“The Killing Type,” by Maggie Estep
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Alice Fantastic author Maggie Estep takes us down to the sweltering heat of a Cancun vacation. Next week, Joe Meno (Office Girl, Hairstyles of the Damned, The Boy Detective Fails) takes us on a surprise trip to Homewood, IL.
The Killing Type
By Maggie Estep
Donceles 28, Cancún, Mexico
The sun wasn’t thinking about rising yet. Neither was Lincoln, the guy I had come to Cancun with.
I’d really like to take you to Cancun, baby, he’d said two weeks earlier, on our third date.
“What’s funny about that?”
I pictured high-rise resort buildings choking coastline. Portly Americans choking resort buildings. Me choking Lincoln.
“Nothing,” I said.
* * *
Eighteen hours into our trip, after we’d had sex in the very large hotel bed and Lincoln had swigged half a bottle of tequila, he passed out. I got up and stood staring at him. He looked rugged, smart. He was neither.
I put my blue dress on, stuffed toothbrush, wallet, and passport into my handbag. I might come back in a few hours. But I might not.
* * *
I went to the reception area and asked the concierge for a cab. In butchered Spanish, I asked the driver to head away from the resorts and into the actual city of Cancun.
“Where?” he asked in English.
“Anywhere,” I said.
“My name is Jin,” he said. “Not Jim. Jin.”
“Okay,” I said.
* * *
We were stopped at a traffic light in a barrio of low, shambled buildings beneath a highway overpass. An old man crossed the street carrying a chicken in a cage. Two women, maybe hookers, wearing glitter and not much else, teetered after him. Just past the light, a pickup truck was parked and I watched a man in a straw hat hoist a dozen reluctant, emaciated dogs into the back of the truck.
The light turned green.
“Please pull over,” I told Jin.
“Pull over?” he turned back to look at me.
“Yes. Please,” I said.
* * *
As Jin edged in behind the pickup, the man in the straw hat hopped back in his truck and nosed into the street. I asked Jin to follow.
“Amo perros,” I said, in Spanish.
Jin thought a few things, but didn’t say any of them.
The pickup made its way to Carretera Federal 307. Maybe we would drive all the way down to Belize, chasing the truck of emaciated pit bulls.
* * *
After thirty minutes, the pickup made a left onto a road lined by swamplands. Rising sun burned pink halos around the shrubs.
The road came to a village. The pick up made a sharp right and, after a few miles,
turned right again onto a dirt path. Jin tried to follow, but there were too many dips and pits.
“Nothing down there anyway,” he said, in English. “Swamp and crocodiles.”
“If you wait for me, I’ll give you a thousand pesos,” I said.
“What are you going to do, Miss?” he asked.
“My name is Eloise. Please just wait, Jin,” I said, digging five hundred pesos out of my bag. “I’ll give you more if you wait. Please.”
I got out of the car.
It was already hot out, the air starting to shimmer. Mangrove swamps on either side of the dirt path. Stubby trees between swamp and path.
I heard a man’s voice, yelling.
I looked all around me, found a rock with a sharp edge.
A few more paces, and I came to a clearing. The man in the hat was pulling a brindled dog from the truck over to a tree, attaching him to a chain there. About ten dogs were still in the bed of the truck. Off to the side, the bodies of many dead dogs. Picked open by vultures.
The man had his back to me. The dogs had all seen and smelled me, but none barked. Maybe they’d had their vocal cords cut—a popular operation among sub-humans who make dogs fight.
I walked forward, creeping along the sandy dirt surface. I got very close to the man in the hat before he finally felt me there and turned around.
He said something in fast, Mayan Spanish. He was several inches shorter than I. He pulled a gun from the pocket of his polyester trousers and pointed it at my heart.
I peed in fear. Felt the urine stream down my bare legs.
I ducked to the side, lifted my jagged rock, smashed it into the side of the man’s face.
He stumbled, put a hand to his head, but didn’t drop the gun. He fired at me. Missed. Went to fire again. Gun jammed.
One of the dogs, no more than a puppy, tan with a white chest and a bite wound on his leg, ran over, stood over the felled man, barking. The other dogs had been beaten down too long for an uprising.
The man tried to fire once more, aiming at the puppy this time.
I don’t kill spiders or even ants. I’m a vegetarian. I’m not the killing type.
As the man fumbled with his gun, I brought the rock down so hard, his entire face turned to pulp. The gun fell from his hand. I picked it up. I had only ever fired a shotgun. I braced myself and tried firing into the man’s chest. It worked fine. But scared the puppy.
“It’s okay, Perro,” I said, crouching down. The puppy came closer. Licked my hand.
I wiped the gun down on my dress then, using the fabric as a glove. Put the gun back in the man’s pocket.
The puppy watched as I rolled the man’s body over to the edge of the swamp and into the water.
I got the remaining dogs out of the pickup and tied them to trees so they’d be in shade until I could get help. The dogs had big heads and starved bodies, butchered ears and open wounds. But not one of them challenged me. The only one who would even meet my gaze was the puppy. His eyes were bright green.
* * *
Jin had waited. I climbed into the back of the cab, holding the puppy to my chest.
* * *
The sun was all the way up now.
* * *
MAGGIE ESTEP has published multiple books, including Alice Fantastic and Hex (a New York Times Notable Book of 2003). Her work has also appeared in many magazines and anthologies such as Brooklyn Noir, Queens Noir, Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, The Best American Erotica, and The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. She has performed her work in a wide variety of venues ranging from Lincoln Center to Lollapalooza, Charlie Rose, and HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. She lives in Woodstock, New York.
* * *
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the submission guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Feb 15, 2013