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crossedsavage.jpg
Art by Jack Savage 2013

Crossed

by Donald Glass

 

James called from the morgue at 6 A.M. to tell me Mike was there. I knew it was coming, I just didn’t think it would be so soon. You don’t double cross Dingo Jones in this city and live very long, everybody knows that.

The three of us grew up together. We’d committed crimes together, and had even done a little time together. Now Mike was at the morgue, and I had to go pick him up.

I called my assistant Russ and told him we had a pick-up. He sounded hung over as usual. Russ was a first class prick, but I needed him for this one. We took the hearse. You never get hassled about parking in the hospital’s loading zone with it.

I drove carefully. Six inches of new snow covered the street. It looked like we’d have a white Christmas after all this year. I didn’t feel very merry.

"You OK?'' Russ asked when we hit the freeway. "You look like you just saw a dead body.'' He crowed at that, one of his favorites.

"I know this one," I said quietly.

"Oh sorry…was he a friend of yours?''

"Yeah…Mike Wilson, I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for him.''

"How so?'' he questioned.

"We robbed a jewelry store and got caught. Mike took the fall. James and I did three months in county. Mike did a year and a half upstate. I owe him, we both do.''

"You robbed a jewelry store?'' he asked in disbelief.

"We got caught robbing a jewelry store, there’s a difference.''

"What happened?''

I didn’t really want to talk to this asshole about my past, it was none of his business, but it would be easier than thinking about what lay ahead.

"We were kind of working for Dingo Jones. The jewelry store was just to get our foot in the door. The owner was in on it, he’d claim ten grand for the insurance and we’d get five grand in merchandise. We’d split our half with Dingo, he’d see that we could earn and we’d be in. Only problem was the store owner forgot to turn off the silent alarm. Before we knew it the cops were there.'' I felt myself smiling at the recollection of our unfortunate luck.

"You could have been a gangster? Man, I’d love to be a gangster. Strutting around, loads of cash, not taking shit from anyone. That’d be the life.'' He sounded as if he really meant it and probably did. "I think I have a new-found respect for you.''

"Yeah, some life," I said through a choked laugh. "You could also wind up in jail, or worse. You could wind up like Mike lying on a cold slab with so much of your face gone your mama wouldn’t recognize you. No thanks.''

The tone in my voice must have struck a chord. He didn’t say a word the rest of the trip.

We had all kept quiet and Mike got his "in" with Dingo, he became a gangster. I decided that kind of life wasn’t for me, ninety days was enough to change my mind. That was five years ago. James went to college, now he works in the city Medical Examiner’s office. I tattooed for a while and then Mike helped set me up at Kelso’s Funeral Home. Once you get over the initial shock of working with dead bodies it’s not bad work.

We pulled up in back of the hospital. James was outside waiting for us, his breath coming in puffs in the cold December air. Christmas Eve, he swapped shifts to be on last night and probably made someone’s day. No one wants to work Christmas Eve. Without asking, he offered me a smoke. I leaned against the wall, bracing myself for what was to come.

"This is gonna be ugly," he said nervously.

"Yeah I know, but it has to be done, we can’t turn back now," I said.

"When you get that thing off?'' I asked, pointing to the cast on his left arm.

"Next week," he said offhandedly.

We walked through the basement maze of the hospital to the morgue. It was eerily silent. James had once joked that you could set off a bomb down here and no one would hear it.

Bright lights illuminated everything and the smell of disinfectant always seemed to hang in the air. There were 2 bodies in bags on gurneys and a third, a woman, covered by a sheet up to her neck. James looked tense. He’d only met Russ a handful of times. Russ always cracked jokes about the corpses and it didn’t sit well with James.

"She’s a cutie," Russ said after pulling the sheet back on the girl, ''nice titties too.''

"Knock it off,"' James said sternly, "show some respect.''"

"Okay, Okay," Russ replied indignantly, "where’s our pick-up at?''

"In the shower room," James said.

"What’s he doing in there?''

"I just finished hosing him off and bagging him. When your face gets shot off by a 12 gauge it tends to make a mess," James said with more than a hint of sarcasm in his voice. He’d never liked Russ.

As Russ reached for the curtain separating the shower from the central area an arm shot through the curtain. It grabbed Russ by the shirt and pulled him in. Behind the curtain we heard a brief struggle and then a blast from a shot-gun. Speckles of crimson splattered the opaque curtain. After a long moment Mike stepped out of the shower.

"He’s perfect," Mike said, "same size and build. Put my tattoo on him and Dingo will never know the difference. Who is he?''

"Some asshole I hired last month.''   

James pulled the curtain back and we both looked inside. Half of Russ’s face was missing, but even worse, half was still there. James looked pissed.

"Shit," James said, "You missed half his face.''

"The fucker was quicker than I thought he would be,"

"Well don’t just stand there…shoot him again," James said exasperated.

Two more blasts echoed through the room before James was satisfied. Russ no longer looked like Russ. In fact he could be anyone… anyone who’d been shot in the face with a twelve-gauge.

"Well, you two better get things cleaned up," I said.

"Aren’t you helping?'' Mike asked.

"No," I replied matter of factly, "I have about two hours of work ahead of me adding your artwork to him.''

"Two hours is about all the time you got. The day shift crew comes in at nine. You guys have to be out of here before then.'' James said.

After putting Mike’s tattoos on Russ and switching clothes we loaded Russ into the hearse. Mike put on a pair of hospital scrubs and tennis shoes James kept in his locker. Mike and I wheeled Russ out while James finished cleaning. We’d take Russ back to Kelso’s and I’d call Dingo.

"What’s wrong with James?'' Mike asked on the drive over, "he’s got a fucking bug up his ass.''

"Give him a break, this is a lot for him to take in," I said.

"He’s always been fucking high strung. I worried when you said we’d need him to help pull this off. I don’t trust him. Twitchy little fuckers like him make me nervous.''

"Relax. He worked his way through college at three different jobs. His wife divorced him and he lost everything.  He doesn’t want to risk losing his job; it’s all he’s got.''

"Why’d he agree to let us do Russ at his work then? Wouldn’t it have been easier to off him at the parlor?'' he asked.

"His facilities are better, easier clean up. Besides it plays better this way," I said.

"How so?''

"You got no family. There’s no one to identify the body. You were brought in last night as a John Doe. James recognized your tattoos and he called me. He was very upset… you being friends and all.''

"Yeah, I could see how upset he was the whole time he was glaring at me.''

"So I come down and positively ID you. James does the paperwork, we sign a few forms and we’re done. I take you away, call Dingo, he sees a body, and it’s over. I cremate you tomorrow. It’s all legitimate, as of now you’re dead.  I mean really dead,” I said, “Michael Wilson doesn’t exist anymore. Now…all we have to do is convince Dingo.''

"You know he owes Dingo? That’s the real reason he went along with this. It’s got nothing to do with friendship. It’s all about the cash. How do you think he got that broken arm?''

"Dingo?'' I asked.

"He missed a payment.''

"I didn’t know that.'' I said.

"Well he’s got money now. You guy's split is at Union Station, in a bus terminal locker. We can pick it up on the way.''

We swung by the Union Bus Station on the way back. Mike couldn’t be seen so I went in to get the cash. We drove back to Kelso’s, and unloaded Russ. I called Cooper’s Bar. Dingo ran a numbers racket out of there and I knew he’d get the message.

Two of Dingo’s boys showed up less than an hour later. To my relief Dingo himself hadn’t come. Mike hid in my apartment upstairs while I dealt with them.

''He’s over here," I said and walked to the table with Russ lying on it. I nervously unzipped the body bag and spread it open. One of the boys leaned in for a closer look.

"Where’s his face?'' he asked.

"Gone.''

He grunted and the other guy unzipped the bag all the way and began inspecting Russ’s arms and neck. The tattoos I put on him looked good. There hadn’t been any of the swelling that you normally have on a living person. They walked away from me and talked in a whisper. One of them took out his cell phone and made a call. After a minute on the phone they had another conference.

The one who made the call reached into his jacket and pulled out a silenced pistol. He walked back to where I was standing, next to the corpse. He put the pistol, pointing straight down, onto Russ’s chest and pulled the trigger. The sound barely registered as the body jerked slightly.

"You do know he’s already dead," I said.

"Bosses orders," he said and they walked out.

We did it. Mike came downstairs and we loaded Russ into the cremation chamber. It would take about two hours to completely burn him. After the process had been started we went upstairs. Mike sat at the kitchen table, still dressed in the scrubs. I poured us each a Jack and Coke to celebrate.

"Don’t you wanna wait for James?'' Mike asked.

"No, he doesn’t drink," I said, "He’ll be over later, though.''

"Never could hold his liquor," he laughed.

I downed my drink quickly. I could feel the whiskey’s warmth emanating from my belly almost immediately. Usually it’s a welcome feeling, tonight it felt sour.

"There’s two hundred and fifty thousand in that bag, and a gun," Mike said.

"A gun?''

"Yeah… in my line of work you never know," he said, "I don’t know how to thank you guys. I would be a dead man if it weren’t for you two.''

"What are friends for?''

We said our goodbyes and Mike left. Russ wouldn’t be done for another hour. I straightened things up and got ready for James. When he stopped by later that evening I buzzed him up to the apartment.

"Is that it?'' he asked pointing to the duffle on the counter.

"Yeah.''

"And nobody but you and me knows about it?'' he asked.

"You and me, no one else." 

The smile faded from my face. I knew where James was going. He turned from the counter, sat down and took a deep breath. He had Mike’s gun in his hand, the gun I purposely left in the bag.

"I owe money," he said, more to himself than me. "It’s too much, more than I can deal with.''

"I know, Mike told me," I said and stepped toward the table.

"Stay there, don’t move," he said raising the gun to me.

"I never figured you for an asshole, James.''

"I’m not an asshole," he screamed slamming his cast down on the table. "I’m looking out for myself. No one else does. You sound just like Mike.''

"Mike was right.''

"Mike is a fucking scumbag who never worked an honest day in his life. What could he possibly be right about?'' he spat out contemptuously.

"Not trusting you," I said, "He warned me.''

"Fuck you," he said, and pulled the trigger.

The gun’s hammer clicked against the empty chamber. Never in my life had I wished I was more wrong about something than at that moment. His eyes grew wide as I pulled my own .22 out of my pocket, aimed it at him and pulled the trigger. The small popping sound was miniscule but compared to the sound of Dingo’s man’s silenced pistol it was deafening. The small caliber gun didn’t kill him. He looked at the flowering of blood on his shirt front and back at me. His mouth opened to say something but no words came out.

I couldn’t look him in the face so I walked behind him and pointed the gun at the back of his head. Like ripping a band aid off, I told myself. Quickly, before I could change my mind I pulled the trigger. He slumped forward, dead.

I’ve never killed anyone before, never even considered it, but tonight I’d helped kill an innocent man, and helped a guilty man go free. I shot and killed a good friend because 125 thousand dollars wasn’t enough for him, he wanted it all. I felt like the gangster I’d never wanted to be. I looked at my watch and saw the time, 12:02.

"Merry fucking Christmas," I said to myself.






priest.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2014

A Priest Walks Into a Bar

by Donald Glass

 

1

He always came in on a Saturday evening, early before the rush. He came alone, sat at the end of the bar and talked to two people—an alcoholic and a pedophile. I know because I’ve overheard. I’ve caught bits and pieces of his conversations. They were confusing at first and then disturbing.

You hear a lot of things being a bartender, some things you can’t help hearing and some you don’t want to hear…secret things.

"What’ll it be tonight, Father," I asked, tentatively making my way down to his end.

"Dewar’s and water," he said, "and set up two more for my … friends."

"Friends?" questioned the pedophile. "We’re friends now?"

"I believe I am friends with every soul I try to save," he said with a smile on his face.

I set up the drinks and walked away. I’ve heard enough of the Father to know that trying to save souls was his job, his duty, and he took it seriously. Watching the priest, I felt anger rise in me. Some souls aren’t worth saving, I don’t care who they belong to.

"Another round," said the priest after several minutes had passed.

"I don’t want no damn water in mine, make it straight up," said the alcoholic in a raised voice.

"Mind your manners or you’ll not be drinking anything from my pocket."

"Oh, I’ll be drinking and you’ll be buying all night, we both know that now, don’t we?"

I set up more drinks, one straight up, and two with water. The cheerful look on the priest’s face was gone. His face became a mask of sternness and grim determination. I had the feeling the priest would get more animated. Stepping away I turned my back and began wiping down the rest of the bar. I didn’t want to hear, but like a train wreck, I couldn’t help it.

"What are you preaching tomorrow Father?" asked the pedophile.

"I don’t know yet, I’ve been giving it a lot of thought."

"How about the evils of alcohol, The Devil’s Elixir?" said the alcoholic. "Oh, I forgot, you’re drinking and you can’t preach about the sins of alcohol or you’d be a hypocrite."

"Having a nip now and again isn’t a sin. We use wine in the holy sacrament. Living life through a bottle and throwing away everything that’s dear to you, that’s a sin."

"How about something on the sins of the flesh," asked the pedophile? "You fellas like that one, damning people to hell for what comes natural."

"There’s nothing natural about what you do,” He said in a trembling voice. "Sex with children is an abomination. You need to repent and save your soul from eternal damnation."

 

                                                 2

"Abomination," he laughed, "you’re sworn to a vow of celibacy. What would you know about what’s natural? Celibacy ain’t natural. I know what I am and don’t fight the urges, I embrace them. I love children."

Appalled, I’d heard enough. The place would start filling up soon and there were a lot of preparations to be made. I busied myself getting ready for the evening crowd.

The priest ordered a couple more rounds. Laughter rose from his end of the bar, not good laughter, but hard, cynical laughter. The priest was being berated, ganged up on, and most likely ridiculed. It happened every time. I should stop it but he deserved it. He brought it on himself.

Keeping an eye on the priest I worked my way closer to his end. He was very drunk and if he got much worse I’d have to shut him off and ask him to leave.

"I only come here for you…to try and save your souls before it’s too late," the priest said, his voice shaking.

"We know why you come here father, and we know why you bring us with you," said the alcoholic.

"Stop… I’m here only to save your souls," cried the priest softly.

"You can’t save us," said the alcoholic, "we don’t need saving."

"You can’t even save yourself," added the pedophile in a whispered voice.

The priest sat with his head hung low mumbling to himself.  I knew the conversation was over. He raised his head and looked at me. I could see the demons dancing just below his bloodshot eyes. I felt no pity for him, only sick disgust.

"You’ve had enough tonight, Father," I said. "Go home."

 He rose on shaky legs and made his way to the door. A priest, an alcoholic and a pedophile walked out of the bar.






happyhour.jpg
Art by Noelle Richardson 2014

Happy Hour

 

Donald Glass

 

                                                          1

In the dim light I spotted Pete immediately. Through the perpetual haze of smoke that hung in the air I saw that he was sitting at his usual stool, same as last night and every night. I’d found him a few weeks ago and happy hour, 5 to 7 half price drinks, became a regular thing.

"Hey Pete," I said as I took the stool next to him and grabbed a handful of stale peanuts.

"Hey Bobby, how’s it hanging?''

"Pretty good, how about you?''

"Friday night, life doesn’t get any better than this," he said, raising the drink in his hand. I could tell by his speech he had just starting to get his buzz on.

"I hear that.''

Pete collected disability and didn’t work, bad back, although it didn’t seem to bother him sitting on a bar stool every night. I knew he was in his early 50’s, but he looked at least ten years older. I suppose spending your life sitting on a bar stool does that to a person.

"How’s the back tonight," I asked.

"Same as always, hurts like a bitch.''

"Let me buy you a shot. That’ll make it feel better," I said, "I won a hundred dollars on a scratch-off and if I don’t spend it the old lady will take it for bills, my treat tonight.''

"Yeah…you work hard to bring home a halfway decent check and all they do is bitch because it’s not enough. Then when you wanna stop and have a few drinks with the boys they go postal on you…been there, done that.''

His ranting had started early, a good sign. We talked most nights about nothing, the Steelers missing the playoffs, weather, just bullshitting. We’d been hanging out on Fridays for about a month now and he never mentioned anything about a family. That would change tonight. I'd make sure of it. The drinks flowed and his tongue loosened a little more with each one.

"So Pete," I asked tentatively, "you got any kids?''

He gave me a strange sideways look. It wasn’t a look that said he didn’t want to answer. It was more like he didn’t know how to answer.

"Yeah,"' he said unsmiling with a distant look in his eyes, "two boys.''

"That’s cool. How old are they?''

''I’m not sure…In their 30’s I think.  It’s been a long time…they don’t want nothing to do with me. Their mother poisoned them against me. I haven’t seen them in years.''

"That’s fucked up.''

                                                 2

"Yeah…how bout you?'' he asked, staring up at the TV.  I could tell he didn’t really care, just making conversation.

I didn’t know if I wanted to share with him. But I’d brought the conversation up and he’d find out eventually.

"I have a wife and a beautiful daughter, that I couldn’t imagine living without," I said proudly.

"Well, you’re a lucky one. Most women are vile bitches that are only good for one thing…that is if you can stop their mouths from yappin’ long enough to slip it in," he laughed.

"Come on Pete…that’s a bit harsh, don’t you think?''

"Hey, I am what I am, and that’s my opinion.''

I grew up without a dad. He left when I was little, thank goodness. He drank all the time and used to beat on my mom. One time when I was only seven, he came home drunk and they got into a fight. He started hitting her and my brother Paul tried to stop it. He broke my brother’s leg. He wears a brace on it still to this day, when the pain is bad. It’s the only real memory I have of my father.

Life was hard for the three of us. My mom worked two jobs to make ends meet. I think it’s better not to have a father than to have one like I had. Those memories burned and suddenly I wanted to get out of this place. I’d heard enough of Pete’s philosophy on women. It was almost 9 o'clock and time for the show.

"Let’s go over to the titty bar, I still have some lottery money left. We’ll stuff ones into some panties, what do you say?'' I asked.

"Alright," he cackled, "that’s another thing a woman is good for…at least the young good lookin’ ones.''

We walked outside. The air was cold even for January. As we got to the back of the gravel lot I heard a shuffling to my right and quickly stepped aside. The stooped shadow of Paul, holding a baseball bat, limped past me. The bat raised high and swung low. Pete never saw it coming. It hit him across the ribs with a sickening crunch. Limply he fell to the ground winded, twisting in agony and clutching his midsection.

Reaching into my coat pocket I pulled out a folded picture of a sweet seven- year old girl in pigtails, my daughter, and tossed it in his face.

"She has your eyes you piece of fuck," I said.

"What…what," he mouthed in ragged breaths.

He reached out to grab Paul's leg, an act of desperation. His hand gripped the brace on his leg and he hesitated. He craned his neck up, and looked at Paul, studying him for a second. Paul's face showed a younger reflection of himself. Slumping back to the ground, he looked at the photo still clutched in his hand and the brace that he still held onto. Recognition set in his eyes.

"Let’s take him someplace a little more private," I said, turning to my brother Paul.




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Art by Sean O'Keefe 2014

Ballad of Bobby Wilson

by Donald Glass

Bobby Wilson, high school track and football star and local legend. He took his high school football team to the state championship in '77 and set two track records that still stand to this day. He blew out his knee in '78; all hopes of an athletic career were vanished in the blink of an eye.

Bobby the Hero had been his nick-name.

Good looks and a charm brought him to Hollywood to be the next big thing. Like so many who pursue the American Dream, it didn’t happen. His size and physical intimidation helped him get a job working for a loan shark in L.A. Strong arming those who either refused or couldn’t pay.

Bobby the Enforcer he'd become.

One day while collecting on a bad debt he took a hit to the head from a baseball bat. The damage was severe enough to slow his mental state, but not his physical abilities. Confusion became a way of life, headaches and pain became his constant companion.

Bobby the Homeless he is today.     

Anger wells up inside on a regular basis. He tries to contain it, barely managing. The vile things he's done overwhelm him. The pain he's inflicted on others’ lives engulfs his emotions. He's hurt people, too many times to remember. He only knows it has happened a lot. He thinks he killed a man one time, but doesn’t remember. It comes to him in his dreams. Those dreams haunt him.

He walks the streets like so many others. Panhandling and begging have become a way of life. Flickers of his previous life hit him regularly. He doesn’t know why he is living like he does, that part of his brain doesn’t work correctly.

Bobby the… Who is Bobby he asks himself.  What kind of person was he? Was he always this way? He doesn't know anymore. Did he ever?

The flashes of memory and the pain are always with him following him only a step behind and threatening to overtake. He doesn't know or understand what they are. Are they dreams, memories or the wild imaginations of a life that’s used up and almost over? It could be any of these or it could be nothing. He doesn’t care; he only wants them to stop. That was a life time ago, or was it yesterday? He no longer remembers. Too many bad things, and not enough time left. Can he undo them?

Today the anguish and anger, raised to the boiling point, threaten to explode. He must stop it. The pain makes him physically ill. He pukes onto the sidewalk, ignoring the people walking by, who gawk at him. Shaking in agony, he sees her.

The bitch is coming. She's as familiar to him as he is to her. Every day she crosses the street at the same time. Every day he approaches her, and she says the same thing when he asks for some change, "Fuck off, asshole."  Today she's not alone; today she's pushing a stroller.

Crazy Bobby they'll call him tomorrow.

He sprints toward her, anger fueling him.  He wants her; he needs to get to her. Pushing people out of his way he careens forward, feet light, muscle pumping, he runs faster. He's free. She's close. He sees the finish line, the blue ribbon waiting for him, and the bus.

High school legend - Bobby the Hero, Enforcer - Bobby the Bad-Ass, Street person - Homeless Bobby…closes the gap.

He grabs the stroller she's pushing and dives with it into her, pushing her and the baby out from in front of the bus. It clips his leg violently and spins his airborne body, helicoptering his head into the bus’s bumper. The second before his head makes contact with the bumper, he smiles and thinks "This is it…One good thing." His head ruptures on impact, the pain disappears.

 Bobby Wilson, high school hero, failed actor, strong arm enforcer, and misunderstood homeless person died doing one good thing and not understanding why he did it. He had come full circle.

Bobby the Hero died in the street…alone.





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Art by John Lunar Richie 2015

Somebody's Gonna Die

By Donald Glass

 

     He stomped through the woods loudly, glancing over his shoulder only once. Tied up and laying on the forest floor was Richard Stall, the man he'd kidnapped late last week, the man whose wife had refused to pay, and the man who was now his new client.

     A simple job had gone from bad to worse real fucking fast. It should have been quick, like a smash and grab robbery. Snatch the husband and ask for a relatively small amount of money. Considering Stall was worth about four million, ten thousand had seemed like an easy amount to get ahold of in twenty four hours. But a fly in the ointment had fucked up everything, her name was Madeline Stall. The bitch refused to pay.

**

     Richard Stall's hands were bound and a black pillow case had been tied over his head for at least two days, maybe three.  Chained to a pole with masking tape over his eyes and mouth he'd lost count. He heard the door open again and the familiar shuffling as the man entered his room.

     "We have a serious problem," he heard his kidnapper say. "Your wife refuses to pay."

     Stall mumbled through the duct tape, enraged when the kidnapper continued with, "I gotta kill you. I don’t want to but...the bitch won't pay. She hasn’t even gone to the police. "

     Stall thrashed about and tried to scream. He had to get the man to take the duct tape off his mouth.

     "Calm down," the man said.

     He put his hands on Stall's shoulders to settle him. Stall became motionless but continued to mumble through the duct tape.

     "You wanna say something?"

     Stall mumbled again but didn’t move his body. The man loosened the rope around his neck and pulled off the pillow case. Stall's face was covered in sweat. The air felt cold on his skin. He sat stone still.

     "If I take this off and if you scream I will kill you, understand?"

     Stall nodded and the man started peeling off the duct tape. Slowly and painfully his gag came off pulling hair and some skin along with it. Stall tensed in pain as his mouth was slowly revealed.

     "How much," he asked even before the tape had even been fully removed.

     "Ten thousand."

     "That's all?" he asked through clenched teeth.

     "Yeah."

     Stall let out a breath of air, as if defeated, and thought hard. Things hadn’t been perfect with Madeline, but he'd never have thought she would just let him die, greedy bitch.

     "I'll double it."

     "What?"

     "I said I'll double it."

     "You'll double it for me to let you go."

     "Yeah… but there's more."

     "What more?"

     "I want you to kill the bitch."

     "I'm not a killer."

     "You're going to kill me.'

     "Only because I have to, I never planned on killing you. I didn’t think it would go this far. It was only ten grand, you probably got that much in fucking shoes sitting in your closet. I don’t like to fuck around, I like to get shit done and fast. Why do you think I only asked for such a small amount?"

     "I wipe my ass with ten grand every day. You want your money, you kill her." Stall paused and then finished, "Or you kill me now. Either way somebody's gonna die."

     His kidnapper thought about the proposal.  He was three days into a job that should have been over already. Stall was wrong though, he could just let him go and walk away. But then it would all have been a wasted time, and he needed the money.

     "If I let you go, how do I know you'll pay?"

     "You don’t…you'll have to trust me, I'm a man of my word. That bitch is gonna die either way, it might as well be you who gets paid for it. Way I see it; she screwed you over as much as she did me. Come on," he bluffed," you know you wanna do it."

     "I gotta think about it." he said and pushed the tape back onto his mouth.

     He returned early the following day. "Okay, this is the deal. I let you go and you deliver twenty grand. You drop it off in Hyde Park at 11 pm tonight. There is a garbage can next to the Statue of JFK, put it in there and walk away, go through the park, follow the path and don’t look back. Understand?"

     "After I drop the cash, how do I know you'll kill her?"

     "You don't. Like you said, you'll have to trust me."

**

     The following day he drove them out of the city and into the countryside with Stall crammed into the trunk. He didn’t think he could trust Stall to deliver but he'd been left without a choice. He led Stall deep into the forest and sat him down, propping him against a tree.

     "There's a knife to your right about three feet. You can cut the ropes with it. Don’t move until I'm gone. Head east and you'll find the road leading back into town. And don’t forget our deal."

     Cold and sitting up leaning against a tree, Stall did as he was told, not moving until the sound of footsteps could no longer be heard. To his right, he turned his head and began sliding his body along the ground until he felt the handle of the knife. Carefully he cut the ropes binding his hands and then his feet. He reached up and pulled the pillow case off his head and shivered as the crisp air hit his face.

     The duct tape across his mouth came off easily. The strip covering his eyes took a little more time but he'd managed to get it off without losing too much skin. Opening his eyes he immediately squeezed them shut against the harsh morning light. Blinking, his eyes focused slowly on the person sitting in front of him, his wife, Madeline.

     Her face was contorted and her body twisted drastically out of proportion to her head. He rubbed his eyes as they adjusted even more until he realized it wasn’t Madeline, but only her head sitting on a stump.  He smiled and looked for the sun to gauge which way was east.

**

     At exactly 11 PM he dropped the cash; twenty grand into the trash can and followed the path through the park. A man of his word, he finished the walk without looking back.






nightafterchristmas.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2015

Twas the Night After Christmas

by Donald Glass

 

Getting into a house is simple for us; it’s been done a million times. This time it’s different, there's a catch. We wouldn't be going into this house for the usual reason. We'd be snatching a child this time. Kidnapping is a nasty business, especially when it’s a child, but sometimes it needs to be done.

We already hit his house two nights ago on Christmas Eve; it's our biggest night of the year. No surprise there. He was a drug dealer. But we don’t discriminate, rich, poor, an upstanding citizen or a piece of shit, we treat everyone the same. They’re just a job to us. He had money, a lot of money, but you'd never know it by how he lived.

Baggies of heroin littered the kitchen table in a haphazard pile. Cocaine, marijuana, and crack were laid out on the counters. He'd been asleep, or passed out, on the living room couch. A crack pipe sat on the edge of the coffee table within easy reach of anyone, even his child.

We weren't inside long when we saw the kid. He shuffled out of his bedroom, sleepy and disoriented. The boy was three years old according to our check list, and still in diapers. It overflowed with piss and hung damp, almost to the ground.  There were bruises on his arm in the shape of a hand print. He had a hollow vacant look in his eyes that turned to amazement upon seeing us. Kris walked him back to his room, changed his diaper and tucked him into bed, promising that things would be okay. He has a special way with children, a twinkle in his eye they can't help but fall in love with. We finished up and left, on to the next house.

Later that evening, when all the jobs were done, we had a meeting. Kris usually has complete veto power but this time, since it was a drastic measure and outside our area of expertise, he let it go to a vote. It was decided unanimously; we'd go back and liberate the child.

Usually we are in and out quickly, never making a sound, professional. We've been doing it for years. Our method is tried and true. We've never been seen. We've never even came close, but we never snatched a child before. This was new territory for us. Our usual way in was out of the question, that only works one night a year, so we hit it old school. We had it all scored out perfectly and then Murphy's Law took over.

Kris picked the lock to the back door and we slipped inside silently, or so we thought. I made my way around to the side of the kitchen in darkness. A floorboard creaked and we froze. Then suddenly the lights flashed on and there was a 357 magnum pointing at Kris. The split second of recognition in the man's eyes gave me the opening I needed. I swung the baseball bat I'd brought along as hard as I could. It struck him in the knee. A crack filled the room as his knee bent inward. He went down, grimacing in pain. Before he could cry out Kris was upon him, hand over his mouth, and gun out.

While Kris dealt with him I slipped into the kid's room. He was fast asleep, a faint smile on his lips. He looked angelic. I picked him up as gently as I could. Even though he was only three, he was heavy for me. I heard two quiet wisps from Kris’s silenced pistol and knew it was all clear. Kris skirted his way past the boy's room to take care of the mother. Both parents were scumbags and needed dealt with.

Covering the boy's head with a blanket, so he wouldn’t see the mess in the kitchen, I walked out of the room. I side stepped the pooling blood and slipped outside. Kris appeared at the door a minute later.

There would be no ransom, no plea for money. There was no one left alive even if we wanted too. We don’t need money anyway. We'd raise him and train him in our line of work, we can always use more help. We were giving him a better life, a future, a chance to make something of himself. We were making his dreams come true.

Loading the boy in the back I sat beside him. Kris turned and gave me a knowing wink; a smile crept upon his bearded face. I nodded in return, and then he said the magic words. "On Dasher, On Dancer…." and the sleigh rose into the air and started home to prepare for Christmas next year.

 

Donald Glass lives in Altoona PA. He writes mostly horror and crime fiction. His stories about the underside of life that dwell in every city have been published in all the usual places online, including Shotgun Honey, The Flash Fiction OffensiveNear to the KnuckleDead Guns Press, Thrills Kills and Chaos, Spelk Fiction, and  the Dead Guns Press anthology Hardboiled: Crime Scene.

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