Short Fiction

The Window

 

Behaviorally speaking, there is no difference between a five-year-old boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and a thirty-five-year-old accountant accused of raping and murdering a twenty-one year old bartender. The two mirror each other in movement, posture, responses. Tapping feet, shifting eyes, slumped shoulders. These movements betray their secrets. They try to put up a strong front; to deny their truth, both know what the outcome will be. Each can feel the ‘other shoe’ poised over their heads waiting to drop. The only difference between the two is a matter of time. Where the five year old will fold under the withering gaze of grandma in moments, the thirty-five year old thinks he’s crafty, ahead of the game. He requires a little more convincing.

The way he slumps in the cold hard metal chair; one leg outstretched, his left arm crooked over the seat back. He looks calm. The expensive black suit says he is important, and the smug grin shows he believes it. His eyes angle toward the dull gray metal table, feigning indifference. He’s checked his watch three times in the fifteen minutes he’s been in there. All of that is betrayed, however, by the subtle movement of his lower lip. Beneath that smug, half grin, he gnaws on it like a wolf chewing though his leg to get out of a trap. This is where time comes in.

He gnaws on his lip. After a few minutes his left knee starts to bounce ever so slightly. His eyes fix across the table. He just noticed the file, a simple manila folder. The word Subject precedes his name, and a thick stack of various forms hide beneath its cover. One form peeks out from under the off-white cover. The title reads, Search Warrant. His name is at the top of that too.

His eyes dart to the window and he catches his own reflection. There’s a lack of confidence he can’t bear to see so he turns back to the warrant. Yearning to see without overtly straining, he reads as much as he can. Only three lines of text are available to him. When he scans the text his eyes flash wide, though only for a micro second. Instinctively, his right hand snaps to his left collar bone. He doesn’t consciously realize he is trying to hide the deep gashes that stretch from the base of his neck to his chest. He looks back to the window. His eyes are wider now, like the eyes of a person who realized they just stepped out in front of a bus. He is searching for help, searching for hope. It only takes a moment for him to recover.

On the other side of the one way glass she looks once more at the photo in her hand. Swollen, closed eyes, black, blue, purple, the bloody pulp was once the beautiful face of Shannon Wells, twenty-one, bartender. She could quote the Medical Examiner’s report by letter and verse. Shannon Wells was a fighter, and that made Detective Kate Mills smile. Shannon died as a result of manual strangulation coupled with an intracranial hematoma. The medical examiner found mounds of ripped skin, not Shannon’s, buried under her fingernails. Shannon also had a chunk of areola lodged in her trachea. The girl fought for her life, no one could ask for anymore. And she had had a lot to live for.

Shannon was a scholar in the truest sense of the word. Daughter of a single father; her Mother, Maya, died while delivering her. Shannon was valedictorian of a class of less than a hundred students in a speck of an upstate New York High School. She led her high school soccer team to a state title her senior year then shot out of town like a rocket. Despite being wooed by every major team in the NCAA, Shannon hung up her cleats in favor of Physics. She was a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a full academic scholarship. Shannon studied Physics by day and slung drinks at night to make ends meet. Then she met Anthony ‘Tony’ Chapman. The crime scene examination showed forced entry through a shattered door frame. Holes in the sheetrock, a broken coffee table, and shattered television showed Tony liked it rough. Alex Newton, Manager of the Thirsty Owl where Shannon worked picked Tony out of a line up and remembered Tony hovering around Shannon until closing time the night before she went missing.

Tony is a proud product of South Boston, and he has a record. He married once however that marriage ended with facial reconstruction for his wife, a restraining order, and ninety days in county jail. It seemed Tony liked to hit his girls, and the wife wasn’t the only domestic trouble he’s been a part of. Interviews of former girlfriends yielded adjectives such as scumbag, Napoleon, sadist. Mills also found a south side hooker named Tina who pressed charges on him for assault a few years back. The assault failed to stick since Tina was a hooker. Tony liked to make himself feel strong at the expense of his girls.

Kate watched her quarry for another moment then knocked on the window three times. Slow and deliberate, the rumble of the heavy plate glass was like the sullen drone of a death toll. It’s an utterly unproductive gesture, lends nothing to the coming interrogation. The initial volley in an unmitigated psychological war Detective Kate Mills was about to unleash on this trapped predator.

Tony shot out of his chair at the rumbling staccato, eyes like saucers, he looked at the window, toward her. She smiled. Tony likes it rough. Tony ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Detective Mills secured Shannon Wells’ photo to the file that will bear her legacy and turned from the window. Thirty-five or five, little boys do not change. Tony Chapman is about to realize he has been caught with his hand in a very dangerous cookie jar.

END

 

Last Call

whiskey

Jack’s gut twisted like a cat falling off a building. He pulled on the brass handle and the heavy wooden door swung open with ease.  His eyes on the ground, he crossed the threshold.  Warm as the womb, smoke, stale beer, and the lingering scent of spilled liquor greeted him as he stepped into the bar.  It was quiet and he kept his head down as he made his way to his stool.  There were two couples in a booth toward the back by the fire place.  Three sets of slumped shouldered men hovered over their drinks as if searching for truth at the bottom of their glass.

He found his stool, snakes in his belly were writhing and kicking.  His head hurt and his hands shook as he settled in.  Bennie, the bartender and owner of Jameson’s Pub watched him from down the bar.  He managed a weak nod toward the older man and in a low voice muttered,

“Bourbon, neat Bennie,” he couldn’t meet the old man’s eyes.

He heard the old man sigh as he limped to the shelf and grabbed a tumbler and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.  He watched him start to pour as tears welled in his eyes and he again had to turn his eyes to the floor.

Go! Now! The voice screamed in his head.  Throughout the day that voice had grown progressively weaker like a clock winding down.  In the end it was over matched by the thirst.  The glass slapping the solid oak of the bar sounded like a gong and snapped him out of his thoughts.  Before him stood the tumbler, half full of the harsh amber fluid.  Flanking the larger glass on either side stood two shot glasses brimming with the same.  Bennie loomed over the five drinks, his tired eyes boring into him.  A hint of sadness trimmed the burning disgust in the bartenders eyes.

“What’s this?” Jack asked.

“This?” he pointed to the shot furthest to the right, “is for Tina,”  pointing to the next shot glass he said, “Sammy,”  Bennie skipped the tumbler and at the next shot glass said, “Jack Junior,” Bennie paused for a minute and studied him.  Then his arm shot across the bar and into the breast pocket of Jack’s blazer.  Smooth as lightning he slipped Jack’s wallet.  Flipping it open before his face flopped a  New York Police Department, Detective First Class shield.  “The last shot,”  Bennie palmed the badge and slammed it into the bar so hard it dented the wood.  “is for your badge ya pathetic son of a bitch.  If your wife and kids ain’t enough to keep you straight I thought maybe the job would.  The last time Tina came to pick you up off my bar I could see it in her eyes Jackie.  She’s done, she won’t be here for you this time.  So here you go.  Drink up, but let’s make it a toast.”  Bennie lifted the shot farthest to the left.  He then leaned in so close Jack could feel the heat of his breath.  Jack stared at the bar. He was shaking.

“But…” he offered.

“No! No But, you selfish prick!  Nobody gives a shit what your pantywaist, traumatic, predisposed, worthless excuse is or will be. Least of all me, and certainly not Tina or the kids.”  He slammed the shot down in front of Jack, alcohol spewing from in between his meaty fingers.  “So what’s it gonna be, Jackie boy,” he whispered.

Jack looked at Bennie. Met him eye to eye.  They were red, swollen, broken.  “You can be a real Son of a Bitch sometimes you know that Lieutenant? It’s a good thing you’re retired.”

“Bein an asshole is the only way I ever got you to learn boy.”

Slipping off the stool, shoulders still sagging, Jack tossed a twenty on the bar and started for the door.

 

END