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Killing Chauncey-Fiction by Gary Lovisi
Dee's Sentence-Fiction by Steve Prusky
Fire Man Sings the Blues-Fiction by Terry Butler
The Sequel: My First Novel_Fiction by Michael D. Davis
Switchbacks in the Forgotten Corner-Fiction by Walter Giersbach
Carnival Days 1969-Flash Fiction by Robert Kokan
Break-Flash Fiction by Martin Zeigler
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My Palimpsest-Poem by Leon Fedolfi
I Lay with Tigers-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
Rushing Slowly Through a Lucid Dream with Roberto Bolano-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
Dive-Poem by John Sweet
The Poem as a Bouquet of Broken Glass-Poem by John Sweet
The Projector-Poem by Michael Keshigian
Boston Common-Poem by Michael Keshigian
Along the River-Poem by Holly Day
The Voyager-Poem by Holly Day
All Points from Zermatt-Poem by Henry Bladon
Lost Letters-Poem by Henry Bladon
Black Throat-Poem by John Tustin
Working It All Out-Poem by John Tustin
The Brutality and Terror-Poem by John Tustin
A Nice Poen for a Change-Poem by Marc Carver
The Lover-Poem by Marc Carver
Metier-Poem by Marc Carver
Strangers Keep Friending Me-Poem by David Spicer
True Love-Poem by David Spicer
Rita Hayworth and Me-Poem by David Spicer
Green Lasers-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Rodeo Clown-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
My Nightmare-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
The Joker-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

80_ym_thesequel_mdavis.jpg
Art by Michael D. Davis 2020

The Sequel: My First Novel

By Michael D. Davis

 

          When the van came to a halt, Who did nothing. Sitting in the back seat his wrists shackled, Who waited as the driver got out and came around to let him out.

          “Home sweet home,” the driver said as he opened Who’s car door. The man hadn’t stopped talking since they began their little road trip. Who had not spoken a word along the way opting for the occasional glance out the window.

          Out of the car and in the lobby of a new building, Who stood quietly in his rumpled suit as the driver took off his handcuffs and filled out a form. Saying a needless goodbye, the driver then left as a tall strait-laced man with slicked back hair came through the door.

          “Welcome to the Quartertown halfway house,” said the slick-haired man. “I’m sure you’re happy to be here.” He proceeded to go through a checklist of items starting with a pat-down. Who remained silent and still only moving or speaking when necessary. After a while the slick-haired man took Who into a small room lined with windows set up with an old television and VCR. “Okay, now your gonna read this packet and watch a little movie. After that, we’ll find you a room.” Slick Hair pushed play on the VCR then left. As he got back to the front desk the alarm went off. Swinging around he saw Who walking out a side door.

          A woman sitting behind the desk said, “Who the hell is it this time?”

          “The new guy, I’ll go after him.”

          A skinny guy with a tattoo on the side of his head quickly said, “Don’t do that man.”

          “What?”

          “Do you know who that was?”

          “Yeah, I got his name right here.”

          “No, man that was Who.”

          “Who?”

          “Exactly.”

          “No, who?”

          “Exactly, man.”

          “Mayer, get the hell away from me, I need to go find the new guy.”

          “Man, I’m sayin’ don’t. I know him.”

          “From where?”

          “Preschool…fuck—the joint man, stupid ass question. And you don’t wanna mess with him. So, just fill out your report and let him go.”

          “But I—”

          “Listen, I like you, that’s why I’m sayin’ this, cause like if all of us in here came at you at once you’d have a better chance of gettin’ away, hear me?”

          “Sure, sure, Mayer,” Slick Hair said brushing him off, but not leaving the facility.

          Who walked on the side of the road. He stood just over six feet with broad shoulders and large tattooed hands. He was a rugged figure and looked to be carved from wood or chiseled out of rock. As he started walking through town he got quick side glances and other longer lustier looks. But nothing slowed him.

          Eventually Who came upon a little apartment house. The front door was standing wide open, so he walked right in. Who went up to the first apartment door and knocked hard. There wasn’t an immediate answer, so he knocked again. There finally came a, “fuck knock it off and come in.” Who went inside and found an old man that was no more than a skeleton in boxer shorts with an oxygen tank and a bad mood. “Who the fuck are—” the old man said before a pause. He squinted his eyes at Who then said, “Well, fuck me it’s you ain’t it. Hadn’t seen your ugly fucking mug in what, four, five years?”

          Who waited in the door for the old man’s ramblings to be over.

          “It’s in the safe in the back room there, but I fuckin’ ain’t gettin’ up to get it so do it your own fuckin’ self—combos 02-14-41.”

          Who walked past the old man into a dirty small back room and opened the safe. He took an envelope which had been there for four years and walked back. The envelope was thick with hundreds and fifties, making up nearly twenty thousand dollars. Who took out five hundreds and sat them on the small table next to the old man.

          As Who walked towards the door the old man said, “You know as you can plainly see I’m not in the best of shape, just miserable, but I did as you asked, kept the envelope safe, for years now. Maybe for my efforts and health, you could extend a few more bills, Derek.”

          Derek wasn’t Who’s name, but it was the name he gave the old man four years prior. “How about,” Who said standing in the doorway, “since you’re in such bad shape I come back in a few days and put a bullet in your head. End the misery.”

          The old man sat silent looking at Who before descending into laughter. “Fuckin’ damn that’s a good one, you’re colder than a snowman’s dick, you son of a bitch, fuck!”

          Who left the man with the offer, still laughing. With the envelope snug against his chest resting in his pocket Who continued his walk across town. As the sun started its nightly fall Who came to an old little diner. Inside he found the place mostly empty. As Who got a seat at the counter a middle-aged woman came up to him, her name tag read Sue, and she said, “whatcanigetya?” Somehow making the question only one word.

          Who took a hundred and placed it on the counter. “Will that cover a burger and fries?”

          “Yup,” Sue said.

          “Tell me, would you? French still behind that door?” Who threw his thumb towards a door off to the side with an old man sitting out front of it reading a paperback.

          Not taking her eyes off him Sue said, “Yup.”

          “Alright, does a man named Greasy Gary Miller visit him every Tuesday night?”

          “Yup.”

          “Today’s Tuesday.”

          “Yup.”

          “He been here?”

          “Nope.”

          “When he due?”

          “Usually… about a half an hour from now.”

          “Alright, a different subject, Ringworm still sell?”

          “Only small pieces.”

          “Could you get me something that makes a loud noise?”

          “Depends.”

          Who put four more hundreds on the countertop.

          “When you want it?”

          “Twenty minutes.”

          “I think I can do that.”

          “Thank you, Sue.”

          “No, problem.”

          “One more thing, can I also get a Diet Coke?”

          “You got it.”

          Who ate and sat quietly at the counter for about fifteen minutes before Greasy Gary Miller walked into the diner. He went straight over to the old man in front of the door. The old man pounded on the door and it opened. Greasy Gary Miller disappeared behind it.

          Who wiped his face with a napkin and said to Sue, “Ringworm show up yet?”

          “Nope.”

          “May I have a fork?”

          Sue looked at Who’s empty plate and gave him a fork.

          Standing up and walking over to the old man in front of the door Who said, “I need to see French.”

          The old man looked up at him then said lazily, “he’s with somebody.”

          “I need to see him too.”

          “Wait your turn.”

          Who put his hand on the old man’s shoulder. “Open the door.”

          The old man pounded his fist on the door several times in quick succession. The door opened and was replaced by a large armed man furrowing his brow. “What’s the problem here?” He said.

          Who glanced down at the old man then said, “I need to see French.”

          “He’s with somebody.”

          “Just step aside.”

          “Fuck off.” Who didn’t move so the large armed man threw a punch with his right. Who blocked it, shoved the fork in the man’s throat then put his fist in his chest sending the big man backwards.

          The large armed man moved out of anger while Who moved to kill. Yet before stepping over the guy, he said to the old man, “I didn’t hit the artery. Put pressure on his neck and get him to the hospital.”

          Walking in the back office, the bloody fork still clenched in his fist Who found Mr. French. A heavy-set man sitting behind a big desk with a piece of fake hair on his head. Standing in front of his desk was Greasy Gary Miller. He started to turn as Who came in the room. Who punched Greasy in the stomach, making him double over, then kneed him in the face, straightening him back out. Greasy staggered backward tripping over French’s chair and falling to the floor. Who kneeled next to him, put the fork in one eye, pulled it out, put it in the other and left it there. Greasy lay dead.

          Who stood up. Mr. French behind him said, “All don are ya?” Who turned towards him, having forgotten his presence.

          “Was that really necessary?” French said.

          “Yes,” Who said.

          “I’ll have to take your word for it. But we now have a problem. That man owed me money and, well, I don’t believe he will be continuing his weekly payments. So, will you be paying me?”

          A small man in a tuxedo came into the room. He had a gun focused on Who. “What’s going on here?” He said.

          “Just some new arrangements, Luxor,” Mr. French said, “this man here will be taking over the late Mr. Miller’s debt.”

          “Oh,” Luxor moved to French’s side but kept the gun steady.

          “How much does he owe?” Who said.

          French looked in the big book in front of him and said, “A measly sixty-five-hundred.”

          Who saw no way around it. He took the envelope from his pocket, counted out the bills and then sat them on the desk.

          “Debt paid,” said French, “mister?”

          “I know his name,” Luxor said.

          “Good, I’m going to leave now,” Who said, “also your muscled doorman’s going to need a hospital.” Without another word Who walked out, back in the diner he went into the bathroom. Who washed the blood off his face and hands. He walked back out. Sue was staring at him. She put a plastic bag softly on the counter as he approached and said, “Ringworm finally came.”

          Who looked in the bag and saw a revolver. He took it out of the bag and put it in his pocket. He paid for it, he might as well have it even if it arrived too late for its original purpose.

          “Thanks, Sue, could you do one more thing for me? Call me a cab?”

          The dingy little cab didn’t take him far but Who paid with a fifty since it was the smallest bill he had. Who got out in front of a bar and grill, the neon sign shining brightly in the night. He went to a far door and pushed a bell, like the apartment house. No one came at first, then there was some swearing. The door finally swung open revealing a pale white, hunch backed, dog-toothed man named Count Whorton. When Count realized who it was at his front door this late at night his face lit up. Staggering outside in his slippers Count pulled Who in for a big hug, even though he resisted, saying, “Fuck, little brother, what a fuckin’ surprise, you son of a bitch.”

          “It’s good to see you too, Count,” said Who, “It’s been too long.”

          Count pulled his little brother upstairs and into the apartment, grinning termite-riddled teeth from ear to ear. His wife Irma was sitting on the couch in her pajamas with a strange-looking beast of a dog called King as they came in the door.

          “Who was it?” She asked before she saw that Count wasn’t alone.

          “Exactly, Irmie,” Count said, “It’s Who.” Count giggled at what he said.

          King jumped off the couch and Irma stood up saying, “Who, fuck its been forever. If I knew you were coming, I would have been wearing clothes.” Or at least a bra, she thought.

          “Oh, that’s what Who does,” Count said. “He just pops up out of nowhere.”

          “You look fine Irma, as beautiful as I remember,” Who said, “or should I call you Countess now?”

          “Oh, please.”

          They all sat down and Count said, “So, when did you get out?”

          “Today, I was escorted to the halfway house. Then I left the halfway house.”

          “That sounds about right,” Count said reaching for his glass of whiskey. “Like Baron Who would stay in a halfway house.”

          “Eh, I had some things to take care of.”

          “It looks like it.” Count pointed at the blood dried on Who’s clothes.

          “Yeah… one of the reasons I’m actually here is to hire you. You said in one of your last letters that you’re a PI again?”

          “Both of us now.”

          “The Bloody Whorehouse Detective Agency,” Irma said, “or some people say the BWD Agency. Either way.”

          “Well, good because I need ya.”

          “Find Greasy Gary Miller,” Count said, “the prick that fucked up your last job got you sent up for three years and also stole, married, and killed your girlfriend?”

          Who shifted slightly in his seat, “No, I took care of… that issue. You see, when I was in prison I got to writing.”

          “Your memoirs? The Baron Who Whorton story?”

          “No, fiction, a novel actually.” Who was nervous for the first time all day. “It’s a comedy crime story set in the ‘30’s, about two brothers. One is a hardboiled private eye and the other is a criminal and they get into shenanigans.”

          “This wouldn’t be based on us would it, little brother?”

          “Only in the barest sense, Count.”

          “And comedy crime, do people still read that?”

          “I think so. Anyways, I had a cellmate for about a year, he got out ten months ago. When he left he took the only copy of my book with him. I need you guys to help me find him and get my book back.”

          “Sure thing.”

          “Did you have a title yet?” Irma asked.

          “I certainly did, ‘The Sequel: My First Novel’.”

          “That’s hilarious.”

          “Thanks, Irma.”

          “Just think Countey, we now have an author in the family. How cool is that?”

          “Pretty cool, pretty cool, my little brother the next Stephen King.”

          “I don’t know if I’m even going to be able to get it published. If it does happen in a far off distant future I’m going to do it under a pen name. Something that sounds like an author along the lines of Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, or Michael D. Davis.”

          “Eh, don’t know about the others but, you can’t use that last one,” Count said, “that’s who’s writing this story.”

          “What,” Who said.

          “Come again?” Irma said.

          “Huh,” Count said, “just never mind. So, you want to stay here?”

          “If I could,” Who said.

          “Of course,” Irma said, “There’s this couch, the couch in the office. Whichever you want, both are nice.”

          “And I still got your case,” Count said, “the one you left here for whatever reason. So, you should have all you need. Unless you wanna go to ma’s?”

          “I couldn’t handle that tonight.”

          “Alright, in the mornin’ we’ll get the guys over here and start findin’ your book.”

          “Thank you, Count,” Who stood up, “also real thanks for the wedding invitation, asshole.”

          “It was my wedding, I’m not gonna invite my brother? You bein’ in prison was just a formality.”

          “Whatever, asshole.”

          “Oh, go take a shower, you smell like crime, and make sure not to drop the soap.”

          Who smiled and shook his head.

          It wasn’t the morning, it was more like the mid-afternoon when Count brought everyone together. Kenny and Stella were the last to arrive, the two of them coming together. Doc Box had been inside waiting an hour already.

          When everyone was seated Count said, “So, everybody the reason I asked y’all here is twofold. One, we got a new case. And secondly, the case is brought to us by my brother the mysterious figure in the corner.”

          Who gave a little wave as everybody stared at him.

          “Sweet fuck,” Kenny said, “since when do you have a brother?”

          “Always have, you’ve all been to my Ma’s house you’ve probably seen his picture. And my sister’s.”

          “You got a sister too?”

          “Yup.”

          Stella chimed in with, “But your ma told me she thought she couldn’t have kids and then you came along and she thought she was dying.”

          Who smiled.

          “Yeah,” Count said, “ma likes to tell that story. Here’s the full version. Girl that comes from a family of criminals and farmers meets a cop. They get married. They think they can’t have kids, then horrible pain. The woman thinks she’s dying, but she’s just giving birth to me, nonetheless, the great Count Whorton. But after me, ma definitely couldn’t have any more kids, the old-fashioned way. And since they wanted one of each, they adopted my little sister, Princess. Then somewhere along the line and a-whole-nother story later they find Baron and adopt him. We all caught up now? Any more questions?”

          Kenny, Stella, and Doc all raised their hands.

          Count called on Kenny. “So, your name’s Count Whorley Whorton and his name is Baron Who Whorton?”

          “Pretty much, it’s Baron Grant Whorton. He got the Who name because of grade school. He’d do something bad the teacher would say, ‘Who did this?’ and since it’s the first three letters of our last name he went with it and started signing the shit he did. Ain’t that right?”

          “Yeah,” Who said, “you are the one that told me to go along with it.”

          Stella was next. “We gonna meet your sister?”

          “Princess? Doubt it. I haven’t seen her in years, she’s a mystery. For all I know she could be the Chicago police commissioner, a jewel thief, or a schoolmarm. You heard from her?”

          “Last I seen of her was about six years ago,” Who said, “We worked a job together. She took her cut, fifty-grand, and split, haven’t seen her since.”

          “Well, she calls Ma every Friday.”

          Doc Box said, “I have to ask, do I know you from somewhere?”

          Who looked at Doc and said, “Yeah, I’ve seen you before. Up at Kauffman.”

          “I knew I knew you. When did you get out?”

          “Yesterday.”

          “We got that all settled?” Count looking around the room said, “Good. Now, we’re looking for one Bo Ray Chambers. He got out of Kauffman prison less than a year ago. According to what he told Who he was in for selling his Grandma’s prescription meds on the street and he comes from a family of farmers or something like that. But I’m sure we can take all of that with both salt and pepper. So, this is how it breaks down. Doc, head to the paper see if you can dig up anything on both Bo Ray himself and any possible relations. Look for criminal backgrounds and farm type backgrounds. Stella, check the interweb for Bo Ray, try to focus mainly on the last year and locations. We got to find him. And Kenny, let’s head to the TV. Bogey Bear is about to start.”

          Doc went out the door. Stella pulled her laptop out of her bag and sat down at Count’s desk. Who stood up. “That it?”

          “Yeah, Doc and/or Stella will find something that will take us somewhere else. If not, I can always call Miss Pinky at the cop shop, she may give us something. Right now, we wait. Wanna watch Bogey bear with me and Kenny? You used to love that cartoon as a kid.”

          “Alright, haven’t seen it in years.”

          “Well, Kenny hadn’t seen it ever till a month ago, kid’s today.”

          As the three of them made their way to the TV Irma came in the office door, the King greeting her first with a wagging tail. Her high-pitched voice rattling the windows, “the woman I was following for that boyfriend case stopped off for ice cream today. So, who wants a chocolate shake?”

          Stella took a shake. “Another cheating case.”

          “Somewhat,” Irma handed out the rest and put the one she got for Doc in the fridge. “So far the only lover she has on the side is a triple chocolate swirl.”

          A tick over an hour later Doc had returned and he had some news. The little man sat down with his shake and rattled off what he learned. “Bo Ray Chambers has been featured in the police blotter multiple times. The last being six months ago for starting a fight outside a gas station. I also found many other Chambers, couple of which I think are strong possibilities for relation. Firstly, a Steve John Chambers took a fall for assault, currently lives about ten minutes outside of town in a little farmhouse. The second is a Mary Beth Chambers married to a Danny Chambers.

          “Those names sound slightly familiar,” Who said cutting off Doc.

          “Well, they live about half an hour outside of town on a moderately sized farm. Daniel Chambers is always writing in to the editor with ridiculous views on issues no one cares about.”

          Count took his pop poured in some bourbon then took a sip on the straw. “Stella, you find anything?”

          “I as well found the gas station fight; he got a few days in lock up and two more months at the halfway house. He also has both Facebook and Instagram. On Facebook, he has everyone Doc listed as friends except Danny Chambers. I think because the man just doesn’t have an account. On Mary Beth’s page, there’s a picture from three months ago.” Stella turned her computer so everyone could see. “The caption is, ‘A good old Sunday family dinner.’ And I believe that’s Danny there and next to Mary Beth is Bo Ray.”

          “That’s him alright,” Who said.

          “Probably his parents then,” Irma said. “Mary Beth and Danny.”

          “That was my thinking,” Stella said, “now, all of his Instagram photos seem to be of him shitfaced with his friends. However, there was a picture, this one here, he’s drunk on a tractor and his buddy there is urinating on the tire. Either way, he’s on some sort of farm.”     

          “Probably mommy and daddy’s,” Count said.

          “Well, I don’t know,” Stella said, “that Steve John, he posts many pictures on Facebook of tractors. I think he has a few. So, the Instagram picture could have been taken at his place.”

          “Alright,” Irma said, “seems to me we have two possible locations for Bo Ray. One is ten minutes outside of town, the other thirty, tomorrow me, Count, Who, and Kenny will go on a little ride and check them out. Hopefully, come back with a book.”

          “Sounds good to me Irmie,” Count said.

          Irma walked over to Stella. “You’ll be HQ again, won’t ya?”

          “What’s HQ?” Who asked.

          “Headquarters,” Count said.

          “I know that much.”

          “Well, she stays here or at her place. If we need any info on the triple, she gets it for us while we are right there on the phone. And if things get squirrely, she can always call in the bulls, tell ‘em where we’re at. I doubt that’ll happen.”

          Well past noon the next day they set off out of town. Irma was behind the wheel of their rusted Buick station wagon, sitting next to Count who was working on the last few inches of a whiskey bottle. Sitting in the back seat was Baron Who, he kept glancing out the window as Kenny tried chatting with him.

          “So, if you’re a professional robber type do you know how to crack a safe?” As the road switched from pavement to gravel the car bounced making Kenny hit his head on the roof of the wagon.

          “Depends,” answered Who, “some you can just pop open. If you’re talking about the bigger jobs, then no, but I know people that can.”

          “That’s fucking cool.”

          Irma pulled off the gravel road onto a small gravel driveway in front of a small farmhouse. Count said, “Irma, keep the car running. Baron stay put. Kenny, grab the package from the back and come with me.”

          “I’m coming with you,” Who said.

          “Fuck Baron, no, if he’s in there he may recognize ya right off and start off runnin’ or do worse. So, stay here, if we need ya we’ll signal.”

          “What’s the signal?”

          “I’ll yell Baron get your ass out the car.”

          Count and Kenny started walking up to the house. Count straightened his hat and said, “Let me do the lip smackin’ kay?”

          Kenny grunted and handed him the package.

          Right before they got to the door a man walked out. “What y’all want?” It was Steve John Chambers.

          “Hell, I’m looking for Bo Ray Chambers, would he happen to be here?” Count smiled slightly and awaited an answer.

          “Why you askin?”

          “Well, my names Beauregard Chamberlin and I believe I got some of his mail.” Count held up a slightly bruised and torn brown package.

          “I’ll take it.”

          “No, no that simply won’t do. I will only feel right if I put it right in his hands. So, is he here?”

          Steve John spit in the grass. “Naw, he lives down the road a ways with his folks.”

          “Okay, well we will try there then. Thank you.” Count and Kenny started towards the wagon.

          “Wait up there.”

          Count turned back to Steve John. “Yes?”

          “You don’t want the address?”

          Count hit his forehead with the palm of his hand. “The address, slipped my mind. Yes, I would love the address thank you.”

          “Continue down the road, take a right on B avenue, it’s the first little white house you see.”

          “Thank you again.”

          “Uh-huh,” Steve John spit in the grass again as they pulled out of the driveway.

          “How’d it go?” Irma asked.

          “The package worked as usual. He said Bo Ray’s at the other address, but I don’t know. I got bad vibes off him. I may of tipped him.”

          They pulled up onto a farm in front of a little old white house sitting atop a hill. Count got out. Kenny started out too, but Who stopped him, took the package and got out himself. Count looked at him and said, “This goes squirrely, I blame you.”

          They walked up the hill, again before they got to the door a man came out. This time he was swinging a shotgun. Danny Chambers pulled the trigger just missing Count and Who. The two of them started running back down the hill. Count only went a few steps before he tripped, fell to the grass, and started rolling down the hill. Who continued on in gazelle-like fashion as Danny Chambers shot again. When he got near the wagon Who jumped and slid across the hood landing safely on the other side just as Count rolled into the back door with a loud thump. The two of them quickly got in the car.

          “Either I tipped them off or this guy’s fuckin’ nuts,” Count said.

          Putting her foot to the floor Irma sped forward. “When that guy started shootin’, a car came barrelin’ out of that shed down there and onto the road.”

          “Then make a u-ie and get back on the road,” Who said.

          “Fuck that,” Irma raced between two barns and down into a cornfield. She was pushing the old Buick up past ninety as they mowed down corn stalks. Everyone held on as they came flying out of the corn and soared up onto the gravel road. They could see the tail end of a little gray car a ways ahead of them. Irma pressed harder on the pedal as rocks and dust were catapulted behind them. She started to gain on the little gray car, the space between them closing. Irma slowly veered into the left lane and started coming up alongside. Who, sitting in the front passenger seat, rolled down his window. He took out the gun he bought off Ringworm, aimed and shot out the back-side window of the little gray car.

          When the back window exploded inwards, Bo Ray slammed on the brakes. The little car skidded on the gravel and went nose first in the ditch. Bo Ray shut off the car, sat a minute then got out. His neck was wet with blood and glass fell out of his hair.

          Irma had turned the car around and drove back to Bo Ray in no big hurry. Who got out before she had a chance to shift into park and went right for Bo Ray.

          When he saw Who coming, Bo Ray started to yell. “Get back you fucker, get back. Stop right there or you’ll never see your book again.”

          Who stopped, stood rigid.

          “That’s right,” Bo Ray said. He opened the back door of the car and took out two spiral-bound notebooks held together with a rubber band. He held them high then he held high a cheap cigarette lighter. “You give me at least fifty grand and you get your book. I know you have it!”

          Who took a step forward and Bo Ray flicked his lighter so it gave off a little spark.

          “What should we do?” Kenny said standing next to Count and Irma behind the car.

          Count answered. “Stay outta the way.”

          Who held his hands up. “You remember these, Bo Ray?” Who showed him the tattoos on the back of his hands. “This can go one of two ways.” Who held forward his right hand showing the tattoo of a smiley face on the back of it. “Option one. I get my book and you live.” Who put down his right hand and held up his left showing the tattoo of a skull. “Option two. I get my book and you don’t live. Your choice.”

          Who put his hands down as Bo Ray started to yell again. “No! No, it’s either I get my money or your book burns.”

          “Fine,” Who said, “I’ll decide.” He took the revolver out of his pocket and leveled it at Bo Ray. He pulled the trigger hitting the car. “Warning one,” Who said. The sound of the shot made Bo Ray jump. Who pulled the trigger again. Putting another bullet in the car, this time nearly hitting him. “Warning two, there isn’t going to be a third.”

          “Fine! Fine! You rotten son of a bitch no good mother fucker!” Bo Ray threw the bound notebooks onto the gravel road at Who’s feet.  

          Who bent down to pick up his book, as he did so, Irma, Count, and Kenny yelled out. Who already knew what was coming. Bo Ray had started to charge him, running up out of the ditch. Who moved quickly, he brought his right fist in for an uppercut, his whole body behind it. The punch sent Bo Ray flying back, tumbling down the ditch. Who collected his gun and book, walked over to the car and said, “ready to go?”

          That night, fresh out of prison, his book back in his possession, Who had to do something he’d been putting off. With Count and Irma behind him Who walked into his ma’s house. The first thing he heard was the snippy little bark of her tiny old dog. She came around the corner, hunched over, oxygen hose in her nose and long ashed cigarette dangling from her lip. “Well, look who it is. My jailbird baby.”

          Who walked over to her and she forced him into a hug. After the embrace, she gave him a swift slap across the cheek. “That’s for getting’ sent to prison. Don’t do it again. I’ll be dead before ya got out.”

          “I’ll do my best, ma.”

          “Good boy.”

          “I wrote a book. It got stolen, Count, Irma, and their team helped me get it back, but I wrote a book.”

          “Well, you’ve always been very talented. Whorely, invite your little friends over. I’ll cook a good supper and we’ll celebrate Grant bein’ back.”

          “Sure, ma,” Count said.

          After dinner, sitting on a couch both with a deluxe chocolate brownie with frosting courtesy of Mother Whorton was Kenny and Who. “So, what’s the main way a job goes bad,” Kenny said, “I bet its security cameras, right?”

          Who finished his bite and said, “If a job goes wrong ninety percent of the time it’s the same thing that goes wrong in any job. You could plan a job like Da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa. Every inch of it just filled with intricate detail, but it can all go wrong in a snap. That one thing is your crew. I mean look at you guys, Count, Irma, Doc, Stella, you. Whether you’re robbing a bank, going to war, solving a murder, or finding my book the reason you’re successful is because you got each other. If one of you falls, another comes along to pick you right up. If you got one bad pickle in the jar the job is guaranteed to go bad.”

          “That makes some sense.”

          Who left Kenny thinking hard while scarfing down his brownie. He found Count outside in the dark, lighting a bent cigarette. Who took out a new pack. “You want a brand new one?”

          “I’m good.”

          Who lit his new smoke as Count puffed on his old bent wrinkled one. “Got any plans?” Count said.

          “Move into ma’s guest room. See if any publisher wants my book. Also, talk to the aunts and uncles, see if they heard of any new score brewing I can get in on.”

          Uncle Milt kicked the bucket, but Uncle Fabio or Aunt Charollette may of heard of something.”

          Who blew smoke out his nostrils. “You got a good crew in there if you want we could all do a job together.”

          “It’s a thought, but I don’t think so. Maybe you could come join us, be a PI?”

          “That ain’t my groove, you know that.”

          “Well, the offer stands.”

          “I may start on a new book.”

          “Yeah? You got a title yet?”

          “Yup, ‘The Ending: Where It All Began To Go Bad’.”

The End.

Michael D. Davis was born and raised in a small town in the heart of Iowa. Having written over thirty short stories, ranging in genre from comedy to horror from flash fiction to novella he continues in his accursed pursuit of a career in the written word.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020