.....Wanda paid cash for a Springfield XDM 9 millimeter pistol with a four inch barrel and a 13 round clip. Besides the line at the gun counter, the sporting goods store was packed with moms and dads buying football jerseys and helmets. Wanda took her boxes and slipped out pretty much unnoticed. Shit, no one noticed anyone buying a gun around here.
..... The pistol was lightweight and would fit in her purse. She didn’t have a concealed weapons permit, but didn’t expect to own the gun long enough for that to come up. It was expensive for a little gun – they sold a Glock cheaper – but the Springfield was recommended for its ease of use and efficiency. If it fired efficiently once, it would be worth the seven hundred dollars.

#

..... Lyle was a fucking bastard. Wanda had known a few of those, but Lyle took it to new levels. He was exciting, which meant she hadn’t left him fast enough. His wallet was always filled with cash. She soon learned that one reason for that was he never spent any of it. Not on her, anyway. That was one thing. And he hit Wanda with a belt, that was another. And he fucked her sister. Laughed about it too. Of course Wanda left him. That might have been enough, but now money was involved.
..... She and Vernon hadn’t been boyfriend and girlfriend, but they met right after she left Lyle and they slept together a couple times. She didn’t even know if Vernon was good in bed, he was just good at buying drinks, then they went back to his place drunk and did whatever. But he always got drunker than she did, so she remembered when he talked about Lyle. Vernon talked about ripping him off. Wanda knew that meant killing him.
..... Wanda wouldn’t say that had anything to do with leaving Vernon. There were plenty of reasons and she didn’t give any, just told him she was gone. That pissed him off, but any one of those reasons might have pissed him off more.

#

..... It was night. Cartons of cigarettes were jammed into the truck’s locked cab. It was a legal delivery if Lyle wanted to do it that way, but he made a lot more money if he got robbed. The rendezvous was scheduled for a quarter mile past the Tom Landry Bridge. He drove barely over the speed limit, not enough to get pulled over. If he got a ticket and was late, he could blow the whole deal.
..... There was a stretch of woods where Lyle had to slow down. He came out onto the open highway ready to accelerate, but the black pickup in front of him slowed down, then stopped. They were at a curve, no room to pass, so Lyle stopped too. The pickup’s engine kept running, but the driver got out, in a black leather jacket and baggy black pants and a black beanie that probably had his hair pushed up into it. Never did like guys with long hair, Lyle thought. The driver turned around quick, left the driver’s side door open, and stepped up to Lyle.
..... Lyle looked down from his big truck, realized the pickup driver wasn’t a man. She got closer. He was about to say, “Problem?” when he recognized her face. Wanda. Surprised, he said nothing.
..... She had a purse on her shoulder and she reached into it. “Lyle,” she said. “I know where you hid the rest of the money.”
..... He squinted down at her. What was she doing here? “Wanda?”
..... Wanda pulled the pistol from her purse and aimed it at his forehead. “Lyle.” She pulled the trigger and the bullet went where she aimed it. Wanda wore ear plugs but it still sounded like an explosion. Lyle heard nothing at all, just fell back. Wanda threw her ear plugs toward the woods and got back into the stolen pickup, drove a mile down the road to where she’d left her car.

#

..... Wanda took the one lane road up the hill to Lyle’s house, got out of her car and opened the trunk. She was here to clean out his house. And quick, before Vernon came after him.
..... Cleaning out was not exactly the right phrase. The money was under the bedroom floor, and Wanda knew where, but not how Lyle got it there. The floor should have been nice hardwood, it wasn’t nearly old enough to look like it did. Lyle did the work himself. He hated to spend money, and he didn’t mind working, but the cheap bastard had no taste.
..... Wanda pushed and tugged at the long plank of ugly wood but it didn’t come up. She didn’t expect it to. That’s why she brought the circular saw. She found an outlet, put on a dust mask and cut into the floor.
..... There was supposed to be plenty of cash down there. Wanda cut out a wide strip of the wood, and she cut long too. She didn’t know what Lyle intended to do with all that money. He lived in this shithole in the middle of nowhere and he wasn’t hooked on meth, and he didn’t gamble much or spend much on women, God knows.
..... Wanda didn’t let Lyle pull the job tonight because she knew he was getting cut out, by someone dumber than Lyle but more violent. That’s why Wanda was in a hurry, she knew Vernon would be on his way.
..... She guided the saw blade around the plank, quick as she could. She’d always been smarter than the bad boys she liked. Tonight she had to be faster too.
..... She reached the corner where she’d started and the long, wide plank of wood dropped. It didn’t fall far, it landed on the cash. But now she had to get the wood out, through the exact hole it had filled. She turned it, but her knuckles hit the bottom of the next strip of floor before the wood could go sideways. She’d have to cut it while it was down there, and she hadn’t brought a saw that would work for that.
..... Hell, she still had the Springfield.
..... The moment when she shot Lyle kept running through her head. She'd killed him but couldn’t watch him die. The noise of the gunshot into the plank wouldn’t bother her, not so much as not getting the money would. She got the pistol from her purse and aimed it at the plank below the floor. The loud shot went clean through, but it only put a hole in the wood, didn’t break it in pieces. Eleven left in the clip, Wanda thought, and fired again, and again and again and again, until the plank of wood was shattered and her ears felt like they’d been inside an amp at a Motorhead show.
..... She reached down and pulled a strip of wood, almost half as long as it had been, straight through the floor. She reached again and pulled up another strip, also almost a half. She flung them onto the floor and looked down at the bags below her. A couple of the bags had been shot into, and money showed through them, but none of it had blown away. The bags were large, and there were a dozen of them.
..... She pulled one up, then another. She could carry one in each hand. That would be six trips to the car, and she’d better move fast. She did not want to be here with an empty clip when Vernon arrived.
..... She took the bags outside two at a time and heaved them into the open trunk.

#

..... Vernon was pissed off when Wanda met him, more pissed off when she left. And that was before she stole the money he was coming for now. When she ran from him tonight, her trunk would be full. Because if anyone deserved Lyle’s money, it was her, not Vernon. Hell, she had to sleep with Lyle, while Vernon got to sleep with her.
..... Wanda put the last of the bags in the trunk. Her weary arms pushed the trunk shut, didn’t slam it. She got in the driver’s seat fast and turned on the inside light. Her keys should be in her purse, but she didn’t see them. She should have left them in the ignition. She had to get out of here. Wanda heard an engine in the distance. Then it wasn’t so distant. Wanda found the keys.
..... There was only one way down the hill, the same one lane road as the only way up. Chicken was not a game to play with Vernon. That boy was stupid, he didn’t care if he lived or died. Same reason she couldn’t bluff him with an empty Springfield. She put the keys in the ignition and got out of the car, left the purse with the gun inside. She ran back into the house, pulled the front door shut and locked it behind her.
..... Lyle had to have a gun in here, and he was sure to keep it loaded. Wanda ran down the hall and into the bedroom. It still smelled like pistol shots to her, a faint smell of matches and rotten eggs, but she’d been smelling that ever since she shot up the plank, maybe since she shot Lyle. Maybe she’d smell that forever. She stepped around the big hole in the floor. She heard a car stop outside. A door slammed.
..... There was a small table on either side of the bed, each with a lamp on top and a drawer. Wanda reached a table, opened the drawer. A Bible. Lyle probably stole the whole table from a motel. She leaned across the bed, opened the next drawer.
..... There was a .45 inside. Wanda grabbed it, rested against the bed a second and stood. The gun felt heavy in her hand. She hoped it was easy to handle, and prayed she would live long enough to find out.
..... There was noise at the front door, someone trying to get in. She could go out the back and circle behind him. He might not be alone, but Wanda didn’t like her odds if she waited in this room.
..... Wanda left the door open a crack as she slipped out of the bedroom and stepped quietly to the back door. The front lock was nothing special but she didn’t know how good Vernon was at breaking and entering, or at anything besides hurting people. She shut the back door softly behind her.
..... She moved fast as she could along the outside wall. She got low before she reached the corner of the house, peaked around at Vernon’s parked car facing hers. No one was outside or in the car, and dark curtains covered the windows at the front of the house.
..... Wanda ran. If Vernon saw her she was dead, but she had to get behind him. She made it to the front door, blinked a couple times and that was all, no time for nerves. Vernon had left the front door open a crack. Wanda pushed it a little farther and stepped inside. She squatted, a small target in case he saw her.
..... Wanda moved slow, quiet, scared. She stepped down the hall, along the wall, low to the floor. She needed him to be in front of her so one of them could die. If Wanda tried to kill Vernon and failed he would be pissed off, and she would not want to be alive in the same room with him after that.
..... Vernon stepped out of the kitchen.
..... Wanda saw him before he saw her. “Vernon,” she said, and he raised his gun.
..... They were too far apart, she couldn’t hit what she aimed at from here, but his gun came up so she brought up hers. He fired and shot her in the shoulder.
..... Wanda fell to her knees, pulled the trigger just to slow him down. Her shot missed and she looked up at him. He stepped toward her grinning and she knew this was the wrong time to pray.
..... She pitched forward, tried to grab something to hold herself up, but all she could reach was the gun still clenched in her hand. It fired again, but this time she didn’t aim.
..... The bullet hit Vernon in the gut. He dropped his gun at his feet and toppled onto his back. He raised his head, like he was looking for her or his gun, but his head didn’t come up much. It fell back fast. His hands went to his belly and he lay there, gurgling and crying, like a bleeding baby.
..... Wanda got to her knees and looked at him, but she didn’t want to see. She stood, walked until she was close enough, and did what was right. She didn’t know how long he’d bleed, didn’t know if a doctor could save him. She shook, but leveled her gun hand and fired. One shot to the head. It was the right thing to do, for him and for her.
..... He would die, Wanda thought, and she would join him in Hell when she died, but she would stand over him there, him and Lyle. She would outrank them in Hell and outlive them on Earth. In the meantime, she would suffer their deaths and their money.