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A Carl North mystery
November 2006 from The Mercury Press
by Terry Carroll


The silence was worse than the yelling.

The woman rocked back and forth on the bed, hugging herself. She couldn’t seem to sober up.

A shaded lamp with a trout-fish base cast orange light over a dresser, a colourful woven rug, the pine floor. And a man. He was dark and threatening when he was furthest from the lamp. More like himself when he was closer.

Noises filtered in through a screened window. Insect sounds. Night birds. Endless frogs.

She wished the man would say something. No more shouting—she’d had enough of that—but she didn’t trust this
false calm.

Okay, she shouldn’t have threatened to tell his wife. But it wasn’t her fault. He should know it was the booze talking.

He paced with the neck of a 40-ouncer in one fist. He raised the bottle. He took a pull. She heard the slosh. He screwed the cap back on.

This not-talking was creeping her out.

Unsteadily, she stood. She rubbed her palms over the sides
of her wrinkled shorts, readying herself. She teetered toward the man. He stopped and looked at her. She dropped to her knees in front of him.

“What the... ? ”The man backhanded her across the face,
swatting her away.

Pulling herself to her knees, she tasted blood. She wiped
her nostrils with the back of one wrist. It came away red. Did he break her nose, the bastard? The dirty, rotten bastard.

Tossing back her head, she yelled at him. Words streamed out
of her as they had before, as if she couldn’t stop them. She
shrieked at him about the money. She paused and moaned,
gripping herself around the middle, as if she hurt inside.

“Get out.” His voice sounded ominous. “You pathetic
bitch. You got a problem you can’t control. I want you gone.”

She was all mixed up. “I need you.” Crying. Her head in
her hands. “You know I do.” Her eyes running worse than her

He shouted at her, his voice filling the room. He called her
disgusting names. That wasn’t right. People would hear him.
She didn’t deserve it.

Plugging her ears with her fingers, she shut him out. Him
and his lousy words. That made him crazier. He kicked her.

She toppled over but didn’t give up.

She assumed a crouching position on the floor. Her feet
were bare against the rough rug. She drew in a long breath and held it. Exhaling a yell, head down like a sprinter out of the starting blocks, she rose up against him.

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