When the roscoe caught her eye, Talia was brushing her long blonde Veronica Lake hair, sitting naked as a jaybird on the Murphey bed. Artie's nightstand drawer was slightly ajar and she could see the crosshatch of the dark wooden grip. She was seized by the urge to touch it. The water was running in the bathroom; he was still in the shower. She reached into the drawer and pulled out the snub-nose .38. It was light -- only a pound, pound and a half -- but she could see it was loaded and the danger gave it heft. Artie had taken her out to the desert to shoot a few times so the feel of the grip wasn't completely Chinese. She sighted out the window at a man across the street, polishing the chrome greyhound on the hood of his Model A bucket.

A shiver ran up her spine. A little fear, a little thrill.

She heard the shower curtain slide. As she slipped the gat back in the drawer, she noticed what was behind it. A box of Durex rubbers they'd bought at the Rexall six months ago then decided not to use. She had yet to get knocked up, but she and Artie were trying. Why did he still have the rubbers? She reached for the box and dumped it out on the bed. That's when Artie stepped into the room.

He was in his flannel drawers, toweling his hair, his broad torso slack, tanned and damp. His blue peepers clouded over when he saw the packets.

"What are you doing?"

"Nothing," she said.

"You're counting those."

"It's nothing. I was just, you know, curious."

She saw his neck start to redden, the color blooming toward his face, a thermometer rising.

"Find any missing?" An accusation, not a question.

"Can't a girlie have a moment of weakness?" She said it teasingly in a vain attempt to cool his wick.

She crammed the condoms back in the box. She felt the burn of his stare for an awkward moment before he stepped back into the bathroom.

Talia reached for the pocket diary on his nightstand. She heard the metal dial on the bathroom scale bounce to a stop. She opened the little book. The scale dial bounced back to zero when he stepped off. She was deep into his calendar when he walked back into the room pinning his diapers on. He hadn't gotten to his trousers, but his hose was snapped into his garters and his Windsor was tight. He took one look at his diary and snatched it from her flipper.

"Psychiatric records are supposed to be on the QT."

"It's just your daily diary."

"You checking for tomatoes? Maybe scheduled at the end of the day?"

"Of course not." But that's exactly what she was checking. The last patient of the day had always been her slot. The slot that could be open-ended. The hot slot.

"I wouldn't cheat on you, doll." He bent down to give her a smooch. She tasted mouthwash. Some other dame's brand.

"I know you'd never pitch woo on a patient," she said.Again, she thought. After all, that's how they'd started. But they'd fallen in love. Ethics be damned.

"That's not what you're thinking." His neck was flushing again.

"I do trust you."

"Don't lie to me!" His sudden fury startled her. "You snoop around in my calendar. You accuse me of doing my patients. You count my goddamn rubbers, for Christ's sake!"

The veins in his temples seemed to be bursting through his skin.

"I can't help that I'm so dizzy over you!"

"We go over and over this. Your suspicions are killing this marriage."

"Artie, please. . . ."

"You're too damn hinky for your own good!"

The phone rang.

"Don't answer it," she pleaded, but he'd already grabbed the receiver. For the first time in her life, Talia hated the sound of the telephone ringer. "Dr. Lynch here." As he listened he turned his back on Talia. She tried to rub his shoulders but he batted her hand away. "Tell her I'll be right there."

The word her smacked Talia's noggin like a wrecking ball.

He hung up. "I've gotta go to the office."

His building was deserted at night. He'd be there with some floozy alone. Panic seized Talia like a full-body cramp.

"Please, Artie. Don't leave me like this."

"Shut your yap. I'm sick of your sob sister act."

He turned to make tracks.

"You're not scramming out on me!"

Her tone caught him up. He turned to find himself staring down the bore of his own heater. She held it in her shaking mitt with a determined look on her mug.

"You gonna squirt metal, Lyla? Go on. Plug me. I dare you."

"I don't know what I'm gonna do," she said. "But you're not walking out that gate."

"You're a bundle of jitters is what you are. And you'd better kick them."

She took a deep breath to calm her nerves. Then she drilled him in the head and watched him stop twitching.

"All kicked," she said.



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Craig Faustus Buck is an author and screenwriter. After writing for television for more than decades than he cares to admit, his debut noir mystery novel, Go Down Hard, was published by Brash Books in 2015 and was First Runner Up for Killer Nashville's Claymore Award. His short story "Honeymoon Sweet" won the coveted Macavity Award and his short stories have earned two Anthony Award nominations. Among his six co-authored nonfiction books, two were #1 NYT bestsellers, one pop-psychology and the other pop-gynecology. He wrote the Oscar-nominated short film Overnight Sensation. He was one of the writers on the seminal miniseries V: The Final Battle and he wrote the famous episode where The Incredible Hulk dropped acid. His indie feature, Smuggling for Gandhi, is slated for production in 2016. He is President of Mystery Writers of America SoCal chapter and a Director at Large of Sisters in Crime LA.