Note to Self
Peter W. J. Hayes
The blood just
wouldn’t come out. Soaped, soaked and
rubbed, it stayed a brown one-inch-wide streak down the front of my shirt.
Note to self:
When you steal your boss’ cash by taking out
the guy who launders it for him, wear dark colors. He’s the laundry expert, not
So here I am.
Damp shirt, warm day. Everything wrinkling faster
than I can drive from Salem to Boston. It’s noisy with the windows down. The
cash is in the trunk, two hundred thousand in a metal-sided briefcase.
with myself. Who was I kidding when I let
Jessica talk me into this?
For a woman like
her, two-hundred thousand isn’t nearly
enough. I’m gabbling things out loud to tell her. It’s a grub stake. We’ll triple
it in a year. A new start for us. The wind whips away my words and might be
laughing at me.
The start of
what, exactly? Running an ice cream store? The
last time we snuck into Boston for dinner she dropped two thousand dollars on a
bottle of wine. A Chateaux Margaux, I think the restaurant expert said. I’d
never heard of it, but I was distracted by my forty-dollar appetizer of two
bacon-wrapped chicken livers.
The waiter was
talking on and on about uncaged pigs and
free-range chickens. I was staring at my plate, pretty sure the uncaged pigs
were the restaurant owners and I should stick to things more in the free-range.
It was after
dinner Jessica suggested we take out Manny, our
boss’ money laundering guru. Grab his daily deposit and run. Manny and I work
for Colby, the worst-named gangster in America. Colby is five-foot eight of
black-haired, glowering Portuguese. His name was dreamed up by his immigrant
parents. They figured once he was older, he would fit right in with the Beacon
Hill types. What can I say? His parents were immigrants. They actually thought fitting
in was possible.
Note to self:
Life’s not about living the dream, it’s about
dreaming up ways to keep living.
me she was tired of being Colby’s side action,
despite the million-dollar condo and ten-thousand-dollar limit on the credit
card he’d given her. She gave me Manny’s schedule and told me what to expect in
the briefcase. At the time, we were in a room at the Parker House, sunk into a king-sized
bed as soft as their almost-famous dinner rolls. Her hands were exactly where most
guys would want them. Which is how she worked. The more serious the topic, the busier
I almost missed
what she said. Again, I was distracted, but
not for the obvious reason. A little earlier, as I slid off her silky panties, I’d
been overwhelmed at how soft and smooth her legs felt. I was thinking what a
world we live in, which could give us that, and the bubonic plague.
It took me a
few moments to focus.
Two weeks later,
I tromped the woods east of Waterville,
Maine, my nights spent on a lumpy mattress in a local motel that smelled of mildew
and sour coffee. On the other side of the wall from my headboard—all night long—a
machine clunked and clattered out ice cubes. When I returned to Salem, I left
behind a four-foot-deep empty grave overlooking Messalonskee Lake.
I figured if
things went well, it would be a peaceful resting
place for Manny. If things went sideways, I’d ask Colby to use the hole for me.
He would. He’d
like the irony of it, and it meant less
My shirt was
almost dry when I parked outside Jessica’s
condo. Her silver Mercedes, another gift from Colby, was in the usual space.
Note to self:
We’re all hard-wired—given enough time—to see
just about anything as a cage. Maybe that’s what fooled me about Jessica. But facts
are facts. No way did my briefcase with two-hundred thousand match all the
free-range Colby had given her.
When I reached
her front door, she threw it open like she
was waiting for me. Her red dress was wrapped skin tight and I didn’t see a
travelling bag anywhere. She dragged me among the white sofas, black cube
tables and chrome of her deadpan living room.
doing great, thanks,” I said.
what I mean.” She spread her arms theatrically, expecting
a big hug. I responded with a polite hunch-the-shoulders-not-to-smoosh-anything
squeeze and release.
kinda wet,” I apologized.
She spotted the
smear of daubed blood. Her hand flew to her
care of. His briefcase’s in the car.”
Her blue eyes
widened. I launched into my rehearsed speech
about new starts. She took a step back, hand still to her mouth.
Which is exactly
when Colby stepped from the hall behind
her. He crossed to us in a lumbering, stubble-cheeked gait, tapping an
automatic of some kind against his thigh. I shut up like a dropped stone.
this, exactly?” he rasped.
Under my arms,
my shirt was soaked again. I remembered holding
my gun to Manny’s chest a few hours earlier, and how I knew in that moment Jessica’s
plan would never work. It was crazy. Useless. Finally, honestly, I’d asked
myself how it was possible—in any way—for a dream like Jessica to be interested
in me. She couldn’t be, of course.
Note to self:
Wake the hell up—trust your instincts.
out of the hall behind Colby, in all his six-foot-four,
two-hundred and fifty pounds of muscle-bound glory. I’d always thought Pops was
born two thousand years too late. He belonged among Celtic tribes, naked,
painted blue, windmilling a war ax. When I was near him, I always imagined Roman
centurions collapsing in sprays of blood and entrails.
But Pops was
the best news I could hope for.
stumbled into Colby making an unannounced,
afternoon-delight visit to Jessica. This smelled like a set-up. Which started
to explain what Jessica had really seen in me.
this, exactly?” Colby had a bad habit of repeating
me,” I tossed back, my mind spinning. Plan B was
shot. I needed a Plan C.
He gave me a
toothy smile. “I asked Jessica to do me a
favor. Take a few of you boys out. Tell everyone a different story about
wanting to run away. See who bit. I know I got a rat in the gang. Figured it was
a good way to flush him out.”
found your rat.” The words were out of my mouth
before I could stop them. See? Instincts.
now?” Colby tapped his pants with the automatic.
I grabbed for one of the whirling merry-go-rounds
in my head. “Manny is your rat. That’s why I’m bringing you today’s deposit.”
I heard a whistling
Pops got his
nickname early, back when he punched anyone he
thought needed it. He always went for the nose—he liked the ‘pop’ when it broke.
Hence the nickname. One night, Pops hit an ex-heavyweight boxer with the ring
name Machete Joe. Joe’s nose had been broken more times than your average speed
limit, and being used to the feeling, he punched back. Pops’ nose snapped like
a bread stick. Ever since, whenever Pops gets excited and breathes fast, his nose
Right now, he
sounded like a train coming to a crossing.
at me. “Yeah? How’d you know I was here?”
by your office. You weren’t there.” A flat lie,
but I needed time.
shoot Manny?” He gestured at my shirt with the
I punched him. Broke his nose. He bled on me.”
A grin creased
Pops broad face and the whistle subsided.
Remembering the good times, I guessed. I wasn’t going to explain my Plan A was
to shoot Manny, until I realized that running away with Jessica was an idiot’s
dream. Which led me to the nose-pop solution.
Manny was taken care of.” Jessica frowned at me.
An itch started
at my lower back, running up my spine in a
thin line around to my chest. I wanted to scratch it bad. I focused on Colby.
“I can explain.”
try.” Colby, always the sharp negotiator. The
smile faded from Pops face. Talk bored him, generally.
Colby, you own five massage parlors along Route One from
Boston to Newburyport, right?”
own twenty-some gas stations around town. You run
numbers and loansharking out of every one. Sell Molly, coke, from behind the
counter. Convenience stores of crime, you called them. Everything cash.”
Trying to figure out how to franchise them.” He snorted
a laugh. “Good moneymakers for me. So?”
worked security at all those places. I know their
daily take. And Manny’s deposit every day? It’s five thousand dollars light.”
Another flat lie, but I thought I might be in the clear by now.
a slow day.” Colby, ever the reasonable man.
I grinned at
him. “Five thousand light a day. Every day.
Day after day. For how many years?”
Colby and Pops
frowned as one. Pops, because my words sounded
like math, which he hated. Colby, because math came easily to him.
at Pops. “Call Manny. Put him on speaker.” He
looked at me. “Let’s see what he says.”
I started thinking
of a polite way to mention Manny was
tied up and I’d thrown away his phone, but he answered before the second ring.
what’s up?” He sounded like he still had toilet
paper up his nose.
Pops held out
the phone so Colby could speak. “It’s Colby.
Where are you?”
A pause, then,
“On my way to you. That asshole Ronnie broke
my nose and stole today’s deposit. Said he was going to find you.”
I felt lightheaded.
How the hell did Manny answer the
phone? What the freak was going on?
toward the phone. “Ronnie says your deposit is
Silence for several
seconds. “Bullshit!” The word came out in
a screech, an octave higher than normal.
when you get here,” Colby said.
“Interesting. That scared him. And if he
doesn’t show, you’re right. He’s been skimming.” He tapped his automatic against
his leg. He gave Jessica a long and thoughtful look. I knew what he was
thinking. Jessica must have told him I’d agreed to run away with her, but I
showed up with a story about Manny.
The line up my
back and around to my chest itched like
Colby made a
couple of calls and the rest of us tried not
look at each other while he talked. Jessica glowered at a plant that looked like
it was scared of the furniture. Or her. Five minutes later, when a polite knock
arrived on the door, Colby nodded to her.
She swung the
door wide, just like she did for me, and
disappeared under a wave of blue-clad bodies. Colby just raised his hands and
waited, and I did the same. The big guy went down under five of them, but I
heard a couple of pops as they fell. After they got him out of there, the cops
with mangled noses made a point of bleeding all over the white sofas and chrome.
Two other cops
handcuffed me and marched me past Colby into
the hallway. They bounced me off the doorframe along the way, which they
thought was hilarious. I ended up locked in the back of a cruiser with my hands
handcuffed in my lap.
A telling breach
of procedure, that.
I sat for twenty
minutes, until Detective Flanagan slid into
the back seat beside me. “Ronnie, Ronnie
Ronnie,” he said. “Nice job, boyo.” He produced a key and undid my handcuffs.
I ripped open
my shirt and tore the wire from my chest and
back. Threw it on the floor. Scratched like I had poison ivy. I hated the damn
thing. I also hated being called boyo. When I was somewhere close to normal, I
said, “Colby admitted owning the places, even making money from them. That’s
what you needed, right?”
We’ve made enough buys in the stores and massage
parlors to close him down. Just needed him bragging he owned them. We can make
it stick. Nice touch, buttering him up with the convenience stores of crime
what he actually says.” The itch dried up. I could
catchy.” Flanagan grinned at me. “Quick thinking on
your part, though. Who knew Colby would be there? Walk in planning to get
enough dirt on Jessica to flip her, and you turn it on Colby. Saved us three
months of work. And how’d you like my bit with Manny? I was listening to your
wire and told him what to say. Grabbed his balls when he was going to deny
skimming. Got his voice to the right octave.”
I had to admit
that part was well done. “And our deal?”
we got Colby, Reggie’s parole moves up six months.”
gave you Manny on a platter. He’ll roll, he’s that type.
That’s worth a few months.”
I’ll talk to the DA. Now, want to get Reggie out
even sooner? We’re after McKinnon’s Southie mob. Think you can get in with
them? You’re a free agent, now.”
I shrugged. “Depends
what you offer. But McKinnon’ll figure
Colby had a rat. Someone might talk.”
where they serve time, right? Guy like Pops, I see
a lot of solitary in his future. We can arrange something with the Feds to move
Manny and Colby out of state. That’ll buy you a year. We’ll put you in general
population today, let everyone get a good look at you. They’ll know you were
arrested with Colby.”
my arm. “All good. We’ll arrange bail
after your hearing on Monday. You’ll be eating steak at Abe and Louie’s for
dinner.” He slid out of the back seat.
I settled back.
Six months less for Reggie. I was good with
that. Reggie is my older brother. Three years ago, a guy got mouthy and wouldn’t
repay one of Colby’s loans, so a length of lead pipe and I put him on permanent
bed rest. Then it got weird. Instead of me, Flanagan and his boys arrested
Reggie. An understandable mistake, because Reggie and I are identical twins. I told
Reggie I would explain it to Flanagan, but he wouldn’t let me.
Note to self:
Even if the age difference is only two and a
half minutes, no way an older brother lets the younger one bail him out.
Reggie’s trial, Flanagan and the DA realized
their error. They wouldn’t admit it, of course. Instead, they threw the book at
him. A month later, Flanagan showed up on my doorstep and offered a deal. A
little information and Reggie’s parole would move up three months. Another phone
call from me and another three months sooner for Reggie. And today—just in
time—when I figured out that running away with Jessica was a fool’s dream, one
more call to Flanagan. Agreed. Six months fewer for Reggie if I delivered
Jessica. Reggie’s parole now two years away.
you can make twenty-four months.
I looked through
the cruiser’s window. Jessica was being
bundled into the back of an unmarked beside me. If there’s a look that cuts
glass, she was wearing it. I blew her a kiss and remembered sliding her silky underwear
down those long, smooth legs.
Note to self:
Everyone should have one night. Everyone. Male,
female, gay, straight, everything in between and all around it. At least one
night with the person of your dreams. That one memory to keep you warm when your
age turns eighty and the season to winter.
a dream to keep you living.
Peter W. J. Hayes is a recovered marketing
crime writer. He is the author of the Silver Falchion-nominated Pittsburgh
Trilogy, a police procedural series, and is a Derringer-nominated author of
short stories. His short work has appeared in Black Cat Mystery Magazine,
Mystery Weekly, Pulp Modern, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey,
and various anthologies, including two Malice Domestic collections and The
Best New England Crime Stories. He can be found at www.peterwjhayes.com
Hillary Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines.
She is also founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous
Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals
such as Eternal Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s
Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous
anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night
to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales
from the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror
anthologies such as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big Easy, Thuggish
Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She
appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus
Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France,
Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern