Devoted in Death

By: J. D. Robb

The first kill was an accident. Mostly.

All they wanted was a nice car – it didn’t even have to be fancy – because their piece of shit truck shuddered, wheezed, then let out a death rattle just after they’d crossed over into Arkansas from Oklahoma.

It was Ella-Loo’s idea how to go about acquiring a new ride. She’d always had ideas, and dreams along with them, and since meeting Darryl she’d come to believe those dreams would come true.

She’d been working in a cowboy bar in Dry Creek, a place many who lived there considered the armpit of Oklahoma as it sat on a curve of a desolate spit of land where the Panhandle cornered into Texas. None of her dreams had come true; and, in fact, the man she’d been with – that son of a whore Cody Bates – had given her a black eye and split her lip open before he’d left her flat on the ground in front of the very bar she now worked.

She knew she was made for better things than serving up beer and rotgut whiskey to cowboys and the hard-eyed women who dogged them. She was made for better than pulling in extra giving blow jobs or quick bangs in the bathroom stall or the cab of a pickup to men with beer breath and no ambitions beyond the next ride.

The better walked into Rope ’N Ride one fateful night in the person of Darryl Roy James. She knew, the minute she laid eyes on him.

He was the one. What had been missing. What she needed to complete all she was and could be.

Later she would tell him how when he came through the fake saloon doors, light – red-gold as a sunset – had glowed around him. His bright hair had shimmered with it, and his eyes – blue and clear as lake water on a postcard – had glowed.

And she knew all she needed to know.

He wasn’t like the others, nothing like the barn-smelling, ass-grabbing sort that frequented the Rope ’N Ride.

He had something.

After a brief, intense mating dance, after he’d all but nailed her to the stall door in the bathroom, then again against the wall outside the break door, he’d told her the same.

One look, he’d said. Like, no sooner looked than loved. That was from a book. From Shakespeare. Darryl had read some Shakespeare – Slick Willy, he called him – while getting his high school diploma courtesy of juvenile detention in Denton County, Texas, where he’d run off to find his fortune at sixteen.

He’d walked out of juvie at eighteen, into a job at his mother’s boyfriend’s garage. Darryl had a way with engines as some had a way with horses. Barlow, who nagged Darryl to distraction, said if he spent as much effort on the job as he did dreaming about being somewhere else, he’d be a rich man.

But Darryl had never seen the point in working himself to death when there were so many other ways to get what he wanted. And taking it from somebody else was the best way he knew.

Still, since he didn’t want to go back to jail, he stuck it out for the lifetime of nearly three years.

Then he’d gotten what he wanted by stealing the $6,800 under-the-table cash Barlow kept hidden under the false bottom of a drawer in his office.

Which showed what a dumbass Barlow was.

Then he’d helped himself to some equipment, some parts, busted open the display case on Barlow’s prized bowie knife – figuring he could sell it along the way.

He’d packed up while his mother was at work waiting tables as she always had for piss-poor pay and worse tips. He pocketed $3,200 from the pouch she kept in her flour tin – it rounded him up to $10,000.

As he considered himself a good son, he’d left her the remaining $646 with a note that read:

Thanks, Ma. Love, Darryl

He’d loaded up the truck he boosted from the garage, and said adi-fucking-os to Lonesome, Oklahoma.

He walked into the Rope ’N Ride, and Ella-Loo’s life, on his twenty-first birthday.

That was fate, they determined, as they were a gift to each other.

Within twenty-four hours she and the duffel bag holding all her worldly possessions were loaded in the truck with him.

They drove fast, spent lavishly, stole when the mood struck, and fucked like a pair of rabid minks at every opportunity.

By the time Darryl was arrested in Tulsa for trying to pocket an engagement ring for his soul mate, they’d blown through nearly every dollar they had between them.

He got four years – as he’d had the bowie knife on him – and this time in the Oklahoma State Pen.

Ella-Loo waited for him. She took a job at another bar, made extra with bjs – though she wouldn’t, even for good money, allow any other penetration.

She was a one-man woman.

As devoted as a priest at Sunday Mass, she visited Darryl every week, and, in fact, conceived a child on a conjugal visit.

Darryl read more Shakespeare and honed his mechanical skills. He learned more about engines, learned how to build bombs, learned more complex ins and outs of computers and electronics.

He got himself an education he might’ve put to good use on the outside.

She named the baby Darra, after her Darryl, and drove her back to Elk City where Ella-Loo presented the infant to Darra’s grandma.

Though she could hardly stand to be away from Darryl so long, she gave it ten days. Long enough for her mother to fall in love with the baby, and for her stepfather to relax his guard.

Knowing her mother would never allow her stepfather to set the cops on her, she took her great-grandmother’s silver – it would’ve come to her one day anyway – left the baby, and drove back to McAlester for the next visiting day.