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Roy Dorman: Thanks for the Help

93_ym_thanksforhelp_hlyon.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2022

THANKS FOR THE HELP

 

Roy Dorman

 

Private Investigator Charlie Richardson left two cars between himself and the black SUV he was tailing.  That was standard operating procedure.

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.

Simmering, he waited for the light.

He figured 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?”

He’d 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 partner.

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.”

Within 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 office.

***

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.

“I’m 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.”

“I 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?

“Nah, 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.”

Charlie 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 cheap carpet.

“…. 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,” Al said.

“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, Al.  You’ve been takin’ care of me for years.”

“Ya 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 shirts.”

***

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 wayward spouses.

It paid well, but it often left Charlie questioning his career choice.

It 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 ya?”

***

“So, Maddie, I ain’t ever had any life insurance before.  What do I do now?  My beneficiary’s dead.”

“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 good people.”

“Let’s do that,” said Charlie.  “And, hey.  Thanks for the help.”

“No problemo, Charlie.  Watch yer back.”

Charlie ended the call and sat back in his chair, staring at his office door.

“Watch yer back?  Really.”

THE END



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 novel. 





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 EasyThuggish 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 Arizona.  https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/                                    



In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2022