The man looked funny lying there on the bed naked with his mouth half open and his legs twisted in the bed sheets. It was his expression that nearly sent Moses Winter into a fit of laughter. It was a look of shock mixed with fear, like he had broken his mother’s favorite vase and been caught in the act of cleaning it up.
Moses jerked his head to look at Sharon standing behind him. She was pressing a gun into Šejla’s neck. Šejla was kneeling at her feet, naked except for her underwear. The gun was Moses’s. She must have taken it from the glove box of his car when he wasn’t looking.
The man on the bed was Fred Dunsmore. Moses had followed him for weeks and now he cowered on the bed, a breath away from begging for his life.
“Sharon put the gun down,” Moses said.
“Quiet,” Sharon said. Then she drew back the gun and struck Šejla in the side of the face with the barrel of the pistol, knocking her to the floor. She lay motionless. Her skin glowed a dusky red from the flickering flames coming from the fireplace behind her.
“No!” Fred shouted.
In an instant, Moses was at the injured woman’s side. “That’s enough. This wasn’t part of the plan!” Moses screamed, shielding the fallen woman with his body.
“I say when it’s enough,” Sharon said. She lowered the pistol, stepping around Moses and the injured woman as she moved toward her husband, Fred Dunsmore. Fred still hadn’t budged an inch since they had burst into the room a minute before. Even when Sharon dragged Šejla off the bed at gunpoint, he’d just sat there with that dumb look on his face.
Moses watched Sharon with one eye as he rolled Šejla’s limp body onto her back. An angry red mark had already formed on her cheek where the gun had struck her. He checked her neck for a pulse. It was strong. She was just out cold. Moses shrugged out of his coat and placed it over her naked chest. He turned his attention back to Sharon. She stood over Fred, her expression blank as she trained the gun on her husband. The crackling fire was the only sound in the room. Then the cold wind howled outside, rattling the window of the cabin, searching for a way inside.
“What is her name?” Sharon waved the gun at the other woman. “You know her name,” Fred said.
“I want to hear you say it.”
“And what is she to you?”
Moses watched as Fred struggled to find the words. He wanted to
jump in and say something to defend him, to stop this, but Sharon was too unpredictable. A few minutes ago she had been an almost timid soccer mom. Now, she was a raging bundle of violence in yoga pants and fur topped boots.
“She’s my girlfriend,” he said, Fred’s shoulders squaring slightly, his chin raising an inch.
“Your girlfriend,” Sharon said, shifting her gaze to the other woman. Moses felt like a voyeur, his presence forgotten, as he watched the confrontation unfold between wife and husband.
Sharon pushed the barrel into her own cheek like it was a pen and pursed her lips, seeming to consider the girl. Then she turned back to Fred, leveling the gun at him.
“On your feet.” She motioned with the pistol.
Fred pushed himself to a sitting position with his back resting against the wall and one hand out like a stop sign. “No. Not until you put the gun down,” he said.
“Shut up. On your feet or I’ll make it so you can never stand again,” she said, pointing the gun toward his toes.
“Just don’t shoot, please Sharon. I’ll do what you say.” Fred hung his head as he got off the bed, leaving one hand for his modesty. Moses shifted on his knee, watching as Sharon used the gun to prod Fred up against the wall by the fireplace. Moses stood with one thought in his head. He needed to stop this, gun or no gun.
Sharon seemed to sense his movement. “Stay where you are, Moses,” she said, turning her head his direction, still holding the gun on Fred.
Moses stared back at her, holding his ground, waiting for the opening he needed to act.
Sharon turned back to Fred, “OK, Fred, give me a reason.” Fred looked to Moses with eyes begging for help.
“Don’t look at him, look at me. What do you have to say, Fred?” Sharon said, her voice rising.
Moses took a step toward them.
“Don’t fucking move!” Sharon said shaking the pistol at Moses. Moses froze. Was there a round in the chamber? He couldn’t
remember. Sharon smoothed her hair and nodded at Moses like a teacher to a pleasing student.
“Thank you. Now Fred, were you going to say something?”
Fred looked at the floor. “You know.”
“What was that?” Sharon said leaning forward, tilting her head lower
attempting to force Fred to look at her.
“You know,” Fred said, his voice stronger now.
Moses heard a low groan behind him. He chanced a quick look and saw Šejla roll over, shaking her head as she got to all fours. The movement seemed to go unnoticed by Sharon and Moses allowed himself to breathe.
Fred was speaking now, drawing Moses’ attention back to the unfolding confrontation. Moses was stunned by the transformation of the other man. Timid Fred was gone, in his place, a defiant man. His eyes were devoid of fear, replaced with something else, something like pain or the memory of pain.
“You know that we haven’t been ‘us’ for a while now Sharon. Your work and my work. The kids. It’s just not what we set out to be. We were going to be better.”
“Oh this is though?” Sharon said pointing the gun in the direction of the bed. “You stupid, stupid man. If only you could have kept your dick in your pants or been more careful at least, for my sake. My mother saw you with her. Do you have any idea what it’s like? Lying to someone you love for someone who is crushing your soul?”
Fred laughed. “You know what Sharon, I do. I have done that. I’ve done it for you.”
Moses glanced back. Šejla wasn’t there. Moses craned his neck until he found her by the bed. She was bent down, digging in her purse. What was she after? Her phone? Good she’ll call the cops, Moses thought. He turned back to Sharon and Fred. Sharon’s hand holding the gun quivered as she listened to Fred speak. Moses took a quick step forward.
“You lie,” Sharon said, quietly.
“How many times have I had to tell the kids you will be home soon? That you’ll make the next game or recital? That you love them more than anything else?” Fred continued.
“Shut up,” Sharon said.
“And you know what? You don’t. You love that business of yours more than anything. What is it? The control? The power? It’s definitely not glamorous.”
“Go to hell, Fred. You have no idea. You don’t know what I want. You don’t know me.”
Sharon’s eyes watered and her upper lip curled over her teeth. “Sharon,” Moses said. “This has gone far enough. Fred gets it. You guys are through. You scared him enough. Just put the gun down and we’ll leave.”
Sharon shook her head, focused on Fred. “We aren’t quite done yet Mr. Winter.” She extended her arm, aiming the weapon into Fred’s face. Fred shrank into the wall, closing his eyes, courage abandoning him in his final moment. But then Fred opened his eyes and focused on something behind Sharon.
“Don’t do it!” Moses shouted. Sharon jerked her snarling face in Moses’ direction. Fred saw his chance. He grabbed the gun and forced it above her head.
“No!” Sharon shrieked.
A burst of flame shot from the gun, splitting the air with the acrid smell of burnt gunfire as the bullet slammed into the wall next to the fireplace with a puff of plaster powder.
“Sharon!” Moses yelled, his voice sounding muffled with the report from the gun still ringing in his ears. Then the gun swung his direction and he ducked.
Sharon kneed Fred in the groin. He stumbled off balance and Sharon tripped him, sending them to the floor with Sharon on top of Fred. Fred showed his teeth as he fought for control of the gun. In a blur of blonde hair Šejla appeared. She latched onto Sharon’s neck with one arm, holding a long knife in the other, poised to strike. Moses dove at her.
His shoulder slammed into Šejla, tossing her and Sharon to the side. Moses found himself on top of Fred now. Next to him, Šejla and Sharon wrestled on the floor. The gun and knife were gone. Then Moses realized Fred wasn’t moving. He looked down and saw Fred’s eyes were fixed blankly on the ceiling. Moses leaned over his mouth and listened. He was still breathing. Then he saw the handle of the knife jutting out of Fred’s side. He checked the wound. A small trickle of dark blood leaked around the edge of the blade.
“Stop it! Fred’s hurt,” Moses yelled at Sharon and Šejla. Then to Fred he spoke at a level just above a whisper. “Fred. Can you hear me, Fred?”
“Yeah,” he said, putting his hand to the knife handle.
“Don’t touch that. It’s not that bad,” Moses said. He patted Fred on the shoulder and then looked over at Sharon and Šejla. They were sitting together on the floor not more than a foot apart. Šejla held her hand to her mouth. Sharon’s shoulders slumped forward against her heaving chest. Both pairs of eyes were trained on the knife handle jutting from Fred’s gut.
“Sharon, get a blanket and cover Fred up. Šejla, call 911.” Neither moved. “Now!”