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Retribution

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Tulip held out the scrap of paper. "Last known address."

"Carlos," Jesse said, and the promise of violence in his eyes told her she'd won.

#

They stopped by the gas station on the way out of town. Tulip went inside to get snacks; Jesse filled the gas tank. She got back to the car just as Donnie Schenck came out of the men's room. He slowed as he passed by, giving Jesse the stink-eye. "You got something to say, Donnie?" Tulip asked, but the jackass didn't say a word, just got back into his shitty Impala and slammed the door.

#

They drove on, got to Albuquerque before noon the next day.

Carlos wasn't home. His house was big, modern and weird-looking—a pile of mismatched boxes connected by way too many stairs. It was outfitted with one of those everything-in-one alarm systems rich folk liked—perimeter guard, fire, carbon monoxide, second hand smoke and asbestos or whatever the hell else people were afraid of. Alarms like that were easy as hell to crack.

Jesse swept the upstairs, Tulip checked the ground floor and basement. Then they waited.

Carlos came back less than an hour later, in a white Corvette convertible—a 2014 C7 Stingray. He was dressed in bright yellow jogging clothes, and looked like even more of a douchebag than the last time they'd seen him.

She let him get himself a nice big glass of orange juice. Even let him drink half of it, saint that she was, before she clocked him on the head with her aluminum bat.

They tied him to one of the nice, sturdy chairs and waited for him to wake up. Jesse wanted her to have first dibs, so he'd planted himself on the couch, turned it around so he'd have a good view.

She kicked Carlos in the shins to wake him up, sat down across from him and let him work up a good sweat before getting started.

First, she broke his fingers, one knuckle at a time, with the meat tenderizer. She considered pulling out his nails, but really didn't have the patience. Instead, she took a knife and acid and dripped a nice latticework across his face. His screams were muffled by the gag; had to be, in case somebody passed by close enough to hear. Though, big as his yard was, the chances of that were slim to slimmer.

She did feel better afterwards. A little. Not like she'd righted a wrong, no way to fix what the bastard had broken. She'd still lost her baby. And she and Jesse had tried again after that, a few times, but whatever had happened had broken her, or maybe both of them, for good. She'd hurt Carlos, but even with all the expensive shit he'd stolen he didn't have anything half as valuable as what she and Jesse had lost.

But with the adrenaline still riding high, she felt marginally calmer. Jesse was sitting up, watching her intently, asking, without words, if it was his turn, yet. But before he could get up, she straddled him, crushed their mouths together and kissed him. He tasted just like she remembered—booze and smoke and everything she used to want. Maybe still wanted. He lifted her up, rolled her onto the couch and slid down onto his knees, moved between her thighs.

She undid the button of her pants, guided his hands up to the waist, and helped him slide them off. He looked up at her, smiling—still a pale echo of what it'd been, once upon a time. Then he buried his face between her legs, pushed with gentle fingers and worked his tongue against her clit, sucking and moving in that way she'd missed for too damn long. Like riding a bicycle, he hadn't forgotten a thing, and within seconds she was making sounds so high and needy she'd make fun of herself if it didn't feel so fuckin' good. Her back arched and she grabbed his ridiculous hair, pulling him harder against her. He hummed, vibrating into her pussy, and lapped and sucked until she was screaming.

Drained, momentarily, she batted at his hand, until her fingers found his and pulled him up on top of her. His cock was straining against his tight pants, and she popped the button of his jeans, worked him free. She stroked her thumb over that soft head, smearing the wetness there, making him hum again. He shucked off his pants, nudged against her gentle-like until she grabbed his ass and dug her nails in, shoving him inside her.

She'd always thought that for a man of God he made the filthiest noises when he fucked, and damn if that wasn't true. He moaned, eyes closed, mouth open as he thrust into her faster, clutching onto the back of the couch for leverage. Her clit was still swollen and the new friction was a mix of pleasure-pain that set her shuddering beneath him. She bit down on his neck when she came again, and he gasped and pulsed into her. Panting, he collapsed, like he'd run a marathon.

When he opened his eyes again, they were soft and his smile was real. "Missed you," he said against her lips, around a kiss.

She nodded, smiling back, but couldn't keep the sorrow out of her eyes completely; he caught it too, perceptive bastard. Jesse was dense about a lot of things, but not with her. Never with her. She kissed him before she could say anything stupid, then shoved at his hips, until he pulled out.

They got their pants back on, and Jesse gave her arm one last soft squeeze. He went and sat in the chair across from Carlos, who was pretending not to stare.

Tulip pushed herself up to standing, legs aching, walked up to Carlos, and spit in his face. She reared her arm back and punched him, hard. He was out cold; his nose gushed red, soaking the gag.

She passed Jesse on her way out of the room. "Gonna get some sleep."

 

# #

Jesse worked his way through a bottle of Glenfiddich, watching Carlos drool bloody saliva on himself as he slept. He'd pulled the gag out earlier; with his broken nose, Carlos wouldn't get any air otherwise. The left side of his face was swollen and blotchy red, deep bruises under his eyes. His hands were a mess, fingers gnarled and bent at nasty angles. Tulip had worked him over good.

But he deserved it. And more.

"The baby. Oh God, Jesse. The baby."

"He's gonna pay, I swear he is."

At least now that promise had been kept. Though as far as Jesse was concerned, there was no way to make Carlos suffer enough. Not conventionally, anyway. He took another deep drink from the bottle, and settled back in the chair.

Carlos woke up a while later. He stared at Jesse for a long, silent minute, and then rasped, "You gonna kill me?"

Jesse didn't answer.

Carlos shifted awkwardly in the chair, fresh blood spilling from his nose when he sniffled. "Don't kill me."

Jesse blinked at him.

"I know what I did was wrong, but you—you two, you've had each other all this time, right? No real harm done."

A sharp spike of anger made Jesse's hands clench into fists. "No real harm," he repeated.

"I have money. The safe upstairs has two million cash, unmarked. It's yours." Carlos worked his mouth and a loose tooth slipped out between his lips. "Or diamonds—got some of those left too. From Dallas." He swallowed and looked away, like maybe he'd just remembered Dallas was exactly why he was currently tied up and beaten to a pulp. "Just tell me what you want."

The fact that Carlos seemed to think this was a negotiation was a whole 'nother level of stupid, even for him. Jesse let him sweat some more, thinking about how best he wanted to kill him. Tulip wanted to go slow, and Jesse wanted to make him hurt. Maybe they'd bleed him out, but that seemed too kind. He'd lose consciousness before the end.

"I'll do anything. Anything. Just say it!"

Or maybe they'd break all his other bones, one by one, or go at his feet with needles and nails and acid. The nerves inside feet hurt more than most anything else. Weird, but true.

"What do you want?" Carlos yelled.

Jesse felt a malicious smile curl his lips, and he took all his anger, all his hate at the life Carlos had taken from them, felt it gather in his breath like a heavy storm cloud and said, "I want you to burn."

The words slithered through the air and dove into Carlos who made a choked, gasping sound. His whole body started smoking; his flesh bubbled in hot, red boils, fire burst out of his skin and he began to scream. The stench of burning flesh and hair filled the air as the flames grew higher and hotter, spreading from Carlos to his chair, to the fur rug, to the couch.

And Jesse sat and watched.

"Jesus. Fuck," Tulip cursed from behind him. "You were s'posed to wait for me, asshole!"

The fire started to die down around Carlos himself. He'd stopped screaming, and was good and dead now.

"We gotta go," Tulip said, pulling on Jesse's arm.

But Jesse couldn't quite get himself to move, still taking in every last detail of what was left of Carlos—a person-shaped husk of blackened beef jerky. A small part of Jesse was horrified by what he'd done—with a word, with nothing more than a word. The rest of him though...

"Jesse! We gotta get out of here." Tulip yanked on him again, then ran, heels clacking on the marble floor of the foyer. She yanked open the door and shouted one more time, "Jesse!"

# #

"Should've waited for me," Tulip said, sticking the key in the ignition.

Behind them, Carlos' big fancy house had become a fireball, dark smoke pluming into the air. It was better that way of course. Smart. No trace of the two of them ever having been there.

She drove down the first side street she found, and not a moment too soon. Alarms came from behind them seconds later.

"You were s'posed to wait," she said again, angry tears stinging her eyes. It had taken two years to track that bastard down. Two. Years. They'd waited so damn long for this, and now Jesse, stupid, selfish, son-of-a-preacher, had gone and taken that kill away from her.

Even still, she'd thought she'd feel different after. Wicked witch dead and all. They'd done it. They'd finally done it. They should be celebrating. They would. They'd find a place to stay for the night and get a bottle of champagne and a steak dinner and then fuck each other's brains out and then maybe, maybe...

But Jesse was just sitting there—staring out the window, eyes glazed like he was in a trance. He didn't look any happier than she felt.

"S'okay. I mean, I get it." She turned, followed the on-ramp to the highway and kept her eyes on the road. "But you should've waited."

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