The Wrong Woman

I watched her from behind, through a crack in the door. It was just dawning on her that the body on the floor wasn't pregnant. The ascending curve of the woman's hip was too steep.

It's funny how you can watch things hit people, even without having to see their face. Something about the pace of the killer's breathing, some change in the ion field around her. The gun, hanging loosely now from her left hand's fingers, twitched almost imperceptibly. Then she took a couple of steps forward and rotated, keeping her eyes on the body.

Seeing her for the first time was a shock. Of course I knew she was attractive -- Mike would never have fucked her if she wasn't -- but I hadn't been prepared for the vicious expression. She worked her teeth together for a few seconds, then began to swear, quietly and with deep conviction.

I leveled my .38 and stepped out of the bedroom.

It took her a second to notice me. When she did, nothing moved but her eyes. We stared at each other for a few seconds, then her gaze dropped to my belly.

"This is going to cost me work," she said. Her voice was low and soft and younger than her face.

"Maybe it's time for a career change."

Her fingers twitched on her automatic.

"Just open your hand and let that drop," I said. "If you move more than an inch, it'll turn out bad."

She didn't hesitate, but as if to test me, she lifted her chin while the gun fell, giving me her face full-on.

"Back up," I said.

She did it. When she was against the wall, out of arm's reach, I stepped over and picked up her automatic. It was tricky keeping my gun and eyes on her while I bent down. I was only six months along, but my balance was already off.

"So what'd he tell you? That I didn't care?"

Her eyes flickered at my belly again, but she didn't say anything. I looked down at my dead sister, and the tears started. Coming up hot and fierce, choking me and blurring the room. The woman against the wall didn't take advantage. She stayed where she was.

"He didn't tell me anything," she said, her husky voice soft. "I was the one who didn't care. Not at first."

I risked a quick swipe across my face with my sleeve. She was looking at me with a quiet pity.

"What do you mean?"

"This is personal," she said.

"Jesus Christ, don't tell me you fell in love with him."

Her eyes glinted and now I could see the pain in them. They were a curious kind of gray-blue, the kind that don't hide things well. Probably a liability in her profession.

"You should wear sunglasses," I said.

She laughed, painfully, rubbing one latex-gloved hand against her thigh. It dawned on me then.

"You were going to fix him for this?"

"It's his gun," she said, sounding almost helpless.

I started to explain why it would never have worked, but then stopped. "You'd testify that he told you he was going to kill me?"

"Something like that."

I almost laughed, it was so perfect. The problem I could never solve was that no jury would ever buy him killing the mistress. But the pregnant wife who stood in the way? That was classic. And Diane, so like me we could have been twins except for the baby, would have faked out anybody.

I glanced down at her again. There were two bullets; one in the back of her left shoulder, and the second -- the killer -- just at the base of her skull.

"He didn't know she was here," I said, half to myself. "She was facing away. It was a mistake. A horrible accident."

The woman across the room stared hard at me for a few long seconds. I stared back.

"He might get life," I said. "Locked up somewhere."

It took her a second, and then she coughed up a dry chuckle. "He'd probably end up fucking one of the guards."

"I dunno, it doesn't bother me the same way," I shrugged. "Call me crazy, but we'd be doing the world a favor."

"The women in it, anyway," she replied, looking at Diane.

We stood there with it for a long time. I could hear water dripping somewhere back in the house. The baby kicked. Finally she looked up at me.

"I'm in."