Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Kimberly Gould Week 58: Gomen Nasai

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Kimberly Gould’s Picture Choice: One

Title: Gomen Nasai

Desiree placed the last jewelled comb in her hair. Hopefully, he would be pleased. It hadn’t been easy to find a Japanese-style villa available for rent. In fact, this one wasn’t, but she had persuaded the owners, promising that they would only stay one night and leave no trace they had been here. So far, she had delivered on that, bringing all her clothing and accessories with her, ready to pack them all out again. She had removed their futon and brought in one of her own, just in case.

Desiree was not Japanese. She wasn’t really into anime and didn’t appreciate the culture the way he did. She understood his appreciation, however. She was enamoured with the Aztec and Mayans and would live in an adobe given her choice, so she knew why he wanted this and she was willing to do anything for him.

The sliding of the door was so quiet that she almost missed it. Desiree scurried as quickly as her bound legs in the tight kimono skirt would allow. Then she knelt at the doorstep, ready for his command.

“Welcome home, Master.”

His finger came below her chin, making her look up at him. She smiled, expecting to see his pleasure.

“You parked in front,” he said, his eyes flashing.

Surely she hadn’t. She had parked in the garage, wanting to maintain the facade that this was a night in Japan. Her lip quivered, afraid of the anger he displayed.

“Gomen nasai,” she pleaded, lowering her eyes although she couldn’t lower her face as he held her chin.

“Perhaps, in time,” he answered, using his free hand to remove his belt. “Until then-”

Desiree squeezed her eyes shut.


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Kimberly Gould is the author of Cargon: Honour and Privilege, and it's sequel Duty and Sacrifice. She can be found most places as Kimmydonn, including


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Samantha Lee Week 58: After Life

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice:

Title: After Life

Savannah paces back and forth in front of the old, graffiti-splattered building. It is one of the oddest things I've ever seen. I mean, for one thing, she is dressed in a medieval-style gown, one that is pale blue velvet with black lace and silver and sapphire jewellery. She has her dark red hair swept up in a messy style that leaves her snowy white, Jennifer Aniston bangs loose, and wears just enough makeup to emphasize her eyes and give them that sultry, smoky look the fashion critics are always going ga-ga over. She looks like a cross between Rogue (think X-Men) and Maid Marian (think Robin Hood).

And there she is, pacing back and forth in front of an abandonned building (I want to call it a barn...but it has an actual front door leading into a muck room so it's not really a barn) on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere. It is very odd; like seeing a bunny rabbit on a battlefield or a baby in an ammo shed. It is the very weirdest of...juxtapositions, that's the word.

"I wouldn't say the weirdest," she protests suddenly. "I'd like to think the bunny on the battlefield is at least a little weirder. Unless it's a were-rabbit. Well, no, that could still be pretty weird. Especially if it shifted into a naked human. But a jackolope, definitely, would be an exception. Fiesty little warriors those guys. Oh, did you ever see that movie Watership Down? It may have been a book too. Anyway, those were some pretty hardcore rabbits. I especially liked that dun coloured one with the little dark shock of fur on his head - what was his name? Fur-head? Oh! Bugs! He was a pretty awesome little rabbit. You know, on second thought, I see your point."

I blink, but there's no point trying to decifer what she's talking about. There never is. I cast a look around, trying to see if any of her bodyguards are about, but see no one. I doubt she's truly alone though - she has a whole host of loved ones who would go ballistic if she went out on her own.

"Ghost, Keeley and Khary are with me," she tells me, still pacing. "And my cats are around somewhere too. Or they were. They may have...oh, no, Oz wouldn't do that so, yeah, they're around."

"Why are you here?" I ask. I take a few steps closer but am careful to still keep my distance. Savannah may have a strong grip on compassion and fairness more often than not, but even the tightest of grips and slip.

She stops pacing, freezing suddenly like a deer caught in headlights. "I...the barn is haunted."

I quirk one eyebrow in disbelief. "You avoid ghosts like the plague," I remind her and it's true, she does. she wards off ghosts the way germophobes clean house: obsessively. It's one of the reasons she has so many cats around her and why, despite being Irish with the lilting accent to prove it, she wears emblems of ancient Egyptian gods like Anubis and Horus. Ironic, I know, given that she's a necromancer, but from what I gather ghosts are to necromancers what piranha are to swimmers; individually, they are painful nuisances but in large enough numbers, they're potentially lethal.

"Not to mention terrifying," Savannah puts in, shuddering slightly at the thought. "Touching a's not pleasant, you know. You get a taste of their death, of their life, of their emotions. Getting that sort of...charge from multiple ghosts can drive you bonkers. But, um, there are exceptions. Like my wraiths. And, um, my friends."

"Your friends?"

"Yes, my friends. When they, ah, die and transition into ghosts and haunt...something...I make an exception. Because, um, they're my friend. And I care. If they spend eternity stuck haunting somewhere. Especially an icking barn in the middle of nowhere."

I look around at the area again. I can understand her point; this isn't even a nice place to visit, let alone spend one's afterlife. "So what happened? To your friend, I mean?"

Shrugging, Savannah turns back to look at the barn, her expression intent. "My friend was killed. Someone they upset and lost control and my friend was killed. Horribly."

I wince and nod. Even with the details kept vague, it sounds unpleasant. "What's your plan then?"

"I...I don't have one. Not really. I can't...can't have anymore wraiths, not for a good long while at least; taking on Jester was a bad idea. I love Jes, I'm happy he's my wraith - I'd make him again regardless the circumstances - but it was hard. Very hard. But my friend called out to me, pulled on me really hard like a mortal pulling on a choke chain. I couldn't not come, so I thought maybe if I came and talked to my friend, maybe..."

Compassion and fairness, like I said.

"What happened to the killer?" I ask.

Savannah frowns as if she doesn't understand the question. I can tell the very moment comprehension dawns, at least if the sudden darkening of her expression is anything to go by.

"I set the Hunt on him," she tells me. "He's still alive, but I gave him over to Wave and Drustan."

I'm shocked. Wave is the head torturer for the Winter Court, Drustan the Guardian of Wrath for the Winter Queen. Tendering someone into their care is the equivalent of sending someone to Hell; it's among the worst of all possible punishments the Winter Court has to offer.

For some reason, as I think on this, I'm oddly pleased.

Savannah smiles. "I thought it was rather fitting myself. The killer's Fae, you know; he'll be enjoying Wave and Drustan's hospitality for a long, long, long time to come."

"Your friend's still dead," I point out.

"Yes, my friend's still dead, but at least my friend's avenged."

I think about that a moment, then nod, accepting it. "Do you think justice will be enough to lay your friend to rest?"

"No." Savannah shakes her head and sighs. "Nothing is ever that easy - at least for me - but it's a start."

A chill wind sweeps by and I hug myself in a vain attempt to keep warm. Savannah gasps and takes a step back into the arms of one of her suddenly visible wraiths, one with red skin and horns. The moment I see him, I'm terrified, fear stabbing through me like an icy blade. There's just something about him, about his energy, that chills me. He rests his chin atop Savannah's head, wraps his arms loosely around her waist, and watches me intently with dazzling yellow eyes. It's like being caught in the gaze of Satan. I am instantly uncomfortable.

Savannah sighs. "I should go. I don't think talking will help my friend...not yet, at least."

I frown, not understanding. "Why not?"

Smiling sadly, Savannah shakes her head. She taps on her wraith's arm and he releases her, though she keeps hold of his hand as she moves away and starts walking down the dirt trail, away from me. I let her go. What else can I do? I look back at the barn. Its white paint peeling is on its sides. Indistinct grafitti is scrawled across its gable. Each and every one of its windows is broken, the glass left like jagged teeth in their panes. Long dead vines climb, twisted and black, up its walls. There's no question; it's a wretched place to spend eternity.

Savannah has stopped walking. She is standing at the edge of a forest, her wraith a looming presence at her side. He is looking away into the trees, no doubt seeking out potential danger. Savannah, however, is looking at me, that same sad smile gently curving her lips.

"The first stage of grief," she says, then vanishes, her wraith along with her, as though she'd never been here at all.


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Monday, July 29, 2013

Lizzie Koch Week 58: Under The Bridge

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Under The Bridge

‘I don’t ever wanna feel like I did that day’. . . . . The song played over and over in her head as she wandered through the night; barefoot in the cool, soft grass but it might as well have been shards of glass for all the comfort it brought. He promised to never sing that song, or at least the last verse, which was understandably hard for a tribute band, but she had her reasons and what’s more, he knew. He knew what happened under that bridge two years ago. He knew the loss she had suffered. He knew the deep meaning behind the lyrics and how they took her back to the degradation, isolation and loss fuelled by failure and guilt.

“Babe, it’s just a song. It’s been two years. Can’t you see it as therapy?” He placed a sweaty hand on her bare shoulder which she instantly swatted away like an annoying fly as her eyes splintered with tears.

Therapy! She trudged forward in an effort to release her fury with every stomp. Therapy! What did he think she’d been doing every Monday night, without fail for the past year and a half? It wasn’t some jolly tea party! Baring her soul to what were once complete strangers was not her idea of a fun night out! Now, she couldn’t live without them; they were her new addiction. The ones who really knew her suffering, her guilt she carried around with her like a loaded shot gun. And there he was, unleashing the torment.

“It’s the best song! The audience love it! I can’t ignore the fans babe!” He tried again with the hand, this time pushing away a random strand of her dark hair that always fell awkwardly over her face; she used to like him tucking it behind her ear but again, she swiped his hand away. “You have to move on Babe, with me. I need to move forward.” And that was the moment she knew it was over. She wasn’t ready to move forward. She knew he was protesting she stay; saw the strain on his tired face but all she heard was that song, every word causing her heart to tie itself up in a tight knot . . . ‘Under the bridge downtown’. . . creating an image in her mind like she was back there. . . . seeing the blood . . . . the convulsions . . . . the eyes rolling back . . . the chest stopping. . .

The rising sun began to reveal little by little, her whereabouts. Ribbons of morning red provided a backdrop to a forest that was beginning to come to life and then she noticed the gentle sound of running water. She’d walked all night, didn’t have a clue where she was but knew it made her feel peaceful. Knew she had been led here.

A bridge lay up ahead. It wasn’t pretty and certainly didn’t fit the surroundings with its chunky concrete blocks for walls and ugly pipes on show. But then neither did she. She didn’t fit in anywhere. She had tried and had failed. She peered over the edge. A sheer drop to the river below faced her. A way out. That was why she was here. She had been given a way out. It was more than coincidence. Fate had brought her here. The song had brought her here, to a bridge. Like her sister, two years ago, it would all end, under a bridge. Prettier surroundings than an inner city bridge where gangs loitered and junkies shot up their next or last fix. . . . unlike her sister . . . . her poor innocent younger sister . . . .who should not have followed her there . . .

“I’ll give you yours Megan, if you can do something for me,” teased Jazz as he toyed with her fix with one hand, unzipping his trousers with the other. Kneeling down in the wet, under the bridge where to anyone else the stench of urine would make you vomit violently, she took a deep breath.

“Megan!” She knew that voice! Why was Eliza here? Why had she come? Grabbing Megan’s arm, Eliza yanked her up. “You have to stop this Meg’s! Please! I don’t want to find my sister in the gutter with a needle sticking out of her arm.”

“Hey lady! This is between me and her!” Jazz shoved Eliza but Eliza stood her ground, even when Jazz pulled a knife, even when he threatened to finish them both. . . . . .

Megan took a deep breath as she stood on the edge of the bridge, unable to shift that night out of her mind but she knew she had to relive it before she. . . . .

. . . . .There was a gurgled scream as Eliza’s grip broke, clutching her throat in an instant as she slid to the floor, her hands now a rich red, dripping like paint from a brush, her eyes wide with shock. A bloodied hand reached out. . . . grasping Megan’s punctured , bruised arm. . . . before reaching up to wipe away tears that escaped from Megan’s sunken eyes. . . . Megan watched as her sister’s life seeped in a sea of red surrounding them both, as the tiniest of smiles appeared on Eliza’s lips. . . .

Megan looked up to the clear blue sky, to Eliza, knowing Eliza had been watching over her, knowing Eliza was at peace and knowing she would very soon find her own peace.

A rumbling echoed through the valley. Without hesitation, Megan stepped onto the track, feeling the vibrations of the oncoming train swell through her entire body. Closing her eyes, Megan stood firm, welcoming the train with open arms. Screeching consumed the valley followed by a sudden silence. Opening her eyes, she was greeted by the looming train, not more than five feet away where the driver sat on the step, wiping his brow, unable to speak.

“Sorry,” was all Megan could utter as she walked past him then stopped. Looking up at the side of the engine her mouth dried up at the big red swirly writing, “Eliza?” she barely whispered.

“All engines . . . . . have names . . . . . love,” he panted. “You’re lucky to still be . . . . . here.” Megan smiled and carried on walking, over the bridge, not once looking down under the bridge, knowing Eliza would always be near.


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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ruth Long Week 57: Linked

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Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Linked

The bartender poured another whiskey and slid it across the bar. "This one's on me. Looks like you could use it."

Delilah glanced at her watch. "What I need is a man, but I'm running out of time."

The thickset blonde said, "You got a party or something?"

She nodded. "Or something."

The blonde wiped down the counter like business as usual but a moment later, she said, "There's some rough trade in the far corner."

Del downed the whiskey, dropped a fifty into the empty glass, and headed to the dark rear of the bar.

Three men sat at the table. The nearest one was tall, well-dressed, and olive skinned. Beside him was a muscular thug in jeans and a white t-shirt. Facing them was a lean bodied male with an expensive haircut and an attractive face in spite of the handful of pockmarks splattered across his cheeks.

She nodded to the tall man. "Blue eyes free for an hour?"

He shook his head. "You're not his type."

Blue Eyes said, "I wouldn't mind."

The big man leaned across the table, slapped Blue Eyes, and dropped back into his seat. "I don't keep you around to think for yourself or speak out of turn, boy. Now, get your scrawny ass outside and hustle. And give me that coat. Nobody's going to pay for what they can't see."

Del watched Blue Eyes leave before addressing the tall man again. "That your only meal ticket?"

"That's no business of yours, lady. Now, I got somewhere to be so -"

"You don't have any other rent boys, boss? Because I'm in a bad way and I'm willing to pay very well for the right body."

"Bitch, you don't -"

Her fist slammed into his jaw and a moment later, he was looking up at her from the concrete floor while her boot heel ground home between his thighs.

The thug lifted out of his chair but when faced with the business end of her Browning, he quickly sat back down.

"Good dog. Now, stay there until your employer comes to. And don't waste your time trying to follow me."

She backed out of the bar. Outside, the wind stabbed through her like frozen knives, tearing at her skin and clawing at her body heat.

Blue Eyes wasn't on either side of the street. She got in the car and drove up the street, finally finding him three blocks up, huddled in a doorway.

She pulled over, leaned across, and shoved the door open. "Hey! Bud! I'm tossing a hundred bucks out here where you can get to it free and clear. All I want in exchange is sixty seconds of your attention."

He came to the gutter and picked up the cash. "I got some pride, you know. I'm only picking this up because ain't nobody gonna pay good money for me tonight now that Claudio messed up my face."

She eyed the bruise blossoming beneath his left eye. "I'm sorry about that. Guess I don't have such good social skills. Just needed you something fierce and didn't have time to waste on niceties."

He crouched down. "What's a looker like you want with a hustler like me. You could walk into any bar in town and have your pick of the litter."

"Takes a certain kind of man to perform the services I need."

He rested his knees against the lip of the floorboard. "Lady, I've done some kinky shit in my time. Hell, I've done some sick shit and some illegal shit too, but you don't have that look. You're not flashing your tits and you haven't eyeballed my junk. So what gives?"

"Dude, it's freezing out here. You want to keep talking, get in the damn car. Hell, if it will make you feel safer, get in the driver's seat."

"Me? Drive a vintage porsche? Yeah, I want in on that. Scoot your fine ass over."

She got out, long dark hair swirling about her face like a melancholy halo, and walked around to the passenger door. "Easy with the clutch, hotshot."

He got in, buckled up, and pulled away from the curb before she got the door closed.

She glanced over at him. " I'll get right to the point. I need your body for an hour. No sex. No kink. No nada. The only physical thing I need from you is those broad shoulders and steady eyes."

"No sex? You sure? Because driving this car is giving me a chubby like you wouldn't believe."

"No sex, smart ass. So, what's that going to cost me? Your body for an hour?"

Without pausing, he said, "Two hundred."

"Done. Half now and half when the time is up."

"You want to see it?"

"See what?"

"What you just bought."

"No, thanks. Trust me, screwing is the last thing I want to think about tonight. I just got bent over when I wasn't expecting it and I'm not in the mood to let anyone that close to me right now. Maybe not ever again."

"Whatever. I don't know nobody who don't want it for free. Shit. I can't even remember the last time I did it because I wanted to. Pisses me off that you're taking a pass."

She signed. "Look, if you still have that 'cool car wood' after my hour is up, we can talk, okay?"

"Right on. What now?"

"Take a right on 35th. I have about fifteen minutes to explain what I need and then you're on the clock."

"Start talking."

"I've been with Danny O'Keeffe about five years - "

He touched the brakes and the car slid towards the center line. "Shit? You're a mob bitch? No way am I getting into bed with O'Keeffe."

"Settle down and let me finish. He's getting ready to trade me in on a new model. Problem is, when that happens, I'll get put in the ground. The family can't afford to have me walking around breathing. I'm a liability."

"So what? You want me to help you escape?"

"Yeah, I want to run, I need to take care of a couple things first. Kill O'Keeffe and empty his safe."

"How far do you think I'm going to get on two hundred bucks when I got Claudio and the O'Keeffe's on my back?"

"I'll give you half of what's in that safe, a nice six figure stash that will take you anywhere you want to go."

"Free and clear? Just like that? Just for standing there with you? Why should I believe you?"

"Because you want out of the rat trap bad as I do. And because I can't do it without you, Blue Eyes."

"Tomas. Not that Blue Eyes is bad."

"That your real name?"

"Yeah. Real as it gets. How do you know I won't leave you bleeding out on the floor beside O'Keeffe?"

She chuckled. "Same reason Claudio is hunched over the table nursing a killer headache, aching balls, and battered pride. Men underestimate me."

He grinned. "Yeah, I can see that. You distract them with your looks and then work your kickass voodoo superpower. So give it to me straight. What's your plan?"

"We're going to walk into O'Keeffe's house while the welcome mat is still out and no one knows I heard the bad news. You're going to act like you're looking for entry level work, I'm going to offer him something he wants bad enough to behave injudiciously, and then I'll do what's necessary for me to keep breathing."

"You going to be able to go through with it?"

She put her head against the seat. "Yes. And then we're going to empty the safe -"

"How? You got the combo or something."

"You aren't the only who's done some sick and illegal shit to make it to tomorrow alive. Turn right here, pull over halfway down the street, and park. We'll walk from there."

He looked over at her. "I’m thinking that we could take the money and go our separate ways and that would work out fine but it’d be a lot more interesting to see how this partnership plays out, and that's not the hardon talking."

She got out of the car and started walking up the street, turning to say over her shoulder, “Next thing I know, you’re going to ask for a kiss for luck.”

He caught up to her. “Are you saying that’s out of the question?”

“I’m saying the clock is ticking and we have work to do. We don’t get it done, we won’t live to see the morning. But … I suppose we could use a little luck.”

And right there, under an angry sky, Delilah kissed him, and for a moment, she forgot about the ticking clock and lived in a very pleasurable moment.


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Saturday, July 27, 2013

JB Lacaden Week 57: In A Field

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JB Lacaden’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: In A Field

In a field
Painted purple
We sat
In a sea
Of wild flowers.

In a field
With songs
Being sung
By the wind
And the brook
And the leaves
Of the trees
We sat
And humming

In a field
A boundless sky
Of clouds
IAnd sun
And dreams
We lie
And watched
Our imagination
Mold clouds
Into our fantasies.

In a field
We lived life
In a purple dream
Of song
And dreams
And fantasy
And we left parts
Of us there
As parts of us
Grew up.

In a field...


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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 and follow him at @jblearnstowrite.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Jeff Tsuruoka Week 57: Lawyers, Guns, and Money Part 14

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Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Lawyers, Guns, and Money Part 14

It was early evening when Miro dropped us off in front of Doctor Molina's building.
Three or four people crowded every stoop, hanging out at the end of another hot day.
A steaming pool of water covered the dead end side of the street. More water dribbled from the fire hydrant.
The doctor got out of the Towncar without a word to anyone and headed for her building. She stopped to talk to an old woman in a lawn chair by the curb.
Pilar and I opened our doors.
“You understand what Lefty meant, Josh?” asked Miro. “You and the Empire State? Splitsville. Permanently. Don't forget it.”
“Got it. I'm not going back.”
We stepped out of the car.
Miro got out too and turned to face me.
“What about Rafael's sister?” I asked.
“She's got nothin' to worry about. Not from us, anyway.”
I nodded. If Lefty said she'd be all right, she'd be all right.
He dropped a beefy hand on my shoulder.
“I'm glad I didn't have to kill you, druzhok.”
“I'm glad I didn't have to kill you,” replied Pilar.
She shut the door and walked over to the doctor.
“Me too.” He grinned and dropped back into the driver's seat.
I waved as he pulled away.
I took a deep breath of stagnant city air. The smell of somebody's fish supper lingered.
The first signs of red sky peeked through the pale white clouds. A warm breeze swirled around the block.
I leaned against the car and let it envelop me as I watched the sunset I didn't think I'd live to see.

We hung around Dr. Molina's place long enough to retrieve Pilar's gun and check her apartment-- and the building-- for any surprises. Then we hiked back to the Pinto and gave her a lift to Rafael's houseboat.
The door hung from one hinge and the futon had been flipped over. The lava lamp, in all its glory, sat, untouched, on its crate.
We found Rafael where we left him, crumpled on the floor in front of the wall.
He eyeballed me and I eyeballed him. He made a point of not eyeballing Pilar.
Dr. Molina cut our sweet reunion short. She took Pilar and me by the hands and led us outside.
“He'll be fine,” she said. “The man is nothing, if not resilient.”
She left us with one final admonition.
“You must rest,” she told Pilar, then turned to me. “You must see that she does.”
She retreated into the houseboat to avoid our bullshit assurances.

“You cannot ever go back to New York,” said Pilar
It was the first thing she'd said since we gassed up near the city limits and started the long drive back to the safe house.
She lounged in the passenger seat, one bare foot propped up on the dash, drinking beer from the bottle.
The beer's five siblings sang to me from the bag of provisions we'd picked up at the gas station. I ignored them, and the sandwiches too, wanting to put some more miles between us and the city.
“That's right. Lefty's gonna put the word out that he took care of me down here. Then he's gonna start putting guys in the ground 'til he finds the men responsible for Roksana's murder.”
“Then you are free?”
I watched the darkness zip by the window. It was the same in any direction-- endless black, broken up by an occasional shack or rock outcropping.
The moon hid behind a cloud, reluctant to show its face alone in a starless sky.
“No guarantees,” I said. “The law'll hear that Lefty found me and they'll probably file the case for someone else to solve twenty years from now. Probably.”
“I am sorry, Mateo.”
“It's all right. Wasn't planning to go back anyway. I said my goodbyes when I took off. You screw up, make contact with someone in your life-- that's how they find you. A phone call. A letter. Anything. One time. That's all it takes.”
“You have not contacted your family?”
“Not once. Wanted to, but I can't do it. Puts too much pressure on them if law enforcement's listening in.”
We rode in silence, listening to the Pinto's engine chugging along the empty road.
“New York is dead to you,” said Pilar.
“Yeah. It is.”
“And Joshua Rucinsky?”
I looked out the window again. A hint of blue light showed at the horizon.
“He's dead too.”

Diego and Manuel, shirtless and smoking cigarettes, came out to meet us as we pulled up in front of the safe house.
Both men shone their flashlights into the Pinto's back seat, then looked to Pilar.
She shook her head and got out of the car.
I reached into the back seat and grabbed the sack of grub.
Pilar refused my help as we went into the house.
Manuel and Diego hung back, allowing her to limp through the front room and down the hall before coming all the way inside.
They'd spread bedrolls on the floor, one on each side of the door. An oil lamp, set on a cinder block, provided some light.
I took handed the bag of sandwiches to Diego and followed after Pilar.
I found her in the bedroom, half out of her jeans. I got up beside her and stood there until she relented and rested her hand on my shoulder while I got her other leg free.
She sighed and lay back on the bed.
I stretched out next to her.
“What now? I asked.
She thought it over.
“We find my father. Now.”
I know she wanted to sit up. Didn't happen.
“Got another plan?”
“That is the only plan, Mateo.”
“You need to rest. You're hurt.”
She didn't dignify that with a reply.
“Maybe the guy you left in the basement know something”
“Do you really think he is still down there?”
I let that go.
“Look, you have people,” I said. “Why not let 'em do the legwork on this? When they get a location I'll back you one hundred percent on going in to get him. But until then? You need to heal.”
I dropped my head on the pillow and waited for her answer. I waited until her breathing grew shallow and easy, then got off the bed and pulled the blanket up over her.

Manuel and Diego were dressed for work and making ready to head out when I got to the front room. They'd changed into khaki cargo pants and black t-shirts and carried rifles slung over their shoulders.
They lit cigarettes in unison and nodded at me.
“Pilar quiere--”
“Si,” grunted Diego. “Sabemos. Buscamos para Don Gerardo.”
They nodded again and opened the door.
Diego looked back at me and pointed to the bag on his bedroll.
“Eat. Parece un hombre muerto.”
I shut the door behind them and stood there, listening, as the pickup truck started up and rolled out.
“A dead man,” I said.
I walked to Diego's bedroll and pulled a bottle of beer out of the sack. I found a church-key on the cinder block, next to the lamp.
The still-cool beer tasted wonderful. I polished off the bottle and set it on the floor next to the empties left by Diego and Manuel.
“I'm not dead anymore.”


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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.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Michela Walters Week 57: Wondering Loss

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Wondering Loss

She sits alone to ponder her thoughts.
Wondering, wondering, wondering loss.
She waits for someone to notice her finally.
Wondering, wondering, wondering loss
Her family is broken, her friends long gone,
Wondering, wondering ,wondering loss
You’d think his death could bring them together.
Wondering, wondering, wondering loss
Except when you’re the subject of the suicide note.
Wondering, wondering, wondering loss.
Time moves slowly, her mind muddles on.
Wondering, wondering, wondering loss.
She thinks it would be easier to just simply join him.
Wondering, wondering, wondering loss.
A whisper in the breeze urges her to stay.
Wondering, wondering, wondering loss.
For a moment she thinks she can move ever forward.
Wondering, wondering, wondering loss
But the moment passes and the blood begins to flow.
Wondering, wondering, wondering--


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Michela Walters is a wife, mother and book enthusiast. She is currently attempting her hand at writing her first romantic fiction novella. You can read her other stories on her blog:


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sarah Aisling Week 57: The Crunch of Bones

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: The Crunch of Bones

The night was cold and still. Billows of snow veiled the desolate landscape, creating a false sense of beauty and safety.

I tipped the brown-paper-bag-covered bottle to my lips and allowed Jim Beam to flow over my tongue, no longer feeling the frigid metal of the water tower at my back seeping through the thin leather jacket. Hell, I no longer felt much of anything, and that's exactly how I wanted it.

“Dude, she's just a skirt. You're on the football team and headed for Harvard on a scholarship.” Nelson nudged my shoulder with his.

I shook my head. “Yeah, man, you don't get it.”

“Quit hogging.” He snatched the bottle out of my hand and took a healthy swig. “What don't I get? That Katie flips up her little cheer skirt for anybody on the team? Dump her ass. You could have any girl at school. Try being me.”

Nelson wasn't on the football team or getting under many skirts. He'd been my best friend since preschool. People had become used to Nelson because I'd deck anyone who had the balls to disrespect him in any way. Despite the forced acceptance, he was quiet and shy, never taking advantage of my connections.

Katie Bellamy was my girlfriend and future wife. Both of our parents were into mergers and acquisitions, the relationship between us a foregone conclusion as far as the mighty Bellamys and Garfields were concerned. I'd join the family business. Katie would be the perfect wife, heading committees for various causes and charity balls. Country clubs. Villas in Europe. Deals over golf. My eyes glazed over when I thought of my future laid out to my father's specs. Katie never seemed to mind; she'd already slogged back a vat of their Kool-Aid.

“I'd love to be you.”

“Right. Nerd with two left feet who can't even talk to girls.”

I snatched the bottle and drank deeply, then wiped my lips with the back of my hand. “No. Free agent who can do or be whatever he wants. You'll decide on your own career, meet that perfect woman, have a few kids, and buy the perfect house.”

Nelson let out a high-pitched laugh, more than a little buzzed himself. “Shut the hell up! You sound jealous—of me.”

I lurched to my feet, doing a drunken shuffle along the icy metal walkway, and leaned against the railing, looking out over the field of white. I was insanely jealous of Nelson.

“Kendall?” Nelson's voice came closer as he joined me at the railing.

I turned my body away from him, not wanting him to see the tears shining in my eyes. The Jim Beam slipped from my numb fingers and hit the walkway with a crack, the rest of the liquor soaking into the paper bag and tinting the ice amber.

“Damn it!”

“It's all right, dude—there wasn't much left anyway.”

Anger welled up inside me, a rage simmering below the surface for months that had nothing to do with spilling the last of our bourbon. “Damn it all to hell!” I kicked the paper bag of broken glass off the water tower, watching it fall to the snow below with a very unsatisfactory plop. If the night hadn't been so silent, the faint sound never would have carried up at all.

Nelson gripped my arm. “Hey.”

“Screw off, man!” I wrenched my arm from his grasp and stalked away.

He followed. “What the hell is your problem?”

I turned to face him and miscalculated my speed. The icy metal glided under my boots, and my arms pinwheeled. I tried to regain balance by putting my hands on his shoulders. Nelson's feet went out from under him, and he landed hard on his ass, leaving me with nothing but air.

I bounced off the side of the tank and hit the rail hard. It gave way with a mighty rending, and then I was free-falling. My body tumbled in mid-air, rushing toward the fluffy white snow.

When I hit the ground, my bones crunched, much like the bottle of Jim Beam had. I heard it with resounding clarity. I felt nothing.

“KENDALL!” Nelson screamed my name over and over again as I slipped away.

With all our racket cutting through the silence, it didn't take long for help to arrive—at least that's what I've been told.

Nelson broke his leg trying to climb down the side of the tower to reach me.

I was in a coma for nearly three months. When I came out of it, there were months of grueling physical therapy. My football career was over, but the doctors advised that I was lucky to be able to walk.

They say your life flashes before your eyes when you're about to die. I didn't even have time to think, “Oh shit!” before I hit the ground, but every time my father started talking about the future, I'd flash back to the tower and hear my bones crunch.

Nelson finally made it all stop. “Forget what anyone else wants. Live for you, Kendall.”

“Dad will disown me.”

“Would that be so bad?”

It wasn't.

For years, I had nightmares about that crunching sound—until I met Anna. She didn't care about my family name, what my portfolio looked like, or if I belonged to a country club. She was real and honest and faithful, mother to my children, my true home.

My life was saved by the crunch of bones.


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Sarah Aisling hails from the East Coast of the US and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and precocious daughter. She’s currently editing her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, obsessing over nail polish or anything leopard, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

J M Blackman Week Week 57: Finding Our Bearings--The Rabbit Hole Part 5

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J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Finding Our Bearings--The Rabbit Hole Part 5

A double-knot seemed the most logical tying method for what we were going to have to traverse, so despite Sam’s insistence that we hurry, I made sure to tie my new boots thoroughly. I can’t imagine what falling in a tunnel would result in if they could burn my sneakers to pools of goo. Tripping just seemed like it could be life-ending, and in ways that I couldn’t even imagine. But once I was sure my knots would hold and that were safely tucked into my boots, we were off again, through another tunnel.

I knew what to expect this time, but that didn’t make the world splintering around me and reforming itself any easier to deal with. Sam was going to be my literal and metaphorical crutch for...well, for an amount of time I couldn’t even guess, or predict. After maintaining a life of pattern, or order and logical progression, this nameless, faceless future was nearly, if not more terrifying, than the real-life monster I had witnessed less than an hour before.

When we exited our latest tunnel, it was in an area that could be anywhere from the cobbled streets of Savannah, Georgia to the old walls of Rio de Janeiro. Sam allowed me to sit on the wide steps and drink water from a canteen as if it were the first time in days, not in mere moments.

“Deep, even breaths,” he cautioned. I suppose I must have been audibly gulping down air as well as water. “It will come easier, I promise. With time.”

“How much time exactly? And how much time are we going to spend hopping around like this? And why? I mean, clearly, we had to leave my apartment, as the monster from the lagoon crawled out of Antarctica right beside it, but why again?”

Sam looked like he was about to say there wasn’t any time to explain. I waited for him to say again that as soon as he could, he would. Instead, he sat down beside me, took the canteen and took a swig himself. He carefully put it back into his own backpack and pressed his fingers into his air.

“We are jumping to avoid a few things. Monsters from lagoons, tears that could toss us anywhere at any time...and a handful of people who are trying to kill me, and by association,” he paused and turned so we were looking directly into each others’ eyes.

“Me,” I finished.

“You,” he nodded.

I wasn’t quite sure how to react. I didn’t have a lot of shock left to give, or rather, I didn’t have very much surprise and indignation left; only the shock. So I stared at him blankly and hoped that somewhere in my empty face was reflected the terror I truly should have been feeling at this revelation.

“I never would have involved you purposefully,” he continued. “I didn’t mean to accidentally involve you, either, though. We met very much by chance, and I simply couldn’t leave you to die.” He shifted away from me then, stared into the darkening sky. Wherever the hell we were, the sun was setting. But where we sat was quiet and secluded, and I hadn’t heard another human since we ‘landed.’

“The first time we met, for me, was purely by accident, and unquestionably one of the worst days of my life. I was making a jump simply to evade the other agents, but there were, standing right on the edge of a tear that was spitting tentacles forth as if vomiting nightmares. And you backed away as it widened, and never tried to run back, or jump away. Just backing away, eyes and mouth wide. You didn’t scream until I grabbed you, and then you wouldn’t stop.” He smiled as if the memory was fond. “I would like to think you were going to save yourself, but I wasn’t sure, so I thought I’d step in.”

“Thank you,” I said quickly.

“You know, you didn’t thank me the first time,” he laughed.

“Probably a little out of touch at that point,” I defended.

He nodded. “Yes, of course. I’m sure.” He glanced up between the trees again, as if he were judging the amount of time we had by how much light filled sky. “Anyway, once they’d seen me with you, you were just as on-the-run as me.”

“And why are you on the run?”

“This tearing of the universe, this muddling of time and space? It’s a new thing. I’m clearly from the future---”

“Clearly,” I interjected dryly. He crossed his arms. And I made the zip sign across my mouth. I would stop.

“And we’ve never seen anything like this. There’s nothing recorded throughout time that’s any similar. We’re in the dark. So, we’re travelling for answers. But we can do so much more than just find the answer. We can save people’s lives, ease some of the terror, the pain.

But that’s not our objective. And we are not to interfere unnecessarily.”

“And you broke that helping me,” I said, forgetting my vow of silence from only moments before. Or forsaking it, anyway.

“I broke it a long time ago, helping many people, many times. But yes, I certainly broke that with you. And I would do it again, if it meant you being alive.”

This never happened to me, because of him. I had skipped a day that I nearly died, because he had headed it off. ‘Thank you’ seemed so lackluster in return.

“And you wouldn’t happen to know how long I’m going to be alive, would you?” I asked it jokingly, but the reality was he could know the answer, and he could very well share it with me. I found that to be scariest of all.

“I don’t, but I know you’re not dying around me,” he said confidently.

“Will I ever be able to go home?”

“Yes. When, however, is the tricky part. I need to figure out when the other agents found me out, and found you out with me, and make sure that doesn’t happen. But I have to get my bearings first.”

I didn’t know what sort of agents he was talking about, or what kind of agency could possibly exist that time-traveled and decided who to help and why and when. But I certainly knew where he was coming from about catching his bearings.

He was far from the only one.


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J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacheri and a feminist. She endeavors to review nearly everything she reads and is a happy wife. She's a SFF enthusiast, loves dark humor, and has an unhealthy need to protect the image of Batman.


Monday, July 22, 2013

SJ Maylee Week 57: Mission of Distraction

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SJ Maylee’s’ Choice: Both

Title: Mission of Distraction

Kira was running out of ideas. She thought for sure her sister would be home by the time they’d finished making candy apples. Now, the girls were almost finished eating the second batch and there was still no sign of Alma. Thankfully, her nieces hadn’t noticed how long their mom had been gone.

A car turned onto the street, but she didn’t recognize the car. She turned back around and the girls were laughing at something.

“Can’t you ever find paper, Aunt Kira?”

“What are you talking about?” She looked down at her hands and saw several black dots. Her hands went to her pocket and found the culprit, an uncapped pen.

The girls were laughing and it became infectious. Kira took the pen and added a couple extra lines and squiggles. She hoped after a few more distractions, her sister would be home.

Once she was settled behind the porch railing, Kira started her show. She did a simply retelling of the current gossip about the cute boy at their school. The girls had been talking about him all morning.

Her sister pulled into to the drive and not a moment too soon. Aunt Kira was out of material.

The girls surrounded their mom the second she was out of the car.

“It’s good to see you too. Now, into the house and finish your homework.”

The girls scurried inside.

“How do you do that?”


“You’re my hero.” She hugged her sister, relief pouring through her. “So, did you get it?”


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SJ Maylee believes hearts are meant to come together and find love. As a writer she has a tendency to break hearts, but she always glues them back together. You can follow her at @SJMaylee,


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Miranda Kate Week 56: The Player Plays

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Miranda Kate’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: The Player plays

Isabella continued to run though the city streets with a growing awareness that there were no other people around at all; the streets were deserted. She started to slow her pace; breaking the rhythm she had grown accustomed to, bringing it back to a jog from a full sprint. She was approaching the end of a street and the building in front her caught her eye.

It could have been the way the old theatre was lit or how the title of what was showing glared out at her, but the arrival of his cackle in her mind confirmed that she’d arrived at her destination.

She stopped, standing in the middle of the street with her hands on hips, catching her breath, and looked up at the signage. ‘The Jester presents’ was emblazoned in big red letters across the front. And in gold italics underneath in a much smaller font was ‘Isabella gets her guy’.

Isabella took tentative steps up to the big wooden front doors and pushed one of them carefully. It swung open.

Inside, the front of house foyer was fully lit. Its ornate lush red and gold d├ęcor gave her the feeling she’d stepped back in time by a couple of centuries. No-one was there, so she carefully walked through taking the red carpeted stairs up to the internal wooden doors, pushing the long brass handles and entering the theatre’s auditorium on the ground floor.

It was empty inside. The red velour seating faced a low lit stage, which was presently hidden behind a red velvet curtain edged in gold embroidery. Isabella glanced around, taking in the decorative three tier balconies, with their gold finished cornices, and made her way along one of the middle rows of seating until she reached the centre, and sat down.

Asv soon as she did music started and the lighting changed. The curtain raised and there he was standing there with his arms open as though ready to receive a room full of people. He had on what looked like a black suit magician’s suit, but there was no top hat covering his virtually bald head with its wisps of white hair and encroaching liver spots. Under the stark spot light, his pale aged face was broken only by the yellow toothed grin he displayed; his eyes tiny black specks in its midst.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he announced to the theatre at large, as though there were other people there. “Tonight we have a special treat. My adopted daughter, Isabella, will come and join me up here on stage.”

There was applause and Isabella whipped her head round, looking for the other patrons, but there were none to be found.

The Jester was looking straight at her and beckoned her to join him, so she stood up and moved to the central aisle, walking down to the stage. There she found hidden steps up the side of the stage, and as she climbed them the Jester stepped forward and took her hand. His was cold and dry, almost papery to the touch, and Isabella resisted to the urge to pull hers back once she was up on stage with him.

“Isabella, my dear, finally we meet again. It’s so nice to see you out of your padded cell.”

Isabella remained silent, knowing the distain she felt was visible on her face. He might consider himself her saviour, but this endless chase was making her long for the peace and solitude of the asylum.

“Are you ready for me to reveal what I have in mind for you? What it is I want from you in return for your freedom?”

His tiny black eyes regarded Isabella with an intensity she recoiled from. She nodded, unable to vocalise an answer as it was wrapped up in fear and trepidation at what price she was going to have to pay for her release.

“I need you to be my recruitment officer.” Isabella frowned as the Jester continued. “There is a wealth of strong handsome young men I want as players for my game, and you, my dear, have the wiles to unearth them and reveal their vulnerabilities for me.”

Isabella baulked. “What? You want me to prostitute myself for you and you’re games?” She snatched her hand away, pleased to be able to finally do so. “I’m not about to become anyone’s sex slave. I’d rather be returned to my cell; at least there I would be safe.”

She expected the Jester to placate her, to sooth her and talk her into whatever he wanted, but he didn’t. “For a cell bunny that hasn’t seen the light of day for many years, you’re rather a spoilt brat, aren’t you?”

Isabella jerked at his harsh and replied, “Spoilt?! Being thrown into disarray, jumping from place to place, from time to time, and wondering what’s going on, and why? You consider that spoilt?”

She spat the last words at him and he wiped his eyes in sarcastic response, dusting down his coat in exaggerated movements before he spoke again.

“My dear, I had to test you, see your strengths and abilities, to know that you were right for the team. As for sex that’s your own choice, I simply need you to identify the strong characters within the given societies; the ones you think will play my games the best.”

“And how will I get to these ‘societies’?” She attempted to cover her feelings of foreboding with her indignant tone.

“Oh don’t worry about that, I will show you a neat little trick I came across. Come.” He led her across the stage to a small white cross taped onto the black floor. “See this?”

Isabella nodded.

“When you step on it you will find yourself in another place. These little ‘doorways’, as I like to call them, can be found all over the place. I will lead you to them each time you need to ‘move on’.”

Isabella looked at the spot, then at the Jester. She had no reason to doubt it as she had already passed through many, in her pursuit.

He put his palm out. “Shall we go?”

“What? Now?”

“Why not, no time like the present.” And then he laughed, the irony of his statement amusing him.

His high pitched cackle pierced Isabella’s ears as she clamped her hands over them. Then he shoved her forward onto the cross and everything around her swirled into blackness.


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You can read more of my writing on my blog - Finding Clarity - at or join me on Twitter @PurpleQueenNL


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.