The Plot by James Boyle
The Plot by James Boyle
“I don’t think I can do it.”
Jessica strolled out of the bathroom, dropped her towel, and slid back under the covers. She smelled of hotel soap and musk. “You don’t?”
“I’m just not the killer type.”
Jessica snuggled up to Mark’s side, expertly fitting the warm curves of her body to his. He didn’t think he’d ever felt anything as soft and smooth as her skin. “Everybody is the killer type. It’s just a question of motivation.”
“Yeah, well.” He slipped his arm around her, pulled her closer. “Killing someone is pretty extreme.”
“But don’t you see? It’s the only way we can be together. Jonathan will never let me go, not without taking everything I have.”
Mark sighed. He’d heard many stories Jonathan over the months and knew he could be a vindictive bastard if you crossed him. He was the most loyal guy in the world as long as you backed him up. If you didn’t, all bets were off.
It was why he was such a successful businessman.
“You know I’m right,” Jessica told him.
He sighed. “Yeah, I know.”
“I don’t want to spend the rest of my life sneaking around like this. Do you? Do you enjoy living like this?”
Mark didn’t bother answering. They were in the bedroom of a furnished condo Jessica was trying to sell. One of the benefits of being in real estate was the access it gave you to private places. Unoccupied private places.
“Look, I’ve thought it all out,” she told him. “It will be quick and painless. A single moment, then we’ll be free to be together, wherever and whenever we want.”
He remained silent.
Jessica rose onto an elbow to gaze at him. “You do want to be with me, don’t you?”
“Of course I do.”
“Well, this is the only way it’s going to happen. I’ve looked at everything.”
“You can’t just get a divorce?”
“We’ve talked about this. Jonathan will never give me a divorce. Not without taking half of everything I’ve worked my whole life for. We’re both too old to start all over again. And we’re both old enough to know that love alone is not enough to live on.”
He sighed. Remained quiet for a moment. He could feel her gaze boring into his face. “I assume you have a plan.”
“I do.” She smiled and laid back down beside him. “It’s foolproof.”
“Foolproof? Okay, let’s hear it.”
“It has to happen in October, during deer season.”
She propped herself up on an elbow again, the better to meet his eyes. “I call him to come help me because I’m having car trouble. I will be in a turnoff near a forested area somewhere. You will be in the woods with a rifle. When Jonathan gets out of his truck to help me, you shoot him. It’s a tragic hunting accident.” She smiled and lay back down, smiling. “We mourn his tragic death, eventually seeking comfort in each other’s arms. After an acceptable amount of time, we live happily ever after.”
The truly frightening thing was it could work just as she described it.
“You have a place picked out for this?”
“Not written in stone, but I have a good prospect. You’ll need to take a look at it.”
He nodded. “We’ll still be the first people the cops look at.”
“Not if they believe it’s an accident.”
“But they’ll at least take a look at us,” he insisted. “It won’t be a natural death. They’ll have to do at least a token investigation.”
Jessica nodded. “But I will be in the clear, since I will have been with him when he was shot.”
“But you could have hired someone.”
“There will be no money unaccounted for,” she said, shrugged. “I won’t, in fact, have hired anyone to kill him.”
“What about me?”
“I’m not hiring you to do anything.”
“I know. But if they find out about us, they will look real hard at me.”
“So we’ll just have to figure out an airtight alibi.”
A couple of weeks later, Jessica pulled her car off the road into a small gravel pull-out beside County Road 232, the road leading from town to Jessica and Jonathan’s farmhouse. The pullout wasn’t much bigger than a two-car driveway and pinned between the road on one side and a three-strand barbed wire fence on the other. Beyond the fence lay an overgrown field about seventy-five yards wide and beyond that, forest.
“What do you think?” Jessica asked. “Will this work?”
Mark eyed the tree line. “The woods are pretty far. Hitting a target with one shot would take a pretty good marksman.”
“You don’t think you’re up to it?”
“I don’t think I want to just wound him. If I’m going to shoot someone, I don’t want them to suffer. An inch or two off can make a world of difference.”
“Crap.” Jessica released a sigh.
He stared out the passenger window. “But a shooter could hide in the grass, as long as it isn’t mowed before then. That would cut the distance in half, make it a much easier shot.”
“I don’t think it’s ever been mowed. I doubt it will in the next few weeks.”
He nodded. “How would I get in and out without being seen?”
Jessica started up the car, smiled. “I’ll show you.”
Mark looked up as the Agency’s front door opened and Jonathan stepped in. Mark hid his surprise the best he could and rose from behind his desk to greet. him “Hey, Jonathan. How are you?”
“I’m well.” They shook hands. “Is Jessica around?”
“I’m sorry. She’s out showing a property. I have no idea when she’ll be back. She should have her cell with her though.”
Jonathan shook his head. “I was just in the area and stopped by to see if she wanted to catch lunch.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll tell her you stopped by.”
“That’s okay. It was just a whim.” Jonathan told him. “Good to see you, Mark.”
Mark watched his lover’s husband walk toward the door, then stop and turn back to him. “What are you doing for lunch today?”
Mark was surprised. Didn’t know what to say. “I hadn’t really thought about it.”
“Come on then, my treat. I hate to eat alone. Besides, I have a business opportunity you might be interested in.”
“I think he knows about us,” Mark told her. “Or is suspicious anyway.”
“Why? Because he stopped by the office?”
He didn’t answer right away. It was hard to explain. More of an instinctual feeling. There was something in the way Jonathan had looked at him over lunch.
“I think you’re imagining things. Jonathan has just been Jonathan. Nothing has changed that I’ve seen.”
“It doesn’t matter anyway,” she said. “Hunting season starts Saturday morning.”
Mark didn’t say anything. They were sitting in his car in the driveway of one of Jessica’s listings, a three-bedroom, two-bath ranch in the Meridian neighborhood. It was just after quitting time, though realtors don’t often work strictly 9 to 5.
“Come on,” she told him and opened her door. “I’ve got something to show you.”
“It’s a surprise.”
Mark climbed out and followed Jessica to the house’s front door. She opened the lock box, retrieved the key and unlocked the house.
“You hid it in a vacant house?”
“You know of a better spot?”
He admitted he didn’t.
She led him over to a closet sealed with a padlock.
“The owners still have some things in here.”
He nodded as she opened the padlock and then the closet. “Here you go.” She handed him a rifle.
“Where’d you get this?”
“From a classified ad in Portland,” she told him. “Private sale. Cash. No paperwork; no background check; no questions. They didn’t even ask my name.”
“As untraceable as possible.”
Mark lifted it to his shoulder, sighted down the barrel. It felt good, well-balanced. He wasn’t familiar with the model, but recognized the manufacturer, Remington Arms.
“You’ll need this.” Jessica handed him a magazine. It was already filled with gleaming .30/06 cartridges. They would do the job.
“Will that work?”
He nodded. “It will work.”
She reached out to caress his cheek. “Soon, we’ll be able to be together whenever and wherever we want.”
On Friday evening, Mark loaded his kayak, tent, and fishing gear and drove up to Lake Siskiyou for a weekend of fishing. He’d been talking about the trip for days. He checked into the Forest Service campground at 7:30 that evening and set up camp. He was alone.
Deer hunting season opened Saturday morning at sunrise. For these few autumn weeks, the normally peaceful and deserted forests were inundated with men and women in camouflage and bright red, carrying rifles and skinning knives, many of whom, never set foot in the woods the rest of the year. Gunshots echoed across the hills. Pickups rumbled down the dirt and gravel roads, recently slain bucks lying in their beds.
Jessica didn’t hunt deer. Neither did her husband or Mark.
That Saturday, Jessica announced that she needed to work a few hours at the office, just until noon. Jonathan didn’t object. She often worked Saturdays; it was when working people could actually look at new homes. He planned to do some minor repairs around the house before winter set in. Jessica assured him she’d be home for a late lunch.
A few minutes later, Jessica pulled her car over into the pullout, parked, and switched off the engine. She pulled the hood latch, then climbed out of the car and opened the hood in the universal sign of car trouble.
Jessica then called Jonathan on her cell. “Jonathan? My car’s overheating. I had to pull off the road. I’m at the turnout by milepost 35.”
He told her he would be there in a few minutes.
Jessica shut off her cell phone and leaned against the car’s fender to wait. She purposely did not look into the high grass of the pasture behind her.
Less than five minutes later, Jonathan’s black Explorer passed her on the road, pulled a U-turn, then pulled into the turnout nose-to-nose with Jessica’s car and parked. Jessica turned to gaze down into the engine compartment as though expecting a sign. Jonathan climbed out of the Explorer and walked toward her, feet crunching on the gravel. He wore his weekend clothes, jeans and a plaid flannel shirt.
“We just had it serviced,” he said. “You must have blown a hose or something.”
Jessica shrugged. “All I know is that the temp gauge was in the red. I pulled over as soon as I could.”
“Well, let’s see what you’ve got.”
The top of Jessica’s head exploded in a pink mist. Her knees buckled as a gunshot sounded from the woods behind them. She fell like a broken marionette onto the gravel at Jonathan’s feet. Blood splattered on his trouser cuffs.
All Jonathan could do was stand there.
“So that’s it?” Mark asked. “The case is closed?”
They sat in a booth in the back of the nearly deserted Evergreen Lounge downtown. Corporate pop music played softly in the background, disturbed only by the bored bartender chatting with a customer at the bar. Business was slow on a weekday afternoon.
“It is officially a tragic hunting accident. The wrong place at the wrong time. A stray bullet.”
“They said she died almost instantly. Her brain was pretty much destroyed.”
Mark sipped his bourbon. “Hate to think she suffered.”
Mark sighed. “So all that’s left is her agency.”
Jonathan slid the document across the table. “The bill-of-sale. Congratulations, you are now the owner and principle agent of the Century 21 franchise.”
Jonathan finished his drink and rose to his feet. “I believe our business is finished.”
“I believe it is.”
Copyright James Boyle 2020