Read A Killing in the Valley Online
Authors: JF Freedman
He helped her up onto the bed, then got on with her. They each took another hit off the pipe, chasing it with more tequila. The bottle was almost empty. He had bought it after he’d picked her up. She had drunk a lot more of it than he had, which was his plan.
They started making out. Her soft body moved easily under his. He could taste the tequila and marijuana in her mouth. Her lips were pillows, her tongue moving inside his mouth a soft, sensuous snake.
One of his hands went under her dress, caressing the soft, warm skin of her belly. She twisted her body up off the mattress so he could slip her dress over her head. Then the bra, unhooking it with one hand, sliding it off.
He began sucking one of her brown, puckered nipples. She moaned softly. He pulled his shirt off, chucked it onto the floor. Then his OP shorts, his Big Dog boxers. His free hand slipped under the elastic of her panties, his fingers caressing the slick curly hair of her vagina, slipping a finger into her moistness, then another.
After a minute of stimulating her with his hand, he put himself into her mouth. Her head bobbed up and down on his shaft like she was riding a carousel horse. He could feel the wave building rapidly. Pulling his tumescent penis out of her mouth, he turned her around on her hands and knees. He rolled the condom on, preparing to enter her from behind.
“Fuck!” she called out suddenly, rising abruptly into the air.
“What…” he started to say, but she was off the bed and running for the bathroom.
She barely made it to the porcelain toilet bowl. He staggered into the bathroom after her. “Are you all right?” he called out to her heaving back.
On her knees, bent over the toilet bowl, her body was shaking as she retched into the toilet. She nodded distractedly, her hands holding her long hair back to keep it from getting splattered with the vomit. He turned and went back into the bedroom.
After she finished discharging whatever had been in her stomach, she flushed the toilet, wiped the edges of the bowl clean, gargled with water from the sink, splashed more cold water on her face, and staggered back into the bedroom. He was lying on his back on the bed, playing with his erection. He wouldn’t kiss her while he was fucking her now, but that didn’t matter. They had done plenty of kissing already.
“You all right now?” he asked blandly, as she stood at the foot of the bed. Her skin was blotchy. A cold film of sweat had formed on her stomach and chest.
She nodded weakly. “Too much tequila on an empty stomach,” she told him.
“Hey, it happens,” he said magnanimously. It wasn’t like she had gotten sick deliberately. He patted the sheets next to him.
She stared at him. “Are you shitting me?” she asked. Her voice had taken on a hard, angry tone.
“It’s okay,” he said. “I’ve had my elephant-breath days. Everyone has.” He patted the bed again. “Come to papa.”
Wordlessly, she grabbed her panties off the floor and slipped them on. Then she got down on her hands and knees, looking for her bra, which had landed under a chair when he had chucked it across the room.
He sat up. “What’re you doing?” he said to her ass, the closest part of her to him.
Still on her hands and knees, she looked up at him over her back. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m getting dressed.” She found her bra and put it on, reaching behind her to fasten the snap. “You might as well, too. Party’s over for today. Sorry,” she said, without any remorse.
Now he was off the bed, on his feet. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
Hands on hips, she stared at him like he was the village idiot. “You think I feel like having sex after I just barfed my guts out? No way, José.”
His jaw dropped. All the foreplay, the whiskey, drugs, that pair of earrings he had bought her at the mall, and now she was turning off the tap? “You little bitch,” he snapped at her. “You’re not getting away with that shit.”
She stared at him gimlet-eyed. “Getting away with what? I didn’t make you any promises, man.” Seeing the anger rising in his face, she backed off on her attitude. “It’s not like I don’t like you or nothing. I want to do it with you. Just not now, is all. I can’t, I’m feeling too shitty.” She tried a placating smile. “Tomorrow, when I’m feeling better, we can get together again.”
Yeah, he thought, the rage coming stronger, like you and me are really going to see each other tomorrow, or any other time. Today had been one of those frozen moments in time, when everything came together in a perfect fit. After today they’d never see each other again, he knew that with certainty.
He took a deep breath. “Just calm down, okay? We’ll take it easy for a few minutes, you’ll feel better, then we’ll…” He didn’t say the rest. He knew that she knew what he meant.
“No,” she told him firmly. “I’m done for today with you.” She reached down to the floor for her dress. “You need to take me home now. My mother will be worried if I get home too late, it’s like an hour’s drive almost.” She hadn’t been paying attention on the drive here, she’d been too spacey, but she knew it was way the fuck out in the boonies.
He put his hands on her shoulders. “We aren’t leaving. Not yet.” He started to push her down onto the bed. She backed away, then reached back and slapped him across the face, as hard as she could.
“Don’t touch me!” she yelled. She was still high as hell, she could feel it, but not high enough that she couldn’t take care of herself.
He stared at her for a moment, feeling the color rising in his face. The slap had stung, but the doing of it was the real hurt.
He started toward her again. She backed away, her hands holding her dress in front of her, an instinctive and pitiful act of protection. He grabbed her around the waist, lifting her off her feet. She tried to bite his hand, but he wrapped his fingers around her neck, hard, almost cutting off her windpipe.
“Don’t,” she tried to choke out.
He threw her onto the bed. One hand tore off her panties, the other covered her mouth to muffle the screaming.
She was back in the living room. She had managed to get her clothes on. She didn’t know where he was—somewhere back in the house, that bedroom or the bathroom next to it, where she’d been sick.
She had to get out of here. She didn’t know the location; she hadn’t been paying any attention during the drive. She did remember they had turned off Highway 154 past the town of Santa Ynez. If she could get to the county road they had turned off to get here, somebody could drive out from Santa Barbara and get her. The way she looked, nobody would pick her up hitchhiking. She knew that because she had checked herself out in the mirror, after he had finished with her. One eye was almost completely closed, her bottom lip was split and oozing blood.
She reached into her purse, took out her cell phone, and started to dial.
“Who the hell are you calling?”
She jumped, turning toward the voice. She hadn’t heard him come up behind her. “Nobody,” she said instinctively. That was an obvious lie, the phone was in her hand and she had been punching in numbers. “My mother,” she improvised. “To tell her I’m gonna be late.”
His head shook slowly, back and forth. “You were dialing 911, weren’t you? You were going to call the cops on me.” He reached out for the phone. “Give it here.”
She started backing away. “No.”
He came toward her, stepping slowly. Except for his boxer shorts, he was naked. “Give,” he ordered her, holding his hand out.
She stopped and stared hard at him. What more can he do to me, she thought with suddenly clarity. She felt powerful all of a sudden. “What are you going to do if I don’t?” she asked in an aggressive tone of voice. “Kill me?” she taunted him. “That’s all that’s left for you to do to me. You’ve done everything else already.”
He stared back at her. He had gone too far, way too far, and he knew it. “Look,” he said, trying to placate her, “I’ll drive you back to town and drop you off and you’ll never see me again.” He forced a smile. “I’m sorry.”
Her smile back at him was like the grim smile of a death’s-head. “You don’t know how sorry you’re gonna be, you shitbird.” She started to dial again on her cell phone.
“Don’t call the police!” he yelled at her. “That won’t do either of us any good.”
She momentarily stopped dialing. “The police?” She laughed in his face, that was such a lame idea. “You think the police would do anything for me against someone like you? My word against yours, whose are they gonna believe?”
What she was saying was true, he knew that without her having to spell it out. She had come here with him willingly. They had done drugs and drunk almost an entire bottle of tequila together. He’d bought her a pair of cheap earrings at the mall, which could be construed as payment for sexual favors. Most importantly, she was working-class Latina and he was an Anglo college boy. No way the cops would believe what had happened wasn’t consensual.
“I don’t need the police to help me.” She resumed dialing again.
“Then who are you calling?” he asked suspiciously. “And don’t give me that bullshit about your mother.”
She paused in mid-dial. “You really want to know?
You really want to fucking know?”
she screamed at him. “I’ll tell you, asshole. I’m calling my uncle. He runs with the gangs in Ventura and Oxnard, from way back. He’s going to come get me, then he’s gonna fuck you up so bad you’ll wish I
called the police.”
Involuntarily, he began to shake, his body trembling as if he was standing on an electric grid. His mind’s eye flooded with television and magazine images of tattooed prison inmates from gangs like Bloods, Crips, Mexican Mafia, Aryan Brotherhood. If she really had an uncle who was connected to any one of those gangs, he was in serious trouble.
He lunged for her, grasping for the phone. Surprisingly nimble for someone who had been drunk, stoned, thrown up, raped, and assaulted, she pivoted away from him, running across the room, continuing to punch in numbers.
The gun, an old revolver, was lying on a small table near the fireplace. In the darkness, neither had seen it. She grabbed it off the table and pointed it at him.
He froze. Very deliberately, as if trying to calm a wounded, frightened animal, he asked, “Are you going to shoot me?” Even more deliberately: “You’re not actually going to pull the trigger on that thing.”
She backed away, her head shaking back and forth. Her gun-hand was shaking so violently she could barely keep it pointing at him. “Not unless you force me to,” she told him. “I want to get out of here, that’s all. You let me walk out of here, and I won’t do nothing to you.”
Except call the cops, or your uncle, or someone else equally disastrous, he thought fearfully.
He took a step toward her. Pointing to the gun in her quivering hand, he said, “That piece of shit won’t shoot anybody. It’s as old as this house. It probably hasn’t been fired in a hundred years. The only thing that will happen if you pull that trigger is that it’ll blow up in your hand and take your arm off.” He reached his hand out. “Come on. Give it to me. I’ll make this up to you, I promise.”
As she backed away from him she stole a quick glance at the weapon. She didn’t know anything about guns, but it was obviously ancient, as he had said. And he was also probably right about how it would perform.
“It’ll shoot fine,” she said with false bravado. “You don’t want to test whether it will or not.”
“Neither do you.” He took another step toward her. “Put the phone and the gun down, and we’ll talk this out.” He paused. “I can pay you good money. Neither of us wants the world to know about this.”
He was closer to her now. Deliberately and cautiously, he held his hand out. For a moment they were frozen in place, trying to stare the other down. Then with a sudden, violent move, he grabbed for the gun.
The explosion was deafening.
UANITA MCCOY WAS A
daughter and a wife of ranchers, and a rancher herself. She was a direct, tenth-generation descendant of one of the original land-grant families in central California, their holdings conferred upon them by the king of Spain, at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Two hundred years of marriage outside the original Spanish community had bred out most of the Mediterranean-looking characteristics in her lineage. She was fair-skinned and blue-eyed, and before her hair turned its present silver it had been blonde. But the old Spanish connection was still the essential part of her heritage, rather than that of the English-Scottish-German sea captains, prospectors, cattle ranchers, and get-rich-schemers who migrated to California generations later and intermarried with the original Spanish families, including hers.
She lived by herself in a small house on Rancho San Gennaro, the old family ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley, which was on the other side of the low mountains from the city of Santa Barbara, forty miles to the south. The property, 18,000 acres, was the second-largest ranch in the county. She had grown up on the ranch with her parents, brothers, and sisters, other family members. Back then, their operation ran over a thousand head a year.
After her father passed away in the early ’60s, she and her husband, Henry McCoy, a prominent lawyer and social activist in the community (dead now going on five years), took over the ranch. Over the subsequent decades, as corporate ranching gobbled up many independents, the operation shrunk considerably. Her current herd was two hundred and fifty cows, and fourteen bulls to service them.
Although Juanita had lived in Santa Barbara for most of her life, she was worldly and well-educated. She went to Stanford, where she met her husband. They traveled extensively. She was a patron of the local arts. Considered a great beauty when she was younger, she was still highly attractive, despite the inroads of age. Although she had lived on a ranch for most of her life, her skin had few lines or wrinkles. She wore her silver hair long, usually wrapped up in a braid or bun, except at night.
Over the past few years, since her husband’s death, she had dropped most of her social activities. She had become accustomed to her solitude. When she needed companionship there were still friends to be with, but she was comfortable keeping her own company. She was at peace with everything in her life; with one important exception.