Angela’s Bust – Flash Fiction

Bishop’s Lounge was busy and loud and blue with smoke. I sat by myself back in a dark corner booth, contributing my share of smoke and watching Angela. She had come in with a group of work friends and they sat at one of the tables chattering and drinking wine but she seemed distracted and kept looking over at the bar. She had on a black dress to match her black bob. There was also a black wire in her black purse but she was unaware of that.

A giant yellow-haired goon came in. He stood up at the bar and ordered a drink and looked at Angela and Angela talked to her friends at the table and tried not to look back at him. The bartender brought him a drink and he held it up to the light and inspected it. The glass looked like a thimble in his massive hand. He sipped from it, set it down, and stared at Angela some more.

Presently, she stood up and said goodbyes and crossed the room. Her fingertips brushed the goon’s thigh as she passed him. He picked up his drink, shot it down, set the empty on the bar, twisted around, and followed her out.

When the door closed, I left the booth and strolled casually to the window. I watched them go down the steps and turn right at the sidewalk. A few seconds passed. Then I shouldered my way outside, stood on stone steps, and brought out small binoculars. Through an earpiece, I could hear the purposeful click-clicking of Angela’s heels on the sidewalk and the goon’s labored breathing as he struggled to catch up. This guy might be able to toss a car into the ocean, I thought, but he wouldn’t be winning any marathons soon.

They walked to the end of the block and faced off beneath a street lamp.

“Got the money?” he growled.

Angela, looking bored, blew a stream of smoke in his face, flicked her cigarette butt to the sidewalk, and ground it out with her shoe. “Not yet.”

The big man’s face clouded. He stood staring with hot bright slits for eyes, his voice a menacing purr. “You’ve had a week,” he said. “How long do you need?”

Angela shrugged. “Well, I don’t know, big boy. How long can you…hold out?”

Quick as an adder, the big man’s arm shot out from his side and his meaty hand clamped around her arm. She gasped, round-eyed, and the goon held her that way for a couple seconds before letting go, his face a stony Easter Island head. “You think this is a game, lady?” he asked.

Angela scowled at the goon, her face angry and amazed and just a little afraid. She scowled down at her arm and rubbed it. “Why you gotta be so rough, you big ape?”

The goon smiled, gold teeth glittering. He reached a hand into his coat and brought out a wooden match. He studied the match, looked up at Angela and said: “A man’s gotta get his kicks somehow.” Then he stuck the match in his teeth and the grin died and the stone face returned.

Angela said nothing. She kneaded her arm and stood quiet and for a while the three of us listened to the hustle of the city.

Finally the goon said: “Tomorrow night then.”

“What?”

“Tomorrow night. We’ll do the hit tomorrow.”

Angela bunched up her forehead, put a vertical crease between her eyebrows. “No, I-you can’t!”

The big man took the match from his mouth, looked at it some more, and put it back in his teeth. His heavy-lidded eyes came up to hers. “Listen lady, I don’t expect you to understand how much preparation something like this requires but, believe me, it’s plenty. This isn’t just a run-of-the-mill job. We have people in place. They expect to be paid. Every day we sit still costs money. Capisce?”

“I’m just…I’m having trouble…getting all the money together.”

The big man grunted and turned to go. “That’s unfortunate. I’ll be sure to let Tony know.”

“No!” she cried, taking hold of his lapels. “No, I can get it. I can. Very soon.”

The goon looked down at her hands on his jacket. He looked up and asked: “When?”

“Two weeks.”

He shook his head. “Two days.”

She squealed, hung limp from the lapels. “I can’t get that much money in two days!”

“That’s a shame,” the big man snarled, taking hold of her wrists and peeling her away. He held her there and said: “Guess you should have thought about that before you asked us to whack your husband. You back out now and Tony will be very disappointed. No telling what he’ll have me do.” The gold toothed smile came back. “Maybe I’ll bring toys.”

She shuddered.

“You have forty-eight hours,” he said, releasing her. Then he turned and walked.

I spoke down to my necktie: “That’s all we get, boys. Take them.”

Cops poured in from all over. Two stepped out from shadows in the alley. Three piled out of a parked van across the street. Then, the uniforms streamed in from both ends of the block training their rifles on Angela and the big man. Sergeant Hawkins yelled through a megaphone. “On your knees! Do it now!”

Angela and the big man exchanged a glance, hers terrified, his nonplussed, and put their hands up, dropping to their knees. Two uniforms came up behind them, pulled their arms down, and cuffed their wrists. One cop yanked the goon roughly to his feet but the other was gentler with Angela.

When they were standing, I walked over and said to Hawkins: “Letter of the law. Every “I” dotted. Every “T” crossed. I want this one flawless.”

“Consider it done, Sir.”

I nodded to Hawkins and turned to Angela. “Did you really think you could pull this off?”

“John!” she sobbed. “Oh, thank heavens! John, I’m mixed up in something awful here!”

I took out a cigarette and lit it. I took it out of my mouth and looked at it, watched smoke curl up into the night air. Then I looked at Angela. “Better get a lawyer, Sweetheart,” I told her. “I want a divorce.” I nodded at Hawkins and they loaded her, kicking and screaming, into a squad.

 

Now try this: Bugsy’s Revenge

Bugsy’s Revenge – Flash Pulp

I was tailing the unfaithful husband of a neurotic client down a dark alley on the outskirts of Rush City when someone slipped behind me and put a gun to my neck. I heard Bugsy’s voice and knew I had a problem.

“Frank Danger, P.I.!” he said with a delighted baritone that rumbled like a dump truck.

“Bugsy.”

He laid a heavy mitt on my back and sent me staggering. Bugsy was a great guy. I thought the world of him. “Hands up!” he said, “Turn around slow.”

I came around to the barrel of a pistol pointed at my chest. I tried not to look at it. “Bugs!” I said. “Long time no see.”

He told me to shut it and waggled the gun around in a careless way I wasn’t thrilled with. “Eight years, Frankie,” he said. “Eight! Do you have any idea how long that is in the joint?”

“Well,” I said. “If I had to guess, I’d say eight years.”

He didn’t think I was cute. His meaty hand brought the gun up to my face and thumbed back the hammer.

“Easy, Bugs,” I said. “I’m not the guy who sold you out.”

He growled and his gold tooth glinted in the electroliers. He said: “I know it was you, Danger. Know why? ‘Cause I paid good money to find out, that’s why.”  He puffed his chest, smiled, and showed the gold tooth. “Some of those cops you run with are dirty as me.”

I shook my head. “Bugsy my friend, you’ve been had. However, as luck would have it, I may know a way I can help you recoup some of your losses.”

“Losses?” He laughed. “You gonna give me back eight years of my life? Nah, we’re gonna make this right another way, Frankie. We’re gonna square things right here.”

“Thirty grand!” I said. A drop of sweat slid cold down my back.

Doubt flickered in his eyes. He tilted his head, tried to think. It looked painful.

“Mind if I smoke?” I asked, going inside my jacket. He frowned but didn’t stop me. I opened a cigarette case and took one, tapped it on my lighter and lit it.

Bugsy was skeptical. “What are you talking about?”

“Just a courtesy, Bugs, some people don’t care for smoke.”

“Before that,” he snarled. “The part about thirty grand.”

I snapped the case shut and blew smoke into the fog. “Thirty grand,” I said. “I have a line on it. We could take it, you and me. It’s just sitting there but I can’t do the job alone. Look Bugs, you mind lowering the gun? You make me nervous.”

He opened his mouth to say something, closed it, and eyeballed me suspiciously. The gun came down slowly and hung by his side but his finger stayed on the trigger. “Let’s have it,” he said.

I jammed a thumb over my shoulder. “That shop back there, the one with all the lights.”

He looked past me. “Do-jo?”

“That’s it.”

He looked like I told him I could fly. “That’s one of them karate outfits!”

I shook my head. “Do you see the word ‘Karate’ anywhere?”

He gawked over my shoulder. “What’s J-Jiyoo…”

“Jiu Jitsu,” I said. “It’s a Japanese dance. You’ve seen it. The guys tiptoe around barefoot in silk pajamas and wave their arms just so. They all wear ponytails. It’s a lost art. Monks invented it three thousand years ago.”

Bugsy stared over my shoulder. He really wanted that thirty grand. He looked back to me and asked: “What’s the play?”

“Simple,” I said. “We go in the front. You handle the Japanese guy while I go back and get the loot. It’s in an office safe but he never locks it.”

“How did this guy come by that much money?”

I winked. “Opium den.”

“Bugsy’s eyes narrowed. “How come you know so much?”

“I’ve been on this one a long time, Bugsy,” I told him. “Just waiting for the right opportunity.”

He suddenly shook his head. “I never knew you to pull no heists. You’re supposed to be a good guy.”

I shrugged. “Good guys gotta eat.”

Bugsy pondered that and asked: “What about masks?”

I waved it off. “Cops won’t put resources on this. That guy probably can’t even ID us in English.”

Bugsy nodded as though he found that reasonable. “Okay,” he said. “But don’t get cute or I’ll cut you down where you stand.”

“Understood,” I said, and we walked over. Once inside the dojo, I nodded to the instructor and spoke Japanese. “Evening, Phil. This guy’s got me hostage. He thinks we’re going to rob you.”

Phil’s eyes twinkled. He put his arms straight up, turned a frightened face to Bugsy.

“What did you say?” Bugsy demanded. “What did you tell him?”

“I told him this was a holdup. I said you were dangerous and you’d shoot him dead if he did anything stupid.”

Bugsy waggled the gun. “I will, old man. I’ll shoot you dead.” He looked at me. “Don’t just stand there. Get the money!”

The phone was on a desk. I had an operator send an ambulance and clattered out the back into the alley. I heard Bugsy say: “I mean it old man, not another step!” Then there was a scuffle. The gun went off and there came a dry, snapping sound. Bugsy began to scream.

“Danger!” he wailed from the floor. “Danger!”

I went down the alley and around the side of the dojo to the sidewalk. A lone set of headlights bounced towards me through the fog. I held up a hand on a hunch and the lights bounced over and stopped at the curb. “Riverside Casino, my good man,” I told the cabbie. “I’m feeling lucky tonight.”

Lost Colony – 50 Word Story

The Settlers stood side-by-side on the moon’s surface, watching mushroom clouds bloom, orange and lovely, across the Earth.

“Guess the old adage is true,” one said.

“His partner turned. “What’s that?”

The astronaut skipped a stone ninety yards across the Sea of Tranquility. “You can never go home again.”

Dead Connection – 100 word story

You get down into some of these third-world countries and the tech is thirty years behind; this airport had a pay phone.

There’s weight to the sound of a real phone bell you don’t get with a cell. I heard the ringing from far away and ran to it.

Saturday afternoon. Civilians everywhere. A mother gripped her son by the arm and bawled, “Mind me!”

Another ring.

I shoved through. “Down! Down! Down!” I said and a little girl landed on her butt and slid.

A man picked up the handset and the phone detonated.

 

 

 

100 word story for Friday Fictioneers. Photo credit: © J Hardy Carroll

Hide and Seek – 100 word fiction

Louie had a drink waiting for me.

“Don’t mind if I do.”

He nodded. “New hat?”

I removed it and laid it on the bar. “Twelve bucks.”

Louie whistled. “Must be nice.”

“Big money in detective work. Nothing but fur coats and limousines.”

The grin died on his face. “Fat Rico was in asking about you.”

“What did you say?”

“Told him I didn’t know nothing but it looks like he figured it out on his own.”

Fat Rico stood in the doorway.

“Do me another favor, Louie,” I said, nodding at the hat. “Put that somewhere safe, will you?”

 

The Wrong Guy – 100 word flash

The punch fell from the sky like a bolt of lightning, catching me on the forehead and driving me backwards. I laid down, rested my head on the curb, and watched the tops of the buildings. The brickwork looked peaceful up in the sky with the fluffy clouds. I liked it.

“That’s not him, Mikey!” someone said.

“No?” a bigger voice asked.

A hand that matched the bigger voice went into my jacket and took my wallet. “Sorry buddy,” the voice said while the hand took my cash and dropped the wallet on my chest. “Guess I owe you one.”

Bloodbath Blues – Flash Fiction

It was one of the nicer houses on its block which is to say three or four of the windows still held glass and the yard had been mowed at some point over the past year. The front door sagged from twisted hinges over a foot-wide chasm where the porch fell away from the house. There might have been a shutter still dangling that hadn’t yet fallen into the weeds. It was a nice place.

Klein was talking to reporters out front. I nodded and ducked the yellow tape.

I managed to bridge the gap between porch and house without snapping my leg off, walked inside, and retched at a stench that might have been rotting maggots fermenting in the sun.

A broad L-shaped staircase brought me up to a second-floor hallway. There were four bedrooms here, two on each side. Filthy mattresses and greasy sleeping bags were sacked around on the floors. Bottles, cans, and cigarette butts were everywhere. Drying puddles of bodily fluids added to the ambiance.

A bathroom about the size of a teacup stood at the end of the hallway with its door open. Sweeney and McGregor were inside looking at blood spatter.

Sweeney saw me and his eyes changed. He hissed something at McGregor who waddled over and pressed a meaty palm into my chest.

“Hold up, Joe.”

I stopped.

“Sweeney thinks you should sit this one out.”

Sweeney stepped up and laid an arm around my shoulder. “Joe! How you been?”

I looked at Sweeney. Then at McGregor. I looked at Sweeney again. “What is this?”

Sweeney paused and mumbled something to the floor and I put it together.

“You don’t want me to see her.”

Sweeney tried to guide me back towards the steps. “Let’s go down, Joe. You should be sitting for this.”

“Who is she?” I asked, trying to squirm free.

Sweeney and McGregor blocked my path. “Hold up a minute,” McGregor said.

My mouth was dry. A bead of sweat slid down my back. I didn’t like my new heart rate. “Get your mitts off me. Let me see.”

Sweeney exhaled. “Joe…” He and McGregor exchanged a look. “Listen, there’s no easy way to do this. Nothing I say is going to prepare you. Maybe I should just let you see for yourself if that’s how you want to play it.”

From far away I heard myself tell him it was. My heart triple-timed. Sweeney said more but I heard it the way you hear the television as you drift off to sleep. He and McGregor stepped aside. I floated down the hall and I was in the bathroom, kneeling by the tub. The woman was young, maybe still a girl. She was sprawled on her back, bare arms dangling over the sides of the tub, blood still dripping from a fingertip.

She was clothed which struck me as unusual. Her short shorts and sleeveless t-shirt were sopped. Blood was smeared across her face and neck, smeared across her teeth. The skin that wasn’t painted bloody was a bruised yellow turquoise. Her lips were grey. Her hair, blonde at one time, was red and black and matted. I studied her face. Then, I turned to Sweeney: “So? Who am I looking at?”

Sweeney’s eyes narrowed and he furrowed his brow. “You don’t know?”

“Never seen her before.”

Sweeney looked to McGregor.

“Look again,” McGregor said.

I turned back and the girl was sitting. She shrieked at me, wild-eyed and hysterical. I shrieked back. She lunged for me and I was on my feet with my gun out. Sweeney and McGregor threw themselves at me. They took hold of my arm as the gun fired. It sounded like an atomic bomb in that little room.

They pinned my wrist to the wall above my head and held it there. They were blocking the girl. I couldn’t see the girl! Someone was screaming and screaming. I closed my mouth and the screaming went away. Sweeney’s contorted face swam in front of me. He was insistent, barking orders, trying to reach me. My ears sang.

“…a gag,” Sweeney was saying, distant and tinny. “Not real. It isn’t real…” His face was shiny and pasty. His eyes looked insane.

We stood this way for several seconds. Finally, McGregor tilted his head, squinted at me, and released my wrist. He turned to the tub. Sweeney let go and I had my arm back.

The girl was on her side in the the tub with her hands over her ears and her knees pulled up tight. She was shivering, frantic, talking to herself. Sunlight streamed in through a fresh bullet hole in the wall. My bullet couldn’t have missed her head by more than six inches.

I stumbled to the hall, found a place to slide down the wall, and sat on the floor. I laid my gun beside me. My pants were wet. Sweeney knelt by the tub and comforted the girl.

McGregor came out and sat beside me. Neither of us spoke for a long time. He picked lint off his pants. Finally, he said: “I tried to warn him, Joe, but you know how he is. I told him it was too much.” He turned, appraised me frankly, shook his head, and returned to the lint. “Great gag.”

My voice was hoarse and thin. “What happened?”

McGregor sighed at his pants. “The girl is his niece. She’s taking some acting courses at the community college. This whole thing came about when she told Sweeney her acting could fool a cop.”

I considered this for a while. “Makeup?”

McGregor nodded once. “Everybody was in on it. The reporters are actors. Sweeney wanted to get back at you for that stunt you pulled with the pizza delivery guy.”

I smiled ruefully. “Mission accomplished.”

The girl bet him $10 she could convince you she was dead,” McGregor said. “Looks like she won.”

I shook my head. “The blood didn’t smell. There was too much of it not to smell. I knew it felt wrong, I just couldn’t – I couldn’t quite…”

McGregor shook his head again. “Sweeney.”

“Let’s hope the girl isn’t in shock.”

“She’ll come around. Listen, Joe, you’re not gonna…you know…report this, are you? Sweeney and me and Klein, we could lose our badges.”

I shook my head. “What is this trash heap anyway?”

“Crack house, maybe? Smack? I dunno, ask Sweeney. I’m just here because he told me to be.”

I nodded and climbed unsteadily to my feet. I felt ninety years old.

“What are you gonna do?” McGregor asked.

“Going home for dry skivvies.”

McGregor nodded and returned his attention to the the lint on his pants. “Sweeney,” he said.