|Aldrich, Janet M.
|Allan, T. N.
|Allen, M. G.
|Ammonds, Phillip J.
|Augustyn, P. K.
|Aymar, E. A.
|Baumgartner, Jessica Marie
|Bennett, D. V.
|Bernardara, Will Jr.
|Blackwell, C. W.
|Bohem, Charlie Keys and Les
|Boyd, A. V.
|Brown, R. Thomas
|Bruce, K. Marvin
|Burke, Wayne F.
|Butler, Simon Hardy
|Cameron, W. B.
|Campbell, J. J.
|Campbell, Jack Jr.
|Cardoza, Dan A.
|Cooper, Malcolm Graham
|Corrigan, Mickey J.
|Cosby, S. A.
|Cross, Thomas X.
|Danoski, Joseph V.
|Davies, J. C.
|Davis, Michael D.
|de Bruler, Connor
|De France, Steve
|De La Garza, Lela Marie
|Deming, Ruth Z.
|De Neve, M. A.
|Dennehy, John W.
|Di Chellis, Peter
|Dillon, John J.
|Dioguardi, Michael Anthony
|Drake, Lena Judith
|Dromey, John H.
|Dubal, Paul Michael
|Dunham, T. Fox
|Dunn, Robin Wyatt
|Fisher, Miles Ryan
|Flanagan, Daniel N.
|Flanagan, Ryan Quinn
|Funk, Matthew C.
|Gardner, Cheryl Ann
|Garvey, Kevin Z.
|Gay, Sharon Frame
|Goddard, L. B.
|Golds, Stephen J.
|Greenberg, K.J. Hannah
|Gurney, Kenneth P.
|Hanson, Christopher Kenneth
|Hayes, A. J.
|Hayes, Peter W. J.
|Hockey, Matthew J.
|Hogan, Andrew J.
|Hoy, J. L.
|Huffman, A. J.
|Huguenin, Timothy G.
|Huskey, Jason L.
|Irascible, Dr. I. M.
|Jaggers, J. David
|Jones, D. S.
|Jones, Erin J.
|Kaplan, Barry Jay
|Keaton, David James
|Kevlock, Mark Joseph
|King, Michelle Ann
|Kolarik, Andrew J.
|Krafft, E. K.
|Lacks, Lee Todd
|La Rosa, F. Michael
|Lerner, Steven M
|Levine, Phyllis Peterson
|Lewis, Cynthia Ruth
|Liskey, Tom Darin
|Lopez, Aurelio Rico III
|Lucas, Gregory E.
|McFarlane, Adam Beau
|Mooney, Christopher P.
|Moran, Jacqueline M.
|Morgan, Bill W.
|Moss, David Harry
|Muslim, Kristine Ong
|Neuda, M. C.
|Ogurek, Douglas J.
|Perez, Juan M.
|Perez, Robert Aguon
|Powers, M. P.
|Purfield, M. E.
|Quinlan, Joseph R.
|reutter, g emil
|Rhiel, Ann Marie
|Richey, John Lunar
|Robinson, John D.
|Rodgers, K. M.
|Sayles, Betty J.
|Schraeder, E. F.
|Seymour, J. E.
|Shaikh, Aftab Yusuf
|Sheagren, Gerald E.
|Shirey, D. L.
|Shore, Donald D.
|Simmler, T. Maxim
|Sinisi, J. J.
|Small, Alan Edward
|Smith, Brian J.
|Smith, Ian C.
|Snethen, Daniel G.
|Solender, Michael J.
|Stanton, Henry G.
|Stevens, J. B.
|Stewart, Michael S.
|Stryker, Joseph H.
|Swartz, Justin A.
|Taylor, J. M.
|Thompson, John L.
|Valent, Raymond A.
|Waldman, Dr. Mel
|Weil, Lester L.
|White, Judy Friedman
|Williams, K. A.
|Art by W. Jack Savage © 2014
All of my life, I've loved only one girl: Lacey Heritage. We went to the same elementary
school, middle school, and high school, all twelve grades, and she never had a clue how
I felt about her. I'd tried to tell her, God knows how I'd tried, but my mouth would go
dry, my throat would clench, and my mind would go numb, searching for the right words to
say. Lacey's beauty had that effect on people. Even grown men would double-take when she
walked past them, and some of them even made passes at her. Lacey enjoyed every minute
of it, eating up the attention like a movie star.
made me mad to see her behaving like that. She knew better. Had we lived next door to each
other, rode the bus together, and walked to the diner together, just to throw that all
still can't explain what came over me today and why I'm hiding in Lacey's bedroom closet
right now. She's been dating this older guy, Rich Burton, but I don't know what she sees
in him. He's one of those dumb jocks with a small cock and an even smaller brain. He's
the backup fullback for the University of Southern California's football team. I saw him
play on TV once. He's a terrible fullback. He can't break through the defense's front line
to gain extra yardage and pick up that first down. In my eyes, he's nothing but a failure,
on and off the field.
Maybe that's why I did what I did to Rich. I know the police are going to find him
eventually, but with the way I made it look, they'll think he slit his own throat. What's
a crappy fullback with a jailbait girlfriend got to live for? Nothing, nothing at all.
Besides, Lacey isn't exactly jailbait. She's perfect, just the way she is, with that fluffy
honey-blonde hair, oceanic blue eyes, taut red lips, and perfectly rounded--
Stop that, I tell myself. You shouldn't be thinking those thoughts about the girl
next door, but after all those times I've watched her change clothes through my bedroom
window, how am I not supposed to think those things? How am I not supposed
to want Lacey Heritage, right here, right now, the way I've always wanted her?
Sorry, I got a little carried away there. I forgot to tell you how I ended up in
Lacey's bedroom closet. I was cutting her grass after coming back from killing Rich and
stuffing him in the trunk of his Firebird, and when I completed that task, I came in the
house and couldn't find anyone to pay me my usual ten bucks for mowing the lawn. Hey, I
have to make a living somehow, right?
I walked all through the bottom floor of the house without finding Lacey, her mom,
or her dad. I walked upstairs and caught a glimpse of a naked Lacey stepping into the shower
and closing the bathroom door. That image would last me until next week, or next month
even, but then a thought burst into my cerebellum: what if I told Lacey how I felt about
her, really told her, and took her as she was?
I know that's not what boys my age are supposed to think. I just turned nineteen,
but everyone still calls me a boy or a child. I hate that. My dad told me that until you
have sex with a girl, you're not really a man.
Damn it all, Dad, I want to be a man!
I climbed the steps to Lacey's room and examined it carefully. She had laid a pair
of skimpy see-through panties on the bed to put on after her shower was over. Just as I went to feel the fabric of her underwear, the water stopped
running in Lacey's shower. Fearing for my life, I ducked into her closet and held the doors
shut. The doors had slats in them, so I could still see inside her room and watch
Lacey like a naughty voyeur.
That's how I ended up in Lacey's closet, but here's the real kicker. While
Lacey dried off in the bathroom, my head bumped a shoebox on a shelf in her closet. I caught the box before it hit the floor, but
the lid slid off, and out tumbled a neat little .22 and an assortment of dollar bills.
Some of them were ones, others fives, with a few tens and twenties mixed in. I even saw
a hundred dollar bill in there, and those you don't come by easy.
My first question was, "Where did Lacey get all of this money?"
second question was, "Why does Lacey own a gun?"
My final question was, "What does she plan to do with it?"
I picked up the .22 and studied its nickel plating and pearl grip. My dad had owned
guns throughout the years, but whenever he saw small ones like this, he called them "ladies'
guns" and said they couldn't kill anybody. Dad had taught me how to fire a gun, even though
my aim was awful. I ejected the clip and found it to be full, with a set of five
rounds inside. I inserted it into the gun and pulled the breech back, just like Dad had
shown me, an action which puts the first bullet in the chamber.
I did a rough count of the money in the shoe box. There was at least two hundred
dollars in there. Where did Lacey get this money?
At that moment, Lacey exited the bathroom and walked into my field of vision. The
slats didn't obscure much of her naked body as she shed her towel and slipped into her
panties. My mouth went dry, like it always did, and the closet suddenly felt like a sauna.
I couldn't speak, couldn't think. Why did Lacey always do this to me? Why?
Lacey turned to the closet and took a step forward. I realized I was doomed. She'd find me, she'd tell her parents, her parents
would tell my parents, and then I'd never be allowed to see her again, and I'd never become
took another step. Everything was running in slow-motion, like a movie being shot at one
frame per second. I had to get out of here, I had to get out of here!
Lacey took a third step. She put her hand on the knobs of the closet doors. Just as they slid back, a devilish thought entered
my head, like Satan himself was whispering in my ear.
You've got a gun. Use it.
Lacey opened the closet doors, exposing her half-naked body to me and exposing my
sweaty, frightened self to her. Her blues fell on my browns, as if she couldn't comprehend
how I got into the closet in the first place.
Then she screamed.
that's when I pulled the trigger.
It was nothing more than a loud clap, like someone trying
to kill a gnat with their hands. Blood spread across Lacey's abdomen and traveled south,
turning her panties from white to red. She stumbled back against her dresser, clutching
her stomach, as blood dripped from the corner of her mouth and onto the floor. Her eyes,
the eyes I'd loved so much, pleaded with me for a moment, then twisted to hate, and then
turned dark and glassy. And just like that, Lacey Heritage was gone.
I fell to my knees and dropped the .22 to the floor. I
believed Dad when he said these ladies' guns couldn't kill anybody. I guess Dad
was wrong. As the hot, bitter tears came and wails erupted from my lips, I realized
that all I'd wanted to do was scare her, and that her scream had scared me; it made
me pull the trigger.
no, that's not a good enough excuse. You're going to blame the victim for her own death?
No, this was all you, my brain told me. You wanted her so badly? Well, here she is. She's
dead as a doornail, but that's what you get for killing her boyfriend and thinking you
had any chance with her. And what was the big idea, hiding in her closet and hoping you'd
get to see her naked? What kind of sicko are you, pal?
As the self-destructive tape in my brain played on a loop,
I felt Lacey's dad grab me and slam me against the wall. He said things that
aren't fit to repeat and that I couldn't really hear over that awful tape in my head,
the one that just kept beating me up, over and over and over.
When the homicide detectives arrived, they found Lacey's
diary in her dresser drawer. It detailed how she was stealing Rich's money from
his wallet every time they slept together, and how she planned to kill him with the
.22 and take all of his money. It also detailed her opinion of me, which wasn't
very high to begin with. She thought I had an "unhealthy obsession" with her, how I was
the "dork next door," and how she liked teasing me through her bedroom window, because
"that's all the closer he's ever going to get."
After I heard all of that, I realized that killing Lacey
wasn't such a bad thing. She'd hated me
and the way we'd lived next door to each other, the way we'd rode the bus together,
and the way we'd walked to the diner together. It had meant a lifetime to me, and it didn't
mean shit to her.
I was right to kill her.
maybe, I told myself, the world was better off.
CIGARETTES AND CHAMPAGNE
Let me tell you, it doesn't get much lower than cigarettes and champagne. When you're sitting in a rusted Buick outside your girlfriend's apartment
building on a Friday night, smoking cigarettes like they were candy and drinking champagne
like it was water, you know you've hit rock solid bottom. Nobody's your friend on a night
like that, and nobody will lend you a dollar for a cheap sandwich at McDonald's to stave
the hunger that's clawing at the walls of your stomach.
That's what last Friday night was like for me. I was wearing my dad's gray pea coat
like it was my skin and I was still freezing cold. I caught a brief weather report on the
Buick's radio that said the temperature in Pittsburgh that night was four degrees. The
wind chill made it minus twenty. I only had heat coming out of one vent in the Buick, and
it was the one all the way against the passenger-side door. Not even your car respects
you when you've stooped to cigarettes and champagne.
I pulled the last Lucky Strike from the pack and put it between my trembling lips.
I could barely feel them touch each other. I reached for my lighter and flicked it on.
The flame died instantly. Too cold, I guess. I cupped my gloved hands around the damn thing
and managed to light the lung killer. I took a long, satisfying drag on it before I realized
I didn't have any money to get another pack. Too
bad they don't sell Lucky Strikes at the drive-thru.
The champagne bottle was sitting between my legs on the
floor of the Buick. I kept telling
myself I was drinking it to keep warm, but I remembered my Army survival training
and how they told us that was all a myth. Either way, I needed something with a kick to
wash down the taste of this awful job.
The gun I'd bought was a .357 Ruger GP100. I purchased it
from a friend who lived in the Hill District. It wasn't the nicest neighborhood
and he wasn't the nicest guy on the block. He had five or six guns to choose from
and I picked the one that fit inside my dad's coat. It only came with four bullets, and
I couldn't afford to buy any extras, so I'd been forced to make do. In case you're wondering,
that's what most of my money went to this week. The rest was spent on cigarettes and champagne.
I cradled the champagne bottle in my arm like it was my
first-born. It was half-empty and it looked lonely. I provided it with some
company as I took a slug of the bottle's contents and cradled it again. My eyes went to
the Buick's radio, which was playing that Chipmunks Christmas song. You know the one, about
not standing the wait and Alvin wanting a hula hoop. I remembered Christmas with my dad
and that record playing on the turntable while we opened gifts Christmas morning. If Dad
could see me now, I'm sure he'd be disappointed that this was how I spent Christmas Eve.
I took a glance at the Buick's radio again. George
Michael's "Last Christmas" was playing. I swear, not even the radio respects you
when you've stooped to cigarettes and champagne. I twisted the knob on the radio until
it clicked and George shut up. I'd been taking intermittent drags on the cigarette and
now it was half-way gone. I took another long pull on it and blew the exhaust out my nose. My nostrils burned a bit and that restored
feeling to my frozen schnoz. My face
felt like I'd held it inside one of those freezers they have in the frozen food
section of the grocery store. I couldn't take much more of this shit.
Finally, a call came in on my Tracfone. I pried it open
with shaking hands and answered the call.
"He--hello?" I answered, my lips unable to move.
"Do it now," the voice said, "and hurry."
They hung up. I hung up. I reached into my coat and removed
the Ruger. I checked the cylinder one last time and stared at the four bullets
in their little slots. I snapped the cylinder
closed and shoved the Ruger back inside my coat. I took a final drag on the
Lucky and jammed it into the overflowing ashtray. I took a slug of the champagne and
placed it on the passenger seat. Then I opened the Buick's door and stepped outside.
The winter air hit me like a sucker punch to the face. The
wind took my breath away and knocked the stuffing out of me. I pushed myself
toward the apartment building's door, gulping in the frigid air and trying to stay
upright, until I was inside the foyer.
Christmas lights framed the stairs that led up to the top
floor. Red and gold garland trimmed the foyer doors. I could hear Beethoven
coming from one of the upstairs apartments. It made me wish my neighbors were that educated.
I took the steps one at a time, gathering my strength, and then two at a time, as I cleared
the second and third floors. When I reached the fourth floor, I could see a window at the
far end of the hall that had a rainbow of Christmas lights hung around it. The lights were
blinking on and off in a rotating pattern. I had to fight tears as I looked at them and
how much they reminded me of Christmases long, long ago.
I forced myself down the hall and reached into my coat. I
removed the Ruger and cocked the hammer. I held the gun in both hands and stood
alongside the door to apartment 4-F, the one at the end of the hall and to the right.
I listened for a moment. Two moments. Sounds of sex and pleasure filtered through the door
and into my ears. I whirled around to the door and slammed my boot against the cheap lock,
shattering it with one kick. The door flew open and a shout erupted from inside the apartment.
I hurried inside, Ruger in front of me, and scanned the
living room and kitchen. Nobody home. I rushed to the bedroom and found my
girlfriend, Julie, naked on the bed with a naked man bending over her. He wasn't a greasy
slob, but he wasn't Clark Gable either.
Julie looked up at me as I entered the bedroom, the same
bedroom where I'd bent over Julie. I aimed the Ruger at her.
"Rufus?" she said in disbelief. "What are you
doing with the elephant gun?"
"Hey, buddy!" the naked man said to me. "Can't
you see I'm busy here?"
"I'll get to you in a minute, sir," I told him. "First
I shot Julie. It was
one bullet above her right breast. Blood spilled across her chest and onto the
sheets. The naked man reeled back from the sight of the blood and fell onto the
floor ass-first. I cocked the hammer on the Ruger as I watched all the life leave
"Goddamn it, Rufus," the man said, standing up
and rubbing his ass. "You sure know how to make an entrance."
"How long?" I asked. "How long has she been
cheating on me?"
"Six months," the man said. "She's been seeing
me and you, Rufus. That's how these girls work."
The man went over to his jeans and searched through his
pockets. I kept my eyes trained on him as he pretended to hunt for money.
"But hey, you did the
deed, so you deserve to be paid," he said. "After all, that's what we agreed to, right?"
When I saw the Derringer I spun right and pulled the bedroom
door closed behind me. The bullet pierced the wood of the door and cut into my
right side like a dagger through flesh. I put my hand to the wound and it came
back bloody. I cussed every bad word I knew and pushed my liquid legs toward the kitchen.
I slid into the kitchen and hid behind the refrigerator. A
kitchen towel hung from the handle on the fridge's door. I snatched it up and
applied it to my wound, hard, ignoring how much it burned. I could hear my client
run into the living room, his bare feet slapping against the hardwood floor. I peeked around
the corner of the fridge and looked through the kitchen doorway into the living room. He
was still naked and was busy scanning the Derringer from side to side.
I lifted the Ruger to eye level and spent a bullet on his
left kneecap, blowing it open and sending him sprawling to the floor in agony. As
his cries of pain echoed out into the hall, I put both feet on the floor and pushed
myself up to a standing position, stepping into the living room and looking down at him
"What did you expect, Rufus?" he said between
grunts of pain. "If I left you alive, you could implicate me in court!"
"And if I leave you alive," I pointed out, "you
could do the same to me."
The realization hit my client, and his face went an
ash-white. He looked up at me, his eyes
pleading for a reprieve.
"Come on, Rufus," he said. "I messed up, all
right? I'll make it up to you!"
"On Christmas Eve, Donald? I don't think so."
I shot him, too. A bullet went through his skull and
splattered his gray matter on the floor. I sighed and forged a path to the bedroom,
where I went through Donald's pockets. I found his wallet and flipped it open.
He had a dollar on him. That was all.
I put the dollar in my coat pocket and made my way out into
the hall. I stumbled down the three flights of stairs and shoved the lobby
doors open. When the cold hit me this time I didn't even feel it. I didn't feel anything.
I threw open the door to the Buick, got in, started the car, and drove to the nearest McDonald's.
I bought a McChicken with Donald's dollar. Lucky for me I
had the six cents tax in my glove compartment; otherwise it would have been a
no-go. As I sat in my car, wondering what to do about my bullet wound and whether
the bullet was still inside me, I ate the McChicken and felt it tickle my ribs on the way
down. I had never loved a fast food sandwich more. I devoured it, licked my fingers, and
washed it down with the last of the champagne. I felt a little sick to my stomach, but
I tried not to pay attention to it.
It wasn't until the drive home that I realized what I'd
done. Two people were dead over a lousy dollar, a dollar I had spent at McDonald's.
I was still freezing, my side hurt like hell, and I only had one bullet left in
my gun. Some hitman I'd turned out to be.
I guess it all goes back to the cigarettes and the
champagne. Nobody respects you when you're that low on your luck. Your girlfriend
doesn't respect you—she's been cheating on you with another guy. That guy doesn't
respect you, even when you agree to kill the girl for him and split the difference. Your
car doesn't respect you, your radio doesn't respect you, and even your empty wallet doesn't
respect you. The only things that respect you are cigarettes and champagne.
I turned on the Buick's radio and heard someone request the
Chipmunks song. I felt hot tears burn my eyes as the cracking of that old
record on the turntable came back to me.
Time for toys and time for cheer, they sang.
Damn straight, Alvin. Damn straight.
THE WOMAN ON THE BED
By Justin Swartz
I knew she shouldn't be tied up like that. It wasn't the proper thing to do with
a young woman. She was barely in her twenties, and I a hard-nosed sixty. I might as well
have been a shriveled eighty as far as she was concerned.
It was half past midnight on a hot Thursday evening. The city of York,
Pennsylvania had advised everyone to conserve energy by turning off their air conditioning.
I had none to speak of, and the constant sheen of sweat that built up on my skin did nothing
to cool me off. That's actually what sweat's for, you know. It's your body's pathetic attempt
to lower your temperature. A fat lot of good that did me, sitting on a plastic folding
chair, in the middle of a grimy studio apartment on College Avenue.
heard a siren go down the street, and it hit me like a lightning bolt to the heart. It
also made the lady on the bare mattress jerk awake, like she'd been electrocuted by that
bolt. She couldn't really sit up with her wrists and ankles bound to the bed frame via
handcuffs, but she tried her damnedest to.
"You're still here?"
she said with a heavy rasp. She cleared her throat and tried again. "Where's the other
"Joshua's getting Chinese takeout at the moment," I told her. Joshua was my brother,
ten years younger than I was, and every bit as hard-nosed as I. Perhaps even more so, considering
it was his idea to kidnap this woman and spread-eagle her across the bed in cuffs.
"You want to tell me why I'm here?"
"Oh," she muttered, "there's that look again."
raised my left eyebrow in her direction. I wasn't aware I had a "look."
since you brought me here, I've been studying you."
"Didn't know you cared," I quipped.
don't." She frowned. "That look I'm talking about? That's the look that says 'I don't know
shit.'" She moistened her chapped lips. "So, even if you wanted to tell me why I'm here,
you can't, because you never got the memo."
I went silent again. The woman chuckled slightly.
God," she said, "there it is again."
"You know, you talk pretty tough for a broad without any clothes on," I
It had been Joshua's idea to strip her naked before cuffing her to the bed, and
while I wasn't exactly jumping for joy over the idea, it hadn't been all bad. Her skin
was a creamy white, and she possessed long legs and fantastic breasts. I hadn't seen a
real naked woman in quite a long time, and I hadn't felt the sensation passing through
my groin and to my abdomen for longer than that.
"Stop staring!" she shouted.
help it," I said with a smirk. "Nudity is a crowd pleaser."
nothing but a greasy pig with a fat gut and a small dick!"
"Wow. Did you read that in a comic book, or did you come up with that yourself?"
She huffed and turned her face away. I let out a sigh and looked up at the old steel
ceiling fan, hanging precariously from a large hole by a thin array of wires. It was minus
two of its four sharp metal blades, and I was not looking forward to fixing that thing
should Joshua and I plan on an extended stay.
Three knocks came at the door, followed by two knocks, and then three again. I rose
from my chair and let Joshua in before closing it behind him. His hands were full of
brown paper bags whose corners were soaked in some sort of grease.
dumped the bags onto our rickety Family Dollar card table and riffled through them.
"I got you the broccoli and chicken, the lo mein, and the General Tso's," he
"Joshua, we need to have a talk," I told him.
it wait until after we eat?"
"No," I said quietly. "I don't think so."
turned to me, a styrofoam container in his right hand and a plastic fork in his left.
"You got something you want to say to me, bro?" he said in a politely angry
"Why is she here?"
I pointed toward the naked woman on the bed.
get to that after we eat."
"I think we'd better get to it now, Joshua."
I think you'd better sit the hell down and eat your damn Chinese before it gets cold."
My brother dropped his container of food on the table and pulled up a scuffed
wooden stool before he sat down to eat.
I was still standing there, looking at him, waiting for an apology that I knew
would never come.
"Come on, bro," Joshua said without looking my direction. "Nobody likes
I turned my chair around to face our Family Dollar special and dug in. Joshua
presented me with a large iced tea in a white styrofoam cup, and I took gulps of it in
between scarfing down my Chinese grub. I had no idea how hungry I'd been, and it took me
a long time to realize that I hadn't eaten since yesterday. There was something very, very
wrong with that.
I was halfway through my meal when the young lady cleared her throat again.
"Can I have something to drink?" she asked, her voice raspy from lack of liquid
I reached for my iced tea and went to insert the straw, but Joshua snatched the
straw out of the cup and crunched it in his hand.
"You don't deserve a drink, bitch," he said.
come on," I said in a low whisper. "She hasn't had anything to eat or drink in two days."
"Oh, so suddenly you care about her well-being?" My brother gave me a
disapproving look. "What's gotten into you?"
"Maybe if you told me why we're keeping her--"
the woman shouted from her handcuffed prison. "It's a studio apartment! I can totally hear
you guys and I want some answers! Who the hell are you and why the fuck am I even here?!"
I jerked in her direction, my blood starting to boil from a mixture of her
agitation and my own agitation toward my brother. Joshua wiped his mouth with a napkin,
stood from the table, and put a hand on my right shoulder.
"You finish your dinner," he said. "I'll handle this."
eyes were fixed on the naked woman's body as Joshua pulled his leather jacket off and dropped
it to the floor. He followed by unbuckling his belt and unzipping his jeans. Before he
went any further, he looked over his left shoulder at me with chilling eyes.
"Go on, bro," he said in his politely angry voice. "Eat up. When I'm
done, it'll be your turn." He nodded slowly to me, like a father assuring a child who is
learning to ride a bicycle, and straddled the woman on the mattress.
turned back to my meal as Joshua had his way with her. Sounds of her struggle and his assault
splintered through my ears as I shoveled the last of my dinner into my mouth. The worse
the sound got, the faster I ate, and by the time Joshua was finished, so was I.
As I took a long drink of my iced tea, one thought ricocheted through the walls
of my cranium.
I didn't even know her name.
could I have kidnapped, stripped, cuffed, and guarded an innocent woman without knowing
More importantly, would I ever know
Joshua threw his jacket on the back of my chair and dropped his stool at the foot
of the bed. The mattress had fresh stains on it from where Joshua had conducted his
business with the woman, and it was all I could do not to stand up and pound the hell out
of him for what he'd done to her. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't her pal or her savior. I
just didn't go for kidnapping and rape. It had never been my thing. Joshua, on the other
My brother reached inside his coat pocket and removed a stubby .38 Special from
its confines. It was black as the night sky, and as he opened the chamber, I could
see it was fully loaded with six slugs. He gave the chamber a spin, snapped it closed with
a flick of his wrist, and sat on his stool carefully, holding the .38 in his right hand
with his thumb on the hammer.
The woman on the bed wore a face of humiliation and shame as Joshua aimed the .38
at the space between her thighs.
I warned him, "what the hell are you doing?"
"You want to know why we abducted Pussy Galore here and tied her up in this shitty
apartment?" Joshua motioned toward her with his free hand. "Here's your chance."
"What do you two want with me?" the woman asked in a shaky voice. Her fiery personality
had been doused somewhat, courtesy of my brother.
"Do you know a guy by the name of Jim Lydecker?" Joshua asked her.
"Of course I do," she replied. "He's my grandfather."
Lydecker knew a man nick-named Goliath, correct?"
"I've...heard my grandfather mention his name," she said warily. "Why?"
"Goliath was our father," Joshua explained, pointing at me. "His real name was
George C. Hemmingsworth, but whenever he got in the ring, they called him Goliath."
"Explains a lot," she said. "The three of you must share the same inferiority
Joshua cocked the hammer on the .38. She bit her bottom lip as her eyes widened
"Now, back to the story," Joshua said with polite anger. "Goliath was on his way
to win the U.S. heavyweight title back in his day."
"Can you speed this up? I've got a doctor's appointment in the morning."
Joshua jammed the .38 against her snatch. She quaked with fear.
"You want to
be cute?" he seethed. "Be cute one more time, and the first one's going up the pipe." He
scowled at her. "Is that what you want?"
The woman shook her head rapidly. I could see tears building in her eyes. My blood
boiled again. I couldn't take much more of this.
said," Joshua continued, "Goliath was set to win the championship. Then he was introduced
to Jim Lydecker, a big fight promoter at the time." Joshua's eyes never wavered from the
woman on the bed. "Lydecker told our father that if he threw the heavyweight match, he'd
double the champ's prize money and hand it over to him once the match was over."
"You never told me any of this, Joshua," I said. "Why now?"
just so happens that I owe fifty large to a loan shark and I ain't got a dime to pay it
with, okay?!" It was the first time I'd seen Joshua lose his cool in front of anyone, including
me. His face contorted into a sneer, and his eyes grew wild like a tiger's. I'd never seen
him like this before, and I had to admit, I was terrified.
fifty grand got to do with her?!" I demanded, rising to my feet. Another siren went past,
and when the lightning bolt pulsed through my brain this time, all of the facts fell into
"There's that look," the woman said. "Only it's a little different now."
She jerked her chin toward me. "There's a spark of intelligence behind those eyes."
"Dad was supposed to get fifty grand from Lydecker for throwing the fight," I said
slowly, "and when he didn't, he went after the douche bag, and ended up being murdered?"
"Oh my God, bro!" Joshua scratched his forehead with the stubby barrel of the .38.
"It took you this long to put that together?"
"Look, I don't know what my grandfather did with that money!" the woman shouted
from the bed. "He did a lot of shady things back then, and whatever he left undone, he
took it to his grave!"
Joshua and I exchanged glances.
he's dead?" Joshua asked.
"That's usually what happens when people are put in graves," the woman quipped,
"or didn't your dip shit daddy tell you that?"
Joshua lifted the .38 in one swift motion and put his index finger against the trigger.
"There you go again," Joshua said in that polite anger of his. "Trying to be
I swatted at the revolver as Joshua squeezed the trigger. The clap of the shot filled
the apartment and rendered all of us deaf for a brief moment. The bullet passed
through the mattress and into the floor, its path taking it centimeters from the woman's
Joshua backed up on the balls of his feet, steadied himself, and turned to me. His
sneer was longer, sharper, and way more intense than before.
gone and done it, bro," he said. "Now I'm going to kill you too!"
Joshua lunged at
me, tackling me to the floor. The two of us tangled up into a mess of limbs and slid into
the card table, spilling what was left of our dinners and drinks on ourselves.
Joshua was on his feet first, smacking me across the face with the .38 and making
a solid connection with my nose. He followed that up by slamming his wrists into both
sides of my head, knocking me dizzy, before he brought his knee into my solar plexus as
the grand finale.
I fell to my knees, desperately trying to fill my empty lungs, as Joshua grabbed
me by my hair and jerked my head back. The .38 was in my face before I could utter any
sound, and as Joshua cocked the hammer, I had the funny feeling I was going to follow in
my father's footsteps.
"You made a big mistake today, bro," Joshua whispered. "You went against my
wishes, and nobody goes against my wishes!"
His breath was hot against my face. "Have I made myself clear?"
clear," I said, finding enough oxygen to utter the words. "There's just one problem."
"Oh, I'm dying to hear what
it is," Joshua replied in an ingratiating tone.
"The ceiling fan you wanted me to fix?"
"I never did."
Joshua looked up at the swaying ceiling fan, loosened by our struggle, as the wires
holding it in place snapped one by one. Joshua screamed as I shoved him beneath the fan
at the moment the final wire severed. Those old metal blades, sharp as they were,
sliced through Joshua's flesh, tearing his chest and abdomen to ribbons.
As my brother's
blood gushed out onto the floor and pooled under his body, I turned to look at the woman
on the bed, still naked, still handcuffed, still looking at me like I was her enemy.
I fished the .38 from the mess of Joshua's hands and blasted the cuffs off the lady
in question, who promptly kneed me in the nuts and slapped me stupid for a good five
minutes. Who knew she had that much fight left in her?
As she collapsed onto the floor, I put a hand under the mattress and retrieved her
clothes. She looked at me with grateful eyes this time, but as she started to slip into
them, a siren blasted out front of the apartment building and made both of us freeze.
"Go," she said. "Get out of here!"
crazy?" I said back. "I'm not going anywhere!"
"They won't believe anything you tell them! You're still one of the bad guys,
"I’ll take my chances."
I tossed the .38
on the floor, got down on my knees, and put my hands behind my head.
get it?" she said. "They’ll put you away for life!"
A look of stark realization passed over her face as pounding footsteps announced
the arrival of the York City Police Department. They burst in with Glocks drawn, shouting
things I no longer heard, as they read me my rights, slapped handcuffs around my wrists,
and drug me downstairs to the squad car.
Six months later, I was
sentenced to sixty years in prison, with the possibility of parole in thirty years. By
then I’d be ninety years old. I’d probably die in prison, that much I knew,
but I felt I deserved whatever was coming to me.
One day before my sixty-first birthday, the woman on the bed came to see me. She
was dressed in a Penn State hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, and black Converse hi-top sneakers.
She didn’t look any different, but I could tell the ordeal Joshua and I put her through
had taken a toll on her spirit.
She took her seat across from the glass partition and grabbed the phone. I grabbed
mine and waited for her to speak.
for what’s happened to you," she said. "You didn’t deserve this."
"Yes, I did," I told her. "What I did wasn’t right."
made it right in the end. Don’t you see that?"
I shook my head. I don’t think I’d ever see any of it as "right."
She leaned toward the glass and whispered into the phone. She seemed distraught
"...he made me pregnant."
I leaned back in
my chair, the air leaving my chest in one long, sad sigh. As if this couldn't get any worse...
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
Tears welled up
in her eyes. "You mean did." A tear trickled down her face. "I aborted it." She stifled
a sob and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
"Every day...but I didn't want to have a rapist's child."
"Why didn't you testify at my trial?" I asked the woman.
Her eyes widened
a bit, as if she were casting her mind back to that awful summer night six months ago.
"I couldn't bring myself to do it," she explained. "I was still too traumatized
by it all. I didn't want to relive that again." She closed her eyes. "Please try to understand."
"I do," I said. "Don't worry."
A security guard
stepped toward me and pointed to his watch.
"My time's up, I'm afraid," I said. "Thanks for stopping by."
The woman nodded
and went to put the phone back on the cradle. I caught her attention and pointed to the
phone. She put it back up to her ear and listened.
"I never got your name," I said.
Rachel," she said with a chuckle. "Rachel Lydecker."
"I'm Gus Hemmingsworth," I replied. "Hello, Rachel."
The security guard stormed toward me and pointed to his watch again. I stood from
my chair, as did Rachel, and I looked her in the eye for the first time.
We hung up our phones at the same time, and neither of us looked back.
Rachel never came to visit me again. I like to think she met a nice guy and is having
some kids of her own at the moment. I also think about what I could have done differently
that night, in order to make things come out where nobody had to die and nobody gets a
sixty-year sentence, but all the scenarios I've played out in my head never end well.
The simple fact is I could have stopped Joshua at any time. I could have stopped
him from kidnapping Rachel, cuffing Rachel, and raping Rachel...but I didn't. I was
scared of Joshua and what he'd do to me and her. But I've also
learned an important lesson: every action has consequences, and while my actions
landed me with this eight by eight cell, Joshua's actions cost him his life.
And damn him to
TILL DEATH DO US PART
By Justin Swartz
people isn't my idea of a good time, but you have no idea what atrocities
you're truly capable of until you have a reason to commit them...and my reason
was as good as any.
The name's Ace, Ace Daniels. It makes me sound like I'm Indiana Jones or some comic book hero. My Dad named me Ace after a matinee serial he
adored as a kid. I think it was called Sky
Ace or Captain Ace. I can't remember. I can't remember much of anything with all
the blood on the floor and this headache that's slicing my head to ribbons.
It didn't have to be like this.
That’s what I keep telling myself.
If the British guy in the Yugo hadn’t pulled up to my station, and if I hadn’t
gone out to help him, and if my wife hadn’t shown up for lunch, and if the cops hadn’t
come in with guns blazing, and if the Brit hadn’t turned out to be a criminal, maybe
I wouldn’t be lying on the floor in a pool of blood with a bullet in my chest
and this headache that refuses to go away.
Maybe I should back up
and start at the beginning. The trouble
is, I'm not sure where everything began...
I run a bus station in Baker, California. Baker consists of hot sand and prickly cactus. Our days will burn you and our nights will freeze you. It keeps a lot of tourists away, and that's how I like it.
One humid Friday afternoon, I was at the bus
station cleaning the latrines, trying to wash the old hard-water stains out of the toilet
bowl. The station was just small enough
that I could run it by myself, and it's not like anyone's going to take a job in the middle
of Dirt Central for less than minimum wage.
As I was scrubbing away, I heard weary tires
crunch against the sand outside the station. I
stepped out of the men's room and glanced through the front doors and into the parking
lot. A lime green Yugo drifted up, the engine
coughing like a smoker who just needs a healthy dose of Robitussin. I wiped my hands off with an old rag and
stepped into the scorching sun.
There was a guy,
mid-twenties, about one-sixty, with black hair that was matted to his head from
sweat, standing in front of the Yugo. He
had the hood up and was examining the engine like it was a dead body on a slab
at the morgue.
"You need something,
mister?" I asked as I approached. The guy jerked, startled, and whacked
his head on the tip of the Yugo's hood. He bent over and backed away from the car, cussing up a storm. His blues met my grays and he frowned.
"Do I need something?" he said in a K-Mart British accent. "You're damn right I need something.
I need a car that works!"
"You're a Brit?" I asked, knowing that the question was almost rhetorical.
"What, did my accent give it away?" the guy shot back. He glanced at the Yugo's engine. "Do you know anything about
bit," I said. "My wife has one
she refuses to get rid of."
nothing but shit," the Brit said to me.
Then he turned to the Yugo.
"You hear me? You're a piece
"They're good in the
snow," I told him.
"Snow?!" he replied incredulously. "It doesn't snow in California!"
"Hey, that's what I tell the wife, but does she listen?" I said with a shrug.
The Brit gave me a harsh chuckle. "I
hear you, mate." He extended his hand to
me. "Roger Bedard."
"Ace Daniels," I said, shaking his hand like a man should. Roger returned it with one of those limp-fish
handshakes. That should have been my
"There's a fifty with your name on it if you can get this thing running again,"
"Go inside—it's air-conditioned," I told Roger. "Get yourself a Coke and a candy bar out of the machines. I'll see what I can do."
Roger patted me on the shoulder as he walked past and entered the station. I stared at the Yugo's engine and wasn't
quite sure if I remembered what I was looking at. I
checked the oil, the filter, the anti-freeze, the fan
belt—anything that could have made the poor car clunk like that—and came up
empty. Maybe I wasn't using my head, or maybe
this should have been my second clue.
A car horn beeped in the distance and my wife Clarice's lime green Yugo, nearly
identical to Roger's, skidded to a stop on the sand.
She opened the door, slammed it shut, and stood there, looking at me
like we were still in high school and this was our first date.
"Hey, Ace," Clarice said. "Something
on your mind?"
I said with a grin. "What're you
doing out here?"
you lunch," she said, holding up a brown paper bag. "Well, lunch
for you and me." She saw Roger's Yugo
and her face lit up. "Is this a desert
mirage, Ace? Do my wandering eyes
I laughed. "Nope. It's an honest-to-God
Yugo, just like yours."
Clarice noticed the resemblance. "Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle," she whispered
softly. "What's wrong with it?"
"Can't tell," I told her. "Think you
can lend a hand?"
me our lunch and came around to the front of the Yugo, rolling up imaginary sleeves
and adjusting an imaginary cap. Clarice
had been part of the drama club in high school and got accepted to a liberal
arts school once she graduated. She
never took one class, and that was probably my fault, because right around that
time we fell in love and moved to California.
I left Clarice with her
new best friend and walked back inside the station. Roger was exiting
the restroom, the last swirls of a flushed toilet ushering
him out. I wondered if I'd have to scrub
the bowl again.
"What's the verdict,
Ace?" Roger asked. "Is she dead?"
His question caught me off-guard. For
a moment I thought he was referring to Clarice.
Then I realized what he was referring to.
"My wife's taking a look at her now," I told Roger.
"Her Yugo looks just like yours."
"No shit?" Roger said. "Same color
and everything?" I nodded. "That's unreal."
Roger walked over to the soda machine and fed it a dollar and a quarter. A can of Coke tumbled out with a
clatter. Roger took a step to the right
and fed the snack machine a single. A Snickers bar took the suicide dive into the bin. Roger snatched it up and dug in hungrily, like
he hadn't eaten anything for miles. I looked at the lunch Clarice
had prepared and felt guilty for not sharing it with him.
"You get many customers up in these parts?" Roger asked between chews.
"Enough to stay open," I said, sliding behind the glass-enclosed ticket counter
and having a seat on a rickety metal stool.
The leather on the stool was torn and the padding had come out of it
years ago. It was one more thing I
couldn't afford to replace.
the station and wiped sweat from her brow.
She had some grease spots on her hands and one on her sundress.
wires," she reported. "Two of them are burnt
to a crisp." She glanced at Roger.
"I'm afraid you're stuck here with us for a while."
"There are worse places I could be," Roger said, admiring Clarice's figure beneath
the confines of her sundress. That
should have been my third clue.
laughed a little. "A Brit in California? What do you do, star in movies?"
"A little of this, a little of that," Roger said with a half-shrug.
"You're unemployed," my wife said matter-of-factly.
"For the moment," Roger replied, holding up an index finger, "but I've got a
gig coming up in Vegas that I'm trying to get to."
"You're a little out of the way for Vegas, aren't you, Roger?" I asked in a hard
"I may have
made a wrong turn here or there. I'm
hell with maps."
"Get a GPS."
"Can't afford one."
"Huh! Story of my life," Clarice interjected,
jerking a thumb in my direction.
"This one won't buy a GPS because he thinks he knows everything."
"Excuse me?" I said. "When we got
lost that time in Twentynine Palms, didn't I get us home?"
"After you drove past that junkyard six times?" Clarice retorted. "Yes, I suppose you did."
don't need a GPS." I nodded to
Roger, and that settled the matter.
know," Roger said as he stood up, "I think I may have left something in my car. I'll be back in a bit." He trotted out the door. The
door banged closed behind him.
a strange land," Clarice muttered.
"What's his name?"
"Roger Bedard, he says."
"He just drove up here and you decided to help him?"
"He said he'd pay me fifty bucks if I could get his Yugo started again."
"Seriously?" Clarice glanced out the front doors at Roger's Yugo. "He's jerking your chain."
"Because there's no wallet
in his back pocket."
"Maybe it's in his front
"If it was, then it would
bulge. He's not bulging."
"Good to know," I said with a grin.
Clarice smiled back. "Are we going to have that lunch or what?"
"Let's have it right now." I reached
inside the bag and removed two ham and cheese sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, and
mayonnaise on them. My stomach gurgled
at the sight of the delicious offerings before it.
Roger returned with a red backpack he was carrying by one strap. There were luggage lockers along the far wall,
and he opened one, shoved the backpack inside, closed the door, and took the
important in there?" I asked.
Roger said coldly. "My underpants."
Clarice and I exchanged looks. Roger's
mood had gone from one end of the spectrum to the other.
What had crawled up his ass and died?
The sound of tires crunching against the sand drifted into the station again. This time, Clarice went to see who it
was. An alarmed look passed over her
face as she turned to me with wide eyes.
it's the police," she said quietly.
"What do they want?"
want me," Roger said, standing up and reaching to the back of his pants. "And if you both cooperate, there won't
be any problems." Roger's right hand
returned to the front of his body with a Ruger .22 inside it. Clarice gasped
and backed away from Roger, but Roger was faster than
her, and faster than me, as he snatched Clarice by the wrist and spun her around so her
back was against his front. He shoved the
Ruger's barrel into Clarice's temple as Clarice screamed my name, and by that time I had
come around the side of the ticket counter with a Beretta Silverhawk in my hands.
"Oh, nice one, Ace!" Roger exclaimed.
"That's a really big shotgun!" He
laughed. "The problem is, you can't blow
my head off without blowing your wife's off as well!"
Roger pulled Clarice against him and I nearly shot them both. No, can't risk anything happening to Clarice,
I told myself. Just find out what the
man wants, and if it's in your power, give it to him in exchange for Clarice's
doors opened and two middle-aged detectives dressed in suits entered. I'd never seen the men before, but one was
clean-shaven and professional, while the other had a goatee and looked like he
slept on his couch. Roger turned to the
two men, and as they drew their Glocks, a shouting match ensued that threatened to blow
the roof off the station. I didn't catch
all the details, but eventually Roger emerged with the right to speak.
"Ace, I'd like you to meet my two friends--Detective Massey and Detective Steele,"
Roger explained. "They're from the
Palm Springs Police Department. Tell Ace
why you're here, gentlemen."
we're sorry to have drug you into this investigation," Massey, with the goatee,
said. "We've been looking for our
friend Roger for the better part of a week, and the trail led us to this bus
"Could you speed this
up a bit, Massey?" Roger asked, impatient. "I'm getting old just listening to you."
"Can it!" Steele, the clean-shaven one, shouted.
"I swear, Bedard, you so much as flinch and I'll
plant one between your—"
enough, partner!" Massey shot at Steele.
"I think we get the picture." Massey
kept his gun trained on Roger but turned his eyes to me. "Roger
was turning state's evidence against a suspect we had charged with
multiple counts of homicide and conspiracy."
"The problem with Bedard here," Steele spoke up, "is that in exchange for his
testimony, the district attorney released him on bail."
Steele's eyes narrowed to slits. "And
you want to know how he made bail, sir?"
“Oh, just come out and tell him already!" Roger groaned. "The suspense will kill him faster than I will!"
"When one of our boys in blue wasn't paying attention, Bedard snuck into evidence
and grabbed a bag of money we were holding for another case!" Steele was practically foaming at the mouth,
his jaws snapping like those of a vicious pit bull. "Now our evidence is missing,
Bedard is free and clear, and frankly?" Steele cocked his sidearm.
"We've had enough."
"What are you two fuckers gonna do?" Roger asked, jerking Clarice closer to
him. "Shoot me?"
"For starters," Massey said with ice in his voice.
My head was spinning
from too much information and not enough time to process it. I was
sweating in the air-conditioned station, my hands clammy, my
pits sticky, and my mouth as dry as the desert outside the windows. If Massey and Steele were here to kill Roger, then that meant they'd
probably kill Clarice and me too, since you can't leave any witnesses behind with things
like this. The fact that cops aren't supposed
to kill and their job is to uphold the law never entered my mind as Steele,
Roger, and Massey crept around the seats in the station and toward the front
I had to do something,
and I had to do it now. If Roger went out
that door with Clarice, I'd never share another lunch with her. If Massey
and Steele opened fire on Roger, I'd never see that look
Clarice always gave me, the look that was like our first date. I couldn't let Roger kill Clarice either, because if he did, then nothing
would hold me back from sending him to Hell.
I brought the Silverhawk up and propped the stock against my shoulder. I cocked both barrels, looked down the
sights, and found Roger's forehead. Massey and Steele were still arguing
with Roger, but their voices sounded like they were miles away. Everything shrank to one great desire—the
desire to protect my wife, to keep her from harm, till death do us part.
My finger stroked the trigger of the Silverhawk and a 12-gauge shell blew into Roger's
face. Clarice shrieked and hit the floor
as Roger stumbled, his face hanging off of his skull like a slice of lunchmeat, before
he tumbled to the floor as well, blood soaking the tile I had just cleaned that
Massey and Steele lowered their weapons and turned to look at me. They were dazed and a tad perplexed.
dumb son of a bitch," Steele said, lifting his Glock toward me. "Now we have to kill you too."
I took a step back and to the side as Steele fired, his bullet breaking the glass
enclosing the ticket counter and sending shards all over the floor. I lifted my shotgun and spent the other
barrel on Steele's solar plexus. Steele
reeled back, blood ejecting from his chest like confetti out of a piñata, until
he knocked over some chairs and sank to the floor.
"Wow," Massey said. "You're not a
bad shot, Ace." He stepped toward
me. I stepped back.
"Your name is Ace, right?" I didn't
acknowledge him. "I'd say you've just about
cleaned everything up here." Massey kept
his Glock at his side as he spoke, his demeanor casual, his gait relaxed. "Roger's dead, but then again, he
wouldn't have made it back to Palm Springs anyway." Massey took another step
forward. I held my ground. "My partner's dead, but you see, he was
always a little trigger-happy, and truth be told? I'm glad he's gone. He was holding me back." Massey took
another step. We were face-to-face and nose-to-nose
now. "So let's make one thing
clear, Ace—I like you...I like your style...but there is no way you're leaving this
Massey lifted his Glock. I lifted the Silverhawk. I
squeezed the trigger on instinct. Massey did the
same. There were two loud barks of gunfire inside
the station, and then, Massey fell to one knee, dropped his Glock, and looked
lay there on her stomach with Roger's smoking .22 in her pretty little hands. Massey coughed up blood as his face drained
of all color.
"Shit," he blubbered. "Killed by Mrs. Ace." Then he slid to the floor and never got back up.
As Clarice stood up and ran to me, I could feel something burning below my heart
that worked its way up through my chest and into my throat. I vomited, realized it was
blood, and looked down at my shirt. There
was a bloodstain below my left pectoral, and the longer I watched the faster it
spread and the worse the burning became.
I fell into Clarice's arms and I heard her sobs of sorrow for her fallen
husband, don't go Ace, you're all I've got Ace, don't leave me behind, for the
love of God, don't leave me behind...
With my last
speck of strength, I squeezed Clarice's hand like a man should and nodded
toward the luggage lockers. She understood
and went to Roger's body, searching for the key to his locker. She
found it as little fingers of darkness crept into the edges of
my vision. I couldn't move my head to see
what Clarice was doing, so when she appeared above me again, it would be the last time
I would ever see her.
Clarice had Roger's backpack in her hands.
She unzipped it as the darkness threatened to drag me down. The last thing I saw was Clarice holding up
stack after stack of plastic-wrapped money.
I wanted to tell Clarice,
people will come for that money. I won't
be here to protect you. No, honey, you'll
do fine on your own. Just take your little
Yugo and drive. Buy a GPS and go someplace
where it snows. Prove to me why you held
on to that lousy car all those years. I'm sorry
we never got to have lunch today. Today
was a real mess, wasn't it? Oh God, what
remember one thing, Clarice. I love you...till
death do us part.
Justin Swartz grew up near Pittsburgh, and now resides
in south central Pennsylvania. He has been published in Gary Lovisi's Hardboiled
and in the e-zines Yellow Mama & Dead Guns Press. You can read more of
Justin's work here: lastgunsmoking.blogspot.com.
In Association with Fossil Publications