This is it. The fifth and final chapter of my kickass spy story, “A Cottonwood Kill.” It’s the heart-wrenching finale that literally no one was waiting for but here it is anyway. Click the Short Stories tab in the menu above or just click the “Continue Reading” button below.
THAT Brewery – Cottonwood, AZ
Located at 300 E Cherry St, Cottonwood, AZ 86326
Open Mon-Thurs 4p-8p; Fri 2p-9p; Sat 12p-9p; Sun 12p-7p
THAT Brewery’s Cottonwood location is less than 10 minutes away from the area on Main Street that’s home to all the wine tasting rooms. The facility is significantly larger than THAT’s other location in the town of Pine, AZ. It’s in a warehouse somewhat removed from the more tourist-y places in Cottonwood. The brewery was closed by the time The Classy Alcoholic arrived. The surrounding area was quiet and there was no foot traffic to be found. It was the perfect place for The Classy Lady to meet whoever she was meeting.
The Classy Alcoholic parked down the block and walked onto the brewery’s empty lot. It was quiet enough in Cottonwood that night that he could hear a woman’s voice in the distance. It had to be her. He couldn’t make out what she was saying but he heard a man’s voice respond. He walked closer and peeked around the corner of the building.
The Classy Lady was standing with her back to him in front of a clean-cut man in a white suit jacket. He wore a plain t-shirt under his jacket and a gold chain around his neck. This had to be Romeo, the person she had been tracking all day and over the course of a year. The Classy Alcoholic was finally close enough to hear what they were saying to each other.
“I’m amazed you’re even here after all that shit you pulled,” Romeo said to The Lady.
“That should tell you something then, shouldn’t it?”
“Why would I ever believe a word you say? Do you really think I’m stupid enough to trust you?”
“I know you don’t give my words much stock. But I’m here because I care. Otherwise I wouldn’t be doing this. You don’t have to believe me and you don’t have to-“
“Shut up! I don’t need you to tell me what I don’t have to do. I know I don’t have to do shit if I don’t want to.”
“Okay, okay, you’re right, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I can just show you. Here, I have what I promised.”
The Classy Alcoholic saw The Classy Lady reach into her blazer and hold something out to Romeo. He couldn’t see what she had in her hand so he peeked his head out a little farther. Just as he realized she was holding out the black pouch with the diamonds in it Romeo noticed him.
“Hey, who the fuck are you?” Romeo pulled a gun out of his holster and pulled the trigger.
The Classy Alcoholic hid back behind the wall and heard the bullet ricochet off the side of the building.
“Did you bring the Feds here?!?” Romeo yelled at The Lady.
“No! I wouldn’t do that to you, I swear!”
“Whoever you are, come out now or this chick gets a bullet right in the head! I’m gonna count to one!”
Where the hell are you, Lennix? The Classy Alcoholic asked himself. He walked around the corner with his arms held high. Romeo was holding The Classy Lady in front of him like a human shield and his gun was pressed against her temple.
“You don’t have to do that, Romeo. I’m unarmed.”
“So you know my name, huh? You are a Fed.”
“No, I’m not. I’m not a Fed. I’m not even a goddamn meter maid. I’m just a blogger.”
Romeo was clearly confused by that statement. As he got closer The Classy Alcoholic could see a scar running down the right side of Romeo’s face.
“Get out of here, Classy,” The Lady said. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“And you should? What are you doing? Why are you giving Romeo the diamonds after we both almost got killed getting our hands on them today?”
“So you came all the way out here, without a gun, just to follow this chick? Wow, she really got you wrapped didn’t she? It’s what she’s good at bro, trust me. I could’ve told you to stay away. Too bad it’s your last mistake.”
Romeo pointed his gun at The Classy Alcoholic. For a moment all he could hear was the sound of his own heart about to beat straight through his chest as he waited for the bang.
The Classy Lady yelled out and threw the pouch of diamonds into the air. They flew out of the bag into every direction, sparkling in the moonlight just before they landed on the dirt lot. The sight of the diamonds distracted Romeo long enough for her to pull the butterfly knife out of her back pocket and jam it into Romeo’s stomach.
Romeo grabbed her arm and pulled her toward him. He shoved the barrel of his gun into her chest and fired three shots.
The Classy Lady went down instantly. The Classy Alcoholic was about to run toward Romeo but he knew right away he was too far. He couldn’t reach him and couldn’t make it back to cover before the gun went off again.
The two men stared at each other. The knife was still sticking out of Romeo’s abdomen.
“You don’t even know who this chick really is, do you bro?”
“No. I really don’t.”
“Lucky you. You’re better off that way.”
Romeo was about to aim his gun again when his shoulder erupted into a spray of blood and he fell forward.
Lennix was standing behind him, gun drawn, freshly fired. An FBI SWAT team covered the scene and surrounded Romeo.
The Classy Alcoholic ran to The Classy Lady. He held her in his arms as the blood seeped out of her chest. She was still alive but the look on her face was completely blank. He looked in her eyes and saw nothing. Not pain, not fear, not regret. Nothing. He waited for her to speak. He waited for her to say, “I love you.” Or maybe, “I’m sorry.” But she only stared back at him in silence.
“Goddammit, SAY SOMETHING!” he yelled at her. But nothing came. Her breath felt softer and softer until she lost the strength to hold her head up. Her body went limp in his arms.
The Classy Alcoholic tried to stand up but his legs failed him. He let himself fall on the ground and bawled as he slammed his fist into the ground over and over. The sound of his screams echoed into the Cottonwood night.
One Hour Later
The Classy Lady’s body was bagged and taken away by EMTs. Lennix and a few FBI agents were the only authorities left on the scene. The Classy Alcoholic walked into the steel door of THAT Brewery’s taproom. The brewery had been closed for hours now but Lennix was able to work out a deal.
The taproom was empty save for Romeo, tied to a chair with his bullet and knife wounds patched up. The Classy Alcoholic closed the door behind him.
“Lennix got me five minutes alone with you.”
Romero was barely able to hold his head up from the pain of his injuries but he still managed a chuckle.
“So what are you gonna do? Kill me?”
“No. I just need you to answer a question. What the hell did you do to The Classy Lady to get her to betray me and the Bureau? What did you have on her? Did you threaten her family? What was it?”
Romeo laughed hard enough for his wounds to cause him excruciating pain but he couldn’t stop himself.
“You fucking idiot. You think I made her do this? I’ve been trying to avoid that nutbag any way I could. She’s the one who found me and offered me the diamonds so I would take her back. She told me the FBI confiscated them but that she could get them to me if I met her here. She lost her goddamn mind when I broke up with her a year ago and she’s been stalking me ever since. Hell, she’s the one who gave me this scar on my face when I dumped her.”
The Classy Alcoholic felt a pressure in his chest. He could feel tears about to well up in his eyes but did everything he could to hold them in.
“She told me she loved me. She told me a lot of things.”
“And you believed her? You just met her today! Either she’s an excellent liar or you’re just as stupid as you look. But no matter what, she played you and she did it well. I’m almost proud of that crazy bit-“
The Classy Alcoholic punched Romeo in the face. He spit out a stream of blood but it only made him laugh harder. His laugh echoed through the brew house. The Classy Alcoholic ran for the door. Before he walked back outside he heard Romeo behind him.
“See you around, Mr. Classy.”
Lennix was standing outside smoking a cigarette. He held another one out. The Classy Alcoholic was never much of a smoker but he wasn’t picky about what his poison was that night.
“I sure hope Romeo’s still in one piece.”
“He’s the only one.” He lit the cigarette and took a drag.
“I know what happened, Classy. You’ve been a loner ever since I met you and it’s served you well. But today you met someone that made you see yourself differently. You met someone that made you want more. Maybe someone you could see yourself sharing your life with. Someone who could be your Classy Lady.”
The Classy Alcoholic couldn’t hold his tears back anymore. And he decided to stop trying.
“I fucking hate her Lennix. She used me and took advantage of me and I’m such an idiot that I let her. I ate up every word she said. I don’t even know who I hate more, her or myself. And I can’t even tell her that. I need her to know what she did to me. I want to tell her what a terrible person she was and I want to make her feel the pain and regret I feel. But she got off easy. She’s gone and she doesn’t even have to live with what she did to me.”
“No, she doesn’t. So why should you?”
“What, are you saying I should forgive her?”
“Nah, you don’t have to do that, man. You can hate her for the rest of your life if you want. What you really have to do is forgive yourself, though. Forgive yourself for letting yourself love someone. For opening yourself up and wanting to trust someone. Forgive yourself for being a human and not a damn robot for once!”
“Thank you, Lennix. You’re a good person. One of the few I know. Even if you do look like the kind of guy who would fake a developmental disability just to get out of jury duty.”
“Fuck you, Classy.”
“Fuck you too, Lennix.”
The two men smoked in silence for a minute taking in the Cottonwood breeze.
“So what are you gonna do now?”
“I’m gonna go home. Get drunk by myself. Lose my shit for a few days. You know. The usual.”
“You did great work today, Classy. You brought down some serious guys that the idiots at the Bureau couldn’t touch for years. Plus your love of collared shirts and yelling at people make you a pretty good fit for law enforcement. Call me after you’re done losing your shit. I’ve got a few open cases sitting on my desk that I was planning on ignoring and leaving for the next guy after I retire. But if you’re up for it you can consult on them for me and I can put you back in the field to do what you do best. I can even partner up with you.”
“I’ll take the jobs, Lennix. But I don’t want a partner. The Classy Alcoholic is a solo operation from now on.”
The two men hugged and went their separate ways. The Classy Alcoholic looked down and saw bits of The Classy Lady’s blood dried on his fingers. His head was swimming. A million thoughts were scratching at the inside of his skull at once. He took a second to quiet them all down. He took a deep breath and focused on completing only one single task: washing his hands.