by Stanton McCaffery
Ricky looked at the photo
to his visor with a rubber band. The girl in the photo had the biggest brown
eyes he had ever seen. Had they changed as she had gotten older? He didn’t
He parked behind the abandoned
store, under the only functioning streetlight in the rubble parking lot. Luiz
got in the back seat like he always did. Few people felt safe sitting next to
He folded the visor up,
wad of cash from Luiz and counted it.
“Thin this week,”
looking at Luiz through the rearview.
Luiz was rubbing his thumbs
together and fidgeting all over, trying not to look at Ricky’s gaze in the
mirror. “Competition, I think.”
Ricky said nothing, asked
nothing, allowed the silence to do the intimidation.
“I mean, I didn’t
hear about any
of our customers kicking the bucket or leaving town,” said Luiz. “Must be
they’re getting from someone else.”
Ricky hit the unlock button,
waited for Luiz to get out, and drove off.
“You look cold,”
“Looks can be deceiving,”
He nodded, assessed her
she stood on the street corner, and he sat in his car with the heat up full
blast. “Yeah, but common sense, though. It’s cold out.” He reached over to his
right and opened the passenger side door, patted on the seat. “Come in. I want
to talk to you.”
Her coat was substantial,
large sleeves brushing against the gear shift and center console when she sat
down, but she wasn’t wearing gloves. Ricky smiled when she rubbed her hands
together in front of the vent on the dashboard. She was a redhead and had blue
eyes, not brown, but still, her projected toughness and independence felt
familiar to him. Her presence had within seconds filled a void.
“Who you with?”
Her jeans were dirty and
and not in the fashionable way. Her business on the street wasn’t whoring. She
would be dressed flashier or would be in much worse shape, skinnier, strung
out. This girl wasn’t an idiot. She would have at least put makeup on, if it
was herself she was selling.
He shook his head at how
“The fact that you
have to ask
that tells me you either out here all by yourself and that your operation is
all your own, which is badass but also fucking stupid, or that you are in with
some real dumb pendejo.”
She shrugged. He was scolding
child, he realized. He put his hand on her shoulder. She stopped rubbing her
hands together and looked at him. With his other hand he pulled cash from his
pocket, handed her three hundred in twenties. “Give me whatever you have.”
She handed him an ounce
a baggy with three tabs of acid, and a bottle with a few Oxy. The bag of coke
had a red skull stamped on it that had smudged. He’d seen it plenty of times
“Tell me where you
driving you home.”
Her name was Brandy. Ricky
rolled his eyes when he learned. Name and all, the kind of life she was on
course for was not pretty.
He looked at the picture
to the visor, rubbed his thumb on it. It was 4 AM. He folded the visor up when
Luiz got in the back.
The man handed Ricky one
fattest wads of cash he’d seen in months.
said Luiz. He caught Ricky’s sinister and knowing smile in the mirror and
widened his eyes. “But you know that makes us the only focus, right? It’s
easier to hide if shit’s crowded.”
Ricky jerked his head around
glared at Luiz. “Sometimes you got a moral obligation to do shit.” He stared at
Luiz, didn’t blink or smile or breathe or move. Then he turned around, unlocked
the doors. “Get the fuck out.”
He slept in his car for
hours. When the sun started to rise above the dormant factories across the bay,
he adjusted his seat, put the car in drive, and stepped
on the gas.
He pulled up in front of
Brandy’s apartment complex and she got in, this time with a bookbag.
“All I want to hear
is that you
did your homework. And I don’t want to hear about no bullshit when I pick you
up at 3.”
writes fiction under the pseudonym
Stanton McCaffrey. His short stories have been featured in Shotgun Honey, Out of the
Gutter, Between Worlds, and Heater. His novel, Into the
Ocean, is available from New Pulp Press. He is the Editor-in Chief for Rock and
a Hard Place Magazine. He works
in communications for a UN agency.