Warg Part V

A piercing yowl broke the silent lapping of the lake shore and the night turned electric. The cry had come from the forest further back toward Welbourne. Slowly, other cries and howls joined the first until multiple voices broke the stillness of the lake shore. Wyatt and O’Hare sprinted for camp but before they’d even made it to the tree-line curses and crashing echoed from within.

    “They’re on us Wyatt!” O’Hare yelled, dashing into the wood.

    Wyatt ran on the heels of the older man. The icy, cool numbness came over him as it did two nights ago. Like an invisible suit of armor, the sudden dispassion signaled he was ready.

    They were running toward the sounds of fighting when Wyatt’s legs suddenly gave out and he crashed into a small stand of ferns. His shoulder dug a furrow out of the soft loam of the forest floor and Wyatt cursed. He tried to rise but a sharp jolt of sting like a pick ax driven through his gut dropped him back to the dirt. Curling into a ball he tried to scream but no sound came. His insides twisted and churned as if his belly were full of snakes. Flipping onto his stomach he vomited violently and lay curled in on himself unable to move. His head was pounding as strange sounds of buzzing, shouts from O’Hare, Fynn, and Lemn, pounded in his head.

    Slowly, a soft deep voice reached through the cacophony of pain, “It hurts?” the voice asked.

    The voice held a foreign accent and yet he knew it. Through blurry eyes he saw the black phantom studying him from a faceless cowl.

    “There is always pain at first. Your body has yet to accept itself. Your mind has yet to grasp its new gifts.” the figure seemed to kneel before him, “it will get easier with time.”

    “No,” Wyatt moaned, “No,”

    “No? There’s nothing to dispute. You are what you are. Your one of us now. You belong to the pack.”

    The pain was still there and his senses sizzled. New and sharp smells assaulted his nose but he now had a degree of control. Wyatt felt…different, new.

    “It’s getting easier now.” the black figure commented through his faceless hood. “But there is still pain, hunger.”

    Wyatt could swear the man was smiling in that blackness.

    “Tonight, you feed with us.”

    A sharp curse cracked through the forest. A vicious roar responded. Wyatt looked toward camp, and the bluffs beyond.

    “Though they fight mightily, we both know they are no match for us.”

    Wyatt issued a deep rumbling growl, his strength growing. The faces of his father, mother, little sister, appeared to him in the dark stranger’s hood. They pleaded with him, cried out for him.

    “I seemed to be able to handle you just fine,” his voice terrified him. His voice was a grinding, harsh mush of garbled utterings.

He sprang for the man and the dark figure dissipated like a mist. A rotten decaying smell swirled around him. Sounds of thrashing, grunts, yelps, and an angry snarl called to him. The greens and browns of the forest blurred as he dashed toward the battle.

***

    As O’Hare reached camp he realized Wyatt was not with him. The realization cooled him and his mind sprang with dark possibilities. The horses were gone, and the provisions lay strewn around the small clearing as if the camp had been hit by a tornado. Fynn and Lemn were gone, a quick curse in the distance pointed him toward the bluffs.

    A trail of broken brush, and torn forest floor lay before him. He ran, heart pumping, chest heaving. The trail angled upward toward a large slab of granite jutting out of the brown wall of trees and dirt. A glistening crimson patch smeared the gray stone.

    Sounds of the fighting had softened. O’Hare realized there were no sounds of the forest to speak of as he cautiously angled himself around the boulder. Lemn stared at him, the boy’s eyes were locked in horrid amazement. His head rested on his chest at a grotesque angle, held to his shoulders only by a thin strip of flesh. O’Hare paused a moment and noted the blood dripping from the boys old notched sword. He’d made a showing of himself. O’Hare darted up the steep incline, his moccasin clad feet slipping in places on the soft earth. Toward the top of the rise a lanky, brown beast with a head the size of an ox was draped across a perilously leaning trunk of an ash tree. It’s snout red, thick coarse fur covering its chest was matted and slick from where Lemn had struck it through the heart.

    O’Hare left the animal where it lay and found himself on a rocky outcropping. Small boulders rose from high brown grass like the humps of giant tortoises. A barking growl and yip alerted him to a large boulder toward the edge. Sword raised, he crept around the rock. Fynn reached for him, his words trapped in a red froth gushing from his chin. A Warg had its snout buried in his gut.

    O’Hare charged and was on the monster before it could move. It turned, shreds of flesh hanging from its chin, lips curled in a grotesque snarl as O’Hare sliced through the beast’s broad neck. Blood erupted from the monster and it spasmed. Powerful, kicking legs knocked O’Hare from his feet. His sword was sent twisting and flailing over the bluff toward the rocks below.

    The Warg quivered at his feet, O’Hare gasped for breath. He watched it until he was sure it was dead then went to his longtime friend. Fynn was propped against the boulder. O’Hare surveyed what remained.

    Shaking his head slowly O’Hare dropped to the grass next to his friend. Exhausted, his whole body trembled, but Wyatt was still out there. Gathering his strength, he rolled to his left just as the brush in front of his face exploded. Black fur, bright green eyes, and white fangs shot toward him. O’Hare fell to his back and the massive beast over shot him. Almost the size of a bear with the sharp ears, long snout, and build of a wolf. The beast was black as onyx; it’s fur shimmered as it turned toward him. His sword was gone, he reached for the dagger he kept at his waist; also gone. Scrambling backward he hit the same broad boulder Fynn had died on. The beast closed slowly. Too slowly, as if it wanted to savor the kill. O’Hare let out a roar of his own,

    “Come on ya bastard!” he swung at its jaw.

    The beast roared back, hot noxious breath blew over him like the winds from hell. Part of him wanted to cower, to cover up and bury his head, so he wouldn’t see what was coming. But a fury deep inside the man refused. His Anne demanded he fight to the end. He leaned forward and spit what he could scrounge from a barren mouth right across the beasts snout and shouted,

    “Ha!”

***

Wyatt sailed across the forest floor following the scent of battle. It lay out in front of him, so thick he could almost see it; a sickly, iron tang of blood mixed with earth, sweat and fear.

    He shot past the camp like a lightning bolt and was up the hill flying over the slick ground and rocks. At a bulbous gray boulder he caught Lemn’s scent, he was dead. Just as quickly he leaped over the limp form of the Warg that had taken him. Its musk trailed him like smoke when he broke through the trees onto the outcropping.

    There he caught sight of O’Hare, on his back close to the drop off. A black monster the size of an ox loomed over him. Its massive paw raised to slash him to pieces.

***

    O’Hare was staring into those great green eyes when they suddenly bulged outward. The warg’s long body buckled as a brown cannonball took it broadside.

    The monster shrieked and tried to lash out at the massive, shaggy missile but its slashing claws met only open air as it drifted over the cliff. Flailing like a cat falling from a roof the black form spun slowly four legs spasming until crunching against the rock fall below. O’Hare stared at the still mass of fur and blood for a long moment. Then a low, Wuff! Drew his attention to a huge Warg resting on its haunches before him.

    Afraid to move and too exhausted to care, he slowly shifted until the two of them were eye to eye. It snuffed toward the cliff then looked back at him. A glistening black ear dropped from its mouth. A self-satisfied rumbled echoed from the monster’s chest.

O’Hare’s jaw dropped.

    The Warg shook its head, jowls flapping, waves of thick fur coursed down it’s long, lean body. Beast and man shared a long examination of each other, a mix of fear, sadness, elation, and relief passing between them. O’Hare was transfixed by those wide dark eyes. He could swear the intelligence and spirit of the boy he knew burned within the depths. An instant later the beast was gone, leaving only swirling tall grass in its wake.

    O’Hare leaned against the boulder and let the sun warm his face, no way, he told himself, couldn’t be…

END

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Warg Part IV

The ride up the lake shore was quiet. Wyatt could swear the other three were watching him. He kept his eyes on the trail. The mood of the riding party seemed to have a chill.

    About midday, sun high over the lake, they noticed a column of smoke to the north. The thick black smoke struck upward into the sky like a dark tower.

    “Welbourne,” O’Hare muttered.

    It was dusk when they reached Welbourne. Wyatt was sore and his horse held its head low. The path had led them into the woods to the west of the village. At the top of a hill where the tree-line offered a striking view to the heart of the village the trail veered sharply downhill.

    The four men led their horses into a square. Wisps of smoke and the sharp stench of fire filled their nostrils and burned their eyes. In the center of the square was a fountain in the image of the water bearer. Its cherubic face blackened by soot a steady flow of water streamed from a flask it held in its pudgy hands to a pool. The water was dark and cloudy. On the other side of the square stood the charred framework of three buildings. The center looked to be an inn and the two to either side could have been the town hall or maybe a mercantile. Wyatt and the others walked their horses slowly toward the dozen or so villagers milling about. As they passed the fountain Wyatt saw a long row of bodies shrouded in white, men, women, and children. A soot covered figure walked among them. Wyatt flinched as the man used a hatchet to chop through the neck of what appeared to be a small child.

    “What the hell?” he blurted out. The man with the hatchet looked at him through red and watering eyes, they were dull, empty.

    “Leave it be Wyatt,” said O’Hare.

     Several of them were looking at them, hands on swords.

    O’Hare approached a large man in front of the burned-out inn, “What happened here?”

    “Wargs,” he spat. “three monstrous beasts attacked us las’ night just after dark. Tore through our town meetin’ like the dark one incarnate.” the man’s voice quivered.

    Wyatt felt Fynn staring at him. When he looked to the older man, there was an unveiled malevolence that made Wyatt’s spine tingle.

    “There was nothin we could do. They’re all claw and fang, they tore our people apart.”

    “Were they stopped?” O’Hare asked.

    The big man could only shake his head.

    “Which way did they flee?”

    He looked up at O’Hare, “Who cares.” he looked over the four of them, “They’re monsters straight out a hell.”

    “Yes,” O’Hare said, “but in what direction did they flee?”

    The big man kicked the debris at his feet and flicked a thumb up the main street, north, “Straight outta town near as we can tell. If yer chasin them yer outta yer mind.”

    O’Hare ignored the man. His face was sad as he thanked him, “I’m sorry for your loss,” he said quietly.

    Turning his horse North, the others followed. The villagers quickly formed to question the big man as they left.

    Looking for any sign of tracks in the well beaten street Wyatt’s eyes drifted to the row of bodies covered in white. His stomach dropped as he passed the body of a brown haired girl. Her face was pale and peaceful in death. A crimson stain covered the white cloth at her neck. He knew her throat had been ripped out. He didn’t realize he’d stopped until the man with the hatchet croaked,

    “Ya alright, boy.”

    Wyatt was shaking, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t tear his eyes away from that still, peaceful face. The face from his dream. Though in his memory her beautiful features were contorted in a in a primal terror.

    “No,” Wyatt whispered. Looking at the man Wyatt immediately keyed in on a dark figure over the man’s shoulder. The darkness seemed a hole, a void. He couldn’t see his face but he knew the dark man was leering at him.

    “Wyatt!” O’Hare shouted his iron hands wrapping around his bicep. Snapping too Wyatt noticed the man with the hatchet watching him.

    “It’s for her own good, lad.” he said, nodding to the red-brown stained hatchet. “Otherwise she would return as one of the cursed.” His voice was a barely controlled rasp.

    Wyatt was startled, he nodded, “Of course,” Looking over the man’s shoulder again there was nothing but a sapling growing in a small yard between two buildings. “I’m sorry,” he told the man and turned away. The others followed, Fynn mumbled something to O’Hare.

    An hour before the sun set they stopped for camp. They were near a bloated creek at the base of a cliff leading to high bluffs above the lake. Once camp was set Wyatt and Lemn went scrounging for firewood. Lemn had long finished and was helping his father with rations when O’Hare noticed Wyatt missing.

    Following the narrow path along the stream he broke through the wood line to see the younger man perched on a boulder staring out across the lake. The horizon a mix of orange, red, and violet. Wyatt didn’t move as he approached. O’Hare noted the teens vacant stare across the water.

    “What you saw in the village today bothers you doesn’t?”

    Wyatt sniffed hard and nodded.

    “They said wargs did it. That we are chasing wargs, shape-shifters. If they attacked our village is that what happened to my family. We’re their…” Wyatt choked back something deep within, “Did they…?”

    O’Hare kicked a loose stone, orange and gray and black into the small tide lapping at the shore. After a long moment he said, “I was the one ta do it. Theirs, my own, Annie, and others. That task fell to me.”

    Oh God, “I…” Wyatt tried to say but O’Hare waved him off.

    A long silence hung between the two men until Wyatt said in a low voice, “I saw them,”

    O’Hare didn’t understand, “Saw who?”

    “I saw them, the Wargs.” he said quietly. “They were in my dream. They were at the village. I saw…I ran with them in the woods and there was a man. He wore black, and hid his face, but I knew it was a man. He led us, the pack. Led us through the woods to the edge of the village then…” Wyatt’s voice was a quivering whisper. The rest wouldn’t come out. He could see her face, hear her scream cut off as he tore her throat out. He felt sick. “I saw them, the girl at the village. I saw her die.” Taking his eyes from the boulder, he stopped tracing the crack and looked up. “I think I killed her. I think I’m one of the cursed.” Wyatt wiped at his eyes.

    O’Hare stared grimly at the shoreline. To hear a boy, he’d known since birth say so rationally, that he was one of the cursed? Strangely, O’Hare couldn’t bring himself to be surprised. He was the one to pull the monster off him. The monster’s blood that had run over him like a fountain. It was a miracle he survived at all, much less to rise from the bed unscathed. O’Hare hated himself the minute he saw him on the stairs at the inn. He’d hoped for his own sake the boy would die. He’d known then what needed to be done yet he stopped Fynn and the others. The boy was touched by the beast. Shared blood with the beast. He closed his eyes and could see their faces, the whole crowd. He was squeezing the pommel of his sword.

    “What am I to do?”

    The simple question snapped him back. In the growing darkness the two men stared at each other. Finally, O’Hare opened his mouth to speak…

To be continued…

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My newest novel Where Angels Sing is on sale now.


Warg Part II

       Wyatt awoke to the tangy twinge of iron in his mouth, his lips sticky. He didn’t know what had happened but he felt clinging fur on his chest. Jumping and thrashing thinking the beast was still on him. He tried to free himself from the heavy musky blanket crushing him. There was some yelling in the distance he couldn’t understand. Terror drove him like a wild animal kicking and tearing at the heavy corpse until finally he was able to worm his way out from under it. Once free he scrambled backward until he banged into the heavy timber wall of the tavern. The impact must have shaken something loose for at that moment he realized it was dead. He stared at dull black eyes and a massive red tongue lolling out of its mouth. Wyatt’s head dropped between his knees and he vomited all over himself.

    The world swirled like a dark storm as he sat there spinning. He couldn’t fight it when he suddenly felt himself heaved upward. His toes dragged along the floor as he was carried off.

***

    Light off the fire flickered and hot tendrils of air licked his cheeks. Eyes cracked and blurry fire mites performed for him, dancing and leaping in the flames. Another pop, and he was awake. Wait…he rolled over, the bear-skin rug was warm beneath him…

    Leaping from the rug he skipped and fumbled until collapsing on the floor. His heart pounded so hard it hurt his ribs. Shadows pranced along the walls as he tried to get his bearings. Muffled voices came from below. He noted a small, neatly made bed in the corner, wash basin and dresser and realized he must be in a room at the inn. Someone must have brought him up there after the attack from those things. It sounded like an argument was going on downstairs.

    Rising from the floor Wyatt noted his body’s complaints with a grimace. His legs felt as if he’d just finished a back to back of the Spring event. The trials never punished him this badly. His forehead felt tight and his hand brushed against a flaky, cracked scab covering gash in his scalp. He found stitches under his blood caked brown hair. More exploration revealed another set across his ribs, almost fifty in all. His left hand was dressed as well, it was tender to the touched but it still worked.

    Slowly, like an old decrepit man he inched his way down the two flights of stairs, the railing ended in a jagged mess six steps from the bottom. Negotiating the destruction with his battered body was and excruciating exercise. The light hurt his eyes and he put a dressed hand up to shield them. There were maybe twenty people crowding the remains of a wide oak bar. The arguing abruptly ceased. Hushed whispers snaked through the air. All eyes were on him.

    From behind the bar stepped Mrs. Darrow. A large woman wrapped in a soot-blackened dress. She gently checked his wounds.

    “Didn’t ‘xpect ta see you so soon Wyatt, ya alright?” she asked, her hand feeling his forehead.

    “A bit sore mam,” he answered, “Where are my folks?”

    The plump woman shot a nervous look back toward the bar. Out of the crowd came O’Hare, his father’s cousin. Wyatt had never seen him without a beaming wild grin shooting out from his thick red beard until this moment.

    “Come with me son,” he said taking him by the shoulder.

    There were at least a dozen pyres poised for remembrance on the hill at the end of the village. Many wept and prayed at the feet of the deceased. O’Hare said nothing as they walked through the village. Even when Wyatt faltered at the foot of the hill O’Hare remained silent; his firm grip on Wyatt’s shoulder gently pushed him on.

Wyatt stood silent, head bowed in front of three waist high pyres. Numb, Wyatt stared at the three shrouds. They were tightly wrapped so he could not see what had truly happened. His father and mother lay to either side of Nina, his little sister. Glistening white cloth streamers connected the three bodies. He stared at them, his mind distant, coldly replaying his last memory of them. His father had been hurt, but he was alive. His mother and Nina had stood amongst the rubble, not a scratch on them. How?

    “You killed the creature that attacked your father though from what we can figure as you were fighting in the tavern, more entered your home. That’s where we found them.”

    They were just preparing for supper…“Did you get the beast that did this?” Wyatt growled.

    O’Hare sighed and kicked at a rock, “They escaped us,” he replied hoarsely.

    “What were they?” Wyatt asked.

    “Don’t know, never seen anything like it.” The older man’s voice faltered.

    “How many did they kill?”

    O’Hare coughed clearing his throat, “The twelve here, three more are still missing, Bennet, Fiino, and the Bruche girl.”

    Wyatt nodded slowly, his burning eyes were locked on the three funeral pyres. Slowly, he limped to each one starting with Nina then his mother and finally to his father. He kissed each one softly on the forehead then stepped back. Wyatt’s eyes flowed like the twin rivers and he could barely breathe. After a long moment he took up an unlit torch and flint from the base of his father’s pyre.

    At the center of the three pyres he knelt. He lit the torch and bowed his head. It wasn’t until the dressing on his left hand began smoldering did he finally stand and step to Nina’s pyre. Gently the flames caressed the kindling until it ignited. He lit his father’s last, laying the torch at his feet.

    “Find your way safely home and be welcome back to the source from which we come.” Wyatt prayed for their souls. He stayed with them until the heat of the three engulfed pyres forced his retreat. O’Hare was standing stoically as he watched three gray-white plumes commingle and the disappeared into the night.

    “I leave at dawn,” Wyatt said softly. He did not wait for the older man to object.

To be continued…

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My newest novel Where Angels Sing is on sale now.



The Window (Short)

Hey, I really liked the female protagonist in this story so I figured I would share. It’s another one of the shorts I found in my files. Here you go, let me know what you think.

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

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Where Angels Sing Cover

 

Last Call

whiskey

CAVEAT: I don’t get short fiction. My mind doesn’t seem to work in short bursts of writing a single scene or putting a story together in only a couple of thousand words. That being said I was going through my files and found a couple of old stories that I like. I figured why not share them and see what you think.

My first offering is a short called ‘Last Call,’ it takes a look at a detective having a bad day. He’s treading on the edge of disaster and needs a little gentle advice to set him straight. I hope you like it.

Last Call

            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

Make sure you check out the rest of my titles here. My newest release, ‘Where Angels Sing,’ came out in October.

Where Angels Sing Cover