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David Harry Moss
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crimesbigandsmall.jpg

Crimes Big and Small

 

by

 

 David Harry Moss

 

 

In light rain, he cut through an alley. He carried a brown paper bag loaded with money.  He crammed the bills into the big pockets of his khaki cargo pants. He tossed the empty brown paper bag, his black wool cap, and his worn black raincoat with a fake mustache stashed in a pocket into a dumpster. Under the raincoat he wore a tan, hooded windbreaker with square pockets on both sides. In the pockets were dark chocolate candy bars.

 

He put on a pair of stage glasses with plain lenses and stepped onto a busy street lined on both sides with shops, restaurants, and bars. A police car screamed by, its red roof light flashing.

 

He entered a dim bar with a dozen stools and sat next to a woman with striking features and a great figure. She was his age, early thirties. She had straight, light brown hair. His hair was short and dark and slicked back from being wet from the rain. He ordered a bourbon and soda for himself and a drink for the lady, a red wine.

 

A man came into the bar, shaking rain from an umbrella. “A bank around the corner has just been robbed.”

 

He ignored the man with the umbrella and focused on the woman. He had a knack of infusing his voice with a dreamy quality. People relaxed in his company.

 

“Would you like to talk?”

 

She said, “All right.” Her eyes were blue-green and flecked with white.  They made him think of turbulent waves.

 

He told of riding the subway to Yankee Stadium with his father, of decorating with red bulbs a Christmas tree with his mother, of long walks in the snow through Central Park with his high school sweetheart. As the story unfolded, his voice rose with excitement making it all sound true.

He sipped on his drink. He never knew his mother or father and never had a high school sweetheart. On the day he was born, his mother wrapped him in an old blanket and left him on the steps of a Catholic church. He went to an orphanage. No one ever adopted him. When he was eighteen, he joined the Marine Corps.

 

The woman told him that she wasn’t married. “I never left home. Never dated that much. My mother died this morning.”

 

He responded with a vague, almost sullen expression and retreated into a morose silence. 

 

Two uniformed cops wearing yellow slickers entered the bar, looked around, and left.

 

“Why would anyone rob a bank knowing he’ll get caught?” she asked. 

 

          He shrugged by lifting and dropping his shoulders. “Some don’t get caught,” he said. “Besides, a person should do what he or she does best. The biggest crime one can commit is not finding out what that is.”

 

Her red lips twitched. She took a deep breath and smiled.   

 

He wanted to tell her that the thrill of seeing what he could get away with was what drove him. Instead, he remained silent and stared at the row of liquor bottles lined up like inmates in an orphanage and illuminated by a faint red light on a shelf behind the bar.

 

“My mother held me back,” the woman said. “Once I brought a man I liked home and she told me he was wrong for me. She kept telling me over and over that he was no good until I believed her.” She breathed deeply and sighed. “I hated my mother. But now I know she can never speak poorly of me again.”

 

“Why didn’t you leave?”

 

She drew her lips back. “I never had the confidence to be on my own.”

He patted her clenched hands. “But you’re, well, you’re so beautiful.”

 

“What does being beautiful have to do with being confident and being happy? My mother would point out my flaws until I saw myself as ugly.”

 

“Your mother’s approval was important to you. I understand.”

 

She took one of his hands and placed it under her maroon raincoat on a warm, bare leg. In a throaty whisper she said, “I’m not wearing panties. Slide your fingers against my thighs and place your fingers inside my pussy lips. Please.”

 

When he did what she asked, she made a soft, moaning sound. “How does my pussy feel?”

 

“Soft and slick like velvet.”

 

At five-thirty, the woman said she had to leave. He waited with her under a dripping red awning at a bus stop. Darkness crept in around them. The rain fell harder. On the street, traffic hissed by. Red brake lights glowed. He became so absorbed with her that the scene around him seemed to float away like fog.

 

Her look became whimsical. “Would you like to come to my place?” She leaned against him. The urgent feel of her body against his, the firm roundness of her breasts, dissolved the turmoil of his life. “You can fuck me if you want. You can fuck me again and again.” She melted against him like butter against a hot iron.

 

“Yes, I want that,” he said.

 

He rode with her on the bus. She pressed against him and kissed him on the mouth. He leaned back, closed his eyes, and yielded to the moment.

 

At the front of her apartment building, a police car pulled up and two surly-looking uniformed officers jumped out. One cop pushed him aside. The other cop took the woman’s purse and opened it. The man saw a bloody knife with an eight-inch, stainless-steel slicing blade and a white washcloth drenched pink with blood. 

 

One cop ordered him to wait by the police car. The two cops spoke briefly to the woman. The first cop returned and said, “She told us that you’re her new boyfriend.”

 

He shook his head. “I just met her in a bar. I’m no boyfriend.”

 

“You’re lucky. She stabbed her last boyfriend to death and spent ten years in an insane asylum. She got out a month ago. This morning she murdered her mother. Cut her tongue out.  We thought she wrapped the tongue in that wash cloth in her purse but the tongue wasn’t there. Anyway, she said that now her mother can’t talk to her, even in death. A real loony.”

 

From the back seat of the police car as it drove away, the woman peered through the window and offered the man an odd smile. He winced as an unfamiliar sense of terror surged through him.

                                               

Feeling melancholy, he trudged five long city blocks in the surreal dark and rain. Buildings seemed to lurch and sway.  A mist engulfed him. He felt an emptiness as the first eighteen years of his life haunted his mind. An insuppressible loneliness took hold akin to the kind he felt lying in a cold bed in an empty dormitory. In the wet shadows, he imagined ghouls lurking.

 

At the Amtrak Station he’d get a train to Florida. He’d relax in his Gulf-side mobile home for a few months, enjoy the sun, do some repairs on his small boat, seduce women, before going back to work in another city.     

 

He had about $7000 stuffed in his pockets and under his shirt he had a .40 caliber automatic in a shoulder holster. For the first time it became clear to him that one day he would have to use the gun and he would die. He would never go to prison, never wait in a line again with other inmates. In front of the train station, he nodded a sad “hello” to a cop in a yellow slicker, directing traffic.

         

On the train going south, he was afraid to shut his eyes. He kept seeing her beautiful face, kept seeing a sharp-bladed slicing knife and a blood-soaked facecloth, kept wondering what would have happened to him if he had gone to bed with her and fallen asleep in her arms. 

 

          At some moment during the night, he had an urge for one of the dark chocolate candy bars that he had stashed in the pockets of his windbreaker.  

He reached inside a pocket and felt a plastic sandwich bag that shouldn’t be there.

 

He lifted the bag and saw what was inside.

 

She must have put it there when she pressed against him on the bus. It was meaty and slimy and ragged on the end where the knife cut into it to separate it from the bottom of the mouth.

 

His breath caught. He retched and fought a need to vomit.

 

                                               

  

busride1.jpg

BUS RIDE

 

by David Harry Moss

 

 

At a city bus stop, Stuart pulled the collar of his dark overcoat tight against his face and shivered in the gnawing cold. Darkness enveloped him. He glanced up at a half moon that looked like the sharp blade on an axe that medieval executioners used to lop off heads.

 

Finally the bus arrived. His frozen bones seemed to rattle as he stepped inside.

 

Usually he took a seat near the center door with a partition at his back, so no one could sit behind him, but a thin, middle-aged man with a wild shock of gray hair occupied that seat. His second choice was a seat in back, but a seedy-looking black couple sat there. He took the seat in front of the middle-aged man.

 

Across from him sat a thirtyish white woman with a bleak straight-ahead stare. She clutched a large purse that she had balanced on her pressed-together knees. A few seats behind the woman, Stuart saw a young, unshaven white man, obviously drunk or on drugs, asleep or passed out, with his head resting against the frosted window. Being in the company of this weird assortment of people gave Stuart a sense of foreboding.

 

The bus rolled along. He wanted to close his eyes but that would leave him feeling vulnerable. Looking out the window wasn’t an option because he couldn’t see much through the frosted glass, only blots of sour light oozing from the buildings the bus passed. He had no choice but to do what the woman across from him did, stare ahead, breathe in the faint exhaust-fume odor that permeated the interior, listen to the troubled sighs and woeful rumbles of the bus.  

 

When the man behind him began to cough, Stuart hunched his shoulders. He felt the man’s wet breath on his neck. He heard the man say, “I have an ice pick. I’m going to plunge it into your neck.  I’m going to kill you.”

 

Stuart bolted from the seat. Trembling, not from the cold but from fear, he said, “What did you say?” His breath caught in his throat. His hands were clenched.

 

The gray-headed man’s eyes were wide ovals. “I said, where are we?”

 

In a low, guttural voice, Stuart said, “Liar. You threatened to kill me.”

 

In what Stuart construed as an obvious false show of dismay, the gray- headed man’s chin dropped and his mouth hung open.

 

The woman across the aisle placed her strange stare on Stuart and tensed her pale lips. She reached inside her purse and Stuart thought that she gripped a pair of sharp-pointed scissors. The drunk a few seats behind her had opened his eyes and had drawn his lips back.  He had something in his hand, a gun possibly. The seedy- looking blacks were also both holding objects, but sudden perspiration on Stuart’s forehead had dripped into his eyes, blurring his vision. He was sure that the black man and the black woman were holding knives.

 

Stuart glared downward and struggled to restrain himself and regain his composure. He had to get off of that bus.  He breathed deeply, dragging bitter- tasting metallic air into his lungs, and turned toward the front of the bus and the bus driver. From behind him he heard muffled voices.

 

When he reached the driver, he said calmly, “I want off. Now.”

 

          The driver had a square chin, large nose,  and thick, bushy brows. He grimaced. “The next stop is two blocks from here. Sit down, please.”

 

“Everyone on this bus is crazy. Why does the bus company allow this?”

 

“I don’t know. Please sit down.”

 

Stuart sucked in air and expelled it through his nostrils. “It’s frightening that people like those on this bus are loose in a society.” He dared to look back. The drunken white man and the two seedy blacks were holding cell phones. The white woman had taken a white tissue from her purse and was dabbing her nose. The middle-aged gent with the wild shock of gray hair was looking at the route map printed on a bus schedule.

 

For that moment, Stuart felt safe and free of danger. The bus had stopped at a red light. When the bus driver said, “Can’t you hear?” Stuart was sure that the bus driver, obviously demented, had something stashed inside his shirt, a hammer possibly, or a wrench, something that could crack a skull.

 

The bus started moving again.  

 

Stuart considered himself to be a sane and normal person but he had no choice but to reach inside his overcoat pocket and lift out a straight razor that he deftly flipped open.  He had used the straight razor on three occasions to ward off lunatics. He first used the straight razor on an elevator when an obnoxious man wearing an expensive business suit would not stop humming a show tune that Stuart abhorred. The second time he used the straight razor was in a shopping mall parking lot when an inconsiderate woman parked her car on the yellow divider line and too close to his correctly-parked car. He had used the straight razor for the third time when an uncouth man wearing construction worker’s clothing came out of an alley in the rain and startled him and caused him to slip on a wet spot and almost fall. He had left each of those loathsome crazy people writhing in pain, with blood gushing from their jugulars, but he felt assured that it wasn’t his concern if they lived or died.  

 

The bus driver glanced at Stuart and leveled his eyes on the gleaming four and one-half-inch-long carbon steel blade of the straight razor.

 

“Would you like your nose to be sliced down the middle?”

 

The bus driver’s breath seemed to freeze in his throat.

 

“Envision a meaty shard of your nostrils, pink from blood, sliding across your lips.”

 

“I’ll let you off.” The bus driver pressured the brake with his foot. 

 

The big tires ground on the concrete and the bus lurched and stopped half a block before the next stop. The bus driver’s trembling hands thumped against the steering wheel. His teeth bit into his lower lip as he stared at the straight razor that Stuart brandished. The doors of the bus hissed open.

 

Stuart said in a civilized tone, “Thank you,” and stepped off the bus.

busride2.jpg

cannibalclub.jpg

The Cannibal Club

 

by David Harry Moss

 

 

The two-story, red brick building stood on a corner of a city side street. The street floor had been converted, half into an acupuncture treatment center and half into a meet-and-greet room for the tours that were given of the second floor. The owners of the building, Malcolm and Dyla Loam, were so skilled in acupuncture that either one could insert a needle through the nose or through an eye socket into the brain. The infamous Cannibal Club, closed thirteen years ago when the police raided it, once occupied the second floor. The building remained closed for twelve years until Malcolm and Dyla reopened it.

 

On a sunny day, Malcolm worked on a patient suffering from severe migraine headaches and Dyla conducted the afternoon tour. In the meet-and-greet room, she served the dozen apprehensive curiosity seekers blood-red tea and spicy dried-fruit cookies shaped like a human torso and made from a special secret recipe. 

 

“Enjoy your tea and cookie,” Dyla told the group. “In a moment you will embark on a journey into depravity.” At that point, she smiled. “Before we take our little tour, let me ask this, how is eating human flesh different from eating the flesh of a dead animal? I’m sure all of you have had a hamburger or a hot dog or a steak. And in case you are wondering, my husband and I are both vegetarians.”

 

While she gave the group a moment longer to finish their tea and cookie, she watched a fat, florid-faced, balding man in a cheap brown suit drop a cookie into a small plastic bag. With that task done, he poured some of the red tea into a small glass via and placed the vial next to the cookie in the plastic bag. When he slipped the plastic bag into the pocket of his suit jacket, Dyla approached him. Their eyes locked.

 

“Are you police or the health department?” Dyla asked.

The man grinned. “Neither. I’m a private detective. My name is Bernie Gorbish.” He handed Dyla a business card. “Since the cops and the health people aren’t doing the job, a consortium of church groups hired me to keep tabs on this place. They want you shut down and this building demolished.”

 

Dyla nodded. “So, you think we’re practicing cannibalism here?”

 

“It’s not me thinking that, it’s the Bible thumpers.”

 

“That’s ironic because there are Bible passages that encourage people to be cannibals.”

 

Gorbish grinned. “That can’t be true. Stuff like that couldn’t be in the Bible.”

 

“But stuff like that is. Read: Deuteronomy, Kings, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and John.”

 

Gorbish shrugged. “I’m not much for reading.”

 

“It is common for leaders of great religions to insist that followers eat their flesh and drink their blood.”

 

Gorbish’s crude grin widened. “That might be so, but regardless, I’ll have this cookie and this sample of tea tested and go from there.”

 

Dyla nodded. “And hopefully you’ll find bits of human flesh in the cookie crumbs, or traces of blood in the tea, correct?”

 

Gorbish frowned. “It doesn’t matter to me what you put in these cookies or in this tea. I get paid either way.”

 

Dyla smiled and eyed his big belly. “You look like a meat eater, Bernie Gorbish.”

Gorbish laughed. “Meat and a lot of other things. You don’t weigh close to three hundred pounds dining on dried fruit cookies and drinking this good red tea you serve.”

 

Dyla put her tongue to her thin dry lips. “You’d make a nice meal—for someone.”

 

Gorbish winced. “Don’t joke about that; I scare easy.”

 

With Dyla leading, they ascended narrow, wooden stairs to the second floor. The Cannibal Club had two sections: a dining room and a kitchen. When she opened the door going into the dining room and its strong roasted meat odor, what she revealed caused all in the tour group, including the private detective, to shrink back in horror.  

 

At a rectangular, oak dining table, a dozen lifelike wax figures had been arranged feasting on a human carcass. One of the wax figures gnashed a human arm, another a leg, and on and on: a heart, a spleen, a liver, a kidney, a toe, a finger. What looked like blood smeared their faces. 

 

“The figure of the man at the head of the table is Malcolm’s father,” Dyla said. “He founded the Cannibal Club. Before that he did missionary work in Central and South America. It was there, long ago, that he acquired a taste for human flesh. On his right is Malcolm’s mother. Next to her is a man who operated a crematorium. He provided the bodies the Club members dined on. If you are wondering, that slimy-looking morsel Malcolm’s mother is devouring is a lung.  The cremator is tearing into a thorax and Malcolm’s father is biting into an eyeball.”

 

A woman shrieked, “Oh, dear God.” Her knees buckled. Her grim-faced male companion steadied her. 

 

Dyla frowned. “Court orders sent down from the families of the other Club members prohibit us from identifying them but, suffice to say, we have a doctor, a judge, a congressman, a college professor, and a television celebrity in the group.”

 

As the group skirted the table Dyla paused to say, “Please don’t act so shocked. Every person, all of us, has a dark and creepy side, and down deep, we all are closet cannibals. Each and every one of us craves human flesh and the flavor of human blood, whether we admit it or not.”

 

          Dyla ushered them into the second half of the upstairs. “This is the kitchen,” she said, “or the ‘butcher shop,’ as the television and newspaper reporters called it.”

 

She pointed to a long slab of wood marred with knife-blade gouges and to the hovering wax figure clad in white cook’s garb and holding a meat clever. “Lopez came with Malcolm’s parents from Honduras and served them faithfully. On the night of the police raid, he managed, along with two other Club members, to escape through a secret passage. Malcolm’s parents and four others swallowed suicide pills. The remainder were committed to mental hospitals where I believe one still resides. Until the last member dies, the Cannibal Club survives.”

 

They passed a sink and a stove. At a large floor freezer they peered through the glass at the wax figures of two naked human corpses, a man and a woman. In a joking tone Dyla said, “Tomorrow’s meal.” She cleared her throat. “And that concludes our tour. Now, let’s go back downstairs for another cup of tea and one more of those delicious cookies.”

 

After biting into a cookie, a female guest said, “This cookie has a meaty flavor.”

 

Dyla patted the woman’s trembling hand. “It’s your imagination playing tricks on you, dear,” Dyla said. “The cookie is only spices and dried fruit. Everyone thinks of meat after a visit to the Cannibal Club.”

 

Bernie Gorbish finished his tea and approached Dyla and the woman. “May I?” Gorbish held out his hand but the woman hesitated giving up the cookie.  She looked at Dyla.

 

“It’s all right. He’s a detective. He’ll have the cookie tested to learn if we served you human flesh.”

 

“Dear God.” The woman shoved the half-eaten cookie at Gorbish who dropped it into his plastic bag.

 

Dyla ushered them out, locked the door behind them, and joined Malcolm in the acupuncture treatment room. A twentyish, blonde woman lay asleep on a cot.

 

“She’s very pretty,” Dyla said, stroking the young woman’s silky hair.

 

“She had better be pretty,” Malcolm said. “She’s a model.” Like Dyla, Malcolm was thin and pale. “I sedated her so I could do what I had to do.”

 

“I hope you didn’t damage the ganglia and turn her into an imbecile.”

 

“Not a chance.  That old Chinese gentleman in Taiwan who taught me, and you, acupuncture did well. She’ll be out for another half hour and wake up free of migraines.”

 

“There was a private detective in the group, a seedy fat man, and one of the bitches thought she tasted meat in a cookie.”

 

Malcolm chuckled. “We’d never do that to a cookie.”

 

“Of course we wouldn’t,” Dyla said. “But people who hired that private detective think we would. It seems they will never believe that we are normal and let us alone.”

 

When Bernie Gorbish left the Cannibal Club, he drove crosstown to the Market District and parked in front of a butcher shop with a “Help Wanted” sign in the window.  Ropes of sausage dangled from the ceiling.

 

A broad-shouldered butcher in a greasy white apron greeted him with a twisted smile. “I have a meaty leg for you and a pint of rich red blood. Since you are such a good customer I threw in, for free, a juicy slice from the heart.”

 

Gorbish made a swallowing sound and licked his thick lips as if he had already begun eating. “Who is it?”

 

“That little chubby fellow you saw working here.”

 

“Bring it on. Visiting that Cannibal Club made me hungry.”

 

                                     

                                               

yourhonor.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2014

YOUR HONOR – THE ADVENTURES OF A SCUMBAG

 

by David Harry Moss

 

The guy was dead so Janine and I had no choice but to wrap him in his overcoat and stuff him into the back seat of his Mercedes. I should mention that he was also naked and that he had a boner from here to Timbuktu.

I’m Myron Ripinski, a scumbag, at least that’s what a cop called me once. Janine is really Myrtle Splat but she goes by Janine Zemnova; she thinks it sounds cool for her physical therapy practice. She’s a tall leggy blonde, delicious all over, in case you’re wondering.

I’ll elaborate on how Janine and I got into this jam. I took a subway to where the Judge, I’ll call him Your Honor, lived and drove him in his car so he could have his session with Janine. I’m the one who introduced them. I knew Your Honor from when he sentenced me to six months in jail for peddling roids in a gym I used to frequent. My best customers were female bodybuilders.  

Janine rented office space above an adult book store. It was night time and cold, ten degrees with snow falling, and the only lights glowing in the building came from Janine’s window. I was lying in the dark on the sofa in the waiting room half asleep when she came out. She wore only black leather boots that came up to almost her knees and a skimpy black leather thong.

“We got a problem, sweetheart,” she said, hands on her shapely hips. 

I bolted to a sitting position.

“Your honor is dead. Heart attack.”

I followed Janine’s swaying ass through the office where she did the physical therapy to a third office where she turned herself into Mistress Janine. Your Honor was strapped to a slanted padded slab. He had a ball gag in his mouth, his stiffy aiming at the ceiling like a lance.

“We have to get this body out of here,” I said. “The last thing we need is a visit from the cops.

“Tell me about it.”

His clothes were piled on a chair in the corner. On top was a plastic bottle holding Viagra. “How many did he take?”

Janine shrugged. “I lost count. He kept popping them until he got his willy up so he could pleasure himself.” She meant jerk off.

We wrapped him in his overcoat and Janine and I put on our coats and we rode the elevator downstairs and lugged Your Honor through the alley door to where I had parked his car. I went back up and got the rest of his clothes. We made sure to wear gloves so as not to leave fingerprints inside the car and drove cross town. I parked the Mercedes in front of his brownstone. I tossed the ignition key on the floor and a shivering Janine and I walked three dark and cold city blocks with snow swirling around us to an underground subway station.

We boarded the first train without even knowing where it was going because we wanted to get the fuck out of that neighborhood. The only other people in the car were a pair of grinning Chinese midgets.

We went into a diner loaded with cops and ordered bowls of hot chicken noodle soup. The cop sitting next to Janine smiled at her and said, “There must be a full moon up there somewhere. All kinds of crazy shit is happening tonight.”

Janine smiled back and said, “Isn’t that the truth.”

 

END






darkstreets.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2018

DARK STREETS

 

by David Harry Moss

 

 

Johnny Vado hated guns. While drinking his morning protein shake, he thought about his hatred of guns and thought about that school shooting in Florida where 17 were massacred. That incident appalled Vado, who struggled constantly to block from his mind how many he had killed in his life. Maybe that many. Maybe 17.

 

Vado was a part-time construction worker, a part time doorman at a strip club his cousin managed, and a journeyman fighter, a light-heavyweight, 178 pounds. His record was eight wins, two losses, one draw. He knew he’d never be a contender. He fought because he liked it and to release aggressions, to purge himself of demons, or try to, by training to exhaustion.

 

Wearing gray sweats, a maroon-colored wool knit skull cap, and a gray hoodie, he left his cozy top-floor efficiency in a three-story row house, bounded the stairs, and stepped outside into a curtain of falling snow and a blast of cold air that quickly tinted his white flesh crimson.  

 

Standing in the window of a four-story apartment building across the street, Vado spotted a man wearing black, watching him. Vado was sure the man held a gun, some sort of rifle. The man backed away and disappeared when shadows swallowed him.

 

The time was 7 A.M., dark out, and Vado wanted to do five miles on the dark streets and then head for the gym for a workout. He had a fight coming up in two weeks.  

 

Guns, thought Vado. Everyone had them, everyone but him. The couple downstairs had five guns. He wondered what they were so afraid of that they needed that much fire power.

 

The female cop in the second-floor apartment in the row house where Vado lived had at least one gun. She was Vado’s age, 26, good-looking.

 

“Knock on the door any time,” she told him.

 

 

 

 

He said, “Sure,” but he never did. He didn’t want to get involved with her because of her gun.  

 

The difference between Vado and almost everyone who owned a gun was that he knew what it felt like to kill another person. Squeezing a trigger is easy. Living with it afterwards is the difficult part.

 

Vado viewed the wintry landscape. Snow glistened on the street and on the sidewalk like the smooth white satin that lines a coffin. He started running. He would run past the weary-looking old church, cut through a small, tree-filled park, past a string of shops and bars, cut through the warehouse district, cross the railroad tracks, reach the river, and hook back toward the elementary school and then return to his place.

 

Once home he’d shower and dress and leave his apartment again and stop at the little diner for pancakes and sausage, flirt with the pretty waitress.

 

“When are you going to ask me out?” she’d ask.

 

“Soon.” He was seeing someone else. One at a time.

 

After breakfast he would make his way to the gym, skip rope, sit-ups, pushups, hit the heavy bag until his arms ached, build a good sweat, and then spar, revel in the sanctioned violence.

 

The Army, Vado had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, made him a sniper, gave him a .50 caliber M24, sent him out to kill. He was good at it. Killing.

 

“How many did you get today?” the Sergeant would ask.

 

Vado would frown, shake his head. Shrug. “I don’t remember.”

 

“Don’t let it get to you. Forget that they’re humans. They’re targets.”

 

“Yeah. Targets.”

 

“If you take some out you shouldn’t have, only you will ever know.”

 

 

 

Vado would have sleepless nights wondering if he might have killed an innocent, someone who wasn’t a threat to anyone.

 

He reached the river. The water looked hard like iron. Smoky daylight had sponged away the dark of night. Snow fell in soft easy lines.  

 

He turned back. Running in the cold and the snow had given him an adrenaline high. He felt strong.

 

Vado thought about the man wearing black and standing in that window and holding a rifle. There was something terrible about that, something unsettling. He thought about the times he hunkered on a roof in a bombed-out building in Iraq, sighting in human prey. He never wanted to see anyone with a gun ever.

 

Vado recrossed the railroad tracks and passed again through the gloomy canyon of crypt-like warehouses before coming to a large produce store, its brightly lit windows glowing like altar candles. He wanted to quit running and go inside. He was hungry for a sweet juicy orange.

 

Instead, he crossed a busy street. A city salt truck, black like a hearse,   rumbled by, leaving in the air from its exhaust fumes a rotten egg-smelling cloud. He coughed and spit in the slush layering the slick cobblestones and

plodded forward through a narrow alley, throwing punches at the falling snow flakes as he ran.

 

Up ahead loomed the elementary school and yellow buses splotched with mud disgorging students. Vado spotted the man in black skulking across the street and going toward the school. Vado’s heart froze like a lump of ice. He picked up the pace.

 

When the man in black reached the door of the school the mass of students were already inside. A security guard raised his arms to stop the man in black. Vado heard the security guard order in a loud voice, “Hold it, you can’t go in there.”

The man in black nodded, pulled a compact Sig Sauer MCX Rattler assault rifle from under a worn, dark bulky overcoat, and shot the security guard. The man in black stepped over the body and kicked open the door and rushed into the school.

 

Vado hurried to the dead security guard, stepped through blood, lifted the security guard’s Glock from its holster, and charged inside. His hand holding the security guard’s gun trembled.

 

Vado saw frightened students, kids, dozens of them and a teacher huddled at the far end of the hall. In seconds they all could be dead. On purpose, he had made noise kicking the door open. He wanted to distract the shooter.

e wanted the shooter to hear him.

HHHh

 

The startled shooter forgot the cowering students and the teacher and wheeled toward Vado. The MCX Rattler stuttered. Tat Tat Tat Tat Tat. There came a distant scream of terror elicited by the tiny voice of a student.

 

Vado got one shot off but one shot was all he needed. Killing was his  business. The MCX Rattler clunked to the floor. The shooter listed toward Vado, seemed to hang as if ropes were suspending him, and glared ahead through eyes as unfeeling as granite.

 

Vado wanted to ask the shooter what life had done to him to make him need to turn on society like this but before he could ask, the shooter plunged forward like a drunk who had tripped on a curb.  

 

Vado dropped the gun, slumped to the floor, his chest burning, his vision blurred, his throat suddenly parched. He heard the eerie, high pitched wail of police sirens. He felt his lips twist in a rueful smile. Those kids and the teacher, they were all okay, scared but alive.

 

Johnny Vado noticed the form of a water fountain rising from the floor like a tombstone. He was thirsty. He licked his dry lips. He wondered if he’d get a drink of water before he died.

 

                                                          END







tarnished.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2019

AN ANGEL WITH A TARNISHED HALO

 

by David Harry Moss

 

Gloria Vado was a softie who carried a set of brass knuckles. She managed Sal Grosso’s strip club, The Bare Cage. She hated the name, but Sal came up with it and he owned the place.

One night a badass jumped up on the stage and groped one of the nude dancers, squeezed her breasts, shoved a hand between her legs. The girl was terrified. Gloria and her set of brass knucks got there first before the bouncers. When the badass said to Gloria, “Fuck off, bitch,” Gloria dropped him. A month passed and Gloria had all but forgotten the incident. In a place like The Bare Cage there was always something crazy happening to replace the last crazy thing that happened.

Something crazy like when Lenny, the skinny, pony-tailed dude who played the music for the dancers, came into the club and said, “I need help, Glory, big time help. I’m in a shit load of trouble.”

Gloria had a lot on her mind on that rainy day, so she wasn’t in a receptive mood. The time was 8 A.M. and the club was closed. Gloria was there doing some paper work, or trying to. Thanks to Gloria, business was booming at the club and there was always a lot to do after hours.

Getting the paper work done, however, wasn’t what troubled Gloria. When she arrived at the club half an hour ago there was an envelope with her name on it duct taped to the front door. The envelope held a small Ziploc bag and in the bag was a piece of white paper with a crude drawing of Gloria’s face smeared with blood.

Lenny got in through the door leading into the alley that one of the two doofuses, Sal hired them not Gloria, who cleaned the place had left unlocked.

After Gloria finished adding and subtracting she had to, in order: go to the animal shelter where she did volunteer work, go to a homeless shelter where she passed out sandwiches, put a flower on the grave of her brother, Johnny Vado, and then go to a gym and work off some extra pounds.

When Gloria finished with all of that she needed to get back to the club for happy hour. Francine, Gloria’s assistant and top barmaid, would open at noon but she was a nervous wreck when the club got really busy. Somehow Gloria might find time to get something to eat.

Lenny just stood there chewing on his finger nails and staring at Gloria with bulging eyes.

“You’re pissing me off, Lenny, standing there like that and putting eye strain on me.”

Lenny was a reformed druggie. Gloria felt sorry for him and gave him the job after he promised to stay clean. Lenny was a good drummer but couldn’t get a job with a band because he was unreliable. He was also a good DJ when he wasn’t shoving a needle into his arm.

“I think I killed Vera. We had a fight and I punched her and she went down and now she isn’t moving.”

Vera was Lenny’s squeeze. She was thin like Lenny with jittery eyes. Vera had an emotional problem for every letter in the alphabet.

Gloria wrinkled her mouth. “Did you phone for an ambulance?”

“I want you to look at her first, Glory. She might be okay. If I phone for an ambulance the cops will come and we have all those pills that we don’t have scripts for.”

“What kind of pills?”

“Painkillers. Uppers. Name it. They’re Vera’s, not mine.”

“Are you two dealing?”

“No, Glory, I swear to God, no.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Holy fuck, Glory, help me. Of all the people in the world I’d never lie to you. Never.”

Gloria dropped the pencil and sighed. “All right, but if I don’t like what I see, I call 911.”

Gloria put on her raincoat and even though she had misgivings she left the club with Lenny. They walked a block on a busy city street in light rain to the bus stop.  

“Vera is bipolar,” Lenny said, “and she’s in a lot of pain from that fall she took.”

Gloria knew about Vera’s fall. Vera tumbled off a subway platform and got a concussion and broke a hip when she struck the tracks. She was lucky that she didn’t get run over by a train.

“That’s why she has those pills,” Lenny said. “I swear. Because of that fall. If Vera is dead, I’ll kill myself.”

Gloria’s mouth twisted. “If Vera is dead, I won’t try to stop you.”

 

Lenny and Vera lived in a fourth-floor apartment in a run-down five story building. The stairs going up creaked and the hallway was dim and smelled of mildew and rotted food.

“You’re a good person, Glory.”

“Too good sometimes. Somehow I feel like a sucker doing this.”

Lenny led Gloria into the apartment and Gloria looked around for Vera. Gloria didn’t see her. Gloria pushed wet strands of dark hair away from her brown eyes. “Where is she? Where’s Vera?”

“She ain’t here.” The voice was hard and came from a dark bedroom. 

The badass who Gloria had busted up at the club a month ago stepped into the room, all six feet, two hundred pounds of him. His nose was bent. The doctors had done a poor job repairing it. His face looked like a Halloween mask a car had run over. He was unshaven, dirty looking, and menacing.  

“Did you get the pretty Valentine I put on the door?” He waved a knife at Gloria, a skinning knife with a wide short blade, sharp-looking and as thin as a razor. “I skin fish with this, but it can work just as easy on the face of a bitch like you.”

For an instant Gloria’s limbs stiffened. She imagined the thin sharp blade of the knife peeling the skin from her face. She imagined blood crawling from her raw flesh. 

The badass said, “I had a girlfriend who tried messing with me. You’re gonna know what she looks like now, every time you look in a mirror.”

Gloria conjured a scowl and said, “I’m not like your girlfriend,” and lifted a 1.5oz canister of powerful police strength OC-17 pepper spray. She had become what she had to be at that moment, a mean, sadistic bitch, and she liked the feeling.

Gloria said, “You’ll never learn, dickhead,” and gave the badass a heavy stream in the face. He dropped the skinning knife and howled and clawed at his burning eyes. For a long while he’d be disoriented. He’d have trouble breathing and start coughing and choking. He might even throw up. Gloria hoped so, all over Lenny’s filthy carpet.

Gloria focused on Lenny who cowered against a wall. From fear, Lenny shook like he was having a seizure. “Musn’t forget you, you little prick.”

 

 

“He said he just wanted to scare you, Glory. He didn’t tell me about no fucking knife. He said he’d kill me if I didn’t help him.”

“Where’s Vera? Is she okay?”

“She moved out a few days ago.”

Gloria shrugged her shoulders. “Needless to stay, I never want to see your sorry ass again.” Gloria aimed the pepper spray canister and shot Lenny with a double stream. Some of the stinging spray drifted back toward Gloria so she left the two of them, the badass and Lenny, holding their faces and sobbing, and got out of there.

Gloria swaggered to the bus stop in the rain. The confrontation with that badass and Lenny had energized her. Two nasty-looking black dudes shuffled past her, paused, and sneered. One said, “What you giving, ho?”

Gloria said, “Come on, find out, fuck with me.” Gloria was on a roll.

The black dudes snickered, shook their heads, and kept walking.

Once on the bus, Gloria used her cell phone to phone the animal shelter. She told the person who answered the phone that she was on her way. She had friends there, dogs and cats that needed love that a street-tough babe like Gloria had to give them.

 

                                                END









A WRONG TURN

 

By David Harry Moss

 

Two men in worn denim coats and ski masks, one ski mask black, one ski mask blue, sat in a rusting gray van and watched Timmy Gordan, his gimpy right leg dragging on the icy cobblestones, cross a city street in the snowy darkness. Timmy, bundled in a brown thrift store overcoat, was short and thin. He clutched a brown paper bag holding an egg salad sandwich and cole slaw purchased from an all-night diner two blocks down. When Timmy reached a brick, two story building with a turned-off neon sign across the front saying “The Bare Cage Show Bar” the two men wearing ski masks darted from   the van, one carrying an empty duffle bag, both carrying fully- automatic handguns.   

They were in an area of the city made up of narrow streets with warehouses converted into wholesale food and produce markets, fish houses, bars, and curio shops, most closed for the night. The upstairs of The Bare Cage was dark, but downstairs, light glowed vaguely behind drawn drapes in a square, tinted window. The time was three a.m. and The Bare Cage was doing after-hour’s business. If a police car went by, the cops, who knew both Sal Grosso, a lawyer and The Bare Cage owner, and Gloria Vado, The Bare Cage manager, looked the other way.

The men in ski masks caught Timmy in the dark alley by a side door near a dumpster. The door would lead into a utility room with a sink and mops. Black ski mask shoved a full auto, full penetration, Glock 10 mm with a twenty-round magazine into Timmy’s ribs.

“Stay cool, little man,” Black Ski Mask grumbled.

Timmy pissed his pants and dropped the brown paper bag. Over the rooftops a dim blur of a wafer moon shined faintly through falling snow.

“Unlock the door and get us inside,” Blue Ski Mask ordered.

“I - I ca - can’t,” Timmy stammered.

“You can’t when we blow your fucking head off.”

Timmy made a gulping noise and used a fist to knock on the door. Eddie Crowley, twenty-eight, tall and good-looking, worked the door. “Were closed.”

 Black Ski Mask dug his gun deeper into Timmy’s ribs. 

“It – it - it’s Timmy. With Gl – Glory’s  san – sand - wich.” His voice shook. “O – O - Open up.”

A latch clicked and the door swung open on oiled hinges. Light splash out. Cold and snow blew inside. Black Ski Mask shoved Timmy sideways and cracked him hard on the head with the handle of the gun. Timmy groaned; his legs buckled; he sank to his knees, and toppled face first onto the snow-covered brick alley, his head leaking blood.  

Eddie blinked his eyes and chewed on his lower lip.

Blue Ski Mask pointed his gun into the small dimly lit utility room. “Back inside, nice and quiet.”

Eddie backed up with the men with guns following.

“Turn around,” Blue Ski Mask ordered.

In the crowded doorway, Eddie obeyed. Blue Ski Mask tapped Eddie on the head, causing an instant cut that spurted blood. Eddie sagged onto the concrete floor. Black Ski Mask kicked the door shut leading into the alley.

Black Ski Mask said, “So far so good.” He had a voice with an edge and jittery hands.

 

“Yeah, so far so good,” Blue Ski Mask said, “and easy waving that fucking piece.”

The two ski-masked gunmen took deep, nervous breaths as they climbed over the prone body of Eddie and eased into a narrow hallway lined on one side with two long dressing rooms reserved for the strippers.

They made a quick search of the dressing rooms. No one. They stepped into the main area of The Bare Cage and saw an empty stage, a bar, and tightly bunched tables. There might have been twenty people inside, men mostly, some of them well known NHL hockey players, four hot-looking strippers in skimpy street clothes, a barmaid named Gina, Bad Billy Skolnik, the bouncer on duty that night, and the attractive dark-haired bar manager, Gloria Vado.

The first one to react was Skolnik. He was sitting at the bar talking to Gina. He sprang from the bar stool when he saw the men wearing ski masks but froze when he saw the guns. 

 A wary Black Ski Mask motioned with his gun for Skolnik, all 6’4” and 270 pounds of him, to turn and face the wall. His gun hand shaking, his voice strident, he said, “I see your ugly face again I decorate it with bullets.”

Skolnik nodded. He could tell the man was wired and dangerous.  Eyes blazing, he turned and faced the wall.  

“Now, on the floor,” Black Ski Mask said, “and lips on that tile like you was kissing a pussy.” Skolnik went down and sprawled face first. Black Ski Mask sighed.

From across the room, Blue Ski Mask bellowed, “Everybody stay cool and nobody gets dead. All of you nice and careful, empty your pockets and put the stash on the bar. And I mean every fucking bit of cash and every fucking piece of jewelry you jocks are wearing.”

With two crazed, masked gunmen aiming full automatics at them, those in the room readily complied.

“Down on the floor, now,” Black Ski Mask boomed. When he didn’t get immediate compliance he screamed, “Down or I start killing people. I got enough fucking ammo to wipe out everybody in here.”

When Gloria started to lower herself Blue Ski Mask said, “Not you sweetmeat. Into the office.”

Blue Ski Mask followed Gloria behind the bar where Gloria opened a door leading into a small office. Blue Ski Mask shoved the empty duffle bag into Gloria’s chest.

“Empty the safe.” Blue Ski Mask said. “Any cute move like showing a gun and my friend out there paints the fucking walls and the fucking floor with blood.”

Blue Ski Mask positioned himself so he could watch the action in the main room and also observe Gloria.

After Gloria jammed the stacks of bills from the floor safe into the duffle bag, Blue Ski Mask led Gloria back into the main room where Black Ski Mask held everyone at gunpoint.

Blue Ski Mask grabbed the duffle bag from Gloria and set it on the bar top. He shoved Gloria roughly aside knocking her into the shelves of liquor bottles. He kicked Gina in the ribs, said, “Stand up,” and when she did, he grabbed her by a wrist.

“Shovel what’s on the bar into that bag.”

Trembling all over, Gina filled the duffle bag so that now it bulged with cash and jewelry.  

Blue Ski Mask took the filled duffle bag and pointed the gun at Gina. He said, “You, come with us.”

It had taken less than ten minutes for the men to loot the place.

Blue Ski Mask said in a loud voice. “Here’s what happens next. Everyone in here stays put. We leave and we take this barmaid bitch with us. In five minutes she’ll come back and we’ll be gone. All you have to do is wait.”

Black Ski Mask added, “We hear cop sirens the bitch dies.”

Blue Ski Mask turned his attention to Gloria. “I’m leaving you here, boss lady, to make sure no one plays with a phone.”

Gloria muttered, “No cops.”

Blue Ski Mask nodded, shoved Gina toward Black Ski Mask, and said, “Take her.”

Black Ski Mask, dragging Gina who wore only flimsy street clothes, led the way through the bar with Blue Ski Mask following behind. Just like that the robbers, with Gina as a hostage, were gone.

Once the robbers were out of sight, Gloria rushed into the office, reached into the safe, and came out with a Remington RM 380 automatic. She returned to the bar and waited. Five anxious minutes passed. No Gina. And where was Eddie? Where was Timmy?

Finally, Gloria, holding the gun she had gotten from the safe, said, “Come on Billy, let’s go out there and see what happened to our people.”

 

                                                       * * * * *

 

In the utility room, Eddie was sitting up and moaning. Gloria and Billy brushed by him and ventured outside, into bitter fifteen-degree cold and snow.

The alley was empty, except for Timmy, looking like a pile of rags crumpled against the building. His head rested in a pool of blood. Billy knelt in the snow and felt for a pulse. He looked at Gloria with a bleak expression, ran the flat of a hand across his throat, and mumbled, “He’s gone.” Gloria’s upper body convulsed. She squeezed her eyes shut.

They saw the footprints of the robbers and of Gina in the fresh snow. They followed the footprints but not far. Gina lay  behind the dumpster with her skull smashed like a tomato and blood everywhere.

Billy looked at Gloria. “Should I check for a pulse?”

Gloria shook her head and said, “Why?” Her legs wobbled and she started to cry.  

Inside, Eddie, standing now, rubbed his eyes and steadied himself by leaning against the wall. “What happened in there?”

Billy scowled. “Two assholes robbed the place. They killed Timmy and they killed Gina. Why’d you let them in?”

Blood trickled over Eddie’s forehead into his glaring eyes. “Fuck you, Billy. How’d I know they were out there when Timmy knocked?”

Billy lifted his big shoulders and made fists. “There’s surveillance cameras over all the doors. Couldn’t you see them on the screen?”

“The cameras were shut off. I must have hit the fucking switch by accident. I made a mistake.”

The two men disliked one another. Billy thought Eddie was a hotshot punk and Eddie thought Billy was a big dork with a tough guy reputation he didn’t deserve.

Their feelings for one another complicated matters for Gloria. Billy was Gloria’s cousin, family; and Eddie was Gloria’s high school sweetheart who came back into her life after ten years with a hard-luck story. “Times are tough for me, Glory, can you help me?” She gave him a job as doorman at the bar because, just maybe, she was still in love with him.

“You should have done a better job watching that door, dimwit,” Billy pressed. “You let them in.”

   Holding a bloodied handkerchief to his head, Eddie’s face reddened and his eyes blazed in anger. “I could have been killed and you worry about a fucking door.”

“Two people, friends of mine, are dead.”

“Fuck you.” Eddie spat on the floor at Billy’s feet. “I could have been number three.”

Billy’s jaw firmed and his huge fists hardened.

Gloria said, “Shut up, both of you. Shut up.”

 The three of them returned to the main bar area and found it empty. The hockey players and the four strippers had all booked through the front door.

Eddie put his dark parka on, stomped behind the bar, poured himself a double Crown Royal, and slugged it down. He found a clean white bar towel and pressed the towel against the bleeding cut on his head. “I’m out of here.”

Gloria said, “You should wait for the police, Eddie. They’ll want to talk to you.”

“Fuck the police. I’m hurt, damn it.”

Gloria looked at Billy who stood with square jaw set and beefy shoulders raised. She said, “Let him go.” Billy backed off.

“Glory,” Eddie blurted, “phone me, okay?”

Gloria nodded.

A glowering Eddie avoided Billy, pushed Gloria aside, and barged through the front door.

“How’d you ever fall for a prick like that, Glory?” Billy asked.

Gloria shrugged her shoulders and sniffled. She was thinking about Timmy, a guy she let hang out at the bar and run errands for her, and her pal, Gina. Both dead.

 

                                                     * * * * *

 

Uniformed cops arrived first, followed by paramedics and homicide detectives and a CSI team including a coroner’s meat wagon and of course print and TV reporters, and lastly Sal Grosso, whom Gloria had phoned.

Sal looked like Lieutenant Columbo from that old TV crime show. He even wore a rumpled raincoat. Sal was one of the best criminal lawyers around. Owning The Bare Cage was a diversion, a hobby.

A burly, middle-aged homicide detective named Duffy  approached Gloria.

“So, let’s see,” Duffy said, eyes narrowed, “you were doing some illegal after hours and got robbed at gunpoint and two people got murdered.” Duffy frowned. “Nothing unusual about that.” His voice reeked of sarcasm.

“It’s my fault,” Sal said. “These hockey guys wanted to have a little private bachelor party for one of their teammates so I set it up with their agent. I got the best-looking women in the city dancing here.”

 Duffy dug a pack of cigarettes out of his coat pocket. “Let the lady tell it, if you don’t mind.”

Gloria shrugged. “It’s like Sal said. These guys wanted to meet the girls, in private, away from the public. They’re celebrities. There were no drugs and no whoring. If someone did something with someone later, it didn’t happen here.”

Duffy lit a cigarette. “I believe you.”

“I run a clean place,” Sal said.

 “I believe that too. Women dancing naked. Showing bare tits and raw pussies. Very clean, very upstanding.”

  “It’s called adult entertainment,” Gloria snapped.

Duffy blew smoke. “I need names, addresses. For that Eddie character and for those four strippers.”

Gloria said, “Are they somehow, suspects?”

“Right now, everybody is somehow a suspect. Those killers knew too much about this place. Like that kid going out every night at two A.M. to get a sandwich and those hockey players being here. This sounds like an inside job.”

 

                                                      * * * *

 

 Gloria got home at noon. Right away she phoned Eddie.

“How’s your head?”

“It stopped bleeding. What did the cops say?”

“They want to talk to you. But mostly they want to run a check on the four girls who were there. The cops think it was an inside job and they think one of those girls was behind it.”

“I’m thinking that too. They came across as devious bitches.”

“Want me to come over?”

“Yeah, sure, but not now. Later. Like tonight, later. I think I should go see a doctor, maybe get stitches, after I talk to the police.”

“Okay. Tonight.”

“Love you, Glory.”

Eddie got dressed and waited. At one o’clock Duffy came and stayed twenty minutes asking questions.

“All I know,” Eddie said, “is I opened the door and wham, the lights went out.”

“Any idea who might be behind this robbery and worse, behind this double murder?”

Eddie shrugged. “I’d start with that big asshole cousin of Gloria’s and work my way through those four strippers, if I was a cop.”

Duffy nodded. “You and Gloria Vado are friends from way back, right?”

“From high school, and we’re more than friends. I should have married her and still might.”

 “What did you do, leave the city and travel around and come back?”

“Something like that,” Eddie said. “I was in the Navy for three, and then I landed a nice job on the west coast selling pharmaceuticals but the company got sued and folded.”

“That’s too bad.”

“Bad luck always happens to me. I roll with it.”

Duffy nodded. “What did you do after you lost that selling job?”

“This and that. You know how it goes. We about done?”

Duffy nodded. “You were a big help.”

“Remember what I said about Glory’s cousin.”

“Billy Skolnik?”

“Yeah. Billy Skolnik. He’s a scumbag. Put Billy Skolnik at the top of your list of suspects.”

Duffy scratched his chin. “Which one of those strippers do you think is most capable of being involved in this?”

Eddie touched his lips with his tongue. “Take your pick. How can you think good of any woman who makes her living taking her clothes off?”

Duffy nodded. “You sound like a religious-minded man.”

Eddie lifted his shoulders. “I try to be. Every time I pass any kind of church I try to remember to bow my head.”

 

                                                        * * * * *

 

Eddie gave Duffy five minutes before he put his parka on and left his apartment. For over an hour under a grim gray sky as hard as steel he drove away from the city on the Interstate, weaved through heavy, fast moving trucks, their big tires spitting up slush, before turning off on a two-lane secondary road. He stayed on that road for twenty minutes before turning onto a narrow, rutted, dirt road with scrub trees and ugly snow-fleeced mounds of black stripped-mined fields on both sides.

With shards of mist rising and thickening to fog he came to an old barn with a sagging roof next to an old farmhouse with a broken railing across the porch and warped shingles on the roof. A light burned in a window and smoke spiraled from a cracked chimney. He saw a gray van parked in front near what was left of a rusted pickup truck. He stopped, took a deep breath, and got out of his car. 

The front door of the farmhouse swung open just as Eddie stepped onto a termite ridden porch that had railroad ties stacked on the side. A wiry, dirty-looking man in frayed jeans and a flannel shirt, with un-kept ratty hair sprouting like weeds over a sharp, pock-marked face, ushered Eddie inside the house, into what could pass for a living room. The room smelled of tar oil from the creosote in a railroad tie burning in the stone fireplace. Black stains marred the blistered ceiling where the roof leaked.

Eddie scoped the shadowy room, saw a big battery-operated lamp next to a whiskey bottle on a table, saw a second man, muddy boots, dirty jeans, bare-chested, scabs on his tattooed arms, lying inert on a worn sofa. On the mattress of a rusty cot Eddie noticed three neat stacks of bills along with watches and rings, two fully-automatic handguns, and two ski masks, one ski mask black, one ski mask blue.

“Good to see you bro,” Pock Mark said.

Eddie pointed to the man lying on the sofa. As he spoke, he spotted the needle, the spoon, the white powder. “What happened to dishonest Abe?”

Pock Mark laughed, a mouth full of rotten teeth showing at the dishonest Abe joke and shrugged. “Shit happens, bro. He’ll come out of it. Always does.”  

“What’s he geared on?”

“Crank. Crystal meth.”

Eddie shoved his hands into his pockets.

Pock Mark said, “We got it all sorted. Three nice piles, thirty grand in all plus the trinkets. Ten grand each.”

Eddie’s lips twitched. He frowned. “How much did you two skim to pay for Abe’s trip?’

Pock Mark kept the smile but it lacked mirth. “Just a little.” He stood taller. “Expenses.” His eyes darkened. “For us taking all the fucking risks.”

“You fuckers killed two people.”

Pock Mark held his hands out in a shrug. “Abe did that. He tapped them too fucking hard. Be glad I did you.”

Eddie pulled a thick plastic trash bag from one of the pockets of his parka. “Go sit with Abe on that sofa.”

Pock Mark’s expression showed alarm. “What is this?”

“A double cross.” 

Eddie yanked a gun, a Ruger SR9c, from the right-hand pocket of his parka. He bit into his lower lip, aimed the gun, and shot Pock Mark twice in the chest where the heart would be. He stepped over Pock Mark and shot the stoned Abe in the head. He jumped back, almost tripped over Pock Mark, to keep brain, bone and blood pulp from splattering his clothes. The gunshots echoed in the room and the smell of cordite intermingled with the oil from the burning railroad tie.

Eddie was sweating now and in a hurry, even though he had all the time in the world because no one would show up here, maybe ever. He stuffed the thirty grand and the jewelry into the plastic bag and flung open the front door. He stopped in his tracks because of who he saw. He uttered, “Oh fuck.”

 

                                                            * * * * *

                            

With curling fog as a background, Gloria Vado, in bleached jeans, a black crew T, black boots, a black leather biker’s jacket, stood on the porch. She had a bland expression, tight fitting, black leather driving gloves on her hands, and she held a RM 380 Remington automatic.

          “Glory,” Eddie gushed. Parked on the road, Eddie spotted Gloria’s car, motor running. “I didn’t see you following me.”

“You’re weren’t supposed to. Back up.”

“You don’t want to see what’s in there.”

“Do what I tell you to do or this gun might go off.”

Eddie eased back into the living-room, his eyes never leaving the gun in Gloria’s right hand.

“Put the bag on the floor. Slowly.”

Eddie bent down and placed the plastic bag with the cash and jewelry on the floor.

“It smells like death in here,” Gloria said. Her eyes swept the room. She cringed when she saw the two dead bodies. “So much gore. Sit down in that chair.”

Eddie back-stepped and dropped into an old, worn easy chair with broken springs.

Gloria shuffled sideways to the cot. “How did your life take such a wrong turn, Eddie?”

“What about the wrong turn your life took?” he snarled. “Working for a shyster lawyer in a dive bar that’s nothing but a whore house.”

Gloria shook her head. “He’s not a shyster lawyer and it’s not a dive bar and it’s not a whore house.”

“You went to business school and ended up there. If I’m a loser so are you.”

“I’m not ashamed of what I do or where I do it and I didn’t kill four people.” Gloria picked up one of the full-automatics and slipped her gun into a pocket of her biker jacket.

  I killed two people, not four. I killed these fucking lowlifes here.” He waved a hand over the bodies. “You should be glad.”

“In my mind you killed Timmy and Gina and I’m to blame because I gave you that job.” Gloria did something to the full-automatic she held because it made a clicking sound.

Eddie made a gasping noise and half sprang from the chair, his look startled. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his parka and sat again on the edge of the chair.

“How did you team up with these two creeps?” She waved the gun at the dead men.

“I had this flunky job selling mining equipment, safety goggles, hard hats, shit like that, and we played pool together in a rat hole bar with dim light, a low ceiling, and coal dust on the plank floor.”

 Gloria aimed the gun at Eddie. “I never fired one of these. How does it work?”

Eddie’s hooked fingers dug into the arms of the chair. His look was terror stricken. “What are you going to do, Glory?”

“Execute you, for killing — .” Her voice throbbed. Her eyes got wet. She clenched her jaw. “Timmy and Gina.”

“Fuck Timmy and Gina. They were nobodies. You and me, Glory, we’re in love.”

“Not anymore, you bastard.”

Eddie was lifting the gun from his pocket as he bolted from the chair. Gloria pulled the trigger of the fully-automatic handgun and it clattered twenty times.

 

                                                                       END Edit Text

David Harry Moss has had fiction published in print and online. He writes in many genres—crime, horror, western, romance—wherever the story idea seems to fit. He has held several jobs and those experiences are a valuable source for writing. Currently he lives in Pittsburgh, where he is a ticket taker for the Pirates and Steelers but has also lived in Minneapolis and Phoenix.

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