Josie resisted the urge to have more shots before she left Sandman’s. All the talk about June’s horrific childhood had agitated some of Josie’s own demons—black, amorphous ghosts that lay dormant until disturbed and then threatened to suffocate her. Too much had happened that day, too much had been said. They’d been summoned, and now she felt them swirling around her, pulling her under like a rip current, carrying her off to a dark, fathomless sea. Her limbs dragged as she walked back to her vehicle.
Luke would be working into the night on the interstate shootout, which meant she would be alone. Alone with the stirred-up memories of her past. Luke didn’t know about any of it. She didn’t want him to. She preferred him to see her as she was now—capable, confident, fearless, and whole. Only Ray knew about her past, and he was her past now too. Josie didn’t have many friends who weren’t on the force, which meant everyone was working. There was her grandmother, Lisette—probably her best friend, above all—but she lived in an assisted living facility on the outskirts of town. There really was no one she could call.
Everything had been fine when she was on the job; she worked more than she didn’t, and she loved it. When she wasn’t working, she was with Luke. Tonight she had only her ghosts, her suspicions, a head full of questions and nothing to distract her. She doubled back as she drove past the liquor store; maybe Jim Beam would be a good friend to her tonight.
She was browsing the
aisles slowly when she saw a woman from the corner of her eye. At first, Josie
nearly didn’t recognize her. She was standing in front of the boxed wine,
wearing more clothes than she had probably ever worn in her life. Her long
blond hair was pulled back into a pony tail and she wore no make-up or body
glitter, just a pair of jeans and a thin blue T-shirt under a brown denim
jacket. The transformation
was quite amazing, actually. Looking at her in regular clothes, browsing the shelves, Josie would never peg her for the scantily clad, notoriously promiscuous dancer at the local strip club.
Misty must have felt Josie’s heated gaze bearing down on her because she looked up, her eyes widening, cartoon-like, as she saw Josie at the other end of the aisle. Josie noticed she was carrying both a wallet and a cell phone in her hands. No pockets, Josie guessed, as she bit back a joke about there being plenty of room in her panties.
Misty said, “Leave me alone.”
Josie laughed. She couldn’t help it. The sound made Misty jump. She was only a few years younger than Josie. In fact, she had probably been a freshman at Denton East when Ray and Josie were seniors. Josie didn’t remember her. Didn’t know what had driven her to work at Denton’s one and only strip club, Foxy Tails. Still, she had a childlike quality about her and Josie hated that. She always looked like she was genuinely surprised by other peoples’ animosity, which Josie found strange. Surely, she wasn’t the only wife to catch her husband in bed with Misty. She was certain that Misty had been confronted by angry wives many times. Josie took a step toward her.
“I mean it,” Misty said. “I’ll call Ray.” “Go ahead,” Josie said.
A flush crept upward from Misty’s throat to the roots of her hair. She held up her cell phone. “I mean it. Leave me alone.”
Josie put a hand on her hip and narrowed her eyes. “What do you think I’m going to do to you, Misty?”
Her doe eyes went blank. “I… I don’t have to talk to you.”
Josie laughed again, causing Misty to shrink backward. “Oh, I have no interest in talking to you, but people go to jail for doing the things I’d like to do to you.”
The flush deepened. “Is… is that a threat?” Josie lowered her voice. “Are you afraid?”
Misty’s voice went up an octave. Her fingers scrabbled across the phone’s screen. “I’m calling Ray.”
Josie didn’t take her eyes off Misty. She could hear the thin sound of Ray’s phone ringing and ringing and then his voicemail clicking on. “You have reached Ray Quinn…”
“He’s not going to answer. He’s busy,” she told Misty.
Misty lowered the cell phone from her ear. She backed up two steps. “Get away from me,” she said without conviction.
Josie advanced on her. “Why? Why
should I? You have no respect for
other people. Why should I respect you?”
Misty’s face twisted, and Josie knew she was about to see her real side. “Oh, please. Maybe if you could keep your husband happy he wouldn’t have come looking for me.”
The words stung. Wasn’t that at the root of Josie’s grief over her failed marriage? That she wasn’t enough for him? That maybe if she had been able to forgive him for what had happened he wouldn’t have gone looking elsewhere? She had always told herself that it wasn’t her fault. They’d been together since high school. On her weaker days, she could see that maybe he had grown bored—she had felt that way sometimes as well. But Ray sleeping with Misty wasn’t what truly wounded her. It was that he had fallen in love with her.
Who fell in love with a woman named Misty? A stripper, no less. It was such a cliché. It made her physically ill.
“I wouldn’t be proud of being a homewrecker,” Josie told her.
A thin, cruel smile spread across Misty’s face like a snake. “Ray said you don’t satisfy him anymore,” she said, quietly.
Maybe it was the alcohol, or the day she had just had, or the suspension, or the months of rage over the dissolution of her marriage and then Ray’s refusal to sign the divorce papers. Maybe it was all of those things. But it happened, lightning fast. Before she even had time to realize what she was doing, Josie stepped forward and drove her shoulder into Misty’s chest, knocking her back so she stumbled, her arms flailing as she tried to keep her balance, her feet flying out from beneath her as she crashed into a wall of bottles behind her. Bottles of red wine shattered onto the floor, splashing crimson liquid everywhere. The sound was deafening.
Before Misty or anyone else in the store could react, Josie fled, squeezing through the automatic exit door before it had a chance to fully open. The cool evening air felt good on her face as she walked quickly toward her car, her whole body trembling.
She leaned against her car door, sucking in the fresh air and willing her body to calm down. Looking down at her hands, she saw that they were clenched into fists. She opened them only to discover that her fingers too, were shaking.
“You bitch!” Misty’s voice was a screech. She stood twenty feet away, outside of the liquor store, covered in red wine and shards of glass. Josie stared at her for a long moment. Misty’s chest heaved, tears streaming down her cheeks as she shrieked at Josie once more, “You stupid bitch!”
Josie couldn’t speak. She could barely breathe. She had thought the
sight of Misty, visibly shaken and humiliated, would make her feel better. But she felt worse. She felt empty and hollow and ashamed.
She couldn’t get home fast enough.