Sunday, June 15, 2008

Shifting Gears

Here's my entry into the latest Patti Abbot/Gerald So/Mystery Dawg flash fiction event.

Cemetery Wind

“I’m sorry, Monica, but you know what Jack is like.”

“I’m not shorting him,” she said. “Business has been slow. It’s probably the economy. I doubt that guys are having a sudden rush of conscience or nobody wants their dick sucked any more.”

“There’s nothing I can do about it. You know the rules. You were short two G’s on the last payment.”

“Come on, Frankie,” she said. “I’m sure we can reach some kind of … compromise.”

She dropped her black silk robe and leaned back across the bed. My eyes wandered, taking in every inch of her flawless body. The hot pink lingerie seemed to glow against her perfectly tanned skin.

She was absolutely stunning.

Except for the bullet hole in the middle of her forehead.

I woke up. My pulse was racing so fast I could see the vein beating in my wrist. I looked out the window of the car and breathed deeply, trying to calm down. The arid landscape was flat as far as the eye could see. Its red-brown color was one I’d never seen before we got west of the Mississippi.

“The nightmares again?” Rita said as she pulled the car into the gas station.

I nodded. “The same as the last one.”

Rita pulled up to the pump, unbuckled her seatbelt, and started to open the door. I grabbed her hand, said “I got it,” and kissed her. She tasted like strawberries. I walked around the car and started to pump the gas.

The “last one” was a replay of my last hit. Monica was one of Jack Lupino’s best pros, and a longtime friend. But she made two late payments. And a third one was short. On the third strike you didn’t get one of Jack’s “collectors”. You got The Angel of Death.

Monica used her unique gifts to get herself out of trouble on more than one occasion. Far be it from me to turn down a free blowjob. She probably believed I was gonna spare her. Until I put a bullet between her eyes.

What I didn’t count on was her six-year-old son in the next room.

I killed dozens of men – maybe even hundreds - for Jack Lupino. Drug dealers. Loan sharks. Prostitutes. Lawyers. Cops. Never someone who didn’t deserve it. And never a kid.

That’s when the nightmares started. Every hit. Every face. Every person I ever killed came to visit. And it wasn’t for a friendly chat.

I told Jack I wanted out. I was done killing. Rita and I were going to retire someplace nice Upstate. But Jack wouldn’t hear it. “I made you what you are,” he said. “I own you,” he said.

I took out half the Lupino Family before I left.

They’d have to be stupid or crazy to follow me now.

The nozzle clicked my hand. I put it back on the pump and screwed the gas cap on. “Thirteen point five six three gallons,” I said. “I’m gonna go pay. You want anything?”

“No,” Rita said. “We’ve got enough snacks in the back.”

I smiled and said, “Be back in a jiff.”

We left New York almost a week ago. We abandoned our cars, bought a junker for cash, stuffed it with as much as we could, and took off. We were on the way to Prescott, Arizona to start a new life.

The plan was to stay off the grid. No credit cards. No cell phones. No crimes. Not so much as a goddam speeding ticket.

What I didn’t have the heart to tell Rita was the cash ran out the day before in Pueblo. I only had $10 on me.

With gas prices rising, our plans had to change.


Gerald So said...

As I read on, I suspected you'd use the trigger sentence last. Way to end on an ominous note.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I never thought about putting it last but very effective. Really took me by surprise.

r2 said...

WIcked story. Like Gerald and Patti, I was wondering when the line would come in. I really enjoyed this.

Patricia J. Hale said...

Fantastic use of the line. Want to keep reading.

WellesFan said...

Thanks, guys. I'm glad you liked it.

John Weagly said...

Great use of the line.

Cormac Brown said...

Great noir flavor and using the starter sentence at the finish to portend all kinds of possibilities.