Only The Strong

Behind his basement bar, Murray mourns the loss of very good booze. Old pale seeps into the mahogany amidst a shattered tumbler. He wasn’t interested in the police positive revolver pointed squarely at his gut. The violent dismissal of hospitality seemed more the glaring offense than the imminent murder. The shootist stood just in range of the dim lights. The pistol was somewhat closer, cupped in his hands.

“So who did I kill this time?”

“You destroyed my wife but you didn’t kill her. No, she did that. She had the courage you lacked.”

“So you’re going to kill me because your wife had that good sense to get busy dying.”

“I’m going to kill you because I think I’d gain pleasure from it. And I think you owe me that much.”

“I don’t owe son, there’s no money in it.”

The man with the gun moved closer. Dirty blond hair dripped with sweat down hazel eyes and further being off his nose. The face betrayed his youth. The hands betrayed the young man entirely. They shook with vigor as he held the firearm. The broken tumbler was incidental to the boy’s intentions; a lucky exclamation when all he wanted was a period. Slowly, a hesitant thumb moved towards the hammer.

“That’s a double action, you don’t need to cock it.”

In the space of a gulp and an assuring breath, Murray had himself his own pistol from a drawer full of towels. The revolver bucked and the second shot hit an expensive mirror behind Murray. Murray was propped on the bar and firing a much smaller load, he hit a lung.

“Now, this is a Luger and does need to be cocked but I had the foresight to prepare.”

The crumbled up coat with a man couldn’t begin to care.

“I had the same chances as you did growing up, but I prepared.”

There was no argument in the person sputtering on the ground, he had more pressing concerns.

“You’re wife should have been thriftier, should have been smarter. We’re all given the same cards you see.”

Murray wasn’t talking to anyone anymore. Felicity Kreuger had came to Murray, they always came to him. Being that she was a pretty and able a girl, her utility was obvious. So Murray supplied Felicity with an employer; Murray being the critical junction between ability and need. He was a pillar of the community really and pillars have the right to grow old if they’re built well. If you’re built substandard well, really how is that the problem of the better built among us.

The Unrequited Murder

From the darkness somewhere near the television, Virginia could see a small cherry red light. Perhaps a sniper’s joy, but for a woman who had just pushed opened her destroyed deadlock there was nothing but dread. She didn’t have gun anyways. All she had was an old carving knife. She turned on the light and there in her husband’s easy chair was Justin with a smoke in his mouth. A revolver sat on the table next to Justin. Virginia tightened her grip on the old rosewood handle, poised to thrust.

“I love you Virginia, but you know I can reach that gun before you can stab me.”

“But I could kill you.”

“It’s not that satisfying, trust me.”

“Do you really think satisfaction is in the cards?”

Justin’s receding hairline seemed to give him a more expressive face. He frowned and seemed to exhale the whole world. Justin, the stereotypical sad sack who had also ran, was adept in the art of loss. He just breathed out with the smoke and let it leave. The cigarette was released into a mug full of cold coffee.

“I will say I’m sorry you saw him. I’ll say I’m sorry it wasn’t quicker.”

“And that’s all he deserves?”

“No ma’am. That’s what you deserve. He’s the one that hit you. Quite frankly, Bruce wasn’t worthy of my shit.”

The revolver sitting on the table was new to Justin. There was a bit of blood stained on it that only Justin could see. That blood would follow Justin from gat to gat, place to place. That and the rawness in Justin’s throat were the final mementos of Bruce. Two shots weren’t enough for the big guy; no Bruce rather angrily demanded a couple clubs to the head before he’d accept death. Even then he didn’t have the courtesy to die right then and there. No, there had to be an ambulance, there had to be a mourner for Bruce at his deathbed.

“You had no right.”

“There is no right, just wrong and less wrong. I chose the latter.”

“Can the Spade bullshit. You murdered the man I love.”

“And I’m sorry that you love him but he would have broken you like a horse, just like his first wife.”

“So why didn’t you kill him the first time.”

“Because…”

“I’m waiting.”

“I didn’t love her. That shouldn’t matter but it does.”

“And you proved you loved me by killing the man I love.”

“I don’t have to prove a damn thing, I love you. I couldn’t let him have you and throw you away.”

“I would never…”

“And neither would any other woman that I’ve loved. I’m used to that.”

“So what now?”

“You get on with your life and I find a new one, where I’m actually more of a nobody.”

“What’s keeping me from calling the cops when you leave?”

“You’ll have to answer that yourself.”

Justin stood up and put the revolver back in his suitcase. He walked right past a confused Virginia and her carving knife.

“I’ll say I do like that new spine of yours.”

“Yeah, I do too. I think I’ll keep it.”

Justin Winthrope left the world that day, having quietly liquidated all his assets over the last six months so that they’d fit nicely in his Dopp kit. Justin Winthrope was a respected but overall ignored CPA. Louis Gerrymander didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life but he had $20,000 to help him find out.

Brother From Another Mother

We use to play tag. Well you’re it now and I don’t think your going to tag me back. Tag with rocks just don’t work the same as any other kind of tag. I don’t exactly feel for you. You came at me with a gun, and I’m going to live. It should have been me and you versus them. We were better than all of them. Everyone of those pathetic wannabes on the lower east side, we could have beat them all and then we could have owned this street, this block, this whole city. That ain’t happening now. I’m going back to my boys now.

Ain’t it a shame.

The Devil And The Straw Seller

The rules are simpler than you’d think. They don’t want your soul, it’s precious to you but they don’t have a use for it. They want you to do things for them, could be anything and you’ll probably never know their designs. You don’t want to know their designs. If you get curious back away from this, this type of deal isn’t for you.

My liaison was Harriet. She was tall, curvy and young with long red hair, although that means less when you can choose your form. I was a married man, so I wasn’t ever tempted, vows being set in stone. She stared out the window effecting a slightly obvious inorganic disinterest. She would do anything to keep her eyes off the bit of cloth and the black barrel protruding out from under.

“You just want me to sell it?”

“You can get $400 for it.”

“What do you get?”

“Nothing that effects you.”

For a moment I thought smoke was leaving her mouth but then I realized that was her breath. It’s apparently a lot warmer where she comes from. The waitress had already pointed out that this was a non smoking establishment. Seeing as though there was no cigarette and no lingering smell, the poor woman could only shrug and file it under strange shit unexplained. She simply left our meals and drink on the table. Overall, the service at the diner was exquisite.

I had a Mexican scramble, while Harriet had biscuits and gravy with quite a bit of Tabasco. We were both enjoying our meals and neither looking at the veiled nonregistered centerpiece. The food was good and the coffee was cheap but passable. The conversation sat on the table, awkwardly waiting for ingestion to finish. Five minutes later we were back to talking.

“Where do I sell it?”

“On the black market.”

“Where the hell is that?”

“Where desperate men congregate.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“That’s all the answer you need.”

As Harriet reached for her wallet, I left with the gun quickly swept into my bag. I made sure to leave a tip as I was sure that Harriet wouldn’t. Not to say that Harriet was above stealing a tip but there are always risks. As far as I know she paid for the meal. I never went back to that Diner. The black market was easy enough to find. It was close by and very easy to use. Truth was, I had been a shopper there before but I didn’t know it. I came out of the deal with $415 profit, counting the breakfast.

That money did me a lot of good; I try not to think about what the gun did.

Would Be Hero

There’s four more shots coming before he must reload, but any fantasy you had of stopping him and becoming a big damn hero ended with the shot inside you. That load is meant for a buck and a man ain’t a match for it. Your organs are opening up and seeping out. You actually might just live because you’re proving to be stronger than you really should be. Still, you’re now more of a spectator to the bank robbery than a player.

No More Silverbells, No more .38s, No 401k

Brandon looks at the pill vial in his shaking hand. The orange plastic vial almost sticks in his sweaty palm. The label says it’s prescribed by a Doctor George Napel. He has never met the man but blesses him for being so naïve. Slowly, like the most scared ritual, he taps a single pill out and swallows with fluid and practiced motion.

The night is cold, dark, and clear. On a night like this one could see the whole universe if one felt so inclined. Brandon keeps his eyes to the ground, measuring his breath and footsteps. He feels his heart slowly retreating backing into his chest where it belongs. The sweat stops and turns cold on his face. He walks one step at time, shaking off hesitance with each step closer to his goal.

He hears an ambulance blaring down the street. Ambulances seem to exist on their own plane of existence. When an ambulance passes you by, it doesn’t see you. It knows something is there, but only cares if it is a direct obstruction and never really cares what the obstruction is. Isolated by tragedy and urgency it shoots from point A to point B never really interacting with the between; an emotional wormhole.

Brandon is isolated too, not by urgency or tragedy but by enmity. He walks through people like water through a seethe. The streets are packed with people gobbling up post-Christmas bargains. Where once there was vague charity, now there is just the busy shuffling of people paranoid of theft looking at no one and seeing nothing except what’s ahead of them.

Light falls from overhead street lamps creating circles between darkness. There is just enough wind and just enough snow that it seemed liked the light had a physical presence. Brandon reaches out his hand, only to feel nothing but wet and cold. Between light posts the bit of sunshine he ingested takes hold and he’s suddenly smooth. The vinyl gloves slip on. Inside his pocket, he fingers the cold grip of a gun. He knows he has to do this. He is not so young as to believe her an innocent woman but he still feels pings of remorse.

The silhouette of a woman grows taller making Brandon all the more lonely. He carefully walks between lamp posts avoiding any eye contact but observing as much as possible. Her legs are pitch black with just the right amount of heft. Her hands are slender with eight rapier shaped fingers and two strangely fat thumbs. Her face is long and tired with a scar on the left cheek that enters into a conversation whether she wanted it to or not. Brandon does not believe people to be a sum of their parts but these were fine parts.

His hood pulls over his head shielding his face from a quick glance. He steadies his pace making uniform motion and modest demeanor. People move about the busy sidewalk, unaware of anyone else let alone Brandon in specific. He wears his shoulders low and he slows. He is within ten feet; the two minute warning in play. His breath could been seen in the air timed to a ten second pattern. His eyes don’t leave her knees. Suddenly they are passing. Brandon speaks.

“Are you Alyssa Matters, secretary to an April Sail?”

“Yes.”

“Mr. Stikes resigns.”

She blinks, registering the name. She breathes deep for a scream.

“Mrs. Matters, your family would miss you very much.” The barrel can be felt in her side.

She exhales. “I’ll tell Ms. Sails you gave me your two week notice.”

“I thank you.” He walked back into the night.

She shivers as he disappears; the only natural reaction when these people pass. For his part, Brandon likes the alteration to the old routine as it is much less of a hassle. He’s finds Good King Wenceslas coming out pf him in an ascending roar. The revolver drops into a trash can. It is a nice gun but Brandon can’t use it anymore.