Hate and Love
Millie woke and massaged
her temples. Sunbeams framed drawn shades. Afternoon?
She turned; her blue bandanna covered the clock. Another
anxiety blackout? What’s the last thing . . . the morning meeting
with Simon’s spineless principal!
She rubbed her neck. Advil!
She slipped on her terry
robe and stepped into the hallway. Simon’s door was closed. Past four already? She approached and knocked. “How was school, sweetie?”
She grabbed his doorknob. Locked!
eyes watered. “Did Nick bully you again?”
Silence, still, as usual. He’d
have swept his desk clear and laid his head on his arms, crying.
on your friends. Nobody who matters cares about your
She felt the slim key through
her pocket, then dropped her hand.
respect your privacy”—she wiped off tears—“but talking always helps.”
Mousy Moorehead! He set up today’s
meeting after last week’s threats, then gave Nick a warning after his hollow apology.
“I’ll make sundaes.”
She waited, then bit her
lip. Refusing ice cream? Nick must’ve pulled his
Bang! Bang! A fist pounded the front door. “Police, Mrs. Gold!”
yelled to Simon. “It’s the police! Maybe
they’ve arrested Nick.”
She ran downstairs and opened
the door for a muscular patrolman.
Broderick, ma’am. There was an incident at the
Moorehead leniency would only encourage Nick Marden. Mousy dismissed them both to Woodshop.”
He nodded. “I need to ask about afterward.”
“Simon’s decompressing. I give him
alone time when he’s upset. You understand, with kids.”
raised his left eyebrow. “It’s urgent we sort this out.”
“Then I’ll fill you in. In elementary
school, Simon’s microtia was a curiosity, not a curse.” She brushed her left
ear. “And it’s barely noticeable now, with the surgery. But Nick’s been
calling him ‘half-head’ since September, shoves him in the hallway, and scorched
interviewing Nick—his father gave permission.”
“Of course. Now his parents respect authority. They skipped our meeting, wouldn’t
face that Junior’s a hateful delinquent. Don’t trust what Nick says.”
“We tried calling here, about talking
“I silence my phone
when I get migraines.”
“Someone pulled the woodshop fire
alarm fifteen minutes after your meeting. Was it Simon?”
would he . . .” Her jaw dropped and she grabbed
Broderick’s shirt. “Was Simon hurt?”
windmilled his right arm, breaking her grip. “Ma’am!”
he yelled, red-faced. “Don’t do that!”
out her hands. “I—I’d never hurt
anybody, especially a policeman. Just tell
me what happened at school.”
Broderick brushed down his
shirt. “Right, school. The alarm caused a big commotion, everyone packing the halls.
And the shop teacher was focused on securing the flammables, following protocol.”
He paused. “Mrs. Gold, were you still in the building then?”
narrative evoked forgotten memories, like yesterday’s dream. “I was. . . .
I left with everyone else . . . so crowded. . . . Some of the kids were yelling.”
Broderick’s phone chimed. He tapped
it, muttered, “From the captain,” then looked back at her. “Mrs. Gold, I have
to come in now.”
Simon’s been through—”
“Fine! Seeing the police take this
seriously might help, anyway.”
She led him upstairs. “If
only the Mardens taught Nick consideration, or Moorehead meted out consequences. . . .”
She gestured to Simon’s door.
Broderick rattled the knob, then
scowled at her.
“It’s his safe
space. Just knock.”
“He locked this?”
allowed it, since the bullying.”
Broderick shook his head, turned
back toward the door, then stooped and stared.
Millie followed his gaze
to a crimson speck. “Simon’s bleeding!” She reached into her pocket,
then fumbled with the key. “We’re coming, sweetie!”
When the lock popped, Broderick burst
in, stepped to the desk, and held up his phone. Millie followed, then froze, dropping the
Simon wasn’t there,
yet his desk had been swept clear, clear
except for three items: his clock, sixteen red LEDs displaying 12:15; the nub of an earlobe, matching the scoring knife’s gash in
Nick Marden’s photo on the cop’s phone like a puzzle piece; and her cursive
on a stained sheet of paper, Nick will never
tease you again.
as one of the diehards who ventures out in the winter nights to gaze at Edison
Tower, aiming his battery-less phone, feigning clicks, having shortly before left the museum
through the same door he’d busted to get in.
was the plan.
But his backpack should be bulging with two fireproof,
waterproof boxes, and he shouldn’t have a gash in his right glove. Better not
have left blood.
He gets in the car
and preempts my tirade with an outburst of his own. “You screwed up, Lee! There wasn’t
a cam lock on that cabinet, it had an electronic deadbolt! I nearly sliced my hand forcing
He waves in my periphery as I focus on the road.
there were no records inside,” he says.
recordings. Just some old parts and boxes of knickknacks.”
grew up in Edison and never went to the Thomas Edison
Museum? His lab was there!” I turn right.
yeah. The light bulb, the phonograph.”
idiot! Early recordings were on cylinders. Those knickknacks
would’ve fetched enough Bitcoin to buy a couple of Cadillacs.”
did you call me?”
idiot!” I shake my head. “We could circle
“I’m no dimwit.”
you think that new lock was alarmed separately from
the phone line I had you cut?”
least I know the difference between ignorance and stupidity.”
focus, ignoramus!” I slow down before Dellwood Road. “Should we backtrack or
“Quit the insults.
If I’d planned this job, I would’ve given clear instructions.”
slam the steering wheel and continue straight. “You think staring at a fortune and
leaving it behind isn’t your fault at all? A smart person would’ve asked
questions if he didn’t understand something. A curious person would’ve visited
the only museum in his hometown. Ignorance is usually caused by stupidity—”
“—which is clearly
the case now.”
I fume, and both of us stay silent until I start pulling
into my garage. Billy says, “You’re sure no one will remember my car’s
been parked at the Fix-It?”
are always different cars there overnight.”
this will be our last job together?”
for sure, Einstein.”
I’m coming in for the evidence burn.”
I close the garage door and we get out of the car. Billy
puts the backpack on the ground, takes off the black coat, hat, and gloves I’d bought
and piles them together on the hood, then retrieves his coat from a hook.
sure your own gloves are on before you come in.”
time I hadn’t meant it.
I say, “Stay here
a minute. I’ll double-check that the shades are drawn and start the fire.”
left the wood and wax starters stacked to burn and get
back to Billy quickly. He’s wadded the robbery outfit and backpack in his arms and
holds the tools in his hands. I lead him in, then nod to the bathroom. “Steel in
the tub. I use straight vinegar for any residue that’s stuck.” He’s gentle
with the crowbar but clunks the hammer and screwdrivers. “Careful!” Careful,
continue to the hearth. He kneels with the pile and
hands me the clothes. I toss the hat and gloves into the flames, then cut the coat into
strips with shears.
backpack’s completely empty?”
what? I’m a dope?” Billy unzips it, puts
both hands in, then pulls out four brown-wax cylinders pressed together with the fingers
of his left hand.
I raise the shears as Billy brings up a silenced pistol
with his right hand. He smirks. “I’m thinking one Cadillac is all I need, and
a boat. Or would that be stupid?”
Jacob Graysol (jacobgraysolnovelist.com) lives and writes in central New Jersey. He wrote the lawyer-laden police procedural Righteous
Judgment, and published its sequel, Righteous Endeavors, in
February 2020. His flash fiction has been published by Yellow Mama
(#92), as well as Every Day Fiction, Mystery Tribune, and Reflex