By Morgan Boyd
Dave and I worked the bar at
the Green House downtown. The UCSC drinking scene huddled around us like ants
on a lump of sugar. I poured libations methodically without discrimination, but
Dave employed a different technique. He helped the pretty ladies first,
followed by his friends, and lastly, the not-so-pretty ladies before neglecting
everybody else, and repeating the process.
As I made my way down the
line of thirsty patrons, two toughs forced their way to the bar. We’d known
them since elementary school: the Rex brothers, Hal and Vince. A couple of East
Side surf bullies. At some point in the last decade, they’d discovered
methamphetamines, which greatly amplified their shitty dispositions. The Rex
brothers wore flat-brimmed O’Neil ball caps, black Santa Cruz hoodies with red
dots, and across their necks, written in old English, they sported matching
“Two IPA,” Hal said to Dave.
“Or I kick your ass like back in school.”
Dave ignored Hal, and poured
a beer for a college girl. Hal grabbed Dave by the collar.
“Knock it off,” I yelled as
Vince reached over the bar, and sucker punched me in the jaw.
The college scene scattered.
I grabbed the baseball bat from behind the counter, and started swinging. When
the cops arrived, we assessed the carnage. Dave’s eyes were swollen, and he had
several lumps on his forehead, but his real concern was the shank to his ribs. Dave
got it bad, but not as bad as Hal. Vince fled when the cops arrived, but Hal
lay face down in a puddle of blood.
into the incident, and Ralph, the owner of The Green Room, placed us on leave,
pending the outcome of the investigation.
Dave didn’t mind the time off. He still lived with his parents, and
didn’t have any real bills, so he didn’t have to worry about the financial burden
while his wounds healed. I wasn’t so fortunate in fiscal matters. I had rent to
make on an overpriced one-bedroom apartment, and Elizabeth, my live-in
girlfriend, was six months pregnant.
It wasn’t the paychecks I
missed. It was the nightly tips that paid the bills. With my income on hiatus,
I tightened my belt. I cut out buying weed and eating at restaurants. I stayed
home and cooked, which wasn’t so bad. I considered myself a decent chef.
“Breakfast for dinner
again?” Elizabeth said, brushing her long red hair.
“Soft boiled eggs are no
easy feat,” I said.
“You said the same thing
about omelets last night.”
The time spent at home, and
the lack of income, created stress on our relationship. I could no longer drop
a wad of cash on Elizabeth, and she could no longer drop a wad of my cash on
the bun in her oven. She was upset. I was hopeful our unfortunate circumstances
A few days after the brawl,
a detective named Marks knocked on the door. He was as bald as a cue ball with
a gut that hinted that he too was pregnant. I invited him in, and offered him
coffee. He looked around, and determined the place was clean enough to trust a
“You say Hal Rex reached over
the bar and grabbed Dave?” He asked and took a sip.
“That’s right. I tried to intervene, and that’s when Vince
“What happened next?”
“I grabbed a bat, and jumped
over the counter.”
“What did you do with the
“Do you remember any
“They worked Dave over
pretty bad. I tagged Hal, and he went down.”
“You’re familiar with the
Rex brothers, correct?” Detective Marks asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’ve known
them since elementary school.”
“Have you had issues with
“They jumped me a few times
when we were kids. They’re known for kicking ass,” I said. “Once, Hal and Vince
surfed The Hook, and got into a confrontation with a kayaker. They followed him
onto land, beat the shit out of the guy, stuffed him back in his canoe, and
pushed him over a cliff into the water. Guy broke his neck, and lost the use of
his legs. Both Rex brothers ended up doing time. When they got out, they were
even meaner. Do you think I need a
“I doubt it’ll go to trial,”
Detective Marks said. “Seems a pretty clear case of self-defense, but I’d steer
clear of Vince.”
Detective Marks finished his
coffee, gave me his card and left. I was glad no charges were filed against The
Green House or me. That meant I’d be tending bar again soon.
After I was cleared of any
wrongdoing, Ralph gave me my shifts back, and life returned to normal. The UCSC
drinkers forgot about the incident, and returned to the bar to consume massive
quantities of overpriced booze. Dave was on the mend, and he was expected to
return to The Green House in a few days.
I was covering a Monday
afternoon for Nancy. I generally don’t work dayshifts or Mondays because
business is slow, and the tips aren’t there, but Nancy had a family crisis, and
needed a shift covered. She covered for me when I was on leave, so I owed
Besides me, a barfly was the
only other person in The Green House. He
sat hunched over his beer nursing it like Florence Nightingale.
“Starting to rain,” he said,
looking out the window as the front door opened, and Vince entered the bar,
taking a seat at the counter.
“Sorry about your brother,
but you can’t be in here,” I said.
“I bet you’re real sorry
about Hal aren’t you Joe,” Vince said.
“Where’s your boyfriend Dave?”
“I’m not joking,” I said,
and put my hand on the bat under the counter.
“Or what? You’ll crack my
skull too?” He said, rising from the stool.
“I feel bad about what
happened, but you guys started that shit,” I said.
“Elizabeth still a good
piece of ass?” Vince asked.
“I’m calling the cops,” I
“Go ahead,” Vince said, and
exited the bar, but before he left, he turned, and looked me in the eyes. “You’re
When my shift ended, I hung
around The Green House for a while, and drank a couple of beers before heading
home. Elizabeth was already asleep, so I quietly undressed and crawled into
bed, drifting into slumber with my arms wrapped around her swollen belly.
A loud sound woke us late at
night. I climbed out of bed, grabbed the Mag Light by the nightstand, and
walked into the front room. I flicked on the lamp, and looked around. Nothing
was out of place except the blinds were slightly askew. I went to fix them, and
a small stream of cool air blew against my knuckle. I opened the shades, and
saw a small hole in the windowpane surrounded by tiny cracks.
“Fuck,” I said.
“What is it?” Elizabeth
asked from the bedroom.
I ran my finger along the
hole in the glass, stepped back, followed the trajectory, and found another
hole in the stucco wall by the bedroom.
I called Detective Marks,
but he wasn’t available, so I dialed 911. It took a while for a police officer
to arrive, so I made a pot of coffee, and we sat at the kitchen table. When an
officer finally knocked, he introduced himself as Officer Bailey. I let him in,
showed him the bullet hole, and explained the situation. He took a report.
“You think Vince Rex did
this?” He asked.
“Yeah,” I answered.
“Can you arrest him?”
“No,” Officer Bailey said. “There’s
no proof. It could have been a group of
kids firing shots from a moving vehicle.”
“Seriously?” I asked.
“Sorry, there’s just not
much we can do at this time. If you come up with anything else please let us
After Officer Bailey left,
we crawled back into bed, but I had a hard time sleeping. Somebody randomly
firing a shot through our front window was absurd. I knew it was Vince, and I
knew I needed to protect my family. Eventually,
I drifted off to sleep. Early the next morning, the phone rang.
“Hey Joey, this is Ralph.”
“I got bad news. Some guy
walking his dog this morning found Dave.”
“He was walking home drunk
last night on the tracks. He tripped and hit his head on the rail. At least
that’s what the initial reports indicate. I’m sorry to tell you, Joey. I know
you guys were close.”
I hung up the phone, and
told Elizabeth what happened. After our initial grieving period, my mind went
to work. I thought about Vince Rex telling me I was dead meat, then the bullet
hole through the window, and now Dave’s death. I didn’t know how to proceed, so
I called Corey Anderson. He was a buddy of Dave’s and mine from school, and now
a local defense attorney.
Corey was pretty broken up
when I told him about Dave’s passing, and then I told him about the situation
involving the Rex brothers. He said he was busy, but he’d move stuff around on
his calendar, and make time to meet me for lunch. I met him downtown at a
pizzeria. We ordered slices, and sat in a back booth. I told him the long
version of the unfortunate recent chain of events as we ate our meal.
“I’ve dealt with the Rex
brothers before,” Corey said, wiping a smudge of marinara off his chin with a
napkin. “And I’m not talking about when they used to beat us up in school. They
intimidated one my clients in a smuggling case. After that, my client refused
to testify, and the charges against the Rex’s were dropped.”
“What should I do?” I asked.
“I called the police, but they don’t give a shit.”
“Cops won’t do dick until
it’s too late,” Corey said with a mouthful of cheese. “Do you own a gun?”
“My advice is get one. I’ve
got a snub-nose .38 you can borrow,” he said, and threw his wadded napkin onto
his paper plate. “I’m due in court in half-an-hour. I have to run. Stop by this
evening, and I’ll set you up.”
I spent the remainder of the
day wandering downtown. After sunset, I went home, made French toast for
dinner, and then drove to Corey’s house.
He led me into a walk-in closet at the end of the hall, and opened a box
containing multiple pistols.
“Wow, Anderson,” I said. “I
didn’t know you were a gun nut.”
“This is nothing. Here we
go,” Corey said, handing me the .38. “And here’s a box of shells.”
I thanked him, and went
home. Elizabeth sat on the couch watching a sitcom. I didn’t want her to see
the gun, so I slipped into the bedroom, and put it and the ammunition in my
nightstand drawer. I joined Elizabeth on the couch for some television, and
then went to bed. I had trouble sleeping that night. I kept thinking about the
gun. I wasn’t sure if it gave me a sense of protection or a sense of
vulnerability. One thing was for certain though, every creak in the apartment
or grumble from the refrigerator gave me an itchy trigger finger.
The next day Elizabeth
wanted a Polish dog with sauerkraut and a coconut snow cone from a hotdog stand
up Highway 9. Ben Lomond was a long drive for a hotdog and some shaved ice, but
I had learned early in the pregnancy to appease my girlfriend’s bizarre food
cravings. I went out to the car while Elizabeth was in the bathroom, and
stashed the gun in the glove compartment. When she finished with her
toiletries, we drove through the redwoods up Highway 9.
After lunch it rained on the
way home. A truck tailed us down the winding road. An inch or two separated our
bumpers. I got heated, and cussed under my breath when the son-of-a-bitch
tapped me. I pulled over at a turnout. The truck pulled over too, and Vince
exited the vehicle. He had a pistol in his hand, so I peeled out, flinging
gravel, and sped off. In the rearview mirror, I saw him get back into his
Elizabeth was pale as a
ghost. I told her not to worry. She tried calling 911, but there was no
reception in the woods. We came to a series of sharp curves, and Vince’s truck
got back on my bumper. We skidded around a corner, and he rammed us. I lost
control, and careened off a steep embankment. We flipped over, and came to a
violent halt against a large redwood. I was knocked unconscious by the impact. When
I came to, Elizabeth wasn’t in the car.
“Elizabeth?” I yelled.
“Elizabeth? Elizabeth? Honey?”
I got out, and fell over in
excruciating pain. My left shin burned like hell. I dragged myself through the
duff and mud until I found Elizabeth. Her breathing was shallow, and her pulse
was light. I performed CPR, but stopped when a gunshot sounded through the
rain. Vince Rex was coming for revenge. I was dead meat.
“You fucked up bad, Joey,”
Vince yelled from somewhere above. “Now
it’s time to pay.”
“You and your brother caused
this,” I said, crawling back to the car and removing the .38 from the glove
compartment. “And for what? Hal’s dead, Dave’s dead, and Elizabeth needs
“You started this mess when
you killed Hal,” he yelled and fired another shot. “But it ends here.”
Propping myself against the
overturned car, I saw Vince descending the embankment in the rain. I took aim
and fired. I couldn’t tell if I hit him, but the shot halted his forward
progress. I fired another shot for safe measure, and waited. I wasn’t sure if
he’d try to come at us from another angle. I didn’t know anything except that
Elizabeth needed help.
I waited for Vince, but he
never materialized. I looked down at my feet, and saw the bone sticking out of
my leg. I felt woozy, so I crawled to Elizabeth, and held her tight until
darkness enveloped me.
I woke in a hospital bed. Corey
sat near me, reading a magazine.
“She didn’t make it,” Corey
said. “They couldn’t save the baby.”
His words hurt more than my
broken leg. Helplessness and rage flooded every pore of my being. I felt hot
and cold at the same time. My eyes shut tight and my teeth clenched. I tried
climbing out of bed, but Corey held me down while a nurse injected me with
something, and I slipped back into the void.
The day before the funeral,
Detective Marks questioned me about the accident, but I didn’t mention Vince. Maybe
he suspected something, but I doubted it. Detective Marks couldn’t find a bee
if it stung him in the eye. Besides,
whatever punishment the police might have for Vince would be a fucking vacation
compared to what I had in store for him.
Rain fell during the
funeral. As they lowered Elizabeth and my unborn child six feet under, I stood
on crutches, thinking about what little time it takes to have your entire world
shattered, burned and shat upon. I buried my hopes and ambitions with
Elizabeth. Only one thing mattered: the same thing that mattered to Vince Rex:
revenge. Now it was just a matter of who would serve the dish first.
We walked to Corey’s Mazda
MX-5—Corey walked—I gimped on crutches. ‘Dead Meat’ was spray-painted across
the windshield in red letters.
said, and pulled out his gun. “That prick is here somewhere.”
“Good,” I said.
“You armed?” Corey asked.
“Then we draw him out. Take
a stand,” Corey said.
We drove along Soquel
Avenue. I kept looking back, but I didn’t see a tail. We passed through
Capitola, and down into
Soquel. Corey took a left on Old San Jose Road, and we ascended the curvy
thruway. After several minutes of winding turns, I looked back, and saw Vince’s
“Bingo,” I said. “Now what?”
“Up the road it winds along
a steep cliff,” Corey said. “We get a little distance from this prick, park
around a sharp turn, and as he comes into view, we end this shit.”
Vince was a dog on the hunt,
but we were wolves, leading the hunter astray. As far as I was concerned, Vince
was the dead meat. We climbed a steep grade through redwood groves. Corey
mashed the gas. Vince tried to keep pace, but Corey’s sports car out performed
Vince’s truck. As we rounded a bend, the trees ended, and a sheer cliff loomed.
Giant floating gray warship clouds filled an angry sky. Hundreds of feet below,
dark green treetops blurred together.
Corey pulled onto a small
muddy turnout, and positioned the car sideways. We exited the vehicle, and drew
our guns. Corey used the roof to steady his aim. I leaned against the hood,
using it as a crutch. Through the rain, Vince’s truck approached. I took a deep
breath, and as the enemy came into view, we opened fire. Bullet holes riddled
the windshield. The truck veered and crashed into Corey’s car. I lunged out of
harm’s way into the mud just before the thunderous impact.
“Corey?” I yelled as I picked
I hopped on one foot to the
cab of the truck with my gun in hand.
Vince was hunched over the wheel. I hopped to the other side of the
wreck, and found Corey’s head smashed under the rear wheel in pooling blood. I
hopped back to Vince’s truck, and opened the driver’s side door.
“Die,” he said and shot me
in the neck.
I fell in the mud holding my
throat. Large raindrops carpet-bombed the area. I staggered to my feet, blood
pouring down my shirt. Another shot rang out, hitting me in the chest. I felt a
horrible burning pain, but stayed upright. I raised my gun, and shot Vince in
the side. He violently flailed into the passenger seat. I climbed in. Vince
gasped for air. I turned over the engine several times until the ignition
caught, and the truck roared to life.
Revenge ground us both into
bloody sausage. My chest
heaved as I backed away from Corey’s wrecked sport’s car. Through the pain, a
warming peaceful feeling enveloped me. The gray warship clouds thundered overhead.
I mashed down on the gas pedal, and hurled our dead meat off the cliff toward
the dark green blur of trees below.
Boyd lives in Santa Cruz California with his wife, cat and carnivorous plant
collection. He has been published online at Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun
Honey, Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, and Fried Chicken
and Coffee. He also has a story forthcoming at Tough.