Anthony Benton wasn’t in the habit of walking across the lawn to his condo complex, especially not on a miserable night like this one. He valued his Bruno Magli’s too much for that. What if somebody saw him slipping and scrambling through wet leaves like a snake in the grass?
Good thing nobody important enough to care about would be out here in this damned weather. It was supposed to be spring, but you’d never guess that in this godforsaken place.
Spindly young trees whipped in the wind as far as their short trunks would bend while Anthony counted the weeks backward in his mind – one, two, three, four, a month. This crap had only been going on for a month. Aggravation made it feel a lot longer.
He woke up each morning with anger churning inside him. He could barely remember when he didn’t have to think about things like whether taking the straight route across the lawn was safer than the longer way around the curved sidewalk.
How could he have ended up in such a humiliating position? Scurrying from his car to his house like a scared animal. He’d worked too hard making himself into Anthony Benton for this to be happening. Worst of all, there was nowhere in this jerkwater town he could turn for help.
What was he supposed to say? “My dim bulb ex-wife is persecuting me?” He’d be the butt of jokes from every hayseed in the county. Too many people envied him, and most of them were dim bulbs too. He’d have to put up with their sneers or be roasted all the more. That’s how it was in a place like Riverton.
The damp mist had turned into steady drizzle. Anthony cursed under his breath and walked faster. He’d left his umbrella in the car. A month ago he would never have made that miscalculation.
He’d have had a plan all laid out in his mind with each step thought through and not a single flaw in the thinking. He’d have grabbed the umbrella from under the driver’s seat and had it at the ready in the outside pocket of his briefcase.
He’d parked under those dripping trees tonight because the walkway to the complex was only a few yards across the macadam from there. He’d done that because of her, to cut down on the chance she’d catch up to him between the car and the building, the way she did two nights ago.
She’d shouted and sniveled and grabbed at his clothes. He was sure some of his neighbors must have witnessed the scene from their windows. She’d made threats, too, said she’d get a gun and come after him.
He’d itched to pick her up and throw her as hard as he could onto the pavement right then. He was plenty strong enough to do that. He’d picked her up and thrown her before, but that was in private. If he laid a hand on her in public and somebody saw it, he’d be the one in trouble.
That’s how it went these days with bitches like her. They’d whine about being victims and everybody was on their side. But he knew what to do about that. When payback time came for all of this, he intended his revenge to be very sweet, with an extra measure of punishment for the soggy leaves on his car. And he’d make sure payback time came soon.
The wind picked up in a chill, wet blast down Anthony’s neck. He didn’t have a raincoat any more than he had an umbrella. He hunched as far as he could into his saturated shirt collar. Payback was on its way for this, too. He’d make her regret every discomfort he’d suffered because of her. He’d commit himself a thousand percent to that happening.
She whined about how unhappy he’d made her in the past. Those days would feel like a kindergarten picnic compared to what was coming in return for these past four weeks. With tonight at the top of his list of reasons for making her sorrier than she ever thought she could be.
He hated her so much it almost warmed him up on this frigid night. He hated her so much he’d love to choke her dead with his bare hands, squeeze harder and harder till he felt her bones snap under his fingers.
As soon as he could figure out a way to kill her, he’d do it, not with his own hands because he’d be too likely to get caught. He’d have her killed without a second thought or a single regret. He knew guys who’d do that for a price, one guy in particular.
The bitch deserved it, but that pleasure would have to wait. Right now all he wanted was to get out of this rain and into the classy condo he loved almost as much as he loved his car.
Anthony flashed on an image of Victoria opening the door the way she liked to do every now and then, wearing nothing but the fur coat he bought her last Christmas. She wasn’t anything like his ex-wife.
Victoria was the kind of woman who knew how to make a man feel good. He almost smiled. Maybe it was the vision of Victoria slowly opening the coat for him that caused Anthony to relax his cautiousness for just an instant.
Or, maybe he was forced to pay too close attention to his footing. The harsh Northern New York State winter, the first since this condo complex was completed, had already heaved some flagstones out of line with the others, making for treacherous walking in the cold April rain.
Whatever the distraction may have been, Anthony didn’t hear the footsteps behind him or sense the jagged rock lifted above his head as he finally reached the top of the stairwell leading down to the basement service door that was the building entrance closest to the parking area.
He did have time to feel the edge of sharp pain and hear a voice echo out of long-ago memory. It was his mother calling to him, though she’d been dead a dozen years.
“Be careful, Tonio! Don’t fall!”
Then everything went black and silent for Tonio Bento, aka Anthony Benton, and would remain that way forever.
A Wrong Way Home – the eBook – is FREE at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00T9RVGGC. Also at Barnes & Noble and iBooks and KOBO. This is my 12th novel and I’m thrilled to make a gift of it to you. Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com.