Fort Knight created a technology that can visualize and record thoughts. Now the courts must decide if our thoughts have the right to privacy.

The Thought Pad Trials

Fort Knight created a technology that can visualize and record thoughts. Now the courts must decide if our thoughts have the right to privacy.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

Outside the tall columns of the Supreme Court gathered a large crowd at the foot of the wide and lengthy set of stairs leading up to the institution. This massive parade of citizens could be split, almost perfectly, into three separate entities. To the left, was a group of rowdy protesters, yielding home-made signs that bore marketed slogans like, “Free Thoughts For All!” and “Stay Out of Our Heads!” And to the right, another group of rowdy protesters protested the protesters on the left. And these protesters waved around their home-made signs that had their slogans written in bold marker. Slogans like, “No Communists!” and “Stop Crime!”

And in the middle, seemingly unaware of the chaos going on at either side of them, were men with slicked hair and square jaws, and women with trim figures in expensive business suits, each holding onto microphones, staring at the man holding a bulky video camera a few feet across from them. These men who held the cameras were dressed far less exquisite than their microphone-wielding counterparts. In fact, if you looked close enough, it wouldn’t be uncommon for you to spot a mustard or coffee stain lurking somewhere on their person.

One of the square jawed, slick haired men was at the moment in the midst of a dramatic revelation, “We are standing outside the Supreme Court, where the controversial trial of Fort Knight vs U.S. is set to begin momentarily. Fort Knight is of course responsible for the revolutionary Thought Pad technology; a brain-computer interface capable of recording thoughts, dreams, and even memories. Fort Knight’s tech has found a home in billion dollar industries, from pharmaceutical to pornography. The world changing tech has turned Josh Higgins, CEO and founder of Fort Knight, into the youngest billionaire on the planet. A year ago, Higgins rise came to a crashing halt when he was arrested for treason after refusing to release the brain map of a Fort Knight client suspected of terrorism…”

Beside him, a tall red head in a slim maroon skirt and jacket was also in the middle of her report, “The days of lavish Hollywood parties, fast cars and supermodel girlfriends must feel like a lifetime ago for Josh Higgins, CEO of Fort Knight, who for the last year has been sitting behind bars in a cold jail cell, waiting. Waiting for this day, his desperate appeal to the Supreme Court to over-turn the conviction…”

And just a few feet from her another newsmen spoke with righteousness passion into the camera pointed at him, “Since the release of the Virtual Girlfriend three years ago divorce rates are at a record high. Some say, the highly sought invention, has ruined the modern relationship. Since Higgins’ arrest last year there has been much controversy over the ethics of brain mapping, as more and more people are deciding to live in their own heads…”

****************

Inside the courtroom it was much quieter than the frenzied circus gathered outside. The public spectators sat in the pews of the gallery, speaking only in soft whispers, while beyond the brass railing, the clerk and the marshal took their positions on opposite sides of the floor and the councils at their desks shot challenging glances back and forth at each other from across the room.

Now out of his orange jumpsuit, Josh Higgins, CEO and founder of Fort Knight, sat slouched in a chair beside his attorney, wearing the collared shirt and slacks that he had been arrested in the year before. His eyes drifted around the courtroom and the gallery with a certain detachment, causing the offense of a wide and robust woman in a sleeveless sundress and a broad-brimmed sun hat who sat in the third row. She twisted her face at the sight of him but Higgins didn’t seem to notice.

Unlike this unaccompanied woman, the couple beside her, an Asian woman and an African man, who looked a healthy, active middle-age, found the site of the fallen and despondent celebrity to be quite humorous. They watched him stare blankly around the courtroom with child-like grins. In fact, it seemed that all the public’s eyes were firmly planted on the CEO, though the individual’s reaction to his presence varied exponentially from person to person.

It wasn’t long before the chamber door opened and out walked the nine Justices of the United States Supreme Court, draped in traditional black gown. They each took their seats at the bench, with Chief Justice Anderton in the center of them. The man of sixty-three adjusted his glasses, which appeared small over his thick and valleyed features, and began to address the council, “We will hear the argument first today for the case of Fort Knight v. U.S. Council, please proceed…”

Devlin Lanchester, the attorney representing the United States Government, stood and approached the podium. Like Chief Justice Anderton, Lanchester had a full head of peppered, almost white hair. But unlike the Chief Justice, Lanchester’s face was smooth and youthful, even now midway through his forties. His cheekbones were defined and strong and his eyes were an icy, pale blue.

The lady in the broad-brimmed sun hat, as well as many other of the older unaccompanied ladies, smiled and blushed uncontrollably at the sight of the handsome attorney, dressed in an Italian made suit. The Asian lady beside her rolled her eyes at the childishness of the lady in the broad-brimmed sun hat, but if her husband had been paying attention, he would have noticed that his wife’s eyes too had wandered, for a only a brief second, before they returned to her partner accompanied by a loving smile and a squeeze on his arm.

“Thank you, your honor,” said Lanchester. “The definition of treason states that whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere is guilty of the crime of treason. Upon Fort Knight’s refusal to provide the thought mapping of Vladimir Balanchuck, a citizen of the United States with ties to a Communist extremist group responsible for a bombing in Times Square that left forty eight people dead and many more injured, he became guilty of the crime of treason.”

Justice Freeman, the eldest of all the Justices, leaned forward and said in a slow, drawn out manner, “Thank you, Council. This new advancement in technology has purposed many questions on the role of thoughts as evidence. But in the ruling of Los Angeles County v. Raymond, it was found that thought-imaging cannot be used for probable cause in arrest, nor is it admissible evidence in court. So I have to ask you, how, even if the government obtained these thought images, would they plan on convicting Vladimir Balanchuck in a court of law?”

Lanchester replied without hesitation, “The case of Los Angeles County v. Raymond is a prudent one, your honor, and I think it is a valid case on why there needs to be a reform in the legislation. After purchasing the Virtual Girlfriend, Raymond’s wife put a hidden camera in the basement to keep an eye on what her husband was doing. She found out he was fantasizing about young girls. It just so happened at that time there had been an abduction of a thirteen year old girl in the area and so she brought it to authorities. Since this evidence was ruled not probable cause for arrest, and a warrant could not be issued, Raymond was allowed to go free. Not even six months later he was arrested for the rape and murder of another fourteen year old girl. However, in the case of Vladimir Balanchuck, a federal warrant was granted under the Patriot Act and under law, the defendant was ordered to surrender the data and thought-mapping regarding said individual. It may be that Vladimir himself is not guilty of any particular crime, but he may have information on those people responsible for the Times Square bombing. ”

In the third row, the large lady in the sun-hat folded her arms on her stomach and gave a hard nod, touching the gold crucifix on her collar that hung off a line chain around her wide neck.

Justice Amanda Letterman spoke next, “I think the real issue here is the question of if Vladimir, an American citizen, with no crime record, has the same 1st Ammendment rights as you or I. And if he does, then why has Mr. Higgins been charged with treason for standing up for those rights?

The inter-racial married couple beside the lady shot her a nasty glance as if to punctuate the female Justice’s statement.

“Let me give you a hypothetical,” Justice Letterman continued. “If I am at the grocery store, and there is a robbery, would it then be okay for the police to go through the minds of everyone in that grocery store in hopes that they might find a clue as to who the robber is? Would we be obligated to give them our memories?”

“No, your honor. They would be protected under the fifth amendment,” Lanchester replied.

“Well, then I fail to see where we draw the line, Council.”

“Yes, your honor,” nodded Lanchester. He rubbed the gold band around his wedding finger as if for luck. “The Patriot Act allowed a warrant for this information to be seized. Unfortunately Fort Knight’s data is kept in offshore, bulletproof servers, which are like Swiss banks for hackers and organized crime. Since access is not obtainable and Mr. Higgins refuses to co-operate, the truth is that, under law, he is guilty of the crime of treason. We can sit here and talk about Mr. Higgins rights and freedoms, but the fact is there is a very evil, very violent threat out there that hates Americans and hates America. People have been killed. We need to find these monsters as soon as we can, before they strike again…and what kind of person would want to protect these terrorists who wish harm on a country that gave him so much?”

An old, wobbly man of blue collar fashion who had been sitting in the front row, shot up and yelled out, “He’s a god damn commy-lover and you should put him to death!”

The crowd gasped and the Chief Justice Anderton banged his gavel off the bench. “Order!” he cried. “Bailiff, remove that man!”

In a moment, the man responsible for the outburst was apprehended and ushered out of the courtroom. As he passed the third row, the large lady in the broad-brimmed sun-hat gave him a comforting nod as a gesture of solidarity, while the Asian lady and her husband shook their heads at the old man in disgust. Those same reactions were mimicked throughout the gallery, some for it, some against it. And the ones that were for it would then shoot nasty glares at those who were against it because the ones who were against it were shooting nasty glares at the ones that were for it.

But when the courtroom double doors closed shut and the man responsible for the outburst was out of sight, the proceedings resumed and the gallery settled down. This time, the attorney representing Fort Knight, Jamie Sandel, approached the podium. She was tall and slender, dressed in a navy blue pant suit and silk white blouse. It was important that her clothes spoke of mature professionalism, as her soft features spoke of inexperience. Her hair sprang off her head in a frizzy mane, making her head appear bigger than it really was and, she liked to think, reminded her contenders that she was a lion in the courtroom and not to be underestimated. And it didn’t hurt that she was not very difficult to look at either.

The single men in the gallery exchanged subtle grins as the female lawyer’s heels clicked towards the podium in a hypnotizing, reverberated succession. Even the Asian woman’s husband in the third row showed a gleam of teenager like lust in his eyes. His wife caught him looking at the woman and threw him a cold, piercing stare. The husband’s eyes sunk like a puppy that had his nose hit with the day’s newspaper for defecating in the house.

“Thank you, Chief Justice, and if it pleases the court…” started Council Sandel. “According to Supreme Court ruling in the 1937 case of Palko v. Connecticut , it was found that without freedom of thought, the first amendment right to freedom of speech is moot, as you can only express what you can think. Constraining or censoring how a person thinks is the most fundamental kind of censorship and is contrary to some of our most cherished Constitutional principles.”

“While this is most certainly true, I think we can say that the situation of Vladimir Balanchuck is a special exception,” stated Justice Morgan, a thin framed Irishman with a high hairline and a small jaw. “The tragedy and lives lost during the attack on Times Square is not an incident that the American people would like to relive. It’s not as if the government is trying to get inside the minds of its own law-abiding citizens or anything like that. Your client could be free tomorrow if he just co-operated with the U.S. government and surrendered the requested data. Do you not see the importance of finding the ones responsible for the Times Square bombings? Do you not feel any responsibility to aid your country?”

“Thank you, your honor,” replied Sandel. “And we do believe that Vladimir Balanchuck has every right to be surveyed and interrogated to the full extent that the Patriot Act allows. But my client stands by his belief, which is in line with court law, that a thought is not real and cannot be counted on as evidence. Even memories rendered from thought-pad technology can be embellished to appear happier than they may have been, or scarier, or more exciting, or more violent than the actual event itself—“

“Let me put out a hypothetical,” Justice Letterman interjected. “If Vladimir posted a status on his Facebook page that said he wished all Americans were dead. Would that be probable cause for arrest?”

“Under the Patriot Act, yes, that could be cause for interrogation, especially given Balanchuck’s social network,” answered Sandel.

“So, what would be the difference of that thought on Facebook and the thoughts recorded from his brain?”

“In that situation of the threatening Facebook post, the subject would have expressed intent to harm. But to think a thought of violence is not the intention of the act. Many people think about harming another person, many people think about harming themselves, or perhaps robbing a bank…but if we held every person accountable for each fleeting thought of irrational behavior, no matter how distasteful or perverse, then we would quickly run out of cells in the prisons and soon there may not be a society left to govern.”

Justice Freeman leaned forward, “Are you saying that if a person were to spend the day pondering ways to murder a co-worker, let’s say, or sexually assault a woman on the train, or kidnapping a child from the park, that this person would not be accountable for such thoughts?”

Council Sandel replied promptly, “If that person were to treat his co-worker fairly, and respect the woman on the train’s human rights and walk passed the park without incident, then yes, that person should be free to think what he may without persecution or judgement.”

Justice Freeman shook his head. “I don’t know if I agree, Council. Someone who thinks these thoughts could be a real danger to society.”

“Thank you, your honor,” responded Sendel. “But you yourself thought of those situations when you referenced them. But I would not say that I should make a judgement on your character because of it.”

Justice Freeman was stunned. Rarely do you see a Supreme Court Justice speechless, but Justice Freeman could not utter a single word. Josh Higgins looked up at his attorney and smiled, impressed. Across the room, Council Lanchester kept a straight face but played nervously with his wedding band.

“Thank you, Council,” said Chief Justice Anderton, breaking the silence. He took off his glasses and looked straight into the eyes of Josh Higgins, commanding his attention. “Mr. Higgins, will you please stand.”

Higgins did as requested and stood up from his seat. He felt the eyes in the gallery burning a hole through his back. Chief Justice Anderton addressed him, “Son, there is no doubt that you are a very, very smart young man. Some would even say you’re a genius. You’re the Tesla of our time. And having had a father who suffered from Alzheimer’s, I do respect the work you’ve done in the field of memory saving. I think it is a fantastic breakthrough. But then there’s another side to you that is not so commendable. The bulletproof servers on which your data is kept, is off shore and shared with criminal hackers, drug dealers, terrorist organizations and other organized crime syndicates. Now, how can you sit here and claim the benefits of American ideals when you share your servers with men who are directly opposed to those same ideals?”

“Your honor, there is a proverb in the ancient teachings of the Tao that states, in regards to governing, when you don’t trust the people, you make them untrustworthy. For example, the prohibition of alcohol gave birth to illegal speakeasies. When you make drugs illegal, you give birth to drug smugglers. When it has been revealed that the NSA is secretly monitoring its civilian citizens, we move our servers offshore. Not because we’re anti-American but because we are pro-American and we take the freedom of thought very seriously. And that is why people trust us with their deepest secrets. Society now and days is so afraid to be kind, so fearful of being vulnerable, scrutinized and picked apart. And with good reason. Censorship is the new witch hunt. Shame is the new religion. Is it any wonder that millions and millions of people would rather live inside their heads? I say, if that’s what they choose, let them. If they want to stay home and have sex with their Virtual Girlfriend, all the power to them. Why live a miserable reality when you could live a happy lie?”

“They’re sinners and perverts!” yelled the large lady in the third row.

The gallery began to whisper and murmur. “Order in the court!” cried Chief Justice Anderton, banging his gavel off the bench.

Higgins turned to the large woman and said loudly, “Sinners and perverts? M’am, I noticed the crucifix around your neck. Did you know that it is against the commandments to covet a married man?”

“Of course I do!” snapped the woman. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Order!” yelled Chief Justice Anderton. The gavel pounded down.

Josh pointed to Council Lanchester across the room. “I saw the way you looked at him when he stood up to fry me, the lust in your eyes! You’re telling me you didn’t see the wedding band on his finger?”

By this time, the gavel pounding against the bench sounded more like a contractor roofing a house. “Order! Mr. Higgins you will stop this outburst right now!”

Josh Higgins eyes remained fixed on the lady, whose face was now bright red under the broad brim of her sun hat. “You saw it. But you looked anyway. You thought about fucking him anyway, didn’t you?”

“Baliff! Arrest Mr. Higgins for contempt of court!” cried Chief Justice Anderton, who was almost perspiring from rage.

“I would never!” gasped the lady in the third row.

“Well, we have the tech to find out!” yelled Higgins as the Bailiff slapped the steel cuffs around his wrists. “I’ll tell you what, why don’t we record your thoughts and then we’ll play it for your whole congregation!”

The lady seemed horrified at the thought.

“You wouldn’t like that would you?” said Higgins, being ushered down the hall. “So why is the privacy of your thoughts any more important than Vladimir Balanchucks? Answer me that!” And then Higgins looked around at the blank eyes in the gallery staring back at him and screamed out, “One day it will be your thoughts they come for! And on that day, I will pity you!” Then his voice broke slightly as a single tear rolled down his cheek. “But you know what?…I’ll pity you even more if they don’t.”

And with that, Josh Higgins disappeared from the courtroom and the double doors came to a close. The Asian lady leaned over and said quietly to the large lady in the broad-brimmed sun hat, “He’s a little out of your league don’t you think?”

The lady turned red all over again. “Don’t you start! I saw you giving him the same look!”

The Asian lady’s husband raised his eyebrows at her, awaiting an explanation from his wife. “Oh, don’t give me that look!” she snapped at him. “I saw you checking out that frizzy haired, white girl lawyer! You pervert!”

The hearing came to a close and pew by pew the spectators exited the gallery. It was less than a month before the nine Justices of the Supreme Court came back with a final ruling on Fort Knight v. U.S., deciding if he was indeed guilty of the crime of treason. But maybe, just this once, the conclusion to the story is best left unrevealed. Maybe, just this once, it would be better to simply pose the question to the reader…what do you think?

The End

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While secretly taking ballroom dance lessons to surprise his fiancée at their wedding’s ceremonial first dance, Jordan falls into an adulterous relationship with his dance teacher.

The First Dance

While secretly taking ballroom dance lessons to surprise his fiancée at their wedding’s ceremonial first dance, Jordan falls into an adulterous relationship with his dance teacher.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

I leaned over, pressing my hands against my thighs and exhaling heavily. “I need to quit smoking…”

Dayna sat on the bench, leaning back on the dance studio window, giggling at my exasperation. She put her tiny hand in front of her mouth, in an effort to dilute my embarrassment.  “You’re doing fine,” she assured me. “You’re fiancée is going to be so thrilled when it comes time for the first dance. You’re going to blow her mind.”

I let out a sharp cough and straightened up, saying, “I’m going to blow a lung…”

Dayna picked up her jet black ponytail resting gently over her shoulder and swung it behind her back, getting to her feet and giving me a playful smack against the chest. “You’re doing fine,” she repeated. “You’ve made so much progress in just a few lessons.”

This was true. Somehow, though I could not tell you exactly how, Dayna had managed to teach this old dog some new tricks. I was no longer the worst dancer I knew. My whole life I had been cursed with two left feet. It took about five minutes of dancing in front of the mirror in third grade, for me to realize that. And so, instead of trying to get better, I came up with any excuse I could to avoid things like school dances or nights out at the club; from faking colds, to lying about previous engagements I had to attend, to straight up trying to convincing myself, and those around me, that dancing was a practice strictly for squares, gays, and Melvins.

Now, in my early thirties, I could run from it no longer. I would be on the spot. The idea that there would be a room full of close family and friends all watching my every step, pulling out their phones and recording the entire spectacle, cementing in stone that its reference was forever only a quick scroll away…well, it was enough to induce a frantic panic attack at the mere thought of it. But fear was not something easily discussed with a girl like Shannon, my bride to be. She was perfect, and she expected just the same from me.

And in most aspects of my life, I was perfect. If not perfect, I was damn above average, that’s for sure. I had managed to keep my hockey body, though hadn’t been near a rink in close to a decade. I had a closet full of designer shoes and suits. I whitened my teeth. I drove a Benz. The payments were a little rich for my blood, but I took the hit anyway and bought the thing brand new. You see, Shannon expected a certain standard from the man she chose to be her mate. And who could blame her? She was Barbie doll beautiful. A head turner. An alpha. If I couldn’t be the desired second half to her puzzle, there was about a million jigsaws out there, ready to take my place.

That was the reason for taking the ballroom lessons. When the time came to lead Shannon onto that dance floor, and all the eyes were fixed on us, I wanted to be able to give her a first dance fit for a princess…If I didn’t, there’d be hell to pay.

“Okay, ready?” asked Dayna. She had no problem letting me take a breather here and there, but she was always eager to get back to task. I suppose she didn’t want me to think she was wasting my money.

I nodded. Then she walked over to the stereo on the floor, graceful and rhythmic in her strides, as was her demeanor. She was like a swan. She pressed play on the boom box and immediately the familiar Waltz melody exhumed from the speakers. Her slender figure, wrapped in black leotard, bloomed towards the ceiling. She turned her body and stepped towards me. In my head, I could hear her gentle voice keeping time over the melody, “1,2,3. 1,2,3.”

I took position over the imaginary box at my feet. We had started with the tape strips on the ground in the shape of a square, but surprisingly, I had figured out the succession of steps in the first couple lessons and no longer needed a guide. My left hand stretched out and interlocked with her right, my right hand resting on her left shoulder blade.

“Remember,” she said. “Palm cupped, fingers together.”

“Oh yeah,” I said, cupping my palm and sliding my fingers inward over her back. Her body shivered for just the slightest of seconds.

“Now,” she continued, clearing her throat. “We need to get rid of that slouch.”

I straightened up my neck, consciously adjusting to the correct posture. As I did so, our eyes met. For a second, I was not able to look right at her, and my eyes darted quickly to the left. I scolded myself for my cowardice and quickly turned my gaze back to her. It was not because my eyes didn’t want to look at the young woman in front of me; in fact, it was quite the opposite. I was actually very taken by her. Her features were more subtle, her make-up less dramatic than most, but her beauty was present in a classical sense. It was simple and honest. Dayna seemed like the kind of girl you dream about as a boy, in grade school, when the idea of true love is first instilled in your mind, before the harsh realities of life came crushing down on you.

And on that night in particular, it had been notably hard to hold her gaze. I felt as if she would take one glance into my quivering eyes and immediately know of the very private dream that had played out in the depths of my unconscious as I slept next to my fiancée the previous evening. Granted, having a familiar person appear in one’s dream is usually nothing to get worked up about, or even something worth remembering. But this dream was different. This dream…I could not forget.

We were high above the clouds, weightless and free of the constructs of gravity. Below us was the most magnificent of sunsets, surrounding us in a blanket of soft oranges and reds for as far as the eye could see. A choir of trumpets and strings played a familiar melody all around us. We stared into each other’s eyes without a wisp of hesitation, our souls every bit as interlocked as our bodies. Her hair blows carelessly behind her. Her face tilts, only slightly, and draws close to mine. Our eyes close and our lips touch. But I can see every moment, from every angle, as if watching on the silver screen.  The sleeve of her dress, red as blood, falls loosely over the length of her arm, exposing the top of her breast. Her skin, like caramel, calls for me, screams for me…I cannot deny its siren song. I kiss softly on her chin, down her neck. Her head bends backwards, welcoming me in. Her hips press tight against mine. She dips back, deeper. And then…

Then I wake up in my bed, the rod between my legs pulsing upwards, against thin cotton sheets.

It was Shannon who received the benefits of my primal desire that morning, but it was Dayna who deserved the credit for my enthusiasm and stamina. As I climaxed, I closed my eyes and Dayna’s face and body appeared once again. I sunk back down on my pillow and, as Shannon nestled close and rested her head on my chest, Dayna’s specter evaporated into the ether.

It was this flash of recollection of the previous night’s occurrence that broke my concentration from my current reality, causing me to lose timing and foolishly step on Dayna’s toes. She yelped and let go of me. Out of reflex, my head looked downwards to assess the damages I had just inflicted on my poor teacher. Unfortunately, her instinctual reaction was to do the same, and our heads smashed together with a dizzying clunk.  It sent us both back a few steps, disheveled.

“I’m such an idiot,” I muttered, condemning myself. “Are you okay?”

Despite her obvious pain, she flashed a forgiving smile. “It’s fine…I think I might need to sit down for a second tough.”

And so she did. I followed her to the bench by the window and took a seat next to her, unsure of how to help and kicking myself for my clumsy idiocy. She removed her hand from the crown of her head and looked up to me, concerned. “Can you feel if there’s a bump?” she asked.

I inched closer to her as she lent into me, lowering her head for my inspection. I gently ran my fingers over her scalp, my heart sinking as I felt the swollen elevation. “A little,” I winced. “God, I’m such a twit.”

Suddenly, she broke out into a sharp laugh, even snorting for a slight second before she caught herself and once again put her small hand over her mouth to stop herself. Her head raised and her ponytail fell to the side. Once again we were eye to eye. “Twit?” she mimicked. “Who says twit?”

My shoulders dropped and I relaxed a little. “Well, I was going to say cunt,” I said. “But I wasn’t sure how you would take it.”

She laughed again, seemingly coming out of the physical anguish to which I had just put her through. She slapped a hand down on my thigh. “You’re funny, you know that?”

I looked up from my feet, back to her. Her gaze remained on me, still. Without a word. Without a blink.

Then, void of meditation, as if I were being pulled by some sort of cosmic force greater than you or I, I leaned in and drew my lips to Dayna’s…

***********************

When I walked into the condo, Shannon was still in her office wear, sitting crossed-legged on the couch and resting a glass of red wine elegantly on her knee. But the television was off and she was sitting in silence, which was odd to see. She always had to be talking, or moving, or cleaning, or fidgeting. But that day she sat perfectly still and calm, watching me close as I stepped into the apartment.

The smell of Dayna’s perfume on my collar, a scent that had been a pleasant afterthought on the drive home, now made me sick with worry.

Shannon placed the glass of wine gently on the coffee table and once again leaned back on the couch, running manicured fingers through her platinum highlights. “I came to see you at the office today,” she said, finally. The words stabbed me in the gut like a shiv. “I saw you leaving as I pulled in,” she continued. “So I followed you…”

Though my face remained stiff as stone, the wind had been knocked out of me and my heart beat faster and even faster yet. I had been caught. And still, in that moment of vulnerability, I felt little remorse for my actions. When I was inside Danya, rolling about on the hard dance studio floor, I felt more alive than I had in years. Maybe my father was right…maybe Shannon wasn’t the girl for me.

Shannon got up from the couch, readjusting the silk blouse tucked in the high waistline of her skirt. “I saw everything, Jordan,” she said. “I can’t even believe it…”

Meaningless words dripped from my lips. “Babe…I’m sorry…It was a mistake…”

But that was a lie, and I knew it.

“Well, yeah, it was,” she stated firmly. “But still…I’m impressed.”

Suddenly, the spinning room stopped dead. Even my heart seemed to stop its pounding, so my ears could make sense of what had just been said without distraction. “Impressed?” I uttered.

A thin smile curved upward on her face. “Taking ballroom dance lessons for the wedding? That’s so…romantic!”

I let out a concealed sigh of relief. She hadn’t seen everything.

Her heels clacked on the hardwood panels as she headed towards the bathroom. “Take as many lessons as you want, babe,” she teased. “Because you need lots of help.” She laughed to herself as the bathroom door shut behind her.

As I heard the running water of the shower, I knew I was safe. I dropped onto the couch and took a sip of wine from Shannon’s lipstick stained glass. I leaned back, relaxed, and closed my eyes, only to find myself high above the clouds, with a magnificent sunset below me, radiating the most vibrant oranges and reds for as far as the eye could see. A choir of trumpets and strings played a familiar melody as Dayna’s voice whispered softly in my ear, “1,2,3. 1,2,3…”

The End

crime drama, parody, short stories, law and order, csi, victim squad

Victim Squad

If you like Law and Order: SVU or CSI, then you can’t miss the hard-hitting Victim Squad!

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

268 Glenn Street

March 4, 2018 9am

Detective Richards converged on the scene, parting his way through the crowd of concerned neighbors gathered on the usually quiet suburban street. He avoided their peering, suspicious eyes with the humble understanding that men of color, especially those with authority, were not something the simple people of Laketon were used to seeing. Glares of distrust were something the lead detective had gotten used to in his time at the academy. It only made him work harder, to set himself above the stereotypes and prove himself a respectable man of the law.

His broad shoulders dipped beneath the long strip of yellow police tape, separating the residents of Glenn Street from the crime scene. He spotted the new kid on the squad, Detective Denslin, by the front walkway, talking to one of the uniforms, and walked across the lawn to meet his partner. “What’d ya got for me, rook?” he asked.

The young detective brushed his highlighted bangs from his brow and looked down at the note pad in his hands. He took a moment to adjust the chain around his neck that held his newfound badge to the elite crime force known as the Victim Squad. “The neighbor across the street called it in,” said Denslin. “She said she was out watering the grass around nine, and heard screaming. Then she saw the unsub take off down the street on a red BMX. A few of the other neighbors reported seeing someone riding on a BMX as well.” The new detective led his superior up the walkway and put his hand around the knob to the front door of the three-bedroom, semi-detached home. “I warn you…” he said with caution. “It’s not pretty.”

The two detectives stepped into the front hallway of the home to see a few more uniforms and the crime scene photographer huddled over the body of the victim. The corpse laid bottom up, his face wading in a pool of blood and his throat ruptured open. His pants were pulled down around his knees and something had been jammed into his rectum. Detective Richards knew right away what he was looking at…but he wished to god he hadn’t.

“The victim is Carl Maxwell,” briefed Detective Denslin. “The uniform that responded to the call found him in a pool of blood. His penis had been severed and inserted into the anus…Like I said, it isn’t pretty.”

Detective Richards shook his head. “No, rook. My ex-wife isn’t pretty. This is downright ugly.”

Victim Squad Headquarters

March 4, 2018   11am

“What’d you find?” asked Lieutenant Fox, leaning back on the corner of a desk and awaiting the response from her lead detective, Detective Richards. Her voice was nurturing, and yet firm and commanding. In her twenty years with the squad, she had learned that a female agent must be as soft as her silk blouse, but as sharp as her heels.

Detective Richards stood up from his desk, surrounded by his team. You would think by the bland, florescent lights, rows of desks, and the file cabinets lined up against the wall, that the Victim Squad’s day to day hovered on the mundane, if not boring…but you would be greatly mistaken.

“We have an eye witness statement that puts our unsub fleeing the scene on a red BMX,” announced the detective. “No signs of forced entry, meaning the victim most likely knew the suspect.”

“We talked to the victim’s parents,” added the young Detective Denslin, brushing his highlighted bangs from his brow. “They insist that we follow up with a man by the name of Ted McNally. Apparently, Chad and Todd got into a heated argument at the gym they frequent. The victim told his parents about it, which they found odd. Chad liked to keep to himself. He read a lot of books.”

Detective Cheryl Mable, the new transfer from the south, let out a heavy, longing sigh. “I love me a book worm…”

Lieutenant Fox turned her gaze on the blushing detective. “Well, this book-worm just became worm-food. We need to find this killer before anyone else’s dicks end up in their asses…Detective Mable, rook; I want you to go back to the gym and find out what you can about this Ted, the victim was having problems with…”

58 Ninth Road

March 4,2018  1pm

After a short visit to the local Fit Bodies, Detective Mable and Detective Denslin ascertained the address of Ted McNally and converged on the scene. After knocking on the front door and waiting without a response, they decided to check around the property. When they got to the side of the house, Detective Mable gave her partner a nudge and pointed to a red BMX leaning against the side of the brick house. “I reckon this Ted fella is going to have some explaining to do,” she noted.

The rookie stopped and scratched the shag at the back of his head. “Seems kind of odd, doesn’t it?” he said. “If this was your getaway ride in a vicious murder, would you just leave it for everyone to see?”

Mable’s eyes darted to the front of the house and she gave her partner another nudge. “Why don’t we ask him?”

Detective Denslin followed her attention to the front of the house, to see a man that fit the tall, dark and handsome description of Ted McNally, dressed in a red windbreaker suit, walking up the driveway towards the home. He looked up from his sneakers and noticed the two detectives in the alleyway. Then, he looked down the street. In just a spit second, he took off, running down the street as fast as his gazelle-like legs could carry him.

The two detectives looked at each other.

Detective Mable sighed. “I really didn’t want to run today.”

Detective Denslin flashed a devilish grin. “Come on. I’ll race ya.”

“I never could turn down a challenge,” she said.

And with that, the two officers took off on foot after the suspect. He was fast, almost too fast, even. But thankfully for Detective Mable and Detective Denslin, the suspect turned into an alleyway between the suburban residents in an attempt to jump a fence into the backyard and was faced with an obstacle to which he could not overcome. As fit as he was, he was not expecting a wild and snarling pit bull to be patrolling the grounds of that particular property, and when the vicious beast came barrelling towards the fence upon the suspects arrival, even as the peak physical specimen he was, he had no choice but to abandon his getaway plan. By the time he hopped down from the fence on which he was perched, the Victim Squad had already converged on the scene.

The detectives drew their issued firearms, while Detective Denslin flashed the badge hanging from a chain around his neck, and announced them. “Victim Squad!” he yelled. “Freeze!”

The suspect, breathing heavy, put his hands up in forfeit. “Don’t shoot me, please!” he huffed.

Detective Mable unlatched her handcuffs from her belt and apprehended the suspect. She gave them an especially hard tightening. “Yeah, well, for making us run after you, I shoulda…”

As she escorted the suspect towards the unmarked car up the street, while trying to keep the blonde strands of hair from her face, she turned to the rookie and said, “By the way, lil’ buck. We don’t say freeze anymore…”

Victim Squad Headquarters

Interrogation Room #4

March 4, 2018 3:30 pm

“Whatever you guys think I did, you got the wrong guy!” pleaded Tom McNally, sitting in a chair across the table from Detective Denslin and Detective Mable.

Detective Denslin leaned back in his seat and folded his arms. “So, why did you run then? And don’t tell me it was cardio day.”

“I didn’t know you guys were cops,” answered the suspect. “All I saw were two people creeping around my house and I bolted.”

Detective Mable took a sip of coffee from her Styrofoam cup. “You must have a lot of enemies, if seeing two people by your house made you that paranoid…What about Chad Maxwell? Was he an enemy of yours?”

Ted McNally’s eyes opened wide. “That’s why I was nervous!” he explained. “We got into an argument at the gym the other day and he threatened me. That guy is a real weird-o, you know that? He sits at the leg machine and reads horror novels! Who knows what’s going on in that creeps mind…” Then he paused, calculating. “Wait…Is that what this is about? Creepy Carl?”

Detective Denslin opened up the file folder sitting on the table in front of him and took out one of the crime scene photos, sliding it across the table to McNally. “It seemed Carl’s life turned into its own horror movie.”

Ted McNally peered at the photo and cringed, covering his mouth as if he were about to be sick. “Ugh…god…What’s…what’s that thing coming out his butt?”

“His penis,” answered Detective Mable. “So maybe you should tell us what it is you two were arguing about.”

Ted McNally slid the picture back over to the detectives, unable to look at it any longer. “Over some girl he was crushing on at our gym. He thought I was trying to make a move on her…which I wasn’t. She was way old. But every time she came to talk to me, Carl would lose it. So I told him to get lost. But I didn’t kill the guy!”

“What’s this woman’s name?” asked Detective Denslin.

Ted McNally let out a soft, assured chuckle. “I don’t know the name of every girl who flirts with me. Now am I under arrest, or can I go home?”

“Cool your jets, sparky,” said Detective Mable. “So then, where were you last night?”

“I was sleeping,” he replied, coldly.

“That’s a pretty weak alibi,” returned the detective from the south. “You’re telling me that a young guy like you, handsome and fit, probably a hit with the ladies, probably a nice throbbing trouser-snake in those track pants, was in bed sleeping by nine pm on a Sunday? You think a jury will believe that?”

“It’s no secret that Sunday is Funday,” added Detective Denslin. “Everybody knows that.”

“Yes. I’m sure,” the suspect answered. By now, the young man was void of any and all courtesy. “I go for a four in the morning run every Monday. The whole street knows that. Go ahead and ask them.”

“Oh, don’t you worry, playboy,” said Detective Mable. “We will.”

“Tell us about the red BMX bike we found at the side of your house,” said Detective Denslin, throwing the lack of courtesy back in the suspect’s face. “Multiple witnesses said they saw the killer flee the scene on a bike just like it.”

Ted McNally didn’t flinch. “So what? The bike’s been sitting at the side of my house for years. I don’t lock it. The neighborhood kids use it sometimes. You think a ride a bike at my age? What am I?  A loser?”

Meanwhile, in the next room over, Detective Richards and the Lieutenant stood watching the interview through the one way mirror.

“What’d you think?” Lieutenant Fox asked her lead detective.

“As a black man, I’ve seen a lot of things,” said Detective Richards. “From growing up in the projects, trying not to get caught up in drugs and gangs, to fighting to gain respect from my unit, despite my color…I’ve learned to trust my gut. And my gut tells me that this isn’t the guy we’re looking for. I think we should visit this girl the two men were fighting over. It might open things up.”

“Couldn’t hurt,” said the Lieutenant. “Get the rook back to re-interview the eye witness that saw the perp take off on the bike. See if she can narrow down the description. If the neighborhood kids have been using that red BMX, our list of suspects has just increased immensely. Let’s trim it down…before the killer trims another penis.”

266 Glenn Street

March 4, 2018 8:45 pm 

Detective Denslin knocked on the door to the house and stepped back onto the paved walkway. The solar lanterns following the pathway up to the front door had started to flicker light and turn, now that the sun was all but beneath the horizon. Dusk was a peaceful time on suburban streets like Glenn Street. The lights were now on inside the homes, the SUV’s were now parked in the front drives for the night, and families were gathered around dinner tables and television sets, enjoying the warm comforts of their residents. Must be nice, thought Detective Denslin, as he buried his face into the collar of his leather jacket in an attempt to block the chilly breeze sweeping through the neighborhood.

The front light switched on and a moment later, the door opened, answered by a slender man, still dressed in slacks and a pressed button-up. His hairline had started to thin, retreating to higher ground. His eyes were heavy and dreary. “May I help you?” he asked, looking the detective over with some confusion as to why the young man was standing at his door.

Detective Denslin unzipped his leather jacket and flashed the badge hanging around his neck. “Detective Pat Denslin of the Victim Squad,” he announced. “Sorry to be bothering you so late, but I took a statement from your wife earlier today about the murder that took place across the street. I was hoping to get a few more words with her, if I could.”

The slender man nodded in an attempt to convey empathy and motioned for the detective to come inside to the front hallway. “My wife told me what happened,” he said, closing the door behind them. “How horrible…I’ve been at my office late all week. Tax season is killing me. But this whole ordeal has me concerned for the safety of my wife when I’m at the office late. It’s a shame about that young man…He was quiet and kept to himself…but always very polite to me.” He walked to the foot of a winding staircase and called up to his wife, Judy.

In a moment, Judy peeked over the railing and saw the detective she had spoken to earlier, looking back up at her. She smiled and started down the stairs, petting the jet black bob on her head with care. Her bangs came down low on her brow, just above her eyes. She brushed them from her face to greet the detective with a warm smile and a handshake. “Hello, again, detective…Denslin, was it? I was just about to hop in the shower. Is everything alright?”

“Sorry to bother you at such a late hour, Mrs. Davis,” said Denslin. “There’s been some new advances in the case and I was hoping that maybe you could help us a bit more with the description of the unsub that rode off on the BMX.”

She nodded, understandingly. “I’m not too sure what else I can tell you,” she said. “He was wearing track pants and a hoodie and rode a red BMX bike.”

“What about his face?” asked Denslin. “Is there any features you remember? Could it be possible that this was a kid? A minor?”

She shook her head vigorously. “No, definitely not. He was a man, in his thirties, I would say. He was a real pretty boy, if you know the type.”

Detective Denslin reached into the breast pocket of his leather jacket and pulled out one of his cards. He handed it to Mrs. Davis. “Okay, thank you. If you remember anything else, please don’t hesitate to give me a call…”

Mr. Davis put a gentle hand on Detective Denslin’s shoulder and motioned him to the door. “I’ll walk you out,” he said kindly.

As the two men walked down the paved walkway of the front yard, Detective Denslin’s phone began to vibrate in his pocket. He took it out and check the screen. It was Detective Richards. He turned to Mr. Davis and smiled politely. “I have to take this,” he said, stepping off the pathway, onto the lawn. He answered the call and put the phone to his ear. “What’s up?”

“Just got some new info, rook,” said Detective Richards. “We just came from the gym and found out that the girl these two guys were fighting over was Judy Davis. The same Judy Davis that lives across the street from the victim. The same one you interviewed this morning.”

Suddenly there was a loud, crisp PSST!  from behind the detective, and in just a moment he was struck in the back of the neck with a quick, high pressure stream of water. Before he knew it, he was struck with another stream, then another. The spray seemed to be coming from all around him. “I’ll call you back!” he yelled into the phone before shoving it back into his jacket pocket and raising his arm to block his face from the systematic shots of water.

He turned around and noticed thin black cylinders, which had not been there a moment before, poking up from blades of grass on the plush front lawn and ejaculating a high pressured mist over the span of the front yard. Quickly, he ran back to Mr. Davis, who stood bone dry on the walkway and looked very amused at the soaking wet detective.

“Those come on every night?” asked Denslin, wiping his face dry with his palm.

Mr. Davis grinned. “Like clockwork.”

Reacting, Detective Denslin withdrew his firearm and started back up the pathway towards the house. Mr. Davis hurried after him. “Where are you going?” he asked.

“Mr. Davis, I’m afraid I’m going to have to take your wife in for questioning!” the detective yelled back.

“For what?” asked Mr. Davis.

“For murder,” answered the detective.

Victim Squad Headquarters

Interview Room #4

March 5, 2018  9am

“Why didn’t you tell us that you knew the victim?” asked Detective Richards, leaning on the desk over Judy Davis, who, at the moment, was looking much less presentable than she had the night before. The concrete slab she had slept on in the Victim Squad holding cell was anything but comfortable. Her neatly trimmed bob cut was now tangled in a mess, with renegade strands of black hair sticking out every which way, and her maroon sweater was now creased and wrinkled from being used as a makeshift pillow all night. Bags of exhaustion hung low under her eyes as she turned to her public defender for council. The thin bald man, dressed in a mustard suit, gave her a nod, encouraging her to answer.

She turned back to the detectives saying, “Yes. I know him. He’s my neighbor. Of course we know each other.” Her tone was slow and impatient.

“But he was more than that, wasn’t he?” Detective Denslin purposed. He leaned back in his seat and folded his arms. “You guys were gym buddies. The clerk at the counter said he would see you two leaving together on several occasions.”

“How about it?” said Detective Richards, looking her deep in her eyes. “Were you two having an affair?”

She cringed. “Ew! No! Never!”

“What about Ted McNally?” asked Denslin. “The camera footage shows you two getting pretty close by the water fountain.”

She scowled. “Ted is a jerk. Just like the rest of those pretty boys. Those two were always fighting over me. If you should be questioning anyone, you should question Ted. Him and Chad didn’t get along at all.”

“We tried that theory,” said Detective Richards. “But we came up with another one. In your statement you said you came outside at around nine to water the front lawn, when you heard screaming.”

Detective Denslin leaned in closer to Mrs. Davis. “But you have automatic sprinklers.”

“So here’s what we think happened,” continued Detective Richards. “You and the victim were having an affair. When you started to flirt with Ted McNally, the victim became jealous and threatened to tell your husband about your extra-marital activities. You couldn’t bear to be outed by such a horror-novel-reading geek and so on the evening of March 3rd, while your husband was working late at the office, you dressed up in track pants and a hoodie and paid Chad Maxwell a visit.”

Her hair fell over her face as she looked down to her lap and whispered, “No…”

Detective Denslin continued. “He let you in. That is why there was no sign of forced entry. You entered the house and slit his throat right there in the front hallway. Then, you pulled down his pants and severed his penis, inserting it into the victim’s rectum. Then, you took off on the red BMX you had stolen from the side of Ted McNally’s house, so you could pin the crime on him.

Mrs. Davis continued to look down at her lap. The public defender spoke for her. “This is ridiculous!” he exclaimed. “These are just wild accusations with no concrete evidence!”

Detective Denslin looked to Mrs. Davis and said, “We took the bike to the crime lab and they found a jet black hair on the handle bars. If you’re innocent, then provide us with a DNA swab to prove the hair didn’t belong to you.”

Suddenly, Mrs. Davis started to sob uncontrollably. Seconds passed and then, she lifted up her head and looked up to the rookie detective. “I couldn’t let that dweeb ruin my marriage…” she uttered.

The public defender sunk in his seat.

Mrs. Davis went on, “We had sex once and he became obsessed with me. I tried to flirt with Ted to show Chad I wasn’t into him, but that just made him angry. He threatened to tell my husband. I couldn’t let twenty years of marriage come to an end because of a stupid, childish mistake…I had to do something.”

She buried her face in her hands and cried, until the cold steel of handcuffs clamped tightly around her wrists. “Judy Davis,” started Detective Richards. “You are under arrest for the murder of Carl Maxwell. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say, can and will be used against you in the court of law…”

Donelly’s Pub

March 5, 2018 8pm

The Victim Squad converged to their regular back booth in the dim lit pub, unwinding from the conclusion of another case. Lieutenant Fox raised her wine glass of Merlot to toast her team, “To another case in the books, and a job well done.”

The team raised their glasses and took a drink.

“It’s tough, you know,” said Detective Mable, running her thumb back and forth slowly on the neck of her bottle of Budweiser while she thought out loud.  “Women have made so many strides on becoming strong as a unit. We’ve worked so hard to set ourselves a part from the cruel nature of men. Then, a girl like this comes along and starts chopping off penises and shoving them in behinds. It kind of makes me think that maybe men and women aren’t so different after all.”

Detective Richards took a sip from his pint of stout and rested his glass on the coaster in front of him. “There’s going to be some bad apples in every demographic. The important thing is to not let those bad apples spoil your view on the whole bunch.”

“Yeah,” agreed the Lieutenant. “The fact is, there are bad people everywhere. It’s our job to sort out the bad ones from the good.”

“Yeah,” added Detective Denslin. “And we didn’t even find a hair on that bike. I just lied about it.”

The team all shared a hearty laugh.

“Lying about evidence to force a confession,” chuckled Lieutenant Fox. “Classic…”

“Sounds like my ex-wife…” said Detective Richards.

“I reckon you’re going to fit right in, rook,” said Detective Mable.

 

The End.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

roundfirelegends, short fiction, short thrillers

Breaking Up with Bobby

A tale about a girl who plans to break up with her boyfriend…but fears the consequences of his temper.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

He used to tell me that he’d die for me. And like the naïve freshman I was, I believed him. I thought we would be together forever. I mean, when we first started dating, he wouldn’t go anywhere without me. Recently it seemed he wouldn’t let me go anywhere without him. I couldn’t even say hello to another guy without inciting some sort of heated argument. I couldn’t remember the last time we were just…happy. As the engine to Bobby’s Jetta puttered into silence, I reminded myself of this. I coached myself to stay strong and focused on what I had come there to do.

Bobby took the keys out of the ignition and turned on the radio. We relaxed and looked out across the endless night sky of Mary’s Bluff. I couldn’t tell you why I chose our old make out spot to break up with him. Maybe I wanted it to end in the place it all began. So I could remind him of how it used to be. It didn’t help that the radio was playing our song. Ed Sheeran’s voice used to give me goosebumps when I was there in the Jetta with Bobby. Not anymore. I reached over and turn the dial on the stations.

Bobby was caught off guard. “I thought you loved that song?”

I shrugged. “It’s played out.”

He just nodded and went back to looking out onto the bluff. Shouldn’t that have hurt him? That I didn’t even want to listen to our song anymore? Well, it didn’t. We sat there in silence while the news played over his radio.

“The police are still on the hunt for what the papers have been calling, ‘The Rain City Rapist’. Last week marked a third victim in this string of assaults that have left the town’s residents afraid to leave their homes at night. The suspect is believed to be five foot ten inches and of a trim build. He is believed to be armed and dangerous. Do not approach if seen. Call police immediately.”

Bobby switched off the radio. “Enough of that shit…” he muttered.

The car was quiet now. A part of me wondered if Bobby might be the rapist. The description they gave fit him. And whenever people talked about it, he would change the subject right away. And there had been days where, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get a hold of him. I laughed off the thought for how crazy it sounded…but still. When Bobby went off the handle, he was a completely different person. It was scary.

“So, why are we here?” he asked. He leaned back against the driver side window, looking back at me.

My heart beat faster. “We need to talk, Bobby…”

He laughed. “We couldn’t do that at Brett’s house? Johnny and Brett are watching the game. We can still make it before half, if we leave now.”

I shook my head and looked down at my hands interlocked on my lap. “No…Bobby, I want to break up.”

I couldn’t bear to look back up at him, but in the corner of my eye I could see him staring back at me. He chuckled softly. “Fuck off,” he said. “You’re losing it.”

“I’m serious,” I stated. I was firm in my tone. “I think we’ve run our course.”

He pushed off the window and sat upright in his seat, slouched over and staring at the steering wheel. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” he said under his breath. My eyes drifted to his hands on his lap. They shook for only a moment before they clenched into fists.

I trembled. Why did you pick such an isolated spot for this? I yelled at myself in my head. There wasn’t anyone around for more than a hundred yards each way. And right in front of us was the edge of a rocky cliff, a hundred feet above the crashing shores of the Pacific Ocean.

“Is it another guy?” he asked. His voice had gotten louder, accusatory.

“No, Bobby. I—“

“Don’t lie to me!” he shouted. He punched the steering wheel and the whole car shook.

“Bobby, please—“

He punched the steering wheel again. This time the horn went off. “I swear to fucking god, Jenny! If it’s another guy, I’ll—“

I clicked open the passenger door and got out of the car. The chill of the night hit my skin and I shivered. I looked all around for someone I could flag down…but there was no one. That’s when Bobby got out of the car and started towards me.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” he shouted. The wind carried his voice off into the sky.

I stepped backwards toward the edge of the cliff. “Don’t hurt me, Bobby!” I screamed. “I’m sorry, okay? Just don’t hurt me!”

He stomped through the weeds and sand. I watched his fists, clenched and shaking. I stepped back again, but he grabbed me by the arm and squeezed. “Look at me,” he said. But I couldn’t. My eyes were shut and my head was turned away from him. He gave me a shake. “Look at me!” he yelled. I sobbed and turned my head slowly, peeking open one eye, then another. He stared back at me, breathing heavy through his nose. Then, slowly, like I was dumb, he said, “Get in the fucking car…now.”

***********************

Twenty minutes had passed on the dashboard clock while we sat inside his Jetta, both staring out our own individual windows. I was afraid to say anything out of fear he would explode and turn his fists on me. He never had hit me before. But he had definitely lost it a few times and that wasn’t something I wanted to happen out on this deserted bluff.

Finally, after muttering obscenities under his breath for almost a half-hour, he turned to me and said, “What is it then, Jen? Why don’t you want to be with me anymore?”

By this point, I couldn’t take it anymore and broke. A cool stream of tears ran down my warm cheeks as I whispered, “You’re not you anymore.”

Just then I could hear footsteps stomping heavily towards the driver side door. I let out a sweeping breath of relief. Someone had heard him yelling. Someone had come to save me…

Bobby’s door swung open and an arm, wearing black gloves and a black long sleeve shirt, reached into the car and grabbed Bobby by the shirt, dragging him out of the car and onto the dirt road. Bobby was stunned at first, then started to scramble to his feet. That’s when the stranger pulled out something shiny from his waistband and clubbed Bobby across the face with it. I heard a heavy clunk and Bobby dropped back to the floor like a ragdoll. A heavy worry fell over me that this stranger may not have been the hero I thought him to be.

I wiped the tears from my eyes so I could see. The figure in black approached the car; Bobby lay out on the ground behind him. I could hear a tiny voice in the back of my head saying, “Get up, Bobby! Get up!” The roof of the Jetta gave a low thump as the man in black smacked his hand down and leaned over, looking into the car, at me. It was the first time I got a good look at him. I gasped at the sight of the wool ski-mask pulled over his face. His blue eyes watched me from inside the mask while I sat frozen in my seat, huddled against the passenger door. The voice inside my head said, “Run. Run now.”

Once again, I clicked open my door and ran out into the night. I made a break towards Main Street in the distance. I could see a red pick-up truck about to make a turn on the road into town. I screamed for help while I waved my hands in the air frantically. But the truck drove off up the road and out of sight. That’s when I felt the cheap fibers of his dollar store gloves cover my mouth, while his other arm wrapped around my waist, pulling me tight against his body. My feet kicked wildly as I tried to break free of his grasp…but his hold on me was too strong.

“Shut the fuck up,” he growled. “I have a gun.”

He threw me down on the ground beside the car and pulled out a chrome revolver from his waistband. Then he got on top of me and pressed the nose of the gun hard against my forehead. I closed my eyes and cried while his free hand ran back and forth on my chest, pressing and squeezing. I could hear heavy pants from under his ski mask. His hand ran down my stomach and grabbed at my crotch, rubbing against my zipper. The pants got quicker. Then, I heard, “Hey, fuck-face!”

My eyes flicked open, seeing Bobby standing over my attacker, his shirt stained with dirt and blood. With a kick to the jaw from Bobby’s boots, the attacker rolled off me and the revolver dropped out of his hands, just under the fender of Bobby’s Jetta. Bobby dropped to his knees and started throwing down fists to the attacker’s face. Then Bobby screamed out in agony and jumped to his feet, holding his side. “You fuck!” he screamed. “You stabbed me!”

The attacker remained silent and scrambled to his feet. I saw the blood stained switch-blade gripped tight in his hand. Bobby let go of his side and I watched the bloodstain bloom under his shirt. He looked at me for just a moment before his attention went back to the attacker who had made his way to the front of the car and was bending over to pick up the revolver. Just as his glove wrapped around the gun’s handle, Bobby lifted his leg and threw a hard kick into the attacker’s backside. The hit sent the attacker face first into the dirt like he had been a baseball player sliding into home plate.

That’s right, I thought. No one messes with my boyfriend.

That’s when the attacker flipped over on his back and pointed the gun at Bobby. A flash of light and a deafening bang followed. Bobby stumbled back, gripping his stomach. The attacker shot again. Another flash and bang followed. Bobby dropped to the ground hard; a plume of dirt rising up from under him.

I saw the switchblade lying in the dirt, reflecting the shine of the moonlight above us. As the attacker got back to his feet, I scrambled to mine and darted to the knife on the ground. As soon as it was in my hand, I leaped onto the attackers back and wrapped my legs tight around his torso.  I hammered the blade into his neck, over and over. I closed my eyes and didn’t stop for one single second. The attacker fell to his knees. Then into the dirt. I kept stabbing. I didn’t stop until he had completely stopped moving. And even then, I jabbed the blade into him some more. When he had been motionless for some time, I sighed heavily and got to my feet. The night was quiet once again. I could hear the crickets chirp. My breath steamed slowly up to the starry sky. I looked down at my crimson stained arm, holding the switchblade tight. My palm opened and the knife dropped into a patch of weeds beside my sneakers.

I ran to Bobby and knelt down beside him. He was losing a lot of blood and the color had flushed from his face. I squeezed his hand and told him that everything was going to be okay. And then, just before he died, he told me that he loved me. I sat there with him in the dirt until the police arrived.

*******************

As I sat in the back of the ambulance with a blanket wrapped around me, I was approached by one of the officers on the scene. “You holding up, okay?” she asked.

I nodded.

“We’re going to get you to the hospital and get you cleaned up. Just sit tight.”

I nodded, my eyes looking down at my lap. Then she asked if Bobby had been my boyfriend. I told her he had.

“He must have really loved you,” she said. “Most guys might have just ran.”

I looked up at her and wiped the tears from my face. “Not Bobby,” I said. “Bobby was a good guy.”

 

The End.

tragically hip, gord downie, probation, bar fights, love story, never kissed a girl, short stories, roundfire legends

Never Kissed A Girl

After fourteen years in prison, serving a sentence for manslaughter, Louis goes back home to his old town to start again. But can he readapt to life on the outside?

 Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

Watching Louis walk out those penitentiary gates was a fucking trip. If it wasn’t for those gleaming blue eyes beaming back at me, I swear I wouldn’t have even known it was him. He was practically unrecognizable. Maybe it was the lack of smile that did it. Though he had been gone for fourteen years, I still remembered that famous Louis smile between his chubby, blushed cheeks. But that was all gone now; the smile, the cheeks—all of it. He had become a man in that place. Those blue eyes remained fixed on me as he slowly cruised towards my red civic. His stare was cold, calm, and, I have to say…a little fucking frightening.

When Louis went away all those years ago, it was the biggest news our small town had ever seen. I don’t think I had ever seen a reporter in Streetsville in my entire life before that day. But when Louis stabbed Joey, it brought out all of those media types. The reporters came with their vans and fat camera men, which brought out the nosy old neighbors, and before you knew it, the whole fucking town was on their front porches gossiping about the stabbing. I wasn’t there to see it, though I wish I was. Maybe I could have done something to stop it. But I was at a park on the other side of town with my hand up Stacey Webster’s shirt. How the fuck was I supposed to know?

“Long time,” said Louis. He reached out and shook my hand. They were rough and callus…but that grip. Geeze. It was clear by his physique; he had made good use of his time in the yard.

I gave him a good smack in the arm. “Too long, buddy…”

*************************

“So, listen,” I said. I signaled right and took the highway on ramp back towards Streetsville. “I figured since you went away at fourteen, there’s a few things we never got to do together. Like, drink our first beer together. Unfortunately, I can’t share that experience with you. I’m drunk pretty much every day. But I can still share your first beer with you. I mean, that is something you have yet to do, right? They don’t have beer in prison, do they?”

Louis’ head remained staring out the window, as it had been the entire drive. He nodded. “I’ve never had a beer. That is correct.”

I laughed at a thought of it. “Well, we’re about to change that tonight, my friend!” I gave the steering wheel  a little drum roll, to see if I could get a smile out of him. But no. Louis just kept watching the sound barriers whiz by. In another attempt to draw him into conversation, I turned on the radio.

“Shit, yeah,” I said. “Tonight’s going to be a good night. Have some brews, have some laughs…shit! We might even get you laid!…That would be another first for you, right? Or did you meet a nice fella up in the pen?”

Louis head slowly turned in my direction and looked me dead in the eyes. It spooked me a little and I put my eyes back on the road. “I’m sorry, man.” I said. “That wasn’t cool.”

His head turned back to the window. “No,” he said. “I’ve never been with a girl.”

I turned up the volume on the radio, trying to drown out the tension. Poets, by the Tragically Hip was playing. I turned it up a little more.

“Hey, did you hear Gord Downie died?” I asked, a desperate attempt to reroute our conversation.

Louis nodded. “I heard the C.O.’s talking about it. Cancer, right?”

I shook my head. “Fucking cancer, man.”

*******************************

We sat at the wood inside Panda’s Billiards, sharing a pitcher and watching the Leafs-Canadians game. One of the new bartenders was working. I didn’t know him so well, but he had been there long enough to know I was always in the fucking place, so he treated me pretty well. I don’t know why I liked going to Panda’s so much. It was a dive bar, and I didn’t play pool. But more often than not, I would run into some of the old crew and we would have some beers and reminisce about the old days…maybe do a few lines in the bathroom.

“Holy shit!” I cried, grabbing on to my toque, eyes fixed on the television. I gave Louis a shove. “Did you see that goal?”

He was spinning his coaster on top of the bar, not even watching the game. I don’t think he was even watching the coaster. He just had that same glazed over look of funk that he had in the civic.

I sat down in my seat and slouched. “What the hell, man? This original six hockey, here!”

Louis let out a sigh. “Sorry, man…just not really into it.” He raised his glass and an eyebrow. “The beer’s good.”

I smiled. At least I got some sign of life from him.

It was at that point that the short Asian girl that was sitting a couple seats down from Louis, leaned in to him and said quietly, “I don’t blame you. I tried to get him to put on the new Trailer Park Boys episode, but he said only sports.” And then she rolled her eyes and waved her hands around dramatically. I could see the bartender, I forget his name, look up from cutting limes and shoot her a dirty glare. But besides pissing off the guy who was pouring her drinks, she also managed to, believe it or not, force a small smile onto Louis face. Thank god. I was starting to think I might never see that smile again.

The girl was cute, I’ll give him that. Thin strands of hair fell in and out of her eye line, forcing her to keep brushing at her little button nose to push the hair behind her ear, while she swiveled back and forth in her bar seat. She was a little too Plain Jane for me. Where were the heels? The bracelets? The hair-do? A girls got to accessorize. But poor Louis had been locked away for more than a decade, so I could forgive him for his lack of standards.

“I guess I’m just more the ‘read a book’ type,” said Louis. He finally let go of the coaster, sat back in his seat, and placed his hands down on his thighs.

With a flick of the wrist, she sent the curtain of black hair on the side of her face behind her shoulder and leaned in, pointing her skinny finger in Louis’ face. “What’s the last book you read?” She squinted and looked Louis in the eyes, questionably.

Louis didn’t flinch. “I just finished Oliver Twist. Why do you ask?”

She dropped her pointed finger and returned back to the short glass of what looked to be a gin and seven with lime that waited for her at the bar. She leaned over and took a quick sip from the straw. Then she sat back in her seat and shrugged. “A lot of people brag about how much they read. So they sound like they’re smart. But really, they’re full of shit.”

“Do you read?” Louis asked.

She shook her head proudly. “Nope! But I don’t go around telling people I do. I don’t even know what an Oliver Twist is!”

“Well, I’m not too sure who the Trailer Park Boys are, so we’re even. How’s that?” replied Louis.

She laughed and went in for another sip from her straw. Then she bounced up off her seat and skipped off towards the bathroom. As soon as she was out of earshot, I turned to Louis and said, “This is it, man! This is the one! You’re going home with her tonight and you’re going to fuck her brains out!

He took a sip from his beer, savored it for a moment before he swallowed, and then turned and looked me in the eye. “Danny, I’ve never even kissed a girl.”

I darted back in my seat, alarmed by what I was being told. “Never?” I asked. “Not even with Anita?”

He shook his head. “She wouldn’t let me.”

“That fucking prude,” I muttered, shaking my head. Then I was hit with a thought and darted up in my seat. “Hey, this is just like that Tragically Hip song. But that guy was thirty eight. You’re twenty eight. Still…sad story.”

Just then our new Asian friend returned from the lavatory, but this time, instead of sitting in her original seat, she grabbed her short glass and took the seat next to Louis. I decided right then and there that I was going to play wing-man and get Louis laid, even if he didn’t know how to get it done for himself. All I needed was a good icebreaker. Then it hit me.

“Hey,” I said to her. “Did you know this guy just got out of prison today?”

Her eyes shifted to Louis, whose eyes shifted to me. I knew it wasn’t something he wanted to talk about. I knew that before the sharp glare came my way. But everyone is a sucker for a good prison story.

“You did? For how long?” she asked.

He watched the bubbles in his beer slowly rise to the foamy surface. “Fourteen years,” he said after a moment.

She leaned back. “Wow…well…I mean…You look good though. Healthy.”

There was silence. Everyone took a sip of their drink, looked around, and checked the score of the game on the TV.

“So…what did you do?” the girl asked, finally.

“I stabbed a boy,” he said. He didn’t sound proud of it, or ashamed. It just came out matter-of-factually. “It was self-defense. He had come with his friends to jump me. But he died from the wound. I was sentenced to fourteen years.”

“That’s so long,” she said, almost to herself, in a whisper. Then she looked up at Louis and asked him, “Don’t you feel like your life has been stolen from you?”

Louis seemed amused at the question. “Stolen? No. That boy’s life was stolen. A father and their mother had their son stolen. I did what I did because I was forced. Given the same circumstances, I can’t say that I would have done anything differently. But I had to answer for it. I had to serve my time. My life wasn’t stolen. Gord Downie was stolen. Look at all the good he had done. That’s not fair. That’s stolen.”

She nodded and returned to her straw. “Truth, yo.”

I had been gazing around, not paying much attention, since no one was talking to me, when I saw something I wish I hadn’t. Coming through the front entrance in her oversized sunglasses, and some ridiculous feathered coat, was Anita Townsly and her super dick of a fiancé, Barry Levi, the big shot banker. What that blonde diva and her perfect mating specimen were doing in a place like Panda’s was beyond me. They were much more the type to be eating steak and lobster specials at the Keg. But then it hit me. I had made a Facebook post that said I was coming there with Louis. I had Anita on Facebook. It was hard to forget with how many selfies she posts. She must have come to see Louis. She was his first, and only, girlfriend.

By the time this had all clicked together in my head like the last piece in a jigsaw puzzle, Anita and Barry had already made their way over to the wood. She click-clacked over in her six-inch heels, looking like a fucking penguin with its little arm flaps waving up and down. She gave Louis a big hug and choked him with her feathers. He smiled at first, I’m guessing from her jacket tickling his face, but when he saw who it was with their arms around him, his smile dropped on a button.

“Danny said you’d be here, but I didn’t believe it. I had to see it for myself,” said Anita. She stumbled back a few steps but Barry put her back on balance. I wish he had let her fall. I could have choked her for saying that. And by the look on Louis face, right then he was thinking the same thing about me.

“It’s been a while,” said Louis, turning his head from me to her. “How’ve you been?”

“I’ve been good,” she said. And then she laughed. “Compared to you, I’ve been great.” She pointed to the blue-shirted, white collared grease ball beside her and tugged on his tie just a bit. “This is my fiancé, Barry,” she said. “He’s a financial advisor.”

Did he tell you to buy that coat made of crows? I thought.

Barry looked Louis up and down with that sideways smirk of his. With all the fake tanning the guy did, I was pretty sure that was as far as his pumpkin face could open. “He doesn’t look like a murderer,” he said back to her.

“He’s harmless,” she said, smacking Louis in the shoulder. He just stared up at the television. Suddenly Louis was very interested in the hockey game. “That Joey deserved what he got…fucking goon,” continued Anita. “Anyway, we have a little party to get to at the Keg, so bye. It was so nice seeing you again, Louis…even if you are hanging out with bar trash like Danny.”

“Go fuck yourself,” I said, taking the last swig of my pint, while signaling what’s-his-face for another.

“Watch your mouth, perv,” Barry warned, stepping forward. “Anita told me all about your little crush on her in high school.”

I let out a loud, Ha! “Crush? I wouldn’t go that far, buddy. I jerked off to her yearbook photo a couple times, I’ll admit that. But back then, she had some rocking titties.”

Anita rolled her eyes and teased her blonde mop. “You sure know how to make a girl feel special, don’t you, Danny?”

“Hey,” I replied. “I said back then. You peaked a long time ago, babe. Now all that’s left is to grow old with…that fucking dude.” I chuckled a bit. “What boring sex you must have.”

That’s when Anita’s face lit up about as red as her boyfriends.

“Okay, guys,” said the Asian from her seat, playing referee, with her skinny arms out between us. “We were actually just trying to have a conversation, if that’s okay.”

Anita kissed her teeth. “Excuse me?” she said.

“Yeah, who brought Pocahontas to the party?” laughed Barry. “Don’t they have reservations for you people to drink on?”

The Asian’s back arched up while her eyebrows arched downwards. “I’m Filipino, you dumb dumb!”

“Yeah, there’s only one redskin here, Barry. And it’s you,” I added.

“Fuck you, and this fucking house maid,” Barry shot back.

That’s when Louis stepped off his stool and took a step closer to Barry. “I think you should watch how you talk to the lady,” he said. His voice was calm and even toned.

Barry’s shit eating grin returned. “Lady? She looks like she’s fifteen years old!”

Louis took another step towards Barry. “I said, watch it,” he repeated.

“Or what?” said Barry. “Fuck off, ya goof!”

Louis froze and his fists clenched. I had never been to prison myself, but I knew that goof was not an insult that went over well with convicts. And just like that, Louis’ right fist came up, swung, and plowed through Barry’s perfect jawline. Barry dropped to the floor like a sack of potatoes…but Louis wasn’t done. Something in him just snapped. He pounced on top of Barry’s stomach and started lacing him, one punch after another, until Barry’s nose exploded like a paintball bullet. Anita screamed, the bartender ran for the phone, and me and the Asian just stood there, stunned. I ran over and pulled Louis off Barry, who was murmuring inaudible words as his head rolled back and forth on the floor.

Anita ran over to her fiancé and knelt down beside him. She looked up at Louis, in tears, screaming, “You’re fucking insane! You’re a fucking animal!”

It didn’t take too long before red and blue lights came flashing in the front windows from the parking lot. The front door swung open and three uniformed police rushed into the pool hall with their guns drawn. Louis stood still and slowly put his hands behind his head.

“It was him!” yelled Anita, pointed to Louis. “He’s a convict! He’s fucking crazy!”

Two of the officers held their pistols on him while the third took Louis’ hands and clicked on handcuffs. The whole spot stood silent and watched as they escorted Louis out into the parking lot.

“What’s going to happen to him?” asked the Asian girl, looking up at me.

I shrugged. “Assault is a breach of his parole…his ass is going back to prison.”

She gasped softly.

“It’s a shame, too,” I said. “Poor bastard never even kissed a girl.”

Her head spun around back to me. “What did you say?”

“What did you expect?” I answered. “He’s been in jail since he was fourteen. He’s never kissed a girl before.”

Her eyes drifted to the right and then to the floor. That’s when she turned around, almost running into Anita nursing her fiancé back to life, and raced out into the parking lot. I wasn’t about to just stand there with my thumb up my butt, so I followed her outside.

As I got out into the smoking pit, followed by a large crowd of people who were just as curious as I was as, I watched her march across the parking lot over to Louis, who leaned on the back of the patrol car, still in handcuffs. Even the cops watched with open mouths, while she went right up to Louis, grabbed him by the hair on the back of his head, pulled him close and, standing on her toes, pressed her lips against his. The two cops in the front seat looked at each other, each one waiting for the other to say something, but they both just kept watching. I swear, with the way she was kissing my boy, the red and blue lights flashing on top of the patrol car might as well have been laser lights in a downtown club on a Saturday night, or the fireworks by the bay on New Year’s Eve. Then, when she was finally done and dropped back on her heels, she said something to him. I was too far away to hear it, but damn, whatever it was, did it ever bring back that famous Louis smile. I swear man, it was god damn poetic

The End

 

************Dedicated to the memory of Gord Downie******************

 

 

 

 

runaway stories, short stories, train tracks, escaped convict, molestation, abuse

The Tracks

A runaway and his best friend prepare to spend the night in an abandoned boxcar. It will be a night that will change their lives forever.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

By the time that I left my house and headed down Conway Street to meet Tommy, the sun was low in the sky and the evening had cooled right down from the irregularly warm late September day. Mom had yelled at me as I left to take a jacket. I thought she was crazy. About two blocks into my walk I started to think maybe a jacket wouldn’t have been that bad an idea.

Tommy didn’t say why he wanted me to meet him at the Hasty Market but he had that disappointed tone in his voice again, the one that usually followed with a story about his old man getting drunk and beating on him or his mom. It was around the time that his dad usually got home from the bar, so I figured that’s what it was.

I felt sorry for Tommy, even though Tommy was not the type of person anyone needed to feel sorry for. He was a street smart, resourceful and headstrong kid. Some people couldn’t believe he was only fourteen. But life was always throwing him a curve ball. His mom was a pill popper, his dad was a drunk. If that wasn’t enough, the teachers at school considered him a write off and a waste, though I can be the first to say that he didn’t give them much reason not to. The town cops were always pulling him over and giving him the business. Even my mom didn’t like us hanging out together. She said he was a bad apple. But she didn’t know Tommy like I did. Sure, he had a temper and a loud mouth. But he had to put up those walls to keep the kids at school from ripping on him about being short, poor, and the son of a couple good-for-nothing parents. He had to build those walls to keep his dad from having the satisfaction of seeing him cry when he was laying the buckle on him. So, yeah, I felt sorry for him. But he didn’t need it.

When I got to the Hasty Market he was out front perched up on a bike rack, sipping the last sips from a can out of Lucky Lager before he tossed it into the corner. His dad had an endless supply in the cold cellar. Tommy saw me and smiled. His palm ran over his buzz cut, his white XL t-shirt draping loosely over his skinny arms. His t-shirts were always vibrantly bright. His jeans were scuffed and ripped, shoes covered in mud, but his t-shirts were constantly Tide commercial white. I stuck out my wrist and he clocked it with his own.

“Sup?” I asked.

“Fucking ol’ man is wasted again,” answered Tommy.

“I figured,” I replied. “So, where to? The tracks?”

“Guess so,” he shrugged. “I’m fucking starving. How much money you got on you?”

“Not much,” I said. I pulled out my chain wallet and ripped open the Velcro strap, peeking inside and doing an inventory of the assorted coins. “I got, like, a buck fifty.”

“Do the looky-loo. I’ll make a candy run.”

I rolled my eyes and started towards the door. Tommy sat still, awaiting my response.

I looked back at him. “Come on then, you felon.”

A wide grin stretched across Tommy’s face. He hopped off the bike rack and followed me into the store.

Inside, I walked straight over to the Indian guy at the register while Tommy disappeared into the isles of chips and chocolate bars. I watched the clerks eyes follow Tommy on the bubble mirrors.

“Excuse me,” I said. The clerk’s eyes now shifted over to me. I placed a pack of gum on the counter along with the buck fifty I had in my wallet. “Do I have enough for this?”

The clerk’s eyes moved down to the mess of change scattered on his counter and after doing a quick scan and some math he said, “No.”

“That sucks,” I said. I put the pack of gum back on the display and collected my coins. Tommy was behind me when I turned around.

I started walking for the door and I was halfway out of the store when I heard Tommy mutter, “Fuck…”

That’s when I turned around and saw one of the candy bars Tommy had stuffed in his waistline lying on the floor. I looked up, the Indian guy had seen everything. “Hey!” he yelled. He started to come out from behind the counter.

Tommy looked to him, then to me. Then his eyes lit up and he yelled, “Run!”

I ran out of that store and across the parking lot faster than I’ve ever ran in my life. And me and Tommy weren’t strangers to finding ourselves in situations where we need to run like hell to save our asses. When we got to the road we didn’t stop. We had to dodge a few cars; one of them almost beaned Tommy. But once we got across the road the clerk had stopped chasing us. He couldn’t keep up, no doubt. We were pretty fast. Tommy always said we would be great at track if track wasn’t for pussies.

It didn’t take us long to get to the school. We slowed down as we jogged through the soccer field, laughing. I say ‘soccer field’ but that thing was more like a dirt pit. We’d come back in from Phys Ed. looking like we were out there digging for dinosaur bones.

We had slowed down to a walk when Tommy lifted up his shirt and showed me our score. Minus the one that dropped in the store, we had six chocolate bars. I caught a glimpse of Tommy’s abs as he handed me a Mars bar. He had a whole six pack. I didn’t have anything. I wasn’t fat or anything like that; I was just soft around the edges. I always envied people who had good abs.

I opened up the candy bar and said, “Guess we won’t be going back there anytime soon.”

Tommy shrugged, in the middle of chewing off his first big mouthful of a jumbo Mr. Big.

We walked in silence for a bit as we ate, kicking up dust as we went. Finally, I said, “Oh! Shit! I got some news.”

Tommy nodded, interested.

“I got into Cawthra School for the Arts! I’m transferring there next semester.”

He threw the wrapper to his jumbo Mr. Big behind him and patted me on the back. “You fucking actor. Good job, Ethe. You’re one step closer to getting famous and leaving this shit hole.”

Tommy had always been my biggest supporter in my dream of becoming a Hollywood actor. He said if anyone could make it out of Streetsville, it was me. But still, I knew it would be tough for him once we were separated. Everyone knew Tommy but there were only a select few who really knew Tommy, you get me? We had never been apart from each other before.

“Look at this ugly piece of shit,” said Tommy, pointing to a poster taped to a lamppost.

I threw my wrapper on the ground and walked over to see what ugly piece of shit Tommy was referring to.

The poster said “Wanted” and it had the picture and description of an escaped child molester named Francis Montgomery. He was ugly, that’s for sure. He had a long, narrow face and a crooked nose, as well as a severe under bite that made him look like a horse. And he was bald with long, stringy strands of brittle hair hanging off the sides of his head.

“Damn, man,” I said, shaking my head. “Why do child molesters always have to look so much like child molesters?”

Tommy laughed. He had this deep chuckle which was pretty contagious. I guess since Tommy rarely laughed, whenever he did, it was nice to hear. You wanted to be part of it. I couldn’t help but laugh too.

“Fuck this guy,” said Tommy. He spit on the page. “Come on. Let’s go.”

*******************

As we passed the baseball diamond we saw Derek Scott and George McNally leaning on Derek’s Accord. They were two years ahead of us in high school, a couple of real cool jocks. Their parents had money and all the girls drooled over them. They were the type of guys that Tommy hated.

Tommy pointed to them, or the two girls who were with them rather, and said, “Isn’t that Melony and Heather?”

I squinted at the blonde and ginger haired girls in the distance. It was them. They were in our grade; we had been in the same school since kindergarten. I had a crush on Heather since we were kids. I never told anyone, but I think Tommy knew. He was always bragging about my acting accomplishments to her. “Yeah, that’s them,” I said.

Tommy laughed again. “Should be those dudes faces on that poster,” he said. “Grade eleven’s trying to fuck grade nine’s…fucking losers, man.”

I didn’t much like Derek or George either, but I wasn’t about to go around saying that out of fear of the repercussions. But Tommy wasn’t afraid to get beat up. He’d say anything to anyone.

“Let’s go a different way,” I suggested.

“Fuck that,” said Tommy. “Come on.”

I huffed and followed him down the path to where the four of them were hanging out. Heather and Melony smiled when they saw us. Derek and George didn’t.

“Ethan and Tommy,” said Heather with a smile. “What are you two goons up to?”

The two boys sneers remained locked on us. Tommy fed off it, oozing with confidence as he said, “Just out for a stroll, ladies. Enjoying this beautiful evening.”

Derek pointed to Tommy’s muddy shoes and said, “Looks like you could use some new shoes, skid mark.”

Tommy shot back immediately, cool as a cucumber, saying, “Sweet, I’ll let your mom know to pick some up for me.”

Melony and Heather giggled.

Derek turned red. “What did you just say to me, you little shit?” He took a step closer but George put his arm out to stop him. His eyes were fixed on something behind us. Derek’s eyes shifted that way too. Heather and Melony’s too. Something had humbled the four of them on a button. Me and Tommy turned around to see what it was.

It was Dion Terrell and his boys. Dion was a black kid that mostly everyone in town feared. He sold drugs, was in a gang, carried weapons, he had been in and out of juvenile correction facilities since he was twelve. Dion and his crew moved like lions around Streetsville. No one fucked around with them.

As they paraded through us Dion scanned us slowly, one by one. I’m pretty sure Tommy was the only one not staring at his shoes. George put out his hand as a sign of friendship. “Hey, Dion,” he said. “What’s up?”

Dion looked him up and down. “You got a smoke?”

George lowered his hand and reached into his pocket for a pack of Player’s. He opened it up and took out three, handing them to Dion. “Take three,” he said.

In my peripheral I could see Tommy rolling his eyes dramatically.

Dion nodded, took the smokes and then he and his boys continued walking down the path, into the catwalk and out of sight. Once they were gone Derek and George returned to their asshole selves.

“Why don’t you two fuck off now,” said George. His hand slid around Heather’s waist as he glared at me. “We’re busy.”

Tommy looked at me and smiled. I didn’t understand why at first. Then I saw him snatch the pack of cigarettes from George’s hand. “Run!” he yelled.

We took off hard towards the catwalk. Derek took a swipe at me, but missed. I didn’t look back, I just kept running. I could hear Heather and Melony laughing behind me. We took off down the catwalk which opened up to a residential street, I could hear George’s feet smacking against the pavement after us. Like we had done many times before, Tommy and I high-tailed it in between a pair of houses and hopped the fence into a backyard, crushing a bed of daisies as we came to the ground. The backyard was empty. We ran through a maze of laundry lines and bedsheets, hopped another fence and found ourselves on a court that led us out to a main road. George had stopped chasing us.

We stopped at the gas station, out of breath from both running and laughing so hard. “I can’t believe you did that,” I said, huffing and puffing.

“Fuck those guys,” said Tommy, grabbing his chest as he wheezed. We caught our breath for a second and then he handed me a smoke from the pack of Player’s while taking one out for him as well.

We sat on the curb and smoked our cigarettes. The sun was sinking beneath the horizon, dimming the sky in an orangey-pink glow. It was starting to get cold. I flicked my smoke as the ember touched the filter and rubbed my arms. Should have brought that jacket, I thought.

A black Pontiac that had been getting gas slowed down as it passed us until it came to a stop. The windows rolled down and a middle aged white guy poked his head out of the driver’s side. He smiled at us. “Aren’t you kids a little young to be smoking?”

Tommy looked right back at the man and, with the straightest face, said, “Aren’t you a little old to be starting conversations with little kids?”

*****************

By the time we got to our boxcar at the train yard it was dark out. We were glad to be within the warmer confines of our car, away from the winds howling against the steel walls. It wasn’t very big and it was completely empty, but the boxcar was like a second home to me and Tommy. It was our hideaway. We’d pass the time playing cards, twenty questions, nickel football, or just smoking cigarettes. That and making fun of guys like George and Derek.

We were just starting to nod off when the noise of footsteps on gravel woke us up. There were people passing by outside. I quietly crept to the air holes and peeked out into the yard. It was Dion Terrell and his boys.

“You fully shot that motherfucker,” said one of his boys. He sounded giddy and excited.

“Shoulda had my money,” Dion answered plainly.

“Better stash that heater, my nigga,” said another.

The rest of the conversation became muffled as they walked out of earshot. Moments later I heard the reverberated clunk of something being dropped in a steel trash barrel.

“What was that?” whispered Tommy.

“Dion and his boys,” I whispered back. I couldn’t help but wonder if that clunk was them ‘stashing the heater’. My curiosity ended up getting the best of me. I got up and headed for the door. “Hold up,” I said to Tommy. “I want to check something out.”

Tommy nodded and rolled over, drifting back to sleep.

Once I was sure Dion and his boys were gone, I slid the door to the boxcar open just enough so that I could squeeze out. Those things are rusty and squeal like all hell when they’re opened. I squeezed out and jumped down onto the gravel. It was still cold, but the wind had died down. I took a second to look around. The yard was empty. I quietly crept along the tracks to the garbage bin and looked inside. Sitting on top of some crumpled paper and some dirt, was a gun. Dion’s gun.

I reached into the barrel and picked it up by the handle. I was extremely careful. I didn’t know much about guns but Tommy knew a bit. His dad had one. I smiled. Tommy was going to flip when I showed him. I walked back to the boxcar, slowly and carefully. I was scared I was going to trip over a track or a piece of gravel and shoot my face off.

As I climbed into the boxcar I noticed that Tommy had moved from out of the light and into the shadows. I knew he was still in the car because I could hear him shuffling around. I was about to call out to him when I heard a voice. It wasn’t Tommy.

“Touch it,” the voice commanded. I could hear Tommy too. But his voice was muffled like someone had a hand over his mouth. “Touch it and I’ll let you go,” the voice said again. “Lick your hand and touch it…Come on, boy. Be nice. Touch it.”

“Hey, asshole!” I yelled into the shadows, raising the gun. “Get off him before I fucking kill you, you sick fuck!”

There was silence. I could hear footsteps and he stepped out of the shadows into the light, taking cover behind Tommy. One hand covered Tommy’s mouth and the other held a pocket knife to his neck. Then I saw his face. It was the escaped molester from the poster we saw earlier.

I pointed the gun at him and he ducked behind Tommy. “Careful, now,” he snarled. “You don’t want anything to happen to your little friend, friend here…”

Tommy bit down on the man’s hand that covered his mouth and kicked back like a donkey, as hard as he could. The old man stumbled back.

“Shoot this faggot, Ethe!” yelled Tommy.

I pulled the trigger but it wouldn’t budge.

“Shoot him!” repeated Tommy.

I yelled back, “It’s not working!”

The old man was now back on his feet and coming for me.

“The safety!” yelled Tommy. “Side of the gun!”

I did as he told me and clicked the safety off and tried again. This time the gun fired and sent me back a few steps. An intense flash of light lit up the boxcar like a camera snapping a picture. The old man dropped to the floor, his knife falling out of his hands. It went dark once more.

Tommy ran over to me and squeezed me in a bear hug. When he let go, he motioned for the gun. I handed it to him.

“Now get out of here,” he said.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

Sirens could now be heard in the distance. They were getting louder by the minute. Tommy gave me a nudge to the door. “Get out of here,” he repeated. “Run!”

“I’m not going to leave you,” I said.

“You know my dad won’t give a shit,” he said. Then he smiled, “Enjoy Cawthra, Ethe. Make us proud.”

The sirens were blaring now. I jumped out of the car onto the gravel and ran off into the night as fast as I could. I didn’t stop or slow down until I had reached my front porch…

The next day the story was all over the local news and in the papers. The escaped child molester, Francis Montgomery, had been found and taken into custody with a gunshot wound to the torso. The article said the police ruled the shooting as self defense but charged a minor with illegal possession of a firearm. Tommy was sentenced to a year in a juvenile correction facility.

I never told anyone about what happened that night. I transferred to Cawthra School of Arts and began to chase my dream to be an actor. After Tommy got out, we didn’t see much of each other. I heard he had been seen kicking around with Dion Terrell and his boys. After I graduated from Cawthra I moved out to New York and I got an agent. Nights in the boxcar have been replaced with cocktail chatter and frienemies at some hot bar downtown.

Though I love my life, I miss having Tommy around. My social circle has expanded, I rub elbows with all kinds of high society and schmooze with the hottest rising stars in the industry…but I have yet to come across anyone more loyal than Tommy. I’ll never forget the sacrifice he made for me. He was my best friend. And I’ll never forget him.

 

The End

gay horror, revenge story, thriller, high school reunion, murder

PRIDE

A high school student who was beaten up for bringing a male date to prom comes back to the  20 year reunion with revenge on the mind.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

Lisa put her freshly streaked hair that had been done earlier at the salon behind her shoulders and lowered her head.  She put the rolled up twenty bill to her nose and sniffed back the line of coke set out for her on the “50 Cent” Cd Case.  Her head came up, she threw it back and her blonde streaks fell softly on her shoulder.  In the mirror she could see Luca sitting on the hotel bed looking back at her.

“What are you looking at?” she asked defensively.

He smiled.  “You,” he said.  “You’re sexy.”

He was not the trim all-star athlete that he was in high school; his firm chest had deflated and his flat stomach now protruded under his black cotton V-neck. His distinguished jaw line had softened to the point it was hard to tell where his face ended and his neck began. But still, there was something charming about him.  His green eyes still twinkled in the light and his smile was still mischievous and inviting.

She ran her slender finger over the dusty remanence on the Cd case and put it in her mouth to suck on it.  “Perv…” she said, a smile half-cocked.

Luca licked his lips and in a playful tone said, “You know it.”

Just then the bathroom door swung open violently.  Mellissa stumbled out from the bathroom holding a bottle of wine in her hand and dropped onto the other twin bed.  Her dress sailed down slowly over her thick, milky thighs.   “Oh my god!” she cried out. “I am so drunk!”

Lisa scowled at her long time best friend.  “Slow your ass, bitch!” she warned. “We still have a reunion to go to…”

“I am so getting laid,” Melissa replied, squirming on the bed.

Marco sat on the corner of the bed flipping through their high school year book he had been glancing at between sips of his Bacardi forty-ounce.  “I don’t know, Mel,” he said.  “You’ve put on a lot of weight since the baby.”

She frowned and pulled her dress over her knees, embarrassed.  “Oh yeah?” she mocked.  “Well you’ve lost a lot of hair!”

This was not a lie and Marco knew it.  It wasn’t the first time someone from the old crew poked fun at him for it either.  He scrunched up his face and, in a very animated and unflattering way, mimicked how he thought she sounded.

“Shut up, you faggots,” said Luca.  He got up from the bed and made his way over to Lisa at the desk.  He massaged her exposed shoulders and said, “You’re starting to harsh my buzz…”

“I can’t believe it’s been twenty years,” Marco said, still flipping through the pages of their yearbook.  He stopped at a picture of Lisa and Mellissa at their prom.  “I don’t remember this picture,” he said.  “Where were we?”

Lisa released herself from Luca’s grasp and sat down beside Marco, snatching the yearbook from his hands.  She glanced at the picture.  “Oh,” she said with a sniffle.  “This was taken when you two were beating up that gay kid and his date.  What was his name?”

Luca turned from the desk.  “Raymond,” he answered.  A heavy silence hung over the room.

Melissa sat up on the bed, her head of curls spread out on the headboard as she leaned back.  “Shit,” she said, lost in her memories.  “You really fucked him up that night…”

Luca’s eye’s looked down at the “50 Cent” CD case.  He didn’t say anything.

Lisa turned to Marco.  “Didn’t you go to the Pride parade this year?”

Marco grabbed the yearbook from Lisa’s hands and shut it.  “Shut up, you cokehead.”

*******************************

A blue Volkswagen Beetle pulled into the front drive of St. Michael’s Catholic School.  It came to a slow stop and parked in succession behind a line of minivans and four-seat sedans.  Inside the Beetle sat Raymond Jackson and his partner Jeremy Wellington.  They watched the front entrance as couple by couple and group by group of penguin suits and night dresses trickled into their old high school.

“They look so nice,” said Jeremy.

Raymond took the keys out of the ignition and grinned, showing his pearl-whites.  “Not as good as us.”

Jeremy grinned. He had a point.  Those department store clearance sale rags had nothing on their matching Hugo Boss olive three-pieces.  But that was nothing new to the two. St. Michael’s had always been behind the ball.  Fashion, ethics, humanity.

Jeremy lit a cigarette and opened the glove box between his legs.  From inside it he pulled out a small black case about the size of a shoebox, wrapped in a red bow.  He handed it to his lover, watching for his reaction.  He would be the first to say that Raymond looked absolutely magnificent when he was pleasantly surprised.

“What’s this?” gasped Raymond.  As usual, he didn’t disappoint.

“A gift,” Jeremy replied.  He looked out his window up at the night sky.  “Full moon tonight.”

“Destiny, I suppose,” Raymond said.  He untied the bow and opened the box.  Another gasp followed.

His hand perched up and rested on his chest, playing faint.  He could feel the tears coming.  “You are the absolute best,” he whispered.  He reached in the case and pulled out a leather handled snub nose .38 with a chrome finish.  Sleek, compact, beautiful.

“It’s loaded,” said Jeremy.  He reached into the backseat and picked up his baby; a pink 9mm pistol.  He gazed upon it, every bit as in love with it as the day he bought it.  Now they both had one.

“It’s beautiful,” said Raymond, still admiring his gift.  He took a pause to lean in and kiss his lover on the lips.  “Thank you, Jeremy Wellington.”

Jeremy tucked his pink 9mm into the holster hidden under his olive suit jacket and checked his slicked ginger brush cut in the rear view mirror.  “Are you ready?”

Raymond nodded.  “For twenty years now.”

****************************

A paper banner stretched across the width of the freshly polished front foyer with “Welcome Class of ‘97” painted in big, bold letters.  Underneath it stretched a long line of St. Michael’s alumni looking around their old high school with fond memories as they waited to hand in their invitations and receive their nametags.  The mood was cheerful, buzzing with the excitement of those who rarely got a night out anymore.

At the ticket table, made up of two cafeteria benches pushed together, was Principal Malone.  Though remembered to most as a stern, joyless educator, tonight it seemed you couldn’t take the smile of his prune like face.  Age had humbled the old pupils, many of them just as wrinkled and bald now as he was.

Beside him sat one of the newer teachers just out of college, a sweet brunette by the name of Ms. Martin.  Though she was not old enough to have known the Reunionese, she couldn’t help but get swept away by their excited smiles and lavish formal wear.  One by one they handed off nametags and the students broke off into the cafeteria.  Raymond and Jeremy stood in line, exchanging polite nods and smiles with some of their old classmates.

“Everyone’s gotten so old,” whispered Raymond.

Jeremy squeezed his hip.  “Stop it. You’re terrible.”

As they stepped to the ticket table Principal Malone’s unbreakable smile went flat.  His eyeballs darted quickly to the clipboard with the guest list and they remained there, stuck on the paper.  When the principal finally stole a glance he was surprised that the two had not noticed him.  Their eyes were fixed on Ms. Martin, admiring her.

Raymond handed her his invitation.  “You are so pretty,” he said.

Ms. Martin blushed and handed them a pair of nametags.  “Oh, you’re just being nice,” she said.

“You look far too young to have been teaching when Raymond went to school here,” said Jeremy.

She bowed her head modestly, pulling on the sleeve of her fleece sweater.  “I’m just helping out,” she said.  “The school was a little short staffed.”

“How selfless,” said Jeremy, touched.

“The world needs more people like you,” said Raymond.  His eyes drifted over to Principal Malone who jumped in his seat like he had been caught peeping in a tree.  “Hello, Principal Malone,” smiled Raymond.  The principal nodded and quickly returned his eyes to the guest list in front of him.

“Have a great time, you two,” said Ms. Martin.

***********************

Inside the cafeteria was dark.  A revolving globe shot out color patterns across the walls, stars and moons and things like that.  The walls were lined with an assortment of streamers and balloons.  And while a few spirited guests had taken an early spot on the dance floor, most of those already inside had congregated in different spots along the cafeteria walls with their respective social circles of the past.  The football team was gathered on the opposite side, the cast of the play in another and a few of the old council found refuge by the stage.  In the far corner, a DJ booth had been set up where a younger man, a student perhaps, was intently focused on the glow of his laptop.

“Ugh. Matthew Good Band,” said Jeremy as they entered from the foyer.

“You know St. Michael’s loved its New Wave,” said Raymond.  “Long sleeve shirts under short sleeved shirts and a pair of Oakley’s.”

“Purple hair and Billabong,” Jeremy added with a gag.

A voice from behind them said, “Raymond! Wow! You haven’t aged a day!”

The two of them turned around.  Though he had lost most of his hair, Raymond had no problem recognizing Lindle Stratts, the old class clown.  Though he seemed humbled by age, the famous Lindle smile was very much intact.  How could Raymond forget that smile?  It was there in the locker room when the kids used to towel whip him and scream, “Raymond Gaymond!”   Lindle would join in, dancing around like a crazed Indian.  That very same smile was there looking down on him on Prom Night when Raymond lied on that very cafeteria floor bleeding.  Lindle bent over and screamed, “You got knocked the fuck out!” and then laughed with his distinct hyena-like cackle.  Such an exuberant smile that Lindle.

“It’s me, Lindle!” he said, pointing to his nametag.

Raymond smiled wide.  “Hey, Lindle! Long time!”

“Can you believe it’s been twenty years?” asked Lindle.  He pointed to his head.  “I sure can.”

The three of them shared a gentle laugh at his expense.

“Oh, how rude of me,” said Raymond.  He pointed to his date.  “This is Jeremy.”

Lindle looked up to Jeremy who had a good foot and a half on him and gave a small bow.  “Very nice to meet you,” said Lindle.

“A pleasure,” Jeremy replied.

There was a brief break in conversation and then Lindle said, “I really think it’s great; all the progress that has been made for the gay community.  You guys looks like a very happy couple.”  Then he laughed in his cackle-like way.  “Heck! Maybe I should be gay! It’s obvious the ladies aren’t taking!”

Raymond and Jeremy smiled politely.  Then Lindle’s smile faded and he became quite serious.  “I was kind of a dick to you in high school,” he said.  “I just want to apologize.  I’ve grown up.  I’ve seen how cruel the world can be and you didn’t deserve all that.  Sure, I was young.  But that’s no excuse.  I hope you can forgive me.”

Jeremy squeezed Raymond’s arm.  “Aw! He apologized. Isn’t that mature of him?”

*****************************

Marco and Luca stepped into the front foyer of St. Michaels followed by Melissa and Lisa, whom the door had almost closed on.  “Thanks for holding the door, asshole,” Lisa scoffed.

“Equal rights,” replied Luca. His eyes scanned his old stomping ground.  The best times of his life had been in that building.  He could not help but feel a dull sadness fall over him.

As they approached the ticket counter Principal Malone leant back in his seat and looked the four of them over with much content.  He shook his head, “Look at the four of you.  Still coming in late, smelling of reefer. I see not much has changed.”

Luca gave the old man a courtesy nod, glancing into the cafeteria where the celebration was in full swing.  “Hey, Mr. Malone. Long time.”

Lisa met eyes with the young woman sitting beside Principal Malone.  “Hi! Welcome!” said the woman.  “I’m Ms. Martin!”

Congratulations,” said Lisa.  She hated fake bitches.

********************

The four of them walked into the cafeteria to a popular Backstreet Boys single playing on the speakers, much like they had twenty years ago.  Back then the whole school turned to watch them enter.  Tonight there were only two.

“Look how fat everyone is,” noted Lisa, amused.

Marco gave Melissa a playful nudge.  “You’re not alone, Lis!”

She pushed back, less playfully.  “Fuck off, Marco! I’m serious!”

Luca paused from scanning the room to bark, “Will you two just fuck and get it over with?”

Just then Lindle Stratts came dancing over.  Luca, Marco and Lisa all groaned immediately.  Not Mellissa though.  She had always thought him cute in that wounded puppy sort of way.

“Hey, guys!” Lindle shouted over the music.

Mellissa was the only one to return the greeting.  “Hey, Lindle! How have you been?”

He pointed to his head.  “Oh, you know. A little older. A little balder.”

“Yeah, I noticed,” said Luca.  His eyes remained on the dancefloor, watching intently.  Then it happened. He met eyes with Raymond staring back at him from beside the DJ booth.

Lindle noticed the exchange and looked back at Luca.  “Yeah, Raymond Gaymond came,” he said with a little cackle.  “You guys aren’t going to beat him up again, are you?”

“Shut up, Lindle,” said Marco.  He turned to Mellissa.  “Let’s go see who’s around.”

She nodded and the two of them headed towards the football team near the far exit.  For a moment Lindle stood with Luca and Lisa but nothing was said and it became very awkward, very quickly and so Lindle said his goodbyes and went off to mingle some more.

“This party is lame,” said Luca, finally breaking eye contact with Raymond across the room.  Lisa didn’t disagree.  He smiled and gave her his attention.  Placing his hand on her hip he said, “I still got some coke. You want to do a line and fuck in the bathroom like old times?”

Now he had her attention.

Raymond and Jeremy watched from beside the DJ booth as Luca and Lisa headed out into the foyer and Marco and Melissa headed over to the old football team.  “Everyone’s here now,” said Raymond, casually sipping his punch.

Jeremy rested his plastic cup on the DJ’s table.  “Shall we begin?”

Raymond placed his cup down next to Jeremy’s.  “We shall.”

As the two of them started walking towards Marco and Mellissa and the football team Lindle Stratts appeared and stopped them in their stride.  “Hey guys, guess what?!” he said.  The two of them waited for a response.  It took a moment but then Lindle said, “I just requested the Macarena!  That’s Ricky Martin, right?  You like him, right?”

Raymond reached behind him, pushed aside his suit jacket and pulled out his new leather handled snub nose .38 with the chrome finish.  He pressed the gun against Lindle’s forehead and pulled the trigger.  A deafening blast rang out.  Lindle’s head flung back, splashing open. He collapsed to the floor like a marionette.  Heads turned.  Screams and shrieks followed.  Raymond and Jeremy stared down at Lindle Stratts body and exhaled, relaxed.

“God, he just goes on forever,” said Jeremy.

Raymond agreed.  “I know, right?”

**************************

Principal Malone had started to drift off into sleep right there in his chair when a sudden bang from inside the cafeteria woke him up.  The noise was followed by panicked screams and chilling cries.  He shot up in his seat, ripe with anger. He slid his seat from out underneath him and marched to the cafeteria, encouraging the young teacher beside him not to worry as it was probably just that prankster, Lindle Stratts, lighting off fireworks again.  Would these kids ever grow up?

As he marched towards the cafeteria three more bangs rang out.  The screams intensified.  Suddenly the cafeteria doors blew open and a stampede of penguin suits and dresses came storming out running frantically for the exit.  Their looks were haunting.  There were tears streaming down their cheeks. Principal Malone felt his stomach sink.  This wasn’t fireworks.

He entered the cafeteria and saw the body of Lindle Stratts bleeding out on the ground.  Two more bodies lied in the far corner.  By the time he saw Raymond’s date holding a pink pistol at the football team, Marco Helmsman and Mellissa Clarkinson it was too late.  An arm came from behind him and wrapped around his throat.  He heard the voice…it was Raymond Jackson, the homosexual.

“Principal Malone,” Raymond said into his ear.  His voice lacked its usual flamboyant inflection.  It was flat and cold like the steel the crazed homosexual had pressed against the back of his head.

Principal Malone spoke with a seldom heard shakiness in his speech, “You are in irreparable trouble, young man.”

“No,” said Raymond.  “The trouble is being handled.”

For a second Principal Malone broke and wept, but he caught himself quickly and regained his composure.  “You’re making a mistake,” he said.

“You let them beat me,” Raymond said back.  “Right here in this room twenty years ago.”

“Come off it,” said the principal.  “It was just a little bullying.”

“A bit?” Raymond returned.  He called over to the football team, “Hey! Remember Raymond Gaymond? Remember locking me in the bathroom with a stink bomb?”

The football team looked at their feet.  Jeremy glared at their cowardice, disgusted.  He pulled the trigger on his pink pistol and a black man in a letterman jacket dropped to the floor, dead.  Shot in the heart.  Then he shot one of the white boys.  Racial equality was very important to him.  Another one of the letterman jackets ran for the door.  Jeremy grinned.  He liked the runners.  With precision aiming he pulled the trigger and the bullet whizzed through the back of the coward’s head.  He dropped to the floor just short of the door.

By this point Principal Malone was blubbering like a baby where he stood.  Raymond was embarrassed for him. He was disgusted by how someone who portrayed themselves as so strong could become so desperate so quick in the face of danger.  It reminded Raymond of his father earlier that night. Right before Raymond stuck a kitchen knife through his throat.

“Relax,” said Raymond.  “I’m not going to shoot you…”

“Oh, thank you!” sobbed the principal.  “You are a good man, Raymond.”

Raymond reached behind him and from out his slacks slid out the bloody kitchen knife he had used to get rid of his father.  “Oh, I don’t know about that…” he sighed.  He drove the knife deep into Principal Malone’s back.  First once, then again, and then another, and then again.  The more he pierced the skin, the easier the blade sunk into the flesh.  Principal Malone coughed up a ball of blood and collapsed, uttering one final death murmur before he expired.

Those who had not escaped the cafeteria, too scared to run, screamed out in terror at the sight of Raymond’s blood soaked hands.  Jeremy watched; proud of his lover.  Raymond smiled and ran his crimson fingers under his eyes, staining his face with the principal’s blood like war paint.  He looked up to his former peers and pointed.  “Each one of you is responsible for this,” he said, looking each and every one of them in the eye while he spoke.  “There are those who deserve this more than others but you all let it happen.  The way you stood back, much like you are now, the way you watched us be terrorized, the way you sat silent and thankful that it wasn’t you they were coming for…” Raymond laughed and licked the blood from his index finger.  “Well, I’m here now,” he said.  “And I’m coming for you…”

While Jeremy was distracted Marco leaped forward and swung a hard right that connected beautifully with the gunman’s jaw, sending him twisted to the floor. The pink pistol went sliding out of reach.  Without a moment’s hesitation Marco bolted for the doors.  From across the cafeteria Raymond fired off two shots at him from his snub nose, but he missed and Marco escaped into the halls.  Mellissa was now all alone.  She decided that she too was going to make a run for it.  But by the time she had reached the doors Jeremy had gotten back to his feet and his pink pistol was back in his grip.  He grabbed her by her frizzy curls and she screamed.  “Please!” she begged.  “I have a son!”

His face remained still and unbothered as he raised the pistol to her temple and pulled the trigger.  The shot rang out and screams followed.  Even as the side of her head blew open and blood spackled across his face, Jeremy barely blinked.  He watched her on the floor for a moment and then looked back up to his lover across the room—proud.

But Raymond was not happy.  He pointed to the doors and, in a voice almost unrecognizable, growled, “Get him! Now!

***************************

Luca opened the door to the janitor’s closet and took a peek out into the hallway to see if the coast was clear while Lisa shimmied up her panties between a shelf of toilet paper and a shelf of Windex and Drain-O.  “Did you hear that?” asked Luca.

“What?” replied Lisa.

“I heard banging,” he said.

She laughed.  “Duh…”

He spun his head back to her and glared.  “Quit fucking around.  I’m serious.”

Just then Marco came whipping around the corner at full speed.  His face was pale and shining with perspiration.  The terrified look in his eyes made the hairs on the back of Luca’s neck stand up.  “What the hell is wrong with you?” asked Luca.

Marco came to a squeaking halt.  “We gotta get the fuck out of here!” he ordered.  He had tears in his eyes.  Marco never cried.

Lisa exited the janitor’s closet and closed it shut.  She fixed her hair and joined the boys.  “Calm the fuck down, Marco. Geeze,” she said, glancing at her watch.

Marco continued, “He killed them! Lindle, the football team, Principal Malone—“

Luca grabbed him and gave him a shake.  “Who? Who killed them?”

“Raymond!” Marco shot back.  “Him and his date are shooting everybody! We gotta get the fuck out of here! Come on!”

Luca’s eyes became focused.  The reality of what he was being told settled in.  He grabbed Lisa by the hand and pulled her towards the doors leading out to the foyer.  “Come on, let’s go.”

Marco didn’t move.  “Where are you going?” he asked.  “They’re out there! Let’s go out through the teachers’ parking lot!”

“We’re parked out front,” Lisa snapped.

“Who gives a fuck?” Marco answered.  “We need to get out of this building now!”  He shook his head and waved it off.  “Whatever. Fuck it. I’m out…”   Then he turned his back and took off around the corner.

Down the dimly lit stretch of lockers he ran, passed the vending machines, passed the attendance office, and passed the trophy case.  He pulled opened the first set of doors to the stairwell. Through the doors leading to the staff parking lot he could see the red and blue’s flashing on police cruisers racing into the property.  The shrill pitched whine of their sirens was music to his ears.  He smiled, relaxed and walked passed the stairwell, throwing open the doors to the parking lot.  A cool breeze splashed against his face.  He was home free.

“Hold it right there,” said a voice behind him.  The command was followed the click of a safety being disarmed.  The voice was familiar; flamboyant and terrifying.  Marco slowly turned around to see Raymond’s date holding a pink pistol to his head.

The doors to the police cruisers flung open and out came the officers, guns drawn.  “Freeze, asshole!” yelled one of the uniformed men.

“You shoot him, we shoot you!” hollered another.

Raymond’s date smiled, winked at Marco and said, “Worth it.”  Then he pulled the trigger and put a bullet through Marco’s head.  The police fired back and put six quick holes into the gunman.  He and Marco hit the concrete at the same time, sprawled out under a lamplight in a pool of their own blood.  The night was quiet once again.

***************************

Luca and Lisa carefully stepped out into the foyer.  Across the hall the cafeteria doors were open, the strobe globe was still spinning, the music was still blaring, but no one was in there.  Seeing the coast was clear, they made a break for the front entrance.  Lisa ran in those high heels like she had done it before.   That’s when Raymond stepped out from behind a column, his snub nose .38 pointed right at Luca’s head.   Luca and Lisa stopped in their tracks and Lisa immediately broke into tears.  “Please, Raymond,” she begged.  “Don’t do this…”

Raymond didn’t respond.  His eyes stayed glued to Luca as he said, “I’ve been waiting for this moment for twenty years…” His thumb brought down the hammer on the gun.  His aim remained steady.

Luca started to cry.  A sight not Raymond or Lisa had ever seen before.  He was a blubberer.  It was hard to watch.  “I’m sorry, okay?” he sobbed.  “Please….Please don’t…I’m sorry…”

A grin stretched across Raymond’s blood speckled face.  “There’s the fear! Not a very good feeling is it, to be scared?  Welcome to my world, Luca.  Now it’s your turn to feel what I felt.”  He took a step closer.

 

Lisa grabbed on to Luca, burying her head in his chest.  They both had completely lost control, crying like infants.  The words “stop” and “please” could be heard though their tears.  Raymond found joy in their despair.  But, as he was focused on them, he failed to notice the young teacher who had volunteered to help with the event, Miss Martin, sneak up behind him with a fire extinguisher clutched in her hands.   She raised the heavy red cylinder over her head and brought it down hard on Raymond’s crown.   Raymond fell to his knees. Miss Martin looked at the two hostages and yelled, “Run!”

Without hesitation, Luca and Lisa obliged.  They were out the front door in seconds.

Raymond got to his feet and pointed his weapon at the young teacher.  “Why? Why would you do that?”

She raised her hands as a white flag.  “I’m sorry,” she said.  “I’m not homophobic, I swear. But…It’s not right.  Murder is wrong.  You’re better than that.  You’re better than them.”

Raymond stared at her.  Or perhaps through her.

“Please don’t kill me…” she whispered.

Raymond clicked back into reality and smiled.  “Come on now, sweetheart. I’m not a monster.”  Then he pointed the gun under his chin and squeezed down on the trigger.

“No!” screamed Miss Martin.  But it was too late.  The blast rang out, a stream of blood shot up to the ceiling and Raymond fell to the floor under the “Welcome Class of ‘97” banner, dead.

The End

 

internet dating, single, vancouver blog, short stories, funny stories

Mike & Peter on Internet Dating

The ins and outs of internet dating brought to you by our favorite underachievers, Mike and Peter.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

The sun was beating down on the seawall as Mike and Peter sat on a bench watching the usual parade of joggers, dog walkers and happy couples on a Saturday stroll pass them by. And while Peter was sneaking peeks behind his sunglasses at the girls running by in their sports bras and yoga pants, Mike’s eyes were glued to the screen of his smart phone.

“Slipknot fucking sucks,” said Peter. “Stone Sour was alright.”

Mike was too busy swiping his finger across the screen of his smart phone to actually turn and acknowledge his friend, but he did answer. “You are completely fucked,” he said, crouched over, gazing down at his phone. “That’s the total opposite. Stone Sour sucks. Slipknot was hella sick.”

“Whatever,” said Peter. He took a long sip from his 711 root beer Slurpee and leaned back on the bench. “Those masks are like something out of a child abuse victim’s nightmare…You find one yet?”

“Traveling…” Mike scoffed under his breath.

Peter, whose eyes had now been staring at a young sporty read head who was in the midst of picking up her tiny poodles poop with a plastic bag, turned to his friend and said, “Huh?”

“Traveling,” Mike repeated. “All these girls on Plenty of Fish, that’s all they like to do. Every single god damn profile. Traveling.”  He pointed to his phone with his free hand to reference. “Take this girl—Lindsay…” As he read her profile Mike did his best worst impression of what he thought she might sound like. “Hi, my name’s Lindsay. I really like to travel and explore new places. I’d much rather spend my money on going somewhere exotic than on something like a car.”

Mike swiped again and began to read another profile. Again, he did his best impression of what he imagined she might sound like. “My name’s Sarah. I’m a travel junkie. I love to explore new places with great people who have a ‘lust for life’. And I hate drama.”

Peter whistled and shook his head with a half-cocked grin. “Girls who say they hate drama usually love drama. That just means some dude stopped calling them—probably for being too dramatic. So what? Girls like to travel. Big deal.”

“I hate traveling,” Mike replied. “Why would I want to go to a place where no one speaks my language? I already live in Vancouver.”

“That’s true,” said Peter. “Why don’t you just find a girl who is into stuff besides traveling?”

“Every moderately attractive girl on Plenty of Fish is into traveling. If not traveling, hiking.”

Peter waved it off. “They just say that to attract guys that are financially stable enough to go on a trip and fit enough to go hiking. Plus, you need a car for all that. None of which you have going for you…plus, you’re bald.”

Mike frowned and ran his palm over his smooth crown. “I know, right? What kind of beautiful girl is going to be on my shit?”

At that moment a slender young brunette in a sports bra and tights stopped in the midst of her jog right in front of the boys. She was breathing quick and heavy and had worked up quite a sweat. Beads of perspiration ran down her neck to her collar bone. She bent over to stretch, touching her toes. When she returned upright she took out her earphones and walked over to the boys—more specifically, to Mike.

“Hey,” she said, still trying to catch her breath. “Do you have the time?”

Mike looked down at his phone. “Yeah. It’s three thirty,” he answered.

She giggled, as if embarrassed. “Damn,” she said. “I was supposed to meet someone for a drink at three. Woops. Must have lost track of time.”

“That sucks,” said Mike.

“I know, right?” she replied, now humored by her forgetfulness. “I’m still in the mood for that drink though. God, I’m so stupid.”

Mike was busy with his phone. “Well, good luck,” he answered.

“Yeah, er, okay…” said the girl. “Thanks.”

She smiled and jogged off. When she was gone Mike sighed and turned to Peter. He pointed down to his phone. “I just know if one of these hot girls gave me a chance I could woo them with my charm. You can’t see charm on these dating apps. People judge you completely on your looks, it’s not fair. They just see an average looking bald dude and nothing deeper. The only messages I get are from fat girls. If not the fatties it’s the girls with no jobs who sit around smoking weed all day.”

“Don’t you sit around smoking weed all day?” asked Peter.

“That’s not the point,” snapped Mike. “I need a girl that’s ambitious. A girl with goals. Someone who will inspire me to be better as a man. At least a girl with a fucking job.” He sighed and sunk on the bench. “Who am I kidding? A girl like that would not be into a guy like me…”

At that moment they heard the cries of a woman in the distance. “Help!” cried the woman. “Stop him!”

The boys turned their heads and saw a golden retriever barreling down the seawall path, his leash dragging wildly on the pavement behind him. In the distance the owner, a shorter woman dressed in heels and a business suit, struggled to chase down her runaway pet. Mike hopped off the bench just in time to grab the dragging leash before it was out of reach. The dog yelped as the leash tightened and stopped his momentum. The golden retriever looked up to Mike and then lowered its head, knowing it was in trouble.

The click-clack of heels on the pavement came to a halt as the woman, now quite out of breath, finally caught up to them. Her face was flush, both from exhaustion and embarrassment. “Thank you so much,” she said. She blew a few renegade blond strands from her face and smiled. “Poor guy’s been cooped up in the condo all day while I was at work. I really should get a dog sitter.”

“No problem,” said Mike.

She took back the leash from Mike and extended her hand. “I’m Riley.”

Mike gently shook her hand. “Mike.”

She sighed, now relaxed. “What a day I’ve had,” she said. “First it was absolute hell at the office all day and now this! I could definitely use a drink.”

Mike smiled. “What a coincidence.”

Her blue eyes widened. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” answered Mike. “There was a girl that was just here that was saying she was in the mood to drink today too!” He shook his head. “It must be something in the air. I guess it’s just one of those days, huh? The bars will be packed tonight!”

Her smile flattened as she nodded, looking somewhat confused. “Okay…well, thanks again.”

As the woman click-clacked away down the pavement Mike headed back to Peter on the bench. He gave a loud exhale as he sat back down beside his friend. “Why can’t any girls like that respond to my messages?”

“I think you think too much,” said Peter. He was lost in a trance, staring across the pathway at beams of light breaking through the branches of a tree.

Mike’s attention turned back to his phone. Minutes went by as he scrolled and swiped through more faces and more profiles. Finally his head lifted back up. “I think you’re right,” he said to his friend.

“I’m always right,” Peter replied. “…What are we talking about?”

“I shouldn’t be looking for the pretty girl, or the successful girl. I should be looking for someone more like me. Like someone who smokes weed and is chill. Someone that likes the stuff I like. Why am I trying to change myself into someone I never even wanted to be?”

“Preach, brother.”

Just then a curly haired girl in a UBC sweatshirt came over to the boys. “Hey,” she said. “Do you guys have a lighter? My joint went out and my lighter is dunst.”

“Like Kirsten,” said Mike.

She laughed a bit. “Yeah, exactly.”

Peter pulled a lighter from his pocket and handed it to the girl. As she was lighting her roach she noticed Mike’s Slipknot T-Shirt. “Cool shirt,” she said. “I fucking love Slipknot.” She took a puff and held it in for a moment. Then she exhaled a long, thin stream of smoke. “Not Stone Sour though,” she added. “That was pussy shit.”

Mike couldn’t believe it. “We were just talking about that,” he said. “I totally agree.”

She gave the roach another haul and with cloudy exhale she said, “I’m just hanging out with some friends over there by the grass. You guys are welcome to join.”

Peter didn’t hesitate. “Sure,” he said.

Mike winced, unsure. “I don’t know,” he said to Peter. “I should probably keep a clear head. What if I get a message back? I don’t want to be all baked.”

The curly haired girl shrugged and handed Peter back his lighter. “Okay, well, thanks for the light,” she said. And with that, she headed down the path towards the grassy hill.

Peter turned to his friend. “I hate you…”

“I’m sorry,” Mike replied. “I promise I will meet someone eventually.”

 

The End.

 

infidelity, sad story, break ups, cheating, boyfriend, girlfriend, relationships

The Downside of Infidelity

A young woman recalls how a perfect relationship turned into one of lies and deceit as she prepares to come clean with her boyfriend about her infidelities.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

I left Nick’s house that night and got in my car. I felt a lump in my throat as I checked my phone to see another missed call from John. This can’t go on, I thought to myself.

I needed to come clean and tell John the truth. Not just for him, but for me too. Keeping this secret, running around behind his back and covering my tracks…it was utterly exhausting.

I can’t pin point exactly when I fell out of love with him, but I can remember the day I first met Nick. He came into the bar by himself; I had never seen him around before. He was shy for someone so cute. Usually the guys around the bar act as guys do, horny and a little too honest with their desires…Not him though. He just smiled and watched the sports highlights on the bar screen. Maybe that was the reason I kept coming back to check on him.

He had just moved to the city from Vancouver for work. He did lighting work for movie sets; a job most might find without interest, but I loved movies…Lights, make-up, sound, whatever—if it had to do with film, I was all ears. I don’t know if it was the stories about being on set or his blue eyes and dimples, but when I got home that night he was all I could think about.

In all the five years that John and I had been a couple, I never once thought about cheating. When we got together in high school it was this magical thing, like something out of a romance comedy. He was this funny, quirky guy who everyone seemed to like and I was swept away by him. In the first years I was thankful every day that I was the one he chose to call his girlfriend. I would get mad when he talked to other girls and I would be on needles all day until he was back home with me, cuddling on the couch and watching Seinfeld, our favorite show. My heart would race when he sent me a text message, even if it was just a smiley face or an “LOL”. The sex was great; we had this connection like we knew exactly what the other person wanted without even saying a word…

But we were young and I suppose we weren’t really sure who we really were as individuals. He maintains he did, but I know I didn’t. Back then all I wanted to do was get married, have kids and live this fairy tale life with the man I loved. College really made me mature…or immature. I loosened up and stopped taking life so serious. The idea of being tied down to one spot with one person sounded more like a prison sentence than a dream. Slowly I began to have subtle resentments towards him. Where once I saw him as sweet, now he was kind of over-sensitive. The sex that had been so magical became routine and left me uninspired and unsatisfied.

At this point Nick had been coming into the bar more, which always made my night. Every time the front door opened I would prop my head up in hopes to see him walk through the door. I felt like such a goof but at the same time, the fact that I felt this electric attraction made me feel alive again and I wanted more of it. Lots more.

I found myself getting off shift and, instead of going home to John, staying for a drink with Nick. First it started out as one, then two, then three…Then came the night he invited me back to his place for the fourth. He laid me and his bed and kissed my neck, his hands were rough but I wanted them on me. I was wet even before he shuffled my jeans off me and threw them to the floor. He made me shake and quiver…He made me cum.

Six months later I was juggling both of them. At first the affair made me feel dangerous and sexy but when John and I began to fight, I failed to see the reason as to why I was keeping up this charade. I guess I didn’t want to see the hurt in his eyes when I told him there was someone I wanted more than him. Knowing John, he’d probably start crying or something. Maybe in some way I as well didn’t want to see all those years go to waste…but there was no denying we weren’t the same couple we were in high school.

As I drove home, I heard a Barenaked Ladies song on the radio that John and I used to dance to. That combined with passing by the park we used to hang out at was too much for me. I pulled over and started crying right there on the side of the road.

How could I be such a bitch? I thought. How could I break his heart like this? Maybe if I had told him about my concerns with our relationship then he would try to change, try to compromise…I hadn’t even bothered to try. I got myself together and wiped my eyes. Be strong, I told myself.

I sat in the underground parking of our building for about fifteen minutes before I mustered up the courage to do what I had to do. As I entered our apartment I heard the Barenaked Ladies playing and was hit in the face with the distinct smell of garlic. I walked into the kitchen to see John setting the dinner table. He looked up at me and smiled, “Hey, babe.”

“You made dinner?”

“Spaghetti and meatballs, your favorite. I wanted to do something nice, I know I’ve been kind of preoccupied lately.” Then he noticed my eyes, “What’s wrong, it looks like you’ve been crying.”

I straightened up, “Oh, no…Nothing. Allergies…”

“Well it’s almost ready.”

“Okay…I’m just going to get changed.”

I walked to the bathroom and shut the door behind me. Tomorrow, I told myself. You’ll tell him tomorrow.

 

mafia, humour, funny stories, mob stories, short story, roundfirelegends

Whacked!

A mob story about finding inner peace.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

The glaring sun beat down on a dry patch of grass right next to the old, abandoned railroad. The area was silent with the exception of the warm breeze breathing through the long, brittle blades swaying side by side. This forgotten industrial block had been abandoned for close to a decade now, rarely seeing any visitors besides your usual tramps and vagabonds looking for a dry place to sleep. But today, a new traveler had arrived. A lone coyote weaved through the grass patch, hot on the scent of fresh dead flesh. He had followed his snout on this trail for hours and he was close now. His heart raced with anticipation, his eyes darted back and forth, his wet nose fluttered violently whilst his tongue wagged heavily back and forth with each dry pant.

He stopped at the top of the hill and looked down at four black town cars parked in the old abandoned lot next to the old abandoned factory. The sun beamed off the chrome lining around the town cars’ tinted windows. The scent was coming from the trunk compartment. From the trunk compartment of all of them. The coyote wiggled his nose. No. Just three of them.

His tail wagging, the four-legged traveller raced down the hill, kicking up dirt clouds as he went. He had to be quick! Soon the flesh would rot and be of no use. Once at the foot of the hill he pawed at the first town car, but it was no use. It was locked shut. The delicious meat was trapped in there. He let out a soft whimper and tried his luck at the second car. The same problem occurred.  Then he tried the third. No luck. All of them were locked shut. The coyote somberly realized that he was wasting his time and decided it would be a better idea to head back into the bush before the humans that owned those town cars returned. He could smell them near. They were in the factory…they were predators.

****************************

Four men in suits sat around a long table dead in the center of the old abandoned factory. Each of them were impeccably dressed in Italian designer three piece suits and well-jeweled in gleaming gold and silver. These were tough men. Vicious men. The vast space between them and the rows of shattered windows remained silent, echoing every clink of a Rolex, every face scratch, every shift in a seat.

Donny JeBroni sat at the head of the table. He was the eldest of the four and the head of the infamous crime syndicate. After taking a sip of his water he placed the slender glass down on the table. He picked up his satin napkin and dabbed the bead of sweat rolling down his bald head. His took his time, cleared his throat and then spoke, “Welcome and respect to the three families from the east, west and south, for coming to this monthly congregation. As we all remember, at last month’s meeting I swore vengeance on my enemy, Joey Twinkle Toes. I am happy to announce, as of last Thursday, Joey Twinkle Toes has been whacked.”

Two of the men surrounding him rapt softly on the table, nodding their heads. They approved of this.

Next to Don Donny sat Vinnie Malone of the east side. He was short but built sturdy and strong. After adjusting his tie he leaned in and spoke, “At the last meeting I too vowed vengeance on my enemy—on that no-good rat, Jimmy the Rat. As of this morning, Jimmy the Rat has been whacked.”

Once again the other men rapt on the table gently, nodding their heads. They approved of this also.

Next to Don Vinnie sat Southy Joe from the south. His face was long and thin like the rest of his body. The emerald green suit seemed more draped on him than tailor fitted. His expression of discontent matched the discontent he felt about his tailor’s work. This was not new. Even the highest paid tailor found it a near impossibility to fit his odd angled, slender figure. Many of them had quit, given up. Needless to say, there were a lot of missing tailors in the south. He crouched over the table, eager to for his turn to speak. “And as we all know, I had some problems with my most recent tailor. That Polish hack couldn’t dress a salad! Look at me! Such disrespect! So you know what I did? I strangled him with a wire and then I shot him in the head! Bing! Then I cut him up into little tiny pieces and I buried him in a cornfield!”

The other three stared at Southy Joe, leant in. He looked back at them wondering what they were waiting for. Then it came to him. “Whacked,” he said, rolling his eyes. “He got whacked.”

The three men relaxed, nodded and rapt against the table. They approved.

Donny JeBroni raised his hand for silence and extended his arm towards Willy the Bodybag from the west. “And Willy the Bodybag! What about the vengeance you swore at last month’s meeting?”

Willy the Bodybag adjusted the cufflinks on his brown suit, cleared his throat and pulled in his chair. He ran his ringed fingers through his silver-fox head of hair and spoke in a tone of voice that wasn’t the usual cold, merciless Willy. His voice was lighter now, not timid but very much apprehensive.  “Yes. Um, last week I did do that. I did swear vengeance on my enemy from the competing family in the west, Don Fazool. The truth is, is I saw Don Fazool face to face just the other day. We were both at the orange stand buying oranges. I had the chance to whack him and I didn’t whack him.”

Southy Joe cleaned out his ear with his pinky. “I’m sorry, I must have not heard you so good. Did you say you didn’t whack him?”

Donny JeBroni raised his hand for silence. “Please, Southy Joe. Some respect. Bill Bodybags is a cold-hearted killer. To suggest that he would forego a chance at vengeance is an insult. You must have heard him wrong.”

“No,” said Willy, somewhat embarrassed. “He heard right. I didn’t whack him. He was right there and I didn’t whack him.”

“Why not?” asked Vinnie Malone. “Were you out of bullets? Was it the cops? I hate those fucking cops.”

“Fucking cops…” muttered Southy Joe.

Willy the Bodybag shook his head. “No, I had bullets. Wasn’t the cops either…I just had a change of heart.”

Don Donny looked back at him, lost. “A change of heart? What do you mean ‘a change of heart’?”

“I mean, I changed my mind,” answered Willy. “You see as I was looking over to him, reaching for my gun, I realized something. It occurred to me how many people I’ve whacked over the years to get to where I am. And when I looked inside myself and saw what kind of person I have become…well, it made my stomach turn just a bit. Not with regret, not with remorse; it was like when you’ve eaten the same thing every single day for ten years and one day you decide, that’s it. I never want to eat this again. I’m sick of it. I’m tired and worn from it. It no longer satisfies me. Even the smell is enough to make me nauseous. That’s how I feel about all this whacking.

You see, when I was younger I thought maybe I would have to kill ten, twenty people max to assert my place and be safe from my enemies but, the truth is, it never stops. There’s always someone else that needs to be whacked. They’re out to whack me before I whack them; I’m out to whack them before they whack me. I’ve become a lonely, untrusting and paranoid old man. And all of this leaves me feeling very tired and unfulfilled. Will there ever be a day that I don’t have to look over my shoulder? Will there ever be a day I can stop whacking all these shmucks and settle down? A time where I can enjoy my life rather than fighting for it? A time of peace?”

Vinnie Malone’s face went cautious. “You ain’t going soft on us, is ya, Bodybag?”

“If wanting to live a life free of looking over my shoulder, free of greed and of pride is called soft. Well, it doesn’t sound so bad. It sounds kind of nice actually. In fact, I would be willing to give away my fortunes to obtain it.”

“But if we stop killin’ people, howz we gonna punish those no-good-stinkin’ rats when they go to the cops?” asked Southy Joe.

“Our lifestyle invites all kinds of conflict,” said Willy. “I mean, the cops want to set us up, informants want to give us up for reduced sentences. And so what do we do? We whack the cops and we whack the informants. We whack everybody. The guilt of all the people I’ve whacked just sits right here on my chest and, guys, it’s suffocating. Really.”

“I think Willy the Bodybag is on to something. The more people we kill, the more enemies we make. Maybe, instead of whacking our enemies in the territories we are looking to take over, we can buy them out. And then, if they still refuse, then we whack them.”

“Hey, ya,” said Vinne Malone. He appeared as though he had just had a revelation. “Give them a chance to join us before we whack them! That’s pretty smart, Willy.”

“Yeah,” agreed Southy Joe. “Good plan, Willy! We can expand our numbers and grow our syndicate by buying out the competition. Merging, like corporations! That way we can take over more territories!”

A soft applause went around the table but stopped at Willy the Bodybag.

“That’s not what I was getting at,” said Willy. “Why do we always need to expand? To take over more and more territories? Why is it never enough?”

“It’s simple math,” answered Donny JeBroni. “More territories mean more money rolling in. More money rolling in means more politicians in our pocket, which means the cops ain’t hassling us for putting the drugs and the girls out on the street.”

Vinnie Malone and Southy Joe agreed.

“Okay,” said Willy the Bodybag. “But if we stopped putting drugs and girls on the street we wouldn’t need to worry about the cops, which means we wouldn’t need to pay off politicians which means we would have to spend less money and would be financially secure with less territories.”

Southy Joe pet his pencil moustache. “So then what are we selling if we ain’t selling drugs and girls?”

“How about shoes?” said Willy.

Southy Joe recoiled. “Sorry, I don’t think I hears you right…did you say fucking shoes?”

“Everybody needs shoes,” explained Willy the Bodybag. “And we would be helping people get to where they need to go. We would be a positive contribution to our community.”

Donny JeBroni took a calm sip of his water and placed the glass down. “I think Willy the Bodybag has a point,” he said. “It’s time we focused our efforts away from drugs, guns, prostitution and gambling. These things have poisoned our communities for too long. Familia, destroyed. With our fortune and our political friends we should be investing in a future for the next generation. Things like clean, renewable energy and better schools for the children. And shoes for the people’s feet so that they can walk around the town without stepping on glass or rigid stones.”

“That’s what I’m talking about!” Willy exclaimed.

Don Donny continued on, “Starting immediately our organization will cut our ties in the narcotics business and go completely legitimate. We will make our fortunes by crafting high quality shoes for other legitimate business men like ourselves is. Not one more man shall be whacked, does everyone understand?”

Willy nodded, satisfied. Southy Joe and Vinnie Malone,though reluctant and confused, nodded as well.

“And in closing,” said JeBroni. “I would like to thank Willy the Bodybag for having the bravery and the respect to bring up these issues to the family.”

Willy stood up from his chair and gave a small bow to the Don, Vinnie Malone and Southy Joe. “You have always been reasonable men,” he said. “You won’t regret this, I promise! Thank you and respect to you all. Now I must take my leave. I’m trying out this new thing called Yoga. I hear it really helps center your energies. Ciao.”

And with that, Willy the Bodybag walked out of the old abandoned factory with the weight on his chest lifted and a new hope for the future.

For a moment the other three men sat in silence around the table, casually sneaking peeks at their shoes while they thought the others weren’t looking. Finally, Donnie JeBroni looked up and said, “Someone needs to whack Willy the Bodybag.”

Vinnie Malone and Southy Joe both let out a sigh of relief.

“I was just thinking that,” said Vinnie.

“The guy’s talking about shoes…” said Southy Joe.

The End