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The Fog-Fiction by Kevin Eade
Claire's Close Call-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Fools for Love-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Texas Redux-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Bridge Game-Fiction by DV Bennett
Transitory Unease-Fiction by KJ Hannah Greenberg
Howie's Cell-Fiction by Chris McCartney
The Hit Woman's Hand Book-Fiction by J. Brooke
Stones Girl-Fiction by Don Stoll
One Day in the Suburbs-Fiction by Mitchel Montagna
The Bloody Whorehouse Detective Agency-Fiction by Michael D. Davis
Happenstance-Fiction by Michael Stewart
You Were Supposed to Be-Flash Fiction by Bill Baber
The Last Time I Almost Used-Flash Fiction by Jennifer Carr
Swimmer-Flash Fiction by Mark Cotton
Wordsmith-Poem by Meg Baird
Hey, Aunt Libby-Poem by Alex Salinas
Three Colors-Poem by Melissa Dobson
The Ladderites-Poem by David Spicer
My Kind-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
Night Colors-Poem by Luis Berriozabal
Doc's Death-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Gopher-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
A Hot Summer Night After Wine-Poem by Michael Keshigian
Conception-Poem by Michael Keshigian
Married Life-Poem by Michael Keshigian
Sea World-Poem by Robert Halleck
Early Morning at a Friend's House in 1972-Poem by Robert Halleck
Pelican Bay-Poem by Robert Halleck
Right Through the Heart-Poem by David Boski
Sky Burials-Poem by David Boski
Third Time's a Charm-Poem by David Boski
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

ym75claireslastcall.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2019

CLAIRE’S CLOSE CALL

 

Roy Dorman

After relieving Johnny Dawson and Eddie Kilgore of their stolen drug money and then stranding them in Salt Lake City, Claire Morgan has established herself in the Bay Area.

***

The Dark Alley is located off Grand Avenue in Oakland.  Its dive bar vibe told Claire that this might be a good fit for her.  Also, it was just a few blocks from her new apartment, so transportation wouldn’t be an issue.

“You’re looking for an afternoon shift bartender,” said Claire. “That works for me.  I’m taking a few morning classes at Berkeley.  The BART takes me back and forth in no time so I could easily do some two-to-seven shifts and work some on the weekends.”

“I don’t know,” said Ronnie Jackson, the owner of the Dark Alley.  “We get the occasional rough character in here; do you think you could handle that?”

“Women make lousy bartenders,” interrupted a scruffy guy nursing a beer.  “I’d go with a guy if I was you.”

“See what I mean?” said Ronnie.  “You okay with that?”

“I’m not “okay” with that kind of crap, but I can still do the job,” said Claire.  “Guys like that are usually all mouth.”

“There, ya see?” said the guy.  “Already insultin’ a payin’ customer and she ain’t even got the job yet.”

“Pipe down or leave,” said Ronnie.  “I’m tryin’ to conduct an interview here.”

The customer got up from his barstool grumbling to himself and headed for the men’s room.

“Give me a minute, will ya?” said Claire.  “I need to use the facilities.”

Claire walked past the women’s room and stepped into the men’s.  Ernie Bisbee, the guy who had been spouting off at the bar, stood in front of the urinal reading the graffiti in front of him.

Claire walked up to Ernie and grabbed a handful of greasy hair on the back of his head.  She smacked his face against the wall two quick times and Ernie fell to the floor moaning.

Claire washed her hands and walked out without a word.

“I can start tomorrow afternoon if that works for you,” said Claire.

“Not so fast,” said Ronnie.  “I ain’t offered you the job yet.”

Just then Ernie stumbled out of the men’s room and headed for the door.  There was blood smeared on his face and he spit what looked like a tooth on the floor as he walked past the bar.

“Hey,” said Ronnie.  “What happened to you?”

Ernie looked at Claire but didn’t say anything; he just kept walking.

“So, do I have the job?” said Claire.

“Be here tomorrow at two.  I’ll show you where everything is and you can take it from there.”

“I’ll be here,” said Claire.  “Thanks for the job.”

***

Claire has been working at The Dark Alley for six months now and things have been going fine.

There was the occasional interesting customer from time to time that she enjoyed talking to.

Like Alex Gentry, for example.

“You seem like a nice person.  What are you doin’ workin’ in this dive,” said Alex.

“Bartenders are trained to be “nice” to the customers,” said Claire, eyeing up Alex while rinsing a glass.  “Just because I smile at you and support your attempts at humor doesn’t mean I’m a nice person when I’m on my own time.”

“Yeah, and I suppose being friendly to the customers is good for tips too,” said Alex, putting a couple of ones on the bar in front of him.

“Bartending can be fun, I like it, but what most people don’t realize is that we do have other lives after work.”

 “Customers have other lives too,” said Alex.  “What time do you get off?  We could show each other our respective other lives.”

 “I’m done at 10:00 if you want to hang around that long.  I have a loft two blocks down the street; you can walk me home.”

***

Slouched over on the couch, Claire woke up first.  She was holding her .38 loosely in her hand, and if she hadn’t fallen asleep it would have been pointed at Alex instead of lying in her lap.  The last thing she remembered was things starting to get fuzzy.  She didn’t remember taking her pistol from the coffee table drawer in front of her and must have done that on automatic pilot.

In a scruffy Salvation Army wingback chair across from her, Alex slept on; unaware of how close to death he was.

Claire looked into their drink glasses.  A little residue had settled to the bottom of each glass.  The residue in her glass, still half full of vodka, had a bluish tinge.  The little bit of residue resting in the bottom of Alex’s glass of whiskey was some specks of white powder.

It was a good thing she had set her drink down unfinished at the first sign of feeling woozy. 

She shook her head a couple of times to clear the cobwebs and then walked over and nudged Alex awake.

“What? What?” he mumbled.  When he saw the barrel of the pistol a few inches from his face, he came around quickly.

“You put something in my drink,” said Claire.  “If I’d drank it all, I’d probably be dead, right?”

“Hey, you put something in my drink too,” said Alex.  “What’s up with that?”

“You first,” said Claire.  “What’s your “other life,” Alex?”

“You really don’t want to know.  Let’s just say I’m in town for a job.”

“Shit.  I guess that calls for a belated pat down.  Get up.  Slowly.”

Claire took a Glock from Alex’s shoulder holster and a knife from a sheath on his calf. 

Alex sat back down.

“So, I assume I’m not your “job”,” said Claire.  “Why’d you agree to come home with me and why’d you put something in my drink?”

 “I figured I could catch a few hours of sleep and be gone before you came around.  Skip the hassle of a hotel.  The job will be finished by 6:00 AM and I’ll be out of LA before noon.  Your turn.”

 “Ya mean why’d I spike your drink?” asked Claire.  “It’s sort of a hobby.  Once every month or so the right guy comes into the bar and things fall into place.  I bring him back here, put him out, take about half his cash, and send him home when he starts to come around.”

“Don’t they ever get pissed and smack you around?” asked Alex.

“Not with Mr. Friendly here pointed at them.  Nope, they head out the door and consider themselves lucky to be alive.”

“That’s some hobby,” said Alex.  “You sure you’re, ya know, mentally stable?”

“Says the guy who drugged me,” responded Claire with a smirk.  “Oh, and I also take a picture of them sleeping with my phone and send it to theirs.  Just to let them know I’ve got something on them.  One guy did stop in at the bar maybe to make trouble, but when I took out my phone he made a U-turn and headed out the door.”

“You take my picture?”

“Didn’t have time,” said Claire, still pointing her gun at Alex.  “Just woke up.  Didn’t get your money either.  Yet.”

Alex got up from the chair, still a little wobbly, and said, “Well, no pictures and no money.  I’ll take my knife and gun and be on my way.  You’re in way over your head here, Claire.  Let’s call it a draw.”

Claire thought about it, realized a cell phone picture wasn’t going to be a deterrent to somebody like Alex, and handed him his knife and Glock.

“See ya, Alex.  Maybe we can do this again sometime.”

“Not likely,” said Alex as he went out the door.  “Not bloody likely.”

***

Claire realizes Alex may be right.  This “hobby” of drugging and relieving men of some of their cash before turning them out onto the street could be too dangerous.  

She decides to concentrate on school and bartending.  Until her imagination next stirs something else up, that is.  Claire’s not content unless there is a bit of drama in her life.

 

THE END


Roy Dorman is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and is the submissions editor of Yahara Prairie Lights. He has had poetry and flash fiction published in One Sentence Poems, Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, Theme of Absence, Drunk Monkeys, The Flash Fiction Press, Black Petals, and a number of other online magazines.

Hillary Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines. She is also founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals such as Eternal Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales from the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror anthologies such as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big EasyThuggish Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern Arizona.  https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2019