Dry Heat – Short Fiction

It’s the dry heat that flattens your shirt to the back of your neck. Leaves you breathless, like you just sucked down a pack of Marlboro’s. All at once. No filters.

Out here, the desert sands scour over the invading blacktop, waiting for the chance to regain that lost piece of ground. The sun slowly melts my cheap, plastic sunglasses to the bridge of my nose.

I gotta catch a break soon, or I just might lose it here. Better men have become buzzard food out in the endless dunes. My black heart might just turn their stomachs.

I’d taken position behind the only piece of junk large enough to hide a man of my size: a rusted out dumpster that was once blue, judging by the flakes of lead paint that flutter around every time I draw a searing breath. I shift positions for probably the fiftieth time. My 6’4” frame just does not do scrunched up well. Wonder why. But I’d wait here ten years, if I had to, for a shot like this.

Evan Tyrell: small-time crook, big-time thorn in my side.

What seems like a lifetime ago, Roy Ambrose, my idiot brother, had been working a high profile undercover case that quickly became not quite so undercover. A rookie mistake. One he paid for with his life. Big boss man, Cordova ordered a hit, and Tyrell cordially introduced my brother to the business end of his silenced Beretta.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my brother wasn’t going to be up for any sibling of the year awards any time soon, but, for the most part, he was a good cop. And good cops are a dying breed. So for two years, I’ve been itching for a crack at Tyrell.

He was good. I had to give it to him. I’d been hot on the bastard’s heels, but always a step behind. He faked me out at every turn. That would all end today. Here and now.

One of my more trustworthy informants had told me where Tyrell conducted his meetings. A boarded up diner just south of the city off highway 15. A short drive, but a long way from the flash and flair of the strip. The diner rose out of the sand like the fucking cave of wonders in Aladdin. Only there was no talking tiger and Robin Williams didn’t pop out and grant me wishes. Shame to hear about him. Good guy. Always made me laugh.

I think the heat might be going to my head.

A flash of light catches my eye, and before I can convince myself it’s a mirage, a familiar black sedan splits the curtain of heat waves like Moses parting the Red Sea. The Oldsmobile pulls into the parking lot of the all but forgotten roadside diner.

Tyrell was right on schedule.

The desert grows silent as the engine cuts on the Olds. The only sound my ragged breath clawing its way up through my chest and out through dry nostrils. My heartbeat drumming in my ears.

Now all I have to do is wait, and that’s hard enough. I’d waited for this moment so long, I almost lunge from my hiding spot. My legs quake with anticipation.

To keep my hands busy, I pop the clip on my trusty Smith & Wesson. Ten rounds in the mag, one in the chamber. Just as it should be. I’d loaded the thing this morning over breakfast, but a little reassurance never hurt.

Time stands still. Not a cloud moves across that blinding desert sky.

I blink to clear the sweat from my eyes, and everything seems to shift into motion. A car door creaks open, showering the sandy parking lot with rust. One dusty, black boot emerges. Another.

Sand puffs around them as Evan Tyrell, the man of the hour, stands and begins to make his way toward the diner.


I shoot up from my hiding spot, my legs protesting the movement after crouching for so long. Storming out, arms outstretched, I let my S&W lead the charge.

I think, in passing, that I should say something. Let the bastard know why he’s about to get what’s coming to him. But what could I say? Hello. My name is Syd Ambrose, you killed my brother, prepare to die. Nah. It only works that way in the movies. So I shut my mouth, pull the trigger, and let the pistol do the talking.

Gunfire cracks across the asphalt. One shot. A second. I lose track. The soft click of the trigger warns me that the mag is empty. I have a spare in the back pocket of my chinos, but adrenaline keeps my hands in front of me holding the now defunct pistol

Just as I toe my oxfords over the hump of pavement at the edge of the parking lot. Tyrell goes down. Hard. A mess of the red stuff blooming all around him like an exotic desert flower.

I smile like a Cheshire Cat looking out over Wonderland. I try to laugh, but a sudden tearing pain in my chest spoils the fun. The adrenaline wavers just enough to let me stumble but not stop my forward charge. Another shot tears through my right hip and knocks me off kilter. Shit

The sand offers no padding. My knees strike pavement, and my face follows suit. I get a mouthful of grit and blood and would spit if I could find the breath to force it out.

Of course, the slimy creep would have bodyguards. Pure rookie, Ambrose. I slowly roll over and glance up through shattered lenses at the two shapes looming over me. Blocking out the searing sun.

I smile like only a dead man can. Finally, some shade.


Copyright © Louisa Whitley 2014 All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without the author’s express consent. Backlinks are allowed.

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