THE LITTLE THINGS
By Roy Dorman
“I need to pee. Take the
next exit that has a gas station with a fast food place or one of those quick
markets attached to it.”
Jesse Franklin and Annie Garner had been driving on the
interstate for about an hour since having a continental breakfast at the chain
hotel they had stayed at the night before.
This was the first either of them had spoken since leaving the
Their relationship hadn’t been going well recently.
They didn’t need gas yet, so Jesse parked up in front of the
Mini Market. Annie got out of the car
without a word and Jesse pulled out the paperback he’d brought along for just
He’d gotten into the book, it was a “whodunit” by one of
favorite authors, and was surprised when he saw fifteen minutes had passed.
“Now what?” he muttered, slamming the book on the dash and
getting out of the car. He walked into
the store and stood in front of the clerk.
“Is my wife in here?” he asked, knowing as he said it that it
was an unusual question. “She’s short,
dark hair, in a denim dress. She came in
to use the restroom.”
The clerk stared at Jesse for a bit before answering as though
this was a very weighty question to consider.
“I saw her come in, but didn’t see her leave,” said the
clerk. He had “RANDY” on an oval patch
that was sewn onto his tan smock. “Maybe
she already left, but I didn’t see her go,” he repeated.
Jesse noticed the restrooms were in the back corner. “She would have had to walk right past you,”
he said. “Surely you would have seen
“I got customers to take care of,” said Randy.
Jesse looked out at the parking lot.
His was the only car out there. The only customer in
the place was a scruffy-looking twenty-something paging through one of those
cheap sensational tabloids.
“Customers? He’s the only one in here,” said Jesse,
getting more irritated than he already had been. “He doesn’t look
like he needs much taking
Randy leaned over the counter and said in a stage whisper, “I
gotta watch him so he don’t steal nothin’.”
Jesse noticed beads of sweat had formed on Randy’s
forehead. He thought that odd as it
wasn’t all that warm in the Mini Market.
The young guy looked up from his reading as if he sensed he was
being talked about. He put the tabloid
back in the rack and sauntered over to the counter.
“A woman came in, used the restroom, bought a pack of cigarettes
and a lighter, and left five minutes ago,” he said to Jesse.
“That’s ridiculous,” snorted Jesse. “My wife doesn’t smoke.”
“Didn’t say it was your wife.
Don’t know who she was. But it
was a woman like you described when you came in.
“After buying the cigs and lighter, she stepped outside, opened
the pack and lit one up. She stared at
that car outside the window there for a while and then walked over to the truck
stop across the road. I saw her flag
down an eighteen-wheeler that was just heading out.”
After that recitation, he held out his hand to Jesse. “I’m Ace,” he said, “You are?”
Jesse just stared at Ace’s hand until Ace let it drop. Before Ace had dropped it, Jesse had noticed
two fresh scratches on the back of his hand.
Jesse noticed little things.
In the business he was in, noticing the little things kept him
He then turned back to the clerk, Randy, and said, “Why didn’t
you tell me she bought cigarettes and a lighter after using the restroom?”
Randy stepped back from the counter and put his hands in front
of his chest in a warding off gesture.
“I just work here, mister,” Randy sputtered. “I don’t get involved in customers’
Jesse felt like punching Randy in the face.
Randy must have seen it in his eyes, because
he took another step back.
Jesse looked to the back of the store at the restrooms. Moving quickly from the counter, he walked
back toward the women’s.
“You can’t go into the women’s,” squeaked Randy. “You better just leave or I’m gonna call the
“If she’s not in here, I’m calling 911 myself,” said
reaching for the doorknob.
He opened the door and stared at the toilet.
My wife was in this room a few minutes ago and now she’s…,
“Is there another way out of this place?” he yelled from inside
“The storeroom has a back door for deliveries, but it’s locked
and you can’t go in there.”
Jesse walked back to the counter. Ace
was no longer there and Randy had a cell
phone in his hand.
Jesse took out his own.
“Do you want to call or should I?” he asked.
“Okay, okay; you can check out the storeroom,” said Randy,
fumbling in a drawer for the keys.
Randy walked back to a door that was a little to the left of the
restrooms. He unlocked the door and
gestured for Jesse to go in.
Jesse scanned the small room and was about to go back out when
he spotted a shoe sticking out from between two stacks of boxes. The foot inside
that shoe moved back and
forth as if trying to get his attention.
It looked like Annie’s shoe.
As he stared at the shoe, he heard an intake of breath behind
him. In two quick movements he dropped
to the floor and kicked back with both feet, catching Ace in the knees.
Ace had been winding up to swing a baseball bat at Jesse’s head,
and now he and the bat were on the floor.
Jesse pulled out a small caliber pistol from an ankle holster and aimed
it at Randy.
“Get your ass in here now!” he shouted.
Randy hurried in with both hands in the air.
“It was all his idea,” he pleaded. “He said we could
sell her to a trucker and—”
“Shut your mouth, Randy,” said Ace from the floor.
Jesse kicked Ace twice in the ribs.
“You shut your mouth, loser,” he
said. “Now, both of you lie on your
stomachs and put your hands behind your back.”
“Whatta ya gonna do to us?” whined Randy.
“I think I’ll let my wife decide on that,” said Jesse, walking
back to where he had seen Annie’s shoe.
He walked over to where Annie was tied and gagged. He loosened her restraints and said, “You
“Ya, just peachy keen,” Annie answered, rubbing her wrists to
get the feeling back into them. “Gimme
“I’m gonna go check on security cameras inside and out,”
said Jesse. “You think about what we should do with these
Jesse had only gotten to the front door when he heard four
shots. He continued his search for
security cameras before going back to the storeroom. He was happy to see that
chosen not to spend the money on them.
“Didn’t take you long to decide on what to with them,” said
looking at the bodies on the floor of the storeroom.
“They were going to sell me, for chrissakes! Who knows what awful shit could have happened
to me before I finally freed myself?”
“I would have freed you before anything happened to you, Annie,”
“Yeah, I know you would have,” Annie said, punching Jesse
playfully on the shoulder. “What say we
get the fuck outta here and go someplace fun where we can start fresh?”
“We still have that job to do in New Orleans,” said Jesse. “Maybe we can make the hit and then kick back
there for a while.”
“Sounds good,” said Annie.
“I like that open-air market in the French Quarter that has the powdered
“I’ll lick the powdered sugar off your lips.”
“Damn, a couple dead bodies on a storeroom floor sure gets your
motor runnin’,” said Annie. “Come on, let’s hit the road.”
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.
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 Zombie." Having lived in France,
Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern