the hero in their own story, but I’m a secondary character now. Already forgotten, but not quite gone.

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series including Bad Citizen CorporationGrizzly Season and Hang Time (Rare Bird Books). His Tommy & Shayna Crime Caper novellas include the Anthony Award–nominated Crosswise and its sequel, Crossed Bones (Down & Out Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types crime and mystery podcast. Steve lives in Los Angeles.