Authors: Karina Halle
You’re not going to murder
me in my sleep are you?”
Maybe,” he said, not
smiling. “It’ll be easy to do since we’ll be sharing the same bed.
I expect you’ll put out now.”
He looked at me, mouth shut
I assumed he was kidding
but there was always that tiny part of me who never knew what to
believe. I swallowed hard and turned my attention to the landscape
that was becoming more rugged and blistering as we drove
Out of the corner of my
eye, I eventually I caught Dex grinning. Of course it was a joke. I
felt like this might be the longest weekend of my entire
Two miserable hours later,
we pulled into the sleepy, somewhat desolate town of Red Fox. The
air-conditioning in the car decided to putz out 30 minutes into our
drive, which meant the last two and a half hours we had the windows
down, but with the outside temps, it didn’t do anything to cool us.
It was like having a hot blowdryer on your face. My hair was an
absolute rat’s nest, tangled to shit, my face was as dry as the
cracked desert floor that tumbled by monotonously, and my entire
back was soaked with sweat.
Dex didn’t look so good
either. He was getting a bit twitchy and irritable, which I would
have before attributed to driving in an oven, but now that I knew
about his pill situation I couldn’t help keep that in mind. He knew
it, too. He kept nervously glancing at me from time to time, wiping
the sweat off of his brow and flinging it out the
Dry, rolling ranches dotted
with sheep and cows announced our arrival into the township. As we
got further in, the acres were replaced with a simple mix of adobe
storefronts with “For Lease” signs, peeling bungalows with broken
fences and rusted bicycles, and a scattering of crooked trailer
homes. I’d never been in the Southwest before, but from what I
gathered, it looked like a forgotten town, where residents clung
desperately to their roots, no matter how badly the rest of the
world moved on. There were quite a few Native Americans driving
around in faded trucks or strolling the streets nonchalantly. The
heat didn’t seem to affect them in the slightest.
We drove through the dusty
streets, over the gritty pavement and potholes, until we came to a
low wood building at the edge of town. It reminded me of that last
structure of civilization that always sat at the edge of an old
West main street. Indeed, there wasn’t much beyond the building
except the highway and endless scrub which stretched into the
Dex drove up beside a
weathered Ford truck and put the car in park. He closed his eyes
and let out a long sigh. A bead of sweat dripped down his
I peered at the building. A
small, hand-painted sign said “Rudy’s Place” and beside that, a
neon Budweiser logo. A bar. It wasn’t even noon but Dex drove us
straight to the right place. Suddenly, nothing seemed as important
as a cold, refreshing beer.
You read my mind,” I told
He didn’t open his eyes or
wipe away the sweat droplet, which now hung from the tip of his
nose. It started to bug me.
Without thinking, I reached
over with my hand and wiped it off. To his credit, Dex didn’t
flinch. He opened his eyes though and gave me a strange
We’re meeting someone
here,” he said in a tone that insinuated I should know.
Whatever, I can’t sit any
I rolled up the window,
grabbed my purse and stepped out of the car. I had no idea who we
were meeting, I just needed to get out of the car, even though
being outside wasn’t much better.
It was absolutely
sweltering. You know when people tell you it’s OK because it’s a
dry heat? That’s bullshit. 100 degrees dry is still 100 degrees and
I was sweating like a pig. I stretched my legs back and forth and
tried to take in a breath of fresh air but all I got was dry
A pretty, pale pink adobe
house across the street caught my eye in a weird way. There wasn’t
anything really unusual about it except for surprisingly colorful
flowers adorning the sides. It would have been a soothing sight
among all dirt, except for seven large crows perched ominously in a
dead tree in the front yard. It was such a weird contrast – perhaps
that’s why I felt drawn to it. The murder seemed like a black blot
on the smooth façade of the only nice building in town.
And then, a movement at the
window of the house caught my eye. There was someone standing
there, watching me, watching us. I wished the glare of the window
wasn’t obscuring so much, but from what I could make out it was a
woman. A woman in a long, poofy, shiny gown with…
I stopped myself. It
couldn’t be, could it?
I squinted, straining
against the sun. It looked like there were multi-colored dots or
pom poms on the dress, scattered throughout. I had seen that
before. It made my ears ring and my blood whoosh loudly in my
Hey,” Dex’s voice broke
into my trance.
I looked behind me. He was
standing by the door, beckoning me over to the bar with his finger,
as if he had been waiting a while. Though, maybe he had.
I looked back at the house.
The woman in the clown-ish dress was gone. Only the crows remained,
as if they were her loyal guardians. I waited a few beats before
walking back to Dex.
He took off his sunglasses,
shoved them in his pocket and peered at me.
You OK there,
I nodded, knowing there was
no use explaining what I probably didn’t see. “It’s
He gave me the once over.
“You can’t handle the heat, huh?”
Phhfff. As if he could. His
shirt was clinging to him (to his pecs, nicely), his hair was a
damp mop on his forehead, and if it wasn’t for his telltale smirk I
would have thought he was close to passing out.
I crossed my sweaty arms
and nodded at the glass door. The layer of grime gave no glimpse to
So, who are we meeting
An old friend.”
He rolled his eyes. “Max.
My old friend, Max. He was the guy who told me about this
How do you know
Dex squinted off into the
distance, pursed his lips slightly. “In college. We were in the
Sing Sin Sinatra,” I said
excitedly, remembering that he used to be the singer in a
lounge/rock band. He never talked about it much and there were no
YouTube clips so I didn’t know too much about them. But I did know
he had an amazing voice, no surprise considering how sexy his
gravely speaking voice was.
Did I say sexy?
He looked a bit chagrined,
maybe a bit annoyed. “Yeah, that was it. He played bass. We lost
touch but, you know, found each other and shit on Facebook. Turns
out these days, he’s a…a…well, I’ll just come out and say it, a
I raised my brows. “Aren’t
we considered that?”
He smiled and fished out a
piece of Nicorette gum out of his pocket. He started chewing it
faster than he should have. Old friend or not, Dex didn’t like
talking about him. Or maybe it was the past he didn’t like talking
This guy is supposedly a
real ghost whisperer,” he said between chews. “He’s kind of for
hire. People call him when they want someone to talk to their dead
His mouth slowed down. “I
am serious. Doesn’t mean I think he’s legit.”
He looked around him and
peered through the door before continuing, voice lowered,
“Actually, I think he’s full of shit. But he called me here and I
don’t think he would have done that for nothing.”
And with that he spit out
his gum and opened the door to the bar. “After you.”
I walked into the bar. It
was dark, very dark, with shades pulled down on most of the streaky
windows. It was probably to keep the heat out, and it was doing a
fine job, along with the various huge wooden fans that whirred
creakily from the ceiling. It gave the place a rather morbid,
A woman stood behind the
bar serving a beer to a man who looked like Will Farrell’s Old
, complete with filthy hat and denim
jacket. The bartender paused, looking us up and down before giving
the man his drink. She was tall, pushing late thirties, weathered
and no nonsense. She regarded us very cautiously with no hint of
Dex came in beside me gave
the woman a quick wave and smile. “Good afternoon. We’re here to
She didn’t say anything but
her eyes shifted to the left.
To the left we looked. That
part of the bar opened up into a much larger area. There were a
couple of pool tables, an ancient pinball machine, scattered tables
and chairs, a sawdust floor, lazily placed barrels for “ambience”
and a row of booths. In the last booth sat a tall man, the only
other person in the bar.
I looked at Dex and
whispered, “Is that him?”
Dex stared at him and
didn’t mutter a word, but I could see the recognition in his eyes,
the wheels turning. We’d found him.
Max looked down at the
table, writing something with care. He had earphones on, so he
probably didn’t hear us come in but from the engrossed look on his
face, he probably wouldn’t have noticed anyway. He was rather
attractive – my first thought was that he looked like a ginger
rockabilly. He had red hair pushed back into a top-heavy coif,
thick lips that were ready to snarl. I couldn’t see his eyes
properly but I bet they were green. He was wearing a faded blue
flannel shirt that fit his wide frame nicely and gave him a
wholesome look that stood out in this joint. Light spilled in from
the window next to him, showcasing the dust that floated around his
Dex cleared his throat
(nervously?) and walked towards him. I followed, wondering if this
was going to awkward somehow.
Max looked up as Dex
approached and immediately grinned. He threw his earphones on the
table with a clatter and leaped up. Standing in front of us I could
see how tall he really was, a big, barrel-chested thing of a
Well looky what the cat
dragged in!” Max exclaimed and embraced Dex in a bear hug that
nearly picked him off the ground. I couldn’t see Dex’s face but he
had to be uncomfortable. He didn’t seem like a public affection
kind of guy.
They parted, the dust
swirling around them.
Good to see you Max,” he
said. “It’s been a while.”
Dex sounded a bit
melancholic. Max continued to smile but his eyes fell a bit. I felt
like I was intruding on something from out of the past. A lot of
baggage hung in the air between them.
It’s been too long,” Max
said carefully, still with a grin. He had a creamy Southern
They both smiled at each
other with a tinge of shame. Maybe I was imagining that though.
Either way, I was starting to feel shy and out of place. I looked
behind me at the bartender. She was watching us all intensely. She
caught my eye, moved over to a radio and flicked a switch. “Radar
Love” came blaring on the speakers. It took me a second to realize
the bar must have been dead quiet before.
Max, this is Perry,” I
heard Dex say.
I turned and gave the tall
redhead a smile. “Nice to meet you, Max.”
I offered him my hand which
he took and shook between his two, large hands. I couldn’t help but
stare at them. Nice hands, nice forearms. No wedding ring. Then I
remembered I had one on my own damn hand.
You can call me Maximus,
please,” he implored. I looked up at him. I was right, he had very
nice, bright green eyes.
Dex snorted. “Maximus? You
hated that name.”
Maximus let go of my hand
and answered Dex while looking at me, “I hated a lot of things when
I was young and stupid.”
Anyway,” Dex injected,
“shall we get down to it?”
You’re in quite the rush,
aren’t you?” Max pondered, more of statement than a question. He
was right. Dex was looking agitated, the toothpick was back in his
mouth again. I felt a rush of sympathy remembering his medication
problems, so I touched Dex’s shoulder and gently pushed him to the
Why don’t you boys sit
down while I get us all beers, OK? My treat,” I smiled broadly at
them, trying to dissipate the tension that seemed to be emanating
Why, thank you Perry,”
Maximus drawled. “That’s mighty kind of you. Shit.”
I giggled internally at the
sound of his drawl and made my way over to the bar. I didn’t really
have the extra cash, nor did I want to deal with the bartender but
I had to do something. Besides I wanted a beer from the moment we
pulled into this desolate town.