BAD NEWS OUT OF ATLANTA
By Roy Dorman
“This place looks like it might be open
already,” said Gordy Stone. “Let’s go in
and have a couple to celebrate, and then find a place for an early dinner.”
good,” said Don Pickens.
a little after two-o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon,
and Clarissa McFadden had just opened the doors of Mickey’s Tavern. She often chooses a couple of weekdays to open the place herself. It gives her bartenders time to do their personal
The first two customers
to come in and sit at the bar are middle-aged men who look professional.
Professional like her friend,
mob boss Arnie Bate’s hired help look professional.
Clarissa took the bar’s .38 from the drawer and
put it on the shelf under the bar for easy access.
a feeling about these two.
barkeep. Two dry martinis, please.”
up,” Clarissa said with a smile.
The men talk in low tones,
but Clarissa can hear bits and pieces of the conversation from where she’s preparing
Mickey?” asked Stone.
Pickens. “From the looks of the architecture of this
place, Mickey’s probably been dead for fifty years.”
set the drinks in front of the two. Pickens put a twenty and a ten on the bar.
“Thanks,” he said.
“Change is for you. First tip
of the day.”
“So, is Mickey around?”
dead for over fifty years,” Clarissa said with a smirk. “I’m Clarissa.
I own this bar.”
“Nice to meetcha,”
said Pickens. “I’m Don, and this is my, ah…, partner,
Gordy. We’re celebratin’.”
“What’s the occasion?” asked Clarissa.
“Two occasions,” said Stone. “We both retired this week, and we got married an hour ago.”
Any more drinks are on the house. Stay
as long as you like. And if you’re
not from around here, I can tell you about some good restaurants in the Central Park area.”
Before either man could reply to Clarissa’s hospitality,
a third man walked in the door.
Clarissa moved up tight
against the bar and picked up the .38. She
held it out of sight at her side.
well, well. Stone and Pickens,” the rough looking
character said, ignoring Clarissa.
Of course, there’s
no way he could know this, but Clarissa really hated to be ignored.
The new guy drew a Glock from a shoulder
holster and leveled it at Pickens and Stone. Neither
of the men moved.
“You don’t retire
until the boss says you can retire. You know
the rules. He sent me up here to make a lesson
outta you two for any others who may think they’re their own bosses.”
Clarissa raised her .38
and said to the newcomer, “Drop the Glock or you’re a dead man.”
The guy turned toward Clarissa
and she fired, hitting him in the forehead. Falling
back, he managed to get off a reflexive shot that hit Clarissa near the heart.
get outta here,” yelled Stone.
that,” said Pickens. “Call 911. I’m gonna try and keep her alive until
they get here.”
“Call 911, goddammit! We’re done
runnin’. You and me started a new life
together this morning. We’re joinin’
the ranks of the regular folks. Call!”
“Shots fired at Mickey’s Tavern near Central Park. Bartender
down. Need an ambulance. Now!”
Pickens grabbed a handful of clean bar rags and
pressed them onto Clarissa’s wound.
“Missed her heart,
but it’s gonna be close,” he said between forcing air into her lungs.
EMTs came pouring through the door and took
over for Pickens. Uniformed cops followed
“What happened here?”
asked Ritchie Byrnes, the officer in charge. “Damn,
that’s Clarissa McFadden.” And then, “Who’s that?” pointing
at the dead man. “And who are you
“I’m Don Pickens
and this is my husband, Gordy Stone.”
That was the first time he’d said that and it
felt good. “We were havin’ a drink and
chattin’ with the bartender when that guy on the floor came in, probably to rob the
joint. The bartender had a .38 behind the
bar, and while this guy was lookin’ to relieve us of our wallets, she told him to
drop his piece. He turned to shoot her and
she shot him. That’s about it. It happened pretty fast.”
“Okay if I pat ya down?” asked Officer Byrnes.
“Sure, go ahead,” said Stone.
Stone and Pickens had decided to start their retirement
and married life without carrying the tools of their trade. They were clean.
EMTs hurriedly wheeled Clarissa past Stone,
Pickens, and Byrnes, and out the door.
“You did a good job,”
said one of the EMTS to Pickens. “You
in the business?”
“Well, you almost
certainly saved her life. Nice work.”
need you to come to the precinct for statements,” said Byrnes.
“We can do that,” said Pickens. “Lead on.”
Byrnes left an officer at
the bar to wait for someone to come in and either take over or close the place.
and Stone had saved Clarissa’s life. But before they’d done that, she’d saved theirs.
After surgery, Clarissa
told her husband, Carl, everything that had happened, including her thoughts as to why
those two had been targeted.
But she hadn’t shared all she suspected with
the police. Pickens and Stone would be looking
over their shoulders for the rest of their lives, and didn’t need any additional
scrutiny from the NYPD right now.
When visitors were allowed,
Mickey’s bartenders came in with flowers and cards to cheer her up. The bartenders were handling the scheduling, and things were once
again fine at Mickey’s.
just leaving Clarissa’s room to go find coffee
when he spotted two big men, one carrying a huge bouquet of flowers, heading his way.
“Are you Don Pickens and Gordy Stone?”
The men tensed.
“You a cop?” asked Pickens.
“No,” said Carl,
extending his hand. “I’m Carl Monroe. Clarissa’s husband.”
shook hands with Carl and visibly relaxed.
“Your wife saved our
lives,” said Stone. And nodding at the flowers Pickens was
holding, said, “We wanted to thank her.”
understand you saved hers. And I want to
thank you for that.”
“Yeah, well, if we
wouldn’t’ve been there, she wouldn’t’ve been shot,” said
Pickens. “We feel bad about that. From that little bit of time we had to get to
know her, we got the idea she’s a great person.”
she is,” said Carl. “And you
didn’t shoot her, that wiseguy did. Come
on. I’ll take you to her room.”
“How’s she doin’?” asked Pickens,
following Carl down the hall.
recovering. It’ll be a while before she’s her old feisty
self, but she’ll be back to giving me grief when I screw up before too long.”
“Don and Gordy. Long
time, no see. And flowers. They’re beautiful.”
Ms. McFadden,” said Pickens. “We
wanted to thank you for what ya did for us.”
“I don’t like people pulling guns on my
customers,” said Clarissa.
“And when they do,
she shoots ‘em,” Carl said, shrugging.
“Hey, I told ‘em to drop his piece, didn’t I,
“Yes, you did,”
said Stone with a chuckle.
There was a pregnant pause
until Pickens spoke again.
and I would like to ask your permission to continue
with something we’ve been plannin’ to do for some time now.
We have plane tickets to go to Paris out of La Guardia tonight. We’re plannin’ to live there in our retirement.
“You’re a smart woman, so you’ve probably
guessed from what you heard the other day as to what we’re retirin’ from.
We’re hopin’ to put some distance between us and that old life —”
“What our old selves would do,” Stone cut
in. “Is go after our boss for sending
Walter Dean to execute us, and almost gettin’ you killed in the deal. If you think we should, we will. But we sorta promised each other at our wedding the other day that
we wouldn’t go back to that.”
hey, before I forget, we wanna thank you for not tellin’
the cops everything that was said during those few short minutes,” said Pickens. “I’m assumin’ ya didn’t,
because if ya had, we wouldn’t be free to try and live out our dream.”
“I give you my permission, guys,” said Clarissa. “Carl and I wish you all the best.”
“Now, our former boss, Jackie Colgate, out of
Atlanta, may not think this is over,” said Stone. “Sometimes, things
like this are never over. We don’t
like leavin’ you in that situation.”
“I’ve got this big, strong, handsome, lunk here
to protect me.”
“As if she needs protecting—”
“Also, Arnie Bates
is a personal friend of ours,” said Clarissa.
“You may’ve heard of him. He just hates it when somebody from
some other territory comes into his territory without checking in with him. Walter Dean didn’t check in.
We’ll ask Arnie to give Colgate a call and tell him what’s expected
in the future.”
“Arnie Bates, huh,”
said Pickens. “Heard he’s tough.”
“He is,” said Carl.
“And he’ll be glad to hear someone from Atlanta thinks he is.”
“Well, thanks again, Ms. McFadden,” said
Stone. “It was nice meetin’ ya even if
the circumstances weren’t ideal. You
“Send us a postcard
from Paris. Maybe if Carl and I can pull ourselves away
from our work, we’ll fly over and visit.”
THANKS FOR THE HELP
Private Investigator Charlie Richardson left
two cars between himself and the black SUV he was tailing. That was standard
But at the next light, his
mark stopped for the red light for just a second, and then sped off, running the light,
leaving Charlie stuck between those buffer cars.
“Damn!” Charlie shouted, hammering his fist on
the steering wheel.
There were cars waiting
for the green in the left lane next to him, so his only option would have been to take
the sidewalk. That would have attracted a
lot of attention.
Sidewalks have lots of things
that make driving a car on them difficult. Sign
poles, fire hydrants, babies in strollers, sandwich boards, bag-people pushing grocery
carts full of their belongings. Lots of deterrents.
He banged the steering wheel again.
A two-year old sitting in his car seat in the
car to Charlie’s left had seen him pounding on the steering wheel and thought it
hilarious. Charlie managed a smile and a
wave, but wasn’t in the mood for much more than that.
he waited for the light.
he must’ve been spotted. After leaving
the light, the SUV probably made a left or right turn off this main drag and had then taken
an alternate route to wherever they were going.
When the light changed, Charlie debated trying
to catch up to his client’s concern or heading back to his office to regroup.
He decided to see if he could catch up.
He drove for a while, checking his rear-view
mirror for when he could no longer see the stoplight.
When it was no longer visible, he took the
first right and accelerated. Charlie figured
a right turn had been the more likely choice as there would’ve been no wait for making
a left turn into oncoming traffic.
“Come on, come on. Where are ya?”
been driving for five or six blocks, looking back and
forth at all of the cross streets, when he saw the black SUV coming up fast behind him.
An arm with a pistol attached to it snaked out
of the passenger side window.
Charlie hit the brakes,
hoping the driver of the SUV would also have to hit his brakes, spoiling the aim of his
It worked. Sort of.
Two out of four shots came through the back
window and exited through the windshield.
Accelerating again, Charlie
cursed. “That’s the third time I’ve had to replace
those windows in six months. My car insurance
premium’s gonna go through the roof.”
a block, the SUV caught up, this time pulling alongside
of Charlie’s old Toyota. As soon as
they were even, Charlie hit the brakes again and made a quick left turn down a side street.
The SUV also screeched to a stop, but was hit
head-on by a garbage truck. They’d been
in the wrong lane at the wrong time.
Charlie didn’t see
that collision, and he continued on as if he were being followed. He circled the block where his parking garage was located a couple
of times before deciding he’d somehow lost them.
He parked his car and walked the four blocks to
His insurance agent said they’d send somebody
out to repair the windows. He told Charlie
not to worry about filing a police report. They already had police reports
from the previous incidents. They’d
just use one of them to satisfy the paperwork.
gonna set ya up with business insurance on that vehicle
instead of personal insurance,” said the agent, Al Sanders. “It’s
cheaper and ya can write off the expense. You
are getting shot at during the course of yer business, right? It’s not a personal thing, is it?”
“Yer a funny guy, Al. Do whatever ya can.”
think ya should consider adding some life insurance
too,” Al said. “Got anybody you’d
like to leave a little richer? Just in case?”
Charlie got up from his desk and walked to the
only window in the office. He stared down
at the street and thought. Out of the corner
of his eye noticed a fly on its back on the window sill slowly kicking its last kicks. An omen?
I don’t have anybody like that,” he said.
The thought saddened him.
“Well, ya could leave
it to a charity of yer choice,” continued Al.
“The way you do business, ya could have somebody killin’ ya anytime. Think about it. I gotta go. Watch yer back.”
ended the call. He was still staring down at the street when
the hairs on the back of his neck bristled.
“Watch yer back,”
his agent had said.
Charlie turned from the
window to face his office door. He watched
as the knob was slowly rotated and the door opened an inch or so.
That wasn’t the way
clients entered his office.
He heard someone whisper,
“One, two, three.”
The door flew open and two
thugs rushed in, guns drawn, scanning the office.
Charlie’d already pulled his Glock, and he nailed them both before either
had a chance to get off a shot.
Maybe tailing people wasn’t
his strong suit, but he’d always been able to shoot straight.
He stared at the two men bleeding out on his
ya could have somebody killin’ ya anytime.”
“Yeah, Al, it’s
Charlie again. I guess I’d like to go with some of that life
insurance you mentioned.”
“That was quick,”
“Those guys who shot
out my windows? They’re dead on the floor in my office. I’m waitin’ on Chicago’s finest. Set me
up for $50,000.”
“I’ll have Maddie
do up the paperwork for yer signature, and I’ll bring it over after lunch. Who do ya wanna designate as beneficiary?”
You’ve been takin’ care of me for years.”
sure? That’s sweet of ya and all,
but a little irregular. Probably raise some
eyebrows at home office.”
“Well, I don’t
wanna get ya in trouble —"
Nah, that’s okay. Give ‘em something to talk about. Stuffed
Things were quiet for the next few weeks. There was enough business, but it mostly involved staking out hotel
parking lots and taking pictures of wayward spouses meeting to do things with other people’s
It paid well, but it often
left Charlie questioning his career choice.
was often so boring.
After working late one night,
he walked to his parking garage. Whenever
he walked to his car at night, he always had horror movie scenes playing in his mind. He was alone, his footfalls echoing on the
pavement were the only sounds, and he searched for the killer among the few remaining cars
on the floor.
And there he was!
How exciting! Standing behind a pillar near his car!
Charlie reached for his Glock and fired just as
the shadow stepped out from behind the pillar.
The assailant had gotten
off a shot, but it hadn’t come close to Charlie.
Charlie walked over and kicked the Sig Sauer
from the guy’s hand. He turned him over
to check for vitals.
It was Al!
“Shit, Al. What
are you doin’ here?”
Al didn’t respond. He was dead.
Charlie called 911.
After talking to the dispatcher,
he looked down at Al and gently nudged his shoulder with his foot.
“Thanks for the help over the years. I don’t suppose you had a policy with me as beneficiary, did
“So, Maddie, I ain’t ever had any life
insurance before. What do I do now? My
“I can bring over
a new beneficiary form for your signature.”
“I don’t have anybody.
Yer home office would have a hissy fit if I named you.”
“Well, there’s this soup kitchen for homeless
folks over off Rush Street I volunteer at. They’re
“Let’s do that,”
said Charlie. “And, hey.
Thanks for the help.”
“No problemo, Charlie. Watch yer back.”
ended the call and sat back in his chair, staring at
his office door.
“Watch yer back? Really.”
Roy Dorman is retired from
the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for
over 65 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English
teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had flash fiction and poetry published
in Black Petals, Bewildering Stories, One Sentence Poems, Yellow
Mama, Drunk Monkeys, Literally Stories, Dark Dossier, The Rye
Whiskey Review, Near To The Knuckle, Theme of Absence,
Shotgun Honey, and a number of other online and print journals. Unweaving
a Tangled Web, recently published by Hekate Publishing, is his first