Saturday, July 20, 2013

Jeff Tsursoka Week 56: Mercy Killing

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Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: Mercy Killing

Jimbo almost sounded like his old self.

A little shakier, maybe a little strung out, but all right.

“Meet me at the creek, bud. Need to talk to you.”

I hadn't heard Jimbo's voice since he came by my place, two years ago, begging me to lend him rent money we both knew he was going to spend on cocaine.

It was a good talk. I told him to get lost. He told me to go fuck myself.

I rewound the tape and listened to the message again.

“Meet me at the creek, bud. Need to talk to you.”

Eleven words. Not much there.

Except that gap at the end of the message.

Could be it just took him an extra few seconds to hang up. Could be he had something else he wanted to tell me and chose not to.

I gave it a third listen while I finished my coffee and a fourth while I washed and dried the mug.

The next stop was the gun cabinet. I thought about that space at the end of Jimbo's message while I looked over my hardware.

The Ruger. Just enough gun for the occasion.

I dropped it into my shoulder rig and locked the cabinet. Then I pulled on my old leather jacket and headed out to meet my friend Jimbo.



The creek was a long drainage ditch, cut through the south side of town. It directed a foul, slow-moving stream through what city planners considered throwaway communities-- like the one Jimbo and I grew up in-- and ended as close to the state line as they could get without instigating a pissing match with the neighbors.

It was a great place to hide because no cop or parent really wanted to go in after you, and there were dozens of places you could exit the creek and be gone before they even started looking for you.

A one-lane road ran alongside the creek. Row houses lined the other side of the road. A thin line of scraggly, short trees on the bank hid the unsightly ditch from view.

I parked a mile away and did a little recon before heading in.

My route took me through the old neighborhood.

The building my family lived in was a pile of rubble. Parts of two walls still stood, condemned, but nobody came back to finish the job. Jimbo's old row house still stood. Most of its windows had boards in them but there was fresh trash by the curb. The smells of chilis and roasted meat hung in the air.

I took a long look up and down the road before pushing through a couple of dying scrub trees into the creek.

The place hadn't changed much since I saw it last. Same dirty, brown water, same dead crabgrass. Same assortment of broken bottles and drug paraphernalia on the ground.

The crabgrass had reclaimed the old dirt path we used to get to the mouth of a crumbling cement tunnel we called, 'the bridge'.

That's where Jimbo would be waiting for me.

The bridge occupied one of the most secluded spots in the creek, well below the road and hidden even more by the abandoned firehouse at the top of the overgrown rise.

I spotted him when I rounded the bend, a skinny, pacing, shirtless figure in blue jeans. A white cloud of cigarette smoke enveloped his head.

He waved as I made my way down the bank.

I thought back to the message he left.

“Meet me at the creek, bud. Need to talk to you.”

He sounded better than he looked.

The gray stubble on his chin matched his close-cropped hair and appeared more permanent.

His face looked like someone used it to plow a rocky field.

I walked through the dry creek bed and stopped six feet away from him.

He stopped pacing and turned to face me.

A brown leather briefcase sat next to him on the exposed concrete.

He used his stub to light a fresh cigarette then flicked it to the ground to join its brothers. Looked like he'd gone through a whole pack while waiting.

“I knew you'd come,” he said.

“Yeah. Nice case.”

He glanced and the briefcase and shook his head.

“You always were one to get right to it.” He slid it my way. “See for yourself.”

I picked up the case and looked it over. It was heavy and made of real leather.

The initials JDV, monogrammed in gold leaf, filled the bottom right corner.

JD fucking V.

I now understood the pause at the end of Jimbo's message. I'd have paused too.

“Where'd you get this?” I asked.

He rubbed the back of his neck. The veins near my right temple began to throb.

“I... I... fuck, man. Fuck!”

He went on like that for a while, pacing and cursing.. I let him have his moment.

“All right,” he said, leaning back against the bridge, “it's like this.”

My headache gained strength as he chain-smoked through his story.

When he was done he threw his arms in the air and took a step toward me.

“You think I meant to kill him? I mean, the guy was beggin' for it. I didn't know who he was 'til after. How the fuck was I supposed to know whose shit he was carrying? Looked like an easy score. I thought it was my lucky day.”

“You thought I could square this for you? Just hand back the dough and tell 'em you're sorry?”

“You're in, man. You know these guys. I thought...” Hope died in his sunken eyes. “I don't know what I thought.”

“Anybody see you?”

He shrugged. “Couple of people on the street, maybe. I don't know. I was too busy hauling ass out of there.”

I nodded and did some pacing of my own, running the numbers in my head. Johnny Vee. Johnny fucking Vee. Every scenario came up the same. No dice. I couldn't save him. Johnny's brother, Vittorio, had a Chinese guy he used for these things. They'll find Jimbo and have this guy skin him alive. He'll make it last for days.

I set the briefcase down and pulled on a pair of black leather gloves while he stared into the dark tunnel. When he turned around I had the Ruger out and ready.

“You gotta be kidding me,” he said.

“Wish I was, pal.”

He lit another cigarette. We stood there in silence while he smoked it down to the filter.

I should've brought him a blindfold.

“Look in on my ma every once in a while, okay?”

“I will, Jimbo. I promise you, I will.”

I made myself to look him in the eye as I pulled the trigger. One shot, between the eyes. No suffering.

When it was done I dragged his body inside the tunnel, then policed my brass, picked up the briefcase, and got the hell out of the creek.

I couldn't bring myself to walk through the old neighborhood on the way back to my car.

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Jeff Tsuruoka is an author in search of a writing career. He has found a home in the Flash Fiction circuit and is grateful to the blog hosts that give him the opportunity to get his work out there. You can follow him on Twitter @JTsuruoka and be sure to keep tabs on his weekly contributions to Daily Picspiration.

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6 comments:

  1. Very nice.

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  2. Absolutely riveting. I kind of guessed that's what he'd use the gun for when he grabbed it. Excellent descriptions of the druggie persona there.

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  3. I wish I had your gift for grit - to each his own talent, I suppose. Bravo!

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  4. Jeff, Jeff, Jeff. I love your stories. So gritty and descriptive. They always play out like a movie for me. He really did this doofus a favor by shooting him between the eyes. ;-) I still have to go back and read a few chaps of your other story.

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  5. Riveting. Gritty. Love your story. You created a mini movie in my mind. :) I'd love to have an ounce of your talent!
    ~Becky Fyfe

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  6. It took me a while to get here, and I could kick myself. This story is ridiculous. I mean, ridiculously good. Wow. It's the perfect showcase for your style. And I do mean showcase. Gripping tone, your always-irresistible pace and attention to the details that make a person, make a place, make a story so damn real. Both of these men are at once logical and insane, terrifying and familiar. Wow.

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