Buy Kraj the Enforcer: Stories
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Con Game

Cons walk slower than citizens. In the prison yard, the chow line, you name it. Slow.

The reason is simple: there’s no reason to hurry when there’s no place to go.

I was one of those cons. Still am. For however much time I have left after I shiv Paco Perez.

• • •

My brother Ethan was the baby of the family, literally. Born ten years after the next-youngest Madigan boy, Ethan was blessed with more brains than the rest of us idiots combined.

Ambition, too. From the day the kid started school it was obvious he would become Somebody Important. An influential politician, a business tycoon or maybe an activist. He was born to change the world.

While the rest of us were smoking dope and ripping purses out of old ladies’ hands, and then graduating to knocking over liquor stores and stealing cars, Ethan kept his nose clean and worked hard in school. He got grades that made the rest of us look stupid.

Not that that was a particularly high bar to clear.

Even as he got older, somehow he stayed out of trouble. With negative role models as far as the eye could see, the teenaged Ethan was even more of a straight arrow than he’d been when he was little, if that was possible.

Me and his other brothers harassed him for it mercilessly, but we made sure nobody else in the neighborhood so much as looked at the kid cross-eyed. We were so fucking proud. Against all odds, one of the Madigan boys was going to make good.

And then Ethan discovered heroin.

We all knew something was wrong; of course we did. And with any regular kid we would immediately have suspected drugs.

But Ethan Madigan was no regular kid. Not one of us even considered the possibility he’d begun sticking needles filled with poison into his arm. The notion was ludicrous.

For the longest time, none of us suspected it could be that.

• • •

I was serving a five-to-ten stretch for armed robbery when Ethan died. He was found on a streetcorner in Lawrence with enough fentanyl in his system to take down a small elephant, and even in a family of reprobates and small-time criminals, no one saw that kind of end coming.

To say we were blind to Ethan’s addiction would be an understatement.

I wasn’t allowed to attend my little brother’s funeral.

• • •

Paco got send up not long afterward, busted for running a gang specializing in opioids and prostitution. The Devil Dogs, they called themselves.

I learned within days of Ethan’s death that it was a Devil Dog who’d sold my brother the fentanyl that killed him. It wasn’t Paco, of course. Paco was much too important to be involved in something as minor as a street deal.

But Paco was the man behind the curtain.

The brains of the Devil Dog operation.

And he was being sent to Cedar Junction.

• • •

I know my brother suffered from a chemical imbalance in his brain.

I know Paco Perez was not responsible for that imbalance. He didn’t orchestrate it, didn’t force Ethan to inject synthetic poison into his veins. I’m sure Paco wouldn’t have known Ethan Madigan from a hole in the wall.

But Paco Perez is still going to die.

• • •

It cost much more than I ever thought myself capable of paying to acquire the blade.

Not money.

Not cigarettes.

Sexual activity; that was the price. But I didn’t care. It was a business transaction, nothing more. And now I have the weapon I need.

Tomorrow is the day.

In the yard.

Paco will never see me coming.

There’s no need to get fancy or worry about witnesses. Once I take Paco down my life will be over anyway. The Dogs will be able to get to me anytime they want.

But I don’t care. At least this way my life will have meant something. If I were to get out it would only be a matter of time before I ended up right back here, anyway.

Taking Paco down won’t bring Ethan back.

I know that.

I’m going to do it anyway.

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