Yellow Mama Archives

Roy Dorman
Adhikari, Sudeep
Ahern, Edward
Aldrich, Janet M.
Allan, T. N.
Allen, M. G.
Ammonds, Phillip J.
Anderson, Peter
Andreopoulos, Elliott
Arab, Bint
Augustyn, P. K.
Aymar, E. A.
Babbs, James
Baber, Bill
Bagwell, Dennis
Bailey, Ashley
Baird, Meg
Bakala, Brendan
Baker, Nathan
Balaz, Joe
Barber, Shannon
Barker, Tom
Bates, Jack
Baugh, Darlene
Bauman, Michael
Baumgartner, Jessica Marie
Beale, Jonathan
Beck, George
Beckman, Paul
Benet, Esme
Bennett, Brett
Bennett, Charlie
Berg, Carly
Berman, Daniel
Bernardara, Will Jr.
Berriozabal, Luis
Beveridge, Robert
Bickerstaff, Russ
Bigney, Tyler
Blake, Steven
Bohem, Charlie Keys and Les
Booth, Brenton
Bougger, Jason
Boyd, A. V.
Boyd, Morgan
Bracey, DG
Brewka-Clark, Nancy
Britt, Alan
Brooke, j
Brown, R. Thomas
Brown, Sam
Burton, Michael
Bushtalov, Denis
Butkowski, Jason
Butler, Simon Hardy
Cameron, W. B.
Campbell, J. J.
Campbell, Jack Jr.
Cano, Valentina
Cardinale, Samuel
Carlton, Bob
Cartwright, Steve
Carver, Marc
Castle, Chris
Catlin, Alan
Chesler, Adam
Clausen, Daniel
Clevenger, Victor
Clifton, Gary
Coffey, James
Colasuonno, Alfonso
Conley, Jen
Connor, Tod
Cooper, Malcolm Graham
Coral, Jay
Cosby, S. A.
Costello, Bruce
Crandall, Rob
Criscuolo, Carla
Crist, Kenneth
Crouch & Woods
D., Jack
Dallett, Cassandra
Danoski, Joseph V.
Daly, Sean
Davis, Christopher
Day, Holly
de Bruler, Connor
Degani, Gay
De France, Steve
De La Garza, Lela Marie
Deming, Ruth Z.
Demmer, Calvin
De Neve, M. A.
Dennehy, John W.
DeVeau, Spencer
Di Chellis, Peter
Dick, Earl
Dick, Paul "Deadeye"
DiLorenzo, Ciro
Dionne, Ron
Domenichini, John
Dominelli, Rob
Doran, Phil
Doreski, William
Dorman, Roy
Doherty, Rachel
Dosser, Jeff
Doyle, John
Draime, Doug
Drake, Lena Judith
Dromey, John H.
Dubal, Paul Michael
Duke, Jason
Duncan, Gary
Dunham, T. Fox
Duschesneau, Pauline
Dunn, Robin Wyatt
Duxbury, Karen
Duy, Michelle
Elliott, Garnett
Ellman, Neil
England, Kristina
Erianne, John
Espinosa, Maria
Esterholm, Jeff
Fallow, Jeff
Farren, Jim
Fenster, Timothy
Ferraro, Diana
Filas, Cameron
Flanagan, Daniel N.
Flanagan, Ryan Quinn
Francisco, Edward
Funk, Matthew C.
Gann, Alan
Gardner, Cheryl Ann
Garvey, Kevin Z.
Genz, Brian
Giersbach, Walter
Gladeview, Lawrence
Glass, Donald
Goddard, L. B.
Godwin, Richard
Goff, Christopher
Goss, Christopher
Gradowski, Janel
Graham, Sam
Grant, Christopher
Grant, Stewart
Greenberg, K.J. Hannah
Greenberg, Paul
Grey, John
Gunn, Johnny
Gurney, Kenneth P.
Haglund, Tobias
Halleck, Robert
Hamlin, Mason
Hanson, Christopher Kenneth
Hanson, Kip
Harrington, Jim
Harris, Bruce
Hart, GJ
Hartman, Michelle
Haskins, Chad
Hawley, Doug
Haycock, Brian
Hayes, A. J.
Hayes, John
Hayes, Peter W. J.
Heatley, Paul
Heimler, Heidi
Helmsley, Fiona
Hendry, Mark
Heslop, Karen
Heyns, Heather
Hilary, Sarah
Hill, Richard
Hivner, Christopher
Hockey, Matthew J.
Hogan, Andrew J.
Holderfield, Culley
Holton, Dave
Howells, Ann
Hoy, J. L.
Huchu, Tendai
Hudson, Rick
Huffman, A. J.
Huguenin, Timothy G.
Huskey, Jason L.
Irascible, Dr. I. M.
Jaggers, J. David
James, Christopher
Johnson, Beau
Johnson, Moctezuma
Johnson, Zakariah
Jones, D. S.
Jones, Erin J.
Jones, Mark
Kabel, Dana
Kaplan, Barry Jay
Kay, S.
Kempka, Hal
Kerins, Mike
Keshigian, Michael
Kevlock, Mark Joseph
King, Michelle Ann
Kirk, D.
Knott, Anthony
Koenig, Michael
Korpon, Nik
Kovacs, Norbert
Kovacs, Sandor
Kowalcyzk, Alec
Krafft, E. K.
Lacks, Lee Todd
Lang, Preston
Larkham, Jack
La Rosa, F. Michael
Leasure, Colt
Leatherwood, Roger
Lees, Arlette
Lees, Lonni
Leins, Tom
Lemming, Jennifer
Lerner, Steven M
Lewis, Cynthia Ruth
Lewis, LuAnn
Lifshin, Lyn
Liskey, Tom Darin
Lodge, Oliver
Lopez, Aurelio Rico III
Lorca, Aurelia
Lovisi, Gary
Lucas, Gregory E.
Lukas, Anthony
Lynch, Nulty
Lyon, Hillary
Lyons, Matthew
Mac, David
MacArthur, Jodi
Malone, Joe
Mann, Aiki
Manzolillo, Nicholas
Marcius, Cal
Marrotti, Michael
Mason, Wayne
Mattila, Matt
McAdams, Liz
McCartney, Chris
McDaris, Catfish
McFarlane, Adam Beau
McGinley, Chris
McGinley, Jerry
McElhiney, Sean
McKim, Marci
McMannus, Jack
McQuiston, Rick
Mellon, Mark
Memi, Samantha
Miles, Marietta
Miller, Max
Minihan, Jeremiah
Monson, Mike
Mooney, Christopher P.
Morgan, Bill W.
Moss, David Harry
Mullins, Ian
Mulvihill, Michael
Muslim, Kristine Ong
Nardolilli, Ben
Nelson, Trevor
Nessly, Ray
Nester, Steven
Neuda, M. C.
Newell, Ben
Newman, Paul
Nielsen, Ayaz
Ogurek, Douglas J.
O'Keefe, Sean
Ortiz, Sergio
Pagel, Briane
Park, Jon
Parr, Rodger
Parrish, Rhonda
Partin-Nielsen, Judith
Peralez, R.
Perez, Juan M.
Perez, Robert Aguon
Peterson, Ross
Petroziello, Brian
Pettie, Jack
Petyo, Robert
Phillips, Matt
Picher, Gabrielle
Pierce, Rob
Pietrzykowski, Marc
Plath, Rob
Pointer, David
Powell, David
Power, Jed
Powers, M. P.
Praseth, Ram
Prusky, Steve
Pruitt, Eryk
Purfield, M. E.
Purkis, Gordon
Quinlan, Joseph R.
Quinn, Frank
Rabas, Kevin
Ram, Sri
Rapth, Sam
Ravindra, Rudy
Renney, Mark
reutter, g emil
Rhatigan, Chris
Richardson, Travis
Richey, John Lunar
Ridgeway, Kevin
Ritchie, Salvadore
Robinson, John D.
Robinson, Kent
Rodgers, K. M.
Roger, Frank
Rose, Mandi
Rose, Mick
Rosenberger, Brian
Rosenblum, Mark
Rosmus, Cindy
Ruhlman, Walter
Rutherford, Scotch
Savage, Jack
Sayles, Betty J.
Schauber, Karen
Schneeweiss, Jonathan
Schraeder, E. F.
Schumejda, Rebecca
See, Tom
Sethi, Sanjeev
Sexton, Rex
Seymour, J. E.
Shaikh, Aftab Yusuf
Sheagren, Gerald E.
Shepherd, Robert
Shirey, D. L.
Sim, Anton
Simmler, T. Maxim
Simpson, Henry
Sinisi, J. J.
Sixsmith, JD
Slagle, Cutter
Slaviero, Susan
Sloan, Frank
Small, Alan Edward
Smith, Brian J.
Smith, Ben
Smith, C.R.J.
Smith, Copper
Smith, Paul
Smith, Stephanie
Smith, Willie
Smuts, Carolyn
Snethen, Daniel G.
Snoody, Elmore
Sojka, Carol
Solender, Michael J.
Sortwell, Pete
Sparling, George
Spicer, David
Squirrell, William
Stewart, Michael S.
Stickel, Anne
Stolec, Trina
Stryker, Joseph H.
Stucchio, Chris
Succre, Ray
Sullivan, Thomas
Swanson, Peter
Swartz, Justin A.
Sweet, John
Tarbard, Grant
Taylor, J. M.
Thompson, John L.
Thompson, Phillip
Tillman, Stephen
Titus, Lori
Tivey, Lauren
Tobin, Tim
Tu, Andy
Ullerich, Eric
Valent, Raymond A.
Valvis, James
Vilhotti, Jerry
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Walsh, Patricia
Walters, Luke
Ward, Emma
Weber, R.O.
Weil, Lester L.
White, Judy Friedman
White, Robb
White, Terry
Wilsky, Jim
Wilson, Robley
Wilson, Tabitha
Woodland, Francis
Young, Mark
Yuan, Changming
Zackel, Fred
Zafiro, Frank
Zapata, Angel
Zee, Carly
Zimmerman, Thomas

Art by W. Jack Savage © 2014



Roy Dorman


The rustic old used book store, The Written Word, with its two studio apartments on the second floor, had managed to evade the urban renewal planners for half a century.  The apartments had been the real money-makers for the building’s owner for the last ten or fifteen years.  The cursed Internet and the movie rental industry had changed the way of doing business for a lot of retailers.  Many had gone through reorganizations to accommodate the different customer preferences and had stayed afloat.  Many others had tried and failed.  The owner of The Written Word, Frank Jenkins, had seen the oncoming tsunami, but had realized there was very little he could do as far as making changes in the way a used book store did business.  Had he dealt in rarities, he could have taken advantage of the Internet and gone global.  As it was, most of his clients lived in a forty-block radius of his storefront.  In the back of the store, he was going through a box of books he had found at an estate sale.  The person whose estate was being settled had had a very nice collection, indeed.  His only employee, Mary Gibbs, was up front at the cash register talking to a teenager.  Mary was a recent college graduate, an English major, no less, who in addition to working six days a week at The Written Word, drove cab three or four nights a week to make ends meet.  When Mary wasn’t waiting on the few customers who wandered in, she had her nose in a book.  She especially liked late 19th, early 20th century horror and supernatural authors like Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen.  In less than a year she had learned the business and was well liked by Frank’s regular customers.  Frank stopped to listen a minute as it sounded like Mary was giving this kid the bad news.  He rarely ever heard her being anything but friendly to the customers.

“Now, Jimmy, I’ve told you a million times; the change we have is for our customers.  If I give it to you, we might not have it when we need it,” Mary said quietly but firmly.

“But I’ll miss my bus if ya don’t give me change.  My mom’ll get all wigged out and maybe ground me,” complained the teenager in front of her.  Frank supposed that Jimmy was the kind of kid who would be known by his schoolmates as a geek or a nerd.  Tall, gangly, lots of acne; he even had some white tape holding one of the bows of his glasses to the rest of the frame.  Jimmy was a classic, alright.

“Okay, I suppose if ya have to catch yer bus, ya have to catch yer bus.  But try to plan ahead a little, will ya, Jimmy?”

Jimmy’s face lit up with a big smile as he took the change.  “Thanks, Mary,” he said.  “I’ll try not to let it happen again.”

“You know it will happen again, don’t you, Mary?” Frank said after Jimmy had gone.  “I think he’s got a crush on you.”

“Oh, don’t be silly,” said Mary blushing.  “He’s just a kid.  I’m almost ten years older than he is.”

“I didn’t say he was going to ask you to elope with him to Vegas.  I just think he enjoys spending a little quality time with you.”

 “Quality time; I’m so sure,” harrumphed Mary as she went back to her book.

The change Jimmy needed, if he really needed it, and the inability of Frank to make the changes necessary to keep the store going, got him thinking about how words like change had different meanings in the English language.  He really wished there was something he could do to change the way he did business and turn a profit again, but couldn’t think of any way to do it.  He was absently paging through one of the books that was part of his recent purchase, mumbling the words “change this, change that” to himself, when a piece of paper fell to the floor.  It appeared to be a note that had been used as a bookmark, and considering the recent thoughts that had been going through his head, it was a strange note indeed.  “So it’s change you’re looking for, is it?” the note stated in someone’s careful cursive. “I’ll show you change!”

Frank looked at the book’s spine for title and author information.  The title was “Everyday Spells and the Use of Incantations” by an author named Francis Jenkins.  Odder and odder.  The copyright date was 1872.  Maybe some crazy great-great-uncle.  Frank put the note back into the book and decided to go for a walk to clear his head and then stop someplace for lunch.

“I’m going for an early lunch, Mary,” he said going out the door.  “I’ll be back before 12:30.”

Frank headed toward the market district, and though feeling a little light headed, discovered he was glad to be out of the store and into the fresh air.  A welcome change.  “There it is again,” he thought to himself.  Normally he would have chuckled at this continuation of word play, but for some reason he felt uneasy.  Looking down, he saw a nasty looking rat was scurrying along, keeping pace with him.  Then he saw another, equally nasty looking, coming toward him from the other direction.  The odd thing was that nobody else walking in either direction seemed to take any notice of the two rats.  No, now three; now four rats.  Frank was glad when he got to the little bistro he often frequented and could leave the rats behind.  Even as he sat down, it bothered him that no one else had paid any attention to the uncommon occurrence of those rats trundling down the street like they had important rat business to take care of.

Gerald, the waiter who usually took Frank’s order, was nowhere to be seen.  A rather scruffy little man, in a dirty sweater much too large for him, sidled over to the table.

“Yeah?” he asked, looking over Frank’s head and out the window.

Frank looked around at the other customers and didn’t recognize a soul.  “I guess I’ll have a grilled cheese and a glass of ice water,” he stammered nervously.  “Yes, grilled cheese and ice water; that’ll do it,” he trailed off.

“The fish didn’t like it when we put ice in the water, so we don’t have ice no more,” declared the waiter as he shambled away.

Frank looked at the table next to him and his jaw dropped.  The couple next to him both had water, and in each glass there was a live fish of some sort swimming around.  The waiter came back with Frank’s water and refilled the glasses of the two at the next table.  Right then, Frank knew exactly what was going on:  He was losing his mind.  Simple as that; going bonkers.  First the rats and now the fish. 

“That fish okay?” asked the waiter.  “I can get ya a different kind if ya want.”

 “Oh, I’m sure this fish is fine.  But I suddenly don’t feel too well and think I’d better leave.”  He put a dollar on the table as a tip and started for the door.  He couldn’t imagine eating a grilled cheese that came from the kitchen of a place that put live fish in their drinking water.  As he was walking out he saw a fellow do a “bottoms up” with his glass and drink it right down, fish and all. 

“Yep,” he said out loud. “Crazier than a peach-orchard boar.”  He decided to go to the little grocery and just pick up an apple and some grapes to take back with him to the bookstore. Why he thought the grocery would somehow be as it was the last time he was in it was due to that age-old river in Egypt; denial.  Even though he had just verbalized that he was losing his mind, he still was going through the motions of normality.  The grocery as seen from the entrance was a collage of weird goings-on that complimented the bistro’s wackiness nicely.  Two women were standing by the fresh strawberries talking, but stuffing strawberries into their mouths as if they hadn’t eaten in a week.  An older gentleman, about Frank’s age, was munching on a head of lettuce.  He had on an expensive looking sport coat, a strap t-shirt, boxer shorts, and mismatched socks.  No shoes.  Frank put a bunch of grapes in a bag, set a couple of dollars on the unstaffed cash register and headed quick-step out the door.  There was a young long-hired security guard at the exit singing an old Beatles song at the top of his lungs.  Actually, he was pretty good…, if he hadn’t been supposedly watching the exit of the grocery store.

When Frank got back to The Written Word, he saw that it was no longer The Written Word; it was now “Mary and Frank’s Read It Again, Sam.”  Somehow, he was not at all surprised.

 “Oh, hey,” said Mary with a bit of a slur.  “Wasn’t expectin’ ya back.  So freakin’ soon, I mean.”  She moved the bottle of watermelon flavored vodka from the counter next to her to the floor.  It was one third gone.  Looking around, Frank hardly recognized the place.  There were movies and CD’s to buy or rent and gaudy posters of punk rock bands decorating all four walls.

“Gotta a glass for that vodka?’ Frank asked Mary.

“I was kinda jus’ drinkin’ right from the bottle,” replied Mary with a dopey grin.

“So gimme it, already,” Frank sighed in resignation.  “I guess I can drink outta the bottle for a change.”  Then brightening a bit, he said, “Ya know, Mary, I really like what you’ve done to the place; ya did a good job.  I should’ve made some of these changes a long time ago.  We’re gonna have to get some rat traps, though.  A lot of rat traps.”       

Art by Brian Beardsley © 2014




Roy Dorman


“I beg your pardon!”

Matthew Byrnes had just finished dinner at his favorite restaurant and was getting ready to leave. He had moved into this neighborhood six months ago after retiring. He had been a circuit court judge for almost thirty years and was thoroughly enjoying retirement.

On his way to the door, a slight altercation had occurred. “No need to get all huffy,” said Judge Byrnes. “I didn’t know it was yours. It’s raining and I needed an umbrella. This one looked like it had been on the top of the coat rack for years. Here, take it.”

“Actually, it has been there for years. I forgot it when I had dinner here with my wife on our fiftieth wedding anniversary. That was three years ago today. That’s my wife over there by the door. We were killed by a drunk driver just as we left the restaurant. He jumped the curb and pinned us to the side of the building; we both died on the way to the hospital.”

The judge could only stare after that little recitation. The man was obviously a little bonkers. He thought he’d best be careful here or things could get ugly.

“Everything alright, sir?” asked William, the waiter who had served him. 

“Oh, things are fine, fine,” said the judge. “I was just going to borrow what I thought was an abandoned umbrella, only to find out that it belongs to this gentleman.” 

Looking puzzled, the waiter asked, “And which gentleman would that be, sir?”

“Why this gentleman right ….,” he started.  “Damn,” the judge thought to himself.  “He’s gone. The woman by the door, too. How could they have left the restaurant that quickly? And without taking his umbrella. How odd.”

“Well, sir, if that will be all,” said the waiter, looking a little nervous now.

“Yes, yes, William, that will be all. Thanks for the nice evening. See you again next week,” the judge said, trying to make as graceful an exit as possible.       

He stepped out onto the sidewalk and put up the umbrella. He now felt a little odd taking it, but it was just an umbrella; though its previous owner was certainly an odd duck. Even with the umbrella, the wind was blowing rain into his face as he stepped into the street. Halfway across, a horn sounded and a car skidded to a stop just inches from him. He looked through the windshield and saw the strange fellow and his wife smiling at him.

“Hey, buddy, ya gonna stand there all night?” came from a delivery truck driver who had stopped his van on the other side of him. The judge didn’t bother to turn back to see if the mystery couple and their car were still there.

“No, I’ll be walking back across the street now, thank you very much,” the judge said, though not with as much confidence as he normally would have had when dealing with sarcastic truck driver types. He found he was a bit shaken. The first thing he was going to do was put this umbrella back where he got it. He no longer thought of it as “just an umbrella.” It seemed to be somehow connected to its owner. Or former owner. Or whatever; he decided he’d rather get wet.

“Ah, back so soon, sir?” asked the waiter.

“Yes, William, I’ve decided that I don’t need this umbrella after all.  I’m going to call a cab.”

“But, sir, it is still raining quite hard,” said the waiter, standing on tiptoe and looking over the judge’s shoulder out the front window.

“Thanks, but I’ll just stay in the entryway until the cab gets here,” the judge said. “Say, William, do you know anything about an accident happening out front about three years ago? Maybe two people getting killed?”

“Yes, sir, three years ago tonight. The chef says to me earlier on, ‘Just you wait and see, William, there’ll be some strange things happening in here tonight. There are every year on this date. People say they see people who then, poof, are no longer there.’ Oh my, sir, you didn’t see something unusual earlier, did you?”

“No, no, William, I didn’t see anything strange at all,” said Judge Byrnes. “Now, would you please call me a cab? It doesn’t look like this rain’s ever going to let up.”

“Yes, sir, right away. Oh, careful, sir, do watch your step. Water’s dripped on the floor from your umbrella,” said William. “Oh, no!  How awful!” he then shouted as the judge slipped and fell to the floor. “Someone help me here! Someone call 911!”

“He’s awake, but still a little groggy,” the judge heard a nurse whisper in the hallway. “You can stay for a few minutes. He has no family in the area so we’re making an exception for you.”

 “Morning, sir, hope you’re feeling a little better,” said William. “That was quite a spill you took. Thought I’d drop by and bring you some flowers for your room.”

“That’s really quite nice of you, William. You can just put them on that table in the corner. Oh, no,” the judge said. “Did you bring that umbrella with you too?”

“No, sir. That was sitting in the corner when I came in. I just got here a minute ago.”

“I’m going to call the nurse. Nurse! Nurse!”

“Yes, sir, everything okay?” asked the nurse.

“No, actually, it’s not,” said Judge Byrnes. “Where did that umbrella come from? Did it come with me from the restaurant where I was injured?”

“Well, sir, I don’t quite know how to tell you this,” said the nurse.  “After you were settled into bed, that is, after the doctor examined you, I came into your room and there was an older couple standing by your bed looking down at you. I asked them who they were and what they were doing and they both just smiled at me. I went out front to ask the receptionist who they were and she said nobody had come in for the last half hour. When I came back in here, they were …, well, they were gone, sir. I guess it was them who must have left the umbrella.”

A look of distaste appeared on Judge Byrnes’ face. They had been standing over him while he was unconscious. “How creepy,” he thought to himself. 

“That’s fine, that’s fine. You may go now,” he said, dismissing the nurse. 

“Just leave it for now, William. But after our visit, please take it with you and put it back on the coat rack in the restaurant,” the judge said.

“Do you really think that will be the end of it then, sir?” said William, raising his eyebrows a little as if for emphasis.

“No, William, I have no idea what we could do to bring an end to this.  I think you and I may be at just the beginning of it.  I don’t know how or why I’ve become connected to those two. But I tell you one thing: I do plan to be at the restaurant for the fourth anniversary. I hope that you will be there too. We can look at this as “our” mystery. You know, the whole thing is actually quite invigorating, wouldn’t you say?”

William nodded his agreement, he rather liked the old judge, but the look on his face said that he thought this whole business was turning out to be anything but invigorating. He looked at the umbrella resting in the corner and noticed for the first time that there appeared to be blood on its tip.  Blood had run down to where the tip met the floor and a dime-sized spot of it glistened in the hospital’s overhead lights. Judge Byrnes noticed the look of horror on William’s face and followed his gaze to the spot on the floor.  With a grimace, he murmured to William, “Ever notice anything like that when it was on top of the coat rack back at the restaurant?”

“No, sir,” said William. “It pretty much stayed on the rack and behaved itself.”

“Interesting,” said the judge. “Apparently something that happened tonight has brought about a change in its behavior. I think it might have been us. Let’s leave it there until I’m released; then we’ll both take it back to the restaurant and hope it goes back to sleep. I’d still like to be at the restaurant for the anniversary next year. Maybe you can get the night off and be my dinner guest.”

“I’m sure being your dinner guest would be very pleasant, sir,” said William.

William then paled as he watched the judge’s face become the face of another. It was of an elderly man that slowly morphed into a grinning skull.  At the same instant, the judge was startled to see William’s face become that of the old woman from the restaurant. After only a second or two, both faces were back to normal. Each man eyed the other suspiciously. The judge then broke the ice when he realized that in that instant William had looked as shocked as he himself had felt. 

“Did my face just change into something rather ghastly?” asked the judge.

“Why, yes it did, sir,” said William .

“I thought so; yours did too. It was the face of the old woman at restaurant.”

William groaned. “I’m not sure I’m going to be up to this, sir,” he said.

“I don’t think we have any choice, William. I don’t think we have any choice.”

Art by Steve Cartwright © 2015


Roy Dorman


Donatelli’s Grocery.  He’d passed that earlier, hadn’t he?  Yeah, he was pretty sure he had. 

To get a little exercise, Brad Johnson had walked the ten or twelve blocks from his uptown hotel to this small ethnic neighborhood and had somehow gotten turned around in his attempt to head back.  No big deal; it was still early.  He could see the multi-storied buildings of the uptown in the distance.  The morning fog was just about completely burned off by now and there was no reason he couldn’t just walk toward that skyline and be back in his room in an hour. 

Starting off again, he decided to put the grocery store puzzle behind him and think about the upcoming day.  He had flown in early last evening and was looking forward to surprising his girlfriend, Linda, at the museum where she worked.  They’d have lunch, and then after she got off work, they’d go someplace ritzy for dinner. 

Linda had often made comments about his being too buttoned down and not being spontaneous enough in their relationship.  Flying cross country unexpectedly for lunch and dinner would surely show her that he could be a little wild if he put his mind to it.

Ambling along, trying to stay in the general direction of his hotel, Brad’s thoughts were still on Linda.  They had lived together for almost two years.  He loved her very much and he was sure she loved him just as much.  Friends, though, sometimes remarked that it certainly must be true that opposites attract because his and Linda’s personalities were quite different. 

Brad was the cautious type.  He often diddled around seemingly forever thinking things through before making a decision about something.  Sometimes even ridiculously small things.  Linda, however, wasn’t big on doing a cost-benefit analysis on every choice that came along in her life.  She was a risk taker. 

Linda had left Los Angeles for the new job in New York City after giving the position offer ten minutes thought, her employer two week’s notice, and Brad best of luck wishes in finding a position and following her as soon as possible.  He still remembers burying his face in her hair at the airport and inhaling the smell of her one last time.  Right then, he didn’t know if he would ever be able to follow her to New York City.    

He was at a crosswalk, waiting for the light to change when he saw on the other side of the street…, Donatelli’s Grocery.

“That can’t be,” Brad said aloud, causing the old woman next to him jump.

“What can’t be, mister?” she asked, eying him warily.

“That can’t be Donatelli’s; I’ve walked past that store twice already this morning on my way back uptown.”

“That’s Donatelli’s, alright,” she said.  “Been there for years.  Why don’t you just catch the bus uptown if you’re in a hurry?”

He hadn’t been in a hurry before, but now it had gotten a little later than he was comfortable with.  As luck would have it, there was a bus stop up ahead in the next block.  He only had to wait a few minutes before a bus with the “Uptown” sign on the front pulled up.  He got on and took one of the remaining seats as the bus pulled away. 

The bus was just about full with commuters heading to work.  It was then he thought that he should have thanked that old woman for the bus suggestion.  Thinking about it now, he couldn’t remember her crossing the street with him when the light changed.  He couldn’t remember seeing her at all again after she suggested the bus. 

Settling into his seat, Brad thought about how much fun lunch and dinner would be with Linda.  She was such a dynamo; always laughing and kidding around.  He couldn’t wait to kiss her…

“End of the line,” a voice called from a distance.  “Hey, buddy, wake up; end of the line.”

Brad sat up with a start.  Looking around, he saw that he was the only one on the bus.  He was the only passenger, that is.  The driver was in his seat looking back at him through the overhead review mirror.

“Where am I?” Brad asked.  “Are we uptown?”

“We’re at the end of the line.  Ya know, the bus barns. My morning shift is over.  We were uptown, but you didn’t get off.  I always yell ‘Uptown’, when we get there but you must have been sleepin’ pretty soundly.  Ya gotta get off this bus, but you can catch another one heading uptown just across the street.”

Brad looked out the window and saw a yellow bench at a bus stop.  The bench was right in front of Donatelli’s Grocery.  “Must be a fuckin’ chain,” he said with a sigh as he walked past the driver to get off the bus.  Stepping down the two stairs, he almost ran into a beat police officer who must have been stopping to chat with the driver.

“Excuse me, officer, could I talk to you for a minute?” asked Brad.

“Sure, buddy, what’s up?” said the cop with a “here to serve you” smile.

“Well, I know this is gonna sound nuts,” said Brad, “but I seem to be having a little trouble getting uptown.  Every time I start out, after a bit, I end up right back at Donatelli’s Grocery.”

Brad saw the cop’s eyes stray from his eyes to a spot just over his shoulder.  Out of the corner of his eye, Brad could see the driver was rotating his index finger to the side of his head and making a goofy face.  The cop smirked but then directed his attention to Brad again.

“…don’t see anybody going in or coming out of that place.”  Brad had continued talking while the cop had been watching the antics of the bus driver.

“What’s that you’re sayin’?” asked the cop.

“I said I just realized that even though I’ve been past this store three or four times, I don’t think I’ve seen anybody going in or coming out.  Is it open?’         

“Yeah, it’s open,” said the bus driver.  “It’s open Monday through Saturday.  Has been for years.  Do you remember when Donatelli’s wasn’t there, Charlie?” he asked the cop.  “I think it’s always been there.”

 “Yeah, it’s been there ever since I can remember,” said the cop.

“You ever been in there?” the bus driver asked the cop.

“Sure, I been in there; it’s a nice little grocery. Ya mean you’ve never been in there?”

“Well, no, I haven’t.  And I was just thinkin’, ya know, about what the whacko here said.  I don’t remember ever seein’ anybody goin’ in or comin’ out of that place, either.  Do ya think it’s a front or somethin’?”

“Whadda ya mean a front?  If it was a front, I’d know, wouldn’t I?” groused the cop.  “Just ‘cause it’s named Donatelli’s doesn’t mean it’s Mafia or somethin’.

The driver and the cop had now pretty much left Brad out of the conversation.

“Charlie, answer me this:  When was the last time you were in there?” asked the driver.

Charlie looked at the driver and then at Donatelli’s. He stared at Donatelli’s for a long time. 

“Didn’t it used to be at the corner of Fifth and Edwards?” he said.

Brad decided that there was nothing more to be gained from listening to these two and crossed the street to Donatelli’s.  He pushed open the screen door and went inside.

After stopping to let his eyes adjust to the darkness of the place, he looked around the little store and didn’t see a shopkeeper or any customers.  No one was at the register.  He turned and looked out the plate glass window. 

Across the street was a little grocery; Donatelli’s Grocery. 

Looking out the cobwebbed covered window with his back to the dark storeroom, he felt his bladder let go.  Someone, or something, had come up behind him and was breathing raggedly on the back of his neck. 

Still staring straight ahead at the Donatelli’s across the street, he saw the old lady walking toward the store coming from one direction and the cop and the bus driver coming from the other direction.  They stopped in front of the store and were now looking in the picture window.  He could not make out who was looking out the window back at them, but he could guess who it was. 

A large, hairy hand took his and attempted to lead him away from the window.  Brad resisted.  He supposed he should do something, but he couldn’t think what.  He just continued to stare at the grocery across the street; watching to see if anyone would go in or come out.  Though he couldn’t put his finger on it, someone going in or coming out seemed very important to him.

“Damn you, Linda,” he whispered.  “Damn you.”

“Not Linda,” a rumbling voice said from behind him.

Brad chuckled bitterly.  Then he barked laughter.  No, whatever it was that owned the hairy hand that now held his arm in an iron grip was probably not named Linda. 

When roughly prompted by his captor, he decided to go docilely along, carefully keeping his eyes to the floor.  He was no longer sure of very much, but he did know he wasn’t in a hurry to look at whatever it was that was pulling him along.

“Linda, Linda, Linda,” said Brad.

 “No, not Linda; Igor,” said his gruff companion.

“Well, of course you are,” laughed Brad. “Who else would you be?”  He finally found the nerve to look up into the face of his captor.  A horribly scarred face was attempting a smile of sorts.  Brad smiled back and said, “Well, Igor, ol’ buddy; where to?”

“Donatelli,” said Igor with a look of childlike wonder on his face.  “We see Donatelli.”

Brad was surprised that he was really looking forward to seeing Donatelli.  He even started whistling as he and Igor walked into the gloom at the back of the store.

“No whistling in Donatelli’s,” admonished Igor seriously with a comic raising of his bushy eyebrows.  “No whistling is allowed.”

When Igor opened a large sliding oak door on the back wall of the grocery, Brad stopped in mid-whistle.  He and Igor stood and looked through the door’s opening at a panoramic view of the inside of a colossal temple.  Hundreds of “Igors” were milling about aimlessly and Brad bet that not one of them was whistling.  Whistling was not allowed in Donatelli’s. 

Brad shuddered as he thought that he was about to find out what was allowed in Donatelli’s. He was pretty sure that Donatelli wouldn’t be wearing one of those full length white grocery aprons that tied in the back.

After walking across the floor of the amphitheater for what seemed like hours, but may have been only minutes, Brad saw that they were arriving at what looked like a large altar.  He didn’t like the looks of that at all.  Altars usually implied sacrifices. 

Sitting on a bench outside the railings that served as the barrier between the altar and the rest of the expanse were the cop, the bus driver, and the old lady.  They were holding “take a number” cards.  The old woman started waving enthusiastically until the bus driver gently pulled her arm down and whispered something in her ear.  She then gave Brad a pained “wouldn’t want to be in your shoes” smile and gave him a little “bye-bye” wave.

“That Linda?” asked Igor.

“No, Igor, that’s not Linda.  I may never see Linda again.”

“Linda, Linda, Linda,” said Igor.

Brad looked back across the vastness that he and Igor had just crossed. 

He could feel the distance from where he now stood and the hotel room that was back there in his own world. 

Somehow this morning after setting out on his walk, he had taken a right when he should have taken a left.  Zigged when he should have zagged and entered a world that was much like his own at the start, but then had turned more wrong with each step he had taken. 

The experience had changed him, though.  The quiet, conservative Brad who had started the morning would have gone mad with fear being where he was now.  The new Brad felt strength in himself that he thought would help him through almost anything. 

He looked at Igor standing next to him.  Well, almost anything. 

“So is Igor your real name?  Seems kinda cliché.”


“You know, sorta Hollywood.  Assistant to the mad scientist in the horror movies.”

“Hey, Igor!” Igor called out.  The dozen or so Igors closest stopped and turned to look over at them.  Igor smiled a big smile.  They all smiled and resumed their walking around duties.  “All of Donatelli’s helpers are called Igor,” said Igor to Brad.

The two of them settled back into their own thoughts until Brad heard Igor making a sniffing noise.  He had just turned to ask him what he smelled when he smelled something himself.

“Linda,” said Brad.  He quickly looked around to see if she was somehow there with them.

Igor stopped sniffing and said, “That Linda?”

“Brad swallowed hard and looked Igor in the eye.  “Yes, Igor, that Linda.”

The madness that still threatened his mind was as close as Igor and as far away as his hotel room.  The urge to bolt from Igor and the yet unseen Donatelli and flee back the way they had come was strong but he held it at bay. 

It was strong, though.  Very strong.

“Linda, Linda, Linda,” said Igor, sniffing the air again.  He was smiling.  

Art by W. Jack Savage © 2015



It was 9:45 p. m. when forty-eight-year old Billy “Sloe-Eye” Jenkins noticed the neon lighted “EAT” sign as he was coming to the outskirts of a small town in the middle of southwestern Wisconsin. 

Billy was getting too old for this life.  Both he and his expensive custom-tailored suit had taken a beating over the last few days.  He really, really needed a shower and a bed in a hotel tonight. 

The problem was that he had gone too long “between jobs.” This made him low on cash, which in turn had him sleeping in his car at rest areas and in supermarket parking lots.  

He pulled into the greasy spoon’s gravel parking lot and drove up to a spot by the front windows.  His was the only car in the lot.  The small handmade cardboard sign on the door was still turned to the “OPEN” side. 

Billy walked up the three steps and into the diner, hearing the little bell ring as he stepped through the old wood-framed glass door. 

Two men who had been talking at an order window cut in the wall that opened into the kitchen stopped their conversation and turned to look at him.

“We’re only open ‘til 10:00, but we can get you a sandwich and coffee to go if ya like,” said the gangly young man on the counter side of the window. 

He looked to be a year or two out of high school, if he’d even made it through high school, and his tone said it all; he hoped that this late comer would just make a U-turn and head on out. 

The other man, probably the cook, was very short, his head just a bit above the window sill, and looked like he’d been around the block a few times. 

Billy pulled a gun from under his coat and shot both men in the head before either could even move.  The older man fell back into the kitchen and the younger onto the floor behind the counter. 


He had just opened the cash register when car lights played across the back wall of the diner.

“Damn!  Gotta get rid of this guy quick,” thought Billy to himself.  He ditched his suit jacket, reached down and took the paper restaurant hat from the head of the guy behind the counter, plopping it on his own head just as the problem patron entered.

“We’re only open for another ten minutes, but I can give ya a coffee to go,” ad-libbed Billy.

“I’ve been on the road for eight fuckin’ hours,” said the customer.  He was a tough looking fellow with a long scar on one cheek.  “You get me the coffee, I’ll sit here a minute and we’ll chat, and then I’ll get back on the road.”

As he was pouring the coffee, Billy groaned to himself as he noticed yet another car pull into the small parking lot. 

A thirty-something local woman, Mary Barnes, got out of the car and entered the diner.  The car she had gotten out of was still running, the lights shone brightly into the diner, and somebody was slouched down in the driver’s seat listening to some country western music that was turned up loud.

“Who the hell are you?” Mary asked Billy, leveling a steely gaze in his direction.  “Where’s Fred and Jesse?” 

She had been talking to Billy but now she cast a quick glance at the customer in time to see him pull a gun from a chest holster and aim it at Billy. 

Billy had already taken his gun out when Mary had pulled in and had it beneath the counter.

Both men fired at the same time and both were hit. 

Mary pulled a small caliber pistol from her purse and put a bullet into each man’s head.

“Jeezus, Mary, you dumb bitch, you were just supposed to case the joint, not kill everybody in the building!” yelled Tommy Jones upon entering the diner.  “Fred and Jesse said that they would give us the money if we would give them part of it.”

Mary had been looking through the kitchen order window.  “Fred and Jesse are both dead; Fred’s behind the counter here and Jesse’s in the kitchen.  I don’t know who these other two guys are.”

Leveling her pistol at Tommy’s chest, she said, “Ya know, I’ve about had it with that ‘dumb bitch’ stuff, Tommy.”  Mary shot him three times at point blank range. 

Now alone in the diner with five dead men, she began to clean out the register.


She took the car keys out of the pockets of both of the dead men she didn’t know.  “You can keep that nasty old Ford, Tommy; I’ll just borrow one of these gentlemen’s until I get to Chicago.” 

As she was hurrying to the door, she saw the county sheriff pull into one of the last remaining parking places.  The lot was getting to be as full as the diner.

His flashing lights weren’t on so Mary figured he wasn’t answering a call to check out the various shots fired.  Probably just stopping for coffee at closing time. 

Thinking quickly, Mary yelled out the front door, “Sheriff, get in here right away; somthin’ awful’s happened.”

The sheriff, a veteran of twenty years on the force, gasped when he saw the three dead men on the floor of the diner.  Walking in a little further, he saw Fred lying dead behind the counter. 

He didn’t even get as far as the order window when Mary opened fire, shooting him execution style in the back of the head.

“In for a penny, in for a pound,” said Mary as she left the diner and went to check out which car she would take.

Mary was not destined for greatness as a criminal.  Neither of the two cars had more than a quarter tank and she had to use quite a bit of her loot just buying gas to get to Chicago. 

She kicked around Chicago for a bit, but wound up a year later working at a little open all night diner in a small town off the interstate that was much too much like the little burg she had left in Wisconsin. 

One night, she was working alone in the diner.  There hadn’t been a customer in twenty minutes.  Mary decided that this was her last night at the diner.  She planned to clean out the register and head for Nashville the next time a customer came and left. 

She thought that she was still good looking and had always had a good singing voice.  The plan was to hook up with some country band that needed a singer.

While Mary was going over all of this in her head, a lone man walked in and shot her twice in the chest with the sawed-off shotgun he’d had concealed under his trench coat.  He left with a couple of hundred dollars from the register; not much more than Mary had taken from her diner heist a year ago. 




Ironically, this murder was one of those “small world” things that happen now and then; the man who shot and killed Mary was the son of one of the four men that Mary had shot back in Wisconsin.

When another customer finally came in a half hour later, he called the police and reported that there was a waitress lying dead behind the counter and the cash register was open.

“No,” said the customer to the dispatcher.  “Just her; she and I are the only ones in here.”



Art by Steve Cartwright © 2015

An Early Christmas Present

by Roy Dorman


“Hey, Eddie, it’s me, Charlie, down at the station.  We have a problem, bro.” 

Just twenty minutes ago, Eddie Scranton had dropped off his old beater of a Chevy at the two-stall garage his buddy, Charlie Roberts, owned.

“Come on now, don’t you be givin’ me some bad news,” said Eddie.  “I told ya that I only have enough to get the exhaust system fixed and you said you could do it cheap.”

“When I said ‘we have a problem,’ I should have said ‘you have a problem.’  And it’s a lot bigger problem than a rusted out exhausted system, Eddie-boy.  There’s a body in your trunk.”

There was ten seconds of silence.  “Ya still there?” asked Charlie.  “I said there’s a stiff in your trunk; I’m gonna call the cops.”

“Hold on a sec; don’t call ‘em yet.  Don’t do anything ‘till I get there.  I’ll be there as soon as I can get a ride.  Half hour, tops.”

“Kinda sounds like ya know something about this.  I’ll wait a half hour, but only cuz we’re pals.  After a half hour, I have to look out for Charlie; know what I mean?”

“Yeah, yeah, thanks.  Don’t worry; I’ll be there.”

Eddie made it to “Mufflers, Etc.” with only a few minutes to spare.  “What were you looking around in the trunk for, anyhow?  Ya don’t need to open the trunk to install a muffler.”

“Don’t you get all pissy with me,” said Charlie.  “I put the Chevy up on the hoist and had just started to poke around at the pipes underneath when I saw what looked like a bloody white dress shirt pushed through the floor of your rusted out trunk.  I touched it and turns out that it is blood; it was sticky, but still wet.  I brought your heap down, looked in the trunk, and gave you a call.  Now I’m gonna call the cops.”

“Who is it?”

“I don’t know who it is; I didn’t touch him.  Older white guy, well dressed, pushed way to the back of the trunk.  Probably shot in the chest or throat cut; I couldn’t see.”

“Sue Ellen used my car last night,” said Eddie.  “Said she had some Christmas shopping to do up in Wisconsin Dells.  She called me from her place this morning and asked if she could use the car again tonight.  I gotta talk to her before we call the cops.”

“Ya got five minutes this time.  Do it.”

Eddie pulled out his cell phone and made the call.  “Sue Ellen? Yeah, it’s me, Eddie.  I’m at Mufflers, Etc. with Charlie.  You know anything about something in the trunk?’

“Eddie, I’ve already called the police and told them that you’re there,” said Sue Ellen, the words coming out all in a rush.  “I was with Charlie last night and he robbed a guy in the Dells.  He stabbed him and put him in your trunk.  He called me a half hour ago and said that he’s going to blame it all on you.”  Eddie listened to all of this and cut his eyes over at Charlie.  He seemed to be very interested in a hangnail and was doing his best to keep from looking at Eddie.  “Be careful; Charlie’s dangerous.  He’s not himself.  He’s got some big gambling debts and could do anything to get those thugs off his back.”

Eddie turned his back on Charlie and started to talk to Sue Ellen in a voice just above a whisper.  Charlie picked up a large rubber mallet from the work bench and took a step toward Eddie.

“Freeze!  Put your hands in the air!” yelled someone from the entryway.  Both Charlie and Eddie put their hands in the air; Eddie’s right hand held his phone and Charlie’s the rubber mallet.

Two huge, tough looking guys in expensive suits entered the work area with their guns drawn.  “Nice command voice, Ronny; ya got ‘em both standing there like statues.”

“Thanks, Tiny, I’ll teach ya how to do that sometime.  I’ll take that mallet,” Ronny then said to Charlie.  “You both can put your hands down, but keep ‘em where we can see ‘em.”

“We received an anonymous call this morning that there was a body in the trunk of a car here in the garage,” said Ronny, the one of the two who was obviously in charge.  “We’ve got a warrant to search the premises.  I want you two to go and sit on those chairs over in the waiting area and stay there.”

“I was just gonna call you guys,” said Charlie.  “There is a body in the trunk of this guy’s car.  He told me that he killed him last night in Wisconsin Dells.”

“That’s a lie, you asshole,” yelled Eddie.  “Sue Ellen just told me that you killed the guy and robbed him to pay off some gambling debts.”

“All right, all right; you guys just go sit in the chairs and shut up.  We’ll talk more after we check out the trunk,” said Ronny.

“Hey, wait a minute. How do we know you’re cops; you haven’t shown us any ID,” said Charlie.

Tiny shoved the barrel of his pistol into Charlie’s solar plexus, causing him to double over, the wind knocked out of him.  “I’m Officer Friendly,” he said with a smirk.

“So where’s the warrant?” said Eddie.  “Aren’t you supposed to show….”

Ronny pistol-whipped Eddie once across the face.  “Looks we got us at least one slow learner here.  I’m Officer Not-So-Friendly, by the way; pleased to meet the both of ya.  Now get over there and sit on the goddamn chairs.”

Eddie and Charlie walked over to the waiting area and sat down in the chairs.  They watched as Ronny and Tiny looked into the trunk and talked things over.  Tiny went outside and then drove their car into the remaining stall.  It was an older model Cadillac Eldorado in excellent condition and definitely did not look like any police car Eddie and Charlie had ever seen.

“Do you think that Sue Ellen really called the cops, or did she call these guys?” asked Eddie.  “Or if she called the cops, did someone at the station call these guys?  What kind of shit are you in anyhow?”

“I’m in the really deep kind of shit,” said Charlie.  “And I don’t think that it’s just me that’s in it; we both are.  We’ll be lucky if we’re still alive at lunch time.”

Tiny popped the trunk of the Eldorado and then he and Ronny hoisted the body out of the trunk of Eddie’s Chevy.  They transferred the body into the Eldorado and slammed the trunk closed.  Ronny then took out his cell phone and made a call.

“What are we gonna do, Charlie?  They’re gonna kill us.”

“Unless you’ve got a .44 hidden somewhere on you, I don’t think that there’s anything we can do.”

Ronny finished up his call and he and Tiny walked over to where Eddie and Charlie were sitting.

“So, a couple of questions.  The one of you that offed this guy…., no, no, don’t start that “he did it” shit again.  Just listen to the questions.  One:  Did ya know this guy?  Two:  Why’d ya kill ‘em?”

Eddie looked at Charlie and then when Charlie didn’t say anything, he gave him a shove.

“Okay, okay,” said Charlie.  “You’re probably gonna kill us anyway.  I’ve got some gambling debts.  I asked Eddie’s girlfriend if she’d borrow Eddie’s car and give me a ride to the casino up at the Dells.  I was planning to rob a high roller; I didn’t plan to kill anybody.  I saw this guy win a bundle at poker and when he left, I followed him out.  I told him to give me the money and flashed my knife at him to let him know I was serious.  He went for the knife and I stabbed him once in the throat.  I didn’t mean to!  It just happened!  It happened so fast!  Sue Ellen didn’t panic; she went and got the car, drove it over, and I shoved him into the trunk.  That’s it. We drove back last night and here we are this morning.”

“I can’t figure how you’ve got a lot of gambling debts; you’re one lucky fella,” said Ronny.  “The deader over there in the trunk is Bernie “The Jaw” Molinski.  He’s from the Chicago mob and he’s been nosing around up at the Dells trying to horn in on my boss’s territory.  It’s not a lot of territory, but it’s his.  Now my boss is a funny guy.  Not funny “hah, hah,”, but funny like “kinda weird”.  He figures that you did him a favor.  Here’s what he just told me:  I’m supposed to give whoever killed “The Jaw” five thousand bucks.  Then, I’m takin’ “The Jaw” with me for disposal.  Tiny will be takin’ the Chevy, also for disposal.  You guys got no say in the matter; no take it or leave it.  You just take it.  And I shouldn’t have to tell you how rarely something like this happens.  Don’t think you two can quit your day jobs.  You’re probably not cut out for this kind of business.  What I mean is this:  Our paths should never cross again, kapeesh?”

Stunned, Charlie and Eddie just nodded.  They watched as Ronny and Tiny got into the two cars and drove out.  Eddie now knew where Charlie fit into all of this, but what about Sue Ellen?

“You coulda got me killed, asshole,” said Eddie.  “You do know that you’re gonna buy me another car, right?”

“Sure, sure, ‘course I am,” said Charlie, showing Eddie the envelope containing the bounty money.  “But do ya want another beater that your half of this five thousand would buy, or do ya want to go up to the Dells and see if we can add to this?”

Eddie gave Charlie two quick slaps across the face with the back of his hand and grabbed the envelope with the cash.  He stalked out of the garage and started the three mile hike to Sue Ellen’s place.  He felt like he could use the walk to give him time to think.  He thought that he and Sue Ellen had a lot to talk about.  He figured she owed him not only a good explanation, but also at least half of any money Charlie had given her from last night’s robbery.  Call it car rental fees.  Or hell, she could call it an early Christmas present to him if she wanted to.


Art by W. Jack Savage © 2016


Roy Dorman


After getting out of a late model dark blue sedan, a man and a woman walked briskly up the sidewalk toward a well kept-up little bungalow.  Standing on the cement stoop, the woman, the younger of the two, pressed the doorbell and then stood back to wait.  She did this with a practiced ease that said she had done this before.  The inside door opened and a trim older woman peered out at the two through the still-closed screen door.

“Yes?” asked the woman.

“Good Afternoon.  Are you Jill Masterson?”

“Yes, I am, but I’m really not interested in anything you might be selling.”

“Ms. Masterson, I’m Detective Carla Barnes and this is my partner Detective Bill Griffin,” said Detective Barnes, showing her badge.  “We’re with the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Department.  We’d like to ask you a few questions.  May we come in?”

Jill Masterson lived in this little one story ranch-style house situated on a quiet street in a residential neighborhood in Sedona, Arizona.  She was single, had never really had any serious relationships since high school, and until recently had worked for the Arizona Water Company’s Sedona office as a meter inspector.  The job had paid well, had good benefits, and now provided her with a comfortable retirement.

Having taken seats in Jill’s tidy living room, Detective Barnes had started the interview.   “Ms. Masterson, the reason we’re here is that we’re following up on an old case that has recently been reopened.  The incident occurred almost fifty years ago and involved the death of a classmate of yours.  According to the files, you were friends of the deceased, Arthur Birdsong, and we have notes from your interview with the Town of Jerome Police Department from that time.”

“That was so long ago,” said Jill.  “Why are you looking into it again now?”

“Apparently, Mr. Birdsong’s family was never really convinced that his death had been an accident,” said Detective Griffin. “With forensics having improved a lot over the last fifty years, they’ve asked for a review of the evidence of the case.  DNA testing of the blood stains on Mr. Birdsong’s shirt has shown that it’s not just his blood on the shirt.  Quite a lot of the blood belonged to someone else.  We’d like your help in determining who that other blood belonged to.”

 “My grandfather was a friend of your older brother, Edward,” said Detective Barnes.  “He told me that there may have been some hard feelings between your brother and Mr. Birdsong.”

“You’d have to talk to my brother about that; he’s been living in New York City for the past forty years.  I don’t see what more you could want from me.”

“According to the interviews in the file, you and Mr. Birdsong had been dating and were together the day that he died,” said Detective Barnes.  “Is that true?  Were you with him when he died?”

“Do I really have to go through all of this again?  It’s painful to think about what happened that day.”

“Yes, Ms. Masterson, I’m sorry, but I’m afraid you do,” said Detective Barnes.  “Why don’t you just start at the beginning?  What were you and Mr. Birdsong doing at your brother’s house in Jerome that afternoon in the Summer of 1966?”

“Okay,” sighed Jill.  “I’ll tell you what happened, but I don’t think it’ll change anything.  Jack and I were driving from Sedona to Jerome…”

“Jack?” said Detective Griffin.  “We saw that you referred to Mr. Birdsong as “Jack” in the interviews you gave to the police back then.”

“Jack never liked the name Arthur.  When John F. Kennedy became president, Jack really thought he was a cool guy.  He couldn’t legally change his name to Jack, he was just a kid, but he told everybody to start calling him Jack and most people did.  Now where was I?  Oh yeah; Jack and I were driving from Sedona to Jerome one Saturday for something to do.  It was summer, school was out, and neither one of us had to work that day.  Jack had fixed up an old 1950 Ford coupe so that it ran, but it overheated going up that long steep road into Jerome.  It was probably a hundred degrees that day.  We weren’t planning on going to my brother’s house that day because Eddie didn’t like Jack much, but the car had given out near Eddie’s, so we started up the hill to see if we could get some water.  Eddie and his wife were both at work, so we just filled up a pail from his garage with water and started back to the car.  We had walked up the road on the way to Eddie’s, but Jack said it would be quicker if we cut down a grassy slope back to the car.”

“So you’re absolutely sure Eddie wasn’t there at any time while you were there getting the water for the Ford’s radiator?” asked Detective Barnes.

“No, no, he was at work.  I already told all of this to the police when it happened.  Do you want me to continue or is that enough?  I really don’t like talking about this.”

“Tell us what happened when you started back,” said Detective Griffin.

“Well, we had just started down the hill, Jack was in front singing some new Beatles song, when he tripped on a tree root and fell.  The slope was quite steep and he rolled down the hill for quite a ways before coming to a stop against a rock outcropping.  I started to run down the incline after him and I fell too, but I only rolled for a little bit.  When I got to Jack, I saw that he had hit the back of his head on a rock and…and he was dead.”

Jill started sobbing and Detective Griffin went to look for some tissues for her.  Detective Barnes remained in her chair staring at Jill.  She decided to give her a few minutes to get herself composed before continuing.  She went into the kitchen and found Detective Griffin going through the cupboards.

“Ya know, ya should have a warrant before ya start going through things,” said Detective Barnes.

“Geez Louise, Carla, I’m just lookin’ for some Kleenex,” Bill responded with a chuckle.

“I was just jerkin’ your chain a little, but I do think we have to be careful here; I don’t think she told the truth back then and I don’t think she’s telling the truth now.  Here, just take a clean dish towel out to her and let’s get started again.”

“Ms. Masterson,” said Detective Barnes.  “We will be talking to your brother when we go to New York City to see him later on in the week.  We’ve already spent the last two weeks going through all of the evidence and the interviews and have also reviewed medical records from back then of the people who may have been involved.  I think that before we go any further, we should read you your rights.  You have the right to remain silent…”

“Wait a minute,” said Jill.  “I haven’t done anything wrong.  Why are you reading me my rights like I’m some criminal?”

“We’re now to a point where we’re going to be talking about some things that were not in your original interviews,” said Detective Griffin.  “Do you wish to waive your right to counsel at this time?”

“I told you I didn’t do anything wrong; I don’t need a lawyer.”

“So you want to stick to your original story?” asked Detective Barnes.  “That story being that Jack fell down and cracked his head on the rocks and that you, Jill, came tumbling after?”

Jill’s mouth opened as if she was going to say something, but then it snapped closed again.  Detective Griffin’s face registered puzzlement at the phrasing of Detective Barnes’s statement but he carried on with the questioning.

“How about this for a story?” said Detective Griffin.  “While you and Jack were filling up the pail of water, your brother Edward came out of the house to the garage to see what was going on.  He said something to Jack about how he didn’t want an Indian dating his little sister and Jack popped him in the nose.  Jack said that you both were leaving and turned to walk back to the car with the water.  Your brother, blood running down his face from his nose, picked up a rock from the rubble near the side of the garage and smashed it into the back of Jack’s head.  When you two saw that Jack was not just knocked out, but dead, Eddie, or you and Eddie, decided to throw him down that incline and make it look like an accident.  We checked old medical records in Jerome and your brother came in for treatment for a broken nose two days after Jack’s death.  We think that your brother’s blood got on Jack’s shirt when he carried or dragged him to the top of the incline before throwing him down it.”

Jill had been listening in horror as Detective Griffin had been telling the story as if he’d actually been there.  “I’m not going to say anymore; I want a lawyer.”

She asked to get her purse before going downtown. 

“It’s in the bedroom; I’ll just be a minute,” she said. 

Detective Barnes went with her to the bedroom and stopped to look out the patio door windows.  “You have a really nice view of the mountains from…”

A single gunshot brought Detective Griffin from the living room.  He saw Detective Barnes with her back to the windows and a look of horror on her face.   Jill Masterson was lying dead on the floor.


After making a call to the New York City Police in Queens and then completing a couple of hours of paperwork, Carla and Bill were working on a pitcher of beer at Paul & Jerry’s Saloon in Jerome.

“I really fucked up,” said Carla.  “It happened so fast; I stopped to look at the view, heard a drawer open, and when I turned around she had the barrel in her mouth.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself; nothing she had said made it seem like she was suicidal.”

“What a weird twist to a weird case,” said Carla.

“Jack and Jill went up the hill…”

“What did you say?” 

“Nothin’, Carla, just thinkin’ me thoughts.  Just thinkin’ me thoughts.  Sit tight; I’m gonna get us another pitcher.”


Art by Steve Cartwright © 2016



Roy Dorman



Wilson Anderson is fourth in line to checkout at the little gas-and-go market.  He’s in a little berg in Vermont, travelling from Wisconsin on his Spring Break.  A high school English teacher recently divorced and in his late fifties, he’s seeing the northern part of the East Coast for the first time.

Just ahead of him is a Vermont State Trooper holding a can of soda and two bags of chips.  He’s broad shouldered and seems to be in quite good physical condition.  Wilson’s eyes stray from the trooper’s back to his gun belt.  The strap that should be securing his pistol has come undone and the pistol’s grip is open to anyone.

The stranger reaches for the sheriff’s gun and orders everyone to the floor.  He steps behind the counter and takes all of the cash from the register.  Warning the clerk, stocker boy, two customers, and the sheriff to stay put or he will kill them, he then flees the scene in a late-model Ford…

The line hasn’t moved, but Wilson has taken a step forward while daydreaming. He accidentally nudges the trooper who then turns and gives Wilson a look that says he should back off a bit.

The lawman’s eyes are quite bloodshot and he has at least a three day beard growth.  His uniform is too tight in some places and too loose in others…

The clerk, an older man who is probably the owner, is bagging the items purchased by a talkative local.  They both seem oblivious to the other shoppers in line and go on and on about somebody’s teenager who apparently has gone missing.  The trooper clears his throat.  The clerk quickly thanks the customer and moves on to the next in line.

Wilson stands with his quart of chocolate milk, both now sweating as the temperature in the store starts to rise as noon comes on.   Once again his eyes are drawn to the trooper’s gun butt.  After a bit, he looks up and sees the stocker boy, not long out of his teens, staring at him.  The stocker pointedly looks from Wilson’s eyes to the trooper’s exposed gun.  He then looks up again at Wilson and gives him an almost imperceptible nod.  Is it a signal?  If so, what could it mean?

The cop is not a cop.  If anyone is going to stop this afternoon from turning into a bloodbath it’s going to have to be the handsome, not-from-around-here, schoolteacher…

When the trooper finally reaches the register, Wilson grabs the gun from his holster and takes a couple of steps back.  He holds the gun in front of him with both hands and has it pointed at the trooper’s chest.

“Get down on the floor!” yells Wilson.  “Do it now or I’ll shoot you where you stand.”

The trooper eases himself to the floor.  “You’re making a big mistake here, mister.  Just put the gun on the floor next to me and put both hands on the counter,” he says with a professional calm.

Wilson looks at each of the other three still in the little grocery.  He meets their eyes one at a time and they tell him nothing.  There is no surprise, fear, or anger in any of the three; only a blankness as if they are watching a rather boring episode of a law and order show on television.

He looks once again at the owner and sees him cut his eyes to the trooper on the floor.  The trooper is up on one knee and looks to be getting ready to jump at Wilson.  Wilson fires a shot that hits the floor about two inches from the trooper’s right hand. 

Whoever this is on the floor, he’s dangerous and would have no qualms about killing everybody…

Immediately after Wilson’s shot into the floor, there is another shot.  It comes from the pistol the grocer keeps in a drawer under the cash register and it catches Wilson Anderson in the left shoulder and spins him around.  A second shot goes into his left eye.


St. Albans, Vermont.  A Benson’s Corners, Vermont, grocery clerk is being hailed as a hero after he successfully stopped what could have resulted in the murder of possibly four persons, including a Vermont State Trooper.  Cletus Farnum, age 67, owner of Farnum’s Grocery in Benson’s Corners, shot and killed Omro, Wisconsin, school teacher Wilson Anderson after Anderson had managed to take Trooper Jake Westfall’s pistol.  Farnum, Westfall, Anderson, stock boy Jesse Donaldson, and customer Alice Grimswald were at Farnum’s Grocery yesterday at noon when the incident took place.

“I looked in his eyes and saw the Eyes of Evil,” said Alice Grimswald.  “They were cold, dead eyes.  If it hadn’t been for Mr. Farnum we’d all have been killed.”

Omro Police said Anderson was travelling during his break from teaching in Wisconsin and had never had any run-ins with the law prior to yesterday’s events.  Those friends, relatives, and co-workers who could be reached had no comment to make other than to say that Anderson was a wonderful teacher and was well respected in the town of Omro.

Two’s a Crowd


by Roy Dorman



Annie Cabot was in the bedroom, looking out the window, when the doorbell rang. She had been in the process of closing the drapes when she had noticed the harvest moon hanging low in the eastern sky.


Annie glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand. It was 9:45. 


“Now who could that be, this late? Maybe whoever it is will go away if nobody answers.” 


She just stood where she was, listening to the repeated ringing of the doorbell. Finally, whoever it was, stopped. 


Annie pulled the drapes and was coming out of the bedroom, when she heard a sound that she recognized as the patio door slowly sliding open. She couldn’t remember locking it and apparently she hadn’t. 


Stepping back into the now-darkened bedroom, she watched and listened.


Whoever it was crept silently into the living room by way of the patio entryway. He was a big guy; a lot bigger than Annie. He had on a suit and tie and was carrying an expensive-looking leather briefcase. 


What he did next puzzled Annie, at first. He took off his suit coat, and folding it neatly, set it on the floor. From the briefcase, he took out a black sweatshirt. He put the sweatshirt on and put the suit coat into the briefcase.


This guy’s smart, thought Annie. He comes to the door in a suit and tie carryin’ a briefcase. If somebody answers, he tries to sell ‘em something or pretends he’s lost. If nobody’s home, once inside, he puts on his work clothes.


Annie quietly took a golf club from the bag propped up in the corner behind the bedroom door. She soundlessly walked from the bedroom to the living room, where the intruder was checking out some of the knickknacks on the fireplace. When she got close enough, she swung the golf club like a baseball bat and connected with the back of the would-be burglar’s head.


He went down in a heap, and Annie nudged him a few times with her toe to make sure he wasn’t faking.


“I was here first, asshole,” Annie whispered. “I shoulda locked that patio door, but I didn’t expect no company. Anyhow, it’s first come, first serve.  By the time you come to, this place’ll be cleaned out.” 





Art by Mike Kerins © 2017



Roy Dorman



 “Come on, it’ll be an adventure,” Bill Zander said to his wife, Elena. “The forecast says it’s going to be sunny and warm this Saturday. I told Don I’d run it past you and let him know tomorrow at work. The guy’s lonely; he lives on an island, for chrissakes. He could use some company.”

 “Is it just going to be the three of us?” asked Elena. “I’ll feel like a third wheel if you guys start talking shop.”

“I promise I’ll keep the shoptalk to a minimum. Don’s a Native American folklore buff. He’s an interesting guy; I’m sure you’ll like him.”

“Okay, but if I give you the sign, you’ll start making the “gotta get going” noises, right? I don’t want to look like a nag in front of one of your office-mates.”



Bill and Elena drove out of town about noon on Saturday, headed for Moosehead Lake. As had been predicted, the weather was fine. Summer was often a long time coming in Maine, but when it finally arrived, it was beautiful.

Bill had seen pictures of Don Penley’s house at work. It was a two-story log cabin with two small outbuildings. The island was about five acres, fairly circular, and had woods on everything that wasn’t house, outbuildings, a small beach, and the boat dock.

Moosehead Lake was only about 20 miles from Greenville and an easy commute for Don. It was a fairly large lake, but had only one inhabited island; Don’s island. 

Bill parked their car in the boat dock parking lot off the highway per Don’s instructions. There were two other cars and four pick-ups, all with boat trailers attached to them.

“I’ll call Don and let him know we’re here; he said it would only take him a few minutes to get here from his place.”


About ten minutes later, Don pulled up to the pier in a Johnson-powered fishing boat. After introductions, Bill and Elena put the stuff they had brought with them into the boat.

“It’s a good thing we didn’t bring anything more or there wouldn’t have been room for us,” joked Bill.

“Hey, no problem,” said Don. “I could’ve made two trips.”

“But then I’d have had to stay by myself either on this side or on the island,” said Elena.

Don started laughing shrilly at that. Then, seeming to catch himself, abruptly cut it off. He bent over in the boat and started to arrange things so that the boat would be balanced. 

Elena looked at Bill and mouthed the word “creepy.” Bill looked a little embarrassed for his friend and shrugged. He was thinking maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea; maybe he should have come alone.

Don started the engine and they headed for the island. He nodded and smiled as they bounced over the small waves, but all three of them knew that the mood had already been dampened.


Don started the coals in a huge Weber grill and there was a nice picnic table on the front lawn with a view of the lake.

“I’ll bring out the cooler and we can have drinks while the coals are getting hot.”

After he had gone inside, Bill and Elena turned to each other and both whispered at the same time.

“I shouldn’t have come,” said Elena.

“I shouldn’t have brought you,” said Bill.

“Shhh! Here he comes,” they both said together. Then they laughed crazily like naughty kids who have been caught by the grown-up.

Don at first looked puzzled and then relieved. Earlier it had looked like the visit may have been over before it had started. That wouldn’t have been good at all.

“I made a pitcher of sangria earlier,” he said, setting the dark red drink on the table.  “I hope you like it. I make it with more vodka and no gin. I find the gin masks the flavor of the wine too much. Try it and tell me what you think.”

   “Oh, it’s great,” said Elena, taking a sip. “I love it.”

“Yeah, this is pretty good, Don,” said Bill.  The ice is a nice touch on a warm day.”

“You two just sit in the lawn chairs, relax, and look at the lake. I’ll put some burgers and brats on the grill. I have some fresh-caught perch too; fish are great on the grill.”

Bill re-filled their glasses with sangria as Don walked back into the house to get the food.

“Thish stuff’s really tasty, but it’s kinda strong, ain’t it,” said Bill, slurring his words a little.

Elena took a long drink.  “Yeah, it’s strong, but delicious.  Hmm….  Ya know, I feel like I could take a nap right here in this chair….”

…. images of a wolf-like man swooping down from tall fir trees and carrying off a screaming Native American woman.  Villagers running from their tents and leans-tos yelling “Wendigo” and pointing at the sky…. 

…. pieces of bloody bodies, hanging in the branches of trees, savaged by an animal out of a nightmare….

  …. a Wendigo, standing in front of him, huge slavering tongue lolling on sharp teeth, Elena, unconscious, thrown casually over it’s shoulder….

Bill jerked awake and found the sun was setting across the lake. “Elena, wake up! Something’s not right; we got here a little after noon and now the sun’s setting.”

He looked at Elena’s empty chair and overturned his own chair struggling to get out of it. “Elena! Penley! Where are you?”


Bill followed the footprints of some sort of animal from Elena’s chair to where they abruptly ended in the sand forty feet from the water. He stood there and looked back and forth from where the tracks started and where they ended. There was nothing to show that whatever made these tracks had walked up from the lake to the chairs – just tracks from Elena’s chair to where they ended. And there were no signs of Elena’s tracks except with his and Don’s from the pier to the chairs.

“Penley! Don Penley! Where are you?”

“It has her…., I drugged the sangria…., it took her when you were both asleep….”

Bill turned to see an ashen-faced Don Penley looking at him with red-rimmed eyes.

“What are you talking about, Don? What has her?”

“I brought it here by calling its name in my sweat lodge,” said Don. “The smoke had produced visions other times and a voice in the visions kept telling me to bring a sacrifice. I’m so sorry, Bill, I thought I was only going through the motions of what I read in some old books.”

“But where is she, Don? What has Elena and how do we get her back?”

“I have no idea, Bill. I’m sorry, but I don’t have a clue as to what to do next.”

Then, from the tall old trees behind the house came a series of blood-curdling screams. The screams sounded like Elena, but didn’t. Bill had never heard screams like these in his life. 

The sound of rushing wind and the blur of something flying out of the trees directly at them caused both Bill and Don to hit the ground and cover their faces.  There was a deafening growl from just overhead and then the thump of something heavy landing in the sand twenty feet from them.

The Wendigo had returned with Elena. It threw her roughly onto the sand near the two men. Walking up to Bill, it kicked him sharply in the head, knocking him unconscious. It picked up Don and shook him like a ragdoll, its hot breath singeing his eyebrows. Then, giving him a level stare, it shook him once more and tossed him to the ground.

Running swiftly for about thirty feet, it leaped into the air and disappeared into the trees, leaving a charnel house stench in its wake.


On Elena’s orders, Don tied and gagged Bill before putting him in the boat.  Then, with Elena seated in the bow, her clothing singed and torn, he started across the lake to the boat dock parking lot and she and Bill’s car.

Don looked down at his co-worker, who still appeared to be unconscious on the bottom of the aluminum boat. He nudged Bill with his toe to see if he could get a response. Nothing.

When he looked up, he saw Elena staring at him. Her eyes momentarily took on a bright red color and she smiled at Don, showing all of her teeth. And then she screamed. And screamed again. There was an answering series of screams from back at the island and a flock of ducks rose from the lake and flew off in a rush toward the mainland. Bill moaned in his sleep but didn’t awaken. Elena sniffed the air and gave a guttural chuckle when she noticed that both Don and Bill had pissed their pants. 

Don turned in his seat a bit as if to adjust something on the boat’s engine. He wondered if he had the nerve to return to his home on the island. When he finished the adjusting charade, he didn’t look back at Elena. Instead, tears streaming down his cheeks, he kept his eyes on the boat dock in the distance, silently wishing it closer…..


 As Don continued to gaze trancelike at the shoreline, Elena bent down and slowly licked one of Bill’s forearms. Out of the corner of his eye Don then saw her tentatively bite the arm as if to test the sharpness of her teeth versus the toughness of Bill’s skin. 

This broke him out of his reverie and without thinking about it, he pulled the flare gun out from under his seat and shot Elena in the chest as she sat up from tasting Bill. The Wendigo Elena exploded into a raging inferno that burned wildly for a few seconds while she gave out with screams even louder than the previous calls.

Don heard one long answering howl come from behind him. Turning, he saw all of the buildings on his island were completely engulfed in flames, and the Wendigo, screaming and flying low across the water, was heading straight for him. In the next few seconds it reached him and with razor-sharp talons on massive forepaws, tore his head off, taking it as a trophy as it turned and headed back to the island. 

Blood spurting from the severed artery in his neck, Don slumped over into the bottom of the boat and landed on the still-unconscious Bill and a smoking Elena.  The boat continued toward the boat dock where a couple of fishermen had come from their trucks to the shoreline to see what was happening. The boat beached itself a bit off the mark and the police were called.


“What’s a Wendigo, Sarge?” asked Johnny Taylor, a recent recruit to the Greenville Police Department.

“Damned if I know,” said his sergeant, Ed Wilson. “That’s all the guy’ll say, but damned if I know what he means.



A year later, almost to the day, Bill Zander made arrangements to have a fisherman boat him out to the island. He carried Elena’s ashes in a copper urn and planned to scatter them among the ashes of the burned buildings. 

At the end, she may have been more Wendigo than wife and Bill felt this would be a sort of closure for Elena and the Wendigo. 

And for himself. He had been feigning unconsciousness during the last leg of the boat ride and still had nightmares of Elena ghoulishly tasting his arm and of Don’s headless torso falling on top of him in the boat. 

He wasn’t afraid the Wendigo might still be on the island. He actually hoped it was still there, rather than having gone back to where ever Don had called it from. 

While the guy he rented the boat ride from looked on in puzzlement, Bill made a paste from lake water and a little of Elena’s ashes and streaked it down his cheeks like war paint. He knew if the opportunity came up confronting the beast would be suicidal, but he figured to get in a few good licks with the new hunting knife he carried in the sheath at his side.

Art by Sean O'Keefe © 2017


by Roy Dorman


The dame who walked into my office didn’t quite fit the bill. Oh, she was dressed to the nines and had a face to die for, but she had a fistful of hundreds in one hand and a .38 special in the other. Most of my clients kept their cards a little closer to the vest.

“I need to have been someplace else this morning,” she said.

I didn’t tell her, but I’d had that very thought run through my mind every day for the last two years.

“Most of the bars are still closed, but I suppose I could set you up at a gym.”

I deal in alibis. Somebody does somethin’ they shouldna done, and don’t want to pay the price for doin’ it, I set ‘em up with an alibi. I’ve got a string of staff on retainer in a variety of businesses who ain’t afraid of a perjury rap. 

Now, I don’t have “Alibi, Inc.” stenciled on the glass on my office door; that would be dumb. My business cards and my tax man say I’m a licensed private dick. Alibis are just one of my many services. I also do ID changes, relocations, motel room photography, and all of the other sleazy gigs that come with the private dick territory.

“Don’t you want to know what I’ve done?” she asked, all wide-eyed, still pointing the gun at me.

“Nah, that .38 tells me I’ll prob’ly be readin’ about it in the papers.”

In this business, the less ya know, the better. I was curious as to why she was pointin’ the gun at me when she had money clutched in her other hand, but figured we’d get to that eventually.

I called the gym, found out who was workin’ this morning, and set it up.

“So, here’s the deal.  The owner of the gym is Monty Schwartz. The trainers this morning are Herb and Lisa. You were there all morning, tryin’ the place out to see if you wanted to buy a membership.”

I took a head and shoulders shot of her with my cell phone and sent it to Monty.

“That’s it? I lie, they lie, and you get paid for it?”

“It’s a livin’. And, hey, don’t forget about the part that you don’t go to prison. As to my pay, how ‘bout you give me the gun and half the money ya got there and we’ll call it square? Ya prob’ly don’t want that piece anywhere near you, when the questions start, right?”

“How about I just shoot you and keep both the gun and the money? I already have an alibi.”

“Smart cookie, ain’tcha? I like that. How about us goin’ to lunch; I’ll buy.”

“Sounds swell, big spender. Then I’ll have an alibi for this afternoon too, won’t I?”

I turned the sign on the door over to “CLOSED” and locked up. Smart, funny, good lookin’, and knows how to use a gun. I’m thinkin’ this could be the start of somethin’ big.


Art by Cindy Rosmus © 2017



Roy Dorman



James Callaghan was not paying much attention to his surroundings when a car pulled up alongside him and someone got out.  He almost walked into the young punk who was now blocking his way on the sidewalk.

“Gimme your wallet, old man,” said the punk.

James looked around like he was waking from a dream.  He was recently retired from working construction and hadn’t really found anything to do with his new-found wealth of spare time.  It was still early, only about eleven o’clock, and he hadn’t strayed too from his neighborhood.  But apparently he had strayed far enough.  He’d been….restless.

“I’ll give you my cash, but I’m keeping my wallet,” he said, taking his wallet from his back pocket.  “Credit cards, drivers license….all that stuff is really a pain in the butt to replace.  Here, take the cash.”

“You’re not making the rules here, Jack.  Gimme the wallet.”

“I’m not giving you the damn wallet.  If you won’t just take the cash, you’ll have to fight me for the wallet.”  James had no idea why he said that.  He hadn’t been in a fight since high school.

“I’m not kiddin’.  Give it up.”

“If you take the cash, I won’t even call the cops.  If you beat me up, that’s assault.  Assault and robbery.  You ready for that?” said James without hardly any tremor in his voice.  He assumed what he hoped looked like a credible karate fighting stance.

“Hey, buddy, ya need some help over there?”  A car had pulled up behind the car the would-be robber had gotten out of and the driver looked at the two of them through his passenger side window.

James hoped the new arrival was offering help to him and not the stick-up guy. 

“This low-life’s trying to steal my wallet.  I didn’t bring my phone; could you call 911 for me?” he said.

“Arnie!  Get in in the damn car.  We’re gettin’ outta here.  Now!”

“Shut up, Lizzy!”  said the robber, now known as “Arnie.”

“So, we got first names, Arnie and Lizzy,” said James.  “You two new at this?”

“Cops are called and I got their license number,” called the guy in the second car.

“Forget that fuckin’ douche bag, Arnie,” yelled Lizzy.  “There’s lots more old farts with wallets in the Bronx.  Let’s go.”

James walked over to the car.  “Who you calling a fuckin’ douche bag?” he said, kicking out one of the tail lights.

Lizzy started driving away without even taking time to close the passenger side door.  Arnie yelled at her to stop and ran to catch her.  She slowed down enough for him to jump in and they took off, turning the corner at the next block.

“No harm, no foul, right?” said the man who had pulled up earlier.  “I can give you a ride home if you want.”

James walked over to the passenger side window and looked in.  “Don’t you think we should wait for the cops?  Those dopes didn’t get anything, but we can still give them their descriptions.”

“I didn’t call the cops.  Get in.”

James looked down to the passenger’s seat and saw a .45 was pointed up at him.

“Go to hell,” he said, and started walking away.

After almost fifty years of taking orders from somebody or other, James had told himself that in retirement he wouldn’t take any guff from anybody.  And now something he couldn’t quite put his finger on had also taken place in his psyche.  He felt….different.

The man drove slowly next to curb, pacing James.  “I’m Bobby.  You’re….?”


“I like your style, James.  I’ve got some work now and then for somebody like you.  Ya interested?”

“I’m retired,” said James.  “I’m done havin’ people tell me what to do.”

“So, I’ll ask nicely rather than tell ya.  That work for you?  Small jobs at a thousand a pop…”

James stopped and laughed.  “Who do I kill for a thousand a pop?”

“The grand is for things like drop-offs and pick-ups; stuff like that,” said Bobby.  “Maybe do some driving for me when I have a stop to make and wanna leave the car runnin’.  If I need ya to kill somebody, I’ll pay more.”

James had never even had a parking ticket in his life.  But retirement hadn’t proven to be very much fun so far and he felt this Walter Mitty rush coming over him.  If this guy was for real, James thought he could maybe finish this life with a little pizzazz.

James opened the door and got in.  “I’m at 812 Chestnut.  You go a few blocks down 233rd Street, then down Bronxwood, and then…”

“I know where Chestnut Street is.”

“Ya know,” said James after they had been driving for a few blocks.  “It would probably be a good idea if I had one of your small jobs sooner rather than later.  If I have too much time to think about this, I’ll probably come to my senses and chicken out.”

“Ya don’t seem like a ‘chicken out’ kinda guy to me,” said Bobby.  “I’m a pretty good judge of human nature.  But I’ll get ya somethin’ tomorrow if it makes ya feel better.”


The next day, James got a call from Bobby.  Bobby had given him a throwaway cell phone and three hundred dollars in good faith money.  He had also given James a .38 Special and a new shoulder holster.  James felt the phone, money, and gun were probably Bobby’s way of manipulating him, but he had decided overnight that this was something he was going to do.

James’ first job was to take the trains down to the Bowery in the East Village and pick up a package from what turned out to be an upscale flower shop.  Bobby had decided that since James didn’t have a car, James would use buses and the subway.  With cabs there was more record-keeping involved and also closer face-to-face contact.

“I’d like to talk to the manager about placing a large order for a funeral,” recited James to the young woman behind the counter.

“And when will the funeral be?” came the required response.

“He’s not dead yet,” answered James.

The young woman walked into the back and came out with a woman closer to James’ age who was carrying a shopping bag with the store’s logo.

“You’re new,” she said.

“I’ve been around the block a few times,” answered James with a chuckle.

“Oh, did you have trouble finding us?” asked the younger woman.

James smiled at her and then said to the older woman, “Aren’t young people just precious?”

“Well, take care and I hope to see you again,” she said, handing the bag to James.  “Soon.”


James didn’t trust Bobby and he didn’t think he’d be able to trust the clients Bobby sent him to visit. Something at that first job made him think the possibility of danger had just been ratcheted up a bit.  

He had seen something when he was leaving the flower shop that he was pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to have seen.  When he had reached to open the glass door to go, the reflection in it was that of the front counter.  Only the younger woman was in that reflection.  

James was not entirely surprised by this.  After the goings-on of the last twenty-four hours it would have been hard to surprise him.  He used that lack of presence in the reflection for what it was – data.  It told him Bobby was most likely not the highest level of authority in this organization.  He was probably just a delivery boy like himself. 

James had been flattered when he thought the woman may have been sending a friendly vibe his way.  Now he realized he may have interpreted it incorrectly.  Even so, he knew he was really committed to this walk on the wild side when he found himself hoping Bobby would have another pick-up in the Bowery soon. 

James thought she had very nice eyes.


Four weeks went by before Bobby told James he had a pick-up for him in the Bowery.  James had had one drop-off near Times Square during that time period and it had gone well.

In the meantime, Bobby had arranged for James to get a private investigator license and this entitled him to get a concealed-carry permit for his .38.  The private dick cover was important because even if James never had a need to pull out his piece, the chance of him being frisked during a routine stop could cause problems for everybody if he had no permit.


                                                                                                               WILD FLOWERS was the name of the shop and the password phrases were the same.  James was handed the shopping bag and felt a thrill when the woman held the bag a little longer this time, causing a lingering touch of their hands.

“I know we’re not supposed to exchange names or engage in conversation, but you could call me “Rose” if you’d like.  And there’s a little coffee shop down the block; we could have some coffee and keep the conversation light and not work related.”

“I’m James.  You can call me James,” said James with what he hoped was a warm smile.  “A coffee break sounds swell.  I don’t bother much with petty work rules.  I do my job and that’s what I get paid for.”

They found a table by the window and ordered coffee and croissants.  For a minute, they just watched the passers-by hurrying to and from their important business doings.

A young mother with a stroller accidentally bumped their table and Rose’s cup of coffee looked like it was going to end up in her lap.  But both the spilled coffee and the cup and saucer stopped in mid-aid and hovered a few inches above the table. 

James had reacted quickly.  He had set his cup down and had both hands around Rose’s cup just as its fall had been arrested.  Now he held it, leaning across the table looking at Rose, while a loud, but not unpleasant, choral refrain sang in his head.  Slowly, the cup in his hands allowed itself to be lowered to the table and the errant coffee surged back into the cup without a drop spilled.  The refrain slowly subsided.

James took his hands from the cup and smiled at Rose.

“Good trick,” he said.

“I suppose this raises some questions,” said Rose.  “I was hoping to be friends.”

“Anything’s possible,” said James.  “And when I say, ‘Anything’s possible,’ I mean just that.  Anything’s possible.”

James then told Rose about the attempted robbery and meeting Bobby.  He told her how he had gone from a mild-mannered retired construction worker to an underworld bag-man.

“Something happened to the way my brain’s wired during that robbery attempt.  I mean, my idea of reality and some of my core values have changed.  I don’t know if I’m explaining it very well, but I’m not completely ‘me’ anymore.”

“I think that a lot of ‘you’ is still in there,” said Rose.  “You just appreciate the ‘more’ there can be in life.  And you want it.  Am I right?”

James stared at Rose.  She had put into words what he hadn’t been able to do.

“When I left your flower shop the first time, there was a reflection of the front counter in the glass door.  Your side-kick was in it, but you weren’t.  At some level, I’d like to know more.  But maybe I should just keep letting the whole scenario unroll day by day.  For some reason I trust you.  What do you think?”

“I think we both have to be very careful for a while.  I’m going to go back to my shop and you’re going to deliver the package to Bobby.  Please don’t mention our coffee date to him or anyone else.  If it’s okay, I’ll be at your house at ten o’clock tonight to talk.

“It’s in the Bronx, at…,” started James.

“I know where you live, James.”

“Will I have to invite you in?’

“Well, I would hope you would,” said Rose.


After meeting Bobby in the park to drop off the package, James stopped at a liquor store and picked up a couple bottles of merlot.  They had chips and dip, so he got some of them too.  He laughed at himself for the preparations – they made him feel like a nervous school boy.  But he had to admit he was enjoying the feeling.

At ten o’clock, the doorbell rang.  When James opened the door, he found Rose standing on his front porch with a bouquet of roses and a small cake box.

“Well?” said Rose.

“Rose, welcome, please enter my humble abode,” said James.

“So that’s done,” said Rose.  “Do you trust me enough to take off that shoulder holster?”

“I kept it on in case you showed up with Bobby,” said James.  “If that happened, I was going to kill him.  I don’t know what would have happened next.”

Rose shrugged.  “So, merlot and chips and dip.  I’m impressed,” she said, looking at the array on the coffee table.   “I bet you even did a little straightening up.  You consistently show me that I’ve not made a horrible blunder.”

Rose set the flowers and cake box on the table and kissed James on the lips.  It wasn’t a passionate kiss; just a “good to see you” kiss.

James took off the shoulder holster and set it on an end table.  He opened one of the bottles of merlot and poured two glasses.

“To us,” he said, toasting her.

“To us,” Rose said back to him.

For the next hour they talked about music, books, and art.  They talked about current events, the neighborhood, and the cost of a bottle of good wine.  They talked about everything except that Rose was most probably a vampire.

“Bobby killed those two who tried to rob you,” said Rose, finally bringing up something work-related.  “He ran into them at a 24/7 they were trying to hold up.  He shot them both in the back and fled the scene.  Now the police are looking for him.  Damn him, he knew a low profile was essential to his position.”

“Won’t the big boss be pissed?” asked James.  

“I’m the ‘big boss,’ James.  And yes, I was very pissed”

James let that piece of information sink in.  “If you’re here to ask me to take care of him, I don’t know if I can just straight out kill the guy.  Not without him actually being a threat to me.  Even having gone through some kind of weird epiphany, there would have to be a good reason for me to kill somebody.  Even Bobby.”

“I thought that would be the case, so I had Leah kill him.  Leah’s cover is one of being my assistant at the flower shop, but she is also my protégé, learning the darker arts.”

“Now, there’s somebody who is obviously good at acting her part,” said James.  “I would have never expected she was capable of taking Bobby out.”

“I came here tonight to make you an offer.  Leah and I are going to relocate to London soon.  I’d like you to get a passport if you don’t have one, and also put your house on the market.  If it doesn’t sell right away, I have a friend who will buy it.”

“Why me?  What’s special about me?  What can I offer that some other schmuck can’t give you?”

“I like you James, that’s ‘why you.’  I’d like you to be my companion.  My human companion.  I would like you to keep my human side alive.  Do you think you’d like to do that?”

“What about Leah?  Couldn’t she do it?”

 “I’ve done something to Leah that has made her more like me than like you.  What do you say?  After London, it may be Paris.  Or Rome.  Maybe Cairo.  Are you interested?”

The new wiring in James’ brain continued its evolution.  He thought about the sharpened stake he had made from the end of a garden rake handle.  It was easily accessible just under the couch.  His mind played out what would happen if he plunged that stake into Rose’s heart.  He saw her eyes open wide in surprise.  Her body would then explode in a cloud of dust that would drift to the floor.  His doorbell would ring and Leah would be standing there with crimson eyes and long canine teeth.  She would say, “I’m the new boss and have you to thank for it.  May I come in?” 

James’ mind could just as easily conjure up the scenario that would play out if he didn’t use the stake.  If he chose to, he could watch that scenario play out for minutes, hours, or even years.

James looked at Rose standing in front of him waiting for his answer.  He decided not to see what his future with Rose would be.  Not knowing seemed more human to him.

“Interested?” he said.  “Hell, I haven’t been more interested in my life.”


Art by John Lunar Richey © 2017


Roy Dorman


 “I’m gettin’ too old for this shit.”

Eddie Sanders had waited until the train had slowed down for a bend and had then jumped into the tall grass, ending in a rolling stop ten feet from a gravel road.  Eddie was pushing thirty. He smoked too much, drank too much, and generally lived his life as he chose to.

As he sat up, he was immediately knocked back down as he was hit in the chest by a duffel bag that had been thrown from a speeding car. Stunned, Eddie found himself on his back, looking up at the sky. As he lay there, another car sped by, this one a police car, lights flashing and siren wailing.

Eddie decided to just stay where he was for a few minutes until he was sure the parade was over.

Eddie Sanders is a private investigator and has an office in New York City.  But here he was, flat on his back somewhere in rural Illinois, probably thirty miles from Chicago. Eddie thought he’d have to add this incident to the growing list of fuck-ups that comprised what he liked to call the “go where the money is” stories of his investigative career.

The hood he had been tailing had made him about fifteen minutes out of Ohio and Eddie had escaped with his life by jumping from the train in the dark without his hat, coat, .38, or the travelling money stashed in his suitcase.

The plan had been to follow this errand boy back to Chicago with the hope he would lead Eddie to his client’s concern. Eddie’s client, Myron Weston III, had hired Eddie to find out if his wife, Olivia Weston, was behaving herself in Chicago. He had confided in Eddie that he hadn’t been able to reach her for a week. 

The hood, Johnny Marco, had been hired by Olivia Weston to make sure her husband stayed in New York.  Johnny was to let her know if her husband left.  Johnny was about the same age as Eddie, but was pretty much his opposite in all other things. Johnny was a sharp dresser, kept himself fit, and turned the heads of many women younger than himself when he walked down the street. 

Johnny had followed Myron Weston for a couple of days. One evening, Johnny had seen Weston’s driver pick up a woman Johnny recognized and he was pretty sure she had recognized him. After Weston had hired a couple of thugs to slap him around a bit, Johnny had decided his work was done in New York City and he started back to Chicago. Weston had hired Eddie to make sure Johnny got there and also to check on the little woman. He had also paid off the train’s dining car manager so that two more people could ride to Chicago in the kitchen in order to avoid being seen by a certain passenger. That passenger was Johnny Marco.

Now, as Eddie sat there by the tracks at two in the morning, starting to feel some stiffness set in from his jump from the train, he was thinking bad thoughts about the Westons and their so-called marriage. They were the reason he was in the middle of nowhere getting bitten by mosquitoes.

“And for this I make a good livin’,” muttered Eddie as he got up from the bushes.

He walked back up the grade to the train tracks so he wouldn’t be visible from the road. One or both of those cars would soon be coming back to check on the duffel bag he now carried. He sat down out of sight on the other side of the tracks and opened the bag.

“Well, well, well,” he said. “What have we here?”

With only the light of a full moon, Eddie could see the bag contained stacks of bank-wrapped bills and two pistols. He figured there was about twenty or thirty thousand dollars by a rough count. It was probably from a bank robbery earlier in the day in some nearby rural town. 

The government said the Depression was finally over and maybe it was; there was starting to be money in the banks again. Eddie knew that this was good for the type of people who threw duffel bags out of cars.

“Guns ‘n money, but no hat or coat,” Eddie mused, smelling the money.  “But I guess I can afford to buy what I need with this.”

Being a licensed private dick meant that Eddie was usually on the right side of the law. He had to be if he wanted to keep his license. But found money is found money. Eddie would not be making much of an effort to find out who this belonged to. Rather, he would be doing whatever it took to keep it from being recovered by either the cops or the robbers. In the meantime, he had to find a way to get to Chicago. There had to be a car around here that he could buy, rent, or “borrow.”

He clutched the handle of the bag of new found wealth, stood up and stretched. He figured he’d walk down the tracks for a while to put some distance between himself and the spot where the bag had been thrown from the car.

Now he was thinking that trying to get new clothes and a car, either by buying or stealing, would be a bad idea. The locals would take him for one of the robbers, and with the bag of money in hand it would be hard to convince somebody otherwise.

No, he’d walk the tracks until a freight train came along. It would be difficult to try and board another passenger train, but he could easily hitch a ride on a freight into Chicago and get lost in the crowd.


After walking on the tracks for only about a mile, Eddie was pulled from the random thoughts about his immediate future by the sound of someone moaning. He had thought himself alone out here in the boonies.

Eddie had stuck one of the pistols from the bag into his belt. He took it out and walked cautiously toward the moaning. Looking down from the tracks, he could see what appeared to be a big man lying on his stomach at the bottom of the embankment. Keeping his pistol pointed at the body, Eddie slowly walked down toward it.

When a couple of loose stones rolled down the embankment in front of Eddie, the guy lying there raised his head. “I could use some help here, buddy,” he said through clenched teeth.

Eddie was close enough now to see a knife protruding from near the man’s right kidney. The handle looked like the handle of a steak knife from the dining car where Eddie had been just an hour ago.

“You’re Johnny Marco, ain’t ya,” he said, “You were gonna shoot me back on the train when I came out of the men’s room.”

“Shoot first, ask questions later,” said Johnny with a laugh that turned into a gurgling cough.

“I don’t think I’m gonna be able to help ya much even if I wanted to,” said Eddie. “We’re a long way from civilization.”

“Nah, I know I’m a goner,” said Johnny.  “I think some of Weston’s guys were on the train with us and must’ve been watchin’ me watchin’ you watchin’ me.  While I was leanin’ out from the last car lookin’ for you, one of ‘em stuck me in the back and another flipped me over the railing.”

“I’m one of Weston’s guys,” said Eddie. “Weston wanted me to tail you back to Chicago to see if you’d lead me to his wife. Why would his guys mess up that plan?”

“Don’t know and don’t care,” said Johnny. “This whole deal is about  people who don’t trust each other. It’s good they’re together; at least they aren’t messing up good people’s lives….” Another coughing fit interrupted Johnny’s tirade.

“Listen, Johnny, I’m gonna go on into Chicago. I’ll have the cops send somebody back for your body. Is there anybody else ya want me to notify?” said Eddie.

Johnny took a deep breath like he knew it was close to the last one he’d be taking. “Tell Olivia Weston that any money due me she should give to you. You can take my .38, my wallet, and that money to The Silver Dollar, a bar off State Street near that old water tower. Lillie Stanton sings there five or six nights a week.  We were…, I thought we were an item, and I want her to know I was thinkin’ about her when I died. Can ya do that?”

“Ya, I can do all that, Johnny. I think we could’ve been friends if things would’ve been different. One more thing I’m gonna do for you – I’m gonna find the goons who stabbed ya in the back and do them the same. That’s a promise.”


When Eddie got to Chicago, he started to take care of business. He stashed the duffel bag in a locker in Union Station, keeping out enough cash for new clothes and other expenses. He introduced himself to the Chicago Police Department and gave them the story of the train ride from New York City. He told them approximately where they could find Johnny Marco’s body. Eddie told them about who had employed him and Johnny, but even though they wanted more, that’s all he told them. 

Next, he went to see Olivia Weston. He found her by talking on the street until he found a friend of Johnny’s. Olivia Weston was a nasty piece of work, just as Eddie had figured she would be. She was in her mid-twenties, had a movie starlet’s face and hairstyle, and an overabundance of confidence.

 “So, I’m supposed to give you that dummy’s paycheck because he wasn’t able to go to New York and get back here without getting himself killed?” she said, laughing at Eddie. 

Eddie laughed back with equal cynicism. “Your husband might be interested in knowing there’s a young man lounging on your couch wearing a bathrobe with “MW III” embroidered on the top-left pocket.”

“Maybe Arthur could be a good boy and leave the room. I think I could change your mind about talking to my dear husband.”

“No thanks, Mrs. Weston. I’m a little particular about who I let try to change my mind about things.”

“You’re going to see Lillie, aren’t you,” Olivia said. “If you are, you’re as dumb as Johnny. You might want to check with the manager of The Silver Dollar as to what he knows about Lillie’s whereabouts for the last few days.”

“Thanks, but I can’t see how that’s any of your damn business,” Eddie replied as he walked out the door. He did wonder how somebody like hoity-toity Olivia Weston knew about regular folks like Johnny and Lillie.

Eddie left with two thousand dollars and the notion that he would have to watch his back very closely until this whole Weston mess was finished.

Later that night, about midnight, Eddie tipped the guy at the door of The Silver Dollar ten bucks to get a table near the front. He had a couple of beers during Lillie Stanton’s second set, and when she was taking a break, he got up from his table and approached her. “I’d like to speak with you for a few minutes about Johnny Marco when you’re finished for the night.”

“Sure,” she said. “I guess that’ll be okay…..,  yeah, yeah, we can talk about Johnny. Just follow me back to my dressing room when I’m through.”

Eddie could see that Johnny and Lillie would have made a nice-looking couple. Johnny had his rugged good looks and Lillie was a beautiful brunette. The way she fit into her outfit definitely complimented her singing voice.

Even though he hadn’t said what he wanted to talk to her about, Lillie looked worried during her final set and glanced over at Eddie from time to time.  Once or twice a word seemed to get stuck in her throat and a few times she just hummed the words at the end of a line. Indecision and fear marred what would have been an otherwise fine performance.  

In the little L-shaped dressing room, Eddie gave Lillie a small satchel with Johnny’s wallet, his .38, and the Olivia Weston payout. He explained what had happened on the train trip, leaving out the part where Johnny had tried to kill him.

“I knew it,” Lillie sobbed. “He called me every night, and when he didn’t call for three nights, I just figured he was on the train back. But I knew it didn’t take three days to get here from New York. I was fooling myself.”

“Johnny wanted ya to know he loved ya and was thinkin’ about ya when he died,” said Eddie. “Did anybody ya know have it in for Johnny – anybody ya know who would want to kill him?”

 “Almost everybody loved Johnny, but he was in a rough line of work. He kept saying he was going to get into something a little more legit and we’d get married. And now…”

Just then the door of the dressing room opened. “Get packed, Lillie. Now that Johnny’s gone, Weston says you can go back….”

Eddie had had his gun in his hand the second the door opened. He now had it pointed at a tough-looking goon who had turned a bright red.

“What do you mean, ‘Johnny’s gone’?” asked Lillie. “What have you done to Johnny, Artie?”

Eddie noticed Lillie had also turned red and her question to the goon sounded like a line from a B movie.

“Up against the wall, Artie,” said Eddie, who then frisked him. “Something smells like week-old fish and I’m gonna find out what it is.”

Eddie stepped back a few steps so he could have his back to the wall and cover both Artie and Lillie. He didn’t really know Johnny, and Johnny had tried to kill him, but he had asked Eddie to do a few things for him with the last breaths of his life and Eddie was going to try and do right by him.

“I know this is gonna sound bad,” started Lillie. “I loved Johnny, but I got tired of waiting for him to marry me. He was always saying there’d be ‘just a couple more jobs.’ Mr. Weston came in one night with a bunch of businessmen when I was singing. He told me he could get me set up in New York City in a classier joint and maybe get me into show business. I was gonna break the news to Johnny when he got back. Honest, I didn’t know he was gonna be killed.”

Eddie listened to all this without saying anything. He remembered what Johnny had said about it being good that the Westons were together and not messing up good people’s lives. He wondered if there were any good people in this sordid mess.

While Lillie had been talking, Artie had been looking around the tiny room for an opportunity to turn the tables. Eddie had been watching Artie, and when Artie stopped looking, Eddie figured he was gonna make his move.

With a sweeping motion, Artie cleared everything from Lillie’s dressing table, sending a box of make-up powder into Eddie’s face. Eddie managed to shoot Artie in the knee and he went down. Lillie fell into a swoon and moved toward Eddie. As Eddie was reaching for Lillie to keep her from falling, he saw the knife she was thrusting toward his middle. Instead of catching Lillie, he grabbed the hand that was holding the knife and twisted her arm behind her back. He saw the knife was another from the train’s dining car.

 “It was you!” he said. “You stabbed Johnny, and Artie pushed him from the train. I told Johnny I would put a knife in his killer’s back, Lillie, but life in prison thinking about what you threw away will be harder on you. Come on, you two, get movin’; we’re gonna go find a cop.”


As often happens in cases Eddie Sanders is involved in, there weren’t a lot of winners in this one. Artie turned on Lillie and Lillie turned on Myron Weston.  After all of the plea bargaining was finished, a jury of their peers found all three guilty of the murder of Johnny Marco, and a judge sentenced them each to twenty -to-life terms. 

Olivia Weston made some bad picks as to her lovers, with the last of the group setting her up to be kidnapped. From prison, Myron Weston refused to allow any funds to be used for the ransom, and Olivia was found floating in the Chicago River. 

For reasons of his own, Eddie paid for the burial expenses and a stone for Johnny Marco with some of the money from the duffel bag that had been thrown from the car. That found money also allowed Eddie to be a little more picky in choosing his clients, and he actually enjoyed his work for a number of years. 


Art by Ann Marie Rhiel © 2018



by Roy Dorman



Drinking beer

in a downtown dive bar

on a Tuesday afternoon

with only the bartender

and a Mickey Spillane paperback

for company,

I see myself as a character

in a novel I should be working on. 


As if on cue, she walks in.

She takes in the bar

with a practiced ease

that tells me she knows

exactly what she’s looking for. 


She walks up to me

and her emerald green eyes

give me a piercing stare. 

As she leans into me

our faces are inches apart

and the smell of her perfume

is making me weak.  


“Hey, handsome,”

she says in a husky voice.

“Get your butt in gear—

you said you’d mow the lawn

this afternoon.”


As we walk out,

I swear I can hear

a character

in the Spillane paperback


Or maybe it was that hipster bartender.

Art by Hillary Lyon © 2018



Roy Dorman



Johnny Adams watched from his parked car as the guy he had been tailing for the last two days staggered out of Rizzo’s Dew Drop Inn.  Johnny already had the engine running, and in five seconds he slammed into the guy just as he had made it to the middle of the street.

He quickly wiped the steering wheel for prints, jumped out of the car, wiped the door handle, and yelled, “Hey, stop him!  He just ran this guy over!”

There wasn’t much pedestrian traffic at that time of night, but those who were on the street looked in the direction Johnny was pointing, and some started off after “him.”  A couple of others were on their cell phones, probably calling 911.


“Yeah, I saw the whole thing,” said Johnny.  “I was right here on the sidewalk, waitin’ to cross, when this guy, the dead guy, came outta that bar.  This car came like a bat outta hell and smacked him as he got to the middle of the street.  Knocked him twenty feet, at least.  The driver jumped out and ran off in that direction.”

“Can you describe him?” asked Officer Ned Brown.

“Well, it was kinda dark, but he was well-dressed, ya know; nice suit.  It was dark blue or black.  Oh, and I just remembered; he had a rag or something that he wiped the door handle with.  Like he was cleanin’ somethin’ off it.”

“Tall, short, young, old; any unusual characteristics?”

“I don’t know; sorta regular, I guess.  Maybe six feet tall, well built.  Maybe about thirty; he ran pretty good.  Could’na been much older than thirty then, right?”

“Anything else you can tell us?”

“Nope.  He took off runnin’ and never looked back once.”

“We may be in touch with you, Mr. …, Mr. Edwards,” said the officer, looking at the ID Johnny had given him.  “Are you going to be in town?”

   “Yup, sure am.  I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”


Johnny Adams, a private investigator by trade, had stolen that car just a half hour before he killed Lance Nichols with it.  He had shown the police a very good set of fake ID and they would never be able to connect him to the murder. 

When they identified Lance Nichols, a hired gun with a long rap sheet, they would assume this was a revenge crime as payback from somebody Lance had wronged. 

They were right about that.  Johnny Adams was the one who had been wronged and he had wanted revenge. 

This was not how Johnny normally took care of business.  He would be the first to tell you that he was totally out of control. 


Things had been going well for Johnny for almost six months.  He had helped a client, Jennifer Ralston, locate her lost husband.  Allan Ralston, an import/export wheeler-dealer, had disappeared after telling her he was going to Iran to purchase some antique Persian rugs. 

Johnny’s legwork found that Allan Ralston had actually gone to South America to run away from gambling debts owed to the Russian Mafia.  He was found, but he was found dead.

Jennifer and Johnny had hit it off from the get-go, and while their relationship wasn’t serious, they did enjoy each other’s company and liked to go out on the town now and then for a few laughs.

One of their favorite places to go, was a little dive bar in Queens called The Shot Glass.  Long-time bartender, Sam Johnson, was a personal friend of Johnny’s and that friendship was the reason Johnny was out of control.  It seemed that somebody had tried to get to Johnny through Sam and Johnny didn’t like that.  He didn’t like that at all.


“So, how ya feelin’ today,” said Johnny. 

Johnny was visiting his friend, Sam, at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in Queens.  The swelling had gone down on Sam’s head, but his normal vibrant chocolate brown coloring was still a little off.                                                                                                     

“Oh, I’m a little better; got some of those tubes out and I’m takin’ some solid food.  Food’s not that good, but better than gettin’ it through an IV.”

“I still feel bad about you gettin’ beat up and almost killed because of me,” said Johnny.

After closing time one night last week, Sam had been emptying some trash in a dumpster outside of The Shot Glass when somebody, Sam was pretty sure it was Lance Nichols, had sucker punched him and then followed that up with some vicious kicks to his head.

“Don’t worry about it, Johnny, it wasn’t your fault.  That Russian Mafia wanted to send a message and they used Lance Nichols to deliver it.  It’s him I’m gonna have a talk to up close and personal when I’m all healed.”

“Yeah, about Lance Nichols; don’t mention his name to the cops if they question you some more.  We should just keep —”

“I’m gonna handle Lance,” said Sam.  “He’s mine.”

“Well, that’s kinda why I’m here this early in the morning.  If you’re reading the paper or watching the news later, you might learn that Lance was killed last night in a hit and run accident.  It wouldn’t be good if Lance was now somehow connected to you and me —”

Sam stared at Johnny for a bit before saying, “I said I was going to handle it.  You had no right taking that away from me.”

“I think the mob’s still pissed about my part in sending Ralston’s partner, Richard Payton, to prison before they could collect any of the money he and Ralston owed them,” said Johnny.  “They also never got any from Allan Ralston —”

“Can it, Johnny.  I know you’re trying to distract me.  I think you should leave.  And when I get out of here, you can come around to The Shot Glass and apologize.  I may be ready to accept your apology by then.”


“So, did you stop in to see Sam this morning?” asked Jennifer Ralston. 

They were sitting in Jennifer’s living room having a glass of wine.  “I hadn’t heard from you in a couple days and was starting to get a little worried.”

“I had some things to sort out and take care of.  And yeah, I saw Sam.  He’s gettin’ better, but was kinda crabby,” said Johnny.

“Maybe he was upset because you got into his business last night.”                                    

“What?  What are you talkin’ about?” said Johnny.  “What business?”

“You know damn well what I’m talking about.  That was a stupid stunt you pulled and you’re not stupid.  What’s gotten into you?”

“I wasn’t about to let that Russian mob think they could get away with almost killin’ one of my friends cuz they had a beef with me,” said Johnny.

“This wasn’t about you,” said Jennifer.  “They had a beef with Sam and they sent him a message.  Sam will be more careful from here on out.  That will be better for everyone involved.”

“Why do I get the feeling that once again I don’t know what the hell’s really goin’ on,” asked Johnny.  “This is just like six months ago when I was lookin’ for your husband.   Bits and pieces came my way and I was supposed to put them together to make a pretty picture.”

“You know the expression, ‘What you don’t know won’t hurt you,’ right?” said Jennifer.  “This is one of those things you don’t want to know so you won’t get hurt.”

“When you say ‘better for everyone involved,’ who’s ‘everyone?’” asked Johnny.  “Cuz to me ‘everyone’ seems to be you, Sam, and the Russians.  Not Johnny.”

“Oh, come on, relax.  Have another glass of wine,” said Jennifer. 

Johnny got up and put on his coat and hat.  “Nah, I’m leavin’.  I’m gonna get some answers.  If not from you or Sam, from the mob.  Stupid?  Maybe.  So sue me.”


“Zharkov?  It’s Jennifer Ralston.  We have a problem.  And it’s because of your boy, Lance Nichols.”

“Oh, then it is okay, Ms. Ralston; Lance is dead.  Last night, somebody —”

“Listen.  I know Lance’s dead.  The guy who killed him is going to be looking to see why Lance put a hurt on Sam Johnson last week.  Johnny Adams is a personal friend of mine and I don’t want anything to happen to him.  Anything, you hear?”

“If Adams killed Lance, maybe we should tip the cops off about —”

“No cops, Zharkov.  And Johnny doesn’t get hurt while he’s nosing around.  Got it?  Tell him Lance has worked for you in the past, but acted on his own as to the Sam Johnson thing.”

“But, Ms. Ralston. I don’t think —”

“That’s right; you don’t think.  You just do as I say.”                                               


Johnny walked into Sveta’s House, a Russian restaurant in Queens, and sat down at the bar next to Dmitry Zharkov.

“Zharkov, we need to talk,” said Johnny.  “You wanna talk here or someplace more private?”

Two of Zharkov’s goons had ambled over from a table in the back and now stood behind Johnny.  Zharkov waived them off and they returned to their table.

“We can talk here if you can keep your voice down,” said Zharkov.  “If you are going to yell and wave your arms in the air, we should probably go to my office in my apartment down the street.”

“We can talk here,” said Johnny.  He asked the bartender for a Baltika Dark, a Russian beer he had heard about from Sam.

Zharkov sighed.  “This is about Lance Nichols and Sam Johnson, is it not?”

“Everybody in Queens knows more about what’s goin’ on than I do,” said Johnny.  “Bring me up to speed, Zharkov.”

“I will tell you some things that may ease your mind.  I won’t be telling you how I run my business or who I run it with.  My business is none of your business, you see?”

“So, ease my mind,” said Johnny.  “Why did you have Lance Nichols rough up my friend, Sam Johnson?”

“Lance Nichols has done some work for me now and then, but whatever business he had with Sam Johnson was between him and Sam.  Since Lance is now dead, you will have to talk to Sam about what their business was.”

“You probably won’t be too surprised if I tell ya I don’t believe that line of crap,” said Johnny.  “I have it on pretty good authority that you used Lance to send Sam a message.  Why would you, a big shot, need to send a bartender friend of mine a message?  If you don’t level with me, we might have to go down to your office, cuz I’m startin’ to feel like yellin’ and wavin’ my arms in the air.”

Zharkov’s already thin lips got a little thinner.  He absently scratched the side of his neck and motioned to his two bodyguards to come forward.

“I got it ‘on pretty good authority,’ as you say, that you would be coming around asking questions about this matter.  I was told to tell you that Lance acted alone.  I have told you Lance acted alone.  Our business is finished.  My men will show you out if you need assistance finding the door.”                                                                                                    

Johnny threw the last little bit of beer in his glass into Zharkov’s face.  He felt a sharp prick on his neck, struggled for a bit as two hands held him by the shoulders, and then everything went dark.


Johnny wafted into wakefulness.  He was in a sitting position and his head was lying on his arms, which were resting on a hard surface.  He could smell coffee and… rye bread?

Sitting up carefully and opening his eyes, he saw the familiar walls of his office.  Sitting across his desk from him was Jennifer Ralston.

“I thought you might need this,” she said pointing at the coffee and ham sandwich.

“How’d I get here?” asked Johnny.  He had trouble getting the words formed and they came out a little slurred.  “And what are you doin’ here?”

“Dmitry Zharkov called me and I told him to have his boys bring you here.  I guess you and I have some things to talk about.  Before you get yourself killed.”

“So, do you work for Zharkov, or does he work for you?  Is Sam on the mob’s payroll too?” said Johnny, taking a sip of his coffee.

“I’m not going to start at the beginning; it would take too long,” said Jennifer.  “Zharkov and I are business partners.  Sam owns the brownstone where Zharkov has his office and his immediate family and a couple of his employees live.”

“Wait, Sam owns a brownstone here in Queens?  Can’t be; he lives in a little efficiency above The Shot Glass.  I’ve been up there.  Where would Sam get the money for a brownstone?”

“From Zharkov.  Dmitry Zharkov has enough money to buy all the brownstones he wants, but the IRS would want to know where that money came from.  The brownstone is in Sam’s name; he owns it free and clear and Zharkov pays him rent.

“Sweet deal; who’d he have to kill for that to happen?”

“Sam didn’t kill anybody,” said Jennifer.  “He doesn’t have to do anything but collect the rent, pay the property taxes, arrange to have any repairs made, and keep his mouth shut.”

“So, assuming all you’ve said so far is true, and I don’t for a minute think it is, why did Zharkov send Lance Nichols to put a hurt on Sam?”

“Everything I said is true,” said Jennifer.  “There’s a lot more that we’ll get to a little at a time.  Sam got roughed up because he stuck his nose in Zharkov’s business.  I talked to Zharkov about how sorry he’d be if he ever did something like that again to a friend of mine and he got the message.”

“Did you send somebody around to kick Zharkov in the head?”

“Shut up and eat your sandwich,” said Jennifer.  “Here’s what happened:  Sam went over to the brownstone to check on some repair work that had been done.  Since nobody answered the door, he let himself in.  When he called out to see if anybody was there, he heard a muffled response come from down in the basement.

“He went down to the basement and found a woman gagged and tied to a chair.  Sam loosened the gag and she told him that when she had told Zharkov she wanted out of the “escort” business and wanted to go back to Russia, Zharkov had said he’d give her some time to think about it in the basement and then she could either go back to work or he would kill her.”

“And you’re partners with this guy?” asked Johnny.

“It’s business, Johnny; he’s a business partner, not a friend with benefits.  So, anyhow, Sam cut her loose, jimmied a file in Zharkov’s office to get her passport and personal things, and arranged for her to fly back to Russia.  Somehow, Zharkov found out about Sam’s part in it and wanted to let him know that sort of thing was not acceptable.”

“So if I wouldn’t have taken care of Lance, and Sam would have when he was well enough, how would Zharkov have been with that?” said Johnny.

“He would have been fine with that.  I told him he was going to be fine with whatever Sam chose to do to Lance as payback.”

Johnny stared at Jennifer.  It occurred to him that she was his “good authority” and also Zharkov’s.

“Well, don’t just sit there; say something,” said Jennifer.  “Your brow is all scrunched up like you’re thinking hard.”

Johnny continued to stare at Jennifer a bit and then said, “I am thinkin’.  I’m thinkin’ that I probably know a Russian Mafia boss better than my girl and my best friend.  I’m thinkin’ I might need some time to reflect on things.

“I guess you’re saying I should leave, so I’ll go,” said Jennifer.  “But one last bit of advice:  Be careful reflecting; sometimes it can get you into even more trouble than you’re already in.”

Jennifer stood up and left Johnny’s office.  Johnny sat there a few minutes and then made a phone call.                                                                                               

“Hello, Lester?  Johnny Adams.  Ya know that thing we talked about a while back?  If you still want me, I think I’m ready to take you up on it.  I need a change of scenery.”

“Ya bringin’ anybody with ya?” asked Lester Wilson.  “Anybody important in your life right now?  Cuz things can sometimes get a little dicey out here.”

Johnny sat for a bit doing some more reflecting.  “Nope, nobody important in my life right now except me.  I can catch a flight to LA tomorrow.  See ya then, buddy.”


Art by Hillary Lyon © 2018



Roy Dorman



“Looks like I’m doing that damn driving thing again tonight,” sighed Robert Benson.

He glanced at the digital clock on the dash and saw it was 12:05 AM; the same time it always was when he first checked it while on “the drive.”

As usual, there was a little fog, but visibility was good.  Robert saw the figure lurch from the ditch onto the road and start stumbling down the white center line toward him.

He put on his brights and slowed to about 15 m.p.h.  Carefully, he veered over to straddle the left shoulder and started the practiced maneuver around the man who was now frantically waving his hands over his head.

“I suppose it could be me,” Robert said. “It’s hard to tell for sure.”

He could see the man had cut himself on the forehead and his face was covered in blood.  Robert thought he probably had been in a fight or more likely a car accident.

“Stop!  Please stop!” the injured man yelled as Robert slowly crept past him.  He lunged at the car and left a bloody handprint on the driver’s side window.

When he was sure he was past him, Robert hit the accelerator and took off toward home.

In the morning after breakfast, he went out to the garage to check the car.  As always, the handprint was gone.


Other than those five minutes on the foggy road that occurred once or twice a month, Robert’s life was pretty normal.  He had a good job, nice house, and a new car.  But he had no one to share this odd experience with.  Even if he had, who would believe it?

The first time it had happened, as the driver finding himself in his car instead of in his bed, he had been too befuddled to consider stopping.  That following morning, he had felt guilty about not helping the injured man but hadn’t really been sure it had actually happened.

So much was puzzling.  When he was the driver, he never knew where he was coming from or going to.  At 12:05 AM he was just “there.”  The last thing he remembered before that was getting into bed for the night.

When he was the one walking on the road, if he indeed was also the injured man on the road, he didn’t remember the incident that had put him in the ditch.  Each time, he started by struggling to get out of the ditch and then walking down the middle of the road trying to flag someone down.

He was disoriented from the accident and the cut on his forehead had bled into his eyes.  This, coupled with the bright lights in the otherwise dark surroundings, made the whole situation surreal.


And so, another night, later in the same month, he found himself as the injured man in the ditch.

“Oh, damn, that hurts,” he said as he crawled through the weeds and made for the road.  He could see a car approaching and started waving his arms to get them to stop,

The car did slow down as it always did, but rather than stop, it again started to inch its way around him.

“That could be me in there,” said the injured man, trying to look into the car.  The bright lights made it so he could only make out a vague shape behind the wheel.

“Stop!  Please stop!”  he screamed, but the car kept moving until it was safely past and then it sped away.

The injured man staggered a few more steps and then fell face first onto the road.


Robert awoke in his car as he always did when he might have been the man on the road.  Fortunately, he always shut off the engine.  As he had done before, he had somehow driven home, made it into the garage, and had fallen asleep.

He checked the rearview mirror and saw no cut on his forehead or blood on his face.  Was he the injured man or wasn’t he?

“I better get ready for work,” he sighed.


A month later at 12:05 AM,  Robert was driving again and wondered if he changed things a little maybe he could make this whole business go away. 

What if he just stopped now and made a U-turn in the road?  Or what if he sped up right now instead of slowing down and made it past the spot where the stumbling man came out of the ditch?

A third option was too scary to consider — what if he stopped the car, got out, and offered to help the injured man?  Would his mind be able to handle it if the injured man got into the car — and turned out to be himself?  He was already half convinced he was somehow both the driver and the injured man.  He didn’t like what that might do to his mental health.

But now he saw it was too late.  Up ahead he saw the injured man was somehow already on the road and finding his way to the center line.  Robert put on his brights but didn’t slow down.  Another option had occurred to him — he could run the injured man down and kill him.


The man carrying a gas can walking on the side of the road toward town waved to the oncoming driver, but then stopped when saw the car was heading right at him.

He took three quick steps from the center and dove into the ditch.

Robert continued accelerating and followed him.  His car abruptly stopped when it crashed head-on into a twenty-foot burr oak tree.  Before the airbag could deploy, Robert’s head had smashed into the steering wheel.


“There’s no sign of any skid marks,” said State Trooper Lester Biggs, the first officer on the scene.  “Looks like he left the road and didn’t try to stop at all; it was the tree that stopped him.”

“Well, the EMTs will be here in a few minutes,” said Trooper Janice Wilson, a seasoned veteran who had arrived just minutes after Biggs.  “I told ‘em we had an injured man.  Seems like he’s breathing normally; I think you’re right that we shouldn’t move him.”

“I wonder what he was doing out here,” said Biggs.  “I mean he’s barefoot and in his pajamas.  And there’s no smell of alcohol.  I ran his plates through the DMV.  The driver, the injured man, might be a Robert Benson.” 

“Who’s that guy sitting over there?” said Wilson.  “Was he a passenger?”

“Nah,” said Biggs.  “That’s the guy who first called it in.  He ran out of gas a ways back and was walking on this side of the road.  He stepped out to flag this guy down and the guy veered from his lane and tried to run him over.  That’s his bloody handprint on the driver side window.  He cut his hand on some broken glass when he dove into the ditch and left the handprint when he checked on the driver.”

“Probably a broken bottle,” said Wilson.  “When we were kids we’d get somebody old enough to buy beer to get us a six-pack.  Then we’d head out into the country, drink our beer while we drove along with the radio blaring, and throw the empty bottles out the windows into the ditch.”

“I wouldn’t share that little piece of your glorious youth with the captain, Janice,” said Biggs.  “You are a police officer, ya know.”

 “I was just thinking,” said Wilson. “Maybe the detectives should see if there’s a personal connection between the driver and the guy who ran out of gas.” 

“Could be.  This shift sure does get the occasional odd one, don’t it?”  said Biggs.”

“Yup,” said Wilson. “Ya just can’t make this shit up.”



Art by Hillary Lyon © 2019


by Roy Dorman


“Anything exciting goin’ on in your life?” asked Charlie Evans as he sipped his first drink of the day.

“Nope, not a thing right this minute” said Claire Morgan.  “But we can always hope, right?”

“I suppose so.  Thing is, unlike you, I don’t figure I’ve got a lot more years left for exciting stuff to happen.”

“Johnny’s sitting over there kinda quiet, isn’t he?” said Claire.

“Somethin’ weighin’ heavy on his mind, I’d say,” said Charlie.  “Boy that young shouldn’t have such serious problems.”


An hour ago, Johnny Dawson had taken a key from Eddie Kilgore’s pocket as Eddie lay unconscious on the kitchen floor of their flat. 

Then, having opened a locker in the train station with the key, he had begun reading a handwritten note:  “JOHNNY, UNLESS YOU’VE FLIPPED THE TOGGLE SWITCH TO DEACTIVATE, YOU WON’T  ….”

Johnny had hit the floor and covered his head with both hands, expecting to be blown to bits in the next instant.

After a few seconds had ticked by and nothing had happened, he’d gotten to his hands and knees and looked up at the expressions on the faces of the passersby.  Some had looked puzzled, a few concerned, but most had been grinning.

“Nothin’ to see here, folks,” Johnny had said as he stood up and brushed himself off.  “Just slipped on a wet spot on the floor is all.”

Johnny had peeked into the locker again and had retrieved the note.  “…. FINISH READING THIS.  BOOM!!!”

Other than the note, the only thing in the locker had been a small wooden box.  It was made of some kind of dark wood, maybe mahogany, and had some intricate carvings on the lid.  It had been much too small to hold fifty thousand dollars in cash and a kilo of coke, but was definitely big enough to have something explosive wired inside.

“This shit is so Eddie,” Johnny had mumbled.

Johnny hadn’t touched the box.  He had closed the locker, locked it with the key, and walked away.

He had figured he should think on this a bit.


Johnny and Eddie had grown up together in Elk Grove, a small town in the Midwest.  In the town of about twelve hundred people, there was a grocery store, three bars, two churches, a gas station, an elementary school and a high school.

Beginning sometime around the time they were eight years old, Johnny and Eddie teamed up and provided their own entertainment.  Elk Grove felt the wrath of their boredom until the boys turned sixteen and were able to drive the fifty miles to Chicago on the weekends.

One weekend Johnny and Eddie just never came back to Elk Grove.  The population of Elk Grove had breathed a collective sigh of relief.


Johnny usually did his best thinking over a craft beer in a quiet bar, but the IPA in front of him wasn’t helping him come up with anything helpful.

An hour had now passed since he had hit Eddie over the head with the butt of his gun and Johnny was wondering if maybe he had killed him.

“You’re sittin’ there drinkin’ beer wondering if maybe ya killed me, ain’t ya.”

Johnny jumped like he’d been goosed.

“Damn, don’t sneak up on me like that,” he said.  “Ya could give a guy a heart attack.”

“Says the guy who snuck up on me and laid me out with a whack on the head.”

Hearing this exchange, Claire, this afternoon shift’s bartender, walked the length of the bar to the two.  “What can I get you?” she said to Eddie.

Ignoring Claire, Eddie said, “So, what’s the deal, chump?”

“He’ll have an IPA,” Johnny said, smiling at Claire.  “And get me another too, please.”

Claire drew the taps and set them on the bar.  “Eight dollars; Happy Hour.”

“I feel happier already,” said Johnny, lifting his beer to Eddie.  “How about you?”

Eddie just glared.  Johnny gave Claire a ten and put the ones in change on the rail for a tip.

Eddie sat down and whispered something in Johnny’s ear.  Johnny laughed and punched Eddie playfully on the shoulder.

“Ya think I was gonna skip town with all the money?  Nah, I’d never do that to you.”


Claire Morgan, a hipster between twenty-five and thirty, liked the two to eight shift at the Rusty Nail.  The owner, Rusty Burke, gave Claire a deal on the rent for the one bedroom apartment over the bar and that allowed her to take a class at the university each semester.

The Rusty Nail usually saw a couple dozen customers come and go during her shift, with there always being four or five regulars to keep her company.

For the occasional jerk who gave her a rough time, one or two of those regulars would escort the guy to the alley outback if they got the nod from Claire.

Once a customer had been taken out back, they usually never stopped by the Rusty Nail again.

Claire had had a rough childhood.  She had never known her father, and her mother, a crack addict, had been killed by one of her crack buddies when Claire was ten.  Too old for adoption, Claire had spent eight years in five different foster homes before she was turned loose at age eighteen.

She had a good heart, and most people who knew her would be surprised there was a dark seething she kept suppressed.  Claire felt she was owed something by somebody for her shitty childhood.  


Claire usually got a kick out of Johnny and Eddie, but sensed something was not good between them this afternoon.  Her ears had perked up when she heard Johnny say something about money and she had strolled down to their end of the bar.

Though Claire liked the bartender gig okay, she was saving up for a move to the West Coast.  If Johnny and Eddie had some new found wealth, she was sure she could help them part with it.

She purposely walked a few feet past them, and then, one at a time, started taking down the bottles of top shelf liquor from the ledge on the ornate back bar.  She dusted the shelf and then meticulously dusted each bottle as she put it back in its place.

The conversation was very interesting.  When Eddie mumbled something that sounded like fifty thousand dollars, Claire almost dropped the Drambuie.


 “So what’s in the wooden box?” asked Johnny.

“A key,” said Eddie.  “The key to another locker where the dope and money are.”

“So are we gonna take it and split, or what?”

“That was the plan until you put my lights out,” said Eddie.  “Now I don’t know.  What kind of partner does that kinda thing?”

“Sorry, I got restless,” said Johnny.  “We said we were goin’ to LA after the job.  That was two weeks ago.   You just keep findin’ reasons to…..”


“Money, dope, and LA,” thought Claire as she put the dust rag away.  “This keeps getting better and better.”

She started to think about how she might get the money from them now, talk them into taking her with them and get it from them on the way, or wait and take it from them in LA.

Claire had no doubts at all as to whether Johnny and Eddie were a match for her abilities.  Many was the time she had seen her mother dupe some guy out his money so she could score some dope.  Johnny was a little quicker than Eddie, but neither of those two would ever be considered the sharpest knife in the drawer. 

“Did I overhear you say you guys were going to LA?” asked Claire as she set another couple of pints in front of Johnny and Eddie.  “I’m planning to go to LA too. 

“I’m thinking I’ll take the train; it’s cheaper.  I’ll take what I need and have Rusty, my boss, ship the rest of my stuff to me once I’m settled.

“The train’s not as picky about how much you carry on like those airline TSA people are.”

“Yeah,” said Johnny.  “We’re goin’ to LA.  Eddie and I have seen our last Chicago winter.” 

“We were thinking about driving, though,” said Eddie.  “That way nobody checks your luggage at all, right?”

“Take me with you and I could give you gas money and drive some too,” said Claire.  “We could  drive straight through if we wanted too.”

“We’ll think about it,” said Johnny.


“First Iowa, and now Nebraska,” grumbled Eddie as Claire drove down the interstate on the first day.  “Corn, corn, and more corn.  Oh, wait; is that wheat?  When are things gonna get interestin’?”

“Oh, don’t be such a whiner,” said Claire.  “We’re gonna be on I-80 all the way to San Francisco.  After Nebraska, we start into the mountains and it gets more scenic.”

“Then what?” said Eddie.

“Then we take the Pacific Coast Highway down to LA,” said Claire.  “I’ve heard that’s a beautiful stretch.  You should take a nap like our buddy, Johnny.  Just chill and let me drive.”


Claire had waited in the car outside Union Station while Johnny and Eddie had gone in to retrieve a briefcase.  She figured the case held the money and dope Johnny and Eddie had bragged about taking from a drug dealer on the North Side.

As she sat in the car waiting for them, she decided that the next time they left her alone in the car, she was gone.  LA was a big place and Johnny and Eddie would never find her.

Claire had no use for the dope; stolen dope was trouble.  She’d dump that after she dumped Johnny and Eddie.


Crossing the parking lot of a 24/7 at an I-80 exit outside of Salt Lake City, Eddie expressed his frustration with Claire.

“I liked her better as a bartender.  She’s a little too lippy as far as I’m concerned.  I’ll be glad when we’re rid of her.”

“Oh, come on,” said Johnny.  “She’s not so bad; you just don’t like it when she tells it like it is.”

“Yeah, well if it was up to me, the next time she left the car, we’d take off without her.”

“Let’s get the sodas and snacks and get back on the road.”


When Claire saw Johnny and Eddie enter the store, she stopped pumping gas and got back in the car. 

If she had heard what Eddie had told Johnny about ditching her, she would have thought she and Eddie had some sort of weird psychic connection.

She put the car in drive and headed toward the I-80 on-ramp.

“What can they do?” she said as she merged onto the interstate and moved the SUV up to 70 m.p.h.  “This car’s probably stolen, so they can hardly call the cops and tell them I stole their stolen car with a briefcase of stolen money and stolen dope.”

Claire decided that before she reached LA she would get a rental car and move her stuff into it.  She’d wipe this car for prints, leave the keys in the ignition, and let whoever came upon the car have both it and Johnny’s and Eddie’s stuff.

She laughed to herself as she pictured Johnny and Eddie washing dishes at some truck stop.  The fifty grand was going to give her a nice start in LA.


“Well, I’ve still got the key to the briefcase in my pocket,” said Eddie.

“Ya know, somehow I don’t think somebody like Claire is going to let that slow her down, buddy,” said Johnny, putting an arm around Eddie’s shoulder.  “Hey, you ready to tackle Salt Lake City?”



Roy Dorman is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and is the submissions editor of Yahara Prairie Lights. He has had poetry and flash fiction published in One Sentence Poems, Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, Theme of Absence, Drunk Monkeys, The Flash Fiction Press, Black Petals, and a number of other online magazines.

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