The woman took a long drag on the clove cigarette. The pack it came from wasn’t hers. She’d never buy something so pretentious. Sure, she liked the way the tobacco or whatever it was sizzled as she inhaled. And they had a smell that reminded her of Christmas. But Lord knows what a pack of them cost. Her Winstons were expensive enough.
The engine of her SUV tink-tinked as it cooled, the front grill painted crimson from the dying light of dusk. Silhouettes of saguaros poked up against the skyline of distant mountains.
The job was only half done, but the woman felt wrapped in a blanket of satisfaction. She’d done good.
The injured critter at the bottom of the mine shaft a few feet away began to howl and whimper. The walls of the forty-foot hole gave the sound a muffled, echoey quality.
“What the fuck kinda name’s Auden?” she mused. “Spoiled rich kid name, that’s what. Auden, Brock, Grayden, Becker . . . who the fuck comes up with these names?”
The critter in the hole howled all the more. She ignored it.
“You shore were the golden child, huh? College track star. Olympic hopeful. Phi Kappa Beta, whatever the hell that is. Thought you was God’s gift.”
A shadow flitted above her. A bat or maybe an owl, looking for dinner.
“But then you hurt my Emily. Sweet as sugar and smart as a whip, that one. But she didn’t want you. She was the one person who saw you for the shit you are. Musta really stuck in your craw. Someone not treating you like you walked on water. You saw something you couldn’t have. So you decided to take it.”
She took a final drag on the aromatic cigarette, then crushed the butt in the desert sand. “You roophied my little girl and raped her behind a dumpster.” Her hands balled into a fist. “If that biker chick hand’t grabbed you and called the cops, you woulda gotten away with it, huh?”
A chill breeze blew through her, sweeping away the day’s heat in a flash. “But the worst part . . .” Her heartbeat slowed. “The worst was when that judge felt sorry for you. Poor little rich boy track star. Gotta big future ahead of ya. Can’t send you to prison. No, you’re too good for that. Meanwhile acting like my daughter ain’t shit. She’s just a piece of ass to you and to that son-of-a-bitch judge. What about her future, Auden?”
The injured critter keened and wailed, pleading to be rescued.
She stood from the rock she’d been sitting on and brushed the dust off her ass. “Break time’s over,” she mumbled as she strolled to the edge of the black abyss.
“Comfy down there, Auden?”
“I’m so sorry! Please get me out.”
“How’s that future looking for you, track star? Reckon you must’ve broken your legs, and an ankle or two. No more track meets. No Olympics.”
“I’ll pay you whatever you want.”
“Don’t want your money, you piece of filth. But I promise, you will pay.” She picked up the can of gasoline, unscrewed the top, and poured half the can down the mine shaft. It splashed into the hole, gurgling like a brook, and every bit as satisfying. The moaning predator gasped and sputtered. “Wha—what the hell is that?”
“Gasoline. Premium grade. Nothing but the best for good ol’ Auden.” She recapped the gas can and lit another clove cigarette from the pack she stole from him.
Her lip curled. “You know, these fancy cancer sticks of yours really do stink. I much prefer my Winstons.” She flicked the lit cigarette down into the hole. The fireball forced her back a step.
The critter’s howls became urgent shrieks and gut-wrenching screams. She savored them, though they only lasted a moment or so.
“Don’t go nowhere, Auden. I’ll be back. I got myself a judge to catch.”