Sunday, January 27, 2013

13. Seconds Count

The balding man with the bad hair looked out across the bay, the tears welling in his eyes blurring his vision and giving him the impression that the buildings on the other side of the water were swaying and dancing. He used his thumb and forefinger to wipe his eyes and then pinch the bridge of his nose - the universal sign of a man relieving stress - to cover up for the tear-wipe, but it was obvious enough. Jake took a step forward.

"Where's her body, Stan?"

"It's Stanley, not Stan."

And then he leaped into the water - suicide, escape - hard to say. Jake took a shuffle towards the edge of the pier and quickly realized he wasn't going to follow, so he hightailed it for a phone. He had his man for a second there, but the police weren't likely to believe it. A quick phone call, and then across town. There was one loose end left, and if he was quick, he might just grab it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

12. A Flash of Leg

He only saw a flash of leg, for an instant, as he entered the apartment building (tenement was more like it). The back of the knee, a bit of calf, a spiked heel - too shapely for this place, the shoe too expensive. Even if it wasn't suspicious, though, the momentum of that leg would have dragged him around the corner. Curious, impetuous, horny; whichever, it was, he bit.

He edged around the corner in the most nonchalant yet cautious way he could figure and saw an empty hallway flanked by a dozen grungy doors emblazoned with number plates that might once have been brass, but had long since given up and adopted the uniform dingy brown common to the bad side of town. No sound of a door closing - she either hadn't used one or was on to him and closed it quietly - no light from beneath any of the doors. Nothing. He was going to have to move from this spot, and figured a jaunt outside was better than being ambushed inside.

Past the mailboxes and out the front door to the drizzle and grey - every window shut tight, no sign of a skirt. Inside then - nobody in heels like that could shimmy out a window that quickly. Inside was the ticket, but when he turned to get back on the trail of his quarry, he saw that grim, flat face again, this time looking out the window instead of from above him as he lie flat on his back in the alley. Not wanting a repeat of that unfortunate scene, he turned on his heels and beat a hasty retreat to his car. Guns weren't an option here - it turn into Custer's last stand. Time to file this away for future use and pursue another loose string - the Chinese laundry.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

11. Shenanigans

As he turned the corner, Jake saw the two punks and a girl, maybe seventeen, blonde (dye job, and not too bad) - very attractive. The boys were looking for trouble, and he had an appointment to keep, so he figured on playing it safe. They might be punks, but there were two of them, and you didn't have to be a genius or a he-man to stick a switchblade in a guy's ribs. Playing it safe was the way to go, and he would have if it weren't for the sidelong glance the girl sent his way.

"What's a girl like you doing with these chuckleheads? You can do better, you should trade up."

That did it. The short one was going to be the first to speak and the first to pull a knife. He had the most to prove. His friend was tall and lanky and looked nervous - just along for the ride.

"Fuck you."

It was the short one - big surprise. He continued, "you got any smokes?"


Shorty flexed his fingers, arched his eyebrows and shrugged in a bad imitation of a humble beggar. He tried to force a smile - he'd seen too many movies this kid.

"So, can we maybe bum a few?"


He was pissed - he was an easy target - and Jake could tell he was just about to pull the knife like a big boy. His pal still looked nervous - knew what was coming. Now was the time to act, so Jake sent his balled fist slamming into the tall one's jaw. He dropped like a bag of wet cement. Shorty was taken off guard and forgot his lines, so Jake tried a little improv and broke his nose. While the little creep leaned against the brick wall and bled, Jake gave the girl a smile.

"My car's down the street. Why don't you come with me? We can have a bite."

She blinked, tried to remain calm and composed, but she was all pins and needles. Just the same, she took a hesitant step towards Jake, then another, and as he turned she matched his stride and locked arms with him. They covered a few yards before she spoke.

"What do you expect from me?"

"Your eternal gratitude, if you play it smart."

Monday, January 14, 2013

10. Better

"I could never get over the tooth-sucking. Drove me nuts," as he topped off the cup.

"No, you could never get over the fact that she was better than you - heart and soul," came the reply from behind.

He turned around, hinting at a grin, "Wha ...? Fuck you."

"Fuck yourself. She's fabulous. I was always jealous. I'm still jealous. She was better than you," they were walking now, "and you couldn't stand to admit it, so you found a reason to get out. I don't blame you, really," out the door now, on the sidewalk, "you would have always been on the bottom in that relationship. Nothing worse than being beneath somebody who's not only better than you, but it better than you because she'd never see herself as above you - never more than an equal."

"You don't - really don't - know what the fuck you're talking about."

In the shelter of a burger joint's door - "Sure I do. She was better than me, too, but I would have changed. She'd be worth it. Looking into those eyes every day would make it worth it. Those eyes held everything - like fire. Everything."

With the smell of fresh french fries in his nose - "Yeah. They did. Fuck."

9.Sober Love

"I don't tell people I love them while I'm drunk, because I don't love people when I'm drunk. I reserve that pleasure for when I'm sober, or I don't love them at all."

"Ah. Anyone in particular you love at the moment?"

"You, of course."

"At first sight?" - this was meant to be funny, he thought.

"No." - an honest reply.

A moment of silence.

"It was worse than that. I liked you at first sight. Like is the seed from which love grows. No like - no love. Maybe lust, but never love. I liked you at first sight, and now I love you."

"Oh." - she was a bit stunned or put off or disinterested - he wasn't sure.

"I know it's a shock," he lied, "I'm sorry", he lied again.

8. Floater

On the third of December, she swallowed her pride, put on the dress and went over to the yellow ranch-style on the quarter acre. His car was in the driveway, so she walked to the front door and rang the bell. No answer.

It was hard enough to do this, but he had to make it harder. Dick. She waited a few seconds longer than she wanted to - too easy to walk away, self-respect and all that. Finally, she gave up and walked back to the car. Another sip of the Starbucks, tame an errant hair, check the lipstick. Fuck - why not drive away?

She got back out of the car, hesitated on the driveway, did a little shuffle step she shouldn't have attempted in heels, but no harm donw, and went to the side gate. She could faintly hear the sound of the oldies on a radio. The gate swung open, so might as well go around.

Afterward, she remembered the clip-clop of her heels on the pool deck, and the cold, sick feeling when she saw his body floating in the pool.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

7. Kipling

"The female of the species is more deadly ...", he started.

"Stop quoting Kipling, Trevor," interrupted the lady with whom he was sharing breakfast. Her voice was soft and scolding, motherly almost. He stopped, and nothing more was said, but his attitude towards her had been moved, shifted, deflected you might say from a path that could only end in love to one that must end in loathing. It would be some time coming, but that was it. Trevor could never love Katherine now, and the fact of his impending wedding to her and his abiding cowardice promised a tragedy.

6. The Dame Without Mercy

He lay there in the bed, as still as he could manage, his breath hot on the pillow, until he was certain the noises he heard could be nothing other than a foot compressing gravel and a slow, suspicious breathing. As quickly as he could, he snapped his head up and aimed it at the window, but his quarry was quicker, and he could see nobody.

He vaulted out of bed, gracefully, if it was to be told, and scurried to the window, the thought that he'd left his revolver on the bed stand immediately striking him, but it was dismissed in the mad dash to know.

The window, unfortunately, was kissed with frost. He would have to venture outdoors. Turning to retrieve his revolver and clothes, he was shocked to see the woman with whom he was sharing the bed, the woman he had dragged across half a continent and on whom he has poured as much affection as he was capable, aiming the revolver at his heart.

For a man who fancies himself a detective and a keen observer of people, this was a double shock. A pathetic, "why?" stumbled out of his mouth as she pulled the trigger.

5. Tigers

"Once a man has a tiger by the tail, all the reflection in the world about how he got himself into that situation isn't going to get him out of it. The past is meaningless. It's the future. He needs a plan."

"It sounds to me," she said, a catch in her throat, a small but perceptible wavering in her voice, "that what he needs is help."

"Yeah, but who could help?" he asked - or maybe he didn't ask as much as he mused, a touch of defeat or fatigue in his voice.

"The tiger, for one, if she was so inclined."

His eyes brightened for a moment, and then settled back again under that sort of mist they'd been hiding behind for the last week. He either thought it was a stupid plan, or knew he hadn't the energy to pull it off.

4. Risk

"I know it sounds stupid, but I often feel like I'm alone - in the important ways. I guess it's my own fault."

"How so?"

"I don't know. I always feel like it's my own fault. I try to give, but ..."

"You try?"

"Well, I do. I get things in return, but not always what I want; what I need. I feel trapped sometimes. If I ask for what I want, will I stop getting anything?"

"It's a risk."


Friday, January 11, 2013

3. Trust

"I think he trusts me," she said, an errant hair jabbing at her left eye, "but what choice does he have. He can't live without me."

"Should he trust you?"

"No. But in a good way."

2. Finger Tip

The moment my finger tip brushed her hip as she glided past me, I knew I’d made a terrible mistake. It was four years ago to the day that I fell in love with her – my last terrible mistake but the most honest mistake I had ever made in my life.

I couldn’t convince myself that it was an accident – well, it was almost an accident – but maybe she wouldn’t know. Of course, I wanted her to know, or at least notice and feel something. I wanted her face to betray something, but it didn’t.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

1. The Swordsman

"What kind of swordsman doesn't own a sword?"

"A very poor one, madame."

"You lack money?"

"Yes, but that's not why I lack a sword."

"Skill, perhaps? A lack of skill?"

"Again, yes, but that is not the reason why."

"Why, then?"

"I lack conviction. Without conviction, there is no point to a sword."

"You lack sense."

"Sense, conviction, it's all the same."

With that, she walked away, pleased to have left him in her past.