Jesse Gets Fixed – Flash Fiction

The night was sticky and hot and I was sweating plenty even though it was well past sunset. Gravel crunched beneath my shoes, echoed loud off abandoned buildings. This neighborhood wasn’t safe after dark but I was hurting and needed to be here. A five-inch blade was folded up in my pocket just in case.

Manny’s black Ford sat rusting in its usual spot, five spaces over from the back door of the Skol Bar. Three men talked softly by the car but their muted voices fell quickly silent as I approached. Curt goodbyes were said and two of the men peeled away from the third. They drifted over to the back door of the Skol Bar and went in. The door closed itself behind them.

The third shape called from over by the car. It had Manny’s voice.

“Who is it?”

“Jesse.”

“Jesse,” Manny said. “No shit?”

I heard him thumb the hammer forward on a handgun, watched him stuff it down into his waistband. I went over to stand by him.

Manny looked like a tramp freshly tossed off a railcar into the mud. He never shaved, didn’t seem to have much regard for soap. His clothes were dirty and threadbare, his hair dingy and grimy. A dented-up bowler hat sat too small on his head.

“I’m shaking apart,” I told him.

Manny was a guy who enjoyed watching people squirm. His eyes lit up and he gave me a greasy smile. “Haven’t seen you in days,” he said. “Hell, maybe weeks.” He fished a cigarette from a crumpled pack, tapped it on a nickel plated lighter, and studied me like a butterfly pinned to a board. He bit down on the cigarette, wrapped it with a meaty hand to shield it from some imaginary breeze, and fired it. “Thought maybe you moved away or something.”

“I tried to kick.”

He chuckled out smoke and clicked shut the lighter. “Dolophine?”

“Cold turkey.”

“Cold turkey!” he whooped.  “Hoo boy! You got balls, Jesse, I’ll give you that!” He gaped at me for a while. Then the amusement died in his eyes and the smile slid off his face. With a tone of pure disdain, he asked: “Up or down?”

“Both,” I said. “Can you set me up a speedball so I can see straight?”

A scornful guttural sound came from deep in his throat. “You want a cocktail, you’re gonna have to cook it up yourself. I ain’t your goddamn bartender!”

“Easy now,” I said. “Take it easy, Manny. It was just a question. You don’t have to get sore.”

“I’m not sore,” he snapped. “I’m just sick of you dopers coming around hitting me up for favors all the time.”

He stared at me, bug-eyed and challenging.

I said nothing, wiped damp hands on my pants.

“How much do you need?”

A drop of sweat slid cold down my back. I could feel my pulse in my eyeballs. “Two of each.”

He bunched up his forehead and his eyes were wary. “Two? Of each?”

I fought to keep the tremble from my voice but my mouth was dry and my throat felt scratchy. “I-” I cleared my throat. “I fell into some money.”

He leered at me for a few beats, waited for me to say more. When I didn’t, he turned and popped the trunk of the Ford. Inside was a green tackle box and he reached in, unlatched it, and flipped it open. A triple-beam scale sat down in the bottom of the box. He took it out and placed it carefully beside the tackle box. Then, with the attentive care of a chemist, he weighed two grams of heroin, wrapped it up in tinfoil, and set it aside.

Next, he weighed the cocaine. I watched him weigh it, watched him twist up the tinfoil, and my heart galloped. He turned back to me, presented the packets proudly, one in each hand. “Two at two grams apiece,” he said. “And this is no bunk. Get reckless shooting this stuff and they’ll be tagging your toe.”

Now my heart lurched up into my throat and the folding knife was open in my hand. Manny’s eyes shot to the shining blade and grew round. I watched them roll back white as I punched the knife into his chest. I pulled the blade out red, plunged it in again. Then again. I thrust it deeper. Harder. And – oh god! – the blood came spurting, hot and sticky, into my face. My eyes rolled back and I came spurting, hot and sticky, into my briefs.

Manny crumpled heavy against me with a long pneumatic wheeze and I caught his weight, eased him backwards and away. He slid down the Ford, his head skipping off the bumper, as he dropped in a heap to the ground. I stood over him, sobbing.

When my heart stopped flying, I bent down, wiped the blade on Manny’s jacket, and looked around. There was no one. I closed the tackle box, latched it tight, and took it.

They’ll tell you the first hit of any drug is the best, that the addict is always chasing his first high, and maybe that’s true for most. But I’ve done three kills now and I’m here to tell you: The rush gets better every time.

Hustled – Flash Fiction

She pulled from her cigarette, blew a stream of white smoke over my head, and asked: “Really John, what are you implying?”
“I’m not implying anything,” I said. “I’m telling you flat-out that you killed your husband.”

She blinked. There was a slight clenching of the jaw. Otherwise, her face remained careless and slack. She laughed. “You’ve seen too many movies!”

“Have I?”
She sighed and regarded me with disappointed eyes. “Well, come in then,” she said, stepping aside. “There’s no point in giving the neighborhood a show.”
I brushed past.
The house was big and lushly decorated, the floors a rich hardwood, the draperies heavy and expensive. We sat on a sofa by the fire.

“Can I offer you a drink?” she asked.
“There’s no time for that.”

“I see,” she said. “Well, in that case I guess you’d better get to it.”

“Your alibi sold you out.”

Fear flashed in her eyes. She looked to the fireplace and when she turned back, the fear was gone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“It’s Ralph,” I said. “He’s your Achilles. The cops brought a little pressure down on him and he fell apart like a jigsaw puzzle. They know you left his place the night your husband was murdered.”

She inhaled sharply and stood up, her eyes big and afraid. “That’s – that’s ridiculous!” she said. “Of course I was at Ralph’s! His – his neighbors saw me there.”

I stood and took hold of her hands. “They saw you walk into his house that night, sure. They even saw you leave the next morning. But they didn’t stay up all night to see if you left. They didn’t keep tabs on the back door.”
She shook her head. “But – but I – ”

“Drop the act, sister!” I barked. “You’re cooked and running out of time. O’Malley will be here as soon as he has the warrant.”

Tears welled in her eyes. “What should I do?” she asked.
“You have the money?”
She nodded.
“And you’re packed and ready to go?”
She nodded again.
“Change of plans,” I said releasing her hands. “You’re leaving with me and I want Ralph’s half, understand?”
She stared blankly. Her mouth tried to make words.
I took her hands again and shook them. “Ralph sold you out. If you don’t want the chair, you and I need to go. Now.”
That broke the trance. She flew up the stairs and returned within seconds with a suitcase and a purse.
“Great,” I said. “Where’s the cash?”
“Here,” she said, tapping her purse.
“All of it?”
She nodded. “Eighty-thousand.”

“All right,” I said, taking the suitcase from her. “We’ll take my car to the airport. The cops won’t be watching for it.”
She nodded and started for the front door. Quietly, I set her suitcase down, caught up to her at the door, and sapped her with a blackjack.

She lay sprawled on the floor, her purse beside her. I opened it, took the cash, and slipped out of the house, closing the door behind me. Sirens wailed in the distance as I drove off into the sunshine.

A Father’s Day Miracle – 100 Word Story

It was the fire that taught Jeff about miracles. After all, he shouldn’t have been there – Jeff never visited on Wednesdays. “Maybe I’ll see what the old man’s doing,” he’d said and when he pulled into the drive, the house was engulfed.

Reflecting, Jeff doesn’t know if his father would have escaped – so frail was he when Jeff found him, barely visible through the smoke. Jeff’s eyes shimmer. He smiles, grateful. He sees again his hands gripping the skinny ankles, hears anew the screams as he drags his father back into the flames. “Better safe than sorry,” Jeff whispers aloud.

The Hit – Short Story

Vince clenched my shirt collar and pulled me close. “This is not complicated,” he said, slipping the vial into my shirt pocket and giving it a friendly pat. “You dump this into his drink then get the hell out of there.”

His face was up in mine but my heart was pumping hard and his voice sounded far away.

“You calmly serve the drinks,” he growled low. “Tell them you’ll be back with their food, walk slowly through the kitchen, down the hall, and out the back door. You’ll find me right here with the engine running and we’ll be drinking on a beach in Mexico before anyone knows what happened.”

“And you’re sure it will kill him? There’s no way it could just make him sick?”

“He’ll be stone dead,” he assured me. “There’s enough in that vial to kill everybody in the building.”

A sudden wave of anxiety threatened to overwhelm me.”Why can’t you do it?”

But we’d been over this many times. Fitzgerald and his cronies knew Vince. None of them had seen me before.

“How do you know he won’t drop dead on the spot? Shit Vince, there are guns around Fitzgerald all the time. What if he…you know…what if he…faceplants when I’m still standing there?”

“It’s a slow moving poison,” he said. “It takes at least ten minutes to kick in but when it does…”

He let the sentence hang, we both knew the ending.

*************************************

It was busy that night and the kitchen was an asylum. In the dining room, customers were celebratory and ordering weird menu items many of us had never seen ordered before. Ingredients were running low, tempers were running high, and I was oblivious, consumed by the morbid task at hand.

My shift had begun at 6:00 but it wasn’t until much later that Fitzgerald and his pack of goons finally strolled into the restaurant. I was taking orders from a family of four when the gangsters filed by me reeking of cigars and expensive cologne. My knee bumped the table and a glass of water almost tumbled off the edge. Apologizing over my shoulder, I fled through the kitchen doors.

Rodney was standing in front of me looking concerned. “You feeling all right?” he asked me. “You look strung out, Man.”

“Why? What makes you say that?”

“Cause Man, you look like shit! You’re all pasty and sweaty looking. You look wasted or hungover or something. You’re not supposed to start partying until after work.”

My heart was thumping so hard it was making me nauseous.

“That reminds me, you still owe me for Saturday,” he said. “Fifty bucks.”

“Ok. Ok, yeah,” I said ducking into the bathroom. In the mirror, it was clear that Rodney wasn’t lying. My shirt looked like it had come out of the washer and never been dried. It had to go.

There were extras hanging from a hook in the hallway behind the kitchen. They were for emergencies in case someone spilled wine or spaghetti down the front of themselves. I put one on and hustled back towards the dining room.

“Margaret’s swiping your table, bro,” Rodney said casually as he brushed by me, heading outside for a smoke.

My table!

Spinning through the cacophony of the kitchen dodging waitresses and busboys and bursting into the dining room, I spotted Margaret, her dazzling smile in overdrive as she wrote down food orders from Fitzgerald and his men.

They already had their drinks.

Margaret laughed at one of their suggestive comments then headed for the kitchen where she was promptly intercepted by me.

“That’s my section!” I said. “You stole my table!”

Margaret blinked and her thousand watt smile dimmed. She considered feigning ignorance but playing dumb wasn’t going to fly and she knew it. It was a bad habit she had, taking other servers’ wealthy looking customers, and a big table like this had proven too much for her to resist.

She nodded meekly and shuffled into the kitchen to place their orders before relinquishing the table to me. The spring in her step was gone.

“I’ll split it with you,” I told her as the kitchen doors swung shut behind her and she smiled weakly at me through the window.

Just hang here until Fitzgerald needs a refill.

I waited with my arms crossed by the kitchen door ignoring my other tables while servers and bus boys sailed back and forth from the kitchen. My best opportunity had slipped by and I wasn’t going to miss another one. Already, my back was slick. This shirt would soon be unwearable too.

After five minutes or so, the time had come.

“Another drink, gentlemen?”

They barked orders while I scribbled. Fitzgerald wanted brandy.

The bar was a madman so I helped Stan with the drinks. My hands trembled as I reached for the vial.

It was gone.

It must have fallen out of my pocket when I was changing-

My shirt.

Frantically, I wove through the crowded dining room and into the battlefield kitchen spinning, avoiding bodies, and willing my way through the chaos. When I reached the hallway, I sprinted.

The hook was empty.

But it had been hanging right there. Right there! That was right where I had left it.

Mesmerized, I didn’t see the back door open.

“I don’t know how you got so wrecked off that shit,”Rodney said tossing me the vial and rubbing his nose. “That coke is trash.”

***************************************

 

This story is a response to the  one-word prompt Complicated.

 

Now try this: The Installer – Short Story