Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Eight Years
The awning of the little bistro across from the club kept the worst of the rain off of me while I watched the guests arrive.
They arrived in long black cars, one after another in a continuous stream that lasted forty-five minutes. The drivers stopped just long enough to discharge their passengers-- well-dressed couples-- then moved on to make room for the next car.
Two valets in red jackets and fezzes, armed with umbrellas, ushered each couple into the club.
I checked my watch, cursed, then looked down the street. I didn't see Juliette's Buick in the line of cars waiting to drop off wedding guests.
Juliette always ran behind schedule. She'd probably be late to her own funeral.
I cursed some more and got ready to put Plan B into action.
Going into the party as Juliette's date was the smooth way in. Plan B? Not so smooth.
The streetlights cast a grayish yellow haze over the street. The raindrops looked thick and heavy as they hit the pavement.
I stepped back into the shadows as the guests of honor arrived. The newlyweds got out first. Monaghan's red-haired daughter looked beautiful in her white gown. Her new husband wrapped his raincoat around her shoulders as the valets hurried them inside. Mrs. Monaghan, a tall woman with an athlete's physique, was next out of the car, followed by the man himself.
Mrs. Mohaghan didn't wait for the fellows with the fezzes to walk her into the club. She also didn't wait for her husband.
Monaghan paused by the car, taking a good look around before closing the door and waving the driver away.
He'd lost a fair amount of hair since the last time I'd seen him eight years earlier. A fair amount of weight too. His white tux-- of the same cut and style of the groom's-- fit him well and his bald pate gave him a stately appearance.
He took his time waltzing around in front of the club, shaking hands and issuing orders to the men in black suits who stood to either side of the entrance, before going inside.
I tried to push thoughts about those five years from my mind but they wouldn't go. A stint in the big house tends to have that kind of effect on a man.
The sight of Juliette's gray Buick rounding the corner snapped me out of it. I crossed the street to meet her. Plan B was canceled. Good thing too. I'd have looked ridiculous in a fez.
I offered her my arm as she stepped out of her car.
A valet climbed into the Buick and drove it into the garage.
Juliette looked great in a little black dress and a pair of black leather high-heeled sandals. She wore her dark hair pulled back and hadn't bothered with any makeup. She didn't need any.
“Where've you been, sweetheart?” I asked. “I was hoping to catch the wedding, not their first anniversary.”
She smirked in my general direction.
“Kept you waiting, have I?”
“Not so you'd notice.”
“Maybe you can find someone else to ditch their date at the last second to get you into this party.”
I smirked back at her.
“You look lovely, Juliette.”
I waved the guys in the fezzes away.
“Yeah, yeah,” she replied, grazing my cheek with the back of her hand. “You owe me, Elliot. Can we get out of the rain now?”
The Swan Club, known in the old days for swinging jazz combos and illegal booze, cleaned up well for the wedding reception.
White tablecloths. Brightly colored balloons. Flowers. Uniformed waitstaff-- without fezzes-- passed hors d'oeuvres and champagne while the band ran through the standards.
Juliette went to congratulate the bride and groom.
I found a corner to stand in and watched Monaghan glad hand his way around the room. The man always did know how to work a crowd.
When he got to within ten feet of me I stepped forward and let him see me.
He stopped and gave me a hard stare. I gave him a glare of my own. He looked around, then nodded toward the bar. I followed him over.
“Hello, Elliot,” he growled.
He signaled the bartender for two highballs.
“Paul,” I growled back.
When the drinks were ready he picked them up and led me toward the back of the room. We went through a door and into the stairwell.
“This is my daughter's wedding,” he said, handing me one of the highballs. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“You had to know I'd find you,” I replied. “Seems as good a place as any. More even. Wouldn't want a scene at your daughter's wedding.”
“You're damned right I wouldn't.”
He took a sip of his drink. I didn't touch mine.
“What do you want me to say?” he asked. “I don't get the idea that sorry's gonna cover it.”
I let him stew.
“Say something, damn you! You want money? I'll get it for you.”
“Eight years,” I said. “I did eight years for you. You let me do eight years for your crimes. I don't want your money, Paul.”
“What do you want? Whatever it is, it's yours. But don't ruin this day. It's not for me. For my girl. She doesn't deserve that.”
“Don't worry, Paul. I have no intention of ruining your daughter's wedding day.”
“Thank you, Elliot. Thank you.”
“Don't. You said it yourself. It's for her sake, not yours.”
“What do you want from me, Elliot?”
“Eight years, Paul. You stole eight years of my life. Can you give them back to me?”
“What the hell kind of question is that?”
“Do you know what it's like in prison? You've got eyes on you every minute of every day. Everything you do is under someone else's control. You asked what I wanted. What I want, Paul, is for you to feel what I felt. I want you to know that I'm watching you, that I can get to you. Whenever I want to.”
I dug a snub-nosed revolver out of my pocket and jammed it into his gut.
He froze, eyes wide with terror.
“I want you to know that I could have killed you tonight. I could have killed you, but I chose not to. I'm not going to kill you tonight. I might not at all. I haven't decided yet.”
I pulled the gun back and put it away.
“The way I see it,” I continued, “I have eight years to make up my mind.”
I handed him back the highball and turned to leave.
“I'll be seeing you, Paul,” I said over my shoulder.
I didn't look to see if he followed me out.
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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.