Catch

It was a bunch of fishermen who finally found Billy Tate’s drowned body. A small, agitated knot of anglers crowding around a humped black shape that had been dragged out of the water and onto a concrete towpath. Behind Lewisham Asda and the London Bridge to Ladywell trainline Tate was born. Amongst the dogshit and the used johnnies. Slimy, wet and bloated up, Billy’s rebirth was from water thick with plastic bags and shopping trolleys, scattered newspapers and flyers floating like scum. I was amazed there was anything alive worth catching in there. Perhaps these guys were not fishing after all, but doggers waiting for the evening rush.

I was on the opposite side of the canal, squatting by the rusting metal lockhead and smoking a roach, watching as one of the men took a brave step forward to inspect the corpse, prodding with a stick before turning it over like a line caught Tench. Another was bent over and honking his guts into the canal while the rest, panic in their throats, tried to call the services.

If he smelled bad, Billy Tate must have looked a whole lot worse. Two weeks in the drink with the rats eating the soft bits and the eels eating the hard. It would make Ashton Kutcher look like Herman Munster so Billy had no chance – he was plenty ugly before he took that final dive.

I had to get closer though. Watching this caper unfold from the other side might be fun but it wouldn’t get me my phone back and the blues and twos would be here in under ten.

I took the iron bridge over the canal and headed towards the group. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to get at that SIM and I had no inclination to explain myself to these goons. The corpse in front of them should be distraction enough.

I got to the body before anyone clocked me, and I started searching. Breathing through clenched teeth. Quick as you like. The guts of a dead donkey was Calvin Klein compared to this filthy shitbag.

Black gunk and reams of river slime slid out of his pockets as I hunted for the Nokia. I glanced at his face and wish I hadn’t: a bloated sack, white and lumpy like rotted jellied eels. It turned my gut as finally, thankfully, the phone slipped into my filthy hand. Another birth. I delivered me a fucking prize baby.

And then a hand on my shoulder. Puker had sorted himself out and was mouthing something about the police. I stood up and before he could speak again I hit him once in the abdomen. Just hard enough to send him back into the canal, where he hit the water with a solid DUNK. A slam dunk.

It kicked off – sirens arriving, screaming at the top of the embankment as the men in front of me realised what had happened to their buddy. Uniform racing down the slope to my position on the side of the canal. And still the drowned body of Billy Tate at my feet like some rejected offering.

I moved fast, the phone gripped in a fist, past the slow hands of the fisherman who were scrabbling at the greasy water’s edge. Up towards the police who were running fast down the bank. Three of them with their bright yellow jackets like targets you couldn’t miss. I put my hand on the pistol grip as I sprinted up, the voices of the men behind me, trying to warn the uniform.

But they didn’t need warning. They saw me, they recognised me, they deferred to me. I held up my warrant card as they raced past, screaming at the men by the waterside to stand still and that they were under arrest.

I kept running, head down, all the way to the top until I reached the black BMW that was parked behind the patrols. Zabel’s car waiting for me and the phone.

Three taps on the smoked glass and the driver laid out a fat palm. I passed him the handset and with a smile he started the engine.


Meal Ticket

“¡Myra, dos rellenos!” called the cook.

Gillian grabbed hot plates with bare hands and carried them to the only couple in the dining room. She’d never been with a Mexican, but the young man smelled like money, and she was due a new meal ticket.

“Dos rellenos,” announced Gillian in heavily accented Spanish. “¿Algo más?

“Not now, pretty lady,” said the man. “Later, maybe.”

Gillian smiled. “My name’s Myra. I’ll be here when you’re ready.” She winked. “Enjoy, Darlin’.”

The little brass bell on the door rang as two large men entered the little restaurant. Americans. Big city accents. A chill ran up her spine. They wore light jackets, despite the Chihuahua City heat outside. She watched them sit in the corner booth.

“Some fucking service over here?”

Oh, Fuck me.

She put a hand on her hip and turned, face blank as a bullet. The one facing her leered scanned her from sandals to freckled tits, but never looked at her face. A gold tooth flashed. One of Vinnie’s “associates.” She’d seen him from the windows of the house in Staten Island where Vinnie had kept her.

“Gillian,” said the one with his back to her. “Just when we we’re gonna quit looking, we hear about a pretty white girl hustling tables in this shithole town.” He threw up his hands and turned in his seat. For a bad moment, she thought the face was Vinnie’s.

“My name’s Myra.”

“Myra, Gillian, whatever. We got you.”

“Don’t know what you’re talkin’ about. Y’all want somethin’?”

Gold-tooth grinned. The Vinnie look-alike approached. “That’s some mouth on you.” He grabbed Gillian’s face in a right hand like a butcher’s block and squeezed until her full red lips protruded like strawberries. She didn’t bother to struggle. Gold-Tooth chuckled.

“I’m Joey. Vinnie’s cousin. From Philly. He never mentioned me?”

He released her, patted her cheek.

“Look, Joey…”

The hand shot up again, and Gillian’s head snapped back. Blood from her split lower lip spattered on the Mexican tough’s white shirt behind her.

The Mexican was out of his seat in a flash, his face twisted in outrage. The girlfriend tried to grab his wrist.
“Mi vida, no!” she said.

“You like hitting women, cabrón?” The Mexican advanced on Joey, big in the shoulders but still a head shorter than the gangster.

The cook rushed though the flapping doors into the dining room. “¿Qué pasa aquí?”

Gold-Tooth reached into his windbreaker and brought out a flat black Glock. The cook vanished.

Gold-Tooth fired two rounds into the kid’s chest, watched him fall. His feet drummed a tiny flamenco on the floorboards.

Gillian held her apron against the split lip and stood her ground. Nowhere to run anyway. A pistol appeared in Joey’s hand. Gold-Tooth, still seated, scanned out the window.

“I hear Vinnie got a little rough with you, but that ain’t cause to spray his fucking brains on the ceiling.” Joey looked at Gold-Tooth and motioned toward the sobbing girl. “Such a mess somebody had to clean up.”

“How ‘bout some beers?” Gillian dropped the apron and let the blood run down her chin. Joey paused to watch it run down her neck into the space between her tits. “Cooler heads and all.”

Gold-Tooth had the Mexican girl by the arm. He raised his eyebrows and jerked his head toward the door.
“Relax. The chief of policía is still counting his money.” Joey pointed his weapon at the ceiling and stepped toward Gillian. She parted her broken mouth and gave Joey the look that, once upon a time, made Vinnie so manageable.

Stupid wannabe Sicilian fuck.

He weighed a breast in his left hand, and probed inside her bra with the muzzle of his gun. Gillian released a calculated, barely-audible sigh.

Gold-Tooth had the Mexican girl laid on the table between two plates of chile rellenos. He’d stuck the gun in his waistband and had both hands full of young Azteca flesh. The girl’s breathing was rapid and shallow, and she stared unblinking at the ceiling.

“The day I drink Mexican beer, just put a fucking bullet in my head. Bring tequila. We’ll get acquainted first, talk business after.” He holstered his weapon. “You must have a good reason for whacking a Family boss. You play nice, I let you tell me.”

Gillian went to the bar, bent and reached underneath, closed her fingers over the sawed-off 12-gauge hanging above the shot glasses.

“Y’all want a single or a double shot?”


A Measure Of Time

It takes 23.3 seconds to empty a 30-round magazine in my Colt M4 Carbine. How do I know that? Because I emptied one last night. And I’m here to tell you what happens in those 23.3 seconds.

How did I get an M4? None of your fucking business.

So, first few seconds is all about the noise. Three seconds gone and you’ve already spit out four bullets that are rocket-powering the distance between you and the target, in this case four guys you’d rather see dead than see Megan Fox go down on your dick.

The sound is almost enough to make you take your finger off the trigger, but no, you stick with it.

You hit four seconds, five and the bullets reach the mark. Those first couple of shots are really just finding the target, nothing to get too upset about when they do more damage to the cinderblock wall than the four bodies you’re aiming at. Now you’ve got the gun erupting in your hand and the added sound of the impacts coming back to you off the wall, PLUS the echo of the blast caps bouncing all around the alley. Chaos. Fucking chaos.

But you stick with it.

Six to ten seconds and you start to sweep the barrel of the M4 to the right. Don’t know why it goes left to right, but it does. Somehow in the midst of trying to aim, blocking out the sound, looking for bullet hits on the targets, you manage to wonder if lefty’s do it from left to right.

Eleven seconds and your first bullet hits the mark. Now, at this point it’s impossible to tell if this is one that left the chamber at eight seconds, nine perhaps. All that matters is the sight of his shoulder being punched back and a splash of red leaping up into the spotlight of the club’s marquee.

You pass halfway – up to fifteen seconds of solid shooting. Your finger starts to cramp. Ears are ringing, but you don’t notice because all of a sudden there is a lot to look at on the other side of the alley. The first guy has started to fall and is blooming red all across his chest. His hands are flailing up like he’s calling a touchdown.

The guy next to him made the sorry mistake of trying to duck when the shots first started. He also tried to run, but all he managed to do was bump his forehead into the ass of the third guy in line. That left him bent over perfectly in your line of fire.

The first guy’s blood spurts were cute by comparison. This is when, again in the screaming mayhem of the moment, you start to feel a little bad.

It’s night because it’s always night when this shit goes down. The marquee does a decent job of lighting the space between buildings, but the muzzle flash of the M4 pumps a strobe light into the alley and watching a guy’s melon come apart in stop-motion is mesmerizing. First shot goes in under his eye, next one across his forehead, third takes out a chunk of bone over his temple. It ain’t pretty but it’s goddamn beautiful, if you know what I mean.

Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen seconds and you’ve shot more than 20 rounds and the third out of four guys goes down. They start to pile up, one falling into the legs of another, destroying what little chance he had of running away.

This third guy, the fat one, takes something like six bullets to the chest. They all thud in and make a sound that comes back to you across the alley like pounding nails into a phonebook. He’s thick, but for some reason, probably it’s that everyone is falling away, you notice the marks of exit wounds on the alley wall behind him. Red dots and concrete dust.

Just when you think you’ve been shooting for five seconds or maybe ten minutes – it’s over. All out.

Guy number four is down and you don’t even remember hitting him.

Now you know. Get your own damn M4.


Brotherly Love

Jed Ralston sat at a corner table in Freddy’s Diner picking his teeth while he considered his next move. The meal the waitress served up was edible but what she offered for dessert sounded downright lip smacking. If you enjoyed her type. Jed’s tastes ran to higher quality restaurants and women.

He had it from a reliable source that Freddy’s was the last place his brother, Chance, had been seen. If it wasn’t for the broken fingers and toes, he might’ve thought the source had lied to him. Jed studied the waitress who was sitting at the counter with Freddy. He paid special attention to the hard look on Freddy’s face as the two of them whispered and nodded in his direction. He dropped a twenty on the table and headed for the door.

“What’s your hurry, Mister?” asked the waitress sliding into the space between Jed and the door. “Don’t care for the dessert selection?”

“Not particularly.” he said, moving to step around her.

Freddy grabbed Jed’s arm. “That ain’t no way to treat a lady, Mister. We don’t hold with strangers pushing our women around.”

Jed shook his arm free. “But it’s okay if we toss them twenty bucks and fuck them?”

The man waded in, both arms swinging, but years of practice landed Jed’s fist on Freddy’s jaw and he was down for the count. The waitress was bee lining for the back door, but Jed grabbed hold and spun her around.

“Three days ago,” he said. “The pair of you played this game on another man, didn’t you?”

“You’re hurting me, Mister.”

“It’ll hurt a lot more if you don’t tell me what I want to know,” said Jed. He pulled a picture of Chance out of his pocket and shoved it under her nose. “The kid. What happened to him?”

“I never seen him,” said the waitress. Jed twisted her arm up behind her back. The sound of the bone snapping brought a scream. “Okay, okay. I saw him.”

“Where is he?”

“How the hell should I know?” The bone in her arm broke through the skin and she was screaming again. “Mister, I don’t know anything more than he stopped here to eat and left.”

“Who’d he leave with?”

“Beats me. He drove here in a car, I assume he drove away the same way.”

“Now that would have been impossible since his car was stolen out of your parking lot by the young man he was traveling with.”

“How’d you know that?”

Jed smiled, “Let’s just say I have my ways.”

The waitress’s eyes widened. “Who are you, Mister?”

“Someone you don’t want to mess with.” He twisted her arm a little more, watching the blood drip to the floor while she squealed in agony.

“He didn’t have a key for that fancy briefcase cuffed to his arm so Freddy took him out back and chopped off his hand. He was gone when we went back to bury his ass.”

“Where’s the briefcase?”

“What do you want with an empty briefcase? We went to all the trouble of cutting off his hand and there wasn’t a damn thing in it.”

Jed pulled his gun. “Thank you for the information, ma’am. It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.”

The waitress looked almost relieved until the gun was pointing directly at her. Her body slumped to the floor beside Freddy who was finally waking up.

“What happened to the kid with the briefcase?”

Freddy started to speak, but a glance toward the door whitewashed his face.

“Right behind you, big brother.”

Jed turned to find his brother standing in the doorway, a bandaged stump where his hand used to be. “You should have called.”

“I wanted to finish the job myself.”

“I can understand that, but you still should have called.” Jed handed Chance the gun and watched him put a bullet in Freddy’s head.

“You still have the diamonds?”

“Of course.”

Jed wrapped his arm around Chance. “I hope you weren’t too fond of Ricky.”

“Prick double crossed me, what do you think?”

“That it’s a good thing I killed the motherfucker. Glad to see you, kid.”


Tonight the Monkey Dies

Five words. Two on either end. Will framed.
No one will ever know.
*
-Hey, with that bed sheet wrapped around you, you kind of look like a Roman empress looking down on her people.


-Yoo-hoo. Your majesty….

-Hey. Are you OK?
-We shouldn’t be here.


-Well, I’ll admit…the Hyatt is closer to my office. The ceilings are higher in those rooms too, but this place isn’t that bad. Room service was prompt.
-No, I mean we shouldn’t be here. Doing this.

-God, I just never thought something like this could happen to me. I never wanted to end up like this.
-End up like how?
-I don’t know. A cliché.


-There’s nothing cliché about this.
-Oh, we’re lousy with cliché.

-Maybe it’s genetic.
-What? Genetic? What do you mean genetic?
-My uncle had an affair.
-So?
-It destroyed his life. Things were never the same with my uncle and my aunt after she found out about it. A few years later when my aunt developed cervical cancer? My uncle blamed his infidelity for it.
-That’s ridiculous.
-Karma.
-Karma? Please. This is our choice, honey.
-I know.

….
-Well, you know how I feel about you. I suppose I could just pull the brakes and stop but you know I won’t. Stopping this goes against everything forcing through me right now. The things we’ve done, the world is completely different for me now. It feels like I’m on fire, like I’ve been given this second chance.
-At what?
-Life.
-Easy for you to say, you’re divorced.



-Come back to bed.
*
-Jesus Christ, you scared the shit out of me. Oh. Oh my God. You’re—

-Look, I appreciate you coming down here to confront me face to face, I mean, if you’re looking to take a swing at me or something I’m going to tell you right here and now there’s cameras in this garage.

-Don’t do something you might regret. Like I said, ther’s cameras. There’s one right over there—

-Shit.



-What can I possibly say? That I’m sorry? Okay, I will be honest with you. I am sorry. I regret what I did, I’m mortified by it, but the truth is it was almost two years ago. In the end your wife saw it for what it was—an affair. It was stupid. Stupid and rash and stupid.

-Say something.

-You just going to stand there?

-Hey, look. Iin the end she came back to you, right? And Jesus Christ that has to mean something, right? She chose you, not me. I remember how she kept saying to me all the time that you were such a good man, that you didn’t deserve it, that she still loved you in so many ways. I’ll admit, at the time I couldn’t stand the thought of losing her to you, but when she called it off I’d hoped when she’d never tell you. That we’d keep it a secret. She promised me that she never would but these things…

-I guess they can eat at you.
*
NAME: ALOYSIUS (AL) P. (PAUL) DANFORTH
DATE MISSING: APRIL 6, 2011
DATE OF BIRTH/AGE: May 15, 1968 –
MISSING FROM: Washington, DC
HEIGHT: 6’ 2”
WEIGHT: 197 pounds
HAIR COLOR: Brown
EYE COLOR: Blue
GENDER: Male
RACE: White
CLOTHING/JEWELRY: Dark suit, Tag Heuer wrist watch, inscribed July 3, 2005
SCARS/TATTOOS: None
CIRCUMSTANCES OF DISAPPEARANCE: Danforth was last seen leaving his office in downtown Washington, DC early in the evening of June 3, 2011. His car was found in his building’s parking garage.
CONTACT: Washington Metropolitan Police
CASE #: 567980-D
*
Five words. Two on either end. Will framed.
No one will ever know.


The Shotgun Waltz

The day melted before them and turned the earth to thick unforgiving mud. Black night swallowed day as branches moved on the dead cottonwood out side the window, the curtains stained yellow with a film from a lifetime of heavy smoke and light cleaning.

Daddy pushed his rocking chair back and forth with a slow rhythm that would either set you to sleep or keep you awake, but the rocking slowed when his dirty wife brought supper. A plate with two biscuits and a pile of burnt potatoes covered in onions, and watered down ketchup that looked more like blood than even the thinnest ketchup could ever look. The rocking stopped and Daddy made a grumble in his throat; he hacked up a wad of soft yellow and turned his head to spit through the half open window. Some of the phlegm chunks made it out, but most lay deposited on the sill, where the sun from the east would find it come morning and bake it and sear it until it was crusty like scorched bird shit.

“What the hell’s this?”

She pushed the plate into his palm. “Take it.”

“But there ain’t no goddamn gravy. I want gravy’n biscuits, not taters’n biscuits.”

“You bes take it,” Mama said. “If you ain’t gonna eat it, give it to the boy.”

Daddy looked at the sturdy women with shoulders too broad to hug and shook his head. Told her he’d eat it, but next time she best have gravy.

She let out what amounted to a snort then stomped across the living room with heavy feet into the kitchen, picked up where she’d left off before the old man started screaming for his fill.

Mama set Wayne Lundy’s arm on the cutting board and peeled cold meat from the bone. She used her Grandmother’s knife and it made soft easy sounds as shed peelings dropped into the ancient sink. The arm had been thawing all morning but was still hard, covered in a lean veneer of ice. She wrestled with it as best she could then stuck it in the microwave on timed defrost.

Mama cursed her husband for cutting through the bicep like he had, wasting good meat.

“That was Junior!” Daddy yelled. “Wasn’t me that done it woman, now you know better’n that.”

The big woman looked up to see headlights and dropped the knife into the sink. “Now what’a we got here?”
Daddy watched a homemade movie on the television of him and a girl they kept in the basement. Her lips sewn shut, but the sounds she made were worse than any sound she could’ve made had her lips been able. Daddy shoved a forkful of tatters into his face and thin lines of ketchup burst from his mouth and rushed over his gray stubbly chin.

Daddy was giving it to the girl on the T.V. as hard as he could give when Mama came back into the room, told him they had company.

Daddy set his plate down fast on an end table filled with magazines and it slipped onto the floor as he stood. “Company?”

His wife of many years went to shove him when she saw the mess he’d made, but Daddy side-stepped her, drove an uppercut into one of her big sagging tits and she screamed as she hit the floor. Daddy told her to shut the fuck up and to pick up those biscuits. He didn’t want ‘em, but she was free to give what was left to the boy. He asked where he could find him? If there was company, there was work to be done.

Mama rolled onto her back, her cheeks ripe with fresh blood pumping beneath the surface of her bulky jowl. Flaccid red cheeks blew out powerful breaths that brought tears to her eyes. “You ought’n know better than ta try some shit like that on me woman. We done been down this road before, and if mind serves correct, you don’t like where that road goes.”

Mama pulled herself up and put her back to a tall stack of yellow newspapers. She held her tit with both hands and drew hard breath through her mouth.

Daddy grabbed his shotgun and danced a waltz to the front door like a man with purpose.


The Body in the Window

The cool night air pushed tendrils of blood down her side, a tickle she’d never feel.

She was lying over the windowsill, the broken glass still working its way into her flesh. She’d only been dead a few minutes, but the killer was long gone. He rabbited out of there the second he heard us coming up the stairs, leaving just the stink of his cheap whiskey and her body as evidence he was ever there.

The killer’s footprint was still on her back, a cold sign of a desperate man using the still-warm corpse for his escape. He must have heard us coming, jumping through the window to the fire escape, leaving his mark on the bloody corpse.

I walked over to the next set of windows, and pushed one of them up. Leaning over I could just make out the street, four floors below. There was darkness, and a dimly lit street, but nothing else.

I started leaning back in, but I stopped when I saw her face. Her body was on the sill, her head and shoulders resting on the rusty grate of the fire escape.

Even in death her eyes pleaded with me.

They asked me why I hadn’t been there to save her. They asked me why she had to die for me. They asked why I had broken my promise to be there for her.

I looked away, closing my eyes and fighting back the tears. This was no place to break down, not with my partner and the other men here, and not if we were going to catch this killer.

I leaned back in the apartment, and solemnly closed the window. I walked over to her body, taking in how such beauty could lie in such horror. I let my finger push a few of her hairs away from her face, as I’d done so many times when she was alive.

I wished that things had been different, that she and I could have just run away. But there had been a debt to be paid, and she was more than willing to help. Willingness that I should have ignored.

Now the debt could never be paid back.

I looked back at the men, at my partner who had been with me since the beginning of it all. They were all quiet, their faces telling me what I needed to hear.

I stood up straighter, allowing my fingers a last caress of her beauty. I looked at the men.
“Burn it all before the cops get here.”

As I left, the cool night air pushed the hair back into her face. A last tickle she’d never feel.


The Treacherous Road – Part 2

Note: For those who may have missed it The Treacherous Road – Part One

Carl shifted the black Dodge Challenger into third, grinding the pedal hard into the floor. She shook uncontrollably over the Nevada desert terrain. He felt her chassis tearing up good underneath. But he wasn’t slowing down. Not until that bitch was cold. If Joey pissed him off anymore he’d bury him too. He’d make up some story and tell Johnny how he just got in the way. “There you are, you…”

Joey already had Samantha in his arms. Carl shifted again and reached over for his .45 on the seat. Joey saw an opening. All Carl saw was a huge rock flying towards the windshield and he turned the wheel hard.

The car swerved, kicking up a cloud of debris, and the gun went off. Bullets turned the roof into Swiss cheese. He attempted one more round but the car hit a large boulder, slamming his hand against the window frame in the process. A tire burst. The gun flew. So did the car.

The Challenger took off like a rocket and came down hard, rolling in the process.

“Stay here Sam.” The barely dressed Vegas dancer didn’t say a word. She didn’t even move.

Joey picked up the gun, like he was King Arthur, out of the dirt. He checked the clip. More than enough.

The Dodge sat upside down. One of the tires still spun. It was totaled. The windows were spider-webbed and blown out. Carl didn’t wear his belt. Thought only pussies wore them. A mangled clump twenty feet away crawled to Hell on a trail of its own blood. Joey would help get him there a little faster.

Joey stood over him and clicked back the hammer. “Carl. Turn over, man. I ain’t shooting you in the back.”
It took him a good long minute, through some heavy pain, but he finally rolled.

“Look at… arugh… that. The pussy finally grows a pair.”

“Those gonna be your last words then?” Joey stepped in closer. “She didn’t have it. Do you hear me, you sack of shit? She didn’t even KNOW about it. Did YOU know that?”

“Who the hell cares…. hurrrgh… I didn’t ask.” Dark blood dripped from the corner of his mouth. “He just said take care of her. And if it meant… if I got a piece of that ass before I did it…well hurrah for me. That’s what….”

Samantha snapped her head toward the loud bang.

Carl’s death was easier than he deserved. Joey should have let him bleed out. It would have looked like an accident at first. But he was sending a message. The buzzards would have their way with Carl soon enough.

“Come on. Get up. We’re getting out of here,” Joey said. Samantha looked up, her face blank, still shaking from nerves.

“Look, Sam, we’ve got to get out of here,” Joey said. “Johnny is probably expecting Carl to report in when it’s done and we’re far past how long it’d take to… we gotta get movin’ baby.”

They walked in silence for hours in the scorching desert sun.

“Where are we going Joey? What’s the plan?” Samantha asked.

“Plan?” Joey turned toward her and laughed. “I’m making this up as I go along. Last night Johnny told me to pick you up and ask you a few questions. Now we’re here. Apparently something else was… is… I don’t know… going on and what I’ve been told was far different from what Carl knew.”

He stopped himself and walked off a few feet away from Samantha, taking it all in. “Look. I’m sorry Sam. I had nothing to do with you… this…. The world’s much better off without that asshole. But you… you’re just a dancer that Johnny forced into doing something he shouldn’t of.”

Joey turned around, “All you did was pick up a goddamn bag. Something got fucked up along the way and now he’s pinning it on you. It’s definitely on me now, too. God knows what he said. Maybe he planned it that way. Maybe it’s the coke whore…”

“I ain’t no whore and the coke was just that one…”

“I’m not saying you are… let’s just keep walking.”

“Any bullets left?”

“Yeah. Just one.”


Herman Dog Digs

Herman Dog digs in the soft dirt at the back of the yard and uncovers a face. He knows that face and that smell. It’s his Master. His Master has his eyes open and there’s a hole in his face and his face is cold. Herman licks the face. Nothing Herman’s no fool. He knows his Master is fucking dead.

Herman sees two guys with shovels, and the dirt on the shovels smells like the dirt on his Master, and the same burning smell from the hole in his Master’s face blooms from the guys with the shovels. He doesn’t know why, but he knows they deaded his Master.

Herman growls and goes after the guys. They killed his Master, so who is going to feed him and play stick and let him curl up on his lap? Herman tells these assholes what they have done is bad. BAD. No! No! BAD DOG.
Herman is a small bulldog, barely shin high. He goes BARK BARK GR GR GR BARK GR GR BARK GRGRGRGR.

They yell at Herman. They are thin with sores on their faces. They smell like chemicals that his Master takes when his nose is stuffy. They also smell like the leather square his Master carries around in his clothes when he leaves, and puts back on the table when he’s home. One of the guys thumbs through the leather square and takes out rectangles and more rectangles and then tells the other guy, “No cash.”

“Shit!”

“Nobody carries cash.”

“Then we have to sell those fucking cards fast.”

Herman doesn’t understand. He doesn’t hear his name. He doesn’t hear GOOD DOG or BAD DOG or NAUGHTY or GO POTTY, although SHIT is a word his Master said a lot.

BARK BARK BARK GRGRGRGR BARK! He’s hopping around their feet now.

They yell at him and he understands “Go away!” But he hasn’t told them about his Master’s warm lap yet.

One of them points a square thing at him. It’s black. Herman knows what this is. His Master had one, and when he pointed it, it would go BARK and make fire and make things have holes in them, like the hole in his Master’s face.

Herman didn’t want a hole in his face, so he backs away. BARK BARK BARK GRGRGRGRGR.

The men keep going. They don’t make a hole in Herman and they ignore him.

Herman needs help.

***

Herman waits outside the door. Not his house, but he’s been there a lot. They keep Herman’s friend, a lady German Shepherd named Heidi. She is a big dog and he likes big dogs.

The door opens and Heidi comes out.

Herman says, “What’s up, bitch?”

Heidi sniffs the ground. “You know. Got to pee.”

“You want to help me? Someone made a hole in my Master and he’s dead.”

“That sucks. No more warm lap.”

“I know. You want to help?”

“Okay.”

So Herman and Heidi bound off into the woods together on the heels of the guys who made a hole in Herman’s Master. They smell terrible, so they are easy to find.

When the dogs see the guys putting the shovel into the trunk of a car, Herman says to Heidi, “That’s them.”

“You want me to bite their balls?”

“Yeah, bite their balls.”

Heidi launches towards the guy who pointed the firemaker at Herman. Heidi clamps her jaws onto the guy’s crotch and locks her jaws and there’s no getting her off.

The guys hits Heidi in the face but it doesn’t do much good. He fumbles with his firemaker and hits her with that, but it’s no also no good.

Herman watches, then he sees the other guy get a firemaker and aim at Heidi. Herman doesn’t want him to make holes in Heidi so he goes BARK BARK BARK GRGRGRGRGR BARK! to warn her. Herman jumps up on the legs of that guy while Heidi shakes her head with the balls in her mouth and tears skin. The other guy, with Herman hopping around him, gets confused and points his firemaker at Heidi, but the guy with Heidi whips around and the firemaker makes fire and makes holes in the back of the first guy rather than in Heidi, and Herman is very happy about that.

The guy with holes in him drops to the ground. Heidi lets go. She runs over to Herman. They sit and watch.

The other guy approaches the fallen guy. “I’m sorry, oh fuck, oh god. I was gonna shoot the dog, I swear.”

Fallen guy rolls onto his back, firemaker in his hand. He makes fire and makes a hole in the other guy’s face.They don’t move anymore and they stink like they made poopies.

Herman says, “Perfect”

“I need to go back and sit in my Master’s lap.”

“Sure. Don’t take that shit for granted.”

Heidi runs back through the woods while Herman walks over to the fallen guys. They stink too much. So he finds a trail back to his Master. Herman digs some more. He wants his Master’s fingers because under the skin there are bones, and he thinks his Master would have wanted Herman to take his bones. So he finds the cold hand, lies on the ground beside his Master, and gnaws on his finger bones. But he really wishes his Master was alive because he is cold and the fingers are cold and he really misses his Master’s warm lap.


Fucking Liars

The fuck fucked the fucking fucker. Not fuck as in fucked, but fucked as in fucked him up. See, the fucking fucker was fucking around with the fuck’s fuck, so the fucker was asking to get fucked. Not content with fucking the fucking fucker up, the fuck fucked with the other fucking fucker’s fuck too. Fucked her in the fucker’s car. Fucked the fucking car as well. Fuckin’ A. When the fucked-up fucking fucker saw the fucking fucked-up state of his fuck and his fucking car, he fucked off fucking fast. Returned—fucked cause he was still fucked-up—with a fuck-off shotgun. Fucking blew the fuck out of the fuck and said to his own fucking fucked-up fuck, “Now that’s that fucking fucker fucking fucked.”

“Thank fuck,” she said. “That fuck was a real fucking fuck.”

Later, they were fucking. Mid-fuck she said, “You didn’t fuck his fucking fuck like the fucker said, did you? If you did, you’re fucked, you fucking fucker.”

He said, “I can’t believe you’d think so badly of me, honey.”

“Fucking mistake,” she said, cold as fuck, fucking blade ever-so-fucking-shiny in her fucking hand. “Only fucking liars don’t say fucking fuck.”

He was fucked. He looked at her and said, “Shit.”


Disney Noir

Somebody threw a bucket of water on Daffy, putting the fire out.

Mickey leaned against a work bench and hustled a cigarette from a soft pack of Marlboros. Minnie lit it for him, then cooed, passing a hand over his crotch.

“He say anything yet?” Mickey said.

I shook my head. Daffy was breathing funny, like he had a cassette tape unwinding in his chest. A ropy drool hung from one corner of his beak. Most of the feathers on his back and shoulders had burned off. The rest were blood-soaked. The smell was outrageous. I swallowed a mouthful of spit and tried not to gag. I looked over at Chip, who was admiring the claw-end of a hammer, and Dale, who was fingering the grip of a chrome revolver. That’s when Donald walked up and popped him in the eye with a fist.

“That’s enough!” I said.

“You give up being a cold-hearted son of a bitch for Lent, Goof?” he replied.

“He ain’t talking,” I answered with a shrug. Always the deferential one.

“He’ll talk,” Donald said. “These fucks from Warner Brothers think they’re tough. But they ain’t tough.” His voice began to fail him, replaced by a hoarse whistle. He produced an inhaler and took a hit. Then he pulled out his dick and started pissing on Daffy.

Minnie favored the member with a covetous smile. Mickey rolled his eyes. Chip and Dale howled with laughter. Daffy struggled but the restraints were tight. I would know. I tied them myself. He wasn’t going anywhere.

I just shook my head.

This was all wrong.

We were three stories under the park, in a maintenance room west of the castle. It looked like an ACE Hardware had thrown up in there. Screw drivers and batteries and copper coil wires and nails by the dozen. Some broken glass. Bloody gauze. Teeth. The bric-a-brac of a capture and question. There was enough of Daffy’s bodily fluids beneath the chair to fill a bath tub. I heard the rumble of the Monorail overhead.

“You like that?” Donald said, stuffing himself back in his shorts. He adjusted his hat, straightened his bow tie and then spit in Daffy’s face. Daffy winced. An eye had swollen shut. He was having trouble keeping his head up.

“What are we gonna do?” I said.

“I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do,” Donald said. “We’re gonna find that no-account son of his—Danger—and I’m gonna carve him to pieces with a Miter saw…right in front of his old man.”

“Blarraargghhh,” Daffy said in protest.

Mickey cocked an eye at him.

“What’d he say?”

“Flurrrrffff glaaak shhhoooofff.”

“His tongue’s the size of a filet mignon,” Chip said.

“What’s that comin’ out his ears? Looks like maple syrup,” Dale added.

“He ain’t talking,” I reminded everyone. But nobody heard me. No one ever did.

There was a knock at the door. Minnie answered.

It was the dog.

“Hey, Pluto,” Donald said.

He didn’t look well. Like he hadn’t slept in a few days. His fur was mangy. An open sore behind his ear looked infected. We all knew he’d been on a bender. Dust. Meth. Easy to score over in Epcot. He leered at us, flashing a mouth full of rotten teeth. Then he gestured at our captive.

“He ain’t singing like we thought he would, boss,” Mickey said.

He took a step toward Daffy. We all grew silent. Pluto scared the hell out of all of us. He ran the park and nobody ever dared cross him.

“Want me to do him, boss?” Donald offered. He was always too fucking eager. Had bodies buried all over Frontierland.

Pluto looked from one duck to the other. Then with a paw he lifted Daffy’s chin, as if appraising him. In all my time with that crew I’d never heard him speak. Nobody had.

The sound of his voice chilled me bone deep. Nothing in my memory was as awful. Not the infant floating face down in Typhoon Lagoon. Or the scream from a severed head on Space Mountain. Or syphilitic Cinderella moaning in her padded room.

“Feed him to the escalator,” he said.


Two-Phones

Smart-ass in front of Slim in the security queue at Midway couldn’t keep his mouth shut, guy dumping his shit in the plastic box, two fucking cell phones and a PDA coming off his belt like he was Batman or something, a fat money clip with a Franklin on the outside.

“Take off your belt, take off your shoes, like being in the joint or something,” Two-Phones said. But Slim figured if some hack hadn’t made you bend over and spread your cheeks, then it was nothing like the joint. Slim gave Two-Phones his shower face.

Slim did his first jolt in Joliet at 18. Being fresh young white meat in that hole made him the blue-plate special on the shower menu, so he learned early not to give it up easy, and he gave it up so hard that pretty soon he didn’t have to give it up at all. One look at the shower face and Two-Phones decided to give his act a rest.

The Old Men wanted Fish Garbanzo clipped. Had a couple hot-shit trigger jockeys out of Detroit take a run at him last week, but Fish had that mutant nephew of his, Beans, with him – size of a single family home and some sort of handgun savant, like the only part of his brain that worked right was the part about shooting people. Beans left the shooters in the street sporting 9mm bindis.

So the Old Men called Slim. Fish was heading out of town – word was maybe a meet with the Feds. Airport suited Slim. Airport was the one place where Beans wouldn’t be strapped.

Fish and Beans were in the Food Court, Slim watching from the bookstore at the mouth of A concourse. Fish was a delicate old fuck, liver-spotted head, sipping on something. Beans sat down with a pile of slop he’d grabbed, shoveled it in. Then Fish and Beans got up, headed around the corner for the can. Showtime.

TSA pukes will take away your nail clippers, but Slim loved the shit they let you bring through. He had the computer power cord, the one with the half-pound brick of transformer, knotted up into a perfect sap, and he’d used the bench grinder on a toothbrush, filing that down to a point like an ice pick.

Beans was standing by the sinks when Slim pushed into the john. Slim snapped the transformer down hard right on top of Beans’ head. Not like that was gonna put Beans all the way down, though. Slim slipped under a massive right and drove the tooth brush up under the base of Bean’s skull all the way in to the bristles. He could see Bean’s face in the mirror, all Mongoloid looking now, eyes drooping, mouth hanging open. He caught Beans under the arms, backed him into the empty stall and plopped him down on the crapper.

“Fuck’s goin’ on?” Fish muttering in the handicap stall. Slim kicked the door in, the old man on the can, pants around his ankles, knees sticking out of his stringy legs like knots on tree branches. Slim waved his left hand up over Fish’s head, got his chin up, then drove the fingers of his right hand into the old man’s throat. Felt the trachea go. All over.

Slim locked the door to the stall then slid out underneath, did the same for Beans. He was just about to zip the power cord back in his bag when Two-Phones walked in the door and over to the urinals. Slim washed his hands, watching in the mirror. Fuck just leaves, he’s still good.

But Beans’ head was leaking and he must’ve slumped against the wall closest to the pissers. Two-Phones saw the blood oozing out under the stall – Slim could see him tense up. Fuck.

Slim bull-rushed Two-Phones, putting a forearm up against the back of his head, bouncing his face hard off the tile, then got his right hand around to the far shoulder, left hand cupping the chin, snapped Two-Phone’s neck. Before he dropped him, he plucked the money clip out of the right front pants pocket. Franklins all the way through.