Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice:
Title: Night Train Part Eleven
They let us stew for two hours.
Madeline leaned. I paced. The two sheriff’s deputies parked themselves in the chairs they’d brought in for us.
The blond with the lazy eye crossed his arms and glared at me. I felt his eyes burning into my back and shoulders as I traipsed around the room. The other deputy-- a slight man with close-cropped dark hair and a vulture-like adam’s apple-- worried a chunk of tobacco between his teeth. He produced a cheap flask from his shirt pocket to spit in.
Madeline ignored us. She stared through the glass, eyes fixated on some point off in the distance.
I stopped by her side, getting an eyeful of her profile in the half light.
“Planning our escape?” I murmured.
“One of us has to,” she whispered.
She gave me one of her looks-- the one with the wrinkle in the middle of her forehead that meant she was up to something.
“Just try to get my attention before you pull it.”
I didn’t wait around for a reply.
I worked up a good sweat marching around that little room.
“Hot in here,” I remarked.
Tobacco Man shrugged.
“Not so you’d notice.”
Lazy Eye continued to stare at me.
“What’s yours?” I asked him.
“Why can’t you just stay still,” he replied. “Like the lady there.”
I paced some more.
“It’s makin’ me antsy,” he continued. “You don’t want I should get ansty, pal.”
I stopped, just outside his arms reach.
“Why not? You’re not gonna touch me.”
He glanced at his companion, then picked up his stare where he left off.
“You keep tellin’ yourself that.”
“You’re not going to touch us and I’ll tell you why.”
Tobacco Man smirked.
“This oughta be good.”
“You’re not going to touch us,” I went on, “because your boss has a plan. Your boss is a bright boy. At least that’s what he tells you, and you’re too dumb to know the difference.”
The guy was good.
The vein in his left temple started beating a quick tattoo and his eyes went a little nutty but other than that the man sat there and took the guff.
“That so?” he said.
“You’d have already split my skull with the butt of that revolver if it wasn’t.”
He exhaled, treating me to a gentle whiff of meatloaf and onion breath.
“All good things, pal,” he growled with a smile that reminded me of a flesh wound.
I smiled back, letting a sliver of who and what I was show through.
He raised his eyebrow. Singular.
I risked a glance behind me. Madeline hadn’t turned to watch the shenanigans. I caught the reflection of her face in the glass door. That wrinkle in the middle of her forehead looked deep enough to hide a Model A.
Tobacco Man chuckled around his chaw.
“Hard case, eh?” he wheezed.
“Not so you’d notice.”
“I don’t like you,” he said.
“You mean you don’t like my kind?”
“Nope. Just you.”
“There goes my plan to get you boys on my side.”
Both deputies hit me with the cold fish eyes.
I did cold fish eyes as well as anyone else. We hung around like that for a while, nobody blinking. The only sounds were the crickets outside and a bunch of tough guy respiration.
We all turned to look when we heard the cars pull up in front of the cabin.
Tobacco Man stood.
“Now you’re gonna get yours,” grumbled Lazy Eye.
“What makes you think I haven’t already had it?”
He hauled himself out of the chair.
“Have a seat,” he ordered.
“I’d rather stand.”
He grabbed me by the shoulder. The bad one. I held in the wince. Didn’t do as well with the cursing.
“What do we have here?” he mugged, his whole face lit up with delight.
Tobacco Man tried to get behind me. I shifted to cut him off.
Madeline stayed where she was, frowning at us.
Lazy Eye let go of my shoulder long enough to grab me by the front of my shirt, high up near the neck.
Buttons flew as he yanked down. The shirt came apart at the seams.
I jumped back, leaving half of the garment in his hand. I shrugged out of what was left of it, then closed my fists.
My white undershirt glowed in the low light. So did the bandage on my shoulder.
We had Madeline’s full attention. She moved a few steps away from the window, hands at her sides, knees slightly bent. Her body shook with coiled menace.
I wanted to introduce my fist to the big deputy’s chin.
The sound of a revolver being cocked put the kibosh on the brawl.
Tobacco Man waved the gun in my general direction.
“I think you ought to park it, mister,” he said. He moved the revolver toward Madeline. “And you, you stay where you are.”
Lazy Eye stepped aside so I could get to the chair.
Light filled the room. I recognized the sheriff’s silhouette in the flare of his flashlight.
“If the man wants to stand,” he croaked, “let him stand. Ain’t gonna change anything.”
Tobacco Man held the gun on me while Lazy Eye grabbed my arms and pulled them behind my back. My sore shoulder’s protests garnered no sympathy.
“This guy’s been sayin’ we couldn’t touch him,” said Lazy Eye. His breath felt hot against the back of my neck.
The sheriff stepped into the room, then set his flashlight down on the other chair.
“Well, Bill, the man’s right,” he replied. He reached out and peeled the bandage off of my shoulder. “That’s my job.”
“Just leave her out of this,” I said. I could feel Madeline rolling her eyes as I said it.
The sheriff fed me a hard, back-handed slap.
“What sort of man do you take me for?” he hissed.
I didn’t think he’d have appreciated my answer, so I swallowed it.
The sheriff leaned in and inspected the bullet wound in my shoulder.
“Jesus,” he said, “that looks like it hurts.”
He socked me, dead on the spot.
White hot pain shot through my arm. I clenched my teeth and tried to wriggle free from Lazy Eye’s grasp. I may as well have been trying to climb out of a tar pit.
He gave me two more, and then another set of three. I expected my arm to fall off at any second.
I might have been hollering. The pounding of my heartbeat in my ears drowned out everything else.
Tobacco Man kept his revolver on Madeline. She watched the sheriff work me over, her face not quite as impassive as I imagined she would have liked it.
The sheriff gave my shoulder a rest, punching me in the mug instead. Whenever his arm got tired he asked me questions.
“Who are you? What’s your real name? What are you doing in my county?”
I refused to answer him. I still hadn’t when he was forced to stop out of sheer exhaustion.
Blood ran from my nose and mouth. Two teeth felt loose. It wasn’t bravery that had kept me quiet. It was numbness.
Didn’t mean I wasn’t angry.
The sheriff stuck his face in close to mine. The breaths came hard to him but he could still talk.
“I know you’re someone. Someone folks in New York might want to find. Got a couple of heavy hitters on their way down to take a look at you.” He cuffed me on the chin. “Got anything to say to me now?” he gasped.
I nodded. He grinned.
“If you touch me again,” I rasped, “you’d better kill me.”
The grin faded.
Madeline said my name, then followed it with a stream of dirty Cajun.
“That so?” asked the sheriff.
I let my stare do the talking.
“That sounded a little like a threat,” he said.
He jammed his thumb into my bullet wound.
I got as much of my weight as I could into a head butt. His nose exploded under my forehead and his hands went to his face as he dropped to one wobbly knee.
Tobacco Man cursed and headed for the sheriff.
Madeline got in his way. I couldn’t see the action. The stomping of feet on the hard cabin floor and Tobacco Man’s language told me what I needed to know.
The revolver hit the floor.
I took a quick look to locate her, then drove Lazy Eye straight back.
The glass door held for half a second. Shards flew everywhere as we crashed through.
I landed on top. I struggled to stand, ready for a fight.
Lazy Eye stayed where he was-- lying on the deck in a pool of blood and glass.
“You all right, chouette?”
I limped back into the cabin.
Madeline had both the sheriff and Tobacco Man at gunpoint. I didn’t recognize the piece she had in her hand. It wasn’t a police revolver.
“Been better,” I answered.
I sought and found Tobacco Man’s dropped gun.
“Have a seat, fellas,” I said.
I made them position the chairs back-to-back before they sat.
Madeline kept her gun on them while I secured them with their own handcuffs.
I took another look at Madeline’s gun.
It was a snub-nosed job, small but not dainty.
I grinned at her.
“Where were you hiding that?”
“Is that really the most pressing question here, chouette?”
“I suppose not.” I walked over to the sheriff, then squatted down in front of him.
“‘A couple of heavy hitters on their way down to take a look at me’, you said. Care to tell me who they are?”
Like what you just read? Have a question or concern? Leave a note for the author! We appreciate your feedback!
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.