After a couple of years bartending
and going to school, Claire
Morgan has once again become restless and this time has set her sights on some
big money. She has two experienced
partners to help her pull off the job, but they need one more person to
complete the group.
Morgan had been watching James Morris from across the bar. She decided it was
time to check him out a
little more closely.
killing them is part of your game plan you should probably quit sneaking peeks
their way when you think they’re not looking,” she whispered. “They
may recognize you in a police line-up
sometime down the road.”
James was sitting
in a bar after work having a beer. The Holding Cell was a “cop bar” and was
just four blocks from his office. James stopped in a couple of times a week to
thought cops were interesting to watch in their free time and he sometimes
created stories in his head as situations unfolded at the bar he referred to as
a noir-lite setting. There was a
general feeling of camaraderie among the patrons, but occasionally macho egos
erupted into near fistfights before cooler heads could settle things down.
people he was watching today he had recognized as armored truck guards who
sometimes picked up money from one of the many businesses in his building. They
were sitting at a booth behind him and he had been watching them through the mirror
on the backbar.
who had whispered in his ear was unknown to him up until now, but she was soon
to be a big part of his evening.
“Killing? Game Plan?”
said James, turning on his bar
stool to face her. “What the hell are
you talking about?”
about the same age as James, late twenties, and was attractive in a midnight
movie heroine kind of way. She sat down on the stool next to him and ordered a
glass of Pinot Noir.
are armored truck guards,” she said. “And you’re sitting here fantasizing about
how you might spend the money if you robbed their truck. Am I right?”
stared at Claire. That was exactly what he had been doing. He had already flown
to Paris with the stolen money and had rented an apartment in the redlight
neighborhood of Pigalle.
you start planning how to spend the
money,” she continued. “You have to plan
how to get the money.”
away from him, she took a sip of her wine as if letting what she had just said
10:30 and James considered just finishing his beer and going home. But there
was nothing at home but CNN and Ken
Bruen’s new Jack Taylor novel.
responding to Claire, he checked to see who was in the immediate vicinity. This
was a cop bar after all, and he didn’t want to say anything that would get him
in trouble—or arrested.
glanced up at the mirror again, he saw that both of the men were looking at him
and smiling. “I have to go,” he said to his beer.
men’s room?” asked Claire, looking at him again.
“No, I have
to go home and—”
he’ll do, Claire?” asked Eddie Joseph, one of the guards who had been in the
said Claire. “He seems a little skittish.”
is not always a bad thing,” said the other guard, Arnie Johnson. “Skittish
people are often careful people.”
sometimes they choke and can cause the whole deal to go south,” said Eddie. “I’ve
been on the wrong end of that before.”
“Are you a
choker, Whatever Your Name Is?” asked Claire.
furiously tried to think of the best way to respond. “My name is James and
yeah, I’m a choker.”
like he thinks he’s at a twelve-step program meeting,” said Arnie, causing the
three of them to chuckle.
didn’t chuckle along. He was scared to death and could only offer a weak
smile—a choker’s smile, he thought to himself as he stared at his reflection in
the backbar’s mirror.
“Now I really do need
to use the restroom,” he
said, getting up from his barstool.
for you back at the booth,” said Claire.
peeing, James stayed in the men’s room for as long as he could. First, he sat
in one of the stalls reading the graffiti. He found cop graffiti was funny but
with violent undertones that didn’t do much to lighten his mood.
He stood at
the sink washing his hands, but when a cop gave him the hairy eyeball for
washing the entire time the cop was peeing, James thought he’d have to go out
and take his lumps at the booth.
restroom with really, really clean hands, James walked with his head down
toward the booth. It was not until he was almost there that he saw the booth
the barroom for his tormenters but didn’t see any of them.
to the bar, he took a couple of dollars out of his wallet and set them on the
rail near the bartender. “See ya next time,” he said as casually as he could.
man,” said the bartender, picking up the cash.
three blocks from the bar to the parking ramp where James parked his car every weekday.
He walked at a good clip, almost running, and occasionally looked over his
shoulder to see if he was being followed.
have decided they didn’t want a choker in their group,” James said to himself.
But he was
wrong about that. He was only a block from the bar when a light colored panel
van pulled up alongside him.
at the wheel and Arnie and Eddie burst out of the sliding side door. Arnie clapped
a rag with chloroform over
James’ mouth and nose and he and Eddie dragged him into the van.
consciousness as Eddie closed the door and Claire took off.
he’s finally comin’ around.”
all still in the van and were in a section of town that had a lot of abandoned
houses. Urban renewal hadn’t made its
presence known here yet.
his head to clear the cobwebs. “This isn’t about robbing an armored truck
anymore, is it?” he said.
“You are so
cute, James,” said Claire. “Quick on the uptake, too. No, the truck’s already
been robbed; we’re going to rob the robbers.”
Arnie just nodded.
“What time is it?”
asked James. “I have to go
to work tomorrow, or today, or whenever….”
“Shhh! Focus!” whispered
Claire. “They should be
here anytime now. Watch for them.”
didn’t know why, but he obeyed.
The van was
backed into a driveway and faced a row of darkened houses on the other side of
the street. Claire and Arnie were in the front seats peering out the windshield
and James and Eddie knelt on the van floor and looked over their shoulders from
crossing that yard,” said Eddie.
looked in the direction Eddie was pointing and saw two people dressed in black
cross a lawn and go into one of the houses. He was now leaning so far over into
the front seat his face was right next to Claire’s and his hand was on her
your hand,” said Claire. “And if you smell my hair or kiss my neck Arnie will
give you another hit of chloroform and put you out until we need you.”
lifted his hand from Claire’s shoulder as it had been burned and scooted back a
sorry,” he said. “I was just trying to watch like you told me to. Is this some
kind of role playing thing? I told you I have to go to work. I don’t have time
a game, James,” said Claire. “Those two guys robbed an armored truck a few
months back and after converting the small bills into big bills they stashed it
in the basement of that house.”
bills into big bills?” asked James.
was from the racetrack,” said Arnie. “Eddie and I were driving that day and
those two guys stopped us and took the money. It was mostly ones, fives, tens,
and twenties. A half a million dollars in bills that small are hard to get rid
“Yeah, unless ya plan
to eat at Mickey D’s
every day for the rest of your life you’d never be able to spend it all,” said
a little laugh, but it died in his throat when he saw the looks on the faces of
the three people in the van with him. They looked very serious. Dead serious.
finally got it reduced to a size small to fit into a couple of suitcases and my
guess is they’ll hire a small plane to get to someplace like one of the Virgin
Islands,” said Arnie.
hadn’t called into work sick for a long time so he guessed he could miss a day
or two. It didn’t seem like he had much choice in the matter, either.
“Why do you
need me?” he asked.
going to be what’s referred to as the distraction,” said Claire. “We need
someone to cause those two to look the other way long enough so we can
stared at Claire for ten seconds without breathing. Then, throwing his hands in
the air, he said, “Hey, no problemo. Done it a hundred times… What, are you
“You can do
this, James,” said Arnie. “We’ll tell you everything you need to know.”
walked up the sidewalk to the front steps.
Once up on the porch, he walked to the front door.
three times and then called, “Hello? Anybody home? I need a little help out
there was no response and James thought he might get out of this alive. But
then the old oak door swung open and a tough-looking guy was pointing a gun at
want, punk?” he said. “Get off my porch; this is a private residence.”
van across the street there,” said James pointing at the van. “Do you have any
“Who is it,
Johnny?” said a second guy who was also holding a pistol.
dope who wants us to give his van a jump,” said Johnny DuFreese.
“Go on, get
outta here,” said the second guy, one Al Jeffers. “We don’t have time for stuff
Arnie, and Eddie had let themselves in by way of the back door. James now saw
them behind the two robbers.
move,” said Arnie. “Drop your guns.”
to the porch floor as he had been told to do. Still holding his gun, Johnny
made as if to turn around and Eddie clipped him on the back of the head.
Johnny fell to his knees and Al quickly
gun. “Okay, okay,” he said raising his hands above his head. “What’s the deal
of the basement were a mixture of stone and rough cement and the floor was hard-packed
dirt. There was what looked to be an old coal bin in one corner and that’s
where the two suitcases of money had been concealed behind some old plywood.
say about suitcases of money?” said
Arnie. “Am I psychic or what?”
Eddie led Johnny and Al over to the coal bin.
like a good place to stash them,” said Eddie.
both of them hand and foot and put the plywood over them.
can’t leave us down here; we’ll die,” said Johnny.
worry,” said Claire. “There’s a knife upstairs on the kitchen table. It may
take you a while to get up the stairs to get to it but I’m sure you guys can
give us enough time to get gone. Make sure you don’t come looking for us. You
should chalk this up as a loss, right? Coming after us will just get you
get it, Claire,” said James when they were back in the van. “You three could
have done this without me. You could
have been the distraction and Arnie and Eddie could have done just what they
opened one of the suitcases and took out a thick stack of hundred-dollar bills.
something for your trouble,” she said, handing the bills to James. “We
did need you. If I was the distraction
and one of those guys shot first and asked questions later, I could have been
“This was our gig; we
couldn’t risk that
happening. We needed a disposable distraction.
That was you.”
the bills and stared at them.
Arnie, smiling at James. “But you did good.”
looked at the three and smiled. He didn’t think it looked like a choker’s
usually at The Holding Cell a couple nights a week,” he said. “If you or
someone you know ever need an experienced distraction, I’m up for it.”
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
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 Easy, Thuggish
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
lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several
states in the US, she now resides in southern