HOSTAGE • by Maureen Bowden

I picked Lee. I needed him, needed his skill: his trigger finger. I’m sorry for what I had to do to you, Betty Lou, but it was partly your fault honey chile. You shouldn’t have been messin’ around with a married man. Heck no, I don’t mean that. Maybe it’s why God made you a sweet Texas whore, so I could use you to make Lee my instrument. When I saw him cheatin’ on his foreign wife with you I knew I’d found the way.

For weeks I watched and learned: where he picked you up, where he left you when he drove home to her. I was waiting to place my hand over your pretty mouth, stop your screams and bring you here. I knew how scared you were. It’s been near fifty years, and I still remember touching your soft damp skin; smelling the cheap scent mixed with your sweat. That was the fear, I know. Sorry I made you sweat, Betty Lou, but we had God’s work to do, you and me.

I told him I had you. D’ya know what he said honey chile? Not “Don’t hurt her,” not “Please let her go.” No. He said, “Don’t tell Marina.” All he could think about was his devil-worshipping Commy wife.

So I changed tack a little. I told him, “You do this for God and America and you’ll see the back of me. Otherwise, Betty Lou and I will be paying your family a visit.” The money helped too, I guess: a thousand dollars, the promise of more, and the gratitude of his true countrymen. His eyes lit up like some goddamned holy martyr and he agreed faster than Castro licked Khrushchev’s ass.

I tried to explain to you, Betty Lou. I wanted you to understand that I love God and I love America: my America, the one with the values passed down to me by my daddy and granddaddy and his granddaddy. I wasn’t about to let some son-of-a-bitch Irish Catholic immigrant take that away from me.

I told him where to meet me. I gave him the gun and led him to the window. “When the car passes you blow the bastard’s head off and save our country. Then you can go home to your wife a richer man and she’ll never know about that dirty little girl.”

He didn’t know my name. What could he tell them when they caught him? I was a guy with a thousand bucks to give away? I never gave him a good look at my face and you can’t hardly pick me out in a crowd. No, he’d keep quiet, be a hero to his family and their commy friends, spare them ever knowing about you.

I couldn’t let you go, honey chile, not after I’d told you. I didn’t want to hurt you, so I waited until you were asleep before I held the pillow over your head. They found you two days later but they never identified your body. I made sure of that. There were a few lines in a couple of newspapers, but who was gonna read them? They had other things on their mind in November 1963. Lee made the headlines. So did Jack Ruby. But no one knew me, except you; and no one remembers you, except me.

Maureen Bowden is a Liverpudlian living with her husband in North Wales, where they try to avoid the onslaught of two grown-up children, nine grandchildren and a former foster-daughter. She writes for the amusement of family and friends and has had several poems and short stories accepted for publication.

This story is sponsored by
Jenny Schwartz — Australian contemporary romance author in love with steampunk.

Rate this story:
 average 0 stars • 0 reader(s) rated this