Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ruth Long Week 53: Hope Is Where You Hang Your Hat

WEEK 53! This is the first week of our 2nd year of DAILY PICSPIRATIONS! Thank you to all the contributing authors that have made this possible, both current and past. Here's to another year of Daily Picspirations!!



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Picture 1


Picture 2


Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Hope Is Where You Hang Your Hat

Mac pulled into the alley, rolled down the window, and hollered at the kid on the curb. “Dude! Get in the car. We’re going to be late thanks to your disappearing act.”

Tommy stayed where he was, leaned up against a trash can and a concrete wall, face in hands.

“Look, kid. I know it’s been a rough week, but I think I can swing the odds in your favor this afternoon. Come on. One hour. No bull.”

Without speaking or making eye contact, Tommy got up and got into the car.

Mac bit back a comment about the rumpled clothes and rank body odor. His job was to integrate misfits not further alienate them. Still, the scent was pretty pungent and he left the windows down as he nosed the car into traffic and headed uptown.

He was focused on the upcoming appointment and Tommy wasn’t much for talking so the radio was their only accompaniment on the twenty minute drive.

When they pulled into the tree lined drive and stopped in front of the large luxury home, Mac felt the tension radiating off Tommy. Tight lips. Short breaths. Clenched hands.

He knew better than to touch Tommy as means of comfort but he was so keyed up about the next few minutes it was difficult to think of any appropriate words of comfort. “We’re halfway there, kid. When we get through that door it’s all going to make sense, okay?”

Damn, he hoped that was true. So much was riding on this venture. Not just his career, but Tommy’s future and the well-being of this household. He smoothed his hair, popped a handful of breath mints, and got out of the car. It was Go Time Skippy.

Before they reached the door, the large glass paneled doors swung open and a man dressed in grey slacks and dress shirt ushered them into the foyer.

Mac looked down at his jeans, t-shirt and birkenstocks and then over at Tommy’s beanie, grim reaper jersey and unlaced vans. Underdressed was an understatement. Too late to fuss about it now. Besides, any quip he could make to put himself at ease would only serve to further unsettle Tommy. Breathe deep. Keep calm. Stay focused.

The well-dressed man led them through a well-appointed dining room and out into portico overlooking a well-manicured yard and pool. “Mrs. Nyberg will be right out. Would you care for some lemonade while you wait?”

“That’d be great,” Mac said, his easy smile sneaking past his determination to remain neutral.

The lemonade arrived courtesy of Mrs. Nyberg, looking elegant and lovely in a sleeveless cream linen dress and cream mules with dusky blue suede flowers. She set the tray on the table, passed a glass to Mac, and then to Tommy, patting his shoulder as she did.

Mac noticed that Tommy didn’t flinch from the contact. A small thing in anyone else but notable in this kid. The knot in his chest eased up a little. It didn’t go away altogether though because there was still a rough spot to get through. Hang on. Be cool. Don’t panic.

Leila Nyberg settled into a chair and smiled at Tommy, the warmth of it lighting her blue eyes and chasing away the shadows beneath her inky lashes. “I’m so pleased to finally meet you, Mr. Wentworth.”

The boy met her gaze, eyes narrowed and searching. “Mr. Wentworth is my dad’s name. I’m just Tommy.”

She chuckled. “Fair enough. So listen, I asked Mac to bring you out here today because I’m looking for an assistant -”

“Look, lady, don’t get me wrong,” Tommy said, palming his beanie and rifling his hair. “You’re hot and all but this place, it ain’t me. And I might be a homeless dropout but that don’t mean I’m gonna agree to be somebody’s bitch.”

Mac choked on his lemonade.

Tommy shot him a dirty look.

Leila burst into laughter.

A man stepped out onto the patio, his face an echo of Mac’s, but his body was more muscular and his mouth less inclined to grin. “What did I miss?”

Mac’s chest constricted.

Tommy’s eyes widened.

Leila’s eyes sparkled.

The interloper sat in the chair next to Leila, took a gulp of lemonade from Mac’s glass, and fixed Tommy with an inquisitive stare. “So, you agreed to be my lab rat yet, kid?”

Tommy’s mouth opened but it was devoid of sound.

The man tipped his head and peered at him. “You’re worrying me, squirt. Good communication skills are a must for the job.”

Tommy abruptly shoved back his chair and headed across the patio.

Mac went after him, grabbing his sleeve and ignoring the violent thrashing. “What’s wrong?” The boy surprised him by stepping into his personal space. “That’s Adam frigging Nyberg. The mad scientist.”

“I know who he is,” Mac growled, pushing Tommy back and immediately regretting it. Nut up. Stay strong. Get real. “Look, you are the most brilliant and destructive dumbass I know, which makes you the perfect candidate this job. Adam needs help in the lab and Leila needs help managing Adam.”

“The guy is a legend in the physics world - “

“I prefer the term ‘quantifiable genius’,” said a voice behind him.

Mac sighed.

Tommy froze.

Adam eyed Mac. “You’re looking thin, brother.”

Tommy glared at Mac and mouthed the word ‘brother.’

Adam clapped Tommy’s shoulder. “Now that we’ve established you can speak, let’s head for the lab and see what you can tell me about electrons.”

“Can’t promise it will be a positive experience,” Tommy said with a smirk.

Adam’s bark of laughter was startling “Aw, the nerd boy made a joke. He might work out after all, Mac. Why don’t you stop by some day next week and check on us? Bring your swimsuit. We’ll barbeque or something. I’ll have Leila email you to confirm. Come on kid. Let’s see what you have.”

As Adam steered Tommy towards the office complex beside the house, Mac returned to Leila and his lemonade.

She gave him a few minutes to settle before speaking. “Good to see you.”

“He looks great.”

“He misses you, Mac. We both do.”

“He has a strange way of showing it. Hasn’t spoken to me since before you moved out there. That’s been what? Three years?” Don’t cry. Don’t yell. Stay mellow.

She kicked off her shoes and propped her feet in one of the chairs. “I left for a while after we moved here. Was gone about six months. He was so bad and I was so worn out. Before you comment, think back to how burned out you were too.”

He remembered. Dad’s death. Adam’s breakdown. The whole world collapsing around him.

“Anyway, I’ve been back about a year. Things are much better now. The company built a satellite complex out here for him, complete with accredited staff, and they send a physician’s assistant and therapist out here every Friday to monitor his behavior and meds.”

“That’s all I ever wanted, Leila. For him to be happy and grounded.”

“We go through rough patches but we’ve got a good team now. I hope Tommy decides to become part of it. We could use some youthful perspective and enthusiasm in the lab. And it would give me a chance to have some time to myself. Can’t remember the last time my sister and I went to the movies.”

The ache in his chest dissipated. “He suggested a barbeque next weekend.”

Her feet hit the patio tiles and she leaned across the table. “Oh, I hoped he would break the ice! Will Friday afternoon work for you? Say four o’clock?”

He got up and fished the car keys out of his pocket. “No onions in the potato salad. Remember?”

She grinned. “I remember. Hey, there’s a set of spare house keys on the hook in the kitchen. Grab them on your way out. I got a real good feeling that you’re going to be using them a lot. Thank you, Mac. For Tommy. For being such a terrific brother-in-law. For just, oh, everything!”

He nodded, headed for the kitchen, and grabbed the keys off the hook, pausing when he saw Tommy‘s hat hanging there beside them.

A lot of kids had come through his office and most of them were lost in the system or had moved on to the penal system. But this kid had something special, a gift, and it gave him a real shot at making a life of his own, and damn if Mac wasn’t going to invest himself in seeing that come to fruition.

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A reader by birth, paper-pusher by trade and novelist by design, story-telling in my passion. If you enjoyed reading today's story, please consider checking out my blog bullishink.com, joining my creative community sweetbananaink.com or participating in the madcap twitter fun @bullishink.

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

JB Lacaden Week 53: A Tale From Urcara - 1

WEEK 53! This is the first week of our 2nd year of DAILY PICSPIRATIONS! Thank you to all the contributing authors that have made this possible, both current and past. Here's to another year of Daily Picspirations!!



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Picture 1


Picture 2


JB Lacaden’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: A Tale From Urcara - 1

“Will you tell me what happened, please?” Aysha placed a hand on her brother’s bony shoulder.

Naru’s face was badly beaten with his right eye swollen shut. He shrugged off his sister’s hand and walked towards the wooden gate. The soldier that sat sleeping on the sand woke at the sound of Naru and Aysha’s footsteps. The soldier winced at the sight of Naru’s bruised face.

“This has got to stop,” the soldier said. “This is the third time this month they did this to you and by the looks of it they decided to go all out this time.”

Naru looked at the soldier with his uninjured eye and said: “I don’t want to talk about it, Kar.”

Asha stepped beside her brother and she looked at Kar. “Naru, maybe we could go to the taskmasters. Report this.”

Naru laughed and ended up wincing in pain. “The taskmasters, Aysha? What made you think they’ll do something? They’ll just probably beat me themselves. Those men don’t care about us. We are just cattle to their eyes. Slaves have no right to complain. The freemen are—“

Kar covered Naru’s mouth with a gloved hand. “Shush, boy! They hear you talking like this and you’ll be lucky to end up with just a beat up face. Look. When my shift ends I’ll go and have a talk with Markus’ gang, alright? Tell them to ease up on you.”

“Just open the gate, Kar,” Naru said.

Aysha sighed and gave a nod at Kar. Kar stepped aside and pulled the gate open. Naru and his sister was immediately welcomed by the many sight and sound and smell of the city of Urkara. Behind them, Kar pushed the gate close.

Urcara was a city that thrived from the raising and selling of slaves. It was divided into two sections. The Western Urcara was for the free men - made up of houses and pyramids that raced against one another on who reached the heavens first. Their walls were of ivory and marble and their owners wore silk and gold. A huge wall, called by all as The Boundary, that stood at least a hundred feet tall and was as wide as five men standing abreast, surrounded the land of the free men. The Boundary was only broken by a single gate made of iron and steel and it remained heavily guarded day and night.

Eastern Urcara, covering eighty percent of the city, was located fifty feet away from The Boundary so that the stench from the place never reach the land of the free men. The Urcaran slaves were raised and trained by several taskmasters for the sole purpose of being sold to those who have the money. Viewed from above, Eastern Urcara was made up of rows of roughly built tents and houses made of hardened mud. There were the unfortunate ones, the ones that lived out in the streets. These were the damaged goods, the ones not good enough to be sold, they could be seen in the open—begging, crawling, dying.

Naru and Aysha passed by the dried up fountain with the marble statue of a girl holding a sword and they walked towards a man that seemed to be having an argument with a camel.

“…cooperate with me this time, Sara, just this one time,” the man said, looking pleadingly at the camel. The camel replied with a snorting sound. “Luca, I found him,” Aysha said.

Luca turned around and smiled wide. He was a heavily bearded fat man who always wore a turban that was as large as his belly. “Just in time!” He said. “We have to make the weekly deliveries to the taskmasters’ camp but this stupid camel won’t move.” Luca made a face when he saw Naru. “You look like shit, Naru. Markus again?” He asked.

Naru answered with a nod.

“Why do they do this to you? What did you do to piss them off?”

“They just like beating people up,” Naru answered. “You don’t need reasons when you’re all muscles and power.”

Luca made a clicking sound with his tongue then he turned back to Aysha. “You, you take care of this lazy beast.” He handed Sara’s reins to Aysha.

“You know, maybe if you talked a little bit nicer to Sara she might cooperate with you,” Aysha laughed as she rubbed Sara’s side.

“I’d rather be whipped than be nice to that beast.”

“Come now, Sara and let’s leave that fat man alone.” Aysha pulled Sara’s reins and started walking away.

“What about me?” Naru asked.

Luca turned to the boy. “You go home and apply some ointment to your face.”

“Wouldn’t you need some help in selling fruits?” Naru asked.

“You’ll do more harm than help looking like that. You’ll scare the customers away and it’ll be trouble if Markus and his men see you. Better lie low for today. Now go,” Luca jerked a fat thumb to the side.

Naru groaned and hesitantly walked away.

***

Upon reaching home, Naru removed his shirt and grabbed a black jar that was stored beneath Luca’s bed. Naru uncovered the top and he almost gagged at the stench of what was stored inside. Naru scooped some ointment with his fingers and he proceeded on applying some to his face. Afterwards, his body cried for sleep and so he went to his spot on the floor and dozed off.

Hours passed by and he woke from Luca’s shouting. Naru sat up to see the fat man panicking as he entered the house with Aysha in his arms. Naru felt his chest tightened; breathing became hard. He rushed to Luca’s side. The fat man placed the unconscious Aysha on the bed. Naru stared in horror at his sister’s badly beaten up body.

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JB Lacaden dreams of someday being a published writer. He currently resides in Manila, Philippines. He's a lover of comic books, science fiction, and high fantasy. Check out some of his works at http://www.jblearnstowrite.com/ and follow him at @jblearnstowrite.

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Jeff Tsuruoka Week 53: Lawyers, Guns, and Money Part 12

WEEK 53! This is the first week of our 2nd year of DAILY PICSPIRATIONS! Thank you to all the contributing authors that have made this possible, both current and past. Here's to another year of Daily Picspirations!!



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Picture 1


Picture 2


Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Lawyers, Guns, and Money Part 12

I'm not sure what I expected to see when Rafael opened that door for his underworld doctor.
A knuckle-dragger with a clubbed foot. A broad-shouldered ex-Nazi with a scar. A down and outer with the shakes and attention span issues. An eye patch. At the very least I expected an eye patch.
Dr. Liliana Molina did not wear an eye patch.
She didn't even wear glasses.
Curly brown hair hung wild around her shoulders, framing her round, olive-toned face. The laugh lines near the corners of her eyes revealed a good nature. A nose that didn't lie straight and the little scar on her chin told another story.
A pastel blouse, white linen slacks, and worn brown sandals completed the picture.
Pilar sat up and opened one eye to check her out, then lay back down.
Dr. Molina set her bag on the futon and greeted Rafael with a gentle embrace and a kiss on each cheek. He muttered a few words of explanation and stepped out of the way.
I was her first stop. Must've been the dried blood all over my face.
“Hello, Matty. Looks like you've had yourself quite a night.”
I heard a lot of Texas in her.
She took a penlight out of her bag and and shone it in my eyes.
“You could say that, Doc.”
“I did say that.”
“Your English is really good.”
“I wouldn't have gotten much out of medical school if it were otherwise.”
“Trained in the States?”
“UT Houston.”
“I look worse than I feel.”
She moved the light from side to side as she stared into my eyes, then switched it off and put it in her pocket. She raised her hand and held it in front of my face.
“How many hands do I have up?”
I had to chuckle.
“One.”
She poked at the worst of my bruises, watching my eyes while she worked.
“You're okey, muchacho. Anything else I should know about?”
I shrugged. “Took a boot to the ribs.”
“Show me.”
I raised my shirt for her.
She eyeballed the stitch work on my torso then glanced up at me.
I glanced back, taking another look at her crooked nose and that scar.
She nodded and gave me half a sad smile. I returned the other half.
“Nothing's broken,” she said, pressing her fingers into the left side of my ribcage.
Her eyes returned to my healing cuts. The doctor in her wanted to ask the question but all she said was, “Somebody did good work on these.” She gave me a reassuring pat on the shoulder then went to see to Pilar.
Rafael and I moved to the corner furthest from the futon as she got to work.
“Why don't you boys take a walk?” she said.
“How 'bout we stay right here?”
Her smile rose all the way to her big, hazel eyes.
“Are you saying you don't trust me, Matty?”
Rafael punched me in the arm.
“What is this, Matty? She's here to help your ass out. You're makin' me look bad, kid.”
I ignored him.
“No, Doc. I'm saying I don't know you. Big difference. Considering the week we're having, I'm taking no chances.”
Rafael grunted and paced.
She said something I didn't catch in Spanish to Pilar.
Pilar smiled and looked my way as she replied to Dr. Molina.
The pride of Hoboken put a gangly arm around me.
“I think we can take that walk now, Matty.”

Rafael fired up a joint once we were a few yards from his boat.
“Why the hell is she making house calls to the docks?” I asked him.
He shrugged and took a deep drag off the joint, leaving me to twiddle my thumbs until he exhaled.
“It's a family thing, I hear,” he began. “Hers is on the wrong side of some regional conflict. Wreaks havoc with licensing and all that official jazz.”
I declined a toke.
“I get the feeling she was actually in that conflict.”
“She doesn't like to talk about it but yeah, she's been on the receiving end of some heavy shit. That's part of why she's partial to scuzzbucket vagrants like us. She's been there, even with all that doc schooling in Texas.”
“That's a tough way to make a living.”
“Sure is.”
He snuffed out the joint between two fingertips and stuck it behind his ear.
“Speaking of which,” I said, “we've got no way to pay her.”
He shrugged it off.
“Don't you worry about that, Matty. Me and Lil have an arrangement. You're covered, man.”
“Thanks, Rafael. For everything.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he replied. “Enough about me and mine, man. I wanna hear about yours. Where did you meet up with her again?”
“Little town a couple of hundred miles in from the city.”
“And? Tell me something about her.”
“She's the most dangerous person I've ever met.”
I felt him squinting at me.
“That's all you got?”
“There's not much more.”
“Don't shit a shitter, Matty. You got your neck out pretty fuckin' far for, 'not much more'.”
“No farther than she does for me.”
We stopped at the end of the dock, looking down the coastline to the squat brick lighthouse high on a crag. Broken clouds swirled blue and black over the water, shading the three-quarter moon.
“Okey, Matty. Have it your way. Keep your little secrets.” He looked at me sideways. “When the hell did you become a gentleman about these things?”
I looked back at him and shrugged.
Tomorrow morning was set to roll in with the tide. I wished it Godspeed.
Rafael wanted to hang on to last night.
“You should probably get back in there, man,” he croaked.
“Where are you going?
“Back to the bar I had to leave to save your ass.” He slipped me a conspiratorial grin. “The Machado sisters are there, man. I was workin' my magic on Rosa. Or was it Marisol? One of 'em, anyway. I was really wearin' her down. So if you don't need anything else from me...?”
“We could stand some grub.”
He nodded and fished the key to his private quarters out of his hip pocket and handed it to me.
“Mi casa es su casa, Matty.”
I was wide awake when the pride of Hoboken staggered into his houseboat, just ahead of the sunrise.
He looked rough, even for him.
His shirt hung open, one remaining button at the bottom still done. The ponytail had given up. Long gray hair went wherever it damned well pleased.
He grabbed the wall opposite the futon and slid to the floor.
“Looks like the Machado sisters did a number on you,” I said.
He rubbed his eyes and had himself a nice, centering coughing fit.
“Matty, we gotta talk.”
My gut churned. Nothing good ever followed those words.
His eyes darted around the room, focusing on everything but me.
“All right, Rafael. Let's talk.”
I glanced at Pilar, her face peaceful in sleep. I wished I could let her stay that way. Dr. Molina told me to wake her up every twenty minutes and keep her up a bit before letting her drift off again.
“I'm thinking you should put the gun down, Matty.”
I didn't recall picking up Quinn's Colt.
“I'm not liking the sound of that.” I placed the gun down next to Pilar and moved to the edge of the futon.
He took a deep breath and dropped his head.
“Matty... shit, there's just no easy way to say it. I ratted you out, man.”
I kicked the words around in my head, waiting for him to smack me on the knee and cackle.
Pilar shifted behind me.
“Rafael...” I began.
He cut me off.
“You think I wanted to do it?” He jumped up and started to pace. “I mean, Matty, for fuck's sake, you didn't tell me your fuckin' father-in-law was Lefty Lubov!”
“Didn't think you needed to know.”
“You didn't think I needed to know? You're on the lam for killing the daughter of a high-ranking Russian gangster, I'm here helping your ass along, and you didn't think I needed to know?”
“I didn't kill her.”
“I don't give a shit!”
I grabbed the Peacemaker and stuffed it into my waistband.
“Tell me why,” I demanded. “Lefty threaten you?”
“I got a sister in Perth Amboy. She has a family, man. Two kids. Get the picture? What would you do?”
I didn't have an answer. Not one I wanted to give him, anyway.
“That's what I thought, Matty.”
“Is he here?” I growled.
“In the city? I don't think so, but I get the feeling he's not far away. A couple of thugs from that company on the card I gave you showed up at the bar askin' questions about that car wreck you told me about. Didn't think anyone saw you? Guess again. They dragged my ass right out of the bar and took me out back. I tried to snow 'em, Matty, I really did. So they hauled me down to the bodega on the corner and got Lefty on the phone.”
He grabbed me by the shoulders.
“Jesus Christ, the guy already knew who I was, read my sister's address to me and told me what would happen if I didn't give you up.”
I shrugged his hands away and turned to Pilar.
“Pilar?” I shook her arm. “We gotta move.”
“Yes, Mateo,” she said as she sat up and swung her legs to the side of the futon. “I heard.”
The glare she turned on Rafael probably stripped ten years off his life.
She pulled on her shoes and came to stand next to me.
“He say anything about her father?”
“Can't say I made any inquiries.”
“They're coming here?” asked Pilar. “Who? How many?”
“I don't know.”
She took a step forward. Rafael threw his hands out in front of him.
“I swear! I don't know. There were two of 'em in the bar but they said they were callin' in reinforcements.” He pointed to Pilar. “Your reputation precedes you.”
“When?”
“I don't know! Soon! I'm supposed to keep you around 'til they get here.”
Now it was my turn to pace.
I ran through both scenarios-- running and fighting-- and wasn't thrilled with either.
“They know about Quinn,” said Pilar, “which means they know we are injured. And that we have have not been to the hospital.”
What little color remained in Rafael's face went gray.
“Lil...” he moaned. “Oh shit. Lil.”
I smacked him in the back of the head.
“Address. Now.”
I made for the door the second he stammered it out.
“What about my sister?” croaked Rafael.
I stopped and turned back.
“If you're not here... he'll kill 'em, Matty.”
Pilar stepped around me. Her first punch shattered his nose. The second loosened teeth.
I caught him before he hit the deck.
“Sit him up,” said Pilar. “Make sure they see the blood.”
“That gonna be enough?”
“It is the best we can do for him, Mateo.”
She opened the door and took a look around while I arranged the unconscious Rafael against the wall.
The area would be bustling inside the next half hour. Workmen were beginning to stir in and around the ships. Voices sounded, their sources hidden by the early morning fog.
I found Pilar hunched over the side of the dock and gave her a minute to gather herself.
We left Rafael's door wide open and limped the three blocks to the Pinto.

Dr. Molina lived in the best building on a rough block far enough from the docks to make driving a necessity, even if running wasn't already out of the question.
The three-story red brick apartment house was set back from the street and surrounded by a sun-dulled wrought iron fence. The gate was open.
What was once a lawn, parted by a gravel walk, sat brown and dry. The empty, trash-strewn lots on either side made it look palatial by comparison.
Automobile carcasses lined the opposite side of the street. Our Pinto was the best car on the block.
We dug deep and headed straight down the walk, Pilar leaning against me as we approached the front door.
I tried the knob. The door swung open.
Early morning light reflected off white walls and the gray tile floor of the entryway, revealing a pair of cheap wicker chairs and a writing desk against the back wall.
We didn't spend a lot of time admiring the d├ęcor on our way to the stairwell.
A single florescent emergency light flickered in Dr. Molina's dark, quiet hallway.
We found her apartment door closed and locked. No noise emanated from within.
Pilar stepped to the side and aimed her gun at the door. She nodded at me.
I knocked.
“Dr. Molina! Hey, Doc!”
Nothing.
I knocked louder and harder.
This time something inside the apartment moved. We both heard the thud.
I backed away, drawing the Colt.
The lock scraped and the door opened wide enough for Dr. Molina to stick her head out.
She greeted us with a sigh and a sour look.
“I told you she needed to rest.”
I lowered my gun and pushed into the apartment. Pilar followed, shutting the door behind her.
Dr. Molina, in a green silk robe over a white tank top and pajama bottoms, was dressed for bed. The sharpness in her stare told me she hadn't been sleeping.
She caught me looking at the tattoos on her chest and shoulder-- a dozen or so tiny black birds in flight-- and pulled the robe closed. They didn't quite hide the scars.
Pilar looked around the room-- a spartan chamber with a black leather couch and matching easy chair, a simple coffee table, and two packed bookshelves-- then ducked into the kitchen. She cleared the bathroom and bedroom too, then came back to the living room.
“Get dressed,” I said. “We have to get you out of here.”
Dr. Molina smiled at me, that same half smile she gave me back at Rafael's, and placed her hand against my cheek.
“Estupido,” she whispered. “You should not have come.”
Pilar took her by the arm and led her into the bedroom. They argued in soft but vehement Spanish as they went.
When they emerged a few minutes later, Dr. Molina was in the same clothes she'd worn to Rafael's. She looked around her home like she wasn't expecting to see it again as she stepped into her sandals.
“You have a plan, Matty?” she asked.
She grabbed her medical bag off the floor.
“We're working on it,” I said.
I opened the door.
A fist the size of Nebraska met me at the threshold.
It crashed into the side of my face and sent me flying backward into Pilar. The hardwood floor broke our fall.
I couldn't make out much than a large, dark-colored blur as my attacker entered the apartment. Two smaller blurs stepped in past him.
Dr. Molina bent to check on me.
“Get away from him, Doc,” said the big guy.
His voice sounded familiar.
One of the smaller blurs moved to the doctor's side. The second came to stand over me.
I looked up in time to see three Pilars scrambling to their feet, aiming their guns at the big man. The pain and disorientation on their faces was hard to miss.
“I wouldn't,” he said. “I know what you're thinkin'. We know what you're capable of. If we all start shooting you might just get all three of us. But not before we perforate the doc and your boy here.”
I fought my way out of my stupor enough to place the voice.
Miro. Miro Korolev. One of Lefty's favorites.
Pilar's gun hit the floor.
“Smart,” said Miro. “Smart move.”
He hadn't changed much since I saw him last in New York. Six and a half feet tall, a good three hundred pounds, crew cut and a dark brown goatee, Yankees jersey and a pair of black sweatpants.

“Now,” he continued, “soon as we scrape our boy off the floor here we're all gonna take a little ride.”


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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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