Joe Victim: A Thriller

Joe Victim: A Thriller by Paul Cleave Read Free Book Online

Book: Joe Victim: A Thriller by Paul Cleave Read Free Book Online
Authors: Paul Cleave
Tags: thriller
for the death penalty if indeed the death penalty becomes law. There are going to be people outside the courthouse. They’re going to be carrying signs. Pro-death. Anti-death. Victim rights. Human rights.
    The prison comes up on the left. He slows down and takes the turnoff, a speeding van almost rear-ending him, and a minute later he comes to a guard post. He shows his identification to a guard with the same amount of humor as a tumor. Up ahead is the entrance. Beyond that construction workers are assembling another wing of the prison. Even in the rain they’re working, eager to get the job done, eager to make more room for more criminals. Whoever said crime doesn’t pay also should have added that crime is a billion-dollar industry with all that it touches—new prisons, lawyers, funerals, insurances. It’s the only thing booming. Another car pulls in behind him into the parking lot. He parks and sits still for a few moments, wishing he had an umbrella, but knowing he probably wouldn’t use it even if he did. He looks over at the car parking next to him. A woman, all alone. She kills the engine and he can’t see her clearly enough to know what she’s doing, but he’s been around enough women to know she’s probably putting something into her handbag or getting something out, a simple job that can take his wife five minutes to do since her handbag is like a time capsule dating back to before they met. She opens the car door. She’s pregnant. From the looks of the way she’s trying to squeeze herself out of the car, she got pregnant sometime about a year ago.
    “You need a hand there?” he asks, getting out of his car, and he has to almost shout to be heard over the rain. Before he’s even finished the sentence he’s soaking wet, and so is she, only just her face and belly at this stage.
    “Thank you,” she says, and she reaches up and takes his hand. Rather than him pulling her up, she almost pulls him back into the car, and he almost lets her since it’s drier in there. He strengthens his back, switches on the stomach muscles he’s slowly losing, and pulls. She stumbles forward and has to wrap her arms around him, and he almost topples, grabbing at the car door to stay balanced.
    “Oh my God, I’m so sorry about that,” she says, pulling away from him.
    “You picked a hell of a day to visit somebody,” he says.
    She laughs, a very sweet laugh that her husband or boyfriend must love hearing. “You think today is going to be any better than tomorrow?”
    “Supposed to be sunny,” he says, “but maybe the snow they picked for last week might finally arrive.” He’s curious as to who she’s visiting. Maybe her boyfriend or husband is locked up out here. He doesn’t ask.
    “Can you . . . I hate to ask, but would you please grab my handbag for me?”
    “Sure,” he says. She steps aside and he reaches into the car and grabs her handbag off the passenger seat. “No umbrella?”
    She shakes her head. “It’s only rain,” she says.
    He closes the door for her. “Torrential rain,” he says, and there’s no point in hurrying now, he can’t get any wetter.
    She smiles. “I like it. The rain is . . . I don’t know, romantic, I guess.” She breathes in deeply. “And that smell,” she says. “I love that smell.”
    Schroder breathes in deeply. All he can smell is wet grass.
    They walk up to the main doors together, the woman has her hand on her stomach the entire way, and he figures she should be keeping that hand much lower, ready to catch what is surely going to fall out of her at any second. He opens the door for her.
    “You look familiar,” he says, but he can’t place her. It’s more he gets the feeling she looks like somebody he used to know. He looks at her red hair—it’s full and wavy and comes down to her shoulders and he imagines she spends a long time looking after it with hair moisturizers and shampoos. She’s wearing a light brown shade of eye shadow to match, and

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