THANKS FOR THE
Private Investigator Charlie
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.
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
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
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
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.
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 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
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
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.”
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 wayward spouses.
It paid well, but it often
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
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!
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
“I can bring over
a new beneficiary form for
“I don’t have
anybody. Yer home office would have a hissy fit if I
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.”
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
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