I don’t write fiction…except for a really good cause. Click here to read the explanation of this Flash Fiction Challenge. My entry is below. Special thanks to Matthew Clemens and my husband, who were good enough to read it and give me the courage to post it.
“Find something to soak this up.”
I turned, almost tripped over the dog, and opened the nearest cupboard. I considered the box of Froot Loops for a second before grabbing the powdered mashed potatoes.
“If these don’t work, there’s always cat litter. That works on oil, but I’m not sure about blood. If they have a cat. And litter.”
I surprised myself. I really should have devolved into a pile of blubbering goo by now. Somehow, though, I seemed to be maintaining a semblance of…what? Sanity? There wasn’t a whole lot sane about this scene.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
At about 11:45, I walked into my local Wells Fargo, a quick stop before I grabbed lunch and ate it while reading the Bernie story Lawrence Block had on special for $0.99. I like Bernie better than Scudder because I’ve always been slightly squeamish when it comes to dark stories. Yeah, squeamish. Me. I know.
But I digress.
The guy in the bank was nice enough. He wasn’t rude, which is more than I can say for far too many people. He commented on the picture of my cat that I keep tucked in my wallet. He said he had a dog, Franklin, and we talked about how annoying people are when they try to pet dogs who don’t like strangers.
The heavens opened as I stepped outside. I ducked under an awning, paying no attention to who was there already. I was going to wait it out, assuming it let up within a few minutes. After about 12 seconds, though, a big guy slid up next to me and leaned over.
I thought I’d heard him wrong because he kinda of mumbled and the rain was loud.
“Are you ready? You’re late.”
At this point, I should have mentioned that I had no idea who he was, what I was late for, or why he was talking to me at all. Why didn’t I? No idea, really. I was caught up in the moment, maybe. Between the books I read, the TV I watch, and the vast uncharted waters of the Interwebs in which I wallow, I might be slightly unaccustomed to dealing with people in real life. Whatever the reason, I didn’t correct the fella, and when he charged out into the rain toward a Crown Vic illegally parked at the curb, I followed him. Once I was at the passenger door, getting in seemed the next logical step.
“When’s he leaving?”
And since honesty had been working so well for me…
“I have no idea.”
“Fuck. I guess we’ll have to wait. But I’m fuckin’ starving.”
“Me too.” (Again, honesty.)
I wondered momentarily if he was going to ask me where I wanted to eat, but no such luck. He pulled into traffic—much to the dismay of the 105 year-old woman piloting the Caddy he cut off—and zoomed around the corner to the McDonald’s drive-thru. He never asked me what I wanted, but when we pulled away, we had taken possession of enough food to feed a class of kindergartners.
Maintaining his lack of regard for parking regulations, he parked at the back of the bank, across from an unmarked door that couldn’t have been more obvious if it had EMPLOYEES ONLY emblazoned on it in neon letters. The two people huddled in the doorway smoking was a dead giveaway. I was wondering what kind of conversation we’d have if we were both hitmen when a Royale with Cheese smacked my cheek.
“Sorry,” he offered through a mouthful of fries.
I didn’t know whether it would be OK to read, so erred on the side of imitating my companion, staring at the door. It was most definitely not thrilling, and I’m pretty sure I dozed off at least once.
Around 4:15, a crowd piled out of the magic door. As they dispersed, the car roared to life.
“Here we go. You ready?”
I said, “Yes.” I should have said, “For what?”
Before long, we were cruising down a tree-lined boulevard a couple of car-lengths back from a dark blue Honda driven by, I was pretty sure, the guy I’d talked to in the bank. My imagination kicked in. I rejected the idea of my cohort being a private eye almost immediately. He was much too…obvious. So I figured he was either a customer who the bank had turned down for a loan or a family member needing to grab the guy for an intervention. I figured the former was more likely.
When the guy pulled into a driveway, we parked right beside a fire hydrant.
Again: “You ready?”
“Too late for that shit now. Remember that we have to be fast. And we can’t leave a mess. The wife will be home soon.”
Just like that, he was out of the car. I paused long enough to tuck my phone into my pocket, figuring if I was about to see a guy get beat up, I might need to call for help.
As I put my hand on the front door handle, I heard a firecracker. Yes, I really thought it was a firecracker. I hadn’t figured it out.
They were in the breakfast nook. My first thought as I surveyed the scene was, wow, brain matter really is gray.
While The Big Guy sprinkled white flakes over the enormous pool of blood on the linoleum, I looked at what was left of The Dead Guy’s face. It was the guy from the bank. I was trying to figure out my next move when my partner’s wallet fell, opening among the potato blood. On the left side, a detective shield in all its golden glory.
I realized it might be important to know who the dead guy was. I picked up an AT&T bill from the counter.
His name was Dan Malmon.