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Gun Buck Before Dawn-Fiction by j. brooke
Grunt-Fiction by Kevin Z. Garvey
A Stab in the Dark-Fiction by Gary Clifton
Run, Robby, Run, Part 2-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Surprise Me-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Here They Come-Captain Jack, Part 2-Fiction by Michael S. Stewart
Evolution=Crime-Fiction by Calvin Demmer
Bike Killer-Fiction by Doug Hawley
Home on the Range-Fiction by Liz McAdams
Tickets to Heaven-Fiction by Paul Heatley
Free-Flash Fiction by Andrew J. Hogan
I Hate Dave Matthews-Flash Fiction by Carolyn Smuts
The Journey-Flash Fiction by Oliver Lodge
Running-Poem by Meg Baird
in your shoes-Poem by J. J. Campbell
At Midnight-Poem by Sergio Ortiz
Roadkill-Poem by Rachel Doherty
Skinny Dendrix-Poem by Joe Balaz
poet-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
Shy Dryad-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
Someone Else's Cat-Poem by John Doyle
Sundays-Poem by John Doyle
Farewell, Bibi-Poem by David Spicer
Rolling Down the Highway...-Poem by David Spicer
No One Ever Asked Winslow This-Poem by Gregory E. Lucas
The Adirondack Guide-Poem by Gregory E. Lucas
Why Back to Gloucester, Boys?-Poem by Gregory E. Lucas
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
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Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

heretheycome.jpg
Art by Lonni Lees 2017

Here They Come

Michael S. Stewart

                                                                          

I smiled at Daddy and watched myself change completely, hypnotized as my hair dropped to the floor in clumps. Daddy read a magazine and peeked over it in the mirror. My hairdresser, Kim, I think her name was, continued to gab about her boyfriend, telling me embarrassing details about a scandalous friendship she’d unearthed, by accident no less, behind her back and under her very nose, if you can imagine that.

I couldn’t imagine it, and it held no interest for me. I felt she had finished with me long ago but continued to primp and comb subconsciously making a snip here, a snip there while she spoke and danced around me like a performer in the Ice Capades.

As much as it bored me to listen to her personal life it was a nice break. Mind-numbing but relaxing, almost.

One hour later the reflection of a waifish girl in bib overalls stared back at me. It made me think of Allysa Milano with a short spiky do. I liked it, I smiled in the mirror and took a quick selfie with the new phone Daddy bought me, and posted it so my friends could see. A thick perfume of hair product hung about the shop, even with the front door open the breezy morning offered little relief. I took tiny breaths through my mouth so I wouldn’t get sick and the occasional gush of wind blowing through offered little comfort.

 Digital red numbers on the wall-clock blinked five ‘til noon and my butt was numb. A man across the street paced left, then right. He had sunglasses on, like an FBI agent even though the weather was a Seattle-gray outside. Kim’s voice faded as my attention drifted to the man outside, still pacing. His hand to one ear, lips moving, he looked at the front of the shop. I felt like his eyes studied me even though I couldn’t see them through his shades.

I glanced at Daddy, my eyes pleading for his attention.

 He looked up, smiled and shrugged.

Maybe he thought I was referring to the hairdresser. After all, Papa, (“Frank Sr.”), taught me, we pay for all things with time or money and still other transactions, like this one, ‘requires us to sit and listen to someone’s stories, ad nauseum.’

 Daddy glanced up again.  And my eyes darted to the front of the shop where the man across the street had his hand to his ear facing our direction. His lips still moving, talking to an invisible man.

Daddy’s eyes widened, he stood and threw down his magazine.

Let’s go, he motioned with his head and dug in his wallet, fishing out money. I popped out of the chair, took off my apron, and brushed off as we moved.  Glad to be out of that chair. Kim, stood still, frozen by the sudden movement.

“Gotta go, Kim!” Daddy smiled and threw down a wad of cash, “You did a great job, I love it! Keep the change.” he said and waved. We flew out the door. Someone yelled after us, “Thank you! Don’t let Kim’s love life chase you away—oh, wow! Thank you! Come again!”

From the corner of my eye, I saw Mr. FBI wannabe staying parallel with us, moving down the street as we headed towards our boat. He had short dark hair with gray highlights, curly, middle-aged. Dark blue windbreaker, tan khakis, and dark shoes. His stride was broken like his body wasn’t made for moving fast and he began to limp and fall behind.

He crossed the road and stayed behind us, fading back a block, then keeping pace. Daddy called Sam and put him on speaker. He held the phone close as we walked, speaking loud so he could hear us over the street noise. My legs pumped hard trying to keep up.

“No come here, bra, dey swarm da boat when I go fo smokes, dey barely miss me!” Sam said over the phone.

A beer can, left by a homeless man, clattered down the pavement after us. And I caught a glimpse of a hunched over body in a doorway. I could smell the dank city air and small specks began to hit my face as we moved.

“Okay—,” Daddy paused a moment weighing his options, “change of plans, we’re headed to the Shilshole marina— Shipwreck and Gunner have a boat there, remember? We’re about six blocks away, let Henry know where we’re headed. And tell him to hurry.”

“Sure thing, Cap'n.” He hung up.

“Where we going, Daddy?” my shaky voice betrayed me and things were moving sideways. And even though I had complete confidence in Daddy and my uncles, my heart raced with chaos and uncertainty. We walked, too fast, his hand holding mine. He said:

“Shipwreck—you remember him don’t you, hon? He’s got the big boat, use to be a Navy oil barge.” He gave me time for this information to soak in, I nodded, “and he owes me.”

I ran a few steps. Walked two. Ran a few more.

“I’m tired of running, Daddy,” I whined and saw hurt in his eyes, instantly mad at myself for saying it.

“I know—I know you are,” He said, slowing down, “I’m tired too.” He studied me, the fine mist on his face made his sharp features shine. “Frank—your grandfather, found us. We’ve got to have a better plan than just running away. And we’ve got to get out of here, first, so I can think. We have to have better options—”

I heard the frustration in his voice, and below that, sadness. Our options, if we had any, weighed heavy on him.

The last six months had been like that. It all started when Daddy docked his boat off Papa’s private dock in Orange County, California. He had brought back a hull full of illegals for a sizeable amount of money. Papa didn’t need the money, God knows, but he liked to keep Daddy busy and away from me. But it almost got Daddy and my uncles killed.

My uncles, I should explain, Sam and Henry, the Tongans, were childhood friends with Daddy and practically grew up together on a boat making money however they could around the waters of New Zealand. 

Some ten years later, Daddy met Mama when he had been working at one of Papa’s industrial ports, running guns south of the border. He had been Papa’s favorite captain before he met her. The way Daddy explains it, she had been sunning herself lying on a stretch of lawn in front of the office building when she smiled at Daddy and that was all it took. The rest is history, as they say. Daddy and Mama were head over heels, and Papa was beside himself. And when mama died to give birth to me, Papa was devastated and went from an uncomfortable tolerance of Daddy at the dinner table to a full-on hatred at the sight of him. After nine years something inside him snapped and he had his lawyers draft papers of legal guardianship of me, claiming Daddy was incompetent and never around.

It happened fast and I never knew any details. Papa always told me Daddy was busy working for him and I had no reason not to believe him, after all, it was the truth and for the first six months of living at the mansion in Orange County, I was happy. After a year I was lonely. And after two I was heart broke and only thought about being with Daddy and my uncles again, back on the boat. We only spoke on the phone during that time, me and Daddy. The next couple of years I saw him at Christmas for a tearful holiday and heart-wrenching departure. After two more years, I understood, fully, what was going on and my loneliness and heartache mingled with anger.

It wasn’t until he came back from Mexico six months ago that I broke away and decided it was now or never.

On a whim, I swam out to the boat when it was docked off Papa’s pier with nothing but the shirt and shorts I was wearing. I pleaded tearfully with Daddy to take me, take me anywhere, and against his better judgment, we left, together. Daddy, my uncles, and me.

We had been skulking up the coast for months, staying hidden in bays and inlets by coastal Islands. San Clemente, San Miguel, then up to the Farallons and the Sound near Seattle. We stayed hidden from the Coast Guard, who had surely been alerted. Papa could manipulate them with nothing more than a phone call, by claiming a stolen boat or tips he came by on the smuggling circuit, etc. He dealt with gray areas and knew people on both sides of the law.

And he donated to Coast Guard causes generously. One Christmas, at the mansion, we had a party with a lot of people, probably hundreds, and he gave the sitting Admiral and his small circle of commanders nautical watches made by Rolex. And before the night was over a good portion of people at the party received a gift from under our tree. A Club membership, expensive liquor, a box of Cubans, etc.

Anyway, point is, Papa had enough sway to set the government on our trail. We ended up here, in Ballard, North of Seattle. Daddy had brought me for a haircut, even though I knew he didn’t want it cut. He liked my hair long. But, I felt, I was finally working on the boat like I dreamed and, as part of the crew, I didn’t want to bother with it anymore. After all, at thirteen, it was time to grow up.

We hurried with Mr. FBI close behind. Daddy mumbled under his breath, saying something about Frank, calling off the dogs, then he mumbled, ‘ecce autem venerunt. He spoke in Latin sometimes, but I didn’t know what it meant. I was frustrated. And on the verge of tears. It broke my heart to see him worry about me. I’d do anything for him. But I wanted him to stay alive too.  Right now I couldn’t hate Papa more, I wanted him to leave us alone.  Let me be with him.

Daddy glanced at me, saw my face and slowed his pace a bit.

Sails and boats appeared through trees lining the street. A man in front of us, suit and sunglasses, rounded the corner standing between us and freedom. He faced us. And stood expressionless half a block away, beneath a tree growing out of the sidewalk. Nothing abnormal stood out, but his body language said everything. And panic shot through me.

I knew what was coming and without breaking stride, I let go of Daddy’s hand. I let my steps fade, my legs wobbled, mind numb and on autopilot. Daddy focused on the man like a wolf on prey.

The expressionless man slid his hand inside his windbreaker. “Mr. Delgado—,” he began. Daddy reacted with a speed that was hard to match. He reached into his pocket and faked throwing sand at his face. The man ducked. And Daddy threw an uppercut like Sugar Ray Leonard, smashing his glasses. His head snapped back, sunglasses flying and Daddy kicked him hard in the stomach with his heel. He flew and slammed against the side of a brick building, slumping, his hand to his middle. He groaned. Daddy was on him in a second, hands inside his windbreaker and pulled his gun out. Then a man ran up behind us. Swinging, hitting Daddy in the back of the head. He lost his feet, and the man jumped on him. And I screamed.

I looked for something to throw, a rock, anything.

He was struggling with Daddy on the ground, trying to lock his hands behind him with a zip-tie. I wanted to hit him with my fist but I couldn’t get a good angle and danced around them in a panic.

“Daddy!” I screamed, “Let him go, you shit!” I was going to jump on him and hit him when Sam launched into the frame like a college linebacker. His entire body off the ground like a missile when he hit the man. They hit the ground hard and rolled.

“Yes!—get him!” I yelled, “Get—get his hands, Sam!”

 Sam stood and used the man’s own zip-ties he found in his windbreaker to tie his hands behind him. Then he jumped on the one Daddy hit. And zip-tied him, too.

Daddy groaned and blew dirt off his face by contorting his lips. While Sam, a dark hulk with his knee squarely on the back of the FBI wannabe, stood, making the man beneath him gasp for air when the pressure lifted.

Sam grabbed Daddy’s knife and cut his tie and helped him stand. He braced against the building and felt his head wound.

“Who are you?” Daddy asked, looking at the men on the ground. People started to gather.

My heart raced and breath hitched while I tried to make sense of it. Papa had his men track us. He had to! God, I hated him. Did he want Daddy and my uncles dead? Or just roughed up and detained for a while? And just as I asked myself these questions, one of them spoke:

 “We’re U.S. Marshals.”

 Shock bolted through me. They really were the Feds! I digested this information and wondered what he was going to say next. The day turned dark and I smelled the ozone in the air and the rain came, soaking us all. It had no effect in dispersing the crowd, which angered me. I looked at the Marshals and then at Daddy.

But that’s all he said, at first. Was he buying time? Waiting for backup? I started to breathe hard and Daddy came near and put his arm around me.

“What do you want?” he finally asked the men.

I expected to hear something about a stolen boat, or drug running. Something Papa would use to get Daddy out of the picture for a good long time. My body was shaking. My heart beat uncontrollably. They were after us now, for real. Papa would have the Feds put Daddy away for years, if not a lifetime. And I’d never see him again! 

My breath hitched, and I tried to quiet myself.

 “We’re looking for—,” he groaned and took in a breath, “Daniel Delgado— also goes by Captain Jack,” he struggled while Sam moved him like a sack of potatoes, next to his buddy.

“I’m Daniel,” Daddy said. “What do you want?” his voice firm and short.

“I want to question you,” the Marshall said, “we need to talk.”

“What about?”

He said nothing, just looked at us with one eye like a fish face-down on the sidewalk.

“Well?”

Still nothing. Daddy sighed:

“Well, no time to water-board you or play loud music through megaphones until you talk,” he looked at the people gathering, “I suppose I could have Sam break one finger at a time, but you’re on the right side of the law, and I still respect that…,” He studied the man on the ground, “despite my checkered past. Had you been working directly for Frank, this would be a different story, entirely.”

“I appreciate that—” the man said, face pressed hard against the cement, his one eye examined us. “As it is,” he spat and blew dirt off his lips, “I’m in no position to have a civil conversation, even though I’m grateful as hell you kept your friend from breaking my fingers.”

Daddy waited, “That’s it then?”

“For now.”

Daddy told me later, the fact he was a Federal agent and wouldn’t say why he was looking for us, set off all kinds of warning bells. I understood that to be bad.

“Hele’ on, eh, Capt’n?” Sam said, looking around at the gathering crowd. Sirens in the background coming our way.

“Let’s go,” Daddy grabbed my hand and we ran the next four blocks. My mind went blank. It was hard to think. I wondered what the agents wanted as the rain whipped my face. Daddy pulled me faster towards the marina and Shipwreck’s boat. A homeless man with a shopping cart full of bags came around a corner at the wrong time. The cart exploded and his life’s belongings flew all over the street. Daddy shouted sorry and we kept running.

 We made the marina, entered a chain link gate, flew down steps leading to a floating wood plank. I remembered the boat the minute I saw it. It was big. Shipwreck sat in the wheelhouse, all white hair and beard, smoking a cigarette and looking at the dials on the dash. His sizeable arm hung out a sliding glass window like he was pulled up at a drive-thru, ordering coffee. Gunner must have been below.

When we got close Daddy whistled with his tongue rolled against his teeth, a high-pitched sound.

“Shipwreck!” he waved and we clomped our way towards him on the floating dock.

We climbed aboard, and he came down the staircase to greet us, extending his hand. Daddy took it and squeezed, shaking hard.

“Thank you, for this, my friend,” Daddy smiled with gratitude.

“Welcome,” he said, “I’m in debt to you and that Tongan crew. I’d be stone-dead and cold in Davey Jones’ locker, if you hadn’t showed up that day, in the middle of the Bering Sea, with diesel fuel and tools!” I could see him smile through his beard.

“You’ve paid your debt in full today. We’re goi—,” Daddy began, but Sam still running on adrenaline, interrupted:

“Howzit, bra?” Sam said, reaching for his hand.

“Sam! Where’s that brick-headed brother of yours?” Shipwreck shook, vigorously, whiskers contorting in huge curves on his face.

“Bruddah tryin’ to fin da kine, hana hou, you know?  He like to get lolo working on da boat…” Sam smiled as big as he was, putting his pinched fingers to his lips and sucking in.

Just as Henry was mentioned, graceful as a moose balancing on a beach ball, he burst on the scene clomping down the gangway from which we came, grocery bags swinging in hand.

Gunner emerged from below, checking the engines.

“No time fo da kine, brah!” Henry barked, spilling over the bulkhead, “We go, now! Hele on! Dey right behind, brah!”

Things happened fast. 

 “Hey Gunner—,” I waved, my head swiveled to Henry throwing grocery bags and hoisting his enormous mass over the side. Groceries spilled, oranges rolled across the deck. Everyone moved with one purpose, to launch the boat.

Hey, Karysa!” Gunner barked, slapping my palm, still in the air, as he ran by. “Hey Sam, Jack, Henry!” he said in passing. 

“Shipwreck, let’s go!” He pulled Shipwreck’s sleeve, jerking him into motion and flew down the ladder.

“The galley’s stocked!” Shipwreck shouted as he moved, “Bring her back in one piece, Jack! We’ll hold ‘em up!” And they dropped to the dock facing suits with sunglasses thudding towards them.

“Lines clear, Capt’n?!” Sam shouted, bounding up the stairs to the wheelhouse in two leaps.

Henry and Daddy scrambled to the stern, bow, and starboard clearing the lines. And Henry shouted:

“Clear!” And Sam cranked the diesel engine alive and we pulled away from the dock, slowly. Way too slowly.

I heard a noise like a car backfire and turned fast enough to see Gunner falling, holding his knee, blood between his fingers. He rolled and clutched in agony. Three agents restrained Shipwreck like handlers in a zoo trying to subdue a wild beast with white fur. He struggled while others darted around the gaggle, and hopped over Gunner.

Ten feet of water between us and the dock. Two knots, then five, too slow— excruciatingly slow. Sam was being conscious not to draw attention on the way out of the inlet, but his sense of calm turned my insides into a milkshake.

The agents sprinted. Twenty feet of water between us and the dock now. We were pulling away, far too slowly.

They jumped.

The first two hung in the air, and hit the side like a bag of hammers, clinging desperately. A third missed completely, hitting the water with a splash. The rest drew up short and watched us get further away.

Henry walked to the side and pounded on their hands until they let loose and plopped in the water, bobbing like corks in our wake, fading like the rest.

My emotions were running high.

“What do you want with my father?” I screamed and shook, I didn’t know if the agents heard me over the engines. And I clenched Daddy’s arm, glancing up at him. I looked back at the agents on shore, and the one Daddy hit. His eye, puffy and bleeding, the front of his shirt, dirty from lying face down. His countenance, angry. One hand on a gun, the other on a phone.

“We need to talk with Daniel Delgado!” he shouted.

“What for?” Daddy called.

A few seconds passed in silence. And he shouted:

“In relation to the murder of August Ingersoll!” He held his phone to his ear. “If you turn the boat around, I won’t hold your crew on obstruction!”

 “What’s your name, agent?” Daddy shouted, “I’ll call you!” Silence again. I’m not sure the agent heard. He was pointing towards our boat, talking on his cell. Then he shouted:

“Agent Allen—Thomas Allen! U.S. Marshal’s Office, Seattle!” He held up his gun hand to funnel his voice, barrel up.

A Coast Guard cutter gliding around the bend in the inlet passed us on the port side. I saw agent Allen pointing our way and talking on his phone while we rounded the bend and they disappeared. Sam increased our speed without drawing attention, and before I knew it we were out of port, up the coast. We ducked around the other side of a freighter heading north, saw the cutter come out of Salmon Bay and turn south.  And we sped up.

 

                                                  ****

 

“Seven months ago,” Agent Allen’s voice, full of static, came over the phone. “That’s when we found the body, it was frozen by the roadside leading out to the mine. Somebody wanted us to find him.

“But he’d been alive the previous week. A lot of eyewitnesses saw him in town, he drank at a bar, signed the bar tab and he was even caught on camera at a supermarket and bank the same day.”

The boat lolled to the side when the waves of a passing boat finally hit us. We were moored offshore of Vancouver Island, Canada. A private inlet, except for a yacht two hundred yards away. We sat in the galley. All of us.

My leg was on automatic, bouncing up and down like a piston. Elbows on the table, head in my hands, I looked at Daddy and saw confidence come over him, which did a lot to alleviate my nervousness.

His eyes lit up when agent Allen gave us this last bit of information. And he shot back:

“Seven months ago, I was in La Paz, Mexico fighting for my life in a shit-hole jail off the Baja.” There was silence on the phone.

“Can you prove it?” Agent Allen finally said.

I looked at my uncles, Sam and Henry, passing a bowl between them, taking turns lighting it. Their eyes were red, but they listened close to what was being said. Sam caught my eyes and nodded as if to say, ‘it’ll be alright.’ Then he stood like someone stuck him in the butt with a needle and darted out of the galley and through the hatch towards the living quarters.

“Well, it shouldn’t be hard. I’m sure the jailer will remember me. He was taking bets on my survival, Henry was in the next cell—yeah, I’m sure he’ll remember us.”

 “We’ll make some phone calls,” Agent Allen said, “In the meantime can I get you to come in?”

“Sure, in a bit,” Daddy looked at me and winked, “I want to take my daughter up through the channels and do some camping on the way.” My heart leaped, I love to camp offshore with Daddy and my uncles. It’s like we’re the only ones in the universe and I cherished having them all to myself.

Sam burst into the Galley waving a small piece of paper, leaned across the table and handed it to Daddy.

Wait a second, Agent,” Daddy looked up and smiled at Sam. “How about a receipt for diesel from the La Paz marina?”

Long pause on the phone, I could tell the agent was thinking about it on the other end.

“That’ll certainly help—does it have your signature?”

“Yes”

“Well, that will certainly help, yes, fax it to me and bring the original when we meet. Where can I catch up with you, Captain?” That was the first time he called Daddy ‘Captain.’

“Can you meet me in Nome, in say—a week?”

Another pause.

“I’ll meet you there, you have my numbers. And I’ll follow up with the jailer. ”

The next week was one of the best times of my life, I’ll never forget it. Just as I’ll never forget the weeks that followed which were the worst and changed my life forever. But for the time being, I had my Daddy, and I had my uncles and it was us and only us in the universe for a while. And I was happy.






Michael Stewart works as a Designer/Architect for a major high-tech company in Puget Sound, North of Seattle.

He spent 4 years in the Marine Corps and held various jobs including
shoveling manure, working in an Animal Clinic, swamping cherries in the orchards, driving a cab, a personal trainer, digging ditches with a hand shovel, and bus boy.

He is married to a wonderful woman who supports his writing. A nurse with years in the spotlight as a circus performer and fitness professional.  His step-son has an adventurous spirit, like his mother and is a mechanical engineer on a fishing boat in the Bering Sea. He has two talented and beautiful daughters currently attending UW.

He and his wife enjoy an outdoor lifestyle, and their peace and quiet.




In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2017